Speidie Sauce

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When I come across something completely new in a cookbook, I get absolutely giddy, especially when it’s not part of an exotic cuisine. Speidie sauce is all-American or, at least, a significant part of upstate New York summer barbecues.

During the pandemic, my daughter and husband escaped to a resort on Long Island over the Thanksgiving weekend. She told me they would be dining at a Charlie Palmer restaurant on Thanksgiving. I hadn’t thought about Charlie Palmer much over the years, but knew he was a highly regarded and successful chef.

When I googled him, I think he was running something like 19 restaurants! The most famous one being Aureole – one in New York City and also in Las Vegas. And if I counted right, he’s written 7 cookbooks.

I became quite intrigued with Charlie Palmer and his longevity, so I purchased American Fare, published in 2015. The cookbook contains really nice recipes – nothing too crazy, nor too plain, and all perfect for home cooking I bookmarked so many recipes, to my amazement.

One recipe jumped out at me, called Speidie sauce, or Charlie’s Speidie marinade. (Speidie is pronounced speedy.)

From the cookbook, “In upstate New York where I grew up, summertime is speidie time. Speidies are beef or chicken kabobs marinated in a locally produced speidie sauce and cooked on the grill. Almost nobody makes their own sauce; it is purchased by the case to take the barbecue master through the entire summer’s grilling.”

Have you heard of such a thing?! I went to my favorite local deli, Amazon.com, and sure enough, found 3 examples of purchasable speidie sauce/marinade. And what’s funny to me is that they all look so different!

Following is Chef Palmer’s speidie marinade recipe, his version that he “happily” shares.

Charlie’s Speidie Marinade
Printable recipe below

2 cups dry white wine
1/4 sherry wine vinegar
1/4 cup canola oil
1/2 cup finely minced shallots
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 bay leaves, crumbled
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
Salt and pepper

Combine all of the ingredients in a non reactive container. Because of the last hand operation, I’m not very good at chopping, so I threw the ingredients into a blender. Yes, sympathy, please!

Cover and allow flavors to blend for at least 1 hour before using. May be stored, refrigerated, for up to 1 week. The marinade can be used for any meat, poultry, or game.

To test out this marinade, I chose to make kabobs with filet mignons, bell peppers, and onions.

The beef and vegetables marinated for 24 hours. After bringing them to room temperature, I grilled the kabobs over coals.

The marinade is good! There is a strong wine, shallot, and dried herb component, which I love.

I served a white bean salad on the side, along with flatbreads.

Honestly, I’d halve the wine, and double the oil. The marinade is tasty, but very “wet”.

 

 

Tarragon-Marinated Vegetables

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This is a recipe I jotted down decades ago, but it somehow got lost, which isn’t what typically happens considering my extreme organizational skills. I’m not Marie Whatshername, but I do know where my recipes are and how to keep track of them. Or so I thought…

A while back I decided to make marinated vegetables as part of an hors d’oeuvres spread for family, after remembering this old recipe. It was February, and all I could find were basic vegetables – broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, and red bell peppers. Everyone loved them.

It’s very easy to marinate vegetables. Use what’s in season, of course, raw or par-boiled if necessary, and then marinate them. I use a mixture of tarragon vinegar and white balsamic. Tarragon isn’t my favorite herb, but it adds a wonderful sweetness to the vegetables.

You could of course add fresh tarragon to infuse a vinegar, but my tarragon hadn’t really thrived yet.

The marinade is basically a vinaigrette, but with more oil than vinegar, because the vegetables shouldn’t be “pickled.” Plus a little sugar is added.

The veggies are great served with bread, butter, cheese, charcuterie… just about anything. And, they’re healthy!

Tarragon White Balsamic Vinaigrette

1 1/2 cups extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup tarragon vinegar, strained if necessary
1/2 cup white balsamic
1 tablespoon sugar, or more if you prefer
1 teaspoon salt
4-5 cloves garlic, germ removed if necessary, smashed

Add the above ingredients to a jar with a tight lid. Shake well, then refrigerate for at least a day to let the flavors mingle.

