Saturday, September 24, 2011

Chicago Gourmet 2011

Friday, September 16, 2011

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Benefit Of Growing Vegetables: Soupe au Pistou

Did I ever tell you that I’m a person who loves looking at gardens instead of burrowing in them? 
I grew vegetables again this year but my neighbor is the real cultivator. With all the rain, we have an over-abundance of crops and my neighbor is busy canning. Me? I am busy watching her…and having a glass of wine. That was my job this year and I have to admit that I really liked it.
I admire people who are dedicated to making their garden beautiful and any time I need a flower fix, I wander next door and admire the views.
One of the best gardens I’ve had was when I lived in Hawaii. I had Gardenia bushes winding around my back door, Pikake leis hanging on my doorknobs, the fragrant smell of white ginger growing wild in my garden and so many native flowers I quit counting the species.

Now, I just love those Perennials that come up year after year. Call it my NO maintenance garden.

Bon Appetit and love the lingering days of summer flowers and vegetables!

With all of the vegetables that I have each week, I made this Italian summer vegetable soup and it is so delicious it’s my new favorite soup. The pancetta and the Pistou creates the great flavors of this dish. In fact, there is so much texture going on in the soup, you don’t even need bread.

Soupe au Pistou

PISTOU: 4 cups packed basil
1 cup grated parmesan
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp. kosher salt
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 plum tomato, cored

SOUP: 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 oz. pancetta, minced
5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 medium carrots, peeled and finely chopped
2 ribs celery, finely chopped
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
1/2 medium zucchini, chopped
1/4 head Savoy cabbage, cored and thinly shredded
8 cups chicken stock
7 whole, peeled canned tomatoes, chopped
1/3 cup broken dried spaghetti
1 15-oz. can cannelini beans
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Make the pistou: Process basil, parmesan, oil, salt, garlic, and tomato in a food processor until finely ground. Season with salt and pepper, and set aside.

Heat oil in a 6-qt. saucepan over medium-high heat; add pancetta and cook, stirring often, until fat has rendered, about 2 minutes. Add garlic, carrots, celery, and onions, reduce heat to medium; cook, covered and stirring occasionally, until crisp-tender, 12–15 minutes. Add zucchini and cabbage; cook, covered, until wilted, 3–5 minutes. Add stock and tomatoes, and bring to a boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente, about 8 minutes. Mash half the beans with a fork; add to soup along with whole beans—cook until warmed through. Season with salt and pepper.

Ladle soup into bowls; serve with pistou dolloped on top.

Finding Great Recipes

I use to get all the traditional food magazines but I quit buying them and tried to go 100% online. That was an interesting failure that was only about 3 months in the making. 

I really missed leafing through them, using the photos to lead me to unrivaled, quality recipes and spending the time to really scrutinize the ingredients.
The art of cooking requires a lot of study, investigation and most of all experimentation. I have done my fair share of all these things this past two year and the real result for me has been recipe selection.

Fact: I am better at selecting recipes today than I was two years ago when I started this blog.
My eye-opener this week? Real Simple is among the magazines where I found the incomparable Croissants Bread Pudding Recipe.

Conclusion: Never dismiss a recipe that you think looks good until you’ve tried it at least twice!
Bon Appetit!

Fresh off the great bread pudding I had in San Francisco, I was on a mission to find a recipe made with croissants. I was surprised that I found it in Real Simple.

I consider myself somewhat of an expert haven eaten literally hundreds of bread pudding recipes over the years. This one is probably the best I’ve ever made.

I served it in a tiny dish and smothered it with Butterscotch Caramel Sauce. It made for a perfect treat that canceled out all my cheats for the entire week but to tell you the truth, I honestly never cared. This was the one dessert that I have absolutely no guilt about eating.
In fact, I call uncle on this for the sake of the blog.

Croissant Bread Pudding

Unsalted butter for the baking dish
6 large egg yolks
2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
6 croissants, cut into 1-inch pieces (about 1 pound)
Butterscotch Caramel Sauce

In a large bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, milk, cream, sugar, vanilla, salt and nutmeg. Add the croissants and mix to combine.

Transfer the mixture to a buttered, 8-inch square baking dish and bake in a 375 degree oven until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean, 30-40 minutes (mine took 50).

