Perk up your summer dinner with flavors that have punch

  • Article by: JEANMARIE BROWNSON , Chicago Tribune
  • Updated: June 4, 2014 - 3:12 PM

Perk up your summer dinner with flavors that have punch.

Sweet and tangy grilled pork tenderloin.

Photo: Bill Hogan • Chicago Tribune,

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Family vacation food memories typically include hamburger stands and chain restaurants. Ours, not so much. Instead, when I was a child, we frequented mom-and-pwseek quick-cooking meals packed with bold flavor. During the week, a shiny grill proves speedier than a campfire yet still boosts flavor.

First up: a selection of simple, fresh marinades at the ready. This summer, I plan to rely on a couple of variations blended from the condiments I’ve acquired. A jarful of marinade assembled on Sunday can perk up any weeknight meal. The lean meats I cook during the week, such as pork tenderloin and boneless chicken, especially welcome a smear of flavor.

Here are two go-to marinades, one tangy and sweet, the other garlicky and spicy, sure to make the summer grilling season memorable. Use them on pork tenderloin, skirt steak, skewered shrimp, thick fish fillets and boneless chicken with at least 30 minutes marinating time. For longer-cooking cuts, such as pork country ribs or chicken on the bone, increase the marinating time to a day or two.

The first recipe sports a pleasing tartness from tamarind fruit — those pale brown pods found in Latin and Asian markets. Inside the pods you’ll find a dark brown, jamlike flesh that tastes deeply of citrus. For ease, I stock bottled tamarind. I’m particularly fond of Neera’s tamarind concentrate, which is available on Amazon. I use it in salad dressings, salsas, barbecue sauces and just about anything when I want pure pucker. It also makes a great citrus juice substitute and keeps in the refrigerator for months. Stir a little into sparkling water or iced tea for a refreshing beverage.

Asian chili pastes are another condiment I find indispensable for quick marinades. This summer I plan to make good use of the Mama O’s Premium Kimchi Paste I found at Whole Foods Market. Made from red pepper flakes, garlic, ginger, lime, fish sauce and sugar (I like to jazz it up with even more fresh ginger, garlic and sugar). Readily available imported Asian chili paste with garlic works, too.

The salad recipe may be a little more involved than those we made on those long-ago camp­outs. Nevertheless, recipes here are memories in the making. Great motivation to cook. Always.

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