Category Archives: SALAD

SEPTEMBER SALAD….TOMATO, PAN ROASTED CORN, THYME AND RANCH WITH RED ONION

0007September is in full swing,  moving us from Summer into Fall and presenting us with some of the best produce of the season.  Tomatoes are fantastic.  Corn is amazing.  Herbs are full of flavor.  It’s right before that old fashioned “Harvest Tyme” so what better time (pun intended) to create a seasonal salad that NEVER tastes as good as right now.  Corn is PAN ROASTED and cut off the cob, mixed with sweet sun ripened  tomatoes, red onion, fresh thyme (more time, i think i have too much TIME on my hands, sorry folks couldn’t resist that bit of corn (more puns, stop!!!). Toss it all with a simple Ranch style dressing and you have a great bowl of salad.  A Celebration of September!  You can make this any time of the year but it will never taste as good as it does right now..unless you’re in the southern Hemisphere. Then you will enjoy this in a few month when your Summer is ending.  I live at the central Jersey Shore and we have farms, lots of local farms that until the first frosts of the upcoming Fall will be giving us wonderful fruits and vegetables. We are called the GARDEN STATE for a reason. Contrary to the usual media images of  the urban areas of this state, we have farms.  Lots of them.  And in September they are giving us their best.  Find some farm fresh tomatoes and corn OR maybe you grow your own!  Follow my recipe and serve this salad to your family and friends.  Let’s go into the kitchen!!!

TOMATO GRILLED CORN THYME AND RED ONION SALAD WITH RANCH DRESSING

TIME : 1 hour                         SERVES: 4-6

RANCH STYLE DRESSING

1/2 CUP BUTTERMILK

1/3 CUP SOUR CREAM

2 TBS. HELLMAN’S MAYONAISE (OR DUKE’S)

2 TBS. OLIVE OIL

1/2 TSP GRANULATED GARLIC

1 TBS. BROWN MUSTARD

1 TSP. APPLE CIDER VINEGAR

1 1/2 TBS. HONEY

2 DASHES TABASCO SAUCE

KOSHER SALT TO TASTE

FRESH GROUND BLACK PEPPER TO TASTE

whisk ALL the ingredients together till smooth and creamy.  Taste for seasoning.  Cover and leave at room temperature until the Salad is ready to “dress”.

 

SALAD

5-6 EARS OF CORN (or 2 1/2 Cups of Frozen, Drained Canned )

2 TBS. OLIVE OIL

1 MEDIUM RED ONION, SMALL DICED

2 RIPE SEASONAL TOMATOES, DICED

2  TBS. CHOPPED FRESH THYME

SALT, PEPPER

In a hot cast iron pan lightly oil the pan and fit 3 ears of corn and let it char on one side.  Turn and do this with all the ears of corn until they are all nicely charred.  When they have cooled down strip the ear of its corn by holding it vertically in a bowl (with a damp paper towel under it to keep it from moving!)using a sharp knife cut off all the kernels from the ear.  When you are done add the fresh of the ingredients to the bowl.  Season with Salt and Pepper.Then pour the dressing over it all.  Blend well.   Taste for seasoning.Chill for at least 1 hour then serve.   Taste for seasoning.

A fitting salad to usher out the growing season and warm weather!!  Happy Cooking!

 

 

 

 

 

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END OF SUMMER PANZANELLA STYLE SALAD

