lola rugula deli style medium rare roast beef

perfectly cooked roast beef

I’ve  been having so much fun posting some of my classic back-to-the-basics lately, such as my Summer Garden Gazpacho recipe, my Cucumber Salad recipe, my simple Refrigerated Beets recipe, and my Classic Potato Salad recipe, that I’m considering making it a new category on my blog. It’s always good to have some simple, easy-to-execute recipes in your arsenal; recipes that are versatile and don’t take a gazillion ingredients to prepare.

Adding to my classic recipe collection is this (in my opinion) perfectly-cooked medium rare roast beef. The beauty of this roast is that you don’t need an expensive cut of meat to make it. I’ve done this with top round roasts and bottom round roasts and they’re both delicious when cooked this way.  The roast in my photos below is a small 2 pound bottom round roast, an inexpensive cut but very tender and flavorful when cooked and sliced correctly. The bottom round roast typically has a little more marbling than a top round, so it tends to have better flavor, plus it’s usually cheaper than top round. Score.

You can season this however you like, although salt and pepper at the bare minimum is highly recommended. A little bit of oil rubbed all around helps to keep the edges from drying out in the initial high-heat sear. I love the flavor rosemary adds to this, but all kinds of herbs will work – go with what you love. This works best with a fresh roast, as freezing meat tends to draw out some of the moisture. If you can get a higher-end Black Angus cut, go for it…it’s worth it.

The key to any great roast is a probe thermometer; if you don’t have one, it’s worth your money to invest $15-$20 and have one on hand.  It will more than pay for itself in just a few no-more-over-cooked meals.

Behold a big platter of sliced roast beef.

lola rugula perfectly cooked medium rare roast beef

This is one of my “it’s a technique more than it’s a recipe” posts. Why? Because it really doesn’t matter the size of the roast, what matters is this:

  1. a bit of oil and seasoning rubbed all over
  2. let the meat sit at room temperature for at least an hour, so the roast slow-cooks evenly
  3. an initial sear in a very hot oven
  4. a slow roast at a low heat
  5. a probe thermometer to tell you when it’s done
  6. a long resting period
  7. slicing very thinly against the grain with a sharp knife or meat slicer

bottom round roast beef recipe

These are the instructions for the roast pictured here – again, you can use a top round roast if you’d rather. These cuts don’t typically have a lot of fat on them but if it does, you can trim off any excess. Remember though…the fat keeps the roast from drying out.

  • 1 2 lb. bottom round roast
  • 1 tablespoon dried rosemary (or 3 tablespoons fresh)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 healthy teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Unwrap the roast, pat it dry and set it inside a large, low-sided roasting pan or on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with rosemary, salt, and pepper. Drizzle with oil and then rub the oil and seasonings all over the roast. Let sit about 1 hour at room temperature.

Preheat the oven to 500º

Place roast in oven and roast at high heat for about 12 minutes.

Remove roast from oven, reduce oven temperature to 275º, and insert the probe of the thermometer into the center of the thickest part of the roast. Set the alert temperature to 122º. I don’t insert the probe during the initial searing process, due to most probe thermometers shouldn’t be used in temperatures over 450º.

Let roast slow-roast until the probe thermometer tells you the thickest part of your roast has reached122º.

Remove from oven, cover loosely with a  piece of aluminum foil, and let rest at least 30 minutes. Remove the probe and wipe clean.

Transfer the roast to a platter or cutting board or, using a meat slicer, slice thinly across the grain with a very sharp knife or meat slicer. My trick is to cut it starting at a corner, so you cut a corner off and keep going from there. You can slice it very thinly or shave it, whichever’s your preference.

You now have perfectly cooked, tender, medium rare roast beef. Enjoy it as a dinner, with a bit of horseradish and your choice of sides or pile it onto sandwiches, bruschetta, etc.

This is, seriously, the best deli-style roast beef you can make.

