Seared Fish Tacos with Mango Avocado Salsa

If there ever is a meal that makes everyone around the dinner table happy, it’s tacos. I don’t believe this just pertains to families with young children, adults love tacos too. Say, “Come and get it. Tacos for dinner”, friends young and old will pick up their step and chassé over to the dinner table. Yippee-yi-yay, it’s taco night. Grab your partner and do-si-do, it’s taco time.

Seared Fish Taco with Mango Avocado Salsa recipe

Seared fish taco with mango and avocado salsa recipe

One of my favorite types of tacos are fish tacos. I love the light and fresh flavor of fish paired with a spicy salsa, avocado, fresh lime juice and cilantro. Soft and sweet corn tortillas make the meal even brighter. One bite of these fish tacos reveals the composed flavors of delicate fish, tangy crunchy slaw, and sweet and spicy salsa. It is a very refreshing and flavor packed meal.

Seared Fish Taco with Mango Avocado Salsa recipe

SEared Fish Taco with Mango Avocado Dressing recipe

Most importantly, I believe a taco isn’t a taco unless avocados are part of the meal. Either in a salsa, guacamole, or an added slice for a topping, my tacos must include an avocado. For these fish tacos, I wanted the avocado paired with fruit for a sweet contrast to the smooth avocado. Honestly, I designed the whole fish taco recipe around the mango avocado salsa.

Seared Fish Taco with Mango Avocado Salsa recipe

Avocados are my desert island food. I miss avocados when a day goes by without eating one. I also love avocados combined with sweet and spicy ingredients. Both mangoes and avocados have soft and creamy textures, but the mangoes add a nice burst of sweetness that pairs well with avocados. In this salsa, the sweetness of the mangoes and creaminess of avocados offsets the heat from the chili peppers. Each ingredient creates a balance, nothing is either too sweet or too spicy. Just how I like it.

Seared Fish Tacos with Mango Avocado Salsa recipe

More easy fish dinner recipes:

Pacific Cod braised in Tomato Saffron broth

Arctic Char with Basil Sauce 

I designed this fish taco recipe so all three parts compliment each other and create one perfect taco.  The cabbage slaw is made with fresh herb and buttermilk dressing for a little tang and brighter flavor. Corn tortillas are on the small side, so either serve the slaw in the taco, or on the side as a salad. Either way, it tastes great with the fish and the salsa. I added jalapeño pepper to the slaw, but kept it mild by removing the white pith and seeds. I believe it is always good to have one part of the meal without a lot of heat and spiciness.  All the recipes are on the mild side of spicy, and are easily adaptable to your desired heat tolerance.

Seared Fish Taco with Mango and Avocado Salsd

What is great about all these recipes is you can easily make them for a great dinner of fish tacos, or serve them separately for a plated dinner. You can also make each item separately and pair with other recipes. The fish is a quick and easy weeknight dinner. Mango avocado salsa makes a great dip for chips, and the cole slaw is a perfect side salad with grilled fish or meats. You have three recipes in one, and multiple options for many dinners ahead.

Seared Fish Tacos with Mango Avocado Salsa

Prep Time: 45 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour

Category: Entree

Cuisine: Mexican American

4 servings

Seared Fish Tacos with Mango Avocado Salsa

Please don't be daunted by all these steps. A great taco has 2-3 layers, with each layer requiring its own recipe. On their own, each recipe is not difficult to make or take a lot of time. If you want to pare the recipe down, choose either the slaw or the salsa to serve with the fish in the taco. I love tacos with lots of fillings so I tend to pile them on.

The mango avocado salsa is best eaten immediately after it is made. Both mangoes and avocados don't age well after they are cut open and exposed to air.

Ingredients

    Buttermilk yogurt dressing for the Citrus Slaw
  • 3 tsp cider vinegar
  • 3 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 clove garlic, grated or crushed
  • 1-2 TB minced cilantro
  • 1-2 TB minced dill
  • 1 garlic clove minced
  • 1/4 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk
  • 2-3 TBS Greek yogurt
    Citrus Buttermilk Slaw*
  • 1/4 head of purple cabbage, thinly sliced or shredded
  • 1/4 head of green cabbage, thinly sliced or shredded
  • 1 large 4 oz carrot, julienne or grated
  • 2 ears of fresh corn, sliced of the cob
  • 4 small scallions, minced light green and white parts
  • 1-2 jalapeno peppers**, minced
  • Buttermilk Yogurt dressing to taste
  • 2 TB fresh lime juice
  • Zest from half a lime
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
    Fish for Tacos
  • 1 1/2 pounds fresh fish, like tilapia
  • Sprinkle of Kosher Salt
  • 1/2 tsp sweet paprika
  • 1/4 tsp of cayenne pepper
  • 2 tsp extra virgin olive oil Kosher Salt
    Mango Avocado Salsa
  • One mango, peeled and chopped
  • 1 avocado chopped
  • Juice of 1 Lime, divided
  • 1/4 tsp pinch of Flaky sea salt
  • 1 TB Extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 2 TB minced red onion
  • 2 jalapeno peppers**, minced
  • 8 grape tomatoes, quartered
  • 10 sprigs cilantro, minced
  • Zest of half a lime
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
  • Pinch of Kosher Salt if needed
    Assemble the tacos
  • 8 Corn tortillas
  • Seared Fish
  • Buttermilk Citrus Slaw
  • Mango Avocado Salsa
  • Lime wedges
  • Side of crema Mexicana, or creme fraiche (optional)
  • Side of Salsa Verde (optional)

