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.

 

 

 

Linguine with Sun Dried Tomatoes

Linguine with Sun-Dried Tomatoes 1

With fall approaching peak splendor and the final bunches of herbs being picked, I find myself reflecting on the my little backyard garden.  I am  always happy for our successes but the failures nag at me.  Sometimes overshadowing the good and causing me to rethink just about every move I made. And of course there’s the cursed weather. Too much rain, not enough rain, too hot, too cool a spring. WHY CAN’T IT EVER BE PERFECT!

Last year I was lamenting our dismal crop of tomatoes (see Spice Rubbed Chicken with Fresh Tomato, Olive & Basil Salad made with tomatoes not from my garden).  This year?  COMPLETELY different story.  The tomato gods cooperated and the  produced a bumper crop!Linguine with Sun Dried Tomatoes

An interesting variety too, although I can’t remember the specific name but for about a 4-week period, the plants produced a near record amount of sweet, little Roma-shaped fruits that ended up in salads and salsas. In hopes of preserving these little gems beyond harvest time, we turned to our old, trusty Ronco Food Dehydrator and got busy.Linguine with Sun-Dried Tomatoes 2

Seasoned with a little dried herbs and packed with extra virgin olive oil and fresh herbs, these chewy tomatoes have a burst of intense tomato flavor in every bite.Linguine with Sun-Dried Tomatoes 4

Oil packed tomatoes have countless uses but our favorite way to enjoy them is very simply with linguine, garlic and a little parsley. It’s a dish we used to cook frequently back in our downtown-Chicago-condo-no kids days. Although back then we used store bought brand oil packed dried tomatoes. And hey, nothing wrong with that! Just be sure you select a top notch brand (our favorite after much trial and error, is still California Sun-Dry Brand).

I still recommend trying your hand at drying tomatoes at home.  You will be amazed how easy it is and how even with off-season grocery store tomatoes, you can achieve fresh, intense flavor.  Having a dehydrator is handy, but your oven and a baking sheet work just as well.  Instructions for drying your own tomatoes at home come after the recipe.

Other than canning sauce this is the next best way (in my opinion) to preserve the summer tomato bounty. It was a good harvest indeed.

So what’s up next at Dinner is Served? Hint: I got out my slow cooker today 😉 Linguine with Sun-Dried Tomatoes 3

9-29-2015 2-35-56 PM

  • 12 ounces dried linguine pasta
  • 1 jar (about 8 oz.) oil-packed sun dried tomatoes
  • 3 large cloves of garlic, very thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley or basil
  • Kosher salt and coarsely ground black pepper

Drain tomatoes and reserve oil. Place about 2 TBS of the reserved oil in a non-stick skillet over medium heat.  Add sliced garlic and saute just until fragrant, under 1 minute (do not let the garlic brown). Add reserved tomatoes and turn heat to low. Stir to combine then turn off heat and cover pan.

In the meantime, cook linguine according to package directions until al dente. Drain pasta but do not rinse.  Add pasta and parsley to the pan with the tomatoes and the garlic, stirring to combine.  Add additional reserved oil if desired, and salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

Serves 2 as a meatless entree, or 4 as a side dish


~How to Make Dried Tomatoes at Home~

  • About 6 cups fresh cherry tomatoes
  • Italian seasoning blend, about 1 TBS
  • Kosher salt
  • Extra Virgin olive oil
  • Sprigs of fresh basil or thyme

Prepare the tomatoes by cutting each in half, trimming out the core in the middle. Using a paring knife, carefully scrape seeds from each tomato. Sprinkle each tomato half with some of the herb mixture and a pinch of salt.

DEHYDRATOR METHOD

Arrange tomatoes cut side up onto drying trays.Linguine with Sun Dried Tomatoes Dry for about 4-5 hours, then turn halves over and press flat with our finger or a spoon and return to drying.  Check occasionally, rotating racks and removing tomatoes that are finished.  Finished tomatoes should be dried, but still pliable and chewy.

