Spicy Italian Sausage Bolognese

Spicy Italian Sausage Bolognese

Italian sausages, colourful bell peppers, onions, garlic and tomatoes with a touch of red wine combine to make this flavourful sauce, my version of bolognese – without all the work!

It can be made spicy or not and can easily be adapted to use the sausages whole, to mix sausages with ground beef or to substitute ground beef completely if you prefer making it one of the most versatile recipes in my collection. Just be sure if you’re using them to buy the best tasting Italian sausages you can find. You will need: 

• Vidalia sweet onion, 1 large

• Olive oil

• Red bell peppers, 2

• Orange bell peppers, 2

• Garlic, 3 cloves or more

• Hot Italian sausages, 4

• Sweet Italian sausages, 4

• Dry red wine, ½ cup

• Marinara sauce, 1 jar (I use Rao’s) *

• Wide noodles, e.g. Pappardelle, 12oz

• Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

• Flat-leaf Italian parsley (optional)

Firstly, peel and chop the onion, core, de-seed and chop the peppers, peel and finely chop the garlic, remove the casings from the sausages and set aside.

Heat about 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat and add the onion; cook for about 5 minutes until just beginning to soften. Add the chopped peppers, stir to combine, add salt and freshly ground black pepper and continue to cook for about another 5 minutes or so or until the vegetables have softened. Add the garlic and cook for another minute.

Add in the sausage meat, stir to combine and cook for a further 10 minutes or so or until the meat is cooked through and all traces of pink have disappeared. (If using whole sausages, brown them separately in a skillet then slice them thickly on the diagonal before returning them to the pot – they may still be a little pink inside but don’t worry as they will cook through as the sauce cooks.)

Turn up the heat to high, add in the wine and sauce and stir through. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat and let simmer, uncovered, for 30-45 minutes; the sauce will have thickened slightly. Turn off the heat.

Meantime, cook the pappardelle noodles in boiling salted water according to the instructions on the package; drain then return to the pan.

Grate about half a cup of Parmigiana Reggiano directly into the sauce and stir to combine; add the noodles and stir again.  Cover and let sit for about five minutes to allow the flavours to meld.

Ladle into bowls, grate over a little extra cheese and garnish with fresh Italian parsley (optional).  Mangiare!

Set aside the leftover sauce, allow to cool then cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months.

Braised Pork with Cabbage & Onions

Braised Pork with Cabbage & Onions

Braised Pork with Cabbage & Onions

The tomato and pepper-rich sauce with Italian sausage infuses the pork with flavour while keeping it tender while it cooks. You will need:

• Pork rib roast, 3-4 ribs (or use chops)

• Olive oil

• Leftover spicy sausage sauce, 2 cups

• White cabbage

• Vidalia sweet onion

• Salted butter

• Fennel seeds

Pre-heat the oven to 350F.

Season the pork roast with salt and pepper then heat about a tablespoon of oil in a skillet and brown the pork well on all sides.  Place into an ovenproof dish (not too large or the meat will dry out); pour over the leftover sauce, cover and put into the oven.  Bake for about 90 minutes or until the meat is just starting to fall off the bones.

About half an hour before the meat is cooked, make Braised Cabbage: Peel off the outer layers of the cabbage and discard, slice the cabbage into inch-thick wedges; remove the skin from the onion and cut into eighths. In a saucepan just large enough to hold both vegetables, add about an inch of cold water then the cabbage and onion.  Sprinkle with a teaspoon each of fennel seeds and salt and a half teaspoon of freshly-ground black pepper, dot generously with butter and cover.  Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes; almost all of the water will be absorbed and the cabbage and onions will be tender not limp.

Carefully cut the cooked pork roast into individual chops, spoon over the sausage sauce and serve alongside the braised cabbage and onions.


* A word about Rao’s. It is a famous Italian restaurant in New York that only a few people can ever get into to eat; the rest of us have to make do with their line of sauces. They are premium quality and yes, premium priced, but well worth it in my opinion. I would even go so far as to say that if you’re Italian and your Nonni makes sauce from scratch that it won’t be better. Long way of saying, try it!

This week, two sets of very simple recipes that can easily be doubled for a crowd. 

