Thursday, July 19, 2012

Creamed corn: An easy, delicious side dish

I'm really not trying to post every day, but I made some creamed corn for dinner that was so delicious, I just have to share how incredibly easy it is to make from scratch. You should do it. Why get the stuff in a can when you can make your own with fresh corn from the farmer's market? So grab a few ears and try this. You won't regret it. (Sorry there's no pic of the dish itself, but it just disappeared too fast.)

And if you happen to have a roast chicken with some pan drippings, you know, just around, in your kitchen, drizzle some of the drippings on the creamed corn. You will swoon with happiness. And you'll ask whomever else is at the kitchen table with you if he or she is going to finish that, and you are going to swipe the rest of the corn. I just know it. DO IT! It's going to be great. 


  • 2 Tbsps butter
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • corn kernels from four ears of corn
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream (or half and half, if that's what you've got)
  • salt and pepper
  • a pinch of nutmeg (preferably freshly grated)
  • 1/4 tsp smoked paprika


  1. Melt the butter in a pot over medium heat. 
  2. Add the shallots to the butter. Cook them until they are soft and slightly browned. 
  3. Add the corn kernels to the shallots and the butter. Stir and add the water and the sugar to the corn. Let it cook for about 7-10 minutes. (The corn should be cooked, but it's nice if it still has a little crunch.)
  4. Add the cream and let it cook with the corn for 3-5 minutes, enough to thicken the cream. 
  5. Season with salt, pepper, nutmeg, and smoked paprika. Enjoy!    

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Salmon with leek-mustard sauce and pistachio topping

Surely it can't have escaped you by now that I love color. I go to an art supply store, and the tubes of paint and their glorious colors are as seductive as candy to a child. When I paint, I build up layer upon layer, trying to create a deep, jewel-like finish that gleams and contains mysteries, like the clear surface of a pond.

Food often seduces me with its color too. Take the Copper River sockeye salmon I got yesterday. The gleaming, translucent flesh with that beautiful pink-orange color. I wish I could paint it, or capture it in a tube. Barring that, I suppose I have to eat it. I was seduced into buying it, even though I had not originally planned to eat so much seafood this week.

That glorious pink-orange color pairs especially well with the pale green of leeks and pistachios. That's not why the flavors of this dish work so well (and boy do they), but it does make a pretty dish. As for flavor, how do I describe it? The mellow cream and sweet leeks temper the assertiveness of the mustard, which works especially well with the fattiness of the salmon. Then there's the crunch of the nuts to provide a little texture. It's just a glorious bite. Simply take my word for it and try it.

It's a simple dish, but attend carefully to the fish so that you don't overcook it. Watch the times.


  • 2 8-oz fillets of Copper River sockeye salmon (you will probably get great results with any kind of salmon that's in season, but that's what was available to me)
  • 2-3 Tbsps unsalted butter
  • 3 leeks, cleaned,* sliced thinly
  • 2 teaspoons whole-grain Dijon mustard (or more to taste)
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • salt and ground white pepper
  • a large handful of salted pistachios, chopped (if you have the time and inclination, toast them in a hot pan for a few minutes before chopping them)
  1. Basically any fast-cooking recipe requires that you prepare all your ingredients in advance, and this is definitely a fast-cooking recipe. (With slower foods, like soups and stews, you can keep cutting vegetables while the onions are softening or the meat is browning.) So, the first step is to prepare all your ingredients. Surprise! Bet you didn't see that coming. 
  2. Liberally salt and pepper both sides of the salmon fillets. 
  3. Melt butter in a pan (I used my beloved cast-iron skillet) over medium heat. Let it foam plenty and just start to brown. 
  4. Place the salmon fillets in the pan, flesh side down (because they are going into a clean pan, they will look nicer that way). Let them cook without any fussing around for 3 minutes. 
  5. Turn the fillets over and let them cook skin-side down for 2 minutes. Spoon some of the hot butter over the top of the fillets a few times.  
  6. Remove the fillets from the pan, place them on a plate, and tent the plate with tinfoil to keep the fish warm. Set it aside for now. 
  7. Add the leeks to the pan. Let them cook until they are soft, about 5-10 minutes. Do not let them burn. (Don't let anything burn, really.)
  8. Add the heavy cream and the mustard to the pan. Combine the leeks, mustard, and cream. Let the cream thicken up a bit (this should only take a minute or two). Salt and pepper to taste. Taste the sauce. Add a little more mustard if you think the sauce lacks bite (but do it in small increments so you don't ruin it). Also, if you have any juices on the salmon plate, add those back into the sauce.
  9. To serve, place a fillet on a plate, spoon the leek-mustard sauce over the salmon, and sprinkle the chopped pistachios over the top. Serve it with something simple like boiled potatoes or rice that you can use to absorb extra sauce.  

