Marinades, Room for Creativity

I’ve been cooking a long time. My mother’s cooking is the base of my repertoire. She did Greek food like lemon roast chicken, roast leg of lamb, broiled lamb chops, stuffed peppers and tomatoes. Also kind-of Jewish food, especially no cheese sauces because she was raised in a kosher home. And there was just basic American dishes including pot roast, beef stew, and more.

Mom did not marinate meat. I do remember drizzling lamb chops with red wine vinegar with, of course, the ever-present oregano and garlic. I do not usually marinate meat either.

On the other hand, while foraging for various and sundry meats in my freezer, I’ve been trying marinades. Some have an Asian flavor, others somewhat North African, and others Mediterranean or Middle-terranean, as some say these days! Constant Companion and Daughter have enjoyed these additions to my growing collection of meals.

I stopped by the Asian grocery store a few weeks ago and came away with too much Chinese broccoli and baby bok choy. A search on my friend, Google, revealed a recipe for marinated Braised Shiitake Mushrooms with Baby Bok Choy (you can Google and find several variations if your curiosity is piqued).  I adapted what I found to the other ingredients of the larder.

Braised Shiitake Mushrooms with Baby Bok Choy, without mushrooms. Combine 4 cups of broth with ¼ cup of soy sauce, ¼ cup of mirin, and ¼ cup of rice wine vinegar and bring to a boil.  Add the baby bok choy and cook for only 2 minutes.

Cut up about one pound of skinless, boneless chicken breasts. Marinate in ¼ cup soy sauce, 2 tbsp sesame oil, 2 tbsp rice wine vinegar, some grated sugar, some brown sugar. Heat a wok or sauté pan and stir fry til chicken is no longer pink inside, about 8-10 minutes. Top with thinly sliced scallion and minced garlic. It was delicious.

Flank steak excavated from the freezer called for the table-top electric grill.

Score the meat and marinate in 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, 2 cloves of minced garlic, 2 tbsp red wine vinegar, and salt and pepper for 4 hours to 24 hours. Grill on high about 7-8 minutes on each side for medium rare.

Oven baked French fries go well with this meal. Cut 3 baking potatoes as thin or thick as you like. This time, I tossed them with 1 tsp each paprika, onion powder, and garlic powder and about 3 tbsp olive oil. Put in a preheated oven, 400 degrees for about 45 minutes. I forgot about the radishes nestled among the potatoes. Last week’s food distribution was enriched by recent harvests – zucchini, string beans, and radishes. I had already tried roasting them with chicken and tried this time with the baked fries.

We had dessert that night, a peach crostada or gallette (I do not know the difference). Open a ready-made pie crust. Half the peaches (or nectarines, I think I had a mixture of both) and arrange them on the crust leaving about a 2” edge all around. Gently fold the edges in, sprinkle the edges with a little bit of sugar. We love sweet as much as the next person, but I use no or very little sugar in desserts like this relying on the sweetness of the fruit.

Another marinade was leaned towards the Middle-terranean. I had the opportunity to consult with the National Museum of Bahrain a number of years ago. What an amazing experience. There I learned that historically this part of the world had been a major producer of date molasses/syrup, known in Hebrew as silan. This sweetener has recently been popularized by chefs from the Middle East. This recipe that marinates chicken in both pomegranate molasses and date molasses (both of these ingredients are available on-line).

Roasted Chicken in Pomegranate and Date Molasses. Step one: peel 1 eggplant and cut into 2” cubes; salt and let sit for about 30 minutes. Peel 1 butternut squash and cut into 2” cubes. Step two: mix ½ cup date molasses*, ¼ cup pomegranate molasses, 1/3 cup olive oil. Step three: Wash and dry chicken pieces (the equivalent of a whole bird, I make this also with the whole bird, as you see). Toss chicken, eggplant, and butternut squash with marinade and let sit while.

*Note: I recommend that you buy date molasses in a wide-necked container. It thickens and is difficult to coax out of a squeeze bottle.

Spray a large ovenproof  pan. Arrange eggplant, butternut squash, and chicken* in the pan making sure chicken does not cover the vegetables. Top with remaining marinade. Roast for 45-50 minutes in a 400 degree oven. From time to time baste the chicken with juices.

*You can also add a pound of little potatoes and a red onion cut into chunks  under the vegetables. I think it’s the date molasses that browns the skin so amazingly.

Here’s a link for one more tasty marinated dish using marinated shimp and North African flavors. I forgot to take photos, suffice it to say, we all enjoyed my abbreviated version:

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