Black Bean Burgers

Black Bean Burgers

Thanks to my Aunt Marie’s irresistible cooking, I fell off my meatless mission last weekend.  How could I pass up her homemade Korean spare ribs?  Her baked pork fried rice knocked my socks off during my last visit and since I only see her once a year (she’ll tell you I need to visit more, which is not untrue), I can’t possibly sit there and eat a plate of roasted vegetables, however excellent, feeling like I was missing out on something extraordinary.

Black Bean Burgers

But I got right back on track with continuing to eat meatless for the rest of the month and even though my lunch on Monday was a shameful carb fest, we’ve not been without a bounty of ideas for healthy vegetarian meals.  These black bean burgers was one such meal and it was really something special.  I seriously had these burgers on the menu for weeks before I made them and when I finally got Kyle to agree to eat them, he was just as blown away as I was.  In fact, after I broke up a couple of the burgers during the week and stuffed them inside baked potatoes for lunches, we fought over the last burger.  Full of protein and set atop of some fresh baby spinach on a whole wheat bun, this black bean burger is a meal in itself but I think they would also be spectacular with some oven fries, zucchini fries, or a toss salad on the side.

And since January is slowly dwindling to an end the operative question becomes, what will be my first “official” non-meatless meal in February?

Black Bean Burgers

Yield: 6 burgers


  • ¾ cup panko bread crumbs
  • 3 tbsp plus 2 tsp olive oil, divided
  • 2 (15 oz) cans black beans, drained and rinsed, divided
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and finely diced
  • ¼ cup fresh cilantro, minced
  • 1 shallot, minced


  1. Heat a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Mix the breadcrumbs and 2 teaspoons of the oil in a medium bowl with a fork until the breadcrumbs are evenly coated. Add the breadcrumbs to the skillet and cook until lightly browned, stirring occasionally at first then more frequently as they begin to brown. Remove the skillet from the heat and set aside.
  2. Add 2 ½ cups of the black beans to a large bowl and lightly mash them with a fork or potato masher until they are almost smooth. In a separate small bowl, beat the eggs, cumin, salt, and cayenne pepper together. Stir the egg mixture, bread crumbs, remaining beans, red peppers, cilantro, and shallots into the mashed beans until well-combined. Chill the mixture for 30 minutes.
  3. Once chilled, shape the mixture into 6 patties (about ½ cup each). (At this point the patties can be refrigerated on a plate covered tightly with plastic wrap for 24 hours.) Chill the shaped patties until you’re ready to cook them.
  4. Wipe out the original skillet, add 1 ½ tablespoons of oil and heat the oil over medium heat until it shimmers. Working in two batches, carefully transfer 3 of the patties to the skillet. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes, very carefully flipping halfway through (they will be slightly fragile), until both sides of the burgers are nicely browned. Repeat with the second batch of patties. Serve hot.


A Perfect Pair: Shrimp and Grits for Josie

Skillet Shrimp and Grits

If you’ve been around these parts long enough you’ll know that I’m truly in love with breakfast.  And truth be told, I love it even more when I’m eating for other meals.  Like those gratin potatoes with spinach, kale, and a runny poached egg?  That was my lunch one day over holiday break.  It was spectacular.  Well this shrimp and grits dish rates right up there.

Lord knows I’m not from the South but my great pal Josie sure is and she knows her grits.  Creamy, cheesy, stick-to-your-ribs sort of good grits.  Add some shrimp to a killer pan of grits and you’ve got a perfect pair.  And speaking of Josie, she’s having herself a perfect pair this week…in the form of twin boys!  Josie and Joey are adding 2 more to their family and I knew this shrimp and grits dish would be an amazing way to help celebrate a little surprise shower a few of us decided to have for her.

Skillet Shrimp and Grits

Josie loves breakfast just as much as I do and she’s all over shrimp and grits.  Being the Yankee that I am, I think this meal really does Southern comfort food justice (especially since I used the stone-ground white cornmeal Josie brought me from Atlanta in October) and I know she would love it as much as Kyle and I did.  Because you’ll bake the grits for a final 15 minutes, they aren’t quite as creamy as I would have liked for them to be but it’s a stellar recipe, nonetheless.  The only thing that could possibly make this shrimp and grits any more awesome would be a poached egg.  Surprised?  I know Josie would agree.

