All of those summer projects that I plan in the spring seem to have a way of holding themselves over and turning into fall projects. Including any goals I had of blogging right through summer.
So, with one week of school under our belt and one kid driven 2000 miles away and deposited at college (and another to leave on a mission to Germany in a few weeks), I am finally getting a chance to sit at the computer.
Grilling is one of our favorite ways to cook during warm weather months. I have one child in particular who especially loves it when “soup” on the menu plan get replaced with “grill”. (How anyone can dislike an entire category of food, “soup”, is still beyond my comprehension)
Shish-Kabobs are a little more work than normal grilling, but they can be marinated early in the day, or the day before, and then assembled just before cooking.
You can thread meat and vegetables together on the skewers, or separate them. I like how they look all threaded together, but it is easier to keep your veges from getting overcooked while waiting for your chicken to cook through if you cook meat and vegetables on separate skewers.
Asian Chicken Shish-Kabobs
Boneless chicken, cut into 1” cubes
Red/green peppers, diced
Yellow squash, diced
Onions, cut into large chunks
Fresh Pineapple chunks, optional
Hot steamed rice (white or brown)
1 cup soy sauce
½ cup water
2 Tbs vinegar (I use rice vinegar)
2 Tbs oil
2 Tbs honey (or 10 drops liquid stevia)
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tsp grated fresh gingerroot
¼- ½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
If using bamboo skewers, soak skewers in water for 30 minutes.
Combine all marinade ingredients. Place chicken and vegetables (everything except for pineapple) in two separate containers. Pour marinade over chicken and vegetables, using half of marinade for each. Do not marinate pineapple. Let sit at room temperature 30 minutes, or refrigerate for several hours or overnight. Just before putting onto skewers, stir pineapple into container with vegetables.
Drain marinade from vegetables (not chicken!) into a Pyrex measuring cup. Set aside. Discard marinade from chicken.
Place chicken, vegetables and pineapple on skewers. Grill or broil until chicken is cooked through.
Microwave reserved marinade from vegetables until it begins to boil. Serve kabobs with hot marinade and rice.
For Book Group this month we read Wild Swans, by Jung Chang, which chronicles the lives of a family of 3 generations of women in modern day China, It is an amazing look at the history of modern China and the rise of Communism under Mao Zedong. As I was hosting this month, I made this Chinese Vegetable Lo Mein, Chinese Almond Cookies and Homemade Fortune Cookies (I will share these recipes later).
This Lo Mein recipe is adaptable to a wide variety of vegetables and can be made with or without chicken (or other cooked meat). I served it cold, but it can also be served hot. When I am making this for a main dish, I usually serve it hot with both chicken and vegetables. When serving it as a side dish, I usually make it with just vegetables and serve it cold.
This time I used broccoli, asparagus, sliced carrots, red pepper, snow pea pods, and green onions. I like to slightly blanch the broccoli and asparagus by placing them in a large colander and pouring the hot cooked noodles and water over the broccoli and asparagus in the colander. Then rinse immediately with cold water to cool the noodles and vegetables. The other vegetables I leave raw and stir into the cold noodles with the sauce.
When I am serving it hot, I like to lightly sauté all of the vegetables until crisp-tender and then add the sauce and noodles to the skillet.
I prefer to use Chinese noodles, usually labeled Chow Mein or Lo Mein, but I have also used regular packaged linguine or spaghetti.
Chinese Vegetable (and/or Chicken) Lo Mein
1 lb dried Chinese lo mein or chow mein noodles (or use packaged linguine)
1 Tbs sesame oil
1-2 cups cooked, chopped chicken (optional)
1-2 cups chopped raw vegetables (broccoli, asparagus, thin sliced carrots, snow peas, green beans, sliced mushrooms, green onions)
½ cup chicken broth
¼ cup soy sauce
3 Tbs Hoisin sauce
1 Tbs rice vinegar
1 Tbs sesame oil
1 Tbs honey
½ Tbs cornstarch
½ tsp chili paste (or more to taste)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp minced fresh ginger
FOR COLD NOODLES: Combine sauce ingredients in a small saucepan and heat until sauce begins to boil. Stir and cook for 1-2 minutes, or until sauce begins to thicken. Cool slightly while noodles cook.
Chop vegetables. If using, place broccoli, asparagus and/or green beans in the bottom of a large colander. Cook noodles according to package directions. Pour cooked noodles and water into the colander with the vegetables (to lightly blanch these vegetables). Rinse with cold water until cool; drain well. Transfer to a large serving bowl. Stir 1 Tbs sesame oil into noodles and vegetables. Add remaining raw chopped vegetables and cooked chicken. Stir sauce into noodles. Refrigerate until cold. Serve cold.
FOR HOT NOODLES: Cook noodles according to package directions. Drain and stir 1 Tbs sesame oil into noodles. Set aside.
