Category Archives: From the Cookbook

Queso Fundido with Chorizo

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And I’m BACK in the game …

Is it any surprise that the catalyst that finally got me back in the kitchen was football season? It shouldn’t be, given that football Sundays are my favorite part of fall (October 6 aside) and game-day recipes are their own subsection on this site. With fantasy season¬†underway, I finally had my impetus to resume cooking.

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Queso fundido is a traditional Mexican dish that is basically a perfect combination of melted cheese and spicy chorizo. It’s a huge party-pleaser (how could it not be?) and feeds a serious crowd, making it the perfect football food. Plus it’s easy to make and, if you’re grating the cheese by hand, gives you a serious arm workout, which is ideal when you’re skipping a 15-mile training run to cook and have barely spent 0.2 seconds in the kitchen all summer.

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After basically an entire summer of not cooking, this queso fundido was a nice little reminder of the magic that can be created in the kitchen … feels good to be home!

Queso Fundido with Chorizo
Adapted from Melissa Clark
Serves 4-6 generously

– 7 ounces fresh chorizo, casings removed

– 1/2 of a medium yellow onion, diced

– 1/2 of a red bell pepper, diced

– salt and pepper, to taste

– 2 scallions, finely chopped

– 8 ounces pepper jack or Monterey jack cheese, grated

– 8 ounces sharp Cheddar cheese, grated

– for serving: tortilla chips, crusty bread, cut vegetables, etc.

1) Heat a 10-inch cast-iron skillet* on medium-high. Add the chorizo and cook until browned, breaking into small crumbles. Remove from the skillet and set aside.

2) Add the onions and bell pepper to the skillet. Season with salt and pepper, then saute until the vegetables have softened and are beginning to brown. Let the skillet cool to room temperature.

3) Preheat the oven to 450F. In a large bowl, combine the cooked chorizo, peppers and onions and scallions. In a separate bowl, combine both of the cheeses. Scatter half of the cheese in the bottom of the cooled skillet. Layer the chorizo-vegetable mixture over the cheese, then top with the remaining cheese.

4) Bake the queso for 7-10 minutes, until the cheese is bubbling and has started to brown. Serve immediately, with tortilla chips, hunks of bread or whatever else you can get your hands on.

*If you don’t have a cast-iron skillet, use a regular skillet to cook the chorizo and vegetables, then use a 2-quart baking dish to bake the queso.

Feta-Mint Meatballs

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As evidenced by the only-two-posts-last-month situation, it’s been a really busy summer. I’ve been away every weekend in July, and when I have been here, there have been rooftops and baseball games and beaches to visit.

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So you know that only an amazing recipe would have me running to the kitchen. These feta-mint meatballs are exactly that: amazing. Simple to make and full of flavor, they’re just as delicious on their own (perhaps with toothpicks for serving as appetizers?) as they are topping a summery orzo or quinoa salad. While the original recipe (from one of my favorite food bloggers!) keeps it simple, relying solely on the feta and mint to flavor the meatballs, I went H.A.M. with spices: cinnamon, cumin, coriander, cayenne and smoked paprika all go in.

The end result is meaty and minty and faintly spiced and 100% worth turning on the stove for. And when it’s 90 degrees out and there are rooftops and beaches and pools to frequent, that’s a high high compliment. Continue reading

Cold-Brewed Iced Coffee

Lest you think I only eat dessert, worry not: sometimes I drink coffee too. And in the summer, that caffeine habit becomes EXPENSIVE. Daily $4 iced coffees are not a sustainable practice, and so I bring you homemade cold-brewed iced coffee. Don’t say I never did anything nice for you.

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All coffee-making follows the same process: water extracts flavors and chemical compounds from beans. Hot water not only speeds up that process, it also cooks the beans a bit, changing some of the flavor profiles of the coffee (h/t NYT).

A lot of iced coffee is made by brewing hot coffee and then letting it cool to room temperature. You could do this, but I find the resulting coffee to be pretty acidic (hot water extracts more acid than cold would) and pretty weak — since you’re using hot-coffee standard amounts of water to brew the coffee and then adding more water (in the form of ice) to cool it, the coffee ends up extra-diluted.

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But cold-brewing extracts flavor from the coffee bean at a slower rate and leaves the original flavors relatively intact. And since I’m already not a fan of light, acidic roasts (I like my coffee dark and bold and chocolate-y — surprise, surprise), cold brew’s purported “mild, smooth and just a tad sweet” flavors seemed right up my alley.

And now that I’ve made my own cold brew, I’m kicking myself for the thousands of dollars I’ve spent on often mediocre iced coffees in the past. This recipe is so easy a child could handle it, and the end result is a smooth, balanced brew that I want to drink all day every day. And since all it requires is standard ground coffee and water, I can actually afford that. #WIN Continue reading

Lemon Ricotta Cookies

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I know, I know … another dessert. In the past few weeks, it’s been one after the other, mostly because I haven’t been home long enough to actually cook real meals.

Not that anyone should be complaining. It is backyard barbecue season after all, and there’s no quicker way to a party host’s heart than by bringing a sweet treat. I’ve got a million ideas here (for appetizers and drinks too!), and trust me, I’ll be adding these lemon ricotta cookies to the list.

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Using ricotta makes these cookies soft and cake-like, as perfect for afternoon tea as they are for a cookout. The lemon is pretty subtle here (even though I bumped it up a bit from the original recipe), so if you’d like a ton of lemon flavor, I’d add a bit more lemon juice. They’re barely sweet, so you can add more sugar too (though I like my desserts on the less sweet side). The batter is a bit of a mess to work with, since it’s very wet, but the cookies bake up like a dream.

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Now that I’ll finally be in the city for the occasional weekend, I need to start cooking some real food. I mean, I’ve got one hell of a sugar crash coming my way … Continue reading

Chocolate Potato Chip Pie Bars

THESE ARE CRACK.

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I know, I know … hyperbole much? But seriously, these are irresistible to the point where it’s almost unconscionable.

I first discovered this recipe, labeled “PMS Pie,” while scanning the HuffPost front page for something work-related. (We do God’s work, people.) It was hard to ignore the perfectly browned potato chip crust or the gobs of melted chocolate or the drizzles of caramel on top.

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Within a week, I had sent the recipe to almost everyone I know, talked about it incessantly and decided that I needed to turn it into the infinitely more portable “chocolate potato chip pie bars” for Mili’s bachelorette. It’s fitting — these bars are the happy marriage of two of my (and her) favorite forms of junk food, and salty-sweet has proven to be a long-lasting, always satisfying union.

The recipe is insanely easy, especially if you don’t go through the extra step of making your own caramel. (But you should — homemade salted caramel is delicious.) They’re very adaptable too: I used plain rippled chips, but kettle chips could also work. Dark, milk, or even a mix of chocolates would be delicious, and if you don’t have walnuts, top the bars with chopped pecans or almonds instead.

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Your minimal effort is rewarded with the most addictive junk food a girl could imagine.. Good luck sticking to just one — we ate the entire pan in one night. Continue reading