Posts Tagged 'Grilling'

Dinner Party Menus: Niman Ranch Burgers

Labor Day is fast approaching (I cannot even believe it’s September already), and I have the perfect burger-based menu for anyone who is planning a cookout to celebrate.  As is, the menu will serve six people somewhat generously; the recipes are easily doubled (or tripled!) for extra guests.

Appetizer:
Hummus with Peppers and Pita Chips

Meal:
Niman Ranch Burgers with Cheddar, Tomato, Caramelized Onion, and Spicy Mayo
Orzo and Zucchini Salad
Grilled Corn

Dessert:
Ice Cream Cones

The hummus, pita chips, ice cream, and ice cream cones are all store-bought, which saves some time and prep work.  Here’s the prep schedule I followed for a 6 p.m. dinner party on a Friday:

Anytime Thursday:
Chill beverages
Wash and iron napkins (unless you’re using disposables)
Make caramelized onions (part of Niman Ranch Burgers recipe) and refrigerate
Make spicy mayo (combine light mayo and Chalula or other hot sauce to taste) and refrigerate

Friday morning or afternoon (work takes 60 – 90 minutes):
Slice peppers for hummus (I usually do a very large dice instead of strips because bigger pieces are better for dipping) and refrigerate
Slice zucchini for orzo salad and refrigerate
Wash, dry, and tear basil for orzo salad and refrigerate
Make corn packets (recipe follows) and refrigerate
Make burger patties (place squares of wax paper between each patty for easy use later; store on a plate and cover with plastic wrap or place in an airtight container) and refrigerate
Set table (unless you’re serving buffet-style)
Set serving dishes aside (this prevents me from having to root around for dishes and ask my guests to move while they’re enjoying appetizers at my kitchen island)

5:00 p.m.: Make Orzo and Zucchini Salad (zucchini is already sliced and basil is ready to go).  Cover and set aside until dinnertime.  (For best flavor, do not refrigerate.)

5:45 p.m.: Set out hummus, peppers, and pita chips.

6:00 p.m.: Guests arrive!  Make sure everyone has a beverage.

6:15 p.m.: Pre-heat grill on high.

6:30 p.m.: Scrub grill with wire brush.  Lower heat to medium-high.  Cook corn packets according to recipe.  While corn is cooking, slice tomato for burgers and set out caramelized onions, spicy mayo, and any other desired burger condiments. Slice hamburger buns (if they aren’t pre-sliced).  These are good tasks for guests if you want help! 🙂

6:50 p.m.: Remove corn packets from grill and set aside.  Lightly oil grill and cook burgers according to recipe (about 4:30 per side).  Place cheddar cheese slices on burgers during last minute of cooking.

7:00 p.m.: Dinner is served!  Let guests assemble their own burgers, and serve with orzo salad and corn.

Once everyone’s food has settled, set store-bought ice cream on the counter for 10 minutes to soften.  Scoop ice cream into store-bought cones to serve. (Or, if you want to put in a little more effort, set up an ice cream bar with bowls, sprinkles, and other toppings.)

Here’s my corn recipe for anyone who wants to give it a try:

Jenny’s Grilled Corn
Serves 6

Ingredients:
6 ears sweet corn
Olive oil
Coarse salt and ground pepper

Method:
Remove the husks and silk from the corn.  Place each ear of corn on a large piece of foil.  Brush each ear with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Fold in the sides of the foil and roll around each ear to completely enclose the corn in foil. Refrigerate until ready to cook.

Heat grill to medium-high.  Place corn on grill and cook for 20 minutes, turning occasionally.  Remove foil and serve.

Grilled Corn

This meal was seriously fantastic.  My friend Christopher equated it to restaurant food, which is a wonderful compliment.  The burgers were juicy and deliciously sloppy (have lots of napkins!), the corn was tender and smoky, and the orzo salad was bright and fresh.  I love that the appetizer and dessert courses were so easy thanks to store-bought elements, and the rest of the meal really did require minimal work while my guests were present.  Perfection!  I’ll definitely use this menu again.

TIPS:  Have a vegetarian guest?  Add Balsamic Portobello Burgers with Red Pepper and Goat Cheese or store-bought veggie burgers to the menu.  Also, I feel like a key element of a good burger (meat or veggie) is that the bread doesn’t overwhelm the patty.  I love, love, love SuperTarget’s mini Kaiser rolls (available in the deli section) for this reason; they’re the perfect size.

Recipe links: Niman Ranch Burgers and Orzo and Zucchini Salad

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Onion Pizza with Ricotta and Chard (aka My Best Grilled Pizza Yet!)

