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Monday, September 19, 2016

Italian Grill - Marinated Ribeye Tagliata

We don't eat a lot of red meat in our house but when we do, we go all out. With summer on the way out and our barbecuing days numbered, I decide to use our favorite grill book, Mario Batali's Italian Grill as inspiration for a pair of beautiful Ribeyes I'd spotted at the butcher earlier that day. I was in the market for a T-bone (check out our previous success with Bistecca alla Fiorentina herebut they were out. 

When it came time to think about how to prepare my Ribeyes, I decided to lightly adapt Mario's marinade for Tagliata. As he will tell you, Tagliata refers not to the type of Steak itself but simply that it will be served in slices. We presented ours as the book suggests, cut into thick strips and plated alongside lightly dressed arugula leaves.
Italian Marinated Ribeye - Photo: NK 

This marinade will work well whether you let it sit in the fridge for the recommended 12 hours or just 4 to 6 hours as I did. The sugar in helps create a lovely char on the meat and balances the salty, garlicky flavors nicely. I hope that you enjoy this winner of a meal and that like us, you make the most of the remaining grilling season in the waning days of summer. Buon appetito! 

Italian-Style Marinated Ribeye 
Lightly adapted from Mario Batali's Italian Grill
Serves 3-4


2 1.25 Ounce Ribeyes (About 1.5 to 1 and 3/4 inches thick) 
3 large or 6 Small Cloves of Garlic, peeled and very finely minced (or put through a press)
1 teaspoon minced fresh Rosemary 
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1 teaspoon Sugar
1/2 teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper Flake
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
(Arugula for serving) 

Mix together all the dry ingredients in a small bowl and then add the Olive Oil. Mix to form a paste (adding more Olive Oil if needed). Slather Steaks all over with marinade, cover in Saran Wrap and let sit in the fridge at least 4 hours, but preferably 6-12 hours or overnight. 

Allow to sit at room temperature up to an hour before grilling. Grill on a charcoal or gas grill according to this grill guide, flipping it midway in between. Allow the meat to rest for 10 minutes before serving, the cut it against the grain in 1 inch thick slices. Serve on a platter over Arugula or dark, leafy greens of your choice dressed in a bit of Olive Oil and a sprinkle of Salt. Enjoy! 

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Return of a Classic - Prosciutto & Melon

"This is sooo good. Remember when prosciutto and melon was the first course at every wedding you went to for 10 years straight? " I hadn't really thought about it this way but my sister-in-law was absolutely right. I'd just served the most unimaginative starter ever. 

Was my cuisine dated? Was I a hack? All these thoughts crossed my mind as I set about putting an even bigger dent in the bottle of rose we'd been draining by the minute.  Thankfully it only took another bite of the paper-thin, velvety prosciutto against the sweetest and most fragrant Sugar Kiss Melon to come back to reality. Nah, I'm not a hack. This is beyond delicious.

Prosciutto & Melon, Photo: NK

And so it goes with the classics, t
hose easy dishes that enjoy great popularity, sometimes to their detriment, they're classic for a reason, but that's not an excuse to phone it in. When you're serving a starter thats simplicity has made it exceedingly popular, it's all about the execution. If you miss the mark there, you'll find yourself in lukewarm wedding banquet territory in the blink of an eye.

I'll give you an example: Pigs in a Blanket are everyone's favorite casual party bite. Even when they're bad, they're good, but how much better and more memorable are they when they're great? My philosophy is simple: if you're going to serve something that's been done to death, make sure it's the best they ever had, or close! To that end, here
 are a few great Pigs in a Blanket Recipes with a twist HERE and HERE.

As for the ubiquitous Prosciutto & Melon itself, it's actually a pretty classic and legit Italian starter, not just popular here in America. While you're feeling go about that, check out my easy tips on how to do this rightfully well-loved dish justice.

