Sicilian Pizza

Sicilian PizzaSicilian pizza = family gatherings.  It would not be a family gathering without including the Sicilian pizza, especially through the holidays.  My mom would bake sheet after sheet pan of pizza to serve our hungry family, uncles, aunts and cousins.  Grabbing squares of pizza, it didn’t matter if they were hot or at room temp or even leftover cold straight from the fridge!  Way back then, I never knew there were round pizzas!  The round ones came from the pizza restaurants, and we never ordered a pizza!

I rarely bake the thick crust pizza.  My favorite is the thin crust, as in my Napoletana Pizza I make every Friday evening.  But when I drift back down memory lane as I was this morning, thinking of Christmas past, there was no other pizza in my life than the thick, square cut Sicilian pizza. Continue reading “Sicilian Pizza”

Italian Fried Dough

Fried…dough…really?  Just around the time when those healthy eating resolutions are starting to weigh heavy (no pun intended) and that strong willpower is beginning to weaken….ooh, I am so sorry.

But just take a bite…a little bite….warm and soft with a sweet sugary kiss on the lips.  If you grew up on these as I did, it is a sentimental kiss, one that warms my soul with precious memories. Continue reading “Italian Fried Dough”

Caramelized Onions, Figs and Goat Cheese Panini

Caramelized onions, figs and goat cheese panini…messy good!  I thought I was using up the last of my fresh figs only to find more  at Trader Joe’s today… guess I’m not done yet with my fig craze!

This quick panini was so tasty, both savory and sweet in each delicious bite.  If you’re not wanting to have a full panini, i.e., two slices of bread for all of you carb watchers, I made this again the next day simply layering on one grilled slice of ciabatta,  more like an open-faced sandwich or bruschetta.  It made a great appetizer. Continue reading “Caramelized Onions, Figs and Goat Cheese Panini”

Reuben Quesadilla with homemade thousand islands dressing

I’m all about classic recipes but sometimes I like to change things up a bit.  Especially when I have a lot of leftovers and don’t want to keep repeating the same thing.  I always start with the corned beef dinner, followed by corned beef hash the next morning and lunch is the much anticipated Reuben on rye bread.  At this point, since I cook like I have a husband and five children, but really only have one son at home who is not a big eater like most 19 year olds boys are, I still have some leftover corned beef to use. Continue reading “Reuben Quesadilla with homemade thousand islands dressing”

Eggplant, Mozzarello and Arugula Muffuletta with Sundried Tomato Dressing

Lazy summer weekends require just a little bit of advanced planning to fall into place perfectly.  I may want to relax and enjoy my weekends, but I also want to have great tasting, good meals to enjoy at my leisure.  I’ve made pressed sandwiches in many variations; I prefer mostly to have an all veggie stuffing.  It may not be all that kid friendly but I don’t have to worry about that these days.

When my children were younger, I would make a Muffuletta with deli turkey and brie.  We’d pack up this sandwich for weekend trips to Sanibel or beach picnics.  It carries really well; prepared ahead of time and sliced when ready to eat.  Can’t get much easier or better than that!

I really miss those road trips. My daughter would carry on and on hating being in the car, her stomach always hurting.  My son and her would fight over what dvd movie to play, he liked the action type or scary ones and she liked the girly teen movies.  Once settled on the movie to watch, we dealt with her sitting too close to him, volume adjusting too loud, too quiet, fidgeting, complaints and finally falling asleep.  Some of the most wonderful memories I will always cherish.

Eggplant, Mozzarello and Arugula Muffuletta with Sun Dried Tomato and Olive Dressing

1/3 cup sun dried tomatoes

Boiling water

¼ cup pitted kalamata olives

¼ cup olive oil – or less

2 cloves garlic, chopped

2 tablespoons parsley leaves

¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

1 loaf Rosemary bread or other freshly bakede rustic style bread

1 eggplant, peeled and cut into ¼ inch horizontal slices

2 peppers, either red or combination of red, yellow or orange

½ pound mozzarella cheese

2 cups arugula

For the dressing:

Place sun dried tomatoes in enough boiling water to cover. Let stand for 15 minutes to soften.  Drain and add to food processor along with the olives, garlic anchovy paste, parsley and pepper.  Slowly add in olive oil to form a paste; not excessively oily.  Refrigerate until ready to use, can be made a day ahead.

