Creating recipes isn't a pastime—it's a passion. And a lot of fun.

The rules are few: Use 99% fresh ingredients (or thereabouts); make the dish simple but flavorful; make the dish flavorful but simple; be creative, not silly.

With this blog, I want to share new recipes, along with tips on ingredients and preparation, and, hopefully, show new cooks (and non-cooks) the pleasure in setting the table with a delicious homemade meal. The Briny Lemon is about fresh, simple, flavorful ingredients and easy cooking methods that help you bring the best to your family table. Your comments are welcome!

Saturday, April 24, 2021

Grilled Steak and Pear Salads with Basil Vinaigrette

This inviting, flavor-loaded salad is as pretty as it is delicious. And with only about four ounces of lean, grilled beef per serving, it’s not on the heavy side. I was fortunate to find a very small cut of flank steak, which is great on the grill and in salads. If you can't find a small flank steak for two servings, choose a seven- or eight-ounce boneless strip steak and trim the excess fat.

Flank Steak

I think what makes the dish so pleasing on the palate is the balance of complementary flavors and textures. Crispy fresh pear and tangy blue cheese, crunchy almonds and earthy watercress, a very floral dressing with fresh basil—and, of course, tender, juicy steak.

Note: Instead of grilling out, you can sear the steak in a hot cast-iron skillet on the stovetop. Brush only about 1 tablespoon of olive oil in the bottom of the pan, and the steak will turn out seared and smoky—almost like grilled!

Serves 2

  • 1/2-lb flank steak
  • olive oil, for grilling (or brushing a pan)
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 medium basil leaves, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tsp finely chopped shallot
  • 4 cups watercress
  • 1/2 small red pear, thinly sliced
  • 1-1/2 oz blue cheese, cut into small pieces
  • 2 tbsp thinly sliced red onion
  • 2 tbsp coarsely chopped toasted almonds
Salad Toppings
  1. Light a grill for medium-high, direct-heat grilling and rub with oil. Season the steak with salt and pepper. Grill until lightly charred outside and pink in the middle, for medium rare (or until desired degree of doneness), 5-6 minutes per side.
  2. Transfer to a cutting board and let rest 5 minutes. Cut across the grain into thin slices.
Flank Steak Beginning to Grill
Grilled Flank Steak
Let the Steak Rest before Slicing
  1. Whisk the basil, vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, and shallot in a small bowl until well blended.
Basil Vinaigrette

Divide the watercress between 2 plates. Top each evenly with pear slices, blue cheese, red onion, and toasted almonds. Divide the steak between the salads and drizzle each with vinaigrette.

Grilled Steak and Pear Salads with Basil Vinaigrette

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Chicken Enchiladas with Ranchero Sauce

Chicken enchiladas are easy to make at home—and so fresh and flavorful. Before you head out to your local Mexican cantina, give this recipe a try.

Authentic ranchero sauce is made with dried chiles, often the small chiles de arbol (“tree” chiles), as in this recipe. Small chiles don’t need to be strained through a sieve after grinding them because the thin skins emulsify well in the sauce.

These little chiles are hot but they’re also very savory, and the heat in ranchero sauce is tempered by vegetable broth and tomato paste. For a milder ranchero sauce, simply use milder dried chiles, such as guajillo or New Mexico. You can make the ranchero sauce a day or two ahead and reheat before using.

Queso quesadilla is a mild, soft cheese commonly used in Mexican cooking. Its softness means it melts well in dishes like enchiladas. Queso Chihuahua (cheese from the Mexican state of Chihuahua) is also a great melting cheese and may be found in supermarkets with a good international cheese section.

You may be more familiar with queso fresco (Mexican fresh cheese), but this harder cheese is typically used for crumbling on top of dishes, such as Greek feta. Queso quesadilla and queso Chihuahua are the ones to use for melting. If you can’t find them, shredded jack or white cheddar will work too.

Note: I found packaged shredded queso quesadilla, so it was ready to go. But in Mexican markets, this cheese is often sold in small wheels. If that’s what you purchase, simply cut off a piece of the wheel and shred on the medium holes of a box shredder.

