Friday, May 29, 2009

Chillin' and Grillin'

Summer is here, and it's time to fire up those grills and enjoy some great outdoor eating and drinking! I've especially been looking forward to this season, because I just bought myself a new outdoor grill. Now that indirect heating has become part of my vocabulary, I'm anxious to dive in head first into the deep end of outdoor grilling.

Over the next few weeks, I plan on posting a variety of grilling recipes and great dishes to enjoy out on your patio, such as:
Pesto-stuffed Salmon
Apple Cinnamon Chicken
Baby-back Ribs
Grilled Polenta
Summer Sides
Prosciutto-wrapped Shrimp
Spinach Quiche
(or Spinach Egg Pie for you tough guys)
White Sangria
and the crown jewel of the summer...Crabs and Macaroni

For this week's entry, I've decided to post a link to Joe Sixpack's website. He wrote a fantastic article on Barbecuing and Grilling with Beer. The article includes some nice tips and advice, and be sure to check out his website in the upcoming weeks as he writes about some great summertime ales and lagers.

Happy summer!

Saturday, May 16, 2009


If you've ever been a guest in our house, either for a party or just to hang out, chances are that at some point you've eaten our home-made stromboli. For those of you that may not be familiar with stromboli, it's similar to a calzone. Instead of being in a pocket-shape, a stromboli is rolled into a long loaf, baked, then sliced into 1" - 2" pieces. It's a popular, often requested dish that we not only serve at our house, but also bring along to parties that we're invited to as guests. We've made strombolis for big vacations with family and friends, for our family's New Years Eve parties and even for grill-outs (more on that later). It's our way of breaking bread with friends....only this bread is stuffed with cheese and usually either pepperoni, ham, steak, meatball or spinach. It works well as either an appetizer or as a meal, and it's not nearly as greasy as one that you may get from a corner pizza shop. They taste best when rolled and cooked fresh, but you can pre-roll them and freeze them for future use. If you are freezing them, be sure to spray them with cooking spray before wrapping them in aluminum foil. This will help avoid the dough from sticking to the foil.

Not to brag, but our home-made stromboli has always been a big hit. The first thing my best buddy John said to me when he first saw my blog was "Almond Asparagus? Post the recipe for the meatball stromboli." And not a time has gone by when his wife, Manuela, hasn't berated me for not selling our stromboli. Now, you might be saying, "Yo, Dom...what's the big deal? You roll out your dough, slap down some meat and cheese, fold it up, bake it and bada-bing...stromboli!". While the actual steps are about as involved as making a sandwich, the key to ANY good dish is the ingredients. So, what I've decided to do for this recipe is to give you step-by-step tips and tricks on what has helped me make good, and even occasionally not-so-good stromboli.

STEP 1: The Dough
The best type of dough to use is pizza dough. You want the dough to bake to a nice, crispy finish and not be too bready. If you don't make your own pizza dough, your best bet is to find a bakery that sells their own pizza dough. Trader Joe's sells a great garlic herb pizza dough that works great for a spinach stromboli. If you can't find fresh pizza dough, you can get frozen pizza dough at the super market. I prefer not to use regular bread dough, as the taste and texture just doesn't seem to work as well for me.

Prepare 1lb. dough as you would for pizza or bread, letting it rise in a bowl covered with a towel (instructions are usually on the pre-made pizza dough packets). This makes for easy rolling and shaping. Roll out the dough into the shape of a large rectangle. Roll it thin, but not to the point where it breaks apart.

STEP 2: The Fillings
The standard fillings that I use are either pepperoni, ham, thin steak, meatball, sausage or spinach. If you are using a lunchmeat filling, be sure to get it sliced fresh from the deli. You'll use about 1/4 pound per 'boli.
Pepperoni - use the large deli-sliced pepperoni as opposed to the small, snack sized pepperoni. It's easier to work with and you'll use less.
Ham - any ham of your choice would work, although I prefer tavern ham. Prosciutto would be fantastic, but hey, we're in a recession!
Steak - when making steak 'boli, I simply use cooked Minute Steak and season it with salt, pepper and onion powder (you get the onion flavor, but without actual pieces of onion).
Meatball - I like to crush up the cooked meatball and spread it on the dough. I try not to use too much sauce, because it makes the dough soggy and hard to work with. You can always serve with a bowl of sauce on the side for dipping.
Sausage - I've only made this once, but it was a big hit. I used ground sausage out of it's casing, spread it on a pan and baked it until slightly crispy, then mixed it with roasted red peppers. Nice!
Spinach - this one goes over well with those that don't eat red meat. I use a box of frozen spinach, defrosted and strained (strain it by using a kitchen towel - you lose the water without losing any of the spinach). Spread it evenly over the dough and top with garlic and onion powder.
I've tried using jarred mixed vegetables in a tomato sauce once, but had bad results. The sauce turned the dough into a pile of mush. Not good.
Another filling that I'm thinking of using down the line is thin sliced turkey with bacon bits.

