Tapas Bar Seafood Salad

We just returned to New York from Spain (with a detour to France) and we are missing tapas bars already. There is nothing like buying an inexpensive glass of wine--usually around or under $2 US--and receiving a free small plate to enjoy with it. This tapas bar seafood salad, which is also known as salpicon, is one of our favorites. 

 

Tapas Bar Seafood Salad. Photo by Frances Janisch for The Fire Island Cookbook. 

Tapas Bar Seafood Salad. Photo by Frances Janisch for The Fire Island Cookbook. 

Tapas Bar Seafood Salad

 

When you walk into a bar in Spain, you will see a glass-covered case filled with salads and cooked foods. With each glass of wine you order, you will be offered a tapa, or small plate of food—for free!  Cold seafood salad is always a sure bet, especially with a nice, crisp glass of Albariño.

  • ¾ pound cooked crab meat, fresh or canned
  • 1 pound octopus
  • 1 ½ pounds medium shrimp
  • 1 small red pepper
  • 1 small green pepper
  • 1 medium red onion
  • ½ pound green olives, pitted
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Peel the shrimp and remove tails.  In a medium saucepan, bring salted water to a boil over high heat. Boil 3-5 minutes, until shrimp turn pink. Empty shrimp into strainer, and rinse with cold running water.

Boil the octopus in salted water until tender. This may take between 30 and 60 minutes, depending on the thickness of the octopus. After cooking, allow to cool to touch, and cut into ¼ inch slices.

Break the crab meat into ½ inch pieces with your fingers and a fork. Place the shrimp, octopus, and crab meat in a large glass or ceramic bowl. 

Rinse and seed the peppers, and cut into lengthwise into ¼ inch slices, and then cut each slice in half crosswise. Dice the onion. Add peppers, onion, and olives to seafood in bowl. Toss lightly.

Add olive oil and lemon juice to bowl, and mix to coat seafood and vegetables. Lightly salt and pepper to taste. Serve cold. May be refrigerated before serving. This can be made in the morning, and plated and served at dinner time.

Wine Pairing: 

Laxas Albariño, Rias Baixas, Spain

The bracing minerality of this clean white wine is just right with seafood.

Note: You may substitute 1 pound cleaned calamari rings for the octopus. Boil approximately 3-4 minutes, until tender. 

From THE FIRE ISLAND COOKBOOK Copyright © 2012 by The World Wine Guys, LLC published by Atria Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

 

Tomato Season is Still Going Strong

Days may be growing shorter and evenings just a touch cooler, but tomato season is still going strong. Our stacked Caprese will have your friends oohing and aahing when it arrives at the table, although we promise you it is one of the easiest dishes you will ever prepare. The key is using the freshest tomatoes you can find, so the time is now. 

Stacked Tomato and Mozzarella Caprese Salad. Photo by Frances Janisch for The Fire Island Cookbook. 

Stacked Tomato and Mozzarella Caprese Salad. Photo by Frances Janisch for The Fire Island Cookbook. 

Stacked Tomato and Mozzarella Caprese Salad

 

There are few starters that are as dramatic and so easy to make.  Using perfectly ripe tomatoes and freshly made mozzarella you can create a delicious architectural delight. Although this is a signature dish from the island of Capri, we first had this layered presentation in Porto Palo on the island of Sicily.  Fresh basil, peppery olive oil and sea salt bring out the earthy quality of the delicious tomatoes that grow in the island’s mineral rich volcanic soil. 

  • 8 medium tomatoes
  • 64 well washed basil leaves
  • 2 one pound balls fresh mozzarella cheese
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • coarse ground sea salt
  • 8 bamboo skewers

 

Wash and dry the tomatoes.  Cut the bottoms off of each (so that they can stand upright on the plate) and discard. Slice each tomato horizontally into four slices.  Keep each tomato together and set aside.  Horizontally slice each fresh mozzarella ball into 12 equal slices, for a total of 24.  Begin assembly by placing the bottom slice of each tomato in the center of a medium sized plate.  Salt lightly.  Top with a slice of mozzarella and two basil leaves.  Add another slice of tomato and repeat until each stacked Caprese salad is complete.  Carefully spear each with a bamboo skewer, garnish with the remaining basil leaves and set aside.  Do not refrigerate if you plan on serving in the next 90 minutes.  When ready to serve, drizzle each with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with a bit of sea salt. 

Wine Pairing:  Frei Brothers Reserve Russian River Chardonnay

Delightful crisp flavors of green apple and ripe stone fruits are accented by a touch of toasted brioche and creamy butter. The creaminess will hold up to the cheese, while strong acidity is ideal with ripe tomato.

From THE FIRE ISLAND COOKBOOK Copyright © 2012 by The World Wine Guys, LLC published by Atria Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

Hand Shucked Corn and Tomato Salad

September is a produce lover's dream. We get the last of the summer fruits and vegetables alongside the first of the fall's bounty. Corn and tomatoes are at their very peak, and it is wonderful to enjoy them together before they are gone until next summer. 

Hand Shucked Corn and Tomato Salad 

Hand Shucked Corn and Tomato Salad 

Hand-Shucked Corn and Tomato Salad

Locally grown corn and tomatoes are plentiful in the East from July through September.  There are so many ways to use them at mealtime and one of our favorites is this simple salad—the fresh flavors really speak of summer.  The minerality and bright acidity of the tomato combines beautifully with the delicate creaminess of the sweet corn.  We always use a superior quality cold pressed extra virgin olive oil.  There are some excellent oils coming from California wine country.  The subtle yet luscious peppered flavor is the perfect compliment to our Hand Shucked Corn and Tomato Salad.  

