After Juneuary and Febuly here in the Pacific Northwest, March has returned us to the normalcy of rain. I love waking up in the middle of the night to the sound of raindrops plopping on the roof, splattering against my window. I snuggle down into my blankets and the noise lulls me back to sleep.
There’s something about a rich, thick stew on a cool, rainy day that makes me feel warm and happy from the inside out. I love to dunk hot crusty bread in the broth, soaking the bread through with the flavor of the broth, and slowly savor it in my mouth.
I’m particularly fond of this recipe that combines the dark, chocolate flavor of a rich stout beer with sweet winter tangerines. I slow cook some chopped up beef bottom round roast with tender sweet potatoes, carrots, and chewy dried tomatoes for a bowl of deliciousness that is out of this world. It makes my mouth happy just thinking about the goodness to come from each bite.
The best part? This is truely a fix-it-and-forget-it meal. I simply marinate the beef overnight in the stout then throw everything in the slow cooker in the morning before I leave from work. When I come home from the office, all I have to do is mix in the tangerine juice and dig into a bowl. Home-cooking does not get any easier than this.
Brussel sprouts are so perfect this time of year. The tiny green heads perch on their tall stalks, tightly closed, just waiting to be plucked and prepped into one delicious dish or another.
What? You don’t like brussel sprouts?
Believe it or not, I was right there with you at one point. My only exposure to brussel sprouts was at the holidays when my grandma would steam them to death and then slather their limp bodies in butter. Disgusting.
And then one day at a family dinner, my sister made roasted brussel sprouts.
Oh. My. Deliciousness.
My world changed. They were at once tender and crisp with a slightly smoky, sweetly caramelized flavor. I was smitten. Ever since then, I look forward to seeing the tall green stalks of brussel sprouts at the market in the fall and the kitchen experiments that will surely ensue.
This Cherried Brussel Beef Stir Fry is one of those experiments. I love the sweet, chewy cherries offset by the tender brussel sprouts and filling meat. Add in a twist of tart cherry juice and kefir lime leaves, spicy sriracha chili sauce, and a bit of cool mint, and you have a flavor sensation like no other.
For the beef, I like to use a lean bottom round roast. These usually come in large pieces of 2-3 lbs. each, but this is a perfect piece to have your butcher slice up. I then freeze the pieces and take them out for dishes such as this or winter stews.
And the bonus? This entire dish takes only about 20 minutes to prep and cook in total. I love a delicious and easy dinner, especially this time of year when the days are short and packed full of work responsibilities and holiday preparations.
An intense flavor explosion, this Cherried Brussel Beef Stir Fry takes only 20 minutes to prep and cook, making it a perfectly wondrous weeknight winner.
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 lb. fresh brussel sprouts, trimmed and quartered
½ cup chopped dried cherries
2 kefir lime leaves, ribs removed and leaves finely minced
pinch of coarse sea salt
½ lb. bottom round roast, cut into 1" pieces
½ cup tart cherry juice
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp sriracha sauce
¼ cup chopped fresh mint
1 cup uncooked brown basmati rice, cooked according to package directions
Heat the sesame oil in a deep skillet over medium-high heat.
Add the brussel sprouts, cherries, kefir lime leaves and salt and cook for 3 minutes until the brussel sprouts are lightly browned, stirring frequently.
Add the beef and reduce the heat to medium, cooking about 2-3 minutes more until the beef is browned on the outside.
Whisk together the cherry juice, honey, sriracha, and mint. Pour into the skillet and use the back of a wooden spoon to deglaze the pan, scraping up all of the cooked bits off the bottom of the skillet.
Remove from heat. Serve the stir fry over the brown basmati rice.
I’m not sure there’s anything better than spending a cold, rainy Sunday in the kitchen, slowly crafting a masterpiece. As I mentioned last week, I’ve been experimenting a lot with braising, which is perfect for such days. I casually yet deliberately layer in flavor after flavor, slowly cooking the tender meat and vegetables in a sauce that thickens to tasty perfection. The result is a dish of warm, satisfying, comfort food at its best.
