Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Grill and Chill Menu

Entertaining is always easier when friends get together and help.  Our impromptu get together menu was so fabulous that I wanted to share some of the recipes with you. When you divide up the cooking it is a fun way to get together with friends and have a great meal. We also grilled some rib-eye steaks and fillets that were sprinkled with kosher salt, fresh ground pepper and garlic powder and then drizzled with olive oil.  Vegetables from the farmer's market were great on the grill.  Cauliflower, zucchini and grape tomatoes seasoned with some Emeril's Essence were amazing. Our drinks were Don Julio on the rock with lime, and mango-tini's using Santa Cruz's organic mango lemonade, fresh lime juice and vodka.

Creole-Spiced Shrimp (Adapted from a recipe by Bon Appetite's Test Kitchen)

2 pounds peeled deveined shrimp
1 small onion, sliced 1 lemon, thinly sliced, plus juice of one lemon
2 tablespoons fresh oregano leaves
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon Old Bay seasoning
2 teaspoons chili garlic sauce
1 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 stick unsalted butter, divided in to 8 tablespoons

Toss shrimp and next 9 ingredients in a large bowl. Place four 16x12" sheets of heavy-duty foil on a work surface. Divide shrimp mixture among sheets. Fold all foil edges toward the center making a "bag" to accommodate the liquid, trying not to crimp the foil at the bottom. Add 2 Tbsp. butter and 1/4 cup water to each. Crimp tightly at the top to seal. Preheat oven to 325°. Arrange packets in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Alternatively, build a medium fire in a charcoal grill, or preheat a gas grill to medium-high. Bake or grill until shrimp are just opaque in center (carefully open 1 packet to check; steam will escape), about 20 minutes to 25 minutes.

Mango, Green Bean Basmati Rice (Adapted from Tyler Florence) 

1 cup basmati rice
1 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and smashed
Kosher salt
1/2 lb green beans, trimmed
1/2 small red onion, chopped
1/4 cup mint leaves, cut in thin stripes
1 fresh mango, peeled, pitted, chopped
Olive oil
Juice of 1/2 lemon

Put rice in 1 1/4 cup of water with 1/2 teaspoon of salt and smashed ginger. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low, cover and cook for 12 to 13 minutes, without lifting the lid. Remove rice and spread out on a sheet pan and allow to cool. Discard ginger. Bring a pot of salted water to boil and add green beans and cook for about 3 minutes. Add beans to ice water bath - this will stop the cooking and keep their bright color. Drain, cut green beans in half. Mix together the rice, green beans, onion, mint, mango and drizzle with olive oil. Squeeze lemon juice and combine well. Adjust seasoning with salt if necessary. Serves 4 to 6.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Corn and Black Bean Salad

Healthy and nutritious, this Corn and Black Bean Salad is fresh and is bursting with flavor. This could be used as a salsa with chips or on top of a hamburger, with maybe a slice of avocado. This is a great way to use corn, since it is in season right now. Olive oil, fresh lime juice and hot sauce makes the "dressing".

Corn and Black Bean Salad
2 to 3 ears of corn, husk and silk removed
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 large ripe tomato, seeded and chopped
1 red pepper, roasted, peeled, seeded and chopped (or use 1 jar)
1 tablespoon (or more if you like) jalapeno pepper, chopped
1 to 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2 green onions, chopped
Juice of 1 large lime
Hot Sauce
Kosher salt
1/4 cup chopped cilantro              

Blanch corn for two minutes in a pot of boiling salted water. Grill over medium heat for about 4 minutes until corn is slightly charred. Roast red pepper on grill until all sides a very charred. Cooking time varies. Put in a paper bag for a few minutes for it to steam. Remove and peel charred skin off. Remove corn from cob using a knife (or this gadget pictured). Add the rest of the ingredients. Mix well. Use olive oil, salt and hot sauce to your liking. Makes about three cups.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

