Crushed it.

I’m going to sing the praises of some unusual libations here. First is the Cucumber Basil Martini that I had on vacay at the Talkative Pig on Cape Cod. Made with vodka, muddled cucumber and fresh basil, and the fennel based liqueur Finocchietto, it was the perfect pre-dinner cocktail devoid of cloying sweetness.

To educate, Finocchietto has a bold, bright fennel flavor, one that’s light and balanced, rather than the aggressive anise hit that spirits can bring. It reminded us how fresh and vibrant fennel can be. According to history, Roman gladiators flavored their food with Finocchietto, believing it to be a source of strength. It is a fine savory digestif and a cooking staple in many Neapolitan kitchens today.

Problem is, no liquor store in the great state of PA carries it—it has to be special ordered according to one state store manager. And he told me it would not come in in time for our house party only days away. Bumhead 😦 I’ll continue to be a liqueur sleuth until I score…

But here’s where I CRUSHED it—almost. Ever hear of Hpnotiq? It’s a refreshing blend of premium French vodka, exotic fruit juices and a touch of cognac. Sounds very adult-like, right? Well I had a full, unopened bottle of Hpnotiq and decided to make a Blue Crush for the house drink. All I needed was lemonade and blueberry vodka.

Simple enough mission. Just send The Hubs to the liquor store where they sell every fruit-flavored vodka imaginable, plus oddities like cucumber and basil, and peanut to name a few. But no friggin’ blueberry! Are you kidding me? After some discussion via our mobiles, we decided to go with Blue Raspberry vodka, at least it contained the word “blue” and was made from berries.

Blue Crush Cocktail

  • Servings: 2
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 4 oz. Hpnotiq
  • 2 oz. Premium blueberry vodka
  • Splash of lemonade in each glass

Directions

Shake hpnotiq and blueberry vodka with ice and strain over ice in a rocks glass. Add lemonade to taste. Garnish with fresh blueberries and mint.

http://www.lynnandruss.com

To dress up this wonton woman of a drink, we added a spear of the largest, sweetest blueberries we’ve ever been fortunate to get our hands on; and a sprig of fresh chocolate mint snipped directly from our herb garden. Now she was ready to get the party started!

These were the most gorgeous and tasty blueberries ever!
My new summer love ❤

This next drink involves blood orange, and you know how I have a fetish for those. (It’s in writing under the Food Fetish tab.) While at the aforementioned liquor store, The Hubs eyeballed some Effen Blood Orange Vodka (gotta love that name!) and remembered a drink we imbibed while on another vacation in the Poconos in early July—the Blood Orange Aperol Spritzer.

Our first taste of a Blood Orange Aperol Spritzer was served in a
plastic cup at a beach bar on Boulder Lake.

If you’re not familiar with Aperol, it is an Italian aperitif with the flavor and aroma of orange so the blood oranges go perfectly in this cocktail. It has a nice blend of bitterness and sweetness—again, very adult-like. Our version, tastes like a creamsicle without any cream. It’s best garnished with a sprig of fresh rosemary and a slice of blood orange. Problem is, blood oranges are only available in the late fall/early winter months around here. I guess you could use a slice of navel orange or tangerine in a pinch.

Apparently there are numerous versions in concocting this libation. Several use Prosecco instead of club soda, and/or orange juice in place of the blood orange vodka. But once we had a taste of that EFFEN vodka, there was no turning back…

Blood Orange Aperol Spritzer

  • Servings: 2
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 4 oz. Premium Blood Orange Vodka, such as Effen
  • 2 oz. Aperol Liqueur
  • Splash of club soda in each glass
  • Rosemary sprig and blood orange slice for garnish

Directions

In a shaker, shake vodka and aperol with ice and strain over ice in an 8-oz. glass. Add club soda to taste. Garnish with fresh rosemary sprig and blood orange slice.

http://www.lynnandruss.com

Moroccan Cod Tagine for Two

The bright colors and flavors literally pop off the plate in this lovely, healthy fish tagine. And with a few tweaks, we bolstered that brightness by doubling the amount of carrots and green olives. Pairing it with a side of tricolored couscous to help soak up the luscious sauce didn’t harm the color palette either!

For a bright, flavorful fish tagine, start by salting chunks of cod to season the flesh and help it retain moisture. Coat the fish in chermoula, a flavorful herb-spice paste of cilantro, garlic, cumin, paprika, cayenne, lemon juice, and olive oil, just before cooking to season its exterior.

Softening bell pepper, onion, and carrot before adding the tomatoes and fish ensures that the vegetables will be soft and tender by the time the fish has cooked through. Preserved lemon and olives add acidity, complexity, and salty punch to the broth. To produce moist, flaky cod, turn off the heat once the broth is bubbling at the bottom of the pot and allow the fish to cook in the residual heat.

You can substitute red snapper or haddock for the cod as long as the fillets are 1 to 1½ inches thick. Picholine or Cerignola olives work well in this recipe. Serve this dish with flatbread, couscous, or rice.

Moroccan Cod Tagine for Two

  • Servings: 2
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 12 ounces skinless cod fillets (1 to 1½ inches thick), cut into 1½- to 2-inch pieces
  • ½ teaspoon table salt, divided
  • ¼ cup fresh cilantro leaves, plus 2 tablespoons chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  • ¾ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ¾ teaspoon paprika
  • ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • ½ onion, sliced through root end ¼ inch thick
  • ½ green bell pepper, cut into ¼-inch strips
  • 1 small carrot, peeled and sliced on bias
  • ¼ inch thick¾ cup canned diced tomatoes
  • 3 tablespoons pitted green olives, quartered lengthwise
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped preserved lemon

Directions

  1. Place cod in bowl and toss with ¼ teaspoon salt. Set aside.
  2. Pulse cilantro leaves, garlic, cumin, paprika, and cayenne in food processor until cilantro and garlic are finely chopped, about 12 pulses. Add lemon juice and pulse briefly to combine. Transfer mixture to small bowl and stir in 1½ tablespoons oil. Set aside.
  3. Heat remaining 1½ tablespoons oil in large saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion, bell pepper, carrot, and remaining ¼ teaspoon salt and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in tomatoes and their juice, olives, and preserved lemon. Spread mixture in even layer on bottom of saucepan.
  4. Toss cod with cilantro mixture until evenly coated, then arrange cod over vegetables in single layer. Cover and cook until cod starts to turn opaque and juices released from cod are simmering vigorously, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove saucepan from heat and let stand, covered, until cod is opaque and just cooked through (cod should register 140 degrees), 3 to 5 minutes. Sprinkle with chopped cilantro and serve.

http://www.lynnandruss.com

Adapted from a recipe by Cook’s Illustrated

Flank Steak with Salsa Verde Salad

This summery dinner salad is perfect for the dog days of August. While the list of ingredients may seem a bit lengthy, the salsa verde made with scallions, mint, cilantro (or parsley), capers and garlic becomes the marinade for both the steak and the dressing for the greens. A win-win in my book. If you’re following a low-carb diet, this baby is for you.

