Can You Really Ever Get Enough…

…of grilled food?

on the grill

Especially in the short New England summer season?

I can’t. I just love to take advantage of the grill for dinner (or lunch or breakfast even) and getting outside to cook. It also reminds me to water the garden too. (Although that sometimes leads to “well-done” grill food. But the “flavor is in the brown right?”)

Here is a classic grilled meal!

grilled chicken dinner

Marinated & grilled chicken with grilled veggies and cole slaw!

Like my meatloaf, my marinades are never the same!

To make my marinade, I simply combine some oil, (extra virgin olive is nice but almost any will do) some acid, (lemon juice or vinegar) salt/pepper and whatever spices strike my fancy that day. Mix it up in a little dish as a “flavor concentrate” – tasting it until you basically have the same balance as a strong salad dressing, then add a little cold water to “extend” the volume of marinade to cover whatever cut of meat you plan on using. Pour over meat and refrigerate until grill time! This could be an hour or it could be a day.

This chicken had a citrus influence with lemon-pepper seasoning, coriander seed, and cumin.

 

Holiday of Obligation

I have emerged from a semester of researching my thesis and as I reflect back on my spring of research and very little cooking, one day stands out for me…(in Massachusetts this day is three holidays in one)

1. “Patriots’ Day” – A day commemorating the first battles of the American Revolution (battles of Lexington & Concord)

or perhaps it was a day of meaning for you as…

2. “Easter Monday” – The second day of the octave of Easter Week and/or second day of bright week. (not quite sure what all this means but wikipedia says it true, so it must be, right?)

or perhaps for you it was…

3. “marathon monday” – This is the day that the Boston Marathon is run and of course a Red Sox game is always scheduled around 11am.

Or maybe it was simply….just a Monday.

cookbookFor me it meant a rare whole day off without having to report into work or attend a class. And that gave me a day to actually cook.  Since my husband and I both worked the day before on Easter, I decided to make a delayed Easter dinner.

And what’s more delicious than a leg of lamb? Plus my local butcher was having a sale on lamb. Of course when I arrived at the store I forgot that a “leg of lamb” is actually quite big – like “feed 20 people big.” So I had to settle on a 4 lb de-boned top portion of a leg that the butcher mercifully had for me.

I took it home, rinsed it and patted it dry and ended up flapping it out flat, coating on all sides with the wonderful lamb seasoning from Penzey’s and rolling it back up and tying it with string.  (kinda like a porchetta)

I stuck to the classics and roasted cut potatoes and onions with fresh rosemary and sage and served sautéed asparagus along side. No mint jelly here but if you need it, serve it.

lamb

Full disclosure: I was working at home that day on editing my thesis research and I may have left it in the oven a teeny bit too long, but it was still delicious!

Late update: Apparently May 7th is “National Leg of Lamb” Day so next year I will cook my leg and do  homework on that day instead!

 

January Is “Tostada Month”

Only (and unofficially) in my house anyway. There must be something about the cold, snowy month of January that has me craving food from warmer regions. Because when I went back to look at my other posting on Tostadas I noticed it was January of last year. That version was a wonderful light, bright spicy combination of chicken, tomatoes and golden beets. You can see that here.

This is the brand i use and can find readily in my urban-area stores. Picture courtesy of www.mexicorp.com

This is the brand I use and can find readily in my urban-area stores. Picture courtesy of www.mexicorp.com

The word “tostada” [tosˈtaða] means ‘toasted” in Spanish but usually refers to a particular dish made with a crisp fried corn tortilla on the bottom with yummy, spicy ingredients piled on top. There are many regional varieties.

You can get your tortilla maker out, along with your fry-daddy junior and knock yourself out making them from scratch or you can just buy the corn tortillas and fry them in a little oil in a large pan or better yet get your hands on some already done for you like I do!

This time around I used some re-fried beans to make them a little more ‘filling.” I also marinated some chicken strips in a quick marinade of oil, lime juice, hot sauce, salt and pepper, and a little dry BBQ seasoning and ground cumin. I reserved some of the marinade to use as a base for a pineapple, avocado and sweet onion salsa to put on top.

The chicken only was in the marinade for an hour or so and then I quickly cooked it in a hot skillet, to order, for each couple of tostadas. They cook really quick because they were thinly cut but, you could certainly do this ahead in a large batch.

Assembly just consisted of: Tosada on bottom, a smear of re-fried beans, the hot chicken with a few bits of sweet onion thrown in the skillet to cook too. Fresh salsa on top and some fresh minced cilantro leaves. ( or parsley if you hate cilantro) Shake on additional hot sauce as you wish!

chicken tostada

Simple Smoothies

Raise your hand if you thought you would get on the smoothie band wagon with Doctor Oz, Daphne and the whole gang!

Raise your hand if that lasted even a week.

All that shopping, cleaning and chopping of various ingredients is too much! I love and recognize kale’s magical benefits along with the rest of the world, but frankly I would rather eat it for dinner in a savory dish than hide it in a fruit smoothie. Or how about lime and cucumber? Some how I don’t think they belong in the same glass unless it is with vodka at some over-priced, trendy Boston bar specializing in “hand crafted” everything.

So I like to keep it simple when it comes to smoothies. Banana plus 1 fruit. Usually a berry. Could be fresh or could be frozen. Depends on the time of year. I add one unexpected surprise in the form of a spice. Usually a dash of cinnamon. It goes beautifully with all berries. Not too much – just a couple of dashes. Now add milk. And if you are feeling sweet – a little honey or agave. Blend and drink. No fuss, no muss – tastes yummy. Like a healthy shake. No sneaky stuff. (Plus it is a nicer color than puke green don’t you think?)

