Philadelphia Roll Stacks

Of all the weird, interesting, different foods I’ve tried to make over the years, one specific food has never appealed to me: sushi. I loooooove me some sushi for EATING… but learning to MAKE sushi has never sounded like much fun. I’m sure that one day, I’ll suddenly feel a need to make sushi, and I’ll run out and buy $50 worth of tools and supplies, and then come back here to declare to you how much I LOVE, OMG, LOVE making sushi at home… but for now, my sushi-eating remains in restaurants, where someone ELSE puts together my dinner.

Philadelphia Roll Stacks (with smoked salmon and avocado)

All that being said: this meal is really, really sushi-like, without 90% of the fuss. Last week, my mom and sister and I threw a wedding shower for a dear family friend, and when it was all over I had an extra package of smoked salmon left. I thought for a while about what to do with it, and eventually it lead me to the idea of a Philadelphia roll! The Philadelphia roll is one of my favorites – smoked salmon, cream cheese, and avocado (though I’ve also had it with asparagus, on occasion). I figured that rather than rolling it up, I could just make it into a nice little stack, and it would taste much the same… and I was right!

Philadelphia Roll Stacks (with smoked salmon and avocado)

This dish is SO light and refreshing. I added a sauce to the whole thing, partially because I knew I had to incorporate soy sauce to give it a genuine sushi taste and feel, and partially because I wanted to add a little spice (a Philadelphia roll doesn’t typically have a spicy sauce in it, but this is the advantage of making my own rules in my own kitchen). I went to the trouble of making the presentation really nice, but it’s worth noting that my husband’s second and third servings (yes, he had three servings) consisted of all the ingredients piled on to a plate unceremoniously, and the taste was just as fantastic.

Philadelphia Roll Stacks
serves 4 as a light dinner, or starter course

4 oz cream cheese (I use the light version)
2 cups cooked brown rice
2 medium avocados, diced small
4 oz smoked salmon, 1/2″ dice
1 T sesame seeds
1/3 cup soy sauce
1 T sriracha
1 T mirin (or 2 t brown sugar, if you don’t have mirin)
1 T rice wine vinegar
1/4 tsp garlic powder
kosher salt and pepper

Philadelphia Roll Stacks (with smoked salmon and avocado)

*To make these neat and pretty stacks, I used a 3″ biscuit cutter to layer my ingredients into. You can certainly use a cleaned tuna can with both the top and bottom taken off, or another shape of cookie cutter, or just stack everything together all willy-nilly. Your taste buds won’t know the difference, I swear.

1.) Start by cooking your rice; I always use the 90-second microwave bags of rice, because they’re quick, easy, and I don’t end up ruining an enameled cast iron pot by burning the rice (not that I’ve ever done that… RIP Martha Stewart dutch oven). While the rice cooks, whisk together the ingredients for the sauce: soy sauce, sriracha, mirin, rice wine vinegar, garlic powder, and a small pinch each of salt and pepper. Feel free to add more sriracha to taste. While the rice is still warm, pour about 2/3 of the sauce over it, and stir to combine. The warm rice will absorb the sauce as it sits.

2.) Toss the sesame seeds into a dry pan over medium low heat, and toast them until they’re lightly golden brown and fragrant. Set aside.

3.) For each serving, spread one ounce of cream cheese as the base. Top with half a cup of the brown rice mixture, then half a diced avocado. Once you’ve added the avocado, sprinkle that layer with some kosher salt – don’t be shy, the avocado really needs the salt for optimal flavor! Finish with an ounce of diced smoked salmon, and a sprinkle of toasted sesame seeds. Feel free to add more sauce, if you’d like. Serve immediately.

Philadelphia Roll Stacks (with smoked salmon and avocado)

Yeah, so, we’ve already agreed to put this one on a regular rotation. It’s just so good – and so EASY! It really took about 10 minutes to make, and that’s because I was insistent on making it into a neat, fancy stack. It’s super filling (one stack made a great dinner for me, though I’d add a simple green salad on the side next time), and also really healthy – good fats, lots of protein, whole grains. I mean, what’s better than a dinner that makes you look like some kind of fancy rock star chef, because the presentation is so pretty, but also allows you to feel SUPER SMUG about how health-conscious and virtuous you are?? Win-win, my friends.

“Oh, this? I just whipped it up real quick, it was NO BIG DEAL!”


