Chipotle Braised Pork Carnitas

Getting Piggy with Carnitas:

Chipotle Braised Pork Carnitas

Now that it’s summer, it’s time to dig into spicy, meaty, two-fisted pork carnitas. Carnitas are perfect party food. They are fun to assemble and messy to eat, best washed down with a cold beer while eaten outdoors. What could be more fun?

The key to carnitas is to let the meat cook low and slow until it’s fork tender. In this recipe, the pork braises in a smoky, citrus-infused beer broth that imbues the meat with flavor and spice. The cooking process takes several hours, but it’s relatively hands off, simply requiring the occasional turn. The biggest challenge will be the wafting aroma of the simmering pork, which will surely test your patience. Hang in there. You can do it.

The final step is optional but highly recommended. Once the meat is shredded, arrange it in a baking dish or grill pan, toss with some of the basting juices and grill or broil at high heat until the meat begins to caramelize. Pile the meat on tortillas with salsa, guacamole, or your favorite fixings, and you are good to go. (Just remember the napkins.) If you have any leftovers, use the meat in sandwiches or loaded on homemade nachos the next day.

The pork can be grilled, which will keep the heat outdoors on a warm day, or it can be cooked in an oven. If using a grill, then brown the meat on the grates before transferring to a deep grill pan or grill-proof Dutch oven with the braising liquid.

Chipotle Beer Braised Pork Carnitas

Active Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: about 5 hours
Serves 6 to 8

1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon sweet paprika
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 (4 pound) boneless pork shoulder, excess fat trimmed
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
6 garlic cloves, smashed but intact
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
1 cup Mexican beer
1 cup fresh orange juice
1/4 cup chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon brown sugar

Accompaniments:
Warm flour or corn tortillas
Guacamole
Salsa
Fresh cilantro
Sliced green onions

1. Heat the oven to 300°F (or prepare the grill for indirect cooking over medium-low heat, 275 to 300°F).
2. Mix the cumin, paprika, chili powder, sugar, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Rub the spices all over the meat. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. (Or refrigerate for up to 24 hours, and remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes before cooking.)
3. If using the oven, heat the 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in a large Dutch-oven over medium heat on the stovetop. Add the pork and brown on all sides, turning as needed, about 8 minutes. Remove the pork and pour off the fat. (If using the grill, brown the pork over direct medium heat on the grill grates, and pre-heat a grill-proof Dutch oven over indirect heat while the pork is browning.)
4. Add the garlic, onion, beer, orange juice, chipotles, lime juice, and brown sugar to the Dutch oven. Bring to a boil over medium heat, scraping up any brown bits if on the stovetop.
5. Add the pork to the pot. Cover the pot with a lid or aluminum foil and transfer to the oven (or transfer to indirect low heat on the grill). Braise the pork until fork tender, about 4 hours, turning every hour or so.
6. Remove the pork from the braising liquid and transfer to a cutting board to cool while you reduce the sauce. When cool enough to handle, shred the meat. Place the meat in a baking dish or grill pan.
7. Boil the braising sauce over medium-high heat until reduced to a sauce consistency, 8 to 10 minutes. Strain the sauce, and drizzle some of it over the shredded pork (the pork should be lightly coated but not wet).
8. Grill or broil the pork at high heat until the meat begins to caramelize, 2 to 4 minutes.
9. To serve, spoon some of the pork in the center of a tortilla. Top with guacamole, salsa, fresh cilantro, and scallions. Roll up and eat.

Grilled Salmon with Kale and Quinoa

Grilled Salmon Skewers with Kale and Quinoa Salad

Yes, you can grill all year. I often use my grill as my second oven and fire source for cooking meats, chicken, and fish, no matter the weather … well, usually. Sometimes, I admit that I can’t bear the thought of stepping out into frigid temperature or a downpour to quickly char-grill my dinner. So I turn to my oven broiler for (nearly) the same charred results. This is how I prepared these salmon skewers.

Whether you use your oven or the grill, this healthy meal is bright and satisfying. I use my go-to marinade for the salmon. With a balance of bright citrus, sweet chile heat, and piquant mustard, it hits all the flavor categories, and provides a welcome bite to cut through the buttery richness of the fish. The salad is another go-to favorite, where I massage the kale leaves – you’ve probably heard of this method by now. In case you haven’t, massaging the tough leaves helps to tenderize them, so that they are slightly softened, but not limp, while taming their earthy flavor. It’s really a must for kale salads, and can often be done well ahead of serving without the risk of wilting, thanks to the sturdiness of the kale leaves – and it’s a brilliant prep trick for salad.

