Friends, I’m out of words this week. Getting into the groove of this new school year has been more exhausting than usual, and my brain is finally putting up the stops for a week.
Luckily this week’s recipe really doesn’t need much discussion. You love pesto. I love pesto. The refrigerated pesto at the store is far superior to the jar on the shelf, but it can be $$. Even homemade can be $$ because do you even know how expensive a little jar of pine nuts is? Enter our homeboy, almond.
We make this pesto with basil straight from our garden, but you can buy the basil fresh from the store. If you’re buying the basil I would possibly half or quarter the recipe because my goal here is not for you to spend $15 on herbs alone. We just happen to have a bunch of (ahem, 12) basil plants, so we have plenty of basil throughout the summer and early fall to make this recipe 4-5 times, as well as just have basil when we need it randomly.
I can’t actually believe I’m about to type this because I have a black thumb when it comes to gardening, but do you know how easy it is to grow basil? SO easy. We generally buy 1-2 plants at the beginning of summer, then get more plants from that. You seasoned gardeners probably know this, but basil is a plant that you can put a stalk in water and it will grow new roots. Plant the new rooted stalk, give it a little love, then wham bam you’ve got a new basil plant. We just do that over and over until we have enough or just run out of space (always the second).
A few notes before diving right into the recipe:
As written, this is very basily. Andy and I prefer it this way, but just add a little less if too much herbiness overwhelms you.
Don’t get super caught up in measurements here. Pesto is pretty forgiving, so just tweak it until you come up with the proportions that are right for you.
Olive oil goes a long way towards the thickness or sauciness of the pesto. If you want a thicker pesto, use less. We like to use a full cup because we generally use it with pasta, and the extra olive oil helps the sauce stick to the noodles.
This makes a lot of pesto, so I generally use half and freeze half for later.
4 c basil leaves
¾ c almonds
½-3/4 c grated parmesan
1 tsp salt
¾-1 c olive oil
Place basil leaves, almonds, parmesan and salt into a food processor.
Pulse a few times to get things going.
Turn the food processor on and slowly add the olive oil through the food chute. Start with ¾ cup, and check for the consistency you want. If you want it “saucier,” add the remaining ¼ cup.
We’re going Vietnamese today! Please don’t let that scare you. I’ve forged the way, now just take my hand as we dive into this bready, meaty, crunchy, spicy, herby situation that is now my lyfe. Banh mi, you guys. Sorry in advance, this post is a little long, but it’s just because I have so much to say on the subject, and I’m determined to bring you all with me into the obsession of pork banh mi sandwiches.
Have you guys heard of Banh Mi? I’m sure you have, and I’m just late to the game #asusual. I first heard about what is now my favorite sandwich obsession while watching a show on Food Network, and immediately knew I would like it. Fast forward a million years (okay, like, 2 years) and Andy and I stumble upon a place in our city that specializes in them.
Face in palm, y’all. HOW DID I NOT KNOW ABOUT THIS PLACE? In our defense it’s in an area of town that we rarely go through, and it’s got a textbook hole-in-the-wall status. No matter what the situation – we found it, and my life changed for the better. It was everything I thought it would be and more. After having that sandwich I couldn’t stop thinking about it and knew I wanted to make it at home, so I did some research.
The first thing I realized is that there’s no rule book for banh mi, but I did find some common themes in that they generally include some sort of marinated meat (or tofu), pickled veggies, sauce and fresh herbs. They also often involve pate, which is that brown spread you see really well in the picture above. See the notes section after the recipe. While it’s a traditional ingredient to use, we found that it’s really not necessary. The taste is fine (unless you don’t like pate – hiiiiii, dad!), but it just doesn’t really add much to the sandwich.
Before I get into discussing my recipe we need to have a little chat – lean in and listen to me closely. There are three parts that have to be made for this recipe, and I don’t want anyone thinking that means it takes a long time. Two of the three parts can/should be prepared a few days in advance, and literally take 5-10 minutes each. Then the day of you’re just cooking the pork and assembling the sandwiches. Do not let the number of steps fool you – this is an EASY recipe.
