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Archive for August, 2008

Until this past weekend I had never made cornbread. Is this bad? I’m 40 years old and an owner of a restaurant? It seems like it might be bad and I shouldn’t be sharing this with my customers, but that has not stopped me in the past so what the heck.

I’m actually sitting in the restaurant right now, Wednesday night. Today was a killer day for us, in terms of sales and in physical energy spent, and it’s still going. I started the day behind schedule and stayed behind schedule right up until a few minutes before the caterings went out the door. Somehow, I don’t know how, they all went out, on time, correct without any shortcuts or sacrifices.

We are like cats when it comes to our catering business though, we always seem to land on our feet. I did have a feeling this morning though that I had used my nine lives and today would be the day that we might just miss something. I have this feeling periodically and each time things have worked out…hmmm, might be my inexperience and my general pessimistic (or what I call a realistic) attitude.

The difference between our catering business and many other catering companies is that we run a restaurant as well. What does this mean you might ask? We only have one kitchen and one staff to do both sides of the business.

We can almost completely control the catering side – we can turn down business for example if we are busy. We can’t control the traffic on the restaurant side. One day we will be slammed from the moment the doors open until we close…the next traffic will be normal and then the following day we could literally be bored and be sending people home early.

Today, for example, we had three lunch catering orders totalling about 80 people.  Each of the caterings has multiple moving parts.  Grilling chicken or tri tip, preparing the platters, making salads, bottling up salad dressing, baking fresh cookies or dessert bars, putting together the paper goods, drinks, chips, condiments, etc.

On a normal day we can do this without much problem, but today we had twice the amount of people than normal come in for breakfast, snacks and coffee drinks (the time when we are prepping for the day and creating the catering food).

It’s awesome and maddening at the same time. My regulars will know how busy we are with catering orders just by the way we look and how we act when they walk in the door.  They will look at me, laugh and tell me that I work too hard.  It’s mostly fun though, but I will tell you…don’t open a restaurant unless you truly love food, customer service, making people happy, cleaning and working hard, all for less than you can make working the counter at Starbucks.  Haha, okay not that bad.

As a matter of fact, I’m very excited right now because shortly I’m going to be cooking grilled filet of beef with a wine and shallot reduction for an event at the restaurant in a few hours. There was a time, not long ago, that I wasn’t trusted with any of the food here. I started with the salads only, then I was able to do the tri tip, later I was trusted with other proteins and tonight I get to prepare the slamming tenderloin! It’s pretty exciting and scary knowing that in a few hours there will be 18 doctors eating dinner in our restaurant and I’m preparing the main entree.  Fortunately tenderloin is fairly forgiving, but at $17.99 a pound and limited time I can’t screw it up…I won’t though!

Okay, so back to cornbread. I made a few versions this past weekend. All of them I made in a nine-inch cast iron skillet which seemed appropriate for cornbread.  The first version I used medium coarse cornmeal and a very small amount of sugar.  I was pleasantly surprised at the result. Nothing like the cornbread I’ve ever had. It was more rustic with more of a bite and was less sweet. It would be great topped with chili or to accompany a soup. I used yogurt in the first batch and buttermilk in the second.

The kids didn’t like the texture of either so I made another version Sunday night, adapted from Cooks Illustrated.  I used fine cornmeal and I added more sugar and more liquid. This was the favorite and the whole skillets worth was devoured in short order.

This cornbread is perfect for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Northern Style Cornbread (serves six to eight)

  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted, plus more to grease the pan
  • 1 cup fine, yellow cornmeal such as Quaker in the round canister
  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 6 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2/3 cup shaken buttermilk
  • 2/3 cup milk

Adjust an oven rack to the center position and heat oven to 425 degrees. Grease a 9-inch cast iron skillet or a 9-inch square baking pan with butter.

Whisk the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar and salt together in a bowl. Form a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Crack the eggs into the well and stir lightly with a spoon. Add the buttermilk and milk. Stir the wet and dry ingredients until almost combined. Add the melted butter and stir until the ingredients are just combined.

