July Link Love

First things first.  Today is my Dad’s birthday!  I know he doesn’t like a lot of attention, so I’ll keep it short and sweet.  Happy Birthday, Dad!

Summer is in full-swing.  If you’re like 99% of the population in this city, you’re looking to spend as much time as possible outdoors, especially because the weather here has been so awesome lately!  (I really hope I don’t jinx it by writing it in this post.)  Here, Pittsburgh Magazine highlights the ‘Burgh’s best beer gardens.  For dining al fresco, Pop City provides this guide.  There’s also a new bar on the North Shore that has outdoor seating, and allows you to order food from other restaurants menus.  What are your favorite outdoor spots in Pittsburgh?

There’s been a lot of buzz about Pittsburgh’s latest “Renaissance” – recently the Post Gazette published a couple articles describing some of the newest plans for downtown.  A new upscale hotel, more residential units, and a steakhouse are coming to Downtown, while PNC is working to restore the historic splendor of the former Lord & Taylor Building.  And the first steps toward reconnecting the Hill District to Downtown are in the works. Finally, the Cultural District is getting cool new bike racks designed by local artists – and you can help choose which design it will be by voting for your favorite here!

I’m proud to be an adventurous eater – and so I love all sorts of ethnic cuisine. When I read that Istanbul Grille’s downtown location risked being closed to expand the next-door 7-Eleven, it made me upset.  I don’t know about you, but I’d choose unique (and affordable!) Turkish takeout over an expanded convenience-store any day!  If you share in this attitude, throw them some support on their Facebook page.

And speaking of ethnic foods, has anyone been to Lydiah’s downtown?  This article was the first I’ve heard of it… It’s a bit of a trek from my office to make it a regular lunch spot, but I’m curious enough that I’ll have to try it out sometime soon.

That’s all for this month’s links… I really let it go down to the wire on this one didn’t I?  …We are moving into our new home on August 15th, so hopefully I’ll be more diligent with my blog posts after the dust settles!


Salted Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies with Thyme

Salted Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies with Thyme

I don’t often make sweets because I don’t have a much of a sweet tooth, and neither does my husband.  But these are not your run-of-the-mill, overly-sweet, cookie-table cookie (if you’re not familiar with the Pittsburgh “cookie table,” read this).  This is a salty-sweet grown-up’s chocolate chip cookie: think chocolate-covered pretzel, but perhaps slightly more sophisticated, and in cookie-form.  Delicious!

I felt compelled to make these for a somewhat special occassion.  Kelly from PGH Box was at our loft last weekend for a photo shoot, and I thought it would be nice to create some fun treats for her visit.  If you are not already familiar with her blog, I highly encourage you to check it out.  She takes absolutely stunning photographs of homes all around our fantastic city and shares them on her site.  I’m an architect, so I’m completely obsessed.  But it’s great for anyone who’s curious to check out houses in different neighborhoods, for decorating ideas or even some DIY inspiration.  Thanks to Kelly for showcasing beautiful Pittsburgh interiors, and also to those featured on her blog for being so creative and stylish!  Our loft will be featured on PGH Box soon, so be sure to subscribe to get her latest updates!

This recipe features wonderful and unique ingredients: chocolate chips from Mon Aimee Chocolat, Madagascar vanilla bean from Penzey’s Spices, and fresh thyme from the Farmers’ Market.  It is adapted from a New York Times recipe for Jacques Torres’ chocolate chip cookies.

This recipe makes 1 1/2 to 2 dozen large cookies.

2 cups minus 2 tablespoons cake flour
1 2/3 cups bread flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 cups light brown sugar
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 vanilla bean
2 tablespoons of chopped fresh thyme
1 package (about 2 cups) dark chocolate chips (at least 60 percent cacao content)
Sea salt

Salted Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies with Thyme

Salted Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies with Thyme

1. Sift flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Set aside.

2.  Slice the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape out the tiny seeds with a knife.  Set aside to combine with wet ingredients.  If you like you can save the pod to make vanilla-infused syrup.

