Lemon Thyme & Ginger

Grilled Skirt Steak with Mojo de Ajo. What to feed the Groomsmen Part Two

Grilled Skirt Steak with Mojo de Ajo recipe.

Part two of my quest to figure out what to feed the groomsmen, I decided to make grilled skirt steak in addition to the grilled chicken. As I mentioned earlier this week, at Evan’s request I am not making a lot of different foods like dips, salsas or desserts, so the sandwiches need to be the star of the meal. After all, they are the only food offered besides chips and beer.

Because the grilled chicken is marinated in a classic garlic and herb marinade, I decided to use Mojo de Ajo to flavor the grilled skirt steak. This way both the grilled selections have a similar garlic flavor, but in their own unique way.  The grilled chicken has a garlic herb profile with an Italian American flavor and the grilled skirt steak has a Mexican cuisine flavor profile from the simmered garlic, chilies and Mexican oregano. Both grilled foods are different, but they complement each other because they share similar ingredients and the same cooking method.

Grilled Skirt Steak with Mojo de Ajo recipe.

Grilled Skirt Steak with Mojo de Ajo recipe.

My hope is the grilled skirt steak sandwich with mojo de ajo will give the groomsmen a taste of something unexpected as well as delicious. Mojo de Ajo has a prominent garlic flavor but it is not strong and lingering. I feel like I contradicted myself by saying it is prominent but not strong, yet it is true. By not strong I mean the garlic behaves and like a polite guest knows when it is time to home. This is not the type of garlic that you taste all night long when your want to go to sleep. Roasted garlic is the most significant flavor, but because of the orange juice, tomatoes and arbol chilies it comes across sweeter with a kick. Grilled skirt steak in mojo de ajo is both has a familiar taste yet, it is new at the same time.

Grilled Skirt Steak with Mojo de Ajo recipe.

Grilled Skirt Steak

Skirt steak takes no time to grill, either on an outdoor grill or on the stove in a grill pan. My skirt steak finished cooking in 4-5 minutes on a grill pan for medium rare. However, they were thin pieces of meat. Depending on the thickness of your skirt steak and how much you want your steak to cook, it could take a minute less or a couple of minutes longer. If you have never cooked skirt steak before, start with the recommended time in the recipe and test it to see how done it is. Skirt steak tastes better when it is rare to medium rare and because my pieces were very thin, probably should cook them for less time. Additionally, it is important to rest the steaks for 10 minutes before you slice them. This way the juices will soak into your steak and not flow all over your cutting board.

Grilled Skirt Steak with Mojo de Ajo recipe.

Mix it up

Now, I am using grilled skirt steak to make sandwiches, but this steak makes an easy weeknight dinner as well. Last night we ate it for dinner with a green salad and devoured it. We liked it so much, we could not stop picking at it. Both of us repeatedly commented, “I’ll just have one more sliver please.” Eventually, we had to remove the grilled skirt steak from the table before we ate the whole thing.

Grilled skirt steak with mojo de ajo makes the perfect steak taco. Actually this is how I first became acquainted with the garlic sauce in the cookbook Taco.

Make fajitas with grilled skirt steak with mojo de ajo and poblano rajas, which is sautéed strips of poblano chilies and white onions. Get the recipe from my poblano chili cream sauce. This creamy poblano sauce will also taste great with grilled skirt steak.

Make a grilled skirt steak salad with arugula, avocado, oranges and baby radishes. Drizzle some of the mojo de ajo on the steak and dress with a citrus vinaigrette. My favorite is a combination of orange juice and lemon juice with a little honey, a touch of Dijon mustard, black pepper, extra virgin olive oil, and finished with fresh herbs like mint or basil..

Grilled Skirt Steak with Mojo de Ajo recipe.

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Grilled Skirt Steak with Mojo de Ajo

The mojo de ajo gives grilled skirt steaks a whole new flavor. It is perfect for a steak dinner with a green salad, or beef tacos, or make into steak sandwiches.

Add some mojo de ajo in the mayonnaise for your sandwiches for extra flavor. 

Course Dinner, Lunch
Cuisine American, Mexican
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 6 minutes
Resting Time 30 minutes
Total Time 11 minutes
Servings 3 people
Author Ginger

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ lb skirt steak
  • Kosher Salt
  • 1/3 cup oil from Mojo de Ajo get recipe from the link in the summary
  • Garnish with the garlic and minced tomato from the Mojo de Ajo

Instructions

  1. Place the skirt steak in a baking dish just large enough to hold the skirt steak in an even layer. Sprinkle the skirt steak with Kosher Salt on both sides, about ½ teaspoon total, possibly a pinch more.

  2. Separate the oil from the solids of the Mojo de Ajo and pour about 1/3 cup over the skirt steak. Turn the steaks over and rub them with the oil to get and even coating. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and let the skirt steaks rest for 30 minutes at room temperature.

  3. Prepare your grill. Oil the grill once the coals are in place. 

  4. Place the skirts steaks on a 45° angle over the grill and sear for 2 minutes. Rotate the steaks towards the opposite 45° angle and grill for one minute. Turn the skirt steaks over and repeat on the other side. If you have a thicker piece of skirt steak try 4 minutes  side. The steaks could be done anywhere from 5-8 minutes depending on how thick they are. 

  5. Remove the skirt steaks from the grill and let it rest for 15 minutes on a cutting board.
  6. Slice across the grain in thin slices and serve garnished with the minced garlic and tomatoes from the Mojo de Ajo.
Grilled Skirt Steak with Mojo de Ajo recipe. A sublime recipe for grilled skirt steak with sweet garlic flavor from Mojo de Ajo, a citrus garlic olive oil from Veracruz.

© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

What to Feed the Groomsmen? Grilled Chicken with Garlic Herb Marinade

Grilled Chicken with Garlic Herb Marinade recipe.

I have the pleasure of providing lunch for my son Evan, and his 8 groomsmen this weekend. Visualizing the amount of food required for a group of hungry men brought me back to Evan’s high school and college days when I had to feed Evan and his friends after a swim meet. Swimmers require a lot of calories on any given day, and the amount of food they eat is phenomenal. Fortunately, the groomsmen do not have the same appetite as Evan’s teammates had. Yet in the back of my mind the question remained, what to feed the groomsmen? I went around and around about what food to order and finally came up with the idea of doing it myself and make sandwiches with grilled chicken and grilled flank steak.

Of course, it would be easier to order sandwiches from the venue, but the cost for sandwiches was equivalent to a 5 course meal. Additionally, the wedding venue is a resort in a rural area and there is no other place nearby to order food. Making the lunch myself, is the next best option. Fortunately, the venue is just over an hour away from home and I will have a full kitchen in my suite. These perks allow me to feel confident that I can cook everything at home and keep the food fresh once I am at the resort.

Grilled Chicken with Garlic Herb Marinade.

Grilled Chicken with Garlic Herb Marinade recipe.

Lunch Menu

Even though it may seem like I am feeding an army, Evan gave me direction to keep the food simple without a lot of munchies with dips, salsas, and desserts. His concern is if there is a lot of food to munch on after they are all dressed, someone, himself included, will spill or drip on their clean and pressed white shirt or their new suit. I totally get that, and I do not want any spills on my gown either. Even at 28 years old spills happen, and white shirts and fancy new suits are an easy target. So, the menu is simple, make your own sandwiches with grilled chicken or grilled flank steak, lettuce, tomato, avocado and condiments on sourdough bread. On the side, only chips. No dip. No salsas. No dessert.

Grilled Chicken with Garlic Herb Marinade recipe,

It may sound sparse, but I know the sandwiches will fill them up and keep the groom and groomsmen satiated well past the wedding ceremony. Everyone appreciates having a nice lunch, but the focus on Saturday afternoon is not the food, it is the bride, the groom and getting ready for their upcoming wedding.

Because the menu is limited, and for a special occasion, I wanted to provide sandwiches made with real meats, not processed cold cuts. Garlic and herb marinated, grilled chicken and steak make delicious sandwiches that are not the usual fare. Especially when they are made on Evan’s favorite bread, Joe’s Dough sourdough batard. Between my husband’s homemade sourdough bread and my marinated and grilled meats, both of us contribute to the meal that gives the groom and groomsmen something special to eat, even though it’s only a sandwich.

Grilled Chicken with Garlic Herb Marinade recipe.

Grilled Chicken

The marinade is a basic one, with lots of garlic and dried herbs, mustard, vinegar and olive oil. Chicken, especially boneless, skinless chicken breasts, get mushy if they marinate for too long so I keep that time period for a maximum of four hours. First, I pound the chicken flat then season both sides with Kosher salt. Then make the marinade. Once the chicken is coated in the marinade, it then rests on the counter for 30 minutes. Marinating the chicken at room temperature gives the seasoning a jump-start to penetrate the meat because the chicken absorbs the marinade faster when warm then when cold. After 30 minutes, I place the chicken in the refrigerator to marinate until 30 minutes before it is time to grill the chicken.

I have no qualms about letting my chicken rest on the counter at room temperature for 30 minutes because I have air conditioning and it is not too hot and humid. If you do not have air conditioning and it is hotter than hot, be wise and place the chicken in the refrigerator once it is coated in the marinade.

For even cooking I recommend pounding the chicken breasts with a meat mallet to an even thickness between two pieces of plastic wrap. The plastic wrap protects the chicken meat and prevents the chicken from sticking to the surface of your counter. Also, the chicken breast gets a nice flat surface to build a sandwich on.

Depending on the size of each chicken breast, cut the chicken breast in half on a diagonal. This way you get two pieces of chicken that will easily fit on the sandwich bread. Plus, you get enough for two grilled chicken sandwiches from one breast.

Grilled Chicken with Garlic Herb Marinade recipe.

Mix it up

Making a sandwich with lettuce, tomatoes and avocado gives the option of making a grilled chicken salad instead of a sandwich. For people who eat a Paleo, or no carb diet, you can provide your guests with the food they eat without you having to make an extra dish.

Make the grilled chicken with either boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs. The photographs in the post, picture the sandwiches and grilled chicken made with grilled chicken thighs.

For vegetarian diets bring some extra cheese like mozzarella, or Munster cheese to make a cheese sandwich with the same vegetables used for the grilled chicken sandwiches. Or, make a salad with cheese. The cheese will also pair well with the grilled chicken and steak.

For vegan diets, grill some tofu or tempeh.

If the weather turns bad, sear the chicken on the stove using a grill pan, then finish the cooking in the oven. Add some chicken stock or white wine to the baking dish with the chicken to keep it moist and make pan juices. This makes a delicious grilled chicken dinner.

Make one of these salads with leftover grilled chicken,  Chicken Salad with Yogurt Avocado Dressing, or Chicken Salad with Orange Saffron Dressing

More sandwich recipes in my post, Easy Picnic Ideas for the Summer.

Make a sandwich with Sherry Marinated Grilled Flank Steak

 

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Grilled Chicken with Garlic Herb Marinade

An easy grilled chicken recipe with a classic marinade of garlic and dried herbs. This recipe it easily prepared with boneless-skinless chicken breasts or thighs and makes delicious sandwiches.  