See the tarragon in the tarragon vinegar?

The next step is to prepare the veggies. They all work, but some need to be cooked, like potatoes and beets, and some can be blanched, like asparagus and cauliflower. I prefer the carrots and cucumbers raw.

Cut lengths of vegetables like celery, red chard stems, and carrots, but think about using bell peppers in ring shapes. Then place the prepped veggies in bags and add the vinaigrette. Refrigerate.

Give them at least 24 hours to marinate. About 2 hours before you want to serve them, remove the bags from the refrigerator and let the marinade warm a bit.

Then have fun. Arrange anyway you want. You can use bowls for the baby potatoes and pickled onions (which I had prepared sous vide on a previous day), and glasses for longer vegetables like celery, cucumbers, and carrots.

I’m no stylist, but it’s hard to mess up when the vegetables are so pretty. I especially love purple cauliflower and carrot varieties.

I threw some whole grape tomatoes on the platter for some color.

But seriously, if all you have are basic vegetables, trust me, they are also delicious. You don’t have to get fancy at Sprouts, like I did!

Buffalo Jerky

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My husband was given some beef jerky by a golf buddy one day. He came home and insisted that I try it immediately, because it was “that good.” Well, it was good, in fact great, and neither of us has ever been a beef jerky fan before.

As you can tell from the feature photo, this jerky isn’t in flat and narrow strips that take about an hour per inch to chew. These are lovely tender bits of tasty meat with great flavors.

The jerky recipe requires three steps – marinating, dehydrating, then smoking.

Start with 7-10 pounds of meat. Golf buddy recommends Black Angus choice sirloin steaks, about 1 1/2″ in thickness. Also London broil is a good choice – anything lean.

For fun, I purchased lean buffalo sirloin steaks from D’Artagnan, one of my two sources for high quality meat.

Slices the meat crosswise into pieces 1/4″ thick. If the slices are any thinner they dry out too fast. The meat was still partially frozen to help me slice more consistently.

Then golf buddy slices those into smaller, bite-sized cuts, but I left mine in the short strips. My total meat weight is 8 pounds.

Golf buddy’s recipe is a mixture of Allegro Original Hot and Spicy Marinade and Teriyaki marinade, one bottle of each, then your favorite barbecue sauce and Sriracha.

I’ve never tried the Allegro brand, so I purchased both. Head Country is my favorite bottled barbecue sauce, and we’re all familiar with Sriracha!

Use a very large bowl to prepare the marinade. Obviously you can create whatever kind of marinade you want, if you make your own sauce or have bottled favorites. Personally, I’ve never liked commercial teriyaki sauce, but since I did taste this beef jerky and loved it, I’m going with golf buddy’s recipe.

The dry seasonings golf buddy recommends include onion powder, garlic powder, and black pepper. I used a lovely coffee and garlic spice mixture from Trader Joe’s that my friend gifted me. I thought it would be a great addition.

Submerge all of the strips of meat in the bowl of marinade. I transferred the meat to a 2 1/2 gallon zip-loc bag. Let the meat sit overnight or up got 3 days in the refrigerator.

Bring the meat close to room temperature, then place the pieces on foil-covered jelly-roll pans, without any strips overlapping.

Heat the oven to 180 – 200 degrees and place the pans of meat in the oven to dehydrate slightly for 30 – 45 minutes. I used my oven on convection bake at 180 degrees, and dried the meat out for a total of 1 hour. It helps to pat the marinade off of the meat before it goes in the oven also.

Pre-heat the smoker to 180-200 degrees F, and prepare hickory chips for the smoke. We use a Bradley electric smoker.

Following the dehydration step, place the meat on the smoker’s racks, greased, and smoke for 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

This jerky is really flavorful and not overly dry like commercial jerky, which requires an extra set of teeth.