Salted Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies with Thyme

3. Using a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars together until evenly combined. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla and thyme. Reduce speed to low, add dry ingredients and mix until just combined, 5 to 10 seconds. Fold in the chocolate chips. Press plastic wrap against dough and refrigerate, at least overnight. Dough may be used in batches, and can be refrigerated for up to 72 hours.

Salted Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies with Thyme

Salted Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies with Thyme

4. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat.

5. Scoop 6 generous golf-ball sized mounds of dough onto the baking sheet. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and bake until golden brown but still soft, 18 to 20 minutes. Transfer cookies to a wire rack for cooling. Repeat with remaining dough, or reserve dough, refrigerated, for baking remaining batches the next day. Eat warm, with a big napkin.

Salted Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies with Thyme

Salted Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies with Thyme

Salted Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies with Thyme

Click here to download a printable PDF of this recipe.

A Fast & Easy Recipe for a Busy Weekend

Things continue to be hectic around here.  We are closing on our first house next week, and we plan to do some renovations right away.  So you can bet this weekend is going to be a whirlwind of getting things ready for the closing, shopping around for things like tile and bathroom vanities, and researching things like wood floor refinishing… all the while trying not to freak out.  This kind of crazy weekend calls for a speedy, simple recipe idea.  Also, when things are busy, I like the idea of making a component that can be used in many ways to jazz up otherwise simple dishes.  Fortunately, I’ve come up with something that fits the bill.

I really like Pinterest, a lot.  I’ve created a bunch of boards for recipes (of course), but also decorating , gardening, entertaining, personal style, and travel ideas/inspiration.  Recently I came across this pin for “taco pickles” – the photo of brightly colored veggies grabbed my attention immediately, and reminded me of all the fresh veggies I’ve been eyeing up at Farmers @ Firehouse.  I had to make these!  They’re a great addition to a taco or taco-salad, and also would be great on burgers or a sandwich, as a garnish for grilled fish, or just for a little snack.

My version is a twist on the original recipe, with the addition of scallions, lime, and garlic – some other veggies that you could experiment with would be bell pepper, crisp fresh peas in their shells, onion, zucchini, or red cabbage.  Any sort of fresh, crunchy veggie would be great – get some inspiration from your garden or local Farmers’ Market!

Here’s the recipe I used, which filled two pint jars.

Quick Taco Pickles

1 bunch of radishes
3 carrots, peeled
1 jalapeño (or more if you’d like more heat), seeds and stem removed
3 scallions
1 clove garlic
1/2 lime
A handful of chopped cilantro
Salt, to taste
1/2 cup of distilled white vinegar
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup sugar

1.  Thinly slice all of the vegetables and lime.  I used a mandoline to make sure everything was evenly sliced.  (This is the one I have – it’s inexpensive, but it does a great job.)

Taco Pickle Vegetables

2.  Bring the sugar and vinegars to a slow boil and whisk until all the sugar is dissolve.  Place in the fridge to cool it to room temperature.

3.  Combine the radishes, carrots, jalapeño, scallions, garlic, lime slices, and cilantro.  Pour the cooled pickling liquid over them.  Store in the fridge in jars or any sealeable container.  Let them sit for at least an hour before digging in.  The original recipe said they would keep for a couple weeks, but I found they were best within the first week.

Taco Pickles

Click here for a printable PDF of this recipe.

Springtime Gnocchi with Fiddlehead Ferns and Ramps

Gnocchi with Fiddlehead Ferns and Ramp Pesto

It’s taken me awhile to put together this post.  I was very happy with how this recipe turned out, and was looking forward to sharing it.  However, things have been a little hectic around here lately.  I’m sure many of you have been in similar situations before, where it feels difficult to accomplish the things that are part of your normal routine?  Lately, I’ve felt like that.

I created this recipe to showcase the super-seasonal fiddlheads and ramps that can be found at Farmers @ Firehouse and other farmers markets around the city.  Unfortunately, I think the short window of time where you can find fiddleheads is rapidly coming to a close. On the upside, you can substitute easily substitute asparagus (which is much easier to cook).  And I’m pretty sure you can still find ramps – I even saw them at Giant Eagle a couple days ago.  So, without further delay, on to the recipe!

