A Simple Summer Supper: Classic BLT and Grilled Iowa Sweet Corn

I love this time of year when the first of the tomatoes start coming on. My mouth begins to water for those red jewels of summer. Meals get more simple yet somehow more satisfying. For instance, tonight was a classic bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich along with fresh-picked, grilled Iowa sweet corn. Feel free to add other items to you BLT. One thing I like to add is a couple slices of avocado turning an BLT into a BLAT.

Classic Bacon, Lettuce, and Tomato (BLT)

Ingredients

4 slices Applewood smoked bacon
2 slices good, hearty whole-grain bread
slices of fresh, vine-ripened tomatoes
Romaine lettuce
Real mayonnaise

Directions

Fry the bacon to your desired crispness. Meanwhile, toast the bread. Assemble the sandwich. I prefer this order: slice of toast, mayonnaise, lettuce, bacon, tomato, and finally the second piece of toast. Doing this prevents two slippery items like the lettuce and tomato from being directly next to one another which can lead to a very messy sandwich.

Grilled Corn Recipe

Ingredients

sweet corn with husks on
softened butter
chili powder
coarse salt and black pepper

Instructions

Pull back the corn husks and remove as much of the silk as possible. Don’t worry about getting it all. What remains will typically burn off on the grill. Rub each ear of the corn with softened butter and then sprinkle each ear with salt, pepper and chili powder. I like to mix the three ingredients together prior to sprinkling it on the ears. Pull husks back to cover ears of corn. Grill the corn until they browned all over, turning as needed. The husks will typically become charred. Remove the corn from the grill, husk the corn, and serve at once.

This is the perfect summer supper in my opinion. Enjoy!

There’s an app for that: Prosciutto wrapped, cheese stuffed dates

This quick appetizer goes together very quickly. Your guests will be very impressed and think you spent way more time making them than you actually did.

Ingredients

2 ounces goat cheese, at room temperature
2 ounces) mascarpone cheese, a room temperature
¼ cup finely chopped fresh basil leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
16 dates, pitted
8 thin slices prosciutto, halved lengthwise
16 toothpicks or cocktail picks

Directions

In a small bowl, mix together the cheeses and basil and season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Gently pull the dates apart and stuff with about ½ teaspoon of the cheese mixture. Close the dates around the filling. Wrap a piece of prosciutto around each date and secure with a toothpick.

Arrange the stuffed dates on a platter and serve.

Spaghetti alla Carbonara

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Spaghetti alla Carbonara is another dish who’s origin is quite muddled. One story has the dish originating with Italian coal miners. There may be some truth as the Italian word carbonara means coal burner. Another story says the dish originated during World War II when the Italian people were given bacon and eggs from the US soldiers. This story holds merit as the recipe doesn’t appear in Italian cookbooks until after WWII.

Regardless of origin, this dish is one you will want to make again and again.

Ingredients

4 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
4 oz. thinly sliced guanciale or pancetta cut into ½” pieces
2 tsp. freshly cracked black pepper, plus more to taste
1 ¾ cups finely grated Parmesan
1 egg plus 3 yolks
Kosher salt, to taste
1 lb. spaghetti

Instructions

Heat oil in a 10″ skillet over medium heat. Add guanciale or pancetta and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, 6–8 minutes. Add pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, 2 minutes more. Blend together the egg and yolks with 1 and ½ cup of Parmesan; set aside. Transfer guanciale/pancetta  mixture to a large bowl and let cool slightly, you do not want the oil to begin cooking the eggs; add the Parmesan and egg and yolks mixture and stir to combine; set aside.

Meanwhile, bring a 6-qt. pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta; cook until al dente, 8–10 minutes. Reserve 1 cup water; drain pasta and transfer it to guanciale mixture. Toss, adding pasta water a little at a time to make a creamy sauce. (You may not need the whole cup of water.) Season with salt and pepper; serve with remaining Parmesan.

Chili — Nothing like a good bowl of red on a cold winter day

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You can’t have just one bowl of this chili. I use shredded chuck roast and shredded pork roast instead of the ubiquitous hamburger. The beef and pork compliment each other and gives chili a flavor and mouth feel you just can’t get with ground beef. This is how chili should be made.

