Grilled Lamb with Cauliflower Crab Mash

I’ve gotten myself in an unpleasant predicament here.  I wish my story behind this was more interesting, but unfortunately, it is not.  As I was about to unload my groceries this past weekend, I stepped into a crevice of sorts and……

So here I sit with my leg elevated as told by every medical and non medical person.  Ice, elevate and rest.  REST?  I hardly sit down to rest unless I have someone to sit down with me!  Crutches are new to me, I’m practically falling over them and have already developed a blister on my palm in just the first day.  This is not going to be fun.  I spent day number 1 full of pity for myself, but it’s a new day, a new beginning and a new attitude. 

Never one to allow myself to dwell on problems, I’m hopping around my kitchen, wondering how will I shower, how the dogs will take a walk, how do I drive my car as it is my right ankle and how can I cook and elevate my foot at the same time?!! 

Well, it seems with a bit of determined and hopping on one foot, I pulled together Sunday’s dinner.  Lamb is a quick grill and I marinated these for just 30 minutes on the countertop.  The cauliflower crab mash could easily be substituted with potatoes as I originally had made several years back but now prefer to use the cauliflower.  If I don’t point out that it’s cauliflower to my son, he never comments.  I could eat the crab mash on its own too, it’s really that good.  I have also taken it, adding in an egg yolk, a touch of white wine and baking in individual ramekins.

Grilled Lamb with Cauliflower Crab Mash 

For the Lamb:

8 frenched lamb chops

4 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

3 garlic cloves, minced

2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary

1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme

2 teaspoons Kosher salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Combine all the marinade ingredients in a ceramic or glass baking dish.  Add in the lamb, turning to coat and let stand for 30 minutes.

Heat a grill pan or outdoor grill.  Remove lamb from marinade and grill for 3 minutes, turn and grill another 3 minutes for a total of 6 minutes, no longer for just a pink center.  Transfer to plate and allow to rest for 5 minutes.

For the Cauliflower Crab Mash:

1 large cauliflower, cut in small florets

1 roasted garlic

1/4 cup parmesan cheese

2 tablespoons butter plus 1 more to sauté crab

1/4 cup heavy cream

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

8 oz crab claw meat, carefully picked through to remove shells 

2 – 3 green onions, thinly sliced

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper, optional for a touch of spice

Place cauliflower florets into a large pot.  Add water to cover and bring to boil, reduced to simmer and continue until tender, about 10-15 minutes.  Drain well and transfer to food processor.  Puree the cauliflower, garlic, parmesan cheese, 2 tablespoons of butter and cream until smooth. Remove to large bowl and keep warm.

Meanwhile, melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a skillet.  Saute the green onion lightly and add in the crab meat.  Gently heat and stir without breaking the clumps.  Add the crab mixture to the cauliflower bowl and gently stir to combine.  Season to taste with salt and pepper and cayenne.

Grilled Tuna Salad with Roasted Peppers and Zucchini

This is a salad I make several times every summer.  It is great right off the grill and even better, in my opinion, when allowed to sit at room temperature marrying all together.  The grilled tuna absorbs the vinaigrette and each bite is juicy and full of flavor.   I usually prepare this several hours ahead; roasting the peppers, sautéing the zucchini and finally grilling the tuna.

It’s perfect for packing up for picnics as no mayo is used.  Veggies can vary too; I have made it with green beans instead of zucchini and added slightly grilled cherry tomatoes.  The tastes of meaty chunks of fresh grilled tuna make it hard to ever go back to opening up a can of tuna!  For me, it’s a meal in itself and I like to include this at BBQ’s for my non-meat eating guests or part of an antipasto platter.

Grilled Tuna Salad with Roasted Peppers and Zucchini

For the salad:

2 large peppers, red, yellow or orange or combination

1 large zucchini, cut in half and cut in thin strips

1 lb wild caught tuna steak

1 cup cherry tomatoes, optional

2 teaspoons capers, rinsed well, optional

For the dressing:

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/4 cup chopped fresh oregano or 2 teaspoons dried

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

To roast the peppers:  Preheat a broiler or grill.  Char the peppers on all sides and immediately place in a paper bag of covered bowl.  Allow the peppers to steam and cool about 15 minutes.  Peel the skin off the peppers and discard the seeds and stem.  Cut lengthwise into thin strips, set aside.

To saute or grill the zucchini:  In a skillet over medium heat, warm about 2 tablespoons of olive oil and saute the zucchini until tender and golden brown.  Or grill the strips in a vegetable grill basket as the slices should be cut small.  Set aside

To grill the tuna:  Preheat the grill.  Lightly brush olive oil on the tuna and sprinkle on salt and freshly ground pepper.  Grill turning once until cooked to your liking, about 2-3 minutes per side depending on thickness of tuna.  I like to have a bit of pink inside.  Remove from the grill, allow to rest until cool.

