Caprese Sandwiches with Balsamic Vinegar Reduction

Caprese Sandwiches

I recently had a two week stint gorging myself on fresh, sweet, summer heirloom tomatoes. I just couldn’t help it–DELICIOUS and so colorful!

I had to take advantage of the few short weeks left of summer when these beauties are best here in San Diego and enjoyed them in salads, over pizzas, as a condiment (pico de gallo), as a light side dish and of course– in sandwiches.

Caprese Sandwiches

One of my fav go-to “salads” is Insalata Caprese which usually consists of tomato slices, fresh mozzarella, basil leaves and olive oil. I also like to serve them as appetizers by making little caprese skewers and use sweet grape tomatoes instead of tomato slices.

Caprese Sandwiches

For a light lunch, I grabbed a few heirlooms I had picked up earlier that morning to make Caprese Sandwiches. These sammies have all of the traditional fixins’ of Insalata Caprese with the addition of a rich and thick reduction of balsamic vinegar. The reduction adds a light sweetness and acidity to the sandwich which pairs so well with the cool tomatoes, velvety mozzarella and floral basil.

Total winner and can be whipped up Lickety- Split…..

In a jiffy……

In a blink of the eye……

In the speed of light…..

In no time flat……

……… Really fast. You get the point.

Did I mention these would be FAB for picnics?

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Caprese Sandwiches with Balsamic Vinegar Reduction
Serves 2

Ingredients:

1 cup balsamic vinegar
2-3 pinches sugar
1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
2 ciabatta rolls, toasted (or bread of your choice)
8-10 fresh whole basil leaves, washed and dried
4 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced
2-3 heirloom tomatoes, sliced
sea salt or kosher salt

In a small sauce pan, add the vinegar, sugar and chili flakes. On medium-high heat, bring to a boil, stirring often. Reduce the heat to a low simmer. Continue stirring and cooking until the liquids have reduced by half and take on the a thick, syrup consistency. Be sure to watch the reduction closely as it can burn quickly. Transfer to a bowl and allow to cool.

Slice each of the toasted rolls in half. Place half of the basil leaves on the bottom piece of bread and top with a few slices of cheese. Drizzle some of the balsamic vinegar reduction over the mozzarella and top with slices of tomato. Lightly sprinkle sea salt over the tomatoes and place the other 1/2 of the roll on top. Enjoy!

Italian Sausage & Mushroom Skillet Lasagna + Nambé GIVEAWAY

Italian Sausage & Skillet Lasagna

When I was living in LA for grad school, my roommates and I would often find time between classes and work to make dinner together. They were modest meals that came out of our tiny kitchen and on our grad student budgets– but they were always fun and memorable. Especially because we barely had any cookware or pans!

Italian Sausage & Skillet Lasagna

One pot meals were a necessity and boy did we come up with some doozies! A million different types of fried rice, stroganoffs, breakfast scrambles, stir-frys, and one of my tried and true favorites—skillet lasagnas.

Italian Sausage & Skillet Lasagna

Skillet lasagnas were perfect! Not only were they delish and filling but you literally only needed a pan and one stove top burner to make it.

Italian Sausage & Skillet Lasagna

No ovens, no baking dishes and no extra pots needed to boil the noodles ahead of time. Just the thing when you’re short on time—and cookware.

Italian Sausage & Skillet Lasagna

So when I got my little hands on this gorgeous sauté pan from our friends at Nambé, nostalgia kicked in and I had to give it a roll.

Italian Sausage & Skillet Lasagna

Nambé’s new cookware line is FANTABULOUS! Sturdy, heats evenly, easy to clean and is just so pretty. Since they’re so snazzy, you can move them directly from the stove to the dining table! Cookware to Serveware? Where were you when I was in grad school?!

