Chicken Pizzaiola

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I never realized Lidia Bastianich had a website, until I randomly came across her recipe online for Chicken Pizzaiola. The name certainly caught my attention! I mean, who doesn’t love pizza ingredients!

The website is Lidia’s Italy, which highlights her restaurants, her books, her cooking shows (she even has a YouTube channel), plus recipes, and much much more. Her latest cookbook is Felidia, which came out in October of 2021.

Of this recipe, she says, “This dish has quickly become one of our most popular at lunch. The chicken is so tender that you don’t need a knife to cut it. And the pizzaiola preparation is a favorite traditional of Italian American cuisine.”

The lunch she’s referring to is at Felidia, her flagship restaurant she opened in 1981 on Manhattan’s east side, although it now closed permanently.

Chicken  Pizzaiola

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, about 2 pounds
Kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 cups panko breadcrumbs
3/4 cup freshly grated grana padano
1 teaspoon dried oregano, preferably Sicilian, on the branch
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil plus 1/4 cup leaves, and whole sprigs for garnish
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups prepared fresh tomato sauce
4 slices low-moisture mozzarella

Season the chicken breasts with salt, and place them in a resealable plastic bag. Pour in the buttermilk, and marinate in the refrigerator for 2 hours. Drain the chicken, and preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, toss together the panko, grated Grana Padano, dried oregano, chopped parsley, chopped basil, 3 tablespoons of the olive oil, and ½ teaspoon salt. Stir to incorporate everything fully into the crumbs.

Put the drained chicken breasts in the bowl with the seasoned breadcrumbs one at a time, and pat well on both sides so the crumbs cover the chicken on all sides. Set the breaded chicken breasts on the parchment paper, arranged so they don’t touch each other.

Bake the chicken until the coating is crisp and browned and the chicken is just cooked through, about 15 minutes.

While the chicken bakes, combine the tomato sauce, the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, and ¼ cup basil leaves in a blender, and purée until smooth. Season with salt.

Pour the purée into a small saucepan, and warm it over low heat.

When the chicken is just cooked through, top with the sliced mozzarella and bake until the cheese is just melted, about 2 minutes.

Spread the tomato emulsion on plates, top with the chicken, and serve.

I served this chicken with simply sautéed spinach.

Maybe it’s not like eating pizza, but wow this chicken dish really is fabulous. I would use grated mozzarella instead of a slice. I don’t like the look of that.

The crust is wonderful, and the cheeses make it so tasty, along with the herbs, and of course with the sauce…. divine.

Lentils with Burrata and Basil Oil

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During the four years our daughter lived in London, we visited often, using London as a springboard to explore nearby countries, like Ireland, Wales, and Scotland. We also visited areas in England as well, such as the Cotswolds, the Lake District, the Isle of Wight, and Cornwall.

On a couple of these trips, we brought along not only our travel-loving daughter, but also a good friend of hers – another American living in London. This young lady was such a delight – always happy and appreciative. Plus she had really good taste in food, so she fit in with us all!

As a thank you for these vacations, she gifted me the book Polpo – a Venetian Cookbook, by Russell Norman, published in 2012.

The book is fabulous – great stories, and great recipes from a lover of Venice, who owns and runs the restaurant Polpo, in London.

I learned something about burrata from the book. By the author: “Burrata is often confused with mozzarella but they are not the same. Burrata is made in Puglia with milk from Razza Podolica cows (not buffalo), and with added cream, so it is softer and more moist than mozzarella. Burrata’s creamy sweet consistency is the perfect foil to an array of ingredients. This recipe combines it with lentils – a heavenly marriage. Make sure your burrata is of the finest quality and at room temperature.”

And speaking of that, for the first time ever, my cheese shipment from IGourmet was a melted disaster. No, it didn’t help that the temperatures were in the 90’s in early September, but what was supposed to be overnight shipping, became 3 days. The burrata was packaged two to a plastic tub, and two out of three tubs I’d ordered leaked completely. They all had basically “cooked” in the hot box and were hard as rocks.

