Grilled Hawaiian Shrimp

Grilled charred shrimp and pineapple.  Is your mouth watering yet?  Add tropical fruit, thread onto skewers and baste with a tangy sweet and sour sauce.  Serve on a bed of hot rice and transport yourself to beautiful Hawaii.


1 T soy sauce

1 T rice vinegar

1 6-oz. can pineapple juice

¼ t ground ginger

1 t finely minced garlic

1/3 cup light brown sugar

1 T cornstarch

1 medium red onion

1 red bell pepper

1 green bell pepper

1 cup fresh pineapple, cut into 1-inch chunks

1 lb. extra large raw shrimp, peeled and deveined

1 cup fresh mango peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks


Combine soy sauce, vinegar, juice, ginger garlic, sugar and cornstarch in a saucepan.  Cook over medium heat until mixture comes to a boil and thickens. Stir frequently and set aside.

Cut onion and peppers into 1-inch squares. Alternate pineapple, shrimp, mango, onions and peppers onto metal skewers.  Place in a glass baking dish. Brush with sauce.

Preheat broiler.  Lightly brush peanut (or vegetable) oil on rack of broiler pan.  Set kabobs on rack.  Broil, about 3 inches from heat, for 3 minutes.  Turn over and brush with sauce.  (Discard remainder of sauce.) Continue broiling until shrimp turn opaque, about 3 minutes.  Serve on a bed of rice.

Kabobs can also be cooked on your outdoor grill over medium heat.

Photographer Bill Brady


A National Treasure: The Classic American Burger

Can there be a better burger than the good old classic American?  Sure, a hamburger can be gussied up to a towering height with bacon, avocado, mushrooms, jalapeno peppers, and toppings ad infinitum, but the classic hamburger is much simpler. The most important step in assuring a great burger is using the right ground beef.  Ground chuck or a combination of ground chuck and sirloin 80 % lean is good.  Handle it gently. Don’t compact it.  Form 3 patties from each pound of beef.

Cook on a medium hot grill or, if using a stove top skillet, sprinkle with salt.   Cook for about 4 minutes per side for medium rare. Salt and pepper, of course.  Don’t press down with a spatula.  A lightly toasted potato roll goes well. A slice of ripe tomato, red onion and leafy lettuce are not amiss.  Cheese—a warm melt of cheddar can’t hurt.  Pickles, ok, but don’t add more than you can get your mouth get around, that is, unless you don’t mind the burger slipping out the other side or requiring the knife and fork treatment.

A Classic Burger Sauce (Double or triple recipe as needed)

2 T mayonnaise

1 T ketchup

½ t sweet pickle relish

1/2 t sugar

½ t white wine vinegar

¼ t black pepper

Whisk ingredients together in a small bowl.

Photographer Bill Brady

Shrimp. Italian Style

These delicate morsels are a far cry from those heavily breaded deep fried shrimp served in so many restaurants.  These are not battered fried but enrobed in a light coating of olive oil, bread crumbs and seasonings to provide a delicate protective covering and then broiled.

You must use your own judgment in the perfect amount of oil and breadcrumbs.  This will vary depending on the size of the shrimp as smaller shrimps have more surface area and will require a bit more oil.  There should be just enough oil to coat the shrimp and just enough breadcrumbs to retain the oil and provide a thin coating.  Be sure to use the best quality shrimp you can find.


1 ½ lbs. large shrimp

3 T extra virgin olive oil

3 T vegetable oil (I prefer peanut oil)

2/3 cup fine dry plain breadcrumbs

½ t freshly grated lemon rind

½ t minced garlic

2 t finely minced parsley

¾ t salt

1/4 t freshly ground black pepper

Lemon wedges


1. Peel and devein shrimp leaving tails intact.  Rinse under cold water and pat dry.

2. In a bowl large enough to generously accommodate shrimp, mix both oils and then the shrimp.  Toss.

3. Add as many breadcrumbs as needed to form a light, even coating.

4. Add lemon zest, garlic, salt and pepper.  Toss again and allow to rest 15 minutes before proceeding.

5. Place on a lightly oiled grill rack under a hot broiler or on a stove top grill pan for 2 to 3 minutes per side, no longer than it takes to form a crisp, golden crust.

6. Serve immediately with lemon wedges.  A bright, freshly made tartar sauce makes a fine accompaniment.

( adapted from a recipe by Marcella Hazan)

Tartar Sauce

2 large shallots, finely chopped

2 medium gherkins or cornichons, finely diced

2 T freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 T parsley, finely chopped

1 cup mayonnaise

Salt and pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients and refrigerate until ready to use.

