Friday, August 16, 2013

favorite summer salad: chopped panzanella

Is anyone else trying to squeeze the most out of the last days of summer?

I'll miss these long, lazy days. To capture the freshness and bright flavors of August, I have a fabulous new recipe to share with all of you. I originally wrote this recipe up for our local market, to take advantage of the local tomatoes that are plentiful this month. Hopefully tomatoes are widely available in your local farmer's or supermarkets too! This recipe is really easy, and perfect if you're hosting a crowd.

I made this recipe a few weeks ago, when we were in CT. It only requires a few ingredients (tomatoes, mozzarella, crostini or bread, English cukes, a red onion... and then the dressing is made with basil, lemon zest/juice garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper).

When I made the same salad out here in Idaho (where we are visiting my parents), the ingredients were similar. Really, the only thing missing were the store-made crostini I can get at home at our local market. Instead I bought a loaf of good hearty local bread, cubed it, and left it out overnight so it would dry out. Oh, and the supermarket here didn't have English cukes, but they did have small Persian ones, so I used those. And, you'll see that huge bags of basil are available out here, so I made extra dressing, which I frozen as a taste of summer later this fall. The dressing is so, so good!!

The most recent time I made it, we had the salad alongside some grilled bison and grilled peppers here in Idaho.

Then, we enjoyed the leftovers the next two days, as post-hike lunches. In case you are wondering, my one son loved the salad, my other one picked the mozzarella and tomatoes out. Hey, you win some, you lose some....

Here's a link to the recipe, and here it is in pics so you can see how easy it is to assemble  this fabulous salad that makes a delicious side, or is hearty enough to be a summer entree!

Start by chopped up tomatoes and mozzarella. Some markets have teeny-tiny mozzarella balls, and you could use those too.

Then add chopped cucumbers.

Next comes either crostini that you crumble into bite-sized pieces (a good activity for kids) or cubes of dried (or toasted) bread.

Then chopped onions and capers.

I assemble the salad to this point, then let it sit until just before I am serving it, because I like my bread to still have heft. That said, we enjoyed the salad as leftovers, and the bread soaks up the dressing. It's wonderful either way, it really just depends upon your tastes!

So, right before serving it I drizzled it with the dressing. Then toss.

And voila! Again, here's a link to the recipe that I wrote up for Walter Stewart's Market. Hope you all enjoy this salad as much as my family does-- or that 3/4 of us do.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

baked potato bar

After another absolutely fabulous week at HF Bar in WY, I'm now in ID with our children, getting some quality grandparent + mountain time in before the new school year.

When not riding our bikes on the extensive bike paths, to the market, or to our favorite ice cream stand,

we're out hiking, playing in the river,

reading under the aspens and pines,

or my kids are putting their newfound whittling skills from woodworking and primitive wilderness camp to work.

I've gotten a little lazy in the cooking department, since it is vacation after all... but last night I made a baked potato bar that the kids loved. We're at a funny stage right now-- no, actually, not so funny when you're the mom trying to make sure that your children are nourished and eating enough. Play trumps eating any day with these two. Unlike me, they never get ravenous, no matter how active they may be. But the baked potato bar is one of those meals that I know gets them happily trotting to the dinner table. I'm not sure if it's the make-your-own aspect, or if they just like all the decadent toppings? Either way, this is one of my current go-tos.

Baked potatoes are so simple: wash them off, prick them with a fork, roll them in a bit of olive oil, then into a 350 oven for 1 hour they go. Topping choices included: butter, Greek yogurt, sour cream, crisp local bacon, steamed broccoli, scallions, mushrooms and red onion sauteed in balsamic and a little olive oil, shredded cheddar, hot sauce...and I put out steamed green beans for the kids to munch on while I was getting the toppings laid out. At home, I do a similar make-your-own gig, but offer up some of my go-to turkey chili as a topping. (Freezing it in small containers makes it easy to thaw just the right amount.)

Do you have a meal like this-- something that's easy, that your family loves? A meal that can compete with Legos, drawing, reading and whittling?...