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Kale Caesar Salad with Polenta Croutons

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This salad is so simple and delicious I have made it 3 times in the past 2 weeks. Lacinto kale is sliced into fine ribbons, then tossed with an easy to make Greek Caesar dressing, toasted pine nuts, and fried store-bought polenta cubes for the croutons.

from: The Forest Feast
serves: 2 (entrée size)

1 bunch flat-leaf kale sliced into thin ribbons (stack leaves on top of each other, roll into a cigar shape, and slice into ribbons)
1/4 – 1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted in a dry skillet
8 ounces, store-bought polenta, cut into cubes*

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Greek Ceasar dressing

3/4 cup olive oil
2 garlic cloves
1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 teaspoon Dijon mustard (I used the whole grain variety)

for the dressing:

In a small food processor blend dressing ingredients until smooth.

for the salad:

Fry the polenta cubes in 2 tablespoons of olive oil until nicely golden and crisp.

In a large bowl, toss the kale with the desired amount of dressing, the pine nuts and the parmesan cheese. Top with the polenta croutons.

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*Store bought polenta is already cooked and comes in a plastic-wrapped tube (kind of like refrigerated cookie dough). It is usually refrigerated and in our grocery stores around here it can be found in the produce department.
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New Mexican Rubbed Pork Tenderloin with Two Sauces

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If you want to permeate your house with an aroma that could make you cry, or fill your head with the sound of singing angels, then you need to make this dish. Yes, it is a Bobby Flay dish which pretty much means there are 5 components, 57 steps and 102 ingredients, but this recipe is worth the time, effort and grocery bill it takes to make it. Trust me. I was making this dish when we were still at our old house, and a realtor and potential buyers came through on short notice. I’m not sure if they were interested in the house, but they said on the way out “whatever you are making in there smells absolutely amazing”. Well, it’s true. This meal smells amazing and tastes even better. I have made it twice. It calls for 3 sauces, bourbon-ancho, roasted red pepper, and cilantro oil. I was not interested in making three sauces, so the first time I made the bourbon-ancho and cilantro oil. The cilantro oil makes 3/4 cup and you just use a tiny bit to drizzle. Verdict=cilantro sauce definitely not needed. The second time I made the smoked red pepper sauce to go with the bourbon sauce. This combination was much better. Verdict= worth making again. If the amount of sauces or ingredients intimidates you, you must at least make the bourbon sauce. That alone is my favorite part of this dish. Now sauces aside, the chile rub for the pork tenderloin is also amazing. I realize not everyone has multiple types of chile powders in their pantry, so feel free to work with what you have. I often interchange chile powders based on their heat level. This meal takes time to prepare, but you can make both of the sauces the day before which will save a lot of time. You could also mix together the rub ingredients the day before as well. The final result will be pork tenderloin that explodes with flavor with every bite. I paired it with something equally delicious that wouldn’t steal the “flavor glory”, Bobby’s Mesa Grill Grits and roasted asparagus. The grits are a recipe for another day, but let me just say that I will be making my grits with hominy from now on. Recipe coming soon. Final note- this is the very best meal I have cooked in a long time.

*Note- I halved the smoked red pepper sauce from the original recipe, you won’t need 2 1/4 cups for 4 people. I left the amount of bourbon ancho sauce alone. You probably won’t use it all but you will want the leftovers to drizzle on vegetables, polenta, or just drink from the bowl…

from: Mesa Grill Cookbook
serves: 4

Bourbon-Ancho Sauce

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium red onion, finely chopped
2 cups plus 2 tablespoons bourbon
3 ancho chiles, soaked, seeded, and pureed (or substitute Ancho chile powder-about 3 tablespoons)
5 cups chicken stock
1 cup thawed apple juice concentrate
8 black peppercorns
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
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Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over high heat. Add the onion and cook until soft, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the 2 cups bourbon, bring to a boil, and cook until reduced to a few tablespoons, 5 to 6 minutes.

Add the ancho puree (or powder), stock, apple juice concentrate, peppercorns, and brown sugar and cook, stirring occasionally, until reduced by half, 15-20 minutes. Be aware, your kitchen will smell amazing. It might bring the neighbors over.

Strain through a fine-mesh strainer into a bowl, return the mixture to the pan, and reduce over high heat to sauce consistency, 10-15 minutes. Add the 2 tablespoons bourbon, cook for 2 minutes, and season with salt to taste. This can be made up to 1 day ahead and refrigerated. Reheat before serving.

