Baked Asparagus with Salsa Rossa

Baked Asparagus with Salsa Rossa is a sweet spicy presentation. Other green vegetables such a broccoli rabe or baby bok choi can be substituted for the asparagus. For a slightly smokier version of this dish grill the vegetables instead of baking.

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Baked Asparagus with Salsa Rossa
(Adapted from recipe courtesy of Food & Wine, September, 2016)

Serves 4 – 6

1 bunch asparagus, trimmed
1 cup sun-dried tomatoes, drained
Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
1 red bell pepper, roasted and chopped
4 large pickled hot red peppers, plus 1/4 cup of pickling brine from the jar, chopped
3 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp sugar
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Shaved Romano and Parmesan

To prepare Salsa Rossa: Bring 1 cup of water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Remove from heat. Add sun-dried tomatoes and red pepper flakes and steep for 1 minutes. In food processor, combine the roasted red pepper, pickled peppers, vinegar and oregano. Pulse until smooth. Add sun-dried tomatoes, including steeping liquid and sugar. Season with salt and pepper. Pulse until tomatoes are not quite smooth. With food processor running, drizzle in oil. Allow to cool.

Preheat oven to 375F. On a foil-lined, rimmed baking sheet place asparagus spears. Drizzle with oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake for 5 to 7 minutes, depending on thickness of the spears, for al dente consistency.

To serve: Spoon out a layer of Salsa Rossa on serving plate, places asparagus spears over Salsa Rossa and garnish with shaved cheese.

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Easy Ratatouille

Easy Ratatouille takes about an hour to prepare including prep time. This savory dish is a great side dish for grilled chicken or meat.

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Easy Ratatouille
(Mark Kelly, 2016)

Serves 4 – 6

1 medium red bell pepper, cut into 1/2-inch squares
3 baby eggplants, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 medium zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 medium yellow onion, diced
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 14 oz. fire-roasted diced tomatoes
1 tsp dried thyme leaves
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried crushed rosemary leaves
Extra-virgin olive oil
Pinch of sugar
1/4 cup chopped parsley
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

In a large skillet over medium heat, soften peppers in 1 1/2 tablespoons of oil, about 5 minutes. Remove to a bowl. Heat an additional 1 1/2 tablespoons of oil and saute eggplant for 5 minutes. Remove to a bowl. Heat an additional 1 1/2 tablespoons of oil and saute zucchini for 5 minutes. Add to bowl with red peppers.

Reduce heat to low. Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of oil, onion, garlic and dried herbs. Cook for ten minutes. Bring heat back up to medium and add dice tomatoes and their juice. After 2 minutes reduce heat to low and simmer, partially covered for 15 minutes longer, until the mixture has thickened. Gently fold in reserved vegetables. Add sugar and season with salt and pepper. Cook for five minutes more. Before serving drizzle with good extra-virgin olive oil and garnish with parsley.

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Blue Cheese Puffs

Blue Cheese Puffs are a rich, easy to make appetizer. Any leftover blue cheese mixture can be frozen and saved for later use on a baked potato or to finish a grilled steak.

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Blue Cheese Puffs
(Adapted from recipe courtesy of Starters – Appetizers from Country Garden Cuisine, 2005)

Makes about 32 puffs

1 package frozen puff pastry sheets, defrosted in refrigerator
1 stick unsalted butter
1/4 lb. blue cheese
1 egg yolk
1 Tbsp brandy
1 Tbsp fresh chives, minced

1 whole egg
1 tsp water

In a food processor, combine butter, blue cheese, egg yolk, brandy and chives.

Preheat oven to 375F.

Unfold puff pastry and roll out. Cut pastry into 3-inch squares. Place a small scoop of blue cheese mixture in the middle of each square. Fold each square into a triangle and crimp the edges closed with the tines of a fork. Chill for at least 30 minutes before baking.

Mix egg and water in a small bowl. Place the puffs on a rimmed baking sheet that has been prepared with cooking spray. Brush the top of each puff with egg wash. Make a small slit in the top of each puff to allow hot air to vent. Bake 15 minutes until golden brown.

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Another Homemade Bacon Recipe

Peppercorn Bacon is a different version of the homemade bacon recipe I posted earlier. The seasoning is different and the bacon is finished in the oven not smoked. The process takes a full week so make sure to plan ahead.

