Spicy Pork Kebabs with Fennel, Cumin & Red Onion

This is a full-flavored, weeknight summer dish. I served it with sautéed Napa cabbage, grilled radicchio, grilled fennel, and brown Basmati rice on the side. We squeezed fresh lime juice over the grilled meat, but next time I may also serve it with a garlicky lime-yogurt sauce.

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Melissa Clark. I used cubed pork tenderloin instead of pork shoulder and modified the proportions.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

  • 1 ¾ pounds boneless pork shoulder OR 2 pounds pork tenderloin, cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 lime, plus some wedges for serving
  • ¼ cup cilantro or basil, leaves and tender stems, plus more for serving
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
  • 1 jalapeño or other green chile, seeded if desired (I used an unseeded Serrano chile)
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 ½ tablespoons fennel seeds
  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
  • 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
  • 1 small red onion, sliced, for serving
  1.  Season pork lightly with kosher salt and put it in a bowl or resealable bag.
  2. Juice the lime into a blender or food processor and add cilantro, fish sauce, garlic, chile and honey. Blend until the chile and garlic are puréed, then add fennel, cumin, coriander seeds and pulse four or five times to bruise the spices and mix them in.
  3. Pour mixture over the pork, tossing to coat the pieces. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes while you heat the grill, or up to 24 hours.
  4. When ready to cook, heat the grill or broiler with a rack positioned 4 inches from the heat source.
  5. Thread the pork onto skewers, leaving a little space between cubes. Grill over the highest heat possible, or broil on high, for 2 to 5 minutes, then flip the skewers and continue cooking until the meat is browned all over and charred in spots. It should be just cooked through: A little pink is OK, but there shouldn’t be any red spots.
  6. Serve the pork with cilantro sprigs and onion slices on top, and lime wedges on the side for squeezing.

Summer Shrimp Scampi with Tomatoes & Corn

This summery version of shrimp scampi is an amazing upgrade of this classic dish. Best of all, it is prepared in one pan. 🙂

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Ali Slagle; I modified the proportions. I served it over pasta, but it could also be served with crusty bread. Delicious.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

  • 1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined (I used 21 to 25 shrimp per pound)
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes
  • 2 (or more) cups fresh or frozen corn kernels (from 4 to 5 ears)
  • 7 large garlic cloves, minced (I used my special CSA hard neck garlic)
  • 1/2 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (from 1 lemon), plus wedges for serving (optional)
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 5 pieces
  • 3 tablespoons chopped parsley or chives, or torn basil leaves
  • 12 to 16 oz linguini fini, spaghetti or bucatini, for serving, if desired
  • crusty bread, for serving, if desired
  1. If serving over pasta, prepare per the package directions while the rest of the dish is being prepared.
  2. Pat the shrimp very dry and season with salt and pepper.
  3. In a large (12-inch) skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high. Add the shrimp and cook until pink and lightly golden in spots, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the shrimp to a plate.
  4. Add the tomatoes to the skillet, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring just once or twice, until they start to blister in spots, 3 to 4 minutes.
  5. Add the corn, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring just once or twice, until the tomatoes burst and the corn is golden in spots, 3 to 4 minutes.
  6. Add the garlic and red-pepper flakes and cook, stirring, until you smell garlic, about 1 minute.
  7. Reduce heat to medium, and add the wine and lemon juice, scraping any brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Cook until nearly evaporated, then add the butter and stir until melted.
  8. Add the shrimp and its juices and stir until warmed through. (If the sauce breaks and looks greasy, add 1 or 2 teaspoons of water and stir until emulsified.)
  9. Remove from heat, add the herbs, season to taste with salt and pepper, and serve with extra lemon for squeezing over, if you like.
  10. Serve over pasta or with crusty bread, if desired.

Caramelized Zucchini Phyllo Pie with Corn & Herbs

This phyllo-crusted savory pie is packed with caramelized summer zucchini. It is a wonderful way to gobble up an abundance of fresh squash from the garden or your CSA share. 🙂 I loved that it was baked in a cast iron skillet too.

The recipe was adapted from thekitchn.com, contributed by Grace Elkus. We ate it for dinner with a green salad but it could also be served for a special brunch or lunch- an amazing summer meal.

