Archive for the ‘tomatoes’ Category

Now’s the time to head to your local farm stand and pick up a bag of gorgeous plum tomatoes, before the season is gone! And this is what you do with them…

These are not sun-dried tomatoes. They’re better, because fresh plum tomatoes are still moist after roasting, with a bit of that magic tomato liquid in every cup! A great, simple platter to offer at parties.

Tomatoes before

Tomatoes before.

12 to 18 halved, seeded plum tomatoes
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons organic cane sugar
Freshly ground pepper
Fleur de Sel or sea salt

Pre-heat the oven to 250.

Line a baking sheet with foil and rub it lightly with olive oil.

Arrange halved and seeded tomatoes on it in a single layer, cut side up. Drizzle evenly with 1/4 cup olive oil, sprinkle with 2 tablespoons sugar, and season with pepper to taste.

Bake the tomatoes until they are still juicy but slightly wrinkled, about 3 hours. Transfer them to a platter and let them cool slightly.

Just before serving, sprinkle the tomatoes with Fleur de Sel, and garnish if you like, with chopped parsley leaves, mint leaves, or basil. (Bacon bits sound pretty good, too!)

 

Tomatoes after

Tomatoes after!

If you want to know the measure of a truly great pizza, you gotta go bares bones and order a simple cheese pizza. It’s tough to hide behind a classic combination of dough, sauce and cheese. It either rocks or it sucks.

There are few foods that people take as personally as pizza. Tell someone your pizza place is better than their pizza place, and chances are you’ll start a fight. Well, my pizza place is better than your pizza place, because I make it at home. Besides, I can run faster than you.

I’m not going to say that much of the pizza that I’ve tried here in Rhode Island is mediocre, but I will say that I was born in Brooklyn and grew up working in many New York pizza places in my youth. So, yes, I do have a very strong opinion on what I think makes a good or bad pizza. And, alas, I’ve tried, but a good gluten-free pizza is not yet within reach. The frozen ones you get in stores are passable, but making one at home has been nothing short of a disaster…and don’t even talk to me about using cauliflower!

My homemade pizza is all about the basics. The better quality my original ingredients are, the better my pizza will be:

 

More cheese = better pizza, right?

 

 

The dough…

The key ingredient is 00 flour, and it can be found in specialty stores,  or online. Ratios for this recipe depend on the humidity in my kitchen on any given day, but my basic pizza dough recipe is as follows:

4–5 cups 00 flour
1 cup tepid water
1 tablespoon salt
1 packet Italian pizza yeast
a squirt of extra virgin olive oil

I mix all the dry ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer, then slowly add the water as it mixes. After the ingredients are well mixed, and the dough pulls from the side of the bowl, I remove it to a floured board, where I knead the dough by hand for another 5 minutes, until it is smooth and elastic, shaping it into a ball. I rub a little olive oil over the ball of dough, place it in a bowl covered with plastic wrap, and let it rise at room temp for 2 hours, punching it down after that, and letting it rise another 2 hours again.

The sauce…

I’ve written an earlier blog about real and fake cans of San Marzano tomatoes. I feel that San Marzanos make the best sauce, but not all cans of San Marzanos are created equal. The only way you can be guaranteed you have a real can of these beauties, grown in volcanic Italian soil in the shadow of Mt. Vesuvius, is by the D.O.P. designation on the can. (D.O.P. stands for “Denominazione d’Origine Protetta,” and signifies that it’s the real deal.) Anything else that says San Marzano may not be.

San Marzanos are so amazing, that all I do is puree them in a food processor, pour the sauce into a pan, and let it reduce until it has thickened. No spices or additions of any kind.

 

Simple and delicious.

 

The cheese…

I don’t need to go super-fancy with mozzarella di bufala (cheese made from the milk of the water buffalo) …but I don’t use the mass-produced supermarket stuff, either. Fresh mozzarella, found in most supermarkets, is how I roll.