I finally managed a restaurant-quality grilled pizza, y’all.  I’ve been using the same dough recipe since last summer and I’ve tried a variety of different toppings, but this last one – Onion Pizza with Ricotta and Chard – is a real winner.  If you want crisp yet chewy homemade crust and totally delicious (and pretty nutritious!) toppings, this one’s for you.

Basic Grilled Pizza Dough
Makes four 10-inch pizzas (1 pound dough total)

Ingredients:
1 teaspoon sugar
1 packet (1/4 ounce) active dry yeast
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for bowl and brushing
Coarse salt and ground pepper
2 1/4 cups bread flour or all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface

Method:
Pour 1 cup warm water into a medium bowl; add sugar and sprinkle with yeast.  Let stand until foamy, 5 minutes.

Whisk oil and 1 teaspoon salt into yeast mixture.  Add flour and stir with a wooden spoon until liquid is incorporated (dough will appear dry).  Turn out onto a floured work surface.  Knead until dough comes together in an elastic ball, 2 minutes. Transfer to an oiled medium bowl; brush lightly with oil.  Cover bowl with plastic wrap; set in a warm, draft-free place until dough has doubled in bulk, 45 minutes. Punch down dough and cover; let rise another 30 minutes.

Turn out dough onto a lightly floured work surface.  Divide into 4 equal pieces.  (To store, refrigerate dough pieces, covered, up to 2 days, or freeze, up to 1 month.)  Let rest 15 minutes before using.

Source: Everyday Food, July 2010

Onion, Ricotta, and Chard Pizza Toppings

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/4 pounds onions, sliced
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
2 garlic cloves, minced
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1/2 pound chard, stemmed, leaves washed (can substitute spinach, if desired)
3/4 cup ricotta (6 ounces)
2 ounces Parmesan, grated (1/2 cup, tightly packed)

Method:
Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large, heavy skillet.  Add the onions.  Cook, stirring often, until tender and just beginning to color, about 10 minutes.  Add the thyme, garlic, and a generous pinch of salt.  Turn the heat to low, cover and cook another 10 to 20 minutes, stirring often, until the onions are golden brown and very sweet and soft.  Remove from the heat and set aside.

While the onions are cooking, stem and wash the chard leaves, and bring a medium pot of water to a boil.  Fill a medium bowl with ice water.  When the water comes to a boil, salt generously and add the chard.  Blanch for one to two minutes, just until the leaves are tender, and transfer to the ice water.  Drain and squeeze out excess water. Alternatively, steam the chard for two to three minutes until wilted, and rinse with cold water.  Chop the chard medium-fine.  Combine the ricotta, chard, and Parmesan in a medium bowl and set aside.

Make ahead note: The cooked onions and the blanched or steamed chard will keep for three or four days in the refrigerator.

Source: The New York Times

To assemble pizzas:

Heat grill: Set up a grill with heat source, coals or gas, on one side over medium-high.  Clean and lightly oil hot grill.

Stretch dough: On a lightly floured work surface, separately stretch or roll 2 pieces basic grilled pizza dough or 8 ounces (two 4-ounce pieces) store-bought dough into 10-inch-long ovals or other desired shape.  Brush one side lightly with herb oil or olive oil and season with coarse salt and ground pepper.

Grill dough: Using your hands, place dough, oiled side down, directly over heat source.  Brush dough with herb oil or olive oil and cook until underside is lightly charred and bubbles form all over top, 1 to 2 minutes.  With tongs, flip dough and cook until lightly charred, 1 to 2 minutes.  Slide dough to cooler side of grill.

Add toppings: Top dough with ricotta/chard/Parmesan mixture and caramelized onions.  Cover grill.  Cook until toppings are heated through, 2 to 5 minutes.

Onion Pizza with Ricotta and Chard

Holy cow, this pizza was deeeeeelicious.  The dough was crisp on the edges and chewier in the center, the caramelized onions were smoky and sweet, and the ricotta with the chard and Parmesan was creamy and super flavorful.  I served this with a beet and arugula salad with goat cheese and walnuts and thought I was in heaven.  I will definitely make this pizza again, and the menu (with the salad) would make a fantastic casual dinner party.

I’ll admit that it took a bit of practice to develop a good system for getting the dough from the kitchen to the grill, so I’ll share what I know.  I roll and stretch the dough on my kitchen island and then put each piece on its own lightly-floured baking sheet before I brush it with oil.  Since I don’t have much work space on the sides of my grill, I make Dr. O carry the two baking sheets onto the deck and then I hand-transfer the dough to the grill.  The dough tends to shift and stretch a bit when it’s picked up, but that’s OK; rustic is good.

