Fish Tagine with Chermoula and Moroccan Rice Pilaf

If you haven’t figured this out by now, I really dig my tagine. At first I thought it was just a funny-looking Dutch oven, but I’m discovering that its unusual design is the reason everything that comes out of this North African cooking pot tastes so good.

The tagine’s wide, shallow base lets you start a dish uncovered on the stove top to brown meat and veggies or reduce stock like a sauté pan. Once your stock/sauce is ready, you can just add your remaining ingredients, put the lid on, and keep cooking on the stove top or move everything off to the oven for longer cooks.

Either way, the conical top allows air to circulate above the food without the flavors escaping. The food both steams and roasts (aka braising) at the same time. Yes, you can get a similar effect in a Dutch oven, but because the tagine is wider and shallower, more of the food gets braised rather than boiled.

Finally, it’s hard to beat the presentation when you set the tagine in the middle of the table, pull the lid away, and let all of the wonderful aromas billow out in a cloud of steam. That said, watch your fingers around that steam! I always open it by grabbing the top with an oven mitt.

The Chermoula
A fancy name, but this is just a flavorful Morrocan herb and lemon based marinade that’s traditionally used on fish, but would work well for veggies and chicken too.

1 1/2 pounds cod (or other firm, white fish) fillets
1/2 cup fresh cilantro
2 cloves garlic
1 tablespoons paprika
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Put the garlic cloves and salt in a food processor and pulse until the garlic is minced. Add the cilantro, paprika, cumin, ginger, cayenne pepper, oil, and lemon juice and give everything a whirl until it is well-combined.

Put the fish in a zip-top bag and cover with the marinade. Toss to coat and stash in the fridge while you’re putting the pilaf together.

 Moroccan Rice Pilaf
1 cup long grain rice
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 red or yellow bell pepper, chopped
1/4 cup dried apricots, chopped
1/4 dried cranberries, chopped
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1/8 teaspoon saffron threads

Heat the butter and oil in a medium sauce pan over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, and peppers and cook for 5 minutes. Add the rice and cook until the onions are translucent and the rice begins to color.

Add the cinnamon, salt, ginger, cumin, turmeric, cilantro, apricots, and cranberries and stir to combine. Add the stock and saffron to the rice. Bring the stock to a simmer, and taste for salt. Adjust the seasoning. Cover the rice, reduce the heat to low, and simmer gently and undisturbed, for about 25 minutes, or until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender.

While the rice is cooking, put the tagine together.

The Fish Tagine
The marinated fish and all of the chermoula
1 large onion, chopped
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 cup black and green olives, pitted
2 tablespoons olive oil

Pour the olive oil into the tagine base and heat on the stove top over a medium heat. Add the onions and cook until they start to soften, about 5 minutes.

Add the tomatoes, ginger, salt, pepper, turmeric, and lemon juice and bring to a low boil for 5 minutes. Reduce heat to a simmer and add the fish, all of the chermoula, and the olives.

Cover the tagine, and cook over low heat for about 15-20 minutes, or until the fish flakes with a fork.

To serve – put down a bed of the pilaf, top with a fish fillet, and cover everything with a scoop of sauce.

The Verdict: ★★★★☆
There are so many flavors going on in this dish that I have no idea where to start. I love the way the fresh green tang of the chermoula pulls the sweet and savory ingredients together.

The dish did end up a little thin. I’d use half the amount of tomatoes next time.

The Nutrition:
6 servings (4 ounces of fish, 1/2 cup of pilaf, a few olives, and a cup of sauce), 443 calories, 11 Weight Watchers points. This is a filling dish, but I’d use less fat and more fish next time.

Roast Chicken with Winter Veggies

This is a heartier version of the Chicken & Veggies dish that I make a lot in the summer. I started trying these monster roasting chickens from Perdue about a month ago, and am sold on them as a great way to make a lot of meals with very little effort. These 7 – 9 pound birds make a big dinner for the 2 of us, a couple of lunches for me, and still leaves me with 2 pounds of white meat for salads or soups.

The Bird
1 7-9 pound roasting chicken (grill once, eat twice)
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 teaspoon dried lavender
1 teaspoon dried tarragon or parsley
4 cloves garlic
Juice of 1 lemon (about 4 tablespoons)
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Make the herb rub (kind of a gremolata if you want to get fancy) by putting the garlic and salt in a food processor and pulse until the garlic is minced. Add the thyme, rosemary, lavender, tarragon, lemon juice, oil, salt, and pepper and give them a whirl until they are well-combined. Add more oil as needed to make a thin paste.

