Mashed Caulitatoes

Mashed Caulitatoes

I’m not what one would call an active girl. I enjoy yoga when I can make it to a good studio, but you’re not going to catch me out for a run. My brother tried to make me run with him back in high school, and he ended up behind me, pushing me along the last half of our mile. That didn’t last long. I really prefer hammocks, beach towels, books, day spas and those sorts of “activities.”

The down side, of course, is that I have to moderate my calorie intake. Fortunately, I love vegetables; unfortunately, I also love bread, pasta, rice, butter, and a myriad of other calorie dense foods. I no longer struggle to adhere to a low-carb diet, but I do attempt to limit my carbs. Cauliflower is a favorite among paleo and low-carb enthusiasts, and I can see why. Cauliflower is delicious. And while a great many cauliflower-instead-of-potato recipes are delicious, I also love the richness of real potatoes. So I started messing around with substituting a portion of the potatoes and I found that in mashed potatoes (and potato leek soup), replacing half the potatoes with cauliflower left me with a dish that I liked more than either the potato-only or cauliflower-only versions. I win all over the place – tastier dish, fewer carbs/calories, more diverse vitamins… and I get to have guilt-free mashed potatoes.

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Mashed Caulitatoes

Serves 6

If you don’t have any leftover cooked cauliflower, just dice it up into florets and boil along with the potatoes – they take about the same time.

Ingredients

  • 3 medium russet potatoes, peeled & diced
  • an equal amount of cooked cauliflower (leftover grilled cauliflower, boiled fresh cauliflower, or microwaved frozen cauliflower)
  • cream / milk / butter to taste
  • kosher salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
  • optional: 2-3 cloves worth of roast garlic

Directions

  1. Place diced potatoes (and cauliflower, if using fresh) in a medium pot, cover with water, and boil over medium-high heat until a knife easily slides through each piece.
  2. Meanwhile, puree cooked cauliflower, along with a splash of milk or cream, into a paste.
  3. When potatoes are ready, drain and mash. Add roast garlic, if using.
  4. Mix in cauliflower puree, and add butter & milk or cream and salt & pepper to taste.

Serving Suggestions

Serve these anywhere you would otherwise have mashed potatoes. They are particularly lovely with thick meaty stews.

Dill Carrots / Candied Dill Carrots

Dill Carrots

I’ve said this before, but my mom’s candied carrots were one of the reasons my love affair with vegetables began at a young age. There were never leftovers: my siblings and I often had seconds, and if there were any left – thirds. I don’t recall there ever being leftovers (I make a little extra, so we will have leftovers, and they are great on round two).

Now when I make these for my family, my toddler will eat all the carrots on his plate before digging in to anything else. And I love that, because they are super easy to make. Peel & chop, throw it all in a pot, and turn it on. Since I’m usually serving these with a roast meat of some sort, I like to prepare it all while the roast is in the oven, and then turn the stove on when the meat comes out – that way I’m forced to let my roast rest the appropriate 10-15 minutes.

The molasses-free carrots are have a lighter and brighter flavor that I prefer in warm weather, while the candied version has a heartier flavor that is great in the cooler months. Carrots are a fairly sweet vegetable, so you don’t need much molasses if you are making the candied version, and overdoing it will make them heavy and less appealing.

Dill Carrots
Dill Carrots

Dill Carrots / Candied Dill Carrots

Adapted from my mom’s go-to carrot recipe.

Serves 4

I like these a little toothy, but they are also delicious on the soft side. You don’t need exact amounts of any of these ingredients, and I usually don’t measure, but have provided them here as guidelines.

Ingredients

  • 6 medium-large carrots
  • a splash (approximately 2 tbsp.) of water
  • a knob (approximately 1-2 tbsp.) of butter
  • a sprinkle (approximately ½ tsp.) of dill
  • optional (for candied carrots): a drizzle (approximately ½ tsp.) of molasses

Directions

  1. Peel the carrots, cut into bite-sized chunks, and place into a medium saucepan.  Add a splash of water, butter, dill, and molasses (if using).
  2. Cover and place over medium heat for 10-15 minutes, until carrots reach desired tenderness.