For the grilled eggplant:

Lightly oil each slices and grill until tender.  Season with kosher salt and black pepper.  Set aside to cool.

For the roasted peppers:

Place peppers on grill and grill until charred all over.  Or use a foil lined broiler pan and broil until charred all over.  Immediately place peppers into a paper bag and allow to cool.  When cool enough to handle, peel off skin, discard seeds and slice into large sections.  Do not rinse the peppers, just use your hands to rub off the skin and seeds. Set aside.

For the muffuletta:

Cut bread horizontally with a serrated knife.  Remove some of the bread from the inside on both halves, leaving about ½ inch crust.  Save bread in the freezer for bread crumbs or stuffing.  Spread both cut sides with some of the dressing.  Layer in the eggplant slices, top with roasted pepper slices.  Spread another light layer of the dressing and top with mozzarella slices.  Add another layer of eggplant slices and top with arugula.  Firmly press sandwich closed with top crust and tightly wrap with plastic wrap or foil.  Refrigerate until ready to cut and serve.  Also panini pressing this sandwich is awesome!!

Grilled Eggplant, Fontina,Tomato and Arugula…Sandwich?

With the burger grilling season upon us I like to include some grilled veggie options for my veggie loving friends.  I find it hard to call it a grilled “sandwich”.  The eggplant slices do function as the “bread” but it’s not a “sandwich” you’d want to hold in your hands to eat.  Okay, maybe, if you don’t mind getting a bit messy.  But then again, if Bobby Flay refers to this as a “sandwich”, then by all means, it is a sandwich!

I have followed his recipe using goat cheese and basil oil  but this time I made it with fontina cheese and sage.  It’s quite versatile and I find myself returning to this recipe often switching around the cheeses and herbs.  When I have used a smaller, thinner eggplant, the stacks are more appetizer-like though I will serve this as a side, an appetizer or an entrée’.   It’s wonderful served warm but just as good room temperature.

 Grilled Eggplant, Fontina, Tomato and Arugula Sandwich

Adapted from Bobby Flay, Boy Meets Grill

For the herb oil:

½ cup olive oil

½ cup chopped fresh sage or fresh basil

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

For the eggplant sandwiches (for 8 sandwiches):

2 medium eggplants, cut crosswise into ¼ – ½ inch slices, 16 slices

2 tomatoes cut into ¼ inch slices, 8 slices

1/4 cup olive oil

4 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped

8 ounces fontina cheese, thinly sliced

Arugula

1/4 cup packed fresh sage or fresh basil, chopped or chiffonade the basil

Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

For the herb oil:  Combine the olive oil and herbs in a food processor, season with salt and pepper.  Process until pureed, about 5 minutes.

For the sandwiches:  Combine the olive oil and garlic in a large bowl or ziplock baggie.  Add the eggplant and allow to marinate for 1 hour, refrigerated.

Preheat grill or grill pan to high.  Remove eggplant from marinade and shake off any excess.  Season with salt and pepper, grill until golden brown and cooked through about 3 minutes per side.  Place 8 eggplant slices on a work surface.  Top with a slice of tomato, slice of cheese and a few arugula leaves.  Cover with the remaining eggplant slices.  Place on grill until cheese has softened about 1 minute.  Arrange on a platter and drizzle with the herb oil and sprinkle on fresh chopped herbs.

Grilled Salmon and Brie Panini

Going away for a long weekend also means getting away from my kitchen.  I spent this past weekend biking, walking, shopping and dining!  Dining at interesting new places, finding the favorite spot the locals go to, feeling pampered with fabulous food presented to me and no dishes to wash!

I prefer to order small plates of foods; a few appetizers, salad and of course a dessert!  And not necessarily at the same place.  I order an appetizer at one restaurant; move to another for their specialty appetizer and end with a dessert or gelato somewhere else!  So in one short weekend, I could basically hit a lot of restaurants!!   The way I see it, I never get stuffed, and I’m excited and inspired by every dish I taste.  Atmosphere is a big draw for me although a hole in the wall known for good food will bring me in too.

My dad would make us laugh as he would avoid restaurants with white tablecloths.  In his view, white tablecloths meant the overly priced restaurant, the overstated menu, over the top wait staff and high priced wine lists!  When I now see a white tablecloth, I am always reminded of him.  I guess his view has influenced my choice in places to dine as I seek out well prepared, authentic food.  Not trendy nor bland, but food with ‘personality’ and a place that allows me to leisurely enjoy good food, wine and conversation.