The ramps and ferns in this recipe were purchased from Mushrooms for Life.  And the edible flowers were a mix including kale and chive flowers from Blackberry Meadows Farm.  Both can be found at the Farmers @ Firehouse on Saturday mornings in the Strip.  Frozen gnocchi, pancetta, parmesan and pine nuts were purchased from PennMac.

This recipe serves four.

1 bunch of fiddlehead ferns
1 bunch of royal ferns
1/4 lb diced pancetta
1 cup ramp pesto
2 packages of frozen gnocchi
1 handful of pine nuts
Freshly grated parmigiano reggiano
Edible flowers, for garnish
Olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste

Edible Flowers

1.  If your fiddleheads looked like mine when I bought them – covered in their fuzzy husk – you’ll need to clean them before cooking them.  The husk can be rubbed off pretty easily, but I’ll warn you – it can be a little tedious.  The longer, skinnier royal ferns had much less fuzz, but I did my best to rub off as much as I could.


2.  Trim off the stem of the fiddleheads leaving only the spiral tops and a small bit of stem.  Discard the stems.

3.  Trim off the lower portion of the royal fern stems, similar to how you’d treat asparagus spears.  Discard the stem bottoms.

Gnocchi with Fiddlehead Ferns and Ramp Pesto

4.  Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat.  Once the water is boiling, add both the fiddleheads and royal ferns.  Boil for 15 minutes.  This may seem excessive, but it is extremely important as undercooked fiddleheads can make you ill.

5.  While the ferns are boiling, prepare an ice bath by combining 6-8 ice cubs along with salt and water in a bowl.  Once the ferns are done boiling, immediately place them in the ice bath to stop the cooking.  Set aside.

Ferns Ice Bath

6.  Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat.  I add about 2 tablespoons of salt to my 8-quart pot.

7.  While the water is coming to a boil, heat a bit of olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat.  Once the pan is warm, drop in the pancetta and cook until it’s rendered to a crispy golden brown.  Remove the pan from the heat – place the pancetta on a paper towel and  set aside.


8.  After the pancetta is removed, add the ferns to the pan and saute for a few minutes until they begin to brown just a bit.  Season with salt and pepper.

Ferns Cooking

9.  Add the frozen gnocchi to the boiling water.  Cook according to the instructions on the package.  If there are no instructions, boil them for 5-7 minutes, keeping an eye on them as they cook.  Note that once the gnocchi are added to the water, it is important that the water return to a boil as soon as possible – cover the pot if necessary.

10.  Once the gnocchi are cooked, add them to the pan with the ferns.  Add the pancetta and ramp pesto.  Toss everything together.

Ramp Pesto

11.  Garnish the gnocchi with toasted pine nuts, freshly grated parmesan cheese, and edible flowers.

Gnocchi with Fiddlehead Ferns and Ramp Pesto

Click here to download a printable PDF of this recipe.

May Link Love

I hope you all had a wonderful Memorial Day weekend.  I’ll never complain about a three day weekend, but I am especially excited for this weekend and the upcoming Pens-Bruins series.  ..For those of you who don’t know, my husband is from Rhode Island and is a fan of all teams Boston. This leads to a lot of good-natured rivalry and heckling. We have been hoping for our hockey teams to meet in the playoffs and now it’s going to happen!

This month’s links cover more Pittsburgh sports (as always), questions about how welcoming Pittsburgh is, drinking local, and branching out when buying fish.

In addition to the Penguins recent success, the Buccos are looking great!  Will this be the year we get our winning season?!  Either way, I’ll always root for my hometown team.   Keep it up Bucs!

