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!

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Grilled Opah (Moonfish) with Apricot-Lemon Glaze

Opah—also called moonfish because of its disc-like shape—is a large, colorful, deep-water fish common in the waters surrounding Hawaii and other tropical regions. Its colorful skin features hues of bluish silver, orange, and red, while the flesh ranges from areas of light pink to reddish-orange—but it all tends to turn white when cooked. Like tuna or swordfish, opah is typically cut into thick, steak-like filets, and its firmness makes it a great fish for grilling.
From National Geographic.com. Photo by Ralph Pace
The opah’s mild, sweet flavor goes well with a complementary sweet glaze or sauce. Here, I made a simple glaze with apricot preserves and a splash of fresh lemon juice for a tangy contrast. If you can’t find opah in your local fish market, the glaze will work well with tuna, swordfish, or even thick-cut salmon steaks.

Note: I made a hot lump-charcoal fire and let the coals cool to medium to medium-low so I could grill the fish directly over them. If you don’t have time to wait for the coals to cool a bit, simply grill the fish close to the fire but not directly above the flames. This prevents the tender flesh from burning quickly, while still resulting in a nice char and light, smoky flavor.

Serves 2

  • 2 tsp unsalted butter
  • 1 small garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup apricot preserves
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 12-oz piece of opah, about 1-1/2 inches thick, halved
  • olive oil, for rubbing
Opah Steak
  1. Light a grill for medium heat with space for off-heat grilling, if needed.
  2. Heat a small saucepan over medium-low heat and melt the butter. Add the garlic and sauté 2 minutes.
  3. Add the apricot preserves and lemon juice and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until the glaze thickens, 4 minutes. 
  4. Remove from the heat, cover, and let stand while the fish grills.
Garlic in Butter
Glaze Beginning to Cook
Apricot-Lemon Glaze
  1. Rub the opah pieces with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Rub the grill grate with oil. 
  2. Grill the fish off heat until lightly charred on the outside and but still opaque in the middle, 3-4 minutes per side, depending on thickness. (Tip: If your fish pieces are very thick, you can turn them to grill on all 4 sides for about 2 minutes each, instead of just grilling on the top and bottom sides.)
Fish Beginning to Cook
Grilled Opah
Transfer to plates, brush with glaze, and serve right away.

Grilled Opah (Moonfish) with Apricot-Lemon Glaze

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Pan-Cooked Pork Chops with Plums and Mint

If you’re seeing some different labels in the pork section of your butcher shop, it’s probably because of the trend toward making the names more descriptive—and helping people know how best to cook the meat, as opposed to just calling chops “loins” or “ribs,” for instance.

I bought chops labeled “Porterhouse pork chops” for this recipe, but they’re really just thick-cut, bone-in, pork loin chops. The “Porterhouse” label simply implies that this cut of pork is similar to the cut of beef called by the same name. And if your market does it right, your Porterhouse chop really will resemble its namesake steak: two cuts in one—a regular loin chop with a little piece of tenderloin nuzzled along the bone.

The label also tells you how this cut of pork wants to be cooked—like a Porterhouse steak, these thick, juicy, tender chops are great for grilling or pan-searing. The key is timing—they don’t need much, just like their beefy counterparts.

Porterhouse Pork Chops
Serves 4

  • 4 8-oz porterhouse pork chops (about 1-inch thick)
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tbsp olive oil, divided
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter, divided
  • flour, for dusting
  • 3 firm plums, quartered
  • 1/3 cup coarsely chopped mint leaves
Quartered Plums
  1. Season the chops with salt and pepper and dredge in flour, shaking off excess.
  2. Heat a large, cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat and add 2 tablespoons olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter, swirling until the butter melts.
  3. Add the chops and cook until golden brown on the bottom, 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium. Turn the chops and sear until just cooked through, 4-5 minutes longer, depending on thickness. (Cover the pan, as needed, to help retain moisture.) Transfer the chops to a plate.
Chops Beginning to Cook
After Turning
  1. Reduce the heat to medium and add the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil and remaining 1 tablespoon of butter to the pan. Add the plums and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until softened and caramelized, 7-8 minutes.
  2. Return the pork chops and accumulated juices to the pan and turn a few times to coat in the sauce.
Plums Beginning to Cook 
Browned Plums
Sprinkle with mint leaves and serve.

Pan-Cooked Pork Chops with Plums and Mint

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Old-Fashioned Molasses Barbecue Sauce

When you’re grilling a great piece of pork or chicken, finishing it with a slather of rich, flavorful barbecue sauce is a great way to top off the meat. There are plenty of good bottled sauces on store shelves, but when you’re going the extra mile of smoking that pork or chicken low-and-slow for two or three hours, why not go the extra mile with your sauce too?

It doesn’t get any better than homemade barbecue sauce, and, as usual, the best is the simplest—in this case, kind of old-fashioned too. That’s where molasses comes in. I think molasses adds just the right amount of richness, thickness, and sweetness to result in some of the tastiest barbecue sauce anywhere—in your own kitchen, not that store shelf.

Try this sauce on some lip-smackin’ smoked baby-back ribs. Mmmmmm.

Makes about 3/4 cup

  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 3 tbsp molasses
  • 1 tbsp cider vinegar
  • 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • sea salt
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1 small, hot, red chile (such as Thai or a small, red serrano), finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped white onion
  1. Combine the ketchup, molasses, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, and mustard in a bowl and season with salt.
Ready to Cook
  1. Heat a small saucepan over medium-low heat and add the olive oil. Add the garlic, chile, and onion and cook, stirring frequently, 3 minutes.
  2. Increase the heat to medium and add the ketchup mixture. Bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook until thickened, 10 minutes.
Garlic Mixture Beginning to Cook 
Ketchup Mixture Added
Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature before basting pork ribs, chops, or chicken. (Or, make the sauce a day ahead, cover and refrigerate overnight, and bring to room temperature before using.)

Old-Fashioned Molasses Barbecue Sauce

Friday, September 9, 2016

Baked Red Snapper with Tequila-Lime Drizzle

Tequila fans, save a little bit of the good stuff to make a simple, savory, slightly tangy drizzle for a hearty piece of fish. Whether you bake, grill, or blacken the snapper, this easy drizzle tops it off with some flavorful, not-so-common pizazz.

Serves 2

  • juice of 1 whole lime
  • 1 tbsp tequila 
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped cilantro
  • 2 tsp olive oil, plus more for rubbing
  • 1/4 tsp dried red chile flakes
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 6-oz red snapper filets, with skin on 1 side

Drizzle Ingredients 
Red Snapper Filets
  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
  2. Combine the lime juice, tequila, cilantro, 2 teaspoons of oil, and chile flakes in a small saucepan or skillet and season with salt and pepper. Warm gently over low heat.

Warmed Drizzle Ingredients
  1. Meanwhile, line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Rub the red snapper filets with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place skin-side down on the prepared pan and bake until the flesh flakes easily with a fork, 10 minutes.

Ready to Bake
Baked Red Snapper
Transfer to plates and drizzle with the tequila-lime mixture. Serve right away.

Baked Red Snapper with Tequila-Lime Drizzle