Saturday, June 7, 2008

Balsamic Ham and Salami Panino

According to Wikipedia: A panino is a sandwich made from a small loaf of bread, typically a ciabatta (an Italian white bread). The bread is cut horizontally and filled with salami, ham, meat, cheese or other food and sometimes served hot. A grilled panino is buttered on the outside and grilled in a press.

Even though I used French bread, I'm calling this a Balsamic Ham and Salami Panino.

  • Turn the heat to medium high and put the bread face-down on the grill to warm while you slice red peppers and part of a purple onion.
  • When the grill is hot, saute the veggies in extra virgin olive oil. When the veggies are tender, move them to the side and throw on the salami and ham.
  • As the meat warms I sprinkle it all with Janz and toss it together with tongs to mix the flavors. Add a splatter of Balsamic Vinegar just before you put the sandwich together.
To build the sandwich:
  1. Start with slices of Provolone on both halves of the warm bread
  2. Put strips of pepper and onion on top of the cheese
  3. Add layers of salami and ham
  4. Splatter the grill with a little more olive oil if needed and put the sandwich together on hot grill
  5. Press with a sandwich press* if you have one. If you don't have a press, use the bottom of another iron skillet.
  6. When bottom of sandwich is brown, turn and press the other side. You'll know it's done when the cheese starts to drip down and sizzle on the grill.
  7. Serve with additional Balsamic Vinegar for dipping.

*My "sandwich press" is actually a bacon press. I bought it new a few years ago. I think it just cost $3-4 at the time.

Sort of a Reuben—but not really

The only thing like a Reuben about this is the sauerkraut.
And it's grilled.
And it's good.

Turn the burner to the high end of medium before you start and the grill, or skillet, will be hot and ready when you are.

Here's what I had on hand:
  • Dark 100% whole wheat bread
  • Stone Ground Dijon Mustard
  • Provolone Cheese
  • Deli Sliced Pastrami
  • Sauerkraut, squeeze out all the liquid before adding it to the top
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil sprayed on the bread and on the grill
The press is optional, but it will smoosh all the layers together and melt the cheese into the pastrami on the bottom and the sauerkraut on top.


PS. The next day I wanted another one of these but was out of pastrami and provolone. I substituted Mozzarella cheese and deli ham and it was just as good but in a different way.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Pastrami, Salami, Balsamic Sandwich

This hearty filling sandwich was for my 18-year-old son so I loaded it with a huge pile of pastrami, salami, red pepper, red onion and seasoned it with Janz and a couple of vinegars—it was good to the last bite.

I start by turning on the heat under my handy dandy iron griddle. I cut a seasme seed hoagie in half and laid it flat on the grill to toast.

While the griddle and hoagie heat up, slice a chunk of red pepper into thin slivers and cut a few slices off a fat red onion and separate the rings onto the griddle with the red pepper. When the bread is slightly toasted remove it from the griddle and throw on the pepper and onion. Give it a splash of extra virgin olive oil and use tongs to toss it all together with a substantial dose of Janz Seasoning Blend and some red wine vinegar.

When the veggies are tender add the salami and pastrami to the pile and add more seasoning and red wine vinegar. When the meat is warm and browing splatter with Balsamic Vinegar and toss the meat and veggies again. Put the hoagie on top of the pile of meat to warm.

To prepare the sandwich, take the bread off the griddle and put slices of provolone cheese on the bread while it's still warm. Use the tongs to place the onion and peppers on top of the cheese then pile on the meat and top with more onions and pepper. Grate mozzarella cheese on top of the pile.

Turns out, this sandwich was gigantic and there was no way to smash it into a biteable layer. So I put it back on the griddle.
I did my best to poke all the insides between the layers of bread and then pressed it with an iron bacon press. I first spritzed the press with oil to keep it from sticking. A iron skillet would also work for this.

There was a stray red pepper, but when it was done, but after I flipped the sandwich to brown it on both sides, you could get your mouth around it.

