Thursday, June 30, 2011

Soup to Nuts. Actually, Halibut or Pork Chops with Pesto, Rice Salad, Grilled Vegetables

Prepare yourself.  This is an insanely long post.  Here's a picture of the result, just as a little teaser...

My mom loves my blog - but she wants more.  More than just one recipe for one dish.  And she doesn't want to search around my blog picking and choosing, she wants me to do the work for her.  And I guess since she raised me, and I guess since I spent umpteen years yelling for her to please bring me a glass of water/sandwich/cookie/toast when she was folding laundry in the basement and I was watching TV in the family room which was three steps from the kitchen, I might owe this to her.

So, Mom, this post's for you.

I love to make my dad fish for dinner because my mom is either allergic to or dislikes most all creatures from the sea and so, obviously, rarely cooks anything fishy for him at home.  On Father's day this year I bought a lovely piece of Halibut from the fish market, as well as some really gorgeous pork chops for my mom and my girls.  My husband, the other dad at the table, was planning on having a little of both.  It was win win for everyone.

Here's what I did -

First, made a bit of pesto.  This I did on Saturday because we were having our friends Mark and Barry over and Mark has made it clear that he just might love my pesto a little more than he loves me - which is ok because my pesto is freakin' good, if I say so myself.  If you click on the words pesto in this or the above sentence, you will come to my recipe for both pesto and pork chops with pesto.  OR you can make it the way I made it last Saturday - because I seem to make pesto differently every time.

1 to 2 cloves of garlic
1 large bunch of basil - cleaned and stemmed
1 large bunch of parsley - cleaned
zest of 1 lemon
juice of 1/2 a lemon (or to taste)
juice of 1/2 a lime (or to taste)
1/8 cup of freshly grated parmesan
1/8 cup of freshly grated pecorino romano
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil - (or more, just splash it in until it is the consistency you like)
sea salt and pepper to taste.

whir the garlic, basil and parsley (use the parsley stems - they have flavor which I learned from watching PAULA DEEN on the food network - I believe it is required to write her name in all caps) and the lemon zest and juices in your food processor or blender.  Add the cheese, whir it up again.  With the motor running, slowly add the olive oil until it is at the right consistency.  Give it a taste and add pepper but only add salt if it's absolutely necessary.

On Sunday morning -  I rubbed this pesto all over the chops and put them back in the fridge.  If I'd had my wits about me, I'd have done this Saturday, however my wits were not about whatsoever and were probably taking a much needed holiday with a gin & tonic out behind the shed.  (The children are on summer break, need I say more...)

Also on Sunday morning,  I cooked a batch of basmati rice for the rice salad I wanted to serve at dinner.  I always cook rice the same way - I think most people have their own fail safe rice recipe - but if you don't - this is mine:

  • boil 2 cups of water, add a tablespoon of oil or butter and 1 cup of  rice, cover your pot, turn it down and simmer for 15 min.  Turn the heat off, DON'T TOUCH THE POT, let the rice sit covered for 10 min or more.  Open up the pot and fluff with a fork.
When the rice was done, but while it was still hot, I added 1/2 cup of frozen peas and half of my vinaigrette.  This is important, because you want the peas to unfreeze, but not to cook, and you want your vinaigrette to be absorbed by the still warm rice. 

Here's the vinaigrette I used - it was the same one I used for my last post (back to the farmer's market - click on the link) - I used marjoram for  the herb.  Then I refrigerated the rice.

My mom and dad came over around 5ish, and we all sat around and outside getting eaten by mosquitos until we couldn't stand it no more - and then every one went in and my husband fired up the kettle grill.  I have to say, right now, that he is becoming the master firemaker.  It is an art form and a beautiful thing to see.  He banks most of the heat on one side of the grill so there's a hot side and a cool side, and he's my hero for that.  I sliced two zucchini lenghtwise, trimmed my spring onions, and cut the peppers in half tossed all of it in olive oil, and grilled them first while the fire was very hot.  

Meanwhile, I slathered my beautiful halibut with my pesto and let it, and the chops sit out a while so they could come to room temperature.

Took the veg off the grill, sprinkled them with this pear/balsamic vinegar that I bought last month at Garces Trading Co. and let them sit.

Ran back inside, chopped up some basil and cherry tomatoes and parsley and tossed all that into my now cold rice salad.  Poured the remainder of my lemon vinaigrette over it.  Tossed it.  Tasted it.  Added a pinch or two of sea salt and a bit more pepper.

Back outside, I put my pork chops on the grill - on the side without the heat - 5 min a side because they were rather thick.   Then 1 min on each side over the very hottest part of the grill to get the good grill marks.  Pork goes on a platter to rest covered with foil while ...

... Finally -cook the halibut.  You have to clean the grill first with a crumpled up piece of foil because if anything at all is on your grill the fish will stick and that's the end of it.  Use your tongs and rub the grill with the foil, then wad up as many paper towels as you can stand to use and oil the grill.  Then oil the fish, even though it's already smeared with pesto - 

I grilled the flesh side for about a minute - then flipped it and grilled it another 7 or 8 min on the skin side.  By this time the fire was much cooler, so I grilled the fish pretty close to the coals.

Whew.  Fish rice salad, grilled vegetables.  Happy Dad, Happy Husband/Father of my children.  Both girls and their Nana happily gnawing on pork chops - It was all good.

Ice cream for dessert - got my Dad's favorite - butter pecan - everyone else got chocolate.  

Friday, June 17, 2011

Back to the Farmer's Market!

Beautiful beets at the farmer's market last week.  I think they were called bullseye beets because they were crimison on the outside, but white like radishes on the inside with a little red bullseye when you cut them in half.  I cut them up tossed them in sea salt and olive oil and threw them on the grill along with some tender broccolini - then I dressed the whole thing up in lemony vinaigrette. Here are the results:

This is a truly terrible picture, out of focus and you can't really see how beautiful the beets and broccoli looked together. Dang.

I love the vinaigrette I make.  I can eat it by the spoonful.  Or if I have fresh bread, by the loaf-ful.

Throw a crushed or minced garlic clove in the bottom of a measuring cup.  If you happen to have been to Trader Joe's recently, and they have this:
...then you are in luck my friend.  I love this stuff - it's pre-crushed garlic in these little squares that you keep in the freezer and you plonk into whatever you happen to be making - such as vinaigrette.  

On top of the garlic, spoon some dijon or a nice grainy country mustard - anywhere from a tsp to a tblsp - depending on your taste.  Grate in a bit of lemon rind, then squeeze in half the lemon.  Chop some herbs - tarragon is good - I am growing thyme and marjoram in my sad little garden (yes, the one with the one with the very hungry caterpillar eating my fennel - as pictured below) which is what I threw in my vinaigrette. (Left the caterpillar outside.  It's still eating my fennel.)

Stir your ingredients all around with a baby whisk or a fork.  Pinch in some salt and pepper.  Add about 1/4 cup of sherry vinegar then 1/4 to 1/2 cup of olive oil.  I like my vinaigrette on the tangy side. You can play around with the lemon juice too.  Add more salt and pepper if you need to as well.
there's my cute baby whisk!
Pour it all on top of what ever you like, salad, a steak fresh from the grill, roasted potatoes, or, in this case some still crispy beets and brocollini hot off the grill.

I promise, this vinaigrette will make you so happy you won't care about the garlic breath you'll have the next day.

Well, this has been a long way of saying I'm so glad the Farmer's Market is back in business for the season.