Photographer Bill Brady

Barbecued Pork Revisited: Victor Joins In

Pulled pork is one of the South’s most popular dishes. However, you don’t have to seek out a North Carolina barbecue joint to enjoy this tender, savory delight.  In fact, you don’t even need a barbecue pit.  My son Chris created this juicy pulled pork last week for 50 hungry Long Islanders.   It disappeared in a flash.

I have cut down his recipe to serve 8.  It’s imperative to top a pulled pork sandwich with a tart cole slaw (recipe follows) or cucumber dill pickles or both.  And then, what to serve it on?  Some prefer a crusty roll, but Chris likes a quality soft bun that will better soak up the barbecue sauce. Some recipes call for braising the pork and basting it from time to time.  Chris did neither and the pork came out moist and succulent.


1 pork shoulder, about 6 – 8 lbs.

3 T dark brown sugar

1 t onion powder

1 t garlic powder

1 T salt

1 T ground cumin

1 T smoked paprika

1 T freshly ground black pepper


Trim excess fat from pork shoulder.  Place pork in a baking dish.  Combine sugar, onion and garlic powder, salt, cumin, paprika and black pepper.  Rub over pork to coat.  Place in refrigerator at least 3 hours.  Bring pork to room temperature.  Place in a roasting pan fat side up in a 225 degree oven.

Slow cook until meat is fork tender and the temperature is 190-200 degrees.  This will take 6 to 7 hours. Let rest.  Take 2 forks and pull apart into shreds and place in a bowl.

Barbecue Sauce


1 cup ketchup

1 T mustard

2 T molasses

1 cup apple cider

3 T dark brown sugar

½ t crushed red pepper


Combine ingredients in a saucepan and whisk to dissolve sugar.  Cook over medium heat until sauce comes to a simmer.  Simmer very gently for 10 minutes.  Mix the  barbecue sauce into the pork shreds until well coated and serve alongside buns, cole slaw and pickles.  Let guests put together their own sandwiches.

In the unlikely event there are leftovers, consider making pork tacos or pork hash.

Chris’ Cole Slaw

Barbecued pulled pork cries out for the cool crunch of cole slaw. Chris’ special combination produces a tangy flavor and a colorful presentation.  Be sure to slice the cabbage and fennel as thinly as possible.


1 small head green cabbage

1 small head red cabbage

1 fennel bulb

2 carrots

1/2 Vidalia onion

3/4 cup mayonnaise

1 T white Balsamic vinegar

1 t celery seeds

1 t salt

1/2 t freshly ground pepper


Cut each head of cabbage in half and then in quarters.  Cut out the hard core. Slice wedges as thinly as possible and place in a large bowl.  Cut fennel bulb in quarters and slice thinly.  Set aside fronds for another use.  Shred carrots in a food processor using fine disk.  Slice onion thinly.  Add everything to bowl.

Whisk together mayonnaise, vinegar, celery seeds, salt and pepper.  Pour dressing over slaw and toss. Cover and refrigerate for up to 4 hours.  Toss again every 15 minutes or so to make sure flavors meld and again just before serving.

Pork in the ‘que! 

by Victor Ribaudo

Not being from the South, I had no reference for good ole pork barbecue growing up. I mean, I am from the South of Brooklyn, NY (not to be confused with the neighborhood of “South Brooklyn,” which is actually situated in the North portion of the borough), but that doesn’t really fly here. I’m talkin’ authentic North Carolina or Tennessee pulled pork and ribs. Nevertheless, with some southern traveling under my belt and an obsession for food TV, I’ve adopted quite an obsession for the stuff.

We’ve all seen them. Those barbecue cook-off shows situated somewhere deep in the Swanee. Pit connoisseurs fastidiously tending to their pork shoulders or ribs in either commercial or homemade smokers – for hours and hours. I’ve been on the receiving end of some of those meals. Brined and rubbed with secret recipe spices, there’s something about smoke and slow cooking that just makes certain cuts of pork a magically satisfying culinary experience. Then there’s the sauce. Unlike some of us Northern amateurs, Southerners don’t slather on the sauce before cooking. That step comes after the cooking is done.

Speaking of barbecue sauces, some prefer North Carolina style – a vinegar based concoction with a hint of brown sugar sweetness and a lot of spicy kick. You, on the other hand, might go for Tennessee’s tomato-based sticky, red and sweet variety. If you’re lucky the chef will have laced it with some whiskey. Or head on over to Texas, where although they specialize in smoked beef brisket, their thinner, spicier tomato-based sauces will do just fine on any pulled pork or rib you can cook up.

So, how do you enjoy pulled pork? Well, for those of you who aren’t familiar with this classic, it’s called “pulled” because the pork is so tender that you can actually shred pieces of it with a fork. You’ll usually find it served up generously on a roll, smothered in sauce and piled high with plenty of home-style cole slaw. Believe me, there’s nothing more succulent. Whatever sauce you choose, you’ll experience an explosion of juicy sweetness, tartness and spice that will definitely taste like some more! As for ribs, you know the deal. Just start eating, and have plenty of moist hand wipes to go around.

