Tag Archives: recipes

carnitas street tacos with homemade tortillas

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A few weeks ago it was a Saturday morning and I was supposed to be heading out on my final long run before the marathon. The day before, I’d heard back from my doctor that my MRI showed an area of stress and swelling in my tibia and his strong recommendation was that I not run and rest for six weeks. (Although I later decided to run, at this point I’d resolved myself to not running and was basically a basket case of emotions). I’m a big believer in allowing yourself to feel whatever you feel, but I also know myself well enough that I’ll feel better if I’m doing something else I enjoy and not dwelling on whatever is upsetting me.

Enter: carnitas. We bought the Food52 Genius Recipes cookbook a few weeks ago, and the carnitas recipe has been at the top of my list of recipes to try out ever since. This recipe really couldn’t be simpler: a few simple ingredients (you’ll need just pork, salt, and water) + a few hours of your time, some unattended. From there, the options are endless – the meat can be used in tacos or burritos, put on top of nachos, rolled into enchiladas, on a sandwich, and the list goes on.

We decided to use our carnitas in small street tacos, and went the extra mile to make a few homemade corn tortillas. They require some patience, but they do get easier the more often you make them, and they are always worth it. (Of course, your favorite store-bought corn or flour tortillas would work just fine here, too). Besides the meat and tortillas, you won’t need much else: we topped ours with diced white onion, chopped cilantro, pico de gallo, and queso fresco, and they were perfect.

A genius recipe, indeed.

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Diana Kennedy’s Carnitas (from Food52)

ingredients

-3 pounds pork shoulder
-2 teaspoons salt
-cold water, to cover

directions

1. Cut the meat, with the fat, into strips about 2 x 3/4 inches. Barely cover the meat with water in a flameproof dish, add the salt, and bring it to a boil, uncovered.

2. Lower the flame enough to bring down to a simmer. Let the meat continue simmering until all the liquid has evaporated -- about 1 hour and a half, depending on the shape of your pot. By this time the meat should be cooked through but not falling apart.

3. Lower the flame a little more and continue cooking the meat until all the fat has rendered out of it. Keep turning the meat until it is lightly browned all over -- about 1 hour and 10 minutes.
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grilled new york strip steak with tomato-grapefruit salsa

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This past Monday we had an 88-degree day. In Omaha. In March. In the midwest you learn to celebrate good weather when it’s here because it doesn’t always last (case in point: Tuesday morning was a real feel of 27). On this particular occasion, that meant rushing to the grocery store after work for some good, thick steaks and getting these bad boys on the grill.

After learning how to make restaurant-style steaks (searing on a cast iron on the stovetop and then finishing in a hot oven) a couple years ago, I have to confess that we don’t do steaks on the grill, like, ever. The stovetop-to-oven method is basically foolproof and always serves us well. But, in Bobby Flay we trust, so we decided we’d give his recipe for perfectly grilled steaks a shot.

Steak and grilled foods tend to pair well with acidic, citrusy flavors, so I whipped up a quick salsa to serve alongside the meat. I would normally have added lime juice to something like this, but all we had was a grapefruit, so I went for it and am glad I did…it added the perfect sweetness to balance out the cayenne, and I definitely see this salsa making a lot of appearances this summer.

I also picked up a par-baked loaf of bread, cut a few uneven slices, and rubbed them with butter. The bread got perfectly charred after a couple minutes on the grill.

Of course, no meal is complete without the perfect drink pairing. Thanks to Kevin’s amazing aunt and uncle for picking up some Hangar 24 Orange Wheat in Arizona, we enjoyed a little taste of California right in our own backyard. Summer, I can almost taste you!

A few more photos from the meal, plus the “recipe” below…

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grilled new york strip steaks with tomato-grapefruit salsa
serves 2, with leftovers

ingredients

-2 12-oz new york strip steaks
-salt, pepper, olive oil
-1 pint cherry tomatoes
-1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
-1/2 red onion, diced
-cayenne pepper
-juice of 1/4 grapefruit

directions

to make the steaks: Allow meat to come to room temperature (about 20 minutes). Rub with olive oil and season liberally with salt and pepper. Grill on one side until slightly charred, 4-5 minutes, then flip and continue grilling for 3-5 minutes (for medium rare) or 5-7 minutes (for medium). Remove steaks from grill, tent with foil, and let rest at least 5 minutes before slicing and serving.

to make salsa: Halve cherry tomatoes, then combine with chopped cilantro, diced onion, and salt, pepper, and cayenne to taste. Squeeze a few tablespoons of grapefruit juice over the mixture and stir to combine. Serve alongside steaks.
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{recipe} shakshuka with swiss chard and feta.

