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Just finished a quirky book, Goodbye, Vitamin: A Novel by Rachel Khong. She’s a new writer (newly published, I guess I should say) and this story is about Ruth, a 30+ something, trying to readjust to life without her fiance, who’s dumped her. She goes back home to help with the care of her father, who has Alzheimer’s. Written in a diary style, it jumps all over about her life, her mother, the funny, poignant things her father says on good days, and the nutty stuff he does on not-so-good days, her ex-, and her very quirky friends, too. Then a woman flits through who had had an affair with her father –  you get to observe all the angst from the mom about that. Mostly it’s about her father, as he’s relatively “together” early in the book, but then he disintegrates. Reading that part isn’t fun, although the author is able to lean some humor into it. I’m not sure I recommend the book exactly – I read it through – and felt sad. It doesn’t tie up loose ends – if you want that kind of book – you may not want to read this one.

Also finished Julian Fellowes’s Belgravia. You know Julian Fellowes, the producer and writer of Downton Abbey? He lends his mind to a story about a family or two from the similar time period as Downton, who live in London. There’s some amount of intrigue, romance, observations from within the halls of wealthy Londoners and moderately well off tradesmen and their families. There’s affairs, shady business dealings, an illegitimate child, the comings and goings of the “downstairs” staff too, etc. The characters were well done – I had no trouble keeping all of the people identified. The story is somewhat predictable, but it was interesting clear up to the end.

The Letter by Kathyrn Hughes. It’s a very intricate tale. At first it’s about Tina, a battered wife [at which point I paused and wondered if I wanted to read any further, but I’m glad I did]. She tries to get the courage to leave her husband. Then enters the letter she finds in a suit pocket in the thrift shop where she volunteers. It’s old – sealed and stamped, but never mailed. Then you learn about Crissie, decades earlier, a young pregnant girl who is sent off to Ireland to a distant relative by her father, then to a rigid (meaning horrible) convent [the book takes place mostly in Manchester, England and in rural Ireland]. The letter is addressed to her. Jump forward decades and William, the adopted child Crissie gave up, tries to find his birth mother. William meets Tina in Ireland [a serendipitous moment] as she’s trying to find the woman to whom the letter is addressed. This book is the #2 best seller on Amazon at the moment. It’s a riveting tale and I really enjoyed it.

The Muralist: A Novel by Shapiro. It tells the story of a young woman, an artist, who was part of the U.S.’s WPA mural project from the 1930s-40s (she is fiction, the WPA is not). As with so many artists, even today, they live in abject poverty through much of their lives. This woman, though, had family in France, desperately trying to escape before Hitler’s henchmen rousted them into concentration camps. The story, a bit of a mystery but not of the mystery-genre, is about Alizée Benoit, this young painter, who slightly captivates Eleanor Roosevelt’s help. It also skips into current time when the painter’s great-niece uncovers paintings she believes were painted by her aunt. The painter had disappeared into thin air in 1940, and her relative tries desperately to find out what happened to her. It’s a really good story including such Abstract Expressionist painters as Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, and Lee Krasner well-woven into the narrative. It keeps you guessing right up to the end. A good read. The author also wrote The Art Forger: A Novel a few years ago.

Also recently read News of the World: A Novel by Paulette Jiles. One of my book-reading friends said this is one of the best books she’s ever read in her life. That kind of praise required me to read it and I just LOVED it. It’s about an old man (a widower), who was a former military captain, during the 1800s, who goes from town to town to read out loud the current news of the world (yes, there WAS such a free-lance job.) Newspapers didn’t make it to small towns back then. By chance he’s asked to take a 10-year old girl to East Texas to reunite with relatives. The child had been captured by an Indian tribe as a baby (her family was killed in the raid), raised by the Kiowa and as was often the case of such children, she wants nothing to do with leaving. So the “hero” in this story has his hands full. And yet, they learn to trust each other on the journey. Reaching the destination, there are lots of complications (of course!). This book is truly a wonderful read – I didn’t want it to end. The author has a gift of description and the severe dangers and difficulties of an old (wild) west horse and wagon journey. The relationship is tender. Now I’ve got to investigate the author’s other books, of which there are many. Just read this one first!

Tasting Spoons

My blog's namesake - small, old and some very dented engraved silver plated tea spoons that belonged to my mother-in-law, and I use them to taste my food as I'm cooking.

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Posted in Fish, Grilling, on July 4th, 2017.

Trust me on this one – it’s a winner.

Years ago, it must have been in the late 80s, my DH and I took a cruise on the inland passage to Alaska. That was our first one (we did it 3 times). We were with a group of friends. The ship left out of Vancouver, for a week, and we just loved it all. Since I get seasick, this trip was one of the few I could do as there was only one 12-14 hour stretch when these routes are in open ocean (and all 3 times we did this trip, I was down sick in the stateroom for the duration of open-ocean cruising feeling very quesy).

At one of the ports of call on the Alaska mainland, we took a day trip up into a deep lush valley and enjoyed a salmon lunch cooked over open coals, huddled under some plastic tarps to protect us from the rain. It wasn’t anything fancy – the salmon, some cole slaw, as I recall, and potatoes, or a potato salad. But what I remember was the salmon. OMGosh was it good. I asked the chef, who was gently tending the salmon, worrying that the rain was going to damp out the coals, what was in the glaze he was brushing on the huge slabs of salmon. He said, butter, brown sugar and white wine – and I think he said equal quantities of each. Pretty easy. I tucked that bit of info into the back of my brain and never pursued trying to find a recipe for it.

taku_grilled_salmon_bastingThen I was reading something some years back, and the memories of that salmon came flooding back into my brain. We didn’t go to Taku Lodge back then (it’s a 15-minute flight in a small plane from Juneau), but it brought back all those wonderful mouth-watering memories of our first salmon bake in the wilderness. This link has the recipe, and also this one from Sunset Magazine’s version from 2003. It’s taken me this long to make it. What a waste of years – not to have made this until now.

salmon_fresh_off_grillSunset’s recipe is the one I used. Both recipes are a little bit different – same ingredients, but different quantities. One has you marinate the salmon (I didn’t), and I didn’t grill it on the open grill – I did the salmon slab on heavy-duty foil, in a kind of a foil-sling/pan with the edges of the foil rolled inward so the glaze wouldn’t drip out. I had my son-in-law man the gas grill, putting the “pan” on the heat for about 4 minutes, then moving it off-heat until it was fully cooked – maybe 10 minutes. You know it’s done when the collagen starts leaking up through the flakes. We moved the foil slab onto a serving platter and guests just cut what they wanted with a long spatula. You can scoot the salmon off the foil pan onto a heated serving platter – looks prettier that way.

