Grill + Tomatoes = Awesome!

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Summer and grilling go hand in hand, right?  So do tomatoes and summer, right?  So why can’t tomatoes and grilling have the same relationship?!

With tomatoes and green beans growing like crazy, there is a necessity to use them.  Garden fresh tomatoes are the absolute best (if not by themselves) with basil, fresh mozzarella, evoo, and balsamic vinegar (otherwise known as a caprese salad (which I have seen with nine million different ways with the same ingredients)).  They are even better when that fresh mozzarella is melted into the tomatoes!

I had some pork chops in brine (water, equal parts sugar and salt, evoo, black pepper, and a few sprigs of thyme from the garden) overnight, which I rinsed/patted dry, and lightly seasoned with evoo, and s&p, before tossing onto the grill.  While those were starting, I steamed some green beans in a covered sauté pan; and sliced a large tomato into thick slices.  I then seasoned the tomato slices with evoo, s&p and topped them with sliced fresh mozzarella before placing them onto the veggie tray on the grill (over low heat).  I gave the chops a quick flip and closed the lid.

With everything almost ready, I removed the lid from the beans to let the bit of water evaporate before adding a touch of butter and garlic and cranking the heat for a quick finish.  I pulled everything from the grill, placing the tomatoes on a small plate (which hosted a touch of balsamic vinegar that was anxious to soak into the warm tomatoes).  Then topped them with a chiffonade of fresh basil before transferring them to the dinner plate aside the green beans (topped with a smidge of shaved Parmesan) and the pork.

So…Summer = Garden + Grill!

Steak n Tomatoes!

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Think of this as No Pans, part deux.  Grilled NY strip topped with grilled tomatoes and onions, served with grilled green beans.  “Grill” being the key word (obviously!).

I had found a few NY strips on sale and was totally craving steak, so I had picked them up at the store, hoping that I would have time to actually make them.  Then, knowing that they were sitting in the fridge and not wanting to waste the money I had spent on them, I made time.  I didn’t have a chance to marinate them, so I gave a quick rub with evoo, garlic salt, and black pepper.  Easy, flavorful, med-rare steak.

The real star…I had picked a few cherry tomatoes, a few green beans (a ‘scant’ few, as they were ‘in-between’ pickings) and a small yellow onion from the garden.  Not wanting to dirty any pans, I was thankful for the ‘veggie tray’ on our grill (basically, a screen that sits on the grates and doesn’t allow small pieces to fall through).  I halved the onion and lightly seasoned everything with evoo and s&p.  For the tomatoes, I kept a small bowl nearby containing a bit of balsamic vinegar and evoo.  They only took a few minutes to heat up and almost burst, so I promptly moved them to the bowl and gave a quick toss, followed by the onion (which I sliced a bit more after grilling) and another quick toss.

The beans were ready shortly after, with a light char on them.  That charred flavor was excellent!  But, the beans could have used a light steaming prior to the grill in order to soften them up a bit.

The tomato ‘relish (if you will)’ was a fantastic accompaniment to the steak.  Screw steak and potatoes, I’ll have steak and TOMATOES!

Garden dinner!

Grilled chicken breast with grilled zucchini, creamy pesto orzo, and cold mint-green beans

Where the heck has this summer gone?!  Oh, I’ve been working an entire month between days off…that might have something to do with why time is passing so quickly (obviously leaving me with no time to write).  I have managed to cook a bit here and there, as well as avoid fast food (with the exception of a few lazy days).  I have not managed to keep my garden in check on a weekly basis, so it has become (nearly) overgrown and full of weeds.  With tomatoes blooming and beans making their presence very well known, I have done a bit of occasional harvesting.  This being one of those occasions (mind you it was almost three weeks ago!).

The one and only zucchini that was hiding among the giant leaves was beautiful.  It was nearly a foot in length (I know…that’s what she said)!  It was also delicious!  I sliced it into medallions and tossed it with a bit of evoo and s&p before placing it on the grill.  I also halved a small yellow onion from the garden and prepared it the same way.  A few minutes later, a flip, and perfect!

