Monday, July 26, 2010

Al's Veggie-Cheese Subs with Olive Relish

Al's Beefs is almost as popular as Portillo's Beefs here in Chicago, and I have to say I prefer Portillo's beef sandwiches. However, Al's has a veggie-cheese sub sandwich that is SO good that I had to find a way to re-create them at home. I started by going to their website which lists the ingredients to the sub including olive relish. But of course they don't list the ingredients for the relish so I had to come up with it on my own. My husband and I have eaten many veggie-cheese subs at Al's, so I was pretty confidant that I could "taste" my way through the building of the recipe for it.

I started by Google-ing olive relish and found one that sounded good and started there. The following is the Al's veggie-cheese sub recipe and following is my version of the olive relish that goes on it.


1 - 6" cut of french bread
2 slices American cheese
1 slice Provolone cheese
olive relish
tomato slices
thin sliced red onion
roasted red peppers (from a jar)

Spread a thin layer of mayo on the entire inside of the roll. Spoon a generous amount of the olive relish on one side of the roll. Cover the inside of the roll with the 2 American cheese slices, put the Provolone in the middle. Then pile in your lettuce, tomato, red onion and roasted red pepper; choose how much of each according to your taste.

8 black olives
6 kalamata olives
2 tbsp. olive oil
3 tbsp. red wine vinegar or sherry vinegar
1/2 tsp. each salt & pepper
1 shallot, minced
1 roasted red pepper (from a jar), diced
splash of red pepper juice from jar
3 large fresh basil leaves, chopped

In a small bowl whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, splash of red pepper juice, salt & pepper; set aside. Chop the olives into small pieces. Add to the vinegar mixture along with the red pepper, shallot and basil. Mix well and let sit in the fridge for at least 2 hours to let flavors blend before using.

You can use your own homemade roasted red peppers if you wish; I used to make my own, but the jarred variety aren't bad and are much easier. Plus I use the juice in this recipe, as well as others. (Keep it in the fridge or keep it even longer in the freezer for your next batch of potato salad or pasta sauce.) I am also lucky enough to have an olive bar at the local grocery store where I can pick up exactly 6 kalamata olives, I hope you are too.

I would also like to send out a WELCOME HOME to my neighbor's daughter K. who just came home from the hospital this past week. She was born at 26 weeks back in April and has beaten all the odds and has come home a very healthy little 6 lb. bundle of joy just before her actual due date! Congrats to my neighbors, J. & J.; little K. is just beautiful!

School starts in a month! Ack!

Happy eating!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Mexican Beef & Bean Casserole with Tomato Corn Salad

Last week when I was looking at recipes for the stuffed peppers I checked out the one in my Betty Crocker cookbook. On the adjoining page this recipe, which sounded easy and yummy, caught my eye. Of course, I had to to have some veggies to go with it and I remembered recently cutting out a veggie salad recipe from Gourmet magazine. It was great with the casserole and I would also consider bringing it as a side dish to a barbeque.


1 lb. lean ground beef
2 cans pinto or kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 - 8oz. can tomato sauce
1/2 cup thick and chunky salsa
1 tsp. chili powder
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Cook beef in a medium saucepan over medium heat 8-10 minutes, breaking up meat into small pieces, until brown; drain off fat. Mix in beans, tomato sauce, salsa and chili powder in ungreased 2 qt. casserole dish. Cover and bake 30 minutes, stirring once halfway through baking. Sprinkle with cheese and put back in oven, uncovered, until cheese is melted.

I only used one can of red beans, I think two cans might be too much. Also, I used Cheddar cheese ILO Mont. Jack, and I used 4 tsp. of chili powder for extra flavor. I think this would also be delicious in a tortilla with lettuce and tomato or as a dip with tortilla chips.


salt & pepper
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp. cider vinegar
1 1/4 lbs. tomatoes, cut into bite size pieces
1 bunch scallions, finely chopped, keeping the white and green parts separate
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
4 cups fresh corn kernels (from about 8 ears)

Whisk together oil, vinegar, 3/4 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. pepper. Toss tomatoes with dressing. While tomatoes marinate, cook white parts of scallions in butter with 3/4 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. pepper in a medium skillet over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 4 minutes. Add corn and saute until just tender, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and cool. When corn is room temp, add to tomatoes and toss with green scallions.

