Pinch Me, I Am Dreaming! (Caprese Salad with Basil-Orange Vinaigrette)

Monday, September 21, 2009

Casa Italia Cooking Class

There have been some exciting new developments here in SGCC Land lately, and I’m thrilled to finally be able to tell you about them!  I’ve held off until I knew that they were sure things, because…well…because, I don’t like to count my chickens before they’re hatched.  I’d hate to make a big splashy announcement to you all and then have to take it back because things didn’t work out as planned!  Though, if you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, you might already know what I’m talking about.

My first bit of news is that I’ve been hired as a contributing writer by Creative Loafing!  In case you don’t know, Creative Loafing is a weekly newspaper published in various venues around the U.S.,  focusing on local culture, and including restaurant, food, film, movie, arts, and entertainment news and reviews, blogs and Podcasts.  I’ll be writing for their Sarasota and Tampa online and print editions.  Of course, my focus will be on food and recipes, but the editors have graciously left the door open for me to contribute on other topics as well.

Creative Loafing

Creative Loafing

This is big, big, big for me because writing has always been a special passion of mine.  From the time I could hold a pencil I was always scribbling down little poems, plays and short stories.  In high school I was the editor of our school’s literary magazine, which won state and national awards.  I often fancied myself authoring the next great American novel, but life got in the way, as it often does.  One of the reasons I started blogging in the first place was to hone my writing skills and see if I could recapture my “voice”.  I’m so delighted to be able to share that voice in another venue, especially one as cool and relevant as Creative Loafing!

My second announcement is that I’ve been hired to teach Italian cooking classes at my favorite Italian gourmet market.  How cool is that!?!?  I’ve enjoyed shopping at Casa Italia for many years, and I’ve even written about the store on this blog before. The proprietors, Nita and Raj, are lovely and gracious people who always go the extra mile to keep their customers happy and well fed!  So, when they approached me about joining their team of instructors, I jumped at the chance!

CasaItalia-Sept-09-12

Casa Italia has offered various kinds of cooking classes to the public for years.  Of course, as an Italian market, most of them focus on Italian cuisine.  However, they also offer classes on their native Indian cooking as well. In fact, if you stop by the shop on any given Thursday, you will smell the welcoming, fragrant aromas of simmering curries and other Indian delights that permeate the space.

Some of the luminaries that have graced Casa Italia’s kitchen include the doyenne of authentic Italian cooking, Marcella Hazan and her equally talented son, Giuliano Hazan, who has authored several popular cookbooks of his own and also currently offers classes there.  It is quite a thrill to be slicing and dicing on the same table as those two!

Casa Italia Cooking Class

My first class was held this past Friday, and I am happy (and relieved) to say that everything went very smoothly.  My pupils and I prepared a fabulous four course lunch that included: Caprese Salad with Basil-Orange  Vinaigrette, Roast Chicken with Pancetta and Olives, Orzo Primavera and Tortoni for dessert.   I’m a firm believer in learning by doing, so I quickly put them all to work, encouraging them to dive in and  get messy. They a great job, and I’m really proud of them!  Since I was kind of busy, Raj was kind enough to snap some photos of me and the class in action.

Tortoni

The whole experience was tons of fun for me and I think that everyone else had a great time too.  I can’t wait for round two!  I’ll keep you posted!

For now, here’s a super simple recipe for the Caprese salad we made.  We used sliced juicy, sweet Campari tomatoes, basil and fresh mozzarella, which we also sliced and cut into small rounds.  Then we made adorable little Caprese “towers” with them and drizzled a sweet and spicy basil-orange vinaigrette on top.  The vinaigrette is just wonderful and can also be used as an accompaniment to chicken or fish.

Caprese Salad Stacks

Caprese Salad Stacks with Basil-Orange Vinaigrette

Ingredients

For the Basil-Orange Vinaigrette:

  • 1 small shallot, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon fresh red chili or jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
  • 1- 1 1/2 cups loosely packed fresh basil leaves
  • 3 tablespoons fresh orange juice (You can use blood orange juice if you are lucky enough to find blood oranges.  If you do, you might need to increase the sugar a pinch as they are a little more bitter than regular navel oranges.)
  • 2 tablespoons champagne vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

For the Caprese Salad:

  • 8 small ripe tomatoes, each sliced into 4 thin slices
  • 1 pound fresh mozzarella, sliced thinly and cut into rounds to fit tomatoes (a cookie cutter works well for this)
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

For the Basil-Orange Vinaigrette:

Combine all ingredients except olive oil in a blender or food processor.  Blend until completely pureed.

