Category Archives: SALADS

POLLO ALLA CAPRESE, CAPRESE CHICKEN, MY VERSION

POLLO ALLA CAPRESE

CAPRI!!! Have you been there? It’s a wonderful rocky island in an azure sea off the coast of Napoli. It’s romantic. It’s scenic. It’s Campanian. It’s loaded with good food. It’s Italian. Americans are very familiar with the Namesake Salad from there called INSALATA CAPRESE. At its most basic this is a salad of Fresh made Mozzarella layered with ripe sliced tomatoes, fresh basil and fruity delicious Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Some sea salt and black pepper (or not) and you’re done. Sorry, no Balsamic on mine, that’s an addition created over here, not in Capri. Balsamic Vinegar is a product of Modena, hundreds of miles away on the Italian Mainland many provinces away from sunny Campania in the south. Southern Italian food should always be…SUNNY…bright, colorful, especially when you’re invoking an Island with cliffs, beaches, sun drenched days and warm nights. Get the picture? I’m much too logical for my own good, or is it OCD? I’m sure it’s a combo of both but when Mozzarella and tomato are baked into something it falls into the Al Forno or Sorrentino style of Southern ITalian dishes. Caprese is a room temperature combination of some ingredients. I’ve poured over CrockPot, InstantPot, Airfryer, baked, roasted, fried, and microwaved versions of Chicken Caprese and haven’t liked one yet because somewhere in all of them something is lost in translation. See, there’s my OCD or Logic. Caprese is a raw salad..why are you cooking it. If you add it to chicken should the chicken be grilled, then marinated and tossed or layered with the typical Caprese salad ingredients? Good, but not spectacular. The chicken became a distraction from the salad components instead of a compliment. My Chicken Caprese is more like what some people today call Chicken Milanese in the restaurants. A Fried Chicken cutlet topped with a salad, with or without mozzarella. Delicious but still not what i was looking for. So I decided to lightly bread whole boneless breasts and bake them. When they were done I let them cool and then topped them with a salad of sliced cherry tomatoes, cubed mozzarella, chopped fresh basil, sea salt, black pepper and the best Extra Virgin Olive Oil you can get your hands on. When the chicken was out of the oven for about 10 minutes over the top of it goes the tomato salad. The salad should be made no less than 2 hours before serving, this way the tomatoes leech their juices and the resulting marinade is a heady mix. It soaks right into the breading on the chicken and it’s an amazing

THE SALAD: First we start making the salad. For 4 serving portions use :

3 pts. RIPE CHERRY OR GRAPE TOMATOES

1 1/2 CUPS DICED MOZZARELLA

(OPTIONAL!!!) 1 1/2 TBS FINE DICED RED ONION OR 2 FINELY MINCED CLOVES OF GARLIC, not both.

1/2 CUP EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL

6 CHOPPED OR TORN FRESH BASIL LEAVES (WARNING, WARNING, do not use dried basil. Its flavor is markedly different than fresh, and it’s really not used in Italy. It’s an American convenience herb. If fresh is unavailable, the dish is just not worth making. )

SEA SALT TO TASTE, FRESH GROUND BLACK PEPPER TO TASTE.

Mix all together and let sit covered in a cool place for at least 2 hours.