I know what you’re thinking: I’m not purchasing a smoker and sticking it in my backyard, next to the pool house. Well, leave it to Phyllis Kirigin – or her son, in this case – to come up with a simply smashing way to prepare a pork shoulder in the oven that will knock your socks off, so to speak. Check out her pulled pork recipe above.

Now, not to leave my Mom out of this equation, who wouldn’t know a pulled pork sandwich from a meatball hero, she does have her own way of barbecuing pork that is somewhat curious, but always surprisingly delicious. She is, after all, from the South – of Italy, that is. In any event, she takes that jarred, duck sauce like stuff that’s laden with apricots and marinates her pork chops and ribs in it over night. The next day, my Dad grills them up. Screaming about the sticky mess they’re making on the grill, of course. Well, it’s hard to believe, but they’re actually very good. I know, it’s not the real deal. However, if you don’t find yourself south of the Mason-Dixon Line and don’t feel like heading off to a barbecue joint in town, this is an option in a pinch.

Barbecue and pork really is a match made in heaven. Please be sure to get your hands on the real deal next time your down South. Some of those places are hopping, I assure you. So you might have to stand in ‘que. But it will be worth it.

Photographer Bill Brady
Food Stylist Brian Preston Campbell

Steak Your Claim!

Great steaks aren’t cooked, they’re bought; the important work is done before you ever leave the shop.  Ruth Reichl in Garlic and Sapphires

A great steak from aged grass-fed beef can’t be beat.  It doesn’t need a rub massaged into it to mask the flavor.  Its own beefy flavor is sublime.  Does Peter Luger use a rub?  I think not.  Select steaks at least 1 ½ inches thick and nicely marbled.  This means a fine marbling of fat throughout, not big pockets of fat and, in no case, totally lean. It’s true that fat carries flavor plus providing more tender meat.  I really like Cheryl Smith’s recipe for grilled steak.  She does include a brief rest for the steak in garlic, olive oil and fresh thyme, but then the garlic and thyme are removed before grilling.

Optional: Serve it with a creamy gorgonzola sauce. Suggested
accompaniments are grilled asparagus and shoestring potatoes.

2 (10-oz.) shell steaks from grass-fed beef (preferably aged)
3 cloves garlic, sliced
6 sprigs fresh thyme, crushed
3 T extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper


1. Place steak in a dish along with garlic,  thyme and olive oil.

Turn the steak over from time to time and allow it to marinate for one hour.

2. Heat a grill to medium high.

3. Remove garlic and thyme and season steak with salt and pepper.

4. Grill to desired doneness turning only once.

5. Remove from grill and cover with aluminum foil for five minutes before serving.

Gorgonzola Dolce Cream Sauce

2 T unsalted butter
2 T finely diced onions
1 T fresh thyme leaves
1 T all-purpose flour
1 cup heavy cream
2 T dry sherry
½ to 1 cup gorgonzola dolce cheese
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper


1. Melt the butter in a small saucepan.

2. Add the onions, thyme and then whisk in the flour.

3. Cook the flour one minute.

4. Add the heavy cream and dry sherry and continue to whisk. Bring the mixture to a simmer.

5. After about 2 minutes of simmering add cheese to melt. Season with salt and pepper. Serve on top of steak or on the side.  Serves 2.

Adapted from Cheryl Smith


Steak Your Claim!

by Victor Ribaudo

Vegetarians please don’t despair. We’ll be writing plenty of blogs that will appeal to your fancies. For you carnivores, though, please keep reading. We’re talking steak this week. For me, it’s a primal thing. Pure beef. Unadulterated. Thrown on the grill and done up medium rare. Is there anything more satisfying? I think not.

As a kid steak didn’t really appeal to me. It was something we had for dinner every Saturday night. (Was Saturday steak night at your home too?) However, when I was a bit older, my family started a Christmas Season tradition. We’d spend an evening doing those great things one does in New York City that time of year. Window shopping on Fifth Avenue, the Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center, the Rockettes Show at Radio City Music Hall. The best part of the evening, however, was dinner at Ruth’s Chris. There are fancier, more expensive steak houses in the city. But there was something about Ruth’s steak that really was irresistible. Perhaps it was the butter served atop those sizzling cuts that got to me. I don’t know. Nevertheless, I’ve been a steak fanatic ever since.