With the machine running on low speed, slowly drizzle in the olive oil until well blended.

For the Caprese Salad:

Layer the tomatoes, mozzarella and basil leaves to make little stacks.  Season each with some salt and black pepper to taste.

Drizzle the vinaigrette on top.

Makes 8 Caprese Stacks.

Enjoy!

81 responses to Pinch Me, I Am Dreaming! (Caprese Salad with Basil-Orange Vinaigrette)

  1. On September 21, 2009 at 2:30pm, Maria said...

    I am thrilled for you! Congrats!! I know you will do a fabulous job in both jobs! I wish I could take one of your classes:) Can’t wait to meet you this weekend!

    • On September 22, 2009 at 8:11am, Susan said...

      Thanks, Maria! I’m looking forward to finally meeting you too! :)

  2. On September 21, 2009 at 2:30pm, City Girl said...

    Congratulations on all your new endeavors :) And the salad looks amazing :)

  3. On September 21, 2009 at 2:31pm, Fuji Mama said...

    WAHOO!!! CONGRATS!!!!!!!!!!

  4. On September 21, 2009 at 2:32pm, Judy said...

    Yay Susan!!! How wonderful for you to have these 2 things going on right now! Cooking classes must be so much fun!!! That salad looks wonderful and what a great thing to teach people how to make!

  5. On September 21, 2009 at 2:33pm, Sandy said...

    Congratulations! I’m so happy for you! Best of luck in your new endeavors ~ you look like you’re having so much fun! :)

  6. On September 21, 2009 at 2:39pm, Joy said...

    Oh my gosh! Lots of good news! Congrats honey!!! I love your caprese stacks.

  7. On September 21, 2009 at 2:46pm, Rachel (S[d]OC) said...

    Congratulations on all of you accomplishments. You are deserving of all of it.

    I like how you’re bringing back the tortoni by including it in the menu!

  8. On September 21, 2009 at 2:48pm, LizAnderson said...

    Yum – and congrats! You’re the perfect cast for both positions. I hope they make you very, very happy.

    Oh that Caprese Salad. It’s snowing in parts of Colorado, so I’m sad to think my days of making this dish have gone the way of our summer weather. Sigh. Any chance you have an idea for a winter weather spin on the caprese salad?

    Not that you get snow or anything…..

    • On September 22, 2009 at 8:18am, Susan said...

      Hmmm. Actually, I make a warm version of this salad using roasted tomatoes, onions and cannellini beans, and serve it over crusty bread or pasta. Roasting really sweetens up less than perfect tomatoes. I’ll have to post about it sometime soon. :)

  9. On September 21, 2009 at 2:48pm, Rachel (S[d]OC) said...

    Congratulations on all of you accomplishments. You are deserving of all of it.

    Your salad is one of my favorites. I love your version.

    I like how you’re bringing back the tortoni by including it in the menu!

    • On September 22, 2009 at 8:20am, Susan said...

      I don’t know why Tortoni fell out of favor. Hopefully, my affection for it will be contagious!

  10. On September 21, 2009 at 2:52pm, shelly (cookies and cups) said...

    Congratulations! I would definitely take your classes if I lived close!

  11. On September 21, 2009 at 3:05pm, Jill said...

    Congratulations! You look so happy teaching your class!

    The Tortoni sounds really delicious!

  12. On September 21, 2009 at 3:08pm, The Italian Dish said...

    Susan: Way to go! That is just great. I’m thrilled for you. You look like you are having a great time. I hope to read more posts about this!

  13. On September 21, 2009 at 3:09pm, Rosa said...

    Wow, congrats! That is soooooo great!

