Thursday, March 24, 2011

Spaghetti Aglio e Olio

One of the simplest and tastiest dishes. I would suggest you use Garofalo spaghetti:

1 pound spaghetti
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
6 cloves of garlic
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or more to taste)

  1. Fill a large pot with water and add 1 teaspoon of salt. Bring to a boil.
  2. Add spaghetti to pot and cook one minute less than package instructions.
  3. While spaghetti cooks, mince garlic. Put oil in small sauce pan and add garlic.
  4. Gently heat oil on low.
  5. When pasta is done cooking, drain, put in a large bowl, then add oil and garlic. Toss and plate.
  6. Sprinkle red pepper flakes on each serving.
Wine pairing: Chianti

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

And the Winners Are.....

March marks the first six months of my blog. Traffic was slow at the outset, but recently I've been seeing numbers hovering around 100 visitors per day. Based on page views over the last six months, these are the three most popular recipes:

  1. Straccetti Con Rughetta:
  2. Loon Cafe's Pecos River Red Chili:
  3. Pan Seared Filet Mignon:
Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Garofalo Pasta

If I'm making a pasta dish, this is the only pasta I will use. The quality of this product will astound you the first time you touch it. It has a heft and texture like no other pasta. The surface of the pasta is very rough, all the better to grip the sauce and hold it tight to the noodle. When you chew it, it chews like steak.

This pasta is from Gragnano, Italy. Mister Garofalo started making it there in 1789. For the longest time, it was only available in the US via high-end, online gourmet sites. And it cost a fortune.

Then in 2007, I found it in the aisles of Costco. I should not have been surprised, as Costco has a deserved reputation for carrying the very highest quality merchandise, including groceries. Early on, they just carried two shapes, Spaghetti and Penne.

Two weeks ago, they expanded the line of Garofalo pastas sold at Costco. I was able to buy Calamarata, Pappardelle and Schiaffoni. As with most Costco items, Garofalo pasta is sold in bulk packs. But who is going to complain about having six bags of the world's finest pasta in your pantry?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Oven Roasted Baby-Back Ribs

There is still snow on my deck, so I'm not firing up the grill. But I'm lusting for baby-backs and I'll use my oven to turn out some really delicious ribs. This is an incredibly easy recipe with just 3 ingredients: ribs, Dijon mustard and Famous Dave's Rib Rub. The latter is available in the seasoning department of most grocery stores and can also be found online at It can also be made from scratch by using this recipe: .

While this recipe is for three racks of pork ribs (feeds 6-8 people), it can be easily scaled down for one or two racks. My ribs came from Costco ($3.29 per pound) and are sold in 3-packs. I typically serve my ribs with hash browns and cole slaw.

3 racks of baby-back ribs
9 heaping tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 bottle of Famous Dave's Rib Rub (5.5 ounces)

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Line a jelly pan with foil and place a wire rack on top.
     3. Remove ribs from package and pat dry with paper towels.
     4. Put 3 heaping tablespoons of Dijon mustard on each rack.

     5. Spread mustard to coat entire top of ribs.

    6. Sprinkle Famous Dave's Rib Rub to fully coat the ribs.

    7. Place ribs on jelly pan wire rack.

    8. Place jelly pan in oven on the middle rack and cook ribs for 2 1/2 hours.
    9. After 2 1/2 hours, remove ribs from oven.
  10. Slice between each rib and serve ribs on a platter.

Wine pairing: Zinfandel

Sunday, March 20, 2011

In Praise of Restaurant Alma

Judy and I celebrated our 18th anniversary last night with dinner at Restaurant Alma by the U of M campus. This place knocked our socks off. It's small and casual, which is a very interesting juxtaposition to the extraordinary food. It recently won an award for Best Chef: Midwest from the prestigious James Beard Foundation.

It was recommended by my friend Scott Miller and I can't believe I did not get to it sooner (it's been open for 11 years). Dinner was $48 per person and we got to select the items for the 3 courses ( The wine list was incredible for a restaurant this small and very reasonably priced. If you appreciate good food made from the finest local and organic sources, you absolutely must go here.

Monday, March 14, 2011

St. Patrick's Day Corned Beef Dinner

It just wouldn't be St. Patrick's Day without a nice big corned beef dinner. In the Gruggen household that stool has 3 legs...braised corned beef, wilted cabbage salad and homemade soda bread. That famous Irishman, Sy Ginsberg, sells his incredible corned beef briskets to Costco and they sell them to us for just $3.39 a pound. I buy a half dozen....cook one up for March 17th and freeze the rest (because Costco only carries them for the month of March). Enjoy!

Braised Corned Beef
1 Corned Beef Brisket (any size will do)

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Place brisket in a Dutch oven (large pan with a lid). Add enough water so that half of the brisket is submerged in water.
  3. Cover top of Dutch oven with foil. Place lid over foil. Place in oven and cook for 2 1/2 hours.
  4. Remove brisket from Dutch oven. Slice and serve.

Wilted Cabbage Salad
1 pound of bacon, cut into 1/2 inch long pieces
1 medium head of red cabbage, shredded*
1 onion, chopped
6 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 cup of tarragon vinegar
1 tablespoon caraway seeds

*You can make the prep of this salad really easy if you buy bags of shredded red cabbage. Dole sells 10 ounce bags of shredded red cabbage. You will need 20 ounces of shredded red cabbage to make this recipe.