Grilled Artichoke Subs

Do you have Penn Station subs where you live? We have a few near me – one by my office, and one by my house that’s pretty new. I’ve had their subs a few times over the years, and I usually just select some kind of turkey sub, as is my standard at a sub shop. Probably about a year ago, I realized they had a grilled artichoke sub – and I was immediately intrigued, as I love artichokes, and the only thing better than a plain artichoke is one that’s covered in cheese. Needless to say, it was love at first bite! And it only took me about 9 months to realize, DUH, I could make one of these at home! (Of course, there’s nothing wrong with getting one from the sub shop… but Penn Station also serves fresh-cut fries, and I think in Michigan it’s illegal to exit an establishment that sells fresh-cut fries without BUYING any fresh-cut fries, and I don’t want to go to jail, so I always end up with a bucket of fries in addition to my sub… and let’s just say that’s not doing anything positive for my waistline.)

Grilled Artichoke Subs

Please note: you could also leave the top of the bread off this sandwich, cut the cheesy artichoke bread into 2″ pieces, and serve it as an appetizer. Versatility!

Grilled Artichoke Subs
serves 2

2 demi baguettes (or one regular baguette)*
3 T mayo (low-fat is fine)
2 cloves of garlic, grated or minced
juice of half a lemon
2 cans quartered artichoke hearts (packed in water, not oil)
1 T olive oil
1/2 T butter
kosher salt
black pepper
pinch of red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
4 slices provolone cheese

Grilled Artichoke Subs

*In general, I prefer a baguette with a good, crisp crust. However, for these specific subs, I like to look for a baguette that’s slightly softer. Since we’re baking the subs, the exterior will have plenty of time to crisp up – and if you’re starting with a baguette that’s already pretty hard, the roof of your mouth will get destroyed as you try to enjoy your dinner. Just my 2 cents.

1.) Preheat your oven to 375°. Drain the canned artichokes well, and then lay the artichokes in a single layer on some paper towel to drain further; water gets trapped in between the leaves, so you want to make sure to get rid of as much of that moisture as possible to avoid having a soggy sub!

2.) Heat a non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add the olive oil and butter to the pan, and once it’s hot, add the artichokes. Season the artichokes with a pinch each of salt and pepper, the red pepper flakes, and the dried oregano. Stir until everything is well-combined, and then leave the artichoke mixture alone for a couple minutes, so they will start to crisp and brown a bit on the bottom.

3.) Once the artichokes have started to brown nicely, add the grated parmesan, and stir well. Let the artichokes cook another minute or so, and the parmesan will start to brown and crisp a bit, too.

4.) While the artichokes crisp up, make your mayo. In a small bowl, mix together the mayo, lemon juice, and grated garlic. If you don’t love the taste of raw garlic, you can cut this back to one clove, or use a dash of garlic powder instead. Set the mayo aside.

5.) Slice your baguettes in half, leaving the “hinge” intact on the back side of the bread. I like to scoop out some of the bread from the interior of the baguette to make adequate room for artichokes (and as a bonus: the interior of the bread is excellent in a kale panzanella salad).

6.) Spread the bottom of each baguette with the garlic mayo, and top with half of the artichokes. Lay the provolone slices over the top of the artichokes, and bake the subs for 10-15 minutes, until the edges of the bread are golden brown, and the cheese is nicely melted and browned. Serve immediately.

Grilled Artichoke Subs

I mean… seriously. These subs are so cheesy, and gooey, and delicious! And despite being meatless, they still feel and taste hearty and filling, because the artichokes are pretty meaty (as vegetables go). Crisping up the parmesan in the pan adds just a bit of nutty flavor, and the lemon in the mayo lends a little acid to cut through the richness of the cheese. In recent months, we’ve had these subs for dinner at least once every 10 days or so – paired with a salad, or some roasted chickpeas, or some variety of roasted vegetable. Fast, easy, and satisfying.

My household is basically keeping the artichoke industry in business,

Crab and Corn Crostini

Crab and corn is a match made in heaven, is it not? Something about those two ingredients together just really sings… so it was an obvious pair when I was trying to come up with a slightly fancy, but not too fussy, appetizer. I wanted something that would (obviously) be tasty, and that would look pretty, but I didn’t want to spend 100 years making it. I think I succeeded pretty well!

Crab and Corn Crostini

Crab and Corn Crostini
serves about 12 as an appetizer

2 medium baguettes
olive oil
8 oz lump crab meat, picked over for shells
8 oz corn (fresh or frozen, preferably)
4 oz cream cheese, softened
2 T mayo
1 egg, whisked
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
3 – 4 T minced chives
large pinch of red pepper flakes
pinch each of kosher salt and black pepper

Crab and Corn Crostini

1.) Preheat your oven to 350°, and line a baking sheet with foil. Slice your baguettes on an angle, until you have about 24 crostini. Lightly mist or brush the crostini with olive oil, and bake for about 10 minutes, until they’re just lightly golden brown and crispy.

