A few of my biggest cooking fears include serving a “fresh-off-the-cow” steak, raw chicken or an undercooked burger.
I’m obviously no meat cook. My average weekday meal consists of an assortment of seasonal fruits and veggies, a variety of cheeses (thanks to Trader Joe’s) and eggs served in any form. On the weekends, my meals are usually determined by what I’m making for the blog the upcoming week and what restaurant my friends want to try next. So in prep for this recipe, I had to to my fair share of actual research on the web. No calling my brother Michael for his advice on this one.
But, what better way to overcome these fears by facing them head-on … then write about my cooking blunders for the whole internet world to read?
The cherry glaze was the easy part. I pitted my cherries using the paperclip method (a pretty simple, yet incredibly messy process… I imagine if I was watching Dexter rather than the World Cup finals, my cherry-stained hands would have made for quite the sight).
I had plans to cook the pork chops on our new charcoal grill, but was recently informed that charcoal grills are not allowed in Los Angeles apartments because, I’m assuming, air pollution and fire risk. Ever the improviser, I decided to quickly sear the pork chops on the stove then transfer them to the oven to finish cooking. Though I still ended up with an apartment full of smoke (guess baking didn’t do anything to prevent the air pollution. Oops!), the pork chops baked perfectly and were a hit. I completed the dish with herbed corn.
1-2 Jalapenos, depending on how spicy you like the glaze
1 Cup of Cherries
1 of Water
½ Cup of Sugar
3 Tbsp. of White Wine Vinegar
½ Cup of Water, on reserve
Rinse and thoroughly pat dry jalapenos and cherries. Pit cherries and add them to a medium-sized saucepan.* Dice the jalapenos and add them to the cherry pot. Add 1 cup of water, the sugar and white wine vinegar to the saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Once the mixture starts to bubble, lower the heat, stirring occasionally until the mixture starts to thicken. Allow mixture to cook for approximately 40-50 minutes then remove from heat. If the mixture should start to look like jelly or candied cherries, add the ½ cup of water to bring it back to a glaze consistency.
*Note: After removing the stem, I scored the top of the cherry and used the paperclip method to remove the pit. Though a messy process, I found that scoring the cherry made it easier to remove the pit.
Pork Chops (cooking tips from the kitchn)
2 Medium Pork Chops
3 Cups of Cold Water
3 Tbsp. of Salt
2 Cloves of Garlic, minced
1 Tbsp of Dried Rosemary or Other Herbs , optional
To create the brine, boil half of the water, salt, garlic and herbs until the salt dissolved completely. Remove from heat and pour into a deep dish (at least 4 inches). Add the rest of the cold water to bring the liquid back down to room temperature.* Submerge pork chops in brine for at least 30 minutes. This prevent meat from drying out while cooking.
After 30 or more minutes, remove the pork chops from the brine. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and place a large pan on high on the stove. Make sure that the pan is extremely hot and lightly greased before searing one side of the pork chops for 3 minutes. When it comes time to flip the meat, flip the chops onto a greased pan. Drizzle the spicy-cherry glaze over the meat, and place in the oven to cook for 6-10 minutes or until the inside of the chops reaches at least 140 degrees. Remove from the oven and serve.
Makes two servings.
*Note: It’s important to make sure that your brine is at room temperature before you add the pork chops. Otherwise you may prematurely cook your meat.
2 Ears of Corn
Fresh Herbs (I used Rosemary, Thyme and Oregano)
Thoroughly clean, rinse and dry corn. Using foil, wrap corn with butter and fresh herbs. Cook on a baking sheet at 400 degrees for 10-15 minutes. Carefully unwrap and serve.
Makes two servings.
This past weekend was my friend Ana’s birthday. Cathy and I actually made her this beautiful vanilla cake with mascarpone buttercream icing and strawberries….but unfortunately we ran into a few disasters in the process and ended up not having enough time to take pictures. Guess we’ll have to make it again! What I did have time to take pictures of was the Mediterranean Orzo Salad I brought. This salad is my go-to potluck dish because 1) it’s a crowd pleaser 2) it’s super easy to make and 3) I love Mediterranean flavors.
Most people would make such a dish with feta, however despite loving all cheeses, feta certainly isn’t my favorite. I decided goat cheese is Mediterranean enough, and it really turned out well. Kalamata olives and goat cheese both have very strong flavors, but are well-complimented by the more subtle basil leaves and sundried tomatoes for a perfect flavor blast in every bite. It was definitely a hit at the party- so much so that those who had a few beverages were digging in with spoons by the end of the day. It was the perfect side dish for a perfect Los Angeles day at the pool. I heart summertime.
