Grilled Vegetables and Sausage

For dinner last night we kept it simple, grilled out a spicy vegetable mixture and Italian sausage.  In an effort to make it a full meal I put it on a bed of arugula and baby spinach.  In the past I would have tossed the vegetables with olive oil and some noodles to make a meal; however, I do my best to cut out grains and dairy in my diet, so I went with greens.

The vegetables were what I could find at the farmers market fresh this week, you can use anything you have available:

-zucchini

-cauliflower

-snap peas

-red pepper

Tossed with a spray of olive oil, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes for some heat.

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In the picture you may also notice the can of Stiegl Radler, if you haven’t had this before, I highly recommend it (as long as you are over 21 of course).  It might be the most refreshing beer I’ve ever had, just sayin’.

The vegetables filled up the grill basket, so they took a good 30 minutes on the grill to cook through.   Time your sausages accordingly to finish at the same time, ours took about 20 minutes to cook through fully.

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Because the sausage has some grease to it and the vegetables were sprayed with olive oil before cooking, I didn’t feel it needed a dressing once I chopped everything up and mixed it together.  I did however add fresh mint and basil leaves to the salad for a little more flavor and some fresh Parmesan shavings since I have a block left over from the other nights brussel sprouts.  You can certainly add dressing if your heart desires, I would stick to something neutral in flavor or just some olive oil.

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Of course my husband doesn’t want a big salad for dinner, so he ate his sausage and vegetables together with the greens as a side salad.  The salad is simple: just cucumber, tomatoes, red onion tossed with olive oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, and garlic to taste on a bed of arugula, baby spinach, and basil.

 

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Herb-Rubbed Pork

Making protein during the week is either a well thought out and planned process or a last minute speed-thawing session.  A go-to for me is Lawry’s seasoning salt or Famous Dave’s Rib Rub, but these have a big flavor and can overpower the rest of the meal easily.  Tonight, to go with the rich but soft truffle-oil brussel sprouts (see side dishes section) I wanted a softer flavor to match.  My mother-in-law got me a packet of Herbs de Provence earlier this year that smell amazing, the problem is that I don’t really know what to do with it.  I have used it on meat in the past and did not salt enough, so I thought I would give them another try tonight.

Once the pork pieces thawed out I seasoned them generously with salt, then lightly with pepper, and a medium sprinkle of garlic powder.  Then I put the herbs de Provence on and patted the pork down.

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Grilling time is a tricky situation in our house.  My husband has slowly become the primary griller, however he needs close adult supervision.   In an effort to not under-cook the pork we left it on a minute or two too long.  It wasn’t totally dried out…but not juicy either.  We cooked it for 9 minutes on each side, probably would have been done around 7-8 minutes on each side.

2013-08-29 20.31.51The final meal was the herb-rubbed pork, truffle-oil brussel sprouts, and a chilled summer tomato and cucumber salad.

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Truffle-oil Brussel Sprouts

A great thing about summer cooking is making the entire meal outside.  The kitchen stays clean and it keeps the heat down inside.  Tonight we are grilling out some pork and for a side I am making brussel sprouts in the grill basket.  The grill basket is a new addition for us this summer…we feel pretty dumb for not having one sooner.  I used to kabob vegetables or painfully turn each little brussel sprout on the grill individually, silly.

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Ingredients:

-Brussel sprouts (cleaned and quartered)

-3 garlic cloves

-1-2 slices chopped red onion

-salt & pepper to taste

-truffle oil, 1-2 Tbsp to taste

-1 wedge of lemon, juiced

-Parmesan cheese, freshly shaved

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Directions:

1.  Mix together brussel sprouts, sliced garlic cloves, and red onions in grill basket.   Spray with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

2. Grill on medium/high grill for 20 minutes, stirring every 5-8 minutes.

3. Toss brussel sprouts with shaved Parmesan cheese, drizzle generously with truffle oil, and squirt with lemon juice.

This dish is easy but a rich combination thanks to the truffle oil and fresh lemon.  The fresh shaved parmesan is also a source of depth that take these vegetables up a notch.  If weather does not permit, you can always replace the grilling with roasting the vegetables in the oven at 400-425 flipping every 8-10 minutes until cooked.

Bean and Jalapeno Spread

This summer I tried making homemade hummus for the first time, shockingly easy and in-expensive.  This bean and jalapeno mixture is not hummus, but perhaps a distant cousin as it is a base of pureed beans…so I’m calling it a spread.  I also used a lot less oil than I would in a hummus and added water instead.  You can eat it with pita chips, tortilla chips, or pretzel crisps as a snack, or better yet on wraps, salads, tacos, nachos, etc.

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Ingredients:

-1 Can of Pinto beans, drained

-1 Can of Black beans, drained

-1 Small jalapeno, diced

-2 Cloves garlic

-1 Handful of diced red onion

-1/2 Lime, juice

-2 Tbsp Olive Oil

-1 Tbsp water

-Salt to taste

Directions:

Ready for this…put everything in the blender or food processor and hit start.  Adjust water or oil as needed to smooth to desired consistency.

