Seared Tuna Bowl with Spicy Mayo & Ponzu Sauce

My saved posts on Instagram consist mostly of weeknight dinner inspiration. Not the glossy, overly-styled food photos shot by a professional, but the hand-in-the-shot, poorly lit (but delicious looking) dinner plates of both the strangers I follow and the people I actually know. This relatable content helps inform my weeknight dinner repertoire on the reg.

Here’s a window into my saves – there’s baked chicken tenders with homemade ranch sauce, a 15-minute veggie lo mein and a Mexican-inspired rice bowl with black beans and Trader Joe’s corn salsa. Real meals by real people is what sparks inspiration on my feed because ‘what am I having for dinner tonight?‘ is a question that plagues me from the moment I wake up. #dinneranxiety

One such dish that inspired me recently was a seared tuna rice bowl with spicy mayo that’s a go-to for my friend and cooking mentor, Pam aka @potsandpams. She shared a pic of her dinner plate and I immediately saved the photo and asked for the recipe.

This dish is super simple, healthyish and full of flavor. Cook the tuna to your preferred doneness or you could even chop it up and serve it raw, poke style. The veggies lend a fresh, bright crunchiness to the dish and the two sauces are so good you could drink them with a straw. You could opt for just one of the sauces, but you’re going to want both – they’re that good.

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Seared Tuna Bowl with Spicy Mayo and Ponzu Sauce 

Serves 2, with leftovers for work tomorrow  

Tuna

  • 1 pound sushi grade tuna
  • 1/4 cup of black and white sesame seeds
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 tbs vegetable oil

Spicy Mayo

  • 1/4 cup mayo
  • 1 tbs sriracha
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 2 tsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp mirin
  • 2 tsp rice vinegar

Ponzu Sauce

  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1 tbs mirin
  • 1 lime, zest and juice
  • 2 tsp freshly grated ginger (or 2 cubes of frozen minced ginger!)
  • 1 tsp sriracha

Bowl toppings

  • 1 cup short grain brown rice*, cooked
  • 2 cucumbers, thinly sliced
  • 1 avocado, thinly sliced
  • 4 radishes, thinly sliced
  • 3 scallions, sliced
  • handful of cilantro, chopped

Rub tuna with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place sesame seeds on a large plate and dredge tuna in the seeds covering completely on both sides. Heat vegetable oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until almost smoking. Place tuna in the skillet and cook for about 1-2 minutes on each side. Remove tuna from the skillet and let it cool slightly and then thinly slice it.

Whisk all ingredients for ponzu sauce in a small bowl and set aside. Whisk all ingredients for spicy mayo in a small bowl and set aside. To assemble, divide the rice among bowls and top with sliced tuna, cucumber, radishes, avocado, cilantro, scallions and drizzle with spicy mayo and ponzu sauce to your heart’s content!

*Short grain brown rice is a recent addition to my life and I’m obsessed and never going back to non-short grain brown rice. 

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Eggplant Parmesan

Let’s talk eggplant parm. Cheesy, Italian, vegetarian comfort food at its finest, eggplant parm is not particularly difficult to make but it does require time.  Pre-salting the eggplant, breading and frying it, baking the dish and then the most painful part: letting it rest for a full 20 minutes before eating to solidify. This dish is best suited for a Sunday evening when you have time to graze in and out of the kitchen and leisurely sip on a glass of wine to ward off the Sunday scaries.

I hope I didn’t just deter you from making this dish – it really is easy and apart from the eggplant, you likely have all of the ingredients already. Especially if you’re like me and keep a Costco sized bag of shredded mozzarella in your freezer and a can of pizza sauce in your pantry at all times. Serve your eggplant parm with a big green salad or a side of pasta (completely unnecessary, totally delicious) for the perfect Sunday supper.

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Eggplant Parmesan

Makes a nice little micro eggplant parm, serves 2-3 hungry people. 

  • 1 large eggplant, sliced lengthwise 1/2 inch thick
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2/3 cup flour
  • 1 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1 cup Parmesan, grated
  • 1 1/2 cups mozzarella, shredded or torn if using fresh
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • 2/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 can pizza sauce (I like Don Pepino)
  • salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 375°. Season the eggplant slices with salt and let them hang out in a single layer for a bit (an hour or so if you can spare it) so the eggplant can release some of its liquid. Wipe away the accumulated moisture on top of each slice with a paper towel.