This meal was one of our Cape Cod vacation dinners for the two of us. (So yes, we had leftovers, yeah!) The NYTimes recipe originally called for skirt steak, but the local grocery store wasn’t carrying any—instead they had some beautiful flank steaks, a perfect substitute.

We also took it upon ourselves to grill the romaine quarters, even though the original recipe didn’t include this step. Slightly charring the romaine, which was brushed all over with olive oil, added an inviting addition to the flavor profile. And what the heck, the grill was still hot and the meat had to rest, after all…

And because when you are in vacation mode and need to adapt without fuss, we used cilantro in place of parsley, because, well, that’s what we had on hand and didn’t feel like making an extra trip to the supermarket. Some folks can’t stomach cilantro, so parsley is your best alternative. We happen to love the herb.

Flank Steak with Salsa Verde Salad

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds flank steak
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for romaine
  • 1/4 cup red-wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced scallions
  • 2 tablespoons capers, drained and roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic (about 2 large cloves)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, plus more to taste
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro (or parsley)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
  • 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
  • 2 romaine hearts
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

Directions

  1. If necessary, cut the steak crosswise into large pieces that will fit into a shallow, nonreactive dish such as glass. Transfer steak(s) to dish.
  2. In a large glass measuring cup, whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, scallions, capers, garlic, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Pour about 1/3 of dressing over the steak and turn to coat both sides.
  3. Add the cilantro (or parsley) and 1 tablespoon mint to the reserved dressing, stir, and set aside until ready to use. Cover and refrigerate for at least 3o minutes and up to 24 hours. (If marinating overnight, cover and refrigerate the reserved dressing.)
  4. In a small sauté pan over medium heat, toast the pine nuts, tossing often, until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Set aside.
  5. Set the grill to medium-high heat. Pat the steaks dry with a paper towel and grill 3 to 5 minutes on each side for medium-rare, 125°. Check with an instant read thermometer.
  6. Transfer tp a plate, sprinkle with salt, and allow to rest for 10 minutes.
  7. Meanwhile, cut the romaine hearts into quarters. Brush all over with olive oil and sprinkle lightly with kosher salt. Grill for a total of 5 minutes, turning once to char both sides lightly.
  8. Arrange romaine in one layer on a large platter, leaving room in the middle for the steaks.
  9. Slice the steak into 3″ pieces, then slice against the grain to cut the steak into wide strips. Place in center of platter pouring any accumulated juices over the meat.
  10. Sprinkle feta, pine nuts and remaining 1 tablespoon of mint over the romaine.
  11. Arrange the sliced steak on the platter, drizzle with reserved dressing over steak and lettuce. Serve immediately.

http://www.lynnandruss.com

Adapted from a recipe by Lidey Heuck from the NYTimes

Solstice

Solstice is a seasonally-focused and ingredient-driven modern-American restaurant. They feature fresh, craveable food paired with elevated service in a friendly and approachable environment. Their ingredient-driven menu features various preparations and techniques to bring out the richest, most complex flavors.

Not to mention the cool, hip ambience of the place with on-trend lighting fixtures. Food is juxtaposed with traditional preparations and modern plating with refined execution in their dynamic environment where you can enjoy the best ingredients of the season. And that we did!

Solstice first opened in Newtown, PA in early March 2020 (you probably know where this is going), and then promptly shuttered it’s doors one week later due to COVID-19. By the time they reopened in June and we finally had a chance to make a reservation, it was the very end of July. Better late than never, right?

They are no slouches when it comes to adhering to virus precautions. Masks are correctly worn on all staff; hand sanitizer stations are strategically placed; tables are situated with plenty of room in between; there are QR codes for menus (paper ones available if requested); white-gloved servers bring you food while black-gloved bussers remove table debris; and you pay your tab via mobile technology.

Their bar centers around creative, handcrafted cocktails, which are also updated seasonally. If you’re not in the mood for a spirited drink, they offer an extensive Zero Proof cocktail selection using vitamin-packed aloe juice as the spirit substitution.

We started with a bottle of red cab and chose a few appetizers before the entrées. In fact, while we were waiting for our first course, we were presented with an amuse bouche spoonful of pickled watermelon rind with a feta creme. Classy touch!

As an appetizer, Russ loved his Smoked Salmon Rillette which came plated with a caper-dill sour cream, plum mostarda and three toasted baguette slices. I had a bit, and yes it was delicious.

I was in a greens mode and selected their Solstice Salad comprised of thinly sliced watermelon radish, zucchini, shaved carrots, heirloom tomatoes, cucumber, focaccia croutons, parmesan, and egg all topped with a buttermilk-fermented garlic dressing. Just loved it!

The biggest hit of the night was Russ’ main course of Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes. For years we have been on the search to find a comparable crab cake to those we had at Brian’s in Lambertville many, many years ago. Our opinion, these were even better with hardly any filler and loads of lump sweet crab meat loosely formed into patties. The cakes came paired with a delicious kohlrabi coleslaw and a homemade remoulade sauce.

Russ had to call the waitress back because after he’d placed his order, he realized he wanted a side order of their Hand-Cut Fries served in a charming tin cup with two dipping sauces: roasted red pepper ketchup and loaded baked potato aioli. I had a few and must confess, they were the BEST fries in recent memory.

I had been eyeballing several entrées including those crab cakes but finally settled on the Seared Cape May Scallops. While there were only 3 scallops, they were huge, tender and flavorful, just enough for me. The one misstep of the night for me was the side of yellow corn risotto, it was bland and unmemorable. The sea bean salsa verde and passion fruit gelée added delightful hits of flavor.

Another classy touch was the mignardise, a bite-sized dessert served at the end of a meal. In this case, a corn madeleine topped with a white miso caramel. For dessert Russ chose a scoop of gellati and filled out the bottom of the menu card that asks you to describe your favorite seasonal dessert. We immediately thought of his lemon posset topped with fresh blueberries. Who knows, that may get us a future free dinner at Solstice

New England Lobstah Bake

OK, so the actual title is New England Clam Bake, but I don’t eat clams and the real star of the show here is, let’s face it, the LOBSTER! While I’ve participated in many a clam bake over the decades, I never actually made one. And the beauty of this is, no need for a beach. You concoct the entire meal in one large pot in-house—a genius alternative when cooking at the beach isn’t an option.

In our case, make that two large pots. We were on vacation in Cape Cod and were at the mercy of whatever the rental property provided pot-wise (and I’m not talking the smoking variety.) After rummaging around in cupboards we thought we struck gold with a ginormous steaming pot. Alas, while the outside looked brand-spanking new, the inside bottom was rusty and therefore unusable for the broth.

