Tuesday, September 30, 2008

A lovely night to grill

Tonight's Menu

  • grilled pork chops
  • crispy potatoes and onions
  • garlicky grilled zucchini
  • green salad "bar"
It's been SO NICE in the evenings here lately. Temperatures in the upper 70s or low 80s, no humidity, and now that the sun has moved south, my back patio and grill are once again in the shade for the later part of the day. Heaven!

Soo, I have been grilling. These were pork loin chops on the bone, which I just sprinkled with Jane's Krazy Salt and garlic pepper, then grilled over high heat for about 4 minutes per side. SO yummy!

The potatoes were a variation on my "chuffed" potatoes, but with onions added. I get a lot of requests for detailed instructions on the chuffed potatoes, so here is exactly what I did. First, I cut several small red-skinned potatoes in half. You could also cut them in quarters or eighths depending on how big they are. Put them in a pot and add enough water to cover the potatoes by about an inch. Then put them on the stove, bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat and simmer them for about 15 or 20 minutes before draining off the water. You want them pretty tender, but not mushy.

Then melt a couple of tablespoons of butter in a skillet and add the drained potatoes. (I also added half of an onion, cut into slivers, this time but you could leave that out.) Toss the potatoes around in the butter over medium-high heat until a nice brown crust forms on the outside. The more violently you toss them around, the more crust you'll get. Once they've gone nice and golden brown on the outside, season with salt and pepper and serve! They should be soft on the inside -- if not, then you didn't simmer them long enough in the first step. Of course, you can adjust that to your liking if you prefer a firmer potato.

That's all there is to chuffed potatoes!

For the zucchini, I bashed up a couple of garlic cloves in my mortar and pestle, along with a little kosher salt. This acts as an abrasive and makes it easier to really smush the garlic into a pulverized paste. Then I mixed a bit of EVOO in with that to make a really garlicky oil. I cut a couple of zucchini into quarter-inch slices lengthwise, brushed them on both sides with the garlicky oil, then sprinkled with a bit of pepper. Grill them off for maybe 2 minutes per side over high heat and they're done! The boy LOVED these and I don't think I've ever seen him eat zucchini before except in quinoa pilaf!

Tonight's salad bar was torn green leaf lettuce, sliced celery, shredded carrots and wedges of tomato from the CSA. My kids STILL stubbornly refuse to eat salad since I switched from the pre-bagged greens. But DH and I are loving our salads lately!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Another catchup post

Oh, people! I didn't realize it had been so long since I posted. Sorry about that! I have not been making much of anything new for dinner, but have instead been revisiting some cool-weather favorites. (Yes, I KNOW it's still in the 90s here. But the calendar says September so I am cooking fall food anyway!)

Here's what we've been eating the past couple of weeks:
The CSA has been giving us various shelled beans (this time it was a big bag of butter beans) and I've been mostly cooking them up with bacon, onion, brown sugar and vinegar because we LOVE them like that.

We've also gotten some winter squash lately and at first I had no idea what to do with it! These are sort of the "ugly pumpkin" variety squash -- vaguely pumpkin-shaped but all mottled and weird looking on the outside. (Er, I mean weird in a GOOD way. My taste in squash is similar to my taste in shoes, apparently.) I finally decided to cut them into wedges, plop them into a baking pan (after scooping out the seeds), drizzle with honey and cinnamon and bake them off at 375 degrees F for about two hours or until they were really soft and tender. They were delicious and my house smelled AMAZING while they were cooking! I've been eating them as a side dish with various meats, stirring them into oatmeal along with raw pumpkin seeds or slivered almonds, and now I'm wondering how they'd be in muffins and/or pancakes.

My birthday was the 20th of this month and DH gifted me with something I've been wanting FOREVER -- a 6-quart enameled cast-iron Dutch oven! So I foresee a LOT more soups/stews/roasts in my immediate future. Hooray!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Mystery beans

Tonight's Menu

  • spiced pork tenderloin
  • toasted rice
  • okra and beans with bacon and onions
  • green salad "bar"
Today was CSA pickup day, hooray! In addition to loads of other goodies, our box today contained a bag of unidentified shelled beans. I have no idea what they are! They're shaped exactly like a lima bean but are a bit larger and they're brown instead of green. They're not mottled brown, either -- just a uniform brown. They don't look like pinto or fava beans but I have no idea what they could be -- maybe some bizarre variety of a lima or butter bean? Who knows?!

Anyway, I decided to treat them like lima beans and put them in a pan with water to cover, then brought them to a boil and simmered them for a good 30-40 minutes until they were tender. Then I set them aside while I got to work on the rest of the dish.

We got a nice bunch of okra (both green and purple) in the box so I cut that into maybe 3/4-inch chunks. Then I chopped some red onion and bacon (Pederson's apple smoked, which is local to my area, uncured, and certified humane). I put the bacon in a large skillet and cooked it over medium heat until it was almost, but not quite, crisp. Then I added the onion and okra and let them cook for a bit, stirring occasionally, until they were tender and had picked up a wee bit of caramelization. Then I drained the beans and dumped those in, stirring to heat through. Finally I added equal parts (maybe a tablespoon each) of brown sugar and red wine vinegar. I stirred this around until it formed a sweet-sour glaze on the veggies and bacon, then seasoned with salt and pepper and served.

This was SOOOO GOOD, y'all. I have used that same brown sugar-vinegar-bacon combo before with other veggies and it's always awesome, so I was glad to find that it worked great with the okra and beans as well. Even DH liked this and he's a little bit veggie-phobic. I am totally eating the rest of it tomorrow for lunch!

The spiced pork tenderloin and toasted rice were left over from last night, as was the salad (green leaf lettuce, tomato wedges, sliced red onion and shredded carrots).

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Oven goodness

Tonight's Menu

  • oven-cooked beef brisket
  • baked potatoes
  • coleslaw
This was a really easy dinner. With just a bit of prep up-front, this will cook all day with no interference from you. You can even make the coleslaw the day before!

For the brisket, I made a dry rub of brown sugar, chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, ground cumin, dried oregano, salt & pepper and rubbed that on both sides of the meat. Then I sort of improvised a roasting rack by putting crumpled balls of tin foil in the bottom of a roasting pan and laying the meat, fat side up, on top of that. I poured a bit of water into the pan (around, but not on top of, the brisket), then covered it tightly with foil and put it into a 225 degree oven for about five hours. That's it! All you have to do is take it out of the oven, let it rest for about 10 minutes, then slice it thinly against the grain and serve. Easy!

The potatoes were likewise easy -- they were wrapped in foil and baked alongside the roasting pan for the last 3 hours of cooking time. I put out butter, shredded cheese, sour cream and chopped cooked bacon so everyone could fix their own potato however they liked it.

I would have served some freezer pickles along with this meal but I forgot to take them out of the freezer ahead of time. D'oh!