Monday, May 28, 2012

A Toast to My Hometown's Better Eateries - Pressed!

Hi there!

Before I even get started, I have to get the elephantine pun out of the way: I was quite im-pressed by this restaurant! HAHAHAHAAAHA, get it? Im-Pressed? Ha. Hoo. Oh. My. Too funny... OK, I'm done now.

So, once again I get a case of the "Where-were-you-4-years-ago?" Blues. Actually, the first time I got them was because of some girl I was either dating or crushing on, but since then it's mostly been about new and interesting restaurants opening in neighbourhoods where I once lived or was very near.

Pressed is a beautiful and spacious restaurant/café on Gladstone near the corner of Bell Street; not exactly Ottawa's spiffiest part of town (when I asked my brother the police officer what was Ottawa's worst neighbourhood, this was his response). But don't let that scare you, the gentrification has already begun - and will not be televised. Want proof? Pressed calls itself an "urban gourmet sandwich bar". Anytime you throw the word 'urban' in there, you know it's all about getting street cred - right before the condos get built next door. But a little gentrification isn't a bad thing if it means more good food and fewer crackhouses.

Great interior - Mind you we were sitting on couches!
It was right after this year's Ottawa Comic-con that Kari and I found ourselves absolutely starving and unsure what to eat for dinner when one of us remembered that we'd meaning to try this place out for months. So, we trekked from the O-Train station on Carling and by the time we got there, I was ready to eat an arm.

Now, being a lush, my first thought was "please be licensed, please be licensed, please be licensed". I needn't have worried, they had a nice collection of beer and other goodness, including Waupoos Cider, which made Kari a happy camper. Meanwhile, I was able to partake of some tasty Kitchissippi 1855 Dark Ale (link to Kitchissippi Web site not working, so I didn't add it).

Having secure our drinks, we next got to peruse the funky blackboard menu, which was chock full 'o tasty selections:

A LOT of interesting choices.

Now, oddly enough, it wasn't the sandwiches that caught our initial attention, but rather the Sides. Take a look, I'll give you a minute. Did you see it? Yeah, Tempura Fiddleheads. Holy smokes!! Kari and I both got an order of those because, as I've said before, fiddleheads are pretty awesome. Coated in a crispy batter of deliciousness? Well, how could I say no? They were a delicious and simple side dish and I could eat them like popcorn all freakin' day! Too bad fiddlehead season is so darn short...
They came with a soy-ginger dipping sauce that was a good match, but I found after eating a lot, there was a metallic aftertaste that I didn't like. So I stopped dipping and stuck with the fiddlehead tastiness on its own!

The great thing about Pressed is that you order your food, then grab a seat, and the person who took the order at the cash brings the food and drink to your table. It's a nice form of casual service that I enjoyed.
So, we were first served our drinks and sides, then we got our sandwiches a bit later.
A pint of locally brewed goodness and Tempura Fiddleheads!

Next came the sandwiches, and what sandwiches they were! Well, mine was pretty freaking epic! I ordered the Indian-style Smoked Lamb special, while Kari got the Pulled Pork. Since I've been kind of ODing on pulled pork lately, I'll refrain from evaluating Pressed's pulled pork as compared to others, because it's all gotten a bit mixed up in my memory files on tastiness. And it wasn't my sandwich!

No, my sandwich was a work of lamby art! SOOOOOOOO GOOOOOOOD!!!!!

The lamb was beautifully smoked and tender, with a freshness that can only be found in Ontario lamb (yes it was pre-frozen, I think, but it was still pretty damn fresh!), but what made it so delicious was the spice. There were little taste explosions of coriander, cardamom and garam masala in every bite. Toss on some pickled beets and raita, with a pickled bean and sweet potato chips on the side, and this was a superb dining experience I would recommend to anyone; if it'still on the menu... 

Smoked Lamb Sandwich w. Pickled Bean and Sweet Potato Chips

So, it might not be the cheapest sandwich you'll eat, but it's pretty damn good value for the money if you consider the quality of the ingredients and the amazing flavour and creativity in the food. All totalled, it was just over 20 bucks for an exceptionally good meal and a beer (before tip and taxes, but still!).

Good folks at Pressed, I salute you! I will definitely be back!

And that's all for now! Cheers!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

A little help from my friends

Hello again!

