Wild Card Wednesday

wildcard wednesday: hot tamales, Mississippi Delta style


OK, so as soon as Alex declared April’s Wildcard Wednesday theme to be the Mississippi Delta, we knew that one of us had to try tamales.  If you’ve ever been to the region, you know that catfish is king, but hot tamales are also a delicious roadside treat.  Many barbecue joints in the Delta also sell hot tamales, and even though many of us might only associate this foodstuff with Mexican food, you should also know that its an integral part of Mississippi Delta food culture.  You can read more about this strange and wonderful connection at the Southern Foodways Alliance website.

A few words on tamales: they’re not difficult to make, but it is an undertaking an time-consuming.  They’re also delicious and totally worth it.

I made these on a Wednesday afternoon (that continued into that evening…) while Alex was at a meeting, but when I make them again, I’m going to make sure that we’re both home or that I invite over a few friends to help with the process.  I also broke a rule I usually live by: never serve dinner guests something you’ve never made before.  Our friends Frank and Heather Pendergast came over for a tamale supper last Wednesday, and the company was grand!  I think the tamales were pretty grand, too.

Mississippi Delta Hot Tamales

Makes 2 dozen

24 corn husks (available at Mexican food stores–Macon people, go to El Carnaval on Pio Nono Ave.)

4 lbs. pork shoulder, cut into large cubes (about 1.5 inch x 1.5 inch)

1 Tbsp. cumin

2 tsp. red pepper flakes

1 Tbsp. salt

1 Tbsp. paprika

1 jalapeno, quartered

1/4 cup canola oil

1 Tbsp. chili powder

2 tsp. paprika

2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. black pepper

1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper

1 tsp. onion powder

1 tsp. garlic powder

1/4 tsp. cumin

4 cups masa mix (finely ground cornmeal, available at most grocery stores)

2 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

3/4 cup lard (yes, I said lard–it’s worth it in this recipe!)

4 cups meat broth (from cooking the pork)

First, place the corn husks in a clean sink and fill up with warm water; let sit for about two hours.

Next, place the cubes of pork, cumin, red pepper flakes, salt, paprika, and jalapeno in a large, heavy pot and fill with water until it covered the pork.  Bring to a boil, then place the lid on the pot, turn the heat down to low, and cook for about 2 hours.  After the 2 hours time is up, remove the pork from the water and let cool for about 10 minutes.  When the pork has cooled slightly, shred the meat with your hands (this should be relatively easy).  In a large pan, heat the canola oil over medium-high heat and add the chili powder, paprika, salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, and cumin to the oil and stir.  Add the shredded pork and cook for about 8 minutes, then turn off the heat and set aside.

Next, mix the masa, baking powder, salt, and lard with your hands until the mixture is evenly combined.  Add about 1/2 cup of the meat broth at a time until the dough resembled a mashed potato consistency.

Next is assembly.  Take a soaked corn husk and place the thin edge toward you and the wide edge at the top of your assembly space.  Take about 1/4 cup of the masa dough and thinly spread it in the middle of the husk.  Next, take about 1 Tbsp. of the pork and place it down the middle of the dough, then gently (think sushi here) roll the corn husk so that the masa mix forms a protective layer around the meat, then tuck the thin edge under and keep the top open.


This takes a while, but once you have all of the tamales assembled, place them open-side up in a large pot so that there are enough tamales for them to stand up with the support of the other tamales.  Being careful to not spill water into the tamales, fill the pot with water up to the part of the corn husks where the masa ends.  Bring to a boil, then place the lid on the pot, turn the heat down to low, and cook for a little over an hour.