    Cheers,

    Rosa

  14. On September 21, 2009 at 3:20pm, patsyk said...

    Congratulations! Everything is well deserved and you should be ecstatic! I’m so happy for you, and wish you lots of luck in all of these new endeavors!

  15. On September 21, 2009 at 3:45pm, The Food Hunter said...

    Congratulations! What great opportunities for you.

  16. On September 21, 2009 at 4:41pm, Elle said...

    Oh my gosh, Susan–congratulations on both accomplishments! I’m thrilled for you!

  17. On September 21, 2009 at 5:06pm, Dana said...

    Congratulations! Two wonderful pieces of news in one post! All the very best to you in these new endeavors!

  18. On September 21, 2009 at 5:38pm, Jen Yu said...

    How awesome! So happy for you, sweetie. Just remember – you can do ANYTHING. Super big hugs. Can’t wait to hug you in person this weekend. xxoo

    • On September 22, 2009 at 8:21am, Susan said...

      Me too, me too , me tooooo! :D

  19. On September 21, 2009 at 7:42pm, Bellini Valli said...

    Congratulations on so many new exciting ventures in your life Susan!!!!See you at BlogHer:D

    • On September 22, 2009 at 8:22am, Susan said...

      Can’t wait to finally meet you, Val! :)

  20. On September 21, 2009 at 8:37pm, cookienurse said...

    Congratulations and best wishes on your new adventures!!

  21. On September 21, 2009 at 9:57pm, susan from food blogga said...

    I love when good things happen to good people! Congratulations, Susan! I’m so excited for you.

  22. On September 21, 2009 at 10:03pm, Natasha - 5 Star Foodie said...

    Congrats on your two new jobs! How wonderful! The caprese stacks look delicious, basil-orange vinaigrette is a great addition!

  23. On September 21, 2009 at 10:52pm, Jen @ MaplenCornbread said...

    CONGRATS on both new exciting jobs!!!! You are perfect for them!!! Very happy for you!!!!! This caprese looks so wonderful, and the orange really adds a new level to it!

  24. On September 22, 2009 at 12:25am, Esi said...

    Susan, congrats on both of your new ventures. So exciting!!

  25. On September 22, 2009 at 1:25am, Coleen said...

    There is a STAR among us!!! How wonderful for you. Now, I can say I knew you “when”.

  26. On September 22, 2009 at 1:45am, Mimi said...

    Congratulations are your new ventures. Judging from the photos your are having a great time and life is to short for it to be any other way!
    Mimi

  27. On September 22, 2009 at 4:35am, Colleen said...

    Congratulations Susan….all wonderful news. You deserve it. You look fab in your photos and that salad is just stunning!! Thinking I shall try that for our Heritage Day Barbecue on Thursday :o) xxx

  28. On September 22, 2009 at 7:30am, Jennifer said...

    Susan-Congratulations on both of your AMAZING accomplishments!!! I hope you have lots of fun doing both, I am sure you will! What lucky readers and cooking class students!!!! Best wishes to you!:)

  29. On September 22, 2009 at 8:04am, Joan Nova said...

    That is so exciting! On all fronts! And, look at you in your FoodBuzz apron! Congrats.
    P.S. Love the idea of orange in the vinaigrette.

    • On September 22, 2009 at 8:24am, Susan said...

      Hehe! The Foodbuzz apron was a big hit! :D

  30. On September 22, 2009 at 8:27am, Susan said...

    Thank you all so very much for your kind words and support! You are the best! I just hope you’ll all bear with me as I practice juggling to keep all the balls in the air. I’m trying to keep up with posting, but I haven’t had much time for visiting lately. Working on it! :)

  31. On September 22, 2009 at 11:26am, Michelle {Brown Eyed Baker} said...

    What an exciting time for you!! Congratulations on the new opportunities! :)

  32. On September 22, 2009 at 11:34am, LilSis said...

    Congratulations, Susan! Both of your new opportunities sound so EXCITING!! Good luck to you!

  33. On September 22, 2009 at 12:28pm, Angela {YourEverydayMama} said...

    How exciting, so happy for you!

  34. On September 22, 2009 at 1:13pm, Jelli Bean said...

    I’m thrilled for your success! Many many congratulations. Enjoy it!

