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Category: Food (Page 1 of 10)

Halloumi and Grilled Veggie Salad

Halloumi and Grilled Veggie Salad

Adding grilled veggies and halloumi to salad greens makes this salad hearty and delicious. The halloumi and vegetables can be cooked outside on the grill or indoors on the stove-top in a grill pan.

Halloumi is sheep and goat’s milk cheese from the island of Cyprus. A unique characteristic of halloumi is that it has a high melting point making it ideal for grilling or pan-frying. When halloumi makes contact with a hot grill or pan, the exterior begins to turn golden brown and the interior becomes soft.

If you can’t quite wrap your head around grilling the halloumi on a grill, check out this video of Curtis Stone showing you how it is done. Grilling cheese until it’s golden? Sign me up.

 

To make the grilled veggie and halloumi salad, slice 8 ounces of halloumi into 1/2” slices. For the vegetables, prepare one peeled red onion by cutting into wedges. Cut the two zucchini into thick slices, one red pepper into thick strips, and eight mushrooms cleaned and halved. Place veggies, halloumi, olive oil, salt, and pepper in a large bowl stirring to coat all the ingredients.

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Next, in a small bowl whisk together 3 tablespoons of tahini, 2 tablespoons water, 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, 1 tablespoon maple syrup, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Heat grill or grill pan to medium-hot. Cook veggies and halloumi in batches, turning once until charred. Place both halves on the lemon on the grill and cook until you can see grill marks on the lemon.

Arrange salad greens on a large platter, top with grilled veggies, halloumi, tahini dressing and fresh parsley. Season to taste. Squeeze grilled lemon over salad. Serve immediately.

Other veggie-forward meals that you may want to check out:

Vertical image Halloumi and Grilled Veggie Salad-1

Tomato Bruschetta with Aged Balsamic Drizzle

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One of my favorite things to do with a bowlful of garden tomatoes is to make tomato bruschetta with an aged balsamic drizzle. Sweet, juicy tomatoes flavored with shallots and garlic atop of a crispy slice of baguette. Bruschetta is the garden’s gift to people who love to snack.

I don’t recommend making bruschetta with store-bought tomatoes, they just don’t have a desirable flavor and texture. You might be able to get away with using the little grape tomatoes if you are desperate for bruschetta when tomatoes aren’t in season. But, I typically only pull this recipe out during the summer months.

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Bruschetta is a quick and easy appetizer to serve with drinks or as a starter served with soup or salad. Much of this recipe can prepped ahead of time. Bruschetta can be assembled just before serving or I like to set up bruschetta bar and let my guests assemble their own.

How to Make Bruschetta

Once you’ve chopped the tomatoes, the other veggies and seasonings, the bruschetta mixture should sit in the fridge for a while. This will allow the flavors to develop. The next step is to make the balsamic reduction. The drizzle of balsamic vinegar adds a tangy sweetness to the tomatoes. Reducing balsamic vinegar on the stove top in a small saucepan until syrupy is easy and yields a delicious result. If you haven’t tried making it, do it! You won’t be disappointed.

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So, the clock is ticking on garden tomatoes…..tick, tick, tick! So, before they are gone, grab a gorgeous baguette, slice it up, brush the slices with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper. Broil or grill until golden and crispy. Top with tomato mixture, and a drizzle of the balsamic reduction. Consume and repeat!

If you want to understand what makes a good French baguette then check out this short video.

Other appetizer recipes you  may want to check out:

Bruschetta Aged Balsamic Drizzle-3

Burrata Caprese Salad

Overhead shot of Burrata Caprese Salad

Traditional Caprese salad is made with fresh mozzarella and tomatoes. But, when tomato season is in full swing, I like to kick my Caprese salad up a notch by using heirloom tomatoes and burrata. Heirloom tomatoes offer a dizzying array of colors, shapes, and textures, plus they are delicious. Burrata is fresh mozzarella which is stretched thin and flat. Then a mound of a cream is placed in the center and the mozzarella is wrapped around the creamy center. It is decadent, delicious, and definitely worth seeking out! So, give Burrata Caprese Tomato Salad a try.

What is Burrata?

This year I found a nursery that grows a huge variety of heirloom tomato starts. I spent half of a morning walking through their greenhouses looking up pictures and information on my phone about unfamiliar tomatoes. The staff was super helpful and gave me recommendations on their favorites. Now, I am starting to see the fruit maturing into gorgeous specimens.

