Working Girl Dinner! Mind-Blowing Smoky Guacamole and Spiced Black Bean Soft Tacos

RECIPE: Mind-Blowing Smoky Guacamole and Spiced Black Bean Soft Tacos
Guacamole and Black Bean Tacos

Guacamole and Black Bean Tacos

These tacos leave me speechless.  Which is a rare thing.  I can’t figure out if it’s because they’re so mind-blowing that I literally cannot speak, or because my mouth is fuller than it has ever been before.  Definitely a combination.

I love this recipe for several reasons.  One: it’s super healthy.  And it’s January.  It’s time to stay home, save money, and eat well.  Or at least better.  This dinner is black beans, avocado, and tons of flavor.  No greasy pulled pork (how good is that stuff?), no runny cheeses.  But two: it’s still filling and packed with the smoky flavor of chipotles and cumin and chili powder, and the power punch of lime and jalapenos.  Let me break it down.

There are two equally important fillings in this taco.  The first is the guacamole.  Fresh smashed avocados with red onion, tomatoes, lime, and cilantro.  I spike it with chipotles in adobo for an extra smoky, spicy punch.  Keep in mind, it’s not a topping, but an actual taco filling.  I got the idea at Rosa Mexicano in New York.  They make your guacamole to your specifications tableside, and serve it not only with tortilla chips, but also with small warm corn tortillas for making guacamole tacos.  That’s my favorite bit.  So I stole that idea for these tacos.

The second filling is spiced black beans.  I just warm up some canned black beans with chili powder, cumin, ground coriander, and bay leaf.  Use whatever you have on hand.  Then I either char the corn tortillas on the stove, or microwave them, so they’re warm and pliable and the perfect wrapper for all that good filling.  Sometimes I top with sour cream.

This recipe, as with all Working Girl Dinners, is extremely easy, and pretty darn cheap.

When I tell you I love this recipe, I’m talking first-born love.  First-love love.  Soul shattering, earth moving love.  Romeo and Juliet didn’t know love, love.  I love these tacos.  Bon app!

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Categories: 15 Minutes, Cheap, Easy, Eat, Main Courses, Recipes, Series, Vegetarian, Vegetarian, Watch, Working Girl Dinners

French in a Flash: Awesome Mushroom Pâté

RECIPE: Awesome Mushroom Pâté
Wild Mushroom Pate

Wild Mushroom Pâté

It is my New Year’s tradition to make something with truffles.  They’re so luxurious—and I’m so superstitious.  I figure they will bring a successful year, the way birthday cake brings a sweet one.  This year, I want to make something sophisticated for a New Year’s party.  Something that would go with Champagne.  Something up to the occasion.

This is my mushroom pâté with truffles.  So easy, vegetarian, versatile, scrumptious.  The key is to roast the mushrooms with freshly ground dried mushrooms, whole cloves of garlic, and thyme, so the mushrooms sear and caramelize, the garlic gets softly charred, and the dried mushrooms add that extra shroomy oomph to the whole thing.  I whiz it up with Neufchatel cheese, which is quite low fat, so you can feel good about this in a New Year’s kind of way, and some parsley, and lemon juice.  I finish it with a drizzle of black truffle oil, and some rounds of baguette for smearing.

It’s not a vrai pâté.  But as something light, and fresh, and of course, vegetarian, this trumps it all.  Happy New Year!

Excerpted from my weekly column French in a Flash on Serious Eats.

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Categories: 30 Minutes, Appetizers & Hors D’Oeuvres, Bread & Butter, Dips, Spreads, Preserves, Easy, Eat, For a Crowd, French in a Flash, Recipes, Series, Vegetarian

The Secret Ingredient: Homemade Honey Sticks

RECIPE: Homemade Honey Sticks
Homemade Honey Sticks

Homemade Honey Sticks

I’ve always been fascinated by honey sticks. I only ever see them when I go apple picking, or pumpkin picking, on the counter next to some country store’s register. Arranged like a colorful bouquet in a pencil cup, sealed tubes of honey dyed fall sweater yarn hues. Purple grape. Blue blueberry. Pink strawberry. Like psychedelic spiked honey. I don’t want to think what would have happened to Winnie the Pooh if he’d got his hands on some honey sticks.

