Grilled Parmesan Summer Squash {Master Recipe}

Grilled Parmesan Summer Squash2 Dinner Is Served

Vegetables and the grill are a match made in heaven. And although grilled summer squash isn’t going to win any beauty awards, from a taste standpoint, it rocks!  With a few very simple techniques, you can use this recipe for all your grill-worthy vegetables. Grilled Parmesan Zucchini 1 Dinner Is Served

If you follow my blog, you know I like to keep things fresh and simple. This recipe is ALL about that.  Just toss sliced summer squash with crushed garlic, Italian herbs, olive oil, salt and pepper.  Easy!Grilled Parmesan Zucchini 2 Dinner Is Served

Then grab your handy dandy grill pan if you have one.  If you don’t, you need one!  This round, non stick grill skillet  is available at Bed, Bath & Beyond for a mere $7.99 and worth every penny many times over.1456612268084p

DON’T SKIP THIS NEXT STEP! –>Once you get that beautiful smokey char on your squash, remove and throw it right back into that bowl with the marinade to soak up a little additional garlic and herbs. Flavor intensified and no worries about cross contamination.  Then immediately sprinkle with Parm cheese to melt.  Just a little.Grilled Parmesan Summer Squash1 Dinner Is Served

Once you’ve mastered this basic technique, I encourage you to try this with other vegetables as well.  Peppers, eggplant, mushrooms and asparagus and onion wedges are at the top of my grilled veggie list.  And don’t rule out those cool weather vegetables that often get overlooked in the summer, such as cauliflower and Brussels sprouts.  Both delish on the grill.  100% awesome and good for you, too!

Until next time, eat well, be well and love lots.

Dinner Is Served Signature

Grilled Parmesan Summer Squash

{Master Recipe}

  • 2 medium summer squash (zucchini, yellow, pattypan, etc.), sliced into 1/3-inch slices
  • 1 tsp Italian Herb Seasoning  (preferably salt free)
  • 2 cloves fresh garlic, crushed
  • 2 TBS olive oil
  • Coarse salt and pepper
  • 3 TBS shredded or grated Parmesan Cheese (see Note 1>)

Toss squash with Italian Seasoning, garlic, olive oil and salt and pepper to taste.  Let sit at room temperature for approximately 30 minutes, or while grill is heating up.

Place grill pan over high heat (see Note 2>) and place slices in a single layer.  DO NOT CLEAN OUT THE BOWL!

Cover and let cook on one side for about 4-5 minutes or until just starting to brown.  Flip and continue cooking for about another 3 minutes. Remove if sufficiently browned or continue cooking and flipping until nicely browned and slightly soft.  Return squash to marinade bowl and toss. Immediately sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and let sit until slightly melted.

Serves 2-3

NOTE 1> You can substitute Romano or a Parmesan/Romano blend, or for a different flavor profile, try crumbled feta or even goat cheese.

NOTE 2> Both charcoal and gas grills work well for vegetables. If you don’t have access to either a sturdy indoor grill pan will yield similar results!

Grilled Shrimp with Basil and Prosciutto



This one’s been on my list FOREVER to share with you as it’s one of my very favorite ways to serve shrimp. It’s very simple to make and…I just happen to have an ample supply of basil in my garden right now (yes, basil pesto has already been made!)Grilled Shrimp with Basil and Prosciutto Dinner Is Served4 Grilled shrimp make the perfect summertime patio meal, accompanied by a green salad, fresh ciabatta bread and a crisp white.  They also make a wonderful appetizer.  Versatility: it’s a good thing!

Start with a classic white wine/lemon marinade that’s spruced up with some fresh chopped basil and Dijon mustard: Grilled Shrimp with Basil and Prosciutto Dinner Is Served1

Then let your gorgeous shrimp marinate for a good three hours in the fridge. You can probably get away with two hours.  I wouldn’t go longer than four:Grilled Shrimp with Basil and Prosciutto Dinner Is Served2Grilled Shrimp with Basil and Prosciutto Dinner Is Served3

To assemble, just wrap a fresh basil leaf around each shrimp, followed by a strip of prosciutto and grill, basting with the reserved marinade. The result is juicy shrimp with just enough lemon and basil flavors, surrounded by smokey, crispy prosciutto.