Cut the sandwich into half and serve it with a small bowl of balsamic vinegar for dipping.

Pretty tasty!

Monday, June 2, 2008

Spicy Red Snapper with Mango Salsa


That's the only way to describe this recipe. And it's very easy!
With a substantial green salad it's easily a full meal.

The original recipe called for Red Snapper, but I've made it with Orange Roughy, Flounder, and most recently with Talapia.

It's as easy as 1-2-3.
  1. Start Rice
  2. Make Mango Salsa
  3. Bake Fish
Here are the details.

1. Start Rice

I generally use brown rice, which takes a bit longer to prepare. I use a rice steamer and follow the directions. I start the rice first, and the meal is usually ready to serve when the rice the steamer shuts off about 45 minutes later.

2. Make Mango Salsa

Combine in medium mixing bowl:
  • 1 mango peeled, seeded and chopped
  • 1 medium red pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1/4 C thinly sliced green onion
  • Variation: (in this version) 2 kiwi, peeled and diced
  • Optional: 1 Scotch bonnet, or hot green chili pepper, seeded and diced very fine. I usually use a Serrano Pepper or a couple of Jalapenos, but I've also thrown in a Habanero, just for kicks.
  • 2 T lime juice
  • 1 T vinegar
  • 1/2 t lime zest
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 1/4 t pepper
Stir together.
Just prior to serving stir in 2-3 T chopped cilantro.

3. Bake Fish
1 lb. Red Snapper, fresh or frozen (defrosted, of course)
Rinse, pat dry with paper towels.
Brush with 1 T lime juice, mixed with 1 T water.
Rub with Spicy Fish Seasoning*:
  • 1 t paprika
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1/4 t ginger
  • 1/4 t allspice
  • 1/4 t pepper
In shallow baking dish, bake uncovered in 450° oven until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork. Allow 4-6 minutes for each 1/2" of thickness.

To serve brush with pan juices and serve with Mango Salsa
Garnish with lime slices and cilantro.

To pull it all together, start with a pile of rice, add fish to the side and top it all with the mango salsa. Garnish with lime slices and cilantro.
Oh. My. Gosh.

IF there are leftovers I put it all together in a plastic container. Usually the fish is gone, but there might be rice and mango salsa left over. I'll eat the leftovers as a light snack within a day or so.

*After I realized how much I like this I made this Spicy Fish Rub in bulk and I keep it in a shaker bottle with my herbs and spices. It's always handy to sprinkle on fish to use in this recipe.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

A Simple Turkey Sandwich

As you can see, I put lots of color in my sandwiches the same as with my salads. Here's what's in this one from the bottom:
  • 100% whole wheat bread
  • Mayo
  • Deli sliced turkey
  • Tomato slices
  • Bread and butter pickles
  • Avocado
  • Spinach
  • Provolone Cheese

I read somewhere that the key to not overeating at mealtime is to be sure to eat something that "satiates." Some taste that is "just what you wanted." For me in a Simple Sandwich it's usually pickles.

If I make a plain sandwich with meat and cheese, then I'll want to eat a bag of chips to go with it. But if I add all the trimmings: specifically tomatoes and pickles, then I usually won't crave chips too.

I start with a thin layer of meat so I can add a healthy pile of veggies. When I make a Simple Sandwich for my son, I'll double the amount of turkey, and add a layer of deli ham before I start the vegetables. I would use 2 slices of cheese, one on top and one on the bottom. Optional additions to this sandwich could be, in no particular order:
  • Crispy Bacon
  • Ham
  • Spicy French or Catalina Salad Dressing
  • Romaine or other lettuce
  • Pimiento stuffed olives
  • Thin slices of red onion
  • Toasted bread

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Homemade Croutons and More

Croutons add a nice crunch to many salads, but I just can't bring myself to buy a box of croutons at the store. I mean, it's just toasted bread!
When I first investigated making my own, the recipes told me to cut my bread into cubes and fry it in a skillet of oil. Too much trouble, and too much oil! Over the past few years I've come up with my own technique that works for me—and for anyone else who's enjoyed one of my salads.

