orzo with red cherries & basil

Summer produce is in full swing. We’re in that magical sweet spot where raspberries are bountiful, blackberries are just beginning to make an appearance, peaches are getting sweeter, nectarines are juicy, and there are even a few straggling strawberries left to be picked.

And then there are cherries. Sweet, juicy cherries with that gorgeous blood-red color that screams summer. But what to do with them that’s new and inventive? I recently had a mind-blowing orzo salad at my Aunt’s house that I couldn’t stop thinking about. I thought it would be fabulous with a few red cherries and tons of sweet basil. A savory use for cherries? It’s just what August ordered.

To make it, you’ll also need balsamic vinegar, olive oil, good quality grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese (throw that green can of Kraft out the window. Please.), and some pine nuts. Most better grocers carry orzo (a rice-shaped pasta) on the pasta aisle.

Bright red cherries are truly summer in a bowl.

And sweet basil? My favorite herb, hands down.

To begin, cook the orzo according to package directions. Drain and place in a heat-proof bowl.

Stir in the olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Let cool, then place in the refrigerator to chill.

Right before you’re ready to eat, pit the cherries and chop into sixths.

Chop the basil. Your kitchen will smell heavenly.

Toss the cherries, basil, pine nuts and cheese into the pasta. Stir, and adjust the seasonings to taste (I added a few pinches of salt and a little extra vinegar).

Serve. It’s such a pretty summer salad, and would be fantastic next to grilled pork, chicken or salmon.

So easy to make, so flavorful, so summery. Happy August!

Orzo with Red Cherries & Basil adapted from Bon Appetit      printable recipe

This summery pasta salad can be made in advance and pairs well with grilled pork, chicken or salmon. Prep time: 20 minutes Cook Time: 10 minutes plus time to refrigerate.

  • 1 lb orzo
  • 1/4 c olive oil
  • 1/4 c balsamic vinegar, plus more to taste
  •  1/2 lb red cherries
  • 2 oz basil to yield roughly 1/2 c chopped
  • 1/3 c grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese
  • 1/4 c pine nuts
  • salt and pepper to taste
1. Cook the orzo according to package directions. Drain well and place in a heat-proof bowl. Stir in the olive oil and balsamic vinegar, stir well and allow to cool. Cover and place in the refrigerator until chilled.
2. Pit the cherries and cut into sixths. Remove basil leaves from stems and chop.
3. Right before serving, toss the chilled orzo with the cherries, basil, cheese and pine nuts. Season to taste with salt and pepper and additional vinegar if desired.

chicken teriyaki

We don’t have a heck of a lot of fast food in Seattle. Most folks around here snub their noses at McDonald’s, Burger King and Arby’s (all for good reason, although I admit I occasionally indulge in the King’s chicken sangwich from time to time when I’m traveling). If we do have a signature “fast food” though, it’s surely teriyaki. Teriyaki joints in the Big Rainy are almost as frequent as coffee shops. I’ve yet to find one that’s spectacular, but most are passable and can provide you with a quick, somewhat healthy lunch. It’s cheap, filling, and satisfying.

But as is the case with most takeout, you can make it better at home. In fact, you can make great chicken teriyaki, and it’s easier than you think.

Start with boneless, skinless chicken thighs. You’ll get the best flavor from the organic, free-range variety. Since this is a very simple dish, the quality of chicken you buy really matters. Grab your favorite teriyaki sauce (I like Yoshida’s Original Gourmet Sauce—stay far away from Kikkoman), and a few cloves of garlic.

Mince the garlic. I like my handy dandy garlic twist. All you do is stick the naked cloves in…

…give it a twirl and your garlic is perfectly minced. Plus, no smelly garlic hands.

Stir the garlic in with the teriyaki sauce.

Rinse and pat dry your chicken thighs, then place them in a large Ziploc bag. Pour in the teriyaki marinade. Refrigerate for at least 6 hours, or up to 24.

When you’re ready to eat, grill the chicken for 3-4 minutes per side over medium heat. I always use thighs when I’m going to grill chicken—the higher fat content means they won’t dry out like breasts do.

Slice. Serve. Savor.

It’s your favorite takeout, but at home. With much more flavor. And probably cheaper. No need to visit that Teriyaki joint at the strip mall again.

-RDG

Chicken Teriyaki  printable yaki

The key to this simple dish is quality chicken and good teriyaki sauce. Buy organic, free-range chicken if you can. Serves 3-4 as a main course. 

Prep Time: 5 minutes       Marinating Time: at least 6 hours     Cook Time: 8 minutes

  • 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • 3/4 c teriyaki sauce
1. Rinse the chicken thighs. Pat dry and place in a large Ziploc bag.
2. Mince the garlic. Stir into the teriyaki sauce. Pour sauce over chicken, seal, and refrigerate for at least 6 hours, or up to 24 hours.
3. Preheat grill to medium. Grill chicken thighs for 3-4 minutes per side, or until no longer pink in the center. Serve with rice and vegetables.

 

 

bacon-wrapped jalapeno poppers

The best kinds of friends will show up at your doorstep with beer and dinner. They’ll bring homemade fresh pizza dough, cilantro, red onions, barbecue chicken and shredded cheese, and then proceed to amaze and delight you by cooking pizza on your grill. To tide you over while the miraculous pizza grilling is being performed, they will serve you jalapeno poppers.

I have the best kinds of friends. Not only did they come over and feed us freshly grilled BBQ chicken pizza (a post for another time—I’m still trying to master my pizza-grilling skills), but they also introduced me to the mother of all appetizers that I’ll be making from now until September.

Making your own poppers is easy. All you need is cream cheese, finely shredded jack (or motzerella, or cheddar—whatever your preference. You could even go a little crazy with blue or gorgonzola), fresh jalapenos, and regular-cut bacon (not thick-cut).

