Planked Salmon Nicoise

I had enough salmon left over from my last batch of Planked Salmon that I sealed some of it off in a FoodSaver bag and froze it for later. Then we hit a deal on fresh green beans, new potatoes, and real tomatoes at the farmer’s market and I knew it was time to make a salmon version of my Tuna Nicoise.

The Dressing
2 anchovies, or 1 teaspoon of anchovy paste, or 1 to 2 teaspoons of Thai fish sauce
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
1/2 cup olive oil
1 medium shallot
1 tablespoon capers, drained
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon herbes de Provence

Make the dressing first by putting the garlic, shallots, and salt in a food processor and pulse until they 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 to thicken and form an emulsion, kind of like a thin mayonnaise. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

The Salad
1 cooked salmon filet, about a pound
1 head Romain lettuce, chopped
1/2 pound new red potatoes, scrubbed and halved
1/2 pound green beans, trimmed
1/2 pound plum tomatoes, cut into wedges
1/2 cup halved and seeded black brine-cured olives
1/4 cup capers, drained
4 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and halved
1 teaspoon butter
1 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped

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 then cook another 5-10 minutes until tender. Season with salt and pepper and keep warm in the microwave.

Blanch the green beans by bringing 2 quarts of salted water to boil in a medium saucepan. Add the green beans and let boil for at least 3 minutes. Check for doneness. Immediately drain the green beans in a colander and plunge them into ice cold water to bring the temperature down. Drain the beans.

This is a composed (versus tossed) salad, so lay all the goodies out on the table and let folks put together their own plates.

The Verdict: ★★★★★
This was a great dish to beat the summer heat. No real cooking involved and everything came together in a flash. The farm-fresh veggies pair well with the tangy vinaigrette. I halved the oil in the dressing, so it was plenty tasty, but not nearly as rich, making it a nice match for the salmon as well.

The Nutrition:
Serves 4. Go easy on the dressing and this meal is only 480 calories and 7 Weight Watchers points per serving.

ONE YEAR AGO – Cucumber Margarita

TWO YEARS AGO – Meat on a Stick


Balsamic Baby Back Ribs

I love it when cooking becomes a social, innovative, iterative process. There are few things in life more boring for me than looking over a recipe that’s just a bunch of steps – no pics, no descriptions, no exposition, no tips, no love. Yech.

Now this rib recipe has got some history to it. I first came across it as Balsamic Pork Belly from She Cooks… He Cleans and it looked wonderful (and it comes with musical suggestions, gotta love that). They adapted it from Ian Knauer’s Sticky Balsamic Ribs over at FOOD52, also a tasty-looking recipe that Ian says, “These ribs just might be the best thing I’ve ever come up with.” High praise indeed.

So I’ve got two terrific recipes for two different cuts of meat, using two very different cooking styles, but with the same marinade and glaze. Oh man, this is going to be fun!

The Marinade
2 racks baby back pork ribs, about 5 pounds
4 large garlic cloves
1 tablespoon sea or kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
1 tablespoons dried rosemary
2 tablespoons packed raw or brown sugar
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon cayenne powder
1/4 cup water

Combine the garlic and salt in a blender or food processor and give it a whirl until the garlic is minced. Add the pepper, rosemary, sugar, vinegar, oil, cayenne, and water and pulse to combine.

Prep the ribs by removing the membrane on the bone side and trimming off any scrapes of meat or excess fat. Put the ribs into a zip-top bag. Pour the marinade over the ribs, turning to coat. Squeeze the air out of the bag, seal it, and stash in the fridge overnight.

The Cook
Remove the ribs from the marinade. Lay them out on a sheet pan and dust with some sea or kosher salt and black pepper. Return to the fridge, uncovered, while you set up the grill.

Set up your grill for an indirect cook that will burn for at least 5 hours at between 225 to 250°F. On the Big Green Egg that meant filling the firebox with lump charcoal and using an inverted plate setter to diffuse the heat and a drip pan with a little water in it to catch the fat.