IMG_1707The last weeks of August are when tomatoes are at their peak in my region.  Jersey Tomatoes are prized for their full rich flavor after vine ripening and I happen to live in Jersey, so…there you go.  Our tomatoes are fantastic.  Truth be told I though our Staten Island, NYC tomatoes were fantastic too.  Ask my late father or my late Uncle Tony Scaramuzzi, two of Staten Island’s leading ItalianAmerican authorities and growers of tomatoes in their large home gardens.  They carried on that rivalry for years. They both grew amazing tomatoes. But I’m in Jersey where there’s a religion that worships the warm bright red orbs, big and small and this is the time of the year for them to be at their very best.  You can make sauces from them, oh yes, amazing pasta sauces but really…I’m way more interested in eating the raw product.  This is the only time of the year they will be this good.  August.  I’m not exaggerating when I say that we probably eat them raw at least once a day during the season.  While I don’t grow my own our farm markets are bulging at the seams with local tomatoes of all different varieties and your friends and neighbors who grow them in their home gardens are very generous with their bags of tomatoes as gifts for you.  I have such a neighbor.  Thanks Mike!  When I walked into the kitchen earlier today the aroma of the tomatoes I picked in his garden was floating somewhere in the air.IMG_1694That’s when I knew it’s time for ……..PANZANELLA.  Ok, Panzanella, what is it?  Well let’s start with what it’s not.  It’s not made with toasted bread.  The bread has to get stale.That means you can’t force it.  STALE. Let it sit in a paper bag for 2 days after you buy it, and buy brick oven Italian bread, no seeds, if possible.  The  toasted bread is a crouton, delicious, but not panzanella. One problem in being authentic to the Tuscan Panzanella is the bread itself. In Tuscany the bread is salt-less.  NO SALT.   When I went to Italy the first time in 1986, my maternal grandmother, a native of Avellino told me “be careful when you travel up North (in Italy)….senza sale..o’pane senza sale..no good.”  LOL.  She was right. Saltless bread must be one of those “acquired” tastes. If all the bread you’ve eaten all your life contains salt, it’s a strange taste without it.  So unless you are baking your own bread chances of finding good Italian saltless bread is going to be a problem. Even in Italy, outside of Tuscany, they use their local breads containing salt for this dish.  This salad is a balance of bits of only a few things.  There’s a small amount of red wine vinegar that helps to soften and flavor the bread and that allows the tomatoes full flavor to shine through. Imagine, I can wax poetically over a salad of stale bread and tomatoes.  If you notice in my title to this blogpost I say Panzanella “STYLE”…that’s like a get out of jail card for me.  It allows me to be close to what’s thought of as the closest to the original without misnaming the dish.  My panzanella I made tonight contains no Cucumber. Why?  I love cucumbers.  One of my daughters loves cucumbers.  My wife?  Hates them (so misguided isn’t she?). So, since one cooks to make the diners happy I always make my version of Panzanella without cucumber.  Feel free to add it, or, stick with my Panzanella STYLE.  And put down that bottle of Balsamic. It’s not , never now or ever..a substitute for Red Wine Vinegar which is what you use in this dish.  Italy generally is fiercely regional.  Balsamic is a traditional aged product of Emilia-Romagna.  Panzanella is generally a Tuscan dish.  Not the same region so pay attention here!! Alright, enough of my lecturing on this salad..let’s make it now.

TIME: 2 hours                                             SERVES: 4 people

4 thick slices of STALE (remember, Stale, plan ahead her, this isn’t a salad with seasoned croutons which is what “toasting ” them in the oven would do.  coarsely chopped

3 large tomatoes, JERSEY VINE RIPENED if possible..if not, find good local homegrown or farm market tomatoes.  Dice them and leave them in a bowl.

1 SMALL RED ONION, DICED

4 BASIL LEAVES

(1 PEELED AND THIN SLICED CUCUMBER IF USING)

SEA SALT

3 TBS. EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL

2 TBS RED WINE VINEGAR

WATER

1 TSP SEA SALT

FRESH GROUND BLACK PEPPER

Soak the bread in about 1/8 cup of water for 15 minutes, then gently squeeze out the water. Then season with 1/2 tsp Sea salt, 1/2 tsp Black pepper, 2 tbs, Red Wine Vinegar, blend, then add 2 tbs. of the Extra Virgin Olive oil. Let this sit for 15 minutes.  Now add all the other ingredients:IMG_1697Then mix gently with…YOUR HANDS.  It’s how it’s done.  There are 2 methods, mine and then everyone elses, lol.  In Tuscany the bread is mixed by hand FIRST and then the other ingredients blended in.  I mix it all together, let it sit for 1/2 hour. Then I mix it again making sure the bread is well soaked.  Let it sit for 1/2 hour again, check for seasoning then serve. It’s that simple.  Add a drizzle of Extra Virgin Olive oil before mixing prior to serving. Fresh ground pepper over everything.

