Caprese Salad

Caprese Salad

I think one of the prettiest salads you can have is the Caprese Salad.  It’s vibrant colors are so inviting, promising something creamy, fresh and delicious.

What you may ask is a Caprese Salad.  It’s an Italian salad of fresh mozzarella cheese, tomatoes, and basil with a light vinaigrette dressing.  It’s said that Caprese Salad was originally made to honor the Italian flag which is Red, White, and Green; the same colors of the salad.

Caprese Salad is definitely a family favorite.  It’s not only delicious but it’s so easy to make.  We have it for lunch, as a panino or sandwich.  You can place the ingredients between 2 slices of bread or better yet a ciabatta roll, grill it just until the bread is toasted and the cheese melts, and you have a wonderfully simple meal!

The most important thing to remember when making Caprese Salad at home is to use the freshest ingredients you can find.  This mean unless absolutely necessary the prepacked balls of mozzarella in the supermarket’s dairy case just won’t do!

Short of bringing home fresh mozzarella from Italy (which I’ve actually done) I usually find fresh mozzarella at Costco or the deli counter.  It’s the balls of cheese that’s usually floating in the tub it’s packaged in.  You’ll know it’s fresh because it’s softer than those hard balls packed in plastic wrap.

Tomatoes of course are fresh, pick nice ripe ones.  I get mine from my garden along with the fresh basil.  If you don’t have a basil plant (and you should! it’s so easy to keep even a small one in the kitchen window) you can buy fresh basil leaves at the grocery store.

Once you have all the fresh ingredients all  you really need is some extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and a bit of Italian seasoning if  you have it, and some salt.  If you don’t have Italian seasoning you can use dried oregano, parsley, or basil or you can just use black pepper.

Caprese Salad is great for a light lunch or as a fresh addition to any meal.  It’s tasty and refreshing, the perfect summer salad!

Caprese Salad

Ingredients:

5-6 slices of Fresh Mozzarella Cheese (slices should be about 1/2″ thick)

1 Firm Ripe Tomato – sliced in about 1/2″ thick rounds

3-6 Fresh Basil Leaves

1/4 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1/4 Cup Balsamic Vinegar

1 Tsp. Italian Dressing

Salt & Pepper to taste

Directions:

Slice mozzarella and tomatoes into 1/2″ rounds and arrange on a plate.  Alternate tomato and cheese to make it look nice.

You can also add a basil leaf between the cheese and tomato or you can place the leaves in the center.  Place the three ingredients on the plate any way you find pleasing.

Mix together oil and vinegar.

Add 1/2 Tsp. of Italian seasoning to the oil mixture and stir well.

Drizzle over the fresh ingredients just before serving.

Sprinkle remaining Italian Seasoning over all and season with salt and pepper if desired.

 

 

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Chilli and garlic prawns with sea purslane

Chilli and garlic prawns with sea purslane

SERVES – 4
Time -HANDS-ON TIME 20 MIN

A simple starter recipe of fried prawns cooked with garlic, chilli, lemon and white wine. Best served with sourdough bread and a glass of sauvignon blanc.

NUTRITION: PER SERVING
CALORIES – 263KCALS
FAT – 10.2G (1.6G SATURATED)
PROTEIN – 36.5G
CARBOHYDRATES – 1G (0.7G SUGARS)
FIBRE – 1.6G
SALT – 1.2G

 

Ingredients

100g wild sea purslane, available from Abel & Cole
2 good glugs extra-virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, unpeeled, bashed with a rolling pin
1 tsp chilli flakes
800g large sustainable raw shell-on tiger or king prawns
Grated zest and juice 1 lemon, plus wedges to serve
100ml good quality dry white wine
Fresh baguette or sourdough to serve

 

Method

1. Pull the purslane leaves from the stalks; discard the woody stalks.

2. Heat the oil in a wide frying pan and add the garlic, chilli and sea purslane. Fry for 1 minute, then add the prawns. Cook for 2 minutes on each side until bright pink, then add the lemon zest, juice and white wine. Turn up the heat and simmer briskly for 3 minutes. Don’t cook off all the wine, as the acidity is key to this dish.

3. Remove from the heat and serve straight from the pan with hunks of fresh crusty baguette or sourdough.

 

delicious. tips
Chill a crisp, unoaked, modern Spanish white for this, such as a verdejo or sauvignon blanc from the Rueda region.

