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  It’s said that Caprese Salad was originally made to honor the Italian flag which is Red, White, and Green; the same colors of the salad.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.

 

 

Caprese Salad
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Blistered Peppers Tapas

Blistered Peppers Tapas

Tapas some of my favorites things when visiting Spain.  Tapas are appetizers or snacks that are generally eaten in the evenings before dinner.  We usually enjoy them with a  pitcher of Sangria.

Tapas are usually smaller servings of Spanish favorites and are a great way to sample a variety of dishes.   They can be hot or cold and range from olives to small bowls of scampi style shrimp.  One of our favorites are Blistered Peppers, they go great with Blistered Olives which can be green or black olives.

In Spain this particular tapa is made with Padron or Shishito peppers.  Those peppers are about 10 times milder than a jalapeno pepper; blistered peppers are generally on the sweet peppery side not the spicy side like jalapeno or habanero peppers.

But Padron and Shishito peppers are not easy to find in the US.  So I had to look for an alternative.  After experimenting with different types of green peppers I can honestly say that you probably won’t be able to find anything equivalent, however you may be able to come close.  I’ve found that the closest substitute are Anaheim Peppers although they will have more heat and are bigger than either Padron or Shishito Peppers.  Another option I’ve used are Serrano Peppers which are easier to find in Hawaii.  Serrano Peppers are about the same size as Padron or Shishito Peppers but have more heat than either pepper and a bit more heat than the Anaheim pepper.

Whichever you ultimately use the process of making Blistered Peppers are the same.  So here’s my recipe.

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Blistered Peppers

Ingredients:

10-12 Fresh Peppers (Padron, Shishito, Anaheim, or Serrano Peppers which ever one you can find or prefer)

1 Tbs. Olive Oil

Coarse Sea Salt

Directions:

Wash Peppers leaving the stems on.

Dry peppers on a paper towel.

Heat Olive Oil in small frying pan.

Add peppers and gently cook in hot oil until skin starts to blister and turn sort of white.

Remove from heat and toss in coarse sea salt to taste.

Serve hot or cold.  I like to serve them in small ramekins or mini cast iron skillets


Blistered Peppers Tapas
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Gambas al Ajillo Tapas – Shrimp in Garlic Sauce

Gambas al Ajillo Tapas – Shrimp in Garlic Sauce

Serving Tapas always remind me of my many trips to Barcelona.  One of my favorite tapas are Gambas al Ajillo or Shrimp in Garlic Sauce.  I love them with lots of crusty bread for dipping in that butter garlic sauce.

Tapas are small servings of Spanish foods.  They’re usually eaten with wine or cocktails in the evenings before dinner.  We enjoy them with a nice pitcher of Sangria.  They’re a great way to sample a variety of Spanish dishes.  I like to order a variety of Tapas and make a whole meal out of them.

Gambas al Ajillo are exactly like Shrimp Scampi.  They are delicious and best of all very easy to make!   I serve them hot off the stove on a mini cast iron skillet or a ceramic ramekin with lots of crusty baguette slices.  Here’s my recipe!

Gambas al Ajillo

Ingredients:

20 Medium shrimp (41/50 count) – peeled and de-veined with tail on

1 Tbs. Olive Oil

1/4 Stick Butter

1 Tbs. Finely Minced Garlic

Juice of 1/2 Lemon

Directions:

Heat Olive Oil in small skillet.

Melt butter in hot oil.

Add garlic and cook until garlic starts to turn brown.  Stir constantly to keep garlic from burning.

Add shrimp and cook until shrimp turns pink.

Squeeze lemon juice over all.

Serve hot with crusty slices of bread.

Gambas al Ajillo Tapas - Shrimp in Garlic Sauce
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Gambas al Ajillo Tapas - Shrimp in Garlic Sauce
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Barbecued Ranch Potatoes

Barbecued Ranch Potatoes

Now we want to grill all our potatoes!

