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!

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Kale Chips

My twitter food challenge throw downs with @darthgarry continue! This time, it’s kale chips. After he braved my croquembouche challenge, he gave me kale chips. Not exactly a challenge equal in difficulty, but certainly a worthy one. There are tales of failed, soggy kale chips scattered throughout the internet so I was a little concerned.

I did some research – and frankly, kale chips are deceptively simple. Some olive oil and salt and you’re basically set. The key here is to not over-saturate the kale with olive oil. For a large bundle of kale all you really need is a tablespoon, maybe less, of olive oil and a sprinkling of sea salt.

But, because I’m me, I couldn’t just settle with olive oil and salt. The night I made the kale chips I had been roasting asparagus and sweet potatoes in a vinaigrette of sorts.

Last summer I was perusing the aisles at Trader Joe’s and came upon the most delightful sounding vinegar – orange muscat champagne vinegar to be exact! The bottle was cheap – definitely less than $5 and as it turns out I used that stuff all summer long on my salads and in marinades. It’s light and refreshing, not overly sweet and it adds a nice zip to a vinaigrette without being as acidic as lemon juice.

Since I was baking the kale chips on the same pan I’d just roasted veggies in my made-up mix, I thought I’d do the same for the kale. As it turns out, it was a really lovely compliment to the deep, earthy flavor of the kale.

I’ve made two batches of these bad boys now and my friends and co-workers adore them! Just remember: light touch with the olive oil and diligence when it comes to watching the time (20 minutes is really all they need) and you’ll have a healthy, crunchy snack.

Recipe after the jump, enjoy!

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Guest Post: Oreo Balls

This is a guest post from my co-worker and good friend Dave. If you remember the Cran-Orange Scones I made…it was Dave’s tried and true recipe that I used. I tweeted out that I’d had Dave’s Oreo Balls for breakfast one day last week and it was met with such enthusiasm (and some jealousy) that I asked him to guest post! Here we go:

Mmmm! Dave's Oreo Balls!

 

Like many of my friends, I learned a lot of my culinary skills from my mom.  While I’ve tried (and mostly succeeded) a number of her recipes, the one I’m most proud of are the Oreo Balls.

Let it be known that this is not an original from my mom (I’ve seen other recipes online), but it is easy, fun and a real crowd pleaser (just ask my office mates)

  • 1 package of Oreos
  • 1 block of cream cheese (softened)
  • 1-2 bags of semi-sweet morsels

Before the ball making begins, line either a cookie sheet, or whatever pan would fit into your freezer, with wax paper and set aside.

In a food processor (very helpful but you could use a rolling pin if that’s all you have) grind the whole package of Oreos into as fine a texture as possible (no large chunks please).

Add the softened cream cheese to the bowl and start mixing.  I’ve found this to be much easier with my stand mixer, but the hand held one worked great for years.  You’ll want a smooth, shiny texture to the mix.

Using a round teaspoon, scoop a full amount of the mixture into your hand, rolling it into a round ball.  Place onto the wax paper lined pan.  Continue this until your pan is full or you’re out of the Oreo mixture.  Freeze the balls.  Overnight is preferred but if you’re short on time, three hours will do.

After the frozen stage, melt your morsels either in a double broiler or in a glass bowl in the microwave.  You’re looking for a smooth consistency.  Get ready, ‘cause it’s time to dip your balls!

The rest of the directions are after the jump!

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Thanksgiving #TurkeyTalk Round Up

Well, I would say the #turkeytalk chat was quite a success. At some point, enough people were on the chat long enough that we were a trending topic in DC on Twitter! Pretty exciting I say :)

Here’s the round up tips, tricks and recipes shared during the chat – but the hashtag is very much alive! Keep using it on Twitter to join in and share!