Instructions

    Citrus Slaw with Buttermilk and Yogurt Dressing
    Make the Buttermilk dressing
  1. Whisk together the cider vinegar, lemon juice, Kosher salt, lemon zest, garlic, and fresh herbs. Slowly whisk in the buttermilk until incorporated then whisk in the yogurt. Taste the dressing and add more salt or lemon juice if needed. Cover and set aside until the slaw is ready to finish.
    Make the Slaw
  1. Thinly slice or shred the red and green cabbage and place in a large mixing bowl. Grate the carrot with a box grater and add to the cabbage. Add the fresh corn kernels, minced scallions and minced jalapenos. Mix together then add the buttermilk dressing. Add about half the dressing at first, mix together, then add more dressing if needed. Add the lime zest and juice and give it a final stir. Taste and adjust any seasoning if needed. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
    Make the fish.
  1. Sprinkle kosher salt, cayenne and sweet paprika over each side of the fish. Before you turn the fish over to season the other side, rub about 1 tsp of extra virgin olive oil over the seasoned fish. Turn over the fish and repeat on the other side. Let rest for about 15 minutes.
  2. Pre-heat a skillet or non-stick electric griddle to 350F. Spread about 2 teaspoons of vegetable oil or canola oil across the pan. Place the fish on the skillet or griddle and sear for 2-4 minutes per side. The thicker pieces will need longer then the thin ones. Time it to turn the fish over only once. The fish is done when the meat is opaque and will separate when you press down on the top of the fish. Keep the fish warm in a 200F oven.
    Make the Mango Avocado Salsa
  1. Peel and chop the mango into 1/2-inch pieces. Place in a medium bowl and drizzle with 1 teaspoon olive oil. Peel and chop the avocado into 1/2-inch pieces. Add the avocado to a small bowl and squirt about 2 teaspoons of lime juice over the avocados and a very small pinch of flaky sea salt. Toss to coat. Add the avocados to the mangoes along with the remaining ingredients. Gently stir to combine. Taste and add salt or other seasoning if needed. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside until ready to serve.
    Prepare the Tacos
  1. Warm up the tortillas, either by heating them in a skillet over medium heat for about a minute per side. Keep the heated tortillas on a covered plate in a warm oven, or an insulated tortilla warmer.
  2. To assemble the tacos decide if you are using the Citrus Slaw as a side dish or as a part of the taco.
  3. If using the slaw for the taco, place the slaw down on the tortilla then add the fish, divided into manageable size pieces for each taco. Add the mango avocado salsa on top of the fish and serve with crema Mexicana or creme fraiche, and/or citrus slaw on the side.

Notes

* If you are serving the Citrus Buttermilk Slaw as a side salad, you may want to add more shredded cabbage. I originally made this recipe using a 1/2 of cabbage each of the purple and green cabbages. I found I had a lot of slaw, enough for at least 8 servings for salad. I pared the recipe down for tacos, where a small amount of slaw is required.

** The heat source in chili peppers is found in the white pith inside the peppers. This is where the seeds are attached. The seeds hold heat as well, but not as much as the pith. You control the level of heat from chilies by slicing out the pith. Wear latex gloves when working with chili peppers, or wash your hands thoroughly after holding them. The oils from the peppers get on your hands and if you touch your eyes it will burn.

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© 2017, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

Rolled Flank Steak with Chimichurri Sauce

We went exploring at a new Farmer’s Market last weekend and picked up chimichurri sauce from one of the venders. Usually, I like to make my own pesto and sauces, but I made an exception with this one. The flavor was fresh and the garlic did not overwhelm the other ingredients.  Also, this sauce was my concession to what I really wanted to buy.