Pour the batter into the greased skillet or pan. Bake until the top of the cornbread is golden brown and the edges have pulled away from the sides of the skillet or pan, about 20 to 25 minutes.

Cool five to ten minutes on a wire rack or on a burner atop your stove. Cut and devour.

You can wrap in foil and store at room temperature for up to 24 hours. Reheat in a 350-degree oven for 10 minutes.

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I’m not sure I would classify this past weekend’s cooking adventures as a success or not, a success I think.

It started on Friday night when I called Jacob to ask him what he wanted for dinner. Jacob is pretty easy going, so at first I couldn’t really get anything out of him, but he finally succumbed and said he would like bratwurst. Hmm… I knew I was in trouble. First off, his dad just cooked brats while they were camping and he loved them. (You know how everything tastes so good when you are camping?)

Second when I asked him about the type of brats, the method, boiled and grilled, etc, he said he didn’t have any clue, just that they “were awesome”. Third, I’ve never made bratwurst before… oh crap, I’ve been here before!

Meanwhile I had this desire to make cornbread because I’ve never made it before and I was feeling pretty confident that I might be able to actually bake something without it being a miserable failure… I’m not much of a baker. (Post coming later this week!)

First stop, the Internet. I looked around for bratwurst recipes and found a few different methods and a fair amount of arguing about the best way to make them. Boil, don’t boil, only beer, water and beer, onion, no onions, grill only, boil and grill. Whew, well forget it. I’ll just pick the first recipe and go from there. Big mistake!

I followed the recipe perfectly which resulted in overcooked brats. The only thing that worked was the oven fries, but Nancy made those, so I guess I can’t take credit for them. I’m not sure how I had such a large loss of cooking common sense, but I will use the excuse that we were really busy at work on Friday and my brain was fried. Oh and the cornbread… three versions and two different types of cornmeal. More on that later.

Fast forward to Saturday. We had a wedding catering that I needed to prepare food for during the day, but I didn’t have to work the wedding that night. I told Jacob that I would attempt to make the brats again after work and that he could help me put together the new smoker as well.

While I’m grilling food for the wedding I get a call. Jacob wants a ride, when I’m done, to his friends’ house so he can hang out with them for a few hours. At first I was bummed out, but then I realized that he is 17 years old. When I was 17 years old I didn’t want to be seen anywhere near my parents much less cook with them. So I did the next best thing, I dropped him off and then stopped at the store and bought a HUGE bag of Peanut Butter M&M’s and went home to watch the Olympics, cook more cornbread and pig out! I figured with the Olympics being over on Sunday I better get as much food in as possible since I wouldn’t have any excuses for not working out.

Fast forward to Sunday night. More cornbread and more brats. This time I paid a bit more attention to the recipes I dug up and came up with a fairly successful adaptation. We will try them again soon with beef bratwurst instead of pork.

Sorry about the picture… it’s not the best. I take three steps forward and then two back, but I’m heading in the right direction I think.

Beer & Bratwurst (serves 4 – 6)

  • 8 links fresh bratwurst (uncooked)
  • 4 bottles of beer, Guinness or your favorite
  • 2 red onions, sliced
  • 8 hot dog buns or hoagie rolls
  • Brown mustard
  • Mayonnaise
  • Sauerkraut

Preheat grill to medium high heat. Add beer to saucepan along with sliced onions. Bring liquid to boil. Add bratwurst and cook for 10 minutes. You can check the temp with an instant read thermometer, looking for 160 degrees.

Remove from liquid and grill, turning often for 5 or 6 minutes total. The sausages are already cooked so you are just looking to give them a nice browned, grilled exterior.

Place brat on bun, add mayonnaise, mustard and sauerkraut and devour! You could also add chopped bell peppers or sliced white onions.

All suggestions welcome on this one, comment away!

