Tag Archives: panzanella salad

In Praise of Gas Grills…and Roasted Red Peppers

Summer is at its peak and fresh vegetables are overflowing their bins. Grills everywhere are fired up and working up a major sweat. Vegetables and grills have a special affinity that is at its best at this time of the year.

Purists will swear by charcoal and I do love me some char-grilled meat, but there are times when the convenience of gas has many of its own attributes. Disclaimer: I have no choice other than using a gas grill. Apartment living requires it for safety reasons (at least in my complex). That being said, I used gas long before I had to. It is at times a love hate relationship but, lately I love it and here is why.

The biggest plus (in my book) is how quickly it is ready to cook. Turn on the gas and press the button and you have a flame.  In a few minutes it is hot and ready to cook. What I love the most about this almost instant grill gratification is that it allows me to grill only the ingredients that I want. These ingredients can then come inside and become part of a pasta dish, frittata or salad. and yes all of those have happened this past week.

Woodman’s, a local mega grocery store, discounts their slightly sad produce. The discount is deep (think large bags of produce for 99 cents) and it is done daily with Mondays seeming to be the biggest day. While there are often some things that are sadder than others, there is usually enough usable produce to be well worth the under a dollar price. Quick processing then becomes the top priority. My bag of peppers, all of which were usable went in several directions. I chopped up a few and froze them for later, some where good enough for a salad and the rest went on the grill.

Grilling peppers accomplishes two things. The peppers cook into a silky textured scarlet bite of deliciousness and the charring allows the skin to easily be peeled.  This peeling step is a must do. For as silky as the pepper flesh gets the skin becomes tough, chewy and isn’t fun to eat.

As with peeling chili peppers, covering with plastic wrap and allowing the peppers to sit for a few minutes makes the skin easy to remove. The jewel like flesh that is revealed is a thing of beauty.

I opted to roughly chop the peppers for the recipes that I made, but slicing them into strips and adding some herbs, vinegar and olive oil create the perfect star for your next relish tray. As I said they made several appearances in the kitchen. My favorite was their co-starring role in a Panzanella Salad.

Cucumbers, cannellini beans, red onions, tomatoes, and whole wheat baguette joined the peppers and some kalamata olives to create a Mediterranean main dish salad that was wonderful. 

A Mediterranean Vinaigrette laced with lots of Rosemary gave a light yet zesty flavor to the salad. A sprinkling of Feta and it was ready to enjoy.

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Mediterranean Vinaigrette

A twist on the classic vinaigrette with plenty of lemon and more than a hint of garlic. Add any fresh herbs of your choice. This is wonderful on a Greek salad, but it would be equally delightful as a dressing for grilled vegetable or a pasta salad. It makes a great marinade as well.

Ingredients
  • 1 Medium Lemon Juice and zest
  • 2 Cloves Garlic Grated
  • 1/4 Cup White Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1/2 Tsp. Red Pepper Flakes Optional, to taste
  • 3 Tbsp. Chopped Fresh Herbs Parsley, thyme, basil, or you choice
  • Kosher Salt and Pepper To taste
  • 1 Tsp. Dijon Mustard
  • 1/4 Cup Olive oil
Instructions
  1. Combine all of the ingredients in a jar with a tight fitting lid. Shake until completely blended. Allow to rest in the refrigerator for at least one hour.

As far as Panzanella Salad Recipes go…anything goes. Tomatoes and cucumbers seem to be a must and of course crusty bread has to be present as this is a “Bread Salad.”

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Cannellini and Roasted Red Pepper Panzanella Salad

Another variation on the classic Panzanella Salad.  This is totally open to your own interpretation. add or subtract what you want, just make sure the tomatoes and bread stick around.

Servings: 4
Ingredients
  • Can Cannellini Beans Drained and rinsed
  • 2 - 3 Roasted Red Peppers Chopped
  • 1 Cup Sliced Cucumber
  • 1/2 Cup Sliced Red Onion Scliced vertically
  • 1/4 Cup Kalamata Olives Sliced
  • 1 Cup Grape or Cherry Tomatoes Halved
  • 2 Cups Crusty Bread Cubes Day Old is best
  • 3/4 Cup Mediterranean Vinaigrette Recipe above
  • 1/3 Cup Crumbled Feta Cheese
Instructions
  1. If the bread cubes are soft toast them lightly in a 325 degree oven. they should be dry and lightly golden. Combine the peppers, tomatoes, onion, olives, bread, and beans in a large bowl.

  2. Add the dressing and toss to coat everything nicely. cover and chill for several hours.

  3. When you are ready to serve, re-toss the salad adding a little more dressing if necessary. Sprinkle with the Feta cheese and serve.

