Thursday, August 29, 2013

Rosemary Flank Steak with Fig Salsa


This meal is one that I've been planning for over a year now.  It first showed up in the August 2012 Southern Living, and I immediately added it to my menu for the following week.  None of the figs looked great at the grocery store that day, so it got pushed back.  The following week I forgot to buy another key ingredient, and they got pushed back again.   Then I had trouble finding the proper cut of steak.  And then before I knew it, fig season was over, and this dinner was moved to the "next summer" file in my brain.  I've kept it in the back of my head almost every week while I'm out doing my shopping, just in case I happen to find figs, the proper steaks, and and open spot on the weekly meal plan.

And that serendipitous event occurred at Whole Foods on Sunday.  As soon as I walked in, I was greeted by a huge table of beautiful figs.  There was a perfect steak waiting for me at the meat counter.  I had an unopened package of gorgonzola cheese at home, along with a flourishing rosemary bush.  It was meant to be.

So with all that hype, I thought to myself that this had better be one of the best meals ever.  And big surprise - it was.  Flank steak (or skirt, flatiron, or "fajita") is briefly marinated in a mixture of oil, garlic, and rosemary.  As it marinates, you mix up the fig salsa - fresh figs, shallot, parsley, rosemary, and balsamic vinegar.  Then you cook the steak to your liking, slice it up, and top with the salsa and crumbles of gorgonzola.  And it. is. magical.  The sweet and juicy figs are a great match for the creamy cheese and the tender steak.  The balsamic vinegar helps marry the sweet and savory flavors, and the rosemary gives it a nice herbal note.

I served this over gorgonzola cheese grits, and it was a major hit all around.  There was a bit of salsa left over, and it was really awesome the next day on some toasted bread spread with goat cheese.  And then on a sandwich with prosciutto and goat cheese.  And eaten by the spoonful (Caroline's vehicle of choice).

Fig season is cruelly short, so I highly recommend that you snatch up some figs next time you see them and make this dinner.  This weekend, perhaps?

Rosemary Flank Steak with Fig Salsa
adapted from Southern Living, August 2012
serves 6

  • 2 Tbs chopped fresh rosemary
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
  • 4 Tbs olive oil, divided
  • 1 1/2 lbs flank steak
Fig Salsa
  • 3 cups chopped fresh figs
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • 2 Tbs chopped fresh basil
  • 1/2 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
  • 2 Tbs balsamic vinegar
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2-3 Tbs crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
In a small bowl, stir together the rosemary, garlic, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes with 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  Rub onto both sides of the steak, cover, and chill for 30 minutes, or up to 4 hours.

Preheat the grill to 400-450 degrees Farenheit.  

Meanwhile, make the fig salsa by stirring together the figs, shallot, basil, rosemary, vinegar, and remaining 2 tablespoons of oil.  Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed.

Grill the steak, cored with grill lid, 3-5 minutes per side, or to desired degree of doneness.  Cover with foil and let stand 5 minutes.

Cut the steak diagonally across the grain into thin strips, and arrange on a serving plate.  Spoon the fig salsa over the steak, and sprinkle with gorgonzola.  Serve.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Greek Chicken Pizza with Feta & Crispy Chickpeas


I have been seriously pizza-obsessed this summer.  And while I wish that I could tell you it's coming to an end, I can't.  I have 2-3 pizza recipes waiting to be shared, and we're having pizza for dinner tomorrow night.  So like I said - obsessed.  I also wish I could tell you that I'm sorry, but I'm not.  Pizza could very well be the perfect food.  Here are some things I love about pizza:

  1. Pizza crust.  Carbs, hello!
  2. Cheese.  No explanation needed
  3. It's infinitely adaptable.  You can go as simple as pepperoni and cheese, or as crazy as corn sauce, and everything in between.  And it's all good.  
  4. It's easy - stretch your dough, pile on some toppings, and you're done!
  5. Cheese.  Again.
  6. Pizza is best enjoyed with wine or beer.  It's just a fact.
  7. It's a fun family activity - kids love to help, and it's a great chance to spend some quality time together after school.
  8. Everyone loves it.
So there you have it.  If that's not enough to convince you to make pizza for dinner tonight... well I don't know what to tell you.  In all seriousness though, we probably enjoy pizza once a week, and we never get tired of it because I'm always mixing up the toppings and flavors.  