 

The toppings…

Most of the time, I go plain cheese. But when I do decide to add toppings, one of my favorites is my marinated beef tenderloin and fried chive blossom pizza. I marinate and grill a piece of beef tenderloin, slicing it thin. And in the springtime, when my chive plants are budding like crazy, I snip the blossoms before they open and place them in Ziploc freezer bags to use all year-long. When it’s time, I grab a handful of the blossoms and fry them in a little olive oil, salt and pepper, and sprinkle them over the top of the beef tenderloin pizza. A touch of Fleur de Sel on top seals the deal.

 

My signature marinated beef tenderloin and chive blossom pizza.

 

The oven…

Many professional pizza ovens reach a temperature of 1000 degrees. My home oven only reaches 500, but it does the trick. I do use a pizza stone, and place it on the center rack of the oven, and let it heat up thoroughly (about an hour) before sliding a pizza onto it for cooking.

 

Thick pan pizza, which is easy to create at home if you’ve got a cast iron skillet, is a completely different animal, and the subject of another blog.

 

My favorite pizza?

I haven’t been to every pizzeria on this here planet, but I’ve been to a few, and for my money, the best pizza I’ve ever had is something called pizza montanara. They take the pizza dough, stretch it out, then fry it in olive oil for a minute so that it puffs up like a beautiful pillow, then they add the sauce and mozzarella di bufala on top and place it in a wood burning oven to cook. Garnished with a basil leaf, it is absolute pizza perfection, and my favorite place to get it was Pizzarte on West 55th St. in Manhattan. However, recently, much to my dismay, they took it off the menu. (But I’ve heard that you can still special order it.)

The original location of Frank Pepe Pizza Napoletana in New Haven, CT, is the home of the clam pizza, a very different and very delicious pie. And locally, in my neighborhood of Southern New England, I’ve had excellent pizza at Al Forno in Providence, RI, the restaurant that started the grilled pizza craze…and Fellini Pizzeria, on the east side of Providence, RI and in Cranston, RI, home of a wonderful New York-style thin crust pie.

This dish is absolutely delicious and worth the effort. Despite the fact that we first had it in the middle of summer on a vacation to the beautiful island of Santorini, Greece, we always cook it around the holidays in wintertime. We don’t have access to that unusual Mediterranean lobster, but our cold water New England lobsters are a fine substitute!

Santorini gets a bad rap these days, because they’ve allowed the cruise ships to take over, and they just can’t support the massive crowds that invade this small, beautiful island every summer. Once you’ve opened the floodgates, it’s hard to suddenly turn around and tell tourists not to come. Santorini’s tourism industry drives the entire country of Greece. Sadly, it seems that many beautiful places in the world, once discovered by the masses, have to deal with this issues. (My beloved island of St. John in the USVI, is another example.)

But despite the hoards of tourists that swarm the island every summer, Santorini remains one of the most amazing places I’ve been to in my life. Having traveled there at least 4 times now, I know all the cruise ship tour bus routes and stops to avoid, and where I can still go to experience the real Santorini.

It was in one of those out-of-the-way places that we first had this dish. Taverna Giorgaros is a simple family-run restaurant that is on the road leading to the lighthouse, past the ancient ruins of Akrotiri. We’ve gone there every time we’ve visited Santorini, and only once did they have the freshly caught lobster that allowed us to enjoy this dish.

 

Where we first had our pasta with lobster sauce in Santorini.

Where we first had our pasta with lobster sauce in Santorini.

 

Love the signs!

Love the signs!

 

First, it’s absolutely important to make a good stock: the base for all the other flavors to follow.

 

Cooked lobster LTL

 

For the stock…
2 1-1/2 lb. lobsters, slightly under-cooked
12 cups water
1/2 onion, chopped into quarters
3 celery stalks, chopped into quarters
1 carrot, chopped into quarters

 

Under-cook (steam or boil, whatever your favorite method) the lobsters. (You’ll be cooking the meat again later.) Remove the lobster meat from the shells and set it aside.