Of course IGourmet’s customer service was apologetic and I was credited, but it was all around a sad day. I proceeded with this recipe, because it’s not the author’s fault that I received cooked, separated, and curdled burrata in the mail. The recipe will be fabulous with good burrata.

Lentils  with  Burrata  and  Basil  Oil

Leaves from a bunch of basil
Flaky sea salt
Black pepper
Extra virgin olive oil
400 g Puy lentils
2 large carrots, finely chopped
3 celery sticks, finely chopped
1 small onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
5 sprigs of thyme, leaves removed and chopped
4 tablespoons mustard dressing
6 burrata balls

First make the basil oil by placing most of the basil leaves in a food processor, reserving a few of the smaller prettier ones for decorating at the end. Add a little salt, pepper, and enough olive oil to make a thin sauce. Whizz for a few seconds and then set aside.

Put the lentils in a saucepan with enough cold water to cover them by about 7 cm. (I used chicken broth.) Don’t add salt at this state as this will toughen the lentils. Bring to a boil and cook for about 45 minutes. Keep checking them – they need to still hold a small bite. when they are done, drain, refresh in cold water, drain again, and set aside.

Now, in a large heavy-based pan sweat the vegetables in a few good glugs of olive oil with the thyme leaves, a large pinch of salt, and a twist of ground black pepper. When the vegetables are softened and translucent, add the cooked lentils and a splash of water or broth to stop them sticking to the bottom of the pan.

Mustard Dressing
Any basic French vinaigrette will substitute

To finish the dish, add 4 tablespoons of the mustard dressing to the lentils, check the seasoning, and spoon onto a large warm plate. (Because my husband hates vinegar, I used a good garlic-infused oil in the lentils.)

Then tear open your burrata and place on top of the warm lentils.

The heat from the lentils will melt the burrata making it even more creamy and soft.

Drizzle some basil oil over the top and scatter with the reserved basil leaves.

Baked Ratatouille

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From the guy who introduced me to speidie sauce, comes a baked ratatouille, from the cookbook, Charlie Palmer’s American Fare.

Being that it’s late summer and my garden is producing nicely, a ratatouille is a perfect dish to make. A baked ratatouille was really enticing to me.

From Chef Palmer: “This is a dish that I make all summer long when the farmers market is filled with eggplant and summer squashes. It is based on the traditional French Provençal vegetable dish that usually includes bell peppers and a mixture of dried herbs. You really can do anything you want with it: Some cooks prepare each vegetable separately and then mix together, while some layer the vegetables and bake them.”

I used a regular eggplant, a large zucchini, a large golden zucchini, and a purple onion.

This dish could be called a ratatouille gratin, because there are layers of ratatouille, plus layers of cheeses, all topped off with crunchy breadcrumbs.

It’s not terribly pretty, but at least the ratatouille didn’t turn to mush; the individual pieces of vegetables are still in tact and I like that.

Below is the actual recipe from the book. I served the baked ratatouille with spicy sausages.

Baked Ratatouille

1/2 cup virgin olive oil
1 large red onion, cut into large dice
1 tablespoon minced garlic
3 pounds Japanese eggplant, trimmed and cut into large dice
1 large zucchini, trimmed and cut into large dice
1 large yellow summer squash, trimmed and cut into large dice
1 – 28 ounce can chopped San Marzano tomatoes with their juice
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
Salt and pepper
1 1/2 pounds mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup fresh bread crumbs

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly coat the interior of a large ceramic baking dish with olive oil.

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes or just until soft.

Add the eggplant and continue to cook, stirring frequently, for about 15 minutes or until just beginning to soften.

Stir in the zucchini and yellow squash and cook, stirring frequently, for another 10 minutes or until just barely tender.

Stir in the tomatoes and basil and season with salt and pepper.