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Let me start by saying this is simply one of the easiest and most rewarding recipes I have ever made, period.

No ice cream maker, no long wait, easy prep. All you need is some mascarpone or creme fraiche, some sugar, strawberries and a food processor!

I ran across a version of this recipe last year in a book called “How To Pick a Peach” by Russ Parsons. If you want to know everything about fruit, where it comes from, how to store it, recipe ideas, look no further than Mr. Parson’s book. It is one of my favorites and it just came out on paperback so take a look.

The version included in the book was for peach gelato which I made last year and was blown away. I then made it again for some friends at a dinner party and everyone was impressed.

Last week, I made it with strawberries and again it was perfect. It literally took me 5 minutes to chop the berries and put them in the freezer to cool down. After they were frozen, 2 hours, it took me another 5 minutes to make the gelato. It took me longer to clean the food processor than it did to make this scrumptious dessert.

Oh, one other exciting piece of news before I turn you on to this awesome recipe. I just received, from Amazon, my brand new Weber smoker. We have a wedding catering on Saturday and I will prepping, grilling and hauling stuff most of the day, but I should have it together on Sunday and will test fire it. Stay tuned for that.

Strawberry Gelato (serves 4)

  • 1 pound fresh strawberries
  • 1/4 cup sugar, or more to taste
  • 1 cup mascarpone or creme fraiche

Remove the stems from the strawberries. Cut lengthwise in half and then cut each half again. You are going to freeze them so the smaller they are, the faster they will freeze and the better the texture your finished product will have.

Arrange the strawberry pieces in a single layer on a baking sheet and slide into the freezer for 2 hours, until frozen solid.

Put the frozen strawberry pieces into a food processor, add the sugar and pulse briefly. Add the mascarpone or creme fraiche and pulse until the mixture is smooth as silk.

Divide between 4 bowls and serve immediately. You can also transfer the gelato into another container and freeze. Once the gelato is frozen solid, you can put it back into the food processor and pulse again briefly before serving!

I’ve tried this with strawberries and peaches. The variations are endless. I’m thinking blueberries next time. Let me know what comes to mind!

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This week has been interesting to say the least. Tonight I’m a bit unmotivated and having a problem figuring out what I want to write about. I wrote three paragraphs about the restaurant and then decided it was boring so I tossed that out the door.

I find that many of my readers enjoy hearing about the restaurant and what goes on there so I’ve been trying to include more stories about it. I also have some readers who have told me they would like to know more about how I’ve managed to lose 45 pounds in the last seven months even though I cook some pretty tasty food and work in a restaurant that has been awarded the title of “Best Baked Goods”!

Well let’s get to the point tonight and touch on the food thing since I’m most bothered by it right now and then I will go back and plop myself on the couch and watch the Olympics.

I have an addiction to food… Food is to me what alcohol is to an alcoholic. The only problem is I can’t quit cold turkey, I work at a restaurant, I’m Italian, I love food and my wife is a chef. Doh!

From January this year to the beginning of the Olympics last week, I’ve exercised 30 to 45 minutes of hard cardio, six days per week, every week. Yes every week! During the same period of time, I’ve eaten anything I wanted, but have limited my general overall calorie consumption to 1,300 to 1,800 calories each day.

In the first four months I didn’t break that routine, but maybe twice. In the past four months I broke the routine on average once per week. In the first four months I lost on average one to two pounds per week. In the last four months I’ve had periods of time where I don’t lose any weight for a month.

Everyone now tells me I shouldn’t lose anymore weight and I don’t intend to lose much more, but will start adding weights to build more muscle, which in turn will burn more calories, into my routine.

I’m a very all-or-nothing person, so either I’m working out, eating well and being healthy or I’m the exact opposite. I’ve worked out two out of the last ten days! haha, so you can imagine what’s going on with my eating habits.

So that’s a bit about my relationship with food. I have nothing profound to say or any great advice that, if you have a food addiction like me, you haven’t heard before. Exercise is my key and I find that if I’m doing it most of the week everything will work out.