Place the cleaned lobster shells, claws, tails, legs and bodies in a large pot. (You don’t want any of the internal organs or tommaley.) Crush the shells, if needed, so they fit in the pot. Add the water, onion, celery and carrot. Set the heat on high. Cook it until it’s reduced by half.

Strain the stock, discarding the lobster shells and veggies. Bring the stock back to the heat and reduce it until all you have left is 1 cup of intense stock.

 

Pasta with lobster sauce

For the lobster sauce…
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
pinch of Italian red pepper flakes
teaspoon fresh chopped parsley
extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup lobster stock
1/4 cup San Marzano tomato sauce (see below)
splash of dry un-oaked white wine (I use an Australian Chardonnay)
salt and pepper

 

Final ingredients…
reserved lobster meat
1/2 lb. cooked pasta

 

Add some olive oil to a large pan and sauté the onions until they’re translucent. Season them with salt and pepper. Add the garlic and cook for 10 seconds. Add the red pepper flakes and parsley.

Add 1/4 cup of the lobster stock and let it cook, reducing by half. Add the other 1/4 cup of lobster stock and the tomato sauce. Let it cook for a couple of minutes and add the white wine. Cook for a few minutes more.

Cook the pasta and drain it before it reaches the al dente stage. Place the pasta in the pan with the sauce, heating and coating thoroughly. Add the reserved lobster pieces and warm them through, tossing in the sauce. Serve immediately.

For the San Marzano tomato sauce: Pour a can of whole San Marzano tomatoes in a food processor and blend. Pour the sauce into a pan and reduce it over medium heat by half, until the sauce has thickened. Use this sauce in the recipe.

When it’s done right, gazpacho is one of the most delicious summer soups you’ll ever have. The secret, of course, is using super-fresh veggies. That’s why I crave it at the first sign of a vine-ripened tomato in my garden or a local farm stand. Now that the summer season is winding down, my tomato plants have dozens of ripening fruits on them every day. I eat some in salads…I make tomato sauce with others…but the reddest and ripest become gazpacho!

 

 

I never make this out of season, and I’m always wary of restaurants that do! Very often, they’ll try to hide the taste of older veggies by adding too much salt or lots of spice.

The consistency of gazpacho is a personal preference. I like mine a bit chewy…not chunky like salsa, but not watery like soup…somewhere in between the two is perfection.

All the work is pretty much in the slicing, peeling and chopping…so I do it carefully.

 

1 large Vidalia onion, peeled and roughly chopped
1 carrot, peeled and roughly chopped
5 large tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and roughly chopped
2 medium cucumbers, peeled, seeded, and roughly chopped
6 sprigs of flat-leaf parsley
1/2 cup olives, drained  (I like kalamatas)
1/2 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil
Juice of 1/2 a large lemon
3 tablespoons white vinegar
Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper

An easy way to peel tomatoes is to turn them upside down and make an X with a knife, puncturing the skin. Drop the tomatoes in boiling water for about 30 seconds, and the skin will start peeling away from the meat. Scoop the tomatoes out of the water, and immediately drop them into a bowl of ice water, letting them cool for 5 minutes. The skin will peel right off. Cut the tomatoes in half and (over the sink!) gently press your thumbs into the seed compartments, popping them out. Give the tomato a little shake to remove any last seeds, and it’s ready to be chopped.

 

Make an X, then drop the tomatoes in boiling water for 30 seconds.

 

While the tomatoes are cooling, you can peel and chop the other veggies.

Peel and roughly chop the onion and carrot, and place them in a food processor. Let it run for about 10 seconds.

Add the peeled and seeded tomatoes, the peeled and seeded cucumbers, and the sprigs of parsley and continue processing.

Add the olives, olive oil, lemon juice, vinegar, sea salt and black pepper.

 

 

Process until the veggies are finely chopped, and you’ve got a soup. Store it in the fridge for at least one hour to chill before serving.