Clean and rinse the chicken, then pat dry. You can roast the bird whole, but I like to spatchcock (butterfly) the chicken for this dish so that it cooks more evenly and covers the veggies better.

To spatchcock the bird, set it in front of you, breast side down. Cut up through the backbone with either a pair of kitchen shears or a sharp chef’s knife. Spread the bird open like a book and locate the keel bone that sits between the breasts. Nick it with a knife to get it to open up, but don’t cut all the way through. Flip the bird over and press down on the center of the bird until it lies flat.

Rub both sides of the bird with the herb rub, working it under the skin a bit. Set the bird skin side up on a pan (I use a large jellyroll pan) and put it in the fridge, uncovered, for at least an hour. This not only lets the rub do its thing, but also helps dry out the skin a bit so it stays crispy.

Set your grill up for an indirect cook at medium-high (350°F) heat. While the grill is getting up to temp, put the veggies together.

The Veggies
1 medium rutabaga, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 large yellow onion, roughly chopped
2 carrots, peeled and cut into 1 1/2-inch lengths
1 medium head cauliflower, cut into florets
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 fresh ground back pepper

Toss the veggies together in a flame-proof roasting pan (I use the bottom of a tagine, but an old 9×13 pan cake pan is good too). Drizzle with oil and season with salt and pepper. Toss to coat.

The Cook
Set the pan full of veggies on the grill. Place the grill grate on top of the pan and lay the chicken, skin side down, on the grate above the veggies. This way all the chickeny goodness will drip into the veggies as they cook and the steam from the veggies will help keep the chicken moist.

Close the lid and cook the chicken and veggies for 30 minutes. Remove the chicken and check to see if the veggies are done. If not, give them a stir and return the chicken, skin side up this time.

After another 30 minutes, start checking to see if everything is done. The chicken is done when the juices run clear and the the temperature has reached 160°F in the breast and 180°F in the thigh. Pull the veggies early if they finish before the chicken. This was an 8-pound bird, so it took it another hour on the grill to finish after I removed the veggies.

Remove the bird from the grill and let rest for 10 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to remove the veggies from the pan to a serving bowl. Quarter the bird for serving.

The Verdict: ★★★★★
Another great roast chicken – juicy and tender with some great flavor from the smoke and the rub. Letting the skin dry out a bit kept it crisp nice and crisp. The cauliflower was just about to fall apart and the carrots and rutabaga were wonderfully sweet and tender.

The Nutrition: Use a slotted spoon to drain the olive oil and chickeny goodness off the veggies and you’ve got 4 big servings of free veggies with about 2 points worth of oil per serving. The chicken is 1 Weight Watcher’s Point per ounce of skinless white meat and 2 points per ounce for skinless dark meat. We actually found this to recipe to be a little light on fat overall because the chicken was so lean.

ONE YEAR AGO – SIBERIAN RIBS

TWO YEARS AGO – WHAT’S THAT SMELL?

 

Pseudo Fries – Roasted Delicata Squash

My thanks to the fine folks over at She Cooks He Cleans for this tasty dish. I love delicata squash, and always buy a couple whenever I can find them, but I had no idea that the skin on them was edible.

3 delicata squash
Olive oil
1-2 teaspoons chili powder (ancho or aleppo works great)
1-2 teaspoons sea salt (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400F. Wash the squash off, trim off the ends, and split the squash lengthwise. Use a tablespoon to scoop the seeds out of each half.

Slice the squash crosswise into french fry-sized wedges. Arrange the wedges on a sheet pan and spray them with a little olive oil (the Misto Olive Oil Sprayer makes this easy). Sprinkle with salt and chili powder.

Roast for about 30 minutes, until they brown up a bit and get soft on the inside.

Nutrition
The joy of the new Weight Watchers points system is that veggies like squash are free (like in beer, wait… beer has points? Never mind.). I figure I used about a teaspoon of oil (the sprayer is great for cutting down on the fat), so you could eat the whole dish and it’s still only 1 point.

