GREEK PANZANELLA SALAD

Photo by Alexa Speyer

Photo by Alexa Speyer

With the warm weather finally upon us, my cravings have shifted to lighter and fresher foods as opposed to the heavier sauce laden meals of winter. Salads made with fresh corn, tomatoes, and cucumber for example. And the herbs! Freshly snipped from my container garden. A while back I posted this recipe for panzanella salad, but with everyone planning outdoor parties, I thought this would be a good time to share it once again for all my new followers. It’s definitely been a favorite around here.

Panzanella salad is a bread salad that is traditionally Italian. But, what can I say? I have to put my spin on it and Greekify it. We can say it’s a fusion of sorts—like my family. My husband is Italian so this salad has a bit of both our culinary cultures.

Buon Appetito & Kali Orexi

 

Greek Panzanella Salad

Party size

4 – 5 large tomatoes cut in thick slices

2 cucumbers cut in chunks or thick slices

1 small red onion thinly sliced

2 red, yellow or orange peppers cut in chunks

1 round Tuscan bread with crusts removed and cut into 1-1/2 cubes

1 pound slab of feta cheese

1 cup basil leaves

(Fresh dill, chives and parsley may be added also)

Heat a large skillet and coat with olive oil. Add the bread cubes, constantly turning as each side browns. This can be done a day ahead.

Cut up all the vegetables and place in a very large mixing bowl. Drizzle with oil and vinegar, tossing until coated. Add salt and pepper to taste, a teaspoon of sugar and 2 cloves of crushed garlic. Mix well. Add the basil and any other fresh herbs you like. I always add oregano, but I also add fresh dill, chives or parsley if I have it on hand. Break the feta into chunks and add to the salad. Add the toasted bread cubes. Toss to coat. Transfer into a large salad bowl. There should be little or no excess dressing left in mixing bowl. If you would like to make the dressing ahead, I recommend mixing the fresh herbs in with the vegetables, not the dressing. If you only have dried herbs on hand you can add the herbs to the dressing. Below is a Greek salad dressing using dried herbs.

 

Greek Salad Dressing

1 cup olive oil

¼ cup red wine vinegar

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon pepper

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 tablespoon dried parsley

1 teaspoon sugar

2 cloves crushed garlic

Combine all ingredients and whisk well, shake in a cruet or emulsify in a blender. Drizzle over salad, mixing and tossing to coat. Do not overdress. You will not use all the dressing. Keep in the fridge for later use.

 

 

 

 

 

FRESH CORN SALAD

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Last year, I posted a recipe for grilled corn salad, and it became one of my favorite side dishes to make for my backyard parties last summer. This recipe is exactly the same, but for one step. I didn’t grill the corn. Call it laziness or my unwillingness to stand outside in cold weather, but I wasn’t about to turn on the grill. So I boiled the corn instead, and the result was delicious. The combination of the lime juice and the fresh corn was refreshing. The grilled corn was flavored differently because of the char on the kernels, and was equally tasty but in a different way. The choice is always yours. And of course, you can try it both ways to see which you prefer. I love them both. The one thing I know for sure is that I am so happy to be cooking summer food and enjoying the warm weather at last!

FRESH CORN SALAD

12 ears of corn, husked

3 limes, juice and zest

6 tablespoons olive oil

3 tablespoons chives

½ cup sliced scallions

Salt and pepper to taste

½ cup fresh basil, chiffonade

12- 14 mini kumato tomatoes, halved

Place the corn in boiling water for no longer than two minutes. Cool and remove kernels from the cob. In a bowl, add corn, scallions and tomatoes. Drizzle in the olive oil and add the zest and lime juice. Mix well. Add salt and pepper. Add chives and basil, mixing gently.

This is the crowd size portion, and can be made a day ahead. Smaller portions make a nice side dish for every day dinners.