  1. Heat a large, deep skillet over medium high heat. When skillet is hot, add bacon and cook until evenly brown.
  2. Use slotted spoon to remove bacon to a paper towel.
  3. Add onion and garlic to bacon fat until browned.
  4. Add vinegar. Bring to a simmer, then add cabbage, caraway seeds and bacon.
  5. Saute briefly and serve warm.

Kieran Folliard's Mom's Brown Bread
1 3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of sugar
3 1/3 cups (1 pound) whole-wheat flour
2 cups buttermilk
2 teaspoons of honey
Milk, for brushing loaf

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Dust baking sheet with flour.
  2. Into large mixing bowl, sift all-purpose flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, salt and sugar. Stir in whole-wheat flour.
  3. Make well in center of dry ingredients and pour in buttermilk and honey. Mix ingredients quickly until rough ball of dough forms.
  4. Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface and shape into 10-inch round loaf.
  5. Place loaf on baking sheet. With a sharp knife, cut large "X" halfway through thickness of loaf.
  6. Brush loaf with milk.
  7. Bake bread for 40 minutes, until bread sounds hollow when tapped underneath.
  8. Remove bread from oven. Wrap in clean damp cloth and let cool, then slice and serve.
Wine pairing: Pinot Noir, Merlot or Syrah

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Bulk Garlic

In our household, we live in constant fear of a vampire attack. Accordingly, we eat garlic with every meal. But buying heads of garlic and peeling all those cloves is a giant hassle. Thanks to Costco, we switched to buying peeled garlic in bulk. Head back to the chilled produce area and you'll find these 3 pound bags of peeled garlic for $5.70. A bag in the fridge will keep for a month. Take that, Lestat.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Tuna Confit on Crostini

A lot of people like their tuna rare. Not me. The last time I ate raw fish I ended up losing 14 pounds I did not want to lose. So I go the Italian route.... I want my tuna cooked all the way through. In Italy, they take their tuna and gently poach it in olive oil. Tonight we are having this dish along with olives, artichokes, sun-dried tomatoes and capers.

For the Tuna
2 pounds tuna steaks, about 2 inches thick
Kosher salt
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon zest
4 small garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
4 fresh thyme sprigs


  1. Season tuna with salt.
  2. Stir 3 cups oil, the lemon zest, garlic, and thyme in a medium saucepan. Add tuna and more oil to cover tuna by 1/2 inch if needed. 
  3. Set over medium-low heat. Cook, covered, until tuna is opaque,  about 40 minutes. Remove from heat; let cool completely in the oil.
  4. To serve, use tongs to remove tuna from cooking oil. Transfer to paper towels to drain. Flake into 2-inch pieces.

For the Crostini
2 loaves of crusty bread like ciabatta, sliced thinly as possible
4 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil plus extra for drizzling
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper for seasoning before toasting crostini
4 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Fresh ground pepper, for serving
Feta cheese and thinly sliced roasted red peppers* for garnish

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees
  2. Brush bread with EVOO on both sides and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Arrange on large baking sheet and bake until crusty and brown, 10-12 minutes total. Turn halfway through baking and dust with Parmesan.
To Assemble
Place tuna on crostini. Add feta cheese, red peppers and fresh ground pepper. Drizzle with olive oil and serve.

*Roasted red peppers come in jars and are usually found in the same aisle as olives in jars.

Wine pairing: Pinot Noir

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Roasted Flank Steak with Roasted Cauliflower

When you're hungry, roast.
When you're in a rush, roast.
When you're in doubt, roast.
When you're entertaining, roast.
(Barbara Kafka, 1995)

Flank Steak Ingredients
1 flank steak, about 2 lbs
1/4 cup EVOO
2 tablespoons Kosher Salt
Fresh ground pepper to taste
2 teaspoons of granulated garlic

  1. Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Place empty roasting pan on lowest rack in oven.
  2. Generously coat the steak on both sides with the extra virgin olive oil. Then sprinkle the rest of the ingredients evenly on both sides.
  3. When the oven is at temperature, place the steak on the preheated roasting pan (thick part of the steak should be in the back of the oven). Follow these times:
  • Rare: Roast 6 minutes on side 1, flip and roast 6 minutes more
  • Medium rare: Roast 7 minutes on side 1, flip and roast 7 minutes more
  • Medium: Roast 9 minutes on side 1, flip and roast 9 minutes more 
      4.  Remove steak from oven, place on cutting board and tent with foil.
      5.  After 5 minutes, slice thinly across the grain (see above photo).          


Roasted Cauliflower Ingredients
1 head of cauliflower
10 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 cup EVOO
1 tablespoon Kosher salt
1/2 tablespoon fresh ground pepper
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

  1.  Preheat oven to 400°F. 
  2. Cut cauliflower into florets and put in a gallon Ziploc bag. Add all other ingredients except Parmesan cheese. Seal bag and shake to mix all ingredients.
  3. Pour cauliflower out into a single layer on a large jelly pan.
  4. Place pan in oven and roast for 30 minutes.
  5. After 30 minutes, remove from oven. Sprinkle generously with Parmesan cheese and serve.
Wine pairing: Pinot Noir, Syrah or Cabernet Sauvignon