The vender was from an Argentinean restaurant, Gaucho Burger, and they were selling chimichurri sauce and Gaucho Burgers made with sliced roasted pork, lettuce, tomato and slathered in chimichurri sauce. I really wanted one of those burgers. The pork roast had a slight pink color, looked juicy and seasoned throughout with chimichurri. It looked perfectly cooked and delicious. Unfortunately, it was only an hour past my breakfast so I could not justify eating a big burger. I settled on buying their chimichurri sauce instead.

Rolled Flank Steak with Chimichurri Sauce recipe

Settled on is not a fair statement because chimichurri sauce can stand on its own merit. It is an Argentinean sauce made with parsley, oregano, garlic, red pepper, olive oil, and vinegar. It is traditionally used as a condiment or marinade for beef. However, I am sure it will taste great on chicken, lamb, pork, fish and grilled vegetables. The sauce’s bright taste comes from fresh parsley and vinegar. Yet, the flavor is nicely balanced with minced garlic, oregano and red pepper flakes. That bit of acid brings all the flavors together and tones down the sharp bite of fresh garlic. I love it. You can make it hot, mild, thick or thin. It is easily adaptable for any type of food.

Rolled Flank Steak with Chimichurri Sauce recipe

Rolled Flank Steak with Chimichurri Sauce recipe

Rolled Flank Steak with Chimichurri Sauce recipe

Once home, I knew exactly how I wanted to use the chimichurri. With not enough time for a pork roast, I decided on butterflied flank steak with a layer of chimichurri sauce. After spreading the chimichurri over the meat, I rolled-up the flank steak and secured with kitchen string. The result is a steak that looks like a roast with a spiral of chimichurri sauce throughout the middle. It is tender and full of flavor.

Rolled Flank Steak with Chimichurri Sauce recipe

Rolled flank steak tastes great grilled, or you can sear the meat in a skillet on the stove then finish cooking in the oven. Serve the rolled flank steak with chimichurri sauce hot or at room temperature. This makes it a perfect choice for entertaining. It is also easy enough to make during the week. Just butterfly, layer, roll-up, and refrigerate during the day. When you come home, it is ready for cooking.

Enjoy with potato salad, sugar snap peas with mushrooms, and for dessert peaches and berries with bourbon sabayon. 

Rolled Flank Steak with Chimichurri Sauce recipe

Tips or Success for Rolled Flank Steak with Chimichurri Sauce

Butterflying the flank steak is an easy thing to do, but if you do not want to butterfly the flank steak yourself, ask the butcher to do it. Make sure the butcher cuts through the meat beginning on the long side of the flank steak.

Compared to other steak cuts, flank steak is a tougher piece of meat. However, with extra preparation and proper carving, a tender slice of flank steak is possible. The muscle fibers, also known as the grain, are distinct. When carving flank steak, carving the meat thinly on a diagonal and across the grain, creates tender slices of steak.

The same technique applies to rolled flank steak. When rolling-up the flank steak, make sure to roll it across the grain. You will see the muscle fibers running the length of the meat. This way, when you carve the rolled flank steak you will cut the meat across the grain at the ends.

Rolled Flank Steak with Chimichurri Sauce recipe

For best results, serve flank steak medium-rare. Well done flank steak is tough to chew. An instant read thermometer is great in determining the level of doneness for a thick piece of meat. The internal temperature for rare beef is 125˚F (52˚C) and medium-rare is around 130˚F (54˚C). I stopped cooking my rolled flank steak close to 125˚F (52˚C), then I let the steak rest and continue to cook with the residual heat for 10 minutes. This is an easy step to do and prevents over cooking the steak.

It is a little more difficult to gauge the temperature in a stuffed piece of meat, you need the thermometer to be in the center. Also, how red the juices are will tell you how far along the cooking process is. The redder the juice the rarer it is. If you pierce the meat and no juices appear it means one of two things: the meat is barely cooked, or it is well done and dry.

Rolled Flank Steak with Chimichurri Sauce recipe

More flank steak recipe ideas:

Grilled Sherry Marinated Flank Steak

Included with my rolled flank steak recipe is a recipe for chimichurri sauce that I slightly adapted from Simply Recipes website.

Rolled Flank Steak with Chimichurri Sauce

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 45 minutes

Category: Dinner Entree

Cuisine: American & Argentinean

4-6 servings

Serving Size: 6-8oz

Rolled Flank Steak with Chimichurri Sauce

Flank steak is butterflied and smeared with a delicious Argentinean chimichurri sauce. The seasoned meat is rolled up, tied then grilled for a delicious dinner. Chimichurri is made with parsley, oregano, garlic and enhanced with vinegar and olive oil and red pepper flakes. It is delicious and works great as a condiment.

