Grilled Romaine

Grilled vegetables are so popular right now in all the restaurants.  I especially love grilled romaine.  The tender leaves are transformed into a tasty dish that is very easy to prepare with the new porcelain-coated grill plate from the Companion Group. This Charcoal Companion product was featured at the International Home and Housewares show recently in Chicago.

The plate is just the perfect size to use and it allows for tender lettuce leaves to sear perfectly without any direct grill contact.  The plate could even be used to serve any type of grilled vegetable or even smoky flavored nachos.  The coating is absolutely stick-resistant and so easy to use and clean after using.

I absolutely love this new product and had to share some photos with you as I recently used with my charcoal grill.  Even though it was a bit chilly outside, I was able to prepare this salad easily and efficiently.

After grilling, I added a few sliced cherry tomatoes, ground pepper and shaved Parmesan cheese to the top of the salad.  It was super delicious.

Lunch at Eataly

So my foodie expedition continues in Chicago, and my excitement could almost not be contained when we walked from our hotel to Eataly.  It is difficult not be become an active food participant when you enter this one city block establishment, which expands to two stories. Not only can you purchase fresh food, staples, pantry items, sweets, watch food being prepared, but Eataly has a wine shop, homemade brews, restaurant service, and a meat and fish counter. This is one amazing place to spend some time. Everyone who appreciates food preparation needs to visit this store.


We decided to shop and eat on our first trip. So midway through our late morning of shopping, we stopped to have a Neapolitan-style pizza which was made from authentic ingredients from the region of Campania. The wood-fired ovens prepare the pizzas in 1-2 minutes with the crust being soft and elastic–and OH so tasty.  We enjoyed the buffalo mozzarella, the fresh basil and our arugula salad with a lemon vinaigrette dressing. The classic Pizza Margherita was named for the Queen of Italy when she visited Naples in the late 1800’s.  To recreate this in a home kitchen, the base for the pizza would commonly today be known as a flatbread.

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The atmosphere for dining in several locations throughout the store could be described as busy, loud, energetic, and filled with a community of activity.  From my seat, I could watch fresh bread being sold as well as active shoppers throughout the open marketplace within the store.  Pizza, pasta, fish, vegetables, meat and cheese could all be purchased in various eating spots throughout the second floor of Eataly. The open Italian market feel is continued throughout the store.


Tomorrow I will share my Eataly shopping experience.


shrimp pasta salad

Here is a perfect summer lunch recipe.  Actually, this recipe can be made one day in advance and used for a lunch, tea party sandwiches, summer snacks, or a light summer dinner.  Choose an attractive lettuce leaf to serve with the salad, such as bibb, Boston, mache or a red romaine.  The recipe was adapted from a Taste of Home magazine.

Here is the recipe:  Use an 8 ounce bag of cooked salad shrimp. (100-200 size)

Mix together 1/2 cup light sour cream, 1/2 cup light mayonnaise, 1-2 celery stalks minced, 3 minced shallots, 1 Tablespoon ketchup, 1 teaspoon lemon juice, 1 teaspoon horseradish, salt and pepper to taste.

When this sauce is mixed together, add 2 cups of cooked and chilled macaroni noodles.  Chill completely for at least 3 hours and serve.

Melon and cucumber salad

For Memorial Day weekend, we enjoyed this cool and refreshing salad made from honeydew melon and cucumbers.  I was inspired to make the recipe, which I found in Better Homes and Garden magazine, because of the interesting flavor profile and mix of fresh ingredients.


This is an easy salad to pull together.  The main ingredients are cubed honeydew melon pieces, sliced small cucumbers, chopped red onion, and crumbled feta cheese.  The dressing is made from 1 tablespoon lemon juice, mixed with 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, 1 teaspoon honey and 1/4 teaspoon poppy seeds.  The dressing is made separately and then added to the salad mixture just before serving. Use only enough dressing to lightly coat the ingredients. The feta is also reserved until just before serving the salad.

I mixed the salad ingredients and kept them refrigerated.  I added the feta, a splash of dill weed to the salad, and the dressing just before serving.

