Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Grilled Shrimp and Summer Vegetable Panzanella

Grilled Shrimp and Summer Veggie Panzanella 

This summer has brought about a new family tradition.  On Friday evenings, we meet a few other neighborhood families at the pool, grill our dinner, and engage in general merriment with the kids.  It's something that I very much look forward to all week long.  Because I am who I am, I spend most of the week thinking about what we'll grill and eat, what cocktail I'll mix up, and what we'll eat for dessert.  Sometimes we go simple - burgers or hotdogs, chips, and watermelon.  Sometimes we go REALLY simple and order pizza.  And sometimes I get inspired and end up creating one of my favorite dinners of the summer.

Obviously I'm talking about this salad.  I planned to use my favorite recipe for grilled shrimp, and serve it alongside a simplified zucchini and corn salad, along with some grilled garlic bread.  In a moment of inspiration, I turned it into a grilled shrimp and bread salad.  I was so excited and enamored with the final dish that I made it again a few days later.

This was not only a big hit with Joey and me, but it was a huge hit with the kids as well .  They were especially obsessed with the grilled shrimp and bread, and couldn't get enough.

I have revamped and remixed my chopped summer veggie salad in several ways, spanning numerous cuisines and seasons, but this may be my favorite yet.  When I've made this, I just keep it to the veggies, shrimp, and bread, and leave out the grilled romaine.  I certainly think it would be a great addition though!  If you're looking for a side for this salad, I'd recommend that you keep it simple - a plate of sliced tomato with salt and pepper is perfection here!

Here's to summer grilling and dinner at the pool!


DSC_1430

Grilled Shrimp and Summer Veggie Panzanella

Herb-Grilled Shrimp
adapted from Ina Garten
  • 1 1/2 lbs large shrimp, peeled and deveined, but tails left on
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium yellow onion, minced
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh basil
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh black pepper
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 lemon, juiced
Combine all the ingredients and toss to coat the shrimp.  Allow to marinate at room temperature for 1 hour, or in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours.
Summer Vegetable and Grilled Bread Salad
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for dressing
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • zest of half a lemon
  • 2 ears corn, husk and silks removed
  • 3 medium zucchini, sliced lengthwise into 1/2-inch-thick planks
  • 6-8 slices baguette or other crusty bread (I used a roasted garlic loaf and it was really really good!)
  • 2 Tbs chopped fresh basil
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese (about 2 oz)
Prepare the grill to cook at medium-high heat.  Allow to preheat at least 15 to 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk together the oil, garlic, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1/2 teaspoon of pepper, lemon zest, and red pepper flakes.

Brush the zucchini, bread slices, and corn with the oil mixture. Reserve the remaining oil mixture to use for the dressing.

Clean the cooking grate, then place the zucchini, corn, and bread slices on the grill.  

For the corn, grill, turning every 2 to 3 minutes, until the kernels are lightly charred all over, about 10 minutes total.

For the zucchini, grill it until it is well-browned and tender (but not mushy), about 4 to 5 minutes per side.

For the bread, grill it 1 to 2 minutes per side, or until it is lightly charred.

Meanwhile, prepare the dressing.  Add enough oil to the remaining oil-garlic-pepper mixture to reach a volume of 1/4 cup, then whisk in the lemon juice.  Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed.

Prepare grill. 

 Thread the shrimp on skewers.

Grill the shrimp for about 2 minutes, then flip skewers and grill until cooked through, an additional 1-2 minutes.  Remove from the grill and cover lightly with foil as you prepare the rest of the salad.

Once everything is off the grill, begin building the salad.    Cut the kernels off the corn and add them to a large bowl.  Cut the zucchini crosswise into 1/2 inch-thick slices, and add those as well.  Slice or tear the bread into bite-sized pieces.  Crumble the feta into the bowl, and top with the chopped basil.  Drizzle the dressing over the top, then toss well to combine.  

Divide among plates, then lightly sprinkle each serving with salt and freshly ground pepper.  Top each serving with several shrimp, and serve.


Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Grilled BLT Tostadas

Grilled BLT Tostadas

My favorite summer meal is a simple one:  a BLT sandwich, watermelon, and chips.  Because I love the BLT combo so much, I like to try out different variations and vehicles for the B, the L, and the T.  Thus, when a mexican-inspired BLT was brought to my attention, I'm pretty sure I gasped aloud and headed straight into my kitchen to whip it up.