It’s hard to enjoy this out of season which is why I’m highlighting it now.  If you attempt this in the winter months,  no matter how hard you try those winter tomatoes will stay rock hard and NOT give up the juices they do in the Summer.  Those juices are the real flavor in this salad and the soaked bread delivers it to you.  Note: seasoning. At every step give the salad a taste and if something is not quite right, a little salt and pepper will correct it.IMG_1700

 

 

TURKISH SHEPHERD’S SALAD, OR ÇOBAN SALATASI

fulleuropevaca 1432  We are now in the throes of Summer.  The fresh seasonal and local produce is all around us.  My favorite time of the year!  AND it’s also when my family takes it’s annual vacation.  This year we did an “AmazingRace” like whirlwind from Belgium to Amsterdam to Germany to the Czech Republic to Poland to Slovakia to Hungary to Austria….take a breath,…then we finished the trip flying from Salzburg Austria to Istanbul Turkey.  Wonderful time, no problems, no issues, phenomenal scenery and people, many time zones, currencies and of course…THE FOOD!!!  What’s a food blogger to write about first?  Really!! I have 3000 pictures of sights and foods to remember the great trip by and the food choices along the way were varied and fantastic. Again, where do I start to share my food finds?  Last night I was at a Farmers Market here at the Jersey Shore and it came to me that my first “What did I eat on my Summer Vacation” post came to me.  Fresh vegetables.  They were at their peak wherever we went and they are at their peak here at home.  I’m going to ease my way back into blogging, I did give myself a 3 week break, so I’m happily back to work at it now.  My choice was a simple salad that was made extraordinary by the local seasonal vegetables used by the cooks.  It’s a chopped vegetable salad that is a common salad in Turkey.  First, this is my lingering view of Turkey:

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Sit back from your screen and drink that view in.  It’s of the Blue Mosque in Istanbul taken from the Karakoy Ferry we were on.  It took us from the European side to the Asian side of Istanbul, the only city that straddles itself on two continents. Like that?  Good.  I’m glad.  Now we move into the kitchen to prepare what the Turkish call ” COBAN SALATASI”, a common version of a Mediterranean chopped vegetable salad.  As with most heritage and regional recipes there are variations with Feta or no Feta cheese.  The version we had, see the lead picture, contained no Feta.  The taste was crisp, clean, and refreshing.  Maybe the amount of parsley in it contributes to that too. So, I’m giving you, the cook, the option to either include the Feta or not.  Next time I make it, I’ll add some feta.

COBAN SALATASI—–TURKISH SHEPHERD’S SALAD

SERVES: 4-5                                  TIME:45 MINUTES

2 RIPE LARGE TOMATOES, DICED

2 MEDIUM SIZED CUBANELLE (ITALIAN FRYING PEPPERS), SLICED AND DICED

1 MEDIUM CUCUMBER,  DICED

1 SMALL SWEET ONION, DICED FINE

1/2 BUNCH ITALIAN FLAT LEAF PARSLEY COARSELY MINCED

1/4 CUP CUBED FETA

SEA SALT/KOSHER SALT

EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL

JUICE OF ONE WHOLE LEMON

Whisk 1/8 cup Olive oil with the lemon, season with salt and pepper.  Let this sit for about 1 hour. Then whisk again.  Mix all the vegetables together.  Then pour the seasoned Olive Oil and Lemon over the whole thing and mix.  Let this sit for 1/2 at room temperature.

that’s it…fulleuropevaca 1490 It’s simple, clean, and goes GREAT with the usual American table of grilled or BBQ meats and seafood we enjoy through the summer.  It also makes a wonderful entree for a summer meal.  Grilled smoky pita bread, olives, cheeses..see where I’m going with this? Well, nice to be back home with lots of memories to keep my fingers typing and kitchen cranking and hopefully some new things for you to make in your kitchens!!