I used frozen corn that I had thawed, but I'm sure fresh would be awesome, just more work than I wanted to do. Also, I used rice vinegar because I was out of cider vinegar, and I used a whole tablespoon, not just a teaspoon. This was delicious eaten right after I made it, but it did not do well in the fridge. The next day the tomatoes were mealy and mushy and unpleasant to eat.

Happy eating!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

My Mother's Day Gift / Stuffed Peppers

No, I didn't get stuffed peppers for Mother's Day! LOL

I received, among other things, the The Complete America's Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook - Every recipe from 10 years of the hit TV show with product ratings and a look behind the scenes. Not to be sacrilegious but this is my new bible. Before each recipe is a little story of what they were trying to achieve as far as taste, ingredients, authenticity and ease of preparation. There are also notes throughout the book on techniques such as brining, use of fond, how to flambe, and more. And at the end are all their favorite products, both food and utensil, from mustard to bread to cheese to vinegar, from skillets to spatulas to food processors to ice cream makers. I LOVE THIS BOOK!

Plus, it has recipes on everything from pastas to steaks to cookies to diner food and everything else in between. But the main reason I love it is because these people have tried everything over and over and are handing me the results so I don't have to do all the guess work myself. That is the gift of time and time is priceless.

So, tonight I made their stuffed peppers recipe, with a few small changes that I will tell you about at the end.

STUFFED PEPPERS from America's Test Kitchen

table salt
4 medium bell peppers, 1/2 inch trimmed off tops, cores and seeds discarded
1/2 cup long grain rice
1 1/2 tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, minced
12 oz. ground beef (80/20)
3 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through a garlic press
1 - 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes, drained, 1/4 cup juice reserved
1 1/4 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese
2 tbsp. parsley leaves, chopped
ground black pepper
1/4 cup ketchup

Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil in a large stockpot over high heat. Add 1 tbsp. salt and the bell peppers. Cook until just soft, about 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the peppers from the pot, drain off the excess water, and place the peppers cut side up on paper towels. Return the water to a boil; add the rice and boil until tender, about 13 minutes. Drain the rice and transfer to a large bowl; set aside.

Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the ground beef and cook, breaking the beef into small pieces with a spoon, until no longer pink, about 4 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Transfer mixture to the bowl with the rice; stir in the tomatoes, 1 cup of the cheese, parsley and salt and pepper to taste.

Stir together the ketchup and the reserved tomato juice in a small bowl.

Place the peppers, cut side up, in a 9-inch square baking dish. Using a soup spoon, divide the filling evenly among the peppers. Spoon 2 tbsp. of the ketchup mixture over each filled pepper and sprinkle with 1 tbsp. of the remaining cheese. Bake until the cheese is browned and the filling is heated through, 25-30 minutes. Serve immediately.

I did not have the diced tomatoes on hand, so I poured an 8 oz. can of tomato sauce into the mix. Also, I had shredded Cheddar instead of Mont.Jack and I omitted the parsley. Also, I used my rice cooker to cook the rice, and I did not make the ketchup sauce, I used a can of Hunt's Spaghetti Sauce (which is basically seasoned tomato sauce) and poured it all over the peppers and around them. We like a lot of sauce and it is terrific over the mashed potatoes I made to go with the peppers. I peeled a 3 pound bag of Yukon Gold potatoes, cut them into small pieces and simmered them for 20 minutes. Then I mashed them with a stick of butter and 3/4 cup half-n-half and salt to taste. YUM! I probably could have just spread them on my thighs, but they taste SO good.

Happy eating!