Zini al Forno, Salsiccia con Peperoni

Sunday Dinner – 2 September 2018

Baked Ziti

For this Sunday we made Baked Ziti and grilled Italian Sausages with peppers and onions.

I use the Ziti al Forno recipe from the Sopranos Family Cookbook – one of our favorites for years. We also sliced a couple of onions and four bell peppers for the bed underneath the sausages. I put them in an aluminum pan on the grill with olive oil for ten or fifteen minutes, then poured in a bottle of Pinot Noir, and placed the sausages on top. After turning the sausages every five minutes for about half-an-hour, I moved those to the grill grates for a few minutes before bringing the entire pan inside.

Italian Sausages

Claudia and Aunt Pat also prepared a salad, and breaded some zucchini slices with egg wash, bread crumbs and grated cheese that we grilled on the plancha.

Zucchini on the Grill

Everything was delicious. Dessert was a lovely cake that our Cousin Jennifer had brought us earlier this weekend, simply known as “The Cake.”

Eggplant Parm for Sunday Dinner

June 24th, 2018

plated-eggplant-parmigiana

We revisited one of our favorite dishes, Grilled Eggplant Parmigiana, this week. This is a family favorite that we enjoy several times a year. In fact, it’s our daughter’s favorite meal – the one she requests for her birthday.

We had lemons that needed to be used, so Claudia began early in the day baking a lemon cake from scratch, and making lemon curd. She’d gotten blueberries, blackberries and raspberries to go on top, and her mom did a beautiful job arranging them.

Aunt Pat was here early and took on the tedious task of prepping brussels sprouts. She separated each leaf for roasting on a sheet pan with olive oil, salt and pepper. A little grated Parm on top, and they made a crunchy addition to the antipasti. Claudia also prepared a cheese and charcuterie platter, some olives and marinated artichokes.

It took a little while to get the plancha cleaned up for the Weber Genesis, but once it was clean and hot, the eggplant slices only took about twenty minutes for each batch to cook.

eggplant-on-the-grill

Then the pans of the finished dish went back out for another twenty minutes until they were nice and bubbly. In the meantime, Claudia fixed another fresh, vibrant salad with her famous Wulff Family Dressing.

Claudia also boiled the pasta, something I would have forgotten altogether. The final element was garlic bread, again, baked on the plancha. We served a big bottle of Bolla Valpolicella with the meal. It’s one of our favorite table wines, especially with Italian fare, and we don’t really drink it often enough.

This is one of the heartiest dishes I’ve ever tasted. Leave out the coppa and prosciutto from the antipasto platter, and this meal would have been entirely meatless as well. This would be on my short list for last meal at the end of the road.

Perfecting Eggplant Parmigiana

One of the things we like best about the Weber Genesis is the ability to cook a quick meal outdoors on a summer evening, and we delight in finding ways to adapt recipes that we would usually cook inside. Eggplant has turned out to be one of our favorite vegetables to  take to the gas grill. The charring and smoke add a depth of flavor to dishes like Eggplant Parmigiana without the mess and added fats of the traditional fried cooking method.

We’ve been refining this recipe for nearly three years now, and finally have it more or less perfect. The eggplant gets sliced into rounds about a quarter of an inch thick, salted on both sides and placed on a wire rack to sweat for an hour or so. This step is less about seasoning and more about drawing out some of the moisture and bitterness. We wipe off the salt, and then each slice gets a quick dip in some beaten egg before getting dredged in a mixture of seasoned Italian and Japanese breadcrumbs. The Panko crumbs add some additional crunch to the breading, which is important since we’re not frying.

Then the eggplant goes on the plancha on the pre-heated Genesis, after a little olive oil spray. It only takes a few minutes to get them nicely charred on the outside and fairly tender throughout. Then they go into a foil pan with cheese and sauce, and back out to the Genesis to finish cooking and warming through over indirect heat. We serve them with whatever pasta strikes our fancy.

The whole family agreed that this last batch we cooked was the most delicious we’d ever tasted.

Tagliarini Casserole and Grilled Mushroom Caps

I wanted to make an atomic age retro dinner this week, so it was casserole time.

Tagliarini is a sort of a smaller version of tagliatelle, and it’s the main ingredient in this casserole recipe from Eat Me Daily. I served it with an Italian steakhouse house salad and Portabella mushrooms with herbed cheese and pine nuts. The wine was a Spanish Temrparnillo.

I was a little nervous about the salad, since I’d never made a dressing with anchovies before. It turned out fine, and I’ll likely make it again. The Portabellas were delicious too, and it was worth the effort to remove the gills, something I’d not bothered with in the past. We used a really tasty garlic and herb cheese. I didn’t make it to the store for planks, so these were cooked on a veggie grill pan, and ended up a little messy since the cheese melted through the slits. Would definitely try them on the planks next time.

The casserole was hearty, but a little disappointing. Next time, we’ll include some additional seasoning, either herbs (maybe some oregano) or some sort of canned ingredient to spice things up. Perhaps a can of Campbell’s mushroom or tomato soup (staples of the 1950s casserole) would do the trick. Whatever we add, I’d like it to remain authentic to the low brow mid-century casserole tradition.

The weather was cool here, so I baked the casserole in the oven (to warm up the house) instead of on the Weber Genesis, and almost felt guilty.

Salsiccia con Peperoni

Salsiccia con Peperoni

I cooked the peppers and onions in a pan on the grill, grilled the Italian Sausages, and then added them to a pan where I had sautéed garlic in olive oil, and finally stirred in some fresh-picked oregano and basil.

We served it with mostaccioli.