Italian Sausage & Skillet Lasagna

And since you are the sunshine of my day, YOU will have the chance to win a set of four (4) of their new CookServ Sauté Pans (8, 10, 12 and 14 inches) courtesy of the awesome team at Nambé! Check out these beauties:

CookServ-SautePans-web

Nambé has partnered with several different blogs for this joint giveaway of these stunning pans that are retailed at 650 buckaroos. Want to know how to win?

It’s Easy-Peasy!

Simply click on the following link to enter the Nambe Giveaway powered by Rafflecopter

Italian Sausage & Skillet Lasagna

ps. Whether you have only one pan in your pantry or a dozen, you’ll really want to make this Italian Sausage & Mushroom Skillet Lasagna. Sooooooo yummmyyy!

pps. Don’t forget to enter this rad giveaway and BEST-O-LUCK!!!

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Italian Sausage & Mushroom Skillet Lasagna
Serves 6

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 pound spicy Italian sausage
2 cups sliced crimini mushroom
1 cup diced white onions
1/4 cup chopped scallions
1 tablespoon minced garlic
¼ teaspoon fennel seeds
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 tablespoon tomato paste
3 16-ounce cans San Marzano tomatoes
10 ounces dried lasagna noodles (about 2/3 of a regular sized box)
1½ cups chicken or vegetable stock
½ cup grated parmesan cheese
kosher salt and black pepper
6 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced
½ cup fresh basil leaves, torn into pieces

In a large skillet that has a lid; heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil to medium heat. Removed the casing from the sausage and add to the skillet. Using a wooden spoon, break up the sausage and cook until lightly brown. Add in the mushrooms and cook for an additional 3-4 minutes until the mushrooms have softened. Remove the sausage and mushrooms to a clean plate.

Add an additional tablespoon of oil to the skillet and cook the onions until softened and translucent. Add the garlic, fennel seeds and red pepper flakes and cook for 1 minute before adding in the tomato paste. Allow the mixture to cook for an additional minute to allow the items to become aromatic. Transfer the sausage and mushrooms back to the skillet and stir to combine.

Using a blender or immersion blender, puree the tomatoes with its juices until smooth.

Break the lasagna noodles into 1-2 inch pieces and layer on top of the ingredients in the skillet. Pour the pureed tomatoes and chicken stock over the noodles. Allow the liquids to come to a slight boil. Cover and simmer the lasagna for 20-25 minutes, stirring every few minutes. Continue cooking until the noodles become al dente.

Remove from heat and stir in the parmesan cheese. Season with salt and pepper and lay pieces of mozzarella over the top. Garnish with basil leaves and serve warm.

**If you would like a bit of crunch, turn on your oven broiler after placing the mozzarella cheese and place the skillet about 4 inches away from it. Allow to brown for about 30-45 seconds but be sure to keep an eye on it to avoid burning the lasagna.

Crispy Arancini stuffed with Mozzarella

Crispy Arancini stuffed with Mozzarella

Let me tell ya….

I’ve learned two things since we’ve started our Sunday Family Dinners.

Crispy Arancini stuffed with Mozzarella

First is that my family is obsessed with food. So obsessed that while we’re gorging on a deliciously bountiful Sunday Family Dinner, we already begin planning what’s on the menu for next month! We’ve got issues!

And second—we always, ALWAYS make too much food. It’s pretty ridiculous.

Crispy Arancini stuffed with Mozzarella

At our last European themed dinner, my family fixed up Chicken Marsala with Angel Hair Pasta, Beef Wellington with Green Peppercorn Sauce, Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Antipasti of Grilled Vegetables, Crispy Arancini, and Chocolate Mousse in Phyllo Cups. A little overboard, eh?

But we’ve also grown up with the mentality that it’s always better to have more food than less food. After all, leftovers are delicious!

Crispy Arancini stuffed with Mozzarella

I jumped on the chance to make Beef Wellington for the fam bam. Unfortunately after all the time and effort (and stress!), it was just “meh”. Oh well, chalk it up to experience…..