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i love spending weekends poring over complicated recipes and learning new techniques, but sometimes (most times), i crave something simple. that’s especially true for chilly friday nights, when i’m tired from the workweek, feeling lazy and just wanting to go out to dinner, but having an internal struggle because i also want to put on sweatpants at 6pm and not get up from my spot on the couch all night.

enter: shakshuka. it’s the perfect antidote to both cold weather and laziness – it’s warm, incredibly simple to make (with ingredients you likely already have most of), and equally important – it tastes wonderful. there are tons of variations of this – you can leave out the greens, add parsley for garnish, top with any number of cheeses, or use no cheese at all, and use any of your favorite spices – but the basic premise is eggs poached in tomato sauce. that’s it. easy peasy.

the tomato sauce is really the star of the show here, so you’ll want to get something good. now’s the time to splurge on that $2.99 can that you may not have seen before because it’s not at eye-level like the 80 cent one. get some good tomatoes, something made with san marzanos if you can. oh, and bread: you’ll want lots of that too. shakshuka is your excuse to a) not use silverware and b) eat an entire baguette because you have to because it’s your utensil. so go ahead, get a bigger baguette than you normally would and slice it up, butter it, and broil the whole damn thing. you’re welcome.

my version that follows has you add some swiss chard toward the end and is topped with feta, but i encourage you to play around with it and make it your own. you can’t go wrong. simple flavors for the win.

ingredients

-2 tbsp olive oil
-1 onion, diced
-3 garlic cloves, minced
-1 28 oz. can whole tomatoes
-1/2 bunch swiss chard, de-stemmed and chopped
-3 eggs
-salt, pepper, red pepper flakes
-feta cheese, to top

directions

1. preheat broiler.

2. heat olive oil in a deep skillet. add onions and cook for a few minutes, until fragrant and soft. add garlic and spices, cook for a couple more minutes.

3. cut whole tomatoes into smaller chunks (this is a great time to use your kitchen scissors) and add them to the pan. i like to add a good amount of the remaining sauce, too.

4. let tomato mixture cook for a few minutes on medium heat, then add chopped greens, cooking for a few minutes more.

5. once the mixture is boiling, crack the eggs in, one at a time. you can do as many or as few eggs as you like here. for the two of us, i like doing 3 eggs, but 2 or 4 would work, too. cook until egg whites are firm, about 7-10 minutes (but keep an eye on them).

6. while the eggs are cooking, cut baguette into slices and butter one side. place buttered side up on a baking sheet and cook under the broiler, about 3 minutes, until bread begins to crisp.

7. serve shakshuka in the skillet, sprinkled with feta cheese, and using buttery bread as your utensil, and with some good red wine. you'll want some napkins too.
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{recipe} pearl couscous with swiss chard and quick san marzano tomato sauce.

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anyone who knows me well knows that I love to cook, and that we cook quite a bit around here. my favorite thing to collect is cookbooks, i read food blogs and magazines like it’s my job, and one of our favorite saturday pastimes is shopping for ingredients for a complex recipe i’ve been dreaming about making and spending the evening holed up inside getting it just right. but summer is sort of the one exception to this rule. of course, due to the aforementioned cookbook collection/food blog obsession, there’s not exactly a shortage of recipes that i’m dying to make or techniques i’d like to work on. but summer for us means less grocery store trips and less meal planning, and more farmer’s market trips and more eating straight from our garden. making something out of what’s already there.

even though i do genuinely love to cook, we all have those nights. those nights where calling for delivery seems way easier or going out for happy hour appetizers seems like way more fun. on the night we made this couscous, i was thinking all those things, but also feeling a little guilt about the swiss chard starting to wilt in my fridge and the san marzanos on the counter that i kept saying i was going to make sauce out of and can for the winter. in this particular occasion, my guilt won out and we whipped up this riff on your basic spaghetti and tomato sauce by using couscous instead and making our own what i’m calling “quick tomato sauce” with san marzanos from our garden, and adding in some greens for good measure. as is usually the case, i was happy with our decision to stay home by about halfway through cooking dinner, you know, when the tomatoes and onions started to smell like sauce and i knew this was actually going to taste good – intentional, even – and not just be your average clean-out-the-fridge meal.

which is not to say that those kinds of meals won’t happen, too. we’ve had our fair share of taco combinations and pizza toppings and they aren’t always good. even still, those weird meals bring with them the satisfaction of making something out of what’s already there. and the hope that every now and again, the stars might align, the tomatoes will be perfect, and you’ll accidentally throw together a meal for two that actually turns out to be good enough to purposely make again and again thereafter.

