Grilled Soy-Lime Chicken


Grilled Soy-Lime Chicken

1.25 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breast

2 c warm water
2 T sugar
2 T kosher salt

3 T soy sauce
1/4 t sugar
1/4 t grated lime zest
2 t lime juice

Combine water, sugar and salt in a bowl large enough to hold the chicken but small enough that it can be mostly submerged in the brine. Stir to dissolve sugar and salt and then add the chicken breast. Brine for thirty minutes.

In a separate bowl combine soy sauce, sugar, lime juice and lime zest. Remove chicken breast from brine, shake to remove excess liquid and then put chicken breast into marinade. Turn to coat and let the chicken marinate while the grill is heating, ten to fifteen minutes.   

Grill over medium heat for nine minutes. Flip and grill for another seven minutes.

Notes: Oh, stop yawning and just eat it. I struggled with chicken breast for a really long time. It's cheap, it defrosts in a plastic bag and warm water in less than half an hour, it's versatile, it's healthy, kids generally like it but... I just couldn't seem to DO anything with it. 

Enter the 30 minute brine (wow!) and one of a million marinades. Try this one. I like it. Patrick LOVES it. Caroline and Edward ate respectable amounts even though I think they get tired of chewing after a while and need something easier like the asparagus and rice that went with it. Edward is like a giraffe, he prefers things that are green. Caroline, for some explicable reason, is a rice FIEND.

"RIIIIIIIIIICCCEE?" she shrieks with both hands outstretched and another thousand grains fall to the floor.

What I have not yet tried is this same recipe without the grill but now that we are being deluged with an icy rain and the temperature inside my house is about sixty (who turns on the heat this early?) I think my grilling days are over. I shall try it on the stovetop and report back later, unless you want to try it on the stovetop and report back sooner.

Shredded Beef and Black Bean Enchiladas


Shredded Beef and Black Bean Enchiladas

1.5 lbs chuck roast, cut into 1 inch cubes
2 T vegetable oil

1 large onion, diced
1/2 t salt
3 T chili powder
2 t cumin
2 t coriander
1/4 t cayenne
4 cloves garlic, minced

1 28 oz can tomato sauce
1/4 c red wine

2 c shredded cheddar cheese
2 15 oz cans black beans, drained and rinsed
12 (6 inch) corn tortillas

cilantro garnish

Heat oven to 300°. Dry beef with paper towels and then season with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil in a large Dutch oven until it is hot and shimmering. Cook half of the beef, turning to brown all sides. Remove browned beef to a plate and repeat with remaining oil and beef. Remove second batch of beef to the plate and then pour off fat, reserving about a tablespoon in the pan. Add onions and half a teaspoon of salt and cook until onions soften, about ten minutes. Add spices and cook, stirring constantly, for one minute. Add garlic and cook and additional minute. Then add tomato sauce and red wine and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and add beef to the sauce.

Tear a large sheet of aluminum foil and fold it in half. Then carefully press the aluminum foil into the pan. You want the foil to rest just above the level of the sauce and beef. Crimp the edges to form a seal around the rim of the pan (yeah, it is hot - be careful) and then put the lid on. The aluminum foil isn't strictly necessary but it cuts the cooking time in half if you do it.

Transfer the pan to the oven. Bake for one to one and half hours - check it; the beef should be very tender and fall apart with a fork. Use a slotted spoon to remove the beef from the sauce. Let it cool until it can be handled, then shred it and put it into a medium bowl. Add one cup of cheddar cheese, one cup of the sauce and the black beans. Stir to combine.

Spread half a cup of sauce onto the bottom of a 13X9 baking dish. Increase oven to 375°.

Soften tortillas*. Working one at a time take a quarter cup of beef and bean filling and roll into each tortilla. Place filled tortillas seam side down in the baking dish. When you cannot fit any more into the pan, top with remaining sauce and cheese. Cover with aluminum foil and bake 20-25 minutes until cheese has melted.

Garnish with cilantro.

Printable version here

-- Adapted from Josie Landon's recipe in Cook's Country, Oct/Nov 2009


This was time consuming compared with using ground beef but it was delicious.