I always grow tons of basil. For the last few years, I have planted three basil plants which are very happy in my herb garden box. The plants end up looking like bushes, deliciously fragrant and huge bushes. I chop those babies down two or three times during the summer and make big bashes of pesto. Some of the pesto I use right away on pizzas or pastas. The rest of the pesto I freeze in ice cube trays and transfer the frozen cubes into freezer bags to use during the rest of the year.

Side angle of Burrata Caprese Salad

But, I am going off on a little bit of tangent here, aren’t I? Back to the heirloom tomato and burrata Caprese salad. I like to slice up the large tomatoes into slices, cut the medium-size tomatoes into wedges and half the small or cherry tomatoes. I like to use a variety of shapes and colors and lay the tomatoes pieces out on a platter.

Then, I take the burrata and rip it up into pieces and place them into the nooks and crannies of the tomatoes. Many people put whole basil leaves in their Caprese salad but I like to stack a bunch of basil leaves one on top of another and then roll them up into a little cigar shape. Next, I will cut the basil cigar into thin ribbons and then sprinkle the ribbons all over the tomato and burrata mixture. Doesn’t that look pretty?

To finish the salad, I drizzle olive oil and balsamic vinegar over the salad and season with salt and pepper. Delizioso!

Vertical image of Burrata Caprese Salad

How to Make Burrata Caprese Salad

Other recipes you may want to check out?

Italian Chopped Salad

Italian Chopped Salad

The dog days of summer mean salads for days. The weather is hot but this Italian Chopped Salad is cool, crisp, and delicious. When the temperatures soar I find myself craving cooling raw foods and not wanting to spend much time in the kitchen. Who can be bothered heating up the oven, clicking on a burner or even standing by a hot BBQ grill? On many summer days, I can’t.

There is no cooking involved in this Italian Chopped Salad. It only requires a bit of chopping and assembling. You can even prep the salad ingredients and dressing ahead of time. Then, you just need to take a few minutes to assemble the salad. Viola! Dinner is served.

Italian Chopped Salad

How to Make an Italian Chopped Salad

The steps necessary to make an Italian Chopped Salad are combine crisp Romaine lettuce with a few handfuls of colorful spring mix salad greens for a beautiful base.

For the chopped part of the salad, rinse and drain a can of artichoke hearts and then halve or quarter them depending on their size. You want to have bite-size pieces. No awkward large pieces! For the roasted red pepper, I cut it once around the equator (horizontally around the middle) and then into thin strips.

Halve the olives. Be sure to use nice olives for this salad. Skip the canned olives. Kalamata olives are typically sold in glass jars and have better taste and texture than the canned counterparts. Drain and rinse the chickpeas and then toast the pine nuts.

Italian Chopped Salad

To make the dressing, in a small bowl or Mason jar, combine olive oil (or tahini if you are trying to reduce processed oils), mustard, apple cider vinegar, honey, Italian seasoning, salt, pepper, and garlic. Shake or whisk to combine.

I like to serve the Italian Chopped Salad on a large platter or bowl. Then, layer the greens, artichoke hearts, roasted red pepper, olives, and chickpeas, toss salad with dressing and top with toasted pine nuts. I like my salads to be lightly dressed so add about half the dressing then toss. You can always add more but you can’t take any out once you’ve poured it on!

Here are few other salads that you might enjoy

Pesto Pizza with Caramelized Onions and Burrata

Pesto Pizza with Caramelized Onions and Burrata

I don’t know what I could possibly say to let you know how much I love melted cheese on a crispy crust of bread. You have heard me ramble on pizza in such posts as Portobello Mushroom Pizza, Pizza with Morel Mushrooms and Green Onions, Smoke Mozzarella Lemon Pizza, and Zucchini and Peach Pizza with Basil. At the time that I wrote those, believe me, they were my favorite pizza. But now, I am deep in love with Pesto Pizza with Caramelized Onions and Burrata.

Do any of you get into ruts with food? I do. Sometimes I can’t help myself. I just start thinking about the decadent creaminess of burrata, the herby garlic flavor of pesto, and the sweet taste of tomatoes and onion. So, I don’t stop thinking about it and before I know it, I have made this pizza three times in a month.

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Readers of this blog will know how I feel about burrata cheese. For those of you just stopping by, burrata is fresh mozzarella which is stretched and then wrapped around a gooey center of creamy deliciousness. That is the official definition.  It adds a luscious bite to recipes. If you aren’t lucky enough to live near a market that sells burrata, fresh mozzarella is a good substitute.

I typically use a pizza stone when baking a pizza at home. The stone absorbs the heat so when the dough makes contact it simulates the affect that happens in a wood-fired pizza often. The result is a crispy slightly charred crust. So good.

