This past weekend I went to dinner at my friend’s house for our monthly dinner group. Her theme was All American Barbecue and I was responsible for bringing the appetizer. I know what you must be thinking, this has nothing to do with barbecue. Well I guess that’s true but growing up we always has fried zucchini fritters before many summer dinners. Nanny’s vegetable garden was always full of zucchini and flowers and we never let them go to waste. I don’t have my own garden (which makes me very sad!) and it’s not often you can buy zucchini blossoms at the store, maybe at a farmers market later in the summer. So I used some zucchini, peppers, onions and corn to make a veggie version of this. It came out quite delicious and we could not stop eating them! This is a great quick appetizer that can be eaten hot or room temperature. Use whatever veggies you have on hand. Chopped blanched broccoli and cauliflower would be a delicious substitution.
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 onion, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 zucchini shredded and squeezed in a towel to remove all water
- 1 half red pepper, diced
- ¾ cup of frozen corn, defrosted
- Salt and pepper
- 3 eggs
- Splash of milk
- 1 cup bisquick
- ½ cup fresh ricotta
- ½ cup grated pecorino romano cheese
- Vegetable oil for frying
- Heat large frying pan to medium heat. Add oil to pan. When oil is hot add onion and cook until translucent. Add garlic and cook for about one minute. Add zucchini and pepper and cook until all the water has evaporated for the zucchini and the vegetables begin to brown. Add corn and cook for a minute. Season with salt and pepper then set aside to cool.
- In a large mixing bowl combine eggs, milk, bisquick and cheeses. Combine with cooled vegetable mixture.
- Once again heat a large frying pan. Lightly coat the bottom of the pan with vegetable oil. Using a tablespoon drop batter into the pan and use the spoon to spread mixture slightly. You can pan fry about 5 at a time depending on the size of your pan. When the bottom is lightly browned flip them and cook the second side for about a minute until cooked. Drain on paper towels and serve. Can be made ahead and warmed in the oven or eaten at room temperature.
This is a very simple dish to make on a weeknight and it shouldn’t take much longer than 30 minutes to make. If you don’t have canned cherry tomatoes you can use diced or chopped if that’s what you have on hand. If that’s the case you might not need to add much liquid.
- 2 -4 Tbsp Extra virgin olive oil
- 1 Tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 large shallot, diced
- 6 cloves garlic. thinly sliced
- 1 tsp dried Italian seasoning
- 1 head of cauliflower, florets separated and cut into bite sized pieces
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 6 Slices of prosciutto, sliced into small strips
- 2 – 14 oz cans cherry tomatoes
- About a handful fresh basil leaves
- 1 cup of vegetable or chicken stock
- 1 pound orrechiette pasta
- ¼ cup grated romano cheese plus more for serving
- Sauté shallot in 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil in a large skillet until it begins to soften. Add garlic slices and cook until it is lightly browned. Add Italian seasoning and cook for about a minute. Then add cauliflower and the rest of the oil. Cook for about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add prosciutto and stir to combine. Add tomatoes and fill the empty can halfway with water and swish around to loosen the sauce stuck to the can. Pour the water into the second can and swish around. Add to pot and stir. Tear basil into pieces and add to pan (I usually keep whole basil leaves frozen in a ziplock bag in my freezer and add quickly crumble a handful over the skillet.). Cook sauce for about 15-20 minutes adding stock as needed if the sauce gets too thick.
- Meanwhile bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta to about 1 minute shy of the recommended cooking time. Add pasta to skillet and reserve about a cup of pasta water. Add a little as needed. You don’t want this to be soupy or overly saucy but it should be coated well with sauce. Add ¼ cup of grated cheese and toss together. Cook for about a minute or until the pasta is al dente.
- Serve in bowls and pass cheese for sprinkling on top of each dish.
I love brunch. I love being able to have all the breakfast foods that I love while also having some light lunch options. Going to a diner always presents a problem because I don’t know if I should order breakfast or lunch. Inevitably I want what the other person is having. Brunch solves that problem for me.
I like to serve brunch when I’m entertaining guests because there are plenty of things I can make the night before. Some version of chicken salad usually graces my table. I recently made this Italian version of the chicken salad and it was a big hit. There are not exact measurements here because I made this up as I went along. Adding a lot or a little bit of kalamata olives is really just a matter of taste. This recipe makes a lot especially if you are serving other things. It would be pretty served in a lettuce cup or a bread bowl.