Prosciutto & Melon, How To:

Only the best. If you can, spend a little extra on the Imported Prosciutto. Here in America, we only see a few types consistently (San Daniele or di Parma, for example), but there are actually inumerable varieties of Italy's king of the cured meats. Secondly, do not, I repeat, do not attempt this dish if your Melon isn't perfectly ripe and gorgeous. We used Sugar Kiss Melon, which is like a Cantaloupe but smaller, because it's in-season now. If Honeydew is better, use that. And finally, if you can't find ripe Melon or the season is just off, serve something else. This dish only sings when each individual component is at its peak (that principle also happens to be the essence of fresh, simple Italian cuisine). 

Consider your format. Is your dish for a cocktail party, a sit down first course, a passable hors d'oeuvre?? Decide on how your presentation will best fit the needs of your guests. In other words, how will you cut your Melon? When served individually, Prosciutto and Melon will usually be presented as one large wedge of Cantaloupe with a ribbon of Prosciutto draped around it. In today's dish, we opted for a sharable platter of Melon cut quite small as you see above - two or three bites a piece, because our event was a casual Barbecue. For a cocktail party, throw the ingredients right on a stick

Don't forget plating.  So, so important and a key commandment here at Neurotic Kitchen! Good plating can make the difference between lazy and luxurious. Take your time with it, sketch it out even, and, please, don't forget to garnish. I always add something green to my Prosciutto and Melon, such as Mint (my favorite, pictured above), Italian Parsley, or baby Arugula. And I never serve this dish without sprinkling the assembled platter or plates with Lemon Juice and then garnishing with Lemon Wedges. Lemon just brings out the flavors even more. 

There you have it. Easy doesn't have to me uninspired. Buon appetito! 

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Simplicity - Grilled, Marinated Calamari Salad

Every season there is at least one dish I make for the first time then repeat over and over again. What can I say? I'm a creature of habit. Once I find something I like, I see no problem with enjoying it multiple times, often in quick succession. My high school and college friends can attest; I ate the same lunch almost every day for a year at a time. This doesn't mean I don't like variety, and that's what's so beautiful about all the fresh Summer Salads you see here today.

Lemon Marinated then Grilled Calamari, Greenleaf and Florida Lettuce, Thin Sliced Radishes, Nectarines, Cucumbers, Grilled Corn,  Vidalia Onion with a Lemon Vinaigrette. Photo: NK 

Marinated & Grilled Flank Steak Over Peaches, Radishes, Greenleaf And Florida Lettuce, Shaved Zucchini,
Fresh Sliced and Fried Shallots and a Parsley Garnish Photo: NK

While the Grilled Calamari Salad Recipe we will share below was the clear winner, we enjoyed several other protein variations (with Shrimp and even Marinated Flank Steak) throughout the course of this summer season. Turns out that almost any well cooked (ideally a little charred) grilled item tastes amazing over fresh, seasonal and, best of all ,colorful summer produce. 

So I know you're with me in declaring 2016 "The Summer of Salad." 

You see, I love vegetables. I love them as much or more than meat and fish, but that doesn't mean I want to have to choose. Creating easy yet elegant lunches and dinners using salad as a base is a great way to lighten up summer fare and highlight the best produce the season has to offer. Plus, if you're into the low carb thing, (no pasta?) this sure does the trick!

Below you'll find plenty of ingredient inspiration for a few of our favorite summer lunch salads plus the recipe for the Simply Grilled, Marinated Calamari that starred in so many fantastic meals. 

Note: All of the salads you see bleow are lightly dressed with a simple Lemon (or Orange) Vinaigrette (below). For the Orange variation just sub out all Lemon ingredients with Orange Juice and Zest in Equal Measure and add a drop or two of Vinegar to taste. 

