by Chef Jenn Farmer
Recently I was at a friend’s house, and he was watching one of those food network shows. I don’t watch T.V. so I got sucked in immediately. I am not going to report on which show or host, but the young lady cooking was actually pretty good, and her recipes looked lovely. There was one problem: credibility. Not in her skills as a chef or businesswoman, but as far as her menu. She was making a little luncheon for her girlfriends. She was cute and lean, and so were her friends. In fact they were all so adorable, it was hard to believe they would be consuming doughnuts, among other fat and sugar laden recipes she had been demonstrating during the cooking segment of the show. I have definitely been wrong about things before, so maybe these ladies work out hard, and eat anything they wish, but it just seemed a little bit of a stretch. To be honest, I don’t think they look in the direction of fried dough, much less eat it dripping in syrup and powdered sugar, especially with the mayonnaise laden sandwich as the first course and carbohydrate heavy second course. Being a big proponent of everything in moderation, and I still cook with bacon fat, and lard. I am not fearful of salt, but even me, and my reckless abandon toward food, would have been hard pressed to sit and eat the substantial and calorie saturated meal this tiny chef was cooking up on the telly for her anorexic friends.
So my conclusion was to make up my own little luncheon. The following recipes are what I serve to my friends at summer get-together. The menu has a nice balance. The sandwich constitutes a bit of decadence with the cheese and pancetta on the buttery grilled bread. The rest of the menu counters it with healthy and highly flavorful ingredients. Even the sangria has merit, since cranberries are high in anti-oxidants and vitamins, but the white wine is still there to make it fun.
PANCETTA AND PEAR PANINI
- 8 slices Portuguese bread
- 12 slices pancetta, cooked to your liking (bacon can be substituted)
- 1 Bartlett pear, cut into thin slices
- 6 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
- 1 stick butter, softened
If you have a panini press, use the manufacturer’s directions for cooking the sandwich, otherwise heat two heavy cast iron skillets over medium heat. Lay out the bread and evenly distribute the cheese on each slice. Next lay the pancetta and pears on the bread, and close the sandwiches. Heat some butter in one of the skillets. Carefully place sandwich on the buttered skillet and smear the exposed part of the sandwich with some soft butter. Very carefully place the other skillet on top of the cooking sandwich to mimic a panini press. The sandwich is done when the cheese is melted and the bread is golden brown. Serves 4.
The pear and pancetta sandwich is very rich, so something crisp and tart suits it well as a side dish. A nice arugula salad, accompanied by tomato soup and a glass of sparkling white wine is just about the perfect combination. I also love trying different cheeses in the panini. Currently tellegio (rind removed) hasbeen a big favorite, especially when served with tart ingredients, like mustard and dried cherries or cranberries. But, then again, how can one ever really go wrong with melted cheese and crisp, buttery bread, so experiment away with this recipe. In fact, I recommend cleaning out those little bits of leftover cheese and cold cuts from your cooler. While you are at it see what fruit is in the crisper, you may create some new grilled cheese masterpiece, by just cleaning out the fridge.
GRILLED YELLOW TOMATO SOUP
- 3 pounds yellow tomatoes, cored
- 1 onion, sliced
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- Salt and pepper
- 1 cup vegetable broth
- 2/3 cup cream
- Basil chiffonade (garnish)
Heat your grill to medium heat. Brush the tomatoes and onion slices with olive oil, rub with garlic and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill, turning when necessary, until the onions are soft, but not burnt and the skins from the tomatoes peel off easily. Remove from the grill and discard the tomato skins. Blend or process the tomatoes and onions until smooth. In a large sauce pan add the pureed mixture and allow it to cook for 5 minutes, then add the vegetable broth, and allow the soup to simmer for at least 10 to 15 minutes. Taste and season if necessary. Next stir in the cream and warm the soup back up, but don’t allow it to boil. Remove the soup from the heat. Ladle the soup into bowls, and serve hot or at room temperature with chiffonade of basil as the garnish. Serves 4-6.
ARUGULA SALAD WITH POMEGRANATE SEEDS
- 2 bunches young arugula washed and trimmed
- 1/3 cup pecans, toasted & chopped (pine nuts are a good substitute)
- One half cup fresh pomegranate seeds (about one pomegranate)
- 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoon pomegranate juice
- 6 tablespoons olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- 1 quarter teaspoon Dijon
Whisk together the vinegar, juice, olive oil, Dijon, and salt and pepper to make an emulsion to dress the greens with. Toss the arugula and vinaigrette with the remaining ingredients and serve immediately. Serves 4-6
A simple text message sent to me by a bartender friend was the inspiration for the following recipe. It simply read, SANGRIA. I high- tailed it over to his bar, in a tizzy of excitement , since I enjoy sangria, and have not enjoyed any in a long time. It is a great drink since it goes really well with most foods and versitile. Then it dawned on me, sangria would be the perfect beverage to serve with the Pear and Pancetta Panini. Red wine is very nice, but with the summer heat, white sangria seemed more appropriate. The following recipe was the resulting concoction. It was inspired Nantucket cranberries, local (Massachusetts) peaches and long walks on the beach. If you enjoy red sangria, simply replace the white wine with red, and the white cranberry juice for red, enjoy.
- One half cup water
- One half cup sugar
- 4 cups white cranberry juice
- 1-750 ml bottle white wine
- One third cup peach flavored liqueur
- 2 ripe peaches, peeled and sliced
- 1 clementine or mandarin orange, thinly sliced
- Whole cranberries (optional for garnish)
Combine the sugar and water in a saucepan and heat until the sugar is fully dissolved, creating simple syrup. Let the syrup cool. Combine all the remaining ingredients in a container and let stand at room temperature for 3 hours. Then refrigerate until well chilled. Serve in a cold pitcher garnished with cranberries. Serves 8.