Tag Archives: Cooking

Weeknight Meal: Cheeseburgers and Crispy Oven Fries

Yes, you can make mouth-watering burgers at home for a weeknight meal!  After a busy and crazy day there are times when I just crave a good burger to end the day and transition out of work.  We made burgers this weekend and was reminded how easy it was to pull off at home.  In fact, you can have lip-smacking hamburgers plus crispy oven-roasted fries within 30 minutes of putting the fries in the oven.  The burgers taste so much better because they are homemade with love and use fresh ingredients.   I like burgers cooked to medium that have flavorful meat, with some seasoning you can taste on the outside.   For the texture, I love a bit of a crunch on the outside and tender meat on the inside that isn’t too chewy.  The sharp cheddar cheese that melts down the sides of the burger makes it irresistible.  With the exception of the buns, I usually have all the ingredients in my pantry or freezer.  Give it a shot, here’s how.

The burger is the centerpiece of the creation and I found the grade of meat you use matters in terms of flavor, juiciness and texture.  For these burgers I used Angus Ground Chuck with 20% fat content.  We usually buy organic ground meat with 5 to 10% fat content, so the 20% fat was a stretch for me.  The grill masters have always recommended meat with higher fat content and now I see why.  There was a huge flavor and texture difference compared to the ground meat I usually buy.  I am somewhat of a seasoning purist and only use kosher salt, fresh cracked pepper, onion powder and garlic powder to season the meat, with a citrus pepper dusting on top of the burger.  It’s up to you – there are so many different ways to season a burger and you can make awesome ones at home.

I think I have mentioned several times (thanks for letting me repeat myself) that I swoon for anything fried.  French fries are one of my favorites.  You have probably seen countless recipes for fries roasted in the oven; I think oven-roasting is one of the best cooking techniques for vegetables – it makes you look like a pro with very little effort.   Roasting gives the potatoes a golden crispy crust with a soft and fluffy inside.  The prep work takes about 5 minutes, and while they are cooking you can get the burgers and garnishes going.

So far we have talked about the meat for the hamburger and oven-roasting the fries, but what about the supporting cast of the bun and condiments?  My favorite grocery store buns are premium sesame seed buns.  If I’m near a bakery, I’ll pick up some artisan rolls but I wanted to stick with more accessible items for this post.  I went all out for this photo shoot and lightly buttered the buns before I grilled them – fantastic!  That detail really pulled it all together for me.  The condiments, or all the good stuff around the burger, are what gives you those layers of flavors.  I love sharp cheddar cheese, but choose your favorite.  As a time saver, I buy the cheese pre-grated but slices are better to use for burgers.  I am a huge mayonnaise fan (Hellman’s!) and have to have it on my burger along with red onion slices, tomato, sliced pickles and butter lettuce.  David goes for a bacon cheeseburger with mustard, mayo, lettuce, onions and pickles.

What is your favorite burger?  I would love to hear what burger combination makes your mouth water!  Hopefully you are inspired to re-create this classic at home more often, with ease and very little planning.

Cheeseburgers with Crispy Oven-Fries        
Recipe: Melissa Schenker/Foodie for Two
Serves two foodies
Prep: 12 minutes         Cooking Time: 30 minutes total

2 medium russet potatoes, skins on and washed well
1 tablespoon olive oil
¼ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
¾ to 1 pound of ground beef (chuck or sirloin: 20%
   to 30% fat content)
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon fresh cracked pepper
1/8 teaspoon onion powder
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon citrus pepper for top (or favorite seasoning salt)
2 slices sharp cheddar cheese
Yellow mustard
4 slices red onion
4 slices tomato
6 to 8 slices dill pickles
2 whole pieces butter lettuce (or romaine or iceberg)
Salt and Pepper to taste

Heat oven to 375 degrees F (convection if available) and line a sheet pan with parchment paper.  Cut potatoes in thirds width-wise and then into wedges or strips – try to make all similar in size for even cooking.  Place on sheet pan and drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper.  Toss potato pieces with your hands and level out to a single layer.  Place in middle rack of oven and cook for 15 minutes.  Turn fries over with a spatula and cook for another 10 to 15 minutes until golden brown.  If needed, season with more salt.

Serve immediately with cheeseburgers.

