killing time between meals

where talking about what's for dinner while you're at lunch is totally acceptable


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Jambalaya and a Crawfish Pie …

jambbowl

I’m sure it’s very easy to have some fun on the bayou. But son of a gun, I do not live close to a bayou. So I brought the bayou to me by making jambalaya! The name alone sounds like a party. This hearty one-pot meal is surprisingly simple. I wasn’t so sure at first. But my Louisianan friend Leigh Ann assured me: “All you have to do is get the trinity right. After that, it’s just a little bit of this and a little bit of that!” Below is the beginning of the Cajun holy trinity that Leigh Ann was talking about. This is just equal quantities of onion, celery, and bell peppers. A mirepoix variant, if you will. And I will.

trinity

I took Leigh Ann’s words to heart. Ina’s original recipe calls for chicken thighs, but I am not a chicken lover, so I left those out. You should leave them in if you’re into that sorta thing. Whatever you decide, make this dish the next time you have a crowd coming over. No matter how many people show up, I bet you will have leftovers.

Jambalaya
Adapted from Ina Garten
Serves 10

2 tablespoons good olive oil
1½ pounds andouille sausage
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 red bell peppers, seeded and large-diced
3 large stalks celery, large-diced
1 (28-ounce) can whole peeled plum tomatoes, drained and medium-diced
2 jalapeño peppers, minced and seeded
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1 cup dry white wine
5 cups chicken stock
3 cups extra-long-grain white rice
3 bay leaves
1 pound peeled & deveined shrimp, tails on
½ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
4 to 6 scallions, chopped
¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

  • Heat the olive oil in a very large Dutch oven or stockpot, add the sausage, and cook over medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes, turning until browned. Remove the sausage to a plate and sliced diagonally ½ inch thick. Set aside.
  • Add the butter to the pot of browned goodness, then add the onions, bell peppers, celery, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1 teaspoon black pepper. Cook over medium to medium-high heat for 10 minutes, until the onions are translucent.

veggiesin

actionshot

  • Add the tomatoes, jalapeño, garlic, tomato paste, oregano, thyme, cayenne, and 1 teaspoon salt, and cook for another 2 minutes.
  • Add the white wine and scrape up the browned bits in the pot. Add the stock, rice, sausage, and bay leaves and bring to a boil. Cover the pot, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 20 minutes.
  • Stir in the shrimp and simmer, covered, for 5 more minutes.
  • Remove from heat. Stir in the parsley, scallions, and lemon juice. Cover and allow to steam for 10 to 15 minutes, until the rice is tender and the shrimp are fully cooked.
  • Discard the bay leaves. Garnish each serving with a sprinkle of parsley and scallions.

jambpotstir

 


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Olé! Grilled Mexican Fish & Cilantro-Lime Slaw

To my knowledge, there are only two things that Ina Garten and I disagree on:
Jesus and cilantro.

green things

I hold neither against her. But cilantro is the key to my most recent recipe obsession. My friend Caroline passed this gem to me, and lately I’ve been whipping it up once or twice a week. It’s that good, that easy, and that healthy.

fish

Grilled Mexican Fish with Cilantro-Lime Slaw
Serves 2

First, make the slaw:

¼ cup canola oil
2 tablespoons white vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
2 limes, juiced
1½ teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon pepper
4 cups finely shredded cabbage (I use that pre-shredded bagged stuff)
1 bunch scallions, chopped
½ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1 jalapeño, seeds removed and finely diced

  • In the bottom of a large bowl, whisk together the oil, vinegar, honey, lime juice, salt, and pepper. Add the cabbage, onion, cilantro, and jalapeño. Toss thoroughly. Cover and refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours.

Next, marinate the fish:

3 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons honey
2 limes, juiced
¼ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cumin
2 large or 4 small firm, white fish filets (such as tilapia)

  • In a shallow dish, whisk together the oil, honey, lime juice, cilantro, salt, and cumin. Add the fish, turning over to coat. Marinate about half an hour.

marinate

Finally, cook & assemble:

1 avocado, peeled and diced
1 lime, cut into wedges

  • When you’re ready to cook, heat a grill pan over medium-high heat. Sear the fish on each side about 2 to 3 minutes or until cooked through, being careful not to overcook.
  • Taste the slaw for seasoning, adding more salt if needed. Fold avocado into slaw. Pile fish and slaw onto plates. Serve with lime wedges.

Side notes:

  • When preparing the slaw, go ahead and measure your ingredients for the fish marinade as well. Most of the ingredients are the same, so it will streamline the process.
  • You can easily turn this into a fish taco fiesta. Just add warm tortillas.

