A quick summer casserole bursting with Italian flavors.
I know this is a totally blasphemous thing to say in the food blogging world, especially in the middle of summer, but I’m really not a fan of tomatoes. They’ve grown on me since I was a kid, when I wouldn’t touch foods with them in it (including pizza, ketchup, and most of all anything involving raw or sundried tomatoes). I now really enjoy a good tomato sauce (like this bolognese or this garlic tomato sauce) and I’ll dip into a fancy ketchup if it’s got curry mixed in or something, but the appeal of raw tomatoes still largely eludes me.
My best experience so far has been with a couple of memorable caprese salads, including one at dbar, one of my favorite Boston restaurants, which is conveniently located just blocks from our apartment. A caprese salad with housemade mozzarella and tomatoes and basil from their rooftop garden was on the specials menu, and my mom and I had to try it. And, surprisingly enough, I didn’t hate the raw tomatoes.
An easy basil lime compound butter makes crispy chicken
and roasted vegetables extra special.
Happy Friday! Are you ready to slather your dinner in an irresistible basil lime compound butter?
I love this meal because it’s simple and flavorful. The basil lime butter makes the chicken and vegetables more delicious without making them taste any less like themselves. Instead of obscuring the flavors of the main ingredients like heavy sauces sometimes do, it just kisses them with a little herbal, citrusy richness that still lets their natural essence come through.
For the roasted vegetables, you can use whatever you have on hand. I used beets, carrots, summer squash, and onions. They need different amounts of time to roast, so I added the beets to the baking sheet first, then the carrots, and finally the squash and onions. If you want to sub in other vegetables and aren’t sure how long they need to roast, check out this handy chart.
Lamb burgers are stuffed with manchego cheese and cherry jam for an elegant twist, and served on easy-to-make yeasted paleo burger buns!
Last year, my fiancé Ben asked me to make stuffed lamb burgers for his birthday dinner. At that point I had never made a stuffed burger or even cooked with lamb, which I didn’t think I liked. Since it was his birthday, though, I went for it.
Can you see where this story is going? Spoiler alert: the burgers were delicious (and they’re especially delicious on paleo burger buns!). Stuffed burgers are not hard to make, and it turns out I DO like lamb!
I make burgers all the time because they are such an easy, simple dinner, but I usually make them with beef and use butter lettuce for the buns. Upgrading to a lamb burger (and a stuffed one at that!) and making my own paleo burger buns definitely kicked my burger night game up several notches.
These burgers are stuffed with manchego cheese and cherry jam, so you end up with the perfect balance of sweet, salty, and meaty tastes. The strong flavors of lamb pair really well with fruit preserves, and I chose manchego because it’s one of my very favorite cheeses. If you’re avoiding dairy, you can stuff the burgers with just jam and they’ll still be delicious. You could even add some avocado slices on top for extra creaminess. Or, if adding jam to a burger freaks you out, you can stuff them with only the cheese (but I do hope you’ll try the jam at least once!).
So, there may or may not be a poem at the end of this post, entitled “Ode to Figs” and written in the style of Pablo Neruda. (Have you read his poem “Ode to the Artichoke”? I’m not very into poetry but I’m very into artichokes–it’s one of the few poems I truly appreciate. Here it is in Spanish and English.) Figs are special, so I’m sharing a special but easy recipe that showcases them in all their glory. Plus, my ridiculous poem.
I got so excited when I discovered fresh figs at the market earlier this week. It seems that figs have a short season in early summer and a longer season in the fall, so if you can’t find them now, hopefully you’ll bookmark this post for later.
The past couple of weeks have been a whirlwind. Last weekend I went to an amazing food photography and styling workshop in Plymouth, MA (more on that here), yesterday I took the comprehensive exams for my master’s program, and somewhere in there I turned 30.
I actually love birthdays (especially mine), and so far I am feeling good about being 30. Ben’s birthday is just a week and a half before mine, so we celebrated with a joint make-your-own ice cream sandwich party. It’s hard to imagine anything more fun than smooshing ice cream between cookies with your closest friends!
This ice cream was not present at the party because it hadn’t occurred to me yet–I was actually inspired to make this because of all the leftover buttermilk I had after making Ben’s birthday cake. (He always wants a gluten cake for his big day, and who am I to deny a birthday boy? It’s the only glutinous baking I do all year. I made him this chocolate cake and it was fabulous. The only change I made was using avocado oil instead of canola. The avocado oil is tasteless and worked great in the cake!)
For the party I made a classic vanilla ice cream in my ice cream maker and Nigella Lawson’s no-churn coffee ice cream. If you don’t have an ice cream maker (or even if you do!) you HAVE to try this no-churn business. I was blown away by the awesome, creamy texture and how easy it was to make. (It is, however, less healthy than what I normally make due to copious amounts of sweetened condensed milk. Worth it for a special occasion, though!)
This Italian summer grilling post is sponsored by Colavita.