The Verdict: ★★★★★
While you won’t mistake them for steak frites, they are very, very good and remind me a lot of sweet potato fries. I plan on making these again soon as a side dish and maybe as an appetizer with (just a little) dip.

Shrimp & Chicken Fajitas

I had really hoped to make this dish on the Big Green Egg using a cast iron griddle, but the weather just wouldn’t cooperate. I ended up cooking it on the griddle (highly recommended) on the stove top (not so highly recommended).

It looks like there are a lot of moving pieces here, but if you are organized you can put this on the table in about an hour and a half.

The Chicken
4 boneless/skinless chicken thighs, sliced into 1/4 inch strips
Juice of 1 lime (about 2 tablespoons)
3 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon Ancho chili powder
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon Cholula Chipotle Hot Sauce

Put the garlic cloves and salt in a food processor and pulse until the garlic is minced. Add the lime juice, pepper, cumin, chili powder, soy sauce, olive oil, and hot sauce and give everything a whirl until it is well-combined.

Pour half of the marinade over the chicken, toss to coat, and stash in the fridge for at least an hour, but not longer than 4 hours. Reserve the other half of the marinade in the fridge for later.

The Shrimp
1 pound jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 tablespoon achiote oil
1 tablespoon Cholula Chipotle Hot Sauce

Pour the  oil and hot sauce over the shrimp and toss to coat. Stash in the fridge while you prep the veggies.

The Veggies
3 large bell peppers (assorted colors are pretty) cut into strips
1 medium onion, chopped
3 gloves garlic, crushed and chopped
3 scallions, roughly chopped

The veggies will pick up plenty of flavor from the griddle, so I didn’t season them at all.

The Cook
Think of the griddle as a flat wok – you want to get it hot and move the food on and off it quickly. So have all of your ingredients, and a large (pre-warmed if possible) serving platter arranged in front of you before you start.

Center the griddle over your largest/hottest burner on the stove (or across 2 burners if you have a large rectangular griddle) and heat over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes.

Swirl a couple of glugs of peanut oil on the griddle and let heat until it starts to shimmer (about 2 minutes). Use a slotted spoon to remove the chicken from the marinade and arrange it on the griddle.

Let the chicken sear for about 2 minutes and then flip it over and let it cook for another minute or so until done (I like using a set of tongs for this).

Remove the chicken to the platter and put the veggies on the griddle. Cook these until they soften and start to char a bit, about 5 minutes (or until your smoke alarm goes off like ours did). Pour just a couple of tablespoons of water on the griddle to de-glaze it and steam the veggies a bit. Use a spatula here to scrape up the brown bits and work them into the veggies.

Remove the veggies to the platter and add the shrimp to the griddle. Cook these just until they turn pink and start to curl (about a minute), flip and cook the other side for another minute.

Remove the shrimp to the platter and drizzle the whole thing with the reserved marinade. Serve with warm tortillas and guacamole.

Nutrition
Lean meat and tons of veggies, what’s not to love? Just watch how many glugs of oil you use and go light on the tortillas and guac. Makes 6 (1 1/2 cup) servings. 270 calories. 6 Weight Watchers points.

The Verdict: ★★★★½
An outstanding weeknight dish. The griddle gave everything a nice char and the Cholula Chipotle Hot Sauce added a little heat with a lot of slightly sweet smokiness. Th achiote oil was subtle, but it added a richness that helped round out all the flavors.

While the griddle did its smoky/searing job, it was a little too much for the vent fan in the kitchen. Between the smoke and the splatter, this would have worked at lot better outside on the grill.

Chicken & Veggies

This is the time of year when zucchini start mysteriously appearing everywhere. Seems like we’ve had a glut of them at home, and we didn’t even plant any. If the neighbors aren’t unloading theirs on our doorstep, it’s my folks passing on their surplus.

Since we’ve been graced with a couple of extra weeks of grilling weather, I decided to make up a big batch of my Chicken & Veggies recipe featuring as many of the zucchini as I could squeeze into a 9×13 pan.

The Chicken
8-10 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2 tablespoons herbes de provence
1-2 tablespoons kosher salt

Lay the thighs out in a baking pan. Season both sides with the herbs and salt. Set in the fridge uncovered while you prep the veggies.

The Veggies
2 large zucchini, sliced
1 yellow bell pepper, chopped
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Fresh ground back pepper to taste

Combine all of the ingredients in a disposable foil pan. Mix well.

