Appetizers, Salads

Heirloom Tomato and Burrata Caprese Salad

Heirloom Tomato and Burrata Caprese Salad-2

 

“It is the sweet, simple things of life which are the real ones after all.” Laura Ingalls Wilder was right on.

The freshness of your ingredients – heirloom tomatoes, burrata cheese, fresh basil – make this simple salad so beautiful and delicious. Ideal for late summer gatherings with friends or family.  Pair with a good bottle of wine and fresh bread.

A simple post for a simple salad. I’d like to think Laura would wholeheartedly enjoy this. I’m certain you will.

Heirloom Tomato and Burrata Caprese Salad-1Heirloom Tomato and Burrata Caprese SaladHeirloom Tomato and Burrata Caprese Salad-3

 

Ingredients:

  • 3 large Heirloom Tomatoes
  • 2 balls burrata cheese (8 ounces total), torn into pieces
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, torn into pieces
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

Directions:

  1. Wash, dry, and slice tomatoes into 1/2 inch slices.  Discard ends and season tomato slices with salt and pepper.
  2. Arrange tomatoes on a platter, overlapping slightly.  Top with burrata and fresh basil.  Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Servings: 4 (side-dish) or 2 (main-dish with some crusty bread)

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Breakfast Recipes, Salads

Asparagus, Egg and Bacon Salad with Dijon Vinaigrette

Asparagus, Egg and Bacon Salad with Dijon Vinaigrette4

 

I have to give you an excuse for going over a month between blog posts.  Would you believe I spent the last month in French Polynesia, retracing the last years of impressionist painter Paul Gauguin?  I wouldn’t either. (I’ll save that for next year.)

How about the fact that my good friend, chef Mario Batali, and I finally fulfilled our mutual dream of culinarily sailing the entire Great Lakes.  We only ate the fish we caught.  We prepared and cooked it all on our 35 foot Catalina sailboat.  Never came in to port for a month. You buy that excuse? (At least that one was regional.)

Or, maybe … just maybe, I got engaged. Yup.  That one’s actually true!

Between the many celebrations, and an actual work conference (my blog isn’t my “job” … yet), my time for posting was a bit gobbled up.  Fear not, my friends.  I’m back in the kitchen.  Excelsior!

Onward and upward, indeed, with this dish.  My, oh my!  Asparagus, hard boiled egg, and bacon … a match made in heaven. (See what I did there? He, he. I couldn’t resist.)  When tossed with a Dijon vinaigrette, this heavenly match becomes even more divine.

When asparagus is in season, buy fresh from the market and use within a day or two.  When asparagus is not in season, easily substitute green beans.  I typically keep hard boiled eggs on hand for an easy grab and go snack.  Thus, this salad comes together in a jiffy.  The minimal ingredient list makes this recipe inexpensive to put together.  A low carb, high protein, gluten-free breakfast / lunch for two.  Cooking for two just got a whole lot easier and a whole lot more meaningful 😉

Asparagus, Egg and Bacon Salad with Dijon VinaigretteAsparagus, Egg and Bacon Salad with Dijon Vinaigrette1Asparagus, Egg and Bacon Salad with Dijon Vinaigrette2Asparagus, Egg and Bacon Salad with Dijon Vinaigrette4

 

Ingredients:

  • 4 strips bacon
  • 1 bunch asparagus, ends discarded and cut on a bias into bite size pieces (substitute green beans in off season)
  • 2-4 hard boiled eggs (how to cook hard boiled eggs), sliced into thirds and seasoned with a pinch of salt and pepper
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • Salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

Directions:

  1. Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Fry bacon until crisp. Remove bacon from pan and drain on a paper towel.  Once cooled, crumble into small pieces.
  2. Discard all but 1 tbsp of bacon grease from skillet. Return skillet to medium heat and add asparagus.  Season with a pinch of salt and pepper and cook until tender.
  3. Prepare vinaigrette by whisking together olive oil, apple cider vinegar, Dijon mustard, and a pinch of salt and pepper.
  4. Divide the asparagus onto 2 plates. Top each plate with equal amounts of crumbled bacon and hard boiled egg slices.  Drizzle with dressing and serve.

Servings: 2

Appetizers, Sandwiches

Smoked Trout Salad

Smoked Trout Salad

 

It’s been said before. It’s awfully true … Food is memories.

When I was growing up, many a Friday in the winter meant one thing to me.  Roooooad trip!  We’d get out of school at 2:30 pm.  By 3:00 pm, the car was packed and we were heading north.  Skis and snowboards on the roof. Duffel bags squished into every nook and cranny (usually a friend or two in tow).  On the way up, we would stop at this little gas station that sold the best locally smoked fish.  We typically stocked up on salmon, whitefish, and trout for the weekend.  I still remember the smell of the fish smoking in the parking lot.  I’ll never forget the laughter and excitement in the car as we reached our final destination.

