Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Kurt & Nina Come to Dallas

Guess who came to town a couple weeks ago? Kurt and Nina! After a fun visit to hang out with them in Tucson a few months ago, they decided to make the trek to Dallas. We had a great time catching up and showing them around town. Here are the highlights from the weekend (I doubt you'll be surprised to discover that most of them involve food)!

First up was one of our favorite downtown McKinney combos: Pie Night! To start things off, you get yourself a couple pizza pies at Cadillac Pizza. Then you follow that up with heavenly dessert pie at Emporium Pies (favorites this time around were the Cherry Bomb cherry pie and the Mellow Yellow lemon chiffon pie). And that's it, simple as that!
We spent a little time enjoying the warm summer air out on the back porch (and I finally got to light the mason jar lanterns that we made)!
There was TexMex to be eaten and margaritas to be sipped at La Hacienda Ranch in Frisco. Because you can't visit Texas without indulging in a little TexMex!
We made the trek into Dallas so we could poke around the Bishop Arts District. It's such a fun neighborhood, and we discover something new each time we visit. This time, we meandered around the neighborhood, sampled delicious (and sometimes delightfully weird) homemade chocolates and toffees at Dude Sweet Chocolate, cooled off with icy cold Topo Chico at The Wild Detectives (a cute coffee shop with a quirky book selection), sipped glasses of locally made cider at Bishop Cider, and we cozied up to a table at the wonderfully divey Ten Bells Tavern for local craft brews and bar snacks.
 Here we are out and about in Bishop Arts!
Finally after a long, arduous afternoon of food and was time for dinner at Stock and Barrel! Gosh I love this place. Favorite dishes of the evening were the avocado toast topped with chorizo (I don't care how trendy it is -- it's delicious), the goat cheese dumplings, the duck confit, and the ribeye.
One morning, we had a laid back breakfast around the kitchen table thanks to Rudy's and their brisket breakfast tacos (talk about killing two birds with one stone for out-of-state guests -- BBQ and breakfast tacos)! Another morning, we drove across town for breakfast at the oldest restaurant in McKinney: Bill Smith's Cafe! While it's hard to go wrong with anything on their menu, I love to get the chicken fried steak and eggs or the taco omelette. Or you can go my husband's route and get pancakes, eggs, and bacon...with a side of biscuits and gravy! So much food!
Kurt and Nina were also nice enough to go with us to the Local Yocal to participate in their Steak Class! A cattle rancher husband and wife team who believe in high quality meats that are raised properly (you know, eating grass and stuff like that without exposed to hormones or antibiotics) started their own meat market to butcher and sell locally raised meats along with some other locally made products.  The class involves a "lecture" from the owner himself about the meat industry, a tour of the butcher shop, a tutorial on all of the different cuts of steak along with where they come from on the cow, and finally (they save the best for last) they grill 17 (seventeen!) different cuts of steak for you to sample! I don't think I've ever had so much steak in my life. It was so fun to compare the different cuts, and they were all the best bites of steak I think I've ever had. It was a really fantastic experience. It was educational, fun, and delicious (also note that the class is BYOB, so feel free to bring your favorite beer or wine along)!
 That's a big side of beef (and I don't mean Kurt)!
After all of the steak was gone and the class drew to a close, we piled into the car and drove 45 minutes north to Sherman to hang out at 903 Brewers for their 2nd Anniversary Party! So far, they're our favorite brewery in the area, so it was fun to introduce them to Kurt and Nina, fellow craft brew enthusiasts. Throughout the party they were constantly tapping new beers brewed solely for the anniversary party. Some were amazing, some fell a little shy of expectations, but they were all fun to try!
 Hanging out at by the taps (these three are beer festival pros)!
For their last day in town, we went to Snug for their breakfast sandwiches. Snug is just the coziest, cutest little local coffee shop on the square in McKinney, and we always try to take guests there if we can!
Finally, we played a little golf at Top Golf (I came in last, as usual, but it's still surprisingly fun) followed by lunch at Freebirds before we had to make the trek back to the airport.
Such a fun weekend with sweet friends! Who wants to come visit us next??

