Thursday, June 30, 2011

Grilled Lamb Chops with a Blueberry-Balsamic Reduction, Baby Red Potatoes and Asparagus

Sticking with the "summer grill" theme I am adding one of my favorite dinners to date.  If you are a lover of all things lamb (As you very well should be!) then this is the dinner for you!

For the lamb chops you will need:

2 Lamb Chops (We get ours at Springfield Butcher and if you are in the area, we suggest you do the same!)
2 Tbsp. of olive oil
Salt & Pepper

Sprinkle the lamb chops with salt and pepper and prepare to cook!  The first, and most critical step in the cooking process, is to sere the lamb chops in a skillet.  Add the olive oil to a skillet and crank the heat up on the stove!  Once the oil is hot, but not smoking, add the chops and sere for about 30-45 seconds on each side or until a golden brown color is achieved.  (Ensure to do this to all sides of the lamb, including the outer edges.)  Once you have sered the chops, and locked in the juices, place them on the grill 400-450 for 5-6 minutes on each side.  (Anything more than this and you will be doing a disservice to the meat!)  Do not forget to let the lamb rest on a plate,covered in aluminum foil, for approximately 5 minutes before you eat it.

For the asparagus you will need:

1 lb. Asparagus (Thinner asparagus always tastes better!)
Drizzle of olive oil (Don't be afraid to use it!)
Salt & Pepper
1-2 Sheets of aluminum foil

Snap the ends off of the asparagus and then rinse them.  Use the sheets of aluminum foil to create a makeshift tray that you can place on the upper rack of your grill.  Place the asparagus in the tray, drizzle with olive oil, add salt and pepper to taste.  Cook on the upper rack of the grill, 400-450 for 10-15 minutes or until desired tenderness is achieved.  (We prefer the tips to be crispy and charred.)

For the potatoes you will need:

1 lb. Baby Red Potatoes
3-5 Garlic coves (Chopped or Minced)
3-5 Tbsp. of butter
Drizzle of olive oil (Don't be afraid to use it!)
Salt & Pepper
1-2 Sheets of aluminum foil (You will cook them in this.)

Chop the potatoes in to quarters and place in water for 3-5 minutes to get some of the starch out.  Drain them, and place them on a sheet of aluminum foil.  Add the garlic, olive oil, butter, salt and pepper and seal in the aluminum foil.  Cook on the grill, 400-450 for 15-20 minutes or until the potatoes are fork tender.

For the blueberry-balsamic reduction you will need:
(This recipe was adapted from a fellow blogger website and can be found at the following link

1/4 c. Onion, finely chopped
1 Garlic clove, finely chopped
1/2 c. Fresh blueberries
2 Tsp. water
1 1/2 Tbsp. Balsamic vinegar
1 c. Chicken broth
1 Tbsp. of fresh basil, chopped (We grow our own!)
1/2 Tbsp. of unsalted butter

Place the onions in a skillet and cook for about 5 minutes. While the onions are cooking, place the blueberries and water in a microwave-safe dish and smash them with the back of a spoon.  Cook them in the microwave for about 1 1/2 minutes.  Add the garlic to the onions and cook another minute. Add the chicken broth and scrape up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan with an appropriate utensil.  If you have expensive pans like we do, you do not want to scrape the pans.  (I recommend using OXO products, they are pan friendly.)  Add the rest of the ingredients and simmer until the sauce is reduced by half, about 7 minutes.  Add as much as you want to the chops, it's nothing short of amazing!!

The result is this...

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Let's Make this Interactive...

So I've gotten some requests for recipes or meal ideas via Facebook and I think I want to bring it over here and make it 'official' - or as official as this blog can be, which is to say, less official than the Westminster Dog Show but maybe more official than a Toddlers & Tiaras competition in a town of 200 people? But I digress. In the next week, I will be whipping up a Thai Peanut Sauce dish per a request from devoted follower Erika Desimone ...and I am more than happy to field more. Maybe this is the coffee talking on this Wednesday morning, but I think my co-bloggers will also chip in and we can get this done for our few, but EXTREMELY loyal, followers.

