There's something about authentic style tacos that's so delicious, and one of our favorite variations is tacos al pastor, which consist of pork marinated in a red chile sauce with grilled pineapple. In taquerias the pork is usually cooked on one of those vertical spits (like the ones used to cook shawarma or gyros), but we make a simplified version that we cook on the grill and I think it's a great approximation of the real deal. The enzymes in the pineapple help tenderize the pork, and the sweetness plays off the flavor of the red chile and spices.
It's also fun—and surprisingly easy—to make your own corn tortillas, and there's nothing quite like a freshly made tortilla hot out of the pan. It helps to have a cast iron tortilla press, but you can use a rolling pin in a pinch. The kids love to make their own tortillas, although we leave the cooking to a grownup, since they're baked in a hot cast iron pan. Actually, quite a few of the tortillas never make it to the taco part of the meal, since they're so good on their own.
If you've never had a fresh, hand made tortilla, you're in for a treat. They're really quite unlike the packaged kind you get at the store, and they're really delicious. One more tip: rinse your chopped white onion in cold water and let drain before you use it to top your tacos. This really takes away a lot of the strong raw onion flavor.
This is the time of year when delicious blackberries are now readily available at the farmer's market. Blackberries also grow wild throughout Marin, so they're free and plentiful if you know where to look (and don't mind the occasional jab from a blackberry thorn). The kids love to go pick blackberries, which we usually end up eating out of hand. If we have enough left over, we try to make a blackberry dessert like this old-fashioned buttermilk skillet cake.
This cake is best made in a cast iron skillet. If you don't have one, go get one—cast iron pans make everything you cook in them taste better, and they're virtually indestructible. You can cook with them at home, take them camping, and eventually pass them down to your grandkids! You'll find them at the hardware or sporting goods store for around $20 or so. They even come pre-seasoned, so you can use them right away.
Marin Mommies presents a guest recipe from Nicole Cibellis, Marin mom and author of the blog A Family that Eats Together, where she shares meal plans and recipes that will please foodies and children alike.
When the temperature rises in the summer, we like to make these frozen watermelon pops to help beat the heat. They're easy to make, delicious, healthy (they're all fruit, after all), and fun to eat on a hot summer day.
You don't need much to make these, just the watermelon, a little sugar (if needed), and a blender or food processor. You can use other fruits to make these, too—fresh strawberries are particularly good—but the classic summer flavor of watermelon just seems to be perfect for a frozen treat like this.
The kids like to pitch in and help make these, too, although it can be hard for them to wait while the pops firm up in the freezer. Needless to say, grownups may want to take charge of the blending, for safety's sake.
Blueberries are well known to be plump little nutritional powerhouses, so I find myself buying them whenever I can, especially when they're in season. The only problem is that they aren't cheap, so I usually find that I use them sparingly and doling them out a handful at a time to the kids.
When I find a great deal on them at the store or farmer's market, I try to make this blueberry cobbler. It's one of our family's favorite desserts, and it's a wonderful summer treat, especially when served warm an topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Of course you can use other summer fruits in this recipe, too: stone fruits like peaches, apricots, and nectarines and blackberries work particularly well. Try a combination—blueberries and nectarines are particularly yummy together. It's so easy to make, too, so there's no excuse not to make this at least once this summer!
Kale is currently the leafy green darling of the vegetable world, and for good reason: it's a nutritional powerhouse. I'm always looking for creative ways to prepare it, and this kale slaw is easy to make and delicious. The sweet and tangy buttermilk dressing, apples, and walnuts balance the bitter flavors in the kale, and it keeps for a few days in the refrigerator, too.
I like to use the bumpy green Dinosaur Kale—also called Lacinato Kale or cavolo nero—which is milder in flavor than the traditional curly kind. Make some for your next BBQ or dinner party!
Who doesn't love a sweet, refreshing, frozen treat during the summertime? Make it a little more healthy with sweet fresh strawberries and tangy Greek yogurt. You don't even need an ice cream maker to make this dessert.
It's fantastic scooped into a cone or frozen into ice pop molds—whatever tickles your fancy this summer. My kids and I made this sorbet with fresh strawberries that we picked up at the farmers market.
While our recipe calls for strawberries, you can use whatever fresh berries you happen to have. Frozen berries work perfectly well, too, so you can make this at any time of year. You can also feel free to substitute low-fat yogurt, but do try to use extra thick Greek yogurt; it makes a difference.
Summer means it's time to fire up the grill and cook something delicious for dinner. One of the hardest things to cook on the grill is whole chicken. It's too easy to end up with a birds that's charred on the outside and underdone on the inside, but I think this technique is almost foolproof and results in a perfectly cooked chicken every time. It also speeds up the cooking time.
I like to marinate the chicken for a few hours—or overnight, if I'm thinking ahead—in a citrusy, herb-laded mixture that's full of great Mediterranean flavors. I can't say that it's purely Greek or Italian, but it uses flavors common in each cuisine. It helps to have an herb garden just steps from the kitchen door, too!
Feel free to vary this recipe to suit your taste. For example, I sometimes replace the oregano with fresh chopped rosemary for something equally delicious. Whatever variation I decide on, this is one of my go-to dishes for a summer cookout.
This recipe for baked manicotti is an old favorite of mine, and something that my kids love to both help make and eat, too. Tubes of pasta are filled with a mixture of ricotta cheese and chopped spinach, then covered in tomato sauce, and topped with a rich béchamel sauce and parmesan cheese. It's hearty and delicious at any time of year, and the kids don't even notice that the manicotti filling includes spinach (something good for them!).
The kids like to help stuffing the manicotti tubes, so get them into the kitchen to lend a hand making dinner. If you're in a hurry, use a good quality jarred sauce and it will come together quickly. We like to make our own, and usually have a container of it in the freezer for recipes like this. (I've included my basic tomato sauce recipe below, too.)