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Salsa Borracha (Drunken Salsa)

Salsa Borracha

My obsession with tomatoes peaks this time of year, thanks to all the wonderful varieties of heirloom tomatoes available. I can’t resist all the bright, gorgeous colors and find myself grabbing loads of tomatoes whenever we hit the farmers market. We’ve also got three tomato plants in our backyard, so it’s safe to say we’ve been eating a lot of tomatoes recently (see here, here and here).

Virginia heirloom tomatoes

I didn’t have salsa in mind for these tomatoes when we bought them. I already have two salsa recipes that I love, and I thought I’d do something, I don’t know, fancier with them. When I found this recipe, though, I knew I had to make it. The orange color was enough to draw me in, and adding beer and tequila was something I’d never done to salsa before. I mean, does cooking tomatoes in beer not sound like a fantastic idea to you? After it’s cooked and blended, you get a salsa that has the bright flavor of tomatoes and punch from the tequila. It’s a unique flavor and one I won’t soon be forgetting.

Salsa Borracha

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BLT Pizza

BLT Pizza

Pizza shows up regularly on our weekly menus. It’s versatile, fun to make, and we almost always have a ball of homemade pizza dough in the freezer. Clara loves helping us in the kitchen, and pizza is most definitely her favorite meal to make. Sure, we end up with flour and/or cheese all over the floor and whatever chair she’s standing in, but having her help us cook is one of our greatest joys. When she’s not sneaking handfuls of cheese from the cutting board, she loves to pat the dough and layer on the toppings.

With summer in full swing and a garden full of tomatoes, this BLT pizza got added to my must-make list as soon as I saw it. While this isn’t a sauceless pizza, it’s close. The sauce is made with (gasp!) mayonnaise, but please don’t let that deter you. It’s mixed with garlic and herbs, so call it an aioli if it makes you feel better about spreading it onto a pizza. The reason I say the pizza is basically sauceless is because the dough absorbs most of the mayonnaise mixture, leaving behind just a hint of the creaminess of it but with all the flavors of the garlic and herbs.

I’m obsessed with roasted tomatoes, and they are certainly the star of this pizza. Though, if you were to ask Clara, she would say it’s the bacon. A small sprinkling of cheese and a generous sprinkling of greens make this pizza feel relatively light, especially in terms of pizza, and it’s the perfect meal for dining al fresco, which is what we did both times we’ve made this. With our Sungold tomato plant producing tomatoes like crazy, this pizza will be making many more appearances before summer is over.

BLT Pizza

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Chicken Shawarma Bowls

Chicken Shawarma Bowls

We make our own Chipotle-esque burrito bowls every so often, and it’s one of our favorite ways to do weeknight dinner. So when Elly posted this Middle Eastern/Mediterranean inspired version, I was all over it. Clara loves hummus, and I knew she’d be a big fan of the tahini dressing in this recipe because, like most toddlers I know, she loves dipping her food into any kind of sauce. Grilled chicken is always delicious, and this chicken is super moist and flavorful thanks to a yogurt marinade and a fantastic blend of spices. Basically, I knew as soon as I read the recipe that it would be a hit.

Like our typical burrito bowls, this dish has a few different components but comes together faster than you might think. The chicken does require at least an hour to marinate, but you can toss it together the night before and refrigerate it until you’re ready to cook the next day. Instead of standard rice, there’s a rice pilaf with almonds and vermicelli. What would normally be salsa in our burrito bowls is a tomato and cucumber salad tossed with tahini dressing, and the hummus is like the guacamole. As expected, we all loved this, and it’s definitely going into our weeknight meal rotation.

Chicken Shawarma Bowls

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Sweet and Spicy Baked Brie with Cherries

Sweet and Spicy Baked Brie with Cherries

Raise your hand if you get a little excited when one of your favorite fruits goes on sale. And by a little excited, I mean you buy pounds and pounds of it without quite knowing what you’re going to do with all of it. Yeah, that’s me. The good thing is, fruit is a staple in our house and will get eaten even if we don’t use it in ice cream or some intended-but-never-made baked good.