 

 

Garnish with a sprig of parsley and a sprinkle of Fleur de Sel or other sea salt.

You might be thinking of eating more healthy fruits and veggies in 2019, and organic is usually the way to go. But considering the price difference, it’s not always easy to simply buy organic over non-organic produce. Although I tend to buy mostly organic products, there are times when I think it’s not all that necessary. By the same token, there are times when it is absolutely necessary.

organic

Despite the organic label… despite the fact that produce has been triple washed or whatever other nonsense they claim, I always wash my produce before eating. And I store it in a new, clean plastic bag or container in the fridge, recycling the old clam shell container.

I try to avoid any produce from Mexico or South America, where they’re allowed to use pesticides banned long ago in the United States. I don’t even trust the organic products from those areas. (Hey, if they tell you not to drink the water when you vacation in Mexico, why would you want them to water your produce with it?)

And I buy seasonal organic produce from my local farmers whenever possible.

Here are a few of what are known as the “dirty dozen:”

Strawberries: Always go organic. Non-organic strawberries are bathed in pesticides and no amount of washing with water will remove them. There’s no way I’m going to put that in my daughter’s smoothie.
Speaking of strawberries, the greens on each fruit are totally edible, and you won’t notice them at all if you’re using them for smoothies. Just wash the fruits and then throw the whole thing into your blender.
I usually buy a large quantity of organic strawberries when they’re on sale, wash them thoroughly in cold water, and then freeze them in small bags to use for smoothies later.

Apples: Always go organic. I have two apple trees in my yard and I know what a nightmare it is to keep the bugs away from them. The only way you can do that is by spraying the living hell out of those trees. Unfortunately for me, the days of going to an orchard with the family and picking our own apples are long gone, because I know what they have to do to make them look pretty on the branch.

Potatoes: Always go organic. These are sprayed heavily as well. And then there’s the added bonus of spraying the harvested potatoes afterwards to prevent them from sprouting while in storage.

 

Since the US Environmental Protection Agency doesn’t do its job to let you know about pesticides in your food, groups like the EWG, the Environmental Working Group, do it for them. Other produce that falls into the “dirty dozen” category, as listed by the EWG: celery, peaches, bell peppers, spinach, imported nectarines, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, kale, collard greens, zucchini, lettuce, and blueberries. Always buy organic versions of these if you want to avoid ingesting pesticides. Remember, washing the fruit does not wash off the pesticide!

 

Fruits with skin you peel: bananas, oranges and other citrus, melons, etc…I’m OK with non-organic, but I wash the outside thoroughly before cutting into the fruit, and I don’t use the skin. If I need the zest of citrus for a recipe, I use organic…but those can be hard to find.

“The clean fifteen,” meaning produce you can buy that is not organic (according to the EWG): onions, sweet corn (which I totally disagree with, thanks to Monsanto’s Round-Up ready crops), pineapple, avocado, asparagus, frozen sweet peas, mango, papayas, eggplant, cantaloupe (domestic), kiwi, cabbage, watermelon, sweet potatoes, grapefruit, and mushrooms. I would still keep my purchases to produce grown in the USA. Pesticides that are banned in the USA are still used in other countries.

Here’s some technical labeling info you may or may not know…

Natural: This is a marketing word – not a scientific label. The FDA requires only one natural ingredient to be present for an entire product to be labeled “natural.” This means that as long as a company has one natural ingredient despite multiple harmful chemical ingredients, they can still call the product natural. (As my buddy, Lee, a PhD in Chemistry once told me: “Hey…cyanide is ‘natural!'”) So always read the label!

USDA Certified Organic: Product labels that feature this term are manufactured by operators who comply with annual inspections, as well as random checks, to ensure they’re adhering to the USDA’s organic standards. This includes, among many things, a three-year process to properly fortify the farmland. It’s also important to note that many local farmers that do adhere to “organic” standards can’t afford the fee to apply the “organic” label to their products. So, talk to your local farmer about it.

