June 11, 2014

What’s Cooking: Spice things up for Dad

What to do on Father’s Day when it’s time to eat and you want to serve something manly and filling? Other than steak, that is.

What to do on Father’s Day when it’s time to eat and you want to serve something manly and filling? Other than steak, that is.

Here are some nominees, including one that re-engineers a classic sports bar appetizer – jalapeño poppers.

Standard jalapeño poppers are thumb-sized hot peppers stuffed with cream cheese and cheddar cheese, then breaded and deep-fried. Yummy, but most home cooks aren’t too excited for the mess of deep-frying. That’s why there also is a baked version – half a jalapeño stuffed with cheese and wrapped in bacon.

Both types are delicious, but neither is all that healthy. After all, we want to keep Dad around for a while. So this version delivers guy gratification without overdoing it.

A couple of tips for preparing the jalapeños. First, be sure to wear rubber gloves when you’re halving and gutting the peppers. No matter how macho you’re feeling, you don’t want those capsaicin oils burning your hands. Also, use a grapefruit spoon, if you have one, to remove the pepper’s innards – its ribs and seeds – which are the hottest parts of a chili.

Is Dad a burger fan? From the Chicago Tribune we have a simple burger flavored with heat-producing elements of chipotle and jalapeño chilies, and you can set the level of fire. The chipotle adds a smoky heat, while the raw jalapeño contributes fresh sharpness.

Adjust the burgers’ heat by using more or fewer of each pepper. Tasting a tiny bit of the jalapeño before mixing it in will help you control the level you want.

If the classic sweet-and-tangy taste of barbecue sauce is more to Dad’s liking, try a bourbon-based version with shrimp from The Associated Press’ J.M. Hirsch. Add some soy sauce for saltiness, some cider vinegar for acid and a bit of Frank’s Red Hot sauce for bite, and we’re off to a great sauce.


Baked prosciutto- wrapped jalapeño poppers

Start to finish: 45 minutes (30 minutes active)

Serves 6


4 ounces fresh goat cheese

1 ounce grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

1/4 cup finely chopped scallion greens

2 teaspoons grated lemon zest

6 jalapeño peppers

3 ounces (12 slices) prosciutto


Heat the oven to 450 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil, then coat it with cooking spray.

In a medium bowl, combine the goat cheese, Parmigiano-Reggiano, scallion greens and lemon zest. Halve the jalapeños lengthwise; carefully remove the ribs and seeds (wear rubber gloves). Stuff each half with the cheese mixture, being sure to use all of the cheese mixture.

Wrap 1 slice of prosciutto around each stuffed jalapeño half, overlapping ends on the bottom of the jalapeño. Arrange poppers on baking sheet; bake on until prosciutto is slightly crispy, about 15 minutes.

Per serving: 110 calories; 60 calories from fat (55% of total); 7 g fat (4 g sat.; 0 g trans); 25 mg chol.; 2 g carbohydrate; 1 g fiber; 1 g sugar; 10 g protein; 540 mg sodium.


Spicy burgers

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 8 minutes

Serves 4


1 pound lean ground beef

1 to 2 jalapeño peppers, seeded, minced

1 to 2 chipotle chilies in adobo, finely minced

3/4 teaspoon salt, divided

1 avocado, chopped

2 tomatillos, husked, chopped

2 to 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice

2 or 3 tablespoons fresh cilantro leaves, shopped

4 hamburger buns, toasted


Mix the ground beef, jalapeño, chipotle and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a large bowl. Form into 4 patties, each about 1 inch thick.

For the salsa, stir the avocado, tomatillos, 2 tablespoons lime juice, cilantro and remaining salt together in a bowl until well mixed. Taste for seasoning. Mash the mixture a bit with a fork.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the burger patties. Cook, flipping once, until browned on both sides and the desired doneness, about 4 minutes per side. Or grill over medium heat.

Serve burgers topped with salsa in the buns.

Per serving: 407 calories, 21 g fat (6 g sat. fat), 69 mg chol., 27 g carb., 25 g protein, 779 mg sodium, 5 g fiber


Maple-bourbon barbecue grilled shrimp with couscous

Start to finish: 30 minutes (15 minutes active)

Serves 6


2 1/2 cups water

Kosher salt

12 ounces Israeli (large pearl) couscous

1 medium English cucumber, diced

1/2 small red onion, minced

2 cloves garlic, minced

3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

1 tablespoon olive oil

Juice of 1 lemon

2 pounds extra-jumbo raw shrimp, peeled

1/2 cup maple-bourbon barbecue sauce (see recipe below)

4 ounces crumbled feta cheese


In a medium saucepan over medium-high, bring the water to a boil. Add the couscous and 1 teaspoon of salt, stir, then cover and reduce heat to simmer. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the couscous is plumped and tender and all of the water is absorbed.

When the couscous is done, transfer to a medium bowl. Set in the refrigerator to cool for about 15 minutes.

Once the couscous has cooled, add the cucumber, onion, garlic and cilantro. Toss well, then drizzle with the olive oil and lemon juice. Toss, season with salt, if needed, then divide between 6 serving plates.

Coat the grill grates with oil or cooking spray, then heat the grill to medium-high.

Thread the shrimp onto bamboo skewers, about 6 to 7 shrimp per skewer. Use a pastry brush to lightly baste the shrimp with half of the barbecue sauce.

Grill the shrimp for 3 minutes per side, or until just pink and firm. Set skewers of shrimp over each serving of couscous. Sprinkle each serving with feta cheese.

Per serving: 570 calories; 80 calories from fat (14 percent of total calories); 9 g fat (3.5 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 245 mg cholesterol; 69 g carbohydrate; 4 g fiber; 18 g sugar; 41 g protein; 1150 mg sodium.


Maple-bourbon barbecue sauce

Start to finish: 30 minutes

Makes 11/2 cups


One 6-ounce can tomato paste

1 cup bourbon

1/2 cup cider vinegar

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 cup maple syrup

1/4 cup soy sauce

2 tablespoons molasses

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

2 tablespoons Frank’s Red Hot sauce

2 teaspoons smoked paprika

2 teaspoons garlic powder

2 teaspoons onion powder

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon mustard powder


In a medium saucepan over medium-high, whisk together all ingredients. Bring to a simmer, then lower the heat to just maintain a gentle simmer. Cook until thickened and reduced by about half, about 20 minutes. Cool and refrigerate, covered, for up to 2 weeks.

Per 2 tablespoons: 160 calories; 5 calories from fat (3 percent of total calories); 0 g fat (0 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 0 mg cholesterol; 27 g carbohydrate; 1 g fiber; 22 g sugar; 1 g protein; 590 mg sodium.

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