OVEN METHOD

Preheat oven to 170°. Arrange tomato halves, cut side up on a rack set inside a sheet pan). Bake for about 10 hours, checking every couple of hours or so and flipping over if necessary. Depending size of tomatoes, they may take longer to dry.  Just make sure they are shriveled but still chewy.

Place dried tomatoes in a glass jar.   Add in a few sprigs of basil or thyme, then pour in olive oil to cover. Cover jar and store in refrigerator if not using within 24 hours.

Farro Salad with Tomatoes, Cucumbers & Feta

Farro Salad with Tomatoes, Cucumbers & Feta Dinner Is ServedWhile I love each and every recipe that I post, I must say that the ones I create entirely in my mind, with ingredients grown in my garden are my most favorite. When I can incorporate some personal pieces into the photos, even better! In this post,  the ceramic dishes in the photos are pieces my son made in class last year and the weathered wood is a picnic table my husband made years ago.

Featured in this recipe are tomatoes, cucumbers, mint and parsley..all from my garden which has had a pretty terrific late season surge in productivity.Farro Salad with Tomatoes, Cucumbers & Feta 2

Farro Salad with Tomatoes, Cucumbers & FetaI have been making versions of this salad all summer long, but with the tomatoes and cucumbers in abundance, that seemed like a winning combination. Chickpeas add a nice texture a healthy dose of fiber:Farro Salad with Tomatoes, Cucumbers & Feta 6And yes there must always be cheese! With cucumbers and mint in the dish, that says “Greek” to me, so feta was the logical choice.

The one ingredient that may throw you a bit is the farro. Trader Joe's FarroThis very ancient grain has enjoyed a renaissance here in the U.S. thanks to the focus on whole grains. It’s deliciously nutty and has a nice bite to it.  While it may not have the same kind of name recognition as “quinoa,” it’s made its way to Trader Joe’s lineup which means fame and fortune are not far behind. Note that TJ’s farro is a “quick cook” variety (ready in just 15 minutes!)  Other brands and types of farro grains may take longer.

The final element of this dish is a very simple sherry vinaigrette dressing.  If you don’t have sherry vinegar on hand, apple cider vinegar or white wine vinegar are good substitutes.Farro Salad with Tomatoes, Cucumbers & Feta 3

As with most grain salads, this can be made ahead and held at room temperature (without the cheese) for up to two hours.  Just toss the cheese in before serving. Leftovers can be stored in the fridge for several days and make a wonderful lunch or side dish.  Finally, if you’re craving more protein than just the cheese, feel free to toss in some grilled chicken strips or shrimp or whatever you have on hand.

This one has Dinner Is Served’s name written all over it. Enjoy!

Farro Salad with Tomatoes, Cucumbers & Feta Dinner Is Served Cover

Farro Salad with Tomatoes, Cucumbers & Feta

  • 1 cup quick cooking faro
  • 1 cup diced fresh tomatoes (seeded)
  • 1 cup diced fresh cucumber (peeled and seeded)
  • 1 cup drained chick peas (aka garbanzo beans)
  • 1 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped scallions
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 TBS chopped fresh mint
  • 2 TBS sherry vinegar
  • 6 TBS extra virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and coarse ground black pepper

Cook farro according to package directions (for Trader Joe’s brand, simmer in 2 cups lightly salted water, covered, for ten minutes. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, for 5 minutes. Drain excess water).

After farro has cooked, place on a sheet pan or in a large bowl to cool down to room temperature.  While farro is cooling, make sherry vinaigrette by whisking sherry vinegar and olive oil in a bowl. Season with a little salt and pepper and set aside.

Combine the farro with the tomatoes, cucumbers, scallions, chick peas, fresh herbs and feta cheese (if serving right away). Toss gently.  Drizzle just enough of the dressing to flavor the salad but not drown it.  Add additional salt and pepper if desired.