* Because of the way that leeks grow, they often have a lot of dirt and grit in them. To clean them properly, strip off the outer leaf or two of the leek and cut the bottom and the top off (leave about an inch of green). You will end up with a long, mostly whitish cylinder. Cut the cylinder down its entire length. Then rinse all the inside layers of the leek thoroughly under cold running water. Finally, slice the half cylinders into little half moons.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Steamed mussels with corn, tomatoes, and bacon...and a confession about envy

I am flawed. Few days pass me by without a struggle to manage anger, fear, anxiety, and, perhaps worst, envy. Oh yeah, envy, that nasty little twit of a demon that sits around highlighting how successful person A is; and how well person B seems to manage a career, a family, and a glamorous life; or how gorgeous person C's food photograph is; or...the list goes on. I know envy is bad for me. I know envy doesn't tell me the real story of another person's life and accomplishments. I know envy doesn't tell me the real story about what and who I am and what I have accomplished. And that's why I fight with it, try to talk it away. It doesn't always work.

These daily struggles is one reason why it's so refreshing to be with a friend or a person whom I admire and feel deeply for without the tiniest scrap of envy or anger or anxiety. I can simply enjoy his or her skill, competence, self-confidence and feel peace. I think I am able to articulate this for the first time because of last Sunday, when we went to dinner at a friend's house, a friend my husband and I haven't seen in a long time. She knows I have been doing the Grand Tour, introducing my son to different countries and their cultures, food, history, art, music, anything that comes up. She's Indian so she suggested we comes over for dosas (she knows I love them) and have India week. So we did. 

And while we were there, I sat back and watched her. I loved the genuine affection she immediately showed my son, whom she's never met before. I enjoyed watching her strong hands as they skillfully spooned idlis out of the steaming trays, or placed them on plates for the children to eat; her hands were fast and steady, but unhurried. Her demeanor was calm, competent, and loving. She's smart, skilled, successful, manages her household well, and yet she induces no envy in me, only peace and a sense of being cared for. It's indescribably wonderful. And such a relief from the evil spirits that seem to infest my mind half the time. (And, no, I don't really think that evil spirits infest my mind. It's just a metaphor, OK?)

Anyway, this has nothing whatsoever to do with the steamed mussels with corn, tomatoes, and bacon I ate a little while ago and now am going to share with you. It's just a thought, an aside, and a tribute to a person who made me feel welcome, full of admiration, but free from quotidian poison. It was truly lovely.

So, let's move on the mussels. I hadn't been to a regular grocery story in a few weeks, but we were almost out of toothpaste, sandwich bags, canola oil, cheese cloth, canning labels--the kind of things that are hard to find at an organic market or a farmer's market, so my son and I went. While we were there, I had the idea that I wanted to make something with mussels for dinner (after all, I recently found out that farmed mussels are OK to eat according to the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch, and I really enjoy mussels). So I got a bag (I also got a couple of gorgeous sockeye salmon fillets, but that's a story for another day). When I got the mussels home, I took them out of the plastic bag they were in and put them in a container full of ice in the refrigerator. As I was putting them away, I got a whiff of them and was immediately entranced: A briny, fresh, salty smell came from them, clean and bracing as the ocean. I was entranced. I don't remember ever smelling mussels like that.

