Tamarind Trail Mix

Jarring Tamarind Trail Mix

Jorge and I are headed off for Portland and Seattle in several days, and I’m currently in the process of preparing for this 9 day trip.  Today will be spent doing laundry, and purchasing any last minute items like my cologne that’s just about to run out (Jo Malone Assam & Grapefruit), hiking shoes, new jeans and a gift for a friend’s wedding we’ll be attending on Saturday.  Tomorrow, I’ll be organizing my belongings and starting the packing process.  I’m one of those people who packs waaaaay too much stuff for vacation.  Whatever, I like outfit options!  On Thursday, I’ll be baking another batch of this Tamarind Trail Mix.  Traveling without substantially delicious snacks is something I rarely do.  Airport food is typically the worst.  Hi, $11 sandwich that tastes moderate at best.  And don’t even get me started on airplane food.

Sweet, salty and wonderfully complex, this Tamarind Trail Mix is flavored with cayenne pepper, cumin, coriander, honey, brown sugar, tomato and tamarind.  Roasted nuts, seeds and coconut are then tossed with sweet dried mango and citrusy chopped cilantro.  The finished mix is incredibly savory and undeniably addictive.  I like to pack up my travel trail mixes in mason jars to keep the contents from getting crushed in my bag.  I should note that I’ll be making most of the trail mix in advance.  On Saturday, right before we leave for the airport, I’ll add the chopped cilantro.  Continue reading for the recipe.

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4th of July Recipes

Beer Marinated Tri Tip The 4th of July was one of my favorite holidays growing up.  Each year, my parents would take me and a few of my close friends to Philadelphia for an afternoon of eating, sightseeing and celebrity spotting.  One year, we saw Rosa Parks!!  She was actually getting on a bus.  I was always so enthralled with the energy coursing through that city on the 4th of July.  You could feel the excitement.

Later in the evening, my friends and I would watch our hometown fireworks from someone’s backyard.  Fireflies blinking in the warm, dark summer air.  The back patio wet with pool water.  Hot dogs sizzling on the grill.  Tradition.  That’s what the 4th of July means to me.  I love the sense of tradition with friends and family.

Since moving to San Diego (far far away from my hometown and Philadelphia), I have had to establish some different traditions.  Summer flavors, backyard grilling, afternoon cocktails and bayside fireworks.  Cooking for friends and loved ones.  I do miss those old traditions, but I am also excited for the new ones.  Below is a collection of recipes perfect for a 4th of July bash.  Some of these recipes are from Independence Day celebrations of years past.  Some are recipes I’ll be making again in a few days.  I hope you enjoy :)

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Summer Squash Crostini

Zucchini Crostini Sweet, grassy squash is sauteed with olive oil, lemon and rosemary, then arranged atop a garlic-rubbed, ricotta-slathered slice of baguette.  These handheld treats have the most satisfying contrast in both flavor and texture.  The crisp, toasted bread against the tender rounds of zucchini and squash.  The cool, creamy ricotta against the sharp bite of garlic and soaring brightness of lemon.  So. Yum.

Summer Squash Crostini is a simple yet elegant way to use up the bounty of beautiful squash available at the markets right now.  Serve these bites as an appetizer at a backyard bash, or pair with a chilled summer soup for a light dinner.  Continue reading for the recipe.

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Kale and Avocado Summer Rolls

Spring Roll Making During San Diego’s June Gloom, the weather is rarely ideal for going to the beach.  Which makes me sad, because it’s around this time of the year that I start yearning for a beach day.  The beach is one of the main reasons why I moved from New Jersey to San Diego.  Each year while I was growing up, I would spend a week or two at my Aunt’s beach house on Long Beach Island (eating many of these).  It was one of my favorite times of the year.  So naturally, when it was time for me to move out on my own, I picked a city with easy beach access.

On the rare occasion in June when the sun decides to break through the marine layer, I immediate make plans to go to the beach.  I pack my bag with a book, iPad, iPhone, tanning oil (I am a New Jerseyite at heart), water and snacks, like these Kale and Avocado Summer Rolls.  Kale is marinated in a dressing of honey, lime, fish sauce, garlic and chile, then wrapped up with a fresh mix of carrot, cucumber, avocado, mint and cilantro.  These flavors are bold and bright.  Portable gourmet, this summer roll can easily stay in my bag for a few hours without worry of spoilage.

So it ends up that today is actually one of those rare beautiful days in June.  I’ve got my bag almost all packed up, so I’m going to finish here.  I’ll be on the beach enjoying a few of these tasty rolls.  Continue reading for the recipe.

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Bacon Caramel Corn

Bacon Caramel Corn This is what happens when you buy bacon in bulk.  Freshly popped corn is tossed with marcona almonds, crispy bacon, smoked sea salt and cayenne pepper, then drowned in a rich, deeply-hued caramel.  Bacon Caramel Corn is both super tasty and super addicting with the most satisfying crunch.  To be honest, I’m usually not the biggest fan of caramel corn.  I often find that it is too cloyingly sweet.  Luckily, this version of caramel corn isn’t too sweet.  It’s quite savory actually with just a hint of sweetness.