I’ve noticed that some marinade recipes for jerky include liquid smoke, which I personally don’t like. In those recipes, there isn’t a smoking step. So I must admit that I love the dehydrating and smoking combination to create this buffalo jerky.

If you’re not going to eat the jerky right away (be careful – it’s addictive!) then use a vacuum sealer and refrigerate or freeze.

Hoisin BBQ Sauce

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My mother became intrigued with international cuisines after her move to the USA from France in 1954. It might have really begun when she purchased the set of cookbooks from Time-Life, called Foods of the World, that began publishing in 1968. After that, she set herself on a mission of culinary discovery.

I so wish there had been the concept of food photography in my youth, and digital photography would have been a plus, because I’d love to share photos of my mother’s creations. I remember a Russian salmon en croute, called coulibiac, that my mother turned into a fish, precisely carving the fins and scales out of pastry. It didn’t hurt that she was an artist and sculptor.

My mother also became a huge fan of Indian and Ethiopian cuisines. We probably had the best smelling house when those dishes were on the menu. Then, there was her Chinese phase, with my favorite meal being hot pot!

To learn about global cuisines, my mother followed lots of recipes, which I think is the best way to learn cooking techniques. But it also teaches about ingredients and seasonings, and what go well together.

That’s exactly how this sauce came about.

It’s simple, and probably not a unique combination for many home cooks, but for me, this sauce was over-the-top-good and I loved it. My mother’s “recipe” is based on hoisin sauce, using ketchup as a “carrier oil,” plus fresh ginger and garlic. Simple but sublime.

Hoisin Barbecue Sauce

1 cup ketchup
2/3 cup hoisin sauce
6 cloves garlic, minced
2” piece ginger, minced
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
6 pounds baby-back ribs, at room temperature

Combine The first six ingredients and stir until well combined.

Set your slow cooker to HIGH, and spray the inside with Pam.

Cut the rib slabs into halves, then slather them with 3/4 of the sauce; refrigerate the remaining sauce for use after the ribs are cooked.

Place the ribs in the slow cooker for one hour, then reduce the heat to LOW and cook for 5 more hours.

Turn on the broiler and get the sauce out of the refrigerator. Get the ribs out of the slow cooker and lay them in one layer on a rack placed in a roasting pan, meaty side up.

Brush the remaining sauce on the ribs. Broil the ribs for a few minutes until there’s some serious caramelization.

Serve immediately; they’re also good at room temperature.

Cut the ribs into smaller pieces, if desired, although the meat is very delicate.

I served these ribs with plain white rice. Besides tasting the hoisin component, the ginger and garlic really stand out.

The sauce is equally good with chicken, pork, and even salmon.

The rib meat is so tender. Truly this technique is one of the best ways to prepare ribs inside, whether you’re using a marinade or a rub.

As a note, the hoisin in this marinade/sauce can be substituted with Gochujang to create a Korean-inspired version. It’s equally good!

Singapore Noodles

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My daughters recently met in Austin, Texas for a fun-filled extended weekend. They stayed an an adorable motel, and worked their way to bars and eateries in Austin for serious sister bonding.

For what was “probably one of the best meals ever,” was lunch at Elizabeth Street Cafe, which opened in South Austin in 2011. It’s a “little restaurant boasts sunny dining rooms and a shady garden patio and serves fresh breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as takeout.”

What’s interesting is that it’s a Vietnamese cafe and French bakery/boulangerie, so while you enjoy your ba´hn mi, you can order baguettes and macarons.

In anticipation of their mama’s upcoming birthday, my girls purchased the Elizabeth Street Cafe cookbook, and boy did I have trouble picking the first dish I’d make out of it. Except the macarons; I always leave those to the experts.

Finally I chose Singapore Noodles with shrimp and roasted pork, and it turns out that it was the first dish on the Elizabeth Street Cafe menu. It remains a best seller. The same noodles show up on their breakfast menu without the shrimp, but with sunny-side-up eggs on top.

