In the Summertime

I have a cute new short haircut for the summer in preparation for the upcoming dance competition.  I bought some bright pink lipstick and nail polish to go with my rhythm dress–the hot pink one with all the fringes on it.   Ooh LaLa!

My vacation is on hold until after the competition, then we are going SOUTH– in a good way.  I hope you are on a vacation or going on one,  sitting on a dock by a bay, or climbing every mountain.  Have lots of laughs,  super casual Fridays, and extra lazy Sundays.

If you’re still at home ( like me), and if you’re in the kitchen ( also, like me), I wish for you fizzy beverages with lots of ice, and super delicious Summer Flavors.

Here is a collection of some of my favorite summer-inspired recipes.

 

 

 

 

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A Girl, A Grill, and a Portobello

Once upon a time there was a girl (me), a grill (ours), and a portobello (mushroom).  But wait, I’m getting ahead of myself—-

Now that the weather is getting warmer, I look forward to having dinner outside on the deck.  I can smell the smoky aroma of something sizzling on the grill; and I start to salivate just thinking about it.  The only glitch in all of this is my somewhat shaky relationship with the grill.  I depend on Mr. D. to fire it up and tend to whatever there is cooking on it while I finish the other parts of the meal in the kitchen.  I admit I’m a “girly girl”  and leave things like barbecue tools, fire starters and oven mitts to the man of the house.  As a result we usually grill outside on the weekends or holidays when he is around.

On this day, however, my menu called for grilling portobello mushroom caps along with some vegetables for our meatless evening meal.

Grilled portobellos with Chopped Salad.

Grilled portobellos with Chopped Salad.

Big, meaty portobello caps remind me of hamburgers, so I was excited at the prospect of cooking them on the grill. I thought I could handle that, so I prepped the vegetables and cleaned the mushrooms in anticipation of my big moment(s) at the grill.

With a little smile on my face, thinking about the surprise I had in store, I went out to start the grill.  After removing the cover and lifting the lid, I was ready to turn it on—-open the gas tank, rotate the start dial to High, and press the starter button.  NOTHING HAPPENED.  Try it again, repeat the previous actions.  Still nothing. I know there’s gas in the tank.  Review the directions in the manual. I seem to be doing everything right.  Try one more time.  Still nothing.  I GIVE UP!  I think I need grill starting lessons.   Back into the kitchen I go to see how I can salvage a grilled meal not made on the grill.

Fortunately I have a grill pan and, although on the small side, I was able to make use of it to cook the various components for our dinner. Where everything was slated to go on the grill at one time, using the grill pan I cooked it  in stages and then put it all together for what turned out to be a very nice dinner .  A salad of grilled vegetables and beans tops portobellos smothered in cheese.

This was the happy ending!

This was the happy ending!

This is a meal that is low in calories (312), fat (20g), and carbohydrates (25).   I think the meal would have been a little more tasty if it had been cooked on the grill because of the flavoring the vegetables would have absorbed, but we enjoyed it just the same.   The directions I give here are the ones that go with the recipe for grilling outside, but the pictures show how I improvised.  LOL!

GRILLED PORTOBELLOS WITH CHOPPED SALAD

Yield:   4 servings

Ingredients for a meatless meal on the grill.

Ingredients for a meatless meal on the grill.

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh dill, or 2 tsp. dried dill
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 4 large portobello mushroom caps, gills removed
  • 1  15 oz. can small white beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 small bell peppers, quartered and seeded
  • 1 medium red onion cut into 1/4-inch thick slices
  • 1 medium zucchini, cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch slices
  • 1 cup shredded cheese, such as cheddar, fontina, or swiss

Directions:

1.  Preheat grill to medium high.

2.  Combine lemon juice, oil, dill, garlic, salt and pepper in a large bowl.

Prepare the dressing.

Prepare the dressing.

Add mushroom caps and turn to coat.  Remove the mushrooms from the bowl.  Add white beans;  stir to coat.

3.  Place mushroom caps gill-side up on the grill with peppers, onion and zucchini.  Using a grill pan to contain all the vegetables, with the exception of the mushroom caps, keeps them from falling through the grates.  Grill the vegetables, turning once or twice, until they start to char and soften;  About 8 minutes for the mushrooms and 6 minutes for the rest.

Roasting peppers and onions smell sooo good!

Roasting peppers and onions smell sooo good!

Grill the zucchini to get some nice grill marks.

Grill the zucchini to get some nice grill marks.

Portobello mushroom caps on the grill.

Portobello mushroom caps on the grill.

4.  Turn the mushrooms gill-side up again.  Fill each one with 1/4 cup cheese and grill until the cheese is melted, about 1 minute more.

