Tag Archives: fontina

Grilled Eggplant Carpaccio Stuffed with Arugula and Fontina and a *Free* Bottle of Olive Oil

Living in the city, I find that I’m often on guard. This is especially true in my neighborhood, which proudly boasts the most diverse zip code in the USA, but also has the (not so) occasional high-speed car race / gun fight. It’s not really that bad…this is Seattle we’re talking about after all, not Detroit or St. Louis, but it’s also not leave your windows open, drop your bikes in the front yard, walk alone at midnight, small town Americana.

One of my favorite Summer Salads: Mozzarella, Basil, and Heirloom Tomatoes, Drizzled with Olive Oil and Finished with Salt and Pepper

This is why the friendships that we’ve built with the people in our neighborhood are so extraordinary. Perhaps it takes a certain type of person to live in a transitional neighborhood, so there’s some kind of natural pre-selection, but in our little microcosm of the city we’ve managed to create a small town feel, where keys to each other’s homes are shared, dog walks are traded, and calling the neighbor for a cup of sugar is welcomed and often completed with a glass of wine to boot.

In the summer this results in impromptu BBQs, days at the lake, and of course the inevitable doggy play dates. All the gals have made a pact that they won’t fuss about cleaning their house before others come over (though this goes against every bone in my body and occasionally results in an eye twitch), and we’ve all become comfortable enough in each other’s kitchens that taking over a quick salad production or setting the table is second nature.

Getting ready for our most recent feast…three hours of eating, drinking, and laughing.

Perhaps somewhere deep, deep inside me I’ve got some Italian grandmother or something, because I love nothing more than feeding a crowd. Sitting outside with finally snoring puppies at our feet, as evening sets in, and the fire begins to crackle, feels like near perfection.

These appetizers are admittedly a bit of work, but are such a wonderfully unexpected combination of flavors I find myself craving them often. The combination of a mandolin and sliced fontina cuts down on the preparation time significantly, and with a few extra hands these can be quickly whipped together.

GIVEAWAY: The olive oil you use in these is key, which is why I’m very excited to be able to offer one reader a bottle of their choice from the spectacular California Olive Ranch. I’m partial to the Arbequina, which is what I used in this dish, but they have a wonderful selection pending on what you want to do with it. Will happily ship anywhere in the United States.

HOW TO ENTER: Simply share this post using whatever social media channel you prefer (Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Messenger Pigeon) and then provide the link to your share in the comment section. Easy as that!

DEADLINE: Friday, August 24th. Winner will be chosen at random and announced on Monday the 27th.

Grilled Eggplant Carpaccio Stuffed with Arugula and Fontina
Makes approximately 15 – 20 appetizers, pending on the size of the eggplant, but these things go like hot cakes, so plan accordingly

Grilled Eggplant Carpaccio, Stuffed with Fontina and Arugula and Drizzled with Arbequina Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar

1 large eggplant, top and bottom chopped off

Extra Virgin Olive Oil, best you can afford, I used California Olive Ranch because I’m currently obsessed with their Arbequina variety

Coarse Salt & Pepper

Sliced fontina cheese (if pre-sliced size cut in half so doesn’t lay over the eggplant)

1/2 bag baby arugula

Balsamic vinegar

  1. Using a mandolin, cut the eggplant lengthwise into thin strips and place slices on a cookie sheet.
  2. Brush each side generously with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Let rest for 30 minutes.
  4. Heat BBQ and grill eggplant on both sides for about 4-6 minutes or until soft and nicely marked.
  5. Place cheese in center of each eggplant slice and keep on grill until cheese begins to melt.
  6. Remove from grill and return to cookie sheet.
  7. Place small bunch of arugula, perpendicularly, on top of each slice and roll up lengthwise.
  8. Drizzle with more olive oil and balsamic and serve warm or room temperature.


Filed under Appetizers, Entertaining, Giveaways, Uncategorized

Day 30: Gourmet Meatball Subs

I can be a bit of a snob sometimes.

I don’t mean to be, but there are moments when seemingly out of my control, my East Coast upbringing kicks in and up my nose turns. It might be the result of poor manners, tacky decorating, or bad food. You know what I mean…those meals they served in elementary school like Sloppy Joes or Tuna Casserole? Up until a short period of time ago I would have included Meatball Subs in the shun-worthy category. That is…until I tried the recipe from the “Tartine Bread” cookbook.

Tartine Bread

The book that changed it all

These things are amazing. Granted…the addition of pesto, fontina, and arugula definitely provide for a lift in status, but in addition to that they’re just really dang tasty.

Having reached Day 30 of my “Month of Exploration” these feel like the perfect culinary representation of what I’ve learned: Faster isn’t always better, glamorous isn’t always worth it, and sometimes it’s okay to admit you’re happy with just plain ‘ol good.