I happened to have rice vermicelli noodles in my pantry. And they’re from Singapore!

Singapore Noodles with Gulf Shrimp and Roasted Pork

For the pork:
1/4 cup canola oil
2 tablespoons annatto seeds
1 pound pork shoulder or butt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt

For the curry slurry:
1 tablespoon Madras curry powder
3/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 teaspoons fish sauce
1/2 teaspoon sriracha
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh garlic

For the noodles:
1/2 pound rice vermicelli
1/4 cup canola oil
1/2 large white onion
1 jalapeño, stemmed, thinly sliced
1 Fresno or other red chile, stemmed, thinly sliced
12 medium shrimp, peeled, deveined
2 eggs
2 large handfuls cilantro
6 scallions, ends trimmed, thinly sliced
1 large handful watercress
1 lime, cut into wedges
Sriracha, for serving

In a small pot set over low heat, warm the oil, add the annatto seeds, and cook, stirring twice, until the seeds are fragrant and sizzling and the oil is brick red, about 5 minutes. Strain the oil through a sieve into a small bowl and discard the seeds. Cool the oil to room temperature.

Season the pork all over with the sugar and salt. Put the pork in a large resealable plastic bag and pour in the annatto oil. Squeeze all the air out of the bag so the oil completely covers the pork. Refrigerate and let marinate for at least 4 hours and up to overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Set a roasting rack over a sheet pan. Put the pork on the rack and drizzle whatever oil remains in the bag over the pork.

Roast until the pork is browned and tender, about 2 1/2 hours, turning it halfway through roasting. Remove the pork from the oven and let cool to room temperature; then cut into large bite-size pieces – discarding any large pieces of fat – and reserve. Reserve the bright red fat in the sheet pan.

In a small bowl, whisk together the curry powder, turmeric, fish sauce, sriracha, and ginger with 1/4 cup water. Let sit for 1 hour at room temperature. Cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days.

Line a plate with a clean cotton dish towel. Put the noodles in a large bowl of hot tap water and soak until softened, about 5 minutes. Drain the noodles and transfer to the lined plate. Place a second clean cotton dish towel on top of the noodles, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for up to 2 days.

In a large wok set over high heat warm the oil until smoking. Then add the reserved pork and cook until the meat is crisp on one side, about 3 minutes.

Add the onion, jalapeño, and Fresno chile and cook, stirring until the vegetables pick up some color, about 5 minutes.

Add the shrimp and cook until browned on both sides, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Add the reserved pork fat from the roasting pan and the noodles and stir rapidly to combine the ingredients in the pan. (If your pan is small, cook the noodles in 2 batches.)

Move the stir-fry to one side of the pan and crack the eggs into the pan, stirring with a wooden stpoon or chopsticks scramble the eggs and to incorporate them into the noodles.

Then stir the curry slurry and pour it over the noodles. Continue to stir and toss the noodles to evenly distribute the slurry. Stir in most of the cilantro and scallions and taste for seasoning, adding more salt if needed.

Transfer the stir-fry to a serving platter, and place some of the shrimp on top of the noodles.

Top with the remaining cilantro and scallions and the watercress.

Serve immediately with the lime wedges and sriracha.

Oh my goodness, I could eat this dish every day. Probably for all three meals. I can’t really describe how good it is, but you can tell from the ingredient list.

The one thing I did differently was to roast the pork at a higher temperature for about 30 minutes. I think this was preferable to pork “baked” at only 350 degrees. Otherwise I wouldn’t change a thing!!!

Roasted Veg Vinaigrette

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Vinaigrettes are equally as important to me as their salad counterparts. With a proper choice of ingredients, one can really make a salad burst with flavor with a perfectly paired vinaigrette.

I’ve posted before on vinaigrettes made with reduced beet juice ( think salad of crunchy vegetables, lentils and goat cheese) and a vinaigrette made with a fresh pear (think baby greens with apples, bacon, and blue cheese).

