Stir-Fried Shrimp w/ Snow Peas & Red Bell Pepper

There are lots of great seafood options at Asian restaurants (the sole fish fillet in chili bean sauce at our favorite local place is amazing), but delicate seafood often doesn’t hold up well in sauce when ordered for delivery. Rather than suffer through soggy seafood, we usually stick to proteins that can better handle the trip—pork in garlic sauce, Mongolian beef, or General Tao’s chicken to name a few—when paying someone to bring Chinese food to our door. We also have a couple of go-to Asian seafood dishes that are worth sacrificing the ease and convenience of either dine-in or delivery to cook for ourselves at home. Our Thai coconut curry soup with sea bass or shrimp is a favorite that placates Dan’s sad cravings for the lemongrass-poached Chilean sea bass with rice noodles in chili lime broth from our beloved Malai Kitchen back in Dallas. We also love our simple, yet elegantly delicious ponzu sea bass. Now we have a third recipe to add to our crave-worthy Asian-seafood-at-home repertoire. This shrimp stir fry is bright and fresh with a nice amount of spice and tang from the hot and sour sauce. We also appreciate how cooking the ingredients in batches keeps the veggies crisp-tender, while making it easy to cook the shrimp to plump perfection. The only thing missing is a fortune cookie.

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Garlic-Roasted Cauliflower

We like to think of cauliflower as a versatile, guilt-free cravings-buster. It works well as a substitute for pasta in “mac-n-cheese.” We’ve seen recipes for cauliflower “fried rice” that look good enough to try sometime when we feel like Chinese food, but don’t want all the calories. One of our vegan cookbooks even has a recipe for cauliflower “meatballs.” (A little skeptical about that one). I’m not about to tell you that cauliflower will satisfy a craving for a juicy ribeye or tender filet mignon, but these cauliflower steaks are a hearty and delicious option for a vegetarian dinner. As much as we love our roasted potatoes, this recipe for garlic-roasted cauliflower is a great alternative with less calories and carbs but similar roast-y flavor and texture. Even better, the cauliflower cooks in about half the time as the potatoes and does not require parboiling. Win, win! Now if only someone could please come up with a way to make cauliflower taste like fried chicken, we would be forever grateful.

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Sedano e Mela Insalate (Celery & Apple Salad)

It probably seems pretentious to use the Italian translation in the title of this post, especially considering that we don’t speak Italian. “Vino bianco” or “vino rosso” (depending on the time of day and/or season), is about as bilingual as we get. But the title of this post is the name of a beautiful salad that we found at one of our favorite local Italian restaurants. So let’s just say we’re being “authentic” rather than pretentious. Speaking of authentic, one of the things we love about this Italian place is how they pride themselves on their authenticity. They even incorporate this aspect into their name, “Trattoria D.O.C.” According to their website, “D.O.C. is an acronym for ‘Denominazione di origine controllata,’ a wine appellation which requires that a product be produced following strict guidelines to ensure quality standards. Our attention to detail and time honored recipes, along with our dedication for fresh ingredients, is the reason we call ourselves ‘D.O.C.'” (“Appellation” refers to a legally defined and protected geographical indication used to identify where grapes for wine—or other foods—are grown. Yes, I had to look it up. Who’s pretentious now?) We love Trattoria D.O.C. so much that we once ate both lunch and dinner there in the same day:  blinded by an intense pizza craving (SUCH good pizza there) during a bike ride break one afternoon, we completely forgot we had dinner reservations with friends there in just a few hours, but we kept the reservations and enjoyed some delicious pasta that night. They have amazing, authentic Italian food there, is what I’m saying. The Sedano e Mela salad is my go-to (in addition and as a precursor to pretty much any of their pizzas), so much so that it became necessary to recreate it at home. Aside from the taste, the best thing about this salad is how easy it is to make—so easy that it doesn’t even warrant an actual recipe. Celery, apple, radicchio, pecorino cheese, olive oil, lemon juice and salt & pepper. That’s it. An authentic, simple, fresh—and decidedly unpretentious—flavor explosion. Buon appetito!

