Tamarind Marinated Pork Belly Skewers

The days when a person can buy farm-raised meat directly from the producer are almost a thing of the past. But there still are options.

Just recently, a few of my friends and I purchased some pork from a local farmer. A couple of whole pigs were sent from the farm to the butcher and then came to us.

So far, I have been pretty satisfied with the meat. Therese and I already have sampled some chops, steaks and bacon. And with the holidays just around the corner, a smoked ham is looking pretty good for Christmas or New Year’s Day.

Not everyone has the opportunity to buy meat this way. For those people, Pig of the Month (www.pigofthemonth.com.) is a great option.

Featured on “Good Morning America” and personally endorsed by Iron Chef Michael Symon, Pig of the Month is an online retailer specializing in world famous barbecue and sides, all one click away from your dinner table.

With a smoking technique that was perfected over decades, the company ships homemade, all natural barbecue products ranging from a variety of meats, sides and sauces straight to your door — all ready to be served within 30-minutes of arrival.

Among best sellers at Pig of the Month:

BBQ Feast! $74.95 — 2 racks of Texas Style Barbecue ribs, 1 pound of pulled pork, 1 bottle Cattle King Texas Brisket & BBQ Sauce.

Bacon Sampler, $55 — 1 pound Pepper Crusted Smoked Bacon, 1 pound Chipotle spiced Bacon, 1 pound Applewood Smoked Maple Cinnamon Bacon.

Sausage Sampler, $38.95 — 1 pound Duck, Pear and Port Sausages; 1 pound Mild Italian Sausages; 1 pound Garlic Sausages.

Memphis Style Ribs, $58.95 — 2 racks of Memphis style baby back ribs (1.75 to 2 pound per rack),  1 bottle Memphis Barbecue Sauce.

Pig of the Month also features recipes on its website, including the following one.

Tamarind Marinated Pork Belly Skewers
1 tablespoon tamarind paste
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon Vietnamese fish sauce (nuoc mam)
2 teaspoons fresh minced ginger
1 tablespoon minced shallot or green onion
½ teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder
1 pound pork belly, skin removed and sliced in ¼-inch cubes
Combine marinade ingredients in a bowl. Add cubed or sliced pork belly to marinade. Let sit for about 30 minutes at room temperature. If you have more time, let sit for up to 2 hours.
Bring your grill up to medium heat. Remove pork from marinade, thread onto skewers, maybe with your favorite vegetables, and then grill 2 to 3 minutes per side or until nicely browned.
Serve immediately.
Yield: Serves 6 to 8.

Beef Satay Skewers with Habanero Peanut Sauce

Cooking food on the grill is seasonal for most people in this part of the country. Once the snow starts to fly and the temperatures drop below the freezing mark for good, grilling is put on the back burner.

But real grilling aficianados do it year-round. And when the weather is as mild as it has been the past two winters, they are joined by some of the fair-weather types.

So with that in mind, here’s a grilling recipe from Jaden Hair, television chef, food columnist and award-winning food blogger at Steamy Kitchen (www.steamykitchen.com), which I came across today. It’s for beef satay skewers with a habanero peanut sauce.

Satay, for the uninformed, is a dish of seasoned, skewered and grilled meat served with a sauce. It’s typically diced or sliced chicken, beef, pork, fish or other meat that originated in Indonesia, where it has become a national dish. (Some grillers even use tofu.) It’s also popular in other Southeast Asian countries, as well.

