Pearl Couscous and Tuna Salad with Preserved Lemon

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This is my new go-to summer picnic salad. It’s lemony, salty, and rich, thanks to lots of olives, tuna, and a healthy dose of avocado. This keeps well in the fridge so make it the night before and you’re good to go.

1 cup pearl couscous
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 (5-ounce) can tuna packed in olive oil, drained
2/3 cup pitted Castelvetrano olives, chopped
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
2 tablespoons finely chopped dill
1 tablespoon finely chopped preserved lemon
1 avocado, peeled and cubed

1. Cook couscous according to package instructions; drain and set aside. Let cool.

2. Combine lemon juice and vinegar in a large bowl. Whisk in olive oil and add salt and pepper. Add cooled couscous and toss to coat. Flake tuna with a fork; add to couscous. Gently stir in olives, celery, onion, parsley, dill, avocado, and preserved lemon. Season with salt to taste and serve.

Roasted Red Pepper Bibimbap

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I’ll eat bibimbap in any shape or form. Traditional, vegetarian, seafood — I’ve never met a bibimbap I didn’t devour. This extra-healthy version is made with brown rice and lots of vegetables and is super satisfying. It’s a loose recipe, so adjust the proportions to your liking.

Ingredients:

2 cups short-grain brown rice
Salt
4 red bell peppers, halved
Avocado oil
Toasted sesame oil
Toasted sesame seeds
Soy sauce or tamari
2 tablespoons gochujang
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 garlic clove
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 carrot, sliced into matchsticks
1 1/2 cups sliced shiitake mushrooms
1-inch piece ginger, peeled and minced
2 large handfuls kale, shredded
1 1/2 cups bean sprouts
4 eggs
Pickled ginger, sliced
Green onions, sliced
Nori, cut into strips

1. Rinse the rice under cold water until it runs clear. Drain the rice and transfer to a saucepan or rice cooker and cook with a pinch of salt according to package directions.

2. Preheat the oven to 425F degrees. Arrange the pepper halves on a baking sheet, skin sides up. Drizzle with a little avocado oil and roast for 30 minutes, until soft and blackened in spots. Transfer to a bowl and cover with a plate. Leave for 10 minutes, then peel and slice into thick strips. Season the pepper ribbons with sesame oil, sesame seeds, and tamari.

3. Meanwhile, make the bibimbap sauce by combining the gochujang, sugar, garlic, and vinegar with 2 tablespoons of water, 2 tablespoons sesame oil, and 2 tablespoons sesame seeds. Set aside.

4. Cook the carrot: heat a teaspoon of avocado oil in a frying pan over high heat. Add the carrot and saute for 2 minutes, until just tender. Season with salt and set aside. Cook the mushrooms in a little oil in the same way, keeping the heat high and the pan moving until the mushrooms are cooked. Season with tamari.

5. Wipe out the wok and add a teaspoon of oil followed by the ginger and the kale and a few drops of water, sauteing for a few minutes until wilted. Toss with a drizzle of sesame oil, 1 teaspoon of sesame seeds, and set aside.

6. Blanch the bean sprouts in boiling salted water for a minute, until wilted. Drain well.

7. Fry the eggs sunny side up in a frying pan, until the whites have set but the yolks are still runny.

8. To serve, divide the rice between large serving bowls. Spoon each topping on top in a circular manner: peppers, carrots, mushrooms, kale, and bean sprouts. Lay the fried egg on top and add pickled ginger, sliced green onions, nori seaweed, and sesame seeds to taste. Add a heaping spoonful of the bibimbap sauce, serving the rest on the table to spoon over, mixing everything as you eat.

Tiny Baked Potatoes with Chickpeas

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Full of sweet, savory, creamy, and crunchy textures and flavors, this these potatoes with spiced chickpeas are kind of like loaded potatoes in appetizer form — if loaded potatoes were vaguely South Asian or Middle Eastern.

Ingredients:

3 pounds small Yukon gold potatoes, halved (or quartered) to about 2-inch pieces
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt
Pepper
1 15-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 1/2 teaspoons nigella seeds
1/2 teaspoon paprika
Zest plus one teaspoon juice from one lemon
1 teaspoon honey
3 green onions
2/3 cup sour cream
2 to 3 tablespoons mango chutney

1. Preheat the oven to 400F degrees. Toss potatoes with half the oil and spread out on a baking sheet. Season with salt and bake for 45 minutes, flipping potatoes halfway through baking time.

2. Meanwhile, transfer the chickpeas into a bowl and pat dry. Toss chickpeas with remaining oil, cumin seeds, 1 teaspoon teaspoon of the nigella seeds, and the paprika. Season and spread on another baking sheet or roasting pan.

3. Roast for 10 to 15 minutes, until just beginning to brown. Stir through the lemon zest and honey and return to the oven for another 5 to 10 minutes, until well-browned and crisp.

4. Chop half of the green onions and stir into sour cream with the lemon juice and season with salt and pepper to taste. Finely slice the remaining green onions and set aside.

