Marinades

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Marinades are a wonderful way to flavor meat. They can be simple or involved, depending on your desires, but they’re also a great way to use up ingredients. Have some leftover parsley? Make a marinade. Tomatoes? Make a marinade. An orange? You get the idea.

Generally, a marinade is composed of three parts: the oil, the acid, and the flavoring. The oil is simply the carrier. It can be a neutral oil like grape seed, an extra-virgin olive oil, or an infused oil.

The acidic option depends on what food you’re preparing. If I’m marinating beef for fajitas, I’d choose lime juice as my acid. If I’m marinating chicken for a stir fry, I’d choose sake or mirin. But there are other options as well. Orange juice? Pineapple juice? A ripe tomato? Sure! They all work.

The third part of creating a marinade is the most fun, because you can get really creative. Garlic is always important to me. There’s not one cuisine I can think of that doesn’t utilize this wonderfully pungent allium, be it Indian, Asian, Mexican, and so forth. Ginger is also perfect in Asian- and Indian -inspired marinades.

The next option for me would be fresh herbs, like cilantro, basil, or parsley. They provide beautiful color and freshness to a marinade.

Chile peppers puréed in a marinade provide wonderful heat as well as flavor. Just remove the stem of fresh jalapeños, for example, and pop them into the blender with the other ingredients. Alternatively, use roasted peppers or chile pepper purée, of which there are many varieties.

Here are some spice options for marinades: Cumin, chili powder, smoky or sweet paprika, coriander, Chinese 5-spice powder, curry powder, cayenne, chipotle, ancho chile pepper.

Other ingredients to flavor marinades include pesto, miso, ketchup, soy sauce, fish sauce, hoisin sauce, berbere, harissa, romesco, mustard, honey, maple syrup, roasted red bell peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, chipotle peppers in adobo sauce… the list is literally endless.

The following marinade is basically a red wine-based vinaigrette, seasoned with garlic, dried herbs, and cayenne pepper flakes.

Here is a marinade made with olive oil, lime juice, garlic and parsley puréed together for chicken breasts. The combination makes a wonderful green marinade, which colors the chicken beautifully after grilling.

For a beef tri-tip, I created an Asian-inspired marinade. I used soy sauce, sake, sesame seed oil, chile paste (Sambal oelek), ginger and garlic. After 24 hours I seared the thin slices of beef in peanut oil for a quick dinner. It’s that simple.

Yogurt can also be used as the “carrier oil,” which you learn about quickly when you indulge yourself in Indian cuisines. So for my final example of a marinated meat, I’m using a mixture of yogurt and harissa.

For a more involved Indian-inspired marinade, I would include garlic, ginger, and curry powder, but I wanted to show how easy it is to create a flavorful and unique marinade. It took10 seconds to prepare and you don’t even need to use a blender.

I’m simply smothering a pork tenderloin with the marinade, waiting a few hours, and then roasting it in the oven.

Marinating requires very little work. It’s just about planning. Try different variations and see what magic you can come up with!

Barbeque Eggplant Sandwiches

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A while back I browsed through sandwiches on Epicurious.com, which is odd for me as they are not something I think about. Nothing against sandwiches, but I have only one sandwich post on this blog, out of 500 posts! So that says something…

However, I was planning food for a get-together where I needed a make-ahead, picnic-type, easy-to-eat food. I thought that a sandwich, perhaps in the barbecue category, wrapped in foil and kept warm, would be the easiest for me; the sides could be made the day ahead.

And there it was, while I was browsing – a barbecue eggplant sandwich. I had to click on it – the name was so intriguing.

Plus, I have Japanese Ichiban eggplants growing in my garden.

What a unique way to use eggplant, besides eggplant parmesan, ratatouille, and baba ganoush.

Barbecue Eggplant Sandwich
Adapted from Epicurious

Eggplant (about 1 1/2 pounds total), trimmed and sliced lengthwise into 1/2-inch thick planks
1/2 cup BBQ sauce*, divided
1 teaspoon garlic pepper, or favorite seasoning
8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
1 small red onion, halved and sliced into thin wedges
2 tablespoons olive oil
8 slices provolone cheese
4 soft rolls
1/4 cup mayonnaise
Pepperoncini peppers

Position oven rack six inches from the heat source and preheat broiler.

Brush eggplant slices on both sides with 2 tablespoons BBQ sauce and season with 1/2 teaspoon garlic pepper. Arrange slices on a sheet pan.

Broil eggplant until browned and soft, about 4 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, toss mushrooms and red onion with oil, remaining garlic pepper and reserve.

Remove broiler pan from oven, flip eggplant slices, and brush with 2 more tablespoons BBQ sauce.

Scatter mushroom mixture around the eggplant on the pan and broil until browned and soft, about 3 minutes more.

To assemble the sandwiches, first toast the rolls using a little butter and a hot skillet.

Then brush the top toasted half of each roll with 1 tablespoon mayonnaise.

Lay the cheese on the rolls. Because provolone are circular, I cut them into narrow slices.

Layer an eggplant slice and some mushroom mixture on the bottom of each roll.


Close the sandwiches and serve immediately. You can drizzle a little more barbeque sauce in the sandwiches if desired.