Here’s what the other girls made for Josie:
Annie: Paloma Cocktail (Tequila & Lime)
Courtney: Chocolate Cake with Coffee Buttercream
Elly: Sausage-Cheese Biscuits

Wouldn’t this menu would make for an amazing brunch?!

Browned Butter Sweet Potatoes with Maple Sour Cream

browned butter sweet potatoes with maple sour cream

In spite of the serious lack of sweet potato recipes on this blog, I actually am a pretty huge fan of them.  I bake them up frequently in the fall and winter to take for lunch or to have as a healthier alternative to a regular white potato with dinner.  And when Thanksgiving rolls around, hold me back from the sweet potato casserole!  So this recipe, while pretty basic, is also right up my alley.

browned butter sweet potatoes with maple sour cream

There’s nothing complicated about it – you just bake a few sweet potatoes, overcook brown some butter, and mix a little maple syrup into sour cream.  With a little nuttiness from the browned butter alongside the sweet and tangy maple sour cream, you’ve got the makings of quite the perfect cool weather side dish.  Or lunch served with a little salad or bowl of soup, perhaps?

Browned Butter Sweet Potatoes with Maple Sour Cream

Total Time: 1 hour

Yield: 4 servings


  • 4 medium sweet potatoes, washed and dried
  • 3 tbsp salted butter
  • ½ cup sour cream (light works fine)
  • 1 tbsp pure maple syrup


  1. Preheat oven to 400° F. Poke each sweet potato several times with a fork. Place the sweet potatoes on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake until soft and cooked through, 50-60 minutes. Remove the potatoes from the oven to cool for a few minutes.
  2. In a small bowl, mix together sour cream and maple syrup; set aside.
  3. Heat the butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat until brown bits start to form on the bottom of the pan and the butter turns golden brown in color, about 5 minutes. Keep a close eye on the butter - it can burn quickly.
  4. Slice the sweet potatoes open lengthwise and lightly mash up the potato inside the skin with a fork. Divide the browned butter between the potatoes and dollop the top of each with some of the maple sour cream. Serve hot.


maple sour cream adapted from Everyday Food

Smashed Avocado-Chile Tartines

I’ve got this thing about weekend lunches.  Kyle’s got this other thing.  I feel they should be quick and easy, not requiring thought or time.  Kyle, it seems, grew up in Europe where lunches are often have more emphasis than dinner.  (He didn’t, by the way.)  For me, a sandwich and some fruit or chips or leftovers from during the week make the perfect weekend lunch.  For Kyle, roast chicken with herbed potatoes and steamed vegetables are ideal.  (Actually, it’s more like hot dogs or burgers on the grill with potato salad and beans.)  And I realize that throwing a few dogs on the grill is not complicated by any standard but I grew up with the mindset that the kitchen is closed for lunch on the weekend – make yourself a sandwich or starve…and I’m ok with that.

But I made an exception on the 4th of July – it was a holiday, what can I say?  These avocado-chile tartines were just as easy as making a sandwich…and let’s face it, tartines are the European version of sandwiches so I’m still moving with the same train of thought here.  Basically, I steeped some garlic and chile flakes in olive oil, grilled some bread, and smashed up some avocado.  That’s it.  And now I can add an avocado tree to my list of must-grow fruit trees (do they even grow in the northeast?) because between guacamole and these tartines, I could seriously go broke on avocados.  Rich, buttery, creamy smashed avocado with a hint of heat on crispy, crunchy grilled bread – the perfect light weekend/day-off lunch.

**Note** – When writing the original recipe, I forgot to include the lime juice; the recipe below has been adjusted to include this.

Smashed Avocado-Chile Tartines

Total Time: 15 minutes

Yield: 3-4 lunch servings

These tartines would make an excellent and quick weeknight dinner served with a side salad or fabulous appetizers for a party – just grill or toast up small rounds of French bread instead of ciabatta. For our tartines, I used sesame semolina (a crusty Italian bread) but if you can’t find it, ciabatta bread will work too. There will be some leftover chile-oil – it keeps well in the fridge for a couple of weeks and can be brought to room temperature to be used in other recipes (like brushing onto pizza dough before building a pizza).


