Tag Archives: summer grilling

What we ate this summer.

Boy, did we eat well this summer! We may have consumed more than our fair share of fresh veggies in a wide variety of simple yet flavorful dishes. What is summer for, after all, if not the consumption of goodies from the farmers market and excuse to work on your tan? Here’s a peek at what we ate this summer.

Chicken Stir-Fry - My Bowl

It started with this chicken stir-fry over rice. I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned this before, but The Complete Package and I love rice. Like L-O-V-E it. You could put a bowl of plain rice in front of us and we’d be happy, but smothering it with this zesty stir-fry made us really happy campers. The recipe came from the Weber’s New Real Grilling Cookbook. Seen it yet? Well, you should. Holy smokes (yes, that’s a grill joke) – it’s exceptional.

When I brought this book home from the BlogHer Food Conference in Austin (Thank you, Dole!), we immediately decided to jump in and try as many recipes as we could as quickly as possible. Here’s another winner from the book.

Weber  - Avocado, Red Onion & Sun-Dried Tomato Quesadillas

This beauty is an avocado, red onion and sun-dried tomato quesadilla. It’s ooey, gooey, crispy and crunchy. It was meat-free, but it still had it all, and in an easy to eat portable package, too. So much flavor!

This next one came from an internet search TCP did for smoked chicken. Now that he has officially conquered brisket and ribs (his are to die for), he decided to tackle smoked chicken. The recipe he found was for a ‘competition grade’ chicken, and while I don’t think he’ll be competing anywhere, this bird deserves a blue ribbon. Isn’t it gorgeous? Smokey, juicy poultry in motion.

A Smoked Chicken

Next was our pizza phase – where we attempted to live out our “More Is More” motto to the fullest. This one was grilled chicken with a smokey BBQ sauce, red onion, sliced jalapenos and a blend of cheddar and monterrey jack cheese.

BBQ Chicken Pizza

Think that one was loaded? You ain’t seen nothing yet. THIS baby was loaded. I call it “All The Veggies” pizza, and it was an exercise in excess. Instead of a tomato sauce, I smeared a whole wheat dough with basil pesto, then layered on oodles of veggies – artichoke hearts, mushrooms, orange & yellow bell peppers, roasted piquillo peppers, fresh spinach, kalamata olives, and red onions – then topped it with ricotta, toasted pine nuts and a drizzle of olive oil. We could hardly pick it up, but the flavors were over-the-top fabulous.

DeLallo Veggie Pizza

Speaking of flavor, this simple dish from the Weber’s grilling book blew our minds. It is deceptive in that it doesn’t look like much, but practically explodes in your mouth. Yummy is an understatement. It starts with eggplant grilled over charcoal, which is then topped with a sun-dried tomato, shallot & garlic relish dressed in a balsamic vinaigrette. Wow. Just wow.

Grilled Eggplant with Sun-Dried Tomato Topping

Next up was a Cuban Sandwich made with leftover smoked pork tenderloin (also from the Weber book), but the star of this show was the tostones we made on the side. Ever had tostones? It’s hard to describe them, but if you ever have an opportunity to try them (or even make them), take it. They’re like thick chips made from plantains. Now, if you think plantains are just fat bananas, you are mistaken. They’re actually starchy like a potato, and unless you let them over-ripen, they are not sweet. Think of them as a potato substitute.

Cuban Sandwiches from Grilling Book - July10, 2013

To make tostones, peel and slice plantains and fry them in a little canola oil until they just start to crisp a little. Remove them from the oil, drain on paper towels, and flatten them with a metal spatula. Then, and I know this sounds strange, throw them BACK into the oil until they are a golden, crispy brown. Sprinkled with kosher salt & served with your favorite salsa, I promise you will never reach for corn chips again.

All this talk of chips and pizza is making me thirsty, which brings me to my last treat of the summer. The fine folks at Double Decker were kind enough to ask if I’d like to try their wine. I don’t think I could have said “Heck yes!” any faster. To my surprise, they sent two full-size bottles – Pinot Grigio (white) and their Red Blend. The red was opened first. We drank half the bottle with a nice steak dinner and used the last half the bottle for Blackberry Sangria. Mmm…. I can still smell and taste it just looking at this photo. My friend Beka pointed out that it appears the ice is giving a fist-bump. Wildly appropriate; it rocked!

Double Decker Blackberry Sangria - Inside NanaBread's Head

Blackberry Sangria is my new ‘must have’ for summer. To make, muddle one pint of fresh blackberries with 1/3 cup of sugar and add to a bottle of Double Decker Red Blend. Cap it and put in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours so the berries & wine can fall in love. Then strain and serve over ice with a few fresh berries for garnish. So good, and so refreshing. This would also work with red plums or raspberries. The pinot grigio is superb and crisp on its own, but also makes a great summer sangria with the addition of peaches, apples, orange slices and a handful of white grapes. If you lika de’ bubbles, top it with a splash of champagne, club soda or lemon-lime soda. Then sit back and reflect on a summer worthy of the record books.

