Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

I did it my way

March 22, 2016
Pork chop giambotta grilled over fresh oregano.

Pork chop giambotta grilled over fresh oregano.

A common dish on Italian inspired restaurants around here is “Pork Chop Giambotta”.

Giambotta (or sometimes, Ciambotta) is a stew of vegetables (peppers, potatoes, eggplant, tomatoes, etc.) sometimes augmented with a protein (fish or meat). Colloquially, at least when I was growing up, it could also mean “a mess” or “all mixed up”. A reflection, no doubt, of the infinite combinations of ingredients in the so-named dish.

The pork chop giambotta found in local eateries most often is a stew of potatoes and peppers (sometimes onions) seasoned with garlic and herbs (and maybe wine) and then cooked along with a bone-in chop or two. The servings are often quite generous and leftovers come home to be added to a risotto the following day.

There are other versions around that substitute pickled peppers for the sweet bell peppers. (A dish akin to Chicken Murphy). Since I’m the only one in our household who likes the spicier, tangy peppers, we stick to the sweet ones.

Taking advantage of a nice, early spring evening I decided to make version on the grill. It turned out well enough that there weren’t any leftovers. No risotto tomorrow.

Grilled Pork Chop Giambotta

  • Four, bone-in, thick cut pork chops
  • Four sweet bell peppers (if you can get different colored peppers, it makes a nicer presentation), stemmed, seeded and cut into strips
  • One medium onion, thickly sliced (optional)
  • 1 ½ pounds small, red skin potatoes (or any potato you have on hand)
  • Olive oil
  • Two cloves of garlic, chopped
  • Fresh oregano
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Get your grill going so it’s at high heat.

While the grill is heating up, wash the potatoes. Halve any that are too large so that they are of a uniform size. Cook in microwave on high for about 8 minutes (or boil in salted water until just fork tender. Drain).

In a large bowl, toss the peppers, onion if using, garlic, a tablespoon of fresh oregano leaves, salt and pepper to taste with enough olive oil to coat well. Add the pre-cooked potatoes and mix well. Set aside.

When the grill is ready, season one side of each of the pork chops. Lay two or three sprigs of the fresh oregano on the grill and place a chop, seasoned side down, on the herbs. Repeat for the other chops.

Cook for 3 to 5 minutes (until the chop just starts to sear) and then carefully rotate the chops a quarter turn on the grill. (The timing depends upon the thickness of the chops).

Place the vegetables in a grill basket and place on the grill alongside the chops. Stir, shake or flip often to keep the vegetables from burning.

Season the second side of the shops, add some more oregano sprigs to the grill and flip the chops over onto them.

Cook until desired doneness.  (About 160 degrees) serve over the roasted vegetables and enjoy. Serves 4, but can be scaled up or down to meet your needs.

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Barbecue dinner for an October evening

October 23, 2012

Barbecue pork loin, cheese grits and caramelized onions

“Write this one down,” Ann said.

“This one” was a pretty much off-the-cuff meal that just happen to hit some good notes.

It started with a stop at the grocery store while I was out running errands after a dental appointment. I went “fishing” for something to prepare for dinner and was almost going to pick up some beef for stir fry. In the case I noticed a piece of a pork loin that had been split lengthwise. It was labeled “Pork Loin for Barbecue” and that got me thinking, “What if…”

So, I snatched up the pork and headed for the checkout line.  On the way home a plan started to come together in my mind.

I threw together a dry rub and applied it to the pork loin. I put the meat in a glass dish, covered it with plastic wrap and set it in the fridge for the afternoon.

While I took the dogs on their evening walk, I started finalizing the menu and the plan of attack. Some cheese grits and a salad to round out the menu. Caramelized onions and a little sauce of some sort to add a little “pizzaz!”  It sounded like a plan.

By time I got back home with the dogs and fed them, I had the meal completely envisioned.

Judging from Ann’s directive, it worked. So I complied and wrote it down.

