Tag Archives: grilling

Meat on a stick.

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Photography by Sam Armocido

Photography by Sam Armocido

When I was a kid, fondue was a special family night. Mom would plug in the electric pot full of vegetable oil on the dining room table, as we grabbed for whichever long, two-tined fork was tipped in our favorite color. We cooked cubes of top sirloin in the hot fat, then dipped them into the homemade Béarnaise and burgundy sauces that Mom set out in small bowls.

I know fondue pots are a lost fashion of the 1970’s, but I have so many fond memories; like the time my godmother, Aunt Ali, served cheese fondue, and I spent the rest of the night throwing up. (Totally not her fault. It was an 8 year-old’s stomach bug. And the fondue was delicious!)

Whether at the end of a fork , skewered with wood  for a party or metal for the grill, meat on a stick is one of those foods – like anything smothered in cheese or made with bacon – that leaves us clamoring for more. These kebabs, spicy with Tunisian Harissa – a paste of sun dried chills, sweet with brown sugar, rich with tomato paste and earthy with fresh thyme, are exotic but easy. Oh, and if your fork handles have colored tips, I’ll take the blue.

Top Sirloin Cherry Tomato Harissa Kebabs

Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 6 tbs Harissa
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup dry red wine
  • 1/4 cup Pomegranate Vinegar* or balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbs cinnamon
  • 2 tbs chopped fresh thyme
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 1 quart cherry tomatoes
  • 2 large green peppers cut in 2” pieces
  • 1 1/2 pounds top sirloin steak cut in 2” cubes (about 2 steaks)

*Pomegranate vinegar is back at Sapore (and it’s delicious!).

 

Directions:

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Photography by Sam Armocido

  • Make marinade: Whisk together Harissa, brown sugar, tomato paste, red wine, Pomegranate Vinegar, cinnamon, thyme and olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Mix together tomatoes, peppers and steak and toss to coat with marinade. Refrigerate for 2-3 hours.
  • If using wooden skewers, soak them for an hour before grilling.
  • Load skewers with beef, tomatoes, and peppers.
  • Prepare a hot grill and cook over direct heat for 2-3 minutes per side, about 8-10 minutes total for medium rare.
  • While grilling, place remaining marinade, and any extra tomatoes, in a small saucepan and cook at a high simmer until thickened.
  • Brush cooked kebabs with sauce and serve.
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A little American innovation.

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Photography by Sam Armocido

Photography by Sam Armocido

Norman Rockwell drew an illustration for the Mass Mutual insurance company titled “Cookout.” As mothers and children set the picnic table, fathers hover around the grill. Nowhere is there any food.

But imagine, give me your very best Family Feud guess as to what will appear on those quintessential American plates.

Burgers, of course, and corn on the cob. What’s on top of those burgers? A single square of cheese melting into the smoky, crevices in the beef patty. Theres a plate of iceberg lettuce available for topping, and if it’s a really good day, mom has fried up some bacon.

This burger, then, is not so far from American tradition. The corn, off-the-cob and tossed with bacon, tops the burger. Baby spinach replaces lettuce and our cheese is upgraded to a far-more-American cheddar. It’s fun, delicious and a little creative.

Maybe that’s why Mr. Rockwell left the plates empty. There’s nothing more American than taking traditions, making some changes, and making them our own.

Corn and Bacon Salsa Burger

Using beef with some fat makes this burger rich and moist. These are big burgers and could certainly be made into 6 smaller patties.

makes 4 large 1/2 pound burgers

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds ground beef 80% lean
  • 4 slices thick cut bacon, minced
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup parsley
  • 1/4 cup cilantro
  • 1/4 pound cheddar cheese, sliced
  • 4 Kaiser rolls
  • 1/4 pound baby arugula
  • 1 cup Corn and Bacon Salsa (see below)

Directions:

  • Mix together ground beef, bacon, eggs, parsley and cilantro. Season with salt and pepper and form into four large patties.
  • Heat your grill to medium-high and grill your burgers just off to the side of the coals. These are big patties, so you’ll probably cook them for 5-7 minutes a side for medium rare.
  • Place a slice or two of cheese on burgers 1 minute before removing from grill.
  • Layer bun bottoms with arugula and burgers. Top each with 1/4 cup corn and bacon salsa and bun top.
  • If there’s not juice running down your chin, you’re doing it wrong!

