Recipe: Panzanella Sandwich, AKA Poor Man’s (or Rich Man’s) Panzanella

Panzanella Sandwich

When is a sub not a sub? When it’s a panzanella sandwich!

Panzanella is a summery Italian salad that features chunks of rustic bread tossed with vegetables and doused in vinaigrette. And guess what? You can get pretty much the same product with a few hacks to your favorite sub to make it a panzanella sandwich. Be sure to have a knife and fork handy, because this is not a sandwich you just pick up and eat.

Italian Mix Submarine Sandwich with oil-and-vinegar dressing (see ordering instructions below)
Additional red wine vinegar as needed
Additional salt as needed
Additional oregano as needed
Additional olive oil as needed

Method: order your preferred Italian Mix Sub combo with “extra dressing”. This will mean different things depending on where you buy it. I got my base material at Jersey Mike’s, a pretty good chain, where if you order “Mike’s Way” they will shower the sandwich with a liberal amount of oil, vinegar and oregano.

After you get it home, take the sandwich apart and inspect it. Often one side of the bun is left undressed. Lubricate that with extra vinegar, salt and oregano (maybe oil too, but my guess is there is already enough oil on the bread at this point). Wrap it up again and refrigerate several hours or overnight.

For presentation, carefully unwrap the now-sodden sandwich and cut into sections. Serve with knife, fork and plenty of napkins.

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Frozen pizza taste test

Ellio Pizza

Ellio’s pizza modded with anchovies and chopped pickled cherry peppers. Not as good as it looks.

The other day I planned to get take out pizza from DeFazio’s, an excellent source in Troy NY. I somehow overshot the store and decided I would purchase a frozen pizza instead. I should add I had broken my arm a couple days previous and was probably addled by pain/prospect of pain meds at home, because this was not a good decision.

Freschetta Frozen Pizza

Freschetto Pizza with mods

To maximize my options, I stopped at one of the larger Price Chopper stores. Man, they carry a lot of frozen pizza—an entire aisle of it, not counting the pizza rolls in the next case over. I settled on the 5 Italian Cheese Pizza from Freschetta—a brand that promised me real cheese and a “Brick Oven™ Crust” (so now you know who owns the trademark “Brick Oven”, right?). I hacked it with chopped pickled cherry peppers, some anchovies and some leftover cooked spinach and cooked according to package directions.

Ellio's Pizza

Ellio’s three-cut pizza, one of three in the box

The Freschetta pizza turned out okay…on the low end of pizza store quality…except for a strange, pasty crust that seemed not to include yeast. This experience made me curious and I started exploring “best frozen pizza” on the listicle websites. I found a lot of opinions, not much consensus, but I did see some love for Totino’s, a brand I remember liking in my youth.

Totino Party Pizza

Torino’s Party Pizza: not much of a party

I returned to Price Chopper, and discovered the personal size Totino’s Party Pizza (350 calories, 18 g fat) is just $1.25. There’s a code for an Xbox game on the package, so the pizza is effectively free. Feeling like I hit the jackpot, I also picked up a Red Baron Deep Dish Singles (2 for $1.50) and Ellio’s Five Cheese Pizza ($2 for 9 slices). By comparison, the Freschetta had been a stately $5.99.

Red Baron

Red Baron Deep Dish Supreme: just vile

I’ll cut to the chase and tell you I would not consider buying any of these products again, except maybe Ellio’s which is like an inoffensive cheese bread. The Red Baron was a crime against Chicago Style deep dish pizza. (Didn’t they used to sell that frozen, Uno brand, by the way?) The Totino had an interesting crackery crust but an oily topping that smelled and tasted like used motor oil.

It doesn’t seem like it would be hard to make a frozen pizza that’s within a country mile of fresh baked. And some of the reviewers suggested that house brands, like Wegman’s and Trader Joe, may be okay. But there’s no excuse for the products I tried. Their very existence, and the fact they seem to be selling, makes me sad.

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Why beer drinkers are so angry these days

New Six Pack Holder

Can you spot the handle on the sixpack holder?

Have you noticed the new sixpack holders? They’re like a cruel practical joke on beer drinkers. Instead of nestling just under the top of the cans, so it’s easy to hook in your finger and carry a sixpack, the loops are halfway down the can. As a result when you pick up your six, the cans fall over the place.

In my other blog we talk from time to time about user interface design. A key principle is that design has to be intuitive. You can’t expect users to figure it out, especially if they’ve had a beer or two. And another thing: see that extra loop on the side of the can? It’s a handle, it turns out. A beer store owner pointed that out to me and said he just noticed several months after the design was introduced. Definitely not intuitive.

Four Pack Holder

Grrr. Makes me angry just looking at it.

