Thursday, May 31, 2012

Garlic Olive Oil is Back at Costco!

One of my favorite products at Costco is back in stock. Montova Garlic Extra Virgin Olive Oil is back on the shelf, but you need to get your butt in gear as they sell it for only a few short months in summer. Come late summer, it vacations in Europe for 9 months and you are S.O.L.

Each bottle holds 34 ounces and it retails for just $7.49. This is a great buy. I use this oil in lieu of regular olive oil whenever possible. And if you are lucky enough to buy some, try using it in these recipes:

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Dow's Late Bottled Vintage Port 2006

This dessert wine is the bargain of the century. A single bottle costs only $21.99 and you will be astounded by the depth of this wine. On the tongue, you will taste wild berries and black plums with nuances of dark chocolate. It's bursting with fruit but has an incredibly dry finish.

The wine has spent 5 years maturing in oak casks and is ready to drink immediately.Wine Spectator gave this marvelous bottle of wine a score of 91 points. I'd give it a 95+. It's that good. Serve this wine with chocolate desserts or hard cheeses like aged Cheddar or creamy blue.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Parmesan Crusted Portobello Mushrooms with White Truffle Oil

I always look forward to Fridays because that is the day I hit Costco. What's fun about Costco is that they always have some new gem at a great price that I just can't resist. Happened again last Thursday and I have to share this one with you.

White truffles are one of life's great pleasures. But it is a pleasure priced out of reach as a pound of white truffles will set you back about $2,000. read that correctly...two thousand dollars a pound. A little too pricey for my kitchen...but then that's where Costco comes in.

Costco had an end-cap display with Urbani White Truffle Oil from Italy. This stuff is pure liquid gold and Costco was selling an 8-ounce bottle for just $14.49. That is one helluva a buy. Now I can get the unbelievable flavor of white truffles for $1.81 per ounce versus $125.00 an ounce for an actual truffle.

When I opened the cap of the White Truffle Oil....there was the most alluring scent in the world. It smelled like earth, old mushrooms, old leather, wet hay and musk. Oh, the smell of it! The white truffles in Italy are much more highly regarded than the black truffles from France. One whiff will make you a believer in the power of the white truffle.

For years, I've been using truffle oil in lieu of olive oil in my Caprese Salads. It takes the tomato, basil and  mozzarella to new heights. And you won't believe the depth of flavor it adds to grilled portobello mushrooms. This Bobby Flay recipe makes a great side dish for grilled steaks. Make sure you buy the huge portobello caps...they should be four inches in diameter or larger. This recipe serves four.

4 large portobello mushroom caps, cleaned and stems removed
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons fresh thyme
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
Olive oil for brushing
4 teaspoons white truffle oil


  1. Heat grill to medium-low. Combine Parmesan, thyme, salt and pepper in a small bowl.
  2. Brush mushrooms with olive oil on both sides. Place the mushrooms, cap side down and cook until golden, about 4 to 5 minutes. Turn over and continue grilling until soft, about 5 to 6 minutes longer. 
  3. When the mushrooms are cooked through, carefully divide the cheese mixture between the mushrooms (cap side down). Close the cover of the grill and cook until the cheese has melted. Remove from the grill and drizzle each mushroom with a teaspoon of white truffle oil.

Wine pairing: Pinot Noir or Syrah

Sunday, May 20, 2012

It's Vidalia Onion Season

It's that time of year again...the Vidalia onion harvest is on. This uncommonly sweet onion was discovered in 1931 by Mose Coleman in Vidalia, Georgia. The sweetness is attributed to the very low sulfur content in the soil in which it is grown. It is only grown in 13 counties in Georgia on approximately 14,000 acres of land.

Farmers plant Vidaila onions from September through February and they are harvested from late April to mid-June. The onions are very delicate. Each onion must be harvested by hand and then dried.

Vidalia onions are a real taste treat. You'll taste the sweetness immediately if you use one in the Pico de Gallo recipe I posted yesterday. On Thursday, I picked up a 10-pound bag of Vidalia onions at Costco for just $6.49. That's a small price for greatness.

Here's another recipe that really works well with a Vidalia onion:

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Pico de Gallo

Pico de Gallo is my very favorite salsa. It goes great with tacos, fajitas or even as a dip with my preferred tortilla chips, Garden of Eatin' Organic Blue Tortilla Chips. Or grill yourself up a nice steak and top it with this delicious Pico de Gallo.

Don't bother with store bought. You want to make this yourself from scratch. You want the freshest vegetables....straight from the farmers market or the produce aisle at Whole Foods. This recipe will take you less than 10 minutes to make. And I guarantee you it will be the best salsa you have ever tasted.

3 large tomatoes, diced
1 medium onion, diced
2 jalapeños, diced (seeds removed)
1/4 bunch cilantro, chopped (use more if you are a cilantro fanboy)
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon salt, or more to taste


  1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Mix well and serve.

Pairing: El Pacifico Mexican beer

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Seafood Gazpacho

We went out for Mother's Day brunch and I found this little gem on the buffet table. This is one incredibly healthy meal and 100% Paleo. We are talking delicious vegetables and nature's nearly purest form of protein, shellfish. If ever there was a perfect meal for a hot summer night, this chilled soup is it!

