Category Archives: grilling

Gorgonzola Stuffed Strip Steaks


It is Fast Friday again and time for another fast and fabulous dinner suggestion. If you are anything like me, by the time Friday rolls around the last thing you want to do to cook a big meal yet we all still have to eat. The dishes featured in this series aren’t necessarily fancy but they bring together simple ingredients most people already have in their pantries or have easy access to and allow you to put a real meal on the table in between 30 and 45 minutes. Enjoy and if you have your own fast recipes you want to share, please send them my way and I will in turn share them with all of my readers.

Here in Albania cuts of meat rarely resemble those we are used to in the United States.  Some restaurant menus claim to serve rib eyes or strip steaks but they are often unrecognizable as such.  The cuts of beef here also tend to be much leaner meaning they are missing the rich marbling that makes a steak a steak.  When real beef cravings hit we dip into our stash of American cuts of beef that we imported from the Navy commissary in Naples, Italy.  These steaks are little pieces of home and we savor every bite.

These gorgonzola stuffed steaks only appear complicated.  In reality they can be put together in minutes so you can have dinner on the table in minutes.  They are just as good for a quick Friday night meal as they are for a more formal dinner.  If you want to get really fancy and mimic a real American steak house,  you can top them with sautéed mushrooms.  I like to serve these with baked potatoes and a green veggie.  Yum!


4 New York Strip Steaks, trimmed

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium red onion, minced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 cup mascarpone cheese

1/3 cup crumbled gorgonzola cheese

1/4 teaspoon Tabasco sauce

Salt & pepper to taste

  • Preheat a grill to high heat.
  • Carefully cut a large slit in the side of each steak to form a pocket.  Be careful to not cut all the way through the steaks.  Set aside.
  • Heat the olive oil in a small sauce pan set over medium-high heat.  Add the onion and garlic and stirring occasionally, saute until soft and translucent.
  • When then onions are soft, stir in the mascarpone and gorgonzola cheeses and the Tabasco sauce.  Heat until melted.
  • Sprinkle both sides of the steaks with salt and pepper.  Carefully spoon the cheese mixture into the pocket of each steak.  Do not overfill.  You may have extra cheese sauce.
  • Secure each pocket with two or three toothpicks to help prevent the cheese from seeping out.  (Some will melt out while cooking but that is OK).
  • Carefully place the steaks on the preheated grill and cook 7-8 minutes per side or until done to your liking.
  • Remove from the grill and allow to sit for 2-3 minutes.  Remove the toothpicks before serving.

Yield:  4 servings

Rosemary & Red Wine Beef Kabobs


There is something about eating food off a stick that simply makes it more fun. And when that food is delicious it is even better. Kabobs make a regular appearance on my dinner table since they are fun, easy and because everything is cut into bite sized pieces before cooking, fast. Just about anything can be skewered and grilled –from meats to fruits and vegetables. You can even personalize each skewer by adding the ingredients each family member likes.

I love these colorful beef and pepper skewers and the secret to their intense flavor is a generous amount of fresh rosemary. And fresh is key since dried rosemary won’t yield the same bright flavors. Choose a robust dry wine to serve as the base of your marinade, after all you will want to drink what is left with your meal.


1 cup dry red wine

2 tablespoons honey

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 large handful fresh rosemary

1 pound beef, cut into bite sized cubes

1 large sweet onion

1 red bell pepper

1 yellow bell pepper

1 orange bell pepper

1 green bell pepper

  • Combine the wine, honey, black pepper, salt and rosemary in a large sealable plastic bag. Use your hands to kneed the mixture until the honey is dissolved.
  • Add the beef to the wine mixture, reseal the bag and refrigerate for 30 to 60 minutes.
  • When you are ready to cook, coat a gas grill with cooking spray and preheat to medium high heat.
  • Cut the peppers and onion into bite sized pieces.
  • Remove the beef from the marinade and discard the liquid.
  • Skewer the beef and vegetables onto metal skewers, alternating between meat and vegetables as desired.
  • Place the skewers over direct heat and grill, turning every two to three minutes until the meat is cooked to your liking. I cooked mine for 8 minutes.
  • Remove the skewers from the heat and serve.

