Thursday, August 30, 2012

BBQ Pulled Pork Tacos

Raise your bloggy hands if you're having a BBQ this weekend! What? You can't raise your hands and type at the same time? You should see someone about that. 

Don't worry guys, I tried it out first for you. I had a party just so I could blog for YOU... well and so I could drink lots of beer and sing Stevie Nicks in my backyard with my friends. "Just like the white winged dove, sing a song, sounds like she's singing... BBQ BBQ BBQ." Sing like you mean it girl. 

We had a crowd, so needed something 1) low maintenance and 2) cheap. Pulled pork is a natural and since this wasn't a seated meal, I served in taco form, rather than the traditional bun. 

Tacos in action...

If you're going to make something simple, the key is to do it really well. For me, that meant making homemade BBQ sauce.

Spiced and ready to simmer.

You're know it's done when it's reduced by about half. Also... taste it... it's done when it tastes good.

Pour homemade sauce over 2-inch chunks of pork shoulder. I've added a few chipotle chilis and adobo for extra smokey flavor.

Now for the waiting. Try your hardest not to open the lid... the pressure is what makes the slow cooker work. Advise husband to keep hands off or even consider a sassy note.

After about six hours (during which you clean up your cluttered apartment), you're ready to shred some pork. Nothing fancy needed here... two forks will get 'er done.

Tortillas are ready at the wait.

Finished tacos again. Also... when you drink lots of yummy beers in your backyard, you sometimes forget to take more than one photo of your finished food. Also, when your friends drink lots of yummy beers in your backyard, they will think this is the most delicious thing ever.

BBQ Pulled Pork
5lbs pork shoulder, cut in 2-inch chunks
3 cups BBQ sauce
4 chipotle chilis, in adobo

For the BBQ Sauce -- makes 4 cups
6 garlic cloves
3 cups ketchup
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
6 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup honey
3 teaspoons BBQ spice
1 tablespoon applewood smoke spice (or substitute with Liquid Smoke)
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon cumin

Combine BBQ sauce ingredients and simmer for 45 minutes (or until reduced by half). Place pork into slow cooker, top with chipotle chilis and 3 cups BBQ sauce. Cover slow cooker and set on low for 6 hours.

Once cooked, use two forks to shred pork. Combine with remaining 1 cup of BBQ sauce and serve in warmed corn tortillas, topped with coleslaw.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Weeknight Salmon with Grits and Greens

Does it hold true in the blog world that absence makes the heart grow fonder? Probably not… damn. My real world job has been just that lately, a job. Said job also has me coming to you from a plane to the west coast. There are lunches to be sold people!

With busy times like these, it’s good to have a few easy, healthy recipes up your cute three-quarter, stripey sleeve. Fish is great for occasions like this and when you add greens, you’ll sound like one of those healthy meal examples newly-thinned celebs give in magazines. Except that this is way tastier than “grilled chicken and salad with 6.5 almonds” every day for lunch. Annnnnnd… it has grits to keep you grounded in the reality of your non-famous, slightly soft rear end.

I know I’m not the only one jumping on this bandwagon, but kale is delicious. It’s a bit of a “gateway green” too; meaning once you get down with kale, you’ll find yourself seeking all sorts of other leafy lovers like mustard greens or chard. And let me tell you, these foods are seriously good for you.

 Still working on this evening lighting situation. Your patience and unwavering blog love is appreciated.

Weeknight Salmon with Grits and Greens
1-2lbs salmon
1 teaspoon grapeseed oil (or any other neutral oil)
2 tablespoons BBQ spice
4 heaping cups kale, loosely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons water
1 cup grits (preferably stone ground)
1 can jalapenos
2 tablespoons butter

Start by heating broiler and boiling water for grits (follow package instructions, as quantities may vary based on the type of grits you purchase). Cover a cookie sheet in aluminum foil and place salmon. Brush salmon with grapeseed oil and season both sides with spice mix. Broil salmon for 6-8 minutes, until firm (depending on the thickness of your fish). Tip: Lightly poke your salmon with a fork and if it flakes, it’s cooked all the way.

Continue cooking grits in accordance with the package instructions. In the last 10 minutes, add jalapenos and butter.

When your grits are 5 minutes from being done, heat olive oil in a large, deep pan over medium heat. When hot, add garlic and stir until aromatic. Add greens and use tongs to toss and distribute garlic and oil. Saute for 2 minutes, then add water and cover for another 2 minutes.

Serve immediately.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Grilled Peach Salad with Pickled Ginger and Snap Peas

"So how do you come up with new recipes?"... this is question I get A LOT. It's a very complicated, scientific process in which I say to self "hmmm... I like X... I should make more things with X." I'm very advanced, you see. 

