Archive for the ‘grilling’ Category

Grilled Rosemary-Fig Pork Tenderloin

October 3, 2011

Pork tenderloin is a favorite in our house, so I make it frequently.  I change-up the flavorings depending on my mood, and sometimes it’s perfect grilled with nothing but a little salt and pepper.

On a recent night I was looking at my overgrown rosemary plant and decided to make use of it.  Rosemary pairs very nicely with pork, and gives it a great Mediterranean flair.  I created a simple marinade from the rosemary leaves, olive oil, garlic, and some fig-infused balsamic vinegar for a decidedly Italian flavor.  By using a ziplock plastic bag in which to marinate the pork, you can easily turn the meat inside the sealed bag, plus you save yourself the trouble of cleaning one extra dish.  And a tip–to easily mix your marinade, put the plastic bag in a large measuring cup and fold it open around the top of the cup.  This makes it easy to pour in ingredients without your bag tipping over and spilling!

The result was delicious, although you have to be careful to keep the grill temperature low, so the sugars in the fig vinegar don’t burn too much ( a little charring is preferable, in my opinion…just don’t go overboard!).  Depending on the size of your tenderloin, the cooking time could vary from as little as 20 minutes, to as much as 45, so just be sure to check it fairly frequently.  I paired the meat with some grill-roasted green beans that I drizzled with some garlic-infused olive oil and sprinkled with salt.  Delicious—-and no inside mess to clean up!

Grilled Rosemary-Fig Pork Tenderloin

Serves 4

1.5 – 1.75  lbs pork tenderloin (one large or two small tenderloins)

2 rosemary sprigs, leaves stripped off and stem discarded

1 glove garlic, minced

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup fig balsamic vinegar

salt and pepper

In a large ziplock bag, mix the rosemary leaves, garlic, olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper.

Add the pork and seal bag securely.  Shake the bag around so all the meat is coated in marinade.  Allow to marinate in fridge for 1-2 hours (or on the countertop for up to 30 minutes).

Preheat grill to medium heat.  Place pork on hot grates and cook until meat begins to release from grates (this could be anywhere from 7-15 minutes depending on size of tenderloin).

Turn meat once or twice until it has nice grill marks on each side and internal temperature reaches 140 degrees.

Allow to rest for 10 minutes before slicing.  Serve hot or at room temperature.

Optional:  boil reserved marinade in a saucepan on the stove top until reduced to a syrupy sauce.  Serve over meat.  Note–never use marinade that has been in contact with raw pork unless it is thoroughly boiled first.

Click here for more information about Tracy’s Connecticut cooking classes, or to read her The Secret Ingredient Blog.

Smokefest ’11

July 25, 2011

Three summers ago our friends started what has become a July tradition.  “Big Mike” as my kids call him, has been brewing beer and  smoking meat for years, and his girlfriend is a fabulous cook, gardener, and all-around party planner.  When these New York City mice decided to buy a New York country house, they put their talents together and Smokefest was born.

Of course the highlight of the party is the meat.  Mike gets up at 7am  to start the smokers and prepare the 16 racks of  pork ribs and 15 lbs of brisket.  The brisket and half the ribs are prepped simply with salt and pepper, and the other half of the ribs get a dry rub the night before.  He may be a barbeque weekend warrior, but he’s no hack.  In fact, while smoking ribs for a charity event in Connecticut, Jacques Pepin stopped by for a taste and proclaimed “THOSE are some great ribs!”

Daniela makes a wide variety of side dishes—fresh from the garden.  This year she had a 6 foot grill loaded up with summer squash, zucchini, eggplant, onions, and 4 dozen ears of corn.  If that wasn’t delicious enough, she and Mike make a Cilantro-Lime Butter sauce (see recipe below) to brush on the corn which is De. Licious.  There are also salads galore—from potato, to tomato-peach, to cucumber, and more.  This year one neighbor brought some killer mac-and-cheese which you just couldn’t stop eating.

