Millet Panzanella Salad with Asiago Croutons

This is a tasty panzanella salad with a slight twist.  A classic panzanella is a Tuscan bread salad that consists of crispy croutons, tomatoes, cucumbers, onion, basil and a vinaigrette dressing.
 I had planned on making this salad with couscous, but decided to try it with millet to make it a more substantial and healthy salad.   Millet is much healthier than couscous and it holds up a little bit better.
The roasted peppers add a nice smoky component and the Asiago croutons lends to the layers of flavors along with adding an amazing texture.
  If you have never tried millet, I highly recommend it!
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I made this salad with our friends Beto, Jill and Paloma in mind.  They came to stay with us last weekend and we had a nice picnic on the beach.  I served this salad along with four different cheeses, hazelnut cranberry crackers, fuji
apples, raw walnuts and almonds.  Oh and some wine, of course!  There is nothing better than enjoying a meal with friends and family. Top it off with a picnic on the beach and I’m in heaven.  This salad was a hit, so I knew I was ready to share it.  It is just in time for summer.
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We had a bottle of Rueda but it would go with almost any white wine, sweet or dry.
 *
Here are a few other takes on a panzanella salad.
The Bojon Gourmet – Gluten Free Summer Panzanella – here
My New Roots – Healthy Colorful Panzanella – here
Cookie + Kate – Spring Panzanella – here
Super Nummy Yo – Asian Panzanella – here
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Recipe:
Millet
  • 1 Cup Dried Millet – 20 – 25 minutes
  • 2 Cups Filtered Water
  • 1 Vegetable Bouillon Cube –  unsalted
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Sea Salt
Salad
  • 1 Container Cherry Tomatoes – sliced in half
  • 1 Roasted Red Bell Pepper – roasted and diced
  • 1 Roasted Yellow Bell Pepper – roasted and diced
  • 1/2 Cup (about a 1/4) Red Onion – Minced
  • 2 Cup Fresh Basil – torn
  • 1 Cup Asiago Cheese –  finely shredded

Dressing

  • 1/2 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 3 Tablespoons White Wine Vinegar or Champagne Vinegar
  • 2  Cloves Garlic – minced
  • 1 Teaspoon Sea Salt
  • 1 Teaspoon Black Pepper

Croutons

  • 4 Cups Country Bread like Ciabatta – torn
  • 1/4 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1/4 Cup Asiago Cheese – finely shredded

Instructions:

Millet

Measure the millet and rinse in a fine mesh colander.  Add the millet to a saute pan to toast and stir continually for 4 minutes on medium-low heat.  (Be careful not to let them burn.)
Add the millet to a small saucepan, add the water, bouillon, and salt.   Bring to a boil, then mash up the bouillon.
Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover and cook for 15 – 20 minutes, undisturbed, until all the water is absorbed. ( I use a sauce pan with a glass lid so it’s easy to see if the liquid is gone.)
Remove the pan from the heat and let sit for 10 minutes with the lid on.  Dump into a bowl and fluff up with a fork, then let cool completely.
Veggies & Cheese
While the millet is cooking, roast the peppers.  Remove the skin, stem, seeds and then dice them.  Set aside.
Mince the onion, slice the tomatoes in half and shred the cheese with the small holes of the cheese grater.  (shred enough for the croutons as well) Set aside.
Dressing
In a small bowl, whisk the oil, vinegar, garlic, salt and pepper.
Croutons
You can use day old bread, I used fresh and it worked out nice.
Tear the bread into small pieces.  In a large straight sided pan, add the oil and turn heat to medium-low.  Heat up the oil, then add the bread.  Stir continually until they get crispy. (about 10 minutes)

Add the Asiago and stir until melted and a lightly Golden. (Some Asiago will stick to the pan)
Assembly
When the millet is cooled down, add the the veggies, cheese and dressing.  Mix well, then tear the basil into small pieces and stir them in.
Add the croutons to individual salads to keep them crispy.  If you have leftovers you will want to re-heat the croutons to get them crispy again.

  Millet-Panzanella

Health benefits:

Millet is alkaline and it digests easily. It has high levels of tryptophan like turkey, which has calming effects. It is rich in magnesium, which helps to reduce blood pressure and the risk of heart attacks. It is high in fiber that helps lower cholesterol and keeps you regular by also hydrating your colon. It is high in anti-oxidants, which may help to prevent heart disease, cancer, osteoporosis and diabetes. Millet also has high protein content. Eat in moderation.