Everyone needs their friends from time to time, that's why they're friends, and the realm of cookery is one in which our friends' help can be invaluable. One of the occasional problems in being an avid cook who takes pride in being original is that there are days where the inspiration just isn't clicking. We've all had days where we sit there contemplating dinner or whatever meal is coming up where we just can't decide what we want to make or order. Luckily, there are friends who come along and help us figure this sort of thing out!

In this case, it was my friend/colleague Jess who heard me lamenting as to wanting something like yet tasty. She began to describe a delicious sounding salad made with prosciutto and arugula and pine nuts and I very much wanted to give it a shot.

So I did!

Well, not quite exactly as she had described the recipe. I got home and, as with most things told to me, I completely forgot the method she'd told me for making the salad. Luckily I remembered the words 'arugula', 'prosciutto' and 'salad' and it was off too google I went!

I got quite a few results (I guess this is a fairly popular salad), but I noticed five or six entries down the page a recipe for Asparagus, Prosciutto and Arugula Salad from the Marcus Samuelsson Web site (it wasn't Mr. Samuelsson's recipe though, that credit goes to Lindsay Hunt, whomever she may be...) and thinking that asparagus was the way to go, I went with it. Here's the recipe (with tweaks I made in parantheses):

Asparagus, Prosciutto, and Arugula Salad Recipe

Serves 2


- 2 tablespoons vegetable or grapeseed oil (or olive oil, which is what I used)
- 2 slices thickly cut prosciutto, about ⅛-inch thick, cut into thin strips (I used cubed)
- 8 stalks asparagus, cut into 2-inch pieces
- 2-3 cups arugula
- 1 lemon, zested and 1 tablespoon juice
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- Salt, to taste
- Freshly ground pepper, to taste
- Optional: 1 tsp balsamic vinegar (why not?)
- Optional: 2 tbsp toasted pine nuts (this was Jess' suggestion - unfortunately, the pine nuts I had were way past their shelf life so I used toasted-then-crushed pecans instead - pine nuts would be better though)
- Optional: grated parmesan cheese to taste (OK, the 'healthy' quotient of this salad is fading in direct proportion to its tastiness increase...)


1. Heat a medium sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of oil and heat until shimmering. Add the prosciutto strips and cook about 2 minutes on each side, until caramelized and dark in color. Remove to a clean towel and set aside.

2. Add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the pan and heat through. Add the asparagus and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and set aside.

3. Place the arugula in a large bowl. Add the lemon juice, 1 tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Divide the arugula between two bowls, then top with the asparagus, prosciutto and nuts.

A DAMN good salad!
 In the end, we also served this with garlic-cheese bread, so it wasn't exactly a 'light' dinner, but it was really tasty!

And with that, we have a great example of why friends are good to have as culinary inspiration.

I also need to give a shout-out to my best amigo Einoch for introducing me to the idea of sausage in chili. Well done, sir!


Monday, May 7, 2012

Mill Street Brew Pub - 1st Brewmaster's Dinner - March 15, 2012

And I'm back! Miss me?

Alright, I admit, I'm kind of a fan of the Mill Street Brewpub, as my last post may have indicated. I love their beer, the service is really good if you get the right server, and the food is generally quite tasty (and even that which didn't 'wow' me was still adequate).

So, when the Gods of Food and Birthday Interaction decreed that the first Brewmaster's Dinner was to take place on the magical date of March 15th, which just happens to be the lovely and talented Kari's birthday, it seemed pretty clear we had to go to this thing! So, we booked our tickets quick like little bunnies and waited giddily and impatiently for March 15th to arrive. And when I say 'giddily', I mean jumping up and down giggling like Deadheads on nitrous as the date got closer.

Well, sure enough it did and, funnily enough, we had no idea what to expect, except for the menu (which totally added to the giddy) which had been posted weeks in advance. We walked in to the back upstairs room to find our places set as follows at a large 20-24 person table (luckily we had the end seats):

Really impressive table setup, not so impressed with their spelling of "Brennan"

So, pretty neat score of a bottle opener! AND there was still food and beer to come!

We did notice a bit of an 'energetic' vibe coming from our table-mates. I'm not sure what their story was, but by the end of the night we'd earned the moniker of the "Loud Table". At one point in the evening, I was a little worried we'd be known as the "Started a Brawl Table" after a heated exchange between the guy sitting next to me and someone at the table behind us. Eep! Luckily, cooler heads prevailed before night's end and no one had to be arrested.

But, that's neither here nor there, what matters is the BEER! Well, and the food...