Spicy Peppers

Spicy filling, sweet peppers!

Recently while visiting New Hampshire I acquired the most wonderful local goat cheese and the cutest mini sweet red peppers. (Thanks mom!)

After I got them home it occurred to me that with a little help from the basil and oregano lingering in my garden and a couple pantry ingredients I could have myself a nice little snack or game day party bites. GO RED SOX!!  So the “spice” in this case wasn’t from the peppers but the filling I made for them.

3 main ingredients

Little spicy bites!

pepper for sizeI mixed the goat cheese and chopped herbs with a healthy dose of seasoned salt, black pepper, plenty of spicy, red chili flakes, some dashes of hot sauce, dash of garlic powder and some EVO oil to thin the consistency and add flavor. I also added a very small amount of “half and half” (you could use milk or cream too) to make it more creamy and spreadable. The mixture becomes a wonderful mix of tang and spice!

Stuff it into peppers or dip into it with veggies or use as a sandwich spread!

If I wasn't so lazy, I would have used a piping bag to neatly and prettily fill the peppers. But they tasted just a good stuffed all messy with a spoon!

What a perfect snack for the Red Sox game! (oh and if I wasn’t so lazy, I would have used a piping bag to neatly and prettily fill the peppers. But they tasted just a good stuffed all messy with a spoon!)

Fall Pairings

There are many fall food pairings that go together so well.

A few that come to mind.. apple pie and ice cream, sweet potato and apples, pumpkins and apples…. oh wait…everything goes great with apples!

One of my fall favorites is sage and apples!

I started growing sage in a backyard pot a few years ago and I have really discovered the power of fresh sage! You can see some of my other sage pairings here, and here!

After apple picking the other day, I could think of nothing better than a nice fall dinner of roasted chicken with sautéed apples and sage! I threw in some small diced red onions to perk things up and of course I sautéed in everything in butter for the full “fall weather cooking” effect!

saute pan

I seared the chicken in a hot pan first and then after setting the chicken aside, I added the veggies for the saute. Next the chicken went back in and a little apple cider to deglaze the pan. I put the whole thing into a hot oven with a cover for 20-30 mins until the chicken was cooked through. (I uncovered the pan for the last 10 mins or so to re-crisp the chicken skin.)

The apples and onions melt down to a wonderful “savory” apple sauce and a couple of fried,whole, sage leaves added an artistic garnish. Serve with brown rice and crisp green salad.

 Fall on a plate!

Hmmm... where is that crisp green salad gone too? :-)

Hmmm… where is that crisp green salad gone too? :-)

Level 3

Level 3 refers to ( in this case ) the level of hot in my jar of Korean hot pepper paste!

level 3

Recently I had a hanker-ing for some Korean BBQ and with no food trucks in sight I was forced to search the aisle of my supermarket for just the right stuff. There was only level 3 available, no #1 or #2 . I was worried this might blow the roof off my mouth, but I was brave and tried a tiny bit as soon as I got home. Straight up from the jar. It wasn’t bad. Downright tasty even. In fact I bet I could handle up to “level 4″ should I come across it some day!

First, I applied a dry rub to the pork spare ribs I decided to use. A quick mix of ground ginger, seasoned salt, onion powder and smoked paprika did the trick. (I used 1 tsp each for about 2 lbs of spare ribs.) I let that hang out on the ribs for a few hours during the day while I did errands, etc.

Second, since I didn’t have all day to fire up the smoker in the back yard – oh wait I don’t have a smoker – I simply put them into a foil-covered baking dish into a 375 degree oven for about an hour to steam them to delicious. (longer if you have more ribs, use a thermometer if you want.) So at this point the ribs were cooked through and tasty but lacking the caramelized, charred outside that we all love.

Thirdly, I put those ribs directly onto a hot gas grill in my backyard – that I do have – and charred them a bit until they looked good enough to eat.

But wait!

The final step was to brush on my homemade “Korean BBQ” sauce and char the ribs even more. Watching carefully that they didn’t cross the fine line of deliciousness to burned. With all that sugar in the sauce you have to be careful not to apply the sauce too soon.

Like all good BBQ, serve with homemade slaw and some sweet pickles! Extra sauce on the side too!

Like all good BBQ, serve with homemade slaw and some sweet pickles! Extra sauce on the side too!

The Sauce:

1 tb +/- finely diced(minced) onion

1 tsp of oil for sautéing onions

2 small garlic cloves, super finely minced

1 tsp fresh ginger, super finely minced or paste

1/2 cup Ketchup

1 tsp low sodium soy sauce

2 tsp rice vinegar ( plain or low sodium seasoned)

1 tsp toasted sesame oil*

2 tsp ( or more if you want it hot!) Gochjang paste ( Korean Hot Pepper Paste)

1 cup pan drippings from your spare rib oven-roasting pan or just plain water.

Saute the onion in the oil till nice and soft, and a bit brown. Turn off the heat and add the garlic and ginger in. The residual heat kind of warms the garlic and takes some of the raw “bite” out without really cooking it. (at least I thought so) Add the ketchup, soy, vinegar, oil and pepper paste to the warm sauce and stir thoroughly. It will be thick. Add enough pan drippings from your rib oven roasting dish or even just plain water to thin it to your liking. Sauce will end up being about 2 cups +/- of liquid.

This sauce can be served as a table condiment as is, used for a glaze in the last 10 mins on your grilled food or just eaten with a spoon. Probably keeps in the fridge for at least 5 days but I am no expert and frankly it was just the perfect amount for 2 lbs of ribs!

*due to sesame allergies in the house I actually used Pumpkin Seed oil but toasted sesame oil would be more traditional.

Note: gluten free folks – read your labels on the hot pepper paste – not all are created equal.