Thursday, June 6, 2013

Grilled Teriyaki Pineapple Shrimp Appetizer for Food Blogger PARTY on the Lake

Last weekend the Annual East Tennessee Blogger party was held at Larry's Lake front home... Larry of the Big Dude's Eclectic Ramblings Blog.  This was my third attempt to attend (but only the second time we made it (Car Trouble a few years ago)). My story back home in Kansas before we left was that we were traveling more than a thousand miles to have lunch...

Worth every mile to me...


Ah well, I'll tell my story and they can tell theirs somewhere else.

The day was about many things... A chance to meet and greet and interact with valued friends from far away (Kansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Tennessee and transplanted New Yorkers were represented).  Some friends we only just met the day of the party, some we remembered from last year, but the highlight is always putting names and faces and personalities with the blogs I read the most...

Larry from Big Dude's Eclectic Ramblings
Chris from Nibble Me This
Penny from Lake Lure Cottage Kitchen
Sam from My Carolina Kitchen
Sadly, one of the planners had a last minute emergency, so we missed my favorite displaced Cajuns this year... Katherine and AJ from Smoky Mountain Cafe

Counting spouses, friends and neighbors; our group topped 20 before I stopped counting.  The weather was perfect, the friends and conversation was perfect.... And the food was...

Well, you be the judge...

I made a very simple contribution of pineapple (my current craze, I just LOVE grilled pineapple), wrapped by a big Shrimp, marinated in Teriyaki sauce and then grilled.

The recipe is all pretty much in the description.  I simply sliced up some fresh pineapple, cut them into chunks about the same size as the shrimp.  I then put two toothpicks in them to make flipping easy.  My blogging buddy Chris had a big jug of a store bought sauce that was perfect to marinade the assembled appetizers in for about an hour.

Then we simply grilled them over medium high heat for a couple minutes per side.  The shrimp were pre-cooked, so all we were doing was heating and adding grill marks.

Chris and Larry were the "Food Directors".  They wanted to have these available as appetizers while everyone was arriving.  I plated them on a bed of grilled pineapple (really, what is prettier than grill marks???) added a few grilled onions and piled on nearly 100 of them.  Oh, I also removed one of the two toothpicks from each one.  Two make them easy to hold together and flip on the grill, but one is better for serving.

People came hungry as these were snapped up before the rest of the food was set out.

I was amused as each of the food bloggers were seen snapping photos before they dug in for a taste.  Among this group, presentation is important.

Larry our host was in charge of the blender.  This year's theme was Hawaiian Luau.  So the TIKI drinks were flowing.  I loved the blue Hawaiian seen in this photo, but I saw some Pina Coladas and of course Larry whipped up several batches of his now famous MARGUERITTA recipe!

The perfect host!

 Doing double duty as bartender and cooking the lion's share of the meat, Larry also brought down a BIG plate of Sweet and Spicy Pineapple Ribs, also for appetizers.

These were snapped up even faster than the shrimp appetizers.  And deservedly so, perfectly cooked, deliciously marinaded and sauced.  I must confess to snapping up my fair share.

Below is my first plate of food for the meal... I think I got a sampling of everyone's dish (and I am sure I I got more than a sampling before the day was done...

Starting from the upper left and working clockwise...
Chris from Nibble Me This made grilled  Huli Huli Chicken Sliders with a Ponzu slaw (slaw not shown in the big photo, so I am adding this side additional shot... The slaw was FANTASTIC)!  Told you I had seconds.

Larry from Big Dude's Eclectic Ramblings smoked a couple of BIG Pork Shoulders, cooked in an Hawaiian method called Kalua which uses an underground coal oven (OK, Larry used his smoker), but he did season them Hawaiian style, wrapped them in authentic Banana Leaves and smoked with Hawaiian Koa Wood.  For details, check out Larry's post with lots of photo how to's and recipes... Click HERE for that.

Penny from Lake Lure Cottage Kitchen Served up an Hawaiian Macaroni Salad that was unlike anything I have ever tasted.  She explains the cooking method that adds depth and a unique texture to make this a Mac salad unlike anything I have ever had... I went back for plenty extra of this!

Chris from Nibble Me This also grilled (yes, GRILLED) some rice for the luau.  I was watching as he pretty much whipped it all together on site, but no recipe.  there were sauteed onions and peppers and coconut in the rice but hopefully at some point I will see the recipe on his blog.  It was perfect for the plate.

My very favorite dish on the plate (although they were all perfect) was  from Sam from My Carolina Kitchen.  She made a sweet and spicy pineapple salsa!  I first added this as a topping for the rice, then I went back and added some of this to a pulled pork slider... then just started nibbling!  Sam really came through with a side dish that had beautiful colors, enough flavor to compliment the sandwiches perfectly.  Note to Sam, I just got invited to make a couple of side dishes for a friend's birthday party.  This will be on the list!  and a note to the readers, if you follow the link, the dish originally had nectarines in place of the pineapple.  I am now waiting for winter and planning to make this with Mandarin Oranges for a taste of summer in January.

I want to thank the East Tennessee Bloggers for making Jackie and myself feel so welcome.  Only 51 weeks til next year!

Chris and Larry eyeing their creations (and our contributions)

Penny and my Jackie... Penny bright and smiling, Jackie too distracted by the food

After dinner we all solved the problems of the world.

Chris was more energetic and took Larry's jet ski for a spin

More problems of the world solved

And even more

And we close where we started as two non-bloggers try to understand the appeal of all this (although they did it all on full stomachs).

