Grilled Pork Chops with an Asian Marinade

I usually brine my pork chops before grilling but yesterday I tried a new method that is part brine – part marinade. The outcome was delicious. Accompanying the pork chops was a side dish of Sauteed Spinach with Roasted Garlic and Parmesan.

Grilled Pork Chops with Asian Marinade

Serves 4

1 1/2 cups orange juice
1 1/2 cups lemonade
3 scallions, green parts only, thinly sliced
3 Tbsp fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
3 Tbsp reduced-sodium soy sauce
2 Tbsp Asian dark sesame oil
2 Tbsp light brown sugar
3/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp salt
4 thick-cut, bone-in pork chops

In a large zip-top bag or large bowl, mix the juice, scallions, ginger, soy sauce, sesame oil, brown sugar, pepper and salt. Add the pork chops, seal and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Heat grill to medium-high. Place the chops on the grill and discard the marinade. Cook for 4 minutes, then turn over and cook 4-5 minutes longer, until the internal temperature on a meat thermometer reads 145F. Remove from heat and rest for 3-5 minutes before serving.

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Sauteed Spinach with Roasted Garlic and Parmesan

I make sauteed spinach frequently. It is a great side dish for salmon, pork chops, steak or even a pasta entree.

I really like the flavor of roasted garlic and I often use it in mashed potatoes or as a spread for crostini. My sauteed spinach recipes typically include minced garlic, that is softened before the spinach is sauteed, but until I saw this recipe I never before thought about incorporating roasted garlic with sauteed spinach.

Sauteed Spinach with Roasted Garlic and Parmesan
(Adapted from Chicago Foodies)

Serves 4

1 pound fresh spinach
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
About 25 cloves of garlic, peeled
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp Olive Mill extra-virgin lemon olive oil
1/2 lemon
1/2 cup thinly grated parmesan cheese
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

First, preheat oven to 400F. Put your garlic in a pan and cover it with the 1/4 cup of olive oil, salt and pepper. Cover with tin foil. Roast for about 30 minutes, or until garlic is soft and lightly browned.

Using a large pan, saute the butter on medium-high heat. As it begins to melt, add the spinach. When it has wilted, add in the juice from the lemon. Stir in the garlic cloves whole, along with some of the remaining olive oil. Mix in salt and pepper, and top with the parmesan cheese. Serve immediately.

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A Savory Cauliflower Dish

I found this unique rich cauliflower dish that uses the blank palette of the cauliflower to absorb salty flavors.

Roasted Cauliflower
(Courtesy of Tasting Table, adapted from Joshua Keeler, Two Boroughs Larder, Charleston, SC)

1 head garlic
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 1/2 tsp Kosher salt divided
Freshly ground black pepper
4 strips bacon (preferably double smoked)
1 large head cauliflower, quartered
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
2 tsp granulated sugar
1/4 cup fish sauce
1 Tbsp salted capers, rinsed and coarsely chopped
1 tsp finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 tsp finely chopped red Fresno chile (about 1 small chile)

Preheat the oven to 350F. Roast the garlic: cutting crosswise, slice off the top third of the garlic head and drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Season with 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and pepper and wrap loosely in aluminum foil. Place in the oven and bake until golden brown and tender, about 45 minutes. Remove the garlic from the oven, set aside to cool slightly, then squeeze the garlic head over a small bowl to release the roasted cloves.

Roast the cauliflower: In a large, ovenproof skillet or cast-iron pan set over medium heat, add the bacon and cook, flipping each piece once, until both sides are browned and crisp, about 8 minutes total. Transfer the bacon to a paper-towel-lined plate and set aside for another use. Add the cauliflower quarters cut side down to the bacon fat in the pan. Place the pan in the oven and cook until browned and a paring knife easily slides into the center of a wedge, about 50 minutes (if roasting a smaller head of cauliflower, it will take less time to roast).

Make the vinaigrette: In a medium bowl, whisk together the lime juice, sugar and the remaining 2 teaspoons of the salt until the sugar and salt dissolve> Whisk in the roasted garlic and fish sauce. Whisking constantly, drizzle in the remaining 1/4 cup of the olive oil. Stir in the capers, parsley and chiles.