1. So, in the comments, write what you want us to make, tell you about, explain, etc.

2. Try not to be jerky - i.e., don't request imported New Zealand rack of lamb unless you plan on a) sending PayPal money over or b) you are flying out to eat with us, in which case, lamb would make a great 'welcome guests dinner' and you're on.

3. Whoever of the blog staff is going to make it will acknowledge your request and then make it in the next week or so (I mean, we do have lives and stuff, so it may not be that very night), unless you inundate us with requests which will be AWESOME but also make the process a little slower.

4. If you want anything that is extremely unhealthy (by that I mean a deep-fried twinkie) you will either get a response from our silent partner Nate, who owns a deep frier, OR a healthier option since we want you all to live. By that same token, if you want me to teach you to make Hamburger Helper we're going to talk about a few things offline.

5. Tell your friends. The more followers, the more inspired I (we) are to keep doing this.

Let the games begin!

- Melissa

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Grapefruit & Garlic Brined Pork Chops

Admittedly, I sort of stole this concept from an episode of "The Best Thing I Ever Ate" but I figured I could explain how it worked out in real life...which was best described as good, but a lesson learned in the process.

So, for the brine: just 1 part olive oil, 1 part ruby red grapefruit juice (bottled works, though fresh squeezed is better) and about 2 minced cloves of garlic. You need enough to cover the entire piece of meat you are brining, so be sure to increase incrementally to accomplish this, and then let it sit in a covered container or ziploc bag for at least 8 hours in the fridge. When you are ready to cook, preheat the oven to bake at 375 and then place the chops on either a cookie sheet or a grilling pan - both of which you'll need to spray with a little Pam to prevent sticking. Next, brush some of the brine liquid over the tops and add a little freshly ground pepper. Now I was working with bone-in pork chops, about 1/2" thick, so the cooking time was 30 minutes, give or take how your oven runs.

The finished product was moist and garlicky, though not as fruity as I'd anticipated, which was ok, but if you are looking for more sweetness, feel free to add more juice to the original brine. The thing that I realized as I ate though was the potential the brine mix could have....if paired with a pork tenderloin, which is meatier than a chop and often has a bit less fat, plus then it could be topped with some fresh apple chutney. MMMMM. However, this is not what I made for dinner....this time.

So we ate the chops, which were good but lacking a little due to the cut, and served it with some simple cut wax & green beans and stuffing. So the take away from this is a good brine mix that can offer up some new flavor for pork.

- Melissa

Sunday, June 26, 2011

How to Grill a Steak...Properly

Grilling a steak is something everyone should know how to do...yet that isn't the case. While it is not necessarily considered gourmet, preparing a steak well is an art.

The first step to a great steak dinner is choosing the cut and thickness of the meat.  I would not buy a steak less then ¾” thick because you will lose a lot of the flavor and juices during cooking. Type of steak is very much taste dependent, and your tolerance for fat will also drive you to a specific cut. Fat makes steak more flavorful, but how marbled you get like your steak is a preference thing. I encourage everyone to try as many cuts as you can and see what you like.

•Tenderloin: The tenderloin is a cut of meat that is the tenderest (and therefore usually the most expensive). The tenderloin is found in the middle of the back between the sirloin and the rib. It is extremely tender because the muscles that make up the tenderloin are rarely used. When the tenderloin is cut into pieces, it is called fillet mignon steaks.

•T-Bone: The T-bone is a bone-in steak from the short loin. This cut has a T-shaped bone that separates the tenderloin section from the larger portion of the top loin. These steaks are not as tender as the porterhouse steak.

•Porterhouse: The Porterhouse steak is a large steak from the thick end of the short loin containing a T-shaped bone and large piece of tenderloin. Porterhouse steak is one of the most popular types of steaks.

•Strip or Top Loin: Porterhouse or T-bone steaks that have been stripped of the choice tenderloin portion.  Top loin steaks are usually expensive.