When thinking about how to prepare them, I knew I wanted to use some of the sweet corn and tomatoes I got from the market last Saturday (after a visit to another friend on Saturday, we walked away with more tomatoes, beans, and squash, so we've really got a bit of produce glut). I decided to steam them with the mussels in some wine, with a little bacon, and oh yeah, how about a sprinkling of homegrown parsley to round it out? This was a tasty, fresh summer meal, cooked in a just a few minutes.

A note on cleaning mussels and food safety: Most recipes that include mussels have you "debeard" them with a sharp knife. Truth is, most of farmed mussels you get these days don't have much of a beard, perhaps one in ten will. But the beard is kind of a yucky, stringy business that isn't going to please anyone at the table, so definitely cut them off when you find them. Also make sure that you scrub each mussel thoroughly; that will help eliminate any grit. If any of your mussels are already open before you've cooked them, discard immediately (that means they are dead, and you don't want to cook dead mussels). Also, if any of them don't open after you've steamed them, again, discard.


  • 2 lbs (1 bag) farmed mussels, scrubbed, sorted, and debearded
  • 4 slices of bacon, sliced thinly
  • 1/2 onion, chopped finely
  • corn kernels from three ears*
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • a handful of chopped, fresh parsley (or any other herb you've got growing in the garden)


  1. This dish takes very little time to cook, which means that preparing all your ingredients in advance is especially important. So first thing, prepare your ingredients. 
  2. In a large, deep pan, cook the bacon over medium heat until it's golden brown and crispy. 
  3. Add the onions to the pan, cook them until they are soft.
  4. Add the corn, tomatoes, and garlic. Stir until the garlic is fragrant. 
  5. Add the mussels to the pan. Stir a couple of times.
  6. Add the wine and cover the pan with a well-fitting lid. Let the mussels steam for 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat. 
  7. Just before serving, season with salt, pepper, and parsley. Make sure to give everyone some bread to soak up the broth, which is so delicious, it's ridiculous. Imagine you are by the sea and relax.  

* A few days ago, I tried to describe how to cut the kernels off the corn cob for my corn chowder post, but I am afraid I didn't do a good job of it. Hopefully the following images do a better job of showing how to do it. Stand the cob up on its end (cut off the end if the cob shifts around too much on the cutting board), hold the knife perpendicular to the cob and slice down, cutting off corn kernels in sheets.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

A quick pancake mix recipe

A friend of mine asked me for a recommendation for a pancake mix. I don't buy pancake mix because it is truly one of those insanely easy things to do that once you know how to do it, you wonder why the heck you ever bought the stuff in a box full of mystery ingredients.

The pancake mix also makes a nice gift. Last Christmas, I made up a batch of the pancake mix, put it in nice bags with instructions, and gave them to some friends and family with a jar of apple cider syrup and some candied walnuts. They were a big hit!

This recipe comes from Keith Snow's Harvest Eating Cookbook, which has lots of great do-it yourself recipes, including creme fraiche, pasta, sausage, and much more. I also recommend checking out his website, which has tons of recipes, blog posts, and other information about eating seasonally.


  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup rye flour
  • 1 cup corn meal
  • 2 Tbsp granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

  1. Combine all the ingredients in a container and shake it thoroughly. 
  2. To make the pancakes, combine 1 cup pancake mix with 1 1/2 cups milk and 1 egg. (Label your box of mix with these instructions so that you don't have to look it up every time you want to make pancakes.) Pour about 1/4 cup dollops into a hot, buttered pan or griddle and cook them on both sides until they are golden brown.
More suggestions
  • Double or even quadruple the pancake mix and store it in the freezer for whenever you want to make pancakes.
  • Play with the combinations of flours. I like to use oat flour in place of the rye, but there are lots of different flours available. Try them out! 
  • When you make the pancakes, add some some fruit or nuts to the batter. 