To serve “family style”, place the cauliflower quarters on a platter and pour the vinaigrette over the top.

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The Best Crab Cake Recipe

Last week, I posted a similarly titled recipe. I have pulled the post from the Ample Bites blog because it turned out not to be a recipe I could endorse. I published the recipe before actually cooking the dish myself, a mistake I will not repeat.

The best crab cake recipe I have found (and cooked) is from Emeril Lagasse. He also has a recipe for an accompanying remoulade that is an Ample Bites favorite. Please enjoy these “tried and true” recipes. I will post photos the next time I make these delicious crab cakes.

Emeril’s Crab Cakes

Serves 4

2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
½ cup mayonnaise
1 cup yellow onions, small dice
½ cup celery, small dice
¼ cup red bell peppers, small dice
¼ cup yellow bell peppers, small dice
1 Tbsp garlic, chopped
1 pound lump crabmeat, cleaned and picked over
¼ cup green onions, chopped
¼ cup Parmesan Reggiano cheese, grated
2 Tbsp parsley, finely chopped
3 Tbsp Creole mustard
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 egg
3 cups vegetable oil
½ tsp Worcestershire sauce
½ tsp Tabasco sauce
¼ cup all-purpose flour
3 Tsp Creole seasoning
1 ½ cups fine bread crumbs
1 Tbsp water
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a medium sauté pan, over medium, heat the olive oil. Add the onions, celery and peppers. Season with salt and pepper. Soften the vegetable for about 5 minutes until translucent. Add the garlic and continue to sauté for 2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and cool for 5 minutes.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine the crab meat, green onions, grated cheese, parsley, mustard, and the lemon juice. Mix to incorporate and set aside. Fold the vegetables into the crab mixture. Add the mayonnaise and ¾ cup of the breadcrumbs. Mix well.

In a shallow bowl, season the flour with 1 teaspoon of the Creole seasoning. In another bowl, whisk the remaining egg with the water. Finally, in a third bowl, combine the remaining breadcrumbs and 1 teaspoon Creole seasoning.

Portion the crab mixture into 1/3 cup balls. Form the balls into cakes in the seasoned flour. Dip the cakes in the egg wash, letting the excess drip off. Dredge the cakes in the seasoned breadcrumbs, covering the cakes completely. Place the cakes on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Heat 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat until the oil ripples. Gently lay the cakes in oil, two to four at a time depending on the size of the skillet, and fry for 4 minutes on each side, adding oil as needed.

Remove the cakes from the oil and drain on a paper towel-lined plate. Season the cakes with the remaining Creole seasoning and serve immediately.

Emeril’s Remoulade

Makes about 2 cups

1 cup mayonnaise
2 Tbsp Creole or whole-grained mustard
2 Tbsp ketchup
½ cup finely chopped green onions (green part only)
2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley leaves
2 Tbsp finely chopped celery
1 ½ tsp chopped garlic
1 tsp sweet paprika
1 tsp hot sauce
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a medium-size mixing bowl, combine the mayonnaise, mustard, letchup, green onions, parsley, celery, garlic, paprika, and hot sauce. Mix well, then season with salt and pepper.

Cover and chill for at least 2 hours before serving. Best when used within 24 hours.

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An Orange-infused Simply Asian Dinner

I adapted both of these orange-infused recipes from Simple Asian Meals cookbook by Nina Simonds using products from two of my favorite sources, Adoboloco, a Hawaiian hot sauce maker, and The Olive Mill, a local purveyor of quality olive oils and vinegars.

The prep time for both of these dishes combined is less than 30 minutes making this healthy Asian dinner combination perfect for a busy week night or a quick but elegant meal on a weekend.

Orange-Maple Salmon

Serves 4

1 ½ Tbsp orange zest
½ cup fresh orange juice
1 ½ Tbsp fresh lemon juice
¼ cup soy sauce
2 Tbsp maple syrup
1 ½ Tbsp minced fresh ginger
1 Tbsp Adoboloco jalapeno sauce (or other mild hot sauce)
1 Tbsp Olive Mill Blackberry Ginger balsamic vinegar
1 4 salmon steaks about 6 oz each
3 Tbsp olive oil, for oiling the grill

To make the Orange-Maple sauce: mix all of the ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat slightly and simmer for about 5 minutes. Pour half into a bowl and cool slightly. Keep the other half warm.