We’re headed up to the great state of Wisconsin for a little R&R then back to harvest this year’s honey (you can see our hives in the photo below).   Looking forward to sharing that with you!  Until then…be well, eat well, love lots!  And may all your days be as beautiful as the one we had yesterday here in Chicago20170729_232905956_iOS

Grilled Shrimp with Basil and Prosciutto

  • 1# Jumbo – to Colossal size shrimp, peeled and deveined (See NOTE)
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/8 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 TBS Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • Fresh or coarsely ground black pepper
  • About 15 large fresh basil leaves (or 1 per shrimp)
  • About 15 thin slices of prosciutto (or 1 per shrimp)  For smaller shrimp you may get by with 1 slice of prosciutto for two shrimp
  • Two thick lemon wedges for grilling and garnishing (optional)
  • Toothpicks
  • Non-stick grill spray + basting brush

Combine the white wine, olive oil, lemon juice, mustard, chopped basil and pepper to taste in a bowl, whisking to combine.  Place shrimp in a shallow glass or non-reactive dish.  Pour marinade over, turning shrimp a few times to coat.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 3 hours or up to 4.

Remove shrimp from marinade, reserving marinade for basting.  Wrap the middle of each shrimp with a basil leaf followed by a slice of prosciutto.  Secure with a toothpick and repeat with remaining shrimp.

Preheat grill and clean surface.  Spray with nonstick spray. Grill shrimp for several minutes on each side, basting with reserved marinade.  Make sure the shrimp is cooked through the prosciutto is just starting to crisp.  While shrimp is cooking, place lemon wedges on grate and cook until slightly charred.

Remove shrimp to a platter. Serve with fresh sprigs of basil and grilled lemon wedges

Serves: 3 as a main course; 8 as an appetizer

NOTE> Shrimp sizes and descriptions can be tricky which is why I usually end up just eyeballing it when I’m at the store.  For this recipe, I found some GORGEOUS pink Key West shrimp that were labeled “U12,” meaning under 12 shrimp per pound.  To me, that’s THE perfect size for grilling.  Technically these fall into the “colossal” category but they’re not really all that huge!  You can step it down to Jumbo shrimp, especially if you’re making this as an appetizer.  Just keep in mind they will cook in no time at all on the grill so be prepared with that spatula and platter.  ENJOY!

Grilled Shrimp with Basil and Prosciutto . Dinner Is Served



Pork, Pepper & Pineapple Skewers with Hoisin Glaze

Pork, Pepper & Pineapple Skewers (5).jpgWhat an evil tease.  This Spring in the Midwest. March was so winter-like, the season was dubbed “sprinter” (spring + winter). April we fared a little better, although I still recall having to wear my parka on occasion so not completely out of the woods.

Now, finally a string of nice days in Chicagoland, so I am officially kicking off grill season!  And what better way to usher in the warmer weather than these beautiful and easy pork, pepper and pineapple skewers.  A family favorite at the Dinner Is Served household.Pork, Pepper & Pineapple Skewers (4)

This classic combo always makes me think tropics..luau..grab an umbrella drink and sing Don Ho tunes.  With lean pork tenderloin, pineapple and colorful peppers, it also wins in the healthy, low-fat category.Pork, Pepper & Pineapple Skewers (6)

Perhaps the best part of these skewers, however is the hoisin glaze which is a ridiculously easy combination of ketchup, hoisin and minced jalapeno peppers.  If you’re a fan of of Moo-Shu pork, you’re already well acquainted with hoisin: a most versatile, thick, soy-based Asian condiment. This serves as both a glaze and a dipping saucePork, Pepper & Pineapple Skewers (2)

A few notes before I jump right in to the recipe:

