Big Green Egg

lunchbox life: steak kabobs with avocado and salad greens

image1(23)Greetings, friends! On one hand, I can’t believe I’m about to begin Week 3 of this school year, but on the other hand, the rhythm of the weekly grind has already begun to set in. Since it’s still mid-August, and therefore summer, I thought I’d make this week’s lunches an homage to the summertime, and what’s more summery than shish kabobs?

These kabobs pack a protein punch and are brimming with local veggies. The zucchini, onions, and sweet peppers all came from our CSA box from Dirt Farmers, making my lunches this week even more special and healthy. While most people serve kabobs over rice, I decided on a different approach since I’m still trying to infuse my good habits from my Whole30 experience into my regular, post-Whole30 life. Instead of rice, I’ll heat up my meat and veggies in the microwave and then place them on a bed a chopped romaine lettuce and top it all off with some sliced avocado.

image2(10)This lunch is a perfect example of healthy eating with a hearty approach. I think the 1990s and early 2000s messed us up with ideas about “eating light” that made us think we had to be hungry all of the time in order to be eating in a healthy way. By loading up on veggies, protein, and good fats, your body should be satisfied and full, but not uncomfortable and bloated. This is a great approach to that goal.

Note: if you’re not a red meat eater, you could certainly substitute chicken breast or thigh.

Steak Kabobs with Avocado and Salad Greens

1.5 to 2 lbs. boneless beef ribs

3 large or 5 medium zucchini

2 small or 1 large sweet onion

1 red bell pepper (I used 5 small sweet peppers from our CSA)

8 to 10 wooden kabob sticks

2 Tbsp. olive oil

2 Tbsp. McCormick brand Montreal steak seasoning

1 Tbsp. garlic powder

salt and pepper

5 small avocados

3 hearts of romaine lettuce

optional: salad dressing (I recommend making your own or your choice from the Tessamae’s brand)

Soak the wooden kabob sticks in water. Heat a grill pan to medium-high heat or light an outdoor grill. Cut the beef into 1-inch pieces and place in a bowl with 1 Tbsp. olive oil, garlic powder, and Montreal steak seasoning. Let the beef sit in the bowl on the counter for about 20 minutes while you chop the veggies. Remove the ends and outer layers of the onions, then chop them into chunks with two or three layers attached. Remove the tops and seeds from the pepper and slice it into 1/2 inch length pieces. Cut the ends off of the zucchini and slice into 1/2-inch rounds. Coat the veggies with the remaining olive oil and sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper (about 1 Tbsp. salt for all of the veggies).

Assemble the kabobs to your preference using the photo for reference. Grill the kabobs to your preference of doneness for the beef, but remember that you’ll most likely be reheating the beef in the microwave, so err on the side of medium rather than well done. I prefer my beef rare, but because of the longevity of this beef, I cooked my beef to medium.

When the kabobs are finished cooking, let them cool for about 10 minutes. While they’re cooling, chop the romaine hearts and evenly distribute between five plastic, sealable bowls. Add one small avocado to each bowl, then place the top on the bowl.

In a separate piece of sealable plasticware, slide the meat and veggies off of the kabobs and distribute evenly among the five plastic containers. When you’re ready to eat, reheat this container, then place the reheated meat and veggies atop the romaine lettuce and cut the avocado into slices or chunks to top the meat and veggies. Drizzle with salad dressing and enjoy!

hot off the press: cantaloupe jalepeno chicken roulade with Vidalia onion risotto

roulade

Note: this was originally posted on Macon.com on July 23:

Welcome back to our humble kitchen! This go round we wanted to share a way to utilize a few other seasonal ingredients in ways that are both slightly unconventional and also very easy.

Two of my favorite foods in the world are cantaloupe and Vidalia onions, but sadly they are often relegated to the realm of garnish or sides, not really the powerhouses of a dish. It really is a shame, because few things are better than the flavor these fresh ingredients.

Cantaloupe Jalepeno Chicken Roulade

Roulade Recipe:

4 chicken breasts, butterflied and pounded thin

Salt and pepper to cover

1 ½ brick Greek yogurt cream cheese

½ cantaloupe, cut into small pieces

1 whole Jalapeno, seeded and chopped

8 large sage leaves, chopped

Juice of ½ lemon

First, let’s start with the protein side of this equation- a nice chicken roulade with a light, flavorful cream filling. Roulades sound and look much fancier and complicated than they really are, making this method a great way to add flair and flavor to a dish without too much effort, especially if you use an outdoor grill as I did with this recipe.

To start the roulade, take the chicken breasts and trim any fat. Butterfly each breast by cutting it in half from the side, but not cutting it all the way through—essentially doubling the surface area. Season with salt and pepper and then pound with a meat tenderizer until each one is about ¼ inch thick. Go ahead and light your grill and heat to about 400.

In the bowl of a stand mixer with a whisk attachment, whip together the cream cheese, jalapeno, cantaloupe and sage for about three minutes until well combined and has a light consistency.

Cover each chicken breast with the mixture, spreading even with a spatula. Roll tightly on the vertical axis and tie with kitchen twine. Squeeze lemon over each one.

With the grill ready, place the roulades over direct heat about 4 minutes per side. Reduce heat to 325 and cook an additional twenty minutes or until a meat thermometer reaches about 165. Let rest for at least 10 minutes before cutting into pinwheels about an inch thick. Serve atop the risotto.