Easiest Oven-Baked, Barbecued Pork Ribs

Easiest Oven-Baked, Barbecued Pork Ribs

Easiest, Oven-Baked, Barbecued Pork Ribs

Technically these are not barbecued at all but just slowly simmered in a tangy, sweet barbecue sauce in the oven.  It’s a taste of summer even when the outside temperatures have started to drop.  

The success of this recipe has more to do with technique than ingredients. Meaning that you don’t have to make homemade sauce unless you want to – in Canada, Bullseye brand has the right ingredients to ensure a caramelized top to the melt-in-your-mouth ribs which is exactly how I like them (in the States I use Stubbs brand). You will need:

• Baby back pork ribs, 2 whole racks

• Barbecue sauce, 1 bottle

• Large roasting pan

• Heavy duty aluminum foil

Pre-heat the oven to 350F (start several hours ahead of when you want to eat the ribs).

Lay the ribs in the roasting pan (I use a disposable foil one) and cover tightly with foil.  Place in the oven and cook for about 90 minutes.  (If you’re doubling the recipe and have two pans of ribs, rotate them halfway through cooking so each pan has time at the top of the oven.)

Carefully remove the pan from the oven (don’t turn it off), remove the foil and transfer the ribs to a large chopping board. Pour away any fat that has collected and wipe out the pan. Return the ribs to the roasting pan and pour over the barbecue sauce; cover tightly with foil and return to the oven for about another 90 minutes.

Turn off the oven and let the ribs sit for up to 3 hours. The ribs will still be hot and the meat literally falling off the bone and can be eaten right away.

Or, if you prefer a caramelized finish, remove the ribs from the oven and pre-heat the broiler.  Carefully transfer the ribs to a chopping board, pour the sauce into a jug, replace the ribs in the pan and baste with some of the sauce.  Place the pan under the broiler for about 5 minutes or so until the top is sizzling.

Cut up the ribs and serve alongside colourful Black Bean Salad.

Reserve leftover ribs and sauce, covered, in the ‘fridge for up to 3 days.

Black Bean & Corn Salad

Black Bean & Corn Salad

Black Bean & Corn Salad

You will need:

• Canned Black beans, 1 large can (I use Eden brand)

• Canned corn niblets, 1 small can (I use Green Giant)

• Red bell pepper

• Green onions (scallions), 1 bunch

• Vegetable oil e.g. Canola

• Chipotle chili powder (optional)

• Fresh cilantro (coriander), optional

Rinse and drain the canned beans, drain the canned corn and pour the contents into a large bowl.  Finely chop the red pepper and cut the green onions on the diagonal and add to the bowl. Add about a tablespoon of vegetable oil and toss to combine; season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. For an extra kick, add up to about a teaspoonful of chipotle chili powder (regular chill powder doesn’t work). Cover and let sit for an hour or so; toss again just before serving and garnish with fresh cilantro (optional).

Pulled Pork Sandwiches with Apple Slaw

Pulled Pork Sandwiches with Apple Slaw

Pulled Pork Sandwiches with Apple Slaw

You will need:

• Leftover barbecued ribs

• Leftover barbecue sauce

• Crusty buns

• Packet of your favourite brand of cole-slaw *

• Mayonnaise (I use Hellman’s)

• Apple Cider Vinegar

• Vidalia sweet onion, peeled and chopped

• Granny Smith Apple, skin on, chopped

• Raisins

Pre-heat oven to 350F.

Remove the meat from the bones of the leftover ribs and place into a saucepan with any leftover sauce; add extra sauce if necessary. Cook at a simmer, covered, until heated through.

Meantime, make Apple Slaw:

Apple Slaw

Pour the cole slaw into a large bowl, add 2-3 heaped spoonfuls of mayonnaise, a splash of apple-cider vinegar, the chopped onion and apple and a handful of raisins.  Stir to combine.  Cover and set aside in the ‘fridge for about an hour or so. Uncover and taste; add extra mayonnaise if it needs it – I like it lightly dressed not goopy but ultimately it’s your choice.

Pile the heated pork and sauce onto crusty buns, add a generous heaped spoonful of apple slaw and enjoy!  A beer or a few would be a great accompaniment.

* If you own a food processor and have the time or inclination, shred fresh white and red cabbages and carrots to make your own slaw.

