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Mucho Gusto

Lilly’s Holiday Honey-Roasted Pear Salad

This is the fifty-eighth installment in Mucho Gusto, a recipe initiative by and for students to help connect us through food in times of isolation. If you’ve got a recipe you think would make a great addition, reach out to us!

The word “pear” occasionally slips past our tongues in December when we hum the infamous Twelve Days of Christmas refrain, imagining the gifted partridge in company. Yet other than in tune, pears rarely draw near our taste buds in the modern holiday season. Perhaps it is a consequence of the winter fruit paradox—the nudge of fruit to the periphery of our minds as the North begins to frost over. However, despite our neglect of pears, they are the national fruit of December, with the day of the pear fast-approaching on the 8th. 

Dating back to 5000 B.C., the antiquity of pears remembers praise by Homer as the “gift of the Gods.” Now, the historically-popular fruit rarely appears in anecdotes of public appreciation despite the prolific pear orchards in the temperate North West, United States. As agricultural production expanded in the U.S., finicky pears failed to grow in the New England climate, only later to find success in their cultivation in Oregon and Washington. Although, posing pears to their opposition—apples—indicates that their dissipation from popularity is, more so, a reflection of our demanding consumer culture. Pears require an additional one to two months after being picked to ripen before being eaten. Compared to the readily available apples that overwhelm the produce aisles this time of year, the pears’ lack of casting in leading roles in pies and other seasonal dishes is somewhat predictable.

However, though we may overlook pears today, they continue being a Christmas favorite. Since the 1800s, pears have been a treasured part of Christmas celebrations, admired for their elegance, versatility, buttery texture, and sweet taste as an adored present under the tree. Though we have shifted away from receiving and gifting fruit in stockings, the nostalgia of pears in the holiday season evokes a personal desire to recreate some recipe favorites that adorn this winter fruit as the centerpiece. Several pie recipes and other dessert dishes utilize the flavor of pears to perfection. However, I decided to showcase a recipe for a honey-roasted pear salad. This dish fosters sentimentality coupled with modern festivity that guarantees to please our quarantine-sized crowds for this holiday season. 

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients:

Honey Roasted Pears

  • 2 ripe but firm Bartlett pears
  • 2 bunches fresh thyme
  • ¼ cup  honey
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Salad

  • 1 medium-sized bag (about 7 oz) of arugula 
  • ¼ cup toasted walnuts
  • ½ cup of crumbled goat cheese
  • 1 pomegranate

Dressing

  • ¼ cup champagne vinegar
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 shallot finely diced
  • 1 tablespoon  fresh thyme leaves

Instructions:

To prepare the pears, first, preheat the oven to 400 °F. On a cutting board, halve and core the two unpeeled pears. Then, place the pears cut-side down and put your knife at their stems. While keeping the pear uncut at the top, thinly slice into quarter-inch long sections to the bottom of the fruit. On a baking sheet, scatter the thyme sprigs, placing the pears on top while gently expanding the overlapping slices out while they remain attached at their stems. This fanning technique takes its name from its comparative structure to old-fashioned hand fans, seemingly adding an elegant display to your salad. However, you can easily replace this step by completely slicing the pears and removing their stems with no effect on the fruit’s rich flavor. Next, lightly drizzle the four pear halves with honey and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Bake the pears for 15 minutes, or until they are tender. Let the pears cool for 30 minutes.

The walnuts function as an additional garnish to your salad, complementing the flavor of the pears while simultaneously preserving the holiday theme. Place the walnuts in a skillet over medium heat, sporadically moving them around to avoid burning, and toast until lightly brown and aromatic. Allow the walnuts to cool in a small bowl. 

With your palm, roll the pomegranate on the cutting board to loosen the seeds. Then, slice the fruit in half, remove the seeds, and set aside. The pomegranate seeds, a bit tart, balance the sweetness of the pear and honey while brightening your salad with a festive touch of red.

To make the dressing, whisk the champagne vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, shallots, and fresh thyme together in a small mixing bowl. Place the arugula in a large bowl and add the dressing. Be sure to toss and coat evenly. 