Beer drinkers seem to be getting it from all sides. There’s also a new four pack holder, for expensive craft beers. It’s a plastic plate that clamps down on the tops. You literally have to rip the beers out, with an angry tearing sound, before you can drink them. It’s totally against the mellow spirit of enjoying beer.

So the next time you see an angry beer drinker, don’t assume they lost their job or got kicked out of their house. It just could be the user interface design.


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Recipe: King’s Hawaiian Sausage Sliders

Kings Hawaiian Breakfast Sliders

King’s Hawaiian Sausage Sliders. These were heated at 350 degrees which got them a bit brown; I recommend 325 degrees.

King’s Hawaiian Rolls are like regular dinner rolls, but slightly SWEET. I couldn’t resist making sliders from the new four-packs which are just right for a couple’s meal or a single hungry haole. This King’s Hawaiian Sausage Sliders recipe is delicious, but it’s as much a technique as a recipe; please invent your own slider hacks with these adaptable grease pillows.

1 or more onions, peeled and sliced into rings
1 T olive oil
King’s Hawaiian Rolls, 4-pack (expand the recipe if using larger size)
1/2 lb Jones Dairy Farm Breakfast sausage, sliced into patties and pressed to a size to fit the rolls
8 dill pickle slices
4 slices of your preferred cheese (I used American, because it was on sale)

King's Hawaiian Rolls

Adorable four-pack of King’s Hawaiian Rolls

Method: preheat oven to 300 degrees. Sauté the onion in olive oil over very low heat till caramelized, 45 minutes or so. Cook the sausage in a skillet over low/medium heat till there is no pink in the center.

Assemble the sliders by cutting the rolls in half crosswise, so there is a top and bottom bun. Squirt a bit of mustard on the lower bun, add a round of sausage, then some cheese, then some pickle, then some onion, with a squirt of mayo on the top. Press down lightly to keep the ingredients in place then transfer to a cookie sheet. Heat in 300 degree oven till cheese is melted, about 25 minutes. (For extra unctuousness wrap the sliders loosely in aluminum foil as they cook.)


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Recipe: Stuffing Pudding (bread pudding made with leftover Thanksgiving stuffing)

Stuffing Pudding with vanilla ice cream

Send that final tub of leftover stuffing out with a sweet farewell. Stuffing Pudding is made with Eagle Brand condensed milk, which you may well have around from your holiday bakes. Serves 8-10 as dessert.

4 c leftover bread stuffing
3 eggs, beaten
1 14-oz can Eagle Brand condensed milk
1 t vanilla extract
1/4 c bourbon, rum or brandy (optional)
1/2 c raisins or dried cranberries

Method: whisk eggs, condensed milk, optional liquor and vanilla till combined. Pour over stuffing and add raisins or cranberries. Mix thoroughly with a spoon then transfer to heatproof bowl. Bake in preheated 300 degree oven for one hour, or until pudding is set. Serve warm with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

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Leftover turkey: the value chameleon

Healthy Turkey Sandwich

Turkey sandwich with sprouts and avocado

I had a marketing client who referred to his software as the “value chameleon”. It sounds sexy, though I was never sure exactly what he meant. And “value chameleon” is a perfect description for that shape-shifter known as leftover turkey, as demonstrated by tonight’s dinner.

Once again it was a turkey sandwich with two sides, but as different from the day-after sandwich as a 15 Church burger is from Burger 21. Multigrain bread was spread with avocado, topped with alfalfa sprouts and sliced tomato and finished with a bit of sliced jalapeño; kewpie mayo coated the other bread surface. Sides were leftover sweet potatoes enriched with cinnamon and maple syrup so they were halfway to a dessert, and welcome creamed celery discovered among the small containers in the back of the fridge.

Is there such a thing as too many turkey sandwiches? The rest of this year’s bounty (which I estimate as close to half a bird, sans bones) is going into the freezer, so that answer will wait for another day.

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Thanksgiving leftovers or Thanksgiving hangovers?

Turkey Sandwich With Trimmings

Thanksgiving leftover sandwiches are about as good as it gets

Day-after-Thanksgiving is surely the best of the leftover days. In the very near future we will be desperately chopping suspiciously slippery bits of turkey into hash, or struggling with watery turkey minestrone. But today we feast… on leftover turkey sandwiches.

Late last night, as the meat was off the bone and the stock was a-simmer, I baked up a simple sourdough boule. That, plus of course Durkee’s dressing, is all that’s needed to turn your leftovers into a magnificent meal.

Bread Ears

Nice ear on the bread, if I do say so myself.

My preference is to build a sandwich of toasted bread with Durkee’s on both interior surfaces then turkey, a layer of cranberry sauce and some leftover wilted salad. Serve leftover stuffing and gravy on the side, and of course more cranberry sauce.

A perky modification of a club sandwich, with an ingenious twist on the side dish: what’s not to like? If we didn’t have Thanksgiving, this could become a best selling lunch sandwich in its own right. Bon appetit.