In the Mississippi tradition, I served these tamales with some slaw and beans, the quintessential barbecue sides.  Enjoy!


wildcard wednesday: shiitake, brussels, and carrot stuffed shells + salad with avocado and cumin viniagrette

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So, I’m still technically following the Wild Card Wednesday rule (use the theme or ingredient for the month), but the avocado was not center stage tonight.  I’m still on a high from our CSA delivery, and I couldn’t wait to use some more of those beautiful ingredients (shoutout again to my newest obsession, The Dirt Farmer CSA).  I thought about using some of these ingredients on a pizza or in a casserole bake, but then I had a throwback moment to one of my mom’s go-to weeknight suppers: stuffed shells.  I remember her boiling the pasta shells, then lining the cooked pieces on a paper towel on the counter while she mixed the filling and delicately placed a spoonful into each one.  She usually used ricotta and mozzarella for the filling and sometimes included some ground meat or sausage.   I decided to use some quick-sauteed veggies in my version mixed with part-skim ricotta and basil, and I think it turned out great!

The salad features some locally grown salad greens, a few edible flowers (a CSA throw-in this week and a total luxury), some avocado, a few pistachios, and the belle of the ball: cumin vinaigrette.  You might think that cumin only belongs in Mexican and Indian food, but add it to some lemon juice, zest, and some olive oil and you have a bright, complex flavor that works in fantastic contrast to the creamy avocado and crunchy pistachio.  This vinaigrette would be great on many salads and would also work nicely drizzled over a fatty fish like salmon or a lean skirt steak.  It’s so easy, and that you have to try it!  Don’t be afraid to make your own salad dressings.  If you have some olive oil, a small mason jar, and an imagination, the possibilities are endless.  Plus, a homemade dressing will always taste better than something out of a squeeze bottle.

Shiitake, Brussels, and Carrot Stuffed Shells

Serves 2 with leftovers

12 large pasta shells

1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese

8 to 10 brussels sprouts

1 large carrot (or about 10 very tiny carrots like the ones I received in my CSA box)

1 cup shiitake mushrooms

1 Tbsp. butter

28 oz. crushed tomatoes

4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced

1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese, plus more for a top off at the end

2 Tbsp. fresh basil cut in ribbons, separated into two 1-Tbsp. piles

salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 F.  Cook the pasta according to package directions, remove from boiling water, then set aside on a paper towel to cool.  While the water is boiling and pasta is cooking, work on prepping the vegetables: Thinly slice the brussels sprouts by placing each one stem side up, then thinly slicing the sprout on all four sides (you’ll be left with the dense core to throw out).  Peel the carrots into thin ribbons with a vegetable peeler.  Add the shiitake mushrooms to the chopped brussels and carrots.  Heat a medium frying pan over medium-high heat and melt the butter, then add the veggies with 1 tsp. salt and a few grinds of black pepper.  Gently toss the veggies in the warm butter, then continue to stir every 30 seconds or so until the veggies cook through a bit (about three minutes) but do not lose all of their crunch.  Set aside to cool.  While the veggies are cooling, heat the crushed tomatoes in a small saucepan over medium heat with the minced garlic and 1 tsp. salt.  When the veggies are warm but not longer hot, add the ricotta, parmesan, and 1 Tbsp. of the basil, then stir to combine.  Using a small baking dish, add about 1/2 cup of the tomato sauce to the bottom of the dish.  Next, fill each pasta shell with about 1/4 cup of the ricotta-veggie mixture and line the baking dish with the stuffed shells.  When all of the shells are filled and in the dish, cover the shells with the remaining sauce, then bake for 20 minutes.  When the dish is finished baking, add a few extra tablespoons of grated parmesan and the remaining basil for a garnish.

Cumin Viniagrette

for 2, but you could easily double or triple the ingredients to serve a larger party

1/2 tsp. ground cumin

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. black pepper

juice and zest of one lemon

1 1/2 Tbsp. olive oil

1 tsp. Dijon mustard

Shake or whisk the ingredients together, then add to a salad.  Here, I drizzled it over some salad greens, edible flowers, avocado, and pistachios.

wild card wednesday: spicy shrimp, avocado, and goat cheese sandwich on ciabatta


Welcome back to Wild Card Wednesday!  This month’s focus is a special ingredient: avocado.  Now that the weather is warming up, it’s the perfect time to integrate some of that creamy delicious green goodness into your supper plans.

The spicy sauce in which the shrimp is tossed is nicely cooled off by the goat cheese and avocado.  If you’re a vegetarian, you could omit the shrimp but use the spicy sauce as a spread and still have a delectable sandwich, especially if you added some sprouts and/or a tomato slice!