•Rib-Eye: The rib eye or ribeye is a beef steak from the beef rib. When cut into steaks, the ribeye is one of the most popular, juiciest, and expensive steaks on the market. Meat from the rib section is tender and fattier than other cuts of beef. This extra fat makes ribeye steaks and roasts especially tender and flavorful.

•Sirloin: The sirloin is near the rump. Sirloin steaks are tougher than cuts from the loin or the rib. 

•Flank: Flank steak is a beef steak cut from the belly muscles of the cow. Long and flat, the flank steak's best known application is London Broil. The flank steak is much tougher than the loin and rib steaks. Many recipes for flank steak use marinades or braising. Flank steak is best when it has a bright, red color. You can tenderize flank steak by marinating it in a tenderizing liquid, including acids like tomato-based products, lemon juice, wine, vinegar, pineapple or ginger.

•Skirt: The skirt steak is a cut of beef steak from the belly primal cut. The skirt steak is a long, flat cut that is flavorful, but tougher than most other steak cuts. Most people use skirt steak to make fajitas.
Once you have it home and are ready go, I usually salt the steaks and leave them on a plate in the fridge for an hour or so before they go on the grill. For London Broil, I’ll try and marinate and leave it in the fridge for at least 12 hours.

When you are ready to cook, set the grill up to med-high heat (pre-heat so the temp is between 400-450). On charcoal grills, make sure you have cooked down the coals to a nice grey and use a thermometer if you have one.  Make sure that you have a clean grill, grates and burner. Cooking steak at this temp on a dirty grill will cause fire to rise and directly touch the meat which will skew the times and burn the outside.

Once the grill is pre-heated, use the high temp Pam to grease up the grates on the grill. Place your steaks on and salt the top side again. When you think you have put enough salt on it, put a little more. Cover the grill and wait. Try to limit the amount of times you open the cover.

Based on the thickness of your cut, you can sear your steaks at this point. Searing locks in the juice of your steak, but I only really do it if the cut is 1” or larger. To sear, place the steak on the grill and keep it there for 1.5 to 2 min. Then flip it and begin cooking the other side like normal. If you sear, remember that the 2 min of the first side counts towards to total time you should cook that side.

Cooking time at 400-450 for ¾” to 1” thick* steaks will be:
6 min per side – Rare
7 min per side – Med Rare
8 min per side – Medium
Anything more than that is cruel and unusual punishment to the meat and I urge you to turn yourself in to the local authorities.

*Add 3 min per side more for each 1/2” of additional thickness. (Ex. 1 ½” thick steak should be cooked 9 min per side for rare)

When you flip the steaks, salt the other side again and then cover the grill. Make sure to use tongs to flip the steak. DO NOT use a fork and do your best not to puncture the steak at any point during the grilling.

THE MOST IMPORTANT PART of grilling any meat is to let it rest after you have cooked it. I typically will place the steaks on a plate, cover with aluminum foil and leave them for at least 5 minutes before serving them. You can wait up to 10 min before serving them.

- Tim & Melissa

Friday, June 24, 2011

Easy Greek Couscous Salad

So in an effort to not serve the same basic sides, I often try to branch out and get a little more flashy. So the other night we were having pre-made lamb burgers (which we totally buy at the local high end place I keep mentioning and don't make ourselves because they do it so well). Anyway, the burgers have feta cheese and rosemary sprigs mixed in, so my side needed to be of a Greek persuasion, thus I thought of making a mediterranean couscous salad.

First of all, they sell boxes of already 'seasoned' couscous in the store (Far East brand), but for this I opted to make it myself from a big box of plain couscous that I keep on hand. So the beauty of couscous is that it is super quick; we're talking boil the water with a tbsp of olive oil, add couscous, turn down heat for 2 min, then remove from heat and done. So total time is no more than 10 min. I do add some chicken broth in with the water, so its 50/50, which totally adds a little extra flavor. Once the couscous has been removed from the heat, I can take on the salad's accoutrements. 