Here’s a quick video about using a pizza stone to cook pizza at home.

How to Make Pesto Pizza with Caramelized Onions and Burrata

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Smokey Sweet Jalapeno Poppers with Mango

Smoky Sweet Jalapeno Poppers with Mango on a sheet pan

Can I get a hell yeah that summer is finally here? Once the weather turns warm all I want to do is be outside. And one of the things I love doing outside is cooking. These Smoky Sweet Jalapeno Poppers with Mango are a delectable bite which can be made outside in a smoker.

Sweetie and I spend a lot of time in his little rustic A-frame cabin in the mountains. It’s glorious up there except for a few weeks each summer when temperatures soar and the cabin which has no air-conditioning becomes incredibly hot. So, all cooking that happens takes place outdoors as to not heat up the kitchen. We have a fairly well-equipped outdoor kitchen which includes a BBQ grill, a flat-top grill, a smoker, and a camp stove.

These Smoky Sweet Jalapeno Poppers are little mouthfuls are spicy, sweet, salty, and creamy. We have made jalapeno poppers in so many different ways but this is our favorite. Slice the jalapenos vertically from stem to end and scrape out the seeds and ribs. I use a spoon to scrape out the seeds and ribs but be sure to put the spoon directly into the dishwasher or hand wash. Don’t make the same mistake that I have made and take a taste of the filling from the spoon or worse yet, offer someone else a taste. Learn from my mistakes. Fill with a delicious cheesy filling, wrap in bacon and cook in smoker until the bacon is crispy.

Smoky Sweet Jalapeno Poppers with Mango coming out of the smoker

This iteration of jalapeno poppers includes diced mango and red onion in the cream cheese mixture. The mango is what gives the popper the hint of sweet. If you don’t like mango or can’t find ripe ones, you can swap out another fruit like pineapple. The red onion add a little bite, if you prefer a milder onion flavor you can swap with a shallot or green onion.

We have found that it is best to avoid thick cut bacon for poppers. Regular thinner sliced bacon cooks quicker and will crisp up without worry about overcooking the jalapeno.

If you like cooking outside, you might want to check out these recipes:

Smoky Sweet Jalapeno Poppers with Mango Vertical Image

Rice Salad with Asparagus and Peas

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This post is published in partnership with We Olive SLC

Rice Salad with Asparagus and Peas is as light and colorful as a beautiful spring day. After so many months eating warm hearty meal I wait not so patiently for asparagus and peas to arrive heralding milder temperatures and the earth coming back to life.

I use short grain Arborio rice because it is starchy and as it cooks its texture becomes creamy yet the grain remains firm. You will add the asparagus and peas to boiling water during the final minutes of when the rice is cooking. A vinaigrette olive oil (I used basil-infused olive oil because yum), sherry vinegar, garlic, and anchovy paste flavors the rice and vegetables.

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If you’ve never used anchovy paste before don’t be put off by it. You can find it in a tube at most grocery stores or on Amazon. Anchovy paste is a combination of ground anchovies, olive oil, and little sugar. If you want that savory flavor bomb (and you should) but aren’t keen to deal with anchovies, paste is the way to go.

About the peas, if you can get your hands on fresh peas, by all means, use those but if you can’t, frozen peas will work just fine. Prepare the asparagus just as you always do by cutting or breaking off the tough fibrous bottoms.

Arugula adds a freshness and peppery bite to the salad. Have you tried to growing arugula? It’s so easy! I grow it in pots on my patio. It’s actually really easy to grow many greens and herb in pots. Try it. Nothing is better than picking fresh greens and eating them moments later.

This rice salad is a perfectly good meal on its own but it could also be a nice accompaniment to a grilled protein like salmon. It also travels well if you are looking for something to bring to a potluck or if you pack lunch to work.

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Here are a few other salads that you may be interested in:

How to Make Rice Salad with Asparagus and Peas

Rice Salad with Aspargus and Peas

Everything Pretzel Bites

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I don’t often make bagels at home but I do make pretzel bites which are small mouthfuls of soft pretzel deliciousness. Perhaps it’s because I am indecisive or that I cannot commit to just one bagel topping but everything bagels have always been my flavor of choice.

If you aren’t familiar with everything bagels, they are topped with a combination of ­­­poppy seeds, sesame seeds, dried garlic, dried onion, and coarse salt. You can make your own everything seasoning mix or stop by Trader Joe’s and pick up their ‘Everything but the Bagel’ seasoning mix.