  • You can definitely substitute chicken for the pork! My preference would be to use boneless skinless thigh meat. Breast meat works too but will cook more quickly.
  • You’ll note I did not add onions to my skewers. They remain a “no go” with the young adult crowd in my house but by all means feel free add some red onion wedges as you please.
  • Gluten-free hoisin can be used, making this a 100% gluten-free entree

Happy (FINALLY) Spring to one and all from Dinner Is ServedPork, Pepper and Pineapple Skewers with Hoisin Glaze - Dinner Is Served

Pork, Pepper & Pineapple Skewers with Hoisin Glaze*

  • 1 pork tenderloin (about 1 1/2#), trimmed and cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes
  • 3 large sweet bell peppers, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • About 1/2 of a fresh pineapple, cored and cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 1 medium red onion cut into wedges (optional)
  • Canola oil
  • Salt and coarse ground black pepper

Hoisin Glaze and Sauce

  • 1/3 cup Hoisin sauce
  • 1/3 cup ketchup
  • 1 TBS minced jalapeno pepper (or spicy pepper of your choice)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients for the glaze in a small bowl.  Set aside about half for dipping and the other half for glazing.  (can be prepared up to two days ahead and refrigerated)

For skewers, toss the pork in a bowl with salt and pepper to taste.  In a separate bowl, combine peppers with a drizzle of canola oil, tossing to coat.

Thread pork, peppers, pineapple and onion (if using) onto metal or wooden skewers. Sear on a hot grill for a few minutes per side. Then move to medium heat; brush with a little of the glaze and continue to grill (turning and glazing a few more times) until pork is cooked through (about 15-20 minutes in total) and peppers and pineapple are slightly charred.

Serve with jasmine rice and  reserved hoisin sauce for dipping.

Serves 4

* Adapted from Big Flavors of the Hot Sun, Chris Schlesinger and John Willoughby, 1994.




Grilled Spice Rubbed Chicken with Fresh Tomato, Basil & Olive Salad

Grilled Spice Rubbed Chicken with Tomato, Basil & Olive Salad

The first comment my co-worker made when sampling this dish last week was “Oh my god, this is amazing!  Are these tomatoes from your garden?”  I thanked her for the compliment, then sadly had to admit, that no, they were store bought tomatoes.  It’s a bit of a sore subject for me this summer, as photos of tomato harvests come in from friends on Twitter and Facebook.  We’re talking bushels of glorious red, ripe tomatoes, some coming from gardens a mere couple of blocks away.   And yet here in my little back yard, for reasons I cannot explain, my tomatoes have been a total bust.

Bakers Acres

As you can see above, it hasn’t been all bad.  I’m in basil and kale overload and those cabbages are looking pretty darned beautiful.  Guess I’ll just have to accept the fail and move on, right?   Which, I am MORE than happy to move on to this completely awesome dish that works with any kind of tomatoes, garden grown or not.  I mean, just look at this glorious salad, made with just about everything I love on the planet:

Grilled Spice Rubbed Chicken with Tomato, Basil & Olive Salad| Dinner Is Served

If you’re thinking “To heck with the chicken, I just want this salad,” I can’t say I blame you.  The flavors are so bright and complimentary.  In fact if you tossed in some grilled bread, you’d have an almost perfect panzanella (making mental note to try that next time).  

Of course, this versatile salad goes with just about anything that will be coming off your grill right now: shrimp, swordfish, flank steak, and yes, chicken!  Speaking of that chicken, let me state for the record, that this spice rub is fun and unique and definitely worth a try:

Grilled Spice Rubbed Chicken with Tomato, Basil & Olive Salad | Dinner Is ServedIt’s worth grilling a few extra breasts, then refrigerating them to use in a salad or a wrap the next day.  And the salad (assuming there’s any leftover), will keep for a few days as well in the fridge.  One of those “gift that keeps on giving” kind of meals I love making.  Teen tested, co-worker tested and approved too!  Now off to check out kale and cabbage recipes!