Tips, Tricks and Resources

Snacks & Apps

Turkey

  • Big winner idea of the night: @MrsWheelbarrow rubs her turkey down with bacon fat. Rubs. Her turkey. Down. With. Bacon. Fat.
  • I plan on rubbing my turkey down with butter…and that’s when @ThriftyDCCook recommended Cowgirl Creamery‘s European style salted butter from Vermont.
  • Brine recipe: Salt, brown sugar, oranges, lemons, thyme, parsley. Keep in the cooler overnight w/ice. via @MrsWheelbarrow
  • Everyone raved over Michael Ruhlman’s Ratio book for a brine recipe.
  • Ever consider spatchcocking your turkey, then cooking it on the grill? @MrsWheelbarrow and @ThriftyDCCook are thinking of doing their turkey this way – but be warned – this takes muscle and a strong pair of kitchen shears.
  • There was a debate over stuff in the turkey vs. out of the turkey – some liked out of the turkey because that frees up the cavity for aromatics (lemons, oranges, onions, fresh herbs) others like it in because all the flavors and juices get to mingle. In the end, it’s a personal preference.

Vegetarian options, Sides, Desserts, Drinks and more after the jump…

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Potato, Shallot and Gruyere Galette

I can’t quite remember what got me on this idea of potatoes and onions. It might have been the potato pizza I had in Vegas. But the idea of a galette definitely came from Nikki Rapaport.

But I must admit. I cheated. I cheated bad. A simple galette crust is so easy to make from scratch. I used…*hangs head in shame*…oh god…I used a frozen pre-made pie crust.

Oh please! Who am I kidding!? I’m not ashamed!

I was having people over. I wanted to enjoy my little get together…including the cooking part. The last thing I needed was to be battling it out with a crust that was either falling apart or was too sticky. Pillsbury, I salute you. That crust is amazingly flaky. (Modern Domestic has a great post on pie crust science in case I’ve got you thinking about it.)

A layer of thinly sliced potato (my first time using a mandolin – unscathed thank you very much!), a layer of sauteed shallots, a layer of shredded gruyere cheese…repeat. It really doesn’t get much easier. And it’s a crowd pleaser!

Enjoy!

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Figs with Bleu Cheese & Honey

Sometimes the tastiest things are the simplest things.

I am really excited that figs are in season. They’re not usually high on my list of “gosh I really want to eat that” things, but Arugula Files’ post reminding us all they are finally in season reminded me of something.

My Grandmother had a fig tree in her backyard when I was growing up. I never understood the strange fruit, and I don’t remember particularly loving them but they do remind me of being young and curious and, of course, my Grandmother.

So when I saw a figs-stuffed-with-cheese recipe in my newly purchased Farmers Market Desserts book I was pretty excited. The recipe in the book is simple to begin with, but I was feeling downright lazy. It was more than enough that I’d gotten up way too early on a Sunday to hunt down figs at the Dupont Farmers Market (which can be found at the Country Pleasures Farm stand in very limited quantities).

So I stuffed them with bleu cheese and drizzled them with honey and called it a day. And ate them. I ate them all.

Think about those heavy fall dinners that are coming our way…I don’t know about you, but I still want dessert! This would be the way to go!

Enjoy :)

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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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Roasted Corn On The Cob

This one’s easy folks. There’s no measuring, stirring, combining or mixing. It’s a lot of slathering, shaking and shmearing. It’s good stuff.

It’s an adapted Paula Deen recipe.

BOOM! Need I say more!? Oh wait…let me add that it’s fresh farmers market corn on the cob. Which, I hear is quite a steal right now. Okay, so here we go…

Clean an ear, or two, of corn – peel off the husk and make sure all the silky strings are removed. Chop off the gnarly ends of the corn. Now shmear (using your hands) a (healthy) dollop of mayo (the real thing, not that low fat stuff!) all over each ear of corn. Sprinkle a (healthy) shake of Parmesan cheese over each ear. Now sprinkle a little more on. It’s that good. Now a dash of salt and pepper and you’re done. Paula makes her’s spicy by adding some cayenne. I don’t object to that…or some Old Bay, or adobo or chili powder. I’m up for it all. I just wasn’t last night. Add what you like…add some dried herbs? Mix it up!

Now wrap it up in some aluminum foil…nice and tight! Pop it in the oven or on a grill for 20 minutes at 350 degrees. All done? Open up the foil, let it cool for a minute and…AND…EAT!!!

Enjoy! :)