Holding on to the end of summer for even longer

In my last post I had a couple of salads that can help you feel like it is still summer. In this post I’ve got a new recipe from the September 2014 issue of Food & Wine that lets you keep that summer feeling as you grill steak. The recipe was for Grilled Hanger Steak with Kimchi-Apple Slaw and was really delicious getting two thumbs up from my husband. The marinade for the steak has a ton of flavor and the slaw gets a totally different flavor thanks to the addition of the kimchi to it. The recipe was great right off the grill but also reheats well for left-overs. 

A few things about the recipe:

  • I used flank steak instead of hangar steak. I made the marinade the night before and then dumped it in a plastic bag with the steak in the morning before I went to work to marinate all day in the refrigerator.
  • The kimchi-apple slaw is awesome! I really liked the spice from the kimchi in the slaw along with the slight sweet tartness of the granny smith apple. I cut up the kimchi and cucumber the night before as well and then cut up the apple while the steak was cooking to it wouldn’t get brown.
  • I rounded out the dinner with jasmine rice made from the microwavable Trader Joe’s frozen packs.
  • I sprinkled the sesame seeds on top since I had some but you can totally skip them since they didn’t add much to the meal IMHO. The green onions are really good with the steak and should not be skipped.

Holding on to the end of summer

Fall will be here in less than two weeks but at the farmers market in northern California it still feels a lot like summer with all sorts of tomatoes, stone fruit, and other delicious things for sale. Here are a few recipes I’ve made recently to take advantage of the end of summer bounty.

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Nectarine Caprese Salad

I saw this Nectarine Caprese Salad in a Sunset Magazine back in the beginning of summer and wanted to try it out. The cheese and fruit combination is a little unexpected but tastes great. The recipe is very simple as it just requires slicing of the various ingredients before arranging them on a platter. I used the burrata since I was able to find it at Trader Joe’s but this would be equally as good with fresh mozzarella. The dish can be especially pretty depending on how many different color tomatoes and basil you can find. I took this to a Labor Day picnic and it was eaten right up.

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Grilled Lettuces with Crème Fraîche and Avocado 

I’ve grilled lettuces in the past but liked the crème fraiche and avocado in this recipe as they kind of mix together to form creamy dressing for the lettuce. I made this recipe for a big family dinner and used little gem lettuce heads. The little gems are smaller than the recommended romaine hearts and just the right size for each person to have one along with the rest of their dinner. These were a hit even with the people who had never had grilled lettuce before.

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Green Panzanella with Pickled Shallot

This is a salad is a nice twist on a panzanella or bread salad that requires a little more prep than the others since you need to toast the bread and pickle the shallots ahead of time. The shallots add a nice hit of acid to cut through the dressing and a bit of crunch to contrast with the ripe tomatoes. Pickling is super simple and shouldn’t scare anyone since you are just putting the shallots in vinegar for a while. I didn’t let the tomatoes sit for the hour like the recipe suggested since I need to finish the salad up for dinner and I think it turned out fine with just 20-30 minutes of sitting time. Again this was a popular salad and a great way to let the farmer’s market tomatoes shine. 

Sweet treats (and how to use up your eggs)

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As I’ve written in the past, I like to make sure I use up all the ingredients I buy to cook recipes. This past weekend I made two impressive but easy desserts: one that just required egg whites and then one that only required egg yolks.

Rainbow Cake

The first thing I made as an eight-layer rainbow cake for my daughter’s 6th birthday. I had seen these cakes on Pinterest and other baking blogs and thought they looked so cool. Since I was making the cake for a bunch of five and six year olds and wanted to simplify the cake making process, I decided to just use Betty Crocker white cake mix. To get the really vibrant colors in the cake, you only use egg whites to keep the batter really white and then tint it with vibrant gel food color (not the little liquid food coloring). The standard rainbow colors for these cakes are red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple and you use one box of cake mix for every two colors or three boxes of cake mix total. I thought that would make a cake that was too tall so I switched to just using 2 boxes of mix. For some reason I thought it would be even better if I had more skinny layers and more color so I added a magenta layer and a teal layer so I got 4 layers out of each box.