Fennel and Radish with Fresh Pea Cheve Pesto Crostini

I love a good appetizer and this one is no exception!  The combination of pea pesto, crunchy vegetables and Manchego cheese is out of this world.  To top it off, the scallions add a nice spicy touch.  It is the perfect addition to a summer soiree.

Fennel-Crostini copy

Of course, crostinis have been made a number of ways. However, this combination is truly unique which makes me happy!  Plus, how pretty are these with the pink and green?!  As with anything, the higher quality of the ingredients, the better the crostinis will be.  So, make sure to get a fresh baked French Baguette!  There is one problem though, you won’t be able to stop eating them!

Fennel-Radish-Crostini

Serve these with a nice summer salad and a sparkling wine, like a Cava or Prosecco.

Fennel-Radish-Crostini-with-Pea-Pesto copy

Recipe: Makes Approx. 20 Crostini
 
Pea Chevre Pesto
  • 3/4 Pound (1/2 cup shelled peas) Fresh Pea Pods
  • 1/4 Cup Raw Walnuts
  • 1/4 Cup Chevre Cheese
  • 2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 Tablespoon Fresh Squeezed Lemon Juice
  • 1 Clove Garlic
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Sea Salt
Salad
  • 1 Fennel Bulb Cut in half cut out core and cut in 8 segments
  • 1/2 Cup Fennel Stalks – thinly sliced
  • 3/4 Cup French Breakfast Radishes – thinly sliced or regular – thinly sliced and quartered
  • 3/4 Cup Pea Chevre Pesto
  • 1 Wedge Manchego – shavings
  • 1 French Baguette – 20 slices
  • 1/4 Extra Virgin Olive Oil – or as needed
  • Scallion Micro Sprouts or Scallion Onions (thinly sliced) – to taste

Instructions:

Start by making the pesto.
Remove peas from the pods and measure.
In a food processor or blender; add the peas, measure and add all other ingredients, puree until smooth and set aside.
Salad
Cut the stalks off the fennel bulb, then cut the bulb in half and cut out the core.  Cut the fennel bulb into 8 wedges, thinly slice and add to a medium size bowl.
Slice the fennel stalks into thin slices, measure and add to the bowl.
Thinly slice the radish and add to bowl. (If using regular radishes, thinly slice and quarter).
Add the pesto to the fennel and mix well.
Crostini

Slice the bread into 1/2 inch slices.

Place on to baking sheet and with a pastry brush, coat both sides with olive oil. (or use your fingers)

Put on the top shelf of your oven and broil for 1 minute on each side.  Make sure to watch them closely, they can burn fast.

I usually put the timer on but still check on them.  You want them just golden.

Turn oven to 350 degrees.

Scoop up a tablespoon of the salad and spread onto the crostinis and place them on a baking sheet.  Using a vegetable peeler, shave the manchego into slices, two for each crostini and put into the oven for 3 – 4 minutes to melt the cheese.  I check on them every minute.

Top them with the micro scallion sprouts or scallion slices.

Crostini-Appetizer

Health benefits:

Fennel is a very good source of fiber that helps limit cholesterol build-up and helps to maintain healthy levels of cholesterol in the blood.  The fiber also helps remove carcinogens from the colon and it can eliminate constipation.  It contains the phytonutrient anethole, the main part of its volatile oil that has been shown to reduce inflammation and also helping prevent the occurrence of cancer. It is also an excellent source of vitamin C, which is helpful for eye inflammation, and reduces premature aging and macular degeneration.  There are high levels of potassium in the fennel bulbs and seeds and can help increase brain function and cognitive abilities and it also increases the reach of oxygen to the brain.  The fronds above the fennel bulbs contain important vitamins, like pantothenic acid, vitamin B6, niacin, riboflavin, and thiamin.

Radishes help eliminate excess mucus in the body and are great for respiratory disorders, bronchitis and asthma. They are cleansing for the digestive system helping to break down and eliminate stagnant food and toxins that have built up over time as well as eliminate cancer-causing free radicals in the body. They are very high in vitamin C, which improves your immune system.  They have a low glycemic index and helps to regulate the absorption of sugars into the bloodstream, which is great for diabetics. Radishes water content keep your body and skin keep hydrated and with their high fiber content they increase regular bowel movements, relieve bloating and help indigestion. They are a powerful detoxifier of the liver and stomach. They are also great for reducing blood pressure with the high potassium content.