 

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So let me share a few lessons I have learned:

1. Consistency.  Too much water makes for runny spread…too little water doesn’t mix well in the processor.  I find it better to add water slowly as you go.  If you over-water, it will dry out a little if you use it the next day (or add more beans if you really go wild).

2.  Color.  It’s not terrible, but it’s also not the most appetizing spread I’ve seen.  I enjoy the mix of black beans and pinto beans from a flavor perspective, but for serving I would probably go with all one or the other.

Mexican Pulled Pork

For dinner tonight I started the process before leaving for work.  The slow cooker is not just for football Sunday in this house.  The size of the roast was somewhere around 2 pounds (?), it is from a ridiculously large boneless pork loin roast from Costco that I broke down myself and froze (easy but time consuming money saver).

I made this before leaving for work, so I do not have a lot of pictures of the prep process, sorry!  To be fair, my husband sliced the peppers and onions so I could water the plants without being late for work.

Ingredients: 

-1 large yellow onion sliced thin

-1 red bell pepper sliced thin

-1 poblano pepper sliced thin

-1 4-oz can of green chilies

-1 packet of taco seasoning

-1 jar of salsa (I used a verde salsa this time but you can use anything you enjoy)

-large pork loin sirloin roast, boneless.  (In the past I have used boneless skinless chicken breasts or a combo the two)

Directions:

Start by lining the bottom of the slow cooker with the sliced onions and peppers.  Place the loin roast on top of the onions and peppers then add green chilies, taco seasoning, and salsa spread out on top of the roast.  Cover and cook on low for 8 hours.  If you need to speed up cooking time, try cooking for 2 hours on high, then reduce to low for the next 4 hours.

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When you get home from work and wonder as you unlock the door why your house smells so good, are you in for a treat.  At this point the roast looks pretty sad, but don’t despair.  You will need to take 2 forks to pull the pork apart along the grain line into small shreds.  once you get it all shredded you can mix it up really well with the peppers and onions that the roast was sitting on.  I usually let it sit for about 30 minutes still cooking on low after I shred it just to let the flavors fuse together a little better.

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Now is where my husband and I differ.  Tonight I felt like a salad and my husband wanted “a lean taco”.  It pained me to not cover it with herbs or something colorful, but he felt it was complete and delicious.  You can be the judge.

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I started with a bed a lettuce, a hearty dollop of homemade jalapeno and bean spread (recipe to come), avocado, tomato, red onion, and shredded pork on top.  My version of a taco salad without the tortilla shells.

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The taco is as simple as it gets, shredded pork, sliced tomatoes, and red onion.  He actually preferred the second round more, which was just the meat on a shell.  Sometimes simple is better.

Lavender Iced Sweet Tea

For a refreshing summer drink I took a spin off of a mint spritzer iced tea recipe that was shared with me.  I made this beverage with seltzer water today, but would be great for a brunch cocktail with champagne.

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Ingredients:

-2 cups of loose leaf earl grey tea, brewed and cooled.

-1 1/2 tsp of lavender simple syrup (more depending on how sweet you want it)

-1 Lemon wedge

-seltzer water

-Ice

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I started by making loose leave earl grey tea and letting it cool.  I poured the tea over ice in a large pint glass about 3/4 of the way full, then added the lavender simple syrup, fresh lemon juice, then topped off with seltzer water.  Garnished with a sprig of mint.

To make the Lavender Simple Syrup:

-1/2 cup of sugar

-1 cup of water

-4 sprigs of lavender greens.

Dissolve the sugar in water over medium/high heat.  Remove from heat once sugar is dissolved and add lavender sprigs to water.  Let sit until cooled then strain out the lavender.  Store in refrigerator.  I made some mint infused simple syrup at the same time for future concoctions.

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Whole Trout Dinner

Fresh fish are something I consider an easy and delicious summertime meal.  The key is preparation, then the rest is easy.  For tonight’s dinner I used whole trout that were pre-cleaned by the butcher, as I did not pull them out of the lake myself.

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I started by washing down the fish with cold water and patting dry inside and out with a paper towel.  I opened the fish where they had been cut and sprinkled with a healthy dose of salt and pepper to start.  For the filling: I lined each fish with a whole garlic clove thinly sliced, fresh herbs (rosemary, basil, parsley, and thyme sprigs cut from my patio garden), several thinly sliced lemons and finally a few pads of butter (or you can use olive oil).

Since we don’t have a fish basket I wrapped the fish in aluminum foil set on a bed of thinly sliced lemon and topped them off with olive oil, salt, and more sliced garlic before closing the foil tightly.

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Putting them on a hot grill for 15 minutes is all it took to cook these guys through.  No turning or flipping required.  While the fish cooked I mixed together a simple side salad with spring mix, yellow tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, jalapeno, and avocado with a creamy balsamic dressing (I am currently in love with Briannas Home Style New American creamy balsamic).

When you take the fish off the grill, you’ll find the bed of lemons allows the fish to come out of the foil easily, otherwise they will want to stick to the foil on the bottom and won’t be as pretty on the plate.  Don’t throw away the butter/oil mixture left in the foil, use that to drizzle on top of the fish once on the plate.

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