My favorite thing is the “Tavern”, a quaint little outbuilding (which Mike says is a character itself for this party), where little lights are strung along the ceiling, and coolers are filled with homebrewed beer (I loved the “6” a blonde beer), chilled whites and roses, water and soda.  Out back is a fire pit—where my kids spent most of the day filling s’more orders (you could choose from ‘burned’, ‘golden brown’ or ‘plain’ marshmallows, and could have your chocolate ‘very melty’ or just ‘kind of melty’).

It is so much fun to go to a party that’s all about the food.  It’s not anyone’s birthday and no one is being feted.  It’s just a gathering of people who love food, hosted by people who REALLY love food.  I can’t think of a better reason for a celebration!  Go Meat!

Smokefest Cilantro-Lime Butter

Courtesy of Mike and Daniela

3 limes, juiced

2 sticks unsalted butter

1 small bunch cilantro, chopped


In a small saucepan, reduce the lime juice until it is syrupy. Add butter, and melt.  Season to taste with salt and add cilantro at the end.  Brush on grilled corn or any veggies (also makes a great topping for clams!)

Hint:  Mike says you can spice it up by adding 1/2 tsp of chipotle!

Click here for more information about Tracy’s Connecticut cooking classes, or to read her The Secret Ingredient Blog.

Vote for My Recipe @ Saveur Magazine!

June 21, 2011

Some of you may recognize this recipe as one I taught in my “Sensational Summer Salads Class”…it’s a delicious and colorful salad of roasted red peppers, pine nuts, feta, and olives, perfect as an accompaniment to your next barbecue.    Well, I’ve entered it into a recipe contest at Saveur Magazine, but editors only test the recipes receiving the most votes…so I need your help!  Please take a minute to go to the link below and vote for my “Roasted Red Pepper Salad with Feta” recipe…and more importantly, try it for yourself!  It’s a favorite in my house and hope it will be in yours as well!  Thank you!!

Click here for more information about Tracy’s Connecticut cooking classes, or to read her The Secret Ingredient Blog.

Easiest Entrees: Grilled Flank Steak

June 8, 2010

I know red meat is not really en vogue anymore, and YES, I read Michael Pollan’s books, and YES, I know it is bad for my heart and my arteries and everything else.  Despite all this, I blushingly admit that I love it.  I don’t eat a lot of red meat for the aforementioned reasons, but when I do, I enjoy it THOROUGHLY.

One of my favorite cuts of red meat is a simple flank steak.  It is a relatively inexpensive cut of meat, cooks quickly, and is delicious with a wide variety of flavor profiles.  It also happens to be one of my favorite things to serve at a dinner party (don’t worry, I always have lots of veggie side dishes for you abstainers).  I almost always use a dry spice rub on my flank steaks (paired with some sort of yummy fruit salsa it is fabulous), but tonight I was really in the mood to just be super-simple.  The meat is so flavorful it really needs no embellishment, so I seasoned it with just salt and pepper (be generous) and tossed it onto my hot grill.  Alongside of it I grilled my favorite grilled garlic potatoes, tossed together a simple green salad and I had a meal any meat-eater would love on the table in no time.

The key to great flank steak is this:  take it off the grill BEFORE it is cooked to medium.  Then, allow it to rest for about 10 minutes, in which time it will finish cooking to medium.  You WANT it to be pink in the middle…overdone flank steak is tough, but when done perfectly to medium, it is delicious and tender.  You also want to cut it across the grain (you’ll be able to see which way the fibers of the meat runs…cut the opposite way), in THIN slices.  Keep these tips in mind and you’ll have perfect steak every time.

Grilled Flank Steak

Serves 4

1 – 2 – 2.5 lb flank steak (trimmed of excess fat–just the really large pieces)

salt and pepper

Preheat your gas grill to high.

Season both sides of the steak with a generous amount of salt and pepper.

Place on hot grill and turn down heat to medium.

