Labor Day Grill-a-Thon

I’m pretty sure there’s a law that says we MUST grill something on Labor Day.  Not being one to intentionally break the law, I will abide.

I’m sticking with an unconventional theme for today’s grilling, after yesterday’s Chicken Satay Salad.  The law says we must grill but it doesn’t say what we must grill.  So, today’s adventure includes red snapper filets, Portobello mushrooms and mini-eggplants. 

As I ponder this seemingly odd grouping of food items I want to find taste sensations that will tie everything together.  I’m going with citrus fruit, garlic and olive oil – – maybe this can be considered “Mediterranean meets the Gulf of Mexico”, who knows?

It’s a small affair this year…no big blow-out party, thanks to the persistent virus!  This will serve three people.

The eggplant will take the longest to cook, followed by the mushrooms and red snapper.

Grilled Mini-Eggplants

Ingredients:

8 to 10 mini-eggplants

3 garlic cloves sliced very thin

3 Tbs olive oil

1 Tbs balsamic vinegar

Salt and pepper to taste

1 orange, sliced into ½” thick rings and cut in half.

Directions:

Cut the eggplants in half from tip to stem but stop short of cutting completely.

Place several slices of garlic inside each eggplant.

Place the eggplants in a cast iron skillet, or make a reinforced tray out of heavy-duty aluminum foil.

Drizzle olive oil and balsamic vinegar over the eggplants.

Add a few pinches of salt and pepper.

Bake on a hot grill (400°) for 30 to 45 minutes.  The temperature of the coals will diminish during the grilling process but that’s ok.  Cover the eggplants, if necessary to steam and soften them but finish by uncovering them.

The eggplants are done when they are soft.

Serve hot, with orange slices on the side.

Grilled Portobello Mushrooms

Ingredients:

2 Tbs olive oil

½ tsp balsamic vinegar

2 tsp garlic powder

2 Portobello mushrooms, stems and gills removed

½ cup panko bread crumbs

1/3 cup shredded Mozzarella cheese

3 Tbs grated Parmesan cheese

1/4 cup chopped green onions

1 tsp oregano

½ tsp thyme

2 Tbs melted butter

Juice of ½ lemon

Directions:

Using a spoon, scrape the gills out of the mushrooms.  This will give you more room for the stuffing.

Mix the oil, balsamic vinegar and garlic powder together. 

Marinate the mushrooms for about 10 minutes. 

Mix panko bread crumbs, Mozzarella, Parmesan, green onions, oregano and thyme together.  Drizzle the butter over the mixture.

Pack the center of the mushrooms with the stuffing, leaving a little room on the edges.  Place the mushrooms on the hot grill and cook until the cheese melts and bubbles, (about 5 minutes).  Remove from the grill, squirt a little lemon juice on the mushrooms and serve warm.

Grilled Red Snapper Filets

Ingredients:

Salt and pepper to taste

Juice and zest of ½ lemon

Juice and zest of 1 lime

3 Tbs olive oil

Directions:

Apply salt and pepper to both sides of the filets.

Squirt lime and lemon juice onto both sides of the fish.

Form a rimmed tray from aluminum foil.

Place a tablespoon of olive oil in the tray and smear both sides of the fish in the oil.  Lay the fish on the foil, skin side down.

Grill for about 10 minutes over medium to high heat.  The fish is done when it becomes firm to the touch and you start to see the oils in the fish sizzling on the foil.

Sprinkle lime and lemon zest over the fish before serving.

Chicken Satay Salad

A Labor Day celebration, like no other.

Today’s recipe is a shout out to the many hard working people who continue to persevere as we face the Covid-19 pandemic.  Two people in particular are on my mind tonight.  My colleagues and I are not only putting ourselves at risk every day as we work during the pandemic but we have the added challenge of dealing with a poorly developed and prematurely deployed warehouse management system.  We are flying without a net as we attempt to train employees on a system we barely know and yet, we somehow find a way to maintain our “game faces” as we strive to maintain our sanity during this absurd circus.