Arbol Old Fashioned

Inspired to make an after dinner tequila cocktail for Steph and I’s pop up dinner, I decided to try a tequila based classic style old fashioned.  The blood oranges are not only delicious but the color is spectacular.  The flavors of the cocktail are a perfect balance between sweet and spicy!  The rich blood orange and repo tequila hits your mouth, the cinnamon softly coats your tongue and the lingering spice from the chile de arbol leaves you wanting another sip over and over again.

Arbol-Old-Fashion

 When I initiate the process of creating a cocktail, I always look for a source of inspiration or have one ingredient I want to use in the cocktail and start building around that.  The blood oranges inspired this particular cocktail, plus I needed a good after dinner tequila cocktail recipe, voile, everything else followed.  A traditional “cocktail” was first mentioned in written form in the May 1806 issue of The Balance and Columbian Repository in Hudson, New York.  The paper’s editor wrote that it was a potent concoction of spirits, bitters, water, and sugar.  At the time it was also referred to as a bittered sling.  By the 1860s, it was common for orange curaçao, absinthe, and other liqueurs to be added to the cocktail.  The original concoction, albeit in different proportions, came back into vogue and was referred to as “old-fashioned”…

Arbol-Old-Fashioned1

 

Recipe:  Makes 1 Cocktail

  • 2 oz Corraleu Reposado Tequila
  • 1 oz *Chile de Arbol Blood Orange Syrup (see recipe below)

Profile:  Strong, Sweet & Spicy ~ Classic Inspiration/Original Recipe

Glass: Old Fashioned

Garnish:  Blood Orange Peel

Instructions:

Start by making the syrup.

Add all ingredients to a mixing pitcher or mixing glass, fill glass 3/4 full with ice, stir for a few seconds.

 Using a julep strainer strain into an old fashioned glass over fresh ice.

Garnish with blood orange peel.

 *Chile de Arbol comes in at 15,000 units on the Scoville scale for heat; a little goes a long way.  I added a very small amount but if you like a little more heat add as much as you like.

* Chile de Arbol Blood Orange Syrup

Recipe:  Makes enough for 4 cocktails

  • 1/4 cup fresh juiced blood orange juice
  • 1/4 cup raw sugar
  • 1/8 Teaspoon Chile de Arbol powder
  • 1/8 Teaspoon of Cinnamon Powder
  • 1/8 Teaspoon Blood Orange Bitters

Dash of Sea Salt

Instructions:

 In a small saucepan on medium heat, add ingredients to pan.  Stir continuously to mix in the sugar.  Once the sugar is dissolved turn heat off and set aside to cool.  Once syrup is cool you can strain through cheesecloth to extract some of the powder; the spice will still be there though.

Yellow Gazpacho with Roasted Poblano Pesto

This is a refreshing soup for those hot spring/summer days.  You can really taste all of the individual flavors in this soup.  The garnish adds extra crunch and flavor from the cucumber, cabbage, roasted poblano and roasted yellow peppers.  The roasted poblano pesto finishes it off amazingly!

Yellow-Gazpacho-with-Roasted-Poblano-Pesto

Ang and I are hosting our first Pop-up dinner in Phoenix at the end of this month.  We are doing a Mexican inspired meal.  We want to serve a chilled soup to accommodate the Arizona heat.  I came up with a gazpacho soup with a Mexican twist.  I am really excited to share our food and cocktail recipes in a live forum.  I am a bit nervous, but I know that it will be fun as well as a great experience.  I would love it if Ang could do more of these dinners in the future with some of her other chef friends.  This would be a great outlet for her to use her amazing talents and creativity!

Yellow-Gazpacho

This soup is perfect with a dry white crisp wine, like a Albarino, white Rioja, Rueda or a sparkling wine like a Cava or Prosecco.

