Saturday, August 18, 2007

I'm so bored

Tonight's Menu

  • grilled NY strip steaks
  • sauteed onions and mushrooms
  • chuffed potatoes
  • green salad with carrots from the garden
Let's get the whys and wherefores out of the way first.

The steaks were rubbed with olive oil that had minced garlic steeped in it (I minced a clove, put it in the mortar and pestle with some EVOO, bashed it up and let it sit for a bit), sprinkled with salt and pepper, then grilled over high heat for 3 minutes per side. They were medium-rare and perfect.

Onions were cut in wedges, sauteed in butter with some sliced baby bellas.

Potatoes were the usual.

I am feeling so bored and uninspired lately, food-wise. I think maybe I'm just biding my time until the kids go back to school (one week from Monday!) and I can start grocery shopping again without schlepping them along with me. Somewhere in the reptilian part of my brain, I have visions of finally finding a decent meat market in my part of town, buying my produce from farmer's markets or at least the health food store, and trying a few new recipes/techniques. But until then, bah humbug!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007


Tonight's Menu

  • grilled spiced pork tenderloin
  • fruit salad of cantaloupe, strawberries and blackberries
  • green salad
Okay, so it's supposed to rain for the next several days, thanks to Tropical Storm Erin. I figured this was the last night I'd be able to grill for a while, so I busted out the spiced pork tenderloin. It was VERY yummy and a little more spicy than the last time I made it, probably owing to the fact that I didn't bother to measure anything.

The fruit salad is pretty much self-explanatory. It only had the fruit in it. Cantaloupe was cubed; strawberries were halved. Easy.

Ditto the green salad. Bagged greens, chopped carrots, wedged tomato (the VERY last of the garden tomatoes).

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Kick-ass dinner

Tonight's Menu

  • barbecued baby back ribs
  • coleslaw
  • nectarines with mint
Every now and then I hit a home run. This was one of them, if I do say so myself.

I mixed together brown sugar, dry mustard, garlic powder, onion powder, chili powder, cayenne, salt and pepper and rubbed it all over a rack of baby back ribs. Then I put the ribs on a rack in a roasting pan, added some water to the pan, covered it tightly with foil, and cooked it in the oven at 225 degrees F for an hour and a half. Then I stuck the ribs meat-side down on the grill over medium-high heat for about five minutes, just to give them some color, before flipping to meat-side up and turning the grill down to low. After 10 minutes at low I basted them with some bottled Carolina-style barbecue sauce, then basted them again 10 minutes later and took them off maybe 2-3 minutes after that. They held together but were wonderfully tender and SO DELICIOUS. Unbelievable. I think this is the best rack of ribs I've ever made.

For the coleslaw, I shredded (with a knife) three parts green cabbage to one part red, then tossed it with a mixture of mayonnaise (NOT Miracle Whip), equal parts each white vinegar and sugar, and celery seed. Refrigerate for at least an hour, and toss again before serving.

The nectarines were one of those spontaneous things. I just chopped two of them and tossed them with a chiffonade of fresh mint and a TEENY bit of superfine sugar. I was hoping the sugar would macerate them a bit, but I didn't want them too sweet. It turns out they didn't really macerate at all, but they didn't oxidize either so it was all okay. They did a fantastic job of cutting the fat and spice of the ribs, and were the perfect accompaniment.

My only regret is that DH and I pretty much porked it all down in one sitting, so there's not much in the way of leftovers. Whoever gets to them first tomorrow gets to have them for lunch. Mwahaha!

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Easy leftovers

Tonight's Menu

  • garlicky grilled flank steak
  • leftover grilled onions and potatoes
  • leftover salad of baby spinach and strawberries
Um, yeah. Not much to say about this one.

I've already told you how to make the steak. And the onions/potatoes and salad.

Way easy.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Perfect summer supper

Tonight's Menu

  • grilled chicken leg quarters
  • grilled onion and potato packet
  • salad of baby spinach and strawberries
Oh y'all. This was SO GOOD.

The chicken was easy. I just sprinkled each leg quarter with some Jane's Krazy Salt and freshly ground pepper, then grilled them skin-side down over medium-high heat for five minutes or so to get the skin nicely browned and crisp. After that I flipped them to skin-side-up, turned the grill down to low, and let them cook for another 20 minutes or so. They were tender, juicy and delicious.

The onion and potato packet was likewise easy. I just thinly sliced some onion and some little red-skinned potatoes (because that's what I had; do use a waxy vs. mealy potato, though) and layered them in a piece of heavy-duty foil with some butter, salt and freshly ground pepper. I sealed it all up nice and tight and stuck it on the grill when I turned the chicken. It was done when the chicken was done, and it was SO YUMMY. The onion got all sweet and slightly caramelized, and the potato was nicely tender. Mmmm!

The spinach salad could not have been easier; just dump a bag of pre-washed baby spinach into a bowl and add halved (or quartered or sliced) fresh strawberries. I served it with a bottled raspberry vinaigrette.

I washed everything down with a nice glass of white sangria. Earlier today I combined a bottle of pinot grigio (it's what I had; just use whatever white wine is laying around) with some cognac and a can of peach nectar. Then I sliced in a couple of fresh nectarines and let it all kind of get happy for a couple of hours. To serve, fill a collins glass (that's the tall one) with ice and then pour it about half full of the wine mixture. Scoop out some nectarines and drop those in the glass, add a couple of fresh raspberries, then top it off with club soda (or if you like it sweeter, use a lemon-lime soda). It's kind of like a homemade wine cooler, but NOTHING like that pre-bottled crap you buy in the store. So good, and excellent with grilled chicken!