To begin, lop off the stems of those spicy peppers.

Slice lengthwise down the middle…

…and remove the seeds. I wear gloves when handling hot peppers because I’m the kind of woman who will *forget* that she just had her finger in a jalapeno and then use said finger to scratch my eye. I’m not the smartest cookie sometimes.

Mash together the cream cheese and the jack cheese.

Fill the jalapeno halves with the cream cheese mixture…

…and wrap each one with a half slice of bacon. Secure with a toothpick.

And now for the best part: fire up your grill to medium. I love these as a summer appetizer because there’s no running back and forth from the kitchen to the grill—it can all be done outside. Prep your poppers in the morning, refrigerate, and grill whenever your company shows up.

Grill for roughly 3-4 minutes per side. Don’t walk away from the grill for too long; that pesky bacon loves to spark grease fires.

Hand each guest their own little bowl of these and they will be smitten with you all evening. Or at least as long as the poppers hold out.

Cool cream cheese in a spicy jalapeno wrapped with salty, smoky bacon. Wash it down with a cold beer (or better yet, a salted margarita!) and you’ll be singing the Beach Boys all summer long.

-RDG

P.S. Thanks Ric & Tennille for 1) being amazeballs and 2) for introducing us to poppers and BBQ pizza. We love you more than bacon.

Bacon-Wrapped Jalapeno Poppers printable poppers

Makes 20 poppers. Prep Time: 25 minutes Cook Time: 8 minutes

  • 10 jalapeno peppers
  • 4 oz cream cheese, room temperature
  • 3/4 c finely shredded jack cheese
  • 10 slices bacon (regular-cut, not thick-cut), sliced in half widthwise
  • 20 toothpicks

1) Rinse and dry the jalapenos. Lop off the stems, then slice each one lengthwise down the middle. Remove the seeds.

2) Mix the cream cheese and jack cheese together with a fork. Fill each jalapeno half with some of the cream cheese mixture. Wrap each pepper with a half slice of bacon and secure with a toothpick.

3) Preheat gas grill to medium. Grill poppers for 3-4 minutes per side, until bacon is lightly browned. Serve immediately.

 

mom’s flank steak

When I think of comfort foods, my mind usually drifts towards creamy, warm foods: mac ‘n’ cheese, tomato soup, grilled cheese sandwiches, pot roast. But one of the most comforting meals I’ve ever had was on a rainy night when I was in college, and involved, of all things, steak.

I had been through a rough week; final exams, a hectic work schedule, and had just broken up with my boyfriend. My parents, sensing that I was on the brink, invited me over for dinner and to spend the night in my old bed. I had never been so happy to go home.

I drove from my neighborhood to theirs in the pouring rain, my crappy windshield wipers in need of replacement and clouding the car into a blurry cocoon. I pulled into the driveway to the smell of the barbecue, a peculiar smell for a cold, wet December evening. Over red wine, my father’s Caesar salad and tender bites of my mother’s juicy medium-rare flank steak, I relayed the events of the week and cried my eyes out. That night, I curled up in the bed of my childhood and slept more soundly than I had in months.

My mother’s flank steak will always be a comfort food for me, and it has become a regular meal in our house. I’ll buy a pack of steaks when a good sale arises, marinate them and store in the freezer for whenever we feel like grilling. Her marinade is perfect: salty, the slightest bit sweet, chock-full of garlic and herbs, tangy with citrus. You must try it for yourself.

The ingredients are simple: soy sauce, vegetable oil (canola or olive oil work fine too), freshly ground pepper, garlic, lemon, garlic salt, and lots of fresh parsley.

Not only does the marinade tenderize the meat, but my mom doubles up and uses a meat tenderizer before placing the steak in the marinade. This insures that without a doubt, the steak will fall apart on your plate. We like the unseasoned variety, available for just a few dollars on the spice aisle.

Begin by chopping the parsley and mincing the garlic.

In a bowl stir together the soy sauce, parsley, minced garlic, garlic salt, oil, and pepper.

Squeeze in the lemon juice.

See that bracelet? Lucy got us matching ones for mother’s day. If I’m caught without it I face the wrath of a two year old.

After the meat has been tenderized, place it in a large Ziploc freezer bag and pour in the marinade. Squish it around to make sure the meat is evenly coated.

Marinate for at least 24 hours, and when you’re ready grill for 6-7 minutes per side over medium heat.

I like to throw some asparagus on the grill while I’m at it, lightly brushed with olive oil and seasoned with sea salt and pepper.

Let the steak rest under aluminum foil for 5 minutes before slicing. Eat. Savor. Repeat.

What’s your most memorable comforting meal?

xo

-RDG

Mom’s Flank Steak click here for the handy dandy printable

While you’re at it, marinate a few steaks and place in the freezer. Defrost whenever you feel like firing up the grill! Serves 3-4.

Prep Time: 10 minutes Marinade Time: at least 24 hours Cook Time: 14 minutes

  • 1 flank steak (1-1 1/2 lbs)
  • meat tenderizer
  • 1/3 c fresh chopped parsley
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 c vegetable oil
  • 1/4 c soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp. garlic salt
  • several turns freshly ground pepper

1. Wet steak and sprinkle with meat tenderizer. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour.

2. Stir together parsley, garlic, oil, soy sauce, lemon juice, garlic salt and pepper. Place steak and marinade in a large freezer bag. Refrigerate at least 24 hours* or up to 3 days, turning halfway through marination.

3. Preheat grill to medium. Grill steak for 6-7 minutes per side for medium-rare, longer for medium or medium-well. Let rest 5 minutes under aluminum foil before thinly slicing and serving.

*If freezing steak, let marinate in the refrigerator for at least 1 day first before placing in freezer.