Scrape about half of the eggplant mixture into the prepared baking dish. Cover with half of the mozzarella. Spoon the remaining eggplant mixture over the cheese. Top with another layer of mozzarella. Sprinkle the Parmesan over the mozzarella and then top with bread crumbs.

Bake for about 35 minutes or until the top is golden brown and the cheese is bubbling.

The baked ratatouille is wonderful. And the crust on top is really good!

I served it with sausages, but just about any protein would go with it, or just eat as an enjoyable summer meal and be proud of all of your garden-fresh vegetables!

Shrimp Feta à la Neil

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This is a recipe I’ve had for years, and know I made it at least twice. Making a recipe more than once for me is a rarity, even more so in the early cooking years because there was always another recipe to make, another technique to learn. And more to taste.

We loved this dish, my husband and myself. Pasta with shrimp, ricotta, vegetables, red sauce, and cheese. Yes, this was before I learned that one doesn’t combine seafood and cheese. Well, in this case I don’t care what the “rule” is, cause this is fabulous.

According to the writing on the taped-up magazine cutouts, this recipe was from Better Homes and Gardens, October 1984. I tried to find it online, which I thought would be easy with its name, but no. However, there are many variations of this recipe, so I guess a lot of folks, including those from NY Times cooking, have ignored the seafood-no-cheese rule as well.

Obviously I loved the recipe because I gave it four stars. I just wish I could find out who Neil is. Or was. I doubled the recipe, because it’s that good.

Shrimp Feta à la Neil
printable recipe below

12 ounces fresh shrimp, peeled, cleaned
6 ounces linguine
1 beaten egg
1/2 cup ricotta
1/4 cup snipped parsley
1/8 teaspoon salt
Dash black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil
4 ounces sliced fresh mushrooms
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
1 ripe tomato, seeded, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon water
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/2 cup tomato sauce
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
1/2 cup crumbled feta
Cayenne pepper flakes, optional

Rinse shrimp and place on paper towels to dry.

Cook pasta according to package directions; drain.

Combine the egg and ricotta; Stir in the parsley, salt, and pepper. Toss the warm pasta with the ricotta mixture. Turn into a greased 9” pie plate; press onto bottom and up sides to form a “crust.” Set aside.

In a 10” skillet, heat the oil and butter. Add the garlic and basil and cook for 30 seconds. Add the mushrooms, onion, and red bell pepper. Cook over medium-high heat for 4-5 minutes more till vegetables are just tender, stirring occasionally.

Add the shrimp, chopped tomato, and salt. Cook over medium heat for 4-5 minutes or till shrimp is just done, stirring occasionally.

Combine the water and cornstarch; add to shrimp mixture. Cook and stir till thickened and bubbly.

Turn the shrimp mixture into the pasta crust; spoon tomato sauce atop. Bake in 350 degree oven for 20 minutes.

Sprinkle the mozzarella and feta on top.

Bake 5 more minutes or until cheeses melt.

Let sit for about 10 minutes before serving.

I sprinkled the dish with cayenne pepper flakes.

If you’re making this in the summer, you can always add some basil chiffonade. I just thew a few little leaves on. The dish is quite messy as it is.

In the future, I might add the cheeses, or at least the grated mozzarella to the pasta and ricotta mixture, because the melted cheese on the shrimp hides them.

And speaking of the pasta with the ricotta mixture – divine.

I will definitely be making this dish again, maybe with a few tweaks.

 

 

Smoked Salmon Quesadillas

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Back when I catered, I once created a quesadilla bar for a smallish party. It was a lot of work, with two skillets going, but the guests enjoyed choosing their custom ingredients and their ooey gooey appetizers.

If my memory serves, I had chicken, beef, and shrimp, peppers and onions, tomatoes and mangos, good cheeses, plus cilantro. There are just so many options with quesadillas.