I’ve posted on a vinaigrette made with strawberry vinegar, one made with pineapple juice, vinaigrettes with parsley or curry powder… the list is really endless because the possibilities are endless.

Recently I was inspired by a vinaigrette recipe made with roasted onion and shallot. And I got to thinking what I could add to that… because I can’t leave a recipe alone. This is one I created.

Beyond roasting the vegetables, which is left to your oven, the rest is easy!

Make a triple batch! You’ll love how versatile this is not only as a vinaigrette but as a marinade, or served with grilled leeks or asparagus.

Roasted Vegetable Vinaigrette

1 purple onion, peeled, quartered
1 red bell pepper, trimmed, de-seeded, cut into 8ths
6 shallots, peeled, halved
6 cloves garlic, peeled
Olive oil, divided
Salt
Pepper
Red wine vinegar
Tabasco sauce (optional)

Preheat the oven to a roast setting, or 400 degrees F.

Place the onion, red bell pepper, shallots and garlic cloves on a jelly roll pan or rimmed roasting sheet. Generously drizzle olive oil over the vegetables, about 1/4 cup. Season with salt and pepper.

Roast until vegetables show some caramelization and are tender. Remove the pan from the oven and let cool.

Place all of the vegetables and olive oil into a blender jar.

Blend until smooth, adding another 1/4 cup or so of olive oil.

Then add the red wine vinegar. I’m not offering amounts in this recipe, only because I like my vinaigrettes strongly vinegar-flavored. Most people I’ve cooked for do not.

If you want some zing, add some Tabasco sauce, taste away, and season more if necessary. I added more salt.

Make sure the vinaigrette is smooth. If you use cruets for your vinaigrettes, you are familiar with the problem with one little piece of garlic clogging the spout!

The salad I created to showcase this vinaigrette was simple. Butter lettuce, crab, avocado, green onions, and black sesame seeds.

It was a perfect pairing of tastes and textures.

I was lucky enough to have frozen crab legs left over from the holidays, so I used that crab. But grilled shrimp or scallops would also be divine.


Note: This recipe actually makes a fabulous dipping sauce if you omit the vinegar.

David Chang’s Short Ribs

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Soon after starting my blog, I discovered sous vide, and knew I had to own a machine. Because it was a big purchase, I asked for one as a Christmas present. I won’t complain about how many years it took for me to get one, because I now have one and use it constantly. Even more than I thought I would. Thank you Santa.

I especially love it for “inferior” cuts of beef like brisket, hanger and flank steaks. Often I sous vide pork loin and chicken breasts. I can cook all of these meats “properly,” but their sous vide counterparts can’t be beat with traditional methods in my opinion.

Which brings me to short ribs. For some reason, I’ve never thought to sous vide them. I think because I always enjoy the process of making short ribs, sometimes in a traditional way with red wine and herbs, other times with Southwestern adobo flavors. I’ve also used short ribs in a sauce for giant pasta, and in cheesy sandwiches with pickled onions. The rib meat has many uses.

Then I read Momofuku, by David Chang. Published in 2009, it tells the delightful story of David Chang, who at 27, opened his first restaurant, Momofuku.

As I read through the book, which covered recipes from each of his four restaurants, the three others being Ko, Momofuku Milk Bar, and Ssäm Bar, I realized these were recipes that I would not be making. However, the stories are hysterical, scary, on-the-edge-of-your seat crazy about life as a restaurant owner.

Then I came across his recipe for sous vide short ribs that really intrigued me.

From the book: “Low-temperature cooking affords cooks an accuracy and a measure of control over the oneness of meat that we have only dreamed about since humans first witnessed the marriage of meat and fire.”

When he first was exposed to sous vide cooking at a restaurant, David Chang originally thought that it was a “cop out,” a way to not really have to know how to cook a steak.