I attended my first Pittsburgh Riverhounds game last weekend, and was thoroughly impressed with the enthusiasm of the Steel Army (the official fan club).  If you haven’t yet been to the new Highmark Stadium, I encourage you to go.  The talented team is very fun to watch, ticket prices are very affordable, and the stadium has a view of downtown that rivals PNC Park.  Because there was no info about concessions on their website, I wasn’t sure what to expect for food and drink – vending machines? – but I am happy to report that the stadium also has a nice indoor space with a legit menu and bar!

To follow up on one of my earlier links… Pop City Media reports that while Pittsburgh has a reputation for being very friendly, we may not necessarily be very welcoming to newcomers. How is this possible?!  I can tell you when I returned to Pittsburgh about a year ago, people were very welcoming – chatting to us at random events we’d attend, inviting us out for drinks or parties. It was MUCH appreciated, especially for my husband who did not grow up here. We’re doing our best to pay it forward to newcomers we meet.

But according to another tidbit on the web, apparently we are very welcoming to visitors.  They particularly enjoy our hotels, the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, and the fun things to do in the Cultural District.

One thing that is definitely not welcoming:  The slope of these streets!  Two Pittsburgh streets are on Google’s list of the world’s steepest streets.  Yikes!

A few things things on local booze.
1.  How did Wigle’s Ginever not make this list?  I may be slightly biased, but I think it’s delicious.  My husband thinks it’s great and he doesn’t even like gin!
2.  A new rum distiller is poised to open in the Strip’s eastern fringe.  This should be an excellent addition to our many local breweries, vodka, whiskey, and kombucha.
3.  If you’re reading this blog from areas north of Pittsburgh, I encourage you to check out Beaver Brewing Company, a new nanobrewery coming soon to Beaver Falls.

A group of local ‘Burghers hope to create an urban outdoor space where, for a small monthly fee, just about anyone can gather with friends, fire up the barbecue and throw down a game of horseshoes.  This is so hipster (I love it).

Chef Sarah Jenkins recently wrote a piece encouraging diners to experiment with unfamiliar fish.  In addition to eating new types of fish at restaurants, I’d also add that it might be fun to experiment with cooking different types of fish!  Next time you’re shopping at Wholey’s or Penn Avenue Fish Company, grab something new to try!

That’s all for this month!  Hopefully next month I’ll have some Stanley Cup bragging rights!  Let’s Go Pens!!!


Homemade Taco Seasoning Mix

On a recent trip to the grocery store, I passed by a display of those popular taco-kits.  I remember these from when I was kid.  It was fun – you’d buy the kit that had everything you need in it, just add some ground beef, and voila!  Taco night!  …If you’ve been following my blog, you may recall I recently posted a Cinco de Mayo recipe for goat tacos.  So when I walked by the display, I was curious, what is in this premade mix?  It seems to me that most things in the kit could be purchased separately in any standard grocery store, except for that very necessary seasoning mix.  Well, in addition to the spices you might expect there were also things like (depending on the brand) maltodextrin, monosodium glutamate, silicon dioxide, ethoxyquin, autolyzed yeast extract, artificial color, and sulfites.  What are these things?  I don’t know.  But what I do know is that it is super easy to make your own delicious and flavorful taco seasoning mix, without any chemicals that are difficult to pronounce.  Head to Penzey’s Spices and you’ll find everything to make your own blend, and you’ll have to ability to customize it to your taste.  Want a little more heat?  Maybe add some garlic flavor?  A little less salt?  No problem.  This seasoning would work very well with ground beef, pork, shredded chicken, or with beans for vegetarian tacos.

Penzeys SpicesHere’s what I put in my Mexican taco seasoning – feel free to adjust this basic recipe to your own taste.

2 tablespoons ancho chile powder
2 tablespoons ground cumin
2 tablespoons Mexican oregano
2 tablespoons Spanish paprika (pimenton)
1 tablespoon onion powder
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper

Taco Seasoning

Taco Seasoning

Place all of the ingredients in a sealable container, jar, or bag.  Shake until everything is  evenly combined and store until ready to use.

Taco Seasoning

Taco Seasoning

Click here to download a printable PDF of this recipe.

