Heirloom Tomatoes with Ricotta and Savory Granola

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It’s my favorite food time of year…tomato season. What is better than a super fresh, sweet, tasty heirloom tomato right from the garden? One of my favorite things ever! This awesome salad that I spotted in Food & Wine takes advantage of tomato season and matches them up with fresh ricotta seasoned with lemon zest and sunflower sprouts, and an unconventional topping — granola. It’s so simple but so delicious!

The granola incorporates pistachios and sunflower seeds and adds such a nice crunch to the salad. It makes a lot, so you’ll have plenty to throw on some yogurt with some berries for a nice week or so of breakfasts. And the other interesting ingredient — sunflower sprouts. They’re sweet, crunchy and fresh, and add a nice green splash to an already beautiful plate.

Make this and stat while the tomatoes are in their prime!IMG_7072IMG_7071

TW’s Tips

  • Do not skimp on the tomatoes. If you can’t get them fresh at the farmer’s market, don’t bother. Heirloom — even better.
  • Same with the fresh ricotta — must be fresh! You’ll find it at a good grocery store in the cheese section. Don’t you dare use the stuff in plastic tubs in the dairy aisle.
  • Sunflower sprouts won’t be easy to find. I nabbed them at the Union Square greenmarket.

Enjoy!

Heirloom Tomatoes with Ricotta and Savory Granola

Ingredients

  • 2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup light agave nectar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Pepper
  • 1 cup shelled unsalted pistachios, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup salted roasted sunflower seeds
  • 1 cup fresh ricotta
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest plus 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 cup sunflower sprouts
  • Two 12-ounce heirloom tomatoes, cut into wedges

Directions

Preheat the oven to 325° and line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, toss the oats with the agave, water, 1/4 cup of olive oil and 1 teaspoon of salt until the oats are thoroughly coated. Spread the oats on the prepared baking sheet and bake for about 25 minutes, stirring twice, until the granola is light golden. Stir in the pistachios and sunflower seeds and bake for about 10 minutes longer, until golden brown and dry. Let the granola cool on the baking sheet, stirring occasionally.

In a medium bowl, mix the ricotta with the lemon zest, 1 tablespoon of the lemon juice and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. In another medium bowl, toss the sunflower sprouts with the remaining 1 tablespoon each of olive oil and lemon juice and season with salt and pepper.

Arrange the tomato wedges in shallow bowls and season with salt and pepper. Spoon the ricotta around the tomatoes. Scatter the sprouts on top and sprinkle with some of the granola; save the remaining 
granola for another use. Serve right away.

Coconut Shrimp with Basmati Rice, Apricots and Lime

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Growing up in New Hampshire, Thai food was just not on the radar. Today, thankfully there are a few more options around my hometown, but in the 80s/90s, the extent of ethnic food was some woefully Americanized Chinese and some slapdash Tex-Mex. I must have had my first taste of Thai sometime around grad school — I’m not quite sure — but I do know that I was instantly hooked. There’s so much to love — the rich coconut milk, spicy curries, the acidity of lime and freshness of Thai basil. I loved the variety and the different flavors you just don’t experience when you’re eating super traditional American food. Today, you could convince me to have Thai food any day.

I’ve found it’s impossible to make Thai food at home that tastes as good as what you can get in a good Thai restaurant, but I make an attempt every now and then (especially when I can get good ingredients at the great ethnic food stores in NYC). This recipe from Tyler Florence is a solid showing. It’s got lots of coconut milk going, with ginger, lemongrass and Thai basil. The peanuts on top add a great crunch and richness.

The rice in this dish is actually really great — and I’m not a rice girl. The addition of arugula adds some interesting spiciness, and the dried apricots are a great hit of sweetness.

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TW’s Tips

  • Despite all the ethnic food stores here, I couldn’t find kafir lime leaves. I had to go with regular lime.
  • Go to the effort of finding Thai basil. It’s quite different from the traditional Italian basil — the flavor is really amazing. I even saw Thai basil at the greenmarket today.
  • Don’t overcook the shrimp. I had to cook them a bit longer than indicated in the recipe to cook them through. Look for them to curl and turn opaque.
  • Have some Thai chile sauce on the side that you can mix in to add a little heat to this.

Enjoy!

