Monday, May 13, 2013

something old, something new

So that backload of fun dinner parties (er, brunch parties) I was going on about the last time I posted? Well, it all came to a screeching halt pretty soon after my friends and I finished that bottle of prosecco.

Don't worry, nothing bad happened. I didn't burn down my new kitchen. I got a new job at Food Network Magazine, something that still feels like a crazy stroke of luck. And while things are going great, it's drained me in the way that new jobs do. You know the feeling. Dinners at our house have been the regular rotation of pasta-pizza-tacos-salad-stirfry, usually cooked as quickly as possible and  inhaled just as quickly in front of the TV, while watching The Voice. (Is it me, or has the talent pool been watered down this season?)

Cooking is always an escape for me, but there's a limit. The combination of thinking about food all day long, to a degree that has surpassed my previous food job, and trying very, very hard to fit in, understand what's going on, get it right, learn how to work the elevator…well, let's just say it doesn't make you feel like entertaining.
But it's been a month since I started the job, and the fog has started to lift. This past weekend, the idea of catching up with a good friend over a meal seemed totally doable, fun even. We'd have a pitcher of margaritas and I'd make fish tacos, something I can do in my sleep. I think that's the key when you haven't cooked for people in awhile and you're feeling rusty — stick to what you know, and maybe throw one or two new recipes in the mix to keep things interesting. In this case, a salad and some salsa.

The salsa was a Pinterest find, billed as a "restaurant-style" salsa and raved about by many people, almost to the point that I was suspicious. I usually make a pico de gallo with fresh tomatoes and onions, but always feel a little disappointed by the watery results. Unless you have excellent tomatoes on your hands, it's usually not all that. This recipe called for all canned tomatoes, so I figured I'd give it a go. If it sucked, I knew my very good guacamole would make up for it. But it did not suck. It was very much like the addictively spicy salsa you get in better Mexican restaurants, full of onion, garlic and cilantro and a perfect match for tortilla chips.

The salad was yet another winner from Food52, a site that rarely lets me down. Last week I saw a recipe for a salad with sweet, caramelized pineapple, peppery arugula, creamy avocado in a cumin-spiked dressing. It was every bit as delicious as it sounds, even though it might not look like much in the bowl there. Make it soon, with a side of black beans, some grilled chicken, or maybe with some fish tacos, with friends.

Saturday night fish tacos
Margaritas
Tortilla chips with guacamole, black bean dip and salsa
Fish tacos with chipotle crèma, cilantro, pickled red onions and limes
Arugula, avocado and broiled pineapple salad
Key lime pie

Arugula, avocado and broiled pineapple salad

Formally titled "Maricel E. Presilla's Cuban Avocado, Watercress, and Pineapple Salad" via Food52. I tweaked this a bit to add less garlic and more acidity. I also recommend soaking your red onions in vinegar to pickle them and remove their raw sting.

2 bunches arugula (1 used one large pre-washed plastic container of arugula)
1 2 1/2 lb. pineapple, peeled, cored, and cut into four 1-inch thick slices
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp. cider vinegar, plus 2 Tbsp. cider vinegar (or any red or white vinegar)
Juice of 1 lime
1/8 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 Haas avocado, cut into 1-inch cubes (do this just before you serve the salad)
1 small red onion, thinly sliced

Make the pineapple first. Heat the broiler. Place the pineapple slices on a foil-lined baking pan and sprinkle sugar evenly on top of them. Broil about 4 inches from the heat source, turning once with a spatula, for 5 to 10 minutes on each side, until golden brown. Let cool, then cut into 1-inch cubes. Set aside.

To make the dressing, whisk the garlic, olive oil, 2 Tbsp. vinegar, lime juice, cumin, salt and pepper in a small bowl and set aside.

To take the bite out of the onion, place it in a small bowl with 2 Tbsp. vinegar and a pinch of salt and toss. Set aside.

To assemble the salad, place the arugula in a large bowl and toss with half the dressing. Arrange on a large platter. Add the pineapple and avocado to the same bowl and toss with the rest of the dressing. Mound the pineapple and avocado over the arugula. Garnish with slivers of the drained red onion and serve immediately.

"Restaurant-style" blender salsa

Via Mountain Mama Cooks

1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 10 oz. can original Rotel (or diced tomatoes with green chiles)
1/2 small onion, roughly chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled and smashed
1/2 jalapeno, seeded (or to taste)
1 tsp. honey
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground cumin
small to medium size handful of cilantro, washed
juice of 1 lime

Put all the ingredients in the base of a food processor or blender and pulse to combine until the consistency is smooth. Adjust the seasoning to taste.

1 comment:

Shristhi Ahuja said...

I have tried a number of recipes from Food52 and love them all. this one is also good and I will definitely try it.

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