I haven’t actually returned to that northern Michigan gas station in years.  However, I’ve found a famous local gem which “brings me back.”  Calumet Fisheries, located on the calumet river – south side of Chicago, hot smokes their fish on site using special oak logs.  This place deserves a visit if you live in the Chicago area.  Check it out.  I made a trip last weekend and stocked up on some of my favorites.  Smoked trout, salmon, and shrimp.  This fabulous smoked trout salad was a result of said trip.

Smoked Trout SaladSmoked Trout SaladSmoked Trout Salad

 

Almost comically easy to prepare – mix together mayonnaise, sour cream, chives, dill, lemon juice, salt and freshly cracked black pepper in a medium bowl.  Add in the smoked trout, shallot, and celery, stir to combine and serve one of 2 ways:

  1. Loaded high on top of an open face bagel topped with fresh dill and thinly sliced cucumber
  2. Served as a dip along side homemade everything bagel chips and veggies

A new regular in my meal rotation. Delicious morning, noon or night.  Thanks, Mom and Dad, for introducing smoked fish into my diet at a young age.  Food is, indeed, memories.  In this case, they’re both great.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 tbsp fresh chives, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tbsp fresh dill, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 lb smoked trout, skin and bones removed, flaked (I yielded 1 3/4 cups flaked fish)
  • 2 small shallots (about 1/4 cup), finely chopped
  • 1 celery stalk (about 1/4 cup), finely chopped

Directions:

  1. Combine mayonnaise, sour cream, chives, dill, lemon juice, salt and freshly cracked black pepper in a medium bowl.  Mix well.
  2. Add trout, shallot, and celery. Stir to combine.
  3. Serve on a toasted bagel with thinly sliced cucumbers and fresh dill or with homemade everything bagel chips (recipe below) and cucumber coins.
  4. To make homemade everything bagel chips – thinly slice a bagel into 6 slices, spray both sides with olive oil spray and season with salt. Bake at 350 degrees F for 15 minutes, rotating the baking sheet half way through.  Allow to completely cool and store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week.  Worth the effort, trust me.

Makes about 2 1/2 cups

Smoked Trout Salad

Breakfast Recipes

My Favorite Morning Smoothie

My Favorite Morning Smoothie

I should trademark this phrase. ‘My Favorite Morning Smoothie.’  It’ll undoubtedly be the upcoming title of a new band,  a popular song, or political podcast.  Alas, for now, it shall be the modest title of my most recent post. (Don’t any of you go stealing it!)

In addition to being low in calories and high in vitamin C, strawberries and raspberries are high in fiber.  Banana adds a wonderful depth of flavor and an extra boost of potassium.  Yogurt is added for a creamy texture and a bit of protein. Fresh orange juice gives the wonderfully subtle tang.  Both fresh or frozen fruit can be used.  I prefer frozen, adding a nice thickness.  I adore this recipe.  If you use all frozen fruits, you may need to add a bit of milk or water.  If you use all fresh fruit, you may need to add a bit of ice.

Now you can be that person.  You know where “My Favorite Morning Smoothie”  actually originated.  It came from Emily Always Cooks!

My Favorite Morning SmoothieMy Favorite Morning Smoothie

Ingredients:

  • 10 strawberries (hulled), fresh of frozen
  • 1/4 cup raspberries, fresh of frozen
  • 1 banana, fresh of frozen, cut into thirds
  • The juice of 1 whole blood orange
  • 1/2 cup low fat vanilla yogurt
  • 2 tbsp of water or milk, if needed
  • Ice, if needed

Directions:

Combine all ingredients in your blender.  Blend on high for 45 seconds or until smooth and creamy.  Add additional liquid or ice if needed.  Note: If you use all frozen fruits, you may need to add a bit of milk or water.  If you use all fresh fruit, you may need to add a bit of ice.

Servings: 1 (Serving Size: 2 full cups)

Thank you Driscolls for sponsoring this post.

Sauces, Marinades, and Dressings, Vegetarian Recipes

How to Freeze Homemade Basil Pesto

How to freeze basil pesto

 

Are you reluctantly saying goodbye to summer?  Here’s my perception.

Whip up a large batch of homemade pesto.  Then freeze it.  IN ICE CUBE TRAYS!! (yes, that deserved the double exclamation point).  We all love the smell and taste of fresh basil pesto.  We need it during the non summer months.  That said, here’s my quick tutorial for an effortless process to preserve the freshness of basil:

  1. Make a double patch of homemade pesto.
  2. Fill an ice cube tray with pesto, about 2-3 tbsp per cube.
  3. Cover tray with plastic wrap, being sure to press the plastic wrap against the pesto so it is touching the top layer.  This reduces oxidation (dark green color).  Allow pesto cubes to freeze completely, at least 2 hours or overnight.
  4. Pop pesto cubes out of the tray and store in your freezer in an airtight container for up to 6 months.
  5. Add the pesto cubes to dishes throughout the winter for a fresh pop of flavor, or simply toss with pasta for an easy weeknight meal.

