Caprese Ciabatta

You may be familiar with Caprese salad – a classic Italian salad of sliced tomatoes and mozzarella (I said this before – when I say mozzarella, I mean real fresh mozzarella, not the white piece of plastic you find next to the cheddar in the grocery store – it may be sold as boccocini or buffalo mozzarella in the deli aisle) with basil, olive oil and balsamic vinegar. This is basically that salad, stuffed into a ciabatta. Enjoy!

photoNo, seriously, here’s the recipe, for 2 people:

  • 1 ciabatta bread – make deep cuts every 1/4 inch or so, but don’t cut all the way through
  • 1 ripe tomato, in slices
  • 1 ball (can’t think of a better word) of mozzarella, in slices
  • fresh basil
  • 2 table spoons balsamic vinegar

Directions:

Add either a slices of tomato or a slice of mozzarella with a leaf of basil into each of the cuts of the bread. Drip balsamic over top, wrap in tin foil and grill for 10 minutes or until mozzarella is melted.

This could be served as an appetizer or a side – it was a late dinner for us after lots of snacking all day (did I mention hanging out at pools and on boats?), so this was a full meal for us. Enjoy!

 

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Salad Dressings

I have a feeling most of you never think twice about salad dressing. You buy the kind your mum already bought and or your room mate in college. I’d also guess that part of why you are not particularly keen on eating salad, if that is indeed the case, is because the said dressing is boring. I find most store bought dressings are too salty, too plain, and (this might surprise you) have a ton of calories. Considering how incredibly easy and fast it is to make your own, I really don’t understand why people buy dressing. This is going to sound weird, but you wouldn’t believe how many people ask me for salad dressing recipes I’ve made. And my answer is embarrassingly simple: good olive oil, high quality vinegar (I love apple cider vinegar or balsamic, especially Balsamico di Modena), sea salt and freshly ground pepper. No joke. Obviously I often elaborate or substitute, but that’s a good start for a guaranteed tasty dressing.

In general:

Image Courtesy Luigi Diamanti

Image Courtesy Luigi Diamanti

  • oil (good quality olive, like cold pressed extra virgin, or try peanut, sesame…I avoid canola because a lot of it is GMO, unfortunately. Infused oils are great too and make any dressing something special).
  • vinegar (Balsamico di Modena, white wine, apple cider, rice vinegar..). You can also use a different acid like lemon or lime juice.
  • If you like a creamy dressing, add mayo, sour cream, or even real cream. I personally dislike mayo, always have, so I substitute with sour cream or plain (Greek) yogurt. Works great and is better for you so take that, mayo.
  • Add something special like horseradish, mustard or Worcestershire sauce. I have about 5 different kind of mustards in my fridge: regular, Dijon, grainy German style, white wine, raspberry (that’s a thing) and nut. Oh that’s six kinds!
  • seasoning: sea salt, freshly ground pepper. Or add herbs. Wait, I already listed those as salad ingredients. Oh well.

Here a few of my favourite creations:

  • Clearly Saturday Night: (the name is a long story) 3 tbsp olive oil, 6 tbsp balsamic vinegar, 1 tbsp grainy mustard, 1 tbsp sour cream or plain yogurt, 1 clove of garlic (I usually steal a clove from when I bake a garlic because the taste of raw garlic can be overpowering), salt and pepper
  • Lemony: juice of half a lemon, 3 tbsp olive oil, 2 tbsp sour cream, 1 tbsp mustard, salt and pepper. Goes really well with a salty salad, say one with cheese.
  • Honey: 3 tbsp olive oil, 6 tbsp vinegar, 1 tbsp honey, salt and pepper.
  • “Asian”: 3 tbsp sesame oil, 6 tbsp rice vinegar, 1 tsp sugar, 1 tsp soy sauce, grated ginger (piece the size of your thumb), sesame seeds. So good with a warm green bean salad, asparagus or a salad with sliced beef.
  • Vinaigrette: small onion (chopped), small pickle (chopped), 1 tbsp grainy mustard, 6 tbsp apple cider vinegar, 3 tbsp olive oil, 4 tbsp hot broth, parsley and chives (chopped), salt and pepper
  • Curry: juice of half a lemon, 3 tbsp oil, 2 tsp mild curry powder, 2 tbsp plain yogurt, sugar, tumeric (curcuma), salt and pepper to taste. Really good with a simple apple and fennel salad.

Another tip: find out what kind of ratio of acid-oil you like. I’m a 2 part acid (vinegar) – 1 part oil person. Some people do the exact opposite. Whatever floats your boat!

Are you ever going back to buying dressing?

Vegetable Stock (Broth)

This stock is a great basis for soups, sauces, and glazes.

makes about 13 cups/3.5 litre

Ingredients:

  • 1 small leek
  • 1/4 small savoy cabbage
  • 1/2 fennel bulb
  • 2 onions, unpeeled
  • 1/2 small celeriac
  • 1 carrot
  • 2 tbsp oil

    Image Courtesy of Maggie Smith

    Image Courtesy of Maggie Smith

  • 1 tbsp whole black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp caraway sees
  • 1 tbs mustard seeds
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 spring rosemary
  • 1 spring tarragon
  • 1/2 tsp lavender flowers
  • 15 cups (1L) water
  • 2 tbsp sea salt

Directions:

Wash vegetables and chop coarsely. Heat oil and sauté carrots, fennel, onions and celeriac until slightly browned. Add cabbage and spices. Cook until spices develop fragrance (should be somewhat obvious). Add herbs and water. Bring to a boil, simmer for 45 minutes. Stir in sea salt. Pour stock through sieve and fill into sterilized glass bottles or jars or use immediately for soups. Seal and leave to cool. Unopened stock will keep in the fridge for 2-3 weeks.

Adapted from Hiltl. Veggie International: A World of Difference. Orell Fuessli, 2009.