Yellow and Red Cherry Tomatoes Caprese Salad

 

1.Yellow and Red Cherry Tomatoes Caprese Salad

Photography Serge Oryan

The beauty of Italy never ceases to amaze me, from north to south, armed with many authentic places (and recipes!!!) I fall in love with each city I visit. I was in Rome this month for my Birthday. My precious husband treated me with a 5-stars vacation and spent his time spoiling me.

What fall under the culinary section during my trip, are lots of Parmesan cheese, seafood and sparkling wine. From casual street food to Michelin starred restaurants, Italian cuisine is as influential as Rome’s artistic and historical assets. I selected only a couple of places to talk about, the ones I really want to visit again upon my next trip.

The first night we had dinner at Rinaldi al Quirinale, 11 via Parma, the next day we came back for their orange marinated salmon, Salmone Marinato all’Arancio; the best I ever had! On the way to Rinaldi, at the southern end of via Nazionale, my husband couldn’t resist the fab’ smell of the fresh and crunchy fries at Queens Chips. He ordered a piccolo (small) size, which was really a massive portion of freshly fried chips and sauce for €2.50!

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After a long shopping day around the Spanish steps I was in the mood for some Italian cheese, fresh smoothie and a hearty salad. Ginger restaurant, via Borgognona 43/44, was the best place for that. The menu is a compilation of gourmet treats, well presented in a white, modern and trendy environment. They serve light meals, fresh salads and sandwiches. Not only I enjoyed my cheese selection with a refreshing Caienna smoothie (Avocado, dates, banana, almond milk) and a Fossa salad (Mixed salad leaves, yellow and red lettuce, rocket, spinach, dried tomatoes, turkey, goat cheese, organic walnuts, green apple), but I also got to meet and chat with the talented Soprano Zeina Barhoum, who happened to be sitting right next to us.

On our way back from the Colosseum we stopped by Aroma restaurant where we booked a table for lunch. This gourmet restaurant has been awarded with 1 Michelin star and its regional cuisine has been recognized with 5 Star Diamond Award! It offers a spectacular view on the Colosseum, highly recommended for a special event (like my birthday!!). The food was exquisite and creative and the attentive staff follows the chef’s dedication. This dining experience was so momentous and exceeded our expectations.

The Aroma2

ZAroma

On the last eve, I went to a gourmet store and bought fresh mini mozzarella balls, as I was dreaming about Caprese salad. My recipe is so simple and totally relies on the freshness of the ingredients. It requires no slicing at all. Combine all ingredients and toss with best quality olive oil. There’s absolutely no excuse for using average olive oil in your salad. The key to a perfect Caprese salad is to use only the good stuff. Don’t add pesto or balsamic vinegar; the less improvement you do, the better. The recipe is a classic as it is, do yourself a favor and don’t try to ameliorate it. It doesn’t matter what kind of tomatoes you use as long as it’s fresh! I love to use yellow and red tomatoes, as this slight twist adds elegance to the presentation also the sweetness of the yellow tomato rounds off the creaminess of the mozarella. Enjoy!

Yellow and Red Cherry Tomatoes Caprese Salad

Ingredients

  • 100 g red cherry tomatoes, washed and rinsed
  • 100 g yellow cherry tomatoes, washed and rinsed
  • 150 g mini Mozzarella Cheese balls
  • A handful of fresh basil leaves
  • Dried oregano, to taste
  • Extra virgin Olive Oil, to taste
  • Coarse Sea Salt, to taste

Preparation

Combine tomatoes and Mozzarella balls. Sprinkle with basil leaves, oregano and salt. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.

Serve with Italian grissini or some crusty bread.

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Panzanella (Italian Bread Salad)

IMG_4570MayaOryan

Panzanella salad is one that I remember to prepare when I have a slightly stale French loaf. I love home-made croutons, and when flavored with garlic or cheese I can nibble at that all day long.

This salad uses simple ingredients, like tomatoes, red onions, basil and a couple of cucumbers to add some crunch. The sharp taste of the dressing is a good match and will appreciatively contrast with the croutons.

Don’t forget to pull out your best quality extra-virgin olive to make it!

 

Panzanella (Italian Bread Salad)

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup extra virgin oil
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 day old, loaf French baguette or Italian bread, cut in croutons size
  • 4 tomatoes, diced
  • 2 cucumbers, diced
  • 1 small red onion, chopped
  • ¼ cup basil leaves, chopped

Dressing

  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar (or apple vinegar)
  • 1 tbsp minced shallot
  • Pinch of sugar
  • Salt, to taste

Directions:

 

  1. Preheat oven to 170 degrees Celsius.
  2. Heat olive oil for 2 minutes, then drop the garlic inside and leave it to cool.
  3. Scatter the bread pieces on a baking tray and brush or drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the garlic olive oil. Place the baking tray in the middle of the oven and bake about 5-7 minutes on each side.
  4. Remove from oven and sprinkle with salt.
  5. To prepare the dressing; discard garlic cloves. Add vinegar, shallot sugar and salt to olive oil and whisk.
  6. In a large bowl, combine the tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, basil and bread (croutons). Toss all in the dressing and serve immediately.