Here are a few permutations of the USDA’s “organic” label:

    • 100 percent organic: Product must contain (excluding water and salt) only organically produced ingredients. Products may display the USDA Organic Seal and must display the certifying agent’s name and address.
    • Organic: Product must contain at least 95 percent organically produced ingredients (excluding water and salt). Remaining product ingredients must consist of non-agricultural substances approved on the National List or non-organically produced agricultural products that are not commercially available in organic form, also on the National List. Products may display the USDA Organic Seal and must display the certifying agent’s name and address.
    • Made with more organic ingredients: Products contain at least 70 percent organic ingredients and product label can list up to three of the organic ingredients or “food” groups on the principal display panel. For example, body lotion made with at least 70 percent organic ingredients (excluding water and salt) and only organic herbs may be labeled either “body lotion made with organic lavender, rosemary, and chamomile,” or “body lotion made with organic herbs.” Products may not display the USDA Organic Seal and must display the certifying agent’s name and address.

    Of course, all this assumes honest labeling on packaging. Bottom line: read labels, ask questions, and support your local farmers.

     

     

    Though I’m a fan of renowned Italian chef Marcella Hazan, I had never heard of what many claim to be her most famous recipe: her 3-ingredient tomato sauce. (OK, salt makes 4.) Recently, I read an article about it and thought I had to try it for myself. The results were amazing: a subtle hint of onion, and a creamy smooth sauce thanks to the butter. You can use a regular can of tomatoes, but real San Marzano tomatoes will give the best results. How do you know if you’ve got real San Marzano’s? Just so happens I have a pet peeve about that. Read below the recipe.

    The sauce before onion removal.

     

    1 28 oz. can San Marzano tomatoes
    5 tablespoons butter (I use unsalted)
    1 onion, peeled and cut in half
    salt

    In a saucepan, combine the entire can of tomatoes (tomatoes and juice) and the butter, and add the onion with a couple of pinches of salt. Place the heat on medium, bring it to a simmer, and then cook for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, breaking the tomatoes with a spoon. Add more salt, if needed.

    When the sauce is done, remove the onion.

    Silky smooth and ready to use.

     

    The original recipe says to discard the onion. What?! I’m an onion fanatic and I can tell you throwing the onion out is a sin. Here’s what I do: I place the onion on a baking sheet and put it under the broiler of my toaster oven: 5 minutes on one side, flip it, then 5 minutes on the other. If you’ve got a screamin’ broiler, those onions will have beautiful charred edges and the bits of tomato sauce left on the onion will caramelize to a fabulous intense, sweet paste. You then sprinkle Fleur de Sel on it, and devour it.

    Never throw the onion away!

     

    If you do your share of Italian recipes, you’ve used San Marzano tomatoes. Most good cooks agree that San Marzano’s are the best canned tomatoes you can buy.

    Unfortunately,  the label can say “San Marzano tomatoes” even if they are not real San Marzano tomatoes.

    San Marzano is a region in Italy near Naples and Mt. Vesuvius, and the special combination of climate and volcanic soil make these plum tomatoes world-famous. They have less water, fewer seeds and are picked off the vine when perfectly ripe and processed the same day.

    But San Marzano is a variety of tomato, too…so you can have a can of San Marzano tomatoes that are not from San Marzano. And to add to the confusion, there’s actually a brand of tomatoes called San Marzano, with tomatoes grown in the United States. Bet your ass the sellers of these tomatoes are counting on you not to know the difference!

    Sold everywhere, but these are NOT real San Marzano tomatoes. They’re grown in the USA.

     

    Real San Marzano Tomatoes are a very old variety, extremely limited in quantity, grown and produced exclusively in the San Marzano region of Italy. Because production is so very limited, the Italian Government and the European Union have formed a way of protecting consumers from fraud by having San Marzano tomatoes tightly controlled. DOP, or denomination of protected origin, is the mechanism that the government is using to control the production and marketing of genuine San Marzano tomatoes. Labels for DOP products must be individually numbered and manually applied to each can in specific lots and government officials must oversee this application. So here’s the deal: unless you see “DOP” on the label with a hand-stamped number on the can, it’s not a real San Marzano tomato.