Ingredients

  • For the Chimichurri Sauce
  • 1 cup (250 ml) firmly packed Italian parsley leaves
  • 5 medium garlic cloves
  • 2 TB fresh oregano leaves
  • 1/3 cup (75 ml) extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 TB red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
    For the Flank Steak
  • 1- 1.5 - 2 lb (750 g - 1 k) flank steak
  • 3 oz - 4 oz (75 g- 125 g) chimichurri sauce
  • Kosher Salt about 1/4 teaspoon
  • Fresh ground black pepper

Instructions

    Chimichurri Sauce
  1. Add the parsley, oregano, garlic in a food processor and process until finely pureed. When necessary, scrape down the sides of the bowl to get everything processed evenly. (See Note)
  2. Add the herbs to a small bowl, then whisk together the herbs with the olive oil, vinegar, salt and red pepper flakes. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
  3. Use right away or store, tightly sealed, in the refrigerator for a couple of days.
    Prepare the flank steak
  1. Place the flank steak on a cutting board in front of you with the short end facing you, and the meat fibers running perpendicular to you.
  2. Butterfly the flank steak. Using a long, thin, and sharp knife, like a boning knife, cut the flank steak in half through the thickness of the meat. Beginning at the outer long side, either your right or left. Cut through the middle thickness of the steak, pulling back the top layer as you go. Keep the knife blade level to the countertop so you do not cut up or down, just straight across. Cut the flank steak open until you reach a half an inch from cutting all the way through at the opposite side. Open the steak like a book.
  3. Press on the seam with the heal of your hand to smooth out any uneven dumps.
  4. Sprinkle about a 1/4 teaspoon of Kosher salt over both sides of the flank steak.
  5. Spread the chimichurri sauce over the side of the flank steak you just cut open.
  6. Staring at the long side, either right or left depending on your dominant hand, roll up the steak with the meat grain running long and perpendicular to you.
  7. Once rolled up, tie up your flank steak roll with kitchen twine. I use 5 ties up the length of the rolled steak. Trim off the long ends of the string.
  8. Rub any escaped chimichurri sauce over the exterior of the steak. Cook right away or let marinate wrapped in plastic in the refrigerator. Marinate for no more than 8 hours.
    Cook the steak.
  1. Rolled flank steak is great cooked on the grill, or seared in a grill pan or skillet, then baked in the oven. If you marinated it in the refrigerator, bring the flank steak up to room temperature before you start cooking it. I usually take the meat out an 30 minutes to an hour before I start cooking it.
    For Grilling
  1. Prepare the grill for direct and indirect heat areas. Oil the grill before placing the meat down. When the grill is nice and hot place the rolled flank steak directly over the flames on the grill (direct heat). Sear the meat. Turn the meat every couple of minutes and sear all sides of the surface, about 8 to 10 minutes total. Once the meat is seared, move it over to the side of the grill prepared for indirect heat. Cook for about 10 minutes, covered. Check the internal temperature. If the temperature in the middle of the meat is around 120˚F - 125˚F (49˚C- 52˚C), the steak is done cooking.
  2. Remove the flank steak from the grill and let it rest covered with foil for 10 minutes. This resting period should produce medium-rare rolled flank steak, about 130˚F - 135˚F (54˚C- 57˚C).
    Stove top cooking
  1. Preheat the oven to 375˚F (190˚C / Gas Mark 5). Heat and lightly oil a skillet or grill pan large enough to hold your rolled flank steak. When your pan is almost smoking, sear your flank steak, turning it over every 2 minutes searing the steak all over. When the flank steak is seared, place the pan with the flank steak in the oven and cook. After 10 minutes, check the internal temperature. Stop cooking when the internal temperature in the middle of the rolled steak reaches between 120˚F - 125˚F (49˚C- 52˚C). Place the rolled flank steak on a cutting board and let it rest covered in foil for 10 minutes. Medium-rare meat has an internal temperature of, 130˚F - 135˚F (54˚C- 57˚C).
    Slice and Serve
  1. Cut off the ties and slice the rolled flank in /2 inch slices across the grain. Serve warm or at room temperature.
  2. Leftovers make great sandwiches with a chimichurri mayo, lettuce, tomato and your favorite bread or roll.

Notes

If you do not own a food processor, you can make the sauce by finely mincing the herbs with a knife.

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Grilled Chicken Salad with Orange Saffron Dressing

Several years ago I discovered two cookbooks that opened a new world of food and cooking, Jerusalem and Ottolenghi by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi. When first published, I resisted reading these cookbooks because of the hype surrounding them. It is my experience, hyped-up media often disappoints and does not live up to the claims. Later, when I got around to reading the books for myself, I realized how completely wrong I was. These cookbooks and all their other publications, are worthy of all the praise they receive. Jerusalem and Ottolenghi cookbooks changed the way I approach learning about new ingredients, cuisines, and cooking.

