Maple Dijon Sloppy Joes

sloppy joes
I love that it has become trendy for even the most upscale restaurants to offer mac and cheese on the menu. And I love that we have more ‘gourmet’ burger joints in our town than we do gas stations. And I extra love that the gastro-pub we dropped into yesterday for lunch had ‘Grandma’s Green Bean Casserole’ as a special. I am thrilled that all of the delicious, nostalgic, homey foods from my childhood are being reinvented, and enjoyed all over again.

Chefs seem to have tackled and upgraded everything from tater tots to oatmeal cookies. But you know what has been totally overlooked in this comfort food overhaul? Sloppy Joes.

Is there any dish that screams ‘Kid Food’ more than the humble Sloppy Joe? I’ll admit that not all sloppy joe memories are happy ones. The soggy school-lunch sloppy joes were fodder for elementary school nightmares. But sloppy joes CAN be delicious. I recall a fantastic summer camp sloppy joe served on a perfectly crusty pretzel bun. And another, spicier version that a neighbor’s mom made with leftover chili. The thing about sloppy joes is that there are no rules. Anything goes. Which is why they are ripe for reinvention.

A little bit messy, a little bit sticky, these Maple Dijon Sloppy Joes are all the sloppy joe was meant to be. Sweet, tangy, hearty and full of flavor, this is kid food that I love even more as a grown up. I’m a big fan of maple syrup in savory dishes. With the ground beef here, it provides just enough sweetness and plenty of rich flavor. Be sure to use good quality maple syrup (the real stuff!) and good Dijon mustard too.

This recipe makes plenty for four big sandwiches, but if you have leftovers, they actually freeze well. Or, you could get creative and reheat leftovers with a bit of hoisin sauce, a dash of soy sauce and some chopped water chestnuts and serve in lettuce wraps for a whole new Asian-inspired meal.

Maple Dijon Sloppy Joes
Serves 4+

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 cop finely chopped carrot
2/3 cup finely chopped celery
1/2 cup finely chopped green bell pepper
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 pound 85% lean ground beef
2 tablespoons ketchup
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon paprika
2 tablespoons Dijon Mustard
1/2 cup maple syrup
salt, to taste

To serve:
4 whole wheat rolls or buns, toasted
4 slices sharp cheddar cheese
Thinly sliced crisp apple

In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the carrots, celery and pepper and sauté until the veggies are soft, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and ground beef, and cook, breaking up with a spoon, until no pink remains (if the meat starts to stick, add a few tablespoons of water). Reduce the heat to medium-low. Add the ketchup, Worcestershire, paprika, mustard, and maple syrup. Stir well and simmer about 10 minutes. Add salt to taste. To serve, spoon the sloppy joe mixture into the buns and top each with a slice of cheese and a slice of apple. Pass around plenty of napkins!

Check out http://www.purecanadamaple.com for more information on pure maple syrup and Think Outside The Griddle recipes.

Published in: on October 6, 2013 at 12:50 pm  Comments (2)  
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Carrot and Dill Frittata

frittata with carrot and dill
I love my CSA farm share. I could tell you that it’s because the veggies are bountiful and fresh, or because our farmers are lovely and inspiring. But the truth is, it’s mostly because I enjoy the challenge. Anyone who has been part of a CSA knows that feeling of excitement every week when you arrive to pick up your share, wondering what will end up in your bag. I adore the not knowing, the surprise of finding a big purple eggplant or a bunch of fresh herbs or a pile of carrots. But then I get home an I realize that I never used up all those carrots from last week, or even the week before, and now my crisper is overflowing with carrots. And dill. I like dill well enough, but what’s a girl to do with three bunches of fresh dill?

The answer, of course, is to throw it in everything.

So we’ve been having roasted carrots with dill, and salads with a dilly vinaigrette, and carrot soup with a dill oil drizzle. And this morning when I wanted eggs it seemed only natural to add in my staple ingredients of the moment. Surprisingly, carrots and dill and a bit of Swiss cheese make for a truly delicious frittata. The sweet carrots, fragrant dill, and nutty cheese bring the humble egg to a whole new level. I think the trick, though, is not to overcook the carrots. You do want them soft – but not mushy. The bit of bite they lend to the frittata makes it seem heartier, more substantial.

