If you've been reading this blog regularly, you've probably figured out that my surreptitious goal is get everyone out of their regular grocery store comfort zone and into Asian markets. Don't be afraid! You can find wonderful treasures at your local Korean or Japanese market, for example, like thin-sliced pork belly and fragrant shiso leaves.
Shiso is a fragrant herb that tastes not quite minty, not quite basil-y. It's perfumey like both of those herbs, but it has a subtle, flowery flavor all its own. You often find it in sushi rolls (maki) paired with ume (pickled plum). Pork belly is basically bacon, but unsmoked and cured. Together these two items are sublime.
The next time you are looking to impress your friends and family, try these super-simple pork and shiso skewers. Only four ingredients...once you find them. My brother, sister and I cooked together on Friday night (something I love to do) and this is what we came up with.
PORK BELLY AND SHISO SKEWERS
We made these as well as chicken-shiso skewers and shiitake mushroom-green onion skewers. When you make skewers part of the fun, I think, is making lots of different ones.
1 package (about a pound) of thinly-sliced pork belly
1 bunch of fresh shiso washed and spun dry
Season pork belly with salt and sesame oil. Place one shiso lead atop each piece of pork belly. Roll up, skewer and grill. Optional: add a piece of green onion and roll that up, too.
Here's what I ended up doing with all those plums.
I can understand why my girls don't like plums. The juicy sweetness of a perfect plum can be a little tempered by the bitterness and chewiness of the skin. I'm not about to peel plums for them (and they don't like jam) so they can eat them this way.
SUMMERY PINK PLUM SALSA
I threw everything in the Cuisinart (pulsing the plums first, then the rest of the ingredients), but you can hand chop for a chunkier salsa. The sweetness of the plums really lends itself to salsa. Don't be afraid to use plenty of salt to bring out all the plummy flavor. This would also be yummy with grilled fish or pork or chicken.
10-15 ripe plums (depending on size), quartered and seeded (not peeled)
1/2 sweet onion, finely chopped
1-2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 seeded serrano pepper, finely diced
a good packed handful of cilantro leaves, chopped
juice of one lime
zest of half a lime
plenty of salt
Chop, whiz, or otherwise combine ingredients. Serve with thick tortilla chips. Makes about 2-3 cups of salsa.
I love the fresh, raw wild jumbo shrimp/prawns from Costco. They're sweet and meaty and good eating. They run about 20 bucks for a large package, and there are enough prawns in a pack to get 2-3 meals out of it. They freeze beautifully.
My favorite way to prepare them is to marinate them, then skewer them with veggies (in this case, mushrooms) and throw em on the grill for a couple minutes per side. To serve them, I take them all off the skewer and pile them into a bowl, but you could just let everyone take their own skewer.
We served these as part of a surf-and-turf dinner with grilled porterhouse steak and BBQ corn on the cob.
For this recipe, you don't want to add the lime juice until just before grilling or else you'll end up with ceviche.
GRILLED CHILI LIME TEQUILA SHRIMP
Makes enough marinade for about 15-20 prawns. Rinse and peel prawns leaving the tails intact. Pat dry and place prawns into a medium bowl then add:
fresh ground pepper
chili flakes (omit or set-aside non-chili shrimp for the kids), i break up whole dried chilis for best flavor and heat
a squirt of Sriracha sauce
a glug or two of tequila (I used Casadores)
a glug or two of olive or grapeseed oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced
zest of half a lime
add whatever chunked raw veggies you like (mushrooms, onions, colorful peppers) or omit
Toss gently and well to coat and refrigerate for at least an hour. Just before grilling add:
the juice of one lime
Toss again. Thread carefully onto skewers alternating prawns and veggies. Grill for 2 minutes per side until just cooked through. Do not over cook.
Sometimes, it's the simple meals that are the best. The above meal was a hit and received "mmmmm's" all around.
Tuesday evenings are gymnastics night around our house. We get home around 6pm and the girls are hungry. Before I left, I popped some chicken breasts into a 325º oven (covered with foil so they wouldn't dry out). When I got home, I removed the foil and let them continue cooking for another 10-15 minutes or so while I put together the rest of the meal: buttered corn and a green salad with sweet onion and avocado in a mustardy vinaigrette.
I realize people might not feel comfortable leaving their oven unattended while not at home, but I'm okay with it when cooking something that isn't spattery. (Mom, I know.)
I marinated the chicken for about two hours in a combination of a mild and not-too-smoky barbecue sauce and honey. (I'm not a fan of most BBQ sauces because of that fakey liquid smoke taste. Check the ingredient list.) I seasoned them with sea salt and pepper before putting them into the oven. Originally I had paillard plans for those breasts, but when I realized too late that I wouldn't have time to pound them out and grill them, I turned to my oven. I written before about how unpounded chicken breasts really aren't my favorite part of the bird, but these came out moist, not dry.
