Thursday, June 25, 2009

Grilled Caesar Salad

I know, sounds crazy, but grilling the romaine lettuce before chopping for this salad changes the taste entirely and lends the salad a smoky, earthy flavor that is out-of-this-world good. Try it!

2 romaine hearts, washed and halved lengthwise
olive oil
fresh-cracked pepper
kosher salt
prepared creamy-style Caesar dressing (from the refrigerated produce aisle--I like Lighthouse brand, personally)
freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 cups prepared garlic croutons

Preheat grill to high heat. Brush olive oil along cut side of romaine hearts and sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. Place romaine hearts, cut side down, on grill and cook for 2-3 minutes, or until edges are charred and lettuce is only slightly wilted. Do not overcook!! You don't want lettuce to be a soggy mess, just lightly charred. Remove from grill and place cut side up on a cutting board to cool. Using a sharp knife, chop hearts coarsely and place in a salad bowl. Toss with 1-2 Tbsp. of dressing and place bowl into fridge to chill for 5 minutes. Remove from fridge and sprinkle with Parmesan and croutons. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Tuscan-style Lemon Chicken

I recently served this at Brad's birthday party, to rave reviews. A great dish, it offers a lot of flavor to a cheap cut of meat, and is very easy to prepare. To reduce the grilling time and keep the meat moist, I start this in the oven and then transfer to the grill for the final few minutes to get that great grilled flavor. You can do this entirely on the grill, but you'll need to grill using an indirect heat method and watch the chicken vigilently to prevent flare-ups as the fat renders out.

I adapted this from an Ina Garten recipe--check out the original recipe in her cookbook, Barefoot Contessa: Back to Basics.


4 chicken leg quarters, separated (or use thighs, drumsticks, bone-in breasts or a combination thereof to equal 8 pieces)
Zest of one lemon

3 cloves of garlic, chopped
1/3 cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice (you can use bottled, but the flavor just isn't the same)
1/3 cup olive oil
1-2 Tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary
fresh cracked black pepper
coarse salt (preferably coarse sea salt or kosher salt)
2 lemons, halved

Trim excess fat from chicken pieces, paying particular attention to the underside of the thigh pieces. (If you don't remove the excess fat now, you'll end up with major flare-ups on the grill later!)

Whisk together lemon zest, juice, garlic, rosemary, olive oil and black pepper in a small bowl. Place chicken pieces in a large gallon zipper bag, pour in marinade and seal. Shake chicken in bag to coat with marinade. Place entire bag, sealed, in a glass baking dish (to prevent a messy fridge in the event of a leak), and allow meat to marinade for 4 to 24 hours. (I like to do this the night before, while I'm already in the kitchen cooking).

After allowing time to marinade, open the bag and dump the entire contents, marinade and all, into the glass baking dish and arrange pieces in a single layer in the pan. Place pan of chicken in a 425 degree oven for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare grill for high-heat, direct-fire cooking. Oil grill surface. After removing chicken from oven, place pieces on grill and brown, allowing skin to crisp up. Stay close to the grill--skin-on chicken pieces have a tendency to flame up and burn in an instant!! Cook chicken, turning frequently, until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh registers 175 degrees. Remove to a platter, cover loosely with foil and allow chicken to rest for 5 minutes before serving.

While chicken rests, grill lemon halves by placing cut-side down on the grill. Cook until carmelized.

Sprinkle chicken liberally with coarse salt immediately before serving, placing a grilled lemon half on each plate alongside chicken. Squeeze juices from grilled lemons over the chicken.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Asian Cole Slaw

It's summer, which means picnics and cookouts and plenty of gatherings where you'll need to bring a side dish. Here is an awesome Asian variation of the ol' standby, coleslaw--but since this one is mayo free, you don't have to worry about food poisoning if it sits on the buffet in the heat for a while.

1 bag prepared coleslaw mix with green, and red cabbage and carrots

1 cup of coarsely chopped cilantro

1/2 cup plus 1 Tbsp. rice wine vinegar

1/4 cup toasted sesame oil

1/4 cup sugar

3 Tbsp. minced ginger

2 tsp. Tamari or soy sauce


3 Tbsp. toasted sesame seeds

Pour coleslaw mix into a bowl and add cilantro. Toss to combine.