Mediterranean Orzo Salad
1 Package Orzo Pasta (16 oz)
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 Jar of Kalamata Olives (10 oz)
1 Package Sun Dried Tomatoes (3 oz)
1/2 Red Onion
15 Large Basil Leaves
1 Package Crumbled Goat Cheese (3.5 Oz)
Chop the ingredients: Dry the kalamata olives with a paper towel and cut them in half. Chop red onion into small pieces. Rinse and chop basil leaves. Set all of these aside.
Cook the orzo pasta according to the directions on the packaging. As soon as the orzo is done, drain and mix in the olive oil to prevent orzo from sticking. Let cool until room temperature. Mix in olives, sun dried tomatoes, red onion, basil, and goat cheese. Serve chilled.
On Tuesday, Marta and I decided to try our hand at barbecuing, and once again it turned out to be quite the story. If you remember, the last time I tried to barbecue, I ended up with soot all over my arms and a mild case of smoke inhalation. So after much debating, we decided to give our charcoal grill another try… this time with lighter fluid. (We chose an odorless lighter fluid with less preservatives in efforts to be as natural as possible. One day we will succeed at lighting the coals without fluid, but alas, we are no grilling masters … yet).
We followed the instruction on the lighter fluid to the letter, yet the coals refused to light. So again, I checked in with my brother for grilling tips. Excerpts of our phone and text conversation went something like the following:
Me: “The coals refuse to catch on fire. We used lighter fuel and everything.”
Michael: “Did you put the lid on the grill? You shouldn’t do that since it can choke the fire.”
and later over text when I sent him a picture of our grill:
Michael: “You have too few coals … You have barely enough to even cover the bottom with a single layer of charcoal. That means the fire will not be hot enough and probably burn out too quickly.”
Me: “Oh, so add more then?”
So while obviously you can tell I’m no grilling expert, we managed to get quite a nice burn going… and it only took us a little over an hour!
That night, we feasted on wonderful homemade burgers (Marta’s special recipe) topped spicy peach salsa. I love this salsa because it combines the best of what’s in season into the perfect, fresh summer salsa. Marta and I ended up eating most of the salsa with chips while we waited for our grill to light, but it pairs perfectly with a juicy burger and IPA.
Spicy Peach Salsa
2 Yellow Peaches
2 Medium Limes
2 Mint Sprigs
Finely dice peaches, jalapeño and mint. Squeeze limes* into the peaches and mix.
*Note: Roll the limes against a hard surface before squeezing to help release the juices.
Happy Fiesta Friday everyone!
Mac and Cheese is definitely one of my childhood favorites. This rendition is a healthier adult-friendly version, made with cauliflower instead of macaroni. (Note that it’s still not 100% healthy since it’s super cheesy!). It was so good that I don’t see any reason going back to regular mac and cheese when you get get some vegetable nutrients into this meal instead of gluentous, starchy carbohydrates. Because cauliflower is so light compared with pasta, you get all the cheesy goodness of mac and cheese but don’t feel as heavy afterwards; win-win situation in my book. Cauliflower is also in season right now, and I can’t wait to try this recipe with one of the bright purple cauliflowers I have been seeing at the farmes market lately…although the colors might look a little strange together.
Cauliflower “Mac” and Cheese
1 Head of Cauliflower, rinsed and cut into florets
2 Tbsp Butter
3 Tbsp All-purpose Flour
2 Cups Non-fat Milk
2 Cups Cheddar Cheese, Grated
2 Eggs Yolks
1 Cups Fresh Breadcrumbs (try these Homemade Croutons crushed!)
Pre-heat oven to 350 Deg F. Bring a large pot of water to boil, add salt. Boil cauliflower florets for 5-7 minutes, or until slightly tender. Drain the cauliflower, but keep 3/4 Cup of the boiled water and set aside.
Melt the butter in the same pot, and whisk in flour until smoothly combined, about one minute. Add milk and reserved cooking liquid, and continue to stir until the mixture thickens, around 7-10 minutes. Remove the mixture from heat and stir in cheese and egg yolks, until fully combined. Fold in cauliflower florets.
Transfer mixture to an oven-safe dish, spreading the cauliflower mixture evenly in the dish. Sprinkles bread crumbs on the top of the mixture. Bake for around 30 minutes, or until golden brown on the top.
Happy 4th of July blogging friends! Today, Hailey and I plan on fighting the traffic to the beach for an early potluck picnic with a few of our closest friends, before we make our way to a downtown rooftop party to watch fireworks. Doesn’t that sound like the perfect way to spend a Friday?
In honor of America’s independence, the girls of A La Main have shared a few of our summertime favorites. I hope you enjoy this meal as much as we did.
This salad has become a favorite of mine. I was first introduced to a something similar a few months ago at a work lunch meeting, and boy, I was hooked. I could NOT wait to go home and recreate the flavors.
