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Archive for the ‘From The Grill’ Category

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Poblano Chile Tostada
from the Eat Wisconsin Cheese website

Corn tortillas are heated to a crisp, then topped with roasted poblano peppers, grilled chicken and zucchini, fresh corn and tomato and then heated to warm everything through. Top with cilantro and queso fresco cheese. This is a great item for the grill as you can make multiple tostadas with ease, and if offering a variety of ingredients, everyone can customize to their liking.

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My goodness, I’ve been MIA on the food posts for a week!! What in heaven’s name have I been doing? Playing hooky in the summer sunshine? Ah, sadly no….

Picnics in the gentle July breezes? No again……

Oh yeah….. *sigh*
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Despite it being high summer, where sunshine and warmth and summer vegetables should be in abundance, instead we’ve had copious rainfall (a good thing, according to my crunchy grass) cool temperatures and a totaled Audi, our best and most reliable vehicle.

Thankfully no one was hurt. Both Mike and Griffin were in the car and have some very minor whiplash, both completely treatable, but the poor car was a total wreck. The frame was badly bent, the cargo area crushed, the fender pushed under against the wheels and the entire back end twisted to the right due to an unattentive driver who rear-ended it. Our insurance settlement was fair and very favorable, now it’s on to focusing our intentions to the purchase of a new vehicle. We loved this Audi, the A6 wagon, and fully intend to get another one, a newer model with lower mileage. Already we’ve seen some very promising vehicles. And once again, when faced with something difficult and trying, the outcome could have been so much worse and we’re really so very fortunate and blessed in that regard.

So there’s been my focus for the past week. The Audi was my car primarily, and having to clean it out and leave it at the salvage yard was like saying goodbye forever to a trusted and reliable friend. While it’s only a chunk of metal, I really loved it, and it was as close to a dream car as I’ve ever owned so for a day or two I simply felt heartbroken.

Dinners have been almost an afterthought, and even when effort was made they remained pretty simple; grilled chicken, delicious chicken sausages stuffed with hearty portobella mushroom chunks, some of the first summer sweet corn, grilled eggplant and zucchini and still, lots of hearty summer salads made with tons of fresh vegetables and the nicest greens found from the farmers market. We’ve done BLT’S, making Griffin nearly dance with joy over the prospect of BACON for dinner, but now that he’s off for a week of service with his youth group, Mike and I, once again, declared the house a Meat-Free Zone.

And to celebrate, I made Quinoa, rich with a hearty helping of fresh vegetables.

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This was one of those dishes made out of the odds and ends that accumulate over a short window of time in your fridge from various meals. I couldn’t possibly create it in this same way again, but the idea of it is open to infinite possibilities. All you need is cooked quinoa for the base and the rest is up to your taste, imagination and whatever leftovers you have on hand.

What did go in to this version was about half a chopped red pepper, a clove of thinly sliced garlic, an ear of leftover sweet corn, two slices of grilled eggplant and about four of grilled zucchini (i’ve been crazy for grilled veggies lately- maybe because of my spiffy new grill???) , the remains of two store-bought deli salads left from a party, half an avocado and four slices of tomato. It didn’t need any seasoning but salt and pepper.

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It was a nice dish to enjoy in the company of an attentive and interested cat too….
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This isn’t a whole lot different from what I posted recently….my apologies if repetition annoys you but that post brought forth a few inquiries that were deemed noteworthy to address,  so here’s a few good tips……

Cooking quinoa:
Measure 1-1/2 cups of water into a saucepan with a tight fitting lid and bring to a boil. Meanwhile, in a mesh colander, rinse 1 cup of quinoa well, lifting it with your fingers to make sure it gets saturated. Quinoa is a very dusty grain, and although most commercially available sources have already removed the bitter saponin from the outer husk, a thorough rinse is always recommended. When the water boils, add the washed grain and cover the pan, bring it back to a boil then reduce heat and allow to simmer for 15 minutes. The water should be absorbed and small ‘eyes’ will have appeared in the top of the grain. Remove from the heat and allow to sit for 5 minutes or more to steam. I’ve left the grain for up to half an hour once cooked with no issues. Steaming is necessary to ‘finish’ the process.