First step here is a spicy sauce. I knew right away that I would make my sriracha mayo for this. I’ve been making this sauce for years because – surprise! – it tastes exactly like the spicy mayo you get with sushi, and I love it with seafood. A little goes a long way, so that’s how I rationalize eating mayo with seafood…or maybe it makes me feel like I’m sort of eating sushi when I use it? Either way, it’s good, and we generally have some on the ready in our fridge. The good thing about this sauce is that you can make it several days before you have the sandwiches because it lasts in the fridge just like regular mayo (you can also make it the day of, but I find it tastes better when the flavors have had at least several hours to cozy-up).
The second thing I realized was that I would need pickled veggies, so I did some research and found that pickled veggies generally include vinegar, salt and sugar. So I made my own 🙂 My mom seemed impressed, and I was like, “What? Like it’s hard?” These veggies are so good, friends. They provide the perfect crunch and pop of vinegary zing that goes perfectly with the soft bread, spicy mayo and pork. I used my spiralizer to cut the daikon radish, and then just quickly julienned the carrots. Don’t have a sprializer? No problem. I’ve also just julienned the daikon, and it took no time at all. These need to be made at least two days in advance, but can be made up to a week early. (I found the daikon radish at Whole Foods, but if you don’t want to make multiple grocery store runs and can’t find it then just double the amount of carrots to pickle.)
The third part of my banh mi is the pork. This is the star of the sandwich. Even if you don’t make the sandwiches, make this pork with this marinade. It is SO good that it could be served as a main in its own right. I got it into the marinade during naptime at the beach, but it would be fine going a little longer, so get it into the marinade before work on the morning you’re going to make it. Then you’ll just roast it in the oven for 20-25 minutes and dinner is ready!
Okay, I hope I’ve given you the motivation needed to make your own banh mi sandwiches. All you need are three super simple parts made at your convenience, and you have a casual friends over for dinner meal, or weeknight supper with leftovers for days. Either way you’re totally winning.
2 pork loins (about 2-2.5 lbs total)
– ¼ c soy sauce
– 2 tbsp fish sauce
– 4 cloves minced garlic
– 2 tbsp lemongrass paste*
– 2 tbsp sesame oil (or olive oil)
– 1 c mayonnaise
– ¼ c sriracha
– 1 tsp sesame oil
– ½ daikon radish
– 4 carrots
– ¼ c sugar
– 1 tbsp salt
– ½ c rice vinegar (white works, as well)
Soft French bread rolls
Toppings: cilantro, jalapeno, pate (optional)
Prepare the pickled veggies (2-5 days in advance): julienne cut the daikon and carrots, and place into a container with a tight fitting lid. Combine the sugar, salt and vinegar and pour over the veggies. Fill the container with water so that the veggies are submerged. Refrigerate until ready to use.
Prepare the sriracha mayo (can be made in advance): combine the mayonnaise, sriracha and sesame oil. Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container.
Prepare the pork (day of): place the pork loins in a zipper plastic bag. Combine marinade ingredients and pour over the pork, and marinade 4-8 hours.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Remove pork from the marinade and place in a baking dish. Cook the pork for 20-25 minutes.** Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly.
While the pork is cooking cut the French rolls and prepare the toppings.
Slice the pork loin in about ¼ inch slices.
Assemble: spread the sriracha mayo on the bread, add preferred amount of pork slices, top with the pickled veggies, cilantro and jalapeno***
*You can find lemongrass paste in the same section of the produce department where you find the tubes of basil and other fresh herbs.
**We like our pork loin to still have plenty of pink when it’s done – not still bleeding, but pink. If you prefer your pork to be well-done, up the cooking time by five minutes.
***If using pate as a topping, just spread on one side of the bread before topping with the pork.
Notes: the pictures include pate, but we’ve found that it’s really not necessary. In my research, pate always came up as a topping, so we at least tried it. It’s not bad, but for us it just didn’t add anything, and we could barely tell it was there.
More notes: this feeds about 8 people, but if you’re making it for a small group of 2-4, the leftovers are just as good as the fresh meal, so definitely don’t worry about cutting the recipe in half. If you’re like me then you’ll be fine eating them every day for a week!
Warning: this post is picture heavy with yummy chicken pita and family time – I just couldn’t help myself! You can scroll through for the recipe, but then you’ll miss all of the mouthwatering goodness.