  • 4 ears locally grown sweet white corn
  • 4 ears locally grown sweet yellow corn
  • 8 large tomatoes, ripe and juicy
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper

Shuck the corn, making sure to remove all of the silk threads.  Stand each ear on end and using a sharp knife, cut the kernels away from the cob. 

Core and seed the tomatoes.  Cut the tomatoes into eight wedges and then cut each wedge into two to three pieces. 

Toss the corn and tomatoes together in a large glass bowl and season with salt and pepper.  Add the extra virgin olive oil and toss.  Cover with plastic wrap and allow to sit 1-2 hours before serving.  This allows all of the flavors to meld together. 

Wine Pairing:

Hearst Ranch Three Sisters White, Grenache Blanc-Marsanne Blend, Paso Robles, California.  Hints of tangerine, orange blossom and apricot along with racy brightness make this a wine you’ll want to start every meal with. 

 

From THE FIRE ISLAND COOKBOOK Copyright © 2012 by The World Wine Guys, LLC published by Atria Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

Grilled Asparagus Recipe

Although in the off-season, aka the part of the year that is not summer, we are perfectly content with steamed asparagus, in warmer months we delight in lighting the grill and relishing flame-kissed tender green stalks of goodness. We then double down on the deliciousness by topping our asparagus with pancetta-shallot vinaigrette. 

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     Grilled Asparagus in Pancetta Shallot Vinaigrette

Grilled Asparagus in Pancetta Shallot Vinaigrette

Grilled Asparagus in Pancetta Shallot Vinaigrette

Hiking in the hills above our Spanish house we find wild spring asparagus.  We love the old men who collect handfuls and then sell them at the market for 1 euro per bundle.

  • 64 asparagus stalks (approx 3 lbs)
  • Olive oil
  • Kosher salt

Rinse the asparagus stalks and cut off the bottoms.  Place approx 1/8 cup of olive oil and 1 tablespoon of salt into a zippered plastic bag. Add 1/3 of the asparagus and shake to coat evenly.  Repeat 2 times.  Place stalks directly on the grill for approximately 2-3 minutes.  Remove and place on a serving platter, set aside and do not cover. 

For the Shallot vinaigrette:

3/8 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/8 cup Balsamic vinegar

4 thin slices pancetta

2 small shallots

Maldon salt or Fleur de Sel

Coarse grind black pepper

Fry the pancetta in a large cast iron skillet until almost crisp, turning once.  Drain on paper towels, but conserve the drippings.  When cool, cut or crumble into fine dice.  Finely dice shallots.  

In a glass measuring cup, combine the olive oil, pan drippings, diced shallots, balsamic vinegar and diced pancetta.  Stir well and cover with plastic wrap.  Set aside.

Assembly:

Arrange the grilled asparagus on a large serving platter, drizzle the vinaigrette to evenly coat. Top with a few small pinches of Maldon Salt or Fleur de Sel and a few twists of black pepper.  

Wine Pairing: 

Bigi Orvieto Classico, Trebbiano Grechetto Blend, Orvieto, Italy

This lovely wine from the town of Orvieto in Umbria has aromas of fresh peaches and almonds.

From THE FIRE ISLAND COOKBOOK Copyright © 2012 by The World Wine Guys, LLC published by Atria Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

Basil Is Our Favorite Herb

Hands down, basil is our favorite herb; we seriously can not make enough pesto each summer. We know that many of our friends are trying to cut down on carbs and are avoiding pasta, so we have found a great use for all of our pesto. We slather it on grilled chicken breast. Try it for yourself! Pro tip: Pesto can be frozen in ice cube trays and defrosted as needed over the next several months. 

Pesto Smothered Grilled Chicken Breast. Photo by Frances Janisch

Pesto Smothered Grilled Chicken Breast. Photo by Frances Janisch

Pesto Smothered Grilled Chicken Breasts

The hot days of summer cause our garden to grow like wildfire.  We usually have a bumper crop of basil:  And what better way to use it, than to make delicious homemade pesto?  

For the chicken:

  • 4 whole boneless chicken breasts, halved
  • 2 tablespoons pesto
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • Whole basil leaves for garnish
  • Sliced lemons for garnish

In a glass baking pan, marinate the chicken in olive oil, 2 tablespoons of pesto, salt,  pepper, and lemon juice.  Coat both sides of the breasts well.  Refrigerate for at least 2 hours. 

When ready to serve, grill the chicken approximately 5-7 minutes on each side, depending on thickness.

For the Pesto

  • 2 cups basil leaves, loosely packed
  • ¼ cup pignoli nuts (pine nuts)
  • ¼ pound Romano Cheese
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • ½ cup Olive oil

 

Cut the cheese into 1 to 2 inch chunks.  Place in the food processor and process until coarsely grated. Add in the pine nuts, garlic, lemon juice, black pepper, and basil leaves.  Process for approximately 45 seconds to 1 minute, until you have a thick paste.  Use a scraper to push down the sides. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil through the push-tube until you have a thick liquid.  Add salt to taste if necessary. Transfer to an air tight container and set aside.  Do not refrigerate if you plan on using the same day. 

 

Assembly:

Arrange the grilled chicken on a large serving platter.  Spoon pesto over the entire platter.  Garnish with sliced lemons and whole basil leaves.  Serve.

 

Wine Pairings:

Carpineto Dogajolo Bianco, Chardonnay, Grechetto, and Sauvignon Blanc, Tuscany, Italy

A medium bodied Chardonnay, Dogajolo complements the vibrant freshness of home made pesto. 

or

St. Michael Eppan, Pinot Bianco, Alto Adige, Italy

Smooth and slightly racy, this 100% Pinot Bianco from the foothills of the Italian Alps is ideal with this earthy pesto.

 

From THE FIRE ISLAND COOKBOOK Copyright © 2012 by The World Wine Guys, LLC published by Atria Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.