Tuesday, March 3, 2009


What does "BREAD" mean to you?
Is it something that you try to avoid?
A "treat" that you allow yourself occasionally?
Something you expect a warm basket of when you sit down for dinner at a restaurant?
If you were "HIP" in the 60's or 70's, it meant MONEY
( as in CASH)
I am so glad that we are past that stage!
"BREAD" today means the fresh, flaky, crispy, carb-laden, mouth watering little piece of Paradise...
What is better than good bread, I ask you? When it is warm, and either dipped in a fragrant olive oil, or spread with sweet butter, I can't think of anything more seductive or delicious...
We live in extravagant and pleasurable times where bread is concerned.
If you are lucky enough to live in a big city, then every kind of fresh baked bread is only a short drive away.
If you don't live in a big city, then you can choose from thousands of recipes that are easily popped inside of your bread machine.
My very favorite place for bread, is a popular gourmet shop in the city where the very best bread, meat, produce, and "people" are in abundance...
For years, it was a frequent Sunday afternoon jaunt..a place in which to linger amongst the indescribable aromas, tastes, sites...
Not to mention the best "eye candy"available in the city...
When you enter the shop, the sounds of Italian Opera blast from the hidden surround sound, too loud for any real conversation.
(Sometimes conversation is seriously overrated.)
You are surrounded by customers who appear almost surreal with their happy whitened smiles, gently lifted but oh so beautiful faces, with arms that dangle Gucci bags, and wrists that shout Cartier...
Their sweet smells of Chanel disguised by the stronger scents of the BEST IMPORTED Parmigiano Reggiano nearby...
And what was I doing there, you ask? Well shopping of course, and feeling quite comfortable in the surrounding "element"..
Why with my Dian Malouf jewels, my body soaked in Jo Malone, and my fake alligator purse, I was very relaxed, thank you...
Besides which, anyone who knows me, knows that I can raise my chin or eyebrow with the best of em....
Plus you KNOW I'm a foodie, for God's sake..
Where else would I rather be on a lovely Sunday afternoon?
It doesn't take long to fill up your basket. (Baskets are small here...They don't expect anyone to be a big enough idiot to need two baskets..)
Why that would almost constitute an unforgiveable and sinful act...
Like someone who doesn't have anything better to do with their ZILLIONS than book a trip to the moon, (instead of feeding starving children, supporting homeless animal and their needs, contributing to the cures of worldwise disease, or furnishing round trip first class air fare, 7 nights at a four or five star hotel, and plenty of spending money for my much needed vacation to either Quebec or Paris...Either one...I'm not really picky...)
Back to my Sunday afternoons spent at the gourmet shop....