STEP 3: The Cheese
I always use two cheeses, mozzarella and provolone. They both melt nicely, and the provolone adds a bit of a bite. Deli sliced is the best way to go, but you can also buy a bag of mixed shredded provolone and mozzarella, which works well. I might go with Swiss if/when I make the turkey and bacon 'boli.

STEP 4: Assembly
After you've rolled out your dough, spread your filling on top, then add your cheese. Gently roll from left to right, then tuck the ends under to seal off. Spray the top with a cooking spray, or brush with an egg wash. Sprinkle the top with oregano. Cut a few slits across on the top to avoid massive air bubbles.

STEP 5: Cooking
The traditional method is to bake. Spray a baking pan with cooking spray, place the 'bolis on the pan and bake at 400º for 30 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool for a few minutes, then slice and serve
Grilled - yes, I have tried grilling stromboli last year at my in-law's Labor Day BBQ Block Party, and yes it was damn good! The crispy crunch of the crust was out of this world. I grilled both pepperoni and ham 'bolis. The pep was the better of the two, but I think that had to do with timing on the grill. I simply placed the 'boli on a sheet of aluminum foil sprayed with cooking spray, and cooked them over medium-high indirect heat (if you have a 3-burner grill, fire up the left and right burners, and place the 'boli over the center burner). I plan on experimenting with grilled 'bolis a lot more this summer.

Like I mentioned above, I don't prefer adding sauces to the 'bolis because they tend to make the dough soggy. I prefer serving a side dish of sauce for dipping. Ketchup works well with the steak 'boli. And if I ever decide to do the turkey/bacon/swiss cheese 'boli, I'm thinking a side of ranch or blue cheese will do the trick.

So there you have it...'boli 101. Give it a try, experiment with the filling, crack open a beer and enjoy!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Mother's Day Breakfast: Apple Cinnamon French Toast

Mother's Day is once again upon us. It's that very special time of year when we get to honor our moms by showering them with much deserved gifts and flowers. It's also one of the most popular days to dine out with your family. Just drive by any diner in the morning, and you'll see a wall of patrons pouring out the door, waiting to be seated.

If you are looking for an alternative to spending money in an overcrowded restaurant, why not make a special breakfast at home? This recipe for Apple Cinnamon French Toast is incredibly easy to make, looks as good as it tastes, and is also a great dish to get the kids involved with during the preparation. For this recipe, I've decided to use canned apple pie filling. While a home-made apple pie filling sounds more impressive, the canned apple pie filling works very well, tastes just as good and is all ready to go. Just a few seconds in the microwave, and you get a nice, warm and gooey sweet topping. Assembling the layers of French Toast and pie filling is an easy and fun step for the kids to handle! Be sure to top the French Toast with a light dusting of powdered sugar, maybe add a piece of fresh fruit and a dollop of whipped cream, and you're as good as gold.

Happy Mother's Day!


3 eggs
3/4 cup milk
1 tblspn sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 tspn ground cinnamon
1/8 tspn salt
8 thick slices of bread
1 can apple pie filling

Whisk eggs, milk, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and salt until smooth. Heat griddle or skillet over medium heat. Grease griddle with margarine or butter. Test the griddle with a few drops of water - when the water jumps, the griddle is heated just right. Dip the bread into egg mixture (for extra cinnamon taste, sprinkle a dash more of cinnamon onto battered bread). Cook on griddle about 4 minutes on each side or until golden brown.

Empty the pie filling into a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high for 20-30 seconds, until filling is warm. Arrange two pieces of French Toast onto a plate, one slice slightly overlapping the other. Spoon an generous amount of the apple pie filling on top. Sprinkle a dusting of powdered sugar on top. Enjoy!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Almond Asparagus

This is a beautiful, great tasting side-dish that works with just about any main course. The crunchy snap of the asparagus holds up well with the lemon juice and butter, and the almonds make for a great, flavorful addition.


2 pounds fresh asparagus
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted
1/2 teaspoon salt 

1/4 teaspoon pepper

Snap off tough ends of asparagus. Cook asparagus in boiling water to cover 3 minutes or until crisp-tender; drain. Plunge asparagus into ice water to stop the cooking process; drain. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat; add asparagus, and sauté 3 to 5 minutes. Toss asparagus with lemon juice and remaining ingredients.