Now, back to our regularly scheduled programming. On Tuesday we had our first catering due at 7:00 in the morning and the last one a drop off at 6:00pm. We also had a friend coming over for dinner and I wanted to make a very modified version of Bolognese I ran across a few days ago. It interested me because it was supposed to be a “Quick Ragu” and I wasn’t going to have much time. I know, the next post for Bolognese was supposed to be the skirt steak version… it is coming I promise. It will be worth the wait.

I made it home early because my beautiful and wonderful wife volunteered to take the dinner catering since I was cooking the dinner, including homemade strawberry gelato, which I will share the recipe for in a few days.

The night was perfection and the dinner and dessert represented exactly what food should be all about. The three of us made dinner together, shared stories, drank wine and laughed. We coaxed the boys out of their lairs to eat dinner and we all enjoyed the results. We then retired to our very large and comfy couch and for the next three hours enjoyed great conversation and some strawberry gelato!

Pasta with Rapid Bolognese Sauce – (serves four)

Ingredients

  • 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 medium-sized carrots, small dice
  • 2 medium-sized celery hearts, small dice
  • 1 large onion, small dice
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 1/2 pound mortadella, chopped fine (this is the fun part, first time I’ve used this ingredient)
  • 8 to 12 ounces tomato sauce (up to your preference)
  • 3 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 pound rigatoni or mostaccioli pasta

Fill a 6 quart pan 3/4 full of water and bring to boil. This is your pasta boiling water.

Heat oil and butter over medium heat in dutch oven or heavy bottomed pan until hot. Add onion, carrots and celery. Cook until tender and onion is translucent, about nine minutes. Add garlic and cook for one minute.

Stir in pork, tomato paste and mortadella then cook, stirring periodically, until the pinkness is eliminated, about 10 minutes. Stir in tomato sauce and 1 tablespoon of water. Reduce heat to low and cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Salt and pepper to taste and then stir in parsley.

When you are 10 minutes away from the sauce being done, generously salt the boiling water. Add the pasta and cook until tender, per the package instructions. Toss the pasta with the sauce and serve, topped with Parmesan cheese.

Please share your great memories of food, friends and family. I always need to remember that we don’t just eat to survive, or to binge, or to satisfy some emotional void, but to enjoy the act of preparing and sharing!

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Pulled pork, bacon, back ribs… I love them all. Last week I made pork tenderloin and all week I’ve been thinking about doing pulled pork. I think about it often, but I rarely make it because of the time commitment necessary and my lack of planning. If you have the time though, make them, it is worth it! For me, this weekend seemed like the time to try and get them done.

For the first weekend in some time we didn’t have any caterings. We did pass on a few jobs that came up so that we could have a weekend off and spend time together. As always there are a ton of things we need to do, the most important is to start working on the business plan for the new location, but we decided to take a complete break from all things Dish!

We are pretty excited/scared to death about the new location. The owner of the property is going to be breaking ground in the next few weeks and we expect the building to be completed late spring or early summer next year.

My first big project is completing the business plan so we can go out and start looking for private investments. We started Dish with all private loans so I’m hoping some of our initial investors will come back and support us again, but you never know with the current state of the economy. Since the value of our house has dropped $80,000 in the past two years, doh!, there is really no line of credit left available so raising the money is really make or break.

Many people ask us why we want to open another location and warn us of all the things that can go wrong. Ultimately it all comes down to the lack of kitchen and prep space we are faced with each day. Imagine if you can, trying to prepare food for the restaurant customers while trying to produce food for 50 to 100 people for lunch deliveries while trying to prep for a 100 person party, all in less than 100 square feet of kitchen, one half-sized convection oven and portable burners. Our home kitchen is twice the size of our restaurant kitchen! I think in the last year we have had to turn down as much business as we have taken because of the space constraints.