Serve these for a casual weeknight dinner with friends paired with a great bottle of red wine, such as a Malbec.

Gourmet Meatball Subs, adapted from Tartine Bread to make a bit easier to prepare and lactose free

Serves 6

3 TB Olive Oil

1 large white onion, chopped

1 lb ground beef with at least 20 percent fat

1 pound ground pork

4 large eggs

2 cups panko bread crumbs

1/2 cup chopped parsley

1 1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

1/4 tsp red pepper flakes

3 cloves garlic, chopped

Two 16-ounce cans chopped tomatoes (splurge on the good, organic option)

6 crusty sub rolls, or one large crusty baguette cut, split in half lengthwise

Good pesto, store-bought (yes, homemade is better, but for a Wednesday, store-bought is just fine)

6 slices fontina

2 cups baby arugula

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease a 9×12 baking dish. To make the meatballs, in a large deep skillet over medium-low heat, warm 2 TB of the olive oil. Add the onions and saute until they are translucent and beginning to color, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool. In a large bowl combine the beef, pork, eggs, panko, parsley, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, and cooled onions. Mix well to combine. Form the meat mixture into balls the size of golf balls. Add to the baking dish and bake until cooked through, but not overcooked, about 25 minutes.


Ingredients for the meatballs

Meanwhile, in the onion skillet add the remaining 1 TB olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute for about 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and deglaze the pan, stirring with a wooden spoon to scrape up the browned residue. Bring the tomatoes to boil and reduce the heat to very low. Add the cooked meatballs to the pan and simmer for 20 minutes, turning occasionally.

Simmering meatballs

Simmering meatballs

Spread the top half of each roll with the pesto spread. Add the cheese to the bottom half (skipping if you’re making lactose free) and top with meatballs and sauce. Add the top back on and loosely wrap in aluminum foil. Bake until the cheese has melted and the bread is crispy and toasted, about 25 minutes. To serve, unwrap from the foil, top with fresh arugula, and offer extra sauce for dipping.


Filed under Comfort Foods, Lactose Free, Month of Exploration

Walking, Weeping, and Wine: Grilled Reubens and Steamed Artichokes for One

Lucky The Dog, 2/14/1999 - 9/27/2010

Lucky The Dog, 2/14/1999 – 9/27/2010

I have been partaking quite a bit lately in the three ‘Ws’: Walking, weeping, and wine. Not someone who I would normally categorize as a crier (my cousin actually confessed to me the other day that while she’s of course saddened by what I’m going through right now, it has made me less of an “ice queen”), these past few weeks I have wept. The kind of tears that you try to hold back that seem to break down the walls and come out your teeth. I have wept for many reasons (the first year of marriage is so much harder than anyone tells you, the economy sucks, I recently discovered that I think I’ve grown a pair of love handles) but most palpably, most defensibly, I have wept for my dog.

[Caveat: To those new readers of Shut Up And Cook…first of all, welcome! I’m glad you’re here. Secondly, I promise I’m not usually this mopey, sappy, and long-winded. But for now…I am, so bear with me.]

To those who knew him, Lucky The Dog was a hell of a guy. I know that everyone thinks their dogs (and kids for that matter) are special and unlike any before them, but in the case of Lucky he really was. Won in a card game in Roxbury in 1999, he soon became the fixture of my husband’s life, and then mine. We lived in NY together, we traveled all over, and then in 2005 we moved to Seattle. A most dapper fellow, he could woo the biggest dog critic, with his quiet, self-assured, and utterly loving ways. When people saw a scary Pitbull walking down the street they would pick up their little dogs and scowl at us. What they didn’t know was that later that night our friend’s two year-old would be feeding him goldfish one by one, out of her tiny little palm. There was not a mean bone in Lucky’s body, but more than that, was his ability to intuit that around him. And, he was a damn champion snuggler.

These past few weeks we have watched in disbelief as his body failed him. His mind, still present, but increasingly fatigued, was still there, which was why the decision to put him to sleep was so excruciating. We agonized over whether we were doing the right thing, or not, and just when we were convinced we were, he would look at you in his entirely Lucky Dog way, as if to say, “what the hell is all this crying about??”.

I’ve always been a huge proponent of the miracle of endorphins, so as things got worse at home, as Lucky struggled more and more to climb to the stairs, or go for a ride, I found myself out walking. Walking in the rain, walking in the dark, walking with friends and family, and walking alone. I would walk, I would weep, and I would come home and open a bottle of wine. (Incidentally, I’ve always wished I could be one of those people who magically loses 5 or 10 lbs when grieving, but apparently, my genes don’t work like that. Curses.)