This ingenious dish comes from none other than the Mexican food genius himself, Rick Bayless.  So it comes as no surprise that it is absolutely amazing and out of this world good.  These are also super quick and easy, which is another requirement for an ideal summer meal.  

DSC_1437 

Corn tortillas are brushed with bacon fat (yes!), then quickly grilled to crisp them up.  You slather them with an avocado-lime cream sauce, then top with tomatoes, crumbled bacon, and cilantro.  Finish with a sprinkle of salt and a squeeze of fresh lime juice, and you have Mexican BLT perfection.  I served these with grilled Mexican street corn, watermelon slices, and of course watermelon margaritas.  No Mexican summer meal is complete without those!  This was one of my favorite dinners of the summer, and one I'll for sure be making many times before fall!

The avocado cream sauce makes more than you'll likely need, but you can store it for a few nights in the refrigerator (just know it may discolor a bit).  The leftovers are great for making… more BLT tostadas, proper BLTs, or just using as a dip for veggies or tortilla chips.

DSC_1442 

Grilled BLT Tostadas
adapted from More Mexican Everyday, by Rick Bayless
serves 4 to 6
  • 12 corn tortillas
  • 1 cup Mexican crema* 
  • juice of 1/2 lime, plus more for serving
  • 1/2 jalapeño, seeds and ribs removed
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro, plus more for garnish
  • 1/2 an avocado, roughly chopped
  • salt
  • 6-8 slices thick-cut bacon, cut cross-wise into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 lb heirloom tomatoes
Prepare the grill to medium-high heat.

Meanwhile, lay the tortillas in a single layer and let them dry for about 30 minutes.  This will help them crisp up on the grill, rather than fall apart.

As the tortillas dry, combine the cream, lime juice, jalapeño, cilantro, avocado, and 1/4 tsp salt in a food processor or blender.  Puree until the mixture is smooth and creamy.  Taste and adjust the lime juice and salt to your preference.  Scrape the cream sauce into a bowl, cover, and set aside.

Cook the bacon in a large skillet, stirring often, until it is crispy and browned.  Use a slotted spoon to remove it from the skillet and drain on a paper towel-lined plate.  Pour the fat into a small heatproof bowl and set aside.

Core the tomatoes.  Choose one tomato (probably the largest) to slice, and slice into 1/2-inch slices.  Seed and chop the rest of the tomatoes.  

Brush the tortillas on both sides with the reserved bacon fat.  Transfer them to the grill and cook, turning and rotating every 30 seconds or so, until the tortillas are golden brown and crisp.  This will probably take 5 to 10 minutes.  

Remove the tortillas to a serving platter, and spread each one with  avocado sauce.  Top with the sliced tomato, and sprinkle with bacon, cilantro, and diced tomatoes.  Lightly sprinkle each tostada with salt, and a squeeze of lime juice.  Serve immediately.

*a half-and-half mixture of sour cream and mayonnaise can also be used here, but try and find crema if you can!  My local Kroger and Publix both carry it, for what that's worth!


Sunday, June 28, 2015

The Porch Swing

The Porch Swing

I'm feeling a little rusty as I sit down to write this post.  Two posts on June, two in May… things have been quiet around here.  This summer has been quite busy, and I just needed to step away and focus on my family and other obligations for a bit.  But what better way to make my triumphant return than with a festive drink?

I never thought I'd see the day when my beloved margaritas were replaced as my go-to summer cocktail of choice.  But here we are!  I've made this drink countless times over the past month or so, with no signs of stopping.  It's so low-maintenance and easy too -- no prep work, just pour, mix, drink!

DSC_1416 

I realize the name "The Porch Swing" gives no insight into the drink, so here's what we've got:  gin, Pimm's No. 1 (which is a liqueur), lemonade, a splash of sprite, and cucumber garnishes.  It is super light and refreshing, and is actually somewhat reminiscent of sweet tea -- which is definitely a win in my book!  While the combination might seem a little strange, it totally works.  After seeing me make these for a few weeks, Joey got curious and asked me to mix one up for him too -- and he totally loved it!  That's huge for him because he doesn't like gin or cucumbers.  I usually make them one at a time, but I'm also including the measurements for a pitcher as well, which makes them party-ready!

If you're looking for a fun cocktail to serve at a cookout for the Fourth, then this one would be great.  And on a related note, I'll be back later this week with some festive menu ideas for the holiday as well.

Cheers to Monday!