Yellow-Gazpacho-with-Pesto

Recipe: 4 servings

Roasted Poblano Pesto = 3/4 cup (reserve for garnish and crostinis)

  • 1 Poblano Peppers – roasted
  • 1/4 + 2 Tablespoons Raw Walnuts
  • 1/4 Cup Aged Asiago Cheese – finely shredded
  • 1/3 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1  Cloves Garlic
  • 1 Tablespoon Fresh Squeezed Lime Juice
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Sea Salt or to taste

Soup

  • 3 Pounds Yellow Tomatoes (about 4 large tomatoes) – blanched
  • 3 Yellow Bell Peppers- roasted -diced – 1 reserved for garnish
  • 2 Shallots
  • 3 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 3 Garlic Cloves
  • 1/4 Cup Dry White Wine
  • 1 1/2 Cucumbers – 1/2 diced – reserved for garnish
  • 2 Tablespoons Fresh Squeezed Lemon Juice
  • 2 Teaspoons Sea Salt – or to taste
  • 1 Roasted Poblano – roasted – diced – reserve for garnish
  • 1/2 Cup Red Cabbage – minced – reserve for garnish

Garnish – to taste

  • Diced Cucumber
  • Diced Roasted Yellow Bell Pepper
  • Diced Roasted Poblano Pepper
  • Minced Red Cabbage
  • Roasted Poblano Pesto
  • Crostini – optional

Start by roasting all of the poblano and yellow bell peppers, remove the burnt skin with a paper towel and remove the stems and seeds.

Make the roasted poblano pesto.

In a food processor or blender; add one of the poblano peppers, finely shred the Asiago, peel the garlic, measure and add all other ingredients, puree until smooth and set aside.

Soup

Blanch the tomatoes and set aside to cool.

Mince shallots and garlic.  Add the olive oil to a saute pan and turn on stove to medium-low heat.  Add the shallots and garlic and cook until they are translucent and the garlic has just started to brown.  Add the wine, reduce to a syrup and set aside to cool.

While shallots are cooking, peel the tomatoes.  When wine is reduced, add the tomatoes to the shallots and mash them up a bit.  Cook for about 2 minutes.  Let cool.

Peel the cucumbers, scoop out the seeds, roughly chop one whole cucumber and add it to the cooled tomatoes.  Dice half of a cucumber and set aside for garnish.

Dice one of the roasted yellow bell peppers and set aside for garnish, roughly chop the remaining two and add them to the soup.

Add the lemon juice and salt to the soup.

Puree the soup until smooth with an immersion blender, food processor or blender.

Mince the red cabbage.

 Drizzle the pesto over the finished soup (I add about 2 tablespoons per cup of soup).  Add the diced poblano, diced bell pepper, diced cucumber and sprinkle with minced red cabbage.

Serve chilled or at room temperature with some plain crostinis or topped with the pesto.

Yellow-Gazpacho-with-Poblano-Pesto

Health benefits:

Tomatoes are great for the heart due to the extreme antioxidant support, niacin, folate and vitamin B6 that help the reduction of heart disease.  They are also high in vitamins A, C, K and potassium.  The choline in tomatoes helps assist the absorption of fat and reduces chronic inflammation.  It also helps with sleep, muscle movement, learning and memory.  Tomatoes are high in Lycopene the antioxidant that gives tomatoes their red color.  Cooking tomatoes breaks down the cell walls, which helps to release the lycopene and is better absorbed with a little fat like olive oil.  The Zea-xanthin in them helps filtering harmful ultra-violet rays, which protect eyes from “age-related macular disease.”  They are also a powerful blood purifier and great for skin and bone health.

Bell Peppers are matured green bell peppers and have more nutrition as they mature.  They are super high in vitamin A which helps to support healthy eyesight, especially night vision and are extremely high in vitamin C, so much so they have twice as much as an orange which makes it really good for the skin.  Red peppers are one of the highest veggies in lycopene, and have been successfully tested in the prevention of many cancers.  They have a good source of the antioxidant mineral manganese and B-complex and vitamin E.  They help reduces ‘bad’ cholesterol, helps controls diabetes and helps reduce pain.  They are also a good source of fiber, folate, vitamin K, molybdenum and manganese.

Poblano Peppers are extremely high in vitamin C; just one pepper has 95% of your daily value.  They are great for your immune system and help to reduce inflammation like in arthritis and asthma. They contain lycopene a powerful antioxidant, giving many fruits and vegetables their color, especially tomatoes, which is great for the prevention of cancers in the bladder, prostate, cervix and pancreas. They are also helpful with increasing oxygen so the body can burn more calories 20 minutes after eating peppers.  They’re also full of vitamin A, vitamin K, and potassium.