Cook approximately 7 minutes, and turn.  The steak should have some color and grill marks on it.

Cook on second side an additional 5 minutes or so, until the meat is nicely browned on both sides.

Remove to a platter and tent with foil.  Let stand about 10 minutes.  Slice into THIN slices ACROSS the grain of the meat and serve hot or at room temperature.

Click here for more information about Tracy’s Connecticut cooking classes, or to read her The Secret Ingredient Blog.

Photo above by cookthinker

In Season: Grilled Sweet Potatoes

October 23, 2009

beanpota-006As a kid, you had to pay me to eat a sweet potato.  I mean that literally.  One night my mother actually paid my brother and me for each piece of sweet potato that we ate.  Despite our distaste for the things, we stuffed in as many potatoes as we could until my mother begged us to stop, fearing we’d make oursevles sick.  Today, I can’t get enough sweet potatoes, but unfortunately, no one is paying anymore.

I had a few big, orange potatoes from the farmers market and decided to cook them in a similar fashion to my Grilled Garlic Potatoes, but with a different flavor profile.  I sliced them up, microwaved them to get the rawness off, skewered them, and then brushed them with flavor.  Instead of the garlicky olive oil, I opted for cinnamon butter.  Granted you need to be a little more careful with butter on the grill (it burns more readily), but if you are patient, it is worth it.  I served these with regular old burgers, but they would go equally well with any other grilled entree.

Grilled Cinnamon Sweets

Serves 4

2 large sweet potatoes, scrubbed and sliced into 1″ rounds

2 T butter, melted

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

6″ wooden skewers, soaked for about 20 minutes


Preheat your grill to medium heat.

Place the sliced sweet potatoes in one layer on a large microwave-safe plate.  Microwave for 5 minutes on high.  Flip over, microwave another 5 minutes, or until potatoes are fork-tender.

Meanwhile, stir cinnamon into melted butter and set aside.

Allow to slightly cool and then thread about 3-4 slices onto each wooden skewer (through the skin part–so the round, flat side is facing out). 

Brush butter mixture onto skewered potatoes and sprinkle with salt.  Place on hot grill.  Turn the heat down to medium-low.  Grill for about 3 minutes on each side, or until grill marks appear and outside of potatoes have become a little crispy. 

Serve hot.

Click here for more information about Tracy’s Connecticut cooking classes, or to read her The Secret Ingredient Blog.

In Season: More Baby Brussels Sprouts

September 29, 2009

sept-food-006I know it wasn’t long ago that I blogged about the baby Brussels sprouts I found at the farmers market.  Well, those cavolini are incredibly hard to resist, so I picked up another container when I was there over the weekend.  Since they got rave reviews even from my children (yes, I did just say that my children like Brussels sprouts), I figured they’d be an winning side dish for weekend grilling.

This time, I decided to flavor them a little differently.  Previously, I embellished with Parmesan and pine nuts…but this time I spotted a cylinder of basil butter in my freezer I’d prepared awhile back and knew that it would be the perfect addition to my dish.  I simply placed the washed Brussels sprouts onto a square of tin foil, added a few coin-sized slices of basil butter, and popped the entire packet onto the grates next to the butterflied whole chicken I was grilling.  Since I’d also picked up a bunch of fresh basil at the market (my own pot on the patio was ruined by too much rain), I decided I’d garnish with a little chiffonade as well. 


Cavolini with Basil Butter

2 cups baby Brussels sprouts, washed and cut in half if desired


2-3   1/4″ thick medallions of basil butter (recipe below)

1-2 tablespoons fresh basil, cut into thin strips


Preheat grill to medium-high.

Place Brussels sprouts, basil butter, and salt on the foil, and cover with another piece of foil.  Crimp edges to seal and form a packet.

Place packet on grill grates and cook for approximately 15 minutes.

Transfer cooked sprouts into a bowl and top with fresh basil.