Vidalia Onion Risotto

2 cups Arborio

4 cups chicken broth

1 large Vidalia onion, frenched

Salt to taste

1 stick butter

½ cup white wine

5 cloves garlic

6 leaves basil

Juice of 1 lemon

¼ cup fontina cheese

In a heavy bottom pot or dutch oven, melt ½ stick of butter until almost browned. Add the onions and cook until they are brown and soft in texture, about 25-30 minutes on medium low heat. Remove from the pot into a bowl. Heat the chicken broth over low heat in a separate pot.

 

In the onion pot, melt the next ½ stick of butter and stir in the Arborio. Toast the rice for about four minutes and then add the white wine. Stir until it is absorbed, and then add 1 cup of the broth. Stir and allow the rice to mostly absorb the broth until adding the next cup. Continue until all broth is used or the rice is tender. As the last dose of broth is being absorbed, add the onions, garlic, basil, cheese and lemon juice and stir until well combined.

Kale Salad

1 bunch kale, finely chopped

1 small cucumber, diced

1/2 cup dates, chopped

½ cup walnuts, chopped

1/8 cup olive oil

Juice of 2 lemons

1 tsp sherry vinegar
2 tbsp Dijon mustard

Salt and pepper to taste

Place the kale, dates, walnuts and cucumber in a large bowl. Whisk together the lemon juice, oil, vinegar, mustard, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Toss the dry ingredients in the dressing.

All together this is a nice, bright summer dish that really makes a statement on a plate. The combination of ingredients creates a nice balance and it is an excellent way to re-imagine these “sides” into something bold.

tales from the egg: pastrami short ribs, boston butt, lemon pepper and spicy chicken

Smoke

When you have a Big Green Egg you try to find excuses to use it. This past weekend, I started by just inviting some friends over, but then our friend Meg realized that with the return of Arrested Development, we should host a bigger shin-dig and have a full on BBQ fest. The BBQ and Bananas event was born (yes, we had frozen bananas, ice cream sandwiches, juice boxes, cornballs, the works). It was a lot of fun. (H/t Corey Bennett, Tim and Leila Regan-Porter, Melanie Bruchet (of the Cooking up Happy blog), and Lauren Morrill Ragusea (Find her in a bookstore near you!) for bringing the above themed goodies)

I want to have a special space here at the Bungalow for my many egg-ventures. I have gotten adept at basic ribs and pulled pork, but I am hoping to greatly expand by repertoire. I started this past weekend with some pastrami-brined short ribs. I got the inspiration from an Esquire article about some guys in Houston making classy bbq. I figured I could do the same.

Brining the night away…

After picking up some quality short-ribs, I set out to brine. In a large bowl I added hefty amounts of pickling spice, coriander, pepper, sea salt, paprika, and thyme. I added hot water and whisked until the dissolvable bits were dissolved and let it sit for a couple of minutes. I placed the ribs in a gallon freezer bag and poured the brine over the top. In the fridge, the ribs brined for over 16 hours.

Note the every recipe for pastrami will call for pink salt. This is designed to help in the brining by adding a distinct flavor while preserving a good color. I unfortunately could not find natural pink salt.

After the brine, as with a good many things, you have to pat these guys dry. I made a special rub of sea salt, whole peppercorns, coriander, and paprika in the food processor, milling the spices until coarsely ground. Add the rub to each rib, being sure to coat the entire top, meaty portion.

With the smoker ready to go and some smoked apple chips handy, head outside! After the chips were added, I got the egg up to 300 and smoked the ribs for about 3 hours, until they began to get a little stringy and easily pulled from the bone.

You guys...

You guys…

Now, for this iteration of the pulled pork. Instead of my usual sweet and spicy rub, I made a special herby rub this time. Salt replaced sugar as the heaviest ingredient and used its friends cumin, thyme, paprika, chili powder, red pepper flake, ground mustard and cinnamon do the work. After coating the butt in canola oil, I applied copious amounts of the rub and let it sit in the fridge for about four hours. It may of have to go on the grill at midnight and smoke for 12 1/2 hours in an applewood bath, but it was well worth it as you see.

So much flavor.

So much flavor.

I am a fan for mopping the butt a few times and flipping a couple of times in the process, just not for longer than an hour per time with the fat cap down. The whole point of slow smoking a shoulder butt is to melt the fat into the muscle and create a juicy, hand pickable meat like so…

Pulled

For a mop, this time, I used red wine, cider vinegar, water, and some of the rub. I added a little bit of rub (which I added sugar later in the process) after each mop. If you do it this way, you will not need sauce, but if you must, I’ll help you make your own sometime.

In my efforts to get a little more diverse, I invested in Myron Mixon’s new book. He has some great pointers and an excellent lemon pepper chicken recipe. In deference to him, I will not post his recipe online, but know that it uses lemon curb as a base for the marinade and includes fresh garlic, black pepper, lemon juice, and hot sauce. You add this to a whole chicken coating the bird under and over the skin. Smoking with applewood for an hour and half, and then letting it rest for 15, will render a super juicy, easy to carve into pieces, bird.

The second bird I did (same time and process and the above) with a homemade spicy marinade. I mixed turbinado sugar, kosher salt, paprika, cayenne, black pepper, and red pepper flake with louisiana hot sauce and rubbed the bird down. This was a seriously spicy, full flavor bird. You can tell they wanted to be cooked.

Party Fowl

Party Fowl

All told, this was one heck of a spread. I can’t tell you any of the amounts of the above since you will come to realize this is more art than science, but a good rule of thumb is to start your rubs with your featured flavor (salty or sweet) and go 4 parts of it to 1 part of your next spice. Then, for the remaining spices, only use 1/4 of the amount you used for the second ingredient. I like to layer the rubs in a bowl and use sight to gauge my taste and then mix them up before applying.

As always, be adventurous, trust your taste, and don’t be afraid to ask questions!