Wednesday, May 23, 2012

All About Artichokes

Be forewarned, gratuitous concentration on a single ingredient ahead. With warmer temps finally here, my grill calls daily. It's such a nice way to enjoy the outdoors and spend time with the husband. 

I made a marinade in the morning, but other than that the prep was minimal. This was time for to let the ingredients shine. Enter purple asparagus and fresh artichokes. The purple tones called from the grocery aisle; the deep violets were irresistible. 

The spin-y thistles are notoriously intimidating. Scales and spikes. Food dinosaurs.

Bon courage... seize the artichoke day... you can do it! Sever the stem with gusto and reveal its painterly insides. Plum brush strokes draw you in and you realize this will be worth the extra effort. Marvel at the color and pause to appreciate the geometry.

Halve and re-affirm yourself that it is only thistle. Use your spoon to clean out the fibrous pith. Remove the spikiest outer leaves.

Before you grill brush with olive oil and a bit of balsamic vinegar. Wrap in foil and grill over indirect heat.

I enjoyed with grilled purple asparagus and lemon chicken. But really... who even pays attention to the rest when there are artichokes to be had?

Grilled Artichokes, Chicken and Asparagus
3-4 chicken breasts
Juice of one lemon
Herbs de Provence
1 bunch asparagus
4 artichokes
Olive oil 
Balsamic vinegar

Marinate chicken breasts for several hours in lemon juice, olive oil and herbs. Prepare artichokes by removing stem, outermost leaves and choke. Lightly coat artichokes in olive oil, vinegar and S&P; wrap in foil. Do the same to your asparagus. 

Grill artichokes over high, indirect heat for about 30-45 minutes. With 20 minutes remaining, add your chicken and asparagus in the last 8 minutes. 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Shrimp and Grits

After returning from a weekend trip, our fridge was seriously depleted. What could one do with less-than-crisp snap peas and slightly mushy tomatoes? I'm convinced buttery grits make everything better. Bacon doesn't hurt either. 

Stone ground grits give amazing texture, making them well worth the extra minutes (as compared to corn meal). They will make even the lightest of meals toothsome.

I gave my shrimps a quick toss in smoked Spanish paprika. Mine were pre-cooked, but you could certainly still do the same with raw.

A few slices of bacon were fried up and most of the fat removed... but just enough left to sautee my veggies and shrimp. Don't overcook your snap peas here, they should still snap after all.

Glorious and gritty.

Shrimp and Grits
1 lb shrimp
3 slices bacon, chopped
2 tomatoes, chopped
2 cups snap peas
3 green onions, chopped
1 tablespoon smoked Spanish paprika
2 cups grits
1 1/2 cups water
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup milk

Cook your grits according to package directions. Don't skimp on the butter here... it adds amazing flavor and helps keep those suckers from sticking to your pan wicked bad. Make sure you add the milk for creaminess (fat free does just fine).

Marinate your shrimp in paprika. Cook off bacon until crisp, remove from pan to paper towel. Drain off most bacon fat, but leave about 1 tablespoon remaining. Sautee tomatoes and snap peas just until tender, add shrimp (if pre-cooked) and green onions for last minute.

Serve over delicious grits.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Greek Veggie Pitas

Classic weeknight fare going on over here and since it's Monday my healthy eating motivation is at peak. Veggie packed whole wheat pitas with toasted chickpeas. This is crunch I can get behind. 

I learned this trick from Mark Bittman (one my all time favorite food writers) and I've made it more times than I can count. Coat canned chickpeas with olive oil and seasonings of your choice. Broil until crunchy. You'll swear you're eating junk food. 

Tonight I seasoned with garlic, mixed herbs and a healthy dose of cayenne. 

My veggie stuffing included cucumber, red pepper, tomatoes, green onions and kalamata olives. Brought me right back to my Santorini honeymoon. 

Okay, so I "toasted" my chickpeas a bit much. I got distracted by my wine. The extra color totally adds flavor right? 

Tzatiki was called for of course. I do mine with nonfat Greek yogurt, lemon, dried mint (fresh if I have it), garlic and S&P. 

Let the pita stuffing commence. Feta made things even meatier. 

Hello gorgeous crunchy color. The hot, cayenne-ed chickpeas perfectly balanced by the creamy, tang of the yogurt sauce.

Greek Veggie Pitas
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
1 cucumber, chopped (I like the English hot house kind... no seeds)
Small handful of kalamata olives
Feta cheese
One can chickpeas -- toasted with olive oil and seasonings 
Whole wheat pitas

8 oz container nonfat Greek yogurt
Juice of one lemon
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried mint
Dress chickpeas with olive oil and seasonings. Broil 10-15 minutes until crispy. Stuff warmed pitas and enjoy with tzakiki sauce. 

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Adobo Pork Chops with Pineapple Salsa

Sun was shining and the grilled beckoned. The sun woke me up chipper and the plan for the week was made: 
  • Adobo Pork Chops with Pineapple Salsa and Black Beans with Rice
  • Grilled Chicken Greek Pitas
  • Caprese BLTs 
Lists were completed and groceries collected. The warmth drove me to char-grilled flavor and crunchy vegetable bite. 

The pork marinade started with canned chipotle chilis with adobo sauce. One of my favorite things in cans. The spice is subtly burned my fingertips, building anticipation for the meal to come.

The chipotle chilis made friends with cider vinegar, garlic, oregano, S&P.

Marinade meets meat and the two partied together all afternoon.

