Monthly Archives: May 2015

Got Us to the Greek

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After parking nearby on our way to reservations at Zorba’s Taverna on Fairmount Avenue in Philly, we encountered a couple walking a large poodle with dreadlocks—I kid you not! It wasn’t the most appealing look I’ve ever seen on a dog, and with poofs of hair at it’s feet, it looked ridiculous actually. Hey, to each it’s own…

Check out the rest of the blog under the Ethnic Dining tab…

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Grilled Pork Kebabs with Hoisin and Five-Spice

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Pork tenderloin is popular because it’s lean and reasonably priced, but it lacks flavor and tends to be dry. Grilling increases flavor but only on the meat’s exterior. By cutting the tenderloin into 1-inch cubes for kebabs, it creates more surface area for flavorful char. Salt the chunks briefly to help the pork retain moisture. If your pork is enhanced (injected with a salt solution), do not salt it in step 1.

Toss the pork pieces in a flavorful, low-moisture glaze (which contains added cornstarch to help it cling) and thread them onto skewers. You will need four to five 12-inch metal skewers. A mid-cooking application of glaze adds extra zing, and the brief time on the grill minimizes moisture loss. In the end, the kebabs were done perfectly and so tender that we could cut them with the edge of our fork!

Our tenderloins weighed in at closer to two, as opposed to the 1 1/2 pounds called for so we doubled the glaze to make sure we had enough. Plus given the size of the pork chunks, I think Russ had a bit of an issue calculating a 1″ cube because they measured closer to 2″ each! To accompany the entree, we stir-fried some asparagus and shiitake mushrooms in a wok on the grill’s side burner while the pork rested under a tinfoil tent. (Recipe posted in another blog.) Both meat and veggies cooked within minutes, perfect for when you are squeezed for time.

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Plated meal of pork kebabs and asparagus and shiitake mushroom stir-fry.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 (12-ounce) pork tenderloins, trimmed and cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons five-spice powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 4 1/2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
  • Vegetable oil spray
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced

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Pork cubes seasoned with salt for twenty minutes.

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Hoisin sauce mixture added to salted meat chunks.

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Gas grilling the kebabs.

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Toss pork and salt together in large bowl and let sit for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk five-spice powder, garlic powder, and cornstarch together in bowl. Add hoisin to five-spice mixture and stir to combine. Set aside 1 1/2 tablespoons hoisin mixture.
  2. Add remaining hoisin mixture to pork and toss to coat. Thread pork onto four or five 12-inch metal skewers, leaving 1/4 inch between pieces. Spray both sides of meat generously with oil spray.
  3. A. FOR A CHARCOAL GRILL: Open bottom vent completely. Light large chimney starter filled with charcoal briquettes (6 quarts). When top coals are partially covered with ash, pour evenly over half of grill. Set cooking grate in place, cover, and open lid vent completely. Heat grill until hot, about 5 minutes.
  4. B. FOR A GAS GRILL: Turn all burners to high, cover, and heat grill until hot, about 15 minutes. Leave primary burner on high and turn off other burner(s).
  5. Clean and oil cooking grate. Place skewers on hotter side of grill and grill until well charred, 3 to 4 minutes. Flip skewers, brush with reserved hoisin mixture, and continue to grill until second side is well charred and meat registers 140 degrees, 3 to 4 minutes longer. Transfer to serving platter, tent loosely with aluminum foil, and let rest for 5 minutes. Sprinkle with scallions and serve.

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a.kitchen, is a highly acclaimed restaurant at AKA Rittenhouse Square on 18th near Walnut St. in Philly. Chef Eli Kulp and Ellen Yin of Fork collaborated on a new culinary concept, with Kulp reinventing the menus using the freshest seasonal ingredients in a simple, yet notable approach: flavor-forward cooking over lump hardwood charcoal. The technique is old-school in a way—just a red-hot smoldering fire—bringing a modern approach and attention to detail to each dish.

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Char-grilled whole fish picture from a.kitchen website.

Identified by Zagat as one of Philadelphia’s “hottest tables” and having read a positive Craig LaBan article in the Philadelphia Sunday Inquirer some time ago, Russ selected a.kitchen for his birthday dinner. Looked at as a new adventure, and with all of the upbeat reviews, both printed and online, his decision was swayed. Our visit coincided with a beautiful Spring Sunday evening and upon arriving, we were seated at the best table in the house (in our humble opinion), straddling the open walls—still inside but enjoying the outside with streaming views of an eclectic mix of people (and their pets) as they strolled, ambled, or skateboarded on by.

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Russ peruses the extensive wine menu.

Described in Philly Mag as “Perhaps the sexiest bar in Philadelphia complimented by excellent cocktails and a menu by Eli Kulp.”

After selecting a bottle of Spanish red wine from a very extensive wine list, our friendly waitress brought us a wooden box of paper thin bread crisps, seasoned with black garlic and spices, to nosh as we pondered the menu—full of small plates with huge flavors—right up my alley! She explained that patrons usually order with family-style in mind, sharing the plates as they are delivered in non-rushed fashion. So as twilight settled around us, we enjoyed a leisurely 2 1/2 hour dinner.

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Black garlic and spiced complimentary bread crisps.

For starters we shared Grass-fed PA Beef Tartare: a well-chilled, grass-fed tri-tip steak seared directly over coals, then diced up into pieces that ranged from raw to caramelized. The course created cool textural interplay, and the flavors mixed in — gherkin vinaigrette, dry-aged beef fat, egg yolk, tarragon-and-chive-flecked Bearnaise aioli — made each bite fluctuate between luxurious and spicy. The tartare was served with crispy puffed potato skins dusted in malt vinegar powder. If I had to choose, this was probably my most favorite plate of the night!