With my fridge full of cherries the past couple weeks, I’ve been trying a ton of new cherry recipes. I actually intended to make this particular recipe with blueberries, even texting my friend Josie to see if she thought that sounded good, but given Clara’s proclivity to eat them all before I can ever cook anything with them, that didn’t happen. The past week or so, she wakes up every morning saying “bluebees!” on repeat until we come downstairs for breakfast. Waking up thinking about food? I don’t know where she gets that, ha! Given that I’d already purchased the cheese and given the overload of cherries in my refrigerator, it seemed a cherry version was fortuitous.

Let’s talk about this cheese for a minute. It’s like your usual baked brie times a thousand. The cherries are mixed with pepper jelly, Dijon mustard and red pepper flakes, giving them a spicy kick. After the brie bakes for a few minutes, the cherry mixture gets mounded on top and baked a bit longer. The whole thing comes out melted and delicious and oozing with the sweet and spicy flavors of the cherries. The juices from the cherries get mixed in with the brie, and the whole thing is pretty stellar. Served with a crusty baguette, I can’t think of a more perfect appetizer for summer entertaining.

Sweet and Spicy Baked Brie with Cherries

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Grilled Sausages with Tomatoes

Grilled Sausages and Tomatoes

There’s a local sausage maker that Eric and I are kind of obsessed with. Well, we are obsessed with their sausages. Is that weird to say? (Side note: if you’re a Richmond local and you haven’t tried anything from Sausage Craft/Salt Pork, do it. You won’t regret it.) We’ve been picking up a pack of sausage whenever we hit the farmers market, which means we’ve been eating sausage at least once a week.

In the “it’s summer, let’s grill everything!” mood I’ve been in lately, I of course wanted nothing else but to grill the sausage. You know what, though? Grilling sausage is not all it’s cracked up to be. Without being poached first, there’s almost no way to get a good sear on the meat without overcooking the inside. I know because we’ve tried. It seemed pointless to cook the sausages inside first and then build a fire only to sear them for a couple minutes. I mean, water certainly doesn’t add any flavor, so I just figured we could skip that step and end up with smoky, flavorful sausages that were only cooked on the grill. Man, I was so wrong. Without being poached first, sausages have a tendency to dry up when grilled. And really, no one wants a dried up sausage, do they?

After eating tasty-but-not-cooked-as-well-as-we-would’ve-liked sausages, Eric and I apparently had the same idea, because we both stumbled across the same Serious Eats article about grilling sausages. We decided to try again, this time with a new method: grill poaching. This yielded the most fantastically juicy and flavorful sausages, and we had a built in side dish. Double win. The sausage cooks in liquid on the grill, soaking up not only the flavor of the cooking liquid but also the smokiness of the grill. When cooked through, all they need is a quick trip to the grill grate to get wonderfully seared.

This method is one that can be used countless ways. We used red wine and a variety of tomatoes this time, and we’ve already discussed making a beer version next. I love grilled tomatoes, so using them was a no-brainer. Because I wanted tomato juices for poaching, I used some larger tomatoes, which I quartered, in addition to grape tomatoes. Garlic, red wine and fresh thyme all added flavor to the tomatoes. We used Cerdito sausages from Sausage Craft, but you can really use just about anything here. We all loved this meal, with Eric and I commenting repeatedly how good it was and how we couldn’t wait to make it again. You know something is really good when you get up from the table before dinner is over so that you can throw bread on the still hot grill and then use it to soak up the juices on your plate. The sausages were perfectly cooked, with that smoky flavor one expects from a charcoal grill. Bonus: the leftover tomatoes, blended with my immersion blender, made an awesome pasta sauce for the next night’s dinner.

Now, since I know we’re going to be making a variation of this meal every week for the foreseeable future, can anyone recommend a grill safe baking pan?

Grilled Sausages and Tomatoes

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