Heirloom Tomato Panzanella and J. Marie Saison

Tomato panzanella is one of the easiest recipes to make and the most delicious. Every bite will taste like a bit of summertime. Since it’s been so cold and groggy lately around the country, I figured I’d post something to cheer everyone up. It is not always possible to find heirloom tomatoes this time of year, but if you can, definitely grab them! Heirloom tomatoes are like the beauty queens of the tomato world. They are colorful, sweet, and just overall better than all the other tomatoes.  This quick fix will surely become one of your favorite meals.

Heirloom Tomato Panzanella

How pretty is that?

 

Serving size: 3

IMG_4621

Ingredients:

3-4 Heirloom tomatoes, depending on size

1 red onion (it can be small, you will only need a few slices)

10-20 leaves of fresh basil (a package from the grocery store will do if you aren’t growing it)

2-3 tbsp red wine vinegar OR 1-2 tbsp balsamic vinegar

Olive Oil

Ricotta cheese (you will need 3 big spoonfuls)

1 Loaf of day old French bread

Garlic powder

Cracked pepper

 

Directions:

Croutons:

Turn the oven on to high broil. Slice up the loaf of bread and then cut those slices into chunks. You will probably only need half the loaf to make enough croutons for this recipe. Drizzle the bottom of your dish or baking sheet with some olive oil and spread the bread chunks on top. Drizzle the tops of the bread with olive oil and then shake a bit of garlic powder and cracked pepper on top. Pop the bread chunks in the oven until they become golden brown. Make sure to watch carefully because these little babies can go from golden brown to burnt very quickly and no one likes burnt croutons.

Heirloom Tomato Panzanella

Salad:

Cut up the tomatoes into chunks. Julienne the basil, which means cut it into thin strips.

Heirloom Tomato Panzanella

Heirloom Tomato Panzanella

Cut a few thin (3-4) slices of red onion and then chop into small pieces. If you love red onions, add another slice or two. Throw the veggies and basil into a large bowl. As for the vinegar, not everyone has red wine vinegar lying around the house so you can substitute balsamic if that is easier. I made this recipe twice (as you will read later) and I used a different type of vinegar each time. I think balsamic is amazing but it can be a bit stronger tasting than the red wine vinegar, so just use a little less. Cooking is more about tasting and less about measurements so I gave a range for the vinegars. Add a few tablespoons and taste. If you would like more acidity, add another tablespoon or so. Next, add the olive oil. You can also measure this, but I just pour around the bowl twice and it seems to work out just fine. Toss the ingredients until everything is well coated.

Heirloom Tomato Panzanella

When you’re ready to serve, scoop a good amount of the tomato mix into each bowl. Then, add the croutons to the top. Finally, add a big spoonful of ricotta cheese. Add salt and pepper to taste and its ready to eat!

Heirloom Tomato Panzanella

 

 

Beer Pairing: J. Marie Saison/Farmhouse Ale by River North Brewery

This beer pairing was my first fail. When I made this recipe to begin with, I bought Hereafter by Perennial Artisan Ales. I was excited about it because it was from St. Louis, my hometown. I guess I let the excitement and the interesting bottle design cloud my judgment because the flavors did not mix well with the meal. Don’t get me wrong, this is a good tasting ale, it just didn’t add to the dish. Instead of the flavors working together, they were just sitting around, not getting along. On its own, Perennial has a strong taste of pear with a more subtle hint of sage. I was hoping for a bit more sage and dryness out of this one, but was left with too much sweet. It was also a bit sour at first, which I could’ve done without because I already had sourness coming from the vinegar in the dish. In the future, I will buy this beer again but pair it with a more savory meal. In this case, the sweetness of the tomatoes combined with the sweetness of the brew was just too overwhelming.

Heirloom Tomato Panzanella

This is my beer fail ^

 

I chatted with some friends and decided to try again, this time with a farmhouse ale. First of all, this meal looks like it came right out of the garden so I should’ve bought a farmhouse ale to begin with. I went into the beer cave and came out with J. Marie Saison/Farmhouse ale by River North Brewery. According to the reviews on Beer Advocate, people weren’t loving it all on its own. I wouldn’t know. I drank the entire bottle with the meal and it was the best beer pairing I’ve done so far. I mean it was literally PERFECT.  The first thing you will notice is the explosion of basil flavors going on in your mouth. Seriously, this beer takes tomato panzanella to the next level. It also accentuates the pepper on the croutons and the spice of the onion. I found the ale to be refreshing and citrusy with a bit of honey. The small amount of sweetness blended well instead of masking the flavors of the dish. Overall, I would probably eat/drink this combo everyday of my life if I could. It was that good.

Heirloom Tomato Panzanella

Heirloom Tomato Panzanella

Eggs Benedict and Sunshine Wheat Beermosa

One of my favorite traditions is making Eggs Benedict on Christmas morning. Ever since I can remember, my grandma and my dad would get to fighting over whose hollandaise sauce was better right after we opened presents. While in college, I decided to start my own tradition.  Making Eggs Benedict every time I drank too much whisky the night before was my way of avoiding being in hangover hell all day. I’ve made it about 50 times but it wasn’t until this Christmas that I finally figured out how to make the hollandaise perfectly. The hollandaise is the key ingredient here. It separates the Benedict from being a measly egg mcmuffin. Every time I’ve read a hollandaise recipe in cookbooks or on the internet, it never describes how to do it right. In this post, I will divulge my secrets so that you too can make the perfect hollandaise for your eggs Benedict.  Once you have obtained this knowledge, you will never have to suffer from eating crappy hangover food again. The beermosa also featured here should help cure that hangover as well.