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Coconut Shrimp with Basmati Rice, Apricots and Lime

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp peanut oil
  • 2 inch piece of fresh ginger, unpeeled and smashed with the side of a large knife
  • 2 Thai chiles, chopped
  • 2 lemongrass stalks, white parts only, chopped into small pieces
  • 4 shallots, chopped
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 quart coconut milk
  • 2 kafir lime leaves, or one lime, halved
  • 1 cup basmati rice
  • 1.5 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup dried apricots, halved
  • 3 scallions, white and green parts, finely chopped
  • Handful of arugula leaves
  • 1.5 lbs medium shrimp, shelled and deveined
  • 1 small can straw mushrooms, drained
  • 4 fresh Thai basil sprigs for garnish
  • 1/4 cup salted, roasted peanuts for garnish
  • 1 lime, quartered, for garnish

Directions

First get the sauce going: Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the ginger, chiles, lemongrass, and shallots and cook until the shallots are softened, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the tomato paste, sugar, coconut milk, and lime leaves and give it a stir. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer, uncovered, for about 25 minute, until the sauce is reduced by about one third and thickened.

While that’s cooking, jump to the rice. Combine the rice, salt, and 2 cups of water in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer, reduce the heat, cover, and cook until the water is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Stir in the apricots, scallions and arugula.

To finish, add the shrimp to the pot with the sauce and simmer gently just to cook through, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the straw mushrooms and stir. Spoon the rice into the bottom of 4 bowls. Spoon the shrimp over along with the sauce and garnish each bowl with basil, peanuts and a wedge of lime.

Slow-Cooker Indian Butter Chicken

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You’ve gotta love a great crock pot meal, especially when the weather heats up and you really don’t want to turn on the oven. This is one I’ll be coming back to — it’s spicy, flavorful and suuuuper easy. If you love Indian food, you’ll love this. It combines boneless chicken thighs, potatoes and onion in a rich sauce spiced with garam masala, cinnamon and some spicy chile peppers. The addition of cilantro at the end is the perfect freshness.

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TW’s Tips

  • I forgot to add the cream (oops!) and it was great without.
  • For the accompanying naan, toast it up over a gas burner using some tongs.
  • Serve with rice and a side salad. I went with avocado, tomato and cucumber.

Enjoy!

Slow-Cooker Indian Butter Chicken

Ingredients

  • 3 pieces naan bread
  • 1 red onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1 pound baby red-skinned potatoes, halved or quartered if large
  • 1 Fresno chile or red jalapeno pepper, halved lengthwise, seeded and sliced
  • 1 small bunch cilantro, leaves and tender stems separated, chopped
  • 1 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken thighs (about 6)
  • 1 tablespoon garam masala
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 15 -ounce can tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream (TW: I forgot to add this and it was great without!)
  • Kosher salt

Directions
Crumble 1/2 piece naan into coarse crumbs; transfer to a 6-quart slow cooker. Add the red onion, potatoes, chile and cilantro stems. Arrange the chicken thighs in a single layer over the vegetables and sprinkle with the garam masala, 3/4 teaspoon salt and a few grinds of pepper. Dot with the butter and add the cinnamon stick. Pour the tomato sauce over the top. Cover and cook on low, 7 hours.

Uncover and switch to the warm setting or turn off. Gently stir in the heavy cream, breaking the chicken into large chunks; let stand 10 minutes. Stir in the cilantro leaves and season with salt. Serve with the remaining naan.

Warm Spinach Salad with Bacon and Soft Boiled Egg

IMG_6590This salad is really, really delicious. It’s so simple. And so good. The ingredients are few:  you get an awesome contrast from savory caramelized onions and garlic, salty bacon, sweet honey and the bite of the apple cider vinegar all on top of the nice freshness of the spinach. And in my opinion, put a runny egg on top of anything and you’re golden. This is yet another winner from Tyler Florence — his “Ultimates” cookbook is one of my regular go-to’s.

Everything comes together really quickly on this one, so make sure you time it well so the egg isn’t sitting around and cooking more while you wait for the onions to caramelize. Recommend getting the water to boil on first, and cooking up the bacon while you wait for that to work. Once the onions and garlic are caramelized, you can turn the burner off if the water has still not come to a boil, and then turn it back up when it’s almost there, so the spinach is ready when the eggs come out.

TW’s Tips

  • I skipped cutting up the bacon ahead of time and just cooked it up nice and crispy and crumbled it over the salad
  • I made this for one (would be really tough to reheat), and used 2 pieces of bacon, one egg, 1/4 onion, 1 garlic clove and almost a full bag of spinach for one serving. One onion seemed like an awful lot to me.
  • The original recipe called for letting the eggs sit for 12 minutes — this does NOT work for a soft boiled egg. The ideal you’re looking for here is a runny yolk so you can mix all that goodness up in the spinach. After trial and error I got a pretty soft yolk letting the egg sit for 2 minutes — if you do 1 minute it would be nice and runny.
  • Pull the eggs out of the water with a slotted spoon and run under cold water/plunge into an ice bath immediately to stop the cooking.