Corn and Bacon Salsa

For a nuttier, toastier flavor, toss corn kernals with 1 tbs olive oil and 1/4 tsp cumin and roast in a 400 degree oven until golden, about 7-10 minutes. Add right before seasoning the salsa. Serve this over grilled, cumin-lime marinated chicken or with chips.

Makes about 1 1/2 cups salsa

Photography by Sam Armocido

Photography by Sam Armocido

Ingredients:

  • 5 slices, thick cut bacon
  • 1 small red onion, diced
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, minced
  • 2 ears corn, kernels removed
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • Sherry  or Roasted Red Pepper Blackberry* vinegar

*Where do you get Roasted Red Pepper Blackberry vinegar? Sapore, of course! You can order online too.

Directions:

  • Fry bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until browned on both sides. Remove from pan and dry on paper towels. Leave 2 tbs bacon fat in pan.
  • Return heat to medium and add red onion. Cook until softened.
  • Add red onion and jalapeño. Sauté 3 additional minutes.
  • Add raw corn, increase heat to medium high, and cook for 3-5 minutes until edges of corn turn golden.
  • Stir in cilantro, cumin and chili powder. Remove salsa from heat.
  • Chop bacon and stir into salsa.
  • Season to taste with a splash of vinegar, salt and pepper. Add additional cumin or chili powder as needed.

“I’ll take ‘things you can make from scratch’ please, Alex.”

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It’s not often I pull out a cookbook and follow a recipe step by step. Usually faced with an ingredient or inspiration, I pull book after book off the shelf combing them to profile flavors and techniques before hitting the kitchen to experiment. But recently I was bored.

Armed with thick-cut, bone-in pork chops, the season’s first fresh peaches and young zucchini, I wanted to do more than salt, pepper, olive oil and fresh herbs. I went to my go-to, Chris Schlesinger, the chef of Cambridge, MA East Coast Grill, and he didn’t disappoint. I made his barbecue sauce and marinated, grilled zucchini as written. It was delicious!

No longer bored, I was inspired. The grilled peaches were delicious, but I wanted that peach flavor right on the grilled pork. I started by cooking down fresh peaches into a thick pulp, then deglazed the pan with peach infused vinegar. Cumin, cardamom and dry mustard gave depth, chili powder and fresh ginger heat, and a chili oil delivered smokiness. Glazed grilled pork chops were delicious. as were the Asian Barbecue sausages from Eastern Market’s Canales Meats.

Peach Barbecue Sauce

Rule #1 of barbecue sauce: use it toward the end of your cooking and place your sauced ingredients just to the side, not directly over, the hot coals, so it glazes. Otherwise the sugars will burn. About 2 minutes per side, right at the end.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbs butter
  • 1/2 Candy Sweet red onion, diced, about 1 cup
  • 2 peaches, diced.
  • 1 tbs minced ginger
  • 1 cup molasses
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1 /2 cup Peach Vinegar*
  • 1 /2 tsp cardamom
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp dried mustard
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 cup Red Chili Chilean Oil*

*Order these online from DC’s Sapore Oil and Vinegar or substitute with white vinegar and a chopped chipotle chili.

Directions:

  • In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, sauté onion in butter until softened.
  • Add peaches and ginger. Cook until they are soft and mash with a fork. If your pan gets dry add a little water or peach juice to keep peaches from burning.
  • Add all remaining ingredients except Chili oil and simmer for 20 minutes until thickened.
  • Add chili oil and simmer for 2 additional minutes to bring together.
  • Season to taste with additional oil, vinegar or molasses, salt and pepper. You are looking for a nice balance of acidity, sweetness and fruit.
  • Use immediately or store in the fridge. I don’t know how long it will hold. We keep eating all of ours.

We be jammin’.

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Confession: I’m not remotely cool enough for this title, but a couple weeks back, I did serve up some pretty good sauces for Washington, DC’s second annual Lamb Jam. The event, put on by the American Lamb Board, an industry promotion group, brings together local chefs to showcase – you got it – lamb. The food was amazing, as were the brewers and vineyards inside who were pouring some pretty generous samples for the 300+ person, sell-out crowd.