Depending on the size of the chicken thighs or breasts you can get 5 to 6 sandwiches. I had a 2 lb (1 k) package of chicken thighs that totaled 5 chicken thighs. A decent serving size per sandwich is 4 oz (125 g) of meat. American chicken breasts are large and range anywhere between 7 - 9 oz (200 - 250 g). 

See Notes for directions for stove top grilling method. 

Course Dinner, Lunch
Cuisine American
Keyword grilled chicken, grilled chicken sandwiches
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Marinating time 3 hours
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 5 sandwiches
Author Ginger

Ingredients

  • 2 lb (1 K) boneless skinless chicken breasts or thighs
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt
  • 3-4 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 ½ tsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 TB sherry vinegar
  • 1 tsp dried onion flakes
  • ¼ tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp dried rosemary
  • ¾ tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • ¼ cup 75 ml extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup chicken stock optional

Instructions

Prepare the Chicken

  1. If you are using chicken breasts, pound the chicken breasts with a meat mallet between two pieces of plastic wrap, until you get an even thickness. About a half-inch (1 cm) thick is ideal, but you do not what the chicken beasts to get torn apart. Place in a baking dish large enough to hold all the chicken. 

  2. Sprinkle kosher salt over the chicken thighs or breasts on both sides. Let the chicken rest in a baking dish just large enough to hold the chicken on the counter while you prepare the marinade. 

Make the Marinade

  1. In a small bowl, mix together the garlic, Dijon mustard, vinegar, onion flakes, oregano, basil, rosemary, and Worcestershire  sauce until thoroughly mixed together. Add the olive oil and mix until well incorporated. 

  2. Pour the marinade over the chicken and turn the thighs or breast over to cover both sides of the chicken. Cover the chicken in the baking dish and rest on the counter for 30 minutes. 
  3. After 30 minutes place the chicken in the refrigerator and marinate for a couple of hours. 
  4. 30 minutes before grilling take the chicken out of the refrigerator and rest on the counter. 

Prepare the Grill

  1. 20 minutes before grilling, prepare the grill according to your specifications. 
  2. When the coals are ready, push them over to one side to create two areas, one for direct heat and the other for indirect heat.  Oil the grill. 

Grill the Chicken

  1. When the grill is hot, place the chicken top side down on the grill over the coals. Grill for two minutes then rotate the chicken 45° and grill for 2 more minutes. Turn the chicken over on the other side and repeat the same grilling process.

  2. Transfer the chicken to the side of the grill with indirect heat and cook until the chicken is done, internal temperature 165°F / 74°C  .

  3. Remove from the grill and rest for 15 minutes. 
  4. Serve as is or make into sandwiches. 

Recipe Notes

To make the chicken with a stove top grill.

Preheat the oven to 375°F / 190°C / Gas Mark 5.  Position the rack in the middle position. Place a grill pan on the stove and turn the heat to high. Just before the pan starts to smoke, spray the pay with cooking spray. Turn the heat down to medium high and sear the chicken as directed using an outdoor grill, for two minutes then rotate at a 45° angle and grill two minutes more. Turn the chicken over to the other side and grill for two minutes. You may need to cook the chicken in batches.

Transfer the chicken to a baking pan just large enough to hold the chicken. Pour the chicken stock in the pan and bake the chicken until done. The juices from the chicken run clear when pierced with a fork and the internal temperature is 165°F / 74°C. Start checking for doneness after 10 minutes. Depending on the thickness of your chicken and if they are thighs or breasts, it could take from 10-25 minutes.

Grilled Chicken with Garlic Herb Marinade. An easy grilled chicken recipe with a simple marinade. Marinate boneless, skinless chicken thighs or chicken breasts for delicious sandwiches. Or serve for a grilled chicken dinner.

© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

Pesto Shrimp Pizza with Asparagus Ribbons

Pesto Shrimp Pizza recipe.

We are a family of shrimp and pizza lovers and came up with a great way to combine the two, shrimp pizza. Shrimp is an unexpected pizza topping but it works, especially paired with basil pesto and thinly sliced asparagus. Additionally, this pizza recipe was a great way to sneak in some extra vegetables into my vegetable leery children.

Pizza night started as a family tradition when my husband began baking bread and learning about making sour dough starter. It was his weekend night thing to do with our sons. His pizzas spoiled us forever for once you taste good quality homemade pizza dough and pizza it is hard to go back to the usual.

Even though Joe is still baking bread with a starter, we took a break from making pizza on a weekly basis because it is just the two of us living at home. However. I want to change that because homemade pizza not only tastes incredible, but it is fun to do. I find whenever we make pizza for a crowd, our guests, either friends or family, love pitching in or watching the pizzas being made. Everyone hangs out in the kitchen and it is just one big happy, loving mess.

Pesto Shrimp Pizza, recipe

 

Pesto Shrimp Pizza, recipe.

Pizza Dough for Shrimp Pizza

I do not have a dough recipe prepared for my shrimp pizza. I am still developing my pizza dough recipe and testing others to find an easy recipe with a little sour flavor and gets nice and crispy. Plus, my husband’s recipe is in the family archives and needs extra time to re-develop.

If you want to try your hand at making pizza try, Jim Lahey’s No Knead Pizza Dough. Although you need to make this at least a day in advance, it is relatively easy to make. I tested this recipe a couple of times and found it reliable, light crust with some crisp crunch. It shapes nicely and cooks up evenly.

Fortunately, it is easy to purchase pizza dough either at your favorite grocery store or a local pizza parlor. Some pizza parlors sell their pizza dough, so it is worth asking. We have a local family market that makes pizza and sells fresh pizza dough which is great for last minute homemade pizza cravings.

Pesto Shrimp Pizza recipe.

