Sunday, September 13, 2009

Move Over Basil

If you are sick of the same old tomato sandwich, the following recipe is a great way to spice it up a bit. Don't get me wrong, tomato sandwiches of white bread and mayo certainly have there place, but there is nothing I love more than the combination of pesto, tomatoes and mozzarella between a couple slices of crusty artisan bread.

Instead of the traditional basil pesto, I used cilantro, but this sandwich works well with basil if you prefer. Leftover cilantro pesto is great with quesadillas or toss it with some pasta.

Heirloom Tomato, Mozzarella, and Cilantro Pesto Sandwich

2 thick slices of crusty artisanal bread (I prefer Red Hen's Pain au Levain)
1-2 tablespoons cilantro pesto (see below)
2 slices of fresh buffalo mozzarella
2-3 slices of tomato (I used our own Striped German heirloom tomatoes)
Salt and pepper to taste

To assemble the sandwich:
1. Spread 1-2 tablespoons of the cilantro pesto on slice of bread.
2. Place 2 slices of the mozzarella on top, followed by desired number of tomato slices.
3. Season tomato slices with salt and pepper, place remaining slice of bread on top and enjoy!

Cilantro Pesto

1-2 cloves garlic
2 cups fresh cilantro, washed and dried (substitute basil here if you prefer)
1/8 cup toasted pine nuts
1 tablespoon grated Parmigiano Reggiano
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper

1. In a food processor, add the garlic and pulse until minced.
2. Next add in cilantro, toasted pine nuts, and grated Parmigiano Reggiano and pulse a couple times.
3. While the processor is on, add the olive oil in a stream and process until blended.
4. Season with salt and pepper.

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Saturday, September 12, 2009


Nick and I have tomatoes coming out of our ears right now and I couldn't be happier! Our heirloom tomatoes are finally ripening and we are in tomato heaven. There is truly nothing like fresh, in season tomatoes. You would never guess that while growing up, I HATED tomatoes. Now I can't get enough. I think part of my hate came from trying to consume those mealy cardboard imitations sold in the grocery store, not grown for taste but for their ability to last thousands of miles on the back of a truck.

A couple of days ago a friend asked me what he could do with some ciabatta rolls he had that were going stale. Panzanella of course! Panzanella is an Italian dish originating in the Tuscany and Umbria regions of Italy. The dish is a bread salad popular in the summer months and is a great way to use up day-week old bread and other leftovers you may have hanging out in the refrigerator. My aunt used to make a fantastic version of a Panzanella salad, which I have had difficulty replicating. Here is my own version, which isn't my aunt's but I think it's just as good!

Grilled Panzanella Salad

If you don't have a grill, you can always use a broiler to give the bread and zucchini a little bit of color. This is a rustic salad so you don't need to go crazy with the measurements or the chopping. Adjust the ingredients to your tastes or what you have hanging out in the fridge (try adding capers, red peppers, eggplant, red onion).

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons chopped shallots
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

1 1/2 pounds tomatoes, roughly chopped
2 medium sized zucchini
1 cucumber, diced
1/2 loaf of Red Hen Ciabatta bread, or your favorite crusty bread
Extra virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, cut in half
2 cups, cubed mozzarella cheese
Parmigiano Reggiano for garnish

For Dressing:
Whisk together the vinegar and mustard. Slowly whisk in the olive oil. Add in chopped shallots and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

For Salad:
  1. Heat up your grill or broiler.
  2. Slice the bread into 1 inch slices and lightly brush each slice with some olive oil.
  3. Slice the zucchini the long way into 1 inch thick slices. Lightly brush each slice with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
  4. Once grill is hot, place zucchini and bread slices on the grill. Grill the bread until brown and crisp, turning occasionally, about 4 minutes. Do the same for the zucchini and remove from grill.
  5. When the bread has cooled slightly, rub each slice with the cut garlic. Then roughly cut into 1 inch cubes and place in a large bowl. Cut up the zucchini into 1 inch dice and add to the bread in bowl.
  6. Add chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, mozzarella and basil to bowl.
  7. Toss with dressing and let sit for about 15-20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, garnish with some grated Parmigiano Reggiano and serve.
Makes 6 servings

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