Category Archives: Savory

Pesto Mozzarella Grilled Cheese

Pesto Mozzarella Grilled CheeseAs far back as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to be a gangster loved the Oscars. I couldn’t tell you when I first watched them, but I don’t recall ever missing a ceremony. Oscar Night is my favorite holiday. One of my best friends and I bonded over our mutual love of Oscar politics. I put great effort into predicting each year’s nominees and winners. I consider Martin Scorsese’s win in 2007 one of the happiest moments of *my* life. Put simply, I love them I love them I love them.

To that end, it will come as no surprise that I have a traditional Oscar Night meal. If you’ve been around here a while, you know by now that my Oscar dessert is always red velvet (because it’s “red like the red carpet”). The main though? I’ve never posted it. I’ve barely mentioned it. Until now, duh.Pesto Mozzarella Grilled CheeseI’ve been making Pesto Mozzarella Grilled Cheeses for dinner on every Oscar Night since 2005. Why? Because:

A) it’s effing delicious, as all cheesy pesto things are.
B) it’s easy, and that’s important when you’re cooking and watching red carpet coverage at the same time.
C) 20 year old me could afford all the ingredients and churn these out on the illegal electric burner I had in my dorm room. Pesto Mozzarella anything seemed very special to all my college pals and was enough to get them to watch the Oscars with me.
D) this is the height of sophistication in the category of Things I Once Cooked in a Residence Hall That I Still Make.

Anyway…this sandwich. This simple, simple sandwich. I’ve been making it for sixteen years and I won’t go an Oscar Night without it. It’s cheesy, it’s herby. It brings me so much joy on Oscar Night (and any night).Pesto Mozzarella Grilled CheeseLet’s talk ingredients. First things first: get the good sandwich bread. I mean, whatever you have will absolutely work, but might I suggest sourdough? Or something crusty and chewy with an open structure so that some of the cheese melts through to the pan and gets crispy? Can you tell I’ve thought about this a lot???Pesto Mozzarella Grilled CheeseNext up, Basil Pesto. It’s spread on both slices of bread involved in this grilled cheese and is the thing that makes it pop! The pesto pictured is my homemade stuff, but feel free to use store bought. Keep in mind that it’s a primary flavor though, so whatever you choose, make sure you really like it.Pesto Mozzarella Grilled CheesePesto Mozzarella Grilled CheeseYou can’t have a grilled cheese without cheese! I use a mix of equal parts fresh mozzarella and low-moisture whole milk mozzarella that I shred on the large hole side of my box grater. This gives the sandwich the rich flavor of the fresh cheese with the perfect meltability (?) of the more processed stuff.

Don’t want to buy both? Don’t! You can use all of either one with good results. I am just persnickety after sixteen years and like a mix. You can also just slice and layer it instead of grating–whatever you like. A word to the wise: don’t buy the pre-shredded stuff. It just doesn’t melt right.Pesto Mozzarella Grilled CheeseThough most grilled cheeses are made with butter, I choose to use olive oil here to keep with the pesto flavor profile. I brush a little on both sides of my assembled sandwich before cooking.Pesto Mozzarella Grilled CheeseAnd speaking of cooking, as with my favorite classic grilled cheese, Pesto Mozzarella Grilled Cheese is cooked over medium-low heat so that the bread crisps and the cheese melts at similar rates—no burnt outsides and cold cheese allowed! It’s all gooey, stretchy cheese, garlicky pesto and crispy edges up in here.Pesto Mozzarella Grilled CheeseI almost always serve these up with a green salad with cara cara oranges, red onion and balsamic vinaigrette (more “sophisticated” college food), but you do whatever makes you happy. I mean, the Oscars tend to be volatile enough that this sandwich may be the only thing that goes your way come Sunday night. But oh, what a win.Pesto Mozzarella Grilled Cheese

Pesto Mozzarella Grilled Cheese
makes 2 sandwiches

4 slices sourdough or other good sandwich bread
2 heaping tablespoons prepared basil pesto
2 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, grated*
2 ounces low-moisture whole milk mozzarella,* grated (I used Trader Joe’s)
olive oil, for brushing
pinch or two of Kosher or sea salt

Lay all slices of bread on a surface. Spread about a 1/2 tablespoon (1 1/2 teaspoons) of pesto over each one. Top two of the slices with the grated cheeses. Top cheese with remaining pieces of pesto-spread bread, “closing” the sandwiches. Use a pastry brush to brush olive oil on exposed plain bread. Sprinkle with salt.