Serve warm or room temperature. Top with Butterscotch Caramel sauce.
One of my favorite pancakes, this Bon Appetit recipe is the closest I’ve had to Prairie Fire’s delicious Lemon-Ricotta Pancakes. I like the addition of maple syrup on these breakfast cakes but that’s just my taste. I can’t do pancakes without maple syrup.
If you would rather skip the syrup, the addition of fruit makes for a sweet AM treat.
You can also eat them rolled up like a tortilla with jelly on them…a new trick that my friend TJ taught me this week. I can’t say that I particularly love them this way but he’s been eating them like this since he was a kid.
I used fresh blackberries and blueberries that I bought at the market yesterday.
Lemon-Ricotta Pancakes
Serves 4

2 cups ricotta
2 cups mixed fresh berries
1/3 cup plus 4 tablespoons sugar, divided
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons baking powder
1/2teaspoon kosher salt
4large eggs, separated
2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest
1 1/2cups whole milk
Melted unsalted butter for brushing

Line a fine-mesh strainer with cheesecloth; set over a small bowl. Add ricotta to strainer and let drain for 15 minutes; set aside.
Gently combine berries, 1/3 cup sugar, and lemon juice in a medium bowl. Let macerate, tossing occasionally, until sugar dissolves and juices are released, about 15 minutes.

Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat egg whites in a medium bowl until frothy. Gradually beat in 2 tablespoons sugar, beating until peaks form. Whisk the egg yolks, remaining 2 tablespoons sugar, and zest in another medium bowl to blend. Whisk in milk. Add the yolk mixture to dry ingredients; whisk just to blend. Add half of the egg white mixture; fold just to blend. Fold in ricotta, then remaining egg white mixture.
Heat a griddle or large heavy nonstick skillet over medium-low heat; brush with melted butter. Using scant 1/2 cup batter for each pancake and working in batches, ladle batter onto griddle and cook until bottom is golden brown, edges are dry, and bubbles form on top of pancake, about 1 1/2 minutes. Flip pancakes and cook until browned and just cooked through, about 1 minute. Transfer pancakes to plates. Serve with berries and their juices.

These tiny haricot verts are stir fried in Szechuan sauce and are the best side dish to any Chinese that you happen to feel like cooking.
I like this recipe so much, I integrated them into this stir fried pork.

I buy the fresh haricot verts at Green City Market.

You just can’t get anything this fresh in a grocery store because the farmer told me that he just picked them yesterday.
Yesterday? No wonder we all love our Farmers Market’s.

Szechuan Green Beans
2 cups canola oil, plus 1 tablespoon
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/4 cup soy sauce 
1 ounce hot chili garlic sauce
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar 
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon mirin or white wine
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1 pound green beans, cleaned

To medium Dutch oven, add 2 cups canola oil and heat to 350 degrees F.

In a medium saute pan over medium heat, add 1 tablespoon oil. Add ginger and saute for 2 to 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute or until it turns light brown; quickly add soy sauce, chii sauce, rice wine vinegar, hoisin, mirin,  sesame oil and cilantro.

Fry the green beans in the canola oil for about 45 seconds, or until beans turn dark green. Remove, strain, and add to sauce.

French Fries – Now You Have My Attention

I’m addicted to French Fries and they are one of my favorite top 5 cheats.

I took a lesson from Fine Cooking on how to make the perfect French Fry. I love testing out these “How To’s” and proving that my version is better but in this case, Fine Cooking taught me a thing or two.

What I learned?

ü  Russets are the best for frying

ü  Soaking removes excess starch

ü  Peanut and Canola Oil work the best

ü  The best texture comes from double frying

I tried to make these last Christmas and they were terrible. No, they were awful.This time around they were absolutely textbook. Imagine, the difference between me and perfect French Fries was just one quick and dirty lesson on the basics.

This is the one thing I love about the food magazines – just when you think you know everything, they teach you a thing or two.

I know there is a lot of dialogue on double fry.  All I remember is that my mother double fried so I am sold on that theory.

