blog, Cooking with Mary stories and tips, Recipes

HMFG’s college cook: home for the summer

Los Angeles, CA, July 6th, 2016- Hello again, it’s me, the college student, Henry Johnson. Last time I wrote for Hail Mary Food of Grace, I told you about a difficult recipe, macarons, and my experience making them. I’m switching gears and I’m going to write something a bit more pleasant; six easy, (mostly) healthy, cheap, and awesome recipes to make this summer that will impress your family and friends. Need more enticing? Here’s the menu: Bruschetta with carrot-top pesto, carrocarrots and microgreensts with micro greens, Charred salad, Elote (Mexican street corn), Cast iron skillet steak and finally Cuban crock-pot pork shoulder.

Summer is the best time of year for us returning students; we get to see our old friends, relax, make money rom internships, and be home with our family. There’s nothing better. Unfortunately, we try to cram as much good stuff into our summer as possible before returning to the drudgery of school work, so something like cooking dinner becomes an afterthought when we’re more focused on going “out” and being with friends

That being said I’d rather stay in, cook and eat dinner; and then see my friends. I plan my night around mealtime. I always choose to make something quick from beginning to end.  It must be simple (few ingredients and directions), since balancing responsibilities and plans can be daunting. Which is how I came up with these recipes, they’re quick, simple directions and so delicious it just might make you cry.

But before we talk about recipes let’s talk about the hardest and yet most tedious part of cooking…cleaning.  Clean your dishes and cooking space; I know this seems stupid to say but seriously, it does make a difference. Shrugging off cleaning and saying you’ll “do it later” is one of the worst habits you can form and as college students we all neglect it. Cleaning will teach you responsibility and most importantly it will make sure you don’t cross-contaminate food when you’re cooking.

To Start:


Bruschetta with Carrot-top Pesto

This is an extremely simple and easy to make recipe, so even an inexperienced cook can make them (as long as you follow the instructions, of course). This dish is an appetizer, it can be made well before you go out or have people over. Letting the prepared tomatoes and sauce sit will increase their flavor and then you just assemble it whenever you’re ready. I’ve actually eaten this as just my dinner before (I had 5 or 6 pieces), so you could do that too if you reaaaallly wanted, but this is more of an appetizer than anything.

A little advice: The carrot tops from the Carrots with Micro greens can be used in this recipe to maximize your inHenry cookinggredients. I’ve never been good with making sauces, and even though pesto isn’t particularly challenging, I’m still not great at it, but I made this one almost the right way without a recipe (I just got a little too heavy-handed with the salt, which I tend to do often). In place of blindly guessing and throwing things into a blender or processor, follow these easy instructions for a pesto from The Kitchn, but HMFG has a great pesto as well, just remember to use your carrot tops in places of basil (but don’t be afraid to add a little basil too to give the pesto layers of flavor):


  • 5-6 ounces (about 2 healthy bunches/6 cups gently packed) carrot greens and basil leaves
  • 1/2-cup pine nuts
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/4-teaspoon salt
  • 1/2-cup extra-virgin olive oil


  1. In the blender/processor, blend/process the first 5 ingredients, then slowly stream in the olive oil. You probably won’t have to add all the olive oil, so do this carefully until you get a nice, smooth but thick pesto.
  2. Cut a baguette into slices across its width then drizzle the slices with olive oil and toast/broil them until crunchy and golden-brown. When these have finished, smear a layer of the pesto on top.
  3. In a bowl, add 2 diced tomatoes, salt, pepper, olive oil, oregano, and garlic (and if you want, some sun-dried tomatoes for another flavor level) and toss until evenly coated. Spoon out the tomatoes onto the prepared baguettes and enjoy!




Charred Salad

A little advice: This really only works on a grill, so if you don’t have a grill this will be challenging to do (I haven’t tried it otherwise), and I know those of you in a dorm don’t have access to a grill, so for you I will say skip this and if your home for the summer definitely try it out.

Make this earlier in the night so the leaves/charred vegetables have time to rest and crisp up. This is also super easy to make, even for first time cooks, so don’t be scared if it sounds a little too daring for you (it’s also got about 0 minutes of clean up time which is FANTASTIC!).

Ingredients and directions: Get ready to get crazy. Over a fiery grill, put cleaned radish leaves (stems removed), cabbage, and peach halves, cut side down, and char them. ON the side, put lemon halves cut side down to char also. Flip everything but the lemon after 3 minutes to char the backside for another 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the charred fruit and vegetables from the grill and cut up the peaches into wedges. Add your favorite croutons, if you’d like, and squirt the charred, sweet lemon juice over the salad.




Elote (Mexican Street Corn)

A little advice: This recipe is good because it has A TON of different flavors going on, it’s healthy, and, of course, it’s fast (these are also the reasons why it’s one of my favorite foods of all time). Since it is just corn, you’ll need to serve it with something else; I’ve already recommended the pork with this, but the steak will be good as well. Really anything would be delicious, because this dish makes every meal better.

Start this dish at the same time you plan to eat. It’s meant to be served hot, so add all the stuff to the corn RIGHT off the fire, but do let it cool a little so you don’t burn your mouth; be smart about it.

Ingredients and directions: Most importantly remember to shuck your corn, including most of the pretty little silky threads. Get as many off as possible before you start cooking. And when you’re out buying the corn, check the corn before you buy it so you purchase an unusable, worm eaten ear. That would be nasty…gross!

Buy one ear of corn per person. On a grill, cook the corn over the fire until it has a lot of char. Take the corn off the grill and put a light spread of mayo on it, then sprinkle with cayenne pepper and cotija cheese. Squirt a fresh or, if you want to get an arguably even better flavor, charred lime over the corn and finally, if you like cilantro, sprinkle some roughly chopped cilantro over your corn and enjoy. These are amazing and a quintessential summer dish. You’ll probably make this dish tons over the summer season. The best part, besides the taste, is that it really doesn’t take much work or prep to make and eat these.


