lovin’ the herb

I love to grow fresh herbs. I love the smell of fresh herbs. I love to cook with fresh herbs. There’s nothing that says summertime to me more than overflowing pots of lush herbs on my back steps; it makes me happy just to look at them. Sometimes I run my hand along the rosemary or sage stems just to let them give off their lovely aroma. And who doesn’t love the way fresh basil smells. I’ve been thinking I just may start rubbing the leaves behind my ears as my summer scent. Anyway with all these wonderful herbs around I try to use them at every opportunity and since the more you clip herbs the more abundant they become, it’s really a win-win situation.

Finding uses for fresh basil is really a no brainer— as soon as Jersey tomatoes start hitting the farmers market I make a simple caprese salad or a Sweet Summer Sauce with my homegrown cherry tomatoes. Abundant amounts of oregano go into my Smokey Baked Beans, I use fresh rosemary on roasted potatoes and to marinade pork, cilantro has a starring role in my Spicy Corn & Black Bean Salad and what would Herbed Drop Biscuits be without fresh thyme. However as tasty as these few dishes are, they don’t really put a significant dent in my herb supply. I’m always looking for new ways to work fresh herbs into my cooking and my latest creations are a brush on grill sauce for chicken and a creamy buttermilk salad dressing.

The grill sauce is a super simple way to give some fresh summery flavor to chicken or vegetables without much advance prep. Sure it makes a mess of the grill, but the you’ll enjoy dinner so much it will totally be worth a few extra minutes with the grill brush. And the salad dressing is something like a healthy hybrid of caesar and ranch, it turns nothing fancy greens into a salad worth serving guests.

Here’s wishing you a Summer filled with lovely sights, sounds and smells.

Buttermilk & Fresh Herb Salad Dressing
Say so long to that bottle of store bought dressing and hello to yum! I usually sprinkle a bit more shredded parmesan on top of the salad and sometimes a few slivered almonds.

herb salad5

2 tbsp. fresh basil
2 tbsp. fresh dill
2 tbsp. fresh parsley
1 tbsp. fresh tarragon
3 tbsp. sweet onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tsp. lemon juice
4 tbsp. light mayo
3 tbsp. plain low-fat yogurt
2 tbsp. light sour cream
1 cup reduced fat buttermilk
2 tbsp. shredded parmesan cheese
1 tsp. granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. smoked paprika
1/8 tsp. black pepper

  1. Place all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the herbs are finely minced and the ingredients are fully blended.
  2. Pour into a glass jar and chill overnight, allowing flavors to blend, before drizzling over salad greens and serving.

Grilled Chicken with Fresh Herb Sauce
You can brush this on the chicken or vegetables as you grill them. It will make a mess of the grill, but it’s totally worth it!

herb grilled chicken

6 cloves garlic, smashed
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp. fresh oregano leaves
1 tbsp. fresh parsley leaves
1 tbsp. fresh rosemary
1 tbsp. fresh thyme leaves
1 tbsp. honey
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup olive oil
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 package of chicken, thighs or breasts

  1. Place all the ingredients in the bowl of a food processor. Allow to run until herbs are minced and a thick sauce has formed.
  2. Heat grill to medium-high. Brush the chicken with the sauce and begin to grill. Flip and continue to baste with the remaining sauce until chicken is completely cooked.
*adapted from serious eats
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it’s my party + i’ll grill (flank steak) if i want to…

Happy unofficial start of grilling season! The weather here in the Northeast keeps fluctuating between Africa hot and turn the heat back on cold, but the calendar reads June so it must be time to break out the grill tongs and light up the Weber.

We use our grill to make dinner nearly every night when the weather is warm. From burgers and grilled veggies to beer can chicken and steamed shellfish with grilled bread. If we can grill it we usually do. The thing about making dinner on the grill is that it turns an otherwise rather solitary and sometimes mundane task into lovely “this is what I love about warm weather” time. The dog and kids running around the yard, my husband and I relaxing with a glass of wine, the last rays of sunshine filtering through the trees… Ahh it’s all good.

Grilling for your family is pretty easy and low pressure, but grilling for a crowd is a different can ‘o beans all together. Suddenly you have to worry about everyone liking what you serve, the amount of time away from your guests cooking is going to require and will there be enough for everyone. After years of trial and error my husband and I have settled on two never fail recipes for our summertime parties; the first one is Barbecued Ribs. My rib recipe is easy to make, seriously delicious and can feed a crowd in a flash. Throw in a pot of my Smokey Baked Beans and some Homemade Cornbread and your guests will never want to leave! Our second no fail party pleaser (and truthfully the one we rely on most often) is marinated flank steak. I like to serve flank steak because its perfect for sandwiches, salads or just on its own and it takes almost zero time on the grill (which means less chance of an overzealous cook incinerating it).

