Marinara Sauce – This Time it IS Your Italian Grandmother’s Red Gravy




This is one of those “application” posts.  So many things you can do once you master this simple sauce…

I like to use phrases like, “Not your Grandmothers’s…” (Like my“Not your Grandmother’s Herbes de Provence”).  Often, with availability of ingredients, new fangled cooking appliances or even building on years of other cooks experimenting, updated recipes really are better.  But also often, all you are really doing is dressing up a classic that doesn’t really need to be dressed up.

And marinara sauce is one of those things that really doesn’t need much of a dressing up.  Tomatoes are still available fresh, but only for a little while longer.  Cheap; $2.50 a pound is the going rate for sorted, top quality, and as little as a dollar for a bag if you are willing to take fluctuating sizes, a few bruises and variations in color.  For this recipe, grab the dollar a bag ones.  In fact, grab 5 or 6 bags.  Make a big batch, freeze in bags of 1 cup size each bag and you will be very glad you did.  February is just around the corner.  I don’t think my wife will take me to the tropics this year.  But with a few bags of these in the freezer, next winter, I can take my wife to the Mediterranean.  Well, at least her taste buds.

Need I add that this bounty all came from my Farmer’s Market.  If you missed it, I did a photo review of the Kansas City River Market.  Click HERE to see one of the best in the country.  Again… Farmer’s markets are terrific.. even this late in the season.


And you don’t need much to make this thick rich sauce.  All “real food”, nothing zingy.  But deep rich flavors will add all the zing you need.


1 TBS Extra Virgin Olive Oil
4 clove Garlic, smashed and minced
3 pounds ripe Tomatoes (a $1 bag), skins removed
1 tsp sugar
and a few leaves of Basil
2 TBS “Not your Grandmother’s Herbes de Provence”   
or, use the herbs you like, thyme, rosemary, lavender, whatever you please.  My  “Not your Grandmother’s Herbes de Provence” herb mixture works great, and since I always have a little bag of it handy, easy and fast, and is a ready made batch of the herbs I like.


Removing the skins is an easy thing to do.  Get a pot of water boiling, and have a bowl with ice water handy.  Cut an X into the top (not the vine end, the other end)just enough to break the skin.  Plunge them into the boiling water for only 15 seconds.  You want the outside to cook just a shade, but not so hot that the inside starts to cook.  Remove and plunge into the ice bath.  The skin peals easily now.


Smashing and mincing garlic is just as easy.  Take a wide chef’s knife, put a garlic clove between the flat of the knife and a cutting board and smash away with the flat of your hand.  Then just mince away.  Easy and fast!


And now, once all the prep work is done, it is finally time to cook.  In a big cast iron skillet, heat the olive oil.  Add the minced garlic and sauté for just a few minutes. 


While that is working, rough cut the tomatoes into quarters.  Be careful and don’t cut your hand, but best to quarter the tomatoes over the skillet. Every bit of juice you lose on the cutting board is just a bit less flavor.  Also, while you are cutting, remove any hard parts.  the stem end, and if the center is not ripe and red, pull it out.


Add a little sugar, add the “Not your Grandmother’s Herbes de Provence” spices (or your own favorites) and stew away at a gentle simmer.  At a simmer, it takes about 45 minutes for the tomatoes to break down properly.  BUT, the longer you allow them to simmer, the sweeter the sauce will be.  I was doing other things around the house, and let mine cook for an hour and a half.  If you have less time, you can cook at a higher heat.  But keep an eye on them and stir often so they do not scorch.


And here it is after the hour and a half… All bubbly, sweet and filled with flavors.  I moved this in a couple of batches into a food processor and pulsed for just a few times to break it up.  At the last minute, add some fresh minced Basil leaf.  If you want a thin sauce, pulse a lot.  If you want a thicker sauce, no real need to pulse at all.  Me, i like the smooth even look, texture and taste of a thick but not chunky sauce.


