ah! there’s the (spicy chicken) rub

New Yorkers who were in the direct path of Superstorm Sandy are now picking up what she left behind, counting their losses and their blessings. During the storm, I had wished for the support of family, but I never got to test the kindness of strangers. I’m indeed humbled and so thankful that we survived with very little loss. We lost a week of work but we have our lives and the warm little apartment that is beginning to feel like a home away from our home in Bangkok. Whether I am in Bangkok or New York, I like to fill my home with the smells of cooking (and baking) and here is a really spicy chicken rub that can be mixed up in a hurry, sprinkled on chicken, and grilled in my George Foreman indoors. I don’t need an outdoor barbecue to enjoy this, and neither will you.

Spicy Chicken Rub for Grilling (adapted from allrecipes.com)
3 teaspoons sweet paprika
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme

Mix all together. Sprinkle generously on one side of the chicken and grill 3-5 minutes per side.

all green: grilled pesto shrimp with cucumber relish and roasted vegetables

It’s been so hot in New York. I’ve been getting a lot of use out of the George Foreman grill this summer. It’s small, doesn’t need greasing, and all I do is plug it in. Best of all, it doesn’t heat up the kitchen. I made this pesto shrimp in batches, about 6 per batch. They cooked up tender and juicy in just 3 minutes.

Grilled Pesto Shrimp (adapted from Skinnytaste)

Ingredients

1 cup fresh basil leaves, packed
1-2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, grated
Salt and pepper to taste
3 tablespoons olive oil (may be less)
1 1/2 pounds jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined
Skewers

Preparation

In a food processor, put the basil, garlic, Parmigiano Reggiano, salt and pepper. Process until the basil and cheese are combined. The basil mixture will stick to the sides of the food processor bowl. While the machine is running, pour the oil in a gradual stream down the side of the tube. Stop pouring the olive oil immediately when the basil mixture begins to come together in a paste. Scrape down the side and pulse a few times to mix.

In a small bowl, add the shrimp. Pour the basil-olive oil mixture on the shrimp. Mix to coat thoroughly. Let sit about 30 minutes while you do the vegetable sides.

When I make kabobs, I usually use metal skewers. I decided to grill these in the George Foreman grill without the skewers. It took 3 minutes for the shrimp to become just pink. If you use an outdoor grill, the shrimp will be done in 3-4 minutes on one side. Turn and repeat on the other side.

Serve with roasted vegetables and a simple cucumber relish that’s also great with grilled chicken.

grilled chicken with cucumber relish

That red sauce is  a little dollop of harissa that I cannot do without whenever I grill chicken. Plus a couple of twists of Trader Joe’s Everyday Seasoning. The chicken is yummy and juicy, lightly spiced. I loved the cucumber relish with this; it was slightly spicy, crunchy, and fresh tasting. I high recommend it as an accompaniment with other grilled meats and sandwiches. In fact, I made it again the other night for a light supper as an accompaniment for a grilled-mozzarella-cheese-and-turkey-pastrami-basil-pesto sandwich! (What a mouthful. It was delicious too!) I couldn’t call this quick and easy since the chicken had to marinate overnight. But with a little planning ahead, it can be done, because this chicken cooks up quick and easy in the George Foreman grill. And on a hot summer night, the Foreman grill does not heat up an already hot, non-air conditioned, New York kitchen!

Grilled Chicken with Cucumber Relish (adapted from allrecipes.com)

INGREDIENTS:

For the relish:
1 cucumber – peeled, seeded and chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1/8 cup chopped red onion
1/2 cup chopped yellow bell pepper
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, optional

For the chicken seasoning:
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts (or substitute 2 skinless boneless chicken thighs for 2 chicken breasts)

Mixed greens to serve

DIRECTIONS:
1. Split the chicken breast in half horizontally. Cut the larger piece in half. In a small bowl, mix the cumin and chili powder with the olive oil. Rub the mixture onto the chicken, and place in a shallow dish. Marinate in the refrigerator at least 1 hour.

Cook’s Note: Defrost the chicken in the refrigerator the night before. The next day, prep the chicken and refrigerate all day! Come home and do the grill…

2. In a medium bowl, prepare the relish by mixing together the cucumber, parsley, chopped onion, bell pepper, and red pepper flakes. Set aside.
3. Prepare the grill for medium heat.
4. Lightly oil the grill grate. Grill chicken 8 minutes per side, or until juices run clear. The chicken should register an internal temperature of 165˚F on an instant read thermometer.