Serving Suggestions

These carrots are great with just about any American meal, particularly with roast meats – chicken, tri-tip, and pork (like this Pan Roasted Pork Tenderloin with a Pan Sauce) are my favorites. I love them next to Pan Grilled Brussels Sprouts, Cauliflower, Roast Japanese Sweet Potatoes and Mashed Caulitatoes. Oh, and these are a perfect Thanksgiving side dish.

Sweet Potato & Kale Hash

Sweet Potato & Kale Hash with Fried Egg

If I talk about corned beef hash around my husband, he imagines the canned stuff, but in my head I’m thinking about the way my Gma made it – with chunks of actual corned beef and diced vegetables. I’m clearly in the minority here – when I see Corned Beef Hash on the menu anywhere, I feel compelled to order it, hoping it will be hearty chunks of food. I even ask the servers if the hash is chunky, or if it’s like the canned paste. “Oh, it’s definitely chunky.” We must have different definitions of “chunky,” because those tiny bits of potato don’t qualify. Not that I don’t love the canned stuff – it may smell like dog food coming out of the can, and the meat may be more like paste than it is meat anymore, but it is pretty darn tasty. I always grab a scoop if it’s on the table.

Sweet Potato & Kale Hash
Sweet Potato & Kale Hash

Of course I had to start playing around with making my own hash. I have a good approximation of Gma’s Corned Beef Hash, but then I started experimenting with different hash recipes – changing or skipping the meat, changing up the vegetables. Sometimes I go with a Latin theme and include poblano peppers, zucchini or other summer squash, and corn, and my St. Patty’s style hash uses Russet potatoes, Brussels sprouts, and onions. Often my breakfast hash is an experiment with the leftovers in the fridge. But it’s always good.

This version is one of my favorites. The sweet potato and kale play beautifully off one another, and even though it’s fairly simple, the flavor of this dish is really quite bold. This hash can be eaten plain, or topped with a fried egg or two – as the runny yolk adds another layer of deliciousness.

Sweet Potato & Kale Hash with Fried Egg
Sweet Potato & Kale Hash with Fried Egg

Sweet Potato & Kale Hash

Serves 2-3

The key to this (and any) hash is a cast iron pan – one that isn’t too crowded, and has the right amount of oil. You want the pan to be shiny – for there to be some fat between the pan and the vegetables, but not so oily that the vegetables are sitting in a pool of oil, or else your hash will leave you feeling heavy and greasy. If you can’t see the bottom of the pan through the vegetables, it’s overcrowded, and your vegetables will be limp and steamed, rather than crisping up against the cast iron.

Ingredients

  • 2-3 tbsp. olive oil, or other fat
  • 1 medium-ish orange fleshed sweet potato (approximately 350 g or 12 oz.)
  • 1/2 medium onion
  • 1/2 medium red bell pepper
  • 2-3 stalks of kale (I used curly kale, but you could use others)
  • kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • optional: 1-2 fried eggs per person

Directions

  1. Peel the sweet potatoes, and dice both the sweet potato and bell pepper in large bite sized pieces.
  2. Cut the onion in long strips lengthwise- you should have strips the length of the onion, approximately 1/4″ wide.
  3. De-stem the kale, and chop roughly. Grab the kale in handfuls and squeeze it to soften.
  4. Heat 1 tbsp. of the olive oil in a wide cast iron skillet. When the pan is nice and hot, add all the veggies except the kale and a good sprinkle of salt, and cook over medium-high to high heat, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables begin to turn golden brown and the potatoes are soft through. Add additional fat if necessary to keep the pan shiny.
  5. Add the kale, and continue to cook a minute or two more, stirring occasionally, until the kale wilts.
  6. Salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Serve immediately, topped with a fried egg if desired.