For lunch one day we stopped at a place I had seen before but never dined at.  Located off the main strip, down the “basement” stairs to a Pub like atmosphere.  We ordered a Salmon Panini.  They prepare it with smoked lox, but we both agreed making this with grilled or roasted salmon was the way to go.  And so of course, upon returning home, I’m ready to head back in my kitchen and re-create the favorites we ate.  Leftover roasted or grilled salmon would make this an easy dish for using up the leftovers; however, starting from scratch I made a simple roasted salmon filet and whisked together a light dressing.  One pound of salmon would make four generous Paninis.

Grilled Salmon and Brie Panini

For the salmon:

1 pound wild caught salmon, skin removed

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

1 tablespoon lemon juice

Olive oil

For the dressing:

2 tablespoons mayo

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

Juice from one lemon

1 teaspoon chopped fresh dill

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

To assemble the sandwich:

Grilled or Roasted Salmon

Brie

Thinly sliced red onion

Mixed lettuce greens

Thinly sliced tomato

Whole wheat bread or ciabatta

Olive oil

For the salmon:  Preheat oven to 425 degrees.   Place salmon on a lightly oiled roasting pan.  Generously sprinkle the salmon with the lemon juice, salt and freshly ground pepper.  Roast until just opaque in the center, about 10 to 15 minutes depending on the thickness of the fish.

For the dressing:  Whisk together the mayo, Dijon, lemon juice, dill, salt and pepper and set aside.

To assemble the sandwidh: spread dressing on the bread, layer on mixed greens, salmon, thinly sliced onions, tomato and brie. Lightly brush outside of bread with olive  oil and place on grill pan or Panini press.  Grill until lightly browned and cheese has begun to melt.  Slice in half and serve immediately.

I’m Stuffed! Ciabatta Salad Sandwich

If asked for my preference as to how I like my pizza, it would be topped with a salad!  Crisp, mixed greens mounted on a hot slice of pizza.  I don’t often if ever eat it out this way, but my daughter certainly has seen me do this many times at home and I believe I have caught her piling salad on her pizza too!  I finally spotted it on a menu in an Italian restaurant which made me feel quite happy I wasn’t the only one enjoying pizza this way!

The same goes for sandwiches; I’m not a deli meat kind of gal.  Grilled veggie Panini’s are fabulous but when I’m not in the mood or have the time to grill, a salad in a sandwich is quick and easy.  The ingredients vary depending on what I have on hand, but the method does have importance.  Trying to eat a sandwich with loosely mixed ingredients can become quite a messy undertaking.  Therefore, after much trial, error and messy hands, I have perfected my salad sandwich making!

To begin with, I love ciabatta bread.  It crisps up nicely when lightly grilled and the airy pockets make it lighter, less doughy bread.  Still, I cut it not exactly in half lengthwise, about ¾ of the way up and will remove some of the bottom half bread inside to create a “shell or bowl” to fill up with the salad.   I spread pesto on the inside of both and grill or broil until lightly golden.

Slicing tomatoes and cucumbers is better for layering in the sandwich than using chopped veggies which will tend to fall out easier.  Mixed greens of all sorts, arugula, spinach, romaine, crumbled cheeses, artichokes, garbanzo beans, avocado, roasted peppers, etc, etc, are mixed with a light vinaigrette and piled inside.  Sometimes I will lightly broil the filled bottom half to softly melt the cheese and rewarm the top half.  The top should be gently pressed over the salad and cut into individual wedges just before serving.

Since there is no mayo in it, it’s great to wrap up and take on a picnic or bike ride!

Romeo and Juliet…Guava and Cheese Quesadilla

Recently I attended the ballet performance of Romeo and Juliet.   Yes, the classic, timeless, tragic story of forbidden love.   I love the ballet; it’s both magical and beautiful to watch the drama, emotion and passion expressed through dance by these amazing performers.  I was pleasantly surprised to receive the ticket from my friend Martha following her birthday luncheon.

So what happens when a food lover like me watches Romeo and Juliet?  First, I’m brought to tears and then I think about… food.  I own and read so many cookbooks that every now and then, or more often than not, something I had read will trigger my memory.  “Romeo and Juliet”…. “Guava and Cheese”!  I read that the combination of cheese and guava is also known as Romeo and Juliet; a perfect match!