Grilled Spice Rubbed Chicken with Tomato, Basil & Olive Salad

Spice Rub:

2 tsp dark brown sugar

2 tsp crushed or finely chopped fennel seeds (see Note>)

1 1/2 tsp. sweet paprika

1 1/2 tsp. garlic powder

1 1/2 tsp. coarsely ground black pepper

1 tsp. Kosher salt


2 cups cherry tomatoes, quartered (or any type of fresh tomatoes, seeded and coarsely chopped)

1/2 small red onion, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)

1/4 cup coarsely chopped Kalamata olives

2 TBS drained capers

2 TBS (or more to taste) torn fresh basil leaves

1 large clove garlic, minced

2 TBS fresh lemon juice, or more to taste

1 TBS extra virgin olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

4-6 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves

Vegetable oil

Combine ingredients for spice rub in a small bowl. Pat chicken breasts dry; drizzle both sides with a little of the vegetable oil and rub in.  Sprinkle both sides with the spice rub and let stand about 10 minutes.

For the salad, combine all ingredients in a small glass bowl.  Add additional lemon juice, olive oil, salt and/or pepper as desired.

Preheat grill to medium-high heat.  Oil grate or spray with grill-grade non stick spray. Place chicken breasts on grill, smooth side down. Grill for about 4 minutes, or until grill marks have been achieved. Reduce heat to medium, then flip chicken over.  Cover grill and continue cooking until chicken is just cooked through and juices run clear, about 5 additional minutes depending on thickness of breasts.

Transfer chicken to a platter, tent with foil and let rest for a few minutes.  Slice and serve with salad.

Serves 4-6

Note> If you have not yet purchased a Mortar & Pestle , this recipe is the perfect excuse to add one to your kitchen!  Perfect for grinding spices (like the fennel seeds), crushing garlic or even making pesto or guacamole (in the traditional way).  Alternatively spices may be finely chopped by hand or in a coffee grinder that has been designated as a spice grinder.  

Grilled Potato & Zucchini Salad with Mustard Vinaigrette

Grilled Potato & Zucchini Salad with Mustard Vinaigrette | Dinner Is ServedI appear to have a complete obsession with potatoes lately.  For the life of me, I can’t tell  you why they have been popping up here on my blog page with such regularity other than the fact that I have always loved potatoes and keep coming up with new and different ways to enjoy them!  I also love grilling summer vegetables, so it just seemed natural to bring these two together with some fresh herbs and a tangy mustard vinaigrette dressing.   I also wised up and FINALLY (after, what, 20+ years of serious cooking), purchased a gorgeous, stainless steel Weber® grill pan.  I can already tell we’re going to be best friends for life:

Grilled Potato & Zucchini Salad with Mustard Vinaigrette | Dinner Is Served

I also made a decent sized batch of my favorite Mustard Vinaigrette dressing using a nearly empty jar of TJ’s Dijon mustard.  Just add the ingredients to the jar (minus the mustard of course because it’s already in the jar) and give it a few good shakes.  This vinaigrette will keep for a good two weeks in the fridge and is perfect not only for salads, but grilled vegetables and as a marinade.

Food prep here is quick and silly simple.  Just par boil some potatoes for about 15 minutes

Grilled Potato & Zucchini Salad with Mustard Vinaigrette

Drain and while the potatoes are cooling, cut up some fresh summer zucchini, or any other kind of squash of your preference.  Toss with some olive oil, garlic salt and pepper:

Grilled Potato & Zucchini Salad with Mustard Vinaigrette

Cut up the cooled potatoes and repeat with the garlic salt, pepper and olive oil.  Then onto the grill it goes, until lightly charred.  Toss with just enough of the dressing to flavor the salad and serve immediately warm, or you can also serve at room temperature.

