Grilled Pork Sandwiches with Pickled Vegetables

I always love a good, hearty sandwich for dinner. (Especially in the summer when we’ve been out and about and spending the day grazing!). For me, the star of this show was the simplified homage to kimchi (which I love but am in the minority in my house). Using the thinly sliced pork chops means it comes together in minutes on the grill if you’ve prepped the veggies before.

Pickled Vegetables

1/2 English cucumber, thinly sliced
1/2 onion (red or white), thinly sliced
1 carrot peeled and grated
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp sea salt
3/4 tsp crushed red pepper
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Meat

6 – 8 thinly sliced pork chops
Chinese Five Spice
Black pepper
olive oil

To Finish

4 Ciabatta rolls
Chopped fresh cilantro
Mayo

Combine all the ingredients for the pickled vegetables (a mason jar works perfectly for this). Refrigerate for at least 6 hours to let the flavors combine, shaking periodically to get everything nice and blended.

On cook day, brush the chops with the oil and coat with pepper and the five spice. Grill until barely pink in the center (it will depend on how thin the pork is – the ones I used were super thin and took about 8 minutes total).

For the last minute the pork is grilling, place the rolls cut side down on the grill to toast them lightly. Remove the pork and the rolls from the grill.

To assemble, spread mayo on the rolls, add a layer of pork, a layer of the pickled vegetables and the chopped cilantro. Not a fan of cilantro? Parsley will work as well. The hot debate on my house was the use to cheese slices. I opted to keep it simple!

Peach Upside-Down Cake

Is there something you make for your spouse/significant other/dear friend that is such a part of their memories, you are terrified to screw up their expectations of making it yourself? For me, it was peach upside-down cake from the recipe my mother-in-law shared with me at my bridal shower a few years ago. She lovingly explained how it was my soon-to-be husband’s favorite and she made it each year for his birthday. When she passed away, I got the recipe out and decided to tackle it myself. No pressure.

3 eggs (separate whites from yolks)
1 cup sugar
5 tbsp juice from peaches*
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 can sliced peaches
1/2 cup butter
1 cup light brown sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, beat the yolks of the eggs with the sugar and fruit juice. In a separate bowl, sift the flour. Mix in the baking powder to incorporate well. Add to the egg yolk mixture and stir well. In another bowl (this is the last one – it does generate a lot of cleanup), whip the egg whites until stiffly beaten. Gently fold the whipped egg whites into the rest of the ingredients. In a 9 inch cake pan, melt the butter and brown sugar together. Remove from oven, give it a quick stir, and place the peach slices into the butter and brown sugar mixture. Pour the batter over the fruit/butter/brown sugar.

Bake for 45-50 minutes. Here’s the terrifying part (at least in my mind). After removing cake from the oven, let cool for 5 minutes. Then invert on a cake plate and leave undisturbed upside-down for about 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, the cake should have come out of the pan. (She must watch over me for this step because I haven’t screwed it up yet). It’s wonderful as-is, but a dollop of whipped cream doesn’t hurt!

The best thing about enjoying the cake is that when I make it now each year, we spend time re-living all the memories of what an amazing person she was. In my mind, there’s nothing better than that!

*Don’t be put off, it seems like a lot, but it’s perfect

What’s Cooking This Week

Well it’s been a hot stretch here so we’ve been looking for as many things to cook on the grill as possible! It’s also the time of year where vegetables are amazingly bountiful. Unfortunately, I have no self-control when it comes to picking out what we need for the week from the farmer’s market, so I also have to spend some time thinking of ways to use things up before they go bad! Both of these revelations drove what was on the menu this week.

In the summertime, nothing beats a nice pasta primavera. The challenge is that I always need to incorporate some kind of meat into the mix to keep my household happy. So off to the grill I went over the weekend to grill up my sausage and veggies for the perfect, quick weeknight dinner. I grilled up broccoli, tri-colored carrots, snap peas. mushrooms, and peppers tossed in some olive oil, red pepper flakes and garlic. On the side, I also grilled some spicy Italian sausage. On dinner night, I cooked some pasta, and made a sauce of basil, chicken stock, a bit of heavy cream and parmesan. I added my grilled goodness into the sauce to warm through, then tossed everything with the pasta (if the sauce is too thick, I just add a bit of the pasta water). Sprinkle with parsley and a little more parmesan. Perfection.