I’ve pretty much worked my way through my stash of carrots, and I only have a small bunch of fresh dill left. We’ll see what next week brings. I’m hoping it’s not more garlic. I have nine heads of fresh garlic in my fridge right now. Anyone have any great garlic ideas?

omelet with carrot

Carrot and Dill Frittata
Serves 1-2

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons butter
1 clove garlic, minced
2 small carrots, peeled and thinly sliced (about 1 cup)
3 large eggs
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/3 cup grated Swiss cheese

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In an oven-proof 8-inch skillet, melt the oil and butter over medium heat. Add the garlic and carrots and sauté until the carrots begin to soften, about 6-7 minutes. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, beat the eggs, milk, dill, salt, an pepper until frothy. Reduce the heat to low and make sure that the carrots are spread evenly in the pan. Then slowly pour in the egg mixture. Shake the pan a bit to distribute the egg. Allow the frittata to cook for 2-3 minutes to let the bottom set. Sprinkle the cheese over the top and transfer to the top rack of the oven. Cook until the egg is set and golden and the cheese has melted. Run a spatula around the edge of the pan and turn the frittata out onto a plate. Slice and enjoy (also yummy cold)!

Published in: on August 10, 2013 at 10:56 am  Comments (8)  
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Make Your Own Mac ‘N Cheese Bar

macaron and cheese toppings
In my family, Chuck’s macaroni and cheese is iconic. Does your family have dishes like this? Dishes that are requested by the guest of honor at birthdays and dreamed about by family members away from home for too long.

Over the years we have bullied Chuck into making his mac and cheese so often that, out of boredom, his recipe has morphed. Chuck cooks kind of like I do – which is to say that he chafes at strict recipes, loves to improvise, and can rarely manage to reproduce an exact replica of any dish. So now, when Chuck makes his mac and cheese, there is always a twist. Sometimes there’s bacon, sometimes chunks of pickled garlic. Whatever inspires Chuck ends up in the mac and cheese.

When we had friends over for dinner last weekend, it occurred to me that it would be awfully fun to let each one of us tinker with our own, individual bowl of Chuck’s mac and cheese. I made up a big pot of cheese sauce, and we each tossed the bubbling cheese with pasta and any other mix-ins we desired before throwing it in the oven to bake and crisp. Jeff, of course, dove right into the crumbled bacon and diced Italian sausage. I was a big fan of the steamed cauliflower and fresh herbs. Basically, anything goes here, so the toppings below are just suggestions. And as for the cheese sauce, feel free to adjust that to your tastes as well. Chuck sometimes mixes up the cheeses he includes, or throws a can of diced tomatoes directly into the cheese itself. But don’t skimp on the mustard powder – it’s Chuck’s (not so) secret ingredient.

macaroni and cheese homemade baked

Mac and Cheese Bar
serves 8

For the pasta:
1 pound dry pasta (I like penne or rotini for this)

For the cheese sauce:
3 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup minced onion
1 tablespoon minced garlic
3 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons mustard powder
2 cups milk
3 cups shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup shredded parmesan cheese

For the toppings:
1/2 cup crumbled cooked bacon
1/2 cup diced cooked Italian sausage
1/2 cup diced red bell pepper
1/2 cup diced tomato
1 cup steamed cauliflower
1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs (basil, dill, parsley and cilantro are all good options)
1/4 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese

Cook the pasta in plenty of salted boiling water until just al dente. Meanwhile, in a large pot, melt the butter. Sauté the onion and garlic in butter over medium heat until soft. Add in the flour and reduce the heat to medium-low. Stir in the salt, pepper, and mustard powder, and cook the flour mixture 5 minutes. Slowly add just a splash of milk, and wisk until a smooth paste forms. Add half of the remaining milk in a slow stream, wisking constantly. Wisk in the remaining milk and cook until slightly thickened, about 3 minutes more. Add in the cheeses and stir continually until the cheese is fully melted. Add additional salt and/or pepper to taste. Keep the cheese sauce warm over low heat while you assemble the mac and cheese.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease 8 oven proof bowls or ramekins. Give each guest his or her bowl to fill with pasta, cheese sauce, and any variety of mix-ins. I suggest topping with parmesan cheese and bread crumbs. Arrange the bowls on two jelly roll pans and bake until the tops start to brown and the cheese sauce is bubbling.