Barbecue Pork Loin

  • 1 piece pork loin, cut in half lengthwise (about 1.75 – 2.0 pounds)
  • Dry rub (make your own or use your favorite store-bought one), enough to cover the meat on all sides

Rinse and pat dry the pork loin. Lay the roast, fat side down on a cutting board and make a few shallow slits across it. Flip the meat over and apply a generous amount of rub and pat it in well. Lay the loin, fat side down, in a glass dish deep enough to contain the juices that will leak out of the meat. Apply a good coating of the rub to the top side, making sure to work it into the shallow slits you made earlier. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for four hours or overnight.

Take roast out of refrigerator and let come to room temperature. Prepare your grill (gas or charcoal, doesn’t matter) and once ready, put the pork on the grill over indirect heat, fat side down. Cover and let cook for 7 to 10 minutes. Turn over (fat side up) and let cook until meat thermometer reads 145 degrees farenheit (40 -45 minutes) . Remove from heat, cover with foil and let rest for 10 minutes.

Slice thinly, garnish with some caramelized onions, a drizzle of your favorite barbecue sauce and serve with cheese grits and a tossed salad.   Serves four.

Cheese Grits

  • 1 cup yellow corn grits (polenta)
  • 4 cups stock, water, milk or combination (I used about a cup of corn cob stock and three cups water)
  • salt
  • 1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
  • 1 tablespoon sweet butter

Bring liquid to boil in a saucepan large enough to hold it and the cornmeal with room to stir.  Add salt to taste…be careful if using canned stocks, they may be salty enough.

Slowly add the corn grits while whisking briskly to avoid lumps. Grits will start to thicken, turn down heat and cook for about 20 minutes, stirring frequently to avoid sticking. Add cheese and butter and stir well. Remove from heat and cover. Will hold for a few minutes until serving. If it thickens too much, add a little more warm liquid and stir until well incorporated.

Caramelized Onions

  • 1 very large or 2 medium onions, peeled, cut in half and sliced thinly
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons light olive oil and/or sweet butter
  • pinch of salt
  • 3 to 4 ounces of good bourbon

In a skillet just large enough to hold all the raw onion, heat the oil/butter over medium flame. Add the onion and stir. Sprinkle in the salt, stir again until all the onion has been coated with oil and the pieces start to separate. Reduce heat to low – medium/low. Let cook slowly, stirring occasionally to make sure onions take on an even golden and then brownish color. Do not let them stick or burn, about 45 minutes or so. OPTION: after onions are soft and sweetly caramelized, you can add a little bourbon (be careful around an open flame) or beer to the pan and continue cooking until the liquid evaporates. Use to garnish plates.  Good on burgers, too. (Make a big batch and freeze some for later use).

 

Ragù di cinghiale in polenta

April 22, 2012

Polenta with wild boar sauce

I don’t know why, but when I ran across a wild boar “mini-roast” at a local market, I had to buy it.

Let’s blame it on the trips to Italy, the reading up on Italian cuisine and culture. I just knew I could make something really good out of this piece of meat.

The experiments began. My first attempt was palatable, but not quite what I was looking for. Eager to hit the mark, I pressed on.

I think I have hit it. The recipe below is the latest version. And I admit it is but a mere representation of the process. You have to taste. You have to imagine. You have to adjust. Use the best of what you have on hand. Go for it. The worst thing you can say is that you know what to do differently next time.

The recipe below should serve four hungry people nicely. Maybe six “normal” people.  It is easily scaled up to serve more if need be.

Wild Boar Ragu

  • 1 tbs fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1.5 LB wild boar*, cut into 3/4 inch pieces
  • 3 sprig fresh rosemary
  • 2 T fresh oregano
  • 6 – 8 fresh sage leaves 1/4 pound pancetta diced
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 large onion 4-5 cloves garlic 1/2 cup carrots, finely diced 1/2 cup sweet pepper 1/4 cup Vin Santo or Brandy 1 14 1/2 oz can chicken stock or more, as needed 6 – 8 ounces red wine
  • seasonings: kosher salt, coarsely ground pepper
  • 2-3 T tomato paste, as needed

Prep ingredients: lightly toast fennel seeds and red pepper flakes, set aside.