Did you try anything this summer that knocked your socks off? Do tell!

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TCP Cooks: Smoky Baby Back Ribs


Of all the things The Complete Package cooks, his smoked meats are among my favorites. Pork ribs, brisket, pork tenderloin, chicken breasts – it’s all good. One of my personal favorites is the pork ribs. They’re not only delicious as a meal – with baked beans and potato salad, they are fabulous as leftovers. Once the meat falls off the bone (literally), it can be used in posole, pulled pork sandwiches, and one of my favorite light summer meals – smoky pork lettuce wraps. Today, I’m sharing TCP’s secret formula for fall-off-the-bone smoky pork ribs and those easy, flavorful wraps.

Here’s what you’ll need for the ribs:
1 rack of pork baby back ribs
2-3 teaspoons of garlic salt
2-3 tablespoons of Salt Lick Dry BBQ Rub
aluminum foil and oak smoking chips

First, remove the pork ribs from the package and rinse them thoroughly. Pat dry with paper towels. Using a sharp knife, remove the silver skin from the back side of the ribs and leave the fat on the top side. Sprinkle liberally with garlic salt, then apply a light coat of the dry rub mix, rubbing it in until the entire rack is coated. If you can’t find Salt Lick rub, you can order it online or simply substitute your favorite brand. If you’re in Texas, you’ll find it in HEB stores.

TCP uses a gas grill, but you could do this with charcoal, too. Heat the grill to high heat and sear the ribs on both sides, until they are browned and crispy. Remove the ribs from the grill so you can adjust your grill temperatures as follows. Remember: the key to tender smoked ribs is “slow and low” which means a longer cooking time at low heat. The result is smoky perfection.

If you are using a gas grill, turn off the heat on ½ of the grill, and turn the heat on the other ½ of the grill down to medium heat. This divides your grill into a “warm” side and a “cool” side for smoking your ribs. Place your ribs back on the cool side, and a wood chip packet on the warm side (see below).

If you are using a charcoal grill, remove the grill from your cooker and push your charcoal briquettes to one side of the grill. If you still have quite a few hot coals, use a pair of tongs to remove some of them. You want half of your grill to be free of coals, and half your grill to have just enough hot coals to cause your wood chip packets to smoke. Use extreme caution when moving hot coals!!

Rip off 2 sheets of aluminum foil about 12-14” long. Place 1 ½ cups of oak smoking chips in the center of each sheet and fold them into a sealed packet. Using a sharp knife, cut 6 to 8 slits in the top of the foil packets to allow the smoke to escape. Place the ribs on the “cool” side of the grill and one of the oak chip packets on the “hot” side. Close the grill and allow the ribs to smoke for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, remove the first wood chip packet and replace it with the second. Smoke for an additional 30 minutes, making sure the “cool” side of the grill doesn’t get too hot, overcooking or drying out your ribs.

After one hour of smoking on the grill, place the ribs into a baking pan, cover tightly with foil and place them in a warm oven (250F) for 3 hours. When you remove them from the oven, remove the foil and allow your ribs to rest for 10 minutes before cutting into them. When I say cutting them, I really mean using tongs to pull the rib bones out. It’s not really cutting if they fall apart when you touch them. As a bonus, your house is going to smell fabulous and your neighbors are going to be ringing doorbells trying to identify the source of this heavenly aroma. It’s up to you whether you share or not. I’m not saying a word.

Smokey pork, scallions & hoisin on crisp Boston lettuce? Win-win-win!

For the lettuce wraps, you’ll need:
one head of Boston lettuce
2 to 3 cups of leftover smoky pork rib meat
2 or 3 scallions, sliced lengthwise into 3-4” strips
your favorite hoisin sauce

Separate your head of lettuce into individual leaves, cut your scallions into thin julienned strips, and warm your smoky rib meat. To serve, hold one lettuce leaf in your hand. Place a spoonful of smoked pork in the lettuce leaf, add scallion shreds and top with hoisin sauce. Roll and consume. It’s that easy. If you’re a rice lover, you can add steamed rice to your lettuce wraps. If you like crunch, you can add those crispy chow mein noodles. I’m a purist. I like to keep it simple with pork, scallions and hoisin. But that’s the beauty of leftovers. You can be as creative or as straight forward as you like. I just wish I had the words to describe how incredible this tastes. Oh, TCP and smoky pork… I love you so!

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a date with a lettuce wrap.

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