Before we leave this Turkish delight….enjoy this pic of the interior of AYASOFYA, or HAGIA SOPHIA.  For any fan of  World Art and Architecture this is one of the sights one wants to see.  I’ve wanted to see this since I was a kid first seeing it in a National Geographic Magazine. fulleuropevaca 1437

 

 

 

GO CRISP, GO SIMPLE…A ROMAINE SALAD WITH WHITE BALSAMIC AND OLIVE OIL DRESSING

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Thanks to a great response to this picture on my Facebook posts from various groups I’m in I’ll share this simple salad with you…by popular demand..LOL.  The construction of it could not be more simple.  ROMAINE SALAD, and I used an Organic Romaine as the main component.  Dinner was going to have lots of strong flavors and this was going to be the side dish so I opted for what is the most BASIC of Italian dressings, just using good Vinegar and Good Extra Virgin Olive Oil.  To up the flavor ante I went with a White Balsamic Vinegar.  Never heard of it?  Let’s talk.  It’s the same as the dark stuff however there’s some major differences in it’s production and aging.  It does not take on the deep rich flavors of a regular Balsamico.  What is does have is a light vinegar punch with a slight sweetness.  And it doesn’t discolor a salad. Yeah, I might be the anti-Balsamic on everything, I like it, and only like it if it’s a decent bottle, not all are even really Balsamico di Modena.  Many are just harsh vinegar caramel colored and they’ll scorch the back of your throat with their rough taste.  Aged Balsamic is warm, acidic, sweet and almost like a port wine or sherry in it’s feel when you are eating it.  Enough about Balsamic, here’s why I chose it..I though it’s light and sweet taste would just compliment my dinner and I think you will enjoy it too.

SERVES: 4                                 TAKES: 10 minutes   (no kidding)

3 FULL HEADS OF ROMAINE, CLEANED, DRIED WITH PAPER TOWELS, TRIMMED at the base

Makes about 1 cup

3/4 cup FRUITY EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL
1/8 CUP WHITE BALSAMIC VINEGAR
KOSHER SALT
FRESHLY GROUND BLACK PEPPER

Place the lettuce in a large bowl.  In a cup or Jar add the Olive Oil and Vinegar.  Shake well. Pour over the lettuce.  Sprinkle with the about 1/4 Tsp. Salt and 1/8 Tsp. of the pepper.  Gently toss till all is coated with dressing, salt , and pepper.  Arrange leaves on a serving platter..taste for seasoning.!! (Always taste…how else will you know??). Serve IMMEDIATELY!!! If you are planning to serve later, to not assemble until 5 minutes before serving.  Freshness is key here!

 

So, very simple but with some strict rules to adhere to.. Don’t let me down and you will surely place this on your menus.  Happy Cooking!

LET THE SUNSHINE ON YOUR SALAD WITH THIS BRIGHT CITRUS VINAIGRETTE

004  While  the dregs of the Winter are in full force please do not think this is a recipe that is limited to any particular season. It’s great for any season but ESPECIALLY when the cold has hung around for months now and Spring is just around the corner.   Florida’s citrus crop is in season and what better way to celebrate than to have those flavors enhance your meals??  There’s a hint of sweet, some spice, some aromatics..the whole thing works in this vinaigrette..btw…the word for a salad dressing in French is VINAIGRETTE…not VINEGARETTE or VINEGRETTE.  A VINAIGRETTE may or may not contain Dijon Mustard, but it will always contain an OIL and VINEGAR.  Good OliveOil is a wonderful flavor in a Vinaigrette, I know, I know..there’s that tasteless neutral oil known as Salad Oil.  Not going to preach, but those oils just aren’t the best due to how they are processed.  I like flavor.  I like the flavor of an Olive Oil and for this dressing I used a Spanish Extra Virgin Olive Oil.  Above all use a good quality oil,you want that taste and the vinegar should also be of good quality. Put down the Balsamic, it’s a horrible choice for this salad.  I went with a Rice Wine Vinegar. Oils and Vinegars of different types should occupy space in your pantry. Nut based oils are wonderful too but they just turn rancid before you would probably finish using the bottle.  This post is really about the dressing and not the salad however it was a mix of chopped Romaine,torn Baby Spinach, Clementine Segments and ripe Strawberries. They are currently in my local markets, seasonal fruits from Florida, how could I not use them this week??  This recipe will make you a cup of the Vinaigrette.

