Sunday, July 16, 2017

Chipotle, Brown Sugar Bacon, and Goat Cheese Guacamole



You guys... it's nearly impossible for me to believe that there was a time that I hated guacamole. In fact, as I've mentioned before, I hated avocados entirely. Don't worry, I've come to my senses and come around to both like a good Texan. I still, however, don't like the guac at a lot of restaurants, and I quickly realized the reason was because they're so terribly lacking salt and citrus. Now when I make my own, I know to not be shy with either.


And then, well, I trash it up nice and good too... previously copying the Austin restaurant Z'Tejas with cotija and pepitas (still my fav), and more recently with this new twist. First, I wanted to add one of my favorite flavors: chipotle. Then, tangy goat cheese and crispy bacon. I knew both the goat cheese and chipotles would pair perfectly with a little bit of sweetness, so I candied the bacon with a dusting of brown sugar. This guac is seriously to die for, and is definitely not under-seasoned.




Chipotle, Brown Sugar Bacon, and Goat Cheese Guacamole


Ingredients 

  • 2 large Haas avocados, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 Roma tomato, chopped
  • 1 - 2 T. minced shallot, to taste
  • 1 - 2 T. chopped cilantro, to taste
  • 1 - 2 T. diced chipotles, from canned chipotles in adobo
  • Dash of fresh lime juice
  • Generous pinch each of sea salt and pepper
  • 3 pieces thick-cut bacon
  • 1 T. brown sugar
  • 2-3 oz. goat cheese, crumbled
Directions
  1. Rub pieces of raw bacon with brown sugar until thinly coated (may not use full tablespoon). Cook in a skillet over medium heat, then allow to cool and crumble the pieces.
  2. Stir and slightly mash the avocados, tomato, cilantro, chipotles, and lime juice. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Top the guacamole with crumbled bacon, goat cheese, and extra cilantro for garnish, if desired.


Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Sprouting Broccoli and Edamame Salad with Curry and Toasted Coconut (and Brown Butter Scallops)



Yotam Ottolenghi is a vegetable magician. I so wish I were better at eating and enjoying veggies, but given that I grew up on lettuce with cheese, croutons, and Italian dressing as salad... I've come a long way.  If you're lucky enough to ever eat in one of Ottolenghi's restaurants, you'll find yourself eating plates of veggies and absolutely loving it. Nowhere else would I eat a sampling of salads without even looking at the entrees.

When I'm cooking from someone else's recipe, I almost always change some things. With his recipes, I only change based on necessity, not preference. I couldn't find curry leaves in Whole Foods or Central Market, so I had to improvise there. Also, I scaled the broccoli and green beans down a bit to fit dinner for two, and added some cress sprouts I've been growing in a bowl on my kitchen counter. But, I kept everything else the same, and this salad was fire. We topped it with some seared brown butter scallops for a super healthy, but flavorful dinner.


Sprouting Broccoli and Edamame Salad with Curry and Toasted Coconut
Adapted from Plenty More, by Yotam Ottolenghi
Serves 2 Entrees with some leftovers, or 4 side dishes

Ingredients
  • 8.5 oz broccolini, preferably young and sprouting, stems sliced thinner or removed
  • 5 oz haricots verts, trimmed
  • 1 1/3 cups shelled frozen edamame, thawed
  • 4 T. olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 2.5 t. black mustard seeds
  • 1 t. curry powder
  • 1/2 t. Za'atar
  • 3 whole dried red chiles
  • Shaved rind of 1 lime, plus 1.5 T. juice
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1/2 cup shredded unsweetened coconut  
  • Handful of sprouts (I used cress), optional
  • Salt and pepper
If serving with scallops
  • 1 T. olive oil
  • 3/4 lb. fresh scallops 
  • 4 T. butter