“Then, I grew up a little bit and came to realize that sous vide cooking is amazing magic. (Or at least it can be; all good techniques can be poorly used.)”

But I don’t think he realizes the sous vide options for the home cook.

In Momofuku he writes: “This recipe is not a reasonable proposition for the home cook unless you are willing to buy a vacuum-sealing machine and fabricate a water circulator situation. And even then, 48 hours is a world of time to cook something.”

This is a photo of my sous vide, which has gone up only a little in price over the years. I like it because it’s a smaller size; perfect for a small family.

Now, Mr. Chang is right in his opinion that you can’t just set your sous vide and leave town. I sometimes worry that my electricity will go out during sous vide’ing. I’m lucky it hasn’t. But maybe it’s the 9 years since his book was published, that sous vide has made it into home kitchens, thankfully.

So the only thing that I hesitated about following David Chang’s short rib recipe was his suggested accompaniments to the short ribs: dashi-braised daikon, pickled carrots, and pickled mustard seeds. Not the prospect of cooking meat for 48 hours.

David Chang’s Short Ribs

2 2/3 cups water
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons usukuchi (light soy sauce)
3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon pear juice
3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon apple juice
2 1/2 tablespoons mirin
1 tablespoon Asian sesame oil
1 1/4 cups sugar
10 grinds black pepper
1/2 small onion, 1/2 small carrot
3 scallions, whites only
2 garlic cloves
8 pieces bone-in short ribs, trimmed

Combine the water, soy, pear and apple juices, mirin, sesame oil, sugar, pepper, onion, carrot, scallions, and garlic in a large pot and bring to a boil over high heat.

Reduce the heat so the liquid simmers gently and cook for 10 minutes.

Strain the solids out of the marinade and cool it in the refrigerator.

Combine each short rib with 1/2 cup marinade in a vacuum-sealable bag and seal it. Then seal the bagged rib in a second bag.

Set your sous vide to 140.2 degrees F. Add the bags of ribs and cook for 48 hours.

When the ribs are done, remove them from the water and plunge the bags into a large bowl of ice water. Refrigerate the bags.

Cut the ribs out of their bags over a mixing bowl to catch the braising liquid; set the ribs aside.

Strain the braising liquid through a fine-mesh strainer into a small saucepan. Bring it to a boil over hi heat and reduce it until you have about 2 cups, no more than 10 minutes. Reserve.

Slide the bones out of the short ribs. Trim off any large, obvious pieces of fat, and trim the ribs into neat cubes or rectangles.

Prepare a skillet over high heat with a little grape seed oil. Sear the ribs on all sides, repeat batches.

When ready to serve, put a couple of tablespoons of the reduction in the center of the plate and top with the ribs.

Sprinkle with salt and serve immediately.

Oh these ribs!

I knew the rib meat would be tender, but the flavors!!! You can taste every ingredient in the marinade.

And the liquid is fabulous. I actually strained it twice. I’ll be making these ribs again. Thanks David.

Chicken Shawarma

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After eyeing a beautiful, drool-worthy photo of lamb shawarma on a blog one day, shown below, I so wanted to make it, except for the fact that my husband won’t eat lamb.

So I searched the same blog, Recipe Tin Eats, for chicken shawarma and found a recipe I knew we’d both love.

It is Nagi’s recipe, who lives in Sydney, Australia, although she was born in Japan. I’ve enjoyed her blog for a few years now; her recipes are always fresh and innovative. Nagi also has the cutest dog, Dozer, who makes his appearance in every blog post.

Shawarma is Middle Eastern in origin, and refers to beef, lamb, chicken, or veal, grilled on a vertical spit that rotates.

If you’ve ever been to a döner kebob spot, you’re familiar with a close shawarma cousin. Similarly, the meat is sliced and placed on flatbread, sometimes offered with cucumber and tomato, or even hummus.

Except that shawarma is more about this lucious, spicy marinade that coats the raw meat and crusts up when the meat is grilled.