Beef Satay Skewers with Habanero Peanut Sauce
½ cup onion, finely diced
3 cloves garlic, through garlic press
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons Asian red chili sauce (like sambal oelek or sriracha)
1 tablespoon minced fresh cilantro
¼ cup soy sauce
2 teaspoons sesame oil
½ lime, juiced
1½ pounds skirt steak, ½-inch thick slices
bamboo skewers, soaked in water
1 cup smooth peanut butter
½ cup hot water
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon cumin
¼ teaspoon habanero pepper, finely minced, to taste
½ teaspoon curry powder
1 lime, juiced
For marinade, mash together the onion, garlic, ginger and sugar using mortar and pestle or food processor. Or if you have chopped your ginger, garlic and onion fine enough, no need to do anything further. Add this mixture into a resealable bag. To the same bag, add in the red chili paste, cilantro, soy sauce, sesame oil and lime juice. Massage to mix well. Add in the beef strips. Marinate 1 to 2 hours or up to overnight. In the meantime, prepare the Habanero Peanut Sauce.
When ready to cook, heat grill to high, direct heat. Thread beef onto bamboo skewers.
Grill for 3 to 4 minutes on each side while continuously basting with marinade. Serve with habanero peanut sauce (below).
Whisk together all ingredients until smooth. If the sauce is too thick, whisk in an additional tablespoon of hot water.

Fiery Cornmeal Crusted New York Strip

A good steak on the grill is hard to beat. And, of course, the best place to start is with a fine piece of meat.

Nowadays, just about every supermarket has fine steaks. And nearly every town of any size also has a specialty shop such as L&M Meats in Grand Forks.

But back when I moved to Grand Forks nearly more than 37 years ago, the choices weren’t that numerous.

Yes, Laddie’s was here, but my favorite places to get a nice chunk of beef were City Produce, which used to be located on Dyke Avenue near the present BNSF yard, and Hoff’s Market, just down the street from the Herald on Second Avenue North.

It was a one of those two establishments that I picked up my first New York strip steak, which is still among my favorite cuts of beef.

Those thoughts came to mind after I saw the following recipe, which features a couple of New York strips that are seasoned with a Southwest Seasoning from McCormick’s Gourmet Collection and are coated with cornmeal

The recipe is billed as low-calorie, low-carbohydrates, low-fat and low-sodium. Combined with a nice piece of meat, it looks mighty enticing.

Fiery Cornmeal Crusted Steak
2 tablespoons McCormick Gourmet Collection Southwest Seasoning
2 tablespoons cornmeal
2 New York strip steaks, ¾-inch thick (about ¾ pound each)
Mix seasoning and cornmeal in shallow dish. Coat steaks generously with cornmeal mixture.
Grill steaks over medium-high heat 1 to 2 minutes per side or until seared. Reduce heat to medium. Grill additional 5 to 7 minutes per side or until desired doneness.

Pesto-Marinated Chicken (or Pheasant) and Vegetable Kabobs

Labor Day is the last time a lot of people pull out the grill for the season. For many, it symbolizes the end of summer, since school has started or very soon will be under way.

I used to be one of those people. In fact, there were quite a few years when I didn’t even own a grill.

It’s a different story now. We grill three or four times a month during the summer. Most of the time, it’s fish, elk burgers or sausage or some other wild game that we need to use before the new seasons begin.

One of my favorite things to grill is marinated pheasant breasts and thighs. I usually use my old standby marinade but sometimes like to try store-bought versions. Recently, I used a herb and white wine marinade from Lawry’s with salmon.

Here’s a kebab recipe that makes use of a marinade. It’s adapted from one supplied by Weber, the grilling people. I plan on trying it this Labor Day with some pheasant. Not only do you marinade the meat but also vegetables. I can’t wait to try it!

Pesto-Marinated Chicken (or Pheasant) and Vegetable  Kabobs
½ cup  dry white wine
¼ cup  extra virgin olive oil
1 package  Weber Tomato Garlic Pesto Marinade Mix
4  (6 to 8 ounces each) boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
2  medium yellow bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and cut into 1-inch squares
16  small cherry or grape tomatoes, stemmed
2  small zucchini, cut into chunks
2  small summer squash, cut into chunks
1 small eggplant, halved lengthwise and cut into bite-size chunks
Red onion, quartered, separated (use outer sections only)
Place a large, resealable plastic bag in a bowl. In the bag mix the wine, oil, and Weber Italian Herb Marinade.
Cut each chicken breast in half lengthwise and then cut each half into equal-size pieces, about 1½ inches each. Add the chicken and vegetables. Press the air out of the bag and seal tightly. Turn the bag to distribute the marinade evenly. Refrigerate for about 2 hours, turning the bag once or twice.
Pour the contents of the bag onto a rimmed platter or sheet pan. Thread the chicken pieces with the vegetables onto 8 to 10 metal skewers, alternating the ingredients. Discard the marinade.
Grill the kabobs over Direct Medium heat, with the lid closed as much as possible, until the chicken is cooked through and the vegetables are crisp-tender, 8 to 10 minutes, turning once or twice. Serve warm.

