Weekly Winner: A College Staple Graduates With Honors

IMG_1219.JPGThis weekend marks the start of the college football season — Go Buckeyes!!  As I begin to plan our Saturday game day menus and begin to subtly shift my food focus from summer to fall, I can’t help but reminisce about game days on campus at Ohio State.  It was not gourmet (barbecue potato chips and french onion dip).  It certainly wasn’t healthy (chicken wings, chili dogs and beer) but we certainly wouldn’t have traded it for anything.

While in school, I was admittedly not the gourmet cook.  There were a few things that I made from scratch – spaghetti and meatballs being one of them – but for the most part, I lived on frozen chicken patties, macaroni and cheese ….. and ramen noodles.  Who didn’t eat ramen noodles in college?  They are incredibly cheap, relatively instant, and pretty dang tasty!  Another college staple was Chinese takeout.  Again – quick, cheap and tasty.

So imagine my delight when searching for a Friday night pasta dinner recipe that would celebrate the start of College Football season.  What’s this?  Ramen Noodles and Meatballs?  Sounds promising.  What absolutely sealed the deal for me was that these meatballs are made out of pork and have a definite Asian flair.  I certainly was not disappointed.  If you like spaghetti and meatballs, and you like pot stickers — and you are not afraid of combining the two — try this recipe!  I believe it comes from Cuisine at Home.  It’s a college flash back all gussied up and ready for the real world.

Ramen Noodles & Meatballs


For the Meatballs:

1 egg

½ cup panko bread crumbs

2 scallions, trimmed and minced

2 Tbsp minced fresh ginger

1 Tbsp soy sauce

1 Tbsp mirin

1 tsp kosher salt

½ tsp sugar

1 lb ground pork

2 ice cubes

For the Sauce:

2 Tbsp sesame oil

1 bunch scallion whites, trimmed and minced

2 Tbsp each grated fresh garlic and ginger

2 cans diced tomatoes, drained (14.5 oz each)

2 cups low-sodium beef stock

¼ cup soy sauce

1 Tbsp mirin

2 tsp chili garlic sauce

3 pkg dry ramen noodles, seasoning packets discarded (3 oz each)

Sliced scallion greens


For the meatballs, combine egg, panko, 2 scallions, minced ginger, soy sauce, mirin, salt and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer; add pork and ice.

Cover bowl of mixer with plastic wrap and beat pork mixture with the paddle attachment on medium speed until mixture starts coming together and looks pasty, 1 minute. Discard ice cubes. Scoop meatballs with a #30 scoop (2 Tbsp) onto a baking sheet. Chill while preparing ingredients for the sauce.

For the sauce, sear the meatballs in oil in a large sauté pan over high heat until brown on both sides, 5-6 minutes; transfer to a plate. Reduce heat to medium. Add scallion whites, garlic and grated ginger and cook, stirring constantly for 30 seconds. Add tomatoes, beef stock, soy sauce, mirin and chili garlic sauce. Add meatballs and any residual juices on plate; simmer, covered, until meatballs are cooked through, about 12 minutes. Transfer meatballs to a serving dish, cover to keep warm.

Cook ramen noodles as directed (about 3 minutes in boiling water), drain. Toss ramen noodles with sauce and serve with meatballs. Garnish with sliced scallion greens.


Weekly Winner: Perfecting the Perfect Salad



Apparently we are in our “Salad Days” of summer here in Chicago if my last two posts are any indication.  And why not?  It is summer.  It is hot.  The produce is phenomenal now and when life hands you heirloom  tomatoes — well, you make salads.

I believe the perfect salad has got to be the traditional Caprese.  But it is salad that, in my opinion, can truly only be enjoyed in summer when the tomatoes are at their peak.  The styrafoam-no-taste tomatoes of winter and spring just won’t cut it.  But even now, when tomatoes are pure perfection, I had to ask myself: “Is there a way to  improve upon the quintessential, classic combination of ingredients that make up the perfect salad?”  What could possibly make this even better.  Bacon!!!  Truth be told, I find that “bacon” is often the answer to many of life’s ponderables.

So, without further ado, I present this week’s Weekly Winner – Hot Bacon Caprese Salad which comes from Southern Living Magazine.


