Monday, May 27, 2013

A Little Bit of Grilling - Chicken Kabobs

     Although I "retired" from teaching last year, about 10 weeks ago I found myself back at it - filling in for a friend who was unable to complete the year due to some physical problems.  The good thing about it is I am back at my old school, so I know the staff and students.  The bad thing is that teaching takes all day and is exhausting!  I have gotten involved with lots of fun volunteer stuff and I have still been trying to do that as well - which sure doesn't leave much time for cooking and blogging.  One fun thing I do is write for a local magazine.  I've been working on a story about grilling which will run in July.  I "interviewed" one of my coworkers for the story and he shared his secret for turning out juicy, yummy chicken kabobs.  He marinates the chicken in Greek salad dressing.  I whipped some dressing up and tried his method.  They are tangy and tasty! So I'm sharing this little bit of grilling now - enjoy!


Chicken Kabobs



For 8 Kabobs:

Four chicken breasts cut into large cubes, vegetables such as:  cherry tomatoes, yellow squash & zucchini slices, onion cut into eighths, colored bell peppers cut into squares, or mushrooms.  If you are using wooden skewers, soak them in water for at least 20 minutes.


For the Marinade:

Whisk together:

1/2 cup olive oil

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1 teaspoon oregano

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon lemon pepper

1/4 teaspoon dried marjoram

1 clove garlic, put through a press


Let the chicken cubes marinate in the dressing for about an hour. Remove them from the dressing and thread them on skewers alternating with the cut up vegetables.  Throw the marinade out.  Grill over medium heat for 15 minutes, turning once during that time.



Sunday, May 12, 2013

Argentine Alfajores - South American Sandwich Cookies

 This year, Allison has been doing a "Study Abroad" in Argentina and of course we were all excited to visit her.   Jenn was the first to go and when she came back she brought us some alfajores - a sweet snack that is as common in much of South America as Oreos are here - but a lot more delicious than a mass produced sandwich cookie.  Often served with a cup of cafe con leche (coffee with milk) these caramel filled treats are found everywhere:  individually wrapped in the little kiosk stores found on every street, in large packages in markets, in bakeries, and in cafes.  My favorite comes from a chain coffee shop named Havanah.  It is a chocolate alfajor dipped in white lemony chocolate.  Allison's favorites are the shortbread like variety rolled in shredded coconut.  When we went to see her this March, one of the places she took us was Libreria de Avila, Buenos Aires' oldest bookstore.  There I found a modern book, Cocineros Argentinos, filled with recipes from the Argentine version of Food Network.  I converted the two recipes listed below by changing grams into cups. Due to differences between US and Argentine flour, sugar, and butter - I wouldn't say these produce absolute athentic alfajores! However, they still taste very yummy and are just fabulous with a cup of coffee with milk!

Ingredients for Vanilla "Shortbread" Alfajores                    Ingredients for Chocolate Alfajores

1 3/4 cup corn starch                                                                  3/4 cup cornstarch
1 cup flour                                                                                    1 1/2 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder                                                         1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 cup butter                                                                                  1 1/4 cup butter
1 cup confectioner's sugar                                                         1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 eggs plus 2 egg yolks                                                               2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla                                                                     1/4 cup honey                                
1/2 teaspoon salt

Also needed is a can or two of prepared dulce de leche such as Nestle brand, a bit of powdered sugar, some shredded coconut, and a pound each of semi- sweet and white chocolate to melt and cover the sandwich cookies in. (I have used baking bars as well as just candy coating squares.)  Also nice is a pinch of lemon zest for the melted white chocolate and orange zest for the semi-sweet.

Directions for Both Types of Alfajores

Cream the butter and the sugar together.  Beat the eggs in one at a time.  Mix in any other liquid ingredient such as honey or vanilla if called for.  Then stir in the dry ingredients.

The dough will be soft and glossy. Chill it in the refrigerator for at least 1/2 hour.

Flour a wooden board or other surface to roll the dough out on.  Don't be afraid to use as much flour as you need - this dough is sticky!  And - it really doesn't even show up after baking - even on the chocolate ones.  Use a rolling pin to flatten it out or even your well floured hands; it's a bit difficult!

Roll the dough out to a little less than 1/4 inch thick, and use a small glass to cut out disks.
Place each disk on a parchment covered cookie sheet and bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 8 to 9 minutes. Don't let the "shortbread" cookies get brown.  Allow them to cool.

Then dress them up a bit with the dulce de leche, coconut, powdered sugar, and chocolates.

Pipe the dulce de leche filling on a cookie with a cake decorator or fill up a plastic baggie with dulche de leche and cut off one corner to squeeze it out, then top it with another cookie.

Sprinkle a bit of powdered sugar of top of a  chocolate alfajor or ...

Roll the side of a shortbread alfajor in shredded coconut.  The dulce de leche filling will make the coconut stick to the sides.

Place the semi-sweet and white chocolate in individual microwave safe bowls and one at a time microwave it for 30 seconds.  Stir and microwave again if necessary for 15 seconds.
Stir until completely melted. If using, stir the lemon zest in the white chocolate and the orange zest in the semi-sweet chocolate.

Dip the alfajor in the chocolate and allow the access to drip off.  Using a couple of forks helps to maintain control of the cookie!


Esta es una foto de Allison, Jennifer, y el novio de Allison, Lucas, en uno de los cafes de buenos aires

Friday, May 3, 2013

Grilled Caribbean Pork Tenderloin with Black Bean Mango Salsa


This Post was Featured on Foodista

 At some time or another, just about everyone wishes they had a rich uncle.  My friend Lolie  does and several years ago she shared his generousity with Roy and me.  She and her husband invited us and two other couples to travel to Jamaica and stay - for free - at her uncles's villa there.  The house was fabulous!  Situated on a hillside with a large infinity pool that overlooked the ocean below, it was breathtaking.  The grounds had an abundance of fruit bearing trees and brightly colored hibiscus flowers. A small trickling stream actually meandered through the center of the airy open design of the multiroom home. Yes, it was like being in paradise!  Especially since the house came with a staff to run it:  the laundress delivered our clean and pressed laundry to us on a silver tray, a butler attended to us during meals, and the cook produced scrumptuous dishes for us to sample. The butler would announce "Dinner is served" and we would be seated at a table set with crisp white linens, china, and crystal. The dining room's exterior wall could be opened in order to catch the warm ocean breeze.  It seemed we would linger there quite a wihile.  One of the foods I remember enjoying was meat rubbed with a spicy/savory/sweet blend of spices and then grilled.  My duplication really works well on grilled pork tenderloin and serving it with the tangy black bean mango salsa add a yummy zing!


Spice Rub for the Pork Tenderloin

1 teaspoon ginger

1 teaspoon paprika

1 teaspoon thyme

1 teaspoon fennel seed

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground mustard

1/2 teaspoon allspice

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 teaspoon Cayenne pepper

2 garlic cloves put through a press or finely minced

Mix all the ingredients together and rub it in to the meat.

Place the tenderloin on a hot grill and then reduce the heat to medium low.  Grill 10 minutes on each side.  Cook to internal temperature of 145 degrees and let it rest for five minutes before slicing.  Serve with Black Bean Mango Salsa.

Black Bean Mango Salsa

1 mango peeled and cubed

4 green onions sliced

1/4 cup chopped sweet red pepper

1 (15 oz.) can black beans, rinsed and drained

1/3 cup olive oil

1/6 cup sherry vinegar (or red wine vinegar)

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

Combine the mango, green onions, red pepper, and black beans in a bowl.  Whisk the olive oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, and garlic powder together.  Pour over the mango mixture and gently toss.