How to extend summer, although Autumn has just arrived:
How to extend summer, although Autumn has just arrived:
Today, being the most gorgeous day of the year so far, we went for a nice walk by the water. Subconsciously, it may have just been an excuse to get over to the nearby fish market and pick up some fresh and luscious seafood for our first al fresco lunch of 2012. We chose an assortment of wahoo, just in from Hawaii, as well as swordfish and tuna that still smelled of the sea.
Once home, we cut the fish into large chunks, then quickly marinated it in a mixture of vegetable and sesame oil, soy sauce, red pepper flakes, lime juice, and mirin. We then sliced several pieces of zucchini and onions, gathered a couple of sweet baby peppers and grape tomatoes, and coated them in olive oil and fresh ground salt and pepper.
While the grill was heating up, we threaded all the ingredients on to metal skewers, alternating the different fish pieces between the vegetables. It took only a few minutes on the grill to cook the delicate fish. The succulent grilled seafood was a perfect complement to the outstanding weather, and so it was that we unexpectedly carved out a little piece of heaven today. Happy weekend and a wonderful MDW ahead to you all!
RSA & RMA
Got leftover Mexican food stuff from Cinco de Mayo? If so, just round up those piquant Mexican cheeses and crunchy jalapeños and start making some pizza! We recently did just that, and it was exquisito. Depending on how “top heavy” you prefer your pizza, you can alter the amounts of each ingredient below to your liking.
Lightly sauté the onions, mushrooms, jalapeños, and tomatoes separately. Warm up the tomato sauce and add the sautéed sliced tomatoes. (We did this to use up the fresh tomatoes; alternatively, you can just use chunky tomato sauce or diced tomatoes).
Turn on your grill to medium heat, making sure the grates are well oiled to prevent sticking. Meanwhile, roll out the pizza dough on a floured work surface; stretch it out with a rolling pin until it achieves your desired shape. Rectangular works best for grilling.
Using a cookie sheet or a pizza peel, transfer the pizza dough on the hot grill for several minutes until it has light brown grill marks. Return pizza dough to work surface, turn over and begin adding toppings to the grilled surface. We typically start with a sprinkle of olive oil all over the grilled pizza surface, followed by evenly ladling the tomato sauce, then layering all other ingredients: in this case the onions, mushrooms, cheeses, and jalapeños.
Return the topped pizza to the grill and cook the underside for about 5 minutes, until the crust looks nicely golden brown. Remove pizza from grill, return to working surface. Add the chopped cilantro and basil, cut with a pizza wheel and enjoy while it’s caliente.
Recently, I had a pre-dinner consultation with a client when, to my surprise, she produced a handful of cedars planks. She suggested using them for something “fishy”. Cooking with a wooden plank, according to my recollection, dates back to when our country was as young as a bride, and there were virgin forests still standing tall east of the Mississippi. The idea was to use a thin board over a low burning fire or a bank of glowing coals. The board was first burnt and somewhat carbonized, and then the fish was placed on it and cooked. The earliest use of this technique that I am aware of was “plank shad” on the Connecticut River. I’ve made that and planked salmon. But my client wanted something different, and local. There was only one choice: locally caught striped bass.
The morning of the dinner, I got a large striped bass so fresh it had been swimming a few hours before I picked it up.
Asian Striped Bass Marinade:
1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
1/2 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons honey
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 large shallot, minced
1 sliced lemon
Depending upon size of your fillets, combine all the ingredients in a plastic bag, and then add the fish. Seal the bag and place in the refrigerator for an hour or so.
Meanwhile, prepare the skewered zucchini ribbons. Using a vegetable peeler, slice yellow and green zucchini into lengthwise ribbons, and carefully alternate threading them on the skewers. I also added some sugar snap pea pods that I had on hand. Before grilling, brush on a dressing made from olive oil, lemon juice, Herbs De Provence (or your favorite assorted herbs), and fresh ground salt and pepper. Because they are very thin, the ribbons will cook quickly, so place them on the grill when the fish is almost ready, turning often for only a couple of minutes. (careful if using metal skewers as they get really hot!)
