Monday, July 28, 2008

sage advice

This summertime winner is adapted from my very favorite summertime cookbook, "How to Grill," by Steven Raichlen. If you don't have a copy, and if you like to grill, go pick one up for about $15 on You won't regret it, and you'll learn a lot.

Grilled, Stuffed Pork Chops with Sage
Serves: 6
Prep time: 15 minutes
Grill time: 14 minutes

You'll need:
  • 6 boneless pork chops

  • 12 fresh sage leaves

  • 4 oz. Prosciutto

  • 6 oz. Fontina cheese

  • 1/4 c. olive oil

  • Salt & Pepper

  • toothpicks (soaked in 1 T. olive oil)

First, prepare your pork chops by using a paring knife to cut a big, deep pocket in the pork chop. (As big as you can cut without slicing the chop in two). Next prepare your fontina by cutting it into pieces that are about the size of your pinky. Wrap the fontina in a piece of prosciutto, then take the prosciutto-wrapped fontina and stuff it inside the pork chop pocket. To close the chop, secure the open seam with two to three olive-oil-soaked toothpicks (olive oil helps the toothpicks not to burn up on the grill). Next, brush both sides of each chop with a generous amount of olive oil, and season with plenty of salt and pepper. Lastly, press 1 sage leaf onto each side of each chop. The fire from the grill will create a wonderful flavor and aroma in your chop.

To cook: Heat your grill on medium heat for five minutes with the lid on. Place your chop on the grill for 6-7 minutes per side. (If you want gorgeous grill lines, place your meat at a 10 o'clock angle for 3 minutes, then rotate to a 2 o'clock angle for three minutes each side).

The cheese and prosciutto help this chop to be flavored well and not-too-dry. If you think the pork wants a sauce, and think you could get away with something as decadent as sage butter during swimsuit season, by all means, sauce on! (Sage butter: 6 T. butter, melt in a saucepan over low heat until beginning to brown, add 5 sage leaves to butter for 1 minute, stirring constantly, remove from heat as soon as brown color deepens to tan).
Serve with: A crisp sauvignon blanc, a salad of mixed greens and a lemony dressing, and all of your favorite people.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

see you tamari

Tamari is a Japanese soy-sauce. It's got a cleaner flavor than regular soy sauce, and had a starring role in last night's dinner. Here's a great recipe for teriyaki chicken bowls - using Tamari to make your own teriyaki!

Teriyaki Chicken Bowls
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 45 minutes

For the rice bowls, you'll need:

1 C. whole grain brown rice
1 head napa cabbage
1 white onion
1 lb. chicken (boneless, skinless breasts)
1 C. teriyaki sauce *recipe below
2 T. tamari
1 t. chili paste
3 T. olive oil

First, make the teriyaki sauce (~15 mins). Measure 1/2 to 2/3 C. in a plastic bag, and marinate your chicken for 20-30 minutes.

While your teriyaki sauce is coming to a bubble, make rice according to package directions. If you're using whole grain rice, which is far superior to his pasty brother white rice in both flavor and nutrition, the cooking process should take about 45 minutes.

Next, slice your onion, and set it aside. Then, shred the entire head of napa cabbage. Heat 3 T. olive oil in a large pot (pasta pot works well), and add the onion. Stir the onion until beginning to brown, then add the cabbage, plus 1/2 C. water, and cover for 5 minutes. Add 2 T. tamari plus 1 t. chili paste and stir to combine. Continue cooking on medium heat, until done to your likeness (can be very crispy, or very wilted - whatever you like).

When your chicken is done marinating, heat your grill/pan, and cook the chicken. Use 1/2 C. teriyaki sauce to baste while cooking, turning every 3 minutes or so for 15-20 minutes, depending on the size of your chicken and the heat of your grill/stove. When your chicken is done cooking, take it off the heat and let it rest for a few minutes, then slice it into very thin slices accross the grain.

To assemble your rice bowl: Measure 2/3 C. cooked rice in the bottom of the bowl. Next, add two tong-fulls of cabbage and onions on top. Next, add some sliced chicken. Top with a small ladle-full of teriyaki sauce, plus hot sauce to taste. Enjoy!

