Panzanella: A Blog-Worthy Salad

I made the same recipe two times this weekend¬†and still found myself excited to serve up seconds on Sunday evening. That definitely makes this recipe for a Panzanella “bread salad” qualify as blog-worthy, don’t you think?? ūüėÄ

632 Panzanella Salad

According to Wikipedia, “Panzanella¬†is a Tuscan salad of bread and tomatoes that’s popular in the summer. It includes chunks of soaked stale bread and tomatoes, sometimes also onions and basil, dressed with olive oil and vinegar.” According to my¬†extended family, Panzanella is a tasty excuse to call toasted Italian bread soaked in dijon vinaigrette a “salad” and feel good about eating it. Just kidding… sort of. This bread salad is delicious, colorful, and easy to make¬†and I have a feeling that we’re going to get many more requests for it¬†at future family dinners!

When I bring Panzanella to a dinner party I do almost all of the work in advance. The vinaigrette can be made 1-2 days ahead of time and refrigerated in an airtight container, the veggies can be chopped and tossed together a few hours in advance, and the bread can be toasted 1-2 hours before dinner and stored in a ziploc bag. Making the salad then becomes a simple matter of tossing together the vinaigrette, veggies and bread about 20 minutes before dinner.

637 Panzanella Salad

Panzanella (from Ina Garten; serves 8-10)

Vinaigrette Ingredients
1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
3 tablespoons Champagne Vinegar
1-2 teaspoons Minced Garlic
1/2 teaspoon Dijon Mustard
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1/4 teaspoon Ground Black Pepper

Salad Ingredients
1 Red Bell Pepper, seeded and cut¬†into 1″ pieces
1 Yellow Bell Pepper, seeded and cut into 1″ pieces
1 Hothouse Cucumber, halved lengthwise, seeds removed and cut¬†into 1/2″¬†slices
1/2 Red Onion, halved and cut into thin slices
3-4¬†Plum or Campari-sized Tomatoes, cut into 1″ pieces
3 tablespoons Capers, drained
20 Basil Leaves, sliced into 1/2″ strips
1 large Loaf of French or Italian¬†Bread, cut into 1″ pieces
Olive Oil
Salt

Directions:
To make the vinaigrette, whisk all ingredients together in a bowl. Alternatively, combine all ingredients in a ball jar and shake vigorously. The vinaigrette can now be easily refrigerated or transported until it’s time to combine the salad.

Combine the peppers, cucumber, onion, tomatoes, capers and basil together in a large bowl.

Heat 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil in large saute pan over medium heat. Add half the bread and approximately 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook the bread cubes, stirring and flipping occasionally, until the bread begins to toast and turn golden brown. Transfer the toasted bread to a plate to cool and repeat the cooking process with the remaining bread cubes.

To assemble the salad, combine the vinaigrette, vegetables, and toasted bread in a large serving bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste. For best flavor, allow¬†the finished salad to sit for approximately 20 minutes¬†before serving… that will give the vinaigrette time to soak into the bread. ūüėĬ†Enjoy!

630 Panzanella Salad

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Easy Shrimp Scampi with Linguine

Every once in a while a recipe comes along that is so delicious and so easy to make that I know that I must blog about it the moment the meal is done.¬† Recipes that made it onto this blog the night of their consumption include my Mexican Pizza, Trader Joe’s style Eggplant Parm, and our Las Vegas-inspired Guacamole-Chiptole Burgers…¬† I just couldn‚Äôt wait until the next day to share them!¬† Well, after tonight’s dinner a new recipe is joining that elite list: Ina Garten’s 25-minute Shrimp Scampi with Linguine.¬† Doesn’t it look fantastic??

700 Shrimp Scampi

The concept is simple:  Sauté garlic in melted butter and stir in a pound of shrimp until just cooked through.  Then mix in freshly squeezed lemon juice, lemon zest, and fresh chopped parsley.  Toss with a generous portion of linguine, serve with crusty garlic bread and Voila! the perfect simple-yet-sophisticated weeknight meal is born.

683 Shrimp Scampi in the Pan

The Food Network advertises this Shrimp Scampi as the perfect “Make-It-Together” meal for Valentine’s Day, but it’s totally possible to throw it together on any old weeknight like we did.¬†¬†¬† Oh, and you’ll even have time to blog about it afterwards if you want!¬† ūüôā

705 Shrimp Scampi

Shrimp Scampi with Linguine (from the Food Network’s Ina Garten; serves 3)

You will need…678 The Good Stuff... Garlic, Parsley & Lemon
Olive Oil
1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons Salt
1 pound Linguine
3 tablespoons Butter
4-5 cloves Garlic, minced
1 lb. Shrimp (we used ‘large’ shrimp, about 31/lb.), peeled and deveined
1/4 teaspoons Ground Black Pepper
1/3 cup chopped Parsley
Zest from 1/2 large Lemon
1/4 cup Lemon Juice (approx. 1/2 large Lemon)
1/2 Lemon, sliced into 1/8″ half-rounds
1/4 teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
Crusty Garlic Bread Crisps, Optional (drizzle olive oil on garlic bread slices and broil for 5 minutes)

Directions:
Bring a large pot of water to a boil then add in about a tablespoon of olive oil, 1 tablespoon of the salt and the linguine.  Cook pasta according to package instructions.  Meanwhile, melt the butter and 2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil in a large heavy-bottomed pan over medium-low heat.  Add the minced garlic and saute for one minute or until the smallest garlic bits are just starting to brown.  Add the shrimp, remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and black pepper and saute for about 5 minutes until the shrimp have just turned pink.  Remove the pan from heat and stir in the parsley, zest, lemon juice, lemon slices and crushed red pepper.