Heat a medium-large heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-low heat. Add sandwiches oiled-bread-side-down. Brush the exposed (plain-side-up) pieces of bread with olive oil and sprinkle with salt.

Let sandwiches cook, without moving or squishing, until they are golden on the bottom, about 3-4 minutes. Flip sandwiches and let cook, without moving or squishing, until they are golden on the other side, about 3 more minutes.

Remove to plates and serve immediately.

Note:

1. Fresh mozzarella doesn’t grate cleanly, but will still crumble nicely enough on the side of a box grater.

2. Low-moisture mozzarella is the kind that comes shrink-wrapped and is usually near the bricks of cheddar and pre-sliced cheese. Leftovers can be used in pasta dishes or for homemade pizza bagels or English muffin pizzas.

Pesto Mozzarella Grilled CheesePesto Mozzarella Grilled CheesePesto Mozzarella Grilled Cheese

Friday Favorites: Game Day II

Friday Favorites: Game DayI have made it clear over the years that I am a baseball and Olympics person, and very definitely not a football fan. Oh, I’ve tried. I grew up in Texas and was the co-captain of my high school dance team, so I attended 40+ games from the sidelines, and I never missed a Super Bowl for the first 22 years of my life. I can say with confidence that football is not for me.

That said, I most certainly like football food. In fact, today’s list of Super Bowl Sunday recipes is the second Game Day round-up I’ve compiled in the last five years. There are some of the usual meaty, cheesy, gooey suspects, and a couple of non-traditional options. You know, for keeping things interesting between commercial breaks.

I sincerely hope none of you are gathering for Super Bowl parties next weekend—I would like to be able to see my family sometime this year, okay?—but for all the things that will be different/less good about the big game, let’s not let the food be one of them.Friday Favorites: Game DayPuff Pastry Pigs in Blankets

Pigs in blankets are a classic football food. Here they’re wrapped in puff pastry (rough puff or frozen/thawed puff) and baked until super flaky and golden. Yum.Friday Favorites: Game DayPimento Cheese Tarte Soleil

You could just make Pimento Cheese for game day, but why pass up the chance to stack it with flaky pastry, twist it to sunny perfection and bake until bubbly?Friday Favorites: Game DayCreamy Avocado Salsa

Is it even game day if chips and salsa aren’t on the table? This Creamy Avocado Salsa has all the flavors of classic guacamole, but with a smooth and dreamy texture. Serve it by its lonesome or… Friday Favorites: Game DaySpicy Turkey Tacos

…drizzle it onto these Spicy Turkey Tacos! This thirty minute main is one of my go-to weeknight recipes. It’s easy, saucy and has a good kick to it from a DIY taco seasoning. If heat isn’t your thing, don’t fret; I’ve included a way to make these milder without sacrificing any flavor.Friday Favorites: Game DaySlow-Roasted Pulled Pork

Say goodbye to your favorite slow cooker pulled pork because once you try this, you’ll never want to go back. My Slow-Roasted Pulled Pork does require a little forethought, but it’s actually very simple to make. It’s dry brined ahead of time and then roasted low and slow until super tender. Pile it high on soft rolls with whatever sauce and crunchy vegetables you like, or use it as filling for enchiladas!

Oh, and did I mention there are crispy cracklings strewn throughout? Because there are crispy cracklings strewn throughout. So good, y’all.Friday Favorites: Game DayButternut Squash Chili {Vegan}

If meat’s not your thing, this vegan Butternut Squash Chili is a perfect option for you! It’s hearty and comforting and basically everything wonderful about game day food, just without the animal products.Friday Favorites: Game DaySuper Sprinkle Popcorn

I find that dessert is frequently overlooked on Super Bowl Sunday, and to that I say “not in my house!” Super Sprinkle Popcorn would also be a perfect way to end the big game. Coated in white chocolate and loaded with rainbow sprinkles and homemade Funfetti crumbs, this stuff is cute and delicious as all get out!Friday Favorites: Game DayMonster Carmelitas

I think this goes without saying, but no matter how much heavy food I’ve eaten during the game, I will always—always—have room for a gooey, peanut buttery Monster Carmelita.