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Can you stand a little history???  As originally printed in theWISEGEEK.COM site…

Marinara sauce originated with sailors in Naples in the 16th century, after the Spaniards introduced the tomato to their neighboring countries. The word marinara is derived from marinaro, which is Italian for “of the sea.” Because of this, many people mistakenly believe marinara sauce includes some type of fish or seafood. However, marinara sauce loosely translates as “the sauce of the sailors,” because it was a meatless sauce extensively used on sailing ships before modern refrigeration techniques were invented. The lack of meat and the sheer simplicity of making tasty marinara sauce were particularly appealing to the cooks on board sailing ships, because the high acid content of the tomatoes and the absence of any type of meat fat resulted in a sauce which would not easily spoil.

Even though marinara sauce has a reputation for being easy to make at home, there are currently several hundred different types of marinara offered on the market. Perhaps the increased popularity of marinara sauce is due to recent research which revealed that cooked tomatoes are rich with lycopene, an antioxidant which may help reduce the risk of certain types of cancer.

Written by A. B. Kelsey

 So, simple, fast, easy to make and much richer than the jars you get in the stores.  And CHEAPER!  Save a dollar here and 50 cents there, and you have the budget to buy those little extras (like Kalamata Olives that add so much extra flavor to a simple tuna casserole (well, not so simple actually)).  But, that’s a post for another day.


And the go great with some pasta and meatballs… And that’s today’s subject of my post on my own site… Take a look





Dave here from MY YEAR ON THE GRILL. It really is just this easy!  

 … I CAN COOK THAT! 

And so can you!

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Mushroom/Tomato Goat Cheese Pizza and a dough recipe

I love pizza! 
Here’s a funny little stat… I make @8 pizzas every two weeks.  I always use a fresh baked from scratch dough.  That sounds like a lot, and it sounds like a lot of work, but nope.
Easy as pie (pizza pie) to make your own dough.  I actually use a modified flatbread recipe (it has a small amount of yeast, but no rising time) for my dough.  I make it in a large batch, divide the batch into 4ths.  That is the perfect size to make 2 personal size pizzas.  One with my wife’s favorite toppings and one with the better toppings for me.
Once I have the dough, I store the divides in separate ziplock bags in the fridge.  If I don’t plan to make the za’s within the two weeks, these freeze just fine.  With the aid of my kitchenaid, it takes 15 minutes to make the dough; just a little longer back when I kneaded everything by hand.  That’s a small investment in time for 8 pizzas.
This was my lunch yesterday…
Leftover Mushrooms sliced, 
Leftover Tomatoes, 
Leftover Goat Cheese 
A sprinkling of Balsamic Vinegar
and a sprinkling of my “Not your grandmother’s Herbes de Provence” spicemix!
___________________________
If you are a novice bread maker, this pizza dough recipe is about as easy as it gets.  Just enough yeast to make the insides of the crust sweet and soft.  But crisps up nicely on the outside.  The dough goes right from the kneading process to the fridge.  So, there is no rise time to complicate the process.

The flour and water used in the mix should be as cold as possible.  That’s what allows the yeast to flavor the bread, but keeps the flatbread… flat. 

But I digress away from the recipe…

4 1/2 cups chilled Flour
1 3/4 teaspoon Salt
1 tsp instant Yeast
1/4 cup Olive Oil
1 3/4 cups COLD Water (40 degrees)

OK, did you read the 2 cold ingredients. Takes an extra hour or two of planning, I measure the water and the flour and pop them in the fridge for a couple hours to get cold. The small amount of yeast, relative to the amount of flour and the cold will make for a flat bread, almost no fermentation (rise). Just enough to soften the taste, but not make a big rise. In my pre Kitchenaid days, I mixed and kneaded this recipe in a gallon size ziplock bag. Worked great, largely I believe because of the oil in the recipe. Without that, the dough would be too sticky to mix in a bag. But this sure made clean up easy.

