Turkey Burgers

It’s still summer and we’re still grilling.  I just can’t get enough!  I use ground turkey quite frequently as a healthier substitute for ground beef, but I’ll admit that have always preferred a classic beef hamburger to any turkey burger I’ve tried.  Finally a recipe for turkey burgers came along that actually tempted me enough to try them.  I’ll be darned if these weren’t some of the best burgers we’ve ever made!  In fact I enjoyed them so much they went right back onto the menu for the following week – always a sign of a winner.  Most recently I prepared a full batch of patties (8 total), wrapped half of them in plastic wrap and stored in the freezer for a quick dinner at a later date.  They came in handy this weekend when I needed a quick meal for my dad, who tends to think it isn’t food if it didn’t come off the grill.  I’ll be sure to have these around as a freezer staple in the future.  (And just so you know, these buns freeze amazingly well too.  I always keep some in the freezer.)

Turkey Burgers
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Yield: 8 burgers
3 tbsp. olive oil, divided
1/3 cup finely chopped red onion
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 lbs. ground turkey
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. black pepper
¼ cup chopped parsley
1 tbsp. minced fresh rosemary
1 tbsp. minced fresh sage
2 tsp. fresh thyme leaves

Heat the coals of a grill to medium-high.  Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat.  Add the onion and sauté about 3 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook about 2 minutes longer, until the onion is tender.  Remove from the heat and transfer to a large mixing bowl; let cool.

Once the onion mixture has cooled, add the ground turkey, salt, pepper and herbs to the bowl.  Mix well so everything is evenly blended.  Mix in the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil.  Form the mixture into 8 equal sized patties.  When you are ready to grill, oil the grates of the grill with additional olive oil or vegetable oil.  Cook until evenly browned and cooked through, about 4-6 minutes per side.  Serve with toasted buns, lettuce, tomatoes, and condiments as desired.

Source: adapted from Simply Recipes

Teriyaki Burgers with Mango Pineapple Salsa

I have to admit, I’m proud of myself.  It’s no secret that fall is my favorite season of the year and normally I spend most of the summer just waiting for autumn to arrive.  This year though, I think I’ve done a great job of making the most of summer and enjoying it to the fullest (well, as much as one can without a beach vacation).  Meals involving lots of fresh produce and grilling have been the focus of our menus and for me, this burger is an ideal summer food.  I’ve never been keen on the idea of fruit-meat combos, but this one sounded too good not to try.

The burger patties are the same as those of my favorite basic hamburger, then topped with a homemade teriyaki sauce and garnished with a mango-pineapple salsa.  Really, I can’t say enough good things about this meal so I’ll just say that I think everyone needs to make them at least once before summer slips away.  I have a feeling I’ll be making them again in the depths of winter when I’m yearning for warmer weather.

Side note – Not sure how to cut a mango?  See my step-by-step instructions.

Teriyaki Burgers with Mango Pineapple Salsa
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For the salsa:
1 mango, diced
1-1½ cups diced fresh pineapple
½ of one red bell pepper, diced small
¼ cup red onion, finely diced
1 tbsp. minced fresh cilantro
Juice of one lime
Pinch of coarse salt

For the sauce:  (I halved it and had plenty for 4 burgers)
1 cup fresh chopped pineapple
½ cup low sodium soy sauce
1 inch knob of ginger, peeled and minced fine
3 tbsp. brown sugar
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ tsp. vinegar (apple cider or rice vinegar)
½ tsp. sesame oil
1 tbsp. cornstarch
1 tbsp. cold water

For the burgers:
1 lb. ground sirloin
2 tbsp. finely chopped yellow onion
1 tsp. minced garlic
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. freshly ground pepper
1 or 2 dashes of Worcestershire sauce

To make the salsa, combine all the ingredients in a medium bowl.  Toss to mix well.  Cover and refrigerate, allowing flavors to blend while you prepare the sauce and burgers.