This recipe is quick and easy...the vast majority of the ingredient list is the gazpacho, which you are going to create by pressing a button on your food processor or blender. But so this soup has a really pleasing crunch and texture, you are going to dice some of the veggies and add them to the gazpacho base.

For seafood, it is really up to you. Shellfish holds up best, and when I made mine, I used salad shrimp, lump crabmeat and bay scallops. Mix and match as you see fit. My only suggestion is to keep the diced veggies and the pieces of seafood roughly the same size.

 The crab and small salad shrimp can be bought pre-cooked, so only the scallops need a few minutes on top of the stove. Just steam or sauté them for 2-3 minutes until they are opaque (do not overcook!). This recipe serves four.

1 large seedless English cucumber
1 large bell pepper (color doesn't matter, buy the biggest)
1 medium onion
3 cloves garlic
24 ounces (3 cups) canned or fresh diced tomatoes (tomato juice works in a pinch)
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon Sriracha, Tabasco or other hot sauce

1/2 pound cooked salad shrimp (60+ pieces per pound)
1/2 pound lump crabmeat
1/2 pound small bay scallops
Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste


  1. Cut cucumber in half. Cut first half into large chunks and put in food processor. Dice second half and set aside.
  2. Cut bell pepper in half. Remove stem and seeds. Cut first half into large chunks and put in food processor. Dice second half and set aside.
  3.  Slice both poles of onion off. Cut onion in half. Cut first half into large chunks and put in food processor. Dice second half and set aside.
  4. Add 8 ounces (1 cup) of diced tomatoes to food processor, then add garlic cloves, lemon juice, olive oil, sherry vinegar, sugar and hot sauce.
  5. Turn on food processor and let blade spin until all ingredients are pureed. Pour out puree into a large ceramic bowl.
  6. Add the remaining 16 ounces of diced tomatoes to food processor and turn on to puree. Pour out puree into the other ingredients in the ceramic bowl.
  7. To the puree, add the diced cucumber, diced bell pepper, diced onion, shrimp, crab and bay scallops. Gently stir to mix. Cover and refrigerate for 3 hours.
  8. Uncover seafood gazpacho. Add salt and pepper to taste (do not add it will water down your soup by sucking the moisture out of the diced cucumber and onion). Divide among 4 chilled soup bowls and serve.

Wine pairing: Manzanilla (Spanish Sherry)

I have found that Muir Glen Organic Fire Roasted
Diced Tomatoes add the best flavor to the gazpacho.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Weapon of Choice: Multi Pot

I bought this little gem of a pot two years ago and I find that I'm using it a lot. I originally bought it to help me make reductions. So often a recipe will say "add three cups and reduce to one cup". I get that, but I could never tell how much of my reduction was left without pouring the hot liquid out into a measuring cup. This ingenious design solved has measurement markings on the inside of the pot, so I can tell exactly and precisely how much is in the pot.

Then I found that it is a great pot for melting butter. The handle stays nice and cool to the touch and the spout allows me to pour without spilling. It's also proven to be a great little pot for making rice, quinoa and farro. It's got a strainer top that allows me to pour off excess liquid and just the grains remain in the pot.

This quality, 8-cup capacity pot is manufactured by Norpro. It's made with Krona stainless-steel that has a layer of aluminum sandwiched in the bottom for great heat conduction. It sells for $39.95 on the Chef's catalog site. You can check it out here, as well as the 40+ reviews:

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Pulled Pork Sandwich with Homemade BBQ Sauce

When one typically makes a pulled pork sandwich, one spends hours cooking the pork and then just a moment slathering on a store-bought BBQ sauce. With this recipe, you are going to do the opposite. You will spend just a few minutes heating up your store-bought pulled pork and will devote your time to making homemade BBQ sauce.

The key to this speedy recipe is Kirkland Smoked Pulled Pork. This terrific product is sold at Costco and once you've tried it, I think you may abandon any desire to make your own pulled pork from scratch. You get two pounds of heavenly pulled pork for just $9.59.

The pork is smoked over natural hickory wood for 12 to 14 hours (no liquid smoke here). Hats off to the pit master as the amount of smoke is spot on! The pork is packaged without any sauce...that's your job...and I will give you  Nutzie's fabulous recipe to make your own.

You heat the pork in your takes just seven minutes...and then mix it with your homemade BBQ sauce. And once you've made homemade BBQ sauce, I think you will find it very difficult to go back to the store-bought variety. I typically serve these sandwiches with fresh corn-on-the-cob. This recipe serves six.

Ingredients for the Sandwiches
One, 2-pound package of Kirkland Smoked Pulled Pork
6 fresh hamburger buns, sliced

Ingredients for Nutzie's Homemade BBQ Sauce 
1 tablespoon of vegetable oil
3/4 cup minced onions
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 cups ketchup
1/4 cup cider vinegar
2 tablespoons firmly packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 tablespoon chili powder
Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste


  1. For the sauce: Heat oil in saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly softened, about 4 minutes. Then add all other ingredients. Let simmer over medium-low heat until flavors meld, about 15 minutes.
  2. For the pork: Remove cardboard sleeve. Use a knife to puncture 4 slits in top of pork plastic wrap. Keep pork in plastic tray and heat pork in microwave, on high, for 7 minutes. Let pork cool for 2 minutes when done. Carefully open plastic and put pork into large bowl. Use 2 forks to shred pork.
  3. Add BBQ sauce to pork in the bowl in small increments until you have desired amount of sauce coverage.
  4. Divide pork among buns and serve.