A chilled bottle of dry rosé paired perfectly with the meal.

However I have to credit some quick thinking by The Hubs. We steamed the crustaceans in that steam pot while cooking everything else in the second largest pot available, which would not have held the entire ingredients. The rental also coughed up two large plastic trays, perfect for serving purposes.

If you don’t count the cost of the rather expensive jumbo shrimp at $23-per-pound, the meal in itself was quite reasonably priced—and normally shrimp isn’t part of a lobster/clam bake anyway. We added them because, as I mentioned earlier, I don’t eat clams. I like clam broth, just not the consistency of the “meat”. Lobsters were running $9.99 per pound and we needed two 2-pounders. If the four of us (son David and girlfriend Vikki joined us) had dined out on this meal, the cost would’ve far surpassed the monetary output invested here.

Our rental was situated only about a quarter mile from Mac’s Chatham Fish and Lobster which provides not only fresh seafood for purchase, but also dine-in and take-out options. (We availed ourselves of all three over our two-week stay.) The Hubs got there shortly after opening to make sure our needs would be in stock.

NOTE: If you happen to be doing your clambake in a pot that’s set on a rack over an open grill, go ahead and instead toss the corn and the cut lemon directly on the rack to impart a slight smokiness to the final dish.

Don’t forget a loaf of good crusty bread to mop up the yummy broth.

When ready, tip the contents of the pot onto a table lined with newspaper or butcher paper. (Cut each lobster in half prior to serving.) Or in our case, because we wanted to preserve the broth for bread-dipping purposes, dump the contents onto rimmed trays. Sprinkle everything with the herbs and set out small bowls of melted butter along with some crusty bread and lemon wedges and dishes or small buckets so folks have a place to toss the spent shells. Don’t forget oo-gobs of napkins!

BTW—We did have quite a few potatoes and corn leftover. The remaining potatoes were sliced and fried for breakfast the next morning, and the corn was shaved off the cobs and made into a sauté a few days later.

New England Lobstah Bake

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

  •  1 cup cold water
  •  2 cups dry white wine
  •  2 1/2 Tbsp. Old Bay Seasoning
  •  1 tsp. coarse sea salt
  •  4 garlic cloves, smashed
  •  1 red onion, roughly chopped
  •  2 pounds new potatoes, halved
  • 2, 2-pound lobsters
  •  2 dozen Manila clams
  • 1 1/2 lbs. jumbo shrimp
  •  4 ears fresh corn, cut into quarters
  •  Small bunch tarragon or flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
  •  2 sticks unsalted butter (8 oz), melted
  •  Crusty bread
  •  6 lemons, halved or cut into wedges

Directions

  1. In a ginormous pot, bring the water, wine, Old Bay, salt, and garlic to a boil.
  2. Toss the onion and potatoes in the pot, cover, and cook over medium-high heat for 15 minutes.
  3. Nestle the lobsters on the onion and potatoes, cover the pot again, and cook for 3 minutes.
  4. Add the clams and corn and continue to cook, still covered, until the clams have opened, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the shrimp (if using) 3 minutes before everything is done, you don’t want to overcook them.
  5. Carefully remove the pot from the heat and drain the cooking liquid (we saved it for bread dipping purposes). Remove and discard any clams that haven’t opened.
  6. With a large sharp knife, slice the lobsters in halve lengthwise.
  7. Tip the contents of the pot onto a table lined with newspaper or butcher paper or transfer to 2 large rimmed platters. Transfer broth into a separate bowl if desired.

http://www.lynnandruss.com

Adapted from a recipe found on leitesculinaria.com

Lemon-Lime Lacquered Chicken with Japanese Potato Salad

We recently returned from a two-week vacation on Cape Cod. Before departure, we knew that along with dining out sparingly (due to COVID restrictions) and ordering take-out, there would also be a fair amount of home-cheffing taking place. In preparation, we created a dinner menu and grocery list ahead of time.

Yes, we are “those people” who bring our own knives, spices and other culinary paraphernalia because let’s face it, when was the last time you ever vacationed with a fully-equipped kitchen? More often than not, you’ll be forced to make do with dull knives that barely cut butter, scratched non-stick skillets and only salt and pepper for seasoning. Been there, done that.

Two sons and their girlfriends were joining us for part of the stay. In determining recipes, we knew everyone allows chicken in their diets and all of us prefer bold flavored food, making these two recipes a slam dunk. These guys are big eaters so we cooked a little over 8 pounds of poultry and doubled everything else. WOW, these were amazingly delicious and packed with flavor!

Both recipes hailed from Milk Street where their online accompanying article explained this Filipino chicken barbecue, inihaw na manok (which translates simply as “grilled chicken”) commonly includes multiple sweet ingredients, the most intriguing being lemon-lime soda such as Sprite or 7Up. Yes, we were indeed intrigued. (Don’t use diet soda.)

With that sweetness tempered by tangy vinegar, salty soy sauce and savory garlic and black pepper, the marinade infuses bone-in, skin-on chicken parts and produces nicely lacquered skin. We made the marinade in the morning before we all hit the beach, then later in the afternoon, we simply added the chicken parts to the marinade for two hours.

If you cook both breasts and legs, make sure to take the internal temperatures of the different parts and remove the pieces as they are done cooking, as white meat is done at about 160°F and dark meat at about 175°F. Don’t flip the chicken or place the pieces directly over the fire until final the minutes of cooking. The basting sauce contains a good dose of sugar and will burn if it gets too much direct heat.

Our rental property only had a small charcoal grill, and let me tell you, it took much longer than anticipated for all of the chicken to come to temperature—like 10 o’clock at night late! Oh well, let’s just say cocktail time was a bit extended that evening.