Perfect French Fries
2 lb. Burbank russet potatoes (about 3 large), peeled if you like
2 to 3 quarts canola oil or peanut oil
Kosher salt or coarse sea salt

Cut each potato lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick disks, then cut these disks lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick sticks. Try to keep your cuts uniform so the potatoes cook evenly.
Soak the potato sticks in cold water for 20 minutes. Drain and rinse the potatoes in 3 changes of fresh cold water, draining after each rinse. Let the potatoes dry in a single layer on a towel-lined baking sheet.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a pot that holds at least 6 quarts over medium heat until it reaches 330°F on a deep-fry thermometer.
Blot the potatoes completely dry with more towels. Gently drop one-third of the potatoes into the oil and increase the heat to medium high (the oil temperature will drop to about 300°F and then gradually rise—it’s fine if it doesn’t return to 330°F). Cook, stirring occasionally with a skimmer or a large slotted spoon, until the potatoes soften (you should be able to cut them with the side of the spoon) and are slightly blistered and creamier in color (remove them if they start to brown), 2 to 3 minutes.
Scoop out the potatoes, shaking them to drain off excess oil, and transfer to a baking sheet lined with paper towels, arranging them in a single layer. Fry the remaining 2 batches of potatoes in the same manner, letting the oil return to 330°F before each batch.
Heat the oil until it reaches 360°F. Add one-third of the potatoes and cook, stirring, until they turn golden-brown and become crisp (to test, carefully drain one on paper towels and try it), 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer the fries to a baking sheet lined with fresh paper towels and sprinkle generously with salt. Fold the edges of the paper towels up and over the fries (to make a little pouch) and shake well so the salt is evenly distributed. Serve the fries immediately. Fry the remaining 2 batches of fries in the same manner, letting the oil return to 360°F before each batch.
Here is a quick Aioli sauce that is a great dip for homemade French fries: and an alternative to ketchup.
1 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano
1 garlic clove, pressed
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
½ teaspoon finely grated lemon peel
¼ teaspoon hot Dijon mustard

Whisk mayonnaise, oil, oregano, garlic, lemon juice, and lemon peel in small bowl to blend. Add hot Dijon mustard. Season aioli to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

When I was in my early twenties, I had a next door neighbor from France. Jacques knew how to cook and I knew how to dance. He was rather serious about cooking and I was not serious about anything so we were the perfect match.

The very first thing he taught me was how to cook Steak Au Poivre. Years later, this would be the one rescue recipe that makes everyone think that I am the best cook in the world. 
Have to tell you that the flavor of this sauce is so enormous I can eat it anytime…even on eggs for breakfast! I know…a little drastic but that is the true test of a great recipe. BREAKFAST!
Steak Au Poivre
Adapted from Fine Cooking,July/August 2011

2 boneless beef strip steaks (about 1 lb. total)
Kosher salt
1-1/2 Tbs. black peppercorns, very coarsely crushed
1 Tbs. olive oil
1 oz. (2 Tbs.) unsalted butter
1 small shallot, minced
1/4 cup Cognac
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 Tbs. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Pat the steaks dry with a paper towel and season both sides lightly with salt. Coat both sides with the peppercorns, pressing so they adhere. Heat the oil in a 12-inch heavy-duty skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering hot. Add the steaks and cook to your desired doneness (2 to 3 minutes per side for medium rare). Transfer the steaks to a cutting board and tent them with foil. Pour off and discard any fat left in the pan, but not the brown bits.
Reduce the heat to medium and add the butter to the skillet. When melted, add the shallot and cook until softened, about 1 minute. Remove the skillet from the heat and carefully add the Cognac. Return the skillet to medium heat and cook, whisking, until the Cognac reduces to a glaze, 1 to 2 minutes. Whisk in the cream and simmer until slightly thickened, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the parsley and season to taste with salt.

Transfer the steaks to dinner plates and top with the sauce. Serves 2.
Can I get half way into this sandwich without blurting out that this is perhaps the best grilled cheese I’ve ever had?
Using three kinds of cheese, great bread, fresh tomatoes along with the amazing taste  and texture of Proscuitto, you’ve just made up a sandwich that is restaurant quality and the perfect lunch. Impressing all your friends is the bonus!