The Cook
Set up your grill for an indirect cook over medium-high (400°F) heat. On the Big Green Egg I use about half a fire box full of lump charcoal, an inverted plate setter to diffuse the heat, and a trivet for the roasting pan.

Set the pan full of veggies on the trivet. Place a small wire rack or grill grate on top of the pan. Lay the chicken thighs skin side down on the grate above the veggies.

Close the lid and let cook for 20 minutes. Lift the grate with the chicken on it off of the pan and give the veggies a stir. Add more oil or a little chicken stock if they are starting to stick. Put the grate back on the pan and flip the chicken. Close the lid and cook for another 20 minutes. Check the veggies again. If they are done, take them off the grill and set them someplace warm while the chicken finishes.

I usually leave the rig set up for an indirect cook and let the thighs finish cooking, but I was running short on daylight and the thighs were looking a little anemic, so I pulled plate setter out and finished the thighs directly over high heat.

It only took about another 3 minutes a side to put some char on the thighs and finish them up.

The Verdict: ★★★★☆
I think this is one of the best ways to cook chicken. Cooking the chicken above the veggies means the veggies soak up all those lovely chicken drippings and the moisture from the veggies keeps the chicken nice and juicy. Win-win.

My only issue with this recipe was using boneless, skinless thighs. They tasted great, but just don’t cook up as crispy and juicy as chicken with the skin still on it.

Rub note: I liked the herbs on this and might need to work up a rub like John Henry’s Chicken Tickler.

Hearty Grilled Tuna Nicoise

I was very excited to make this dish, and I can’t tell you what that means to me.  I’ve been suffering from some serious food blogger ennui lately, and it ain’t pretty.  It’s just been hard to be excited about cooking. Isn’t that weird?

Maybe it’s the end of summer blues? I don’t know, but rather than fight it, I figured I’d just sit around and eat Doritos while it ran its course. Thankfully, when my dear wife called and said she’d found some nice yellowfin tuna, I knew exactly what I wanted to make – Tuna Nicoise.

Tuna Nicoise is a traditional French composed salad usually served as an appetizer or a light dinner. I wanted something a little heartier that would benefit from some time on the grill, so I bumped up the amount of meat and potatoes and substituted grilled asparagus for the usual haricots verts.

Note: this recipe looks complicated, but the walk though is pretty straight forward.  If you have everything prepped and ready before the tuna comes off the grill, it goes together in moments.

The Tuna
2 pounds yellowfin tuna steaks
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 cup of the marinade (recipe follows)

The Marinade & Dressing
2 anchovy fillets, drained (or 1/2 teaspoon anchovy paste)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cloves garlic
Juice of 1/2 lemon (about 2 tablespoons)
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 cup olive oil
1 medium shallot
1 tablespoon capers, drained
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon herbes de Provence

The Nicoise
1 pound red potatoes, scrubbed and cut into thick rounds
1 pound asparagus, trimmed
4 cups mixed greens or Bibb lettuce, washed and dried
1/2 pound plum tomatoes, cut into wedges
1/2 cup halved and seeded black brine-cured olives
4 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and halved
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil

Make the dressing and marinade first by putting the garlic, shallots, and salt in a food processor and pulse until the garlic and shallots are minced. Add the anchovies, pepper, lemon juice, mustard, Worcestershire, and herb blend and pulse to combine. With the processor running, add the oil in a steady stream. The mixture will begin the thicken and form an emulsion, kind of a like a thin mayonnaise. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Marinate the tuna by pouring about a 1/4 cup of the dressing/marinade onto the bottom of a lidded container. Arrange the tuns steaks on top of the dressing and turn to coat. Season both sides with a little salt and pepper. Stash in the fridge along with the remaining dressing.

Combine the potato slices, butter, and parsley in a microwave-safe container. Nuke for a couple of minutes until the butter melts. Stir to coat and nuke another 5-10 minutes until tender. Season with salt and pepper and keep warm in the microwave.

Put the asparagus in a zip-top bag and season with the olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Shake to coat and stash in the fridge.

Set your grill up for a direct cook over high (600°F) heat.

Grill the asparagus for about 5 minutes, turning frequently, until the spears start to brown and caramelize. Set asides and keep warm.