Chop up some onion, tomato and cucumber. The amount truly depends on how much you like these vegetables....for instance, I went easier on the onion than you might. Move the couscous into a bowl and toss it lightly in a little more olive oil and ground black pepper. Then add the chopped vegetables and mix in some crumbled feta cheese (you can also add in Kalamata olives and let me live vicariously through you since T hates olives)  and toss some more. Finally top the salad with some torn fresh mint and prepare to feel transported to Athens! Best part? You can also make this ahead of time & store this in the fridge for fact, the leftovers the next day are sometimes even better!

PS - I also made a quick garlic tzatziki for the burgers...1 part plain greek yogurt, 1 part crushed garlic, 1 tbsp dill, juice from half a lemon and then zested cucumber and/or lemon to finish it off. 

- Melissa

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Full transparency loyal readers

In order to maintain honesty on the blog: I admittedly failed at dinner tonight....not because I made an error cooking, but because I totally over-estimated how long the key ingredient would stay fresh. The ingredient in question were garlic spears and I totally should've made them two days ago but we had plans and I could not. 

So the rather pricey stalks are in the trash, the defrosted chicken cutlets are now pre-poached in the fridge for when T is in charge of dinner this week due to my work schedule and he is off saving the day getting take-out burritos. 

Please note that the photo was taken yesterday a.m. and that the spears had since lost even more green. Lesson here, believe what the produce manager at the high-end market tells you about an ingredient you've never tried before! 

You might wonder, could I have made something else with the chicken? Well sure. But my heart was set on my adventure and I couldn't rally into some subpar creation. Sigh.

I'll think of something tomorrow since after all, tomorrow is another day {in the kitchen}. 

- Melissa

Monday, June 20, 2011

Grilled, Stuffed Green Peppers

Being that it is summer and during the summer months you should only cook on the grill, we are adding another delicious, char-grilled recipe to the blog.  For those who want to enjoy peppers but cannot muster the courage to do so (Sorry Liz) this is the perfect recipe for you!  (We have modified this recipe from one that was passed down to us by my mother, I love you mom!)

You will need:

4-5 Medium to Large Green Bell Peppers
2 c. Cooked Rice (We used Jasmine rice tonight but you can use brown rice and it is equally delicious.)
1/2 lb. of Ground Veal
1/2 lb. of Ground Turkey
3/4 c. Chopped Onion
1/3 c. Chopped Carrots
1/3 c. Copped Celery
1 x 16 oz. Can of Tomato Sauce
Salt & Pepper to Taste
(Feel free to spice it up a bit and add your favorite spice to the mix.  You can also use whatever type of ground meat you like but the veal/turkey combo is amazing!)

First, cook your rice according to package or rice cooker directions.  1 cup of dry rice yields about 2 cups cooked.  While the rice begins to cook, combine and brown the meat in a large skillet.  (Add spices while your meat is browning if you so desire) Drain the meat and set aside. While the meat is browning, slice off the tops of the peppers and remove the seeds and membranes.  Use the drippings in the pan from the browned meat to saute the onion, carrots, and celery.  We also chop up 2 of the pepper tops and saute those with the other veggies.  (It's a little cannibalistic but we like it)  I keep the veggies on medium heat for about 8-10 minutes.

Once the veggies are tender, add the cooked rice, meat, tomato sauce, salt, and pepper.  Stir together until it is heated through.

Grill the peppers opening side down for 3-5 minutes at 450 degrees or until charring and blistering start along the edges.  Take the peppers off of the grill and fill them with the stuffing mixture.  Place the peppers back on the grill, stuffing side up, for another 3-5 minutes at 450 degrees.  This time and temperature make the peppers fork tender and delicious!  Remove and enjoy!

-Chris & Danielle

Omelets 101 (Mediterranean)

2 eggs
½ bag Baby Spinach leaves
1 tomato
½ cup diced or shredded Ham
½ cup Shredded cheese (more if you are “fat” like us)
Olive Oil
Salt and pepper

Omelets are made with two eggs. Don’t get cute and think that the more the better or that you are using a large pan, so you need more. Omelets are made with two eggs. You can include some milk for consistency, but we’re talking a few splashes.  