Hot Bacon Caprese Salad


  • 2 ½ pounds heirloom tomatoes, cut into ½ -inch slices
  • 1 (16-oz.) package fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into ½ -inch slices
  • ½ cup fresh basil leaves
  • 6 thick bacon slices, coarsely chopped
  • 3 to 4 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


  1. Arrange tomatoes and cheese on a serving platter, placing basil leaves between slices. Sprinkle with desired amount of salt and pepper.
  2. Saute chopped bacon in a large skillet over medium heat 6 to 8 minutes or until crisp. Remove from heat, reserving bacon and 2 Tbsp. drippings in skillet. Let stand 1 minute. Add vinegar and oil, stirring to loosen browned bits from bottom of skillet. Sprinkle with 1/2 tsp. kosher salt and 1/2 tsp. black pepper.
  3. Drizzle warm bacon mixture over tomatoes and cheese. Serve immediately.


Weekly Winner: Summer on a Plate


This is another one of those recipes that I just couldn’t believe had not already been inducted into the “Weekly Winner” hall of fame.  This is an absolute staple in our house — especially during the summer, and even more especially as a lunch on the days I head to the Green City Market to do my shopping because I can get everything there.  But apparently, I’ve never written about it.  So here goes.

This salad epitomizes summer.  I have always been a sucker for any form of panzanella salad but this is definitely my favorite.  It just works – nd it could not be easier.  There is also no need to worry about heating up the kitchen as the bread is grilled.  I do believe grilling the bread is vital.  Yes, you could technically bake it, broil it or even just use day-old bread in this salad but it wouldn’t have the smoky, essence of summer that it does with the grilled bread.

The recipe comes from Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food.  During the summer, when tomatoes are at their peak, I could easily eat this everyday.

Tomato and Grilled-Bread Salad

Serves 4


1/2 pound country bread, cut into 3/4 inch thick slices

1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp olive oil

3 large beefsteak tomatoes, cut into 3/4 inch dice

1 cucumber, peeled and cut into 3/4 inch dice

1/4 cup loosely packed fresh basil, torn into bite-size pieces

1 Tbsp red wine vinegar

salt and pepper


Heat grill to medium.  Brush the bread slices on both sides with 2 tablespoons oil.  Grill until lightly charred on both sides, 3-4 minutes.  Let cool slightly, then cut into large cubes.

In a large bowl, toss bread cubes with tomatoes, cucumber, and basil.  Drizzle with vinegar and remaining 1/4 cup oil, and season with salt and pepper.  Toss to combine and serve.


Weekly Winner: It’s A Wrap – Take 2!

I know I’ve written about wraps before, but those were lettuce wraps.  This is my new, favorite bread-type wrap.  It’s hearty, tasty, zippy and just about perfect in every way.  I just feel sort of guilty saying it was the best thing I cooked this week because there was absolutely no cooking done on my part!  All I did was assemble.  So perhaps I should say that this was the best thing I “made” this week.

One note to the recipe (which, by the way, came from Bon Appetit years and years ago), I used smoked turkey breast which I think added even more taste to this already amazing combination of flavors.  Another thing I didn’t do, besides any actual cooking for this recipe, was remember to photograph it! Perhaps I was not anticipating it being so good! So the photo comes from the magazine.

Turkey Wraps with Curry-Chutney Mayonnaise and Peanuts


1 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup mango chutney

1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder (preferably Madras-style)

4 9- to 10-inch-diameter spinach flour tortillas or plain flour tortillas

2 cups diced cooked turkey meat (about 10 ounces), divided

1 cup chopped fresh cilantro, divided

6 tablespoons coarsely chopped lightly salted peanuts, divided

1 1/3 cups coleslaw mix (preferably green and red cabbage with carrots) without dressing, divided


Mix mayonnaise, chutney, and curry powder in small bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Spread 2 tablespoons curry-chutney mayonnaise in 2-inch-wide strip down center of 1 tortilla. Top with 1/2 cup turkey, 1/4 cup cilantro, 1 1/2 tablespoons peanuts, and 1/3 cup coleslaw mix. Fold sides of tortilla over ends of filling, then roll up burrito-style, enclosing filling completely. Repeat with remaining ingredients. Cut each turkey wrap in half on diagonal.