It's time for my absolute favorite party of the year: my birthday party! It's coming up on Thursday, Sept. 16, and although 29 is not a milestone, that doesn't mean I'm not doing something special. Yes, it will be more low-key than the elaborate five-course dinner I hosted last year. In fact, it will be an intimate affair in Spain! I'm treating myself to some rest and relaxation at a friend's house on the coast of Cadiz. While there, we'll invite people over for an informal Sunday dinner. Since the guests will be Spanish, I want to serve all-American cuisine with a Tex-Mex twist.
We'll start with homemade queso and fish tacos. The queso pairs well with tortilla chips and icy cold beer. Thanks to Giada De Laurentiis's creativity, the fish tacos are miniature! For the main course, I'll grill turkey burgers with chipotle salsa. Yum! Mixed greens tossed with pico de gallo are on the side. Interested in the recipes I'll be using? Read them after the break.
1/2 pound fresh poblano or Anaheim chiles
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup chopped white onion
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 large tomato, peeled, seeded, and diced
1 cup milk or cream
1 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese
1 cup grated pepper jack cheese
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
- Place chiles directly over the flame of a gas-stove burner on high heat or on a grill. Roast peppers, turning with tongs, until blackened all over. (Alternatively, broil peppers on a baking sheet, turning, until skin has charred.)
- Transfer peppers to a large bowl, and cover immediately with plastic wrap. Set aside to steam, about 15 minutes. Peel peppers; discard skins. Remove stems, seeds, and ribs; coarsely chop and set aside.
- Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and cayenne pepper; cook, stirring, until onion is very soft, about 6 minutes. Add flour and cook, stirring, until thickened, 1 to 2 minutes. Add tomatoes and chopped chiles; cook for 1 minute. Slowly add milk or cream and cook, stirring, until thickened, 3 to 4 minutes. Add cheeses and cook, stirring, until melted and well combined.
- Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper; serve immediately with chips, over nachos, or stirred into chili.
- Dips, Appetizers
12 (3 1/4 by 3 1/4-inch square) wonton wrappers*
1/4 cup canola or vegetable oil
3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling
3 tilapia fillets (about 8 ounces total), cut into 3/4-inch pieces
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 avocado, halved, pitted and flesh cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 mango, peeled and flesh cut into 1/2-inch cubes
3 green onions, finely chopped
3 cups coarsely chopped baby arugula
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (from about 2 limes)
1/2 cup creme fraiche
1 tablespoon wasabi powder*
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- For the wonton cups: Put an oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
- Using a pastry brush, brush each side of the wonton wrappers with canola oil. Gently press the wonton wrappers into the bottom and sides of a 12-count muffin pan. Bake until lightly golden, about 6 minutes. The wonton wrappers can burn very quickly in the oven so check them after 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes. Gently lift the wonton cups out of the pan and cool completely, about 10 minutes.
- For the filling: In a large, nonstick skillet, heat 3 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat. Drizzle the tilapia fillets with olive oil and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Arrange the fish in a single layer in the pan and cook until the flesh is flaky and cooked through, about 2 to 3 minutes on each side. Set aside to cool slightly.
- For the dressing: In a medium bowl, whisk together the 3 tablespoons of olive oil and the lime juice. Season with salt, to taste. Add the avocado, mango, green onions, and arugula. Toss until all the ingredients are coated.
- For the creme fraiche: In a small bowl, mix together the creme fraiche, wasabi powder and salt until smooth.
- To assemble the tacos: Put the wonton cups on a platter and divide the avocado mixture into the cups. Top each with 3 to 4 pieces of fish. Spoon about 1 to 2 teaspoons of the creme fraiche mixture on top of the fish and serve.
*Can be found in Asian markets.
- Appetizers, Finger Foods
1 1/2 pounds ground turkey, at room temperature
3 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro
1 scallion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon pure ancho chile powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
Pinch of ground cinnamon
Vegetable oil, for brushing
4 English muffins, toasted
1/2 ripe Hass avocado, sliced
3 tablespoons toasted shelled pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
Chipotle Salsa, recipe below
- In a large bowl, lightly knead the turkey with the cilantro, scallion, garlic, ancho powder, salt, pepper, cumin, coriander and cinnamon. Shape the meat into 4 patties about 3/4 inch thick and set them on a plate lined with plastic wrap.
- Light a grill. When the fire is medium hot, brush the burgers and the grate lightly with oil. Grill the burgers for 13 minutes, turning once, for medium meat.
- Set the burgers on the muffins; top with the avocado, pumpkin seeds and Chipotle Salsa. Close the muffins and serve with the remaining salsa.
5 large garlic cloves
6 small tomatillos, husked
4 plum tomatoes
1/4 large onion
1 to 3 canned chipotle chiles in adobo, seeded and finely chopped, plus 2 teaspoons of the adobo sauce
3 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1/2 teaspoon sugar
- Light a grill. Skewer the garlic on a 4-inch bamboo skewer. Grill the garlic, tomatillos, tomatoes and onion over a medium-hot fire for 8 to 10 minutes, turning, until charred and softened. Let cool.
- Transfer to a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Add the chipotles, adobo sauce, cilantro and sugar and pulse until combined. Season with salt and serve.
Makes 2 cups.
Make Ahead: The salsa can be refrigerated for up to 2 days.
- Main Dishes, Beef