Tag Archives: dining with friends

The Right Way to Enjoy Al Fresco Dining

al fresco dinner ware

Dining outdoors – perfect for longer, warmer nights.

Days are getting longer and the nights are warming up – a perfect combination to dine al fresco with friends or a significant other.  It’s more than simply eating outside or just two Italian words that mean “in the cool air” – it’s a whole experience when done properly.  It’s creating the perfect table setting, candle-lit ambiance, just the right amount of casual and, of course, the perfect menu.

Many people think of white paper plates and red solo cups when they think of having a picnic, but for me, it’s always more than that.  Whether it’s dinner in the backyard by the pool or in the park with a big group of friends or perhaps a concert at The Hollywood Bowl, it’s important to make every dining occasion special but also worry-free!

There are so many fantastic unbreakable options now.  Crate and Barrel has an entire selection of beautiful rustic melamine (plastic!) in several colors that all coordinate well with bowls, plates and service pieces in different patterns (also melamine).  Add their “glassware” made from different polymer materials unbreakable glasses in all shapes including stemmed wine glasses and margarita glasses. You’ll have the basics for a colorful, fun and worry-free table setting. Yesterday, on my video, I showcased other options from Williams Sonoma. Use woven placemats in a coordinating color with a white linen napkin and colorful napkin ring to complete the look.  All you need now is simple flatware (really only a fork and knife), and you’re set.

Candlelight is important to set the mood.  Hurricane lamps with candles (include some citronella candles – to keep away the flying insects) to set around.  Make sure that the top of the candle is lower than the top of the hurricane lamp otherwise even a small breeze will blow out the flame.

Create simple centerpieces for height and color. Keep it casual.  You can use flowers, but then you need to worry about vases with water that can tip over.  Some of my favorite centerpieces are just twigs with small flowers (cherry blossom branches, birch branches, manzanita branches, etc.).  And sometimes it’s even simpler than that – just a large bunch of green – even Magnolia leaves in a big enough bunch are casual and beautiful.  You don’t need water – just a fun container.

Plan the menu appropriately for wherever you will be dining and how far you will be traveling to get there.  If you’re in the backyard, your menu can include hot food straight from the kitchen or BBQ. If you’re traveling (even around the corner to the park with friends) plan a menu that only includes food that can be served room temperature – salads, grilled in season vegetables (asparagus, artichokes, broccolini, et cetera – look at the farmer’s market for ideas). Veggies can easily be added to a plate of cold pasta salad to add color and flavor, along with cold sliced roast and cold fried chicken – you get the idea.  Don’t forget an easy batch cocktail – margaritas, negronis or keep it simple and bring wine.  And don’t forget the wine-opener.

One last safety note – warm evenings and nights also bring bugs. I hate bugs, but I especially hate mosquitos that can be a real pain (literally). Some of your guests may be uncomfortable about dining outside without some protection. Remind your guests to wear their preferred insect repellent lotions (et cetera) or ask them what they prefer and bring some just in case they forget. I also burn Tiki torch fuel that’s spiked with citronella – it seems to do the trick. Start them up about an hour before your guests arrive and you’ll be bug-free for hours.

You may enjoy this so much, you’ll make it a regular event all summer!

The simplest Vodka cocktail that isn’t really a cocktail.

NIKOLAI-vodka-taste_sm

Another way to enjoy your favorite vodka: a Nikoli for your party.

I love to host parties of all sizes.  Sometimes it’s a small group of 6, and sometimes it feels like I sent out a mailing addressed to “current occupant”!  Almost no weekend goes by that I’m not hosting some activity, somewhere.

A couple of weeks ago I hosted a “tasting” – a party where various dishes or types of food or beverage all focused around one theme are shared.  This one was focused on caviar (I served four types) and vodka (two types) – two incredible flavors that are a classic pairing.  I added a couple of types of smoked fish and, of course, champagne.  It had a very Russian feel to it.

A close friend of mine (part of the group around the table) used to manage a vodka bar and shared a very special cocktail that her Russian clients would regularly order.  She said that this drink has quite a few different names: Russian Cocaine, Russian Rocket, Nicolaski, but the one she remembered was most asked for, and the name I’ll use from now on is “Nikoli.” It’s really quite ingenious and very delicious.