Happy Labor Day, guys…thanks for your strength, wisdom and humor.  I’m honored and humbled to be on your team.

Okay, let’s get busy… Chicken Satay Salad

I don’t remember the first time I had chicken satay but I do remember how quickly I took to it!  Grilled chicken on a skewer smothered in a sweet, peanut buttery, soy sauce…wow!  I don’t know how or why Indonesians got their hands on peanut butter but they won me over with this!

I’ve made chicken satay several times and I have received mixed reviews, which is a polite way of saying that it wasn’t received well.  Maybe it’s the peanut butter flavor that people don’t get, I don’t know.  This recipe expands on the traditional satay by adding fresh vegetables and rice noodles.  The satay sauce takes a backseat to the textures and flavors that the salad and noodles bring.

For the Marinade:

1/3 cup dark soy sauce

Juice of 1 lime

2 Tbs peanut butter

1 tsp Maggi sauce (it’s like soy sauce on steroids!)

1 Tbs chopped fresh ginger

¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro (stems included)

2 small, fresh red chilies, chopped (jalapeño, cayenne or Thai chilis) – optional

1 clove garlic, smashed

Combine the marinade ingredients in a bowl and mash with a spoon.  Crushing the ingredients is an important step because it releases the oils and flavors and produces a very potent marinade!

Marinate the chicken breasts for one hour.

While the chicken marinates, make the sauce for the noodles and prep the rice noodles.

Ingredients for the sauce:

1/3 cup dark soy sauce

2 Tbs honey

½ cup warm water

3 Tbs peanut butter

Juice of two limes

3 Tbs cooking oil (I used olive oil)

1 clove garlic, mashed and minced

Add the dark soy sauce and honey to a mixing bowl.  Add warm water and mix thoroughly.  Add the peanut butter and mix to combine.  Drizzle the oil into the mixture and whisk.  Add lime juice and minced garlic and mix.  Set aside.

Prepare the rice noodles:

Ingredients:

8 oz rice noodles (Vietnamese-style rice Vermicelli noodles)

Soak the rice noodles in warm water for about 30 minutes.  Strain the water and set the noodles aside.  Start a large pot of water to boil on the stove.  Boil the noodles for about 1 minute, or until the noodles are soft (al dente).  Remove the noodles and strain.  Rinse with cool water.  Set the noodles aside.

Start the grill.  Allow the coals to reach their peak before putting the chicken on the grill.  The goal is succulent, smoked chicken, without charring the chicken.  Pile the hot coals in the center of the grill and lay the chicken on the edges of the grill.  Cook time will be about 40 minutes and the chicken should be turned every 10 minutes.  Be patient.  All good things happen in due time!

Grill the chicken until the internal temperature is at least 165°.  To be honest, I rarely use a thermometer to check for doneness.  I press my thumb on the chicken and when it feels firm, it’s done but, checking the temperature is a sure way to make sure the chicken is fully cooked.

While the chicken is on the grill, go back to the kitchen to chop some vegetables.

Ingredients for the salad:

1 cup fresh spinach, sliced thin

3/4 cup carrots, cut in thin strips

3 green onions, sliced in long strips

½ cup cilantro, chopped

Combine the vegetables in a bowl and set aside.  While you’re at it, measure out the peanuts and set them aside.

Pull the chicken from the grill and let it rest for several minutes before slicing.  Slice the chicken in ¼” slices and set aside.

Add the prepared noodles to a large mixing bowl.  Heat the sauce in a pan until it begins to bubble and boil.  Turn the heat off and add the sauce to the noodles.  Mix until the noodles are coated.

Prepare the finished dish by adding some noodles to individual serving bowls.  Top with sliced chicken and then top that with the vegetables and peanuts.

Serve at room temperature or chilled, for a refreshing summertime meal.