As it turned out, even with 8 people eating, we didn’t quite finish 2 slabs, and I was so happy about that because I crumbled half of it into a green salad for lunch one day and the remainder I ate as dinner a few nights later briefly reheated in the microwave. There was a little bit of the glaze in the refrigerator container I had it in, and I almost wanted to drink it (I didn’t).

What’s GOOD: the glaze gives the salmon a lovely sweet caramely kind of taste. It’s not overly sweet, but I suppose you could cut down on the sugar if you are concerned about that. The butter keeps it moist. It’s just wonderful. Do try it.

What’s not: nothing that I can think of – this is a quick, easy dinner. Do use two layers of the foil so there aren’t any chances of a leaking accident in the grill. That would not be good!

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

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Grilled Salmon a la Taku Lodge

Recipe By: adapted from Taku Glacier Lodge in Juneau
Serving Size: 12

1/2 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 1/2 tablespoons dry white wine
2 1/2 pounds salmon
1/3 cup parsley — finely minced

NOTE: I buy the whole farm-raised salmon slabs at Costco and they vary in size and thickness.
1. In a medium saucepan melt butter over medium heat. Stir in brown sugar until dissolved. Add lemon juice and wine. Stir and heat through, about 5 minutes.
2. Prepare foil “pan,” by placing 2 pieces of heavy-duty foil together, spray foil with nonstick spray, then place salmon on top, curling the thin, tapered end under so the salmon slab is about an even thickness. Carefully crinkle/roll the foil edges inward so it kind of surrounds the fish, like a boat. Baste the salmon with the glaze (don’t use it all). Set aside until the grill is ready.
3. Preheat grill to high. Leave one part of the grill off, or bank coals to one side.
4. Turn down the grill heat to medium. Place salmon “pan” on heat for about 4 minutes, then move the “pan” to the unheated side and continue cooking (lid closed). Baste the salmon several times with the glaze. It’s done when the collagen begins to leak through to the top of the salmon, about 4-8 minutes, depending on the thickness. The fish should flake when tested with a fork.
5. If desired, open the short end of the foil pan and using a spatula, gently scoot the whole salmon off onto a heated platter. Pour any remaining glaze over the top. Garnish with minced parsley.
Per Serving: 226 Calories; 11g Fat (44.1% calories from fat); 19g Protein; 12g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 70mg Cholesterol; 147mg Sodium.

Posted in Fish, Grilling, on May 25th, 2017.

grilled_shrimp_garlic_butter_sauce

Oh my, the most luscious garlicky buttered shrimp ever.

Having watched another America’s Test Kitchen or maybe it was Cook’s Country show on TV, and seeing them make this, I vowed I was going to make it forthwith! These are SO good. So full of garlic butter, so flavorful. Doing shrimp on a grill is a bit of an iffy situation anyway – to get all the shrimp done at the same time. If any are smaller they get over done. Larger, they’re not cooked through. So I was glad to use these giant shrimp, all uniform size to make this.

garlic_butter_foil_panFirst off, you need a medium sized aluminum pan – big enough to hold all the shrimp you’re going to grill. Into that pan goes the to-be-made garlic butter (butter, lemon juice, copious finely chopped garlic, a few red chili flakes and salt). I got that done ahead of time and set aside. Then, the shrimp is skewered (using double skewers assures they won’t flip over or around during turning)  and they’re oiled, salted and peppered. AND on one side only, you sprinkle just a tad of sugar.

Standing in front of your preheated grill, you put the aluminum pan over the heat. While you stand there (do not leave your station!) stir it as the butter melts and begins to bubble. The butter should NOT brown – just bubble and melt completely, with the garlic in it. Once that’s done, the aluminum pan is scooted over to a non-heated area of the grill – to a place where it stays warm, but doesn’t cook. shrimp_oiled_SP_sugared

Then, the shrimp is placed sugar-side-down on the hot grill. It cooks for only a few minutes, maybe 4-5, depending on the size. You want the shrimp to reach a finished temp of 120°. Turn the shrimp skewers over and cook for another 1-2 minutes until they’re just cooked through, and at that magic number of 120°. I used my trusty instant-read thermometer (Thermapen). When the shrimp is cooked, using a big fork, slide the shrimp off the skewers and into the pan of garlic butter. Have a spoon at the ready and toss and turn the shrimp so all the sides get coated with the garlic butter while they’re piping hot. Let it cook, sizzle a little and get soaked in that garlic butter. Whisk the pan to the kitchen, sprinkle with some chopped parsley and serve them IMMEDIATELY. To raves. I promise.

What’s GOOD: well, the shrimp I used were really big, which makes (for me anyway) a much more enjoyable shrimp-eating occasion. I don’t like little shrimp – I like them to have some real chewiness and heft. So, do try to buy big ones when you make this – you’ll be rewarded with ooohs and aaaahs. The garlic butter was perfect – garlicky enough, smoothed with melted butter and just slightly heated with chili flakes. This was a very EASY entrée to make. Truly it was. My darling Dave would have been manning the grill, but I managed. The first time I made this my friend Bud (Cherrie’s husband) cooked them; the 2nd time I made them and it’s really simple to do. Do all the prep work ahead and you’ll be rewarded with an easy dish to serve. Truly delicious with garlic butter. Do notice the low calorie count on this one, too.