 

YIELDS:  8             PREP TIME:  0 HOURS 5 MINS           TOTAL TIME:  0 HOURS 20 MINS

 

 

INGREDIENTS:

2 lb. baby potatoes, halved
1/4 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
1/2 packet ranch seasoning
kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Ranch dressing, for drizzling
Chopped fresh chives, for garnish

 

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat grill to medium heat. In a large bowl, toss potatoes with olive oil, lemon juice, and ranch seasoning. Season with salt and pepper.
Thread potatoes on skewers and grill until tender and lightly charred, 15 minutes.
Drizzle with ranch and garnish with chives.

 

 

Barbecued Ranch Potatoes
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Servings
people
Servings
people
Barbecued Ranch Potatoes
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Servings
people
Servings
people
Ingredients
Servings: people
Instructions
  1. Preheat grill to medium heat. In a large bowl, toss potatoes with olive oil, lemon juice, and ranch seasoning. Season with salt and pepper. Thread potatoes on skewers and grill until tender and lightly charred, 15 minutes. Drizzle with ranch and garnish with chives.
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CHEESY GARLIC PRETZELS

CHEESY GARLIC PRETZELS

I’m a big fan of those hot soft pretzels that they sell at malls. I have trouble walking by these kiosks that sell those deliciously salty twisted pieces of baked dough without stopping for a pretzel or two. I’m sure you know how expensive they can get, specially after you add the dipping sauce and drink! Then it gets really costly if you have to buy pretzels for the family.

Well I’ve started making them at home! I know you think it hard, messy, and time consuming. What with letting the rising, blanching, rolling, and shaping of the dough it does sound pretty daunting. But what if you can whip up a batch in about an hour?

Yup this recipe makes a batch of 8 pretzels (more or less depending on the size you make) in about an hour from start to finish. The best part it they cost pennies to make and taste just like the ones at the mall! (At least that’s what my grandkids say, and they love mall pretzels!)

These pretzels are a variation of my Basic Pretzel Recipe. I just added the cheese and garlic!

By the way these pretzels do not require blanching in a baking soda bath. You use an egg wash and it’ll have the same look and texture as store bought!

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CHEESY GARLIC PRETZELS
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CHEESY GARLIC PRETZELS
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Instructions
  1. Fit your standing mixer with the dough hook.
  2. Combine first 3 ingredients in mixer bowl and mix for about a minute. It’s ok with there are clusters of yeast. Let rest for 5 minutes.
  3. In a large bowl stir together 3 cups flour and salt.
  4. Add flour mixture to the water yeast mix.
  5. Knead for 2 minutes. If dough is too sticky add remaining 1/2 cup flour 1/4 cup at a time until dough no longer sticks to the sides of the bowl.
  6. Add cheese, parsley, and garlic powder. Combine well.
  7. Let rest 15 minutes
  8. Preheat oven to 425degrees
  9. Turn dough onto lightly floured surface and knead for about a minute.
  10. Form into a ball.
  11. Using a sharp knife cut ball in half.
  12. Take first half and cut in half again so you have 2 smaller sections
  13. Cut each section in half to make 4 sections
  14. Repeat with second half. You should end up with 8 sections of dough.
  15. Roll each section into a 25” rope. Make rope thickness as even as possible. Take end of rope and hold away from you, twist together about 3” from each end. You should have a circle on the bottom part of rope that is closer to you. Separate the ends and bring towards you, gently pinch either end into the circle part close to you.
  16. Form all sections into pretzel shapes.
  17. Whisk egg and water together in a shallow bowl.
  18. Dip both sides of each pretzel into egg wash.
  19. Arrange pretzels onto a baking sheets covered with parchment paper or a silicone mat.
  20. Bake 10 minutes, rotating baking sheets half way thru cooking time.
  21. Melt butter and brush onto each pretzel then sprinkle with sea salt.
  22. Bake another 5 minutes.
  23. Remove from oven and cool on racks.
  24. Serve immediately or store in ziplock bags at room temp for 3 days. Pretzels can be frozen up to 3 months.
Recipe Notes

If you like to dip your pretzels, these Cheesy Garlic Pretzel are yummy dipped in my Basic Marinara Sauce. They’re an awesome combination!

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