Melissa and I have been going through our recipes to see what areas we are lacking in, and sandwiches are definitely one of them. She has been growing tomatoes and basil in her yard, which just beg to become caprese. But instead of just making a salad, we tried to figure out how to turn it into a sandwich. Melted cheese is clearly superior to un-melted cheese, so of course we made a panini!
We spread slices of Italian bread with basil mayonnaise, then layered in fresh mozzarella and balsamic marinated tomato slices (our attempt to get balsamic flavor without adding too much liquid) with fresh basil (you can't have enough basil). Then we placed them on a panini grill and cooked until the cheese was melted and the outside was golden.
The sandwiches were so gooey and yummy - I loved it! But the bottoms did get a little soggy, so next time I will toast the bread on one side before spreading the mayo on the toasted side, then putting the sandwich together and grilling as usual. I think that this will help keep it from getting soggy. I also might put basil mayo on the outside of the sandwich to help brown it up and because it is delicious.
Through a combination of being really lazy and really busy, I haven't been cooking that much at home lately. Or at least anything new or interesting (I mean, how many vegetable pastas do you want to see, right?). So I haven't been posting very frequently, either. Thank goodness for my lunches with Melissa, from Smells Like Brownies, or I wouldn't be posting at all! We made this savory tomato cobbler on a rainy day with terrible lighting, and it was just the right kind of comfort food.
Caramelized onions and cherry tomatoes get bound together with the help of a little flour, and flavored with balsamic vinegar and fresh basil. I love using multi-colored cherry tomatoes, so pretty!
Then the mixture goes into a baking dish and into the oven. We used the same cast iron skillet that we caramelized the onions in.
While the tomato mixture cooks, roll out and cut out some biscuits. The dough, made savory with the help of sharp white cheddar and black pepper, will have been resting in the fridge while the filling was put together. You want that butter cold in order to achieve maximum flakiness. We used whey in place of buttermilk, because we will never run out of whey (so much whey).
I'm really trying to be better at waking up early enough to get to the Farmer's Market. I love the scene with all the booths and crowds of people, all the adorable puppies and babies. The Mosaic Market even has live music and food trucks. But I am not very good at cooking by the seat of my pants, so after I pick out some yummy looking veg, it usually ends up getting tossed into a pasta. Even more so when the market offers amazing artisan pasta from Pappardelle's Pasta. C'est la vie!
My first batch of veggies (asparagus, tomato, and leek) went into a white wine, lemon, and butter sauce with the garlic chive artisan pappardelle. I cooked the leek down in butter and olive oil, then added some white wine, lemon juice, and pasta water along with chopped tomatoes. When that had cooked to a good sauce consistency, I tossed in blanched asparagus and the cooked pasta (1 minute shy of al dente). I finished it off with lemon zest, Parmesan, and black pepper and served it with salmon.
I still had tomatoes and a random eggplant that I picked up for no reason, so I decided to do a riff on this pasta. I really should have used a whole wheat pasta, but I just love gemelli and I can't find it in whole wheat anywhere. It's the perfect short shape because it has good structural integrity (meaning it cooks evenly and doesn't get mushy edges).
Anyway, I roasted the eggplant while I caramelized an onion (I really wish I had a red onion, but I didn't). After adding garlic, a splash of sherry, and a splash of balsamic vinegar, I added some chopped tomato and a pat of butter (trying to get the essence of the Marcella Hazan sauce without cooking it for 45 minutes). Then I added in the eggplant, cooked pasta (1 minute shy of al dente), and a splash of pasta water and let it come together. Then I topped it with fresh basil and black pepper and served it with some hanger steak from the market (one of the few places where I can find it - there's only 1 per cow and they sell fast).
A friend of mine asked if I could put together a week of meals that are healthy, easy, and cost effective for a single working mother. I thought that sounded like a great idea! But I definitely underestimated how much work it would be. It's hard to make food for just two people without having a ton of leftovers - so to get a different meal in each night, I had to figure out how to use ingredients in multiple dishes. And I wanted to make sure that they were healthy, had a bit of variety, and took 30 minutes or less to put together. It's a tall order, but I think I managed. Each recipe is sized for two adults, and there is a shopping list included at the bottom of the post.
First up - Broiled Salmon with Mustard Butter and Boiled Potatoes and Green Beans. This meal is healthy, easy, and comes together in under 30 minutes. I am so in love with this mustard butter (that I discovered making this recipe), I make it all the time now. There are no grains in this dinner, and as far as starchy potatoes go, baby red-skinned are relatively low on the glycemic index. Plus - by cooking more salmon and vegetables than you need, you will already have the ingredients you need for dinner the next night. This meal comes first because fish needs to be cooked the same night that it is purchased for best quality.
The salmon is going to be one of the more expensive proteins for the week, but it is worth it because it is so good for you (not to mention delicious). Gotta get those Omega-3's! However, I do not recommend buying farm-raised Atlantic salmon as it is full of chemicals and pollutants. Instead, I recommend buying wild Alaskan or farmed Norwegian. The Norwegian salmon is pretty great and I can get it here in NoVA for around $15/lb, and coho goes for $13/lb (versus $29/lb for king salmon, yikes!). If you absolutely cannot swing Alaskan or Norwegian salmon, buy another type of fish instead (cod, halibut, or tilapia would be good).
For our second dinner, we use the extra ingredients from the previous night, plus a few more, to make Salmon Nicoise Salad. The only thing you have to cook for this dinner is hard boiled eggs, and you can do those in advance if you like. Boil more than you need, because we will use some in another dish. Like the previous night, this meal is grain-free and loaded with healthy fats. You can see how big one serving is in this photo - I ate the whole thing, Jasper only ate half of his. So if this is too much food for you, plan to set aside half of it for lunch the next day. It should travel well, just keep the dressing separate.
This is actually the most expensive meal of the week (if it is making 2 servings, and not 4), so the kind of greens you use will matter. I used mache or lamb's lettuce, which I think is really delicious. But there are definitely cheaper lettuces/greens out there. A note on olives - nicoise olives are traditional, but expensive, so feel free to sub kalamatas, which taste very similar. You could even buy jarred kalamatas to save even more.