potato salad

potato salad

Potato salad, the quintessential summer staple. Making its way onto nearly every cookout menu, I find it to be one of those things that seems to complement a wide variety of both lunch and dinner options. Whether it’s at sun-drenched picnics or backyard bar-be-cues, moon-lit patios or sandy beaches, it screams summertime to me. Refreshing and satisfying. Super easy to throw together, too – making it a perfect last-minute and low-stress option.

There are so many variations on potato salad that nearly no two are identical; some prefer mayo, some mustard; some spicy, some plain; some laden with herbs, onions, and so forth. The best thing about potato salad, perhaps, is that you can easily make it your own. Leave out what you aren’t crazy about, and amp up the things you love. That being said, don’t go all-out until the salad has a chance to meld together in the refrigerator. A quick taste after you’ve assembled it will ensure you’re headed in the right direction, but a final taste a few hours later is necessary to ensure it’s seasoned to your liking. Serve with sandwiches, burgers, wraps – whichever summertime meal strikes your fancy.

potato salad ingredientspotato saladpotato salad

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potato salad

Everyone has their own twist on potato salad, and I’m no exception. To be expected, mine is one that has lots of fresh, savory ingredients, and a bit of heat. I use Russet potatoes here, but this potato salad would also be fabulous with red-skinned potatoes, as well. The sauce is vibrant and well-balanced with fresh herbs, Dijon mustard, red wine vinegar, and cayenne folded together into a bit of creamy mayonnaise. This version is well-dressed, but certainly not overly so. The level of heat can be customized to your liking, so be sure to taste as you go. Remember to chill the salad for a few hours before serving to properly let the flavors meld.

Serves 3-4 as a small side; recipe can be easily doubled or tripled

2 medium Russet potatoes, diced into 1-inch cubes
1/4 cup good-quality mayonnaise
1/4 heaping cup fresh chopped parsley [fresh is truly best here]
2 heaping tablespoons fresh minced chives
1/8 cup minced red onion
1 heaping tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
Generous amount of hot sauce [I used Frank's; probably about 2-3 tablespoons]
Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
Heavy dash of cayenne, to taste
Small sprig of parsley, for garnish

In a large pot of boiling and water, add a pinch of salt, stir, and add the diced potatoes. Stirring every so often, cook the potatoes just until fork-tender. You want the inside of the potato to no longer be raw, but still to maintain their structure so that they hold up well in the salad.

In a large mixing bowl [or serving bowl], vigorously stir the mayonnaise, parsley, chives, red onion, Dijon, red wine vinegar, and a few dashes of hot sauce. Taste the mixture and season to taste with sea salt, freshly cracked black pepper, cayenne, and additional hot sauce, to taste. Garnish with a small sprig of parsley. Cover and chill for a few hours, at a minimum, before serving.

© Simple Pairings. All rights reserved.

coconut brown butter cookies

coconut brown butter cookies

Big news – I’ve moved! As an apartment dweller for the better half of the last decade, I’m excited to take the next step into the world of townhouses. Just as many stairs, but essentially an apartment broken up into teeny pieces and separated by levels. It’s cozy and the change – as it often is – is utterly refreshing. Now that I’ve waded through all the boxes, I can really start to enjoy it, too.

Which brings me to these dreamy cookies. Post-move, now settled and comfortable, it’s time celebrate. What better way to celebrate than with seriously-contending-for-favorite-cookie-ever Coconut Brown Butter Cookies? With the first bite, this recipe easily transcended my highest cookie expectations. Perfectly sweet, floral, and richly flavored with nutty brown butter – these cookies are worthy to sit alongside exquisite bakery offerings. Absolutely divine.

coconut brown butter cookiescoconut brown butter cookiescoconut brown butter cookiescoconut brown butter cookies

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coconut brown butter cookies

Fabulously rich with coconut oil and browned butter, these cookies, absolutely packed with coconut flakes, are a tropical indulgence. They are two fabulous cookies made into one; the chewy, moist center of a drop cookie (think chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin, etc.) combined with the buttery, lacy edges of a florentine. Have I sold you yet? With added notes of pure vanilla and sea salt, we’re talking cookie heaven.