The aforementioned beans were a bit of a conundrum (Conundrum being one of my favorite white wines), as I didn’t have any bacon to toss them with and wanted something of a different setup.  So, I lightly poached/boiled them in salted water and shocked them with cold water.  Then tossed them with evoo, s&p, and a chiffonade of fresh mint (which I have had to tame several times in the garden).  Different, interesting, and very fresh!

Speaking of fresh, I also harvested a few early tomatoes and a bit of basil.  I used the basil to make pesto (pureeing it with pine nuts, Parmesan, evoo, s&p, and one clove of garlic).  I added a little half and half to a pan, stirred in the pesto, and tossed in some al dente orzo (rice shaped pasta).  Finished that off with a rough dice of tomatoes and…oh man, I love pesto!

The chicken was very basic.  I had marinated it with evoo, s&p, a bit of fresh tarragon (thanks, Sis!), and a light splash of vinegar (for a quick marinade).  Rubbed it with evoo, s&p, and grilled it.  It was good, but just there for a protein.  The real stars were the garden fresh ingredients!  Now, if I could just have these year round and have someone manage my garden (or my time) for me, I think all may be right in the world!

Mmmm….steeeaaak!

So I’m a little like Homer Simpson when it comes to steak (or nearly any type of meat)…I am from Nebraska, after all!  On the menu yesterday was: Curry marinated flank steak over mint cous-cous.  Loved it!

I’ve been wanting steak for awhile now, but I’ve been trying to keep the food budget low (since the garden is flowing…but meat doesn’t grow in my garden (unfortunately!)); so I decided on flank steak.  It’s a cheaper cut that needs to be handled properly, otherwise it is easily overcooked and gets rather tough.  I also found some cous-cous at the store that is just plain and easy to make.  So this intrigued me and I wanted the steak to have a “Middle Eastern” feel/flavor.  In addition, I had picked a ton of mint from the garden, so I wanted to incorporate that as well (lamb would have been my first choice, but that is not easy to find when I hit the store at 10 or 11 at night).  With all these different things in mind, I decided on curry (something I have never cooked with before, but eaten many times).  I also picked up some ginger and plain yogurt for the marinade.  Yes, yogurt.  It acts as a tenderizing agent (similar to using buttermilk for fried chicken).

That night, I combined a few tablespoons of (ground) curry with about a tablespoon each of (ground) ginger and crushed red pepper, along with a teaspoon or so of cumin.  To that I added about a cup of the plain yogurt and mixed it well in a plastic bag.  I then added the flank steak to the bag, sealed it and placed it in a bowl (to prevent any accidental mess) in the fridge to tenderize and season overnight.

The next day, I wiped away (almost) all of the marinade and seasoned the steak with evoo and s&p while I got the grill nice and hot.  I also started the cous-cous by simply boiling water with a little salt and butter, adding the cous-cous in, removing it from the heat and covering the pan (almost the same prep as minute rice).

While that was finishing, I placed the steak on the grill and came back inside to sautee a little onion and red pepper (bell pepper more because I really needed to use it and thought it would add a little more color to the dish) with a little garlic to add to the rather plain cous-cous.  As all that was working, I flipped the steak and turned down the heat.

I then finely chopped a good handful of mint that I had from the garden.  I added that and the onion/pepper mix to the cous-cous, along with a hearty drizzle of evoo and s&p.  I covered that (off the heat) and let the mint “bloom” while I removed the steak from the grill and let it rest (VERY IMPORTANT!).

Ideally, I would have let the meat rest for a solid ten minutes, but I was running short on time and had to slice into it after about six minutes.  I made thin slices and placed them on top of the cous-cous.  The meat was just barely overcooked, but still medium (I like mine a little more rare).  However, it was tender, juicy, and the subtle curry flavor shined through, pairing wonderfully with the minty cous-cous.  This dish was really fun (to make AND eat) for me as it was something totally new!  I look forward to playing more with different spices!

Garden update

This is just a portion of my garden that is starting to grow LIKE CRAZY!

From the bottom, there is a row of onions, arugula, carrots, cabbage (huge!), rhubarb (top middle), broccoli (top right), with out of control cilantro in between, mint and thyme to the left, and a few beans sprouting up behind.

Believe it or not, this is only HALF of what Ive got.  It’s nuts! 🙂

Yummy Summer!