Here’s what I did…

  • Mix the dry ingredients first
  • add the water and oil about a fourth of each at a time
  • mix well until all the flour is hydrated and you form a large dough ball in your bag 
  • continue kneading for about 10 minutes, or if you use your kitchenaid, use the dough hook attachment, and allow the machine to knead for 7 minutes
  • And now, time to divide… Generously sprinkle a work surface with flour. Also, prepare 4 ziplock sandwich size bags (bigger works fine as well) by spraying the insides of them with spray canola oil.
  • Plop the dough ball into the flour and coat well. Divide into 4 equal parts (or fewer if you know you are making larger pizzas). Put each dough ball into a prepared ziplock bag and refrigerate at least 6 hours, and preferably overnight. When it comes cooking time, allow the dough to reach room temp.
When it comes cooking time, allow the dough to reach room temp.
If you are making one big one, just roll out round and flat (actually, any shape you like).  Add your toppings and bake in a preheated 500 degree oven for 10-12 minutes.
Not a bad lunch!
Dave here from MY YEAR ON THE GRILL. It really is just this easy!  

 … I CAN COOK THAT! 

And so can you!

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Caramelized Bacon Bits from Roast Mortem Ala Cleo Coyle

This is actually a PART TWO of a post I started on my own blog.


I wrote the recipe for a wonderful Mac ‘n’ Cheese over at My year on the Grill.  Click HERE to see that post.


This is one of those posts where I really wish I could give you all one of those little sample tastes in a thimble cup you get at a grocery store.  Once you go “real” Mac ‘n’ Cheese with these candy bits, you’ll never go blue.  It is the caramelized Pig Candy bacon bits that really makes this dish stand out as the best you will ever have!

“These bits of caramelized bacon make a delicious salty sweet topping for any cheesy casserolet”.  – Cleo Coyle author and recipe genius, ROAST MORTEM.

Yes, if you’ve been paying attention, yet another of the prolific six merry murderesses of the MYSTERY LOVERS’ KITCHEN has written a new book!



At this point, you should hit the play button on the youTube clip below… I always like to have the soundtrack on in the background when I write up anything to do with the ladies of the mystery kitchen…

I have never met the ladies personally, but I envision a book tour with all 6 of them singing and dancing to the Cell Block Tango (bet it would be their most successful book signing event ever).  Like notches on my kitchenAid, this is the third book from the ladies I have read and enjoyed.  The completest in me wants to hit on (literary speaking) all 6.  Stay tuned.

As an aside, whenever I put the Cell Block tango song together with the murderesses from the MYSTERY LOVERS’ KITCHEN, I always picture Cleo in a bad cop movie with the swinging single bare light bulb above her head as she explains to the cop that “He ran into my knife 10 times”.
 

But I digress.

If you have never been,  the MYSTERY LOVERS’ KITCHEN is a blog with alternating cozy mystery writers (all with book series centered around different foods) post a recipe and allow us to glimpse in on the life of a writer.  A fun site, worth a look (actually 6 looks, as they alternate days, with a guest author on Sundays).



Cleo Coyle’s specialty is coffee and coffee shop type foods.  ROAST MORTEM is the 9th in her “Coffeeshop Mystery series.  While it is 9th in the series, it is very accessible for new readers.  I was able to find the first book in the series a few days ago, but have not read any of the books in between.  While there are changes in the lives of the coffee shop folks, nothing that you have to know in order to enjoy the latest book.

The series, set in a NYC Coffee House, is among the best I have ever read.  Roast Mortem is an homage to NYC Firefighters.  The book starts out with a bang when cafes around town are being torched and firemen are being killed.  Cleo walks the fine line between gruesome and disturbing; and fast paced and action packed perfectly.  While this book will be pigeon holed as a cozy, in fact, it holds it’s own as a Lawrence Block style thriller.  I totally enjoyed the book.  Lovers of New York, Coffee, cozy comfy escapist coffee shops and feisty heroines will love the series and this book in particular.

Like all of the books in the series, the recipes for the food that fits into the blot are included.  Now, I have to walk a fine line here, because I know that the other murderesses are going to be reading this, but Cleo’s recipes and instructions are hands down the best I have ever seen in a cozy (guess I stepped over that line).  Her attention to detail, as well as the little “extras”, hints that will make your efforts a success imply that she really wants to have her recipes made.

let me give you an example… In the recipe I gave for the Mac ‘n’ Cheese (Click HERE to see that post), she gives two hints that will make your cream sauce not separate, and a hint to prevent the sauce from clumping at the bottom instead of clinging to the pasta.  These hints could have been either left out, or just be included as instructions.  By drawing attention to the “hints”, she emphasizes the potential roadblocks to a success.  Without the benefit of a photo of a dish, we are dependent on the instructions.  Personally, I need and value all the hints I can get.