2.) While the crostini bakes, make your crab salad. Add everything but the crab to a mixing bowl (use about 3 tablespoons of the chives, and reserve the rest for garnish), and mix it well with a spatula. Once everything else is well-combined, gently fold in the crab, so you don’t break it up too much!

3.) Once the crostini are baked and cooled slightly, spoon the mixture on to the bread. Put everything back into the oven for another 10 minutes or so, to warm the crab and corn mixture through.

Crab and Corn Crostini

4.) Remove the crostini from the oven, sprinkle with the remaining chives, and serve immediately.

Oh man, these were so good! The creamy crab mixture is a great contrast to the crunchy, toasted bread – and the sweet crab and crisp, fresh corn are perfect with the slight onion-y edge of the chives. Even better, these crostini look so pretty all lined up on a platter! Great for a cocktail party, a brunch, or a summer barbecue.

Crab and Corn Crostini

If you don’t want to fuss with topping the individual crostini, you can always just bake the crab and corn mixture in a baking dish (though I’d bake it for a bit longer – maybe 20 minutes – to make sure it warms all the way through). Serve with the toasted baguette, and let guests assemble their own appetizer!

I can’t wait for the start of corn season in the mitten,

Pimento Cheese and Bacon Jalapeño Poppers

If you like jalapeno poppers, you are going to pass out when you see this recipe.

Pimento Cheese and Bacon Jalapeño Poppers

They came to be a few weekends back, when I was in South Carolina visiting Crist. We were spending the weekend at the beach, and the weather was predicted to be bringing some nasty storms – so we limited our plans to hitting the grocery store early, and then staying in and drinking and eating and watching crappy TV and movies all day (Mystic Pizza, anyone?). The rain never did come, but our plan to eat, drink, and be merry held fast, and we spent some time brainstorming deliciously unhealthy things to cook… and this is the result.

Pimento Cheese and Bacon Jalapeño Poppers

Pimento Cheese and Bacon Jalapeño Poppers
makes 16

8 large, fresh jalapeños
6 slices of bacon
about 3/4 cup pimento cheese*
1/2 cup all purpose flour
salt and pepper
2 eggs
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
olive oil

*If you do not live in an area where pimento cheese is readily available at the grocery store (ahem, MICHIGAN), you can use Crist’s recipe here.

1.) Start by cooking your bacon until crisp, in whatever fashion you prefer (microwave, stovetop, oven, etc). Allow the bacon to drain any excess fat on some paper towels, and preheat your oven to 375°.

Pimento Cheese and Bacon Jalapeño Poppers

2.) Cut the stems from the jalapeños, and then slice them in half lengthwise. Use a spoon to scoop out the ribs and seeds, and be sure to wash your hands very well when you’re done (and dear god, do not touch your eyes or your face or anything else before your hands are thoroughly washed).

3.) Chop your crispy bacon into small pieces. Add the pimento cheese and bacon to a small bowl, and combine well. Spread the cheese and bacon mixture into the jalapeños halves, and then pop them into the freezer for about 15 minutes so they harden up a bit.

Pimento Cheese and Bacon Jalapeño Poppers

4.) While the poppers chill, set up a breading station: flour (whisked together with a pinch each of salt and pepper) in one wide, shallow bowl, eggs (well beaten) in a second, and panko in a third. Coat the poppers in the flour, then egg, then panko – being sure to tap off any excess flour and egg, and pressing the panko into the poppers so that it sticks well.

5.) Arrange the jalapeños on a foil-lined baking sheet, and lightly mist or drizzle them with the olive oil. Bake for about 20 minutes, until they’re nice and brown and crispy. Serve warm.

Pimento Cheese and Bacon Jalapeño Poppers

I mean… there is not much that can be said about these jalapeño poppers, really. Spicy, crunchy jalapeños stuffed with gooey pimento cheese and salty, smoky bacon, and coated in golden brown panko? SIGN ME UP. Damn, they were tasty. I would like one (or a half dozen) right now, as a matter of fact.

This recipe will definitely be added to my “go to appetizers” list. I love that they could be largely prepped ahead of time (seed and stuff the peppers with the cheese and bacon, then refrigerate, covered, for as long as 24 hours; bread them and bake them when you need them). And who doesn’t love a cheesy, crunchy jalapeño popper?? They’re sure to be a hit with everyone you know.

Pimento Cheese and Bacon Jalapeño Poppers

They’re healthy because they’re basically just stuffed vegetables,