Yield: Serves 6

  • 6 phyllo sheets from a 1-pound package of frozen phyllo dough (13×18-inch), thawed in the refrigerator overnight
  • 1 1/2 pounds zucchini (about 3 medium)
  • 2 medium-large shallots
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup tightly-packed coarsely chopped fresh basil leaves, plus whole leaves for garnish
  • 3 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh dill
  • 1 1/2 ounces Parmesan cheese (1 scant cup freshly grated)
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels (from about 2 ears fresh)
  • 3 ounces feta cheese (about 1/3 cup crumbled)
  • hot sauce, for serving (optional)
  1. Thaw 1 (1-pound) package phyllo dough overnight in the refrigerator, if needed (if there are two interior packages, just thaw one). Unroll and stack 6 of the phyllo sheets on a large baking sheet. Cover with plastic wrap, wax paper, or a damp kitchen towel and leave at room temperature. Reroll the remaining phyllo sheets, place in a gallon-size zip-top freezer bag, and refreeze for another use. (I covered it with a damp paper towel topped with plastic wrap.)
  2. Trim the ends off 1 1/2 pounds zucchini. Slice each in half crosswise, then halve lengthwise. Slice lengthwise into thin planks. Place in a large bowl.
  3. Halve and thinly slice 2 shallots. Add to the bowl with the zucchini.
  4. Heat 3 tablespoons of the olive oil in a 10-inch cast iron or straight-sided ovensafe skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the zucchini and shallots (reserve the bowl), season with 1 1/2 teaspoons of the kosher salt and 1/4 teaspoon of the black pepper, and toss to coat in the oil as best you can (the pan will be very full).
  5. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the squash and shallots are slightly caramelized and beginning to stick to the pan, 12 to 15 minutes.
  6. Reduce the heat to medium, add 1 tablespoon water, and continue to cook 5 minutes more, scraping up the flavorful stuck-on bits as you go.
  7. While the squash cooks, arrange a rack in the lower third of the oven and heat the oven to 400°F, preferably on convection.
  8. Whisk 2 large eggs in a large bowl.
  9. Prep and add the following to the eggs in the bowl: Coarsely chop fresh basil leaves until you have 1/4 tightly-packed cup. Coarsely chop fresh dill until you have 3 tablespoons. Finely grate Parmesan cheese until you have 1 scant cup, if needed. If using fresh corn, remove the husks and cut the kernels from the cobs (about 1 1/2 cups). Crumble in 3 ounces feta cheese. Season with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper.
  10. When the squash is ready, add it to the bowl and stir to combine.
  11. Pour the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil into a small bowl, for brushing. Wipe the skillet clean and brush with a thin layer of the oil.
  12. Working quickly to prevent the phyllo from dying out, transfer 2 phyllo sheets to the skillet, overlapping them to completely cover the bottom and sides of the pan, folding any overhang into the pan. (Keep the remaining phyllo covered). Brush lightly with olive oil.
  13. Place a third phyllo sheet in the skillet so that half is hanging over the rim. Repeat with the remaining 3 sheets, arranging them so they completely cover the rim of the skillet.
  14. Spread the zucchini mixture into the skillet in an even layer.
  15. Fold and crimp the overhanging phyllo toward the center, leaving the center 4 inches exposed.
  16. Gently brush any remaining oil over the phyllo.
  17. Bake until the phyllo is golden brown and crispy and the center is slightly puffed and set, 24 to 30 minutes.
  18. Let sit 10 minutes before slicing.
  19. Top with torn fresh basil leaves. Serve with hot sauce, if desired.

Storage: Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Sweet & Garlicky Pork Chops

These Thai-style pork chops were very juicy and flavorful. I used very thick pork chops but this garlic-packed marinade would also be great with pork tenderloin.

The recipe was adapted from The Barbecue Bible by Steven Raichlen. I modified the grilling method. We ate it with special Aahu Barah Basmati rice and Ritzy Summer-Squash Casserole– a great combination.