To get the layers even you want to measure out the batter into individual bowls. I used a ½ cup scoop and started with a half cup in each bowl. I then added additional ½ cup scoops to each bowl until I ran out of batter. After adding the gel food color and stirring it in, I baked the layers. I only had two cake pans but since the layers has less batter than regular they baked very quickly in 10-12 minutes. Once the layers were baked, I let them cool for a few minutes and then took them out so I could reuse the pan. I made all the layers the day before the party and stored them stacked in the refrigerator over night.

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The morning of the party I frosted the cake with Betty whipped vanilla frosting. Since I had so many layers and they weren’t perfectly flat, I needed more frosting than using to fill everything in. I wound up using 4 full containers of the frosting and probably could have even used a little more around the bottom.

The final cake was pretty amazing to see and all the kids literally went “Oooooohhhhh” when I cut into it and pulled out the first slice. My coworkers were also really impressed when I brought the leftovers into the office. I’ll definitely be making another rainbow cake in the future but will probably stick with the 6 layers next time.

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Dark Chocolate Pudding with Pretzels

So after I finished the cake I had 6 egg yolks just sitting in a container and I wanted to find a way to use them up. I found this slide show and thought it would be fun to make the chocolate pudding to take into the office for an afternoon treat. The recipe is very simple as you are just whisking things in a pot while they cook. You do need to keep whisking so nothing burns but the cooking time goes by very quickly. The recipe calls for a vanilla bean to be split with the seeds scrapped out but you could swap in high quality vanilla extract in a pinch. I put the pudding into small ramekins with the plastic on top and let it chill overnight before bring it to my co-workers. We ate it in the office with whipped cream on top and pretzels sticks sprinkled on top. It was delicious and made everyone happy on a Monday afternoon. 

Even more from Bon Appetit

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Like I mentioned in my last post, I think the August 2014 issue of Bon Appetit is the best of the year. I’ve been working my way through even more of the recipes in the last week. I focused on two more recipes from the same article that featured the cover recipe of Tomato, Onion, and Roasted Lemon Salad. The recipes each have parts of them that can be made a day ahead but the actual cooking of them takes a little longer so they might not be weeknight friendly (but they are good for the weekends).

Fried Eggplant, Tomato, and Cucumber Salad

This is a recipe from a chef named Yotam Ottolenghi who runs a number of restaurants in London that focus on Eastern Mediterranean flavors. It is a close second for my favorite recipe of this issue right behind the Tomato, Onion, and Roasted Lemon Salad. Most of the recipe is simple to make with herb oil that can be made in a food processor, simple yogurt sauce that gets mixed up, and then a few vegetables to cut up. The challenging part of the recipe is frying the eggplant.

You need to be careful around the oil so you don’t accidentally burn your fingers or hands. When you add the eggplant to the hot oil, carefully lower it in ideally on a slotted spoon to avoid the splattering and potential burns. Also make sure you are not putting too many pieces of the eggplant into the oil at once or it will be hard to flip them over to get them browned on all sides and the temperature if the oil will drop. Once the eggplant is cooked make sure you cool it on a paper towel to get any excess oil out of it before combining it with the rest of the ingredients.

Once the salad is arranged on a platter it is beautiful to look at and delicious to eat. The contrast of the crunchy cucumber, soft eggplant and tomatoes, and the mixing of the herb oil and yogurt into a yummy sauce make it a great addition to the Za’atat Roast Chicken recipe (below)

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Za’atar Roast Chicken with Green Tahini Sauce

This is another recipe from Yotam Ottolenghi. I’ve made sauces with tahini before and since I had some in my refrigerator I thought I’d try this recipe. The sauce was simple to make but beware you also need a ½ cup of water that is not listed as an ingredient but is spelled out in the directions. I made the sauce at the same time as the marinade for the chicken so all I had to do at dinnertime was cook the chicken.