Thank goodness my saving grace were the Arancini I made to snack on while we were fixing up dinner. These Arancini were made of mushroom risotto balls that were stuffed with mozzarella cheese and then breaded with Panko. I fried these beauties until golden brown and then made some marinara to dunk them in. They came out wonderfully crisp on the outside and rich and creamy on the inside. Delizioso!

I can hardly wait for our next Sunday Family Dinner coming up this weekend. It’s EXTRA special because all the Nguyen Siblings and their families will be attendance—gathered together from New York, San Francisco, San Diego, and Orange County. There’s no doubt it will be delish but more importantly, it will be filled with tons of love and laughter!

And as the cherry on top–our theme will be honoring the flavors of New Orleans! *drools*

Until next time!

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Crispy Arancini stuffed with Mozzarella
Makes approximately 30-36 balls

Ingredients:

3 cups cooked Risotto, chilled
3 dozen ¼-inch pieces of mozzarella cheese
1 cup flour, seasoned with black pepper and kosher salt
3 large eggs, beaten
2 cups panko bread crumbs
vegetable oil
Marinara Sauce
Italian Parsley for garnish

Using a spoon or small ice cream scooper, spoon out 1 tablespoon of chilled risotto. Gently flatten out the risotto and use your index finger to press an indentation in the middle. Place one piece of the mozzarella cheese in the center and fold over the sides to cover. Use both hands to roll and evenly shape into a ball. Place the arancini on a wax paper lined plate and repeat until they have all been formed. Transfer the plate to the refrigerator and chill for 20-25 minutes.

While the arancini chills, take 3 shallow dishes and place the flour, eggs, and Panko bread crumbs into each. Fill a heavy bottomed pot with about 3 inches of vegetable oil and heat to 375 degrees F.

Working in batches, dredge a few of the arancini in the flour, then the eggs, and finally the Panko breadcrumbs to coat. Gently shake off the excess between each step. Place the prepared arancini on a cookie sheet that has been covered with cooking spray.

In batches, fry the arancini in the heated oil for 4-5 minutes or until golden browned. Remove from the oil and drain on paper towels. Transfer to a platter and garnish with parsley. Serve immediately with warmed marinara sauce.

Breakfast Pizza + Nambé Giveaway WINNER!

Breakfast Pizza

You could throw an egg on anything and it would be freaking delicious. Sandwiches, ramen noodles, pasta, rice……

Seriously.

Breakfast Pizza

So when I dived into Motorino’s Pizza al’ Uovo on my recent trip to NYC— I was in HEAVEN. Oooey-gooey fried eggs that just spilled into a crisp pizza covered with pancetta, basil and pecorino. SOOO good! I was hell bent on making my own version when I got home though I did make a few ingredients substitutions based upon my personal flavor preference. True– it’s nearly impossible to achieve the same type of crust that a wood fire oven can produce but overall I was very happy with it. You’ll be surprised to see how easy this is to make and it’s a guaranteed crowd-pleaser at your next brunch party.

But now for what you all have been waiting for….the winner of the fabulous Nambé Fish Platter

Drum Roll please………….

CONGRATS Jessica who said she would serve Gambas al Ajillo on the Nambé Fish Platter. Jessica, you will have until 5pm PST on Wednesday, July 25th to respond to our email and accept or another winner will be selected.

THANK YOU to everyone who participated! And THANK YOU Nambé !

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Breakfast Pizza
Serves 2

Dough:
1 Cup Lukewarm Water
1 Packet Instant Yeast
2 Cups Bread Flour, plus more for dusting the work surface and hands
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1½ Teaspoon Kosher Salt
½ Tablespoon Sugar
*Makes approximately 3 medium-sized pizzas

Toppings:
1 Tablespoon Corn Meal
Olive Oil
2 Large Eggs, crack into individual small bowls
2 Ounces Fresh Mozzarella, sliced and patted dry
4-5 Slices Bacon, par cooked and cut into large pieces
2 Tablespoons Grated Parmesan Cheese
Fresh Basil Leaves
Black Pepper

Prepare the pizza dough. Combine the water with the yeast and let set for 10 minutes until the yeast is dissolved and bubbly. Combine the rest of the ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment. Add the yeast-water and mix until the ingredients have just combined. Cover and allow to rest in a warm area until it doubles in size—about one hour.

