Archive for June, 2010

Grilled BLT Pizza with Blue Cheese

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

Did you know you can grill pizza? I’d always heard that you could (mostly from the directions on the Homemade Pizza Company pizzas) but had never had the chance to try it. It was one of the things I was most excited to try when we got a grill.

I took a shortcut on the pizza crust, and picked up dough at Trader Joe’s. Their refrigerated pizza dough has awesome flavor, is made fresh, is made of ingredients you can pronounce, and is only 99 cents! This pizza dough alone is worth the trip to the store. It comes in regular, whole wheat, and herb varieties. All three are tasty, though the whole wheat has a bit tougher texture.

To grill the pizza, place a pizza stone on your grill set to medium-high. Let the grill and stone heat up thoroughly while you top your pizza.

In the kitchen, roll out your pizza dough with a bit of flour to about 12 inches. Spread cornmeal generously over the surface of your pizza peel and transfer the dough. Carefully slide the pizza peel back and forth to ensure that the dough slides a bit. That’s how you know that it’ll move when you transfer the pizza to the hot stone.

Next, go ahead and top your pizza. I’ll detail the toppings below, but whatever you want on your pizza is fine. This works with white pizzas, like this one, or traditional red-sauced pizzas. It doesn’t matter.

Once the pizza is topped, take it out to your grill on the pizza pill and carefully slide it onto the hot pizza stone. The stone will start to cook the pizza immediately, so you won’t be able to move it around once it hits the hot pizza stone. That’s okay though…this one was all wonky when we put it down, and it still came out great.

BLT Grilled Pizza with Blue Cheese
Adapted from MyRecipes.com

Ingredients

  • 1  medium-size ripe tomato, thinly sliced
  • 1 refrigerated pizza dough from Trader Joe’s
  • 1/2  teaspoon  freshly ground pepper
  • 1  cup  (4 ounces) crumbled blue cheese
  • 1 1/2  cups  (6 ounces) shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 4 slices bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled
  • 1  cup  sliced romaine lettuce

Place tomato slices on prepared pizza dough; sprinkle evenly with pepper. Top with 1/2 cup blue cheese and 3/4 cup mozzarella cheese. Arrange bacon on top of cheese; sprinkle with remaining cheese.

Grill according to directions above or bake at 500° for 5 to 7 minutes or until browned and bubbly. Arrange lettuce on hot pizza.

Note: These toppings were really good, but next time, I think I’d use less blue cheese. It’s a strong flavor, and the recipe calls for a lot.

Taste of Chicago

Sunday, June 27th, 2010

David, Leah, and I went to the Taste of Chicago yesterday and had a great time. For awhile, we were going every year, but we never made it out last year, so I was excited to go again. We picked up most of our tickets in advance at Dominick’s, which saves you $2 or $3 per strip. Doing that, and sticking primarily with the taste portions, we usually manage to get through the day without spending TOO much money.

The weather was beautiful yesterday, and the crowds weren’t too bad either. But of course, this being a food blog, I’m here to talk about the food.

We had plenty of our old standbys, including ice cream from Original Rainbow Cone, Eli’s Cheescake (Frozen, on a stick!), Baklava from Pegasus, and Ricobene’s Breaded Steak Sandwich.

We try to focus on things we can’t really get anywhere else or don’t get to eat that often. So no burgers, corn on the cob, or potato chips. We can get that anywhere.

Some of the more interesting tastes:

  • A surprise hit to all of us: Upside Down Caramel Cupcake from Abundance Bakery. Ridiculously good!
  • A fun fusion of two classics: Irish egg roll from Abbey Pub (corned beef, cheese, cabbage, and mashed potatoes in an egg roll. I wouldn’t normally eat corned beef and cabbage, but inside an egg roll is one of the very few ways I will eat cabbage, so it worked surprisingly well).
  • Coconut Rice and Sauteed goat from Iyanze. As Leah commented, goat is much more tender than I would have expected.
  • Leah had Mango Rice Pudding with Dried Cranberries from The Grill on the Alley. I’m not a fan of rice pudding, but even I had to admit, it was very tasty.
  • The Fire-Grilled Steak Taco from Carbon made us wish we had actually gotten around to eating there when we lived further south. We ate nearby at Ricobene’s pretty often, and they would’ve delivered to us when we were in the South Loop. Based on what we tried yesterday, we missed out!
  • The good news is, based on the Cheese Empanada from Adobo Grill, we still have good Mexican food close by. We’ve often considered eating there when we were at The Second City, but have never made the time. Now that we’re closer, we should.