Roasted Asparagus topped with Fresh Pea Chevre Pesto and Mandarin Sea Salt

I absolutely love this dish!  Asparagus with a fresh pea pesto just screams spring.  The fresh pea pesto adds a delightful richness and pairs so well with the asparagus.  The mandarin salt adds a nice touch of citrusy salty crunch.

Roasted-Asparagus-with-Pea-Pesto

 I am very blessed to have such an amazing mom.  My mom is one of the most compassionate people I know.  Her whole life has been all about healing and helping people.  When I was a toddler, she put herself through nursing school while working the graveyard shift in a hospital.  When I was a teenager, she learned how to do acupressure and hypnotherapy.   She would give her friends and family free treatments.  Whenever I had a friend in need of a place to stay, she would let them stay with us until they had a place to go.  She has rescued more animals than I can count and fosters small dogs until she finds them a new home.  She has worked as a Hospice nurse helping people transition as well as helping their families cope for many years now.  I could go on and on!

Time flies and it is easy to let a lot of time go by without connecting with the ones we love.

If I lived closer to my mom, I would spend Mother’s day with her and I would make this dish with some French bread and wine.  If you are lucky enough to still have your mom in your life, hug her, call her and tell her how much you love her!

Roasted-Asparagus

This is a great dish paired with a crisp Rose, Sauvignon Blanc, Albarino or a Prosecco.

_Asparagus-with-Fresh-Pea-Pesto

 Recipe: 

Pea Pesto - 1 1/2 Cups (you can halve this recipe or spread the extra on some French bread and serve alongside the asparagus)

  • 1 Pound (3/4 cup peas) Fresh Pea Pods
  • 1/2 Cup Raw Walnuts
  • 1/2 Cup Chevre Cheese
  • 1/4 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 2 Tablespoons Fresh Squeezed Lemon Juice
  • 1 Clove Garlic
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Sea Salt

Mandarin Salt

Whole batch

  • 1 box – (1 1/4 Cup) Maldon Salt
  • Zest of 4 – 8 Mandarin Oranges – depends on how much citrus you want (I used 5, which is mild)

Small batch

  • 1/4 Cup Maldon Salt
  • Zest of 1 – 2 Mandarin Orange

Asparagus

  • 1 Bunch Asparagus
  • 2  Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Sliced Almonds – to taste

 Instructions:

  Remove peas from their pods, measure and put into a pot of filtered water.  Bring to a boil, then turn off the heat and leave in the water for 1 minute.  (use a timer) Drain in a colander and rinse with cold filtered water.  Let cool.

When peas are cool, put them along with all the pesto ingredients into a food processor or blender.  Puree.

Mandarin Salt

Pre-heat oven to 225 degrees.
I included a whole recipe for the salt if you desire to use it on other dishes or you can make the smaller batch for this recipe only.
Zest the mandarins with a microplaner, spread the zest out on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes. Take out and separate any clumps with your fingers and put back in for 5 additional minutes and then repeat separation of any remaining clumps and put back in for the final 2 minutes.
Put salt into food processor and pulse about 5 times to break it down just a bit.
Mix the zest with the salt.
Asparagus

Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees.

Wash the asparagus and COMPLETELY dry.   Snap off the tough ends and discard.  (If they are thick, peel the outside.  Mine were thin so I didn’t peel them.)  Place them on a baking sheet, drizzle olive oil over the asparagus.  With your hands, gently coat the asparagus evenly and spread out to a single layer. Place on the top rack of your oven and bake for 5 – 8 minutes, depending on how thick they are.

Assemble

You can serve it like I have in my photos or put the pesto and mandarin salt into bowls and let your guest add their own amount.

Roasted-Asparagus-with-Fresh-Pea-Pesto

Health benefits:

 

Asparagus is a good source of fiber that helps to regulate blood sugar and also lowers the risk of type 2 diabetes. Asparagus has impressive anti-inflammatory properties and helps to flush out toxins in the kidneys and prevent kidney stones.  It is rich in glutathione; a compound that is helps break down carcinogens and is an anti-oxidants that help remove harmful oxidant free radicals from the body.  It is high in beta-carotene, vitamin-C, B-complex, E and folates.  The folate helps B12 absorb easier, which is great for vegetarians. Asparagus also contains fair amounts of vitamin A and K. Vitamin K has a potential role in bone health.