Scramble the two eggs in a bowl until mixed. You can add milk if you want. Add a pinch of salt and pepper and mix again. Dice the tomato into small chunks and set aside. Shred your own cheese, type is dependent on taste. I use cheddar most of the time, but you can use Asiago, or a Comte. (You can use bag shredded if you are in a pinch) Prepare the spinach by washing it and removing the stems from the leaves. If you have fresh ham or a ham steak, dice the ham into small chucks. If not, deli sliced ham will work just as well. Tear a couple pieces up into very small pieces and set aside.

Take a 6” sauce pan with sides that are about 1” tall and pre-heat to 4-5 on an electric stovetop (MED on gas stovetop).
Add a little olive oil to the pan, and then begin to sauté the spinach it in the pan. Keep an eye on it because it will cook quickly. Use tongs to move the spinach around while it is cooking. Once it starts to become dark green, take it out of pan and place it in a bowl for later.
While the pan is still hot, add a little more olive oil to coat the pan, then add the ham chucks and let them cook for about 1 minute. Then add the tomato and spinach that you have already sautéed. Let this cook for 2 minutes constantly mixing. Gently pour the scrambles eggs over the sautéed mix and let it sit.

Here is the tricky part: After the eggs look like they are becoming solid (about 2 min), gently lift the sides and tilt the pan so the remaining liquid goes to the lifted side and under the cooked part. This will spread the egg out and make sure that all parts are being cooked.  You can do this all around the omelet until there is no liquid egg left on top. When the egg looks solid and there is very little glistening liquid on top, add the shredded cheese to the center of the omelet and gently fold one side on top of the other (forming a half circle). Let this cook for 1 min and then flip so the other side can cook. Let it cook for 1 min.

Omelets need their rest too, so take the omelet off of the burner, place on a plate and cover for about 2 min before serving. 

- Tim

Friday, June 17, 2011

Roasted Poblano Hamburgers with Chipotle Ketchup-Mayo

Summer is here and that means it is time to cook as much as you can on the grill!  I am a huge proponent of cooking almost everything on the grill for two reasons.  First, something about that magical contraption makes everything taste so much better!  Second, clean-up doesn't get any easier!  This is a recipe that brings amazing flavor to a burger with just a little extra work.  This recipe is sure to appease even the most boring and bland "traditional" hamburger people out there.  These burgers would best be paired with some sweet corn, cooked on the grill of course!

You will need:

1 lb. of hamburger beef  (I happened to use some grass fed beef that I got from the local butcher, amazing!)
1-2 Poblano peppers
1 Tbsp. of garlic
Salt & Pepper to taste

First you will need to roast and peel the skins off of the peppers.  You can do this in an oven using the broiler setting or in a toaster oven at 425 for about 15-20 minutes.  The key is to get the peppers to blister so you will be able to pull the skins off.  (Make sure you rotate them so they get an even roasting.)  A trick that I use is right after you take the peppers out, place them in a zip lock bag until they cool.  This traps the moisture in the pepper and makes it that much easier to take the skins off of them.  After your pepper is skinned, dice it up and mix it into the beef with the garlic, salt, and pepper.  Shape your pattys and ensure to make a depression in the middle of them so they cook evenly.  Cook them on the grill at 450-500 for 5-10 minutes on each side.  (This depends on how well you like your burger cooked.)

Chipotle Ketchup-Mayo

You will need:

1/4c Mayo
1/4c Ketchup
1/2 Tsp. Chipotle Chili Powder

Mix.  (If you need assistance with this part of the recipe then you shouldn't be reading the blog.)

The result is an amazingly flavorful burger dressed in a smokey, delightful sauce.  Enjoy!


Thursday, June 16, 2011

Impromptu and Impressive cheese plate

I am going to assume that most of us like cheese....I mean, its delicious and the French have been living off it for years. So why are we all so hesitant to try new cheeses? Furthermore, if you're trying them in grilled cheese sandwiches only, you may not be getting the full flavor or picture of a true fromage experience (see below) 

I admit that depending on your household (read: children) this may not be a regular occurrence. For us, it is not regular...but it does happen often enough when we get the craving for an overdose of dairy. We change the cheeses and the pairings, but this recent one was a grouping of favorites.

