Olive to try some balsamic vinegar

 

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Recently hubby and I ventured to Providence Rhode Island. It was my first outing since surgery. We went to lunch in Federal Hill and then headed out to a wonderful bakery on Hope St. called Seven Stars Bakery and across the street to an independently owned specialty vinegar and olive oil tasting bar called Olive del Mondo.

At Seven Stars we splurged on some freshly baked bread and pastries. I want to go back on a Friday and try their Challah bread. We bought olive bread and some lemon cakes and chocolate croissants. At Olive del Mondo we bought delicious oils and vinegar. If you’ve never sampled different vinegars and oils you must. Try a local tasting bar like Olive del Mondo. They have everything on tap for sampling and pouring. We came home with a strawberry balsamic vinegar and an 18 year aged balsamic vinegar that is life changing.

That night I made a strawberry salad and used the strawberry balsamic. It was amazing. The strawberry balsamic was fruity but not sickly sweet. The aged balsamic is so flavorful. I always pooh-poohed all the foodies going on about aged balsamic. But aged balsamic is so much better than the store-bought balsamic. It brings a new dimension of flavor.The flavor is fruity with a subtle richness. This will make a summer of salads so much more delightful.

This shop has different sized bottles with very reasonable prices. We also bought a herb infused olive oil for dipping. For $32 we bought the two 200 ml sized olive oils and the vinegar. What a great gift idea. Some bread, some cheese and olive oil.  They have gift baskets and they ship. If you’re not local to Providence, find a tasting bar in your area.

Balsamic is not only for salads. Our friend Diana came over last night for dinner with our daughters. Dianna introduced us to both shops. She loves food. Dianna poured the strawberry balsamic vinegar over vanilla ice cream and brownies. It was fantastic. I would have never thought of it, but it paired beautifully with ice cream. She took a leap and tried something. It turned out to be fantastic. We ate all the brownies, but I will finish today with some vanilla ice cream and strawberry balsamic. Be adventurous with food!

Amare la vita e il buon cibo! Love life and good food!

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Creamy Artichoke Soup

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Don’t pooh pooh the idea of soup in the summer. Even in the summer you get into a dinner routine that can become dull. So why don’t you try some soup? It doesn’t heat up your house since you cook it on the stovetop, for a short time. To make it even more attractive, you use frozen artichoke hearts. Frozen.Artichoke.Hearts. What a time saver. I found this recipe doesn’t make a lot of soup. When I first made it I used a 4 quart Le Creuset dutch oven. My immersion blender couldn’t…..um…er….immerse? I would suggest using a large saucepan or a smaller Le Creuset. You could also pour the soup into a bowl and use the immersion blender. But that seems like more clean up. You can use a blender, but follow the manufacture directions for hot soup. If you have an immersion blender, use it. Clean up is very quick. I’m all about the cleanup.

 

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 leeks, white part only, chopped and rinsed in cold water (to remove sand)

1 clove garlic, minced

1 small potato, peeled and chopped

1 8-ounce package of frozen artichoke hearts, thawed

2 cups of chicken stock

½ tsp. salt

¼ tsp. black pepper

4 ounces mascarpone cheese

2 tablespoons chopped chives, for garnish (optional)

 

Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the leeks and cook until softened. Add the potatoes and cook for 5 minutes, stirring often. Add the garlic and stir for about 1 minute. Add the artichokes, stock, salt and pepper and cook until the vegetable are tender, about 20 minutes.

Using a handheld immersion blender, or in a blender in batches, puree the soup. Add the mascarpone and blend again to combine. Ladle soup into serving bowls, adding chives as a garnish.

Adapted from Creamy Artichoke Soup

Hot time in the summertime…..

 

I made these the other day before that summer sun heated up my house. Of course, I forgot to take a picture! Don’t despair, this recipe was lovingly adapted from this Easy Chicken Enchilada recipe. Here’s a picture of them ready to be cooked!

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Chicken Enchiladas

 

This recipe is super easy. I often cheat and used a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store. If I have any leftover chicken, that goes right into the pan! You can make this as spicy or as mild as you’d like. This kind of meal doesn’t require a precise recipe, but some guidelines. I just eyeball the amount of chicken I use. You top the enchiladas with the remaining sauce. If you don’t think you have enough sauce to cover them, just add a splash of water or a little more of the cilantro base. The top is covered with cheese, so you don’t have to perfectly coat them with the sauce.

