Sunday, June 27, 2010

Deli-meatin’ Workin’ Man Blues (Penne Salad w/Roast Beef & Capers)

“Man, it's hot. It's like Africa hot. Tarzan couldn't take this kind of hot.”

– Eugene Morris Jerome, Biloxi Blues

I don’t know about you, but the heat just takes it out of me. This weekend, heat indices were up around 100, and the last thing I felt like doing was spending a lot of time in the kitchen over a hot stuff, much less standing in front of my usual flaming implement of destruction to make dinner. I was in the mood for something light, but I wanted beef or something similarly meaty. Does that make any sense? In any case, we put out heads together and came up with this little gem. This recipe is something you can put together in less than 15 minutes, if you need something quick.

  • 1/2 lb rare deli roast beef, cut into thin strips
  • 1 lb. penne
  • 5 oz. spring salad mix
  • 3 tbsp. quality olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 c. capers, drained
  • Shredded parmesan

(Note: don’t skimp on the quality. Get the best roast beef your deli has. Use really good olive oil. Indulge yourself.)

Get the water going for the pasta. Take the beef and slice it into thin strips.

IMG_0821 When the pasta is done, drain it and rinse it with cold water. When it’s drained, put everything but the beef and cheese into a big bowl. Add some salt and pepper to taste. Toss everything together. Add the beef and toss it again.

IMG_0822Plate it up and top it with the Parmesan. That’s all there is to it. As for a wine pairing, put it with some Beaujolais, which is one of the few red wines that should always be chilled. Then hunker down in the a/c and move as little as possible until the cold front comes through…


Monday, June 21, 2010

I am the eggplant…I am the eggplant… (Grilled eggplant parmesan)

The Sweet Partner in Crime loves her some eggplant parmesan. I’m reasonably sure that it’s her favorite thing I make, especially on celebratory occasions. One such occasion – the SPinC’s birthday -- we celebrated last weekend. For dinner, my tried and true entrĂ©e took center stage. Now this one’s a little more involved than some of the other recipes – so you should probably keep this in your back pocket for times when you can commit to it. You can rush the perfect parmesan.

I make my parmesan a little differently than traditionalists do. The eggplant slices are usually deep fried, and there’s usually grease and processed cheese congealing all over the place when things are all said and done. I still have plenty of cheese in the recipe, but I grill the eggplant instead, giving it a fresher, smokier taste since I’m not using egg, butter, flour, Crisco, or whatever. Fewer calories and better flavor. How can you go wrong? Want to try it?

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 3 medium sized eggplants, skin on, sliced into ¼ to ½” slices.
  • Makings for your favorite red sauce – however you like it best.
  • 8 oz. fresh mozzarella, cut into small pieces.
  • Shredded parmesan cheese
  • Some shredded fresh herbs – oregano, basil, parsley – whatever turns you on

That’s it. No real proportions. You should plan to make a pretty good amount of sauce. You really can’t make too much. If it’s not tomato season and I can’t get a couple of pounds of fresh Romas, I’ll use a whole can of San Marzano style canned tomatoes and cut them up. I don’t drain them. I find that’s about the right amount.

Layer the eggplant in a colander. Top each layer with a generous sprinkle of salt. Repeat this  process until you’ve got all of the slices salted. This “de-bitters” the eggplant. Leave this in  the sink for about 45 minutes.

During this time, make your sauce. I’m sorry, but I steadfastly refuse to reveal the trade secrets of Michael’s Marinara Magnifico. It wouldn’t fly in Naples, but we adore it in Newport – that’s all I’ll say.

While your sauce is simmering, fire up the grill. Rinse off the eggplant slices and brush them in olive oil. (I sometimes put them in batches in a Ziploc with a little olive oil. Goes quicker.) Around the time the grill is ready, preheat the oven to 350. Toss the eggplant on the grill in a single layer. You may need to do a couple of batches, depending on the size of your grill. IMG_0800

Grill the pieces over medium-high heat until they become tender and get some grill marks. The skins will also blacken and shrivel a bit.

IMG_0807When you’ve got the slices grilled, bring them inside. Spray the bottom of a good sized baking pan with nonstick spray, then spread a little bit of sauce across the bottom of the pan.

Put down a layer of the eggplant slices. Top the slices with your sauce. Follow it with most of the fresh herbs (save a few for garnish), the mozzarella pieces, and a generous sprinkle of parmesan cheese. Repeat the layering process. Top with the rest of the sauce and add another generous sprinkle of Parmesan cheese. Cover with foil and bake for about 40 minutes. It’ll be good and bubbly.


Remove the foil and bake for 5-10 more minutes until the cheese on top begins to brown.  

Remove from the oven and let stand for about 20-30 minutes. Be warned: the temptation will be maddening to just dive in. Trust me on this. Give it a few minutes to rest. Sprinkle with the rest of the herbs and then dive in.