What’s NOT: can’t think of any thing that wasn’t wonderful.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

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Grilled Shrimp (Scampi)

Recipe By: Cook’s Illustrated
Serving Size: 4

1 1/2 pounds shrimp, large, R-T-C — peeled and deveined
1/4 teaspoon sugar salt and pepper
1 teaspoon oil Spicy Lemon-Garlic Sauce (below)
Three 14 inch metal skewers
SPICY LEMON GARLIC SAUCE: (enough for 1 ½ lbs. shrimp)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
3 garlic cloves — finely chopped
1/8 teaspoon salt a disposable aluminum pan
1/3 cup chopped parsley — for garnish

1. Pat shrimp dry with paper towels. Thread shrimp onto skewers, alternating direction of heads and tails so that they are closely pushed together. Brush each side with oil and season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle one side of the shrimp with sugar.
2. Light large charcoal chimney with about 6 qts. of charcoal and allow to burn until fully ignited and covered with a thin layer of ash. Empty into grill, placing all the coals on one side and leaving the other side empty. Place the disposable pan with the sauce over the hot side and cook as directed, then move to cooler side. (Alternately, use a gas grill; heat to medium high and leave one section off.)
3. Place skewers with shrimp on hot side, sugared side down, and be sure the shrimp are closely pushed together. Cook for 4-5 minutes and then flip, cooking other side 1-2 minutes. Using an oven mitt, pick up each skewer and using tongs, slide the shrimp off the skewer and into the pan containing the sauce. Toss and cook until fully cooked, about 30 seconds.
4. Remove from grill, add parsley,toss and serve. DO drizzle any remaining sauce over the shrimp.
5. SAUCE: Put butter, juice, red pepper and garlic in the pan and place on the hot side of the grill, cooking until butter is melted and bubbly. Move to cooler side. When shrimp are grilled, place in the hot sauce and continue to cook for about 30 seconds. Remove the pan from grill, add parsley, toss, remove from sauce and serve.
Per Serving: 253 Calories; 14g Fat (50.1% calories from fat); 28g Protein; 3g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 293mg Cholesterol; 371mg Sodium.

Posted in Chicken, Grilling, on March 23rd, 2017.

badmiyas_chile_cilantro_chicken

What’s another marinated and grilled chicken recipe? Oh, but this one is really, really good. It contains some different spices (Indian) and a bit of kick, and it makes a nice presentation.

What I wanted for this dinner was Indian food, but not a curry or gravy, or a sauce – I wanted Indian spices. So I made the pepper and onion roast with soft Indian spices you read about a few days ago, and I made this grilled chicken. I can’t recall where I read about this guy (I think it’s a man – Bademiya – I misspelled his name in the text on my photos – apologies) who has a food stall near one of the upscale hotels in Bombay (Mumbai). He’s been there for years, and his grilled chicken is legion-famous. His, made there at his street stall is fiery hot, so hot most Westerners can’t eat it. Steve Raichlen, though, had it and went home and recreated it, taming down the hot spices. (I tamed it down too.) It’s from his cookbook: The Barbecue! Bible. Raichlen is a wizard behind the grill. He loves to travel the world, discovering new and different ways cultures adapt meat to a grill.

badmiyas_chicken_marinatingThe marinade is easy-peasy with toasted and ground spices (coriander, cumin, peppercorns), garlic, ginger, oil, lemon juice, cayenne, salt and cilantro. The chicken legs (thigh and drumstick – the broiler leg) marinate for 4-6 hours, then they’re grilled until just done (about 20-25 minutes depending on how big/thick the thighs are) and you serve it with some onion slices, a lime or lemon wedge to drizzle over, and more cilantro. Done.

The ONLY thing I’d do differently, making it again, would be to soak the onion slices for 10-15 minutes in acidulated water, to tame down the bite. I don’t much like raw onion and in fact I didn’t eat it when I made this, but it looks nice. I don’t think anyone ate it. I served this with a mango chutney, but it’s probably not necessary – I just thought it would be a nice addition.

What’s GOOD: loved the flavors in this from the coriander seeds, peppercorns and cumin seeds, garlic and ginger. They make a great combo. Chicken was very flavorful and cooked just right. Yes, I’d make this again.

What’s NOT: nothing, other than you do need to make time to marinate the chicken.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

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Bademiya’s Spicy Chile Cilantro Chicken

Recipe By: adapted from Steven Raichlen’s cookbook, Barbecue Bible
Serving Size: 4

4 whole chicken legs
1 1/2 tablespoon coriander seeds
2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
6 cloves garlic — peeled
1 piece fresh ginger — thinly sliced (2 inches)
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 cup water — or as needed
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper — or 1 1/2 tsp half-sharp paprika
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
GARNISHES:
thinly sliced red onion
wedges of limes or lemons
cilantro

1. Remove and discard the skin from the chicken legs, then rinse under cold running water. Drain and blot dry with paper towels. Place the legs in a baking dish large enough to hold them in one layer and set aside while you prepare the seasoning paste. (Or just put them in a plastic bag and add the marinade to it.)
2. Heat a dry skillet over medium heat and add the coriander seeds, peppercorns, and cumin seeds. Toast the spices until fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes, shaking the skillet occasionally. Let cool, then transfer to a spice mill and grind to a fine powder. Combine the ground spices in a blender or mini chopper with the garlic, ginger, oil, 1/4 cup water, lemon juice, cayenne, and salt. Process to a smooth paste, adding more water if necessary to obtain a pourable consistency. Add the cilantro and process just to mix. Using your fingers, spread the seasoning paste over the chicken legs to coat on both sides, then cover and let marinate, in the refrigerator, for 4 to 6 hours.
3. Preheat the grill to high. When ready to cook, oil the grill grate. Remove the chicken legs from the baking dish and arrange on the hot grate. Grill, turning with tongs, until the juices run clear when the tip of the skewer or sharp knife is inserted in the thickest part of a thigh, 6 to 10 minutes per side (12 to 20 minutes in all). ONION: Meanwhile, if desired, add the onion slices to a small dish of acidulated water (cold water and a tetch of vinegar). Let sit for about 10 minutes, drain and pour onto a paper towel. This step softens the bite of raw onion. This isn’t in the original recipe.
4. Transfer the chicken legs to serving plates or a platter and serve immediately garnished with sliced red onion, cilantro and lime or lemon wedges.
Per Serving (this assumes you’ve eaten the skin): 432 Calories; 31g Fat (64.8% calories from fat); 31g Protein; 7g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 139mg Cholesterol; 937mg Sodium.

