Grilled Nectarines and Apricots with Greek Yogurt, Honey and Thyme

Grilled Nectarines and Apricot

It’s the final stretch of summer, and the month of August is digging in its heels as autumn approaches.  The days are slow and lazy, as the summer sun falls a little lower in the sky, casting lavender and peach hues in the steamy horizon.  Life is simple, and food is easy, cool and sweet, especially in the fruit department.  Eliptically shaped watermelons, weighing more than a stuffed picnic basket, are cut up and slurped for their refreshing liquid and sweetness. Ripe cantalope melons vie for attention, equally sweet and easy to eat – either dressed up, all fancy, on a plate with salty prosciutto or simply eaten by the wedge.  Stone fruits stack our bowls: Nectarines, peaches, apricots and plums mingle in teetering piles, perfumed, tangy, and juicy, begging to be eaten with the promise of a quick pick-me-up when the heat wilts our energy and appetite. Summer eating doesn’t get better than this with no fuss and no kitchen heat.  In fact, the only heat action, beyond the sun, is on the barbeque, where, not surprisingly, many of these fruits are quite compatible with our favorite summer activity: grilling.

Grilling fruit is not about cooking, but intensifying the flavor and sweetness of the fruit.  The grilling process enhances the fruit as the natural sugars begin to caramelize while the fruit browns.  Many types of fruit can be grilled, such as melon, stone fruit, pineapple, mangoes, apples and pears.  Have fun experimenting, remembering to lightly oil the fruit before grilling and not to let the fruit blacken too much, because it will become bitter.  Grilled fruit can be used with sweet and savory dishes, incorporated into salads and salsas or starring in a dessert such as this:

Grilled Nectarines and Apricots

Grilled Nectarines and Apricots with Greek Yogurt, Honey and Thyme
Serves 6

3 nectarines, halved, pitted
6 apricots, halved, pitted
Vegetable oil
Whole milk Greek-style yogurt, room temperature, stirred to soften
Thyme sprigs

Prepare grill for medium-hot heat. Halve the fruit and remove the pits.  Lightly oil the cut side of the fruit.  Place cut side down over direct medium-hot heat.  Cook until char marks appear, 3-4 minutes. Arrange fruit, cut-side up, on plates.  Serve with a spoonful of Greek yogurt.  Drizzle yogurt and fruit with honey.  Garnish with thyme sprigs.

Roasted Potatoes with Garlic, Mint and Lemon Zest


Roasted Potatoes
Roasted potatoes are meat’s best friend.  I serve these potatoes frequently when it’s summer and fresh mint is abundant. The grill is always going, and this recipe is a perfect accompaniment with grilled meat, chicken and fish.  Toss the warm potatoes when they come out of the oven with the crushed garlic, lemon zest and mint, and let the heat of the potatoes coax the aroma out of the garlic, lemon and mint.  Serve immediately or allow to cool slightly before eating.

Roasted Red Potatoes with Garlic, Mint and Lemon Zest

2 lb. (1 kg.) baby red potatoes
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 garlic cloves,
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/4 cup fresh mint, chopped

Preheat oven to 375 F. (190 C.)
Toss potatoes with 1 tablespoon olive oil, salt and pepper.  Arrange in one layer in a baking pan.  Roast in oven one hour.  Transfer potatoes to serving bowl.  Toss with 1 teaspoon olive oil, garlic, lemon zest and mint.  Serve immediately or slightly cooled.



It’s the little things that can sometimes make a big difference.  Harissa is one of my favorite “little” condiments that features on our table, especially during grill season.  Until now, I have only referred to it as a link in other recipes, but it’s high time that harissa gets its own post.

Harissa is a Middle Eastern condiment that is a blend of roasted peppers, chiles, garlic and ground spices.  Savory, sweet, and hot, it adds a fresh and fiery component to grilled meat, fish, and chicken.  Mix it in with rice dishes and tabbouleh, soups and dips, or simply eat it with a spoon.  It elevates anything it garnishes and is guaranteed to fire up your tastebuds.

Makes about 2 cups

1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds
2 red bell peppers, roasted, peeled and seeded, coarsely chopped
2-3 small red serrano chiles, stemmed, minced with seeds
3 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Fresh coriander and/or mint leaves

Toast cumin seeds, coriander seeds, and caraway seeds in a dry skillet over medium heat until aromatic, about one minute. Transfer to a mortar with pestle.  Grind seeds to a fine powder.
Combine ground seeds, red peppers, chiles, garlic and olive oil in bowl of food processor.  Process until smooth, adding more olive oil, if necessary, to desired consistency.  Add sea salt and pepper to taste.
Let sit at least one hour and up to 24 hours before serving.  (Refrigerate before use.)
Serve garnished with coriander or mint leaves.

