Sunday, May 28, 2023

Summer of Salads #1: Ina Garten's Greek Orzo Salad


Welcome to the Summer of Salads, where I will be featuring a seasonal, fresh, and beautiful salad every week for the next 12 weeks of summer! I absolutely love salads and find myself longing to make all the bright, colorful, beautifully arranged salads that jump out at me on my cookbook pages. I write them down on my to-do list and then I feed myself a variety of excuses about why I can't make them. 

The top excuse being that we all know fresh summer produce makes for the very best salads! Especially when you can pluck fresh lettuces, tomatoes, and herbs from your very own backyard!

The second excuse is - arranging a beautiful salad takes work and can be rather fussy. You have to artfully arrange your produce and you want it all to be picture perfect and perfectly ripe at the same time, which takes some work and planning, and I am not really a planner. In fact, my mom used to say that I liked to fly by the seat of my pants. She wasn't wrong, but salad making requires planning and procuring or harvesting certain ingredients days in advance to ensure proper ripeness.

So while normal people have been planning their summer vacations, I have been planning my Summer of Salads because the produce is about to be thriving and I have plenty of time to craft up some salad beauties because I have the summer off!

While I am waiting for my backyard garden to produce its bounty, I'm starting off with a version of a salad that we all know and love well, Ina's Greek Orzo Salad! We have likely all had a version of this salad featuring orzo, greens, veggies, feta and a zingy vinaigrette. In fact, there is a version of this in almost every deli across the country and for good's a delicious staple!

This version of Greek Orzo Salad DOES NOT have tomatoes (which is perfect, because they're not ready just yet)! However, this version does have chickpeas, olives, feta, lemon, arugula, dill, lemon, red pepper and capers - all which you can find pretty much any time of year, so there are just no excuses not to make this staple year-round!

 Greek Orzo Salad

Adapted from Go-To Dinners

By Ina Garten

Serves 6

1 cup orzo (about 8 ounces)

salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, plus extra for serving (2 lemons)

1/2 cup good olive oil

1 cup canned chickpeas, rinsed and drained

1/2 cup (1'4") diced red bell pepper

1/2 cup (1/4") diced red onion

3 tablespoons capers in brine, drained

4 ounces Greek feta, 1/2" diced (not crumbled)

1/2 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and halved lengthwise 

2 cups baby arugula

1/2 lemon, thinly sliced, for serving

Bring 6 cups of water to a boil in a large saucepan and add the orzo and 1 tablespoon salt. Return the water to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for 8 to 10 minutes, until the orzo is al dente. Drain and transfer to a large bowl.

Meanwhile, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon black pepper in a 1-cup glass measuring cup. Pour the vinaigrette over the warm pasta and stir well. Add the chickpeas, bell pepper, onion capers, dill, feta, and olives and combine carefully.

Just before serving, stir in the arugula, add some sliced lemon, a squeeze of lemon juice, and taste for seasonings. Serve warm or at room temperature. 

Sunday, May 21, 2023

Pepin's Salisbury Steaks with Vegetable Sauce

 Years ago my son told me, "food is all about the sauce." Of course, food to him at the time was chicken nuggets and he was all about dipping them in some ranch.

He wasn't wrong. Most of the time food is, in fact, all about the sauce. Take Pepin's Salisbury Steaks with Vegetable Sauce. It really does become all about the vegetable sauce, which is rather unique because most Salisbury Steaks are covered in a traditional brown gravy. Instead, Pepin likes to kick it up a notch by making a vegetable sauce with carrots, onion, soy sauce, tomato paste, water and Tabasco sauce. It is a lightly flavored tomato sauce that is very veggie-forward. The carrot is prominent and lends a fresh flavor to the Salisbury Steaks.

It doesn't stop there. This is not just a ground beef patty. These Salisbury Steaks are packed with flavor: chopped onions, chopped celery, garlic, eggs, fresh breadcrumbs, salt, pepper, and two whole cups of chopped apple! Who would ever think of putting apple in Salisbury Steak, but it works! The apple kind of melts into the Salisbury Steak delivering a subtle sweetness that pairs well with the carrot vegetable sauce. 

We really enjoyed this unique twist on the traditional Salisbury Steak. It was a lighter, more veggie-forward, fresher tasting version and I would recommend it if you were in the market for a recipe such as this. I have yet to try it, but Pepin says the leftover Salisbury Steaks make very good sandwiches the next day.