To make the sauce, combine the pineapple, soy sauce, ginger, brown sugar, garlic, vinegar and sesame oil in a blender or food processor.  Puree until smooth and well blended.  Transfer the mixture to a medium saucepan.  Warm over medium-high heat until bubbly, about 1-2 minutes.  In a small prep bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and water until smooth.  Add the cornstarch mixture to the saucepan and stir until well incorporated.  Continue heating the sauce, stirring constantly, until the mixture bubbles and thickens.  Remove from the heat and set aside.

To make the burgers, prepare a charcoal or gas grill for direct grilling over medium-high heat.  In a large bowl, mix together the beef, yellow onion, garlic, salt, pepper and Worcestershire sauce. Form the mixture into 4 patties, each about ¾-inch thick.

When the grill is heated, cook the hamburgers directly over medium-high heat, turning once, 3 -5 minutes per side. Check for doneness by cutting into a hamburger near the center or testing with an instant-read thermometer. No pink should show on the inside, and the internal temperature should register at least 160°F on an instant-read thermometer.  A few minutes before the burgers are done cooking, grill the buns just until lightly brown and toasted.

To serve, place a hamburger patty on each of the buns.  Top with teriyaki sauce and garnish with mango-pineapple salsa.  Replace the top bun to form a sandwich and serve immediately.

Source: adapted from White on Rice Couple

Grilled Pizza

Not too long ago I did a tutorial on my favorite homemade pizza dough.  Baked on a pizza stone, I honestly didn’t think homemade pizza could get better.  I was wrong.  It turns out that cooking pizza on the grill takes it to a whole new level.  I’m sorry I didn’t try it sooner, but I don’t think anyone could blame me after hearing all the horror stories that often accompany grilled pizza attempts.  Cracked pizza stones, dough and toppings sinking through the grates and onto the coals, or having a completely cooked pizza that gets dropped on the ground or falls apart during transfer.  It’s understandable to be intimidated but I’m here to tell you, it’s time to get over those fears because this meal is too good to miss.

My issue of Summer Entertaining from Cook’s Illustrated arrived last month and as soon as I saw that they had a recipe for grilled pizza, I was pumped.  Problem solved, no more fears, Cook’s Illustrated never fails me.  When I got into the kitchen after a long work day and was ready to make dinner, I realized that they called for an entirely different dough recipe than my standard – the one I had thawed in the fridge ready and waiting.  It irked me a little because I don’t want to have to make a different dough just for grilling.  I want to use the staple dough that I keep in the freezer at all times.  So, I decided to wing it.  Essentially all I took from the magazine was a general method, but that is really all I needed to make this meal a success.  You can read the recipe for all the guidelines but the main strategies I took away from this was:
1. Oil the grill grates well,
2. Make individual pizzas.  They transfer more easily and are sturdier in general.
3. Cook the dough rounds alone prior to flipping and adding the toppings.  This provides the structural integrity to allow the pizzas to finish cooking with the toppings in place.

There is really not much to it besides that.  I have written the recipe with the toppings that I used, but feel free to use whatever toppings you prefer.  If you decide to go the route of lots of veggies as I did, I recommend salting them to extract some of the excess liquid.  I don’t think it’s absolutely necessary if you are crunched for time, but I think it helps prevent a soggy end result as some veggies (especially the ones I used) can hold a lot of water.  Happy summer everyone!

Grilled Pizza
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Thinly sliced zucchini and yellow squash
Thinly sliced cherry tomatoes
Kosher salt
½ batch homemade pizza dough, at room temperature*
Olive oil
Thinly sliced red onion
Fresh basil, minced
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Crumbled feta cheese
Freshly ground black pepper

Heat a grill to medium-high heat.   Place the slices zucchini, yellow squash and tomatoes in a colander set over the sink or a large bowl.  Toss with ¾ teaspoon kosher salt.  Let sit 20-30 minutes to drain excess liquid.