     

    Yes! Real San Marzano tomatoes. Cento also sells non-certified San Marzano’s, so always look for the DOP on the can.

     

    Another way to tell when you’re in the market is simple. Check the price. Your average can of tomatoes will be in the $2 range. Real DOP San Marzano tomatoes: about $4–$5 a can. It’s all about quality. Buy them on sale, and you’ll not only save a few bucks, but you’ll have them when you need them at arm’s reach!

    It’s National Cheese Pizza Day! If you want to know the measure of a truly great pizza, you gotta go bares bones and order a simple cheese pizza. It’s tough to hide behind a classic combination of dough, sauce and cheese. It either rocks or sucks.

    There are few foods that people take as personally as pizza. Tell someone your pizza place is better than their pizza place, and chances are you’ll start a fight. Well, my pizza place is better than your pizza place, because I make it at home. Besides, I can run faster than you.

    I’m not going to say that much of the pizza that I’ve tried here in Rhode Island is mediocre, but I will say that I was born in Brooklyn and grew up working in many New York pizza places in my youth. So yes, I do have a very strong opinion on what I think makes a good or bad pizza. And, alas, I’ve tried, but a good gluten-free pizza is not yet within reach. The frozen ones you get in stores are passable, but making one at home has been nothing short of a disaster.

    My homemade pizza is all about the basics. The better quality my original ingredients are, the better my pizza will be:

     

    The dough…

    The key ingredient is 00 flour, and it can be found in specialty stores,  or online. Ratios for this recipe depend on the humidity in my kitchen on any given day, but my basic pizza dough recipe is as follows:

    4–5 cups 00 flour
    1 cup tepid water
    1 tablespoon salt
    1 packet Italian pizza yeast
    a squirt of extra virgin olive oil

    I mix all the dry ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer, then slowly add the water as it mixes. After the ingredients are well mixed, and the dough pulls from the side of the bowl, I remove it to a floured board, where I knead the dough by hand for another 5 minutes, until it is smooth and elastic, shaping it into a ball. I rub a little olive oil over the ball of dough, place it in a bowl covered with plastic wrap, and let it rise for 2 hours, punching it down after that, and letting it rise another 2 hours again.

    The sauce…

    I’ve written an earlier blog about real and fake cans of San Marzano tomatoes. I feel that San Marzanos make the best sauce, but not all cans of San Marzanos are created equal. The only way you can be guaranteed you have a real can of these beauties, grown in volcanic Italian soil in the shadow of Mt. Vesuvius, is by the D.O.P. designation on the can. (D.O.P. stands for “Denominazione d’Origine Protetta,” and signifies that it’s the real deal.) Anything else that says San Marzano may not be.

    San Marzanos are so amazing, that all I do is puree them in a food processor, pour the sauce into a pan, and let it reduce until it has thickened. No spices or additions of any kind.

    The cheese…

    I don’t need to go super-fancy with mozzarella di bufala (cheese made from the milk of the water buffalo) …but I don’t use the mass-produced supermarket stuff, either. Fresh mozzarella, found in most supermarkets, is the way to go.

    The toppings…

    Since we’re talking National Cheese Pizza Day, it’s a no topping day.

    But my signature pizza that wows my dinner guests is my marinated beef tenderloin and fried chive blossom pizza. I marinate and grill a piece of beef tenderloin, slicing it thin. And in the springtime, when my chive plants are budding like crazy, I snip the blossoms before they open and place them in Ziploc freezer bags to use all year-long. When it’s time, I grab a handful of the blossoms and fry them in a little olive oil, salt and pepper, and sprinkle them over the top of the beef tenderloin pizza. A touch of Fleur de Sel on top seals the deal.