Continue reading Eggs Benedict and Sunshine Wheat Beermosa

Brussels Sprout Chips

I’m currently writing and sipping on a Trippel while my tasty, little Brussels sprout chips are crisping up in the oven. Let me set the record straight, I pretty much hate all vegetables. Especially leafy green things. They’re disgusting and I don’t know why anyone would choose to eat them. Who was the first person that walked up to a plant and was like, “I think I will nom on that!” That person was seriously weird.

Continue reading Brussels Sprout Chips

Pumpkin Cupcakes paired with Mexican Chocolate Stout

So there’s this amazing website called “Ming Makes Cupcakes” and it has the most killer cupcake recipes in the world. You can find it here: http://mingmakescupcakes.yolasite.com/  I cannot claim this as my original recipe but I put my own spin on it to take it to the next level. These pumpkin cupcakes are literally a dream come true. One time I  made them for the family I nanny for and they went completely bonkers. The next time I brought some over, my boss rushed in the door after work and said, “Where are the cupcakes? I’ve been thinking about them all day!” This same sort of addiction may happen to you if you try this recipe out.

Continue reading Pumpkin Cupcakes paired with Mexican Chocolate Stout

So much more than just a bacon + avocado panini

“I call sandwiches sammies, sandoozles, or Adam Sandlers” – Tom Haverford, Parks and Recreation

What is a good way to make someone fall in love with you? By making them a delicious sandwich, of course! Every time I make this sandoozle for someone, I get a hug. Lets be real, bacon and avocado are delicious. I know, I know, it’s just a sandwich, but please let me stress that you should not underestimate the power of this delicious and easy meal. Maybe you’re a fantastic cook, maybe your not. Either way, if you whip this baby up, everyone is going to think you are an angel. From my experience, all boys love sandwiches. They have some weird brain programming that makes them love any sort of food that’s piled between two slices of bread. On the other hand, girls love pretending to be healthy. You get the best of both worlds with this sandy.

Continue reading So much more than just a bacon + avocado panini

Chile Beer Bloody Mary

If you look up “what is in a bloody mary” on Google, you’ll get over 39 million results.  Some of these results are drink recipes and some are horror stories about standing in a bathroom and talking to a mirror. I like the first option (I’m afraid of the dark and this is a food blog so the second option doesn’t really apply here). Anytime I’m hungover or just want to get a little crazy in the morning, I think of the most acceptable alcoholic drink to order before noon. Today, I will attempt to make one…from scratch. Personally, I like a Blood Mary that has great peppery flavors and a kick of spice but I don’t want my mouth to be burning so much that I can’t taste my meal. The basic ingredients include: tomato juice, Worcestershire sauce, some sort of citrus juice, Tabasco and of course, vodka. I have a dream that I can make a Bloody Mary that will put all other Bloody’s to shame. To do this, I will add beer to the Bloody Mary. This idea is not totally original, but with the help from a delicious local brew, a ton of ingredients I picked up and the help of my best friend, I believe I can make my cocktail better than the rest.

Fast forward to an hour later. Abby and I started with a base recipe consisting of tomato juice, vodka, beer, Worcestershire sauce, and lime. From there we added whatever we saw fit. Two of the Bloody Mary’s were actually disgusting. We pretty much decided if you don’t add garlic but do add a lot of pickle juice, nothing good is going to happen. The first glass in the line had the most ingredients and turned out to be the best. We thought it was great but added another ½ teaspoon of Rail Yard Ale mustard…that was a mistake. It cut the kick and added too much sweetness. So, we remade the recipe without the added mustard and we found a winner. The flavors were great and we were a little tipsy. I think the thing that made it was the pepperoncini juice. It added the perfect amount of spiciness and flavor. One of the more obscure ingredients was Wickles juice. If you’re not sure what Wickles are, they are amazing little tangy/sweet/spicy “wickedly delicious” pickles. They sell them at Safeway but I have yet to find them anywhere else. If you can’t find this ingredient, I suppose pickle juice will do but regular pickles are nowhere near as tasty as Wickles, so do your best to find them. As for the alcohol, we couldn’t taste it, but it was definitely there. If you like drinking nail polish remover, I guess you can add more vodka. Personally, I think the way we did it was great. A shot of vodka and a half-cup of chile beer that comes in at 8.5% ABV was enough to get me going. The beer added chile flavors in the background and also reduced the thickness of the tomato juice, which overall contributed to the drinkability of this mighty fine cocktail. If you want to spice up your weekend, grab these ingredients and throw this Chile Beer Bloody Mary together. You won’t regret it.

For this recipe I don’t really need to give you directions. Cook the bacon first. Then throw all the ingredients in a cup, mix it up and drink it. I do suggest mixing the drink in one glass and then pouring it over ice in another glass. That way it won’t get watered down while you put your mixology talents to work and all the stuff won’t get stuck at the bottom. I hope you all enjoy this recipe as much as we did. Cheers!

 

Recipe:

1 cup tomato juice

1 shot vodka

½ cup New Belgium’s Lips of Faith Chile Beer collaboration with Cigar City Brewing (Ale brewed with Anaheim and Marash chilies)

2 dashes (2 shakes, 6 drops, whatever) of Worcestershire sauce

1½ tsp lime

¼ teaspoon of ground black pepper

1 pressed garlic clove

¼ tsp horseradish

1 tsp Cholula hot sauce

½  tsp Wynkoop Railyard Ale mustard

1 tbsp pepperoncini juice

2 tsp Wickles juice

1 tsp bacon grease

 

Extras:

Skewer: 2 green olives, 2 Wickles

1 strip peppered bacon

1 celery stalk

Chile Beer Bloody Mary Chile Beer Bloody Mary Chile Beer Bloody Mary Chile Beer Bloody Mary Chile Beer Bloody Mary