Grilled Flank Steak with Salsa Verde

It’s grilling season, y’all!  The weather has been absolute perfection here in NC the past few days and it looks as if it’s going to stay gorgeous for awhile.  I savor these few weeks of Spring before the humidity hits and the bugs come out of hiding.  So between now and whenever that happens (before Memorial Day, if I had to guess), I’ll be enjoying as many meals al fresco as possible.

Warmer weather also brings about the desire to fill my plates with salads and fresh flavors from the garden.  Last night we enjoyed grilled flank steak served over homegrown greens with a salsa verde on the side that was packed with herbaceous flavors.

The flank steak is marinated in a EVOO, red wine vinegar, garlic, parsley, oregano, red pepper flakes and pepper.

After grilled to perfection (medium-rare, please), serve it with salsa verde that is a mix of fresh herbs (I used parsley, basil, chives and cilantro), garlic, a splash of red wine vinegar, capers, EVOO plus some salt and pepper.

flanksteak

So simple yet so incredibly delicious.  Especially with a side of fresh air and the end of a beautiful Spring day.

 

Green Pea and Asparagus Soup

Despite the fact that it was in the 90s yesterday, I’m sharing a soup recipe.  I know, I know.  So unlike me.  But this warm soup is everything Spring is.

Bright.

Lush.

Light.

Green.

Simply lovely.

Besides, if the 90s stick around, we officially had a 3 day Spring.

The soup is a basically a puree of vegetable broth, sautéed leek that was seasoned with fresh thyme, fresh chopped asparagus and frozen peas along with a little parsley.

The soup is then topped with a poached egg (3 minutes = perfection) plus a little drizzle of EVOO and some extra parsley plus S&P and served with a side of crackers (or toast or anything your heart desires).

soup

 

Spring Asparagus Risotto

I adore risotto.  It’s quite simply rice that is cooked until plumped.  But risotto really shines when you use high quality ingredients and in-season vegetables.  We’re entering into asparagus season and I was able to get some locally grown, gorgeous green asparagus. I knew that I wanted the asparagus to be the star of the show.

To make the risotto, chopped shallot is cooked in a little bit of oil and then the rice is added.  Once the rice has been coated in the oil and shallot, add in a little white wine for some brightness.  Stir until the white wine is soaked in and then begin to add in the veggie stock, one ladle at a time.  This process will take about 25 minutes.  But it’s so worth it.  I also added in a little chopped fresh thyme.  Because lemon and thyme are a heavenly combination.  On the last ladle of stock, add in the asparagus, stirring until all the liquid is absorbed.  Remove from the heat and add in lemon zest plus a little juice, a sprinkle of salt and some grated parmesan cheese.  Finally, a good crack of black pepper.

risotto

So springy!  Creamy rice, tender asparagus, bright lemon and nutty parmesan.

Spring is in the air!

Lemon Chicken Teriyaki Rice Bowl

You guys!  This weather is AMAZING.  After work yesterday I decided to take a stack of cookbooks outside and just browse while letting the sunshine warm my back.  I’ve missed the sun and 70+ degree days.

Last night’s dinner was pretty amazing, too.

Chicken + Rice + Broccolini is the base of this dinner in a bowl and the sauce is where all the flavor is at.

Start cooking your rice first – this is what takes the most time.  I decided to cook our rice in beef broth (I had some in the fridge and it adds SO much flavor).  I also added the juice from half a lemon right before plating the rice.

Go ahead and put on a pot of water so that it can come to a boil so you can cook your broccolini.  The broccolini only needs about 3 minutes to cook but dangggg, it takes water a long time to boil.

The sauce is a mix of soy sauce (or tamari) with a cornstarch to thicken everything up.  To that mixture, brown sugar, mirin, and lemon juice.  Allow this to come to a boil and then cook for a minute or two until it thickens.

Now for the chicken – simply season with S&P and sear on the stovetop for about 4-6 minutes (depending on the size of your chicken).  Flip, top with a little bit of the sauce and then place in the oven to finish cooking, about 10 minutes.  Let rest and then slice.

In the bowl – rice on the bottom, a little broccolini, sliced chicken, and the full-of-flavor sauce.  I also topped it all with some sliced green onions.  Why let them go to waste?

lemonteriyaki

So many flavors – so many textures.  And so much light!

 

Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Orange-Sesame Asparagus and Rice

Around our house there really isn’t a “season” for grilling because Big Guy loves any and all opportunities to fire up the grill.  But we both enjoy it the most in the springtime.

It’s not too hot.  There’s a breeze.  And the bugs don’t completely take over.

We plan on taking advantage of this optimal grilling weather as much as possible this year.

This dinner is perfect for any night of the week.  Easy enough for a week night but “so good it tastes like the weekend.” (that’s a direct quote from Big Guy…I’m not sure if I should be offended though)

Sliced pork tenderloin is marinated for about 30 minutes in a marinade of canola oil, maple syrup, brown sugar, soy sauce (or tamari), fish sauce and ginger.  Before grilling, sprinkle the pork with salt and pepper.

Alongside the pork, grilled asparagus.  (This dinner is incredibly low-mess material.)

The asparagus are grilled before being drizzled with a sweet and spicy sauce of fresh orange juice, sesame oil, honey and red pepper flakes.  The asparagus are brightened up with a final touch of orange zest.

The pork and asparagus are served on top of a bed of fluffy rice that has been tossed with sesame oil, green onions, salt, pepper, and sesame seeds.  (Don’t tell Big Guy I completely forgot to add the peanuts.)

The pork was beyond tender and juicy and so full of flavor from the marinade.  I loved the sweet-savory jive of the entire plate.