Cheeseburgers  (heat grill 15 to 20 minutes before fries are done, start cooking burgers when fries have 10 minutes cooking time left):
Heat grill to medium high.  Melt one tablespoon butter in ramekin in microwave (three to four 10 second intervals) and grab a pastry brush – for the buns.

In a medium glass bowl, add ground meat, salt, pepper, onion powder and garlic powder.  Gently mix with hands until the seasonings are incorporated into meat; one trick to tender burgers is to handle the meat as little as possible.

Form two, one-half inch thick burgers and season top with citrus pepper or seasoning salt.  Place on hot grill and lightly smash down burger.  For a medium burger, cook for 4 minutes and turn over; lightly smash burger down again with spatula and cook for another 4 minutes (for well done burgers, cook on second side for 6 minutes).   A few minutes before the burgers are done cooking, toast the buns: brush the top and insides of the buns with butter and grill about one minute each side.  Place a cheese slice on each burger and transfer burgers to top rack of grill while buns finish toasting. 

Dress buns with mayonnaise or mustard; build burger on bottom bun starting with lettuce, cheeseburger, pinch of salt and pepper, onions, tomatoes, pickles and top bun.   Enjoy!

  • Can substitute sweet potatoes for russet potatoes

Cinco de Mayo: Slow-cooked Carne Seca

For Cinco de Mayo I wanted to highlight one of my favorite Mexican meals, Carne Seca, as a tribute to the Mexican culture and my roots in Tucson.   But first, there is historical significance to the celebration:  Cinco de Mayo, the fifth of May, commemorates the day in 1862 when the Mexicans triumphed over the French army – a powerful international military force at the time – in the southern Mexican capital city of Puebla, of the state of Puebla.  The Mexican government could not pay their international debts and asked for a short reprieve from its debtors; all but the French government agreed.  They were already occupying parts of Mexico and attacked the city of Puebla to gain more control.  Outnumbered by over half the soldiers, the Mexican forces defeated the French (they recaptured it a year later and left about three years after that).  It was a political and military battle that also affected the United States.  Lincoln was president at the time and dealing with the American Civil War; France was backing the Confederates.  We didn’t have the resources to fight another battle and wanted to stay somewhat neutral, even though it was critical to keep the French forces from overtaking Mexico and possibly the United States.  Historian Donald W. Miles considers the Mexican victory a turning point for the U.S. because it diminished the French support of the confederates.  The holiday is widely celebrated in the United States and in the Mexican city of Puebla; it is not a national Mexican holiday.  Not only does Cinco de Mayo celebrate liberty and freedom, it honors the Mexican culture and heritage.  The holiday is another celebration with food and traditions.

Translated as dried beef, carne seca is a slow cooked meat that originated in Northern Mexico and is their version of beef jerky.  I first tasted it at the renowned Tucson restaurant, El Charro Café.  There are many variations of the recipe, some boil the meat and others call for a dehydrator.  I cook mine for about 6 hours in a 250F degree oven.  When cooked, the meat is shredded and then mixed with a sauce – it’s an all day affair (most of the work is done in the oven) and perfect for a weekend meal or party.   As a reference for how to cook the meat, I first went to the cookbook “Purple Sage” from the Tucson Junior League.  Over the years, I found London Broil to be the best cut of meat because it has great flavor and just enough fat to keep it moist and flavorful throughout the cooking process.  I make it three or four times a year and look for the meat on sale in the “Manager’s Section” of the meat department and just keep in the freezer to use later.  El Charro’s Carne Seca always had a great crispy texture so to get the same effect, I put the shredded meat under the broiler.   The meat gets slightly crispy and then reconstituted in the sauce to absorb all the delicious flavors.

To me, the sauce is as important as the meat because it adds that layer of flavor that I’m always talking about.  It consists of Poblano peppers, jalapenos, onions, garlic and tomatoes.  I found canned tomatoes work best for me because they add flavorful liquid and body to the sauce.  My favorite is canned fire-roasted crushed tomatoes.  I’ve tried just using fresh tomatoes but it was missing the flavor that the fire-roasted tomatoes have.

There are so many ways you can enjoy carne seca – in tacos, burritos, tostadas, enchiladas or on cheese crisps.  In the top photo I used flour tortillas for tacos and garnished them with jalapenos, avocado, cilantro, limes and a quick salsa fresca (fresh tomatoes, onions, cilantro, jalapeno, lime juice, lime zest, olive oil and salt and pepper).  Carne Seca can be frozen for up to a month if you have any leftovers.  It takes a while to make but is worth the effort.