So now that I have “said my piece” about grills and peppers, I will leave you with this bit of philosophy: Grills and peppers come in all shapes and sizes. Kind of like everything else in the world. Find what works, find what you love, and make it your own.

A New Year, a New Grill and a New Panzanella Salad

When one reaches a certain age, the excitement over Christmas presents diminishes somewhat. It truly becomes a situation of it being better to give than to receive. That’s where we are. We lavished (as much as two people on fixed incomes can) gifts on our children and grandchildren, and enjoyed the glow of their happiness.

We have wonderful children who are raising wonderful children of their own. They were both thoughtful and generous in the gifts that they gave us. One son gave us a dinner at a small cafe in the city because he knows that we love going into Chicago and discovering out-of-the-way places to eat. The other son knew that one of the things we’ve missed most with our smaller home is grilling out. If you’ve been following my adventures over the last year or so, you know that grilling is our cooking method of choice much of the time. So imagine our delight at receiving a small grill from him for Christmas.DIGITAL CAMERA

While this grill is small, it gives us a platform to resume our favored cooking method. It meets the guidelines for the complex we live in and has ample space to grill enough food to feed two people very well. We’ve used this more than a few times since we’ve received it. Steaks and turkey tenderloin have turned out well, even though my husband, Jeff is virtually cooking in the dark. (note to self…buy a lantern or some kind of outdoor light source).

DIGITAL CAMERAOur latest team effort was some wonderful pork steak. I created aDIGITAL CAMERA smoky rub and Jeff worked his magic on the grill. In what turned out to be a genius touch, I topped each steak with Apple Cinnamon Goat Cheese. It added another dimension to the pork steak and complimented the smokey rich meat beautifully. This is most likely a seasonal item at Trader Joe’s that will be gone by the time I get back there, but there’s always next year.

As we get a better feel for what the grill is capable of, we’ll expand our grilling repertoire to include side dishes. For now, the oven has been a marvelous platform for healthy sides. A recent salad that tweaked the summer favorite, Panzanella is the perfect case in point. We’ve been having a serious love affair with roasted brussels sprouts. We often roast them to golden goodness with bacon, but a new year and a return to healthier choices caused me to choose red onions and colored bell peppers instead. DIGITAL CAMERAThey didn’t miss the bacon, and honestly, neither did we. Panzanella is after all, bread salad, so bread had to join the fun. I opted for some sour dough that had seen fresher days.DIGITAL CAMERA Cubed and lightly coated with olive oil spray it was helped along by a quick toast in the oven, to get ready to absorb the bounty to come. DIGITAL CAMERAA simple vinaigrette with white balsamic and lemon juice was a perfect partner.DIGITAL CAMERA Some mini heirloom tomatoes were tossed in to give it a touch of the traditional panzanella.DIGITAL CAMERA The result was a side that perfectly complimented the grilled pork.DIGITAL CAMERAThis turned out so well that I plan to create other panzanella salads this winter. There are lots of veggies and many varieties of bread out there that would undoubtedly love to get together in a salad bowl. 

Roasted Brussels Sprout Panzanella
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Panzanella salad in the winter? Absolutely! Roast your favorite veggies and toss them with your favorite bread and dressing. Who needs summer?
Servings
4
Servings
4
Roasted Brussels Sprout Panzanella
Print Recipe
Panzanella salad in the winter? Absolutely! Roast your favorite veggies and toss them with your favorite bread and dressing. Who needs summer?
Servings
4
Servings
4
Ingredients
Dressing
Salad
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Whisk the dressing ingredients together in a small bowl or shake in a jar with a tight fitting lid. Set aside
  2. Place the bread cubes in a baking pan. Spray lightly with olive oil cooking spray and toss to coat evenly. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 - 15 minutes until the cubes are dry, crisp and just barely browned. Place in a large serving bowl.
  3. Combine the Brussels sprouts, red onion, and bell pepper in a large roasting pan. Add the tablespoon of olive oil and the salt and pepper. Toss to coat evenly.
  4. Roast at 350 degrees for 35 - 40 minutes. The veggies should be tender and lightly browned. Pour the vegetables and any liquid over the bread cubes and toss to combine.
  5. Pour the dressing over the mixture in the serving bowl and toss to coat.
  6. Add the tomato halves and toss once more. Allow to sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes. Toss again and serve at room temperature.
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Try this basic recipe and come up with your own bread salad. One can’t live by bread alone, but it does make life more delicious.