Makes about 2.5 dozen 3-inch cookies (about 2 tablespoons dough each)
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen, originally adapted from The City Bakery, via The Martha Stewart Show

1/2 cup (1 stick or 225 grams) unsalted butter
1-2 tablespoons water, as needed to bring the browned butter volume to 1/2 cup
1 1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons (175 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
Slightly heaped 1/2 teaspoon flaky sea salt [ideal] or 1/4 teaspoon table salt [if you absolutely must]
1/2 cup cold-pressed virgin coconut oil
1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated sugar
3/4 cup (145 grams) packed light-brown sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 cups (240 grams) dried, unsweetened coconut flakes or chips [I used these]

Over medium heat, melt the butter in a medium saucepan. Stir frequently as the butter slowly melts, then becomes foamy, then clear golden, then starts to brown and smell slightly nutty. Once the butter gets to this stage, watch it carefully and stir frequently, scraping bits from the bottom of the pan; continue to monitor the butter until it is nut-brown and fragrantly nutty, remove the butter from heat. Stir the butter again, scraping the bottom of the pan well, and pour into a 1/2 cup measuring cup. Add 1-3 tablespoons water, as needed to bring the browned butter volume up to a full 1/2 cup [this will depend on the water content of your butter.] Transfer to a larger vessel and chill completely in the fridge until the butter fully solidifies. [You can speed this process up by doing this in the freezer, but be sure to check back every 5 minutes or so to stir the butter to ensure it solidifies evenly.]

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a half-sheet pan with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat. Set aside.

Whisk flour, baking soda, and salt together in a medium-sized bowl. Set aside.

Thoroughly scrape the chilled browned butter and all the browned bits into a large mixing bowl, or bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add both sugars and cream the ingredients together until fluffy. Add the coconut oil and cream until well integrated. Add the egg and vanilla, and beat until combined, scraping down bowl as needed. Add the flour mixture into butter mixture and mix on a very slow speed until combined. Add coconut flakes/chips, and mix slowly, until just integrated. Do not over-mix.

Scoop 2 tablespoons of dough and pack tightly in the palm of your hand, if needed, and roll into a ball. Place onto the prepared tray. Repeat with remaining dough, leaving a few inches between each ball on the cookie sheet. [The dough will be slightly loose, but don't fret.] Bake for 12 to 14 minutes, or until the cookies are deeply golden. Note, if cookies have not spread as much as you see above, stir 2 teaspoons more water into cookie dough, mixing thoroughly, before baking off another tray. [See note at bottom for full explanation.] Once you’ve confirmed that you have the water level correct, roll and bake remaining cookies.

Let the cookies cool, still on the baking sheet, for another 5 minutes before transferring to a wire cooling rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container for up to a week.

Note: Leftover dough balls can be frozen and then later, baked directly from the freezer. Without thawing first, add 1-3 minutes for baking time to each batch.

About the water: [a note from Smitten Kitchen] When you brown the butter, water volume is lost, but not all types of butter contain the same amount of water. Most American butters need about one tablespoon of water to bring the volume to the needed 1/2 cup. However, should you find that your first batch of cookies is too thick, a little extra water is all you’ll need to get the texture right. If you find this daunting, take a deep breath, and be assured that some of the best cookies of your life are waiting for you after the jump.

© Simple Pairings. All rights reserved.

cherry cobbler

cherry cobbler

Happy Fourth of July! To celebrate, I decided that a deeply red and wonderfully fruity Cherry Cobbler would be a delicious, festive dessert. To help taper summer’s heat and its thick blanket of humidity, the cobbler is topped with a generous scoop of vanilla bean ice cream. I love the cobbler dough in this recipe; it’s reminiscent of a tender, fluffy biscuit, and it makes for a wonderful vehicle to both harbor warm cherries underneath, while supporting slowly melting ice cream on top. Perfect for low-key evenings with sparklers, or grandiose nights with skies filled with fireworks.

cherry cobblercherry cobblercherry cobbler

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cherry cobbler

As with most fruit cobblers, the amount of added sugar you’ll need for the fruit portion entirely depends on preference and the sweetness of the fruit that you’re using. Even within the realm of cherries, there is a vast range in the level of tartness to sweetness in the varieties you can select at the market. Taste as you go, and adjust accordingly.