Posted in Beef, Grilling, Miscellaneous, on March 23rd, 2015.

bobby_flays_steak_rub

Just plain steaks are fine, but don’t you sometimes want to put something on them, to give them an added lift, or some different flavors?

Recently I invited my/our son Powell and his family over for dinner. (And the good news is that I was able to do enough walking and standing in the kitchen to pull it off.) I have meat in my freezer. Oh my, do I have meat in the garage freezer, and I can’t believe that it’s been nearly a year since my darling DH died, and I’ve hardly made a dent in the meat stash. I’ve purchased plenty of chicken breasts and thighs, and salmon steaks which crowd in there, and go in and out, but I have numerous cuts of beef, pork, whole chickens and fish fillets that are now more than a year old. I’ve GOT to do something with them.

The good news was that I WANTED to cook. Those of you reading this, who don’t know me very well yet, won’t understand. In the last year I’ve hardly wanted to cook at all. But I also had my darned foot injury that for 7 months has kept me from standing at my kitchen counter much at all. That’s completely healed now and I’m trying to push my limits a bit. Am walking some every day to flex those tight ligaments, tendons, the plantar fascia and the Achilles tendons too.

In coming days  you’ll see a couple of other new recipes I tried out for this dinner (a crostini appetizer using green peas, and a fennel vegetable side). I also made my favorite Crisp Apple Pudding, one of my signature, very homey desserts. My grandson Vaughan was salivating from the moment he heard Grandma had made the apple pudding, which he just loves. He could hardly eat hissteaks_with_steak_rub dinner because he wanted that dessert so much. Then he wanted seconds, but mom and dad said no.

Anyway, back to the steaks. They were ribeyes (USDA prime, from Costco). Powell grilled them for me, and I handed Powell this little bowl (above) to season them. He used the trusty Thermapen to make sure the steaks were cooked to perfection. The 4 of us shared these 2 big steaks. I have some leftover which I’ll use to make a nice steak salad, I think. Karen brought a lovely green salad (with the first of our spring strawberries) and left some greens with me which will make a nice start. Maybe I’ll have that for dinner tonight.

What’s GOOD: just something different. I liked the spice combination. It was easy enough to make. Just remember, spice blends should not be kept for more than a month, so use it up, or make a smaller batch to begin with.

What’s NOT: nothing, really. Same as above, a spice blend doesn’t keep more than a month, so use it up.

printer-friendly CutePDF

Files: MasterCook 5+ and MasterCook 14 (click on link to open recipe in MC)

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Bobby Flay’s Steak Rub

Recipe By: Bobby Flay, online
Serving Size: 10

2 tablespoons ancho chile powder
1 tablespoon Spanish paprika — (sweet paprika)
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon dry mustard
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons chile de arbol — (optional – I didn’t have any)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Combine ingredients and store in well-sealing jar. Sprinkle liberally on steaks before grilling.
Per Serving: 12 Calories; 1g Fat (37.3% calories from fat); 1g Protein; 2g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 16mg Sodium.

Posted in Fish, Grilling, on September 8th, 2014.

grilled_shrimp_polenta_cakes_corn_salsa

Don’t be confused that this is shrimp and grits. It has similarities, but it isn’t. The polenta is made ahead and cut into squares (the big shrimp at the top center is sitting on a square polenta cake), but this is a very soft cake with corn in it. Then you make this great corn and green chile salsa to go with it, and with the grilled shrimp. Delish.

Another winner of a recipe from my recent Phillis Carey class that was all about corn. There is a bit of prep to this recipe – you do have to make the polenta ahead of time – an hour or so. It’s a soft, creamy polenta that’s poured into a flat pan and allowed to set. Sort of. It’s still soft, so when it comes time to grill the polenta squares,  you must be very gentle – use a nice thin spatula to pick up the squares then gently place them in a big skillet, or on a flat grill. Then there’s the corn and green chile salsa. Not hard to make, but you do want to grill the pasilla (poblano) pepper and chop it up. You do want to grill the corn, just barely, and mince up the red onion. The shrimp does get marinated briefly in a lime-juice mixture and grilled. So you do have to do some work with each of the three elements. But much of it can be done ahead. If you have someone to do the grilling (the corn first, early, then the shrimp at the last minute) that helps, while you gently brown the polenta cakes just before plating everything.

poblano_peppersPoblano chiles have a unique flavor. It’s a deep, earthy flavor that I love. As I’m writing this I just had lunch at California Pizza Kitchen and I ordered their stuffed poblano chile. Delicious. If you’re not used to buying them, it’s so worth it for this dish. Photo at right came from www.specialtyproduce.com

What’s GOOD: the combo of the corn salsa (and particularly the roasted poblano chile in it), polenta cake and the shrimp – a little bit of each in every bite. Well, just delicious. I think the lime juice contributes a lot to the flavor. It would make a beautiful company dinner – might be a bit much for a weeknight dinner unless you feel like doing a bit more work than usual. It’s all worth it, though. A great dish.

