Thursday, June 30, 2011

Hot Weather Meals

It's going to be way too hot to fire up your stove over the next few days. It's the perfect time to opt for some cool food or head outdoors and fire up your grill so that you stay cool indoors.

Pre-dinner Cocktail: Fill a tall glass with ice, add 1 1/2 ounces of vodka and then fill the rest of your glass with this lemonade.

Fennel and celery salad: Add some cooked, chilled shrimp or crab to make this a complete meal.

Seafood Ceviche: One of my very favorites for a hot night. This is on the menu for Saturday night!

Thai Pork Lettuce Wraps: Make this a cool meal by letting the pork cool to room temperature.

Grilled lobster tail:

Tuscan steak: Serve this with a cool salad.

Caesar Salad: Add some cold protein like shrimp, crab or lobster and buy store-bought croutons so you don't have to use your oven.

Asian Cole Slaw: Add some cold protein to this salad as well.

Chilled and Spicy Noodles:

Taco Salad: Make sure the beef cools to room temperature:

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

For Bacon Lovers: Wild Boar BLT

This sandwich is all about an explosion of flavors on your tongue. This is not about fueling or throwing together a quick BLT on the fly. This sandwich is a labor of love that will require you to take some time to do it right. And when you do, you will experience a BLT like nothing you have ever had before. You can't buy this experience must create it yourself.

The steps to create this sandwich are not difficult. They just take time. But the ingredients to this sandwich are critical. Accordingly, we will take a few minutes to talk ingredients before we get down to it.

The heart of this sandwich is the wild boar bacon. I've discussed this in earlier posts. Modern agriculture has graced us with the most extraordinary bacon on the planet: wild boar bacon. The taste of this bacon is like nothing else you have ever experienced. Rich. Incredible depth. A texture that is crisp and creamy at the same time. I get my wild boar bacon from Buffalo Gal ( Their wild boar are raised cage-free in straw beds. No factory operation here: they are pastured and ranch raised.

When you cook your wild boar bacon, you are going to roast it, not fry it. Roasting gives the bacon a deep, carmelized flavor and does not render as much fat as frying. That fat gives the sandwich additional flavor and moisture.

The choice of bread is critical for two reasons. The first is taste. The bread is the containment device for this sandwich, but it must do much more than that. The right bread can boost the flavor, and therefore, your enjoyment of this sandwich. So pick a rich, flavorful bread. One of my favorites is marbled rye (pictured above). Regular rye, sourdough, nine-grain....they all work as long as they are delicious. Once you choose your bread, you are going to toast it, as toasting further boosts flavor (thank you, Maillard reaction) and firms up the bread to hold all of these wonderful ingredients together.

The second critical thing about the bread is the size. If your bread is too big, it's going to overwhelm the sandwich and minimize the incredible flavors. You'll miss the whole "BLT" part. You want just enough bread to hold everything together and complement the main ingredients. Given that each sandwich is going to get less than a quarter pound of bacon each, the perfect size for each slice of bread is approximately 4 1/2" X 4 1/2" X 1/2". Now that is an approximation, but you should come as close to that as you can. If you are using bread that has a really large loaf size (like sourdough), just make 4 half-sandwiches.

In a perfect world, you'd have homegrown tomatoes. On June 29th in Minnesota, that is so far removed from reality that it can't even be a wish. And truth be told, most of us do not have regular access to homegrown tomatoes. What is available in the stores just won't cut it.....unless.....

Unless you use time and heat to create the most remarkable concentration of tomato goodness you have ever tasted. The way to this goodness is called "slow roasting". I combed the Internet to look at different ways of doing this and found one method that looked best. I tested it and it worked like a charm!

This slow-roasted tomato recipe is courtesy of Ashley Rodriguez, an incredibly talented food blogger whose site,, is one of my favorites (her food photography is jaw-dropping). Basically you are going to take store bought Roma tomatoes, slice them 1/4" thick, drizzle them with olive oil, sprinkle them with salt and slow roast them at 225 degrees for four hours. I can't even begin to describe the end result, but when you taste it, it will be an entirely new tomato experience for you. Just unbelievable.