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Grilled Pizza with White Beans, Spinach, & Yellow Cherry Tomatoes

I've mentioned my love of grilled pizza before when we hosted a grilled pizza party for friends. It's fun to make, a cinch to throw together thanks to fresh pizza dough at the grocery store, and ridiculously versatile. Whenever warm weather and grilling season arrives, it's one of our favorite things to add back into our dinner rotation, but since this spring has been so rainy in Texas, the grill has been a bit neglected. Until now! This week has been sunny and beautiful, so when I saw this White Bean and Spinach Pizza recipe from The Kitchn, I knew it was the perfect inspiration for our first grilled pizza of the season! So without further ado, let's get to the pizza.
1 ball of fresh pizza dough
Flour for rolling out dough
1/3 cup olive oil
1 large garlic clove
4 oz taleggio, rind removed
Grated mozzarella
1 can of cannellini beans (though you wont need the whole can)
A handful of fresh spinach
6 or so yellow cherry tomatoes, halved

Light the grill, and let it get as hot as possible.
(Warning: my grilling instructions will be a bit lacking, as my husband is in charge of the grill at our house).

While the grill heats, toss and roll out your pizza dough.
(We try to get ours as thin as we can and as round as we can, though it usually ends up pretty oddly shaped. There's no judgment here. It'll still taste good).

Also, heat the olive oil in a small pan on the stove over medium heat. Once hot, toss in the minced garlic and let simmer for a few minutes to infuse the olive oil with the flavor of the garlic.

Once the grill is hot, toss on the pizza dough. Close the lid, and cook for 1.5 to 2 minutes.
(We use a wooden pizza peel dusted with semolina to prevent sticking. One good quick jerk of the arm should slide it from the peel to the grill).

Once the bottom has crisped nicely, remove the dough from the grill, and flip it over so that you can decorate the cooked side with the toppings.

Brush the crust with the garlic-infused olive oil, and top with roughly torn pieces of tallegio and the grated mozzarella. Scatter with a good handful of white beans, tomato halves, and fresh spinach leaves.
(Try to avoid overloading the pizza too much so that everything will heat through and melt nicely in the quick amount of time required to cook the bottom of the crust)

Return the pizza to the grill, close the lid, and cook for another 1.5 to 2 minutes. The bottom should be cooked and crispy (a few charred spots are fine), and the cheese should be melted.

Cut into pieces (I use kitchen shears), and serve immediately!

Friday, April 24, 2015

One Pot Chicken Orzo Salad with Blood Orange Vinaigrette

Can I tell you how long I've been wanting to share this recipe with you? It's been months since we improvised this little dinner number (you know, back when blood oranges were in season), and yet here I am, only just now letting you in on the secret. I love a warm pasta salad, and this one can be pulled together using just one pan. Orzo is tossed with a citrusy vinaigrette, shredded chicken, cilantro, toasted almonds, and sweet little pomegranate seeds, and the results are pretty darn good.
Serves 2-3

1 cup orzo
1 large chicken breast
1/3 cup sliced almonds
1/4 cup cilantro, roughly chopped
1/3 cup pomegranate seeds
1/4 cup juice from a blood orange juice
(regular orange would work fine too I bet)
2 Tb balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
salt and pepper

Heat a dry saucepan over medium heat. Once heated, toss in slivered almonds and toast for a few minutes, stirring and tossing occasionally, until the almonds begin to turn golden brown. Once toasted, remove the almonds to a bowl, and wipe out the saucepan.

Place the chicken breast in the same saucepan, season with salt, and cover with enough water to cover the chicken by about two inches.

Place the saucepan on a burner over high heat, and bring the water to a boil. Once the water comes to a boil reduce the heat, and let simmer for 10 minutes or so, until cooked through.

Remove the chicken from the water to a cutting board. Return the water in the saucepan to a boil. Once boiling, add in the orzo and another pinch of salt. Cook the orzo according to package directions (about 8 minutes).