Summer Veggie Pasta

Summer Pasta

I went to visit my parents last weekend and came home with a bundle of typical summer veggies from their home garden: zucchini, tomatoes, green beans. This is what I’ve learned about growing zucchini: once it starts producing, you have zucchini to pick nearly every day, and you best pick them when they are medium sized, because if you wait until the next day they’ll be huge. Oh, and huge zucchini are not necessarily better – they are seedy and pithy at the core and better suited to make zucchini boats.

Zucchini wasn’t one of my favorite vegetables growing up – it always seemed to be overcooked and mushy. Unless it was fried. But then everything fried is delicious. Evil and delicious. Eventually I discovered more toothsome preparations for zuchhini, and was finally able to pay attention to it’s flavor. It’s incredible, fresh flavor.

One such preparation was Michael Ruhlman’s Sauteed Zucchini. It makes a fabulous side dish during the summer, when you want something fresh to accompany grilled meats. In fact, it’s so delicious, I wanted it to be a meal all on it’s own, and that’s what we get when we add in the spaghetti. My only complaint was that the minced shallot didn’t swirl up with the rest of the noodles, and were always left at the bottom of my bowl. So I found a way to make onion noodles too.

Summer Pasta
Summer Vegetable Pasta with Zucchini Noodles

Summer Veggie Pasta

Serves 4

Larger zucchini and yellow squash have a lot more seeds at their core, and those seeds will lead to breaks in your squash noodles. Opt for smaller squash, or discard the center seed-filled portions. The veggies don’t take long to cook, so don’t start them until you put your pasta into it’s hot tub. Only boil the pasta as long as the package suggests, and if they are finished before the veggies, drain it and toss with olive oil to keep from sticking (never rinse your pasta).

Ingredients

  • ½ lb. spaghetti or thin spaghetti
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 large carrot
  • ½ red bell pepper
  • 1 lb. zucchini and/or yellow squash (approximately 2 medium)
  • 1 small (or ½ large) red onion
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4-5 cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • kosher salt to taste
  • 3 tbsp. good olive oil or butter
  • optional: serve with freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Summer Pasta Prep Work

  1. Start your salted pasta water for the spaghetti.
  2. Use a mandoline to julienne the carrot and squash (discard the seedy core). Slice the bell pepper in long thin strips either manually or with the mandoline. Cut halfway through the onion lengthwise, then slice thinly with the mandoline to create ribbons of onion.
  3. When your pasta water is boiling, add the pasta.
  4. Heat a large saute pan over medium-high heat with 2 tbsp. olive oil and the minced garlic.
  5. When the garlic begins to sizzle, add the carrot, bell pepper, onion and a pinch of salt. Saute until the carrot begins to soften (about 4 minutes) and add the zucchini and cherry tomatoes. Saute 2 minutes more, then add the pasta, drizzle with good olive oil or butter and toss to combine. Season with salt to taste.

Serving Suggestions

This pasta works as either a side or main dish, and shines alongside grilled meats.

Grilled Cauliflower / Grilled Brussels Sprouts

grilled cauliflower

I adore vegetables. My favorites growing up were my mom’s candied carrots and her green beans, and I would easily eat two or three servings. “Eat your vegetables” wasn’t a phrase often directed at me, and the more I learn to cook for myself, the more vegetable varieties I experiment with and add into my repertoire. And when I get to know vegetable-avoiding people, I occasionally take it as a personal challenge to make vegetables for them in a way that will make them go for seconds (and thirds).

These days my go-to starter veggies for new initiates are cauliflower and Brussels sprouts. I know, I know, cauliflower sounds boring, but trust me – it’s so much more than the part of the raw vegetable tray that gets left behind. Cauliflower is an incredibly versatile vegetable, and pairs well with almost anything. But what I really love about cauliflower is how simply and quickly it becomes a dish that converts vegetable-avoiders to vegetable-lovers.

