Cheese, Glorious Cheese

I think I may have created a culinary monster in my 9 year-old.

Parmesan CheeseI made stuffed shells the other night for dinner.  I asked the kids if they wanted cheese on top.  “Yes, please,” was their reply, so I sprinkled some Parmesan cheese on top.  My son, who didn’t see the source of the cheese because it was not his turn to set the table, took 2 bites of his dinner, put his fork down on the plate, and asked, “Mom, you didn’t buy the cheap cheese did you?  This doesn’t taste like the cheese from Italy.”

I wouldn’t consider the cheese in question expensive.  But I also wouldn’t consider the cheese in question cheap.  While it was pre-shredded, at least it was not in a can with a shaker top.  The Italian deli wasn’t open, so I couldn’t get the real stuff.  I didn’t think the kids would notice.  Apparently, he did, and the middle-of-the-road cheese was deemed inferior according to my 9 year-old’s discerning palate.  He pushed his plate aside and asked for a replacement without cheese on top.   My daughter, who is a little less discriminating, happily ate all of hers and finished her brother’s inferior dish.

Goodness sakes, what have I done?

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Cheesy Pancetta and Garlic Bread with Arugula

Here is a quick and easy dish that you can make with the arugula you may have planted in your garden.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 loaf of Ciabatta bread
  • 8 thin slices of pancetta
  • olive oil
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • Buffalo mozzarella cheese
  • 1 or 2 Roma tomatoes, thinly sliced
  • Oregano
  • Baby arugula

DIRECTIONS

  1. Slice the bread down the middle the long way and place the two halves on a baking sheet, cut side up.
  2. Drizzle olive oil over the cut side of each half
  3. Spread half of the garlic over one slice of the bread and the other half on the other slice.
  4. Lay the pancetta slices over the cut side of each half of bread
  5. Place the bread under the broiler until the pancetta starts to get crispy.
  6. Remove from the oven and place slices of the mozzarella cheese over the top of the pancetta and sprinkle the oregano over top of the cheese.
  7. Place the bread back under the broiler until the cheese is melted.
  8. Immediately after removing from the oven, top each piece of bread with tomato slices and arugula. The heat from the bread will lightly steam the tomatoes and arugula.

Garden Update

garden

I finally got a successful bean and pea planting.  They are growing fast and look healthy.  I think I might have just been a little too impatient to get them in the ground this year.  Note to self:  No matter how unseasonably warm it may be in April, wait until mid-May to plant the seeds in the ground next year.

We planted some watermelon along the side of the garage.  I’m going to train them up the trellises.  Last year I grew them in the garden and trained them up the fence, which worked out, but this year I wanted more room in the regular garden for other things.  Hopefully, this method will work out.

watermelon plants

The rest of the plants are looking good too.  I got my first batch of Arugula the other day, along with some basil and oregano.  They went into my “Kill for you ANTI-pasta”, as my husband calls it (recipe at the bottom of this post).

antipasto

We also found some wild “tomatoes” growing in front of our deck.  I had 2 cherry tomatoes planted there last year.  Some of the seeds must have settled into the ground and 5 plants are growing where the 2 were last year.  I’m trying to keep 2 of them just to see what happens with them, but the rest are probably going to get destroyed when we expand the deck next month.

tomato plants

And the rose bush looks beautiful.  It is full of bright red blooms.  The leaves have holes in them though, so I think it is being snacked on by some kind of bug.  I need to find an eco-friendly solution to get rid of the rose pests.

rose bush

rose

I am not impressed with the upside down tomato and strawberry planter.  Only two of the strawberries are still alive and the tomato does not like growing upside down.  It is bending upwards and the stem doesn’t look healthy.  We’ll see how it turns out, but the strawberry planter was definitely a waste of time and money.  We’ll try a different space-saving method to grow the strawberries next year.

And here is the recipe for the Antipasto.  I just like a little bit of dressing on mine, since the olives and tomatoes already have a strong flavor, if you like more then I would double the recipe or experiment with your own measurements and ingredients.

INGREDIENTS

  • Arugula
  • 8 oz. artichoke hearts
  • 8 oz. olives  (Kalamata are the best, but you can use whatever you have)
  • 6 oz. sun-dried tomatoes
  • 6-8 oz. salami, cubed or sliced and cut into quarters
  • mozzarella cheese, cubed
  • pecorino romano
  • fresh oregano
  • fresh basil
  • balsamic vinegar  (about 1/8 cup)
  • olive oil (about 1/4 cup and some for drizzling)
  • honey (1-2 tsp.)
  • 1-2 tsp. lemon juice
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 loaf of foccaccia bread

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Drizzle olive oil over the foccaccia bread and grill or bake in oven at 350 until warm and toasty.  Remove, cool and cut into cubes.
  2. In a bowl, toss together the olives, tomatoes, artichokes, mozzarella, salami, basil and oregano.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together olive oil, honey, vinegar, lemon juice, salt and pepper.
  4. Pour the dressing over the antipasto, toss and serve over a bed of fresh arugula with the cubed bread on the side and shredded pecorino over top.