I've always loved Greek flavors, and this pizza is loosely inspired a bit by chicken gyros.   I started by brushing the dough with a simple garlic-infused oil.  Then I piled on some shredded chicken, lots of veggies, feta, and chickpeas.  After it's cooked, I drizzled some tzatziki sauce over the whole thing, and the resulting pizza was nothing short of spectacular.  Feta is just awesome on it's own, but when combined with sweet and juicy roasted tomatoes, you get something really special.  I also really loved the chickpeas - when baked at a high temperature, they get crispy and really delicious - a nice textural contrast to melty cheese.

As far as pizzas go, this one was actually pretty light.  There's a modest amount of cheese, plenty of veggies, and lots of protein from the chicken and chickpeas.  I also used a whole wheat crust.  The pizza was surprisingly filling - normally I eat an obscene amount of pizza, but I was pretty satisfied after just one piece of this one.  I obviously love trying out new recipes and combinations, but this one will definitely be a repeat in our house!

Greek Chicken Pizza with Feta & Crispy Chickpeas
makes 1 12-14 inch pizza
  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • pinch of kosher salt
  • 1 lb pizza dough, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped fresh spinach
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 cup shredded chicken
  • 1 cup halved grape or cherry tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced onion
  • 3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/2 cup cooked chickpeas, patted dry
  • 2-3 Tbs tzatziki sauce, plus more for serving
Preheat the oven and a pizza stone to 500 degrees, for at least 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine the oil, garlic, red pepper flakes, and salt in a small skillet over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, 10-15 minutes.  Remove from heat, pour the oil into a small bowl, and cool slightly.

On a large piece of parchment paper sprinkled with cornmeal, pull and stretch the pizza dough into a 12-14 inch circle.  

Brush the entire piece of dough with 1 1/2 tablespoons of the oil, and scatter the chopped spinach evenly over the dough, leaving a 1/2-1 inch border around the edge.  Spirnkle the mozzarella cheese over the spinach, followed by the chicken, tomatoes, onion, and feta.  Toss the chickpeas with the remaining oil, and scatter them over the dough as well.

Transfer the pizza + parchment to the preheated stone, and bake 10-12 minutes, or until the crust is golden-brown and the toppings are heated through and beginning to brown as well.

Remove from oven and allow to cool 5-10 minutes before slicing.  Drizzle 2-3 tablespoons of the tzatziki sauce over the pizza, and serve with additional sauce for dipping.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Raspberry-Peach Sorbet


I feel as though I may have created a monster in Smith.  Since he has seniority at home now, I've been letting him take over some of Caroline's "jobs."  Like licking the spoon from the peanut butter jar, helping me change the twins' diapers, getting their bottles out of the cabinet, and finally, helping me in the kitchen.  Most recently, I was churning this sorbet, and he was beside himself when I let him sit on the counter and watch it churn.  And as he quickly learned, one of the perks of watching it churn is that you get to lick the dasher when it's done.  That's a big deal for my little dude.  However, he saw me scoop the sorbet into the container, then store it in the freezer.  And since then, several times a day he runs over to the freezer, grabs the handle, and says "I want.  ice cream."  He can't say "Caroline" correctly, but he has "ice cream" down.  Go figure.

Since he's just so darn cute when he does it, I've been obliging more often than I probably should, giving him a spoonful here and there.  I don't feel too guilty though, because this sorbet is actually pretty guilt-free.  With over a pound of fresh fruit and less than half of a cup of sugar, this is definitely in the "light and healthy" dessert category.  Sneaking him bites here and there definitely isn't the same as if we'd churned say, triple chocolate fudge salted caramel swirl toasted marshmallow brownie batter ice cream.