Strip leaves from rosemary sprigs, set aside.

Strip leaves from oregano stems, set aside.

Remove sage leaves from stems, set aside.

Place fennel, red pepper, rosemary, oregano and sage in mini-chopper, food processor, blender or chop finely by hand. Add a pinch of salt and black pepper (if using mechanical device, throw whole black pepper corns into mix).

Sprinkle diced boar meat with just enough seasoning mix to cover. Toss with hands. Add some more spice mix. Toss. Repeat until meat is just nicely covered with seasoning set aside in non-reactive bowl for up to 1/2 hour at room temperature. Longer if in refrigerator.

Put pancetta in a heavy stock pot or sauce pan and render out fat over medium low heat.

In the meantime, finely dice the carrot, sweet pepper and onion.

When the fat has rendered out of the pancetta, remove the meat from the pan set aside.

If need be, augment fat in pan with up to a tablespoon of olive oil. Let come up to temp.

Turn heat up to medium and brown off seasoned boar meat in batches. Do not overcrowd pan.

When all meat is browned, deglaze pan with brandy or vin santo. Be careful regarding the alcohol and the open flame.

Add carrots to deglazed pot and stir. Let cook, stirring often, until slightly softened and just browning. About five minutes.

Add onion and pepper to pot. Stir often until softened. About 10 minutes

Smash and chop garlic, add to pot once vegetables are softened.

Stir and cook for 2 -3 minutes.

Make a spot in the center of the pot and add 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons of tomato paste. Let brown for just a moment and then stir to mix into vegetables.

Add reserved meat and any juices back into pot. Stir to mix thoroughly.

Adjust heat to medium.

Add red wine. Stir and let alcohol cook off and wine reduce.

Add stock. Stir and bring to boil. Reduce heat until just simmering, partially cover and let cook for an hour. Check frequently. Adjust heat downward if necessary; add stock if needed to keep mixture loose.

This mixture should simmer slowly covered until the meat has fallen apart into shreds and the sauce thickened. Shoot for a minimum of two hours, five to six is better. If you have to add liquid, use a flavorful stock and/or more wine.

About 15 minutes before you plan to serve, check for seasonings and adjust as necessary. If the ragu is a little too thin, add another tablespoon or so of tomato paste. Stir and cook to desired consistency.

Serve over polenta, tagliatelle, or maltagliati.

*d’Artagnan produces wild boar roast which can be found in higher-end grocery stores or ordered from the web at http://www.dartagnan.com/51346/565651/Wild-Boar/Free–Range-Wild-Boar-Mini-Roast.html They also sell wild boar shoulder and wild boar stew meat.

And if, like me, you had the question about “wild boar” being processed and available in a supermarket, the d’artagnan website explains it this way:

Lean and full flavored, D’Artagnan free-range wild boar bears little resemblance to traditional domesticated pork.

First of all, our wild boars are actually wild. Humanely cage trapped in Texas then brought to USDA-inspected processing plants, where they are thoroughly examined. The wild boars take foraging seriously. They eat greens, native roots, acorns, and pretty much any agricultural crop they can access. As a result, farmers and ranchers in Texas are fully supportive of the law that encourages hunters and trappers to cut down on the population of these nuisance hogs. This works to your advantage, because even in a state as large as Texas, they can’t eat all the wild boar!

Robust enough to stand up to a strong red wine, as well as sauces and rubs, wild boar meat offers a distinctive taste—lean, and pork-like, but more intense, with darker color and tighter grain. Their wild-foraged diet contributes to the unique flavor.

Simply marinate lightly with a balsamic vinaigrette and skewer with sweet peppers, porcini mushrooms, and Vidalia onions for an incredible, easy- to-prepare grilled feast. Also makes a lovely replacement for the other white meat in pork stews, soups or chili.

Truly wild

Natural foraged diet of grass, roots, nuts, fruits, acorns and grains

No hormones

No antibiotics

USDA inspected

Still squeamish? I suppose you could use a boneless boston butt and scale the recipe as required.

