Sunday, August 21, 2016

Tomato and Olive Salad with Ricotta and Pesto in Roasted Red Peppers

Again for summer eating outdoors season comes this recipe from Food and Wine magazine. Now I am not one to normally post recipes out of cooking magazines but I saw these in an article and thought that for a no carb and gluten free recipe it sounded really very tasty.

So I made it and it was good. However, I found the peppers on their own a little under dressed and underwhelming. So the second time I made these I dressed the peppers, tomatoes and olives with a basil based vinaigrette first and that helped to perk them up and amp up the luxe taste of this dish. We learned all about how a dressing can make everything better with the "Crack Dressing recipe"

They could not be simpler to make. You roast red pepper halves till softish. Then make a tomato and olive salad that you dress heavily with a simple oil and vinaigrette made from olive oil, dried basil, red wine vinegar and salt and pepper. This you spoon into cooled red peppers and top with fresh ricotta cheese and pesto that I actually purchased in the pasta case of my store cause it was easier than buying everything to make pesto. Well and I was in a hurry. Just like a lot of you guys out there.

So here's what you need to make these:

3 good sized red peppers rubbed with a little olive oil and placed in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 25 to 30 minutes or until roasted and soft but not overdone. You need the peppers to still hold their shape.
16-18 cherry tomatoes sliced in half
10-12 Kalamata olives sliced in half
1/2 tsp dried basil mixed with about 4 tablespoons olive oil and 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, 1 teaspoon dijon mustard and some salt and pepper to taste. Then dress the tomatoes and olives with this.
Then once peppers come out of the oven and cool, divide the salad amongst the peppers
Spoon and big dollop of the ricotta cheese on and dress with pesto to taste.

That's it. So easy and it's very impressive. You'll seem very fancy if you serve these which is why I did it. Cause who wants a plain Jane dinner right.

Enjoy making these for your family and friends and enjoy a little vegetable magic with your summer.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Roasted Chicken Thighs with Artichoke Squash Relish and Walnut Tomato Pesto Sauce

OK it's Summer Grilling and chilling time. I have a recipe for you that will make you very fancy the next time you entertain or just want to get dinner onto the table for your family.

Summer time is a time for grilling and relaxing and using the vegetables that are around. Yellow squash is one of my favorites and it can really add color and flavor.

The nice thing about this meal is it can be served room temperature as well as warm. You also have the choice of roasting the chicken in the oven if you don't want to make it on the grill so it's a dish that could be changed up with various seasonal ingredients and customized all year long.

Here we go. Chicken thighs, yes thighs, better taste and so much more forgiving than their white meat counterparts. And they still are cheaper.

Next vegetables are on the order. Here we are using frozen artichoke hearts and fresh yellow squash cut up into triangles. These were roasted and then used to top the dish. During the year you could use any vegetables mushrooms, brussel spouts or pearl onions and peas. Vary it up.

Then there's the base. Roasted Tomato Walnut pesto sauce. This is the stuff. Walnuts, basil, cheese, tomatoes garlic, and olive oil. Whipped into a fantastic pesto it really makes the flavor of this dish over the top.

Tomato and Walnut Pesto

1 1/2 pint summer fresh grape tomatoes
1 cup bunch of fresh basil
1 cup of oven roasted walnuts
3/4 cups grated Parmesan cheese
Worcestershire sauce
3 cloves minced garlic
Italian Herb salt
Good quality Olive Oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice

Place tomatoes on a baking tray toss with olive oil and Italian herb salt and roast for 30 mins in a 350 degree oven,
Place cheese, the tomatoes, walnuts,  basil leaves, two big shakes of worcestershire, garlic, and lemon juice in a small food processor and process adding oil slowly about 1/2 cup till a thick paste forms, add water a bit at a time till the sauce is loose and spoonable.  Taste and add salt till it's nicely salted.


12 Chicken thighs

Place chicken in a zip lock bag and add olive oil Italian herbs salt and lemon pepper. Allow to marinate about 3 to 4 hours.

Place on a baking sheet and roast in a 350 degree oven for about 45 mins or grill till done,


Take vegetables of your choice. Here I used 1 bag of frozen artichokes and 2 small yellow squash chopped into wedges. one small red onion chopped into wedges. Toss with olive oil and
Italian season salt and roast for 350 till soft and caramelized. Remove from oven toss with chives


Spoon the pesto onto the bottom of a large serving platter. Shingle chicken onto the platter on top of the sauce. Mound vegetables over the chicken and dress with the parsley.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Buccatini With Walnut Tomato Pesto, Blistered Tomatoes and Fresh Basil

Summer Pastas are a really joy to eat. They are lighter than their Winter counterparts and given the gorgeous produce available at this time of year any number of ingredients can be pulled into the mix.

This dish is a riff on a pasta dish which is well known in Italy.  It relies on very traditional flavors mixed in with the richness of nuts, cheese and oil. Walnut pesto is a rich different sauce compared to regular pesto which is made with pine nuts, Parmesan cheese, basil, garlic and olive oil.