 

Life’s too short to eat over-cooked roast beef. 🙂

If you’re cooking a larger roast, up the sear time to 15 minutes but don’t go any longer than that. The slow roasting is really the key.

So now you know how to cook a top round or bottom round roast to medium rare. Easy, right? Put that slow cooker away!

The other beautiful thing about this recipe is the roast cooks pretty quickly.  You can cook a 2 lb. roast in under an hour and that’s a wonderful thing with a busy schedule.

Are you hungry yet?

lola rugula deli style medium rare roast beef

roasted tomato and garlic soup

I’m continuing my celebration series of summer garden tomato recipes my with roasted tomato and garlic soup. The beauty of this recipe is that it’s very flexible. Looking for an easy roasted gazpacho recipe? This is it. Want a comforting bowl of steamy roasted tomato soup? This is also it. Craving a bowl of steamy AND creamy roasted tomato soup, maybe with a grilled cheese sandwich on the side? Add a little cream to your hot soup and you’re good to go! Versatility is this recipe’s middle name.

If you’ve not been following my recent series of recipes, then check out my classic garden gazpacho recipe, which you can also make gazpacho shooters with. I also shared my golden heirloom gazpacho, made with yellow tomatoes, shallots and turmeric. Remember that both of these also make great gazpacho smoothies, which is a great way to enjoy gazpacho.

lola rugula roasted tomato and garlic soup

roasted tomato and garlic soup recipe (also a roasted gazpacho recipe)

  • 6 lbs. tomatoes, preferably a mix of Roma and heirloom
  • 6 large cloves of garlic, peeled and gently smashed, just enough to break each clove open
  • 1 medium white onion, cut into eighths from the root end
  • 1 large poblano pepper, cut in half with stem and seeds removed
  • 1/4 cup olive oil (divided between 2 baking sheets)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt (divided between 2 baking sheets)
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • Fresh basil, thinly sliced, for serving

Preheat broiler.

Lightly brush 2 large baking sheets with a little of your olive oil.

Remove cores from tomatoes and discard. Cut each tomato in half and lay face up on baking sheets, dividing the tomatoes onto both baking sheets.  Add garlic, onion, and pepper, keeping them towards the same end of one of the baking sheets. These will likely roast faster than the tomatoes and you’ll want to be able to easily remove them.

Drizzle each tray of veggies with the remaining olive oil, dividing it between the 2 baking sheets. Sprinkle each sheet of veggies with kosher salt. Every veggie doesn’t need olive oil or salt on them, just evenly distribute as best as you can. Have a large stockpot ready to place your charred veggies in once they’re done.

Broil the veggies one baking sheet at a time, about 30 minutes or until the veggies are nicely charred. Again, you will probably need to remove the garlic, onion, and pepper before the tomatoes are all charred. Move the tomatoes around and remove them as they char and place them in a large stockpot.

Be sure to add any remaining liquid on your baking sheets to your stockpot.

Repeat with the second baking sheet. Here’s a photo of some of my charred veggies, so you can see how much I char them…

lola rugula roasted tomato soup

Once all of your veggies are nicely charred and added to your stockpot, add the vegetable stock and black pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until your liquid is reduced by 1/2, about 45 minutes.

Using an immersion blender, carefully puree your mixture until it’s smooth. If you don’t have an immersion blender, use a ladle and carefully scoop portions of the soup into a blender or food processor and blend until smooth.

Serve with slivers of fresh basil on top and some fresh or toasted bread on the side.

For roasted tomato gazpacho, let cool and then refrigerate until well-chilled.

This is a great rustic soup and simple to make. The roasting really brings out the flavor in the tomatoes and other veggies, adding a depth of flavor that you can taste in every spoonful.

lola rugula roasted tomao and veggie gazpacho

How to make cream of roasted tomato soup

If you want a creamy soup, just stir in a little of your choice of heavy cream, half and half, buttermilk, creme fraiche, or plain yogurt – all of these will work here, it just depends on your personal taste. Simple, right?