Meanwhile, transfer the pizza dough to a lightly floured work surface.  Divide the dough into four equal portions.  Let rest 10 minutes.  Meanwhile, shape each piece of dough into a flattened round, about 6-7 inches in diameter.  When the coals are heated, generously oil the grates (I use a wad of paper towels dipped in olive oil, and hold it with tongs).  Carefully place the shaped dough rounds onto the grill and cover.  Let cook until nicely browned on the bottom surface, and large bubbles appear on the top surface, about 3-4 minutes.  Carefully remove the partly cooked dough rounds from the grill for topping.

Transfer the dough rounds to a work surface so that the cooked side is facing up (this is the side that will hold your toppings).  Top evenly with sliced zucchini, yellow squash, tomatoes, and red onion.  Sprinkle with minced basil, freshly grated Parmesan and crumbled feta.  Season with pepper, to taste.  Carefully return the topped pizzas to the grill, cover, and let cook until the bottom surface is nicely browned and the cheeses are melted, about 4-6 minutes.  Remove from the grill.  Serve warm.

*This is a recipe where sturdy pizza dough is a must, so I don’t think the store-bought kind from a can would suffice.  I do think something like Trader Joe’s would work, though I have not tried it myself.

Source: inspired by Cook’s Illustrated and everyone who raves about grilled pizza

Garlic Lemon Chicken Kabobs

This recipe may look familiar, because I posted it before in the very early months of my blog.  I decided to give it a little revamp because it’s still a favorite meal in our house.  Also, I recently discovered that the combination of these kabobs plus tzatziki sauce is aaah-mazing.  The chicken is quite delicious on its own, but I think tzatziki sauce makes almost everything better.  So in case you have a fantastic meal of chicken gyros and you have leftover tzatziki sauce, don’t let it go to waste.  This quick, simple marinade makes for moist and flavorful chicken and a meal that comes together in no time.

Sometimes I grill veggie kabobs to go alongside the chicken, but this time around I opted for cherry tomato salad.  If you do decide to make veggie kabobs, it is easiest to put the veggies on separate skewers from the chicken pieces so that each can cook separately and the correct grilling time doesn’t have to be a balancing act.  Now that grilling season is getting into gear, this is a staple you’ll be glad to have in your repertoire.

Garlic Lemon Chicken Kabobs
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3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
Zest of 1 lemon
3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 tbsp. minced fresh parsley
1 tsp. kosher salt
½ tsp. ground black pepper
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into ¾-inch pieces

In a medium bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lemon zest, garlic, parsley, salt and pepper.  Add the chicken pieces to the bowl and mix to coat with the marinade.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 8 hours.

Prepare a medium fire in a grill.  If using wooden skewers, soak them in water for at least 20 minutes before use.

Thread the chicken pieces onto skewers and discard the excess marinade.  Lightly oil the grill grates.  Place the kabobs on the grill, cover, and cook until the chicken is opaque throughout, about 8-12 minutes, turning once or twice during cooking.  Transfer to a warmed platter and serve immediately.

Source: adapted from Williams Sonoma

Grilled Chicken Fajitas

It’s a bit strange that I’ve never posted a chicken fajita recipe before considering just how much I love them.  They are almost always my choice when dining at a Mexican restaurant.  We also make them at home quite frequently, but the kind we used to make was sort of a cheater version that wasn’t even remotely authentic or very similar to the restaurant variety.  The moment I saw this recipe, I knew it was going to blow our old method away.

The chicken is marinated briefly with a mixture including lime juice and Worcestershire sauce, and then cooked on the grill with the onions and peppers.  The combination of marinating and grilling made the chicken amazingly delicious.  In fact, I think Ben’s exact words were, “This chicken is a miracle,” but that might have been the margaritas talking ;).  Even the tortillas themselves are warmed on the grill, giving them nice grill marks and a little extra flavor.  The whole meal was also excellent as leftovers.  I’m already thinking about pulling out the grill in winter to make these because I don’t think I can go for months at a time without them.  In case you’re looking for a way to celebrate Cinco de Mayo, look no further!  I can’t wait to have them again.