I was introduced to this combination last summer. Goudacheese topped with sweet guava paste or guava jelly/marmalade.  Guava tastes like a mix of strawberry and mango.  Its sweetness is similar to any jam or jelly; the fruit is cooked down with sugar and formed into a jelled paste or marmalade.

The type of cheese varies by individual preference and heritage.  I’ve mostly had it withGouda; however, cream cheese and a Brazilian cheese called Minas are also popular.   Guava topped on cream cheese for a dessert plate reminds me of a deconstructed cheesecake.  For breakfast, guava marmalade lightly spread on toast with cream cheese or for appetizers, served with crackers.

I took it one step further and made it into quesadillas.  Totally yummy!! Gouda melting with the guava paste; the cheese mellows out the sweetness of the guava.  Serve with a nice green salad to compliment the flavors and balance out the sweetness.  Or serve as a dessert quesadilla with a drizzle of pureed guava sauce and a sprinkling of confectioner’s sugar!!

Guava and Gouda Quesadillas

Flour tortillas

Guava paste, sliced thin

Gouda Cheese, shredded

Olive oil

Heat a large cast iron pan or griddle with a light coating of olive oil.  On a cutting board or cookie sheet, lay the tortillas flat and sprinkle cheese on 1 half of each tortilla.  Place thin slices of guava paste on top of cheese.  Amount of cheese to guava varies on your personal preference.   I like a balanced amount of both cheese to guava, about ¼ cup of each; just not too thick.  Fold the tortillas in half and place on heated pan.  Cook until lightly brown, about 2 minutes.  Use a spatula to flip the quesadilla and continue to cook until browned and cheese/guava is melty and gooey.  Allow to rest a few minutes before cutting and serving to firm up the cheese.

Chicken Cordon Bleu Hoagie

I really love my foodie friends.  Friends who get excited about tasting a new dish, finding a cool recipe and wanting to share their ideas to creative something amazing.  I share a certain connection with those friends having that passion for food that a non-foodie would find uninteresting.  It’s those people who live to eat vs. those who eat to live.  My friends who purr with pleasure when biting into something decadent, who love tiny bites of tasty tapas and quaint little restaurants with to-die-for food.

When I spotted this recipe in Cuisine at Home I immediately shared it with my foodie fan, Randy.  He, like me, can look at a recipe and instantly know it will be a hit or miss.  Plus, never leaving good enough alone, we divulge in the most excited manner all the ways we would change it up!  We both loved this idea of having the classic Chicken Cordon Bleu in a casual, fun presentation.  Easy to pick up with your hands or slice up and enjoy.

I prepared the dish as below; however, Randy suggested also adding strips of sautéed peppers and caramelized onions.  Yum….

 Chicken Cordon Bleu Hoagie

Tweaked from Cuisine at Home

2-3 tablespoons olive oil

¾ pound chicken tenders or boneless, skinless chicken breast, sliced into thin short strips

¼ cup minced shallots

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

1 cup homemade chicken broth or quality low sodium store bought

¼ cup heavy cream

2 tablespoons grated Parmesan

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

½ teaspoon herbs de Provence

1 cup broccoli florets, blanched

Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper and cayenne pepper to taste

2 -3 Hoagie buns or round sourdough loaves (each 6 inches)

4-6 thin slices smoked ham

2 cups shredded Swiss cheese, divided

2 teaspoons Parmesan, divided

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Spray a baking sheet with nonstick spray or use a slipat.  Heat oil in a medium sauté pan.  Add the chicken and sauté until beginning to brown, about 5 minutes.  Add in shallots and sauté until softened, about 2.  Sprinkle on flour and cook 1 minute.  Add in broth, stirring constantly to avoid clumping.  Stir in cream, parmesan, mustard and herbs, simmer after each additional until sauce is thickened, about 5 minutes.  Add broccoli, season to taste with salt, pepper and cayenne.  Reduce heat to low.

Hollow out loaves by cutting of tops and tearing out insides, removing as much bread as possible.  Toast loaves directly on oven rack, about 5 minutes, remove to prepared baking sheet.  Place ham slices in bottom of each loaf.  Using a slotted spoon, divide chicken mixture evenly between loaves, reserving sauce in pan.  Top the chicken in each loaf with Swiss cheese and sprinkle on Parmesan cheese.

Bake until cheese melts, about 7-10 minutes.  Serve with reserved sauce.