Not-so Traditional Panzanella

panzanellaYou have a sourdough loaf that’s a couple days past its prime, a whole lot of tomatoes, and a grumbling belly. What do you do? Make a bread salad for dinner!

The reason this post is titled, “Not-so Traditional Panzanella” is because traditionalists usually only create it using bread, basil, tomatoes, and onions. Like the way I feel about making stock, I think you should make your meal with what’s already in the kitchen. If that means you open the refrigerator door and spy, say, olives and a bit of mozzarella — and maybe there’s an avocado sitting on the counter that has to be used today or it will be too old for anything but guacamole — well then, use them! If the flavors seem like they’d meld well, go for it. I’ve said it before, and I’m sure I’ll say it again, but the best way to stick to a food budget is to eat what you buy. Wasted food is money down the drain, or into the compost heap, so make sure to figure out how to use those random leftovers you have hanging around the kitchen.

I paired the panzanella with a Dolcetto, and it was phenomenal! It’s the type of pairing one dreams about, that perfect harmonizing of food and drink. There was a lovely counterpoint to the tomato, basil, avocado… even the olives. If I had more Dolcetto in my collection, this would be our meal for the rest of the summer. Unfortunately, I only have one more bottle, and it can be a hard wine to come by in California. People don’t know what it is, so they’re hesitant to try it. It’s a beautiful wine, but because folks won’t buy it, winemakers don’t make it. Please, don’t be scared! Search it out, and have it with this recipe.

Not-so Traditional Panzanella

Serves 4

Most of a leftover sourdough baguette, cut in one-inch pieces
pinch of dried sage
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
drizzle of olive oil
3 tomatoes, cut in chunks
1 avocado, cut in chunks
4 ounces of mozzarella
7 ounces of kalamata olives
20-30 basil leaves
drizzle of olive oil
drizzle of balsamic vinegar

Warm a skillet over medium heat. Drizzle in enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the skillet. Toss in bread, sage, and pepper and stir until bread begins to golden.
Remove from heat and toss the bread, with the rest of the ingredients, in a large bowl. Cover the bowl and set in the refrigerator for a couple hours so the flavors have a chance to combine well.
Remove and serve.

Strawberry Spinach Salad

strawberry spinach saladToday’s post is a quick one, as every spare moment has been filled with busy work this week. I’ll be telling the whole tale on my other blog, but for now, why don’t we take a break and enjoy a superb salad?

There are a lot of strawberry spinach salads out there, and for good reason. They’re a wonderful mix of flavors, and they’re good for you, too. Mine has the protein upped a notch with the addition of pecans and thin slivers of Pecorino cheese. After a little drizzle of papaya poppy seed dressing and a glass of rosé, this salad was ready to be a sensational supper.

Strawberry Spinach Salad

  • Difficulty: super easy
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Serves 2

2 cups baby spinach
4-6 strawberries, sliced
1 Tablespoon coarsely chopped pecans
1 avocado, sliced into small pieces
2 Tablespoons thinly sliced Pecorino cheese
salad dressing (I used Annie’s Papaya Poppy Seed)

Arrange the spinach on two plates. Layer the other ingredients. Drizzle the dressing and serve right away.

Mexikale Salad

Mexikale SaladSummertime is salad time in our household. Why heat up the house with cooked food when there are so many fresh, local vegetables available? As a celebration for the abundance of summer produce, I tossed together a baby kale salad with ingredients inspired by Mexican food. It was tasty, if I do say so myself. Since this is my blog, I guess that’s rather redundant, but there you go. Why the bad pun title, you may ask? Well, when it comes to Mexican food married with California cuisine, laid out on a bed of kale — I just couldn’t help myself. Blame the journalism training.

This salad is perfect on its own, but if you wanted to get even fancier, you could add some crumbled, blue corn tortilla chips and a sprinkling of queso fresco to create a taco salad. Whichever way you go, serve this bad boy with a beer. We paired our dinner with a Big Sky Brewing Co. I.P.A. I’m not a fan of I.P.A.s that beat up your taste buds with hops, but Big Sky’s version has enough of a malty backbone to make for an enjoyable drinking experience.

Mexikale Salad

Serves 2

2 oz of baby kale salad mix
7 oz of black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup of sweet corn kernels
1 large bell pepper, chopped into small pieces
1 large avocado, chopped
2 large tomatoes, chopped
1/4 cup red onion, chopped

1 teaspoon jalapeno pepper, finely chopped
juice from one lime
1 Tablespoon sour cream
1 teaspoon taco seasoning

chopped cilantro for garnish

Place veggies in a large bowl.
Put jalapeno, lime juice, sour cream, and taco seasoning in a jar with a lid. Shake until well mixed. Pour over the salad and toss until everything is coated. Divide into two bowls and garnish with cilantro.

Paneer Salad

paneer saladIt seems like everyone in the western United States is talking about our current heat wave. Heck, even the BBC are posting about it. I guess I’ll add my voice. This cold ocean loving gal hates the heat. When it gets hot, my desire to cook plummets into the negatives.

It becomes salad season, but of course, always tweaking with recipes and enjoying the creation of something new, I sometimes just go with whatever strikes my fancy at the moment.

Not having a plan, and not having much of a drive to even eat, I decided to play with flavors as they popped into my head a couple of evenings ago. The heat wave may not have rolled over the area by that point, but believe me, I could feel the atmosphere readying itself. I decided to attempt to craft a salad around paneer and stone fruit. I don’t know where the inspiration came from, exactly, but it ended up being a tasty dinner for a couple of nights.

Paneer Salad

serves two

You’ll need:
2 nectarines
2 cups baby spinach
7 oz paneer
Garam Masala to taste
2 TB crème fraîche
1 TB Gewürztraminer vinegar

Warm up a grill or grill pan. Slice nectarines then sprinkle with Garam Masala. Grill nectarines, turning after a couple of minutes or when grill marks become brown. While nectarines cook, cut paneer into small squares and sprinkle with more Garam Masala. Remove nectarines from grill and replace with paneer, following the same steps as the fruit.

In a bowl, combine crème fraîche, Gewürztraminer vinegar, and a few more sprinkles of Garam Masala. Mix.

Fill two bowls with the baby spinach. Layer grilled nectarines and paneer on top and drizzle with the crème fraîche mixture. Serve while nectarines are still warm.

Dinner Salad

While we were on vacation a week ago, Charles and I did something that we hadn’t done in years — buy a meal from a fast food joint.

The effects were immediate. We felt bloated, lethargic, not quite right. A few hours later, large, angry pimples had erupted all over my face — something that hadn’t happened since high school. The worst part was that my blood sugar was wonky for most of our vacation and followed into the work week.

What to do? I thought the best option was to make a dinner salad, filled with different colors, textures, and flavors. With assorted spring greens as the base, I layered grape tomatoes, crimini mushrooms, avocado, black olives, garbanzo beans, and a small smattering of sauteed chicken breast.

It was just what we both needed to feel more like ourselves again. It had been so long since we had eaten true junk food, we had forgotten the consequences. The results may have been more pronounced since we usually eat such a clean diet, but it really brought home how important it is to eat as healthy as possible as often as possible. My body thanked me.

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