Why I never made any kind of shawarma at home before now is beyond me.

Chicken Shawarma
Slightly adapted from Recipe Tin Eats

2 pounds chicken thighs (I used breasts)
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon ground cardamom
2 teaspoons smoky paprika
1 teaspoon ground cayenne
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon finely ground pepper

Slice the chicken into uniformly-thick pieces and set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine the remaining ingredients and stir well. Yes, I’ve never used a tablespoon of ground cardamom in a dish before either, but don’t hesitate. Use it!

Add the chicken and make sure all of the pieces are coated. Place the chicken and marinade in a large zip-lock bag and refrigerate for 1 or 2 days.

Ideally the chicken should be grilled outside on a barbecue, but on this day I used my indoor stove-top grill.

Bring the chicken to close to room temperature. Grill the chicken until just done; you don’t want the meat dry, especially if you’re also using chicken breasts.

To serve, set out the platter of grilled chicken, flatbreads, hummus, sliced tomatoes, and cucumbers.

You don’t have to add all of the “goodies,” but I do!

I made a parsley-laden tabbouleh, and also served a “salad” of tomatoes and cucumbers.

Nagi included a yogurt sauce on her same blog post for chicken shawarma, and I preferred it over the hummus.

Yogurt Sauce

1 cup Greek yogurt
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Squeeze of lemon
Salt
Pepper

Whisk together the yogurt with the garlic, cumin, and lemon. Season with salt and pepper, and serve at room temperature.

I even made a quick pickled radish condiment for the shawarma, but it wasn’t really necessary.

For this feast, I had to share with friends, so I served all of the dishes buffet-style, and friends created their own shawarma. It’s so similar to serving fajitas!

Everyone had a good time. I served a Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir which went perfectly with the chicken and other Middle Eastern flavors.

Cilantro Garlic Shrimp

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I’ve rarely made the same dish twice since I began cooking. Thus my motto: “so much food, so little time!” I truly live by this only because there is always something new to make, or variations to try. It’s just fun for me to cook and eat that way.

My husband really enjoys it, I think, because he grew up with the Monday night meal, the Tuesday night meal, and so forth. Seven meals, exactly the same, every week. Not fun.

There are a few dishes that my kids request when they visit home. One loves my black bean enchiladas, the other loves my salads with salmon, but even these are never the same because I don’t follow recipes. But one thing both of them enjoy and request often during the warm months, is this cilantro garlic shrimp.

In this shrimp appetizer, cilantro adds a wonderful freshness, and pairs so well with fresh garlic. So this shrimp is wonderful in the spring and summer, for any kind of get-together.

Cilantro  Garlic  Shrimp

Cooked shrimp, tail or no tail, preferably poached
Olive oil, about 1 cup
Fresh garlic, 5-6 cloves if you want a sharp flavor
Fresh cilantro, a whole bunch
Salt

Spread out the cooked shrimp on paper towels to dry if necessary, then place in a bowl and keep refrigerated.

To prepare the marinade, pour the olive oil into a blender jar. Add a generous amount garlic cloves, fresh cilantro, stems and all, and a little salt.

Blend until smooth, then pour over the shrimp and toss. Don’t overdo it – you just want the shrimp coated, but not drowning in the marinade. If you have any left over, keep it for chicken. It’s fabulous!

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This shrimp can be made the day before, and kept refrigerated, but take it out of the refrigerator at least an hour before serving, so the olive oil doesn’t remain coagulated.

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If you like the addition of lemon juice in this cilantro and garlic mixture, do not let the shrimp sit for long. In fact, serve as soon as possible. The lemon juice will cook and mush up the shrimp.

note: You could marinate cleaned, raw shrimp in this cilantro-garlic mixture, and then grill them, but it’s never quite the same. Some liquid always leaks out of the shrimp and they can’t be grilled properly. So that’s why I use pre-cooked shrimp. That way you’ve got perfectly cooked shrimp, coated with the lovely “marinade.”

