Have you ever had one of those weeks when nothing that was planned seems to go right? The first time I made this lovely Lemon Chicken for my family, it was one of those crazy weeks. I had planned to fix this Lemon Chicken dish as a mid-week supper. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness had other plans. What started out to be a Wednesday dinner ended up on my table the following Saturday night. The supper turned out to be an absolute delight.
A few years back, I found a store that carried quail – as in the little birds and the tiny eggs. I had always wanted to try quail eggs. They are so small and cute. I wondered about the flavor.
Now is the perfect time to grill up some beautiful pork chops and serve them topped with a wonderful Mediterranean Salsa of olives and tomatoes. Let the Mediterranean Sea whisper to your inner soul and fill your heart with joy.
Unlike other cuisines, Mediterranean Cuisines isn’t of a particular ethnic persuasion but rather a culinary style of cooking that is influenced by an array of diverse people living around the Mediterranean Sea. Almost since the beginning of civilization, the sea has been an intersection of trade between Asia, Europe and Africa. This exchange of ideas, cultures and goods has resulted in some of the most delightful culinary offerings anywhere. Olives are the most common ingredient in Mediterranean cooking. Beef is rare, as the rocky landscape does not easily support large stock domestic animals. Goat, lamb, pig and chicken are the more common meats. Fish from the sea is the most typical source of protein in the Mediterranean diet. Eastern Mediterranean brings an influence of Greece, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Palestine, and Egypt. Southern Europe brings with it Southern France, Italy and Spain, with a preference toward grilled meats, tomatoes and red wine both in the foods and at the table. Northern Africa brings spice of Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya to the table. This accumulation of styles and traditions sets Mediterranean Cuisine apart.
Mediterranean Grilled Pork with Mediterranean Salsa
Ingredients – Spice Rubbed Pork
2 teaspoons dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons crushed or chopped fennel seeds
1-1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
1-1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
1-1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1-1/2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
6 boneless pork loin chops, about 3/4 inch thick
To Make the Pork: In a small bowl, mix the brown sugar, fennel seeds, paprika, garlic powder, pepper, and salt.
Build a hot charcoal fire. While the grill heats, lightly coat both sides of the pork chops with the oil and rub with the spice rub. Clean the hot grate with a wire brush; oil the grate.
Grill the meat uncovered over direct heat on the hottest part of the grill, taking care not to crowd the meat. Cook until the meat forms impressive grill marks on one side, 2 to 3 minutes. Turn and continue to grill until the meat is just firm to touch and just cooked through, an additional 3 to 4 minutes for pork chops, depending on their thickness. Watch out for flare-ups! Transfer to a serving platter and let rest for 5 minutes. Serve with the salsa spooned alongside or over the meat.
Ingredients – Mediterranean Salsa
2 scant cups cherry (or grape) tomatoes, quartered
1/2 small red onion, cut into small dice (about 1/2 cup)
1/4 cup coarsely chopped pimento-stuffed green olives
2 tablespoons drained capers
2 tablespoons torn fresh basil leaves
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice; more to taste
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
To Make the Salsa: In a medium bowl, combine the tomatoes, onion, olives, capers, basil, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, and 1/4 teaspoon each kosher salt and pepper. Let stand while the meat grills. Before serving, adjust the lemon juice, salt, and pepper to taste.
Rice Pilaf makes for a wonderful side, as does a Greek Salad.
If my guys had it their way, we’d never ever eat broccoli without my creamy cheese sauce. Whenever I do make my sauce, Kiddo likes to dip everything on his plate in the velvety golden liquid. I like the sauce, too. Unlike my guys, I like broccoli – steamed, raw, on a vegetable platter – makes no difference. I like broccoli.
Tonight I’m making one of Kiddo’s favorite meals. I’ve shared my Baked Chicken Breasts with Mushroom Rice recipe with you before. It’s one of those gotta have broccoli in a cheese sauce kind of casserole meals. That got me to thinking – sauces deserve their own moment in the spot light, don’t you think? This sauce would work for just about any steamed vegetable – from asparagus to zucchini.
Cheese Sauce for Steamed Vegetables
2 Tablespoons Butter
¼ Cup Finely Chopped Onions
1/2 Cup Milk
½ Teaspoon Kosher Salt
½ Teaspoon Fresh Ground Pepper
1/2 Cup Shredded Cheddar Cheese
1/2 Cup Processed Cheese Loaf such as Velveeta
Melt butter over medium heat. Add onions and saute until tender, about 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in cheeses. Return to heat, season with salt and pepper. Cook until mixture thickens and beginning to bubble. Stir in milk slowly, blend well. Simmer, stirring often, until ready to use.
Steam vegetable of your choice. Place steamed vegetables in a rimmed platter or serving bowl. Pour sauce over vegetable and serve.
The sauce works amazingly well with Green Giant Steamer Vegetables. These steam in their bag in the microwave for perfect vegetables every time.
