SPICY WATERMELON MARGARITAS

Spicy Watermelon Margaritas

My friend Tamo (radio superstar on DC101 in Washington, DC) posted a version of this on her Instagram story a while back and I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Frozen chunks of watermelon in a margarita? Will there be any flavor? I will often buy fresh fruit of different types and not get through all of it before it gets over-ripe. Good news is you can pop that mushy fruit in the freezer and use it to make smoothies or MARGARITAS! The recipe below makes a whole blender…or four huge margs.

Ingredients:

4 cups of frozen watermelon chunks (other frozen fruit like pineapple or peaches can sub in beautifully)

2 cups of ice

1 cup (12oz) of decent silver tequila…don’t give yourself a headache with the cheap stuff

¼ cup triple sec or other orange liqueur (such as Cointreau or Grand Marnier)

1 tbs of agave or honey

½ serrano or jalapeño pepper (more if you want it extra spicy)

A couple of pinches of salt

All ingredients go in the blender and puree for at least 60 seconds for a frothy cold tequila treat. You can leave the salt out and do a salt rim on your glass if you prefer but I do it this way for convenience.

SPICE-RUBBED PORK WITH GRILLED CITRUS

Spice-Rubbed Pork with Grilled Citrus

I am definitely listening to you and one of your requests was a healthy dinner that actually tastes good. This one is so easy – big flavor, minimal cleanup, and together in 10-15 minutes. In fact, this dinner is so simple to put together, I let Ben do it for the video. The spice rub is actually very similar to one I use with grilled salmon. And grilling citrus like lemons or oranges (or in this case, both) is a way to create a simple sauce that is a little bit more special than just squeezing a raw lemon. For the sides, we did steamed snap peas but you could substitute any simple green vegetable and roasted cauliflower. It’s amazing how roasting cauliflower can give it flavor and make it so satisfying you don’t miss the potatoes. And I LOVE potatoes.

Ingredients:

One loin of pork or two pork tenderloins
Head of cauliflower, de-cored and cut or broken into florets
Spice rub (recipe to follow)
Lemons and oranges cut in half through the middle.
Olive oil
Kosher salt and black pepper

Preheat grill for indirect grilling or preheat oven to 375 farenheit. Make the spice rub. Toss cauliflower with olive oil, salt, and pepper (and other seasonings you like such as garlic powder) and spread out on a sheet pan. Set aside.

Rub the spice mixture on the pork. You can do this up to a day in advance to let the flavor get in the meat. When you’re ready to cook, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle liberally with salt. Check the package on your pork and if it has salt added, you can be a little lighter with your seasoning.

If grilling, sear the fat side of the pork over the direct flame, then put the loin(s) on the part of the grill without a flame underneath. A pork loin will probably take 35-45 minutes, pork tenderloin 20-30 minutes depending on size. If you’re roasting in the oven, the times will be about the same. Toward the end of the grilling, place lemons and oranges cut side down over the open flame for about 3 minutes.

 Check pork with a meat thermometer and remove at 155 farenheit, tent with foil.

While the pork is resting, roast the cauliflower for about 15 minutes until golden brown and crispy.

When ready, squeeze grilled citrus over the roast and serve with the cauliflower and vegetable or green salad.

Spice Rub:

1 tsp dried thyme
½ tsp garlic powder
½ tsp smoked paprika
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp Aleppo pepper or chipotle chili powder
1 tsp orange zest
1 heaping tbs brown sugar

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Double or triple the recipe if you want to keep some on hand.

BAKED FRENCH TOAST

Baked French Toast

I love French toast. My dad made it for my brother and I when we were kids and he would do it the traditional way – slice by slice. I’ve done that too, using Martha Stewart’s recipe and it is delicious. But if you have a bunch of people coming for brunch, it’s very tedious. This baked version you can make ahead and throw in the oven while your friends and family enjoy a brunch cocktail.

Ingredients:

Butter, for greasing the dish
1 loaf brioche or other white bread
8 whole eggs plus one egg yolk
2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
2 ½ tablespoons orange liqueur, such as Grand Marnier (optional)
1 ½ teaspoons orange zest (approximately the zest of one orange)
½ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon kosher salt

Directions:

Grease the baking pan with butter or spray with cooking spray . Tear the

bread into chunks, or cut into cubes, and evenly distribute in the pan. Whisk together the eggs, egg yolk, milk, cream, granulated sugar, brown sugar, vanilla, nutmeg, salt, and Grand Marnier (if using…but it is delicious…so please use). Pour evenly over the bread. Cover the pan tightly and store in the fridge until needed (up to overnight).

When you’re ready to bake the French toast, preheat the oven to 350

degrees F. Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, testing occasionally with a toothpick. You want the custard set (so the toothpick comes out clean) and the top crunchy and brown.

Serve it up. Top with butter and warm maple syrup. You can add blueberries or strawberries if you like.

Mac and Cheese

DANNY’S MAC AND CHEESE

This is my all-time most requested recipe. A close second is the “Italian Mac and Cheese” that I will share soon. There are so many different ways to make mac and cheese, I call this version “Yankee Mac and Cheese” because it uses a white sauce with flour and butter instead of eggs or evaporated milk. It’s a bit fussy to make the roux and mix in the flour but the results are worth it. Also, you can mess around with the cheeses and seasonings. One thing I do strongly recommend is grating your own cheese rather than using the pre-shredded. I have made this so many times both ways and grating your own really does have more flavor in the end.

1 box (16oz) elbow macaroni or cavatappi
1 quart milk
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, divided
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
8 ounces Gruyere, grated (2 cups) or Parmesan (1/2 cup)
12 ounces extra-sharp Cheddar, grated (4 cups) I use Cabot Seriously Sharp
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 1/2 cups fresh white bread crumbs (5 slices, crusts removed)

Directions
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Add the macaroni to boiling salted water (about a tablespoon added after the boil). Cook according to the directions on the package, 6 to 8 minutes. Drain well. If you’re going to make ahead and bake just before dinner, rinse the noodles to cool them off.

Meanwhile, heat the milk in the microwave for 5 minutes at 50 percent power. You don’t want it boiling, just warmed up a bit. Melt 6 tablespoons of butter in a large (4-quart) pot and add the flour. Cook over low heat for 2 minutes, stirring with a wooden spoon. While stirring, add the milk and cook for a minute or two more, until thickened and smooth. Use a whisk to smooth out lumps if you need. Off the heat, add the Gruyere, Cheddar, 2 teaspoons salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, and nutmeg. Add the cooked macaroni and stir well. Pour into a 3-quart baking dish.

Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, combine them with the fresh bread crumbs, and sprinkle on the top. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly and the bread crumbs are browned on top.