Grilled Vegetables with Rigatoni

Grilled vegetables and pasta are a great pairing. And if you’re a fan of veggies, it’s a great way to turn them into a meal — and one that is meatless. Not only do you get your boost of carbohydrates from the pasta, you also have the benefit of nutrient-rich produce — be it home-grown or from a farmers market or supermarket.

Our garden is loaded with vegetables this summer. We have an abundance of summer squash (yellow crooked neck and zucchini), tomatoes and eggplant as well as adequate onions and peppers.

The following recipe, one which I revamped from another that came to my attention this week, makes use of all of those vegetables, plus some fresh basil. And it definitely was a meal in itself.

Along with some fresh bread from our local bakery, it was a meal that the owners of any Italian restaurant would not hesitate to serve.

Grilled Vegetables with Rigatoni
¾ pound rigatoni pasta
8 roma tomatoes
1/3 cup olive oil, divided
2 teaspoons kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 medium eggplant, peeled and cubed
1 medium yellow onion, sliced thinly
2 medium zucchini, sliced
2 medium yellow summer squash, sliced
1 large red bell pepper, seeded and sliced
1 medium sweet banana pepper, seeded and sliced
½ teaspoon seasoning salt
½ cup grated mozzarella cheese
1 cup fresh sliced basil, chopped
Preheat the grill to medium-high. While the grill heats up, cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain the pasta, reserving water.
Place vegetables and basil in bowl and drizzle with half of olive oil, seasoning salt and black pepper. Put vegetables in double piece of tin foil that has been sprayed with oil and place on grill.
Meanwhile, place tomatoes on a double piece of foil. Drizzle with remaining  olive oil and sprinkle, kosher salt and pepper. Enclose the tomatoes in the foil and place on the grill after other vegetables have been cooking for 30 to 40 minutes.
After about 20 minutes, check the tomatoes; they should have burst open in the foil packet and be nice and juicy.
Remove the vegetables from grill and place in a large serving bowl, toss the hot pasta with the grilled vegetables. Add the tomatoes with all the juices and toss to coat. If the mixture is too dry, drizzle with some of the reserved pasta water or use a bit more olive oil. Add the mozzarella and toss again. Serve in bowls.
Yield: Serves 6.

Grilled Salmon with Chunky Gazpacho Vinaigrette

Salmon on the grill is a special treat in itself, no matter if it has been marinating in a special sauce, coated with a tangy glaze or cooked on a cedar plank. And for grillers who are tired of burgers, steak or chicken, salmon is the way to go.

I recently cooked some Lake Michigan salmon on the grill using a tasty herb and white wine marinade from Lawry’s. It was delicious.

But now, with a couple more of the fillets awaiting my attention, I’m turning to a new recipe that was created by Sara Moulton, who was executive chef at Gourmet magazine for nearly 25 years and spent a decade hosting several Food Network shows. (She currently stars in public television’s “Sara’s Weeknight Meals” and has written three cookbooks, including “Sara Moulton’s Everyday Family Dinners.”)

The salmon is dressed with a gazpacho vinaigrette. Gazpacho, for those of you who aren’t familiar, is a cold Spanish soup with many variations, but the basic recipe is a refreshing tomato-based vegetable soup. In Moulton’s recipe, she has added extra-virgin olive oil and sherry wine vinegar, thereby “repurposing” the soup into a chunky vinaigrette dressing.

