Disclaimer: Melissa’s Produce provided a copy of Best Grill Recipes Ever for me to cook from and review.  I was not compensated in any other way, and all opinions are my own.

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Melissa’s Produce invites an incredible variety of chefs and cookbook authors to their kitchen, allowing us lucky food bloggers to meet and learn about foods from all corners of the world, prepared using a myriad of methods.  Some ingredient lists and instructions are long and involved, yielding wonderful dishes that are well worth the time spent. Others bring amazing flavors to your table with recipes that are short, sweet, and to the point. Such is the case with Daniella Malfitano’s Best Grill Recipes Ever. This assortment of delicious and straightforward recipes is perfect for busy fall days!

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I love that the wonderful foodies Melissa’s Produce have started live-streaming the presentations on Facebook, so that even when I can’t be there in person I can still watch and learn from the best.  Daniella’s presentation was full of energy and fantastic ideas and tips.  Her Hispanic and Italian heritage have led her to creating recipes that embrace a medley of cultures, including  Mediterranean and French.  She shared her belief that learning about and utilizing different cultures’ styles and traditions for cooking brings a range of flavors to her recipes that keeps them from being one-dimensional.

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Best Grill Recipes Ever is Daniella’s third book in a series that includes Best Holiday Sweets & Treats and Winter Stews & One Pot Dinners.  It’s filled with recipes for grilling – on the BBQ or your grill pan – meats, poultry, fish, and vegetables, plus easy sauces and marinades, salads and grilled fruit desserts. Tandoori Lamb Chops, Salmon Kebabs with Spicy Marinade, Grilled Beets with Wilted Greens and Chili-Orange Marinade are just a few dishes on my list of things to make. Daniella shared that Gorgonzola Dip with Breadsticks (a sweet, salty, decadent accompaniment to grilled items and is delicious with apples and walnuts), and Grilled Peaches with Honey Almond Sauce are two of her favorite (and therefore must-try!) recipes from the book.

In her live presentation, Daniella demonstrated her Chicken Satay with Peanut Sauce, and Marinated Veggie Kebabs, and she shared several great tips: Cut the chicken pieces the same size so they cook at the same rate.  The longer you marinate the chicken, the better (hooray for make-ahead!). The sauce can also be made with cashew, almond, sunflower butters (garnish with same nut); it can be mixed ahead of time (no more than a couple of days) and refrigerated, tightly sealed.

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For the kebabs, the herbs are super important, so you’re not just serving vegetables on a stick.  As with the chicken, the longer the veggies marinate, the better they’ll taste. Change up the ingredients to make full use of seasonal produce;  for fall, butternut squash and parsnips would be perfect. For even more flavor, use rosemary sticks for skewers (one of my favorite things to do – BBQ rosemary plants have super thick sticks and are ideal for this!). Don’t overcook the veggies; you want them to be al dente, to have a little bite.

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Other great things to know: when searing meat, don’t flip before it’s ready.  Just like searing in a pan on the stove, when it’s easy to lift off the grill, it’s ready to turn. Keep a brush next to the grill so you can clean it as you are removing foods. When using a cast iron grill pan, make sure you get it super hot on a high flame (the whole pan needs to be hot so the food doesn’t stick).

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I made the Orzo Salad with Chicken and Pesto – it was lovely and light, yet flavorful and filling.  Some suggestions from me to you: if you’re planning to cook or barbecue chicken for a meal, make extra so you’ll have leftovers for this dish.  Grape tomatoes or a baby heirloom tomato mix are great substitutes for the cherry tomatoes.  I also added tiny fresh mozzarella cheese balls – they bring great texture and flavor.

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Spinach pesto is different and delicious; for this salad I used pesto I’d made and frozen with basil from my garden.  You can also use store bought pesto if you’re short on time. If you don’t have access to a food processor, you can whip up the pesto in  a blender just as easily.

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Reserve a cup of the cooking water from the pasta; you can add to the pasta and pesto a little at a time if it seems too thick (the starchy water will give a creamier texture).

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Whether you grill outside or on a grill pan on your stovetop, these recipes will be great additions to your repertoire all year long – enjoy, y’all!

I grill, therefore I am.  ~Alton Brown


Orzo Salad with Pesto and Chicken
 
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Orzo, chicken, fresh vegetables and pesto combine for a refreshing, light, yet filling salad. Great to make ahead as a weeknight dinner timesaver!
Author:
Recipe type: Main Dish
Serves: 8 servings
Ingredients
  • For the Pesto:
  • ⅓ cup pine nuts
  • 8 oz. baby spinach, rinsed and stems trimmed
  • 2 garlic cloves, pressed
  • ⅔ cup packed grated fresh Parmesan cheese
  • 1 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 Tbsp. good quality olive oil
  • For the Orzo Salad:
  • 16 oz. orzo pasta
  • 2 cups cooked chicken breast, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2 handfuls baby spinach leaves, rinsed and stems trimmed
  • 1 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
Instructions
  1. Prepare the pesto:
  2. In a non-stick skillet, dry-toast the pine nuts over medium heat, shaking the skillet back and forth until the pine nuts are golden brown, 1-2 minutes; set aside to cool.
  3. Place the spinach, garlic, toasted pine nuts, Parmesan cheese, and lemon juice in the bowl of a food processor (or blender) and add a bit of salt and pepper.
  4. Drizzle the oil over the top and process until the mixture is smooth and creamy.
  5. Transfer to a large bowl and set aside.
  6. Prepare the Orzo Salad:
  7. Cook the orzo according to package directions in a large pot of salted boiling water until al dente, about 8 minutes.
  8. Drain and immediately combine with the pesto, mixing well.
  9. Add the chicken, cherry tomatoes, spinach and lemon juice.
  10. Stir gently to combine.
  11. Taste and adjust the salt, pepper and lemon juice as necessary.
  12. Chill prior to serving.

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