What’s NOT: only thing I can think of is the time it takes to make it all, but that’s it. Flavors are wonderful.

printer-friendly CutePDF

Files: MasterCook 5+ and MasterCook 14 (click on link to open recipe in MC)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Grilled Shrimp and Polenta Cakes with Grilled Corn and Green Chile Salsa

Recipe By: From a Phillis Carey cooking class, 8/2014
Serving Size: 4

SHRIMP:
12 extra large shrimp — cleaned, tails on
1/4 cup grapeseed oil — or vegetable oil
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon cilantro — chopped
1 clove garlic — minced
POLENTA CAKES WITH CORN:
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil — or vegetable oil, plus a bit more for cooking the cakes
1 cup onion — finely diced
2 cloves garlic — minced
1/2 cup dry white wine
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup yellow cornmeal — or polenta Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 ears of corn — perfectly grilled (with grill marks) kernels removed
RELISH:
6 ears of corn — perfectly grilled (with grill marks) kernels removed
2 whole poblano peppers — roasted, peeled, seeded, diced
1 small red onion — finely diced
2 whole limes — juiced
1 tablespoon honey
1/4 cup grapeseed oil — or vegetable oil
1 tablespoon cilantro — finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1. SHRIMP: Place shrimp in a bowl and add remaining ingredients. Cover and refrigerate for 30-60 minutes (MAXIMUM). Remove from marinade and thread shrimp on banboo skewers which have been soaked in water for 30 minutes. Grill shrimp 3-4 minutes per side. Remove shrimp from skewers and keep warm.
2. POLENTA CAKES: (Do this several hours ahead if possible.) Oil the bottom and sides of a 9×11 inch baking pan (if you have a nonstick pan, use it)
and set aside. Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over high heat. Add the onion and cook until soft, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add the wine and cook until completely reduced.
3. Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Slowly whisk in the cornmeal, stirring so it doesn’t clump and cook until it begins to thicken. Season with salt and pepper, reduce heat to medium, switch to a spatula or wooden spoon and continue cooking, stirring often, until the mixture is smooth and soft, about 8 minutes. If the mixture becomes too thick, stir in some water, but it should be a pourable consistency.
4. Stir in the grilled corn kernels and pour the mixture into the prepared pan and spread evenly (it will be thin). Cool to room temp, then cover and refrigerate until firm, about 2 hours. May be made a day ahead. Cut the polenta cakes into 4-inch squares.
5. RELISH: Combine the grilled corn, diced chiles, onion, lime juice, honey, oil and cilantro in a medium bowl and season with salt and pepper. Let the relish sit at room temp for at least 30 minutes before serving. It can be made up to 8 hours ahead and refrigerated. Bring to room temp before serving.
6. FINAL PREP: To cook the polenta cakes, heat a stove-top grill or griddle over medium heat for about 10 minutes. Brush the cakes on both sides with oil and season with salt and pepper. Cook the cakes until golden brown (still on medium heat) until they just barely get golden brown and very slightly charred on each side, about 1 1/2 minutes per side. Remove to hot serving plates and top each cake with shrimp and some of the relish.
OPTIONS: Add some grated cheddar cheese to the polenta cakes, or Cotija cheese. You may also make the polenta soft, keeping it pourable as you make it and pour some onto each plate then add the shrimp and relish.
Per Serving: 747 Calories; 40g Fat (44.2% calories from fat); 26g Protein; 87g Carbohydrate; 10g Dietary Fiber; 32mg Cholesterol; 109mg Sodium.

Posted in Beef, Grilling, on August 31st, 2014.

cajun_rubbed_steak_maque_choux

You know what “maque choux” is?  Kinda sounds like a sneeze, but no, that’s a French phrase that’s actually Cajun and Native American. Pronounced it’s “mackeh-choo,” sort of. Corn isn’t part of either word. Wikipedia doesn’t exactly define the French words, so I had to go look it up just cuz I’m curious. More literally translated it means “messy pairing,” but in common parlance it’s that corn mixture above. In the American South “everybody” knows what macque-choux means. Phillis Carey made hers with bacon and some heavy cream. I don’t know that those things are traditional. But hey, it absolutely works here and it’s SO good.

In the cooking class, Phillis prepared this with top sirloin steak. Not my most favorite cut. She mentioned that you could use ribeye or even flank steak (I’d marinate the flank a bit in something to tenderize it first – not anything very highly seasoned – then still use the Cajun rub on it too). But with a tender ribeye – oh yes, that’s what I’d use. If you decide to use top sirloin, do cut the slices thinly.

You can barely see that there’s a tiny bit of cream in the corn relish. Mostly I think the cream got boiled down, or maybe my serving just didn’t get all that much. But in any case, the maque-choux is just the best part of this dish. It’s made with fresh corn (if at all possible), bacon, onion, garlic, red bells, green onions and cream. Quite simple. And you can make it the day before if that helps you with timing.

The steaks must be at least 1 1/4 inches thick. That’s imperative for making this dish work. The rub on the steak was also really easy. Below is a recipe for making it, but you can also just buy it. I think Paul Prudhomme makes one, but Phillis recommended the one by Spice Hunter if you can find it at your local store. If you make up a small batch from the recipe, make double, but just use it within a month or two as it doesn’t keep all that long. Be sure to blot the steak well with paper towels before you start. Phillis talked to us about seasoning the steak – usually I would oil the meat then sprinkle on the seasonings. She said no, that’s the wrong way to do it – pat the spices on first, THEN gently spread on the oil. She says the seasonings stick better that way. Who knew?

The steaks are grilled – use whatever method you prefer – allowed to rest for 5 minutes then served with the macque-choux spooned over the center or at one end (i.e., don’t cover the steak with the corn). Phillis also said this dish is just fabulous served ON a bed of mashed potatoes. Hmmm. That sounds really good and I may do it that way next time.

What’s GOOD: the relish is the best part. Get fresh corn if possible, but frozen will work. The corn relish elevates this dish to something very special. The Cajun rub was also very good – I’d use that again on chicken perhaps.
What’s NOT: nothing at all – it’s a fabulous dish.