How to Add a Pop of Flavor to Fresh Corn



For many of us eating corn on the cob is a summer ritual. Corn on the cob says it's summertime. It's as American as apple pie and everyone has it on their menu at some time during the summer months. Corn is in season right now and it is the best. Boiling or grilling are the common methods for cooking corn on the cob, but add a compound butter to fresh corn and you have transformed this standard food fair to new heights. A compound butter is simply mixing herbs or other ingredients to butter. It is a flavor booster. They are very simple to make. If you have a food processor then you can whip up a tasty butter in no time at all. I made this for my family tonight and my daughter would have had seconds if I had had more. This butter will last a few days in the refrigerator, so I plan on getting more corn this week. Try this recipe at your next barbeque.  It will be a new family favorite.




Corn on the Cob with 
Red Chile-Green Onion Butter 
From "Boy Meets Grill" by Bobby Flay 


(You can cut this recipe in half) 
2 sticks unsalted butter 
2 tablespoons ancho chile powder 
2 cloves garlic, minced 
1/4 cup chopped green onions, white and green parts 
2 tablespoons of fresh lime juice 
Kosher salt and ground pepper 
16 ears of corn, husks and silk removed 
Olive oil 


Mix butter, ancho chile powder, garlic, green onion, lime juice, salt and pepper using a food processor or blend with a spatula in a large bowl.  Combine well. Can be prepared ahead of time. Refrigerate until ready to use. Preheat gas or charcoal grill to medium. In a large pot, boil water and cook corn for 5 minutes. Remove from water. Brush corn with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper, if you like. Grill until slightly charred on all sides, about 2 minutes. Place corn on serving platter and spread on prepared butter.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Cayman Citrus Grilled Shrimp and Coconut Rice

I found a new line of spice mixes that I really like. They are by Urban Accents, a Chicago based company that began in 1996. Their line is all natural and they have spice blends, dry rubs, and drink mixes. You can find Urban Accents at Target, Mariano's, Sur La Table and other places. Their line of seasonings are influeced by flavors around the world such as Asian, Mexican, Latin, and Southwestern. Tonight I made grilled shrimp with their Cayman Citrus Heat Dry Glaze. It is a very spicy mix, so you need to be careful when using it, but we like it spicy. Simple to use, rub the meat or seafood with oil, place seasoning in a bad or large bowl and toss to coat. Let marinate for about 30 minutes. I made some coconut rice to go along with the shrimp. I thought it would be a nice complement to the spiciness of the shrimp. The coconut flavor is not strong. The rice has a creamy texture, and slightly sticky. Steamed sugar snap peas would be a nice addition to round out the meal, or maybe an asian slaw. This is a menu that I would definately serve to guests. For more information on Urban Accents go to their website: http://www.urbanaccents.com/

Cayman Citrus Grilled Shrimp

Urban Accents Cayman Citrus Heat dry glaze rub
Olive oil
Raw shrimp

Lightly coat shrimp with olive oil. Either put shrimp in a bag, or a bowl, and mix together with the seasoning. A little goes a long way with this seasoning. Marinate for 30 minutes. Skewer shrimp. Grill for a 2 to 3 minutes on each side, until opaque.

Coconut Rice

1 cup of instant rice
1 cup or coconut milk (light or regular, I used light)
1/4 cup of water
Pinch of salt

Combine ingredients in a small pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, and cook rice for 20 to 25 minutes, or until liquid is absorbed and rice is tender and fluffy.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Grilling 101

Photo credit - http://shindigzparty.files.wordpress.com

Summer is right around the corner and a favorite for many is grilling and dining outside.  I know it is a favorite of ours and we try to dine outside at home as much as we can. So, time to clean up the grill after the long winter under its cover (for some) and fire it up. If you are not familiar with the different types of grilling, I have some information here that may help you to get cooking outside.

There are some things to consider before you start. The type of meat, fish or vegetable requires the right temperature so that it doesn't burn and get over cooked. There are two types of grilling; Direct grilling and indirect grilling. Direct grilling, which the grill lid is up, you are cooking at a high temperature (500 degrees) and fast. This technique is used to sear meat and it creates a crisp and carmelized texture to your foods. Such foods that you would cook this way would be thin cuts of steaks, chops, kabobs, hamburgers, hotdogs, sausages and vegetables and delicate seafoods, like squid.