Published in: on May 14, 2013 at 5:38 pm  Comments (4)  
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Pantry Pasta with Celery and Parmesan

pasta with celery and parmesan

Sometimes the washing machine breaks and floods the basement with sudsy water. Sometimes the heel of your favorite black leather ankle boot breaks off as you’re walking up the stairs to your office. Sometimes a jagged pebble on the interstate bounces up and cracks your windshield. Sometimes, all of these things happen on the same day.

And at the end of a day like this, simple, unfussy food can feel so, so good.

There was a time when the more exotic ingredients a recipe had, the more desperately I wanted to rush out and buy every single one. I would lock myself in the kitchen for hours, emerging triumphant, elaborate concoction in hand, anxiously awaiting oohs and ahhs. And every so often I still get the urge to flex some culinary muscle.

But these days, I fully appreciate the basic beauty of a quick, easy, tasty and healthy recipe.

Quick. Easy. Heathy. It’s the holy grail of weeknight cooking. I used to think that simple was boring – a cop out. But the truth is that simple is elegant, sophisticated. Kind of like my favorite black leather ankle boots were before that six-inch heel bit the dust.

But back to the food.

whole wheat pasta with celery and parmesan

The thing with simple food is that each ingredient matters. Good pasta, fresh celery, and the very best cheese you can find turn some simple pantry staples into a pretty delicious dinner. Assuming that, like me, you have a thing for cheese, you might even have all of the ingredients for this deceptively basic dish in your kitchen right now. And if you don’t, well, make this pasta once and I promise you’ll start keeping anchovy paste and wedges of parmesan on hand at all times.

This pasta takes all of 10 minutes to make, is full of flavor, and is ultimately comforting. If you think you aren’t a fan of anchovies, I don’t blame you. Neither was I. Until I tried melting down anchovy paste in plenty of fruity olive oil. When cooked, the anchovy paste imparts a deep, rich, salty flavor to the pasta that is frankly addictive. And if Jeff, the consummate fish hater, asks for this pasta on a weekly basis, then there really has to be something to this anchovy business. As for the celery, well, I use it because it’s always in my fridge. Why do I buy celery every week? I honestly have no idea. But I do it. And I’m always looking for ways to use it up. Go figure. I suppose that you could elevate this dish by using a bit of sliced fennel and some fennel fronds instead. But the humble celery works just fine. It’s lovely, actually, and pretty underrated.

The real star here, though, is the cheese. Which means you should spring for good cheese. And no, good cheese does not come in a shaky can. I’m not actually sure that stuff is cheese at all. What you want is a nice wedge of Parmigiano-Reggiano. And a good grater.

pantry pasta up close

Pantry Pasta with Celery and Parmesan
Serves 4

1 13.25 ounce box of whole grain linguine
6 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons anchovy paste
3 tablespoons chopped garlic
1 cup thinly sliced celery
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 cups freshly grated parmesan cheese
1 cup chopped celery leaves

In a large pot of boiling, well salted water, cook the pasta until just al dente. Be careful not to overcook. Meanwhile, in a very large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Saute the anchovy paste and garlic in the oil, stirring often, until the garlic starts to brown slightly. Add the celery, oregano and red pepper and continue to cook until the celery is soft, about 5 more minutes, and then reduce the heat to low. When the pasta is done, drain and reserve 2 cups of the pasta cooking liquid. Add the pasta to the skillet with the celery mixture, along with one cup of the pasta cooking liquid. Toss the pasta with the sauce, along with half of the cheese. Cook, stirring, for a couple more minutes, adding additional cooking water to loosen the sauce if needed. Serve the pasta in bowls, topped with the celery leaves and the remaining cheese.