I know that chuck roasts are generally three to four pounds, even when they're on the small side. In this case I took a small one and chopped it in half. I used one half for the recipe and froze the other. I also realized that only Steve and I would really be eating this so I used an 8X8 pan, six tortillas and I (you'll never guess) froze the leftover filling and the sauce. I used the muffin pan again and the resulting beef and bean hockey pucks looked even weirder than the marinara sauce but it made nice single-serve portions for, say, lunch. For me. Or me. Or me me me.

Edward ate the beans. Caroline ate it all. Patrick... well, you know Patrick. I think he had peanut butter toast.

*There are lots of ways to soften a corn tortilla. You can wrap them in aluminum foil and bake them in a low oven for five to ten minutes. You can spray them with cooking spray and put them on a cookie sheet in a low oven for three to four minutes. Or you can use tongs and hold them individually over a gas burner for a minute or two on each side. I prefer the latter approach but I also regularly set tortillas on fire. Like, actual flaming fire. So there is that.              

Italian Sausage Meatball Subs


Italian Sausage Meatball Subs

2/3 lb ground Italian hot sausage
1/2 lb ground beef
4 slices of sandwich bread, stale or toasted or both
3 c marinara sauce, divided
1/3 c chopped fresh basil, divided
1/2 c grated Parmesan cheese

1 c shredded mozzarella cheese
1 baguette

In a bowl tear the bread into small pieces, then add 3/4 c of marinara sauce and stir. Let it sit for a few minutes to let the bread soften. Add sausage, beef, 1/4 c of fresh basil and the Parmesan cheese. Using your hands mix well and then form eight meatballs. In a large saucepan or skillet heat the remaining marinara sauce until it reaches a simmer. Add the meatballs to the sauce and cook, covered, turning frequently until the meatballs are cooked all the way through, about twenty-five minutes. 

Cut four-five inch sections of baguette and split them in half lengthwise. Pull out some of the bread or flatten it with your fingertips. Place the bottom of each baguette onto a baking sheet and spoon a tablespoon of marinara onto piece. Slice meatballs in half and place two on top of the sauce, overlapping them slightly. Top with another tablespoon of sauce and a handful of mozzarella cheese. Broil just until the cheese melts, about two to three minutes. Sprinkle with fresh basil and serve.

Notes: This was the night I decided to make something that I really like and to hell with everybody else. People might speak with nostalgic pleasure of the chicken casseroles or pork shnitzels of their childhood but for me there is nothing so comforting as a good sub. Which is weird because I grew up in DC; a city not exactly known for its sandwich culture but there it is.

Steve had one the size of a slider and looked like he would rather be eating a nice salad; Patrick thought there were just too many possibly suspicious things going on here and ate the corner of the bread and Edward's throat hurt so he had yogurt. Caroline took one look at my plate, said "WHOW" and she and I ate meatballs and cheese and bread until we both had to be hosed down.

"Mmmmmmmmm," said Caroline.

For reference I browned the leftover sausage and ground beef (I bought a pound of each) and froze them in separate ziploc bags for some unspecified, probably soupy, future use. I also had four meatballs and some sauce left over so I froze those together as well. You can use purchased marinara for this recipe but if you do I would heat the sauce with some fresh basil just to give it a little more flavor. And now I will put up my fast and adequate marinara recipe because I am a dummy dope and did not think to do so first so I could link to it like I planned. 

Grilled Pizza, Part Two


I am shocked by how all consuming Patrick has been, post-tonsillectomy. Technically only one out of the six of us (my mother is visiting) is surviving on popsicles, buttered noodles, soggy french toast and tiny sips of blue Gatorade but somehow all normal meal planning has gone flying out the window. My poor mother had to make herself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich today for lunch when it became obvious I was not going to rally; and Caroline and Edward had a packaged Dal Bukhara (lentil and tomato curry) on toast that I finished - I am  not proud of this - with my fingers when the effort of heating up frozen naan seemed beyond me.

So this is what I made for dinner when I had no time to cook* and this is what I post when I have no time to post.

I had five leftover pizza dough balls the other day and a goodly quantity of sauce. We rolled out and grilled the dough, then let it cool for a couple of hours before putting the crusts into a ziploc bag. Meanwhile, I had put about 1.5 T of pizza sauce into each cup of a silicon mini muffin pan and put the pan in the freezer. The next day I popped the sauce rounds out of the pan and threw them into another freezer bag.