 

2 cooked chicken breasts or leftover or rotisserie chicken

1 medium yellow onion, diced

2 garlic cloves, minced

1-2 jalapenos, seeded and diced or some Nacho sliced mild jalapeños (in a jar)

1 tomato, diced

12-ounce jar of Goya Cilantro Cooking base

1 10-ounce can of mild (or hot) red enchilada sauce

Olive oil

Salt

6-8 tortillas

Shredded cheese. I like to use a Mexican blend. I use about 16 ounces of cheese. Yum!

 

Shred cooked chicken and place in a bowl. You need to be careful when you are cleaning and dicing the jalapenos. The seeds are very hot. You will need to wash your hands immediately because if you were to touch your eyes with your spicy hands…..OUCH! I like to use the clear plastic grocery bags as gloves. I put my hands in them and then clean and dice the jalapenos. I just gather the seeds and turn the bags inside out and toss them in the trash. Wash your hands after you put these peppers into a bowl. Now dice you onion and put in the same bowl as the peppers. Mince the garlic and dice the tomato. Place them in a small bowl. Always do your prep work before you start cooking. It makes cooking so much easier if everything is ready to throw into the pan!

Heat a 12-inch skillet and then add olive oil. Add your onion and peppers. I like to sprinkle with a little salt to help soften them. Once this mixture is softened (about 5-10 minutes) add the chopped tomato and garlic. Let some of the liquid evaporate. Add the cilantro base and enchilada sauce. Simmer for about 10 minutes, adding the chicken to heat through.

Now comes the fun part! Grab a tortilla and add a big pinch of cheese, and some chicken. Try to leave as much sauce in the pan as you can. I just eyeball how much chicken I need to fill the tortillas. If you have any remaining chicken after filling the tortillas you can spread it on the top of the rolled tortillas with the sauce. No problem! Just tuck them in between the tortillas. So, after you put the chicken in, roll the tortilla tucking in the ends, and place it with the seam side down in a greased pan. I use a ceramic rectangular pan that is a little smaller than 9 X 13. You can use a square pan. Just squish the tortillas together! Repeat the filling process. When I make 8, I do use a 9 x 13 pan.

When the tortillas are all done and in the pan, spread the sauce over the tortillas. Top with cheese, covering it completely. At this point you can place the pan in the refrigerator and cook later on for dinner. Sometimes I cook it in the morning, let it cool, refrigerate and let the family microwave their own portion. Today, I prepared it, put it in the fridge and cooked it a few hours late. Heat your oven to 350 degrees and bake until the cheese is all melted and bubbly, about 30 minutes. Easy peasy!

We like to top them with some sour cream, a dab of salsa and some mild jarred sliced jalapeno peppers. Heavenly!

NOTE: I made these even easier. Instead of cutting  and seeding jalapeño peppers, I cheated and use some jarred Nacho sliced mild jalapeño peppers from a jar. I just added them to the sauce. It was delicious and easy!

A tasty summer side dish

Cucumber Salad with Onions and Balsamic Vinegar

 

So many summer side dishes are filled with mayo and other fattening ingredients. Don’t get me wrong, I love them but sometimes you need tasty and low in calories. This cucumber salad fits the bill. This time of year the markets are brimming with Vidalias or Walla Wallas. This recipe is perfect for these onions. You can even double the amount of these because the recipe is written with red onions in mind. If you don’t have balsamic vinegar you can use only red wine vinegar. When you put the mixed salad in the fridge, the olive oil  may get thick. A few minutes on the counter will bring it back to a liquid form.

 

4 medium cucumbers

½ red onion, thinly sliced

1 medium tomato, seeded and diced

½ cup of olive oil

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

½ tsp. salt

black pepper to taste

2 tablespoons of chopped chives or dill for garnish

 

Peel the cucumbers and cut them in half lengthwise. With the tip of a metal spoon, scoop out the seeds and discard. Cut the cucumbers into ¼ inch thick slices. Combine the remaining ingredients except the garnish, and refrigerate for 1 hour. Check seasonings and garnish with chives or dill.

 

Happy Summer!

 

This recipe is loving borrowed from “The Yellow Farmhouse Cookbook