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Toasted Spice Vinaigrette with Grilled Steak

10 Jul


This month’s Bon Appetit features the most beautiful steak and tomato dish drizzled with a Toasted Spice Vinaigrette. Once I flipped through the pages (by the pool in full summer style), I couldn’t wait to make it. It’s simple, full of flavor and makes a regular grilled steak stand out from the rest. Make sure to use good fresh spices with this recipe – I recommend a trip to Savory Spice Shop in Friendly Center. They are pros. Let them know I sent you.

This simple meal could stand up to any dinner party. It’s a Sunday Supper or outstanding Saturday night meal with special guests.

Toasted Spice Vinaigrette from Bon Appetit, July 2014

  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin 
  • 1 teaspoon ground fennel
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black

Toast coriander, cumin, and fennel seeds in a dry small skillet over medium heat, tossing, until fragrant, about 3 minutes.  Whisk with oil, vinegar, and mustard in a small bowl; season with salt and pepper.


Layered Cobb Salad

1 Jul


It’s really feeling like summer lately – flags on porches, sunshine until nine at night, lots of rose wine pouring and an interest in never turning on the stove. Last night, I made a layered cobb salad for an easy weeknight meal with a friend – and lots of lunch leftovers. This salad can be made with all store bought ingredients – rotisserie chicken, precooked eggs and precooked bacon. Or you can take the time to cook each ingredient – it takes little to no time but requires a little heat in the kitchen.

This salad is perfect for a casual party (serve with a good crusty bread) or a picnic in the park. Get chopping!

Layered Cobb Salad:

  • 2 split chicken breasts (roasted in the oven at 400 for about 30ish minutes – or buy a rotisserie bird!)
  • 1  avocado, cubed
  • 1 head romaine, chopped
  • 5 bacon slices, cooked until crisp and finely chopped
  • a handful of grape tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
  • a handful or two of greens (baby kale, watercress, arugula)
  • 4 hard-boiled large eggs, chopped
  • 3 or 4 scallions, chopped
  • 1/2 English cucumber sliced

Layer the salad in a large bowl (I love the glass to show the layers). Romaine lettuce, chicken, bacon, tomatoes, cucumbers, scallions, avocado, greens, egg and cheese! Dress with your favorite dressing.

Porterhouse Pork Chop with Garden Chimichurri

23 Jun


There’s a lot of chatter online right now about the renaming of cuts of pork. When it comes to a pork chop, I tend to go for the thickest cut, bone-in chop at the butcher. They can be grilled without drying out and can take a nice char. Next time you’re looking for a simple grilled chop, I recommend the Porterhouse Chop – formerly known as the Loin Chop. If you’re curious about cuts of pork, this is a great guide. 

Last weekend, before my week trip to the midwest and wild weekend in Asheville (why its been so quiet round here), I hosted a couple of friends for regular Sunday supper. I grilled Powerhouse Pork Chops, roasted baked fries with sweet and salty paprika (my favorite from Savory Spice Shop) and make a simple green salad. The creativity came through with homemade garden chimichurri. Chimichurri is an Argentinean zesty blend of herbs, garlic, tangy acids and shallots. It is perfect for any meat but particularly good on a bone-in juicy pork chop.

Porterhouse Chops only need a nice seasoning of salt and pepper, and several minutes on a very hot grill. Once cooked to your preference, serve with bright green and super tangy chimichurri! You’re friends will be very surprised if they think it is pesto!

Garden Chimichurri 

  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2/3 cup sherry wine vinegar
  • juice of one  lemon juice
  • a large handful chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • a small handful chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 1 large sprig chopped fresh oregano leaves
  • 4 minced garlic
  • 3 minced shallots
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • a heaping pinch of crushed red pepper flakes

In a food processor, pulse all ingredients until nicely blended and bright green! Smear on grilled meats and bread!

This post is sponsored by the North Carolina Pork Council.


Easy Chicken and Pineapple Quesadilla

13 Jun


I’m perfecting the weeknight single person meal these days. Nothing speaks “I need Friday” more than rushing home to open a bottle of red wine and make a simple dinner. Last night, I put together a Easy Chicken and Pineapple Quesadilla with all store bought items from The Fresh Market. Whole wheat tortilla, a rotisserie chicken breast, precut pineapple, cilantro, jalapeno slices and a little BBQ sauce or hot sauce. It was no work of art, but hot the spot after a long week and lean towards Friday. TGIF!

Rare Tuna and Roasted Cauliflower Salad

9 Jun



Just another manic Monday. My summer has been packed with projects and I can’t seem to make more than 15 minute meals on a week night. And I’m not talking about the kinds on TV that involve weekend prep, freezing and crockpots. My 15 meals  mostly look like the above – a salad combination of greens, items from the olive bar, roasted cauliflower or broccoli and a piece of grilled fish. All in all, pretty healthy and sophisticated for a Monday night after a long day and a trip to the gym. I highly recommend getting creative. It makes busy living seem much more like ‘easy living.’

What is your goto weeknight meal?

Easy Grilled Bulgogi

1 Jun



This is a Mark Bittman recipe, so it really needs no explanation. I’m not sure I would have attempted making my own Korean bulgogi with out the simplicity of this recipe. It takes practically no time, it’s uniquely seasoned and requires no unusually special ingredients. This paired very well with other small dishes and lots of wine. I’d even recommend a double batch, it didn’t last very long!

Beef Bulgogi

1 bunch scallions, roughly chopped

8 or more garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped

1 tablespoon sugar or honey

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 cup soy sauce

1 tablespoon sesame oil

2 pounds sirloin, rib-eye or skirt steak, thinly sliced, or 3 to 4 pounds beef short ribs, boned and thinly sliced

Boston or loose-leaf lettuce leaves for serving

Siracha, for serving.

