Fire Up the Grill!

Grilled Skirt Steak Pinwheels, with a side of Grilled Tomatoes—really can’t get any easier than this and still pull off an impressive dinner in about a half hour. Though the meat filling is made with just a few ingredients, it packs a huge flavor punch that’s savory, zingy, and fresh. To add even more flavor I added a couple cloves of finely chopped garlic which was not part of the original recipe.


And their is almost nothing better in the summertime than Grilled Tomatoes! For the best results, use in-season, round tomatoes that are ripe yet a bit firm so they will hold their shape on the grill. (Plum tomatoes may be used, but they will be drier in texture. If using plum tomatoes, halve them lengthwise.) Supermarket vine-ripened tomatoes will work but won’t be as flavorful.


Salting the tomatoes allows some of their juices to be drawn out so that they are less wet on the grill for better browning. Grilling the tomatoes cut sides down first allows them to caramelize before flipping onto their skin sides; the cradle-like skins helps to hold the tomatoes together as they continued to soften.


To round off the meal and add even more fiber and goodness, grill some asparagus spears lightly rubbed with a good EVOO and sprinkled with salt and pepper. They’ll take approximately the same amount of time as the tomatoes—depending on thickness of course.


Grilled Skirt Steak Pinwheels

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • 1 whole 1-1/2-lb. skirt steak or 2 3/4-lb. pieces, trimmed of excess surface fat
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 oz. coarsely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (about 1 cup)
  • 2 Tbs. finely grated lemon zest (from 2 large)
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley (from 1 large bunch)
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped (optional)


  1. If the steak is whole, cut it to make two even pieces. Lay the steak out on a work surface and cover with plastic wrap. Using a meat mallet, gently pound the steak until it is at least 4 inches wide and no more than 1/3 inch thick (it’s OK if one end is thinner). Season both sides of each steak with salt and pepper.
  2. Sprinkle the cheese evenly over the steak, leaving a 1/2-inch border, and then sprinkle the lemon zest and parsley over the cheese. Press on the topping to flatten it.
  3. Working with one steak at a time and starting at the thinnest end, roll the steak up around the filling.
  4. Tie a length of butcher’s twine around the middle, then tie two more pieces of twine around the pinwheel equidistant from the middle to each end. Cut the roll in half along the middle piece of twine and remove that piece of twine; you will now have two tied wheels.
  5. Trim the ends for a flat surface, if necessary. Repeat with other steak to get 4 pinwheels total. (The wheels may be wrapped in plastic and refrigerated for a few hours; let them sit at room temperature while the grill heats.)
  6. Prepare a high (500°F to 600°F) charcoal or gas grill fire. Cook the pinwheels cut sides down, flipping once, until browned on both sides and cooked to your liking, about 6 minutes per side for medium rare (135°F). Let rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Adapted from a recipe by Pat LaFrieda from Fine Cooking

Grilled Tomatoes


Grilled Tomatoes

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

To serve the tomatoes as a simple side dish, top them with the reserved juice, 2 tablespoons of torn fresh basil leaves, 1 tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil, and flake sea salt to taste. This recipe can easily be doubled.


  • 2 pounds ripe tomatoes, cored and halved along equator (juice reserved
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper


  1. Toss tomatoes with oil, salt, and pepper in large bowl. Let stand for at least 15 minutes or up to 1 hour. Reserve juice if using. If also grilling asparagus, toss with EVOO and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  2. FOR A CHARCOAL GRILL: Open bottom vent completely. Light large chimney starter filled with charcoal briquettes. When top coals are partially covered with ash, pour evenly over grill. Set cooking grate in place, cover, and open lid vent completely. Heat grill until hot, about 5 minutes.
    FOR A GAS GRILL: Turn all burners to high, cover, and heat grill until hot, about 15 minutes. Leave all burners on high.
  3. Clean and oil cooking grate. Place tomatoes, cut sides down, on grill and cook (covered if using gas) until tomatoes are charred and beginning to soften, 4 to 6 minutes.
  4. Using tongs or thin metal spatula, carefully flip tomatoes and continue to cook (covered if using gas) until skin sides are charred and juice bubbles, 4 to 6 minutes longer. Transfer tomatoes to large plate.

Tomatoes can be refrigerated for up to 2 days.


Blue Cheese Cole Slaw

Before my divorce two decades ago, I HATED blue cheese, and my ex loved it. To me, it smelled and tasted like dirty socks. Somewhere along the path of shedding hubby number one, I came to LOVE blue cheese. Something tells me there’s a message in there somewhere…


One July 4th holiday many years ago while visiting (current hubby) Russ’s mom Mary out in Butler County, PA, she made a Blue Cheese Cole Slaw that won the hearts of everyone at the table. She passed away a few years ago and though we couldn’t locate her exact recipe, I found this one from the Barefoot Contessa, Ina Garten, which seems to have a very similar profile to Mary’s. (Recipe follows.)


And since it was party time recently at Casa H, a side of this slaw was the perfect foil to our BBQ’d baby back ribs and a corn salad, both of which I’ve blogged about in the past. However, the food frenzy began with starters from guests Paula and Mike who made a very different appetizer of roasted Brussels sprouts with a bacon dip of some sort—loved it! And not to be outdone, Giuliana and Miguel contributed some bubbly hot artichoke dip, which was also a big hit.


About that Blue Cheese Cole Slaw, be aware, you’ll need a food processor to shred down both the cabbages and the carrots because they have to be in very thin slices. BTW, I don’t like my slaw swimming in mayo so I only used half the amount (1 cup) indicated in the recipe below. Plus it’s an olive oil based mayonnaise which contains only 1/3 the fat of regular mayo.



Blue Cheese Cole Slaw

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: moderately easy
  • Print


  • 1/2 small head green cabbage
  • 1/2 small head red cabbage
  • 4 large carrots, scrubbed or peeled
  • 2 cups (16 ounces) good mayonnaise (less if desired)
  • 1/4 cup Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons whole grain mustard
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon celery salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) crumbled Roquefort blue cheese
  • 1 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves


  1. Cut the cabbages in half and then in quarters and cut out the cores.
  2. Set up the food processor using the slicing blade and place the pieces of cabbage, one at a time in the feed tube. (If they don’t fit, cut them to fit accordingly.)
  3. Place the feed tube pusher on top and turn on the processor. Don’t push on the feed tube pusher or the slices will turn out too thick! Continue with the remaining red and green cabbage quarters.
  4. Transfer into a large bowl, discarding any very large pieces. Optional: Before you pour the dressing on the salad, save a handful of the grated vegetables to decorate for serving.
  5. Change the slicing blade for the large shredding blade and cut the carrots. Since the carrots are hard, press the feed tube pusher firmly with the food processor on. Transfer to bowl with the cabbages.
  6. In a medium bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, both mustards, vinegar, celery salt, kosher salt, and pepper.
  7. Pour enough mayonnaise dressing over the grated vegetables and toss to moisten well. Add crumbled blue cheese and parsley and toss together.
  8. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for several hours to allow the flavors to meld. Serve cold or at room temperature. table.
Guests finish the meal in candlelit fashion.