When the grill is up to temp, add your smoking wood (a chunk of apple in this case) and wait for the smoke to go from white (bad) to blue (good). Remove the ribs from the sheet pan and set on the grate bone side down and centered over the drip pan.

Close the lid and let the ribs cook for an hour. Flip bone side up and cook for another hour. After the ribs have been on for 2 hours, remove them from the heat, wrap them tightly in two layers of heavy-duty aluminum foil, and return them to the grill bone side up for an hour.

After an hour, carefully unwrap ribs, making sure not to lose any of the drippings that have collected in the foil. Return the ribs to the grill bone side down while you make the glaze.

The Glaze
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup raw or brown sugar
1/4 cup water
Reserved drippings from foil

Combine the vinegar, sugar, and water, and drippings in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Cook, stirring often, until the mixture has reduced to a thick and syrupy glaze, about 5 minutes. Watch this like a hawk because the once it starts to thicken the glaze can easily burn. Set aside, but keep warm.

Return to the grill and check on the ribs. Ribs are done when the meat hits 165°F internal, but they aren’t tender enough to eat until they hit about 185°F and the surface cracks when you lift up on one end of the slab or the meat starts to tear apart when you pull on one of the bones. When the ribs get to that point it’s time to sauce.

Brush the glaze on both side of the ribs and let them cook for another 10 minutes. Glaze both sides again and cook another 10 minutes. Brush ribs one last time with more glaze, remove the from the grill,  and serve remaining glaze on the side.

The Verdict: ★★★★★
To badly misquote Zaphod Beeblebrox  from Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, “If I told you how good these ribs are, I wouldn’t have time to eat them.”

Yes, they were that good – sweet and tangy with good smoke and enough heat from the cayenne and porky goodness from the drippings to tie everything together. They reminded me of the Minimalist Ribs I did where there are so few ingredients that every one of them gets to shine.

The Nutrition:
A four bone serving is 600 calories and 10 Weight Watchers points.

ONE YEAR AGO – Asian Pork Skewers

TWO YEARS AGO – Carnitas with Pickled Onions


Grilled Garlic Shrimp with Spinach & Melon Salad

One of my favorite dishes to order along the Mexican Caribbean is Camarones Al Ajillo (Garlic Shrimp) – big, sweet, freshly-caught shrimp simply sautéed in butter and garlic. When my dear wife found a deal on large grill-cut shrimp (deveined and butterflied with the legs trimmed off), I knew I had to come up with a version of this for the grill.

Because I knew my rendition could end up on the decadent side, I paired it with a light salad that makes good use of the tasty melons that are in season now.

2 pounds large, grill-cut shrimp
8 cups hot water
1/4 cup kosher salt
2 tablespoons raw or brown sugar
Juice of 1 lemon, about 3 tablespoons
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons Chesapeake Bay Seasoning
4 cups ice

Combine the hot water, salt, sugar, lemon juice, garlic, and Bay seasoning in a large bowl and stir to dissolve the salt and sugar. Add the ice and stir to cool the brine. Add the shrimp, stir, and move the whole works to the fridge for an hour.

While the shrimp are brining, put the sauce and salad together.

Spinach & Melon Salad
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste

1 (6-ounce) package fresh baby spinach
2 cups melon, cubed or balled (honeydew in this case)
1/2 cup red onion, thinly sliced

Whisk together the honey, vinegar, oil, and juices in a small bowl. Taste and adjust seasoning. Stash in the fridge until you are ready to serve.

To serve, toss the spinach, melon, and onion together in a large bowl. Toss with three-quarters of the dressing and serve with the remainder for drizzling.

Garlic Butter Sauce
8 tablespoons (1 stick) salted butter
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
Juice of 1 lemon, about 3 tablespoons
1 teaspoon sea or kosher salt
1 teaspoon fresh herbs, minced (take your pick – thyme, chives, parsley, cilantro, and rosemary are all good here)
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Cook until it stops foaming, about 2 minutes.