Special Equipment for Making Shrimp Pizza or any Pizza

If you are going to start making pizza, even if you use store-bought pizza dough, there are a couple of pieces of equipment that make pizza making easier. First, if you can only buy one item, I recommend buying a pizza peel. With a peel in hand, sliding a freshly prepared pizza onto a pizza stone or pizza steel is a breeze. Without one, you need a baking sheet, like a large cookie sheet or rimmed sheet pan and prepare the pizza directly on the pan.

Also, get a long-handled and wide spatula, like ones used for outdoor grilling. They help to safely slide the pizza around in the oven and onto the pizza peel. We have two spatulas, one being so old we can’t bear to throw it away. It is the perfect size and shape for bread and pizza baking, so we tape it up with aluminum tape to secure it. It still works, and we have yet to find a good replacement. Unfortunately, they just don’t make this shape and size any more.

Bench scrapers are nice to divide the dough in half, or scrape the dough out of the bowl, but they are not necessary.

Pesto Shrimp Pizza, recipe.

However, if you want to get serious about making pizza, investing in a baking stone or baking steel is worth it. I also use mine when I bake pies, tarts and galettes. If they are too expensive, place a rimmed baking sheet pan upside down in the oven when you are preheating it. The surface will get very hot and do a similar job as the baking stone or steel does. Place a baking pan with the pizza on top of the upside down sheet pan, the large hot surface area helps crisp up your pizza crust and even browning on the bottom crust.

Pesto Shrimp Pizza recipe.

Pesto Shrimp Pizza

To make Pesto Shrimp Pizza, use my basil pesto recipe and smear a few table spoons of pesto over the surface of the pizza. You can make the pesto with or without the cheese as both options taste great.

I lightly season the peeled shrimp with Kosher salt, ground garlic and red pepper flakes. Because there is no acid added to the shrimp, the shrimp can marinate in the seasoning without getting mealy and starting to cook. I prefer granulated garlic because minced fresh garlic easily burns when cooked under such hot temperatures. Burnt garlic gets very bitter and I do not want that flavor dominating the pesto and the shrimp.

Honesty, the most difficult thing to do is slice the asparagus spears into thin strips. Feel free to cut them any way you prefer. I like my pizza vegetables to easily bite into without pulling off half the toppings or the whole thing at once. With the asparagus sliced thin they cook up quickly and are easy to bite into. You may also want to cut the asparagus sliced in half across the middle depending on how big your pizza is.

Pesto Shrimp Pizza, recipe.

Final Touches

Once the pizza is baked, squeeze lemon juice over the top and add some Romano cheese and other garnishes. My pickled red onions add a nice touch to this pizza as well.

This recipe makes one 10-inch (25.5 cm) pizza, which if you follow Jim Lahey’s pizza dough recipe is one of the four dough balls from his recipe, about 7 oz (350 g) each. A 10-inch (25/5 cm) pie is a reasonable size for two normal persons, athletes and teenage boys  count this pizza size as one serving.

Most pizza dough you buy in the store is larger and usually makes around a 12-inch (30.5 cm) or larger pizza. If you are using a store-bought dough, you will need to increase the toppings accordingly. Though, that is the beauty of homemade pizza, the only thing you must pay attention to exact measurements is for making the dough, everything else is easily adjusted to suit your style.

Enjoy your homemade pizza and please share your photos with me on my Facebook page or Instagram @lemonthymeandgigner.

 

Pesto Shrimp Pizza, recipe.

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Pesto Shrimp Pizza

Pizza night in a lot of fun, especially when you make one with shrimp and pesto. Extra vegetables, like thinly sliced asparagus and chopped marinated artichoke hearts add textural contrast and flavor to the pesto and the shrimp. Makes on 10 inch (25.5 cm) pizza

Most store bough pizza dough makes a larger pizza pie, about 12 inches, 30.5 cm. Adjust the ingredients accordingly, so you have a nice sample of shrimp and vegetables and an even coating of pesto. 

Course Dinner, Lunch
Cuisine Italian American
Keyword Pizza, Pizza Recipe, Shrimp Pizza
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 6 minutes
Pre heat oven 1 hour
Total Time 26 minutes
Servings 2 people
Author Ginger

Ingredients

  • Pizza Dough about 7 oz (200 g) for a 10 inch (25.5 cm) pizza see blog post for recommendations
  • Basil Pesto sauce 3 TB (35 g) depending on size of pizza
  • 9 large shrimp about 5-6 oz (150 - 175 g)
  • 2 TB divided Extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ tsp Kosher salt
  • ¼ tsp ground garlic
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes.
  • 6 asparagus spears
  • 2 marinated artichoke hearts in oil
  • Garnish with juice of half of lemon grated cheese, pickled red onion (optional), and fresh ground black pepper

Instructions

Prepare the toppings

  1. If using, follow the instructions for preheating your pizza stone or pizza steel. Preheat the oven at 500°F/ 250° C / Gas Mark 8 for one hour before baking the pizza.

  2. Take the pizza dough out of the refrigerator 1 hour before baking. Let is rest on the counter in the container.
  3. While the oven is preheating, prep the ingredients. Clean the shrimp and remove the shells and vein. Add the shrimp to a bowl then mix in a shy tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil, Kosher salt, ground dried garlic and red pepper flakes. Mix until the seasonings are well incorporated. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator.

  4. Trim off the tough ends of each asparagus spear, about an inch and half from the bottom. Slice each spear lengthwise in half, then cut each half in half lengthwise. Place the asparagus on a plate and drizzle a light coating of olive oil , shy tablespoon, and a pinch of Kosher Salt over the asparagus and toss with our hands until the oil and salt are well incorporated. Set aside.