On this blog I’ve posted on what I’d call traditional, southwestern-style quesadillas, which I’ve made a lot over the years, especially when my kids were home. I love serving them with both red and green salsas.

With flour tortillas that get extra crispy in butter, and all of the cheesy goodness inside, you hardly need anything else. But I do. And smoked salmon quesadillas are a perfect example of going beyond the traditional quesadilla.

Smoked Salmon Quesadillas
Makes 3 – 8″ quesadillas

6 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
6 ounces soft goat cheese like chèvre, at room temperature
1 generous tablespoon chopped chives
1 generous tablespoon finely chopped parsley
2 teaspoons olive oil or butter
2 shallots, finely chopped
6 – 8” flour tortillas
12 ounces grated mozzarella
6 ounces high quality smoked salmon
Butter, about 3 generous tablespoons

Mix together the cream cheese and goat cheese along with the chives and parsley until smooth. Don’t overstir.

In a 12” skillet, heat the butter over medium heat. Add the shallots and sauté them for about 5 minutes. Remove the cooked shallots to a small bowl, and keep the skillet on the stove. Get out a lid that works with the skillet as well as a large metal spatula.

Set out a large cutting board for cutting the quesadillas, and a serving platter.

Spread the soft cheese on all 6 tortillas.

Then add the slices of smoked salmon to 3 “bottom” tortillas, and top the salmon with 1/3 of the cooked shallots on each of the 3 tortillas.

When ready to start cooking, have all of the tortillas, tops and bottoms, the grated mozzarella, and butter on hand. It’s best to be fully prepared.

Heat the skillet over medium-high heat and add the butter; some browning is good. Carefully place the bottom tortilla in the skillet, tortilla side down, then immediately add a generous amount of grated cheese, about 4 ounces per quesadilla, followed by the top tortilla (that only has the soft cheese spread on it.) Press gently on the quesadilla.

If the tortilla has crisped up golden on the bottom, carefully turn over the quesadilla using a heavy spatula. Press down on it with the spatula, then cover the skillet, turn down the heat and put on the lid.

The heat is lowered to allow the cheeses to melt thoroughly and the quesadilla to heat through.
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Carefully place the quesadilla to the cutting board. Add more butter to the skillet, turn up the heat, and repeat with the remaining 2 quesadillas.

Let the quesadillas rest for at least five minutes before cutting up like a pizza, using a long knife or pizza cutter, then layer onto a serving platter.

Cover with a clean towel to keep them warm, but keep it loose. You want to retain the crispiness of the tortillas, which is why it’s best to work fast.

As an appetizer, these will serve quite a few people; they’re quite rich.

Keep in mind that these alone are fabulous with a rosé or Prosecco, or better yet, a sparkling rosé!

And if you prefer, use raw shallots instead of sautéed. Even capers can be used in the quesadillas.

You can play with my version of these quesadillas, but I highly suggest you stick to my cheeses because they’re mild. You want to taste the luscious smoked salmon in these.

Ham and Asparagus Lasagna

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There an adorable young Italian woman whose blog I follow. Her name is Alida, she was born in Friuli in North Eastern Italy, and her blog is My Little Italian Kitchen.

I follow her on Facebook as well, because her daily food photos make me happy. Like these. So colorful and enticing!

Although now living in London, Alida travels often throughout Italy, visiting artisanal bakers and cheese makers, and has also won cooking competitions. Let’s just say she knows what she’s doing, and is passionate about Italian food.

To quote Alida, “Cooking is an expression of who you are and your personality. You have to put your whole self into it: your passion, feeling and experiences all go into the food and you become part of the recipe.”

In the spring of 2017, Alida posted a recipe for Asparagus Ham Lasagna that I couldn’t ignore. “Traditional” lasagna is so wonderful, but I love other varieties as well, even meatless varieties. It’s my idea of comfort food.

Fresh pasta sheets, bechamel, a purée of asparagus, ham, asparagus pieces, and Parmesan, all layered and baked to perfect deliciousness! I can’t believe I’ve waited a year to make it. Plus, it was an excuse to finally use my Kitchen Aid pasta rolling attachment.