Baked Bone-in Ham in Coca-Cola

Baked Bone-in Ham in Coca-Cola

Baked Bone-in Ham in Coca-Cola, serves 6-8

Make it for a crowd, for a special occasion (Thanksgiving anyone?) or just a family meal; this recipe is so easy and delicious you’ll want to make it again and again. It comes from Nigella Lawson’s wonderful tome How to Eat and like her I was so intrigued when I first heard about it that I had to try it. The addition of onions tempers the raw sweetness of the Coca-Cola, the cola/onion broth in turn infuses the ham with flavour and keeps it incredibly moist. Just be sure to use a good quality, bone-in-ham, preferably from your butcher. You will need:

• Bone-in ham, 5-6lbs

• Onions, 2 medium, peeled and halved

• Coca-Cola, 2 litre bottle (NOT diet coke)

Pre-heat oven to 350F.

Place ham in a large roasting pan, add the onions and pour over the coke. Cover tightly with foil and place in the oven. Bake for 2-3 hours or until the ham is completely heated through and steam is rising from the pan. Carefully transfer the ham to a chopping board (but do NOT throw away the juices) and allow to sit before carving.

When the cola broth has cooled down, remove and discard the onions. Cover and store the broth and any leftover ham, including the bone, for up to 3 days in the refrigerator.

Slow-simmered Navy Bean Soup

Slow-simmered Navy Bean Soup

Slow-simmered Navy Bean Soup, serves 4-6

The sweet broth left over from cooking the ham is too good to waste so here it forms the base of a delicious, hearty main-meal soup. I use canned beans rather than fresh as they are more tender and frankly because it makes less work. You will need:

• Leftover Coca-Cola broth, about 6 cups

• Ham bone with some meat attached

• Canned navy beans, 2 x 29oz cans (I used Eden brand)

• Vidalia sweet onion, 1 large *

• Carrots, 2 large

• Celery ribs, 2

• Bay leaves, 2

• Leftover ham

Pour the leftover cola broth into a large pot then add the ham bone and rinsed, drained canned beans.

Peel and chop the onion and carrots; trim then chop the celery and add the vegetables to the pot. Add bay leaves; season with salt and pepper. (The beans I used had no salt added so the soup needed a little more seasoning; adjust according to the brand you buy and to your personal taste.)

Simmer for an hour, uncovered, over medium-low heat. Shred a good handful of leftover ham then add to the pot and continue to cook for another hour or so until the soup has thickened slightly and the meat is literally falling off the ham bone.  Remove the bone, shred the meat from it into the soup then season to taste again if necessary.

Ladle into bowls and enjoy!

* You might ask why I wouldn’t just use the leftover onion from the cola broth and it’s quite simply because after the ham has cooked, that vegetable has very little taste; the soup needs the full flavour of a fresh onion.


Coq au Vin Reisling chicken

Coq au Vin Reisling chicken

Coq au Vin Reisling, serves 4 with leftovers

A new twist on an old favourite – Reisling replaces the more traditional Burgundy; it’s also quicker and easier to make than traditional coq-au-vin.  The original inspiration for this recipe came from one of my favourite cookbook authors Nigel Slater.  His philosophy towards cooking “use simple ingredients…” is one I embrace.  In my version, leeks and crimini mushrooms replace pearl onions and button mushrooms.  You will need: 

• Pancetta, 4 thin slices, chopped

• Extra virgin olive oil

• Chicken, organic if possible, 6 bone-in, skin on breasts

 Vidalia Sweet onion, one large, peeled and chopped

 Leeks, 2-3 (one bunch), trimmed, whites only, thinly sliced

• Crimini mushrooms, 1 pound, sliced

• Riesling, (or other medium-dry white wine), 1 bottle

I use a Le Creuset pot for this recipe but if you don’t have one, use any ovenproof pot.

Place the pot over medium-high heat and add the pancetta; cook until the fat is mostly rendered and the bacon is starting to crisp.  Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Add some extra virgin olive oil if necessary then brown the chicken well on both sides, in separate batches if the pot is crowded.  Remove from the pan and set aside.

To the remaining oil, add the onions and leeks, season liberally with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and cook until translucent being carefully not to brown, about ten minutes.  Add in the mushrooms and cook for another minute or two.

Raise the heat and add in the riesling, stirring to get up any bits from the bottom of the pan and allow the vegetables to boil for about 2 minutes or until the wine is slightly reduced.  Return the bacon and chicken to the pot, cover, reduce the heat and cook at a gentle simmer for about 30-45 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.

