Cherry Tomato, Avocado and Red Onion Salad in a Citrus Vinaigrette

“What you really need is another tomato on top. Yeah! Right there! In the middle!”

You know, as a food blogger, bringing new people into your life is always an interesting experience. Some people hate all the photography before you can enjoy a meal. Some people seem to enjoy (too much) any  freebies you may receive. Some hate the multiple stops at the farmers’ markets AND grocery stores every weekend.

And then there are people who actually want to be involved in the photography (hence the tomato comment). And they get excited about apples at the markets. And they run off to buy bison steaks while you fawn over fennel. And they think it’s funny to take pictures of you, taking pictures of food (how, Inception).

I think most food bloggers prefer the latter. At least, I do. My aforementioned friend did just that the other night while I was photographing the Grilled Chicken Sandwich with Pepper Jack and Chipotle Lime Mayo. Those pictures, me hunched over a patio chair, in pajamas, nasty curly hair frizzed out in all directions – and with a plumbers crack apparently – will not appear on this blog. Or anywhere else for that matter!

And when it came time to snap another photo of the cherry tomato and avocado salad he happily chimed in with tomato placement suggestions. You sir, are a trooper.

Anyway, when I agreed to post a lunch suggestion for  the Small Kitchen College Brown Bag Challenge I was pretty adamant that my lunch would have a side. And what’s better than cherry tomatoes and avocados in the summer time?  Um. Nothing!

I love the salad even more because it was so easy to throw together and got better with some time in the fridge…perfect for a work-day lunch.

So here goes:

Cherry Tomato, Avocado and Red Onion Salad in a Citrus Vinaigrette

  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • 1/2 small red onion, diced
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped cilantro
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • Juice of 1/2 lime
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

Combine cherry tomatoes, avocado, red onion and cilantro in a bowl.

In a separate bowl combine remaining ingredients. Whisk aggressively with a fork for 30 seconds. Taste your concoction…add salt or pepper as needed.

Pour vinaigrette over the salad and toss very lightly with two spoons. Place in a to-go bowl and you’re ready to take it for lunch!

My Mom’s Meat Sauce

I really enjoy a hearty meat sauce. Simple ingredients, almost…plain. More than that though, I love my Mom’s meat sauce.

Growing up I remember her browning the meat as I would get ready for school, chopping the veggies quickly and throwing all the ingredients into her crock pot. It’s one of maybe ten dishes I distinctively remember from my childhood. Another one is a three bean chili I refused to eat for no good reason. (Sorry, Mom.)

 

This is my back yard at home! Meat sauce makes me think of (and miss) home...a lot.

 

I made a batch of the meat sauce this weekend for friends who came over to enjoy the Oscars and was proud when, in the final taste test, it tasted just like I remembered. I even called my Mom to tell her, “No worries…I’ve done right by your meat sauce. Everything tastes as it should.” People went back for seconds. Leftovers were handed out for lunch the next day. It was a rare moment when dinner seemed to come together effortlessly and everyone was content and full with food.

I told you when I made Alton Brown’s meat sauce that my Mom’s is better (and much easier). So here we go. The recipe is like a mom’s recipe should be…from memory and loose. Don’t get frustrated when I say for the 500th time, “to taste.” Just…keep tasting…and adjusting slowly but surely.

Recipe after the jump!

PS – Okay, so I realize I haven’t been posting actual pictures of the food lately. Like most people, I go through phases. Right now, thanks to winter light (dark by 6pm) and my general desire to eat the food I make as quickly as possible, or that I’m taking the food I make to parties, I haven’t been snapping (pretty) pictures of any of it lately. For this I apologize but I hope you’ll stick with me through this fickle phase. I promise. I’ll get back photographing my creations soon. Until then, I’ve gone the way of Apron Anxiety with a Kitchen Porn twist, which I don’t think is all that bad.

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Alton Brown’s Meat Sauce

Talk about a case of culinary excess.