Combine the roasted peppers and zucchini in a large bowl.  Break up the tuna into big chunks and add to the bowl.  Add in the optional cherry tomato halves and capers.  Pour dressing over the salad and lightly toss.  Serve immediately or cover serve room temperature or refrigerate for up to 24 hours.  Serves

Grilled Salmon and Brie Panini

Going away for a long weekend also means getting away from my kitchen.  I spent this past weekend biking, walking, shopping and dining!  Dining at interesting new places, finding the favorite spot the locals go to, feeling pampered with fabulous food presented to me and no dishes to wash!

I prefer to order small plates of foods; a few appetizers, salad and of course a dessert!  And not necessarily at the same place.  I order an appetizer at one restaurant; move to another for their specialty appetizer and end with a dessert or gelato somewhere else!  So in one short weekend, I could basically hit a lot of restaurants!!   The way I see it, I never get stuffed, and I’m excited and inspired by every dish I taste.  Atmosphere is a big draw for me although a hole in the wall known for good food will bring me in too.

My dad would make us laugh as he would avoid restaurants with white tablecloths.  In his view, white tablecloths meant the overly priced restaurant, the overstated menu, over the top wait staff and high priced wine lists!  When I now see a white tablecloth, I am always reminded of him.  I guess his view has influenced my choice in places to dine as I seek out well prepared, authentic food.  Not trendy nor bland, but food with ‘personality’ and a place that allows me to leisurely enjoy good food, wine and conversation.

For lunch one day we stopped at a place I had seen before but never dined at.  Located off the main strip, down the “basement” stairs to a Pub like atmosphere.  We ordered a Salmon Panini.  They prepare it with smoked lox, but we both agreed making this with grilled or roasted salmon was the way to go.  And so of course, upon returning home, I’m ready to head back in my kitchen and re-create the favorites we ate.  Leftover roasted or grilled salmon would make this an easy dish for using up the leftovers; however, starting from scratch I made a simple roasted salmon filet and whisked together a light dressing.  One pound of salmon would make four generous Paninis.

Grilled Salmon and Brie Panini

For the salmon:

1 pound wild caught salmon, skin removed

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

1 tablespoon lemon juice

Olive oil

For the dressing:

2 tablespoons mayo

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

Juice from one lemon

1 teaspoon chopped fresh dill

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

To assemble the sandwich:

Grilled or Roasted Salmon


Thinly sliced red onion

Mixed lettuce greens

Thinly sliced tomato

Whole wheat bread or ciabatta

Olive oil

For the salmon:  Preheat oven to 425 degrees.   Place salmon on a lightly oiled roasting pan.  Generously sprinkle the salmon with the lemon juice, salt and freshly ground pepper.  Roast until just opaque in the center, about 10 to 15 minutes depending on the thickness of the fish.

For the dressing:  Whisk together the mayo, Dijon, lemon juice, dill, salt and pepper and set aside.

To assemble the sandwidh: spread dressing on the bread, layer on mixed greens, salmon, thinly sliced onions, tomato and brie. Lightly brush outside of bread with olive  oil and place on grill pan or Panini press.  Grill until lightly browned and cheese has begun to melt.  Slice in half and serve immediately.

Grilled Pork Chops with Peck Seasoning and Charred Peppers

I have a secret infatuation with Michael Chiarello.  His smile warms me over and I could simply listen to him talk about food for days.  In fact, I’d just give up cooking and let him take over my kitchen so I could just watch. No, actually I want to be in HIS kitchen!  I enjoy the stories about his mother and his passion for simple, seasonally good food.

This is a recipe from his Tra Vigne cookbook.  What I absolutely love is the coating on these pork chops.  It’s called Peck Seasoning, named after the chef who created it.  As Michael suggests, I have used it on fish, chicken, veal and steak.  His recipe calls for pork chops as I made this time, but I have also very successfully made it with pork tenderloin.  I was tempted to brine the pork chops to ensure they would be very tender, however I forgot and to my happiness they were perfectly tender. 

It is suggested and I agree totally to use a cast iron skillet or as I did, my grill pan.  The coating will less likely fall off into the grill and stay on the chops.  One small change I did was to add water and white wine to the bottom of the roasting pan.  The moisture and aroma infused the pork chops and I then used that liquid to reduce and pour over the chops when serving.  Mouthwatering….truly.

