Beef Tenderloin Carpaccio

Francesca’s on the Fox in Saint Charles, Illinois is an Ample Bites favorite and the nightly variation of their beef carpaccio appetizer is always a part of our order.

Francesca’s uses a sirloin beef cut and they pound the meat paper-thin to create a beautifully constructed starter. Ample Bites uses a beef tenderloin tip and builds more of an entree salad serving. Francesca’s sears their beef to just rare before serving. Ample Bites approaches medium-rare where the beef is less elastic and the serving remains slightly thicker.

Grilled Beef Tenderloin Carpaccio with Thyme and Asiago
(Adapted from Beef: And Other Bovine Matters, John Torode – 2009)

Serves 4

12 black peppercorns
½ Tbsp flaked sea salt
leaves from 4 thyme sprigs
7-8 ounce center cut beef tenderloin
4-5 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon, plus wedges for serving

2 handfuls of mixed salad greens
2 ounces Asiago cheese

Grind the peppercorns and mix with the salt and 3/4ths of the thyme leaves. Rub the beef lightly with some of the olive oil. Rub the pepper-thyme mixture over the beef on all sides. Allow the beef to stand at room temperature for 15 – 20 minutes.

Heat grill to high. Sear the beef on all sides with total cooking time 9 – 12 minutes, until medium-rare and internal temperature reaches 135F. Remove from the grill and allow to cool to close to room temperature.

Using a long, sharp knife slice the beef as thinly as possible. Place the slices on a board and flatten them to make them slightly bigger.

Cover the serving plates with the beef. Season, then drizzle with half the lemon juice. Toss the salad with the olive oil and the remaining lemon juice. Scatter the salad over the beef, then shave the cheese over the top. Drizzle with olive oil and serve with the lemon wedges.

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Antipasto Finger Food

If you enjoy an Italian antipasto platter as much as Ample Bites, you will like this easy to prepare finger food version. The playfully named Charcuterie Cones use thinly sliced hard salami as a wrap to enclose a zesty raddicchio, pepperoncini and goat cheese salad. Ample Bites served the Charcuterie Cones as an appetizer for the first time yesterday and they were a huge hit.

One tip Ample Bites learned from the preparation was to have the soppressata or hard salami sliced thin, but not too thin. If you can see through the slices, you may need to double them up to hold the salad. It also helps to chill the appetizer for about 30 minutes before serving.

Charcuterie Cones
(Adapted from recipe courtesy of Food & Wine magazine, November 2012)

Makes 24 cones

24 slices of soppressata or hard salami, thinly sliced
1 small head of radicchio, shredded
5 pepperoncini, stemmed, seeded and chopped
2 ounces fresh goat cheese
1 tsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
3 Tbsp toasted pine nuts
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

In a medium bowl, combine the radicchio, pepperoncini, goat cheese, vinegar, oil and pine nuts and fold together until thoroughly mixed. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Allow the salad to rest for 10 – 15 minutes for flavors to blend.

Arrange the slices on a work surface and divide the salad equally among them. Roll the sausage to form 24 cones and serve or refrigerate for serving later.

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Kicked-up Onion Dip

Ample Bites is a huge fan of onion dip. I have enjoyed with pretzels, chips and vegetables since I was a child. Normally, Ample Bites takes a package of onion soup mix and combines it with non-fat sour cream to make onion dip. This dip is a little more sophisticated and definitely kicked-up. It takes a little more time to make but it is worth the effort. Give Caramelized Onion and Shallot Dip a try sometime.

Caramelized Onion and Shallot Dip
(Adapted from recipe courtesy of Bon Appetit magazine, October 2012)

2 lb. large yellow onions, thinly sliced
2 large shallots, thinly sliced
4 sprigs thyme
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup dry white wine
2 Tbsp Sherry vinegar
2 cups low-fat sour cream
¼ cup minced fresh chives
¼ cup plain fat-free Greek yogurt
2 tsp onion powder

Preheat oven to 425F. Mix onions, Shallots, thyme sprigs, and oil in a large roasting pan. Season with salt and pepper.

Roast onion mixture, stirring and scraping down sides of pan every 10 minutes, until mixture starts to break down and turn golden brown. 45 – 55 minutes.

Discard thyme sprigs. Add wine and vinegar; stir to scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of pan. Return onion mixture to oven. Continue roasting, stirring occasionally, until deep brown and completely caramelized, about 15 minutes longer. Spread onion mixture out on a rimmed baking sheet to cool.

