The Florida Ruskin Meets Exotic Italy Tomato Sandwich

Ruskin Tomato Stack

I truly don’t think that my ripe and sweet Florida Ruskin tomatoes ever thought they would be seasoned with real Balsamic vinegar from Italy.  This is authentic Balsamic vinegar (il borgo del balsamico) aged in oak casks carried with love by Wayne’s sister, Debbie, all the way from the Emilia Romano region of Italy.  The bottle is small and lovely and filled with this dark and precious vinegar.  What a fabulous gift.  It is so, so delicious.   Debbie told us that sometimes Italians put this vinegar over ice cream or fresh strawberries.  I haven’t tried that combo as yet.

This evening I created the perfect tomato stack.  I sliced a fresh, ripe Ruskin that I bought at my local produce market.  I went outside and picked some perky Basil leaves fresh from our plants.  They are doing really well. Wayne has grown a bunch of little basil plants from seedlings.  They are really taking off now.  I took out my pepper mill,  extra virgin olive oil, Debbie’s Balsamic, and mozzarella cheese.

First I placed a tomato slice on the plate, followed by a slice of mozzarella, then a basil leaf or two, then some cracked pepper, then another tomato slice on top, followed by more basil, and then olive oil and a sprinkling of vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste.  Voila!  The Ruskin meets exotic Italy tomato sandwich!

I dedicate this delicious tomato creation to Wayne and his sister, Debbie.  Debbie, thank you so much for thinking of us and for your thoughtfulness to carry this precious bottle of Balsamic all the way from Italy.  And both Debbie and Wayne were raised in the Tampa area of Florida not very far where Ruskin tomatoes originate.

And last but not least, Wayne planted the seeds that grew into this amazing sweet Basil pictured above.

The tomato sandwich was sublime and truly an unexpected marriage of flavors.   Thank you, Debbie, again, and thank you, Wayne.  Thank you, Mom, for the gift of your beautiful plate (pictured above).

To Rice Chex or Not to Rice Chex, That is the Question

Gluten free cornflakes with blueberries

Being gluten intolerant, I have not indulged in breakfast cereal in a long time.  Most of the gluten free ones are like eating Styrofoam floating in milk, so I had humbly crossed that option off my breakfast choices.  I must admit, however, that I missed cereal now and then, because it is so refreshing in the morning with some cold milk, and also, I missed the fact that here was a wonderful way to get some “fiber” into my diet.  Then I recently read about Rice Chex becoming gluten free.  Like every other gluten free person, I became very excited about this.  I don’t know whether I was excited about that fact that they had become gluten free, or that I could actually walk down the regular cereal aisle in the supermarket (and it is a big one at that), and find a gluten free cereal choice.

So, during my next food shopping excursion, I perused the cereal aisle, and lo and behold, there they were, Gluten Free Rice Chex. I picked up the box and read all the ingredients and nutritional value box.  I was a bit disappointed, as this product clearly lacks fiber and has added refined sugar as well as the preservative, BHT.  I walked over to the Greenwise section of my market (Publix has a separate area for natural and organic foods), and discovered Nature’s Path Organic Corn Flakes.  They offered 2 grams of  fiber per serving as well as organic ingredients with no preservatives and the promise of organic.

Natures Path Gluten Free Cornflakes Box

Now in my heart, I just knew, even without tasting them, that the Rice Chex were going to taste good.  I was taking a gamble with the corn flakes. You, being gluten free, are quite familiar with being at this crossroads.   I did not dare say to myself,  “How bad can they be”?  I urged myself to be optimistic.  I brushed out of my mind the usual little balloon over my head that would have imagined a bowl of tasteless wood chips floating in cold milk.

This morning, I poured myself a bowl of Natures Path Gluten Free Corn Flakes.  I topped it with fresh blueberries.  I used Almond Milk and just a teaspoon of Half and Half cream in lieu of milk.  I just love the unsweetened Almond Milk.  It is gluten free and makes some awesome smoothies.   Yes, the corn flakes are delicious.  They are crisp and full of flavor, and they clearly lack that odd preservative flavor.  They are a hit and I am as excited, if not more excited, than everyone else who became excited about the Rice Chex.  I proceeded to visit the Nature’s Path website, and they do offer many other cereals that are gluten free, including some “rice” versions.  Will have to try some of those too.

In retrospect, it is truly a matter of choice and taste based on so many variables.  I am sure you will agree.  As for me, I could use some extra fiber in my life and I don’t need a lot of BHT, so I suppose I won’t be “chexing” any time soon.

And it you haven’t already, “chex” out some Natures Path cereals.

Easter 2009 – A Most Beautiful Day


Ham, I know,  is traditional for the Easter celebration.  However, my Dad, the Chief, requested a Porterhouse steak on the grill.  So I worked the menu around the steak.  Of course there was the harbinger of Spring, asparagus.  It is a sight for sore eyes, especially for Northerners.  I quite understand the pining of Spring when you live up North, as the North and its long, bone chilling winters are my roots.  Suddenly, there is asparagus in the supermarket and you breathe a sigh of relief, knowing that Spring and its warm breezes, daffodils and forsythia are not far off.Freshly steamed asparagus

My menu included mushrooms, which I sauteed with butter, olive oil, garlic, shallots, fresh chopped parsley, oregano, and Marsala wine. Delectable and most excellent with steak.  I also found those wonderful miniature Yukon golds again.  This time I gave them a light coating of olive oil and salt, wrapped them in tin foil, and placed them on the grill to cook. My Dad had rave reviews for them.  Actually, he had rave reviews for the whole meal, which makes me smile inside and want to cook more.    Miniature Yukon Golds

And as for the salad, I make my Mom’s traditional “rub the bowl with garlic” version that has been handed down through 4 Italian generations in my family.  This time I added in asparagus which I had lightly steamed and chilled.

It is Easter and it is Spring.  It is a season of rebirth and renewal.  The earth rejoices with new life.  It has most certainly been and continues to be a blessing of a day in every way.

Please do try this salad and tell me how you like it.  My dear friend, Agi, has been making it ever since I served it to her over 10 years ago.


Happy Easter to All!

Peeking through the flowers on the dinner table

Rub the Bowl with Garlic Salad

1-Clean a few cloves of fresh garlic (This does NOT work with garlic powder)

2-Sprinkle a small amout of sea salt into a wooden salad bowl

3-Rub the cut side of the garlic with the salt all over the bowl.  The salt releases the essential juices from the garlic.

4-Add in your favorite fresh salad greens.  We like red leaf lettuce, Romaine, ripe tomato, and for Easter, I added in the fresh steamed and chilled asparagus.

5-Add olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper to taste and toss well.

Always delicious!

My Mini Flower Arrangement for the Easter Dinner (from my garden)