Meatless Monday – Caprese Garlic Bread

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Garlic Bread is always a fan favorite.  Now imagine this fav topped with other love, ripe tomatoes and fresh mozzarella, drizzled with a sweet and tangy balsamic reduction.  Hungry yet?  Best of all it requires very few ingredients and a short prep, pretty close to being ready to eat!  The key to this dish is using really high quality ingredients, like perfectly ripe red tomatoes, fresh mozzarella (not the kind you use on pizza), fresh spicy basil, good bread and lastly, a splash of a nice balsamic vinegar.  I like to intensify the balsamic by adding honey and reducing it into a delicious syrup but you can skip that step if you don’t have time.  It’s hard to go wrong with a good balsamic vinegar. Mmmm…

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I’m not even going to talk about the nutrition of this dish because you just want to eat the whole thing because it’s so good!  That said, instead of the relatively empty, fat-laden calories of most garlic bread, the addition of real food on top ensures you’re getting some good vitamins and minerals in there.  Everyone already knows about tomatoes and lycopene and antioxidants… Eat on!

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Only my most loyal readers will notice that I didn’t post anything last week.  My Dad was in town, for the first time in almost 9 years and the first time he’s had to deal with our current airport security nightmare.  I’m sure no one will fault me for spending every moment with my wonderful father. My sister, Margaret and her husband Scott flew down with Dad for the weekend too.  Margaret the Human got to meet Margaret the Chicken. For those of you who don’t know what that means, read about my new passion, my mini chicken rescue ranch: (copy and paste) https://www.facebook.com/Mrs-Vs-Rescue-Chickens-1500893156880649/

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We went on lots of dog walks, including Crissy Field with the lovely backdrop of the golden gate bridge.   Even after all these years, sometimes I think the GGB looks like a prop on a set because it’s so picturesque.  We even went to iconic San Francisco show, Beach Blanket Babylon, which became a longtime favorite of Mom’s and Dad’s after I took them 30 years ago.  I did cook (you will forgive me if I didn’t share) but we also frequented many local restaurants.  Love you Dad!

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TIPS: For this dish, I like to use a long thin baguette which develops a nice crispy crust and is also the perfect width for a sliced tomato.  If you like a heavier bread ratio, use a thicker sourdough or  ciabatta loaf, but you may need to double the garlic butter quantity. For a quicker prep time, buy pre-sliced fresh mozzarella or try out a vegan version by checking our Miyako’s Kitchen’s new vegan mozzarella.  There are NO substitutions for fresh, ripe tomatoes… so plan ahead and set them in your windowsill to ripen for a few days.

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CAPRESE GARLIC BREAD

  • 1 thin baguette (sourdough or ciabatta loaf-see TIPS)
  • 1/2 cup salted butter, softened
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced (or garlic paste)
  • 12 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced
  • 2-3 medium tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp honey
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh basil
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  • Slice baguette in half lengthwise, then cut in halves or thirds (whichever fits on your baking sheet) In a small bowl,combine butter and garlic. (You could also add a dash of Italian Seasoning if you wish)  Spread evenly over bread.

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  • Slice tomatoes and mozzarella into 1/2 inch rounds.

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  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Place bread on large baking sheet cut side up. Bake for 3-5 minutes, or until butter is melted and edges are golden.

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  • Remove from oven and arrange mozzarella slices on bread and bake in oven for about 10 minutes or until cheese is melted but not falling off. You can turn to broil for the last few minutes, if desired.

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  • While bread is cooking, reduce balsamic vinegar. Bring vinegar and honey to a boil, in a small saucepan, reduce heat and simmer for 7-10 minutes, stirring often, until vinegar is reduced by half or until vinegar is a nice syrupy consistency. Remove from heat.

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  • Remove bread from oven, line with tomato slices, season with salt and pepper and basil. You have the option of cooking for another couple of minutes or serving tomatoes room temp. Drizzle with balsamic reduction. Cut into tomato sized slices and serve.