Greek Salad – With or without lettuce? That is the question

Making a Greek salad for lunch to take to work is one of my favorite meals. A party size Greek salad is always a crowd pleaser. Whether you decide to made a traditional Greek salad, or the Americanized version which includes lettuce, the key to perfection is a good imported feta cheese and an excellent olive oil. I live near the town of Port Jefferson on Long Island. I frequent a store named The Amazing Olive, located on East Main Street. The owners are extremely helpful and welcoming, and the oils and vinegars are divine. There, you can find oils in dozens of flavors and from various countries, each having a unique taste. When I made my roasted potatoes with their truffle infused olive oil, the scent lingered throughout the house for hours. With my Greek salad, I used their Koroneiki Greek Extra Virgin Olive Oil. The taste of the dressing was delicate and flavorful. If you don’t live in the area and you aren’t able to visit The Amazing Olive, I’m sure you can find a specialty store that carries Greek olive oil. If you can get out to Port Jefferson, please visit. The town is beautiful and the Amazing Olive carries a variety of products. Spices and herbs. Soaps and body oils. But their Olive oil and balsamic vinegars are reason enough to stop by.

cheffie's kitchen

IMG_1846Last week my neighbors had their annual summer party, hosting well over fifty guests. Firemen seem to be famous for their culinary prowess, and Stan is no exception. Waiting to see what would show up on the buffet table this year, everyone hoped for their favorite from years prior. My husband craved his keilbasi and baked beans, while our friends were waiting for the crab legs. I was looking forward to his smoked ribs that cooked for hours on his industrial size grill. This year he surprised us. He switched out the ribs for pulled pork. Now normally, it is not my favorite, but this was delicious. Usually made with pork shoulder, he chose to use several pork tenderloins. He cooked them for hours in a good store brand BBQ sauce and added root beer and brown sugar to enhance the flavors. Stan also made BBQ chicken with a dry…

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Warm Weather Food – I’m Still Hanging On To Summer. Chickpea Spread and Black Bean and Corn Salad

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I am hanging on to the last days of summer. I refuse to share recipes for soups or anything that has to be cooked in an oven until it is officially fall and the weather is chilly. I know many of you are treasuring your last days at the beach or a boat excursion on the water before you winterize your boat. For me, it’s a sad day when the pool cover goes on and the patio furniture is put away—no more summer entertaining. But while I can, I am still grilling and making summer salads. For outdoor dining, whether it’s a backyard party, a picnic at the beach, or a day on the boat, I like to bring foods that will not spoil. Both the Chickpea spread and the Black bean and corn salad are quick and easy to make. Mix them into a salad or fold them in a wrap or pita pocket. The black bean and corn salad is a great side dish and the chickpea spread is delicious as an appetizer with pita or crostini toasts. The truth is, I don’t only make these salads in the summer. My family likes them so much I make a batch of each every couple of weeks. 

Chickpea spread

1 large (29oz.) can chickpeas

2 cloves garlic crushed

2 scallions sliced thin

1/8 tsp. paprika

Juice and zest of 1 lemon (zest is optional – zest will add a stronger lemony flavor)

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

5- 6 fresh basil leaves sliced in shreds

¼ cup olive oil

2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. pepper

1 tsp. sugar

1 tsp. oregano

Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl. The texture of this is not smooth. It is mashed, but lumpy. Some of the chickpeas will get mashed and some will stay whole. Do not use a blender. I used a pastry blender. It’s an unconventional use for this tool, but it works great.

                                           

Black bean and corn salad

1 large (29oz.) can black bean

3 ears of corn or 1-11 ounce can

1 red pepper diced

2 cloves garlic crushed

The zest and juice of 2 limes

¼ cup vegetable or canola oil

¼ cup fresh chopped cilantro or 2 tsp. dried

2 scallion sliced

2 tsp. turmeric

2 tsp. salt

½ tsp. pepper

If using the fresh corn, boil for three minutes, then allow to cool. Cut the corn off the cob and place in a large bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients. I suggest adding the salt, pepper and herbs slowly. Taste and add as needed. Trust your preferences. If you hate cilantro – try parsley instead. If you want more heat – add more pepper.

Hint*- The fresh corn makes a huge difference and…we are in prime corn season!

THROWBACK THURSDAY RED LENTIL SALAD

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I originally posted this recipe on my livejournal blog three years ago. This salad quickly became a family favorite. Usually, when I think of lentils I think of my mother’s lentil soup, made with the typical brown lentils. Red lentils are a little different. They are smaller and delicate. If cooked too long they will turn to mush, unlike the brown variety that needs more time to soften. As you all know by now, I love to play around with ingredients, spices and herbs. It’s a very simple recipe and I chose not to overdress the lentils. The flavor is in the spices. Feel free to listen to your taste buds and add more of what you like. If you want more of a kick – you will need more than a dash of cayenne. Just remember you can always add as you go.