I had the pleasure of working with Renee, the owner of Sapore Oil and Vinegar, to create some recipes for what became known as “the condiment table.” Using her wonderful products* I created three sauces that would rock on lamb, or any other meat you plan on grilling this summer. The first, a summery bright orange, is a spicy tropical mango lime sauce. The second, thick and rich, is a blackberry balsamic shallot marmalade. Bright green, grassy and spicy (but not hot) is an arugula, gremolata pesto. These recipes were definitely developed to highlight specialty oils and vinegars, but I’ve got some suggestions below for making them at home if a trip to Washington, DC’s Capitol Hill isn’t in the cards.

They all hold (and freeze) well, so make a batch, pack it in your cooler, and bring it along to the beach or country this weekend. The pesto is great with a steak, the marmalade is a rich pairing for pork, and the mango takes grilled chicken someplace tropical. And they are all fantastic over lamb.

*In full disclosure, I fell in love with Renee’s oils and vinegars at first taste. It has been so much fun working with them in the kitchen and featuring them during my Saturday morning cooking demos at Eastern Market. Consider this a full-blown, un-paid endorsement for exceptional-quality, great value (read:she could easily get $10 more a bottle), and a business owner who knows and loves her product.

Tropical Spice Mango Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 1 ripe mango, peeled and pit removed
  • 
1/4 cup Lime Oil
  • 1/3 cup Tropical Spice Vinegar
  • 3 tbs brown sugar
  • 1” ginger, peeled*

*The easiest way to peel ginger is with the edge of a teaspoon. The peel comes right off without losing any of the flesh.

Directions:

  • Place mango, lime oil, tropical spice vinegar, and sugar in a food processor.
  • Grate ginger finely and add to other ingredients.
  • Pulse in food processor. You can leave it pulpy for some texture or process it until smooth.
  • Season to taste with a pinch of salt and additional sugar and vinegar as desired.

This sauce gets nice heat from the tropical spice vinegar and is balanced by the sweet mango. Great over grilled meats. For the Tropical Spice Vinegar, combine white vinegar with a pinch of red pepper flakes and let sit for an hour. For the Lime Oil, add a mild olive oil or vegetable oil and a tsp of finely grated lime zest.

Blackberry Balsamic Shallot Marmalade

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbs grape seed oil*
  • 1 pound shallots, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup Blackberry Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1/3 cup maple sugar*
  • Nutmeg
  • Cardamom

* You can substitute vegetable oil for the grape seed oil, and brown sugar for the maple sugar.

Directions:

  • Sauté shallots in oil over medium-high heat. Stir often to avoid burning. Cook until softened, about 10 minutes.
  • Add vinegar and sugar, a pinch of nutmeg and a pinch of cardamom, continue cooking another 5-10 minutes until thick and jammy.
  • Season to taste with salt and additional nutmeg and cardamom.

Use this everywhere! Over a salad, on sautéed, grilled or roasted meats, even in an omelet! Any rich, syrupy aged balsamic vinegar can be substituted for the Blackberry Balsamic.

Arugula Gremolata Pesto

Gremolata is a traditional Milanese condiment made from garlic, parsley and lemon zest.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup walnuts
  • 2 cups loose packed arugula
  • 1/2 cup loose packed parsley
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 cup Meyer Lemon Oil
  • 1 tbs lemon zest.

*This tastes a bit “green” on it’s own, but balances wonderfully with the rich flavor of roasted or grilled lamb and beef.

Directions:

  • Toast walnuts in a sauté pan over medium heat, being careful not to burn. When you can smell the toasted nuts, immediately remove from the pan.
  • Place arugula, parsley and garlic in food processor. Pulse twice for 2 seconds to roughly chop.
  • Turn on processor and drizzle oil through feed tube. Turn off processor while there is still plenty of texture.
  • Add nuts and lemon zest to processor and pulse 3-4 times until nuts are chopped and pesto is blended. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

The Meyer Lemon Oil is wonderful and bright. You can substitute a good-quality, grassy olive oil and an additional tablespoon of lemon zest.