Love is…

… belting out the words to “I’ll be there for you” at the Bon Jovi concert, and meanwhile your Hubs is pretending your butt is a 6-string guitar.

… texting at 1 am because you “let him loose” for one night, and he’s managed to misplace his keys, his overnight bag, and possibly his dignity, and for some reason he thinks you can help him when you’re a 3-hour drive away.

… buying clothes at Anthropologie without being asked how much you spent. In other words, understanding that every now and then a girl has to have a cute top. Or three.

… knowing our wedding picture is still on his desk at work, even if it hides behind Star Wars figurines or a Geddy Lee bobblehead.

… giving me a high-five when the guy beside me at the Gaslight Anthem concert gives me a free beer. Score!

… keeping secrets together, but not from one another.

… cooking together, even if it means you have to wash most of the dishes.

… letting him taste your BBQ sauce to make sure it’s just right.

… sometimes really simple, and really easy. And sometimes it’s a little bit tricky.

But when the result of your teamwork is one of the best steaks you’ve ever eaten, it is priceless.

Porterhouse Steak w/ Fra Diavolo BBQ Sauce & Pepper-Tomato Salad
Adapted from Bobby Flay via Food; serves 4

as is typical, Hubs always goes to Bobby Flay, Tyler Florence, or his Grill Book when he’s donning an apron. Fra diavolo is a tomato-based sauce generally spiced with chili peppers, and it adds a wonderful flavor to a grilled steak. we only grilled one steak, but kept the sauce & salad amounts the same. the sauce freezes nicely (and will be great on burgers, I’m sure), and we used the rest of the salad later in the week, with snap peas.

printable version

3 T evoo
1 Spanish onion, medium dice
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 T red pepper flakes
1 28-oz can diced tomatoes, with juice
2 T tomato paste
1 c brown sugar
1 T blackstrap molasses
2 T honey
1 T chopped fresh oregano leaves
2 T chopped fresh parsley leaves
2 T chopped fresh basil leaves
salt and pepper
2 grass-fed porterhouse steaks, about 1 1/2-inches thick

Pepper-Tomato Salad
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
salt and pepper
1/4 cup evoo
1 10-oz jar of spicy calabrian peppers in oil (Isola brand)
1 red bell pepper
1 pint cherry tomatoes, sliced in 1/2
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley

BBQ sauce
Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook until soft, about 4 to 5 minutes. Add garlic and red pepper flakes and cook for 1 minute. Add remaining ingredients (through basil), reduce heat to medium-low and cook until thickened, about 35 to 40 minutes. Run an immersion blender through the sauce for a bit to blend ingredients together.

Pepper-Tomato salad
Meanwhile, make pepper-tomato salad. Whisk together vinegar, garlic and a pinch of salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Slowly whisk in the olive oil. Add the peppers, tomatoes and parsley and stir to combine. Adjust seasoning and let sit 30 minutes at room temperature before serving.

Heat grill to high. Season steaks on both sides with salt and pepper. Grill, on 1 side, until crusty and slightly charred, about 4 to 5 minutes. Turn steaks over, close the hood and continue grilling for 6 to 8 minutes for medium-rare doneness. Baste with the sauce during the last few minutes. Remove from the grill and brush with more of the sauce. Let meat rest for 5 minutes, then each steak in two (or into slices) and top with the salad.

I Like Big Buns and I Cannot Lie

beef burgers
Yeah – I know. Just come right out and tell me how you feel. I promise I can take it. A post about a delicious, succulent burger with the best in the midwest kick-you-in-the-ass-spicy-but-also-sweet-bbq sauce – after the 4th of July? After?!! Well, yes. Yes, yes, yes. In fact, heck yes and you bet your bottom dollar, yes.