Until I discovered the Trader Joe’s seasoning I typically topped by pretzel bites with coarse salt. But, now when I make them I sprinkle them liberally with everything seasoning mix. If you don’t have a Trader Joe’s near you, then here is a quick video that shows how to make your own everything seasoning mix at home.

The pretzel-making process may sound daunting but it really isn’t that bad. Once you set up an assembly line the process isn’t really that bad. I use my stand mixer to make the dough and just knead with my hands a few times at the end before letting the dough rest in an oiled bowl. Then, section the dough and roll each section into a long rope and cut into bite-sized pieces. A quick dunk into a pot of boiling water with baking soda and those babies are ready for the oven.

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Unless you live in New York City, it isn’t always easy to grab a good soft pretzel as you are wandering around town. That is why I started playing around with making them myself. Everything pretzel bites are a game time staple during football season.

There is something super satisfying about popping one of these pretzels hot from the oven into your mouth with only a quick detour into a pile of mustard or cheese sauce. But, be warned these everything pretzels are pretty addictive. Even if you think you have made enough you may find that they disappear as quickly as you can churn them out.

How to Make Everything Pretzel Bites

Other finger foods you may be interested in are:

Everything Pretzel Bites

Portobello Mushroom Pizzas

Portobello Mushroom Pizzas

I love pizza. Let me be very clear, I could eat pizza every single day of my life. I am not necessarily proud of that fact but it is the truth. For me, there is no greater comfort than warm, melted cheese stretching from the plate to my mouth. Bring it on.

But honestly, sometimes I don’t feel like messing around with dough. I am one messy cook, I get flour everywhere even if I am only rolling out store-bought dough. Enter Portobello mushrooms. They are perfect stand-ins for pizza crust. Mushrooms are hearty and meaty and their cup shape perfectly holds sauce, cheese, and any toppings that you enjoy.

Portobello Mushroom Pizzas

For a quick and easy weeknight dinner use jarred or canned tomato sauce. I use for mozzarella for its ability to melt into stringy gooeyness, provolone for its flavor, sand parmesan for its sharp bite. I like the combination of cheeses but you can skip the provolone and I still think you will be happy with the result.

For the toppings of this Portobello mushroom pizza, I love sun-dried tomatoes and pine nuts with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar, a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes, and ribbons of basil. But, you can swap out these toppings for anything that you prefer.

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I also love olives and onions. Sometimes I use pesto for the sauce instead of marinara sauce. I have a stash of pesto in my freezer from last summer’s bounty. I freeze the pesto in an ice cube trays. Make these your own with your favorite toppings or whatever you have on hand.

The secret to pump up the flavor of the Portobello mushrooms is brush them with a garlic butter mixture before you fill them with sauce and toppings and pop them in the oven. Trust me, it is delicious.

Other mushroom recipes you may be interested in:

Portobello Mushroom Pizza

Eggplant Parmesan

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Are you an eggplant lover or an eggplant hater? People seem to fall firmly into one camp or the other. Growing up in an Italian family, eggplant was a staple on our dinner table. That purple beauty was most commonly served in the form of eggplant parmesan.

Fun fact, when my son was a little boy he called eggplant ‘the punching bag fruit’. I still think that this is the cutest thing ever. The punching bag fruit. When buying eggplants at the market you want to look for ones that have smooth purple, shiny flesh and that feels heavy for its size.

Breaded eggplant slices

If you are feeling unsure of how to buy and prepare eggplant you can check out this video. For eggplant parmesan, I don’t typically salt the slices of eggplant but I do if the eggplant will be used in a dish that isn’t covered in sauce and cheese.

There are as many variations of eggplant parmesan as there are Gambino families. Some family recipes call for slicing the eggplant thick, some thin, some peel the eggplant, and others don’t. Then there is the fry their eggplants slices devotees versus the eggplant slice bakers. Personally, I like my eggplant peeled, thinly sliced, coated in panko, parmesan, and baked.

Finished pan of eggplant parmesan

The process of making eggplant parmesan isn’t that much different than making lasagna. Instead of layering noodles, you layer slices of eggplant with marinara and seasoned ricotta cheese. This recipes calls for two eggplants and will fill a 9 x 13 pan but you can also just use one eggplant and bake it in a 9 x 9 or small round casserole.

Side view of eggplant parmesan

This may sound weird to anyone who didn’t grow up in an Italian family but leftover eggplant parmesan makes a divine filling for a sandwich. But, the bread must be a crusty loaf of Italian bread or a baguette if you don’t have good Italian bread in your part of the world.

How to Make Eggplant Parmesan

Other Italian recipes you might enjoy:

Eggplant Parmesan

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