Our go-to potato side dish this summer has been grilled ranch potatoes. Any kind of potato works (these are russets that I scrubbed and cubed). I tend to cook them for about 15 minutes in the microwave in salted water just to make sure whatever meat I’m grilling doesn’t get overcooked. Add the potatoes to a grill pan, toss with butter, ranch dressing mix and red pepper flakes. Grill for about 10 minutes, add your favorite shredded cheese on top, then grill till the cheese melts. Sprinkle some parsley on top (which is growing like mad in the garden) and enjoy. (Feeling fancy? A sprinkle of bacon never hurts!)

What’s been your go-to beat the heat menu this summer? No matter what it is, enjoy it in good health and with those you love! Eat well my friends.

Cream Cheese Swirl Brownies

If there’s anything better than brownies with a decadent cream cheese filling, topped with chocolate chips, I don’t think I want to know! The best part of this recipe is the base is your favorite brownie mix. Put that together and be prepared to take it to the next level (and be prepared that no one will believe you as they’re enjoying the brownies!)

Filling

4 ounces cream cheese
1/3 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract

Brownie Base

1 box of your favorite brownie mix (I tend to use Ghirardelli Chocolate Supreme Brownie mix)
Water, oil, eggs per the mix instructions

Topping

3/4 cup chocolate chips (whatever is your favorite: milk chocolate, semi-sweet, or even dark all work)

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 13×9 pan.

Beat the cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Add the egg and vanilla and mix until well blended. Set it aside.

Prepare the brownies as directed. Spread 3/4 of the mix into the pan. Using a tablespoon, spoon cream cheese filling evenly onto the batter. Spoon remaining brownie mix over the filling. Cut through mixture with a butter knife to make a marble design. Sprinkle with the chocolate chips.

Bake 33-37 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean that’s been inserted a couple inches from the edge.

If you have any left (you may not), store covered in the refrigerator.

Pizza Dip

This is one of those recipes that when you make it for people once, you’ll be asked to make it all the time. It’s really simple to put together, but don’t let on to that!

8 ounces softened cream cheese
1 tsp Italian Seasoning
1/2 tsp garlic powder
2 cups mozzarella cheese
1 cup cheddar cheese
1/2 cup pizza sauce
1/2 cup finely chopped green or red pepper
1/2 cup finely chopped onion

Combine cream cheese, Italian seasoning and garlic powder. Spread into the bottom of a greased 9 inch pie plate. Combine the shredded cheeses. Sprinkle half over the cream cheese layer. Top with sauce, pepper and onion. Top with remaining cheese.

Bake at 350 degrees until hot and bubbly (about 20 minutes).

Cool slightly (we’ve made the mistake of digging in too quickly after removing from the oven) and serve with tortilla chips or breadsticks for dipping.

Happy Fourth of July

It’s a bit challenging celebrating our independence this year but as I watched Hamilton this weekend, I was struck by these lyrics: “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness…we fought for these ideals, we shouldn’t settle for less.” Personally, that gave me a bit of a reset.

So hopefully you all had a happy and safe weekend. And on the blog posts coming up, I’ll be sharing a few of my holiday favorites. Like the best baked beans, appetizers, and desserts. And they all work no matter the reason you’re celebrating!

What’s Cooking This Week

About the only thing I’m good at growing in our garden is herbs. Many of the plants came from a wine and herb event at one of our favorite Finger Lakes wine trails and they’ve just taken off from there. I’ve added a few along the way, but the majority are our original plantings! So this time of year, I love making a simple tomato sauce with fresh oregano to carry us through the week.

The sauce starts by sautéing a medium chopped onion and a few cloves of minced garlic till softened. Add about 1/4 cup of dry red wine, a 28 ounce can of crushed tomatoes, a 14 ounce can of petite diced tomatoes, a tablespoon of sugar, salt and pepper to taste and ton of freshly picked and chopped oregano. Let it simmer for an hour or so just to get all the flavors blended together.

In the winter, I add freshly made meatballs when the sauce is simmering. But in the summer, I add some hot Italian sausage that I cooked on the grill.

Hard as I try, I can’t scale the amount back – it always yields a ton of sauce.

So for dinner this week, I cooked up some rigatoni to serve with the sauce. On the side, I grilled up some eggplant and finished it in the oven with some sauce and smoked provolone cheese. And of course some crusty bread for dipping or to have with some homemade garlic, parmesan butter.