Bacon Caramel Corn can be made up to two days in advance.  Be sure to store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator.  If you’ve never made caramel before, I’d recommend doing a practice run.  This caramel is simply a mixture of sugar, water and corn syrup, so if you mess it up, throw out the batch and try again!  Continue reading for the recipe.

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Gingham’s Fried Brussels Sprouts

Fried Brussels Sprouts

The man and I recently had a fab lunch at Brian Malarkey’s Gingham, and I just had to share the details.  Located in La Mesa (east of San Diego), Gingham is nestled amongst a series of quaint little shops and galleries.  As I strolled down La Mesa Boulevard passing windows filled with antiques and nicknacks, I just couldn’t believe that a street like this even existed in La Mesa, an area I thought was fairly devoid of art and culture.  Pleasantly surprised, I continued on towards the restaurant enjoying the beaming rays of mid-afternoon sunshine.

Brian Malarkey, a finalist on Top Chef Season 3, is the Chef/Owner of a number of well-known restaurants around town including Searsucker, Burlap, Gabardine, and Herringbone.  He’s also a host on The Taste (with Nigella, so jelz), and recently released a cookbook entitled Come Early, Stay Late.  Basically, dude is blowin’ up.  I’ve met Brian on a number of occasions over the last several years, and I’ll have to say that he really is a nice guy with a big personality.  His personality really shines through at each of his restaurants.  Gingham not excluded.  Continue reading for the rest of my experience (with plenty of food porn) plus a recipe for Gingham’s Fried Brussels Sprouts.

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Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork Sandwiches

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork has been in my recipe repertoire for over 4 years now.  Consistently delicious, this pulled pork is succulent, smokey and unbelievably tender.  The best part?  It’s so easy.  Marbled chunks of pork are showered in a fragrant flurry of spices, then cooked for hours in a bath of liquid smoke.  Usually, you should use liquid smoke sparingly; however, this recipe calls for an unabashed 1/2 cup.  As the pork cooks throughout the day, you’re entire house will be enveloped by an drool-inducing fragrance.  The finished pork is packed with a smoky savoriness that one would think came from hours of cooking in a traditional smoker.

Years ago, I served this pulled pork with a cool, crunchy slaw on top.  Recently, I’ve been substituting in tart pickled red onions.  I love the contrast of the rich meat and the spicy, acidic pickles.  Slow Cooker Pulled Pork is perfect for a crowd, and would certainly fit in at any testosterone-charged Super Bowl party.  You need to make this.  Continue reading for the recipe.

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Roasted Shrimp with Spicy Cocktail Sauce

Roasted Shrimp with Spicy Cocktail Sauce

Happy Labor Day!  If you’re hosting a backyard bash tonight, then I’ve got a perfect appetizer for you that comes together in a snap.  Succulent roasted shrimp artfully arranged beside a bowl of fiery cocktail sauce flavored with Sriracha, horseradish, Worcestershire, lemon and fish sauce.  If you’ve never roasted shrimp before, I would highly suggest that you to give it a try.  Simply dressed in olive oil, salt and pepper, raw shrimp scatter about a parchment-lined baking sheet unsuspectedly enter a blistering hot oven.  Mere moments later, the shrimp reemerge tender and blushing with just a kiss of caramelization.  You’ll never boil shrimp again.  The sauce?  Spice-C.  Reminiscent of classic cocktail sauce, this brazen accoutrement is a perfect counter to the shrimp’s sweet flesh.  Worcestershire and fish sauce provide a savory depth of flavor.  Continue reading for the recipe.

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Ripe Plum Tabbouleh

Ripe Plum Tabbouleh

With the 4th of July just around the corner, I’ve been testing out some nontraditional sides that would fit in well at a barbeque.  Tabbouleh is a Middle Eastern salad typically made with bulgur, tomato, herbs, lemon and olive oil.  The flavors are fresh, bold and clean.  A perfect counter to the assortment of smokey, fatty meats usually found at a backyard barbeque.  Stone fruit just screams summer to me, so I decided to substitute in some ripe, juicy plums for the tomatoes.  This salad starts with small mound of sliced scallions.  Tiny jewels of ombre-hued plum and fiery red chile are added just before a fragrant flurry of chopped mint and parsley.  Textural bulgur is crumbled in at the end with a dressing made of olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper.  The finished salad is utterly addicting.  Because tabbouleh is dairy-free, it can sit out a party for a little while without worry of spoilage.  But I highly doubt it will sit around for too long before the whole bowl is finished.  Continue reading for the recipe.

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Ceviche Tostadas with Cilantro Cream

Ceviche Tostadas with Cilantro Cream

On a hot summer day, what could be better than a cool, refreshing fish dish that doesn’t require you to turn on the oven to cook?  These Ceviche Tostadas are made by marinating mild white fish and onions in a bath of pale green lime juice.  The citric acid “cooks” the fish in just over 1 hour (for medium-rare).  The fish is then flavored with a bright blend of green chile, fresh tomato and chopped cilantro.  What takes this dish to the next lev (#YumToTheNextLev) is a smooth, cilantro-flecked cream sauce.  A verdant tangle of cilantro is blitzed up with lime juice and mayo, creating a perfect counter to the zing of the ceviche.  So I urge you crack open an ice cold beer and give this recipe a go.  So easy.  So delicious.  Continue reading for more pictures of the ceviche plus a link to the recipe.

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