Lemon-Lime Lacquered Chicken

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

  • ¾ Cup cider vinegar
  • ½ Cup ketchup
  • ⅓ Cup soy sauce
  • 6 Tbsp. packed light or dark brown sugar
  • 6 Garlic cloves, peeled
  • 4 Bay leaves
  • 1 Tbsp. black peppercorns
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 Cup lemon-lime soda, such as sprite or 7up
  • 3 Lbs. bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts, thighs and/or drumsticks, trimmed and patted dry
  • 1 Tbsp. lime juice

Directions

  1. In a blender, combine the vinegar, ketchup, soy sauce, sugar, garlic, bay, peppercorns and 1½ teaspoons salt. Blend until well combined and the bay leaves are broken into tiny bits, 15 to 30 seconds. Pour the mixture into a large bowl, then stir in the soda.
  2. If using chicken breasts, use a sharp chef’s knife to cut each in half crosswise. Cut 2 or 3 diagonal slashes about ½ inch deep through the skin and meat of each piece of chicken. Add the chicken to the marinade and turn to coat. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour or up to 2 hours.
  3. Prepare a charcoal or gas grill for indirect cooking. For a charcoal grill, spread a large chimney of hot coals evenly over one side of the grill bed; open the bottom grill vents and the lid vent. Heat the grill, covered, for 5 to 10 minutes, then clean and oil the grate. For a gas grill, turn all burners to high and heat, covered, for 15 minutes, then clean and oil the cooking grate; leave the primary burner on high and turn the remaining burner(s) to low.
  4. While the grill heats, transfer the chicken to a large plate, allowing the marinade to drip off. Pour the marinade into a medium saucepan, bring to a simmer over medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until reduced to 1 cup, about 20 minutes. (I reduced it for more like 40 minutes to get it thick enough since I had doubled the recipe.)
  5. Stir in the lime juice and set aside. Set aside ⅓ cup for serving; use the remainder as a basting sauce.
  6. Place the chicken skin side up on the cooler side of the grill. Cover and cook for 15 minutes. Generously brush the pieces with basting sauce, then re-cover and cook until the thickest part of the breast, if using, reaches 160°F or the thickest part of the thighs and drumsticks, if using, reach 175°F, another 15 to 20 minutes.
  7. Brush the chicken with the reduced sauce, then flip the chicken skin side down onto the hot side of the grill. Cook until deeply browned, about 1 minute. Brush the bone side with basting sauce, then flip a final time and cook until deeply browned, about 1 minute.
  8. Transfer skin side up to a platter and let rest for about 5 minutes. Serve with the reserved sauce.

By Laura Russell from Milk Street

http://www.lynnandruss.com

Japanese Potato Salad

First of all, while this sounded very intriguing, I was a bit concerned over the process but I went with it. However, I did take issue with mashing half of the cooked potatoes while leaving the remainder whole—so I halved those whole spuds.

Getting potato salad just so is no picnic, right? Too often it lacks the acidity or piquancy needed to cut through the richness of the mayonnaise. Milk Street found that in Japan potato salads are partially mashed to create a creamier texture. And they balance that texture with crumbled hard-boiled egg and the crisp bite of vegetables, such as cucumber and carrots. For a savory touch, diced ham is added and finished with scallions.

NOTE: Don’t substitute starchy russet or waxy new potatoes. The smooth texture of partly mashed Yukon Golds gave us the creamy consistency we wanted.

Japanese Potato Salad

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 1 Persian cucumber, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
  • 1 Medium carrot, peeled and shredded on the large holes of a box grater
  • ¼ Cup minced red onion
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper
  • 1½ Lbs. yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into ¾-inch pieces
  • 3 Tbsp. unseasoned rice vinegar
  • ½ Cup mayonnaise
  • 2 Oz. thick-cut smoked deli ham, diced (about ⅓ cup)
  • 1 Hard-cooked egg plus 1 hard-cooked egg yolk, diced
  • 1 tsp. white sugar
  • 2 Scallions, thinly sliced

Directions

  1. In a medium bowl, stir together the cucumber, carrot, onion and 2 teaspoons salt; set aside. In a large saucepan over high, combine the potatoes with enough water to cover by 1 inch. Add 1 teaspoon of salt and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-high and simmer until a skewer inserted into the potatoes meets no resistance, 12 to 15 minutes.
  2. Drain the potatoes, then transfer to a large bowl. Using a fork, coarsely mash half of the potatoes.
  3. Sprinkle with the vinegar and ¾ teaspoon of pepper. Stir to combine, then spread in an even layer along the bottom and sides of the bowl. Let cool for at least 20 minutes.
  4. Transfer the vegetable mixture to a fine mesh strainer, rinse well and drain. Working in batches, use your hands to squeeze the vegetables, removing as much liquid as possible, then add to the potatoes. Fold until well combined.
  5. Taste and season with salt and pepper, then sprinkle with scallions. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

http://www.lynnandruss.com

By Elizabeth Germain from Milk Street

Lebanese Lentils and Rice with Crisped Onions (Mujaddara)

Rice and lentils with caramelized onions is a much-loved food in the Middle East. This is Milk Street’s take on the version they tasted in Lebanon, where the dish is called mujaddara. The rice and lentils are simmered together in the same pot, with the lentils getting a 10-minute head start so both finish at the same time.

Meanwhile, the onions are fried until crisp and deeply caramelized—almost burnt, really—to coax out a savory bittersweet flavor. Serve hot, warm or at room temperature with a dollop of plain yogurt. It’s a delicious accompaniment to grilled or roasted meats, but it’s hearty enough to be the center of a vegetarian meal.

We took the flavor up a notch by using homemade chicken broth instead of the water. Of course, it’s no longer vegetarian after that, but you could use vegetable or mushroom stock if that is your goal. I must admit, without the pop of green from scallions (and I added a garnish of cilantro), the dish is very bland and brown looking—the taste is anything BUT.

For the uninitiated, lentils are tiny round legumes—aka a seed that grows in a pod—a plant-based protein source that come in a variety of sizes and colors, including black, brown, yellow, red, or green. They’re low in fat, extremely nutrient-dense, and generally pretty affordable to buy, and they pack in a lot of health benefits. They are high in protein, are a good source of iron, and pack a lot of healthy fiber.

Tip: Don’t use French green lentils (Puy lentils) in place of the brown lentils called for. Even when fully cooked, green lentils retain a firm, almost al dente texture, while brown lentils take on a softness that combines well with the rice. Don’t worry if the onions turn quite dark at the edge of the skillet; deep browning is desirable. But do stir the browned bits into the mix to ensure the onions color evenly. However, if the onions brown deeply before they soften, lower the heat a notch or two and keep stirring until the pan cools slightly.

Lebanese Lentils and Rice with Crisped Onions (Mujaddara

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 4 medium garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 2½ tsp. ground cumin
  • ½ tsp. ground allspice
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper
  • 5 cups water, or choice of stock (we used homemade chicken stock)
  • 1 cup brown lentils, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup basmati rice, rinsed and drained
  • ⅓ cup peanut oil
  • 2 medium yellow onions, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced
  • Plain whole-milk yogurt, to serve

Directions

  1. In a large Dutch oven over medium-high, combine 5 cups water, the garlic, bay, cumin, allspice, 1 tablespoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Bring to a boil, then stir in the lentils and reduce to medium. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally and adjusting the heat to maintain a simmer, until the lentils are softened but still quite firm at the center, about 10 minutes.
  2. Stir in the rice and return to a simmer. Cover, reduce to medium-low and cook until the liquid is absorbed and the lentils and rice are tender, about 25 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the onions and cook, stirring only occasionally at the start then more frequently once browning begins at the edges of the pan, until the onions are deeply caramelized and crisped, 10 to 15 minutes; adjust the heat if the onions brown too quickly. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the onions to a paper towel–lined plate and spread evenly. Sprinkle with ¼ teaspoon salt and set aside; the onions will crisp as they cool.
  4. When the lentils and rice are tender, remove the pot from the heat. Uncover and lay a kitchen towel across the pan, then replace the lid and let stand for 10 minutes.
  5. Using a fork, fluff the lentils and rice, removing and discarding the bay. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
  6. Stir in half the scallions, then transfer to a serving bowl. Top with the fried onions and remaining scallions.
  7. Serve hot, warm or at room temperature with yogurt on the side.