Grilling Vegetables:
I’ve had several queries lately about how I grill vegetables, and this will mainly cover eggplant and zucchini as those are my most current obsession.  The key to cooking eggplant is NOT to add too much oil. Eggplant is like a sponge and will absorb an enormous amount of oil which is then released when cooked, turning the vegetable to mush. I cut the eggplant into thick slices and brush one side only with olive oil, usually seasoned with dried basil and garlic. Resist the urge to add more. For zucchini, I cut them into long slices, and as thick as possible. This will vary depending on their size. I brush them with a bit of seasoned oil as well, then sprinkle them all with sea salt and a little pepper and a nice dousing of McCormick’s Parmesan Herb seasoning mix. (this is optional, but it’s pretty darn good)

I use a gas grill, and this is my method:
Heat your grill on high until it’s good and hot, then scrub your grates well with a stiff wire brush. I’m kind of a fanatic when it comes to keeping my grill grates clean, but it keeps them from getting anything gunky or off-tasting on my food. Once they’re scrubbed, using a pair of tongs, dip a wad of paper towel into some cooking oil- I use canola- and wipe the grates well to prepare them. The more you scrub them off, the more you need to season. Turn down the heat to low- remember, it’s already really hot- and then place the vegetables oiled side down on the grates and shut the lid. Let them cook, undisturbed, for about 3-5 minutes but keep an eye on them. The edges should be curling slightly or showing wrinkles, then flip them over and allow to cook on the other side for about five minutes more. They should be soft but not soggy, and have some nice grill marks.

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Sometimes you just need something simple, undemanding. A meal you don’t need to really think about, plan for or work up a sweat to pull off, something you know you’ll love just by reading the recipe title.

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Indian spiced? Vaguely. Certainly not the kind of aromatic and mouth-watering way that I think of when I crave Indian food. It’s one of my favorite cuisines, my most requested meal away from home. These pitas made me think more of Gyros than Indian food.

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But quick, simple and uncomplicated was in order for dinner, and once all the fixins’ were ready, we stuffed our pitas and then our mouths. I don’t know when I’ve seen a sandwich disappear so quickly. Mine was so full that the pita basically exploded.

Delicious? Absolutely. We both went back for seconds.

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I have a confession to make; see those red onions above? Superbly sliced thin and perfect? The tomatoes, all in a row and the same size? The perfectly julienned spinach? Anyone notice the regimented slices of beets in my last post?

I did it all by hand; a bit scary, it’s so neat and perfect, huh? But here’s the deal; when I was in culinary school one of the coaches for our student competition team told me that I was a perfectionist and I got kind of ticked off. He said something to the extent of  “Why would you get mad about it if it’s true?” Problem was, I didn’t know it was true and it irked me that he was pointing out a truth to me that I hadn’t realized. Once I accepted it, it made my life easier, and quite frankly, I was able to tone down a lot of that need for perfectionism after recognizing and acknowledging it. It makes it easier on my psyche for accepting the inevitable errors and mistakes, whether in the kitchen or elsewhere in my life.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t like to WOW the masses with my ‘human mandoline’ skills when I can.  If you like how I can slice that onion, you should see what I can do, by hand, to a clove of garlic.

Indian Spiced Chicken Pitas
Eating Well magazine, June 2009

1# chicken breasts
2 T. garam masala
1/4 c. olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Toppings for pitas: sliced tomato, sliced red onion, shredded romaine or spinach

Blend garam masala and oil and brush on chicken. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and refrigerate for about an hour. Prepare to liking either on your grill, stovetop or oven method.

Cucumber Raita
Classic Indian Cooking by Julie Sahni

1 medium cucumber, peeled and seeded
1 medium tomato
1 green chili, optional
1 c. plain yogurt
1/4 c. sour cream
1 t. roasted and ground cumin seeds
2-3 T. finely minced cilantro or mint (both together is divine)
1/2 t. kosher salt

Blend yogurt and sour cream with a whisk. Stir in chopped cucumber, chili, tomato and seasonings and stir to blend. Allow to sit for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Stuff pitas with chicken and toppings, serve dressed with raita.