Summer produce is totally at it's peak right now, so the flavor of this sorbet is bright and fresh.  Since peaches are typically super sweet, they pair nicely with the tartness of the raspberries here.  And look how pretty it is - such a lovely shade of pink.  If you're so inclined, dropping a small scoop into a glass of champagne makes a lovely little cocktail as well.  There's something for everyone with this sorbet!

Raspberry-Peach Sorbet
adapted from Plum-Raspberry Sorbet from The Perfect Scoop, by David Lebovitz
makes about 1 quart

the peaches and raspberries I used were pretty sweet, so I only used 1/3 cup of sugar.  Feel free to add a bit more if your fruit isn't quite so sweet.  Or if you like really sweet sorbet :)

  • 1 lb peaches (about 3-4 peaches, depending on size)
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 cup fresh raspberries
  • 1 Tbs peach schnapps
Peel and pit the peaches, and cut into chunks.  Combine with water in a medium saucepan, cover, and cook over medium heat for 8-10 minutes, or until they're soft and cooked through, stirring occasionally.

Remove from heat and stir in the sugar and raspberries, and cool to room temperature.

Puree the mixture in a food processor or blender until smooth.  Press the puree through a mesh strainer to remove seeds and pulp.  Stir in the peach schnapps.

Chill the mixture for several hours, then freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Chicken & Summer Vegetable Rice Casserole


Is there anything more comforting than a creamy, cheesy, casserole?  I typically reserve that type of meal for cold or gloomy weather, but this casserole is best served in the middle of summer.  It's  actually on the lighter side, thanks to cottage cheese, tons and tons of veggies, brown rice, and a modest amount of Parmesan - but it tastes just as cheesy, comforting, and homey as anything you've had at a church potluck or your grandmother's house.  I first started making this last summer, when I was in the throes of morning sickness.  It was one of the only things that ever sounded edible, which was a bonus - it was also the only way I could stomach vegetables.

I mix it up a little each time I make this, using whatever veggies I have on hand, or just using what sounds good at that moment.  I typically add shredded chicken to make it a complete meal, but you could leave the chicken out and serve this as a side dish or a vegetarian dinner as well.  My go-to combination has been tomatoes, zucchini, corn, onions, and bell peppers.

Another bonus?  No precooking of the vegetables is required.  Just throw it all together, bake, and serve.  This is also a great make-ahead meal.  I've assembled it the night before, then just baked the next day.  And I've taken it to a few friends who just had babies as well.  It's hearty, delicious, filling, and full of the summer's best produce.  Definitely a winner in my book!

Chicken & Summer Vegetable Rice Casserole
adapted from eat love drink, via Sunny Side Up in San Diego

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp fresh black pepper
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 cup cottage cheese (low fat is fine)
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 cup cooked brown rice 
  • 1/2 cup finely diced onion
  • 1 1/2 cups seeded and chopped tomatoes
  • 1 medium zucchini, shredded on the large holes of a cheese grater
  • 1 large ear of corn, kernels cut from the cob 
  • 1/2 medium bell pepper, finely diced
  • 2 cups cooked and shredded chicken
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a square casserole dish or pie pan with nonstick spray and set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, salt, pepper, mustard, garlic, and cottage cheese. Add the rice, onion, tomatoes, zucchini, corn, bell pepper, chicken, and half the basil.  Stir well to combine.
Pour the mixture into the prepared dish, and use a spatula to smooth the top.  Sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese. Cover tightly with foil and bake for 30-40 minutes. Remove the foil and bake another 15-20 minutes, or until the cheese turns golden-brown.
Allow to cool for 15 minutes, garnish with the remaining basil, and serve.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Peanut Butter & Jelly Bars


Is there any sandwich out there as iconic as PB&J?  I know it was my sandwich of choice growing up, and Caroline and Smith seem to be falling in line as well.  It's been Caroline's go-to lunch for the past few years, and lately she's taken to replacing the bread with graham crackers to make pb&j crackers.  Smart girl, that Caroline.