Grill the tuna steaks for between 30 seconds to a minute per side, checking for doneness often. For this dish, I like the steaks medium rare where the tuna will be gently yielding when you press on it with the tongs. Anything past medium is headed for cat food territory, so it’s best to pull the steaks off the heat just before they are done and let the carry-over heat do the rest.

Remove the steaks to a plate and drizzle with some of the dressing.

To serve, arrange all the goodies on the table and let everyone assemble their own plates. I like to put down a layer of mixed greens; top that with the tuna and some capers; then surround it with the potatoes, olives, eggs, asparagus, and tomatoes; and top it all with a healthy drizzle of the dressing.

The Verdict: ★★★★★
Wow, this was good! The meal was rich (perfect for a chilly early fall day) but not overwhelmingly so. I like grilled tuna anyway, but the marinade keeps the fish moist while adding an herby zip. All the other goodies then just come together to compliment each other. The olives and capers play off the salty tang of the dressing while the eggs and asparagus help to ground everything.

I can see mixing the leftover dressing with some canned tuna for an outstanding tuna sandwich.

Sweet Corn, Brats, & Udi’s Gluten-Free Buns

My dear wife just came back from her brother’s with two feed sacks full of golden corn goodness. No recipe needed – I just tossed it right on the grill with some brats to make one of my favorite summer meals.

This was the first chance I’ve had to try new Udi’s Gluten-Free Buns and they were outstanding. GF baked goods tend to be crumbly, and almost always end up falling apart after a few bites. The Udi’s buns not only tasted great, but held together to the end even after being toasted for a bit on the grill.

Spatchcocked Gremolata Chicken

Sounds fancy, but this is just another take on the Chicken & Veggies dish that I make a lot in the summer. Gremolata is an Italian marinade made from garlic, lemon, olive oil, and whatever herbs your dear wife snips off for you. Once the bird is spatchcocked (easier done than said) and seasoned and the veggies are prepped, this is a pretty no-muss, no-fuss recipe.

The Birds
2 3-5 pound roasting chickens (grill once, eat twice)
2 tablespoons fresh thyme
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary
2 tablespoons fresh marjoram or parsley
4 cloves garlic
Juice of 1 lemon (about 4 tablespoons)
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon Hungarian paprika
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Make the gremolata by putting the garlic and salt in a food processor and pulse until the garlic is minced. Add the remaining ingredients, except the chicken, and give them a whirl until they are well-combined. Add more oil as needed to make a thin paste.

Clean and rinse the chickens, then pat them dry. To spatchcock the bird, set it in front of you, breast side down. Cut up through the backbone with either a pair of kitchen shears or a sharp chef’s knife.

Now spread the bird open like a book and locate the keel bone that sits between the breasts. Nick it with a knife to get it to open up, but don’t cut all the way through. Flip the bird over and press down on the center of the bird until it lies pretty flat.

Rub both sides of the birds with the gremolata,working it under the skin a bit. Set the birds skin side up on a pan (I use a large jellyroll pan) and put them in the fridge, uncovered, for at least an hour. This not only lets the gremolata do its flavorful thing, but also helps dry out the skin a bit so it stays crispy.

Set your grill up for an indirect cook at medium-high (400°F) heat. while the grill is getting up to temp, put the veggies together.

The Veggies
1 pound fingerling potatoes
2 bell peppers, roughly chopped
1 large yellow onion, roughly chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Fresh ground back pepper to taste

Scrub the potatoes and toss the veggies together in a 9×13 pan (I use an old cake pan, but disposable foil drip pans are good too). Drizzle with oil and season with salt and pepper. Toss to coat.

The Cook
Set the pan full of veggies on the grill. Place the grill grate on top of the pan and lay the chickens, skin side up, on the grate above the veggies. This way all the chickeny goodness will drip into the veggies as they cook and the steam from the veggies will help keep the chicken moist.

Close the lid and cook the chicken and veggies for 45 minutes. After 45 minutes, start checking to see if everything is done. The chicken is done when the juices run clear and the the temperature has reached 160°F in the breast and 180°F in the thigh. Pull the veggies early if they finish before the chicken. These were some larger birds and they went 90 minutes before being done.

Remove the birds from the grill and let rest for 10 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to remove the veggies from the pan to a serving bowl. Quarter the birds for serving.

