Saturday, July 27, 2013

Summer in a Bowl

Tomato, Stone Fruit and Fresh Mozzarella Salad

I love Honeycrisp apples. Created at the University of Minnesota in 1960 and released to the world in 1991, I find it to be the most spectacular apple in the world. It's a unique blend of sweet and tart...and it has a firmness that gives it a very long shelf life.

The very best honeycrisp apples I have eaten are locally grown. They start to show up on grocery shelves in September. Come November, the honeycrisps you buy come from southern climes. Now, at the height of summer, the honeycrisps in the store are usually from Argentina or Chile. They are not very good, so at this time of year I switch to nectarines.

The nectarines of July are magnificent. They are unbelievably sweet and much more than peaches. They are so juicy, in fact, that I eat them by slicing off slivers of the fruit with a sharp knife. Eat them by hand and you'll end up with a face and shirt drenched with nectarine syrup.

To me, nectarines were always a standalone food be eaten and enjoyed all by itself. This belief was altered by Stephanie Izard two weeks ago. That's when I discovered this recipe she created. She calls it "Summer in a Bowl". In the words of those brilliant songwriters Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, I call it "f*cking awesome".

Stephanie has created a sort of Frankensalad, taking body parts from both the panzanella and caprese salads and sewing them together. Make sure the nectarines and plums are ripe and full of juice. Make sure your mozzarella is should be very tender to the touch. Her recipe will take you about 15 minutes to make and serves four to six people.

1 cup roasted and salted pistachios, roughly chopped
Juice of 2 lemons
2 tablespoons honey
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2¼ cups roughly torn bread
1¼ pounds heirloom tomatoes, cut into wedges
1 ripe nectarine, cut into wedges
2 ripe plums, cut into wedges
10 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced into ¼-inch rounds
8 basil leaves, roughly chopped


  1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Make vinaigrette: In a medium bowl, whisk together pistachios, lemon juice, honey and 4 tablespoons oil until well combined. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
  2. Make croutons: Toss bread with remaining oil and season with salt. Spread croutons in a single layer on a baking tray and bake until golden, 12-15 minutes.
  3. In a bowl, toss tomatoes with stone fruit and season with salt. Divide mozzarella slices among plates and season with salt and pepper. Top with fruit mixture, drizzle with vinaigrette and garnish with basil and croutons. Serve immediately.

Wine pairing: Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Grilled Radicchio and Italian Sausages

Peanut butter and jelly. BBQ ribs and corn on the cob. Bacon and eggs. All are stellar examples of food pairing, where one plus one equals three. Today I am sharing Melissa Clark's incredible pairing where one plus one equals four (and it actually serves four as well).

Radicchio, also known as Italian Chicory, has a rather bitter and spicy taste. But lay it on the grill for three minutes and it magically transforms. The taste mellows, the bitterness recedes...the spiciness becomes more muted.

And hot Italian sausage, how many ways do I love thee? I prefer Johnsonville Hot Italian Sausage. The heat of the red pepper and the snap of fennel seed makes them my "go-to" choice every time. So many of the other Italian sausages I've tried are just too much "pork forward". I like the pork taste to be in the background...not center stage.

This whole meal can be made in less than 15 minutes. But it will taste like you have spent hours laboring to achieve such culinary perfection. Grill the radicchio, then bathe it in olive oil and lemon juice...and when the fat from the sausages gets added....welcome to your own little serving of heaven. I would recommend you serve this dish with crostini:(

2 large heads radicchio (about 10 ounces each)
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
2 pounds hot Italian sausage
1 lemon, halved
Basil leaves for serving


  1. Light or heat up the grill. Halve radicchios lengthwise through stem end, and toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil (or more if you need it to coat) and 1/4 teaspoon salt.
  2. Put radicchios, cut side down, and sausages on the grill and cover. Let cook for 3 minutes, until outer radicchio leaves are dark brown. Transfer to a cutting board and let cool while sausages finish cooking, about 5 minutes more.
  3. When cool enough to handle, thinly slice radicchios. The outsides should be charred, and the insides should still be crisp and raw. Combine in a bowl with another 2 tablespoons olive oil and the juice of half a lemon. Taste and correct seasonings, adding lemon juice, salt and olive oil to taste.
  4. Spread radicchio on a platter and top with grilled sausages. Garnish with basil and serve.

Wine pairing: Rombauer Zinfandel

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Sicilian Orange Salad

I turned 61 years old today... still on the right side of the dirt. I started the day with an early morning walk around Normandale Lake and will end it with a fine dinner tonight with family and friends. If I were to sum up how I will feel after tonight's dinner, this does it best:

It's been pretty hot here in Minnesota this week...and it's going to get even hotter this weekend. There's no better meal on a hot day than a nice, cool salad. Famous chef Ciccio Sultano grew up in Sicily and opened his restaurant, Il Domo, there in 2000. Since then he has earned two Michelin extraordinary accomplishment for any chef.

His specialty is taking the simplest of ingredients and combining them to create unforgettable dishes. The simplicity of his Sicilian Orange Salad is incredible. The prep is minimal...from start to finish you'll clock less than 8 minutes putting the salad together. And once you taste this salad, you'll be saving your money to make the pilgrimage to visit Il Duomo in Ragusa Ibla, Sicily.

2 oranges, peel and outer pith removed
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon chopped chives
1 teaspoon chopped red jalapeƱo
1/2 cup chopped Italian parsley
5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup water
pinch of salt


  1. Separate oranges into segments (sliced as in photo).
  2. Add all ingredients to a wide salad bowl and toss gently to combine.
  3. Let salad rest for 30 minutes for flavors to blend. Then serve with crusty bread to soak up the dressing.

Wine pairing: Semillon or Semillon-Sauvignon blend