Because unlike some of you weirdos out there, I like burgers more than just on the 4th. And for those of you out there making chicken and sausage and whatnot over the weekend, what were you thinking? I mean, c’mon. Of the 365 glorious, lovely days in the year, there is one day where eating a burger must fit some sort of requirement to being an American. [I’m not sure where vegetarians fit here…. but maybe the higher powers would let you guys slide if you promise to eat something that at least looks meaty?] So again, on the most American day of the year, you’re eating something that is not the epitome of being American? Uncool, brothas & sistas. T-totally uncool. Although I’m sure they were all tasty. In fact, check out my buddy’s beer can chicken – yummers, right?! And yeah, it’s your food and you can eat what you want to. But for me, this weekend meant one thing on our menu – burgers. Damn good ones too.

bbq sauce ingredients

Once again, I was forced to surrender my apron and toque to the “grillmaster”, aka Chris. I sense that, having spent hours the night before making the grill squeaky clean, he felt entitled to re-christen it, and re-christen it he did. On the up-side, I got to prepare the sauce (and the other ten-thousand things we ate that day as well as things we didn’t eat, like gluten-free pizza which will require another go to perfect.).

bbq sauce

The burgers themselves were semi-ordinary, but thanks to Chris’ scrutiny in shaping and my recommendation to weigh each one to ensure even cooking, they looked downright perfect and could have been delicious as is. The real kicker though, was the sauce. Straight from a Bobby Flay recipe – should I just stop here?

As with all things Flay, this bbq sauce was packed with intense flavor, and a generous punch of heat. Chipotle chiles – smoke-dried jalapenos – and a load of ancho chile powder which together produce a lovely “smoky heat”. You throw in everything else in your basic bbq sauces – vinegar, ketchup, Worcestershire, honey, etc and, as if that weren’t enough, you add in one more level of flavor by finishing it off with a dollop of creamy peanut butter to round off the sauce and add that little hint of sweet.

just off the grill

My recommendation is that you make extra. I tripled the recipe below due to the number of folks at our place, but also to ensure I had plenty leftover sauce for another night of bbq. I was in love with the sauce on the burgers, no doubt, but also think it’d be absolutely mouthwatering on some grilled chicken, ribs, or pulled pork. It should keep for a couple of months in the fridge. But lock your doors – I’m not afraid to steal yours once mine is all gone 🙂

burger close-up

Beef Burgers w/ Peanut-Chipotle BBQ Sauce
Adapted from Food & Wine, July 2009; serves 4

printable recipe

We served our big burgers n’ buns with a spicy jicama and Napa cabbage slaw and baked sweet potato fries sprinkled with cayenne pepper. And if you can locate heirloom tomatoes, spend the extra buck or so and slap those on your patty as well.

1 T canola oil, + some for brushing
1 onion, diced
2 T fresh ginger, minced

1 c tomato puree
2 T ketchup
1 T red wine vinegar
1 T Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 T Dijon mustard
2 T honey
2 T molasses
3 T ancho chile powder
1 canned chipotle in adobo, minced*
spoonful of adobo from can
1/2 c water
2 T creamy peanut butter
salt and pepper
4 hamburger buns w/ sesame seeds*
1 1/2 lbs ground beef (preferably 80/20 beef to fat)
1/2 c shredded cheddar
1 scallion, chopped
lettuce & tomato slices (I used butter lettuce & heirloom tomatoes)


  1. In a medium saucepan, heat 1 T oil. Add onion & ginger and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, ~5 min. Add garlic and cook another minute, stirring. Add tomato puree, ketchup, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, honey, molasses, ancho chile powder, chipotle, and water. Bring to simmer and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 30 minutes. Transfer to blender or blend with immersion blender in saucepan until smooth. Season with s&p to taste. Note: Can be made well in advance and stored for ~2 months. So make extra!
  2. Form meat into 4 inch thick patties (about 6 oz each) and brush w/ oil Season w/ s&p.
  3. Light grill. Brush buns w/ oil and grill until toasted, about 30 seconds. Spread some bbq sauce on buns.
  4. Grill patties over high heat, turning once, until nearly cooked through, about 5 minutes. Brush burgers with some of the sauce and grill until lightly glazed, about 2 minutes. Top with cheddar & onion and close grill to melt cheese, about 1 minute.

*If you need GF version, be sure to buy San Marcos or La Costena chipotles in adobo sauce. Some others have wheat flour in the ingredients list. Obviously, buns aren’t g-free but those can be purchased if needed.