Hot & “Board”

The hot weather here in New England has really got me thinking about meals in a new way. That new way being when/if I turn on the stove at all in the house!

Of course the back yard grill is the best option during a heatwave, but even that is just too hot to deal with on an afternoon topping 95 degrees! I will often grill early in the morning while I enjoy my first cup of coffee. The neighborhood is quiet, the temperatures are cooler and I can get my garden watered while I wait for the meat to cook.

And once I get the grill going (gas-fired so it’s easy) I like to make it worth it and grill marinaded meats and lots of veggies. These can be cooled and served later in the day, chopped up on top of salads, or as I did this past hot Saturday, as a composed grouping on a wooden cutting board.

lunch

“Lunch on a Board” 

This particular grouping was inspired by the fresh made mozzarella from Wolf Meadow Farm and a fantastic heirloom tomato and zucchini from Stillman’s Farm.

The fresh basil came courtesy of my backyard pot and the steak from my freezer – defrosted and marinated a day prior. A drizzle of olive oil, red wine vinegar, black pepper and some pink Himalayan salt completed this beauty.

TIP: Hot weather entertaining? Grill up everything the day before and serve on large cutting boards or chilled platters with a fresh drizzle of your favorite vinaigrette and some fresh herbs sprinkled over.

 

Red, White & Blue

A little nod to the holiday that just passed by. Fingerling potatoes in red, white & blue! So simply good – they only need a coating of olive oil, dried rosemary, salt & pepper. (Be generous with the salt, potatoes need it!) Roast on a sheet pan in a 425 degree oven for aprox 30 mins until the potatoes are soft and starting to brown. I served mine with a roast pork loin and a piece charred, toasted bread. There is a green vegetable “off camera.”

Never Boil Corn Again!

This week I fell in love with the internet all over again!

I was feeling lazy about getting out a giant pot, shucking the corn and steaming/boiling my corn on the cob. Ugh.

However, my desire for early corn (Florida corn) at this time of year outweighed my laziness so the big corn pot came out. And then I decided to procrastinate more and check the internet. There must be a better way, right?

And there was!!!

Cue angels singing!

Simply roast them on a sheet pan, in the husk, for 30 mins at 350 degrees. THAT’S IT!

look I will show you how easy….

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SOOOO easy! And the house fills with the most amazing smell of sweet corn roasting.

Now I can have my fix of “corn & tomatoes” much easier.

or “corn & pineapple” muffins!

or “chicken corn stew!”

or “corn, chive  & tomato omelets!”

 

Stuffed!

I am not sure what inspired this. I think I saw a layered meatloaf somewhere out there in the world and thought “I can make that!”

As usual I had to put an Italian twist on things and make my stuffed meatloaf with fresh spinach, basil and mozzarella. The meat is simply a blend of ground beef, Italian sausage, 1 egg plus one egg white, Italian seasoning and S/P. No bread crumbs, no milk-soaked bread slices – just pure meat. Continuing the Italian twist I even added some Italian seasoning to the otherwise fairly traditional glaze of ketchup and corn syrup. (you can also use brown sugar but it burns easy and the corn syrup keeps the glaze glossy – a little won’t hurt you!)

This is a large and heavy meatloaf best served with a nap and some mashed potatoes!

Production Notes:

I happen to have some leftover ground beef from a big pack so not sure on the actual amounts, but if I had to guess, there was at least 1 1/2 lbs. I took two Italian sausage out of their casing and combined them with the ground beef. I added the seasonings and a dash of Worcestershire sauce (my secret ingredient for everything beef!)

Glaze the loaf initially and bake it in a hot (425 degree) oven for about 40 mins. Glaze again and bake until internal temperature reaches 160 degrees (F)

Home Opener- A Day Later

ready for the grill

Home opener for the Red Sox was yesterday – Home opener for my grill was today!

Both have some meaning around here. Red Sox means crowded subway lines during games and neon colored tags on ladies purses worn as a small badge of pride that they were recently at a game. Home opener for my backyard grill means an entire category of cooking opens up after along winter of “same old same old.”

I was planning on cheeseburgers but since I had the grill on I decided to throw on a few other items I had kicking around in my fridge – creating the “trifecta” of baseball grill food: sausage, hot dogs and burgers.

I did put a twist on things by not just making any old cheeseburger, but a green chili cheese sauce burger. (on toasted English muffin cause everyone knows they make the best rolls!)

green chili cheeseburger.jpg

A green chili cheese sauce can easily be made by melting 2 tablespoons of butter with 2 tablespoons of all purpose flour, creating a roux. Add in about a cup of milk whisking constantly till thick. A pinch of seasoned salt and some black pepper to season. Add in 2 slices of provolone cheese and about 4 oz mild cheddar cheese. Whisk in a few dashes of the green Tabasco® sauce and about 2 oz of chopped green chilies (this is half of the small can – if you want to use the whole can, double the other ingredients and make a big batch of cheese sauce for a crowd!)

Serve warm drizzled over burgers, nacho chips or just about anything!

Andy’s Dinner Remix

I have already professed my love for sauerkraut and the original “Andy’s Kraut dinner” here. But recently I made a variation on this classic and of course everything is better with bacon.

For this variation I started out by browning 1/2 lb of bacon sliced into small bits. I removed the cooked bacon – reserving some of the fat and browned the country spare ribs, kielbasa and onions. Next I piled it all back in with a drained bag of sauerkraut, plenty of celery salt and black pepper and apple juice for a flavorful liquid. Slow-cooked for a an hour or two until the pork was falling apart soft!

I think this would have been good with some kind of green vegetable but I couldn’t figure out which one so I added a brown veggie instead.

ready to eat kraut dinner

The recipe

1 17.6 oz =/- sauerkraut (bag or jar is better than canned) drained

6-8 oz of uncured bacon

1 ring of Kielbasa ( I used turkey) cut on angle into 2″ or 3″ chunks

1-1/2 lbs pork country boneless ribs

1/2 cup apple juice

1 large white onion cut into thick slices ( 1/4″)

Plenty of salt and pepper at each step

1/4 tsp celery salt for sprinkling over top

Dry rub: I mix ground cumin, celery salt and ground black pepper in equal amounts to rub onto the pork before browning. if you only have celery seed use an equal amount of salt too.

Brown the bacon in heavy bottom, oven proof pot. Remove and reserve a couple of tablespoons of the drippings. Cover the ribs in the dry rub and sear in same pan with bacon fat. Remove and set aside. Add the kielbasa and cook till just browned a bit. Remove and set aside. Add onions and toss until they start to get some color. Add the apple juice to deglaze the pan, scraping up the flavorful bits at bottom. Add the ribs and kielbasa back in – nestling everything among the onions int he apple juice. Toss the Sauerkraut on top and add the bacon bits as well. Sprinkle top with additional celery salt and some ground black pepper. Bake covered in oven for 1-2 hours in 325 degree oven.

Help Wanted

Meatloaf is a basic that I can not seem to get right!

I either get too exotic with the ingredients and it ends up with a weird flavor profile or more often than not it tastes good but the consistency is too soft.

No matter how many eggs or how gentle I mix it or how much bread crumbs I use, I just can’t get the right blend. I just want a meatloaf that holds together nicely at the dinner table and slices cleanly for sandwiches the next day!

This latest attempt was a “plain Jane” style with nothing exotic except a few shredded carrots! And while it turned out pretty tasty, it was still too soft! Maybe the carrots were too much?

meatloaf

I have tried cooking it in the loaf pan and not in the loaf pan. I have tried it with ground turkey, traditional meatloaf blends and pork/beef blends. I have made with and without the whole “milk-soaked bread” thing. Nothing seems to work. I just want a firm meatloaf – is that asking too much?

In case you want to review my ratios…

1 lb ground beef (80/20 blend)

1/3 cup finely minced sweet onion

1/2 cup finely ground saltines (15 crackers)

1 tbsp Dijon mustard

2 medium eggs, lightly whisked

1/2 cup finely grated carrots

1/4 cup finely minced fresh parsley

2 finely minced large garlic cloves

1/4 cup ketchup

salt and pepper

Mixed, formed and baked 1 hour at 375 degrees. Rested well before slicing.