    My signature marinated beef tenderloin and chive blossom pizza.

    The oven…

    Many professional pizza ovens reach a temperature of 1000 degrees. My home oven only reaches 500, but it does the trick. I do use a pizza stone, and place it on the center rack of the oven, and let it heat up thoroughly (about an hour) before sliding a pizza onto it for cooking.

     

    My favorite pizza?

    I haven’t been to every pizzeria on this here planet, but I’ve been to a few, and for my money, the best pizza I’ve ever had is something called pizza montanara. They take the pizza dough, stretch it out, then fry it in olive oil for a minute so that it puffs up like a beautiful pillow, then they add the sauce and mozzarella di bufala on top and place it in a wood burning oven to cook. Garnished with a basil leaf, it is absolute pizza perfection, and my favorite place to get it is at Pizzarte on West 55th St. in Manhattan.

    The original location of Frank Pepe Pizza Napoletana in New Haven, CT, is a very different and very delicious pie. And locally, in my neighborhood of Southern New England, I’ve had excellent pizza at Al Forno in Providence, RI, the restaurant that started the grilled pizza craze…Fellini Pizzeria, on the east side of Providence, RI and in Cranston, RI, home of a wonderful New York-style thin crust pie…and Brick, with 3 locations: Fairhaven, MA, N. Dartmouth, MA and New Bedford, MA.

    One of the most incredible dishes I’ve had on the beautiful island of Santorini, Greece, is lobster with pasta. It’s one of those dishes that takes time to prepare, because the pasta lobster sauce they make is a labor of love…time consuming, but so spectacular.

    Cooked lobster LTL

    I often have friends over for dinner, but when I prepared this dish for them recently, it was the first time they all licked their plates clean!

    To try to copy that lobster sauce we had in Santorini, I started with a kick-ass lobster stock. It’s simple but flavorful:

     

    clean, empty claws, tails and bodies from two 1-1/2 lb. lobsters (use the legs, too)
    12 cups water
    1/2 onion
    3 celery stalks
    1 carrot

    Place all the ingredients in a large pot and set it on high heat. Crush the lobster shells (I use a potato masher!) Cook until the stock is reduced by half.

    Strain the stock, discarding the lobster shells and veggies. Bring the stock back to the heat and reduce it until all you have left is 1 cup of intense stock.

     

     

    Pasta with lobster sauce

    Now that you have the stock, you can make the sauce!

     

    1/2 onion, finely chopped
    1 garlic clove, finely chopped
    pinch of Italian red pepper flakes
    1 teaspoon parsley
    extra virgin olive oil
    1/2 cup lobster stock
    1/4 cup San Marzano tomato sauce (see below)
    splash of white wine (I use Alice white Chardonnay)
    salt and pepper
    1/2 lb. cooked pasta

    Add some olive oil to a pan and saute the onions until translucent. Season with salt and pepper. Add the garlic and cook for 10 seconds. Add the red pepper flakes and parsley.

    Add 1/4 cup of the lobster stock and let it cook, reducing by half. Add the other 1/4 cup of lobster stock and then the tomato sauce. Let it cook for a couple of minutes and add the white wine. Cook for a few minutes more.

    Cook the pasta and drain it even before it reaches the al dente stage. Place the pasta in the pan with the sauce, heating and coating it thoroughly. Serve immediately, with or without the lobster meat.

     

    For the San Marzano tomato sauce: I pour a can of San Marzano tomatoes  into a food processor or Vita-Mix and blend until I get sauce. Pour into a pan and reduce over medium heat by half, until sauce has thickened.

    There are very few sandwiches more perfect than the BLT, and I would be a fool to try to improve on it. Freshly toasted bread, a slathering of mayo (Hellman’s only, of course), crisp lettuce, fresh juicy sliced tomato, and my own homemade bacon. What could be better?

