Watermelon Salad!

Cool and refreshing, the juice, texture, and aroma of watermelon takes everyone to a special place. Some people eat slices all the way to the rind, while others stop at the white part. Some people like a big hunk of a piece, like one would get at the Taste of Chicago and others like a think slice or cubed. No matter, how you take your watermelon, this salad is easy and satisfying.

Watermelon Salad


1 seedless watermelon

1 jicama

1 handful of fresh mint leaves

Juice of one lime


1) Cube the watermelon

2) Peel the jicama and cut into inch long match sticks

3) Mince the mint leaves

4) Combine all three ingredients in a bowl and sprinkle with the lime juice

5) Stir to evenly distribute everything

6) Cover the bowl in cling wrap and refrigerate until served



Dreaming of Meat and Chimichurri

People will worship you for this one – It will be awesome.

Yes, this is a revision of one of my very first posts but, I am making this tonight. And with the weather forecast for tomorrow, you should go to the grocery store and gather everything you need to have this for dinner tomorrow night. Oh, and buy some red wine in case you want that instead of the tequila.

I once took all of this stuff along with a tent, my family, and a couple of friends to the beach to celebrate my birthday and ever since my Mom asks for this to be on the menu during our visits.

Tacos with Chimichurri

Churrasco-style steak tacos with shredded cheese, red cabbage, and chimichurri on a flour tortilla. Accompanied by grilled sweet potatoes and Topolo Margaritas (thank you Rick Bayless)

These tacos are the epitome of party food. Smokey, salty, big beef flavor with the greatest savory sauce of all time. It is amazing, and while I combined a lot of great recipes from other folks (Cooks Illustrated Magazine for the steak and chimichurri sauce, Bobby Flay for the potatoes, and Rick Bayless’s Margarita), I do claim some talent in the combination of everything and in making the steak and sauce into an approachable taco. All that said, I did alter the recipes with a few edits of my own.

Here are the essentials:
Buy thick steaks, the one pictured is a Prime NY Strip from Paulina Meat Market (if you are in Chicago and have not shopped here, DO IT). The steaks get a rub of corn starch and coarse salt, then placed in the freezer for 30 minutes. When grilling, it’s 2-3 minutes per side, flipped three times. Rest for five minutes and slice for tacos.

Chimichurri is flat leaf parsley, cilantro, garlic, red pepper flakes, rehydrated oregano, red wine vinegar, water, and olive oil. You may want to memorize this because once you’ve served this to someone, they will ask you for the recipe. This one came from Cook’s Illustrated Magazine.

The sweet potatoes are from Bobby Flay and are pretty basic. Peel and quarter the sweet spuds, toss in olive oil and throw on the grill. Serve with lime salt (finely chopped lime zest mixed with table salt to taste) and sprinkle with chopped cilantro.

Finally, Rick Bayless’s Topolo Margarita. Look up the link on his Frontera Grill Web site. After you do that, here are my changes. I make the limeade with a mix of simple syrup and honey instead of granulated sugar. I also specifically use Grand Marnier as my orange liqueur. You can use great tequila but I have found that Hornitos is pretty tasty in this cocktail.

This is a great combination and easy to scale for large and small crowds. It is pretty inexpensive – mostly depending on the steak and tequila. You can also serve this with a Rioja or Malbec.

Have fun. Enjoy!

Cedar Smoked Salmon

My grill delivers great food quickly during the work week. And, this recipe for cedar smoked salmon with spinach and sun-dried tomato orzo is nutritious to boot.


In about 25-30 minutes this top quality meal will be go from the refrigerator to dinner table. I save time by purchasing portions of salmon and grilling it on planks. First, the pre-portioned fillets alleviate any cutting and weighing of the fish. Second, because the skin remains on the plank after cooking, you do not have to take time to remove it from the fish. Now, I know that folks who like crispy fish skin for both its texture and flavor may be disappointed by this move but I assure you neither texture nor taste are sacrificed.


Salmon fillets, cedar plank(s), lemon wedge, olive oil, orzo, salt, water, spinach, sun-dried tomatoes in oil, & garlic

Here is how it is all achieved:

1) Light your grill and bring up to high heat.

2) Place pot of salted water on the stove to boil.

3) Place salmon, skin side down on cedar plank(s) and the place the plank onto the grill .

4) Set timer for 20 minutes.

5) Sauté fresh spinach in oil with minced garlic.

6) Chop sun-dried tomatoes and add to sautéed spinach, stir three times and remove all from the heat.

The grill should be smoking at this point in time. If not, place plank over hottest spot in grill.

7) Add orzo to the boiling water and cook to ardent, as instructed (usually 7-9 minutes).

8) Drain the orzo, reserving 1/4 cup of pasta water

9) Stir orzo into the spinach and tomatoes, add shredded parmesan cheese liberally over mixture

10) Once timer is up, remove the cedar plank from the grill.

11) Plate orzo and remove salmon from plank and onto the pasta. To do so slide a spatula under the flesh of the salmon and above the skin. Applying a gentle downward and forward motion will allow the fish to slide right off the plank.

12) Drizzle a few drops of olive oil onto the fish, followed by the same amount of fresh squeezed lemon juice.

I find that seasoning the pasta water and the sauté suffice for brightening and sharpening the dish. In addition, smoking the fish on a plank give the exterior a delightful smoke crust and delicate, flake on the inside.


Grill Your Fruit!

You read that right – grill…your…fruit, add some market greens, some seeds or nuts, a little cheese, maybe a light dressing, or just a little local honey. Dinner (or lunch) is served.


The first time I saw Bobby Flay grilling pineapples I fell in love with the idea. However, the first time I burned the pineapples to the grill, I didn’t feel it reciprocated. But, don’t let that get you down, some fruits are more forgiving than others. And, to help you out, I draw from my experiences to give you a short list.

Fruits ranked from easiest along with recipe ideas:

1. Stone fruits – apricots, peaches, plums, mangos, and nectarines. Use as a center piece to salads or in a bowl topped with ice cream. For either version, I start by halving the fruit and releasing and disposing of the stone. Toss lightly in oil and place cut side down on hot grates for 1-2 minutes, rotate a quarter turn and leave for another 30 seconds to a minute. Next flip over to skin side for 1-2 minutes. If using for salads, remove from heat and cut into desired size for salad. If going for dessert, remove from heat, drizzle with honey, and scoop in vanilla ice cream or greek yogurt.

2. Citrus – lemons, limes, pineapple…mostly lemons. When I grill lamb chops, I also grill lemons. The hot juice and pulp of the lemons spreads over the chops to add a brilliant citrus zing that your guests will go on and on about. Simply. wash and half the lemons, place cut side down on the top rack of the grill for 1 minute, give them a quarter turn and another minute before flipping over and onto a side plate.

For the pineapple, I have found that a light toss in vegetable oil helps it to release from the grill. My favorite thing to do with grilled pineapple is to chop it up with grilled or raw mango and fresh mint to serve as chutney. Adding peppers and/or some red onion and cilantro can turn this into a fun salsa.

Whatever you do, please take time to grill your fruit!