Friday, May 23, 2014

The Great Grill Fire of 2014...a PSA and a Recipe Included!

"This grill is on Fi-yah!"

Kids, don't try this at home.

Truer words had never been sung during what I shall now call "The Great Grill Fire of 2014." It was just a regular Sunday family dinner in the neighborhood and with the warm weather, we elected to grill. While the details that lead up to this event are a bit hazy, as you can tell from the photo, things got hot quickly. With black smoke.

Perhaps the grill wasn't completely cleaned before using or maybe it was something else. But two fire extinguishers and a box of baking soda later, the fire finally went out.

Well, at least the roof wasn't on fire. Cue music.

So this is your PSA for Memorial Day weekend. Clean your grill and know where your fire extinguishers are. The more you know. And stuff.

And here's the recipe that I had to modify due to the grill situation. As you can tell, the photo is a bit smoky, as pretty much everything looked after the Great Grill Fire of 2014.

Grilled Zucchini with Walnuts and Gorgonzola Cheese (serves 4)


  • 2 medium zucchini, sliced length-wise
  • Small red onion
  • 1/4 cup chopped toasted walnuts
  • 2 tsp. olive oil + little extra for basting the vegetables
  • 1 tsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • 3 TB crumbled Gorgonzola cheese


Grill 1/2-inch thick slices of red onion, lightly covered with olive oil, 5 minutes on each side until tender. Remove from grill and then coarsely chop.

Grill zucchini 2 minutes on each side, lightly covered with olive oil.

Combine onion, walnuts, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper in a bowl and mix together. Spoon walnut mixture evenly over zucchini. Then sprinkle with cheese and serve.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Trader Joe's Fajitas

The long awaited, much anticipated Trader Joe's arrived in the U Street neighborhood a few weeks back. Like many of my neighbors, I was very excited to have another grocery option in the neighborhood, especially a Trader's Joes.

It had been a while since I had been to one, but I decided to venture during a lunch hour during the work week when I found myself working from home. Because from everything I had heard, it is a madhouse any other time. I was in the mood to make what I used to fondly refer to as "Trader Joe's Fajitas" back when I regularly went to Trader Joe's when living in Virginia.

They're quite easy, but I can attest to their flavor. All you need to do is buy the following items from Trader Joe's.

  • Pollo Asado Marinated Chicken
  • Reduced Carb Whole Wheat Flour Tortillas
  • Corn and Chile Salsa (Seriously, this is awesome salsa. Sweet with a hint of spice.)
  • Vidalia Onion
  • Whatever other toppings you like on chicken fajitas.
I grill the chicken on my grill pan, with the thickness of the cut of the meat, it usually takes 4 minutes a side. I also sauté whatever else I happen to have around. This time I went for an onion, cooked with salt, pepper and a dash of canola oil.

Even the most accomplished of chefs have a go-to shortcut for making a great dinner. This is mine.

On a side note, since this makes a lot of chicken, I decided to forego the tortilla and included all the ingredients over a spinach and arugula salad for a lighter lunch.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Food Porn: Primanti's

I am about the make the confession of all foodie confessions. When I told this to my two friends from Pittsburgh as we sat down to a lunch at Primanti's, the look on their faces was what I had come to expect when uttering these words.

"So...I've never had a Primanti's sandwich." -me

"You're kidding, right? You? The food person." -my friend

That's right. Me. The foodie who writes and talks about food all the damn time had never had the quintessential Pittsburgh sandwich.

After growing up in Pittsburgh and traveling home once or twice a year for the past ten, I had yet to make it there. This is not to say I haven't tried during visits to the Strip District, but the line out the door had deterred me. Because I knew it'd always be there.

As I have mentioned before on this blog, I grew up a picky eater. I had only ventured to try the fries back in those days, because the thought of coleslaw and meat on top of those fries seemed gross. But that was the old me. The new me says "bring it on."

So I went there for lunch with some friends and on my way there, my mom had told me: "It's a hefty sandwich. You can always bring back the other half for your dad." Pfftt. That's a joke. I was going to take this whole thing down.

And I did. I opted for the pastrami version, though you can get it with a variety of meats, or a ridiculous amount of cheese (the way my vegetarian friend prefers.)

So the history of this sandwich goes back to the time when Pittsburgh steelworkers needed to have a lunch that packed all their nutrients (ha!) into something they could eat with their hands, even with one hand if necessary. So they put the meat, the fries, and the slaw between two pieces of white bread. And thus a sandwich revolution occurred.

I will say it was quite tasty, though I could have used a bit more flavor in the slaw. These fries were just as good as I had remembered and amazingly enough, I was even able to eat dinner a few hours later. Because not only do we build a hearty sandwich in Pittsburgh, we breed hearty eaters.

