When my best friend Kristin studied abroad in Greece the summer before our senior year of college, she came back obsessed with Greek salads. I never really got it, because Greek salads in America are all canned olives, sub par feta, and probably contain lettuce and some kind of funky dressing. Well…Tim and I just got back from Greece, and I totally get it now. I am obsessed, I can’t get enough, I’ve had Greek salad (and only Greek salad) for dinner three nights in a row.
While we don’t have a Greek market in Paso, I have found olives and feta at the grocery store, and they have been more than acceptable (though still subpar to their official Greek counterparts). The trick is, apparently, to just buy the most expensive olives and feta that you can find. I think this Greek salad habit is going to get pricey…
The Greek word for what we call Greek Salad translates into “House Salad,” and as such, we had it prepared in many different ways. With green peppers and without, Feta crumbled or sliced or cubed, with parsley or without, already dressed or served with oil on the side… The salad in the bottom right photo was topped with capers (still attached to their leaves) that the owner had picked and jarred himself – they were amazing!
I made this delicious warm pasta salad right before we left for Europe, thinking that I’d get a little Greek going on before we got there (feta, seafood, lemon, herbs…). If vacation turns out the way I’ve imagined it, I might be eating something just like this as you are reading – probably something even better.
I adapted this salad from this Ina Garten recipe. She developed the salad to be served cold, but my version was delicious hot (and cold as well – the leftovers are amazing!). A few changes: I used grilled zucchini instead of raw cucumber, and left out the dill and red onion (I realize all of these changes make it less Greek…that’s okay). I halved the original recipe and, even with three people, we had a ton of leftovers.
I hated, hated wasabi for years. When it accidently touched my sushi it would be a disappointment. When chefs felt the need to use it as a Frites dip I saw it as a waste. The taste of it ruined my life (dramatic? me?) until a sneaky sushi chef in San Diego hid fresh wasabi in my halibut sushi. It was life-changing! Such pure flavor, such a sinus-clearing heat! I finally saw the appeal of that wasabi business – people were just trying to make due when they couldn’t get the best (fresh wasabi, I have later discovered, is the best). And it turns out, there are actually some decent wasabi pastes out there, not that I care anymore because I love it all.
This little salad/appetizer embodies my declaration of love for wasabi. It is the fabulous Eric Ripert’s recipe, from the beautiful Avec Eric book, and I am officially adding it to my mental list of absolute favorite recipes.
I have exciting news! We Olive, a great olive oil shop with a location here in Paso Robles, recently hosted a Facebook contest. To enter, you had to submit a recipe that featured California Olive Oil – not too hard to do for me, given the obsession with Pasolivo Olive Oil in this household. I submitted one of my very favorite recipes, Burrata and Heirloom Tomato Panzanella……and I was selected as a finalist! That means I won a $100 gift certificate to We Olive as well as a great prize package centered around the Paso Robles Olive Oil Festival, which my mom and I have attended together every year since it started eight years ago!
If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you might know that I posted a Panzanella recipe last summer. I am going to post the winning recipe here, because this recipe is new and improved with a better way of preparing the croutons – it makes a huge difference!
Due to the bizarre weather we are having this year, I don’t feel too guilty posting this recipe so late in the season. While some tomato crops are well past their prime, some are just starting to come to fruition – WEIRD! If you’re one of the lucky ones who still has tomatoes on the vines, you need to introduce them to burrata before it’s too late!
If you haven’t had burrata before, please run to your nearest cheese shop and grab a tub. Burrata is a fresh mozzarella ball filled with mozzarella “rags” (pieces) and cream. It can be made with cow or buffalo milk, and it is creamy, silky, and buttery. It has a short shelf life and needs to be used within a couple days of being made. It is fabulous with crackers, crusty bread, tomatoes, basil, peaches, olive oil, or a combination of all of these…or just by itself (shh…I won’t tell!).
So I got my wisdom tooth out this morning! I only had one, which is on the rare side. Did you know you can get FIVE? Oh my gosh…I woke up from a long nap this morning and started to cry because it hurt so badly…I don’t think I’d be able to handle more than one! Anyway, Brian took fabulous care of me and I basically just slept all day…so all in all, I survived.
If you’ve ever had any kind of surgery or been put under anesthesia, you know there are some rules. You can’t drink any alcohol the night before, which is a HUGE bummer when you’re nervous and just want a simple glass of wine! You also can’t eat or drink anything for a varying amount of time the night before – I couldn’t eat from midnight on.
Because I always think about food and don’t like being hungry, I knew I needed a nice filling dinner. Heidi Swanson at 101 Cookbooks had just posted this recipe for Autumn Potato Salad, so using that as an inspiration, I came home from class and got roasting!
Fun fact: I had never tried a parsnip before last night. They’re good! Reminded me of a combination of a yucca and a plaintain…weird I know!
I know making a Caprese Salad is probably nothing new to you. There are probably millions of recipes just like this; I know you’ve seen probably 6,000 photos that look just like these.
Let us not forget that Caprese Salad is a perfect light snack. It is a perfect summer appetizer. It is a perfect sandwich filling, spread out between a nice loaf of crusty bread. It can be chopped. In its skewered cherry tomato and Ciliegine (cherry-sized) mozzarella form, it becomes the cutest appetizer ever. It can fill a small dish or an entire bowl. It is healthy – tomatoes and olive oil are wonderful for your body, and fresh mozzarella is low-calorie and low-fat compared to many cheeses.
You get the idea – it’s versatile, and I’ve never met anyone who didn’t like it. Let’s begin.