Yield: 4 to 8 servings

  • 4 thick (1 to 2-inch) or 8 thin (1/2-inch) pork chops or pork tenderloin (about 2 pounds)
  • 1 head garlic, broken into cloves and peeled
  • 3 T granulated sugar
  • 5 T Asian fish sauce or soy sauce (or a combination)
  • 3 T honey
  • 3 T rice wine or sherry wine
  • 2 T toasted sesame oil
  • 1 T grated fresh ginger
  • 2 tsp coarse salt
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  1. If using thin pork chops, cut 1 or 2 cuts in the fat side of each pork chop to keep them from curling during grilling.
  2. Arrange the pork chops in a glass baking dish and set aside.
  3. Combine the garlic and sugar in the bowl of a mini food processor; process into a paste. (Alternatively, pound into a paste using a mortar and pestle.)
  4. Add the fish sauce, honey, rice wine, sesame oil, ginger, salt, and pepper; process to combine.
  5. Pour the mixture over the pork chops. Spread to coat both sides.
  6. Cover and let marinate in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 hours. (I flipped the meat over after the first hour.)
  7. Preheat the grill to high on one side and low on the other.
  8. When ready to cook, oil the grill grate.
  9. Arrange the pork chops on the low heat side and cook for 5 to 10 minutes per side for thick chops (possibly half the time for thin), or until the internal temperature reaches 130 degrees.
  10. Move the pork chops to the high heat side and continue to cook until nicely browned on both sides, or until the internal temperature reaches 145 degrees.
  11. Transfer the chops to a platter and serve immediately.

Pulled Chicken Barbecue on Beer Bread with Quick Dill Pickles

This is a great summer meal. We have already tried a couple versions!

The first time I served this meal, I shredded grilled chicken thighs and dressed them with Trader Joe’s mustard barbecue sauce. We topped them with the quick dill pickles (below) and ate them as classic sandwiches.

The second time, I served the sandwiches in an open face fashion and we ate them with a knife and fork. I shredded a rotisserie chicken and dressed the meat with the tomato-based barbecue sauce (below) and topped them with my favorite Easy Fridge Dill Pickles.

This recipe was adapted from Sara Moulton.com. I used various barbecue sauces and pickles. I also served the sandwiches on slices of a Honey Beer Bread loaf. We ate the sandwiches with potato chips on one occasion and with homemade Curly Fries on the second occasion. Corn on the cob would also be great. The original recipe suggests serving them with cole slaw- next time!

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

To Assemble the Sandwiches:

  • Honey Beer Bread or large potato rolls or hamburger buns
  • Basic Barbecue Sauce (recipe below) or 2 cups store-bought sauce (such as Trader Joe’s Mustard Barbecue Sauce)
  • Quick Dill Pickles (recipe below) or Easy Fridge Dill Pickles
  • shredded skinless cooked chicken from a large store-bought rotisserie chicken (4 cups packed, or more, to taste) or boneless skinless chicken thighs, grilled and shredded
  1. Prepare the Beer Bread, Basic Barbeque Sauce and Dill Pickle Cucumber Slices. (Alternatively, bring the prepared barbecue sauce to a boil in a medium saucepan and warm the store-bought buns.)
  2. Add the shredded chicken meat to the sauce and heat until hot. (When using the Basic Barbecue Sauce, I incorporated the shredded meat from an entire rotisserie chicken. We had leftovers.)
  3. Cut the Beer Bread, if using, one or two slices per serving, as desired.
  4. Place pieces of bread on individual plates and top each with the chicken mixture.
  5. Top the chicken with pickle slices and another piece of bread, if desired.

For the Basic Barbecue Sauce:

Yield: 2 cups

  • 1 T vegetable oil
  • 2 large garlic cloves (I used 2 CSA little neck garlic cloves)
  • 2 cups ketchup (I used Trader Joe’s)
  • 4 T cider vinegar
  • 4 T Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 T packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 T Creole seasoning (recipe below) or store-bought (I used Slap Ya Mama)
  • 2 tsp dry mustard
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1.  Heat the vegetable oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat until hot; reduce the heat to low and press the garlic into the oil. Sauté for about 1 minute or until it just begins to turn golden.
  2. Add the ketchup, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, brown sugar, Creole seasoning, and mustard.
  3. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat; reduce the heat to low and simmer the sauce, partially covered to reduce spattering, for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Add salt and pepper to taste. Use as directed in a recipe or transfer to a nonreactive jar or bowl, cover, and refrigerate until you are ready to use it.