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Corn chowder: A little crunchy, a little salty, a little sweet, a lot of warm in a bowl

What a week! Multiple deadlines; complicated and unrelated topics (I am just glad I didn't mix up marine engineering with physician documentation, or at least I hope I didn't); nonstop push, push, push to get the work out the door. I still have a deadline pending (but it's a few days away, so I am taking tonight for me--sort of, I am still waiting for an email, but we are going to pretend tonight is all for me).

But I've been a lousy mom, letting my boy run wild in the house, scatter Legos all over the place, build some enormous structure. I don't want this kind of week to be the norm; I want to do better for and with my boy this summer. I suppose this is the last summer I will be "stuck" at home with him. Next year, he'll be old enough to start attending camps, and about a minute later he'll be off to college and starting his own family.

No, I know. There's plenty of time left. It just may not always feel that way. Sometimes the weeks get away from you so much faster than you ever imagined they could.

I did get a homecooked meal on the table every night this week. (Leftovers are always a such a gift.) We still eat out way more than I would like, and that's not good for many reasons, including expense, calories, and unknown ingredients and sources. Furthermore, I just feel guilty about how inconsistent eating out a lot is with the way I want to live (no matter how much I try to eat from restaurants that use sustainable and/or local ingredients).

But it was hard this week. Partly because I was so rushed and exhausted with projects all week, and partly because our stock of chicken, pork, and bacon from Haskins Family Farm was down to nothing but some bacon ends. But I got plenty of vegetables from the farmers' market last Saturday (perhaps too many), including some corn and potatoes, which to me says corn chowder. I love corn chowder, but I only make it during the summer. That's the only time the corn in the soup retains it sweetness and crunch. And with a tiny bit of bacon to start it off, well, that only makes it a little smokier, a little saltier, a little more complex.

This soup can be made with a combination of potatoes. In fact, if you were to switch out a few of the potatoes for sweet potatoes, that wouldn't hurt at all. Nope, not at all. Also, if you like a little more heat (I do have to keep in mind the fact that my son is five), I would highly recommend chopping up a chipotle canned in adobo sauce and add some of that to the soup.

Sadly, I didn't get a picture of the soup. I was too rushed, trying to get food on the table. Next time I make it, I'll try to get one to spruce up this post a little more. In the meantime, here's the recipe.


  • 6 slices of bacon, cut into small pieces (about an inch wide)
  • 1 yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded, membrane removed, cut into small pieces (the membrane is where most of the heat of a jalapeno resides)
  • 6 fist-sized potatoes (a mix is always fun, but use anything you have on hand), cut into about 1/2 inch dice
  • kernels from 6 ears of corn (to slice it off the cob, cut off a small end piece so that you can stand it upright, then cut down the edge of the corn with your knife; the kernels will peel right off)
  • 6-7 cups chicken stock 
  • 1-2 cups of heavy cream (or half and half, if that's what you have and are inclined to use)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. In your stock or soup pot, cook the bacon slowly, allowing as much fat to render out as possible and letting the meat get nice and brown and crispy. (Can you smell that?)
  2. With a slotted spoon, pick up the nicely browned bacon bits out of the pot and set them aside in a bowl lined with paper towels for the time being. 
  3. Add the onions to the bacon grease in the pan. Over medium-low heat, let the onions sweat for about 10 minutes. They should be nice and soft and "translucent," but not really brown. And they should smell amazing. 
  4. Bring up the heat to about medium and add the potatoes to the pot. Let them cook for 5-10 minutes and let them get a little brown around the edges.  
  5. Add the jalapenos and the stock to the pot. Add salt, pepper, and cumin to the stock. Bring the stock up to a boil and then lower the heat to a simmer. Let the potatoes cook about 10-15 minutes. 
  6. Add the corn to the soup and let it cook another 10 minutes. 
  7. Add the heavy cream or half and half and the reserved bacon and let the soup warm up again (about 5 minutes over medium-low heat; you never want to boil cream). Taste the soup to find out if you need any more salt or pepper and adjust accordingly. (It's not easy to correct an oversalted dish, but you may be able to add some more cream or some water if the seasoning isn't wildly off.)
  8. Eat. Enjoy. Be happy. Have a nice evening with your family.   