Simple Lemon Vinaigrette

Recipe By Epicurious

Grilled Calamari (Marinated in Orange & OIive Oil), Oranges, Redleaf and
Greenleaf Lettuce,  Purple Cherokee Heirloom Tomatoes, 

Radicchio, Black Olives, Radishes, Photo: NK 

Prepping the Marinated Flank Steak Salad - Sliced Peaches, Thin Sliced Radishes,
Raw Zucchini Shaved on a Vegetable Peeler
Photo: NK 

Simply Marinated & Grilled Calamari
Serves 2-3 atop a salad of your choice 

1 Pound Cleaned Squid (Calamari), tubes and tentacles
1 Tablespoon Lemon Juice
Zest of 1 Lemon 
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil 
Salt & Pepper to Taste 

Preheat a grill or grill pan until very hot. If using an outdoor grill place a grill pan on it to preheat (Squid will fall through the grates otherwise) 
Place Squid in a Ziploc Bag or airtight container. Add marinade ingredients and let sit in the fridge 30 minutes to a half hour.

Place Squid on a hot grill pan and cook until golden in parts, a few minutes per side. Squid will be opaque, firm but not rubbery. Serve over Vinaigrette Dressed salad, plus a little Salt to taste, and enjoy! 

Monday, August 15, 2016

Health Break! - Chocolate Coco-Nut Chia Bites

I eat pretty well at home and really terribly at work. Why? I have zero impulse control. When sweet treats are presented to me, as they seem to be nearly every day at the office, I have an absolutely pitiful chance of resisting. At home, the solution is simply not to buy them, but in my office, well, that's where I really get in trouble. Between so many coworker celebrations and the reality that our office kitchen has become the de facto dumping ground for everyone's no-no foods (leftover cake from a weekend birthday, surplus goods from an at home baking binge, candy that you just want to get out of your house), it's a wonder I ever get out of there without a forbidden food in my hand. Happily though, I have found that I can make it a safer and less tempting place if I only come prepared.  

Chocolate Coco-Nut Chia Bites, Photo: NK 

Having a healthy and satisfying sweet on hand for that post-lunch sugar craving helps me from feeling deprived. And making something no-bake that's super fast is a huge help in all of our busy lifestyles. It's in this spirit of disciplined snacking that I set out to jump on the Energy Bite bandwagon. 

These tempting, chocolatey little energy Bites serve two purposes - they're  naturally satisfying your sweet tooth while also giving you a little boost. They're also Vegan, have no added sugar and are fairly nutritious thanks to Nuts, Chia and Coconut Flake and Coconut Oil. Best of all, you can make them in under ten minutes using a food processor. They can be stored up to two weeks in an airtight container in the fridge. 


Chocolate Coco-Nut Chia Energy Balls 
Adapted from Gimme Some Oven
Makes about 22 1-inch Energy Bites

2 Cups of Pitted Medjool Dates (Medjools are nice and soft) loosely packed, about 12 Dates
1 Tablespoon Ground Chia Seed (you could sub in ground Flax Seed as well) 
2 teaspoons Coconut Oil 
1/2 Cup Unsweetened Coconut Flake (we prefer Bob's Red Mill)  
1/3 Cup Unsweetened Cocoa Powder (Hershey's works fine)
1/4 Cup Hazelnuts, Almonds, Pecans or similar -- I prefer Hazelnuts or Almonds 
1 teaspoon high quality Vanilla Extract 
1 Tablespoon Water 

Place all ingredients in a Food Processor and process until relatively smooth except for some bits of nuts. The mixture will naturally clump and you may have to carefully scrape down the sides. (Optional Mix-In: you could also bulk this up by adding a tablespoon or two of Rolled Oats moistened with a little Almond Milk or Water)

To form, place a piece of wax or parchment paper on a surface and using a small spoon, scoop out the batter and form into 1-inch balls by rolling in your palm. Place each ball on the paper. Optionally sprinkle with additional Coconut Flake. When done (you should have 20-22), remove to an airtight container and chill in the fridge until ready to eat! 

Bites will stay up to 2 weeks refrigerated in a sealed container! 

Nutrition: Per Bite - 63 Calories, 11g Carbs, 2.5g Fat, 1g Protein, 8.5g Sugar