Summer Squash Sauté

Is your vegetable garden becoming overrun with zucchini, or are neighbors leaving unexpected boxes of summer squash at your doorstep? Even if this is not the case, supermarkets and farmer’s markets are overflowing this time of year with fresh produce—among them myriads of squashes. What better way to highlight summer’s bounty than to serve a healthy vegetable sauté—in this case with summer squash.

With a short list of ingredients and a few easy steps, you can throw this together lickety-split. The longer you cook the squash, the creamier and softer the sauté becomes.


Summer Squash Sauté

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • 3 Tbsp. butter
  • 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 lbs. summer squashes (zucchini, patty pan, yellow), quartered and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 Shallots, diced
  • 2 Garlic cloves, pressed or finely minced
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh basil, chopped, more for garnish
  • 8-10 Grape tomatoes halved; OR 1 large ripe tomato (preferably heirloom), cored, seeded, and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Melt the butter in a large skillet.
  2. Add shallots and cook over medium-low heat until just tender, about 3 minutes.
  3. Add garlic and squash, cook over medium heat, stirring until squash begins to soften, about 4 minutes.
  4. Cover and cook over low heat until nice and tender, about 10 minutes.
  5. Toss in tomatoes and chopped basil, cover and cook 1 more minute. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Scrape into serving bowl and garnish with more fresh basil leaves. Serve immediately.


Take a Bite Out of Summer

Some of my most favorite things to eat in the summer are heirloom tomatoes—in any color, shape or form. And it’s pretty much a given that I’ll make at least one tomato pie or tart of some sort. What prompted this particular adaptation was the recipe “Heirloom Tomato Tart” by Alison Ashton in the Sunday newspaper supplement, Parade Magazine.


Firm, even slightly underripe heirloom tomatoes in a variety of colors and sizes are your best bet for this tart. With Farmer’s Markets in full swing, you should have no problem finding a large selection of the fruits. And if you’ve never eaten one, heirloom tomatoes provide far superior flavor than their store-bought counterparts.

What is an heirloom tomato? Many gardeners have heard the term but don’t really know what it means. By way of an easy definition: they are a variety that has been passed down from gardener to gardener. Unlike modern hybrid variations, heirloom tomatoes come true from seed, making them easy to share. If only we had the sun-filled space to grow some 😦

The main reason to choose heirloom tomato pedigrees is the flavor, where you’ll find a wide range in this esteemed tomato world, with many of these varieties prized for having an old-time taste. As mentioned, they’re a far cry from tomatoes at the grocery store, or even from many modern hybrids like ‘Better Boy’ or ‘Early Girl’—which I like in a pinch if I can’t find the heirlooms.

Perhaps the most famous heirloom tomato, ‘Brandywine’ is a classic strain that many experts rank as the best-tasting tomato around. Can’t say as I disagree. To mention a few others, ‘Gold Rush Currant’ is a delightful little one that offers lots of small but very sweet yellow-orange fruits in clusters. A big, yellow heirloom beefsteak-type tomato with fruits that can reach a pound, ‘Goldie’ features a sweet flavor. ‘Costoluto Genovese’ is an Italian heirloom that offers deep red fruits that are heavily ribbed. And so on, and so on—just make sure to get at least three different types for this tart.

The original recipe called for an even split of mascarpone and goat cheese, but because my log of goat cheese was slightly under the 5 ounces, I compensated for it with a little extra mascarpone. When it comes to the crust, make sure to purchase the rolled up refrigerated variety and not the frozen preformed type. Due to my undying love of heirlooms, I was a bit heavy-handed and used closer to 2 1/4 pounds worth.

So go ahead and make yourself an heirloom tart and sink your teeth into the savory treat!


Heirloom Tomato Tart

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: moderately easy
  • Print


  • ½ (15-oz) package refrigerated pie crust
  • 1¾ lb firm multicolored heirloom tomatoes, cores removed, sliced ¼ inch thick
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 5 oz goat cheese, softened
  • 5 oz mascarpone, softened
  • ¼ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tsp minced fresh thyme
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, for garnish
  • Basil leaves, for garnish


  1. Preheat oven to 425°F.
  2. Unroll dough. Fit dough into a 9-inch fluted (or not) removable-bottom tart pan. Trim edges of dough. Prick bottom with a fork.
  3. Place a 13-inch-square piece of parchment over dough; fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake 20 minutes.
  4. Remove parchment and pie weights. Bake 5-7 minutes or until bottom is golden and set. Cool on wire rack.
  5. While crust cools, cover a rimmed baking sheet with several layers of paper towels. (I slanted mine to drain extra juices.) Arrange tomato slices in a single layer. Sprinkle lightly with salt. Let stand 30 minutes, turning halfway through. Pat tomatoes as dry as possible, removing any large clumps of seeds.
  6. In a medium bowl, combine goat cheese, mascarpone, Parmesan, thyme, salt and pepper. Spread in bottom of cooled tart crust.
  7. Arrange tomatoes over filling, overlapping. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  8. Bake 20 minutes, shielding edges of tart with foil. Cool 10 minutes.
  9. Remove from tart pan. Cool completely on a wire rack. Drizzle lightly with olive oil; garnish with basil.

Pictorial Step-By-Step:

Unroll dough and fit dough into a 9-inch removable-bottom tart pan. Prick bottom with a fork.

Place a 13-inch-square piece of parchment over dough; fill with pie weights or dried beans.

IMG_6066After removing parchment and pie weights, bake 5-7 minutes or until bottom is golden and set. Cool on wire rack.

IMG_6065Arrange tomato slices in a single layer over several sheets of paper towel, and sprinkle lightly with salt. I find it best to tilt the rimmed baking sheet so any extra liquid drains away from the tomatoes. You may also need to use a few paper towels on top to remove as much moisture as possible.

In a medium bowl, combine goat cheese, mascarpone, Parmesan, thyme, salt and pepper. Spread in bottom of cooled tart crust.

Arrange tomatoes over filling, overlapping. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Bake 20 minutes, shielding edges of tart with foil.

Cool 10 minutes, then remove from tart pan. It’s easiest if you place the bottom on a small round bowl and then push the rim down.

Cool completely on a wire rack, then move to desired plate and drizzle lightly with olive oil; garnish with basil.


Summer Seafood Paella

Come summer, the Spanish flock to the water with the determination of fish (which makes me think that maybe I do have a few Spanish genes lurking in me somewhere.) As clam shacks are to New England, Spanish beach goers have humble seaside establishments called “chiringuitos” awaiting them. And almost always, they will offer an irresistible Mixed Seafood Paella, like the one Russ made (shown below) one Sunday summer evening.


Did we tell you we love paella? We are now the proud owners of four—yes four—paella pans, and it was the maiden voyage for our new 16″ variety cooked on top of our outdoor paella gas grill. After all, who wants to be stuck in the house on a beautiful summer evening slaving over a hot stove when you can assemble and cook the real deal outside on your shaded patio? Not us.