Eat well and share the love!   Peace to all.


Carne Seca
Recipe: Melissa Schenker/Foodie for Two
Serves two foodies plus leftovers
(250F degrees/Meat: 6 hours cooking time; 1 hour cool & shred meat/Sauce: 45 minutes prep & cook)

   3 ½ to 4 pound piece of London Broil
   Olive oil or vegetable oil
   6 cups water (will yield 2 cups meat juices from pan)
   4 to 5 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil
   3 medium Poblano (pasilla) peppers, diced (remove seeds and stems)
   1 jalapeno pepper, finely diced
   1 medium yellow onion, diced
   1 medium clove garlic, minced
   1 ½ cups canned crushed fire-roasted tomatoes
   2 cups meat juices from pan

Cook the Meat:  Heat oven to 250F degrees and position a rack in the middle of the oven.  Place a baking sheet rack in a sheet pan.  Add a light drizzle of oil to both sides of meat and season well with salt and pepper.  Place meat on baking rack and put sheet pan on middle rack of oven.

Bake the beef in the oven for 6 hours, turning every 1 ½ hours, until the meat is dry and can be easily pulled apart with a fork.  Beef should dry out completely and slowly.  After 2 hours of cooking, add 3 cups of water to bottom of pan to create a sauce.  When the pan is deglazed about 30 to 45 minutes later (if needed, scrape the bottom with a rubber spatula to get cooked bits), pour off liquid into a measuring cup and return sheet pan to oven.  Another hour later, add 3 more cups of water to pan and let cook for an hour and pour off juices.  When meat is done, remove from oven and let cool for about 10 minutes.

Shred meat by hand or with two forks.  Return to sheet pan (without the rack) and broil on high for of 5 to 8 minutes. Set timer for 2 minute increments, stir meat and repeat process two to three more times or until the meat pieces are slightly crispy.

Make the Sauce:  While the meat is cooking, get all the vegetables prepped and store on cutting board or in bowls, covered with damp paper towels.  Start sautéing the peppers when halfway done shredding the meat. 
Heat a large skillet over medium heat with 3 tablespoons olive oil.  When hot, add the diced Poblano peppers, diced jalapeno, ¼ teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper.  Stir well and sauté for about 10 minutes until peppers just start to soften.  Reduce heat to medium-low and add the onions along with 1 tablespoon olive oil and a good pinch of salt and pepper.  Continue to sauté, stirring often until vegetables are tender, 15 to 20 minutes.  Stir in garlic and cook for about 30 seconds.  Add tomatoes, a pinch of salt and pepper, all the meat juices and stir well.  Increase heat to medium and bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and let simmer while finishing the meat. 

When the meat is done broiling, add directly into the sauce.  Stir well and let cook over medium heat for 15 minutes to allow meat to absorb the sauce.  Serve hot.  Freeze any leftovers for up to one month.

·  Serve Carne Seca in tacos (flour or corn), tostadas, burritos, enchiladas or a topping for cheese crisps.

· Garnish with salsa fresca, avocado, jalapeno and fresh cilantro.

Birthday Epiphany & Chicken Piccata

As you all know, food plays a dominant role in my life memories.  This one is especially important to me because it helped shape my future and become the foodie that I am today.  One year I got a crazy idea and decided to fly out for my sister’s birthday to help her celebrate in person.  Never having tried this for someone else (except David), I thought: I’ll cook Cheryl a meal!  I had just figured out Chicken Piccata at home and deemed it a perfect meal to pull off in someone else’s kitchen.  It was in her kitchen where I realized what a true joy it was for me to cook and share the love with others; a life-changing epiphany that significantly influenced my career path.  I can remember standing in front of the stove while sautéing the chicken, listening to the comforting chatter of family around me and being overcome with a strong joy and happiness in my heart.  I had discovered my passion!  And I was making a meal to show how much I cared about someone, an ultimate expression for me.  It goes straight to my food soul.  While I can’t be there this year to cook Cheryl a meal, this post is in honor of her birthday today.  I am happy to share it with you: Chicken Piccata with Roasted Smashed Potatoes.