Transfer onion mixture to a work surface and mince. Transfer to a medium bowl. Stir in sour cream, chives, yogurt, and onion powder. Season with salt and pepper. Garnish with chopped chives. Cover and chill.

Dip can be made up to 3 days ahead.

The dip will be somewhat chunky. For a smoother dip, pulse in a blender or food processor to desired consistency. Serve with potato chips, roasted pita chips or fresh vegetables.

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An Easy Savory Pasta Meal

This is a great weeknight Ample Bites meal. If you have time to boil pasta, chop or slice a few vegetables, open a couple cans and mix it all together, you will have an easy savory pasta meal. Combine this simple dish with a loaf of warm, crusty bread and some grated parmesan cheese and you have Linguine with Tuna and White Beans, a great meal for four.

Linguine with Tuna and White Beans
(Adapted from recipe courtesy of Epicurious, October 2012)

Serves 4

8 ounces dried boxed linguine
8 ounces canned tuna packed in oil
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
2 large cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp Kosher salt
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 can (15 oz.) cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
½ cup chopped Italian leaf parsley
¼ thinly sliced lemon

Cook pasta as directed on package; drain and rinse under cold water.

Drain tuna, reserving oil in a salad bowl, whisk juice, garlic, salt and pepper with oil. Flake tune into same bowl. Add pasta, beans, onion and chopped parsley; toss gently to coat with dressing.

Serve garnished with parsley leaves and lemon slices.

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Spaghetti Squash

Spaghetti Squash is a fun way to replace the carbohydrates of pasta with a healthy, flavorful vegetable to resume pasta in shape, color and texture. This dish takes a little time to prepare but there is nothing complicated about it.

Ample Bites likes this version of Spaghetti Squash, which is accented with butter and unsalted herbs. Olive oil can be used in place of the butter and seasoning or saucing options can vary as much as for pasta. Curry could be used in place of the herbs or, alternatively, the Spaghetti Squash holds up well to a marinara sauce.

Spaghetti Squash
(Mark Kelly, 2012)

Serves 4

1 small spaghetti squash, about 2 ½ pounds
2 ½ Tbsp unsalted butter
3 Tbsp finely chopped mixed fresh herbs (basil, parsley, chives, sage)
½ tsp Kosher salt
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 375F.

Cut the squash in half lengthwise. Using a spoon remove the seeds and discard them.

Place both halves cut-side down in a baking dish with enough water to cover about ½-inch of the sides of the squash pieces. Cover the baking dish with foil and bake for 45 minutes or until the squash is easily pierced with a skewer.

Turn the squash over and cover with foil and continue to bake for another 15 minutes, until the squash is very tender. Remove the squash from the oven and allow to cool for 5 – 10 minutes.

Using a fork, gently pull the strands of squash away from the rind. Place the squash strands in a mixing bowl.

In a large heavy skillet over medium-low heat, add the butter, squash, herbs, salt and pepper and toss to combine. Serve immediately or cover and keep warm until ready to serve.

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Stuffed Pork Chops with Cranberry-Cabernet Sauce

Ample Bites visited the McFarland Cranberry Farm in Manitowish Waters during a visit to the Northwoods of Wisconsin and came away with the idea of making a reduced Cranberry-Cabernet Sauce to serve with grilled Chorizo Stuffed Grilled Pork Chops.

The visit to the cranberry farm occurred during their fall harvest. The process of harvesting Wisconsin’s state fruit is quite interesting to see. The cranberry plants grow in depressions in the ground that are about 3 to 4 feet deep and several football fields long.

Flooded Cranberry Bog

During the harvest the depressions are flooded with water and the berries are knocked loose from their vines by a paddle machine. The berries float to the top of the water and are corralled to one end of the plot using floating plastic tubes.

Cranberries Ready for Harvest

The berries are then pumped from the bog to a waiting tractor trailer truck for transport.

The Pump and Truck are Ready

Here Come the Cranberries!

The cranberries make an amazing sauce for pork, chicken or duck.