I thought that the first day of school deserved a special after school snack, so I baked these up for her on Monday afternoon while the boys napped.  They start with a base of peanut butter cookie dough.  A thick smear of jelly tops the bottom layer, and then more peanut butter cookie dough is dolloped over the jelly.  A big handful of chopped peanuts tops it off, and then they're baked.  The jelly seeps into the peanut butter layers, and you're left with a truly indulgent, nostalgic dessert.

I've been making these bars for the past 6 years or so, so I've adapted them a bit to my tastes and preferences.  First, I increased the jelly.  I really love peanut butter, but I prefer a pb&j that's heavy on the jelly.  Feel free to use any flavor you want - I love raspberry, strawberry, and blackberry.  This time I used grape to turn them into a true throw-back dessert.  I also like to use half roasted peanuts and half honey-roasted peanuts.  Because when are honey-roasted peanuts a bad idea?

 Caroline loved having such a fun treat for a snack, and she thought it was pretty cool that I turned a sandwich into a dessert.

Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars 
adapted from The Barefoot Contessa at Home
makes 24 bars
  • 1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature, plus more for greasing the pan
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 cups creamy peanut butter (18 ounces)
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour,
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2  cups jam, jelly, or preserves any flavor 
  • 1/4 cup salted peanuts, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup honey-roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line a 9x13 inch pan with foil, leaving a 1-inch overhang on all sides.  Spray with cooking spray.

Using the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer on medium speed until light yellow, about 2 minutes. With the mixer on low, add the eggs, vanilla, and peanut butter, and mix until well combined.  Scrape down the sides and bottom of the mixing bowl.

Meanwhile, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Slowly add to the peanut butter mixture, and mix until just combined.

Spread 2/3 of the dough in the prepared pan, using a knife to spread it evenly. Spread the jam over the dough, and drop small globs of the remaining dough evenly over the jam. Sprinkle the peanuts over the top and bake for 45 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool completely, and cut into small squares.  They cut much cleaner if they are chilled, so I usually cool them to room temperature, then put them in the refrigerator for a few hours before slicing and serving.  They also taste great chilled!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Pizza Wheels


Yesterday was a big day in our house.  My sweet little girl started Kindergarten.  It's hard to describe the simultaneous excitement and dread that has filled me all summer, but it all came to a head sunday night, and I was tossing and turning until 2:30 in the morning.  That six am alarm sure was a harsh reality!  All of my worries were unfounded, of course (Would someone snatch her when she got off the bus in the morning?  Would the bus get into a terrible accident on the drive to school?  What if she didn't make any friends?).  I took comfort in the fact that she was 100% excited, and tried to channel that into my own bundle of nerves.  Her spirit and joy are infectious, and it's hard to be sad or cranky when she's around.  You hear all the time that a parent's job is to teach and nurture your child, but I never would have guessed how much the reverse is true as well.

I spent the day giving lots and lots of cuddles to my boys, baking Caroline a fun after school treat, and counting down the minutes until it was time to meet her at the bus stop.  And just as she boarded the bus and went off to school all-smiles, she was all-smiles when she got home too!  The day was a resounding success, and I loved hearing all about her teachers, her new friends, the bus, the cafeteria... oh to see the world again through the pure and optimistic eyes of a five year old.  It's one of the most amazing things about being a parent.

Another amazing aspect of parenthood?  Making dinner with your child.  From start to finish, Caroline had a helping hand in this whole dinner.  And not like when Smith "helps," and I go back after him and redo it all the right way.  Caroline was a partner in this dinner - she picked the filling, she helped me stretch out the dough, top the dough, roll it up, and even slice and arrange the wheels on the baking sheet.  She's come a long way from just throwing handfuls of cheese and veggies on pizzas.  

Pizza has become one of our "things."  When Caroline finds out we're having pizza for dinner, she gets so excited, because it means she gets to help.  To be honest, it's one of the main reasons that we eat pizza as often as we do - I love having all the help.  Sometimes I need it.