 

 

Holding On To Summer

The calendar says August. The thermometer is registering 80 degrees. The humidity outside can be cut with a knife. That sure sounds like Summer to me.  Yet most schools are back in session, or will be soon. The stores are filled with “Back To School” clothes and if you look beyond the Halloween displays there is the faintest hint of Christmas creeping onto the shelves. I was in retail long enough to know that is all part of the corporate marketing plan, but wait a minute (or at least a few weeks). It’s still SUMMER!!!

The air conditioning is on more than it is off in my house. There are still tomatoes on the vine, but last week I opened my mailbox and found a Fall food magazine…I’m not ready for this. I’m still enjoying the fruits of summer, and the vegetables, too. I grill out almost every night (okay, I do that a lot at other times of the year, but still…). Living in the Midwest, Fall means Winter, and that means cold and snow and ice. There will be plenty of time for hearty soups and squash gratins, so let’s put all of that aside and focus on the here and now of Summer.DIGITAL CAMERA

Vegetables are still at their peak. We are blessed with fresh local sweet corn. Local meaning the ears were in the fields this morning less than five miles from home. DIGITAL CAMERAI admit that I am a Midwestern corn snob. I love it on the cob, brushed with butter, sprinkled with a little salt and pepper. DIGITAL CAMERAI adore it grilled as is or off the cob used in recipes. Corn is having its heyday and that’s just fine with me.

Grilled corn is a wonderful addition to many dishes. I recently used it in a Gazpacho that featured cucumbers, peppers, and of course tomatoes. DIGITAL CAMERACall it a soup, call it a liquid salad, it’s a wonderful way to use summer’s vegetable bonanza. Use what you have or what calls to you at the market. This gazpacho recipe will give you a jumping off place like the diving board at the deep end of the pool.

Gazpacho
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Servings
4
Servings
4
Gazpacho
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Servings
4
Servings
4
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Peel the cucumber and chop into pieces about 1 inch. Quarter the tomatoes. Core and seed them and chop into pieces about the same size as the cucumber. Put both in a large bowl.
  2. Chop the onion into one inch chunks. Do the same with the bell pepper. Add them to the bowl.
  3. Roughly chop the garlic, parsley, and cilantro and toss them in with the other vegetables. Mix everything together.
  4. Cut the corn kernels off the cobs and set aside
  5. Place a manageable amount of the vegetable mixture into the processor bowl. Add some of the vegetable juice and process until the mixture is slightly chunky. ( make this as smooth or chunky as you like) Put the processed vegetables back in the bowl.
  6. Continue to process the vegetables with the vegetable juice until they are all the consistency you want. Add the corn to the bowl of vegetables and stir to mix everything well.
  7. Add the juice of the lemon half, the vinegar, paprika, and cumin. Stir well and taste for seasoning. Add a little salt and any more of the flavorings that you want.
  8. Cover and chill for several hours. Serve in soup bowls or goblets and garnish with cilantro or whatever you would like.
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Summer is salad time. I’ve shared lots of different kinds this season. There is a salad that provides the healthy veggies that you need and has the crunchy chew of crusty bread. I’m talking about Panzanella. Any vegetable can join the merriment and any rustic or crusty bread will provide the perfect counterpoint. Again, this recipe is a basic guideline to be played with like croquet mallets on a summer lawn.

Panzanella Salad
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Servings
4
Servings
4
Panzanella Salad
Print Recipe
Servings
4
Servings
4
Ingredients
Dressing
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Heat the oven to 325 degrees. Spread the bread cubes on a baking sheet that has been lightly sprayed with olive oil cooking spray. Spray the bread cubes lightly with the olive oil spray. Bake 15 minutes until the cubes are lightly browned. Set aside to cool.
  2. Quarter the tomatoes lengthwise. Remove the seeds and cut crosswise into 1/2 slices. Cut the onion in half crosswise. Cut each half in thin vertical strips.
  3. Put the onions and tomatoes in a large bowl. Add the chopped pepper, cucumbers, and the bread cubes. Tear the basil leaves into bite size pieces and add to the bowl.
  4. Dressing: Mash the garlic, anchovy paste and a pinch of salt in a mortar. It should be a fairly smooth paste. Combine the oil, vinegar, herbs, and the garlic anchovy paste in a jar with a tight fitting lid. Shake until the dressing is completely blended.
  5. Pour the dressing over the ingredients in the bowl and toss to coat. Cover and chill for several hours. Serve.
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These are two of many recipes that shout summer to me. From early June to the last harvest, the bounty of summer vegetables can bring health and tasty variety to your table. Summertime seems to fly by more than any other season. The long days and warm nights are gone far too quickly. So, I’ll ignore the sweaters and boots in the stores and turn a blind eye to the Halloween costumes…there’s plenty of time to go there when it really is Fall. I’m holding on to Summer a little longer. Love, Mama D