Chili

Ingredients

1.5 lbs Combination of shredded chuck roast and pork butt roast (Recipe follows)
1 T Olive Oil
1 Onion
4 T Hot Mexican Chili Powder
1 Can Fire Roasted Tomatoes with garlic
1 Can Mexican Styles Stewed Tomatoes
2 Cans Red Kidney Beans (Optional)
1 46 oz Can Tasty Tom (Spicy V8 will also work but Tasty Tom is better)

Directions

Heat olive oil in large stew pot. Add onion and chili powder and sauté until onion just begins to get tender. Side Note: Sautéing the chili powder along with the onions brings out a somewhat smokey flavor to the powder. Add shredded beef and heat until warm. Add tomatoes, beans and Tasty Tom. Heat until chili begins to bubble. Reduce heat and simmer for as long as you like.

Shredded Beef or Pork

Ingredients

beef roast or pork butt roast – trimmed of fat approximately 2 to 3 pounds
1 onion – coarsely chopped
4.5 oz jar minced garlic – unless you want to mince all that garlic
1 to 2 bay leaves
Oregano
Kosher salt
Fresh ground black pepper
Cumin
olive oil

Directions

Preheat the oven to 325F. Rub the beef thoroughly with olive oil. Generously season both sides of the roast with the salt, pepper, cumin, and oregano. Spread entire jar of minced garlic on top side of roast. Top with onion. Add bay leaves and wrap the meat in heavy-duty foil sealing the edges all around with tight crimps. Place the meat in a baking dish and bake for about 2 ½ to 3 hours, or until the beef is tender enough to fall apart. If you hear much sizzling as the meat cooks, turn the heat down.

When the beef is fork-tender, unwrap the top of the foil package, push aside
the onions, and cook another 5 to 10 minutes uncovered. Remove from oven and let the meat cool. Shred it into long shreds with a fork. Beef may be stored in the refrigerator (for up to a week) or frozen. I use this style of shredded beef and pork for tacos, burritos, chimichangas, chili, shepherd’s pie or any other recipe in place of ground meat.

Want the best meatballs you’ll ever eat? The secret is to bake them!

Here is a meatball recipe that is a little out of the ordinary but is my absolute favorite. It is based off Alton Brown’s Baked Meatball recipe. My version strays the most because I do not use ground lamb in mine like he does. It isn’t that I am opposed to eating lamb; rather, I live in Vinton, Iowa. Ground lamb just isn’t readily available to me.

The sauce for tonight’s dinner is from Coralville, Iowa based Galassi Foods. Susan and I have been wanting to try the sauce for some time. We tried the Sweet Tomato Basil. Although we found this sauce just a little too sweet for our liking, we will definitely try their other varieties.

Both were served over Barilla pasta. Barilla is another Iowa made product. What can I say, we try to support our local producers as much as possible.

Here is tonight’s recipe.

Ingredients

¾ pound ground pork
¾ pound ground round
5 ounces frozen spinach, thawed and drained thoroughly
½ cup finely grated Parmesan
1 whole egg
1 ½ teaspoons dried basil
1 ½ teaspoons dried parsley
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
½ cup bread crumbs, divided

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the pork, ground round, spinach, cheese, egg, basil, parsley, garlic powder, salt, red pepper flakes, and ¼ cup of the bread crumbs. Using your hands, mix all ingredients until well incorporated. Use immediately or place in refrigerator for at least 1 hour or up to 24 hours.

Place the remaining ¼ cup of bread crumbs into a small bowl. Using a scale, weigh meatballs into 1.5-ounce portions and place on a sheet pan. Using your hands, shape the meatballs into rounds, roll in the bread crumbs and place the meatballs in individual, miniature muffin tin cups. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden and cooked through.

This recipe will make approximately 20 to 24 meatballs. I like to make a whole recipe and then freeze uncooked the ones I will not eat that day.

Stuffed Bell Peppers

One of the reasons I love to cook is to make those people in my life happy. They all have different favorites of the things I make and get very excited when I make one of their favorites. I made one of my son Greg’s favorite meals tonight: stuffed bell peppers.

Here is the recipe.

Ingredients

1 C White Rice
6 Bell Peppers
1 lb. Italian Sausage (Remove Casing)
1 Can Diced Tomatoes w/Ital. Season
1 t Italian Seasonings McCormick
2 C Shredded Monterey Jack Cheese
6 Slices Provolone Cheese

Directions

Preheat oven to 400° F. Prepare rice according to directions on package. Remove tops of bell peppers and remove seeds. Blanch peppers in boiling water for 5 minutes. Remove from water and drain. In large skillet, brown sausage until no longer pink and drain excess fat. Stir in seasonings, tomatoes and rice and heat through. Stir in cheese and heat until melted. Remove from heat. Divide mixture into peppers. Place peppers in baking dish and and top each pepper with one slice of provolone cheese. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes. Allow to cool about ten minutes and serve.