Saturday, September 29, 2012

Grilled Pork Satay

I have yet to find a Thai dish that I do not love. That's why this blog is full of some of the best Thai meals I have found. And so it goes with this extraordinary entree, Grilled Pork Satay. While the pork in and of itself is sublimely scrumptious, it scales all-new heights with the addition of the Spicy Peanut Dipping Sauce.

This dish is incredibly easy to prepare and it cooks on the grill in less than six minutes (If you don't have a grill, a broiler works almost as well.) This makes it a great appetizer or entree for a crowd. If I'm serving it as an entree, I plate it up with Basmati Rice and Asian Cole Slaw. You'll want 6-inch skewers for grilling, so you'll need about 24 of them. Metal skewers work best, but wood ones soaked in water will also get the job done.

Ingredients for Spicy Peanut Dipping Sauce
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
1/4 cup hot water
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons Sriracha Sauce
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
1 clove of garlic, pressed or minced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
2 scallions, white and green parts, sliced thin

Ingredients for Pork Satay
1 1/2 pounds pork tenderloin
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons Sriracha Sauce
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
4 scallions, white and green parts, sliced thin


  1. Prepare a grill for direct cooking over high heat.
  2. Prepare the Spicy Peanut Dipping Sauce: Whisk the peanut butter and hot water together in a medium bowl. Stir in remaining ingredients. Set aside.
  3. Cut the tenderloin in half lengthwise and freeze it for 30 minutes.  
  4. Combine the soy sauce, oil, Sriracha sauce, brown sugar, cilantro, garlic, and scallions in a shallow glass baking dish; set aside. Remove the tenderloin from the freezer and slice each piece across the grain into 1/4-inch-thick strips. Weave the meat onto individual bamboo skewers. Dunk the meat end of each skewer in the marinade to coat; lay the skewers in the shallow dish. Refrigerate for exactly 1 hour.
  5. Spread the skewers out over hot cooking grate and grill, uncovered, until meat has cooked through and is lightly charred around edges, about 6 minutes, flipping them over halfway through grilling time. Serve immediately with peanut sauce.

Wine pairing: New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc (Kim Crawford recommended)

Sriracha Sauce

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Weapon of Choice: Cut-Proof Gloves

I use a mandolin to do a lot of my slicing. It's a spectacular tool that makes uniform cuts and slices as thin or as thick as I want. While it comes with a guide that is used to move the food over the slicing blade, often the food is too delicate. When that occurs, I use my hand to move the food over the blade.

However, mandolins are razor sharp and it would be way too easy to slice off a big chunk of flesh or a favorite finger. So when I am using my mandolin, I don these cut-proof gloves. They are made from industrial-strength fiber and are both cut and slash resistant.

I also use them with my knives when I am cutting food, especially when the cuts are thin and the danger of slicing my hand is greatest. They only cost $13.95 and that represents some of the cheapest protection out there against one of the greatest dangers in the kitchen. Check them out here:

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Fall Salad with Green Apple and Fennel

I have a massive folder in my office where I place interesting recipes that I have cut out of different publications. I'm pretty good about getting to them in short order and testing them out on my family. This recipe, however, has been languishing for two years...September 23, 2010 to be exact. That's too long, so let's get to it.

The recipe is from Andrew Carmellini, winner of two James Beard awards and owner of Locanda Verde in New York. I am really remiss here for not trying this recipe sooner, as it contains most of my very favorite varieties of produce...peppery arugula, licorice-flavored fennel, tart green apple, the sharp bite of basil and watercress...all crowned with a dressing of extra virgin olive oil and fresh lemon juice.

This salad is an explosion of spectacular flavors. Accordingly, I'm serving it with grilled, skinless chicken breast...something more as not to conflict with this most flamboyant, fall salad. A muted hen punctiliously paired with a precocious peacock. This recipe serves four.

1 bunch arugula (about 4 cups loosely packed)
1 bunch of watercress (about 4 cups loosely packed)
8 basil leaves
1 medium fennel bulb, trimmed
1 medium green apple
3 stalks celery, trimmed
3/4 cup white raisins, soaked in warm water
1/4 cup roasted salted almonds
Juice of two lemons (6 ounces)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan


  1. Tear the basil into bite-size pieces and place in large salad bowl.
  2. Halve the fennel through its core and, if tough, discard the outer layers. Using a sharp knife or a mandolin, thinly slice (about 1/8 of an inch thick) the fennel lengthwise. Halve and core the apple. Slice it thinly. Slice the celery thin and on the bias. Strain the plumped raisins and pat them dry.  
  3. Toss the arugula, watercress and basil together. Add the fennel, apple, celery, raisins, almonds and lemon zest to the bowl. With your hands, gently toss the ingredients together and drizzle the salad with olive oil and lemon juice. Season the salad, to taste, with salt and pepper.
  4. Divide the salad evenly among the plates and top with a sprinkle of cheese.  

