Archive for the ‘Middle Eastern Inspired’ Category

Despite pork being the national meat of the Chinese (the word for meat in Chinese is “yook” – which is synonymous to the word for pork), I don’t really eat a lot of pork. Nothing against the pig, its just that I like the taste of chicken, seafood and expensive fatty steak.

But this recipe for Tandoori Orange Spiced Pork Chop ROCKS! The chops are seasoned with Tandoori seasoning (or, if you don’t have, make your own) and a pan sauce is made with carmelized onions, mushrooms, a quick squeeze of orange, white wine, orange sections and broth. The cardamom, ginger and cinnamon from the Tandoori seasoning just goes so well with orange. It’s seductive-spicy-sweet-fragrant. Serve with Saffron Basmati Rice and you’re in belly-dancing heaven.

Inspired by Simply Recipe’s Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Orange Marmalade Glaze but I didn’t have tenderloin nor marmalade. Instead I had chops and 1 orange…so I improvised.

Tandoori-Orange Spiced Pork Chops

serves 4

4 pork chops
1/2 cup kosher salt (for brine)
1/2 cup brown sugar (for brine)
1 tablespoon Tandoori spice
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
1 orange, sectioned (see Beyond Salmon’s cool step by step), reserving the 2 ends & the middle membrane for juice
1 medium onion, sliced
1 pint sliced mushrooms
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Brine the Pork Chop
This step is purely optional, but I’ve found that when I brine chicken or pork chop, it never dries out even if I accidentally overcook the chops. But I understand if you don’t have time, no big deal, just skip this step. Or, if your chops are really thin, don’t bother. Grab a big pot. Take the salt and brown sugar, dissolve in 2 cups of hot water. Add cold water and ice cubes to make total of gallon total of brine. Place pork chops in the cooled brine, refrigerate between 1 hour-2 hours. Rinse and pat dry. Season with Tandoori spice and ground pepper (no salt! its salty enough from brine) Note: If you want the chops to be brined for a longer period of time, just use less salt/sugar. Sometimes I put the meat in brine in the morning, go to work and come home to cook. I’ll just use half the amount of salt/sugar.

Fry the Pork Chop
In a pan large enough to hold all chops without touching each other, heat over high. Add 1 tablespoon of canola oil. When hot and shimmering, add pork chops to pan. Fry 2 minutes without moving, touching or peeking. Ok, now look – a nice brown crust! Flip the chops, turn the heat to medium-low and let it finish cooking through (internal temp 125.) Timing really depends on how thick your chops are. Really thin chops – just a couple of minutes. Thicker chops – cover the pan after flipping to get more heat in the pan. Really thick chops – best to stick it in the oven after flipping, 375 degrees for 8-10 minutes. Check the internal temp.

Remove chops from pan, let rest on plate while you make sauce.

Make the Sauce
Pour out all but 1 tablespoon of the pan drippings (most of it is fat). Place back on stovetop on medium heat. Add onions and cook until golden, soft and totally fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add mushrooms, cook another 2 minutes. Turn up heat to high and add wine. Stir and scrape up the bottom of pan. Cook 1 minute. Add chicken broth and the orange sections. Take the orange ends and membranes, squeeze whatever remaining juice remains into the pan and discard. Cook 1 minute. Swirl in the 1 tablespoon of butter. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Reduce the sauce until it becomes thick, coating the back of a spoon. Pour on top of the chops.

Read Full Post »

Baby Eggplant

Look what I found at the market yesterday! These were so darn cute, about 4 inches in length – I just had to take some of these bright, shiny baby aubergines home with me. Eggplant season generally starts in June, but one of the perks of living in Florida is that we get produce a little earlier in season due to the warmer weather.

The babies were practically begging to be roasted as an appetizer. I just so happened to have a jar of Sicilian Caponata, which is a relish of chopped eggplant, tomatoes, capers and olives, all magically blended into a sauce perfect for pastas, quick bruschetta, or even eating straight out of the jar (me, guilty).

Roasted baby eggplant

I simply sliced the baby eggplants in half lengthwise, put them on a roasting pan, drizzled olive oil and in the oven at 375 degrees. 10 minutes later, I checked on them. Perfect timing! I then brushed a little more olive oil on top and set the broiler on high for 2 minutes to get a little more carmelization on the top. Serve a quick sprinkling of sea salt, a spoonful of Caponata, chopped parsley and freshly grated Pecorino Romano.

The eggplant is dreamy, delicate and sweet. One bite and the velvety flesh just melts into your mouth. Since they haven’t matured, they do not have any of the bitterness that the adult variety contains. No need to salt to extract the bitter compounds.

These babies were just the perfect size for a finger food. Their indigo skins looked so perfect on a white platter! Can you imagine serving these cute things wearing the perfect hostess apron?! (HUSBAND click on this link)

Roasted baby eggplant

You don’t have Caponata? Try these toppings:

-Pesto sauce with chopped parsley, roasted pinenuts and shaved parmesan

-Chunky marinara sauce with chopped basil

-Slices of roasted bell peppers and good olives

-Diced tomatoes with a garlicy Tzaziki sauce. Top with chopped, fresh dill

-Crispy fried basil leaves (deep fry the leaves)

-Whipped mashed potato mixed with curry powder

Do you have any other topping suggestions?

Read Full Post »

Saffron Rice

Here’s another great rice recipe when plain basmati rice just won’t do. The saffon adds such a lovely, bright golden color to the rice, in contrast with the crimson saffron threads dispersed throughout. Saffron rice has a delicate, floral aroma that you can’t duplicate with any other spice.

There are 3 secrets making this rice.