My typical basket contained a loaf of warm fresh Ciabatta bread, a package of 6 Mango Guava muffins, a half pint of freshly whipped basil spread, a medium container of shrimp salad, a chunk of Gorgonzola cheese, a package of imported water crackers, two bottles of reasonably priced Pinot Noir from Italy, 1/4 lb of imported Spanish Salami, a raspberry mustard from Britain, and last but not least, a small two layer Red Velvet cake, resplendent in its decorative swirls and curls of addictive cream cheese frosting...
Well, I don't have to tell you that my visits here are very infrequent now, and when I do go, I only buy a couple of loaves of bread, and MAYBE a bottle of wine, and MAYBE a half pint of freshly made whipped basil spread or two (gotta share with my parents!!)...
Even then, I can't enjoy it like I used to...
Have to justify to myself why I am even there.
I remember how I did that my last visit...It was ACADEMY AWARDS NIGHT...
(For years I have been able to justify almost anything if it is ACADEMY AWARDS NIGHT!)
So, as the title and pictures indicate, I WILL post three recipes today...
The first one is a huge favorite, and THE BEST garlic bread that you will ever make
(courtesy of Ina Gartner, The Barefoot Contessa.)
I think that she is one of our best chefs and has the greatest, most enviable marriage to Jeff, doesn't she?
On one of her last programs, she remarked..."People are always asking me what the secret is to a long and successful marriage....Is it a lot of work?"...
"The question always amazes me, because if it had required a lot of work, I doubt that Jeff or I would have been interested...We have never "Worked" at our relationship! We have just always wanted each other to be happy, and that's all there is to it...."
Oh Ina, bless your little naive heart...You lucky, rich, talented, somewhat clueless celebrity chef you....It's okay, I love, love, love you anyway! But if I didn't, I just MIGHT have to slap you...
6 large garlic cloves, chopped
1/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
1/4 cup chopped fresh oregano leaves
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup good olive oil
1 loaf Ciabatta Bread
2 Tablespoons unsalted Butter
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Place the garlic in the bowl of a food processor and process until minced.
Add the parsley, oregano, salt and pepper and pulse twice.
Heat the olive oil in a medium saute pan, and add the garlic mixture.
Remove the pan from the heat.
Slice the Ciabatta bread in half horizontally, and spread the butter on 1 half.
Spread the garlic mixture on the other half of the bread, and put the halves together.
Wrap the bread in aluminum foil.
Place the bread in the oven and bake for 5 minutes.
Open the foil, and continue baking for an additional 5 minutes.
(Courtesy of Corner Bakery in Chicago)
Makes 6 Sandwiches
3 large red onions (about 2 1/2 lbs), each cut through stem into 8 wedges, peeled
7 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 1/4 teaspoons grated lemon peel
6 4x3-inch pieces Ciabatta bread, halved horizontally
16 ounces of thinly sliced Roast Beef
2 cups arugula
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Line large rimmed baking sheet with foil. Gently toss red onions, 5 tablespoons oil, and all of the vinegar in large bowl. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Arrange onions in single layer on prepared sheet. Bake onions until brown at edges and just tender, about 40 minutes. Cool.
Mix mayonnaise, basil, lemon juice, lemon peel and 2 tablespoons oil in small bowl. (Onions and mayonnaise can be made 2 days ahead. Cover separately and chill.)
Spread mayonnaise over cut sides of bread. Place bottom halves on plates. Top with roast beef, onions, and arugula. Cover with top halves of bread.
Makes 4
1/4 to 1/3 cup hot pepper sauce ( if you've read my blog, I don't have to tell you which one..)
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter
1 0.6 ounce envelope dry Italian salad dressing mix
4 kaiser or ciabatta rolls
4 lettuce leaves of your choice
4 boneless chicken breast halves with skin
All purpose flour
2 tablespoons olive oil
Purchased Blue Cheese Dressing *
Stir 1/4 cup hot pepper sauce, butter and dry dressing mix in heavy medium saucepan over low heat until sauce is smooth
Add more hot sauce, if desired (but of course you will!)
Arrange roll bottoms on plates.
Top each with lettuce leaf and 2 tablespoons of sauce.
Sprinkle chicken with salt, and dust lightly with flour
Brush the breasts generously with the remaining sauce.
Dust lightly with flour again.
Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat.
Add chicken, and saute' until brown and cooked through, about 5 minutes per side.
Complete sandwiches with chicken, blue cheese dressing, and roll tops.
HOMEMADE BLUE CHEESE DIP/DRESSING, for those who require the BEST things in life, or at least for their Buffalo Chicken Sandwiches...
1 1/2 cups crumbled Gorgonzola or other blue cheese
1 cup good mayonnaise
1/4 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Squeeze of lemon (optional but I like it)
Whisk all (EXCEPT FOR THE BLUE CHEESE) together until blended well
FOLD in the blue cheese ( don't stir as it will make the dip/dressing blue)
Place the blue cheese, mayo, sour cream, milk, Worcestershire sauce, salt, and pepper in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Process until almost smooth.
However you decide to do it, you will want to chill it for at least 3 to 4 hours for the flavors to come out...
If you want this more like a dressing for a salad, just thin it more with milk, and adjust seasonings...
Until next time, happy cooking, eating, loving, and living!


Anonymous said...

Those sandwiches sound super delicious! Yum!

Nicole said...

Thanks Natashia...Both sandwiches are very delicious, just depends on what you're in the mood for. Both are easy to make...I personally am just as fond of the garlic bread...Let me know how they work out for you!