I start with French bread, the soft American kind from a grocery store works. Cut what you need into slices about 3/4 inch thick.
Arrange on a foil lined baking sheet. I use my toaster oven.
Coat with extra virgin olive oil—I use a spritzer bottle—and sprinkle with your favorite herbs. The seasoning could be as simple as plain garlic powder. I use my own mix of Janz Seasoning Blend.
Oil and season both sides of the bread before putting them in the oven.

Cooking temperatures vary for toaster ovens because the food is so close to the heat source, but for my current toaster oven, I usually turn the heat to just above 300° for croutons. A lower heat will yield dryer toast, but it takes longer.

When I can smell the croutons I'll check on them. When the top is hard to touch and starting to turn gold I'll turn them over so both sides will toast evenly. Leave them as long as it takes for the bread to dry all the way through. Break a piece in half to determine dryness. If it snaps apart, it's dry, but if it's still soft and tears instead of breaks, then it's not a crouton yet.

If the bread browns faster than it dries through, turn the heat down and leave it in a very low oven, as low as 200° if you have time. Eventually turn the oven off and leave the toast there to cool off slowly.

When the toast is totally cool—probably the next day—store it in a plastic bag. If you bag it before it's cooled to room temperature, the heat will continue to dissipate and the inside of the bag will sweat which softens up the toast you just spent all that time drying out. So don't be impatient to bag this up.

When I'm making a salad I'll take a couple of pieces of this seasoned, dried French toast and break it into bite-size pieces over the top of my salad. If I break it into crouton-sized pieces when I bag it, I found the pieces get smaller and smaller and there are lots of crumbs. Which leads to another use for this seasoned bread. Bread crumbs.

This technique creates some very tasty bread crumbs when you need them. Depending on what you're using them for, you can break them into small chunky pieces, pound them into crumbs, or put them in a food processor to make some really fine bread crumbs. Store any leftovers in the freezer for future use. I used these bread crumbs, along with my traditional cornbread in my turkey dressing last year, and it was a big hit! My mom even wanted the recipe—and she's the one who taught me how to make dressing!

Once you turn the toast over, you can top it with a variety of ingredients for a snack or appetizer. It makes a really tasty cheese bread, just top with your favorite cheese and turn the oven to broil until the cheese melts.
This is also how I made the bruschetta I mentioned a few days ago. It's also tasty to break it into somewhat larger chunks and dip into a marinara sauce for a different kind of snack.

I haven't priced store-bought croutons recently, but I get a lot more bang for my buck buying a loaf of French bread and making my own crouton toast than I would ever get out of a box.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Lucky 13 Lunch Salad

I came home for lunch yesterday and put together healthy green salad. I counted 13 ingredients, not counting the dressing, thus the name.
  • Lettuces and Spinach
    • Romaine & some stuff I don't know the name of from the "salad bowl" I bought at the Farmer's Market Saturday. (See below)
  • Red Cabbage
  • Strawberries
  • Zucchini
  • Yellow Squash
  • Red Pepper
  • Cilantro
  • Grated Hard Cheeses
  • Feta Cheese
  • Croutons
  • Cucumber
  • Almonds
  • Sunflower Seeds
  • Janz Sweet Balsamic Vinaigrette

You can see I tore up the green stuff, sliced the zucchini and yellow squash really thin. I didn't peel the squash, (I scrubbed them thoroughly since I wasn't going to peel them)but I did peel the cucumber. I sliced very thin layers from my red cabbage, and thin slivers from a red pepper.
The strawberries were HUGE, so they were quartered and then sliced.
The nuts are in a plastic bag in the freezer, so I just grabbed a handful for the top. The croutons were fresh, in my toaster over, so those topped everything off.