Besides those Christmastime visits to Ruth’s Chris which we still, by the way, treat ourselves to every season, I particularly look forward to steak this time of year. Grilling a steak is my favorite way to prepare it. Whether it’s a t-bone, strip or hanger steak nothing takes to the flavor that charcoal imparts better. I prefer mine medium rare, but I’m very accommodating. I’ll prepare yours anyone way you like. Nothing elaborate, mind you. A simple sprinkling of salt and freshly ground pepper and you’re ready to go with it.

For as much as I’m a backyard BBQ enthusiast, I’m not really a purist. I’ll take steak anyway you serve it. So if you want to panfry mine, or broil it for me, I’ll be there with a bottle of wine to enjoy the meal. Need to get up market with it? Do it au poivre. Coat the steak with peppercorns and panfry. Create a pan sauce of reduced cognac and heavy cream. Oh, be sure to make the sauce in the same pan you cooked the steak. You want to get all the brown goodness in your sauce. Or perhaps you’re looking for something a little brighter? Why not ladle a bit of béarnaise sauce over your steak. The butter, egg yolk and tarragon mixture is the perfect counterfoil to the earthiness of the meat. Please don’t buy bottled béarnaise, though. It’s easy to prepare, and recipes abound.

I could write tomes about different cuts of steak. The best way to find your fit is to try them all. As for aging, I do preferred dry aged steaks (as opposed to wet aged). And always Prime for me. A bit more expensive, but definitely worth it.

As for sides, well I am a bit of a purist here. With my steak au poivre, nothing will do except for mashed potatoes and steamed asparagus. When béarnaise is on the plate, I want a baked potato and creamed spinach. When it’s just steak, some French fries and sautéed mushrooms must accompany. I know, these are all sides you find at the steakhouses. I can’t help it. Guess I just keep returning to Ruth’s Chris!

Before I go, just a quick word about steak sauce: unnecessary! I’m sorry, I get a bit crazy where steak is concerned. But tell me, why would you want to smother a kicked up version of Worcestershire sauce on such a beautiful thing as steak? I’m not judging. Enjoy however you please. That’s why steak exists.

Recipe Provided by Phyllis Kirigin, aka sweetpaprika

Photographer Bill Brady

Written by Victor Ribaudo

Blog syndicated at the

Play It Up . . . Like a Real Hamburger

Is a hamburger by any other name still a hamburger?  Not if it’s bifteck haché.  Move over for a moment, All-American hamburger, and make way for this knockout straight from the Cordon Bleu.  Fresh thyme, bacon and minced onions are mixed in to provide a subtle complexity, both herbaceous and smoky but never overpowering the flavor of beef.  At least this is the way I make it.

It’s an adaptation of Julia Child’s ground beef with onions and herbs and her hamburgers with cream sauce carefully explained on my dog-eared and food stained pages 301 and 302 of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Vol. I.  The patties can be served with a sauce or not.  This is my “or not” version so you’ll need hamburger buns.

The quality of the beef is very important.    Some of the least expensive cuts, chuck and neck are the most flavorful.  85 per cent lean is about right.

French Hamburgers

Ingredients for 6 burgers

2 T butter

¾ cup finely minced onion

3 oz. finely chopped bacon (smoked applewood or black forest)

1 ½ lbs. ground beef

1/8 t freshly ground black pepper

1/8 t ground thyme or ½ t minced fresh thyme

1 egg

1 T butter for sautéing patties

6 slices Gruyere cheese (optional)


1. In a large frying pan, cook the onions slowly in the butter until slightly wilted.  Add bacon and cook until onions are very tender and bacon cooked through.  Remove, leaving bacon fat in pan, and let cool.

2. In a mixing bowl, add beef, seasonings, onions, bacon and egg.  Mix lightly but thoroughly with your hands.  Taste for seasoning.  Form into six patties.

3. Add butter to the bacon fat in same frying pan over moderately high heat.  When the butter foam begins to subside, sear the patties.  Sauté for 2 to 3 minutes on each side or to desired degree of doneness.

4. Now, to Frenchify these babies a bit more, melt a slice of Gruyere on top of each.    Place on lightly toasted hamburger buns and add condiments of your choice.  Personally I like soft buns that you can bite into and not have the toppings squish out the sides.

Enjoy your meal! (You know how Julia would have put it.)

Play It Up . . . Like a Real Hamburger

by Victor Ribaudo

I like all-American food.  Even if it originated in another country, as is often the case.  I guess the hamburger is one of those national favorites.  They say that the Germans invented it.  Hence the name “hamburger” (from Hamburg Steak).  I don’t know.  Seems that the concept of chopping meat and then forming it into patties has probably been seen in many countries throughout history.  Don’t forget, I am Italian and meatballs belong to us (and the Swedes, I guess.)  Perhaps German immigrants were the first to introduce a chopped meat patty to America.  Doesn’t really matter where it originated, though; the hamburger is a true American classic in this guy’s culinary book.