So, with thanks to Cleo who gave me permission to reprint her recipe, here’s what I did (and this is one of those rare times I did not change a thing)…

CARAMELIZED BACON BITS


1 pound Bacon, cut into small bite sized pieces
1/2 cup packed Dark brown Sugar

Step 1 – Slice and Saute: On medium high heat, sauté the bacon bits in a large skillet stirring often until half cooked (still soft and flexible, with fat just begining to change color).  Drain the rendered fat from the pan.

Step 2 – Caramelize: Reduce the heat to medium.  Add the brown sugar to the pan and stir until dissolved.  Continue cooking and stirring until the bacon crisps up.  remove from heat and drain and cool in a single layer on a sheet pan or other clean dry surface (Hint: DO NOT cool on a paper towel.  the bacon gets sticky and the towel will become a permanent part of the glaze).  The longer you allow to cool, the crisper the bacon will become..

Step 3 – Assemble and Bake: After the Mac ‘n’ Cheese is done cooking, top with the pig candy and you are all set for one of the great side dishes of all time!

Oh, and not only did I make caramelized bacon, but I also wanted to see what Caramelized Pulled Pork would taste like…

Using Cleo’s directions… it is candy hog heaven!



And here’s where I do that legal thing… Cleo was nice enough to send me a FREE (yes free… bwahahahaha free I tell ya) signed copy of the book, as well as gave me permission to reprint her recipe.  No promises of a positive review were made.  I loved the book, and the recipes are wonderful!  I am happy to tell the world!


Dave here from MY YEAR ON THE GRILL. It really is just this easy!  

 … I CAN COOK THAT! 

And so can you!

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Be a good steward of the earth…

Last night was a vegetarian meal for us. Something nice and cool, filling and healthy. It also was an excuse to use up a lot of what I had in the fridge.  It’s amazing what accumulates.  Time to see what I can do with what’s there..

Here’s what I came up with to empty the fridge and create something from not much…

Poach an egg… There is NOTHING better than a poached egg on a spinach salad. Cut into it and the yellow oozes out… YUM!
Saute some peppers and onions… I tried something new to me… I had some honey sitting on the shelf. thought, why not and added a couple tablespoons of honey to the saute pan. Made a nice contrast. Don’t over do the sauteing. I like to have a little crisp to the veggies in my salad, so the honey sweet, the raw onion taste and the crisp peppers made a nice combo of flavors.
Eggs on the spinach!
Line the edge of the salad with the sauteed vegetables.
Top with some walnuts…
And a little bottled Italian dressing and this is what we had to suffer through.


Quick and very tasty and much better than tossing in the trash!


Be a good steward of the earth.  Want what you buy, buy what you want and mostly use what you buy!


Dave here from MY YEAR ON THE GRILL. It really is just this easy!  

 … I CAN COOK THAT! 

And so can you!

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Raspberry Mousse – with a Raspberry Chipotle garnish sauce — REALLY, Chipotle

OK Ladies (and Chris), listen to me now and believe me later, but this is a real treat.

And yes, there really is Chipotle peppers in the sauce.

Just not many.

But first, the Mousse…

Here’s what I did…

2 cups fresh raspberries
1 tablespoon unflavored gelatin
1 tablespoon lemon juice
4 cups whipped cream
1/4 cup sugar

  • In a saucepan combine raspberries and sugar. Heat and stir over medium heat until turns to liquid. 
  • Stir in gelatin. 
  • Remove from heat and scrape into a large bowl. Let cool for 5 minutes. 
  • Remove chilled whipped cream from refrigerator. 
  • Mix 1 cup of whipped cream into raspberry mixture until well combined. 
  • Fold in remaining whipped cream. 

I also made a simple crust of crushed lemon cookies with a little butter.  Just crush the cookies and mix with some melted butter.

OK, that’s the part everyone will consider.  But the brave among you should ponder the joy of adding Chipotle sauce as a garnish.