A couple of hours before you’re ready to make dinner, soak the cedar planks in water, making sure that the planks are completely submerged. When you’re about ready for dinner, fire up the grill. Turn up the heat all the way, and throw the planks on to the grates. Don’t wander away for long; you want to carbonize the down side, not incinerate your cedar to embers. When it’s nicely charred, throttle down your grill to low, and flip the uncharred side down. Place your fillets skin side down on the charred side. You want the fillets to cook slowly, about ten minutes, depending on their thickness. They’re done when they’re flaky yet moist.
For my client’s dinner party, I served my planked striped bass with a white wine-lemon reduction sauce. Sitting in front of her guests at the dining roon table, she was pleasantly overwhelmed by the smoked fragrance of the planked fish, and she giggled at her first bite, her face radiant with the melt-in-mouth sublimeness of the striped bass. I love my job.
This weather has been brutal! What are you gonna do when the heat index is sailing into triple digits and you feel like a wilting petunia? Get down with some ice-cold beer or a chilled glass of wine and my “Curried Turkey Burger with Grilled Pineapple and Coriander Chutney”! Get your tropical beat going, sashay around that grill with your favorite beverage in hand, cooling your brow… and bring these Tropical Burgers Deluxe to soaring, piquant deliciousness!
Other items needed:
Mix all ingredients in a large bowl, blending well. If necessary, add more breadcrumbs or panko until the right consistency is achieved to shape mixture into four patties. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour. Grill patties on a preheated medium-hot grill until center liquid runs clear when a toothpick or skewer is inserted, about 3-4 minutes per side. Meanwhile, grill the pineapple slices until lightly scorched (on that note, remember to enjoy that chilled drink!) Top each patty with the provolone cheese slices, turn off heat, lower lid, and let the cheese melt and the burgers set. Add the sliced buns and quickly char slightly.
Remove all items from grill. Arrange the four patties on the four buns. Top each burger with a grilled pineapple slice, a tablespoon of Coriander Chutney (or your favorite condiment) and serve sizzling hot –along with more cold drinks.
Grilled Lobster and Corn with Buttery-Lemon-Herb Dipping Sauce and Gazpacho Andalus
What’s better than the sweet taste of grilled shellfish on a hot, I mean really hot, summer day? That’s why we decided to grill a couple of lobsters today. (Even the thought of firing up our eight burner range sent us running for cold showers or a plunge in the pool or the ocean.) Drawn butter would have been fine as a dipping sauce, but then, you know us; we like to take it one step farther. So we literally whipped up a zesty butter-herb-lemon sauce. Not satisfied with that, we grilled several ears of “just-picked-this-morning-corn” and served this happy duo with a chilled bowl of Gazpacho Andalus.
If you had a couple of mouthfuls of our lunch, we’re sure you would agree that you would like to have a couple more; actually, probably a lot more.
Zesty Buttery-Lemon Dipping Sauce – Ingredients:
Melt one tablespoon of butter in a saucepan over medium heat and sauté garlic until fragrant and lightly golden, about 2-3 minutes. Reduce heat to low, add the remaining butter and melt, stirring well. Mix in the lemon juice, lemon zest, pepper, chopped herbs, and lobster roe (if using). Let it steep over low heat for about 5 minutes, while stirring. Pour into small bowls and serve warm. Leftovers can be stored and used on other seafood, chicken, meats, or pasta.
Gazpacho Andalus – Ingredients:
Yields 3-4 servings
Combine water, tomatoes, bread, and oil in a medium stock pot and set aside. In a food processor or blender, process onion, garlic, cucumber, and red pepper until well blended. Stir into the stock pot, add vinegar and salt, and mix well. Transfer the mixture into a food processor or large blender and process in batches, blending until smooth and reddish-pink. Add vinegar, and season with salt. Can be chilled for several hours or overnight. Mix well before serving as some ingredients may separate. Garnish with herbs and serve chilled.
