Vietnamese Steak Marinade

Vietnamese Steak MarinadeLighten up, Francis
It’s week two of the let’s lighten up menu. I’m not saying I have been totally good about it but I will say I have been doing better than usual. There may have been pizza for dinner one night ‘cause we had to do some laundry and straighten up the house as things had gotten way out of hand. There may also have been a hot dog at the softball game because I was hangry. (Youth sports is no place for hanger.) For the most part, we’ve been eating better.

Saturday’s fantastic weather prompted me to head outside and do some grilling. Per usual, we had a packed schedule. Thankfully, I was able to make a marinade out of stuff I had on hand. I poured it over some flat iron steaks that needed to be used, tossed them back in the fridge, and left for the afternoon. I threw the steaks on the grill when we returned for a quick dinner with some steamed rice and broccoli.

As it turned out, there were a lot of leftovers—which was a good thing if not unusual. For lunch on Monday I was able to slice up some of the meat and put it on a salad I tossed together with some spring mix, peppers, sliced red onions and whatever else I found in the crisper. What a light and tasty meal! Salad is not usually my first lunch choice but topped with the sliced meat it was the perfect meal.

Vietnamese Steak Marinade
Adapted from NY Times Cooking

This marinated and grilled Vietnamese flank steak is fantastic over a simple salad or steamed rice bowl with broccoli. It also is delicious with our recipe for Vietnamese Cucumber SaladRead more…

Gravlax

GravlaxHomeland
Not too long ago I watched an episode of Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown that was filmed in Copenhagen and I found myself glued to the seat fascinated by what I was watching on the screen. My mother’s side of the family is Danish — and I don’t mean mostly Danish with a little bit of “other” thrown in. I mean, “one hundred percent my ancestors wore breastplates and rode in boats to raid your shores” Danish.

Copenhagen, and Denmark in general, have always been on my bucket list of places to visit, mainly because I want to know more about where my family is from. It never occurred to me to go because of the food. But, as I sat there watching this show, it was a revelation. Because, more often than not, when I think of Scandinavian food I am transported back to the nights my grandmother would make red cabbage. (The smell when we entered the house was horrendous. But, Gam and Mom loved it.) Other times it makes me think of the herring in cream sauce we sell here at the store. Apparently, it’s delicious. I…just…can’t…even. I’ll sell it but I don’t have to eat it.

What I was seeing on the tv screen, however, was something completely different. And, it made me hungry. To be fair, Smørrebrød is not new and, in fact, it makes a perfect lunch. But, watching the chef create classic Scandinavian dishes in a way that made the old ways new again was energizing. His emphasis on ingredients that could be grown and used sustainably was icing on the cake. Now, he did use moss that he gathered off the trees in his backyard.(Foraging is big in Denmark.) Not sure I’m ready to go there yet. But, it did get me fired up about my garden again.

If you look really closely, on the menus of the nicer restaurants around us you will notice more and more chefs creating dishes with Scandinavian influences. (Akvavit comes to mind.) I started noticing it before my virtual trip to Copenhagen and even more so since. If those sixty minutes have done anything they have made me seek those places and recipes out.

In the meantime, as I thumb through some recent cookbook purchases, I am content to make myself a little bit of Smørrebrød for snacking. And, if it includes a little homemade Gravlax, so much the better….

Gravlax
Adapted from The Spruce
Gravlax is salmon that has been cold-cured with sugar, salt, and fresh dill. Modern gravlax has a fresh, delicate flavor and is delicious served either as an elegant appetizer or as a topping for smørrebrød (open-faced sandwiches). Read more…

Mom’s Lamb Chops Recipe

Mom’s Lamb Chops RecipeWhen I moved into my first apartment after college, the first real meal I made for myself was my Mom’s lamb chops. When I say “real” meal, I am talking about something that didn’t involve boiling noodles or scrambling eggs. This was a legit, little bit pricey, complete with mashed potatoes and fresh peas, adult meal. To this day, I don’t know if it was the meal itself or the fact that I did it all on my own (and was now totally self-sufficient) but it was one of the best meals I ever ate.

Mom passed away recently and there has been a whirlwind of activity with all that this entails. So, on the rare evening that I have had time to make dinner for my family, I’ve noticed that I have been gravitating towards the recipes that were Mom’s. Her meatloaf is a great example.

My mother got such a kick out of the fact that I would write this blog every week. Mainly, because she knew all of the players in the family stories I would tell. Her only complaint was that she didn’t get as much credit for my culinary development as she deserved. And, she was absolutely right.

I have often talked about the recipes that my grandmother made, and they are all great. But, my mother was just as talented and prolific. And, the reality is, it’s the recipes my mother made for my sister and me that I serve to my own family on a weekly basis. I am still on the hunt for her New Orleans Barbequed Shrimp recipe….

Tonight I will be making Mom’s Lamb Chops again. There’s not a whole lot to the recipe. In fact, there are really no measurements—all the quantities in the recipe are approximate.

Mom’s Lamb Chops Recipe
The amount of marinade Mom made depended on how many chops she had. You can use whatever lamb chops you can find: sirloin chops, loin chops—whatever works.

Mom always used loin chops and we always got exactly two on our plate. And, always with mashed potatoes and peas.
Yields 4 servings Read more…

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…

Heirloom Tomato Salad with Blue Cheese Dressing

Heirloom Tomato SaladFamily Heirloom
Tomatoes are kind of a thing with my family. Every summer my mother waits with baited breath for home grown tomatoes so that she can have her favorite tomato sandwich. My husband likes to eat them sliced thick with a pinch of salt. My grandmother was also a huge fan of summer tomatoes though her favorite way to serve them has become a family joke. We call it Gammy salad.

During the summer, when her tomatoes were super tasty, Gam would frequently serve her tomato salad at Sunday dinner. The “salad” consisted of sliced tomatoes and avocados artfully arranged on a platter with a large dollop of mayonnaise in the middle. That’s it. Sometimes she would get wild and sprinkle a little Italian dressing on top but for the most part, it was tomatoes and mayo.

Now I fully admit to being a food snob and maybe it was a generational thing. But, I have always thought that the tomato/mayo combination was just, well, weird or maybe it was just her age. People of her generation ate some things that we wouldn’t think of eating today…for a number of reasons. (Heart attack prevention would be one.) My grandfather liked butter on his ham sandwich which I guess isn’t too strange when you consider my great grandfather liked bacon grease sandwiches. (Yeah. Think about that for a minute.)

So, I always put the Gammy salad in the older folks like weird stuff category but I have to admit my favorite means of eating tomatoes isn’t that much of a jump from hers.

I, too, like to slice my tomatoes thick and arrange them on a plate. But, I opt for freshly-made blue cheese dressing instead of the mayonnaise. Nothing looks prettier on a plate than some thickly sliced heirloom tomatoes with a drizzle of tangy blue cheese dressing.

Making your own dressing is pretty easy. Though, I have to say the freshly made dressing we have in our cheese department is even easier…..

Heirloom Tomato Salad with Blue Cheese Dressing
Adapted from Barefoot Contessa At Home by Ina Garten Read more…