Sunday, August 10, 2014

Three Ways to Make Caprese Salad

Love Caprese Salad and all of its variations! Pronounced cah-prehy-zay, I often order this salad or its sandwich version for lunch, but never serve it at home! Silly, it is probably the easiest dish to make ever, tastes delicious, can be presented so beautifully, and won't cost $10!

Caprese is an Italian word, and it literally means "of Capri". A must visit spot on my list...

After tasting Jose Andres' version of Caprese salad with cherry tomatoes and liquid mozzarella at his Beverly Hills Bazaar restaurant, I was inspired to make the salad for lunch and play around with different presentations.
The salad calls for the following ingredients ~ please feel free to tweak the proportions according to your taste!
1-2 tomato (I prefer cherry tomatos)
1-2 slices or balls of fresh buffalo mozzarella, drained and patted dry
4-5 freshbasil leaves chopped in thin long stripes, and a few more for garnish
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp balsamic vinegar
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

The key to the maximum flavor here is a good... no, great quality ingredients!!!

Here are three of my favorite versions of Caprese salad:

#1 Caprese Salad Inside a Tomato
This is a fun and unique presentation for dinners around the table with family and friends and during cocktail parties. Cute visuals and delicious flavors make every party just so much better!  For cocktail parties I use cherry tomatoes, but if I serve it as a side dish at a dinner party, then a nice beefsteak tomato is a better choice.

Here I carefully cut off the top of the tomato, and, using a spoon, scoop out the seeds and flesh into a small bowl, reserve.
 Put a small mozzarella ball inside the tomato.
 Add a drizzle of olive oil and vinegar, and a pinch of salt and pepper into the tomato flesh and juice. Pour inside the tomato.
 Add inside the tomato a finely chopped basil.  ( 1/2 tsp if you are using cherry tomatoes. Add more depending on the size of the tomato.) Mix.
 Top the tomato with a basil leaf.
Transfer to the plate. 

#2 zClassic Caprese Salad
Here I used cherry tomato. I love them for sweet flavor that is offset by the balsamic vinegar  Portion is small but very flavorful.

#3 zClassic Caprese Salad on Bed of Seasonal Greens
If I am in a mood of a salad as a meal and not as a small appetizer, I love the taste of Caprese salad on a plate full of seasonal greens. I throw in 2 tomatoes quartered, 2 balls of fresh mozzarella cheese, a few basil leaves chopped, splash of olive oil and aged balsamic vinegar, and, of course, freshly ground salt and pepper to taste. Delish!
I heard that Italians eat Caprese Salad almost every day. They certainly know the good food!

xo, Zuma A.
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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

A Day at the OC Fair

It is the end of July, and the weather is hot and humid. Naturally, it is a perfect time to stay in a comfortably air-conditioned indoors... Except for the fact that the OC Fair is here, and it comes only once a year! 

Monday, July 21, 2014

zSummer Favorites

I cannot believe that we are already half way through the summer, but I am determined to hold on to the feeling of care free days all the way until Labor Day. And, while I am sitting in the office working, or in the kitchen washing dishes, or running errands... here are a few things I love and use to remind me of sandy beaches, blue sky, bright sun...

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Quick Dinner Idea: Tuna Steak and Kale Salad

Nowdays, when stress eating is no longer an exception but a norm, I have to watch what I eat,  especially during summer when I can't really hide extra calories under the thin fabric of my clothes.  So I look for food that is easy to make, healthy, and keeps me full and energized for a longer time.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Red White and Blue Cupcakes in Mason Jars

A few days ago, as I was thinking of the upcoming July 4th party, I decided to bake Red White and Blue Vanilla Cupcakes with blueberries and strawberries, or any kind of Summer berries. What a great way to sweeten the holiday!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Sunscreen Q&A

Every morning, as everyone rushes out of the house to school or to work, I remind them to put sunscreen on... Then I hear that I am too paranoid and that a little sun is good for us. "You are such a mom!" they say... As if it's a bad thing!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Weekend Escape ~ Temecula Wine And Balloon Festival

As I was fighting downtown traffic on Friday afternoon, I got a call from my Honey, and, without saying hello, he said ~ Let's go somewhere!

Okaaaay... he did not mean to go out for a drink, even though that would be nice; he actually meant to get in the car and get out of town... I was not ready for that! I had plans, like taking Alex to his Taekwondo practice, dusting the house (long overdue!), going through my endless pile of papers on the desk... Getting out of town was not part of my plans, but he sounded a little desperate, so I had to agree and to reprogram myself from working mode to fun mode.

Fine, lets be spontaneous! Lets get out of town! And the next morning, we were off to explore... Temecula, California. One of the greatest things about California is that there are so many great places to explore that are no more than hour and a half away, and Temecula is one of them. Known for its rich history and beautiful mountains covered with vineyards, the city is also famous for Hot Air Balloon Tours, and we were in for a treat ~ this was the Temecula's annual Wine And Balloon Festival weekend!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Beautiful Living ~ Butterflies and Hummingbirds

Summer is all about being outdoors, and it is time to clean up and beautify our gardens, backyard patios, and balconies. This is a very relaxing activity, and I always look forward to it, and hope that one day my garden will look effortlessly natural, green, with pops of colors everywhere, and butterflies and hummingbirds flying from flower to flower...

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Father's Day Gift Ideas

Father's day is fast approaching. And I always struggle to come up with gift ideas - it is hard for me to think of what men like. And knowing my weakness, I decided to start the quest for my dad's gift early. I wanted to get something a little different from his usual routine, and here are a few gift ideas I thought to share with you:

1. For Dads who love delicious ribs, ship to him the world's famous Rendezvous' ribs.

famous Rendezvous' Charcoal Ribs ($105)
Have you tried Rendezvous' famous charcoal ribs?  Delicious! Located in the alley behind South 2nd Street in Downtown Memphis, the restaurant hosts several thousand people on an average Saturday night! Even Presidents and Princes could not resist visiting the restaurant to try their delicious ribs.

Now they deliver their ribs too! For $105 they will overnight fresh and ready to heat and eat charcoal ribs and Rendezvous famous sauce or seasoning. Shipment is free for weekday delivery!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Coconut Cupcakes with Coconut Glaze

I love everything coconut! Its a bit heavy in texture and a bit sweet in flavor. It always brings me a sense of comfort. I use coconut in desert and in seafood sauces (it's sweetness balances the heat of the sauces so well). I love pairing coconut with chocolate, pineapple and banana flavors. 

So I thought to share a recipe for coconut cupcakes with coconut glaze (I am finally willing to try something other than the buttercream I am obsessed with!). 

Monday, May 26, 2014

The Flower Power ~ Peonies

I love flowers! So colorful and cheerful, flowers are a beautiful, refreshing and inexpensive way to dress up the house. It is kind of like adding a bright yellow scarf to a gray dress.  I occasionally treat myself with a beautiful bunch of seasonal flowers that I pick up while grocery shopping, and, whenever I walk into the house or a room with fresh flowers, I always think to myself ~ how pretty! So, why not make it a habit to always have fresh flowers in the house and think how pretty more often.