Have you made any of these or any of my other game day favorites? What’s your favorite thing to serve on Super Bowl Sunday? Let me know in the comments or on social media!Friday Favorites: Game Day

Corn Muffins

Corn MuffinsIf you’re thinking “Doesn’t she already have a cornbread recipe on here?” the answer is yes. In fact, I have three. Don’t worry, this isn’t a fourth. Ohhh no. You see, these are corn muffins, not cornbread. Sure, both recipes share a lot of the same ingredients, but I am here to tell you that these corn-centric sides are two different things.Corn Muffins

You read that right. This is not a cornbread recipe, or at least it’s not the cornbread I know. The southern-style stuff I grew up with is super savory, sugarless, grainy and crumbly, while corn muffins are a sweeter, softer, more northern thing—they’re like cornbread and cupcakes had a baby. A sweet little corn muffin baby…or twelve sweet little corn muffin babies, if you want to get specific.Corn Muffins

These evoke everything I love about Jiffy corn muffin mix (the only baking I ever saw my mother partake in), but better and completely from scratch. Sure, they take an extra minute or two since you have to measure everything out before mixing, but that’s really no trouble when the results are this soft, sweet and delicious.Corn Muffins

The secret to really excellent corn muffins? Sour cream. I made eight test batches with whole milk and buttermilk, and while both will work in a pinch, the gorgeous muffins you see here are super moist and tender from rich, tangy full-fat sour cream. It keeps my corn muffins in perfect shape for days after baking—nothing sad or dry here!

Corn Muffins come together with almost no fuss. You’ll see in the recipe that you need some ingredients to be at room temperature, but that’s pretty standard and no real trouble—I routinely get eggs to room temp by putting them in a bowl of warm water and pop milk in the microwave for 30 seconds to take off the chill. The simple truth is that room temperature ingredients combine more evenly than cold ones do; that’s very important in baking. If these tiny steps sound like too much “extra” effort for you, remember that adding cold milk and eggs to melted butter will un-melt (?) it and then you’ll have to start all over again. Talk about a time suck. I promise that all your room temperature-ing will be worth it when you pull a pan of corn muffins from your oven.Corn Muffins

Oooh, y’all. These are pretty irresistible. Soft and corny (in a good way!) with a solid sweet and savory balance, homemade corn muffins are the perfect accompaniment to a roast chicken or chili on a cold night. And, pro tip: should you have leftovers, you should split and toast them with butter and jam for breakfast the next day. Or do what I do and eat them cold, straight out of the fridge in the middle of the night for days on end. Really, you can’t go wrong.Corn Muffins

Corn Muffins
makes 12 muffins

1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 cup all-purpose flour
6 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1/2 cup milk (preferably whole), room temperature
1/2 cup full-fat sour cream
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
2 large eggs, room temperature

Preheat oven to 400F.

Line a 12-cup standard muffin pan with cupcake liners, or grease well. Set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

In a small-medium mixing bowl (or large measuring cup), whisk together milk, sour cream, butter and eggs. Add wet ingredients to dry and stir with a silicone spatula or wooden spoon just until combined.

Divide batter among muffin cups, about 3 tablespoons each. Carefully tap the pan on the counter five times to release any large air bubbles. Bake for 12-13 minutes.

Remove muffins from the oven and let cool in the pan for five minutes before serving or removing to a rack.

Leftovers will keep well tightly-covered at room temperature for up to two days or in the refrigerator for up to five. Muffins may be double-wrapped in plastic and frozen for up to 3 months.Corn MuffinsCorn MuffinsCorn Muffins

Baked Shrimp with Lemon & Garlic

Baked Shrimp with Lemon & GarlicThere is a time for involved, long-cooking, multi-dish recipes, and then there’s the time for a 30 minute main that can be made in two steps and served with any carby thing that makes you happy.

This is the second thing.Baked Shrimp with Lemon & GarlicWhether you’re looking for something you can throw together on a weeknight or an easy special occasion meal for when dinner parties are a thing again, Baked Shrimp with Lemon & Garlic fits the bill. It’s light and refreshing, a snap to make and can be on your table in half an hour! Yesssss.Baked Shrimp with Lemon & GarlicBaked Shrimp with Lemon & GarlicBaked Shrimp with Lemon & GarlicThis is one of those dishes for which I almost always have the ingredients. My kitchen is always stocked with lemons, fresh garlic, onions, red pepper flakes, salt and olive oil, and I usually have parsley, too. Just add a couple of pounds of raw shrimp (I used frozen/thawed) and we’re ready to roll!