6-8 large Roma tomatoes, cut in 1/4" slices
Garlic Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Kosher salt
1 pound wild boar bacon
8 small, pale green Romaine leaves (from the Romaine heart)
8 slices of your favorite bread


  1. Preheat oven to 225 degrees. Line jelly pan with non-stick foil. Place sliced tomatoes on foil. Drizzle each tomato with a few drops of garlic extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with a little Kosher salt. Place jelly pan on middle rack of oven. Roast for 4 hours.
  2. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line jelly pan with non-stick foil. Place sliced bacon strips on foil and place jelly pan on middle rack of oven. Roast for 12 minutes. After bacon is cooked, use tongs to place bacon on a paper towel to drain.
  3. Toast bread slices.
  4. Assemble sandwiches. Place one slice of toasted bread on plate. Place a quarter of the wild boar bacon on top of bread slice (where it will be close to your tongue when you bite into it). Place 4-6 roasted tomato slices on top of wild boar bacon. Place 2 green Romaine leaves on top of tomatoes and top with the other piece of toasted bread. Slice and serve.
Wine pairing: Pinot Noir

Note 1 : My favorite non-stick foil is Reynolds. Make sure the dull side faces up.

Note 2: Many BLT recipes call for mayo. I hate mayo. I would put Preparation H on my sandwich before I would use mayo. However, I do recognize there are mayo lovers out there. Ashley's Basil Mayo recipe calls for 1/2 cup mayo and 3 tablespoons of chopped basil. Simply stir the two together and spread on the toast before sandwich assembly.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

A Note to My Paleo Friends

My blog has a lot of pasta recipes. My boys love pasta...they can never get enough of it usually pops up on every week's menu card. For the most part, I eat Paleo. So what do I do on pasta nights?

Most of the sauces I make are Paleo and are really delicious. So I simply take the  pasta sauce I've made and spoon it over a bed of arugula or spinach. Some of my fellow Crossfitters cook squash and spoon the sauce over that.

It's the best of all worlds. My boys get their beloved pasta while I get to dine Paleo. Eat like a cave man!

For Bacon Lovers: Spaghetti All'Amatriciana

I love bacon, so I love recipes that call for bacon. This is a traditional Italian dish that calls for pancetta. Pancetta is Italian bacon, typically salt cured and seasoned with such spices as nutmeg, fennel peppercorns, dried hot peppers and garlic, then dried for at least three months. It tends to have a much more delicate flavor than our American bacon. So I just chucked it and use regular bacon instead. I want bacon, dammit! If you want delicate, feel free to use pancetta.

And while the recipe calls for spaghetti, go right ahead and use whatever kind of pasta you choose. Tonight I am making this with fusilli col buco, which are long, corkscrew-shaped strands of pasta. This dish is just packed with delicious flavors...fried bacon, sauteed red onions and diced tomatoes. If you are drinking wine with this meal, make it Pinot Noir. Bacon and Pinot Noir have a passionate love for each other, so invite them to dance together on your tongue!

12 ounces of bacon, diced into 1/2 inch pieces
1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil plus 1/3 cup
2 large red onions, thinly sliced
2, 14.5 ounce cans of organic diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 pound of spaghetti or other pasta
1/4 cup of salt
8 ounces grated Parmesan cheese


  1. Fill a large pot with water. Add salt and bring to a boil.
  2. Put a Dutch oven on the burner over medium high heat. Add one tablespoon of olive oil. Add bacon and stir frequently until bacon is cooked. Remove bacon with a slotted spoon and place on paper towels to drain.
  3. Drain most bacon fat, but reserve 3 tablespoons in Dutch oven. Keep burner at medium high heat and add thinly sliced onions. Saute and stir frequently until onions are soft, about 8 minutes. 
  4. Add tomatoes, red pepper flakes and bacon back to Dutch oven. Stir thoroughly to mix ingredients. Cover and reduce heat to low.
  5. Add pasta to boiling water and cook for one minute less than package instructions.
  6. When cooked, drain pasta and add 1/3 cup of olive oil. Stir to coat noodles.
  7. Divide pasta among serving plates and top with sauce. Sprinkle each serving with grated Parmesan.
Wine pairing: Pinot Noir

Surdyk's Summer Wine Sale

Bargain hunters, start your engines! Surdyk's has a major sale just several times each year. If you like saving big money on wine, their prices are all but impossible to beat. Their Summer Sale starts July 6 and runs through July 23.