    I recently tried my hand at smoking and slow-roasting a huge slab of grass-fed beef brisket, and it came out beautifully. Rich and smoky, there was far too much of it for a mere mortal like myself to polish it off, even if I ate it for days in a row. So I cut the brisket into more manageable sized slabs, wrapped them and placed them in the freezer.

     

    beef brisket

     

    I took one of those slabs out of the freezer the other day, and noticed that, with the grain of the meat and fat, it resembled bacon. And then it dawned on me: I could slice it like thick-cut bacon, fry it in a pan, and make my own BLT with it: a Brisket, Lettuce and Tomato Sandwich!

     

    steakon!

     

    The end result was fantastic. Quite different than the infamous BLT, but a beefy winner in its own right.

     

    Alz BLT: Brisket, Lettuce and Tomato

    Alz BLT: Brisket, Lettuce and Tomato

    There’s something magical about a simple plate of spaghetti and meatballs. When my parents took me to an Italian restaurant as a child, a plate of spaghetti and meatballs made me feel like the luckiest kid on the planet. And even now, when I prepare a plate of spaghetti and meatballs for my daughter, she can’t wait to sit down at the dinner table. She’s so busy shoveling the food into her mouth, she can’t even speak. I just get a quick thumbs-up between bites…and breaths!

     

    meatballs

     

    Great meatballs start with great meat. I always use 80/20 grass-fed beef. I don’t use a ton of breadcrumbs as filler. And the tomato sauce is homemade as well, from canned tomatoes. I start with the sauce…

     

    B.F.I.M. SAUCE

    Inspired by a lovely but large Italian lady I once knew, my Big Fat Italian Mama sauce works well with this hearty dish.

     

     

    1 medium onion, finely chopped
    2 cloves garlic, through a press
    1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
    10 cups ground and peeled tomatoes…or 3 cans (28 oz.) tomatoes pureed in food processor
    2 teaspoons each: dried oregano, basil and parsley
    3/4 teaspoon each anise seed and fennel seed
    1 1/2 teaspoons salt
    1/2 teaspoon black pepper
    2 bay leaves
    1 small can (6 oz.) tomato paste
    1 teaspoon sugar (optional)

     

    Heat the olive oil in a large pot and add the onions. Cook until the onions are translucent, then add the garlic. Stir for 10 seconds.

    Add the tomatoes and cook on high until the orange foam disappears, stirring frequently. Don’t let it burn.

    Add the oregano, basil, parsley, anise seed, fennel seed, salt and pepper, bay leaves and tomato paste. Allow the sauce to just come to a boil so that the tomato paste reaches optimum thickening power.

    Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for at least an hour, until the sauce reaches the desired consistency. Stir often.

     

    While the sauce is cooking, I start the meatballs…

     

     

    2 lbs. grass-fed ground beef
    1 cup plain breadcrumbs (gluten-free breadcrumbs work well, too)
    2 tablespoons dried parsley
    2 tablespoons dried oregano
    1 tablespoon dried basil
    1 tablespoon granulated garlic
    1 tablespoon onion powder
    1 teaspoon black pepper
    2 teaspoons salt
    2 eggs, cracked and scrambled
    1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

    Mix all the ingredients, except the olive oil, thoroughly but gently in a large bowl. Don’t overwork it.

    Pour some olive oil a medium-hot pan (don’t let it burn), make the meatballs, and sear them on all sides until brown.

    When the meatballs are nice and brown, place them into the pot of sauce, making sure they are covered. Pour all the little bits and the olive oil from the pan into the sauce as well! Great flavor there.

    Cover the pot and cook the meatballs in the sauce on low for a few hours.

    Serve the meatballs and sauce over your favorite pasta, and sprinkle with freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano.

     

    Making this dish gluten-free is easy: use gluten-free pasta (we love the products from Garofalo) and use GF breadcrumbs in the meatballs. I prefer to buy gluten-free loaves of bread, toasting them, letting the slices cool, then tossing them in a food processor to make breadcrumbs. The flavor is as good as regular breadcrumbs!