Secret #1: Use good quality saffron. Don’t buy the cheap stuff. Everyone says that saffron is the world’s most expensive spice – true if you are counting ounce per ounce. But you use so little of it each time. Here’s the key to buying saffron. The threads should be almost all bright red. If you see yellow, that means when the threads were harvested, they picked the flower portion that was STIGMA (a.k.a. expensive good stuff) and STIGMA (bad, tasteless shit).

I purchase my saffron from www.saffron.com. For $40, I get the absolute best quality stuff and it will last me many, many scrumptious dishes. Another note on using saffron – you should soak the threads in a little bit of hot water to really open up the spice and release its flavor. Use the threads+soaking water in your dish.

Secret #2: Fry onions before steaming the rice. It gives rice an earthy, caramelized onion flavor. You can substitute minced shallots for the onions.

Secret #3: Salt. Everything tastes better with salt. This rice comes alive when you add something salty to it. In this recipe, I used broth instead of water to steam the rice. Use fresh, canned or concentrated broth base.

Now its time to be creative. Use secrets #2 and #3 and make your own rice recipe with your favorite spices. Here are some of my favorite combinations.

– Cumin + a couple tablespoonfuls of tomato paste for Mexican rice
– Dried oregano + basil (basically any dried leafy herb mixture)
– Curry powder + raisins
– A few dashes of soy sauce + sesame oil + minced green onions after the rice is done steaming
– Garlic powder + stir in chopped fresh parsley after rice is done steaming
– Any of the above + stir in thawed frozen peas after rice is done steaming

Saffron Basmati Rice
2 cups Basmati Rice
3 ½ cups Broth (chicken or vegetable)
1 pinch Saffron threads soaked in 2T hot water for 10 minutes
1 tsp Salt
2 T olive oil
½ cup diced onions

1. Wash and drain the rice. In 4-qt pot, heat with olive oil over medium heat. When oil is shimmering, add onions and fry for 3 minutes, until softened and light brown. Stir in rice, broth, saffron + soaking water and salt. Bring to a boil over high heat. Once it starts boiling, immediately cover and turn to low heat.

3. Let the rice cook on low heat, undisturbed (no peeking!) for 20 minutes. Turn off heat. Let sit for another 5 minutes covered to finish steaming. Use a fork to fluff up the rice.

Need a main dish to go with that fabulous rice?

Read Full Post »

Moroccan Grilled Shrimp

Moroccan Grilled Vegetable Skewers

I purchase my spices at www.spice-appeal.com. Their spices are high quality and come in beautiful containers.

The spice blends are my favorite – a teaspoon totally transforms a dish from ordinary exotic.
For these skewers, I used Ras El-Hanout, a Moroccan blend of nutmeg, cinnamon, rosebuds,
pepper, ginger, allspice, turmeric, cloves, cardamom, chilies, lavender and other spices.

Moroccan Grilled Shrimp & Vegetable Skewers

Serves 6

1 lb shrimp, shelled, leave tail on

1 whole roasted red bell pepper from jar, cut 1″ squares

3 zucchini, cut into 1/2″ chunks

1/2 pint cherry tomatoes

1 pint mushrooms

Bamboo skewers, soaked in water for 30 minutes

Shrimp Marinade

3 T low-fat yogurt

2 tsp Ras El Hanout

salt & pepper

Vegetable Marinade

3 T olive oil

2 tsp Ras El Hanout

salt & pepper

1. Marinate both shrimp and vegetables for 1 hour. In meantime, make sure the bamboo skewers are soaked so that they don’t burn.

2. Shrimp: Alternate shrimp and red bell pepper on skewer. Pre-heat BBQ grill. Grill 1 minute each side on med-high flame.

3. Vegetable: Alternate vegetables on each skewer. Grill 2-3 minutes each side on med-high flame.

Read Full Post »

Marinated Skirt Steak

Skirt steak is one of my favorite cuts of meat, its cheap, so full of flavor and perfect for grilling. At my local warehouse club store, BJ’s, they sell skirt steak for under $5 a pound. If you’re entertaining, this is a great way to feed a hungry crowd steaks on a budget.

There are a few rules to skirt steak – grill to medium-rare and slice it across the grain. I usually marinate 4-6 hours in a combination of spices – each time its different depending on what spices I have on hand and what type of cuisine I am planning on serving. Last night we served a Middle-Eastern/Moroccan meal, so I used Ras El-Hanout, a Moroccan blend. Be creative – you could use Thai spices, Chinese 5 spice powder, Indian (masala), Mexican (fajita seasoning), etc.

My favorite spice to use is Old Bay Seasoning – I love the combination of bay leaves, mustard, clove, cinammon and ginger in the spice.

I always serve skirt steak with Persian Cherry Rice. I haven’t perfected the recipe yet – but will post the recipe as soon as I can. Its a beautiful combination of basmati rice, saffron and cherries.

Marinated & Grilled Skirt Steak

Feeds 6 hungry people

3 lbs skirt steak, cut into 8″ pieces

3T olive oil

3T red wine vinegar

3T brown sugar

2T red pepper flakes

2 garlic cloves, minced

2T spice mixture such as Ras El-Hanout or Old Bay Seasoning

salt & pepper

1. Marinate the steak in the ingredients above for 4-6 hours. 30 minutes prior to grilling, remove steak from refrigerator and let sit at room temperature.

2. Grill to medium-rare (about 3 min each side). Since the thickness of skirt steaks can vary, make sure that you put the thicker slices on the grill first.

3. Let the cooked steaks rest for 5 minutes. Slice across the grain into thin slices. Serve.

Read Full Post »