And, if you want to add a little bit of smokey heat to your soup (or really want a soup that clears up congestion from a cold or the flu), roast a jalapeno or hot pepper with your veggies and add it in.

Another variation on this soup is to add a little turmeric or curry powder to it – this amps up the health benefits and flavor both.

Also, feel free to add a little zucchini and/or fennel to this – both add amazing flavor!

Summer here in Northern Illinois is (sadly) winding down but that doesn’t mean you can’t preserve your summer tomato and veggie harvest.  This soup freezes beautifully and when you pull some out in the dead of winter, you’ll be thankful for that fresh garden tomato flavor.

My other favorite way to preserve my summer tomato harvest is making big batches of homemade marinara sauce and freezing it in batches.

Enjoy!

lola rugula deli style medium rare roast beef

ajvar recipe

One of the beautiful things about growing your own vegetables is that you’re able to grow so many more varieties than what you can find at the supermarket.  Farmer’s markets offer a better variety than the stores but even then, your selection can be limited. One of my favorite places to discover new vegetables is Bakers Creek Heirloom Seeds. They always have an incredible variety of heirloom veggies and I’ve had very good results with most of their seeds.

This year, I discovered ajvarski peppers which, after a bit of online searching, appear to be bulls horn peppers, a variety of peppers traditionally used in making ajvar (pronounced AY-vahr).

lola rugula ajvar peppers

Ajvar is a Serbian roasted red pepper sauce (I read where some call it Serbian Salsa).  Basically, it’s a roasted red pepper sauce with eggplant, garlic, vinegar, and oil added. It’s great on fresh bread, toasted bread and crackers, so it’s an easy appetizer recipe to make.

 I started my peppers inside in February and they were about 10-inch tall plants when they went into my garden in early May. They’ve done well in my home garden, taking a while to turn red as most colored peppers do but they’re reaching their stride here in zone 5 in September.  I currently have multiple peppers turning red on my plants, even though they were a bit slow-going at first.

These are gorgeous peppers with a thick skin and fragrant smell, especially when roasting. I’m not exaggerating on this – these are really, really fragrant peppers.

lola rugula ajvar bulls horn peppers

If you want to speed up the ripening of colored peppers, simply put them in a paper bag with a few ripe tomatoes and seal the bag with a clip. Leave at room temperature until fully ripened. Ideally, the peppers should be starting to turn already and then they’ll take anywhere from 3 to 7 days to ripen. Never refrigerate them until they’re ripe – refrigeration will stop the ripening process immediately. I have great luck with quick-ripening my peppers this way. If you’re a home gardener, you know how long it can take (and how much plant energy it takes) to ripen peppers on the plant.

I admit my ajvar here is a small batch recipe, as I only had 3 peppers to start and make this with. As it turned out though, 3 peppers were just enough to make a good-sized appetizer plate for Sunday football for two. This recipe made enough ajvar to fully pack one ramekin and help us devour a small loaf of French bread. 🙂 In all, this makes about 1 healthy cup of ajvar.

lola rugula ajvar

homemade ajvar recipe

  • 3 red bullhorn or bell peppers
  • 1/3 large eggplant, cut in half
  • 2 medium garlic cloves, gently smashed
  • 2 teaspoons white vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil + 1 tablespoon for brushing eggplant
  • 4 oz. feta cheese
  • 1 small loaf French bread, sliced (I toasted mine)

Preheat broiler. Place peppers and eggplant on a baking sheet or roasting pan. Brush the eggplant on both sides with 1 tablespoon of olive oil.

Broil, turning occasionally until peppers and eggplant are well charred on all sides. The eggplant will likely cook the fastest and, if so, remove it to a plate and let cool until the peppers are done cooking.

When the peppers are well charred, use a pair of tongs to pop them into a paper bag, roll the bag to seal and let the peppers rest at least 10 minutes. What this does is steams the skins from the peppers, making the skins easier to remove. Remove the skins, stems, and seeds and discard. (I add mine to our compost bin)

In the meantime, scoop out the innards of the eggplant and place it in a food processor. Discard (or compost) the skin.