Okay, here’s a question. You’re faced with a recipe that has an ingredient list the size of the New York phone book. Not really…but 23 ingredients. TWENTY THREE! What kind of food do you think you’re about to make? Thai? A complex, authentic Chinese dish? A deep, rich Mexican mole?

No. Alton Brown’s meat sauce.

Alton Brown...he's smirking because his meat sauce is ridiculous.

Why was I making this in the first place? Twitter. It’s a beast. @DarthGarry had tipped me off that he’d made the sauce and thought it was delicious…and basically challenged me to make it. I’m always up for a challenge and after he reminded me several times to make it (especially after I had announced my purchase of a dutch oven) it was on like donkey kong.

I reserved this adventure for a Sunday evening. I resolved to follow the recipe to the “t” as much as possible – even though I thought it was the most ridiculous thing ever. Ever. After reading the recipe and the time it would take to complete each step, I realized, this was a FIVE HOUR endeavor.

I know what Alton was trying to do here. With each step he is trying to extract the fullest and richest flavors out of each ingredient going into the pot.  He also has a touch of delusion mixed in there. Because I hardly tasted the 1 teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce or the 1 tablespoon of ketchup. If unnecessary ingredients like this make or break your dish, well, you have bigger issues to tackle. Other steps just felt fussy and unnecessary.

There is an upside to all this complaining though. The sauce is delicious. I just don’t think it’s worth five hours of my time. My mother has an equally delicious meat sauce recipe that calls for a day of slow cooking in a crock pot. Prep takes about 20 minutes of opening cans of various tomato products, browning meat and chopping veggies. Dump it all in the crock pot and you’re done for the day. That’s my kind of meat sauce!

I’m not going to publish the recipe, because you can find it here. Also because I’m going to make my mom’s meat sauce for you all and publish that recipe instead. Be on the look out!

Enjoy!

Goat Cheese Stuffed Squash Blossoms Vera Cruz Style

Remember what happened the last time I bought squash blossoms? Yeah. It was sad. Poor little things just sat on my counter and wilted away! So when I saw blossoms going for 3 for $1 at the Dupont Farmers Market last Sunday, I resolved. I resolved to buy all the ingredients for the blossom recipe I’d been milling over in my head. The. Same. Day.

And buy I did! Later that day, to the tune of Loco by Jowell & Randy (don’t click on that if you have delicate sensibilities) (if you do click on that, you don’t need to tell me I have terrible taste in music sometimes…I already know) I made my Jose Andres Squash Blossom Festival-inspired recipe!

See, the past few years, Oyamel, one of my favorite work neighborhood restaurants celebrates squash blossom season by adding a few blossomy dishes to the menu. One of them, is goat cheese stuffed blossoms in a vera cruz style sauce.

In the end, mine looked nada like Jose Andres’ but tasted just as good…if I do say so myself!

The good news for you (and for me, really) was that they were really easy, and quick to make. I’d say they’re the perfect appetizer for just those reasons. The bad news for you (and for me) was that they were really easy, and quick to make. Okay, I’m not gonna say exactly how many stuffed blossoms I ended up eating…but let’s just say I made six…and there were maybe, perhaps, I think, something like two left…because I thought, “Hmmmm. I should save these for…someone…else?” Sue me!! I love goat cheese.

Enjoy, folks!

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Albondigas (or Spanish Meatballs)

I’m a dork. So when I decided to make albondigas (pronounced al-bon-dee-gahs) earlier this week I ran around saying, tweeting and emailing “Cloudy with a chance of ALBONDIGAS!!!” to everyone I knew. I thought it was funny…so did my Great Great Boss who, in a very Sabado Gigante voice says, alllllBONdigaaas!!!, every time I say I’m going to make them. It’s fun times all around when albondigas are made.