Mix panko with 1/4 of grated Parmesan, dried basil, oregano and season generously with salt and pepper. Dredge eggplant slices in flour and shake off the excess. Dip slices into egg and then panko mixture.

Heat vegetable oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Cook eggplant slices (as many as will fit in the pan) until deep golden brown on both sides – about 5 minutes total. Transfer to paper towels to absorb any excess oil.

Mix mozzarella with 1/2 cup of Parmesan. Spread 1 generous tablespoon of sauce over the bottom of a 9×9″ glass baking dish, top with a layer of eggplant slices (if you need to cut them to ensure they fit, that’s fine). Spread about 1/4 cup of sauce over the eggplant slices and sprinkle generously with your mozzarella-parm mixture. Add another layer of eggplant, followed by 1/4 cup sauce and half of the remaining cheese mixture. Repeat layers until you’re out of ingredients. Final layer should be cheese! Cover with foil and bake for 35-45 minutes. Turn broiler on high. Broil uncovered until the top gets all golden and bubbly – about 2 minutes. Let it rest for 15-20 minutes before serving – this is very important!  Sprinkle with remaining Parmesan before serving.

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eggplant parm recipe

Korean BBQ Brisket

As a parting gift after a visit with my brother, Andrew, he gave me a generous baggie full of gochugaru – Korean red chili pepper flakes, non-woke friends. This is the kind of epicurean relationship we have. We go grocery shopping for fun and have a shared google doc with our future restaurant’s menu mapped out. He orders me a bottle of limited edition Red Boat fish sauce, I bring him back a bottle of Douro Valley wine from Portugal. It’s a give and take relationship that revolves mostly around food – and love and admiration too!

The gochugaru sat relatively untouched in my pantry for a while until one day the inspiration struck to make bo ssam for some friends coming over for dinner. Bo ssam, a popular Korean dish, is a slow roasted caramelized pork shoulder. After consulting Andrew on adapting the recipe using a brisket, I abandoned the bo ssam idea and landed on a Korean BBQ brisket recipe that I could make in a crockpot. My plan was to serve it bo ssam style with lettuce cups, scallion garlic sauce, spicy mayo, rice and kimchi of course. To say it was a hit is an understatement. Tender, spicy brisket wrapped in crisp butter lettuce and topped with a zingy, flavorful sauce is the most perfect bite of food. It’s fun to eat and great for entertaining.

You can find gochugaru on Amazon or at your local Asian supermarket (H-mart for life!). I recommend shopping in-store for it though. Roam the aisles and you’ll find tons of unique and delicious ingredients that will inspire you to expand your repertoire and cook new, interesting dishes outside of your comfort zone.

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Korean BBQ Brisket

From Melissa Clark

  • 4 to 5 pound beef brisket
  • 1 tablespoon gochugaru
  • 1 tablespoon sweet paprika
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 to 3 tablespoons neutral oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon grated peeled fresh ginger
  • 1 cup lager-style beer
  • 1/4 cup gochujang (Korean chile paste) or Sriracha
  • 2 tablespoons ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons light or dark brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons Asian fish sauce
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

Rub the beef with the gochugaru flakes, paprika, salt, and pepper. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour.

Heat a large dutch oven over medium high heat. Add a tablespoon of the oil, let it heat up for a few seconds, and then add the brisket and sear on both sides, about 2 minutes per side, adding more oil as needed. Remove brisket from the pot.

Add more oil to your pot if needed and add the onion and sauté until golden, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger and sauté 1 minute longer. Add the beer, gochujang, ketchup, soy sauce, brown sugar, fish sauce, and sesame oil. Scrape the mixture into your crockpot.

Cook on high for 7 to 9 hours or low for 10 to 12 hours. Cool brisket in the fridge until it’s fully cold. Slice it while it’s cold and reheat in the oven in all its saucy goodness.

Apple Pie

I adore pie (pie > cake any day of the week) but I’m not that great at making it. The real trouble arises when I try to crimp the edges of the pie crust. I just can’t seem to get the hang of it.