For the teriyaki sauce, you'll need:

1/2 to 2/3 C. tamari
1 1/2 C. water
4 T. brown sugar
3 cloves very finely diced garlic
1 T. ground ginger
1/2 C. water plus 2 T. corn starch, well mixed, to be added at the very end*

In a small saucepan, combine your tamari, water, brown sugar, garlic, and ginger. Whisk well over low heat, until sauce bubbles. Continue to whisk for 10 minutes, then add the corn starch slurry, and whisk well until thickened. (If too thick, add more water or tamari).

Note: This recipe yields +/- 2 C. sauce. You'll need 1 cup for marinade and 1 cup for topping, so divide it into two parts when it's done cooking.

For a tasty dessert:
Grilled Pineapple Rings

Take one whole pineapple, cut the top off. Then, cut the bottom off. Then, cut off the spiky sides, 1 strip at atime. Next, cut your pineapple into 1/2 inch slices. Use a biscuit cutter (or a knife) to remove the woody center. Grill on medium heat for 3 minutes per side. Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

hot dog!

We've all been there - standing in front of no less than 20 different kinds of hot dogs before a BBQ. You want to buy the ones that will taste the best. Or should you get vegetarian hot dogs? But what do those taste like? Nathan's? Hebrew National? Oscar Mayer? The options are many, and dizzying.

Just in time for the 4th of July, we've got some answers! Ben and I took a recent Saturday afternoon to execute a blind hot dog taste test. We got the idea after we watched a sort of historical documentary piece about hot dogs/frankfurters/wieners on the History Channel. We grilled each of the hotdogs until they were an even done-ness, put them in a toasted whole wheat bun, and each got a stripe of mustard. Add a blindfold, a makeshift ratings system, and here you go:

Here's how the ratings worked:

5: Highest, ideal.
4: Pretty good; not perfect, but pretty, pretty, pretty good.
3: Take it or leave it.
2: I guess I'd eat this if someone made me
1: I never want to eat that again.

We tasted all the dogs in the photo, here's how they ranked:
Oscar Mayer
Rating: 3.5
You know the song. I won't sing it. In the blind test, these dogs stood up as a pretty decent standard. They were really salty, which I think is something most people crave when they think of a hot dog.

Nathan's All-Beef Franks
Rating: 5
Great hot dog - they were seasoned really well, and the grill charring was a complement to the overall flavor. I'd recommend these to any griller. From the first bite, this was the standout dog in the crowd.

Tofu Pups
Rating: 1.5
First, to be fair, these probably are not meant to be grilled. When I was grilling it, it cooked about as well as a plastic bag would. The yellow-ish color was a little off-putting as well. The consistency of these were pretty gross, with tofu being a prominent flavor. I expected to really like these, but couldn't bear more than a couple bites.

Smart Dogs
Rating: 2
If you had to grill a veggie dog, make it a Smart Dog. It won't taste like meat, but it won't taste like tofu, either, which is important. These were seasoned well and stood up to the grill a little better than the tofu pups.

Ben's and my scores were averaged.
We know it wasn't the most comprehensive taste test, but given that there were only two of us...we felt like we got a pretty good grasp on the standards. Stay tuned for more taste tests of your favorite junk food. Any suggestions?

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

tomato soup

Chalk this one up to being another San Marzano miracle, but this was some great soup! 

Tomato soup:
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
Serves: 4

You'll need:
  • 1 - 28 ounce tin San Marzano stewed tomatoes
  • 1 jar roasted red peppers (10-12 oz.)
  • 6 leaves basil
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 1 and 1/2 t. salt
  • 1/2 t. red pepper flakes
Special equipment: blender.

First, peel and finely chop the garlic. Next, heat your 2 T. olive oil in a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and stir until golden. Add your red pepper flakes and cook for another minute. Next, add the stewed San Marzano tomatoes - use your spoon to break them up a bit. Then, tear the basil into the pot, and stir. Last but not least, season with salt. Cover, and let simmer for 10 minutes. 

To puree the soup, use your blender. Pour the soup (can still be hot) into the blender - but either leave one corner of the lid up, or take out the plastic center part - and cover with a double layer kitchen towel (if you don't you'll create a tomato explosion inside your blender by emulsifying hot liquids in a small space--trust, don't do this!). Blend on low speed for 1 minute. Pour back into your saucepan and heat over a low flame before serving.

To serve: Ladle tomato soup into bowls. Top with a crouton, a curl of parmesan cheese, and a basil leaf. Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy!