Springing Forward

Here in the metro Boston area clocks have been turned forward an hour, the Fenway Park season-opener home game is in less than a month and there is still 3 feet of snow on the ground. WAIT. (imagine sound of scratching record here) SNOW? Still on the ground? ugh.

So like everybody around here I am trying to single-handedly make spring arrive sooner by surrounding myself with spring-like things including light, bright “springy” food.

Today it was a Mediterranean inspired brunch. Roasted potatoes with garlic and rosemary butter. Burger patties with oregano and Penzey’s Lamb Seasoning mixed in before cooking. (if only they had been lamb instead of beef!) A bright, tangy and sweet “tapenade” on top – chopped olives, feta and sweet red bell pepper all mixed with a lemony-oil dressing.

 

If my grill wasn’t still in thigh-high snow, I would have grilled the burgers – “sigh” – maybe by July.

Some Like It Tangy

I am more of a “vinegar girl” then a “sweet girl” so I like things a little on the “tangy” side whenever possible. I think even traditional dishes like beef stew can use a little “tangy” to them. And of course tomatoes…because I can not resist the combination of beef and tomatoes!

On a rare day of cooking together, my husband expressed his doubts when I pulled out a half-full bottle of Pepperoncini’s from the fridge. But I assured him that the beef stew I had in mind, while not traditional, would be delicious and remind him of a yummy roast beef sandwich with sliced tomatoes and mild “hots.”  (Oops, that is how I like my roast beef sandwiches, not him, but no matter I was sure I would convert him!)

We kept it simple by browning about 2lbs of stew meat in hot fat first with a dusting of flour*, salt, pepper and garlic powder. Then after carefully removing the meat – added in a large sliced onion for its turn to get browned a bit. Next in was the cherry tomatoes – whole. When they just burst a bit, everything was added back to the pot. We added only enough low-sodium beef stock to get the liquid level up the “shoulders” of the meat. A healthy couple of dashes of my secret ingredient (A1 Sauce!! ) to step up that beefy flavor.  And then the scary part…. about 8 ounces of sliced Golden Greek Pepperoncini’s. WITH some of the juice too. Let the beef cook till the meat is tender, season liberally to taste, and serve it up – all tangy, beefy and delicious! We just ate it in bowls but it would be delicious on big crusty rolls or over some rice! Guess what? He liked it!

spicy beef stew

tangy beef stew with burst cherry tomatoes!

*leave off the flour coating for Gluten-free!

 

Sandwich Loaf

Sometimes you want to skip right over the meatloaf dinner and go straight to the sandwich. In the summer you definitely want to go right to the sandwich because nobody really craves meatloaf and mashed potato dinners in July.

Just cold meat loaf sandwiches with ketchup on toasted bread.

meatloaf sandwich

So that is what I made.

I actually mix the meatloaf and try to bake it either later in the evening when the day (and therefore my kitchen) has cooled down a bit or if you are a morning person you could make and bake in the cool morning hours before it gets too hot.

Either way its nice to have a small meatloaf in the fridge for those sandwiches.

Standard Operating Meatloaf Procedure

Standard Operating Meatloaf Procedure

 

I usually don’t get too crazy with meatloaf that is destined for sandwiches. Just ground beef, eggs, mustard and ketchup, chopped onions and herbs, breadcrumbs and a shot of Worcestershire sauce.  Mix and bake till cooked through and a little crusty on the edges. Good thing there are 2 end pieces and only 2 of us or there might be some arguing!

 

 

 

 

Cream Bread

Sometimes you stumble upon something so unique that you immediately and without any hesitation need to try it.

That’s how it was one Saturday morning when I wandered into D’Amici’s bakery. “what’s that round loaf of bread all about?” I asked. ‘cream bread’ was the answer. Apparently made with cream instead of eggs?? I am no bread maker and my mind was already racing with possibilities. I just had one wrapped up for me and ran home, stopping off only at the store to pick up a few ingredients…I had the perfect sandwich in mind.

cream bread

The bread has a really even, dense but tender “crumb” and a mild flavor. It’s like a really good quality white sandwich loaf.

 

…please meet the BEST patty melt you ever had:

patty melt

 

Caramelized onions, griddled beef patty, swiss cheese, griddled bread….. I can’t go on…

I have to go recreate this meal again, NOW!