Arrange the salmon in one layer in a shallow pan, add the cooled sauce and turn the fish so all sides are coated. Cover with plastic wrap and marinate for not longer than 15 minutes.

Preheat the grill to medium-high temperature. Brush the grill with oil and arrange the salmon on the rack. Grill until the flesh is just opaque, about 6-7 minutes per side, brushing with the sauce from the pan. Carefully slide the fish off the grill and serve with the remaining warmed sauce spooned over the top.

Spicy Orange Fennel Slaw

Serves 4

2 fennel bulbs (about 1 ½ pounds)
3 large seedless oranges
¼ cup chopped cilantro

2 tsp chopped or grated orange zest
½ cup fresh orange juice
2 Tbsp minced fresh ginger
1 Tbsp Olive Mill Lemon Olive Oil
1 Tbsp Japanese rice vinegar
1 tsp Adoboloco Jalapeno Sauce (or other mild hot sauce)
1 Tbsp chopped garlic
1 ½ tsp sugar
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 ¼ tsp Kosher salt
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper

Trim the root end of the fennel bulbs and cut away the stalks and discard, reserving the fronds. Cut the fennel bulbs in half. Cut out the core and discard; cut the bulbs into very thin slices. Coarsely chop the fronds and set them aside.

Grate the zest and squeeze the juice of 1 orange, set aside. Peel the remaining 2 oranges cut away the white pith. Separate the orange sections and cut each section crosswise in half. Mix the fennel and orange sections with the chopped fennel fronds and the cilantro in a serving bowl.

Combine the zest, juice, ginger, oil, vinegar, garlic and seasoning in a bowl and mix thoroughly to create the dressing. Pour the dressing over the fennel and orange sections and toss lightly to coat. Cover and let sit or refrigerate to chill slightly before serving.

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Guy’s Night Dinner

Ample Bites thinks a guy’s night’s dinner must include steak and blue cheese. Tonight’s menu included a thick New York strip steak, a simple salad with blue cheese, and a baked potato with butter, blue cheese and sauteed mushrooms. Enjoy!

Perfect Grilled Steak

Serves 1

1 10 – 16 oz New York strip steak – warmed to room temperature
4 oz dry red wine
1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp Italian seasoning (dried oregano, basil, and thyme)
1 smashed garlic clove
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat grill to high heat, all burners.

Mix all ingredients in a small bowl or rimmed glass dish. Roll steak in marinade for up to 15 minutes.

Place steak on grill for 2 minutes to sear one side. Flip to second side and sear for 2 minutes. Sear edges for 30 seconds. Place steak back on the grill for 2 minutes and flip for 2 minutes on the other side for medium-rare. Remove the steak from the grill and let stand tented with foil of 3-7 minutes before serving.

Simple Salad with Aged Blue Cheese

Serves 1

1 handful of romaine, Boston bib, or escarole lettuce
1 small tomato, sliced
1 small red onion sliced
1/4 cup vinaigrette dressing
1/4 cup blue cheese, chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Place greens on plate and garnish with tomatoes, onion and blues cheese. Dress with vinaigrette and season to taste.

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Crawfish Pie – A True Southern Delicacy

Last summer a good friend of ours shared a Crawfish Pie recipe with Ample Bites. If you like shrimp, crab or crawfish you will thoroughly enjoy this recipe.

Crawfish Pie

Serves 4 to 6

2 uncooked pie doughs
8 Tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter
½ cup flour
1 cup diced onions
½ cup diced green pepper
½ cup diced celery
1 pound peeled crawfish tails
¼ cup chopped green onion
2 Tbsp chopped parsley
2 Tbsp Creole spice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Roll out half of pie dough and fit into a 9-inch pie plate; chill.

In a skillet melt butter, add flour and whisk into a paste. Cook roux for 5 minutes or until it begins to turn lightly golden. Add onions, pepper and celery. Cook, stirring, 4 minutes, until vegetables are tender. Add crawfish, green onions, parsley and seasoning. Cook just until heated through, about 1 minute more. Let cool slightly.

Roll out remaining pie dough to about 1/8-inch thick. Pour filling into pie shell and top with strips of the remaining dough. Crimp edges. Bake for 40 minutes, until crust is golden and filling is bubbling hot.