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Recipe courtesy of 177MilkStreet.com

Cavatappi with Italian Sausage, Tomatoes and Eggplant

This pasta dish, loosely based on a sausage and eggplant ragù from Sicily, is ideal for summer because it uses in-season tomatoes and eggplant. In addition, the pasta is cooked directly in the sauce so there’s no need to heat up the kitchen with another large pot of boiling water. And it was hot as blazes the night we made this for dinner.

Hot Italian sausage adds a little spiciness, but I know many of my peeps out there in foodland can’t tolerate much “heat” so go ahead and use sweet sausage if that’s your preference. However, to be frank, it was just mildly spicy even with the hot version. In fact, we doubled the amount of meat to almost a pound (8 ounces seemed rather paltry). No need for us to remove casings because we bought it in bulk, which is a time-saver if your local grocery store sells it that way.

Don’t stir the tomatoes more than just once or twice after adding them to the pot. Uncovering to stir releases heat and slows the rate at which the tomatoes burst and release their juices. However, do make sure to stir regularly after the pasta is added to prevent the starchy noodles from sticking to the pot.

The sauce came out nice and creamy, and with the extra meat—OK, and a few more tomatoes—there was definitely plenty of leftovers.

Cavatappi with Italian Sausage, Tomatoes and Eggplant

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, plus more to serve
  • 2 Pints cherry or grape tomatoes
  • 1 Small red onion, finely chopped
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper
  • 8 Oz. hot Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 1 Qt. water
  • 1 Lb. eggplant, peeled and cut into ¾-inch cubes
  • 1 Lb. cavatappi pasta; or campanelle or gemelli
  • ¾ Tsp. grated nutmeg
  • 1 Cup lightly packed fresh basil, torn if large
  • Finely grated parmesan or pecorino romano, to serve

Directions

  1. In a large pot over medium-high, combine the oil, tomatoes, onion and 1½ teaspoons salt. Cover and cook, stirring only once or twice, until the tomatoes begin to burst, 5 to 7 minutes.
  2. Add the sausage and cook, uncovered and using a wooden spoon to break up the meat and tomatoes, until the sausage is no longer pink, 2 to 3 minutes.
  3. Stir in the eggplant. Add 1 quart water and bring to a boil. Stir in the cavatappi (or other pasta), nutmeg and ½ teaspoon pepper. Cover, reduce to medium and cook, stirring occasionally and maintaining a vigorous simmer, until the pasta is al dente, 10 to 12 minutes.
  4. Taste and season with salt and pepper, then stir in the basil.
  5. Serve drizzled with additional oil and sprinkled with cheese.

http://www.lynnandruss.com

Adapted from a recipe by Courtney Hill from Milk Street

Cellentani with Sweet Corn, Tomatoes and Basil

In our neck of the country, no food combo screams summer quite as loudly as the holy trinity of sweet, fresh corn, tomatoes and basil. The Hubs and I try to eat them as often as we can during the short growing season. So finding a version of this recipe from Milk Street was welcome news.

The ingredients in this summery pasta dish are few, so fresh corn and ripe tomatoes are key. To create a creamy sauce without cream, grate the corn kernels from the cobs. To reinforce the corn flavor, boil the cobs in the water that is later used to cook the pasta. Using a minimal amount of water—just 2½ quarts—means the flavors and starches are concentrated in the liquid, and you put some of this liquid to good use in the sauce.

Yellow corn gives the dish a golden hue, but white corn—which is what we had at the time—works jut as well. Whichever you use, make sure to remove as much of the silk as possible before grating.

Twisty, fluted, or frilly eye-catching pasta shapes are best here—if you can’t find cellentani (a delightful corkscrew-shaped pasta), look for gemelli, cavatappi or campanelle. With its tubular center and ridged surface, cellentani is perfect for a hearty pasta meal, capturing every drop of the flavorful sauce and trapping the grated corn kernels in every delicious forkful.

I know many of you may turn your nose when a habañero chili is listed in the ingredients. But do not fear. In this dish it does add a little heat (seeding the chili removes much of its burn), but it’s here mostly because its fruity notes are a nice complement to the corn, tomatoes and basil. Please do not omit it.

I made the mistake of using the entire one-pound box of cellentani instead of just 12 ounces which is what the recipe called for. The Hubs questioned me as I was making the dish, but at that point it was too late, I’d already cooked the pasta. I believe it would be best with the lesser amount.

Next time, I would also add another ear or two of corn, but with those, don’t grate, rather slice the kernels whole off of the cob and mix them in. It would give a bit more tooth to the overall texture. Finally, we also felt a garnish of grated Pecorino Ramono provided another layer of depth to the flavor profile and a hint of saltiness.

Cellentani with Sweet Corn, Tomatoes and Basil

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper
  • 4 ears corn, husked
  • 4 Tbsp. (½ stick) salted butter, cut into 4 pieces, divided
  • 2 medium shallots, minced
  • 1 habañero chili, stemmed, seeded and minced
  • 12 oz. cellentani (or gemelli, cavatappi, campanelle)
  • 2½ quarts water
  • 1 cup chopped fresh basil

Directions

  1. In a small bowl, stir together the tomatoes and ½ teaspoon salt; set aside. Set a box grater in a large bowl or pie plate. Using the grater’s large holes, grate the corn down to the cobs; reserve the cobs.
  2. In a large pot, bring 2½ quarts water to a boil. Add the corn cobs and 1 tablespoon salt, reduce to medium and cook, covered, for 10 minutes. Using tongs, remove and discard the cobs, then remove the pot from the heat.
  3. In a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium, melt 2 tablespoons of butter. Add the grated corn, shallots, chili and 1 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring, until the shallots have softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in 1½ cups of the cooking water. Cook over medium-low, uncovered and stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened (a spatula should leave a brief trail when drawn through the mixture), 10 to 15 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, return the remaining corn-infused water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Reserve 1 cup of the cooking water, then drain the pasta. Add the pasta to the skillet and cook over medium, stirring constantly, until the pasta is coated and the sauce is creamy, about 2 minutes; if needed, add the reserved cooking water 2 tablespoons at a time to reach proper consistency.
  5. Off heat, add the remaining 2 tablespoons butter, the tomatoes with their juices and the basil, then toss until the butter has melted. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

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Recipe found on Milk Street

Pork Burgers with Flavor Galore!