For the Quick Dill Pickles:

Yield: 1 1/3 cups

  • one 5 to 6-inch piece of seedless (English) cucumber
  • 2 T fresh dill leaves, finely chopped
  • 2 T cider vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tsp granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  1. Thinly slice enough of the cucumber to make 1 1/3 cups. (I cut them 1/8-inch thick using a mandolin.)
  2. Combine the cucumber with the vinegar, dill, sugar, salt, and pepper in a small non-reactive bowl.
  3. Set it aside at room temperature and use within and hour, or cover and refrigerate for later use.

For the Creole Seasoning:

Yield: about 1/2 cup

  • 1 T plus 1 tsp hot paprika
  • 1 T Kosher salt
  • 1 T garlic powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  1. Combine the paprika, salt, garlic powder, black pepper, onion powder, cayenne, oregano, and thyme in a small bowl.
  2.  Transfer to a tight jar and use as directed in a recipe.

Grilled Vegetable & Fresh Ricotta Sandwiches

One of our absolute favorite dinner sandwiches is filled with garlicky grilled eggplant and feta cheese. After seeing this recipe, I kept thinking about making this version on freshly baked sourdough bread. I loved the idea of slathering the bread with fresh ricotta cheese too. Yum!

The recipe was adapted from SaraMoulton.com. I used my favorite recipe for fresh ricotta and served the sandwiches on homemade sourdough bread. I added garlic and grilled the vegetables instead of roasting them as well. We ate them with creamy cucumber-avocado salad on the side. It was an amazing vegetarian meal.

Yield: 4 servings

  • 1 small to medium eggplant, sliced into 1/4-inch thick rounds
  • 2 medium to large zucchini, sliced into 1/4-inch thick rounds
  • 6 to 8 Campari tomatoes or 6 plum tomatoes, sliced into 1/4-inch thick rounds
  • 3 T extra-virgin olive oil
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 large garlic cloves
  • fresh ricotta cheese (see Note)
  • 8 slices of no-knead sourdough bread, crusty bread, or whole grain bread
  1. The evening before serving the meal, start the homemade sourdough bread process, if using. Bake the bread the day of the meal. (Alternatively, use another crusty bread or whole grain bread.)
  2. Place the vegetable slices in a single layer on a cutting board or rimmed baking sheet; season with coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper. Crush the garlic cloves with a garlic press and spread the garlic over the top of the eggplant slices. Let rest a minimum of 30 minutes (the longer the better).
  3. Meanwhile, prepare the fresh ricotta cheese. I made it according to the recipe but simmered the mixture for approximately 5 minutes, until it was visibly curdling. I strained it for about 15 minutes and omitted the addition of lemon zest. (The longer it is strained, the thicker the consistency.) Set aside.
  4. Brush both sides of the eggplant and tomato slices with olive oil. Toss the zucchini slices with olive oil.
  5. Grill the vegetables separately until slightly charred and tender; grill the eggplant directly on the grates and grill the zucchini and tomato slices using a grill basket. (Alternatively, the vegetables can be roasted on parchment paper-lined, rimmed baking sheets in a 425 degree oven for about 25 to 30 minutes, flipping halfway through.)
  6. Divide the warm ricotta among 4 slices of bread and top with the hot vegetables and remaining 4 slices of bread. Cut the sandwiches in half and serve.

Note: Making fresh ricotta can have varied results- sometimes it has large curds, sometimes it has small curds and occasionally it has no curds. If this should happen to you, don’t panic, just add another tablespoon of fresh lemon juice and the curds will appear.

Fried Chicken with Biscuits & Tomato Gravy

Like my last post, this special and indulgent feast was also included in Food and Wine Magazine’s “40 Best-Ever Recipes” issue celebrating the 40th anniversary of their publication. I made it for the second year in a row to celebrate my husband’s birthday! 🙂

The recipes were adapted from The Gift of Southern Cooking by Scott Peacock, the then chef at Watershed in Decatur, Georgia, and co-author Edna Lewis, the legendary Southern cook, his mentor and close friend. I modified the cooking techniques and substituted sunflower oil for lard. Last year, I made Lewis’ wonderful biscuits from this full menu, but, this year I served the chicken and gravy with sourdough biscuits.

