Tag Archives: grill

Grill Thrill

5 Aug

For years I have said to my dining partners “If you want lamb, make reservations.”  I am not a huge lamb fan.  I usually had it at wine dinners, restaurants, and even in Scotland. But it was not something that I ever cooked or prepared. Having lamb paired with the appropriate wine is, like most food, amazing. Other than that, it’s just not on my radar.

Then one afternoon  I was out wine shopping.  I just happened to get an outstanding bottle of wine at a bargain price.  Red wine.  And it was begging to be paired with lamb.  So the adventure began.

Never having cooked lamb before, I had some homework to do. Finding a good butcher for top of the line lamb chops was a must. I found a local mediterranean market, and lucky me…they had a butcher. Not only did they have fresh lamb, they cut the chops to order. Score!

I decided to cook the chops outside on the grill. Like steak, I learned that lamb is delicious grilled.I also discovered that rosemary was perfect to flavor the chops.  I have a friend that grows rosemary in her yard in abundance, so I zipped over there and nabbed a handful!  I wanted to keep it simple.  Rosemary, salt, pepper, and some flavorful high quality olive oil is what I used to prepare the chops.

I started by letting the chops sit for a couple of minutes to come to room temperature, then I rubbed them with olive oil and sprinkled on the rosemary. Salt and pepper too. I placed the chops on a hot grill at about 400 degrees.  A quick flip after 4 minutes, and in another 4 minutes they were done.

I pulled them off the grill, put a pat of butter on each chop, and tented them with tin foil. Meat is at its best after resting for a few minutes. After letting the wine breath a bit, it was poured and the lamb plated. Roasted asparagus accompanied the chops, as did wild rice.  The bold full bodied wine paired with the meal was a show stopper.  Yum!

The outcome was incredible!  The chops were savory, the wine delish! It was a meal to enjoy at a leisurely pace to fully enjoy the food, wine, and dinner companions. The outcome of my adventure into cooking lamb was a success.  The discovery of a new mediterranean market which I will now frequent was an added bonus.  And exploring the savory taste sensation of well paired food and wine is always a win in my book!

 

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Cheese, butter mayo…

8 Nov
How are these items related?

How are these items related?

 

This is a recent conversation between myself and my teenaged son.  In literary terms it is known as a drama.  Why? Because everything with teenagers has the potential to be a drama…

Quinn: Why do we only have hard butter in this kitchen?

Me: Because it is real butter and healthier for us than margarine.

Quinn: But I can’t spread it for a grilled cheese sandwich!  Ugh!  Stupid butter!

Me: Heat the pan up, melt the butter, and grill your sandwich that way.

Quinn:  Why can’t we just have the spreadable tub stuff?  Man! (insert a sarcastic cough/snort here).

Fast forward a couple of days.  I was chatting with a friend that happens to be an executive chef.

Me: My son was all ticked off because we didn’t have spreadable margarine for his grilled cheese sandwich the other day.

David: Just use Mayonnaise.  Its oil and egg.  And it makes a great grilled cheese.

Me: Do you mean use mayonnaise instead of butter on the bread grilling side?

David:  Yes.  Its simple.

Me:  Seriously?  (I realized my mouth was hanging open.  I felt a mixture of surprise at David’s suggestion and disappointment in myself because this did not occur to me unaided.  I was excited with the idea but mad at my big bad self for not thinking of this earlier…)

Oh yeah, this sent my mind spinning.  It made sense.  Mayonnaise is oil and egg.  So maybe, I thought, the grilled cheese would end up with a little “french toast” essence to it.  As far as chefs go, David has a fabulous palate with an opinion that I trust.  I couldn’t wait to try this!

Friday rolled around.  I grab a quick dinner on Fridays because my son is an athlete that plays varsity football on Friday nights in the fall.  I rush home from work, have a quick bite, and head out to the game.  It was the prefect time to make a quick grilled cheese sandwich before heading out.  It was time to go rogue!

Taste test in the making…one grilled cheese with butter and one with mayonnaise.  Yup.  I was going to try it.  I used the same pan, the same heat, the same bread and the same cheese on both sandwiches.  This had to be a true side by side taste test.

The results:  Both cooked up in about the same amount of time.  Both sandwiches browned nicely, and had a crisp outside bite with a creamy inside.  Surprisingly, the sandwich with the mayo on the grilling side was the favorite.  It had a “cheesier” flavor than the grilled cheese with butter.

At  first look at the picture in this blog, the food items do not look related.  But they are.   Try this.  Let me know what results and preferences come out in your household.  It is fun to experiment with food!

