Kitchen-Sink Panzanella

I’ve spent the past two days walking around on institutional carpeting and listening to panels discuss things like “dynamism” while wearing a plastic name tag the size of my head.  Is it just me, or is there a kind of crippling, low-level horror and humiliation that underlies all work-related interactive events?  They’re always vaguely reminiscent of that episode of The Office (the real one) where they’re at a training conference and David Brent wildly misses the point of the role-playing exercise (“There’s been a rape up there!”).

In any case, last night I had originally planned to make a full meal involving roasted skin-on chicken breasts, new potatoes and panzanella (which is an Italian salad made up of bread, tomatoes and other veggies).  Tim was out for the evening though, and when I got home the chicken didn’t seem all that appealing (nor the process of actually having to cook it).  So I just incorporated the potatoes into the salad instead.

Kitchen-Sink Panzanella

(The potatoes aren’t in the picture because I added them into the salad at the last minute).

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  Ingredients:

  • Cooking spray
  • Loaf of sourdough bread (or any country-style loaf)
  • 1/2 up feta cheese, cubed
  • 1 medium fennel bulb, thinly sliced
  • 10 cherry or grape tomatoes, halved (or 2 larger tomatoes, chopped)
  • 1/4 cup red onion, sliced
  • 1/2 cup red/orange/yellow bell peppers, thinly sliced
  • 1 dill pickle, finely chopped
  • 1 fresh chili pepper, fine dice
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 cup cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 cups new potatoes, halved or quartered
  • 1 tbsp light mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp sriracha
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 1 tbsp dijon mustard
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Instructions:

For bread cubes, preheat oven to 400.  Remove crust from loaf, then cut loaf into cubes about 1-2 inches square.  Place bread cubes on tray, spray with cooking spray, and toast in oven 6-8 minutes or until lightly brown and beginning to crisp.  Remove from oven and set aside.

For potatoes, place halved/quartered potatoes on a lightly oiled tray and spray with cooking spray.  Sprinkle with chopped rosemary, salt & pepper.  Add to 400 degree oven and roast for 20-25 minutes, stirring once or twice to ensure even roasting.  Put mayo and sriracha in a small bowl, then add hot potatoes and stir until potatoes are lightly coated.  Set aside.

For dressing, combine vinegar, water, mustard, garlic and sugar in a small bowl.  Add oil in a slow stream, whisking constantly to emulsify.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  (Or, put all the dressing ingredients in an old jam jar and shake to combine/emulsify).

To assemble salad, put tomatoes in a large bowl, salt aggresively &  leave for ten minutes or so to let juices start to flow.  Then place the rest of the sliced/chopped veggies in with tomatoes, along with pickles, parsley, chili, beans, cheese, and toasted bread cubes.  Drizzle with dressing and stir to combine. 

To serve, put 2 cups of salad in each bowl and top with 1/2 cup of spicy potatoes.  Garnish with fennel fronds.

Sunday-Night Asian Inspired: Pork Banh Mi & Coconut Curry Soup

I first learned about banh mi three or four years ago when it was still somewhat novel (at least in Toronto).  Nowadays you can hardly walk half a block in any direction without falling over about fifty places selling these delectable Vietnamese sannies.

I make no claims of authenticity with the recipe below; however, it does contain all the main flavors and textures that make banh mi what it is – salty pork, crunchy pickled vegetables, a slick of creamy mayo, and tons of fresh cilantro.  We enjoyed it with a spicy coconut curry soup.

Pork Tenderloin Banh Mi 

  • Ingredients:
    • 1 soft white baguette
    • 1 roast pork tenderloin (recipe here)
    • 2-3 carrots, shredded
    • 1/2 daikon, shredded
    • 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
    • 1/4 cup sugar
    • 1/2 cup red onion, thinly sliced
    • 1 cup cilantro, coarsely chopped
    • 4 tbsp light mayo
    • 1 tsp sweet chili sauce
    • 1.5 tsp sriracha
    • 4 tbsp liverwurst (or other paté – we used a country pork paté because that’s what we had)

Instructions:

Combine shredded carrot, shredded daikon, rice wine vinegar and sugar and let the mixture sit for at least 30 mins to an hour.  Mix mayo with sweet chili sauce and sriracha.  To assemble sandwiches, divide baguette into four sections and cut each in half lengthwise.  Spread 1 tbsp of paté on bottom half of each sandwich.  Top with sliced pork tenderloin, then 1/4 cup of pickled vegetables, red onion slices, and cilantro.  Spread 1 tbsp of mayo mixture on top slice and set on top.  Cut each sandwich in half and serve with coconut curry soup.