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Cajun-Rubbed Steak with Maque-Choux and Bacon

Recipe By: From a Phillis Carey cooking class, 8/2014
Serving Size: 5

MAQUE-CHOUX (Corn):
4 ounces applewood smoked bacon — finely diced
1 1/2 cups white corn — or yellow, freshly cut from about 2 ears
1/4 cup onions — chopped
1 tablespoon shallots — minced
1 tablespoon garlic — minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup red bell peppers — diced
1/4 cup green onions — chopped
STEAKS:
2 pounds steak — preferably ribeye, may also use top sirloin (cut 1 1/4″ thick at minimum), or flank steak
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil — or canola
2 tablespoons Cajun seasoning — see recipe below, or buy Spice Hunter’s
Flaky salt to taste
2 tablespoons green onions — chopped (garnish)
2 tablespoons red bell peppers — chopped (garnish)
CAJUN/CREOLE SPICE MIX:
2 1/2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons garlic powder (not granulated)
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoons black pepper

Notes: Phillis made this with top sirloin and served thin slices (1/4 inch) but I’d recommend using a ribeye instead. Do not make this with filet mignon.
1. MACQUE CHOUX: Cook bacon in medium skillet over medium heat, stirring often, until crisp. Remove bacon to paper towels to drain. Add corn to the skillet and saute for one minute. Add onions and continue cooking for one more minute. Add garlic and season with salt and pepper; cook one minute. Stir in the cream, red peppers and green onions and simmer until the mixture is heated through. (Sauce can be made ahead, even a full day – just reheat before serving.)
2. STEAKS: Preheat grill. Sprinkle each steak with the Cajun spice, season with salt and brush or dab on the oil. (Yes, season first, then dab on the oil.) Grill steak 4-7 minutes per side for medium-rare to medium. Let steaks rest 5 minutes, tented with foil. Cut steaks across the grain into 1/2-inch slices and set on a HEATED serving plate. Spoon the corn mixture over the steak slices (down the center or at one end); do not cover the steaks with the corn. Garnish with onions and red bell peppers. Can be served plain or on a bed or mashed potatoes.
Per Serving: 805 Calories; 67g Fat (74.3% calories from fat); 36g Protein; 16g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 186mg Cholesterol; 719mg Sodium.

Posted in Grilling, Veggies/sides, on August 28th, 2014.

mexican_style_street_corn_cotija

Previously, I’ve posted a recipe for Mexican Street Corn, but oh gosh, this version is so much better. I really didn’t know how to make it prior to my other attempt at it – just got suggestions from the waitress at a restaurant and glanced at a few recipes online. But this, oh, I’ll be making it several times this summer. Just be sure to have Cotija cheese on hand, cilantro and limes.

Making this dish is actually very simple. You can make up the spice/herb mixture ahead of time (except for adding the cilantro). You can crumble up the Cotija ahead of time and have it chilling in the refrigerator in the pan you’ll use to roll the corn on it. Husk the corn and have that all ready to go too. Fire up the grill and slow-grill the corn. You DO want grill marks (see the photo) but you don’t want to burn it. Don’t put anything on the corn – just grill it, rotating it several times over the course of 15-20 minutes or so. Do watch it carefully.

If you search recipes on the internet for Mexican Street Corn, you’ll find several, but none that do all of the things Phillis Carey did with it in the corn-themed cooking class I went to recently. And Phillis absolutely NAILED it with flavor. Not only the spice mixture (cumin, oregano, garlic) but doing it in the order she did – grill first, lightly film the corn with mayo (so everything after that will stick to it), sprinkle on the spices and cilantro, then roll the corn in Cotija cheese. Serve and pause as you listen for all the “mmmm’s.” Fabulous. Of all the recipes in this particular cooking class, I think this one was the best, by far.

What’s GOOD: all the flavors in combo with the corn. The cheese, the spices, and of course, the delicious sweet corn. This recipe is a winner. Make it, okay?

What’s NOT: not a single thing except that if you’re making this with a dinner and having to do it all, you’ll want to have everything else about your dinner all ready, because you do need to stand over the corn and watch it and turn it, but then, you’ll need to assemble it while it’s still pretty hot.

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Mexican-Style Street Corn with Cotija Cheese

Recipe By: From a Phillis Carey cooking class, 8/2014
Serving Size: 4

4 large ears of corn — husked
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon garlic powder — don’t use “granulated” powdered garlic (too strong)
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 cup Cotija cheese — crumbled
2 tablespoons cilantro — minced
1 whole lime — cut in wedges

1. You may grill the corn on an outdoor barbecue or on a stovetop grill pan. Heat grill to medium-high. Grill corn until it’s lightly charred all over and heated through, about 20 minutes, turning the corn often so it doesn’t burn.
2. While the corn is grilling, in a small bowl combine the chili powder, cumin, oregano, garlic powder.
3. When the corn is ready (and still hot), brush each one with the mayonnaise, with a light covering over all sides. Sprinkle the spices all over the corn, then roll each in the crumbled cheese then sprinkle with chopped cilantro. Serve with lime wedges to drizzle over each one.
Per Serving: 192 Calories; 13g Fat (54.8% calories from fat); 4g Protein; 21g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 5mg Cholesterol; 106mg Sodium.

Posted in Grilling, Pork, on January 25th, 2014.

grilled_pork_chops_spanish_adobo

Years ago, when I was in the advertising biz, we had a very talented art director on our staff from the Philippines, named Dolf. He was an American, but so loved his native country’s cuisine. A couple of times he brought chicken adobo to our festive potluck lunches – his version from the Philippines, a wet braise kind of dish. But this post is NOT about the Filipino version, which is altogether different. Not just a little bit different, but a lot different.

SPANISH ADOBO is a spice mixture, and is meant to be liberally applied to pork chops (and allowed to sit there, so it becomes a marinade) and grilled – it’s cinchy easy to make. I saw a blog post from one of the varied ones I read, and it was called pork chops adobado. Since I’d not heard the adobado (rather than adobo) part before, I started sleuthing. Adobo is the spice mixture, but once you put it on some kind of meat and grill it, it becomes a food preparation, so it’s the adobado or adobada. I read what wikipedia had to say about it, then did a search and came to a recipe at epicurious that sounded just right.