The strawberry is a very surprising addition to a green salads. I saw it somewhere about a year ago and really like the pop of tartness you get in the midst of the other ingredients. Of course the strawberries have to be fresh—frozen would be mushy—so I do this when they're in season. I've also used blackberries and blueberries. As I ate it I wondered about adding banana slices. It would have to be a firm banana, but I'll try that while I can still get fresh strawberries and see how it goes.

About the "Salad Bowl"

A vendor at the Cleveland County Farmer's Market sells pots full of mixed lettuces. This one was $2.50 I think. I put it on my porch on Saturday and let it get too dry and Sunday it was droopy and completely limp. Thank goodness a good soaking brought it back to life. We had a thunderstorm on Sunday night and on Monday it was back to full crispness.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Bacon Avocado Broccoli Salad

One day last week I was in the mood for some sweet bacon dressing so I made this salad. It's a salad that is usually made with spinach, but it worked with what I had on hand.
  • Romaine (torn in bite size pieces)
  • Red Onion (super thin slices)
  • Avocado (thin slices)
  • Hard Boiled Egg (thin slices)
  • Broccoli (bite-size flowerettes)
  • Bacon (cut, scissors work, in 1/2 inch pieces before cooking)
  • Cheese (hard cheese mix, grated)
The assembly is pretty obvious except for the delicious, but totally unhealthy dressing! Basic ingredients for the dressing are oil (bacon grease), sugar and vinegar.
I sprinkled granulated sugar in the hot bacon grease and whisked it to dissolve it. When the sugar was melted I added cider vinegar. I'm not sure, but I think the original recipe called for about equal parts of oil, sugar and vinegar. Once this mixture is blended, pull it from the heat and finish the salad assembly.

I finished building the salad and drizzled the dressing on top after I had the base assembled. Then I garnished it with the bacon and cheese. It was yummy!

Saturday, May 24, 2008


Bruschetta - or Fresh Tomatoes on Toast
I went to the farmer's market yesterday morning and found some really nice tomatoes. They were from Texas, but that was as close as I could get to "home grown" this early in the season. I was in the mood for a late night snack last night and the tomatoes sounded good so I decided to make bruschetta to take advantage of the fresh flavor.
Generically speaking, bruschetta is simply toasted bread, seasoned with olive oil and herbs, topped with tomato and cheese. It can be prepared on the grill or in the oven. Here's how I made this batch in a toaster oven.

  • French Bread
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil*
  • Herb Seasoning Blend*
  • Fresh Tomato*
  • Hard Cheese*
  • Avocado (optional, but yummy!)
  • Balsamic Vinegar*
  1. Slice French bread about 3/4 inch thick, and place on foil-lined toaster oven baking sheet. Coat both sides with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with herb seasoning.
  2. Toast at about 300°-325° just until tops start to turn golden brown then turn & toast the other side. (In a toaster oven close to the heat source this will just take 5 minutes or so.)
  3. When both sides are golden place slices of tomato on top of each slice of toast and sprinkle with more herbs. Top with grated hard cheese and return to the oven until cheese is melted.
  4. Remove from toaster oven and top with slices of avocado.
  5. Pour a thin layer of balsamic vinegar on serving plate and place bruschetta on the plate in the vinegar.
  6. Dig in.
*How tos:
  • To coat with extra virgin olive oil* pour the oil in a small condiment bowl and use a pastry brush to paint with oil. An easier way is to keep oil in a spritzer bottle and spray it on the bread slices. The spritz method also lets you use less oil if you're concerned about counting fat grams.
  • Basil is the herb* most frequently found in bruschetta recipes. Top tomato slices with fresh basil leaves or sprinkle with dried basil if you don't have a favorite herb blend you want to use. I've created my own herb mix, Janz Seasoning Blend, that I use on practically everything. Basil is one of the prominent flavors in this blend.
  • Some bruschetta recipes call for chopped tomatoes*. However I prefer slices so I don't lose any when I eat it. It much neater to eat if you don't have to worry about the tomatoes falling off when you take a bite.
  • I have a cheese grater that I fill with chunks of Parmesan, Asiago and Romano* cheeses. When I fill the grater with different cheeses I automatically get a cheese blend when I use it. Another cheese option is to slice thin slivers of Feta on top of tomatoes.
    By the way, cheese is the reason I line the baking sheet with foil. Small bits of baked cheese can be hard to clean. A foil liner can be tossed. Rinse the baking sheet and you're done.
  • In the past, I have "drizzled" balsamic vinegar* on the top of each piece prior to serving, but found it hard to "drizzle" and frequently ended up pouring vinegar over each piece. This obviously makes the toast soggy and the flavor can be overwhelming. Plan B has been to pour a bit of balsamic vinegar in a condiment bowl and serve it on the side for dipping. Last night it occurred to me to pour the vinegar on the serving plate before I pulled the toast from the oven. I placed the toast on the thin puddle on the plate and the bottom 1/8th inch of the toast soaked up the vinegar, just enough to provide flavor in every bite without making the toast soggy.
Unfortunately, I didn't think to take pictures before I ate this tasty snack. However, I still have a couple of fresh tomatoes and as soon as an avocado is ready, maybe tomorrow, I'll make it again and I'll add some pictures.