Tip:  Adjust the heat to your taste by omitting or adding the seeds and membrane of the chiles.  Remember that there should be some heat to Harissa.

Grilled Steak with Rosemary, Shitake Mushrooms and Garlic Scapes

Steak Shitake

In honor of Mother’s Day I purchased some beautiful New York strip steaks at the market. At home, I made a paste of garlic, sea salt and olive oil and smeared the steaks all over with the paste. While they marinated, I prepared a stir-fry of shiitake mushrooms and garlic scapes which was a perfect accompaniment to the grilled steaks.

Elephant garlic scapes resemble an oversized chive with a bulbous flower at the end.  The stalks are firm with a peppery bite and mild garlic flavor.  They are wonderful in a stir-fry, because they retain their crispness, and impart a mellow, garlicky flavor.  The flowers are edible and, when cooked, have a somewhat astringent and earthy taste.  With the shitakes I used the scape stalks and saved the flowers for another use – perhaps in a decorative context.

Elephant Garlic Scapes

New York Strip Steak with Sautéed Shitake Mushrooms and Garlic Scapes

Serves 4

For the Steaks:
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons coarse sea salt, such as Maldon
1 sprig rosemary
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper

4 New York or Ribeye steaks, about 2 lbs. (1 kg.)

Combine garlic, salt and rosemary in a mortar with a pestle and smash together. Mix in the olive oil and black pepper. Rub the oil all over the steaks.  Cover and refrigerate for several hours (can be prepared up to 24 hours in advance.)  Remove from refrigerator one hour before grilling.

Grill the steaks over a hot fire, 5 minutes per side for medium-rare or to desired doneness.
Remove from grill and place on cutting board.  Cover loosely with foil and let rest 10 minutes before carving.

For the Shitake and Garlic Scape stir-fry:

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
6 elephant garlic scapes, bulbs removed, stalks cut in 1/4″ pieces
1 sprig rosemary
4 oz. (125 g.) shitake mushrooms, wiped clean with paper towel, ends trimmed, sliced
1/3 cup (80 ml.) beef or chicken stock
2 tablespoons soy sauce
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Fresh rosemary sprigs for garnish

Heat olive oil over medium heat in a skillet.  Add garlic clove and sauté one minute.  Add garlic scapes and sauté 1 minute.  Add rosemary sprig and shitake mushrooms and sauté until mushrooms release juices and turn golden brown.  Add stock and deglaze pan.  Add soy sauce.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Remove and discard rosemary sprig. Serve alongside or on top of grilled steaks.  Garnish with rosemary sprigs.

Steak Shitake Garlic



Easy Entertaining: Grilled Salmon and Halibut Skewers

Easy Entertaining: Grilled Salmon and Halibut Skewers

It’s mid-April, Easter vacation, and when it rains it pours – luckily and figuratively – in the houseguest department.  Who needs to go away during a school vacation, when you live in the San Francisco Bay area?  There is no shortage of beaches and nature to explore, food and wine to taste, museums and city to walk, and it can’t get any better than with the streak of brilliant weather we have had this week.  Besides, if we don’t go away, then those who do go away, come to us.

We are reaching the end of a week of playing tourist in our own backyard, hiking Pacific coastal trails, tasting Napa wine, window shopping in Union Square, and having our senses titillated in Chinatown.  My brother and his family have come and gone and return again this evening after visiting Yosemite National Park for a 3 day excursion. While they were gone, the kids have had friends sleep over, and a good friend from our Geneva days came round for a dinner – she was in town for business and we had the chance to catch up after 10 years over good wine and food.  Next week when we are back to our usual routine I will rest.

As you might imagine, the kitchen chez nous has been busy and continually re-stocked.  And for last night’s dinner I prepared these lovely fish kabobs for easy, elegant entertaining.

Grilled Salmon and Halibut Skewers
Serves 6

For the marinade:
1/4 cup (60 ml.) extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup (60 ml.) freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 medium yellow onion, grated, with juices
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt

3 lbs. salmon fillet and halibut filet (thick pieces), cut in 1″ chunks
1 large red onion, cut in 1″ pieces
1 large red pepper, cut in 1″ pieces
1 large yellow pepper, cut in 1″ pieces

Italian flat leaf parsley for garnish

Soak 12 wooden skewers in hot water 30 minutes before using.