An authentic paella is a minimalist affair, often with few other ingredients besides seafood and rice. And the flavor depends on a good rich fish stock, so we recommend making your own ahead of time, or buying a real good one at a fish market. And the best rice to use is a medium grain called “bomba”, which has a nice toothy texture and can absorb lots of flavor. What you must absolutely shun is long grain rice which doesn’t develop the right texture.

The shallow, flat, dimpled carbon steel pan reacts quickly to heat fluctuation and aids in the quick evaporation of liquid. The pan also helps maximize the surface area that comes in contact with the rice. The contact, while the rice is left unstirred as it cooks, produces another paella must-have, a crispy tasty crust that sticks to the pan and is known as “socarrat”—a specialty and prized part of a great paella. Folklore has it that socarrat has aphrodisiac powers, and that is what fuels the passion of those renowned Spanish lovers. Just giving you a heads up…

Russ makes an event out of the entire process starting with Spanish music playing both indoors as he preps, and outside as he grills. Adding to the authenticity is his choice of predinner cocktail, a glass of Spanish sherry. Then we enjoy a glass of Spanish red (Rioja or Tempranillo) as we dine on our Sunday supper—a regular custom in Spain.

It is considered proper to encourage your guests to eat directly from the pan, the traditional Spanish way of eating it, from the outer perimeter in toward the center. It’s not a custom we’re comfortable enough with even though it loses much of its impact and drama once it leaves the pan onto a dinner plate. So as not to draw attention away from the main event, serve simply with a side salad and wine, with perhaps some crusty bread.

Mixed Seafood Paella

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print


  • 6 cups shrimp shell stock; OR 4 cups clam juice diluted with 2 cups water
  • 1 large pinch of saffron
  • 5 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • Coarse salt
  • 12 garlic cloves, peeled and left whole
  • 1/2 sweet onion, grated on largest holes of box grater
  • 2 large, ripe tomatoes, cut in half and grated on a box grater, skins discarded
  • 1 1/2 tsp. sweet (not smoked) paprika
  • 2 cups bomba or other short to medium grain rice
  • 1/2 cup minced flat leaf parsley
  • 12 small littleneck clams
  • 1/2 lb. jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1/2 lb. large sea scallops, patted dry
  • 2 roasted piquillo peppers, cut into 1/4″-wide long strips
  • Lemon wedges

NOTE: You can also add calamari and/or mussels, but keep the overall proportions pretty much constant.


  1. Add the shellfish stock to a pan along with the saffron, and bring to a low simmer until ready to use.
  2. In a paella pan, heat the oil on high. Sauté the shrimp and scallops until just cooked through, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a plate.
  3. Reduce the heat to medium and sauté the onion and garlic cloves until the onion softens, about 5 minutes.
  4. Add the tomato, season with salt, and cook, stirring often, until the mixture has darkened to a deep burgundy and is thick like a compote, 15 to 20 minutes. Add the paprika. This is the sofrito.
  5. Add the rice to the pan with the sofrito, and cook about 2 minutes. Raise the heat to medium-high and pour in 6 cups of the simmering stock and shake the pan to evenly distribute the rice.
  6. Arrange the clams, submerging them as much as possible below the level of the liquid. From this point on, DO NOT stir the rice.
  7. Simmer vigorously, moving the pan as needed to distribute the heat and cook the rice as evenly as possible. After 8-10 minutes the rice should be at the same level as the liquid.
  8. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Continue to simmer more gently, until the liquid has been absorbed, about 10 minutes more.
  9. Arrange the shrimp and scallops in the pan. Increase the heat to medium-high, rotate the pan, and cook for 2 minutes until the bottom layer of rice starts to caramelize, creating the socarrat. The rice will start to crackle, but if it starts to smell burned, remove the pan from the heat immediately.
  10. Layer on the piquillo pepper strips. Remove from heat, and cover loosely with a clean kitchen towel, or foil, and let the paella rest for 5-10 minutes to even the cooking and let the flavors meld.
  11. Place the paella pan in the center of the table and either let guests scoop out portions, or eat directly from the pan. Serve with lemon wedges.

Pictorial Step-By-Step:

IMG_6006Assemble all ingredients and begin to prep.

IMG_6011Cut the tomatoes in half and grate along a box grater, then discard skins.

IMG_6015Heat your grill, and gather all prepped ingredients.

Sauté the shrimp and scallops until just cooked through…

…then transfer to a plate.

Sauté the onion and garlic cloves until the onion softens.

Add the tomato, season with salt, and cook, stirring often…

IMG_6030…until the mixture has darkened to a deep burgundy and is thick like a compote, 15 to 20 minutes.

Add the rice to the pan with the sofrito.

Pour in the simmering stock and shake the pan to evenly distribute the rice.

Arrange the clams, submerging them as much as possible below the level of the liquid. Most of them had already popped open in this picture.

IMG_6038Arrange the shrimp and scallops in the pan. Increase the heat to medium-high, rotate the pan, and cook for 2 minutes until the bottom layer of rice starts to caramelize, creating the socarrat. Layer on the piquillo pepper strips. Remove from heat, and cover loosely with a clean kitchen towel and let the paella rest for 5 minutes.

Indian-Inspired Backyard BBQ

The lamb itself in Tandoori Lamb Kebabs with Samosa Mashed Potatoes is wonderful and fragrant with classic Indian spice. But what makes this a Wowser is the accompanying onions, which add the perfect amount of sweetness and char. Most supermarkets carry the spice mix garam masala these days; if you can’t find it locally, order it online.

We both thought that the amount of marinade was overkill, and in fact after making it, we believe you can get away with making half of the amount. There was enough leftover to additionally slather marinade all over the onions once on the skewers, put some in a side dish for the table, and we still have excess.


And for a unique side dish, how about the delicious flavors from your favorite Indian restaurant samosas, but none of the laborious shaping and frying? The answer is Samosa Mashed Potatoes. When you look at the list of the ingredients it may seem overwhelming, but most of it is spices, and they are used in both the lamb and the potato dishes.


Being a warm summer night, I wasn’t too keen on mashed potatoes, but we were both pleasantly surprised how well they meshed with the kebabs and they were packed full of flavor.



Tandoori Lamb Kebabs

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • 32 oz. plain whole-milk yogurt
  • 1 Tbs. garam masala
  • 1 Tbs. paprika
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cardamom
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 lb. boneless leg of lamb, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 large sweet onions, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch wedges
  • Vegetable oil, for the grill
  • 1 Tbs. chopped fresh mint
  • 1 Tbs. chopped fresh cilantro
  • Flaky sea salt
  • Lemon wedges
  • Chutney (optional)


  • In a large bowl, combine the yogurt, garam masala, paprika, cardamom, cumin, and 1 tsp. salt. Add the lamb, toss, and marinate for 30 minutes at room temperature, or cover and refrigerate for up to 12 hours.
  • Prepare a medium-high (400°F to 475°F) gas or charcoal grill fire or heat a grill pan on high. Thread the lamb and onion onto metal skewers, alternating pieces of lamb and onion. (If you have leftover onion, make a skewer of just onions.)
  • Lightly oil the grill, then grill the kebabs, turning once or twice, until the lamb is cooked through and the onions are charred in places, 10 to 15 minutes. Sprinkle with the chopped herbs and flaky salt, and serve with the lemon wedges and chutney, if using.