The spicy shrimp sauce is deceivingly light.  Instead of using sour cream or mayonnaise, I pulled out my handy-dandy 0% plain Greek yogurt that not only cuts down on calories and fat, but also adds protein and has the same consistency.  I tossed in some fresh lemon juice, salt, and Sriracha sauce, and voila!  A full-bodied sauce that’s totally good for you.

You could use and kind of bread here, or even make it a wrap, but I saw a nice loaf of ciabatta at the Fresh Market that called my name in the store, so that’s what I chose.  Be creative–this combination of ingredients was great!

Spicy Shrimp, Avocado, and Goat Cheese Sandwich on Ciabatta

for 2

16 shrimp, peeled and deveined

1 Tbsp. canola oil

2 oz. soft goat cheese, crumbled

6 leaves of Bibb lettuce

1 avocado, cubed

1 loaf of ciabatta, halved and sliced lengthwise

1 cup 0% Greek yogurt, plain

juice of 1/2 lemon

1 Tbsp. Sriracha hot sauce

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes

salt and pepper, to taste

Place the ciabatta in the oven at 400 F for 10 minutes, then take out and let it cool.

Heat the canola oil in a small frying pan over medium-high heat.  Season the shrimp with 1/4 tsp. salt, red pepper flakes, and a sprinkle of pepper.  Add the shrimp to the oil and cook for about 1 minute on each side.  Spoon the shrimp out of the oil and place in a small bowl lined with a paper towel; set aside.

Add the Greek yogurt, lemon juice, Sriracha, and 1/4 tsp. salt to a small bowl and mix to combine.  When the shrimp cools, remove the paper towel from the bowl.  Drizzle the shrimp with about 3 Tbsp. of the yogurt sauce and toss to coat the shrimp.

Place the tops and bottoms of the ciabatta on a cutting board or plate, cut side up.  Spread about 1/2 Tbsp. of the yogurt sauce on each slice of bread.  On each of the bottoms, place 3 leaves of lettuce, then 8 shrimp, then 1 oz. goat cheese, then 1/2 cubed avocado.  Place the tops of the bread on the top of the sandwich, cut in half diagonally, and you have a sandwich worth telling people about!


wildcard wednesday: cheesy quinoa with power greens


Greetings from the ice storm, or something like it!  Alex and I have both had the day off because of the threat that the roads could be icy, so other than a jaunt to Pure Barre, I’ve been reacquainting myself with our sofa, blankets, cats, and the almighty Netflix.  Luckily I had already purchased the ingredients for this week’s Wildcard Wednesday, so I knew that despite the icy rain, we’d be in for a treat with this week’s nutrient-rich comfort food.  Instead of good ol’ mac and cheese, we had cheesy quinoa with power greens.

I’ve cooked with quinoa (pronounced “keen-wah”) for the blog before, but let me just remind you of its nutrient-rich benefits.  One cup of quinoa has 24 grams of protein and 12 grams of fiber–MUCH more nutrient-dense than elbow macaroni.  I’ve also thrown in some power greens, more specifically the petite varieties of kale, swiss chard, and spinach.  These young greens fold in so smoothly and do not alter the smooth and creamy flavor that you crave with traditional mac and cheese.  I also used 2% milk and reduced fat cheese to cut down on the richness, but I promise you that this dish is plenty rich and will satisfy the masses.  I don’t pretend to know anything about child-rearing, but I even think that picky eaters would like this dish (yes, even with the greens).

You’ll notice from the photo that I topped this dish with a dash of crumbled bacon–yeah, I know, not too healthy sounding, right?  It’s certainly optional, but I cooked up a couple of slices to add a little bit of crunch and flavor.  A tiny bit of bacon never hurt anyone, can I get an amen?