Grilled Cheese With Prosciutto and Tomatoes
3 oz. grated aged Gruyère (1-1/4 cups)
3 oz. grated fontina (about 1 cup)
2 Tbs. finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes (or to taste)
8 1/2-inch-thick slices rustic Italian bread
4 very thin slices prosciutto, halved crosswise
2 medium ripe tomatoes, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
Kosher salt
2 Tbs. salted butter, at room temperature
1 to 2 large cloves garlic, halved and peeled for rubbing

Lightly toss the cheeses and red pepper flakes in a small bowl. Put 4 slices of the bread on a work surface and evenly distribute half of the cheese mixture on top. Put 2 pieces of prosciutto (1 full slice) on each sandwich and top with 2 to 3 slices of tomato—enough to cover the cheese and prosciutto in a single layer. Season the tomatoes with salt and sprinkle the remaining cheese on top. Lightly butter one side of the remaining bread slices and place them butter side up on the sandwiches.
Heat a griddle or a large skillet over medium-low heat. Arrange the sandwiches butter side down on the griddle and cook until the bread is toasted and golden-brown, about 2 minutes. Meanwhile, spread an even layer of butter on the top slice of bread.
Using a spatula, flip the sandwiches and cook until golden-brown on the other side, gently pressing the sandwiches with the back of the spatula to compress, about 2 minutes. Remove the sandwiches from the griddle and lightly rub both sides of each with the cut side of the garlic. Using a serrated knife, slice the sandwiches in half and serve immediately.
This recipe from Fine Cooking is a reworking of the Vietnamese Rice Noodle Salad that I have already posted. It is vegetarian, easy and delicious, with the great combination of spicy, salty and crunchy.
I consider this a good base recipe to which you can add any variety of vegetables that happen to be aging in your refrigerator.

Vietnamese Rice Noodle Salad
Serves 6-8
1/2 cup fresh lime juice (from about 2 large limes)
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
2 Tbs. fish sauce
2 Tbs. granulated sugar
1 Tbs. minced ginger
3 large cloves garlic, minced
1 Thai bird chile, seeded and minced
8 oz. dried rice noodles (about 1/4 inch thick)
8 cups thinly sliced iceberg lettuce (from 1 large head)
1 large carrot, shaved into ribbons (use a vegetable peeler)
1 large cucumber, peeled if you like, cut into 1/2 inch dice
5 medium radishes, thinly sliced
1 cup fresh mint leaves
1/2 cup salted peanuts, coarsely chopped

In a small bowl, combine the lime juice, cilantro, fish sauce, sugar, ginger, garlic, and chile and let sit for at least 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil. Add the rice noodles and stir immediately. Cook the noodles, stirring frequently, until just tender, about 4 minutes. Drain and rinse the noodles with cold water until cool to the touch.
In a large salad bowl, combine the noodles with the lettuce, carrot, cucumber, radishes, and mint leaves. Toss the salad with the dressing and garnish with the peanuts.

Double Chocolate Tart with Black Pepper Ice Cream

                                                                                                      Photo by Stephen Lewis

Say double chocolate anything and I am in!

I know. It’s kind of a pain to make the ice cream from scratch and do all of this work but it is so good. You know it’s well worth the effort when you take your first bite!!
P.S. Just try not eating the entire pan in one sitting.

Bon Appetit!

Double Chocolate Tart with Black Pepper Ice Cream
From Lauren Fortgang, the pastry chef at Le Pigeon in Portland, OR

Ice Cream
2cupsheavy cream
2cupswhole milk
1cupsugar, divided
1teaspoonkosher salt
9large egg yolks
1tablespoonfreshly ground black pepper

Candied Hazelnuts

1large egg white
1/4teaspoonkosher salt
3/4cupskinned hazelnuts


Nonstick vegetable oil spray
6 1/2ounceschocolate wafer cookies (such as Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers;about 28 cookies), coarsely broken
5tablespoonsunsalted butter, melted
15ounceshigh-quality milk chocolate (such as Valrhona, Scharffen Berger, or Lindt), chopped
1 1/4cupsheavy cream                      

Special Equipment: A 9"-diameter tart pan with a removable bottom; ice cream maker

Ice Cream

Bring cream, milk, 1/2 cup sugar, and salt to a boil in a large heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring to dissolve sugar; remove from heat. Whisk egg yolks and remaining 1/2 cup sugar in a large bowl to blend; gradually whisk in hot milk mixture and return to saucepan. Stir over low heat until custard thickens and your finger leaves a path on the back of a spoon when drawn across, about 6 minutes. Pour through a fine-mesh strainer into a medium bowl. Stir in pepper. Set bowl over a large bowl of ice water; stir until cold.

