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Father’s Day: Grilled Primanti Brother’s Sandwiches

30 Jun

Last weekend in celebration of the day of dads (Happy Father’s Day!) my family unit decided to whip up a Pittsburgh tradition for my Pittsburgh native father: Primanti Bros Sandwiches. If you have ever tuned into the Food Network or Travel Channel, or visited Pittsburgh itself you have probably heard of the legendary sandwich shops, famous for topping their sandwiches with French fries and coleslaw.

If visiting the shop itself you can choose from a myriad of deli meat options, in our version we used sweet and hot capicola ham. To make things a little healthier (and easier) we went with a freezer fry over the twice fried version in the original. Also, bucking tradition, we threw our sandwiches on the grill, because on Father’s Day firing the grill up is practically a requirement.

Grill it

The end result? Awesome. The capicola and provolone, purchased that morning at a Pittsburgh deli for extra authenticity, were extra flavorful and the vinegar-based coleslaw brightened up the whole concoction.  These sandwiches got rave reviews around our table, but then again who wouldn’t like a sandwich stuffed with French fries?

Your Whole Meal in a Sandwich

Grilled Primanti Bros. Sandwiches
adapted from the Washington Post, January 28, 2009


For the slaw:

  • 1 pound (about half of a medium-size head) green cabbage, shredded or finely chopped (about 6 cups)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon celery seed
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • Freshly ground black pepper

 For the Sandwiches:

  • 2 pounds spicy, thinly sliced capicola ham (we used one pound sweet and one hot)
  • 8 thin slices provolone cheese (about 5 ounces)
  • 4 vine-ripened tomatoes, cut into 16 thin slices
  • 16 large slices of soft Italian bread (18 ounces total)
  • 2 bags frozen french fries


For the slaw: Combine the cabbage, sugar, salt and celery seed in a colander set over a medium bowl. Let stand at least 1 hour and up to 4 hours; the cabbage will be wilted (about 4 cups total).

Discard the draining liquid in the bowl; rinse and dry the bowl, then transfer the wilted cabbage to the bowl. Add the oil and vinegar; toss to coat. Season with pepper to taste. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

For the sandwiches: Cook fries according to package instructions. Drizzle the bread with olive oil, and top the opposite side with a layer of sweet capicola, a layer of hot capicola and a slice of provolone. Top with remaining slices of bread, oil side up. Place sandwiches on a medium-hot grill for approximately 2 minutes on each side, or just long enough to put grill marks on the bread and melt the cheese. Remove the sandwiches from the grill and add  generous portions of warm fries and coleslaw and tomato slices. Enjoy with your extra fries and slaw. Yum.


Carrot Cupcakes

9 Jun

Though this blog may not yet have indicated as such, I am baker. Love to bake, have all the schmancy baking tools, do it all from scratch… usually with success. Recently however, I had a full on baking disaster. I offered to make dessert for my father and small brother’s joint birthday fiesta. The request? Carrot cake. I had never made carrot cake but found a recipe and dove right in.

Problem 1) It seems that only one of my cake pans survived my last move. Hm… so on to carrot cupcakes. The batter was actually easier to whip up than most (that is of course providing that you have the schmancy kitchen tool that peels and grates the 65 pounds (ok 3 cups) of carrots that the recipe calls for aka the boyfriend (highly recommended)). The finished batter seemed runnier than most but fearing not I filled the cupcake papers (3/4) full and popped them in the oven. 22 minutes later problem 2) my cupcakes runneth over. The tops of the cakes had run over covering the entire pan, looking very lumpy and unattractive. At this point I figured we would be making a pit stop at a bakery but what we sampled was actually quite good:  very moist, not too sweet, with a little salty kick from the pecans. Trimmed up and covered with a generous smear of cream cheese frosting they were actually kind of addicting (not so pretty but addicting).

Final thoughts: This is a very good carrot cake recipe BUT if you are making cupcakes fill about 2/3 or less of the cups to avoid cupcake disaster.

Cupcake Time!

Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
Bon Appetite, October 1994


2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
4 large eggs
2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3 cups finely grated peeled carrots (about 1 pound)
1/2 cup chopped pecans (about 1/2 ounce)
1/2 cup raisins

4 cups powdered sugar
2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
4 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preparation for the cake:

Preheat oven to 325°F. Lightly grease three 9-inch-diameter cake pans with 1 1/2-inch-high sides. Line bottom of pans with waxed paper. Lightly grease waxed paper. (If making cupcakes line muffin tins with cupcake liners)Using electric mixer, beat sugar and vegetable oil in bowl until combined. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg into sugar and oil mixture. Stir in carrots, chopped pecans and raisins.

