Grilled Shrimp and Corn Salad with Avocado

I need to read more.  I feel well-informed of current affairs from reading various news media, but I don’t read enough books.  I used to love thumbing through books, especially historical fiction novels that had something to do with China and Mao’s Cultural Revolution.  Now I spend the majority of my day at work staring at a computer screen, only to come home to stare at a computer screen perusing through different food-related websites, my blog, and anything else of interest.  And then there’s the television.  I’m addicted to my television.  How pathetic, right?  I love my Bravo station.  Real Housewives of Atlanta, Beverly Hills, New Jersey, New York, and Orange County?  Yes, please!

The sad thing is that I can’t even remember the last time I picked up a book for leisure.  I even bought myself and my partner a Kindle in hopes that it would encourage me to buy books on-the-fly to read, but instead, it sits on my nightstand collecting dust.  At least my partner uses her Kindle and puts it to good use.  She has finished three books in a matter of three days, and working on a new book as we speak, while I sit here lazily on the couch, blogging, watching a recorded show of The Voice, and perusing through Food Gawker and Tastespotting.

Maybe I should finish this blog post and pick up my Kindle :)

Any good book suggestions?  What about Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto?

Grilled Shrimp Salad with Grilled Corn and Avocado (adapted from Epicurious)

1 pound large shrimp
1 large ear of corn, husked
2 lemons, halved
1/2 cup canned black beans, drained
6 cups romaine lettuce, chopped
1 avocado, sliced
Salt and pepper

5 tablespoons orange juice
3 tablespoons lemon juice from grilled lemon
2 tablespoons fresh chives, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons grated orange peel
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon truffle oil
Salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat grill to medium-high heat.

Butterfly the shrimps by slicing almost through lengthwise, while leaving the shell on shrimp. Devein the shrimp, if necessary. Toss with olive oil, juice of one lemon, and season with salt and pepper.

Place the lemons, corn, and shrimp on the grill. Grill the shrimp two minutes on each side, until the shells are pink and the shrimp opaque; the lemons for about one minute, or until there are charred grill marks to caramelize the sugars of the lemon; and the corn has also developed charred grill marks around the diameter of the corn.

Combine all of the ingredients for the dressing in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

When cool to handle, cut the kernels off the corn cob in a shallow bowl, and peel the shrimp. Arrange the lettuce on two plates or bowls [however, you like to serve your salad], layered with corn, black beans, avocado, and shrimp. Divide dressing between two plates. [You could toss the salad with the dressing instead. I think the salad looks "prettier" when arranged this way.]

Makes 2 servings.

Smoked Spatchcock Cilantro-Garlic Chicken (now that’s a mouthful!)

I smoked all day today.  I woke up and went straight to the backyard to smoke.  I was jonesing, so much so that I woke up at 7 a.m. today, when I should’ve slept in on a Saturday morning.  I hope my neighbors didn’t mind my early morning smoking habit.  My hair, clothes, and skin smells of smoke.  I’m amazed that my lungs were able to take that much in, as if I were still in my early 20s.  It even kicked up some of my allergies.  I can’t wait to shower and scrub this smell off.  The problem, though, is that I’m addicted.  I love smoking… food, that is.

Smoked Spatchcock Cilantro-Garlic Chicken

1 (3 lb) whole chicken, spine removed
1 bunch cilantro, rinsed and finely chopped
4 jalapenos, sliced
12 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 tablespoons sea salt or kosher salt

Place spatchcock chicken in a large glass bowl, breast side down, filled with water. Add the cilantro, garlic cloves, and sea salt. Carefully “stir” the water to mix all the ingredients. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

1/2 bunch cilantro, rinsed and finely chopped
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Combine all the ingredients into a paste in a small mixing bowl. Set aside.

Remove the chicken from the brine and pat dry with paper towels. Rub the cilantro paste underneath the skin and the entire exterior of the chicken. Set aside.

Heat the smoker per the manufacturer’s instructions to 250 degrees F. If you are using a BGE, place a drip pan on the inverted plate setter. Place the chicken in the smoker, and smoke [I used applewood] until the breast reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees F and the thighs reach 175 degrees F, or when the juices run clear, about 3-4 hours. Remove the chicken from the smoker, and allow it to rest for 15 minutes tented with foil.

My First Attempt at Smoking Salmon on My New Big Green Egg

My birthday present to myself was a new Big Green Egg, something that I had been fantasizing and longing for, for the last year and a half.  The Big Green Egg is a kamado cooker, or simply a ceramic all-in-one cooker that can smoke, grill (and sear at really high temperatures), and bake.  You can even recreate a “wood-fired” pizza oven-like effect on this thing because it retains heat so well!

My partner has been a little less enthusiastic about the cooker.  It has been tough trying to convince my partner the idea of buying a semi-expensive the BGE, especially when we have a lot of house projects that we’d like to accomplish… replacing the carpets with laminate flooring, updating our bathrooms and kitchen, and redesigning our backyard to be more low-water maintenance.  And not to mention, my much anticipated hospital bill, which I still haven’t received from my recent hospitalization in February.  So I understand her concerns for spending money on the BGE when we have so much more to do.  I’ve mentioned the BGE to her more frequently these last couple of weeks than I ever had before.  I even tried to entice her by showing her videos on YouTube and explaining to her how it can even bake.  Whatever I did [I think it was the ability to bake on the BGE that sold her] to convince her worked because she was driving me to the only retailer that sells BGEs on my birthday!

