Monday, July 25, 2011

2 for 1 Monday! Summer Panzanella and Cool Cucumber Salad

Today you're getting two recipes for the price of one!  Why, you ask?  Because two is always better than one.  And because I just got back from Vegas and couldn't help myself....all that gambling and heat went straight to my head.  Mostly, because I really have been cooking and need to get through my backlog of recipes.  Who doesn't love two for one anyways?  Especially on a Monday or a happy hour.

Let's start with the Panzanella.  My girl Ina Garten is at it again - she got me hooked on yet another dish of hers.  And this one just screams summer with all the fresh veggies in it.  I love the mixture of textures and flavors in this salad - crunchy, tangy, a bit salty .  I would never think to put bread in a salad but it works here - just make sure you add it right before you serve otherwise it will get soggy.  The colors are amazing - in fact, it was almost too pretty to eat.  I can't say enough good about this salad.  It works as a side or as a meal on it's own - add grilled chicken or better yet, grill all the vegetables.  If I'm ambitious enough, I may just do that next time.....and trust me, there will be a next time with this one.

You can find Ina's recipe here.  I did tweak a couple things - instead of toasting the bread in a skillet on the stove, I baked them in the oven at 375 degrees with a little olive oil and a dash of kosher salt until slightly golden.  Also, I didn't have any Champagne Vinegar on hand so I substituted with White Balsamic.  It worked perfectly.  Enjoy this one freshly made.

Moving on to the Cool Cucumber Salad.  We got a few beautiful cucumbers in our CSA box this last time around.  I'm always stumped as to what to do with them besides using them as crudites.  Going back to our German roots (really I just wanted to use my new mandoline), I made this cucumber salad with thinly sliced cucumbers, white vinegar, fresh dill, onion, sugar, and a bit of water.  I let it all marinate in the fridge for about three hours.  The result?  A perfectly cool, refreshing, not-too-overwhelming vinegar and cucumber salad.  I was amazed.  My husband couldn't get enough of it.  I think the whole container was gone in about two days.  So good!

Just a couple words on cucumbers - it really is best if you can use the organic variety.  Cucumbers are one of the top twelve foods with the highest level of pesticides used in the growing process.  If you are unable find organic, you may want to consider peeling the skin off.  If you're not concerned, go for the whole shabang! 

I also highly recommend using a mandoline to slice the cucumbers thinly, or you can use the slicer disc with your food processor.  Unless you're a master at knife precision, I don't recommend going that route.  I used my new mandoline (which I LOVE) on both the cucumbers and onions.  So slick!

There you have it!  2 recipes for the price of 1 - all on a Monday.  Now that's what I call a great happy hour.

Happy Eating!

Cool Cucumber Salad
Recipe by A Toast to Taste
Photos by A Toast to Taste

Ingredients Needed:
2 large cucumbers (preferably organic), thinly sliced
1 small white onion, thinly sliced
2-3 Tbsp fresh dill, roughly chopped
1/2 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup cold water
2 Tbsp sugar
dash of pepper

Place sliced cucumbers in the bottom of a 9x13 dish (glass if you have it).  Top with onion, dill, vinegar, water, sugar and a bit of pepper.  Stir together until well combined and sugar is completely dissolved in liquids.  Cover and refrigerate for about 2-3 hours, stirring once an hour.  Serve and enjoy!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Peach Galette

Nothing says summer more than biting into a juicy, ripe peach - letting the juices run down your chin as your taste buds perk up with happiness.  The peaches are just divine right now.  I've had my fruit bowl fully stocked with them for the past three weeks.  I've been tempted by all the pictures of fruit crisps, crumbles, cobblers, and pies out there lately, and finally made up my mind that I had to make one.  Summer wouldn't be complete without it.

First things first, I'm not much of a baker.  It's too exact for me - the measuring of every ingredient.  It just doesn't go well for me, especially since I don't measure much of anything when I cook {writing these recipes on the blog every time gets tough as I try to remember what exactly I did}.  Baking is just too restrictive for my likings.  I've failed many a baking recipe, and gave up on baking all together long ago.  But, lately I've had the itch to get back into it.  So, here goes.

Peach galette.  This rustic, free-form pie, is just calling my name.  Not only is it beautiful to look at, but it's easy and tastes fabulous.  Typically, galettes are made with a pie crust.  But, I thought it would be fun to try making one with pastry dough to up the flaky and sweetness factor.  This galette is spot on.  Perfect as a dessert on a hot, sultry summer evening or as breakfast any day of the week.

I used store bought pastry dough.  It works for me.  If you're ambitious you can certainly make your own.  I rolled out the dough and filled with four ripe peaches, sliced.  Then I sprinkled on about two tablespoons of turbinado sugar and topped with two tablespoons of cubed unsalted butter.  Make sure to leave about a two- inch border on the outside of the dough so you can fold it over.  Brush the folded dough with water and sprinkle with more turbinado sugar.  Bake for about 40 minutes.