Chorizo Stuffed Grilled Pork Chops
(Mark Kelly, 2012)

Serves 8

8 bone-in pork chops about 1 to 1 1/2 thick
1 pound uncased chorizo sausage
3 medium red peppers, seeded and coarsely diced
2 medium yellow onions, coarsely diced
6 Tbsp Asiago cheese, finely grated
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
3 seasoned bread crumbs
In a large heavy skillet, combine the sausage, peppers, onions and garlic. Cook the stuffing over medium heat until the sausage is cooked through and the vegetables are soft. Fold in the cheese and breadcrumbs and allow the stuffing to cool.

Slice a pocket in each of the pork chops. Season the pocket with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Fill each pork chop with an eighth of the stuffing and secure the pocket with a skewer. Brush the outside of the chops with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

Heat grill to medium-high. Grill the pork chops over direct heat for 5 to 7 minutes. Turn the chops over and grill for another 4 to 5 minutes. Remove the chops from the grill and let stand, loosely covered with foil, for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

Cranberry-Cabernet Sauce
(Mark Kelly, 2012)

Makes about 1 cup of sauce

1 pound fresh cranberries
1 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
4 large stalks of celery, roughly chopped
4 large carrots, roughly chopped
1/2 large red onion, roughly diced
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 cup Cabernet Sauvignon
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, boil the cranberries in water with the sugar and brown sugar until the berries burst, about 15 minutes. Drain the berries and allow them to cool. Reserve the cranberry juice.

In a large skillet, simmer the celery, carrots and red onion in the oil until soft, about 15 minutes. Season generously with salt and pepper. Add the berries and simmer for another 5-7 minutes. Add about 1 cup of the cranberry juice and bring to a boil then reduce the heat and simmer until the mixture begins to thicken.

Strain the berries and vegetables from the sauce using a fine mesh strainer. Return the sauce to the skillet and add the wine. Bring the sauce to a boil and then reduce and simmer the sauce until reduced by half, about 15 minutes. Finish the sauce by whisking in the butter before serving.

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Grilled Lamb Chops with Rosemary Butter

When fall and winter roll around in the Midwest Ample Bites gets a taste for grilled lamb chops. This dish finishes the lamb chops with a compound butter flavored with rosemary. A favorite way to serve the Grilled Lamb Chops with Rosemary Butter is over a serving of Garlic Mashed Cauliflower.

Grilled Lamb Chops with Rosemary Butter
(Mark Kelly, 2012)

Serves 4

8 porterhouse cut lamb chops about 1 ½” thick
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 sprigs fresh rosemary, leaves minced
4 large cloves of garlic, minced
4 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 lemon for garnish
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Bring the lamb chops up to room temperature. Place the chops in a large zip-top plastic bag and add the olive oil and the leaves of two of the rosemary sprigs. Marinate at room temperature for at least 30 minutes.

Soften the butter in a small shallow bowl. Add the remaining minced rosemary leaves and season the butter generously with pepper. Thoroughly combine the rosemary and pepper with the butter. Place the bowl in the refrigerator to cool while grilling.

Heat the grill to high. Grill the lamb chops over direct heat for 4 minutes. Turn the chops and grill for an additional 3 minutes or until medium-rare.

To serve, place two lamb chops on each serving plate along with a spoonful of the rosemary butter directly on top of the chops.

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Sweet and Tangy Jalapeno Jelly

The Ample Bites Vegetable Farm yielded just enough jalapeno peppers to give Ample Bites the opportunity to try canning for the first time. After scouring the Internet and studying a few cook books, including American Country Living – Canning and Preserving, Linda Ferrari, 1991, Ample Bites arrived at the following recipe.

Many of the recipes that I studied included green or red food coloring to impart a jalapeno hue to the jelly. Ample Bites opted to omit the food coloring and go “natural”.

A popular use for Sweet and Tangy Jalapeno Jelly is to spread it over cracker or bagels with warm cream cheese. The jelly can also be used to compliment soft cheeses such as Brie or Camembert.

Sweet and Tangy Jalapeno Jelly
(Mark Kelly, 2012)

Makes about 4 (8 oz) jars

12 medium jalapeno pepper
2 cups cider vinegar, divided
6 cups sugar
2 3 ounce pouches of liquid pectin or 3 Tbsp powdered pectin
4 half pint glass preserving jars with lids and bands

Prepare the jars and lids in a large, deep saucepan in simmering water until ready for use. Do not boil. Set bands aside.

Remove stems and most of the seeds from the peppers. Puree peppers in food processor or blender with 1 cup cider vinegar until smooth. Do not strain the puree.