Polenta

  • 1 1/3 cups polenta (corn meal)
  • 4 cups water
  • 4 bay leaves
  • salt
  • 1/2 cup half/half
  • 1/3 cup grated cheese
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 T butter
  • 1/2 cup parmigiano reggiano

Bring the water to a boil in a saucepan. Throw in the bay leaves and simmer for 20 minutes.

Remove the bay leaves, salt the water to taste.

Increase heat to get a nice boil.

Slowly whisk in the cornmeal until you have a smooth porridge.

Stir often enough to keep the grain from sticking and burning and until you have thick, almost gelatinous mass. (30 – 45 minutes depending).

About 10 minutes in, stir in 1/4 cup of the half and half.

Twenty minutes in, stir in another cup of half and half.

When the polenta is pulling away from the sides of the pot, remove from heat. Stir in the butter, parmigiano and black pepper to taste.

Spread on a serving platter. Top with ragu and serve.

I hate Mondays (sometimes)

December 20, 2011

Mondays.

While I don’t normally think the worst of the first day of the work week, sometimes they just don’t get off to a good start. It had been one of those days.

By the time I was grabbing my second cup of coffee, I was getting agitated with various and sundry “things.” A walk to city hall and then the bank to take care of a couple of errands chilled me a little but upon returning home found the aggravation level going up again due to some computer “issues.”

The question came up about dinner and was solved with grabbing a couple of boneless, skinless chicken breasts out of the freezer. Sort of.

The way the day had started I thought it might be advisable to come up with something more pleasing than some dry old sautéed chicken breasts accompanied by some yellow rice or a baked potato.

I started taking a mental inventory of what we had on hand in the pantry and a plan began to take shape. Something warm and comforting. And out of the ordinary.

Chicken paprikas came to mind. While I had eaten paprikas (veal or chicken) dozens of times, I had never made it. Well, once, I just sort of dusted some cut up chicken breasts with paprika, browned them off and made a quick pan gravy with some stock and a little butter/flour roux. I knew there was more to the dish so I did a quick Google and looked at the first entry that came up.

It was a link to this entry on Food.com. I had just about everything I needed, except sour cream. But there was a half of a half pint of light cream in the fridge. I bet I could make this work.

So, using the recipe provided by the late BoxO’Wine on Food.com, I put together what I referred to as my “half a**sed chicken paprikas” for the two of us. It passed the test. It might not be 100% authentic but I gotta tell ya it was quite tasty.

There can be no denying, the key is good paprika and I was fortunate to have not one but three tins of Spanish smoked paprika purchased through La Tienda. This assortment of La Chinata paprika includes one, 2.5 ounce tin each of sweet, bittersweet and hot paprikas. And I put all three to work.

The paprikas smelled great while it was cooking (and that was no small feat because I was also braising the brisket for the next night’s Hanukkah dinner and IT smelled pretty good too). I wished I had a bottle of “Bulls Blood” on hand to go with the dish. A California Merlot would have to do.

It was a pretty good ending for what had started off as a less than spectacular day. Not bad for a half-a**ed attempt at a classic.

Half A**ed Chicken Paprikas (for two)

  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into pieces approximately 1/4 inch thick
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 2 tablespoons Spanish smoked paprika, 1 each sweet and bittersweet
  • fresh ground black pepper to taste
  • salt to taste
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 or 2 tablespoons of butter
  • 1 small onion, sliced thinly lengthwise
  • 1 tablespoon Spanish sweet, smoked paprika
  • 1/8 teaspoon Spanish hot, smoked paprika (can use cayenne pepper in a pinch)
  • 1 can (14.5 oz) chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup sour cream (or, in a pinch light cream)

Mix flour, paprikas, salt and black pepper in a plastic bag large enough to hold all the chicken slices.  Add the chicken, seal the bag and toss to coat evenly.  Remove the chicken and reserve the seasoned flour.

Add oil to Dutch oven or large skillet and heat over medium high flame until shimmering. Place chicken in pan and brown on each side.

Remove the chicken pieces from the pan and set aside. Add butter and a little more oil to the pan. Once butter has melted, toss in onions sweet and hot paprika (or cayenne) and a pinch of salt. Sauté until the onions have softened, 2 or 3 minutes.

