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“Jersey” Panzanella Salad

30 Sep

Why Jersey Panzanella? Because Jersey tomatoes are the best! We had such a great season this summer. I planted one red and one yellow heirloom pant; we are still getting tomatoes and tomorrow is October 1st! We were getting so many and in my search to make something new I came across an Insta post from my friend and fellow blogger Stacey Snacks (no, she is not the pita chip lady) of a beautiful panzanella salad. Perfect for a light dinner on a hot, summer night.

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And just to let you in on a little something, I don’t like tomatoes. I like tomato soup, ketchup and pasta sauce but not tomatoes. I only eat tomatoes, raw, in the summer that are grown here in New Jersey. And I happen to know that the chef at our favorite restaurant is the same way.

Now I know that you are supposed to use stale bread, but I wasn’t anticipating making this so I didn’t happen to have a stale loaf of bread around. I bought a nice loaf of rustic Italian bread from a local Italian bakery, cubed it and toasted it in the oven…it was perfect! As with many of my recipes, I searched several and then use what I like from two or three to get the recipe that I will like and here it is, simple and delicious!

Ingredients

1 Small loaf of Italian bread, cubed

1 Small red onion, thinly sliced

3 Medium tomatoes, diced

1 Cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced

1 Clove of garlic, minced

2 Tbs Red wine vinegar

1/3 Cup Olive oil

1/2 tsp Dijon mustard

1/2 tsp Sea salt

1/2 tsp Freshly ground pepper

Several leaves of fresh basil, torn into pieces and a few left whole for garnish.

Directions

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Place cubes of bread on a baking sheet, bake for about 5 minutes and then toss and bake for another 5 minutes or so to make sure they are evenly toasted. I like them very crispy so they don’t get too soggy.

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For the onions, slice thinly and soak the slices in water with a teaspoon of vinegar for at least 30 minutes, this will ensure they are not too strong.

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In a large bowl combine the tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, toasted bread cubes and basil.

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Whisk together olive oil, vinegar, mined garlic, dijon mustard, salt and freshly ground pepper to make the dressing.

Pour the olive oil dressing over the vegetables and bread, stir to combine and coat well. You may want to adjust salt and pepper to taste.

Let stand 30 minutes before serving. Garnish with basil leaves.

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Peace and good eats!

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Savory Summer Tart

17 Jul

I’m always looking for a new recipes that use artichokes, I just love them. I found this recipe on Pinterest for a Spinach, Artichoke and Caramelized Leek Tart, I prefer my name, it’s shorter and easier to say. We were going to our friends for dinner, so I made it but didn’t bake it, covered it with foil and off we went. I popped into the oven when we got there, served it up and there wasn’t a crumb to be found. Everyone agreed it’s a keeper!

There is a real depth of flavor between the sun-dried tomato spread, the caramelized leeks, artichokes and spinach that you get in every bite. It is a delicious appetizer that you can make ahead and pop in the oven when your guests arrive that will be ready in just 30 minutes.

Ingredients for Tart:

1 Tbs butter

2 cups chopped leeks (about 2 leeks, white and pale green parts only)

1 14 ounce can artichoke hearts, drained and patted dry

4-5 cups fresh spinach

1/2 tsp fresh thyme

2-3 cloves of garlic, minced

Kosher or Sea salt

Ground pepper

Water

1 Sheet of puff pastry, thawed but still cold

1/3 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Sun-dried tomato spread

Ingredients for Sun-dried Tomato Spread

1 Tbs olive oil

1 yellow onion, peeled and chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

8 ounce jar sun-dried tomatoes in oil, chopped

1 1/2 Tbs tomato paste

1/4 red wine vinegar or red wine

1/2 tsp dried basil

1/2 tsp dried thyme

Salt and pepper

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.

2. Heat butter in a large skillet over low heat. Add the leeks with a pinch of salt and stir to coat with butter. Allow the leeks to sweat for about 8 minutes and the turn the heat up to medium. Allow the leeks to slowly caramelize, stirring frequently. As a brown glaze forms on the bottom of the pan add 1 to 2 tablespoons of water at a time, stir to incorporate the glaze back into the leeks. Once they are nicely caramelized (about 10 to 15 minutes), add the garlic, artichoke hearts and thyme. Cook for another 3 minutes, add the spinach. Cook until spinach is nicely wilted, season with a bit of salt and pepper. Turn off and set aside.

To make the Sun-dried Tomato Spread:

3. Add 1 Tbs olive oil to a skillet over medium heat. Sauté  the onion, stirring occasionally for 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in garlic, sun-dried tomatoes and tomato paste. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes.