In the explanation, wikipedia says of ancient cooking:

Animals were usually slaughtered in the coldest months of winter, but surplus meat had to be preserved in the warmer months. This was facilitated through the use of adobos (marinades) along with paprika (a substance with antibacterial properties). Paprika gives a reddish color to adobos and at the same time the capsaicins in paprika permit fats to dissolve to the point of allowing tissue penetration, going deeper than the surface.

spanish_adobo_pasteIf I interpret what that says, it means meat was marinated for long periods of time, like months – yikes. From winter to summer? So, by using a paprika-based marinade, they were able to preserve meat without refrigeration (obviously) and the capsaicins (that’s what gives heat to peppers) in it allowed for better absorption. Spanish (or Mexican) Adobo is a oil and spice paste that’s spread on the pork up to a couple of hours ahead of grilling. It’s a mixture of oil, paprika, dried oregano, fresh garlic, ground cumin, hot chili flakes, fresh lime zest, salt and pepper.

I slathered this mixture onto 2 pork chops and 2 steaks. It’s a heady mixture – not only with spices, but it has some heat. If you’re averse to hot spicy food, eliminate the chili flakes. I used half-sharp paprika (a mixture of mild and hot), so it was plenty hot for me. The recipe calls for mild paprika. The paste marinated on the chops for a couple of hours (in the refrigerator), then Dave grilled them. First they’re browned – and I mention this only because with the reddish paste on them, it may be hard to tell when the chops are truly browning as they’re already brownish red before you put them on the grill. After they’re grilled on both sides just to get grill marks (if you can see them), you move them over onto an indirect area of the grill, loosely cover them with an upside-down foil pan, or with foil itself to finish cooking. Use a meat thermometer and take them off when they’re just done!

You can vary the heat depending on what kind of paprika you use. Please don’t use grocery store paprika – it doesn’t cut the mustard. (Oh, ha! I made a joke . . . 🙂 Here is a link to Penzey’s page for Hungarian paprika. Many high end markets now carry premium Hungarian paprika – do seek it out. And do refrigerate it. Penzey’s also sells Spanish paprika, but that is the smoked variety. Perhaps cooks in Spain do use the smoked, but I’d try it without the first time. And if I tried it, I’d use half regular and half smoked. The smoked goes a long way.

Be SURE to use a meat thermometer – the chops took much less time than anticipated. Ours were about 3/4 inch thick, and only took about 10 minutes cooking time. And?

What’s GOOD: the adobo spices were a big hit. I loved it; so did Dave. We have found a new, local purveyor of pork, and this first try was great – the meat was tender and juicy. The paprika and other spices hit a great flavor note for both of us. It was a quick preparation – and some nights that’s exactly what’s needed. I’ll be making this again and again.
What’s NOT: I can’t think of a thing. We loved this, big time.

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Grilled Pork Chops with Adobo Paste

Recipe By: Adapted from Epicurious
Serving Size: 4

2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons Hungarian paprika — (can use half-sharp)
1 1/2 tablespoons dried oregano — crumbled
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes — or more if desired
1 1/2 teaspoons lime zest — finely grated, from a fresh lime
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 pounds bone-in pork center rib chops — 3/4″ thick, or thicker

1. Heat grill to medium-high for direct-heat cooking.
2. Stir together all ingredients except pork chops in a bowl to form spice paste, then rub paste all over pork chops. Allow to rest for 20 minutes to 2 hours in refrigerator.
3. Oil grill rack, then grill chops, turning over occasionally and moving around if flare-ups occur, until browned, 2 to 3 minutes total.
4. Move chops to indirect heat, then cover loosely with heavy-duty foil, turning chops over once, until thermometer inserted horizontally into center of a chop (do not touch bone) registers 140°F, 6-10 minutes. Transfer to a platter and let stand 5 minutes before serving.
Per Serving: 405 Calories; 29g Fat (65.3% calories from fat); 31g Protein; 4g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 89mg Cholesterol; 770mg Sodium.

Posted in easy, Fish, Grilling, on January 19th, 2014.

cedar_planked_salmon_mustard_brownsugar

Are you looking for a super-easy dinner with salmon? You’ve come to the right recipe – this one’s so simple – as long as you’re willing to do the cedar-plank thing on the grill.

Not taking a lot of time to hunt for a recipe this time, I just googled “cedar plank salmon.” The #1 recipe came from the Food Network. It’s a Steven Raichlen recipe, but from what I read, Bobbie Flay must have had him on his BBQ show and prepared this dish. What convinced me was the 5-star rating. I read through some of them – a few people didn’t like the quantity of mustard or thought it was bitter. My thought is that they used cheap Dijon. If you use the real stuff, particularly the Maille brand, there won’t be any bitterness. I did reduce the quantity of both mustard and brown sugar, and we were ooohing and aaahing as we ate it.

First we soaked a cedar plank (one worked for the portion we were grilling, but you might need 2) for about 2 hours in cold water. Then the plank itself went onto a medium-hot grill for about 4 minutes. That gave it time to steam-out most of the water, but got the plank super-hot. Then my DH salmon_mustard_sugarturned the plank over and carefully placed the lightly slathered and brown sugared salmon fillet (pictured at left with the slather and sugar ready for grilling) on top of the plank. The lid was closed, the heat reduced just slightly, and 10 minutes later the salmon had reached 135°F and it came off. When Dave lifted the lid the last time (he checked the temp of the fish twice) a big plume of smoke engulfed him and burned his sinuses a little. He had a honkin’ headache for the rest of the evening, poor guy. Beware of that, my friends! He said the plank was slightly in flames too, but it didn’t reach the fish. Obviously, you toss the plank once it’s used. You could also do this in the oven, I suppose, but not with the cedar plank – unless you do it at a lower temp. You don’t want that kind of smoke swirling around in your oven.

The salmon needed nothing else – perhaps I could have served it with a little wedge of lemon – but it truly didn’t need it. It was a tiny bit crispy along the edges (from the brown sugar) and the mustard added just a lovely character to the fish. It was perfectly done, juicy, flaky. Delicious.