My Aunt Debbie, an expert pie maker and my personal pie mentor, led a pie bootcamp for me a few years ago.  We spent the afternoon in her kitchen and she coached me in the basics of pie baking from crimping to lattice work. Unfortunately, years later it still doesn’t come naturally to me.

But here’s the saving grace in my pie game – struesel topping. It’s delicious and will cover up any unsightly crust errors. Plus, it’s a cinch to make – just crumble together butter, sugar and flour and dump it on top of your pie.

This apple pie recipe is adapted from my pie-guru Aunt and makes the perfect fall dessert. The crust is flaky and delicious, the apple filling stays perfectly in place when you slice it and it’s got all of the delicious fall spices. Your friends will ooh and ahh over the fact that you made a pie from scratch (I promise it’s not hard!) and it makes the perfect end to a fall dinner.

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Apple Pie 

Adapted from Aunt Debbie

For the crust: 

1 ½ cups flour

1 ½ T powdered sugar

1/8 t salt

6 T unsalted margarine or butter

2 ¼ T Crisco

2-4 ½ T cold water

 

For the apple filling:

6-8 Granny Smith Apples, peeled, cored and sliced

3/4 c granulated sugar

3 T flour

1 t cinnamon

1 tsp kosher salt

½ tsp nutmeg

1/8 tsp allspice

½ lemon, zested

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

For the streusel topping: 

2/3 cup flour

1/3 cup softened unsalted butter or margarine

1/3 cup granulated sugar

 

To make the pie crust: 

Put flour, margarine or butter cut into chunks, powdered sugar, salt, and Crisco into a food processor. Pulse off and on, until crumbly.  Then add water, 1 T at a time, through the top, while pulsing, until a ball forms. Wrap the ball of dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for ½ hour or more.

Lightly flour 2 pieces of waxed paper. Remove ball of pie dough from refrigerator and allow to come to room temperature – about an hour. Flatten ball slightly and using a rolling pin, roll to a thin round disk. Disk should extend one inch beyond the sides of an 8 or 9 inch pie pan. Fold the dough in half using your rolling pin and place in your pie dish and unfold it. Form a “standing ridge” around the sides of the pie pan by folding the extra pastry under, and then flute the edge. Consult YouTube for further instructions.

Assembling your pie:

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. In a large bowl, mix together the apples with the sugar, flour, spices, salt, lemon zest and juice. Pour apple mixture into your pie crust. Cover apples with streusel topping.

Bake at 450 degrees for 10 minutes. Then turn temperature down to 350 degrees and bake for 45-55 minutes or until apples are tender. Took me a good 1:15 to get the top nice and golden and apples tender.

Funfetti Birthday Cake

There are few people in this world who merit a 3-layer funfetti birthday cake. My sister in law, Devora, happens to be one of them. She’s the loveliest person and when she asked me to bake her birthday cake this year, I was honored. Devora is a huge sprinkle-lover (she introduced me to ordering vanilla milkshakes with rainbow sprinkles) and I knew immediately that her birthday cake had to be funfetti. Sprinkles just make people happy.  This cake tastes way better than the classic boxed cake version and elicits all the fond memories of that birthday cake you ate in 1998. While not for the faint of heart or organically-inclined (hello, butter!), this cake is perfection in every other way and enhances a birthday second only to cold-hard cash.  I decided to really go for it here and cover the entire cake in sprinkles. Ultimately, I’m glad I did, as it yielded the desired results – lots of oohs and ahhs, but my kitchen was a sprinkle massacre and hasn’t recovered yet from the whole ordeal. You’ve been warned.

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funfetti birthday cake recipe

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funfetti cake recipe

There’s something oddly ethereal about this pic.

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Funfetti Cake

Adapted from Molly Yeh’s recipe in her cookbook, Molly on the Range

Cake
2½ cups flour
¼ cup cornstarch
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1½ cups sugar
4 large egg whites
¼ cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon clear imitation vanilla (I used McCormick brand)
¾ cup whole milk
½ cup rainbow sprinkles

Frosting
1¾ cups unsalted butter, at room temperature
3½ cups powdered sugar
⅛ teaspoon kosher salt
1½ teaspoons clear imitation vanilla
2 tablespoons whole milk

2 cups sprinkles for decoration

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Grease and line the bottoms of three 8 or 9-inch cake pans. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cornstarch, salt, and baking powder. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the egg whites, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add the oil and the vanilla extract. With the mixer running on low speed, add the dry mixture and the milk in two or three alternating batches and mix until just barely combined.