So enough of Dish and my current concerns. On Saturday I made what I thought was exceptional pulled pork sandwiches. Making pulled pork is a two-day affair, but don’t be afraid. As long as you do a bit of planning the prep and method are fairly easy. The recipe presented below is a combination from America’s Test Kitchen and Steven Raichlen. The rub, sauce and the coleslaw come from Raichlen, who by the way has great grilling books that I can’t recommend more. The method, which shortens the overall cooking time comes from America’s Test Kitchen. I can’t say enough about their books. If you are just learning how to cook they are the best books to start with.

First let me share a few important tips:

  • When barbecuing with indirect heat using charcoal you will need to add fresh coals every 45 to 60 minutes to maintain the temperature. In the past I would add unlit briquettes to my coals but I noticed that it took too long for them to burn and put off heat which meant uneven heating. Now instead of emptying the entire charcoal starter of lite coals into the barbecue I leave 3 or 4 at the bottom, then add 10 fresh coals on top and set aside. By the time I need to replace some of the coals in the Weber these coals are ready to go.
  • If you are going to marinate or rub a big piece of meat, like a pork shoulder, don’t marinate it for less than 3 hours and 8 to 12 is ideal.
  • Invest in a good instant-read thermometer. I can almost tell, by touch, when my tri tip is done, but when it comes to other cuts of beef and pork, I’m very much at a loss. The best part of the thermometer is that I know for sure when something is done and I know for sure that I’m not going to make anyone sick!

Without further ado, here is the recipe.

Please let me know if you make it and please share your barbecuing ideas for pulled pork. The more the merrier.

North Carolina Pulled Pork Sandwiches (serves 4 to 6)

Rub:

  • 1 teaspoon mild paprika
  • 2 teaspoons light brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons hot paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery salt
  • 1 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix with your fingers.

Pork:

  • 1 5-6 pound Boston butt (bone-in pork shoulder roast)
  • Vinegar sauce (below)
  • 10 to 12 hamburger buns
  • Coleslaw (below)
  • 2 cups of wood chips, soaked in water for at least 1 hour
  • 1 disposable aluminum pan

Vinegar Sauce:

  • 2 cups cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 5 teaspoons salt
  • 4 teaspoons hot red pepper flakes
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups of water

For the vinegar sauce combine all the ingredients in a non-reactive bowl and whisk until sugar and salt are dissolved. Taste, add more brown sugar and/or salt as necessary. The sauce should not be sour, but piquant.

Coleslaw:

  • 1 small head green cabbage
  • 1 cup Vinegar Sauce
  • Salt

Finely chop the cabbage by hand. Place in a large bowl and stir in vinegar sauce. Let stand for 10 minutes, then taste and add salt or sauce if desired.

Okay, on to the pork…. Rub the spices onto the pork shoulder, covering all sides. Cover it with plastic wrap, refrigerate for at least 3 hours, up to 12 hours.

Set up your grill for indirect grilling and preheat to medium-low. You want the temp in the grill to be 275 degrees. I lit one charcoal starter half full, about 40 briquettes for a large Weber. Open bottom vents fully. Once the coals are ready, place them on one side of the grill, 2 to 3 briquettes high, leaving 60% of the grill empty. Place 1/2 of the wood chips directly on charcoal. You need to place the other half one hour into the cooking.

If using a gas grill it should be easy to get the temp to 275. You will most likely leave the back burner on med-high and turn the others off. You will want to make a smoke pouch. You can do this by placing your soaked chips on a sheet of heavy aluminum foil, cover the chips with the foil, making an enclosed pouch. Then poke holes in the top so the smoke can escape. You will place the pack on top of the burner that is producing heat.

Unwrap pork and place in a disposable aluminum pan and place on grate opposite the side with the charcoal. Open the top vent three quarters of the way, cover. Cook, adding about 8 to 10 briquettes every hour to maintain an average temperate of 275 for three hours.

