Wednesday, April 28, 2010


There are days that we are so busy I just don't have the time or the inclination to cook a full meal. The night was like that. The kids were going in ten different directions and no one was home at the same time. On days like this I pull out the panini press, lay out some bread, vegetable, cheeses and meats and let everyone use their imagination.

A panini is a sandwich typically made with cheese, meats and/or vegetables which is then pressed and grilled to perfection. The great thing about them is that you are only limited by your imagination.

I would recommend constructing your sandwich in this order from bottom to top: bread, condiment, cheese, meat, vegetables, cheese, (more condiment if you like) and top with your second slice of bread. This will allow the cheese to melt and the the meat and vegetables to warm enough to have the flavor blend well. Using a study bread is best.

We like to use sourdough, french, nutty multi-grain and rolls or baguettes. Keep in mind that rolls and baguettes get crispier on the outside than sliced bread so try to choose one that may be a little softer. As for condiments, all I can say it have fun.  Some of our favorites are basil or sun dried tomato pesto sauce, Dijon mustard, artichoke spread, olive tapenade, or barbeque sauce.  This is also a great way to use up left over vegetables, I will often add asparagus or green beans from a previous meal. Some of the vegetables we like in our sandwiches are tomatoes, onions, asparagus, green beans and artichoke hearts.  My boys have tendency to leave out the veggies completely.  As for cheese, well we could go on all day, there is cheddar, jack, Muenster, Bree, Havarti, Parmesan, Asiago....well you get the idea.

After assemble your sandwich place it in a hot panini press and allow it to grill for 3 to 5 minutes, until the cheese is melted and the bread is nicely toasted.  If you don't have a panini press no problem you can still make these wonderful sandwiches.  Take your assembled sandwich and place it in a skillet.  Place a second skillet on top of the sandwich and weigh it down with a couple cans of soup, this will press the sandwich together.  Cook the sandwich until toasted on about 2 or 3 minutes, remove soup cans and top skillet, flip sandwich over and replace top skillet and cans.  I have had some people tell me they have wrapped a brick in foil and used that to press the sandwich while it cooks in a skillet.  The idea is to use something heavy enough to press the sandwich but also be safe around heat.  Also if you have a George Foreman grill those will work also, just watch as you close the grill that the top of your sandwich is not pushed off.  I have used a silicone spatula to hold the sides in place as I closed the lid.

As you can see there are few rules to making a panini, and that is half the fun.  Here is one of  my favorite combinations.

I used sourdough Dijon, cheddar, deli slice turkey breast, asparagus, roasted marinated red peppers and Asiago cheese.
Ryan took a different route with Dijon mustard, Bree and ham on sourdough.....
Great now I want one with Bree, pears slices and caramelized onions.

Anyway, moving on, I decided to throw together a salad with some left over cucumbers also.

I used about 1-1/2 cups diced cucumbers, about 1 cup diced tomatoes, hand full (or two, I love this stuff) feta cheese, 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, 2 tablespoons olive oil, salt and pepper to taste.

What could be better?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


I have become frustrated with the lack of quality and freshness of store bought pita.  It was too hard, to dry, too old, too bland, etc.  I was haunted by faint memories of being a child in Israel and the fresh pita that was available.   So, I decided that it was time to take things into my own hands and made the bread myself.  I know this may sound a little crazy (those of you who know me are not shocked by this I am sure) but it is really quite simple.  In fact, when my daughter saw how simple it is she commmented "That's all?'

Once the children tasted the freshly baked bread there was no going back.  They now know there is nothing better.  My oldest even commented on Facebook that there is nothing better than homemade hummus and pita.


2 teaspoons regular dry yeast
2.5 cups lukewarm water
5-6 cups all-purpose flour (See note)
1 tablespoon table salt
2 tablespoons olive oil


In a large messuring cup, dissolve yeast in warm water, and stir in one cup of flour and let sit for about 15-20 minutes. It will be grow and become bubbly.  This is your sponge.  Add olive oil gently.

Place remaining flour and salt in the Cuisinart (using the dough blade) and pulse about 20 times or run on the dough setting for about 20 seconds.  With machine running pour in liquid ingredients and allow to mix and knead for about 90 seconds.  Dough should cleanly pull away from the side of the bowl.  It should be soft and elastic.  Place dough in a clean and lightly oiled bowl, turn dough over so oiled side is up, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise until doubled, about 90 minutes.

Preheat oven to 450°. Heat pizza stone or baking sheet in oven.

Punch dough down, and divide into 12- 14 pieces, and roll into balls. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough to 1/8″ thick, about depth of a thick flour tortilla. 