This would have been really tasty on the grill, too, though I would definitely pound out the breasts before marinating.
For my husband J.'s 38th birthday bbq blow out, I made a marinated, butterflied leg of lamb (two of them, actually) that I grilled...until I started a small grease fire in our grill. Thankfully, the lamb was almost done and about 20 minutes in a 350º oven was enough to finish it to medium-rare perfection. Disaster averted.
The Greek theme of the party was the easiest ever. I marinated the lamb over night, drained the yogurt over night, had all the greek salad ingredients prepped mostly in advance. I purchased the vat o' hummus at Costco where they carry my favorite store-made brand, and when dinner was ready to be served, we fired the grill back up and warmed up some Trader Joe's flatbread. a big ole Greek salad with kalamata olives and sheep's milk feta
It was fun party, so fun that I also ended up cooking a pile of spaghetti alla carbonara at 1:00 AM to help stave-off any potential hangovers (Trader Joe's carries Citterio diced pancetta which I buy 4-at-a-time and keep in freezer for such occassions)...It didnt quite work since I woke up "suffering from exhaustion" that only 4 Advils and an El Grullense chile verde burrito could cure.
Half way into the festivities, my five-year-old declared that it was, "The best party ever!" Happy Birthday, J.!
MARINATED GRILLED LEG OF LAMB FOR A PARTY
2 boneless, butterflied legs of lamb removed the netting and laid flat 8-10 sprigs of rosemary, leaves removed 1 whole head of garlic, peeled 4-6 sprigs fresh oregano, leaves removed 1 cup of red wine 1 cup of olive oil salt and pepper to taste
Combine everything but the lamb in a food processor and whiz until a uniform paste is achieved. Shmear all over the lamb, working into all the cracks and crevices, and then refrigerate overnight. (You can place the lamb in large zip-loc bags.)
To grill: preheat grill to high for 15 minutes. Salt lamb again on both side with coarse sea salt. Reduce heat to med-high then grill the lamb approximately 15 minutes on each side, with cover closed, checking occassionally. Remove from grill, tent with foil for 10 minutes before carving and serving. Serves 12-15 people. Accompaniments: Greek salad, tzaziki, hummus, and flatbread.
This is that salad that everyone makes in the summertime. I just love fresh (raw) corn, just off the cob, and summer tomatoes together. When I want to make it into a heartier main dish or side, I add pasta to it, and perhaps some cheese (crumbled sheep's milk chevre is wonderful in this).
The tomatoes (especially the Green Zebras) were so outstanding that I didn't add cheese to it. I didn't want to take away from their sweetness. I simply dressed the pasta with olive oil, salt and pepper and tossed it with the tomatoes and corn which I seasoned separately with salt, pepper, olive oil, and a splash of white balsamic vinegar. The final touch was the addition of freshly pick oregano and Italian and Thai basil, all of which I grow in pots on my patio.
We had company and I served this alongside grilled chicken paillard. It was a match made in heaven. It tasted so good sitting outside in our backyard sipping wine and chatting with our guest. We had leftovers of both so I just chopped the chicken into the pasta and we ate it the next day for lunch.
Thick chicken breasts make me gag. Especially when they are slathered
in barbecue sauce to try and cover up their dry, stringiness. Bleck. I am definitely a dark meat kinda girl.
I love chicken paillard (I've written about it before)
which is just a fancy way of saying chicken that has been pounded
uniformly flat, to about a 1/2-inch thickness. Parents: this is a great
way to do chicken if you want to cook it quickly. It couldn't be more
The other night we had a friend over and did these on the grill. I
marinated them in Eye-talian dressing for a couple hours after pounding
them out and then cooked them for a couple minutes on each side. They came out moist and juicy and so tasty. A
little squeeze of lemon and they are perfect.
I love writing about raw food and becoming vegetarian then following it up with a post about cheeseburgers. I'm an unabashed Libra. What can I say?
Tonight we had grilled burgers topped with sage cheddar and bacon. The hamburger patties themselves were from Costco. They come in a huge pack and I divide them up and freeze them in 4's. I really like the Costco hamburger patties (these are fresh, not frozen, and are located near the steaks) because they are so thick and so incredibly juicy. We've done them for friends and always get compliments. I just shrug and say, "Costco." They don't need anything except salt and pepper.
To the burgers I added hunks of sage cheddar that I bought from a local maker at our neighborhood farmer's market. Then I topped them with thick-cut bacon (another reason to have ready-cooked bacon on hand), onions and lettuce. We like our burgers with mayo and ketchup, and for me, a squeeze of Sriracha.