Cook’s Note: I used the George Foreman grill, which requires no preparation. Grill the chicken pieces in the Foreman grill for 4-5 minutes for thighs, 3-4 minutes for breasts, or until they register an internal temperature of 165˚F on an instant read thermometer.

Serve chicken on a bed of mixed greens with cucumber relish and harissa on the side. Give a couple twists of Trader Joe’s Everyday Seasoning all over the plate.

southwestern cheese panini

I adapted this recipe from Eating Well. It takes about 25 minutes to prepare and cook. According to the website, one panini sandwich serving contains 330 calories. I imagine that if you use cooking spray instead of oil, the calories may be even less–how much, I don’t know, but hey, every little bit counts! What I also liked about it was that it was flavorful without having to use additional salt. I recommend serving it with a salad, such as strawberries, baby spinach, dried cranberries, and almonds.

Southwestern Cheese Panini
Makes 4 servings

Ingredients

4 ounces shredded sharp Cheddar cheese or Pepper Jack cheese
1 cup shredded zucchini
1/2 cup shredded carrot
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion (or a combination of onion, scallion, and chopped cilantro)
1/4-1/2 cup prepared salsa, drained of excess liquid, if chunky salsa
1 tablespoon chopped pickled jalapeño pepper, (optional)
8 slices whole-wheat bread or multi-grain bread
2 teaspoons canola oil or cooking spray

Preparation

  1. Have four 15-ounce cans and a medium skillet (not nonstick) ready by the stove.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine cheese, zucchini, carrot, onion, salsa, jalapeño (if using). Put one slice of bread on the work surface. Scoop about 1/2 cup of the zucchini mixture on the bread. Top with another slice of bread. Cook’s Note: I used Pepper Jack cheese and multi-grain bread which I think add more flavor and texture to the panini.
  3. Heat 1 teaspoon oil, if using, or spray a large non-stick skillet with cooking spray, over medium heat.  Place the panini in the non-stick skillet. Weigh it down with the medium skillet with the 4 cans. Cook until golden, about 2 minutes. Remove the top skillet with the cans. Reduce the heat to medium low and flip the panini. Replace the top skillet. Cook until the second side is golden, 1-3 minutes more. Repeat with another teaspoon oil, if using, and another panini.

Anne Marie’s broiled fish topped with panko breadcrumbs

I wish I could invent recipes like my cousin Anne Marie. She created this crunchy flavorful fish fillet that takes less than 15 minutes to prep and broil. So I am adding this to a new category I call Quick and Easy. Anne Marie didn’t have any measurements and it really is so simple you don’t need any:

Use any white fish filet.  Rinse, pat dry and put skin side down in your broiling pan.   Sprinkle with lemon or lime juice and smear mayonnaise lightly over the top.  Season with seasoned salt, black pepper, garlic, thyme, dill & crushed red peppers.  Top with the panko bread crumbs, pressing them lightly into the fish and dusting with paprika   Place in broiler for approximately 4 minutes on each side.

I used a Cajun seasoning in place of the seasoned salt on two basa fish fillets and omitted the paprika. I left the fillets in the broiler for only 4 minutes. It was crispy on the outside and flaky, moist, and tender on the inside. It didn’t need any additional salt.

grilled fish tacos

Grilled Fish Tacos (from: Joylicious at The Daily Meal)

It must be getting warmer for I am thinking of summertime grilling. However, I made this grilled fish taco dish in under one hour using my little George Foreman grill in a New York apartment. I used basa fillets though any white fish fillets will do. Joylicious recommends tilapia. The fish is accompanied with a  jicama slaw.  In Thailand the jicama is called man kaew, literally a “glass potato.” It is a  turnip shaped vegetable, crunchy, with a  lightly sweet flavor that’s refreshing. However, I couldn’t find jicama so I used a green apple instead. The second accompaniment is a yogurt remoulade. Now a rémoulade is a condiment usually made with aioli or mayonnaise, and often accompanies fish. This version is made with plain Greek style yogurt which is thicker, like a sour cream, and has less calories, I am sure.