Though not shown in the photo, I like to serve this with crunchy roasted potatoes and steamed green beans along with a glass of the chilled riesling that I use to cook with.  To continue on the French theme and to turn this into an elegant dinner, start with a smooth chicken liver pate and cornichons and end with a chocolatey pudding.

When the extra chicken breasts and sauce have cooled down, put them in a smaller container, cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days.

Penne Pasta with Chicken in a White-wine Cream Sauce

Penne Pasta with Chicken in a White-wine Cream Sauce

Penne with Chicken in a White-wine Cream Sauce

You will need:

• Penne pasta, ½ box (I like deCecco brand)

• Leftover chicken and sauce, separated

• Whipping cream, 1 cup

Cook the pasta in salted boiling water according to the directions on the package; drain then return to the pot it was cooked in.

Meantime, in a separate pot, heat the leftover sauce then add in the cream and simmer until heated through and reduced slightly without bringing it to a boil.  Taste and check for seasoning, adding sea-salt and freshly ground black pepper if necessary.

Remove the skin from the chicken breasts and roughly tear the meat into chunks; add to the cream sauce in the pot.

When heated through, add the chicken and sauce to the pot with the cooked pasta and combine.  Let sit for a minute or two, covered, so that the flavours absorb into the penne.  Ladle into bowls and garnish with chopped fresh Italian parsley.  If you’re lucky enough to have another bottle of riesling then a glass or two served alongside would be a great accompaniment for the meal.

Sensational Stir-Fried Chicken & Rice Bowls

Sensational Stir-Fried Chicken & Rice Bowls

Sensational Stir-Fried Chicken & Rice Bowls, serves 6 with leftovers

The idea for the Rice Bowls comes from Shelley Adams from her wonderful cookbook, Whitewater Cooks, a stunning collection of recipes with a unique West-Coast flair.  I have adapted her version of what she calls Glory Bowls into what is essentially stir-fried, marinated chicken atop steaming bowls of rice with vegetables and cashews drizzled with a tangy dressing.  East meets west in a delicious new way.  You will need:

For the marinade:

• Extra virgin olive oil, ½ cup

• Braggs Amino (or light soy sauce), 2 tablespoons

• Garlic cloves, 2-3, minced

• Fresh ginger, about an inch, peeled and grated

• Liquid honey, 1 tablespoon

• Boneless, skinless chicken thighs, 8 large

Combine the marinade ingredients in a jug then pour over the chicken in a large bowl; set aside in the fridge.

Make the rice:

I combined 1 cup of short-grain brown rice and 1 cup of white basmati (I used Lundberg brand) but honestly if you’re planning to make extra for leftovers Uncle Ben’s converted is a great choice, just cook it in chicken broth instead of water for added flavour.

Make the Dressing:

• Nutritional yeast flakes, ½ cup

• Water, 1/3 cup

• Braggs Amino or soy sauce, 1/3 cup

• Apple Cider Vinegar, 1/3 cup

• Garlic, 2-3 cloves, peeled and minced

• Vegetable oil, 1 ½ cups

• Tahini paste, 2 tablespoons

Combine all the ingredients in a blender until smooth.  You will have leftover dressing to use again; try it on any salad greens, spinach, rice or grains.

For the Rice Bowls:

• Cooked rice, 8 cups

• Carrots, peeled and grated, 2 cups (2 large carrots)

• Green onions, 1 bunch, trimmed and sliced

• Baby spinach, 2 cups

• Dry-roasted cashews, 2 cups

Just as the rice is finishing cooking, remove the chicken from the fridge.

Heat a large dry non-stick skillet over high heat for 4 minutes.  When the pan is very hot, put in the chicken with whatever marinade sticks to it and cook for 4 minutes without moving.  Turn then cook on the other side for another 4 minutes.  Reduce the heat to medium and continue to cook for another 2 minutes or so or until the chicken is cooked through (do not overcook).  Transfer to a chopping board and let rest for 5 minutes.  Once rested, set aside 2 pieces then cut the remaining 6 pieces into thick slices.

To assemble the bowls: place cooked rice into 6 bowls, top with carrots, green onion, spinach, cashews and chicken, drizzle with dressing.

Set aside the extra 2 cups of cooked rice until cool then cover.  Wrap up the leftover chicken.  Both can be refrigerated safely for up to 2 days.