It’s been a while!  Work plus more work equals zero time.  But I found a little time yesterday, as I didn’t have to open.  Since I haven’t been cooking much lately, this was even more delicious (absence makes the palate grow fonder, right?!)!

I had purchased a few pork chops and needed to either use them or freeze them, so I voted on using them.  Hence, grilled pork chops with an apricot-thyme chutney/sauce and light salad with a mint vinaigrette.

My garden is growing out of control, so I picked some leaf lettuce, arugula, mint, and thyme to use.  After a quick rinse and dry, I finely chopped the mint and threw in some evoo, white wine vinegar, and s&p to make a quick, fresh vinaigrette.  And washed/dried the greens for a light salad.  Tossed it with a little feta cheese that I had on-hand and viola!

For a sauce on the pork, I finely diced about a quarter of an onion and sautéed that in a little evoo.  I added one garlic clove and a bunch of thyme (all finely chopped), s&p, and a teaspoon or two of whole grain mustard.  To that, I added about a half cup of apricot preserves and turned the heat way down to let the flavors meld.  As that was working, I started the pork:

I had given the chops a quick brine in evoo, 1T salt, 1T sugar, 1tsp peppercorns, water, and a splash of white wine vinegar, for about an hour.  The acid of the vinegar breaks down the proteins of meats for a fast marinade (any longer than that, it would start cooking the meat).  I rinsed them and patted them dry, seasoned them with evoo, s&p, and threw them on the grill.  I let them cook for about 3-4 mins, gave a quarter turn for another 3-4 mins, then a flip for about 4 mins.

After letting the meat rest, I sliced it thin and topped it with the chutney/sauce (chutney just sounds better, as it wasn’t really a glaze, but a thick sauce).  After plating that and the salad, it made for a delicious lunch!

Sausage, and, Biscuits and Gravy, OOOHH MY!

I almost had a heart attack today.  Not only because I clogged my arteries with creamy sausage gravy, but because it was FAN-FREAKING-TASTIC!!   Talk about food-gasm!

I had to stop into work this morning for a catering pick-up; and on my way home (around 10:30a.m.), I was craving brunch food.  I thought about texting a few friends to meet somewhere for brunch, but quickly realized that today is Mother’s Day.  As in: probably one of the busiest “brunch” days for any restaurant.  Not wanting to deal with families and busy-ness, I decided to stop at the store for some sausage to make biscuits and gravy.

After arriving at home and realizing that I had no buttermilk (for biscuits), I almost felt defeated.  But wait!  There’s gotta be a something to substitute, right?  Right!  A tablespoon of vinegar and a cup of milk = a cup of ‘buttermilk’.  Easy ’nuff!  I’ve made biscuits before and they are surprisingly messy, yet simple.  I use a whole wheat recipe for just basic buttermilk biscuits.  Nothing fancy.  So…I got those made (with the ‘buttermilk’) and into the oven.  ‘Biscuits’, check!

I started the ‘gravy’ portion with about 1/3 of an onion (diced) into a sautee pan with a tablespoon of butter.  When they started to soften after a few minutes, I added the sausage.  I had purchased Jimmy Dean’s Maple Sausage (1lb in the weird tube-y thing).  When the meat was halfway browned, I added two small cloves of diced garlic, along with a bit of salt, a lot of black pepper, and a little bit of crushed red pepper.  After it was all browned, I dusted the meat mixture with flour and stirred until the mixture was heavy and all the liquid was absorbed (about 2+ tablespoons).   While the flour was cooking for a minute, I heated a cup of milk in the microwave (apparently the extra step to use warm milk makes for an easier gravy/sauce process).  I then added it to the pan and stirred.  The mixture came together beautifully, but in order to make this even more rich (and to have more gravy) I added about half a cup of heavy cream (mmm…creamy!).  After letting everything meld, I added a touch more salt and another heavy dose of black pepper, along with a touch of paprika (I don’t know why, I just did).

I made a few scrambled eggs, plated a biscuit (halved), and topped it with the gooey delicious-ness of sausage and gravy.  Here’s where the heart attack came in…shut-the-ef-up-O-M-G- de….licious!!!  Sweet, spicy, creamy, yummy!  Totally indulgent, not at all healthy (except for the whole-wheat biscuit, I guess).  I don’t care!  Totally making this again!!