Published in: on March 3, 2013 at 2:20 pm  Comments (9)  
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About French Onion Soup

french onion soup
I’m going to say something controversial here, so brace yourselves.

I don’t like that thick, gooey layer of melted Gruyère over top of a steamy bowl of onion soup gratinee.

There. I said it. I know most people adore that bubbly cheese crust, but I think that molten cheese situation is unpleasant and chewy and simply too much. It overpowers the fabulous sweetness of the soup itself. The only thing worse than the dense cheese barrier between me and my soup is the underlying layer of soggy bread. Seriously, what could be appealing about soggy bread?

But I love French onion soup. The deeply flavorful salty-sweet broth and the silky onions are warm, comforting, and delicious. And while I am no fan of the usual soggy bread/cheese crust combination, a few shavings of cheese and a handful of crisp croutons are a welcome topping. I like to serve up the piping hot soup and then pass around bowls of homemade croutons and thin shavings of Swiss cheese. The idea is to add the croutons to your bowl in the very last moment, so they retain their crunch.

As for the soup itself, the ingredients are simple. What you’re really dealing with here is some onions and some beef stock, so the quality of the beef stock is really key. Of course, as with most things, homemade is best. But I will admit that I rarely have homemade beef stock on hand (I do usually have homemade chicken stock, but that’s a whole different discussion). But beef stock in a can is pretty terrible stuff. It’s more or less just brown salty water. However, I’ve recently discovered that good local markets will often house-make and sell their own stock. And if you can’t find the real deal, there are some decently flavorful store-bought options. In a pinch, I like Penzey’s soup base.

This recipe freezes extremely well, so I usually make a double batch. Enjoy!

French Onion Soup
Serves 6

1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons olive oil
4 medium yellow onions, thinly sliced
2/3 cup finely chopped celery
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
11/2 cups dry white wine
8 cups beef broth
3 cups cubed french bread
1/4 teaspoon dried parsley
2 ounces shaved Gruyère cheese

In a large soup pot, over medium-low heat melt the butter in 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the onions and celery and cook, stirring every so often, until th onions are very soft and starting to brown. This should take about 30 minutes. Be patient! Add 1/2 teaspoon salt, pepper, and wine and stir well. Add the broth, and increase the heat to medium. Let the soup simmer for 30-45 minutes. Meanwhile, make the croutons. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Toss the bread with the remaining two teaspoons of oil, the remaining 1/4 teaspoon of salt, and the parsley. Spread the bread on a baking sheet in an even layer. Bake until the croutons are golden brown, about 8-10 minutes. To serve, ladle the soup into bowls. Top with the cheese and croutons.

Published in: on February 18, 2013 at 2:29 pm  Comments (9)  
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Indian Spiced Cauliflower Soup

vegan indian vegetable soup

Almost every year, I succumb to a moment of temporary insanity on December 31st.  I make all sorts of crazy resolutions for the next year. And in the first few weeks of January, those New Year’s resolutions generally hold firm.  I go to the gym, forgo the ice cream, munch on raw broccoli and drag my butt to Pilates class.  But by the third week of the new year, all my good intentions have been waylaid by stressful late nights at the office, snowy winter mornings, movie theatre popcorn with extra butter, and cozy cuddling on the couch.

Let’s be honest.  Am I really going to keep my vow to make it to the gym every single day? Nope. Not likely. And give up ice cream?  Why did I ever want to give up ice cream?  Seriously… what was I thinking?

So I’m trying to bring a little bit of balance to my January.  Healthy, wonderful, delicious food – like this soup.  And a bit of ice cream every now and then too.

This soup is amazingly fragrant, easy to make, and perfect for a cold night.  It actually gets even better the next day, so makes for tasty leftovers for tomorrow’s lunch. I’m not usually an advocate of frozen veggies, but in the case of soup, I’ve found that frozen is usually as good as fresh.  So feel free to use a bag of frozen cauliflower in place of the fresh in this recipe.