Chilli and garlic prawns with sea purslane
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Servings
4
Cook Time
20 min
Servings
4
Cook Time
20 min
Chilli and garlic prawns with sea purslane
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Servings
4
Cook Time
20 min
Servings
4
Cook Time
20 min
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Meat Filled Piroshki

Meat Filled Piroshki

For years now I usually write about travel on my Wednesday articles.  Lately due to the worldwide Pandemic travel has become difficult and many times ill advised.

Many of us have chosen to stay home this summer perhaps planning our next trip whenever we feel safe enough to venture further away from home.  In our case I’m not really sure when that will be, specially since cruising is one of our favorite vacation travel.  Sadly the cruising industry has canceled cruises thru September and will likely cancel cruises thru fall and possibly the rest of the year.

Yes we’re sad and even restless.  We haven’t been able to visit our daughter and her family in Italy since last fall.  And yes we miss traveling.  That’s why I’ve been trying to bring a little bit of our travels in to our home.  What better way to “re-live” some of our favorite vacation spots than thru food.  I’ve decided to share some of our favorite cuisine which we discovered during our travels.  Because isn’t food a big part of traveling anyway?

So for the next little while on my Wednesday post I’ll share a recipe for a favorite food we discovered during our travels.  I hope it will inspire you to try something different and maybe make plans to visit one of the countries!

Today I’ll share this Piroshki recipe.  Piroshkis are very similar to American meat pies, British Pasties, Middle Eastern Fatayer,  and even Empanadas from Mexico, Spain, and other Latin countries.

Piroshkis are a popular street or comfort food in Russia and the Ukraine.  They’re fried or baked oblong buns (I prefer the fried) filled with a variety of fillings including beef, chicken, pork, mushrooms, and cheese.  In Russia they’re considered a main course when eaten with a soup or salad.  It’s often served with sour cream.

Today I’ll share a recipe for Beef or Chicken filled Piroshkis.  They’re not too difficult to make and if you’re not used to working with yeast breads this is a fine recipe to start with as it’s fairly simple.

Meat Filled Piroshkis

Ingredients for the dough:

4 cups flour

1 Tsp. Active dry yeast

1/4 Cup warm water

1 Cup Milk

3 Eggs

1/2 Cup Olive Oil

2 Tbs. Sugar

1 Tsp. Salt

Filling Ingredients:

1 Lb. Ground Beef, Turkey, or Chicken

1 Large Onion very finely chopped

1/2 Cup Mushrooms very finely chopped

1 Cup Shredded Cheddar Cheese

1 Tsp. Salt

1 Tsp. Pepper

2 Tbs. Fresh Dill

1 Tsp. Dried Dill

1 Tbs. Fresh Garlic – minced

Oil for frying

Directions:

First prepare dough as follows:

Dissolve yeast in the warm water and place in a warm place until it’s frothy – about 10 minutes.

In a medium saucepan on low heat pour in milk and let warm up.

Whisk in the eggs, oil, sugar, and salt.  This mixture will be warm and lumpy.

Remove from heat.

Place 1/2 of flour in bowl of stand mixer (or large bowl if mixing by hand).  Using the dough hook gradually stir in the milk mixture until fully combined.

Alternately add yeast mixture and rest of the flour, be sure you mix well between additions.

Mix well.

Knead until the dough forms a ball and does not stick to sides of bowl.  You may have to add some more flour (1 Tbs. spoon at a time) to get the dough to the proper consistency.

Cover with a cloth and set aside in a warm spot until the dough doubles in size. About 1-2 hours.

Meanwhile mix all the filling ingredients together in a bowl and refrigerate until ready to use.

When dough has doubled in size place the ball into a lightly floured surface.

Pinch of pieces of dough to form a ball about 2″.

Flatten dough and using a rolling pin roll each ball into disks about 4″ in diameter.

Place a heaping Tbs. of filling in the center of dough.  Form filling into a line across the diameter.  Fold dough over meat and pinch both ends to seal.

Place filled piroshki on to a sheet with the seam side down and allow to rest for about 10 minutes.

Heat enough oil in a pan deep enough so that the piroshkis will be at least halfway immersed in oil.

Place piroshki in hot oil seam side down.  Fry until golden brown.

Gently flip over and fry other side.

Drain cooked piroshki on paper towels before serving.