Try this as a side dish or a vegetarian meal accompanied with some crusty bread, pita or naan. Or do what my daughter does – add it to a salad or a wrap.

Red Lentil Salad

1 pound bag red lentils

2 cloves garlic, crushed

3 scallions, thinly sliced

1/3- cup extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp. cumin

½ tsp. turmeric

2 tsp. paprika

¼ cup white wine vinegar

Dash of cayenne pepper

Salt and pepper to taste

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add the red lentils and boil for about five minutes. The lentils should still be slightly firm and not mushy. Watch them carefully; they cook very quickly. Drain and rinse with cold water. In a bowl, mix all ingredients together, tossing well. That’s it! Really, really simple.

Throwback Thursday- Greek Panzanella Salad

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Photo by Alexa Speyer

(Originally posted on livejournal blog June 2011)

I have a fairly large collection of cookbooks, yet I rarely find myself referencing one to cook a meal. I use them more for inspiration. The photographs are usually so visually appealing that I strive to plate my food in the same appetizing fashion. I occasionally need to refer on the execution of a cooking technique or a term I am not familiar with. But for me, recipes slow me down and hold me back. Growing up, watching my mother cook, I don’t recall a cookbook coming out for reference. She cooked what she knew and experimented on her own. She always told me you had to love your food—hug and kiss it while preparing it, and never rush it. I guess it is like anything else in life—the result will equal the effort. That being said, not everyone is a great cook or had a culinary role model at their fingertips. I am certainly not a trained chef and I’m sure the experts would cringe at how I cut an onion or crack an egg. I just know that I enjoy it, it relaxes me and my friends and family seem to enjoy my food. I really can’t ask for more than that.

Because I don’t tend to cook with recipes, I am finding it challenging to write them. How can I just say drizzle this and sprinkle that with no amounts to guide you? A friend called me to ask how to make a salad she had at my house last summer. I had to be reminded which salad she was asking about, because I made it without thinking. Fortunately, my daughter took pictures of that salad; it was one of her favorite dishes I made last summer. I actually grew the tomatoes and basil and bought the rest of the vegetables at a local farm stand. There is nothing more refreshing in the summer than a lightly dressed salad with vegetables freshly picked. I find the best way to dress a salad is to drizzle the oil and vinegar right on the salad and then slowly add the herbs and seasoning. Keep mixing and tasting until the salad is lightly coated but not dripping in dressing. If you do it correctly, there should be no excess at the bottom of the bowl. Sometimes I do need to make the dressing ahead, so not to be overwhelmed when my guests arrive. The requested salad is a combination of a true Greek salad and an Italian Panzanella salad. Greek salad has no lettuce, just tomatoes, onions cucumbers and chunks of feta cheese. The Panzanella salad is a bread salad. The combination works well together. Look for a light and airy Tuscan bread. I buy a large round one and cut off the crust. I cut them into 1-½ inch cubes and pan toast them with a little olive oil. You can make the toasted bread cubes the day before. If you are lucky enough to have fresh herbs on hand, dress the salad with the oil and vinegar then add the herbs and toss. I’ve added fresh basil, oregano, parsley, chives and dill. Sometimes I use only a few and other times I add a little of each. Do what pleases your taste buds. Just don’t forget the hugs and kisses!

                                                Greek Panzanella salad       

Party size

4 to 5 large tomatoes cut in thick slices

2 cucumbers cut in chunks or thick slices

1 small red onion thinly sliced

2 red, yellow or orange peppers cut in chunks

1 round Tuscan bread with crusts removed and cut into 1-1/2 cubes

1 pound slab of feta cheese

1-cup basil leaves

Heat a large skillet and coat with olive oil. Add the bread cubes, constantly turning as each side browns. This can be done a day ahead.

