Monday, September 27, 2010

Grilled Potato Salad with Bacon and Leek

Yes, you read that right. It's a potato salad, and it's grilled! Well, it's all in what you call it really. But it's simple, easy, tasty, quick, that's good stuff.

I have no idea what brand grill basket I have, it's been around forever and gets some serious use when the Chicago weather allows some outdoor cooking. It's round and from years of use blacker than Wesley Snipes in a closet at midnight. Vegetables mostly, perhaps a small piece of delicate fish. You should really get one if you don't already own one. I guess they now have semi-disposable grill sheets too. Made of space age materials? So it has technology from the 60's? Wow...how could you not want some of that??? Well, probably because it won't work for shit and the concept ain't exactly enviro friendly.

Grilled Potato Salad with Bacon and Leek
4 servings as a side

4 medium red potatoes, 1/3" slices
1 large stalk leek, 1/2" slices
1 large stalk celery, 1/2" slices
3 pieces thick bacon, 1/2" slices
3 cloves garlic, smashed
EVOO
S&P
rosemary sprigs
2 ts white wine vinegar

Fire up the grill to medium-high direct heat. In a large mixing bowl, combine potato, leek, bacon, and garlic. Coat with a couple TB's of EVOO, then season with S&P.

Preheat the perforated grill pan or basket for about 5 minutes. Quickly and carefully, add the contents of the bowl to the hot pan. Don't use too much EVOO or you could have a flash fire. You want to eat good food, not burn off all your arm hair or torch the deck. Of course I have never done this myself, I'm just pointing out common fire safety. Cook the veg until nicely browned, turning (sort of gently, or once cooked a bit could mash up some taters) often, for about 6-8 minutes. Return the salad to the mixing bowl, toss with a bit of white wine vinegar, season with S&P if desired. Remove rosemary sprigs and dice up a few leaves. Some chives or green onions would look nice too, they were 86'd that day. Serve immediately or at room temp. Pairs well with a big slab of dead animal.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Orzo with Grilled Shrimp, Summer Veg, Pesto Vinaigrette

The leaves are turning colors, some are already hitting the streets, sidewalks, and windshields.

It's a welcome change, as Chicago has had what seems to be abnormal- a long and hot summer.

It's the first day of Autumn! The autumnal equinox, and this year it's even more special- a super harvest moon. Way better than just a harvest moon.

Along with the quintessential dish of summer in a bowl, there have been a few other memorable meals this summer- like this or this or this.

I prefer this dish at room temperature, eaten slowly, fully conscious of every last bite of summer on your fork.

While harvesting your basil for the pesto, might as well make a batch and freeze some leftovers- just cover with a bit of EVOO to preserve. Making just 3 TB would be ridiculous.

Orzo with Grilled Shrimp, Summer Veg, Pesto Vinaigrette

6 servings as main dish
can be served cold or at room temp

8 oz. orzo
8.5 TB EVOO
2 TB red wine vinegar
1 large zucchini, 1/4" slices
1 red, green, or yellow bell pepper, quartered
3 TB pesto
2 TB lime juice
1 lb. raw shrimp, peeled and deveined (at least 26-30 size or larger)
2 medium tomatoes, heirloom preferred, rough chop (about 2 C)
8 oz. ball fresh mozzarella, 1/2" cubes
1/2 C basil chiffonade

Cook the orzo in a large pot of boiling, salted water until al dente, tender yet firm. Drain well, rinse with cold water, then transfer to a large mixing bowl with 1 TB EVOO, mix well. Let cool.

For the pesto vinaigrette- add pesto, lime juice, 3.5 TB EVOO, and red wine vinegar to a small bowl, whisk until combined.

Place the shrimp in a bowl with 2 TB of the pesto vinaigrette, toss well to coat, season with S&P.

Place the pepper and zucchini in a bowl, add 2 TB EVOO, toss well to coat, season with S&P.

Fire up the grill to medium-high heat. Grill the bell pepper and zucchini for about 3-4 minutes per side. Let cool, then slice the zucchini coins in half, remove the skin from the pepper and rough chop. Grill the shrimp until cooked through, about 3 minutes per side.

To the large bowl of resting orzo, add the pepper and zucchini, shrimps, tomatoes, mozzarella, basil, and the remaining vinaigrette. Stir gently yet thoroughly to mix well. Season to taste with S&P, add a few more drops pesto and some grated parm-reg to the final plate.

No season defines eating more than summer. The grill, the barbecue, the parties and al fresco dining. CSA shares, farmer's markets, roadside veggie and fruit stands, festival and state fair food. The freshest summer sweet corn, heirloom tomatoes, homegrown peppers and herbs.

Chicago has seen it's 8th hottest and wettest on record of 140 years. There have been many 90's, there was a record stretch of 80's. I'm ready for cool mornings, slippers, long-sleeve t-shirts.
See you around, summer. We'll miss you, but we know we can't live with you all the time, or it would ruin the relationship. You can rest assured that we love you more than your brother winter though.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Best Crudite Dip- Green Goddess

This is the best dip for crudite. Not even a close second. Forget that french onion or ranch crap in the tub.

What's with the name you ask?

Use whatever herbs you can get your hands on. Definitely use tarragon, as that gives the main herbal note, and you should have some parsley on hand. The chives are a nice touch, as is chervil, but I rarely have those available, so I like to throw in some basil or a ts or so of herbes de provence.

It's a party. Your veggie try is going to sit out for a few hours. To keep the raw goods at their freshest, soak in ice water for 20-40 minutes to bring out the absolute crispness in the vegetables. Who wants a limp carrot?