Combine vinegar, sesame oil, sugar, ginger and soy sauce in a small bowl. Whisk to combine and completely incorporate sugar. Pour dressing over the slaw and toss to combine. Cover bowl and place in refrigerator for 1-2 hours. (Can be made up to 4 hours in advance.) Taste and adjust seasoning with salt, if desired. Just before serving, sprinkle toasted sesame seeds over the top.

HINT: To toast sesame seeds, heat a small skillet over medium heat, add sesame seeds and swirl continuously until seeds are lightly browned. Remove from heat and cool.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Ol' Fashioned Pot Roast

I've tried MANY recipes for pot roast over the years, but so many of them want to add soup mixes and wine and crap that just doesn't embody the ol' fashioned pot roast that my grandma makes. (Hers is actually the BEST, but I can't replicate it--even if I follow her exact recipe, hers always tastes better. Maybe it is all the grandma love I'm tasting mixed in).

So, after a lot of trial and error, here is what I think is the best, simple, true pot roast. Try it out for yourself and see!

Boneless chuck roast, 2-3 pounds
2 Tbsp. olive oil
Garlic powder
Onion Powder
Fresh-cracked black pepper (buy one of those grinders in the spice aisle, if you don't have a grinder--I promise, it does make a difference!)

2 beef bullion cubes
5 medium carrots, peeled, and cut into 2-inch lengths (split, lengthwise, the fat end of the carrots so that all your pieces are approx. the same thickness)
6 red-skinned potatoes, peeled and halved lengthwise
3 sprigs fresh thyme
3 Tbsp. flour
1 can beef broth


Heat a large skillet (preferably NOT a non-stick pan--you want the brown stuff to stick to the bottom) over medium-high heat. While skillet is heating, generously sprinkle all sides of the chuck roast with salt, fresh-cracked pepper, garlic and onion powder. Pat seasonings into the meat with your fingers.

Add oil and chuck roast to hot pan, searing chuck roast until a nice, brown crust forms on all sides, approx 2 minutes per side. Remove roast to a large crockpot or slow-cooker. Return skillet to heat and add 3 cups of water and 2 bullion cubes to the pan. Deglaze the pan, scraping up all the brown bits off the bottom of the pan. Once the bullion cubes have fully dissolved, pour pan juices over the top of the pot roast. Arrange carrots and potatoes around the roast. Bruise the thyme sprigs in your hand and add them to the pot. Place lid on slow-cooker and set to low for 8 hours. (You can do this recipe in 6 hours on high, but your pot roast will be chewier--for the best texture, you really need 8 hours or more).

Once cooking time has passed, remove roast and potatoes to a platter and cover with foil, reserving the juices in the bottom of the crock. Pour juices into a fat separator and allow fat to rise.

To make gravy: Heat a small saucepan over low heat. Skim 3 Tbsp. of fat from the top of the juices in the fat separator and add to pan. Add flour to pan and stir. Allow roux to cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Slowly add pan juices (but not the fat) to the roux, stirring constantly with a whisk until fully incorporated. Turn up the heat to medium and bring gravy a boil, allowing it to simmer for 5 minutes or until thickened.

Use the can of beef broth to adjust gravy thickness if necessary--each roast produces a slightly different amount of liquid, so use your judgment as you go. If gravy is too thick, slowly whisk in beef broth. If too thin, place 1 cup of broth and 2-3 Tbsp. of flour into a cocktail shaker or a jar with a lid, shake until completely incorporated, and then add SLOWLY to the gravy until the desired thickness.

Serve roast with potatoes, carrots and gravy. I love to mash my potatoes and carrots together with some butter and pour gravy over it all, but to each is own. Mmmm, makes me hungry just thinking about it!

HINT: If you don't have a fat separator, just pour your pan juices into a large, shallow plastic storage container, pop on the lid and place it in the freezer for about 10-15 min until the fat congeals. Skim fat from the top with a spoon. The container needs to be really wide and shallow to work quickly--if it is taking too long, try placing the container into another, large bowl or pan filled with ice-water, and then pop the whole thing in the freezer.