Here are a few more photos and the almighty recipe:


Cheesy Quinoa with Power Greens

3 Tbsp. butter

3 Tbsp. flour

1 1/2 cups 2% milk

7 oz. reduced fat sharp cheddar (get a block and shred it yourself–the pre-shredded stuff doesn’t melt as well)

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. nutmeg

1 large shallot, minced

3 cups cooked quinoa (cook according to package directions–I cooked mine with chicken broth instead of water for added flavor)

4 oz. baby power greens (just use spinach if you can’t find a mix)

3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

4 Tbsp. butter, melted

3/4 cup panko breadcrumbs

2 pieces of cooked bacon, crumbled (optional)

2 Tbsp. picked parsley leaves (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 F.  Melt 3 Tbsp. butter over medium heat in a large pan.  When butter is melted, whisk in flour to create a roux.  Slowly add the milk and increase the heat to medium-high.  Next, add the cheese, salt, nutmeg, and shallots.  Whisk until smooth, then turn off the heat.  In a large mixing bowl, mix the cooked quinoa, power greens, and cheese sauce together.  Pour into a casserole dish, dutch oven, or cast iron skillet (I used an 8-inch dutch oven, but didn’t use the lid).  Add the parmesan cheese evenly as a top layer.  Mix the melted butter with the panko breadcrumbs, then add this mixture evenly over the parmesan.  Bake for 20 minutes or until bubbly, then serve.

wild card wednesday: fish skewers with hawayej and parsley + roasted cauliflower and hazelnut salad


Happy Wednesday, all!  Today marks the middle of January, my least favorite month.  It’s cold, there are no major celebrations, and it’s dark too early, just to name a few gripes.  Despite all of this, we must soldier on and make the best out of what we have, which brings me to the Wild Card Wednesday ingredient of the month: cauliflower.  Yes, that dreaded white, crunchy vegetable on every crudite plate that is never eaten.  Some of you may know about the transformative properties of roasting vegetables, and cauliflower performs beautifully in this endeavor.  Like January, no one likes cauliflower upon first blush, but since we have to live with it, we might as well enjoy it, right?

Both of these recipes come from the cookbook Jerusalem, written by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi.  Both men were born in Israel, but Ottolenghi is Jewish and Tamimi is Muslim.  Together, they own a handful of delis in London and combine many tastes and flavors from all around the Middle East.  I was so excited to open this, along with another one of their cookbooks, Plenty, at Christmas this year.  My cousin Jessy (paying close attention to my Amazon wishlist) made an excellent choice!

The fish skewers have a strong depth of flavor–something that usually doesn’t come across with grilled fish.  It sits in the refrigerator in the hawayej–a Yemeni spice mix that you make from your pantry–and the flavor seeps into the filets very effectively.  The cauliflower salad is a true “party in your mouth” type of side dish; lots of interesting textures come out from the softness of the roasted cauliflower, the fruity pop of the pomegranate seeds, and crunch of the nuts and the celery.

So, here we go: a warm, vibrant, piquant plate for a dreary mid-week day in the doldrums.  Just the pick-me-up you needed!

Fish Skewers with Hawayej and Parsley

1 lb. (2 fillets) cod, halibut, or other firm white fish, cut into 1-inch cubes

1 cup chopped parsley

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1 lemon, halved

4 bamboo skewers, soaked in water for 1 hour

Hawayej Spice Mix:

1 tsp. black peppercorns

1 tsp. coriander seeds

1 1/2 tsp. cumin seeds

4 whole cloves

1/2 tsp. ground cardamom

1/2 tsp turmeric

Start with the hawayej mix: place all of the mix ingredients into a spice grinder or use a mortar and pestle to grind the spices into an even mix.  Place the mix into a large mixing bowl.  Place fish, parsley, garlic, red pepper flakes, lemon juice, and 1 tsp. of salt into the bowl with the hawayej mix.  Mix well with your hands, then cover with plastic wrap and let fish sit for at least one hour in the refrigerator.

Place a ridged grill pan over high heat for about five minutes.  While you’re waiting for the grill pan to get hot, thread the fish pieces onto the bamboo skewers, leaving plenty of space between each piece (about four on each skewer).  Drizzle the fish with a small amount of olive oil, then grill for about 2 minutes on each side.  Grill the lemon halves and serve on the plate with the skewers.