This was an exciting week for me.  After much trial and MUCH error, I finally came up with a roasted Raspberry Chipotle sauce that tasted just as good as the much more expensive specialty brand.

I made some pulled pork using the sauce, and was thrilled!

Then I started to think…

The reason I like the sauce so much, a combination of heat (the chipotle peppers) and sweet (the raspberries) should be able to be translated into a dessert.

Chocolate and chipotle has been a secret among candy makers for a long time.  Not enough to hurt, just enough to add a little tiny extra something to the treat.

So, earlier this week, I added just a tiny bit to some chocolate cookies and the results were PERFECT!

Now I am using the sauce as a garnish, and it is equally good!  VERY VERY Good!

I went into detail about making the sauce (not hard, and you can find the details by clicking HERE.  I go into details about how the mouth works, why different parts of your tongue taste different seasonings differently.  But, that’s all science.  We don’t want science to get in the way of good eats.

And sweet and heat are indeed (que the music) “GOOD EATS”

Dave here from MY YEAR ON THE GRILL. It really is just this easy!  

 … I CAN COOK THAT! 

And so can you!

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It’s a Red Velvet Birthday Cake!

Greetings all!

What a great time we had while celebrating my friend and neighbor’s birthday.  Actually, it was the somewhere between 15th and 20th anniversary of the first time she turned 29, so this is really her anniversary of her birthday cake… but I digress.

Here it is in progress, all 4 tiers of it (special day, special cake).

I have a set of oval cake pans.  So a smaller base, but taller cake makes for a special presentation.

Just a couple of hints, the butter cream frosting I used needs to be just slightly chilled, while the cake must be completely cooled before you start frosting it.  Think about it, a warm cake will melt the frosting.  And a harder cold frosting will tear holes in the cake while you frost it.

Also, I used a full bottle of the red food coloring to get the red cake look.  The more, the merrier!

The pink frosting has a bit of peppermint flavoring added.

The clowns are made with a large tip at the end of a pastry bag.

Make the body from a big glob of starred frosting, then add the arms and legs.  the clown heads are from broken toys.

Red Velvet Cake is legendary for it’s chocolate richness, buttercream icing decadence and the beauty of the red cake contrasted with the white icing.  Bobby Flay did one of his Throwdown shows about Red Velvet cake a few years ago.  A simple Google search came up with that recipe on the Food Network Website and I stuck to it…



Ingredients For the Cake  



  • 3 3/4 cups AP Flour
  • 3 tablespoons Dutch processed cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cups vegetable oil
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure Vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon red food coloring
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk, at room temperature
  • The Frosting Recipe Follows

For the cake:

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour 2 (9-inch) cake pans and line each pan with a round of parchment paper.
Whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt in a small bowl
Cream the butter, sugar and oil in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl and beat until incorporated. Beat in the vanilla, vinegar and food coloring.
Add the flour mixture to the batter in 3 batches alternating with the buttermilk, mixing well after each addition. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans and bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until a wooden skewer inserted into the center comes out with a few moist crumbs. Cool on a baking rack for 15 minutes before removing the cake from the pans. Let cool completely before frosting. Slice each cake into 2 layers and frost.

Frosting:

  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
  • 7 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups superfine sugar
Combine the cream, milk, vanilla bean and seeds in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Remove the vanilla bean and discard. Add the flour and cook, whisking constantly, until thickened to a paste, about 2 minutes. Scrape into a bowl, cover and refrigerate until very cold, at least 2 hours.
Combine the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and beat until the mixture is very fluffy and the sugar is totally dissolved, about 6 minutes. Add the cold paste, a few tablespoons at a time to the butter mixture and whip until light and fluffy.


Just as good as it looks!

Dave here from MY YEAR ON THE GRILL. It really is just this easy!  

 … I CAN COOK THAT! 

And so can you!