Creole-style Fried Rice w. Chicken, Ham & Shrimp

Creole-style Fried Rice w. Chicken, Ham & Shrimp

Creole-style Fried Rice w. Chicken, Ham & Shrimp, serves 2-4

If the recipe for Rice Bowls seems a bit fussy this is simplicity itself.  You will need:

• Red bell pepper, ½ large

• Green pepper, ½ large

• Green onions, 1 bunch

• Vegetable oil

• Smoked paprika

• Ham, ½ cup, cubed

• Leftover cooked rice, 2 cups

• Leftover cooked chicken thighs, 2, sliced

• Cooked shrimp, ½ lb

• Chicken broth

First, a bit of preparation: de-seed and roughly chop the peppers, trim and chop the green onions.

In a large non-stick skillet or wok, heat about 2 tablespoons of oil over high heat and sauté the peppers.  Add half of the green onions and cook for 1 minute (do not allow to burn). Add about a tablespoon or more of smoked paprika and continue to cook for another minute.  Add in the ham, cooked rice, chicken and shrimp along with ½ cup of chicken broth.  Stir to combine the flavours and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally to avoid sticking.  Check to see the rice doesn’t get too dry; if it does, add a little more broth.

Serve in bowls with the remainder of the green onions scattered over the top.  Pass the hot sauce (I like Frank’s Red Hot) and enjoy.  Beer would be a good choice of beverage,

Pan-Roasted Salmon Nicoise

Pan-Roasted Salmon Nicoise

Pan-Roasted Salmon Nicoise

Here’s a fabulous presentation of traditional and not-so-traditional ingredients that’s equally great for an intimate dinner for two (shown here) or for a crowd.

Don’t be put off by what seems at first glance to be a long list of instructions – much of the work is done ahead of time and all that’s left to do before serving is to arrange the food on plates or on a platter (if you don’t have one, cover a tray with foil and use that instead).  You need only a pitcher of iced tea or a chilled bottle of wine, some crusty bread and dinner’s ready.  I’ve provided a list of ingredients here for two but the recipe can easily be adapted for a larger group.  You will need:

• New baby Yukon Gold potatoes, 6-8

• Eggs, 2 large

• Green onions, 1 bunch of 6, trimmed and chopped

• Mayonnaise, preferably Hellman’s

• Dijon mustard

• Green beans

• Vine-ripened cherry tomatoes

• Pitted Kalamata olives

• Balsamic vinegar

• Extra virgin olive oil

• Salmon fillets, 7oz each, 3 or 4 (2 for this meal, 1-2 for leftovers)

Pre-heat the oven to 450F.

Put the potatoes in a pot with enough cold water to cover, add at least  a teaspoon of sea salt and bring to a boil; cook for about 15-20 minutes or until just tender when pierced with the tip of a knife.  Drain and set aside.

Meantime, put two eggs in a small pan with cold water to cover and bring to a boil.  Cook for 10 minutes then remove from the heat and hold the pan under cold running water.  When the eggs are cool enough to handle, place them in a small bowl and put them in the freezer for about 2 minutes.  This keeps the yolks nice and yellow.  Set the eggs aside.

Steam the green beans for about 3 minutes or until just tender, remove from the heat and cool on a paper towel.

Cut the cherry tomatoes in quarters; cut the olives in half then combine the two.

Make a simple balsamic vinaigrette by combining 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar with 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil; season with salt and pepper and set aside.

Heat a dry oven-proof skillet (large enough to hold the salmon comfortably) over high heat for 5 minutes.  Meantime, rub both sides of the salmon fillets with olive oil and season the tops liberally with salt and pepper.  When the pan is very hot, place the salmon, seasoning sides down, in the pan and cook for 3 minutes until very browned.  Turn the fillets and place the pan in the oven for 5-7 minutes until the salmon is cooked.  Check for doneness by carefully touching the top of the fillet – if it is still wobbly it isn’t ready.  VERY carefully removed the skillet from the oven using oven gloves and place on the stove top.  Remove the salmon to a cutting board to cool slightly.

Cut the potatoes into bite sized pieces then place in a large bowl.  Chop the eggs and add to the bowl along with the chopped green onions.  Add 3 tablespoons of mayonnaise and a rounded teaspoon of Dijon, season with salt and paper and toss lightly to combine.  Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.  Although this can be made well ahead, it tastes better if still warm.