 Salisbury Steaks with Vegetable Sauce

Adapted from Essential Pepin

by Jacques Pepin

Serves 6


3 tablespoons canola oil

1-1/2 cups chopped onions

1-1/2 cups minced celery

2 apples, such as Rome Beauty or McIntosh (about 1 pound)

1-1/2 pounds ground beef

2 large eggs

2-3 garlic cloves, crushed and finely chopped (1 teaspoon)

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon salt and black pepper

3 slices firm white bread, processed to crumbs in a food processor (1-1/2 cups)


1 cup peeled, coarsely chopped carrots

1 cup coarsely chopped onion

2 cups water

1 tablespoon dark soy sauce

 1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons tomato puree

1/2 teaspoon Tabasco sauce

For The Steaks: Preheat oven to 400F. Heat the oil in a large saucepan. When it is hot, add the onions and celery and cook over medium heat for 4 to 5 minutes, until slightly softened. Meanwhile, core but do no peel the apples. Cut them into 1/2" pieces. (You should have 2 cups.) Add to the onion and celery mixture and remove from the heat. Put the meat in a large bowl, add the onion-celery-apple mixture, eggs, garlic, salt and pepper, and mix well. Add the breadcrumbs and mix well to incorporate. (Fresh bread crumbs are best for this recipe; if substituting dry crumbs, use only 3/4 cup). Dampen your hands with water and form the mixture into 6 large patties (each weighing approx. 8 ounces). Arrange in a large roasting pan so there is a little space between the steaks and bake for 20 minutes.

For The Sauce: Put the carrots, onion, water, soy sauce, salt, pepper, tomato paste, and Tabasco in a saucepan and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and boil gently for 5 minutes. Keep warm. When the steaks have cooked for 20 minutes, remove them from the oven. They will probably stick to the bottom of the pan, so you will easily be able to incline the pan and pour off most of the accumulated fat. Spoon the sauce over and around the steaks and return them to the oven for 15 minutes and serve.

Let's Get Saucy @ IHCC!


Sunday, May 14, 2023

Ina's Smashed Eggs On Toast

 If I had to pick 5 favorite ingredients, eggs would be at the top of the list. I mean eggs are so versatile, nutritious, quick, and oh so delicious. So, for Mother's Day I chose this quick, but rather fussy egg dish.

The timing of the dish has to be just right, but it really is very simple. Good bread that is first toasted, then spread with butter and whole-grain mustard before being topped with a jammy soft-boiled egg that is smashed on the bread and sprinkled with salt, pepper, and dill.

It is a rather zesty and tangy way to start your day if you're looking for something different!

Happy Mother's Day to all!

Smashed Eggs on Toast

Adapted from Modern Comfort Food

by Ina Garten

Serves 4

8 cold extra-large eggs

8 (1/2" thick) slices from a white bread or Pullman loaf

4 tablespoons butter, at room temperature

4 teaspoons whole-grain mustard

4 teaspoons minced fresh dill

salt and black pepper

Fill a large saucepan with water and bring it to a full rolling boil over medium-high heat. With a slotted spoon, carefully lower the eggs one at a time, into the water. (Don't allow them to fall into the pot or the shells will crack!) Lower the heat and cook fro exactly 6-1/2 minutes (not 6 minutes and not 7 minutes), adjusting the temperature to maintain a low simmer. (If the water is boiling, the eggs will knock against each other and crack.) Carefully transfer the eggs to a bowl of ice water for EXACTLY 2 minutes. Remove the eggs from the water and peel.

Meanwhile, toast the bread in a toaster or over (see notes above) and place the slices on a cutting board. Spread each slice first with 1/2 tablespoons butter and then 1/2 teaspoon of the mustard.

Place one egg on each slice of toast and chop the eggs roughly without cutting into the bread (the bread will absorb the runny yolks). Sprinkle with dill, salt, pepper and serve warm. 

Sunday, May 7, 2023

Rick Bayless' Egg and Bacon Torta {A Flavor Bomb Breakfast Sandwich!}

It was a big weekend with Cinco de Mayo, the coronation of King Charles, and the Kentucky Derby. We celebrated Cinco de Mayo with homemade crunchwraps Friday night and these FLAVOR BOMB breakfast tortas Saturday and Sunday! 

I've made a few of Rick Bayless' tortas and they are always layered with flavor and insanely delicious! This breakfast torta is no exception. It is layered with big flavors and would be a hit for just about anyone looking to change up their breakfast game.

We begin with a toasted telera, or Mexican sub roll and we coat the bottom with a smear of blended chipotle chiles en adobo.

Then we top the chipotles en adobo with a good smear of smooth and creamy black beans.

Here's where you can feel free to change things up. The next layer of flavor is a slice or two of bacon to add some crunch and smokiness, OR you can simply go vegetarian and omit the bacon. Dare I say this torta may even be better without the bacon. There is enough flavor that it would be every bit as delicious without bacon.

Next you'll add your fluffy scrambled eggs. This is the heart of the torta! 

Finally, you'll top the eggs with the cheese, which is the glue that holds the whole torta together! Bayless calls for Chiuahua cheese, but I think you could go with mozzarella or frankly, any cheese that you have on hand.  Then the torta gets wrapped in foil, baked in the oven for a few minutes, topped with avocado, and eaten! It is quite frankly simply delicious! I highly recommend it!

