Monday, July 26, 2010


We had friends over this past weekend. I was dreaming of a relaxing night chilling outside, grilling and fighting over s'mores. Mother Nature had a different dream - one that included sideways rain, humidity and darkness. So grilling was out and instead we baked fish. As a side, I made this wonderful version of panzanella. It's hardly revolutionary but I thought I'd post it because you may have forgotten all about this lovely summer staple. I almost did!


3 tablespoons good olive oil
1 small loaf French bread, cut into 1-inch cubes (6 cups)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 large, ripe tomatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes (I use 4-5 plum tomatoes)
1 hothouse cucumber, unpeeled, seeded, and sliced 1/2-inch thick
1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 orange bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
1/2 red onion, cut in 1/2 and thinly sliced
20 large basil leaves, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons capers, drained

For the vinaigrette:
1 teaspoon finely minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons Champagne vinegar (can use white wine vinegar)
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oil in a large saute pan. Add the bread and salt; cook over low to medium heat, tossing frequently, for 10 minutes, until nicely browned. Or lightly coat bread with oil in large bowl, then place on cookie sheet and toast under your broiler (turning occasionally) to avoid all that frying mess! 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. Serve, or allow the salad to sit for about half an hour for the flavors to blend. You can also toss all veggies with dressing and then add bread during last 20 minutes to avoid the bread soaking in too much dressing.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Sugar Cookie Bars

I love food blogs. I love them so much that it's a small problem. I can spend hours reading tales from home cooks and this particular recipe showed up on several blogs. I took it as a sign that I had to make these over the weekend. They were also intriguing because I despise the labor of cutout cookies but a good sugar cookie cannot be beat. Be sure you have the right sized pan for these because I cheated and used a 9x13 pan and they were way too thick and had trouble baking all the way through. With the right pan, these will be a great go-to recipe. Recipe and picture are thanks to Annie's Eats - yet another food blog that I just began reading. I know...I need to stop!

Sugar Cookie Bars

For the cookie bars:
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise (I didn't use this since I never have this on hand)
Zest from 1 lemon
5 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. baking soda

For the frosting:
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla extract (could use almond extract as well!)
Pinch of salt
4 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
5 tbsp. milk
Food coloring (optional but oh so fun!)
Sprinkles (optional but oh so very fun!)

To make the cookies, preheat the oven to 350˚ F. Grease a 13 x 18" rimmed baking sheet (bars pictured used 12 x 17" pan). Combine the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat on medium-high speed until light and smooth, about 2 minutes. Mix in the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Blend in the vanilla, seeds from the vanilla bean, and lemon zest. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, salt and baking soda. Stir together with a fork to blend. Add the dry ingredients to the mixer bowl and beat on low speed just until incorporated.

Transfer the cookie dough to the prepared baking sheet and press into an even layer. Bake 10-15 minutes, until light golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool completely before frosting.

To make the frosting, place the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat on medium-high speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Blend in the vanilla, salt, and confectioners' sugar until smooth, 1-2 minutes. Mix in the milk. Tint as desired with food coloring. Spread over the cookie in the pan, cut into bars and serve.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Marcy's Chicken Salad

Who can cook when it's melt-your-eyeballs hot outside? As record heat sweeps much of the country, there are probably countless people thinking - how about ice cream for dinner? Well put the hot fudge sauce away because here's a simple throw together no-recipe recipe that you customize based on your taste. My mom's friend, Marcy, doesn't like to cook therefore she doesn't linger in the kitchen. Good thing she makes a mean chicken salad which can stand in for a quick oven-less dinner. You'll notice that I just list ingredients and, for the most part, left out exact measurements because you just add as much as you like of each item. How easy?! Serve this on fresh rolls or lettuce cups and stay cool.

Marcy's Chicken Salad

4 cooked chicken breasts (rotisserie chicken can be your best friend here!)
Seedless Engish cucumber - seeded and chopped finely
Clausen (a must!) dill pickles, chopped
Red & Yellow pepper, chopped
Celery - chopped
green onions - chopped
mayo - enough to moisten
salt/pepper to taste
dried dill

Mix well and serve on rolls or lettuce cups.