We dug into the wine cellar and pulled out a Tenimenti Fontanafredda “La Villa” 2000 Barolo to go with this meal. Yep…we went all out for this meal. A Barolo is a big, powerful, tannic wine (which I’ve written about before…) – but eggplant is a great tannin smoother. It would work with young cabernets as well.

See, practically nothing to it. It ends up a little different each time, but that’s the fun of it, right?

As my grandmother Gerta (better known as “Oma”) used to say, “Enjoy! Enjoy!”


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Pump It Up (Broccoli with Orecchiette)

Carbs are your friend.

They’re especially friendly when you’re doing a new fitness routine. After a conversation with a colleague of hers, the Sweet Partner in Crime decided that she wanted to try doing P90X – a home workout routine that many of you have probably have heard of at some point. Of course, I couldn’t let her go through that alone…

So we’ve started in on this fairly torturous workout set. Honestly, it’s a pretty solid set of exercises. We’re finding that we can at least handle it, and it seems to actually give some results as we “bring it.” There are, however, two drawbacks:

1) The workouts are all around 75 minutes (the power yoga is 90), and we usually can only do them after work.

2) These workouts leave us hungry, but also give us even less time to cook than usual. Even so, we’ve got plenty of recipes up our sleeve to replenish the ol’ glycogen stores. Here’s a quick, scrumptious pasta recipe that’ll quiet the cries of your aching muscles:

  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 5 (or more) cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 (10 oz) packages of chopped, frozen broccoli
  • 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1 c. water
  • 1/2 c. white wine
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh oregano (or 3/4 tbsp. dried)
  • 1/4 c. shredded pecorino or parmesan cheese
  • 1 lb. orecchiette pasta
  • salt & pepper

IMG_0792Fill a pot with water. Add some salt and a dash of olive oil. Get it boiling. Get another pot, add the remaining olive oil and put over medium high heat. When oil is hot, add the garlic. (Mmmmm….garlic…) Cook the garlic, stirring a time or two, until it turns golden and gets fragrant – about a minute. Add the broccoli, red pepper flakes, oregano, water, wine, and some salt & pepper. Stir it together. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid has been absorbed. This usually takes about 15 minutes.

(Now, some of you may want to give me a hard time for using froIMG_0793zen broccoli. Use fresh if you want to. Frozen is easier to make quickly – and if you’re looking for nutrition, then frozen veggies aren’t a bad option. They’re usually prepared when they’re in season and ready to harvest. Some fresh vegetables may sit around awhile and lose some nutritional value.)

Meanwhile, when the other pot comes to a boil, add the orecchiette. Give it a stir and get it cooking until it’s al dente – about 10-12 minutes.

IMG_0794If you’re not familiar with this kind of pasta – it’s shaped like little flat shells or thumbprints. Since it’s flat, the individual pasta pieces tend to stick to both to the bottom of the pot and to each other. Give it a few good stirs while it’s cooking. Just before it’s done, reserve about a cup and a half of the cooking water.

When the broccoli mixture is ready, turn the heat down to low. Add the cheese and about half the cooking water. Stir until the cheese is melted and well incorporated. Cover and keep over low heat until the pasta is done.IMG_0795

When the pasta is done and you’ve reserved the cooking water, drain it and toss it with the broccoli mixture. If it starts to clump up, add some of the cooking water. After that, plate it up. I sprinkled it with a little paprika for color:





For a wine pairing, find yourself a white on the lighter side of things, but still with a little weight and fruit. We had a Torrontes with this. (Thanks, Joyce!)

Enjoy your carbo-loading…and bring it!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Get It While You Can (Mahi [or other fish] with Roasted Corn & Peppers)

Here…something very quick and impossibly tasty. Corn’s coming into season, so the fresh stuff is easy to lay your hands on. Also, this recipe is fish-related, and you might as well enjoy the critters while it’s possible. Thanks, BP & Haliburton…


  • 2 bell peppers of different colors, diced
  • 2 cups corn kernels (cut off about 4 ears fresh)
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp. dried thyme or several sprigs fresh
  • 1 lb or so of grouper, mahi, or similar meaty fish filets
  • salt & pepper

Preheat the oven to 450F. Toss the bell peppers and corn kernels with salt and pepper (maybe 1 tsp. salt, 1/4 tsp pepper or so), 1 tbsp. olive oil, and about half the thyme. Put mixture in a baking pan and roast in the oven, stirring a couple of times, until things start to brown – about 12 minutes.

Rub the rest of the oil into the filets (we used mahi here). Remove the pan from the oven and push the corn and peppers aside to make room for the fish. Put the fish in the center of the pan (skin side down if there’s skin). Sprinkle the fish with more salt, pepper, and the remaining thyme. It’ll look something like this:


Return the pan to the oven and cook until the fish is just done. A 1” filet will take about 15 minutes, give or take.

Plate everything up. We added a side of sliced avocado sprinkled with lemon juice and served it with a light Sauvignon Blanc-ish white from Languedoc, but any light white will go nicely.

Enjoy. Total prep – under five minutes.