Serves 6-8
Adapted from 101 Cookbooks

For the cherries:
2 1/2 cups sweet cherries, pitted
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/4 cup fine-grain natural cane sugar, more to taste [see note at top]

For the cobbler dough:
1 1/4 whole wheat pastry flour [can substitute unbleached all-purpose]
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/3 cup fine-grain natural cane sugar [can substitute brown sugar]
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 egg
1/2 cup buttermilk
3 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled a bit
Vanilla bean ice cream or freshly whipped cream, for serving, optional

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F, with the oven rack on the middle-top position. Butter or grease a 9-inch or 10-inch round tart pan (or small rectangular casserole dish, which I used) with coconut oil.

In a small bowl, gently toss the cherries with the cornstarch and sugar [see note at top of recipe.] Set aside.

Combine the flour, baking powder, natural/brown sugar, and salt in a large bowl. In a separate, small bowl, whisk together the egg and the buttermilk, and then whisk in the butter. Fold the buttermilk mixture into the flour mixture until it’s just combined.

Briefly stir the prepared cherries a few times, and pour them into the prepared pan. Top the cherries dollops of dough [I used a small ice cream scoop, about the size of two tablespoons.] Use a rubber spatula or the back of a spoon to nudge the dough around to form a more even layer, leaving a few cracks, if desired. [The cracks will allow cherry juice to bubble up during cooking; it's quite rustic and provides a lovely presentation.] Lift the pan an inch or so off the counter and gently drop it back onto the counter to release any air bubbles from the dough. Repeat a few times.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the top of the cobbler is golden brown and evenly cooked through. Serve warm with ice cream or freshly whipped cream.

© Simple Pairings. All rights reserved.

garlic herb croutons

garlic herb croutons

Sure, I’d love to be the type of person who could happily gnaw their way through a bunch of raw kale, but alas, I am not. I am one who finds salad refuge in the world of toppings; dried fruits, nuts, cheeses, crisp veggies, fresh berries, and of course, well-seasoned croutons. I think those toasty, savory bites of artisan bread can transform a salad to quite extraordinary. You can buy them in stores, but I prefer mine on the au naturale side and preservative-free. Plus, homemade is so much more tasty and fun.

garlic herb croutonsgarlic herb croutons

Start with that beautiful round of artisan bread you accidentally left on the counter and forgot to serve during dinner, the one that is now past peak freshness for slicing and buttering; the one that is now perfect for crouton-making. Slice into 1-inch cubes, toss in olive oil, then massage with minced garlic and herbs. Broiling produces perfectly toasty edges, but maintains a beautifully chewy interior. Add to your favorite salad and enjoy.

garlic herb croutons

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garlic herb croutons

Although humble, a savory and well-seasoned crouton can make just about any salad quite extraordinary. Simple and ready in a matter of minutes, homemade croutons are unlike any other. This makes a relatively small batch, enough for a few days’ worth of salads or a medium dinner party. You don’t want too many leftovers because these croutons are best crispy on the outside, yet chewy on the inside – the way they are straight out of the oven.

1 small round artisan bread, about 4 ounces, preferably day-old and slightly stale
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1-2 cloves garlic, smashed, to taste
1 teaspoon dried parsley
Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Line a broiling pan with aluminum foil and mist lightly with oil. Set aside. Set the oven rack to the top position, nearest to the broiler.

Slice the bread into 1-inch cubes. Drizzle the oil over the bread, toss gently, and lightly massage the garlic and parsley throughout the pieces. Dust with sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper. Spread the bread cubes into an even layer onto the prepared pan, without any overlap, leaving spaces between each piece. Broil for a few minutes, until golden, crispy on the outside, and still chewy inside. [Note, the time range can vary wildly depending on the temperature of your oven, so keep a close eye on the bread during the broiling process.] Cool completely before storing.