Grilled Salmon with Chunky Gazpacho Vinaigrette
½ red bell pepper, diced
½ pound ripe tomatoes (about 2 medium tomatoes), diced
4-inch piece English cucumber, diced
Kosher salt
½ clove garlic, smashed
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
Ground black pepper
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 6- to 8-ounce pieces center-cut salmon or arctic char fillets, skin on
Olive oil cooking spray
Chopped fresh herbs (such as basil, chives, tarragon, cilantro or parsley), to garnish (optional)
Heat the grill to medium.
In a medium bowl, toss together the pepper, tomatoes, cucumber and ½ teaspoon of salt. Mix well, then spoon half of the mixture into a blender.
To the blender, add the garlic, vinegar, a few grinds of pepper and the olive oil. Puree until smooth. Add the puree to the bowl of diced vegetables, stir well and season with salt and pepper.
Use paper towels to pat dry the salmon fillets. Spray the fillets all over with the olive oil spray, then sprinkle them with salt and pepper. Arrange the fillets, skin side down, on the grill grate over direct medium heat. Cover and cook until the flesh right next to the skin looks opaque, 6 to 7 minutes.
Flip the fillets and cook until just cooked through, another 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer the fish from the grill using a wide metal spatula.
To serve, divide the sauce between 4 shallow bowls, then set a piece of salmon over each, skin side up (you can easily peel off and discard the skin at this point, if desired). Garnish with chopped herbs, if desired.
Yield: Serve 4.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 450 calories, 58 percent of  calories from), 29 grams fat (5 grams saturated, no trans), 115 milligrams cholesterol, 6 grams carbohydrates, 40 grams protein, 1 gram fiber, 360 milligrams sodium.

The Howie Burger

Show me a person who doesn’t like a burger cooked on the grill, and I’ll show you a vegetarian. Let’s face, anyone who eats meat would find it hard to turn down a nicely formed patty on a fresh bun that came from the backyard barbecue.

But what constitutes a good burger?

The Los Angeles Times Test Kitchen put that question to its readers recently for the second year in a row in its Battle of the Burgers contest. When all was said and done, food editors and staff sampled 20 recipes from more than 140 that were submitted from all over the country and were chosen by an online nationwide vote.

“It was tough, but after days of testing, exhaustive judging (and maybe a little post-burger napping), we came up with five favorites,” said Noelle Carter of the Times food staff.

Here is one them, The Howie Burger, which was submitted by Paul Lindsay of Pasadena, Calif. Lindsay said, “My Uncle Howie … had a great love of Dijon mustard and onions. So I took it a step further.”

The Howie Burger
4 8-ounce ground beef patties
8 slices Gruyere cheese
2 cups Howie red onions, or to taste (recipe follows)
Scant ¾ cup Dijonnaise, or to taste (recipe follows)
4 hamburger buns or English muffins
4 cups shredded iceberg lettuce
1 pound red onions
1 quart red wine vinegar
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
Cut the red onions into one-eighth-inch-thick slices. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the red wine vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper, making sure everything is dissolved
In a medium-sized heavy-bottomed pot, combine the onions and vinegar mixture. Cook over high heat, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is reduced by half and the onions are softened, light pink to purple in color and slightly translucent, about 30 minutes. Pour the mixture into a shallow glass baking dish and cool before using.
Yield: 2 cups.
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
¼ cup heavy cream
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
½ cup Dijon mustard
2 cups mayonnaise
In a medium bowl, whisk together the light brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, heavy cream and ground black pepper. Mix in the Dijon mustard and mayonnaise.
Yield: 2 2/3 cups.
Note: This is more than is needed for the remainder of the recipe. The Dijonnaise will keep, covered and refrigerated, up to 1 week.
Heat a grill over medium-high heat until hot. Grill the burgers to desired doneness, about 2 to 4 minutes on each side for medium.
Just before pulling the burgers off the grill, top each patty with one-half cup Howie onions. Place 2 slices Gruyere over the onions and continue cooking until the cheese is fully melted. Remove and set aside in a warm place.
Toast the buns on the grill, and slather the top half of each with a scant 3 tablespoons Dijonnaise. Place about 1 cup shredded lettuce on the bottom of each toasted bun, place the burger on top and then cover with the top of the bun. Serve immediately.
Yield: Serves 4.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 1,103 calories, 66 grams protein, 55 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams fiber, 64 grams fat (22 grams saturated), 224 milligrams cholesterol, 26 grams sugar, 1,501 milligrams sodium.