Wine pairing: Riesling or Pinot Grigio

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Fried Spaghetti

My youngest son Patrick's favorite meal is Fried Pasta: ( He can put away enough to shame an NFL lineman. And speaking of football, Patrick scored the winning touchdown for his high school team last Thursday...beating out 2 defenders after catching the pass and running 35 yards to the end zone. To extend the celebration, he's getting Fried Spaghetti tonight for dinner.

This dish is unbelievably delicious. It's also really easy. The egg and the cheese act like glue to hold the spaghetti together and it all gets fried up into a beautiful spaghetti pancake that you simply cut into wedges and serve. This side dish serves 4-6 people.

16 ounces spaghetti
2 eggs
1/2 cup shredded Mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
1 teaspoon minced dried onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
3 tablespoons butter


  1. Cook spaghetti according to package directions and then drain. Put spaghetti in large bowl.
  2. Beat together eggs, Mozzarella cheese, Parmesan, onion, basil, salt, and pepper. Pour egg mixture over spaghetti; toss to coat.
  3. Melt butter in large skillet; add the spaghetti mixture. Cook without stirring over medium heat about 10 minutes until bottom is golden brown.
  4. Turn out of skillet onto serving plate, brown side up. Cut into wedges and divide among serving plates. 

Wine pairing: Cabernet Sauvignon or Syrah

Patrick eluding two defenders on his way into the end zone.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

German Onion Soup

The thermometer hit 46º in Minneapolis last night, so my mind automatically starts drifting to fall soups. I love French Onion Soup*, but to make it to perfection requires quite a few hours to totally caramelize the onions. Enter German Onion Soup, French Onion Soup's much more speedy and spontaneous cousin. From start of prep to serving, you are looking at roughly 70 minutes (and 40 of that is just simmering).

German Onion Soup is more robust than French Onion Soup. That's because we are going to add in some ingredients that will certainly fire up your taste buds. Bacon, caraway seed, whole-grain mustard, Worcestershire sauce and yes, a whole bottle of your favorite German lager.

And there is one critical element that must be included. Ignore the crostini in the photo. You absolutely must serve each bowl of soup with at least one, piping hot, soft pretzel. Head to the freezer section of your grocery and buy a box or two. They absolutely make the meal and are a must for dunking. This recipe serves six.

1 pound of thick-sliced bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 medium yellow onions, sliced 1/4-inch thick
2 medium red onions, sliced 1/4-inch thick
2 medium white onions, sliced 1/4-inch thick
8 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon caraway seeds
1, 12-ounce bottle German lager beer (domestic beer works in a pinch)
2 tablespoons whole-grain mustard
3 tablespoons flour
3 cups beef broth
3 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce
Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Cook bacon on high heat in a Dutch oven until crisp. Put bacon pieces on a paper towel to drain and set aside. Leave bacon drippings in pan.
  2. Reduce heat to medium-high. Add onions, garlic and caraway seeds. Cover pan and let ingredients sweat for 10 minutes. Uncover and cook for 40 minutes on medium heat, stirring occasionally.
  3. Stir in beer and mustard, increase heat to high. Cook soup until beer almost evaporates, stirring often. Stir in flour and mix thoroughly. Cook for 1 minute.
  4. Add broths and simmer 10 minutes. Add bacon and Worcestershire Sauce to soup. Stir, taste and add salt and pepper as necessary.
  5. Divide among serving bowls and serve with piping hot, soft pretzels.

Pairing: Grab an ice cold bottle of the German lager you used to make the soup.

*For those of you with plenty of time on your hands, here's the recipe for French Onion Soup:

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Basil Salt

It's that time of year when the harvest is bountiful, especially homegrown tomatoes and basil. Given that Costco is also stocking fresh Mozzarella di Bufala Campana, which is "the real deal" water buffalo mozzarella from Italy, it's the absolute best time of year to make a Caprese Salad:  (

My Caprese Salad recipe calls for using Kosher salt. But if you want to make your salad extra special, consider making your own basil salt. We have an abundant supply of basil this year in the Gruggen household, so this is a great way to put about 70 basil leaves to good use.

This recipe will make a little over a cup of basil salt. If you want less, cut the quantity in half...the recipes scales easily up or down. Because the recipe bakes the basil, it will keep at room temperature indefinitely. Why not make a double batch and give some to your best friend?

1 cup packed basil leaves
1 cup Kosher salt


  1. Preheat oven to 225º.
  2. Put salt and basil leaves in a food processor. Pulse until fine and then spread on a baking sheet.
  3. Bake for 30 minutes, tossing half way through.
  4. Remove from oven and let cool. Pulse again in food processor. Store in a bowl or jar.