Pan grilled cauliflower on a plate
Pan grilled cauliflower

Oh, and Brussels Sprouts! When I was young, Brussels sprouts seemed to be the vegetable people loved to hate on, but I’ve always liked them – they were like baby cabbages, and my mom seemed to always prepare them that way. But then one day I discovered them grilled, and I don’t know if I’ve prepared them any other way since. Brussels sprouts seem to be very popular lately, and I’m seeing them on menus with exotic preparations involving soy glazes and chili-lime dressings, and while those can be delicious too, you don’t need to go through all that to make them delicious. All you need are olive oil and salt. I once grilled a giant batch for a party we were having, and I think my normally-picky-eating step-daughter ate half the plate by herself. Soon she wanted to (and did) learn to make them herself, and now we eat them at least every other week. She and my husband love the extra charred sprouts, while I relish the slightly crunchy ones. I’m not complaining – I love it!

Pan Grilled Brussels Sprouts
Pan Grilled Brussels Sprouts

Leftovers

Brussels sprouts aren’t very good if they’re even slightly over-cooked, so you probably don’t want to keep any leftovers unless you like them cold. But there is something you can do with leftover grilled cauliflower: Mashed Caulitatoes. But that’s another post (coming soon!).

Mashed Caulitatoes
Mashed Caulitatoes (recipe coming soon)

Grilled Cauliflower / Grilled Brussels Sprouts

Serves 3-4, or more, depending on the size of the head

These can be prepared on the stove top or the grill, and are equally delicious either way. Cauliflower and Brussels sprouts compliment each other well, so if you are looking for additional variety, they can easily be prepared and served together. If you are grilling, prep the vegetables in larger pieces so they don’t fall through the grates; if you are pan grilling, make sure not to overcrowd the pan – prepare in batches if necessary.

Ingredients

  • 1 head cauliflower, cut into bite sized florets OR 3-4 cups Brussels sprouts, trimmed & halved (leave smaller sprouts whole)
  • olive oil
  • kosher salt

Grill Directions

  1. Prepare your grill for direct grilling over medium to medium-high heat (higher heat – more char).
  2. Drizzle the vegetables with enough olive oil to lightly coat, and toss with a pinch of salt.
  3. Spread the vegetables directly on the grill in an even layer and cook to desired tenderness (approximately 5-10 minutes).
  4. Transfer vegetables to a serving dish and drizzle with olive oil, season to taste, and serve immediately.

Pan Grilling Directions

  1. Heat a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat.
  2. Add 2-3 tbsp. olive oil and cauliflower or Brussels Sprouts and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and crisp edges begin developing. Add additional olive oil, ½ tbsp. at a time, as needed to keep skillet and cauliflower moistened.
  3. Sprinkle with a good pinch of salt, transfer to a serving dish, and pour remaining olive oil from the pan (there should only be a tbsp. or so) over the finished vegetables. Serve immediately.

Serving Suggestions

These pair well with just about everything – roast or grilled meats, potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, etc. I’m particularly fond of Brussels sprouts with grilled cheddar-Swiss sammies or albacore-Swiss tuna melts.

Carnitas

Carnitas

We used to live just ten minutes away from Disneyland. I could even see the fireworks if I stood in the street outside my house. It was my grandparents’ house, and had been since my mom was a young girl. A couple of my aunts and an uncle worked at Disneyland when I was young, which meant I grew up familiar with the park. In college my sister was a cast member, and I was always ready to be her Disney-date. Ten years ago I started dating a fellow Disney-phile (to whom I am now married) and we became annual passholders. I love being there, just a few hours or all day, whether we go on rides or not; it never gets old.

But nearly three years ago we moved to West LA, and eventually let our passes expire this last November. I’d been pining for another visit ever since, and when the opportunity came up last weekend, I jumped at it. It wasn’t just Disneyland I was excited about – it was a visit to the old neighborhood. Planning where to visit for lunch became just as important as deciding which rides we should take the boy on. You see, the food on the Westside is fantastic, don’t get me wrong, but I have yet to find an adequate replacement for a few of our old haunts. Specifically: the taquerias.