Place 2 or 3 pieces of rolled out dough onto heated stone/sheet and bake for 3 to 4 minutes, until bread has fully ballooned. If your bread doesn’t balloon, That is okay, it will be just fine. 

Keep baked pita wrapped in a clean kitchen towel to keep warm while the rest of the bread baked.

Directions to make by hand or in stand up mixer:
In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water, and stir in one cup of flour and let sit for about 15-20 minutes.  Add salt, olive oil, and flour in 1 cup increments to the sponge, stirring until the dough is too stiff to stir. Turn dough out onto floured surface and knead for 8 to 10 minutes, or knead in a Kitchen Aid with a dough hook for about 6 to 8 minutes.  Place dough in a clean and lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise until doubled, about 90 minutes.  Proceed as directed above.

Note: Hummus recipe can be found HERE

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Risotto with Asparagus, Garlic and Lemon

I rarely use a recipe found in a magazine, let alone one that is part of an advertisement in a magazine.  With that said, when I saw this I thought "this looks great!"  I was right.

Risotto takes a little patience but it is definitely worth it.  You need to babysit it and stir quite a bit but please don't let that stop you from giving it a try.  Have all of your ingredients cut, minced, measured and ready to go.  Being prepared will help you get this done perfectly.  For those of you who prefer not to cook with alcohol, substitute with more broth.  Vegetarians can use vegetable broth although the flavor will be a little different. 

(From Gallo Family Recipes)

6 cups chicken stock
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup yellow onion – minced (I used my cuisinart and pulsed the life out of it)
2 cups Arborio Rice
1 cup white wine
1/2 pound asparagus- cut into 1-inch lengths (I cut them slightly longer)
1 tablespoon parsley – minced
1 teaspoon garlic – minced
1 teaspoon lemon zest
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese – grated


Heat the chicken stock and hold warm over medium heat. Heat a pot large enough to accommodate all of the ingredients on medium high and add the olive oil and onions, sauté until translucent and add garlic. Add the rice and stir with a wooden spoon to toast the rice for 2-3 minutes, add the wine and continue to stir. When all of the wine is absorbed by the rice, add the hot chicken stock in 1/3rd increments and stir. Only add the next 1/3rd of stock when the previous 1/3rd is absorbed by the rice and keep giving the rice a light stir. When the last 1/3rd of stock is almost absorbed add the asparagus, parsley, and lemon zest, keep stirring. Once the stock is absorbed remove the pot from heat and add the butter and Parmesan cheese and give it one last stir. Garnish with additional lemon zest, cheese, and parsley if you like.

Yield: 4-6 servings

Monday, April 5, 2010

Soft Yogurt Rolls

I love good rolls and have been wanting to make some that would be good for sandwiches but could be done as a dinner rolls also.   A few weeks ago I decided to try making yogurt rolls.  They came out perfectly.  They are firm enough for a sandwich or even a burger but are also nice and soft.  The kids really loved them. In fact, I had to make a second batch because the first was nearly gone in less than 24 hours.  I made ten rolls as the recipe describes but if you wanted dinner rolls cut the dough into 20 to 30 pieces depending on the size roll you prefer.

Soft Yogurt Rolls

4 - 5 cups all purpose flour
1 tbsp active dry yeast
3 tbsp agave syrup (or honey)
1 cup water, warm (100-110F)
1 cup non-fat greek yogurt
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 1/2 tsp salt

In a large mixing bowl, combine 1/2 cup flour, the active dry yeast, the honey and the warm water. Stir well and let sit for 10 minutes, until slightly foamy.
Stir in yogurt, vegetable oil, salt and 2 cups of the remaining flour. Gradually stir in more flour until you have a soft dough that sticks together pulls away from the sides of the bowl (This can all be done in a stand mixer with the dough-hook attached, or your Quisinart as well).  Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead, adding additional flour if necessary to prevent sticking, until dough is smooth and elastic, or about 5 minutes. Place in a lightly greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 1 hour or until doubled in size.
Turn risen dough out of bowl and onto a lightly floured surface. Gently deflate, pressing into a rectangle. Divide dough into 10 even pieces with a board scraper or a pizza cutter.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silpad. 
Shape each piece into a round roll, pinching the edges together and pulling one side of the dough “tight” across the top. Place on prepared baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough.
Once all rolls have been formed, press down firmly on each one to flatten.  Preheat oven to 375F.
Cover with a clean dish towel and let rise for 25 - 30 minutes.
Bake for about 20 minutes, until rolls are deep golden on the top and the bottom.  Cool on a wire rack.  Store in an airtight container.  Makes 10 rolls.

I have seen this recipe many place online but am not sure of it's origins.  Please let me know if you know who deserves credit.