The chicken is double-brined, first in salt water and then in buttermilk, and then fried in a cast iron skillet filled with oil (or lard), butter, and bacon fat. It was very tender and juicy. The creamy and rich gravy is reminiscent of Italian vodka sauce. Pretty delicious. 😉

We ate the chicken, gravy, and biscuits with macaroni and cheese (my favorite version), and iceberg wedge salad on the side. My husband’s birthday meal is not complete without his favorite Vanilla Bean Birthday Cheesecake for dessert. ❤

For the Fried Chicken & Tomato Gravy:

  • 1/2 cup kosher salt
  • 2 quarts cold water
  • One 3 1/2 to 5 pound chicken, cut into 8 to 10 pieces (I cut each chicken breast in half)
  • 3 cups buttermilk
  • 1 1/2 cups (6 3/8 oz, 180.7g) all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons potato starch (optional) (I included it)
  • fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound lard or solid vegetable shortening, for frying (I substituted 2 cups of sunflower oil)
  • 1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter
  • 1/4 pound sliced bacon (I used 4 thick slices)
  • 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 cups drained canned diced tomatoes (from three 14-ounce cans)
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 cups milk (I used whole milk)

To Make the Fried Chicken:

  1. In a large bowl, dissolve the kosher salt in the cold water. Add the chicken pieces; cover and refrigerate for 4 hours. Drain.
  2. Put the chicken in a large bowl, add the buttermilk and turn the pieces to coat. Cover and refrigerate for 4 hours. (The chicken can be refrigerated overnight at this point, if desired.)
  3. In a gallon-size zip-lock bag, combine the flour, cornstarch, potato starch, 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and shake.
  4. Set aside 1/2 cup of the flour mixture for the gravy.
  5. Lift the chicken out of the buttermilk, wipe off any excess and set the pieces on a wire rack; let dry for 5 minutes.
  6. Add the chicken, a few pieces at a time, to the flour mixture in the bag; shake to coat.
  7. Dry the rack. Shake off any excess flour and return the chicken to the rack.
  8. Meanwhile, in a large cast-iron skillet, melt the lard (I used sunflower oil) and butter over medium heat. (I used a 12-inch cast iron skillet.)
  9. Add the bacon and cook over moderate heat until crisp, about 5 minutes; reserve the bacon for another use. (I crumbled the bacon over our wedge salads.)
  10. Add the chicken, in batches, and cook over moderate heat, basting and turning, until golden, crisp and cooked through, about 5 minutes per side, or until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees. Lower the heat if necessary. (I kept the cooking oil temperature between 300 and 340 degrees. I also completed cooking the larger pieces (especially the breast pieces) in the oven at 300 degrees, until they reached an internal temperature of 165 degrees.)
  11. Set the chicken on a clean wire rack to drain.

To Make the Gravy:

  1. Transfer 1/4 cup of the chicken cooking fat to a large saucepan.
  2. Add the onion and garlic and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion is golden, about 5 minutes. (I chopped the onion and garlic in a food processor.)
  3. Add the reserved 1/2 cup of seasoned flour and cook, whisking, for 2 minutes.
  4. Add the drained tomatoes and thyme and stir constantly until blended.
  5. Whisk in the cream and milk until the sauce is smooth.
  6. Season with salt and pepper and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until thickened and no floury taste remains, about 10 minutes.
To Serve:
  1. Transfer the fried chicken to a platter.
  2. Pour the tomato gravy into a gravy boat and serve with the chicken.

For the Biscuits:

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons single-acting baking powder or double-acting baking powder (see Note)
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup cold lard or vegetable shortening, cut into pieces (I used bacon fat)
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted

To Make the Biscuits:

  1. Preheat the oven to 450°.
  2. In a bowl, sift or whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  3. Using your fingers or a pastry blender, work in the lard just until the mixture resembles coarse meal.
  4. Stir in the buttermilk just until moistened.
  5. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead 2 or 3 times.
  6. Roll out or pat the dough 1/2 inch thick.
  7. Using a 2-inch round cutter, stamp out biscuits as close together as possible. Transfer the biscuits to a baking sheet.
  8. Pat the dough scraps together, reroll and cut out the remaining biscuits; do not overwork the dough.
  9. Pierce the top of each biscuit 3 times with a fork and brush with the butter.
  10. Bake the biscuits for 12 to 14 minutes, or until risen and golden. Serve at once.

Note: The unbaked biscuits can be frozen in a single layer, then kept frozen in an airtight container for up to 1 month. Thaw before baking.

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