Pour batter into prepared pans, dividing equally. Bake until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean and cakes begin to pull away from sides of pans, about 45 minutes. Cool in pans on racks 15 minutes. Turn out cakes onto racks and cool completely. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Wrap tightly in plastic and store at room temperature.)
For frosting:

Using electric mixer, beat all ingredients in medium bowl until smooth and creamy.

Place 1 cake layer on platter. Spread with 3/4 cup frosting. Top with another cake layer. Spread with 3/4 cup frosting. Top with remaining cake layer. Using icing spatula, spread remaining frosting in decorative swirls over sides and top of cake. (Can be prepared 2 days ahead. Cover with cake dome and refrigerate.) Serve cake cold or at room temperature.

Ceviche with Strawberry Salsa and Wonton Chips

18 May

This week Pickles and Kumquats is competing in Foodie Fights, an online Iron Chef type cooking battle. Secret Ingredients? Strawberries… and wonton wrappers? I will admit this week’s battle ingredients on Foodie Fights had me pretty stumped. I have never made anything in a wonton wrapper and the strawberries in my household are most likely to be eaten directly from the container, perhaps dipped in a little chocolate for good measure. However, creativity in the kitchen is always fun and (hopefully) tasty, so on went the thinking cap and multiple sweet and savory ideas later I came up with one that I was actually excited to make. Ceviche with Strawberry Salsa and Wonton Chips.

Wonton Wrappers and Strawberries? Check and Check!

When the weather warms up ceviche is one of those dishes that I cannot get enough of, so it seemed like the perfect choice as we roll into summer. Fresh seafood, a good dose of citrus and sweet strawberries scooped up in a salty wonton chip. Sounds good to me!

First up: A Little Arm Work Out

When making a ceviche you are cooking your seafood of choice in citrus juice therefore you are going to need enough liquid to cover all your seafaring friends. This is a lot of juice! I used a half cup each lemon and lime juice and a full cup orange juice, which translated to three lemons, four limes and two huge navel oranges. So get out your juicer and be prepared to squeeze citrus fruit until your arm is sore! Once you’re all squeezed out pour your seafood (in this a half pound each case shrimp and lump and claw crabmeat), and your citrus juice into a bowl, cover and throw it in the fridge. Believe it or not the citric acid in the juice will actually cook your seafood!

Keep Juicing...

Next: Get to Chopping

After all that juicing it is time to do a good bit of chopping to make the strawberry salsa. So grab your knife and dice up half a red onion, a third of a cup cilantro, two Serrano chilies (or not if you don’t like the heat), one cup avocado, a half cup seeded roma tomato and one and a half cups fresh strawberries. Once that’s all chopped up mix it in a bowl together and set it aside to let the flavors get all cozy-like and blend together.

Sweet Salsa!

And Now: Get to Waiting

There are different schools of thought as to when a ceviche becomes a ceviche rather than just a bowl of raw seafood. Some say 30 minutes, some say 3 hours. My dining companions were not so excited about digging into a bowl of blue shrimp so we went with the 3 hour option and wait we did.

And Then: To the Fryer!

When your ceviche has turned opaque it is just about done, and almost time to eat. I can’t think of a better way to scoop up those sweet and savory morsels than with a crispy fried wonton chip. To make your chips heat four cups vegetable oil to 350 degrees and cut each wonton square into two triangles and then fold each triangle in half so that the wonton is doulbled over, this ensured a strong chip that won’t crumble as you scoop u tasty tidbits. Add each wonton to the oil frying for approximately twenty seconds each side, until they are crispy and golden. Remove the chips from the oil with a slotted spoon and immediately sprinkle with sea salt.


Drain the excess juice from your ceviche and mix the strawberry salsa in with the seafood. Now grab one of those crisps, scoop and enjoy! The flavors are bright and fresh. The sweetness of the strawberries cut the acid from all that citrusy seafood and tasted simply splendid on the flaky wonton crisps. A Summery dish that is definitely worth a little prep and a little wait. Yum!

Taste Sensation!

Like what you see? Click here to head over to Foodie Fights and  VOTE!

Mother’s Day Brunch: Risotto Nests

14 May

In my family when a special day or holiday with your name on it rolls around, be it a birthday, graduation, whatever, the question is never what do you want to do to celebrate. The question is what do you want to EAT to celebrate.  It is how we show our love and appreciation, it’s how we celebrate; we cook, we feed people, we eat. So last weekend Mother’s Day called for turning out some tasty tidbits in honor of my mom.

