September 23, 2014

Eat Light at Night with Salata

Sometimes, living in Dallas can have its hardships.  Seafood costs an arm and a leg, it’s beyond hot here in the summer (and in the spring and in the fall and…) and for us single gals, we have to deal with a type of man called the “$30,000 A Year Millionaire” which means, sure, he drives a Porsche but he doesn’t have any furniture in his (tiny) apartment.  Sometimes however, the geography gods smile on us and we’re rewarded for living here.  Like being located in one of only 3 states lucky enough to have locations of the deliciously yummy and healthy restaurant Salata (don’t worry, more are coming!).  If you’re not familiar with Salata, it’s a unique fast casual restaurant that specializes in healthy salads and wraps, 100% customized by YOU.  How great does that sound?!?

September 2, 2014

Easy Blackened Shrimp Tacos with Avocado and Roasted Corn

Easy Blackened Shrimp Tacos with Avocado and Roasted Corn, And Lime Sauce
Blackened Shrimp Tacos
It's Taco Tuesday!

Was that a thing in your house when you were growing up?  Alliteration-based menus? 

Macaroni Monday!

Taco Tuesday!

Wine Wednesday! (Okay, okay, so that’s a current thing in my house.)

It wasn't in my house.  My mother, who thank goodness was, and still is, a very good cook, had a library of tried and true recipes that she rotated through on a pretty regular basis, most of which I ate happily, some of which I did not (I‘m looking at you, Stuffed Bell Peppers).  Tacos, I’m sad to say, wouldn't start making an appearance in the rotation until I was a ‘tween, or as we called it back then, 10 years old.

August 25, 2014

Homemade Mondays - The Best Pimento Cheese & A KitchenAid Mixer Giveaway

I really don’t know what I’m more excited about…yummy, creamy, tangy homemade Pimento Cheese or this awesome Kitchen Aid Mixer giveaway that I’m a part of.  I mean, can you get any more Southern than pimento cheese?  It really is a cornerstone of Southern cooking and everyone has their own little spin on it to make it theirs.  Me, I forgo the usual pimentos and use piquillo peppers instead.  They have so much more flavor than the regular old pimentos and add a slightly smoky punch that really sets this recipe apart.

August 7, 2014

Double Tomato Tart with Ricotta and Basil

Double Tomato Tart with Ricotta and Basil
Double Tomato Tart with Ricotta and Basil
How do you feel about tomatoes? I mean they’re kinda weird aren’t they? Firm on the outside, mushy in the middle.  I have to admit, I have a love-hate relationship with tomatoes.  Especially when served raw. For most of the year, it’s all hate. I eat around them in my salads (which drives my mother INSANE).  I pick them off my burgers.  I oust them from my club sandwiches and ignore them altogether when I’m at Subway.  But for some reason, heated tomatoes are a completely different story (I know, I’m weird).  A simple pasta sauce of roasted cherry tomatoes is a thing of pure joy in my world and two just-the-right-thickness slices are mandatory for my tuna melts.  

In the summertime though, I will push a person out of my way to get my hands on the ripest, wackiest looking heirloom tomatoes.  I will devour those babies with gusto (and just a little salt and pepper).  YUM.  Eye-rolling-into-the-back-of-your-head YUM.  Plus, this time of the year they’ll be on everything I can reasonably put them on.  Burger? Check. Club sammie? Double check.  Even my deli sandwiches get the tomato treatment in the summer. 

Enter this double tomato whammy of a tart.  I know it’s probably illegal to heat up heirlooms but I can’t help myself, especially with a tart like this.  This is the kinda tart that demands the best of everything.  Homemade sun-dried tomato pesto (the extra layer of tomatoness will knock your socks off). The very best tomatoes you can find.  Creamy, tangy homemade ricotta and some basil from that little plant in your windowsill you lovingly kept from croaking over the winter months.  Oh, and your best olive oil. You know, the one you hide from the kids, the one that’s way back in the back of the pantry by the health food (because they will NEVER look there).  Grab that.  All you need now is some puff pastry and you’re all set.

(Of course if you want to use store-bought pesto and ricotta, that’s fine too.  But homemade is super easy. And super way-better than store bought. I’m just sayin’.)

Double Tomato Tart with Ricotta and Basil
Makes 1 large tart

1 sheet of puff pastry, thawed but chilled
1/3 cup sun-dried tomato pesto (easy homemade recipe here.)
6 large basil leaves, plus an additional few for garnish
2-3 good size heirloom tomatoes, sliced (I do mine the thickness of what is normally on a burger)
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Good olive oil

Preheat oven to 400°.  Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

Sprinkle your work surface lightly with flour and place the thawed sheet of puff pastry amongst the flour.  Carefully unfold the sheet and gently roll out the dough to add a couple of inches on each side, as well as to seal the seams from where the dough was folded.

At this point, you can use the tip of a sharp knife to create a rim of puff pastry or you can skip that part and let the pastry rise naturally around the ingredients.  If you want to create the rim, just gently trace a rectangle about 1-inch from the pastry’s edge.  Either way, place the pastry on the prepared baking sheet.

***If your puff pastry has been out for more than a few minutes, or your kitchen is very warm, you should really place it back in the fridge for a few (10 or so) minutes.  The butter in the dough needs to stay chilled for maximum puffiness. 

Once your dough is ready, smear the sun-dried tomato pesto on the dough, leaving the 1-inch rim around the edge.   Smear or dollop the ricotta on top of the pesto, making sure to distribute it evenly.

Tear most of the basil leaves into halves and tuck onto the ricotta and/or scatter all over the tart.  Add the sliced tomatoes, placing them in a single layer over the ricotta and pesto (a little overlap is okay).  Slice the rest of the basil into ribbons and set aside.

Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, basically until the pastry is puffed up around the side and golden brown.  Remove from the oven and drizzle immediately with the olive oil, just lightly. Sprinkle the basil ribbons on top.

To serve: Using the parchment paper as your guide, place the tart on a cutting board and let it rest for 5-10 minutes.  Slice into large pieces and add a fresh salad and you've got the perfect light meal.  Slice into smaller sections and you've got a great summer appetizer. 

August 4, 2014

Homemade Mondays - Perfect Tangy Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto

I’m not sure who invented pesto, but in my book, they’re a freaking genius.  Could anything be easier to make and even easier to use??  No matter what ingredients you use to make your pesto, it’s guaranteed to add a huge punch of flavor to any dish and this homemade sun-dried tomato pesto is no different.  It brings huge tomato flavor with the perfect balance of tang, spice and a hint of sweetness.
Sun-dried Tomato Pesto Recipe
Tons o'tomato flavor in here.  
Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto
Makes about 3-4 cups

2 cups sun-dried tomatoes, packed in oil
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
½ cup oil (use the oil from the sun-dried tomatoes first and add plain olive oil to make up the difference, if needed)
½ cup fresh basil, rough chopped
¼ cup fresh parsley, rough chopped
3 large cloves garlic, rough chopped
½ cup pine nuts
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
Healthy pinch of white sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Kosher salt, about ½ teaspoon
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Throw it all in a blender or food processor and blend into a thick paste.  Add more olive oil as needed during blending.  The consistency should be thick but not overly chunky.  You want this spreadable but not too oily.