Serve immediately.

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The 2012 Ample Bites Vegetable Farm

The Ample Bites vegetablefarm” is ready for planting.

After seeing Thomas Keller’s garden plot directly across the street from The French Laundry in Yountville, California, his iconic Napa Valley restaurant, Sandy and I were impressed by the value of having an abundance of high-quality fresh produce ready to go from the ground to the kitchen and onto the table the same day.

Sandy has had a garden – or as she has called it a “farm” – for years. Initially her “farm” was next to our home. After a home addition made it difficult to find a place in the yard with enough space and suitable sunlight, the “farm” is now located in the communal garden plots that are operated by the St. Charles Park District. The basic plot of about 20 feet x 20 feet is rented for $25.00 from about the 1st week in April until October 31st. The James O. Breen Community Park, where the Ample Bites plot is located, is divided into a total of 233 plots. Many of the gardeners rent more than one plot and a handful of the regulars have had the same plots for more than a decade.

The Park District does an initial pass with a roto-tiller in late March or early April, which is enough to churn under the weeds that have grown up during the late fall and early spring. We have found that a couple hours of roto-tilling is necessary to get the soil ready for planting. Once the soil is tilled and weed barrier is in place, all we need is some warmer weather to start some of the heartier items like onions, potatoes, spinach, lettuce, peas, and beans.

The vegetable garden will, as always, be organic. No herbicides or pesticides will be used. Weed control is done initially by the weed barrier and then later by hand-pulling and mulching the weeds and grasses.

Next month the summer vegetables such as tomatoes, bell peppers, jalapeno peppers, Anaheim peppers will be planted once we are fairly certain we will not have any more frost. Frost can occur in the Chicago area as late as mid-May.

The initial photos of the “farm” are far from exciting. Once we have vegetables sprouting, blooming and producing fruit, you will see much more compelling images and, of course, dishes being prepared using the bounty of the “farm“.

Two Great Quick Tips

The May & June 2012 Cook’s Illustrated has two great Quick Tips that Ample Bites will begin using today.

The last two times I made pasta I completely forgot to reserve pasta water to finish the dish prior to serving. As a reminder to reserve pasta water Cook’s Illustrated recommend placing a measuring cup inside the colander you will use to drain the pasta. This will absolutely work … as long as you remember why you put the measuring cup there.

I also hate to imagine how many propane fuel tanks I have had refilled when still had a far amount of gas in them. Cook’s Illustrated recommends a method where you pour a cup of boiling water over the side of the tank and then feel the metal with your hand. Where the water has warmed the tank it is empty, where the tank remains cool to the touch there is still propane inside.

A Terrific Vegetable Side Dish

This rustic and hearty summer squash dish goes well with almost any entree. Ample Bites especially likes serving this dish with pork chops, chicken or salmon.

Grilled Summer Squash Parmesan
(Adapted from Rustic Italian, Domenica Marchetti)

Serves 4

4 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for greasing
2 cloves garlic, crushed flat but left whole
1 can diced tomatoes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
10 fresh basil leaves, torn into small pieces
2 lb yellow summer squash, trimmed and cut lengthwise into slices 1/3” thick
12 oz fresh mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced
¼ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

In a saucepan over medium-low heat, warm 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and ½ teaspoon salt, raise the heat to medium-high, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce has thickened, 25-30 minutes. Remove from the heat, remove and discard the garlic, and stir in about half of the basil. Set aside.

Preheat a gas grill to medium-high. Preheat the oven to 375F.

Put the squash on a baking sheet, drizzle with the remaining 3 tablespoons of the olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and toss to coat. Grill the squash, turning once, until lightly charred on both sides, 3-4 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate.

Lightly oil a large, shallow baking dish and spread about ¼ cup of the tomato sauce on the bottom. Arrange one-fourth of the squash in the dish. Top with one-third of the mozzarella slices and a few pieces of basil. Cover with another ¼ cup sauce. Make two more layers of squash, mozzarella, basil and sauce. Top with a final layer of squash and sauce and sprinkle with Parmigiano. Bake uncovered, until the juices are bubbling and the top has browned, about 35 minutes.

Serve immediately.

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