- 6 split chicken breasts, bone in and skin on
- Roasted peppers, diced or sliced into strips
- Kalamata olives, chopped or olive tapenade
- Artichoke hearts, chopped
- 1 can chick peas, drained and rinsed
- Fresh mozzarella, cubed
- Baby arugula
- Fresh basil, chiffonade
- Fresh parsley, chopped
- Red wine vinaigrette, recipe follows
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Place the chicken breasts, skin side up, on a baking sheet and rub them with olive oil. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Roast for 35 to 40 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through. Set aside until cool.
- When the chicken is cool, remove meat from the bones and discard the skin and bones. Cut the chicken into a 3/4-inch dice or shred.
- In a large bowl mix with peppers, olives, artichoke hearts, chick peas, mozzarella, and capers. Set aside.
- Prepare vinaigrette and toss with chicken until moist (probably won’t need to use it all). Toss in basil, parsley and arugula right before serving so it doesn’t wilt.
This recipe is a guide and exact measurements are not really needed. Add more or less of any of the ingredients you like. If there is something you don't like, leave it out completely.
- 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 tsp dijon mustard
- 2 teaspoons salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup olive oil
- In a bowl whisk the vinegar, garlic, dijon, honey, salt, and pepper. While whisking, gradually blend in the oil.
When setting up a buffet (or setting your table for a dinner party) it’s important to incorporate some color where you can. Color can take your display from drab to fab very easily and can make a huge impression. Here are some simple ways to add color to your buffet or dinner table. Keep in mind that you don’t have to do all of these things but pick and choose one or two so it’s playful and not tacky.
- Linens – this works for a buffet or even for a sit down dinner. Adding a bright colored tablecloth will instantly add a pop of color and brighten things up. This is especially helpful if your dinnerware/serveware is white or neutral. You don’t always have to use a tablecloth but any piece of fabric, scarves or burlap could work too. (This will also add texture but that’s a topic for our next post.)
- Serving pieces/Dinnerware- Use colorful platters and bowls.
- Food – You’ve heard it before, we eat with our eyes first. Serving colorful food in serving pieces that make the food pop is the way to go. Think about what you’re going to serve and which pieces will show it off the best. For example, serving greens in a green bowl could be a little boring but if it’s in a contrasting color you will notice a big difference.
I hope you will give these ideas a try at your next party. Hope it helps you have a more colorful tabletop!
I love having the ability to access millions of recipes online whenever I want to. There are so many recipes I want to learn how to make, some that I remember from my childhood and others that are brand new to me. This is something that Nanny made every year at Easter but I never learned how to make. By the time I realized how precious these memories and recipes are it was a little late for Nanny to teach my everything. She didn’t measure and practically everything she baked began with a 5 pound bag of flour. That isn’t much information to help me recreate anything so a couple of years ago I began my research. There are many recipes out there for Italian Easter Bread (Greeks have their own version) and they are all slightly different. Some call for butter, others crisco, this one calls for oil. Then there are whole eggs versus egg yolks, vanilla vs. anise. So many options. I tried this recipe 3 times now and my family says that this is close to Nanny’s. I might still try to perfect it but right now this is pretty darn close!
- 4 teaspoons Active Dry Yeast
- 1 ½ cups warm milk
- About 10 cups or more unbleached all purpose flour
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- ¾ cup olive oil
- 6 large eggs
- Zest of 2 lemons
- 1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
- To Decorate:
- 1 egg beaten with 2 tablespoons water
- 6 colored uncooked eggs
- Colored sprinkles
- In a bowl, mix together the yeast and warm milk. Add 1 cup of the flour and stir until blended to make the sponge. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside for one hour until bubbly. Once the sponge is ready, in the bowl of a stand mixer, add the sponge, sugar, oil, eggs, lemon zest, vanilla and 5 more cups of flour. Use a dough hook and mix until the dough comes together. Place the dough on a lightly floured surface and knead by hand for 5-6 minutes or until the dough is smooth, adding more flour as necessary. Lightly flour the sides and bottom of a large bowl, place the dough inside and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm stop in your kitchen until doubled in size, about 2 hours.