Process custard in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer's instructions. Transfer to a container, cover, and freeze. DO AHEAD Can be made 3 days ahead.

Candied Hazelnuts

Preheat oven to 250°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Whisk sugar, egg white, and salt in a medium bowl just until bubbles form. Stir in hazelnuts. Spread out on prepared sheet. Bake, stirring every 10 minutes, until nuts are golden brown and caramelized, about 50 minutes. DO AHEAD Can be made 1 day ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.


Preheat oven to 325°. Coat tart pan with nonstick spray. Finely grind cookies in a food processor. Drizzle butter over; pulse until blended. Press evenly onto bottom and up sides of pan. Bake until firm, about 15 minutes. Let cool completely.
Place chocolate in a medium bowl. Bring cream to a boil in a small saucepan. Pour over chocolate; stir until melted. Pour filling over cooled crust. Freeze until firm, at least 2 hours and up to 2 days.
Remove the tart pan side. Cut tart into wedges, working quickly as tart will become gooey as it sits; place 1 piece on each plate. Serve with a scoop of black pepper ice cream and garnish with candied hazelnuts.

Linguine Con Le Cozze

I am a huge fan of mussels and often just steam them and serve them as an appetizer. 
This linguine recipe from La Cucina Italiana was an easy make and clocked in under 30 minutes.

I skipped the anchovy and added a little parmesan.
Bon Appetit!

Linguine Con Le Cozze

Fine sea salt
14 cup plus 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, unpeeled
1 small flat anchovy fillet
2 small red or green fresh chile peppers, seeded and finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
2 pounds mussels, scrubbed and  beards removed
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/3 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 pound linguine

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
Meanwhile, in a large wide pot with lid, combine oil, garlic, anchovy, chiles and oregano. Heat over medium-high heat until oil begins to bubble, then add mussels, increase heat to high and cook, shaking pan back and forth over heat, until mussels begin to open, about 1 1/2 minutes. Add wine and continue to cook 3 minutes more, then reduce heat to low and cook, covered, until mussels open wide, about 2 minutes more. Discard any mussels that remain unopened after 8 minutes.

Remove pot from heat. Into a large bowl, strain mussels and juices through a sieve; return juices to pot. Add parsley and pinch salt; cook over high heat until sauce is reduced by half, 5 to 7 minutes. Meanwhile, remove and discard shells from about 3/4 of the mussels. Remove sauce from heat and cover to keep warm.

Cook pasta in the boiling water until al dente, then drain. Transfer pasta and mussels to pot with sauce. Toss to combine well. Adjust seasoning to taste. Serve immediately.

Art Fair On The Square

The two words I associate with this show are beautiful and pricey. Wanted to buy everything but nothing was in my price range…not even the food. 

Fun to look at and in the scheme of things $$$ but sometimes it really just fun to look for the ideas on how to do it on the cheap.
Bon Appetit!

Highwood Farmers Market

Funky things for sale, great Margaritas, of course the produce and the most interesting mix of people. 
I’ve gone to this market consistently all summer and things change up ever week. It’s always an attention-grabbing Wednesday night.
Some markets have been better than others but most of the time I love that fact that I am always surprised.
Bon Appetit and never expect anything ordinary out of this market…sometimes you just have to make it happen yourself!

Bon Appetit!

Berkshire Pork

I’ve gone to great lengths sometimes to make perfect pork only to have it come out dry. 
When you’re having company for dinner, I think that it is well worth the splurge to buy Berkshire Pork - in this case their Long-Bone Chop. Using a good cut of pork makes a huge difference.

Berkshire pork is loved for it’s succulent taste and tenderness. It is heavily marbled. and the high fat content makes it perfect for lengthy cooking and high-temperatures.

I cooked this one on my indoor grill and grilled peaches that I got at the farmers market on Friday.

Add on a few fresh heirlooms and you have the perfect end of the summer meal.