 Grilled Pork Chops with Peck Seasoning and Charred Peppers

4 double-cut pork loin chops, about 3/4 pound each
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons Peck Seasoning (see below)
4 bell peppers in assorted colors, cored, seeded and cut lengthwise into 1-inch-wide strips
Sea salt, preferably gray salt
Freshly ground black pepper

¼ cup water

¼ cup white wine

1 tablespoon butter (optional)
1/2 lemon, plus 4 lemon wedges for serving

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Line a roasting pan with aluminum foil, and put a flat rack in the roasting pan large enough to hold the chops. Pour in the water and white wine.  Brush the chops with 1 tablespoon of the oil, then season – sparingly – all over with the Peck Seasoning, patting it into place.  Toss the pepper strips with the remaining 1 tablespoon oil and salt and pepper to taste.

Heat a large ridged grill pan, a griddle, or large cast-iron skillet over moderately high heat. Add the chops and reduce the heat to moderate. Brown the chops on both sides, about 4 minutes per side, adjusting the heat so they cook without burning the coating. Transfer them to the prepared roasting pan. Bake until the internal temperature reaches 140ºF, 25 to 30 minutes.

While the pork chops cook, reheat the pan or griddle used for searing the pork. Cook the peppers in a single layer over moderate heat, turning them occasionally, until they are charred in spots and softened but not mushy, 8 to 10 minutes.  Don’t crowd as they will steam instead of sizzle.  Transfer the pork and peppers to a warmed serving platter.  Pour the liquid from the roasting pan into a small sauce and reduce by half.  Add in 1 tablespoon of butter and pour over the lamb chops.  Squeeze the lemon half over both and serve with the lemon wedges on the side.   Serves 4.

Peck Seasoning

1/4 cup minced garlic, 2 tablespoons roughly chopped lemon zest, 1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh sage, 1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh rosemary, 1/2 cup very finely minced pancetta (about 3 ounces), 1 tablespoon kosher salt, 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper

Combine the garlic and lemon zest on a cutting board and chop finely. Add the sage and rosemary and mince everything together until very fine. Enjoy the aroma! Add the pancetta and mix it in well with your fingers. Add the salt and pepper and gently incorporate all the ingredients by hand until the mixture resembles a moist seasoning salt. Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 1 week or freeze for up to 3 months. Use sparingly as it’s quite robust!

Mixed Grilled Shrimp, Scallops, Zucchini and Peppers with Papaya Salad

I have finally found a great little place to shop for seafood.  One would think living in Florida it would be easy.  The Fish Peddler was recommended by Chef Jean Pierre.  A small, friendly seafood store with a large selection of fresh, high quality seafood and many accoutrements to compliment a dish.

Like a kid in a candy store, or like me in a cookbook aisle, I wanted to buy it all!  Luckily, we were there for a purpose, a requested dinner of shrimp and scallops.  Gorgeous large Key West pink shrimp and beautiful, ivory colored jumbo scallops.  Along with the seafood, we grilled zuchini and peppers and served it all with yellow rice and a refreshing papaya salad.

Grilled Shrimp and Scallops, Zucchini and Peppers

4 servings

16 large shrimp
8 jumbo scallops – cut in half
2 medium zucchinis sliced in half and cut into bite size chunks
1 red, 1 yellow, 1 orange pepper, cut into chunks

For the marinade:

3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons tamari sauce (or soy sauce)
1/2 cup oil
1 cup pineapple juice
1/2 small red onion
1 tablespoon honey
salt & pepper

For the vinaigrette:

1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1/2 small red onion
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
1/2 cup oil
1 tablespoon cilantro
1 tablespoon honey
salt and pepper

Combine the marinade ingredients in a small blender and emulsify well.  Set aside.  Can be made one day ahead.

Combine the vinaigrette ingredients in a small blender and emulsify well.  Set aside and can also be made one day ahead.

Devine and clean shrimp.  Cut scallops in half (if using jumbo).  Marinade seafood no longer than 1 hour prior to cooking.  Marinade zucchini and peppers in the same marinade, separate containers.

Heat a grill to medium heat.  Thread shrimp and scallops on separate skewers as shrimp will cook faster than the scallops.  Thread zucchini and pepper combined on skewers.  Grill until lightly charred and tender.  Shrimp will curl slightly and scallops should be firm to the touch.  Remove and plate to serve.  Drizzle on some of the vinaigrette.

Papaya Salad

1 large papaya, ripe, gently soft
3 limes
1 small red onion, minced
1 teaspoon ginger, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 green onions, cut thin on the bias
1 tablespoon fresh mint leaves, sliced thin
salt and pepper

Peel and seed the papaya and slice into wedges.  In a small bowl, juice the limes, add the red onion, ginger and olive oil.  Mix well.  Drizzle over papaya, and gently toss.  Sprinkle on green onion and mint.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Serve immediately.