Show Me The Beef!

Sorry mom , but I love a good steak sandwich! And this one was made by my husband so I love it even more!

He started by marinating a London Broil cut overnight in one of those “flavor injector” packaged marinades. It must  a “guy thing” to use those, it just sounds masculine and impressive!

To prepare the sandwiches, he fired up the grill, cooked it perfectly, sliced it thin and added some grilled mushrooms as well before piling it all onto some toasted, cheesy-topped “scali” bread!

open face steak sandwich

The only way this sandwich could be better is with some juicy sliced garden tomatoes

My Perfect Supper

Everybody has one. For some it might be simple and for others it could be quite gourmet.

For me it always have to involve tomatoes in some way. And beef.

There is just something magical about that combination that really works for me. Any combination will do: from meatloaf and ketchup all the way to a more “high-brow” Beef tenderloin stuffed with sun-dried tomatoes! I love it all!

Somewhere in the middle of homespun and gourmet is where my simple, perfect supper is:

perfect supper

Grilled steak with juicy sliced fresh tomatoes (Big slices of “brandywine” variety are best but really any tomato works) and a simple potato salad, best enjoyed on a perfect New England summer evening, on the porch.

 

What’s your idea of a perfect supper?

Sully’s Sauce

My husband always said “Sully made the best sauce!”

“Sully” (a nickname for his last name of “Sullivan”) was good friend of my husband’s father and a central figure from the neighborhood back in the day, so when my husband mentioned that Sully’s daughter Karen had recently come across the recipe card for his sauce, I knew immediately I had to make it.

What better way to pay homage to fathers who are no longer with us then by recreating something so special and lost in time?

sullys recipe

I just love the “here’s what’s cookin” part of this card – don’t you?!

I asked if there was a “back-side” to the card that might give away his technique but no such luck. Only Sully knows how it all went together originally, but I took my best guess and here is how I did it…

I used 85/15 blend ground beef and started it browning in a hot, dry pan so that I could decide how much fat I wanted to leave in the pan. I got the meat browned and decided to spoon off most of the fat. I chose to re-hydrate some fat back in the meat in the form of the 2 tablespoons of olive oil. I am not sure at what point in the process Sully would have used the olive oil, perhaps right at the beginning while browning the meat? or maybe he used it to get the onions and garlic started first? Wish I knew.

Anyway after the olive oil went in, I added in a dash of salt/pepper, onions (2 cups!) and garlic and let those soften a bit before I added in the dry spices to toast a minute. After that I added in the tomato paste and gave that a minute to cook a bit. I de-glazed the pan with the wine. (1 whole cup!)

Next up: the tomatoes. I am certain that by Sully noting that these were “imported” he meant the famed “San Marzano” tomatoes so that is what used and I do think it makes a difference. Also I know that everybody has their own texture technique – some squish the canned tomatoes in their hands, some break them up with a spoon, some use scissors. I broke up 4 of the 6 cups with kitchen scissors, cutting up the whole canned tomatoes into small chunks right in their own sauce from the can. For the last 2 cups I actually used my immersion blender to puree it (not too much) so the whole 6 cups I added in ended up being saucy but with small chunks. I hope Sully would approve.

By now the whole creation was thick, yummy and begging to be tasted, so I did and adjusted the salt and pepper and turned the heat down to barely a simmer. I let it simmer with the lid on tight for about an hour. (keeping the lid on keeps things from drying out, but if it looks too dry, just add in a little water) I let it simmer another hour with the lid slightly off to allow it to actually thicken up a bit as mine was pretty juicy.

By then the delicious smell wafting through the house was more than we could take, so we boiled up some pasta and it was time…

sullys sauce

A special thank you to daughter Karen for letting me have the privilege to re-create her father’s famous sauce! And a happy father’s day to all the dads out there – the ones with us and the ones who have left us.

 

Interested in more ‘Irish-Italian” cooking?? Me too… read more about it here!

 

Author’s note: If you don’t want to use the Chianti wine – I would recommend using a cup of low sodium beef stock with a generous splash or two of red wine vinegar to give it that tangy richness that the wine adds.