Grilled Chicken Salad with Orange Saffron reicpe

There are many recipes between these two books that I love, like Roast Chicken with Clementines and Arak, and Basmati Rice with Saffron Barberries Pistachios and Mixed Herbs, just to name a couple. However, I wanted to feature their recipe for Saffron Chicken with Herb Salad. I just learned this recipe and believe is perfect for this time of year. I renamed it, Grilled Chicken Salad with Orange Saffron Dressing. This recipe is fresh and vibrant and easily prepared. Perfect for the days when the warm sun is beckoning you outside.

Grilled Chicken Salad with Orange Saffron Dressing reicpe

For another salad idea try chicken salad with avocado dressing.

Grilled chicken salad with orange saffron dressing shows how well bitter and sweet flavors blend to form a perfect union. To start, a whole orange simmers for an hour with honey and saffron until soft and the liquid is reduced. The bitterness of the orange peel mellows when combined with grilled chicken salad, crisp fresh fennel, and handfuls of fresh herbs. This is a well composed salad and with each ingredient plays an important role. The grilled chicken provides the backbone and mellows the concentrated flavor of the orange dressing. A composed blend of fresh herbs brightens and lightens the salad with sweet aromas and a refreshing bite. The finishing touch that ties everything together, is a spark of heat from the fresh hot red pepper.

Additionally, this recipe taught me a new trick. The secret to making this dressing is to blitz the whole cooked orange in the food processor with the reduced syrup. Using the whole fruit developed intense orange flavor that reminded me of concentrated frozen orange juice. Also, the best orange popsicle you ever had on a hot summer day. It is amazing how bittersweet fruit flavor can cut the heat of summer in an instant like diving into a mountain pool.

Grilled Chicken Salad with Orange Saffron Dressing recipe

Personally, I hate throwing away citrus rind and am always looking for ways to include the zest in my meals. Citrus zest makes everything taste better so I was more than happy to use the orange rind. There is also less food waste. This grilled chicken salad recipe will turn heads and enlighten taste buds because of a simple and brilliant idea. It is a healthy and refreshing salad with hardly any added fat to weigh the meal down.

Grilled Chicken Salad with Orange Saffron Dressing recipe

The moment I read these two cookbooks, it was love at first sight. Savoring the bold flavors in each tested recipe, inspired me to be more daring in my cooking. I no longer shied away from unfamiliar spices like za’atar and sumac, but embraced them. For the past several years, Jerusalem and Ottolenghi hold an influential spot in my life like The Silver Palate and Marcella Hazan cookbooks did in the 1980’s. Not only are they inspirational, but educational about new ingredients, fresh insights, and different cultures. I am forever grateful.

Grilled Chicken Salad with Orange Saffron Dressing

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour

Total Time: 1 hour, 20 minutes

Category: Dinner Salad

Cuisine: Middle Eastern

6 servings

Grilled Chicken Salad with Orange Saffron Dressing

This is a bright and refreshing salad. By itself the orange dressing has a very concentrated bitter-orange flavor lightly sweetened with honey and saffron. The dressing mellows with the other ingredients and the freshness of the herbs are key to the bright flavor. A kick of heat from the fresh red chili pepper ties everything together. You can mix the salad with arugula if desired. Best eaten the day it is made. This recipe is from Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi, Saffron Chicken and Herb Salad.

Ingredients

  • 1 orange
  • 2 1/2 TB (50g) honey
  • 1/2 tsp saffron threads
  • 1 TB white wine vinegar
  • 1 1/4 (300 ml) cup water
  • 2 1/4 lbs / 1 k skinless, boneless chicken breasts
  • 2 small fennel bulbs, or 1 large bulb
  • 1 cup / 15 g picked cilantro leaves
  • 2/3 cup / 15 g picked basil leaves, torn
  • 15 picked mint leaves, torn
  • 2 TBS freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 red chili, thinly sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 tsp Kosher Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Instructions