Very unusual but so very tasty and refreshing.  The honeydew melon gives this salad a wonderful flavor.  This is not a salad that can be stored for days.  This is one that needs to be fresh and eaten within a couple of hours.  Each of the ingredients contribute to a tangy, cool, crunchy or sweet taste which comes out perfectly.

If desired, grated sea salt and ground pepper could be added for additional flavor enhancement. This salad could also be served in a lettuce cup or simply on a bed of arugula or salad greens.



Herb and Bacon Red Potato Salad

Small red potatoes are very easy to work with when preparing summer potato salads. I like to use them because of their quick cook time, and tasty skins.  Almost all of my favorite potato salads leave the skins on the potatoes for that added texture and flavor profile.

The inspiration for this recipe came from a Picnics cookbook, which over the years, I have adapted for my family. This one uses bacon, which is unique for the rest of my potato salad recipe collection. For those guests who like bacon, this is a great recipe and one that could be prepared for summer holiday weekends.

To make the salad,  gather these ingredients:

8-9 small red potatoes, 6 slices of microwave bacon cooked, 1/2 of a medium red onion, 1/2 cup light mayonnaise, 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, 1 tablespoon dried parsley, 1 tablespoon dried basil, fine sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

Scrub clean and boil the potatoes for 20 minutes until fork tender.  Drain and cool until warm.  Chop into bite-sized pieces for the salad. Chop the cooked bacon.  Add bacon and onion to the potatoes.  Mix well.


In a small bowl, mix mayonnaise, vinegar, parsley, basil, salt and pepper.  Pour dressing on the salad and mix well, while the potatoes still have some warmth to them.  This will give the salad the blended consistency.


Spring Cara Cara and tangerine salad

A spring citrus salad can be so refreshing.  The pastel color of the fruit helps to make the salad presentation bright, light and fresh.  I chose to use Cara Cara navel oranges for my Easter salad this year.  I found them at Whole Foods this past weekend, and their sweet taste is delightful. This variety has a very low acidic taste.  I also noted that this fruit was grown in California, which encouraged me to make the purchase. Their rose-pink color was so attractive on the plate in contrast with the tangerines.  Another option would be to use blood oranges, which I could not find in my market.


I used a salad dressing recipe from Cooking Light, Jan/Feb 2015 edition which was super easy and perfect for this salad.

Combine these ingredients to make the dressing:  1/4 cup olive oil, 1 1/2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar, 1 tablespoon honey, and 1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt.  Shake or stir very well in a salad dressing jar.

Then, plate the salad.  I used baby arugula, with slices of Cara Cara and tangerine, topped with chopped pistachios.  Add a drizzle of the dressing.  Delicious, Bright, and so very Spring!




Rustic olive, tomato and bread salad

Here is a recipe for a side dish that is rustic and tasty.  Preparation is less than ten minutes, with a 20-25 minute baking time.  I prepared a smaller portion, but this is one recipe that can be sized up to make a large party platter.  The key to this recipe is the balsamic vinegar. By using parchment paper or a silpat mat, cleanup will be easy and fast. Perfect for an appetizer party, an Italian dinner, or even for March Madness.

To make the salad:  Gather 1 box of small grape tomatoes, one small round loaf of ciabatta or French bread, olive oil, 1/2 jar of green olives, 2/3 can black olives, balsamic vinegar, minced garlic to taste, kosher salt and ground black pepper.


First, preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Prepare a baking sheet with parchment or a silpat mat.  Arrange tomatoes on the pan and lightly drizzle with olive oil.  Prepare a second baking sheet with the bread, which has been cubed, drizzled with oil and seasoned with pepper.  Bake both pans for about 15-20 minutes, while watching and stirring during the baking process.  Remove from the oven.

While the pans are baking, in a small bowl mix 2 tablespoons olive oil, with 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, garlic, salt and pepper.  Next, transfer the bread, and olives to the tomato pan.  Pour mixture from the bowl over everything and return to the oven for 5-7 minutes to heat the olives and meld the flavors of the salad.

Variations include: using a variety of colorful cherry tomatoes, a variety of olives, and different breads.  Various balsamic vinegars are also available at the market which would change the flavor profile.

Toss everything well and serve on a platter.  Garnish with parsley flakes if desired.  Delicious!