One of the items on my cooking bucket list for years has been to learn how to make pho soup. A big bowl of comforting, warm, aromatic, fresh, piled-high-with-garnishes, awkward-to-pronounce-but-awesome-to-taste Vietnamese pho.
Pho is one of my most comforting of comfort foods. I love it on snowy winter days and in the blazing heat of summer. I love it at my favorite hole-in-the-wall restaurant in Kansas City, and I love finding new Vietnamese restaurants when I travel. I love it when I’m feeling great, and it is definitely my preferred noodle soup of choice (sayonarra, chicken noodle!) when I’m sick. Totally not kidding — when I caught a cold in Barcelona this past winter, I skipped tapas for a night and tracked down the one Vietnamese restaurant in the neighborhood for a steaming hot bowl of pho. It hit the spot — as did the glass of sangria that came with it. When in Spain… :)
**We interrupt your regularly scheduled foodie talk for a brief announcement — I GOT A NEW COMPUTER!!!!**
Ok, I know that the Apple store is always packed and people buy new computers all the time. But I am the ridiculously proud owner of a new computer today — one that will not shut down on me 3+ times a day, one that is splatter-free (sorry – watch a little too much Hulu in the kitchen!), and one that, um, WORKS. My last Macbook gave me a mostly-awesome last 6 years, but I am ready to retire it and finally have a pretty new screen to edit photos and talk with you all. Hallelujah!
One of my favorite places in my neighborhood market is this fantastic Middle Eastern market, always overflowing with fresh pita bread and naan, endless $1 spices by the scoop, and all of the nuts, grains, and everything Middle Eastern you could dream of. But more than anything, I love the great guys who run the place. And now that I live across the street, we get to see each other wonderfully often.
So yesterday when I walked over to pick up a few scoops of lentils, they of course asked what was on the menu. As soon as I mentioned “salmon”, their elderly mother who was sitting behind the counter immediately started talking a million miles an hour in her native language. Her son translated, “She says you must cook salmon and lentils this way — cumin, coriander, cilantro, salt, pepper and a nice bit of lemon juice. It is the best way. You will love it.”
My crazy-busy season of the year has officially hit. From conferences and launching new programs at work, to teaching my first-ever cooking class last night at church (SO fun!), to taking my choir on the road to sing in a national gospel choir competition in St. Louis (believe it!), to our fitness challenge at work, to weddings and concerts and times out with friends galore…somehow I haven’t had a night at home to myself now in weeks. Nor, apparently, has there been much time to blog. Or cook. Eeks. (I’m working to remedy this!)
But as you’ve read on here before, one of my favorite defaults when pressed for time is to bring home the most deliciously-smelling item at the grocery store — a rotisserie chicken. I’m telling you — they are little miracles. So delicious, easy, and versatile. I usually just cook for one or two, so I generally can stretch mine into at least three recipes. Love it!
Growing up, I was the girl who always ordered quesadillas. At all of the great local Mexican restaurants my family loved, at Applebee’s (don’t judge – I used to love theirs!), and occasionally even by request at home — quesadillas were always my happy default.
Thankfully, I’d say my food preferences have by now broadened a bit. (Although any KC-ers know I often order the parmesan-crusted shrimp quesadillas at Cactus!) But I still love making them at home! So easy. So quick. And SO versatile — love tossing in whatever random combinations of ingredients I have on hand!
I have had the privilege of taking tomatillo salsa-making lessons not once, but twice this summer. Once was during my fabulous Mexican cooking course at the Culinary Institute of America (read all about my adventures here, here, and here!). But a few weeks before that, I actually had a fun evening cooking and making all sorts of rockin’ salsa, guacamole, tacos and carnitas with my friend, Ita!
Interestingly enough — in addition to being absolutely delicious (and addictive!), the recipes for tomatillo salsa verde from Chef Remolina and Ita were identical! Kid you not. I shouldn’t have been surprised — Ita was born and raised in Oaxaca, and our course at the CIA was on Pueblan and Oaxacan cooking. But still, it was fun to see the traditional recipes really line up!
This grilled tilapia with a yummy cherry salsa could not have been easier…and tastier! Since our heat index has been hanging in the triple digits all week, I actually took the easy route and just cooked the fish on the stove in my grill pan (in the comfort of my air-conditioned kitchen). Then chopped and stirred together the cherry salsa ingredients while the fish cooked. And voila — an absolutely delightful sweet and savory dinner that you can feel great about enjoying!
There are some flavors that are just meant to be together. Peanut butter and jelly…. Strawberries and cream…. Salt and pepper… And one of MY favorites…chipotle and lime. Yum!
The wonderfully smoky, sweet and slightly spicy chipotle mixes perfectly with the tangy, sweet lime to make a delicious seasoning perfect for just about any meat, fish, seafood, salad dressing, vegetables, sauce…you name it!