Samosa Mashed Potatoes


Samosa Mashed Potatoes

  • Servings: 8
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • 1-1/4 lb.  Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • Kosher salt
  • 4 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1-1/2 tsp. minced fresh ginger
  • 3/4 tsp. minced garlic
  • 3/4 tsp. garam masala
  • 3/4 tsp. ground turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cumin
  • Generous pinch cayenne
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2/3 cup frozen peas, thawed
  • 2 Tbs. finely chopped fresh cilantro, more to garnish
  • Lemon wedges (optional)


  1. Put the potatoes in a large pot of  water, season generously with salt and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until tender, 15 to 18 minutes. Drain.
  2. Melt the butter in the same saucepan. Add the onion, and cook, stirring, until very soft, about 5 minutes. Add the ginger and garlic, and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the garam masala, turmeric, cumin, and cayenne; cook, stirring, until fragrant.
  3. Add the cream and 1 tsp. salt, and bring to a simmer.
  4. Return the potatoes to the pan and mash.
  5. Stir in the peas and warm through. Stir in the cilantro, and serve garnished with more cilantro and a lemon wedge, if you like.

Both recipes from Fine Cooking; the lamb by By Ronne Day, the potatoes by Laraine Perri 

Italian Marinated Grilled Chicken Breasts

Could you simply buy a bottle of Italian dressing and marinate your chicken in that? Why of course, that’s a quick and easy way out. But I think it’s more fun (yes, I did say fun) to create your own concoction with fresh, organic ingredients—many of which you probably already have in your pantry. And oh, the difference in flavor!

If like us, you grow your own organic herbs and then dry them at the end of the season, you’ll be ahead of the game. Select enough to measure about one tablespoon after you’ve crushed them, which I find easiest to do with a small mortar and pestle.


When it comes to the choice of vinegar, you can substitute with chardonnay, apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, or even rice vinegar! You just need a vinegar that is not as harsh as ordinary white vinegar. We own a vast library of different olive oils and vinegars so to switch things up a bit, I selected a Prosecco champagne vinegar and a basil flavored extra virgin olive oil, both products of Italy—how appropriate!


Preparing your charcoal or gas grill for indirect heat: If using a gas grill, turn all burners to high and close the lid. When the temperature inside the grill reaches 400°, lift lid and turn off one of the burners. The area over the turned-off burner is the indirect heat area. If using a charcoal grill, light 50 to 60 briquettes and let burn until covered with ash, about 20 to 30 minutes. Mound them to one side. The area over the section cleared of coals is the indirect heat area.

If the breasts are large, you should cut them in half yielding more normal serving sizes, more surface area for tasty rubs and sauce, and a much easier time getting to the right internal temperature, which is 165°. The bone-in, skin on pieces provide more flavor and keep the meat juicier than boneless, skinless breasts; although you could also use those in a pinch. Just make sure to keep an eye on them as they will cook faster and can dry out quickly.

IMG_5893Using a heavy duty meat cleaver makes quick work of halving the breasts.

And to round out the meal in quick order without fussing in a hot kitchen? Why not serve a store-bought cole slaw and heat up a can of baked beans of the grill’s side burner. Sometimes SUPER EASY is the way to go…


Italian Marinade for Grilled Chicken

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • 4 1/2 Tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp dijon mustard
  • 1 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp mixed Italian dried herbs (like basil, parsley, oregano, rosemary and thyme)
  • 1 tsp dried red chili flakes (optional)
  • 4 large, bone-in, skin on chicken breasts


  1. Mix all ingredients except the chicken in a small jar with lid and shake until well combined.
  2. Place the chicken in a ziploc bag, add the marinade, seal the bag and refrigerate for a minimum of 30 minutes up to overnight. For best results, marinate at least 3 hours. (For maximum flavor, we marinated for 24 hours.)
  3. Place chicken skin side down on indirect-heat area; close lid on gas grill. Cook 15 minutes. Turn chicken over, close lid on gas grill, and cook another 10 minutes.
  4. Move chicken over direct heat and cook, turning once, until skin is well browned and crisp, 3 to 5 minutes. Watch carefully; dripping fat or any added oils or butters catch fire easily (a small spray bottle filled with water is handy for taming flames.)
  5. After about 30 minutes, test one piece for doneness by inserting a meat thermometer. Internal temperature should read 165° and it should be ever-so-lightly pink (it will finish cooking while it rests.) If very pink, move all chicken back to indirect heat, cover grill, and cook for another 5 minutes. Let rest at least 10 minutes before serving.

Too Soon To Harvest?

Not if you dine at Harvest Seasonal Wine & Grill Bar… “a high quality, farm-fresh, seasonally-changing menu that offers a range of dining options not typically found in traditional farm-to-table establishments.” If you’ve ever patronized a Seasons 52 restaurant, Harvest is it’s kindred spirit in looks and philosophy.

To source the freshest and highest quality ingredients possible, they work closely with 75 local farmers. While other establishments have only recently begun to embrace organic menu additions, Harvest was built from the ground up with a no compromise attitude towards using local, all-natural ingredients in all of their offerings.


Just before Super Bowl Sunday, we visited a party store in Newtown and happened to notice a new restaurant right next door. Of course curiosity got the best of us and we had to go peek our noses in the window. We were immediately drawn to the modern industrial decor and promise of a farm-to-table menu offering organically grown ingredients. And the grand opening was set for the day after the Super Bowl, so we were excited to try it.

Fast forward about a week and Russ tried to make a reservation for Valentine’s night but they were booked (unless you wanted to eat after 9:00, even late by our standards); although he was able to score one a few days later on a Friday evening. Thank goodness we did make the res because when we arrived, the entrance and waiting area was jam-packed. Luckily our wait was short and we were seated at the far end in a quieter booth—and I’ll use the term “quiet” loosely, as the place was buzzing!

We were seated in a banquette against a far wall partially blocked off from the central “pit” of diners.

Our knowledgeable and enthusiastic waiter Lance walked us through the menu and took our wine order while we tried to settle on some options. I was impressed to see that most items are 500 calories or less, non-GMO, and contained an extensive list of vegetarian, gluten-free, and vegan items. Refreshingly, the menu is updated every three months to address the change of seasons.

Furthermore, the use of sustainable, organic and healthy ingredients doesn’t stop with the menu. From organic cleaning products to recycled glass counter tops and post consumer fiber menus, they utilize green practices daily throughout the overall concept at all of their locations—six of which are in PA; with one each in Moorestown, NJ and Delray Beach, FL.

Lighting above the booths meshes well with the other decor.