  35. On September 22, 2009 at 1:49pm, Dolce said...

    Congratulations on all of this… This is truly amazing (and yummy…)

  36. On September 22, 2009 at 2:01pm, Jessica @ How Sweet It Is said...

    Just found your blog, I love it and can’t wait to read more!

  37. On September 22, 2009 at 2:13pm, Aggie said...

    Wow, how exciting for you!! Congrats!
    I grew up eating Tortoni…I got a craving seeing your picture!! All the food looks wonderful!

  38. On September 22, 2009 at 4:59pm, CookiePie said...

    CONGRATULATIONS!!! I bet you’ll be a fantastic teacher, and I already know what a great writer you are. Wonderful news!!

  39. On September 22, 2009 at 5:56pm, Jenny said...

    Great news!

  40. On September 22, 2009 at 7:47pm, Paula said...

    WHOOHOO!!! congrats. What an exciting time for you!!

  41. On September 23, 2009 at 12:57am, Marie said...

    I love the way you write Susan, a big congrats to you, how fun!

  42. On September 23, 2009 at 2:20am, Farmer Jen said...

    How wonderful! You look like you are having so much fun.

  43. On September 23, 2009 at 10:00am, Tracy Moulton said...

    I’m so happy for you. You’ve really found your nitch in life. How lucky to be able to do the things you love and be so appreicated for them. I love your writing and now so many more people will get to read your enchanting stories. I wish I could taste all your dishes, they all look fabulous. Congratulations! Love, Tracy

  44. On September 23, 2009 at 10:24am, Katrina said...

    How wonderful for you! Congrats. Looks like you’ll be at Food BlogHer, I’ll be there, too!

  45. On September 23, 2009 at 12:07pm, Debbie said...

    Congrats to you Susan! I’m sure you will have a blast!

  46. On September 23, 2009 at 12:20pm, Ashley said...

    Congratulations! You are quite the busy bee. :-)

  47. On September 23, 2009 at 12:28pm, Lori Ann said...

    Wow! Congratulations on living your dream! =)
    The Caprese Salad looks delicious! I just recently tried it for the first time and was amazed how delicious it is (I really don’t like to eat raw tomatoes)! I’ll have to try this recipe!

  48. On September 23, 2009 at 1:27pm, Jenn AKA The Leftover Queen said...

    CONGRATULATIONS, Susan!!! That is awesome! You look great up there in front of those students!

  49. On September 23, 2009 at 2:10pm, Lauryn said...

    Wow!! Congrats!! Thats is so wonderful and exciting!! You should be VERY EVRY proud of yourself!

  50. On September 23, 2009 at 10:54pm, ASHLEA said...

    Oh how fun to teach cooking classes! That sounds lovely and all of your food looks delicious. Congratulations!

  51. On September 24, 2009 at 5:39pm, Phoo-D said...

    BIG CONGRATS Susan!! That is so exciting. You deserve it girl! Hurrah!

  52. On September 24, 2009 at 5:41pm, justcooknyc said...

    i’ll have to try that vinaigrette the next time i make a salad like this

  53. On September 24, 2009 at 11:22pm, Carol, Simply...Gluten-free said...

    You go girl! Big congrats to you – you deserve it all!

  54. On September 25, 2009 at 1:07am, Cakelaw said...

    Congratulations! It all sounds very exciting. I am also impressed at how white your Foodbuzz apron still is – mine is seriously stained.

  55. On September 25, 2009 at 11:58am, Lori Lynn said...

    Cool! A hearty congratulations to you!
    The vinaigrette sounds awesome.
    LL

  56. On September 26, 2009 at 3:17pm, Maryann said...

    Can’t wait to see your articles in CL. When is your first article? Good luck!!

  57. On September 27, 2009 at 1:30am, Kristen said...

    Great News! You will be great at it :)

    Sorry I didn’t get to see you at blogher this weekend. Hope you had a great time and I hope we meet up again somewhere !!

    Best wishes

  58. On September 27, 2009 at 7:26pm, Sam said...

    Congrats Susan. I just found this website and love it! I am only, well, twelve, but you are great. You should have a show on the Food Network! Congrats!!!!!!!