You might wonder why I skewered the salmon, especially since there’s nothing else threaded on the skewers with the fish. I do this so that the salmon, which is cut into large chunks, has more surface area and corners, that are exposed to the grill. This ensures that there will be lots of crispy charred bits all over the salmon, which in my opinion is the best part of this recipe.

Grilled Salmon Skewers with Kale and Quinoa

Active Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: about 30 minutes, plus marinating time
Serves: 4 to 5
Special equipment: Pre-soaked bamboo skewers

2 pounds salmon filet, skin and pin bones removed, cut into 1-inch chunks

Marinade:
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce (or tamari)
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon sweet chili sauce, such as Sriracha
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

Salad:
1 small bunch curly green kale
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 tablespoon lemon or lime juice
Salt
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup chopped cauliflower florets
1/2 cup cooked quinoa, room temperature
1 medium carrot, coarsely grated or shaved
1 small red chile pepper, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh mint leaves, coarsely chopped, plus extra for garnish

1. Place the salmon in a medium bowl. Whisk the marinade ingredients in a small bowl. Pour over the salmon and stir to coat. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
2. Remove the tough ribs from the kale and tear the leaves into bite-size pieces. Place in a large bowl and drizzle with 1 tablespoon oil, the lemon juice, and season with 1/8 teaspoon salt. With your hands, toss and rub the leaves to thoroughly coat for about 1 minute. Let stand at room temperature.
3. Whisk the remaining 2 tablespoons oil, the vinegar, 1/4 teaspoons salt, and the black pepper in a small bowl.
4. Preheat the oven broiler.
5. Thread the salmon on the skewers and discard the marinade. Arrange the skewers on a grill pan and place on the top rack under the oven grill. Grill until cooked through and well marked in places, about 8 minutes, turning the skewers once.
6. While the skewers are grilling, assemble the salad. Add the cauliflower, quinoa, carrot, chile pepper, cilantro, and mint to the kale. Drizzle with the dressing and toss to coat.
7. To serve, spread the salad on a platter or individual serving plates. Top with the salmon skewers and garnish with additional mint.

Condiment Spotlight: Green Olive Tapenade (with Oven Roasted Salmon)

The Green Olive Tapenade is a keeper.

Green Olive Tapenade Topping on Roasted Salmon

I’ll be honest. The real star of this salmon dish is the green olive and almond tapenade. No offense to the salmon, which is sublime as always and a no-fail simple, healthy meal. But, frankly, it’s the tapenade I want to talk about: it’s positively addictive with a briny brightness that complements the buttery rich salmon. It’s also versatile. Not only is the tapenade a worthy accompaniment to grilled fish (halibut is also a good contender), it’s a great stand-alone starter spooned on crostini or sprinkled over pizzas, pasta, and grains. The good news is that this recipe makes a generous amount of tapenade, so you can refrigerate the leftovers. Then you will have extra to smear on a slice of bread or swipe a carrot stick through. You might even find yourself eating it straight up from a bowl with a spoon. I’m speaking from experience.

Recipe: Roasted Salmon with Green Olive Tapenade

Active Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: about 40 minutes
Serves 4; Makes about 1 1/2 cups tapenade

Tapenade:
12 ounces pitted green olives, such as Castelvetrano
1/2 cup almonds, toasted
2 anchovies, drained
1 large garlic clove
2 teaspoons capers
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Salmon:
4 (6 ounce) salmon fillets, pin bones removed
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for garnish
Juice of 1/2 lemon, plus 4 lemon wedges for serving
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Make the tapenade: Place all of the ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and process to a coarse paste, without letting it get mushy. (The tapenade may be stored in the refrigerator for up to three days.)
2. Heat the oven to 350°F. Arrange the salmon in one layer in a roasting pan, skin side down. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons oil and the lemon juice. Lightly season with salt and pepper. Bake in the oven until the salmon is just cooked to your desired doneness, about 25 minutes for medium, depending on the thickness of the filets.
3. Transfer to serving plates and top each filet with about 2 tablespoons of the tapenade. Serve with a lemon wedge.