Grilled Potato & Zucchini Salad with Mustard Vinaigrette

Served this last night with a fabulous Red Wine & Coffee Marinated Sirloin Steak from Fine Cooking Magazine and a nice Cotes du Rhone from Trader Joes (2013 Laurent DuBlanc).  All in all, one fine meal.   I love you, potatoes and new grill pan.  BFF’s 4EVER ♥

Grilled Potato & Zucchini Salad with Mustard Vinaigrette

For the vinaigrette:

1 TBS Dijon mustard

3 TBS white wine vinegar or white balsamic vinegar

1 medium garlic clove, crushed

3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Kosher salt and coarsely ground pepper to taste

For the salad:

1 3/4 pounds of new potatoes, scrubbed

2 medium zucchini squash

Fresh herbs (basil, thyme, tarragon or parsley)

Garlic salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Extra Virgin olive oil

Place all the ingredients for the vinaigrette in a glass jar.  Cover and shake until emulsified.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Place the potatoes in a sauce pan with cold water and a pinch of salt.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until just barely tender, about 15 minutes.  Drain and rinse under cool water.  Set aside to cool.

While potatoes are cooling, slice zucchini crosswise into 1 1/2-inch pieces, then cut each piece in half.  Toss with some olive oil,  garlic salt and pepper.

Cut small potatoes in half or quarter if large.  In a separate bowl, toss with olive oil, garlic salt and pepper.

Preheat a grill pan for about 10 minutes over medium-high heat.  When hot, add zucchini and potatoes.  Grill, turning occasionally, until lightly charred, about 10 minutes.

Remove from grill and place in a serving bowl.  Toss with a few TBS of the vinaigrette and some fresh herbs.  Season with additional salt and pepper and serve immediately.  Or, cover loosely and serve at room temperature.


Serves 6

Kentucky Bourbon Steak

Kentucky Bourbon Steak | Dinner Is Served

Something completely enjoyable happened a week ago.  The “winter that would not end” finally gave us a bit of a break, and I finally found my way to something I’ve been missing for five long months:


And in celebration of this momentous occasion, I couldn’t just grill out brats or a lowly chicken breast.   It had to be steak and it had to be this bourbon marinade.  And about that bourbon..

A few weeks back, the family took a mini vacation to Kentucky to do some Mammoth Cave exploring, dining, family visiting and most notably, a trip to the Makers Mark distillery in Loretto.

Maker's Mark Distillery, Loretto, KYNow THIS is a trip worth taking.  Just be sure to bring your GPS and enjoy your drive through the winding back roads of Kentucky.  I learned a lot about the craft and came away with a new found appreciation for this spirit which, up to this point, I had used only for cooking and not much for sipping.  I also came away with t-shirts, barrel staves for smoking, a fun shot glass, and two bottles of bourbon (those gift shops suck me right in).

So last weekend I was on a mission to not only grill the perfect steak, but to use my new, treasured bottle of Maker’s Mark in the marinade.  I pulled this recipe out of the archives and let me say, it’s as good as I remembered, with a lot of the good things that go in to a great steak marinade:

Kentucky Bourbon Steak | Dinner Is Served

Kentucky Bourbon Steak | Dinner Is Served

Which, when combined, looks something like this:

Kentucky Bourbon Steak | Dinner Is Served

Kentucky Bourbon Steak | Dinner Is ServedOh, and because one can never get enough bourbon:Whiskey Barrel Ch

Whiskey barrel chips for smoking.  Glory be.

Did I mention that my grilled steak was enjoyable?  Well, let’s kick that up a notch.  It was BEYOND amazing.  A wine pairing with this one?  Not this time around.  A little sip of Maker’s Mark was all I needed to make this meal complete.

Kentucky Bourbon Steak

3 TBS olive oil

2 TBS Dijon mustard

¼ cup Kentucky bourbon whiskey

1/3 cup soy sauce

2 TBS red wine vinegar

1 TBS Worcestershire sauce

¼ cup light or dark brown sugar

2 TBS minced red onion

1 TBS minced fresh garlic

1 TBS minced fresh ginger

1 TBS salt

2 tsp coarse ground black pepper

Steaks of your choice

Combine all  of the marinade ingredients in a non reactive bowl. Whisk to blend.  Place steaks in a Ziploc plastic bag or in a non reactive dish, add marinade and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.

Remove steaks from marinade and grill (preferably over charcoal).