Ramp Pesto

Ramp Pesto

For months, I have been anticipating the return of the Farmers at the Firehouse, as well as the fresh, seasonal produce at the Pittsburgh Public Market.  I love warm and hearty winter foods, but by now I am more than ready for local asparagus, lettuce, and peaches!  The Farmers at the Firehouse returns tomorrow, but I just couldn’t wait to share a super-springtime recipe with you… I jumped the gun and headed to the Pittsburgh Public Market last weekend in hopes of finding a vendor selling some early-springtime treats.  Thankfully, Mushrooms for Life granted my wish, selling fresh ramps and morel mushrooms.  (The morels will be featured in an upcoming post – stay tuned!)  They will be at the Farmers at the Firehouse this weekend selling more of their tasty treats.

Also sometimes called spring onions, wild leeks, wood leeks, or wild garlic – ramps are foraged in the early springtime and have a particularly spicy, garlicky flavor which I thought would be fantastic in a pesto.  I’ve found pesto to be a very easy and versatile sauce to make: The basic ingredients I include in any pesto are herbs, nuts, hard cheese, olive oil, salt and pepper.  You can use this recipe as a basis for your own unique variations using other herbs, nuts, and cheeses.

In addition to the ramps, I purchased parsley, lemon and almonds from Marty’s Market.  And the pecorino romano came from, of course, the famous cheese counter at Pennsylvania Macaroni.

This recipe will create about one generous cup of pesto.

1 bunch (about 12) ramps
1 handful fresh parsley
1 handful of almonds
1/2 cup grated pecorino romano cheese
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/3 cup olive oil, plus more if needed

Ramp Pesto

1.  Be sure to thoroughly wash the ramps.  Trim of the stringy roots.  Also trim off the white bulbs and save them for another use.  (You can pickle them, chop them up and use them in a stir fry, roast them and toss them with other veggies or pasta.)

2.  Toast the almonds in a small pan, being careful not to burn them.  Let them cool before placing them in the food processor with the other ingredients.

3.  If all of your ingredients don’t fit into your food processor at once, you can puree them in steps, as shown in these photos.

Ramp Pesto

Ramp Pesto

4.  You can use this pesto in pasta, on chicken or fish, add it to soup, or spread it on toasted bread.  If you do decide to use it as a spread, I would quickly blanch the ramp leaves at the beginning before pureeing them, or the onion-y flavor might be a tad overpowering.

Ramp Pesto

Click here to download a printable PDF of this recipe.

Tamarind Margarita

Tamarind margarita

It’s been awhile since I’ve had a tamarind margarita… They bring back fond memories of summer evenings spent with friends on the patio of the since-closed El Rey de Sol in NYC.  For Cinco de Mayo, I decided to create my own version of this tangy, tasty drink.  Reyna’s sells dried tamarind pods which can be boiled to make the puree for this cocktail, but when I saw Goya brand frozen puree in the freezer case, I decided to take a shortcut.  You can  find ancho chile powder at Reyna’s, but I already had some I purchased at Penzey’s awhile ago.

tamarind pods

After thawing the frozen puree, this cocktail couldn’t be more easy to put together.

2 parts tequila
1 part orange liquor
1 part fresh-squeezed lime juice
1 part tamarind puree
Lime wedges
Coarse sea salt
Ancho chile powder

Tamarind margarita ingredients

1.  For the salt to rim the glass, mix the coarse salt with a small pinch of the ancho chile powder on a small plate.

Margarita Salt

2.  Combine the tequila, orange liquor, lime juice, and tamarind puree in a cocktail shaker with ice.  Give it a good shake to mix everything together and get it chilled.

3.  Rub the rim of a glass with a lime wedge, and place into the salt to coat the rim of the glass.

Salted Glass

4.  Add a couple ice cubes to the glass and pour in the shaken cocktail.  Garnish with a lime wedge if you like, and enjoy!

Tamarind margarita

Click here to download a printable PDF of this recipe.