8 THIN, POUNDED ORGANIC OR NATURAL CHICKEN BREASTS

1/4 CUP FLOUR SEASONED WITH SEA SALT AND BLACK PEPPER

3 BEATEN EGGS

1 1/4 CUP PLAIN ITALIAN BREADCRUMBS

1/4 CUP GRATED PECORINO ROMANO CHEESE

2 TBS MINCED FRESH ITALIAN FLAT LEAF PARSLEY

KOSHER SALT, PAPRIKA, BLACK PEPPER

OLIVE OIL for FRYING

Set up a station for frying. First the cutlets. Then the bowl of seasoned flour. Then in another bowl mix the breadcrumbs, pecorino, parsley, and salt, paprika and black pepper to taste. Cover a sheet pan with a few layers of paper towels. One by one, dredge the cutlets in the flour…shake off excess. Then into the eggs. Then let the excess run off, then press into the crumb mixture making sure you’ve well coated both sides. Line these up on a line baking sheet. When done move them to the side and set up your frying station. In a cast iron or other heavy frying pan heat 1/2 inch of olive oil until a bread cube place in it starts to sizzle and brown. Now your oil is ready. Give it 6 minutes or more. Without crowding the cutlets add a few at a time Give them 3-4 minutes per side, till nicely golden and tender. Add more oil as needed letting it come back up to temperature between batches. Drain the finished cutlets on the paper towel covered tray. Serve one or two cutlets per person (if feeding 4) and pour a nice amount of the Caprese Salad over them Let them sit for 2 minutes, then serve. I like to add a grating of Pecorino over the warm draining cutlets, along with a grinding of black pepper. That’s just me. Adds additional flavor. Serve!!

So many ways to create this ItalianAmerican classic but this is my way. You can switch out the Pecorino with Parmigiano or Grana Padano but my preference is the Pecorino. When frying the cutlets be mindful of your stove top and pan…you may need to adjust the heat on it in the beginning so you don’t burn the crumbs before the chicken is fully cooked. Just an FYI. Happy Cooking!!!

SUMMER CORN AND TOMATO SHRIMP SALAD..A SEASONAL TREAT

20258328_10210202426719502_1348156829950459464_nLiving in the Garden State (that would be New Jersey)Summer here produces some of the country’s finest produce, namely Tomatoes and Corn.  Our markets and backyards are bursting with this bounty and they BEG to be used in many ways.  I try to be creative keeping true to cuisines and flavor profiles.  This Warm Tomato and Corn Shrimp Salad came about while wondering what to cook one summer’s night.  The Shrimp, for this dish to be a success have to be fresh and US Wild Caught.  Our markets are getting more and more of these shrimp for those of us who aren’t lucky enough to live where the Shrimp boats operate. Many of my local (Central Jersey Shore) supermarkets and seafood markets carry the U.S. caught Wild Shrimp.  They just are better looking…better tasting..better for you.  In Asbury Park near me is Local 130, a wonderful fishmonger who specializes in LOCAL fish and seafood as well as wonderfully well sourced and sustainable product from other U.S. locations.  These Shrimp came from off the coast of South Carolina.  Like little sweet crisp sea candies. The shrimp is sauteed then tossed with lightly sauteed corn off the cob and diced ripe tomatoes.  Then a dressing is poured over the whole thing that’s been infused with fresh Rosemary and its all tossed together and served on a platter over baby greens.  I like the Baby Arugula.  Baby Spinach or Baby Kale work too.  Let’s make some Shrimp Salad now!!

2 lbs shelled and deveined US WILD CAUGHT SHRIMP.  The 16-20 size is what I use for this.

seasoned flour (salt, pepper, paprika)

Olive Oil

2 cups corn cut off the cob

2 medium sized ripe Tomatoes, medium dice

1/2 fine diced Sweet or Vidalia Onion

2 tbs unsalted butter

1 1/2 cups GREEK YOGHURT, drained

1 1/2 TBS, honey

1 TBS Finely diced FRESH ROSEMARY…do not use dried.

1 TBS olive oil

2 TBS White Balsamic Vinegar or Apple Cider Vinegar

Pinch of ground Cayenne

Kosher Salt and Black pepper to taste

Baby Greens

 

First make the dressing.  Whisk together the Yoghurt, honey, 1/2 the rosemary, 1 tbs olive oil, the vinegar, cayenne, salt and pepper to taste.  Reserve.

Lightly dust the shrimp in the flour, shake off the excess and saute’ in a wide pan with about 1/8 inch olive oil.  Saute in batches, adding more olive oil as necessary.  Cook only 2-3 minutes on first side, then 2 minutes on the other, or until both sides are golden.  Reserve and drain on paper towels.  Add the butter to the pan and when it’s melted saute’ first the onion, then add the corn and tomatoes, and 1/2 the rosemary, season with salt and pepper.  Cook this for at least 10 minutes on medium.  In a large mixing bowl add the shrimp and toss with the corn and tomato mixture.  When blended gently blend in the dressing.  When well blended let it sit for 10 minutes.  Using a large platter, make a nice bed of greens on it and then pile the shrimp salad on top.  Garnish with fresh rosemary and serve.  Feeds 4-5.

 

 

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!