Enjoy!

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Warm Spinach Salad with Bacon and Soft Boiled Egg

Ingredients

  • 2 large eggs (TW: or more)
  • 2 bacon, slices cut crosswise into thin strips (TW: see note above)
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons honey (TW: I used agave syrup)
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 (1 lb) bag baby spinach (TW: recommend 2 bags)
  • kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Put the eggs in a small saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, turn the heat off and let the eggs sit for 1 1/2-2 minutes. Lift the eggs out of the pan and cool; peel the eggs.

Meanwhile, put the bacon strips into a big skillet and cook for 3 to 4 minutes over medium heat to render the fat. Scoop the bacon out and set aside onto a plate, leaving the fat in the pan. Add the onion and garlic and cook for 5-6 minutes, until soft. Add the honey and vinegar and keep cooking until the onion has caramelized, about 5 more minutes. Toss the spinach into the pan, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and toss with tongs until the spinach is just wilted, about 30 seconds. Dump the spinach out into a bowl and add the bacon. Halve the eggs and arrange on top of the salad.

Grilled Chicken with Garlic-Herb Dressing and Grilled Lemon and Radicchio

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I hope everyone had an amazing Memorial Day — I spent mine in New Hampshire hanging out with my parents and grandmothers. It was super relaxing and I got in lots of crossword time with my Dad, had lunch with my Grams and got to meet a dear friend’s daughter for the first time.

Weekends like this are best for cookouts, which I don’t get to do much of in NYC. This recipe is one you can do on the grill, but you can also make do with a grill pan on the stove if needed (and I do need most times!). And just check out how beautiful it looks plated up!

The secret to this Tyler Florence recipe is a really awesome vinaigrette loaded with garlic, parsley, lemon and thyme, and the perfect juxtaposition of the juicy chicken alongside the bitter radicchio with some great acid from the balsamic and the lemon. I love what grilling does to the radicchio, giving it a nice char and sweetness, and same with grilled lemon — it adds a little something that you don’t get from it when it’s raw.

TW’s Tips

  • You can make the vinaigrette a day ahead; keep in the fridge and bring to room temp before using.
  • The recipe calls for one chicken broken into parts; I love chicken legs so I used a big pack of legs for this, just aim for about 4 pounds of meat

Enjoy this chicken with some of your favorite grill sides — or make it a meal in itself.

Grilled Chicken with Garlic-Herb Dressing and Grilled Lemon and Radicchio

Ingredients

  • 2 heads garlic, cut in 1/2 horizontally
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 whole fresh thyme sprigs, plus leaves from 6 sprigs
  • 2 lemons, juiced, plus 2 lemons, halved
  • About 1 bunch flat-leaf parsley, leaves chopped
  • 1 (4 to 4 1/2-pound) chicken, cut into 10 pieces (or any combination — I used just legs)
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 heads radicchio, preferably Treviso, cut into quarters
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Cut a piece of aluminum foil about 12 inches long.

Put the garlic on 1/2 of the foil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, drizzle in some olive oil, and add 2 sprigs of thyme. Fold the foil enclosing the garlic, making a pouch, and add a couple teaspoons of water. Fold the foil over the garlic to enclose and fold in the edges 2 or 3 times to seal. Put the package in the oven and roast for 30 minutes, or longer, until the garlic is soft. Open the package and let the garlic cool a bit, then squeeze out the cloves into a food processor or blender. Add 1/2 cup olive oil, the lemon juice, parsley, and thyme leaves and puree to make a thick vinaigrette.

Preheat an outdoor gas or charcoal grill to medium heat.

Rinse the chicken and pat dry with paper towels. Put the pieces in a bowl, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and drizzle with olive oil; toss to coat with the seasonings and then refrigerate while you get everything else together.

Put the radicchio in another bowl, drizzle with olive oil, balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss; set aside.

When you’re ready to cook, take a few paper towels and fold them several times to make a thick square. Blot a small amount of oil on the paper towel and carefully and quickly wipe the hot grates of the grill to make a nonstick surface.