Pizza wheels
adapted from Completely Delicious

Feel free to change up the fillings to suit your tastes - get as crazy or wild as you want.  Just be careful to use a light hand when adding the fillings to the dough.  It will make it easier to roll up and slice.
  • 1 lb pizza dough
  • cornmeal, for sprinkling
  • olive oil, for brushing
  • 1 cup marinara sauce, divided
  • 1 cup freshly shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/3 cup roughly chopped basil
  • about 1/2 cup pepperoni
  • kosher salt
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Lightly sprinkle the parchment with some cornmeal.

Sprinkle more cornmeal on a large sheet of parchment or a pastry mat.  Roll the pizza dough into a 9x12 inch rectangle, with the long side closest to you.  Brush with olive oil.  Spread a thin layer of marinara sauce over the dough, using about 1/3 cup of the marinara, leaving a 1-inch border on all sides.  Reserve the remaining marinara sauce for serving with the pizza wheels.

Sprinkle all of the mozzarella cheese and 1/4 cup of the Parmesan over the sauce, then scatter the pepperoni and basil over the cheese.  

Beginning at the end closest to you, carefully roll up the dough, pushing the fillings back in if they leak out.  Once rolled, pinch the seam closed.

Using a very sharp knife, slice the roll into 1-inch rounds.  Carefully transfer each wheel to the prepared baking sheet, and repeat with the remaining rounds.  Sprinkle each round a little salt, then top with the remaining Parmesan cheese.

Bake 15-20 minutes, or until the dough is golden-brown and the cheese is melted and is beginning to brown.  Allow to cool 5-10 minutes, and serve with the reserved marinara.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

10 Menus for Busy Weeknights


Summer is winding down.  Caroline starts kindergarten on Monday.  Caroline!  Kindergarten!  This week is a flurry of back to school shopping, PTA meetings, open house, curriculum night, ice cream socials, etc.  It's insane - and she's the only one in school so far!  I can only imagine how busy we'll be once we have all four in school.  I'm a stay at home mom, and I feel overwhelmed by it all.  Major props to working moms who have to fit in all these events around their already hectic schedules and long commutes. And once sports and after school activities start, it will get even crazier.

But don't be tempted by take-out and fast food.  I'm here to help.  Equipped with menus and a game plan, getting dinner on the table on a busy weeknight doesn't have to be a daunting task.  So here are 10 menus for busy weeknights - they're all ready in under an hour, have been repeat meals in our house, and I'll even give you a few tips and tricks to streamline the cooking process.  Feel free to share your favorite weeknight dinner too - I'm already stockpiling a list of dinners to have in my back pocket for the coming weeks and months!

Fresh Fruit (use whatever's in season - right now watermelon, peaches, cantaloupe, and/or berries would be great.  In the fall and winter, just slice up some apples, pears, or grapes).

Roasted Broccoli
Herbed Couscous or Rice

Preheat the oven to 350, toss some broccoli with olive oil, salt, and pepper, then roast 15-20 minutes while you prep the salmon and cook the salmon.  Couscous cooks really quickly, so I just throw the pot on to boil while the salmon's cooking, then chop some herbs to stir in at the end - a mix of parsley, chives, and basil works well here.  

Green Salad
Garlic Bread

The beauty of pasta dishes is that the sides are always pretty easy - salad and bread.  As far as the salad goes, if I'm making a heavier pasta dish (like lasagna, ziti, etc), then I try and keep the salad on the light side - mixed greens, tomatoes, cucumbers, onion, shredded carrots, and olives.  I typically just dress it with a lemon-dijon dressing, and it's good to go!  If skillet lasagna isn't your thing, try this Weeknight Bolognese or Chicken Parmesan Pasta.

Sweet Potato Fries or White Bean & Tomato Salad
Fresh Fruit
Sliced Tomatoes and Cucumbers

Burgers and Fries make a classic dinner combination, but the mushroom-crusted turkey burgers and sweet potato fries lighten it up a bit.  I loved these burgers with this white bean and tomato salad, but it is a little more labor-intensive for a side dish (unless you roast your tomatoes ahead of time, in which case it's very easy!).  Sliced tomatoes and cucumbers are an easy way to get in some extra veggies, and they are so flavorful and abundant right now.