Yields 6 kabobs

Grapefruit & Pepper Flank Steak w/ Grilled Tomato Salsa

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Grilling season is upon us and here is a dish that can be cooked entirely on the grill meaning no ovens or stove tops to heat up your kitchen. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t heat. In fact, this dish is hot, hot, hot. In a good way of course so if you like your food spicy this is the dish for you. The recipe comes from Saveur Magazine and has two layers of heat, first in the marinade and second in the salsa that accompanies the steak.

The heat in the marinade comes from a Scotch Bonnet pepper which is pureed into the sauce alongside along with the fresh papaya and grapefruit juice. The acids in the fruit juice temper the heat of the pepper but it is still hot. If you prefer less heat, remove the pepper seeds before pureeing or substitute a milder pepper. And of course you want to take care and protect your skin when handling the pepper since its oils could irritate your skin. The heat in the salsa is much more subtle. The jalapeno are grilled alongside the onions, garlic, and tomatoes which gives the vegetables a slightly smokey flavor. Top the steak with the salsa and eat it wrapped in a corn tortilla or place the sliced meat on top of a bed of leafy greens and using the salsa as a dressing. Both versions are great on a hot summer evening.


1 cup roughly chopped papaya
½ cup olive oil
1 Scotch bonnet pepper, stemmed
Juice of 1 large Ruby Red grapefruit
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1½ lb. beef flank steak, trimmed
8 garlic cloves, peeled
3 jalapeño peppers, stemmed
4 plum tomatoes, cored
1 small white onion, cut in half crosswise
1 cup roughly chopped cilantro leaves and stems
Juice of 1 lime
Corn tortillas, warmed, for serving (optional)

  • Place the papaya, half of the oil, the Scotch bonnet, grapefruit juice, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Using a stick blender puree the mixture into a smooth marinade.
  • Pour ⅔ marinade into a gallon-size resealable plastic bag. Add steak and seal bag; set aside to marinate for 30-45 minutes but no longer. Reserve remaining marinade.
  • Heat a charcoal grill to high. Place the garlic, jalapeños, tomatoes, and onions in a grill basket and place on the hottest part of grill, turning as needed, until charred in spots and tender, 1-2 minutes for garlic, 4-6 minutes for jalapeños, tomatoes, and onions.
  • Allow vegetables to cool slightly. Peel jalapeños and transfer to a bowl along with garlic, tomatoes, and onions. Add remaining oil, cilantro, lime juice, salt, and pepper.
  • Use a stick blender to puree into a chunky salsa and transfer to a bowl. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
  • Remove steak from marinade and grill on hottest part of grill, turning as needed, and, using a brush, baste occasionally with reserved marinade until charred in spots and cooked to desired doneness, 10-12 minutes for medium rare.
  • Remove the steak from the grill and allow to rest 10 minutes. Slice steak thinly on the bias; serve with salsa and warmed tortillas, for wrapping, if you like.


Serves 4-6

Lamb, Orange & Chile Kabobs

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Fire up your grill and impress your guests with these flavorful lamb kabobs from The Food Republic. Cinnamon and garlic pair with chili peppers and orange to create a surprisingly tasty combination that is sure to wow. Because they marinade overnight the spices really permeate the meat. Lamb is best but if you can’t find it feel free to substitute a lean cut of beef. This is one of those dishes that takes some planning since the meat does need to marinate overnight. However, once you are ready to grill the meal comes together quickly. (Prep your meat on Thursday night and you could even make this as a Fast Friday dinner). To compliment the flavors and the quick factor, I served these kabobs over a bed of couscous. Yum!