For those not familiar with Chicken Piccata, it’s made with tender, thin cutlets of chicken sautéed golden brown and served with a pan sauce made with wine, lemon, capers and butter.  The flavors are rich, silky and bright.  An Italian classic, piccata is traditionally made with veal cutlets; using chicken cutlets appears to be an American adaptation.  The term piccata translates to pounded thin and the traditional cooking method is to dredge the meat in seasoned flour, sauté it in olive oil and make a light sauce from the pan drippings.  I’m a sauce girl so I add chicken broth for more liquid.  And to make it easy to dredge the chicken, I use a small paper bag.   For the two of us, I use one large chicken breast (about .60 lb), cut into four cutlets and pounded thin. 

Capers have a pleasant tartness to them and are fun to cook with.  They are flower buds, usually from the caper plant, and either pickled or salted to use as a garnish or seasoning.  There are four classifications based on size, ranging from 7mm to 14+mm.  The most popular are the smallest buds called non-pareil.  Interestingly, the organic capers that I picked up from the store (pictured here) are from the juniper bush, as listed on the manufacturer’s website.  Using either kind, these little guys are also incredible when fried.  They become crispy, salty morsels that are perfect for garnishing salads and fish.

I saw a recipe for roasted smashed potatoes a few years ago that called for small round potatoes.  They looked scrumptious and just my style but I didn’t have the potatoes, so I filed it away mentally.  While grocery shopping recently I came across small red potatoes labeled as a one-bite variety (about an inch round) and thought they would be a fun side dish for this meal since Cheryl loves roasted potatoes.  Plus, it gave me an excuse to try something new.  Remember how I love anything fried, especially potatoes?  Well, these fit right in; the outside is crispy and crunchy with a slightly sweet, tender middle.  I roasted them in a 375 degree oven (with olive oil, salt & pepper) until tender and smashed them with a sturdy coffee cup (first tried a wide, large spatula and they popped out of the pan), and put them back in a 425 degree oven until they were golden and crispy.  Fabulous!  Garnish with fresh parsley, pepper and sea salt (parmesan would be wonderful as well). They are also the perfect side to serve with breakfast.

Often, our passions are fed when we are happily and completely engaged in doing something we love.  I am glad I was listening to my heart that evening at Cheryl’s because it’s why I’m here today, obsessing about food and sharing my stories with you. In honor of that, Happy Birthday to Cheryl!   Thanks for being my big sister, helping me dream and always encouraging me.

Eat well and share the love…..and follow your dreams.

Chicken Piccata
Recipe: Melissa Schenker/Foodie for Two    (April 2011)

Serves two foodies

1 large boneless, skinless chicken breast (cut in four pieces lengthwise and pounded thin)
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon each: salt, pepper, dry mustard
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 lemon slices, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons capers
¼ cup white wine
½ cup chicken stock
2 teaspoons flat-leaf parsley
Salt and Pepper

Heat the oven to 250 degrees and place an oven-proof serving platter on rack (to keep chicken cutlets warm while making sauce).  In a small paper bag add the flour and spices, mix together.

In a medium skillet, add 2 tablespoons olive oil and ½ tablespoon butter and heat over medium-high heat.  Dredge chicken cutlets individually in flour mixture in paper bag.  Shake off the excess flour and add to the hot pan; sauté the chicken for 3 to 4 minutes until golden brown and turn over.  Add a drizzle of olive oil around the edge and middle of pan along with ½ tablespoon butter; sauté another 3 minutes until golden brown.  Turn heat off and transfer cutlets to a plate in the warm oven while making the sauce.

Return skillet to medium heat and add the wine and chicken stock to deglaze the pan; cook for 3 to 4 minutes until reduced.  Add capers, 1 tablespoon butter, lemon slices, parsley and a pinch of salt and pepper.  Let cook for 2 minutes or until butter is melted, stir through.  Remove serving platter and chicken from oven and pour sauce over chicken cutlets.  Serve immediately.

Mom’s Chocolate Pudding and Sci-Fi

Most of my life memories have to do with food, usually a flavor, an aroma, a favorite recipe, or gatherings around a meal.  My first food memory is from when I was about five years old.  Our Mom has always liked to cook and bake; her desserts were something I always looked forward to.  When we were kids she would make chocolate pudding for us and serve it in Tupperware parfait cups, the kind where the bottom stand snapped on.  After dinner I remember sitting on the living room floor in front of the television (surely a safe distance away) with my siblings Cheryl and Robert, savoring every spoonful of pudding while watching Lost in Space.  Wow!  I was in kid heaven, eating homemade chocolate pudding and watching a fantasy television show.  The family was lost and traveling in a spaceship to different planets with a walking robot (Danger, Will Robinson!) to protect them, and an annoying man named Dr. Smith who was always causing trouble.  Back then, there weren’t many shows like that on the airwaves.  I am still a huge fan of science fiction, chocolate pudding, and any meal Mom cooks for me. 