  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ tsp red pepper chile flakes plus extra for sprinkling
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed (skins removed)
  • ½ loaf ciabatta or other crusty Italian bread, sliced on the bias (diagonally to maximize surface area), about ½-inch thick
  • 2 ripe avocado, pitted, removed from skin, and cubed
  • 1 tbsp fresh lime juice
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


  1. Pre-heat grill to medium-high heat (about 400° F).
  2. In a small saute pan, heat the oil, chile flakes, and garlic over medium-high heat for 3-5 minutes, or until the chile flakes and garlic start sizzling. Turn the heat to medium-low and cook for 5 minutes – do not let the garlic burn. Remove from the heat and pour the oil through a mesh sieve into a medium bowl. Discard the garlic and chile flakes and set the oil aside for 5 minutes.
  3. Brush both sides of the bread slices lightly with the oil. Grill both sides of the bread until they are lightly browned and toasted around the edges – this takes about 3 minutes per side.
  4. While the bread grills, in a medium bowl, smash the avocado with, lime juice, about ¼ tsp salt and a sprinkle of pepper with a fork, leaving some larger chunks, if desired. Stir in 2 teaspoons of the chile-oil.
  5. Divide the smashed avocado between the grilled bread slices, drizzle with a little extra chile-oil and sprinkle the tops with extra chile flakes before serving. Serve the avocado at room temperature while the bread is still warm from the grill.


source: inspired by Bon Appetit Magazine, July 2012

Take Out Fake Out: Shrimp Lo Mein

take out fake out shrimp lo mein

It’s no surprise to me that when we tried this recipe for the first time about 6 months ago, we loved everything about it…well, except the noodles.  I had been searching for probably a year and half for real lo mein noodles for this recipe and finally just bit the bullet and made the recipe with spaghetti.  It just wasn’t right, people.  Thin spaghetti may have worked better but I wasn’t going to chance it.

So when I was perusing Whole Foods with Josie, Courtney, and Annie back in February while stocking up to cook dinner that night, Annie found lo mein noodles for me.  I had searched high and low (no pun intended) in my Whole Foods and local grocery stores to no avail.  I snagged the package and now I wished I had grabbed a few extra because I still can’t find them here!

take out fake out shrimp lo mein

Noodles issue aside, this shrimp lo mein was a perfect departure from heavy and oftentimes greasy Chinese take out lo mein.  The flavors perfectly mimic what we know take out lo mein to be but there’s just something about controlling all of the ingredients of a dish that make it so satisfying.  We went with a vegetarian version, swapping out the original chicken broth and chicken breast for vegetable broth and shrimp, respectively, and I love the fact that the list of vegetables in the recipe is versatile enough to use up whatever you have hanging around in the fridge.  After some minimal prep work, the whole recipe comes together rather quickly, so make sure you’ve got everything washed, chopped, and ready to go before you start.  I saved the other half of the package of noodles for a “rainy day” which may come sooner rather than later because now I’m craving these noodles again!

The Ultimate Veggie Burger

The Ultimate Veggie Burger

Sometime around 1999, I tried a veggie burger for the first time.  It was frozen, from the grocery store, and not as horrific as my little brother proclaimed it was.  Actually, I kind of liked it but then proceeded not to eat another one ever again.  And for no specific reason, just that beef [or chicken or turkey] burgers made more sense to me.  Flash forward to 2012 where about 50% of our meals each week are vegetarian.  This time, I have specific reasons: increasing the number of [oftentimes] lower caloric and nutrient-rich veggie-packed meals we eat, lowering our carbon footprint, saving a few bucks on meat that seems to be ever-so expensive these days, and do I even have to mention pink slime?  (Whole Foods in Danbury, CT, please hurry up and get built!!!)