I thought that moving to LA meant we would be near a lot of great Mexican food, but it turns out there isn’t much on the Westside – you have to travel east or south, and the traffic makes it somewhat prohibitive to stray more than a mile or two. We have incredible burger joints and more Asian and Italian places than I can count within walking distance, but I have yet to find a taqueria I like here. (If you are familiar with the Westside and know a killer taqueria – or any other dynamite restaurant – PLEASE tell me about it in a comment!)

We settled on Taqueria de Anda, which is a few blocks from Disneyland, and I practically dove into my carnitas tacos. Oh how I missed good carnitas! Simple and straightforward – just meat, onion/cilantro, salsa verde, and a squeeze of lime. That juicy, mildly spicy, meaty taco was heaven… and then I remembered how long it’s been since I made carnitas tacos of my own. I decided immediately they would be on the meal plan this week (yes, I’m crazy, and put together actual meal plans most weeks).

Taqueria de Anda Carnitas Taco
Taqueria de Anda Carnitas Taco

Traditional carnitas is pork braised or simmered in lard until tender, and then fried so the edges get crispy. Now, I love fat as much as any flavor-freak, but I also still have a few pounds of baby weight I would prefer eliminate, so I make it a little differently. Conventionally raised pork is really fatty, so you can separate out quite a bit without negatively impacting flavor too much.

Leftovers

You can make just about any Mexican-style dish out of this: tacos, burritos, enchiladas, tostadas, even tamales. Don’t toss out the reserved cooking liquid – just store it in with the meat, so it doesn’t dry out when you re-heat it.

Carnitas Tacos

Carnitas

Adapted from the pork my mother made for her enchilada casserole, and some personal experimentation
Serves 6-8
This carnitas is rich, and pairs best with lighter foods and bright, acidic foods that cut through or offset the fattiness. For tacos, consider serving with warm corn tortillas, an onion/cilantro mixture, and lime wedges. Your preferred crispyness and shred-level may be different depending on how you want to use your carnitas. Maybe you want it crispy for use in tacos (steps 10-12 are my methods for crispy carnitas); maybe you want it softer for use in enchiladas or a casserole (in which case – skip those steps).

Ingredients

  • coarse/kosher salt & fresh ground pepper
  • lard or leftover rendered pork fat (alternates: Canola oil, vegetable oil)
  • 2 tbsp. dried whole leaf Mexican oregano
  • optional: 1-2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (from a can), more for a spicier and smokier flavor
  • 4 or 5 cloves of garlic, smashed
  • 4-6 dried red chilies, including the seeds (New Mexico or something similar), each torn into 2 or 3 pieces, OR 4-6 tsp. dried New Mexico chili powder
  • 1 (4 oz.) can diced green chilies (mild, kid-friendly) or jalapeños (spicier) OR 4-6 whole fresh jalapeños, halved lengthwise
  • 4 to 5 lb. bone-in (or bone-out, but bone-in will be juicier) pork butt roast OR country style pork ribs (which are essentially pork butt cut into strips)
  • 1 large yellow or brown onion, quartered lengthwise through the core, then each quarter halved, again through the core)
  • optional: juice of 1 orange