This is a very simple drink and even if you don’t normally drink vodka – this may win you over!  Use only a very smooth vodka.  For me, it’s always a potato vodka and one of two labels (I drink both). When I’m out on the town with friends, my vodka of choice is always Chopin.  If the restaurant has Luksusowa, a classic Polish vodka, I’ll order that for a change.  I keep both in my freezer at home, so I’m ready at a moment’s notice.  Both are distilled from potatoes and are very smooth and rich especially when stored in the freezer, so they stay chilled properly.

Just an aside, that’s the big secret to making vodka taste great – keep it cold enough.  People have been dropping their bottles of vodka in the snow, letting the bottles stay out in subfreezing weather for a day or so for hundreds of years. We’ve got it a whole lot easier –  just put the bottle in the freezer!

Remember that vodka will not freeze (of course, because it’s alcohol), but it will thicken up a little, and the taste will change quite a bit. At “near freezing” temperatures, the proper drinking temperature for good vodka, it releases fewer volatiles, the compound in the alcohol that quickly vaporizes. That’s why when a spirit like vodka is warm, the smell of pure alcohol can be overwhelming.

By sipping a vodka that’s properly chilled (near freezing), a balance is created between the natural volatiles and the taste of the things that you are eating with the vodka. Which brings me back to a “Nikoli.”

You need four things for a Nikoli – aforementioned near-freezing vodka, thinly sliced lemon (I use Meyer lemons – they’re sweeter), a small dish of regular white sugar, and another small dish of freshly ground coffee (the finer the ground, the darker the bean, the better).

  • Prep the Meyer lemons by pressing one side of each slice into the little dish of sugar and the other side of the lemon slice into the dish of ground coffee.
  • Then pour about one to two ounces of chilled vodka into either shot glasses or aperitif glasses.
  • Pick up one lemon slice by the rind and fold it between your fingers (like a taco) with the coffee side inside and the sugar side on the outside.
  • Bite the flesh of the lemon clean from the rind, take the shot and then chew the lemon and swallow it all together.

Absolutely delicious!

One more little recommendation: chill your glasses. Chill your shot glasses in the freezer with the vodka, but place aperitif glasses in the regular refrigerator.  I like to use my antique aperitif glasses, they’re pretty, and they make the table look more festive, but I’d never put them in the freezer – they’re way too delicate.

Try a Nikoli – it’s a great way to get a party started!!

What bread plate is mine?

Tabletop place setting

Easy tips for setting your table, for every day!

When my kids were at home, we always ate our meals at the kitchen table, and if I was having a party, the meal would move to the dining room.  Somehow all that changed when the kids left for college.  There were times that it seemed like it was just too much effort to set the table – after all, it was “just us” –  and on occasion, we would find ourselves eating in front of the TV.

Not too long after the kids left for college, I decided that we would no longer be eating in front of the “boob tube.” We would return to the table where we could have a real conversation together, find out what went on during each of our days and get re-connected after a long day of work.

To be honest, my preference has always been to enjoy a nice meal and conversation around a table with my friends and family. That means setting the table! When you do it right, even your garden variety basic meal can be turned into something everyone enjoys. All you need to do is take the time to put everything in order on your tabletop.

Don’t be embarrassed though if you can’t remember where to put the bread plate and whether (or if) you should put out a soup spoon.  It can get very confusing and so many people get it wrong.  After twenty years of owning restaurants, the right place setting is practically tattooed on the inside of my eyelids. I still fight the urge to fold napkins when I’m at a friend’s home for dinner.

Always remember this one basic rule: set your table for the meal you’re having, not for a fancy party (unless of course, that’s precisely what you’ve planned). If you’re not having soup, don’t put out a soup spoon. If you’re not serving bread, don’t put out a bread plate. To be honest, unless you’re setting a formal table you don’t really need that bread plate anyway.

According to Emily Post, a place setting is an array of dishes and utensils and the dinner plate is the “hub of the wheel.” But, if your goal is to entertain friends and encourage conversation, don’t get too fancy.

I usually set an informal table. I like to “stack” my plates: dinner plate on the bottom, with salad plate on top (if I’m serving salad). Where I put the napkin depends on my mood – sometimes I put it under the forks (like my mother did), sometimes it’s folded on top of the dinner/salad plate, sometimes I use a napkin ring, and sometimes I put it in the water glass!  It just all depends on how I want the table to look that day.