I think what I love most about this salad is how well all the tastes flow with each other. The sweetness of the strawberries nicely contrast the slight tartness of the balsamic glaze, and the creamy honey goat cheese helps temper the peppery bitterness of the arugula. It’s easy to see why it’s become my main go-to workplace lunch and one of my summertime faves.
Hailey and I decided to pack these salads in mason jars for ease of transport for our beach picnic. Don’t they just look gorgeous!
Strawberry-Arugula Salad (inspired by Martha Stewart)
12 Oz of Arugula
1 Cup of Strawberries
½ Block of Honey Goat Cheese (from Trader Joe’s)
Dash of Salt & Pepper
Balsamic Glaze (from Trader Joe’s)
4 Large Mason Jars
Rinse and thoroughly dry arugula. Divide into four and place even amounts into each mason jars. Rinse, dry and slice strawberries. Add strawberries, honey goat cheese, and salt and pepper to the arugula. When it comes time to serve salad, drizzle balsamic glaze on the salad, close the jar lid and shake to fully toss the salad.
Makes 4 servings.
Marta and I have been toying with the idea of buying a grill for a while now. For the last few months, my mind was filled with romantic visions of all of the burgers, kabobs and grilled corn we would eat. One little problem: I’ve never grilled anything by myself before. So when we decided to order a little tabletop charcoal grill (our balcony is on the smaller side), I did my fair share of “research.” And by research, I mean I checked in with my brother–a self-proclaimed grilling master. Michael can talk for hours on the best way to stack coals, form a burger patty, the optimal fat-to-meat ratio for grilling and how to light coals without using the chemical-filled lighter fluid.
So when it came down to lighting our grill, I thought I was set. We opted to go the sans-lighter fluid route because: 1) it’s more natural and, 2) who wants to taste lighter fluid when they bite down into a nice, juicy chicken leg?
If only I gained grilling skills by association… I failed miserably at lighting the coals! After several lame attempts, smoke inhalation and arms covered with coal soot, I decided to do what I do best: improvise. One day I’ll learn to use the grill, but today, I present baked beer-marinated chicken.
Beer-Marinated Chicken (lightly inspired by Picture the Recipe)
6 Organic Chicken Legs
1 Bottle of Beer (I used Lagunitas Day Time Ale)
1/4 of a Red Onion, minced
1/4 of a Yellow Onion, minced
2 Cloves of Garlic, minced
Handful of Fresh Parsley
1/2 Tbsp Red Pepper Flakes
Dash of Salt and Pepper
In a large bowl, mix together both onions, the juice from one lime, garlic, parsley, red pepper flakes, and salt and pepper. Stir around 1 cup of your beer into the bowl.* Rinse and pat dry the chicken legs and add them to the marinade. Let the chicken legs refrigerate in the marinate for at least one hour, occasionally checking on them to re-douse the legs with the beer marinade.
*Note: If you want to taste test your marinade, this is your last shot. Do not try the marinade after you add the raw chicken, or else risk salmonella poisoning.
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
After you marinate the chicken, oil a large baking sheet and place chicken legs on the sheet. Place sheet on the top rack in the oven and allow to bake for ~30 minutes or until the chicken is cooked but still pink inside. Remove the chicken from the oven, pour the remaining beer over the chicken, put the oven on the broil setting at 400 degrees and place the chicken back in the oven for 10-15 minutes to brown. Watch your chicken as to not over burn it.
For the last installment of our picnic trilogy: peach collins.
I really wanted to make something that would take advantage of all the great stone fruits we’ve had this season…and what better way than a peach collins? As I was researching how to make the drink, I came to realize that this is not an authentic peach collins. Traditionally, collins are: 1) made with gin (I made mine with vodka), 2) freshened with lemon juice (I had limes on hand) and 3) served in a collins glass (I only have stemless wine glasses).
Regardless of its official moniker, the not-really-a-peach-collins is a hit in my book!
Peach Collins (adapted from DIY-Cocktails)
3 Ounces of Vodka
2 Ounce of Peach Simple Syrup*
1 Ounce of Lime Juice
Sparkling Mineral Water
1/2 a Yellow Peach, sliced
2 Sprigs of Mint Leaves, rinsed
Place peach slices and mint leaves in two glasses and muddle slightly. Add vodka, peach simple syrup and lime juice, and stir. Add in sparkling water (approximately 4 ounces per glass). Serve over ice or chilled.
*Note: You can make your own peach simple syrup by boiling 1 cup of drinking water with 1 cup of sugar and one sliced and pitted peach. Let mixture simmer for ~10 minutes before you strain the peach preserves from the liquid. (The peach leftovers go great with non-fat greek yogurt!)