Then there is indirect grilling, which is similar to roasting in your oven. According to Grilling and Barbequeing, by the people at Cook's Illustrated magazine, there are two categories to this method of grilling - grill-roasting and barbequing. Grill-roasting is best for foods that are already tender, like chicken or beef tenderloin and fish. To grill-roast the temperature of your grill should be between 300 and 400 degrees. Indirect grilling this way is with the lid down, it seals in the heat, and is good for such meats as roasts, thicker chops and steaks too. Then there is barbequing, which is the method of low and slow cooking on your grill and is usually meant for ribs, brisket or pork butt. Barbequing allows the the cut of meat to render its fat, thus becoming tender. The barbeque technique requires that the temperature is between 250 and 300 degrees. Next time you are thinking about grilling, think about what you are cooking and which method will give you the best result. So, keep calm and grill on!

Grilling Basics

  • Start with a clean grill: Removing remnants of last night’s dinner and thoroughly cleaning your grill will decrease the chance of flare-ups and over-charring food. Using a grill brush, thoroughly clean the grates and remove food remnants. Empty the drip pans and ash-catchers to start with a clean slate!
  • Apply non-stick spray or a light coat of olive oil on the grates before turning on the grill: a well-oiled surface will keep food from sticking.
  • Use a meat thermometer and take the guess work out. Using a thermometer will make you less likely to overcook your meat and will give you the courage to go ahead and pull it off the grill! No more serving “rubber chicken.”
  • Don’t puncture or “press” on the meat. We’ve all seen people on the grill “flattening” burgers with a spatula — don’t do it! This squeezes all the juices out and dries out the meat.
  • Don’t micro-manage the meat. There is only need to flip one time per side to get optimal char marks. No need for constant flipping. Also, opening up the grill too often lets the heat out! Remember: “if you’re lookin’, it’s not cookin!”
  • Food will continue to cook after it is taken off the grill. Take the meat off a few minutes before it reaches the desired “doneness.”
  • Let the meat “rest”. When you take the meat off the grill, “tent” it in aluminum foil and let it rest for 5 minutes. This will let the juices in the meat redistribute for optimal moistness.
Grilling Basics was by Robyn Medlin, who is the ‘Grill Girl’ behind the popular GrillGrrrl.com, where she focuses on healthy and fun recipes, and innovative grilling ideas.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Just 4 Ingredients – Yep, 4!

4 ingredients I was at the library the other day doing my usual exploratory search for cookbooks, and I came across this book called,   4 Ingredients by Kim McCosker and Rachael Bermingham.  I have to admit I was skeptical. How could this be a book? (Which, later I discovered that there are many books on this subject.) Could there really be so many good recipes with only four ingredients in it?  Well, of course I know there are, but I kind of like the more challenging recipes to be honest.  There are times when you need a recipe that is quick and easy, or maybe you don’t have time to get to the store and you need to make something with what is in your pantry or refrigerator.  I picked up the book, along with the other 5 I had chosen, and checked them out.  I get home and I look over what I had picked out. These are wonderful looking books, I think to myself.  Which one am I going to look at first?.  There is one by Patricia Wells about salads as a meal and another by Chef Jean-George Vongerichten (remember that recipe for scrambled eggs I shared, it’s his. I hope you tried them.) But it is the 4 Ingredients book that I look at first.  I go through the pages and notice that there are no pictures of any of the dishes.  My daughter is standing there next to me and says, “If there are no pictures, I don’t want to look at it.”  Funny, how we like to look at the pictures.  I wonder how the sales of those cookbooks with pictures compares to those with none?  We all try to make the recipe look like the picture, don’t we? Anyway, I go through the book, page by page, and there really are some good sounding recipes, even if I can’t see a picture.  And there are no lengthy directions. Here are a few I’d like to try.  Maybe you would to? 