Add the garlic, vinegar and the remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil to the processor.

Add the peeled peppers.

Pulse until well-blended but still a bit coarse – it should still have a little texture to it. If too dry, add more olive oil until a smooth, spreadable mixture is formed.

Serve with feta cheese and fresh or toasted bread (or crackers).

lola rugula ajvar 2

This is so, so good! Very garlicky and the vinegar adds a brightness and tang to it, while the olive oil smooths it all out.

If red bell peppers are all you can find, by all means, use them. You can also add a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes if you want a little spice to your ajvar.

Of course, you can also char the peppers and eggplant on the grill; whichever method is easiest and most convenient for you.

There’s something just so rustic and satisfying about schmearing roasted deliciousness on bread and devouring it. Ajvar does not disappoint. Make yourself a batch and dig in.

Enjoy!

lola rugula deli style medium rare roast beef

grilled butterflied leg of lamb

I hope everyone had a nice Labor Day weekend. I, unfortunately, was not feeling my best at all over the long holiday weekend, as I’ve come down with some sort of summer flu bug which seems to be getting worse instead of better as the days pass. I was able to get some things done and still relax and attempt to recuperate a bit but I’ll admit it’s been slow-going. I had this wonderful butterflied leg of lamb planned for the grill this holiday and still pulled it off beautifully somehow, even with as rotten as I’ve been feeling.

We are lamb lovers in my house and easy lamb recipes are one of my specialties. If you follow my blog, you know I’m not big on complicated dishes that require hours of preparation, 50 million pans and a bunch of obscure ingredients. Oh, I have my moments where things get a little more involved but honestly, mostly we just want to eat great food that doesn’t take a degree to prepare, right?

My Lamb and Oregano Shoulder Chops recipe is one of my most popular recipes on Pinterest and that’s because it’s easy and delicious. Oh, and lamb shoulder chops are cheap compared to other cuts of lamb, so….bonus.

I’ve also shared my Grilled Lamb Loin Chops with Oregano, Mint and Lemon recipe, which is always an easy lamb recipe for the grill. Loin chops are on the more expensive side but they’re great if you’re looking for a recipe for a  special occasion or maybe a romantic dinner.

The beauty of butterflied leg of lamb is that it’s a big cut of meat that’s been removed from the bone and splayed out into a cut that’s easy and fast to grill. I was lucky enough this time to find a roast that weighed in at only 2.5 lbs. but this cut typically comes in around 3-5 lbs. When all’s said and done though, you will never go wrong with smothering any cut of lamb with garlic, herbs, oil and a bit of lemon juice or vinegar. If you’re looking for ways to reduce the “gaminess” in lamb, lemon and/or vinegar is your friend. 

Anyway, enough with me blathering on…let’s get to the butterflied leg of lamb on the grill, shall we?

lola rugula grilled butterflied leg of lamb

grilled butterflied leg of lamb with garlic and herbs recipe

  • 10 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • zest of one lemon
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2.5 lb butterflied leg of lamb, patted dry and excess fat removed. I always keep a thin layer of fat on the roast, to prevent it from drying out while cooking.

In a bowl, mix everything except the lamb together and mash together well. Coat the lamb well on both sides with the marinade and place lamb in a  large dish. Spoon any remaining marinade over the lamb, cover well, and refrigerate for at least 6 hours or overnight.

Remove lamb roast from refrigerator about 30 minutes before grilling.

Preheat grill to 425° for at least 15 minutes.

Place lamb roast on the grill, fat side down. Cover grill and cook for about 15 minutes. Flip lamb and cook for another 10 minutes, or until internal temperature reaches 130° for medium to medium rare. Remove from grill, cover loosely with aluminum foil and let rest for 15 minutes before slicing and serving.