The Best Crudite Dip- Green Goddess

1 C mayo
1 TB white wine vinegar
4 anchovy fillets, finely chopped
1 small shallot, minced
1 medium clove garlic, minced
3 green onions, finely chopped
3 TB fresh parsley, chopped
1 TB fresh tarragon, chopped
1 TB fresh basil, chopped
2 TB fresh chives, chopped
1 TB fresh lemon juice
1 C sour cream
S&P

To your food processor, add 1/2 C mayo, vinegar, anchovies, garlic, scallion, shallot, and herbs. Pulse 8-10 times, then scrape down bowl and pulse another couple a times until well blended. Stir in the remaining 1/2 C mayo and sour cream, add about 3/4 a ts of kosher and some freshly cracked black pepper to taste, mix thoroughly. Chill for at least one hour prior to serving, will keep for 3-4 days as well, longest in a small container with limited head space.

Crudite- is whatever raw veggies you like. can also blanch and shock some stuff like florets, sugar snap peas (boil for 1 minute then ice bath)

red, green, orange, and/or yellow bell peppers, thinly sliced
small grape tomatoes, whole
celery, cut into 2-3" pieces
broccoli/cauliflower florets
baby carrots, whole
zucchini, thinly sliced
seedless cucumber, thinly sliced
etc.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Fresh Tomato Sauce, Frozen

So it's the end of summer and you have a hoard of tomatoes you don't know what to do with? Dare you say you're tired of BLT's? Well then, it's time to make some sauce. Special sauce, that is, because it will be much tastier than anything you've bought in the jar.

Why fresh tomato sauce, frozen? Because one day in January or February, when it's colder than the glares from my 5th-grade teacher, I want to enjoy a little taste of summer.

There are thousands of ways to make tomato sauce. Some people will insist you use a food mill. Some will insist you use only roma tomatoes. If it's the dead of winter and you don't have fresh tomatoes available, you could even use good canned tomatoes. It is that versatile. If you are limited, you don't even need the mirepoix of veggies. Just tomatoes will do, although the flavor won't be as well-rounded.

Fresh Tomato Sauce, Frozen
about 4 C

4 lbs. tomatoes, fresh and local preferred
1/4 C EVOO
1 small yellow onion, diced
2 medium cloves garlic, minced
1/2 medium carrot, diced
1/2 stalk of celery, diced
1/4 ts chili flake
1 TB tomato paste
1/2 ts salt

Heirlooms from the CSA- ready for sauce

Peel the tomatoes- using a very sharp paring knife, make a small X at the bottom of each tomato. Drop into a large pot of boiling water for about 30-45s, then either cool in an ice bath or under cool running water. The skin should peel off easily.

These romas were for some salsa- another time when I like to remove the skins.

Core your tomatoes if necessary. If you're using large tomatoes, quarter them. If you're using smaller romas, slice them in half. Place a strainer or mesh over a bowl and squeeze out the seeds, saving the juice. Roughly chop the tomatoes in chunks.

In a medium pot or dutch oven, heat up the EVOO over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, celery, chili flake and garlic, cook until lightly browned, about 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the tomato paste and stir for 30 seconds. Add in the tomato chunks and reserved juice, reduce the heat to medium-low. Using a potato masher, break down the tomato to your desired consistency. I prefer just a slight chunkiness to remain. Simmer for 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add a pinch of kosher salt to desired level. Serve immediately with some pasta, keep in the fridge for a few days, or freeze for up to 6 months or so.

I decided to try something new with this batch- Freezing some herbs just plucked out of the garden in the middle of the sauce. I don't know if I will need all that rosemary, oregano, and thyme in the dish, but it certainly won't hurt to have these fresh herbs available in mid-winter, right? Heeeeeel Naaaaw!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Sauteed Zucchini

September 1st. It's a bittersweet date. It's technically fall, and you know what is lurking around the corner. On the other hand, you have the growing season's late harvest to go with the precious few 80°F that sprinkle the first week or so of September. How many tomatoes have you eaten in the last 3 weeks? BLT's for dinner every other night? Mmmmmmmm, okay!

WTF? Is that a halloween store I just saw take up it's annual residence in that strip mall?

Sauteed Zucchini
4 servings, as side dish

2 TB EVOO
3 medium shallots, thinly sliced
3 large cloves garlic, thinly sliced
kosher salt
1 large or 2 medium zucchini, 1/4" slices
S&P
1/4 C toasted almond slivers
basil chiffonade
lemon juice

To toast the almond slivers, use a small dry pan over medium-low heat. Stir often for about 3-5 minutes. Very often.

Get out the largest skillet you have. Heat up the fat over medium-high heat, toss in the shallots and cook for a couple minutes, stirring until slightly softened, then add the garlic and a 1/2 ts of kosher salt, stir constantly for a minute or so. Before the garlic burns, empty it and the shallot into a small dish, return pan to heat.

Keeping over medium-high heat, add a little more EVOO if necessary, lay the zucchini so theys all flush with the pan. Maillard reaction, it's all about the taste and texture. Cook on one side for about 4 minutes, then on the flip for 3. You may stir it up a bit once both sides have browned nicely. Remove from the heat, then toss in the almonds and basil. Taste for seasoning and add a little S&P if necessary. If you have a lemon on hand, squeeze a bit of juice over the zucchini for some fresh zing. Enjoy the textural contrast. And of course, the taste.

BLT is all about recipes for things that taste good. Everything else, like the quality of the food pics, comes second. You might have seen pics from other food blogs that I like, they are amazing. But they have SLR's, tripods, special things for lighting and whatnot. Smitten Kitchen takes gorgeous photos. Donna Ruhlman, Michael's wife, ditto. Sure, I know natural light is best, but I don't have windows in my kitchen- so when I caught some late afternoon light on my dining table and took pics of this zucchini, it was revolutionary to see what natural sunlight can do for a food photo.