Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Panzanella Salad with Homemade Croutons

Use up all those late summer tomatoes in my Panzanella Salad with Homemade Croutons for a fabulous side salad!





Panzanella Salad with Homemade Croutons


If you love tomatoes you are gonna love this salad.  Juicy ripe tomatoes are the star of this Tuscan dish along with mozzarella cheese, red onion, basil, and the BEST homemade croutons!  This is the perfect dish to use up all your tomato harvest, or take advantage of the late summer tomatoes that are full of flavor available in the stores and farmers markets.  

The other highlight of the dish is the HOMEMADE croutons!  They are really so easy to make you won't believe it.  They soak up the delicious vinaigrette that we will be making and just take this salad to a whole different level.  Remember using the ripest, freshest, and highest quality ingredients (since there aren't many ingredients) for the best tasting salad.

Enjoy!





What Ingredients do I need?

  • French bread loaf
  • olive oil
  • tomatoes - ripe - good types would be Roma, on the vine, or heirloom if you like
  • red onion
  • fresh basil
  • mozzarella - I used "pearls" or "Ciliegine" which are small balls of mozzarella
  • red wine vinegar
  • garlic
  • salt & pepper


Substitutions and Variations

  • Add chopped cucumber
  • Add roasted or grilled chicken for a main entree salad
  • Add salami, procuitto, or ham, or a combination for an Italian Chopped(ish) Panzanella Salad
  • Turn this Greek by switching mozzarella for feta, adding cucumber and kalamata olives
  • Use heirloom cherry tomatoes for more color
  • For a Southern spin make cornbread croutons
  • Don't have red wine vinegar?  White wine vinegar, sherry vinegar, or apple cider vinegar will all work well.



Kitchen Tips and Notes

  • Make your croutons first.
  • Day old bread works best however, I've used fresh French baguette with no problems!
  • Croutons can be a Make-Ahead item:  you can make these up to a week head and keep them at room temperature.
  • Good breads for croutons:  French Baguette, ciabatta, sourdough (make crispy croutons) Soft bread such as focaccia or sandwich bread will make a softer crouton that may become soggy.
  • Don't skip the homemade vinaigrette!  It's light and vibrant and adds tons of flavor to the salad.



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Panzanella Salad with Homemade Croutons 



serves 4


Salad:
1/2 loaf French bread or baguette, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/8 tsp salt
4-6 ripe tomatoes, cut into bite-sized pieces
6 oz fresh mozzarella pearls, halved
1/4 of a large red onion, thinly sliced
1/3 cup basil leaves, coarsely chopped


Vinaigrette:
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 garlic cloves, grated
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp black pepper

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.   Place the bread cubes on a baking sheet and drizzle with the olive oil.  Toss to coast and then spread all the cubes out in a single layer on the baking sheet.  Bake for 9-12 minutes until toasted.  Remove from oven when golden and set aside to cool.

In a small bowl or mason jar combine your vinaigrette ingredients and whisk or shake until emulsified.  Set aside.

In a large bowl add tomatoes, cheese, red onion, croutons, and chopped basil.  Drizzle with the dressing and toss so all items are coated.  Serve.













Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Late Summer Peach Pancakes

Give your weekend breakfast pancakes a flavor punch with sweet peaches and cinnamon, for a dish that's scrumptious and one the entire family will enjoy!



Late Summer Peach Pancakes


We are going to slowly ease in to the Autumn food transition since it's technically Autumn this Thursday but in Southern California it is still in the 80's and 90's.  So let's make a dish that has both summer items (peaches) and a bit of fall (cinnamon) in it.  

Pancakes are a go to breakfast for weekends and I thought I would make them a little "fallish" by adding some late summer peaches that are juicy and sweet along with a hint of cinnamon.  This combination is excellent.  The peaches are sliced and added when you are cooking the first side.  The real treasure is that when you flip them the peaches are exposed to the heat and end up tasting like roasted peaches.   Oh My Heavens, especially with the touch of cinnamon to the Great Aunt Grace's buttermilk pancake batter!  You will definitely be missing out if you don't make these pronto.

Enjoy!




What Ingredients do I need?