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Purple blueberry cake: Baking with my son (and Legos) for #SundaySupper

OK, so the title should probably be lavender or perhaps lilac blueberry cake, but it's a work in progress and a deep, rich purple is the goal. I am aiming for a purple like Juana Cocina's blueberry sour cream ice cream, which is out of control gorgeous. And I am aiming to create rich color without using artificial food dyes. But the spectacular color was not to be this time. Oh well. My five (and a half) year old son and I had fun baking this cake. So did some of his Lego friends, especially Captain America who defended us from the flour monster.

This week's theme for #SundaySupper is kids in the kitchen. Getting kids in the kitchen early and getting them involved in making some of their own food is a great idea. It builds basic cooking skills like measuring, reading recipes (my boy isn't there yet, but he will be), some basic math, some nutritional information, but more important it creates a sense of comfort and confidence in a kitchen, like this is a place that you know and feel at home in. The best way to control what and how much you eat is to learn to cook it yourself. Without the confidence built from familiarity, the kitchen can seem intimidating. (I've written about fear in the kitchen before.) Thankfully, my boy won't grow up with that fear. 

I asked him what he wanted to make for this blog post, and he decided he wanted to make a cake and frosting from Williams-Sonoma's The Kid's Cookbook, which has lots of great somewhat simplified recipes (good for adults too) that are almost all made from scratch (which is really important to me; I am afraid I don't much care for "recipes" that start with processed, packaged foods). From the basic recipes in there, we modified them a bit to try to get color into the cake and the frosting. Like I said, I am not ecstatic about how the color turned out and will probably have to try a few more variations until I get it as purple as I want it to be, but it's a tasty cake anyway. (As you will no doubt notice, I am not skilled when it comes to decorating cakes. Perhaps one day I will learn to do better, for now, I'll just muddle through.)

  • butter for greasing the cake pan (about 1 Tbsp)
  • flour for the pan (about 2 Tbsps)
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 tsps baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 tsps vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup pureed frozen blueberries (I really like Wyman's frozen wild blueberries)
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 12 Tbsps butter, room temperature
  • 3 cups confectioner's sugar (sifted)
  • 2 Tbsps pureed frozen blueberries, strained
  • 2 Tbsps heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 tsps vanilla extract
  • plus about a cup of blueberry jam for the inside of the cake 


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Then grease and flour an 8-inch springform pan:

Measure flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl and mix it together. Set it aside for now. 

Add sugar and butter to a mixer bowl. Beat with the paddle attachment of your stand mixer until the butter and sugar are creamy. 

Add the eggs and vanilla and continue beating the mix until smooth. Reduce the speed on the machine and add the blueberry puree and the milk. Finally, add the flour mixture. 

Combine everything quickly, but completely, and spread the batter into your springform pan (note, the batter isn't very runny, you will want to smooth it out with a spatula). And, because I trust the farmer who raises my eggs, I let my son sop the pot. (I wouldn't do this with industrial eggs anymore.)

Bake it in the oven for 45 to 50 minutes. When it's done (test for doneness with a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake; if it comes out dry, the cake is done), take it out and let it cool in the pan on a baking rack for 15 minutes. 

Then, get the cake out of the pan and let it cool completely on the baking rack. Go ahead and get out your butter to soften and blueberries to defrost during this time. (My boo and I watched Captain America while it cooled; it was on the fourth of July that we baked this after all.)

To make the frosting, puree about a quarter cup of blueberries and strain the puree. I went ahead and poured the heavy cream through the strainer to try and pick up more of the color. 

Add the butter, cream, blueberry puree, vanilla, and confectioner's sugar to your mixer bowl.

Beat until the frosting is fluffy. 

Cut the cake into two layers. Spread a layer of blueberry jam on the bottom layer. Then gently place the top layer onto the bottom layer. Try to line them up as evenly as possible. 