For at least a year now, I’ve been wanting to make veggie burgers at home and I’m so, so glad I finally did because I totally fell in love with them.  Earthy and deeply, almost roasted flavored from sautéed vegetables and mushrooms, these burgers are a meal by themselves.  Primarily held together by a mixture of lentils, black beans, bulger, and panko breadcrumbs, the texture is decent – definitely not cardboard-esque like those which hail from the freezer section but more like that of a crab cake: light, soft, and a little messy (though not messy to cook, just a little messy to eat).  Grilled or pan-fried, served atop some homemade buns with your choice of toppings and a little garlic aioli, and you’ve got yourself a hearty and completely satisfying meatless burger.  The only downfall to this recipe is that it isn’t a quick one.  I felt like I used every pan and bowl in my kitchen that night last week and from start to finish, these burgers took me about an hour to make.  The good thing is that the recipe yields 12 large burgers (there’s no harm in even making them a little smaller) and you can freeze the uncooked remaining veggie burger patties.  For this I’m ecstatic because now I’ve got an instant and fabulous dinner ready for when we’re ready to fire up our new grill!

Take-Out Fake-Out: Veggie Fried Rice

Veggie Fried Rice

It never fails that when we’re looking to get Chinese take-out, I’m craving fried rice with my meal because let’s face it, white rice is for the birds.  The sticky stuff does nothing for me.  So when I came across this recipe last month for vegetable fried rice, I was all over it like…um, white on rice?  🙂 I loved the fact that by making it at home, I could control the ingredients and use up leftover rice from other nights of the week – or just make the rice in advance when I have a few spare minutes in the kitchen, which you should do anyway because the cooked rice needs to be cold for this dish.  I immediately opted for brown rice, boosted both the fresh garlic and ginger, and used frozen peas and carrots (easy!!) rather than peeling and chopping multiple carrots. We seriously loved how this recipe turned out – so much so that we made it twice in a week.  We paired it with some teriyaki chicken (let me know if you’re interested in the recipe) to round out the meal and it ended up being a substantial, quick, and relatively healthy dinner.  And since I misread a recipe I made earlier this week, leaving me with over 3 cups of cooked brown rice, I know what we’re having tonight!

Spinach, Feta and Sundried Tomato Egg Sandwiches


Every morning, I fight against my breakfast vice: a bagel with cream cheese.  Without a doubt, I could eat a bagel with cream cheese every single day of my life and never get tired of it.  My metabolism, however, does not agree with this way of life.  So on most mornings my breakfast consists of a toasted multigrain English muffin with either peanut butter, raisins, and a sprinkle of cinnamon or sweetened cottage cheese and for the most part, I’m truly satisfied with these options.  But when I need a change of pace, I make myself a healthy egg sandwich like this spinach, feta, and sundried tomato version on my favorite multigrain English muffin.  It’s a quick breakfast to throw together on busy mornings and I love the fact that it’s so filling that I don’t even think about anything else to eat until lunchtime.  All in all, I never miss the bagel with cream cheese when I’ve got an egg sandwich like this one to look forward to in the morning!

Spinach, Feta and Sundried Tomato Egg Sandwiches

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 15 minutes

Yield: 2 sandwiches


  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 2 cups fresh spinach, stemmed
  • 4 sundried tomatoes, rinsed, drained, and chopped
  • 2 eggs beaten with a dash a water
  • Pinch of garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp dried oregano
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 oz crumbled feta
  • 2 English muffins (I love Thomas' Light Multigrain), toasted and buttered (optional)


  1. Heat oil in a 10" or 12" nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add spinach and cook until wilted; stir in the sundried tomatoes and heat through, about 2 minutes.
  2. Stir the eggs into the spinach and sundried tomatoes and add the garlic powder, oregano, and a little black pepper. Using a spatula, stir the eggs until cooked through, about 4-5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the feta. Divide the eggs between the English muffins and serve hot.


source: Smells Like Home original

Vegetarian Lentil and Black Bean Soup


Is your pantry as neurotically stocked as mine is?  I’ll bet some (most?) of you always have some type of canned tomato, canned or dried bean (which may or may not be stored with the popcorn), 3 or 4 different types of vinegar (I compulsively keep 7), and too much dried pasta to feel like you’ll ever use.  However, when it really comes down to it, you know that pulling together a meal directly from the pantry isn’t ridiculously out of the question.