Tacos de Cabra

Tacos de Cabra

With Cinco de Mayo coming up, I felt inspired to create a recipe appropriate for this holiday.  What could be more classically Mexican than tacos?  I’m sure Pinterest and the rest of the internet are being flooded with recipes of your typical chicken or beef tacos, so I wanted to try something a little different.  Instead of the usual meat fillings, these tacos are made with underrated-but-oh-so-tasty goat!  I wouldn’t be surprised if a few of you are maybe not entirely on board with this idea, so if you’re not yet sold, I recommend you check out this 2009 article from the New York Times.   A few interesting highlights:  While it may not yet be very popular in the US, goat is the most widely consumed meat in the world – a staple of Mexican cuisine (of course) but also Indian, Greek and southern Italian.    And from a health and nutrition standpoint, I was surprised to learn that the meat is lower in fat than chicken but higher in protein than beef.  I’d also agree with the author’s description of the meat tasting like a cross between beef and lamb.  I encourage you to give it a try!  The flavorful marinade in this recipe will easily mask the ever-so-slight “gamey” taste the meat may have.  

You may now be thinking “Where on earth can I buy goat meat?”  Given the theme of this blog, the obvious answer would be “The Strip District!” but to be more specific, you can find it at Strip District Meats, or at Salem’s Market.  For this recipe, I purchased the meat from Salem’s, which is at the far end of the Strip between 29th and 30th Streets – you cannot miss their building completely covered in vibrant murals. At the back of the “market half” of the building (the other half is a delicious and wildly affordable grill/buffet), they have a fantastic butcher counter that sells halal meats, cut to order.  The butcher suggested the front leg of the goat because it would be more tender than the rear leg, and I had him cut it up into 6 pieces so it would fit in my dutch oven for roasting.

If you’re not interested in trying the goat meat, you could substitute beef chuck, or a leg of lamb with very similar results.  The meat in this recipe is marinated overnight before being slow roasted.  This being a Mexican recipe, you can probably guess that I picked up my spices, chiles, tortillas, and taco garnishes at Reyna Foods.  I’m no chile expert, but the massive variety of dried chiles in the back of their store makes me want to explore the many varieties.  The anchos and guajillos in this recipe are more mild, so don’t worry about this recipe being too spicy.  I served the tacos with mango and tomato salsas, cilantro, avocado, radishes, and queso fresco.  You could substitute or add other garnishes as well:  scallions, guacamole, chopped tomatoes, shredded carrots, roasted corn or sour cream might be fun to try.

The amount below makes approximately 16 tacos for about 8 people.

For the meat
1 leg of goat (about 6-7 pounds)
2 cups chicken stock (approximately)
1 dried guajillo chile*
4 dried ancho chiles*
2 tablespoons dried Mexican oregano
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon ground cumin
5 whole allspice berries
5 whole cloves
5 sprigs of fresh thyme, stems removed
1 Spanish onion, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
2 tablespoons tomato paste
3 cloves of garlic
Salt and freshly ground pepper

*If you’d like a little more heat, you could use more guajillo chiles, and fewer ancho chiles because – as this chart indicates – the guajillos are slightly more spicy.

Tacos de Cabra

Corn (or flour) tortillas
Queso fresco
Radishes, thinly sliced
Avocado, sliced
Lime wedges
Fresh cilantro, chopped
Mango and peach salsa
‘Table’ salsa

Tacos de Cabra

1.  Toast the dried chiles in a dry skillet until fragrant.  Then place them into boiling water, remove from the heat, and set aside for 20 minutes.

Tacos de Cabra

2.  Grind the whole cloves and allspice berries with a mortar and pestle, or spice/coffee grinder.

Tacos de Cabra

3.  Drain the soaked chiles – remove the stems and seeds.  Add the chiles, ground spices, bay leaves, thyme, garlic, onion, vinegar and tomato paste in a blender or food processor and puree.

Tacos de Cabra

4.  Season the goat leg pieces generously with salt and pepper.  Rub the pureed paste all over the meat.  Cover and refrigerate to marinate overnight.