This would be delicious with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or some homemade cream.  Sprinkle with blueberries or enjoy just the way it is.

Get your summer dessert on!  Happy Eating!

Peach Galette
Recipe inspired by Real Simple Magazine
Photos by A Toast to Taste

1 store bough pastry dough sheet
4 ripe peaches, sliced
2 Tbsp turbinado sugar
2 Tbsp unsalted butter, cubed
water, plus more turbinado sugar for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Roll out pastry dough to desired size and shape {I made mind about the size of my rimmed baking sheet}.  Line your baking sheet with parchment paper.  Place dough on top and fill with sliced peaches, making sure to leave a two-inch border.  Sprinkle turbinado sugar over the peaches.  Scatter cubed butter on top of peach mixture.  Fold dough edges over peaches.  Brush folded dough with water and then sprinkle with more turbinado sugar.  Bake for about 40 minutes or until crust is golden brown and peaches are bubbling.

Serve and Enjoy!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Grilled Veggie Pasta with Slow Roasted Tomatoes and Garlic Scape Pesto

I welcomed summer with open arms and a simple train of thought - I truly thought I was going to be doing all this fabulous cooking, sipping cocktails on the patio, letting the time just slip by slowly.....well, that clearly hasn't happened.  At all.  I can probably count on two hands how many meals I've actually put together, and can definitely count on one hand {in fact, closer to one finger} the number of times I've sat on the patio with cocktail in hand, lazily sipping as the leaves rustle in the light breeze, and the crickets create their evening music.  Instead we've been doing things - which isn't bad, I'm not complaining.  BUT, I could go for some summer now.  I want to be lazy for a bit.  I want to make popsicles and eat salad for dinner.  I want to eat lunch under the umbrella and maybe have a cold glass of white wine with it, too.  Is this too much to ask? 

CSA season is in full swing and I've got loads of goodies to create a healthy, fresh meal with.  Yahoooo!  Last week I was prepping easy meals for my husband before my work trip this week.  I cooked up a storm and could probably include five recipes just in this post alone.  But I've picked my favorites and will share those today. 

Garlic Scapes


Last week we got a lovely bunch of garlic scapes in our CSA box.  The first time I got these I had no clue what to do with them.  This year I decided to make pesto with them and use it in a pasta dish with grilled veggies and slow roasted tomatoes.  I fell in love with this dish.  So much flavor, so fresh, super healthy, and so summery for cripes sake!!

Slow roasted tomatoes.  Ina Garten {my absolute favorite} got me hooked on these.  She has an amazing recipe that I've used numerous times and it never fails me.  It's simple - slice your tomatoes, not too thin - and if you're using roma tomatoes, slice in half and spoon out the centers - drizzle with good olive oil, minced garlic, basil, salt, pepper, and one teaspoon of sugar.  Cook at 250 degrees for 2 hours and voila!  You now have slow roasted tomatoes that you can use for anything.  Use them in omelettes, add to sandwiches, salads, or pasta, eat them plain, whatever you want.  I cannot get enough of these. 

For the rest of the veggies, we grilled up some yellow summer squash and zucchini from our CSA as well.  Are you catching the theme yet?  Ya, I love my CSA.  It's all good.  I tossed all the veggies with some whole wheat penne, spicy Italian chicken sausage, and the garlic scape pesto, then topped with the slow roasted tomatoes and a sprinkle of pecorino.  I simply cannot explain how great this was.  mmm, mmm, mmm.  My mouth is watering just thinking about it.

I hope you have all had a chance to enjoy the summer!  I'm off to enjoy it now.....there's a cocktail calling my name on the patio....

Grilled Veggie Pasta with Slow Roasted Tomatoes and Garlic Scape Pesto
Recipe by A Toast to Taste
Photos by A Toast to Taste

For the Pesto
1 bunch of garlic scapes, about 15-20 scapes
1 cup fresh basil
1/2 cup fresh parsley
juice of half a lemon
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 cup parmessan cheese, grated
1/4 cup pine nuts
3/4 cup olive oil

For the Pasta
1 lb whole wheat pasta, short-cut like penne or rigatoni
1 yellow squash, cubed and grilled
1 zucchini, cubed and grilled
6 green onions, grilled
4 spicy Italian chicken sausages, grilled
slow roasted tomatoes, as many as you want, I used 7
pecorino romano cheese, grated

In a food processor fitted with a steel blade, add garlic scapes, basil, parsley, garlic, lemon juice, pine nuts, salt, pepper and parmessan cheese.  Puree.  With the processor running, slowly drizzle in olive oil until well blended.  Set aside.

Cook pasta according to directions.  Drain and pour into large mixing bowl.  Add grilled squash, zucchini, green onions, sausage, and pesto.  Stir together until pasta is coated with pesto.  Top with tomatoes and a sprinkle of pecorino.  Serve and enjoy.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Lamb Burgers with Caramelized Shallots and Feta Sauce

I have a new cookbook, compliments to my mom who gave it to my for my birthday this year.  And what perfect timing as the CSA boxes start flowing in and I'm up to my ears in locally grown, fresh vegetables!  I have found some fabulous recipes in this book and can't wait to share them with you.