Add chicken back to the pan along with the can of chicken stock.

Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat to simmer.  Cover and cook for 15 to 20 minutes.

Remove from heat and let paprikas cool down.

Whisk the reserved flour into the light or sour cream until well blended and smooth.

Add small amount of liquid from pot into flour/cream mixture and stir until mixed thoroughly. This tempers the dairy product so it won’t break when you add it, stirring constantly, back into the pot.

Simmer 5 minutes. Ladle over egg noodles.  Pour some nice, but not expensive red wine and accompany with a tossed salad.

Serves 2 (with a little left over for lunch the next day).

 

Fegato alla Veneziana

November 2, 2011

Everything sounds and tastes better in Italian.

Take for instance, liver and onions.

When we were kids, we knew when we would be served one of our occasional meals of liver and onions.  The aroma of bacon frying followed immediately by the smell of cooking onions would tip us off to a dinner of dry, mealy, strong flavored liver.

Dad liked it. None of the rest of us did, but if that was what Mom cooked that night, that was what we ate.

So what was it that tempted me to order Fegato alla Veneziana on our first night in Venice?

We had wandered around trying to get oriented and it was time to settle down and have dinner. The restaurant we chose had a three-course prix fix meal option, so we took our seats at a table in the little garden in the rear and perused our menu choices.

Nero di seppie (cuttlefish in squid ink sauce with pasta),  was my starter.  Liver and onions was my second course.  I knew that this was considered a regional specialty and it came served with polenta so just how bad could it be.

I was not disappointed.

The dish came out, thin slices of slightly pink liver, golden brown, aromatic onions and a nice serving of soft polenta.  I couldn’t wait to dig in and was rewarded with nothing like my mother’s liver and onions (no offense, Mom).  The liver was moist and tender; not at all like I was used to growing up. The sweet, soft onions smoothed out the flavor (liver and onions have a natural affinity…think about a liverwurst sandwich with a thick slice of raw onion).  The polenta provided its own creamy, sweet corn taste to the dish. Excellent!

I’m not going to say I will be serving or eating fried liver regularly, but I can definitely say this is a simple and easy way to prepare what is actually a nourishing dish.

Fegato alla Venenziana

Liver and onions Venetian style

  • ½-pound fresh calf’s liver, trimmed of all skin, membrane and veins. Sliced ¼ inch thick and no more than two inches long.
  • 2 cups onion thinly sliced
  • 3 tbs of olive oil
  • 2 tbs of sweet butter, divided
  • 1 cup of polenta (corn meal)
  • 4 cups of water
  • Salt
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • Grated Pecorino Romano cheese

In a large skillet over medium low flame, melt two tablespoons of the butter into the olive oil. Add the onion, sprinkle with salt and cook, stirring as needed until soft and medium brown; about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring water to boil in saucepan. Salt the water and slowly add the corn meal while whisking it in to avoid lumps. When all the corn meal has been added, continue to stir until the porridge is bubbling. Turn down heat so that it is at an active simmer but not a boil. Cover. After 10 minutes, stir vigorously for two minutes. Cover and keep an eye on it. Polenta is done when it pulls from the sides of the pan.

When the onions have browned and softened, remove from pan with a slotted spoon. Raise the heat and add the liver pieces, making sure NOT to crowd the pan. Season with salt and pepper. Sear and flip over.  Turn the heat down and add back the onions. Cut the heat under the pan and stir to mix the liver and onions.  The liver should be cooked through, but still a little pink (not gray).

If your timing is right, the polenta should just be done. Stir in the remaining tablespoon of butter and some grated pecorino Romano. Season with some fresh ground black pepper.

To plate, spoon some polenta onto a warm plate, add half of the liver and half of the onions. Repeat with a second plate, the remaining liver and the rest of the onions.

Serves 2

Try it, you might like it!

Another all day sandwich

October 23, 2010

Salame and eggs doesn’t seem to be as common or popular as when I was younger, but it still makes a great anytime sandwich.