Grilled Salsa. Yum.

3 Sep

I stopped at a farm stand to take advantage of the (boohoo!) ending peach season.  Luckily they still had some yummy peaches left, but they had to be eaten quickly.  They were ripe and ready!  There were more peaches than we could eat, and I was not able to can the peaches and put them up.  I had to get creative. Time to dig thru the pantry and the fridge for more inspiration.

Ah yes, onions.  Sweet summer Vidalia onions were in a basket in my pantry.  And chicken was in the fridge ready to grill.  What could be better. Luckily, there was also leftover pesto pasta in the fridge too.  So here we go.

I fired up the grill.  But the chicken would go on second.  What to grill first?  Why, the peaches and the onions, of course!  I sliced the 2 onions about 1/4 inch thick.  I sliced the peaches in half and removed the pit.  Next, I laid them on a cutting board and sprayed them with a bit of vegetable oil.

 

Sliced onions and peaches getting ready to grill.

Sliced onions and peaches getting ready to grill.

Onto the grill they went.  The heat was good and high to get a quick char and that desired carmelization that only the grill can provide.  I wanted those sugars in the peaches to get to work!  And they did not disappoint!

The onion slices and peaches went onto that hot grill.

The onion slices and peaches went onto that hot grill.  The beginning of some great grill marks!

The scent that wafted from the grill was absolutely mouth watering!  It certainly produced one of those culinary “moanable moments”.  When that happens, your eyes close, your head falls back a bit, and a deep breath in is amazingly delightful.  Those sizzled on the grill for about 3 minutes per side, then they came off the heat.

The peaches and onions grilled up beautifully!

The peaches and onions grilled up beautifully!

Next, I let the onions and peaches sit.  While the peaches and onions were cooling, I grilled the chicken.  I went light on the seasoning because I wanted the flavor of the salsa to stand out.

When they were cool to the touch, I coarsely chopped the onions.  They were soft and sweetly  fragrant.  On to the peaches.  The fuzzy outside jacket of the peaches slipped right off.  I chopped up that sweet peachy flesh and mixed the two together in a bowl.  I added about a 1/2 of a chopped jalapeño (I should have grilled that too…Rats!).  I also stirred in a little bit of cilantro, lime juice, olive oil, and just a dash of vinegar.  A little salt and pepper completed the fresh salsa.  The resulting salsa was fantastic! It was not my “prettiest” salsa ever, but it was really tasty!

This was fantastic piled on top of grilled chicken.  It was a healthy low fat option packed with nutrients and flavor!

This was fantastic piled on top of grilled chicken. It was a healthy low fat option packed with nutrients and flavor!

Dinner consisted of a crisp salad, leftover pesto pasta, and flavor packed grilled chicken slathered in peach onion salsa.  It was a hit.  So delicious and a fun way to use fresh ripe reaches.  Cleanup was a breeze because I grilled most of dinner.  Gotta love that!

I am certainly going to try some more grilled salsa recipes.  Tomatoes are at the end of the season, but there is surely enough time to get creative  and grill those up next!  Grilled tomatoes with perhaps some creamy diced avocados.  Maybe roasted garlic too.  Oh yeah, can’t wait for that one!

 

This ‘n That

16 Jul

The weather is hot.  Summer is in full swing.  It is hot outside, and the air conditioning is blasting inside.  That adds up to one thing…time to take the cooking outside.  Fire up that grill!  Marinate and toss some tuna, chicken or tofu on the grill.  Cook a meal without heating up the house.  Oh, but wait.  There has to be a side dish to go with the delicious grilled food.  Hhhmm.  What is an easy cold refreshing summer side dish?  I have the answer and I just made it!  Try it!

Amy’s Summer Side Quinoa Salad

  • 2 cups cooked and cooled quinoa
  • 1 cup shredded carrots
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced free onions including green tops
  • 2 tomatoes, diced
  • 2 cups coarsely chopped arugula
  • 1 cucumber peeled, seeded and chopped
  • 4 ounces feta cheese

Vinaigrette:

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
  • 1 T. honey
  • 1 t. fresh lemon juice
  • salt and pepper to taste

Mix vinaigrette and set aside.   In large bowl, combine quinoa through cheese.  Stir.  Add vinaigrette and stir to combine thoroughly.  Cover and refrigerate.  Next step..enjoy!

