Tag Archives: onions

Girls can Grill!

27 Aug

 

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Girls can grill. And very well I might add. Don’t let anyone tell you differently. Many folks think that grilling is a guy thing. I beg to differ! Not only do I grill a lot, so does my sister.

As is true for most things, my sister and I have very different (read opposite) methodology and philosophy in life. It is something we marvel over. It truly delights us. Raised by the same parents in the same house going to the same schools and having the same brothers, we couldn’t be more different. And we love it. Predictably, same goes for our grilling.

My sister and I conflict (agreeably) with one another on grilling techniques even when making the same thing. For ease and timeliness (I live in a perpetual state of whirling dervish mode…) I use a gas grill. It’s quick to start, temperature management is a no brainer, and it is easy to clean.

So while I go to my gas grill for speed and control, my sister goes full on charcoal grill. I say that with envy. She has WAY more patience than I do when it comes to the finesse of grilling, and she can really rock the charcoal grill.

On to the brats!  They are a grilling favorite. Let’s compare and contrast, shall we? I start cooking my brats in beer and onions on the stovetop. A bit ordinary but the outcome is delish. My sister, on the other hand, starts hers on the grill. With beer. And onions. And buttuh!  Nothing ordinary about that!

 

When the brats are cooked through and have beer and onion deliciousness wrapped around them, they go onto the grill. A gas grill for me-charcoal for my sister. She usually tosses some good hot dogs on a s well. Hey-we are german, so why not load up on the sausages! Look at those grill marks!

 

On to finishing the grilled brats. Again my sister and I express core philosophical brat differences. We disagree on sauerkraut, but we also differ with our buns and mustard, My buns are lightly toasted, hers are not. And my mustard is yellow. Hers is dijon. And she loads those succulent tender onions on her brats as well.

 

My sweet Denis sides with my sister here (in homage to family peace). He is all about the dijon mustard with his brats. But not me. Out of sheer pride I won’t even entertain a dijon mustard option here.

So here you have it. A grilling story.  With very different techniques-but all with great outcomes. So gals, go get a grill and fire it up. Let me know what you are grilling and remember, girls can grill!

 

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Onion Jam

15 Jul

Love onions? Not sure what to do with sun-dried tomatoes? Crazy about dried fruit? Then this appetizer will be on your must try list. If you have a little time to fuss over making this jam, it is worth it. Don’t be shy-have a glass of your favorite Cab to go along side this dish and really make the flavors pop!

Grab a heavy saucepan, toss in 2 tablespoons of high quality butter, put the heat on low, and lets get started.

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First grab one or two Vidalia sweet onions and thinly slice. I like a mandolin to do this job. It is quick, easy, and you’ll get through cutting the onions without shedding a single tear.

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Now toss the onions into the sizzling butter. Add a bit of sugar, salt, red pepper and black pepper.

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Give that fragrant deliciousness a good stir. Now this is when a little patience comes in handy. Turn the heat to low, cover the pan, and let those onions get golden.

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While that is cooking away, its time to get ready for the next step. We will be adding dried fruit, sun dried tomatoes, 1/2 cup of white wine and some rich balsamic vinegar to the onion mixture.

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I used figs this time because I had them on hand, but I have also used dried cherries (my favorite!) and dried cranberries. Chop the dried fruit and tomatoes. I used about 5-6 of each.

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After about a half hour its time to take the lid off the sauce pan and let the wonderful sweet fragrance of the onions pleasure your senses. Mmmmmm. After you take that deep breath in, add the tomatoes, fruit, balsamic vinegar and wine. Stir that all together.

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Leave the lid off and let that simmer down. All of the wine will cook off and the onion jam will thicken. When that happens, remove it from the heat and let it cool a bit. Get some crackers and some lovely bread ready to nosh. There is one last ingredient to add-bleu cheese. Pour some wine, grab your honey, turn some great jazz on, and enjoy!

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Be Flexible

1 Mar

I like options.  I like flexibility.  Especially with cooking.  I am a busy mom.  I can’t afford to fiddle fart around during the busy work/school week, and don’t want to get locked into one option.  I am going to cook one thing that will last more than one meal, and that can be used in a number of ways.

Brown some ground italian sausage.  Yum!

Brown some ground italian sausage. Yum!

That said, this is what I made on a busy week night.  I started by browning a pound of italian sausage.  Next, I added some freshly chopped peppers.  I happened to have fresh peppers that I quickly chopped, but listen…you don’t have to take the time to cut peppers yourself.  Nicely cut peppers and onions are available in the produce section of the grocers.  Don’t let the label “fajita mix” fool you.  Those peppers are not seasoned yet, so if you want to throw them into a pot of browned italian sausage, you go right ahead.