    Make the Orange Saffron Syrup
  1. Cut a thin slice off the top and bottom of the orange so it will stand flat on a cutting board. Cut the orange in half then cut each half into 6 wedges. Add the orange wedges into a medium sauce pan. Add the honey, saffron, vinegar, and water to the saucepan. If any of the orange wedges are exposed and not submerged under water, add more water so all oranges are covered. Turn the heat to medium-high and bring the oranges to a boil. Then turn the heat down and simmer the oranges for about 1 hour. By the end the wedges will be soft and there will be about 5 tablespoons of syrupy liquid.
  2. Once reduced, add the oranges and syrup to a food processor and process until the orange syrup is smooth. If needed, add water to thin out the sauce and reach a runny and smooth dressing. Set aside.
    Prepare Chicken
  1. While the oranges are simmering, preheat the oven to 400F /200C. Gently pound the chicken breast with a meat mallet or the heal of your hand to create an even thickness in each piece. Mix the chicken breasts with 2 tablespoon of the olive oil, 1/2 tsp kosher salt and a couple of grinds of pepper. Sear the chicken breasts for 2 minutes on each side on a stovetop grill pan, or cook on a grill. Transfer to a sheet pan or baking pan and cook in the oven until done. (If you are using the grill there is no need to cook the chicken in your oven.) Pierce each breast with a fork, if the juices from the chicken are clear, not pink or cloudy, then the chicken is done. Internal
  2. temperature of 165F - 170F (74C - 77C). Depending on the thickness of each piece of chicken, roasting time could last for 5 to 15 minutes.
  3. Remove the chicken from the oven (or grill) and set aside to cool.
    Putting it all together
  1. Once the chicken is cooled, shred the chicken breasts into decent size pieces and place in a bowl. Mix 1/2 of the orange dressing with the shredded chicken. Cut the fennel bulb in half and slice as thin as possible, lengthwise. Trim off the core if desired. Add the fennel, fresh herbs, remaining olive oil, crushed garlic, and lemon juice to the chicken. Gently stir to combine. Add the sliced red chili. Taste and correct for seasoning with olive oil, lemon juice or Kosher salt if needed.
  2. Serve immediately.

Notes

For an easy shortcut, substitute the grilled chicken with shredded rotisserie chicken, or any leftover chicken.

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Taste of Spring: Pasta Primavera

It is funny how one little pasta dinner is the cause of serious debate and unfavorable opinions. After all, pasta primavera simply is pasta prepared with delicately cooked vegetables. What is so serious about that? Well, Pasta Primavera’s origin for one, and its popularity for another.

Taste of Spring: Pasta Primavera recipe

Taste of Spring: Pasta Primavera reicpe
A Brief History of Pasta Primavera

This pasta specialty is not of Italian origin, but is a 1975 American creation either at Le Cirque in NY City, or in Nova Scotia with a Le Cirque chef/owner connection, (Wikipedia). The recipe’s fame started at Le Cirque where customers could special order the meal because it was not on the menu. Amanda Hesser’s 2009 article in the NY Times, states Jean Vergens, then chef at Le Cirque, hated the dish so much he refused to allow Pasta Primavera cooked in Le Cirque’s kitchen. In order to satisfy their costumers, the staff had to cook the dish in the hallway.

Taste of Spring: Pasta Primavera recipe

What is not of debate is, Craig Claiborne and Pierre Franey’s article about Le Cirque’s recipe in the New York Times, made Pasta Primavera famous. Unfortunately, the fame of pasta primavera help create its’ loss of appeal. Across America, Italian American restaurants served Pasta Primavera. This crossover from a secret meal specially prepared, to mainstream America changed its identity. How can pasta with vegetables taste bad? It can when mediocre restaurants take over the pasta primavera market, (Hesser, A. New York Times 2009). Unfortunately, a meal created using French and Italian cooking techniques, became ordinary in the mass production.

Taste of Spring: Pasta Primavera recipe

Pasta Primavera Done Right

I like my pasta dishes with an abundance of extra ingredients mixed with some pasta, not the other way around. Depending on the recipe, pasta is a foundation for vegetables and sauces to stand out. Preparing pasta with good technique and consideration for the ingredients, creates food that is fresh tasting and has good structure and texture. A pasta dinner becomes a light and comforting meal. Pasta primavera is no exception. Primavera means spring and the vegetables and sauce should reflect a meal with fresh green vegetables with a light sauce. A rich and heavy sauce will overwhelm the vegetables and drain one’s energy.

More pasta recipes: Pasta with Ham and Spring Vegetables, Spicy Brussels Sprouts with Sausage and Pasta

This recipe is from Cooks Illustrated and, like a lot of their recipes, has a lot of steps. However, these steps help build flavor and develop a creamy sauce without a trace of cream. Even still, this recipe has 6 steps and the original Le Cirque recipe has 10, so fortunately, it is not as involved as the original.

What makes Cook’s Illustrated recipe so different? The pasta is prepared like risotto. This technique develops lightly toasted pasta with a nutty flavor. Additionally, this technique produces a silky and creamy texture and a double layer of flavor from the vegetables.

Taste of Spring: Pasta Primavera recipe

I slightly adapted the recipe by adding mushrooms and lightly toasting the pasta. It is my experience the pasta does not toast evenly in a Dutch oven. It is too deep and therefore, you get an uneven toasting. However, it is convenient to cook this recipe in a Dutch oven, otherwise I need an extra-large sauté pan or more pans. My focus is on the flavors of the vegetables and creating a silky-smooth textured sauce. Because I like the flavor of this recipe so much, I decided not to eliminate the step altogether and just pared it down. I was concerned the luscious texture would not be the same without this step.

