Grilled Baby Bok Choy Stalks with Miso Butter

Grilled Baby Bok Choy Stalks with Miso ButterThe Veggie Challenge
Vegetables can be polarizing…most people have at least one vegetable that they like or at the very least can tolerate. And, in my family, there are more vegetables that people dislike than like. The hard part is that we don’t all like the same vegetables and finding common ground when preparing meals for more than one person can be challenging.

For example, I have one son who loves potatoes of all kinds, won’t eat peas or corn, will only eat carrots raw, but is okay with broccoli. The other son likes potatoes, loves butternut squash, corn, and broccoli, but won’t touch much else. My daughter would live on artichokes if she could, hates potatoes of all kinds (unless it is a potato salad), tolerates broccoli, but will eat just about everything else.

Needless to say, we eat a lot of broccoli.

Now if you are cooking for more than one person on a regular basis, you will eventually learn people’s hard limits. (In my house that would be okra.) The danger is finding yourself in a veggie rut—making the same things over and over. And, no matter how good they taste, you get bored. See broccoli.

It is this boredom that prompted me to go in search of “The Different”. I have been challenging myself, and by default my family, to try new vegetables that I would not typically choose outside of a specific recipe. And also taking the go-to veggies I would normally use and prepare them in a different way.

Case in point, I love bok choy but I don’t usually eat it outside of a stir fry or Asian style dish. So, I went in search of a new way to prepare bok choy and I found this recipe for Grilled Baby Bok Choy Stalks with Miso Butter. It blew me away not just because it was tasty but because of the reaction from the rest of my family.

I grill a lot of vegetables but it never occurred to me to put bok choy on the grill. So, I had to give it a shot if only because it was just so outside of what I ever imagined of doing bok choy. It’s by no means revolutionary. People have been putting food over fire since the dawn of time but it still blew my mind. Maybe it was the miso?

I admit to being concerned about using butter on the grill as it can burn quickly or start a grease fire if the grill is too hot. But, the results were amazing! And, when the people gathered around your table give you that “Wow! This is really good” look, you know you have a keeper.

Grilled Baby Bok Choy Stalks with Miso Butter
Yields 4 servings

The original recipe on Food 52 uses both the bok choy stalks and greens. I decided to reserve the greens for another dish and go with the grilled stalks. Read more…

Roasted Pork Chops with Fresh Fig Sauce

Roasted Pork Chops with Fresh Fig SauceWho gives a fig?
The other day I found myself in possession of two beautiful baskets of fresh Black Mission figs. Knowing that they wouldn’t last long in the hot weather I set about figuring out how to use them.

I knew I didn’t want to use them in a dessert—the last thing I really need to be eating is dessert. Also, that seemed too easy. I wanted something different. So I went searching for savory recipes that included figs.

There are a lot of things you can do with figs beyond just shoving them in your mouth. There’s fig and balsamic jam. Fig pizza. You can slice them up in a salad with fresh goat cheese. Or, you can wrap them in bacon and throw them on the grill. (See our recipe for Prosciutto Wrapped Figs and Blue Cheese.)

When I think of the combination of figs and savory, pork often comes to mind. Probably, because pork can handle the sweetness of the figs the same way it can with apples. So, it was no surprise that my search for something new landed on a recipe that was the inspiration for these Roasted Pork Chops with Fresh Fig Sauce. I knew I had found what was for dinner.

The original recipe calls for pork tenderloin, but I brined some thick-cut, boneless pork chops instead. I used the same pan that I used for the pork to make the fig sauce. Once the sauce was done I pulled the chops from the oven and spooned the figgy goodness on top.

Roasted Pork Chops with Fresh Fig Sauce
Adapted from Food 52
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Slow-Roasted Salmon

Slow-Roasted Salmon We eat a lot of Salmon for dinner. Sometimes I grill it and sometimes I roast it in butter. It can be poached and it can be pan seared. But, I recently came across another way to cook it, Slow-Roasted Salmon, and it blew my mind.

Cooking salmon is not hard. But, one does tend to worry about over-cooking it, especially because of the price tag. Nothing worse than ruining an expensive piece of fish (or meat for that matter) by over cooking it.