DSC_1402 

The Porch Swing
barely adapted from Mix Shake Stir

makes one drink
  • 1 1/2 oz gin
  • 1 1/2 oz Pimm's No. 1
  • 4 oz lemonade
  • ice
  • 3 slices cucumber, cut into half-moons
  • splash of sprite, 7-Up, or ginger ale
  • fresh mint, for garnish
In a tall glass, combine the gin, Pimm's, and lemonade.  Stir well, then fill the glass with ice.  Add the cucumbers, top with a splash of soda, stir, and enjoy!

makes enough for 8 drinks:
  • 1 1/2 cups gin
  • 1 1/2 cups Pimm's No. 1
  • 4 cups lemonade
  • 1/2 cucumber, sliced and cut into half-moons
  • ice
  • sprite, 7-Up, or ginger ale
In a large pitcher, combine the gin, Pimm's, lemonade, and cucumber.  Mix to combine, then chill until ready to serve.  To serve, fill glasses with ice, fill most of the way with the drink, and top off each drink with a splash of soda.


Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Sweet Sriracha-Glazed Pork Skewers

Sweet Sriracha-Glazed Pork Skewers

"Sweet Sriracha Glaze" won me over with this one.  Once I read those words in the latest Cook's Illustrated, I was powerless; and I added them to my menu immediately.  But if you aren't one to be wooed by just a few words, I'll give you a few more reasons why you should add these skewers to your summer grilling repertoire.  They are super easy and low-maintenance, which minimizes indoor kitchen prep time, and maximizes outdoor fun time.  The recipe also calls for pork tenderloin, which is a healthy and relatively inexpensive cut of meat.  And finally, isn't it just more fun to eat food off a stick?

The combination of brown sugar and Sriracha chile sauce give the pork that super addictive and crave-worthy sweet heat.  The glaze is pretty fantastic, and I'm already envisioning many other ways to use it:  grilled shrimp, steak, chicken, or even brussels sprouts all sound pretty fantastic to me!

We grilled these for Memorial Day, and I also served them with grilled corn on the cob, these amazing broccoli rabe cheese toasts, and of course fresh watermelon.  As usual, I'm totally grill-obsessed, so be on the lookout for more grilled favorites soon!  Maybe I should change my blog name to Grilled Parsley?

Sweet Sriracha-Glazed Pork Skewers
adapted from Cook's Illustrated, May/June 2015
serves 4

  • 2 pork tenderloins, trimmed and cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 3 Tbs packed brown sugar
  • 2 Tbs Sriracha sauce
  • 1 tsp cornstarch
  • cooking spray
Toss the pork and salt together in a large mixing bowl and let sit at room temperature for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk together the brown sugar, Sriracha sauce, and cornstarch.

Prepare grill.

Set aside 2 tablespoons of the glaze, and add the rest to the pork, mixing well with a rubber spatula.

Thread the pork onto 4 to 5 12-inch metal skewers.  Spray both sides of the meat with the cooking spray.

Place the skewers on the grill and cook until well charred, about 3 to 4 minutes.  Use tongs to flip the skewers and brush with half the reserved glaze.  Grill an additional 2 minutes, flip the pork back to the original side, brush with the remaining glaze, and grill one more minute.

Transfer the skewers to a serving platter, tent loosely with aluminum foil, and let rest for 5 minutes before serving.




Tuesday, May 12, 2015

California-Style Turkey Burgers

California-Style Turkey Burgers

It's mid-May and officially grilling season.  Yeah!  I make it my personal mission to cook dinner on the grill as much as I can throughout the week.  It turns cooking dinner from a chore into an event - drink in hand, the kids running around outside, hanging out with Joey on the deck… it makes my heart happy.  And then to enjoy a wonderful dinner?  Again, outside; again, drink in hand; again, the kids playing in the yard.  Perfection.

These burgers were a last-minute dinner decision.  I'd originally planned to make a different ground turkey recipe, but it was 70 degrees, sunny, and gorgeous outside.  What would YOU do in a situation like that?  The grill was just begging to be lit up.

So California-Style Turkey Burgers it was!  These are a pretty simple burger, amped up by loads of tasty toppings and an addictive sauce.  The patties are piled high with Monterey Jack cheese, avocado slices, sprouts (or in my case pea shoots, because I'm obsessed), and grilled red onion.  It's a great combination of textures and flavors, and these burgers have quickly skyrocketed to a favorite dinner in my house.

