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. 

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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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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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. 

I’m still cooking (just a little behind on the blogging about it)

The title says it all. I got busy and fell off the blogging band wagon. the good news is that I keep cooking lots of new things which I’ll be sharing this month!

I’ll start with some avocado focused recipes since according to my mom, they can help you live longer. 

First up Lentil Salad with Grapefruit, Avocado, Fennel and Radishes from the Food and Wine blog. Not only do you get avocado but you also get lentils which are full of fiber and great for you too. Technically this is a winter salad but I think it works great for the summer. The only item in it that requires cooking are the lentils and if you are luck enough to live by a Trader Joe’s you can buy precooked lentils to make this a cooking free salad. In addition I think this salad would be great at a summer picnic or potluck as it is a nice alternative to a heavy salad like a cole slaw or potato salad. The salad is delicious and make sure you don’t skip the mint. I sliced mint into ribbons instead of tearing it for a prettier presentation. 

The second avocado dish is Sesame Chicken Salad with Ginger-Lime Dressing also from the Food and Wine site and created by famous New York chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten. This recipe is definitely more complex with multiple steps but it isn’t hard just a little more time consuming since you need to make ginger-lime syrup for the dressing. You will wind up with more ginger-lime syrup that you need for the recipe but that’s okay as adding a splash of it to a glass of sparking water makes a wonderful drink. The crispy chicken and radish are a nice contrast to the smashed avocado. I used regular mixed greens instead of watercress since it was what I had on hand and I thought the recipe turned out fine. 

Use it up: The buttermilk edition

One of the things that makes me antsy when I cook and bake is buying a special ingredient for a recipe and having a lot of it left over after I am done making the recipe. Sometimes I decide I really like the ingredient and start cooking more recipes that use it like I did with fish sauce. Other times I look at a recipe and decide to leave the ingredient out like skipping one of the three herbs that were recommended for the Thai Ground Pork Salad I made last week. Sometimes though you cannot leave out an ingredient if you want a recipe to turn out right.

Last week I had to make a dessert for a lunch for the teachers at my kids school. I wanted to make something would look and taste great so I decided to make a bundt. I found a delicious sounding recipe for a Double-Chocolate Bundt Cake with Ganache Glaze and checked the ingredient list. I had all the ingredients with the exception of buttermilk which was something I could not leave out if I wanted the cake to turn out right. I figured I could get a pint of buttermilk that I would be able to mostly use up in the recipe and then I might have just a little left over to make banana bread. However once at the grocery store I could only find a larger quart of buttermilk that meant I would have a lot left over. The cake turned out great with the exception of needing to add a little more cream to the chocolate ganache glaze to get it to pour smoothly over the cake. 

I used up the rest of the buttermilk by making a variety of great treats over the next week:

  • Cinnamon-Buttermilk Muffins – Delicious muffins that my kids and co-workers ate right up. I used pre-ground nutmeg instead of freshly grated nutmeg.
  • Orange and Dark Chocolate Buttermilk Scones – This was another great recipe that my co-workers loved. I used the left over oranges that I needed for the zest to make fresh squeezed orange juice
  • Red Velvet Cupcakes – I really like red velvet cake as it has a nice chocolate flavor but it not overwhelming like a regular chocolate cake recipe. I made these cupcakes for a Super Bowl party and then took the left overs to work. 

I still have at least a cup of buttermilk left and am trying to decide what to bake next. I’m considering these Cheddar and Leek Muffins since I also have a leek to use up or maybe these scones which I’ve made in the past. Either way I’ll be happy once I’ve got my buttermilk used up!

Cooking and eating new foods: More Thai recipes

In my last post, I talked about how I have been cooking more Thai food and I’ve continued that trying out two more recipes in the last week with a few new ingredients.

The first recipe is for Pad See Yew from Food & Wine Magazine, which is a rice noodle based dish. One of the nice things about this recipe is that is uses noodles which can be a nice change for Asian recipes that suggest serving them with rice and the noodles are also gluten free (since they are made with rice not wheat). It is a good recipe to make on weeknights as it just requires minimal chopping of the vegetables and you can reuse one pot for cooking both the bok choy and rice noodles. The sauce for this recipe uses miso paste, fish sauce, and oyster sauce that gives it a strong unami flavor. The recipe does not specify a specific kind of miso paste so I went ahead and used left over red miso paste that I had from making Grilled Beef Tenderloin Skewers with Red Miso Glaze. I followed the recipe and sliced the chiles in rings and put them on top of the noodles but I think they would be better if they were diced and then sprinkled on top. The recipe was a hit on my house and I’ll be making it again.

The second recipe I tried was Thai Ground Pork Salad. I like this recipe because like the Thai Beef with Basil using ground pork means there is less prep work that again is great for a weeknight dinner. The sauce for this dish once again uses fish sauce along with Sriracha for heat and three kinds of herbs for lots brightness. You can chop the herbs by hand or if you have a mini food processer or herb chopper I would recommend using it to speed up the prep work. The recipe recommends a leafy lettuce like Boston lettuce for serving. I went ahead and used Romaine hearts for serving and also ate some of the pork right over rice.  This is another recipe that we will be eating in my house again.