The first time I made these bad boys it was a bit of an experiment and The BF was forced into partaking. The original recipe, poor misguided soul  whoever wrote that thing, called for a HALF A CUP of adobo sauce. Crazy pants. More like poop your crazy pants. The sauce was so spicy, so hot that The BF and I kept having to stop and breath, open-mouthed and frantically sip water in a really lame attempt to please, please stop the burning. It was too good to stop eating though. So we pretty much decimated out taste buds and ended up eating the whole pot of albondigas.

This time, my second time making them, I cut back on the adobo – just 2 tablespoons to the whole pot – and while it didn’t give you that spicy kick, it did give you that smoky flavor adobo is so well-known for. Next time, I’ll add more, maybe 3 tablespoons or 4. The lesson here though folks – add the adobo in small increments and taste along the way. Also, the original recipe included the chipotles that are almost always paired with the adobo sauce. Um. No thanks. Well, I take that back. Do it…but like, half of one.

I feel like such a lame half Mexican-American. My tolerance for spicy isn’t so much low as it’s that I’m a baby about my tongue burning. What!? It’s an uncomfortable feeling!

Anyway – you guys will love this. Enjoy!

PS – These are more Spanish style albondigas – Mexican style goes in a brothy soup. Also, you can make the meatballs smaller and serve them as an appetizeror tapas, or make them the 1.5 inches as stated in the recipe and serve them as a meal. I usually serve them on a bed of long-grain rice!

PPS – I changed the order of the steps in executing the recipe. A friend alerted me that if you don’t read the whole recipe through first you lose cooking time on the sauce.

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Simple Pico de Gallo

I love cooking on vacation…especially when I have a bunch of hungry tummies who are just aching to eat. So when The BF, Scott and Jonah walked in from the grocery store (and woke me from my nap) yelling, “Alejandraaaaa!!! Come make something for us to eeeeaaaat!” I couldn’t really be annoyed.

When I’m on vacation I don’t want to cook fancy, hard to make food. I want to eat fresh, familiar, soul warming stuff. And for me, that’s Mexican food. The first two things I made the boys was my Best Guacamole Ever and Simple Pico de Gallo. Add tortilla chips and a stack of Skip-Bo cards (okay, and booze) and you pretty much have your afternoon laid out for you.

If that bowl of heaping freshness doesn’t make you happy, I don’t know what will.

Two things I *always* buy too much of at the store: tomatoes and onions and garlic. I don’t know why but I do. Lucky for me, these are three of the five or so ingredients you’ll need to make this super simple side/topping/scoopable dish. Plus, the farmers markets are just brimming with tomatoes right now! So go! Get to it! Recipe after the jump!

Enjoy!

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Veggie No-Bake Lasagna

When I was asked to participate in recipe demos at the 14th and U St farmers market with fellow food bloggers Mango and Tomato, Florida Girl In DC and Thrifty DC Cook I was a) totally flattered and b) freakin’ the heck out! The recipe needed to include farmers market finds (duh!) but also be as no-cook/no-bake as possible.

Yikes! I love using farm fresh ingredients in all sorts of things…but it’s rare that I go the no-cook/no-bake route. I’m the girl who makes cheesecakes and brownies in the dead of summer. It could be 100 degrees out and I’m thinking about what to bake.

At any rate…Martha Stewart gave me some inspiration at the last minute. She had a photo and brief “recipe” for a veggie “lasagna” that looked so fresh and pretty. Turns out it was easy enough to make but was sorta bland. So I added in my favorite vinaigrette, some salt and pepper and all was well in the world again.

I hope you guys like it as much as I did! Enjoy!

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Keepin’ It Simple…Stupid

I’m a mess people. A mess. When it rains it pours.

I resolved to cooking more nights this week than not. So far, not so bad. However. It’s not without a hitch. I’m trying to keep things simple: tomato/basil/mozzarella…grilled chicken salads…stuff like that. But then there’s this:

My squash blossoms have shriveled! You know…I should have known such delicate little things would go bad quickly. It’s Wednesday…Thursday when most of you will read this. And they’re so sad. :( Look at them! I was lazy about getting to the grocery to get all my ingredients. That’s what I get. Shriveled squash blossoms.