Yields: About 3 people as a meatless main, 4-5 as a side dish

Sauteed New Potatoes with Sugar Snap Peas & Chives

Sauteed New Potatoes with Sugar Snap Peas & Chives | Dinner Is ServedFor me, Spring does not officially start until the chives appear in my little backyard garden. I can’t even remember how long ago I planted them, but it has to be at least 15 years ago by now. Through every harsh winter, rain soaking spring and blistering hot summer, they not only survive, they flourish.  Some years they flourish too much, and I find myself late summer, yanking rogue plants that pop up everywhere, while uttering some choice words.

But for now, they’re precious and welcome. As is this dish, which celebrates the best of spring with new potatoes, crispy green sugar snap peas, a touch of bright lemon and of course chives.

Sauteed New Potatoes with Sugar Snap Peas & Chives | Dinner Is ServedIn fact, these sugar snap peas are so beautiful, I think they deserve a moment all to themselvesSugar Snap PeasPreparation is fast and incredibly simple. Just simmer some new potatoes in lightly salted waterSauteed New Potatoes with Sugar Snap Peas and Chives| Dinner Is ServedA last minute saute brings everything togetherSauteed New Potatoes with Sugar Snap Peas & Chives | Dinner Is ServedCan you imagine this served with your Easter ham? It’s also the perfect accompaniment to my Sautéed Lemony Pepper Chicken.  Or if you’re in a seafood state of mind, try it alongside my Broiled Scotch Salmon.

Spring has officially sprung here in Chicagoland my friends, and I am looking forward to many months of grilling, farmers markets and sunshine.  And a final word of advice on the chives: seriously, snip off those purple flowers and add them to your salads. They’re beautiful AND you won’t have 10,000 seedlings to pull in August.

Cheers!

Sautéed New Potatoes with Sugar Snap Peas & Chives

1 1/2 # red new potatoes, rinsed and scrubbed

10 oz. fresh sugar snap peas

2 TBS olive oil

1/4 cup fresh chopped chives

1 tsp lemon zest

Fresh coarse ground pepper and Kosher salt

  • Cut the potatoes into 1 1/2-inch pieces. Place in a medium pan and cover with cold water. Add a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Then reduce heat slightly and simmer for about 15 minutes or until just barely tender. Drain and set aside.
  • While potatoes are cooking, remove strings from sugar snap peas (if necessary).
  • Heat a large non-stick skillet for about 1 minutes over medium heat. Add olive oil and sugar snap peas. Add a pinch or two of salt and saute over medium heat until just crisp tender, about 2 minutes.
  • Add potatoes to skillet and saute until just heated through, about 1 minute longer.
  • Season to taste with additional Kosher salt and several grinds of pepper.
  • Just before serving, sprinkle with lemon zest.

Serves 4 as a side dish

Pork Medallions with Balsamic, Rosemary & Honey Glaze

 

Pork Medallions with Balsamic, Rosemary & Honey Glaze | Dinner Is ServedThis recipe dates back to the very infant stages of my food writing in the early 2000’s before blogging was a thing. In fact, it was the very first recipe I shared with my friends and personal chef clients via a monthly e-newsletter and remains one of  my favorite ways to prepare pork tenderloin. It’s an under 30 minute meal and I am not fudging with that number one bit. In fact, if this takes you longer than 30 minutes to prepare, drop me a line and I’ll personally come to your home and make it for you!

Other reasons to love this recipe: it’s low in fat, gluten free, budget friendly, and dinner-party-worthy.

The fragrant honey balsamic glaze is the key to this dish, starting with a culinary match made in heaven: garlic and rosemary Balsamic Rosemary Pork Tenderloin 1

And here is more rosemary that has been chopped (ok I just really wanted to show off this adorable measuring spoon)Balsamic Rosemary Pork Tenderloin 2

I like to use aged balsamic vinegar for this recipe and some of my favorite  Gentle Breeze Honey from just across the border in Wisconsin. You can also substitute agave nectar if you prefer.