What can I say about these awesome griddle burgers? These burgers are messy. These burgers are dripping with juices. These burgers are wrapped in flavor. Better yet, these burgers are just a hot, delicious mess.
In what seems like a life-time ago, before Kiddo came into our lives, I was working on a book. The book, although fiction, was woven from the tapestry of American history from 1868 to 1876. What is the saying? Write what you know about . . . historical accuracy meant a great deal of research.
I don’t know if I’ve talked about this with you before – I keep my on-line recipe collection (four thousand and counting) on Yumprint. I like it because allows me to keep my recipes organized and easy to find. I can plan out my family’s meals for the week (or longer), then drag everything into the grocery list and I’m done.
What is the Battle of the Greasy Grass? If you ask a Lakota or other Plains Indians, the answer would be a tale of overwhelming victory for the Lakota, Northern Cheyenne, and Arapaho against the US 7th Cavalry. Some old timers refer to this battle as Custer’s Last Stand, while most simply know it as the Battle of the Little Bighorn. One hundred and forty-two years ago today, this famous battle raged along the banks of the Little Bighorn in what is now Montana. It was one of the final stands of the nomadic Plains Indians.
When I was barely knee-high to a grasshopper (meaning very young for those of you who are scratching your heads), my Dad often showed up at my elementary school. He wanted to go fishing, and wanted to take his fishing buddy along. Way back then, anywhere along the Sacramento Delta was good for fishing. All you needed to do was to find a wide spot in the road, pull over to park, then hike down the embankment to the wide, lazy river.
Running in the sprinklers. Catching butterflies. Anxiously awaiting the ice cream truck. These are all parts of summer’s long ago. Simply times. No worries. Growing up, Dad’s awesome kabobs were without a doubt a summertime favorite of mine. No summer was complete without these delicious hunks of marinated beef all smokey and tender with charred pieces of onions and blistered bell peppers. Let’s not forget the sweetness of cherry tomatoes. Perfection on a stick.
Dad would marinade chunks of steak the night before, and then put the kabobs on the spit to slowly barbecue over a bed of hot coals in his trusty Webber. The spit made this groaning sound, squeaking as it turned round and round over a bed of glowing coals. It seemed to take forever for the kabobs to cook, the savory scented ghostly gray smoke floating through the backyard, causing our mouths to water. Dad made us wait until the first piece of meat fell from the skewer and sizzled on the bed of coals below. Only then was it considered “done”. My brother and I would dance about in the smoke, excitedly waiting and watching for that first morsel to fall and sizzle madly on the red-hot coals. Brother Dear, when no one was looking, would poke at the meat in the hopes of coaxing one tiny piece to fall. Try as he might, there was no rushing perfection.
Dad’s Tenderloin Kabobs were reserved for special company. We could count on a dinner of yummy kabobs, cucumber salad and another company favorite – Marie Callender’s fresh strawberry pie topped with a mountain of fresh whipped cream. Barbecue and strawberry pie – summer was officially in full swing.
Dad’s Marinated Beef Kabobs
Dad’s Secret Marinade
2 Cups Salad Oil
1 Cup Soy Sauce
¼ Cup Worcestershire Sauce
2 Tablespoons Dry Mustard
2 ½ Teaspoons Salt
1 Tablespoon Coarse, freshly ground Black Pepper
¾ Cup Red Wine Vinegar
1 ½ Teaspoons dried Parsley Flakes
2-3 Cloves Garlic, pressed
½ Cup Lemon Juice
2 lbs Beef Tenderloin (½ lb per person, add more as needed)
1 Recipe Farley’s Secret Marinade (above)
1 Bag Pear Onions, outer layer peeled
1 Basket Cherry Tomatoes, washed
2 Red Bell Peppers, seeded and cut into chunks
2 Orange Bell Peppers, seeded and cut into chunks
20 bamboo Skewers or 10 long metal skewers for threading
Cut tenderloin into 2” cubes. Whisk together ingredients for Marinade. Place tenderloin pieces in a Tupperware Marinating container or in a large resealable bag that is placed in a casserole dish. Pour marinade over meat and place in refrigerator overnight. Flip container occasionally to turn meat and better saturate with marinade.
If using bamboo skewers, soak in water for 30 minutes to prevent burning. Remove meat from refrigerator and allow it to come to room temperature, about 20-30 minutes.
If using a zip-lock bag for marinating, pour meat with marinade into the casserole dish. Prep the vegetables and have them at the ready.
Thread 1 pear onion, 1 chunk of steak, 1 red pepper, 1 cherry tomato and 1 orange pepper onto skewer. Repeat until skewer is filled. DO NOT thread too tight or meat will not cook properly. Repeat same with remaining skewers until all the ingredients are used.
Build a hot bed of coals. Grill Kabobs 5 inches from coals for 3-5 minutes per side, giving a quarter turn each time for even grilling. Meat should be medium-rare for best results.