Now, I know that hamburgers abound in fast food chains.  They taste great and I never knock them.  My nephew loves them too much.  But that’s not what I’m after.  To me, a hamburger must be prepared freshly at home to be of any real interest to my taste buds.  It all starts with the meat, of course.  Good quality beef is a must, but we can’t have it too lean or you’ll be eating cardboard instead of juicy goodness.  About 85% lean – as Phyllis Kirigin suggests in her fantastic recipe above – is great.  I like them hand formed, but you can use one of those hamburger gadgets.  All good.  Then there’s the cooking technique.  I prefer good old fashioned grilling on the backyard BBQ.  The charcoal smokiness really does it for me.  I will, however, take my hamburgers to a frying pan every once in a while.  I kind of like the steaming effect you get – not unlike White Castle. Really moist.  Broiling is also a decent option. But be careful.  Overcooking might occur.  That’s never a good thing.

Now those are the basics.  Next to consider are the toppings.  The perfunctory ketchup is a must for me, but I also like to add mayonnaise to that mix.  (Mustard, not so much.)  Sometimes I adorn my burger with relish or pickles, when I’m feeling fancy free.  Cheese is always nice.  I adore brie on mine, but any variety will do.  Sautéed or raw onions are welcome enhancements…as well as bacon or smoky ham.

But that’s really the beginning.  I get bored fast.  So I’ll often make it a Californian with the addition of fresh avocado slices, tomato and onion.  My Mexican gets guacamole, along with Monterey Jack, sautéed jalapenos and salsa.  The Italian dons mozzarella and tomato sauce.  The Indian gets chutney.  And the Greek gets chopped cucumber, tomato, dill and feta.  The possibilities are endless.

When I was a teenager, I discovered a recipe for hamburgers stuffed with sautéed mushrooms and onions.  After pan frying, I was supposed to add wine to deglaze and create a sauce.  Well, I poured in the wine right in the middle of the frying process.  Needless to say, my Mom had a mess on her hands.  Point is, I’ve always been a hamburger connoisseur – even if I did mess up every once in a while.  Wanting to broaden my burger horizons, so to speak.  So aside from substituting turkey or chicken for beef, I’ll often change up the meat mixture to include ground veal, pork – even loose sausage meat.  Or I’ll serve lamb burgers and throw everyone for a loop.  I suggest creativity with your spices and herbs as well.  Try cumin and coriander in the lamb burger and make it Middle Eastern.  Minced garlic, parsley and grated cheese give the burger an Italian flair.  Chopped scallions, ginger and soy sauce – especially with ground pork – offer everyone a taste of Asia in a bun.

Speaking of buns, they are important.  So much from which to choose.  Pick your favorites.  But please, do toast them on the grill or in the oven.  No one likes a hot burger on a cold bun.  A lot to say about a simple hamburger?  Not really.  I could go on and on about sliders as well.  Just some thoughts for now about Americana fare and the leader of that pack.

Recipe by Phyllis Kirigin

Photographer Bill Brady

Written by Victor Ribaudo

Blog syndicated at the

Putting On The Dog . . . Chicago Style, That Is

Left click on hot dog.

We all have our guilty pleasures. Mine is an occasional hot dog. Coney Island style with its chili topping, Red Hots from Maine or Chicago style with its unique combination of condiments. They’re all delicious, but I have to admit they always taste better at a ball game. However, you can come very close preparing your own. Why not try the Chicago style?


All beef hot dogs with natural casing (The natural casing produces the required snap when you bite into it.)

High quality hot dog buns, preferably poppy seed

Yellow mustard (not brown or Dijon; ketchup is a definite no-no)

Sweet pickle relish (yes, the neon green one)

White onion, chopped (Vidalia is a good choice.)

Ripe tomato, sliced into thin wedges

Crunchy dill pickle spears (neither too spicy nor sour)

Sport peppers

Celery salt


1. Bring water to a boil in a pot with a steamer insert. Steam hot dogs for 5 to 6 minutes.

2. Steam rolls until heated through.

3. Place each hot dog in a bun.

4. Squirt yellow mustard directly on hot dog preferably in a zigzag pattern.

5. Add a generous amount of sweet relish

6. Place chopped onions on top of dog.

7. Place two tomato wedges between the top of the dog and the bun

8. Place pickle spears between dog and bottom of the bun.

9. Place sport peppers, either two whole or sliced, on top of dog.

10. Sprinkle a dash of celery salt over dog. Chow down!

These Dogs Are Hot!

by Victor Ribaudo

Hot dogs are funny things. No matter how sophisticated your tastes are, you still crave them – especially this time of year. After all, they are a mainstay at baseball games and backyard barbecues. We New Yorkers also have our hot dog street vendors. Two-to-go as you stroll Midtown on a sunny day – nothing like it. Any way you can get them, you do. I’m certainly no exception.