TIPS:  If I make the pizza dough ahead, I wrap it in plastic wrap before I store it.  If I freeze it, I wrap it in plastic wrap and put it in a freezer bag as well.  To use frozen dough, I typically just thaw it in the refrigerator overnight.

Recipe links: Basic Grilled Pizza Dough and Onion Pizza with Ricotta and Chard

Dueling Veggie Burgers

I’m having a vegetarian dinner guest again this weekend, and my tried-and-true options (a) have been done before, and (b) aren’t seeming super appropriate at this moment with this gorgeous weather.  What does seem appropriate?  Grilling! Burgers and side salads make an easy entertaining menu, so I decided to try two very different vegetarian burger recipes: Greek-Style Quinoa Burgers and Balsamic Portobello Burgers with Red Pepper and Goat Cheese.

My use of the word “dueling” in the title might suggest that there was actually some hot competition between the recipes.  There wasn’t.  One recipe was leaps and bounds (truly!) above the other.  I wanted to include both, though, to help anyone who might be having their own veggie burger debate.

I’ll start with the Greek-Style Quinoa Burgers since I made them first.  The patties were made of quinoa, carrots, scallions, beans, breadcrumbs, and egg; they were seasoned with cumin, salt, and pepper.  The patties came together easily and without too much mess, and I liked that they could be assembled a day ahead and held (uncooked) in the refrigerator.  The recipe called for the patties to be cooked on the stove, but I decided to use my outdoor grill since it would create less mess when I was entertaining my guests.  They cooked up easily (I did 8 minutes per side over medium heat) and didn’t stick to the grill at all.

The problem?  Despite all those delicious ingredients, they didn’t have a lot of flavor.  They were also super dry when we reheated the leftovers the next day.  The yogurt-lemon-scallion sauce helped quite a bit, but the experience really should be about the burger, right?  Carnivores would never trade a beef or turkey burger for one of these, but I figured the quinoa burger would be a not-amazing-but-good-enough backyard barbecue option for vegetarians.

Greek Style Quinoa Burgers

That was, until I tasted the Balsamic Portobello Burgers with Red Pepper and Goat Cheese.  Oh.  Mah.  Gawd.  They were just as easy to make as the quinoa burgers (maybe easier) and still had make-ahead convenience factor, but I would actually choose this over meat from time to time.  Portobellos are a meaty mushroom to begin with, and they soaked up the marinade so beautifully.  You know that wonderfully messy, juicy dribble you get when you bite into a fantastic burger? You get it here.  With roasted red peppers and goat cheese (two of my favorite ingredients!) on a grill-toasted bun, this was absolute heaven.

Balsamic Portobello Burger with Red Pepper and Goat Cheese

My only note is that you’ll use either one or two mushrooms per burger depending on the size of your portobellos.  Just make sure you get at least the weight recommended by the recipe (1 pound).  Consider making extras…  You won’t regret it!

Recipe links: Greek-Style Quinoa Burgers and Balsamic Portobello Burgers with Red Pepper and Goat Cheese

Greek-Style Pork Chops

Let the grilling begin!  Labor Day weekend is upon us, and cooking up some delicious grilled food and enjoying it outdoors is practically mandatory.  Today’s recipe – Greek-Style Pork Chops from the July 2010 issue of Cooking Light – caters both to those who have outdoor grills and those who don’t; the recipe is actually written for a grill pan but can be prepared either way.  Plus, it’s a super healthy option to work into what is typically (for us, anyway!) a pretty indulgent weekend. More room for cupcakes, right?

To make the dish, I started by marinating the pork chops.  In a large zip-top bag, I combined 1 tablespoon of red wine vinegar, 1 teaspoon of dried oregano, 1 teaspoon of olive oil, and 2 minced garlic cloves.  I added 4 boneless center-cut pork loin chops (mine were about 5 ounces each) and sealed the bag.  I marinated the pork at room temperature for 20 minutes, turning them after 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, I whisked together 1 tablespoon of red wine vinegar, 1 teaspoon of olive oil, 3/4 cup of plain fat-free Greek-style yogurt (I used Fage 0%), 1 tablespoon of chopped fresh dill, and 1/8 teaspoon of coarse salt to make a sauce for the pork.  I covered the sauce and stashed it in the refrigerator.  I also diced plum tomatoes (1 1/2 cups), cucumber (1 cup), and red onion (1/2 cup) and combined the ingredients to make a salad.  The recipe said to season the salad with 1/8 teaspoon of coarse salt, but I definitely thought it needed more.  I’d recommend starting with 1/4 teaspoon and seasoning to taste from there.