I really like good, grainy croutons on top of this soup, and a sprinkle of fresh herbs.  But a handful of toasted sunflower seeds would be lovely too. And adding a sprinkle of finely chopped hard-boiled egg or a big dollop of Greek yogurt would make this soup into a hearty meal (but would, of course, make the dish no longer vegan). Basically, anything goes. Use your imagination, and enjoy!

vegan curried cauliflower soup

Indian Spiced Cauliflower Soup

Serves 4

For the soup:

1 pound fresh cauliflower (about 1 head) chopped

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 large yellow onion, chopped

2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1/2 teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

1/4 teaspoon coriander

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 cups vegetable broth

1 cup plain unsweetened almond milk

salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

For the toppings:

4 slices whole grain bread, cut in cubes

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro (or any other fresh herbs you have in the fridge)

Steam the cauliflower until very tender.  Meanwhile, in a large pot, saute the onion in oil over medium heat until soft, about 10 minutes.  Add the ginger, garlic and spices and cook, stirring, another 2 minutes.  Add the cauliflower and broth to the pot.  Bring to a simmer and cook for 10 more minutes.  Working in batches, puree the soup in a blender or food processor.  I like it to retain a bit  of texture, but you can puree until completely smooth if you prefer. Return the pureed soup to the pot and stir in the almond milk.  Heat until fully warmed through.

Meanwhile, toss the bread cubes with oil, salt and pepper.  Toast under the broiler until golden brown.

To serve, ladle the hot soup into bowls and top with croutons and cilantro.

Published in: on January 21, 2013 at 7:27 pm  Comments (9)  
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Lighter Creamy Mushroom Soup

mushroom soup 2

It’s December.  So I shouldn’t really be too shocked that it’s freezing cold and dreary outside. But every year about this time, I find the cold jarring.

Fuzzy slippers and hearty soups are all that are keeping me from hopping a flight to Florida.  In a few weeks, I’ll settle in and remember that I enjoy crackling fireplaces and hot bubble baths, and pristine snow falls, and steaming cups of cocoa. But for now, it’s all about soup. A big bowl of soup, a piece of crusty bread, and maybe a simple green salad, and I’m about as happy as I can be in early December.

This creamy mushroom soup is actually more mushroom than cream.  Even so, the texture is still lovely and rich from the pureed mushrooms and the small amount of reduced fat cream cheese.  I happen to like the meatiness of mushroom bits in my soup, but if you prefer, you can fully puree all of the soup.

I’ve made this soup with a variety of mushrooms, and it all works.  This time I went for a combination of shiitake, crimini and regular old white button mushrooms.  Use what you like, though, or what you can find at the store.  I’ve never tried using reconstituted dried mushrooms, but I imagine they might add another level of flavor and texture, so that could be worth a try. I use beef stock, because I think the flavor combination of mushrooms and beef is lovely. You can certainly use vegetable stock – or better yet mushroom stock – for a vegetarian soup.

mushrooms

Creamy Mushroom Soup

Serves 4

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 cup chopped onion

1/2 cup chopped celery

4 cups chopped mushrooms, mixed variety

3 cups beef stock

4 tablespoons low-fat cream cheese (not fat-free)

2 tablespoons chopped fresh fennel fronds for garnish (optional)

Published in: on December 2, 2012 at 4:59 pm  Comments (7)  
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Aleppo Roasted Carrots with Green Garbanzos and Cider-Poached Raisins

carrots green garbanzo beans

Last weekend we were in Vermont for a dear friend’s wedding.  In between a rehearsal dinner of sweet potato coconut pizza, the heart-warming marriage vows, and the after-party bonfire s’mores, Jeff and I managed to squeeze in a visit to the Rutland farmer’s market. A great farmer’s market is a treasure. And hitting a great farmer’s market on a great day in the middle of a great harvest, well, that’s just about as good as it gets.  I’m very lucky that Jeff is ever-willing to help me haul my purchases home, because I couldn’t help myself.  From beautiful pink radishes to tiny jars of picked garlic, to shimmering bottles of sweet icewine, I went a little overboard. But the best purchase of the day was these beautiful multi-colored carrots.