Cranberry Fig Chutney

Cranberry Sauce 2.0
Add a little zing to your sauce

Cranberry Sauce Recipe

Thanksgiving dinner is not complete without cranberry sauce. And while I have nothing against the traditional sugary cranberry combination, I find I crave an extra depth of flavor in the standard sauce – and so I devised this chutney. What I like about chutney is it’s a combination of fruit and savory ingredients, and not timid about incorporating herbs, spices, and even a kick of heat. In other words, it nails many of the flavor senses (sweet, sour, salt, bitter, heat) that, to me, yield a more satisfying mouthful.

In this chutney, dried figs add a mellow, nutty sweetness, and fresh ginger and orange add perfume and zing, all of which balance out the cranberries’ natural astringency, while allowing them to remain the star of the show – after all we’re talking Thanksgiving here.

The good news is that this chutney is not exclusively for the Thanksgiving table. It also makes a great condiment for other fruit-loving proteins such as pork, duck, and lamb. I like to serve it as an accompaniment on a cheese platter as well, or dabbed on goat cheese-smeared crostini.

Cranberry Fig Chutney

Active Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
Makes about 2 cups

18 dried black mission figs, quartered
1/2 cup Port wine
12 ounces cranberries, fresh or frozen
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon finely grated peeled fresh ginger
Juice and zest from 1/2 orange
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 (2-inch) rosemary sprig

1. Place the figs in a small bowl and pour the Port wine over the figs. Set aside for 30 minutes.
2. Combine the cranberries and sugar in a heavy medium saucepan and heat over medium heat until the sugar dissolves, stirring occasionally. Add the figs and Port wine, the ginger, orange juice and zest, pepper, salt, and rosemary sprig. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer, uncovered, until the cranberries burst and the chutney has thickened, about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
3. Remove from the heat and cool completely. Discard the rosemary sprig. (The chutney may be made up to 3 days in advance. Cover and refrigerate. Serve at room temperature).

Grilled Beef Skewers with Green Chile Sauce

Lean into the heat with these spicy grilled steak skewers:

When the weather is hot and shouty, then why not shout back with skewers of fiery meat? These steak skewers are not only cooked over a flame, they are bathed in a heady lime and garlic marinade that tenderizes and infuses the meat with bold flavor and kicking spice. And don’t stop there: Raise the flavor and heat bar further by serving the skewers with a feisty sauce inspired by Zhoug, a green herb condiment hailing from the Middle East. It’s a heat-spiked herbaceous blend that’s a cross between chimichurri and harissa – arguably a match made in heaven. You can keep the steaks in large pieces, or, better yet, cut into strips and thread on skewers for fun party food. Serve the sauce on the side, so the meat can be dabbed or generously swiped – leave it up to your heat threshold to dictate the amount. 

Skirt steak, flank steak, or hanger steak are great cuts that love a marinade, which helps to tenderize their natural toughness. When cutting the meat into strips, be sure to slice across the grain (the way that the muscle fibers are aligned). By doing this, you will cut up the muscle fibers which would otherwise increase chewiness. Grill the meat quickly over direct high heat for best results.

Grilled Skirt Steak Skewers with Green Chile Sauce

Active Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes plus 4 to 6 hours marinating time
Serves 4 to 6 as a main course

Marinade:
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon Sriracha
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 pounds skirt steak, cut against the grain in 1 inch strips

Sauce:
1 large poblano pepper, stemmed, coarsely chopped
1 large jalapeño pepper, stemmed, coarsely chopped
2 garlic cloves
1 cup (packed) cilantro sprigs
1 cup (packed) Italian parsley sprigs
1/2 cup (packed) mint leaves
Juice of 1 lime
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 to 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Prepare:
1. Whisk all of the marinade ingredients together in a small bowl. Place the steak strips in a resealable plastic bag or glass container with a lid. Pour the marinade over and turn to coat. Cover and refrigerate for 4 to 6 hours.

2. Make the sauce: Place the peppers and garlic in a food processor. Pulse until finely chopped. Add the cilantro, parsley, mint, lime juice, cumin, and salt and process to blend. With the machine running, add the oil, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the sauce is thick but pourable. Taste for seasoning, and add more salt if desired.

3. Remove steak from the refrigerator 30 minutes before grilling. Thread the strips on pre-soaked bamboo skewers and discard the marinade.