The original recipe suggests using some thinly sliced pepperoncini inside the sandwiches, but I prefer them on the side.

Once I bit into this sandwich I knew I’d be making it again. Especially with a vegetarian in the family.

An added slice of bacon would please anyone insisting on a non-vegetarian sandwich.

But seriously, with the meaty eggplant and mushrooms, meat will most likely not be missed.

* Typically I make my own barbecue sauce, but there is one jarred product which I sincerely love, and that is Head Country, made right here in Oklahoma. The original is wonderful – not vinegary, not sweet – and now there are other varieties as well. The hot and spicy is incredible. Just use the barbecue sauce that’s your fave!

Also, if you ever need to keep sandwiches warm in an oven or warming drawer, try these foil wrappers. I used them when I was catering large, casual events, and they are a perfect size for a sandwich like this!

Meatballs in Creamy Caper Sauce

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It’s commonplace to pair meatballs and a red sauce, but this recipe is a lovely alternative. The only prerequisite is that you must love capers!

This recipe comes from one that most likely I copied from a cookbook borrowed from the local library. It’s from the days I had higher priorities than spending lots of money on cookbooks, so I simply borrowed the books, read them, and marked the recipes I wanted to keep. Then my husband would use the copier at work; he was always very nice about this. But, of course, he always got fed well so it was a win-win for him!

I’d then cut out the recipes and glue them on cards. But unfortunately, I cannot share with you the source of this recipe because I never thought to add those details to the recipe cards. It’s really sad that I didn’t, and I apologize to you as well.
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I’ve made this recipe the way it is on the card, and it’s divine. I’m pretty sure I made it for other people, because my husband won’t eat capers.

The recipe involves meatballs, that you make any way you want, but they must be made on the small side, and then they’re boiled/steam cooked in a seasoned broth. From the broth you make the sauce, which involves sour cream and capers.
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On this post, I’m not really focusing on the meatballs, because everyone has her/his own favorite recipes for meatballs, but more on the way they’re cooked, as well as the sauce. The dish is not terribly photogenic, but really tasty.


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Meatballs in a Creamy Caper Sauce

Meatballs:
1/2 ground pork, 1/2 ground turkey, white meat only, 12 ounces each
1/2 small onion, diced
2 eggs, beaten
Some amount of breadcrumbs, I used dried, about 1/4 cup
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
Coarsely ground black pepper
Parsley, which I forgot to put in the meatballs*

In an extra large bowl, place the meats, the onion, eggs, and breadcrumbs. Then add the seasonings.

Use your hands and mix everything together well, without over mixing. You don’t want the meatballs to turn out dense.

Using a scoop, if you feel you need one, form the meat mixture into small balls, about 1″ in diameter.

Meanwhile, pour 1 cup of chicken or beef broth into a large, flat skillet. I used chicken broth powder to season the water.

The original recipe called for lemon juice, a strip of lemon peel, a bay leaf, and some pickling spices to be added to the broth. I decided to make my broth a little more on the herbaceous side. I also omitted the lemon altogether.

I picked some fresh oregano, parsley, and rosemary and placed them in the broth, along with a few bay leaves. Then I simmered the broth for about 15 minutes. You could always do this step first, before you make the meatballs.

When the broth is ready, remove the herbs. Adjust the amount of liquid, if necessary; there should be about 1/4″ minimum on the bottom of the skillet. Make sure the broth is simmering, then add a batch of meatballs.

Cover the skillet and let the meatballs cook through. This will hardly take 5 minutes or so; you could always check one to see if it’s just done in the middle. You don’t want to overcook them.


Remove the cooked meatballs with a slotted spoon, place them on a clean platter, and continue with the remaining batches. You’re left with some meat and onion bits in the seasoned broth, but that didn’t bother me. If it bothers you, pour the liquid through a sieve, and then back into the skillet. You should still have about 3/4 cup – 1 cup of liquid. This will dictate the amount of sauce you end up with, so adjust accordingly.

At this point, with the broth simmering, add a teaspoon of cornstarch and whisk well, then add 2 heaping tablespoons of sour cream or creme fraiche. Whisk well, then stir in about 1/4 cup of capers.

Add the amount of meatballs you want smothered with this sauce, and leave the rest for another purpose. Cook the meatballs gently, turning them around in the sauce. Give them a minute, and then serve.

I served these meatballs to myself with some steamed asparagus, and it was a very nice combination. The original recipes suggests egg noodles, which would work if you have a lot of sauce.

If desired, top the meatballs with a few more capers and some chopped parsley before serving.

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* I feel that parsley is really underappreciated and under used, especially in the U.S. I think we still think of it as only a garnish on a plate. But in meatballs, for example, it not only adds a fresh flavor and a pretty color, but it adds moisture as well. But omit it if you don’t love it.

note: In the original recipe, you are also supposed to add chopped capers to the meatballs, which is a very good addition. Since my husband was going to be eating a majority of these meatballs, I omitted them.
Also, think about the different ways that you can season the broth, using peppercorns, allspice, star anise, orange peel, garlic, and much more. It’s a brilliant way to add flavors to the basic broth base of the sauce.
Also, I didn’t add any salt to either the meatballs or the sauce; I feel that the capers lend enough saltiness, but this is your choice.