To make this bright and lemony main, begin by tossing the raw shrimp, minced garlic, thinly sliced onion, red pepper flakes, salt, olive oil, lemon zest and lemon juice in a casserole dish. Bake everything for 12-15 minutes at 375F, stirring every five minutes, until the shrimp are pink and opaque, and the thin strands of onion have lost their rigidity. Squeeze another lemon over the top, stir in a big handful of chopped fresh parsley and…um, well that’s it. Told you it was easy.Baked Shrimp with Lemon & GarlicServe Baked Shrimp with Lemon & Garlic over rice, orzo (or other pasta) or with crusty bread—anything to take advantage of all that lemony, garlicky oil! Oh, and a glass of something crisp and cold never hurt anything. Just saying.Baked Shrimp with Lemon & Garlic

Baked Shrimp with Lemon & Garlic
makes 4-6 servings

3 medium lemons, divided
2 pounds fresh or frozen (thawed) raw shrimp (I use 21-30 count)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 small white or Spanish onion, very thinly sliced
1/2-1 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt, or to taste
1/4-1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4-1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley

For serving (optional):
sliced lemons
baguette or other crusty bread
cooked pasta
cooked rice

Preheat oven to 375F.

Zest and juice two lemons.

Combine lemon zest & juice, shrimp, garlic, onion, salt, red pepper flakes and olive oil in a casserole dish. Toss together until fully combined. Bake 12-15 minutes, gently stirring every 5 minutes, until all shrimp are pink and opaque.

Squeeze over remaining lemon and stir in parsley. Garnish with lemon slices, if desired. Serve with toasted baguette, pasta or rice.

Leftovers will keep covered in the refrigerator for up to 48 hours. Do not microwave leftovers, as it will drastically over cook the shrimp. Instead, reheat gently on the stove in a pan over medium-low heat.

Baked Shrimp with Lemon & GarlicBaked Shrimp with Lemon & GarlicBaked Shrimp with Lemon & Garlic

Easy Cumin Roasted Beets

Easy Cumin Roasted BeetsI have never been a particularly picky eater, but I have spent the majority of my 35+ years hating beets. Hating them. My mom used to serve pickled beets at least once a week, which meant I had to choke down (and I do mean “choke”) one or two with some regularity until I grew up, moved out, and lived a blissfully beetless existence until three years ago. I’d still be beet-free today if it weren’t for a request for them for a birthday dinner.Easy Cumin Roasted BeetsEasy Cumin Roasted BeetsEasy Cumin Roasted BeetsEasy Cumin Roasted BeetsAs I prepared for this party (remember parties?), I looked online for beet roasting methods and mostly saw the same one: wrap beets in foil, roast them whole, let them cool, rub off the skins with your hands, and slice. It seemed like a lot of time and work for something I couldn’t stand. Instead, I took a gamble and did things the easy way: giving my beets a really good scrub, lopping off the root and tip, slicing them into thick wedges, and roasting them with olive oil, cumin and salt until caramelized.Easy Cumin Roasted BeetsBeing a careful cook, I had to taste the finished beets for seasoning regardless of personal preference, so I scrunched my nose, closed my eyes (?), took a tiny bite and…they were delicious. Earthy and sweet, yes, but also salty, smoky and crisp-edged. I couldn’t believe it—one of my top five all-time least favorite foods! Delicious! Sometimes it just takes the right preparation to change someone’s life (er, palate).Easy Cumin Roasted BeetsNow, I don’t know if I’ve actually changed—you won’t find me eating pickled beets out of the jar anytime soon. But these? I’ve made them at least once a week for the last three years and I freaking love them. They’re so easy and so good, the perfect low-maintenance side dish. I’ll throw a pan of Easy Cumin Roasted Beets in the oven alongside a chicken, serve them with fresh hummus on a casual night in, or pair them with feta and greens for a killer beet salad.Easy Cumin Roasted BeetsDid I just say “killer beet salad”? Maybe I’ve changed after all.Easy Cumin Roasted Beets

Easy Cumin Roasted Beets
makes 6 or so servings

4-5 large beets or 6-7 small-medium beets
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2-1 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt, or to taste
chopped cilantro or parsley, for garnish

Preheat oven to 425F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

Scrub beets and dry. Some may have a matte brown portion of their skin–wiping them dry with paper towel or lighter-colored towel is best for differentiating between this and remaining dirt. Do not peel.

Use a large, sharp chef’s knife to trim off the roots and tips. Slice them into wedges (I did 8 each on large beets). Pile on a prepared pan and top with olive oil, cumin and salt. Toss with your hands until everything is evenly coated, then scatter them evenly across the pan, taking care to keep them apart. Wash your hands.

Roast 20 minutes. Use a thin spatula to flip the beets over before roasting for 20-25 minutes more. Remove them to a serving dish. Garnish with chopped cilantro or parsley, if desired. Serve.

Leftovers will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for a few days.Easy Cumin Roasted BeetsEasy Cumin Roasted BeetsEasy Cumin Roasted Beets