Perfect Panzanella 

After a very hectic two months of life upheaval, we are officially suburbanites now – and I absolutely love it! Never thought I would. I guess you never know where you’re headed in life until the opportunity practically hits you in the face and suddenly you’ve found it.

Well, to celebrate the family getting settled we hosted our first gathering for Father’s Day and I made one of my all time favorite dishes – Panzanella. I always forget how versatile and easy this dish really is. It’s perfect as a side dish for dinner or a main dish for lunch, and works for all seasons. It’s also easy to prep and have ready for a big crowd. The secret is the fresh herbs paired with those rich, juicy vine ripe tomatoes that balance with the acidity from a vinaigrette that gets soaked up by … wait for it, that highly addictive chunky, crusty, toasty bread. OMG!! This ones based on the Ina Garten recipe, except I used red wine vinegar instead of champagne vinegar and I also added a tad of parsley:


Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons good olive oil
  • 1 small French bread, cut into 1-inch cubes 
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 large, ripe tomatoes, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1 hothouse cucumber, unpeeled, seeded, and sliced into 1/2-inch thick moon shapes
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1/2 red onion, cut in 1/2 and thinly sliced
  • 15 large basil leaves, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup Italian parsley, coarsely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons capers, drained

For the vinaigrette:

  • 1 teaspoon finely minced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup good olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oil in a large saute pan on medium heat, then add the bread and salt; tossing frequently, for 10 minutes, or until nicely browned. Add more oil as needed. For the vinaigrette, whisk all the ingredients together.In a large bowl, mix the tomatoes, cucumber, red pepper, yellow pepper, red onion, basil, and capers. Add the bread cubes and toss with the vinaigrette. Season liberally with salt and pepper. 


Suburban deer… 

Cowboy Caviar

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A few weeks ago I found out about Cowboy Caviar after I had made a simple bean salad that was reminiscent to someone of this recipe which they shared with me. Not only do I love the name, but I also love it’s simplicity and subtle different flavors that really make this recipe shine. The spicy base of black-eyed peas, avocado, corn and tomatoes combined with the red wine vinegar hot sauce is simply dynamite on a bed of romaine lettuce with crumbled tortilla chips on top – and it didn’t even need additional dressing.

The good news is that black-eyed peas are cheap, high in protein, and low in calories, cholesterol and saturated fat. They also have a good amount of potassium and iron. If you are concerned about iron intake on a vegetarian diet, beans and dried fruit (such as raisins and apricots) will more than compensate what you don’t get from red meat. Additionally, eating foods high in vitamin C will actually increase iron absorption in the body. So enjoy this salad with a handful of dried fruit for a healthy, nutritious meal!

COWBOY CAVIAR
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons hot sauce
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 firm-ripe avocado (about 10 oz.)
1 can (15 oz.) black-eyed peas
1 can (11 oz.) corn kernels
2/3 cup thinly sliced green onions
2/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 pound Roma tomatoes, coarsely chopped
Salt

In a large bowl, mix vinegar, hot sauce, oil, garlic, and pepper. Cut avocado into 1/2-inch cubes. Add to vinegar mixture and mix gently to coat.
Drain and rinse peas and corn. Add peas, corn, onions, cilantro, and tomatoes to avocado; mix gently to coat. Add salt to taste.

Mexican Quinoa Salad

mexican quinoa saladQuinoa is an amazing and versatile ingredient that is cholestorol-free, fat-free, and high in protein, iron and fiber. It is also a complete protein, which means it provides all of the essential amino acids. I use quinoa as a substitute for pasta and other grains because it is AWESOME. In fact, when Asher was a baby I used to mix cooked spinach with apple sauce and quinoa in a bowl and he literally could not shovel it down his throat fast enough! However, as soon as his fine motor skills developed he learned that this concoction also made a nice splatter of mess all over the walls and floors, and then quinoa became purely an adult entree in our household. This week we enjoyed a delicious Mexican Quinoa Salad that would make a delicious addition to picnics or dinner parties, and also would work nicely as a stuffing in peppers if you want to make something easy to keep in the fridge for the weeek.