So here's the setup: It was a five-course menu, each course paired with a glass of beer (of varying sizes depending on the beer in question). The menu had been online for weeks, so it wasn't a surprise and that's probably for the best because I have to commend the chef on putting together such an interesting sounding menu.

See for yourself:

First course - Wild Boar Sausage on Potato Pancake with In-House Mustard paired w/Organic Lager

Well, this was a quick little bite, but it was tasty. Admittedly, the boar sausage (which reminded me of grilled summer sausage from when I was a kid, always a plus) and mustard overpowered the flavour of the potato pancake, so I have no idea how good the pancake really was. The beer pairing was pretty basic considering that Organic Lager is the most "mainstream" tasting beer Mill Street brews. So, really, a flavourful trip down memory lane, but nothing that totally blew me away. I also could have used a second piece...

A small bite, but tasty!

As for the beer itself, well, it's Organic Lager, so obviously good for the planet and so on, but not a very flavourful beer when put up against powerhouses like Tankhouse of Coffee Porter. This is more of a "serve ice cold on a hot day and quench your face" kind of beer. At least, it is to me. Also, as with the potato pancake, it was subdued by the strong flavour of the sausage.

Second Course - Vanilla Scented Lobster Bisque with Saffron Crème Fraiche paired w/Vanilla Porter

OH MY VANILLA SCENTED GOD! This was quite possibly the best bowl of soup I've had in my life, I kid you not! The soup was rich yet delicate, creamy yet briny, and just so damn delicious! I've had/made Lobster Bisque before, but this was something far different. For one thing, it wasn't overly salty or 'fishy', which is something that has always made Kari averse to seafood and fish. In this case, she was gripping the table the soup was so good. The flavours were all complimentary between lobster, cream, vanilla and saffron. SO. FREAKING. GOOOOOOOOD!!!!!!!!!!!!! I could eat this all day, every day...

I'll take a gallon please!

And what could make this spectacular dish even better? Pairing it with our good friend Mr. (Ms.?) Vanilla Porter! It was absolutely complimentary with the soup, adding even more creamy depth. I think Kari's expression says it all...

Bliss in a glass

Third Course - Chickpea-Cauliflower Curry on Basmati Rice paired w/Tankhouse Ale

Well, this was the "come back down to Earth" course. After the nearly-transcendent and sinful soup, this was a much more comforting plate with the great earthy tones one expects from a good curry. I can't really say that it 'wowed' me, mostly because it's Chickpea Curry, I've had it more times than I can count and no matter how well it's made, it's probably never going to blow my mind. But it was really tasty and cooked perfectly. The chickpeas were firm, the cauliflower tender but not mushy - same with the rice. 

Must remember to photograph before eating...
As for the beer pairing, it was Tankhouse, which is my favourite beer, so no complaints here! In fact, there was a little more than the standard heat you'd find in a Chickpea Curry and the Tankhouse did a great job of cutting through the spice, but not overpowering the flavour of the dish.

Fourth Course - Scotch Ale Braised Lamb Shank with Smashed Potatoes and Grilled Broccolini paired w/Scotch Ale

Now THIS is a main course - A big ol' hunk of meat and potatoes (and something green in there somewhere)! This was the second best course of the meal (sorry, but that Lobster Bisque won my heart). It was a beautifully cooked piece of lamb shank, braised until dissolvingly tender. The meat fell apart off the bone as soon as I put my fork to it. The flavour of the meat was rich and fresh (Ontario lamb) and not gamy the way most people think lamb is. It was impossible not to shovel bite after bite into my mouth. The flavour of the veal stock and Scotch Ale it was braised in came through and yet was nicely complimented by the rosemary jus on top (and the jus was deftly handled by the kitchen staff, no small feat considering how easy it is to add too much rosemary to a dish). As for the potatoes and broccolini, I must admit that they kind of got eclipsed by the awesome tastiness of the meat. Not that they weren't good, just that it's hard to remember how good Jimi Hendrix's drummer is in the middle of a guitar solo... I do remember that the broccolini was cooked to perfection and the potatoes were made with a lot of butter. Sorry sides, that's all I got... Now, back to the lamb. DROOOOOOOOOL....

Steak knife = unnecessary

Wait, I'm forgetting something... Oh right, THE BEER!!!! Well, the Scotch Ale obviously paired well with the meat since the meat was cooked in it, but how did it taste? Well, it was delicious! It was a darker beer, but not thick in the way of a stout or porter, so it went down very easily. It reminded me of the love child of Upper Canada Dark and Newscastle Brown, but lighter tasting. The lightness served as a good balance for the meat, a heavier beer would have made the main course a bit of a slog.