  59. On September 27, 2009 at 7:27pm, Sam said...

    P.S. You inspired me to write my blog!!!!!!!!!!!!

  60. On September 27, 2009 at 10:06pm, Wandering Chopsticks said...

    Awww, Congratulations!!! That’s fabulous news. I bet you were a totally awesome and fun cooking instructor.

  61. On September 28, 2009 at 8:22am, kellypea said...

    Big Huge Congratulations to you Susan! Well-deserved! Sounds like you’re riding high on dreams come true these days and it’s completely inspiring. Yummy recipes, too ; )

  62. On September 28, 2009 at 9:37pm, mamakeith said...

    Wow! That is wonderful! It is so good to see doors open in areas where people are given the chance to shine! You GO! YAY!

  63. On September 28, 2009 at 10:34pm, maris said...

    Looks delicious and congratulations on all of these wonderful gigs! I’m sure you’ll do a great job – and if I’m ever in SD want to take one of your classes – I’ll even blog about it :)

  64. On September 29, 2009 at 9:45am, Peter said...

    Susan, congrats on both counts…I’m so very happy for you and you’ll have a blast cooking and sharing your expertise and delicious food!

  65. On September 29, 2009 at 11:07am, For the Spectators said...

    Hi, I’ve linked one of your recipes at by blog “Forthespectators”. It is a lifestyle, culture, music, arts, entertainment, and food blog. I plan on making bi-monthly posts of mouthwatering recipes on Forthespectators… For my first recipe-post, I have linked your Moroccan chicken recipe.

    The link to the entry can be found at: http://forthespectators.wordpress.com/2009/09/29/sight-for-sore…-found-recipes/
    Thanks. I hope to find more inspiring recipes from your blog.

    BTW, Congrats on getting a job with Creativeloafing!!!

  66. On September 29, 2009 at 11:08am, For the Spectators said...

    (And when I say moroccan chicken recipe, I mean miso salmon… Sorry its been a long day!)

    Congrats again. xx

  67. On September 29, 2009 at 6:11pm, Daily Spud said...

    Oh my, exciting times Susan – thrilled for you!

  68. On September 29, 2009 at 7:48pm, Veron said...

    Oh Susan! Congratulations,so happy for you! To write and teach about something you are passionate about is a dream come true.

  69. On September 29, 2009 at 8:02pm, Manggy said...

    Congratulations on these well-deserved opportunities, Susan! I don’t get Creative Loafing here but I’ll be sure to look out for it! Your students are so lucky to be learning from you :)

  70. On October 02, 2009 at 8:06pm, Melanye K said...

    congrats!! how exciting!!

  71. On October 03, 2009 at 6:51am, Lucy said...

    A HUGE Congratulations on your very exciting news! I hope it goes fantastically well and you enjoy it all very much :)

  72. On October 09, 2009 at 1:23pm, AmyRuth said...

    That is so exciting. What a wonderful combination of performances to showcase your talents. Congratulations Susan!!!
    AmyRuth

  73. On October 10, 2009 at 9:27pm, Jessica said...

    Loving your blog! Congrats on the accomplishments you are an inspiration to foodies like myself! All the best to you!
    http://www.justchowbella.com

  74. On October 27, 2009 at 9:54am, Chaya said...

    Congratulations on your new ventures. This is such an exciting time for you and for us by proxy.

    Keep those great recipes coming, in your spare time……what spare time?

  75. On December 31, 2010 at 1:58pm, Amy said...

    This sense of achievement is highlighted by the growing demand for reborn dolls by collectors about the globe. You must be cautious on the top quality, material used for creating doll and kind of outfits employed inside the reborn baby. These lifelike babies are for all age groups.

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kiss the cook!

Hello and welcome to SGCC! I’m Susan, a professional writer, food columnist, recipe developer, wife, mother, daughter and sister, who used to be a lawyer in a previous life. My love of food comes from a long line of wonderful and creative Italian home cooks who didn’t always have a lot, but knew how to make a lot out of what they had. I hope that you enjoy yourself while you’re here, and visit often! read more >>

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