Roasted Cauliflower and Hazelnut Salad

1 head cauliflower, broken into smaller florets

4 Tbsp. olive oil

1 large celery stalk, cut on an angle into 1/4-inch slices

5 Tbsp. hazelnuts, with skins

1/3 cup parsley leaves, picked

1/3 cup pomegranate seeds

1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp. allspice

1 Tbsp. sherry vinegar

1 1/2 tsp. maple syrup

salt and cracked black pepper

Preheat oven to 425 F.  Mix the cauliflower with 2 Tbsp. olive oil, 1/2 tsp. salt, and some black pepper.  Spread the florets evenly in a roasting pan or on a cookie sheet and roast on the top oven rack for about 30 minutes, until the cauliflower is crisp and parts of it have turned golden brown.  Transfer to a large mixing bowl and set aside to cool down.

Turn the oven temperature down to 325 F.  Spread the hazelnuts on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and roast for about 10 minutes.  Allow the nuts to cool slightly, then chop and add to the cauliflower.  Add another Tbsp. of olive oil along with the remaining ingredients.  Serve at room temperature.

wild card wednesday: pumpkin lasagna + arugula, pancetta, and cranberry salad


Welcome to Wild Card Wednesday: November edition, which is officially Challenge Gourd!  After some facebook crowdsourcing today, I had a tough choice to make from all of the great ideas from some of our readers, but a common theme was an obvious go-to for the month that brings us Thanksgiving: pumpkin, different kinds of squash, and sweet potatoes.  We’re wrapping all of these together in the gourd category.  Yes, I know that a sweet potato isn’t a gourd–I’m just including it because of its similarity to butternut and acorn squashes.

Between the last school bell ringing and jetting off to a session at Pure Barre, I searched the Food and Wine magazine website for gourd recipes.  I found one for pumpkin lasagna, said aloud, “Yep.,” made my grocery list, hoisted on a pair of leggings and a tank top, and dashed out the door.  After my class, I gathered a few ingredients at Fresh Market and headed home.  Only after pouring myself a glass of wine (because this week is “doing the most,” as my students would say), I began assembling this surprisingly easy, yet deliciously complex dish.  I’m telling you–if you can stir things together and follow directions, you can make this in under an hour!

The salad is a nice, savory and sharp counter to the creamy lasagna.  If you’re vegetarian, leave out the pancetta (obviously), but you might want to add something salty in its place.

Pumpkin Lasagna

Adapted (not by much) from Food and Wine Magazine


2 Tbsp. olive oil

2 sweet onions, chopped

2 lbs. Swiss chard, stems removed, chopped

1 Tbsp. salt

1 tsp. black pepper

1 tsp. dried sage

1/2 tsp grated nutmeg

3 cups canned pumpkin puree (one 28-ounce can)

1 1/2 cups heavy cream

1 1/2 cups grated Parmesan

1/2 cup milk

3 no-boil lasagna noodles

Heat oven to 400 degrees.  In a large nonstick frying pan, heat the oil over medium-low heat. Add the onions and cook for about 5 minutes. Increase the heat to moderately high and add the chard, 2 teaspoons of salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, 1/2 teaspoon sage, and 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg. Cook, stirring, until the chard is wilted and no liquid remains in the pan, 5 to 10 minutes.

In a medium bowl, mix together 2 cups of the pumpkin, 3/4 cup cream, 1/2 cup Parmesan, and the remaining teaspoon of salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, 1/2 teaspoon sage, and 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg.

Pour the milk into an 8-by-8 inch baking dish. Top the milk with one third of the noodles, then spread half the pumpkin mixture over the noodles. Layer half the Swiss chard over the pumpkin and top with a second layer of noodles. Repeat with another layer of pumpkin, Swiss chard, and noodles. Combine the remaining 1 cup of pumpkin and 3/4 cup of cream. Spread the mixture evenly over the top of the lasagne, sprinkle with the remaining 1 cup of Parmesan. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 20 minutes. Uncover and bake until golden, about 15 minutes more.