multicolored carrots

I adore roasted carrots.  They are nutty and sweet, and when dusted with Aleppo pepper, just a bit smokey. The combination of sweet root vegetables and subtle Aleppo pepper is addictive. You can serve the Aleppo roasted carrots all by themselves as a great side dish.  But the addition of green garbanzo beans and plump raisins takes this from side dish to meal. I have occasionally been able to find fresh garbanzo beans, but more often they are available frozen.   And if you can’t find Aleppo pepper, you can substitute Spanish paprika to mimic the sweet and smokey flavor.

puprple carrots yellow carrots white carrots

Aleppo Roasted Carrots with Green Garbanzos and Cider-Poached Raisins

Serves 2 as a main course

5 cups chopped carrots

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 teaspoons Aleppo pepper

1/2 teaspoon salt

2/3 cup frozen green garbanzo beans

1/4 cup raisins

1/4 cup apple cider

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Toss the carrots with the oil, Aleppo pepper, and salt.  Spread the carrots on a baking sheet and roast until lightly browned at the edges, about 25 minutes. Meanwhile, microwave the garbanzos with a few tablespoons of water for 2 minutes, then drain.  Simmer the raisins in the cider until they are very plum, about 5 minutes (you can also do this in the microwave if you prefer, just watch so it doesn’t boil over).  To serve, toss the roasted carrots, garbanzos, and raisins together.  Season to taste with additional salt and pepper if you like.

Published in: on October 7, 2012 at 12:21 pm  Comments (5)  
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Brie, Brown Sugar and Peach Pizza

grilled brie pizza

Lately I’ve been blurring all the lines between meals.  Oatmeal for lunch, waffles for supper, tuna melts for breakfast.  Who came up with all these ideas about what should be eaten when?  Of course, across the globe all of these lines blur anyway, so while eating fish at 8am feels a little thrilling to me, it’s none too shocking in a global sense.

While I love to rebel by eating a hot fudge sundae for supper, even better are those dishes that bend the rules all by themselves. Like this pizza.

The other night, Jeff and I set out to make a dessert pizza.  We layered our crisp/chewy crust with sugar, cinnamon and ripe fruit.  But something was missing.   Something rich and cheesy.

Really, you can’t go wrong with brie.  Has brie ever made any recipe worse?  I doubt it. And with this pizza, the combination of sweet and rich, crisp and gooey moves beyond the restrictive labels of dessert or dinner or breakfast.  Frankly, this pizza works wonderfully for any or all of the above.  It would make a compelling cheese course or a unique brunch.  We made it again last night and ate it for dinner with a simple arugula salad.

I’ve talked about grilling pizza before, last year when we made this Spicy Thai Chicken Pizza and I’m as big a fan now as I was then.  The crust becomes both crisp and chewy, slightly charred and full of flavor.  It works wonderfully with the soft, rich sweetness of the peaches and brie.  You can make your own pizza dough, if you like.  But I usually take the lazy way out and buy mine from a local pizzeria.  Many will sell you dough if you ask.  And some good grocery stores make their own dough too.

I like to pre-grill the peaches to caramelize them a bit before slicing them up as a pizza topping.  You don’t want to cook the peaches too long, or they will be too soft to slice.  You just want a bit of color on the fruit, and to soften the flesh a bit. And don’t skip the cinnamon.  It may sound like a strange pairing with the cheese, but the combination is surprisingly fantastic.  Trust me.  Actually, trust Jeff.  It was his idea.  Sometimes he’s smart like that.  But only sometimes.

brie cheese pizza

Brie, Brown Sugar and Peach Pizza

Serves 4

1/2 lb pizza dough

1/4 cup flour

1 large ripe peach (slightly under ripe is better than over ripe)

5 tablespoons brown sugar, divided

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

4 ounces brie, thinly sliced

1/4 cup fresh raspberries

Preheat a gas grill to medium and grease the grates.  Roll out the dough thinly, using the flour to prevent sticking.

Slice the peach in half and remove the pit.  Press one tablespoon of brown sugar on the cut side of each peach half. Place the peaches on the grill, cut side up, and cover the grill.  Cook for two minutes and then flip (you will lose some of the sugar, but that is ok).  Grill the peach for just two minutes more and then remove from the heat.  Allow the peach to cool before slicing.

