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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Main Course Recipes

Lamb Shanks with Parmesan Polenta and Mushrooms

Lamb Shanks with Parmesan Polenta and Mushrooms

Time to talk lamb shanks?  Why, yes. Yes it is.

From the lower section of the leg, lamb shanks are a full-flavored cut of meat.  They do, however, require a bit of love and attention to bring out their full potential.  These shanks are first browned in veg oil.  This gives them color while enhancing their rich flavor.  Then, the’re slowly braised in a flavorful and aromatic liquid.  This braising method breaks down the connective tissue and … (culinary cliche alert) …  yields fall-off-the-bone tenderness.
Lamb Shanks with Parmesan Polenta and Mushrooms
Now, let’s talk about the hot tub for the shanks.  Or, the “baaaa-th tub.” (I couldn’t resist).  All feeble-minded lamb jokes aside, I’m referring to the braising liquid.
Onion, carrots, celery, garlic, and tomato paste are caramelized in the drippings from the browning process.  They’re then combined with red wine, chopped tomatoes, beef stock, thyme, rosemary, and bay leaves.  THEN … brought to a boil.  The shanks are returned to the pot (tub) and placed into the oven. Three hours later, it’s feast time.  I paired these lamb shanks with dreamy Parmesan polenta and mushrooms.  Glamorous!
Lamb Shanks with Parmesan Polenta and Mushrooms
Make plenty, as leftovers can be transformed into another meal that shines.  Shred left over lamb , combine with leftover sauce, and serve over pappradelle noodles with fresh basil and Parmesan cheese.
Leftovers
Ingredients:
  • 2 1.5lb lamb shanks
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 3 carrots, finely chopped
  • 3 celery stalks, finely chopped
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 6oz can tomato paste
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 14.5oz can chopped tomatoes in juice, I prefer low sodium
  • 2 cups low sodium beef stock
  • 1 cup water (or more if needed)
  • 15-20 sprigs fresh thyme, bundled together with butchers twine
  • 1 tbsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Salt and freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • Parmesan cheese, freshly grated

Directions:

  1. Allow lamb shanks to come to room temperature for 30 minutes. Trim off any excess fat, cut an inch off the end to expose the bone marrow, and season liberally with salt and pepper.
  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  3. Heat large dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add vegetable oil and sear lamb shanks on all sides until nicely browned.  Remove lamb shanks and set aside.
  4. Drain excess fat from the dutch oven, leaving about 1/2 tbsp.  Drop heat to medium and add carrot, celery, and onion. Cook for 15 minutes until vegetables are nicely caramelized.  Add a pinch of salt and freshly cracked black pepper to season.  Add garlic and cook for 2 additional minutes.
  5. Add tomato paste and stir into vegetables to coat. Cook, stirring often, for 8-10 minutes to caramelize and develop the tomato flavor.  This is an important step. Don’t skimp on caramelizing the tomato paste as it adds a lovely depth of flavor to the dish.
  6. Add red wine and scrape down any brown bits that have developed on the bottom and sides of the pot.  Add chopped tomatoes, beef stock, and water.  Stir well and increase heat to medium-high to bring to a low boil.  Add thyme, rosemary, and bay leaves. Stir well.  Return lamb shanks to the pot.  If the liquid level does not come to the top of the lamb shanks, add additional water.  Season with a pinch of salt and freshly cracked black pepper.  (Note, if you did not use low sodium stock no need to season with salt, the stock will contain enough salt to season the dish.)
  7. Place lid on dutch oven and put in the preheated oven and cook for 2 1/2 hours, basting and rotating lamb shanks 2-3 times throughout the cooking process.  Remove lid and cook an additional 30 minutes to concentrate the cooking liquid.
  8. At this point, start your parmesan polenta and mushrooms.
  9. Remove lamb shanks to a serving platter and tent with foil to keep warm.  Place the dutch oven on the stove-top over low heat. Remove thyme bundle and bay leaves, and skim off any grease that has gathered on the surface (I removed about 3 tbsp).
  10. Taste sauce and season with salt and pepper if necessary.  Add 1/4 cup fresh parsley.
  11. Spoon about 2 cups of sauce over lamb shanks and serve with parmesan polenta and mushrooms.
  12. You can serve the lamb shanks 2 ways – remove excess fat from the shanks, discard, and serve chunks of lamb mixed with the sauce (like a ragu). OR -serve each person an entire lamb shank to pick at themselves.  Both ways are equally as good 🙂  ALWAYS serve with parmesan polenta and mushrooms.
  13. Top plated dish with freshly grated Parmesan cheese and fresh parsley.