Grilled Chicken with Lemon, Mint and Soy

There’s hardly a more popular way to prepare food in the summer than on the grill. And one of the most popular foods is chicken, whether it’s boneless breasts or bone-in thighs and legs.

Amateur chefs agonize as to whether to choose chicken with bones or those without. Both have their advantages.

Boneless chicken cooks quicker and is the healthier option. But it also is more bland. Grilling bone-in chicken takes a little longer (the bone absorbs heat and this slows the cooking process of the meat closest to the bone) but it does retain a bit more moisture. However, it can be tricky because if one isn’t careful, the end result can be chicken that is undercooked on the inside while overcooked on the outside.

Also, advocates for grilling bone-in chicken say there’s really no need for spices or sauces if you don’t want them. The slow cooking on the grill gives bone-in chicken a flavor that parboiling can’t touch.

One of who says bone-in chicken on the grill is the best way you’ll ever have it, includes chef Hugh Acheson, cookbook author and Bravo “Top Chef” judge. The following recipe, adapted from his “A New Turn in the South: Southern Flavors Reinvented for Your Kitchen” (Clarkson Potter, $35), will demonstrate exactly that.

Grilled Chicken with Lemon, Mint and Soy
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
¼ cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons each: Dijon mustard, fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
¼ cup each, minced: fresh mint, fresh flat-leaf parsley
½ teaspoon kosher salt
3½ to 4 pounds chicken thighs and legs (about 6 medium pieces)
Prepare charcoal or gas grill that will give you medium to medium-high heat for 15 to 20 minutes cooking time. If you use charcoal, be sure coals are very gray and cooked down to help prevent flare-ups during cooking.
Mix oil, soy sauce, mustard, lemon juice, zest, pepper flakes, mint and parsley in a small bowl. Very lightly salt chicken thighs and legs. Place chicken, skin side down, on grill. Cook, about 8 minutes. Turn pieces skin side up; continue grilling. Divide herb sauce in half, placing portions in separate bowls. Baste tops of chicken with half the herb sauce; reserve remainder for serving. (Don’t cross contaminate the bowls of sauce.) Continue grilling until internal temperature registers 165 degrees. Transfer cooked birds to a serving platter; drizzle with reserved herb sauce.
Yield: Serves 6.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 490 calories, 37 grams fat (8 grams saturated), 209 milligrams cholesterol, 3 grams carbohydrates, 36 grams protein, 1,293 milligrams sodium, no fiber.

Planked Salmon with Mustard-Mayo-Dill Slather

There’s no question that smoking greatly enhances the flavor of meat. The same can be said about fish. And in the case of salmon, planking — or cooking on a plank of aromatic wood that has been soaked in water — also helps to keep fish moist as well as doing it in a fat-free manner.

The subject of planking has come up three times for me in the past couple of days. The first instance was in a story by Star Tribune food writer Lee Svitak Dean, who explained that one brand, Superior Planks of Minnesota (red oak, sugar maple and cedar), are harvested and processed on Madeline Island, one of the Apostle Islands in Lake Superior, a short ferry ride from Bayfield, Wis. (Recipes are available at superiorplanks.com.)

Svitak went on to say how the planks are made, how many meals the particular wood is good for and the types of liquid people use for soaking.

The other two times were in conversations I had, the first  with Jack Stoltman of Grand Forks, who just returned from the state of Washington, where he went salmon fishing and took a tour of the Pugent Sound area.

A few hours later, I mentioned this to co-worker Eric Hylden, who has some experience cooking salmon with cedar planks. (Eric’s brother-in-law is a commercial fisherman in Alaska.)