I used an oven thermometer, placed through the vent hole, to track the temperature in the grill. You can adjust the temperature by opening and closing the vents on the top and bottom of the grill. If you see the temperature on the grill going above 315 you can close the vents more on top. If you have the top fully open and the temp starts to fall to below 275 then add more briquettes.

Adjust an oven rack to the middle and preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Completely wrap the pan holding the pork with heavy duty foil. Place the pan in the oven and bake until the meat is fork tender with an internal temperature of 195 degrees. This will take 1 1/4 to 2 hours depending on how consistent the temperature was in your barbecue.

Take the foil-wrapped pan out of oven, slide into a brown paper bag. Crimp the bag shut and let it sit for 1 hour. This allows any remaining collagen to melt and is worth the wait.

Put some heavy duty gloves on, or use a fork and pull the pork into pieces, discarding bones and skin. You are looking for pieces that are 1 to 2 inches long and 1/8 to 1/4 inch wide. Add 1 to 1 1/2 cups of vinegar sauce to the pork and combine.

Toast your buns, if you’d like, add some mayonnaise to one side of the bread (yum), mound the pulled pork on the bun and top with coleslaw. Devour!

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It’s hard for me to pay attention to much else but the Olympics this week. I simply love it, plain and simple. The Olympics embody everything great about competition. There are very few things that can bring me to tears, but I find myself on the edge when I see the passion displayed in the faces of the competitors. The athletes sacrifice so much to be the best, not okay, not second, not I did my best, not I will try harder next time, but THE BEST!

If I didn’t have to work I could probably watch them non-stop. In fact it is our plan to travel to Canada in two years to see the Winter Olympics. Now I just need to start saving. I hear the biggest expense is the lodging. If anyone has any pointers or tips please pass them along.

I did have tickets to the games in Salt Lake City, but at the time I was single and couldn’t find anyone who could take time off work so I sold the tickets on eBay. Looking back I wish I would have gone by myself because at the time I had the resources. Those were the days of Internet startups, stock options and retention bonuses and I was right in the middle of the fun. Somehow the market fell apart and retiring for good at 33 was just a dream. Oh well!

So back to the present, however painful at times. Hahaha! I’m watching the womans gymnastics team perform right now, so let’s get directly to the recipe so I can focus my full attention on the TV.

The recipe was inspired by the Niman Ranch Cookbook. This is the same cookbook I turned to for the Tri Tip with Black Olive Aoili which I made last month. I spied the recipe a few months ago but I haven’t been in the mood for pork. I love beef, chicken and turkey, but I’m a bit more picky on the pork side of things. Fortunately I know this is because I haven’t found the right recipes and techniques so I expect my preferences to change as I figure this pork thing out.

I do love baby back ribs, BACON of course and a good slow-cooked boston butt pulled and slathered in sauce, but chops and tenderloin have never been on the top of my list.

With that said I was in search of something that would change my mind when I decided to make this recipe. It also included some new methods/techniques which is important to one who is always looking to learn. I have braised and roasted pork tenderloin before, but I have never made a romesco sauce or fried bread in olive oil to make garlic toast.

The garlic toast was great. Not low calorie mind you, but with the Olympics on, who has time to work out and if I don’t work out, I don’t pay attention to calories. The romesco sauce was great. It had earthy undertones along with a complex texture. The deep flavor of the hazelnuts, sweetness from the tomato and peppers followed by the slight shock of garlic and chile. Perfect!

It passed both of our family tests. Nancy was impressed and said she loved it. More surprising was that both boys went back for seconds. When they came to the table the look on their face told a story of skepticism. Jacob took a less-then-pea-sized portion of the romesco and with some caution tasted it. I just sat back and watched without saying a word. The small portion turned into a thickly covered piece of toast and then another. Randy followed suit.