  5. Cut the artichoke heart wedges, in half lengthwise and rough chop. Set aside.

Assemble the pizza

  1. Sprinkle your pizza peel with flour and set aside. Or, if you do not own a pizza peel place a piece of parchment paper on a large rimmed baking sheet, large enough to hold a 10-inch (25.5 cm) pizza. Lightly spray the parchment paper with oil spray. 
  2. Shape the dough. Sprinkle flour over your work surface so the dough does not stick and flour your hands. Pour out the dough and press down on the pizza dough with your fingertips to flatten and shape it into a circle. Drape the dough over the tops of both hands and stretch and shape the dough using gravity and your thumbs until the dough is about 10-inches (25.5 cm) in diameter. Don’t pull the dough but use both your thumbs to stretch out from the edge, not the center, and rotate the dough in a circle. 

  3. Drape the pizza dough on your prepared peel or pan, slide the peel back and forth to make sure the dough does not stick to the peel.

  4. Spread the pesto evenly around the pizza leaving about an inch (2.5 cm) border. Sprinkle the asparagus evenly over the pizza, then the shrimp and finally add the artichoke hearts. While you are adding the toppings,  repeat the slide test  making sure the pizza dough is not sticking to the peel with the extra weight.  

  5. Bring the peel over the oven and insert the peel towards the back of the baking steel or stone. Encourage the pizza to slide off the peel and onto your pizza stone or steel, by moving the peel back and forth until you can slide the peel out while the pizza slides off. Bake for 6 minutes or until the shrimp is cooked and the crust is golden brown. Optional, half way through the baking turn the pizza around, front to back for even browning. The BBQ spatulas are perfect for this job. Always be careful not to touch the baking stone or steel. They are seriously hot, and you can get a nasty burn. 

  6. Remove the pizza from the oven by using long BBQ spatula, careful not to touch the steel or stone, and slide it onto the pizza peel.  

  7. Slide the pizza onto a metal serving platter or cutting board. Squeeze the lemon juice over the pizza then lightly sprinkle grated Romano cheese. Scatter a few slices of pickled red onion and grind fresh black pepper over the pizza. Cut into equal size wedges and serve immediately. 

Recipe Notes

Most store bough pizza dough makes a larger pizza pie, about 12 inches, 30.5 cm. Adjust the ingredients accordingly so you have a nice sample of shrimp and vegetables and an even coating of pesto. 

Pesto Shrimp Pizza, recipe.

© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

Almost Classic Nicoise Salad for Two

My Classic Nicoise Salad for Two and recipe.

If you ever need something that will take you on a trip to the sunny shores along the Mediterranean Sea, enjoying a Nicoise Salad will do just that. It is a salad full of vibrant foods found in the Mediterranean and in particular the French Rivera. Originating from Nice, France, you can expect a Nicoise Salad made with warm sun ripened vegetables, cured black olives, anchovies, garlic and a garden of herbs reflecting the region’s abundant summer bounty from both land and sea. This is an elegant salad with attitude. It speaks in a loud and briny voice, yet it is never offensive because it’s beauty transports our senses to a sunset along the Côte d’Azur no matter how distant that may be.

My Classic Nicoise Salad for Two with recipe.

Traditional Nicoise Salad

Nicoise Salad is one of my favorite salads. Even though I came to it from an adapted version, rather from an authentic source, I believe it is true in its concept. My research revealed what I knew as Nicoise Salad included several ingredients that are not necessarily “traditional”.  Like most regional foods of classic cuisines there usually is a traditional version and the adapted versions built off the one traditional recipe. Yet, for Nicoise Salad, there is debate about what that one recipe consists of. Even in Nice, from restaurant to restaurant and house to house, you get a slightly different version all considered a classic. Despite the fact no one can agree on one “traditional recipe” there is consistent agreement about the essential ingredients that define a Nicoise Salad.

The definitive ingredients are: French green beans, also known as haricot verts, ripe tomatoes, black cured olives, preferably ones from the South of France, anchovies, garlic and fresh herbs, like Fines Herbs. Everything else like potatoes, lettuce, capers, tuna fish, marinated artichoke hearts, and hard-boiled eggs, are open for debate. Two of the add-ins, potatoes and marinated artichoke hearts, are highly debated as definitive ingredients, but lettuce, tuna fish and hard-boiled eggs are questionable, or optional as I like to put it.

My Classic Nicoise Salad for Two and recipe.

My Nicoise Salad

Because my introduction to Nicoise Salad was in New York and not along the French Rivera, my idea for this classic salad includes many optional ingredients, especially tuna, potatoes and hard-boiled eggs. However, it is just these ingredients that turned my mind around about liking anchovies. Therefore, I do not consider them blasphemous because they compliment an essential ingredient in a Nicoise Salad. It was so long ago when I was first introduced to anchovies I barely remember it, What I do know is if you do not like them, open your mind to try anchovies in a Nicoise Salad and then make up your mind.  Paired with the other salad ingredients, the anchovies strong fishy and briny flavor turn complimentary and not overpowering.

Now I love anchovies, especially with lots of garlic, and add them to many recipes, like Baby Artichoke Hearts with Anchovy Caper Sauce. These artichoke hearts make up a Nicoise Salad in its own right, just add some tomatoes, haricot verts and olives and you are good to go.

My Classic Nicoise Salad for Two with recipe.

Including tuna, potatoes, anchovies, and hard-boiled eggs in one salad may seem over the top, but it is the salad I know and love. I could omit the tuna to feel more authentic, because tuna is the ingredient you rarely find in a Nicoise Salad in France, or so I’ve heard. Though I do believe tuna adds a nice flavor. Plus, if you use good quality prepared tuna from a jar or can, it makes a big difference.

