Thursday, November 18, 2010


I’m not going to beat around the bush here: The salsa in this recipe (from Tyler Florence at the Food Network site, via My Husband Hates Veggies) is effing amazing. Also? Effing amazingly easy to make. I’d never even bought tomatillos before (and once I’d gotten them home, had to launch into lengthy Internet research to figure out how to store them, which let me tell you, there’s no consensus between “in a wire basket on the counter” and “in a paper bag in the fridge”; I ended up doing the former for a few days and then switching to the latter after two went bad, although that might have been a fluke), but all you do is peel them and throw them on a baking sheet with onions and garlic and jalapenos, then puree them into yumminess with cumin and salt and cilantro and lime. I was highly suspicious of this whole method—No oil to roast the veggies? Only 12 minutes in the oven? Wouldn’t they stick to the baking sheet or be too crunchy to puree in my crappy blender? How could this possibly work? But when I took them out (granted, I let them cook a few more minutes due to said suspicions) they were hot and smooshy and turned instantly to liquid when blended. As soon as I tasted it, I was instantly delighted that I’d taken the commenters’ advice and made more than the recipe called for—actually, I tried to make a double recipe, but after a few of my tomatillos rotted I only had enough for 1.5 times the recipe, though I did accidentally use the full double amounts of the cilantro and lime, a very wise decision on my part because cilantro and lime make everything better. (I will definitely follow this exact method next time; the quantities I used are noted below.) The salsa was refreshingly green, zippy, with exactly the right amount of spice; I could easily see myself making a big vat of it and just devouring it with chips, if I didn’t want to bother with the whole enchilada thing. However, chicken and cheese enchiladas both filled with and blanketed in magical green sauce are a worthy endeavor, and not difficult to assemble. A called this the best recipe I’ve made in months, and while it certainly has some tough competition (Fish tacos! Hob Nobs! Magic juice! Pumpkin ice cream!), I don’t necessarily disagree.

I've never made a Tyler Florence recipe before, so I don’t know if I should blame him or the Food Network site, but this one was really poorly written, and it annoyed me. I’ve cooked enough that I could extrapolate what to do when the recipe got vague, but I still like to have detailed instructions the first time I make something and appreciate precision (even if, as in Cooking Light recipes, I roll my eyes at it and end up rebelling against it), plus not everyone is so experienced. I think of Food Network shows and recipes as being for general audiences, so even if Florence wrote the recipe this way (and although I didn’t watch the episode, some commenters noted that the written directions deviated from it), why not have a recipe writer test and clarify it? As everyone noted, it needed more salsa, and the salsa is then added to the recipe in four different stages, but the recipe never tells you how much to use each time, just “some.” (Based on the amount of salsa I ended up making, I figured out quantities that seemed reasonable to me and noted them in the recipe below.) I would also have preferred a precise measurement for the chicken meat rather than just “one 3-pound deli roasted chicken”; I already had deboned chicken meat in my freezer that I wanted to use (left over from roasted chicken or making chicken stock) and had to totally guesstimate how much to use. (I went with 1 pound and that seemed to be plenty; we even had enchilada filling left over, which is hardly a curse because it makes a great nacho or quesadilla topping later—or, hell, just a dip for chips.) Not to mention the shoddy editing throughout (“Garnish, cilantro and tomato”). Boo! Still, the end result is so incredibly delicious it’s hard to complain. But I do think my instructions below represent a vast improvement.

One final note: The original recipe included sub-recipes for black beans and yellow rice, but I skipped them; the enchiladas were a full meal in themselves (we were utterly stuffed after two). I also left out the suggested toppings of sour cream and guacamole, which seemed like gilding the lily, but you might disagree.

1½ pounds tomatillos, husked
1½ medium onions, peeled and quartered
6 garlic cloves, peeled
3 jalapenos
3 teaspoons ground cumin
1½ teaspoons salt
1 cup chopped cilantro leaves
Juice of 1 lime

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
½ medium onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1½ teaspoons ground cumin
¼ cup all-purpose flour
2 cups chicken stock
1 deli roasted chicken (about 3 pounds), boned, meat shredded (I used about 1 pound shredded chicken)
Salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
10 large flour tortillas
½ pound Monterey Jack cheese, shredded (I used pepper Jack)
Chopped tomatoes and cilantro leaves, for garnish

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. To make the salsa, roast tomatillos, onion, garlic, and jalapenos on a baking sheet for 12 to 15 minutes. Transfer the roasted vegetables and any juices on the bottom of the tray to a food processor or blender. Add the cumin, salt, cilantro, and lime juice and pulse mixture until well combined but still chunky. (This should yield about 5 cups of salsa.)

3. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until soft and caramelized, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the garlic and cumin, then cook for 1 minute more. Sprinkle on the flour and stir to ensure that the flour doesn't burn, then gradually add the chicken stock. Continue stirring over a low simmer until the flour cooks and the liquid thickens. Turn off the heat, add about 1½ cups of the roasted tomatillo chile salsa, and fold in the shredded chicken meat. Season, to taste with salt and pepper.

4. Change the temperature of the oven to 350 degrees. Take a 9-by-13-inch glass baking dish and smear the bottom with about 1½ cups of the salsa. Briefly warm the flour tortillas one by one in the oven so they are pliable. Place about 1 cup of the salsa in a shallow bowl and coat both sides of each tortilla lightly with it. Put a scoop of the shredded chicken mixture on top of each tortilla, followed by a sprinkle of the shredded cheese. Fold the tortilla over the filling and roll up enclose it. Place the tortilla in the baking dish and repeat with remaining tortillas. Finally, pour about 1 cup of salsa over the enchiladas and top with the remaining shredded cheese. Bake uncovered for about 30 minutes until bubbly and browned on top. Garnish with cilantro and tomato.

Serves: 5
Time: 2 hours
Leftover potential: Good.

Thursday, November 11, 2010


I can’t believe that at the ripe old age of 33, I’m still learning mind-blowing new facts such as this: It’s possible to roast the seeds of any winter squash as you do with pumpkin seeds. Really! I weep to think of all the squash seeds I’ve thoughtlessly discarded over the years when I could have been crunching on a delicious salty snack instead.

When I was a kid, my mom would always roast the seeds from our Halloween pumpkins, and now I get a visceral sense of nostalgia every time I eat them. But I can probably count on one hand the number of times I’ve had them as an adult. I’ve never been a pumpkin eater, and we don’t really carve jack-o-lanterns—I’m not that artsy or good with knives, and they always seem to rot spectacularly on the patio before Halloween even arrives. The few times I’ve tried to roast pumpkin seeds, they haven’t tasted as good as mom’s. But as soon as I learned this amazing fact about squash seeds (from an offhand mention at Smitten Kitchen), I consulted Simply Recipes for instructions, roasted some butternut squash seeds, and bingo! Just as good as I remembered. The secret is brining the seeds in salt water; the salt permeates the whole seed instead of sticking to the outside or (as often as not) falling off on the pan or in your hand.

Unless you’ve got a number of squash, the yield is going to be fairly small. I’ve roasted butternut squash seeds twice now and have gotten between ¼ and ½ cup each time. But this recipe is easily scalable to any quantity, so even if you’ve just got one little squash you’re going to turn into soup or serve on pasta or pizza, save the seeds! A negligible amount of labor will soon turn them into a couple of handfuls of tasty munchies.

Winter squash, such as butternut, pumpkin, or acorn
Olive oil

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. Cut open the squash and use a strong metal spoon to scoop out the insides. Separate the seeds from the stringy core. Rinse the seeds in a colander.

3. In a small saucepan, add the seeds to water, about 2 cups of water to every half cup of seeds. Add 1½ teaspoons of salt for every cup of water (more if you like your seeds saltier). Bring to a boil and let simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and drain.

4, Spread about a tablespoon of olive oil over the bottom of a baking sheet. Spread the seeds out over the baking sheet, all in one layer. Bake on the top rack until the seeds begin to brown, 10–20 minutes. (For smaller seeds, such as butternut or acorn, go with 10 minutes and keep a close eye on them; they’re usually done when they begin popping.) When seeds are toasted to your satisfaction, remove from the oven and let the pan cool on a rack.