My walnut pesto includes California black walnuts instead of pine nuts and oven roasted grape tomatoes in addition to a smaller amount of basil, Parmesan and olive oil.

The pasta is tossed right into the sauce along with oven roasted grape tomatoes and fresh basil leaves. and served up hot and fresh. It's actually kind of a decadent taste treat with a creamy depth of flavor yet including no dairy at all. I crave this pasta now that I've made it. It's that good.

So if you like pesto and walnuts give this a try. You won't be sorry.

Buccatini With Walnut Tomato Pesto, Blistered Tomatoes and Fresh Basil
Serves 6  

1 package Buccatini pasta
2 pints summer fresh grape tomatoes
1 large bunch of fresh basil
1 cup of oven roasted walnuts
3/4 cups grated Parmesan cheese
20 picked basil leaves
Worcestershire sauce
3 cloves minced garlic
Italian Herb salt
Good quality Olive Oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
More basil leaves picked for the dish
cold water
Parmesan for garnish

Place tomatoes on a baking tray toss with olive oil and Italian herb salt and roast for 30 mins in a 350 degree oven,
Place cheese, 1/2 of the tomatoes, walnuts, 20 basil leaves, two big shakes of worcestershire, garlic, and lemon juice in a small food processor and process adding oil slowly about 1/2 cup till a thick paste forms, add water a bit at a time till the sauce is loose and spoonable.  Taste and add salt till it's almost too salted. On the pasta it won't taste so salty.
Cook pasta 7 mins till just al dente reserve a cup of pasta water
Toss with the sauce in a large bowl adding enough pasta water to make sure the sauce coats the pasta and is creamy.
Divide between 6 bowls and top with the remaining tomatoes and some basil leaves
Garnish with Parmesan cheese and serve immediately

Saturday, July 2, 2016

French Style Avocado Foccacia Toasts

I love avocados in the summertime. I mean what's not to like about them. They are the basis for Guacamole which has got to be one of the best things ever. They are smooth and rich and buttery tasting, and have the most wonder ability to compliment a variety of starchy foods.

In Food and Wine Magazine, one of the contributors talked about avocado toasts with sea salt and red pepper flakes. He explained that the simplicity of the grilled bread with the rich and picante flavor of the mashed ripe avocado was the highlight of his dinner party. Well he was right on. I tried this delectable recipe and I have to say it was good.

Now toasted bread is perhaps one the greatest things in the world as far as I am concerned! Toasted bread is crispy, crunchy, warm and can be savory or sweet, It can be topped with anything from butter and jam or vegetables to melted cheese. It is in short the most wonderful vehicle for savoring a variety of foods.

So next time you are having people over make a little effort and try this instead of the old chips and dip. It will elevate your dinning experience a notch or two and make your guests so happy. So enjoy, Ya'll!

French Style Avocado Foccacia Toasts
serves 4

4 small to medium ripe but not over ripe avocados
Maldon Sea Salt ( or other course flaky sea salt)
1 to 2  teaspoons red pepper flakes depending on your heat level ( plus more for garnish)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
VERY good quality finishing olive oil about 1 1/2 tablespoons
Sliced radish as garnish
Fresh lemon pepper grinder for garnish

Method for the Avocado:

Mash the avocados in a bowl till creamy with just a little chunk left then add sea salt flakes to taste and red pepper flakes to taste.
Add a small bit of the olive oil and the lemon juice and stir together till creamy and combined
hold on the side.

Method for Rosemary Toasts:

Foccacia Bread loaf
Good butter at room temp
olive oil
rosemary flavored oil
Maldon Sea Salt

Cut bread into rectangular pieces which are about 4 inches by 2 inches
Slather one side with butter
Place enough olive oil in a skillet till the bottom is lightly coated
Turn on heat to med high
When very hot place the bread butter side down in the pan and allow to cook till toasted and browned
Turn over and let grill till the other side is toasty
Drizzle the rosemary oil over the bread (not too much or it will taste soapy) and sprinkle with the sea salt

To Assemble:

Place toasts on a plate and top with the avocado spread. Drizzle with really good olive oil, red pepper flakes and top with pieces of sliced radish.
Sprinkle with Maldon salt flakes and ground lemon pepper

Enjoy ya'll

Friday, July 1, 2016

Crack Salad Recipe or The Famous Greek Country Salad

Ok...Ok,  I know I promised I would post this after posting the dressing. So just in time for the fourth of July festivities I give you the best salad that you will ever put out at a cookout and have your guests ooh and ah over.

The secret to this is really the dressing. It's the all American Vinaigrette that's pretty unstoppable. ( see post:
However, the salad itself really is the most incredible recipe you can have in your back pocket to impress guests. And now I'm going to give it to you.

I have been making this salad for years, I make this salad for a crowd. It's a large recipe. Feeds 8 to 10.  It's really ideal for a party. But make it at the risk of always having people ask for it. I've made it for 2 Christmas parties at my Mother's home for a large group of people.  I'm telling you it's actually been requested  every year including again this year for the next party. That's how good it is.

Ok the hype sounds like a lot. And maybe it is. What is crack salad? Well it's essentially a Greek panzanella salad. Lot's of things chopped up into similar sized cubes and tossed with bread croutons. But it's got few unique ingredients and the famous crack dressing that take it from good to amazing.

Forrest's Famous Greek Country Salad (aka. Crack Salad) 

(recipe can be doubled or tripled for a crowd)


1 1/2 cups Greek feta cheese cubed into small dice (1/2 cup reserved on the side for garnish)
2 cups grape tomatoes halved or roma tomatoes seeded and diced small
1 1/2 cups small persian cucumbers diced small
1 1/2 cups sugar snap peas sliced in small pieces
1 cup finely diced red onion
1 cup Greek kalamata olives finely diced up in small pieces
1 1/2 cups eggplant diced and fried up in oil then cooled down
1 cup corn kernels (can be frozen or canned if fresh is not available)
3 1/2 cups slightly crushed croutons ( good quality like Trader Joe's or homemade)
1/4 cup chives chopped finely
2 cups of crack dressing (you might not need it all)


Add everything into a big bowl and toss together to combine the toss with enough dressing to coat well and thickly but not over dressed. Garnish with extra feta on top.

Be the hero. Enjoy the compliments.

Pesto & California Black Olive Orzo Pasta Salad

Pasta Salad is an unsung hero of the picnic cookout season. There are a lot of bad pasta salad recipes out there overly dressed and full of all types of crazy ingredients. Sometimes those are fun, but I prefer a simpler recipe as a side dish to accompany delicious grilled meats and fish.

This is a very simple salad. Creamy classic gorgeous green pesto is stirred into hot pasta with California black olives, cheese, a spoonful of Mayonaise that adds just a hint of creamy and lots of chives for color and flavor.

It's served at room temperature and it's a nice mild background to your BBQ meats and other creations. Enjoy this holiday weekend and all Summer long.

Pesto & California Black Olive Orzo Pasta Salad

8 oz. of dried Orzo pasta
1 to 1 1/2 cup pesto ( homemade or store bought fresh not the jarred type)
2 6 oz cans sliced California black olives
1 heaping tablespoon Mayonaise
1 cup shedded Asiago cheese
1/4 cup freshly chopped chives
Salt and pepper to taste

Easy Homemade Pesto

2 cup fresh leaves of basil
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
4 cloves of garlic
3/4 cup toasted pine nuts (or walnuts or pecans)
1 3/4 cups olive oil
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2 cups grated parmesan cheese
1 1/2 teaspoons salt

Puree the herbs and garlic and pine nuts in the food processor and slowly blend in the oil with food processor running
Add the nutmeg and the cheese and salt
Blend till combined and bright green

To make the Pasta Salad

Boil the pasta and drain
Add the pesto to the pot and stir to combine while still warm ( This will change the color of the pesto but will also flavor the pasta)
Stir in the mayo
Add the Olives
Add the cheese and add most of the chives leaving a few as garnish
Season with salt and pepper
Garnish with remaining chives

Sitr well to combine and let sit to meld the flavors for a few hours in the fridge
Serve at room temperature
Enjoy Ya'll

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Crack Salad Dressing Recipe: All American Vinaigrette

As we approach the 4th of July I offer up this Summer recipe special.

There are salad dressings and there are salad dressings. I mean think about all the restaurant and restaurant chain salad dressings that you have either experienced personally or have had friends rave about. Dressings that have spawned internet searches and questions to waiters and copy cat posts all over the web.

So I'm throwing my hat on the ring. This dressing is one that everyone should make. It's a definite winner with any kind of Greek salad with salty feta and kalamata olives and to be honest it's best in the "Crack Salad" I will post later.

But this dressing is just good and I've tried it in very many salads. Mixed it into mexican bean salads with Mexican cheese and added it to pasta sauce.  I've also stirred it into forbidden black rice for a delicious side dish. It's an umami bomb and when mixed with the right ingredients it becomes unstoppably good.

It's a play on a vinaigrette with an all American ingredient which takes it over the top. But no one will know it's in there. So make it, and watch the smiles spread as people taste it on your salad of choice.

All American Vinaigrette "aka Crack Dressing"

2 small shallots
1/2 cup really good sherry vinegar
2 cups picked fresh oregano ( must be fresh)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
big pinch of salt and pepper
2 cups good quality olive oil
3 heaping tablespoons or so French's Yellow Mustard ( Must be French's)

Place shallots and vinegar in a food processors and pulse till minced
Add oregano and pulse till smooth paste
add lemon juice and salt and pepper and pulse
With motor running slowly add the olive oil till combined
Add mustard 1 tablespoon at a time pulsing till the dressing is emulsified
Add mustard ( Note: You may use it all or not use it all. You might need a little more but till you can taste the oil is balanced out and the dressing is smooth and tangy tasting keep adding. You'll taste it when it's sharp and perfect but not overly mustardy. You don't want that.)