Pancetta and Heirloom Tomato Breakfast Panini

final sandwich on cutting board

I don’t eat out often, so when I do, I try to make it really worthwhile and eat at locales where the menus seem inspired and creative. Recently I came upon this little cafe in manhattan beach with just that sort of menu, and I ordered this breakfast sandwich. It was so lovely. A little bit of italy for breakfast, just my sort of thing. The sweet acidity of the tomatoes, the saltiness of the pancetta, and the richness of the scrambled egg with a bit of melted mozzarella. So good. A recipe is almost not needed; just look at the pictures and you’ll get the idea.

Chop up some ripe tomatoes, add a tablespoon or so of olive oil, and balsamic vinegar, a little salt and pepper, some torn basil leaves, and some minced garlic (optional).

Saute the pancetta in a little olive oil until crisp

bread and egg
Toast your baguette, and wisk 2 eggs with a little salt and pepper and the cheese slices, if you like. You can add the cheese slices at any time, this is just my lazy way of doing it.

Scramble your eggs, however you like. I use some of the leftover oil from frying the pancetta and heat the pan at medium-low heat. When it foams, add the egg mixture. I use a rubber spatula to gently turn the eggs over, every 20 seconds or so. Too much movement and they loose that tender fluffiness.

build your sandwich
Now its time to build your sandwich. Spread a tablespoon or two of store bought basil pesto on your toasted baguette (I say store bought because I’m trying to not overwhelm you with steps, just take a deep breath and enjoy not having to make your own pesto :-))
Top with the pancetta, tomato-basil mixture, and finally the scrambled eggs. Press the other baguette slice on top, and cut in two. Share the other half with whoever has been particularly nice to you today, at least that’s what I do.

Bon Apetit!

Pancetta and Heirloom Tomato Breakfast Panini
3 slices Pancetta, or Bacon
1 small baguette, soft and light on the inside, a bit crusty on the outside
1 medium sized tomato, or 1/2 cup grape tomatoes, chopped
4 or so torn basil leaves
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 Teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1/2 clove garlic
2 tablespoons basil pesto
2 eggs
2 slices mozzarella cheese
Salt and Pepper

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

1. Chop tomatoes, mix with torn basil leaves, 1 tablespoon olive oil and 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar. Add a little minced garlic if you like, and season with salt and pepper

2. Saute Pancetta on medium heat in a little of olive oil, until crispy.

3. In a small bowl, whisk eggs with a little salt and pepper, add cheese slices.

4. Heat pan used to fry pancetta on medium low heat. You can use the leftover oil from the pancetta to coat the pan and give the eggs a nice flavor. Add egg mixture and gently scrap pan and turn over eggs every 20-30 seconds. It should take about 2-3 minutes until they’re firm. In the meantime, toast your baguette in the oven for a few minutes.

5. Build your sandwich: Spread the pesto on both bread slices. Add the pancetta, tomato mixture, and finally the scrambled eggs. Top with the other slice of bread and cut in two. Enjoy!


Tuna and Fuji Apple Salad with a lowfat yogurt vinaigrette

tuna salad

I’ve had a lifelong love affair with salad.

So I consider myself a bit of a salad aficionado.

And between all the dieting done here in Los Angeles, and the year round supply of fresh Californian produce, its no wonder.

But in defense of salad-lovin, I’ve been known to convert quite a few salad despising folk over to my camp.  That’s probably not you, because lets face it, you’re taking the time to read this salad themed post. But to the one or two of you that are still here, and have you’re doubts, I’m coming after you! It’s just a matter of time…. lol.

So if the Food Network ever created a salad making competition….

…oh its on like Donkey Kong baby!!

No but seriously, as a teen I was the go-to salad maker for family gatherings, and I think it was a great introduction to cooking in that its an experimention with different flavors and textures. So if you’re new to cooking, salad making is a great way to kick start your cooking education. I admit, you’re not technically cooking anything. But, when you make a salad, you’re essentially learning different flavor combinations, how to season properly, and in the end, hopefully how to cook without a recipe; all while eliminating the possibility of burning anything (which takes the pressure off. Nice).

In my many years of back breaking salad research, I developed this simple formula that all my salads follow:

something creamy + something crunchy + something sweet = salad nirvana.

Fresh Fig, Grilled Radicchio and Beemster Goat Gouda Salad

The creaminess adds a decadence to the salad that everyone loves. It could be fresh goat cheese, feta, brie, a creamy dressing, or even sliced avocado. The crunch factor could be crisp lettuce, toasted nuts, or croutons. And the sweet could be dried or fresh fruit, or a little honey in the vinaigrette to balance out the acidity of the dressing.

Of course you have to figure out which combinations of those ingredients taste the best to you, but thats where all the fun recipe experimentation begins!

Today I’m sharing a salad with you that I’ve been making for years. Its a tuna salad thats a favorite of mine. Here’s how it fits in my little formula:

creamy low-fat yogurt vinaigrette/ mayonnaise for the tuna + sweet apple and currants + crunchy celery and apple.
Its a very loose formula, but it works as a basic guideline to any salad that I make.

Start by dicing the celery. Thinly sliced fennel would have been really nice here as well, since fennel and apple is a wonderful flavor combination… but I had celery hanging around so in it went.

tuna and apple
add the celery to some finely chopped apple, and tuna

add currants
add the currants (raisins are fine too) and thinly sliced green onions and diced pickle. Today, I didn’t have pickles. So to add that important bit of acidity that pickles bring to the mix, I added a few drops of vinegar. You could substitute with a tiny bit of lemon juice here as well.

mix in the mayonnaise and dijon mustard. Season with a little salt and pepper.

For the creamy vinaigrette, combine the olive oil, greek yogurt, red wine vinegar, sugar (or honey), dried oregano, minced shallot, salt and pepper. Whisk until emulsified. If you like your dressing a bit on the sweeter side, add extra sugar or honey

Arrange your large butter lettuce leaves artfully around the place, place some thinly sliced apple around the center, and add the tuna mixture. I also cut up some ripe tomatoes – avocado would be really lovely as well. Drizzle with the creamy vinaigrette and devour.

Tuna and Fuji Apple Salad with a creamy yogurt vinaigrette (serves 2)
with extra Tuna-Apple salad for a sandwich or two

For the Tuna Salad mixture
16 oz canned Tuna in spring water, drained
1 medium sized fuji apple, diced
2 small celery stalks, diced
1/3 cup currants or raisins
3 green onion stalks, thinly sliced, green parts only
1 tablespoon fresh chopped parsley
1/4 cup minced sweet bread and butter pickle, or your favorite variety
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
3/4 cup good quality mayonnaise
salt and pepper to taste (salt might not be needed)

Yogurt Vinaigrette
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons non-fat greek yogurt
1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2- 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
2 teaspoons sugar or honey, more or less depending on how sweet you like it
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano or thyme
1 tablespoon minced shallot, or red onion
1/2 – 1 teaspoon salt, 1/4 tsp ground black pepper

Assembling the Salad:
1 medium fuji apple, thinly sliced
1 pint small cherry tomatoes
1 head butter lettuce, rinsed

Directions are pretty simple… just combine all the ingredients for the tuna-apple-celery mixture. Then combine all the ingredients for the vinaigrette, whisk until emulsified and creamy. Assemble the salad on the plate, drizzling with 2 Tablespoons or so of the vinaigrette, serve.