August 13 – August 19, 2018
Monday: Chicken Vera Cruz / White Bean Salad
Tuesday: Turkey Burgers stuffed with Monterey Jack and Avocado-Mango Salsa
Wednesday: Gazpacho with toasted cheese bread (ba recipe)
Thursday: Tomato Toast
Friday: Grilled Sausages with Mushrooms, Onions and Peppers
Saturday: Cocktails, etc. – Julie’s bon voyage party for Hunter (far right) and Kameron (red dress), the newlyweds
Sunday: Gazpacho, Grill-Smoked Pork Chops (CBES), Atomic Apple Sauce, Cole Slaw
If a perfect tomato is worth waiting for until the end of the summer, grilled sausage with mushrooms, peppers and onions is worth it as well, except that you don’t have to wait. The sausage is available year-round. And to pair, in one meal, the simplicity of the tomato with the dark complications and production of the sausage is, to my way of thinking, a great way to cook and eat. But before we dig into this further, let me bring you up to date on what’s been happening in our corner of the world.
Last week, summer returned to Pittsburgh, as the ‘Rains of Ranchipur’* receded and, after a few days of drainage, the dry land reappeared, decks were swept free of debris, covers came off grills and the earthy smell of burning charcoal and grilling meat filled the air. The people and the dogs in the neighborhood perked up, walking with a notable spring to the step, a strong indication that Pavlov was on to something.
*This movie, starring a young Richard Burton playing an Indian Doctor, has its good points, but the incessant, unending rain in the movie is too reminiscent of the summer we’ve had in Pittsburgh: The floods, the toppled trees, the buckled roads, clogged creeks and ruined ball fields, and the sheer, depressing lack of sun. (You can catch some of the scenes on You Tube – worth it, among other things, for Burton’s marvelous voice.)
Not only were we back in the sun, but the humidity evaporated, the temperature dropped and the air conditioning, mixed blessing that it is, was turned off. And there was a spectacular party at Julie’s – a send-off for her son Hunter and his new bride Kameron (great looking young couple). They are headed to St. Kitt’s where Hunter will study Veterinary Medicine. A picture of most of the gang at the party is above (Friday).
I’d like to bring to your attention the extreme range of costume. Tim S., premier Pittsburgh lawyer, clad in penny loafers, madras shorts, oxford cloth shirt and Blue Blazer with a handkerchief in its pocket wearing a Stetson, and Kevin, Idaho rancher, in Jeans, Boots and minus his Stetson which he lent to Tim. Kevin, by the way, was the cowboy struggling home with the rescued calf across the pommel of his horse through an Idaho snow storm in Julie’s brother David’s great photograph. David was a renowned photographer of the West, and you can sample some of his work – including the iconic picture of Kevin, by typing his name in your search engine: ‘David Stoecklein Photographs’
I’ve continued to enjoy Michael Chiarello’s Cookbook and was looking forward to the grilled mushrooms with sausage, onions and peppers on Wednesday. But the rains came back, forcing me indoors. Now grilling indoors with SWMBO in the house, is like trying to snack on beef jerky at a Vegan summer camp. It can be done, but it requires some ingenuity and a fair amount of chutzpah. I turned on the fan over the stove full blast and waited until SWMBO was in her den watching the nightly news before embarking on the main part of the meal. I was concerned about cooking down the onions and peppers to caramelized form, but Chiarello was as solid a guide as ever, and we had a memorable dinner without Beez so much as raising an eyebrow about the spatter on the stove-top.
The only comparable dish from last week was my favorite new recipe for Gazpacho. We share both below, and wish you more luck with the weather. Cooking the the mushrooms and sausages over a fire outdoors will add even more flavor.
(adapted from bon appétit, Summer, 2018)
Timing: 2 hours (a lot of letting the flavors develop – very little work)
2 pounds very ripe red tomatoes, cut into ½-inch wedges, 3 tablespoons seeds reserved
½ English cucumber, peeled, seeded [we do not peel and seed, liking a chunkier Gazpacho]
½ large red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded
½ large shallot, chopped
1 garlic clove, finely grated
2 tablespoons of sherry or red wine vinegar
Flaky sea salt
3 tablespoons olive oil, more for drizzling
Quartered cherry tomatoes, chopped chives, and grilled or toasted country-style bread for serving
[We used cheese toast. Toast or bake or grill some slices of good bread and, when crisp, top with some grated cheese – cheddar, pepper jack, whatever you like – or cover totally with cheese. We prefer a toast with some bare spaces, you may not]
Cut 2” of the cucumber into quarter-inch pieces and set aside for garnish.
Coarsely chop the remaining cucumber and place in a large bowl.
Cut one-quarter of the bell pepper into ¼-inch pieces and set aside for garnish.
Coarsely chop the rest of the bell pepper and add to the bowl with the chopped cucumber.
Add the sliced tomatoes to the bowl, all with the shallot, the garlic, 2 tablespoons of vinegar and 1 tablespoon of salt. Toss elements of bowl and allow to stand for 30 minutes at room temperature to let flavors meld.
After 30 minutes, transfer tomato mixture, along with any accumulated juices to a a blender. Add 3 tablespoons of olive oil and purée on medium speed until smooth. Season with more salt and vinegar if needed. [We did not find that it needed any more]
At this point, the recipe calls for the mixture to be strained, through a coarse-mesh sieve into a large bowl or pitcher. We simply poured the mixture into a large bowl – no sieving. Let chill in the refrigerator for one hour.
Ladle into bowls or glasses and garnish with chopped cucumber, pepper, chives and drizzle with a bit more olive oil. If you’re making a full meal out of it, serve with toasted bread or cheese toast.
EXTRA Grilled Mushrooms with Sausage, Onions and Peppers
(adapted from Michael Chiarello, Live Fire)
Timing: 40-50 minutes, plus the time to start your grill
Ingredients: Serves 6 – 8
8 links of hot or sweet sausage (we used 6, serving 3 – 4)
1 pound of mushrooms, stemmed and cut into ½-inch julienne – julienne the stems as well (we did use the full pound of mushrooms – Baby Bella)
3 sweet onions, cut into ½-inch-thick-slices (we used 2 onions)
3 red bell peppers, cored, seeded and cut into ½-inch julienne (we used 2 peppers)
3 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Let sausages come to room temperature.
Start your grill – we cooked indoors in a large cast-iron skillet, which we heated in a 450 F oven before moving to the top of the stove.
Chop Vegetables and Mushrooms
If using an outdoor grill, bring it to high heat, and then heat a cast-iron plancha or skillet for ten minutes. Indoors, heat a cast iron skillet in a 450 F oven. [A plancha is a rectangular piece of cast-iron with low lips at the edges. If you use it on the top of the stove, you will have spatters of oil all over your stove, the counter and the floor next to the stove, your shirt and your face.]
Pour the olive oil into the plancha or skillet, then add the sausages [cover with a spatter screen, if you’re cooking inside] and brown them – maybe 15 minutes, turning them from side to side. Set sausage aside.
If needed, add more oil and then the mushrooms. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and let them cook without moving them for 7 minutes.
When the mushrooms are caramelized, stir and add the onions and the peppers and more salt and pepper and cook until the vegetables are caramelized – maybe 12 minutes. Then sprinkle with the oregano and parsley.
Now place the sausages back on top of the vegetables. Move the plancha or skillet to a trivet and serve.