We went with the brunch time slot because, well who doesn’t love a good brunch, and mother’s day is a very brunch-y holiday. When scanning recipes for dishes to make one kept popping out at me ‘Primavera Risotto Nests,’ which is essentially a risotto riff on pasta primavera, mounded into a nest shape with a poached egg all nestled inside. Sounded like a winner to me, so onto the Day of Mom menu it went.

And how was it? So very tasty! Like the pasta primavera you know and love, only richer and creamier and cuter, all dressed up with its poached egg inside. Would I make it again? Well technically I didn’t make it this time, Rob did (THANKS), but I would be more than happy to have him make it again. Risotto nests are good stuff!

Final thoughts… HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!!!

Primavera Risotto Nests with Fried Eggs (Recipe calls for fried, I poached. You do what you like)


Bon Appetite, May 2010

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, divided
2 cups chopped button mushrooms (about 5 ounces)
3/4 cup chopped onion
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
3 cups vegetable broth, divided
3/4 cup 1/3-inch cubes carrots
2 cups diced trimmed asparagus (about 9 ounces)
3 cups (or more) water
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese plus additional for serving
1/2 cup shelled fresh peas or thawed frozen peas
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
1 tablespoon olive oil plus additional for drizzling
4 large eggs

Melt 1 tablespoon butter in medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms; sauté until tender, about 5 minutes. Season mushrooms with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Melt 3 tablespoons butter in large pot over medium heat. Add onion; sauté until beginning to soften, 5 minutes. Add garlic; stir 1 minute. Add rice and stir until translucent at edges, 5 minutes. Add wine. Stir until liquid is absorbed, 1 minute. Add 1 cup broth. Simmer until broth is absorbed, stirring often, 3 to 4 minutes. Add carrots, asparagus, and 1 cup broth. Simmer until liquid is absorbed, stirring often, 5 to 6 minutes. Continue to add remaining broth, then water, 1 cup at a time, until rice is just tender and mixture is creamy, stirring often and letting almost all liquid be absorbed after each addition, about 25 minutes total.

Stir 1 cup cheese, peas, parsley, and mushrooms into risotto. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook eggs, without turning, until whites are cooked through and yolks are cooked to desired doneness.

Mound 1 cup risotto on each of 4 plates. Using back of spoon, make hollow in top of each mound. Top each with egg; drizzle with oil. Serve, passing additional cheese.

Spring… in a Bowl with Bacon

12 May

Though the weather has taken a turn in a cooler and gloomier direction this week, the beautiful weekends we’ve had the past few weeks have made me want to get in the kitchen and whip up fresh and Springy meals to be enjoyed on decks and roof tops.  Sitting on my roof with a bottle of wine and a home cooked meal is my favorite new way to eat out.

Recently Rob and I made a pasta dish that would be perfect dining al fresco. Fettuccine packed with fresh veggies and herbs: asparagus, peas,  green onions, basil and parsley (oh my), all in a light and lemony cream sauce, and there is bacon (and lord knows you give this girl springtime and bacon and you will have one very happy camper).  We really enjoyed it. So as soon as these rain clouds clear hop in the kitchen and whip it up yourself then get outside and dig in on your roof… front porch… deck… picnic table… neighborhood park… balcony….

Spring in a Bowl

Fettuccine with Peas Asparagus and Bacon
Bon Appetit, May 2010

Yield: Makes 4 servings
Active Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes


12 ounces fettuccine or penne
3 ounces pancetta or bacon, chopped
1 1/4 pounds asparagus, trimmed, cut on diagonal into 1-inch pieces
2 cups shelled fresh green peas, blanched 1 minute in boiling water, drained, or frozen peas (do not thaw)
1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced, white and pale green parts separated from dark green parts
2 garlic cloves, pressed
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese plus additional for serving
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon peel
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley, divided
1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh basil, divided


Cook pasta in pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to bite. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup pasta cooking liquid. Return pasta to pot.

Meanwhile, cook pancetta in large nonstick skillet over medium heat until crisp. Using slotted spoon, transfer pancetta to paper towels to drain. Pour off all but 1 teaspoon drippings from skillet. Add asparagus to drippings in skillet; sauté 3 minutes. Add peas, white and pale green parts of green onions, and garlic; sauté until vegetables are just tender, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat.

Add vegetable mixture, 1/4 cup pasta cooking liquid, dark green parts of green onions, 1/2 cup Parmesan, cream, olive oil, lemon juice, lemon peel, half of parsley, and half of basil to pasta. Toss, adding more cooking liquid by tablespoonfuls if needed. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Transfer to large bowl. Sprinkle pancetta, remaining parsley, and basil over. Serve, passing additional Parmesan cheese

A Little Bite of Summer

5 May

Summer time. Officially it does not start until Memorial Day rolls around but this past weekend’s 90 degree temperatures and DC style humidity have put me in full on Summer mode. I went to the pool, spent the weekend in shorts, sundresses and sandals and  indulged in a little summer time comida in the form of potato salad. Potato salad is not exactly full of seasonal ingredients but something about it just screams summer to me.