In the end we decided our starter would be the Organic Spicy Pork Flatbread on a very thin cracker-like crust topped with crumbled pork, roasted bell peppers, Kalamata olives and mozzarella curd. It was ever-so-light and a perfect teaser for our future choices.


While the overall pace seemed to be a bit frantic with the waitstaff trying to keep up with the constant flow of diners, we didn’t feel rushed at all. Instead of focusing on entrées, we decided to split an array of appetizers and chose three items, all with a kick.

IMG_2882Kung Pao Cauliflower “Wings” (top left) with a ginger soy glaze, pickled carrot strips and jalapeños, sriracha, toasted sesame and scallions.

IMG_2884Organic Pork Potstickers garnished with Korean pepper remoulade and Asian Vegetable slaw.

IMG_2885Thai Sesame Beef Lettuce Wraps plated with bibb lettuce, pickled carrots, daikon radishes, edamame, sriracha salted peanuts and a sweet-and-sour dipping sauce.

It was just the right amount of food (although I didn’t end up with a doggie bag), but Russ asked to see the dessert tray anyway. Just as Seasons 52 serves their desserts in large shot glasses, Harvest presents a similar display. Seeing as how they weren’t overwhelming in size, Russ opted to try the Tiramisu, and he loved it! They gave us two spoons just in case…


First impression was a winner! I couldn’t wait to go back… Although it was over 4 months until we had the opportunity to return at the end of June. They have a wrap around porch with about a dozen or so tables so we were lucky enough to dine al fresco in the warm weather, and it is much quieter than the interior spaces. Albeit, the view is mostly of the parking lot, but there is some greenery too.



After selecting a bottle of Charge, a California Cabernet (I loved the label) once again we started with one of their delicious flat breads, this time the Jerk Chicken Flatbread with a Jamaican jerk sauce, roasted poblano pepper and mild cheddar—yes, we ate the whole thing! The crust is crunchy and very thin while the toppings are appropriately distributed and perfectly paired.


For main entrées we went with seafood. Russ chose the Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes, with fried green tomato relish, a chili corn rémoulade, seasonal baby patty pan squash, roasted fingerling potatoes and a charred lemon half. His opinion? Among the best crab cakes he’s ever eaten.


I zeroed in on the Seared Sea Scallops that were dusted in stone-ground cornmeal lined up over a bed of sweet corn risotto, accompanied by an heirloom tomato relish with basil oil, corn shoots, and topped with micro basil. OMG, we both LOVED our meals!


Well, our eyes were bigger than our stomachs because we both took nearly half of our dinners home; which left no room for dessert this time around. All-in-All Harvest has left a good taste in our mouths—literally. So we know that there will certainly be return visits in the future.

Who Gives A Flap? We Do.

In fact, six pounds worth. Flap steak, the unflatteringly named cut, is similar to skirt and flank in that it comes from the less tender regions of the animal. Often cheaper than more popular cuts, this little underdog of the beef world has a wonderful meaty flavor and fine texture when prepared properly. The only place I ever find it is Costco, and they package it in 4-pound lots of strips, which is great for a party, or to break down into smaller parcels and freeze.


Of all the inexpensive cuts of beef, flap is one of the most versatile. Like skirt or flank steak, it benefits from marinating and being cooked on high, dry heat, whether grilled, broiled, pan-fried or stir-fried. It’s vital to cut the meat very thinly across the grain, and it is at its best not too much past medium-rare.

If it ever threatens to start burning on the exterior before the center is done, you can slide it on over to the cooler side of the grill for some more gently cooking. As with all meat, it benefits from a few minutes of resting before you slice into it. Since its shape, thickness, and proclivity for marinades makes it similar to flank steak, you can use it pretty much interchangeably. Think of it as flank steak’s tastier, sexier cousin.

For a little zing to the meal, our enhancers were a delicious Mojo Marinade, followed up by an accompaniment of Chimichurri Salsa. And since fresh corn is just starting to appear in the food markets, we paired the steak with Sautéed Corn Salad with Ricotta Salata and Basil.


But let’s talk about the party—the real reason we were “giving a flap.” Eight of us gathered on our patio and started with a Midnight Kiss—the kind you drink, that is. Rosanne brought a premade concoction with blue curacao and vodka (among other ingredients) then topped it off with a bottle of white Prosecco, let me tell you, those definitely got the party started!


For a pre-dinner nibble, Barb dished out a large platter of bruschetta, a perfect nosh for those drinks!

I decided to add a challenge to the festivities with a guess-the-ingredients contest. Since the flap meat was going to be dressed with a chimichurri sauce, I gave each couple a small sample to taste and smell and then list the nine ingredients. The couple with the most correct answers won a gift—and that honor went to Brad and Barb.


IMG_5859The guests are hard at work trying to decipher exactly what the chimichurri consists of.

IMG_5872Barb and Brad

IMG_5871Fran and Grant

IMG_5870Rosanne and Gary

As another side dish for the feast, Rosanne contributed a yummy lentil salad surrounded by a mini caprese salad.


And what better way to finish a summer meal than with homemade brownies and a choice of three ice cream flavors from Goodnoe’s? Thanks for the finale Fran!



After a round of coffee, the clock struck the midnight hour and it was time for the gang to make their departures. After all, another hot summers day would be dawning before we knew it… time for some beauty rest…

Mojo Marinade

  • Servings: 4-6 lbs. of meat
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Mojo Marinade



  • 1 1/2 cups fresh orange juice (5-6 oranges)
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (2-3 lemons)
  • 1/2 cup fresh lime juice (2-3 limes)
  • 1/2 cup fresh oregano, coarsely chopped
  • 1/3 cup corn or vegetable oil
  • 10 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2-3 jalapeños, sliced into rounds (or seeded and cut into half-rounds)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt


  1. Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl and whisk until salt is dissolved.
  2. Reserve 2/3 cup marinade for sauce. Put pork or seafood in a glass, stainless-steel, or ceramic dish. Toss with remaining marinade. Cover; chill for 3-8 hours.
  3. Remove pork or seafood from marinade, pat dry, and grill.
  4. Spoon reserved sauce over meat or fish just before serving.

Chimichurri Sauce

  • Servings: 2 cups
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Chimichurri Sauce

This recipe for a colorful chimichurri sauce can also double as a marinade along with being an accompaniment to all cuts of beef.


  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt plus more
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced or minced
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 Fresno chile or red jalapeño, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup minced fresh cilantro
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh oregano
  • 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil


  1. Combine vinegar, 1 tsp. salt, garlic, shallot, and chile in a food processor and let stand for 10 minutes. Add in cilantro, parsley, and oregano, and grind until well mixed.
  2. Drizzle oil into food processor until well combined.
  3. Put meat and marinade in a large ziploc bag.
  4. Chill for at least 3 hours or overnight.
  5. Remove meat from marinade, pat dry, and grill.

Sautéed Corn Salad with Ricotta Salata and Basil

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Sautéed Corn Salad

IMG_5845I find it helpful to cut the kernels off the cob over a small rimmed baking sheet.