Bon Appetit!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Celebrating food and wine and beautiful downtown Chicago (our favorite combination), the 7th Annual Windy City Wine Festival, presented by U.S. Banks will take place on Friday, September 9 and Saturday, September 10 at Chicago’s Buckingham Fountain in the center of Grant Park at Columbus Drive and Congress Parkway.

Guests will have the opportunity to network with wine and brand experts, developing their awareness and finding blends that best match their personal taste.

Festival hours are Friday 4 to 10 p.m. and Saturday 3 to 9 p.m.

A portion of the proceeds benefits the Grant Park Conservancy.

Go to for ticket and program details.

Bon Appetit!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Heirloom Tomato Caprese Salad

I love pairing tomatoes with beef so I changed up Bon Appetit’s Caprese Salad. I topped it with shredded Kobe beef and served it s a main dish.

For the Bagnati, I bought an Italian cheese loaf, cut it in half, brushed it with olive oil and toasted it on my indoor grill.
3/4cup(4 ounces) small heirloom cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2teaspoonkosher salt
1tablespoonplus 1 teaspoon high-quality extra-virgin olive oil
12-ounce ball buffalo mozzarella
Maldon sea salt or fleur de sel
4–5 small basil leaves
1 Crostoni Bagnati , halved on an extreme diagonal

Mix tomatoes, salt, and oil in a small bowl. Let stand, tossing occasionally, until juices release from tomatoes and oil and juices have become saucelike, about 15 minutes.

Place mozzarella off-center on a large plate. Spoon tomatoes and juices from bowl around one side of the cheese. Sprinkle tomatoes with sea salt; scatter basil all over.

Place Crostoni Bagnati next to the cheese.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Cooking With Summer's Sweet Tomatoes

When I get home from work late, I immediately go into coast. That’s why a quick and easy salad makes the perfect summer meal.

I made all of these salads in less than 15 minutes using heirloom and roma tomatoes as the featured ingredient. I don’t think that there is any vegetable that has more flavor and eye appeal than heirlooms – the testimony being that I also eat them for breakfast with yogurt or fresh cottage cheese.

Bon Appetit!

Tomato, Mozzarella and Avocado Salad

1 Roma Tomato – thinly sliced
¼ teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon high-quality extra-virgin olive oil
16-ounce ball buffalo mozzarella
Small basil leaves
¼ avocado, thinly sliced
1 green onion
Slice Roma Tomatoes and buffalo mozzarella and arrange on plate. Place avocado slices over the top. Take the green portion of a green onion and tear thin slices – they will curl. Top with sea salt and olive oil.

Serve with a Crosoni Bagnati or a slice of toasted cheese bread.

I made an easy version of this salad by chopping and adding all of the ingredients (except the chicken) including the toasted cheese bread. Use fresh herbs and top with the oil and vinegar.

Again, adding chicken turns this delicious dish into an entrée but I also like it with just the vegetables and bread.

Slice the vegetables all the same size. I’ve tried growing my own but I have not been terribly successful. I guess never being home to water them may be a issue.

I left out the anchovy but I know people who absolutely live for them.

Panzanella with Grilled Chicken

1/2 cup olive oil; more for the grill
4 3/4 inch-thick slices sourdough bread
1 tsp. finely chopped fresh oregano
1/2 tsp. smoked sweet paprika
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, trimmed
3 Tbs. red wine vinegar
1 anchovy fillet, rinsed
1 small clove garlic
4 medium tomatoes, cut into 3/4 inch pieces (3 cups)
1 medium cucumber, peeled, halved lengthwise, seeded, and cut into 3/4 inch pieces (1-1/2 cups)
1/2 small red onion, chopped (1/2 cup)
1/4 cup chopped fresh mixed herbs, such as basil, parsley, cilantro, or mint

Prepare a medium-high charcoal or gas grill fire. Clean and oil the grill grate.