For us, these past few weeks have been about our household economy.  We’ve been scrimping and saving during the past 4 years and especially in the past few months to put the finishing touches on our new house…so we can install things like this in our kitchen:

And so to keep our grocery bills way down, most of our meals have been planned around what’s in the freezer and pantry.  This lentil and black bean soup is the perfect example of one of said meals.  While you could certainly use chicken broth or stock, I opted for veggie broth.  At $2 per quart, I figured I’d splurge at little :), considering I already had all of the other ingredients in the house already.  I am always looking for new lentil soup recipes and this one, with the addition of black beans, hit the nail on the head.  We truly adored this soup and with its thick and almost chili-like consistency, it’s a filling and healthy meal that will continue to stick around on our menu long after we move in (and you know, rebuild our savings account).

Spicy Bean Burritos


For the past couple of months, we’ve been eating more vegetarian meals each week than I ever expected to see on my menus.  And coincidentally, in the spirit of saving money on groceries when the new house budget is our first priority, these vegetarian meals oftentimes come in comparatively less expensive than non-veggie meals.  I think this has helped get Kyle on board with eating less meat but honestly, he’s been really impressed with the meals I’ve been making, these spicy bean burritos being one of them.

We all know that beans are cheap but these burritos weren’t completely about eating on the cheap.  They were about amping up the flavor of canned beans (pantry staples) with garlic, cumin, chile powder, and pickled jalapeños (more pantry staples) in a healthy way.  I liken the bean mixture in these burritos to a cross between two of my favorite Tex-Mex side dishes, refried beans and Elly’s world famous black beans (but without the bacon)…which means that I totally loved these burritos.  Actually, we both did and there was so much leftover filling that we each had lunches for the next few days covered.  I certainly didn’t hear any complaints about this vegetarian meal, and in fact, Kyle commented how these burritos were almost exactly like the ones he orders from the Mexican food truck for lunch on Fridays.  Sounds like a winner to me!

Eggplant Caponata

Eggplant Caponata

The eggplant harvest continues here.  We picked a couple more before the hurricane/tropical storm hit last weekend and the plants with smaller eggplant survived the storm, thankfully.  Today, I’m highlighting this eggplant caponata and I truly believe it’s a dish that every cook should have in his/her repertoire.  If you’re unfamiliar with it, caponata is a traditional Sicilian stew (entrée, side, or appetizer/antipasti) usually made with eggplant, celery, capers, and a tomato-based sauce but [according to Wikipedia] other add-ins such as red peppers, pine nuts, raisins, olives, carrots, octopus, and lobster are also widely accepted.


In this recipe, the eggplant is sautéed down to a soft and almost spreadable texture which makes the caponata a gorgeous addition to some crusty bread (which we had for dinner twice this past week).  I also considered serving this over pasta and also on it’s own with a small salad on the side, and I think it would make an excellent complement to a meaty fish like halibut or swordfish.  For lunch this week, I put the caponata on a toasted hard roll with some provolone (also twice this week – the recipe makes a lot of caponata!) and it made for a terrific sandwich.  All in all, Kyle and I both fell in love with this recipe and I’m contemplating if I should make it again for an upcoming party next weekend.  The caponata is warm and earthy with a deep flavor of fresh tomato sauce and it’s these simple flavors that make it so easy to fall in love with.  It’s a recipe that I’ll be able to make all year round (wouldn’t this be great by a fire in the middle of winter?), since eggplants are always available in the grocery stores these days, but will most definitely look forward to each August when my garden is overloaded with eggplants.

Eggplant Caponata


    For the simple tomato sauce:
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 5 large cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
  • 1 (28oz) can whole peeled tomatoes, drained (reserve all of the juice) and chopped
  • Large pinch (about 1/2 tsp) Kosher salt
  • For the caponata:
  • 2 medium eggplants, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • Kosher salt
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 2/3 cup celery, thinly sliced
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 cups simple tomato sauce
  • 1 1/2 tbsp capers, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 tsp anchovy paste
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tsp sugar