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Smoked Red Pepper Sauce

makes about 1 1/4 cups

2 red bell peppers, roasted, peeled, seeded, and chopped (or cheat and use store bought roasted red peppers)
1/4 small red onion, coarsely chopped
2 cloves roasted garlic, peeled
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons honey
1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon
1 1/2 teaspoons chipotle chile puree (I use adobo sauce from chipotle chiles in adobo sauce can)
salt + pepper
1/4 cup canola oil

Combine the red peppers, onion, garlic, vinegar, honey, mustard, and chipotle puree in a blender, season with salt and pepper, and blend until smooth. With the motor running, slowly add the oil and blend until emulsified. Strain the sauce into a bowl. This sauce can be made 1 day in advance and refrigerated.

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Pork

3 tablespoons ancho chile powder
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 tablespoon pasilla chile powder (I grind my own)
2 teaspoons chile de árbol powder (I grind my own)
2 teaspoons ground allspice
kosher salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 pounds pork tenderloin
chopped fresh chives for garnish

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Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Stir together the ancho powder, brown sugar, pasilla powder, chile de árbol powder, cinnamon, allspice, and 1 teaspoon salt in a small bowl.

Season the pork with salt on both sides, then dredge in the spice rub and tap off any excess.

Preheat grill to medium-high. Grill pork over direct heat 6 minutes on both sides. Move to indirect heat, close lid, and continue grilling until the internal temperature of the thickest part of the pork reaches 145 on an instant-read thermometer (about 8-10 more minutes). Rest on a plate for 8-10 minutes to let the juices redistribute. This is important! if you cut right into the meat, the juices run out leaving the meat dry. If you let the meat rest, the juices have a chance to redistribute, leaving you with succulent, juicy pork

After resting, slice the pork (I sliced them tall, so I could place them upright on the plate). Ladle some bourbon-ancho sauce onto the pork, then spoon some of the roasted red pepper sauce and sprinkle with the chopped chives.

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Amigo Añejo

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Happy Friday!

adapted from: Craft Cocktails
makes: 1 cocktail

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2 dashes Dale Degroff’s Pimento Aromatic Bitters*
1 1/2 ounces Carpano Antica Sweet Vermouth
2 1/2 ounces Don Julio Añejo tequila (I used Reposado, but Añejo is recommended)
garnish: dye-free maraschino cherries or brandied cherries (recipe coming soon!)

Place all ingredients in a mixing glass. Add large ice cubes and stir thoroughly. Taste for balance. If you find it a bit too dry, you can add a drop of agave nectar. Strain into a glass, garnish, and serve.

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* Allspice bitters

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Smoked Salmon Toasts with Mustard Butter

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One of my favorite things to eat in this world is crostini, or basically anything on top of crispy, golden toast. David and I received some delicious smoked salmon from my cousin in Northern California (Thank you Tony and Nikki!) and I could hardly wait to use it. This was my favorite preparation of the salmon. Golden toast, mustardy-dill butter, and delicious smoked salmon. This is an easy appetizer to put together for a crowd and is quite delicious!

adapted from: Food + Wine
serves: 10-12

1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon grainy mustard
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons chopped dill
Salt
Freshly ground pepper
1 baguette, sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 pound thinly sliced smoked salmon

Preheat the broiler and place oven rack 6 inches from the heat. Beat the butter with the mustards, zest, and 1 tablespoon of dill. Season with salt and pepper.

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Spread the baguette slices on a rimmed baking sheet and broil until golden and crisp on each side. Let cool.

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Spread the toasts with the mustard butter and top with smoked salmon and arrange on a platter. Sprinkle with remaining dill and serve.

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Caramel Vanilla Bean Hazelnut Milk

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I buy almond milk every week from the store to use in cereal, oatmeal and smoothies (I don’t drink animal milk). This however is my first foray into making my own nut milk. I have to say it was kind of fun and the milk was delicious. You can use a full 1 cup of hazelnuts or use 3 parts hazelnuts and 1 part almonds. If you don’t have a nut milk bag (I ordered mine from Amazon, see bottom of this page) you can strain the milk through a fine-mesh sieve a few times or line a sieve with cheesecloth. I plan to try plain old almond milk next and cinnamon pecan milk. I’ve been drinking this plain all week all by itself, but it was also yummy mixed with some coffee and in my morning oatmeal.

from: Oh She Glows

3/4 cup raw hazelnuts
1/4 cup raw almonds
3 1/2 cups water
2 1/2-3 pitted Medjool dates, to taste
1 vanilla bean, roughly chopped
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
tiny pinch of fine grain sea salt

Place hazelnuts and almonds in a bowl and cover with water. It’s preferred to soak them overnight (for 8-12 hours) in the water, but you can get away with soaking for 1-2 hours in a pinch.