Season with salt and pepper and place the radicchio quarters on the preheated grill. Cook the radicchio for about 2 minutes per side until it has a nice char; pull it off the grill, place into a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and set aside to steam and finish cooking.

Then put the chicken on the grill, skin side down, and grill. Grill the chicken for about 20 minutes, turning once, then baste with about half of the vinaigrette and keep cooking until an instant-read thermometer stuck into the thickest part of the thigh reads 160 degrees F and the chicken is nice and caramelized all over, 15 to 20 more minutes. During the last few minutes, throw the lemon halves on the grill, cut sides down, and cook until just marked and smoky.

To serve, separate the radicchio into individual leaves in a big bowl. Add the chicken and the rest of the dressing and toss well. Serve with grilled lemon halves, squeeze the lemon over the chicken, and top with reserved dressing.

Three Seed Crusted Ahi with Lima Beans, Corn and Pancetta

IMG_6108Want to impress the dinner company? This one’s it. It presents like it came out of a restaurant kitchen, and on top of that, it’s really quick and easy so you won’t be slaving over the stove. Key is buying really high quality tuna steaks (I got mine at Costco) and cooking exactly as instructed in the recipe to get a great sear with the crunch of the seeds (and pop of tart from the mustard seeds). On top of the mix of corn, lima beans, roasted red pepper and salty pancetta, it couldn’t be simpler. (Recipe courtesy of the Wine Lover’s Cookbook.)

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IMG_6111TW’s Tips

  • You can roast the red bell pepper in advance, slice and reserve.
  • Use fresh corn if you have the opportunity and it’s in season.
  • The pan really pops a lot when the tuna hits it — and when the recipe says high heat, it means high heat. This will give it a good sear but keep it rare inside. This is a must for the best taste and texture.

Enjoy!

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Three Seed Crusted Ahi with Lima Beans, Corn and Pancetta

Ingredients

  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 4 ounces pancetta or bacon
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken stock or vegetable stock
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons minced shallots
  • 1 pound shelled fresh of frozen lima beans
  • 3/4 cup corn kernels
  • 2 pounds of tuna (Ahi/yellowtail), cut into 6 steaks
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons sesame seeds
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons poppy seeds
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons mustard seeds
  • Minced green onions for garnish

Directions

In a preheated 350 degree oven, roast bell pepper for 30 minutes on a baking sheet. Remove from oven and place in a brown paper bag for 8-10 minutes. Remove and peel off skin. Remove stems, seeds and white ribs. Dice pepper and reserve for lima beans.

Chop pancetta into small pieces. In a medium, nonstick saute pan or skillet, saute pancetta in olive oil over medium heat for 8-10 minutes, stirring frequently, until lightly browned. Remove, pat dry and reserve.

In a medium pot, bring stock and shallots to a boil, add lima beans and simmer uncovered for 15-17 minutes. Don’t overcook; beans should be cooked to just past al dente so that they are cooked through but not overcooked and mushy. Discard most of remaining stock. Stir in corn kernels, pancetta and roasted pepper with beans and keep warm until ready to serve.

Using a pastry brush (or your hands) coat tuna steaks with olive oil on all sides. Mix seeds, salt and pepper together in a bowl and coat tuna evenly on top and bottom with the mixture.

Heat a large sauté pan over high heat. When very hot, add tuna to the pan. It will sizzle a lot when you first add the ahi because the pan is so hot. Sear for 2 to 3 minutes per side, making sure you don’t overcook it. It should be very rare inside; overcooking will completely change the texture of the meat and make it rubbery. Slice thinly with a sharp knife.

To serve, spoon lima beans onto plates with a little of the remaining liquid. Top with thinly sliced ahi. Garnish with green onions.

Crispy Mustard-Roasted Chicken

IMG_5851I love some crispy, delicious fried chicken, but the process to cook it at home and the lingering fried food smell is enough to prevent me from doing it very often. This crispy chicken recipe (an Ina Garten) is a much easier substitute, and though it doesn’t result in crispy chicken skin you can eat (my fave), it’s still quite delicious. You get great flavor and a little tang from the white wine/dijon mustard combo, and I’m a huge fan of panko vs. traditional bread crumbs (crunchier, lighter). I served this with some mashed potatoes and green beans with pine nuts.

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IMG_5848TW’s Tips

  • Make this for a dinner party and you can get it ready to pop in the oven and work, so you can take care of the sides/have a drink and socialize.
  • Make sure you do a good job of patting the chicken dry before you start the breading/coating process, so everything sticks sufficiently.
  • Serve with mashed potatoes and roasted vegetables in cooler weather, or pasta salad/green salad or grilled veggies in the summer.