Forks always go on the left of the dinner plate with the largest fork closest to the plate and then smaller ones next to that. Knives are placed to the right of the plate and spoons to the right of the knife. The sharp edge of all knives should be turned to face the plate.  Placing the sharp edge of the knife facing inwards dates back several hundred years when it was considered aggressive to place the sharp edge of the knife facing outwards.   The bread plate goes on the left, above the forks.

Place water, champagne, and wine glasses in a line on the right, just above the knife and spoons. And remember, the water glass is the first glass placed with champagne and wine glasses to the right of the water glass.

Remember, simplicity! Only set the pieces that you will use during the meal, but if you’re serving dessert, you can place the dessert fork above the plate (I like the way that looks). That means that if you’re not serving champagne, don’t put a champagne glass on the table.  I like to set coffee cups and dessert plates out only when it’s time – otherwise, the table gets way too cluttered, and on my table, all that extra stuff won’t leave any room for the actual food!

Just because you might be having a very casual BBQ outside, or serving hamburgers and hot dogs for dinner, and you’ve chosen to use heavy paper plates and plastic forks and knives to simplify clean up, doesn’t mean that setting all the pieces in their proper place on the table won’t make it feel special.  You might want to use string or ribbon as a napkin ring to dress it up just a little bit.  You can even make a “roll up” out of the napkin, plastic ware and a piece of string (it’s what restaurants give you when you order “to go”) to make your very casual table more fun!

By the way, there is nothing better than a little candlelight to add a little ambiance to the meal. Even if your tabletop is completely disposable, dim the lights, light some candles, and – voila – you’ve just added something fun to the experience. Never use scented candles at a table. Seriously. Who wants “country cinnamon” competing with the Pasta Bolognese that you labored over in the kitchen?

What you want is a comfortable setting that eases everyone into an enjoyable dinner experience.

 

Drinks and Snacks for Your Super Bowl Party!

Cool Drinks and Great Snacks for Your #Superbowl – #SB51

I’ve tried all kinds of ways of hosting a Super Bowl party. You can go the route of a big meal – one or two big dishes. Another way is to line up some cool drinks and have lots of savory snacks on hand.

Mix up a batch of “Minty Moscow Mule Punch” for your Super Bow party. From Real Simple.

This approach gives everyone some variety and easy choices. They’re also good for the ‘quick snap’ as a friend of mine likes to describe it – one cup, one napkin, and you’re off and running back to the big screen.

It’s important to serve beverages that will go best with whatever menu you’ve planned.  If your crowd likes sodas and beer then set up a couple of ice filled coolers with bottled sodas (more fun than cans) and some interesting beers (perhaps a Belgian ale, a local craft beer and a lager).

If your crowd is more into a full bar, then set up / mix some batch cocktails that you can serve in a pitcher so you aren’t playing bartender all day.  Here’s a great drink recipe for a Minty Moscow Mule Punch that is very popular. Or what about White Negroni Punch (see featured photo above). Remember – make these well before your guests show up.

Don’t forget to have enough ice on hand.  Start making ice the day before and fill up gallon ziplock bags with ice cubes so you’ll have a head start. I use this party guideline: 2 pounds of ice per person for a party.

Even if I decide to bring in platters of sandwiches and salads I will always make some snacks to put my personal touch on the party.  Important rule for Super Bowl snacks – make more than enough. Nothing is worse than running out in the middle of halftime. I love these four recipes – they really hit the spot:

A plate of “Cacio e Pepe Chips” from Bon Appetit. Make a lot. They’re addicting!

Cacio e Pepe Chips – featuring kettle-cooked chips and grated percorino! Great with just about any beer.

Sweet and Spicy Mixed Nuts – this is an absolute winner. You can prepare this recipe 2 days ahead of your party.

Spiced Popcorn with Pecans and Raisins – a real head-turner at my parties. And, habit-forming. Plan on your guests eating two or three servings a piece so if you’re doing this one make sure you make a lot!

Buffalo Wing Popcorn – no kidding, what a combo. Another addicting dish.

I always recommend that you not use your regular dinnerware for these kinds of gatherings. But try (really try) to resist the urge to use paper plates. Not only are your average grocery store disposables kinda flimsy, they’re really ugly. I mean, seriously!  I get my disposables (plates, cutlery, and cups) from EMI Yoshi. They’re plastic, recyclable, AND they’re really cool looking.  Find them on Amazon.