Spread a thin layer of frosting all over the cake. This layer is called the crumb layer and will basically glue down the crumbs. Then spread a thick layer of frosting all over. To make my super fancy border, spoon frosting into a plastic bag, cut a tip off one corner, and push out one little dollop of frosting at a time all around the outside rim of the cake. 

Then invite some friends over to eat it. 

And of course, it wouldn't be #SundaySupper without all the other great meals that my fellow bloggers have put together this week. Check out all these tasty meals that can get your kids in the kitchen:

Start your day:
Healthy snackers:
Main meal:
Sweet treats:
Our #SundaySupper live chat will start at 3 pm EST. Follow us on twitter by using hashtag #Sundaysupper or using Tweetchat.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Keeping it simple: The perfect burger

First, a confession. Last week was Australia week on the "Grand Tour" with my son. I did a lousy job. We talked a bit about marsupials, got a video from the library about how kids in Australia live, and drew a flag, but I lost focus. I never got around to getting vegemite (which is apparently huge in Australia), and I never made the pavlova I intended to make (thanks to Kendra and Sabrina for the suggestions though). And I never tried making meat pies, which I think would be pretty delicious. My apologies to Australia: I didn't teach my boy enough about you.

But I am anxious to do better this week, which is USA week in honor of the 4th of July. After spending a little time learning about the Declaration of Independence and the Revolutionary War and drawing the flag this morning, dinner tonight was cheeseburgers, which definitely rank high on my top-ten American foods list.

Like most people in America, I have had all kinds of burgers: beef, turkey, veggie, lamb, with all kinds of toppings and all kinds of qualities (dry, juicy, flavorless, delicious, weird). Of course, burger preferences like all food preferences are subjective, but one of the keys to a great burger is juiciness. Don't get me wrong, great flavor is also important, but if your burger isn't a mess, with juices dripping off your hands as you eat it, then you are missing something fundamental about a burger: It's supposed to be a mess. If it isn't, you are doing it wrong.  

So how do you make that happen? Well, first and most important, you have to choose the right meat. I know really pure purists would probably have you grind your own meat from a particular cut but that's more ambitious and equipment-intensive than I am prepared for. I think it's probably OK to get ground beef from a vendor you trust, for example, from a farmer at the farmers market you feel good about or another trustworthy source of grass-fed beef (on grass-fed I will not compromise; it's better for the animal and for you). 

Another important feature of the meat is fat content. You can't have a burger made from lean meat. So put down that package of 95-5 beef, or even 90-10. Get the fatty stuff. Why? Because the fat is where the juiciness comes from. And it just plain tastes good. (Furthermore, I am not convinced that a  low-fat diet is all it's cracked up to be in terms of keeping you healthy anyway. This article from Mark Bittman raises this topic.)

All right, so now that you have some good, grass-fed ground beef with a fat content of at least 15 percent, you are almost done with making your burger. Because the success of this food hinges entirely on doing as little as possible. Sprinkle salt and pepper on the burger, but nothing more than that. Place it in the pan, but then leave it alone. Heck, walk away for a few minutes so you aren't tempted to fuss with it. Drop a little tasty cheese on it before serving, if you are so inclined. Serve it with salsa, guacamole, mayonnaise, whatever you want and have. But the important thing is to get the basics down. If you can't make a good burger completely undressed, you aren't really making a good burger. You are making good toppings. 


  • 1 lb ground beef, at least 15 percent fat
  • salt and pepper
  • vegetable oil for the pan
  • cheese of your choice (optional; I used an excellent local blue cheese)
  • 4 toasted burger buns
  • a little butter


  1. Divide the meat into four equal portions. Gently shape the meat into patties between a quarter inch and a half-inch thick. (Manipulate the meat as little as you possibly can. The less you mess with it, the juicier the burger will be.)
  2. Salt and pepper both sides of the burgers liberally. 
  3. Let the burgers come to room temp before cooking. 
  4. Heat the oil in your grill pan to medium-high heat.
  5. Add the burgers to the pan. Set the timer for five minutes and don't touch the burgers again. 
  6. At the five-minute mark, flip the burgers and set the timer for another five minutes. Place the cheese on the burgers. 
  7. Butter the toasted buns. 
  8. When the patties are done, place them on the toasted buns and serve.  (Next time I make these, I am going to make them with cheddar cheese and salsa. That's going to be good.)  