Once I had the sauce and the salad prepared, the chops were ready for the grill.  I heated my grill pan over medium-high heat and sprayed it with my olive oil mister. (The recipe suggests cooking spray.)  I removed the pork from the bag, set the chops on my designated meat cutting board, and discarded the marinade.  I sprinkled both sides of the pork chops with 1/4 teaspoon of coarse salt and added the pork to the preheated pan.  I cooked the chops for 4 minutes on each side, removed them from the pan, and then let them rest for 2 minutes before serving.  I served the pork chops on top of the tomato mixture, topped with the yogurt mixture.

Greek-Style Pork Chops

This dish has so many fantastic qualities.  It was fast, easy, inexpensive, and (most of all) delicious.  The juicy pork chops and super fresh salad just taste like summer. The creamy yogurt sauce is such a treat, too; it really takes the dish to the next level.  I look forward to making this one again and again.

Whether you’re grilling, traveling, or just doing some much-deserved relaxing at home, have a wonderful and safe Labor Day weekend!

TIPS:  To prepare pork chops on the grill, I would recommend grilling them for 3 – 4 minutes per side over medium-high heat.  Don’t forget to oil the grill grates before throwing the chops on!  (I forget at least one out of every four times, guaranteed.)

Recipe link: Greek-Style Pork Chops

Grilled Portobello Quesadillas

When I sat down to make my most recent menu and store list, I decided to just grab all the August issues of Everyday Food from my archives to look for inspiration.  I spent so many years without an outdoor grill that I figured I probably missed some fantastic recipes.  I was right!  Lately, I’ve been thinking about trying portobellos on the grill in some form or another, so I couldn’t pass up the recipe for Grilled Portobello Quesadillas.  This recipe goes so far back (2003 – I can’t even believe I’m admitting to having a magazine from back then!) that it isn’t on the Everyday Food site, so here it is:

Grilled Portobello Quesadillas
Serves 4
Prep time: 25 minutes | Total time: 45 minutes

Ingredients:
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
1 pound portobello mushrooms (3 – 5), trimmed and cleaned
4 flour tortillas (10-inch)
8 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
2 scallions, thinly sliced
Salsa and sour cream, for serving

Method:
Heat grill to medium.  In a small bowl, whisk together oil and vinegar; season with salt and pepper.  (I used 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.)  Brush both sides of mushrooms with oil mixture; starting with stem side up, grill mushrooms until tender when pierced with the tip of a sharp paring knife, 8 – 12 minutes, turning once.  Remove from grill; slice 1/2-inch thick.

Layer one half of each tortilla with cheese, scallions, mushroom slices, and then more cheese, dividing toppings evenly.  Fold tortilla over filling; using your hands, carefully transfer filled tortilla to grill.  Cook until tortilla is slightly charred and cheese is melted, 2 – 3 minutes per side.  Serve with salsa and garnish with sour cream, if desired.

Source: Everyday Food, July/August 2003

Grilled Portobello Quesadillas

They aren't exactly pretty, but they sure are delicious.

These quesadillas are tasty!  The portobellos are so meaty and smoky from the grill, and the ooey-gooey factor from the cheese is fantastic.  If you need to please a vegetarian and a meat eater in one meal, this is your ticket; Dr. O said he didn’t miss the meat at all.  Plus, the quesadillas are so filling that I couldn’t even eat the whole thing (and I was really looking forward to doing just that, believe me.)   I would absolutely, 100% make this recipe again.

Southwestern Two-Bean Salad

As promised, here’s the recipe for Southwestern Two-Bean Salad that completes my grilling menu from the other weekend.  I chose this salad to go with the Cilantro Honey-Lime Grilled Chicken and the Hill Country Coleslaw because it’s hearty, generally crowd-pleasing, and it contained the one ingredient that tied all three dishes together: cilantro.  Its fresh summer flavor would make it right at home on just about any picnic or barbecue buffet, though; I’ve served it with pulled pork sandwiches and burgers as well.

Southwestern Two-Bean Salad
Serves 12

Dressing ingredients:
1/2 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Salad ingredients:
2 cans (15 ounces each) pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 can (15 ounces) black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can (15 1/4 ounces) whole kernel corn, drained
1 large red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
2 fresh jalapeno peppers, seeded and finely chopped (1/4 – 1/3 cup)
1/4 cup snipped fresh cilantro

Method:
For the dressing, whisk together vinegar, oil, sugar, cumin, oregano, salt and black pepper in a small bowl.  Set aside.

For the salad, drain and rinse beans.  Place beans in a large bowl.  Drain corn. Chop bell pepper and add corn and bell pepper to beans.