 


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Let Them Eat Steak

To a lot of people, steak is a fancy meal, reserved for special occasions and ordered off of heavy, leather-bound menus. I come from a beef-centric family. For example, when I went home for Christmas, my mom had a roast in the crock-pot, a brisket in the oven, and hamburger meat laid out to thaw “just in case.” This was all happening even though I had told my parents that I wanted to cook steaks for them. My dad raises cattle, so, yeah … we  tend to eat more than our fair share of red meat.

working farmpups

Here I am in action helping my dad work cattle. (Aka opening and closing gates.) And those are two of our newest farm hands, Buster Brown and Bootsie. Below is a newborn Beefmaster, Rio.

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All that to say, steak is no rarity at our house. But steak on the grill could never compete with restaurant-style steak. That is, until my old friend Ina shared this recipe. Steak at home has never been the same. Or more delicious.

Cast Iron Skillet Steak
Adapted from Ina Garten
Serves 1

1 2-inch thick filet mignon
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
½ tablespoon kosher salt
½ tablespoon coarsely cracked black pepper
1 tablespoon unsalted butter

• Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Mix together salt and pepper on a small plate. Heat a cast iron skillet over high heat until hot, about 5 minutes.
• While the skillet heats, pat the steak dry with a paper towel. Rub a thin layer of vegetable oil evenly over steak. Roll in the salt & pepper mixture on all sides, pressing to coat.
seasoned
• When the skillet is hot, sear the steak on all sides for 2 minutes per side, including edges, for 10 minutes. (Your smoke detector might go off intermittently. Do not panic. Just walk over to it and fan it with a dish towel like I do until the shrieking beeps stop.)
sear
• Top with butter and place the skillet in the oven for 8 to 10 minutes, or until a meat thermometer reads 125 degrees. (That may look like more than a tablespoon, but I’m pretty sure that’s just the camera playing tricks on you. I mean, the camera adds 10 pounds, right? Don’t make that poor pat of butter feel bad.)
butter
• Remove the steak from the pan and cover with foil. Let rest for 5 to 10 minutes.

While this steak is as easy to pull off as it seems, I have to admit there is one hazard. This bad boy is going to smoke when you sear it. Like, a lot. I regret to inform you all that I do not have a hood or any sort of ventilation system outside of opening all my doors and turning on my ceiling fans. But even if you do have a vent, like my parents do, your kitchen may fill with smoke to the point you are coughing and need to stick your head outside. Especially if your skillet is not properly seasoned. My mom and dad were sure that I had ruined everything and that our steaks were going to be burned to a crisp. But you know what? They weren’t. And it was so worth it. See:

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My dad actually said these words to me: “This is just like eating at Ruth’s Chris!” If you know my father, or any southern man, you know that is pretty much the Holy Grail of compliments. It’s like saying you walked on water. Of course, I was beyond flattered. And if you make this steak for someone, you will likely receive a compliment of equal or greater value.


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The Lentilist

Bonjour, y’all! Fall is in the air, and that means heartier fare. But a stick-to-your-ribs dinner doesn’t have to include gravy, potatoes, cheese, or red meat. (Um, am I craving shepherd’s pie? Another post for another day … ) Lentils are an extreme legume — very low in fat but very high in fiber and protein. They fill you up without filling you out. So have a second helping and feel just fine about it.

The ingredients aren’t too far off from a lentil soup I once made. But the best part about this dish (other than the tangy flavor and protein punch) is its versatility. I have served these lentils alongside simple roasted salmon, atop hearty greens (like a frisée mix, which was inspired by an item on Marché’s menu last winter), or coupled with sliced grilled sausage. With options like that, the leftovers don’t last long.

Warm French Lentils
Adapted from Ina Garten & Everyday Food
Makes 4 to 6 servings

1 cup French green lentils
2 tablespoons plus ¼ cup good olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 leeks (white and light green parts only), chopped
3 carrots, chopped
3 stalks of celery, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1½ cups chicken stock
4 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  • In a heat-proof bowl, cover the lentils with boiling water and set aside for 15 minutes.
  • Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion, leeks, carrots, and celery, and cook for 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute or two.
  • Drain the lentils and add them to the onion mixture. Stir in the butter.
  • Add the chicken stock and bring to a slight boil. Lower the heat and simmer, partially covered, for 20 minutes or until the lentils are tender. Most of the chicken stock will have evaporated at this point.
  • Whisk together the remaining ¼ cup of olive oil, Dijon mustard, red wine vinegar, salt, and pepper until thoroughly combined. Add to the warm lentils, stir well, and remove the pot from the heat. Allow the lentils to cool about 10 to 15 minutes. Taste for salt and pepper and serve.
  • Ina says: “The longer the lentils sit, the more salt and pepper you’ll want to add.”