Other solid choices:

  • Grilled Shredded Tandoori Turkey from Vermillion. Very moist, tender turkey with a delicious sauce on some kind of crispy flatbread. It sounds heavy, but was surprisingly refreshing thanks to the cool, green sauce.
  • Toasted Cheese Ravioli from Tuscany
  • Tempura Veggie Platter from Summer Noodles & Rice. Carrot, Asparagus, Eggplant, and Green Beans given the tempura treatment. The veggies were good, nothing special, but the spicy peanut sauce was awesome.
  • Key Lime Shortbread from Shokolad Pastry and Cafe
  • Cheese Perogi from Polka Sausage & Deli
  • Watermelon Italian Ice from Franco’s

Not everything was great though, here are our biggest disappointments:

  • Sweet Potato Hashbrowns from Hashbrowns. What happened here? They tasted like greasy, steamed, sweet potatoes. Maybe it was the heat or the outside service or whatever, but there was nothing even remotely crispy about these hashbrowns, and I think that’s the key to good hashbrowns. You’d think a place called Hashbrowns would know that. We threw it away after one bite.
  • Macaroni & Cheese from Manny’s. I hate to say anything bad about Manny’s, because we actually like it a lot. So much so that we looked at the taste menu and said “No, we’re going to just take you there soon, Leah, because we can’t do it justice here.” We tried the taste portion of mac & cheese anyway, and we should’ve passed. It was mushy and bland. Barely any cheese flavor. I’d rather have Easy Mac. No kidding. (We did like the picture of Obama eating at Manny’s though).

Biggest rip offs:

  • Still the potato chips from Harry Caray’s. We’ve never been to HC’s, and the chips are good, but I hear they don’t even charge for them in the restaurant. If that’s true,  the $4-5 price tag on these chips at the Taste is even more criminal. We skipped them.
  • Also, any drinks. It’ll run you 8 tickets for even a bottle of water or soda, and a lot more than that for a beer or mixed drink. Bring your own water bottles, hit up the water fountains as needed, and save your tickets for food, I say.

Anyway, if you’ve never been to the Taste, I think it’s worth going. Be sure you dress appropriately (it gets hot out there!), wear/bring plenty of sunblock, stick to the taste portions (unless it’s something really special), take a group, and share the food, otherwise there’s just way too much. And try to avoid the 4th of July weekend. The crowds are INSANE then.

Product Review: Chobani Greek Yogurt

Saturday, June 26th, 2010

I’m going to put aside my grilling recipes to plug one of my favorite treats these days: Greek Yogurt.

If you like yogurt at all, you HAVE to give Greek yogurt a try. It’s so much richer, creamier, and more substantial than the watery old yogurt you’re used to. I’ve tried Fage, Trader Joe’s, Stoneybrook Farms, and Dannon’s greek yogurts, and they’re all good, but my favorite is Chobani’s fruit flavored varieties.

I’ve tried the Raspberry, Strawberry, Blueberry, Strawberry-Banana, and Peach flavors, and they’re all delicious. They’re fruit on the bottom, which I never used to be a fan of, but the fruit actually resembles fruit, unlike the blended yogurts I’d gotten used to. Most of them avoid artificial sweeteners, but also manage to not be loaded with sugar. Have you checked the label on your current yogurt lately? If you aren’t buying fat free or light yogurts, there’s sometimes upwards of 40 grams of sugar in that tiny little carton. There’s only 28 g of sugar in a Snickers bar, by comparison. Just something to think about.

Not to get all “nutrition nutrition nutrition” on you all, but there’s also way more protein in Greek yogurt than regular yogurt–twice as much.

Like I said at the beginning, if you like yogurt–you’ve got to try Greek yogurt. It’s popping up all over the place, and it’s worth the extra few cents.

P.S. I don’t think this needs to be said, but in case you’re wondering, no one is paying me or asking me to talk about any of the brands or products I write about here. I just write about things I love. :)

Hoisin and Bourbon Glazed Pork Tenderloin

Thursday, June 17th, 2010

Still grilling. 😀

Our next grilling adventure was this awesome pork tenderloin recipe. It couldn’t have been easier to prep or to cook, and the ingredients are things that we keep on hand. (You should keep most of these on hand too, they all have a lot of uses).

The pork cooked up juicy and tender, and the sauce was perfect–just enough sweetness to pick up that great charred grilled flavor.

Hoisin & Bourbon Glazed Pork Tenderloin

  • 1/3  cup  hoisin sauce
  • 2  tablespoons  seasoned rice vinegar
  • 2  tablespoons  bourbon
  • 2  tablespoons  maple syrup
  • 1 1/2  teaspoons  grated peeled fresh ginger
  • 1 1/2  teaspoons  fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot pepper paste
  • 1  garlic clove, minced
  • 2  (1-pound) pork tenderloins, trimmed
  • 1/2  teaspoon  salt
  • 1/2  teaspoon  freshly ground black pepper
  • Cooking spray

Prepare grill.

Combine hoisin sauce and next 7 ingredients (hoisin through garlic) in a small bowl; stir with a whisk.