I do more cooking than baking so I didn’t have a pudding recipe on hand.  My Mom was always using her Betty Crocker Cookbook when we were kids; in fact she told me she still uses the same book today even though it is falling apart.  The pudding she made was either a Jell-O mix or from scratch using the Betty Crocker recipe.  For the official pudding description, I consulted one of my reference books, “The Professional Chef” by Wayne Gisslen.  The two most popular types of pudding are starch-thickened (cream pudding, pastry cream) where flour or cornstarch is used as a thickener and eggs are tempered into a hot cream mixture, and baked (custards, pots de crème, crème brulee) where egg yolks are used as the thickener and the mixture is baked in the oven without stirring, usually in a water bath.  Chocolate pudding is just vanilla pudding with chocolate added.  Spoon, please!

These are the only ingredients you’ll need for this yummy goodness!  I modified the Betty Crocker recipe, which only takes about 15 minutes to make on the stove top (at least an hour in the refrigerator to cool) and most of the work is just stirring the mixture.  This one is super simple in my book.  Instead of using unsweetened cocoa and more sugar as most recipes call for, I used my favorite bittersweet and semi-sweet chocolate chips for a rich and deep chocolate flavor.   Another thanks to Mom for introducing me to Tahitian Vanilla extract a few years ago, which I used in this recipe.  This brand, in my opinion, has the best tasting Tahitian Vanilla around. The flavor is deep but not muddy, with a wonderful floral scent.  It’s also divine in fresh whipped cream, which would be a great garnish for this pudding.

Some like the thick coating or “skin” that develops on the top when the pudding cools.  I prefer it without; to prevent it from forming just lay a piece of plastic wrap directly on top of the warm pudding before putting in the refrigerator to cool. 

To stir the pudding, I like using a silicone-coated wire whisk rather than a spoon or wire whisk.  While working at the catering company, I learned on the third consecutive try that the type of pan, whisk and whisking action can react with the egg yolks and turn your crème anglaise an ugly grey color.  So to be safe and keep my pans scratch-free, I always use the coated whisk.

Pudding is definitely a comfort food for me and reminds me of the simple pleasures in life.  And thank goodness for sci-fi to inspire our imagination and take us to faraway lands.  Enjoy!

Click on link for recipe: Chocolate Pudding


Halibut meets Pesto and Edible Flowers

Having to decide what to make for a weeknight meal can be a tough decision after a long day.  We want it to be different, taste great and easy to get on the table, right?  Try Seared Halibut with Cilantro Pumpkin Seed Pesto (plus edible flowers and jasmine rice).  Fish is a quick, healthy option packed with nutrition.  My favorite is Norwegian salmon, which I always cook, so I wanted to get out of my comfort zone……I first selected turbot because it is a more economical option than salmon, halibut and sea bass, but I hadn’t ever eaten or prepared it.  As with other foods, I was determined to master a technique: getting a crispy, golden sear on the fish, which is perfect for salmon and halibut.  I tried the searing technique with the turbot filets and it was a flop!  They tasted great but the fish filets didn’t hold up to the high heat and stuck to the pan, leaving an unsightly mess (no photo shoot that afternoon).  Turbot is a good fish to use for fish tacos or a baked recipe.  So, back to the store I went for two halibut filets instead (choose filets with the skin on; adds flavor and easier to remove from pan in one piece). 

I also modified the jasmine rice recipe because the first idea got thumbs down from us both, it was too sweet.  Sigh, it’s so deflating to my ego when two things flop in a meal!  This is a perfect reminder to learn from my mistakes.  It’s easy to get frustrated when I mess up food, but it provides an opportunity to analyze what went wrong and how to improve it the next time.  Plus, it gives me more confidence and information for my mental kitchen toolbox.