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Rainbow Salad

Summer is here. And that means cookouts! The next time you find yourself needing to bring a side dish to an outdoor soirée, make this black bean and veggie salad that doubles as a dip. It is the simplest thing ever. Plus it’s healthy and delicious.

Rainbow Salad
Adapted from Ina Garten
Serves 6

¼ cup olive oil
½ teaspoon lime zest
2 limes, juiced (about a ¼ cup)
1 clove garlic, minced (I grate it on the same mircoplane I use for the lime)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon pepper
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 small can whole kernel corn, rinsed and drained
1 orange bell pepper, diced
½ a purple onion, diced
1 or 2 jalapeños, diced
2 avocados

  • In a medium to large bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lime zest, lime juice, garlic, salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper.
  • Add the remaining ingredients except the avocado. Toss well.
  • Just before serving, diced the avocados and add them to the salad.
  • Serve alongside grilled burgers or fish. Or serve as a dip with blue corn chips to complete the rainbow.


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Cookbook Confessions

Amazon is such a lovely thing. You click buttons and they send you stuff like this:

The Pioneer Woman’s second cookbook contains tasty treats and guilty pleasures. Farm Anatomy is filled with whimsical, yet precise, illustrations identifying everything from barn styles to sheep breeds (along with recipes, of course). See:

I might be a bit of a food book hoarder. It seems the cookbook shelf runneth over.

Not that that stops me.
Another reason I love Amazon is because they let you preorder things. Like this:

That’s right, people. My favorite girl Ina has a new cookbook coming out! There is one downside: I won’t get it until October 30th. Sheesh! That’s more than six months away. I’m sure it will be well worth the wait. If you’re a crazy fan like me, preorder your copy here.

Do you have any food books you can’t live without?


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New Year, New Books & Boards, New Traditions

To be known is to be loved. And I am certainly feeling the love after this Christmas. Four of my nearest and dearest gave me these lovely gifts.

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Two cutting boards and and three cookbooks later, I’m a happy girl with a year full of new ideas to look forward to. The Cheesemonger’s Kitchen and Super Natural Every Day both have exceptionally beautiful photography, not to mention unusual (but accessible) recipes.  The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook officially completes my Ina Garten collection. And y’all know I have been dreaming of that AR cutting board for nearly a year.

Gift giving is such an enjoyable tradition, don’t you think? I’m a big fan of traditions in general. They give you a framework for how to spend your holidays. Something to plan for and look forward to. In a lot of ways, they make you, you. In my little family, we have a nice meal and open our gifts on Christmas Eve, and on Christmas Day we go to the movies. This year, I was happy to be in charge of the Christmas Eve dinner. We had The Pioneer Woman’s lasagna and Ina’s tiramisu. Both were divine and eaten for days. Here’s a peek at the lasagna:

  

I have some simple traditions for myself, too. Each Christmas I watch Love Actually and The Family Stone while I put up my “travel tree” and reminisce about the places, friends, and memories each ornament represents. But I realized that I don’t have any New Year’s traditions (and NYE is usually a let down), so I thought I might attach one. While I love the idea of Hoppin’ Johns, my grocery store run ended with lentil soup ingredients, which I’d never made before. So, I’m thinking New Year’s Day should be Try a New Soup Recipe Day. Why not? Packed with veggies, protein, and rich flavor, this lentil soup is filling and warm on a chilly New Year’s Day.

Lentil Vegetable Soup
Adapted from Ina Garten
Serves 4

½ pound green lentils
2 large yellow onions, chopped
1 leeks, chopped (white part only)
3 cloves garlic, minced
Olive oil
Kosher salt & ground black pepper
½ tablespoon minced fresh thyme leaves
½ teaspoon ground cumin
4 stalks celery, diced
2 or 3 carrots, diced
1½ quarts chicken stock
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 tablespoon red wine or red wine vinegar
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

  • In a large bowl, cover the lentils with boiling water and allow to sit for 15 minutes. Drain.
  • In a large stockpot on medium heat, saute the onions, leeks, and garlic with the olive oil, salt, pepper, thyme, and cumin for 20 minutes, until the vegetables are translucent and very tender. Add the celery and carrots and saute for 10 more minutes.
  • Add the chicken stock, tomato paste, and lentils. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for 20 to 30 more minutes, until the lentils are cooked through.
  • Check the seasonings. Add the red wine and serve hot, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with grated Parmesan.