I used two large skin on, bone in chicken breasts for the recipe since I was just cooking for 3 people. It was pretty hot the day I was making the chicken so instead of roasting this in my over, I decided to cook it in the barbecue. I am lucky enough to have a barbecue that has a temperature gauge on it and is large enough to fit a rimmed baking sheet on the grates. I prepared everything on a baking sheet like it was going in the oven, preheated the grill, put the baking sheet on the grates when it was 400 degrees and closed the barbeque lid. I went back out to check on every so often to make sure that the temperature was still at 400 and then after about 30 minutes I decided to open the barbecue top where I was greeted by the burned out mess of the extra marinade, onion and lemon. I was surprised to see the charred mess however the chicken was just fine so I let it cook for another 10 minutes. I went ahead and carved the chicken into slices to be served with the tahini sauce. The chicken was very good and the tahini sauce was a nice change to a Tzatziki or other yogurt sauces that I serve a lot of the time with grilled chicken. I think that if I made the chicken again I would make it in the oven and in a smaller pan or baking dish to keep the more of the marinade around the chicken.

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Cook the Bon Appetit cover (and so much more)

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Every month on the Bon Appetit web site and Facebook page, the editors highlight readers who have actually made the recipe that is on the cover of the magazine that month.  They usually have little blurbs about what worked and what didn’t from the reader who the cooked it. I’ve always wanted to cook the cover and send in a picture but up until now I’ve either been too busy at work and completely missed the month or I just didn’t want to make the cover recipe. Thankfully the August issue of Bon Appetit just came out and had the most awesome recipe on the cover of it which I made right away along with several other recipes for two different dinners. I know there are still 4 more issues this year but the August issue might be the best of the year. Here’s what I made:

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Tomato, Onion, and Roasted Lemon Salad

The beautiful picture of this recipe on the cover and the main ingredient, tomatoes, which I love to eat in the summer, drew me right in. I was having people over for dinner so I had an excuse to make the recipe right away, which is great because it is written for 6 servings. The recipe is mostly a straightforward tomato salad with vinaigrette but has a few twists in it. The first is the roasted lemons. These are very simple to make but don’t slice them too thin like I did or you wind up boiling away the lemon flesh when you boil and then pat them dry. I’d recommend slicing them about ¼ inch thick so they will hold up to the boiling and then the roasting. The second twist is the pomegranate molasses in the vinaigrette. I wound up going to 4 stores before I was able to find the molasses at a small independent market near my house (the Milk Pail in Mountain View for anyone on the San Francisco peninsula). You really need the pomegranate molasses to add a sweet tart flavor to the salad. I’m glad I tracked down the molasses and will be looking for more recipes to use the rest of the bottle. The final twist is the purple microgreens to add another color to the salad. These are listed as optional so I just skipped them and the salad was beautiful anyway. I’m hoping to make this salad at least 2-3 more times before tomato season is over this year.

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Corn and Zucchini Salad with Feta

This was another salad recipe that had an amazing picture to want you to make it right away. I used the other half of the parsley from the tomato, onion, and roasted lemon salad in this recipe. The corn is simple to boil the day before and then toss with the other ingredients the day you want to serve it. For the zucchini, I didn’t have a mandoline so I used a vegetable peeler to get the thin slices that worked very well. Since the slices are so thin and tossed with the vinegar you don’t really notice that they are raw. My farmers market and local Whole Foods were both out of zucchini blossoms so I skipped them which is a good idea anyway if you’re eating with less adventurous eaters. Overall this was another great salad full of seasonal product that can almost completely be made ahead. 

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Grilled Leg of Lamb with Herb Salt

The last recipe I made for my dinner was the grilled lamb. The herb salt is very easy to make in a food processor and helped me use up some rosemary. The salt is rubbed all over the boneless leg of lamb which is then grilled. I didn’t read the recipe as closely as I should have and missed the part about letting the lamb sit for one hour with the herb salt on it. I would up just letting it sit for about 20-30 minutes before grilling it. The recipe has you cut up the leg of lamb into 4 pieces, which makes it easier to grill and check the temperature on each piece of the lamb separately as it cooks. I had one piece that was thinner than the rest and was cooked to about 130 degrees in about 25 minutes so I took it off first and another piece that was a big chunk of lamb that took more like 35-40 minutes to get to the right temperature which was the last to come off the grill. I totally cheated and didn’t make the Anchovy Mayonnaise from scratch. Instead I finely diced 3 anchovies and mixed them into some Best Food mayonnaise. The lamb is so good that you don’t even really need it but it is nice to have something for people who feel like they have to have a sauce or dip with meat. Again this is an amazing, easy recipe to make for a group of people and I’ll be making again during the summer. 