Ingredients

For the green apple-corn slaw:

  • 1 fresh lime, squeezed
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 1 1/2 cups  Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, and diced small (jicama in the original recipe)
  • 3/4 cup red, orange,and green bell pepper, diced small
  • ¼ cup red onion, diced small
  • ¼ cup frozen corn, defrosted
  • ¼ cup green onion, diced small
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

For the yogurt rémoulade sauce:

  • 1 1/2 cups fat-free Greek style yogurt (I used Fage)
  • 1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon  grain mustard
  • 1 teaspoon Sriracha chili sauce
  • ½ lime squeezed
  • Salt, to taste

For the fish:

  • 1 1/2 pounds basa fillets (or any white fish. It was tilapia in the original)
  • 2 tablespoons of Cajun seasoning
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 10 pack corn tortillas (I used yellow corn)
  • 1 cup green cabbage mix, thinly sliced, for garnish (purple and green cabbage mix in the original)
  • 1 avocado, for garnish (recommended!)
  • 1/2 cup cilantro leaves, for garnish
  • 1 lime, sliced into wedges, for garnish

Directions

Heat the grill, making sure it’s hot about 300-400 degrees.

Make the green apple-corn slaw. While you’re waiting for grill to heat up, start prepping the slaw. In a large bowl whisk together lime juice, sesame seeds and honey together. Then toss mixture with green apple, bell peppers, onion, corn, and green onion.  Use salt and pepper to adjust your desired taste (adding only ½ teaspoon at a time) – adding more honey and lime if needed to balance out the sweetness and tartness.

Make the remoulade sauce. In a medium bowl mix the yogurt, seasoning, mustard, Sriracha saucee, and lime juice together. Salt to desired taste.

Grill the fish fillets. Drizzle fish fillets with oil and evenly sprinkle each side with Cajun seasoning, adding more if needed. I grilled the fillets in the George Foreman, which doesn’t need any oil. It only took 4 minutes to grill. You can check for doneness when the fillet is white all the way through and the juices from the fish run clear. Set aside when done.

Serve. I heated up each corn tortilla in a skillet according to the package directions. Do keep tortillas warm by wrapping them in a towel until ready to serve. To serve,  start with a warm tortilla,  layering it with the cabbage mix, then pile a generous heaping of fillet topped with the green-apple corn slaw, avocado, and a generous dollop of rémoulade sauce. Finish with cilantro and a squeeze of lime.

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blackened whitefish with sautéed corn with cherry tomatoes

Another Friday in Lent and today’s menu included: blackened whitefish with sautéed corn with cherry tomatoes, roasted vegetables, and steamed broccoli. I adapted this fish recipe from a recipe for blackened catfish in the Cooking Light Eat Smart Guide: 200-Calorie cookbook. The fish was just cooked and the spice added a delicious burned texture that contrasted with the delicate flakes of fish. What more can I say? I love burned toast too…

Blackened Whitefish

Ingredients

1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, minced
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon ground red pepper
¼  teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons olive oil, divided
4 (6 oz) white fish fillets, e.g. catfish, tilapia, basa

Preparation

  1. Combine thyme, onion powder, garlic powder, paprika, black pepper, red pepper and salt in a small bowl. Cook’s Tip: This will only be enough spice to rub onto one side of each fillet. If the spice mixture isn’t dry because of the fresh thyme, heat it up in a dry skillet. The spices may darken.
  2. Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium high heat. Add 2 teaspoons oil to the pan. Brush both sides of the fillets with remaining teaspoon olive oil. Rub one side of the fillets with spice mixture. Add to pan and cook 3 minutes on each side or until fillets flake easily with a fork. Cook’s Tip: For a low calorie alternative I grilled the fish in the George Foreman grill, about 2 minutes per fillet.
  3. Serve with sautéed corn with cherry tomatoes.

Sautéed Corn with Cherry Tomatoes

Ingredients

2 teaspoons olive oil
2 minced garlic cloves
2 cups fresh corn kernels (can be frozen or tinned)
1 cup cherry tomatoes, chopped
3 tablespoons chopped scallions
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons fresh minced thyme or 1 teaspoon dried
salt and pepper

Preparation

Heat oil in a large non-stick skillet. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add corn and tomatoes then cook, stirring often, for 3 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Remove from heat. Stir in the scallions, vinegar, thyme, and salt and pepper to taste.

Serve warm or at room temperature with blackened white fish or as a condiment for steak tacos.

grilled ginger-lime beef

Not usually a fan of beef, I find it tough rather than tender. This is another recipe from the Cooking Light Eat Smart Guide: 200-Calorie cookbook that I reviewed last week.  I changed the method from stir fry to grill  because the steaks were so thin I was afraid of overcooking them. I only seared them 30 seconds in the George Foreman grill. And because I was afraid they’d cool and toughen, I served them right away on a bed of rice vermicelli. As a stir-fry, this dish would have been 197 calories for a 2/3 cup serving of beef.