Directions

  1. Rub the entire pork butt with salt and pepper.
  2. Add half the oregano, onion, garlic, dried red chilies (or powder) and fresh jalapeños (if using) to the bottom of the crock pot.
  3. In a large (preferably cast iron) pan or Dutch oven, heat ¼ inch fat or oil until it shimmers. Brown the pork on all sides, then transfer to crock pot.
  4. Nestle the remaining onion, garlic dried red chilies (or powder) and jalapeños, as well as the chipotle peppers (if using) around the edges and on top of the pork. Sprinkle with the remaining oregano.
  5. Pour the canned green chilies or jalapeños, including the liquid, over the top.
  6. Cover and cook on Low for 8 hours.
  7. Remove pork from the crock pot, and strain all the chunky stuff out of the remaining liquid; toss the chunks and set aside the liquid. Allow the liquid to settle and separate from the fat. Reserve liquid and fat separately.
  8. Shred the pork with two forks (should just fall right apart), separate and toss out the solid bits of fat.
  9. Mix shredded pork with ½ to 1 cup of reserved liquid to distribute the flavor throughout the meat.
  10. Toss the shredded pork with 1-2 tbsp. of the liquid fat.
  11. Line a half sheet or jelly roll pan (rimmed cookie sheet) with foil, spread the shredded pork evenly on the pan.
  12. Broil the pork on high for 5-7 minutes until crispy.

Serving Suggestions

Starchy Sides: Warm Corn or Flour Tortillas (heat over an open flame or on a cast iron surface), Mexican-Style Rice

Veggie Sides: Mexican Caesar Salad, Guacamole Salad, Mexican-Style Vegetables (drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and microwave until tender and hot: 3 minutes, stir, 3 minutes, stir, 2 minutes)

Spicy Beans / Spicy Citrus Beans

Spicy Beans

I remember sitting at my Gma’s dining table once, when I was living with her during college, reading M.F.K. Fisher’s The Art of Eating (one of her autobiographical books). Fisher’s husband had recently died, and she describes floating through life in a state of numbness. Normally a woman who relishes and treasures her food, she can hardly stand to eat. She goes on a cruise to Mexico, alone, and the crew seems to see the pain she’s in, and pays special attention to her.

She’s in the dining room one evening, and all the food seems drab and pretentious, and the waiter leans over to her and says, “There is an American kitchen and there is a country kitchen, side by side out there…”

He disappears, and then returns with a bowl of what the staff is eating, “light-tan beans cooked with some tomato and onion and many herbs.” She devours three or four servings, and relishes every bite, describing the “feeling of that hot strong food going down into [her] stomach [as] one of the finest [she] has ever known.”

I remember finishing that chapter… and then immediately making myself a pot of beans, and eating them with a warm flour tortilla and diced avocado while I dug in to the next chapter.

spicy beans and mexican rice on a plate

I have lived in Southern California all my life, which means that even though I’m a white girl, I have some decent experience with Mexican food. My mother makes great Mexican and Mexican inspired foods: tacos, enchilada casseroles… we even made big batches of (delicious) tamales together on occasion.

I’m comfortable with the onion-garlic-chilies trinity, and can usually whip up some Mexican-style foods without a recipe. Sometimes I just need a little inspiration, in the form of a meal at someone’s home or in a restaurant, and I’ll be off on a mission to replicate, simplify or build upon a recipe. (Do you ever obsess about food like this?)

This recipe developed over time, watching both my mother and mother-in-law make their beans, and seeking out the flavors I loved. I tend to used canned chilies for Spicy Beans, and fresh chilies for Spicy Citrus Beans, but either will work.

Leftovers

These are great wrapped up in a warm flour tortilla with some diced avocado, or mixed with some Mexican-Style Rice, leftover taco meat, and Mexican-Style Vegetables.
chicken taco leftovers medley

Spicy Beans / Spicy Citrus Beans

While I like black beans and pinto beans on their own, the addition of the onion-garlic-chilies trinity really makes them pop. The addition of the optional citrus changes the flavor profile significantly, so try them both. Using rendered chicken fat instead of oil really ups that richly satisfying quality of the beans.