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Peppercorn Bacon
(Mark Kelly, 2016)

Makes about 1 1/2 pounds

2 lbs pork belly
4 tsp sea salt flakes
2 tsp coarsely ground black peppercorns
2 tsp coconut sugar

Mix the curing ingredients. Rinse the pork belly and pat it dry. Sprinkle the bottom of a glass dish with half of the curing mix. Press the skin side of the pork belly in to the sprinkle mix. Press each edge of the pork belly in the curing mix. Sprinkle the remainder of the curing mix in the bottom of the dish and press the remaining side of the pork belly. Cover with plastic wrap. Move to a refrigerator. Drain any excess liquid after 3 days. Return to the refrigerator for another 4 days.

Preheat oven to 225F. Remove from the refrigerator and allow the bacon to come to room temperature. Roast until the internal temperature reaches 150F. Start checking at about 45 minutes.

Cool on a rack over a drip tray for 20 to 40 minutes.

Remove the skin with a sharp knife. Chill the bacon in the freezer for about 1 hour to make slicing easier.

To store: Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 1 week, freeze for up to 3 months.

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Seasoned Lamb Pizza

Seasoned Lamb Pizza is yet another variation on the classic dish.

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Seasoned Lamb Pizza
(Mark Kelly, 2016)

Makes (4) 12-inch pizzas

3 garlic cloves, finely grated using a microplane
1/2 cup tomato paste
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp dried crushed rosemary leaves
1 Tbsp ground cumin
1 Tbsp smoked paprika
1 Tbsp kosher salt
1 Tbsp dried minced onion
1 1/2 lbs ground lamb
1/2 large red onion, thinly sliced
1 cup parsley leaves
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
8 oz crumbled feta
8 oz torm mozzarella pieces
16 oz prepared pizza dough, divided into quarters

In a small bowl, thoroughly mix garlic, tomato paste, cinnamon, rosemary, cumin, paprika, salt and minced onion. In medium bowl, break up the ground lamb then add the seasoned tomato paste mixture and mix to combine. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours to allow flavors to meld.

Preheat oven and baking steel or stone to 450F using the true convection setting, if you have it.

Working with one piece of dough at a time, roll out to roughly 12-inch diameter. Place one quarter of the seasoned lamb over the dough in pieces. Fill in gaps between the lamb with a combination of the two cheeses. Brush the edge of the dough with oil and drizzle oil over the pizza. Bake for 10-12 minutes. Remove and brush the edge of the crust with oil. Keep warm until serving. Repeat with the remaining three doughs.

To serve; Drizzle with good olive oil and lemon juice and top with red onion slices and torn parsley leaves.

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Marinated Eggplant and Cherry Tomato Salad with Mozzeralla

Marinated Eggplant and Cherry Tomato Salad with Mozzeralla is a refreshing salad that goes especially well with grilled meats and fish.

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Marinated Eggplant and Cherry Tomato Salad with Mozzeralla
(Adapted from recipe courtesy of FoodandWine.com, August 2016)

Serves 4 to 6

1 1 lb. medium eggplant, peeled and sliced 1/2-inch thick, score on both sides at 1/4-inch intervals
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp distilled white vinegar
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
3 garlic cloves, crushed
3 basil sprigs, plus basil leaves for garnish
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
2 lbs. halved red, orange, and/or yellow cherry tomatoes
8 oz. mozzarella, coarsely torn

In colander over a large bowl, toss the eggplant slices with a generous amount of salt. Let stand at room temperature for 1 hour, tossing occasionally.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together oil, vinegar, lemon juice, garlic, basil sprigs, oregano, and crushed red pepper; season with salt and pepper.

Squeeze all of the water from the eggplant slices and pat dry. Chop into bite-size pieces. Add to the marinade and let stand for 3 hours, stirring occasionally.

Add the tomatoes to the eggplant salad and toss to coat; discard the basil leaves and garlic. Transfer to a serving plate and top with mozzarella and sliced or torn basil leaves.

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Watermelon Salad with Yogurt and Fried Rosemary

Watermelon Salad with Yogurt and Fried Rosemary combines ingredients you just might not think of mixing into a delicious summer salad.