To me, a mixed grill is the epitome of summer eating. When I spent a semester in Buenos Aires during college, I loved to go out with friends and order a parrilla mixta, which usually consisted of grilled steak, chicken, chorizo, and often organ meats as well, with a big bowl of herby chimichurri sauce and an even bigger bowl of french fries on the side. Add a bottle of wine and you have yourself one happy evening!
I don’t know why it took me so long to recreate a parrilla mixta at home, but when Colavita asked me to write a post on the theme of Italian summer grilling, this was the first thing that came to mind.
Here I’ve given the Argentine parrilla an Italian twist, marinating the steak and chicken with Italian seasonings and adding capers to the chimichurri. Argentine cuisine is heavily influenced by the food of Italy to begin with–even the Spanish spoken in Buenos Aires sounds uniquely reminiscent of Italian–so Colavita’s oils and vinegars work really well with all the components of this South American meal.
I “graduated” from my master’s program on Monday. We all walked across the stage, shook the provost’s hand, and got our picture taken with a little rolled up “diploma” that, when opened, basically congratulated us on having ALMOST finished our degrees. Even though the speech-language pathology program goes through August, my school only has one graduation ceremony a year, which means we all walk before taking our comprehensive exams and before our final semester has even begun.
Although it was, as my classmates are calling it, a “frauduation”, I deemed it cause for an actual celebration.
And what better way to celebrate than with a refreshing drink?
This agua fresca is so easy to make, but its unique color and flavor make it feel special. Agua fresca is often made with just watermelon, but I added raspberries here, too, to amp up the flavor and deepen the hue. The cool, sweet watermelon and tart raspberries make a great pair.
This mocha ricotta pie is one of my absolute favorite desserts. It’s in my top three of all time, right up there with almond butter thumbprints and salted caramel brownies.
What makes it so fabulous is the trifecta of a lightly sweetened, crunchy shortbread crust, a rich and creamy ricotta filling with chocolate, coffee, and a hint of lemon (yes, lemon!), and a topping of juicy strawberries. It reminds me of the amazing Southern-style chocolate pie I always used to eat at the now-defunct Marimont Cafeteria in Austin, Texas, but with a mature Italian twist and bright berries to lighten things up.
Really good dark chocolate and high quality, full-fat ricotta are important for this pie. (Good coffee won’t hurt either, but I love my Café Bustelo.) I was so excited about having a tub of Narragansett Creamery ricotta in my fridge that I proceeded to completely forget I’d bought it to make zucchini lasagna, and dumped all of it into the filling for this pie.
I’ve been on the fence for a while about whether I should buy a spiralizer. I want to make rutabaga noodles so badly, but I can’t seem to bring myself to purchase another kitchen gadget. I’ve made zoodles by hand with my julienne peeler, but it’s a huge pain. After adding the spiralizer to my cart on Amazon several times and then taking it back out again, I’ve decided that I’m going to ask for one for my birthday next month (are you reading this, Mom?). I won’t feel as bad about getting yet another cooking tool if it is a gift from my wonderful mother.
In the meantime, I was excited to find this zucchini lasagna over on Sarah and Tim’s blog, Curious Cuisiniere, because it uses veggie noodles that you don’t need any special gadgets to make. Strips of zucchini stand in for lasagna noodles, but all the great Italian flavors and delicious textures of the original dish still come through.
Curious Cuisiniere was my assignment for this month’s Secret Recipe Club reveal, and I had a great time perusing the site to choose a dish. I noticed that this recipe isn’t their only noodle-free lasagna–they also have a butternut squash lasagna that I’m planning to try in the fall. Sarah and Tim also have recipes from countries all around the world, and the best part is that they have an interactive map that helps you explore food from different regions. Click on India, for example, and you’ll be taken to a page with all of the Indian recipes on Curious Cuisiniere. So cool! If you’re looking to expand your palate and cooking repertoire with some food from faraway lands, their blog is the place to do it.
I have a bone to pick with boneless, skinless chicken breasts.
I mean, there aren’t any actual bones in there to pick, but I’m trying to say I have a problem with them. Ninety percent of the time I eat boneless, skinless chicken breasts, they’re no good! Dry, flavorless, and boring. One hundred percent of the time, I would much prefer chicken thighs.
(Side note: Back when I was a kid and McDonald’s still used dark meat in some of their chicken nuggets, I would refuse to eat the white meat ones. I would actually take a bite out of each nugget to check and only eat the ones that passed muster, which was usually 2-3 per order. I was a super fun kid. Thanks, Mom, for putting up with me!)
Anyway, chicken thighs are one of my go-tos (and luckily, McDonald’s chicken nuggets no longer are). I love bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs for pan-searing and roasting or braising. I am even willing to go to the trouble of deboning thighs myself to make Nom Nom Paleo’s amazing cracklin’ chicken. And I love boneless, skinless chicken thighs for grilling and making curries. They’re moister and more flavorful than breasts, and won’t dry out even if you overcook them slightly. I’m super paranoid about making sure my poultry is fully cooked, so I like that extra flexibility.