Basil Butter

Makes 2 logs

1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/2 cup loosely packed basil leaves

1-2 cloves garlic  (or 2 frozen garlic cubes, thawed)

salt to taste

Place the basil and garlic into the work bowl of the food processor and pulse until minced. 

Add softened butter and process until incorporated.  Add salt to taste (about 1/2 teaspoon).  Pulse again. 

Using 2 squares of plastic wrap, form into logs, twist ends to seal, and freeze for up to 6 months.

Click here for more information about Tracy’s Connecticut cooking classes, or to read her The Secret Ingredient Blog.

In Season: Peaches

September 22, 2009

august-food-012Peaches are one of my favorite summertime fruits.  In season from July through September, a freshly picked, ripe peach is nothing short of pure bliss!  By adding a touch of heat you enter a whole new realm of fruit heaven.

I first started experimenting with grilled fruit a few years back when developing a “no bake summer dessert” class for my cooking school.  I had the requisite chocolate desserts (Pots du Creme and tiramisu), and also a frozen granita dessert.  What was lacking was a fruit dessert—but I had to find one that didn’t have to be baked into a pie, crisp or crumble.  Grilled peaches fit the bill perfectly, and were the surprise hit of the class.

Grilling fruit enhances its natural sugars, rendering it sweet and slightly softened.  By finishing the peaches with a touch of whipped cream and some crumbled amaretti cookies, you have the makings of a dessert nice enough for company, but simple enough for a weeknight snack.

Now about amaretti cookies:  they are little, round, crunchy almond-flavored cookies that can usually be found in specialty groceries or Italian bakeries.  They are very sweet and can be easily crumbled.  If you have trouble finding amaretti, it is no problem to use traditional almond biscotti to create a similar effect. 

Grilled Peaches with Amaretti Crumbles
Serves 4
2 large, ripe peaches, halved
olive oil
4-6 amaretti cookies (I like “Bellino” brand, but use almond biscotti if you cannot find amaretti)
whipped cream
Preheat your grill to medium heat (around 300-325 degrees)
To halve each peach, run a sharp knife starting at  the stem, down along the side through the bottom, and back up to meet the stem on the other side.  Gently twist the halves to separate.  Use your knife to carefully pop out the pit. 
Brush each half with a little olive oil and place cut-side-down on the hot grill.
Grill for approximately 3-4 minutes, until grill marks appear and the peaches begin to soften.  Flip over, and continue to grill for another 2-3 minutes.
Place grilled peaches on a plate (cut-side up), and top with a dollop of whipped cream and a crumbled amaretti cookie.  Serve warm.

Click here for more information about Tracy’s Connecticut cooking classes, or to read her The Secret Ingredient Blog.

Don’t Knock the Block Party Sandwich

September 15, 2009

img00086On a recent September weekend in my Connecticut town, every which way you turned, a different neighborhood was having its annual block party.  Since my neighborhood seemed to be the only one not partaking in the revelry, we decided to crash someone else’s party.  Well, we didn’t actually crash, but it was fun being honorary members of another (more fun) neighborhood if only for a day.

The food was exactly what it should be for such an occasion.  Hot dogs and hamburgers cooked on a huge rented grill set up in a driveway, long tables full of delicious looking homemade salads and snacks, and of course, a few kegs of beer.  After everyone  had been fed and the evening’s entertainment was over (a guest appearance by the firetruck), parents began shuffling the younger kids home with sitters while the older ones congregated in one of the houses to watch movies.  The party would continue well into the night for the adults, who told me that around eleven o’clock the guys would restock the coals to begin making the famous hot dog and egg sandwiches to which everyone looked forward each year.  Hot dog and egg?  “Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it!”  they said.  This I had to see.