     Egg and Bacon Torta             

Adapted from Rick Bayless Website

by Rick Bayless

Makes 6

1 dozen large eggs

1/3 cup heavy cream

10 pieces crispy bacon

1 (7.5oz) can chipotle chiles en adobo

1 (15 oz) can black beans

6 telera rolls sliced in half across the equator

2 tablespoons butter

3/4 cup Chiuahua cheese, shredded

1-1/2 avocados, peeled, pit discarded, thinly sliced

chipotle salsa

Preheat the oven to 350F. Whisk the eggs with the heavy cream until well combined. Set aside. 

Puree the chipotles and the adobo sauce in a food processor until smooth. Without cleaning the container, puree the black beans until smooth.

Spread a thin layer of the chiptole puree over the bottom of  each of the rolls. Top with a layer of black beans divided up equally between the tortas. Add a layer of bacon on top (1-1/2 slices on each roll).

Melt the butter in a 10" skillet set over medium heat. Pour in the egg mixture and gently scrape the sides and bottom of the pan. Once the eggs have formed soft curds, remove the pan from the heat and finish cooking the eggs until just set. Divide the eggs between the tortas. Sprinkle on the Chihuahua cheese and cover with the top of the roll. Wrap each torta in aluminum foil and place in the oven. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until the cheese has melted and the bread is warm. Unwrap the tortas, remove the top and place the slices of avocado over the filling. Replace the top and serve immediately with a side of chipotle sauce. 

Sunday, April 30, 2023

Tessa Kiros' Beef and Potato Croquettes

 Back in 2007, I was looking through the cookbooks at Williams-Sonoma and happened upon Apples For Jam by Tessa Kiros. I hadn't heard of Tessa at the time, but the cookbook was beautiful and the recipes were organized by color and it really caught my attention. I scooped up Tessa's cookbook that day, bought every other cookbook she wrote, and have been happily making her recipes ever since.

Tessa's Beef and Potato Croquettes from her Gold chapter have been on my "to-make" list ever since. They caught my attention because they are simple and seem like the perfect family-friendly type dish to make. A handful of ingredients: potatoes, ground beef, Parmesan cheese, 1 egg, salt, breadcrumbs, and oil. Then I read Tessa's blurb and it says "these are very popular and seem to just disappear when there are kids around," and I'm sold. If a dish is kid-friendly then it likely means that it'll be a dish everyone loves. 

If you have leftover mashed potatoes laying around (and someone didn't eat them prior to your plans to make this dish) then these will come together so easy and quick it would make your head spin! However, if you had just enough mashed potatoes left over to make this dish and a certain ravenous 16 year old boy ate them, then you'll have to make another batch of mashed potatoes. Such is life!

Either way, this dish is easy, economical, family-friendly, savory, crispy, tender, and oh so flavorful. I will definitely be making them again.


 Beef and Potato Croquettes

Adapted from Apples For Jam

by Tessa Kiros

Makes about 40 small croquettes

about 4 potatoes, scrubbed

3/4 pound good quality ground beef

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 egg

1 teaspoon salt

about 1 cup dry bread crumbs

about 5 tablespoons olive oil

Put a pan of salted water on to boil. Add the unpeeled potatoes and boil, covered, for about 20 minutes, or until they are soft and completely cooked through. (My potatoes were not the same size so I did peel them and cut them into same-size pieces and then cook them). 

Preheat the oven to 350F. Drain the potatoes and, when they are cool enough, peel them. Mash them well in a wide bowl. Add the beef, parmesan, egg, and salt, and mix thoroughly with your hands.

Roll into balls about the size of small walnuts and then flatten them a bit into little ovals. Put the bread crumbs on a plate and pat the croquettes in them to coat both sides. Drizzle about 2-1/2 tablespoons of oil over the bottom of a large baking pan, spreading it around with the back of a spoon. Pack the croquettes like tight soldiers on the pan and drizzle lightly with another couple of tablespoons of oil.

Put the pan in the oven and bake the croquettes for about 30 minutes, or until the undersides are nicely golden and a bit crisp. Turn them over gently and bake for another 10 minutes, or longer if necessary, until the new undersides become nicely golden (even a little crisp here and there - but not dried out).

Serve warm or a room temperature with a small scattering of salt, if you think they need it. 

Sunday, April 23, 2023

Ina's Blueberry Ricotta Breakfast Cake {A MUST MAKE}!!

I joined a facebook group called The Barefoot Contessa Fan Page where members make and share all sorts of Ina Garten recipes. Now, we all know that everything Ina makes is foolproof and delicious, but every once in awhile, specific recipes will cycle and before you know it EVERYONE is making them and going on and on about how Extra Wonderful they are!