I also used some of the leftovers to make pizza on the grill to round out the week. So good (especially the longer the sauce sits and the flavors come together)

What’s growing in your garden? Whatever it is (or if the local farmer’s market has your favorites), I hope it leads to your favorite seasonal dinners. Eat well my friends!

Parmesan Chicken

This is another family favorite. If I ask for input on what should be on the dinner menu this week, 9 times out of 10, parmesan chicken will be suggested. I don’t mind in the slightest, just don’t tell them! But honestly, this dish has the perfect mix of crispy breading, tang from the mustard and Worcestershire, and the chicken stays super moist.

1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
2 tsp of your favorite mustard (I love Dijon or spicy brown)
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup seasoned breadcrumbs
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
6 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 13 x 9 baking dish with cooking spray. Add the mustard and Worcestershire to the melted butter, stirring well to combine. In a plastic bag, combine the bread crumbs and Parmesan, mixing well. Dip the chicken in the butter mixture, then shake in the crumb mixture to coat evenly. Place each chicken breast in the dish, drizzle with any of the leftover butter mixture. Bake for 25 minutes or until the chicken is no longer pink and the juices run clear. (longer depending on the size of your chicken pieces).

Our favorite sides are russet potatoes tossed in ranch seasoning and olive oil and finished in the air fryer and a simple helping of green beans.

What’s Cooking This Week

Well honestly, not much has been happening in the kitchen between travel, a return to summer events, and graduation season. But one thing that’s been on the menu constantly are two Upstate New York favorites: salt potatoes and chicken spiedies. What are those you may ask? Well let me introduce you!

Salt potatoes are an iconic food in this area (which I didn’t realize till we had family & friends move out of the area – they always ask us to bring some along when we come to visit). They’re small, white potatoes that are boiled in their skins with a TON of salt. The rule of thumb is one cup of salt to 6 cups of water. That’s why packages of the nuggets of joy and pre-packaged salt are found in every grocery store this time of year. All that salt forms an amazing crust on the potatoes while they boil away. They’re served with melted butter (and no, you don’t need any salt on top of them!) They are the perfect side for anything: burgers, chicken, ribs… One caution if you’re going to try them: if they boil over, all that salt makes a complete mess of your stove, counter, and pot, so keep an eye on them.

Chicken spiedies seem to be one of those dishes that I only make in the summer, mainly because the grilling of the meat is key to success. Cubed chicken is marinaded in a mix of olive oil, lemon juice, vinegar, and so many amazing spices (oregano, garlic, parsley, basil, salt & pepper). The key to the best chicken spiedie is to let everything marinade over night (ok, sometimes I forget, but a nice 6 hours will work). Because of the acid in the marinade, it will begin softening and breaking down in the refrigerator. Grill on skewers or a grilling tray (so you don’t lose any of the delicious chicken). Serve on crusty rolls (I like toasting them for a bit) They’re perfect on their own, but I also can’t resist topping with grilled peppers and onions.

Time to get planning some meals and get back in the kitchen. What’s an iconic food from your area that you can’t live without?

Refrigerator Pickles

I’ve never gotten into canning and preserving and honestly, I’m in awe seeing pictures from friends making jams, canning the abundance of vegetables from their gardens… This is about as close as I get because we do love pickles (plus it is the season when I end up with a ton of cucumbers)

1 pound of cucumbers, sliced 1/2 inch thick (I did strips this time to mix things up)
1 large Vidalia onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup sea salt
1/2 to 3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup distilled white vinegar
1 tbsp mustard seed
1 tbsp coriander seed
1/4 tsp celery seed
1/2 tbsp pickling spices
Fresh dill (or dried dill)

In a medium bowl, combine cucumbers and onion. Toss with salt, combining really well. Top with ice and let everything stand for two hours on the counter.

In a pot, bring the sugar, vinegar and spices to a boil. Drain the cucumbers and onion. Add the vegetables to the vinegar mixture and bring almost back to a boil. Remove from heat and cool. Spoon the cucumbers and onion into a one quart jar (depending on how you sliced the cucumbers, you might need a couple). Add the pickling liquid, top with some dill, to the jar and seal tightly.

You can store these in the fridge for about 4 weeks (but I’ll confess we’ve never had them last that long). They’ll begin having that classic pickle flavor in about a couple hours in the fridge.