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Watermelon Salad with Yogurt and Fried Rosemary
(Adapted from recipe courtesy of BonAppetit.com, August 2016)

Makes 4 to 6 servings

1 3-lb. seedless watermelon, rind removed, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes, refrigerated
2 5.3 ounce containers non-fat plain Greek yogurt
2 Tbsp honey
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 6-inch sprigs fresh rosemary
2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
Sea salt

In a medium skillet over medium heat the oil to a shimmer. Fry the rosemary sprigs for about 20 seconds until crispy. Remove to paper towel-lined plate to cool and drain. Remove leaves from stems and set aside.

In a medium bowl mix yogurt and honey until thoroughly combined.

To serve: Divide yogurt mixture between serving plates. Top with pieces of watermelon. Season with rosemary leaves, sea salt and red pepper flakes.

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Summer Relish Crostini

Summer Relish Crostini is a great recipe for the beach or poolside. It requires little or no refrigeration and all of the prep can be done well ahead of time. If you don’t have time to make the crostini serve the Summer Relish with tortilla chips or pita crisps. The recipe can also easily be doubled or tripled for a larger crowd.

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Summer Relish Crostini
(Adapted from recipe courtesy of The Food Network)

Yields 6 servings

2 ears corn, boiled, kernels sliced off
Extra-virgin olive oil for brushing
6 thick baguette slices
4 strips crispy thick bacon, coarsely chopped
2 Fresno chile peppers, stemmed and seeded, cut crosswise into thin strips
3-4 Tbsp red wine vinegar, to taste
4 scallions, thinly sliced on a bias, white and green parts
Paprika for dusting
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 375F.

On a rimmed baking sheet arrange the bread slices. Brush each on both sides with oil. Dust both sides of the bread with paprika. Bake for 7 minutes. Remove and flip the slices over. Sprinkle each slice with kosher salt. Bake for another 6 to 7 minutes until just firm. Remove slices to a wire rack to cool.

In a medium bowl, combine the corn, pepper, scallions, and red wine vinegar. Stir gently to mix everything and to break the corn kernels apart from each other. Add the bacon, again stirring gently. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

To serve: Top each crostini with a generous scoop of the relish.

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Citrus and Herb Marinated Shrimp

Citrus and Herb Marinated Shrimp are a great topping for a salad. They can be served as an appetizer. Or, they can be chopped up, dressed and mixed into salad to stuff tomatoes.

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Citrus and Herb Marinated Shrimp
(Adapted from a recipe courtesy of Food & Wine, August 2016)

Serves 2

1 lb. medium shrimp (21-30), shelled and deveined, rinsed, patted dry and brought to room temperature
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 Tbsp finely grated orange zest
1/3 cup fresh orange juice
1 Tbsp finely grated lemon zest
1 1/2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
One 1 1/2-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated
Pinch of crushed red pepper
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 375F.

Toss the shrimp in 1/4 cup oil. Season with salt and black pepper. Arrange on a foil-lined, rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 5 minutes. Remove and flip the shrimp over and bake for another 5 minutes. Remove and allow to cool.

In a medium bowl, combine the remaining 1/2 cup oil and remaining ingredients except for salt and black pepper. Mix thoroughly. Add shrimp to the dressing and toss to coat thoroughly. Serve immediately or refrigerate for up to 4 days.

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Smoked Potatoes and Sweet Onions with Caraway Butter Sauce

Smoked Potatoes and Sweet Onions with Caraway Butter Sauce is an interesting side dish that allows you to bring in smoked flavor to your barbecue without smoking your entree.

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Smoked Potatoes and Sweet Onions with Caraway Butter Sauce
(Adapted from recipe courtesy of Bon Appetit, July 2016)

Serves 4

2 small Yukon Gold potatoes
1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
12 oz. Cipolline onions, unpeeled
6 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 Tbsp caraway seeds
1 1/2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 scallion, thinly sliced
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black peppers

Prepare gas grill for medium-high, indirect heat. Place smoker box with soaked wood chips over the lone lit burner.

Toss potatoes and onions in oil in a large bowl and season with salt and pepper. Arrange potatoes and onions on the grates above the unlit portion of the grill. Smoke potatoes and onions, turning occasionally, until tender, 45 to 60 minutes. The onions may be done sooner than the potatoes. If so, remove them to a covered bowl and keep warming oven.

While the potatoes and onions are smoking, prepare the sauce by cooking the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat, swirling occasionally until it is beginning to brown and smell nutty, about 4 minutes. Add the caraway seeds; let cool slightly, then stir in lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper.

Arrange smoked potatoes and onions on a platter and drizzle with the Caraway Butter Sauce. Top with scallions.

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