For this week’s recipe, I’m taking another trip to Italy with this Red Wine Braised Beef Braciole. I experimented with several cuts of beef when crafting this recipe and I ended up preferring flank steak the best. To keep the portion size in control, I use a 1 pound cut that I pound to about a 1/2″ thickness with a mallet. I then top the beef with tender leaves of fresh baby spinach, a blend of mozzarella, provolone and parmesan cheese, chopped sundried tomatoes, and a bit of sharp garlic. To finish the preparation, I roll the steak up and secure it with kitchen twine. That’s the first layer of flavor.
The rolled, stuffed steak is seared hot and fast in herbs and olive oil.
The next layer of flavor starts by heating olive oil on medium high heat in a dutch oven or deep skillet that can go from stove to oven. I add in some finely minced fresh herbs, basil and rosemary to be exact, letting them lightly crisp and brown in the olive oil to release their unique aromas. That’s the second flavor layer.
Next we add the steak to the herbs and olive oil. The key here is to sear the rolled flank steak hot and fast on all sides. The beef crackles and pops when it hits the hot oil and I use a pair of tongs to roll it in the oil, searing all sides. The meat is then removed from the pan and set aside.
The tender steak and linguine tossed in the rich, red wine braising liquid are ready to be served.
And now we start the fourth layer of flavor, and I think this is my favorite part. Left behind in the pan after removing the beef are little bits of succulent deliciousness crusted and stuck to the bottom of the pan in the now browned oil. With the pan still on medium high heat, I quickly pour in a bit of red wine and a loud hiss of steam erupts. The wine bubbles and boils as I use a wooden spoon to stir it and scrape the bottom of the pan, releasing all these stuck on bits and starting the basis of the sauce.
And now the final flavor layer. The pan is removed from the heat and I add the beef back in with a bit more wine and a small handful of sundried tomatoes. Finally, I cover the pan and move it into the oven on a low heat, just 325F, and bake it for an hour. To get the beef evenly flavored and colored with the wine, I like to turn the stuffed and rolled steak over midway through the cooking process.
A beautiful Beef Braciole sliced and ready to eat.
The resulting beef braciole, slices of meat that are pan-fried or grilled, often in their own juice or in a small amount of light olive oil, is so amazingly tender and full of flavor. And yet, there’s this thick, rich sauce left in the bottom of the pan. Who in their right mind would discard something so full of flavor?
So to finish the dish, given that this is of Italian inspiration, I like to stir some al dente linguine into the sauce and let it soak up the flavors of red wine, beef, olive oil, and sundried tomatoes. I then serve the sliced beef braciole over a mound of the saucy linguine for the perfect rainy Sunday Supper.
I admit it: when it comes to food I love to play with color, texture, and somewhat unusual flavor combinations. Sometimes my ideas work out, sometimes they don’t. These Chipotle Steak Tacos with Fennel Beet Slaw are a perfect example of a crazy idea gone right.
The steak is easy, I simply slice pieces of lean top sirloin steak into thin strips and then marinate them in a simple mixture of chipotle peppers with adobo sauce and sweet orange juice. I like to marinate them overnight for maximum flavor. Then a quick grill and the steak is ready for primetime.
The sweet beets and crunchy fennel create a crunchy, delicious dish with the spicy chipotle marinated steak.
The finishing touch is the slaw that I slather on the tacos. I thinly sliced some crunchy fennel which adds a delicious, lightly licorice flavor to the dish. I then peeled and julienned fresh, raw beets.
I know you’re asking, “You can eat raw beets?” Yes! They are delicious shredded in a salad or cut into thin sticks and thrown in a slaw like this.
Beets are naturally sweet and high in sugar and they balance the licorice flavor of the fennel perfectly. I then toss the fennel and beets with some sweet shredded carrots, peppery cilantro and a dressing of orange juice, honey and olive oil to create a sweet, crunchy slaw that is perfect with the spicy chipotle marinated steak.
Wrap the two in a corn tortilla and you have a pretty, perfectly delicious meal.
I love summer in Portland. The sun is shining, everything is still green from all the spring rain, my garden goes into overdrive, and I get to break out the grill.