Finally, divide salad onto plates, placing the pear halves on top while garnishing lightly with goat cheese, toasted walnuts, and pomegranate seeds to taste. Enjoy!

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Mucho Gusto

Anju’s Chocolate Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies

This is the fifty-fourth installment in Mucho Gusto, a recipe initiative by and for students to help connect us through food in times of isolation. If you’ve got a recipe you think would make a great addition, reach out to us!

The tragic story of the cookie platter: the chocolate chip and the traditional sugar cookies are immediately devoured as the oatmeal lies at the periphery of our vision. Ultimately, the narrative is scripted with the sentiment that oatmeal cookies are an old crowd-pleaser that no longer carry the same adoration. When’s the last time you’ve heard someone at a dinner party say, “Finally, it’s time to bring out the oatmeal cookies”? 

So, speaking of oats, they’re easily accessible and heart-healthy, but are they also terribly out of date? Archaeologists propose that oats were cultivated around 4000 years ago, so it simply could be their time to dissipate from the culinary currents. However, a rejuvenation of oats appears to be far more likely to occur, illuminating that “vintage” can be appreciated once again.

If you subscribe to the food trends, you’ve seen coffee creamer be upgraded to oat milk, and traditional oatmeal finding itself revamped in the form of overnight oats. With the versatility of oats re-emerging in the spotlight as more than a forgotten, gooey breakfast meal, it raises the question, “When will be the time for the oatmeal cookie recipe to be refurbished?” Will the contemporary oat movement come to a halt for the cookie, or will the recipe be patched and reintroduced, becoming the new go-to when you have oats in the kitchen cabinet?

As my friend Anju gave to me, I am passing on this chocolate-cranberry oatmeal cookie recipe that promises to have oatmeal cookies competing for your indulgence. These oatmeal cookies will not be placed in Tupperware or forgotten as leftovers, but rather, will be the first picked off the plate. Of course, the cranberries can be substituted with raisins if you’d prefer to follow the more traditional oatmeal cookie route. However, the cranberries effectively capture the autumnal design that begs to be baked and enjoyed as Thanksgiving springs around the corner. This recipe will unapologetically take away from your supply of breakfast oats in a strategic turn for a delectable dessert. 

Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon hot water
  • 12 ounces chocolate chips
  • ½ – 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 375℉. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, and salt. In a larger bowl, cut the butter into 1-inch cubes and lightly warm in the microwave or, preferably, remove the butter from the refrigerator, allowing it to soften for 10 minutes at room temperature. If you choose to microwave the butter, be careful not to heat it for too long; you are looking for a soft but not melted consistency. Next, cream the butter with an electric mixer on its lowest speed setting or whisk by hand until you see the fluffy texture that is desired. Add in the granulated and brown sugar, eggs, and water, one at a time while stirring between additions. Be sure to mix the ingredients together thoroughly before bringing in the next steps. Then, add the ingredients left in your medium-sized bowl — the flour, baking soda, and salt —  to the rest of your prepared ingredients in the large bowl. Fold in the oats, chocolate chips, cranberries, and vanilla extract. The thick rolled oat flakes in adjacency to the chewy cranberries compete for delicious taste and texture in every bite. The suggested amount of dried cranberries is ½ – 1 cup as they can be added to fit your preferences. As you mix, be cognizant of having an even distribution of the dry ingredients in the batter. Then, roll the batter into 1-inch balls in the palm of your hand and evenly place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Once placed in the oven, bake for 8-10 minutes, and then allow time for them to cool. Enjoy!

Image courtesy of Modern Honey

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Mucho Gusto

Lilly’s Blackened Fish Tacos

This is the fiftieth installment in Mucho Gusto, a recipe initiative by and for students to help connect us through food in times of isolation. If you’ve got a recipe you think would make a great addition, reach out to us!

It is difficult not to derive a certain nostalgia from the last dish I made at home. Reminiscent of a fleeting moment, it whispers a reminder of summer’s finality. For me, it is a meal that is characterized not entirely by flavor, but by the company in the kitchen. A recipe rightly prepared in an organized symphony of the sizzling of fish and the mother-daughter banter over the adequate amount of sriracha. 