Have a great time!

Perfect Chili or Stew, for your Super Bowl Party

Football and food

Hot Recipe Ideas for your Super Bowl Party

I can’t tell you how many Super Bowl Parties I have thrown (too many to count!) but I can tell you my secrets to making sure your guests have the best time all while you’re able to enjoy the party too.  Because, really, what’s the point of throwing a great party if you can’t have fun too?  Even if you’re not the biggest football fan, there will be plenty of others with the same outlook on the game that you have for you to catch up with while everyone else is cheering for their favorite team.  If you plan this right, you will be doing exactly that – enjoying your own party!

My first rule, no matter what kind of party I’m throwing, is to pick out my menu while remembering what activities will be going on. For a Super Bowl party, everyone is going to want to be in front of the TV while they’re eating and not at a table. So, make sure that whatever you plan to serve does NOT require any cutting. People will be eating on their laps, the easier it is to eat, the less mess will end up on your sofa and rug. You also want to serve something that guests can serve themselves when the commercials come on.

Make a big pot of chili and keep it on the stove will all the fixings on the counter. Here’s a great recipe I found from Paula Deen for a Hearty Chili.

OnceUponAChef - Beef Stew with Carrots and PotatoesOr how about a beef stew to shake things up? I found this recipe a few years ago from Once Upon a Chef. Serve this one with a sliced crusty baguette to dip.

And remember, chili and stew always taste better the second day. So, you’ll want to make these the day before your party. Another secret? A taco bar set up on your kitchen table will work too!

One last tip, you don’t need to use China. In fact, don’t use China. You’ll be sorry if you do because you will need to do those dishes right when your guest are getting ready to leave! But, don’t use paper plates either. You need to make sure your plate/bowl will hold the weight of your food and not collapse.

For these kinds of events, I always use disposable bowls, plates, cups and cutlery by EMI Yoshi. You can find them on Amazon.

Go Team!

End of Another Year, Start of New Possibilities

Enjoy around the table

Time to bring your Friends and Family together around your table!

Wow!  How did it get to be January already?  I’m always surprised by how quickly the year flies by and yet they are moving quicker and quicker and here it is – the start of another year.  And, each year I’m also surprised by how much happens. This past one was absolutely no exception.  Right?  I’m not just thinking about stuff that happened in the news or around the world – although there was a lot of that.  I’m thinking about all of the new friends that I’ve made and relationships that I started last year.  I’m thinking about all of the people who have discovered the importance of being “around the table” with people who are closest to us, or maybe people we wish to bring closer.

We can all give lip service about how dear some people are to us, but the strongest way to “walk the walk” and not just “talk the talk” is to gather together for a meal, a snack or even just a cup of coffee.  It doesn’t have to be a big meal or even a big deal at all – what it is, is the time spent together sharing around the table (or even a park bench at lunch).  It’s how we draw together at meals.  When it becomes a regular thing so much changes.  Maybe someone will start making new recipes and others will want to be in the kitchen helping create for the shared experience.  The main point is getting people together to share what is, for many of us, something we do well and too often alone.

Eating should be about more than just getting nourishment – you know – getting the calories in so that we can move through our day.  It should be about feeding the soul with the very thing that makes us human and feel alive: connection to one another – love.

So… let’s toast to the new year, filled with health, happiness and blessings.  Whatever last year has meant to you, make this new year the one where you draw your friends and family close together around your table!

Fran’s Party Etiquette Rules – For Hosts (Part III)

toasting with champagne

Fran’s 7 Golden Rules for Hosting a Party

How about a few rules for hosts? Okay, so the word “rules” might be a little heavy-handed. More like guidelines. This is a part of a series – I started with guest rules, then worked my way through a list of ideas of host gifts (very important). Now I’m on to my list of “rules” for hosting a party.

The whole goal is to avoid those things that can absolutely affect your party in a big way.  Something will always happen, it can’t be avoided completely, but if you do try it will turn out better than if you didn’t.  If you remember the big “rules,” then you can party on fearlessly!