A tale of two salads

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I recently made two new salads that were each had a lot of great healthy elements and then little touches of special not so healthy ingredients that made the salads more fun to eat.

Chopped Kale Salad with Prosciutto and Figs

The first salad I made was a recipe by Giada De Laurentiis from an issue of Food & Wine Magazine. The salad is filled with a variety of health greens from kale, endive, and radicchio and figs which are full of fiber and bring a nice bit of sweetness to the salad. The salad gets a bit of decadence from small amounts of prosciutto and Gorgonzola tossed throughout it. The recipe called for shaving the Gorgonzola over the salad but I just crumbled it as I ad taken the salad to a picnic and did not want to deal with the hassle of bringing along a vegetable peeler. The thing that puts this salad almost over the top is a rich, creamy vinaigrette made from a base of mascarpone cheese. The vinaigrette can be made ahead but it will be very thick so you need to let it come to room temperate to so you can actually pour it on the salad. This salad is pretty sturdy so you can transport it to a picnic (like I did) without worrying it about getting wilted and smashed up. Also this recipe as written makes 8-10 servings. I halved all the ingredients and managed to get 6 serving from it to it is ideal for a picnic or for a week when you want lots of left overs.

Make ahead tips for this recipe:

  • Make the vinaigrette ahead
  • Slice the greens up the day before
  • Chop the prosciutto up 1-3 days before and store separately

Noodle Salad with Chicken and Chile-Scallion Oil

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The second salad was from Bon Appetit Magazine and is very different with a noodle base instead of a lettuce plus a completely different set of spicy flavors. I made this salad using buckwheat soba noodles since I had them on hand from a previous recipe. The salad has a lot of good vegetables like cucumbers, radishes, and scallion tossed into it along with shredded chicken that I got from a pre-cooked chicken at the farmer’s market. There is a fair amount of oil in the salad from the chile oil that is drizzled over the top and the sesame oil in the vinaigrette. Again this salad is designed to be sturdy enough to take to work or a picnic for lunch. Also unlike some noodle dishes, it should be eaten cold which can be very convenient. 

Make ahead tips for this recipe:

  • Make the chili oil a few days ahead
  • Slice up scallions, radishes, and cucumbers the day before
  • Cook the noodles the night before and store separately after tossing in oil

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Summer grilling round up: Part 3

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Here’s the final batch of the recipes for the grill I’ve tried in the last two weeks. This time I’m focusing on a salad and side instead of meats. 

Grilled Halloumi with Watermelon and Basil-Mint Oil

I happened to come across this recipe when clicking around the Bon Appetit site and thought it looked perfect for a birthday dinner I was hosting. I was already planning to grill a variety of Mediterranean style kebabs and thought this would be a nice side dish. The basil-mint oil was very easy to make ahead although mine turned out much greener than the picture on the Bon Appetit web site. I got my halloumi cheese at Trader Joes where it was already sliced perfectly to go on the grill. I couldn’t find tomatoes on the vine and didn’t want to deal with tomatoes rolling all over the grill or falling through the grates so I cooked the loose tomatoes on a pan on the grill.

 The key to this dish is getting everything ready and actually putting the watermelon on the platter or other serving dish before you start grilling. Have your platter and a container or squeeze bottle with the oil right next to your grill and tell people to find their seats right as you put the halloumi and tomatoes on the grill. In the few minutes it takes to get people seated everything will be done cooking. Once they are done cooking put them right on the watermelon, drizzle more of the oil on top, and pass to serve right away so everyone gets the warm cheese with the cool watermelon.