I threw some asparagus on the grill to serve alongside the burgers, but you can bet your britches that in the summer I'll be serving them with watermelon and grilled corn on the cob.

Have you dusted off your grill yet??

California-Style Turkey Burgers
adapted from ATK's Quick and Easy Grilling
makes 4 burgers

  • 2 Tbs ketchup
  • 2 Tbs mayonnaise
  • 1/4 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp pickle juice and/or relish
  • 1 1/2 lbs ground turkey (NOT ground turkey breast)
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • vegetable oil
  • 1 red onion, sliced into 1/4-inch rings
  • 4 hamburger buns, split and brushed with oil
  • 1 cup freshly grated Monterey Jack cheese (or pepperjack if you want a kick)
  • 1 avocado, halved, pitted, and sliced
  • 1/4 cup alfalfa sprouts or pea shoots
Prepare grill.

In a small bowl, whisk together the ketchup, mayonnaise, smoked paprika, and pickle juice/relish.  Set aside.

Shape the ground turkey into four 3/4-inch thick patties, and season both sides liberally with salt and pepper.  Brush the onion slices with oil and season with salt and pepper.

Grill the patties until browned and cooked through, 5 to 7 minutes per side.  Sprinkle each burger with the cheese during the last 2 minutes of cooking.  Transfer the burgers to a plate and tent with foil.  Meanwhile, grill the onions 3 to 4 minutes per side, or until softened.  Grill the buns 1 to 2 minutes, or until toasted.

To assemble the burgers, place the patties on the bun bottoms and top with the avocado, sprouts, and onions.  Spread about 1 tablespoon of sauce on the top bun, and serve.


Friday, May 1, 2015

The Ultimate Strawberry Margarita

The Ultimate Strawberry Margarita 

Fruity margaritas can be a hard sell.  Make it too fruity and sweet, and it's off-putting for margarita purists.  Make it not fruity or sweet, and it's off-putting to everyone else.  Strawberries can also be hard to incorporate into drinks because they can be bland and watery if not in their prime season.  So while a strawberry margarita seems like a good idea in theory, they are often either boring and underwhelming, or cloyingly sweet with artificial strawberry flavor.

Of course, leave it to the incomparable Rick Bayless to work out all the kinks.  His strawberry margarita is far and away the best one I've ever had.  Sweet and luscious strawberry flavor, a nice boozy kick from the tequila, and just enough lime juice to balance out the sweetness.

He has a few tricks up his sleeve that help to put this margarita over the top.  The first is using aperol as a supporting player.  The sweetness of the strawberries is nicely tempered by this dry, slightly bitter liqueur.  Strawberry puree gives you the most pure, fresh, and natural strawberry flavor, and finally, the strawberry sugar rim pushes the whole thing to a new level.  You use freeze-dried strawberries mixed with sugar to create the rim, and the result is what MAKES this the ultimate strawberry margarita.  freeze-dried strawberries, not to be confused with regular dried strawberries, are pulverized with the sugar in a food processor to create the powder for the rim.  I am normally a fan of salt with my margaritas, but the sweet and slightly tart strawberry rim makes this just over the top amazing.

Our street is having a Cinco de Mayo block party tomorrow, and I will be bringing a pitcher of these babies.  I hope you all celebrate Cinco de Mayo this weekend with a strawberry margarita!

The Ultimate Strawberry Margarita 

The Ultimate Strawberry Margarita
from Frontera by Rick Bayless
makes 8 cocktails

  • 3 cups hulled and halved fresh strawberries
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups tequila blanco
  • 3/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 cup Aperol
  • 1/2 cup orange liqueur
  • 1 lime wedge
  • strawberry sugar (recipe follows)
  • ice cubes
In a food processor, combine the strawberries and sugar and puree until smooth.  Strain the puree through a fine-mesh sieve and refrigerate until ready for use.

In a pitcher, combine 1 1/2 cups of the strawberry puree, tequila, lime juice, aperol, and orange liqueur. Stir well and refrigerate until chilled, about 2 hours.

Use a lime to moisten the rims of 8 6-oz cocktail glasses, and dip the rims into the strawberry sugar.  Fill a cocktail shaker halfway with ice, then pour in a little over 1 cup of the chilled margarita. Shake and strain into 2 of the sugar-crusted glasses.  Repeat with the remaining margaritas.  Garnish with fresh strawberries or limes if desired, and serve.