I’ve been playing with my marinade recipe for years and I finally got it to where I think it’s perfect enough to share with you. (See how much I care about you!) The marinade is fairly simple; soy sauce, garlic, lemon juice, brown sugar— but the impact is major.  And if the scant leftovers are any indication of how much the crowd likes it… well then we’re clearly onto something good.

Grilled Marinated Flank Steak
Be sure to throw the onions and garlic from the marinade in a pan on the grill and serve them along with the sliced meat. They’re delicious!

flank steak

3 tbsp. brown sugar
1 tsp. chipotle chili powder
2 tsp. smoked paprika
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
2/3 cup olive oil
1 1/3 cup lemon juice
1 1/3 cup soy sauce
8 cloves garlic, sliced
1 large onion, sliced
6 lbs. flank steak

  1. In a large bowl with a lid, add all the ingredients and stir with a fork being sure to break up any brown sugar lumps. Taste the marinade and make any seasoning adjustments needed then add the flank steak.
  2. Press the layers of steak down so that they are fully submerged in the marinade, cover and refrigerate overnight. (Rotate the meat, top to bottom, at least once.) In the morning drain off the marinade but be sure to keep all the onions and garlic, you’ll want to heat them up to serve along with the meat.
  3. One hr. prior to grilling remove the container of flank steak from the fridge and allow to come to room temperature on the counter.
  4. Heat the grill. Place the steaks on the hot grill and allow to cook 4 to 6 minutes per side, until nicely browned. Check for doneness with an instant read thermometer (medium-rare is between 125-130°F.) Transfer steak to a cutting board and let rest for at least 5 minutes.
  5. Slice thinly across the grain at a slight diagonal and serve along with the cooked onions from the marinade.

Colonel Mustard in the Kitchen with… Chicken!

I love warm Spring weather. I love it for all the typical reasons; the sunny blue skies, waking to the sound of chirping birds, saying good-bye to heavy coats and sweaters and being able to spend time outside relaxing, puttering and enjoying Mother Nature in all her emerging glory. But I think what I truly love the most about warm Spring days is the ability to share the responsibility of dinner preparation with my husband. “Welcome home dear, how was your day? Great good to know, now please go start the grill…” Suddenly the pressure to whip up an applause worthy dinner on a random week night is no longer solely my own.

One such Wednesday night just recently came to pass. My chicken was happily marinating in the fridge, the broccoli was ready for a quick steam and potatoes were quartered and ready to go into the oven. All that was missing was my dear husband and his grill tongs. And then it happened… The skies darkened, the thunder rumbled and the clouds opened up. And it rained. Not just a light rain or a “get the umbrella you’re not made of sugar” rain, but a cats and dogs, soaking, pouring, drenching rain. Uggggh, so now what? Since grilling the chicken no longer seemed like an option I decided to throw it in the oven and take my chances with how it would turn out.

It was delicious! I knew the marinade was a good and flavorful one, but I didn’t realize just how moist the chicken would stay by cooking it in the oven. And once thickened up a bit the pan juices make a lovely sauce to drizzle on top.

It’s great to have a fall-back recipe for the next rainy night, time we forget to refill the propane tank or evening we decide we’re just to tired to bother lighting the grill. Actually, it turned out so good that I think my dear husband and I will have to find some other dinner to collaborate on. (Sorry babe, but you don’t get off the hook that easy!)

Baked Chicken with Lemon-Mustard Sauce
This is a super easy dinner to make. If you don’t have lemon juice, use lime. If you don’t feel like turning the oven on, turn on the grill. And if you don’t have chicken, turkey breast would be great too!

must chic

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup dijon mustard
1 tbsp. olive oil
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. pepper
4 skinless boneless chicken breasts

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Place all the marinade ingredients in a ziplock bag and stir together well.
  2. Add the chicken breasts to the bag, refrigerate and allow to marinate for at least an hour (longer if you plan to grill it).
  3. Put chicken and marinade into an 8×8 baking dish. Squish the chicken down so it’s as covered with marinade as possible and bake uncovered for 45 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 165°F.
  4. Transfer the chicken to a plate and pour the remaining pan juices into a small pot. Bring the juices to a boil and let cook until slightly thickened. Slice the chicken and serve with the sauce spooned on top.

*adapted from bon appetit