4. Prepare the grill for direct cooking over high heat. Grill the skewers over direct heat until charred and cooked to your desired doneness, 5 to 8 minutes depending on the thickness of the meat. Serve with
 the spicy green chile sauce.

Summer Pizza with Squash Blossoms and Sweet Peppers

Decorate your summer pizza with flowers – squash flowers, that is:

Grilled Pizza with Squash Blossoms

Squash blossoms might make this pizza sound pretty fancy, but it really isn’t. Delicate squash blossoms are everywhere at the farmers market at this time of year. I’ve been eyeing them, and contemplating ways to easily incorporate the floppy, sunny flowers into a meal. I’ve eaten blossoms fried and stuffed, but to be honest, I find them time consuming to prepare and often oily and rich. So I decided to simply layer them, with no other preparation, on a white pizza – or a pizza with no red sauce – and see what happened. The results were resoundingly good and a unanimous hit at the dinner table. The flowers shriveled and crisped while cooking, which concentrated their subtle and nutty flavor, which was nicely rounded out by sweet Jimmy Nardello peppers, onions, and a kick of heat from crushed red chili flakes. These fragile squash blossoms may be delicate, but it’s clear that they are no shrinking wall-flower.

For this recipe, you can make your own dough or purchase a good quality fresh dough from your supermarket, which is a simple shortcut for an easy meal. This recipe stretches one pound of fresh dough into a large rectangle, but you can also shape it into 2 smaller pizzas.

Squash Blossom Pizza with Sweet Peppers, Onions and Pecorino

Active Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Makes one (10 x 15-inch) pizza

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
Salt
1 pound homemade or prepared fresh pizza dough
1 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1 small yellow onion, thinly sliced, about 1/2 cup
1/2 cup thinly sliced sweet red peppers, such as Jimmy Nardello peppers
8 squash blossoms, quartered lengthwise
1 (8 ounce) fresh mozzarella ball, patted dry and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
1/4 teaspoon crushed red chili flakes
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1. Preheat the grill for indirect cooking over high heat (about 500°F for a gas grill) and preheat a pizza stone for at least 15 minutes. (Or preheat the oven to 500°F. Place a pizza stone on the lowest oven rack and preheat for at least 15 minutes).
2. Whisk the oil, garlic, and a pinch of salt in a small bowl.
3. Stretch the dough out as thinly as possible and lay on large pizza peel (or rimless baking sheet lined with parchment). Lightly brush with the oil. Sprinkle half of the Pecorino over the pizza. Top with the onions and peppers. Arrange the squash blossoms over the vegetables, and then place the mozzarella around the squash. Sprinkle the oregano, chili flakes and pepper over the pizza and lightly season with salt. Top with the remaining Pecorino.
4. Slide the pizza onto the pizza stone. Close the grill lid and grill until the pizza is golden brown, about 15 minutes. Remove and brush the crust with some of the oil. Drizzle any remaining oil over the pizza. Cut into serving pieces and serve immediately.

Jamaican Jerk Chicken

Beat the heat with Caribbean-style Jerk Chicken:

Grilled Jerk Chicken Legs

Jamaican Jerk is a thick and heady Afro-Caribbean marinade chock-a-block full of ingredients. Don’t let the lengthy list of spices and aromatics deter you. All you need is the fire of a grill to unify the flavors and create a spicy-sweet finger licking dinner – perfect for a summer barbecue. The heat in the marinade traditionally comes from Scotch Bonnet peppers (super hot). I’ve modified that with jalapeños – but feel free to go all out with a scotch bonnet (carefully seeded with gloved hands!) if you dare. And remember – as with most meat marinades, the longer the chicken can soak in the marinade, the better the flavor.

Jerk Chicken
Serves 6

Marinade:
6 garlic cloves
4 scallions, chopped
2 jalapeños, stemmed, seeded (optional)
1 (2-inch) knob ginger, peeled, chopped
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
3 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

6 chicken legs and/or breasts with skin and ribs

Method:
1. Place the marinade ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and process to form a paste. Arrange the chicken in a large baking dish. Rub the marinade all over the chicken and under the skin where possible. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.
2. Prepare the grill for indirect cooking over medium heat. Grill the chicken over indirect heat until charred and golden brown and thoroughly cooked through, 30 to 45 minutes, depending on size and thickness. During the last few moments of grilling, move the chicken to direct heat to char the skin as needed.
3. Serve garnished with fresh chopped parsley.