One hour before baking, preheat the oven to 500 degrees F with a pizza stone on the lower rack. If cooking the pizza on a baking sheet, preheat 30 minutes before baking.

When the dough has rested, take approximately 1/3 of the dough and flatten it with your hands on a floured surface. Use a floured rolling pin to gently roll the crust about 1/8 of an inch. Transfer the dough to a pizza peel (if baking directly on stone) or onto a baking sheet that has been sprinkled with corn meal. Gently brush the crust with olive oil.

Lower the oven temperature to 450 degrees F. If using a pizza peel, carefully slide the pizza in the oven on the stone. If using a baking sheet, place pizza in the oven. Par bake for about 6-8 minutes until slightly golden. Pull from the oven and carefully pour the eggs on top. Place the fresh mozzarella cheese and bacon around the pizza and sprinkle with the grated parmesan cheese. Return to oven and continue baking for an additional 6-8 minutes or until the eggs have just set and the bacon has crisped. When done, remove the pizza and top with fresh basil leaves and black pepper. Serve immediately.

Bruschetta with Smoked Mozzarella Cheese

Bruschetta with Smoked Mozzarella Cheese

For a good chunk of my life, I didn’t like tomatoes.

I thought they were mealy and rather “bleh” in flavor. I’d pick them out of salads, burgers, well….pretty much out of everything.

And you know what the problem was? For the first 20+ years of my life, I was eating BAD tomatoes!

Because when you take a bite out of a gorgeous tomato at its peak in the season, it’s absolutely delicious! They’re sweet and juicy with the right balance of acidity. And last summer, I even found myself growing the most beautiful Early Girl Tomatoes via our Topsy Turvy. (For the record, the Topsy Turvy is awesome!)

Needless to say, I was missing out for so many years!

 

 

Bruschetta with Smoked Mozzarella Cheese

One of my favorite ways to enjoy fresh tomatoes are in Bruschetta. The simplicity of ingredients paired with the herbaceous basil  really highlights the true flavor of the tomato. On its own, it’s quite fabulous but I decided to add a spin by throwing in some smoked mozzarella cheese I stumbled on at my local specialty market. It was perfect!

And on warm summer nights like we’ve been having, I could eat Bruschetta every day! Mom would be proud that I’m eating my veggies :)

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Bruschetta with Smoked Mozzarella Cheese
Serves 4 as an Appetizer or 2 for a Light Meal

Ingredients:

1½ Cups Tomatoes, diced
½ Cup Smoked Mozzarella Cheese, cubed
¼ Cup Fresh Basil, leaves torn
1 Garlic Clove, finely minced or grated
1 Tablespoon Good Quality Balsamic Vinegar
1 Tablespoon Good Quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Kosher Salt and Black Pepper

In a bowl, mix together the tomatoes, cheese, basil, garlic, vinegar, and oil. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings accordingly. Serve with your choice of flat bread or toasted baguettes.

Margherita Pizza with Crispy Bacon

Margherita Pizza with Crispy Bacon


One afternoon while having lunch, we caught an episode of America’s Test Kitchen where they made a Pizza Bianco. It looked so easy and delicious that I stopped mid bite of my sandwich and feverishly began jotting down the recipe for the pizza dough. I was drawn to it as it almost had a focaccia-like consistency.

A few weeks later, with some more time on my hands and ambition at my side, I decided to give A.T.K.’s pizza dough a spin. True to form, like many of their recipes, it was easy. However, it was VERY time consuming. Mix this, wait 5 minutes….spin that, wait 2 minutes, flip 101 times….you get the point. But I must admit that the end result was well worth the wait.