Grilling on my propane grill is one of my favorite food prep techniques. The clean-up is easy, it’s an extremely healthy style of cooking, and I love the flame grilled flavor that the food takes on.
Skewers of course are the ultimate grilled food. Prep is easy and you can create skewers of literally unlimited varieties. I like to make skewers as pretty as they are delicious, after all the eyes are the first sense to attract you to a dish. So for these skewers I decided to get a little creative and ribbon the ingredients onto the skewers.
Zucchini and steak are sliced into thin ribbons for these skewers.
For the veggies, I like to use zucchini sliced thinly on a mandolin slicer. You can use a sharp knife in a pinch, but to get the zucchini really thin so that it will bend without breaking, you really need a mandolin. For additional color, look for both green and yellow zucchini at your store or farmer’s market. Yellow zucchini isn’t available in my area yet, so for this post I only used the green. However, I love the additional pop of color that layering both the green and yellow brings to the dish.
Once the zucchini is sliced, I like to toss the pieces with a very simple mixture of olive oil, rosemary and garlic. It helps the zucchini grill up better, and it adds a real punch of flavor to the skewers.
But let’s talk about the meat. Steak. Flame grilled steak. Is your mouth watering yet?
The ribbons of meat and veggies are folded into ‘S’ shapes and packed tightly onto the skewers to create pretty little stacks.
To cut the raw steak into thin slices, you not only need a sharp knife, but the meat also needs to be well chilled. I like to wrap the cut of steak in plastic and put it in the freezer for exactly 1 hour, no more, no less. This puts a good chill on the steak so that it firms up without being so hard that it’s impossible to cut. In fact, the thin slices pretty much fall off my knife.
Steak is so rich and flavorful, it really doesn’t need much added for this recipe. Once sliced, I simply lay the pieces out on my cutting board and sprinkle them with salt and pepper. That’s it.
Grill theses skewers on a low flame with the hood closed for about 1 1/2 – 2 minutes on each of the 4 sides for a medium cooked steak.
To assemble the skewers, I use 2 bamboo skewers for each skewer. This helps keep the meat and vegetables secure and makes them easier to cook evenly. Holding the 2 skewers about a finger width apart, I fold the ribboned pieces of meat and veggies into ‘S’ shapes and push them down the length of the bamboo. Normally I leave a little room between pieces, but for this recipe I really cram them on there, stacking up all the ribbons into these pretty little blocks of color.
This says it all, right? Delish!
Then all that’s left is to grill up these beauties. Because the ingredients are so packed onto the skewers, I cook them on a low flame with the hood down for about 1 1/2 – 2 minutes on each side. This ensures the meat is cooked at the center – I like my steak medium – and there’s a nice char on the outside.
Tender steak and zucchini are sliced into thin ribbons, dressed, skewered and grilled for a dish that is as pretty on the plate as it is delicious.
2 medium baby zucchini, trimmed and sliced lengthwise into paper thin strips
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
1 clove garlic, finely minced or pressed
½ lb. raw steak, chilled in the freezer for 1 hour before slicing into ⅛"-1/4" strips along the longest side
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
8 bamboo skewers about 5" in length, soaked in cold water for at least 20 minutes
Preheat your grill.
Whisk together the olive oil, rosemary and garlic. In a large bowl, toss with the zucchini ribbons until combined.
Lay the strips of steak out on a cutting board and sprinkle with the salt and pepper, patting the seasoning into the meat with your fingers.
Holding 2 skewers about a finger width apart, fold a piece of zucchini into an 'S' shape and slide onto the skewer. Repeat with the remaining pieces of meat and veggies. I like to arrange my skewers in this pattern: 2 zucchini, 1 steak, 2 zucchini, 1 steak, 2 zucchini, 1 steak, 2 zucchini. Really push all of the ingredients together to create a stacked skewer.
Repeat with the remaining skewers. As a reminder, you will use 2 of the bamboo skewers per kabob. In the end, you should have 4 complete skewers ready for grilling.
Reduce the flame on your grill to low and spray lightly with grapeseed oil to keep the skewers from sticking. Place the skewers on the grill and cook with the hood down for about 1½ - 2 minutes on each of the 4 sides or until the meat reaches your desired level of done-ness.