This past Thursday, at 3a in the morning, Lucky tried to climb the 1 foot into our bed and crashed over. An unbelievably stoic dog who could hardly stand any sort of embarrassment (think plaid fleece jackets for NY winters), he now was relegated to being carried around. After we lifted him into bed, my husband and I lay there next to each other not talking. Though no one said it, I think we both knew that the upcoming weekend would be Lucky’s last.

We made the decision that the vet should come Tuesday, and then spent the rest of the weekend in a sort of “dead man walking” induced fog; trying to be positive around Lucky, delivering Egg McMuffins to him in bed, walking, weeping, drinking wine, and trying to prepare ourselves for the unpreparable. In sitting down and trying to do a meal plan, I found that I was literally unable because I could only think of Sunday as two days before Tuesday, Wednesday as the day after…

Monday morning came and my husband emailed me at work to say that he thought it was time. Lucky wasn’t getting any better, and we owed him too much to let him suffer unnecessarily. I somehow managed to keep it together at work until 2p when I left, put on my big sunglasses, burst into tears, and began the drive home cursing every light and every bad driver that delayed me from spending one more minute with my Lucky.

I will spare you the agonizing details of our goodbye, the vet’s arrival, Lucky’s departure, and Onca’s confusion, but suffice it to say that it was peaceful. And kind. And loving. And truly awful. When it was over we loaded up into the Landcruiser, and we drove up into the mountains, to a spot that Lucky had enjoyed and loved for years. Digging a hole and bidding our sweet friend goodbye, we wished for him to come back, and made vows to get a 110 year tortoise next time as pet. We came out of the mountains as the stars were appearing, and returned home to our seemingly empty, off-balance house. Tumbling into bed with tired hearts and tired bodies, we slept.

Awaking this morning to a king size bed seemingly too large and too empty, Matt and I lay there next to each other, again silent, as though trying to summon the urge to get up and put one foot in front of the other. Just when I wondered if it would be possible, I heard that tell-tale sound…of Onca throwing up. Leaping out of bed, stubbing my tow, and dashing downstairs scantily clad I found Onca heaving up the rawhide bone (which she is not allowed to have because they make her throw up) that we had gotten for Lucky on his last day and he had uncharacteristically refused. And in that moment, because it was the only thing left I felt I could do, I laughed. And then I thanked Onca for reminding me just how much there still is in this little world of mine.

An avid proponent of the merit of comfort food, I just didn’t have it in me tonight. I did however, have a Costco size bag of artichokes (they’re surprisingly delicious and affordable there) and the fixings for the ultimate sandwich, The Reuben. Popping open a bottle of red wine, I quickly started the artichokes (which take FOREVER in my impatient opinion), assembled the reubens, and sat down alone to an appropriately sorrow filled dinner. As my mama says, “trust the process”.

Lucky's Final Resting Place
Lucky’s Final Resting Place

Grilled Reubens and Steamed Artichokes for One

Serve when you need to feel pampered a bit, but don’t have the energy for lots of dishes or fussy prep work.


  1. Rinse the artichokes well to remove any lingering dirt.
  2. Trim the stem to about 2 inches.
  3. Trim the top of the artichoke to remove any particularly prickly leaves. N.B – I’d never actually done this because I thought it seemed silly and unnecessary, but I did tonight and it actually does make eating it more pleasant.
  4. Fill a medium sized pot with about 1/3 water and set in a steamer so about 1 inch of water is just covering it.
  5. Add the prepared artichoke, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook until tender. These artichokes took about 45, although larger ones can take up to an hour. Make sure you have enough water in the pot so that it doesn’t boil off.

Grilled Reubens:

2 slices dark rye bread of good, hearty quality

2 TB butter

1/4 lb corned beef (I prefer to make my own, but you can get it sliced at the butcher…go for Boars Head, it’s worth it)

2 slices cheese, flavor of your choosing (Swiss is traditional, but I prefer Fontina…or if you’re lactose intolerant, that weird soy crap)

1/4 cup sauerkraut, slightly drained, I like Bubbies

1-2 TB Russian or Thousands Island Dressing

1 TB mayonnaise (because yes, everything IS better with mayo)

  1. Butter one side of each slice of bread. Put one slice, butter side down, in a cast iron skillet, and add the corned beef, cheese, and Russian Dressing. Top with second slice of bread.
  2. One a medium to low flame, cook until golden brown, and cheese melted.
  3. Remove from heat, remove the top slice of bread, add the mayo and saurerkraut, return top slice, flip over (so it doesn’t get soggy, a huge reuben pet peeve) and serve.


Filed under 15-Minute-Meals, Comfort Foods, Lactose Free, Uncategorized