The tuna I used is TonNino tuna (not an ad) in olive oil. It comes in a jar, is wild caught, dolphin friendly, Yellowfin Tuna. Plus, you can find it at most grocery stores. It had a mild tuna flavor that was very moist without a mineral-metallic aftertaste you get from canned tuna.

I have never made this salad with grilled or fresh tuna because there is enough preparation without it. Also, I believe fresh tuna will dominate the flavor and at $24 plus per pound, should be the featured ingredient. I am sure it tastes delicious, but call it by a different name, like Grilled Tuna Mediterranean Salad.

 

My Classic Nicoise Salad for Two and recipe.

How to Compose a Nicoise Salad

Another Nicoise Salad debate is over how to assemble the salad. You’ll find in a lot of restaurants serve Nicoise Salad plated as a composed salad with each ingredient artfully placed on a platter with the dressing drizzled over the top. Another way to present the salad is to mix all the ingredients together, like salads usually are, with the salad dressing evenly coating all the fresh ingredients. Personally, I prefer the all mixed up style because I believe it tastes better that way. It is a perfect jumble of deliciousness compared to the composed salad.

As you can see in my photographs, I opted for the composed salad just because it photographs better. However, by dinner time I had everything all mixed up.

Making a Nicoise Salad becomes a personal choice of ingredients and appearance. The important consideration is always including ripe tomatoes, black cured olives, blanched green beans, anchovies, garlic, and a handful of fresh herbs. No exceptions. Everything else is up to you. Keep in mind Nicoise Salad is vibrant so don’t skimp on the garlic and anchovies. As you make this salad, think of hot summer days, dry heat, warm coastal breezes, salty air, and the best seasonal ingredients found around the Côte d’Azur . You will reward yourself with a trip to the French Rivera even when you are thousands of miles away.

My Classic Nicoise Salad for two, with recipe

Over looking the village of Banyuls Sur Mer, France and the Mediterranean Sea

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Classic Nicoise Salad for Two

Nicoise Salad is composed of the vibrant flavors of Provence in the summer. This is not a delicate salad, but one filled the robust flavors like garlic, anchovies, cured olives, and capers. Fresh French green beans, sun ripened tomatoes, and fresh herbs compliment the vibrant regional flavors and become even more exceptional with a garlicky vinaigrette. Within each region, every chef and home cook have their particular “must have” spin for this classic salad. All the other ingredients are "optional" , and some ingredients cause serious debate. 

Take a bite, close your eyes then transport your senses to the Côte d’Azur on a hot summer day. 

This recipe can easily be doubled and tripled in size to feed 4-8 people. You may need to adjust the dressing somewhat, but that is easily done. 

Nicoise Salad is best eaten as soon as it is prepared. Arrange it decoratively in a bowl or platter or serve mixed together in a delicious jumble of fresh ingredients tossed with the vinaigrette. With all the ingredients at room temperature.

Course Dinner, Lunch
Cuisine French
Keyword Dinner Salad, Nicoise Salad, Salade Niçoise
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Servings 2 people
Author Ginger

Ingredients

Nicoise Salad

  • 2 Yukon gold potatoes about 8 oz (247 g) total
  • 1 small onion peeled and cut in half
  • 2 cloves garlic peeled and smashed and green germ removed
  • 2-3 sprigs of thyme
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 oz (125 g) French Green Beans (Haricots Verts) ends trimmed
  • ½ 4 oz ( 105 g) head of green leafy lettuce like Boston Bibb
  • 1 6.7 oz (190 g) jar tuna in olive oil, such as TonNino
  • ¼ lb. (115 g) grape tomatoes, cut in half use plum tomatoes when they are at the peak of the tomato season
  • ¼ cup (75 ml) black cured olives
  • 1 TB capers brined cured
  • 4 anchovy fillets
  • A handful of fresh herbs either Fines Herbs, tarragon, basil, chives, parsley

Anchovy Vinaigrette

  • 1 clove garlic finely minced
  • 2 anchovy fillets
  • 1 TB minced shallot a small shallot about 1 oz or .5 g
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 ½ TB red wine vinegar
  • ¼ cup 75 ml) Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • A couple grinds of fresh black pepper

Instructions

Cook the ingredients:

  1. Fill a sauce pan with water and add the potatoes. Add about 3 tablespoons of Kosher salt to the pot along with a couple of thyme springs, onion and garlic cloves. Bring the water to a boil turn down the heat and gently simmer the potatoes until they are fork tender, about 25 minutes. Depending on the temperature of your simmering water will depend on how long the potatoes need to cook. I check the potatoes every 10 minutes so I do not over cook them.

  2. Once done, remove the potatoes from the sauce pan and set aside to cool.
  3. While the potatoes are cooking, fill a bowl with ice and water and set aside.
  4. If adding eggs to your Nicoise Salad, place the eggs in a sauce pan and fill the pan with water. Bring the pot to boil then turn down the heat to a gentle simmer. Cook the eggs for 7- 8 minutes. Ideally you want medium-boiled eggs when the yolks are set but not cooked all the way through, but not runny. 

    Turn off the heat and add the eggs to the ice bath. When the eggs are cool enough to handle, gently roll the egg back and forth on the counter to crack the egg shell. Peel off the shell, with the egg submerged in the ice bath for an easy peel. Set the eggs aside. If you are making these in advance, store the peeled eggs in a bowl with filled with water in the refrigerator.

  5. Make another ice bath for the green beans.
  6. Fill the pot you used for the potatoes or eggs with fresh water and bring to a boil. When the water comes to a boil, add a large pinch of Kosher salt and the prepared green beans. Once the water returns to a boil, remove the green beans and add them to the ice bath. Once cool, remove the green beans from the ice bath and place on a clean lint free kitchen towel and dry. Set aside.

