Spicy Caesar Salad with Toasted Breadcrumbs Recipe

If you’ve been to Jon & Vinny’s in LA, you may recognize this salad which they call Gem Lettuce, Calabrian Chili Dressing, Parmigiano, & Bread Crumbs.   It’s basically a spicy Caesar salad with the most delicious breadcrumbs and baby romaine leaves.  It’s insanely good and worth every bit of the $16.50 they charge for one portion.  Or is it?  Well, we can make it at home and it’s just as good, friends!  I make it all the time when I have people over or we want a really great Caesar. Ok, let’s do it!Continue reading

Hot spinach artichoke dip recipe

I hope you all had a lovely Christmas!   Even though you haven’t heard from me in a few days, I have been cooking up a storm nonetheless!  We arrived in NY to visit my family and between Christmas Eve for 79 people to breakfast-lunch-dinner for our clan of 15 every day, I’ve been busy in the kitchen.  What has been fun is the team effort.  My sisters, my mom and I have been planning and preparing together which really is the only way when you’re trying to figure out what to make that most everyone will like.  My husband is actually pitching in as I type this and making baked ziti with my mother for tonight’s dinner.  It is seriously hilarious listening to him explain his “method” to my Italian mother.  Also nice to have the night off so I have a few minutes to write something for you lovely readers!

I always find at this time of year many of my friends and students are looking for a winner hors d’oeuvre for all the entertaining and football-watching they do.  I have quite a few on the site already and you can check out the segments I did for our local news the last two years, but I would love to share this popular (although I wouldn’t say the most healthful) dip that is always very popular.  Hot spinach artichoke dip is something my husband and my kids love to share in a restaurant.  They somehow rationalize all the sour cream and cheese with the presence of spinach in there.  This is a lighter version, but still warm, creamy and tastes just like the one you’ve had at your favorite restaurant.  My kids like to scoop this onto crostini, pita chips or even tortilla chips.  Although I’ve eaten the dip with sweet bell pepper strips  and blanched cauliflower, I think they probably had the better idea.

I know you busy you all are and what you really want to know is how you can do this ahead of time so you you’re as relaxed as Ina when her guests arrive.  Oh how I’d love to be invited over for cocktails and cards with Ina!  But I digress.  You will blend this whole concoction together in no time — no sauteeing or blanching — and keep it covered in the fridge until the next day when you want to serve it.  Then uncover it and bake it for about 25 minutes until hot and melted and bubbly.  I usually time this to be ready about 15 minutes after I’ve told my guests to arrive since no one these days shows up exactly on time, including yours truly.  This dip is really best served hot and because there’s cheese in it, the longer it sits out, the more it firms up.  So it’s best if you don’t have this out too early.  I also recommend if you’re going to make a few for a longer cocktail party or football game to stagger them about an hour apart so you can serve a nice hot one a few times.  Very recently I discovered a new and incredible way to eat leftovers of this dip — blended with beaten eggs and baked as a frittata, which is this photo right below.

Leftovers can be mixed with beaten egg and baked into a frittata

Now you can have your fabulous hors d’oeuvre for New Year’s Eve and the beginnings of an amazing New Year’s Day breakfast.  Does it get any better than this???

 

5.0 from 1 reviews
Hot Spinach and Artichoke Dip
Author: 
Serves: makes about 3¾ cups or enough for about 8 people
 
Ingredients
  • 10 ounces artichoke hearts frozen, defrosted or packed in water, drained
  • ¼ cup chopped shallots
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 10 ounces frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry (I do this in a thin clean kitchen towel) or 10 ounces fresh spinach, steamed in a little water until wilted and excess water squeezed out
  • ½ cup Greek yogurt
  • ½ cup Vegenaise or mayonnaise (I use soy-free Vegenaise.)
  • ⅔ cup grated Pecorino or Parmigiano Reggiano cheese (I use Pecorino.)
  • 4 ounces mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. In a food processor, coarsely chop the artichoke hearts with the shallots and garlic.
  3. Combine all the ingredients in a medium bowl.
  4. Place in a 9 or 10-inch oven-proof dish and bake for 20-25 minutes, until hot and cheese is melted. Serve immediately.
Notes
Notes: this obviously has a lot of dairy, but it *may* be possible to make this dairy-free with vegan mozzarella (Violife has a good one) and vegan Parmesan and vegan yogurt (Forager cashew yogurt or Kite Hill coconut yogurt may work.)