  1. Always make sure your house is set BEFORE your guests are due to arrive. Nothing makes people more uncomfortable than watching the host scrambling to finish those last few items.
  2. Set a tray with glasses of sparkling/champagne/signature cocktail at the door so that when your guests arrive you can greet them with a welcoming glass of something. Nothing sets the mood for the party like this.
  3. Just because a guest brings a bottle of something – you are not obligated to open it. This goes for food items too.  Simply tell the guest that you’ve carefully planned the menu so you will save their special “——” for another time, or that you would love to share it with them on another occasion so it will be a special event for you and them.
  4. I live in Southern California and you’d be amazed what some people do when they go to parties. This has happened to me and it even happened to a friend at their wedding.  Your invited guest decides it perfectly fine to bring an “extra.”  Be gracious to that “extra.” I am positive your friend told them it would be completely OK to come.  It’s not the “extra’s” fault they’re there.  Be welcoming to the “extra” and then take it up with your friend at a later time.
  5. Make sure you have fully stocked the powder room/bathroom that the guests will use – you know toilet paper, Kleenex, soap, hand towels, and do NOT forget the plunger. There may be that moment that something has happened in there that needs immediate attention – you don’t want your guest to have to come looking for you!
  6. I’m a big advocate of using candles for atmosphere – the more the merrier – but never use scented candles. You don’t know who’s got allergies (like me!) and believe me your guests will come “scented” enough.
  7. Make sure your playlist matches your invitation. Your invitation tells everyone what your party will be like.  If you send a formal invitation don’t be playing head banging music when your guests arrive.  And, if you find that your guests are having to talk over the music – turn it down a notch.

Of course, the most important rule of all (maybe #8, which kinda goes back to #1) is to chill out, smile, and have a blast. Nothing sets the mood of the party better than a happy host.

 

5 Rules for Throwing a Dinner Party That Never Ends

photo-dave-lastovskiy_dinner

Have a party that they’ll be talking about for years.

One of the best dinner parties I ever went to started at a normal hour, 7:30pm, but no one left until well after 1am!  Nobody wanted to leave.  The best part?  The host didn’t want anyone to leave either!  If you follow these very simple rules you can have a never ending dinner party that your friends will remember with love for years.  If you get really good at it, you will be known as the dinner party queen/king and the envy of everyone you know.

  1. Be careful of your guest list. That doesn’t mean to keep it to a specific number of guests but to pay attention to the mix of guests.  Be aware of any tension between any of your friends and make sure you don’t stir that hornet’s nest-it won’t bode well for a convivial evening.
  1. Serve dinner “family style.” When you try to create individual plates everything becomes more formal and that’s the exact opposite of your goal.  You want everyone to be comfortable.  When people need to “please pass the potatoes” it gets people talking to each other – a great way to encourage conversation.  When you serve “family style” on large serving platters your guests are encouraged to have seconds or even just another bite of something.
  1. Plan your menu with food that doesn’t need to be a certain temperature – food that is perfectly fine served at room temp. If you’ve ever had a large group over for a meal and you’ve tried to make sure that the last person served gets food that’s as hot as the first person served you will know exactly what I’m talking about.  This way the food can stay on the table as long as you and your guests are at the table (which you want to be a long time!) and still taste great.
  1. Make sure there is plenty of wine on the table for your guests to serve themselves. Don’t be precious with it – you don’t want to have rules about what is being poured when during the meal.  Stick with bottles that are similar in flavor and body whether they are red or white – but make sure to have both opened.  Leave those bottles on the table for easy refills by your guests.  Be careful to not run out!
  1. Candles are key. Atmosphere is the quickest way to turn your dinner with friends into a real party and candles do that effortlessly.  Use candles of different heights on your table and light them ALL.  The lighting changes as your night progresses from fresh candles that are newly lit to a soft glow from those that burn the longest.  Be sure to have a lot of them as they will burn at different rates – only some will last all night but that just contributes to the wonderful atmosphere you want to have.

I promise that if you follow these 5 simple rules your next dinner party will be a greater success than you could have ever wished for.  Enjoy!

A Chinese Food Memory

Chinese Dinner

It’s amazing what will trigger a Food Memory.

I was speaking with a friend the other day about family dinners and we got to talking about our food memories growing up and what we’ve done with our own families to create food memories for our kids.  Each of us grew up in completely different environments with completely different backgrounds but had experienced a commonality in what happened for both of us around the table. The whole conversation brought back a favorite food memory for me and some serious insight as to why I do what I do with my family and friends – all around the table.