* Adapted from Bobby Flay's perfect burger.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Grilled Pork Satays and Peanut Sauce for #SundaySupper

Next week is July 4, Independence Day, that most American of holidays. To mark the occasion, this week's #SundaySupper theme is celebrating with family and friends. To me, a summer celebration is incomplete if you don't fire up the grill. What can I say? I love the grill. I loved the flavor of the smoke; I love how elemental and self-sufficient it is.

Grilling is also how I remember the most festive celebrations of my childhood. In the white light of summer, my cousin and I would run around in the woods until the call floated through the cool twilight air, "Dinner's ready!" My mother's signature dish was always chicken or beef satays served with peanut sauce. All the cooks in my family wanted her recipe, but she still keeps it a secret to this day.

In part to honor that treasured memory and my mom and in part to try and swipe that dish (sorry mom), I decided to try to re-create something like her satays and peanut sauce. And I think I've succeeded pretty well. I used pork instead of chicken or beef (because most of the meat I eat comes from Haskins Family Farm, who sell mainly pork and chicken), and I served it with some grilled corn and a super-simple salad of cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, and vinegar instead of a baked potato with sour cream, but I stayed true to the memory of family festivities.

Although the meal has a distinctly Asian flavor, it celebrates the history of America by highlighting some New World ingredients, such as peanuts, and showcasing how they incorporated themselves seamlessly into dishes from faraway lands. Other ingredients that have become pillars of Old World cuisines but originated here in the Americas are tomatoes and peppers. How much more American can it get to celebrate a gracious and delicious expression of the melting pot?

For this dish, you will need some wooden skewers (which you can get at most grocery stores). To minimize burning them, soak them in water for at least an hour before you thread the meat on them. Also, be prepared to get your hands messy. It's just that kind of dish.


  • 3/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
  • 1/4 rice wine
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 Tbsps honey
  • 1 tsp dried ginger (or 1 Tbsp fresh, chopped, if you have it)
  • 1 Tbsp sesame oil
  • 2-3 lbs pork loin, cut into 1-inch cubes

  • 1 16-oz can light unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup crunchy peanut butter
  • 1 shallot, chopped finely
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 tsps vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • salt to taste
  • chopped chives or green onions (optional)


  1. Combine the marinade ingredients with the meat in a ziplock bag. Push as much of the air out of the bag as possible. Place the bag in a bowl or on a plate and refrigerate for at least six hours up to 24. Flip the bag a few times while it's marinating.
  2. About two hours before you plan to grill the meat, grab a handful of skewers and soak them in water. (Don't worry about using too many; you can re-use the ones you didn't use, just let them dry out a bit.)
  3. About an hour before grilling, get the meat out of the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature (or thereabouts). 
  4. Start your grill. You will be using pretty high, direct heat for this dish.  
  5. Thread the meat cubes onto the skewers (about eight cubes per stick). 
  6. While you wait for the grill to come up to temp, make the peanut sauce. In small sauce pan, heat the vegetable and add the shallots. Let them brown a bit. 
  7. Add the coconut milk to the pan. Mix in the peanut butter, garlic, soy sauce, brown sugar, and salt. As it cooks, it will thicken a bit. Keep it warm.
  8. Grill the satays, turning them about a quarter turn every two to three minutes. 
  9. Serve the satays with the peanut sauce, sprinkle some chives or green onions on top.  
And don't forget to check out the delicious dishes that the rest of the #SundaySupper group is serving up for the 4th of July!

Main Dishes:

Salads and Sides:
Fabulous Pairings by Martin from ENOFYLZ