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“Colors of the Caribbean” Lemonade

We made it… safe and sound and home.  While I did indeed cook a great many dishes on the island, when we returned, we wanted to have a theme drink to serve our friends while we bored them with our stories and photographs.
Like this one…
See that beautiful color of the ocean.  This photo was taken in “the Baths” in Virgin Gorda, of the British Virgin Isles.  I just fell in love with the colors of the Caribbean waters, and wanted to recreate this color in a drink.
So, I give you the “Colors of the Caribbean” Lemonade
Start with 1/2 a pitcher (about 5 cups) of your favorite Lemonade
Add 1 cup Blue Alize Liqueur (blue Alize is a French Cognac mixture with Passion Fruit, Cherries, Ginger and other exotic fruit juices.
Fill with ice
Garnish with Lemon Slices
Serve in tall Collins size glass, and garnish with Lemon Slices
And it is just that simple.  So far, as long as we keep the drinks flowing, no one minds listening to our stories too much.

Dave here from MY YEAR ON THE GRILL. It really is just this easy!  

 … I CAN COOK THAT! 

And so can you!

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Orange Glazed Sesame Shrimp

It’s all over but the shouting.  Day after tomorrow (Saturday), we are off to the land of OZ.  So many things I will miss.  But so many things I have missed.  When we left god’s country (Kansas), it was February and there was 6 inches of snow and temperatures were in the teens.  Looking at the forecast, the 100 degree days are done.  Fall is coming and that is my favorite time to grill and entertain.  Nothing like a crisp fall evening, grilling up something fun and ending up with S’Mores around our fire-pit.  
Yes, I loved every minute I was here. 
Yes, I can’t wait to get home.
I have had an amazing time here.  Done so many things, seen so much, and have a new stack of T-shirts to prove it.  

And I learned to stop and smell the tropical flowers.

I highly recommend everyone living on a tropical island for six months (especially if one of them is February). Puts perspective on everything.
Orange Glazed Shrimp

1 cup Sugar
1 cup Red Wine Vinegar
2 Seedless Oranges, rind removed
1 TBS Honey
1 pound large Shrimp
Sesame Seed/Sea Salt/Garlic Flake mixture to taste
  1. Combine sugar and vinegar in a small sauce pan and cook over high heat until the sugar is melted.  Add the Oranges and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is reduced by half , 5 to 6 minutes.
  2. Transfer the mixture to a food processor and process until smooth.  Strain through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl.  Add the honey and season with the Salt and Pepper.
  3. Place half the glaze in a sauté pan.  Heat over medium heat and add the Shrimp.  Sauté until coated and heated.  I was using precooked shrimp, so all i was doing was heating.  Do not overcook the shrimp.  It will only take a couple of minutes.  Longer (but not much) if you are using raw shrimp.
  4. Add the sprinkle of seasonings (click HERE for the recipe of white and black sesame seeds, garlic flakes and sea salt – I LOVE it and use it for many things).  Add the sesame seed mix while the Shrimp is still in the pan.  The heat will open the seeds and add an aroma to the meal. 
Serve over rice.  The glaze can be made in advance.  Stores in the fridge for a week and can be used for lots of other foods.  How about an Orange Glazed Salmon (on the grill), or Orange Glazed Vegetables (on the grill), or Orange Glazed… Bacon (really, click HERE).

And once you Glaze Bacon with oranges, can Chocolate Covered Orange Glazed Bacon be far behind???
But That’s a post for another day.

Oh, and if you do move to a tropical island, get up early enough to see the sun rise from your deck.  It really is a great place to write your blog posts.
This really was the sunrise just 10 minutes ago, just as I was about to publish this post.  Un-retouched photo, but it looked even better in person.

See you next week from my beloved Cul de Sac

Dave here from MY YEAR ON THE GRILL. It really is just this easy!  

 … I CAN COOK THAT! 

And so can you!

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PASTA CAKE

Believe it or not, this is now one of my “comes together fast and is worthy of serving to guests” presentation recipes…

It really does come together fast.  It takes a little practice to get the shells stuffed, especially with just a ziplock bag.  Would take half the time if you used a pastry bag and wide tip.  But I am ahead of myself…

It really is easy, comes together fast and makes a great presentation…

Here’s what I did…

1 Box Rigatoni, cooked VERY al dente
some raw Spinach, washed, stems removed,
or 1 package of frozen cooked spinach (thawed)
1 pound spicy Italian Sausage, browned
1 tub of Ricotta Cheese
14 ounce jar of Marinara Sauce
1/2 pound of shredded Mozarella Cheese1/2 pound of sliced Mozzarella Cheese

Make do with what you have.  The original version of this recipe calls for the meal to be made in a springform cake pan.  So you build the layers from the bottom up.  I do not have a springform  cake pan here.  I do have an odd shaped pan that is mostly flat on the bottom.  But the sides do not easily remove like a springform pan.  So, I decided to try an upside down cake, build the layers from the top up and flip when the cake is cooked.