Make a marinade by blending together the first six ingredients. Slice the steak and marinate for just two hours. Using a hot grill, grill slices very quickly to sear the beef but not over cook. Serve in lettuce leaves with siracha!

Sesame Noodles with Grilled Shrimp

29 May



There is something super relaxing about making dishes in the morning in your bathrobe. I highly suggest espresso and loud music to compliment. Last Saturday I prepped almost the entire meal at 8 o’clock in the morning. It left my Saturday open to so anything I wanted – and be ready for a crowd for dinner. These spicy sesame noodles were perfect for advance preparation. I recommend making them in advance to allow the flavors to fill in. And, take them out of the fridge before serving. They are better at room temperature.

These noodles would also be perfect for a picnic! And, grilled shrimp cook in no time with a friend and a glass of rose. Cheers!

Spicy Sesame Noodles with Grilled Shrimp
1 tablespoon peanut oil
2 tablespoons minced peeled fresh ginger
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons Asian sesame oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon (or more) hot chili oil*
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 pound fresh Chinese egg noodles or fresh angel hair pasta
12 green onions (white and pale green parts only), thinly sliced
1/2 cup coarsely chopped roasted peanuts
1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh Thai basil leaves

Sautee ginger and garlic in peanut oil until toasted and fragrant. Remove from heat and combine with sesame oil, soy, balsamic, sugar, hot chili oil and salt. Boil pasta, drain and toss immediately into sauce. Do this in advance and allow to soak up all the flavors. Before serving, add green onions, peanuts and thai basil.

For the shrimp

Season shrimp with a drizzle of sesame oil, salt and pepper. Cook until perfectly pink.

Memorial Day Weekend Rose Wine Party

27 May


My peonies bloomed this Memorial Day weekend along with a truck load of pollen from my backyard pecan tree. Life seems to act that way often – a couple beautiful blooms in the midst of a lot of mess. In honor of all that is good, I had friends over for a dinner party in the garden with pink peonies and pink wine. I prepared a pan-Asian menu with grilled shrimp and steak plus lots of fresh herbs. A fresh blackberry cheesecake was a decadent end to a long night of laughter and toasts. I hope you had some nice blooms this weekend soon.

A fair warning – Rose wine is very romantic until it isn’t. Nothing like a sandpaper mouth hangover the next day. I’ll post the recipes this week.

Memorial Day Weekend Rose Party

  • Fresh Vietnamese Spring Rolls
  • Spicy Sesame Noodles
  • Grilled Shrimp
  • Grilled Beef Bulgogi
  • Blackberry Cheesecake
  • way too much rose





Chipotle Honey Pork Tenderloin Tacos

19 May





I don’t know about you, but I’ve been eating a lot of lunches at local taco trucks lately. There isn’t much more fun on a weekday than meeting friends in Center City Park for lunch and grabbing an Asian style taco from Bandito Burrito. So, I decided to take the idea back home and create my own spin on the taco with pork tenderloin.

Pork tenderloin is perfect for a long marinade and a short grill. It is tender and take on just about any flavor – from Vietnamese spices, a BBQ rub or a twist on Mexican with chipotles, lime and local honey. After a beautiful Sunday spent hiking in Hanging Rock, I was ready for a casual supper in the backyard with a beer and the dog. I marinated the pork in the morning, hiked the mountain, saw a waterfall and whipped up Sunday supper with just a short grill and a couple fresh ingredients.

Nothing beats fresh sautéed corn this time of year. So, make sure not to skip it. These tacos are tangy, spicy and sweet – absolutely perfect for summer suppers. Is it really only Monday?

Chipotle Honey Pork Tenderloin 

  • 2 whole pork tenderloin, about 2 pounds in the package
    2 tsp lime zest
    1 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
    1/2 cup honey
    3 tsp kosher salt
    4 cloves garlic, minced
    3 chipotle chile pepper in adobo sauce

In a food processor, blend together lime zest, lime juice, honey, garlic, chipotle peppers and salt. Pour over pork tenderloin and refrigerate/marinate for 8 to 12 hours. When ready to grill, prep your grill to medium high heat. Grill tenderloin covered until 140 to 150 degrees, turning occasionally for great grill marks and char. Slice pork thinly on an angle for tacos with all the fixings.

Taco Sides:

  • good quality tortillas, toasted
  • fresh corn, sautéed in olive oil, salt and pepper
  • fresh sliced tomato
  • fresh sliced avocado
  • cilantro
  • hot sauce

This pork post is a part of a series with the North Carolina Pork Council’s Blogging Network.

Sweet Pea Crostini with Proscuitto

15 May


I’m starting to believe that there isn’t anything less than perfect about crostini. They are versatile and perfect for a meal or a snack. And, nothing beats a nice piece of toasted bread. This combination is unusual, beautifully green and perfect for Springtime. It might scare the average Joe with it’s color but it won’t disappoint with flavor. Try it. I promise.

Sweet Pea Topping

  • About 2 cups frozen peas, defrosted
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1/2 cup grated pecorino cheese
  • small handful of basil
  • 1 sprig of fresh mint
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus extra for seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus extra for seasoning
  • 1/3 cup olive oil

Pulse everything together into a nice chunky paste. Taste for seasoning.


  • good crusty bread
  • more olive oil
  • prosciutto

Slice the bread into thick pieces. Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper. Broil until toasted. Top with pea mixture, a slice of prosciutto and more pepper. And, a splash of lemon olive oil, if you have it.


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