Queso Quesadilla
Queso Wheel
Serves 4

  • olive oil for oiling dish, plus 2 tbsp
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 serrano chiles, finely chopped
  • 1 cup chopped tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper 
  • 3 cups shredded, cooked chicken breast or thigh meat
  • 1 tsp chile powder
  • 8 8-inch flour or corn tortillas
  • 1 recipe ranchero sauce
  • 1-1/2 cups shredded queso quesadilla or queso Chihuahua
  • 1/2 tsp crushed, dried oregano
  • steamed white rice and lime wedges, for serving

Filling Ingredients
  1. Preheat the oven to 250° F. Lightly oil a large baking dish with olive oil.
  2. Stack and wrap the tortillas in foil. Warm in the oven 10 minutes, flipping once. (Warming the tortillas makes them more pliable for rolling up.) Keep covered until ready to use.

Stack the tortillas and...
Wrap in a foil pack
  1. Increase the oven temperature to 350°F.
  2. Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium heat and add 2 tablespoons of oil. Add the garlic, serrano chiles, tomatoes, and onion and season with salt and pepper. Cook until the vegetables soften and the tomatoes break down, 10 minutes.
  3. Stir in the chicken and chile powder and cook until hot throughout, 5 minutes. (Tip: To help judge the amount of filling for each tortilla, divide the chicken mixture into quarters, then fill one tortilla with half of a quarter.)

Garlic Mixture Beginning to Cook 
Cooked Chicken Mixture 
Divide the mixture into quarters
  1. Place the ranchero sauce in a 10-inch skillet and warm over low heat. Remove 1 warm tortilla from the foil-pack and dip in the ranchero sauce. Let all excess drip off then transfer to a work surface. (Tip: Use a foil-lined shallow baking pan to avoid a messy countertop.) Spread 1/8 of the chicken mixture across the tortilla, about 1 inch from the bottom.
  2. Roll the bottom edge up over the filling and roll up tightly to the top, tucking in any loose filling as you go. Place seam-side down in the baking dish and repeat with the remaining tortillas, reserving remaining ranchero sauce.
  3. Pour the remaining ranchero sauce over the filled tortillas and scatter cheese on top. Bake until the cheese is melted, 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with dried oregano.

Dip in Ranchero Sauce
Ready to Roll 
Rolled Enchilada
Ready for Sauce 
Coated with Sauce 
Ready to Bake 
Baked Enchiladas
To serve, divide the rice among 4 plates and place 1 or 2 enchiladas on top (cut enchiladas in half, if desired). Serve lime wedges alongside.

Chicken Enchiladas with Ranchero Sauce

    Sunday, March 14, 2021

    Quick Fresh-Vegetable Pasta

    This is one of those quick, easy dinner recipes that lets you cook and clean out the fridge at the same time. Leftover vegetables make wonderful pasta sauces—light and healthful, too.

    I’ve always got peppers, tomatoes, and garlic on hand, and with some leftover watercress and a leek, and one little Japanese eggplant, dinner was underway. I also had plenty of linguine in the cupboard, but you can use any kind of pasta you choose.

    This recipe is freshness and simplicity at their freshest and simplest.

    Note: You can easily substitute spinach, chard, or kale for the watercress.

    Serves 4

    • 8 oz dry linguine
    • 2 tbsp olive oil
    • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
    • 1 purple Japanese eggplant (about 4 oz), chopped
    • 1 leek, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced
    • 3/4 cup chopped green bell pepper
    • 3/4 cup chopped red bell pepper
    • 2 lbs stem tomatoes, chopped
    • 1 loose cup watercress leaves
    • sea salt
    • freshly ground black pepper
    • Parmigiano-Reggiano, for serving (optional)
    1. Heat a saucepan or deep skillet over medium heat and add the olive oil. Add the garlic, eggplant, leek, and green and red bell pepper and cook until beginning to soften, 8 minutes.
    2. Add the tomatoes and watercress and season with salt and pepper. Cook until the tomatoes begin to break down and release their juices, 9-10 minutes.
    Eggplant Mixture Beginning to Cook
    Tomatoes and Watercress Added 
    Tomato Sauce after 10 Minutes
    1. Meanwhile, cook the linguine in boiling, salted water until al dente, 9 minutes. Drain.
    2. Add the pasta to the pan with the sauce and toss to coat.
    Quick Fresh-Vegetable Pasta

    Divide the pasta and sauce among 4 bowls and serve Parmigiano-Reggiano for grating at the table, if desired.