Creating recipes isn't a pastime—it's a passion. And a lot of fun.

The rules are few: Use 99% fresh ingredients (or thereabouts); make the dish simple but flavorful; make the dish flavorful but simple; be creative, not silly.

With this blog, I want to share new recipes, along with tips on ingredients and preparation, and, hopefully, show new cooks (and non-cooks) the pleasure in setting the table with a delicious homemade meal. The Briny Lemon is about fresh, simple, flavorful ingredients and easy cooking methods that help you bring the best to your family table. Your comments are welcome!

Monday, May 22, 2017

Molasses-Brined Roast Pork Chops with Herb Butter

A few weeks ago, I brined some pork chops in a honey-based brine and was really happy with the finished dish. So here I used a molasses brine, and the outcome is just as good. Molasses is so rich, dark, and thick that its taste and texture stick to the chops after brining and throughout cooking.

A good sear on the stovetop and a quick roast in the oven turn these chops wonderfully browned on the outside and deliciously tender on the inside—an herbal, creamy butter sauce tops them off just right.

Serves 4

  • 5 cups warm water
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1/4 cup table salt
  • 4 1-1/2-inch-thick center-rib, bone-in pork chops
  • 1-1/2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 tsp white balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tsp thinly sliced basil
  • 1 tsp finely chopped rosemary
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp olive oil

Center-Cut Rib Chops
  1. Combine the water, molasses, and table salt in a large bowl, stirring well to dissolve the molasses and salt. Add the pork chops, submerging as much as possible. Cover and refrigerate 6-8 hours (or overnight), turning once.
  2. Preheat the oven to 400° F.

Chops in the Brine
  1. Melt the butter and vinegar in a small saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring, 1 minute. Remove from the heat and stir in the basil and rosemary. Season with sea salt and pepper, cover, and set aside. Re-warm just before serving.

Herb Butter
  1. Heat a large, ovenproof (preferably cast-iron) skillet over medium-high heat and add the olive oil, swirling to coat. Remove the chops from the brine and pat dry. Season both sides with sea salt (light on the salt) and black pepper. Place in the pan and sear until lightly charred on the bottom, 5 minutes.
  2. Turn the chops over and place the skillet in the oven. Roast until the meat is just cooked through, 5-6 minutes, or until done.

Seasoned, Brined Chops
Beginning to Cook

After Turning
Transfer the chops to a platter and let rest 5 minutes. Pour the buttered herb sauce overtop and serve.

Molasses-Brined Roast Pork Chops with Herb Butter

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Crispy Chicken Tenders with Creamy Dijon Dipping Sauce

Have you ever bought a bag of pita chips only to find half the chips are broken into tiny pieces? Don’t pitch ‘em, make chicken! Hard, crunchy pita chips make a great coating to give chicken tenders a light, yet crispy crust—and there’s no waste involved.

I think crunchy tenders need a creamy sauce to balance the dish, and the one here is about as simple as it gets. Sour cream, Dijon, a little mayo, lemon, and garlic and done.

Serves 4

  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1-1/2 tbsp light mayonnaise
  • 2 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp finely chopped lemon zest
  • 1 tsp finely chopped garlic
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 2-1/2 cups broken pita chips
  • 2 eggs
  • all-purpose flour, for dusting
  • 8 chicken tenders, about 1-1/4 lbs total
  • 1/2 cup canola or vegetable oil

Broken Pita Chips
  1. Combine the sour cream and next 5 ingredients (through garlic) in a bowl and season with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour (or overnight). Divide into individual small bowls before serving.

Sauce Ingredients

Creamy Dijon Dipping Sauce
  1. Place the pita chip pieces in a food process and process until finely ground. Transfer to a baking dish or large plate.
  2. Whisk the eggs in a shallow bowl and spread flour in another baking dish or large plate.
  3. Roll each chicken tender in the flour and shake off excess. Dip each in egg, letting excess drip off. Roll each tender in the ground pita chips, coating both sides.
  4. Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a large, deep skillet. Lightly salt the chicken tenders (there is plenty of salt in the pita chips) and add to the skillet. Cook, turning a few times, until golden and crispy and just cooked through, 8-9 minutes total.

Ready to Grind

Ground Pita Chips

Tenders Beginning to Cook

--> Serve the tenders with the creamy Dijon sauce in bowls alongside.