As the name suggests, Pasta Primavera is a spring meal overflowing with vegetables. Also contributing to the lively spring flavor are wine, lemon juice, and fresh herbs. This is one of the freshest tasting pasta primavera recipes I’ve had. It is a lovely spring melody of asparagus, peas, mushrooms, leeks, and fresh herbs. It is clear the vegetables are the star of the show.

Taste of Spring: Pasta Primavera reicpe

Taste of Spring: Pasta Primavera recipe

Gluten-Free Pasta Primavera

A note for a gluten-free version of this recipe. It is my experience that gluten-free pasta breaks down when prepared following the risotto style directions. The result is an unappealing pile of mushy pasta with your delicious vegetables. I recommend substituting the recipe’s method of cooking pasta, and follow the directions given with your favorite gluten-free pasta. I am not certain why my quinoa pasta turned to mush, but it seems a gluten protein structure keeps the pasta shape intact.

You will need less stock and only add it to braise the vegetables. Lightly, cook the vegetables for less time, in a 12-inch skillet or sauté pan. Then, add some vegetable stock and wine and gently braise the vegetables until they are crisp tender. If you wish, just before serving, swirl in a couple of tablespoons of butter to the vegetables for a silkier sauce.

I would love to hear from you. Please tag me @lemonthymeandginger on Instagram or visit my Facebook page if you make this recipe or any recipe from Lemon Thyme and Ginger.  Also, leave me a comment or question in the comment section below the recipe. I love to see and hear about your creations.

Spring Pasta Primavera

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 45 minutes

Category: Entree

Cuisine: Italian American

Serving Size: 4-6 servings

Spring Pasta Primavera

Pasta Primavera is a bright spring vegetable pasta dinner garnished with lemon zest, chives and mint. The texture is creamy, yet there is no cream added. This is because the pasta is cooked like risotto and absorbs all the vegetable stock in the pot. I love the melody of the fresh spring vegetables.

Gluten free note: If you prefer using gluten free pasta, cook the pasta according to the directions on the back of the pasta box. I made this recipe with quinoa pasta and the risotto style cooking method turned the pasta into mush. Briefly cook the vegetables in a separate skillet then add some vegetable stock and braise them until they are crisp tender. You are not going to have as creamy a texture, but the flavors will still be fresh, bright and delicious.

This recipe is slightly adapted from Cook's Illustrated, Spring Vegetable Pasta.

Ingredients

  • 3 medium leeks, halved lengthwise, washed then sliced into 1/4 inch slices
  • 1 lb asparagus (453 g)
  • 2 cups (330 g) frozen peas, defrosted
  • 8 (about 100 g) white mushrooms, sliced
  • 4 medium garlic cloves
  • 4 cups (1 liter) vegetable broth
  • 1 cup water (250 ml)
  • 2 TB fresh mint, minced
  • 2 TB fresh chives, minced
  • 1/2 tsp fine lemon zest, plus 2 TB lemon juice
  • 5 TB Extra virgin olive oil
  • Kosher Salt
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 pound (453 g) pasta, like farfalle, penne, campanelle
  • 1 cup (250 ml) dry white wine
  • 1 oz (31 g) grated Romano or Parmesan cheese
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