Chop onion and jalapeno peppers.  Snip cilantro using kitchen shears (or chop it). Add onion, jalapeno peppers, cilantro, and dressing to bean mixture.  Mix gently. Cover and refrigerate 2 – 3 hours to allow flavors to blend.

Source: Pampered Chef’s Casual Cooking

Southwestern Two-Bean Salad

I just love this salad.  It’s light and fresh, and I like the way the tender texture of the beans contrasts with the crunch of the peppers and the corn.  Plus, it’s inexpensive to make, it keeps wonderfully, and it adapts well for a variety of menus. Give it a try!

TIPS:  Since it’s summer and fresh corn is readily available, I substituted fresh corn for the canned.  I cut the kernels off of two cobs, placed the corn in a colander, poured boiling water over it, and drained it before adding it to the salad.

Also, since my mom recently fell victim to “jalapeno eyes,” a note about working with jalapenos: After handling jalapenos, always (!) make sure you wash your hands (or wear gloves).  If you have jalapeno oil on your hands and you touch your skin (or heaven forbid, your eyes), it will burn.  I accidentally touched the corner of my mouth recently with jalapeno hands, and while it wasn’t excruciating, I could definitely feel the heat.  If you’re generally cautious about spicy food, though, don’t let this scare you out of using jalapenos in the salad.  Removing the seeds and membranes tones them down considerably.  I’m a bit of a wimp when it comes to spicy food, and I could barely taste them.

Cilantro Honey-Lime Grilled Chicken

Dr. O’s brother and his girlfriend came to stay with us this past weekend (our seventh set of houseguests in under three months!).  I planned a barbecue for Sunday afternoon, knowing that we had family and friends who would want to see them before they left that evening.  The challenge, though, was in the timing… Every minute of their visit was scheduled until Sunday morning.  What kind of menu could I put together in a pinch that would still allow me to spend time with my guests?

Our friend Paul made part of the menu planning easy for me.  His family owns Gold’n Plump Chicken, so he bought me a whole pile of it at SuperTarget on Wednesday.  (He was our houseguest earlier in the week, so I got wine and chicken as my hostess gifts.  I’ll take it!)  I’m all for supporting his family’s business, but I don’t typically buy Gold’n Plump chicken because I don’t do my grocery shopping at Target.  I was curious to see, though, how it would compare to my usual generic grocery store brand.

I wanted to marinate the chicken in something before I grilled it, so I settled on Prudence Pennywise’s recipe for Cilantro Honey-Lime Grilled Chicken.  Since I tripled the recipe for my crowd, I combined 1 cup of lime juice, 1 tablespoon of lime zest, 3/4 cup of olive oil, 3 tablespoons of minced garlic, 1 finely chopped jalapeno, 1 tablespoon each coarse salt and freshly ground pepper, 6 tablespoons of honey, and 1 cup of chopped cilantro in a medium bowl.  I divided the marinade equally between two large zip-top bags and placed six boneless, skinless chicken breasts in each (about 3 pounds total).  (I had pounded the chicken to 1/2-inch thickness for faster and more even cooking.)  I stashed the chicken in the refrigerator until it was time to grill it; my marinating time ended up being about six hours.

When we were ready to eat, I heated my gas grill to medium heat and grilled the chicken breasts for 5 minutes on each side and then let them rest for 5 minutes before serving.  I rounded out the menu with Hill Country Coleslaw, Southwestern Two-Bean Salad (my next post, promise!), and watermelon wedges.

Cilantro Honey-Lime Grilled Chicken

I adore this recipe.  It’s so simple but incredibly delicious!  The lime is the predominant flavor, though you can definitely taste the garlic and cilantro as well.  I should have been braver with the jalapenos since they didn’t really come through; next time I’ll use two or three.  Other than that, though, the flavor balance was spot on; everyone at the table commented on how good the chicken turned out.

As for Gold’n Plump versus my regular grocery store chicken…

I promise I’d never sell out for a freebie (it would take a lot more to buy me off than some free chicken!), but I do think the Gold’n Plump product is superior to the stuff I buy on sale at King Soopers.  The breasts I grilled were exceptionally tender and juicy.  My cousin and I were talking about it on Sunday, and she said that she likes to buy it occasionally because she doesn’t have to trim hunks of fat or stringy veins off of it.  So true.  Plus, Gold’n Plump doesn’t add any hormones or fillers, which is a positive in my book.  It reminds me a lot of the chicken we used to get at Central Market when we were living in Dallas…  It’s more expensive, but you get what you pay for.  I will probably start picking it up for entertaining from here on out.

Recipe link: Cilantro Honey-Lime Grilled Chicken




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