Slice pork lengthwise, cutting to, but not through, other side. Open halves, laying pork flat. Sprinkle pork with salt and pepper.  Place pork on grill rack coated with cooking spray; cook 5 minutes. Turn and baste pork with hoisin mixture; cook 5 minutes. Turn and baste pork with hoisin mixture; cook 5 minutes or until pork reaches 155° or desired degree of doneness. Let stand 5 minutes; cut pork into 1/2-inch slices.

Note: Hoisin sauce is one of my favorite go-to ingredients. The spiced Chinese sauce can be found in the Asian section of almost any supermarket. It’s a thick paste made with miso, soy sauce, garlic, and seasonings, and adds a really authentic flavor to a lot of chinese dishes. I add it to pepper steak, stir fry recipes, and all kinds of things.

Here’s another tip–keep a chunk of ginger in the freezer. Even though it’s cheap, it always annoyed me to buy a big chunk of fresh ginger root and hardly make a dent in it before it went bad. Instead, we keep the chunk in a ziploc back in the freezer. I just grate up what I need with a microplane grater and keep the rest. This lets us use fresh ginger all the time, without it ever going to waste.

This recipe, from May 2002’s Cooking Light, suggests the addition of hickory chips to your grill, to get the additional smoky flavor. Since the reviews on the wood chip portion of the recipe were mixed on their website, and and since we didn’t have any hickory chips on hand anyway, I decided to skip it. Maybe we’ll try it next time. I suppose if I haven’t tried it, I can’t know what I was missing, but the pork was tender and flavorful without it. It certainly isn’t required.

Garlic Thyme Burgers

Wednesday, June 16th, 2010

Monday night, I decided to make our first burgers on the shiny new grill. Even though I have our favorite burgers pretty much down to a science (garlic, salt, pepper, and a splash Worcester sauce–nothing fancy, but still very tasty), I wanted to try something a little different. I went with this burger, featured in this month’s Cooking Light magazine.

Picture via cookinglight.com

Garlic-Thyme Burgers
Adapted from Cooking Light June 2010

  • 1  tablespoon  chopped fresh thyme
  • 1/2  teaspoon  kosher salt
  • 1/4  teaspoon  freshly ground black pepper
  • 2  garlic cloves, minced
  • 1  pound  ground sirloin
  • 1  tablespoon  Dijon mustard
  • 4 slices tomato
  • 4  (2-ounce) Kaiser rolls or other sandwich rolls
  • 4  baby romaine lettuce leaves

Prepare your grill. Combine first 5 ingredients in a medium bowl. Divide mixture into 4 equal portions, shaping each into a 1/2-inch-thick patty. Add patties to the grill; cook 4 minutes on each side or until desired degree of doneness. Spread about 3/4 teaspoon mustard over bottom half of each roll; top each with 1 lettuce leaf, 1 patty, 1 tomato slice, and top half of roll.

Note: Cooking Light suggested serving this burger with grilled tomatoes, but I couldn’t quite sell David on the idea, so we went with regular tomatoes. Still quite tasty. The first summery tomatoes I’ve found this year.

I liked the burgers, but not well enough to replace our old standby. The fresh thyme and garlic came through nicely, but didn’t overpower the burger. This would make a nice burger base for many different recipes.

It turns out, I forgot to take a picture, so all I have to offer you is the picture from Cooking Light. I’m trying to get back into the swing of this whole blogging thing. :)

What’s for dinner? Something grilled!

Tuesday, June 15th, 2010

Well, we’re in the new place. Most everything is set up, except for the dining room. I’m really happy with the way everything lays out. Even the kitchen. :)

For my birthday, David bought me a grill. This one! It’s beautiful. Works wonderfully. And we’ve been grilling ever since.

Saturday, we had a little housewarming/birthday get together with some of my friends, and so of course, we fired up the new grill. We picked up a pork loin, cut it into cubes, and skewered it for kebabs. I used Alton Brown’s pork brine, with a handful of Alton Brown’s rib rub, and they turned out great. Tender and juicy, with just enough seasoning to highlight the pork.

I also grilled some chicken marinated in Italian dressing with garlic and herbs de provence. Kebab style as well.

We grilled up some of the first sweet corn of the season, and made a variation of my parmesan pasta salad, but with salami and tortelloni. Still very tasty. :) Finished it off with grilled pineapple. Yum!

After all of that, you’d think I’d be tired of grilling, but so far, so good. Sunday night, we grilled some chicken with the Rub with Love Chicken spice rub and finished it off with some barbecue sauce. Monday night we had burgers made with garlic and fresh thyme. Tonight, we grilled a pork tenderloin with a Hoisin-Bourbon glaze. If the weather cooperates, we plan to grill chicken sausages tomorrow, and follow it up with grilled pizza on Thursday.

Maybe next week we’ll move the cooking back inside, but for now, I’m thoroughly enjoying my birthday present. Happy grilling, everybody!