After watching the instructional DVD, and perusing through the numerous BGE forums for the do’s and don’ts, I finally mustered up the courage to “break it in” so-to-speak.  I guess you can say I was slightly intimidated by the cooker.  I don’t really know why the BGE was so intimidating, or if it was just me being scared of change and stepping out of my comfort zone of the gas grill.  But after much debate with myself on which recipe to try first, I settled on smoking salmon.  It would be the perfect recipe to try as it would give me the opportunity to smoke something [something that I had always wanted to do], and to play around with the temperature control [which is supposedly really easy according to the BGE manufacturer, but I didn't think it was that easy].

The salmon came out beautifully after three hours of smoking.  I flaked a little piece for my partner to try, and well, let’s just say that she is a new BGE convert :)

Smoked Salmon

1.5 pound slab of fresh salmon filet, with skin on
1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup kosher or sea salt (non-iodized)
6 garlic cloves, finely minced

In a small mixing bowl, combine the all the ingredients above and mix thoroughly. Liberally pack the salmon filet with the brown sugar mixture. Place in a shallow glass baking dish, and cover tightly with saran wrap, and refrigerate overnight.

Rinse the salmon under cold water to remove the brine. Dry the salmon with a paper towel, and allow it to dry in the refrigerator, uncovered. It should dry for a couple of hours to develop the pellicle (shiny skin) on the surface of the fish.

Fire up your smoker per the manufacturer’s instructions and you favorite wood chips [I used alder; hickory or mesquite would be too potent for seafood] to around 180 to 220 degrees F. The salmon will be ready when it reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees F.

Remove it from the heat and devour it right away, or vacuum seal it so that you have it on hand for a while.  The latter may be difficult because you might finish it before you even get to package it away.

Vegan Grated Parmesan “Cheese”

Lactose-intolerant but can’t live without cheese?  Vegan and need a cheese substitute?  Well, it’s your lucky day!  For just $19.99, you can make your own batch of  non-dairy, vegan grated parmesan “cheese.”  Wait, there’s more!  If you act now, you can make not just one batch, but plenty more, all for just $19.99!

Sprinkle this onto some popcorn.

You.
Won’t.
Regret.
It.

Vegan Grated Parmesan “Cheese”

1/2 cup nutritional yeast flakes
1/3 cup raw cashews
1 tablespoon salt

In a food processor, pulse the raw cashews to a fine powder. Add the nutritional yeast flakes and salt, and pulse a few more times. Store in an airtight container.

Makes approximately 3/4 cup.

Quinoa Tabbouleh Salad

Have you ever noticed how much your taste changes as you get older?  I used to loathe cilantro, parsley, and carrots when I was younger.  Loathe is a pretty strong, and that’s exactly how I felt about those *things*.  The taste of cilantro used to make me gag.  The thought of carrots would send me running into the other room.  My Mom used to relate to me by telling me stories of how much she hated cilantro, too, when she was younger.  But she’d follow the story with telling me how my taste would change as I matured, but I didn’t believe a word that came out of her mouth!

I ate my words.  My Mom was completely right… “Mothers know best,” right?  I love cilantro now.  My affinity for it changed when I had my first tasting of Tom Kha Gai at my first Thai dining experience.  It was love at first bite.  However, it hasn’t been that easy for acquiring the tastes of parsley or carrots.  I don’t recall when exactly I started to come around enjoying carrots, but it definitely has been in the recent years.  I hate raw carrots, but I don’t mind stewed or roasted carrots.

Enjoying flat-leaf parsley has been a tougher challenge for me.  Flat-leaf parsley has such an overwhelming flavor to begin with.  I initially needed other stronger flavors to mask the taste of parsley, like basil pesto.  This has since changed as we’ve been eating and cooking more  Mediterranean foods that call for flat-leaf parsley.  We recently dined at one of our favorite local Mediterranean restaurants and sampled their vegetarian Meze plate, which included tabbouleh.  OMG, how could I have been missing this all these years?!  I’ve become addicted.  So much so that I made a LARGE batch a few days ago.  We’ve had quinoa tabbouleh several days in a row for lunch AND dinner :)

Quinoa Tabouleh Salad

2 1/2 large bunches flat leaf parsley, stems removed, finely chopped
3 roma tomatoes, seeded, and cut into 1/4-inch dices
3″ inches small English cucumber, cut into 1/4-inch dices
1/2 small white onion, finely diced
1/4 cup quinoa, cooked
3 tablespoons lemon juice
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt, to taste

In a large bowl, combine everything except for the lemon juice, oil, and salt.

In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil. Season with salt, to taste.

Toss the salad with the lemon vinaigrette.

Serve with falafels, hummus, pocket bread, and anything else you’d like.

Makes 4 servings.

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