Put your rigatoni on to boil.  This is important, you want the pasta underdone.  The box says 10-12 minutes.  I cooked mine only 6 minutes.  It was perfect for what I wanted, which was cooked pasta, but still retains it’s shape.  You will see why in a minute…

Meanwhile, I browned the sausage, and layered the bottom of my pan with the sausage.  I added a thick layer of spinach (it will cook down thin when the cake is done).

Next stand up the barely cooked rigatoni.  
Next up, you want to stuff the shells with the ricotta cheese.  Using a pastry bag with a long tip would work great.  My pastry bag with long tip is in Kansas.  I put the cheese is a ziplock bag, cut just a tiny end of one corner and squeezed a bit into each shell.  Worked fine.

Next, I added a layer of Mozzarella Cheese.  This layer of cheese will hold the whole thing together when it cools, and is very important.  Be sure to put a good bit around the edges. 

Add the Marinara Sauce over the top and spread it around.  As the cake cooks, the sauce will blend into the ricotta cheese and ooze into the shells nicely.

Pop this into a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 30 minutes.

The grease from the sausage will keep it from sticking, but the sides need to have a knife sliced around the sides so it pops out easily…

Put a plate on it, flip over and viola!

I did add at least 1/2 a pound of Mozzarella Cheese, and pop that under the broiler till the cheese melted and browned nicely.

Slices like a cake… Almost like a lasagne cake!

Dave here from MY YEAR ON THE GRILL. It really is just this easy!  

 … I CAN COOK THAT! 

And so can you!

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Polenta with Talegio Cheese ala Year on the Grill via "the Long Quiche Goodbye"

Good Morning…

I’m older than dirt, but learning every day.

But, I am too lazy, too unfocused and too undisciplined to go back to school (don’t really know what I want to be when I grow up, but that’s another story).

I am a BIG fan of murder mysteries and what I like to call “Gentle Learning”.  here’s what I wrote just a couple days ago…
(3 is a magic number).

There is a NEW murder mystery series just released.  I can’t imagine anything more exciting than an authors first published book.  Avery Aames has authored, “The Long Quiche Goodbye”.  That’s the first in a planned series of books set in the cheese shop (Fromagerie Bessesse is the actual name, but everyone in town calls it “The cheese Shop”).

I was very excited when I first heard of Avery’s book.  First, she is “one of us”.  Some of you may know her as one of the Six merry murderesses from The Mystery Lover’s Kitchen.  All six of the contributing authors of the blog are published authors, all mysteries, and all their books have food themes, most with recipes included in their books.  The blog posts daily, with recipes and glimpses into their lives.  Fun daily read (and for contest whores fans among us, they have more give aways than any other blog I know of… but I digress).  My fellow bloggers out there, if/when you get a book deal, sign me up as the first to buy.  We should support our own!

But my new found blog buddy’s setting for the series really turned my crank.  I am pretty good with basic cheese knowledge.  I no longer buy bags of shredded cheese (the more air that gets to the cheese, the faster it losses it’s taste and goes bad, shredding adds surface area, so more air gets to the cheese… buy the bricks and shred yourself, cheaper, tastes better and stays fresh longer… but I digress).  I also buy “real” cheese, and not the low fat versions (half the amount of “real” cheese will add a fuller flavor than twice the amount of the less tasty substitute.  Half the amount is the tastiest way to cut the calories, not pretending you are getting the same taste… But now I am ranting and digressing… Back to “the long Quiche Goodbye”).  But aside from the basics, I still buy most of my cheeses from the tiny cheese section of my store.  My knowledge of better quality cheeses is lacking.  Much the way people of my generation still hum “3 is a magic number”, soft education is a great way to learn without the burden of schooling (extra points if you caught the “Schoolhouse Rocks” reference.  That’s where I was gently educated about math, while watching the Wonder Twins powers activate.  