Hot dogs – or Franks, as we called them when I was a kid – have always been a personal favorite. Mom would pop them into the broiler during the winter months or on a grill during the summer. At the same time she’d lay out those frozen French fries on a baking sheet and place them in the oven. All that was left was the warming of some baked beans and sauerkraut and boy, a feast was born. It was like a day off for her, since her meals usually consisted of two hour stints in the kitchen. This was a 20 minute fix for a hungry family.

Sauerkraut and mustard toppings were de rigueur when I was young. As I hit the New York City pavement my first year of college I discovered the onions in tomato sauce so generously offered by the hot dog vendors. I don’t know what goes into that stuff, but it’s addictive. Of course, being obsessed with food as I am, I wanted more. That’s when I ventured into the college hangouts for an eclectic array of toppings. Raw onions, sweet relish and melted cheddar were my first foray into that world. Then, of course, there were chili dogs. Sloppy, but heavenly. Did I stop there? No. I wanted some pork, so I began to request crispy bacon with my dogs. Hey, I was in my late teens and early twenties. That was health food to me back then.

So what about now? Well, I’m still up for any combination of toppings I can get. One of my favorite hangouts is Lansky’s Deli on Columbus Avenue and 71st Street in New York’s Upper West Side. They feature a foot long dog – fried, of course – and topped with anything you like. I prefer crispy pastrami bits, cheddar cheese, ketchup and sautéed onions. Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. I usually start with an appetizer. You guessed it – pigs in a blanket. Listen, if I’m doggin’ it I’m going all the way.

Now, I don’t want you to think that I’m limited. I do include the hot dog in some classic cuisine. (Well, maybe not classic but definitely cuisine by the strictest definition of the word.) That means my homemade mac ‘n cheese will often sport pieces of grilled hot dogs in the mix before it goes into the oven to crisp up. The smokiness of the dogs is a perfect counterfoil to the mellow cheese sauce. And you haven’t tried my hot dog frittata. Don’t laugh. I sauté sliced hot dogs in some olive oil until nicely seared. After removing the slices from the pan, in goes lots of sliced onions. When they are caramelized, I return the hot dog slices to the pan and add the beaten eggs. When the frittata is just about done, I cover with slices of cheddar cheese and place under the broiler until the cheese is melted. Let me tell you, this is a meal fit for a king. You must try it.

Whatever you do, be sure to buy the best quality hot dogs you can find. There is a difference. Dogs that plump up when you cook them are suspicious to me. Oh, hot dogs do grow a bit when they hit the grill, broiler or boiling water. But they shouldn’t end up looking like knockwurst. That’s a whole different animal for a different blog. And as for your buns, the choice is really up to you. I can eat a hot dog in Italian bread or sandwiched in pita. It’s more about the dog and less about the bread for me. Please be sure that the hot dog bun or roll or whatever is at least warm, though. Nothing worse than a sizzling hot dog in a piece of cold bread.

I continue to look for new ways to top my hot dogs. Lately I’ve been getting into chutney. I like the way the sweetness plays with the saltiness of the dog. I’m also fooling around with sautéed jalapenos. I usually accompany this with a blue cheese and dollop of sour cream. Hey, let me know what you come up with. I’m in the mood for something new this weekend.

Recipe by Phyllis Kirigin

Photographer Bill Brady

Written by Victor Ribaudo

Blog syndicated at the

Homemade Pizza is Heaven

Your Own Pizza Pie? That’s Amore!

Are you ready for a pizza that’s worlds apart from what you pick up in that big square box? Read on at your own risk. Don’t say you haven’t been forewarned. You might just start making your own pizza from now on. My husband is the pizza-maker in our house. He makes his own pizza dough and garnishes it with fresh ingredients. His techniques guarantee a crispy crust and caramelized toppings.

The highlights of this recipe are partially baking the dough rounds before adding toppings and sautéing the toppings before adding them to the pizza. The pizza doesn’t bake long enough to give the raw ingredients a caramelized taste. (Serves six.)

Pizza dough:

1 package (2 ¼ t) active dry yeast
1 ½ cups warm water (110 degrees)
4 cups all-purpose flour plus extra for dusting
2 t salt
2 T extra virgin olive oil

Toppings (go nuts, prepare your favorites):


Avoid prepared pizza sauce. Instead, chop up a tomato or handful of tiny tomatoes and sauté in a nonstick pan with a teaspoon of olive oil, pinch of salt and pepper. Mash as tomato softens.

½ cup sliced mushrooms, sautéed

I cup thinly sliced sweet pepper (think yellow, red or orange for color) lightly sautéed.