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Drain and rinse the soaked hazelnuts and almonds. Place nuts into a blender along with water, pitted dates, vanilla bean, cinnamon, and salt.

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Cover and blend on highest speed for 1 minute or so, until completely smooth.

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Place a nut milk bag* over a large bowl and slowly pour the milk mixture into the bag. Gently squeeze the bottom of the bag to release the milk. This process can take 3-5 minutes, so be patient. You should be left with about 1 cup of pulp in the bag. See tips below on using the leftover pulp.

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Rinse out blender and pour the milk back in. Now, pour it easily into a Mason jar or another type of jar with a secure lid. Chill in the fridge. It will stay fresh for 2-3 days. Give the jar a good shake before enjoying. Drink it alone, use it in cereal or smoothies, make hot oatmeal, or for a creamer in your coffee and tea.

I ordered the bag that Oh She Glows recommends and I love it. Find it here.

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Ways to use leftover pulp : stir into muffin batter stir into oatmeal add to smoothies use it to make crackers or cookies dehydrate it and grind it up to make hazelnut meal

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Banana Espresso Chocolate Chip Muffins

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Moist chocolate-y banana muffins with a hint of espresso. Perfect for an early morning pick-me-up or snack any time of day!

from: Baked
makes: 12 muffins

1 1/2 cups mashed, very ripe bananas (about 4 medium bananas)
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup whole milk
1 large egg
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 12 cup muffin pan with nonstick cooking spray.

In a medium bowl, stir together the bananas, sugars, butter, milk, and egg.

In another medium bowl, whisk together the flour, instant espresso powder, baking soda, and salt. Make a well in the middle of dry ingredients. Pour the wet ingredients into the well and stir until just combined. Fold in the chocolate chips.

Fill each cup about three-quarters full. Bake in the center of the oven for 20 to 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean.

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Move the muffin pan to a cooling rack and let cool for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, remove the muffins from the pan and let them finish cooling on the cooling rack.

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Muffins can be stored in an airtight container for up to 2 days.

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Spaghetti Puttanesca for Two

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Rumor has it, at one time the scent of this delectable Italian dish wafting out of brothels would entice prospective customers. That may or may not be true, but I think there could be a point to the lore. This was the most pleasing pasta dish I’ve eaten since Bucatini Carbonara. It certainly does smell amazing and tastes delicious. The wafting aroma of this Spaghetti Puttanesca should certainly be enough to make the neighbors jealous!

slightly adapted from: Extra Virgin
serves: 4

1/2 pound tomatoes
kosher salt + freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
1 garlic clove, sliced
2 anchovy fillets, or 1/2 teaspoon anchovy paste*
pinch of hot red pepper flakes
1 ounce Gaeta or Ponentine black olives, pitted and sliced
1/2 tablespoon capers, rinsed and chopped
1/2 pound spaghetti
finely chopped Italian parsley, for garnish

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Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Submerge the tomatoes in the boiling water for 1 minute, then remove and peel them. Slice the tomatoes in half, remove the seeds, and cut into small cubes.

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In an 8- to 12- quart pot, bring 6 quarts of salted water to a rolling boil for the pasta.

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat until hot. Add the garlic, anchovies, red pepper flakes, olives, and capers and sauté  for 3 to 4 minutes, so the flavors can meld. Use a wooden spoon to break up the anchovies. Add the tomatoes and cook over medium-low heat for 10 to 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste, being mindful that anchovies and capers play a big role in flavoring your puttanesca.

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Meanwhile, add the spaghetti to the boiling water and stir the pasta so it won’t stick together. Cook until al dente. Drain and add to the skillet with the rest of the ingredients. Toss well over medium-high heat for up to 2 minutes.

Serve in a large bowl with a sprinkle of parsley and a drizzle of olive oil on top.

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* Anchovy paste is a salty paste made from ground anchovy fillets. I find it easier to use than actual anchovy fillets. It is sold in tubes which are kept in the refrigerator. (Kind of like tubes of tomato paste.)

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