The Verdict: ★★★★☆
This dish is always a winner – crispy, herby, juicy chicken and really flavorful veggies.  I love that everything goes on the grill together and we get a great meal in under 2 hours. I always try to make enough of this dish that we get plenty of leftovers. with two birds we get dinner for two, a couple of hind quarters for my lunch,  and enough breast meat for enchiladas and chicken salad.

The only thing this dish could have used was another 20 minutes on the grill. The chicken was done, but because it stays so moist this way, I would have liked the dark meat a little more tender.

Cucumber Margarita

I feel a bit like a traitor posting this. When it comes to cocktails, I’m a purist – booze, ice, maybe some more booze, and just enough mix so that the first drink doesn’t kill you on the spot.

But when my dear wife and I had lunch the other day at our favorite Mexican restaurants, they had a Cucumber Margarita on the menu. It might have been the fact that it was 95°F outside with 150% humidity, but damn, that actually sounded good.

“Really?” My dear wife gave me a look when I ordered it.

“No, it’s good.” The waitress assured me. “They infuse Cuervo 1800 Silver with cucumbers and then mix it with fresh lime and a little simple syrup.”

The drink arrived on the rocks. It had a pale yellow color and smelled a little like honeydew melon. I took my first sip – wow – summer in a glass! It was a real margarita alright, but with a bright, fresh, green taste and smooth finish.

I offered it to my wife. she took one sip and said with a smile, “Well, we got some cucumbers at the farmers’ market, didn’t we?”

I don’t think I had the car in the garage before she was in the kitchen cutting and pouring.  For our test run we went with one sliced pickling-sized cucumber put in a jelly jar filled with Sauza Añejo and stashed in the fridge for 24 hours.

2 double old fashioned glasses, filled with ice
4 ounces infused tequila, strained (reserve a couple slices for garnish)
Juice of 1 lime (about 1/4 cup)
2 ounces simple syrup (recipe follows)
2 teaspoons orange liqueur

Combine tequila, lime juice, syrup, and orange liqueur. Divide into glasses. Top with a cucumber slice and maybe a sprig of fresh mint.

Simple Syrup
Bring 2 cups water to a boil. Stir in 2 cups of granulated sugar. Reduce heat to low and stir just until the sugar dissolves completely. Remove from heat  and let cool.

The Verdict: ★★★★★
Were I you, I’d start investing in the cucumber market right now. I think there’s going to be a run on them.

Just 24 hours of infusing pulled all of the bite out of the tequila and replaced it with mellow hints of melon and mint. Almost like Midori, but not so sweet. Very refreshing. I could see a pitcher of these making a summer day just slide right on by.

For the next batch I’d go with a blanco tequila for a little more bite,  and try a 3 to 5 day soak time. Better start cutting the cukes now.

1st Sweet Corn

Okay, it’s from Florida, but this is the first fresh sweet corn we’ve seen since last September so I wanted to make sure these big, perfect ears got some very special attention.

Since reading Adam Perry Lang’s BBQ 25 and Serious Barbecue I have become a huge fan of moving food back and forth between the grill and a basting liquid a couple of times while cooking to build up layers of flavor. Most of the time it’s meat going into an oil and herb baste, but this time I wanted to give the sweet corn the “treatment.”

4 to 6 ears sweet corn, husked
4 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1 teaspoon lime juice
1/2 teaspoon Ancho chili powder
Couple of grinds of black pepper

Set up your grill for a direct cook at 450°F.

Combine everything but the corn in a 9×13 flame-proof pan (aluminum foil drip pans work great for this).

When the grill is ready, set the pan on the grate and heat just until the butter is melted. Remove from heat, but keep warm nearby.

Grill the corn directly on the grate, turning a little it every minute or so until the kernels are a deep yellow and have started to lightly blackened (about 5 minutes). Move ears to basting pan and rotate to coat. Return to the grill and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes, turning often. Remove to the basting pan, rotate again to coat, and then move the pan full of corn to the grill. Let it sit on the grate until everything starts to bubble, about a minute.

Rotate again before serving hot from the pan.

The Verdict: ★★★★★
Wow – this corn was the star of the meal. Short of injecting them, I don’t know how I could have gotten any more buttery goodness cooked into the ears. The chili powder was a nice, warm touch and the lime juice balanced the slightly caramelized, smoky-sweetness of the corn.