What’s GOOD: rip-roaring easy and tasty. That’s about all I can say, it should be enough for you to try this super-simple recipe. Good enough for guests too. I haven’t tried oven roasting this, but it should be easy to do that if you don’t want to cedar plank it.
What’s NOT: nada, nothing!
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Cedar Planked Salmon with Dijon and Brown Sugar

Recipe By: Adapted slightly from a Steven Raichlen recipe, via the Food Network
Serving Size: 4

one cedar plank (6 by 14 inches)
1 1/2 pounds salmon fillets
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons brown sugar

1. Soak the cedar plank(s) under water for 2 hours or more.
2. Preheat grill to medium-high. Place the cedar plank on the grill, cover and allow to pre-heat for about 4 minutes.
3. In the kitchen, spread the salmon fillets with a coating of Dijon, then sprinkle the brown sugar evenly on top. Do this just before you’re ready to grill – otherwise the sugar will begin to melt off the fish, even sitting at room temp.
4. When the cedar plank is super-hot, carefully turn the plank over with tongs and place the fish on top/center of the plank. Close lid, reduce heat just slightly (you don’t want the plank to burn, if at all possible). Depending on the thickness of the fish, cook for 10-15 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 135° (use an instant-read thermometer). If the edges of the plank start to catch fire, have a spray bottle of water handy and carefully spray the wood (not the salmon) and perhaps lower the heat slightly. Remove from grill and serve immediately.
Per Serving: 231 Calories; 6g Fat (25.5% calories from fat); 34g Protein; 7g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 89mg Cholesterol; 258mg Sodium.

Posted in Grilling, Miscellaneous, Pork, on September 6th, 2013.

pork_chop_spicy_pesto_finger_lime_caviar

As a food blogger, it’s so fun when a company contacts me – gee, little old me – asking if they can send me some food product to try. No charge. No strings attached. Actually, Freida’s contacted me about Hatch green chiles, but almost as an afterthought, they threw in a box of finger limes.

Prior to this, I’d only read about finger limes. Before our trip to Australia 2 years ago, I thought I’d scour the food markets there (if I could) to find some. I wanted to taste them. (Alas, it was the wrong time of year for finger limes, so no, I didn’t see a one.)  The whole idea of the finger limes is so bizarre, in a way. Let’s backtrack . . . finger limes were developed in Australia. The limes are small, some pink, yellow, green and off white. When you cut them in half and squeeze them, the little balls of encapsulated lime juice roll out, almost like a roll of fluff. But they’re not fluff, they’re these little sacs of lime juice. Here you can see what they’re like. finger_limes2

The average finger lime, uncut, is about an inch long. I cut several in half and gently squeezed. As I was working , I cut several of the limes more lengthwise and tried to extract the little juicy gems. Hard to do, actually, but once I cut them in half crosswise, and did the squeeze technique, they came right out. I have yet to try these on a piece of fish – that will be the ultimate test, I think, with a bunch of these adorable things scattered on top of a sizzling hot swordfish steak. Some marketing type came up with the “caviar” name, but it’s actually very apt as the sacs kind of pop in your mouth.

The origin of the relish came from Southern Living. It is called a Peanut-Basil Relish. The basil is chopped up finely, then you add green onion tops (only), some fish sauce, garlic, sesame oil (a tiny amount) and olive oil. Serrano pepper was in the mixture, but I didn’t have one, so I substituted some chipotle chile. And then I got the idea about using the finger limes. Peanuts have a role in this – I kept them separate until I was ready to serve (because they absorb liquid easily). It took about 5 minutes to make the relish.

Meanwhile, I sprinkled about a teaspoon of light soy sauce on the pork chops, then a bit of olive oil and some Montreal pepper seasoning. Those went on the grill until the meat reached 150° and they were perfectly done. I spread the relish on top and we chowed down. It was delicious. I happen to have a bumper crop of basil at the moment and this made good use of it. The relish recipe suggested if you have left overs, to mix into pasta.

What’s GOOD: the relish is ever-so easy to make, and the chops were simple to season and grill. Loved the Asian flavors – they’re not overwhelming at all (either the soy sauce on the meat or the fish sauce in the relish) but gave it a piquant taste altogether. The relish would be delish on other things – it does need to be used right away, I think. The little bit that was left in the bowl when I got done was turning black, which is what basil does when it’s bruised and wet. I could have whizzed it up in the food processor and made a paste (with more oil, probably) but I liked it as a kind of rough relish.
What’s NOT: really nothing at all. Liked everything about it.

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Grilled Pork Chops with Spicy Basil Relish and Lime Caviar

Recipe By: Partly my own ideas, part adapted from Southern Living.
Serving Size: 4

PORK CHOPS:
2 1/2 pounds bone-in pork sirloin chops — or any cut of pork chops
4 teaspoons light soy sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil
Montreal seasoning pepper to taste
BASIL-PEANUT RELISH:
4 tablespoons green onion tops — (green part only)
1 1/2 cups basil leaves
2 cloves garlic — crushed
2 teaspoons fish sauce
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
4 teaspoons finger lime caviar — or fresh lime juice
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted peanuts — chopped

1. Dry pork chops with paper towels. Spread soy sauce on pork, then olive oil, followed by a moderate amount of Montreal pepper seasoning.
2. Grill pork, searing both sides, until the interior temperature reaches 150°. Remove to a heated platter, tent with foil and set aside for just a few minutes.
3. Meanwhile, in a bowl combine the green onion tops, chopped basil (use a ceramic knife if you have one, so it doesn’t bruise the basil), crushed garlic, fish sauce, sesame oil, olive oil, lime caviar (or lime juice) and add the peanuts last (or sprinkle them on top when serving). If you have left over relish, add a bit more oil and use it to season rice or pasta. Use it within a day, as the basil will turn black and look very unpalatable. Spread the relish on top of the grilled pork chops.
Per Serving: 476 Calories; 34g Fat (64.0% calories from fat); 39g Protein; 3g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 1mg Cholesterol; 293mg Sodium.

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