Lay out 2 dinner plates and on each one start by placing green beans in the centre, place a salmon fillet on top then heap potato salad on one side and the tomato olive mixture on the other.  Drizzle a little balsamic vinaigrette over the tomato/olive mixture and dinner is ready.

When the extra salmon fillet(s) is cold, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and store in the fridge for up to 2 days.

Smoked Salmon Salad

Smoked Salmon Salad

Smoked Salmon Salad

It’s almost worth roasting salmon fillets just for this dish it is so delicious.  With pumpernickel bread it makes a great appetizer before a meal, with bagels it can be brunch.  You will need:

Leftover, cooked salmon fillet, flaked

• Smoked salmon, 6oz, thinly sliced

• Mayonnaise, preferably Hellman’s

• Celery, 2-3 ribs, chopped

• Capers, 1 tablespoon

• Chives, fresh

• Lemon

In a bowl combine the cooked salmon, smoked salmon, 2-3 tablespoons of mayonnaise, chopped celery and up to 1 tablespoon each of chopped capers and chives.  Squeeze over fresh lemon juice and season to taste.  Serve in a pretty dish garnished with chives and place some lemon slices alongside.

Marinated Steak Salad

Marinated Steak Salad


Marinated Steak Salad, serves 6

When I first got serious about cooking, The Silver Palate Cookbook became my bible and is still one of my favourites.  This recipe is an adapted version of their Marinated Beef Salad, ironically originally developed as their way to utilize leftover London Broil.

It is a simple but very delicious way to prepare steak and particularly good to serve for a crowd; when sliced, each steak serves 2-3 people.  As much as everyone tells you they are cutting back on red meat, this disappears fast whenever I serve it.  You will need:

Top sirloin steaks, 3, each about 1 ½ inches thick

• Red wine vinegar, ¼ cup

• Soy sauce (I prefer gluten-free), ¼ cup

• Extra Virgin olive oil, ½ cup

• Potatoes, new, 6 large (no need to peel)

• Red onion, peeled and thinly sliced

• Green onions, 1 bunch of 6, trimmed and chopped

• Peppers, 1 red, 1 green, de-seeded and thinly sliced

• Romaine lettuce, 1, washed and patted dry, torn into small pieces

• Vine-ripened cherry tomatoes, 2 vines

• Garlic dressing, 1 cup, recipe to follow

At least an hour before you want to cook the meat, remove the steaks from the fridge, pat them dry and lay them out on a large baking sheet.

Make up the marinade by combining the vinegar, soy sauce and olive oil in a jug; pour over the steaks.  After about 30 minutes, turn the steaks so that both sides are coated in the marinade.

Meantime, cook the potatoes in boiling salted water for about 20 minutes or until just tender; drain then set aside to cool.  When cool, cut into bite-sized pieces.

In a salad bowl large enough to hold the meat, potatoes and salad together, place the cold potatoes, red and green onion, peppers and romaine.

Heat the grill and cook the steaks to medium-rare, or however you like them (it’s a good idea to cook the extra steak to just medium-rare as it can then be reheated without overcooking it).

Let the cooked steaks rest for at least five minutes.  Slice thinly on the diagonal and add to the bowl with the potato and salad vegetables.  Pour over about 1 cup of dressing, toss to combine then heap the salad onto individual plates.  A few quarters of cherry tomatoes (not shown in the photo) make a pretty garnish.

When the extra steak is cold, wrap it up tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 3 days.

Garlic Dressing

• Egg yolk, 1

• Red wine vinegar, 1/3 cup

• Granulated sugar, 1 teaspoon

• Chopped garlic, 2-3 cloves (or more, I like it very garlicky)

• Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

• Extra virgin olive oil, 1 cup

Steak Panini, serves 2-4

These make either a great lunch or, served alongside a simple tossed salad, an easy dinner.  I have included a recipe for two versions, both absolutely delicious – choose which one you prefer.

Steak and Mushroom Panini

Steak and Mushroom Panini

Steak and Mushroom Panini

You will need:

• Ciabbatta or baguette (day old works better)

• Leftover cooked top sirloin steak

• Extra virgin olive oil

• Crimini mushrooms, ½ pound, wiped clean and thinly sliced

• Fresh thyme sprigs

• Butter, salted

• Cheddar cheese, thinly sliced

Start by heating a skillet over medium high heat and adding about 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  Add the mushroom slices, the leaves from 2-3 sprigs of fresh thyme and some freshly ground black pepper; cook for about 5 minutes or until the mushrooms have reduced in size and are starting to brown.  Add a small knob of butter and continue to cook until the butter is fully melted and the mushrooms are cooked through; at this point they will be beautifully glossy and shiny. Set aside.