For cheeses, we started with a 6-month aged Comte (Tim's absolute favorite, pictured on the left) which is similar to a Gruyere, though with a more nutty flavor (insert joke here). Though this one is pricey (we got it at a higher end grocery store out by us), it is a strong cheese - meaning you can get by with a smaller piece and not forfeit the mortgage to enjoy it. Also, the rind on the Comte is great grated in a salad or in eggs so nothing goes to waste!

Then we went with the St. Andre Brie (middle) which is a triple cream and truly lacks the waxy after taste that often follows a Brie. It is reasonably priced and the best deal for it that I've seen is at Trader Joe's, hands down.

Last, on the right, is an Iraty, which we had never tried before. It is a harder cheese, like the Comte and it was rather spicy when compared to the others so it made for a nice contrast.

Often people want to buy crackers, breads, etc. that are full of their own flavor - from cracked pepper to rosemary-thyme to sesame vegetable, whatever. I am guilty of this as well but when it comes down to serving a good cheese, I'll opt for a plainer starch like a water cracker or a wheat or white baguette, which is what we chose here. You can certainly toast the bread but if it is fresh and purchased that day, there's really no need. To liven up the bread a little, I poured a dipping plate of kalamata pressed olive oil, aged balsamic vinegar, a sprinkle of coarse salt and some thyme.

(Not pictured, we also added dried cranberries into the mix)

All in all, you might still be hungry afterwards, you might not. If you are, you can also add some cured meats like a prosciutto, or even walk on the wild side and toss in some tender jerky.

PS - the bottle in the background is good balsamic and no, we weren't drinking it ;) For that we went with a Chianti.

- Melissa

Friday, June 10, 2011

Pork Tenderloin with Plum Chutney - you're welcome.

Ok, so I'd mentioned earlier that this would be rhubarb chutney and then when I hit up the good produce local there was no rhubarb to be found, so plum it is. My apologies to those salivating over the red stalks. Anyway, onto the show....

I think that pork tenderloin intimidates a lot of people, since it is 1) pork and people tend to over cook the crap out of it 2) they don't know what to serve it with and 3) its a huge cut of meat since its packaged two at a time.

The answers are simple. 1) Cook it about 5 to 10 degrees LESS than what the recipe or thermometer tells you 2) fruit, fruit and more fruit - served in a chutney which you'll see is easy and 3) pre-cooked pork tenderloin, minus the chutney, will stay in your fridge for up to 5 days. Hint: Pork sandwiches are acceptable!

Ok, first, you need to season the pork. I opt for a light gloss of olive oil and then a dusting (just on the top, more rounded part, mind you) of Herbs de Provence. I then place the loins on the oven roasting pan (you need something with a bottom to catch the moisture, etc.!) and then place them in the oven to bake at 350-375. I wouldn't go higher than that, but you can play between those two temps depending on your timeline as the higher temp of 375 will cook a little faster. All told, at 375, the meat should take about an hour....but with pork (or any meat) you need to remember to check in on it a few times with your trusty thermometer. Your goal is about 165 degrees and once it starts to approach 150 it will move up quickly.

Step two is all about the chutney, which is the true star of your meal, and doesn't need to be dealt with until the pork is about 15 minutes away from being done. First, get a nice, deep saute pan and put a little olive oil (we're talking drizzling here) and turn the heat to a low-medium; then add about 2 cloves of garlic minced, some chopped onion (I went with less than a 1/4 cup), a sprinkle of hot pepper flakes (more if you're into the sweet/hot aspect), 1/4 cup of brown sugar or brown sugar splenda, 1 larger plum or 2 smaller ones all chopped up with the skin still on, a tsp of mustard seeds and some splashes of  apple cider vinegar. Now, if the trick here is to taste. For instance, as the chutney bubbles away you might taste it and its too tart - so add more brown sugar; if it is too sweet, add more cider vinegar. Let that cook until it starts to thicken up and then let it cool slightly before serving by spooning it over the meat slices.

- Melissa

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