You can assemble this in the baking dish the night before, remove from the refrigerator before you preheat the oven so it's not ice cold, and then bake.

 

 

Egg Salad Recipe and Other Things You Can Do with Hard Boiled Eggs

I’m thrilled to have my mother and my 4-year-old niece visiting me this week from New York.  We’re having a great time catching up on magazines, tivo’d shows and of course, cooking.  After she read my post the other day about hard boiled eggs, she said, “so I used to overcook my eggs?”  I speak the truth on this blog and I asked my mother if she remembered the telltale green ring around her yolks.  She remembered.  We reminisced about always eating egg salad sandwiches for lunch the day after Easter, and for old times’ sake I thought it would be fun to make them with my mom again.

The two of us had a little egg salad cook-off with my mom making the version I grew up with, which is no more than chopped up hard boiled eggs combined with mayonnaise, relish and a pinch of salt.  Always delicious and that little bit of sweetness from the relish makes this egg salad kid friendly, unless you’re Mr. Picky who thinks egg salad is one of the “scariest” foods out there.  2 plain hard boiled eggs for Mr. Picky, please!  I whipped up my favorite version of egg salad which is loosely based on a recipe from my heroine, Alice Waters and her fabulous book, The Art of Simple Food.  My more grown-up egg salad may taste more sophisticated than the old version, but I assure you it is just as simple, absolutely delicious, and still kid-friendly (for kids that would actually eat egg salad.)  And look, Mom, no green ring!

Hard boiled eggs are rather bland and the texture is soft, so I like balancing all that out with a little salty bite from some capers, some mild onion flavor from either fresh chives, shallots or green onions, and the smallest dash of cayenne for some kick.  I don’t see how people can eat egg salad on squishy, bland white bread, and not just because white bread is tasteless and devoid of nutrients (maybe I should tell you how I really feel.)  Egg salad just pairs so well with some texture and flavor, like from a nice hearty sprouted seed bread or other earthy, flavorful bread — always toasted.  After enjoying this tasty sandwich with my mom the other day, I asked myself why I never make egg salad.  It was such a simple and satisfying lunch with a side green salad.  Daughter #1 gave the egg salad a try and became a convert, although with mouth half-full announced she liked it just fine, but wouldn’t be taking any egg salad too school for lunch — “I don’t want egg aroma in my backpack all day, thanks.”  Whatever.

If you are in Mr. Picky’s camp and think egg salad is too scary or if you went all out, decorated a bazillion eggs and need something more than just an egg salad recipe, here are some other yummy ideas:

  • Sliced on top of toast with smoked salmon or sliced avocado.
  • Deviled eggs — I think this recipe for Caesar Salad Deviled Eggs at Smitten Kitchen looks interesting.
  • Nicoise Salad — a composed salad of potatoes, green beans, tomatoes, tuna and hard boiled eggs.
  • Cobb Salad — here’s a more healthful version by Ellie Krieger.
  • In a filling for empanadas.  I love my recipe which uses mixed greens, to which you can add a chopped hard boiled egg or two.
  • Pan Bagnat — a sandwich with sliced hard boiled eggs, tuna, tomatoes, onions.  Check out Alton Brown’s recipe here.
  • Chopped over steamed or roasted asparagus.  Then drizzle with one of my favorite everyday salad dressings.

Do you have any great ways to eat hard boiled eggs?  I’d love to know!