Cut up all the vegetables and put in a very large mixing bowl. Drizzle with oil and vinegar, tossing until coated. Add salt and pepper to taste, a teaspoon of sugar and 2 cloves of crushed garlic. Mix well. Add the basil and any other fresh herbs you like. I always add oregano, but sometimes add dill, chives or parsley as well. Break the feta into chunks and add to salad. Add the toasted bread cubes. Toss to coat. Transfer into a large salad bowl. There should be little or no excess dressing left in mixing bowl. If you would like to make the dressing ahead, I recommend to mix the fresh herbs in with the vegetables, not the dressing. If you only have dried herbs on hand you can add the herbs to the dressing. Below is a Greek salad dressing using dried herbs.

                                    Greek Salad Dressing

1-cup olive oil

¼-cup red wine vinegar

½ tsp. salt

¼ tsp. pepper

1 tsp. dried oregano

1 tablespoon dried parsley

1 tsp. sugar

2 cloves crushed garlic

Combine all ingredients and whisk well, shake in a cruet or emulsify in a blender. Drizzle over salad, mixing and tossing to coat. Do not overdress. You will not use all the dressing. Keep in the fridge for later use.

Summer Entertaining

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What’s better than a sunny day in your backyard by the pool with a group of friends? Make the most of your gathering by being organized and strategic in your menu planning, so that you, the host, will have time to enjoy the day. Marinate your meats one to two days ahead, and serve side dishes that can be made beforehand, leaving only last minute details to attend to. This was my approach to entertaining last Sunday when I had a group of over twenty friends over. The appetizers included tomato bruschetta, sundried tomato and mozzarella skewers, edamame, and a nacho platter. Other than assembling the nacho platter, the rest was made the day before.

Later I served marinated skirt steak, tofu kebobs and chicken souvlaki with tzatziki sauce. The variety of salads I made can be found on past bog posts including black bean salad, red lentil salad and Greek salad. Look below for a new recipe for GRILLED CORN SALAD along with a repost of the souvlaki marinade and the tzasiki sauce.

Don’t forget the drinks! The two variations of sangria (white with nectarines and red with orange and apples) were a hit, and the fruited water was refreshing on a hot, humid day. And it wouldn’t be summer without sweet tea.

What really made this party a success was the company and the laughs. Between reminiscing our high school days, making s’mores by the fire pit, taking a night swim and entering my daughter’s friend in the next “Bachelor”, a good time was had by all.

GRILLED CORN SALAD

12 ears of corn, husked                                             3 limes, juice and zest

6 tablespoons olive oil                                                1/4 cups fresh chives, snipped small

1 cup sliced scallions                                                  salt and pepper to taste

12- 14 mini kumato tomatoes, halved                          1/2 cup fresh basil, chiffonade

Place the ears of corn directly on the grill grates and grill until browned about 10-12 minutes. Cool and remove kernels from the cob. In a bowl, add corn, scallions and tomatoes. Drizzle in the olive oil and add zest and lime juice. Mix well. Add salt and pepper. Add chives and basil, mixing gently. Can be made one day ahead.

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 SOUVLAKI MARINADE

 2 lbs of lamb, chicken, pork or beef (or tofu)            1/4 cup wine (red or white)

½ cup olive oil                                                            zest and juice of 2 lemons

3 cloves crushed garlic                                              ¼ cup Dijon mustard

2 tsp. dried oregano                                                   ½ tsp. black pepper

1 tsp. dried basil or 5 leaves shredded fresh basil

Cube meat in 1½-inch cubes and marinate overnight. I like to make the cubes on the smaller side. Since I am alternating veggies and meat on the same skewer, I don’t want the veggies to burn and for the meat to not be cooked through. If you want larger cubes of meat I suggest making separate veggie skewers. I use onions and peppers. Mushrooms and cherry tomatoes are a nice addition as well. Do not marinate the veggies until the last minute. Grill and enjoy!

 TZATZIKI SAUCE

2 cups Greek yogurt*                                                 3 large cloves garlic, crushed

4 Tbs. white wine vinegar                                           2 Tbs. fresh dill or 1Tbs. dried

3 Tbs. olive oil                                                             salt and pepper to taste

½ tsp. paprika                                                             1 tsp. sugar

3 cucumbers- peeled, cored from seeds and finely grated. Press through strainer to dry. The cucumber will make the sauce loose and runny if you skip this step.

Mix all ingredients together with a whisk. Chill before serving. Serve with souvlaki. It also makes a refreshing dip. Make this a day ahead and the flavors will intensify.