Add the olive oil, garlic, salt, herbs, and pepper. Cook another 2 minutes until you can really start to smell the garlic. Remove the pan from the heat and add the lemon juice.

Stash someplace warm while you heat up the grill and fish the shrimp out of the brine.

Set your grill up for a direct cook over medium-high (400°F) heat.

Drain the shrimp into a colander. Make sure the garlic sauce is just barely warm enough to be liquid, but not hot enough to cook the shrimp. One by one, grab the shrimp by their tails and dip them in the sauce. Lay the dipped shrimp out on a cookie sheet just like you’re making chocolate-dipped strawberries.

If you are feeling extra naughty, toss the shrimp back in the fridge for 20 minutes and dip them again. If not, save what’s left of the garlic sauce for serving at the table and move the shrimp to the grill.

Place the shrimp on the grate, close the lid to avoid flare-ups from the butter, and grill for 2 minutes. Try to flip the shrimp – as they cook they curl and become more three-sided than 2-sided (I ended up using a spatula to scoop them up and move them around) – and cook for another 2 minutes. Flip/toss/move again and cook until just pink and curled – about another 2 minutes.

Remove from the grill and drizzle with remaining sauce before serving.

The Verdict: ★★★★★
OMG these were good! We hit them so hard that there was quickly nothing left but shells and buttery grins. The brine plumped up the shrimp and made then extra sweet and tender, and the butter sauce added a ton of flavor while not covering anything up. Grilling them in their shells helped not only hold more fo the sauce, but kept the shrimp moist.

The salad was a great match for the shrimp – light and sweet with similar citrus flavors.

The Nutrition:
Not even going there with this dish.

ONE YEAR AGO – Not so Black, Plenty of Bleu, Redux

TWO YEARS AGO – Happy Holiday! – No Crust Coconut Pie


Roasted Beet & Goat Cheese Salad

Our local farmer’s markets are just loaded with beets right now. To take advantage of them I’ve been making this roasted beet salad at least once a week.

2-3 bunches of beets
Baby lettuce or mixed greens
Goat cheese
Olive oil
Kosher or sea salt
Shallot vinaigrette (recipe follows)

Roasting the Beets
Roasting is not only dead-simple, but it also gives them a deep, rich, sweet flavor.

Preheat your oven to 400°F.

Trim all but about an inch or so of greens off of beets and rinse/scrub to clean any dirt off of them. Lightly oil a shallow baking pan. Arrange the beets in the pan, drizzle with a little olive oil (use a  oil sprayer better coverage, for fewer calories) and sprinkle with salt. Give the pan a shake to coat the beets.

Cover the pan with a layer of aluminum foil and seal tightly. Put the pan in the oven and roast for 30 minutes. Check beets and give pan another shake. Roast until beets and tender and pierce easily with a fork (about another 20-30 minutes).

When done, remove pan from oven, uncover, and let cool for 30 minutes.

Peel the beets under cool running water, using your hands to slip the skin off. Use a vegetable peeler or paring knife to trim off any remaining stems or bad spots.

I was able to score both red and yellow beets (which have a slightly sweeter, more buttery taste). When cleaning them, try to keep the two separate and be careful with the red beets as they will stain everything.

Slice the beets and refrigerate until you are ready to use them.

Shallot Vinaigrette
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 cup olive oil
1 medium shallot, quartered

Put the salt and shallot in a food processor and give it a whirl until the shallot is minced. Add the vinegar and let stand for 15 minutes – this is very important as this macerates the shallots and makes the sweet instead of sharp.

After the shallots and vinegar have rested, add the mustard and pulse to combine. With the processor running, pour in 2 or 3 drops of the oil, then continue pouring the oil in a thin stream until all the oil is emulsified into the vinaigrette. Taste and season with pepper and more salt if needed.