© Simple Pairings. All rights reserved.

cilantro avocado toast with fried egg and salsa

cilantro avocado toast with fried egg and salsa

There are mornings when the sun rises and signals the need for bold, impactive flavors to begin the day – ingredients which not only welcome you back from your slumber, but ones that spring you forward for what’s ahead with enthusiasm. So many of my favorite ingredients are brought together into this one dish: avocado, cilantro, salsa, and a delicate fried egg – all perched atop toast for a deeply satisfying and incredibly addicting breakfast. I’m particularly excited about this dish because it highlights the fresh cilantro from my balcony’s herb garden! Oh, did I mention it’s quick and easy? So much so, that it fits the bill for a hurried weekday morning. Such a beautiful thing. This recipe is a spin-off of the humble but delightful avocado toast with fried egg, a recipe in which I plan to use as a starting point for many variations to come. I’ve only just begun.

cilantro avocado toast with fried egg and salsacilantro avocado toast with fried egg and salsacilantro avocado toast with fried egg and salsacilantro avocado toast with fried egg and salsa

Can we talk about the size of that egg yolk for a minute? Seriously. That’s a free-range, local chicken egg raised on a natural diet in a happy home. There are a lot of reasons to support eating locally [also check out this, this, and this], and I fully suggest checking out your local farmers and gardeners and what they have to offer. The produce is fresher, more nutritious, and above all, pretty extraordinary. Hence the incredible yolk!

cilantro avocado toast with fried egg and salsacilantro avocado toast with fried egg and salsa

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cilantro avocado toast with fried egg and salsa

A spiced up version of one of my favorite breakfasts, this dish is incredibly nutritious and filling, despite such a humble list of ingredients. It’s easy to put together, but timing is everything. A hot egg over warm toast with cool and creamy avocado is such a combination of bliss – but some of that effect is lost if the process isn’t smooth. The idea is to have your freshly toasted warm bread spread with avocado just ready as the egg finishes cooking. Play around with the process to get it just right in your kitchen.

Serves 1

Oil, for frying the egg, preferably coconut
1 slice multi-grain bread, preferably whole-wheat and speckled with seeds
1 extra-large egg
Pink Himalayan Sea Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 ripe avocado
Salsa of choice, for serving
Fresh cilantro, chopped, for serving
Cayenne, or paprika, if desired

Warm a small skillet over medium heat and drop a teaspoon of oil into the pan; swirl to coat. As the oil warms, place the bread in the oven to toast. Add the egg to the hot skillet, and dust with sea salt and pepper, to taste. As the egg cooks, slice an avocado in half. Using a soup spoon, scoop out thin spoonfuls of avocado and spread it on top of the toast. [Doing this in several 'thin' layers will be much easier than scooping out the entire half of the avocado and trying to spread it into one layer.] Sprinkle with sea salt and pepper, to taste.

Top with the hot fried egg after it finishes cooking. Add a few spoonfuls of salsa, sprinkle with a generous amount of fresh cilantro. Dust with cayenne or paprika, and serve hot.

© Simple Pairings. All rights reserved.

coconut muffins

coconut muffins

Continuing with my celebration and enchantment of summer, I yearn for all things tropical. I find solace in these things – the peaceful, repetitive waves; the energizing, beaming sunshine; the refreshing breezes – it’s all so absolutely blissful. I’m counting down the days until my next beach trip and until then, I’m bringing as much of the beach as I can into my everyday life. Hence the need for coconut muffins.

coconut muffinscoconut muffinscoconut muffinscoconut muffins

Fragrant and light, rich in flavor but tender in crumb, these muffins bring a pinch of a salty, sandy beach into your own kitchen with very little effort. Whimsy, moist, and luxurious, they are excellent additions to slow mornings, weekday lunches, or even midnight treats. Frankly, they’re good whenever you can get one, because a bit of the tropics any time is highly recommended.

coconut muffinscoconut muffins

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coconut muffins

Floral and rich, these muffins will give you a taste of the tropics in your own kitchen. These muffins are delightful; they are generously filled with coconut flavor and a moist crumb. When making these, it’s important for the yogurt and the egg to be at room temperature, because if they have a chill to them, they will seize up the coconut oil when they are all whisked together. This is not to say the task becomes impossible, but certainly more difficult, and your batter may not fully incorporate.