KATE’S NOTES:
I added some finely minced green onion to the raita and about a teaspoon of garam masala. We did not have sour cream on hand. The raita would have been slightly more tangy and sour with it, but it tastes just fine without it too. Sahni’s recipe calls for removing the pulp from the tomato but I left it in. It also calls for grating both the cuke and tomato. That would be entirely up to you. I like a chunky raita so I chopped them. I do, however, highly suggest fresh cumin seeds- really for everything- because the flavor is much more pronounced and brighter than pre-ground cumin. You would need a dedicated spice grinder or a mortar and pestle for them. Both work well.

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Anyone remember this?

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Ok, so I’m not trying to compare myself with some crazy looking statue….one that’s squatting, for goodness sakes, but yesterday was a day to make me one utterly happy and excited home chef.

I got a brand new grill!

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Our old grill hung around for nearly seven years, but should have been replaced at least two years ago. The shield over the burners was corroded and crumbling, it didn’t heat or cook evenly and the ignition was busted, requiring a torchiere to light it every time. The burners were not very well protected, and a strong wind would blow out the flames if you weren’t paying attention. I don’t have to tell you how dangerous a running propane tank can be now, do I?

This grill is the same that resides at our lake home. We loved it so much that as soon as we spotted it on sale this year we snatched one for home. It has a huge cooking area.
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The four burners are highly conductive, providing even heat all around. The grates are super sturdy cast iron, and it provides terrific conditions for indirect cooking or smoking methods. It’s also fully protected, and despite strong breezes off the lake it has never been snuffed out by the wind.

There’s also a lip at the edge of the grates so that nothing can roll or slip off.
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This is perfect if you, like we do, regularly grill hot dogs or bratwurst. Nothing like a little crunchy grit on the ol’ dogs, huh?

So, with a bounty of produce from the Farmer’s Market and a kid-free evening, I made this amazing Grilled Vegetable and Quinoa Salad for Mike and I. The summer night wasn’t all that warm, but the salad was perfect; light, flavorful and simple, not to mention just chock full of nutrition. Our tummies were so very happy!

It started with some perfectly roasted gold beets.
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Some delightful grilled zucchini…

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I added in roasted red pepper, cubed fresh mozzarella and half of an avocado.

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Drizzled it with lemon juice and some good olive oil, seasoning with fresh ground pepper and a bit of Penzeys Shallot salt.

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And served it with quinoa, topped with unsalted roasted almonds.

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Variations are endless with this fresh and wonderful salad. I thought some chickpeas might make a nice touch. You could try a more southwestern touch with the seasonings, like cumin, chili powder or chipotle powder, use roasted poblanos or jalapenos,  stir in some black beans and use lime juice instead of lemon. Eggplant would be a nice addition too, as it grills up some beautifully. If you like raw onion, use some minced red. Add some goat cheese or feta instead of the fresh mozzarella. Grilled tomato or sweet onions would also be delightful. Millet, wheatberries or possibly even barley would make a good substitute for the quinoa.

Regardless, it’s a terrific, light and easy summer option for the abundance of summer produce, and those warm and muggy nights.

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yhst-73011301488282_2053_5859150I’m the minority in my neighborhood. The only girl out at the grill on any given night. The back of that mug is absolutely correct- it says ‘Saucy, smokin’ and HOT!’

And let me tell you, those boys ain’t got nothing on me.

Why is grilling such a guy thing? You go to any festive outdoor event in the summertime and there’s a guy at the grill, and the other guys there are gathered around like an envious pack, watching the grill, assessing the technique, gazing covetously at the grill itself, or the toys the cook waves about. They clutch their beers and shuffle their feet. It’s some odd ritual that I can’t possibly figure out. And where are the women?

I was never in the kitchen, or clustered around the food table, crowing like a group of hens with the other women- I was out at the grill, pushing my way front and center, taking in the scents and sights. I knew from a very early age that being at the grill was where it’s at, among the smoke and flames, the one everyone turned to because they were hungry and you held the key to filling that void. It’s about fire. And from the dawn of time, fire has been a guys thing.

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Well not in this house it isn’t!