Coconut Curry Soup

  • Ingredients:
    • 1 tbsp cooking oil
    • 2 green onions, white & light green parts chopped
    • 1 can light coconut milk
    • 1.5 cups chicken stock
    • 3-4 slices of fresh ginger
    • 3 stalks lemongrass
    • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro
    • 2 tsp fish sauce
    • 1.5 tbsp sugar
    • 1 tbsp thai red curry paste
    • 1 tbsp lime zest
    • 4 tbsp lime juice
    • Salt to taste

Instructions:

To prep, cut the ends off the lemongrass stalks and peel off tough outer leaves.  Chop tender interior, then crush with a mortor & pestle to release juices.  Make a little pouch out of a piece of cheesecloth and insert crushed lemongrass and sliced ginger – tie with string to make a little bag (or a “bouquet garni”).  Chop chiles (remove seeds if you want to decrease the spice factor). 

Crush them with a mortor & pestle and set aside.  Drain tofu by placing between paper towel and placing a heavy object on top (or by using a tofu press if you’re fancy enough to have one, which I’m not).  When tofu is drained, cut into bite-size pieces and set aside.

Heat oil over medium heat in a wok (if you have one – I don’t, so just used a big soup pot).  Add green onions and cook, stirring, 2-3 minutes or until onions are soft.  Add 3/4 of the can of coconut milk, all the chicken stock, the lime zest, and the bouquet garni, and bring to a boil. 

Add fish sauce, sugar, and red curry paste.  Reduce heat to low and simmer gently for 8-10 minutes.  Remove from heat and add last 1/4 cup of coconut milk, stirring to combine.  To serve, put several bite-size pieces of tofu, 1 tbsp chopped chiles, and 1 tbsp lime juice in each bowl.  Ladle soup on top, then add 1/4 cup chopped cilantro.  Serve with sriracha on the side.

White Bean Grilled Cheese Sandwiches With Prosciutto

My little brother used to think grilled cheese was pronounced girl cheese, and he always insisted that my mother make sure his sandwich was a boy cheese.  I guess as someone with three older sisters, he had enough dumb girls in his life that he certainly didn’t need any girl cheeses too.

Anyway – I recently came across a grilled cheese sandwich recipe that I’m completely in love with because it not only makes the sandwich taste better, it makes it healthier too.  The recipe I use is an adaptation of this recipe by Tina Haupert, whose blog Carrots ‘n Cake is one I read all the time.

White Bean Grilled Cheese Sandwiches with Prosciutto

  • 1 can cannellini beans, drained & rinsed
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 4 slices whole-grain bread
  • Baby spinach
  • Prosciutto
  • Swiss & parmesan cheese (I used this combo, but I think a sharp cheddar and/or Gruyere might actually taste better)
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil

Puree beans, garlic, mustard, lemon juice, and thyme in a blender until smooth.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Spread a thin layer of bean mixture on both sides of each sandwich.  Top one side with cheese, followed by 1 piece of prosciutto, and a few spinach leaves.  Place second piece of bread on top, bean-side down.  Heat a teaspoon of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat.  Add sandwiches and cook for 3-4 minutes, or until first side of sandwich is brown.  Flip sandwiches, turn heat to low, and cover skillet until second side is brown and cheese is melted, about 3 minutes longer.

We ate our sandwiches with a fresh tomato-mint salad.

The thyme-y white bean spread adds a kind of grown up earthy sophistication to these simple sandwiches.  The best part, though, is that you can put in about half as much cheese as you otherwise would need because the bean spread tricks you into thinking you’re dealing with something oozier and cheesier than you really are.

I used a combination of swiss and parmesan cheeses, which turned out pretty well.  I think next time I’d use something a bit sharper, though, like old cheddar or Gruyere.

Overall, though, it was a crunchy, gooey, satisfying dinner.