Bourbon BBQ Ribs

There’s something wonderful about eating with your hands, picking up tender, messy ribs that literally fall off the bone and melt in your mouth.  Compliment it with plenty of napkins, roasted red, white & blue potato salad and fresh corn on the cob smeared with a seasoned butter.  Memories of those BBQ times with family and friends always stay with me.  In fact, two years ago I was back in Ohio over Memorial Day and my cousin Diane made a menu very similar to that.  I contacted her to get her recipe as I am always changing up what I do with my ribs.  With all good intentions to follow her recipe exactly, but so very like me, I switched it up at the last minute.  Diane drizzles apple cider vinegar on her ribs and Italian dressing before roasting low and slow.  After that she turns it over to her husband for last-minute grilling and basting with BBQ sauce.  Her ribs were great, tender and so very tasty.

Just before I was about to drizzle on the cider vinegar, I remember I had a lot of very ripe limes to use up.  Knowing that the concept of using the vinegar to act as an acidic for tenderizing and limes, though not as potent, could work just as well.  After that I drizzled on some olive oil and seasoned lightly.  Once roasted until tender, I basted and grilled the ribs with a Bourbon BBQ Sauce, recipe follows.  And… to finish up those limes, Mojito Slushies!

Bourbon BBQ Ribs

2 racks baby back ribs, about 2 1/2 lbs.
Apple cider vinegar or lemon juice
Olive Oil to lightly drizzle over ribs
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon cayenne powder
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon crushed dried herbs, oregano, thyme, basil
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a roasting pan with foil.  Cut the racks of ribs to fit into a roasting pan, laying meat side up, overlapping slightly.  Drizzle on the vinegar or lemon juice and olive oil.  Combine the remaining ingredients and rub into the ribs.  Cover with a top layer of foil sealing edges tightly.  Roast until the meat begins to pull away from the bone and are just tender, about 1 1/2 hours. 

Preheat an outdoor grill to medium heat.  Grill the ribs, brushing with the Bourbon Sauce.   Let grill for about 10 minutes, then turn the ribs as they grill, continuing to baste.  Watch closely as the sugar in the sauce will burn.  Let the ribs rest for about 10 minutes before cutting into 1 or 2 bone pieces.  Platter and brush with some sauce.  Pour remaining sauce in bowl for dipping.

Bourbon BBQ Sauce

Slightly adapted from Jim Beam Kentucky Bourbon recipe

2 cups tomato sauce (or ketchup, I’m not a fan of using ketchup!)
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1 cup Bourbon Whiskey
4 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Combine all ingredients in medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer partially covered for about 20-30 minutes or until thickened.

Casual Friday Night Grillin’

After a long work week, when Friday finally arrives, I like to relax and enjoy a glass of wine and an easy grilled meal.  Normally it’s pizza night on Fridays, and I actually did make my son his pizza, but for a more adult palate, this quick to pull together salad was perfect.  My favorite Italian deli has delicious chicken or pork sausage rolls.  They are spiraled and skewered together; perfect to throw on the grill.  You could also use Italian sausage grilled and cut into disks for this salad as well, but I do like the presentation of the whole roll.  Having peaches and fresh figs on hand, I wrapped each peach wedge and fig half in proscuitto and lightly grilled them to soften and warm the flavor.  Goat cheese was a perfect compliment to sprinkle on.  The heat of the salad slightly warmed the cheese and the arugula.   I served the salad with roasted garlic bulbs to spread on a pesto rolled bread.  The combinations of flavors and textures were fantastic! 

Arugula & Goat Cheese Salad with Grilled Chicken Sausage and Proscuitto Wrapped Peaches and Figs

1 chicken sausage roll or 2-3 sweet Italian sausage links
2 peaches, peeled (I use a knive) and cut into wedges
3 fresh figs, cut in half
4 Proscuitto slices – cut in half
3-4 cups Arugula
2 oz Goat cheese

1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1 thinly sliced green onion
Salt & freshly ground pepper
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Whisk together lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, onion, salt.  Add in olive oil in a stream, whisking until emulsified.  Set aside.

Wrap each peach wedge and fig half with proscuitto.  Thread the peaches and figs on a skewer for easier handling when grilling.  Heat the grill to medium heat and place on the sausage roll and peach & fig skewers.  Grill until browned well, turning once. 

Plate the sausage on a bed of arugula.  Top with the proscuitto wrapped peaches and figs.  Sprinkle on the goat cheese chunks and drizzle on the vinegrette dressing.  Serve immediately.  Serves 2 as a main dish.