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Vietnamese “Get Real Into It” Pork Chops

It’s been a while since we posted anything of substance, and it’s beyond time for this one because we have one particularly loyal reader and friend who deserves more than a list of what we’re eating for dinner each week. I don’t promise that it will be our best post, and it certainly won’t compare to the literature our friend is reading these days, but it’s written with love, admiration and respect for a guy going through something incomprehensible, with intractable grace and dignity. (Yes, I had to look up the definition of “intractable,” and yes, if there is anyone who embodies “difficult, stubborn” grace and dignity more than our friend, such a person would be a good one to know.) Although I haven’t been inspired to write much lately, dusting off the blog as a way to let our friend know we’re thinking of him seems like the right thing to do, and I know I’ll be glad that I did. Similarly, I am often uninspired in the kitchen, yet the meals I’ve made when cooking is the very last thing I feel like doing tend to be the most satisfying. Like that time I spent all day painting our living room and dreaded having to cook dinner, until I remembered this delicious, quick and crazy-easy pork chop recipe. I whisked up the marinade, cleaned up my paint supplies while the chops infused with Asian flavor, and about half an hour later we enjoyed a meal that tasted like I’d spent hours in the kitchen. Totally worth it.
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Chicken Tinga Tacos

File this one under successful mistake:  what happened when we screwed up a recipe but somehow ended up with a dish that was even better than the original. Because we like a good chicken and rice dish (this one is a particular favorite) and we’re fans of smoky, spicy Southwestern flavor, we figured that this recipe for chipotle chicken and rice would be a winner. So why is the title of this post “chicken tinga tacos” instead of “chipotle chicken and rice”? Because someone mistakenly used brown rice instead of white rice the first time she attempted the recipe, which meant that the dish had to cook a lot longer for the rice to be done, causing the chicken to become tender enough to shred with a spoon (and us to eat dinner about two hours late). On that night we realized that the slow-cooked chicken and rice mixture would be far better suited as a taco filling than a main course. And not just any taco filling—we accidentally created a recipe for chicken “tinga,” which generally refers to meat slowly cooked in a chipotle sauce and served shredded in a taco or on a tostada. The first night we ate our happy accident, all we could think about was how good it would be wrapped in a white corn tortilla with minced onion, cilantro and a squeeze of lime. I will probably never be fearless in the kitchen, and my cooking will definitely never be perfect, but it’s comforting to know that sometimes it turns out that a mistake is just what the recipe needed.

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New Orleans Barbecue Shrimp

One of the many things we love about New Orleans is the vibe. It’s a place where we feel like we belong, the moment our feet hit the quaint, festive, balcony-lined streets. There’s an indulgent “anything goes” atmosphere that dovetails with a welcoming spirit and sense of community—even for tourists. This shrimp dish evokes that Big Easy experience with its bold, spicy, complex flavors and communal, one-pot serving that encourages a little bit of messiness and finger-licking as you peel and eat the shrimp and dip your bread in the sauce. In our humble opinion, New Orleans is one of those places that everyone should visit at least once in their lifetime. But if you’re not able to get there, try making a big pot of this shrimp, then eat it with your favorite person (or people) while listening to Van Morrison (or jazz, or whatever music puts you in the most relaxed, happy mood possible), and you’ll get very close to the next best thing.

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Grilled Peri-Peri Chicken Thighs

In response to a reader request (Hi Jill!), this post is more recommendation than recipe. If you’re interested in the most uniquely spicy and tangy grilled chicken that you’ll likely ever eat, do yourself a favor and order a bottle of Nando’s PERi-PERi sauce. We first encountered this addictive flavor at a Nando’s restaurant in London many years ago, and we were hooked after just a few bites of flame-grilled chicken marinated and basted in their signature sauce made from African bird’s eye chiles. Although Nando’s has restaurants all over the world, none of their locations are close enough for us to get our fix as often as we’d like. So we do the next best thing and make our own version at home. All you need is chicken, your choice of Nando’s PERi-PERi sauce, and barbecue sauce to tone down the spice a bit (unless you can handle the heat from straight-up PERi-PERi – we can’t.) We promise you won’t be disappointed.

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Slow-Cooker Vegetarian Black Bean Chili

There’s nothing quite like a big bowl of hearty, spicy, comforting chili to warm you from the inside out on a cold winter day. Our recipe repertoire includes several different kinds of chili:  Dan’s famous, Texas-style sirloin chili that actually won an award; a healthier white chili made with ground turkey that we like to have simmering on the stove while we decorate our home and tree for Christmas; and the peculiarly delicious version that Cincinnati is known for. Since this was our first attempt at vegetarian chili, we used a recipe by the experts at America’s Test Kitchen from their book “Slow Cooker Revolution.” It was really good, with all the right chili-esque flavors and texture that you expect from a cold weather, comfort food favorite. As I usually do when trying a new recipe, at the end of the meal I asked Dan if he would do anything different with the dish. He replied, “Two things:  increase the amount of chili powder, and add about three pounds of sirloin.”

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