12 muffins, about 1/4 cup batter each.
Adapted, barely, from Smitten Kitchen

1/2 cup (110 grams) virgin unrefined coconut oil
3/4 cup (95 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (60 grams) whole wheat flour [you can substitute all-purpose]
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1 cup (230 grams) full fat Greek-style yogurt, room temperature is best [I use Fage]
1/3 cup (65 grams) granulated sugar
1 large egg, room temperature is best
1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract
3/4 heaping cup (>90 grams) sweetened shredded or flaked coconut, divided*

*Note: I used 1/2 cup of the more delicate shredded coconut for folding inside the batter, and 1/4 heaping cup of the larger and bolder flaked coconut for sprinkling on top of the muffins. Feel free to use all shredded, all flaked, or some of both, as you like it.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Grease 12 muffin cups with butter, coconut oil, or olive oil, or alternatively, line the cups with papers.

In a medium double-boiler, warm your coconut oil over low heat, just until it melts and it is lukewarm. [Alternatively, warm the oil in a small saucepan; the double-boiler method just eliminates the need to clean another pan.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, and salt. Stir in 1/2 cup of the coconut until combined. Set aside.

Whisk together the coconut oil, yogurt, sugar, egg, and vanilla. Whisk vigorously if your coconut oil starts to seize up. Stir in the dry ingredients until just combined. Divide batter among prepared muffin cups [I used a large ice-cream scoop] then sprinkle the tops with remaining 1/4 heaping cup coconut, about 1 to 2 teaspoons each. Bake until a tester inserted into the center comes out batter-free, about 15-20 minutes. Start checking at 10 minutes if you’re using a convection oven, like me. Transfer muffins to a rack and let cool. Store in an air-tight container.

© Simple Pairings. All rights reserved.

celebrating 100 posts

It’s hard to believe that I’m already posting my one-hundredth blog post. It feels only as if I launched this site a few months ago. Time has flown by, and even in the short span of 100 posts, I love reminiscing on where I first started, and how Simple Pairings has grown. I wanted to celebrate with a recap of some of my most cherished posts, and some of your favorites, as well.

avocado toast with fried egg
Avocado Toast with Fried Egg, the most popular main dish recipe on this site! I love how something so simple and easy made such a high ranking with you guys – because in essence, that’s what my favorite style of cooking is all about: letting wonderful and natural ingredients shine. This has been one of my all-time favorite breakfasts, one of very few for which I will dedicate stove-time to on hurried weekday mornings. Ready in a matter of minutes, it’s flavorful, healthy, and so incredibly satisfying. Avocados and eggs are one of my favorite pairings.

buffalo chicken soup in bowl
Buffalo Chicken Soup, sure, it’s past soup season [officially, I suppose], but that doesn’t make this soup any less enjoyable. Spicy [as much as you like], hearty, and cheesy, it’s one of my favorite soups [and yours, too!] that I’m always sad when its leftovers are depleted. It reheats beautifully, making weeknight dinners a snap.

potstickers plated
Potstickers with Scallion Dipping Sauce, one of my favorite Chinese dishes, they were something I knew I had to learn how to make at home. Once you find your groove, they’re easy to make on autopilot during an low-key afternoon, and so unbelievably affordable. Plus, they’re so much healthier and flavorful to make yourself. Alongside homemade scallion dipping sauce, they’re a marvelous meal just by themselves.

roasted garlic hummus
Roasted Garlic Hummus, simple and healthy, yet so much better when it’s homemade. Being the garlic fanatic that I am, I naturally favor a garlic-laden hummus, and it’s fantastic on sandwiches, as a dip, by itself, in a train, in a car, on a bus… I love it especially with a hearty bread, shown here with a homemade rye.

bbq
Smoked Pork BBQ with Sandwich Slaw – one of my favorite photographs from the very early days of this blog. It screams summertime to me, and reminds me of backyard sangria, sun-drenched afternoons, and of course, the fantastic sandwiches after an afternoon of smoking barbecue. Crunchy slaw atop juicy smoked pork, tucked between fresh bakery rolls – what’s not to like?

