Smoky Eggplant Dip (Baba Ghannouj)

Baba ghanouj

Love this dip! Easy, healthful and exotic. (My food trifecta!)

If you can find any late-season eggplants at the market, grab’em. Throw them on the grill with whatever else you’re cooking. Let the eggplants get nice and charred, and then wrap them up until you feel like making this irresistible dip. (Even mid-winter, you can make this in the oven with grocery store eggplants.)  Continue reading

Amazing and Easy Grilled Fish with Herb Butter

Cooking amazing fish can be easy and almost foolproof, provided you follow these simple guidelines:

  • Use the freshest fish possible
  • Season the fish with salt before cooking
  • Throw in a little butter whenever possible
  • Don’t overcook!

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The Secret(s) to Quick and Amazing Zucchini

roasted zucchiniBring on the heat! A little oil and a quick char from the grill or hot oven caramelizes the zucchini and enhances its otherwise bland-ish (sorry, zucchini) flavor.  Maybe you already knew that part? (Especially if you’ve tried oven-roasted broccoli.) So the other secret, then, is . . .  Continue reading

Marinated Flank Steak with Chimichurri Sauce

flank steak chimichurri close-up

With most of our weeknights this spring consumed with soccer practices, lacrosse practices, Girls on the Run practices, piano lessons and tennis clinics, the question of “What’s for dinner?” becomes all the more pressing. I won’t lie to you – we resort to the blue box mac-n-cheese and frozen pizza plenty of nights. I also make “pizza panini” on a regular basis – panini-maker grilled sandwiches with panella bread and grated mozzarella, cut into wedges and served with marinara sauce for dipping. (Hey – that would make a good blog post! Stay tuned.)

Another regular in our quick-dinner rotation is this red wine, garlic and soy-marinated flank steak. It’s best if you can marinate in the morning, or even the night before, but broiling the steak is quicker than cooking a DiGiorno’s rising crust pizza. Continue reading

Prosciutto-wrapped Shrimp with Basil & Creamy Garlic Sauce

Prosciutto-wrapped shrimp

Need a quick but “wow” appetizer for a BBQ this weekend? These grilled shrimp bites are just the thing. You can prep the shrimp skewers and the sauce earlier in the day, or even a day ahead. When it’s party time, toss the skewers onto the grill and cook for a few minutes until the prosciutto is crisp and the shrimp have turned pink. Serve on a platter with the sauce alongside for dipping, or spoon some sauce onto small plates for an elegant first course.  (I’ve even served the shrimp over pasta and called it dinner.)

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Go-To Grilled Chicken

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It’s easy to get into a recipe rut – making the same thing over and over again because it’s what you know. You know which ingredients are needed and keep them stocked – or can grab them quickly at the store without a list.  You know you can crank it out quickly – say, before soccer practice or a lacrosse game. And, you know how it will turn out and that everyone in the family will eat it. This Garlic-Lime Chicken is at the top of my rut list – a weekly regular during grilling season, and often a winter guest star via the grill pan or broiler. Continue reading

Mo-Rockin’ Chicken Tacos

Please excuse the pun – it’s just that I’m always looking for ways to make grilled chicken a little more exciting (who isn’t?), and sometimes an intriguing title or analogy helps entice the family into trying an “exciting” new dish.  (This is marketing at its best.) My clan might not be ready to embark on the culinary voyage of “Chicken Souvlaki with Coriander, Turmeric and Mint”, but call something a taco and they’ll be pulling out their Premier cards for early boarding privileges.

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Foolproof Ribs for 60

Last Friday night we hosted a neighborhood association potluck BBQ, which doesn’t seem like a big deal unless you consider that our neighborhood is comprised of over 300 homes, or that I thought it would be fun to cook ribs and sausages instead of the traditional preformed burgers and dogs. We figured somewhere between 60 and 80 adults would show up – that’s a lot of meat! Was I crazy? (My husband thinks so.) But there was a method to my madness: ribs and bratwursts make great party food because they can be cooked a day ahead of time and then just crisped/warmed on the grill right before the party.  It will look like you’ve been busy grilling and basting all day, but really you’ve spent more time stashing Barbies and piles of papers out of sight while trying to determine the best wine-to-seltzer ratio for the perfect white wine spritzer. (By the third one I think I got it right, but at that point had given up on measuring and recording.)

Whether you’re feeding 6 or 60, the process for cooking ribs is the same. (And note that this is more of a process than a recipe, so don’t worry too much about measuring; it’s the pre-braising that makes all the difference.) To economically feed our anticipated crowd, I set out to Costco for 3 value packs of pork loin ribs (6 full racks), bratwursts, barbeque sauce and heavy duty aluminum roasting pans. (That was the hardest part! Trips to Costco always wipe me out.) For a smaller family dinner,  figure 3 servings per full rack of meaty pork loin ribs (or maybe 2 servings per rack for big appetites).

Once home, I set the oven to 350ºF and cut open the packs of ribs (over the sink – they drip) and set all 6 racks in an aluminum pan.  Purists would pat dry the racks and cover with a homemade rub of salt and secret spices. I was in party panic mode at this point so did none of this; instead, I grabbed some seasoning salt from my spice drawer and generously seasoned both sides of each rack.

Love my spice drawer!

Then I poured about ½ a big jug of barbeque sauce (again – not even homemade!) and about a cup of water into the pan, covered ribs with a piece of parchment paper, and then covered the pan tightly with foil.

Into the oven for at least 2 hours, until you smell it and the meat is tender and falling off the bone. (My 7-year-old was driven crazy by the aromas in our kitchen and insisted that this be her dinner; it was.) Take out of the oven (carefully – the pan will be full of liquid) and let cool. Then gently transfer rib racks to a clean pan (one that will fit in your refrigerator), add a little extra BBQ sauce if you like, cover with foil and refrigerate overnight. This will firm up the ribs and make them much easier to cut.

Shortly before the party (or dinner), remove the ribs from the refrigerator and cut into 1 or 2-rib pieces. (Cut larger pieces for dinner portions.)

Place pieces meat-side down in a large aluminum pan. (I needed 2 pans for 6 racks of ribs.)

Heat grill to medium-high. If you have a smoker box, add some water-soaked mesquite wood chips. Place pan(s) on top of grill grates and cover grill. Cook about 5-7 minutes until sizzling and meat is starting to crisp. Turn grill to low.

Drizzle with your favorite BBQ sauce – I used 2 different brands (Sweet Baby Ray’s and Anna Mae’s Smokey Sweet Sauce, both from Costco) plus a little bit of hot pepper sauce. You can use any brand or combination or quantity that you like.  Use tongs to coat both sides of the rib pieces in BBQ sauce. After coating in sauce, I combined the 2 rib pans to make room on the grill for the brats. (Sausages, not kids!) Once ribs are nicely glazed with sauce and heated all the way through, turn off grill (or alternate between off and low) and serve directly from the grill.

I wish I had set aside some of the ribs for a “beauty shot” (or for a post-party snack), but they disappeared! Nothing was left but a few bones and some crispy scraps (which were tasty).  If I can get my act together tomorrow I’ll start another batch for Father’s Day dinner.

FYI, for the brats I just set them all to a pan, added 2 bottles of beer I found in the back of the fridge and one sliced onion, covered with foil and cooked in the oven alongside the ribs. Before the party, I grilled them all to give them some crisp and color, and then served in the beer liquid on the grill. (Serve with sauerkraut, mustard and hoagie-style rolls.)