Fifth Course - Baked Brie and Berry Compote Tartelette with 'Bière de garde' Syrup and Pecans paired with Ambre de la Chaudière (French-style Winter beer - Bière de garde)

So, it was now time for our final course, a tasty little bit of dessert with a very sweet beer to match. To be fair, I'm not a big dessert person and my taste buds were a little overloaded at this point, so my review might not be doing the food justice. Now, that aside, I did really enjoy the flavours of the tartelette. The crust was crispy and flaky, the brie was creamy and understated (which is how I like cheese in desserts), and the compote reminded me of a really good homemade fruit jam, which is one of the best flavours in existence.

Now, I can say that the beer paired well with the dessert, with the fruitiness of the beer complimenting the fruit in the tartelette. The only problem is that the 'Bière de garde' is pretty much my least favourite style of beer. There's something in the aftertaste that reminds me of the way formaldehyde smells. I've tried to get over it, to force my palette to expand, but I'm not there yet. Luckily, the acid in the fruit was able to cut through that aftertaste and left me with a fairly happy and refreshed palate. So, I guess the lesson here is that some beers need a complimentary food!

Dammit, did it again...

Another bonus feature of the meal was, between courses, descriptions of each beer were given by Brewmaster Joel with great enthusiasm and passion. I learned more about how beer is made, and the different varieties of beer that exist, than I ever knew was out there! It got hard to pay attention to each description (some tangents were set off on) and none of the guys next to us at the "Loud Table" could give a flying fig, and made that fact quite vocally evident (hence the potential brawl with the next table who told them to shut their holes while Joel was talking). But, I enjoyed learning about the intricacies of the beer-making process. Oh, and we got to keep our pint glass!

So, that was the first Brewmaster's Dinner! All that goodness for 60 bucks plus taxes each, including tip! It was a great value for a night out and a great way to celebrate my favourite lady's birthday.

I'll be posting again soon on the second Brewmaster's Dinner that took place a few weeks ago and, God and shift-trading colleagues willing, attending the Mill Street Brewery vs. 13th Street Winery "Street Fight" later this month. Maybe they should put me on the payroll? Does Mill Street need an official blogger? HA! I wish...

Till next time! Enjoy!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

A Toast To My Hometown's Better Eateries - Mill Street Brew Pub

Oh Mill Street Brewery, how you've moderately screwed up my life and waistline...

To begin with, Mill Street (originally out of Toronto) makes what is currently my favourite Canadian beer: Tankhouse Ale. It's a punch-in-the-mouth of flavour and hops that finishes remarkably smoothly. It's by no means a cheap beer, going at about 13 bucks for a six-pack, but life's too short for crappy beer. As the months and years have gone by, Mill Street beers have been appearing more and more frequently at some of my favourite establishments, including Smoque Shack, and festivals, with Mill Street supplying all the beer for Ottawa Bluesfest.

It was at Bluesfest that the signs began to appear: "Mill Street Brewpub - Coming Fall 2011". The excitement started to grow and grow as we found out that the location was to be the former Old Mill, a fairly high end steakhouse in the 80s that had let itself slip over the years and had been closed for a while. The Old Mill building is exactly that: an old grist mill from the 19th century overlooking the Ottawa River, allowing for a beautiful location for a restaurant, if a bit isolated from the main drag of the Byward Market and Elgin Street.

Fall came and went and the anticipation grew. Unfortunately the opening had to wait until January 24th, which is understandable considering the sheer size of the building and the logistics of opening such a large establishment. But the magical day finally came on the 24th and, while we didn't get to show up for opening night, we managed to be there on their second night.

It was absolute bedlam: We arrived at around 5 o'clock and it was already a 30-minute wait for a table for 4. I wasn't really surprised or bothered though. We sidled up to the bar and had some beers to keep us occupied while waiting for our table. In good time, we were brought upstairs to one of the four dining areas.

Now, here are some of the non-food/drink details about the place. First off was the decor. Well, it was a lot flashier than I expected; a weird mix of comforting wood and decoration with a lot of stainless steel as trim. To this day, after about a dozen visits to the place, I still feel like it's a bit to 'classy' looking for a brew pub. Oh well, that's something I have no problem getting over, especially because the views and the building itself are spectacular.