  1. To make the sauce: In a medium sauce pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add in the garlic and when it starts to sizzle, immediately stir in the tomatoes, all of the reserved juice, and the salt.
  2. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for 15-20 minutes.
  3. To make the caponata: Place eggplant in two large colanders and sprinkle about 2 tbsp salt over all of the eggplant. Toss to evenly distribute the salt. Allow the eggplant to drain for 15-20 minutes.
  4. Once the eggplant has drained, heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a large heavy-bottomed stockpot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add enough eggplant to cover the bottom of the pot in one layer and sauté until golden on all sides. Continue cooking the eggplant in batches until all of it has browned, adding more olive oil with each batch or as needed. Once all of the eggplant has cooked, remove it from the pot and keep warm on the side.
  5. In the same pot, warm 1 tbsp olive oil and sauté celery for 5 minutes. Add in the onions and cook the onions and celery until they are translucent and soft, about 7-10 minutes, adding a little more oil if needed. Reduce the heat to medium-low and stir in the tomato sauce; cook for 7 minutes. Stir in the eggplant and celery and add the capers, anchovy paste, vinegar, and sugar. Cook for 10-15 more minutes until the mixture is a thick stew-like consistency. Check for flavor, adding more salt, vinegar, or sugar as needed. Serve hot or at room temperature.


source: adapted from Alice Waters, The Art of Simple Food

Roasted Tomatillo Salsa (Salsa Verde)

I would venture a bet that you’re reading this post as I sit here post-Irene.  No electricity, no water in spite of the deluge of rain we’ve received during the first hurricane the Northeast has experienced in 20 years.  My potted herbs and stringy cherry tomato plants have taken over my kitchen floor.  The patio table stands awkwardly in my living room.  I can only hope that as you read this, that no major damage to our home [that technically isn’t even our home anymore] has been sustained, that we are safe, that my family on the south shore of Long Island have weathered this storm in a similar fashion.  That you and your families are safe.  Mother Nature works in such mystifying ways, doesn’t she?  An earthquake and a hurricane in one week.  A winter that us New Englanders will never forget.

Roasted Tomatillo Salsa [Salsa Verde]

And through all this, we hunker down and we cook.  We cook to prepare, we cook to pass the time.  Isn’t it in our nature to turn to food and family in times of trouble?  Or is that just the Italian in me?  Either way, I made a big batch of this salsa verde before the hurricane hit this weekend after having made it (and fell in love with it) for the first time for a Tex-Mex-inspired dinner with friends last weekend.  If you’re unfamiliar with salsa verde as I was, put simply, it’s roasted tomatillos and roasted garlic whirred up in the food processor with a bit of heat from the hot pepper of your choice (either a jalapeño or a serrano) added in.  For this recipe, you’ll dry roast the tomatillos and garlic in a hot pan, similar to the method for this rustic roasted salsa.  I can’t say enough about how much we adore this salsa.  Unlike tomato-based salsa which leans towards the acidic side, the roasted tomatillos yield a sweet undertone that blends with a perfect amount of heat from a jalapeño and the addictive flavor of fresh cilantro.  Along with a bag of blue corn tortilla chips on the hurricane preparedness list, this salsa will go a long way to helping you forget about the 80 mile per hour winds howling outside.

Roasted Tomatillo Salsa (Salsa Verde)

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 25 minutes


  • 4-5 medium tomatillos, husked, rinsed, and halved (about 8 ounces)
  • 2 large garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1-2 jalapeño, seeded and ribs removed, roughly chopped
  • about 1/3 cup loosely packed, roughly chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 small white onion, chopped
  • Juice of 1/2 lime
  • Kosher salt


  1. Heat a large, nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Lay the garlic and tomatillos (cut-side down) in the skillet. Cook for 3-5 minutes, or until the tomatillos are well-browned. Turn everything over and brown the other side (the tomatillos should be very soft). Remove the tomatillos and garlic and add to a food processor or blender. Allow the mixture to cool for 5 minutes.
  2. Add the jalapeño, 1/4 cup of water, onions, cilantro, and lime juice to the food processor, and blend to a coarse purée. Add Kosher salt to taste. Pour into a dish and add more water if necessary, to give the salsa an easily spoonable consistency.


source: Mexican Everyday by Rick Bayless, as seen on Pink Parsley

Fresh Tomato Mozzarella Tart with Basil Garlic Crust

Fresh Tomato Mozzarella Tart with Basil Garlic Crust

Sometimes choosing new recipes to make in the summer is a completely overbearing experience.  Hundreds of thousands of recipes using the freshest of ingredients – what’s a blogger to do?  In the case of this Fresh Tomato Mozzarella Tart with Basil Garlic Crust, it was a no-brainer.  I’ve been hanging onto the recipe for 2 years and made it as the local tomatoes were on their way out last Summer with the full intention of sharing it with you…and it totally flopped.  Gummy crust, watery filling, and generally a turn-off of a meal.