Meanwhile, carefully transfer the dough to the grill (it will bend into a strange shapes as you transfer it – just call it rustic and don’t worry about it).  Cover the grill and allow the dough to cook until the bottom gets rigid and slightly charred.  Flip the pizza dough (Jeff has developed a two handed method with a spatula and a set of tongs, but go with whatever works for you) and move quickly to sprinkle with the remaining sugar and the cinnamon.  Top evenly with the peach slices and the brie.  Close the grill and cook just long enough to let the cheese melt slightly, only a couple of minutes.  Remove the pizza from the heat and sprinkle with the raspberries.  Let the pizza cool for at least 5 minutes before slicing.

Published in: on August 10, 2012 at 6:45 pm  Comments (4)  
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Picnic Perfect Pressed Sandwich

salami and cheese gourmet pressed sandwich

I have fantasies of a perfectly romantic picnic; sipping wine while lounging on the grass, sampling a harmonious array of French cheeses, nibbling on perfectly ripe sun-warmed strawberries.

Other times I dream of an old-fashioned family fun picnic; crisp and flavorful fried chicken, cool, creamy macaroni salad, stacks of  checkered napkins and mason jars filled with lemonade.

I’ve even imagined a chic, luxurious picnic; caviar-topped blini, baby lamb chops, sparkling glasses of champagne, Belgian chocolates and real silverware.

But in reality, my picnics have usually been full of messy spills, dirt-coated cheese knives, squished fruit, hungry ants, warm beer and threatening thunder storms.

And you know what?  I’m ok with that. Picnics aren’t meant to be perfect, they are meant to be fun – insects and all.  I may have pretty picnic dreams of brie and champagne, but most times, we’re just as happy with sandwiches and chips.

But not just any sandwiches, of course.  It’s still a picnic after all.  Any excuse to lounge in the open air, munching away in the sunshine, is cause for a little bit of special treatment.

picnic basket sandwich wineThis pressed sandwich is so simple, and yet somehow more than the sum of its parts. Plus, it travels so well!  As always with simple food, quality ingredients count here.  Good, crusty bread, pungent cheese, aromatic basil, and rich salami come together in a perfect bite.  The secret lies in the squish.  You have to really press the heck out of this sandwich.  The idea is to remove the majority of the soft insides of the bread, layer in the fillings, and then smush down the sandwich so that the flavors and textures marry overnight.

You could certainly change up the fillings here.  Adding some pesto might be nice, or switching out the salami for prosciutto.  You could layer in some thin slices of grilled eggplant, or go crazy and add a bit of sriracha.  The ingredients are merely a suggestion, but the squish is necessary.  You do want to take care to keep moist ingredients, such as roasted peppers or sliced tomato, from having direct contact with the bread, in order to avoid a soggy sandwich.  But by removing much of the soft crumb of the bread, you will delay soggy bread syndrome pretty effectively.  However, this sandwich is best eaten the next day, if you leave it longer than a day, the bread will probably get soggy.

Pressed Sandwich

Serves 8

1 1-pound round loaf peasant bread or French boule

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

6 oz thinly sliced Genoa salami

1 cup thinly sliced roasted red peppers

2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

1 cup fresh baby arugula

3 ounces shaved parmesan cheese

Slice the bread in half horizontally.  Remove the majority of the soft crumb from both the top and the bottom, leaving about an inch of crust all around. (Keep the bread-insides for another use, like breadcrumbs). Spread the mustard into the bottom of the bread.  Top with an even layer of salami, then roasted peppers, basil, arugula, and finally the cheese. Place the top of the bread over the fillings and wrap the whole loaf tightly in foil.  Place the foil-wrapped loaf on a large plate and top with another large plate.  Weigh down the top plate with a heavy brick, or, in a pinch, a six-pack of beer works too.  Place the weighted sandwich in the fridge overnight.  To serve, remove the sandwich from the fridge and slice into eight even wedges.  Wrap each wedge individually to transport to a picnic.

Published in: on July 7, 2012 at 2:54 pm  Comments (6)  
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