Here’s a recipe for planking salmon by Karen Adler and Judith Fertig, a cooking duo from Kansas known as the BBQ Queens who also are authors of “Techniques for Grilling Fish” and “Techniques for Planking” ($12.95 each, Harvard Common Press).

Planked Salmon with Mustard-Mayo-Dill Slather
1 salmon fillet, ¾-inch thick, skin removed (1½ to 2 pounds)
1 15-by-6-by-½-inch cedar or alder grilling plank, soaked in water for at least 1 hour
½ cup Dijon mustard
½ cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon chopped fresh dill
1 clove garlic, minced
Zest and juice of ½ lemon
Prepare an indirect fire in a grill, with a hot fire on one side and no fire on the other.
To make the slather, combine all the ingredients in a small bowl until smooth.
Compare the length of the plank with the length of the salmon fillet and trim the salmon to fit the plank, if necessary. Place the salmon on the prepared plank and spread the mustard slather over the top.
Place the plank on the grill grate on the no-heat side. Cover the grill and cook until the fish begins to flake when tested with a fork in the thickest part, 25 to 30 minutes. Serve the salmon hot, right from the plank.
Yield: Serves 6.

Portabella Blue Cheese Burgers

Burgers on the grill might be the one food that people most associate with summer. But not all burgers are created equal. In fact, not all burgers are made with meat.

Granted, there’s something about a meat burger, be it beef, venison, elk or a combination of any or all them, that makes them very appealing. Right now, the burger meat in our freezer is a combination of elk and ground beef. All in all, it’s about 90 percent lean, with just the right amount of fat to hold the burgers to together.

I’m not averse to having a burger that doesn’t contain meat. I’ve eaten my share of turkey burgers and have found them quite tasty. But my favorite meatless alternative is the portabella mushroom burger, which is naturally low in calories and can be grilled or broiled.

The portabella looks like an overgrown version of a button mushroom. The best ones for burgers are about 5 inches or so in diameter. We’ve had them occasionally on the Foreman but never on our gas grill. And we’ve found them great when they’re cooked with a little balsamic vinegar.

Here’s a recipe in which the “gills” are removed from the portabellas so they won’t darken the blue cheese topping. A few caramelized red onions enhances the burger even more.

Portabella Blue Cheese Burgers
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
3 cloves garlic, peeled, pressed
4 large (about 4 to 5 inches in diameter) portabella mushrooms, wiped clean, stems removed
1 large red onion, peeled, thinly sliced (2½ to 3 cups)
2 tablespoons water
¼ cup ruby port or favorite sweet red wine
½ teaspoon salt, divided
¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper, divided
½ cup crumbled blue cheese (2 ounces)
4 whole-wheat hamburger buns or favorite bun or roll
1 cup arugula
4 thick slices tomato
In a small bowl, whisk 2 tablespoons oil, vinegar and garlic. Brush the mixture all over the mushrooms and let stand for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add red onion and cook, stirring frequently, until beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to low, add water and cook, stirring frequently, until the onion is browned and very soft, about 15 minutes. Add port and cook, stirring occasionally, until almost evaporated, about 3 minutes more. Stir in ¼ teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Remove from the heat and cover.
Preheat grill to medium.
Sprinkle the mushrooms with the remaining ¼ teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Grill, gill side down, for 5 to 7 minutes. Turn over and top each with 2 tablespoons cheese. Grill until the mushrooms are tender, 4 to 5 minutes more.
Toast buns. Divide the onions among the mushrooms. Serve (cheese side up) on buns with arugula and tomato slices.
Note: Gorgonzola is a good substitute for blue cheese. You can also use a milder cheese such as fontina or asiago.
Yield: Serves 4.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 339 calories, 45 percent of calories from fat), 17 grams fat (5 grams saturated), 37 grams carbohydrates, 11 grams protein, 702 milligrams sodium, 11 milligrams cholesterol, 5 grams fiber.