Follow the directions for the pepper and egg sandwich, substitutinng about 4 ounces of kosher or hard salame for the cubanelle peppers.

Pizza with clams (pizza bianca con vongole)

September 5, 2010

A gorgeous Sunday with no plans other than lunch at home and that meant pizzas from the grill.  While I knew one would be a traditional pizza margherita, I hadn’t made up my mind what the second would be.

Pizza with clams

Stopping by the seafood adjacent to the Farmer’s Market answered the question: Pizza bianca con vongole (White Clam Pizza).    

This simple pie provides all the taste of linguini w/clam sauce in the convenient form of a slice or two of pizza.

Pizza bianca con vongole

  • 1 pizza crust (ready made or from scratch)
  • 3 – 4 cloves of garlic minced
  • ¼ cup of extra virgin olive oil
  • 18 fresh littleneck clams*
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, minced
  • 1 ½ tablespoons dried oregano
  • 1 generous tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes (or to taste)
  • Scant ¼ cup grated mozzarella

Add minced garlic to olive oil and set aside.

On pre-heated grill (or pre-heated baking stone in 500 degree oven), gently bake the pizza shell until lightly browned on each side. 2 to 3 minutes per side.  Watch closely and don’t let burn.  Remove from oven.

Brush top of pizza shell with some of the garlic oil and let rest while preparing the topping.

Remove clams from shells, reserving liquid and chop roughly.* Set aside.

Sprinkle the cheese over the pizza shell.  Add the minced garlic to taste.  Spread the chopped clams over the crust.  Add the minced parsley, oregano and red pepper.  Drizzle a teaspoon or two of the reserved clam juice over the pie and return to hot oven.

Bake until cheese melts and top crust had browned slightly.

Remove from oven and let rest for five minutes.  Slice and serve with chilled Vernaccia di San Gimignano.

*if you are not adept at opening clams, you can pop them on the hot grill just until they open or you can substitute two cans of minced clams.  Remember to reserve the juices for drizzling over the pie.

San Marzano tomatoes

August 16, 2010

Anyone who reads up on Italian cooking sooner or later comes across a mention of San Marzano tomatoes.    

San Marzano Tomatoes

San Marzano’s are an heirloom variety of plum tomato revered for their outstanding flavor fresh or in sauces.  The San Marzano designation on commercial products is a European Union D.O.P (denominazione di origine protetta or Protected Designation of Origin) limited to tomatoes of the variety grown in a specific area outside of Naples, Italy.  

Canned San Marzano’s bring a premium price, even from the mainstream purveyors like Cento.  Taste tests we’ve done over the past year or so repeatedly demonstrate the superior flavor of this specific type of tomato.

Wandering through the Trenton Farmers’ Market one day last week, I noticed baskets labeled “San Marzano” and couldn’t resist.  Now, I completely understand that they can’t be real San Marzano’s in the sense of the D.O.P because they were not grown in the volcanic soils of southern Italy.  But I had to take a shot anyway.

Ann and I did a little taste test comparing the local San Marzano’s with an Early Girl (a fairly common and popular globe-type tomato) from a vine struggling through this hot, dry summer in my garden.  The San Marzano was noticeably sweeter, without the pronounced acid bite finish of the Early Girl.   My overall impression is that the local San Marzano is ok, but lacked some of the flavor punch of the real ones grown and processed in Italy.  If I were prone to putting up my own tomato sauce for the winter, I might add some of the locally grown San Marzano’s into the batch with the ubiquitous Roma variety of plum tomatoes, but I doubt I would spend the extra couple of bucks per basket to use them exclusively.

What I did do with some of the San Marzano’s I bought at the market was make a fresh tomato “sauce” inspired by one Scott Conant discussed on the radio a couple of weeks ago.

  • 7 ripe plum type tomatoes
  • 3 ounces fresh mozzarella
  • ¼ cup fresh basil leaves
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt
  • 1 pound penne pasta

Cut the tomatoes into a ½ inch dice and place in large bowl.  Cut mozzarella into roughly ½ inch cubes and add to tomatoes in bowl.  Tear the basil leaves by hand and add to bowl. Sprinkle with salt and drizzle olive oil over.  Toss and let sit at room temperature while you prepare the pasta.