Makes enough to marinate one large sirloin steak, about 6 fillets, or 4 large ribeye/NY strip steaks.

Juicy Sirloin Steak Marinade

Sirloin Steak Collage

This needs to be said: I have a love/hate relationship with marinades.  Love them when they impart that subtle or complex flavor or when they tenderize an otherwise tough piece of meat.  But go overboard and it’s an instant turnoff for me.  Even worse: cheap, commercial marinades that are loaded with sodium, sugar and other ingredients not found in nature.

Just last week I tried a terriyaki marinade for flank steak.  The recipe recommended marinating the steak for 24 hours or longer. It ended up tasting like steak swimming in terriyaki sauce (yuck).  Call me crazy, but I want my steak to taste like, well….steak!

Years ago (and I’m talking WAY back in time), I came across a sirloin steak marinade in the Chicago Tribune food section.  It quickly became a family favorite, as you can see from looking at the recipe card. Yes, we’re talking “old school” right here.

2013-08-18 17.24.41Funny too that it’s in my nature to tweak a recipe here and there, but this one was just so spot on from the beginning, I have left it as is.  Perfect in its simplicity.  Another bonus: anyone with a well stocked pantry should be able to make this up in a matter of minutes, without having to go to the store.

It also lends itself perfectly to sirloin steak, which is a decent cut of meat but very lean, so sometimes a bit lacking in flavor.  If you want to take your steak to the next level, throw some wine barrel oak chips onto the coals.  Then grill some portobello mushrooms and red peppers along side and break out a vibrant Napa Valley Cabernet.

Dive right in everyone.  This marinade is about as perfect as you can get!


Juicy Sirloin Steak Marinade *

1/3 cup vegetable or canola oil

1/4 cup each red wine vinegar, soy sauce

1 small onion, minced, about 1/4 cup

1 clove garlic, minced

1 TBS Dijon mustard

1/4 generous tsp each oregano, basil, thyme (dried)

1 large or two medium sirloin steaks, about 1-inch thick

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and whisk to combine.  Place steaks in a shallow, non-reactive dish and pour marinade over.  Turn steak several times to coat.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or up to 24 hours, turning steak once or twice. (Alternatively, place steaks and marinade in plastic zipper bags and refrigerate).

About one hour prior to cooking, remove the steak from refrigerator and let sit at room temperature.  Then remove steak from marinade and discard marinade.  Preheat a charcoal or gas grill to high/indirect heat.  Sear steak on both sides for about four minutes per side, then move steak to cooler part of the grill and continue cooking until desired doneness, about 4 additional minutes for medium rare.

Serves 4-6

* Recipe from the Chicago Tribune, date unknown

Hoisin Marinated Steak with Summer Nectarine Salsa

2013-08-06 19.51.18You know you love summer.  You know you love steak but… perhaps you’re growing tired of the same old thing?  Well I have THE perfect remedy for you.  Feast your eyes on the photo above.  Imagine Asian and tropical influences and fresh fruit of summer.

Now imagine creating all this in just over an hour.  Do I have you hooked yet?

I will say that Hoisin Sauce (aka Chinese barbecue sauce ) is one of the most handy condiments around.   I’ve used it in stir fries, as a glaze and it turns out, it makes a perfect marinade.    You can marinate your steak for as little as one hour or up to about 8 hours.  Overnight is ok, but not necessary with filets.

Now on to the second part of this dish: the summery, nectarine salsa.  Hey now!

Nectarine salsa

I tweaked the original recipe a bit, omitting habanero peppers (deal killer for the kiddos) and adding fresh cilantro.  Which, in my humble opinion, completes it.  Now just grill the steaks:


Oh wow…just looking at this makes me want this dish all over again!  Anyway…grill the steaks, serve with the salsa and just soak in all the deliciousness.  If you’d like, throw a few tortilla chips into the mix too.  They’ll go great with the salsa as well.  In fact, this salsa is just as beautiful on its own as an appetizer, or served with grilled chicken, grilled shrimp, etc.  Just all sorts of healthy too.