Grilled Chicken Fajitas
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1/3 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
6 tbsp. vegetable oil, divided
3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1½ tsp. brown sugar
1 jalapeño, seeded, ribbed and diced
1½ tbsp. minced fresh cilantro
1 tsp. salt
¾ tsp. pepper
2-3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, butterflied (6 halves total), about 1½ lbs.
1 large red onion (about 14 oz.), sliced into ½-inch thick slices, rings not separated
2 large bell peppers (about 10 oz. each), stemmed, quartered and seeded
8-12 (6-inch) flour tortillas

In a medium bowl, whisk together the lime juice, 4 tablespoons of the vegetable oil, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, brown sugar, jalapeño, cilantro, salt and pepper.  Reserve ¼ cup of the marinade; set aside.  Place the chicken breast halves in the marinade, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 15 minutes.  Brush both sides of the onion rounds and peppers with the remaining 2 tablespoons vegetable oil.  Season with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, using a large chimney starter, ignite 6 quarts of charcoal briquettes and burn until the coals are fully ignited, about 20 minutes.  Empty the coals into the grill, spreading them in a single layer.  Place an additional 20 unlit coals over the lit coals on one side of the grill to create a tw0-level fire.  Place the grill grate over the coals and allow to heat for 5 minutes.  Scrape the grate clean with a grill brush.  (For a gas grill, light all burners to high, cover and heat grill until hot, about 15 minutes.  Leave one burner on high and turn the rest down to medium.)

Remove the chicken breast halves from the marinade and transfer to the hotter side of the grill; discard the left over marinade.  Place the onion rounds and peppers on the cooler side of the grill.  Cook the chicken until it is well browned, 3-4 minutes.  Using tongs, flip the chicken and continue grilling until it is no longer pink inside (or an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center reads 160˚ F.)  Meanwhile, cook onions and peppers until spottily charred and crisp-tender, about 8-12 minutes, turning once or twice as needed.  When the chicken and vegetables are done, transfer them to a large plate and tent with foil to keep warm.

In 2 or 3 batches, transfer the tortillas in a single layer to the now empty grill on the cooler side.  Cook until warm and lightly browned, about 20 seconds per side.  When the tortillas are done, wrap them in a clean kitchen towel or foil.

Separate the onions into rings and place them in a medium bowl.  Slice the bell peppers lengthwise into ¼-inch strips and add them to the bowl with the onions.  Add 2 tablespoons of the reserved unused marinade and toss well to combine.  Slice the chicken into ¼-inch strips and toss with the remaining 2 tablespoons of reserved marinade in another bowl.  Arrange the chicken and vegetables on a large platter with the warmed tortillas and serve.

Source: adapted from The Way the Cookie Crumbles, originally from Cook’s Illustrated

Grilled Proscuitto-Wrapped Asparagus

Talk about an easy appetizer.  These little bundles of yum take almost no time to make.  Waiting for the grill to heat up is the most time-consuming part!  If you are looking for a way to fill out your grilling menu with something slightly unique, these are perfect.  Proscuitto has been my most recent victory in finding a less-than-mainstream ingredient at the grocery store.  I have searched for so long, and finally thought to look in a case near the deli – sure enough, there it was.  Hooray!

If you have had proscuitto before, you know it is salty! Because of this, I think it’s best to use multiple spears of asparagus rather than wrapping single spears individually to help cut some of the salt.  And I think it goes without saying, but you definitely do not need any added salt when seasoning these.  Just some black pepper and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar will do. Depending on the thickness of the asparagus spears available to you, you may want to use more or less in a bundle.  I could only find skinny asparagus so I used about 5-6 spears in each, but for regular thick spears, I would probably go with 3 per bundle.  I have seen this appetizer many times before, so I used no real source when preparing this dish but just sort of winged it on my own!

Grilled Proscuitto Wrapped Asparagus Bundles
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1 bunch of asparagus, thick or thin
1 package of thinly sliced proscuitto
Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the grill or a grill pan to medium-high heat, and oil the grate.  Wash, dry and trim asparagus spears.  Lay out one piece of proscuitto on a work surface.  Bundle a few spears of asparagus together near one end of the proscuitto, and wrap them up tightly with the meat.  Lay seam side down on a plate.  Repeat with remaining asparagus and proscuitto.  Brush the bundles lightly with olive oil.  Drizzle with a few splashes of balsamic vinegar.  Season with freshly ground pepper to taste.