4 double metal skewers

2 1/4 pounds boneless lamb shoulder, trimmed

1/2 cup olive oil

4 cloves garlic, crushed with 1 tablespoon sea salt

2 bay leaves, finely chopped
2 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 large orange
2 red chilies, halved lengthwise and seeded
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
honey, to drizzle
  • Cut the lamb into 2 1/2 inch pieces and place in a large sealable plastic bag.
  • Add the oil, crushed garlic and salt, bay leaves, cinnamon and all spice and seal the bag. Massage the bag with your hands until all of the ingredients are combined and the meat is well coated.
  • Add the orange zest and chiles to the meat then juice the orange and add to the bag.
  • Reseal the bag and allow to sit in the refrigerator overnight.
  • When you are ready to cook, remove the lamb from the refrigerator, season with salt and pepper, and mix well. Allow the mixture to come to room temperature before proceeding.
  • Cut the orange zest and chiles into pieces.
  • Threat the lamb onto skewers alternating with the pieces of chile peppers and orange zest.
  • Preheat a grill to medium-high heat.
  • Grill the skewers over direct heat, turning occasionally until the meat is cooked through, approximately 12 to 15 minutes depending upon your preferred level of doneness.
  • Remove the meat from the grill and drizzle with honey. Tent the meat with foil and allow to sit for 15 minutes before serving.
Serves 4

Bolen’s Barbecue Chicken


Barbecue is a quintessential American meal dating back to the days of George Washington yet it is probably one of the most controversial.  Most people will agree that barbecue involves slow cooking meat over low heat for long periods of time.  From there the  controversy extends to the question of what exactly constitutes barbecue and how does one go about doing it properly?  The answers are as varied as the regions of the United States and how you answer depends upon where you are coming from.

As a New Englander, my idea of barbecue has always involved chicken or perhaps the occasional rib covered with a slightly sweet and spicy tomato based sauce.  In my mind, anything else that is cooked over open flames is considered grilling.  Imagine my surprise when I was newly transplanted to southern Virginia and I learned that the local idea of barbecue involved meat (either beef, pork, or chicken) that had been grilled then shredded and was served on a hamburger bun.  The adding of a sauce, and perhaps coleslaw, was then optional.  This shook my northern roots to the core.

And just as there are different types of barbecue, there are different styles of sauces and seasonings that get put on top of the meat.  The southern part of the United States seems to lay claim to barbecue but even here cooking styles vary by region or state.  Memphis barbecue is pork based and starts with either a dry rub or sauce base known as “dry” or “wet” then the meat is shredded or chopped before serving.  Carolina style is also made of pork that is shredded but tends to be slow smoked with a dry rub with a “wet” vinegar liquid added later during the cooking process.  Kansas City style meat is also dry cooked but served with a thick and sweet tomato and molasses based sauce on the side.  Other states have their own versions on proper barbecue and everyone insists that their version is the only real kind.

To this day, in my mind barbecue is still chicken with a spicy tomato based sauce on top.  This recipe was passed down to me by my mother-in-law.  Although a southerner at heart, this was what her family considered to be barbecue.  The recipe originated with an old family friend and it has been a family staple through the generations ever since.  I was a bit skeptical when I first saw the ingredient list but Glenn assured me that it was the best barbecue sauce he had ever eaten so I agreed to at least try it. I am now a convert and always have a stash of it in our freezer for quick barbecue dinners.  We’ve served it to numerous guests as part of a “traditional American barbecue” experience and they have all loved it as well.  Try it; you won’t be disappointed and you won’t go back to bottled sauce again.


For the Sauce:

1 small can crushed pineapple

42 ounces tomato ketchup

1/3 to 1/2 cup cider vinegar

1 pound dark brown sugar

12 ounces French’s yellow mustard

  • Place all of the ingredients in a large sauce pot.  Using a stick blender puree until smooth.
  • Stirring occasionally, bring to a simmer over medium-low heat.
  • Remove from the heat and use immediately.

Yields:  1 gallon

The sauce can be stored covered for up to one week in the refrigerator or can be frozen for up to six months.  I like to freeze the sauce in individual meal sized portions for later use.  Simply defrost in the refrigerator for one day before using.