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp. rendered chicken fat or pork fat ( alternate: Canola oil or vegetable oil)
  • ½ poblano or whole Anaheim chili, diced OR ½ (4 oz.) can diced green chilies
  • ⅓ medium yellow or brown onion, diced
  • kosher salt
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 (15 oz.) can pinto (or black) beans, including liquid
  • optional: juice of ½ a large orange

Directions

  1. Heat the fat in a medium pot over medium heat, and once the fat begins to shimmer, add the onions, chilies, and a pinch of salt.
  2. Sweat the chili and onion until softened, stirring occasionally.
  3. Add the garlic and cook a minute more.
  4. Add the beans and their liquid as well as the orange juice (if using).
  5. Stir to combine, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook 5 minutes until beans are the desired tenderness.
  6. Season with salt to taste.

Serving Suggestions

The standard variation pairs incredibly well with Mexican-Style Rice and Mexican-Style Vegetables (drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and microwave until tender and hot – 3 minutes, stir, 3 minutes, stir, 2 minutes) as perfect sides for Chicken Tacos.

The citrus variation pairs delightfully with The Smitten Kitchen’s Huevos Rancheros (which are delicious, although entirely unlike any Huevos Rancheros I’ve ever seen).

Guacamole Salad with Mango

guacamole_salad

I don’t usually have chips in the house – I find it’s a good way to keep myself from eating them. But occasionally we have guests, or are guests, and I inadvertently find myself camped out near the snack table. I’m a sucker for crudité platters, particularly the carrots, cucumber, and olives, and especially if the dressing is hummus or a mixture of homemade ranch and blue cheese. But my great love on the snack table is guacamole.

Guacamole is not, for me, a dip for my chip – the chip is a vehicle to transport the most obscene scoop of guacamole I can manage. I still wind up eating way too many chips, and since much of my family is the same way with guacamole, the entire bowl usually disappears within 5-10 minutes.

When I saw this recipe on Barefoot Contessa, it was too good to pass up. I tried it her way, and it’s good, but the avocado looked a little sparse, drowning in the other elements. I was immediately inclined to double the avocado – make it more guacamole-like. The salad was a huge hit. Some ate it like salad, while others ate it like a chunky dip, but everyone raved.

This became my default contribution at house parties. Then one day, someone mentioned it would be lovely with mangoes… and I’ve made it with mangoes ever since. They provide a brightness that accompanies the avocado beautifully.

Leftovers

Sadly, this doesn’t keep that well for too long. You can certainly eat it the next day or so, but the avocados are going to lose their color and will instead be a drab brownish green. So eat up!

Guacamole Salad with Mango

Serves 8-10
Inspired by Ina Garten’s Guacamole Salad
Allowing the red onion, jalapeño, and minced garlic to sit in the lime juice a few minutes allows them to soften a little in texture and flavor, and impart their flavor to the dressing. If you prefer them to have a strong bite, just mix everything together at once. But definitely keep your avos whole until right before serving, else the salad may start browning by the time your guests see it.

Ingredients

  • 2 limes, zested and juiced
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • ½ cup small diced red onion
  • 2 jalapeño peppers, seeded & minced
  • ½ teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 yellow or orange bell pepper, seeded and ½-inch diced
  • 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 mangoes, peeled and diced
  • ¼ cup good olive oil
  • 4-5 ripe Hass avocados, seeded, peeled, and ½-inch diced

Directions

  1. Whisk together the lime zest, lime juice, salt, pepper, and cayenne.
  2. Mix red onion, jalapeño, and minced garlic into the lime-spice mixture and let marinade at least 5-10 minutes.
  3. Add grape tomatoes, bell pepper, black beans and mango and pour olive oil over top, and mix vegetables to incorporate well.
  4. When ready to serve, dice and add avocado, mix gently, and season with salt to taste.

Serving Suggestions

This makes an excellent side for carnitas, all Mexican food, and  just about anything grilled (oh, it’s glorious over grilled fish), and doubles as a chunky dip.