Diced tomatoes, basil and mozzarella

Cook the pasta in boiling, salted water per package directions.  When al dente, drain and add to bowl with tomato, cheese, basil mixture.  Toss. 

Penne tossed with tomatoes, basil and mozzarella

Serve.

The siren of the nightshade family

August 12, 2010

Grilled eggplant slices

I couldn’t resist the piles of eggplants mounded up in front of all the vendor stalls at the Trenton Farmers’ Market this morning.  Although they weren’t on the “shopping list” I knew I wasn’t going home without one.

Low in calories, high in dietary fiber and containing a decent amount of vitamins, eggplants are common in Mediterranean and Asian cuisines.  Too often, they are integrated and decorated with too many other ingredients that mask the character of the fruit (botanically, actually a berry).   I like it prepared all kinds of ways; as the featured performer in a dish or part of the background chorus in a recipe.

Once lunch time rolled around, I knew what I was going to do with the big purple-black beauty sitting on the counter.  Grill it!

 

I sliced my eggplant about ½ inch thick…leaving the skin on makes the slices easier to handle.  Seasoned and oiled the slices and then grilled them.  The skin will show some char, the top and bottom surfaces will show grill marks and be a little crispy, while the flesh in the middle will be soft, almost custardy.  The eggplant will have taken on the flavors of the oil and whatever seasonings you apply.

Serve the slices solo or as an accompaniment. 

Grilled Eggplant

  • 1 large, fresh eggplant.
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Salt
  • Balsamic vinegar (optional)

Get a grill preheating to medium high heat.

Cut the very ends off of the eggplant.

Cut crosswise in ½ inch thick slices.

Salt both sides of each slice lightly. (I used a specialty salt that is mixed with pieces of dried chili from Chilli Peppers, a restaurant in Kill Devil Hills, NC)

Brush with some olive oil, again on both sides. Be careful to not brush off the salt and any seasonings.

Place slices on preheated grill.  Cook for 5 to 7 minutes per side.  Splash with a bit of balsamic vinegar if desired.  Serve.

Funghi e Peperoncino

August 9, 2010

One of my favorite places for a satisfying meal used to be Cesare’s Cafe in the Chambersburg section of town. The Pingitore family always made guests feel welcome and no one ever left there hungry or dissatisfied. At least not that I know of.

At this time of the year, Cesare’s garden would be overrun with peppers and he would share the bounty. Guests would be treated to a free starter of hot peppers sautéed with mushrooms.

Funghi e peperoncino

Ann was at the Trenton Farmers’ Market Sunday and picked up a few hot peppers. That got me thinking about Cesare’s little treat.

Since we had a large and later than usual lunch this afternoon, I decided to pick up some mushrooms and make my own version. Accompanied with a glass of wine and a slice (or two) of crusty bread for sopping up the juices, I had a light, savory and satisfying summer supper.

Funghi e peperoncino

  • Olive oil
  • ½ to ¾ pounds of fresh mushrooms coarsely chopped*
  • 2 hot peppers (I used long, banana type peppers), cored and seeded, sliced into ¼ inch rings
  • Kosher salt
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • 4 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 2 – 3 Tbs dry white wine
  • 3 Tbs of minced fresh herbs (basil, oregano, thyme in this case)

Pour just enough oil in a large skillet to film the bottom and heat over medium high heat until it shimmers. Add mushrooms, sprinkle with a generous pinch of salt and a few turns of the pepper mill. Toss or stir frequently until they mushrooms give up their water and start to brown.

Add the cut up peppers and toss.

Add garlic and toss again. Make sure to NOT burn the garlic.

After 2 or 3 minutes, add the white wine.

Toss frequently until wine has reduced. Add fresh herbs, toss and serve.

*brown button mushrooms are fine, but tonight I used a mixture of brown, oyster and shiitake mushrooms.

This makes a great light meal, a good starter, or an accompaniment to grilled meats. It would also make a good topping for a pizza or flat bread.