I was at a local grocery store today and upon entering the store I was greeted with a large sign that said:
“Irish Soul Food: This weekend get a taste of St. Patrick’s Day with corned beef from the hills of the Northwest.”
Really? Corned beef is Irish soul food?
I don’t how this corned beef and cabbage nonsense started, but here is a revelation for you: there is absolutely nothing Irish about it. That’s right! Nothing!
When you go to Ireland, you will not find corned beef and cabbage on any menu. In fact, most of the Irish people I met didn’t even know what corned beef is. This “Irish soul food” is actually an American invention.
What you will find in Ireland is Guinness Beef Stew. This is a staple in just about every Irish pub. It’s stuffed full of potatoes and traditionally also topped with a mash of potatoes. Sometimes, the pub will also serve it with a plate of chips (aka fries) on the side. That’s right – potatoes are typically in, on and around this stew.
My Guinness Beef Stew is different from other recipes in that (1) I braise the meat in the oven instead of cooking it on the stovetop, and (2) I have a secret ingredient – molasses. That’s right, I use just a wee bit of molasses to enhance the dark smokiness of the Guinness while adding a touch of sweetness. It’s absolutely perfect.
So if you’re looking for some authentic Irish soul food this St. Patrick’s Day, for the love of God put aside that corned beef and cabbage. Try this stew instead, your tummy will thank you for it.
This St Patrick's Day skip that American invention of corned beef and cabbage and try this rich, hearty beef stew slowly braised in dark and smoky Guinness Extra Stout, a pub staple in the fair emerald isle of Ireland.
1 lb. beef chuck roast, trimmed of all visible fat
1 - 22 oz. bottle Guinness extra stout
1 tbsp olive oil
3 medium carrots, trimmed and chopped
2 large stalks celery, trimmed and chopped
1 medium sweet onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
1½ tbsp fresh rosemary, minced
2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
generous pinch of salt
12 oz. (1½ cups) Guinness extra stout
3 cups beef broth
2 tbsp black strap molasses
2 parsnips, peeled and chopped
1 lb. yukon gold potatoes, chopped
Place the beef roast in a bowl or container and cover with the contents of the 22 oz. bottle of Guinness extra stout. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
Preheat oven to 300F. Heat olive oil in cast iron dutch oven on medium high heat.
Remove the meat from the Guinness and pat dry with paper toweling. Discard the Guinness.
Sear the meat in the oil for 1 minute on each side, making sure to get all sides. Remove from pan and set aside.
Reduce heat to medium then add in carrots, celery, onion, garlic, rosemary, thyme, and salt. Cook until the onion is transparent.
Stir in the 12 oz. of Guinness Extra Stout, using the back of a wooden spoon to scrape up all of the stuck on bits at the bottom of the pan. Increase heat to medium-high and cook for 5 minutes to let the mixture reduce a bit.
Turn burner off and add beef broth and molasses, stirring to combine.
Stir in parsnips and potatoes. Place seared beef roast back into the pan, covering it almost to the top with liquid. Cover the pan and bake in the oven at 300F for 1½ hours.
Remove roast from stew and cut or shred into pieces. Stir the meat back into the stew, season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve immediately.
Winter paid an early visit to the Pacific Northwest last week. Various days brought us snow flurries, freezing rain, ice, and temps that dipped down into the low teens. I bundled up in my coat, hat and gloves when outside, and inside I lived in layers of sweats and slippers, but it still seemed as if I would never get warm.
It’s times like this that I crave hot soups or stews with some warm crusty bread. Snuggled under a blanket, watching a good movie on the TV, and spooning warm bites of deliciousness into my mouth, it warms me from the inside out. The best thing about a slow cooker dish is that it’s so effortless to make, especially this dish.
I start by marinating the beef overnight in a full-bodied, dry, red wine. The beef turns a lovely, dark purple.
I start the night before by marinating the lean beef stew meat in red wine. I like to use a full-bodied, dry red wine with beef because of the flavor it adds. I selected a Rosemount Estate 2012 Shiraz from Australia for this particular recipe because of it’s bold, peppery flavor.