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ingredients

-1 tbsp. olive oil
-3 cloves garlic, minced
-1 medium or 2 small red onions, sliced into half moons
-4 San Marzano tomatoes (or Romas), diced
-2 oz. (about ½ can) tomato paste
-1 bunch swiss chard, de-stemmed and loosely torn
-1 cup pearl couscous
-salt, crushed red pepper
-parmesan and lemon zest to top

directions

1. Bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a medium-sized saucepan. Once boiling, reduce heat, add 1 cup couscous and simmer for 10-15 minutes, until all liquid has reduced and couscous is cooked through (it should be soft, but with a slight “bite,” just like al dente pasta). Set aside.

2. Meanwhile, while the couscous cooks, heat 1 tbsp. olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add minced garlic and onions and sauté until fragrant. Next, add diced tomatoes and allow to cook down for a few minutes. Then, add tomato paste and stir into the tomatoes and onions. Let sauce cook for a few minutes, adding a couple tablespoons of water or vegetable broth if needed for consistency. For the last few minutes, toss in the loosely torn swiss chard pieces and let sauce continue to cook until greens become just wilted. Season with salt and crushed red pepper.

3. Stir sauce into couscous, and divide evenly among plates (this makes 2 large entrée dishes or 4 side dishes). Top each dish with lemon zest and/or grated parmesan.
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{recipe} homemade basil fettuccine with cherry tomatoes + lobster.

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making your own pasta is undoubtedly one of those labor of love things, and if you have the time and interest to devote to it, it is beyond worth it. i tried it for the first time, a while back, before my kitchen aid mixer days, and it was basically a disaster. (yes, i still ate it). but since then, i’ve procured a trusty stand mixer and the pasta roller attachment, tried (and failed) a few more times, found a recipe that works for me, figured out how to troubleshoot a few common pasta issues, and even learned how to make it by hand a little better, too. (but don’t do that if you have a mixer and/or aren’t an italian grandma). i’d even say that i’ve officially moved out of the “i will suffer through making this because i know it will taste so good” phase and into the “i actually enjoy doing this let’s pour wine and turn on the record player too” phase.

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so a couple weekends ago after just having lamented that we hadn’t made homemade pasta in a while, and that we should sometime soon, we found ourselves in whole foods, where there was a convenient one-day-only sale on lobster tails. we snatched two right up, had them butterflied in the store, picked up a few other ingredients, and started dreaming up that night’s dinner.

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we don’t really cook a lot of meat/seafood and it’s not something i consider myself good at, so when i say that cooking lobster was pretty easy and you can do it without royally messing it up, i mean it. so the next time you find yourself in the grocery store and there’s a sale on lobster tails, you should a) not be afraid, b) get some, and c) have them butterfly them for you in the store because i don’t know how to tell you how to do that.

this is such a great summer dish for a saturday night where you want to do something kind of fancy but you want to do it in your pajamas. in other words, it’s a dish for all the saturday nights. anyways, the fresh pasta with basil mixed in, colorful cherry tomatoes, and buttery lobster, all topped off with parsley and parmesan, is such an awesome combo. hope you’ll try it!

suggested beer pairing: boulevard saison-brett.

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INGREDIENTS (serves 2)

½ lb. fresh pasta (preferably homemade)
handful of fresh basil, finely chopped
2 lobster tails, butterflied
1 tbsp. butter
3 cloves garlic, minced
handful of cherry tomatoes, halved
handful of fresh parsley, finely chopped
parmesan, shredded
sea salt
pepper

directions

1. If making pasta from scratch, follow this recipe, using 3 eggs (instead of 2) if dough is dry. Mix finely chopped basil into the dough. (you’ll only need half of the dough for the recipe (to serve 2), so before the rolling step, you can put the other half in the fridge and use within a couple days).

2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Place lobster tails on a baking sheet. Mix 1 tbsp. butter with 1 garlic clove, and spread over both lobster tails. Bake for about 10 minutes, until meat is white. Remove meat from tail and cut into 1-inch pieces. Set aside.

3. Meanwhile, heat a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Once boiling, add salt to the water (more than you think – I’ve read that you should be able to taste it if you were to drink the water). Carefully place cut fettuccine noodles into the boiling water, using tongs to separate noodles if they begin to stick together. Boil until al dente, about 3 minutes. Drain pasta, reserving a cupful of pasta water.

4. While lobster and pasta are cooking, heat 1 tbsp. olive oil in a skillet. Add garlic and sauté until fragrant, 1-2 minutes. Add halved tomatoes and continue sautéing, 2-3 minutes (if you do this concurrently with your pasta, add tomatoes at about the same time as you add pasta to boiling water).

5. Add lobster meat, drained pasta, shredded parmesan, and chopped parsley to the skillet. Add a bit of pasta water if needed. Use tongs to mix all ingredients together and continue cooking on medium-low until everything is warmed through.

6. Divide between two plates, garnish with additional parsley and parmesan, if desired, and season with sea salt and pepper. Bon appetit!

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