OK, think about this: you can’t put a live lobster on the grill, nor should you. In fact, you shouldn’t drop a live lobster into a pot of boiling water either. You’re not doing the lobster any favors. In the case of the former, your lobster is going to try and crawl anyway possible to get off of those blistering hot grates (wouldn’t you?), whereas in the latter scenario you’re actually drowning the lobster in boiling water as you simultaneously scald it. I know this might seem like tough food talk, but after all, to feed the protein engine in us all, something has to perish, daily. Sad but true, so be happy that you’re at the apogee of the food chain and let’s be humane about it.
Hopefully, this grilled lobster preamble has given you the resolve to prepare yourselves for killing the lobsters before you grill them. Actually, it’s real simple: if you’re a rightie, grab a hold of the lobster with your left hand, hold it with its head facing right, and with your right hand, drive a stout knife right through its carapace and draw the blade down, slicing all the way through the head and cutting down to the surface underneath, but not all the way through to the other side. (Obviously, if you’re a leftie, simply reverse hands and direction.) Now that wasn’t so hard, was it?
After a half-a-life time of entertaining more people than we can remember who have enjoyed lobsters at our table, we can count those who were ready to kill one on the fingers of one hand. Our own son runs, not exactly screaming, but visibly disturbed, when he sees that lobsters are about to be dispatched. And then, lo and behold, when the lobster is plated and brought to the table, he’s the first to be eating it and sniffing around for seconds.
Enough said. To continue: Take the two lobsters and place them belly down on a cutting surface. Drive the point of a stout knife blade through the carapace behind their head and slice forward and down into the cutting surface. (Yes, your lobsters are dancing now, but they are deader than a door nail.) Next, turn the lobsters over and plunge the knife blade into the body section to open it up and reveal the green stuff. Scoop the tomalley out with a small spoon and reserve it for the butter dipping sauce. Now slit open the underside of the lobster’s tail. Crack the body and tail open like you would a brand new book’s spine. Remember to remove the elastic bands from the claws, and brush both the top and bottom of the lobsters with olive oil. Once on the grill, the lobster’s tail will curl from the heat; to maintain it flat, run a metal skewer lengthwise through the tail right up into the body. Good news! You’re almost done. Make sure your grill is nice and hot, back down the temperature to medium, and throw the lobsters on, belly down. Let them cook for 8 minutes. There’s no need to flip them, just wait until they become that familiar red color you know so well.
A couple of minutes before you take the lobsters off the grill, lightly rub the ears of corn with oil or butter, throw them on the grill, and remember to turn them a couple of times.
Easy enough, right?
RSA & RMA
This post has been sitting in edit mode for about a week; I’ve been waiting to see if Bon Appétit would use it for their “Cook The Cover” series. In fact, they did, and it was their #1 pick of the five which they published. Yeah, let’s hear it for 2Gourmaniacs.
It seems that over the past several months, I’ve become the ribeye king of my grill. So, when I read your [Bon Appétit] solicitation for photographs of grilled renditions of your ribeye cover, I couldn’t resist. What I submit for your pleasure is a pound and three-quarters, bone in ribeye that I salted like you would my driveway after last January’s blizzard, and then I showered it with so many grinds of fresh black peppercorns I didn’t have to go the gym the next day. But first, just for fun, I grilled the white asparagus long enough to scorch their tender flesh with grill marks. And finally, as I was about to plate the ribeye after it had been lounging au jus in a platter on my kitchen counter for ten minutes or so, I carefully grilled a couple of sliced figs for a minute on each side. After my photographic pyrotechnics with the strobe to make the shot, I got down to the real business of enjoying my labor: what you don’t see in the image is sliced pieces of medium rare ribeye slathered with a cabernet reduction sauce that I amped up with some homemade tamarind sauce (think of a wine-delicious, Worcestershire Sauce on steroids). And to my humble taste, the real deal maker here, was the grilled figs with a bite of the beef. We’d need a video to really appreciate just how good that was.
Grilled Fruit Salad with Goat Cheese and Jalapeño Vinaigrette
This summer, I’ve developed a severe case of grill fever. I can’t help myself from grilling everything we eat, every day. I don’t recall when I last used the stove, but it’s been a while considering how it continues to remain sparkling clean. So what did we have for Sunday brunch today? Grilled fruit salad, of course. We agreed it couldn’t have been easier or tastier.