Gentle Breeze Honey

Now it’s simply a matter of combining the glaze ingredients, pouring them over some nicely seared pork tenderloin medallions and dinner is ready in about 10 minutes!

Balsamic Rosemary Pork Tenderloin 3

I like to serve this with creamy polenta (Try Colavita’s Instant Polenta cooked according to package directions, with a little Parmesan and mascarpone cheese mixed in at the end for extra creaminess), and a simple green bean saute or cooked carrots for color.  One of those rare dishes that is perfect for a hectic weeknight and yet elegant enough to serve to company. So the next time a friend pops by unannounced  OR it’s 4:00 pm and you’ve just remembered that your spouse’s boss is coming over for dinner at 5:00, this is your go to meal.

Until we meet again, happy cooking!

 Pork Medallions with Balsamic, Rosemary & Honey Glaze

For the glaze:

4 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 TBS. chopped fresh rosemary

½ C. balsamic vinegar, preferably aged

3 TBS honey or agave nectar

2 TBS olive oil

1 TBS Dijon mustard

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the pork:

1 ¾ to 2 pounds pork tenderloin, trimmed (see Note>)

Canola or vegetable oil for searing

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 350°.

Place all ingredients for glaze into a small, non-reactive bowl or jar and whisk to combine. Season to taste with salt & pepper. (Glaze can be made up to one day in advance. Cover and refrigerate, then bring back to room temperature before using).

For the pork, slice the tenderloin(s) into 1-inch thick medallions (rounds). Season both  sides with salt and pepper. Coat the bottom of a medium skillet with a light film of oil and heat over medium-high heat until hot (a splatter screen and good ventilation are very helpful when searing any kind of meat).   Add the pork slices in one layer and sear for about 1 -2 minutes. Turn and sear for 1 more minute or so, until lightly browned. Transfer the slices in 1 layer to a shallow baking dish (or if your skillet is oven proof you may just keep the pork in the skillet, pour the glaze over and bake).

Pour the glaze over the slices and turn them to coat.

Roast for 8-12 minutes, or until cooked through and just barely pink in the middle. Remove from the oven and keep warm, loosely covered until ready to serve. To serve, place medallions on a platter and spoon some of the glaze over them. Garnish with sprigs of fresh rosemary.

Serves: 3-4

Note> Be sure your tenderloin has been properly trimmed and all excess fat and silver skin removed. For instructions on how to do this at home, check out this video: “Cooking Tips: How to Trim Fat from Pork Tenderloin

 

Lemon Orzo Pasta with Spinach, Walnuts and Feta Cheese

IMAG0980 FINAL

~ Necessity is the mother of invention ~

                                        English proverb

 I honestly think this is how most recipes are created.  The fridge is near empty, save for a mish mash of leftovers. There’s a half empty box of pasta in the pantry and a container of ricotta cheese that is approaching its expiration date.  And those two remaining semi-stale hot dog buns?  Well yes of course those can be tossed into the food processor and turned into bread crumbs!  Bottom line:  your family is starving and food must appear soon or else.

Then in one magical moment, out of chaos, these ingredients come together into something splendid and behold, a recipe is born.

And so it came to be last month when all I had in my refrigerator were some ingredients leftover from a spinach salad I had prepared for New Years Eve (spinach, toasted walnuts and feta cheese) and a box of Barilla Orzo pasta.  Keep in mind these ingredients happen to fall into that category of “things I could eat every day forever and be completely happy.”

Lemon Orzo Pasta with Walnuts, Spinach and Feta Cheese | Dinner Is Served

All it needed was a touch of garlic and a splash of lemon zest and a drizzle of olive oil at the end to complete. The flavor and texture combination: amazing.   The possibilities: endless.  Serve as a hearty, meatless entree or if you’re in the mood or some protein, serve as a side with grilled chicken or top with some sauteed shrimp.  Leftovers taste great chilled for lunch.

