Greek Sandwich Salad Style

Recently, I went to dinner with my uncle (known as Uncle), who is Gran Fran's brother. For the most part, I'm a lettuce with olive oil and salt kind of salad girl. Uncle ordered just this as his salad, which floored me. I hadn't realized there maybe a family connection to my style of salad. He told me that he has always eaten his salad this way, and that he thought it did come from his parents. Who knew?!

Warm weather has arrived in San Francisco. You never know how long this nice patch of weather will be in town, so it's fun to pretend like we have seasons and cook like it's going to stay warm for a few months.

This weather puts me in the mood for a good salad. I made a nice roast pork with Greek flavor a few weeks ago, reminiscent of a the Greek sandwich I had in Paris.  Since I have salad on my mind, I decided to take all the Greek sandwich fixings and make a huge salad.

Seeing as I don't usually make fancy salads (except for my salad nicoise) , I really had to think about how to layer everything in. Some special dressing, which includes Za'atar, a Middle Eastern spice, added a nice extra kick. It's earthy, sour, salty and just interesting. You can just use oregano here, but I love the unexpected flavor.

You don't have to follow my ingredients exactly, but do put the roast pork, red onions and fried potatoes in the salad as these are the keys to the Greek sandwich-ness of the salad.

Greek Sandwich Salad Style


serves 2

  • 1 heart of romaine lettuce, cut into pieces
  • 2 potatoes, oven fried (recipe here)
  • 8 slices of Greek roast pork (recipe here)
  • 1/2 red onion, sliced thinly
  • 1 red bell pepper, sliced into chunks
  • 8 to 10 small tomatoes cut in half
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon Za'atar spice blend or dried oregano
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  • Lay the romaine on a platter, making a mound in the center.
  • Layer on top the red onions, potatoes, tomatoes and red bell peppers, with the pork on top.
  • Put the mayonnaise, olive oil, Za'atar (or oregano) and salt and pepper into a bowl and mix until combined.
  • Drizzle dressing over the salad and serve.

You can put some nice warm pitas out on the table to serve with this great salad.


Slow Cooker Pasta Sauce and a Review: America's Test Kitchen Pasta Revolution

Hello friends. I know I've mentioned here a time or two how much I love Cook's Illustrated magazine. Well, I'm even more in love with the America's Test Kitchen Pasta Revolution cookbook, especially their slow cooker pasta sauce.

Now you may think it odd that I, a gluten-free lady, would be psyched about pasta sauce. Well you know what?  A lovely brand of brown rice pasta makes it very easy for me to participate in all things pasta again.

And, you may also wonder why a lady who was raised by another lady who happens to be an excellent Italian-American cook would want a pasta sauce book. I'm here to tell you, we all have our ways of cooking, and pooh-pooh other versions of our tried-and-true recipes. I've never made a tomato sauce that has onions or sugar in it (Gran Fran says that's not the way it's done). Nor have I ever tried to use a slow cooker for sauce (Gran Fran's head is now exploding in NYC while she reads this and discovers that I had the audacity to leave an appliance not only plugged in but on and simmering things for hours on end in an empty house).

I went through the book and found many interesting recipes, including some for Asian style noodles, which happen to be rice, that I will totally try to make. I chose to make the Spicy Sausage Ragu with Red Peppers: it's one of the slow cooker pasta sauce recipes in the book. I'm new to slow cooking (see comment above about Gran Fran's head exploding) and I'm also not the best at actually following all the steps in a recipe. Since I create my own recipes 98 percent of the time, I find it hard to believe that anyone knows better than I how to put something together.

My previous successes with Cook's Illustrated recipes reminded me that I had to take the time to really make this recipe. I made a pact with myself to follow every step in the Ragu recipe, including browning ingredients before throwing them into the slow cooker. I tend to wing it, so this was a true test of my patience. I'd also like to point out that I started cooking this at 6am so that it would be ready for dinner with a friend by 7pm. I think my neighbors are more than fed up with their noisy cooking crazy person on the second floor (that's me, if you didn't catch on) who tends to cook late at night or early in the morning. Who knows? All I know is that a good recipe with clear instructions really floats my boat.

If I can follow this in the wee early morning hours and have a great dish by dinner, I fully recommend this book to all of you. It's especially good for people like me who need to find some discipline and pay attention to directions every once in awhile. As it turns out, I really did enjoy leaving my comfort zone and trying a new version of something I've made hundreds of times. I'm really excited to cook my way through a bunch of these recipes and will be posting my results.

I will say, though, as delicious as this sauce is when first prepared, it is even better re-heated. The initial sauce turned out a bit thin for my liking (my friend, however, said it was just the way she liked it, so maybe it's personal preference). The sauce thickened nicely as the portions were reheated. That said, I loved the flavors, but I have to admit, I left some of the sausages in their skins and cut them up into chunks to go along with the sausage meat. I just love a chunky sauce. Other than that, I followed the recipe to a T and was rewarded with a great sauce.

Give this book a try, even if you consider yourself an advanced cook. America's Test Kitchen recipes always teach me something new and turn out great.