banana walnut pancakes plated
Banana Walnut Pancakes, tender and flavorful, these pancakes are an Ina Garten specialty, and she’s one of my biggest cooking inspirations. She’s elegant and wonderful – and these pancakes are, too. If you adore pancakes and bananas [who doesn't?!], you’ll love these. Besides the whole adorable Ina vibe I get, they have a whole palm-tree-on-the-beach-Jack-Johnson energy, too. These pancakes can transition any standard morning into something magnificent.

cinnamon rolls sliced in pan
Ultimate Cinnamon Rolls, decadent, gooey, and boldly fragrant with cinnamon, these brioche-based cinnamon rolls will comfort you in the harshest of winters, the windiest of afternoons, and the rainiest of mornings. I love these in the cold winter months, where hibernation is always made a bit more bearable by a warm and sticky cinnamon roll. They’re fantastic on their own, but truly ultimate when topped with cream cheese icing.

guinness, whiskey, and irish cream chocolate cake
Guinness, Whiskey, and Irish Cream Chocolate Cake, a Saint Patrick’s day tradition now. Such complimentary flavors, this cake can also be made into cupcakes. It’s a labor of love, as this cake is no in-and-out task, but you’ll savor every bite. A treat each year that is always met with a sparkle in the eyes.

baklava
Baklava, one of my family’s favorite things I’ve ever made. This easily made it’s way onto plates for breakfast, lunch, and dinners during the holiday season – and without regrets. It takes a bit of patience to assemble the layers, but it’s a meditative thing that I particularly enjoy. I have such fond memories of making baklava while chatting and catching up with family back home. The best part about this? It gets better as it sits. A dessert that ages like a fine wine – the golden ticket, yes?

French Silk Pie
French Silk Pie, the chocolatiest, smoothest, richest, most positively indulgent and satisfying pie I’ve ever made. Guys, one slice, and you’ll melt into the floor [in the best way possible, of course.] Topped with homemade whipped cream and chocolate shavings, it’s as beautiful as it is delicious.

turmeric and lemon infused water
Turmeric and Lemon Infused Water, the most popular recipe on this site! It’s my go-to warm drink to begin the day, hydrating, detoxifying, and energizing you for what’s ahead. I love those first quiet moments of the day, before the rest of the world starts to stir, with a warm cup of this infused water in hand. I struggled with becoming a ‘morning person’ in the sense that I don’t like to jerk into the day abruptly, and this warm beverage soothes the transition from dream-laden sleep to wide-eyed action quite soothingly.

An Afternoon on the Waterfront: A Weekend Recap, one edition of my ‘lately’ series of posts. This shot was from a stunningly beautiful corner of a marina I visited back home. Such a fabulous view to begin an afternoon! The waterfront has an intriguing way of weaving both the feelings of calm and excitement into one seamless sensation. I feel so at peace when I’m around water, be it freshwater rivers or salty oceans; the waterfront is my happy place. I hope you guys have enjoyed the sneak peeks of life outside my kitchen – it’s been fun to share other parts of my life, as well!

Just wanted to say a huge thank you to all my readers – you’ve made blogging such an incredibly rewarding and satisfying endeavor! Although we’re tucked behind computer screens, I very much feel connected within the community – you guys are so supportive and encouraging. I love hearing from you guys and look forward to what’s down the road for SP! What are things in which you like to see more? Questions? Suggestions? Hit me. To 100 more.
xx L

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© 2014 Simple Pairings. All rights reserved.

chicken enchiladas verdes

enchiladas

Would my al fresco kick be complete without a Mexican kick tightly twisted throughout? Of course not. The thought of a mildly-spicy tomatillo salsa and layer of cheese atop chicken enchiladas sounded nothing short of fabulous. When I discovered just how easy enchiladas are to whip up, it was a done deal. With warm weather and summer just on the horizon, simple meals are incredibly enticing. Long days in the sun beckon strongly, and the thought of long afternoons of prep work fade back into the memories of winter.