The Apricot Chicken reminds me of a recipe I used to make all the time, but it was with Kraft’s Catalina salad dressing mixed with the onion soup mix.  So easy and good, as I remember. As for the Baked Salmon with Pesto Crust, that is a topping that hadn’t occurred to me.  If you live in an area where there is a Trader Joe’s market, try theirs.  It is very good.  Though many stores have ready made pesto that are very good too. The brownies in the book seem delicious to me.  I love Nutella.  Not good for you (I hear there is a law suit against them for false advertising on nutritional claims, I think it is), but who cares!  Nutella is so good I eat it by the spoonfuls right out of the jar. Do you have a favorite four ingredient recipe that you would like to share?  If you do, post it on my Facebook page “The Inspired Table”, or leave a comment below. 

Apricot Chicken
8 skinless, bone-in chicken (I’m sure you could use skinless and boneless)
1 envelope French onion soup mix
1 onion, diced
2 cups apricot nectar

Preheat oven to 350.  Place chicken in baking dish, add soup mix, onions and apricot nectar.  Stir to combine well.  Cover and back for 1 1/2 hours. (Less time is required for boneless chicken)

Baked Salmon with Pesto Crust
4 salmon steaks
1/2 cup pesto
1/2 cup finely grated pecorino cheese
1 lemon

Preheat oven to 350.  In a large skillet, sear salmon steaks on each side for two minutes.  Meanwhile, combine pesto and cheese.  Spread over salmon steaks and squeeze fresh lemon juice over the top.  Bake for 15 minutes. (I think you could do this in the oven and omit the searing part in the pan.  I prefer salmon fillets.  Add pesto on top and bake.)


Brownies (I’m renaming this Nutella Brownies)
1 13 oz container of Nutella
2 eggs
10 tablesppons all purpose flour
1/2 cup chopped hazel nuts (You could omit this if you don’t like nuts in your brownies)

Preheat oven to 350.  Line an 8 inch cake pan with parchment paper.  Whisk together the Nutella and the eggs until smooth.  Add flour and mix until blended.  Spoon batter in to cake pan, sprinkle with chopped nuts.  Bake for about 11 to 13 minutes. Set on rack to cool completely.




Nutella Brownies




Friday, June 1, 2012

Popsicles for Grown-ups

popsicles                                       
Remember when you were a kid and the ice cream truck would come down your street?  Or maybe you lived near a Dairy Queen or some other place that sold ice cream and popsicles.  We lived near a Dairy Queen, and every summer my friends and I would walk or ride our bikes there for a treat. What kid doesn’t like an ice cream cone or a cool, icy popsicle on a hot day.  Grape Mr. Misty was my favorite, or sometimes I’d get a Dilly Bar. Ice pops were another favorite summer time treat.  Well, you don’t have to be a kid (you can’t be a kid for these pops!) to enjoy a popsicle on a hot day.  These popsicles for grown ups are refreshing for any summertime occasion.  This easy, no fuss recipe is from Ingrid Hoffman who made this recipe for the South Beach Wine and Food Festival cookbook. These popsicles would make a whimsical and colorful display either presented on a tray with crushed ice or in glasses, or with the stick in cute paper cups to catch the melted ice.  Listed are Ingrid’s suggestions, but you could get creative with any other flavored popsicle and alcohol of your choice.  Popsicles come in so many flavors these days. Release your inner child, treat your self to one.

Frozen Pina Colada Pops
Serves 6
1/2 cup rum
6 frozen coconut all-fruit popsicles
1 cup Demerara or Turbinado sugar
Toasted coconut flakes (I think could be optional)

Frozen Margarita Pops
Serves 6

1/2 tequila
6 frozen lime all-fruit popsicles
Margarita salt or kosher salt

Pour the alcohol into a tall, narrow glass. Remove frozen pops from their wrappers and submerge them, one by one, in the glass of rum, tilting the glass to completely moisten the entire popsicle. Sprinkle side with sugar and toasted coconut. Serve immediately, or return to freezer until ready to enjoy.

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