For the Chicken:

1 – 1 1/2 cups barbecue sauce

8 pieces of chicken, depending upon your preferences

  • Generously oil a grill and pre-heat to high.
  • Reduce the grill temperature to medium-high and place the chicken over direct heat.
  • Grill for 4 minutes then flip.  After the first flip, bush the chicken with sauce.  The amount of cooking time needed will depend upon the size and thickness of each piece of chicken.
  • Continue to brush the chicken with sauce and flip every 4 minutes until the chicken is cooked through.  The chicken is done when a small knife inserted into the chicken yields clear juice.

Serves 4

Grilled Tomatoes


Sometimes you need to take your veggies to a whole new level and this is the way to do it.  Tomatoes are coming into season here in Albania and there is nothing better than fresh ripe tomatoes.  I can eat them as is but sometimes it is nice to dress them up a bit to make them a more complete side dish.  These tomatoes can be prepared in a matter of minutes and make a nice accompaniment to grilled steak or chicken.  If you don’t have a grill you can cook the tomatoes under a broiler in your oven.


4 large ripe tomatoes, cut into quarters

2 tablespoons olive oil

Salt & freshly ground pepper to taste

2 tablespoons Balsamic vinegar (optional)

  • Preheat a grill to medium-high heat.
  • Drizzle the tomatoes with the olive oil.
  • Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  • Place the tomatoes on the grill and cook for 1-2 minutes per side.  Cook until they are hot.
  • Drizzle with balsamic vinegar if desired.
  • Serve immediately.

Grilled Rib Eye Steaks With Bacon-Blue Cheese Compound Butter


It is Fast Friday again and time for another fast and fabulous dinner suggestion.  If you are anything like me, by the time Friday rolls around the last thing you want to do to cook a big meal yet we all still have to eat.  The dishes featured in this series aren’t necessarily fancy but they bring together simple ingredients most people already have in their pantries or have easy access to and allow you to put a real meal on the table in between 30 and 45 minutes.  Enjoy and if you have your own fast recipes you want to share, please send them my way and I will in turn share them with all of my readers.

As anyone who has spent time in the Balkans knows, good quality meat is often hard to come by.  Local meats are so lean and are rarely marbled with the fat that is necessary to produce juicy and flavorful steaks.  When locals cook their meat they also tend to overcook them by American standards.  We’ve come to the point where we forego ordering steak in restaurants.  Rather, we dip into our stash of American-cut steaks that we bought in the Commissary in Naples, Italy.  They are so flavorful and juicy that they make the overnight ferry ride to Italy worth it.

A grilled rib eye steak is great anytime but this butter is the perfect way to dress up any piece of meat.  This recipe is adapted from on found in Cuisine at Home, a brilliant cooking magazine that forgoes advertisements and contains nothing but recipes, equipment reviews, and technique suggestions.  You can take the butter out in the morning before heading out and when you return at the end of the day  it will be at the perfect room temperature needed to combine all of the ingredients.  Once your butter is soft, this butter comes together in a matter of minutes and will set up while your steaks are grilling.  Alternatively, you can make the butter ahead of time and keep it in your freezer until you are ready to use it.  Either way, all you need to do is add a starch and a vegetable to your plate and you have a complete dinner in no time.


2 Rib eye steaks, trimmed and seasoned with salt and pepper

4 slices thick cut bacon, finely diced

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

2 tablespoons crumbled blue cheese

2 tablespoons red onion, minced

2 teaspoon minced walnuts

1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

1/2 teaspoon garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Salt and pepper to taste

  • Pre-heat a grill to high.
  • While the grill is heating, cook the bacon in a skillet until crisp.
  • Transfer bacon to a paper-towel lined plate.  Reserve 1 tablespoon of drippings.
  • Combine butter, reserved drippings, blue cheese, onion, garlic, walnuts, zest, and Worcestershire sauce.  Season with salt and pepper.
  • Mound the butter mixture onto a piece of plastic wrap.  Roll plastic wrap around butter to form a tight cylinder, then tightly twist ends of plastic wrap.
  • Freeze butter until firm, approximately 30 minutes.
  • Place the steaks on the hot grill.
  • Cook for a total of 8 minutes or to desired level of doneness, flipping the meat every two minutes to ensure even cooking.
  • Slice coins of compound butter and place on top of each steak.

Yields:  1 cup of butter

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