Next up is the service. Well, like most new restaurants, the service had some ups and downs. The front of the house needs work; the hostesses seemed a bit overwhelmed when busy, something that hasn't really changed since it opened. There have been some inconsistencies in the table and bar service, but for the most part it's been pretty good, especially in the case of the waiter we had on our first visit and he's been around a few times since. His name is Dane and I salute him, he was awesome. So, if any of the powers that be from Mill Street read this, treat Dane well! He's a definite asset to your business.

OK, so let's get to the meat of the matter: BEER AND FOOD!!!

Well, one of the things that caught my attention right off the bat was the beer menu. It's freakin' huge! There are something like 20+ beers on tap, including varieties that are exclusive to Ottawa, seasonal beers and the standards (Tankhouse, Organic, Coffee Porter, Belgian Wit and so on). A particularly brilliant offering for those who aren't sure what they want is the Beer Flight, which gives you a choice of 4 small glasses of different beers for $7.50. A VERY good deal!

Now, on to the food. The four of us at the table split a charcuterie plate that had some tremendous elements to it, but unfortunately, what they were exactly was kept a mystery to the wait staff! Whoops... Mind you, because it was only their second day in business, it was common that not all the wait staff had tried everything on the menu. Still it would have been nice to know exactly what we were eating. There was a dry salami that was excellent and ash-rind goat cheese that was the bee's knees.

Next, I had the Brewmaster's Mussels, steamed in Wit beer with smoked pork belly and leeks and all other kinds of goodness. The mussels themselves were pretty normal mussels, but the pork belly made the dish that much better and the bread on the side was baked using a Pilsner beer and was some of the best bread I've had in a long time.

Mussels with Pork Belly?!? OK!!

After the mussels, I got the Caribbean Baby Back Ribs. These were quite tasty and well smoked, albeit not the most tender. The flavour was really good, reminiscent of a milder Jerk sauce, but the portion seemed a bit small for 12 bucks - that's 3 bucks a rib. Still better than Ribfest I guess... The Jicama Slaw on the side was a really nice touch, much earthier than a regular slaw but still tangy.


While I was enjoying my Mussels and Ribs, Kari was partaking of the Stout and Onion Soup (Mill St.'s take on a classic French Onion soup). That one got kudos all around (see look of pure joy captured below). Her next course was the Duck Flatbread, which , while tasty, was a bit stingy on the duck.

What stood out most, other than the great service and surprisingly good food (pub fare is hard to make remarkable), was a seasonal brew called Vanilla Porter. This is like cake in a glass, but not too sweet. It's smooth, creamy, delicious and complex, while still being refreshing and quaffable. It's become Kari's absolute favourite, and one of mine as well. Unfortunately, it's no longer being offered. I guess we'll have to wait till September... le sigh...

So, all in all, Mill Street still has some kinks to iron out and there are hits and misses throughout the menu. I've been back a few times for regular menu fare and brunch fare and some things are better than others. If you are doing brunch and are feeling particularly decadent, get the Chicken and Waffles. Pretty epic...

Happiness = French Onion Soup and 4 glasses of beer

But before I leave you, there are a couple more points in the Mill Street Brewpub's favour that I think are really great touches. First, they have the "Master of Beer Appreciation" card, which is essentially a 'frequent drinker miles' card of sorts. Every time you get on of the multiple kinds of beers on the menu, you get a slot filled on the card. The more slots you fill, the cooler the shwag you can earn, including meals, tours of the brewery, and at the pinnacle, your name engraved on a special keg.

The second (and far more important) thing Mill Street does is a monthly special dinner. The first and second of these were the Brewmaster's Dinner, a five-course meal with special beer and food pairings. The first was held in mid-March and the second in mid-April. We've been to both and I will be blogging about them individually in Part 2&3 of this Toast to Hometown Eateries. Coming up in May is the "Street Fight" involving both wine and beer pairings with special food offerings. I look forward to being at that one too!

So, in the end, I'd say Mill Street Brewpub is the real deal with a lot of care going into both the beer and food menus and lots of space for patrons (although you'll still be waiting 30 minutes + for a table on a Friday night). Now that they've got their patio open, I expect it to get that much crazier. Of course, the fact that it takes 10 minutes from my couch to their front door doesn't hurt either!

Next time, I bring you a recounting of the first Brewmaster's Dinner.


(Dammit, now I really want a Vanilla Porter...)