  • 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, sliced thin
  • 4 ears corn, kernels cut from cobs (4 cups)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 6 ounces cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 1/2 ounces ricotta salata cheese, crumbled (1/3 cup)
  • 1/4 cup shredded fresh basil
  • 1-2 Tablespoons lemon juice


  1. Heat oil and garlic in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat. Cook, stirring frequently, until garlic is light golden brown and fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes.
  2. Using slotted spoon, transfer garlic to large bowl, leaving oil in skillet.
  3. Return skillet to medium-high heat and heat until oil is shimmering. Add corn and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook, without stirring, until corn is browned on bottom and beginning to pop, about 3 minutes.
  4. Stir and continue to cook, stirring once or twice, until corn is spotty brown all over, 2 to 3 minutes longer. Transfer corn to bowl with garlic.
  5. Stir in tomatoes, half of ricotta salata, basil, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Season with salt, pepper, and remaining lemon juice to taste. Sprinkle with remaining ricotta salata and serve.

Cool Salad for a Hot Night

It is sweltering here on the East Coast so who the heck wants to slave over a hot stove, or even a fiery grill? Fresh, colorful, and a little crunch from the cabbage and cashews, this cool Chicken Cabbage Salad with Basil, Cilantro, and Cashews salad is perfect on a sizzling summer’s night. You can whip up this Asian-inspired baby in 10-15 minutes, especially if you pick up a store-bought rotisserie chicken.


And if you grow an herb garden, there’s a high likelihood that you can already harvest enough fresh basil and possibly even cilantro. Finish with a squeeze of lime and a light sprinkle of flaky sea salt. Yummy!

We loved the flavor profile of this crunchy satisfying salad. And any leftovers won’t be a soggy mess—just don’t add the cashews until your ready to eat it.


Chicken Cabbage Salad with Basil, Cilantro and Cashews

  • Servings: 3-4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • 3 Tbs. seasoned rice vinegar
  • 1 Tbs. plus 2 tsp. fish sauce
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/8 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 4 cups very thinly sliced purple cabbage (about 1/2 small head)
  • 3 cups shredded cooked chicken (store-bought rotisserie works well)
  • 1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • Flaky sea salt
  • 1/2 cup roasted salted cashew halves
  • Lime wedges, for serving


  • In a small bowl, whisk the vinegar and fish sauce with 2 Tbs. water. Add the garlic and pepper flakes, and set aside.
  • In a large bowl, toss the cabbage, chicken, scallions, basil, and cilantro with the dressing.
  • Season to taste with salt. Serve topped with the cashews and the lime wedges on the side.


Recipe by Lynne Curry from Fine Cooking


Fennel-Rubbed Pork Tenderloin with Escarole and Apple Salad

The ingredients in Fennel-Rubbed Pork Tenderloin with Escarole and Apple Salad suggest a Autumnal meal as opposed to early Summer. But the garlicky pork pairs perfectly with a crisp salad in this easy supper and it won’t keep you bound in the kitchen around a hot stove for long. Plus you can have it on the table in less than a half hour.


Often the grocery store carries fennel bulbs without much frond to them. If at all possible, try to buy them with a lot of feathery greenery at the top because you’ll need them to make the rub, plus any leftover is nice for garnish.

This recipe calls for two pork tenderloins, but we only had one in the freezer and figured it would be enough for the two of us—we surprisingly even had some leftover!

NOTE: If your grocery store doesn’t carry Pink Lady apples, look for another variety that is both sweet and tart with a crisp texture, such as Honey Crisp, Jonagold, Cameo or Mutsu.


Fennel-Rubbed Pork Tenderloin with Escarole and Apple Salad

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • 6 Tbs. plus 2 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 Tbs. cider vinegar
  • 1 small shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 small head fennel, fronds and tender stems finely chopped together, bulb cored and very thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 small pork tenderloins (1-3/4 to 2 lb. total)
  • 1 head escarole (about 12 oz.), leaves torn into small pieces
  • 1 Pink Lady or other sweet-tart red apple, thinly sliced


  1. Position an oven rack 6 inches below the broiler and heat the broiler on high. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with foil.
  2. In a small bowl (or a mini processor), whisk 6 Tbs. of the oil, the vinegar, shallot, 1/2 tsp. of the mustard, and 1/4 tsp. salt; set aside.
  3. In another small bowl, combine the fennel fronds and stems, the remaining 2 tsp. oil and 1/2 tsp. mustard, the garlic, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1/2 tsp. pepper.
  4. Rub the pork all over with the fennel mixture. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet and broil, flipping once, until just cooked through (145°F), about 15 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board and let rest for 5 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, toss the fennel bulb, escarole, apple, 1/4 tsp. salt, and a pinch of pepper with half of the dressing.
  6. Slice the pork and drizzle with any juice. Serve with the salad, passing the remaining dressing at the table.

Quite Possibly Our Best Stir-Fry Yet!

Spicy Orange Chicken stir-fry is a great meal to make when pressed for time yet you still want to serve something special. A ripe tomato, orange zest and chicken breasts, combined with some basic staples become a sumptuous and impressive meal. Russ and I both concurred, this was one of the BEST stir-fries we’ve ever made—and we’ve made a lot of them. It came from our coveted cookbook: Stir-Frying to the Sky’s Edge by Grace Young.


Most of the time is spent measuring and prepping the ingredients, while the actual cooking time, other than the rice, takes only minutes. It might seem like a long list, but don’t leave out any of the ingredients, especially the ground Sichuan peppercorns because they truly add a necessary dimension. As far as the chili bean sauce, increase or decrease the amount depending on your tolerance for spicy—just don’t omit it altogether.

That being said, I did add a couple of extra ingredients (which I listed below), involving a few more simple steps, but we both think they added welcome flavors. First, since I had a half of red bell pepper in the fridge, I cut that up into thin strips. Then as a final garnish, I snipped some fresh basil from our herb garden and sprinkled that on top.


Please make sure you have everything prepped before beginning to stir-fry because like many others, there is no time in between each step and it goes crazy fast. Also don’t forget to time your rice to be finished prior to the last step of the stir-fry. I know it might not seem like a lot of liquid to start, but the tomatoes will release their juices and you end up with a good balance.

And of course, rice is a big factor in how good this stir-fry turned out. First off, instead of just water, I used some homemade chicken stock to steam the jasmine rice. It was light and fluffy, not sticking together as rice sometimes can.

We really can’t wait to make this again!