When I was in middle school my parents had some very good friends from mainland China that they would socialize with on a fairly regular basis.  My parents loved Chinese food and I have a very clear memory of a beautiful set of chopsticks that these friends had given to my mother for her birthday one year.  They brought them all the way from China – this was the 60’s and travel between the US and China was almost impossible at the time – people were escaping to come to the US.

I know that they had moved permanently to the US at the time and were never going back (at least that is my memory as a teenager) so anything they brought with them was very precious.  My mother was honored and humbled to have received this very special gift from them.  She would bring them with her whenever we went to a Chinese restaurant for dinner.  The hard part was that they were very polished and extremely slippery so she would always have a difficult time eating dinner.  It never mattered to her – she loved them and the love and sacrifice that they represented to her friends – those dinners for her were more about using the beautiful gift than actually getting to eat a complete meal.

I also remember the one dinner (I may have been 5 or 6) when my father decided that I was old enough to learn how to properly use chopsticks.  When you go to an Asian restaurant you will usually see small children using chopsticks that are connected either using a rubber band or springing device to help them keep the pair together and allow the small children to eat by themselves.  At this particular dinner my dad decided it was time for me to switch from Western cutlery to real chopsticks!  I remember him telling me that I couldn’t use any fork or spoon (in fact he made sure there weren’t any on the table) and that if I was hungry I would learn how to coordinate the chopsticks to navigate food to my mouth….I learned quickly and to this day I can’t eat any Asian food without a pair of chopsticks – including rice and noodles!

We would go to their favorite Chinese restaurant and I can still see the “lazy susan” in the middle of the table that would be full of the many dishes my parents would order for us to eat.  There was always a lot of discussion about what was in a particular bowl.  One of us would taste it and inevitably they would say – “It’s so delicious you have to try it!”  With all of the tasting of the different flavors, the turning of the lazy susan toward whoever was trying something, the chatter about what we were eating or who got the last bite of something wonderful it was always a fun and crazy dinner.  I loved those meals with all of their silliness and laughter – not to mention the appreciation I learned for good Chinese food and of course my ability to use chopsticks properly!

I didn’t think about this food memory for years until the conversation with my friend brought it to light.  He was telling me that when his family (he’s Japanese) would have everyone over for a big meal, each person would bring something to contribute to the table – not a huge casserole or enormous bowl of salad – but a small bowl of something that they liked to eat so that everyone might have just a bite to experience the flavors in each dish.  He said that there was always so much laughter and sharing that it left lasting memories. It’s exactly how I like to eat to this day – talking, laughing, eating all with family, friends and those I love.  Each person sharing a special bite of something wonderful – around the table.

Sparkling Tarragon Gin Lemonade

tarragon-gin-lemonade

Time to Spice Up Your Lemonade

Many of my best party food memories are from Sunday BBQs when the kids were growing up so when the weather changes and it begins to get hot outside I start thinking about those BBQs and fun get-togethers. Then I try to figure out what would be a good adult-beverage for an afternoon outside with my friends and family now that everyone’s grown up. This adult lemonade will fit the bill perfectly this summer. It’s easy to make, isn’t too sweet (even with the St. Germain) and has bubbles which automatically make anything fun. Muddling is a bar technique used to release the essential oils from herbs and fruits to deliver the maximum impact on the drink. It’s basically gently crushing (with what amounts to a wooden pestle) the items against the glass – press and give a ½ turn of your wrist. This was created by Alison Roman and published in bon appétit June 2013. This recipe serves 6.

Ingredients

  • 10 large sprigs tarragon
  • 2 lemons, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 3/4 cup gin
  • 3/4 cup St-Germain (elderflower liqueur)
  • 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
  • (1) 12-ounce can club soda

Directions

Muddle tarragon sprigs, lemon slices, and sugar in a large pitcher. Add gin, St-Germain, lemon juice, and club soda. Add ice and stir to combine. Serve over ice.