In the pot that you cooked the noodles, heat 1 Tbs vegetable oil. Lightly sauté chopped vegetables until barely crisp-tender. Add cooked chicken and heat through. Stir together sauce ingredients and pour over chicken and vegetables in the skillet. Cook for 1-2 minutes, or until slightly thickened. Add noodles to pot and stir to combine. Serve immediately.
Surprisingly, cauliflower is one vegetable that everyone in our house loves doesn’t complain about when it shows up on the table. We especially enjoy this roasted cauliflower, flavored with garlic and a little lemon and garnished with toasted pine nuts and chopped fresh parsley.
Garlic Roasted Cauliflower
¼ cup pine nuts
1 head of cauliflower, cut into small florets
6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 Tbs olive oil
2 Tbs melted butter
½ tsp kosher salt
¼ tsp ground black pepper
¼ cup minced fresh parsley
½ Tbs freshly squeezed lemon juice
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with foil. Spread pine nuts in a single layer on the baking sheet. Bake at 350°F for 3-5 minutes, or until toasted (watch carefully-pine nuts burn quickly). Remove pine nuts from baking sheet and set aside.
Increase oven temperature to 475°F. In a Ziploc bag or bowl, combine cauliflower florets, garlic slices, olive oil and butter. Toss until well coated. Spread cauliflower onto baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper. Roast at 475°F for 20 minutes, or until tender. Toss cooked cauliflower with parsley, lemon juice and reserved pine nuts. Taste and add additional salt, if desired.
Recipe adapted from Barefoot Contessa
Green beans are one vegetable that everyone at our table will eat. That and broccoli. So I try to change up the presentation every now and again, so that it doesn’t look like we are eating the same vegetable every night. This is a simple to prepare side dish that pleases even my picky eater (she’s the one helping out below!).
Start with enlisting the help of someone to wash and snap your fresh beans (even if she won’t look at you when you are holding a camera).
Wash beans and put into a pan with a small amount of salted water.
Cover and cook until just barely crisp-tender. Drain beans and set aside. In the same pan, melt 1 Tbs butter. Add about 2 Tbs sliced or slivered almonds.
Cook, stirring constantly, for about 2 minutes. Sprinkle almonds with a small amount of garlic powder. Continue cooking (and stirring) until garlic powder just begins to brown (don’t overcook). Add beans back to the pan and stir to reheat.
Green Beans with Toasted Garlic Almonds
1 lb fresh green beans
1 Tbs butter
2 Tbs sliced or slivered almonds
Wash and snap beans. Place in a pot with a small amount (about ¾ cup) of salted water. Cover and cook until just barely crisp-tender. Drain and set aside.
In the same pan, melt 1 Tbs butter. Add about 2 Tbs sliced or slivered almonds. Cook, stirring constantly, for about 2 minutes. Sprinkle almonds with a small amount of garlic powder. Continue cooking (and stirring) until garlic powder just begins to brown (don’t overcook). Add beans back to the pan and stir to reheat.
This is the side dish that accompanied the Grilled Peruvian Chicken Thighs.
Asparagus is great on the grill, just be careful not to overcook it, or to let it fall through the grill slats.
This is a simple recipe for grilling vegetables. In a large Ziploc bag, combine olive oil, garlic, fresh lemon thyme (other good herbs to use: fresh rosemary, oregano, basil, Thai basil, cilantro, sage) and salt & pepper. I leave the garlic cloves whole, but then smash them somewhat while they are in the bag with the olive oil. Add washed and trimmed asparagus. To know where to trim your asparagus: hold a stalk in your hand and start to bend it near the bottom. The asparagus end will snap off at the perfect spot. No more tough ends!
Let asparagus sit in the marinade at room temperature for 30-60 minutes for best flavor. (It can also be cooked right away if you are short on time; the garlic just will not be as infused into the oil).
Remove asparagus from oil and place on a hot grill, turned to low (for gas grills). I like to grill the garlic as well, but I do often lose some through the grates. You could use a grill screen to avoid this. Grill 5-7 minutes, depending on the temperature of your grill. Watch them carefully, turning often.
This is also great with fresh zucchini. The zucchini in our garden overproduced this year, while our tomatoes were sadly underperforming. But now, the only things left in the garden are the green tomatoes that never ripened. I need to pick those today before I lose them to frost! Maybe some Green Tomato Salsa.
Grilled Asparagus with Garlic & Lemon Thyme
1 bunch asparagus
2-3 Tbs olive oil
4-5 garlic cloves, whole or crushed
2 Tbs fresh lemon thyme (or other fresh herb)
¼ tsp coarse sea salt
¼ tsp fresh ground black pepper
Combine asparagus with oil, herb and seasonings in a Ziploc bag. Marinate 30-60 minutes at room temperature for best flavor. Cook 5-7 minutes on a hot grill (turned to low, for gas grills), turning often.