Crispy Chicken Tenders with Creamy Dijon Dipping Sauce

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Harissa Grilled Beef Kebabs

The deliciously bold, spicy sauce called “harissa”—common in North African cuisine—is a mixture of dried chiles, fragrant spices, fresh lemon juice and olive oil, which all come together for a flavorful balance of heat and savor.

For this recipe, I used two types of dried chiles—de arbol for some spice and guajillo for deep, earthy goodness. If you like more heat, simply increase the number of chiles de arbol from four to six (or seven).

Serves 4

  • 4 chiles de arbol, stems removed, torn into 2-3 pieces, (shake out seeds, if desired)
  • 2 guajillo chiles, stems removed, torn into 3-4 pieces, (shake out seeds, if desired)
  • 2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/4 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp tomato paste
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • sea salt
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 lb beef sirloin steak (about 1-inch thick), cut into 12 equal pieces 
  • olive oil, for oiling grill grate

Beef Pieces
  1. Place all the dried chiles in a small saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand 5 minutes. Drain.
  2. When cool enough to handle, chop the chiles and place in a food processor along with the garlic, coriander and cumin and pulse to form a coarse paste. Add the lemon juice, vinegar, tomato paste, and paprika and season with salt. Process until almost smooth, but still has texture.
  3. With the motor running, gradually add the extra virgin olive oil and process until chunky smooth. Transfer to a bowl. Reserve 1/2 for serving.

Torn Chiles

Chile Mixture Ready to Grind

After Grinding

Juice Mixture Added

Oil Added

  1. Place the beef pieces in a bowl and rub the remaining 1/2 of the harissa all over them. Cover and refrigerate 4-6 hours.
  2. Light a grill for medium-high heat, with space for off-heat cooking.
  3. Remove the beef from the marinade and thread 3 pieces onto each of 4 skewers. (Soak wooden skewers in water 30 minutes before using.) Rub the grill grate with oil.
  4. Grill the skewers until lightly charred in spots and the beef is medium-rare, turning a few times and moving off heat as needed to prevent flare-ups, 6-7 minutes total, depending on thickness (or to desired degree of doneness).

Harissa-Rubbed Beef

Kebabs Ready to Grill

Beginning to Grill

Grilled Kebabs

Serve the skewers with the reserved harissa, passing at the table.

Harissa Grilled Beef Kebabs

Friday, April 28, 2017

Creamy Chicken Orzo with Broccoli and Fried Egg

Orzo is the perfect substitute for a risotto-like pasta dish. But note: Orzo comes in different sizes, like most pasta noodles, so try to find the very small variety for this recipe. Some boxed varieties are numbered, and here I used #74—small kernels, almost rice-like. Whatever the size, orzo usually triples in size when cooked, so you don’t need much dry orzo to start with.

Small Orzo
For this recipe, I made a creamy, rich sauce with milk, chicken broth, flour, and a little sour cream, then added some broccoli for veggie love, and topped the dish off with a fried egg. Break the runny yolk and enjoy that creamy goodness in every bite.

Serves 4

  • 1 cup uncooked small orzo
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1-1/2 cups very small broccoli florets
  • 3 scallions, thinly sliced, white and dark green parts separated
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1 cup low-fat milk
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 2 tbsp sour cream
  • 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups shredded cooked chicken breast
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter, divided
  • 4 large eggs

  1. Cook the orzo in a pot of boiling, salted water until tender, 11-12 minutes, depending on size. Drain.
  2. Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium heat and add the oil, swirling to coat. Add the broccoli, white parts of the scallions, and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until the broccoli is crisp tender, 3 minutes.
  3. Whisk together the milk, broth, sour cream, and flour until well incorporated. Stir the milk mixture and cooked chicken into the skillet and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring frequently, until the sauce begins to thicken, 2-3 minutes.
  4. Stir in the cooked orzo. Re-season with salt and pepper, if needed, and keep warm over low heat while the eggs cook.
  5. Heat a nonstick skillet over medium heat and add 1/2 the butter. When the butter begins to sizzle, crack 2 eggs into the skillet and fry until the whites are set and the yolks are still runny (or until desired degree of doneness). Repeat with the remaining butter and 2 eggs.

Broccoli Mixture Beginning to Cook

Milk Mixture and Chicken Added

Thickened Orzo Mixture
To serve, divide the orzo mixture among 4 shallow bowls and top each with a fried egg. Sprinkle the eggs with salt and pepper and garnish with the dark green parts of the scallions. Serve right away.

Creamy Chicken Orzo with Broccoli and Fried Egg