In a large bowl combine marinade ingredients.  Whisk together.  Add fish to marinade and toss gently to coat.  Refrigerate at least one hour and up to 4 hours.
Preheat grill or oven grill.
Remove skewers from water.  Thread 4-5 pieces of fish on each skewer, alternating with pepper and onion pieces.  Grill, turning, until fish is brown and just cooked through, 6-8 minutes.
Arrange on a platter, salt and pepper to taste, and garnish with parsley sprigs.

Moroccan Spiced Chicken under a Brick

Morroccan Chicken

In the mood for a crispy, spicy, succulent chicken?  Look no further.  This recipe combines the aromatic spices of North Africa with a, er, brick. Chicken under a Brick is an easy way to get a crispy grilled chicken on the stovetop. Or, in my case, chicken under a Dutch oven, but I’ll get to that in a moment.

Every week we roast a chicken in our house for dinner.  It’s easy, flavorful, and resourceful; one chicken feeds a family and then some.  Stock is made from the carcass, and any left over meat can be used later for lunches, a light dinner, salad or soup.  This week, I bought a chicken, but decided not to roast it the way I usually do.  I was craving something a little different – something crispy and spicy to launch us into a new rainy week.  I asked my butcher to butterfly the chicken, which entails removing the backbone, and flattening out the chicken so it can cook evenly.  This is where the brick comes in.  The brick will weigh down the chicken, keeping it flat while it cooks, ensuring that more surface area will be in direct contact with the cooking element (grill) or pan.  Why a brick?  Because it’s heavy and can withstand the heat.  In my case, I don’t have a brick, but I do have a heavy Le Creuset Dutch oven, that I placed directly on the chicken, which did the trick.

As for the spicing, I realize I am having a bout of wanderlust, because lately I have been dreaming of the far-flung destination of Morocco and its cuisine.  While I don’t foresee a trip to North Africa in my immediate future, I can at least bring its flavors and spices to my kitchen table.  Using lots of garlic, fresh coriander leaves, saffron, lemon zest and olive oil, I made a paste that I smeared all over the chicken and under the skin.  Then I made a dry rub of paprika, dried cumin, cayenne, and freshly ground black pepper and sprinkled it all over the chicken.  The spices and flavors cooked into the skin and meat lending a subtly exotic flavor and heat to the meat and a vibrant color to the crisp-cooked skin.

Serve this dish with couscous or rice.  Accompany with a green salad, or a Middle Eastern Salad consisting of chopped tomatoes, onion, cucumber, mint, parsley, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper.  No, we are not in Morocco, but close your eyes and picture yourself far away while you smell the aroma and enjoy the flavors of this delightful chicken.


Moroccan Spiced Chicken under a Brick
Serves 4

1 whole chicken (3-4 lb.), backbone removed, butterflied
4 garlic cloves
1/4 cup chopped fresh coriander/cilantro leaves
2 teaspoons sea salt
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon saffron threads
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne or to taste

Make the Paste:
Combine garlic, coriander, one teaspoon salt, lemon zest and saffron in a mortar with pestle.  Smash to a paste.  Add 3 tablespoons olive oil and stir to combine.  Alternatively, mince garlic and add to a small bowl with coriander, one teaspoon salt, lemon zest, saffron and 3 tablespoons olive oil.  Mix together with a fork.  Rub chicken all over with paste, including between skin and breast meat.  Place on tray or platter, skin side up and cover loosely with plastic wrap.  Refrigerate at least 2 hours and up to 6 hours.  Remove from refrigerator 30 minutes before roasting.

Prepare Chicken:
Preheat oven to 450 F. (225 C.)
Mix one teaspoon salt, paprika, cumin, black pepper and cayenne together.  Sprinkle over both sides of chicken. Heat one tablespoon olive oil in oven-proof skillet over medium-high heat.  Place chicken, skin-side down, in skillet.  Place brick wrapped in foil (or cast iron pan or Dutch-oven over chicken.)  Cook chicken over medium-high heat without moving brick until nicely browned, 10-15 minutes, occasionally rotating skillet to ensure even cooking. Remove from heat and remove brick. Carefully turn chicken over in the pan with a large heavy weight spatula or thong without piercing the skin. Transfer chicken to the oven without the brick, skin side up. Bake until done, about 20-30 minutes, depending on size of chicken. Let rest, covered with foil, 10 minutes before carving.