Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Not So Boring Salads!

Let me start by writing that this past week was very special.  A department store at the mall is going out of business and everything is 70off.  My sweet husband thought he would roam the kitchen department  and found some great deals.  He brought home a beautiful shine All-Clad Lasagna Pan.  But, that's not all - this was a gift set that had the pan, 2 hot mitts and a wonderful Italian cookbook.  (I haven't been able to read through it all, but the first pages are really good. And I am trying one of the recipes this week.)  The other gift was a mixing bowl with a suction holder. I already had a larger version and love it.  This was the smaller bowl of the set.  

With all that said - on to the next recipes.  I suppose with my title you know that this is all about salads.  The two salads I have picked out are not just boring lettuce and dressing.  They are simple, but exciting.  

The first salad is from "  Savoring Italy"   and the second comes from book by the Culinary Institute of America "  Gourmet Meals in Minutes"

Both recipes are very easy and the best part is after you make them you feel like a gourmet chef.   (I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.)

Insalata di Fagioli con Tonno
(bean salad with tuna)

(I have modified this salad a little to make if less time consuming.  It called for dried cannellini beans and I found that canned works just as well.)

1 can cannellini beans (drained and rinsed)
1 bag of mixed greens
1 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup of red onion, chopped
pinch of dried oregano
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 (7 oz. cans water-packed tuna (drained, separated into chunks)

*Place mixed greens, celery, and onion in a large bowl and toss.  
*Sprinkle on the pinch of oregano, the lemon juice and olive. Toss to mix.
*Place the salad mix into 4 individual salad bowls.  Divide the beans and tuna between the 4 bowls and place on top of the salad mix.
(This is a light and simple recipe.)

Baked Goat Cheese
with Mesclun, Pears, and Toasted Almonds


1 1/4 pounds goat cheese, well chilled (makes it easier to slice)
1 cup dry breadcrumbs
1 1/2 pounds mesclun lettuce mix
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup lemon juice
salt, to taste
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 pears, cored, sliced into thin wedges
1 cup almonds, sliced, toasted

(makes 8 servings)
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  
*Slice the goat cheese into 1/2-inch thick discs.  Gently coat the goat cheese with the breadcrumbs and place on a baking sheet.  *Bake the goat cheese in a 400 degree oven until lightly browned, about 10 minutes.  Allow the cheese to cool slightly before removing from tray. (It will fall apart if you move it too soon.  While you wait you can assemble the salads on the plates.)
*Toss the meslun mix with the olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper.
*Divide the lettuce into 8 portions and mound each portion on a plate.
*Top each portion with 3-4 pear slices, about 2 tablespoons of the toasted almonds, and
*2 goat cheese rounds

 These are both wonderful tasting salads and wonderfully easy.  I hope you will try them.  Enjoy and have a great week!

Friday, March 2, 2012

How Many Cookbooks DO You Have?
     I was struggling on how to present my next group of recipes and photos.  As I was standing in my kitchen the light bulb went on and my thoughts were of cookbooks.  Yes, cookbooks!   I went to my shelves and began to count - I have in my possession 175 cookbooks and that doesn't include my recipe card  file, magazine tear outs, and booklets from the check-out line.  I honestly cannot say that I have prepared recipes from every one, but I am 53 years old, it's possible. : )  The truth, for me,  is that a cookbook is a great read: there are wonderful photos, which more times than not help me to choose the recipe.  It is suppose to look delicious and draw you in; then, reading the ingredients is what brings it altogether.  The other great things are the stories of different regions or a country or the life of the featured Chef.  

     Oh, I have two more reasons why I seem to be able to justify this massive collection of  cookbooks:

1. I don't like to make the  same meal over and over again each week.  I like to shake it up, A lot!


2. I like to have a menu plan each week, make my list, and then do my shopping.  It eliminates the 'it's 5:00 - what do I fix for dinner' dilemma.

(So, this is how it works; I pick out one or two cookbooks and choose my recipes for the week.  Then I make my grocery list.)

O.k., without further adieu I would like to present my next few blogs using some of my favorite cookbooks and their recipes. Just don't be surprised to find that some of these wonderful recipes are extremely simple.  Here we go - Let's begin with 


The book I will be using is:

Savoring Italy
Recipes & Text by: Michele Scicolone
(This book has great photographs and stories about Italy; and the recipes are great too!)

Bruschetta di Pomodori
(fresh tomato toasts)

(Here is an excerpt from the book)

"Bruchetta can be made with different toppings, the simplest being a rub of garlic and a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil.  This version, which demands summertime's finest vine-ripened tomatoes is one of the best.  A bit of balsamic vinegar brings out the sweetness of the tomatoes. . . ."  
      Michele Scicolone

2 tomatoes, chopped 
6 fresh basil leaves, torn into small pieces
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
coarse salt to taste
8 slices coarse country bread, each about 1/2 inch thick
2 large loves garlic 

*Preheat a broiler (griller), or prepare a fire in a charcoal grill.
*In a bowl, combine the tomatoes basil, olive oil, vinegar, and salt.  Toss well.
*Place the bread on a baking sheet or grill rack and broil or grill, turning once, until lightly toasted on both sides, about 2 minutes total.  Remove from the broiler or grill and immediately rub one side of each slice with the garlic cloves. 
*Arrange the grilled bread, garlic side up, on a serving platter and spoon on the tomatoes, dividing evenly.  Serve at once.      

(what did I tell you Simple, right?  And I am sure everyone has made this recipe in some form.  But, like I said, it is a favorite and it is simple.)


Vongole Ripiene
(stuffed clams)
36 hard-shell clams, well scrubbed
1/3 cup fine dried bread crumbs 
(I use Italian bread crumbs)
3 Tbls grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or pecorino romano cheese
3 Tbls chopped fresh flat-leaf (Italian) parsley
 1 clove garlic, minced
6 tablespoons olive oil
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
lemon wedges

* Preheat broiler

*In a bowl, combine the bread crumbs, cheese, parsley, garlic, 3 tablespoons of the live oil, salt, and pepper.
 Set aside.

*Place washed clams in a pot of water with a tablespoon of salt.  Bring water to a boil and watch for clams to open.  As soon as shell opens remove from water.   
(*Note: if the shell is open slightly before placing in water discard the clam.  ** If after being in the boiling water for a reasonable amount of time and the clam does not open - this means it was dead before you placed it in the water.  Discard.)

*Tear away the top shell (discard the empty shell) and loosen the clam in the other. 

*Arrange the clams in the shell in a shallow baking pan. 
Take the bread crumb mixture and spoon onto the clams.  Do not pack the crumbs down or they will become soggy.  Drizzle evenly with the remaining 3 tablespoons oil.

*Broil until the crumbs are lightly browned; watch carefully, this happens quickly.  Remove from the broiler and immediately arrange on a warmed individual plates.
Serve with the lemon wedges.

Thanks for joining me and if you try these super simple recipes I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

Happy Thanksgiving

  Have a wonderful Thanksgiving Many Blessings and Love to All