As I wrote this I looked up recipes for bruschetta and found some alternatives with white beans or prosciutto. I'll give those variations a try and share the results sometime soon.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

NHS Band Teacher Appreciation Salad

Janz Salad Basics
  • Green Leafy Stuff
    • Romaine
    • Green Leaf Lettuce
    • Cilantro
    • Italian Parsley
  • Bright Stuff
    • Red Pepper
    • Purple Onion
    • Red Cabbage
    • Strawberries
  • Other Stuff
    • Mushrooms
    • Feta Cheese
    • Hard Cheese Mix (Parmesan, Romano, Asiago)
  • Garnishes
    • Almonds
    • Sunflower Seeds
    • Homemade Croutons
To Assemble:
  1. Tear all green leafy stuff (lettuce, cilantro, parsley) put in a salad bowl.
  2. Slice cabbage, dice pepper, slice mushrooms and strawberries and crumbled Feta cheese into the salad.
  3. Sprinkle with sunflower seeds & slivered almonds.
  4. Break thick dry toasted seasoned French bread into bite-size croutons.
  5. Drizzle with with vinaigrette and toss.
Janz Sweet Balsamic Vinaigrette
  1. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  2. Balsamic Vinegar
  3. Honey Mustard
  4. Honey
  5. Janz Seasoning Blend
  6. Pepper
  7. Tabasco

This is one variation of Janz Sweet Balsamic Vinaigrette. I use the small jar in the photo to mix my dressings.
  • Start with about an inch of extra virgin olive oil
  • An inch of balsamic vinegar
  • A generous squeeze of honey mustard. Maybe a couple of teaspoons...
  • More honey, probably a tablespoon or so.
  • Add your favorite herbs, basil, oregano, garlic... ground herbs mix best
  • A splash of Tabasco
Put the lid on tight and shake well. I always hold it inside the sink just in case I have a mismatched lid and it leaks. I'd rather not sling oil all over my clothes, it never happens, unless I'm dressed for work and don't have time to change!

As to "your favorite herbs..." I've come up with my own blend of favorites that I call Janz Seasoning Blend. This is something I mix up every few months and use it in almost everything. It started out as equal parts of ground basil, oregano and garlic powder and now the ingredient list is as more or less follows: basil oregano, thyme, rosemary, savory, sage, onion powder, garlic powder, and marjoram. I usually use dried herbs and when I get it mixed and it smells right, I grind it into a very fine powder. I have a clean coffee grinder I use just for grinding herbs.

The fine powder seems to readily dissolve into a salad dressing. I also use it as seasoning for croutons. Before I came up with this seasoning concoction, I flavored homemade vinaigrette with basil, oregano, thyme... whatever herbs seemed to be right at the time. Let your taste buds be your guide if you don't have a favorite herb blend. Any leftover dressing can be refrigerated for your next salad.