But I love them, and I couldn’t do a month of honey without trying my own version. I love these for a fun party that includes kids—something fun and different for them. I buy organic honey, so it’s ostensibly healthier than some sugary snack. I fill drinking straws with honey and work in drops of excellent flavored extracts, letting the color of the straw tell the story of the flavor within. Blue for vanilla. Orange for orange. Pink for strawberry. Green for almond. Put them in a cherished yogurt pot, and let the sticky fun begin.

Excerpted from my weekly column The Secret Ingredient on Serious Eats.

Homemade Honey Sticks
serves a party

Homemade Honey SticksINGREDIENTS

  • Acacia honey

  • Excellent quality different-flavored extracts, such as orange, lemon, almond, vanilla, peppermint, and strawberry


This is less of a recipe than a method. Press the bottom of the drinking straw so that two opposite sides of the straw meet. Tape to secure. Trip off the bendy top of the straw. Using honey in a squeezable plastic bottle makes this infinitely less difficult. Stick the open end of the straw inside the honey bottle, turn the bottle upside down, and gently fill the straw about 4/5 of the way up with honey. Use the pipette (or a steady hand) to add 4 or 5 drops of extract into the straw, and massage it a bit into the honey. Use different colored straws for different flavors, and make as many or as few as you want. One word of caution: don't make these too far in advance. One night out on the counter and the honey will seep through the tape on the bottom of the straws.

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Categories: 15 Minutes, Cheap, Desserts, Easy, Eat, Recipes, Series, The Secret Ingredient, Vegetarian

French in a Flash: Charred Whole Fish Soaked in Fines Herbes Sauce

RECIPE: Charred Whole Fish Soaked in Fines Herbes Sauce

Fines Herbes Whole Fish

Roasted Whole Fish Soaked in Fines Herbes

Mr. English’s whole English family came over for an early Christmas lunch yesterday, and I, a non-Christian American, was faced with the challenge of festively feeding eight avid British holiday revelers.  Traditionally, the English make a grand version of their weekly Sunday roast for Christmas: huge turkey or goose, or a big roast beef or ham, done with carrots and Yorkshire pudding and crispy roast potatoes and sprouts and the all-important, all-drowning gravy.  It’s just not really what I love to eat, and I can only serve what I what I love to eat.

So I did a playful take on the English Christmas roast: instead of a whole bird or joint, I roasted whole fish, soaked overnight in a fabulous, fresh sauce of fines herbes, and roasted with whole cherry tomatoes right on the vine.  Fines herbes is a French combination that goes gorgeously with fish: parsley, chervil, tarragon, and chives.  Delicate herbs, that would wither under a steady stare.  Blended with nothing but olive oil, the sauce is vibrantly green, and roasted along with the bauble-like cherry tomatoes, they make a festive, thought not gimmicky, play on Christmas colors.  Each person gets a whole fish, served with some of the fresh herb sauce set to the side, instead of gravy.  I served it with seared and steamed potatoes with parsley, and butter-soaked Savoy cabbage.

The herbs and olive oil soak into the flesh of the fish, and you get the wonderful freshness of the parsley, the anise of the tarragon and chervil, and the mild onion hit of the chives into every crack in the blistered fish flesh.  Mop up the juices with crusty, rugged bread.  And pop a cherry tomato in your mouth and feel it burst.  You rarely get so much freshness in winter, and get up from the table ready to celebrate, instead of nap.  ‘Tis the season to try something new.  And one thing I’ve learned living on the island that is Britain: there are plenty of fish in the sea.

Excerpted from my weekly column French in a Flash on Serious Eats.

Fines Herbes Whole Fish Raw

On the way to the oven...

Charred Whole Fish Soaked in Fines Herbes Sauce
serves 4

Fines Herbes Whole FishINGREDIENTS

  • 2 ounces flat leaf parsley leaves, roughly chopped

  • 2 ounces mixed chervil, chives, and tarragon, roughly chopped

  • 3/4 cup olive oil, plus a drizzle

  • 4 whole trout, branzino, sea bream, or other individually sized whole fish, gutted and scaled