*Greek yogurt is thicker than other yogurts. If you use any other yogurt, you must strain before making sauce.

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Throwback Thursday – Asian Noodle Salad

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With all the summer parties, picnics and boat outings, finding food that is “sun friendly” is sometimes a challenge. When refrigeration is not available, look for recipes that are dairy free. Forget the same old potato and macaroni salads that are drowning in mayonnaise. Try a Southwest bean salad, a Mediterranean lentil salad or the Asian noodle salad I am about to share with you. I originally posted this dish four years ago on my Livejournal blog and it’s still a favorite with my family and friends. Make it a day or two ahead when entertaining, or make a batch to keep in your fridge for an easy lunch or a side to any meal. It’s quick and easy!

Asian Noodle Salad

Dressing

2Tbsp. sesame oil                                       ¼ cup vegetable oil

1/3 rice wine vinegar                                     ½ cup soy sauce

juice & zest of 1 lime                                    2 cloves crushed garlic

1Tbsp. minced ginger                                    1tsp. black pepper

1Tbsp. cornstarch                                    2Tbsp. brown sugar

2Tbsp. plum wine (optional)

Whisk all the ingredients together and set aside.

Salad

1 lb. spaghetti (white or whole wheat)            1-cup julienned carrots

1-cup small broccoli florets                                    ½ cup scallions

½ cup red onion sliced thin                                    2 Tbsp. sesame seeds

1 ½ cup red, yellow & orange peppers julienned

Mix dressing into spaghetti. Add the vegetables. Mix well. Add sesame seeds. The dressing will take a little while to absorb into the pasta.

Greek Salad – With or without lettuce? That is the question

IMG_1846Last week my neighbors had their annual summer party, hosting well over fifty guests. Firemen seem to be famous for their culinary prowess, and Stan is no exception. Waiting to see what would show up on the buffet table this year, everyone hoped for their favorite from years prior. My husband craved his keilbasi and baked beans, while our friends were waiting for the crab legs. I was looking forward to his smoked ribs that cooked for hours on his industrial size grill. This year he surprised us. He switched out the ribs for pulled pork. Now normally, it is not my favorite, but this was delicious. Usually made with pork shoulder, he chose to use several pork tenderloins. He cooked them for hours in a good store brand BBQ sauce and added root beer and brown sugar to enhance the flavors. Stan also made BBQ chicken with a dry rub, potato salad, macaroni salad and pasta with peas and onions. Knowing what a tremendous undertaking it is to cook for so many guests, I offered to make a large Greek salad in order to take one thing off him. It doesn’t seem like much, but cleaning and cutting lettuce and vegetables for a large party is time consuming. I usually bake a dessert but I remembered how many desserts they had last year and decided the salad would be more helpful.

If you want an authentic Greek salad—It’s quite simple. Cut up a tomato or two. Slice in some cucumber and red onion. Toss in a few kalamata olives and top with a slab of good imported feta cheese. Drizzle with olive oil. Add salt and oregano to taste. That’s it! Lunch for one!

Now, for the party size Greek salad. Yes—this one does have lettuce. I made the salad in a large sterno tin for easy transportation. If you choose not to make this portion size, I suggest making the same amount of dressing and use it throughout the week.

6 hearts of Romaine lettuce, cut

6 scallions, sliced

1/3 head of red cabbage, shredded very thin

2 or 3 large tomatoes or a package of cherry tomatoes

1 large cucumber, peeled and sliced

kalamata olives, pitted if possible

1 pound feta, crumbled or cut up into small chunks

6 – 8 dolmathes (stuffed grape leaves)

Fresh dill (dried is fine too)

Toss together the lettuce, scallions and red cabbage in the tin or large serving bowl. Garnish the outer edge with the sliced cucumber, then the tomatoes and olives. Fill the center with the feta. Place a stuffed grape leaf in each corner and in the center on top of the feta. Sprinkle with the dill.

Dressing

1/3 cup red wine vinegar

¼ cup water

¾ cup extra virgin olive oil

¼ teaspoon pepper

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon sugar

1 tablespoon dried oregano

Whisk together by hand or emulsify a minute or two in a blender. Add thedressing to the salad when you are ready to serve and not before.