Meat Filled Piroshki
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Sweetcorn with pancetta, rosemary and garlic butter

Sweetcorn with pancetta, rosemary and garlic butter

SERVES 6
Time icon
HANDS-ON TIME 25 MIN, PLUS CHILLING
Yes, hot sweetcorn slathered with salty butter is good but have you tried hot sweetcorn smothered with a pancetta, rosemary and garlic butter? It is divine!

NUTRITION: PER SERVING

ALORIES – 240KCALS
FAT – 20.3G (10G SATURATED)
PROTEIN – 5.4G
CARBOHYDRATES – 8G (2G SUGARS)
FIBRE – 2.1G
SALT – 0.5G

 

Ingredients

6 pancetta slices, finely chopped
2 fresh rosemary sprigs, leaves stripped and chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
100g unsalted butter, softened
Vegetable oil to rub

Method

1. Cook the pancetta in a frying pan over a high heat for 1 minute on each side until beginning to crisp. Add the rosemary and garlic and cook for 2 minutes until fragrant and the pancetta is very crisp. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool for 10 minutes.

2. Put the butter in a bowl, add the cooled pancetta mix and stir to combine. Chill for 20 minutes. Once firm enough to handle, spoon onto a sheet of cling film and roll up into a long cylinder, twisting the ends tightly. Wrap in more cling film and chill until firm (see make ahead).

3. Light a barbecue or heat a griddle pan. When the coals are glowing white or the pan is hot, peel back the husks from the corn and cut off or tie back with string. Rub the corn cobs all over with the oil, then grill for 8-10 minutes, turning, until charred and tender. Spread with the flavoured butter and eat straightaway.

The butter will keep, well wrapped, for up to 48 hours in the fridge or up to 1 month in the freezer.
A sunny white from hot Sicily has the right balance – try a fiano.

Sweetcorn with pancetta, rosemary and garlic butter
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Servings
6
Cook Time
25 min
Servings
6
Cook Time
25 min
Sweetcorn with pancetta, rosemary and garlic butter
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Servings
6
Cook Time
25 min
Servings
6
Cook Time
25 min
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Christmas Steak

Christmas Steak

This restaurant-style steak is served carved and dressed in two fresh holiday-hued sauces — salsa roja and chimichurri — inspired by the two-tone grilled snapper served at the restaurant Contramar in Mexico City. Don’t be afraid of generously salting the meat; it helps create a real steakhouse crust.

Level: Easy

Total: 1 hr 5 min

(includes resting time)

Active: 30 min

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

Salsa Roja:

2 small plum tomatoes, cored

2 cloves garlic 

1 small jalapeno, stemmed, seeded and halved 

 

1/2 small white onion, halved 

1/4 teaspoon red wine vinegar 

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper 

Chimichurri:

3 tablespoons red wine vinegar

4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves

1/2 cup packed fresh cilantro leaves

1/4 cup ice cubes

2 tablespoons packed fresh oregano leaves

1 jalapeno, stemmed, seeded and roughly chopped

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

 

Steak:

One 2-pound bone-in porterhouse steak (about 2 inches thick)

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper 

1 tablespoon canola oil 

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into cubes 

3 cloves garlic 

2 sprigs fresh thyme 

Directions:

1. For the salsa roja: Add the tomatoes, garlic, jalapeno and onion to a medium saucepan. Add 6 cups water and bring to a boil over high heat. Simmer until the vegetables are softened, 15 to 20 minutes.

2. Drain the vegetables, add to a blender and blend until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the vinegar. Season with salt and pepper. Let cool, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve. 

3. For the chimichurri: Add the vinegar, garlic and a generous pinch of salt to a blender and blend on low until smooth. Add the parsley, cilantro, ice, oregano and jalapeno and blend on medium speed. With the blender running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil and blend, stopping to scrape down the sides if necessary, until smooth, about 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer the chimichurri to a serving bowl, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve. 

4. For the steak: Let the steak sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes before cooking. 

5. Position an oven rack 5 to 6 inches from the broiler and preheat the broiler.  

6. Heat a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Pat the steak dry and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper; the steak should be almost completely white from the salt. Add the oil to the hot skillet and when it begins to smoke, add the steak. Cook the steak until browned and crusty on both sides, about 4 minutes per side. Remove to a cutting board. 