Enjoy!

Crispy Mustard-Roasted Chicken

Ingredients

  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme leaves
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups panko (Japanese bread flakes)
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest (2 lemons)
  • 2 tablespoons good olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup Dijon mustard, such as Grey Poupon
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 (3 1/2- to 4-pound) chicken, cut in eighths

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Place the garlic, thyme, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper in a food processor fitted with the steel blade and process until the garlic is finely minced. Add the panko, lemon zest, olive oil, and butter and pulse a few times to moisten the bread flakes. Pour the mixture onto a large plate. In a shallow bowl, whisk together the mustard and wine.

Pat the chicken dry with paper towels. Sprinkle generously all over with salt and pepper. Dip each piece in the mustard mixture to coat on all sides, and then place skin-side down only into the crumb mixture, pressing gently to make the crumbs adhere. Place the chicken on a sheet pan crumb-side up. Press the remaining crumbs on the chicken pieces.

Bake the chicken for 40 minutes. Raise the heat to 400 degrees F and bake for another 10 minutes, until the crumbs are browned and the chicken is cooked through. Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature.

Roasted Beets with Beet Green Salsa Verde

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This is a hearty, delicious salad (another Food and Wine favorite from Tyler Florence) that works well for the main course or as a starter/side. Beets are one of those veggies that I didn’t discover a love for until they became popular in restaurants over the past 15 years or so. Now you can find a beet salad on practically any menu, and for good reason — they’re meaty and earthy and go perfectly with cheese and a dash of acid from lemon or vinegar. This salad uses beet greens, which are for the most part overlooked and thrown out. They’re actually delicious both raw and cooked. I grew up eating them boiled and topped with butter and salt — these days I’d recommend sautéing like you would spinach. The beet green salsa verde that tops this salad is fantastic. It’s a combo of chopped beet green stems, red onion, oil, vinegar and dill, and it gives a great hit of brightness.

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TW’s Tips

  • If you don’t want to roast your own beets, you can buy them already roasted and peeled in the produce section of the grocery store — you’ll just need to buy the beet greens (or replace out with another leafy green).
  • Beets dye things really quickly, so make sure you wash your cutting board right away so it’s not stained pink.
  • FRESH ricotta is key here — if you buy it in a packaged container, this dish just isn’t worth it. My grocery store here sells their own in the cheese section.
  • Pomegranate seeds can be insanely expensive, so if you’re lucky enough to live in California, grab fresh pomegranates from the grocery or your friend’s yard and do it yourself (watch this video or you will have a miserable time).
  • You could also substitute a different fruit for the pomegranate seeds or leave them out entirely.

Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 pounds small or medium beets, scrubbed
  • 1 pound fresh ricotta cheese
  • Sea salt
  • Pepper
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup sherry vinegar
  • 2 cups beet greens, halved lengthwise and very thinly sliced crosswise into ribbons
  • 1/2 cup minced beet green stems
  • 1/2 red onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped dill, plus sprigs for garnish
  • 1/2 cup pomegranate seeds

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400°. Wrap the beets in foil and transfer to a rimmed baking sheet. Bake for about 1 hour, until tender when pierced. Unwrap and let cool.

Spread the ricotta on a platter. Cut the beets into chunks and arrange on the cheese. Season lightly with sea salt.

In a medium bowl, whisk the oil with the vinegar. Add the beet greens and stems, the onion and chopped dill and mix well. Season the salsa verde with sea salt and pepper and spoon over the beets. Scatter the pomegranate seeds on top, garnish with dill sprigs and serve.

The roasted beets can be refrigerated for 2 days. Return to room temperature before serving.

Simple Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese Croutons

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Tomato soup is one of my favorites — so simple yet so delicious. And with the crazy April winter weather today (30 degrees? What?), this seemed about right. This version of the classic is particularly simple — you use canned (San Marzano) tomatoes, onion, garlic and stock, flavored with some saffron and toss in some orzo. The recipe doesn’t even call for pureeing it, though I did choose to do that since I like the creamy texture. Then, Ina Garten makes a genius move and turns the traditional grilled cheese pairing into — wait for it — grilled cheese croutons. Yes. It’s the perfect combo.