Serves: Variable
Time: 30–40 minutes
Leftover potential: OK. The seeds will lose their crispness if you store them in a sealed container, but you can keep them in an open bowl on the counter for a day or two.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010


This is fall wrapped in a tortilla, baby. Sharp mustard, creamy Brie, sweet crisp apple, and peppery arugula are a match made in heaven. (By the way, look at me enjoying mustard in a non-hot dog, non-salad dressing context! I’m all growed up!) For added autumnal bliss, we had butternut squash soup on the side, a combo I highly recommend.

This being Cooking Light, the quantities are rigidly precise, but since we’re basically just putting toppings on tortillas here, feel free to go with your instincts. I winged it because the “fajita-size” tortillas I had in the fridge were smaller than the ones called for; using one of those for each of us, with the topping measurements roughly halved, worked out well. We liked them so much that I ended up making them again later in the week, to accompany some of the leftover soup. One tip: Consider doubling the mustard-cider sauce. The second time, I accidentally made the full quantity instead of half, and A enjoyed using the remainder as a dip for his quesadilla (I dipped into my soup instead, because I am wild and crazy, as well as still secretly mustard-fearing).

Maybe I’m just uncoordinated, but I felt like the quesadillas needed a lot of wrangling while cooking—Brie gets very runny when it melts, the arugula leaves are puffy and like to scatter everywhere, and it’s hard to fold and flip the tortilla without apple slices trying to escape. This really worried me the first time around, but I quickly learned that any cheese that oozes out and browns on the skillet makes an excellent snack for the cook (oh, toasted cheese is such a miraculous substance). And with a bit of practice, I refined my method to make things a bit easier: Put the pepper atop the flat platform of the apples, not the wobbly pile of arugula as the original recipe asks; let the arugula wilt for a few seconds before folding the tortilla over; once you fold the tortilla, flip it over right away so that the cheese is on the top layer of fillings, not the bottom, which helps keep the spillage at bay—you can always flip it over again near the end of cooking if the first side isn’t browned enough for you. My end results were a bit homely, as the photos amply illustrate, but when something tastes this great, I don’t care. Quick to throw together, wholesome yet indulgent-seeming, satisfying enough to be a light meal, this recipe is destined to become a go-to.

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons apple cider
3 (10-inch) flour tortillas
6 ounces Brie cheese, rind removed, cut into ¼-inch-thick slices, divided
1 Fuji apple, cored and cut into ¼-inch-thick slices (about ½ pound), divided
3 cups arugula, divided
¾ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided

1. Combine mustard and cider in a small bowl; stir well.

2. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Spread each tortilla with about 1½ teaspoons mustard mixture. Place 1 tortilla, mustard side up, in pan. Arrange one-third of cheese slices over half of tortilla; cook 1 minute or until cheese begins to melt. Arrange one-third of apple slices over cheese; sprinkle with ¼ teaspoon pepper and top with 1 cup arugula. Fold tortilla in half; press gently with a spatula. Cook 2 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Remove from pan. Repeat procedure twice with remaining 2 tortillas, cheese, apple slices, arugula, and pepper. Cut each quesadilla into 4 wedges.

Serves: 4–6
Time: 20 minutes
Leftover potential: Unknown, but I wouldn’t bother. The recipe is so easy, you can just make a new batch when you’re ready for more.

Thursday, November 04, 2010


Aw yeah.

Now, I’m not one of those people who goes gaga for pumpkin-flavored things every October. In fact, this was the first time in my life I’d ever bought canned pumpkin. I’ve never had a pumpkin spice latte and I don’t care for pumpkin pie. No doubt this is a relic of my squash-hating childhood, which I’m gradually growing out of. Sure, I appreciate the moisture that pumpkin lends to baked goods, but it still mostly seems like an excuse to foist a lot of spice-flavored desserts on me, and I have a limited tolerance for coffee cake and ginger snaps when chocolate or fruity or caramel/nut/butterscotch/vanilla (what would you call that category?) sweets are available. But a few years ago someone did turn me on to the Double Rainbow pumpkin ice cream Trader Joe’s carries every fall (or used to—I didn’t spot it this year), and A and I made short work of a pint. So now that I have my own ice cream maker and the sky’s the limit for flavors, it seemed natural to try to re-create that seasonal treat. For once, David Lebovitz’s A Perfect Scoop left me high and dry, and most of the pumpkin ice cream recipes I found online contained eggs, which we all know I’m too lazy to fuss with, but at long last I stumbled upon this recipe at Tasty Kitchen. It was one of the easiest ice creams I’ve ever made, rivals strawberry-sour cream for the downright creamiest (thanks to the pumpkin, it was thick and pillowy before I even poured it into the ice cream maker and became even fluffier after processing), and tasted incredibly delicious. It’s definitely going to become an October tradition at our house, and I may even have to make it one more time before Thanksgiving. If I’m not careful, I’m going to become one of those Pumpkin People.