Happy hump day, friends! Did you miss me? I’m back after a week off because #vacation. I know I only took one week off from posting, but man it feels like it’s been ages. Last week my little family went with Andy’s parents, aunt, uncle and cousin and took a trip far into the NC mountains where we kayaked, tubed, rode a train and just generally relaxed for several days, and it was incredible. Since starting MFTS it was the first time I let myself go completely offline and not worry about anything blog related. I wish I had tons of pics to share with you, but they’re basically all of AR playing in the creek behind our house. Okay okay, here’s some of that, and our family train ride on the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad (sorry it’s blurry – thanks a lot, train).
After a few days, though, it was back to reality. And back to our current obsession, which made up our 4 meals pre-mountain trip and now 4 meals post-mountain trip. Ask me if I’m mad about it and the answer is a resounding as if, you guys. As. If. I present to you Chicken Pita with Avocado Tzatziki.
*Let me first state that I make no claims to this being an authentic tzatziki recipe. I’ve tried making traditional tzatziki and haven’t gotten it quite right yet, but this is my blog and I get to call it what I want amiright? Call it magic sauce for all I care. That may actually be a better name for it given how easy, healthy and absolutely delicious it is. Srsly, you’ll want it on errrythang once you’ve made it.
What we have here is the easiest, freshest, green on green on green meal you can have ready and on the table in less than 30 minutes. Let’s break down my chicken pita with avocado tzatziki…
First you have the pita. Flatbreads or pockets work, but we generally prefer the flatbread. Andy likes to spiff ‘em up a little by warming them in a pan with a teensy drizzle of olive oil and salt <– this step is 100% optional, but you should definitely warm your pita a little before loading it up!
Then you have the magic sauce avocado tzatziki. This sauce was the inspiration for the entire dish. See, every week we buy a bag of avocados from Costco. We share one for breakfast most mornings, but we generally still have 1-2 leftover later in the week. I thought it would be good to mix with Greek yogurt, and then I decided to see how it would be with some grated cucumber.
It was SO good I had to stop myself from eating it with a spoon. The key here is the grated cucumber. I use my microplane, but a box grater would work too – just make sure to grate it directly over the bowl. I’m showing you a picture of the before mix so you can see what you’re going for with the cucumber. You’ll think there’s a lot of juice, but you want it. Embrace the magic, green, glow-giving juice.
Next you have the Greek chicken. Simply cube up chicken breast, season and cook in a skillet. Dunzo bunzo. If you have an awesome meat counter like I do then you can ask your meat guy if he’ll cube the chicken for you. I’ll have them do this if I’m at the store when it’s not really busy. If you do this you’ll save a good 5-10 minutes on the total prep time. I use this Greek seasoning that I bought at my local grocery store, but it’s also available on Amazon and (hey look!!) it’s Prime eligible. You can make your own mix, but if you’re busy like me then the seasoning mix is the way to go.
Finally, top it all off with a little extra diced cucumber and dill. Annnd we’re done! Dinner is on the table in less than 30 minutes.
I could end there, but it would be cruel of me to not talk about the leftover situation here. Of course, you can use the leftovers to make the same dish with pita included. Orrrrr, you can pack up the chicken, leftover sauce, veggies and lettuce and have a super delicious/healthy dinner at the pool/beach/park/dock/whatever. No greasy pool bar food for this family (though, we may have ordered cheese sticks, but whatevs).
One last close up of this little greeny to show off her good looks. Enjoy!
1 tbsp olive oil
2 chicken breasts (about 1.5 lbs)
1 tbsp Greek seasoning
1 ripe avocado
½ cup Greek yogurt
1 English cucumber (1/3 for grating, then small dice as much as you want for topping)
Splash lemon juice
1/2 tsp salt
6 pita (flatbread or pockets)
Optional: chopped dill
Dice the chicken breast, then stir in the Greek seasoning making sure all pieces are evenly coated.
Let the chicken sit in the seasoning while you prepare the avocado tzatziki.
Make the avocado tzatziki: mash the avocado in a bowl, and combine with the yogurt. Grate about 1/3 of the cucumber into the mixture, add lemon juice and salt and stir until well combined.