I like to load my stew with vegetables for added nutrition and a hearty, chunky texture.
The next morning, I then simply combine the beef, and the wine it marinated in, in the slow cooker with loads of root vegetables: potatoes, carrots, parsnip, onion. I also add mushrooms and a can of diced tomatoes for additional flavor. I like to load my stews up with lots of vegetables to give the stew solid nutritional value while also lending a thick, chunkiness to it. And that’s it – once the slow cooker is done, there’s nothing left to do but serve it up.
But wait, I’m not done.
Stew is best with some warm, fresh crusty bread. Years ago I was in Philadelphia for work and had lunch at the historic City Tavern while there. It started with a tray of assorted house-made breads, each of which was a little slice of heaven. The chef was there that day and I ended up buying a copy of his cookbook, which he signed for me, and taking home those wonderful bread recipes.
Freshly baked Rosemary Bread completes the meal.
I’ve tried many of the bread recipes in here over the years, the cranberry orange quick bread is particularly good on Christmas morning. But the Rosemary Bread, a yeast-based bread, is hands down my absolute favorite. I’ve made my own modifications to it over time: using a blend of whole wheat pastry and white bread flour, using olive oil instead of vegetable oil, and increasing the amount of rosemary (and only using fresh rosemary). I also divide the dough into two pieces and form them into long loaves instead of doing as the book says and rolling out the dough into a rectangle then rolling it up jelly roll style and making one giant loaf. Sometimes I also like to add cloves of roasted garlic to the dough for a different flavor.
You need to have some time on your hands to make homemade, yeast-based bread. The typical process takes 2-3 hours with all the setting and rising that it has to go through. The end result, though, is so worth the effort. Freshly baked bread is, in my humble opinion, far superior to store-bought bread.
Do you bake your own bread? What’s your favorite?
Slow Cooker Red Wine and Beef Stew with Rosemary Bread
From City Tavern Cookbook: "Rosemary was most likely brought to the New World by the French, who prized it for its therapeutic value - it was believed to relieve digestive ills - as well as for its symbolism - it was often used to represent a declaration of love. Rosemary bushes also were used in hedges to ward off garden pests. This recipe introduces the herb's distinctive flavor into a finely textured bread. if you don't have your own rosemary growing in the garden, the fresh herb is available at most supermarkets."
2¼ teaspoons (1 packet) active dry yeast
2 cups warm water (110-115F)
¼ cup + 2 tbsp olive oil (divided)
2 tbsp finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 tsp coarse sea salt
2.5 cups whole wheat pastry flour
2.5 cups bread flour
Place the water in a large mixing bowl and sprinkle the yeast over the top. Let dissolve and stand about 10 minutes, until slightly foamy.
Stir in the ¼ cup olive oil, rosemary and salt. Mix in the flours, 1 cup at a time, to make a soft dough.
Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Knead for 6-8 minutes, until smooth and elastic and adding only enough flour to prevent sticking.
Transfer the dough to a large bowl coated with 1 tbsp of the olive oil. Turn the dough to coat all surfaces with the oil then place in the bottom of the bowl.
Cover the bowl with a slightly damp towel. let rise in a warm place, free from drafts, for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until doubled in size.
Punch down the dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface.
Knead for 3 more minutes, until smooth, then cover with the towel and let rest for 10 minutes.
Lightly coat a 15 x 10 x 1-inch baking sheet with olive oil.
Preheat the oven to 375F.
Separate the dough into 2 even pieces. Roll and shape each piece into a loaf about 12" long, tapered at the ends and thicker in the middle. Place the loaves on the baking sheet, leaving at least 3" between the loaves.
Cover with a towel and let rise for 30-45 minutes, until almost doubled in size. Brush the top of each loaf with the remaining 1 tbsp of olive oil.
Bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden and the bread sounds hollow when tapped on bottom.
Remove from baking sheet and cool on wire rack for 10-15 minutes before slicing and serving.
Each loaf will bake up to about 1.5 lbs equaling a total of 3 lbs., or 48 oz. At a serving size of 2 oz. per person, the total recipe should yield 24 servings.