POTATO, TOMATO, AND ARUGULA WALNUT SALAD..GREAT WITH GRILLED FOODS

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SALADS are truly underrated in many kitchens.  So often you can really make an entire meal out of one and not with a tons of fats or carbs.  However I love carbs and one of my favorite ways to get my fix is through POTATOES.  Hello?? There are more way to make a potato besides french frying it or mashing it.  Not sure if there are many other ingredients with such great versatility in the kitchen.  Hit up a local green grocer, Farmers Market, Farm stand or your supermarket’s produce counter and you will find a host of ideas like a recent trip to the Farm market did for me.  I bought (locally grown, how fortunate is that?) POTATOES, ARUGULA, RED ONIONS, TOMATOES and for a side salad/dish for grilled chicken we were having that night I put together this salad which I crowned with a simple VINAIGRETTE and toasted WALNUTS.  For you nut averse types you will miss out on the nutty crunch and taste but the salad without the nuts is still quite wonderful.  I urge you to try it.

For 4-5 people.     Takes abour 1 hour start to finish, or less.

1 lb cleaned small redskin potatoes, boiled in plenty of salted water until they are just tender (a fork will glide right thru them), about 15 minutes then GET THEM OUT OF THAT WATER or they will continue to cook and start smashing onto each other.  Dramatic perhaps but once they are smashed they are overcooked and tasteless.  Remove with a slotted spoon or a spider and place into a bowl of ice water.  GENTLY, don’t turn them out at the same time because they will get crushed.  Let them sit for about 5 minutes cooling down.  It’s ok if they are slightly warm though when you make the salad.

1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 tbs. Dijon Mustard

kosher salt,  fresh ground black pepper

3 tbs. finely diced red onion

2 tbs. good Apple Cider or Champagne Vinegar (or Sherry Vinegar)

2 ripe, seeded, diced beefsteak tomatoes or 1 pint of cherry or grape tomatoes, halved

2 cups chopped baby arugula

1/8 cup toasted walnuts

While the potatoes are cooking, prep everything else.  The vinaigrette is simply made by adding all the ingredients except for the oil into a boil..whisk together well.  Now in a slow stream whisk the OliveOil in.  Season to taste with salt and pepper. Reserve on side.

When the potatoes are cooled, drain, pat dry and quarter them.  add the tomatoes, and the arugula.  Season with salt and pepper.  Toss together well.  IMPORTANT HERE…check the taste…you have to always taste you food as you go along.  If you are satisfied with the seasoning, then add the walnuts and the vinaigrette and toss, gently getting everything coated with the dressing.  Let this sit for a good 15 minutes.  Then serve.  It’s a great salad, especially during the Summer months.  Hit those produce markets, food never tastes as good unless you are growing it yourself.

 

SIMPLE FOODS MAKE EXTRAORDINARY DISHES

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One of the pleasures of eating aside from it being necessary nourishment is the taste. Most foods are delicious. I will not bore you with all the ones that I don’t think taste good but certainly will talk about a few that when paired together are perfection. Fresh mozzarella or creamy burrata paper with seasonal tomatoes, olive oil, herbs, olives,greens. There are so many variations like the delicious Caprese. Tonight we enjoyed a plate that so simple and substantial enough for it to be a starter or entree.
Crushed Piennolo tomatoes from Campania were mashed with basil and olive oil on whole wheat crostini and served with briny black oil cured olives from Gaeta and Burrata made with Buffalo milk in Campania. Heyyyy. One minute. You are thinking simple. That’s a whole bunch of sourcing going on there. You are correct. This was a great plate made with great ingredients. However this is not practical for most so here is what you do. Find a good fresh mozzarella or burrata in your area. Leave it at room temperature the day you are serving it. In some warm olive oil slowly melt down a pint of ripe grape tomatoes simply add some salt. Toast 8 slices of good country style Italian bread on both sides. Top each with a drizzle of olive oil then spread with the tomatoes. On a platter cover the bottom with rinsed and dried baby arugula. Place the crostini at on end. The mozzarella or burrata in the middle. Garnish with pitted Gaeta olives or a good oil cured black olives. Add some torn basil over the crostini. This serves about 4. Enjoy this treat as much as I enjoyed this platter at Obika Mozzarella Bar in London England.

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