 This sandwich is simply a hot dog, fried egg and cheese sandwich served on a toasted roll (hamburger or hot dog, whatever was left over).  The big frying pans were brought out and put right onto the grill grates next to the cooking hot dogs, eggs were added, then American cheese.  “Do you have a special name for these?” I asked.  Naturally, each one of the guys manning the grill felt the sandwich should be named for them.  To me it looked like a sandwich version of a garbage plate (some of you know what I’m talking about).  After snapping a few photos, I left the guys to debate and eat their creations.  As strange is it sounds, I have to admit that right around that time of night it didn’t look half bad!  The vigor with which the sandwiches were getting devoured told me that no one was knocking anything.

In Season: Baby Brussels Sprouts with Parmesan and Pine Nuts

September 4, 2009

august-food-005The last time I picked up my CSA farm share I noticed adorable little Brussels sprouts at the farm stand, but needed too many other things to choose them that week.  Well, this week I could be more adventurous and was happy to include two containers in my box. 

Since it is still summer and I’m still all about my grill, I decided to grill-roast the sprouts  in foil.  In cooler weather, you can easily oven-roast in a baking dish, but for now, the grill rules.  A simple drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper was perfect to flavor them while roasting.  Off the grill, I embellished Italian-style:  grated Parmesan cheese and pine nuts.  These “cavolini con parmigiano e pignoli”  were delicious!  Tender and sweet, the grated cheese and nuts gave just the right amount of richness.   I served them alongside a grilled pork tenderloin, but they would go equally well with simply prepared steak, chicken, or fish. 

august-food-008Grilled “Cavolini” with Parmesan and Pine Nuts

Serves 4

2-3 cups baby Brussels sprouts, halved

olive oil/salt/pepper

1-2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

1-2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts

Preheat grill to medium-high heat.

Place halved Brussels sprouts on a large piece of foil, and drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper.  Gently toss to coat.  Top with another piece of foil and crimp edges to form a packet.

Place packet on grill and cook for approximately 15-20 minutes, or until sprouts are crisp-tender and have begun to color.

Remove from grill and put into a serving bowl.  Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and pine nuts and toss to combine.  Serve hot as a side dish.

Note:  To oven roast, preheat the oven to 425 and roast for 15-20 minutes.

Click here for more information about Tracy’s Connecticut cooking classes, or to read her The Secret Ingredient Blog.

In Season: Roasted Red Peppers

September 1, 2009


The farmers markets are loaded with bell peppers—and the sweet red variety are my favorites!  Bell peppers are a great in salads, stir fries, or even as a healthy snack served raw with some salad dressing as a dip.  However, my favorite way to eat bell peppers is after they are roasted on the grill.

Anytime I’m grilling and have a spare pepper in my fridge, I toss it on the grates next to whatever I’m cooking.  They are so versatile, I use them on top of salads (green, pasta or bean salads), in omelets or frittatas, or just about anywhere else I want to add some great flavor and color.  The key here is to basically burn the pepper.  Yes, you read right…. this is the one time when you actually want to burn your food! 

roasted-peppersYou need no special tools or skills….these are basically impossible to mess up!  Just put the whole peppers, unadorned, right on the hot grill, and as each side blackens, turn with a pair of tongs.  When the entire pepper is black, remove it from the grill and place in a bowl and cover with foil or plastic wrap for approximately 10-20 minutes.  This will create steam which loosens the blackened skin from the flesh of the pepper.  You can also place the pepper in a ziplock or paper bag and create the same effect.

You should allow the pepper to cool before removing the blackened skin, because it will be extremely hot and difficult to handle.  Simply use your fingers to pull away all traces of the skin, split the pepper (it will likely rip open while you’re removing the skin), and remove the seeds and stem.  The flesh will be sweet and tender, and can be easily chopped or cut into strips.  Try to do this over a bowl so all the flavorful juices from the pepper are not lost!  They can be tossed right into your salad or dish for even more roasted red pepper flavor!!

Burn, baby, burn!!!  And enjoy those roasted red peppers this summer!

Click here for more information about Tracy’s Connecticut cooking classes, or to read her The Secret Ingredient Blog.