Their new catalog just arrived in yesterday's mail. You can also score one online when they post it later this week: As usual, I've put together a list of what I feel are best buys...good wines at really good prices. The ones that are highlighted in yellow will make your friends say "Wow!" when you have them over.  Enjoy!

Best Buys in Every Day Wines (pricing per bottle)

  • Zinfandel: N/V Rosenblum Vinter's Cuvee XXXII @ $8.49 (regular price $13.99), Bogle "Old Vine" Zinfandel @ $8.99 (regular price $12.99), Cline "Ancient Vines" Zinfandel @ $11.99 (regular price $18.99)
  • Chardonnay: Kendall-Jackson "Vinter's Reserve" @ $9.99 (regular price $14.99), Chateau St Jean @ $10.99 (regular price $14.99), La Crema "Sonoma Coast" @ $13.99 (regular price $23.99)
  • Cabernet Sauvignon: Chateau St Michelle "Indian Wells" @ $12.99 (regular price $18.99), Columbia Crest "Grand Estates" @ $7.99 (regular price $11.99), Franciscan @ $18.99 (regular price $24.99) 
  • Meritage: Lyeth @ $12.49 (regular price $16.99), Columbia Crest "Walter Clore Reserve" @ $23.99 (regular price $37.99)
  • Merlot: Chateau St Michelle "Indian Wells" @ $12.99 (regular price $18.99), Bogle @ $7.99 (regular price $10.99), Chateau St Michelle @ $10.99 (regular price $16.99)
  • Pinot Noir: Montoya "Monterey" @ $10.99 (regular price $14.99), Castle Rock "Cuvee" @ $7.99 (regular price $11.99), A by Acacia @ $13.99 (regular price $17.99)
  • Sauvignon Blanc: Kim Crawford @ $12.49 (regular price $17.99), Silver Beach @ $10.99 (regular price $14.99)
  • White blend: Conundrum @ $18.99 (regular price $28.99)
Best Buys in Wines for your Cellar (pricing per bottle)

  • Zinfandel: Ridge "York Creek"@ $23.99 (regular price $34.99)
  • Chardonnay: Grgich Hills @ $31.99 (regular price $49.99), Kistler "Les Noisetiers" @ $54.99 (regular price $74.99)
  • Cabernet Sauvignon: Grgich Hills @ $44.99 (regular price $69.99)
  • Pinot Noir: Penner-Ash Williamette @ $35.99 (regular price $54.99), Argyle Williamette @ $19.99 (regular price $29.99) 

Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Resolution Of Modena Lust

Modena, Italy is known as the "Capital of Engines". It has housed the factories of Ferrari, De Tomaso, Lamborghini, Pagani and Maserati...the greatest Italian cars of all-time. But the target of my Modena Lust is Ferrari. No one has the heritage of great racing and road cars that Ferrari does. No one. Accordingly, I have lusted for a Ferrari from Modena since birth. Born this way.

The Ferrari that is currently highest on my Modena Lust List is the 599 GTO. This little gem features a 12-cylinder, 612 horsepower engine that rockets the car from a dead stop to 60 miles per hour in 3.7 seconds. Keep your foot on it and you'll hit 100 miles per hour in another 3.7 seconds. Breakout the order sheet and you'll see that the car starts at $430,000. Stripped. No options. Start checking boxes and you are north of half a million bucks in no time.

The cognoscenti will tell you that if you buy a Ferrari, you need to buy it in the color of the Ferrari racing livery. Your car needs to be "Rosso scuderia". This is not just any red....this is the red of the gods:

For someone my age, that may be a little too garish. It kind of screams "Hey, look at me!". If I had a Ferrari 599 GTO that color, I would probably be tempted to color my hair and buy myself a pair of really tight, black leather jeans. Oh, and also a nice pair of little, black Italian loafers made from ostrich skin with little tassels made from 18K gold. And where did I leave that number for the Lasik clinic?

That's all a bit much for me, so let's dial it back and I'll take mine in "Grigio titanio":

Modena Lust is good, but one must embrace reality. First, the 599 GTO is one expensive car. At $430,000 for the stripped down model, that's big dough ($116.22 per pound...$7.62 per ounce). Secondly, there are no Ferrari dealerships in Minnesota. So if the electric passenger window won't go up, you are screwed.