Ingredients
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon grated peeled fresh ginger
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (1 lime)
1 ½ teaspoons lower-sodium soy sauce
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 tablespoon canola oil
12 ounces boneless sirloin steak, cut into thin strips
½ cup diagonally cut green onions, optional
4 lime wedges, optional
Cellophane noodles or vermicelli

Preparation
1. Combine sugar, ginger, lime juice, soy sauce, pepper, and oil in a small bowl. Stir well with a whisk.
2. Heat half a small saucepan with water. When it is boiling turn off the heat and put in two bundles of vermicelli. Let stand 10 minutes or until soft and transparent. Drain well and set aside.
3. Heat the grill. Add steak; cook 30 seconds or until browned. Remove from heat. Slice and drizzle evenly with ginger-lime mixture. Garnish with green onions and lime wedges, if desired. Serve on a bed of drained cooked cellophane noodles or vermicelli.

flank steak lettuce wraps

flank steak lettuce wrap with two salsas

Tonight’s menu was supposed to feature Horseradish Crusted Beef Tenderloin from the Light and Healthy cookbook by America’s Test Kitchen. Unfortunately, after visiting two supermarkets, I could not find beef tenderloin. So I went for another Test Kitchen recipe instead, Steak Tacos. I made one low-carb adjustment to it and that was I served it with iceberg lettuce instead of tortillas, and I served the steak “wraps” with two kinds of salsa, one spicy and one not. I grilled the steak two strips at a time in the Foreman Grill for just 3 minutes to get them at medium; they turned out quite tender and juicy. For salsa accompaniments I recommend the pineapple-green apple salsa and an avocado-tomato salsa. Either one (or both) can be spicy.

INGREDIENTS
Herb Paste
1/2    cup packed fresh cilantro leaves
3    medium garlic cloves , roughly chopped
3    medium scallions , roughly chopped (about 1/3 cup)
1    medium jalapeño chile , stemmed, seeded, and roughly chopped (keep the seeds if more heat is desired)
1/2    teaspoon ground cumin
1/4    cup vegetable oil

Steak
1    tablespoon fresh lime juice
1    flank steak (1 1/2 to 1 3/4 pounds), trimmed of excess fat and cut lengthwise (with grain) into 4 equal pieces (see note)

Note: Cut the steak in half lengthwise with the grain. Then cut each half again lengthwise following the grain.

1    tablespoon kosher salt or 1 1/2 teaspoons table salt
1/2    teaspoon sugar
1/2    teaspoon ground black pepper
2    tablespoons vegetable oil

Tacos (serve with lettuce or with the following)
12    (6-inch) corn tortillas , warmed
Fresh cilantro leaves
Minced white or red onion
Lime wedges

INSTRUCTIONS
1. FOR THE HERB PASTE: Pulse cilantro, garlic, scallions, jalapeño, and cumin in food processor until finely chopped, ten to twelve 1-second pulses, scraping down sides as necessary. Add oil and process until mixture is smooth and resembles pesto, about 15 seconds, scraping down sides of workbowl as necessary. Transfer 2 tablespoons herb paste to medium bowl; whisk in lime juice and set aside.
2. FOR THE STEAK: Using dinner fork, poke each piece of steak 10 to 12 times on each side. Place in large baking dish; rub all sides of steak pieces evenly with salt and then coat with remaining herb paste. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 30 minutes or up to 1 hour.
3. Scrape herb paste off steak and sprinkle all sides of pieces evenly with sugar and pepper. Heat oil in 12-inch heavy- bottomed nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until smoking. Place steak in skillet and cook until well browned, about 3 minutes. Flip steak and sear until second side is well browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Using tongs, stand each piece on a cut side and cook, turning as necessary, until all cut sides are well browned and internal temperature registers 125 to 130 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, 2 to 7 minutes. Transfer steak to cutting board and let rest 5 minutes.
4. FOR THE TACOS: Using sharp chef’s knife or carving knife, slice steak pieces across grain into 1/8-inch-thick pieces. Transfer sliced steak to bowl with herb paste-lime juice mixture and toss to coat. Season with salt. Spoon small amount of sliced steak into center of each warm tortilla and serve immediately, passing toppings separately.