Carrots with Micro greens

A little advice: This recipe goes really well with the cast iron steak or a roast chicken, because it’s a small side salad. However you can scale up and add walnuts (or other crunchy thing) to have it as a main course (the carrots are meaty and filling).

Ingredients and directions: Buy some micro greens and rainbow carrots (you don’t have to use rainbow carrots, you can use regular ones, these are just prettier), and make sure they’re REAL carrots, not baby carrots. Cut off, and save, the tops. Preheat your oven to 350. While it’s preheating, thoroughly clean, and if you must, peel the carrots go ahead and clean. I think they’re uglier peeled, so I really, really clean them. Put the carrots in a bowl and drizzle them with olive oil. Crack salt, pepper, ground cumin, cayenne, smoked paprika, and the tiniest bit of ground allspice and toss the carrots so they’re completely covered. Put them on a baking sheet and put that in the preheated oven. Roast them like that for 10-12 minutes, then take them out and put them over a bed of micro greens. For a pop of color, if you’d like, put some edible flower petals on the salad. The time it takes to cook these make it so they aren’t fully mushy and still retain some crunch, which is probably the only reason I find them edible since I don’t like roasted carrots. But I like these, so I can vouch for these being good, and I mean that (about hating cooked carrots, yuck).

Rest the carrots a little after they cook before placing them on the micro greens, so the greens don’t wilt or die under the heat of the carrots.  The micro greens will give the salad a fresh, earthy flavor with their cool crunch, and hot carrots would kill of any hope of the cool crunch.

Main Course:

Cuban Crockpot Pork Shoulder

A little advice: This dish is super easy from the start; the prep takes no longer than 10 minutes, then you just leave the meat and vegetables in the crock pot for the allotted cooking time, and after the time is up, you just go ahead and serve it. It’s probably the easiest, most stress-free kind of cooking. Oh, and remember, wash your hands thoroughly both before and after you touch the raw meat.

Ingredients and directions: Buy a medium-sized pork shoulder, either whole or cut up into “ribs.” Since you’ll want leftovers, get around 5 or 6 pounds. Rub the pork in salt, pepper, and a little cayenne and cumin, enough to cover each piece, then put them in the crock pot. Slice one or two white onions and add them to the crock pot. These will taste REALLY good at the end, so add two. Also add 1/4 cup orange juice and a 1/4-cup of limejuice and zest about a quarter of the lime into the pork as well. Mince two garlic cloves and add them to the crock pot. Put the lid on the crock-pot and set it to cook for 8 hours, then walk away and go about your day. In 7-8 hours, you’ll have a perfectly juicy, pulled Cuban pork.


Cast Iron Skillet Steak:

A little advice: Everyone should learn how to cook a good steak in his or her life. This recipe will make a perfect steak every time. It’s delicious and has an unbeatable taste- and time-wise it takes seven minutes for a perfect steak…amazing right?!.

Just like with the corn, start this when you’re starting to get hungry for dinner and don’t forget to give the steak time to rest after it’s finished. Add five minutes to the cooking time i.e. your planned eating time to make up for this. And look, I know, steak can be expensive, but I can’t guarantee this recipe will work for other types of meat, and splurging every once in a while for a good meal is necessary, a good thing, so I tell myself.

Directions: This is the quickest, easiest way to cook a steak perfectly: Get a nice cut of 1-inch thick steak from your butcher or supermarket. If you don’t have a cast iron skillet, get one. They’re not terribly expensive and you can either buy it seasoned like the one from Lodge or you can buy one that requires you to season it at the beginning of every use.

Rub the steak in salt and pepper then let it sit for 30 minutes (in your fridge or on your counter, wherever, just let it sit). Next heat a little oil in your skillet over medium-high heat. Once it shimmers/it moves much easier around the pan, add the steak. Cook the seasoned side of the steak down first for three to four minutes. While it’s cooking, preheat your broiler. After the time is up, flip the steak, put a pat of butter on the cooked side, and stick the steak under the broiler for another three minutes. After the three minutes is up, take the steak out and let it rest for five minutes, and then consume.

I know this may sound crazy, but the first time I made this, I don’t think I’d ever eaten a piece of steak as good as the one that came from this and steaks are a regular part of my diet. No joke. It was up in the best steaks I’ve ever eaten, and now I prefer this method to a grill (especially since I can’t grill at school…).

Serve this awesome steak with vegetables (steamed broccoli, green beans, Brussels sprouts, etc.) and/or grains, like wheat berries or faro, and pour the pan sauce/drippings over the grains (you’ll cry from how good the resulting taste is). And since this does require a cast iron skillet, I suggest you read up on proper maintenance of that most holy piece of cookware (Soap or no soap….hmmmm).


Wrapping up:

All right, there you have it, five quick (and one slow, but we can pretend it’s quick since you get to forget about it), delicious and easy recipes to make this summer. My recipes aren’t terribly specific, because I add spices to my please my taste buds. Add spices (I’m not just talking about salt and pepper) to your liking. Of course, it’s all about trial and error, so if one night your carrots aren’t as good as you think they could be, try scaling up or down the cumin, for example, or whatever it may be until you get the perfect blend of seasoning.

Let me know how these recipes turn out and if you liked them or not, please post them here on the HMFG site or on my blog, and follow me on Instagram @hhtjohnson to see the things I cook (including the carrots and microgreens, pesto, and charred radish leaves). I’ve got 1-½ months until I go back to college, so I will be cooking a lot!


Are you home from college, do you have cooking questions or favorite recipes we want to know, please leave us feed back.