  • Kosher salt

  • Freshly cracked black pepper

  • 4 branches of small cherry tomatoes on the vine


Put the herbs and 3/4 cup olive oil in the food processor and let it whiz for 5 minutes, until it’s vibrantly green and almost homogenous.  Set half of the sauce aside in a small bowl covered with plastic wrap and refrigerate.  Put the other 4 in a rimmed roasting tray that holds all 4 fish in a single layer.  Rub the fish, inside and out, with the remaining half of the herb sauce.  Cover the tray with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, preheat the broiler, with the oven rack in the second position down from the top (not just under the broiler, but slightly farther down).  Season the fish liberally, inside and out, with salt and pepper.  Lightly drizzle the tomatoes on their branches with olive oil and salt.  Arrange the tomatoes around the fish.  Broil for 10 to 11 minutes, pull out the fish, and carefully turn them over with a fish spatula.  Broil for another 10 to 11 minutes, then serve with the remaining herb sauce on the side.

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Categories: 30 Minutes, Easy, Eat, Fish, French in a Flash, Main Courses, Recipes, Series

A Poilâne Apple Turnover A Day…

Poilâne Chausson aux Pommes

Poilâne Chausson aux Pommes, or Apple Slipper

I never eat breakfast.  Never ever.  I’m allergic to eggs.  I don’t love sweets…especially not first thing.  What’s the point?

So, in my Saturday trip to Poilâne, I picked up what they’re most famous for: chausson aux pommes.  Apple turnovers.  Which really translates to slippers of apples.  And I love that kind of charming anachronism that the French language lends to its foods.  Apple slippers.  How old fashioned and absolutely lovely.

There are no chunks of apples.  There is no cinnamon.  It’s not really an apple turnover in the American sense of the word.  The middle is brimming and oozing with something like an apple sauce-turned-paste, honeyed in sweetness and color and flavor.  And as you bite into the hand-crimped edge of the flaky, crusty, substantial dough, every so slightly burnt on the underside because someone actually made it, the appleness oozes out around the corners of your lips and you can’t help but kiss back.

I had it cold, and in a rush.  A quickie before a seven-hour meeting at the office.  Imagine what might have happened if I had it fresh from a warm oven, on a Saturday morning.  Somethings are too magical to even bear thinking about.

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Categories: Finds, Restaurants

The Secret Ingredient (Honey): Parsley-Crusted Salmon with the ULTIMATE Honey Mustard

RECIPE: Parsley-Crusted Salmon with the ULTIMATE Honey Mustard
Parsley Salmon with Honey Mustard

Parsley Salmon with the ULTIMATE Honey Mustard

If you like effortless cooking, and you like seafood, you NEED the recipe to this sauce.

Growing up in Florida, you get very accustomed to having your seafood with mustard.  When we go for stone crabs, which after lobster is just about the best thing that ever happened to the human mouth, you dive the claws down into this creamy mustard sauce, sometimes tanged up with key lime juice.  It defines the experience of eating seafood in Florida.

The sauce in this post is the most versatile seafood sauce you could ever hope for.  On a chilled seafood platter, it stays firm for dipping, and is cool and smooth and complex.  Spooned over a hot piece of salmon straight from the grill, or over seared scallops, its melts into delicate rivulets that seep into the cracks in the fish.  All you have to do is cook some seafood, and put this stuff on or near it, and the magic happens.  For this photo, I paired it with a parsley-crusted roasted fillet of salmon, which you can serve, like the sauce, hot or cold.

I mix crème fraîche with Dijon and whole grain mustards, and a good amount of honey–enough so you can taste the sweetness, not just balance out the heat of the mustard.  I find crème fraîche tastes less greasy than mayonnaise, especially when it melts, and it has the slight tang, which really works.  That’s the sauce.  The ultimate honey-mustard.  You can add less honey, add key lime juice, add herbs, and citrus zest.  Do anything to flavor it and shake things up, but the basic is the classic, and it’s just perfect the way it is.

Excerpted from my weekly column The Secret Ingredient on Serious Eats.