Corn on the Cob 
Sliced Watermelon

These taquitos are super fast and easy, and they are a perennial favorite.  You can save even more time by prepping the batch the night before, or even several days before and freezing them.  Corn on the cob and water lemon are my favorite side dishes right now - low maintenance, healthy, and filling.  And I know my kids will devour it!

Bacon or Sausage
Fresh Fruit

Breakfast for Dinner!  Kids think it's fun, it's easy and comforting, and you can eat the leftovers for breakfast!  Fry up the bacon or sausage and cut up the fruit while the strata bakes in the oven, and you're good to go.

Garlicky Sauteed Spinach 

Like the skillet lasagna, this is all the flavor of lasagna without the time it takes to prep, layer, and bake a big pan.  To make the sautéed spinach, I just sauté a few cloves of minced garlic in a big skillet, then add several handfuls of spinach and a splash of water.  Cover the pot with a lid, then just allow it to wilt down.  It's a super easy and incredibly fast side dish.  And as always, fresh bread makes an awesome accompaniment.

Optional:  Cilantro-Lime Rice

The beauty of this dish is that it's pretty much a meal in and of itself.  In fact, oftentimes I don't even make a side with it.  A green salad would be a a nice addition, and if you're having company, cilantro-lime rice would round out the meal nicely as well.  I just cook rice according to package directions, then mix some chopped cilantro, salt and pepper, half a minced jalapeño, and some lime juice and zest.  If you like the concept of foil-baked fish and want some other ideas, I've also made variations using some Mediterranean ingredients, and a lemon-garlic version with asparagus.

Tomato & Cucumber Salad

Pizza night is alway a hit around here - and it's a great way to spend time with your kids while you make dinner.  Caroline and Smith love to help me stretch out the dough then arrange the toppings.  And they always snack on the ingredients - so be sure to shred a little extra cheese :).  This pizza can be made really quickly if you use a rotisserie chicken and pizza dough from your grocery store's deli (or keep some shredded chicken and homemade pizza dough in your freezer.  Just pull it out in the morning, and it'll all be ready to go when you get home.)  As the pizza bakes in the oven, just chop up some tomatoes and cucumbers, and toss them with a little oil, vinegar, lemon juice, and small pinch of sugar.  If you have any fresh herbs leftover from the pizza prep, feel free to throw those in as well.


This meal is so simple, but it seems super fancy and elegant.  This would be great for a Thursday or Friday night - a celebratory meal for making it through a busy week.  Best enjoyed with a glass of white wine, of course.  I like serving this with fresh pasta (homemade if I have time, but the refrigerated pasta from the grocery store works fine in a pinch).  Spoon some of the sauce from the bottom of the baking dish over the noodles for an easy sauce.  Bring the water to a boil as you prep the shrimp, then cook the pasta and make the salad as the shrimp bakes.  

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Pasta with Bacon, Toasted Corn, and Cherry Tomatoes


I might be nearing the point of needing a corn intervention.  I've been obsessed with it all summer, and I don't have any plans of stopping.  We've been enjoying it in our dinners at least twice a week, whether it's straight-up corn on the cob or incorporating it into other dishes... like crab cakes, pizza, risotto... and now into this pasta dish.  I even have a dessert in the works. Things are getting mighty crazy up in here!

So this pasta embodies everything I love about summer dinners.  It was super fast - allowing for maximum outside time both before and after dinner.  It didn't require many dishes to wash, or ingredients to buy.  You don't have to turn on the oven.  It has bacon (although let's be honest - that makes a good meal no matter what time of year it is).  And finally, it's full of peak-season produce.

The bacon is quickly cooked, then corn is toasted in the rendered bacon fat.  Cherry tomatoes are thrown in for good measure, and the whole thing is finished with some Parmesan cheese, fresh basil, and a squirt of lemon juice.

I was a little worried that it wouldn't really seem like a cohesive dish without a true sauce - I didn't want  pasta with just random ingredients thrown in.  But as the cherry tomatoes cook, some will burst, and that plus the pasta water and Parmesan cheese form a super flavorful sauce.  And these cute little corkscrews were perfect for trapping the corn kernels and bacon bits - maximum flavor in each bite!