7. Cut the strip steak from the bone and carve the meat across the grain. Cut the tenderloin filet from the bone and carve the meat across the grain. Place the bone back in the center of the skillet and arrange the sliced steak around the bone in its original formation so that it looks like a full steak. Top with the butter, garlic and thyme. 

8. Broil until the butter is melted and a thermometer inserted sideways in the center of the steak registers 120 degrees F for medium rare, 3 to 4 minutes (see Cook’s Note). Tilt the skillet slightly to pool the butter, then spoon it over the steak several times to coat. 

9. Transfer the steak to a serving platter and pour the melted butter over top. Top one half of the steak with the chimichurri and spread evenly. Top the other half with the salsa roja and spread evenly. Serve with the remaining chimichurri and salsa roja on the side.

 

Cook’s Note

The side of the porterhouse with the tenderloin filet will cook faster than the side with the strip steak. Remove the filet and continue to broil the strip if you want even medium-rare doneness.


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Pretzel Bites

Pretzel Bites

I love pretzels in any shape or form, what I’m not too thrilled about is the price of pretzels at the mall or the re-heated frozen pretzels they sell for a ridiculous price at the movie theaters.  That’s why I’ve been making my own pretzels for the past year or so.

In the beginning I thought pretzels were really hard to make at home.  The Alkaline Water Bath that gives pretzels that unique pretzel flavor and signature chewy crust seemed daunting.  So to avoid a procedure I thought would be messy and difficult I first made pretzels that didn’t require this dipping process.  Those pretzels were very good and seriously really easy to make!  Instead of the Alkaline Water Bath these pretzels were brushed with egg wash which gave them a shiny surface.  Click here for that no bath basic pretzel recipe!

My family really loves those pretzels which I switch up with different flavors including a Cheesy Garlic Pretzel and a cinnamon sugar one. But delicious as they are they lack that true pretzel texture and flavor.  So I decided what the heck, let me try to make “real” pretzels.  I didn’t want to be too ambitious, I seriously thought the bath dip was very difficult, so I figured I’d start with Pretzel Bites.  Dipping small pieces of dough had to be easier and less messy than dipping and entire pretzel!

Once I got the Alkaline Water Bath going, which by the way is just a fancy name for a Baking Soda dip, I discovered this step was pretty easy.  And believe me the end results were so worth the extra effort!  The Pretzel Bites turned out EXACTLY like the ones sold at the mall!  My homemade Pretzel Bites had the same flavor and texture; they’re crust has a bit of crunch when you bite it yet it’s chewy too.  In short they were perfect.  My grandsons love them!

So next time you have a yen for Pretzel Bites don’t run to the mall just whip up a batch at home!  Believe me you won’t regret it.  Here’s the recipe!

Pretzel Bites

Ingredients:

2 1/2 Cups Flour

1 1/2 Tsp. Yeast

1/2 Tsp Salt

1 Tbs. Butter, melted

2 Tsp. Brown Sugar

1 Cup Warm Water

Kosher or Coarse Salt for the topping

2/3 cup Baking Soda in 10 Cups water for the Bath

Directions:

Mix together flour, yeast, 1 Tbs. of the melted butter, brown sugar, and water. If using a stand mixer use the dough hook attachment to mix.

Once the ingredients are well combined knead with dough hook for about 5 minutes or by hand for 12 minutes.

Dough should be very soft and smooth but not sticky.  If too sticky add more flour 1 Tbs. at a time until it’s no longer sticky.  If the dough is too dry add more warm water 1 Tbs. at a time until it’s soft and smooth.

Move dough to a lightly oiled bowl and cover with a cloth or plastic wrap.  Let rise until it’s doubled in size, about 30-60 minutes.

Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Combine baking soda and water for the bath in a large pot and bring to a boil.

Meanwhile punch down dough and divide into 10 equal pieces.

Let rest for 5 minutes uncovered.

Roll each piece into long rope on a lightly floured surface.

Cut each rope into 1″ pieces.

Drop pieces into boiling baking soda bath 2-3 pieces at a time.  make sure they aren’t crowded together or at sticking to each other.

Let dough sit in the baking soda bath until they float.

Remove each floating dough piece from baking soda bath and place on baking sheet about 1/2′ apart.

Brush with melted butter and sprinkle with coarse salt.

Bake for 10-12 minutes or until they are golden brown.

Remove from oven and serve either by themselves (they’re delicious) or with your favorite dipping sauce like mustard, cheese, marinara sauce or ranch.

 

 

 

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