Stir in some freshly chopped peppers. Layer those flavors!

Stir in some freshly chopped peppers. Layer those flavors!

So after my sausage was brown, I drained most of the fat, leaving about 1 tablespoon.  I tossed the peppers into the pot and stirred the mixture around.  That cooked for about 5 minutes, then I tossed in a can of diced tomatoes, parsley, basil, and some red pepper flakes.  I gave that a good stir.  Then I added a dash of salt and sugar.

 

Add these simple ingredients.

Add these simple ingredients.

But hey, did I mention I am busy just like you?  I don’t have time to sit in the kitchen and stir my sauce.  So into the oven it went.  I wanted it to simmer, and the oven is the perfect spot for that.  Side note.  Invest in a pot that can go from the stove top to the oven.  It will save you loads of time, and after all, time is money.

That sauce bubbled in the oven for about an hour.  Man oh man did the house smell great.  I pulled it out, removed the lid, gave it a good stir, and was pretty hungry for dinner.

Now what?  Did I mention that I like options?   Here is the beauty of this sauce.  It had protein and vegetables in it, so it was an “all in one” as far as that goes.  I did not need to make a separate vegetable.  We can go a couple of ways with this dish, depending on what is in the pantry.

We could:

1. Toss this with pasta-even throwing in a handful of spinach if available

2. Use as a pizza topping

3. Make pepper and sausage sandwiches

4. Load onto a baked potato

5. Make a quesadilla

How about that?  Love those options!  And the leftovers were divine.  Now that’s flexibility for you!

 

Quinn and I made open face sanwiches that night.  They were delicious.

Quinn and I made open face sandwiches that night. They were delicious.

Roasted Veggies-3 ways

7 Dec

The other day I had two things:  a lot of good fresh fall vegetables and a little extra time.  So I went to my happy place…the kitchen.  I decided to roast the vegetables.  I started peeling, chopping and layering.  This was going to be a big honking batch of veggies!  Mushrooms, bell peppers, butternut squash, onions, celery…Yum!

A big batch it was.  After they were chopped, I dusted the vegetables with salt, pepper, basil, and parsley then sprinkled olive oil and a bit of balsamic vinegar on them as well.  After a good healthy stir, I poured them onto a lined baking dish and placed them in a preheated 400 degree oven.  Almost immediately, warm succulent aromas began to fill the house.  My mouth began to water with those decadent scents wafting though the air.

I checked the vegetables after 15 minutes in the oven and couldn’t resist sneaking a taste. Ooh!  What a delicious bite!  Back into the oven for a few minutes, and then they were ready.  We enjoyed the roasted  veggies with lovely grilled salmon.

Did I mention that it was a big ol’ batch of fall veggies?  And that I love leftovers?  Did we ever have leftovers!  But that’s okay.  They were fantastic to have around.  And like spaghetti, the vegetables were more flavorful as leftovers.

Leftovers day one: Roasted veggies made an amazing addition to an omelet the next morning.

Leftovers day two:  I cooked quinoa to mix into the vegetables.  That created  a powerhouse side dish of veggies and quinoa.

Leftovers day three: Roasted veggies piled on a turkey sandwich.  Who needs mayo??

And that is what you do with leftovers my friends.  I used a little extra time to cook big, and had nutritious  leftovers to launch other dishes.

In the (Cal)zone

27 Oct

I grill my home made pizza.  I just feel that my grill is more like a pizza oven than my kitchen oven, and I have had great results with this method.  The exception, of course, is in the winter when I make my home town Chicago Style deep dish pizza.  That goes into the kitchen oven and is strictly a winter treat when weather socks us in for an extended period of time.

Home made pizza was a topic of conversation recently when my daughter was home from college for fall break.  When college kids come home, they want moms home made dishes to nosh on, food they missed at school.  My grilled pizza is a family favorite.  It came up when my daughter was rattling off the food she was craving.  But then our conversation took an unforseen twist.

Her: I am hungry for a calzone.

Me:  I haven’t made that in a long time.

Her: I really have a taste for one.  Please…..

(Cue the lightening strike…)

Me: Wait!  How about we try grilling a calzone like my grilled pizza?

And off we went.  A new journey emerged, one in which grilling a calzone became the destination.  Our stops along the way to our destination included technique discussions, filling options, and recipe timing.