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Recipe: Amish Creamed Celery

Amish Creamed Celery

Amish Creamed Celery

Here’s a refreshingly different side dish to serve at Thanksgiving, when celery is on sale. I went ISO Amish Creamed Celery recipes because I missed out on the wedding feast* at Fisher’s Restaurant during my recent trip to Amish country. It’s essentially cooked celery in a sweet-and-sour béchamel**, and I like this version which uses butter and brown sugar. Serves 8-10 as a side dish.

1 bunch of celery, sliced into 1 inch pieces, about 4 c
chicken stock or water
2 t butter
2 t all purpose flour
½ c brown sugar
½ t salt
1 ½ t cider vinegar
¼ c cream, milk or half-and-half

Method: simmer the celery in stock or water until tender, about 20 minutes. Reserve the celery and the stock. In the same saucepan, melt butter then mix in flour to form a roux; stir and cook on low heat till flour is absorbed and the mix has a slightly nutty smell, about 1 minute. Add salt, brown sugar and vinegar, stirring constantly, then add chicken stock or water until the sauce is thick but still liquid (about ¼ c should do it). Remove from the heat and stir in cream or milk. Return the celery to the pan and stir to coat evenly. Serve hot.

*This web page presents a very detailed description of a typical Amish wedding in the Lancaster, PA. Creamed celery is served along with a main dish of “roast” which is what we would think of as Thanksgiving stuffing, but with chicken mixed in. Celery stalks in jars decorate the tables. I would like to find evidence that the sturdy, erect celery plant is a symbol of fertility, but so far have come up empty.

**I have been reading up on the green bean casserole where you mix canned green beans with mushroom soup and sprinkle fried onions on top. I think this béchamel would work much better as a sauce. But only serve one such dish at Thanksgiving, otherwise it gets monotonous.

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Southern-style squash casserole for Thanksgiving

Squash Casserole

Squash Casserole on Choice Plate, with jalapeno muffin and fried chicken

Heads up, we are getting massive hits for our good ole Highland Park Cafeteria Squash Casserole recipe. Have the feeling a lot of folks are making this for Thanksgiving. If you are not familiar with this recipe, check it out!

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Stress-free Thanksgiving at Grandma’s house

Stress Free Thanksgiving

This turkey is giving you the stink eye. Photo by Vince Pakhala, licensed under Creative Commons.

We love Thanksgiving at Burnt My Fingers. What could be better than a holiday that’s all about food, and celebrating the “blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies” (in the words of President Lincoln, who initiated the holiday in 1863) that make that food possible?

Yet the headlines at this time of year seem to be about Thanksgiving stress… and how to have a stress-free Thanksgiving even if you hardly ever cook, and have upped the ante by inviting over a bunch of picky eaters. If this is you, maybe you should just order takeout. Lots of restaurants are now putting together complete Thanksgiving meals-to-go. One of our favorites, if you live in Upstate New York’s Capital District, is the groaning board at Chester’s Smokehouse.

These fine people will serve up a Thanksgiving feast including a 20 pound turkey (smoked or roasted), stuffing, mashed potatoes, 2 dozen handmade pierogi, cranberry chutney and gravy, green beans and four sides…all for $199. They say it will serve 8-10 people which requires each person to eat 2 pounds of turkey plus all the add-ons, so I think they’re being conservative.

It’s a great deal from some good cooks, though they’re asking for orders to be in by Friday, November 23. (But if you’re reading this at noon on Wednesday, don’t give up hope. They have put a few turkeys aside specifically for the procrastinators.) This deal doesn’t appear on their website, so I suggest you call Chester’s at (518) 650-6642.

Or, go for it. There’s nothing like the shared experienced of cooking together (this is key: your guests need to pitch in vs expecting to be waited on) and then eating yourselves into oblivion. When I was growing up in Texas, we would always have Thanksgiving at Grandma’s house. The women would mostly cook while the men and boys watched football (first the Texas-Texas A&M game, later the Cowboys vs the Lions). Only years later did we realize the women were having all the fun. We would eat an enormous passed meal of many dishes and then lie on the floor in the living room, attempt to watch more television and quickly fall asleep. It was a stress-free Thanksgiving for sure.

If that tableau appeals with you, start with our stress-free recipe for Foolproof Turkey. Make a stuffing that’s so easy a second-grader can do it (Mrs. Brooks’ class did). It’s a piece of cake to make your own cranberry sauce, but the storebought stuff isn’t bad. Add a few of your favorite sides—maybe green beans, sweet potatoes and garlic mashed potatoes—but don’t stress too much because nobody’s going to eat them. The next day will be even better, as you enjoy leftover turkey sandwiches made with Durkee’s Dressing.

Our best wishes for a happy, stress-free thanksgiving. We’ll see you on the other side.

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