How about another twist to the all-american hambuger? You don’t even have to get a grill going because these Smoky Chili-Garlic Pork Burgers are done directly in a skillet. And no special skills are needed here, just a willingness to mix a few ingredients together and give one flip to each pattie. OK, and add a slice of provolone cheese if that’s the way you roll.

Speaking of rolling, the original recipe indicated to make four patties from one pound of pork. Well, we roll a bit bigger than that, making three burgers from a one-pound-plus package of meat. And yes, we did top them with a slice of provolone!

The secret to these burgers is the spicy-sweet flavor and a mild garlickiness from some Asian chili-garlic sauce and a little brown sugar mixed into the ground pork. Plus a smear of chili-garlic mayonnaise on the buns to complete the package. Pillow-soft, subtly sweet buns, such as brioche or potato rolls, are a particularly good match for the tender, juicy burgers.

Garnish with Bibb lettuce leaves, sliced heirloom tomato, and dill pickle chips. Our side of apple cranberry slaw was the perfect counterpoint to the smoky, spicy burgers. But be aware, these puppies pack some heat, so if you harbor a delicate palette, these may not be for you. They had our names written all over them!

Smoky Chili-Garlic Pork Burgers

  • Servings: 3-4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • ⅓ cup mayonnaise
  • 3 Tbsp. plus 2 tsp. chili-garlic sauce, divided
  • 1 Tbsp. packed brown sugar, divided
  • 1 lb. ground pork
  • 2 tsp. smoked paprika
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp. neutral oil
  • 3-4 hamburger buns, preferably brioche or potato rolls
  • Bibb lettuce
  • Large slicing tomato, preferably heirloom
  • Sliced provolone cheese or your preference, (optional)
These patties have not quite come to 160° yet.

Directions

  1. In a small bowl, mix the mayonnaise, 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons chili-garlic sauce and 1 teaspoon sugar.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix the pork, paprika, the remaining 2 tablespoons chili-garlic sauce, the remaining 2 teaspoons sugar, 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper.
  3. Form into 3 or 4 patties. In a 12-inch nonstick skillet (or a carbon steel skillet like us), heat the oil until shimmering. Add the patties, turn the heat down to medium and cook, flipping once, until well browned on both sides and the centers reach 160°F, 8 to 10 minutes total (perhaps a minute or two longer if you made 3 larger patties).
  4. If desired, add a slice of cheese while the patties are still in the pan, turn off the heat and cover for one minute to allow the cheese to melt.
  5. Serve in buns spread with the mayonnaise mixture and topped with lettuce, tomato and pickle chips.

http://www.lynnandruss.com

Adapted from a recipe found on Milk Street

Garlic-Ginger Chicken with Cilantro and Mint

Boneless, skinless chicken breasts are a go-to for many home chefs because they are so versatile. BUT, they can also be extremely bland and dried-out if not cooked and seasoned properly. In Garlic-Ginger Chicken with Cilantro and Mint, both the marinade and the cooking method have a huge payoff resulting in charred, slightly spicy, really juicy chicken that is equally wonderful by itself. Add a pan sauce and now you’re in “amazing” territory.

It’s not often that we run into a spice that we don’t have on hand, let alone never heard of! But amchur, used in this marinade, wasn’t even a twinkle on our horizon. Unfortunately, we did not have any on hand when we decided to try this recipe so I researched a substitution, which by the way is 2-3 tablespoons of lemon or lime juice. Because there was already lemon juice in the marinade, we forwent any replacement.

For a bit of background, “aam” is a hindi word for mango and amchoor is nothing but powder or extract of the fruit. It is also referred to as ‘mango’ powder and is a spice made from green, unripe mangos, which are sliced, sun-dried and ground into a fine powder. Amchur has a pleasant sweet-sour aroma of dried fruit, astringent, but also sweet fruity flavor. The spice adds sour taste like tamarind.

For sides, we paired the chicken with sautéed broccolini and rice topped with a prepackaged lentil dish. A friend of my husband raved about these Tasty Bite brand Indian madras lentil packages from Costco and gave a few to him. I have to admit, I was smitten. Oh, and we decided to make a pan sauce from the remaining liquid. It was sooo worth it!

Garlic-Ginger Chicken with Cilantro and Mint

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 8 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice (from about 1 lemon)
  • 2 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh ginger
  • 3 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp. finely chopped cilantro leaves, plus more for garnish
  • 1 Tbsp. finely chopped mint leaves, plus more for garnish
  • 1 Tbsp. ground coriander (freshly ground is best)
  • 1 tsp. amchur (dry mango powder), optional
  • 1 tsp. ground turmeric
  • ¾ tsp. kosher salt
  • ½ tsp. red chili powder
  • 4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts (½–¾ lb. each)
  • 3 Tbsp. unsalted butter

Directions

  1. Mix garlic, lemon juice, ginger, 3 Tbsp. oil, 1 Tbsp. cilantro, and 1 Tbsp. mint in a medium bowl to form a paste.
  2. Mix coriander, amchur (if using), turmeric, salt, and chili powder in a small bowl. Add spice mixture to garlic-ginger paste and stir well to combine. Transfer marinade to a large resealable bag.
  3. Place chicken breasts in marinade and seal bag tightly. Using your hands, gently massage marinade onto chicken, making sure to evenly coat each breast. Chill 2 hours, or overnight. (Ours marinated for 23 hours.)
  4. Heat a large skillet over medium-high. Once pan is quite hot, add remaining 1 tsp. oil, swirling pan to coat the entire surface. Reduce heat to medium. Remove chicken from marinade and cook, undisturbed, until lightly golden on one side, 1–2 minutes. Flip chicken and continue to cook until golden brown on the other side, 1–2 more minutes.
  5. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook 10 minutes. DO NOT lift the cover! (Since our breast pieces were large, we cooked for 12 minutes.)
  6. Remove pan from heat and let chicken sit, covered, 10–15 minutes, depending on thickness of the breasts. Don’t uncover, or you’ll release the hot steam that cooks the chicken.
  7. Check to make sure the breasts are cooked through—there shouldn’t be any pink in the middle, and if you have an instant-read thermometer, the chicken should register 165°.
  8. Transfer chicken to a bowl and cover while making the pan sauce.
  9. Turn heat to medium-high and reduce the liquid in the pan for several minutes to thicken.
  10. Reduce heat to medium, add the butter until fully melted stirring constantly. Pour liquid through a strainer into a bowl, discard solids. Add any accumulated juices from chicken into sauce.
  11. Transfer chicken pieces to a platter, pour pan sauce over breasts and garnish with cilantro and mint. Serve immediately with sides of choice.

http://www.lynnandruss.com

Adapted from a recipe by Priya Krishna

Skewered Fruit Tray

During mid- and late-summer months, many fruits are at their peak. While we certainly aren’t encouraged to attend large gatherings during this pandemic, you still may be having some smaller family parties warranting a food contribution. Making this Skewered Fruit Tray will be a showstopper on the table.