Parsley-Crusted Salmon with the ULTIMATE Honey Mustard
serves 4

Parsley Salmon with Honey MustardINGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 cup crème fraiche

  • 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard

  • 2 teaspooons honey

  • 1 teaspoon whole grain mustard

  • 1 cup roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley

  • A drizzle olive oil

  • 4 6-ounce salmon fillets


In a bowl, mix together the creme fraich, honey, and mustards. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve the sauce with poached shrimp instead of cocktail sauce, crab claws, poached lobster, fried oysters or clams. Or with hot grilled or seared or roasted fish. For this recipe, with the parsley salmon, preheat the oven to 475 degrees F. Toss the parsley with a drizzle of olive oil. Season the salmon with salt and pepper. Crust the tops of the salmon with parsley, and then place a layer of foil over the salmon, and weight it down with a heavy pot for 10 minutes. Drizzle a rimmed baking sheet with a touch of olive oil, and place the salmon, without the foil, in the oven for about 10 minutes. Pour the mustard sauce over the top and serve hot, or serve room temperature with the sauce on the side.


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Categories: 15 Minutes, Bread & Butter, Cheap, Dips, Spreads, Preserves, Easy, Eat, Fish, Main Courses, Recipes, Series, The Secret Ingredient

A Week of Poilâne

RECIPE: Crottin de Chèvre Salad
Poilane Chevre Salad

A Crottin de Chèvre Salad, on world famous Poilâne bread!

Mr. English led me on a walk through my still-new neighborhood yesterday, and lo and behold, I looked up to see…Poilâne.  If you don’t know Poilâne, it’s the superman of French bakeries, located on the rue de Cherche-Midi.  The selection is sparse: huge pains au levain, with the characteristic “P” swirled into the top of the crust, the irresistible chaussons aux pommes (which means apple turnovers, even though the phrase actually translates quaintly to apple slippers), and the little crisp butter cookies.  And, of course, the giant chandelier, made of bread.  Of course.

Well, look out London!  Poilâne is here.  There’s no bread chandelier, but there were gorgeous bread birds sitting in bread nests.  Charming…very English quaint.  I walked into the rustic little wooden shop, much like its Parisian sister, and asked for a quarter loaf of bread.  Mr. English isn’t going to be home for dinners this week, and I wanted to treat myself without expending any effort.  Because frankly, after the kind of days I’ve been working, the only chance I have of staying awake for dinner is if the dinner is basically already on the plate when I get home.  And when the cat’s away, the mice do play.  For some people, that might mean some naughty flirting.  For me, it means eating goat cheese.  Mr. English hates it, so tonight, I made myself one of my favorite salads, crottin de chèvre, inspired by the famous café de la mairie in Place St. Sulpice in Paris (made famous by the fantastic modernist novel Nightwood–check it out!).  Mixed greens, with a light mustard dressing, topped with a tartine of toasted Poilâne bread with slices of melted, bubbling, oozing crottin de chèvre burstin on top of them.  Effortless, and so worth any effort that effortless might have left out.  Here’s to eating single.  Bon app!

I have a bunch more bread and a chausson aux pommes to get me through the week.  I’m definitely thinking about a croque monsieur tartine…and I think I’ve got breakfast taken care of.  I’ll keep you posted!

Poilane Bag

What a find!

Poilane in Wrapper

That's what you're looking for...

Poilane Crumb

Look at those air holes. Is there anything more attractive? No.

Poilane on Board

My loaf, on my latest Paris find--a slotted, crumb-catching cutting board, replete with Laguiole bread knife. Lucky me! And that's the Poilâne P on top.

Crottin de Chèvre Salad
serves 1

Poilane Chevre SaladINGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 teaspoon good French mayonnaise

  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

  • 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar

  • Pinch of salt and pepper

  • 3 teaspoons walnut oil

  • 2 slices of Poilâne bread, or good country bread

  • A drizzle of olive oil

  • Good sea salt

  • A few huge handful of mixed greens

  • A handful of walnuts

(and may I recommend a pear for dessert?)


Preheat the broiler.  In a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, mustard, vinegar, salt, pepper, and olive oil until emulsified.  Set aside.

Lightly toast the bread in the toaster.  Slice the crottin de chèvre into 4 slices.  Place 2 slices in a single layer on each piece of bread.  Drizzle very lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt.  Put the bread and cheese on a baking tray, and place the bread in the middle of the oven.  Broil from afar until the cheese is melting and bubbling.  Leave to cool for 3 or 4 minutes.

Toss the greens and walnuts lightly with the vinaigrette.  Top with the cheesy toasts.  Eat!!!!!

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Categories: 15 Minutes, Easy, Eat, Recipes, Salad, Soup & Salad, Vegetarian