Thursday, March 25, 2010
One of the many benefits of growing up in a warm climate is the option of eating outdoors on a regular basis. My mother made dinner for our family almost every night of the week and we ate it together, not in front of a television. As spring arrived each year and daylight extended a bit further into the evening, it would come time for my brother or I to set the table and my mother would ask, “are we eating inside or out tonight?” My answer was always, “out!” and if I could get outside fast enough, before any other family member had the chance to object, I would set our patio table and light the citronella candles to try and keep the bees away.
I’m not sure why I loved eating outdoors so much. Perhaps it was a change from the usual or maybe, even at a young age, I appreciated the amazing view of the Angeles Crest National Forest visible from my parents’ backyard. I couldn’t have known then that they wouldn’t live in that house forever and that I needed to make the most of the surroundings while I had the chance; luckily, I did it anyway.
I continue to love eating outdoors though I rarely get the chance to entertain in my own backyard. Busy schedules and the absence of my own family to cook for every evening mean eating outside is relegated to Saturday evenings and only then if I can round up a group of friends to come over for a BBQ.
Since the time change has already happened this spring and the sunlight hours are once again extending further into the evening, I need to make sure that my propane tank is full and ready to BBQ. Of course the first question that comes to mind and perhaps should not be addressed so late in this post is what to serve?
I love making skewers for picnics and BBQs. They can be prepared in advance and grilled on the spot or if you’re headed out on a picnic they can be cooked in advance and served at room temperature. Even more importantly, you don’t need silverware. Simply put, meat on a stick is easy outdoor food.
When meat on a stick is made with Greek flavors, it is often referred to as souvlaki or shish kebab, but still, at its base, it is meat on a stick. This recipe for Pork Souvlaki is marinated the night before so when it comes to cooking, all you have to do is skewer and grill. The accompanying honeyed apricots can also be prepared ahead, making the work when your guests arrive an exercise more in plating than in cooking.
Cooking note - Finding myself without a bottle of wine in the house, I substituted champagne vinegar for the wine, reducing the amount by two thirds. If you prefer to use wine, I’ve included the original amount called for. If you do use vinegar, be ready for a bit of a sour bite to the apricots, a bite that I found to be perfectly balanced by the Greek yogurt served on the side.
Pork Souvlaki with Honeyed Apricots
Adapted from Michael Symon
Serves 4 - 6
For the Pork:
2 shallots, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 T fresh oregano, chopped
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
Juice of 1 lemon
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 pounds pork tenderloin, trimmed and cut into 1 1/2-to-2-inch chunks
For the Apricots:
Juice of 3 limes
3/4 cup white wine (or 1/4 cup champagne vinegar and 1/4 cup water)
1/4 cup honey (or, if using vinegar, 3/4 cup honey)
1 shallot, minced
12 or more dried apricots
1 T fresh mint, chopped
1 T toasted pine nuts
Greek yogurt for serving
For the Pork: Combine the shallots, garlic, oregano, jalapeno, lemon juice, olive oil and pork in a large Ziploc bag and turn to coat. Marinate overnight (or at least three hours if you don’t have that much time).
For the Apricots: Combine the lime juice, wine or vinegar, honey and shallots and bring to a boil. Add the apricots and simmer the mixture until syrupy, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the mint and pine nuts.
For the Pork: Soak 16 wooden skewers in water for half an hour if you are using a BBQ. If you are using a grill pan then there is no need to soak the skewers. Place two pieces of pork on each skewer, sprinkle generously with salt and cook over high heat until cooked through, about two minutes per side. Plate 2 to 3 skewers per person and serve with a dollop of yogurt and 2 to 3 apricots.