This, to me, is what cooking is all about: working with fresh ingredients, creating, reinventing. If necessity is the mother of invention, then necessity is indeed a very good thing.

Lemon Orzo with Spinach, Walnuts and Feta Cheese | Dinner Is Served

Lemon Orzo Pasta with Spinach, Walnuts and Feta Cheese

1 cup Barilla Orzo pasta

5 cups baby spinach, lightly packed

1 large clove garlic, minced

1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted (see Note>)

2/3 cup crumbled feta cheese

1 TBS extra virgin olive oil, plus extra to drizzle

1 tsp fresh lemon zest

Kosher salt and coarsely ground black pepper

  •  Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add Barilla orzo pasta and cook until just al dente per directions; drain pasta and set aside.
  • Heat 1 TBS olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and saute approximately 30 seconds until fragrant. Add spinach and a pinch of salt.  Toss gently with tongs until spinach is just starting to wilt, about 1-2 minutes.
  • Return orzo to the pan.  Stir in walnuts and then feta cheese.  Add some additional salt if necessary and a few grinds of black pepper.  Toss gently to coat.  Then just before serving, drizzle a little olive oil over and sprinkle with lemon zest.  Give it one more toss then serve.

Serves 4 as a main dish or 6 as a side

Note> For the freshest nuts, try the bulk section of your grocery store. You can buy just as much as you need, save some money and chances are they are infinitely fresher than the packaged nuts in the baking section.

Lemon Orzo Pasta with Spinach, Walnuts and Feta Cheese | Dinner Is Served

 

 

 

 

Plum Sauce with Basil & Balsamic Vinegar

Plum Sauce with Basil & Balsamic Vinegar |  Dinner Is ServedYou may be wondering why I am posting a recipe for a just a sauce.  As in “Where is the rest of the meal? Have you lost your mind, Dinner Is Served?”  I swear on a stack of Julia Child cookbooks, there were many other things that went with this meal: grilled pork tenderloin (which was served with the plum sauce), jasmine rice and glazed carrots with agave nectar and garlic chives. Oh it was very beautiful and delicious and nutritious.

Unfortunately, I have no photos from that meal.

Chalk it up to the struggles of someone who works full time (like me) and blogs on his/her spare time.  Meaning nights and weekends.  Trust me, when it’s 7:30 at night and I’m tired and the family is starving, NO ONE is going to wait around for me to take photos!

Fortunately, I did snap some nice shots of the sauce alone.  Which honestly, it was the sauce that made the meal in the first place. So, assuming you all know how to season and grill a pork tenderloin or a pork chop (or lamb chop or chicken breast), then we can just get right to this lovely summer sauce which is made with just three ingredients and (bonus time here) FAT FREE!

We’ll start with some glorious plums, which happen to be at the peak of season right now:

Plum Balsamic Sauce with Basil | Dinner Is Served

MMmmmm…I have serious love of summer fruit:

Plum Balsamic Sauce with Basil | Dinner Is Served

Chop these beauties up and add a little balsamic vinegar:

Plum Balsamic Sauce with Basil | Dinner Is Served

Then simmer on the stove for about ten minutes until the plums have softened:

Plum Balsamic Sauce with Basil | DInner Is Served

Puree, strain, and toss in some chopped fresh basil, a little salt & pepper.  DONE!  And now the fun begins: what to serve this with?  I can think of many many things:

  • Grilled Pork tenderloin, pork & fruit kabobs, pork chops, ribs
  • Turkey burgers
  • Grilled chicken thighs
  • Grilled lamb chops
  • Cornish game hens
  • Roast duck breast
  • Broiled salmon

You’re going to have a ton of fun with this one, trust me.  Until we meet again… 🙂

Plum Sauce with Basil & Balsamic Vinegar

1 1/2 pounds ripe purple plums, pitted and cut into 1-inch chunks

1/3 cup balsamic vinegar

1/2 cup shredded fresh basil

1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1/4 tsp salt

In a medium, nonreactive saucepan, bring the plums and vinegar to a boil over high heat. Cover and reduce the heat to moderately low. Cook the plums, stirring often, until tender, about ten minutes.

