Q. I don’t cook much but would like to bring something besides supermarket potato salad when I go to “everybody bring something” parties. I tried the avocado and corn salad recipe you wrote about and would like to have more recipes like that one.
A. Try a panzanella, a little or no-cook side made with tomatoes, stale bread and imagination. The bread soaks up the tomato juice and the olive oil dressing and is simple yet delicious. Plus, it is a great way to use up very soft tomatoes and stale bread and cut back on food waste.
I saw a tweet recently by the Food Network that featured Giada De Laurentiis’ panzanella salad, and was reminded of how much I love this dish. It was always a part of summer outdoor gatherings of my big Italian family (my father had nine sisters and a brother, so with cousins it ran to dozens of us). The panzanella was never the same twice, because it was made with what was ripe and what was in the fridge, and embellishments depended upon which cook made it and whether the budget was flush or tight.
My grandfather always added anchovies or sardines, crushed red pepper and oil-cured black olives. My mom went with shavings of fresh mozzarella and perhaps ceci beans. Sometimes there was fresh corn kernels or marinated artichokes, cherry peppers or dandelion greens. You see where you can take this?
Google panzanella and you’ll find a hundred variations on the theme, yet I can just about guarantee no one else will show up with this at your next potluck. I like De Laurentiis’ version for its grilled bread and artichokes, but you certainly don’t have to be a slave to any recipe.
Another standby I take to cookouts and barbecues is some variation on chimichurri sauce, which can perk up everything from an overdone hamburger to a supermarket rotisserie offering. Of course it is usually destined to marinate a steak, but as a topping it really shines. You can make it in minutes, and you can and should make it in advance.
The recipe here is one I got from Texas de Brazil and is not fiery but has a kick. You can up the heat, if you prefer, by adding hot pureed hot chiles, or leave out the red pepper for those who don’t like it.
These Fourth of July shortcakes are super easy for your holiday gatherings. They are kicked up with a spicy bite of ginger and cinnamon, and take advantage of summer’s berries with little effort — about 10 minutes prep time and another 10 in the oven. If you aren’t watching your fat intake you can make it with regular biscuit mix, and I always go for real whipped cream.
Q. In the recipe (in last week’s column) for eggplant escabeche, should the eggplant be peeled? It sounds like a good dish.
A. I should have explained that Japanese eggplants have a thin skin that does not need peeling and in fact the skin provides nasunin, a powerful antioxidant. Japanese eggplants are long and thin, have few seeds, and the flesh is less bitter, so no pre-salting before cooking is necessary either.
Tried and New
▪ Looking for new options for meatless protein? Hummusphere takes beans to a whole new flavor level by smoking hummus — without liquid smoke. It has nearly half the calories because there is no added oil, and tahini is the only fat source in most flavors. There are five varieties: Classic Traditional, Black Bean with or without jalapeño, Fire-Roasted Red Pepper and Thai Coconut Curry.
In an informal taste test, the black bean got the most votes from those who don’t like heat, while the curry flavor took top marks for its bold spicing. Available at The Fresh Market for about $4 for a 10-ounce container. Find more locations at hummusphere.com.
▪ Stouffer’s has rolled out a line of high-protein frozen meals aimed at “home alone” men who want heartier but still-healthy portions. There are 25 to 36 grams of protein per serving, an emphasis on complex carbs, and 250 to 410 calories per serving. The line includes six flavors: steak fajita, cilantro-lime chicken with black beans, turkey Monterey, bourbon steak with chipotle, and roast chicken with diced red-skin potatoes and a savory wine sauce. Suggested retail is $3.99.
Send questions and responses to LindaCiceroCooks@aol.com or Food, The Miami Herald, 3511 NW 91st Ave., Doral, FL 33172.
Fourth of July Spiced Shortcakes
2 cups sliced strawberries
1 cup blueberries
1 cup raspberries
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 1/2 cups reduced fat baking mix
3 tablespoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
6 tablespoons fat-free milk
2 cups thawed fat-free whipped topping or fresh whipped cream
Prepare the filling: Mix berries and vanilla in large bowl. Mix sugar, cinnamon and ginger in small bowl. Sprinkle over berries; toss to coat well. Let stand 30 minutes to allow berries to release their juices, stirring occasionally.
Shortcakes: Heat oven to 425 degrees. Coat a cookie sheet with no-stick cooking spray. Mix baking mix, sugar, cinnamon and ginger in large bowl. Add milk; stir to form a soft dough. (If necessary, knead dough in bowl to incorporate dry ingredients.) Drop dough by 6 even scoops onto baking sheet.
Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown. Cool slightly on wire rack. To serve, split warm shortcakes. Place 1 shortcake bottom on each plate. Top each with 2/3 cup berry filling and 1/3 cup whipped topping. Cover with shortcake tops. Makes 6 servings.
Per serving: 261 calories (12 percent from fat), 3.5 g fat, (0.8 g saturated fat, 1.5 g monounsaturated), 5 mg cholesterol, 4.3 g protein, 55 g carbohydrates, 4 g fiber, 351 mg sodium.
Source: Adapted from a McCormick & Co. recipe.
Chimichurri Marinade and Sauce
1/2 cup of chopped parsley
1/4 cup of chopped cilantro
1 cup of olive oil
1/4 cup of lemon juice
2 tablespoons fresh chopped garlic
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon crushed red pepper
Salt to taste
Whisk ingredients together or pulse in a food processor if desired. Use as a marinade for beef and chicken or as a sauce for the meat after it is grilled. May be refrigerated for about 2 weeks. Makes about 2 cups.
Per tablespoon: 62 calories (96 percent from fat), 6.8 g fat, (1 g saturated fat, 5 g monounsaturated), 0 mg cholesterol, 0 g protein, 0.5 g carbohydrates, 0 g fiber, 10 mg sodium.
Source: Adapted from a recipe from Texas de Brazil.
3 cups 1 1/2-inch-cubed whole-wheat bread
1 (10-ounce) package frozen artichoke hearts, thawed (about 2 cups)
2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more for seasoning
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more for seasoning
3 large red tomatoes, cut into wedges (about 2 pounds)
1 cup pitted black olives, halved
3/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves (about 1 bunch)
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
Place a grill pan over medium-high heat or preheat a gas or charcoal grill. Drizzle the bread and artichoke hearts with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill the bread and artichokes until golden brown at the edges, about 6 minutes total, turning every 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the bread and artichokes from the grill and transfer to a large bowl.
Add the tomatoes, olives and basil to the bowl and toss to combine. In a small bowl, stir together the olive oil, white wine vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Drizzle the dressing over the salad. Toss to combine and serve immediately. Serves 6.
Per serving: 328 calories (72 percent from fat), 27 g fat, (3.8 g saturated fat, 19.3 g monounsaturated), 0 mg cholesterol, 4.1 g protein, 19.4 g carbohydrates, 6.8 g fiber, 482 mg sodium.
Source: Giada De Laurentiis, foodnetwork.com.