5.0 from 1 reviews
Egg Salad
Author: 
Serves: makes enough for 2-3 sandwiches
 
Ingredients
  • 4 hard boiled eggs, peeled
  • 3-4 Tablespoons mayonnaise (I like soy-free Vegenaise)
  • 1 heaping teaspoon of capers, drained and chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped chives (my favorite), scallions or shallots
  • tiny pinch of sea salt or to taste
  • a few grinds of freshly ground pepper
  • a dash or two of cayenne pepper (doesn’t make it spicy, just better)
Instructions
  1. Coarsely chop the eggs and place in a bowl. Add remaining ingredients and combine well. Taste for seasoning.
  2. Serve on toasted whole grain bread with greens like watercress or your favorite lettuce. I always love a little avocado, too!
Notes
Other delicious additions to the egg salad: diced celery, Dijon mustard, fresh parsley

My Mom’s Egg Salad

4 hard boiled eggs, chopped

3-4 Tablespoons mayonnaise

2 Tablespoons sweet relish

pinch of salt



Mix everything to combine well.

 

My favorite tuna salad

Well people, sandwich season is upon us and I’m proposing that we branch out and see if we can avoid making peanut butter and jelly everyday.  In fact, I know many of you are in nut-free schools and can’t rely on the old standby at all.  On the other hand, luncheon meats freak me out a bit — and not for any scientific reason.  I just can’t get past the idea that this turkey was cooked who knows when and squished and reformed into this new product with lots of “natural flavors.”  I’d rather poach or grill organic chicken breasts and give the kids chicken sandwiches, which is exactly what I do and I save a little money while I’m at it.

As for me, I’m not much of a sandwich eater, mostly because I prefer to eat quinoa over bread.  But if I had to pick a sandwich for my last supper, it would be tuna salad with lettuce, tomato and avocado on whole grain bread.  If there happen to be some grilled onions lying around, I would add those in, too.  But this wouldn’t be just any tuna salad, it would be this one right here, which my kids also love — hooray!

I found the canned tuna of my dreams at Vital Choice — cooked once, BPA-free cans, minimal mercury and absolutely the best tasting tuna ever.   (It’s also one of the most expensive tunas out there.  Drat!)  Tuna is high in Omega-3 fatty acids (very anti-inflammatory and you’re probably not getting enough of them) and high in protein (so important when the kids are at school).  I mix it with some of the expected like a little mayo (I like soy-free Vegenaise), celery, diced shallot (I hate cutting 2 tablespoons of onion and then wrapping the cut onion in the fridge), a little lemon juice to brighten everything up and a touch of Dijon mustard to give it some zing.  But don’t get mad when I tell you I have a random secret ingredient.  My friend Daisy introduced me to Herbamare, an organic herb and salt seasoning, several years ago and my tuna salad peaked.  It just adds the perfect flavor to complement the tuna.  I buy it at Whole Foods, but you can also find it on amazon.com.  Otherwise, just use some sea salt to taste.

You can make your tuna salad the night before to make your morning easier.  Mr. Picky doesn’t like sandwiches (hard to believe, right?), so he takes his tuna in a (BPA-free) container with a spoon.  My teenage girls would please like a breath freshener in their lunch bags on tuna day, and that does NOT mean a sprig of parsley.  Got it.  Look out for more lunch ideas in a future post!

 

5.0 from 1 reviews
My Favorite Tuna Salad
Author: 
Serves: serves about 3
 
Ingredients
  • 1 6-ounce can water-packed tuna, drained
  • ¼ of a lemon
  • 1 stalk celery, diced, about ½ cup
  • 1 small shallot, diced, about 2 Tablespoons
  • 2-3 Tablespoons mayonnaise (I like soy-free Vegenaise) or half Greek yogurt and half mayo
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard (optional)
  • ⅜ teaspoon Herbamare or sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Right in the can, flake the tuna with a fork over a medium bowl, at the same time allowing the tuna to fall into the bowl. Squeeze the lemon over the tuna.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients to the bowl and mix well. Taste for seasoning.
Notes
Notes: other additions can include diced apple, diced sweet bell pepper, sliced manzanilla olives (the ones stuffed with pimentos), chopped nuts, chopped water chestnuts, fresh dill