Spicy Orange Chicken

  • Servings: 2-3
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print


  • 1 lb. skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into 1/4″-thick bite-sized pieces
  • 2 Tbsp. finely shredded ginger
  • 2 Tbsp. Shao Hsing rice wine or dry sherry
  • 2 tsp. soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 tsp. corn starch
  • 1/4 tsp. sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. ground white pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. roasted and ground Sichuan peppercorns
  • 1/4 cup chicken broth
  • 2 tsp. rice vinegar
  • 2 tbsp. peanut or vegetable oil
  • Zest of 1 orange
  • 1 tsp. chili bean sauce
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, sliced thin lengthwise, then slices cut in half
  • 1 very large ripe tomato, (preferably heirloom) cored and cut into thin wedges
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced scallions
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil (optional)
  • 3/4 tsp. salt


  1. In a medium bowl combine the chicken, 1 tablespoon of the ginger, 1 tablespoon of the rice wine, 1 teaspoon of the cornstarch, sugar, white pepper and ground Sichuan peppercorns. Stir to combine.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the broth, rice vinegar, and the remaining 1 tablespoon rice wine and 1/2 teaspoon corn starch.
  3. Heat a 14-inch flat-bottomed wok over high heat until a bead of water vaporizes within 1 to 2 seconds on contact.
  4. Swirl in the oil, add the pepper strips and stir-fry rapidly for 1 minute.
  5. Add to the peppers the remaining 1 tablespoon ginger, then, using a metal spatula, stir-fry 10 seconds until the ginger is fragrant. Remove the peppers and ginger to a bowl and set aside.
  6. Carefully add the chicken, and spread it evenly in one layer. Cook undisturbed for 1 minute, letting the chicken begin to sear.
  7. Add the orange zest and chili bean sauce. Then stir-fry for 1 minute or until the chicken is lightly browned but not cooked through.
  8. Stir the bell pepper and ginger back in and add the tomatoes and stir-fry 30 seconds or until just combined.
  9. Restir the broth mixture and swirl into the wok.
  10. Add the scallions, sprinkle on the salt, and stir-fry 1 minute or until the chicken is cooked through.
  11. Serve over steaming white or brown rice, and top with chopped fresh basil and any leftover scallion greens.


Maple-Molasses Glazed Hamloaf

Hamloaf? Never heard of it—until I visited Russ’s mother, Mary, out in Butler County, PA nearly 2 decades ago. And when I heard that’s what we would be having for dinner upon arrival, I was none too excited. Apparently it’s a Western Pennsylvania thing, and every summer thereafter whenever we returned to visit, it seemed to be everywhere. You’ll find it at grocery stores, butcher shops, mini marts; I think you can even buy it at some gas stations. Along with a list of other meats for our vacation stay, Mary would have us get the goods from the reputable meat market, Brose’s—no gas station purchase on her watch!


If you are in the realm of the uniformed, hamloaf is a baked meat dish, similar to meatloaf, made of ground ham and ground pork and combined with other ingredients to form a loaf like shape. Distinct in color and taste from meatloaf, hamloaf is often baked with a sweet & savory glaze—Mary’s was a combo of currant jelly and grated horseradish—which actually went quite well with the meat, although neither of us can remember the exact proportions…

Of course, I did end up liking it that first time, and pretty much every time since. So recently when I was shopping at our local Amish Farmer’s Market picking up some rib-eyes for Father’s Day, I noticed they had a tub of the hamloaf mixture and promptly bought a couple of pounds thinking it would make for an easy weeknight dinner—and perhaps bring back some fond memories.

A good number of years have passed since we indulged in this “delicacy” and I wanted to up the game by getting a smidge more intricate with the glaze by incorporating a half dozen ingredients as opposed to two. The end result was a more complex and nuanced flavor base. In combination with some steamed fresh green beans and roasted baby red potatoes, it was an easy and tasteful meal.


NOTE: Make measuring sticky liquids like molasses and maple syrup easy by coating the measuring cup with nonstick cooking spray before adding the liquid; this will ensure it slides right out into the saucepan.


Maple-Molasses Glazed Hamloaf

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: simple
  • Print


  • 1 1/2 – 2 lbs hamloaf mixture
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup blackstrap molasses
  • 2 Tbsp orange juice (freshly squeezed if possible)
  • 1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar (for the finish)


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. In small saucepan set over medium heat, combine maple syrup, molasses, orange juice, mustard and garlic.
  3. IMG_5438
  4. Cook, stirring often, until mixture is well combined, steaming and reduced down a bit; about 15 minutes.
  5. Remove from heat; stir in vinegar.
  6. Shape the meat mixture into a loaf shape and place loaf in small casserole dish.
  7. Brush enough of the mixture over ham to coat evenly.
  8. Bake ham loaf, basting occasionally with some of the remaining glaze, for 40 to 45 minutes total or until heated through and top is browned and sticky. Let stand for 10 minutes before slicing.
  9. Serve with extra glaze on the side.

If you’ve already had an experience with hamloaf, or have another special glaze recipe, I’d love to hear about it!

Sichuan-Style Green Beans with Pork

Three key ingredients make up this fiery stir-fry from Food & Wine’s Justin Chapple: ground pork, green beans and dried hot red chiles. To round it out, just add three simple ingredients: garlic, soy sauce and lime juice. Can’t get much easier than that!


The original recipe called for just a 1/2-pound of ground pork which we thought was pretty paltry for four servings, so we doubled it to one full-pound. And since we like spicy, I added nine dried hot red chiles, although in the end it wasn’t that spicy at all. Were our chiles too old and lost some of their impact? Possibly…

In which case we could have added a tablespoon or so of chili garlic sauce, but I didn’t think of that until after the fact. The overall taste was good but we prefer saucier concoctions. But given how simple this recipe is, it’s a good one to have when time is of essence.

For most stir-fries we use our wok instead of a skillet, which we did here. The stir-fry is perfect served over freshly steamed white or brown rice, or even over rice noodles.

What is Sichuan-style anyway? Sichuan (can also be called Szechuan or Szcehwan) food, originated from the Southwestern region of China, is the most widely served cuisine in China itself. The dishes of this cuisine are known for their deep and rich flavors, especially the taste of Sichuan pepper which is rare in other regional cuisines. Oddly, this recipe didn’t include Sichuan peppercorns.

The cooking methods of Sichuan cuisine vary according to texture and bite required for each specific dish. The array of cooking methods include stir-frying, steaming, braising, baking, and the most popular of which is fast-frying. Many dishes incorporate a lot of garlic and chili peppers. Some of the most common Sichuan dishes are twice-cooked pork, spicy diced chicken with peanuts, and fish-flavored pork shred.


Sichuan-Style Green Beans with Pork

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: super simple
  • Print


  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 3/4 pound green beans, thinly sliced crosswise
  • 7 to 10 dried Chinese hot red chiles, cracked
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • Salt and white pepper
  • Steamed rice, for serving


  1. In a large skillet (or wok), heat the oil until shimmering. Add the ground pork and cook over moderately high heat, breaking it up with a fork, until nearly cooked through, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the green beans, red chiles and garlic and stir-fry over high heat until the green beans are crisp-tender, about 7 minutes.
  3. Stir in the soy sauce and lime juice and season with salt and white pepper. Serve with steamed rice.

‘Tis the Season—For Strawberries and Corn, That is.