  • Flour - my favorite flour
  • sugar
  • baking powder
  • baking soda
  • buttermilk
  • cinnamon - you want a good quality spice.  I use this one
  • vegetable oil or canola oil - The recipe is from a few generations ago hence the vegetable oil.  I use canola oil.
  • egg
  • peaches - ripe but not mushy
  • butter - used for the skillet or griddle


Substitutions and Variations

  • Use whole wheat flour or 1/2 whole wheat and 1/2 all purpose.
  • You may use regular milk instead of buttermilk.
  • Add a dash of nutmeg.
  • Top with whipped cream for a peaches and cream effect.
  • Top with powdered sugar instead of syrup.


Kitchen Tips and Notes

  • Don't overmix your batter - lumps are fine.
  • Preheat your griddle and cook the pancakes on a low temperature.
  • When you see bubbles on the tops of your batter it's time to flip.
  • Any leftover pancakes can be frozen up to 3 months. Place them individually (don't stack) on a sheet tray to flash freeze for 30 minutes then you can stack them in a freezer bag.

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Late Summer Peach Pancakes


small batch: 2-4


1 cup flour
2 Tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup buttermilk
2 Tablespoon vegetable oil
1 egg
1 peach, peeled and sliced into wedges
butter for the pan

In a medium bowl, add flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Stir to combine. Make a well in the middle and add the oil.

In another bowl whisk together buttermilk and egg.

Add to dry ingredients and mix together until just moistened. Batter will be lumpy.

On a pre-heated cast iron skillet, add a little butter to coat the bottom.  Ladle batter onto skillet for each pancake. Top each pancake with 2-3 slices of peaches.  Cook until golden brown and holes begin to appear on top. Turn on the second side and cook until golden brown
.  Serve with extra peach slices and warm maple syrup.











Monday, September 12, 2022

Grilled Summer Squash Caprese

 A variation on an Italian Caprese Salad this Grilled Summer Squash Caprese features summer squash, grilled to perfection, juicy ripe summer cherry tomatoes, and fragrant basil.  The perfect side dish!




Grilled Summer Squash Caprese


This summer it's been all about the side dishes and salads around our house.  We've been grilling pork chops, steaks, and chicken all summer long but the side dishes are really the outstanding items this year.  Here is another delectable side dish that couldn't be easier to make.

Ripe yellow summer squash cut into strips and grilled is topped with cherry tomatoes and basil, then doused with really good olive oil and minced garlic.  Simple, straightforward, and scrumptious!  Try this out while tomatoes are at their peak.

Enjoy!




What Ingredients do I need?

  • yellow summer squash
  • cherry tomatoes - I used heirloom cherry tomatoes for the color variety.
  • fresh basil
  • good olive oil - since this is a main component you want the best flavor you can afford.
  • fresh garlic


Substitutions and Variations

  • Try zucchini or eggplant instead of the squash.
  • Switch up the herbs - thyme or oregano would be wonderful.
  • Use cut Roma tomatoes or large heirloom tomatoes instead of cherry.






Kitchen Tips and Notes

  • Buy ripe fresh tomatoes - since this is a main ingredient you want very tasty tomatoes.  Cherry tomatoes that are on the vine are the most flavorful.  I chose heirloom cherry tomatoes for a more pop of color.
  • This dish is perfect served hot off the grill or at room temperature.
  • When you use olive oil as a tasting ingredient (the oil flavor is prominent in the food you are eating such as salad dressing, dipping oil for bread, drizzling etc.) instead of cooking, you want the best quality oil that you can afford.  The taste will be better and will make your dish stand out.  Here are a few olive oils that I trust and like.  Kouzini Greek Olive Oil - California Olive Ranch - Lucini 

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Grilled Summer Squash Caprese


serves 6


1 1/2 lbs yellow summer squash (about 3 medium) cut lengthwise in to slices
olive oil
kosher salt & ground black pepper
1/2 pint grape tomatoes, halved (I used heirloom cherry tomatoes)
1/4 cup fresh basil 
1 Tablespoon minced garlic

Brush both sides of the squash slices with olive oil.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Grill on an outdoor grill, or indoor using a grill pan, about 5-6 minutes until crisp-tender, turning once.