I also opted out of their “bianco” style pizza in lieu of a tomato based sauce I created myself. To honor the Margherita Pizza, I used homegrown basil, creamy Bocconcini Mozzarella, and quickly roasted sliced tomatoes. And for that added extra punch, I topped it all off with crumbled crispy bacon. Why? Because I LOVE bacon.

WE LOVED IT! It was so savory, gooey from the cheese, bright from the basil and 95% homemade so you know where everything comes from. Incidentally, I didn’t make the cheese though I have ALWAYS wanted to try! There’s always next time. We also drizzled some of the baked pizza with some deliciously high quality finishing olive oil….very Italiano!

Word to the wise, start this recipe when you aren’t the least bit hungry. Having to wait for the dough to rise is quite time consuming and could be a monster if you’re hungry! :)

Adding the fixings

Enjoy!

Margherita Pizza with Crispy Bacon
Serves Approximately 4

Pizza Dough (From America’s Test Kitchen)
3 Cups All Purpose Flour
1 ¼ Teaspoon Salt
1 ⅔ Cups Water
1 ½ Teaspoon Yeast
1¼ Teaspoon Sugar
2 Tablespoon Olive Oil (extra for greasing)
2 Tablespoons Corn Meal (finely ground)

Tomato Sauce
1 32 Ounce Can of Plum Tomatoes
1 Tablespoon of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Clove Finely Dice Garlic
1 Teaspoon Red Chili Flakes
1 Teaspoon Dried Oregano
¼ Teaspoon Dried Fennel
Salt and Pepper to taste

Toppings
12 Fresh Bocconcini Mozzarella (cut in half)
1 Plum Tomato, sliced, and slightly roasted at 400 degrees for 10 minutes
4 Slices Bacon, cooked, and crumbled into large pieces
5-6 Fresh Basil Leaves

Preheat Oven to 450 degrees for one hour before you are ready to bake the pizza (preferably with a Pizza Stone).

In Mixer using a Dough Hook, combine flour, salt, and water just to combine. Approximately 3-4 minutes. Let rest for an additional 20 minutes.  Add yeast and sugar. Mix for 2 minutes. Turn on Mixer on High Speed and mix for an additional 6-10 minute until dough is glossy & smooth. Dough should begin pulling away from bowl. In another large bowl, oil the surface with 1 Tablespoon of Olive Oil Bowl. Transfer dough to bowl, add another 1 Tablespoon to the top. Cover with plastic wrap and let triple in volume – approximately 2-2 ½ hours.

While dough is resting, prepare tomato sauce. In a sauce pot, heat olive oil for 1 minute. Add garlic and cook until fragrant. Add chili flakes and heat for an additional minute. Add the entire can of tomatoes with liquids to the pot. Let simmer for 2-3 minutes. With the back of a wooden spoon (or potato masher), break down and crush the tomatoes. Add oregano and fennel and simmer on low for an additional 5 minutes. Remove from heat. In a food processor or blender, carefully puree the tomato mixture. Leave thick so that it spreads well over the dough. Salt and pepper to taste.

Cover a baking pan with 2 Tablespoons of Olive Oil. Sprinkle corn meal evenly across the pan and turn dough into pan. Lightly and gently spread dough across pan. If the dough does not hold shape and snaps back, let rest for an additional 5 minutes. Once the dough has been spread onto the pan, let it sit on countertop for another 5-10 minutes until it gets good and bubbly.

Dock the dough 30-40 times and parbake for about 15 minutes. It should be lightly brown on the top. Pull from oven and spread the Tomato sauce to cover.  Add roasted sliced tomatoes, cheese, and bacon. Put back into the oven for about 5-10 minutes until cheese is lightly brown. Add fresh basil and continue cooking for an additional 5 minutes.

Remove from oven and let cool in pan for a few minutes before transferring to a cutting board. Cut with a Pizza Slicer (or bread knife) and Enjoy!