Good News! This newest method I found is foolproof.

I was thumbing through my new favorite cookbook, Salt, Fat, Acid Heat and came across this recipe for Slow-Roasted Salmon. It is a very simple, straightforward method of cooking your salmon and the result is a buttery-textured salmon that literally melts in your mouth. It’s fantastic!

Next time you have a big piece of really nice salmon, give this a try. You’ll never go back to your old method…

Slow-Roasted Salmon
Yields 4 to 6 servings Read more…

Corn, Avocado, and Tomato Platter Salad

Corn, Avocado, and Tomato Platter Salad Life On A Platter
If you are someone who likes to cook, chances are you have a relatively extensive collection of pieces with which to cook or serve your creations. Some of us, it could be said, have way more than they need. (Guilty). Within my culinary collection though there are those few pieces that are my workhorses—the things I reach for day in and day out. One of those pieces, for me, is a white rectangular platter I bought at Target for twenty bucks.

I use this platter for everything from grilled meats, to cheese platters, to sliced fruits, or dim sum. It is perfect. It is the perfect size, the perfect color, the perfect everything. If it ever breaks I don’t know what I will do.

Lately I have been using it for one of my favorite summertime dinner options, platter salads. Platter salads can be anything from sliced heirloom tomatoes to a family style cobb salad. Platter salad is one of my go to’s when it’s hot and I am feeling lazy.

Recently I came across this recipe in the NY Times that has since become part of my platter salad rotation. It is the perfect blend of all things summer: corn, tomatoes, and avocado. Plus, it has cumin in it and in my world everything is better with cumin.

I like to serve this salad with something grilled on top whether it’s chicken, skirt steak or even some shrimp (though it is just as good on its own). Whatever your preference, the leftovers will make a great lunch for the next day.

Corn, Avocado, and Tomato Platter Salad
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Shrimp and Grits with Bacon

Shrimp and Grits with BaconThe Low Down
I can be obsessive when I find things I like. It can’t be just a close copy. I’ve got to have the real thing. This is especially true when it comes to cooking.

Anytime I find a new recipe I love that comes from a region or cuisine that I am not familiar with, I can go off the deep end a bit. For example, when I, first discovered Moroccan food, I was obsessed with finding the correct ingredients. Not just ingredients that would work but the most authentic ingredients. The ingredients they use. Same goes with the cookware. If I am going to make a paella or a French cassoulet, you better believe I am going to have the correct pan or clay pot.

It’s the same with cookbooks. I may start my adventure into something new with one cookbook but eventually, I will end up finding the most authentic resource for whatever that cuisine may be. (Think Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking or Paula Wolfert’s Mediterranean cookbooks.) What I enjoy the most about finding that “reference” cookbook is that you not only get the most authentic version of whatever dish you are cooking but you also get the history of the food, the people and the region it comes from. That’s when the day dreaming stars. I picture myself in the markets of Marrakesh or biking through Provence with the day’s groceries in my basket. I am a culinary romantic.

One of my favorite cookbooks for day dreaming is a book by John Martin Taylor called Hoppin’ John’s Low Country Cooking. If you have ever been interested in the regional cooking of the US, this would be my pick as the best reference for Lowcountry cooking.

For those who don’t know, the Lowcountry refers to the coastal plain region of South Carolina from Cat Island down to the Georgia border. Full disclosure, I have never lived there nor have I had the chance to visit. But I do love to read. And after reading books by Pat Conroy and John Berendt, I was hooked by romantic visions of crab and shrimp boils on the beach with and entertaining cast of characters.

Lowcountry cooking is the source for She Crab soup as well as Frogmore Stew and Hoppin’ John. There is so much to the cooking of the region that it is hard to pick just one recipe to love. If pressed though I would have to pick the Shrimp and Grits with Bacon. It’s one of my favorite comfort foods.

If you find yourself in need of an escape from the day-to-day and with no time or money to actually go somewhere, take a chance and pick up this (or any other cookbook) and step outside your world for a bit.

Shrimp and Grits with Bacon
Adapted from Hoppin’ John’s Low Country Cooking

These typical shrimp and grits are served for breakfast, but they are good any time of day. We love the addition of bacon! Read more…