Fill the mushroom caps with cheese and let it melt.

Fill the mushroom caps with cheese and let it melt.

5.  Chop peppers, onion and zucchini and add to the bowl with the beans;  toss to combine.

Chop the veggies and add to the beans and dressing.

Chop the veggies and add to the beans and dressing.

Top each mushroom with about 1 cup of the grilled salad.      Oh, Yum!  this was sooo good.

All's well that ends well.

All’s well that ends well.

P.S.  This post would have been more aptly named “Along Came a Spider”,   because on investigation Mr. D. found a spider’s nest in the gas line that blocked the flow of gas to the starter button.  Defeated by a spider.   Dang!

SOURCE:   EATING WELL

Meat Marinades and Rubs

If you really want to spice up your barbecue  you could put on a limbo competition or dance the salsa, but a more conventional way is to use a meat marinade or spice rub.  Many backyard chefs are relying on these mixtures to tenderize and give an infusion of flavor to meats.

There are a multitude of premade marinades and rubs on the market from the classic to the exotic; each one promising to add an  explosion of flavor to an otherwise ho-hum piece of meat.  In my exploration of these products I have found that many of them contain a variety of additives that I’m not keen about eating such as high fructose corn syrup, modified food starch, xanthan gum (whatever that is) and potassium sorbate as a preservative. No thanks, I’ll make my own.

Marinades consist of acids, oils, and aromatics or flavorings.  It’s that simple. But when you have  the wrong proportion of acid to oil you can turn a beautiful steak into a gray, tough, flavorless, expensive embarrassment.  Acids such as vinegars, wines, fruit juices, yogurt, buttermilk, and even fresh ginger break down the collagen on the surface of meats and can denature the proteins, thus damaging the protein’s structure.  Meats,  i.e. proteins,  especially delicate ones like fish and chicken, left in a marinade too long can be totally ruined.  The proteins break down to the point where they lose moisture and structure and become dry and mushy.

So what does it take to make a good marinade?    The general rule is to use a light touch with strong acids such as vinegar or lemon juice, using no more than one part acid to four parts oil.  It’s the oil that carries the flavor anyway.

A tougher cut of meat can tolerate a longer marinating time using this proportion of acid to oil.  A tender cut of meat may not need any acid at all; just a little oil and some aromatics for flavoring.  In fact recent studies concluded that marinades do not tenderize meat as once thought.

So even though marinades aren’t used for tenderizing, they do help to add flavor and moisture.  However for most meats the marinade will generally only soak in about 1/8″ to 1/4″ deep.  The acids soften the exterior of the meat, allowing the oil to penetrate.  The denser the meat, with more connective tissue, the less the marinade will penetrate, so these meats can take a longer marinating time.  Meats in a marinade with oil and very little acid can remain overnight in the refrigerator.  A sure sign that red meat has marinated too long in a too-acidic marinade is a gray exterior.  For chicken or pork the exterior will turn white.

Another way to infuse BBQ with flavor is with dry rubs, a combination of spices, herbs, salt and sugar that creates a flavorful crust, something marinades do not.  A rub is not really rubbed into the meat but rather patted on rather heavily.  When a rub is applied, the browning of the proteins and sugars in the meat create a toasted, roasted, grilled flavor.  The sugar in the rub also creates caramelization.  Larger cuts of meat and especially slow-roasted meats can tolerate being left marinating with a dry rub over night in the refrigerator.  Tender cuts such as steaks, kabobs, and chicken breasts will like a light sprinkling of dry rub before grilling to provide a quick flavor boost.

The combinations of seasonings in a rub can be  tailored to your own particular taste preferences, or to a specific ethnic cuisine.  Mix up the herbs and spices representative of Cajun, Indian, Greek, Italian or Mexican cuisine, and add some brown sugar and salt to the mix.  Start with a few proven rub recipes, then add or subtract ingredients until you get the mix you like.  Now you’ve created your own….    In tomorrow’s post I will be presenting a pork recipe that features a rub that I put together.  Stay tuned!

Hopefully  this post has not been too technical,  but has perhaps answered some questions for you or cleared up some misunderstandings.  Periodically I would like to include posts such as this one seeking to take an in depth look at specific products or methods of food preparation.  Having spent quite a few years of my professional life as a teacher, I frequently say, “once a teacher, always a teacher”, but I do not want to come across too strongly in that regard.   From time to time, I would like to present a post like this as I continue to seek the niche that will satisfy more readers.  However, If this is not the type of post you would like to read, please let me know.  Thanks so much for your comments and input.

Happy Grilling and Barbecuing , and Happy rest of summer!