Make the Vinaigrette

  1. If you haven’t already done so, mince the anchovy fillets, garlic and shallots then add to a small bowl.
  2. Add the Dijon mustard and vinegar and whisk until well incorporated. Continue to whisk and add the extra virgin olive oil in a slow and steady stream. Stop pouring the olive oil periodically to whisk and the salad dressing and make sure the dressing is emulsified. 

Assemble the Salad

  1. In a large mixing bowl, add the lettuce leaves if using and pour about 2 teaspoons of vinaigrette over the leaves. Toss the leaves gently with your hands until the greens are evenly coated with the vinaigrette. Divide the lettuce between two large pasta bowls, or large salad plates. Or, arrange the lettuce on one platter large enough to hold the whole salad.
  2. If you wish peel off the potato skins, or leave them on. Slice the potatoes into bite size pieces. Also, if you want the green beans into smaller pieces, cut them in half.

  3. Arrange the green beans, chopped potatoes, chopped tomatoes, tuna fish, anchovy fillets, olives and capers over the lettuce. Drizzle the salad with the vinaigrette, making sure every add-in gets a coating of the salad dressing, especially the potatoes. Cut the eggs into quarter wedges or in half and arrange them on the salad.
  4. Serve immediately at room temperature.

Recipe Notes

If you choose not to add in lettuce, double the amount of fresh green beans to make up for the loss of a green vegetable. You may also want more tomatoes. Also, cut up the green bean into bite size pieces for ease and convenience. 

When tomatoes are in season and perfectly sweet and ripe, substitute the cherry tomatoes with plum tomatoes or other sweet flavored tomatoes. Cut them up into generous bite size pieces. 

My Classic Nicoise Salad for Two. Nocoise Salad is a classic salad from the French Rivera consisting of French green beans, tomatoes, anchovies and black cured olives. My recipe adds leafy greens, potatoes, capers, tuna fish and cooked eggs, dressed in an anchovy vinaigrette. It is a robust salad exemplifying the seasonal ingredients of the summer.

© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

Summer Backyard BBQ Menu Ideas

Summer Backyard BBQ Menu with recipe links.

There is nothing like getting together with friends and family for a day into night BBQ. The warmer temperatures and longer days just invite people to relax and hang outside. I put together a delicious BBQ Menu designed for ease of preparation,  seasonal produce, diet flexibility, and just good eats. When preparing a BBQ menu, the first thing to evaluate is know your guests’ dietary restrictions, if any. Don’t put any of your guests in the position where they must bring their own food. A courteous host will design a menu around their inspiration and friends and family food restrictions. In my case no matter if I am entertaining friends or family, I always need food for vegetarian, sometimes vegan, and gluten free diets. The whole menu does not have to include all the restrictions, but having at least one selection per course for any specialized diet is greatly appreciated.

Food allergies are taken more seriously than when I was growing up and there are times when people have so many food allergies and restrictions they opt to bring their own food. No one wants to put anyone out or feel like they are needing a special meal just for them. As a courtesy describe your menu to your friend or family member and inform them of your menu. If you are making something they can eat, let them know.

Summer BBQ Menu

Beer   Wine   Raspberry Hibiscus Margarita

Appetizers

Muhammarra   Grilled Shrimp Cocktail   Pickled Deviled Eggs

Main Course

Grilled Sherry Marinated Flank Steak

Cold Sesame Noodles

Grilled Asparagus

3 Bean Salad

Dessert

Double Coconut Pie

Gluten Free Strawberry Tart

Fudgy Brownies with Sea Salt and Caramel

 

Raspberry Hibiscus Margarita with Jalapeno, recipe.

BBQ Menu: Drinks

Serving a selection of wine and beer and non-alcoholic beverages is all anyone expects at a backyard party. However, these days people are very particular about the type of wine and beer they like to drink. Most likely your guests will bring a beverage they like and willing to share.

For beer, offer a variety like a lager, IPA, and Saison. This variety should cover most people’s taste preference. You know you guests best, if the only beer your guests drink is Corona, then that is all you need. For me, I am surrounded beer aficionados, so the more diverse selection the happier they are.

My summer wine selection usually includes, red, white and rosé wines. Here again, people are particular about what wine they like to drink and based on my experience two types of white wines are necessary. There are two distinct white wine camps, those who only drink chardonnay and those who do not drink Chardonnay period. A choice of Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio will round out the white wine selection nicely. Another option is offer White Bordeaux. It is a dry white wine and should appeal to both white wine camps.

For red wine, Merlot pairs nicely with the steak and is not as heavy as a Cabernet Sauvignon. Additionally, I found during the summer a lighter, dry red wine like Cotes de Rhone is another all-purpose red wine choice.

The great peace keeper is Rosé. Both red and white wine drinkers enjoy a dry rosé. So, if you do not have the white or red wine they prefer, rosé to the rescue. It is a refreshing wine and perfect for summer.

For fun, offer a signature cocktail like Raspberry Hibiscus Margarita with Jalapeno. You get two drinks in one with this recipe. The raspberry hibiscus juice is excellent in a cocktail and a non-alcoholic beverage mixed with seltzer or ginger ale.

BBQ Menu: The Beginning

No BBQ menu is complete without a good selection of appetizers. Chances are, your guests will arrive hungry anticipating a night of eating and drinking. Appetizers give people something to do other than drink, plus they set the mood of your party. Also, it is my experience people love appetizers or nibbly foods, sometimes more than the main dinner selection. Some people like to help and pass around a tray of appetizers because it gets them connected to everyone at the party.