TW’s Tips

  • I had some grape tomatoes hanging around that I wasn’t sure I’d use, so I roasted them in a 400 degree oven for 40 minutes and added them to the mix
  • I used an immersion blender to cream the mixture a bit before I added the cream — I like a silkier texture to the soup.
  • The grilled cheese croutons are awesome but add them gradually as you eat if you don’t like the grilled cheese too soggy.
  • If you don’t have a panini grill (I don’t) just use a frying pan for the grilled cheese, or a grill pan.

Enjoy!

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Simple Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese Croutons

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons good olive oil
  • 3 cups yellow onions, chopped (2 onions)
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 cloves)
  • 4 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
  • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes, preferably San Marzano
  • Large pinch of saffron threads
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup orzo
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • Grilled Cheese Croutons (see below)

Directions
In a large pot or Dutch oven such as Le Creuset, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and cook over medium-low heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until golden brown. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Stir in the chicken stock, tomatoes, saffron, 1 tablespoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Bring the soup to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, fill a medium pot with water, add 2 teaspoons salt and bring to a boil. Add the orzo and cook for 7 minutes. (It will finish cooking in the soup.) Drain the orzo and add it to the soup. Stir in the cream, return the soup to a simmer and cook for 10 more minutes, stirring frequently.

Serve hot with Grilled Cheese Croutons scattered on top.

Grilled Cheese Croutons

Ingredients

  • 4 (1/2-inch-thick) slices country white bread
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 4 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated

Directions

Heat a panini grill. Place the four slices of bread on a cutting board and brush lightly with the melted butter, being sure to butter the corners. Turn the slices over and pile Gruyere on two of the slices. Place the remaining two slices of bread on top of the Gruyere, buttered sides up.

Grill the sandwiches on the panini grill for about 5 minutes, until nicely browned. Place on a cutting board, allow to rest for 1 minute and cut into 1-inch cubes.

 

Salmon and Guacamole Sandwiches

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This sandwich is amazing. Let’s start with that. I couldn’t get enough of this — all the flavors are so fantastic. It begins with the salmon. The idea of fish on a sandwich is so brilliant. It’s such a great way to bring additional flavors to it. The salmon is simply cooked. The key is to get a really good sear on it and follow the directions below to the T. Add bacon to this — crunchy, salty — then a spicy, lime-heavy guacamole and a little bitterness from arugula. Wow. Thank you, Ina Garten.

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TW’s Tips

  • Cooking bacon in the oven never works for me — I like it really crispy. So, I cook it on the stovetop like normal.
  • Be daring and eat your salmon a little bit raw.

Enjoy!

Salmon and Guacamole Sandwiches

Ingredients

  • 8 slices applewood-smoked bacon (8 ounces)
  • 2 ripe avocados, seeded and peeled
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (2 limes)
  • 4 scallions, white and green parts, chopped
  • 1/4 cup minced red onion
  • 1 tablespoon jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Four (6-ounce) salmon fillets, skin on
  • Good olive oil
  • 4 individual ciabatta rolls
  • Baby arugula leaves

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Place a baking rack on a sheet pan and lay the bacon on the rack. Roast for 15 to 20 minutes, until browned. Remove to a plate lined with paper towels (see tip above for my method).

Meanwhile, prepare the guacamole. Place the avocados, lime juice, scallions, red onion, jalapeno pepper, garlic, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a mixing bowl and mash roughly together with a fork. Taste for seasoning; it should be very highly seasoned. Set aside.

When the bacon is done, heat a dry cast-iron skillet over high heat for 5 minutes. Pat the salmon fillets dry with paper towels, brush them all over — top and bottom — with olive oil, and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Place the fillets in the skillet skin side up and allow them to cook without disturbing them for 2 minutes exactly. With a metal spatula, carefully turn the fillets and cook for 2 more minutes. Transfer the skillet to the oven for 2 minutes (time it carefully!). Remove the salmon to a plate and cover it tightly with aluminum foil. Allow it to rest for 10 minutes.

While the salmon rests, cut the ciabatta rolls in half crosswise, place them cut side up on a sheet pan, and toast in the oven for 5 to 10 minutes, until lightly toasted.

To assemble the sandwiches, place the bottoms of the ciabatta rolls on a board and spread each with 2 rounded tablespoons of guacamole. Remove the skin from the salmon fillets, cut each fillet in half crosswise, and place both halves on top of the guacamole. Add 2 slices of bacon, a handful of arugula, and a sprinkling of salt. Spread another rounded tablespoon of guacamole on the underside of the top bread and place on top. Continue arranging all the sandwiches. Cut each sandwich in half diagonally and serve warm or at room temperature.