salsa verdeenchiladas in processenchiladas

The boldly flavored salsa verde is a breeze to bring together, as it only requires a simple boil session and round in the blender. The enchiladas aren’t any more difficult; just stuff the tortillas, roll, and bake. A dusting of cheese [my choice, Queso Fresco] completes the dish. Mildly spicy, refreshing, and satisfying – these enchiladas are light and perfect for the warmer nights we’ve been seeing. Nothing finishes a relaxing day at the pool like a plate of enchiladas, yes?

enchiladasenchiladas plated

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chicken enchiladas verdes

Simple, fresh, and satisfying, these enchiladas come together quickly. They shine beautifully with homemade tomatillo salsa, which is also a breeze to make.

Serves 4-6
Adapted, barely, from Marcela Valladolid

9 tomatillos, husked and rinsed
1/2 medium white onion
1 serrano chile – skip this if you are averse to heat
1 yellow chile (guero) [I couldn't find a guero chile, so I used a Hungarian Wax chile]
2 cloves garlic
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves, loosely packed
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/4 cup olive oil
6 (6-inch) flour tortillas [you can use corn tortillas if you like]
1 pound boneless skinless chicken breast, cooked and shredded
1/2 cup Mexican crema or sour cream, if desired [I skipped this]
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese or Queso Fresco [I used Queso Fresco]

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Add the tomatillos, onion, serrano, yellow chile, and 3/4 cup water in a medium, heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, cover, and let the ingredients simmer until the tomatillos turn olive-green color, about 10 minutes. Pour the contents of the pot to a blender. Add the garlic and cilantro and blend until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.

Warm the oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat. Briefly fry the tortillas, one at a time, until golden brown but still pliable, about 10 seconds per side. Drain the tortillas on paper towels.

Spread approximately 1/3 cup sauce in a 9 by 13-inch glass baking dish, or in a similar-sized dish that is roughly the width of the tortillas. Divide the shredded chicken evenly amongst the tortillas and roll them up tightly like a cigar, placing each enchilada seam-side-down in the dish. Tightly pack them next to each other to prevent unrolling. Pour the remaining salsa verde over the top of the enchiladas. Drizzle with the Mexican crema and sprinkle the cheese on top. Bake until the cheese melts and starts to brown in spots, about 30 minutes. Serve immediately.

© Simple Pairings. All rights reserved.

cranberry banana bread

cranberry banana bread

I love the pairing of tart + sweet, which makes cranberries and bananas such a great combination. This bread has everything you love about a super-moist ultimate banana bread, but with the added twist of tart cranberries speckled throughout each slice. I love this fresh change-up on such a classic baked good. Besides, look how stunning those beautiful red berries are in this bread!

cranberriesdry ingredientscranberries + dry ingredients

I like to stir the cranberries into the dry ingredients first before folding them into the batter because this helps to prevent the berries from sinking to the bottom of the loaf during baking. As with my previous ultimate banana bread, this loaf requires an extra step to create a banana juice reduction. Don’t let that stand in your way, though, because it is no way strenuous. It contributes to a far superior loaf, one that is packed with banana flavor, moistness, and sweetness.

cranberry banana breadcranberry banana bread

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cranberry banana bread

Now, it’s critical to use heavily speckled, almost, if not totally, black bananas here. Don’t sell your banana bread short! It makes a world of difference. The original recipe called for another banana, sliced and shingled on top of the loaf before baking, but I skipped that step.

Adapted slightly from Cook’s Illustrated: Revolutionary Recipes (2013)

1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup cranberries, rinsed and picked over
5 extra-large extra-ripe bananas, peeled [if using frozen bananas, thaw and skip the microwave step below]
3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed [I used dark brown sugar and loved it]
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled [slightly]
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup cranberries, rinsed and dried

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare a 9×5-inch non-stick loaf pan by misting it with olive oil.

Whisk flour, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl. Stir in the cranberries to coat them in the flour mixture (this will prevent the cranberries from sinking to the bottom of the loaf.) Set aside.

