Friday, July 31, 2009

Not Vegetarian Friendly!

I'm giving you all a fair warning now. This is a big, fat, beefy, meaty mess. If you avoid meat and/or beef, turn away now. I don't want you to see the carnage that will ensue.

OK, meat eaters, thanks for staying. This is tasty and a great alternative to a traditionally grilled steak. Also, it's a great, maybe even for me, preferred, alternative to stir-fried beef!

Soy-Marinated Flank Steak

The marinade. Soy, cider vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, red pepper flakes, brown sugar and some Dijon mustard. Mix it all together and let the steak marinate for 1-2 hours. The recipe calls for flank steak. As is the case, 99% of the time, I can't find flank steak in my various markets, so I used a large steak...of which I don't know the cut.

120 minutes up the grill. Before you go to cook the steak, SAVE the marinade. We're going to turn it into a glaze for later.

It's finally summertime in Washington, DC. That means one thing to me. It's too damn hot & humid outside. So this time, I fired up the grill pan. I also had no vegetables, so I sliced up some potatoes...this is really a pantry/freezer meal, so's all meat & potatoes!

Over medium high heat, my steak took 6 minutes per side and after 3 minutes on one side, I turned the steak 90 degrees to get nice grill marks.

While the steak is cooking pour the marinade into a sauce pan and bring to a rolling simmer over medium heat. Simmer for about 10 minutes, until the marinade is reduced by half. Be careful not to have the heat too high, or the sauce could overflow your saucepan. I used a pan that was a touch too small and came close a few times. Stir frequently and watch closely, or you'll have a hell of a mess to clean up.

Allow the steak to rest for 5 minutes before slicing. Cut into strips for easy serving.

Spoon the soy marinade/sauce over the beef and serve hot. This would be great with some rice and even some spicy/garlic broccoli. Sweet. Little tangy. Touch spicy. All sorts of crazy savory!

Soy-Marinated Flank Steak
from Everyday Food

1 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup packed light-brown sugar
3 TB cider vinegar
1 TB Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp red-pepper flakes
1/4 tsp ground pepper
1 flank steak (about 2 pounds)
Vegetable oil, for grates


1. In a 9-by-13-inch baking dish, whisk together soy sauce, sugar, vinegar, Worcestershire, mustard, red-pepper flakes, and pepper. Place steak in dish and cover dish tightly with plastic wrap. Swirl dish so that marinade coats the top of steak. Refrigerate 1 to 2 hours, turning steak occasionally.

2. Heat grill to high. Remove steak from marinade, letting excess drip off. Pour marinade into a saucepan and simmer over medium-high heat until reduced by half, about 10 minutes.

3. Clean and lightly oil hot grates. Grill steak, covered, 6 minutes; turn, brush with glaze, and grill until medium-rare, 6 minutes more. Let rest 8 to 10 minutes before slicing.

More wrappin'

On Tuesday night, we continued our wrappin' dinners. This time I was going to make a braised chicken/Mexican-style wrap.

I started by sauteing some boneless/skinless chicken thighs in a Dutch oven. The chicken was seasoned with salt & pepper and cooked in olive oil, just until crispy, but not cooked through. Remove the chicken to a plate.

,Add in 1 medium red onion, sliced. Give the onions about five minutes to dance around.

After the onions have softened add some veg. I thought I had a few bell peppers I planned to use. Wrong! I had one sweet Hungarian pepper, so I used that. If I had more, I would have used more. Let those move around a bit, then add some minced garlic and the spices. In this case I used some ground cumin and chipotle chile powder. The recipe I used called for using two chipotle en adobe, I recommend caution with chipotle, I think the flavors can go from nice to overpowering and bratty way to quickly.

Stir in a can of diced tomatoes and some addition water. Stir in some uncooked rice and return the chicken to the pot. Cover and simmer over low heat for about 20-25 minutes. The chicken will finish cooking, as will the rice. Now we wrap...

Scoop in some rice and vegetables. I roughly chopped the chicken and put some ontop of the rice. Add some avocado and maybe some cheese (used up some mozzeralla). If you have some black beans, you could add that, as well as some salsa.

Roll up and enjoy...very filling, totally satisfying and full of subtle flavors. The only thing missing for me, some more peppers, perhaps sauted instead of braised with the chicken and rice, so they would retain some of their crunch. And perhaps a little squirt of lime juice and some cilantro. But all and all, very good!

Recipe from Everyday Food.

