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Monday, October 12, 2015

Ever Wonder How The Salad, Caesar Got Its Name?


Italian immigrant, Caesar Cardini presumably tossed the first Caesar salad in July 1924, when he was running low on food and assembled a salad for his guests from what was leftover in his kitchen! I'll bet that was night to remember!

So many restaurants have Caesar salad on their menu, most of them are just mediocre and I'm almost always disappointed. Worse, now they come topped with your choice of grilled chicken, meat, or shrimp, not that anything is wrong with adding these items; to me doing so takes away from a great tasting salad being able to stand on its own. Assembling a great Caesar salad is like preparing a perfect bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich. As simple as that may seem, it takes carefully selected, high quality ingredients to pull off the perfect creation.

For a great tasting Caesar you need crisp romaine, torn, not chopped. Homemade croutons made using an airy bread like Ciabatta with bite-size cubes that are baked until chestnut brown and crispy. Freshly shaved hard cheese and a vibrant dressing. 

Here is my version of the classic Caesar ... sans Cardini's call for raw egg and whole fresh caught anchovy fillets. Replicating fresh anchovy fillets from their origin is not easily feasible, so I discovered if I whisked some high quality anchovy paste into the dressing it gives the dressing the perfect hint of anchovy flavor. Instead of the customary Parmesan cheese, I use Pecorino Pepato, an intense, salty sheep’s milk cheese studded with peppercorns.

I wonder if Cardini thought while he was assembling his creation that decades later his salad would be one of the most popular salads in the world! Kudos to the late Cardini!

2 cups French bread, cut into bite-size cubes
Olive oil
Garlic powder

Preheat oven to 400°. Toss French bread cubes with olive oil and garlic powder. Transfer to a rimmed baking pan. Give the pan a good shake so the cubes land in a single layer. Bake for 15 minutes or until chestnut brown.

½ cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon anchovy paste
½ teaspoon salt
Fresh ground black pepper to taste

In a medium bowl combine until well blended, mayonnaise, red wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, anchovy paste, salt and black pepper.

6 generous handfuls romaine lettuce, torn into bite sized pieces
⅓ cup fresh Pecorino Pepato cheese, shredded
Anchovy fillets, optional

In a large bowl, toss romaine leaves with just enough dressing to coat the leaves. Transfer salad to 6 rimmed plates, top each with Pecorino Pepato cheese and top the salad with croutons. Serve anchovy fillets and leftover dressing buffet style. Yield: 6 servings.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Apple Cider Celery Seed Dressing Promises a Crisp Autumn Salad


When I served this salad at a family birthday dinner, it got rave reviews, even from my brother’s three kids. This is the perfect salad to prepare during the fall and winter months; it complements hearty meats, soups, stews and casseroles that are typically served this time of year. Once apples are cut and exposed to the air, they turn brown fairly quickly; chop the apple just prior to serving.

Apple Cider Celery Seed Dressing

⅓ cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon freshly minced onion
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon celery seeds

1.      In a medium bowl, combine sugar, salt and dry mustard. Add onion and apple cider vinegar. Slowly add oil, whisking constantly. You’ll see the mixture change texture as you whisk. After all the oil has been added and dressing has thickened, stir in celery seeds. Mix until well blended.
2.      Transfer dressing to a 2-cup jar with a tight-fitting lid and refrigerate. (Apple Cider Celery Seed Dressing will last for several days in the refrigerator.) Allow to come to room temperature before serving. Shake well prior to using.

About 1½ cups

Cranberry Apple Salad

5 cups white cabbage, shredded
1½ cups sliced celery, ¼ -inch size pieces
1 large apple, chopped
cup dried cranberries
cup toasted sunflower seeds

1.      In a large bowl, combine cabbage, celery, chopped apple, cranberries and sunflower seeds. Toss the salad with the dressing with just enough to coat the ingredients. Serve immediately.

8 servings

Friday, September 25, 2015

The Pleasing Palate Pleasures of Cheese Tortellini Chowder

Cheese Tortellini Chowder

When the outside temperatures begin to drop, this is one of my favorite autumn dinners. My taste-testers ranked this as one of the best chowders they had ever eaten. In case you don't devour this in one sitting, it gets thicker with time; so you may need to add more chicken broth.

2 tablespoons butter
½ cup chopped onion
½ cup sliced celery
½ cup chopped red pepper
½ cup shredded carrots
½ cup corn
2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup white wine
1 cup water
1 vegetable bouillon cube
⅛ cup cooking sherry
½ teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 cup heavy cream
10 ounces tri-color cheese tortellini
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

1.      Melt butter in a large pot over moderate heat and sauté onions, celery, red pepper,  carrots and corn.  Cook until tender, about 10 minutes.
2.     Whisk in flour (it will grab the vegetables very quickly) and slowly add chicken broth, whisking constantly. Add white wine, water and vegetable cube and stir until cube dissolves. Add sherry, salt, pepper, cream, tortellini and parsley and stir to combine. Simmer until heated through. Serve immediately.

6 servings

Friday, September 18, 2015

10 Ways to Make a Meal Out of Roasted Vegetables

Assorted Raw Vegetables Prior to Roasting
Around this time of year, I love to roast a variety of vegetables in big batches. It's so simple, I cut yellow and green peppers, tomatoes, onions and carrots into chunks. Then I coat them with olive oil and sprinkle them with sea salt and roast them in a 400 degree oven until they are tender and slightly blackened. Here are some suggestions for adding these colorful vegetables to your next meal.

  • Add them to chicken, beef or vegetarian fajitas
  • Serve them with scrambled eggs for a different, colorful and nutritious take on breakfast
  • Make them an addition to sandwiches
  • Toss them with hot pasta and top with crumbled Feta
  • Arrange them on a plate and top with baked fish, scallops or shrimp
  • Add them to grilled cheese sandwiches
  • Place vegetables over hummus for a quick and nutritious appetizer
  • Include them as part of your next pizza topping
  • Make a meal with cooked sausage, roasted vegetables and tri-color quinoa or wild rice
  • For a different twist on a burger, top vegan or beef burgers with vegetables

Friday, September 4, 2015

Grilling an Easy and Memorable Lunch

Grilled Cheese, Basil, Tomato, and Zucchini Sandwich
A bunch of us are getting together this weekend for a celebratory lunch on the shore to celebrate a friends milestone birthday. (I'm secretly mourning the end of summer when I say so long to some of my favorite foods like tomatoes, garden fresh basil and zucchini -- although  it's not officially the end of summer, thankfully!) It's a poolside pot luck party and I'm thrilled to be sharing one of my favorite grill-worthy sandwiches - so perfect for a summer send-off. The basil, tomatoes, and zucchini are coming from the hosts garden, just a stones throw from the grill -- can't get much fresher than that! The bread is coming from the town bakery. Grass fed butter and my favorite melting cheese -- Herve Mons Gabietou from Whole Foods will round out this memorable sandwich. A friend is bringing a cucumber, cantaloupe and mint salad with lemon dressing -- the salad should be the perfect complement for the sandwich!

The sandwiches are super simple to assemble. Once you've grilled the zucchini until tender, generously slather Italian bread slices -- or your favorite holey bread with butter. Top one slice of the bread with disks of yellow-orange or red tomatoes and basil leaves. Top the basil with grilled zucchini and then generous slabs of cheese. Grill the sandwiches until they are chestnut brown and crispy on each side. For extra decadence, I love to sprinkle the crispy bread with Himalayan sea salt. Huzzah!