Here are a dozen places to visit in Downtown/Strip District, East End, South Side and South Hills for the best tacos in Pittsburgh.
Strawberry Corn Muffins
"Moist and a little bit crumbly, these strawberry-studded muffins are inspired by a similar version served at the Westside Bakery Cafe in Berkeley, Calif.," write Leslie Jonath and Ethel Brennan. "In summer, the muffins can be made with blackberries, blueberries, or apricots or peaches, cut into 1/2-inch cubes You can also add chopped nuts, such as pecans or walnuts ..." The book notes, "Kids Can: Rinse, stem, hull, and slice the strawberries; place liners in the muffin cups; measure the ingredients and mix the batter; spoon the batter into the muffin cups." My almost-5-year-old loved it ... especially sampling the berries.-- Bob Batz Jr.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 12 standard muffin cups with paper liners.
Pick through the berries, discarding any rotten ones. Remove the stem ends and hulls. Slice the berries.
In a medium bowl, combine the cornmeal, flour, 1/2 cup sugar, baking powder, and salt. Stir to mix. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and buttermilk. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold in the flour mixture, one-third at time, being careful not to overmix the batter. Gently fold in the melted butter and sliced strawberries.
Fill the muffin cups to within 1/2 inch of the rims. Then sprinkle the remaining 1 tablespoon sugar evenly over the tops.
Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Let the muffins cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Remove the muffins from the pan and put them on a wire rack to finish cooling. Keep the muffins in an airtight container for 3 days or in the refrigerator for 1 week.
Makes 12 muffins.
--"At the Farmers' Market with Kids: Recipes and Projects for Little Hands" by Leslie Jonath and Ethel Brennan (Chronicle, April 2012, $22.95)
Polenta-stuffed chard with bubbly parmesan
While I love the delicate flavor of baby spinach, I've always been kind of afraid of its close cousin Swiss chard, because its leaves are so big and sturdy-looking. Then I stumbled upon this vegetarian dish in "Ripe: A Fresh, Colorful Approach to Fruits and Vegetables" by Cherly Sternman Rule, a new cookbook that groups recipes based on color. It looked so good, I suddenly couldn't wait to try it.
Because it has so many health-promoting nutrients, chard -- which comes with white, red or yellow stalks -- is known as the "valedictorian of vegetables." Look for leaves that are bright green, with crisp, unblemished stalks. You can store chard in a plastic bag, unwashed, in the crisper drawer for up to 3 days.
-- Gretchen McKay
Coat a 91/2-inch square pan with cooking spray and line the bottom with parchment.
In medium saucepan, bring 3 cups water and 1 teaspoon salt to boil. Whisk in polenta and reduce heat to a gentle gurgle. Cook until thick, 10 to 15 minutes, whisking occasionally. Remove from heat and stir in butter, half the cheese and a generous pinch of black pepper.
Scrape polenta into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Cool for 15 minutes at room temperature, then refrigerate until cold, at least 1 hour. (Cover with plastic wrap if leaving in fridge longer than that.) Unmold and cut into 8 4-by-2-inch rectangles. Wipe baking pan dry and spread 1/2 cup of marinara along the bottom.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees and bring a kettle of water to a boil. Have several layers of paper towels on hand.
Make a narrow, upside down V-shaped cut about halfway down each chard leaf to remove the thick central seam. Place leaves in a large bowl and cover with boiling water. Let soften for 6 minutes. Remove to paper towels and pat very dry.
To form rolls, lay 1 chard leaf on cutting board. Lay 1 polenta rectangle horizontally along the bottom of the leaf and spoon 1 teaspoon marinara on top. Roll the leaf upwards burrito-like, encasing the polenta, and transfer to baking pan seam side down. Repeat, nestling rolls next to one another. Spoon remaining sauce on top and sprinkle with remaining cheese.
Bake for 10 minutes, then slip under broiler for 1 to 2 minutes to brown the cheese. Serve hot.
-- "Ripe: A Fresh, Colorful Approach to Fruits and Vegetables" by Cheryl Sternman Rule (Running Press, 2011, $25)
Asparagus, Rhubarb and Goat Cheese Salad
This salad is a delicious, inventive way to showcase spring ingredients. I bought the asparagus, rhubarb and goat cheese at the Farmers Market Cooperative of East Liberty last Saturday. Feel free to substitute white wine or Champagne vinegar if you don't have white balsamic. -- China Millman
Combine vinegar and sugar in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally until the sugar is dissolved. Pour the hot liquid over the rhubarb in a medium mixing bowl and let sit until cool and the rhubarb is slightly tender.
Strain the liquid from the rhubarb, reserving both. Make a vinaigrette by whisking 2 tablespoons of the liquid with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a small bowl. Refrigerate the remaining liquid for another use.
Preheat a grill to medium-high or preheat oven to 350 degrees. Trim the woody ends of the asparagus and toss with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Set the asparagus spears horizontally across the hot grill grates and grill until tender, about 5 to 7 minutes, turning once or twice, or roast in the oven for about 20 minutes. Let the asparagus cool slightly and cut the spears into 2-inch pieces.
Combine the asparagus with the arugula, almonds, goat cheese, and reserved rhubarb. Drizzled with the vinaigrette, toss to coat and serve. Serves 4.
-- Adapted from "Girl in the Kitchen: How a Top Chef Cooks, Thinks, Shops, Eats, and Drinks" by Stephanie Izard (Chronicle, 2011, $30)
I made this salad for a church supper and it disappeared fast.-- Rebecca Sodergren
In a medium bowl, mix together the radishes, tomatoes, onion and cilantro.
In a jar with a tight-fitting lid, combine remaining ingredients and shake to combine. Pour over radish mixture and stir.
Refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving.
-- "Recipes Menus Prayers for Family Gatherings" by Carolyn Anderson (Dinner Table Books, 2012, $15.95)
First Published May 17, 2012 12:00 AM