To make the pizza straight out of the freezer I put the crusts on top of the (unlit) stove burners to thaw without condensation making the bottoms gummy. It took less than ten minutes. Then I microwaved a few pizza sauce portions. Topped the crusts with a little olive oil, the sauce, cheese and whatever else we liked and put them under the broiler just until the cheese melted.

Notes: The crust was flabby after it was frozen and then defrosted and broiled. Sad but true. However, as a dinner that took almost no effort and was ready in less than fifteen minutes it was more than adequate.

Any protein ideas for a kid who can only eat soft foods but who hates scrambled eggs?   

*Patrick feels so bad he didn't even care that we had his favorite dinner without him. Poor kid.

Grilled Pizza, Part One


Fifteen  Minute Pizza Sauce

2 T olive oil
2 clove of garlic, minced
8 oz can tomato sauce
6 oz can tomato paste
1 t sugar
1 t dried oregano
1/2 t dried basil

In a saucepan heat olive oil. Add garlic and saute three minutes. Add tomato sauce, tomato paste, sugar, oregano and garlic. Stir and then simmer for ten minutes.


One Hour (Give or Take) Pizza Dough

2 1/4 t active yeast (I buy a jar and keep it in the fridge; otherwise, use  1 packet)
1 1/4 c 106° water (for years I failed to make sure it was hot enough, now I use an oven thermometer)
4 c all purpose flour
1 T salt
1/4 c olive oil

Dissolve yeast in warm water. In the bowl of a stand mixer combine flour and salt. Using the dough hook attachment gradually stir in olive or and yeast/water mixture, alternating between the two. Increase the speed to medium and stir dough for seven minutes, stopping every so often to scrape dough from the sides and bottom of the bowl. If you do not have a stand mixer just use a spoon and beat the beejeezums out of it until it is elastic and just a little sticky. Flour and water are moody. Sometimes these amounts are perfect; some times they are not. Use your judgment and add water or flour by the tablespoon until the dough feels right.

Put the dough into a large, lightly oiled bowl and cover with a damp cloth. Give it an hour or so to double in size. Then punch it down (I love that part) and divide into eight equal portions. Cover the eight balls with plastic wrap and let them rise again for ten minutes. Then roll or stretch each one until it is very very thin (wafer thin) and about 8-10 inches around.

Heat the grill to medium-low. Oil one side of one dough round and place on the grill oiled side down. Grill 1-2 minutes. Remove from the grill, oil the other side, and then add sauce (if desired) and other toppings lightly. Too much stuff on a grilled pizza is a problem. So scatter cheese, spinach, basil, pepperoni, what have you with a sparing hand and then return the pizza to the grill for another 2-3 minutes.

Depending upon the size of your grill you can do a few pizzas at once.  

Notes: I cut the dough into eight slices like a pie. When I went to roll them out they maintained their triangularity. Oh well. Pizza doesn't HAVE TO be round, you know. We made three pizzas this way (which was a mistake since Steve ate one, Patrick ate one and Caroline and Edward ate one together - hellloooo? no wonder I am always hungry at bed time) which left five balls of dough. We decide to grill them and then freeze the pre-grilled crusts for another day. I also froze the leftover sauce. My plan is to report back on how the freezer pizza components fared in Grilled Pizza Part Two.  

Patrick likes pepperoni and kalamata olives. Caroline and Edward liked (although they didn't have much choice in the matter) baby spinach and olives. I like black olives, fresh tomato, spinach and fresh basil. Steve prefers sausage when he can get it but seemed happy enough with spinach, olives and a few of the fifty billion chanterelle mushrooms he and Patrick have gathered this week. They are, like, I don't even know what... gnomes. And we are all tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese people. 

What do you put on yours?

Grilled Salmon with Basil Cucumber Cream


Grilled Salmon with Basil Cucumber Cream

1/3 c orange juice
1/3 c soy sauce
1/3 cup water (or white wine, if you have some open - a dry one)

1 lb salmon fillet, intact and about one inch at its thickest

5 large basil leaves
1 c loosely packed baby spinach, stems removed
1/3 c sour cream
1 t dijon mustard 1/2 c finely diced cucumber, seeds removed

Combine orange juice, soy sauce and water in a shallow baking pan. Add salmon, skin side up. Marinate for as long as you can (up to three hours - two hours would be nice but ten minutes is ok too.) Heat grill to medium high. Grill salmon skin side down for 5-6 minutes. Flip and grill for another 2 minutes.