Lately I've been completely addicted to Argo Tea's ginger peach iced tea and much to the chagrin and embarrassment of the husband, I can eat ridiculous amounts of pickled sushi ginger. Like enough that the waiter or waitress has to return to the table several times. "Seriously... more please."

So I decided to turn my favorite tea/sushi side into a summer-y salad. Peaches are grilled for extra sweetness, while sugar snap peas, pickled ginger and almonds add crunch. A sesame vinaigrette brings everything together. 

I mean... this fruit is art. The gradation of color is delicately painted by nature. I shall be so sad to see them go away for the winter. 

A quick grill brings out their sweetness, leaving caramelized lines of goodness gracious.

Pops of pink and green inspire hunger.

Grilled Peach Salad with Pickled Ginger and Snap Peas
For Salad
4 cups baby spinach
4 peaches, halved
2 cups sugar snap peas
3 green onions, chopped
2 tablespoons pickled ginger
1/3 cup toasted almonds
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
1 teaspoon grapeseed oil

For Dressing
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon rice wine vinegar

Rub down peach halves with grapeseed oil and grill on medium heat for 3-5 minutes. Assemble salad with spinach, peaches, sugar snap peas, green onions and ginger. Combine dressing ingredients and lightly drizzle over salad. Top with sesame seeds and almonds. 

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Ginger Beer Can Chicken with Chinese 5-Spice

I like to consider myself a woman of class. City sophisticated... I can pull that off right? A pair of heels and a cosmo, whilst throwing my head back in laughter at the city's trendiest hot spot. 

"Oh Charlotte and Miranda... Samantha made a sexy pun... how off-color." 

That was not my night tonight. Instead I hauled ass down three flights of stairs in my flip flops to unceremoniously shove a can of beer up the rear end of a chicken. And it was delicious. 

Now this is no frat house, so I did fancy it up a bit. Ginger beer, Chinese 5-spice, sesame oil and sriracha gave this flavorful flare.

Lovely spices included Chinese 5-spice, garlic, mustard, sesame seeds, coriander and sriracha salt. 

Once you've rinsed and dried the chicken, you'll need to get her good and sticky before the rub down (that sounds rather fratty doesn't it?). This is a combination of grapeseed oil, sesame oil and sriracha.

Spice 'er up with the dry rub. Don't forget her insides. Oooh baby.

Pick your favorite tall boy beer. Get 'er right in there. Instead of just beer, I've put together a mix of beer  and ginger beer. Whatever you choose, just make sure it has flavor. The can allows for 360-degree cooking, while providing moisture and flavor.

Before you know it you'll go from this... to this.

 Spices provide color and crust.

Some may think this is an inelegant preparation, but the gorgeous color, juicy meat and crispy skin are tough to argue with. No sequins or pumps required.

Ginger Beer Can Chicken with Chinese 5-Spice
1 whole chicken, 4 to 5 lbs
1 tall boy beer (drink half first)
1 ginger beer (drink half of that too)

For dry rub
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 tablespoon Chinese 5-spice powder
1 teaspoon dried garlic
1/2 teaspoon coriander
1/2 teaspoon sriracha salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

For sauce
1 tablespoon grapeseed oil
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon sriracha

Rinse chicken with cold water inside and out. Pat down and completely dry chicken. Combine sauce ingredients and brush all over chicken, including insides. Combine dry rub ingredients and season outside and inside of chicken. 

Combine ginger beer and beer in can, but be sure it is only 3/4 full. Hold chicken upright and place the cavity over beer can. If you prepare this regularly, it's helpful to buy a can holding contraption (ours was a gift), but the can will work just fine. Transfer the chicken to the grill, being careful to keep the can upright. 

Grill over indirect medium heat until the juices run clear, about 90 minutes. Use great care removing chicken from grill, since the can will be full of VERY hot liquid. Large tongs are particularly helpful, but it's much easier with two people. 

Let chicken rest for 10 minutes before lifting it from the can. Discard the beer and carve chicken. 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Portobello Burgers with Tomato Mayo

I got distracted watching autotune videos this week and slacked in the weeknight dinner department. We had planned to grill outdoors, but the rain put a damper on our fun. Grill pans are a great alternative; just be sure you've got the fan on.

Mushrooms are a great solution for quick weeknight meals. Flavorful, versatile and fast-cooking. A portobello burger is always satisfying for me, but I like to dress it up with some schmancy sauce to make it feel more like a meal. This time I went with a quick tomato basil mayo.