Servings: 2-4

Note: If you are serving a crowd, there will be enough sauce for 4-6 lamb shanks – no need to double the sauce if you cook additional lamb shanks.  Just make sure your dutch oven is large enough, or cook in 2 pots.

Leftovers: Shred left over lamb shanks, combine with leftover sauce, and serve over pappradelle noodles with fresh basil and Parmesan cheese.

Leftovers

Main Course Recipes, Pasta Recipes, Seafood Recipes

Zucchini Noodles and Spaghetti with Pesto, Roasted Tomatoes, Garlic and Shrimp

Pesto Zucchini Noodles and Spaghetti with Roasted Tomatoes, Garlic and Shrimp

 

I’m a pesto loving fool.  I’m also a tomato loving fool.  Thankfully, this dish has ’em both (plus super cool spiraled zucchini noodles).  I’m a fool in love, and in this particular instance I’m referring to my dinner.

What do I love about this dish (other than the pesto and tomatoes?):

  • The harmonious balance of slightly chewy al dente pasta and crunchy veg achieved through the combination of pasta noodles and zucchini noodles.
  • The sweetness from the roasted garlic.  Enough said.
  • The toppings. Shrimp, garlic and herb panko breadcrumbs, lemon zest, fresh basil, and the parmesan cheese.

Tomatoesphoto 1photo 2

 

Spiral that fresh zucchini and slice up those pretty multi colored cherry tomatoes. Tear up that fresh basil, and take in that delicious aroma from the roasted garlic.  Lady Summer is still hanging around for a while, and she loves when you get a little foolhardy with her fresh ingredients … she told me so.

Pesto Zucchini Noodles and Spaghetti with Roasted Tomatoes, Garlic and Shrimp Pesto Zucchini Noodles and Spaghetti with Roasted Tomatoes, Garlic and Shrimp Pesto Zucchini Noodles and Spaghetti with Roasted Tomatoes, Garlic and Shrimp Pesto Zucchini Noodles and Spaghetti with Roasted Tomatoes, Garlic and Shrimp

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tsp olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 pound spaghetti (or 2 oz per person)
  • 1/4 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • A small pinch of Herbs de Provence (or dried oregano)
  • A small pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1 head roasted garlic, squeezed from skins, and mashed with a fork
  • 1/2 cup pesto, homemade or store bought
  • 3 zucchini, spiraled (use a vegetable spiral slicer or a julienne peeler)
  • 1 lb large (16-20 count) shrimp, shelled and deveined (Ask your butcher for them this way.  If you have to devein your own shrimp, follow these steps.)
  • The zest from 1/2 of a lemon (approximately 1/2 tbsp)
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil
  • 1/4 cup freshly shaved Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and freshly cracked pepper, to taste

Directions:

  1. Reminder: If you haven’t already done so, roast your garlic now. This takes about 35 minutes!
  2. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
  3. Add the tomatoes to the sheet pan, drizzle with 1 tbsp olive oil, and sprinkle with salt. Toss to coat, then spread out into a single even layer.  Roast for 20-25 minutes.
  4. Cook the spaghetti according to package instructions until al dente.  You want the pasta to be tender but slightly firm to the bite.  Drain, reserving 1/4 cup of starchy pasta water.  Reserve pasta.
  5. Meanwhile, add 1 teaspoon olive oil, panko bread crumbs, minced garlic, Herbs de Provence, red pepper flakes, and a pinch of salt to a small skillet.  Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the breadcrumbs are toasted and fragrant.  Remove from heat and reserve.
  6. Combine roasted garlic, pesto, and a few tablespoons of the reserved cooking water in a small boil.  Stir to combine and reserve.
  7. Add 2 tbsp of olive oil to a large skillet over medium high heat.  Add spiraled zucchini, salt, and freshly cracked black pepper.  Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally until zucchini is cooked through.  (Note: Watch your spiraled zucchini carefully. You do not want it to overcook and become mushy. The goal is for it to retain a nice crunch.)
  8. Meanwhile, add 1 tbsp of olive oil to another large skillet over medium high heat.  Season shrimp with salt and freshly cracked black pepper, and cook for 5 minutes until cooked through.  Cover to keep warm and reserve.
  9. Once spiraled zucchini is cooked through, add the cooked spaghetti and pesto mixture to the pan. Toss to coat and cook for 3 minutes.  Add more pesto or pasta water if necessary.  You want the spaghetti and zucchini to be coated with a nice layer of pesto.
  10. Add the roasted tomatoes to the pan. Toss to combine and cook one additional minute.  Sprinkle with half of the toasted bread crumbs, lemon zest, fresh basil, and reserved shrimp.
  11. Transfer to a serving platter, or serve right out of the skillet.  Serve with remaining  bread crumbs and fresh parmesan cheese on the side.

Serves: 4

Appetizers, Grilled Recipes, Vegetarian Recipes

Grilled Caprese Salad

Grilled Caprese Salad

 

Here’s a recent dialogue I had with a caprese salad.  (What, you don’t talk to your food?  What, your food doesn’t talk back?)  ME: Oh, caprese.  You are the embodiment of simple and delicious.  You make me happy.  There’s no way you could be any better.  CAPRESE: GRILL ME!

When my food speaks to me, I listen.

I equate Fall with warm comfort foods.  That said, I still crave fresh fruits and vegetables during the autumn months.  This is the perfect combination.  Fresh tomatoes and basil, warmed through on the grill, pared with melted mozzarella cheese and grilled bread.  Grilling the tomatoes brings out their sweetness.  This also releases some of their delicious juices.  These juices concentrate as the salad cooks, creating a lovely sauce to be sopped up with grilled bread.

Grilled Caprese Salad

 

If you do not have access to a grill, you can achieve the same results by placing the caprese salad stacks under your oven broiler.  Just be sure to keep at least 6 inches between the top mozzarella layer and the broiler.

This dish can be served as an appetizer, side dish, or light lunch.  Be sure to serve with plenty of grilled bread for that sauce!

Ingredients:

  • 2 large ripe tomatoes (about 1 lb each), sliced 1/2 inch thick (Each tomato should yield 3 center slices)
  • 1/2 lb fresh mozzarella, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, torn into pieces
  • 1 tbsp olive oil, plus more for bread
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 baguette cut into 1 inch slices (drizzled with a small amount of olive oil)
  • 1 garlic clove, left whole

Directions:

Heat grill to medium high heat.

Prepare 2 large pieces of tin foil, at least 8 inches long each.  Using a pastry brush, brush a small amount of olive oil into the center of each piece of foil.  Create caprese salad stack by placing one slice of tomato onto tin foil, then season the tomato with salt and pepper.  Next, add a layer of mozzarella, then basil.  Repeat 2 more times ending with mozzarella.  Repeat process with the second piece of tin foil, making a second caprese salad stack.  Season the top of each stack with additional pepper and 1 tsp of olive oil.  Fold the sides of the tin foil to create a wall around the caprese salad stack.  This will catch juices.  Place on the grill for 5 minutes until mozzarella is melted.

Meanwhile, grill bread for 2 minutes per side.  Remove bread from grill and rub with a raw garlic clove. (Note, make sure the bread is still warm when you rub it with the garlic clove.  This heats up the garlic and transfers the flavor to the bread.)

Remove caprese salad stack from the grill and top with additional fresh basil.  Serve with grilled bread.