I have to confess this one got away from me due to my not feeling well and a slower than normal reaction time, so it was at 135° before I caught it and removed it from the grill. It was just a bit more done than we typically like, but the garlicky-herb goodness made up for it.

lola rugula butterflied leg of lamb grilled

Because of the way this cut is typically done, there will be thinner pieces that cook more quickly and thicker pieces that cook more slowly. I like to temp in the thickest part of the cut and adjust my time accordingly.  You can see examples of how the doneness can vary depending on the thicknesses in the photo above.

The garlic, fresh herbs and lemon are all natural accompianments to lamb, so you can’t go wrong with any of them. Add in the beauftiful smokey char you get from cooking on the grill and I promise that your friends and family will love this.

And, if you’re wondering what to make with any leftover lamb you might have, my Easy Lamb Stew recipe is your answer.

lola rugula grilled butterflied leg of lamb with garlic and herbs

Are you a fan of lamb? What’s your favorite cut and way to prepare it?

I’d love to hear what was on your Labor Day Weekend menu!

lola rugula deli style medium rare roast beef

summer garden gazpacho

Gazpacho is such a delicious way to take advantage of your summer garden harvest and (bonus) it’s easy to throw together. Look up gazpacho recipes and you’ll find a ton of them, each unique in their own way, but there are basically two gazpacho camps: chunky and smooth. Personally, I like them both if they’re done well. In my opinion, you can’t really go wrong with fresh tomatoes blended with cucumbers, onion, garlic and olive oil, with a little acid and salt thrown in.

My version of gazpacho is a little bit of both worlds; the base blended smooth and then some small diced tomatoes added at serving time. The most important thing in making a great gazpacho is to use really, really ripe tomatoes. You really want the tomatoes to shine here.

lola rugula garden gazpacho

Garden Gazpacho Recipe

  • 2 lbs. very ripe tomatoes, cored. Remove the seeds and juice from half of them. In the recipe photos shown, I used a mix of large and small heirlooms with a couple of Romas.
  • 1 medium cucumber, completely peeled, ends removed and seeds scraped out
  • 1 medium clove garlic
  • 1/3 of a medium-sized red onion
  • 1 medium sweet pepper, either red, yellow or orange, stem and seeds removed (I used orange in the recipe photos shown)
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 medium jalapeno, seeds and stems removed (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Additional diced tomato and slivered basil for garnish

Add everything except half of the tomatoes to a food processor or blender and puree until smooth. Pour 3/4 of the pureed mixture into a large bowl, add the second half of tomatoes and puree until smooth. Pour into your bowl and stir everything together well.

You can also use an immersion blender when making gazpacho, but I find a food processor or blender makes quicker work of this.

The reason I remove the juice and seeds from half of my tomatoes is so that the gazpacho doesn’t end up too runny. If you’re using soley Roma tomatoes, you’ll probably be fine without this step but heirlooms and larger slicing tomatoes tend to have a lot more juice to them.

Chill well and serve in small bowls or ramekins, topped with diced tomatoes and slivers of fresh basil.

Another fun way to enjoy gazpacho is by making gazpacho shooters.

lola rugula gazpacho shooters

These tasty little shooters are always a hit at summer get-togethers and holiday parties.

lola rugula garden gazpacho shooters

Gazpacho Shooters Recipe

  • 1 oz. vodka, per serving
  • 1/2 cup gazpacho, per serving
  • Cherry tomatoes and fresh basil leaves for garnish, per serving

Blend vodka and gazpacho well and pour into glasses – I use a ladle and a funnel to keep them neat – it may seem like a little extra work (and dishes to wash) but it’s worth the effort.

Garnish each glass with a toothpick speared with a fresh basil leaf and cherry tomato.

Okay, to be fair, these aren’t really gazpacho shooters as much as they’re gazpacho cocktails. I serve them, as pictured, in whiskey glasses and they are definitely more than a shot.