Of course, you can use any fruit you want, but I’ll give you the run down on what was chosen for this particular pyramid. Start with a whole ripe pineapple, chop off the pointy top (don’t toss) and carve away the thick outer skin. Quarter the remaining flesh and remove the tough inner core. Slice each quarter lengthwise into two more strips each, and then cut those strips down into chunks.

The other fruits included fresh strawberries, with their green tops left intact; plus cantaloupe chunks, blueberries and blackberries. I alternated each wooden skewer (short ones) with either a pineapple or cantaloupe chunk to start with, then tapered the remaining fruits as shown ending with a large blueberry.

To assemble, place the pineapple crown in the center of a disposable platter and start placing the skewers, alternating between the cantaloupe and pineapple ends to create the first tier. Repeat with several more tiers until your cone shape is complete. If not using immediately, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until the party starts!

You’ll need about a pint of fresh blueberries, one quart of blackberries, two quarts of strawberries, one large ripe cantaloupe and a pineapple. (You may not necessarily end up using all of the fruit.) Other than a large platter, short wooden skewers, and a sharp knife, nothing else is needed other than your time.

The skewers were a huge hit at the (pre-pandemic) party I brought them to. Most people love fresh fruit and/or are looking to nibble on something healthy amid a selection of more caloric options. Other fruits that come to mind and would make a festive presentation are kiwi slices, green melon chunks, raspberries, peach chunks, and red, green or purple seedless grapes to name a few.

Now you could get even fancier and use a star or heart shaped cookie cutter on planks of melon or watermelon as accent pieces. Just think how much money you’ll save by making your own instead of paying for those Edible Arrangements!

White Bean and Tuna Salad

It was a very trying Spring with cool, rainy weather amplified by the restraints from the pandemic, followed by racial tensions and curfews. But the weather in the Mid-Atlantic/Northeast finally turned a corner with longer stretches of warmer days when I penned this blog. Ideal for this classic Italian salad which marries cooked white beans and oil-packed tuna for a protein-packed, pantry-friendly, light meal.

With summer now hitting the high notes—and by that I mean real muggy with soaring temps—it’s time to move away from heartier stews, and dive into bean dishes like this one, which require little to no additional cooking, and can be served at room temperature.

Because this dish is comprised of just a few ingredients, it’s at its best when made with top quality products. Cooked dried beans (and their cooking liquid) have much better flavor and texture than canned beans, so it’s highly recommended to use them in this recipe, if possible. BUT, we didn’t want to “cook” so we used Great Northern canned.

Protein-Packed

According to SeriousEats.com where we got this recipe, if using canned beans, substitute bean cooking liquid with 2 teaspoons water and 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard. The flavor of the dish obviously won’t be exactly the same, but mustard provides similar emulsifying properties as the bean cooking liquid for the dressing. I just learned something new with that!

Beans are one thing, but do not skimp on the tuna. The quality of the tuna you use will make a difference here. Oil-packed ventresca tuna is recommended, which comes from the richer, fatty belly; it’s moister and more flavorful than other canned or jarred tuna. Two great options of ventresca are both Ortiz and Tonnino—we used the latter.

About that tuna, 5.6 ounces for 4 people? Seemed a bit scant to me. Our jar was slightly larger at 6.7 ounces. (I noted the larger amount in the list below.) Plus, I don’t know why they didn’t save the oil after draining the tuna. We did, and it was exactly a 1/4-cup, the amount of EVOO needed for the dressing. The jarred oil is already brimming with flavor from the tuna, so why not use it?

Using a small mandoline to slice the red onion very thin makes quick work of the task. The original recipe doesn’t even list greens in the ingredients (although it is fleetingly mentioned in their narrative), but to me, a dinner salad needs a bed of them, otherwise it’s a “side dish” in my opinion. We chose a mix of baby spinach and arugula.

Hearty, but light, this salad requires less than 10 minutes of hands-on work, making it the perfect no-cook, quarantine pantry, warm-weather meal. And because it can be served at room temperature, it would make a fine contribution to a potluck or picnic affair. Enjoy!

White Bean and Tuna Salad

  • Servings: 3-4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 1/2 red onion, cut into 1/8-inch thick slices
  • 1 Tbsp. Champagne, white wine, or red wine vinegar plus extra for drizzling
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 cups (1 pound 6 ounces) cooked dry white beans, drained; or two (15-ounce) cans low-sodium white beans, drained and rinsed
  • 6.7 ounces olive oil-packed tuna, preferably ventresca tuna belly, drained into a measuring cup, and gently flaked into bite-size pieces (save the oil for the dressing)
  • 1 med. garlic clove, minced or finely grated
  • 1 Tbsp. bean cooking liquid, from a pot of beans cooked from dry (see note if using canned beans)
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, enough needed, if any, to add to the tuna oil to make 1/4 cup
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley leaves and tender stems
  • 5 oz. baby salad greens

Directions

  1. In a small bowl, combine red onion and enough ice water to cover. Using clean hands, gently scrunch and squeeze the onion slices, taking care not to crush or break them. Let onion slices sit in ice water for 15 minutes, then drain and discard ice water, and return red onion to now-empty bowl.
  2. Add vinegar and 1/4 teaspoon salt and toss and gently massage onions to evenly coat with vinegar and salt. Set aside for 5 minutes to allow onion slices to marinate.
  3. Meanwhile, combine beans and tuna in a large bowl. Once onions have marinated for 5 minutes, squeeze onion slices to release moisture into the bowl that they marinated in, then transfer onion slices to large bowl with beans and tuna; set large bowl aside.
  4. There should be at least 1 tablespoon of vinegar-onion juice liquid left in the small bowl. Add garlic, bean cooking liquid (or, if using canned beans, 2 teaspoons water plus 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard), and 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper, and whisk to combine. Whisking constantly, slowly drizzle in the tuna olive oil. Stir in parsley and season to taste with salt.
  5. Transfer dressing to large bowl with bean-tuna mixture, using a rubber spatula to scrape all of the dressing into the large bowl. Using a large spoon, gently toss salad to evenly coat with dressing, taking care not to crush tuna or beans in the process.
  6. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Divide salad between individual serving plates or one large serving platter.
  7. If desired, drizzle lightly with olive oil and a splash of vinegar, and serve.

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Grilled Italian Sausages, Onions, Peppers and Potatoes

Simple, easy, delicious, there is no more reliable guest at a cookout than sausage, roasted over the open fire. But before you grill the meat, get some peppers, onions and potato slices soft and dark and fragrant in the heat, and use these as a bed on which to serve the links.