Cooking and eating new foods: The Thai food edition

thai been with basil

Growing up, I was raised on a pretty basic American diet of things like macaroni and cheese, tuna noodle casserole, basic grilled steak and chicken, some Mexican food (since I lived in San Diego) and fish (because my Dad loved to fish). The most exotic food we ate was Chinese food when we went out and we usually stayed with dishes like sweet and sour chicken or lemon chicken. After college I moved to the bay area and discovered how diverse Asian cuisine really was. I lived in the east bay not far from a Berkeley neighborhood known as the gourmet ghetto where there were a wide range of restaurants from Japanese, Burmese, Thai and more. I started out cautiously eating teriyaki chicken and edamame and overtime moved on to sushi (with raw fish!), Thai dishes like pad see yew and pad thai, Indian curries, and more. I still live near a wide range of Asian restaurants but with two kids who live off of chicken nuggets I don’t eat at them often. Instead I’ve started making more Asian food at home and found that it isn’t too hard. I have accumulated the basic ingredients for Asian cooking at home like fish sauce, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, oyster sauce and add to them depending on the recipe I want to try out.

Recently I have been focused on Thai food and recently tried out a new recipe for Thai beef with basil from Bon Appetit. This recipe is great as it uses ground beef that does not require any prep work. It also uses basil two ways, wilted in with the beef and then on top like a salad which means you most likely will be able to use up a whole bunch of basil in this recipe (instead of having any left over basil which can go bad quickly). The soy-fish sauce-lime dressing adds a great flavor contrast to the spice from the beef and carrot salad. Overall this is a great weeknight meal that can be cooked in about 30 minutes or less if you can do some prep the night before to shred the carrots like make the salad dressing. A few more notes on the recipe:

  • The recipe calls for red chiles but green are fine as well, they just don’t look as pretty. If you don’t have Thai chiles use Serrano chiles in their place. 
  • If your basil leaves are very large, I would suggest either tearing or cutting up the ones that are being used in the salad on top of the beef. I had some really large basil leaves when I made this recipe and I found them difficult to eat. 

More food to keep you warm

One of the best Christmas presents my husband ever bought me was a Staub cast iron coq au vin pot. The pot is beautiful cobalt blue and is just the right size for the classic French dish coq au vin (chicken braised in wine). I however prefer to use it to make for another warming winter dish, braised beef short ribs. Before I got this pot, I had them eaten in restaurants but never thought of trying to make at home. Once I had this pot thought I wanted to try to tackle them and found that they were fairly straightforward to make. 

This winter I’ve tried two different braised short rib recipes. The first was a recipe from Food and Wine Magazine by Tom Colicchio, the top judge on the television show Top Chef. The recipe did not call for too many ingredients but the recipe was too complicated (despite only having 5 steps!). The second recipe came from Bon Appetit. It required more ingredients but was simpler to make with fewer steps. One of the great thing about this and most braising recipes is that once you sear the meat and get all the vegetables and braising liquid into the pot, the meat will just cook on its own for 2 hours giving you time to do something else. The other great thing about this recipe is that you can make it ahead and then keep it in refrigerator overnight. When the braising liquid cools, the fat in it will turn into a solid layer on the top of the liquid which you can then just pull out if the pot. Taking the fat off this way is much easier then trying to skim it off while cooking and leaves you with rich meaty braising liquid to use as a sauce without any fatty flavor. I love serving the braised ribs with sautéed spinach or roast root vegetables and mashed potatoes. 

A few more notes about making braised beef short ribs:

  • When you get your short ribs, try to get ones that have a nice thick amount of meat of them and that all the ribs you get are about the same thickness. If you are getting them from a meat counter, you want English cut short ribs in 2 inch pieces. My butcher gave me a few skinnier ribs which don’t leave you with much meat after the braising is done.
  • If you don’t have all the fresh herbs called for in the Bon Appetit receipt, don’t sweat it. I left out the oregano since I did not have any on hand. I would not substitute in the dried version of any of these herbs as it might be hard to strain them out of the braising liquid. 

Food to keep you warm

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Winter is officially here and in most places it is pretty cold! To combat the cold, I like to cook warm, conforming food that can be made quickly or even made ahead. In the last month I’ve tried two new recipes that fit this bill.

The first recipe is for Cider Braised Pork Meatballs from Dinner a Love Story. I am a big fan of the traditional Italian meatball and these are a fresh take on meatballs. They are very fast to mix up and the nice thing about the recipe is once the meatballs are formed they pretty much cook own their own in a braising liquid letting you do something else (set the table, cook other side dishes, help kids with homework). The recipe calls for apple cider but I just used a regular apple juice which seemed to work fine. After cooking the meatballs, you add some cream into the braising liquid to turn it into a sauce for serving. The sauce is very thin and liquidy so I would recommend serving these meatballs in a bowl instead of on a plate so the sauce does spread out all over the plate. These meatballs freeze great in a little extra sauce/braising liquid.

The second recipe I tried was Soft Polenta with Mixed Mushrooms and Gremolata from Food and Wine. Don’t be scared by the word “gremolata”, it is just garlic, parsley and lemon zest. The recipe calls for uncooked polenta that needs to be whisked and cooked for 30 minutes on the stovetop. If you want to speed the recipe up you can use a precooked polenta like I did (Trader Joes makes a great one) and just add water or chicken stock to get the creamy consistency that the recipe requires. For the rest of the recipe I used shiitake mushroom and a few chanterelle mushrooms that I had splurged on at the farmers market and baby spinach. Since the spinach leaves were already small I skipped chopping them up. The mascarpone cheese, which is just dolloped on top of the polenta, mushrooms, and greens makes the dish nice and creamy when it melts on top of everything. I would definitely recommend this recipe for a vegetarian meal if you want to reduce the amount of meat you are eating or if you having vegetarian guests over for dinner.