Tomato Salad, with a Twist

Tomato Salad, with a Twist

It is, oh, so hot here right now. Minnesota, land of extremes. Given it is ‘freeze the snot in your nose’ cold in the winter, and winter lasts for what seems like FOREVER, you’d think I’d have nothing to complain about when summer finally rolls around. But, being the bi-polar state it is, if it’s not -20 and so dry your skin turns to shoe leather, it is blistering hot, humid and buggy. We get a smattering of lovely days, but it’s not till fall that the bugs die off (vicious, biting, carry your baby off, nasty bugs) and it becomes a ‘pleasant’ place to be. By then, the days are short and the nights longer.

I can’t bear to think ahead to that LONG, COLD winter, so instead I’ll muddle through this heat, taking advantage of the locally grown produce, and make a refreshing salad. This one is a twist on a traditional Caprese Salad. Enjoy!

Heirloom Tomato Salad with a Twist

Heirloom Tomatoes
Goat Cheese
Fresh Mint & Basil
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Balsamic Vinegar
1 clove garlic minced or put through a press
Salt & Pepper

Whisk the oil & vinegar together, add the garlic, season to taste.
Chiffonade (slice in to thin ribbons) the mint and basil, and add to the dressing.

Pour over thick sliced tomatoes, sprinkle with goat cheese.

Enjoy as a light lunch or as a side with grilled meat for dinner. Heck, this is so good, I’d eat it for breakfast…and I have!


Gluten Free Grilled Sausage & Peppers

In between chasing a brand new puppy, trying to find a moment to vacuum my house and getting my daughter ready to start college, I wanted to make time to whip up a GF version of grilled sausage and peppers.

Oh, the magic of the internet!

After a couple of google searches for ‘Gluten Free Brat Buns‘, it appears most just make a standard bread recipe, but the trick is to put it in mini-loaf pans. I just happened to have quite a few of those on hand, from my days of making Christmas food baskets (as gifts) for friends and family. With pans and a package of Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Bread Mix on hand, I got started.

First I made the bread dough and filled the mini-loaf pans. They turned out beautiful. I brushed them with butter before baking, and after, to keep them a little softer like a brat bun would be.

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Then I gently simmered the Italian Sausage links in beer. (Be sure to check for gluten if you are intolerant; and if I’m not cooking for my daughters I simmer them in beer) [2015 update: Gluten Free beer is on the rise, and delicious. Find one and simmer away!] ¬†Simmering them gently in beer adds flavor and keeps them moist. Once done, I set them aside while I waited for the bread to cool and prepped my onions and peppers for the grill. When all was ready, I headed outside to grill up some tasty vittles.

I use a basket for my veggies, lightly salt (no pepper until they are off the heat, the pepper can burn and taste bitter) and a bit of olive oil to prevent sticking. The sausages get a brief visit to a blazing hot grill to get a little char and heat back up again. Watch them, and when you see the juices bubbling inside the skins, they are done! Don’t wait for them to split and start squirting like an open fire hydrant, that will only result in dry as bone sausages. I also gently split the buns and grilled cut side down for a moment to get a slight grill flavor to them. Yum. Aren’t they Bee-U-Ti-ful??

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Voila! Dinner was served!

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As a fresh and light side dish to the heavier brats, I included an heirloom tomato salad, but with a twist. Instead of your typical Caprese (olive oil, balsamic, garlic, basil, mozzarella) try this some time: EVOO (the highest quality you can find), raspberry vinegar, mint, basil and feta. The feta and raspberry are shockingly good together, and that hit of mint really takes it to another level.

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There you go, 2 recipes for the price of one read! Bon Appetite!


Shrimp Pasta in a White Wine reduction sauce

Shrimp Pasta in a White Wine reduction sauce

When I need a quick meal, I turn to my pantry and freezer, looking for what can be defrosted quickly.

Shrimp is a sure bet for a quick nights meal. I lay mine out on parchment on top of my granite. The stone pulls the cold out of the shrimp and defrosts it lickity split.

While your shrimp is defrosting, start the water in your stock pot over high heat and get your sauce going:

Chop a couple of large shallots in to a fine dice,

Melt a couple tbsp of butter in a saucepan and add the shallots, cooking until they are translucent. Add a good generous glug of white wine (about a cup). I used a chardonnay. It should be a wine you would drink, since you will be reducing it and icky/off flavors will only get amplified.

Reduce the wine by more than half, until it starts to look more golden in color and all the alcohol has been burned off. If you start with 1 cup, reduce to 1/3ish. I eye-ball it based on the starting level in the pan.

Add 1-1.5 cups of seafood stock, fish stock, lobster or shrimp stock; or in a pinch, chicken stock. Reduce this by half again.

Your water should be boiling by now, generously salt the water and cook the pasta according to package directions. If you are using Gluten Free Pasta, you will drain and rinse the pasta in hot water. You must generously salt the water or your pasta will taste flat. I use the palm of my hand for about 6 quarts of water.

Back to the stock, while it is reducing, prep your veggies. In this dish I used some leftover baby spinach, part of a leftover heirloom tomato, defrosted green peas, and a little finely diced red pepper. I put these in a large serving bowl with some fresh finely chopped parsley.

When the shrimp are defrosted (you can use a colander and running cold water to defrost, but be sure to pat dry), toss with a generous amount of fresh minced (or put through a press) garlic, salt, pepper (I used Szchewuan) and a good squeeze of lemon. Cook in a saut√© pan over medium-high heat with a good dollop of olive oil. Don’t waste extra virgin oil, just use regular. They should be done in about 2 mins top. Set aside and keep warm.

When your sauce is done reducing, add a squeeze of lemon, some crushed tarragon, remove from heat and swirl in a couple tablespoons of unsalted COLD butter. Swirl until the sauce looks thick and glossy.

When the pasta is al dente (meaning it has a bit of bite to it, not super soft), then use your tongs and straight from the pot, to add the pasta directly to the sauce. You want some of that starchy pasta water to help thicken the sauce and add flavor. (If you are cooking GF, save a small amount of water, drain, rinse and then add the noodles. Add water if you need to loosen it up in the sauce) The heat of the sauce will continue to cook the pasta. Do not overload the sauce with pasta, you most likely will not use a whole package of pasta, eyeball it. Pour the entire thing over the top of the veggies and toss till the spinach wilts.

Serve with the shrimp on top, a glass of the white wine, and a nice salad on the side.

*See recipe modifications to make with GF noodles.