Monday, August 06, 2007

Cheeburger cheeburger pepsi chip*

Tonight's Menu

  • hamburgers & fixin's
Tonight's dinner was a hasty, last-minute affair. Part of that was expected (the boy child had a late afternoon doctor appointment) and part of it was not (we were out of propane! the horror!). Either way, hamburgers were the logical choice.

I like my homemade hamburgers SO MUCH BETTER than fast-food burgers. I keep them really simple and don't tart them up with a lot of stuff. That's what the toppings are for. All I do is take a one-pound chub of "natural" ground beef (85/15) and divide it in fourths, then squash each bit flat between two pieces of wax paper. I like them pretty thin so they fill out the bun. Then I sprinkle both sides with Jane's Krazy Salt (I know, I should buy stock) and garlic pepper (ditto) and grill them over high heat for about 3 minutes per side. Tonight we topped them with cheese, sliced onion, romaine lettuce, sliced tomato (the last of the garden tomatoes), and the usual ketchup, mustard, etc. Quick and easy, provided you're not out of propane!

*Please tell me someone understands that reference. I can't be the only one who grew up with the Not Ready For Prime Time Players.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Beginner's luck

Tonight's Menu

  • grilled boneless pork chops
  • leftover sweet & sour red cabbage
  • leftover green beans from the garden
  • fried green tomatoes
Yeah, this dinner was a bit of a hodge-podge. The cabbage and beans were left over from the other night; I was trying to clean out the refrigerator a bit.

The pork chops were seasoned with Jane's Krazy Salt and garlic pepper, then grilled over high heat for 4 minutes per side. Easy.

Believe it or not, this is the first time I've ever made fried green tomatoes. When my tomato plants first started to bear fruit in the spring, I couldn't bear to pick the tomatoes at the green stage. I had visions of ripe, juicy red tomatoes all summer long. Well, I got them, and how! We ended up giving a bunch away because there were just SO MANY. The plants were getting really gross looking lately and the bugs have been horrible, so we're not getting much in the way of ripe fruit anymore. My dad (my personal gardening guru) says it's time to plant fall tomatoes anyway, so today I yanked out all my existing tomato plants and scavenged what I could in the way of produce. I ended up with a few green tomatoes and thought this would be a good way to use them up. (If I'd had more, I'd have made my first attempt at green tomato pickles, which are a thing of beauty.)

Anyhoodle, this is how I made them. I just kind of winged it instead of using a recipe. I decided to go with a four-tray approach: milk, seasoned (with salt and pepper) flour, beaten egg, and seasoned (with salt, pepper and cayenne) cornmeal. I sliced the green tomatoes fairly thin (like 1/8 inch) and dipped them in the above order -- milk first, then flour, then egg, then cornmeal -- before GENTLY laying them into a half-inch or so of heated canola oil in a high-sided skillet. I worked in batches so as not to crowd the pan. I honestly can't tell you how long they took to cook -- I just babysat them VERY closely, turned them when they were looking lightly brown, and took them out when they were a uniform color on both sides. I drained them on paper towels but didn't re-season since I had basically salted them twice already.

They came out very crispy with a thick crust that DID NOT FALL OFF. My husband, who declared himself a hater of fried green tomatoes before I started cooking them, actually had seconds. He compared the coating to that of fried okra. I prefer more of a tempura batter on my fried veggies but wasn't brave enough to attempt one. These came out really good, though, I have to say. I think the cayenne made all the difference in flavor, and the four-tray method really helped the coating stay on the tomatoes.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Delicious cow

Tonight's Menu

  • oven-braised beef brisket
  • sweet & sour red cabbage
  • green beans from the garden
Okay. This took a bit of work, I'm not going to lie, but it was not at all complicated.

I made a dry rub of brown sugar, chili powder, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, dry mustard, dried oregano, salt and pepper and rubbed it all over the brisket. Then I put it in a roasting pan, poured in some beer, covered it tightly with foil and cooked it for about four and a half hours at 225 degrees F (you'll want to adjust that based on the size of your, ahem, meat).

For the cabbage, I sliced some onion and sauteed it in a large skillet over medium heat with some canola oil until the onion was reasonably soft. Then I added shredded red cabbage, a little bit of water, equal amounts of red wine vinegar and sugar (for half a head of cabbage, use about 2 Tbs. of each), some dried thyme, salt and pepper and then covered it and cooked it, stirring occasionally, until the cabbage was tender. Then I uncovered it and cranked up the heat, stirring until all the liquid had evaporated. I know this doesn't really sound like a summer dish, and I do make it fairly often for Thanksgiving, but it goes really well with slow-cooked, spiced meats like the brisket above.

Okay, now the green beans! Which were from my garden! Woo! Snap off the stem end, give them a good rinse, and set them aside. Then chop up a few slices of bacon and some onion and brown those together in a big pan. When the bacon is crisp and the onion has a bit of color, dump in the green beans along with a tablespoon or so of brown sugar (trust me on this) and add just enough water to cover the beans. Then bring them to a boil, cover, reduce to a simmer and let them go for about 15 minutes or however long it takes to get them to the tenderness you like (just fish one out now and then to test it). Drain them but don't lose the bacon and onion when you do it!