Well, the best laid plans… right? Our grilling hopes were dashed by a torrential day-long tropical storm soaking. I can’t really complain because we were in dire need of some precip for the gardens and lawn. That’s why it’s important to formulate a Plan B, in this case, “grilling” indoors.

To bulk up the meal, we included sliced Yukon gold potatoes. They were a perfect compliment to the roasted onions and peppers, and were crispy on the outside while remaining creamy on the inside.

Grilled Italian Sausages, Onion, Peppers and Potatoes

  • Servings: 3-4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 2 sweet peppers (green, red or yellow) seeded and cut into eighths
  • 1 large yellow onion, peeled and cut into large coins
  • 4 medium Yukon gold potatoes, sliced about 3/8″ thick (we only used 2 potatoes)
  • 2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, more to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 4 links (about 1 lb.) sweet/mild Italian sausages

Directions

  1. For a gas grill, turn all burners to high, lower cover and heat for 15 minutes, then turn burners to medium.
  2. Meanwhile, toss peppers, onions and potatoes with oil and dried oregano, and sprinkle with salt. Lightly prick sausages all over so that they do not burst.
  3. Put peppers, onions and potato wedges in a grill basket on the grill, turning occasionally until they are softened and dark at the edges, 10 to 12 minutes. Move them to the cooler side of the grill.
  4. Place the sausages on the hot side of the grill, cover and cook, turning occasionally until they are cooked through, 8 to 10 minutes.
  5. Transfer the vegetables to a platter and top with the sausages. Drizzle with olive oil and serve.
  1. OR PLAN B: if you have to cook indoors, rub a rimmed baking sheet lightly with oil, put the pan in the oven and preheat to 450°.
  2. Once the oven comes to temperature, spread the oiled veggies in a single layer on the hot baking sheet and return to the oven. Cook for 15 minutes.
  3. Remove pan from oven, flip each morsel over, rotate the pan 180° and continue cooking another 15 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, heat a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat until very hot. Add a teaspoon or two of olive oil and place the links in the hot skillet. Cook for 10-12 minutes total, turning a few times to brown all over. You may have to put a lid on the pan for a few minutes to make sure the links reach 155°.
  5. Place roasted veggies on a platter and top with sausage links.

http://www.lynnandruss.com

Lightly based on a recipe by Sam Sifton of the NYTimes

Stir-Fried Pork, Green Beans and Red Bell Pepper with Gingery Oyster Sauce

Stir-frying is the name of the game when you want something quick and healthy. And making it yourself ensures you know exactly what’s in it, as compared to many Asian take-out places loaded with unwanted fat and calories. Cook’s Illustrated found that marinating pork tenderloin in a simple soy-sherry mixture and cooking it quickly (about two minutes) in batches over high heat kept the meat tender and beautifully seasoned. In place of the sherry, we substituted Shaoxing wine which is fermented from rice.

Because different vegetables cook at different rates, batch-cook the vegetables and add aromatics (like ginger and garlic) at the end so they are cooked long enough to develop their flavors but not long enough to burn. Chicken broth gives the sauce some backbone, and cornstarch slightly thickens it so that it lightly cloaks the meat and veggies.

We increased the amount of pork tenderloin from the original 12 ounces to one pound. And because of that, we doubled the soy sauce and sherry that gets mixed with the pork strips (which is all noted below). Keep in mind that pork tenderloin is easier to slice if it is partially frozen. *Freeze the tenderloin until firm but not frozen solid, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Then cut the tenderloin crosswise into 1/4-inch slices. Cut the slices into 1/4-inch strips.

Stir-frying isn’t rocket science, and that’s what’s so great about it. It doesn’t require lots of fancy equipment. Instructions indicate to cook in a skillet, however we feel most stir-fries benefit from being cooked in a flat-bottomed wok. It helps to have a stir-fry spatula which fits the contour of the wok and has a long handle (to keep distance from the intense heat).

Stir frying is advantageous over other methods of cooking as it requires very little oil, which is healthier than deep frying or pan frying, and it also retains the nutrients present in the food being stir fried. As the name indicates, the food is constantly stirred while you cook it. Make sure to use an oil with a high smoke point such as peanut, canola, safflower, soybean, etc.

Stir-Fried Pork, Green Beans and Red Bell Pepper with Gingery Oyster Sauce

  • Servings: 3-4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. pork tenderloin, prepared as noted above*
  • 1 Tbsp. + 1 tsp. soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp. + 1 tsp. dry sherry, or Shaoxing wine
  • 1 Tbsp. dry sherry, or Shaoxing wine
  • ⅓ cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 ½ Tbsp. oyster sauce
  • 2 tsp. toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tsp. rice vinegar
  • ¼ tsp. ground white pepper
  • 1 tsp. cornstarch
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (about 2 teaspoons)
  • 2 inch piece fresh ginger, grated (about 2 tablespoons)
  • 3 Tbsp. peanut oil or vegetable oil
  • 12 oz. green beans, cut on bias into 2-inch lengths
  • 1 large red bell pepper (about 8 ounces), cut into 3/4-inch squares
  • 3 medium scallions, sliced thin on bias
  • Jasmine rice, cooked according to package directions (or brown rice if you prefer)

Directions

  1. Combine pork, soy sauce, and 1 Tbsp. + 1 teaspoon sherry in small bowl. Whisk remaining 1 tablespoon sherry, chicken broth, oyster sauce, sesame oil, rice vinegar, white pepper, and cornstarch in measuring cup.
  2. Combine garlic, ginger and 1 1/2 teaspoons peanut oil in small bowl.
  3. Heat 1 1/2 teaspoons peanut oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over high heat until smoking; add half of pork to skillet and cook, stirring occasionally and breaking up clumps, until well-browned, about 2 minutes.
  4. Transfer pork to medium bowl. Repeat with additional 1 1/2 teaspoons peanut oil and remaining pork.
  5. Add 1 tablespoon peanut oil to now-empty skillet; add green beans and cook, stirring occasionally, until spotty brown and tender-crisp, about 5 minutes; transfer to bowl with pork.
  6. Add remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons oil to skillet; add bell pepper and cook, stirring frequently, until spotty brown, about 2 minutes.
  7. Clear center of skillet, then add garlic/ginger mixture to clearing; cook, mashing mixture with spoon, until fragrant, about 45 seconds, then stir mixture into peppers.
  8. Add pork and green beans; toss to combine. Whisk sauce to recombine, then add to skillet; cook, stirring constantly, until sauce is thickened and evenly distributed, about 30 seconds.
  9. Transfer to serving platter; sprinkle with scallions and serve over hot jasmine rice.

http://www.lynnandruss.com

Adapted from a recipe by Cook’s Illustrated