Chicago Red Hot Poppy Seed Buns

IMG_8677There’s nothing like a great hot dog in the summer. I was thrilled to recently discover that Ball Park Franks makes uncured dogs (as do many other companies, but I love the flavor of Ball Park more than many of those others) since I don’t love the idea of eating lots of unnecessary chemicals (although apparently I’m totally OK with eating unknown parts of cow), so we’ve been having our share of hot dogs this year.

We first fell in love with Chicago Dogs 5 years ago during a family trip to the Windy City, when we enjoyed a hotel room takeout lunch that my guys picked up at Portillo’s. For the uninitiated, a Chicago-style hot dog is a Vienna Beef hot dog on a poppy seed bun, topped with yellow mustard, bright green relish, chopped onions, tomato wedges, a kosher dill pickle spear, sport peppers, and celery salt. Here in New England, short of ordering a kit online from Vienna Beef (or paying exorbitant prices at Amazon) it’s hard to get one’s hands on the required shade of relish or the sport peppers, but I can make poppy seed  buns. I found my recipe on the King Arthur Flour site.

My hot dog buns didn’t become the golden brown I was hoping for. I didn’t want them to dry out so I decided to choose taste over looks and pulled the pan out after baking them for an additional minute or so. They were beautifully tender inside, but just didn’t look as picture perfect as I would’ve preferred.

I substituted conventionally colored (let’s call it “blah green”) sweet relish for the Chicago lime green variety, and pickled pepperoncini for the sport peppers (I tried to select a jar with smaller pepperoncini to mimic the size of the sport peppers). They weren’t authentic Chicago dogs but they were close enough for us!

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There’s a hot dog somewhere under all that!

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fresh pineapple salsa

Alert: this post does not describe any home-baked goods.  It’s 100 degrees out today, people.

I love that happy serendipity that occurs when you have the impulse to make something and then you discover that you already have all the ingredients you need to make said something.  Especially when those ingredients are odds and ends that probably wouldn’t have been used in a timely fashion otherwise.  Such was the case when I decided I wanted to make pineapple salsa today.  I had fresh pineapple, half of a Vidalia onion, a lime I bought some time ago for goodness knows what, and a jalapeno and some cilantro from my garden.  And then I found this recipe on the Whole Foods website.  I’ve adapted it slightly, but it’s essentially the same.  I enjoyed it spooned on to some Blue Ginger Black Sesame and Sea Salt Brown Rice Chips I had in my pantry.

Fresh Pineapple Salsa
(adapted from wholefoodsmarket.com)

Makes about 2 cups.

2 cups diced fresh pineapple
1/4 cup chopped cilantro or to taste
1/4 cup finely chopped sweet onion
1 jalapeno pepper, finely chopped
Juice and zest of 1 lime
Sea salt to taste

Toss all ingredients together in a large bowl. Serve immediately or cover and chill until ready to use.

garlic grilled bread and eggplant caponata

More grilled bread, more caponata! I made this to take along on our trip west to see James Taylor at Tanglewood (the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra), although we ended up eating much of it at home the next day since it poured the evening of the concert and it was difficult to handle a large golf umbrella and a glass of wine and bread and caponata all at once.

Like the earlier grilled bread and caponata, these recipes were from King Arthur Flour’s Bakers’ Banter. This dough was made with garlic-infused olive oil and contained no cheese. It also had a higher ratio of semolina to flour which gave it more of a pita bread (without the pocket) texture — chewier and less soft than the Asiago bread. Sadly, the garlic flavor was so subtle as to be barely discernible. I wasn’t crazy about this bread and found myself wishing for the Grilled Asiago Rounds.

The eggplant caponata was very like the zucchini caponata I made before, just with eggplant instead of zucchini. The chunks were a little less defined (mushier) than in the zucchini caponata — just a little different but still very tasty.

stromboli!


L. is a sucker for calzones. However, sometimes calzones from the local House of Pizza aren’t in the budget. I made this stromboli from The Best Make-Ahead Recipe this week for dinner for “Guys’ Night.” Guys’ Night is what the guys have when I have book club. Usually the offerings are take-out or something somewhat decadent at least, but neither were in the cards this week so I thought I’d try to come up with something worthy instead. I was able to make the stromboli earlier in the day and refrigerate it so they could just pop it in the oven in the evening.

I prepared my stromboli with browned ground beef, turkey pepperoni and bacon bits. An odd combo, I know, but it’s what I had kicking around in the fridge! L. and P. had it with a little (jarred) marinara on the side. It was very well-received!

Giada’s Dirty Risotto

I snagged Giada De Laurentiis’ recipe for “Dirty Risotto” from the Food Network website. Up until now, my risotto experimentation has lent itself mostly to vegetarian fare. Not deliberately, but lately that’s what I had been emphasizing and/or working on. Needless to say, these experiments have not been soundly well-received by the manfolk, nor the teen manfolk in the house. So I was intrigued by this recipe, since it has Italian sausage as one of its ingredients. I also liked that it didn’t in fact contain chicken liver, unlike the Dirty Rice of my barbecue restaurant cook days from high school. I followed the recipe closely (even using pancetta, where up to this point I have been substituting bacon for pancetta in every recipe I’ve come across. Sorry, it’s just that I couldn’t find the pancetta in my store and was too unmotivated to ask someone.). The only thing I didn’t include was the fresh Italian parsley (I’ve found my shopping list writing brain blanks out when it sees fresh Italian parsley in a recipe — and many other fresh herbs as well. I don’t recall ever making a conscious decision not to buy it; I don’t even recall ever reading it in the ingredients.).

Anyway, it was well-received. P. raved about it — “better than soup, stew, or whatever!”, and L., after asking “we’re having risotto, and what else???”, had multiple helpings. So thanks, once again, to Giada, for a well-conceived recipe.