Ham and Asparagus Lasagna

Ingredients
fresh lasagne sheets – 400 g – about 15 sheets
fresh asparagus – 700 g – 6 cups
grated parmesan cheese – to sprinkle
ham – 240 g – 1 + 2/3 cup
olive oil
salt
butter – knob

For the bechamel sauce:
milk – 1,5 Liters – 1.58 qt
butter – 100 g – 1/2 cup
plain flour – 80 g – 3/4 cup
grated nutmeg – pinch
salt and pepper

The pasta dough I started with included 3 eggs plus 2 yolks, and 1 tablespoon of olive oil.

Whisk the eggs and olive oil together and gradually add flour until a dough forms. Turn out onto a slightly floured board, knead a minute, then wrap up in plastic wrap and let sit at least 30 minutes to rest.

Roll out the lasagna sheets to the desired thickness. They can be a little thicker than sheets you would use for making ravioli. I used #6 on my attachment.

Cut to 13″ lengths and set aside.

Clean and peel the asparagus if they are large. Remove the thicker ends and cut the tips off. Cut the asparagus in small pieces and cook them in salty water. I cooked the tips first just to keep it simple.

Whiz the stems into a purée and set aside.

Make the bechamel and set aside; I’ve included a link to my own in case you’ve never made it before.

Have the grated Parmesan and ham handy.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly grease a 13″ x 9″ baking dish.

When you’re ready to prepare the lasagna, add some bechamel to the bottom of the baking dish and cover with a few lasagna sheets.

Add some asparagus purée, ham, cheese, and more sauce. Cover again with lasagna sheets.

Continue layering. On the top, make sure there is bechamel, ham, cheese, and the remaining asparagus.

Bake, covered, for 35 minutes, then remove the foil and bake another 20 minutes.

Let the lasagna sit for about 30 minutes before cutting up the servings.

The lasagna actually sliced very well while it was still warm.

You can see the lovely layers on white sauce, ham, asparagus puree, and asparagus tips.

I sliced the asparagus tips lengthwise after they had cooked and cooled, because I felt they were quite thick.

I love traditional lasagna, but this is definitely second best! And in spite of the bechamel, this lasagna doesn’t seem as heavy as traditional, probably because the only meat is thinly shaved ham. I’ll definitely be making this again!

Lasagna Soup

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I can’t think of a single person who doesn’t love lasagna. It’s hard not to love, with the luscious layers of red sauce, pasta, and multiple cheesiness. But what’s odd for me, is that I rarely make it. In fact, if I do make it, it’s for a post-funeral family get-together or such. I make it for other people. I can’t remember the last time I made it for my own family.

Sure, making lasagna is a bit tedious, but there’s nothing difficult about it. But unless there’s another funeral to cook for, I may never make lasagna again, thanks to my girlfriend. Years ago she showed me a recipe from a cooking magazine, and since then I’ve been hooked on making lasagna soup!

It’s got all of the elements of lasagna – pasta, red sauce, a few cheeses, plus a few extras. It’s hearty and delicious, and a big pot of this soup goes a long way. It’s great for company.

I don’t have the original recipe, but here’s what I did today. As with most of my recipes, you can put your own stamp on it by substituting ingredients. Just as you keep the soup tasting like lasagna, it will be delicious!

Lasagna Soup

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 – 1 pound packages bulk Italian sausage
19.2 ounces of ground turkey
2 onions, finely chopped
1 pound sliced fresh mushrooms
5-6 cloves garlic, minced
2 – 32 ounce cartons beef broth
10 ounces baby spinach
1 – 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 tablespoon dried basil*
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Cheese(s) – you can use ricotta, mozzarella, and Parmesan, or any combination thereof

For the lasagna soup, I chose a combination of Italian sausage and ground white-meat turkey, but you could use beef and pork if you prefer.