Arrange squash on a serving platter along with tomatoes.  Top with basil leaves.  Drizzle with olive oil and minced garlic before serving.


adapted from BHG.com










Thursday, September 8, 2022

Mediterranean Couscous Salad

This fresh Mediterranean Couscous Salad is flavor packed with fresh cherry tomatoes, chickpeas, cucumbers, herbs, and feta cheese. A salad you'll want to make all year-round!





Mediterranean Couscous Salad


Tomatoes are at their peak and it's time to take advantage of that by using them in this quick and easy throw together salad.  It's main base is Israeli couscous which is pre-toasted tiny balls of pasta.  This type is larger than the Moroccan type you typically associate couscous with.  It's perfect for salads and lends substance to the dish.  (See below for product sources)  The dish takes advantage of juicy ripe cherry tomatoes that are sweet and bursting with flavor this time of year.  Below I show you my favorite type of cherry tomato.

The salad is very easy to pull together.  Just cook up the couscous, chop your vegetables and herbs, then toss with chickpeas and feta cheese.  A lemon vinaigrette is made to top off the salad.  This one is a winner and I've been making a variation of this all summer long.  In fact, you could make this all year long, but do take advantage of the premium tomatoes that are available now.

Enjoy!








What Ingredients do I need?

  • Cherry tomatoes - buy the plumpest, most red tomatoes you can find.  If you can find them on the vine, these tend to have the most flavor.


  • Israeli couscous - larger than regular pasta, this is my favorite brand.
  • Chickpeas - aka garbanzo beans
  • Lemon - for juicing
  • Olive oil - get extra virgin
  • Garlic - use fresh, pre-minced, or even frozen will do.
  • Fresh dill - In summer get the fresh herbs while you can. 
  • Persian cucumbers - little green gems that don't need peeling! Bright cool taste.
  • Feta Cheese - I prefer buying a block of feta and crumbling it myself.  Feta made from sheep's milk is a wonderful treat as well.


Substitutions and Variations

  • Grains such as quinoa, farro, bulgur, or wheat berries may be substituted for the couscous.
  • Any mini pasta such as farfalle, penne, or rotini may be used.  They now come in mini sizes.
  • Use ripe chopped tomatoes, or heirloom tomatoes if they look better than cherry tomatoes.
  • Use English cucumbers instead of Persian.
  • Leave off the cheese if needed.
  • White cannellini beans would work well.
  • Don't care for dill? Try parsley, thyme, or basil.



Kitchen Tips and Notes

  • Cook the couscous first since it has to cool before assembly.
  • Dried herbs:  I haven't tried it with dried dill, but off season this might be an option.  I would put the dried herbs in with the vinaigrette and then mix it in to the salad.
  • For Vegan's use a vegan cheese or leave it off.
  • This salad keeps well in the refrigerator for several days in an airtight container.


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Mediterranean Couscous Salad


serves 4-6


1 cup Israeli couscous
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
Kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
3-4 cups of cherry tomatoes, (about 1 1/2 pints), halved 
1 15oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
3-4 Persian cucumbers (depending on size), sliced
1/2 bunch fresh dill, chopped
1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese
Kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste

Cook the couscous according to the package directions.  Drain is need be and set aside to cool.

In a small bowl or jar add lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, and a pinch of salt and pepper.  Whisk or shake until emulsified.  

In a large bowl add the cooled couscous, tomatoes, chickpeas, cucumbers, and dill.  Stir to combine.  Drizzle with dressing and toss until well distributed.  Top with crumbled feta cheese and season with salt & pepper to taste if necessary.  Drizzle a little olive oil on top and serve.









Saturday, September 3, 2022

Cooling Cucumber Salad

This Cooling Cucumber Salad is crisp and fresh and perfect for hot summer days!


Cooling Cucumber Salad


There's nothing more refreshing than a cold cucumber salad.   Cool and crisp cucumbers are sliced into sticks and coated with lemon, garlic, and herbs to make a deliciously light salad.

Perfect as a side dish for all your potlucks, barbecues, and summer cookouts.  The dish is very easy to make and can be made ahead. It's one recipe you'll want to keep handy.