Fun and fresh salsa was prepared, the sweetness would cool the chipotle chili, surely.

Pineapple, green onions, tomatoes, jalapeno, cilantro and lime juice. What a colorful bowlful.

Marinaded pork hit the grill on medium, direct heat. Approx. 6 minutes per side.

The sun set on my third-floor kitchen, light too beautiful to capture.

Cuban black beans and leftover brown rice set the stage. Fresh, fruity and spiced. Tasting the summer to come.

Adobo Pork Chops with Pineapple Salsa
Interpreted from Weber's Big Book of Grilling
For the Marinade:
2 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
2 chipotle chilis in adobo sauce
1 tablespoon adobo sauce (from the canned chilis)
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon dried oregano

4 bone-in pork chops, 1-inch thick

For the Salsa:
2 1/2 cups diced pineapple
1 1/2 cups diced tomato
2 green onions
1 jalapeno pepper
2 tablespoon chopped cilantro
2 tablespoon fresh lime juice

Combine marinade ingredients and brush on both sides of meat. Marinade four to eight hours. Combine salsa ingredients.

Grill room-temp chops over direct, medium heat until juices run clear, about 12 minutes. Remove from grill and allow to rest. Serve warm with salsa, over black beans and brown rice

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Tuna Steaks with Tomato and Red Pepper

What to do on a weeknight when you get home and are stressed and starving? Fish...lean...quick-cooking. I'm all in. 

Started with the good stuff... tuna, cherry tomatoes, red pepper, onion, lemon and basil. Found some frozen lentils in the fridge. Big thank you Mr. Microwave. 

I was craving color and flavor. This was turning into a red, red meal with paprika, salt and pepper. 

Thinly sliced an onion and two red peppers. Sauteed them together until the peppers softened and the onions turned golden and sticky. I added halved tomatoes and cooked until their luscious juice seeped. Cleared a spot in the middle and added my fish with a subtle sizzle. 

Contemplated what the future would hold (you know... the rest of my life) until my fish got toasty. How very quarter-life crisis of me. Turned after three or so minutes. 

What a pretty red pile. Lentils laid the foundation with tuna as a firm build. Haphazardly the peppers, tomatoes and onions joined the mix. Basil boldly founds its way.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Spinach Artichoke Stuffed Shells

Still dreary in Chicago. I'm ready for caprese and grilled goodness, but the rain is keeping the sunshine away. Even the dog is over it. Making the most of these last cool days and hoping it's the last time I'll crank up the oven until after Labor Day. This false hope may just be the Missouri girl in me, thinking spring should be 80 degrees and full of red buds. Hopeful led to hearty this Sunday with stuffed shells, chock full of lean turkey, spinach and artichokes. Recipe inspiration from Giada, but gave it my own groove (and showed less cleavage than she does).

Marinara was called for. Nothing beats the real thing. I started with my mise. 

The goods. Onions, garlic, celery, carrots, tomatoes, olive oil, red wine, S&P, bay leaves and chili flake. 

The chili flake makes this. The need for heat. 

Don't forget the wine. Layers of Montelpuciano flavor. 

Now for your filling. Ground turkey, artichoke, fat free ricotta, parm, two eggs, garlic, basil, spinach and onion. 

Artichokes somehow look alien and artful at the same time. My husband may love them more than me. 

I browned my turkey with onion and garlic, added the artichokes and spinach in the last two minutes. Let it cool. Patience chickadee.

Combine your ricotta, egg, parm and basil. 

 Smoosh it all together. Make sure your turkey is cooled. 

Marinara on the bottom of your pan. 

Stuff your cooked pasta shells with the turkey cheese mixture. It will be messy and somehow soothing. 

Arrange however you think is pretty. Don't take photos of the shells that you overstuffed and cracked. Focus on the good ones. They'll all taste wonderful. 

Top with sauce and shredded mozzarella. Think about old timey casseroles and potentially fool yourself that you made lasagna, just for a minute. 

Wait in anticipation and chop some basil to distract yourself. Hmmm...what kind of cocktails would this be good in? Wonder how on earth you skipped a mint julep on Derby Day. Seriously, how did you miss that? Bring it back... pasta is almost done. 

Melty and bubbly. Officially hungry. 

 All up in the kitchen in my heels... dinnertime. Thanks Beyonce. 

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Sriracha Soy Salmon

The red rooster called me. The world is solved with sriracha. 

It's the end of the week and I'm running low on fresh foods in the fridge. Praise for freezers full of wholesome, quick goodness.

Threw the salmon in a quick teriyaki marinade while I walked the dog. Stir fry veg and brown rice called me from the freezer.

When it comes to frozen foods, I prefer to keep things simple, steering clear of things with prepared sauces. Straight up frozen veg...nothing else. 

I said to self, "I want this to taste like yummy asian stuff," so these are my go-tos for sauce. Flavor packed sesame oil, a touch of soy and rice wine vinegar. 

Stir fry in a bit of neutral oil and make a it saucy at the end. We all like it saucy, right? 

Killer secret ingredient...sriracha salt. Combine sea salt with a few tablespoons of the red rooster and let it dry out for a day or two. I made it as Christmas gift  for my sriracha-addicted brother and kept some for myself. Subtle and spicy. Can't even talk about how good it is on edamame...can't even articulate it.

Salmon came out of the broiler with looking crusty and delectable. Teriyaki caramelized bliss.

 Big surprise, I finished with the good stuff. Where would I be without you red rooster?