Chipotle Chicken & Rice

2 TB vegetable oil
8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 2 pounds total)
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 medium red onion, thinly sliced lengthwise
3 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1/2 tsp ground cumin
2 canned chipotle chiles in adobo, minced
2 large tomatoes, diced large
1 cup long-grain white rice
Lime wedges, for serving
Chopped cilantro leaves, for serving (optional)


1. In a large Dutch oven or heavy pot, heat oil over medium-high. Season chicken on both sides with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Working in batches, brown chicken on both sides, about 6 minutes total; transfer to a plate.
2. Reduce heat to medium. Add onion and saute until soft, about 5 minutes, scraping up any browned bits from bottom of pot (if necessary, add a bit of water to release browned bits).
3. Add garlic, cumin, and chiles; cook until garlic is soft and fragrant, 2 minutes. Add tomatoes and 1 teaspoon salt and cook until tomatoes begin to break down and release their juices, 3 minutes. Stir in 1 cup water and return chicken and any accumulated juices to pot. Cover, reduce to a simmer, and cook 25 minutes.
4. Remove several pieces of chicken and stir in rice, making sure it is completely submerged in liquid. Replace chicken, cover, and cook until rice is tender and liquid has been absorbed, 25 to 30 minutes more. Serve with lime wedges and cilantro if desired.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Wrap It Up

Last night's dinner was easy and delicious. Can't ask for much more than that. Over the weekend we picked up some giant chipotle tortilla wraps from the Cheverly Community Market. We've had these before and really enjoy them. They have a subtle heat that plays very nicely without overpower the little kids.

I decided that we'd use the wraps for a variety of meals this week. For the first one, there would be chicken and it might be kabobed. In the end...not really...I decided to Greek it up. Let's get started:

First up...a marinade for chicken and veg. Juice of one lemon. 1-2 tablespoons of freshly chopped oregano, 2 minced garlic cloves, salt, pepper and olive oil. Whisk together until emulsified. Spoon a little of the marinade into a bowl for vegetables and into the remaining, add your chicken. In this instance, I used one package of boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into strips.

For the veg, I used what was in the kitchen. An orange pepper, a sweet banana pepper, cherry tomatoes and shallots. Cut them all to a manageable sizes and toss with the marinade. Allow the veg and chicken to soak up the flavors for about an hour. Note that the lemon juice in the marinade will make the chicken appear opaque. This is a chemical process similar to cooking with heat. It's ok, as long as you don't let it sit for several hours, or overnight.

Either grill the chicken or saute in a non-stick pan. I wanted to grill, but it was too hot and muggy for me outside, so I sauted the chicken. Also, I wanted to saute the vegetables as well. The chicken took about 8 minutes.

The veg took about 4 minutes. After the chicken was removed from the pan, all the vegetables were tossed into the pan, along with any remaining marinade that they were soaking in. After two minutes, the pan "dried out", so I added about 1/4 cup of water. This helped steam the veg, bring up any fond/chicken bits from the pan and otherwise finish the cooking. The tomatoes will just start to burst open. Don't let them cook too long or they will break down completely.

I decided on a base of green leaf lettuce that was dressed in a simple lemon vinaigrette (lemon juice, finely diced shallot, salt, pepper, pinch of sugar, pinch of oregano, olive oil). Lightly toss the lettuce in the dressing, then lay down a bed of it on the wrap. Add some of the chicken.

Top with the sauted veg, some toasted pine nuts and some cheese. Feta would be a perfect choice here, but I didn't have any, so I used some mozzeralla.

Wrap the wrap, cute and eat. You might need a fork for all the goodies that may or may not fall out. The filling was fragrant, herbal and wonderfully lemony! The chipotle wrap provided just a tiny bit of heat/warmth. And again, it played very nicely with the lemon and veg. A very good meal. Nearly perfect!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Grilled Pizza

With a little guidance from Tony Food, I tried something new this Saturday; Grilled Pizza. A pretty good success, but I'm not quite master of my domain yet.

First, we must make dough. You will need just over three hours of time, with short periods of work into between.

The Dough
from Tony Food, adapted from Alice Waters:

2 1/4 tsp Active Dry Yeast
1/4 cup warm water
1/4 cup rye flour (or whole wheat flour)

1/2 cup plus 1Tbsp warm water,
2 Tbsp olive oil
3/4 tsp table salt (1 1/4 for kosher)
1 3/4 cup all purpose flour

The yeast...

The flour...

The sponge...flour, water, yeast. To make the sponge, combine the first three ingredients and allow to proof for 20 minutes. Cover and place in a warmish place.

The sponge after twenty minutes. Add the remaining four ingredients and knead until combined and tacky.

Place the dough ball in an oiled bowl. Cover with a damp towel, again in a warmish location and proof for 2 hours.

The proofed dough. After the two hours of rest, punch down the down and re-form into a ball and allow to rest for another 45 minutes...

Prepped for the second proofing.

After 45 minutes, you can divide the dough into 2 equal size balls and begin forming your pizza rounds. Start with your fingers and push the dough into a flat round. Use a rolling pin to continue rolling to your preferred thickness. Try for about 1/4 inch thick.