Crispy Chicken Cutlets with Cherry Tomato Panzanella

crispy-chicken-cutlets-cherry-tomato-panzanella

A Fond Food Memory in the Making with Panzanella

Chicken cutlets are great for a week night dinner as they cook quickly and with the colorful cherry tomato salad served on top you’re basically done with dinner preparation and you’ve easily created a wonderful food memory!  The recipe calls for “bone in” chicken breasts but I would buy boneless/skin on chicken breasts and eliminate the need to debone the chicken – way easier – just be sure to pound the breasts evenly so that they cook properly.  There were a few comments posted with this recipe where the writer used boneless/skinless chicken breasts and loved the recipe that way so if you don’t want skin it will definitely turn out well.  This was created by Alison Roman and was published in bon appétit July 2015. Serves 4 friends or family members.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 small onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 tablespoons distilled white vinegar, divided
  • Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 cup torn country-style bread, (from about 1/4 small loaf)
  • 2 skin-on, bone-in chicken breasts
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 pound cherry tomatoes
  • Pinch of sugar
  • 3/4 cup parsley leaves with tender stems

Directions

  1. Combine onion and 2 tablespoons vinegar in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper; set aside.
  2. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Add bread; season with salt and pepper. Cook, tossing, until golden brown, 5–8 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl. Wipe out skillet.
  3. Using a thin, sharp knife, cut bones and cartilage from chicken breasts. Pound chicken between 2 sheets of plastic wrap to 1/4″ thick; season with salt and pepper.
  4. Heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in skillet over medium-high. Cook 1 chicken breast, skin side down, until golden brown and nearly cooked through, about 4 minutes. Turn and cook until cooked through, about 1 minute more; second side will not brown. Transfer to a platter. Repeat with remaining cutlet and 1 tablespoon vegetable oil (no need to wipe out skillet).
  5. Cut half of tomatoes in half. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in same skillet over medium-high. Add whole tomatoes; season with salt and pepper. Cook, tossing occasionally, until lightly blistered and starting to burst, about 5 minutes. Toss in sugar and remaining 1 tablespoon vinegar. Transfer to bowl with croutons. Add pickled onion with pickling liquid, halved tomatoes, parsley, and remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and toss. Serve chicken with panzanella spooned over.

More than a Traditional Panzanella: With Beet and Rye

http://franberger.wpengine.com/beet-and-rye-panzanella-salad-recipe

Beet and Rye Panzanella Salad – a Recipe with a Dash of Tradition

I love a good traditional Panzanella Salad and will order it every time at my favorite Italian restaurants.  But, when I saw the picture of this recipe in the February 2016 edition of bon appétit for Beet and Rye Panzanella created by Claire Saffitz, I was blown away by the colors of the dish.  We all eat with our eyes and I absolutely had to see how this gorgeous salad was made-the photograph was that beautiful.  After seeing how truly simple this salad is I’m going to use it for my next get-together and make a perfect food memory from a perfect salad! Serves 4.

Ingredients

  • 1½ pounds small beets, any color, scrubbed (about 10)
  • ½ small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar, plus more for serving
  • Kosher salt
  • ½ loaf rye bread, crusts removed, torn into 1-inch pieces (about 6 cups)
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided, plus more for serving
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large orange
  • 4 ounces ricotta salata (salted dried ricotta), crumbled
  • 1 cup torn fresh herbs (such as dill, parsley, tarragon, and mint)

Preparation

  • Preheat oven to 425°. Place beets in a shallow 2-qt. baking dish and add water to come ½” up sides. Cover dish tightly with foil and bake beets until tender and a cake tester or paring knife easily slides through flesh, 45–60 minutes. Let cool slightly.
  • Meanwhile, toss onion, 3 Tbsp. vinegar, and a pinch of salt in a small bowl to combine; set aside.
  • Toss torn bread and 2 Tbsp. oil on a rimmed baking sheet to coat; season with salt and pepper. Bake, tossing once, until bread is golden brown and crisp around edges, 8–10 minutes; set aside.
  • Rub beets with paper towels to remove skins, then halve (or quarter if large) and place in a large bowl; add onion with liquid.
  • Using a small sharp knife, remove peel and white pith from orange. Working over bowl with beets, cut between membranes to release segments into bowl. Squeeze membranes to release juices; discard. Add reserved toasted bread and 2 Tbsp. oil and toss to combine. Let sit a few minutes for flavors to meld.
  • Just before serving, fold in ricotta salata and herbs, drizzle with more oil and vinegar, and season with salt and pepper.