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 It’s said that Caprese Salad was originally made to honor the Italian flag which is Red, White, and Green; the same colors of the salad.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!
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
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.
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
1/2 Cup Olive Oil
2 Tbs. Sugar
1 Tsp. Salt
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
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.
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.
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!
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
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.