Transfer the bundles to the heated grill, seam side down, and cook until nice grill marks have formed.  Flip gently with tongs, and repeat on the second side.  Cook until the asparagus has reached your desired doneness, testing it with a fork.  Remove from the grill, transfer to a platter, and serve.

Source: Annie’s Eats

Stuffed Italian Burgers

I don’t watch much TV in general, and we actually don’t even have cable at our house.  However, Food Network is my guilty pleasure whenever we visit my dad.  Some shows don’t interest me, but I do have a few favorites.  A few weeks ago when we were there, I happened to catch a marathon of the “Next Food Network Star” episodes.  I found it quite amusing for the most part, but one of the episodes that really interested me was one where all the contestants had to come up with a unique burger idea.  This version from the contestant Michael Proietti consists of a hamburger patty stuffed with fresh mozzarella cheese, wrapped in pancetta and served on a garlic bread bun with basil ketchup.  WOW!  Ben and I were both drooling just watching the show, and I knew we had to try this.  It certainly did not disappoint.

The recipe shown on the Food Network website calls only for ground beef in the burger part of the patty – no salt, pepper or other seasoning.  Ick!  So, I decided to use my traditional favorite burger recipe for the meat portion and then use that as a jumping off point.  Now that I have had them, I know exactly what I will do next time to adjust the seasonings correctly and make the meat an Italian blend as well.  I will use a bit of balsamic vinegar in place of the Worcestershire sauce, cut down the black pepper and mix in some dried herbs to the meat mixture.  (I have reflected these changes in my recipe below).  Also, I will stuff a few whole basil leaves inside each patty along with the mozzarella, because I can never get enough fresh basil!  Not surprisingly, I could not find garlic bread buns anywhere in our grocery store, so I used some nice Kaiser rolls spread with garlic butter.  This garlic butter is a staple that I try to have in my fridge at all times, and it really put these burgers over the top.  I love a good classic burger, but this genius idea is definitely a new favorite!

Stuffed Italian Burgers
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Yield: 3 burgers
For the patties:
1 lb. ground sirloin
2 tbsp. yellow onion, finely chopped
1 tsp. garlic, minced
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. Italian seasoning
¼ tsp. black pepper
1-2 dashes of balsamic vinegar
Sliced fresh mozzarella
Fresh basil leaves
6 slices pancetta

For the basil ketchup:
½ cup ketchup
Handful fresh basil leaves (about ¼ cup)
1 clove garlic
½ tsp. red pepper flakes

For serving:
Kaiser rolls
Garlic butter
Fresh tomato slices
Green lettuce

To make the patties, combine the ground sirloin, onion, garlic, salt, Italian seasoning, pepper and balsamic vinegar in a large bowl.  Mix well to thoroughly combine.  Divide the mixture into three equal portions; divide each of these further into halves so that you have 6 equal portions of the meat mixture.   Form each portion into a thin, round patty.  Place a slice of fresh mozzarella and a few basil leaves on top of three of the patties.  Lay the remaining patties on top of these, sandwiching the mozzarella in the center.  Pinch the edges of the patties together to form one large patty with the cheese in the center.  Wrap 2 slices of pancetta around each patty.  Preheat the grill.

While the grill is heating, make the basil ketchup.  Combine the ketchup, basil, garlic and red pepper flakes in a blender or food processor and pulse until well combined and finely chopped.  Set aside.

Cook the burgers on the preheated grill until cooked to your desired doneness and until the cheese inside has melted.  Just before the burgers are done cooking, split the Kaiser rolls in half.  Toast the buns and then spread with garlic butter.  Assemble the cooked burgers on the rolls with fresh lettuce, tomato, and basil ketchup as desired.