There is a distinct spirit of summer communicated through this dish. And so, I share this recipe with indescribable urgency as the influx of pumpkin spice begins to overwhelm the aisles of Trader Joe’s. It is in insistence to grasp the vanishing moment by your taste buds, to seize the peaches off of the shelves before it is too late. My recommendation is not to regard the calendar, but rather, to devour the last bite of August—even if it is already October.

Living on Cape Cod requires a tolerance for seafood. Ironically, I am a recent addition to the fish-eating crowd. What I’ve learned from each and every tourist-grab on the corner of this and that beach is the gravity of spices when it comes to preparation. Most of all, I can affirm—from personal experience—that wrapping seafood in a tortilla can persuade even the biggest fish skeptics.  

This fish taco recipe captures robust flavors in an impeccable pairing of textures. Blackened fish, peach salsa, and a drizzle of sriracha aioli compose an effortless unity of sweet, savory, and spicy that insists on your indulgence. 

Ingredients 

For Fish Tacos:

  • 1 1/2 lbs thick-cut fish (options include cod, halibut, mahi-mahi, or grouper)
  • 8 flour tortillas
  • Blackened seasoning (can be homemade or store-bought)
    • 3 teaspoons of smoked paprika
    • 1 teaspoon of onion powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt
    • 1 teaspoon of garlic powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon of ground black pepper
    • 1 teaspoon of cumin
    • 1 teaspoon of chili pepper
    • 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
    • 1 teaspoon of adobo seasoning
  • 1/2 cup shredded red cabbage 
  • 1 cup spinach leaves 
  • 1/4 cup scallion, chopped 
  • 1 cup small tomatoes, halved 
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

For Peach Salsa:

  • 1 ripe peach, peeled and diced
  • 1/4 cup onion, diced
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh-squeezed lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons jalapeño, finely minced
  • Salt to taste

For Sriracha Aioli:

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 to 1 fresh squeezed lime
  • 2 tablespoons of sriracha

Instructions:

In order to serve the fish hot off the stove, I recommend preparing the toppings first. To make the salsa, combine the peach, onion, jalapeño, cilantro, olive oil, and lime juice in a bowl. Mix the ingredients well and season to taste with salt. Then, cover and chill the salsa until ready to serve. Mango can also function as a substitute for the peach; its sweetness will also add balance to the spice of the jalapeño and sriracha aioli.

Next, place the shredded red cabbage, spinach leaves, scallions, and cherry tomatoes into small serving bowls to be set aside for additional toppings. For the sriracha aioli, mix the mayonnaise, lime juice, and sriracha together in a small bowl. The mayonnaise mellows the heat of the sriracha, and the amount you use can be adjusted to your spice preference. The lime adds flavor while liquifying the consistency of the thick mayonnaise, allowing the aioli to be lightly drizzled onto your taco. 

Cut your choice of fish into large, finger-length chunks to allow for more spice coverage, faster cooking, and an easier fit for the tacos. I prefer grouper, but any thick-cut fish, such as cod, halibut, or mahi-mahi will work. Once cut, generously coat all sides of the fish with the blackened seasoning and set aside. The spice blend can be easily store-bought or quickly-prepared in the combination of paprika, onion powder, sea salt, garlic powder, black pepper, cumin, chili pepper, cayenne pepper, and adobo seasoning. 

 In a large skillet, preferably cast iron, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat until hot. Lightly swirl the olive oil to evenly coat the bottom of the skillet. As the olive oil starts to sizzle, place the fish in the skillet, and cook each piece for approximately 3 minutes per side or until the fish is completely cooked and significantly charred on the edges. 

While the fish is cooking, heat the tortillas in a non-stick skillet until warm and browning on the edges. Take the tortillas and fish off of the stove and place them on separate serving platters. Allow your guests to create the tacos to their liking, adding the peach salsa, fresh-cut produce, and spicy aioli as toppings and enjoy!