Well my work here is done.  Go forth and grill, eat and enjoy.

Hoisin Marinated Steak with Summer Nectarine Salsa

For the marinade:

  • 1 scallion
  • 1/4 cup hoisin sauce
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons mined or grated peeled fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • four 1 1/4-inch-thick filet mignons (tenderloin steaks)

For salsa:

  • 1 large firm-ripe nectarine
  • 1/2 green bell pepper
  • 2 medium tomatoes
  • 4 scallions
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 small fresh Serrano or jalapeno chile
  • About ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro (loosely packed)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • Salt and pepper

Make marinade:
Finely chop scallion and in a bowl whisk together with remaining marinade ingredients.

In a large heavy-duty sealable plastic bag combine marinade and steaks, turning steaks to coat with marinade, and seal bag, pressing out excess air. Marinate steaks at room temperature at least one hour or in the refrigerator up to 8 hours.

To make the salsa, finely chop nectarine and bell pepper. Seed and finely chop tomatoes. Thinly slice white and pale-green parts of scallions and mince garlic. Discard seeds from the chile and finely chop.  In a bowl stir together all salsa ingredients and season with salt and pepper.

Prepare grill for medium-high indirect grilling.

Remove steaks from marinade, discarding it, and grill steaks about  4 minutes on first side then turn and continue grilling on cooler part of grill until desired doneness (about 5 more minutes for medium rare)  Transfer steaks with tongs to a platter and let stand 5 minutes.

Serve steaks with salsa and tortilla chips

Recipe adapted from Gourmet, April 1999

Peruvian Chile Lime Grilled Chicken with a Grilled Chipotle Corn, Tomato and Arugula Salad

chile chickenWell my photo of last night’s dinner caused quite a stir on Facebook and now several people have asked me for the recipe, so I feel terrible about telling you there really was no recipe.  As with much of the everyday cooking I do, I was just making do with whatever I had in the fridge and/or growing in my garden!

I am, however, more than happy to share with you the ingredients for this quick and healthy meal so that you can create your version at home.  Starting with my very special seasonings I chose.  Both are available online, or if you are fortunate to live near either a Penzey’s or a Savory Spice Shop, then you can just pick either one up there:


If you are looking for a substitute for the Peruvian Chile Lime Seasoning, you may substitute any kind of “Southwestern” style spice blend or in a pinch, make your own.   For the corn, I like the smokiness of the Chipotle seasoning but you can always substitute regular chile powder or even smoked Spanish paprika.

Otherwise, the ingredients are very straightforward and the entire meal comes together in under thirty minutes, making it perfect for a light & quick summer meal.  I will say that if I make this again, I will definitely add diced avocadoes to the salad.

So set aside your measuring cups and spoons and go with your instinct on this one!

Peruvian Chile Lime Grilled Chicken with a Grilled Chipotle Corn, Tomato and Arugula Salad

1 ½ # boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about three medium)

Olive Oil

Peruvian Chile Lime Seasoning Blend

Salt (if needed)

3 ears fresh corn, shucked

Olive oil

Chipotle seasoning

Coarse Kosher salt and pepper

Bunch of fresh arugula, cleaned

Grape or cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered

1 ripe but still firm avocado, pitted and diced (optional)

Fresh basil (or cilantro), chopped

Fresh limes

Rinse chicken breasts and pat dry. Rub with a little olive oil then sprinkle with the chile seasoning (I probably used about 1 TBS of seasoning for three breasts). Sprinkle with a little additional salt if desired and set aside.

Rub corn with olive oil then sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Sprinkle with a little bit of the chipotle powder.

Heat a gas or charcoal grill to medium. Place chicken breasts on grill; cover and cook for about 5 minutes.  Then turn and continue to cook until firm to the touch (about 6-10 minutes more depending on size of the breasts and temperature of the grill).  Remove to a plate and tent with foil.

Place corn directly on grill and cook, turning frequently, until lightly charred on all sides, about 5 minutes.  Remove from grill and let sit at room temperature for a few minutes to cool off.

