Get Your Adobo On

What's an adobo? Good question. Depending on where you ask, adobo may generically mean "sauce" or "marinade" or a meal created with such a sauce (in Mexico and the Carribean) or specifically mean the national dish of the Philippines. Adobos vary quite widely in taste and ingredients, but most rely on marinating meats in a highly seasoned concoction.

My adobo is a Cuban-style marinade adapted from a recipe in Steven Raichlen's The Barbecue! Bible. I've tweaked the spices a bit, keeping notes on what works and what doesn't, until the recipe found a sweet spot. It's very easy to prepare and has won rave reviews from coast to coast.

This recipe will marinate and generously baste six boneless chicken breast halves and a nice sirloin steak. If in doubt, go easy on the marinade and reserve some adobo for basting.

1 cup fresh-squeezed lime juice (about 4 large limes)
1/4 cup olive oil
12 medium cloves garlic
2 teaspoons kosher salt (or more to taste)
2 teaspoons fresh ground black pepper
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon Tabasco or Garlic Tabasco (optional, but highly recommended)
Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor and process until the garlic is completely liquefied. Save about half of the adobo for basting (put it in the fridge), use the rest to marinate chicken, beef, pork, fish or vegetables for 1 - 8 hours before grilling.

Tip: Use zipper sealing plastic bags for marinating - they do a better job of coating the meat and there's no clean up.

Don't forget to baste! Use a brush or spoon to keep your grillables moist and create a tasty caramelized crust.

Serve your adobo with grilled veggies (onions and sweet peppers are the norm in our house), black beans & rice and warm flour tortillas. Offer lots of fresh cilantro, sour cream and shredded cheese as garnishes, if you like. I like a nice Mexican beer with adobo, but a spicy red wine also goes well.

Summer's End Pesto

I picked up some sweet basil at the farmers' market yesterday and made a fabulous pesto for dinner. It's easy enough for anyone to fix and quick enough to prepare after work, and the flavors - sweet and tangy and earthy, with basil, cheese and aromatic garlic supported by nuts and olive oil - are just about enough to drive me crazy with delight.

I adapted this recipe from "Bugialli's Italy," a terrific cookbook, and served it over rotelle pasta, accompanied by grilled bread rubbed with a clove of garlic. One recipe of pesto over one pound of rotelle will serve four adults (perhaps as a side for grilled chicken or fish, or with a big salad) or two very hungry adults.

1 cup lightly packed fresh basil (washed and dried)
1 TBL fresh Italian parsley
2 medium sized cloves of garlic, peeled
1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese (or Parmesan or mix the two)
1/2 cup pignoli (pine nuts) or walnuts, toasted
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper (I use a whole teaspoon)
1/2 to 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (Get the good stuff - you'll notice the difference here.)
[The short version: process to a paste, add the oil, voila! Have a glass of wine.]

Throw everything but the olive oil into a food processor or blender and process until fairly smooth. You may need to scrape the sides of the bowl, to make sure everything gets well blended. Turn it off first (you know who I'm talking to), scrape down with a spatula, then process again.

Taste, and adjust salt and pepper to your liking. It should make you say: "Wow! That's good!"

Scrape the mixture into a glass bowl and slowly add the oil, folding it in with a fork or spatula, until it just becomes liquid. Depending on the moisture in your basil mixture, it may take up to 3/4 cup of oil. You can do this step in the blender/Cuisinart, if you want, by drizzling the oil while processing, but you'll get much more control over the consistency if you do it by hand.

That's it! Your pesto is ready to eat, though flavors will improve if you allow it to sit for an hour.

I like this pesto over pasta - something like rotelle, with enough texture to allow the pesto to cling - but even spaghetti will work fine. Drizzle a few teaspoons over your main course, too, or reserve a little extra pesto to pass at the table. Italians (especially Ligurians, from the northwest corner of Italy, near Geneva) also enjoy this style of pesto over gnocchi or boiled potatoes, mixed into soups and stews, added to sauces, as a spread on toasted bread, on/in scrambled eggs - and I'm sure in hundreds of more ways.

Pesto keeps in the fridge for several days, though the flavors tend to diminish after a week. It freezes well, too; use an ice tray to freeze cubes of pesto, so you can grab just enough to use in a dish.

Rosemary Resources

From The Chef's Garden:

"Rosemary is very easy to grow if you remember a few basic techniques. Native to the Mediterranean, it is best suited to humid coastal conditions with very low rainfall amounts and lots of sandy soil. We can recreate those conditions by giving it full sunshine withholding watering to once or twice a week and allowing the soil to drain/dry thoroughly before watering again. Indoors it is necessary to mist once or twice week to recreate the humidity of the coast."