Composing the Salad
Because the beet juices will make everything a unappealing purple if mixed,  this is a some-assembly-required salad. Arrange a layer of greens on a plate (fresh baby lettuce from our bowl on the deck, in this case). Top with sliced beets and crumbles of goat cheese. Drizzle with the vinaigrette and serve.

The Verdict: ★★★★★
The sweetness of the beets plays nicely with the sharpness of the greens and cheese, and the vinaigrette does great job of blending the two.

This is a really versatile salad. It works as a first course, but also stands up well to almost any meat you want to pair with it. I’ve served it alongside scallops and steak and it held it’s own with both. Add some slivered almonds or cashew halves to this and I could see it as a light lunch too.

The Nutrition:
With a tablespoon of vinaigrette, this salad is only 4 Weight Watcher’s points and 150 calories.

ONE YEAR AGO – Kindle Here I Come!

TWO YEARS AGO – Cherry-Glazed Chicken


Hula Whirl Chicken

It seems that to make it big in the cooking world you’ve got to have some kind of catchy cooking style or some signature ingredients. Emeril is bamming his “essences”. Bobby Flay has chipotles. Rachel Ray has her EVOO. And Paula Dean has got butter more than covered.

Me? I’ve got what my dear wife calls my “whirly sauces.”

A lot of my recipes rely on marinades that I assemble on the fly in the food processor (AKA “give them a whirl”). Sometimes they are just simple, herby vinaigrette-style concoctions that use acid, oil, and spices to flavor the food. But I also like to make sauces that do double duty as both a marinade and a baste or finishing sauce.

This recipe started out as Huli Huli Chicken. I wanted to amp up the flavors, so I switched out the ketchup for sweet chili sauce and I tweaked the recipe a bit. Here the whirly sauce starts as a marinade, gets amended with some other goodies, and then gets reduced down for a glaze.

12 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1/4 cup sweet chili sauce
1/4 cup teriyaki sauce
1/4 cup raw or brown sugar
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1 tablespoon dark sesame oil
1 teaspoon ground ginger
4 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon orange or lemon juice
1 tablespoon Sriracha Rooster sauce

For the baste:
1 (8-ounce) can crushed pineapple
1/4 cup sweet chili sauce
1/4 cup teriyaki sauce

Put the garlic in a food processor and pulse until the garlic is minced. Add the sweet chili sauce, teriyaki sauce, raw sugar, rice vinegar, sesame oil, ginger, orange juice, and Sriracha and give them a whirl until they are well-combined.

Put the chicken in a zip-top bag and cover with the marinade. Squeeze the air out of the bag and seal. Turn to coat. Marinate in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, overnight is better.

Set your grill up for an direct cook at medium-high (400°F) heat.

Drain chicken and reserve marinade. Pour the marinade into a small sauce pan and add the crushed pineapple and a 1/4 cup of both the sweet chili sauce and the teriyaki sauce. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to simmer and cook until the sauce has reduced by half (about 5 minutes). Remove from heat. Pour half the sauce off to baste the chicken with. Refrigerate the other half to serve with the finished chicken.

Grill the thighs for about 3 minutes on one side. Flip and baste with the reserved marinade. Repeat until the thighs are crispy on the outside and at least 180°F on the inside (about 10 to 15 minutes total). Serve with the other half of the reserved pineapple mixture.

The Verdict: ★★★★☆
This was a tasty dish with a nice mix of sweet and savory, but it was lacking something (no, not the ketchup). I think using teriyaki cut some of the salty tang of the soy sauce in my original version. I’d add a 1/4 soy sauce to this mix and bump the heat up with more Sriracha and/or chili garlic paste.

The Nutrition:
Two thighs with 2 tablespoons of sauce are only 277 calories and 7 Weight Watchers points.

ONE YEAR AGO – Great Grate Upgrade

TWO YEARS AGO – Recipe Revamp – Grilled Swiss Steak