When Kevin Garnett played for the Minnesota Timberwolves, he caught himself a bad case of Modena Lust. He went full in and ordered a Ferrari 360 Spyder in "Rosso scuderia". As if being a seven foot tall basketball superstar with a $20 million-a-year contract was not getting you enough attention...let's hope this "red of the gods" Ferrari will make them take notice!

So when you are making $20 million a year, the Ferrari price tag is no barrier. But poor Kevin still had to deal with problem number two: no Minnesota Ferrari dealer. And so every time his electric passenger window wouldn't go up, he'd have to put it on a truck and have it taken to Lake Forest, Illinois...the closest Ferrari dealership. The cost to do that? Thanks, Mr. Garnett...that will be $3,000 round trip. Ferraris are high-strung automobiles and a lot tends to go wrong. Kevin eventually got sick of the $3,000 round trip expenses and ditched the Ferrari.

Now if only Momma Garnett had taught her son to drive go-karts instead of dribbling a ball, those $3,000 round trips would be chump change. Fernando Alonso, pictured above, was one lucky dude. Momma Alonso taught him to drive go-karts and he went on to become the lead driver for Ferrari's F1 team (headquartered in, of course, Modena, Italy). He makes  a rather handsome $51 million a year for that. Now if Kevin had that kind of money, he would have been able to afford to fly his car from Minnesota to Modena every time the electric passenger window wouldn't go up. So parents, heed my advice. Skip all that crap with hockey, basketball, baseball and football. Teach your kids to drive a go-kart. That's where the real money is.

So the price tag and lack of a Minnesota dealer leaves my Modena Lust unrequited. The Modena Lust is there every day. I have learned to deal with it. It's important to keep the demon in check otherwise you end up pulling an Anthony Weiner and sending pictures out over the series of pipes we know as the Internets.

My son Patrick and I went to Costco yesterday. I was doing my weekly stock-up shopping trip and he had a hankering for some new sports socks. I was picking up another 6 bottles of garlic extra virgin olive oil when I noticed a brand new item next to my olive oil. The item was a bottle of red wine vinegar and white wine vinegar, shrink-wrapped together. I reached for the item to read the label and the electricity shot through my body like the beast uncaged. As I brought the bottle closer to my bifocals, I developed a serious case of thigh sweats. In my trembling hands I held Acetum wine vinegar, made from the finest wine grapes in Italy. Modena, Italy. A whopping 67.6 ounces of Modena goodness for just $3.79. That's a savings of $429,996.21 compared to the 599 GTO base price. It's my "Costco Buy of the Week" and the resolution of my Modena Lust for June.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Pot Top Sieve

I hate washing dishes, pots and pans. While a dishwasher can handle dishes, it is of no use when it comes to cleaning pots, bowls and the like. When I cook pasta, I hate draining it in a colander as now I have dirtied two items that need to be hand washed.

That's why I love this device, the Kuchenprofi Pot-Top Strainer Sieve (another marvel of German engineering!). You just set it on the edge of your pot or pan and drain the water from your pasta. When you're done, the sieve just slides into your dishwasher and you only have the pot to clean.

The sieve is just $18.48 and is available at

Penne with Garlic Olive Oil

This is a variation on the Penne with Sausage, Mushroom and Onion recipe I posted a few days ago. This is the perfect recipe for cooks that do not like ingredients. It also has the added benefit of getting only one pot dirty...if you want to call boiling water dirty, that is. See my post from a few days ago on Garlic Extra Virgin Olive Oil (

16 ounces Penne Pasta (Garofalo preferred)
1/4 cup salt
1/3 cup Garlic Extra Virgin Olive Oil


  1. Fill a large pot with water. Add salt and bring to a boil.
  2. Add pasta. Cook for one minute less than package instructions.
  3. When cooked, drain pasta and toss with garlic olive oil. Serve.
Wine pairing: Pinot Noir, Sangiovese, Chianti

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Shaved Parmesan Cheese


Costco just started carrying this shaved Parmesan cheese in June. It's from Italy and aged a full 18 months. It appears that they dropped the older, grated version of the cheese and replaced it with this new, shaved one. The flakes are huge (almost the size of small potato chips) and the cheese is delicious (I've caught my wife snacking on's that good...and yes...I joined her.). It's available in the refrigerated cheese section of Costco near the dairy products.