Remove from heat and let cool. Transfer mixture to food processor. Add red wine vinegar, basil, thyme, salt and pepper. Pulse until all ingredients are well combined. Set aside.

4. Roll out the puff pastry until it is approximately 11 x 15 inches. Place the dough on the baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Roll the edges slightly and crimp. Spoon the sun-dried tomato mixture over the puff pastry evenly. Place the artichoke, leek, spinach mixture over the top. Sprinkle with cheese.

5. Bake the tart for 25 to 30 minutes or until the edges are golden and firm.

Let sit for about 10 minutes to set until serving…peace and good eats!

 

 

 

 

Potato Salad, Blue Cheese Style!

27 Jun

With the 4th of July coming up next week, here is great twist on classic potato salad, the addition of blue cheese. I know not everyone loves blue cheese but for those of us that do, this is a real winner! Just as easy as the old stand by but with great flavor. Make sure you use a good quality blue cheese. And for the peas, I like to use fresh, but you can use frozen if you need to.

This potato salad goes particularly well with grilled steak and bbq chicken. It’s a family favorite at all of our summer get togethers. And for those who don’t care for blue cheese it’s easy to cook some extra potatoes and make the old classic; two are better than one.

Ingredients:

3 lbs new potatoes (I like to use the fingerling potatoes that come in the different colors)

1 1/2 cup peas

1 cup blue cheese

1/2 cup chopped scallions or green onions

1 cup sour cream

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup white vinegar

1 Tbs Dijon mustard

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Cut potatoes into small chunks, boil in a large pot of water until desired tenderness. Add peas to boiling potatoes for the last 2 or 3 minutes then drain in colander and rinse with cold water.

Mix the blue cheese, mayo, sour cream, scallions, vinegar, mustard and salt and pepper in a large bowl. Add potato and peas to wet ingredients and mix until well combined.

Sprinkle some chopped scallions on top and it’s ready to serve!

Wishing everyone a happy and safe 4th of July!

 

Artichoke Tapenade…that Ain’t no Choke!

13 Feb

In my last post I wrote about cookbooks and mentioned David Lebovitz, well this recipe is from his cookbook My Paris Kitchen. As I was reading it (yes, reading a cookbook) I saw this recipe for an Artichoke Tapenade with Rosemary Oil, there are few things that I enjoy more than a good artichoke dish. I don’t like rosemary oil though, so I used regular olive oil. This is my new favorite, easy to make and delicious!

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Ingredients

14 oz can artichoke hearts, drained and quartered

1/2 cup pitted green olives

1/3 cup olive oil + more for drizzle

1 Tbs capers, rinsed and squeezed dry

1 Tbs freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped

1/8 tsp cayenne pepper

Sea salt or kosher salt

Directions

In the bowl of a food processor, puree the artichoke hearts, olives, olive oil, capers, lemon juice, garlic and cayenne pepper until smooth. Taste, and season with a bit of salt if necessary. (I did not add any salt, the olives and capers did the trick.)

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Serve drizzled with olive oil or rosemary oil if you prefer, along with toasted baguette, crackers, toasted pita or flat breads for dipping.

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Serves 6 to 8. Will keep for up to 4 days in the refrigerator.

 

Cookbook Collection or a Collection of Cookbooks?

26 Jan

I love cookbooks. Only recently did I actually start to read them, like a book. I always used to just look for a recipe, find it, make it and be done with the book. I never really looked at a cookbook as a book, but they are; it’s right there in the name.

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When I really started to enjoy cooking and learning new things about cooking I started to buy lots of cookbooks. And I got them as gifts because I guess people liked my cooking and wanted me to cook more, or perhaps they didn’t like my cooking and thought I needed cookbooks to make me a better cook? Either way I love them and have recently started reading them, really reading them and to my surprise there is a lot to learn and not just about cooking but the people who have written them. My new favorite author in the world of cooking is David Lebovitz. I highly recommend you get at least one of his cookbooks; he has great recipes and stories of Paris, what could be better than that? Being in Paris and reading it, I suppose.img_5002

My other favorites are the ones that my Mom gave me. I have her old and tired Fanny Farmer, one she made as a fundraiser for the church and my Great Grandmothers cookbook. It’s fun to read and see the notes that my mother wrote and my Great Grandmother. img_5004After the last few years I have gathered what I now refer to as a collection. And I will keep adding to it. I just wish I had a bookcase in my kitchen because my table isn’t going to hold much more. I will keep buying them and reading them; really reading them to learn, be entertained and hopefully become a better cook!img_5003

 

 

How to make Butter even Better!