Using a rubber spatula, gently fold in the sprinkles until they’re evenly distributed. Distribute the batter among the cake pans, spreading it out evenly. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Begin checking for doneness at 25 minutes. for cupcakes. Let cool in the pans for 10 minutes and then turn onto a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the frosting: In a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter until smooth and gradually beat in the powdered sugar. Add the salt, extracts, and milk and beat to combine. Frost the cake and decorate with sprinkles as desired.

Key Lime Pie

Meal prepping is a lifestyle that’s just not right for me.  I respect the practice and know it has a lot of merit but it’s kind of depressing. First of all, who wants to spend a Sunday night boiling eggs and washing and chopping vegetables? The sunday scaries are hard enough.  Plus, you’re basically eating leftovers for a week straight. It sparks no joy in me. And if we were Marie Kondo-ing my life, we’d eliminate meal prep for this very reason.

At the opposite end of the spectrum in a place far away from 3-day old grilled chicken and quinoa is key lime pie. It’s decadent. It’s tropical. It’s fun!  It’s everything that meal prep is not and that’s why you should make one this week. 

Besides for the muscle required in juicing 10 limes, key lime pie is pretty easy to make. And the payoff is huge. Perfectly tart custard piled high with whipped cream all nestled in a buttery graham cracker crust. It’s sheer perfection as Mary Berry would say if she tasted a slice of my pie.

I used Alison Roman’s recipe from her cookbook, Dining In. This cookbook has quickly become a favorite – and I’m a discerning cookbook scholar. For the topping, Roman combines freshly whipped cream and Greek yogurt which yields a delightful tart yet rich topping which complements the lime nicely. She also uses coconut oil (in addition to butter) in the graham cracker crust for a nice tropical island vibe. Crank the heat in your apartment, turn on the reggae channel on Pandora and eat a slice of this pie on a Sunday night. It’s way better than meal prepping, I promise.

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Key Lime Pie

From Alison Roman’s Dining In

Crust
10 graham crackers
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
4 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
1 tablespoon sugar
A pinch of kosher salt

Filling
4 large egg yolks
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
2 teaspoons lime zest, plus more for garnish
1 cup lime juice, about 10 limes
Pinch of kosher salt

Topping
1 cup heavy cream
¼ cup powdered sugar
1 cup full-fat Greek yogurt


Preheat oven to 350°. Using your hands, crush graham crackers in a large bowl until coarsely ground. You can also use a food processor but don’t pulverize it; you want some nice texture.  Add the butter, coconut oil, sugar, and salt and mix until well blended. Press the crust evenly in a 9″ pie dish. Use your fingers and work the crust up the sides of the pie dish. Bake crust, until lightly golden brown about 10 minutes. Let the pie crust cool while you make the filling.


Using an electric mixer on medium speed or a whisk beat the egg yolks until pale and light – about 5 minutes. Add in the sweetened condensed milk and beat for another 3 minutes until mixture is pale and frothy.  Whisk in the lime zest, juice, and salt. Pour into the crust. Bake pie until filling barely jiggle in the center – about 20 minutes. Let cool completely.


Whip cream and powdered sugar in a large bowl until stiff peaks form. Add in the yogurt and mix until just combined. Top the cooled pie with the cream leaving the outer rim exposed for a nice contrast. Garnish pie with lime zest.

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Squash Fritters with Buttermilk Dressing

Squash fritters are the seasonal appetizer you never knew you needed in your life. Easy to throw together and highly snackable, these fritters are worth turning on the stove for. Plus, there’s a buttermilk chive dipping sauce that you’ll want to dip everything into (or bathe in). Serve these to friends alongside cocktails (an aperol spritz perhaps?) or just munch on them solo with a glass of wine. Pick up some squash from the grocery store or farmer’s market and get frying.