    Prep the vegetables:
  1. Trim off the tough ends from the asparagus. Rough chop the tough fibrous ends and put into a large sauce pan. Cut the spears on the bias into one inch (2.5 cm) pieces. Set the trimmed spears aside.
  2. Wash and trim off the dark green parts of the leeks and add to the pot with the tough asparagus ends. Slice lengthwise down the middle of each leek. Wash each half making sure all the dirt is washed off between the layers of the leeks. Dry them with a clean cloth and slice each half into thin half-moons. Set aside.
  3. Defrost the peas and divide into 2-one cup (250 ml) portions.
    Enhance the broth
  1. Add the dark green leek trimmings and 1 cup of the peas to the pot with the asparagus trimmings. Add the vegetable broth and one cup of the water. Turn the heat to medium-high heat and bring the stock to a simmer. Turn down the heat and simmer the vegetables in the broth for about 10 minutes. Drain the vegetables from the stock through a fine mesh strainer over an 8-cup measuring cup or large bowl. Press down on the vegetables to extract as much of the juices as possible. Discard the vegetables and add more water to make 5 cups of stock. Return the stock to the sauce pan and keep warm on low heat.
    Herb mixture:
  1. While you are waiting for the stock to finish, mix the lemon zest, minced mint and chives into a small bowl. Set aside.
    Cook the Vegetable Medley
  1. Add 2 TB extra virgin olive oil to a Dutch oven and set the stove to medium high. When the oil shimmers, add the leeks and a pinch of Kosher salt. Stir to evenly coat the vegetables in olive oil. Cook the leeks until soft and just starting to brown about 4-5 minutes. Add the sliced mushrooms and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the trimmed asparagus and cook for 4-5 minutes until just tender, but still has a crispy bite. Add the red pepper flakes and minced garlic, stir and cook for around 30 seconds. Add the peas, stir and cook for about 1 minute. Taste the vegetables and add more salt if needed. Turn off the heat and spoon the cooked vegetable medley onto a plate. Reverse.
    Cook the Pasta
  1. Wipe out the Dutch oven and add 3 Tb extra virgin olive oil. When the oil begins to shimmer, add the pasta, stir and cook for about 2 minutes stirring constantly.
  2. Add the wine and cook until the wine has dissolved. Stir frequently while the wine is reducing.
  3. Add the vegetable stock. Turn the heat up to bring the stock to a light boil, then turn the heat down to medium. Frequently stir the pasta and cook until the pasta is al dente and has absorbed most of the stock. 10-12 minutes.
    Putting it all together
  1. Once the pasta is cooked al dente, turn off the heat and add the lemon juice, 1 oz (31 g) grated Romano cheese, and half the reserved minced herbs. Stir the pasta until the cheese is evenly combined. Add the vegetables and stir. Season with Kosher salt, ground pepper.
  2. Serve immediately and garnish with remaining herbs and Romano cheese.

Notes

If you use store-bought vegetable stock, use one that is not predominately made with carrots or winter squash. The stock will look orange and so will everything you cook it with. There are many vegetable stocks on the market and all taste different depending on the vegetables used to make it. (This is one reason why I make vegetable stock). I cannot deny the convenience of store-bought stock, but I encourage you to read the ingredients so you know what you are getting.

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© 2017, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

Perfect Holiday Weekend Menu Ideas

What to eat over the weekend? I complied a list of three menus for the holiday weekend to satisfy a variety of food preferences and tastes. One menu for the steak lover. One for food with a little heat. And a menu for a plant-based meal.

My focus for each menu is ease of preparation and the option to cook the main entrée on a grill. Each menu includes an appetizer, main course, vegetable side dish, and dessert. I hope each menu inspires you to cook for yourself and don’t be shy to mix it up a bit. The recipes are easy to scale up or down depending on your crowd. Or enjoy your leftovers for a later date.

Of course you don’t have to limit yourself to only these menus. Just search my archives listing the food you crave and hopefully you will find something to your liking.

It still feels like spring here in the Northeast, but now that it is Memorial Day, the summer has officially started. Let me know if you make any of these weekend menu ideas. I would love to hear from you.

Weekend Menu Ideas For the Meat Lover

Spinach Artichoke Dip with Bacon Recipe

Spinach and Artichoke Dip with Bacon

Grilled Sherry Marinated Flank Steak

Grilled Sherry Marinated Flank Steak 

Zucchini and Corn Salad with Pistachios

Zucchini and Corn Salad with Pistachios

Nectarine and Blueberry Galette recipe

Nectarine and Blueberry Galette

Weekend Menu Ideas For the Spicy Food Lover

Roasted Shrimp Cocktail Recipe

Roasted Shrimp with Spicy Cocktail Dressing

Poblano Chili Cream Sauce with Grilled Chicken recipe

Grilled Chicken with Poblano Chili Sauce

Sweet n' Spicy Herbed Carrots recipe

Sweet and Spicy Herbed Carrots

Double coconut pie recipe

Double Coconut Pie

Weekend Menu Ideas for the Plant Food Lover

Roasted Red Pepper Dip -Muhammara

Roasted Red Pepper Dip

Fennel Chickpea Ratatouille Recipe

Fennel Chickpea Ratatouille

Sugar Snap Peas with Shiitake Mushrooms recipe

Sugar Snap Peas with Shiitake Mushrooms

Auqafaba meringue nest recipe

Aquafaba meringue nests with mixed fruit recipe

Aquafaba Meringue Nests fill with mixed fruit and coconut whipped cream

Hope every one has a fun weekend with friends and family. It looks like a sunny weekend is in the forecast, perfect for lots of outdoor activity and grilling. If you make any one of my recipes post a picture on Instagram and tag me @lemonthymeandginger and #therecipename. You can also post a photo on my Facebook page. I would love to see what you create.

Enjoy!

Perfect Holiday Weekend Menu Ideas
Banana Oat flour Pancakes

© 2017, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.