Place bananas in a glass bowl and microwave for approximately 5 minutes, or until the bananas are very soft and have released their juice. Pour bananas and liquid into the bowl in a fine-mesh strainer, placed on top of a large bowl to collect the liquid. Let the bananas rest in the strainer until you have approximately 3/4 cup liquid, stirring the bananas every so often, if needed to help drain juice. [This took me only about 5 minutes without any stirring.]

Transfer banana juice to a small sauté pan, and reduce it over medium-high heat, stirring often, until you have approximately 1/4 cup juice remaining in the pan. Watch it closely, so that it doesn’t burn.

Pour reduced banana juice into a large bowl and add the bananas. Mash together until combined, leaving some larger and medium-sized chunks of banana intact. Quickly whisk in the brown sugar, melted butter, eggs, and vanilla.

Pour banana mixture into the dry ingredients, and stir until almost combined, leaving a few visible streaks of flour within the batter. Pour batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top into an even layer.

Bake for 45-60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the bread comes out clean. Do not over-bake. [In my convection oven, it only took 45 minutes.] Remove the loaf from the oven, and let cool while still in the pan for 10 minutes. Remove the loaf from the pan and let rest on a wire rack until completely cooled. Slice and serve.

Notes:
Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and store within an air-tight container. This bread will keep well for a few days.

© 2013 Simple Pairings. All rights reserved.

lately

Happy Memorial Day! The sun is gradually getting stronger, days are getting longer, and summer is right around the corner. I love this time of year – warmth and sunshine abound, but it’s still relatively breezy and comfortable. I love sitting out on my balcony to drink my morning coffee or a sunset glass of wine – the temperature lately has been perfect. Perhaps morning espresso on the balcony will now be enough motivation to help drag me out of bed on weekdays. One day I hope to be one of those people who jubilantly bound out of bed at the first ring of the alarm, but until then, I gravitate towards relaxed mornings. Other than leisure time on the balcony, here’s what I’ve been up to lately outside the kitchen.

It’s pool weather, ladies and gents! I’ve been loving it. I’m moving soon, which means I’m maxing out time spent at my pool before it’s a thing of my past. [Sadly, my new place is sans-pool.] I’m embracing peak tanning hours and total poolside relaxation mode like never before. Laying out at the pool – the life.

A celebratory trip to a local French bistro led to the selection of this chocolate-filled croissant from my boyfriend. Croissants are one of my favorite indulgences – and this dark chocolate variety was fabulous. The dark chocolate was a welcome contrast to the richness of the buttery pastry. I went with a croissant, too – but of a slightly different variety…

My pick was an almond-filled croissant - my favorite flavored croissant! A creamy almond paste in the center with sliced and toasted almonds on top, dusted with powdered sugar. So sweet, rich, and decadent. Alongside a strong cup of coffee? Absolute bliss.

Sunshine and green – just so beautiful. I adore how revitalized everything is after the harshness of wintertime. Natural beauty is everywhere this time of year! Birds chirping and bees buzzing [full disclosure - totally still scared of bees]; I eagerly await the glowing fireflies.

I love trying new things, especially when it involves avocado. This avocado brûlée was a sensational twist on the classic guacamole. It was creamy and warmly spiced, served with baked pita crisps. In typical brûlée fashion, the top was caramelized, and it made for such great texture for such a creamy dip. Consequently, the kitchen torch has moved up on the list of things that I want to add to my kitchen.

I love a good date night, and this was the main dish from dinner – bacon, egg, and cheddar pizza straight out of the brick oven. There is nothing quite like that chewy, crispy, and toasty crust that a brick oven can produce – I think it’s unrivaled! Paired with a glass of wine and a wonderful date – even better.

A rainy day coffee date with my friend Alicia from Kitchen Konfidential and a gigantic-but-not-regretted chocolate chip cookie. See the size of those chocolate chunks? Need I say more? I’ve adopted the mentality lately that cravings are meant to be satisfied, and so far, it’s paid off nicely. The squashing of the heart’s dreams, especially when it comes to chocolate chip cookies, is just not something I’m into lately. Life is short. Go for the cookie!

What have you guys been up to lately? Wishing you guys endless springtime beauty and sunshine.

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