Oh. And did I mention…my camera batteries are kaput? I need to go buy new ones. I took these…with my blackberry.

The week isn’t over yet. We’ll see how I do. *crossing my fingers, toes and eyes* Sigh.

This Week’s Cookin’

Are you guys Type-A? Or are you more free flowin’?

I’m kind of Type-A. I’m Type-A until I decide to be free flowin’…which is pretty easy for me to decide.

My point here is, I’m the kind of gal who loves a schedule. I love a daily schedule, a weekly schedule…even a monthly schedule. I find comfort in the familiar. Even if it means every night I boil water for my tea, and put together part of my lunch for the next day. If I don’t have that, I don’t have lunch for the next day. If I don’t have that, I don’t grocery shop! If I don’t do that…well…it makes eating and cooking, a pretty hard deal. The last three weekends have been filled with fun, family, and friends but that has meant no grocery shopping, so no cooking. So, no blogging. :(

This weekend though, was my first weekend back at the Dupont Farmers Market in three weeks! Three weeks! And I may have overloaded. I’m excited. Here’s what I  plan on experimenting with this week…it should be fun.

I got squash blossoms. Litttle bugers were $4 a carton! But here’s the plan…I want to stuff them with herbed goat cheese. Then I want to stew them…Veracruz style. Why? Well…it’s squash blossom festival at Oyamel…one of my favorite restaurants in town. And I can’t get enough of Jose Andres’ take on these edible flowers. He’s my inspiration here.

I also got corn…I’m thinking maybe roasted corn. Paula Deen style…with some mayo and Parmesan, salt and pepper. Or if I can’t muster the energy to roast it, I’ll just cook it and make a corn salsa. The BF and I made tacos tonight…I should have done the corn salsa for ‘em, but hey…some nights, the tummy that rumbles loudest, wins.

I got tomatoes. For some reason, I’m just not into tomato season this year. Everyone goes crazy over heirloom tomatoes every year…even the Washington Post held a tomato recipe contest. Not into it at all this year. Not sure why…but it is what it is. I’m more interested in the beefsteak tomatoes I got. I’m going to slice ‘em up and serve them with fresh mozzarella and tear some fresh basil over it. Simple, easy. Olive oil, sea salt and pepper. Snack. App. Dinner. It’s great. It screams summer. I’m excited for it.

I also got brussel sprouts. Nearly becoming a staple in my home. Also some green beans. The BF likes Chinese-style green beens. I’ll try to make them for him.

I want to make granola bars. I want to make olive oil cake. I WILL make olive oil cake. I tried to find a good olive oil at the grocery store. You know…good luck with that. Unless you’re at Whole Paycheck. Which makes me sad.

This week should be fun with cooking. I also realize it’s a lot. But I’ll try, and we’ll see how it goes. I’ll report back on Saturday or Sunday. I bet you anything, Friday night will result in me cooking a lot of veggies. What do you bet!?

Faux Gumbo

I know NOLA, Southern people, ya’ll. It’s not gumbo. There’s no roux. I’m sorry. It’s another Weight Watchers recipe.

God…I need to bake something. With a lot of butter in it. Soon. Or something with caramel. Salted caramel. Like brownies. Drizzled with smooth, salted caramel. Sprinkled with the tiniest bits of flaky, white…*drool*

Sorry! Sorry! I’m back. Faux gumbo. Even The BF liked this one…he has no clue what he’s eating really. I just make this stuff, it happens to be healthy and he’s happy at the end of the night. So if you aren’t a stickler for completely authentic gumbo, you probably won’t mind this. If you are a stickler, like I am about my Mexican food, then, carry on! Act like you never saw this post.

Maybe we’ll just call it Chicken, Shrimp and Kielbasa with Rice in Tomatoes. How about that? :)

Enjoy!

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