Roasted Pork Lion with Romesco Sauce on Garlic Toast

(serves 4)

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup hazelnuts
  • 2 red bell peppers
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 tablespoons fennel seeds
  • Kosher salt and freshly grounded black pepper
  • 1 boneless port tenderloin, appx. 1.5 pounds
  • 6 sundried tomatoes packed in olive oil, drained, reserve 1/4 cup of oil
  • 1 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro leaves
  • 2 teaspoons chopped garlic
  • 1 or 2 chipotle chile in adobo sacue, chopped
  • 3 teaspoons sherry vinegar
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 handfuls arugula, tough stems removed

Garlic Toast

  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 8 slices of dense, thick bread, at least 1/2 inch thick
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and trimmed

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Spread hazelnuts on a baking sheet and toast in oven for approximately 12 minutes or until golden. Let cool, but not completely. Transfer the hazelnuts to a clean kitchen towel and rub vigorously between your palms to remove as much of the skin as possible. Set hazelnuts aside.

Increase oven temperature to 450 degrees.

Put the bell peppers on the baking sheet, place in oven and cook for 20 to 25 minutes until skin darkens and blisters. Remove from oven, place in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let sit for 10 minutes.

While bell pepper is preparing to have its skin removed you can work on your rub. Combine the parsley, fennel seeds, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a small bowl and mix with your fingers. Rub mixture evenly over the tenderloin. Place tenderloin in the center of a roasting pan.

Roast for 15 minutes at 450 degrees and then turn down the oven to 350 degrees and roast for another 15 to 20 minutes until a thermometer inserted into the center reads 145 degrees. Remove from oven and let rest for 15 minutes, loosely covered with foil.

While the pork is in the oven you can make both the romesco sauce and the garlic toast.

Peel off the blistered skin from the bell peppers and discard the stems and seeds. Place the hazelnuts a food processor and pulse until finely ground. Add the sundried tomatoes and puree until smooth. Add the bell peppers next and puree again until smooth. Add the cilantro, garlic, chili, 2 teaspoons of the sherry vinegar and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Pulse to combine.

Combine the 1/4 cup of olive oil and sundried tomato oil you set aside early. With the processor running, slowly in a stead stream add the oil until fully incorporated. Transfer to bowl suitable for serving.

Put arugula in a bowl, add remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 1 teaspoon of vinegar. Toss to coat evenly and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Now hurry up and make the garlic toast. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When nearly smoking add the bread a few slices at a time. Cook turning once, for about 1 minutes per side or until golden brown on both sides. Rub one side with the cut sides of the garlic clove.

Cut the pork into 1/4-inch thick slices. Spread equal amounts of the sauce over each toast. Top with a few arugula leaves and 2 slices of pork. Devour!

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I approach almost everyone of my endeavors with a strong desire to be the best. I’m one of those people who is rarely satisfied with my results and I’m usually looking for a better way to do something.

This creates some problems for me regarding the publication of this blog along with many other ventures in my life. Deciding what to cook for dinner is usually the easy part. If I’m doing the cooking everyone else in the house is usually happy and will pretty much take whatever I dish out.

Preparing the food can be a challenge, but as long as Nancy is within shouting distance and the recipe doesn’t have anything to do with baking I can usually hit the mark.

Experiencing extreme satisfaction from what I cook, well that’s another story. We have a fairly stable ritual at the dinner table, unless one of us is in a terrible mood. We pray, we share stories about the day and then we start critiquing the food. This is something I started and everyone begrudgingly plays along. I always want the truth, the good, the bad, the ugly, but my family likes to go easy on me.

I can tell what Jacob and Randy think by the amount they eat. When they don’t go back for seconds or I hear “I’m full” prematurely I don’t even need to ask. Jacob, Nancy’s son, will usually give me a better description of what he likes or doesn’t since he’s been around good food all of his life. Randy who grew up with my sub-par cooking will usually eat anything and is happy to have the free food. He is the typical broke UNR college student.

When it comes to Nancy, who is probably just trying to keep the peace and keep me in a good mood, the conversation goes something like this:

Joe – “What do you think? What would you change? I liked it, but I didn’t love it.”