This is an easy recipe to quickly toss together as a side dish. I had the leftover salad for breakfast the following morning after my morning workout.  It is a nutrient packed salad, and the ingredients can be easily substituted with any veggies on hand. Toss in some of this, a little of that.  Make a this ‘n that salad!  So go ahead!  Keep the energy bills low and take the cooking outside.  Toss this fabulous cold salad together and enjoy!

 

Fresh summer side dish.  Yum!

Fresh summer side dish. Yum!

In the (Cal)zone

27 Oct

I grill my home made pizza.  I just feel that my grill is more like a pizza oven than my kitchen oven, and I have had great results with this method.  The exception, of course, is in the winter when I make my home town Chicago Style deep dish pizza.  That goes into the kitchen oven and is strictly a winter treat when weather socks us in for an extended period of time.

Home made pizza was a topic of conversation recently when my daughter was home from college for fall break.  When college kids come home, they want moms home made dishes to nosh on, food they missed at school.  My grilled pizza is a family favorite.  It came up when my daughter was rattling off the food she was craving.  But then our conversation took an unforseen twist.

Her: I am hungry for a calzone.

Me:  I haven’t made that in a long time.

Her: I really have a taste for one.  Please…..

(Cue the lightening strike…)

Me: Wait!  How about we try grilling a calzone like my grilled pizza?

And off we went.  A new journey emerged, one in which grilling a calzone became the destination.  Our stops along the way to our destination included technique discussions, filling options, and recipe timing.

Plans were finalized, the roadmap was taking shape.  The destination-grilled calzones-was coming into focus.  The first run down this path was going to be technique focused first, ingredient choice second.  Fine tuning would come after that.

Next stop.  The filling, it was decided, would be caramelized onions and mushrooms.  The cheese would be a combination of ricotta, mozzarella, and parmesan.  Off we went.  As the succulent aroma of onions and mushrooms sizzling in a pan filled the kitchen, the dough was rolled out.  Nervous chatter about if we could really get this to work added to the cacophony of the popping onion mushroom mixture.

The dough was slathered with the cheese.   The onions and mushrooms went on as the  next layer.  The dough was folded over and pinched closed.  It glistened with an egg wash to give it a shiny coat.  Onto the grill it went.  As it grilled, excitement built…it hadn’t flopped yet.

The table was set, bowls of marinara sauce for dipping the calzone was placed on the table for that final stop before the anticipated bite.   Off the grill and onto the table it went.  Suffice it to say that our little experiment worked like a charm.  The outcome was delicious!  Fantastic!  A new family favorite is emerging!

 

Grilled Calzone!  Fabulous!

Grilled Calzone! Fabulous!

Burger Bonanza!

24 Mar

Variety is the spice of life.  And all things in moderation.  These are 2 rules I use when including red meat in my diet.  Red meat has health benefits, but I also understand and respect folks that abstain from it.  I have worked in clinical nutrition for well over a decade, and have loads of both cooking classes food science classes under my belt.  I respect all forms of healthful eating, morals of food choices, and religious dietary laws.  But I am of christian faith and do not have religious dietary restrictions on a day to day basis that restrict my dietary choices.  I eat, and in fact crave, a red meat every now and again.  Last night was one of those occasions.  I really wanted a burger, and luckily, so did Denis!

We decided that a good fresh burger on the grill was in order for dinner.  Being a foodie, grabbing preformed generic burgers at the grocer is just not acceptable.  Denis and I were making the burgers, and began discussing not only the burger, but the all important toppings.  Now I have picked many people’s brain about burgers and toppings.  A wide variety of folks, including food writers such as William Rice, local restauranteurs in the South, and even a highly esteemed chef from Le Cordon Bleu cooking school in Paris.  Let me tell you, this is a hot topic!  But I digress.

Denis is a foodie just as passionate (read nutty, as most foodies attest to!) about food as I am.  You know that you are a foodie when you talk about a future meal while eating a current (and outstanding!) one.  So we were having this fantastic post workout protein fest in the morning, but needed more.  We had an intense workout and were craving a big burger.  A big naughty one!  A real flavor buster!  We decided to go to the butcher for some good fresh ground meat, and season the high quality meat with none other than garlic.  We wanted a real flavor pop.  We then started considering the critical tipping point of a great burger…the toppings.

Once again throwing caution to the wind in regards to our breath (after all, we were loading up our precooked burgers with garlic!), we decided that we would caramelize some onions and mushrooms to top our burger.  Yum!   But those can be a bit sloppy to pile onto a burger.  Solution?  A brilliant one!  It was one that we would have to experiment with, but if a foodie isn’t pushing the envelope a bit, then you just aren’t a true foodie!  (We are a snobby bunch in that regard!)  Denis pushed a little indentation in the middle of the burger leaving a little room to pile on the onions and mushrooms.