Plans were finalized, the roadmap was taking shape.  The destination-grilled calzones-was coming into focus.  The first run down this path was going to be technique focused first, ingredient choice second.  Fine tuning would come after that.

Next stop.  The filling, it was decided, would be caramelized onions and mushrooms.  The cheese would be a combination of ricotta, mozzarella, and parmesan.  Off we went.  As the succulent aroma of onions and mushrooms sizzling in a pan filled the kitchen, the dough was rolled out.  Nervous chatter about if we could really get this to work added to the cacophony of the popping onion mushroom mixture.

The dough was slathered with the cheese.   The onions and mushrooms went on as the  next layer.  The dough was folded over and pinched closed.  It glistened with an egg wash to give it a shiny coat.  Onto the grill it went.  As it grilled, excitement built…it hadn’t flopped yet.

The table was set, bowls of marinara sauce for dipping the calzone was placed on the table for that final stop before the anticipated bite.   Off the grill and onto the table it went.  Suffice it to say that our little experiment worked like a charm.  The outcome was delicious!  Fantastic!  A new family favorite is emerging!

 

Grilled Calzone!  Fabulous!

Grilled Calzone! Fabulous!

Roasted Pasta Sauce

21 Sep
Roasted baby peppers!  yum!

Baby peppers! Perfect for roasting! Yum!

Tonight I made pasta for dinner. I roasted the sauce. Yes, that’s right. And it was fabulous. Absolutely fabulous!

Here we go. I had a taste for pasta Primavera. A Primavera sauce is a vegetable sauce usually associated with fresh, or seasonal, chunky cut vegetables. I wanted a light supper.  Nothing heavy and fatty. I needed bright, light, and colorful.   Something not only packed with flavor, but loaded with beneficial nutrients too.

And as you know, I love to use what i have on hand. That is my creativity springboard.  For some reason, that absolutely energizes me.  I started pulling vegetables out of the fridge and pantry.  For a special flavor twist, I decided to roast my sauce instead of cooking it on the stove top.  I cut up my veggies  and dumped them into a big mixing bowl.  Next I sprinkled them with pepper, both red and black, salt, herb de Provence, olive oil, and a tiny drizzle of balsamic vinegar.

A good starting point.  Chunky chopped vegetables!

A good starting point. Chunky chopped vegetables!

Next, I gave the mixture a good minute of stirring with a big wooden spoon.  Then I put it into a glass roasting pan that was about 2″ deep.  I sprinkled the vegetables with a little more salt and pepper, and tossed the pan into a preheated 375 degree oven.

In the meantime, Denis popped open a bottle of wine.  We sipped a glass of a yummy big bold red, and chatted with my son a bit.  The boys set the table.  I put a pot of water on to boil for the pasta.  We had fresh pasta that was in the freezer, and that cooks pretty quickly.

Into the oven it goes!

Into the oven it goes!

In 30 minutes, I pulled the veggies out of the oven.  They had cooked down, so there was a good bit of what my grandmother called “vegetable liquor” in the pan.  There was just enough liquid for a perfect sauce.  I poured it over the cooked pasta, and voila!  A super yummy light dinner was ready.  Onto the table it went with some crusty bread.  It was a colorful healthy vegetarian dinner.   I am sharing my recipe with you, but customize it using your own palate as a flavor compass.

Amy’s Pasta Primavera

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Then start cutting…

1 large zucchini, cut into chunky quarters

1 pint grape tomatoes, sliced in half

1 large container fresh bella mushrooms, sliced

1 large container button mushrooms, sliced

3 large or a dozen small bell peppers, deseeded and sliced

6 green onions, sliced in 1/2 inch intervals from the whites to the tip of the green

8 ounces arugula (2 big handfuls)

8 ounces baby spinach

1/4 cup olive oil

3-4 T. balsamic vinegar

2 T. Herb de Provence

salt and pepper to taste

Mix together in large mixing bowl.  Add salt,  pepper, red pepper flakes, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, Herb de Provence and any seasoning to taste.

Pasta of choice-cooked (I used fresh ricotta penne)

Bread of choice

Toss this on the table for an incredibly mouthwatering meal loaded with flavor and packed with antioxidants and nutrients!  The great thing about this recipe is that it can be totally customized.

I am a moody garnisher.  Sometimes I do it, sometimes I don’t.  It depends on the flow of my day and, as always, time allowed.  Sometimes my creative juices and energy match, other times I just need to get something, anything, on the table.  But with this beautiful bounty of vegetables, my creativity ran wild,  and I garnished with chunks of creamy mozzarella cheese, some shredded zippy parmesan cheese, and fresh from the garden basil with a chiffonade cut.  It was simply wonderful!