Prep your pizza toppings. Sauce...cheese...check. Meats and veg should be partially and/or fully cooked. The pizzas will cook quickly on the grill so you want them to be ready to cook quickly or finish cooking quickly. I made two pizzas, 1) tomato, mozzarella and basil 2) tomato, mozzarella and sausage. I pre-cooked the sausage.

Make sure your grill is hot and the grill grate is cleaned and oiled.

Brush one side of your dough round with olive oil and carefully place your dough round over the coals, oil side down. The dough will immediately start to cook and bubble. Watch closely. With the hot coals, the dough can burn easily. Slide the dough around to prevent too much burning. Oil the top side of the dough and flip to cook the opposite side... with the grilled side up...start dressing your pizza...

...sauce, basil...and later the cheese. Allow the crust to finish cooking. The mozzarella melted beautifully, but it did not get brown and bubbly like a pizzeria style pizza...because I was expecting it...the bottom of the crust burned a bit...

...I learned from my error and corrected pizza two. The sausage pizza was cooked to near perfection...

...the cheese could have melted a bit more...but still very tasty!

...and here's the first pizza.

When all was said and done...we ate very well! The tomato, basil and mozzarella pizza was simple and classic. The parts of the crust that weren't burned black, were very crisp. Per the recipe, the dough/crust was great! The sauce was simple...canned, whole tomatoes, little salt, little sugar, little oregano...done. No cooking. Very nice.

However...the sausage pizza was much better. Something about the sausage and the grill/smokey flavors just played so well together. Totally and completely satisfying. I will certainly try one again.

Lessons learned:
*Don't try to make two pizzas on the grill at once. Especially if the coals aren't even, you'll have uneven cooking and moving uncooked dough around a grill just makes a mess of your crust.
*Make sure you have the appropriate heat level in the grill. To hot and you'll just scorch the dough. To cool and you'll have flabby crust.

Can't wait to try this again...grilled pizza is goodness in summer, without firing up the oven!

Thanks Tony!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Pollo con pina y jengibre

Last night's dinner was a treat...and I don't know how to classify it! Besides delicious that is...!

Chicken thighs, brined for an hour in a mixture of water, salt, pineapple juice and fresh grated ginger. The chicken was then grilled and glazed with Pineapple & Ginger Jam by Martha's Jam, here in Cheverly, MD. I kicked the jam up a bit with some cayenne pepper to cut the sweetness. I want to call the dish "pollo con pina y jengibre" (Chicken with Pinapple & Ginger), but the Spanish implies a Mexican/Latin/Spanish dish. However, the flavors were more reminiscent of Hawaiian/South Pacific Islands/tropical was almost a grilled Sweet & Sour Chicken. It was delicious and I look forward to my leftovers for lunch today!

I served the chicken with grilled peppers and rice. I wanted to throw some pineapple on the grill as well, but forgot to get some at the (left my shopping list on my desk!).

The chicken takes about 15 minutes to grill over a hot fire. Of that time, I usually keep the grill covered for half the time. This combo seems to give me good results with the grill/char and making sure the chicken is cooked through.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Wine Gift Box

Sorry folks...I haven't been very good with sharing wine reviews lately. It seems I've been more concerned with drinking the bottle, than I am of reviewing it and taking notes. Oops. That hasn't stopped me from trying several types of wine over the past month.

This was a gift. Not bad for a Chardonnay. Not too oaky.

For under $9 this is ok. I'm not going to run out to buy another bottle.

We've had this twice. The first time we had it, I really enjoyed it. The second bottle...wasn't chilled as much and the mellow fruit notes were to strong for my liking...very floral and ripe melon. This is one I prefer super chilled.

Not so much. This bottle was hot with alcohol. Too much. Burning. I did have a few notes saved from this bottle. Take what you will from these:

*Tannins gave me goosebumps
*Flavors start with resin, tar, smoke and tobacco, followed by strawberries and spices
*After sitting for awhile, the flavors mellow to dark chocolate covered dried cherries
*The alcohol is hot

We enjoyed two bottles of this at a restaurant. Very nice. I'll look for this again.

Not a great summer wine. To big and fat for a hot day. Save this for a cold winter night.

I really enjoyed this organic, "green" Sauvignon Blanc. Will give this one another shot, when I see it again.

We bought this one when we were on vacation at the beach earlier this summer. I have to admit...I don't remember a thing about...guess that's all I need to remember...

Summer Soup

Up front honesty...I've never had gazpacho, never made it, never had any desire one way or the other. When I came across a recipe recently, my aging wisdom suggested that I give it a whilrl...

Some "vine ripened" tomatoes, seeds removed, and whizzed in the processor. "Vine ripened" in some factory somewhere I'm sure...still have some time before really good local tomatoes are ready!

Add in some bell pepper, cucumber and a little Hungarian hot pepper. Whiz in some garlic as well.