5.  Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

6.  Drizzle some olive oil into a dutch oven or roasting pan, add the marinated meat and pour in the chicken stock.  You can decide how much stock you might like to add.  Some of the recipes I read called for no liquid, but because the meat is so lean, I chose to add some to keep it from getting to dry.  Place in the oven to roast for about 4 hours.  Check on the meat every hour or so to make sure it doesn’t get to dry (in which case, simply add more stock or water), or overcook.

Tacos de Cabra

7.  Once the meat is done, remove it from the oven and let it cool slightly.  Remove the meat from the bone, and pull it apart into small pieces using a fork and tongs.

Tacos de Cabra

8.  Warm the tortillas in an oven or skillet, place the shredded meat in a serving bowl, arrange the cheese, vegetables, herbs and salsa in small serving bowls.

9.  Serve family-style so that each person can assemble their own taco with whichever extras and garnishes they choose.

Tacos de Cabra

Tacos de Cabra

Click here to download a printable PDF of this recipe.

Fontina Grilled Cheese with Fava Bean Purée

Fontina Grilled Cheese with Fava Bean Puree

This recipe is inspired by Thin Man Sandwich Shop in the Strip – if you haven’t already been there, I strongly encourage you to check it out.  I’ve been there a few times, and each time it’s been amazing.  They use high-quality ingredients to create inventive and hearty sandwiches.  On my last trip, I tried their new “fava melt” and it was absolutely delicious.   The ingredients were fontina cheese, fava bean purée, pea shoots, and black pepper on multi-grain bread.  Perfect for spring!  I’d recently read that April is “National Grilled Cheese Month” so I decided to create a grilled-cheese spin on this sandwich.  Fava beans – which are sort of like a cross between peas and lima beans – can be tricky to find, but I was able to buy a bag of frozen fava beans at Reyna’s Grocery.  I then headed to PennMac for some perfectly melty fontina cheese as well as pine nuts and olive oil, and down to Mancini’s Bakery for a loaf of their European multi-grain bread.

The amounts below will make about four sandwiches.

1 cup shelled fava beans (fresh or frozen)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup pine nuts
3 cloves garlic
Juice of 1/2 lemon, plus zest
A few sprigs of fresh thyme
Salt and pepper to taste

1/2 lb. fontina cheese
Multigrain bread, sliced
Butter, softened

Fontina Grilled Cheese with Fava Bean Puree Ingredients

1.  Prepare an ice water bath by filling a large bowl halfway with ice and water; set aside.

2.  Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil. Add the frozen favas and boil until the bean inside the outer skin is bright green and firm but not hard, about 1 to 2 minutes. Drain the favas and immediately place in the ice water bath until cool. Peel the light green skin from each bean to reveal the bright green inner bean, discard the skins, and set the beans aside.

Peeled Fava Beans

3.  Toast the pine nuts in a small pan until just beginning to turn golden brown.  Remove immediately and set aside to cool.

Toasted Pine Nuts

4.  Heat a bit of olive oil in a small pan over medium heat until shimmering. Add the garlic and thyme, and cook until the garlic is slightly golden.

5.  Transfer the beans, pine nuts, garlic, and thyme to a food processor or blender.  Add the lemon juice and zest, along with ¼ cup of olive oil.  Puree until smooth.

Fava Bean Puree

Fava Bean Puree

6.  Spread the fava bean puree onto half of the bread slices.  Stack think slices of fontina cheese on the other half of the slices.  Assemble the sandwiches, and spread the outside of the sandwiches with the softened butter.

Fontina Grilled Cheese with Fava Bean Puree

Buttered Grilled Cheese

7.  Heat a bit of butter in a skillet over medium heat.  Once hot and bubbling, grill the sandwiches until the cheese is soft and melted, turning to brown both sides.  Do this in batches if you don’t have enough room in the pan for all of the assembled sandwiches.

Fontina Grilled Cheese with Fava Bean Puree

8.  Carefully remove from the pan and enjoy!  If you have any leftover fava bean puree, you can refrigerate it to make more sandwiches later, or use it as a dip for crunchy veggies or chips.

Fontina Grilled Cheese with Fava Bean Puree

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