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Squash Fritters with Buttermilk Dressing

From Julia Turshen

  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh chives
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 pound summer squash, coarsely grated
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil, for frying

Whisk together the flour, 1 teaspoon salt and baking powder.  Place the grated squash in a piece of cheesecloth and wrap it up tightly. Wring out the liquid over the sink. Squeeze real hard since the less moisture in the fritters, the crispier they’ll be! Heat 1/4 cup oil in a nonstick frying pan over medium-high heat. Once the oil shimmers, drop in tablespoonfuls of the squash mixture and flatten slightly with the back of a spoon. Cook for 3 minutes and then flip over and cook for about 2 more minutes until nicely browned. Transfer to a paper towel lined plate and sprinkle with salt. Continue to fry the remaining fritters adding more oil to pan.

Whisk together the buttermilk, mayo, red wine vinegar, garlic, chives and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Serve alongside fritters.

Nectarine Corn Muffins

Confession: cooking in the summer stresses me out sometimes.  With the abundance of in-season produce comes the pressure to bake all the pies, make jam, pesto, corn salad, gazpacho, watermelon margaritas – the list goes on. It’s straight up fruit and vegetable FOMO.  Julia Turshen recently wrote a wonderful article in The Washington Post about simplifying summer cooking and it really put things into perspective for me. The article talks about how little you have to do to summer produce – it shines on its own. Julia included a fresh crop of simple recipes that I can’t wait to try including garlicky marinated tomatoes, crispy, smoky skillet corn and squash fritters with buttermilk dressing! I decided to try her nectarine corn muffins first because I love a corn muffin and my favorite summer fruit is the nectarine – which I didn’t even know you could bake with! You can make these delicious, tender muffins in one bowl and use any stone fruit you love. I ate three in one sitting and have 0 regrets.

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nectarine corn muffin recipe

easy corn muffin recipe for summer

Nectarine Corn Muffins

From Julia Turshen

  • 1 1/4 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, melted
  • 3/4 cup regular buttermilk (I used regular milk)
  • 8 ounces chopped nectarines (I used 1 large one)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a size muffin pan with paper liners.

Whisk together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a mixing bowl.  Combine the egg, melted butter and buttermilk in a large bowl and mix.

Add the flour mixture to the egg mixture and stir until just combined. Gently fold in the nectarines.

Distribute the batter among the prepared muffin cups, filling them to the top. Bake for 30 minutes or until the muffins are golden brown and the toothpick test comes back clean.

Aperol Spritz

The Aperol Spritz is synonymous with summer, and if you haven’t tried one yet, get on it! This cocktail is low-alcohol making it the perfect daytime summer sipper. Do as the Italians do and sip this three-ingredient aperitif (pre-dinner cocktail) al fresco with a bowl of potato chips. Salut!

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Aperol Spritz

  • 4 ounces Prosecco
  • 2 ounces Aperol
  • 3/4 ounce club soda
  • orange slice for garnish

Fill a wine glass with ice. Pour prosecco in, then Aperol and top with club soda. Garnish with orange slice.

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First drink on board my Alaskan cruise: a spritz of course!

Summer Cobb Salad

While the dog days of summer officially begin in a couple of days (thanks, Google!), there’s a full-on heat wave happening here in New York. With the temperature climbing and lethargy sinking in, the only dinners I feel like making are easy and oven-less. Bright, fresh, summery salads are the perfect antidote to sweltering heat and faulty AC units. This cobb salad is bursting with summer produce – fresh corn, tomatoes, avocado and chives. Plus, it has enough protein to keep you feeling full and satisfied. The only heavy lifting you’ll need to do is grill the chicken and boil eggs.

If you’re looking for more no-cook dinner inspiration, check out my recent article!

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Summer Cobb Salad

Dressing:
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 lemon, juiced
2 tablespoons tarragon, chopped
1/2 cup good olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Salad:
1/2 head romaine lettuce, chopped
1/2 package of spring mix salad greens or arugula
3 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and cut into cubes
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, pounded thin, grilled brushed with some BBQ sauce at the end and cut into strips
1 avocado, cut into cubes
2 ears of corn, kernels removed
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
2 tablespoons chives, minced

Combine all of the dressing ingredients in a jar and shake well. On a large platter, arrange lettuce and top with rows of the tomatoes, egg, avocado, chicken and corn. Sprinkle chives over everything and season salad with salt and pepper. Pour dressing on top of salad and serve.