Directions

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the haricots verts and blanch for 1 minute. Add the broccolini and blanch 3 minutes more. Transfer the veggies to a colander and rinse under cold water to stop the cooking. Pat dry and set aside in a large serving bowl.
  2. Add the edamame and 1/2 t. of salt to the broccoli and beans.
  3. In a dry sauté pan over medium heat, toast the coconut until edges are golden brown. Remove from pan and set aside. Wipe the pan out and use the same pan for the next step. 
  4. Heat 4 T. of olive oil in the sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the diced onion and 1/4 t. salt, cook for 4 minutes until the onions are soft. Add the mustard seed and cook until the seeds begin to pop.
  5. Add the curry powder, Za'atar, chiles, and lime rind. Saute for 2 minutes before pouring everything over the vegetables. Stir and set aside.
  6. When ready to serve, add the lime juice, cilantro, toasted coconut, and sprouts. Toss and season with salt and pepper to taste. 
For the scallops
  1. Pat the scallops dry and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  2. Heat 1 T. olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the scallops and cook without turning until golden brown on first side, about 90 seconds. Turn the scallops and add the butter to the pan. Cook until butter starts turning brown (will smell nutty) and the scallops are just cooked, about another 2 minutes.
  3. Serve atop the finished salad.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Where to Eat & Drink in Tulum


Gitano - The Gypsy Disco

I wanted to go into a little more depth with the restaurants and bars we loved during our trip to Tulum, and also to share some photos that help do these beautiful places justice. The setting and decor at each added so much to the experience, and were almost as important as the delicious food. The design and decor in this town is so on point; I wanted my house to look like pretty much every place.

Posada Margherita

Great for lunch or dinner, the view is unbeatable, and the food is fresh and delicious. Italian is a bit unexpected along the coast of Mexico, but it was fantastic nonetheless. We had an assortment of fresh foccacia and handmade pastas on their beachfront terrace, and of course some cocktails to enjoy with the view.


Coqui Coqui

If this hotel hadn't been booked up for ages, I would have loved to stay here. The interiors are so perfect, and the whole property feels like a secluded little spa. We only had a drink here and hung out at their beach, but this is the place for a massage or spa treatment, and check out their perfumery as well.


Hartwood

This restaurant is, in my opinion, the real gem of the town. I loved it so much that I bought their cookbook, which is stunning from cover to cover. Started by an American husband and wife who wanted to leave it all behind and follow their passion, this place has the freshest, most inventive foods around. You have to line up every day by 3:00pm, when the hostess assigns tables and tells you whether or not you've gotten in. Thankfully after that you can leave to walk around til about 7:00. 

My sneaky favorite dish was the jicama salad, and I don't even love jicama! We also ate langoustine salad and the freshest ever ceviche. Another unexpected highlight for me was the smoked beet with a puree of crack... or whatever that was. Their all-day slow cooked goat ribs are the restaurants staple, and they were fall-off-the-bone tendre and full of sweet and spicy flavor. We drank way too many pitchers of watermelon cocktails as well. The chef came out for a while to have a drink with us, and it was really cool to chat with him about the restaurant and food. 


Gitano

Finally, my favorite place for a drink was Gitano. Their decor and ambiance was unrivaled (see first pic of this post), and they had a huge selection of freshly made cocktails. We had a relaxed evening here, then later meandered to another bar for more of a late-night scene, but I could have stayed all night.


I had high hopes for this trip, and it somehow still exceeded my expectations. Most people who know me know that I press people to go here all. the. time. I'm not going to stop anytime soon.

A Perfect Girls Weekend in Tulum



A couple years ago, Tulum exploded as the must-see destination across the internet, from travel blogs to Pinterest to every magazine under the sun. Every photo looked more special and magical than the next, with impeccable design, laid back beach vibes, great restaurants, and turquoise water. So, of course, I had to jump on the bandwagon before somewhere else took over as the "it" spot (looking at you, Iceland). As usual, it took forever to get this posted, but better late than never.

This post is an overview of our trip, impossibly trying to share how adorable Tulum is in one little post. I can't believe how much more I loved Tulum than anywhere else I've been in Mexico, and I've been to various parts of the country 8 times. Hopefully this inspires someone to visit, because I'm beyond obsessed with this place. 

Thursday 

Three girlfriends and I took off for the Cancun airport on a Thursday morning (direct flight from Austin woo woo!), rented a car, and drove the approximately 1.5 hour drive to Tulum. On the first night, we checked into our hotel, Ana y Jose, had dinner and some margaritas, visited a couple bars along the main beach road, and called it a night before exploring the next day. We loved Ana y Jose; it was the cutest boutique hotel with thatch-roofed little cottages as rooms, a nice pool, and a gorgeous view of the beach.