Here is the home made burger prior to cooking with a little indentation for the toppings.

Here is the home made burger prior to cooking with a little indentation for the toppings.

As Denis worked on the burgers, I set out carmelizing the onions.  I took sliced onions and put them into a piping hot cast iron skillet that had a little butter and olive oil bubbling away.  As the onions sautéed, I deglazed the pan with a few tablespoons of red wine.  That added a nice undertone of flavor to the onions.  When those were soft and translucent, I tossed in 8 ounces of sliced mushrooms.  I usually use an assortment of mushrooms, as now the grocery store carries them already conveniently sliced up and recipe ready.  The wonderful aromas filling the kitchen were amazing.

Delicious onions and mushrooms cooking for our burger topping!

Delicious onions and mushrooms cooking for our burger topping!

Burgers are not complete, in my book, without lettuce or some good greens piled on regardless of the other toppings.  I’ve said it before and I will say it again…I love a salad on my sandwich!  Anywhoooo…we went on to build our burgers.  And they were spectacular.  I eat red meat sparingly, so I like it to really count.  And count it did with these loaded burgers!  We had a fresh crisp romaine salad and oven baked potato wedges to round out our meal.  And our breath wasn’t bad at all!  Well, we didn’t think so.  The others around us might have had a different opinion!  But the “death breath” was sure worth it!  Garlic and onions have loads of health benefits, but thats a tale for another day!

Denis has named his new burger concoction the “Make Room For All The Good Stuff In Life” burger.  Love it!  What are you going to fit on your burger?

See?  The top of the bun fit on the burger just fine!  This burger was piled high with onions, mushrooms, and lettuce.

See? The top of the bun fit on the burger just fine! This burger was piled high with onions, mushrooms, and lettuce.

P.S.  We weren’t sure if the burger would cook evenly with the indent in it.  No worries.  It grilled up evenly and beautifully!  And also a word about cooking wine.  I use drinking wine when I cook.  Recipes usually call for very little wine, so use good wine.  Please…never buy  “cooking wine” in the grocery store.  Yes, it is labeled as such.  Use something that you would drink.  If I have some wine left in a bottle, I have frozen it in an ice cube tray to use at a later time.  It is the perfect amount to use in a sauce for deglazing a pan.

Double up!

26 Jan

When I cook, when I really roll my sleeves up and dig into the kitchen and my recipes for the long haul, I cook big.  There is simply no reason to cook only one meal at time.  When cooking chicken, it is easy to toss a couple of extra pieces in the oven or on the grill to freeze and use later.  When making a sauce, it gets doubled  so the extra sauce can be used later.  Even when a small amount of food is left over from a meal, I save it for inspiration for another dish to prepare later.

Crazy days and intense schedules can be the norm for all parents at some point.  Those are the days when pulling home cooked leftovers out of the freezer pays off.    Recently, my teen aged daughter asked me what was for dinner.  I gently informed her that I was taking the night off.  To my credit, I said this with conviction and not even a tiny bit of guilt!  Hey, if we aren’t teaching our kids how to take care of themselves, we aren’t doing our job right!

After the look of horror and accompanying eye roll passed over her face, she resigned herself to the fact that I was, indeed, not moving off the couch and away from the novel I had started to read.  So she looked in the freezer for something easy to eat.  She found about a 1/4 cup of home made pesto-a favorite of hers!

That was all the inspiration that she needed…well, that and the hunger pangs of a teenager that hasn’t eaten for a little bit.  She heated that pesto up in the microwave.  Meanwhile, she put a pot of water on the stove to boil and pulled out the George Foreman grill and turned it on.  Back to the freezer while the water and grill were heating, she found a boneless skinless chicken breast.  Onto the grill that went.

If it doesn’t bite them on the hand, a teenager won’t fix it.  So I make it easy on them, and on myself.  I try to make time to cook up some staples during the week.  Sometimes during the evening when the children are tackling some homework, I can cook up some chicken or brown some ground beef, season it up, and put it in the freezer.  It is easy to pull out some chicken meat that has some taco seasoning on it, put it on a tortilla, add some cheese and peppers, and make a quesadilla.  Easy food and easy clean up!  It is important to me that “scratch made” food, which is healthier than grocery store prepared or fast food, is available for my family.  And believe me, when I get in the kitchen and start cooking, and those amazing smells waft about, I become the most popular mom around!  Nothing like being Queen in the kitchen!