While the orzo cooks, whisk together the blood orange juice, the balsamic vinegar, and a pinch of salt until the salt is dissolved. Then slowly whisk in the olive oil to make your dressing. You can also shred your chicken breast once it's cool enough to handle.

When the orzo is done, strain and return to the saucepan. Pour in about half of the salad dressing and toss in the shredded chicken. With the burner on medium-low, toss the orzo, chicken, and dressing and cook until the orzo has absorbed some of the dressing and the chicken is warm. Taste and add more dressing as desired.

Once warmed through and dressed to your liking, remove from the heat and toss with the chopped cilantro, about half of the pomegranate seeds, and a couple cracks of black pepper.

Serve warm (though I imagine that it would be good cold as well), topped with the remaining pomegranate seeds and almonds.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Texas Pimm's Cup

On a trip to London a couple of years ago, I ordered a Pimm's Cup on a whim while browsing around the Borough Market, and I was hooked. Pimm's is a gin-based liqueur that's traditionally mixed with lemonade, mint, cucumber, and strawberries to form one of life's perfect drinks. Since it's sometimes fun to riff on a classic, I tried giving it a Texas twist (or more accurately, a Mexican twist, beloved by Texans). Along with Pimm's and lemonade, I added a good splash of Lime Topo Chico, a sparkling mineral water imported from Mexico. I'm not sure if it can be found outside of Texas, but if you're in the Lone Star State or if you ever see a bottle, please buy it immediately!  The combination was a delicious one, as it adds a little fizz to the drink while keeping the sweetness of the lemonade. It's crisp and refreshing, perfect for sipping on a beautiful Texas spring day!
Serves 1

2 oz Pimm's No. 1
3 oz Lime Topo Chico
3 oz Lemonade
a few English cucumber slices, cut into half moons (regular cucumber will also work)
1 strawberry, thinly sliced
mint leaves, thinly sliced into ribbons

Fill a tall highball glass half full with ice.

Toss in a few cucumber slices, strawberry slices, and a good pinch of mint leaves.

Pour the Pimm's, lemonade, and Lime Topo Chico into the glass, and stir.

Serve with a straw, and enjoy!

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Pan-Seared Salmon over Arugula Salad

As much as I miss Boston, can I tell you how thrilled I am that warmer weather has arrived in Texas while winter lingers long past its welcome in New England? Hopefully this post finds you enjoying warmer weather as well, but if not, I'll try sending a little Texas sunshine your way, because Spring has arrived. And with the arrival of spring, so returns my excitement for making salads again!

One of the first meals we cooked in our new house was this beautiful recipe from Serious Eats. While perfect without a single tweak, I couldn't help myself from throwing in a few more things here and there. I've added a splash of soy sauce for the pan-seared salmon. And into the salad, I tossed cucumber slices for a little extra crunch and mandarin oranges for a little sweetness to balance out the bite of the arugula. I feel like mandarin oranges are a little "un-cool," but you know what? They taste good, and they add a pretty pop of color as well.
Serves 2

2 4-6 oz salmon fillets, skin on
2 tsp soy sauce
3-4 cups baby arugula
1/2 cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 can of mandarin oranges, drained
1/2 avocado, diced
1 Tb lemon juice
2 Tb olive oil + 1 Tb olive oil
salt and pepper

Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Pour in a tablespoon or so of olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Once the oil is hot, place the salmon in the pan, skin side-down.

Cook for about 6 minutes, until the skin has crisped nicely. About 1-2 minutes into the cooking process, pour a good splash of soy sauce over the top of each fillet.

While the fish cooks, make the dressing by whisking together lemon juice and a pinch of salt until the salt is dissolved. Then whisk in the remaining 2 Tb of olive oil.

Once the salmon skin is nice and crisp and the fish is cooked about halfway through, gently flip the fillets, lower the heat to medium-low, and cook for another 2-3 minutes, until a thermometer inserted reads 130-140 degrees (130 is medium).

While the fish finishes, toss the arugula, cucumber, and avocado with the dressing. Divide onto two plates and scatter with the mandarin oranges.

Once the fish is done, remove from the pan, and place on top of the salad, skin side-up. Serve immediately, and enjoy!