Meantime, pre-heat a panini grill to 400F, or high heat.

Thinly slice the cold steak on the diagonal.

Cut the bread into quarters, then slice each piece in half and lightly butter the crusts.  Lay the bread flat on a chopping board, butter side down, then on one half of each sandwich place the steak – in 2 layers, mushrooms – as many as you can fit on, and a slice of cheddar.  Put the two halves of bread together, press together gently then place on the pre-heated panini grill.  Close the top plate and cook until the bread has toasted and is golden brown, the meat is warmed and the cheese is melted, 3-5 minutes.

Steak Panini with Horseradish Mayo, Tomato & Arugula

Steak Panini with Horseradish Mayo, Tomato & Arugula

Steak Panini with Horseradish Mayo, Tomato & Arugula

For this version you will need ciabatta or baguette, leftover steak, mayonnaise, horseradish, a tomato and some baby arugula.

Mix 3 tablespoons of mayonnaise with one teaspoon of horseradish, spread it liberally on the cut sides of the bread then layer on the sliced steak, slices of tomato and arugula.  Lightly press the two sides together, brush with a little olive oil then place on the pre-heated panini grill.  Close the top plate and cook until the crust is golden brown, the meat is warmed and the arugula is barely wilted, 3-5 minutes.

Burgers with Bacon

Burgers with Bacon

Burgers with Bacon

I love this recipe that combines traditional ingredients: beef and bacon, but puts them inside the burgers.  They keep incredibly moist even when well cooked.  Make an extra batch simply by doubling up the recipe and freezing them for later.  You will need:

• Pancetta, 6 thin slices

• Lean ground sirloin, 2lbs

• Fresh thyme sprigs

• Cheddar, thinly sliced

• Burger buns

Finely chop the pancetta – you may find this easier if the pancetta is put in the freezer for a few minutes first so it doesn’t stick to the knife.
In a large bowl, combine the chopped pancetta with the ground beef, just the leaves from 2-3 sprigs of fresh thyme and a liberal amount of sea-salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Try not to handle the meat too much at this stage as it gets tough.
Form the beef mixture into 8 roughly equal-sized patties; lay them on a baking sheet and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Pre-heat the grill.  Cook the burgers over high heat for about 4 minutes or until they are just browned on one side then turn and cook them for another 4 minutes; place place a slice of cheddar on each one.  Continue to cook until the cheese is fully melted, and the burger is cooked, another minute or so. While the burgers are cooking, toast the buns.  Add the burger, your favourite toppings and enjoy!

Set aside extra cooked burgers until they are cool then refrigerate for up to 2 days.

Bacon-Double-Cheeseburger Pizzas

Bacon-Double-Cheeseburger Pizzas

Bacon-Double-Cheeseburger Pizzas

When I visit certain friends in Florida, we often order a bacon-double-cheeseburger pizza to eat poolside along with a cooler full of beers while we watch a spectacular sunset.  It comes loaded with the greasiest, most delicious ingredients that pay homage to its muse, the burger.  It conjures up such good memories that I wanted to create a version that’s less of a heart-attack-on-a-plate; this seems to work.  You will need:

• Individual pizza crusts, 2

• Leftover cooked burgers (I used 3)

• Marinara sauce (I used Rao’s)

• Grated mozzarella

• Grated cheddar

• Red onion, peeled & very thinly sliced

• Crimini mushrooms, thinly sliced

Preheat oven to 400F.

Lay the crusts on a counter or board. Spread a thin layer of marinara sauce over each, then drop small spoonfuls of the meat mixture all over the pizzas. Top with sliced onions and mushrooms and the two cheeses – I used about twice as much mozzarella as cheddar. In the photo above I also added arugula but it wilts a little in the heat.

Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the cheese has melted and the crust is crisp.  I used frozen crust for mine that needed a little longer to cook; when in doubt follow the instructions for the crusts you buy.

Have a Pizza Party invite over some friends, lay out individual pizza crusts, a variety of toppings and let guests make their own; share a glass of wine while they bake and you’ve got yourself a party for adults and kids alike.