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Smoked Pork Loin with Grilled Cherry Tomatoes and Snow Peas - Grilling Time

I do hope you are a regular reader, if so, you may have read yesterday's post of Massaged Kale Fruit Salad - Day One of How I Spent my Summer Vacation.  This is the main course and vegetables that went with the salad.  I was trying to earn my keep by making dinner for Chris and Alexis; Chris of the Nibble Me This Blog (Master of the Big Green Egg and his grill).  This is the meal I made for them in exchange for a couple of night's stay while traveling to the East Tennessee Blogger get together scheduled the next day.

We had spent the day at the local farmer's market which gave me a chance to pick out a few of the prettier and tastier items.  I have spent the winter cooking Italian food.  While not a specific authentic Italian recipe, these dishes (and the Kale Salad) are examples of what I learned about cooking... Simple ingredients, let the flavors shine, cooked to their peak to allow the flavors and textures sing.

For presentation, serve family style on platters... It's just more fun!

The Grilled Pineapple served a couple of purposes... Pretty garnish, but also a built in dessert.  Besides we had enough left over from the Kale Salad.

The Pork Loin was smoked, indirect heat on Chris's Big Green Egg.  the outside was rubbed with a Jerk Spice Mix (commercial brand), then coated with a couple of teaspoons of Whole Grain Mustard.  This will season the loin, help to keep the moisture inside and provide a wonderful taste to the meat.

Smoking Pork Loin is about as easy as it gets and can be done on any home grill.  Simply set the grill up for indirect heat with the hot coals (or gas jets) NOT under the meat.  This way the heat circulates around the meat rather than just underneath (That's direct heat or grilling).  I got Egg lessons from Chris and used the heat deflecting plate.  The Pork was cooked to an internal temperature of 145 degrees and then removed from the heat to "rest" for 10 minutes to allow the juices to reabsorb into the meat so it is moist and tender when served.

While the meat is resting, we readjusted the Egg for direct heat.  HOT coals under a grill pan (one of those pans with holes in it that allows small vegetables to be grilled.

I had prepped the cherry tomatoes and snow peas, simply washing them,trimming the ends of the peas and chopping a Vidalia Onion to the size of the tomatoes.  Then I minced some garlic.  All this needs to be coated with Olive oil and mixed together.

Into the grill pan, direct heat over the coals until the peas are snappy but slightly wilted, the tomatoes start to burst as the heat simmers the juices inside, bringing out the natural sweetness of the tomatoes.  the onions just turn translucent and begin to soften... Al Dente vegetables.

When all is ready, slice the pork loin thinly, arrange around the platter, add the vegetables into the center, garnish with the pineapple rings and serve HOT and Enjoy!!!

It was pretty intimidating to cook alongside a master griller like Chris, but at least for this meal I think I held my own!  COme back tomorrow as we travel to Larry's boat dock for the East Tennessee Blogger Party!!!

Massaged Kale Fruit Salad - Day One of How I Spent my Summer Vacation

The annual East Tennessee Blogger party held at Larry's Boat Dock (Larry of Big Dude's Eclectic Ramblings).  Seems like a long drive from Kansas to the far side of Tennessee for lunch, but as usual, Jackie and I had such a great time we are already making plans for next year!

But the trip was more than just a single lunch.  We combined the lunch with a chance to visit and cook with some of my favorite food bloggers.  Our first day we were invited to stay with the legendary master of the Big Green Egg Chris and his wife Alexis... Chris of Nibble Me This.

Chris greeted us at his grill, grilling up a welcoming cocktail!  Yep, GRILLING a cocktail!  He already posted the drink on his blog, an almost neon blue lemonade with rum and oranges and even a little Tennessee Moonshine he calls a GRILLED BLUE WHALE.

A Delicious way to start the week.  We swapped a few ideas on how to get just the right image for his blog post and then did the difficult task of taste testing the blog post.  A Great tasting post!

Next morning was Saturday and Chris and Alexis took the opportunity to show off their hometown of Knoxville , TN by showing us the Farmer's Market.  Among the best I have ever seen.  The market pushes local by only accepting farmers and vendors from the local area.  We enjoyed a breakfast at their favorite breakfast spot, the Tupelo Honey Cafe, ate at a couple of food trucks, bought some local pottery and just wandered about.

And shopping for lunch brings us to this recipe...

There is nothing like a Farmer's Market to inspire you.  Beautiful bright colored vegetables everywhere.  Fruit so fresh they practically come with roots.

And as much fun as walking any farmer's market with my wife, it was an especially fun morning of wandering from booth to booth, talking with local providers of "fresh, local and best" with a group of food lovers like Chris and his Alexis; my wife and myself.  Certainly among my favorite memories of our trip.

Which brings us back to my contribution to lunch...

Chris grilled a Skirt Steak with an amazing Mushroom Sauce.

I made the salad.

I stole a bit of grill space and grilled a few pineapple rings.

We had bought some fresh Strawberries.
We also bought some locally roasted spicy Peanuts.
Locally grown Kale...
And a very simple drizzle of a quality Olive Oil and the juice of an Orange.

The only "trick" is to massage the kale.  Literally, take a few large kale leaves, trim out the thick heavy vein down the center and then rub this remaining leaves until they are soft.  If you skip this step you end up with that raw nasty too crunchy kale leaves.  Just rub them aggressively for a few minutes until they stop squeaking and feel buttery soft.  It takes time, but it is well worth it.

Just dump all the ingredients in a bowl, drizzle the oil and orange juice down the side of the bowl and mix until everything is coated.

Serve fresh and ENJOY with Friends!

Thanks Chris and Alexis... It is always a highlight of my year to visit.  Hope you liked the salad.