If you have a motorized spit for your trusty Webber, by all means use it. Although the meat will take longer to reach perfection, it is well worth the wait.
Just a quick footnote: That’s Brother Dear on the left, sitting on Mom’s lap. I’m the rugrat on the far right, looking all serious while my Popsicle drips down my arm.
In the rush of everyday life, we often don’t have time for such luxuries as breakfast. I know we should take the time, but so often we don’t. Maybe a donut, if we are lucky. It is only on the weekends – usually Sundays – that life slows down enough for breakfast. Some of us attend church services, followed by a nice breakfast. Others sleep in, then eat a leisurely morning meal.
For the longest time, I referred to this wonderful recipe simply as “Allen’s chicken” since the recipe came from a dear co-worker at the time, Allen. Yet whenever I put it on the menu, Hubby would ask “What is that again?” My standard reply was “You know, that foo-foo Dijon Italian thing.” While Hubby adores just about anything from my kitchen, he has classifications – Meat and Potatoes (roast, meatloaf and so on), Regular Foods (hamburgers, pizza, basic foods) and Foo-Foo food. The later category is usually anything that involves a heavy dose of creams, butters, wines or contains Dijon Mustard.
From the time I was a little girl, I loved spending time with Dad in the kitchen, learning from the master. When my sisters and I were old enough to fully participate in the meal preparation, Dad held a weekly menu planning meeting. Each of us picked a night and planned the family dinner – main course, sides, whatever else. Mom and Dad took the remaining four nights.
Kiddo could live on bacon. I kid you not. He seasons his popcorn with bacon-flavored salt. He loves the Bacon Chocolate Bars we make it a point to pick up at World Market. Once when we were at the State Fair, he followed a girl around, not because she was cute (which she was) but because her T-Shirt said “Follow Me to the Bacon”. Turned out she worked at the Chocolate Covered Bacon food booth. Kiddo puts bacon on or in just about everything – from pizza to milk shakes. And yes, he adores bacon at the breakfast table.
I know we should eat breakfast together every morning, but the truth of the matter is my guys simply don’t have the time. They value sleep more than food so they skip breakfast during the week. Now that I’m retired, I have the pleasure of lingering over breakfast once the men have headed off for the day. Some days it’s just a bowl of warm cereal, other mornings an omelette and still others the delicious convenience of a Sandwich Thin Fried Egg and Sausage Sandwich, an entire meal that I can hold in my hand.
Sometimes my guys work a Saturday. If work isn’t enough, Saturday’s chores and errands and all the other things we have neglected during the week need to be checked off the dreaded To Do list.
Sundays are special. Sundays are our day to linger, to move unhurried through the day. Sundays – with time for a second cup of French Pressed coffee. Ode to Sundays – with time to slow down and savor every precious moment. To soak in the sights, the sounds, and all things beautiful and right with the world. Time to listen to birds singing and the clickety-clack of a not too distant train. Sundays are slow, with walks along tree-lined streets. No talk of work or the outside world. Sundays are our day to simply slow down and catch our breaths. Breakfast is part of what makes Sunday special.
One morning Kiddo stumbled into the kitchen and said “Let me make the bacon.” Big mistake. Not for us, but for him. Making bacon is now his official duty on Sunday mornings. I was busy with all the other things like making hash browns from fresh potatoes and snipping herbs for the scrambled eggs, so I really didn’t pay much attention to Kiddo and his skillet. The bacon was perfect, crisp and golden. Wow – I was impressed. Curious, I asked what his “secret” to perfect bacon might be. He shrugged and said it was simple. The secret is surprising. He fries the bacon in (are your ready for this?) bacon grease!
Did you ever notice how the bacon just sizzles better toward the end, when the skillet is full of bacon grease? Kiddo “primes” the skillet with bacon drippings from the jar we store in the refrigerator. Although the results are a better fried strip of bacon, his reasoning was not so much in the ease of frying. Kiddo was attempting to add more bacon flavor to the bacon. And guess what? It works.
Next time you fry up some bacon on a Sunday morning, give it a try. Okay, if you don’t save your drippings, fry up some bacon and save the drippings for next time. The bacon goodness is unbelievably intense.
Perfect Crisp Bacon
2 Tablespoons Bacon Drippings
8 Slices Hickory Smoked Bacon
Heat a large skillet or griddle to medium heat. Melt bacon drippings into skillet. Once the drippings begin to sizzle, add strips of bacon.
Once the bacon begins to crisp, turn as needed to cook and crisp evenly.
Remove bacon from the pan and place on a few paper towels to drain.
The bacon drippings can be poured into a jar and kept in the refrigerator for future use.
I don’t remember where I first stumbled upon the recipe for Grilled Pork Chops with Italian Relish. It was in a magazine some fifteen or twenty years ago. Like so many the recipes I’ve clipped and filed away over the years, I filed it in the back of my mind as well, knowing that when the time was right, a light would come on and I’d remember having clipped the perfect recipe to prepare.