Three recipes, Spinach and Artichoke Dip with Bacon, Roasted Red Pepper Dip with Walnuts and Pomegranate, Blue Cheese Dip with Caramelized Shallots

BBQ Menu: Appetizers

Depending on the amount of people determines how many appetizers you need. For a party with 8 people, I usually have three appetizers. Having more than 2 appetizer selections gives people choices for their meal, it looks welcoming and people feel like they are going to be well fed. When there is a small selection of food, people feel self-conscious about eating, because no one wants to be the guy who eats more than their fair share, and like I mentioned earlier people are usually hungry as soon as they arrive to a BBQ. Even if you have a larger party, 3 appetizers are a nice selection but make enough of each for two appetizer stations.

Variety is the name of the game. People love chips and dip of any variety. Serve with a vegetable crudité, and chips and crackers. All my dips published in this blog are some of my favorites and picking one is like choosing which of your children is your favorite. They are all my favorite. For a small party, I would select one dip, for a larger party I make two or three dips depending on the other appetizers.

 

Muhammarra is a delicious roasted red pepper dip from Syria. It is a vegan dip, but not gluten free. You can easily eliminate the crackers and add more walnuts for a gluten free option. Next to guacamole, Muhammarra is one of my favorites.

No one can resist shrimp cocktail and this roasted shrimp cocktail with Sriracha horseradish cocktail sauce is a definite crowd pleaser.  As long as you got your grill going, grill the shrimp over indirect heat instead of roasting them.

If it is not super hot outside people love Deviled Eggs and the Cornichon Pickle Deviled Eggs will pair nicely with the rest of the menu.

Summer Vegetable Steak Salad with Spicy Citrus Dressing Recipe

BBQ Menu: Main Course

I went traditional with this BBQ menu and selected a meat entrée because this flank steak is easy to prepare and cooks up quickly.  My recipe for Grilled Sherry Marinated Flank Steak is an oldie but goodie and one I use regularly. The marinade is also delicious for pork tenderloin. The photographs may need updating but the steak has a sweet, salty and smoky flavor that is timeless. With grilled sherry marinated flank steak, you can make all sorts of crowd pleasing main entrées. Serve it as is, make into a steak salad, or make tacos or steak fajitas. Additionally, any leftovers make the best steak sandwich.

Very few people don’t like grilled asparagus and it pairs well with this flank steak. On several occasions I discovered grilled asparagus is the only prepare some people will eat asparagus. As long as you got the grill going, you might as well grill up some vegetables. You can serve the grilled asparagus as is or have an orange mayonnaise dressing on the side. If you have vegetarians at your party be considerate and grill the asparagus before you grill the flank steak.

I often find a green salad is not the most popular food item at buffets and barbecues. My theory is people pile their plates with the main food selection with the best intention of returning for salad. But chances are they go back for seconds and forgo the salad. However, no one will miss the leafy green salad as long as there a couple of vegetable dish selections. For a leafy green salad substitute, I enjoy this 3 Bean Salad, made with two types of string beans, kidney beans and a lemon ginger vinaigrette.  Not only is it a delicious salad, it provides some protein for vegan and vegetarian guests.

For an unexpected side dish, serve Cold Sesame Noodles instead of potato salad. Cold sesame noodles also give your vegetarian guests some more protein with the 3 bean salad. If you need a gluten free side dish, make the cold sesame noodles with your favorite gluten free pasta, or Quinoa Salad with Avocado and Dried Fruit.

Nectarine and Blueberry Galette recipe

BBQ Menu: Dessert

For a small party one dessert is plenty, but if you are having more than 8 guests, then offer a selection of desserts. I prefer desserts that can easily be made in advance and maintain their vibrant appearance and taste. Unless I make a sheet cake, like Pioneer Woman’s, Best chocolate Sheet Cake, I do not bake cakes for barbecues. Pies, cookies, brownies, crisps, or make your own ice cream sundaes are perfect for a summer BBQ menu. An excellent pie, and gluten free to boot, is Double Coconut Pie or, Gluten free Strawberry Tart made with pistachio cookie crust. The strawberry tart taste best when it is assembled right before serving, but that does not take too much time.

Nothing beats these fudgy brownies with sea salt and caramel, and they can easily fit in to make your own brownie sundaes. Just add the caramel sauce after you top off with the ice cream. But if you want a cold and refreshing dessert, Lemon Mousse or Yogurt Panna Cotta are excellent options for a small backyard parties.

Party Success

All these recipes were published to feed an average size family, yet they can easily scale up to feed any number of number of people. If I am only serving one main entrée selection, I figure on 6 oz (175 g) per person for the main entrée. A 6 oz (175 g) serving is a normal sized dinner portion. If you have a lot of food in your buffet and a second entrée, figure on 4 oz (150 g) of meat or fish per person. A half cup (125 ml) per person is a good portion size for any salad, vegetable or grain side dish.

The key to a fun and relaxed backyard BBQ is don’t fret it. Do as much as you can in advance and let people help when offered. Once the appetizers are made, the only food you need to time is the flank steak, everything else can be made in advance. Keep any cold food chilled before serving. There is nothing on the vegetables dishes you need to worry about going bad, except if you serve the orange mayonnaise.

Summer parties are less formal, and people enjoy making a dish to share. The main point of your get together is just that, a gathering of friends and family for a relaxing evening of good food, and fun. There is nothing wrong with asking people to help. Know your talents and limits, if dessert is not your forte, ask friends to bring dessert or buy it. Or, maybe you love making dessert but can’t swing the appetizers or salad, ask for help. Honestly, most people enjoy bringing a contribution because it makes them feel they are part of the party’s success. As much as you do not want to be alone in the kitchen, your guests want to visit with you as well, so ask for help when you need it.

Here is to a summer full of lots of parties and barbecues. Enjoy!

© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

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