Puree the plum mixture in a food processor. Using a fine mesh strainer, strain the puree into a nonreactive bowl. Stir in the basil, pepper, and salt.  Season to taste and let cool a bit before serving over your favorite grilled food.

 

Yields: About 2 cups sauce

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

Salad:

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.  

Pesto Roasted Fingerling Potatoes

Pesto Roasted Fingerling Potatoes

Gardens are funny things.  You check in on them every day (as you should), making note of what needs to be pruned, fertilized, or various weeds that threaten to take over.  And then one day out of nowhere, you’ll notice that HOLY COW…you suddenly have an abundance of something and you need to use it immediately!  Anyone who has grown cherry tomatoes or zucchini know this phenomenon well.

Such was the case with my sweet basil this year.  It took off in the blink of an eye.  Mind you, I am not complaining one bit.

Sweet Baril

The obvious comes to mind of course: pesto.  But  I’ve already give you: Ultimate Basil Pesto.  I’ve also done a very awesome Grilled Pesto Chicken and Tomatoes.   Are you tired of pesto yet?  Yep, I thought not.  So let’s go another round, this time with roasted potatoes.  Specifically, some very fun and colorful ones like this:

Fingerling Potatoes

Roasted initially with a little olive oil, salt and pepper:

Roasted FIngerling Potatoes with Pesto | Dinner Is ServedWhile the potatoes are roasting, just throw together a very simple pesto sauce made with fresh basil, garlic, shallots and olive oil (no pricey $$$ pine nuts in this recipe):

Pesto Roasted Fingerling Potatoes | Dinner Is Served

Which, when combined, look like this:

Pesto Roasted Fingerling Potatoes | Dinner Is Served

Can we pause a minute to admire the glory that is basil pesto? ——– Ahhhh.   So anyway, after an initial roasting, the potatoes are tossed with this piquant mixture then roasted a bit more.  Your kitchen will smell like heaven on earth at this point.  Just sayin.   Then just before serving, the final touch of awesomeness: some freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano:

Pesto Roasted FIngerling Potatoes | Dinner Is Served.

 If you’re wondering whether you have to use multi-colored fingerling potatoes for this recipe, the answer is a resounding “no”!  You can use anything you have or like, although I do happen to think that thin-skinned potatoes are the real ticket to success with this kind of roasting.  As for things to serve with this dish, the possibilities are endless.  Basically whatever comes off your grill this summer (steaks, beer can chicken, sausages, ribs…) will go will be happy sharing a plate with these savory spuds.

One final note before I get to the recipe, which I promise I will do.  Try making them ahead of time, reserving a little of the pesto.  Just before serving, toss with the reserved pesto and parmesan cheese.  So simple and delicious!

PESTO ROASTED FINGERLING POTATOES

5 TBS olive oil

2/3 cup packed fresh basil leaves

1 large or 2 medium shallots, peeled and coarsely chopped

2 large or 3  medium garlic cloves, peeled

Nonstick vegetable oil spray or nonstick aluminum foil

2 1/2 # fingerling potatoes, scrubbed

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Blend 2 1/2 TBS olive oil, basil, shallots, and garlic in a food processor until smooth.  Season pesto to taste with salt and pepper (can be made up to a day in advance.  Cover and refrigerate).

Preheat oven to 400°F.  Spray a large baking sheet with nonstick spray or line with nonstick foil.  Toss the potatoes with remaining 2 1/2 TBS olive oil, salt and pepper in a large bowl to coat.  Transfer to prepared baking sheet.  Roast potatoes until almost tender, about 35 minutes.  Pour pesto over potatoes and toss to coat.  Continue roasting potatoes until golden brown and tender, about 15-20 minutes longer.