Zucchini and Mushroom Risotto

My sister Hala, who also loves cooking and dinner parties, was telling me that Risotto is not a popular dish in Lebanon. I don’t know how true is this, but I know that I only love it when served immediately. This is one of the dishes that can’t be successfully cooked in advance, which makes it difficult to consider serving when I have guests for dinner.

It’s so easy to make a good risotto, but make sure that you choose short-grained plump rice, such as Arborio, Carnaroli or Vialone Nano.

The only way to make risotto is to stand over it until cooked. DO NOTHING else! Not really evident in my case where Axel is shoving her head between my knees to carry her and Kaia is constantly asking me to come and play with her and Polly Pockets. The hot stock is added little by little until rice is soft and creamy. This will take you around 20 – 25 minutes, for this amount of time at a hot stove, it’s really worth to use the appropriate rice.

Risotto can be combined with any vegetables you like or also seafood. The best risotto I ever had was cooked with champagne instead of wine, and used asparagus instead of zucchinis. I didn’t have any asparagus today and didn’t want to open my pricey bottle of champagne:), but I do recommend that you try it.

Zucchini and Mushroom Risotto

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1 large yellow zucchini
  • 250g fresh mushrooms sliced
  • Pinch of Sea Salt

To make the rice

  • 250g Arborio rice
  • 25g Unsalted butter
  • 1 Onion, minced
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 750ml Vegetable stock, hot (preferably home made)
  • 25g Parmesan, shaved
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Cooking Directions

 1. In a medium saucepan, place the mushrooms and the zucchinis with olive oil and sweat until cooked. Season with salt.

2. In a separate heavy bottomed pan, heat the butter and add the onion, stirring occasionally, until soft and transparent. Add in the rice and cook, for 2 minutes.

3. Mix in the wine to the softened onions and cook until the liquid has evaporated off.

4. Pour in 1 cup of the stock to the onions and rice and cook, stirring occasionally with a fork, until liquid is almost absorbed. Repeat this process until rice is thick and creamy; the rice should still have some chew to it. Season to taste.

5. If the rice is still hard do not add water. It has to be cooked with additional stock.

6.Once the rice is cooked, mix in the vegetables and add Parmesan cheese and serve immediately.

7. To finish drizzle with olive oil (optional)

Garlic Shrimp Pasta

I just got back from Tuscany and Italian food is all I think of. From the moment I woke up this morning I knew that spaghetti was going to be for lunch. I’m craving for something fresh and light but not a salad. This recipe uses fresh parsley and spring onions perfect for days when temperature reaches 32°C! It’s quick and easy to cook, yet so unbelievably tasty! Thank you Zeina S. for the inspiration since we tasted it at yours it became one of our favorite pasta dishes. Superb!

Garlic Shrimp Pasta 

Ingredients

  • 1 pack of Spaghetti
  • 500g pre-cooked shrimps, deveined and tails removed
  • 4 garlic cloves, pressed
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • Salt and Pepper, to taste
  • Olive Oil, to taste
  • 4 sprigs of Spring onions, chopped
  • 200g cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • ¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped roughly

Directions

  1. Cook spaghetti according to directions on package. I like to add salt, olive oil and oregano in the water.
  2. In a large skillet, sauté garlic and shrimps in oil for about 5-7 minutes or until shrimp turns pink. Add lemon juice and set aside.
  3. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet and sauté the cherry tomatoes for about 2 minutes.
  4. Drain spaghetti and return to the saucepan and toss with a little oil. On a low heat, add shrimps and mix. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in spring onions for about 2 minutes. Add tomatoes and parsley and stir for 1 minute.
  5. Transfer to a bowl, and serve immediately.

Everybody Loves Pasta!

My hubby is a pasta lover and our pasta recipes repertoire is one of a kind. For Serge “Just Pasta” is a feast for the Gods!! Therefore I keep in my pantry all shapes of pasta.

Among our favorite is Penne. It gives you many options on what to serve it with.

Many pasta recipes are easy and can be prepared with little notice. Ladies and gentlemen I present you “Penne with shrimps and asparagus. For last-minute guests, whip up this recipe and it’s a star meal!

It’s hearty and elegant. Eat happily!

Shrimp, Asparagus, and Penne Pasta

Ingredients

  • 3 cups uncooked penne
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed (using a garlic press)
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 10 spears fresh asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 400gms medium shrimps, peeled and deveined
  • 3 tbsp orange juice
  • 1 tbsp orange zest
  • Salt and Pepper, to taste
  • Fresh Parmesan cheese, to taste (optional)

 * Penne can be replaced with Spaghetti #7

Preparation

1.    Cook penne according to package directions.

2.    In large skillet, heat oil. Add onion and garlic, and cook until the onion has softened.

3.    Pour in the white wine, and simmer for 2 minutes.

4.    Add the asparagus and sauté for 5 minutes.

5.    Add the shrimp and orange zest, drizzle with the orange juice. Cook until the shrimp turns pink.

6.    Toss penne with shrimp mixture.

7.    Season to taste with salt and pepper.

8.    Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese before serving.