Chill and serve. Garnish with some diced cucumber, freshly cracked black pepper and a drizzle of olive oil.

Our dinner...some grilled/toasted bread, proscuitto, Parano cheese and a bottle of Black Ankle Chardonnay. Well done.

Gazpacho for One
by Everyday Food

Makes 1 serving.

1 large tomato, cut into chunks
2-inch piece cucumber, peeled, seeded, and chopped
2-inch-wide strip bell pepper, chopped
1 small garlic clove, finely grated
1/4 tsp sherry vinegar
1/4 tsp red-wine vinegar
1 TB extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
Coarse salt and ground pepper
Toasted country bread, for serving
Shaved Manchego cheese, for serving

1. In a food processor, puree tomato until almost smooth. Add cucumber, bell pepper, garlic, vinegars, and oil and season with salt and pepper. Pulse until mostly smooth.

2. Chill soup in the refrigerator 30 minutes (or up to 8 hours). Adjust seasoning; thin with water if necessary. Brush bread with oil. Serve soup drizzled with oil and topped with cheese, with bread alongside.

I mentioned in my photo comments that I used a Hungarian hot pepper. I only used about half of the pepper, next time I would use the whole and/or add some hot sauce or cayenne pepper to spice this up a bit. It was tasty, very cool and refreshing, but I needed a a bit of a kick in the pants.

Regarding the garlic. I know how my gastro system handles raw rudely revisits me for hours after consumed. So, I grated the garlic into some olive oil and put it over the lowest heat setting on my stove until it was fragrant and translucent, then stirred that into the gazpacho before chilling. The brief bit of cooking mellows the garlic flavor and it doesn't haunt me later! Totally unnecessary, but helpful.

I really look forward to making this again later this summer when I have farm fresh tomatoes! Do make sure to add some bread and cheese for a wonderful meal. The proscuitto was nice, but next time I'll skip it, unless I can get some high quality goods from somewhere other than Giant...blah!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Crack is whack...

...and these things will kill you!

Mint Chocolate Brownies
from Everyday Baking

chocolate and butter melting and getting gooey.

the mint part of the brownie!

chocolate and butter all happy together.

layering the peppermint patties into the better.

into the oven!

The final gooey mess. These are pretty ridiculous! The mint patty...the chocolate coating melts...the minty middles do you have a textured treat. Gooey chocolate, chewy mint filling. Very rich and incredibly decadent. No need to gild the lily with icing or a la mode. Enjoy.

8 TB (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for pan
8 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 cup sugar
3/4 tsp salt
3 large eggs
1/2 cup all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
24 small (1 1/2 inch) peppermint patties

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with aluminum foil, leaving an overhang on all sides; butter foil. Set aside.

2. Place chocolate and butter in a medium heatproof bowl set over (not in) a saucepan of gently simmering water. Stir occasionally just until melted, 4 to 5 minutes.

3. Remove from heat. Whisk in sugar and salt until smooth; whisk in eggs. Gently whisk in flour and cocoa powder just until smooth (do not over mix).

4. Spread 1/3 of batter in prepared pan. Arrange peppermint patties on batter in a single layer, leaving a narrow border on all sides. Top with remaining batter, and smooth surface. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out with moist crumbs attached, 45 to 55 minutes.

5. Cool completely in pan. Use foil to lift from pan; peel off foil and discard. Cut into 16 squares (4 rows by 4 rows).

Scott's Notes:
1) I used a foil pan. I sprayed with Pam "Does she got a sistah?". Worked fine. No need for the extra butter or the aluminum foil. If you use a regular pan, you will want the foil lining.
2) The melting of the chocolate & butter took 10 minutes for me. I kept the fire low.
3) I used 24 mint patties...the recipe called for 25...I think the last one was for snacking.
4) When you add the eggs, the batter will start to stiffen up...that's the eggs cooking in the hot chocolate mixture. That's ok. If you're making a custard, that's bad...but with this recipe, it's ok.
5) You really need to let the brownies cool completely before cutting. They will be gooey and if they are warm, you'll have a big fat another mint patty while you wait!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Partial Fail/Partial Win

Looks tasty. It was easy. Great, fresh ingredients. What went wrong?

I over-cooked the pork chops on the grill. They were like leather. But the flavor was still good, even if they were dry and tough. They were brined in a salt-water/orange juice solution, then seasoned with salt, pepper, cumin and coriander. Maybe the acid in the OJ toughened them up???

The corn was fresh from the market, as were the peppers. The corn was roasted on the grill...great! The peppers and some shallots were sauted in butter, the corn was added to heat thru. A final whiz of lime juice was added at the end. The lime and this type of pepper didn't play well together...and combined with the corn, the flavor was off and strange.

Oh biggie...mistakes happen...moving on....