What Ingredients do I need?

  • Cucumbers - Any type of cucumber will work, but the Persian cucumbers or the Hot House/English cucmbers can have the peel left on, which make everything easier.  
  • Dill -  Fresh dill is best so you get that crisp herby flavor.
  • Garlic - You can use pre-minced garlic or use garlic cloves that you mince yourself, whichever is more convenient.
  • Lemon Juice from a real lemon for the best flavor
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt and Pepper



Kitchen Tips and Notes

  • Use a mandolin like this one for quick and easy slicing in to sticks.  Make sure to use the food gaurd.   Otherwise you can use a knife.
  • The salad can be kept in the refrigerator up to 3 days.
  • Mix it up a little and add some slice red onion to the mix.


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Cooling Cucumber Salad


Serves 4

3 lbs. Cucumbers 
1 bunch of fresh dill, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 Tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
4 Tablespoons olive oil

Using a mandolin, slice the cucumbers into sticks. 

Place the cucumber sticks into a mixing bowl. Sprinkle the fresh dill, minced garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper on top and mix well. Serve.







Friday, August 26, 2022

Summer Entertaining: Cherry Quinoa Salad

When it's cherry season this is the salad to turn to.  This salad has it all, spicy arugula, textured quinoa, tart cherries, crunchy pistachios, and creamy feta. The perfect combination salad!



Cherry Quinoa Salad


This salad is light, healthy and refreshing.  It's something I have made at least 4 times since cherry season has begun.  It's so easy to through together and it's what I love about this salad!

This can be made with any grain but I love it with quinoa.  Keep in mind you can use any leftover grains for this salad the next day.  

Enjoy!




What Ingredients do I need?

  • quinoa - white or tri-colored
  • cherries
  • cucumber
  • scallions
  • pistachios
  • arugula
  • fresh parsley
  • fresh mint
  • feta cheese
  • olive oil
  • red wine vinegar
  • orange juice
  • Dijon mustard


Substitutions and Variations

  • Swap out the arugula base for spinach or spring greens
  • Don't have fresh cherries - use frozen
  • Don't care for mint? try basil or cilantro
  • Leave out the cheese or try ricotta salata
  • Try a different grain.  Farro or bulgur would be wonderful.




Kitchen Tips and Notes

  • Place everything in a large bowl and toss.
  • Use a mason jar for the salad dressing and shake until emulsified.


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Cherry Quinoa Salad


serves 4


1 cup quinoa
1 cup water
2 cups of pitted and halved cherries
1 cup cucumber, diced
2 scallions chopped
1/3 cup of pistachios, chopped
2 handfuls of arugula
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
1/4 cup mint, chopped
1/3 cup feta cheese crumbled

Dressing

1/2 cup Olive oil
1Tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 tsp Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper to taste

Rinse the quinoa and it and the water to a pot and bring to a boil.  Stir, cover and reduce heat to a simmer for 15 minutes until water is absorbed.  Remove from health and keep covered for 5 minutes.  Fluff with a fork.  Allow to cool.  Once cooled, add all salad ingredients to a large bowl.

In a mason jar or a small bowl add dressing ingredients and shake or whisk until emulsified.  Drizzle the salad with the vinaigrette and toss to combine.


Adapted from Diane Morrisey








Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Summer Entertaining: Fig Crostini

The perfect appetizer bite or snack using ripe summer sweet figs.


Fig Crostini 


A lot of people don't know what to do with summer figs. Truth be told I have a hard time keeping my husband from gobbling them down before I get to use them in different dishes.   This year we have a bumper crop of figs just waiting to pop on our menus.

Today we are talking more about a method than a recipe. I'll show you how to put together these scrumptious fig crostini that you can serve as a quick appetizer or midday snack. I took these along with our meal for a concert in the park. These are sweet and delicious and oh so simple to make. You're gonna love them!

Enjoy!



What Ingredients do I need?