Begin by adding the oil to a large stockpot. Heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the meats, and spend about 10 minutes slightly browning and cooking them.

soupppp
I have a wonderful tool that this same girlfriend gave me last Christmas that helps cut up ground meat into smaller pieces. Grab one of these if you spot one.

Lower the heat to medium and add the onions. Stirring occasionally, cook the onions for about 5 minutes, then add the mushrooms.

Cook the mushrooms for about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and give it a stir. Then add the broth.

Break up the lasagna noodles and place them in the broth.

soupll

Submerge the noodles as best you can, cover the pot, and lightly simmer the noodles for about 30 minutes. I used whole-wheat noodles. If you’re using white noodles, be careful not to overcook them.

Add the spinach, and carefully stir it into the broth until it wilts. Pour in the crushed tomatoes and add the seasoning.

Give everything a good stir. Spinach and mushrooms aren’t necessarily traditional in lasagna, but in this soup the vegetables are a great addition, making the soup a little healthier by stretching the meat.

soup

Heat the soup through and taste for seasoning. Serve hot so all of the cheeses melt.

In the past, when I have made this soup for a crowd, I offered cheese choices so everyone can customize his/her lasagna soup. You can place a little blob of fresh ricotta in the bottom of your bowl, add the hot soup, then add a few fresh mozzarella pearls and freshly grated Parmesan. Or simply offer grated mozzarella. It’s all good. But some cheese is absolutely necessary or it won’t be lasagna soup.

Today I placed grated fresh mozzarella in the bottom of the bowl, and topped the soup with finely grated Parmesan. When you stir the melted cheese with the soup, you’re tasting lasagna. And it’s fabulous!

* Which herb or herbs to use in a red sauce that would be used in a traditional lasagna are widely debated. Some people only use oregano, some a mixture of basil and oregano. I just love the flavor of dried basil, when no fresh basil is available. Make this soup your own.

note: It’s important to add all of the broth to this soup. For one thing, it’s important for cooking the noodles. But secondly, you don’t want the soup so tomatoey thick that you’re eating spaghetti sauce instead of a soup. Keep a good balance between the crushed tomatoes and broth.

Baked Mozzarella

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If you have been reading my blog, you know that I love baked brie – of any kind. I’ve posted on two savority varieties, my tomatillo-sauce topped baked brie and a baked brie with sautéed mushrooms.

So this recipe, although not about brie, really caught my attention. First, it is all about hot cheese. Secondly, the topping is very different than anything I’ve ever seen, which made making this recipe even more tempting. Third, it’s about hot cheese.

The recipe comes from this cookbook, Barbecue, with an unknown publishing date. I bought it in London, and it was printed in the UK.

download (2)

So you think this recipe would be about meat, but in the last chapter, entitled The Bits on the Side,” I found the recipe I’m making today, which Mr. Reynaud calls “Crumbed Mozzarella.” The reason being, the mozzarella is covered with a mixture of ground pistachios and bread crumbs. Interesting, yes?!!!

I just knew I had to make it. I’ve only made one other recipe from this book, called surf and turf, which were kabobs, and so far, so good. But this recipe was really odd, which forced me to prepare the mozzarella differently. I didn’t, however, mess with the ingredients.

mozz

Baked Crumbed Mozzarella
Adapted from Barbecue and Grill

1 – 8 ounce mozzarella ball
1 ounce pistachios
2 teaspoons bread crumbs
Big pinch of thyme
A few grindings of black pepper
1 egg
Olive oil (optional)
Salt (optional)

Remove the mozzarella from the plastic and let it sit on paper towels to dry off.

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Meanwhile, weigh the pistachios.

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Add the bread crumbs, black pepper and thyme.

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Place everything in a food processor and process until almost fine; I like a little texture.

Place the mixture on a plate and set aside.

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Break the egg into a medium bowl, large enough to fit the mozzarella, and set aside.