MAKES:  1 CUP                             TIME: 10 minutes plus 1 hour sitting time

note: Make a vinaigrette AT LEAST one hour before serving and do not refrigerate.  Room temperature and sitting time create the flavors.

  • 2 TABLESPOONS finely minced RED ONION
  • 1TSP COARSE DIJON MUSTARD or REGULAR DIJON if Coarse is unavailable
  • 1 TABLESPOON FRESH CLEMENTINE JUICE
  • 1/2 TSP FINELY MINCED FRESH ROSEMARY (if all you have is dried, FORGET THE ROSEMARY, and use Fresh Thyme)
  • 1 1/2 TABLESPOONS RICE WINE VINEGAR
  • 3/4 CUP SPANISH EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL (i happen to love the flavor of the Spanish for this, feel free to use any other ExtraVirgin OliveOil
  • 1 dash of TABASCO SAUCE
  • 1 TBS HONEY
  • FRESHLY GROUND PEPPER, KOSHER SALT to taste

Blend everything except the Olive Oil..When all blended in a steady stream whisk in the Olive Oil till the mixture is creamy.  Let sit for at least one hour, preferably 3 hours…rewhisk, then use on the salad of your choice.  Certainly, if you are not using it the same day you’ve made it, tightly cover it and refrigerate. This will keep fresh for up to 5 days in the fridge.

 

To make this “vegan-Friendly” omit the Honey and use Agave Nectar,I like the dark Agave better, more flavor.

 

TOMATOES…TIS THE SEASON….

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It’s August, it’s Summer at the Jersey Shore, and it’s all about the Tomato, especially the locally grown ones.  No debating here please, I’m not saying you have to have a Jersey garden grown tomato for it to be good just find ripe locally grown ones that are at their peak right now.  We happen to have very good ones here in the Garden State but I’m not entering into a contest as to what state has the best or not.  I find that confrontational and boring at the same time.  It’s the time to hit your Farmer’s Markets, produce stands, or pal up with a food friend or family member who has grown them in their own yard if you aren’t growing them yourself.

The beautiful plate of tomatoes pictured came from a friend’s yard here in Wayside/Tinton Falls, NJ, less than 2 miles from my home.  HEIRLOOMS.  Again, the foodies-in-the-know will pound Heirlooms down your throat as the only tomato that has any flavor or merit.  They are insanely delicious and come in incredible variations of colors and shapes but they are not the only tomato out there.  Too much foodie bullying going on in the world today, seriously, it’s food, we all can’t get certain types of food in our area, so..I wish more food writers/bloggers, etc would bear that in mind when communicating.  However, those local heirlooms I turned into a simple salad (not a Caprese) that tasted as insane as they looked. Here’s another view..OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA  Slice them, layer them on a plate/platter, drizzle a good Olive Oil over them, chop some fresh herbs, i used oregano and thyme here, but the sky’s the limit..sea salt and fresh ground black pepper. There’s your recipe!  Want more “tang”, add a little vinegar, but a good one, not something harsh, like a White Balsamic or a Sherry or Champagne Vinegar.  Again..take the foundation and run with it DO NOT FEEL RESTRICTED BY THE MOST COMMON SUMMER TOMATO SALADS.  In the end they will only be as good as the tomatoes you are using.

Let’s look at the other tomatoes I have hanging around my house right now…these are garden variety assorted Jersey Grown tomatoes..full of the sun and sweet delicious flavor and gorgeous..plenty of time left to enjoy these jewels from the local gardens, don’t wait, enjoy them while they are at their best.  (P.S. and not ice cold, yikes, nothing kills the taste of a tomato more than ICE COLD)

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