Source: burger loosely based on Michael Proietti’s Mulberry Street Burger, garlic butter from Allrecipes

Honey Chipotle Glazed Chicken

Do you have a hard time finding certain less common items at your grocery store?  This is something that has always plagued me.  It used to be because I shopped at a store that didn’t carry any ingredient that was even slightly unique.  However, I now shop at a very well stocked store where I can find almost everything – so when I can’t find something, it’s usually just because I don’t know where to look (and the employees are rarely able to help because they have never heard of the item I want.)  So, chipotle peppers in adobo sauce is one of these items.  I have looked for them approximately eleven bajillion times and could never find them.  But, I have seen them in so many recipes that I know they must be common and I knew my store would have them.  So, I Googled them to find exactly what the can looked like, and – success!!  (And for the record, they were where I swear I have looked every time.  I think I have a selective blindness or something.)

Anyway, let’s talk about this wonderful chicken!  I was anxious to try this because it sounded delicious – the combination of sweet honey and spicy chipotle glaze was very enticing.  I had high hopes, but after mixing up the glaze I was unsure.  The glaze smelled awful to me and I was sure I was not going to like this at all.  However, it ended up having a fantastic flavor and the meat was very moist.  The sweetness of the honey is perfect, and then it is followed by the spiciness from the peppers.  The balance was just right and we loved this meal.  The only thing I will change next time is to reduce the amount of glaze by at least half, because I had ton more than I needed.   I have reflected this in the version below.  Enjoy!

Honey Chipotle Glazed Chicken
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¼ cup honey
1 tbsp. pureed canned chipotles in adobo sauce
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 tbsp. ancho chili powder
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp. canola oil
½ tsp. ground coriander
½ tsp. ground cumin
½ tsp. Spanish paprika
2-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, butterflied into halves
Sesame seeds, chopped fresh cilantro and minced chives, for garnish (optional)

Heat the grill or a grill pan to high.  In a small bowl, whisk together the honey, chipotle puree, mustard, 1½ teaspoons ancho chile powder, ½ teaspoon salt, and 1½ teaspoons oil.  Set aside.

Stir together the remaining ancho powder with the coriander, cumin and paprika in another medium bowl.  Add the chicken breasts the remaining oil, and toss to coat.  Season with salt and pepper.

Place the chicken on the heated grill and cook for 3-4 minutes.  Flip the chicken and brush the cooked side of the chicken pieces with the honey-chipotle glaze.  Cook for an additional 3-4 minutes; flip the chicken again and brush the second side with the glaze.  Cook for 1 minute, flip again and cook for 1 minute more.  Remove from the grill and brush with more sauce as desired.  Garnish with sesame seeds, cilantro and chives as desired; serve.

Source: adapted from Smells Like Home, originally from Grill It! by Bobby Flay

Manchengo Cheese and Garlic Hot Dogs

I rarely eat hot dogs, but maybe a month or so ago, totally out of the blue, I had a major craving for a hot dog.  I bought turkey hot dogs which I usually really like, and they were good but they just did not satisfy my craving.  I gave in and bought the real deal, ate one for lunch and it was delicious!  Then, maybe a week later my issue of Bon Appetit arrived in the mail with an article titled, “Around the World in 80 Dogs”.  This just kept the craving rolling because as I read through the article, I saw so many variations that sounded really great.  Then my only problem was which to try first.  I ended up trying this, their Spanish variation on hot dogs.  The grilled dogs are topped with shredded manchengo cheese and then a relish made of roasted garlic, roasted red pepper and parsley.  Yum!  Just as you might expect from the description, these were very tasty and a unique spin on a plain old hot dog.  I am looking forward to trying several of the other varieties described in the article.