Let’s quickly talk about fishing methods, wild-caught and farm-raised.  Then I’ll describe the searing technique.  We basically buy our fish sourced from two different methods: either caught in the wild or raised/farmed in a controlled environment.   My upcoming blog will discuss the differences between the two fishing methods and how to make informed choices.  Okay, how to get a good sear?  The tricks are a heavy-duty (not a non-stick) oven-proof skillet, a high heat and a hot oven to finish the filets.  Open your windows because it will be aromatic.  If the skillet gets really hot over medium high heat with a good coating of oil, I find it’s easy to get that scrumptious golden, crispy crust on the fish.  I love butter but it will only burn with this method so I just use olive oil (or vegetable oil).  The oven is heated to 400 degrees where the filets finish cooking after being flipped over.

Pesto is another way to experiment with ingredients and flavors.  It doesn’t always have to be made with basil, pine nuts and parmesan cheese.  I love Mexican food, so cilantro and pumpkin seeds seemed like natural pairings.  Fresh orange juice adds sweetness and brightens the flavors – the result is a rich and tasty pesto that pairs well with the fish.  It would also be good smothered over fish (turbot, tilapia, cod) before it’s baked.  And it would be great just on toasted Crostini.  The pesto can be made up to two days ahead, tightly covered and refrigerated.

These organic, edible flowers were a small splurge (cost just a little more than packaged herbs) and fun to try.  I found them at Whole Foods and they are Colorado-grown: snapdragons, nasturtiums, mint sprigs and carnations.   When I tasted the nasturtiums, I was instantly brought back to my childhood and the little garden at our villa in Morocco, Africa.  I would race my older sister and brother (Cheryl and Robert) to pick the fresh nasturtium flowers and slurp out the nectar!  We didn’t know the sweet flowers were also edible.  As an adult, it was fun to try edible flowers with the fish and rice; the snapdragons had a bright, fresh grassy flavor with a slightly bitter taste at the end.  They each added a fresh complexity to both the fish and the rice.  I had some leftover flowers and put a few in my wilted spinach the other night – they were a wonderful compliment to the buttery spinach.   I highly recommend this splurge sometime!

Here’s a quick recipe for a side of rice:  Cook 1 cup jasmine rice according to package directions (include a pinch of salt and a tablespoon of unsalted butter).  When cooked, add some cilantro, chives or scallions, lime juice, lime zest, olive oil, salt and pepper.  Stir together and serve.  It’s that easy!  For a fun presentation, fill a ramekin (tightly packed) with rice and invert onto plate.  If it doesn’t release just lightly tap the bottom.

Seared Halibut with Cilantro Pumpkin Seed Pesto  (click for pdf)
Recipe: Melissa Schenker/Foodie for Two
Serves two foodies

Seared Halibut: 
2 Halibut filets, total weight .60 to .75 lb., about 1 ¼ inch thick
Olive Oil

Make the Cilantro Pumpkin Seed Pesto (see recipe below)

Heat oven to 400 degrees.  Add a light drizzle of olive oil to the fish filets and season with salt and pepper.  Heat a medium oven-proof skillet over medium high heat with about 1 ½ tablespoons olive oil, enough to form an even coating.  When the oil just starts to develop ripples, lay the fish filets in the skillet, meat side down and cover with a splatter screen. Tip:  when you lay the filets down, place them away from you so you don’t get splattered with hot oil.

Cook without touching or moving the filets for about 8 minutes. Gently move the pan back and forth to distribute the oil around the filets every few minutes.  When the fish is ready to be turned it will easily release from the pan.  Using a spatula gently turn filets over, add a drizzle of olive oil around the inside edge of the skillet and place in hot oven.  Cook for another 2 minutes.  Fish is done when it flakes and meat is opaque in the center. 

Serve the fish with generous spoonfuls of the cilantro pumpkin seed pesto (garnish with a few pumpkin seeds), some lime and cilantro jasmine rice and if splurging, garnish with some organic edible flowers.


Cilantro Pumpkin Seed Pesto:
1/3 cup pumpkin seeds, dry toasted in skillet
2 cups packed cilantro leaves, okay if some stems included
1 small garlic clove, cut into thirds
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice

Toast pumpkin seeds in a dry skillet over medium heat until golden and fragrant, about 4 minutes; stir often. Let cool slightly on cutting board.  Measure out ¼ cup of seeds and save the extra for garnish.

Add ¼ cup toasted pumpkin seeds plus the remaining ingredients to a food processor and pulse until well emulsified to a thick paste, stopping machine and scraping down the sides a few times.  Can be made up to two days ahead; cover tightly and refrigerate.