Gazpacho is very easy to customize and garnish to your personal taste. Think fresh chives, parsley, lemon slices, diced or shaved cucumber, etc. I’m always telling you “don’t be afraid to play with your food” and this is a perfect example of a recipe that you can play with.

Some people add bread to their gazpacho for texture, some people don’t. Some people add a little jalapeno or hot pepper, some people don’t. Some people like green peppers some people like sweeter red (or orange or yellow) peppers.

Also, I used pickling cucumbers here, because it’s what I grow and had on hand. Always make sure you peel any type of cucumber you use, to get rid of any bitterness. I scrape out the seeds from mine for the same reason.

lola rugula gazpacho

Beautiful, isn’t it? Gazpacho made with garden ingredients doesn’t get any fresher or more delicious. And seriously, don’t be afraid to play with this recipe to find what you like best.

As a footnote, aside from using very ripe tomatoes, you also want to be sure to use a good quality extra virgin olive oil. It really does make a difference. In the shooters, of course, use the best vodka you can.

I also like to enjoy mine as a gazpacho smoothie and just drink it from a glass. It’s seriously like a glass of goodness because of all the antioxidants packed into it.

Enjoy what’s left of summer and thanks for stopping by!

lola rugula deli style medium rare roast beef

Refrigerator Pickled Beets

Every year I grow beets and every year I still end up with more than we can eat.  I love them roasted on the grill or in the oven, or shredded and made into my beet and carrot slaw. I saute the greens up, similar to how I make quick and easy Swiss chard, and often just toss them raw – both the greens and julienned beets – into salads.

But, whenever they get the best of me and I find my crisper drawer overflowing, I preserve my beets by quick pickling them and sticking them back in the fridge.

lola rugula easy pickled beets recipe

This is such an easy way to preserve them without the trouble of canning them. We eat these as an accompaniment to knockwurst and sauerkraut (here’s my homemade sauerkraut recipe) or add some to our side salads. They also look great on an appetizer tray, served alongside other pickled vegetables.

Now, I know a lot of recipes call for all kinds of spices and such, which you’re welcome to add if that’s how you like yours. I just like mine clean and simple; bright and tart, without too much fuss.

lola rugula easy refrigerated pickled beets recipe

This is a small batch recipe, as I’ve learned to just pickle them as they begin to overwhelm me. This recipe barely fills a quart Ball or canning jar, but it’s what works for me.

I grow a combination of Detroit Red and Rainbow beets and they all work great in this recipe. They mostly all end up red by the end of this, so use whatever beets you have on hand.

lola rugula pickled beets small batch recipe

easy refrigerated pickled beets recipe

  • 1 1/2 – 2 lbs. cleaned and peeled beets, diced or sliced
  • 1 cup sliced red onion (optional – omit if you hate onions)
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar

Place beets in a medium saucepan and cover well with water. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook beets just until fork-tender, about 15-17 minutes. Drain and spoon into a quart Bell jar or glass dish with tight-fitting lid, layering in the raw onion slices as you go.

While the beets are still cooking, add vinegar, salt, and sugar to another saucepan and bring to a boil. Stir until salt and sugar are dissolved. Pour hot brine over beets and onions and seal with a lid. Let cool at room temperature. If you’re using a canning jar, you’ll likely hear the lid “pop” as the steam escapes and the lid seals tight.

Refrigerate until ready to eat. I’ve kept these for many weeks with no problems, as the combination of salt, vinegar, and refrigeration all help in preserving them.

lola rugula refrigerator pickled beets recipe

To me, these are a treat right out of the jar, when I’m looking for something quick to nibble on. Of course, when you’ve finished the beets, you can throw a couple of boiled eggs into the brine and make beautiful pickled beet eggs. Equally delicious in my opinion and also perfect for an appetizer tray.

If you try these, give me a shout and let me know your thoughts. Also, if you have another pickled veggie you enjoy, I’d love to hear about it.

Enjoy!