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Marinades: 2 variations set up summer of easy grilling

Sweet and tangy grilled pork tenderloin. (Bill Hogan/Chicago Tribune/MCT)
Sweet and tangy grilled pork tenderloin. (Bill Hogan/Chicago Tribune/MCT)

Family vacation food memories typically include hamburger stands and chain restaurants. Ours, not so much. Instead, we frequented mom and pop grocery stores in search of just the right items to cook on the campfire. Dad tended to pork or chicken bronzing over a perfect pile of embers while the rest of us set the table and assembled a salad. Green vegetables emerged from the aluminum kettle on the camp stove.

My folks still prefer to cook. So do I. These days, I seek 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 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 — it’s available on Amazon. I use it in salad dressings, salsas, barbecue sauces and just about any place that 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. Never-the-less, recipes here are memories in the making. Great motivation to cook. Always.



Prep: 10 minutes / Makes: a generous 1/2 cup

2 large shallots, finely chopped

4 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1/4 cup soy sauce

2 tablespoons tamarind pulp or 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger or refrigerated ginger puree

2 teaspoons each: ground coriander, sugar

1 teaspoon each: salt, ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon cayenne, optional

Mix all ingredients in a jar with a tight-fitting lid. Refrigerate covered up to 2 weeks.



Prep: 5 minutes / Makes: about 1 cup

6 tablespoons Asian chili paste with garlic

1/4 cup sugar

2 tablespoons each: soy sauce, unseasoned rice vinegar, Asian sesame oil

6 cloves garlic, crushed

2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger or refrigerated puree

Mix all ingredients in a jar with a tight-fitting lid. Refrigerate covered up to 2 weeks.



Prep: 15 minutes / Marinate: 30 minutes or up to 4 hours

Cook: 20 minutes / Makes: 4 to 6 servings

1/2 recipe sweet and tangy ginger-soy marinade

2 pieces, about 1 pound each, trimmed pork tenderloin

Cilantro sprigs

1. Put marinade into a plastic food bag or shallow baking dish. Add pork to the marinade; turn to coat. Refrigerate covered at least 30 minutes or up to 4 hours.

2. Prepare a charcoal grill or heat a gas grill to medium heat. Remove pork from marinade; place on grill directly over heat source. Cover grill; cook, 10 minutes. Turn tenderloin; move to a cooler section of the grill. Continue grilling until an instant-read thermometer registers 135 degrees in the thickest portion, usually 10-15 minutes more.

3. Remove to a cutting board; let rest 10 minutes. Serve thinly sliced and garnished with cilantro.

Nutrition information per serving (for 6 servings): 224 calories, 9 g fat, 3 g saturated fat, 103 mg cholesterol, 1 g carbohydrates, 33 g protein, 187 mg sodium, 0 g fiber



Prep: 15 minutes / Cook: 15 minutes

Makes: 4 to 6 servings

2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs or breasts, or thin pork chops

1/2 recipe spicy garlicky red chili marinade

Chopped fresh green onions

Sesame seeds

1. Put chicken into a shallow baking dish. Smear marinade over all sides to coat it well. Refrigerate for 30 minutes if desired.

2. Prepare a charcoal grill or heat a gas grill to medium-high heat. Place chicken on grill, directly over heat source. Cover grill; cook 7 minutes. Flip meat; continue grilling until meat feels almost firm when pressed, 5-8 minutes more. Serve sprinkled with green onions and sesame seeds.

Nutrition information per serving (for 6 servings): 194 calories, 9 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 141 mg cholesterol, 1 g carbohydrates, 25 g protein, 214 mg sodium, 0 g fiber



Prep: 20 minutes / Makes: 4 to 6 servings

1 head (8 ounces) romaine, core removed, cut crosswise into ½ wide strips

6 cups (5 ounces) baby spinach leaves

2 firm mangoes, peeled, finely julienned

1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro


1 1/2 tablespoons Asian sesame oil

3 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar

1 tablespoon each: light soy sauce, vegetable oil

1 teaspoon each: chili powder, sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, optional

Mix romaine, spinach, mangos and cilantro in large salad bowl. Mix dressing ingredients in a jar with tight-fitting lid. (Dressing can be stored in the refrigerator for a week or more; use at room temperature.) Toss salad with dressing just before serving.

Nutrition information per serving: 135 calories, 6 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 20 g carbohydrates, 2 g protein, 321 mg sodium, 3 g fiber

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