Herbed Pork Kabobs

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When I started my blog, my main goal was to be inspirational to those who are new at cooking, or fearful about cooking. This wasn’t a new thing for me – I’ve always promoted cooking. For one thing, it is always less expensive, and also the healthier alternative to eating out.

So on my blog, there are no really difficult recipes. In fact, my recipes are often more like guidelines to preparing food. Because home cooking isn’t rocket science. Cooking is very much about common sense, and it’s easy to taper any recipe to your own tastes.

But I happen to love kitchen ware and kitchen gadgets. I’m obsessed with them. Fortunately you can prepare good food without owning all of this “stuff.” I just happen to collect it. It’s like a disease. I finally bought a deep fryer last year, and still haven’t used it.

Finally, after begging for a long while, my family honored my Christmas wish for a sous vide machine a couple of years ago. I studied them for so long, and was sure that I wanted one and would indeed use one often. And I was right.

So I have mixed feelings when I post recipes for which I’ve used my sous vide, because it is a high dollar machine, and not typically in novice cooks’ kitchens. But I wish they were. These machines do magic work.

My briskets and flank steaks will never be tough or chewy. Chicken breasts? Always moist and tender. And then there’s pork loin. Fabulous.

So here’s another recipe that includes a sous vide step. I apologize if you don’t own one. But, I encourage you to look into one. I own the “demi,” which is a smaller version, and much less expensive than the commercial-sized machine. And it still holds a lot of meat.

With a sous vide, meat gets cooked in water of a specific temperature, for a specific amount of time, in vacuum bags. You have a choice to marinate the meat first, then sous vide. (Notice sous vide is a noun and a verb!) Or, sous vide first, then marinate. The last step requires browning the meat, to color it and add some flavor. Otherwise the meat looks like it was just boiled.

For today’s kabobs, I used a fresh herb mixture for the pork’s marinade, which you can alter to taste.

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Herbed Pork Kabobs

Pork loin, not tenderloin
Olive oil
4-6 cloves garlic
Parsley
Oregano
Thyme
Rosemary
Bay leaves
Salt
Pepper

Sous vide the vaccum-sealed chunk of pork loin for 6 hours at 140 degrees Farenheit. I used half of a pork loin, and it was cut into two pieces. But not for any important reason other than the size the the bags I had available after I’d cut up the huge pork loin.

Immediately refrigerate the pork until it’s fully chilled.

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The next day, remove the pork from the bags, trim any fat, and wipe off any excess liquid.

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Then chop up the pork into kabob pieces that are uniform in size.

Make the marinade in a large bowl by simply adding enough olive oil to the bowl as needed to cover the pork pieces. Mince garlic and add to the oil.

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Then chop up all of the fresh herbs you’re using and add them to the marinade. Add a little salt, and pepper to taste.

Stir well, then add the pork. Stir well to make sure the pork pieces are completely covered with the marinade.

Cover the bowl and refrigerate for 2 days.

On the day you’re serving the pork kabobs, get the bowl from the refrigerator to let the meat lose its chill at room temperature.

Skewer the pork pieces.

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Heat an outside grill, if that’s what you’re using. I used my electric grill. Only a little browning of the pork is necessary, so it wasn’t worth doing the charcoal process. Alternatively, you could use a grill on your stove.

For browning purposes, the grill must be on high.

Place the skewers on the grill, and rotate them until they pork is browned on all sides.

If the pork is still cool in the middle, you will need a warm oven or a warming drawer to heat them properly. This will not counteract the lovely work of the sous vide. But it’s easier to make sure that the pork is at room temperature before browning. Some people are just pickier when it’s pork. It’s your personal choice.

Just about any green vegetable can be paired with this lovely garlic and herb flavored pork. I happened to use fresh zucchini from the garden.

note: Just a tip – unless you’re planning on marinating pork for just a couple of hours, no acid, like vinegar or lemon juice, should be included. It will break down the meat too much.