Wine pairing: Zinfandel

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Greek Seafood Salad

One of the the most tantalizing aspects of the new Whole Foods store in Edina is their incredible display of fresh seafood. I could not resist last Monday and I brought home some of the most beautiful shrimp and scallops. I am happy to report that they were every bit as tasty as they looked.

This recipe from Weber is really easy to prepare. You're going to take those spectacular shrimp and scallops and grill them for 4 minutes and then toss them into the incredible salad you see above. The recipe is fast, easy to prepare and 100% Paleo.

To cook small shrimp and scallops on the grill, I recommend you use a grill pan. I have a Weber grill pan that I got from Amazon for just under $20. You can check it out here: I

I also have a profound lust for Williams Sonoma's grill pan, but can't see buying it when my Weber works just fine:|grill%2Bpan|23|best|0|1|24||22&cm_src=PRODUCTSEARCH||NoFacet-_-NoFacet-_-Top_Wide_Agrarian%20-%20copy-_-

This recipe works well as an appetizer salad for six to eight people or as the perfect meal for four on a hot summer's night. To make this dish extra special, I would suggest using heirloom or beefsteak tomatoes.

Dressing Ingredients
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano*
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

Salad Ingredients
5 vine ripened tomatoes, cut into 1/2 inch slices
1/2 cup pitted green olives, halved
1/2 cup thinly sliced celery
1/2 cup finely diced red onion
1 pound small shrimp (36-45 count)
1 pound small bay scallops
2 tablespoons roughly chopped Italian parsley leaves


  1. Combine dressing ingredients in a small bowl.
  2. Arrange the tomato slices on a serving platter. In a small bowl mix the olives, celery, and onion.
  3. Prepare the grill for direct cooking over high heat (450° to 550°F) and preheat the grill pan.
  4. Drain the seafood in a sieve. Spread the seafood in a single layer on the grill pan and cook over direct high heat, with the lid closed as much as possible, until the shrimp and scallops are slightly firm on the surface and completely opaque in the center, 3 to 5 minutes, turning the seafood once or twice for even cooking. Wearing insulated barbecue mitts, remove the pan from the grill and rest it on a sheet pan. Transfer the seafood to a large bowl to stop the cooking. Let seafood cool for 5-10 minutes.
  5. Spoon the seafood over the tomatoes. Scatter the olives, celery, and onion over the seafood. Spoon some of dressing over the entire salad (you may not need all of it). Sprinkle the parsley over the top. Serve at room temperature.

Wine pairing: Pinot Gris

*There are two types of oregano, Mexican and Turkish. Mexican oregano is stronger and less sweet and goes perfect with spicy, hot, cumin-flavored dishes of Mexico. Turkish oregano is used in Mediterranean dishes like Italian sauces, Greek salads and Turkish kebobs. It has a sweet, strong flavor. What you want for this recipe is Turkish oregano. Any cook worth their weight will have both types in their pantry. If you don't have both, you can buy them here: .

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Best Roasting Chicken Ever

Roast chicken is one of our favorite meals. We had it last night, but it was a whole new experience for you simply must try.

I've been buying organic chickens for years and they tasted just fine. On Monday, I bought a Miller air-chilled, organic chicken from the new Whole Foods store in Edina. It was spectacular, and without a doubt, the best tasting, roast chicken I have ever had.

Let me get your first fear out of the way was not expensive. In fact, it was value priced at only $2.79 per pound. Just head to the Whole Foods butcher shop, pick out your chicken from the glass display and you are on your way to an incredible taste treat.

The chicken are raised in northern Indiana and southern Michigan. They are naturally grown, fed a totally vegetarian diet (no meat by-products) and 100% antibiotic free.

Once processed, the chickens are air-chilled, which is a relatively new method for the U.S., but has been used for several years in Europe and Canada. Conventional chilling methods use water immersion, which adds moisture, but not flavor, to the birds. Each Miller chicken is individually chilled in a cooling chamber, which does an exceptional job of sealing in the natural juices and flavor.

Many of the birds that get processed with water are frozen and then stored in a warehouse. Not Miller chickens. These chickens are so incredibly fresh...such a departure from what I have been used to seeing as to be remarkable.

Judy, Patrick, Sean and I noticed the difference in taste from the very first bite. Flavorful and exceptional were the two adjectives that popped into my head. And I did nothing out of the ordinary to prepare it...just used my favorite roast chicken recipe:

So get your butt to Whole Foods. I spent a whopping $10.21 on my Miller chicken and it proved to be one of the very best roast chickens in my 59 years of eating roast chickens. Okay, maybe 58...because it took awhile for my teeth to grow in. But there is no need for you to wait as long.