Nancy – “It was good.” This is after she ate half of the plate and is mysteriously “full”.

Joe – “Come on, what did you really thing? What would you do differently?”

Jacob – “Mom, tell him what you really think!”

Nancy – “I liked it. It was fine. I’m just full, I ate a late lunch at the restaurant.”

Joe – “Give me a break. What would you change?”

Nancy – “Well I would add more of xyz and I think you should do x.”

Hahaha, the running joke at our dinner table is, if the meal needed some work, you have to ask a few times before you can break her down and get a straight answer.

The pictures are probably the hardest part of the equation. I did some photography when I was in my 20s, but nothing to do with food and/or inanimate objects. If you’ve been reading the blog since I started, or have gone back and checked out some of the older posts, you will notice that the pictures have improved quite a bit.

I started with a Canon Elf, point and shoot, and every photo had lighting problems. I recently purchased a Canon Rebel and built a light box out of a cardboard box and tracing paper which has helped quite a bit. I have a long way to go! Next I need to read the three photography and Photoshop books I ordered from Amazon.

Lastly and rival for the most challenging part is writing the post. My strengths are math, computers, business, sales, etc. I’ve never been able to write! I’m always jealous of Nancy’s blog because she tells such a great story and it leaps off the page. I can verbally tell a great story, but when it comes to putting it on paper, well you know, you’ve been reading them.

With that said let me move on to Bolognese sauce. There is a connection here. Bolognese was one of the first things I cooked when I started this cooking quest a few years ago and I’m still not happy with the results. I’ve reviewed and compared 20 or more recipes and have made at least six different versions with some incredible results. We love it in the fall and winter, but it works anytime as far as I’m concerned. Our favorites are with pasta or over polenta. A good lasagna Bolognese is always welcome too.

My plan is present to you three different versions of Bolognese sauce over the next few months. The first version, todays, is a simple adaptation of a Mario Batali recipe. This is the most basic of the bunch. It is super easy to make, super easy to prep and has very little active time. You can get it going and then work out, watch TV, respond to all the emails you left unopened, email your friends about my blog, etc.

Traditionally it is made with tagliatelle and has very small amount of tomato.

Pasta with Bolognese Sauce (serves four to six)

Ingredients:

  • 2 medium sized carrots, small dice (1 extra carrot for your dog!)
  • 2 medium sized celery hearts, small dice
  • 1 large onion, small dice
  • 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 pound ground pork, not lean
  • 1 pound lean ground beef, 90% lean
  • 4 ounces pancetta, small dice
  • 1 cup Chianti Classico or other Italian red wine (If you won’t drink it, don’t use it)
  • 1 cup half and half
  • 4 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 12 ounces of spaghetti noddles, fettuccine or taglaitelle noddles

My dog, Ecko, loves carrots so whenever I have a recipe that includes carrots I always grab an extra one for her. She runs around in circles and then rolls on it and then tosses it up in the air and the finally eats it bit-by-bit.


Heat oil and butter over medium heat in dutch oven or large pot until hot. Add onion, carrots and celery. Cook until tender and onion is translucent. About nine minutes.

Turn heat up to high and add pork, beef and pancetta. Continue to stir and break apart meat into small pieces. Cook only until meat has lost its raw look, but do not brown. You do not want the outside of the meat to crisp or fry. You want the meat to be tender. About eight minutes.

Add wine, tomato paste and half and half. Reduce heat to very low, only enough to maintain a gentle simmer. Cook uncovered, stirring every fifteen minutes or so until the sauce is almost gone, but the meat is still very moist. About 1 1/2 hours. Add salt to taste.

Cook pasta per package instructions. Drain pasta, arrange on plates and cover with Bolognese sauce.

The next version is actually my favorite, but harder to get right. It uses skirt steak and a much more complex method… worth it, but there can be problems. The use of crumbled dried porcini mushrooms adds an incredible taste as well. Stay tuned.

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