Do you think the “Cheese Shop Mystery series” will do for cheese what Schoolhouse Rock did to teach me how a bill becomes a law???).  

And sure enough, in one of the recipes Avery provides in the book, I traveled to the only cheese shop on the island and found a new (well, it is at least 11 centuries old, but new to me) cheese… Taleggio Cheese 

And WHOOP de DO, do I ever LOVE Taleggio Cheese!  Think Brie with an attitude. Taleggio melts like brie, so I imagine just about any recipe you have for brie you can sub Taleggio.  But where Brie is a mild gentle cheese, Taleggio will take you down, slap you around and leave you begging for more.  I did a little research (see, learning every day) and found that Taleggio is more related to Limburger (the stinky one) than Brie.  While this doesn’t stink, it certainly does have an oder.  Strong earth scents, makes for a strong nutty taste.

Hunting the cheese down was surprisingly easy.  There is one and only one specialty cheese shop on the island. Center shelf, center of the shelf, and there it was!  I asked the cheese monger for a sample, and was in love. Surprisingly cheap, $16 for a pound, I only needed a small amount (the recipe calls for a garnish of the cheese, so no more than 1/8th pound really needed if you follow the recipe (of course, I didn’t)).  I bought 1/2 a pound, planning to use it for several recipes during the week.

Aren’t cheese shops wonderful places… Just ask, and they will happily slice you off a sample of something that sounds interesting.  I feel a little guilty that it has taken so long for me to leave the safety of the big grocery store here, with their sampling of maybe 7 or 8 cheeses.  Be a cook, don’t be intimidated… Find something new!

OK… Time for the recipe…

First, here’s Avery’s version from The Mystery Lover’s Kitchen.
POLENTA AND TALEGGIO-BASIL
[6-8 portions]
4 cups water

1 tsp. salt

1 cup polenta corn meal

1 cup fresh basil leaves separated

2-4 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil

8 oz. Taleggio cheese, thinly sliced
Bring water and salt to a boil.
Add polenta corn meal in a thin stream. Keep stirring until corn meal pulls away from sides of pan. (No lumps)Turn down heat to simmer for 25 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes or so.
While it is cooking, stir-fry the basil in olive oil until crispy, then drain on paper towels.
Spoon hot polenta on to each plate. Lay a couple of slices of Taleggio cheese on each portion and finish with the fried basil.
I just couldn’t resist…

Here’s my changes, I LOVE polenta.  But, on it’s own, it doesn’t have much of a taste.  Looking over the recipe, the polenta Avery puts out is unflavored.  She is more generous with the slices of cheese.  It does melt fast and well, so her polenta will certainly have that strong earthy taste I talked about.

But I wanted my flavor in the polenta, not topped…

First, I wanted a stronger Basil taste than just a garnish.  Here’s a Bobby Flay trick to slice thin strips of basil leaves…

Gather a half dozen basil leaves…

Lay them one on top of the other and roll into a tight tube.

Slice the tube lengthwise in half.

Cut thin strip from the end and in less than a minute, nicely cut thin strip of Basil that goes right into the polenta as it cooks…

I also wanted a stronger taste of the cheese.

It melts just fine.

So I added 1/4 pound of the cheese right into the cooking polenta (see top left photo).

I continued to stir during the cooking process… And it all mixed perfectly!

One other suggestion, Polenta cuts nicely.  If you have cookie cutters, they can be used to make nice shapes.  Or, if you don’t have cookie cutters, I just used a glass to get nice round shape.

I served this on a bed of OHIO PESTO, made with walnuts.  This also has a stronger, earthier, nuttier taste than pine nut pesto.  Complimented the cheese perfectly!



I served this up with some Sea Scallops wrapped in Mango Glazed Bacon

Oh MY!

Dave here from MY YEAR ON THE GRILL. It really is just this easy!  

 … I CAN COOK THAT! 

And so can you!

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