1 small sliced Vidalia onion sautéed until beginning to caramelized

4 cloves of thinly sliced garlic added to caramelized onion

One hot and one sweet Italian sausage, crumbled and sautéed

1/2 cup pitted Kalamata or Turkish olives sliced in half

2 T fresh basil, chopped

½ t red pepper flakes

¼ t dried oregano

½ t salt

¼ t freshly ground black pepper

¾ lb. fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced*

The dough:

Proof the yeast by dissolving it in warm water. It should foam up. Put the flour and salt in a food processor using the steel blade. Pulse briefly and then add the yeast mixture in a slow stream. Stop processor, add oil and pulse a few times.

On a lightly floured surface knead dough briefly and form into three balls. * * Place on a baking sheet, cover with a towel and let rise about 45 minutes until double in bulk.

Place baking stone in a 450-degree oven.

Shaping, Topping and Baking:

Press out dough with your fingers from the center out on a floured surface (preferably a marble slab). Shape dough into three 12” rounds about ¼” thick.. Allow a lip on the edge. Poke a few holes with a fork in the dough to keep it from puffing up. Lift onto a peel, slide onto hot baking stone and bake one at a time, unless baking stone can accommodate more, for four minutes until lightly baked. Take out of oven and divide toppings among crusts. Arrange slices of cheese on top. Return to oven and bake another 6 minutes, just until cheese is melted and starting to bubble. Run under the broiler for a couple of minutes to brown the top. Don’t overbake or cheese will become leathery. Cut into wedges with a pizza cutter.

*Place cheese in freezer for 20 – 30 minutes to make slicing easier.

** At this point dough can be refrigerated or frozen for use later. Each ball will make pizza for two.

Victor’s Heavenly Pizza

My Mom makes awesome pizza. That’s not a subjective statement, mind you. Everyone says so. And even though there were three terrific pizzerias within a ten block radius of my block growing up, nothing compared to her creations. Perfect crust, aromatic sauce, just the right amount of mozzarella and other toppings. A gastronomic experience, really, even though the art of pizza making is not all that complicated. Mom says it just takes a good recipe, and some practice. Mostly love, really.

One of the first things to consider is the type of pizza you’re contemplating. The thin crust, round Neapolitan pie is always a hit. How thin to make the crust is a matter of preference, of course. I like it really slim – almost cracker-like – and well done. Doesn’t fill you up as much, so you get to eat more. The thicker crusted, square Sicilian pie is Mom’s personal favorite. I don’t believe it has anything to do with our Sicilian heritage. I think it’s all about the abundance to her. Hefty pieces (she doesn’t call them slices) that really hit the spot, if you know what I mean. You might also consider deep dish Chicago style pizza. Similar to Sicilian, but not as crispy on the edges. Really quite nice.

QuantcastOnce you’ve decided on the type of pizza you’re creating, you’ve got to make a critical decision. Pre-made dough, or homemade? I opt for homemade. Again, it’s not all that difficult. Mom says you’ve got to establish a relationship with your dough. OK, maybe that’s a bit much, but after making my own pizza for a few years, I kind of see what she means. A few tips here. Remember, it’s going to get messy the first few times, but that’s alright. Have fun with it. If you own a mixer, that’s great. If not, be sure you use a very large bowl. No…larger that that! You’ll need it. And use lots of flour on the counter while rolling and stretching the dough. Less sticking means fewer holes to patch up. I also found that when baking, pizza stones are OK, but a pizza screen achieves an even, crispier crust. You can also try grilling. It enhances the final product with a smoky goodness, almost like the wood burning oven pizzas my great grandmother undoubtedly treated the family to back in the old country. Just be sure to coat with plenty of olive oil. You don’t want three quarters of your pizza to remain on the grill! The rest is all about imagination.
Be sure you have a good sauce recipe. Not too sweet, like those jarred varieties you’ll find at the supermarket. Nice and savory. Then get to building your pizza. A traditional sauce and mozzarella pie is a good place to start. You can step it up by adding pesto or anchovies to the mix. I like that a lot. Some pizza fanatics say no mozzarella, just sauce and grated parmesan cheese. OK by me, but I like to add Italian tuna in olive oil to that one. Want more? Pepperoni, sausage or sliced meatballs are popular. Mushroom, peppers, zucchini and eggplant appeal to the vegetarian set. A white pie featuring mozzarella, ricotta and grated parmesan is also delectable. Anything goes, really. Left over breaded or grilled chicken cutlets in the fridge? Slice them up and top the pizza. Baked ham last night? Chunk it up, add pineapple, and call your pie a Californian. When visiting Sicily, I actually tried a pizza topped with scrambled eggs, artichoke hearts and grated parmesan. It was phenomenal. I kid you not.