Make ahead tips for this recipe:

  • Make the basil-mint oil ahead
  • Cut up the watermelon slices 

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Shrimp Salad with Hominy, Arugula and Lime

This is a salad is light and refreshing but with enough substance that it makes a great week night dinner. The vinaigrette is a delicious mix of tangy citrus with the sweetness of the honey and the earthy flavor of the cumin to bring it all together.  I loved it and suggest making a double batch so you have leftover dressing for future salads. The recipe technically calls for sautéing the shrimp but I had no desire to turn on the burners on the stove due to the heat wave we are having in the Bay Area right now so I threw them on to the grill for 2 minutes a side. The recipe also calls for hominy, an ingredient that I wasn’t familiar with at all. It turns out hominy is basically dried corn kernels which have been treated in a lime solution. You can find them in cans in the Mexican food section of the grocery store. Unfortunately my local Safeway only had really large cans, which were much larger that I needed for the recipe. I wound up grilling some corn at the same time as the shrimp and then cutting the kernels off the cob to use in the salad. The last thing to do when making the salad is to slice the avocado to keep if from getting mushy or browning.

Make ahead tips for this recipe:

  • Make vinaigrette ahead
  • Chop cilantro and half tomatoes and store separately in the refrigerator
  • Crumble cheese and store separately in the refrigerator

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Summer grilling round up: Part 2

Following my last post I’ve got a few more grill recipes to share including more meat on sticks recipes.

Lemon Cumin Chicken

The first meat on a stick recipe is Lemon Cumin Chicken with a Spinach Mint Pesto and it is from Giada De Laurentiis and her book Giada’s Feel Good Food: My Healthy Recipes and Secrets. The recipe calls for cooking the chicken breasts whole but I wanted to turn them into kebabs so I cut up them up and threaded them on to wooden skewers. The lemon cumin marinade gives the chicken a tangy and mild spicy flavor and helps keep them juicy. The spinach mint pesto is awesome and a nice creamy addition to the meal. Since it’s made with spinach and doesn’t have a ton of olive oil or cheese you can eat a lot of it without too much guilt. It also can be made well in advance as it doesn’t discolor the way a basil pesto does when it is exposed to air.

 Moroccan Chicken Brochettes

The second meat on a stick recipe is one from the July issue of Bon Appetit magazine and their feature on global grilling. The marinade is similar to the Lemon Cumin Chicken but it adds in paprika for a little more heat and parsley for an herb flavor. The garlic also shifts into the sauce with yogurt and a little olive oil to thin it out. The chicken also comes out juicy here with a little more heat but the garlic sauce cools it off. I also served this with some hummus so my guests wouldn’t wind up with too strong garlic breath from the garlic sauce.

Spiced Lamb Burger

My final recipe for today is another one from the global grilling feature in Bon Appetit for Spiced Lamb Burgers but it’s a different spin on the ones I’ve cooked in the past. This time instead of cooking the lamb like a traditional hamburger and then serving it on a bun or with pita, the lamb is cooked inside the pita on the grill, which I thought was an awesome twist. The lamb is mixed up with a great blend of spices as well as onion and parsley and them put into the pita. I had a few problems getting the lamb into the pita after I cut them open. I was using the mini pita from Trader Joe’s and they kept ripping as I put the meat mixture in them. I also didn’t put enough meat in the pita and wound up with empty space around the edges inside the pita. I did like eating the burgers with the combination of the crisp grilled bread and the juicy lamb but I think I need a little more practice putting these together to make them perfect. 

Summer grilling round up: Part 1

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With summer in full swing and nice warm weather here, I’m spending all my time grilling a variety of new recipes for dinner. Here are a few of the new things I’ve tried out in the last few weeks:

Greek-Style Lamb Burgers with Yogurt-Cucumber Sauce

I recently bought a boneless leg of lamb from Costco. After making lamb kebabs a few times, I took some of the meat and ground it up to make lamb burgers. This recipe is has a nice mix of mint, parsley, onion, and garlic to season the burgers and they cook up nice and juicy. There is an accompanying yogurt cucumber sauce that also incorporates the mint and garlic again that goes great with the burgers. I actually left out the cucumber since I didn’t have one at home and didn’t feel like running over to the grocery store and the sauce was still great. I served the burgers with the suggested pita bread but skipped the lettuce, tomato, and onion since.