Arugula, Pancetta, and Cranberry Salad


4 cups arugula

1/4 cup dried cranberries

1/4 cup diced pancetta

1/4 cup almonds, chopped

2 Tbsp. cherry balsamic vinegar (or regular, whatever you have)

1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard

salt and pepper, to taste

Place the arugula in a medium-sized bowl.  In a small frying pan, add the pancetta and cook until slightly crispy.  Take the pieces out and allow to drain on a paper towel.  Pour about 1 1/2 Tbsp. of the rendered fat from the pancetta into a small bowl, then add the vinegar, mustard, salt, and pepper.  Whisk to combine.  Add the almonds, cranberries, and pancetta to the arugula, then toss with the warm dressing.  Serve immediately.

wild card wednesday: smoked salmon flatbread with caramelized red onion, capers, and whipped dill cream cheese


New month, new challenge!  This month’s challenge is fish, and Alex has clarified that shellfish does not count.  This has me both excited and nervous; I love fish and order it frequently at restaurants, but I worry about overcooking it at home.  Tonight I cheated because I used already smoked salmon, but in my defense, I had a community meeting this evening.  Either way, I was very pleased with the outcome!  Tonight’s dish is a dressed up version of the classic Jewish bagel breakfast of lox and cream cheese with red onion and capers.  I don’t care for raw red onions, so I caramelized them (a new obsession).  I used whipped cream cheese (Philadelphia brand) instead of its thicker cousin.  I could have used creme fraiche, but I didn’t have all of the time in the world.

I used Publix pizza dough–another fantastic shortcut!  I think this dish would also be great cut into smaller pieces as a savory and tart addition to your hors d’oeuvres table.

Smoked Salmon Flatbread with Caramelized Red Onion, Capers, and Whipped Dill Cream Cheese

1 Publix refrigerated pizza dough

1 Tbsp. cornmeal

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

1 red onion, halved and sliced

2 Tbsp. butter

8 oz. nova smoked salmon, torn into pieces

4 oz. whipped cream cheese

2 Tbsp. chopped fresh dill

2 Tbsp. capers

Ahead of time, melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat, then add the sliced red onion.  Over about an hour’s time, stir the onions every 10 or so minutes.  Set aside.

Stir the dill and cream cheese together, then set aside.

Heat the oven to 500 degrees.  Roll out the pizza dough to about 1/4 inch thickness.  Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper, sprinkle with cornmeal, then place the flat dough on top.  Brush with olive oil and top evenly with parmesan cheese.  Bake for about 7 minutes or until it begins to brown.

Take pizza out of the oven and top with salmon and capers.  Dot the pizza with lumps of the dill cream cheese.  Place back in the oven for about 4 more minutes.  Take out, slice, and eat!

wild card wednesday: asparagus manchego tart, kale gratin with comté, and roasted chicken thighs


Ohhhhhh yeahhh.  Wild Card Wednesday: Challenge Cheese is in full effect this evening.

Last week, Alex used Swiss, sharp cheddar, and Boursin.  This week, I used manchego and comté.  Manchego is a Spanish goat’s milk cheese that is hard in texture and nutty in flavor.  Comté is made from French cow’s milk, is semi-hard in texture, and, similar to Gruyere, is creamy and buttery in flavor.

My name is Eleta Morrison, and I am a cheese-a-holic. (Hi, Eleta…)  I’ve been sober from this affliction for…zero days.

Seriously–if I were on a desert island, if I had my last meal, etc., I’d have a cheese plate with a nice wine, thank you.  When Alex asked me to choose the theme for September’s Wild Card Wednesday, I knew just the thing: cheese.  Why not?

First, I’ll start with the asparagus manchego tart.  Let’s look at it again:


Mmmmmm.  I found several recipes for asparagus tarts with Gruyere, ricotta, and fontina (all delicious), but when I saw the plethora of manchego at Fresh Market, I changed my plans.  Here’s the recipe:

Asparagus Manchego Tart

Flour, for work surface

1 sheet frozen puff pastry (I use Dufour Pastry Kitchens brand, available at Fresh Market)

1 1/2 cups manchego cheese, shredded

1 1/2 pounds thin asparagus

1 Tbsp. olive oil

Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. On a floured surface, roll the puff pastry into a large rectangle.  Place pastry on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. With a sharp knife, lightly score pastry dough 1 inch in from the edges to mark a rectangle. Using a fork, pierce dough inside the markings at 1/2-inch intervals. Bake until golden, about 15 minutes.