Friday

We had a big breakfast in our hotel then hit up the beach! Girls trip essentials included the cutest koozies from ban.do, a portable speaker for the beach, pineapple cups for cocktails, and super cute but totally impractical custom bendy straws (see below). After some fun in the sun, swinging on swings outside our hotel, and dipping in the ocean, we cleaned up and headed to Posado Margherita for an early dinner. It's the absolute cutest restaurant, and had fresh Italian fare (odd in Mexico, but so good) right on the beach. Check out some photos on where we ate & drank here. 


Saturday

Spend the morning checking out some of the cenotes, or underground swimming holes, found all around Tulum. Two main ones are Cenote Dos Ojos and the Grand Cenote. They were so fun to swim in and explore, with insanely turquoise water reflecting all over the caves. 

Make sure to be back at Hartwood, the best restaurant in Tulum, and one of my favorite meals ever, at exactly 3:00pm. At this time, the hostess takes the names of the groups in line until all the tables for the night are reserved. You can then leave, wander the beach or head back to your hotel, until your dinner reservation. This meal was insane. So fresh, so fun, and the chef even comes and sits at the table with you to chat for a bit. Check out some pics here.

Afterward, have a drink at Gitano, dubbed the "gypsy disco" where the cocktails are delicious but the ambiance is absolutely top notch.


Sunday

The Mayan ruins can be found on the way back to the airport. Since our flight was in the evening, we decided to stop here along the way to break up the drive and make use of our Sunday. They were really fun to tour, and had the added bonus of a beautiful little beach hidden below the rocks. 


Seriously, how beautiful is this cenote?



Monday, June 12, 2017

Crispy Buffalo Cauliflower, Bleu Cheese, and Bacon Salad



I love kitchen gadgets. Like, seriously love kitchen gadgets. I've bought quite a few over the years... some good purchases, and some definitely bad.  But my current obsession, the Philips Avance XL Digital Airfryer definitely falls into the former category. Fried food is without question my #1 vice, and this nifty machine lets me mimic it in a healthy and easy way. We're air-frying errrythang at our house these days.

Fried chicken is my kryptonite. Be it chicken tenders, a fat Southern drumstick, or boneless buffalo wings, I love it all. While the airfryer lets me make healthier versions of all of the above, I went one step further and swapped in some cauliflower instead (bonus veggies). These cauliflower bites are perfectly brown and crispy, then tossed in some homemade wing sauce, and served over a store-bought Bacon & Bleu chopped salad mix. The entire meal comes together in about 15 minutes! It's perfect for a weeknight, and to satisfy that buffalo wing craving.


Crispy Buffalo Cauliflower, Bleu Cheese & Bacon Salad 
Makes 2 entree servings

Ingredients
  • 5 oz. cauliflower florets
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup whole wheat bread crumbs
  • Olive oil spray
  • 1 package Dole Bacon & Bleu salad mix (for a vegetarian meal, just omit the bacon)
  • 1/3 cup buffalo sauce (I used Sweet Baby Ray's)
  • 2 T. barbecue sauce
  • 1 t. brown sugar
  • Cilantro, optional for garnish
Directions
  1. Crack the egg into a small bowl and whisk until yolk and whites are combined. Add whole wheat flour to a second small bowl.
  2. Dip each cauliflower floret into the egg mixture and rub until lightly coated. Roll in the flour, shake excess, and place in the basket of an airfryer, or on a baking sheet. Spray lightly with olive oil.
  3. Cook in the airfryer at 400 degrees for 14 minutes. (Alternatively, you can bake the cauliflower in your oven at 425 for 20 minutes)
  4. While the cauliflower is cooking, combine the buffalo, BBQ sauce, and brown sugar in a bowl. 
  5. Toss the salad and separate onto two plates.
  6. Immediately dip the cauliflower in the wing sauce, shake off the excess sauce, and place the pieces over the salad and serve. Garnish with cilantro, if desired.