Sweet from the orange juice, maple and honey.

Savory from the tamari, sesame oil and fish sauce.

I’m officially deeming it “Grilling Season.”

 

(Note:  This recipe made enough pork for a “leftover” recipe featured in the magazine.  So half the amount of pork if you don’t want leftovers.  But the leftovers are perfect for lunch or “dinner on your own.”)

 

Creamy Blueberry Chicken Salad

This Friday marks the official start of Spring.  And while we still may be in a bit of transition from winter to spring (my NC friends know what I’m talking about – 50 degrees one day, 80 the next) I am completely ready to transition my meals from winter to spring.  Bring on the light dinners and fresh produce from the garden (or farmers market).

Creamy Blueberry Chicken Salad is as delicious as it sounds.  Shredded rotisserie chicken (one of my favorite ingredients during the week) is tossed with crispy celery and crunchy red onion before being coated in a creamy dressing involved absolutely no mayo.  The dressing is a dreamy combination of Greek yogurt, lemon juice and a little bit of honey – a little tangy and a little sweet.

The finishing touch is the addition of basil which adds fresh, herbaceous notes to this Southern picnic staple and the blueberries – the true star of the salad – bursting with sweetness and color.

blueberry chicken

The chicken salad is served on a bed of spinach that is tossed with a little bit of olive oil and fresh cracked pepper.

Light and bright and totally Spring-y.

Rodney Strong Vineyards Spring Wine Dinner

This past Saturday night, we attended our wine clubs (Friends of the Vine) Spring Wine Dinner featuring Rodney Strong Vineyards.    Wine dinners are one of my favorite things in the world and if given the opportunity to attend a wine dinner I will do anything in my power to make sure I am there.

Our story begins more than 50 years ago, when a celebrated American dancer named Rod Strong settled in Sonoma County to pursue a second lifelong creative passion: winemaking. Rodney Strong Vineyards was the 13th winery bonded in the newly discovered Sonoma County wine industry. A trio of winemaking paths crossed when Rick Sayre joined the team as Winemaker in 1979, and again when the Klein Family, 4th generation California farmers, purchased the winery in 1989 and initiated a renewed commitment of modern artisan winemaking. Through the years, Rodney Strong Vineyards has earned the reputation for critically acclaimed Single Vineyard and Reserve wines, stand out Estate releases and best-in-class Sonoma County varietal wines.

 

The evening began with a Passed Hors D’Oeuvre:

Chilled English Pea Puree
Crispy “Heritage Farms” Bacon Crumble
2012 Charlotte’s Home Sauvignon Blanc, Sonoma County

Wine tasting notes:

Light, crisp, and highly aromatic, the warmer climate Alexander Valley fruit gives this wine ripe peach, tangerine, and pineapple character,while the ocean cooled Russian River Valley fruit offers citrus, lemon grass, and slightly herbaceous qualities.

I adored this soup.  And I was really surprised that Big Guy loved it, too.  The soup was crowned with a drizzle of olive oil and bacon that gave the peas a little more heartiness.

First course:

Delta Asparagus Salad
Crisped Bacon, White Truffle Aioli
2012 Estate Chardonnay, Chalk Hill

photo 1 (1)

Wine tasting notes:

Encouraging malolactic fermentation added additional character, and in the glass the wine is both creamy and crisp, with abundant fruit character, mineral, and toasty oak.

Another one of my favorite plates courses.  While the wine wasn’t necessarily my favorite, I understood the pairing.  The best part of this plate:  the white aioli.  Holy deliciousness.  I want that sauce with a plate of fries.  Please and thank you.

Second course:

Thumbelina Carrot and Maine Lobster Risotto
Arborio Rice, Fontina Val D’Asta, Fine herbs
2012 Estate Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley

photo 3 (1)

Wine tasting notes:

Soft and silky, with intriguing rose petal and crushed pomegranate aromas, this medium bodied wine was aged for 10 months in small French oak barrels, which added a hint of toasty vanilla and spice complexity.

Creamy, delicious risotto.  The arborio rice was cooked to perfection.  The flavors were out of this world.  I’m not sure I’ve ever had a risotto quite like this.  And the wine was one of my favorites.

Quite possibly my favorite course of the evening.

Third Course:

Boneless Rack of Domestic Lamb
Great Northern Bean Puree, Fennel Compote, Oven Dried Tomato, Nicoise Olive Bordelaise
2011 Symmetry Meritage, Alexander Valley

photo 4

Wine tasting notes:

The 2010 Symmetry greets you with an opulent bouquet of blackberries, cassis and sweet spices which unfold on the palate with layers of black fruits, dark chocolate and spice.

The lamb was cooked perfectly.  I loved the addition of the fennel to this plate.  The sauce was decadent and paired perfectly with the wine.

Dessert:

Hillsborough Creamery’s “Sweet Ash”
Candied Pecans, Fig Jam, Port Reduction
2010 Alexander’s Crown Cabernet, Alexander’s Crown

photo 5

Wine Tasting Notes:

The Crown expresses Cabernet in an almost Bordeaux-like style, with ripe flavors centered on red fruit, soft tannins, and balanced acidity.

Pecans, fig and port – three of my favorite flavors.  I’ve had the opportunity to try this cheese several times and every single time it’s an experience.  The flavor is simply incredible.  The chef took a risk and paired a Deviled Quail egg with this course.  The egg was originally planned to go with the asparagus salad.  I applaud the Chef for making such a bold move but I think I would have preferred it with the salad course.  This particular wine was the most expensive of the night and worthy of a special occasion.

I cannot say enough things about this brilliant menu.  Every course made sense with the wine pairing.