This is the dish headed to the table.  Pasta with roasted sauce.  Super Yum!

This is the dish headed to the table. Pasta with roasted sauce. Super Yum!

Pizza Palooza!

5 Sep

I grew up in Chicago.  That’s right…we are famous for our food, but mostly our pizza!  And it is spectacular for sure.  When I moved out of Chicago and started raising my family in the southeast, I missed my hometown pizza.  I missed the famous deep dish style, but also Chicago’s not-so-famous-but-every-bit-as-delicious thin crust pizza.  So I started creating my own.

I have made my own crust.  And I have done a lot of experimenting for that “just right” flavor and consistency.  I tried flour, cornmeal, crackers crumbs…you name it and I have tried it.  And my crust is pretty darn good. But it is a whole lot of work!  So truth be told, as a busy mother of 3, I usually buy the pizza crust dough at my local market.  Now onto the sauce.

I always make my sauce from scratch.  And usually a fairly large batch because if freezes so well.  My recipe can be easily adjusted-doubled or tripled.  So here it is:

3 T. Olive oil

2 cloves of garlic (adjust to taste, but add at least one)

2-3 T. sweet onion

1 small can tomato paste

1 large can tomato sauce

2 large cans roma or italian style tomatoes

2 T. parsley

2 T. basil

2 T. oregano, plus more to sprinkle on  top of the pizza

1 t. red pepper flakes

salt and pepper to taste

Put olive oil in a large pan or stock pot.  Heat for 1-2 minutes over medium heat.  Add garlic and onion.  Saute for 1 minute.  Add the can of tomato paste.  Gently whisk for 2-3 minutes.  Add all other ingredients.  Let this come to a boil and simmer for 30 minutes.  Use a stick blender to blend to a smooth consistency.  Let simmer for 10 more minutes and take off heat.

Now onto the toppings.  Be creative!  Use wild abandon when choosing toppings.  Of course if you want a sausage pizza for the kids that’s fine.  But expand your palate for the adult version!  I have made everything from cheese pizza to a meat loaded one to a “gourmet” version.  My signature pizza, if you will, is made with sautéed onions, blue cheese and dried cherries.   Go crazy here! Have fun!  Use your imagination!

I have done a “taco pizza” using salsa for the sauce, taco meat for the topping, and cheddar cheese.  I have done traditional pizzas.  I have made them with mushrooms, roasted peppers, and goat cheese.  I have gone over the line and created some extravaganzas.  I always have fun, and I always end up with something delicious.

So here is my true secret to great pizza.  I have a gas oven in my kitchen.  It doesn’t mimic a pizza oven, so I have turned to grilling my pizza out side most of the year.  My grill is closer to a pizza oven as far as cooking goes, plus, the house doesn’t get so stinkin hot when hitting that 500 degrees for the pizza.  I do, however, make Chicago style deep dish pizza in the dead of winter.  The house becomes cozy and the smells are fabulous!  But back to grilling.

Grilling pizza is easy.  Contrary to what most people fear, pizza dough does not fall through the grates on the grill.  But the grill has got to be piping hot to begin the process.  Roll out the dough, brush olive oil lightly on the dough, and toss it on the grill oil side down.  Put the lid down. Use a spatula to take it off after 3-4 minutes when it has some good grill marks and looks done on the bottom.  Flip it over so that the cooked side is up and the uncooked side is down.

Now brush a bit of olive oil on the crust.  Then load up your sauce and toppings.  Toss it back on the grill, uncooked side down, and put the lid down.  It only takes a couple of more minutes for the pizza to complete the cooking process.  Keep your eye on it, and pull it off when the bottom is grilled and the toppings are hot and bubbly.

Here are the steps.  A picture tutorial.

1.

Open and decant some bold red wine! Pour yourself a glass!

2.

get your grill up to pizza oven temp…500 degrees!

3.

skewer and grill your toppings! Onions, mushrooms, bell pepper…get creative!

4.

Roll out your pizza dough! Use your muscles to make it as thin as you like!

5.

Toss the dough on the grill and get good grill marks. Pull it off, flip cooked side up, and load up your sauce and toppings!

6.

Toss that pizza back onto the grill to finish cooking. Pull them off and get ready for delicious grilled pizza perfection!

There you have it!  Let me know how your pizza turns out.  Share your successes with me.  Bon Appetite!