Drain the cooked pasta, then return to the pasta pot and gently stir in the shrimp mixture.¬† (I’d recommend using a spatula to scoop every last bit of flavorful garlic and parsley out of the shrimp pan!).¬† We served our shrimp scampi with crusty, crispy garlic bread.¬† Enjoy!

693 Shrimp Scampi686 Shrimp Scampi

Shrimp with Penne in Herbed Cream Sauce

For some reason our families make nearly identical holiday meals, usually featuring a juicy filet roast, twice-baked potatoes and green beans.¬† Matt and I love this dinner (and in fact got to enjoy it twice this month – once at my mom’s and again with Matt’s family!) but when it came time for us to host Christmas Eve dinner at our house we decided to do something completely different.

After an online search we settled on Shrimp and Penne in Herbed Cream Sauce and it was perfect!  The shrimp were tender and the combination of white wine, garlic, parsley and basil made the whole kitchen smell wonderful.  The pasta was nicely coated in a light cream sauce and the red pepper flakes provided just the right amount of heat.  To streamline the cooking process I prepped the herbs, tomatoes and cheese ahead of time so assembling this dish was actually pretty easy once our guests arrived.

In addition to the shrimp and penne we served fresh bruschetta, a tossed salad with Matt’s mom’s balsamic vinaigrette, and wedges of rosemary-studded Italian bread with butter.¬† We finished off the meal with a tray of Christmas cookies, chocolate-dipped coconut sticks, and white chocolate holiday bark.¬† Yum!

Shrimp and Penne in Herbed Cream Sauce (iPhone photo)

Shrimp with Penne in Herbed Cream Sauce  (from Giada De Laurentiis)
serves 4-5; we doubled this to serve 7 and had enough leftovers for dinner a few days later

You will need…
1 pound Penne Pasta
1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 pound medium Shrimp, peeled and deveined
4 cloves Garlic, pressed through a garlic press
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1/2 teaspoon Pepper
1 – 15 oz. can Whole Tomatoes, drained and roughly chopped
1/2 cup Basil Leaves, chopped
1/2 cup Flat-Leaf Parsley, chopped
1/4 teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes
1 cup White Wine (we used a Chardonnay)
1/3 cup Clam Juice
3/4 cup Heavy Whipping Cream
1/2 cup Parmesan, freshly grated

Directions:
Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling water then drain and set aside.  Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the shrimp, garlic, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and 1/2 teaspoon of the pepper.  Cook the shrimp for about 3 minutes until they are pink and cooked through.  Remove the shrimp with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Add the tomatoes, 1/4 cup basil, 1/4 cup parsley and the red pepper flakes to the skillet.  Cook for 2 minutes while stirring constantly, then add the wine, clam juice and cream.  Bring to a boil then reduce the heat and simmer for 7-8 minutes until the sauce thickens.  Add about half of the Parmesan along with the shrimp, pasta and remaining basil and parsley.  Mix well until the pasta is coated and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Transfer the pasta to a serving dish and top with the remaining freshly grated Parmesan.  Serve with a wedge of Italian bread and a glass of white wine.

Shrimp with Penne in Herbed Cream Sauce

Baked Jalape√Īo Poppers

In the last two weeks my “big boy” Jalape√Īo pepper plant has been producing giant green peppers at an amazing rate.¬† It seems that every time I go outside I discover a new 4-5″ long pepper hiding under the plant’s leaves just waiting to be picked.¬† Now don’t get me wrong, I’m happy to make 1-2 recipes a week that use Jalape√Īos, but what the heck am I supposed to do with 15 peppers that all ripen at the same time??¬† Tonight I found the perfect answer… turn them into Jalape√Īo Poppers!

These peppers all came from one plant. Time to put them to good use as Jalape√Īo Poppers!

I found a recipe for Jalape√Īo Poppers from Emeril on the Food Network.¬† There are lots of recipes for Poppers on the internet but I liked this one because it was highly rated and involved baking the peppers rather than deep frying them.¬† I modified Emeril’s recipe slightly to use reduced fat cream cheese and mozzarella (this was our dinner, after all) and the Poppers turned out spicy, cheesy, and delicious.

Emeril’s Baked Jalape√Īo Poppers (from the Food Network)

You will need…
12 Jalape√Īo Peppers, halved lengthwise, seeds and veins removed
6 oz. Reduced Fat Cream Cheese, Softened
1 1/2 cups Shredded Reduced Fat Mozzarella Cheese
1/2 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
1/2 teaspoon Cumin
8 teaspoons Emeril’s “ESSENCE” (mixture of onion powder, garlic powder, cayenne, salt, pepper, paprika, oregano and thyme; click for ratios)
1/2 cup Flour
2 Eggs
2 tablespoons Milk
1 cup Bread Crumbs or Panko

Directions:
Combine the cream cheese, mozzarella, cayenne and cumin together with a stand mixer or handheld mixer and then fill each halved jalape√Īo pepper with the cheese mixture.¬† Stir the flour and 2 teaspoons of Essence together in a shallow bowl.¬† In a second bowl, beat the eggs, milk and 2 more teaspoons of Essence together.¬† In a third bowl, combine the bread crumbs and the 4 remaining teaspoons of Essence.

One at a time, dredge each stuffed jalape√Īo half in the flour, eggs, and bread crumbs.¬† Place stuffed side up on a lightly greased pan and bake in a preheated 350¬į oven for 30 minutes until the cheese starts to melt and ooze over the sides of the peppers.¬† Serve alone as an appetizer or over rice as dinner.