5. Arrange potatoes on a large platter, and dollop 1 teaspoon of the green onion sour cream to each potato, with a little mango chutney. Scatter the chickpeas on top. Scatter the reserved green onions and remaining nigella seeds, plus a little more black pepper. Serve warm.

Birria Tacos

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I know the quesabirria taco trend is what’s hot in the food truck streets right now, but I’m partial to birria tacos. Maybe I’m old school, but birria on its own is super filling. Adapted from Food & Wine, these birria tacos are rich and tender, thanks to a combination of chuck roast and short ribs. Making these tacos is time-consuming (it’s best to start the day before), but they’re well worth it.

Ingredients:

For the adobo:

6 dried guajillo chiles, stemmed and seeded
3 dried ancho chiles, stemmed and seeded
4 dried cascabel (or more guajillo) chiles, stemmed and seeded
1 large white onion, cut into 1-inch wedges
10 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons roughly chopped peeled fresh ginger
8 cups water, divided
2 tablespoons white vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
6 thyme sprigs
3 dried bay leaves

For the tacos:

1 (2-pound) boneless chuck roast (about 2 1/4 inches thick)
2 pounds English-cut beef short ribs (about 3 ribs)
2 tablespoons plus 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided, plus more to taste
8 cups water
1 cup chopped white onion, rinsed
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Vegetable oil, for greasing
16-20 packaged corn tortillas
Lime wedges, for serving

1. Make the adobo: Heat a cast-iron skillet over medium. Add chiles to skillet; cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer chiles to a large saucepan; add onion, garlic, ginger, and 6 cups water. Bring to a boil over medium-high. Cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until chiles are softened, about 8 minutes. Drain chile mixture; discard cooking liquid.

2. Combine chile mixture, vinegar, salt, black pepper, oregano, cumin, cinnamon, cloves, thyme, bay leaves, and remaining 2 cups water in a blender. Secure lid on blender, and remove center piece to allow steam to escape. Place a clean towel over opening. Process until smooth, about 45 seconds. Let cool to room temperature. Cover and chill until ready to use.

3. Make the tacos: Sprinkle chuck roast and short ribs all over with 2 teaspoons salt. Combine roast, ribs, and adobo in a large nonreactive bowl; toss to coat. Cover and chill at least 4 hours or up to 24 hours.

4. Preheat oven to 300F degrees. Transfer adobo mixture to a large (9 1/2-quart) Dutch oven; add 8 cups water. Bring to a simmer, uncovered, over medium, stirring occasionally. Cover with lid, and place in preheated oven. Bake until meat is fork- tender, about 4 hours.

5. Remove chuck roast and short ribs from braising broth, and transfer to a large bowl; cover with aluminum foil to keep warm. Return broth in Dutch oven to heat over medium, and cook, uncovered, skimming off fat as needed, until reduced to about 8 cups, 15 to 20 minutes. Season broth with salt to taste. Shred meat; discard bones. Toss meat with 1 1/2 cups of the broth.

6. Stir together onion and cilantro in a small bowl; set aside.

7. Heat a large nonstick electric griddle to 400°F or a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high. Using a paper towel dipped in canola oil, lightly grease griddle. If using fresh tortillas, stack 2 tortillas, and use tongs to dip them together into adobo broth. (If using packaged tortillas, dip 1 tortilla per taco.) Place stacked tortillas on griddle; top with 1/4 cup meat. Repeat with as many tortilla stacks as will comfortably fit on griddle. Cook until bottom tortilla is lightly browned and crispy, 1 to 2 minutes. Fold tacos in half, gently pressing with a spatula. Transfer to a serving plate. Repeat process with oil, adobo broth, remaining tortillas, and remaining meat.

8. Serve tacos hot with onion-cilantro mixture, lime wedges, and remaining adobo broth for dipping or sipping.

Winter Crunch Salad

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Even though it’s March, I’m still making this mixed salad of hearty winter greens spiked with savory Parmesan and crunchy seeds and apples. Adapted from a Bon Appetit recipe, this salad gets better after sitting in fridge for an hour or two. I’ll be eating this well through springtime.

Ingredients:

1/4 cup roasted sunflower seeds
1/3 cup olive oil
Salt
Pepper
1/2 small shallot
1 Meyer lemon
1 small garlic clove
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 bunch Tuscan kale (about ¾ pound)
5 or 6 ounces Brussels sprouts
2 ounces Parmesan, finely grated
1/2 apple, halved and thinly sliced

1. Make the vinaigrette: Finely chop shallot half and transfer to medium bowl. Juice lemon over bowl. You should have about 2 tablespoons juice. Using a microplane, finely rate garlic clove into bowl. Whisk in 2 Dijon mustard and olive oil; season with salt and pepper.

2. Wash and dry kale, then pat leaves dry. Strip leaves from thick stems, discarding stems, then thinly slice leaves. Transfer to a large bowl.

3. Trim knobby end of Brussels sprouts. Cut sprouts in half lengthwise, then arrange halves cut side down on board and very thinly slice. Add to bowl with kale.

4. Drizzle dressing over kale mixture; season with salt and pepper. Lightly massage and toss with your hands to coat.

5. Add cheese, apples, and sunflower seeds and toss lightly to incorporate.