MEXICAN QUINOA SALAD

1 cup quinoa
2 ears of corn, “kerneled”
1 green pepper, diced
1 can black beans, drained
1 bunch cilantro, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon salt
Juice of 2 limes
Salsa
Queso fresco

Boil 1 1/2 cups water is small sauce pan, then add quinoa and simmer for 20 minutes. In small bowl, combine lime juice, salt, cumin, chili powder and cumin. When quinoa is cooked, let cool for an additional 20 minutes. Combine in mixing bowl with corn kernels, green pepper, black beans, and cilantro. Top with salsa and queso fresco when served. And did I mention this entire dish costs around $10?? Enjoy!

Mexican Lentil Salad

mexican lentil salad Today’s recipe I took straight from one of my favorite blogs – Kalyn’s Kitchen. The only difference is that I recommend making the lentil salad topping in one large batch so you can easily take it to work for the week and assemble it with some refreshing cold, crispy Romaine lettuce. It’s rich chili spices mixed with the sourness of the lime juice makes it perfect for summer!

MEXICAN LENTIL SALAD
1 1/2 cups brown lentils, cooked in 6 cups salted water
2 cups cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1 can (6 oz. drained weight) black olives, cut in half
1/2 cup sliced green onions
1-2 avocados, diced
1 cup pickled banana peppers or pepperoncinis
Juice from 2 fresh-squeezed limes
6 cups chopped Romaine lettuce, washed and dried
2 T olive oil
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
1 package of taco seasoning
1/2 cup vegetable broth

Put lentils, 6 cups water, and a little salt in a saucepan and bring to a boil. When the water boils, reduce to a low simmer and cook until the lentils are tender but not falling apart, about 30 minutes. Drain lentils well. Heat the oil in a large frying pan, add the chopped red onion and saute for a few minutes, until the onion starts to soften. Then add the taco seasoning and saute about 2 minutes more. Add the lentils and vegetable stock and simmer until the liquid has all evaporated. Turn off the heat and let the lentils cool. When cooled, add sliced olives, tomatoes, green onions, avocado and toss with extra lime juice. Served fresh over chopped lettuce, or bring lettuce to work separately and enjoy this tasty dish all week long!

Greek Israeli Couscous

greek couscous One of my biggest challenges in the kitchen is preparing easy, healthy lunches on the weekend that can be kept in the fridge for a few days without tasting like Saturday’s leftovers. This week, I found myself hooked on Israeli couscous. Mostly because it was on sale for $3.99, but also because of it’s hearty texture and ability to soak up any flavor while marinating in the fridge. I combined it with a Greek taverna salad and three days later it still tasted delicious! And as a nice little perk, I used some of these purchased ingredients to make healthy toddler snacks without having to blow my grocery budget! Asher particularly loves black olives and grape tomatoes. Love when my grown-up meals can double as toddler food!

GREEK ISRAELI COUSCOUS SALAD

1 cup Israeli couscous, uncooked
1 persian cucumber, diced
1 red pepper, diced
1 yellow pepper, diced
3 cups roughly chopped fresh spinach
1/2 red onion, sliced thinly into moonshapes
1 pint of grape tomates,sliced in half
1/2 cup of feta cheese with mediterranean herbs
1 can of sliced black olives
1 cup whole pepperoncinis

Dressing:
2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 Tablespoons vinegar from pepperoncini jar
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt and pepper

Boil 1 1/3 cup water in small pot. Add Israeli couscous and turn down to simmer with lid on for 8-10 minutes. Fluff with fork and remove from heat to cool. Chop and prep your vegetables. Add cooled couscous and salad ingredients in a large bowl and toss with dressing. Let marinate in refrigerator at least one hour. Should be served room temperature or cold. This dish can easily be made vegan without the feta cheese.