Category Archives: From the Cookbook

Master Cleanse Chicken

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As one does while traipsing around Italy, I ate A LOT on vacation. I basically OD’ed on pizza and pasta and *gasp!* even wine, and on the plane ride home, seriously contemplated doing another full-on detox. But you know, there’s all those rules … and it is football (and football food!) season … and suddenly “detox” seemed a bit too extreme. I mean, we did a walk a lot in Rome and Florence, and some of our pizzas had vegetables on them. (I could convince myself out of anything.)

While perusing detox plans and recipes, I of course came across the ubiquitous Master Cleanse, an extremely weird, semi-spartan, Beyonce-approved detox in which humans attempt to subsist solely on a tonic of maple syrup, lemon juice, cayenne pepper and water for two weeks. It is completely crazy pants, and I would quickly end up in a hangry rage spiral if I attempted it.

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But also popping up in my Google searches: this Master Cleanse chicken, which uses that maple syrup-cayenne pepper-lemon juice combination as a marinade for roast chicken. DING DING DING DING. I landed on Friday afternoon, had my chicken air-chilling in the fridge by Saturday morning, and roasted this bad boy while watching sweet, sweet football on Sunday afternoon. I told myself that the intoxicating aromas emanating from the oven were totally detoxifying, and you know what? I feel great! I’m eating spicy-sweet crisp-skinned chicken, full of antioxidants or polyphenols or whatever is supposed to be magical about this Master Cleanse.

Ishita 1, Detox 0. Continue reading

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