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Caprese Garlic Bread

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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  • 1 thin baguette (sourdough or ciabatta loaf-see TIPS)
  • 1/2 cup salted butter, softened
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced (or garlic paste)
  • 12 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced
  • 2-3 medium tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp honey
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh basil
  1. Slice baguette in half lengthwise, then cut in halves or thirds (whichever fits on your baking sheet)
  2. Slice tomatoes and mozzarella into 1/2 inch rounds.
  3. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Place bread on large baking sheet cut side up.
  4. In a small bowl,combine butter and garlic. (You could also add a dash of Italian Seasoning if you wish)  Spread evenly over bread.
  5. Bake for 3-5 minutes, or until butter is melted and edges are golden.
  6. Remove from oven and arrange mozzarella slices on bread and bake in oven for about 10 minutes or until cheese is melted but not falling off. You can turn to broil for the last few minutes, if desired.
  7. While bread is cooking, reduce balsamic vinegar. Bring vinegar and honey to a boil, in a small saucepan, reduce heat and simmer for 7-10 minutes, stirring often, until vinegar is reduced by half or until vinegar is a nice syrupy consistency. Remove from heat.
  8. Remove bread from oven, line with tomato slices, season with salt and pepper and basil. You have the option of cooking for another couple of minutes or serving tomatoes room temp. Drizzle with balsamic reduction. Cut into tomato sized slices and serve.

 

 

Wheatless Wednesday – Grilled Avocado Caprese Salad

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Insalata Caprese, the ubiquitous tomato, mozzarella, and basil salad, is one of the most popular dishes in summer when tomatoes are in season and so, so good.  It also happens to be one of my favorites and a great way to use up extra tomatoes.  I sometimes include avocado to increase the nutritional value and make it a bit more filling as a main dish.  I must admit that I am on quite a grilling kick this summer which has taken an interesting turn since I am no longer just throwing steaks and burgers on the grill.  I have had to get more creative with ingredients and have started grilling fruits and vegetables that I would not have considered in the past,  including recent dishes,  Grilled Nectarines and Summer Squash with Balsamic Glaze and Grilled Artichoke Mixed Veggie Platter.

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Grilled Nectarines and Summer Squash with Balsamic Glaze

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Grilled Artichoke Mixed Veggie Platter.

So when it came to making my first Caprese Salad of the summer, I decided to give it a twist by using the tiny sized mozzarella ‘Pearls’ and cherry tomatoes to top a grilled avocado.  Grilling the avocado gives it a wonderfully warm and creamy, slightly smoky flavor. In addition to being delicious, avocado is a great addition to any diet for health and weight loss.  “According to a study by the Haas Avocado Board, adding avocado to a lunch meal caused a 23-percent increase in satisfaction and a 28-percent decreased desire to eat over the next five hours after eating, compared with the avocado-free lunch. And, over a three-hour period, adding avocado to lunch meant a 26-percent increase in satisfaction and 40-percent decreased desire to eat later on.  Half an avocado has about 112 calories and 6 grams of fiber. Avocados are filled with heart-healthy fats, protein, potassium, and vitamins (such as B6, C, K, and B)” (Glamour.com)  So next time you have the grill going, throw on a couple of avocados.  You’ll like it!

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Grilled Avocado Caprese Salad

  • Servings: 2
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

1 ripe but firm avocado
2 Tbsn olive oil
1 tsp lemon juice
1/2 cup ciliglene, tiny fresh mozzarella balls (or larger mozzarella ball, diced)
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
1/4 cup fresh basil, sliced crosswise into strips (chiffonade)
1 Tbsn balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

Grilled Avocado Caprese Salad

  • Using a sharp knife, slice avocado in half lengthwise.  To remove the pit easily, strike the pit with the sharp blade and twist slightly.  The pit should pop right out.

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  • Brush the cut sides of the avocado with olive oil, lemon juice and season with salt and pepper.  Place cut side down on a hot grill and grill for about 5 minutes, or until you see nice grill marks.  You can place the avocados on the grill perpendicular or horizontal, depending on how you want the grill marks to look.

 

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  • Or you can get fancy and grill diagonally

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  • Get crisscross grill marks by turning the avocado 90 degrees half way through.

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  • Remove avocados from heat and let cool slightly.

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  • Place each avocado half on a plate and fill with tomatoes, mozzarella and basil, divided between the two.
  • Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar

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Grilled Avocado Photo Credits:

1) Horizontal- http://www.foodandstyle.com

2) Diagonal- http://www.glamour.com/health-fitness

3) Criss-Cross- http://www.grillinfools.com