Look at these beauties. Did you know that you shouldn't actually rinse your mushrooms? They're spongey, so will soak up the water. I usually just wipe mine down with a damp cloth. Delicious fungus up in here.

Homemade mayo is as easy as dumping yummies in a food processor with a few tablespoons of your preferred mayo... and I KNOW you all have your favorites. Americans never switch.

Dinner done in just a few minutes. Dressed with saucy and greens on a whole wheat bun. Quick, homemade and something you can feel good about.

Grilled Portobello Burgers with Tomato Mayo
3-4 portobello mushrooms
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 tomato, seeded
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
5-6 basil leaves
3-4 whole wheat buns
1/2 cup baby spinach

Clean mushrooms and brush with olive oil. Grill over medium heat for 5-7 minutes, or until tender. For sauce start by squeezing liquid and seeds from tomatoes (otherwise your sauce will be runny). In the bowl of a food processor combine seeded tomato, mayo, basil and S&P. Process until smooth. Serve mushrooms on toasted buns with sauce and fresh spinach.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Strawberry Balsamic Steak Salad

After a lively Sunday Funday in the Wrigley bleachers, we needed something light. I had met my Chicago-style hot dog quota for the day. Luckily I had marinated some steaks in the morning and we took advantage of the seasonal strawberries for spinach steak salad with goat cheese. 

Maybe it was the cool, cloudy day or that the Cubs are inching closer and closer to being mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, but it felt like summer was drawing to a close. Plus when you're taking pictures of your food, you are hyper aware of the shortening hours of natural light. 

Side bar -- bloggers, any equipment recommendations? I need a flash that doesn't make my dishes look slimey. All natural light photography is just not going to be an option very soon. 

Despite my lamentations... summer is still here. So more reason than ever to enjoy summer-y ingredients. This strawberry salad hit the spot. 

Marinade started simple, with balsamic vinegar and rosemary as the stars. 

Enjoying the fresh herbs from my garden while I still can. Plus I like when my fingers smell like rosemary.

After your steaks have hung out in the marinade for 9 innings, you're ready for salad time (and a nap). Look at these strawberry beauties. They're certainly not going to look this way in January.

Perfectly grilled by the husband.

Summer salad satisfaction with a bit of grilled bread. If not playoff memories, at least we can look back on good produce.

Strawberry Balsamic Steak Salad
For the marinade
6 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon rosemary, minced

For salad
4 cups baby spinach
1.5-2lbs sirloin 
1/4 sweet white onion, thinly sliced
2 cups strawberries, sliced
1/2 cup goat cheese crumbles

For dressing
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar 

Combine marinade ingredients and pour over steaks. Marinade at least 4 hours or overnight. Grill steaks over medium indirect heat for 6-8 minutes (depending on thickness). Allow steaks to rest before slicing thinly. Combine spinach, onions and strawberries and top with cheese and steak slices. Lightly dress just before serving.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Grilled Arugula Pesto Pizza

I told you more would be coming from arugula pesto. Pizza friends, PIZZA. Homemade pizza often reminds me of those pop-open cans of dough we used to get in the early 90s's. Friday night sleepover anyone? This is a vast improvement. Let.Me.Tell.You.

Summertime heat? No probs here. We grilled it.

Here's the truth. I did not make this dough. Trader Joe's is really good at that.

I didn't make the dough, but I DID knead it. Even used flour and stuff. #legit

You could even go all CSI and find my prints. I totally killed this dough.

Before adding toppings, you'll pre-grill the dough. Then give 'er a flip and top al fresco with delicious arugula pesto, tomatoes and real mozzarella. Back to the grill it goes.

Ready to go.

Grilled to pizza perfection. A little misshapen, but hey, this is home cooking.

Serious improvement on the middle school Friday night. We're adults now. Have a glass of wine for god's sake.

Grilled Arugula Pesto Pizza
1 packaged pizza dough (whole wheat preferably)
1/2 cup arugula pesto
1-2 tomatoes, sliced
1 ball fresh mozzarella, sliced
1 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped

Prepare dough according to package instructions. Place on a floured, rimless cookie shoot. Preheat grill until VERY hot. Gently slide pizza dough onto oiled grill and cover for 2-3 minutes. Use cookie sheet to remove pizza and flip grill-side up. Thinly spread pesto on grilled side of pizza dough and top with tomato and mozzarella. Reduce grill to medium heat and place pizza (dough-y side down) back on the grill. Cover and cook pizza until crispy, 4-5 minutes. Remove pizza from grill and allow to set 2-3 minutes before topping with basil and slicing.