My favorite part of this dish is the juices that cook out of the caprese salad.  Make sure to catch them in the tin foil.  Dip grilled bread into these juices liberally!

Grilled Caprese Salad

Sauces, Marinades, and Dressings, Vegetarian Recipes

Fresh Summer Tomato Sauce

Fresh Summer Tomato Sauce

 

This is the perfect time of the year to share my fresh homemade tomato sauce.   Tomatoes are in abundance at the farmers markets, and they’re at their peak of freshness.  This is definitely a summer tomato sauce.  Light, extremely flavorful, and oh so fresh tasting.  This sauce will ruin all other tomato sauces for you (sorry).

My favorite way to serve this sauce is over warm pasta with grated parmesan cheese and plenty of fresh basil.  If you prefer meat sauce, add to browned Italian sausage or pancetta.  If you want to up your vegetable intake, combine sauce with roasted zucchini, mushrooms, and red peppers.  Use in any recipe that calls for your favorite marinara sauce, or simply tear off a piece of fresh bread, dip, eat, and repeat.  The opportunities are endless.

Make it soon, before tomatoes say goodbye to us for the winter!

Summer Tomato Sauce

 

Ingredients:

  • 8 large ripe tomatoes (2-3 lbs) – you can use any type of tomato, many swear by romas for making sauce, I just use whatever tomatoes look ripe at the market or are on hand
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup white onion, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • pinch red pepper flakes, more if you like it spicy, leave out if you like no heat
  • 1 bay leaf
  • fresh basil, to finish

Directions:

First, you need to blanche and peel your tomatoes.  Bring a large pot of water to a boil and prepare an ice water bath in a large bowl (just like it sounds…add ice and water in a bowl large enough to hold all of your tomatoes).  Cut a small x into the bottom of each tomato.  Place the tomatoes in boiling water and blanche for 15-30 seconds.  Immediately place blanched tomatoes into your prepared ice water bath to stop the cooking process.  Your tomatoes are now ready to peel.  The skins should easily come off, but if you are having a hard time, just add the trouble tomato back into the boiling water for 10 seconds.  Discard the skins.

Next, you will need to remove the tomato seeds.  Cut tomatoes into quarters or in half.  Squeeze tomatoes over a strainer placed over a bowl to catch the juices.  Discard the seeds and reserve the tomato juice.

Note: If you live in a region where fresh tomatoes are not prevalent, use canned whole tomatoes in their juice (2 28oz cans should do the trick).  Just disregard the first 2 steps and skip straight below.

Place prepared tomatoes into a food processor or blender and pulse until a puree is formed.  If you prefer a chunkier tomato sauce, mash tomatoes with a potato masher.  Add reserved tomato juice to tomato puree and reserve.

To prepare your sauce, add olive oil to a pot over medium heat.  Add onions and garlic and cook for 5 minutes until translucent.  Add reserved tomatoes, oregano, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, and bay leaf.  Let sauce come to a boil, then reduce heat and allow sauce to simmer for 45 minutes, stirring frequently.  Remove and discard bay leaf, and add fresh basil.  Adjust seasoning to suit your taste and enjoy!  This will result in a light, fresh, summer tomato sauce.  If you prefer a more caramelized sauce, allow to cook for an additional 30-45 minutes.

Yields: 3 1/2 – 4 cups.  This recipe is ideal for canning or freezing.

Appetizers, Snacks, Vegetarian Recipes

Easiest Bruschetta Ever

Sometimes, it’s as easy as combining freshly baked bread, a ripe tomato, and basil.  Pour yourself a glass of white wine, and the perfect afternoon snack or light lunch is served.

Bread, Tomato, and Basil

 

Ingredients:

  • 2 slices of fresh bread, lightly toasted (or not, your preference)
  • 1 ripe tomato, sliced
  • 2 fresh basil leaves, torn
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste

Directions:

Assemble tomato and basil on top of bread.  Drizzle with olive oil.  Top with sea salt and fresh ground black pepper.