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Easy Eggplant Dip

Before this summer I had never cooked an eggplant. Sure, I’d eaten it many times at restaurants, but for whatever reason the bulbous, dark purple ingredient intimidated me. I don’t know why. They  look friendly enough.

Thanks to my CSA, I got one and had to figure out what to do with it. Enter the most simple, delicious eggplant dip in the world. Now I am buying eggplant at the grocery store! I know what you’re thinking. And yes, I am such a risk taker.

This dip has been a huge hit at recent gatherings, like a Greek dinner I attended with my Bible study girls. (You can barely see it along the top left corner under the saffron rice.) So many people have asked for the recipe that I figured I should post it.

Easy Roasted Eggplant Dip
Adapted from Ina Garten (who else?)
Serves 6-8

1 medium eggplant
2 red or green bell peppers, seeded
1 red onion, peeled
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons good olive oil
1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons tomato paste

  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  • Cut the eggplant, bell pepper, and onion into 1-inch cubes. Toss them on a baking sheet with the garlic, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Spread in a single layer and roast for 45 minutes, until the vegetables are lightly browned and soft. Turn once during cooking.
  • Place the vegetables in a food processor with the tomato paste and pulse 3 or 4 times to blend. Taste for salt and pepper. Serve with pita chips.

Veggies pre-roasting. Sorry, this is my only pic!

Side note: This would also be great spread on sandwiches or little crostini as an appetizer.


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You Say Tomato, I Say Mater

I know I’ve been talkin’ a lot of tomato lately, but can you blame me? They are everywhere and taste good in everything. After all, the tomato is a uniter, not a divider, bringing together fruits and vegetables. OK, I stole that witty little line from the Tomato Art Fest slogan, which happens to be this weekend. You should definitely brave the heat to eat tomatoey treats and see whimsical tomato creations at the Art & Invention Gallery like this:

Melba & Her Maters by Vicki Sawyer                          via Art & Invention Gallery

In honor of Tomato Art Fest, a plethora of Bradleys in my CSA, and wishing fall would hurry up and get here, I decided to try a simple tomato soup recipe by Ina Garten. Tomato soup is my favorite comfort food when I’m at my parents’ house in the winter. My mom and dad used canned tomatoes from their garden and serve the soup up with cornbread or grilled cheese—a meal that always satisfies on a chilly night. But turns out this cozy winter go-to isn’t so bad in summer either.
   

Fresh Tomato Basil Soup
Adapted from Ina Garten
Serves 4

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 red onion, chopped
1 carrot, unpeeled and chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 vine-ripened tomatoes, coarsely chopped (I also threw in some leftover heirloom cherry tomatoes)
¾ teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon tomato paste
12 (or so) basil leaves, chopped (reserve a bit for serving)
2 cups chicken stock
½ tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup half-and-half

  • Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium-low heat. Add the onion and carrot and saute for about 10 minutes, until very tender. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute.
  • Add the tomatoes, sugar, tomato paste, basil, chicken stock, salt, and pepper and stir well. Bring the soup to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes, until the tomatoes are very tender.
  • Add the half-and-half and purée with an immersion blender until you reach desired consistency. I left mine a little chunky.
  • Garnish with basil leaves and serve with cornbread, grilled cheese, or garlic toast.

   


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Carrying a Watermelon Isn’t So Bad

Remember when Baby couldn’t think of anything else to say?

I feel like showing up to a party with a watermelon is the very best idea. Everyone will love you for it because they are hot and watermelon is juicy and delicious. Look at it. Who doesn’t want to eat that?

 

As you can see, one small watermelon is a lot to eat for one person. So when I came across a watermelon salad recipe by my fave Ina Garten, it seemed like a good way to use some up. And I was right. It may sound strange to put watermelon in a salad, but watermelon is kind of interchangeable with tomatoes—they both have that sweet and/or savory thing going for them. Not to mention I have been putting salt on every slice since I was a kid because that’s how my dad taught me to eat it and that is what we do.

Watermelon & Arugula Salad
Adapted from Barefoot Contessa How Easy Is That?
Serves 1-2

2 big handfuls of baby arugula leaves
1-2 cups diced watermelon
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ of a lemon, juiced
Kosher salt & black pepper
Parmesan or pecorino cheese, shaved

  • In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper.
  • Place the arugula and watermelon in a large bowl. Pour enough dressing on the arugula to moisten. Toss well.
  • Using a vegetable peeler, shave the cheese into large strips on the salad. Season with salt to taste and serve immediately.

  

I have never made anything that looks just like the picture, so I thought you should see it. Enjoy!