Get out a small plate and have handy.

Dip the mozzarella in the egg.

mozz1123

Then place it on the pistachio-bread crumb mixture. Turn the mozzarella around to coat on all sides.

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Then place the mozzarella on the small plate and place the plate in the freezer for 15-20 minutes.

Get out a skillet that is well seasoned. Heat it over medium heat. Add the mozzarella ball, and begin to brown it on all sides, although you might do a better job than I did. It was supposed to be done on a hot plate, whatever that is, for a total of 7-8 minutes. The browning process, which Mr. Reynaud simply refers to as cooking of the mozzarella ball, I think is also supposed to cook the egg and create a seal for the cheese.

mozz99
Right before serving, I gently heated the mozzarella in its serving bowl in the microwave.

Then I served the hot mozzarella with crostini.

note: Mr. Reynaud’s recipe called for 3 mozzarella balls, of undisclosed size, and I just wanted to use one. But I thought it was a poorly written recipe to not have included the weight of the cheese balls. There were other problems as well… But I still love this cookbook!

verdict: The flavors are fabulous! However, I think I’d prefer to chop up fresh mozzarella, place it in an oven-proof shallow baking dish, Top the cheese with pistachio mixture, and bake it. That way, there is more pistachio to mozzarella ratio. Because I find melted mozzarella quite rubbery. I prefer baked brie and camembert…

Panzanella

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Got stale bread? Make panzanella!

Panzanella is an Italian salad made with stale, or at the very least, leftover bread, and you wouldn’t believe how wonderful it is. I’m sure its origins are peasant-based, because the peasant approach to making meals is all about using everything available to you, without any waste. And that means you never throw away old bread. You just turn it into a salad!

Besides bread, other additions include tomatoes, plus oil and vinegar. Some panzanellas get more involved with the inclusion of cucumbers, olives, and capers. I sometimes like to add some spinach leaves as well. And I have added feta cheese, although at that point it almost becomes a Greek-inspired salad. Italian or Greek, it doesn’t matter. It’s all good!

So today my panzanella is made from leftover sourdough bread, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, mozzarella pearls, purple onion, and lots of basil. No recipe is needed!

Panzanella

Leftover bread or stale bread*
Vinegar, I used red wine vinegar
Olive oil
Cherry tomatoes, sliced
Cucumber, de-seeded and sliced
Small purple onion, sliced
Mozzarella pearls, if you want to include cheese
Pitted Kalamata olives, sliced in halves
Salt
Coarsely ground black pepper
Fresh basil

First, break up the bread or slice it into cubes.

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Place the bread in a serving bowl. Sprinkle generously with vinegar to soften up the bread. This is especially important if using stale bread. See * below for more information on this.

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Add the tomatoes, and sprinkle on some salt and more vinegar.

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Then add the cucumbers, which you can season with salt as well.

Add the purple onions, and the mozzarella pearls.

Add the olives. Season well with salt and pepper, and give everything a toss. Add more vinegar and olive oil as necessary. (If you prefer, you can certainly use a pre-made vinaigrette instead of just using oil and vinegar.)

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Before serving, sprinkle with baby basil leaves, or a chiffonade of basil.

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The salad can also sit at room temperature for up to 2 hours for the flavors to combine. Just toss gently once before serving. The salad is prettier if the bread remains somewhat in intact pieces.

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* Typically, actual stale bread is used for this salad. Then it’s dipped in water to soften. I really don’t like that technique, even though it works. I love vinegar, so I just add a lot of vinegar to the bread before completing the salad. Also, my bread was only a couple of days old, and not stale. I could have dried it out in the oven, but I was fine with the bread as is. Some people grill the bread first before slicing it, but I personally don’t like this option because grilled bread can really tear up the roof of my mouth. But as you can see, there are many options

note: If you have leftover bread but don’t want panzanella, throw it in a food processor and make bread crumbs! They freeze really well.