But I vowed to avenge myself this summer.  I knew it wasn’t the recipe.  I knew it had partly to do with the fresh mozzarella that I foolishly used – obvious note to you: don’t use fresh mozzarella in this tart.  So I made a special stop this weekend at a local farm stand and picked up a few gorgeous ripe local tomatoes, plucked some basil from my pots on the deck, and pulled this tart together in virtually no time.  Now that I was actually able to eat this tart, I fell head over heels for the ever simple tomato-basil-mozzarella combination all over again.  The basil garlic crust was crispy and amazing, the perfect complement to the fresh [now] roasted, sweet, and earthy tomatoes, and gooey mozzarella.  A sprinkle of basil over the top of the baked tart is the last piece of this puzzle that no longer confounds me.  We served this tart alongside some grilled shrimp but a small salad or some grilled chicken would be great options as well.  I don’t know about you, but I’m itching to make this again as the summer rolls on and the tomatoes really come into their own later this month.

Fresh Tomato Mozzarella Tart with Basil Garlic Crust

Prep Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Cook Time: 40 minutes

Total Time: 2 hours, 10 minutes

Yield: 4-6 servings


    For the tart dough:
  • 1/3 cup fresh basil leaves
  • 1 medium garlic clove
  • 1 ¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 8 to 10 pieces
  • 4-5 tablespoons ice water
  • For the filling:
  • 8 ounces sliced mozzarella
  • 1-2 large, ripe tomatoes (about 1 pound), cored and cut crosswise into thin slices
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil


  1. To make the tart dough: Place the basil and garlic in the work bowl of a food processor. Process, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed, until finely chopped. Add flour and salt; pulse to combine.
  2. Add butter. Pulse about 10 times, or until the mixture resembles pea-sized crumbs.
  3. Add water, 1 tablespoon at a time, pulsing several times after each addition. After 4 tablespoons water have been added, process the dough for several seconds to see if the mixture forms a ball. If not, add remaining water. Process until dough forms into a ball. Remove dough from processor.
  4. Flatten the dough into a 5-inch disk. Wrap it in plastic, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. (The dough can be placed in a zipper-lock plastic bag and refrigerated for several days or frozen for 1 month. If frozen, defrost the dough in the refrigerator.)
  5. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface into a 12-inch circle. Lay the dough over the tart pan, and press it into the pan. Trim the dough, and proceed with the recipe as directed.
  6. To make the filling and assemble:
  7. Prepare the dough, and press it into a 10-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. A 9-inch pan works as well - you'll just have some leftover dough which you could use to make a small galette with any leftover ingredients.
  8. Preheat the oven to 375° F. Line the bottom of the tart shell with mozzarella. Arrange the tomatoes over the cheese in a ring around the edge of the tart and a second ring in the center. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Drizzle with olive oil.
  9. Bake until the crust is golden brown and the cheese has started to brown in spots, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool on a rack for at least 5 minutes before slicing. (The tart may be covered and kept at room temperature for 6 hours.)

Zucchini and Corn Quesadillas

When I saw this recipe posted over at Ezra Pound Cake (my co-conspirator for Barefoot Bloggers) this summer, I knew I needed to make it.  I mean, seriously…how incredible do these quesadillas look??  Well, these zucchini and corn quesadillas were out.standing. Really.  The veggies were perfectly sautéed while retaining just enough crunch to complement the soft, melted cheese.  The only change I made to the recipe was to use a nice sharp cheddar in place of the pepper Jack and it was a great choice to use here.  If you’re not looking for heat in recipe like this, be sure to use a cheese with some “umph” like sharp cheddar.  While I love Monterrey Jack, I think it would get lost in this recipe.  As a vegetarian meal, we were perfectly satisfied but if you need the meat, some grilled or sautéed chicken would probably be delicious added to the quesadillas.  I think what I’m most excited about is that you can use frozen corn if fresh corn isn’t in season and that zucchini is available year-round in the grocery stores so we won’t have to wait until next summer to eat these again!