I am not ready for summer to be over. Yes, I realize that the rains Portland is so famous for have arrived in gale force, and the nights are so cool that my scrumptious urban garden is as browned and withered as last week’s leftovers. Of course, the ultimate sign of the end of my favorite season is that last week the morning chill forced me to to turn the heater on. But I am still not ready for summer to be over, and I had to get one last juicy steak recipe in before this summer is truly a thing of the past.
It didn’t help that the day I chose to make this dish for you all there was a serious storm rolling through Portland. The winds were whipping up to 45 mph and the rain was coming down in sheets. Still, being as I work full time during the week I don’t have a lot of flexibility in the timing of recipe prep for my blog, so I decided to carry on. Keep calm and carry on. Right?
I turned the camera on and pulled the steak out of the fridge where it had been marinating overnight. I use 2 filets of top sirloin for this recipe because they come in smaller, portion appropriate cuts and they are very lean, you’ll find very little fat marbling these cuts. The lack of fat, however, means that the meat can dry out easily when it’s cooked. So for these cuts I like to use a rich marinade that will both flavor and protect the tender meat.
I have to tell you, I am absolutely in love with this marinade. It’s a simple mixture of sweet balsamic vinegar and tart fresh raspberries. For maximum flavor, I let the top sirloin soak in this marinade overnight. The flesh of the steak turns a pretty dark red color and, when grilled, it’s absolutely perfect.
On this particular night, though, the wind and rain were both coming through my yard so hard that I decided to forego the propane grill outside and use my indoor grill pan. I bought my indoor grill pan a couple of years ago for just such an occasion. The deep ridges allow me to get a nice sear on the meat while allowing the air to circulate around to get a true grilled flavor. (P.S., it also makes a great pannini!)
I prefer my steak medium, which is about 3 minutes on each side. I’ve become so good at grilling that I can typically tell how well done the meat is by pressing the center with my cooking tongs. The more firm the center is, the more cooked through the meat is. If you like to grill, I encourage you to experiment with testing the meat with your tongs and cutting just a wee bit into the meat to see how done it actually is. After a few attempts, you’ll get the hang of it as well.
The perfecting ingredient, the cherry on top, if you will, is the goat cheese. I use a creamy, mild goat cheese that I crumble over the top. I then pop the grill pan into the oven and broil it for 1-2 minutes. The cheese melts up, browns very lightly, and absolutely perfects the dish. It’s a deliciously indulgent add to a healthy lifestyle.
On this particular night, though, I pulled the pan from under the broiler and arranged the steak in my little makeshift photo studio that I have set up in the small dining area adjoining my kitchen. I always snap my final photos of the dish before I close out my video. So there I was, shutter snapping away, contorting my camera into all different angles, and suddenly the power went out. It’s not exactly easy to take photos with no lighting.
There was still enough light left coming from outside that I was able to find my way to the cupboard and I grabbed a flashlight and some candles. As I returned to my “studio”, the lights flashed back on. Saved! I grabbed my camera and hadn’t taken more than a couple of shots when the power went off again. Curses!
I stalled for a few minutes and when it became apparent that the lights weren’t coming back on, I resolved to accept the photos I had already shot, for better or for worse, and I finished my video with the help of a my little flashlight. Really. Watch the video below all the way through. Life is nothing if not unpredictable!
Flavors of sweet balsamic vinegar and tart raspberries bring lean top sirloin filet to life. Topped with creamy goat cheese, it's a must make dish. And did I mention it's so easy that even the novice cook can whip this up?
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
½ cup fresh raspberries
2 top sirloin steak filets, about 4.5 oz. each raw
1 oz. crumbled goat cheese
Add the balsamic vinegar and the raspberries in a shallow dish. Crush the raspberries with the back of a fork and mix well with the vinegar to combine.
Season each side of the filets with salt and pepper and submerge the steak in the marinade, turning to coat all sides.
Cover the dish and refrigerate overnight.
Heat an indoor grill pan on medium high. Sear the steak for about 1 minute on each side to get grill marks.