Primanti's...I'm so glad we finally met. I will be sure to take friends to see you next time I'm in the 'burgh.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Let the Grilling Begin: Corn!

Last week, I traveled to Pittsburgh for Mother's Day. I've blogged about all the wonders of Pittsburgh food before, and I will again later this week. But for today's post, I'm going to write about the way my family always ate. Which is pretty healthy when you consider all of the starches upon starches upon meaty goodness that most people experience when eating "Pittsburgh-style."

I grew up on a lot of grilled meats, and my dad is a master at the grill. No matter what the weather is doing, he is always up for grilling. Snowstorm? Just wheel that grill a bit closer to the door. But for this trip, we were lucky to have wonderful weather and could even sit out and enjoy our dinner.

For one particular meal, we enjoyed chicken and steak kebabs with fresh corn on the grill. Here are some basic instructions for grilling corn, for the novice.

Corn on the Cob on the Grill

  • Fresh ears of corn
  • Olive Oil
  • Butter
  • Salt
  • Pepper

If the ears of corn have many layers of husk on them, peel off only the first couple of layers. Do not remove all of them. Then, soak the whole cobs in a pot of cold water for 15 minutes. Be sure the ears are completely covered with water. While soaking, preheat the grill to a medium temperature.

After soaking, remove the corn from the water and shake off excess water.

Begin by pulling the husks of the corn back. Remove and discard only the silk.

Brush the kernels with olive oil or butter.

Place the prepared ears of corn on a medium heat on the grill, rotating the corn as needed to keep it from getting charred too much on one side. After a couple of turns, place the corn husk on an indirect heat (moved to the side of the grill) or on the top shelf of your grill, and close the cover. Cook slowly for approximately 15 minutes.

Carefully remove the corn from the grill (it will be hot so use mitts!). Peel the husks and silk from the top down. Once you've removed most of the silk, rise the corn under warm running water to remove any excess ash and silk.

Serve with butter and enjoy!

Monday, May 5, 2014

Grilled Cumin Chicken with Tomatillo Sauce

Happy Cinco de Mayo, ya'll! Late last week, I posted some of my favorite taco recipes to get you in the mood to celebrate. But here is one more dish that has a great Latin flavor, but with minimal work, perfect for a weeknight meal. I truly believe that making the tomatillo sauce from scratch is the way to go here, and it makes a great alternative green salsa.

Grilled Cumin Chicken with Tomatillo Sauce (serves 4)


  • 2 tsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/8 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
  • 1/2 lb. tomatillos
  • 1/2 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup cilantro leaves
  • 1/4 cup chopped green onions
  • 2 TB fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 tsp. sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • Cooking spray

  • Directions:

    Prepare grill to medium-high heat.

    Combine olive oil, cumin, black pepper and garlic cloves in a large zip-top plastic bag. Add chicken to bag; seal and let stand for 15 minutes.

    In the meantime, discard husks and stems from tomatillos. Combine tomatillos and broth in a small saucepan over medium-high heat; cover and cook 8 minutes. Drain and cool slightly. Combine tomatillos, cilantro, and next six ingredients (through jalapeño) in a food processor; process until smooth.

    Remove chicken from bag; discard marinade. Sprinkle chicken evenly with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Place on a grill rack coated with cooking spray; grill 6 minutes on each side or until chicken is done. Serve with tomatillo sauce. And if you're like me, some rice and a nice Mexican beer.

    Friday, May 2, 2014

    In honor of Cinco de Mayo...Tempting Taco Recipes!

    If you search taco on my blog, you will probably find more recipes in this category than any other type of food. I love tacos. But of all the tacos I've made, my fish taco with mango avocado salsa ranks supreme. It's easy. Flavorful. And with avocados in season, now is the time for you to make them. I made these again last week and they are simply delicious. I've also included the direct links to two other recipes that I would put in my top 3 taco attempts of all time. With Cinco de Mayo just around the corner, pick up taco fixings along with your tequila. They do go hand in hand.

    1) Cumin-spiced Tilapia Fish Tacos with Mango Avocado Salsa. Pictured at right. No other explanation needed. It was blurry because I was shaking with hungry anticipation. Seriously.

    2) Potato and Chorizo Tacos. Because meat and potatoes are meant to be. Like Romeo and Juliet. Beards and Ironic Hipster Glasses. And me and you.

    3) Beer-braised Chicken Tacos with Cabbage Slaw. Something a little less Mexican, but a whole lotta tasty. Diversify your tacos!

    So pick up some tortillas and have some fun in the kitchen this weekend!