I do the majority of the cooking in our house and so naturally it falls to me to grill as well, although I know plenty of partnerships where, despite the female influence at the stove, the guy automatically gets grilling rights. Hhhmmmpff.  Step away from the flames and hand me my tongs. Please. Like I said, the guys ain’t got nothin’ on me.

Although meat does make a slight comeback in our house during the warm months, as it takes on a flavor unlike any other when cooked over a flame, I’m just as happy with a huge plate of grilled vegetables and have made many other items on a grill too, my favorites being Pizza and Quesadillas. I even built a wood-burning pizza oven inside my patio Chimnea. More on that later.

Quesadillas have been a stand-by for a grilled meal, a simple and quick way to cook up a smoky treat. Once the filling is ready, they take but a snappy 5 minutes on a hot grill to be perfect.

So I marinated some chicken in lime juice and Penzeys Taco Seasoning-
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Made a bowl of my famous Guacamole-
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Stirred together some mustard oil for brushing on the vegetables-
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And prepped an array of goodies….baby vidalia onions, red peppers and zucchini-

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I love the flavor of grilled vegetables. Our gas grill is going on 7 years old and really needs to be replaced, but it is advantageous for this method because it has a superb hot spot that is just perfect for fire-grilling.

Mmmmm…..yummy charred goodness!
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The chicken looked spectacular. It almost seemed a shame to chop it all up.
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And wow, did it smell fabulous!

After prepping the vegetables and chicken, I left the grill on to get it smoking hot while I took everything inside and assembled the quesadillas.
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I use one tortilla per quesadilla as it makes it easier to rotate and turn on the grill. I’ve tried using two, with the filling between them, but inevitably when you go to flip them over, some of the filling is lost to the flames. Using one tortilla folded over eliminates that headache, and lost goodies AND cleaning out the charred bits from inside the grill!

Ta-Da!!
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Guacamole

3 ripe avocados, diced
zest of half a lime
juice from half a lime
1 T. kosher salt
2 t. Penzeys Adobo seasoning (or 1/2 t. each cumin, chili powder, onion powder, garlic powder and black pepper)
1 medium tomato, diced

Combine all ingredients and stir to mix. Allow to sit at room temperature for flavors to develop. {{I don’t use fresh garlic or raw onion in my guac- I think it’s a bit too overpowering, but to each their own}}

Mustard Oil for grilling

3 T. spicy brown mustard
1/2 c. olive oil

Whisk to combine and allow to sit for about an hour. It will not make an emulsion, but the mustard will flavor the oil and it’s terrific on grilled vegetables.

Making the Quesadillas is pretty subjective; use veggies suitable for you or your family. Shrimp or beef is a great substitute for chicken, or make up a whole lot of toppings and have a Build-Your-Own deal. I use the 10″ flour tortillas, folding one over the filling. The larger wrap-style tortillas work beautifully for quesadillas too, being quite substantial. The grill grates do not need oiling for tortillas- they won’t stick. Serve with sour cream, salsa and guacamole on the side.

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Honey Chipotle Chicken from Santa Fe Hot and Spicy Recipes by Joan Stromquist
4 chipotle peppers in adobo, finely minced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 T. fresh cilantro
1/4 c. honey
2 T. stoneground mustard
2 t. ground cumin
Juice of 3 limes
1 T. balsamic vinegar
2 T. vegetable oil

Place all ingredients in food processor and process until smooth, scraping sides as needed. Sauce can be used to marinate chicken prior to cooking; reserve about a cup to brush on chicken as it grills, or use to dip when its finished.

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Ginger Panko Salmon from Food and Wine magazine, October 2006

3 T. unsalted butter
1 small shallot, finely minced
1 garlic clove, finely minced
1 T. finely minced fresh ginger
1/2 c. panko crumbs

4 6-oz salmon fillets, with skin
2 T. fresh lime juice
1 T. dijon mustard

In a small skillet, melt butter. Add shallot, garlic and ginger, saute until shallot is clear, about 4-5 minutes. Stir in panko to coat with butter, then heat gently, stirring often until panko is lightly browned and fragrant. Remove from heat and spread on plate to cool. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Mix mustard and lime juice together until smooth. Brush thickly onto salmon fillets, then press crumb mixture evenly over top. Broil, grill or roast until cooked through.

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