9 Jan

If you read my blog regularly then you know that this past summer I discovered the wonder of shallots. Who knew such a little thing that not too many people talk about, (as far as food is concerned) could be so good and add so much flavor!

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Now I’m not sure whether it was something I saw on Instagram or Pinterest but somewhere I saw an herbed butter with shallots and garlic. Who ever thought that butta could taste even better than it already does? Well it can. Butta can taste better!

Here is my recipe, they are all pretty much the same, for an herbed butter with shallots and garlic . It tastes great on everything. I use whipped butter, I love that it gets nice and soft; easy to spread. Use the best butter you can afford for the best flavor. And keep in mind that butter should be served at room temperature. One of my biggest pet peeves is hard butter served at a restaurant…you can’t spread it on that yummy bread, it tears it apart.

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Ingredients:

8 oz. whipped salted butter, room temperature

1 Tbsp olive oil

1 large shallot, minced

1 large clove garlic, minced

1 Tbsp fresh chopped chives*

A bit of shopped fresh parsley

To do:

Put butter in a mixing bowl.

Add olive oil to saute pan and heat over medium. Add shallots, cook them until they start to brown, about 5 or 6 minutes. Don’t let them burn.

 

Once the shallots start to brown add the garlic and stir, cook for only another minute or two.

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Add shallot and garlic mixture to the butter, add chives and parsley. Stir to combine until well blended. Refrigerate.

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Of course you can use it right away, store it in the refrigerator, just remember to take it out a bit before you are planning to use it so that it softens up. You can use it on bread, to cook chicken, beef or fish; cook your eggs with it…delicious!

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*You can use any herbs that you like-sage, rosemary, thyme, oregano…it’s really up to you and your tastebuds and what you will be using it for. Enjoy!

 

 

Peachy Keen Crostata

9 Sep

Peaches are summer in a fruit. Nothing better than eating a sweet, ripe peach with the juice running down your chin. And believe it or not, for the few years that I lived in Georgia, I never ate a Georgia peach! Another thing; I did not know that peaches grew in New Jersey until just recently and they are delicious!

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After buying too many peaches at the farmer’s market a few weekends ago I decided to make a peach pie-my favorite kind of pie. Now I don’t know about you but I’m not very good at making a pie look pretty…so my new friend is the crostata. A crostata is basically a pie with only one crust that doesn’t need to look pretty.

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Crust Ingredients

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp salt

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, very cold, cut into small cubes

1/3 cup ice water, plus 1-2 Tbs as needed

Filling Ingredients

1 1/2 lbs peaches, pitted, peeled and cut into 1/2″ slices

1/4 cup sugar

1 Tbs lemon juice

2 Tbs corn starch

1 pinch of salt

2 Tbs unsalted butter, cut into pieces

Glaze Ingredients 

1 egg, beaten

1 Tbs apricot preserves

1 tsp water

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Directions

For the crust, combine flour, salt and cold butter cubes in the bowl of a food processor (I did it by hand with a fork). Pulse several times until cubes become the size of peas. Transfer the flour mixture to a large mixing bowl and 1/3 cup of ice water. Stir gently adding additional water if necessary until dough forms a ball that is moist but not sticky. Take the dough a shape into a disk and wrap with plastic wrap, refrigerate for 45 minutes.

Once the dough has chilled, preheat oven to 425 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Remove dough from refrigerator and place on floured work surface. Roll the crust into a 14″ to 16″ circle, dusting with flour as needed to prevent sticking. Roll the dough around the rolling pin to prevent the dough from breaking as you transfer it to the baking sheet.

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To make the filing, toss the sliced peaches, sugar, lemon juice and corn starch in a large bowl until the cornstarch is completely dissolved. Spoon the filling into the center of the crust, leaving a 2″ border all the way around. Fold the crust over the filling then brush some egg wash under any dough that overlaps, it helps the folds of dough stick to each other. Dot the top of the filling with butter then brush the entire surface  of the crust with the remaining egg wash.

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Bake 20 minutes then rotate the pan and bake for an additional 20-25 minutes until crust is golden brown and filling is bubbly. Remove from oven. Stir apricot preserves with hot water and brush over the filling. Allow crostata to cool enough so the filling sets. Cut into wedges and enjoy! And a little bit of vanilla ice cream doesn’t hurt!

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