Transfer potatoes to a serving bowl.  Add cheese and toss.

Serves 6

Thai Beef with Basil

Thai Beef with Basil |Dinner Is Served

One of the great pleasures of gardening is being able to grow and use ingredients not often found at the supermarket.  Case in point…Thai Basil.  A few months ago I planted some straggly looking plants from the garden center into this whiskey barrel, along with some other herbs and annuals.  Thanks to an abundance of rain and warm, humid days, my Thai basil is flourishing.  Time to start cooking!

Thai Basil

My husband’s absolute favorite Thai meal is Thai Beef with Basil. I will admit to not being a big fan of super spicy food, but when you combine the basil with the heat, something magic happens.  It’s an absolutely brilliant combination and is so easy to make at home in a jiffy, starting with fresh ingredients like hot peppers and ginger: Thai Beef with Basil | Dinner Is Served

A simple savory 30-minute marinade with fish sauce, soy sauce and brown sugar:Thai Beef with Basil | Dinner is Served

Tossed with thinly sliced steak:

Thai Beef with Basil | Dinner Is Served

Stir fried with onions slivered garlic and the finishing touch: fresh basil.  LOTS of it.  Seriously, you almost can’t add enough basil to this dish:

Thai Beef with Basil | Dinner Is Served

And the perfect salad to round out the meal: my “Cool as a Cucumber Thai Salad

Cool as a Cucumber Thai Salad | Dinner Is Served

This meal will both heat you up and cool you off all at the same time! Enjoy all the best that summer has to offer my friends.  Ok, and one more photo of the basil.  Just…because.

Thai Beef with Basil | Dinner is Served

Thai Beef with Basil


3 TBS Asian fish sauce (aka Nam Pla or Nuoc Nam) (see Note>1)

1 TBS soy sauce

1 TBS brown sugar

1# beef round or sirloin steak (preferably thinly sliced) (see Note>2)

1 TBS plus 1 tsp vegetable or canola oil

1 large sweet onion (about 1#), sliced into 1/4-inch-thick slices

3 long red or green chilies (such as serrano or fingerhot), seeded and thinly sliced

3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

2 tsp minced, peeled fresh ginger

2 cups loosely packed fresh Thai or sweet basil leaves (large leaves torn into smaller pieces)

Cooked jasmine rice (or any other long grain rice)


 

Place meat in the freezer for 30-45 minutes.  Then remove and slice against the grain into 1/8-inch-thick slices.

In a shallow dish or bowl, combine the fish sauce, soy sauce and brown sugar.  Whisk to combine.  Add meat; toss well to coat.  Cover and marinate in the fridge for 30 minutes or up to an hour.

In a skillet or wok, heat 1 TBS of the oil over high heat until very hot.  Add beef mixture along with marinate.  Cook, stirring frequently, just until beef is no longer pink (about 1-2 minutes).  Transfer beef and accumulated juices to a bowl and set aside.

Add remaining 1 tsp of oil to the wok.  Add sliced onion and cook, stir-frying, until tender-crisp, about 3-4 minutes.  Stir in chilies, garlic and ginger and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Return beef to skillet and add basil.  Stir until heated through and basil is just beginning to wilt.  Serve over jasmine rice.

Serves 4

Note>1 – Fish sauce sounds exotic but it’s almost everywhere these days and is an essential ingredient in Asian cuisine.  Technically you can store it at room temp, but I like to play it safe and store mine in the fridge where is seems to stay fresh for a very long time (as long as one year!)

Note>2 – Another advantage to this dish: you can use an inexpensive cut of meat, like the top round!  As long as you slice it thinly against the grain, it will be every bit as tender.  Look for meat that has already been sliced thin, sometimes labeled as “sandwich steak”  It’s perfect for stir frying.

Thai Beef with Basil| DInner Is Served