  • Small crusty French style baguette
  • Olive oil
  • Mascarpone Cheese
  • Fresh Figs


Substitutions and Variations

  • Mix ricotta cheese with mascarpone for a different version
  • Serve on crackers instead of crostini
  • Add a dollop of fig jam to the mascarpone cheese for more of a fig flavor
  • Top with a sprig of mint



Kitchen Tips and Notes

  • Watch the bread closely when toasting to avoid burning.
  • Perfect as appetizers for summer entertaining
  • Great as an after school snack
  • Perfect with afternoon coffee or tea


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Fig Crostini


Makes 12 crostini bites


One French style baguette loaf
Olive oil
3 or 4 ripe figs
Mascarpone cheese


Preheat your oven to 350゚. Slice your French style baguette thinly cutting off 12 rounds.  (You will have left over bread.)  Place the bread on a baking sheet and spread a dab of olive oil over each piece and bake for 5 to 6 minutes until toasted. Remove from oven.

Spread each toasted bread piece with mascarpone cheese. Wash and dry your figs. Slice the figs into thin slices and place on top of the cheese. Place on a platter and serve.








Thursday, August 11, 2022

Summer Entertaining: Farmers' Market Pizza

Flatbread pizza made with Brooklyn Bred pizza dough is quick, easy, and ready in less than 20 minutes.  This version is loaded with fresh farmer's market vegetables, turkey Italian sausage, and 2 chesses for the win!




Farmers' Market Pizza


This Farmers' Market Pizza is going to rock your summer weeknight!  Cooked ground turkey Italian sausage forms a base on a square pizza flatbread doused with Caramelized Onion and Garlic Marinara.  Then we add the veggie layers of fresh corn from the cob and cherry tomatoes.  All this topped with creamy chunks of goat cheese, and hunks of mozzarella cheese.  The result is a fresh summer pizza that's so tasty the whole family will enjoy this one.

Perfect to make on a weeknight, or weekend, or lunch.  Even as a snack!  It's ready in about 20 minutes from start to finish.

Enjoy!




What Ingredients do I need?

  • flatbread pizza crust - I used Brooklyn Bred square pizza, but any Naan or flatbread will do
  • marinara Sauce - I used a Caramelized Onion and Garlic Marinara for more flavor
  • turkey Italian sausage - mild or hot
  • cherry tomatoes
  • corn on the cob
  • goat cheese
  • fresh mozzarella cheese
  • fresh parsley or basil
  • red pepper flakes


Substitutions and Variations

  • You could add any summer produce you like.  Zucchini or summer squash, bell peppers, and heirloom tomatoes are all good choices.
  • Use regular pizza dough, store bought or homemade.
  • Use any type of flatbread, Naan is a great one.
  • Change up the cheeses if you like.
  • Can't handle the heat?? Leave off the red pepper flakes.
  • Try this on the outdoor grill, it works great.
  • Anything goes with pizza!




Kitchen Tips and Notes

  • No need to cook the corn.  Cut raw corn off the cob and put it fresh on the pizza.  It will taste roasted and sweet once done.
  • Flatbread and Naan cook quickly, so make sure to set a time or watch closely.
  • I bought a fresh ball of mozzarella and just pulled off chunks of cheese and scattered them around.  Same with the goat cheese.  This way the cheese doesn't overwhelm the veggies but compliments them.
  • Make sure to double the recipe for more servings.


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Farmers' Market Pizza


serves 2 people


1/3 cup of Marinara Sauce - I used a Caramelized Onion and Garlic Marinara
1/2 1lb. turkey Italian sausages (about 3 links, casings removed)
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 large corn on the cob, corn removed
1/2 pint of cherry tomatoes, halved
1/3 cup fresh mozzarella cheese, chunked
2 oz goat cheese, chunked
1 square Brooklyn Bred pizza crust


Lay the pizza crust out on a baking sheet.  Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

In a skillet over medium high heat, add the olive oil, and the sausage, casings removed.  Cook, crumbling the meat, until cooked through, about 5-6 minutes.

Spread about 1/3 cup (or more if you like) of marinara sauce over the crust of the pizza.  Top with the cooked sausage.  Add the fresh corn and cherry tomato halves distributing them around the pizza.  Top with chunks of fresh mozzarella and goat cheese.

Place in the oven and bake for 10 minutes.  Remove from oven and cut in to 4 slices. Serve.











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