Heat olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Season the chicken with the Greek seasoning and sauté until done.
Assemble: smear the avocado tzatziki over the pita, top with chicken, extra cucumber and dill.
Your weeknight dinners just got a major facelift…a green, cilantro-y, lime-y facelift. Weeknight meals, meet chimichurri. Chimichurri, meet weeknight meals.
Fresh herbs √
Loads of flavor √
(I’m going to put this into the “I’m still learning about photography” category. The pictures don’t do it justice.)
For us, the easiest weeknight meal generally involves one pan with protein and vegetables all roasted together with a little salt, pepper and olive oil (my current favorite is chicken, Brussels sprouts and cubed sweet potatoes). While that’s good as is, having a delicious sauce really brings it full circle. Chimichurri is so fresh and flavorful, and is the easiest way to make what would otherwise be a good meal feel a little more special.
We’ve been making chimichurri for years, and have just now written down the recipe. Guys, recipe writing has proven to be a little more difficult at times than we thought it would be. We’ve always just eye-balled stuff, so when we actually have to measure out what we’re using it can throw us off. When Andy first made this sauce actually measuring out ingredients, he put in a whole tablespoon of salt. I saw that he had written that down and nearly fainted. As you’ll see – the recipe only calls for half of a teaspoon, so this was way off (#bless). Needless to say I was in charge with the next batch. I really can’t blame him, though. When you go from pouring a little salt in the palm of your hand to pouring it into a measuring spoon it can be really deceiving. Regardless, we now have our fool proof recipe that we can use for years to come. Woot woot.
As you’ve probably come to expect from me this sauce is make-ahead and freezer friendly. As written, the recipe makes about a cup of sauce, so I freeze it in quarter cup portions and just pull it out at the beginning of the week to use in a few dinners and lunches. It’s also super easy. You just throw everything into a mini food processor and let it go. You can also use a regular food processor, blender or bullet, but I just prefer the mini. Once made you can enjoy this sauce with just about any meat or vegetable. I have yet to find something that doesn’t go well with it!
1 bunch cilantro leaves and half of the stems
½ tsp salt
½ tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
¼ cup olive oil
3 tbsp lime juice
Pulse all ingredients together in a mini food processor (regular size works fine, too). You may need to take the lid off a couple of times, and push the leaves down in between pulses. Use with poultry, pork, steak or roasted vegetables. Store in the fridge for up to a week or in the freezer for three months. Enjoy!
Surprise! I know it’s not Wednesday, and I promised I wouldn’t bother you more than once a week, but a bonus recipe every now and then never hurt anybody. It’s the weekend so I’ll get straight to the point. You NEED this Mango Curry Yogurt Sauce in your life for all the things…raw or roasted veggies, sandwiches, chicken, pork, seafood, fondue. This is a take on the Melting Pot version, but better because you can have it at home without having to go out for a $150 dinner.
My recent obsession has been roasted cauliflower, but – Y’ALL – we did fondue at home for V-Day and let me just tell you (leans forward) cauliflower dipped in tempura batter, fried and dipped in mango curry yogurt sauce is mind blowing, out of this world good. Another fondue thing that is mind blowing, out of this world good? Button mushrooms dipped in tempura batter, fried, stuffed with Alouette Garlic and Herbs then dipped in mango curry yogurt sauce. Another fondue thing that is mind blowing, out of this world good? Shrimp peeled with the tails left on, dipped in tempura batter, fried and dipped in mango curry yogurt sauce. I am 500% certain I ate the amount of food I did on V-Day because of this sauce. It really is that good.
Most recipes of this call for equal parts yogurt and mayonnaise – gross. I opt for 3 parts Greek yogurt to 1 part mayo. I also use hot mango chutney rather than Major Grey’s. And while I’m normally team fresh squeezed lime juice, bottled is just fine for this. It’s easy peasy and the perfect condiment to give your sauce game a leg-up. Enjoy!
3/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup mango chutney (I use hot)
1 tbsp minced red onion
2 tsp curry powder
1 tsp lime juice
Sprinkle of cayenne pepper (to taste)
Stir all ingredients together in a bowl until well combined. Cover and let chill in the fridge for 2 hours before serving. Use within five days.