Manchengo Cheese and Garlic Hot Dogs
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For the relish:
2 large heads of garlic, top 1/2-inch cut off
5 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1/2 cup roasted red pepper from a jar, drained and diced
1 tbsp. fresh parsley
Coarse kosher salt

For the hot dogs:
6 grilled or toasted hot dog buns
6 grilled all-beef hot dogs
2 oz. Manchengo cheese, grated (I used a lot less than the full 2 oz.)
Balsamic vinegar

To make the relish, preheat the oven to 400° F.  Place each head of garlic, cut side up, in the center of a square of aluminum foil.  Drizzle each with a teaspoon of olive oil, and enclose in the foil.  Place the packets on the oven rack.  Roast until the garlic is tender, about 45 minutes.  Open the packets and let cool for 15 minutes. 

Once cooled, squeeze the garlic cloves into a small bowl.  Mash enough roasted garlic to measure 1/4 cup.  Transfer the 1/4 cup to a bowl.  Mix in 3 teaspoons olive oil, red peppers, and parsley.  Season with coarse salt and pepper.

Place a hot dog in each bun.  Top each grilled hot dog with shredded Manchengo cheese, the garlic relish, and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.  Serve.

Source: adapted from Bon Appetit, July 2009

Tequila Lime Grilled Chicken

Though I am typically not a big fan of most chain restaurants, I still find myself eating at them occasionally.  I think we’ve all been in that situation when a friend chooses such a location for a get-together, despite a wealth of wonderful local restaurants nearby.  I’m not that picky so I can usually find something decent on the menu, even if it isn’t nearly as good as what some of the local places are cooking up.  Whenever I end up going to Chili’s for any reason, I always order the margarita grilled chicken.  It is a simple marinated, grilled chicken breast atop a bed of black beans and rice.  It is healthy and honestly, I think it’s a pretty good dish!  But, also so simple I knew it could be easily recreated at home.  When I saw this recipe from Ina Garten, I figured it was the perfect place to start since she has yet to fail me.  

This chicken is incredible – it is amazingly juicy, and you can really taste the citrus juices and tequila.  I just improvised and came up with the black bean recipe on my own, and skipped the rice altogether this time.  (I do think this would be a good way to use up some leftover Mexican rice from another meal.)  I was thrilled with how the meal turned out, and though the beans aren’t exactly like the version from Chili’s, I’m not complaining.  This was a fantastic meal!  Very filling but still healthy.  I’ll be making this often.

Tequila Lime Grilled Chicken over Black Beans
For the chicken:
1/4 cup tequila
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
1/4 cup freshly squeeze orange juice
1 tsp. chili powder
1 jalapeno pepper, ribbed, seeded and minced
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed through a garlic press
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

For the beans:
1 tbsp. olive oil
1/4 cup onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup chicken or vegetable broth
Cumin, fajita seasoning and cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper 
Dash of hot sauce 
1/2-3/4 cup frozen corn 

Combine the tequila, lime juice, orange juice, chili powder, jalapeno, garlic, salt and pepper in a bowl or zippered plastic bag.  Mix well; add the chicken breasts to the container.  Cover and refrigerate overnight, or at least 8 hours.   

When you are ready to cook the chicken, heat a grill to medium-high heat.  Oil the grates to prevent the meat from sticking.  Once the grill is heated, cook the chicken until nicely browned and cooked through, about 15-20 minutes.  (Alternatively, you can sear the chicken in a grill pan and then bake in a 350 degree F oven for about 10 minutes or until cooked through.  This is my preferred method for cooking chicken when I don’t feel like firing up the grill, or the weather is bad.)  Allow the chicken to rest for 5 minutes before serving.

While the chicken is cooking, prepare the beans.  Heat the olive oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add the onions and saute until translucent, about 5-7 minutes.  Add the garlic and jalapeno to the pan and saute for 1 minute more.  Add the black beans to the pan and cook for a few minutes until warmed through.  Pour in the chicken broth and bring to a simmer.  Season with cumin, fajita seasoning, and cayenne pepper to taste.  Adjust salt and pepper as needed.  Allow the mixture to simmer until most of the liquid has reduced.  Stir in the hot sauce and frozen corn, and cook 2-3 minutes more.  Divide the bean mixture between two serving plates and top with grilled chicken.  Garnish with lime wedges, if desired.

Source: chicken adapted from Ina Garten via Food Network