Using a sharp knife, cut kernels away from corn.  Place arugula on serving places.  Top with corn kernels, tomatoes, avocadoes (if using), a sprinkle of either fresh basil or fresh cilantro, a slight pinch of salt and some ground pepper.  Slice chicken and arrange on plate, drizzling any accumulated juices over the top.

Squirt some lime juice over both the salad and the chicken, and then give the salad a little drizzle of olive oil just before serving.

Serves 3-4

Super Fantastic Skirt Steak Marinade

Skirt Steak Marinade Blog PostThis is going to be a different kind of blog post today because I’m not really going to talk that much about the marinade recipe other than to say it really does live up to its name and will quickly become one of your “go to” summer steak marinades.  My hand written notes on the original recipe read: “**** Holy Cow…AWESOME marinade!”  Think that pretty much says it all.

So in addition to this very fine steak marinade, I also wanted to share with you some photos of what ended up being a marvelous summer food weekend here in the burbs of Chicago. Just looking at everything we cooked and ate this weekend makes me smile and also gives you a little glimpse into life in my kitchen. It started Friday night with some wonderful bbq’d chicken leg quarters seasoned with Penzeys Northwoods Seasoning and sauteed fresh Swiss chard from my garden: 2013-07-12 18.16.32That I served with some roasted potatoes with fresh thyme: 2013-07-12 18.25.23And this luscious Albarino: 2013-07-12 20.17.13 Then Saturday I met up with my friend, Marty, for a delish al fresco lunch at Mago Grill. Ceviche, salsas and a glass of sangria. Perfect for a warm summer afternoon! 20130713_141032Saturday night was steak time and we cooked up this beauty from Standard Market, seasoned with Savory Spice’s Black Dust Coffee & Spice Rub: 2013-07-13 19.06.10And I turned these: 2013-07-13 18.49.28Into this: 2013-07-13 19.43.11I love Smitten Kitchen for posting the above recipe.   Have I mentioned that my kitchen is small?  I do it all with about 2 1/2 ft. of counter space (+ 1 extra foot if you add my cutting board sink insert).  In case you don’t believe me here is a photo of work in process: 2013-07-13 19.16.22Note the popsicle molds in the middle and the little book behind them?  Those ended up being a part of one my greatest triumphs this weekend.  Strawberry paletas.  They disappeared so quickly I don’t have a photo, but here is a shot of the sugared strawberries before they took a whirl through the food processor: 2013-07-13 18.42.03I will definitely be posting more about paletas this summer.  One of my new obsessions!  Keep in mind we’re only through Saturday!  Sunday my other half took his turn in the kitchen, working most of the afternoon on an incredible black eyed pea stew with smoked ham hocks and this superb corn bread that will be a future blog post: 2013-07-14 18.49.42Three days of super fantastic food and now a super fantastic marinade to share with you.  Tonight, I think it’s going to be be burgers on the grill and protein shakes for lunch for the remainder of the week.  One can only take so much wining and dining.  Even me!  Wishing everyone happy summer cooking.

Super Fantastic Skirt Steak Marinade

1/2 cup olive oil

1/3 cup soy sauce

4 scallions, washed and cut in 1/2

2 large cloves garlic, peeled

1/4 cup fresh lime juice

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

3 tablespoons dark brown sugar

1/4 cup chopped cilantro (optional)

1 1/2 to 2 pounds inside skirt steak, cut into 3 equal pieces

Combine marinade ingredients, including cilantro if desired, into a blender or food processor to process.  Place skirt steak in a plastic, resealable bag and pour marinade over.  Seal and refrigerate at least 1 hour or overnight.

Heat a gas or charcoal grill to medium-high heat.  Remove steak from marinade, shaking off the excess.  Grill for about two minutes on one side then turn and continue grilling to desired doneness (thin cuts of meat will only take another minute or two.  Thicker steaks will take longer for medium rare).  Remove steak from grill and let rest for at least 5 minutes, then slice against the grain and serve.

Serves 4