Strawberry Sugar

  • 1 oz freeze dried strawberries (can be found at Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, or other well-stocked grocery stores)
  • 1 oz granulated sugar
Combine the strawberries and sugar in a coffee grinder or small food processor and pulverize until a coarse powder forms.  Set aside until ready to use.


Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Chicken Burritos Mojados (Mexican Flag Burritos)

Burritos Mojados (Mexican Flag Burritos)

I told you guys I had an insane recipe to share this week, and this is it.  These burritos.  Oh man, they are something special.  They are filled with chicken, beans, rice, cheese, and avocado, then draped in three sauces that are inspired by the colors of the Mexican flag.  The red sauce is homemade red chile enchilada sauce, the green is roasted tomatillo salsa, and the white is Mexican crema.  Together they form perfect Mexican food harmony.  The smoky spiciness of the enchilada sauce complements the bright fresh tanginess from the salsa verde, and the smooth and creamy crema ties everything together.  I'm pretty sure that after every bite, I proclaimed these to be one of the best things I've ever made, and kept telling Joey "it's just like we're at a mexican restaurant!"

Burritos Mojados (Mexican Flag Burritos) 

These do take a bit of prep work, but it's all pretty well streamlined, and none of it's difficult or tedious.  You could even prep these in advance - make the salsa (or buy it, I promise I won't tell), make the sauce, cook and shred the chicken, and cook the rice.  Then just assemble and bake when you're ready.  The assembled burritos can also be prepped a few hours in advance as well.

I hope you're planning an all-out feast for Cinco de Mayo, and I think these burritos should be required.  They are something different than the typical tacos or fajitas, and totally worthy of a big celebration.  Margaritas not optional!

Burritos Mojados (Mexican Flag Burritos) 

Chicken Burritos Mojados (Mexican Flag Burritos)
adapted from ATK's The Best Mexican Recipes
serves 6

  • 2 1/4 cups chicken broth
  • 3/4 cup long grain white rice, rinsed
  • 1 (15-oz) can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
  • 4 Tbs chile powder
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 2 Tbs vegetable oil
  • 1/2 large white onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 2 (8-oz) cans tomato sauce
  • 1 1/2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro
  • 6 (10-inch) flour tortillas
  • 2 avocados, halved, pitted, and cut into 1/2inch pieces
  • 8 oz monterey jack cheese, shredded
  • 1 1/2 cups tomatillo salsa
  • water, as needed
  • 1/2 cup Mexican crema (or sour cream)
Bring 1 1/4 cups of the broth, rice, beans, 2 teaspoons of chile powder, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt to boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat.  Cover, reduce heat to low, and cook until the rice is tender and the broth is absorbed, about 20 minutes.  Remove from heat, and allow to sit for 10 minutes, covered.  Stir in the scallions and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add the onion and cook until it's just softened, 4-5 minutes.  Stir in the garlic, remaining 3 Tbs chile powder, and cumin, and cook until fragrant, about one minute.  Stir in the tomato sauce and remaining 1 cup of broth and bring to a simmer.  Nestle the chicken breasts into the sauce, cover, and reduce heat to medium-low.  Cook until the chicken is cooked through and registers 160 degrees, about 10 to 15 minutes, flipping halfway through.  Transfer the chicken to a cutting board, and once it's cool enough to handle, shred or chop into bite-sized pieces.  Taste the red sauce and season with salt and pepper as needed.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with foil and spray lightly with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, combine the rice and beans mixture, chicken, 1/4 cup of the red sauce, 2 Tbs of the cilantro, and cheese.  Season with salt and pepper and stir well.  

Wrap the tortillas in a damp kitchen towel and microwave until they are warm, about one minute.  

Working 1-2 tortillas at a time, mound 1 cup of the chicken and rice mixture in the center of each tortilla  Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of avocado.  Fold the sides then the bottom of the tortilla over the filling, pulling back on it to tighten around the filling.  Roll tightly into a burrito.  Place the burrito seam side-down on the prepared baking sheet, and repeat with the remaining tortillas.  Cover rightly with foil, and bake until heated throughout, 20 to 30 minutes.

As the burritos are cooking, whisk a little water into the tomatillo salsa if it's thick.  Microwave until hot, about 1 minute.

To serve, distribute the burritos to individual plates.  Pour the tomatillo sauce over half of each burrito, and pour the red sauce over the other half.  Drizzle with cream, sprinkle with cilantro, and serve.




 
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