Tuesday, May 1, 2012

A pair of Italian classics

Hi there!

Hopefully by now you all know how I feel about home-smoked bacon. It's just something really special that few people would take the time to do, not like most people have that kind of time anyway! So, when I do take the time to make my own, I like to think of the best ways to use it. I've used it in chili, made a LOT of greasy breakfasts, and had a good whack of sandwiches. But after three different sessions of creating my own bacon, I've started to run out of ideas. Luckily, Mother Nature inspired me on a freakish April morning. When I started writing this post, it was April 23rd and we were getting snow. Yup, snow in late April, frak me.

But this kind of weather does kindle the spirit of creating hearty comfort food at least one last time. And there's something about Italian food in general and pasta in particular that makes it possibly THE most comforting kind of food in the world. So, when one thinks of pasta and bacon, naturally the thoughts gravitate to Carbonara. For those who don't know, Carbonara is a rich style of sauce using bacon, egg and dairy (milk/cream and/or cheese). It's preparation is simple enough: bacon is cooked in a pan, other ingredients, including cooked pasta, are thrown in the pan using some of the fat to bind the sauce with garlic, onion, dairy and other ingredients. Finally, egg is added and lightly cooked to add richness. It's quite tasty and hearty; perfect for an April blizzard.

Carbonara is most commonly used with spaghetti, but linguine, fettuccine and "stringy" pastas work as well. In this case, I only had linguine, so that's what I used!

Pasta Carbonara (mainly taken from this recipe at

Serves 2 (4 if appetites are small)


- 250 g (1/2 pound) spaghetti, linguine or other pasta
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 4 slices of bacon (best possible!)
- 1 small red onion, diced
- 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
- a splash of white wine
- 1/2 cup 2 % milk (most recipes I've found use cream, but that's too damn rich for my blood)
- 2 large eggs
- 1/4-1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (to taste)
- 2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped

- Set pot of salted water to boil to cook pasta. Cook pasta to desired tenderness, strain and set aside in a bowl tossed with olive oil to keep pasta from sticking to itself.
- In a pan, fry bacon until crisp and set aside on paper towels. Reserve 1 tbsp of bacon fat in pan, drain the rest.
- Sauté onion and garlic in bacon fat until onions are well-cooked. Add wine and milk and reduce a little (cook for about 5 minutes).
- Add cooked bacon and pasta. Toss everything to coat well.
- Add eggs and cook while tossing constantly. You want to cook the eggs just a little so that they set, but you're not making an pasta omelette!
- Add cheese and toss everything well. Serve in a large pasta bowl/plate and top with parsley and extra cheese if desired.

OK, the plating isn't 4-star restaurant quality, but that's some tasty pasta!
 Now, since Carbonara isn't exactly health food and the amount of veggies used in it is kind of small, I figured a nice salad would be a good accompaniment.

Another Italian classic is Panzanella Salad, which is basically a bread salad. Traditionally, at least according to wikipedia, it's made using stale bread that's been soaked and then squeezed dry, tomatoes, oil and vinegar, with onions and basil added for good measure. Ironically enough, I made a salad similar to a Panzanella last Summer without actually knowing it had a name. I guess good recipes are somewhat universal...

Now, my version of the panzanella was basically the same thing as the traditional version with two notable exceptions. First, instead of using stale bread, I used toasted cornbread I'd made a few days earlier. Second, I omitted the raw onions (because who needs the heartburn?) and replaced them with sliced artichoke hearts and slices of bocconcini. So here's how to make it.

Panzanella Salad - Brennan-style

Serves 2


- 2 slices stale bread, toasted (focaccia works best - or use the equivalent amount of cornbread, toasted in the oven or toaster until crispy) and cubed
- 2 ripe tomatoes, diced
- 1-2 marinated artichoke hearts, sliced
- 2-3 bocconcini balls, sliced (or more if using the tiny version of bocconcini)
- 2 tbsp best-quality olive oil
- 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- juice of 1/8 lemon
- salt and pepper to taste
- pinch red chili flakes
- 1 tsp fresh basil, chopped

- In a bowl, combine bread, tomatoes, artichoke and bocconcini.
- In another bowl, whisk together olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, salt, pepper and chili flakes
- Add dressing to salad and toss.
- Serve topped with fresh basil.

While it might not be traditional, it's damn tasty!
 And there it is! One last salute to wintry comfort food with a bit of Spring freshness on the side. I hope you enjoy it! I certainly did!

Till next time!