Spicy Sausage Ragu with Red Peppers

(Slow Cooker Pasta Sauce)

Makes 12 cups


  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 pounds hot Italian sausage, removed from its casing
  • 2 onions, minced
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh oregano or 2 teaspoon dried
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 (28 oz) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 (28 oz) can tomato sauce
  • 2 red bell peppers, stemmed, seeded and cut into 1/2" pieces
  • 1/2 cup minced fresh parsely
  • Salt & Pepper


  • Heat 1 tablespoon oil in 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add sausage and brown well, breaking up large pieces with a wooden spoon, about 5 minutes; transfer to slow cooker
  • Add onions, garlic, tomato paste, oregano, and red pepper flakes to fat in skillet and cook over medium-high heat until onions are softened and lightly browned, 8-10 minutes.
  • Stir in wine, scraping up brown bits and simmer until thickened, about 5 minutes. Add ingredients to the slow cooker.
  • Stir crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, and tomato sauce into the slow cooker.
  • Cover and cook until the sauce is deeply flavored. 9 to 11 hours on low; 5 to 7 hours on high.
  • Let sauce settle for 5 minutes, then remove fat from surface using a large spoon.
  • Microwave bell peppers with remaining tablespoon of oil in bowl, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 5 minutes.
  • Stir softened bell peppers into sauce and let sit until heated through, about 5 minutes.
  • Before serving, stir in parsley and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Author's Note:

I received a complimentary copy of

America's Test Kitchen Pasta Revolution.

There was no monetary compensation for this review.

dinner and a movie

Last night, I had a lovely, homey evening with my daughter, Ms. Iz. We ate linguine with butter. This does not sound spectacular, but it was because it gave us a meal fast and simple and satisfying enough to fill us, and left us with plenty of snuggle time.

To be honest, I hadn't had pasta with butter until very recent times. Gran Fran thought it a sin to use anything other than olive oil on all things pasta. As a matter of fact, she cooks her scrambled eggs in olive oil, too, so to this day, I gag at the taste of eggs cooked in butter. While Gran Fran just about passes out when she hears of said atrocity.

The butter pasta was a direct result of Julie & Julia. You know, how the butter is the queen in all of her recipes. As the movie progressed, Ms. Iz asked for a bowl of pasta. Whilst making it, I asked her if she prefered butter to olive oil (which I rarely do). She said, well, since Julia is using butter let's have butter. And, I'd also like to point out, this was her second viewing of the movie, and that she has proclaimed it her new favorite movie.

For anyone who has read my blog in the past, you know about the love affair I've had with Julia for pretty much my whole life. And, so, to be able to see the movie once again, have my daughter love it, and get to eat a bowl of butter pasta (mine with walnuts, red pepper flakes and garlic), it turned out to be a very nifty evening.

As for this evening. I'm back on romance (see previous post) as well as a childhood favorite. First in the queue was Love Actually. A sappy and beautiful movie about 7 different love stories in Britain that are somewhat intertwined. Lovley characterization of all kinds of love...first love, broken love, unrequitted love...and all perfect. The best part is when the little 10 year old girl is singing "All I Want For Christmas is You". Apparently, I 'm a sucker for a good romance.

Right now, it's High Society. There is no way to describe the beauty of this film. It is funny, sweet, smart and best of all a musical! You get Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Grace Kelly and Celeste Holmes. Cocktails are in order (many mixed drinks and much champagne is consumed), but I can't do that when I'm on my own, so I'll just watch and imagine.

Somehow, before VCRs or DVDs, we watched this movie many atime when I was little. Maybe it wasn't as often as I thought. More likely, it's due to the soundtrack being played over and over again.

All 5 of us (and Gran Fran and Joe, as well) can still sing every song in this movie. I remember putting on shows with my sisters and brother (5 of us in 7 years, we had enough voices fora pretty good chorus) in the living room. We used a piece of drywall (who knows where it came from) as a dance floor. There are Super 8 movies of this somewhere, I think.

Thanks to Joe, there was plenty of Frank Sinatra, Glenn Miller and Benny Goodman. Gran Fran leaned more towards Motown and Latin music. And both of them love a good musical. So we had quite a variety, always singing along, no matter if you knew the words, just get out there and sing it!

So, my friends, here is the recipe for my butter pasta, and please do make yourselves some and watch a couple of my faves along with a nice glass of wine!

Linguine with Butter and Walnuts
serves 4


1 lb best quality Linguine
1 large pot of salted boiling water
3 Tbsps Butter
3 Tbsps Olive Oil
1/4 cup chopped Walnuts

  • 2 cloves Garlic, minced
    1 leaf fresh Sage, minced
    To Taste: Salt, Red Pepper and Pepper


  • Boil Linguine to your liking (I prefer mine a little on the soft side for this recipe).
  • While pasta is cooking, heat a small non-reactive saucepan over medium heat.
  • Add butter, olive oil, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes.
  • Once the butter has melted, lower the heat to low-medium and all the garlic and walnuts.
  • Saute until the garlic is browned slightly and the walnuts glisten.
  • Remove from the heat and pour over the cooked pasta.
  • Sprinkle the sage and a bit more pepper and red pepper flakes over the pasta.