It happened with Ina's Chicken Thighs with Creamy Mustard Sauce. It happened with Ina's Rigatoni with Sausage and Fennel. And, recently, the group has literally blown up over Ina's Blueberry and Ricotta Breakfast Cake from her latest cookbook, Go-To Dinners

I bet I've seen Ina's Blueberry Ricotta Breakfast Cake shared hundreds of times to the point where people have asked for everyone to quit sharing it! I have been wanting to make it for months and you know what.... IT IS WORTH ALL THE HYPE!


I think it is a top tier Ina Garten recipe and one to stick in your back pocket. The cake is made a little differently than most, with both ricotta and sour cream and only about 1-1/4 cup flour. It is extremely light, tender, and moist with the perfect ratio of blueberry and lemon flavor. The inside of the cake has the consistency of a cloud while the edges get all golden brown and crackly. The balance of flavors and textures is just right! I don't always like my desserts warm, but this cake is total perfection warm from the oven and I recommend serving is warm.

Please do yourself a favor and make this cake this season! It is most definitely going to be one of my top recipes of the year and I can tell you that it will be THE RECIPE that I think of when I'm asked to bring a dish somewhere.



Blueberry Ricotta Breakfast Cake

Adapted from Go-To Dinners

by Ina Garten

Serves 8-10

10 tablespoons (1-1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 cup granulated sugar

3 extra-large eggs, at room temperature

1 cup whole-milk ricotta

2 tablespoons sour cream

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

1-1/4 cups all purpose flour

1 tablespoon baking powder


2 cups fresh blueberries (12 ounces), divided

sifted confectioners' sugar, for dusting

Note: I don't have a 9" pan or a springform pan, so I baked mine in a 10" stone pan and it was just fine! Some people have made this cake the day ahead and served it the next day. I'm sure it is great that way, but I would highly recommend serving it the day of, fresh from the oven with about 30-60 minutes to cool .

Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease and flour a 9" round springform pan, shaking out any excess flour. 

Place the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on medium speed for 3 minutes, until light and fluffy, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. With the mixer on low, add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add the ricotta, sour cream, vanilla, and lemon zest and mix well. (The batter will look curdled.)

In a small bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, and 1 teaspoon salt. With the mixer on low, slowly add the dry ingredients to the batter, mixing just until incorporated. With the rubber spatula, fold two thirds of the blueberries into the batter. Transfer the batter to the prepared springform pan and smooth the top. Scatter the remaining blueberries on the cake, pressing them lightly into the surface.

Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Remove the sides of the pan and lightly dust the top with the confectioners' sugar. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Sunday, April 16, 2023

Five Favorite Mediterranean Dishes!

Mediterranean food is my all time favorite and most of this blog probably consists of some form of Mediterranean-based dish. 

I thought it would be fun to look back on some of my favorite Mediterranean dishes, namely my top Greek and Italian recipes. I chose a good mix of main dishes, one appetizer, and a dessert! As always, if you click on the recipe title it will direct you back to my original post with the recipe!

                                                    Ina Garten Sausage and Fennel Rigatoni

This is one of the MOST DELICIOUS FIVE STAR pasta dishes I've ever made or eaten anywhere, both in my kitchen and in a restaurant. Many others say the same, so I feel like it is a must make if you're a pasta lover. Don't let the fennel worry you if it's not your favorite. I felt that way and it turned out just fine. The fennel just gives this dish a delicate background flavor that really gives the dish the boost it needs to be something special. It is an outstanding dish!

White pizza is a real favorite of mine and this version with three cheeses: ricotta, mozzarella, and Parmesan is just a stunning dish! This pizza turns out perfectly for me every single time and to this day it is THE SINGLE MOST delicious pizza I've ever made at home! I always imagine myself eating a slice at an outdoor restaurant over the cliffs of the Amalfi Coast.
I love all things shrimp and feta cheese, feta is one of my favorite cheeses, so this dish was meant for me! It's flavorful and light and feels so special. One day when I get over to Greece I plan to eat my weight in all things feta and shrimp, and probably baklava, but that's for another post.
Again, feta cheese! I am ALWAYS looking for ways to eat feta cheese so this recipe makes me feel better about eating so much cheese because I'm also eating vitamin rich pepper as well! It's a win-win situation!
As I mentioned several times over the years, the Amalfi Coast of Italy is rife with lemons and in my spare time I watch travel vlogs on Youtube and everyone is dining al fresco on the cliffs of the Amalfi Coast doing shooters of Limoncello, eating fresh fruit, pasta, etc. This dessert reminds me of the Mediterranean because it's fruity and light, spiked with Limoncello, and just a little bit creamy with a lemon yogurt dressing. It just seems like the fruity desserts you find all over Italy and I'm going to declare it Mediterranean! 

A Taste of The Mediterranean!