Remove pastry shell from oven, and sprinkle with manchego. Trim the bottoms of the asparagus spears to fit crosswise inside the tart shell; arrange in a single layer over the manchego, alternating ends and tips. Brush with oil, and season with salt and pepper. Bake until spears are tender, 20 to 25 minutes.

Next, let’s tackle the kale gratin with comté, or as I like to call it: kale and cheese.  This gratin is so tasty and totally hits the spot when you’re craving mac-n-cheese, but the silver lining is that along with all of that ooey-gooey cheese and cream, you’re also getting an awesome dose of vitamin K and fiber.


Kale Gratin with Comté
1 bunch of kale, stems removed and torn into bite-sized pieces
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 cups heavy cream
2 garlic cloves, minced

2 Tbsp. butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon chopped fresh Italian parsley
Fine sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 1/4 cups (about 5 ounces) coarsely grated comté cheese

Over medium-high heat on a stove top, cook down the kale and olive oil.  Turn off heat and set aside.

For the sauce, combine creamand garlic in a small saucepan; bring to simmer; keep warm. Melt two tablespoons butter in a medium heavy saucepan over moderate heat and stir in flour. Cook roux, whisking, one minute, then slowly whisk in warm cream/milk and boil, whisking, one minute. Season sauce with salt and pepper.

Assemble: Preheat oven to 400°F. Butter 8×11 baking dish. Distribute half of the greens mixture, then half of the cheese, then sprinkle some parsley on top of the cheese.  Pour half of bechamel sauce over the first two layers then continue with the remaining greens, cheese, and parsley. Pour the remaining sauce over the top of the gratin.

Bake gratin for about 1 hour until golden and bubbly, and most of the liquid is absorbed. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Lastly, the roasted chicken thighs.  I think I’ve already expressed my love of dark meat chicken to you (yes, it’s not as good for you; now pass me a leg and no one gets hurt), but let me say it again: dark meat chicken is underrated!  Chicken thighs are cheaper and juicer that chicken breasts, and they’re definitely worth a look.


Roasted Chicken Thighs

1 lemon

4 small skin-on, boneless chicken thighs

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

3 teaspoons olive oil, divided

3 sprigs oregano

1 Tbsp. minced shallot

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/4 cup dry white wine

1/2 cup chicken stock

Preheat oven to 425°. Very thinly slice half of lemon; discard any seeds. Cut remaining lemon half into 2 wedges. Season chicken thighs with salt and pepper.

Coat a large room-temperature skillet with 1 teaspoon oil. Add chicken, skin side down. Place skillet over medium heat and cook, letting skin render and brown, and pouring off excess fat to maintain a thin coating in pan, until chicken is cooked halfway through, about 10 minutes.

Scatter half of lemon slices over chicken and half on bottom of skillet (the slices on top of the chicken will soften; those in the skillet will caramelize). Transfer skillet to oven, leaving chicken skin side down. Roast until chicken is cooked through, skin is crisp, and lemon slices on bottom of skillet are caramelized, 6-8 minutes.

Transfer chicken pieces, skin side up, and caramelized lemon slices from bottom of skillet to a warm platter. (Leave softened lemon slices in the skillet.) Return skillet to medium heat. Add oregano sprigs, shallot, garlic, and red pepper flakes; cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Remove skillet from heat. Add wine; cook over medium heat until reduced by half, 1-2 minutes. Add broth; cook until thickened, about 3 minutes. Squeeze 1 lemon wedge over and season sauce with salt, pepper, and juice from remaining lemon wedge, if desired. Drizzle with 2 teaspoons oil. Return chicken to skillet, skin side up, to rewarm. Serve topped with caramelized lemon slices.