Reduce the heat to medium and continue cooking the steak for 2-3 minutes on each side for medium done-ness.
Remove the pan from heat, top each steak filet with ½ oz. of the goat cheese and place under the broiler for 1-2 minutes.
This week I decided to pull a couple of favorite recipes out for you: a spicy, grilled Chipotle Flank Steak from my Entrees cookbook and this cool, sweet Barley Salad from my Salads cookbook.
This steak is one of my earliest recipes, created a couple of years ago when I first started my blog, and it is a delicious today as it was then. I love the flavor combination of tart citrus and spicy chipotle in the marinade that coats the steak. Grilled on the barbecue, it is absolutely perfect.
The salad is much more recent, developed last summer after a salad I had at Tarla Mediterranean Grill. I was impressed with the flavors of nutty barley, cool mint, sweet raisins, and crunchy pistachios in their salad. I added pomegranate seeds to my salad to give it a little extra crunch and burst of juicy flavor, then also used a bit of pomegranate juice in the dressing. Fixing it again this week reminded me how much I absolutely love this recipe, and what a hit it always is with my family and friends.
To round out the meal, I grilled some corn as well. Grilling corn is super easy so I won’t bother posting a formal recipe, but here’s what I did. I gently pulled the green husk back from the ear and removed the silk from inside. I then pulled the husk back into place and secured it around the ear with some kitchen twine. I soaked the ears in water for about 1 hour — the same amount of time it takes to cook the barley for the salad and marinate the steak for the grill. I then just pop the ears on the top rack of my grill and let them steam inside their husks while I cook the steak. For a bit of extra flavor, I pulled the husk back one mid-way through the cooking process and brushed each ear with a mixture of melted butter, lime juice, salt and pepper, then put the husk back in place, re-secured it with twine, and continued to cook it. Delicious!
I love wine. For those of you that know me, this won’t exactly be a shocking revelation.
It is amazing to me that something can taste so dramatically different depending on the grape, the soil, the surrounding environment, the weather, and the fermenting method. The flavor can even be different between two identical bottles. This is why wine tasting is so much fun for me.
On Friday I took a trip to the Hood River area of Oregon to sample some of the local wineries. It’s an opportunity to support local businesses and drink some really good wine. And a day spent sampling some really good wine is always a day well spent.
We started with Cathedral Ridge Winery, which was the most upscale of the wineries we visited and had a lush picnic area with a stunning view of Mt. Adams. Their Rock Star Red blend was divine, albeit a bit overpriced for my budget.
Next up was Pheasant Valley Winery, very laid back in comparison to our first stop, and boasting one of the best local Tempranillos that I’ve had. They have inexpensive plates to nosh on as well, which was a nice respite before we moved on to our next stop, Marchesi Vineyards, owned by an Italian family and featuring Italian varietals that you don’t often see in Oregon. I thought the wine here was just okay, but the winery was just lovely with a sunny patio, rocking band, and enthusiastic crowd.
The final stop was Naked Winery, which has average wines but a great marketing hook. After all, sex really does sell. The wines have tantalizing names such as Booty Call, Tease, Fling and Foreplay. The bartender was young and very cute, and it was quite fun saying things like “How about a little Foreplay?” or “I’m ready for Penetration now” and “Mmmmm, that was quite the Climax, wasn’t it?”
Zinfandel is one of my favorite wines. A good Zin is full-bodied and jammy, typically with flavors of sweet blackberries or juicy cherries. Some of the best Zinfandel comes from California where the warm sunshine makes for plump, juicy grapes. I not only love to drink a good wine, but I also love to cook with it.
I combined a good Zin from California’s Lodi valley with some sweet summer blackberries for an easy marinade that I let steak soak in overnight. It turns the beef a lovely hue of purple.
Of course it wouldn’t be summer without the grill. While I could leave the steak whole, I like to cube it up and skewer it then grill it. It makes for easier portion sizes and cooks quicker. I served it here with some broccolini and crushed potatoes topped with gorgonzola, also prepared on the grill, but these skewers also are amazing with my Grilled Beet Salad, available in my Salads Cookbook, just $1.49 in multiple e-reader formats.