The point is that once you’ve got your homemade dough and sauce down – the basics of the pie – you can achieve greatness as a pizza chef in your own neighborhood. Just think about the foods you like to eat, and top your pizza with them. Get your creative juices flowing and there’s no telling what you’ll come up with.

Oh, I should mention that sweet pizzas are definitely an option for you. You can transform a white pizza into an excellent dessert by adding cinnamon, sugar, grated orange peel and chocolate chips to ricotta. Just spread evenly over the dough, and bake. I also like a chocolate-hazelnut spread as a topping. You can make your own, but here’s one instance where the store bought spread works just fine.

Fire up the oven or grill, get some dough on your fingers, and be inventive. That’s Mom’s motto when it comes to crafting pizza. And you’ll create a slice of heaven for family and friends every time.

Photographer Bill Brady
Written by Victor Ribaudo
Recipe Provided by Phyllis Kirigin,
Food Stylist Brian Preston Campbell
Blog syndicated at the

Citrus Grilled Shrimp Salad

As June rolls around, the name of the game is easy cooking. In fact, the less work, the better, so long as the results are fresh and mouthwatering. And since farmers’ markets and farmstands are bulging with their summer best, select your favorite mix and match favorites and toss together a great salad. Top it with citrusy grilled shrimp and pair it with a French baguette and you have a delicious lunch.

Shrimp and marinade: (Serves 4)

20 extra large shelled and deveined shrimp with tails left on

2 cloves garlic, crushed

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

1 fresh lime, juiced

½ t salt

¼ t pepper

1/8 t crushed red pepper flakes

Whisk together marinade ingredients and toss with shrimp. Place in refrigerator for ½ hour.

Orange vinaigrette:

1 clove garlic

2 shallots, finely minced

1 T Dijon mustard

¼ cup freshly squeezed orange juice

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

½ t salt

1/8 t freshly ground pepper

1 t fresh thyme leaves

While shrimp is marinating, make orange vinaigrette salad dressing. Mash garlic in a small bowl. Add shallots and mustard. Whisk in orange juice and then slowly whisk in olive oil. Season with salt, pepper and thyme leaves. Adjust for preferred acidity.

Grill shrimp on a hot grill for 2 minutes on each side or just until opaque. Use metal skewers if you think shrimp might slip through grate.

Salad ingredients:

Medium head of red radicchio

Segments from 2 oranges, pith and membranes removed

Small head of leafy green lettuce

16 red cherry or grape tomatoes

1 small red onion, cut into thin slices

Mix salad ingredients together in a large bowl. Toss with just enough orange vinaigrette to lightly coat greens. Divide among 4 salad plates. Top each with 5 shrimp. Serves 4 as a lunch entrée.

Photographer Bill Brady
Food Stylist Brian Preston Campbell

Crank up the BBQ-Grilled Ribeye Steak

A great steak from aged grass-fed beef can’t be beat. It doesn’t need a rub massaged into it to mask the flavor. Its own flavor is sublime. Does Peter Luger use a rub? I think not. Select steaks at least 1 ½ inches thick and nicely marbled. This means a fine marbling of fat throughout, not big pockets of fat and, in no case, totally lean. It’s true that fat carries flavor plus providing more tender meat. I really like Cheryl Smith’s recipe for ribeye. She does include a brief rest for the steak in garlic, olive oil and fresh thyme, but then the garlic and thyme are removed before grilling.

Optional: Serve it with a creamy gorgonzola sauce. Suggested accompaniments are sautéed spinach and shoestring potatoes.
2 (10-oz.) ribeye steaks from grass-fed beef (preferably aged)
3 cloves garlic, sliced
6 sprigs fresh thyme, crushed
3 T extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Place steaks in a dish along with garlic, thyme and olive oil. Turn the steaks over from time to time and allow  to marinate for one hour. Heat a grill to medium high. Remove garlic and thyme and season steaks with salt and pepper. Grill to desired doneness turning only once. Remove from grill and cover with aluminum foil for five minutes before serving.

Gorgonzola Dolce Cream Sauce
2 T unsalted butter
2 T finely diced onions
1 T fresh thyme leaves
1 T all-purpose flour
1 cup heavy cream
2 T dry sherry
½ to 1 cup gorgonzola dolce cheese
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Melt the butter in a small saucepan. Add the onions, thyme and then whisk in the flour. Cook the flour one minute. Add the heavy cream and dry sherry and continue to whisk. Bring the mixture to a simmer. After about 2 minutes of simmering add cheese to melt. Season with salt and pepper. Serve on top of steaks or on the side. Serves 2.

Grilled T-Bone Steak

Photographer Bill Brady
Food Stylist Brian Preston Campbell


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