Charred Broccoli and Red Onion Salad

I made this salad to go with my lamb burgers. The recipe calls for the head of broccoli to be cut into “steaks” or large slab to make it easier for grilling and then to cut it into smaller piece once it is cooked. I decided to take simpler approach by cutting up the broccoli and just cooking it along with the sliced onions on a grill pan to keep it from falling through the grill grates. I’ve been using a stainless steel grill pan a lot more for vegetable as they still get a nice char on them and I don’t have to worry about positioning them perfectly on the grill or turning them over extra carefully. The combination of the grilled broccoli and onion with the diced tomatoes makes a delicious salad.

Sambal Chicken Skewers

Here’s another recipes for meat on sticks! The nice thing about this recipe is that all of the items in the marinade are kitchen staples that you likely have on hand. I did not have the fresh ginger on hand and again did not want to go to the grocery store so I substituted powdered ginger that was okay. The marinade is very easy to wisk together and then reduces on the stovetop. I thought the recipe might be a little too spicy for me based on the face that it included hot chile paste and Sriracha so I cut back on them a little bit and still wound up with a relatively spicy glaze for the basting the chicken. I served the chicken over jasmine rice with some grilled zucchini and it was a hit with my spicy food-loving husband. 

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Cookbook review: Giada’s Feel Good Food

In addition to reading lots of cooking magazines, I like to check out cookbooks from my local library. During a recent visit to the library, I found “Giada’s Feel Good Food: My Healthy Recipes and Secrets” by Giada De Laurentiis. I’ve watched Giada’s shows on Food Network and also checked out her previous book “Weeknights with Giada: Quick and Simple Recipes to Revamp Dinner”. Unlike her previous book where the recipes relied on a bit more fat like crème fraiche and bacon to give the recipes their great flavors, this book is much healthier. The recipes use more spices, vinegars, herbs, and other ingredients for bold flavor and a lot of them are great for people with specialized diets (like gluten free, vegetarian or vegan).

The first recipe I tried from the book was the Grilled Scallops on Orange Scented Quinoa. The quinoa was really easy to make. You get the liquid and quinoa boiling and then let it simmer so the liquid is absorbed. After all the liquid is absorbed you get it rest for 5-10 minutes before fluffing it with a fork. Timing wise, it works great to get all the other ingredients that go into the quinoa ready while it is cooking and then grill your scallops while the quinoa is resting since it only takes a few minutes per side to grill the scallops. Once the scallops are grilled you can let them sit for a few minutes while tossing all the quinoa with the dressing, herbs, and beans and then serve it all right away. The dinner was great but I wound up with a lot of left over quinoa from this recipe. I would up serving it a few nights later with some feta cheese tossed in to add another flavor to it. 

The second recipe I tried on Father’s Day when I had a guest who is on a gluten free diet. It was a Quinoa salad with Apple, Roasted Eggplant, and Cranberries. I also wound up swapping the cranberries for pomegranate seeds due to a cranberry allergy. Despite not having many ingredients, the recipe does take a while to make, as each ingredient has a separate type of prep work. However you can make it go a little faster by doing some of the at the same time. For example roast the eggplant and cook the quinoa at the same time and while they are cooking away, wash the watercress, mint and apples. I also used my Cuisanart mini-prep to make the salad dressing to get it really blended and chop the shallots which I only rough chopped before putting them into the mini-prep. The resulting salad was a huge hit with nearly all the adults (even the die hard meat eater) having more than one serving. The apple, pomegranate seeds, and walnuts add a crunchy contrast to the soft quinoa and eggplant. The watercress is nice since it gives a peppery note to the salad. If you cannot find watercress at your grocery store, I think arugula would be a good substitution. I’ll definitely be making this recipe again especially for picnic, potlucks or other dinner parties since it is enough for 6-8 servings.