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Not looking like much, this Beef Tartare dish was beyond incredible!

Our other starters were the Spiced Cauliflower, with black garlic and avocado. Beautifully arranged in a mound, the spiced vegetable was cradled in a bed of creamy avocado, just the right counterpoint for the tangy flavors. And Fried Oyster Tartine with creamed collard greens, lemon, and crispy shallot, slathered on chunky slices of terrific bread that sopped up the flavors.

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Starter plates of Spiced Cauliflower and Fried Oyster Tartine.

Both in the mood for lamb, we each ordered the large plate of Colorado Lamb, with “burnt” celery root, cabbage, and huckleberry bbq; and asked to share a side of Grilled Shiitake Mushrooms with seaweed and eucalyptus. When the lamb entree was delivered to the table, I was rather miffed at the small portion thinking it was two orders. But our waitress thought she heard we were “sharing” the entree, so she only put in for one order, which ended up being more than plenty anyway— dissatisfaction dissolved!

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Entree of Colorado Lamb.

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Shiitake Mushroom side dish.

Of course, being Russ’ birthday, he had to have dessert, which comes on a different menu. With little hesitation, he opted for the Goat Cheese Mousse with honey, blueberries and a crumbled graham cracker topping, nicely presented with a glowing candle on the side. Not a dessert eater myself, he did insist I try a taste, and it was wonderful!

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Russ ready to dive into his Goat Cheese Mousse dessert.

As an added bonus, Russ had found a free, on-street parking spot just around the corner off of Rittenhouse Square Park. Would we go again? Yes, the restaurant did live up to it’s reputation—although the prices make it a special occasion destination.

 

 

Gas-Grilled Veal Chops with Mediterranean Herb Paste

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If you ever get the opportunity to buy some good, thick veal chops on sale, don’t hesitate! We don’t eat them too often because they’re expensive, but every now and again Russ finds them on sale at a grocery store out on the Main Line. This was one of those times. When cooked/grilled properly, they melt in your mouth.

Some months ago Russ cooked some darn-right tasty veal chops in a cast iron skillet (I guess it had to be before grilling season began) and we wanted to replicate that recipe but neither one of us could remember where we got it! (Must have been before I started the food blog too.) So we immediately googled a recipe and came across this Gas-Grilled Veal Chops with Mediterranean Herb Paste from Cook’s Illustrated, which looked succulent indeed.

To accompany the chops, we made Glazed Carrots with Tarragon and Smashed Baby Potatoes (which have recently become a favorite side dish of ours.)

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NOTE: Recipe called for Rib Chops, we used Loin Chops (with meat on both sides of the bone)

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 bone-in rib veal chops, about 1 1/4 inches thick, excess fat trimmed
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through garlic press (1 tablespoon)
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley leaves
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh sage leaves
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh oregano leaves
  • 1 lemon, cut into wedges, for serving

If you don’t have all the herbs, feel free to add additional amounts of what you do have to compensate.

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Preheat grill with all burners turned to high and lid down until very hot, about 15 minutes. Use grill brush to scrape cooking grate clean. Leave one burner on high and turn other burner(s) down to medium.
  2. Sprinkle chops with salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Mix oil, garlic, and herbs together in small bowl; rub herb paste over chops.
  4. Grill chops, covered, over hotter part of grill until browned, about 2 minutes on each side. (If chops start to flame, slide them to cooler part of grill for moment and/or extinguish flames with squirt bottle.) Move chops to cooler part of grill. Continue grilling, turning once, until meat is still rosy pink at center and instant-read thermometer inserted through side of chop and away from bone registers 130 degrees, 10 to 11 minutes.
  5. Remove chops from grill and let rest for 5 minutes before serving. Serve with lemon wedges.

Lynnie’s Whole Grilled Chicken

Sometimes I just don’t feel like following a recipe and will just wing it based on ingredients that I like, and that go together—at least in my opinion. This Whole Grilled Chicken recipe is one of those times. You may remember my blog on Orange Juice Chicken (you can find it posted under the “Sentimental Favorites” tab.) I’d say this recipe is a more zesty and grilled twist on that formula.

At the time (meaning last summer), our herb garden was brimming with fresh rosemary, parsley and tarragon so that germinated the concept for the rub. The herbs were combined with citrus, garlic and olive oil in a mini food processor to create a paste. Although during this maiden voyage, I used the juice of an entire orange and a whole lemon which made the rub quite thin, so in the ingredients listed below, I cut back the amount of juice to 1 tablespoon for each fruit.

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Just look at this gorgeous grilled bird… Perfecto!

Ingredients

  • 4-5 lb. whole chicken
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh tarragon, minced
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh rosemary, minced
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh parsley, minced
  • 4 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • Zest of one orange, plus 1 Tbsp. juice
  • Zest of one lemon, plus 1 Tbsp. juice
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 Tsp. salt
  • 1/2 Tsp. fresh ground black pepper

Directions

Massage spice rub all over chicken, inside and out. Lift up skin over breast and rub spice rub directly onto meat.

Light grill and turn all burners to high; cover and heat grill 15 minutes. Turn off all but one burner. Place chicken, breast-side down, over cool part of grill; close lid and grill-roast for 35 minutes. Turn chicken breast-side up, so that the leg and wing that were facing away from lit burner are now facing toward it. Close lid and continue grill-roasting until thermometer inserted into thickest part of thigh registers 170 to 175 degrees, 30 to 40 minutes longer.

Now that the weather is conducive to grilling again, go ahead and get creative with your rendition of this tasty bird!