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summer food

Memorial Day sausage sandwich extravaganza: a different kind of pigs in a blanket!

There’s no time like the time you spend with your loved ones 🙂 This weekend my husband is off work, which means we will truly be celebrating Memorial Day together as a family. We went out to eat today, while tomorrow we’ll stay home and dear husband will do some grilling – and when we grill, we don’t hold back! We will for sure make the decadent sandwich below using fresh sausages we got on sale from the local grocery store. I will use a batch of Italian sausages for this purpose, but you can use brats as well (as we did in the past) with similarly spectacular results.

In creating this dish I was inspired by pigs in a blanket, the popular appetizer which involves hot dogs or small sausages wrapped in dough and baked until piping hot. Eating them straight out of the oven, sizzling with luscious juices and covered in buttery pastry, is definitely one of my greatest joys. This dish does resemble pigs in a blanket, but with a twist: the dough is replaced by lots and lots of bacon and pepper jack cheese. The more proteins, the merrier!

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My 4th of July bell pepper & black bean burger topping: fast to make and easy on the eye – and wallet!

I came up with this burger topping idea almost by accident. We used to love eating chutneys when we lived in the UK, and so I was looking for a burger topping similar to a chutney yet faster and easier to make. I also wanted the topping to have a good consistency and to be able to hold up beautifully when served on a burger. Last but not least, I wanted a relatively inexpensive burger topping, with ingredients that were easy to find and affordable.

Since we love peppers, bell peppers were a “must” from the start. I knew I needed a starchy element for my dish, and initially I didn’t know what that element would be. However, I did have a lot of canned beans in my pantry, so on a whim I decided to experiment with them – hence the “almost by accident” part. 🙂 After several rounds of “bean testing,” my conclusion was that canned black beans worked the best, especially in terms of texture.

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My Zucchi extra virgin olive oil blending experience: “a kind of magic” and a search for perfection

Close your eyes and imagine a salad ripe with the flavors of summer, fresh and perfect, and ready to be devoured. Then, try to imagine the extra virgin olive oil that would go with it. You know it has to be light and delicate, yet at the same time it has to be strong enough to assert itself among the other flavors on your plate, and to make your salad taste experience complete. You know the basics, but that’s not all. How can you turn this oil – this figment of your imagination – into something real, something which can be enjoyed by many, something authentic, which represents your values and stands the test of time?

You may think these are way too many questions. After all, extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) is just another kind of oil, right? The makers of Zucchi extra virgin olive oil would definitely disagree with you on this point. I reconsidered my own perception of this oil recently, when I was invited to attend an EVOO Tasting Master Class conducted at Chicago’s Quartino restaurant by Giovanni Zucchi, the blend master behind an Italian company with three centuries of tradition and experience in the field: Oleificio Zucchi.

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