Meanwhile, place spinach and basil in bowl of mini food processor (or chop it yourself, very very fine) and pulse for a few seconds. Add sour cream and mustard, pulse until just blended. Stir in cucumber. Salt and pepper to taste.   

Notes: There is something overwhelmingly 80s about this, isn't there? I almost spelled it Creme. But I had the salmon and half a cucumber and I went from there.

I think it is marginally easier to grill one piece of fish than multiple smaller pieces and (as with beef) Steve prefers salmon rarer than I do. So a big fillet that is thick on one end and thin on the other works fine for us. By the time my end is cooked the way I like it his is perfect for him. If you run a less Jack Sprat household then you can either tuck the skinny end underneath or cut smaller fillets and cook accordingly. Or just buy equal sized pieces I guess.

Everyone ate all of this with the exception of Caroline who thought the salmon was weird and who subsequently ate only a few bites. Also I noticed that the tips of Patrick's asparagus were traded to Steve for some reason. But apart from that... .

Deconstructed Shish Kabob


Deconstructed Shish Kabob

1/4 c olive oil
5 garlic cloves, minced
1 t dried or 1 T fresh oregano
1/2 t salt
1/4 t pepper

6 cups bell peppers and zucchini; cut into 1.5 inch dice for peppers and 1/4 inch coins for zucchini
2-3 4oz beef tenderloin fillets

1 pt grape or cherry tomatoes

Combine first five ingredients in a small bowl. Chop vegetables (I used yellow red and green peppers this time because they were all cheap and it looked pretty) and put them into a large Tupperware (Rubbermaid, whatever) bowl with lid. Cut beef into segments - Steve likes rare and I prefer medium so I always do one filet into four equal pieces and the other into eight equal pieces. Same cooking time thus produces different degrees of doneness. Add beef to bowl. Add olive oil-garlic marinade, put the lid on and give the bowl a few good flips to evenly distribute everything.

Put in the refrigerator for fifteen minutes or all day or overnight.

We bought a cheap rectangular grill pan from Target that we use for this (also nice when grilling fish.)

Spray pan with cooking spray (or take a paper towel and rub it with a little vegetable oil.) Heat grill to medium-high and place pan on grate. Add beef and vegetables, spreading them out as much as possible. Cook for five minutes, turning once with tongs/spatula. Add tomatoes and cook one more minute. You want the tomatoes to be hot and starting to split, but not pulverized into mush.    

Notes: After five straight days of chicken I was ready for something different. Tenderloin is expensive but it is the only cut that I have found that can be cooked very quickly with no fuss and always be tender. I would love to hear other cut suggestions, though. In the meantime I just use a little beef and a lot of vegetables.

I served this with brown rice and it was enough for all of us with some leftover vegetables. Edward had those for lunch the next day.

Fernanda Pasta


I went to visit my friend Fernanda several years ago and she made a version of this pasta. When I later mentioned how much I liked it she was embarrassed and said, "Really? I didn't make you an actual dinner?"

I now make this about once a week. First, I like it. Second, I almost always have everything I need on hand and I can go from oh hell what's for dinner to eating in twenty minutes. Third, I start by combining the pasta, tuna, and black olives and then pull out portion for Patrick who is suspicious of basil and feta and ALL FLAVOR... anyway. It lends itself well to adaptation. Recently I started adding the toasted garlic and when tomatoes are in season (and I have an afternoon to kill) I like to roast them and throw them as well.

Fernanda Pasta

16 oz box farfalle

2 cans tuna in olive oil, drained and flaked

4 oz package crumbled feta (my grocery sells a black pepper feta we like)

toasted garlic in 1/4 c olive oil

1/4 c fresh basil, slivered

2 T red onion, finely minced

1/2 c kalamata olives, chopped

3 c slow-roasted tomatoes

Make sure to add salt (I use about 2 T) to the pasta water. While the farfalle is cooking, start the toasted garlic. Cook pasta al dente, drain and toss with about 1 T of olive oil. Let cool slightly and then (provided you do not have a seven year old who needs customization) add feta, red onion, basil, tuna, toasted garlic with oil and olives. Top individual servings with coarsely chopped roasted tomatoes and ground pepper. I find this to be salty enough as it is (and I like salt) so be sure to taste before adding any more.