I started with the lamb burgers - I know, not a vegetable, but I promise those recipes are coming.  I didn't start eating lamb until a couple years ago.  I never had it growing up because my parents weren't fans.  It's not the easiest of meats for me to find in the stores either - especially ground.  But, recently I've noticed my local store has started to carry ground lamb.  I've had my eye on it for months - and now I had the perfect excuse to purchase some.

These burgers were so simple.  Now, the recipe in the book is just for the burgers with caramelized shallots.  I wanted to add a little oomph so I made a feta sauce to pour over the top.  Holy goodness.  Flavor explosion!  Your taste buds will be happy, that's for sure.  You can surely substitute the ground lamb for ground beef, pork or turkey as well.  No ketchup and mustard needed here.

Feta Sauce
I served the burgers with a parmessan roasted potato and kohlrabi (from the farm) medley.  Divine and simple as simple can get.  Just thinly slice the potatoes and kohlrabi, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper followed by the parmessan.  Roast at 375 for about 40 minutes.  And you're done! 

Perfect meal in minutes!  Enjoy these!

Lamb Burgers with Caramelized Shallots and Feta Sauce
Burger recipe adapted from Simply Organic Cookbook, By Jesse Ziff Cool
Feta Sauce recipe adapted from
Photos by A Toast to Taste

For the Burgers:
1 lb ground lamb
1/2 red onion, grated
1 clove garlice, minced
1 tsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 Tbsp olive oil
8 oz shallots, sliced
4 whole wheat buns

For the Feta Sauce:
3 heaping Tbsps crumbled feta cheese
1 heaping Tbsp green olives
2 Tbsp fresh dill
1/4 cup olive oil

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the shallots and cook, stirring occassionally, for about 7-8 minutes, or until soft and golden brown.  Remove to a bowl.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine lamb, onion, garlic, rosemary, salt and pepper.  Form into 4 burgers.  You can either cook these in a skillet or grill them - we grilled them over medium high heat for about 5 minutes per side. 

While burgers are cooking, make the feta sauce.  In the bowl of a food processor, fitted with a steel blade, add feta cheese, green olives, and dill.  Pulse to combine.  With processor on, slowly pour in olive oil until combined.  Remove to bowl.

Place burgers on the buns and top with feta sauce and shallots.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Summer Grilled Chicken Sandwiches

I love a good sandwich from time to time - one loaded with so much "stuff" you can hardly fit it in your mouth.  As I was perusing my pantry and fridge last week, I found that I had the perfect ingredients on hand to make an out of this world sandwich creation.   It's not often that that happens - jackpot!

Get a load of this - grilled chicken with avocado, roasted red pepper, crispy prosciutto, and havarti all atop a fresh demi french baguette, placed under the broiler for about 5 minutes just so the havarti is melted and then topped with a tossed fresh greens mix.  Are you still with me?  Hope so because you have to make this.  It's a great option when a burger or a brat just doesn't sound good.

Of course you can substitute ingredients to suit your tastes - swap out chicken for grilled shrimp or go all veggie and do portabello mushroom instead.  Use slow roasted tomatoes or slather the bread with pesto if desired.  There are a million options here, that's why sandwiches are great.  Have fun with it! 

I will leave you with a few pictures of cabin life in northern Minnesota - we spent the long holiday weekend at the cabin again.  Perfect weather for boating and swimming in the lakes.  I hope you all enjoyed your 4th of July! 

Happy Eating!

Lily says, "Happy 4th of July!"

My husband and me enjoying a day on the lake.
Summer Grilled Chicken Sandwiches
Recipe by A Toast to Taste
Photos by A Toast to Taste

Ingredients Needed (for 2 sandwiches):
2 fresh demi french baguettes, sliced in half lengthwise
2 grilled chicken breasts, cut into strips
1 avocado, pit and skin removed, sliced thin
1/4 cup roasted red peppers
4 slices prosciutto, cooked until crisp
4 slices havarti cheese
1 large handful mixed greens
1 Tbsp olive oil
splash of balsamic vinegar

Preheat oven to broil setting.  My oven has a high and low broiler setting, I set mine on low.  Make sure your rack is at the highest level it can go.  Line a baking sheet with foil and place baking rack on top. 

Place sliced baguettes on baking rack, drizzle with a little olive oil.  Top the bottom halves with avocado slices, followed by the sliced chicken, roasted red pepper, crispy prosciutto, and finally the cheese slices (2 per sandwich).  Place under broiler for about 5 minutes or until cheese is melted and bubbly. 

While the sandwich is in the oven, prepare the mixed greens by taking a large handful of greens and tossing with olive oil and a splash of balsamic vinegar in a small bowl.  Set aside.

Remove sandwiches from oven, let sit for one minute.  Top with greens and enjoy!