Ingredients for 2
1 large nectarine, pitted and sliced
2-3 watermelon wedges, sliced 1″ thick
2 fresh pineapple slices, cut 1″ thick
1 small jalapeño, seeded and finely minced (optional)
2-3 cups baby romaine lettuce
¼ cup crumbled goat cheese (or gorgonzola)
Your favorite vinaigrette dressing
Prepare the grill on high heat and burn off any residue, cleaning grilling surface well. Lower heat to medium and add fruit slices until lightly charred, 30 seconds per side, careful to not overcook. Remove fruit from grill and let cool. Peel off watermelon rind and pineapple skin, and cut fruit into bite size chunks. Meanwhile, divide the baby lettuces among plates and add the grilled fruit chunks and the nectarine slices. Mix the minced jalapeño with your vinaigrette and sprinkle onto the salad. Top with the crumbled cheese and, voilá, brunch is served.
Grilled Scallops and White Asparagus
The rib-eye steak Robert was preparing for dinner last night sure looked and smelled good, but being primarily a pescatarian, I had another culinary vision for the evening meal. Earlier that afternoon I picked up 3/4 pounds of large, fresh sea scallops, figuring that the meat eaters would also enjoy a taste of the bivalve mollusc feast I was about to prepare. Sea scallops are so delicious you don’t need to do much to prepare them, but the marinade I improvised was delectable beyond belief and I finally had to slap the carnivores’ wrists and warn them to leave my scallops alone!
Ingredients for Marinade
Mix all the marinade ingredients in a medium size bowl. Add ¾ to 1 pound of sea scallops and turn to coat well. Cover and refrigerate for about an hour. Grill scallops over medium heat, about 1-2 minutes per side (depending on size of scallop), careful not to overly char their delicate flesh. Serve with grilled white asparagus, or your favorite vegetable or salad, and lemon wedges.
How easy is that?
Something clicked in my head while reading about tamarind on some website, and suddenly I remember making my own tamarind paste from a tamarind “brick” not too long ago. That effort was the death knell for my last blender. It sputtered, smoked and fizzled out to an unhealthy sounding electrical hum; but the rendered tamarind paste was superb and certainly worth it. I unearthed one of my individually frozen tamarind paste portions in a freezer, and I set out to create a recipe for the organic chicken thighs I had just brought home. After a little research and some pondering, I came up with the following creation. Without a doubt, it’s a mouthwatering, tangy-sweet tamarind glaze that can be used with any grilled fare instead of store-bought glaze or BBQ sauce. I hope you like it!
Ingredients for Chicken and Glaze
(yields 6-8 servings)
Ingredients for Beans & Corn Salad
Rinse beans several times and let soak in a bowl of clean water for several hours. Boil beans in salted water until just tender. Drain well, rinsing with cold water, and set aside to cool.
Place the chicken thighs in a bowl. Combine the next 7 ingredients in a separate bowl. Pour mixture over chicken, turning to coat well. Cover and chill at least 1 hour.
In a large saucepan, mix the broth, juice, sugar, butter, nectarine pulp, tamarind paste, lime zest, and ginger. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat for about 30 minutes, stirring often until it’s reduced to about 3/4 cup of thick glaze. Season with salt and pepper and let cool.
Meanwhile, prepare barbecue to medium-high heat. Coat or spray the ear of corn with vegetable oil (to avoid drying out) and grill it several minutes per side. When lightly charred, remove corn from the grill and, once cooled, scrape the kernels off the husk with a sharp knife. Place the chopped red leaf lettuce, red onion slices, beans and corn in a large bowl. Just before serving, add vinaigrette to taste and toss to coat well.
Next, grill the chicken about 3 minutes per side, until cooked through, basting with some of the glaze. Add the dressing to the salad and toss. Transfer the salad to dinner plates, top with the grilled chicken thighs, and spoon the glaze over the chicken pieces. Optional: serve with grilled pita slices.
* Tamarind paste is available at Indian, Asian, and some Middle Eastern markets.