Uncommonly Good

Sirloin Panini

I haunt the markdown sections of the grocery store and take advantage of good cuts of meat when they are marked down. Ribs, steaks, pork loin, brisket, all sorts of meats are frequently available after a heavily promoted sale. I pick up packages of sirloin steak when I come across them.

If I’m not going to use it within a day or two I’ll cut the steak in very thin slices and pack separate handfuls in Press n Seal storage wrap and freeze it. Then when I’m in the mood for steak I’ll take a portion out and defrost it in the microwave for a few minutes and then make my sandwich or salad.

Here’s how I made this one.

  • Sirloin steak in a marinade of balsamic vinegar and herb blend
  • Sliced red peppers and purple onion
  • Provolone cheese
  • Artisan Bread from Target

First cut the bread in half and toast it in a puddle of olive oil on a hot iron griddle.

Next saute the peppers and onions on the same griddle until softened. Move them to the side and put the steak on the griddle with the marinade. Place the toasted bread face down on the pile of meat and vegetables to steam and keep warm.

After a few minutes, it won’t take long, build the sandwich by covering each slice of bread with provolone cheese. Add a generous pile of meat and vegetables and place the sandwich back on the griddle. Use a bacon press or an iron skillet to press the sandwich to flatten. Turn after a few minutes to brown on both sides.
Cut the sandwich into quarters while still on the grill and serve with balsamic vinegar for dipping.

October 18, 2009 Posted by | Sandwich | , | Leave a comment

Updated Mad Men 60s Style Grilled Cheese

Grilled cheese sandwiches were a staple of lunches and light dinners in the 60s. They are fast and easy. It’s something kids will eat—most of the time. Bread and cheese were almost always in the pantry, so it was a great go-to item in a pinch.

The recipe Mad Men’s Betty Draper, or her “girl” Carla might have served Sally and Bobby was likely made with Rainbow bread, Miracle Whip, American cheese and Oleo. Not bad, but not enough flavor for me these days.
So tonight I was in the mood for a grilled cheese, with a twist. Oh, my gosh! I had no idea this sandwich would be soooo tasty!

Here’s how I made it.
100% Whole Wheat Bread
Cranberry Honey Mustard
Provolone Cheese
Olive Oil

I bought the Cranberry Honey Mustard a few months ago for making homemade salad dressings. This was the first time I put it on a sandwich and it added the perfect zing to this simple grilled cheese sandwich. I will be using this a lot in the future.

First I put my old trusty iron griddle on the burner and turned the heat to medium. This old iron griddle—I think I got it at an estate sale—is about a foot square with shallow sides, ideal for turning sandwiches.

I started with a very generous layer of Cranberry Honey Mustard on two slices of bread. Then a double layer of sliced provolone. I slapped the sandwich together and sprayed the top piece of bread with olive oil and splashed the griddle with olive oil. I put the oiled side of the sandwich on the griddle and sprayed the top of the sandwich with more olive oil.

A few minutes later I cut it into eight little triangles and had eight little bites of creamy cheesy goodness with the sweet tart surprise of cranberry mustard.

October 14, 2009 Posted by | Sandwich | , | Leave a comment

Mad Men Tuna Casserole

I am hooked on Mad Men. This Emmy Award winning AMC original series seems to capture the feel of the early 60s. Before Viet Nam, before the hippies, it was known as the Days of Camelot. I love the styling of the sets, the fashions, the two-martini lunches, not to mention the characters and the stories. The dialog is filled with anecdotal comments that evoke the attitudes of the early 60s. I was just a kid, but it reminds me of Doris Day movies and the fashions of my original Barbie doll.

Much has been made of the cocktails of the 60s, a Manhattan, Gimlet, Old-Fashioned… but not much has been said about the food. A few weeks ago Don Draper came home from work and his wife Betty offered him a late supper. “Hot or cold?” she asked. The options were chicken salad or tuna casserole.

I looked up tuna casseroles in The Joy of Cooking, and The Modern Family Cookbook, as well as a Good Housekeeping cookbook, all with late 50s copyrights. These are cookbooks Betty might have in her kitchen.

It was interesting that all the recipes called for 7 ounce cans of tuna while the cans in my cabinet are only 5 ounces. One simple recipe with only 3 ingredients called for tuna, noodles and white sauce. Simple except the white sauce was homemade, which requires standing over the stove and stirring until the butter, flour and milk are combined to the right consistency. Toppings included corn flakes, potato chips and buttered breadcrumbs. One called for buttered cornflakes. How do you butter a cornflake? Seasonings included Worcestershire, sherry, or curry powder to name a few.

Some recipes layered the ingredients into the casserole dish, others mixed them first. I used a combination of methods, layering and combining, when I came made my casserole this morning.

Here are the ingredients you’ll need.

  • Noodles
  • 2 cans Tuna
  • 2 cans Celery Soup
  • Onion
  • Celery
  • Red Pepper
  • Olive Oil
  • Frozen Peas
  • Milk
  • Asiago Romano Cheese
  • Seasoned Bread Crumbs
  • Almond Slivers
  • Green Onions
  • Green Olives
  • Tabasco Sauce (optional)
  1. Boil water for noodles and preheat oven to 375°.
  2. Dice equal amounts onion, red pepper and celery—about 1/2 C each—and sauté in a splash of olive oil, preferably in an iron skillet.
  3. Drain noodles/pasta and rinse in cool water. Drain again.
  4. Pour a splash of olive oil into the casserole and brush to cover bottom and sides.
  5. Put the noodles/pasta in a layer on the bottom of the dish.
  6. Spoon the sautéed veggies on top of the noodles.
  7. Sprinkle a layer of frozen peas over the top of the veggies.
  8. Open the soup and tuna and dump them into pasta pan to combine. Don’t drain the tuna and add a splash of milk if the mixture is too thick.
  9. Pour the combined soup/tuna mixture on top of everything in the casserole. Spread to cover all the edges.
  10. Sprinkle a topping of almond slivers/crumbs over the top of the casserole.
  11. Top it all with a layer of dried seasoned breadcrumbs.
  12. Bake about 30 minutes until heated through.
  13. Remove from oven and garnish with grated Asiago Romano cheese, diced green onion, and sliced green olives.
  14. Wait at least 15 minutes before serving,
  15. Top each serving with more cheese, a sprinkle of almonds and fresh grated black pepper.

This casserole can be made a day ahead and refrigerated. Warm to room temperature and add the almonds and breadcrumbs before placing in the preheated oven.

Make individual portions by assembling in mini loaf pans. To freeze, press plastic wrap to the surface of each casserole and seal each tightly with aluminum foil.

If desired, splash each portion with Tabasco Sauce before serving.

Divide leftovers into serving size containers for brown bagging. Heat in the microwave, but don’t over cook or the noodles may end up tough and dry. Top with fresh garnishes and it will look and taste fresh from the oven.

October 10, 2009 Posted by | Brown Bag, Casserole, Tuna | | Leave a comment


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