How to freeze basil pesto

 

Preserving summer fresh ingredients helps me get through the extensively cold Midwestern winters.  Eating a bowl of pasta with fresh homemade pesto in the middle of January.  It’ll do good for for your soul.

Note:  If you are going to toss with pasta, add a small amount of starchy pasta water to your frozen pesto before adding the pasta.  The salty starchy water not only helps to thaw the frozen pesto, it helps glue the pasta and sauce together.  Don’t forget to top with fresh parmesan cheese!

Salads, Sandwiches

Chicken Salad with Grapes, Almonds, and Tarragon Dressing

Chicken Salad with Grapes, Almonds, and Tarragon Dressing

 

Chicken salad is so subjective.  Everyone thinks of something a little different when they hear those two words. Everyone has their favorite way to prepare it.  I wouldn’t dare claim this recipe as “the best” or “the greatest.”  I’ll be political here.  What I will tell you?  This is the way I like it (so, obviously it IS the best and greatest).

Chicken Salad with Grapes, Almonds, and Tarragon DressingChicken Salad with Grapes, Almonds, and Tarragon DressingChicken Salad with Grapes, Almonds, and Tarragon Dressing

 

Pick up a rotisserie chicken from the market, or use leftover chicken.  Either option works well.  I like the substantial crunch the celery and almonds provide.  I like the little kick of sweetness from the grapes.  And I love the tarragon. Tarragon is a must!  Preparing chicken salad “the classic way”… that’s how I roll.

I eat this for lunch or a no-cook-dinner on a hot summer evening.  Serve on a bed of lettuce, in these cute Endive boats, as an open face sandwich on a piece of toasted multigrain bread, or straight out of the bowl with the serving spoon.  Greatness awaits.

Ingredients:

  • 1 rotisserie chicken (or 3 large cooked chicken breasts), skin and bones removed and meat shredded or cubed into medium sized pieces
  • 3 celery stalks, finely chopped
  • 3 green onions, chopped
  • 2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 cup grapes, halved
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise (I used reduced-fat)
  • 1/3 cup 2% Greek yogurt
  • 2 tbsp fresh tarragon, finely chopped
  • Zest from a whole lemon
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice (juice from 1/2 lemon)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • ½ cup whole raw almonds, toasted and chopped (you could also use slivered almonds)

Directions:

Combine chicken, celery, green onions, parsley, and grapes in a large bowl.  Toss to combine and reserve.

In a medium bowl combine mayonnaise, Greek yogurt, tarragon, lemon zest, lemon juice, salt and pepper.  Blend well. Adjust seasoning to taste.  Add dressing to the reserved salad.  (Note: You may not want to use all of the dressing.  Use your preferred amount depending on how saturated you take your salad and how large your chicken was.)

Toss salad and dressing to combine.  Add almonds, toss again, and serve.

Servings: 6 (Serving size: about 1 cup)

Thank you California Endive Farms for the beautiful  shipment of endive!  The slightly bitter flavor and crunchy texture of the endive leaves play very well with this chicken salad recipe.  Absolutely delicious!

Salads, Side Dish Recipes

Wedge Salad with Buttermilk Herb Ranch Dressing

Wedge Salad with Buttermilk Herb Ranch Dressing

 

The classic wedge salad is making a comeback.  The revolution is happening in your kitchen.  Not a steakhouse. Believe it.

A hunk of super crisp iceberg lettuce soaked in creamy homemade ranch dressing and topped with crispy bacon, scallions, tomatoes, crumbly blue cheese, and freshly cracked black pepper.  It may not be the healthiest salad, but it is damn delicious.  It’s also damn handsome, if I do say so myself … (and I do).  Serve as a main course with a chunk of crusty bread, or along side a grilled porterhouse.  Perfection.

Say goodbye to spending $15 on an “upscale” steakhouse wedge salad.  Say hello to this simple, homemade, ultimate, knock-your-socks-off version.  Homemade is always better. Viva la revolution!

Wedge Salad with Buttermilk Herb Ranch DressingWedge Salad with Buttermilk Herb Ranch Dressing

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 head iceberg lettuce, cleaned, cored, and cut into 4 wedges (or 8 wedges, sometimes I like to serve 2 smaller wedges per serving in lieu of one large wedge)
  • Buttermilk Herb Ranch Dressing
  • 2 plum tomatoes, cut into pieces
  • 2 scallions, chopped
  • 8 strips thick cut bacon, cooked and crumbled into bite sized pieces
  • 1/2 cup blue cheese, crumbled (splurge on a chunk of firm goat milk blue, locally sourced if possible)
  • Freshly cracked black pepper

Directions:

Divide the lettuce between 4 plates.  Top each wedge with buttermilk herb ranch dressing, tomatoes, scallions, bacon pieces, blue cheese, and freshly cracked black pepper.

Servings: 4 (Serving size: 1/4 head of iceberg lettuce, 1/4 cup buttermilk herb ranch dressing, 1/2 plum tomato, 1/2 scallion, 2 strips of bacon, 1/8 cup blue cheese, freshly cracked black pepper to taste)