Recently we hosted Dr. David Greenspan—a coworker with Russ—and his lovely wife Lisa on our backyard patio. David had heard about the all-but-famous BBQ’d Baby Back Ribs that Russ often grills when the weather permits, and was eager to put them to the test. However, Lisa, a long-time vegetarian, had no designs on partaking of said ribs.

IMG_5250David and Lisa Greenspan smile for the camera.

The baby backs are a bit time consuming up front, but with an easy finish—perfect for an outdoor BBQ. The evening before the party, we rub a special spice mix all over the racks. The ribs then get covered and placed in the refrigerator to get happy over night. The morning of the party, we cook the meat set on racks on baking trays with water in a 300-325 degree oven for 2 1/2 hours. Afterward they cool down and the drippings are placed is a separator to remove any fat, with the remaining liquid cooked in a pot until heavily reduced. Stubbs Original BBQ Sauce is added to the sauce reduction and this is basted on the meat as they are grilled.

IMG_5233The ribs after cooking in the oven for 2 1/2 hours.

IMG_5242After grilling and basting the racks, they are moved to a platter and sliced into sections.

You know the saying “You can’t please everyone.” Well maybe you can, especially when feeding a group that includes meat-eaters, vegans, vegetarians and sweet-tooth cravers alike. Just need to do some planning ahead on what to serve. Knowing mid-June in the Mid-Atlantic area of the U.S., is prime time for fresh strawberries, they became the impetus for the Buttermilk Panna Cotta dessert topped with a strawberry glaze and sprig of fresh mint. Served with a side of Pepperidge Farm Dark Chocolate and Sea Salt Milano’s that satisfied the sweet tooth…


Luckily, the custard set up properly because last time Russ made it, the base never solidified and we had to toss dessert. (Thank goodness for the local bakery.) But this time, it was the topping we had to chuck. It’s really important to keep a close eyeball on, while often stirring the strawberries as they cook down. Russ became preoccupied with some garden issue out on the patio, and ended up burning the sauce. Plan B. Luckily I had purchased extra strawberries and we had enough ingredients and time to make another batch from scratch. Crisis averted.

But I’m putting the cart (or dessert) before the horse here. The evening commenced with glasses of wine while enjoying a platter of cheeses, crackers, Marcona almonds and a sweet/spicy raspberry preserve that the Greenspans purchased at DiBruno Brothers, a pioneering specialty food retailer and importer. WOW, were they fabulous! Unfortunately, I was so involved with tasting the goods, that Yours Truly completely forgot to take a photo, mea culpa 😦 Among topics of conversation which included upcoming vacation plans, was my recent status as a Master Gardner apprentice, and discovering Lisa’s ambition to become one also, as soon as she retires.


Now about the dinner, in addition to our bone-sucking ribs, we also made a colorful Sautéed Corn with Black Beans and Red Bell Pepper side dish that even vegans can relish. Although it’s not quite height of the season for locally picked corn on the cob, the supermarkets carry some decent ears of sweet kernels. Lisa kept me company in the kitchen while I made the sauté, and since I prepped everything ahead of time, it went together very quickly and I didn’t have to concentrate too heavily on what I was doing, thus allowing me brain space to chat with Lisa.

At the same time, David was outside watching Russ make the “other” main dish: Rice with Vegetables and Saffron, or in Spanish “Arroz con Verduras y Azafrán.” It’s a vegan entrée we found in our cookbook, Spain: A Culinary Road Trip with Mario Batali and Gwynyeth Paltrow. The dish is kind of like risotto, in that it begins by combining the raw rice with vegetable stock without first sautéing it in olive oil. The oil only comes in at then end as an enriching and flavoring addition. Again, we prepped the ingredients ahead of time which streamlined the cooking process.

IMG_5236Russ readies the tray for the patio to cook the rice dish.

In the end, we were so thankful that the weather cooperated and we could dine al fresco because the forecasts had been predicting rain for days. The chances of any precip diminished drastically just hours beforehand. With several more outdoor picnics to host over the coming months, we’re hoping Mother Nature will be just as kind…

Rice with Vegetables and Saffron


Rice with vegetables and Saffron

  • Servings: 6-8 as a side
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print


  • 1 Tbsp. saffron threads
  • 8 cups vegetable stock
  • 2 cups bomba rice (or Arborio)
  • 1/2 cup finely diced carrot
  • 1/2 cup finely diced peeled turnip
  • 1/2 cup finely diced scallions
  • 1/2 cup finely diced 1/2-inch-dice asparagus
  • 1/2 cup finely diced 1/2-inch-dice zucchini
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • Fresh Thyme, a few sprigs, leaves only
  • Rosemary blossoms (optional)
  • Coarse sea salt


  1. Combine the saffron and 1 cup water in a small saucepan, bring to a simmer, and simmer for a few minutes to infuse the water.
  2. Heat the stock in a medium saucepan; keep warm over low heat.
  3. Pour the saffron water into a large sauté pan, add the rice and bring to a boil over high heat. Cook, stirring until the rice has absorbed most of the liquid.
  4. Add a generous cup of the vegetable stock, the carrot, pepper and turnip and bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat slightly and cook, stirring until most of the stock has been absorbed.
  5. Continue to cook, stirring and adding stock each the the previous addition has been absorbed, for about 18 minutes, or until the rice is barely al dente.
  6. Add the remaining vegetables and 1 cup more stock (you ay not need all of the stock) and cook, stirring until the vegetables are tender and the rice is perfectly cooked, about 5 minutes longer.
  7. Remove from the heat and stir in the olive oil. Spoon into deep bowls and sprinkle with the thyme, lavender, optional rosemary blossoms, and a generous pinch of salt.

Sautéed Corn with Black Beans and Red Bell Pepper

To create corn side dishes with rich, toasted flavor, we strip the corn from the cobs when they are raw and then cook the kernels in a nearly smoking skillet. It is important not to stir the corn for a few minutes to give it a chance to brown. Once the corn is cooked, we mix in plenty of salty, savory ingredients to balance the sweetness. Finally, an acidic component rounds out the dish.

Sautéed Corn with Black Beans and Red Bell Pepper

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • ½ red onion, chopped fine
  • ½ red bell pepper, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 1 jalapeño chile, stemmed, seeded, and minced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • Salt
  • 1 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed
  • 3 ears corn, kernels cut from cobs (3 cups)
  • ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 – 3 tablespoons lime juice (2 limes)


  1. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add onion, pepper, and jalapeño; cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened, 4 to 6 minutes.
  2. Add garlic, cumin, and ¼ teaspoon salt and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  3. Add beans and cook until warmed through, about 1 minute. Transfer black bean mixture to large bowl and wipe out skillet.
  4. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in now-empty skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add corn and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook, without stirring, until corn is browned on bottom and beginning to pop, about 3 minutes.
  5. Stir and continue to cook, stirring once or twice, until corn is spotty brown all over, 2 to 3 minutes longer. Transfer corn to bowl with black bean mixture.
  6. Stir in cilantro and 2 tablespoons lime juice. Season with salt and remaining lime juice to taste. Serve.