School is starting in the next few weeks, and I know that weeknights are super busy.  Making this a great dinner to put on the table for your family.  Because whether you're trying to make the most out of the last vestiges of summer, or gearing up for a busy fall, this pasta dish will meet all your criteria.

Pasta with Bacon, Toasted Corn, and Cherry Tomatoes
adapted from America's Test Kitchen, Pasta Revolution
serves 4 to 6

  • 8 slices of bacon, chopped
  • 4 ears of corn, kernels cut from the cob
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 lb cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 lb medium pasta shape
  • 2 oz. freshly grated Parmesan cheese (about 1 cup), plus extra for serving
  • juice of 1/2 lemon (about 1-2 Tbs)
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
Cook the bacon in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until crisp, about 5 minutes, stirring often.  Use a slotted spoon to transfer it to a paper towel-lined plate, and drain off all but 2 tablespoons of the fat from the skillet.  Add the corn, 1/4 teaspoon of salt and cook until the corn is toasted and spotty brown, 7-10 minutes.  Add the tomatoes and cook, stirring often, about 3 minutes, or until they are slightly softened and starting to burst.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Add 1 tablespoon of salt, then stir in the pasta.  Return to a boil and cook until al dente, stirring often (I usually cook it 1-2 minutes less than the recommended time on the box).

Reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water, drain the pasta, and return it to the saucepan.  Stir in the bacon, corn and tomato mixture, Parmesan, basil, and lemon juice.  Add the reserved pasta water a little at a time to adjust the consistency as needed.  Season with salt and pepper as needed.  Divide among serving bowls, and pass extra parmesan at the table.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Lemon-Raspberry Cheesecake Bars

Normally I am eating peaches like they're going out of style every summer (because they are, come September), but this has been the summer of raspberries.  I've been buying several pints at a time each week at the grocery store, and between Caroline, Smith, and myself, we've been demolishing them pretty quickly.  Eaten straight from the carton, smashed onto toast or into yogurt... they aren't last lasting long around here.  I have a list of raspberry recipes that's a mile long, but we can't manage to keep them around long enough.  This week, however, I was determined, and doubled up on my raspberry purchase.

I had a little trouble deciding what to make first, but these cheesecake bars quickly won out.  They are low-maintance, easy, and also:  cheesecake.  There's a buttery, crisp graham cracker crust, topped with a creamy, sweet-tart lemon cheesecake filling, and beautiful bursts of fresh raspberries scattered throughout.  

Summer is winding down (sob), so don't let it pass you by without making these cheesecake bars.  

Lemon-Raspberry Cheesecake Bars
adapted From Annie's Eats' Lemon-Blueberry Cheesecake Bars
  • 2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 3 Tbs sugar
  • 8 Tbs butter, melted
  • 16 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup Greek yogurt or sour cream
  • 3/4 cup + 1 Tbs sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 Tbs lemon zest
  • 2 Tbs freshly squeezed lemon juice 
  • 1 pint fresh raspberries
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  Line a 9x13 inch baking pan with aluminum foil, leaving an overhang on two sides.  Spray lightly with cooking spray and set aside.

In a medium bowl, use a fork to mix together the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and butter.  Press the mixture into the prepared pan, using your hands or the bottom of a glass.  Bake 8-10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Meanwhile, using an electric mixer (hand or stand mixer is fine), beat the cream cheese and sour cream together at medium speed until smooth.  Add the sugar, and mix 2-3 minutes at medium-high speed, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.  Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well between each addition, then mix in the vanilla, lemon zest, and lemon juice.

Gently fold in the raspberries with a wooden spoon or spatula, then pour the mixture over the crust.  Use the spatula to carefully smooth the top.

Bake 35-40 minutes, or until the cheesecake is just set and no longer jiggles in the middle.  Allow to cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours before serving.  To serve, lift the cheesecake from the pan using the foil overhang, then slice into squares with a clean, sharp knife.