Combine the puree with remaining cup cider vinegar and sugar in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat. Boil 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Add pectin and continue to boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim any foam that may have formed.

Ladle the hot jelly into the hot jars leaving about 1/4″ headspace. Wipe the rim of each jar. Center a lid on each jar and apply band until fit is finger tight.

Process in a boiling water bath with the jars submerged under 2″ of water for 15 minutes. Remove the jars and allow them to cool for about 30 minutes. Invert the jars a few times after cooling to distribute the peppers evenly before the jelly completely sets.

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Crab Risotto Cakes

Ample Bites saw this dish at Harry Caray’s Italian Steakhouse and I decided to make my own version of Crab Risotto Cakes. The keys to this dish are making the risotto ahead of time and allowing it to cool in the refrigerator before broiling the cakes in the oven. The risotto cakes are rich and luxuriant and only a couple make a nice meal when accompanied with a remoulade sauce (see earlier post for my recipe) and a salad.

Shrimp, lobster, or even just vegetables like asparagus or mushrooms, can be substituted for the crab in this recipe and your choice of cheese can be used in place of the asiago cheese. The shrimp stock (see earlier post for my recipe) gives the dish a deeper flavor than a vegetable or chicken stock but either can be used to make the risotto.

Crab Risotto Cakes
(Mark Kelly, 2012)

Serves 6

1 1/2 cups arborio rice
3/4 cup finely chopped onion
2 Tbsp finely minced garlic
3 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 cup dry white wine
4 cups shrimp stock
1/2 cup shredded asiago cheese
1 pound jumbo lump crab meat
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

In a medium saucepan over medium heat bring the stock to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Cover the pan and continue to heat on simmer.

In a large dutch oven, melt the butter until foamy. Add the onions and garlic and sweat until soft and lightly browned. Add the rice and stir coating the rice with the butter. Continue to stir the rice for 5 minutes. Add the wine and continue stirring until most of the wine is absorbed. Using 1/2 cup of stock at a time ladle stock into the rice, stirring constantly, until the stock is absorbed. Add another 1/2 cup of stock and repeat, continuing until all of the stock is used and the rice becomes creamy, about 20 minutes.

Remove the risotto from the heat and stir in the cheese and crab until fully incorporated. Spoon the risotto into a shallow glass dish and place the dish in the refrigerator to cool for at least an hour.

Heat oven to 400F. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray. Spoon roughly 1/2 cup-sized balls of the risotto onto the baking sheet spacing them about 2-inches apart. Bake for 10 minutes, making sure not to burn the cakes and then finish them under the broiler for about 4 minutes to crisp the tops.

Serve 2-3 of the cakes on individual serving dishes over a spoonful of remoulade sauce.

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Sage-Bourbon Peach Barbecue Sauce

Summer peaches are the primary ingredient of this sweet and spicy barbecue sauce. Ample Bites likes the subtle sweetness of the peaches with the bite of the reduced bourbon in this sauce. Sage-Bourbon Peach Barbecue Sauce can be used with chicken thighs or breasts, pork chops or, even, a meaty fish steak.

Sage-Bourbon Peach Barbecue Sauce with Grilled Chicken Thighs

Sage-Bourbon Peach Barbecue Sauce
(Mark Kelly, 2012)

4 – 5 large ripe peaches, 1/2 dice
1/2 cup bourbon whiskey
1 12 ounce can peach nectar
2 Tbsp light brown sugar
2 Tbsp ketchup
1 – 2 Tbsp chipotle hot sauce
1 handful fresh sage leaves, sliced into slivers

In a large bowl, macerate the peaches in the bourbon and peach nectar at room temperature for at least 1 hour.

Over medium heat in a large sauce pan, simmer the peaches in the bourbon-nectar liquid until the peaches are very soft, about 30 minutes. Drain the peaches through a sieve into the sauce pan, reserving the peaches. Place the peaches in a food processor and puree until smooth.

In the sauce pan with the liquid add the slivered sage leaves. Bring the liquid to a boil and then simmer until the liquid is reduced by half, about 15 minutes. Strain out sage leaves and then add the peach puree, brown sugar, ketchup and hot sauce. Simmer over low heat stirring occasionally for about 10 minutes. Remove the sauce from the heat and allow to cool before storing or use immediately as a sauce for grilled meats.

The sauce can be refrigerated for about 1 week or frozen for future use.

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