Brush the bread on both sides with 2 Tbs. of the olive oil. Grill the bread until well marked, about 1 minute per side. Transfer to a cutting board, cut into 3/4-inch cubes, and set aside.
In a small bowl, mix the oregano, smoked paprika, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1/2 tsp. pepper. Sprinkle evenly over the chicken breasts. Grill, turning once, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of each breast registers 165°F, 10 to 12 minutes total. Transfer to a cutting board, let rest for 5 minutes, and then cut into 3/4-inch cubes.
In a large bowl, whisk the remaining 6 Tbs. olive oil and the vinegar. Press the anchovy fillet and garlic clove through a garlic press into the bowl (or mince by hand). Add the bread, chicken, tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, and herbs, and toss well.
Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve.
Cook zucchini on the grill and top with fresh tomato, ricotta and herbs. This recipe has eye appeal and pairs beautifully with a grilled steak and a great Cabernet.
Tomato and Grilled Zucchini Stacks
12 1/4-inch-thick slices zucchini (cut on the diagonal from 1 medium zucchini)
5-1/2 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup whole milk ricotta
1 tsp. sliced fresh chives
1 tsp. chopped fresh mint
1/2 tsp. freshly ground green peppercorns
Flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
12 1/2-inch-thick tomato slices (from about 3 medium tomatoes)

Prepare a medium-high gas or charcoal grill fire. Brush the zucchini all over with 1-1/2 tsp. of the oil. Grill until lightly browned and barely tender, 1 to 2 minutes per side (the zucchini should retain a little bite). Set aside.
In a small bowl, mix together the ricotta, chives, mint, green pepper, and a pinch of salt.
Season the tomato and zucchini slices on both sides with salt and pepper. To assemble, put a tomato slice on each of four plates. Top each with a slice of zucchini. Repeat two more times. Drizzle each stack with 1 tsp. oil, top with a dollop of the ricotta mixture, and serve.
I LOVE this sandwich so much I have to admit that it’s my new, favorite summer recipe.
First off, using a really good baguette is essential. I found some at Fresh Market in Lake Forest. This bread was just like the bread I made in my dutch oven and looked just like the baguettes in the picture I saw in Fine Cooking’s August/September issue.
I also stopped at Amidei Mercatino, a small alley market in Lake Forest. You pay a little more for fruits and vegetables but the quality is the best there is and that’s what you want for this recipe – the best peaches and tomatoes you can find.
I bought a peach at the Farmers Market in Evanston on Saturday that was just not up to the superiority of the peaches at Amidei Mercatino. Food is a priority for me so I’ll cut back on other things just to savor a great peach.
I used just one slice of pancetta on each sandwich half and it added just enough of that great flavor that only pancetta can. Really, I wonder how I survived all these years not knowing about pancetta. Better than bacon!
Who would have thought about putting peaches into a BLT but come to think of it the peach and tomato salad I made last summer is still one of my favorites.
Peach, Pancetta, Lettuce, and Tomato Sandwiches
8 oz. thinly sliced pancetta
1 18-inch baguette
1 to 2 Tbs. mayonnaise
2 medium ripe tomatoes (6 oz. each), thinly sliced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 large ripe peach, pitted and thinly sliced
4 leaves Boston lettuce

Position a rack 6 inches from the broiler element and heat the broiler on high. Arrange the pancetta on a large rimmed baking sheet and broil until crisp, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate.
Halve the baguette lengthwise. Put the bread cut side up on the oven rack and broil until golden, about 1 minute.
Spread the mayonnaise on the bottom half of the baguette. Lay the tomato slices over the bread and season lightly with salt and pepper. Top with the peach slices, pancetta, and then the lettuce leaves. Replace the top half of the bread, cut the sandwich into 4 pieces, and serve.
This is a quick appetizer and the addition of green olives really gives it a great Mediterranean flavor. This would be a perfect dish to serve when you are going the wine and cheese route instead of dinner. I left out the parsley.
Tomato Caponata

1/2 medium red onion, cut into fine dice (about 3/4 cup)
2 Tbs. red wine vinegar
1/4 tsp. granulated sugar
Kosher salt
3 large tomatoes, cut into small dice
1/2 cup pitted chopped green olives
1/4 cup finely chopped caperberries
1 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp. finely grated lemon zest
3 Tbs. toasted pine nuts
1 Tbs. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Freshly ground black pepper

In a small bowl, combine the red onion, vinegar, sugar and 1/4 tsp. salt. Let sit while you prepare the remaining ingredients.
In a large bowl, combine the tomatoes, olives, caperberries, oil, lemon zest, and 1/2 tsp. salt.
Drain the onion mixture (discard the liquid) and add it to the tomato mixture. Gently stir in the pine nuts and parsley, and season to taste with salt and pepper.