Chicken Tacos

My step-daughter is at times a picky eater. She’s much better now than when we first met (she was 6), when mealtimes sometimes involved sitting at the table long after everyone had finished, bargaining with her to finish just a small amount of whatever we were eating that night. “Eat these four bites of chicken and you can have ice cream with the rest of us.” “I don’t need ice cream.” Hmm…. Bargaining works much better when you have something on them. She wasn’t fazed by dangling-carrots. But there were two family meals that never involved a battle of wills: spaghetti and tacos.
chicken tacos

While she now, at 16, makes an active effort to eat what we’re eating for dinner (and will occasionally be adventurous and try something crazy, like beet juice or salmon sashimi), tacos are definitely still one of her favorite foods. A normally sparse eater, she will devour between three and five tacos on her own. Sometimes six.

I can’t blame her. I have a hard time controlling myself too. Tacos are one of those comfort foods that take me back to dinners around the family table of my youth, the way Remy’s Ratatouille transports Anton Ego. Everyone is happy because they get tacos the way they like them, whether that’s with just meat and cheese, or so packed with toppings they are spilling out in every direction.

These are flavorful but mild tacos, so they are very kid-friendly. If it’s just me and my husband I’m more likely to use jalapeños instead of green chilies to kick it up a notch. My favorite toppings are jack cheese, shredded iceberg, diced avocado, and a medium salsa fresca. What are yours?

Leftovers

Mix the leftover chicken, rice, and beans (and the Mexican-Style Vegetables too!) together for a perfect lunch dish, or pile them all together for a nice taco salad.

chicken taco leftovers medley

Chicken Tacos

Serves 3-4, with leftovers

If you are pressed for time, you could certainly try to fry the tortillas while you are preparing the filling. However, I find that the flavor is better if the meat has a little time to meld with the other flavors, and I’m more likely to over-fry the tortillas if I don’t pay strict attention to that task.

Note: Be careful not to fry your tortillas too long. They shouldn’t be like chips; they should have a crispness but still be pliant enough to fold around their fillings. I like to look for when the tortilla just starts to show signs of browning in spots. And remember, it will firm up a bit on the cooling rack as well. If you over-fry, break them in half and assemble a tostada instead of a taco; or just eat them like chips.

frying taco shells

Ingredients

  • 1-2 tbsp. rendered chicken fat or olive oil
  • ⅓ medium yellow or brown onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • ½ a (4 oz.) can of diced green chilies (mild) or jalapeños (spicier)
  • 3-4 cups leftover chicken, diced or shredded (from your Crispy Roast Chicken)
  • 2-3 tbsp. chicken stock
  • kosher salt
  • Taco fixings: shredded iceberg, grated jack cheese, salsa fresca, diced avocado, sour cream
  • lard (alternate: vegetable or Canola oil)
  • 12 corn tortillas

Directions

  1. In a large pan or skillet, heat the fat or oil over medium-high heat until it shimmers.
  2. Add the onion and saute until translucent. Add the garlic and cook a minute more.
  3. Add the chiles, diced chicken, and a good pinch of salt and cook until warm through.
  4. Season to taste with salt. Reduce heat to low to keep warm while you fry the tortillas.
  5. In a large (preferably cast iron) skillet, heat ¼ inch of lard or oil over medium-high heat.
  6. When oil is shimmering, test by dipping the edge of a tortilla into the oil – if it begins to sizzle, lower the remainder of the tortilla into the oil; if it doesn’t sizzle, remove and wait a minute or two more before testing again.
  7. Fry the tortilla for one minute to soften, then flip the tortilla over and fold in half; fry 1-2 minutes, flip to the other side of the folded tortilla, and fry 1-2 minutes more to desired crispness. (In a 12 inch skillet, you should be able to work on three tortillas at a time – one in each stage: flat, folded first side, and folded second side.
  8. Move to a cooling rack or a half sheet pan lined with paper towels. Sprinkle with salt if desired.

Serving Suggestions

Starchy Sides: Mexican-Style Rice & Spicy Beans

Veggie Sides: Mexican-Style Vegetables (drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and microwave until tender and hot – 3 minutes, stir, 3 minutes, stir, 2 minutes), Mexican Caesar Salad