The version Rob and I whipped up this weekend, out of the William Sonoma San Francisco cookbook, was awesome. Classic picnic-table potato salad kicked up a notch (or three) with tons of fresh herbs, capers and whole grain mustard. This will definitely be the recipe I reach for those summer bbqs this year.

Gordon’s Red Potato Salad with Whole-Grain Mustard Dressing

2 lb small round red skinned potatoes, quartered
Fine sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup homemade or store bought mayonnaise
1/2 cup chopped fresh flat leaf Italian parsley
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon
2 tablespoons chopped capers
1/4 large red onion, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon whole grain mustard
1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1. In  a large pot, combine the potatoes with water to cover by 1 inch. Salt the water, place over high heat, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer gently, uncovered, until the potatoes are just tender when pierced with the tip of a knife, about ten minutes.

2. While the potatoes are cooking, in a large bowl, combine the mayonnaise, parsley, tarragon, capers, onion, whole grain and Dijon mustards, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 2 tablespoons water. Whisk to blend, then season to taste with pepper.

3. Drain the potatoes and immediately add them to the dressing. Toss well to coat evenly, then let cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate until chilled. Thin the dressing at serving time with a little water if needed.

Tuna and White Bean Salad: A San Francisco Treat

30 Apr

I am a bit of a cookbook addict. Give me a nice cookbook with big, pretty pictures and I’ll curl up with it like a good novel. I am like a kid in a candy store in the cookbook section of a bookstore and I have amassed quite the cookbook collection. The only problem… I don’t often cook out of them. One of the reasons I started this little blog was to force myself to start making some of those recipes that  I’ve endlessly flipped through.

One book on my shelf that has been particularly neglected is the William-Sonoma San Francisco cookbook. It’s a beautiful book that is half recipes, half guide to the city’s culinary scene, filled with interesting anecdotes about the city and food from the region. I have read it many times. Have I made anything from it… not so much.  So last week I pulled it out and settled on Seared Tuna with White Bean Salad for a light and fresh dinner.

And how were the results? Tasty. Though the white bean salad, even with all the fresh herbs, red onion etc was still a little bland to me. The next day however, the leftovers tasted much better. Maybe the flavors just needed a little time to marry up? Either way this is a pretty easy light meal for spring or summer and there is nothing wrong with that.

Seared Ahi Tuna with Warm White Bean Salad

From the WIlliam-Sonoma San Francisco Cookbook

For Cooking the Beans

1 cup dried cannellini beans
1 carrot, peeled and cut into 4 or 5 chunks
1 celery stalk, cut into 4 or 5 chunks
1/2 yellow onion
1 garlic clove, lightly smashed
fine sea salt

For the Bean Salad

1 large tomato, cored, peeled, seeded and diced
1/2 small red onion, minced
1 large garlic clove, finely minced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar, or to taste
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
4 ahi tuna steaks
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1. To cook the beans, pick them over, discarding any misshapen beans and grit. Rinse well, place in a bowl with water to cover generously, and let soak overnight. Drain the beans, put in sauce pan, and add carrot celery, onion, and garlic and water to cover by one inch. Place over medium low heat and bring to a simmer slowly. Cover and adjust the heat to maintain a bare simmer. Cook until the beans are tender, about 45 minutes or longer, depending on their age. Remove from the heat, season to taste with salt, and let cool in the liquid until just warm. Remove and discard the carrot, celery, onion and garlic.

2. To make the bean salad, drain the warm beans, reserving the liquid for soup. Put the beans in a bowl and add the tomato, red onion, garlic, basil, parsley, olive oil, and vinegar. Stir gently, then season to taste with salt and pepper.

3. To prepare the tuna, using a mortar and pestle or a spice grinder, finely grind the fennel seeds. Rub the tuna steaks on both sides with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Season on both sides with salt, pepper and fennel seeds.

4. Choose a heavy frying pan large enough to hold all the tuna steaks in a single layer without touching or use two smaller pans. Place over high heat until hot, then add the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and swirl to coat the bottom. When the oil is hot, add the tuna steaks, reduce the heat to medium, and cook until nicely colored on the bottom and cook about halfway through, 1 minute or longer, depending on thickness. Turn and cook until the steaks are moist and pink, about one minute longer.

5. Divide the tuna among warmed individual plates. Surround with the warm white bean salad. Serve at once.