It didn’t seem worth buying pumpkin pie spice for a one-off recipe like this, but luckily, DIY recipes are plentiful online. I went with this one from the Kitchn, but subbed cardamom, which I adore, for mace, which I didn’t have. I divided the recipe in half to achieve the called-for 1 tablespoon (actually, it’s 1 tablespoon plus ½ teaspoon, but close enough), but unfortunately I ran out of cinnamon, had to make a mad dash to the store, and returned so flustered I botched the math and put in twice as much as I was supposed to (1 tablespoon, eek!). The resulting ice cream definitely wasn’t inedible, but it did leave a slight burning sensation on the tongue. I think that’s the first time in my life I’ve experienced what too much cinnamon tastes like, and I don’t recommend it. Luckily, this is such an awesome ice cream that even that couldn’t put a damper on my glee every time I scooped myself a bowl.

1 can pumpkin (15 ounces)
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice*
4 teaspoons vanilla extract
⅛ teaspoons salt

*Homemade pumpkin pie spice:
Mix the following together in a small bowl:
1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

1. Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor. Blend until smooth and combined.

2. Cover and refrigerate until well chilled, at least 1 hour.

3. Process in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions.

Serves: 8
Time: 10 minutes, plus chilling and processing time
Leftover potential: Good.

Monday, November 01, 2010


Hmm. Instead of “Recipes I Was Too Lame or Indecisive to Post the First Time Around,” how about we place this in the more-adventuresome-sounding imaginary category “Lost Recipes From the Distant Past Unearthed!” I first made this recipe (from the book Weber’s Real Grilling, via Serious Eats) more than a year ago, but I was on the fence about it. It wasn’t earth-shatteringly exciting (seasoned grilled chicken on a corn tortilla with guacamole: couldn’t I have thought of that?), and the flavor had a weird, unpleasant undertone I couldn’t place. In retrospect, I think my sesame oil had gone rancid. It’s not an ingredient I use often (gotta make more wontons and dumpling soup, I guess). So I didn’t take any photos and I didn’t add the recipe to my repertoire, but I still kept it in my “try again” file, and when I recently bought a six-pack of Negra Modelo so I could pour a bottle into a pot of chili, I figured I might as well put another bottle toward trying these again—with a new batch of sesame oil. And the result was quite tasty! Even on the decidedly-not-a-real-grill George Foreman, the exterior of the chicken got crisp and caramelized while the interior stayed moist and flavorful. I still don’t find this recipe especially revelatory, but it’s a quick and easy summer (or summery) meal, and living in a household that loves tacos and guacamole and beer, I’d be foolish not to make it again.

1 cup dark Mexican beer, such as Negra Modelo
2 tablespoons dark sesame oil
1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2 cups of your favorite guacamole
8–12 small (taco/fajita size) corn tortillas

1. Mix the first seven ingredients (through cayenne pepper) together in a large Ziplock bag or large glass or plastic bowl with a lid. Add the chicken thighs, stirring to coat. Seal the container, removing as much air as possible, and place in the refrigerator to marinate for 2–24 hours (I recommend doing it at least overnight).

2. Grill chicken until fully cooked and browned on both sides. Remove from the grill and allow to rest for 5 minutes, then cut into thin strips.

3. While the chicken is resting, warm tortillas on the grill (or in a dry skillet on the stove) until pliable, about 30 seconds to 1 minute per side. To assemble, spread a heaping spoonful of guacamole along the middle of each tortilla, then pile with chicken slices.

Serves: 4
Time: 30 minutes, plus 2–24 hours marinating time
Leftover potential: OK (store chicken, guacamole, and tortillas separately until ready to eat).