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Weeknight recipes heavy on light, refreshing flavors

Butternut squash flautas
Paola Briseño-González brings us five easy dishes — including these butternut squash flautas — for our Week of Meals series.
(Silvia Razgova/For The Times)

With the overcast skies and slightly cooler temps of this last week, it may feel like fall is coming, but we all know there’s still plenty of hot weather to come in L.A. Thankfully, though, our next Week of Meals recipes are here just in time to get us ready for the tastes of autumn, even if we’ll be sweating through summer for several more weeks.

This round of recipes comes from the brilliantly talented Paola Briseño-González, a Highland Park-based recipe developer who ingeniously weaves together Mexican and Middle Eastern flavors for her dishes, based on her favorite market, Super King.

Labneh, the popular Middle Eastern yogurt-like cheese, adds creaminess to two of her dishes. In the first, she blends the dairy with blistered poblano chiles into a smoky sauce that gets blanketed over shrimp, mushrooms and zucchini — and a bright lime-and-mint-dressed corn salad cuts through the rich sauce wonderfully. In the second, she blends labneh with tons of fresh herbs and chiles güeros for a spicy green goddess dressing for warm potatoes and salad greens topped with lemon-dressed poached lobster.

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In her Za’atar Beef Cheeks with Fennel and Mango Salad, the sesame-packed dried herb mix za’atar crusts super-flavorful beef cheeks before they are braised for hours in a purée of sweet, sticky dates. The whole affair is lifted with tart, crunchy green mango and fennel slices tossed with herbs for a bright slaw.

That za’atar is used in a second dish as well, but this time it’s mixed with ground pepitas, a seasoning called alguashte in Latin cuisines, to form a cheater’s version of dukkah, the Middle Eastern spice mix that incorporates nuts into the typical mix of spices and sesame seeds. This dukkah is sprinkled generously over fresh garbanzo beans — though any fresh beans will work — mixed with green olives and feta and served over warm, toasted couscous.

And finally, her Butternut Squash Flautas with Salsa Verde Cruda takes the sturdy squash and uses it as a vegetarian filling for crispy corn flautas, topped with a refreshing raw salsa verde. Crema gets drizzled over the top and, instead of a salty Mexican cheese, she uses creamy crumbles of feta to add a final briny pop of flavor.

Shrimp, Mushrooms And Zucchini With Poblano Labneh Sauce And Corn Salad

Fire-blistered poblano chiles flavor the creamy sauce for simple poached shrimp and seared vegetables. The corn — boiled first to plump its kernels — is mixed with mint and lime juice to add an acidic crunch to the dish. Serve it with warm corn tortillas for making tacos.
Get the recipe.
Cook time: 1 hour.

Crispy Oyster Mushrooms and Zucchini with Poached Shrimp in Poblano Labneh Sauce
(Silvia Razgova/For The Times)

Butternut Squash Flautas with Salsa Verde Cruda

Butternut squash makes an ideal filling for these flautas, especially when steamed because it retains a firm texture to bite into. Fried until crispy, these vegetarian flautas are gilded further with a drizzle of cream, a showering of salty feta and spoonsful of a bright, fresh raw salsa verde.
Get the recipe.
Cook time: 55 minutes.

Butternut Squash Flautas with Salsa Verde Cruda
(Silvia Razgova/For The Times)

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Potato Salad with Spicy Green Goddess Labneh and Lobster

Briny, rich lobster pairs wonderfully with creamy potatoes in this salad, invigorated by a tart, creamy green goddess-style dressing. Because you only use a little, the lobster is affordable and its flavor goes a long way, especially when tossed with lemon for a vibrant topping to the salad, garnished with crunchy rendered-and-chopped prosciutto.
Get the recipe.
Cook time: 40 minutes.

Spicy Green Goddess Labneh Lobster Potato Salad
(Silvia Razgova/For The Times)

Za’atar Beef Cheeks with Fennel and Mango Salad

Beef cheeks are crusted in za’atar and then braised in a date purée, which gives them a complex herbal sweetness to balance the rich cut. The tart and crunchy fennel and green mango salad lifts the beef with its bright flavors.
Get the recipe.
Cook time: 40 minutes.

Za'atar Beef Cheeks with Fennel and Mango Salad
(Silvia Razgova/For The Times)
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Couscous With Fresh Garbanzos, Feta And Alguashte Dukkah

Simple toasted couscous is a wonderful canvas for fresh garbanzo beans dressed with lots of olive oil, feta and Castelvetrano olives. The whole dish is sprinkled with alguashte dukkah, a mix made by adding ground pepitas, or alguashte, to za’atar to make a cheater’s version of dukkah.
Get the recipe.
Cook time: 35 minutes.

Couscous with Fresh Garbanzos and Bulgarian feta with Alguashte Dukkah
(Silvia Razgova/For The Times)

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