- Punch down the dough and divide into two equal pieces. From each piece roll dough into three long ropes and braid into a wreath. Carefully arrange three of your colored eggs evenly spaced into each wreath, covering the sides with the dough so the eggs are secure. Place each wreath on a lightly greased baking sheet, cover with a kitchen towel and let rest for another hour. 30 minutes before the wreaths have finished rising, preheat the oven to 365 degrees. Once the wreaths have finished their last rise, brush them with the egg wash and lightly sprinkle the colored sprinkles over the top. Bake the bread for 30 minutes or until firm and golden brown. Allow to cool to room temperature before cutting.
Slightly adapted from www.italianfoodforever.com
I am a huge fan of french onion soup. I’m actually a huge fan of caramelized onions. I add it to a lot of things, pizzas, pastas, stuffed breads because I love the complex flavor it brings to the simplest recipes. If you know me at all you know I am an avid collector of cookbooks and cooking magazines and any other way I can get my hands on recipes. Recently I decided that it was time to go through the piles (pretty displayed piles mind you!) of the magazines and recipe clippings I’ve accumulated. I discovered this one I pulled out years ago and decided it was time to give it a try. It was delicious but of course, heavy as any cheese sauce is. I love that this recipe is not baked in the oven so it remains gooey and creamy. I like to add some crunchy breadcrumbs for some texture whenever I make any type of mac and cheese because I don’t bake it but like the crunch. You decide if you want to add it or not.
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 2 large sweet onions, very thinly sliced
- A couple of sprigs of fresh thyme chopped
- 1 bay leaf
- Salt and pepper
- 1 pound penne
- 2 tablespoons flour
- ½ cup dry white wine
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 1 cup whole milk
- Freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/2 pound gruyere cheese, shredded
- ½ pound Italian fontina cheese, shredded
- Breadcrumb topping, optional – see note
- In a skillet, melt 2 tablespoons butter over medium-high heat. Stir in the onions, thyme and bay leaf and cook for 5 minutes; season with salt and pepper. Lower the heat and cook until the onions are browned and softened, 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer to a plate and discard the bay leaf. Reserve the skillet.
- Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt it, add the pasta and cook until al dente. Drain and return to the pot.
- In the reserved skillet, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour for 1 minute, then whisk in the wine. Let the wine cook down for a minute, stir with whisk so mixture is smooth. Slowly add chicken stock and milk until combined and smooth and bring to a boil; season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Lower the heat and cook until thickened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the cheeses until melted.
- Combine the onions and sauce with the pasta and toss well. If using breadcrumb topping add a sprinkle to the top of the dish and serve the rest in a bowl for passing at the table.
To add some texture to this dish I added a breadcrumb topping. I had some extra garlic and parmesan panetini crackers and pulsed them in the food processor and added them to the top. Alternatively you could sauté 1 clove of minced garlic in extra virgin olive oil. Add about ½ cup to ¾ cup panko bread crumbs. Toss with garlic oil and let get lightly browned. Turn off heat and toss with parmesan cheese.
If you like jalapeno poppers you will love this Italian version made with hot cherry peppers. I was lucky enough to find a small bushel of peppers at a local famers market and I immediately snatched those up. It isn’t often that I see these peppers in any market. They are commonly found pickled or stuffed with breadcrumbs at some Italian delicatessens. This recipe is simple and makes a great appetizer served hot or room temperature. Enjoy!
This meal idea came together simply because I wanted to use up some tomato sauce from last night’s dinner and some ground sausage I had in the fridge. Bell peppers are a great vessel for filling and I always cook my peppers in tomato sauce. A new meal was born! Stuffed Peppers can be made in a variety of ways with a variety of fillings so it is a great way to test your ideas and creativity. There are tons of meat free options for vegetarians as well. Imagine a sweet bell pepper stuffed with eggplant, rice and cheese. Or couscous, spinach and feta. Oh and maybe you remember my stuffed peppers with broccoli rabe and sausage, that was a good one. I hope you’ll come up with some fun combinations and share them with me on facebook!
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 4-5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 small zucchini, cut into quarter moons
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 lb. ground sausage
- 3-4 cups prepared tomato sauce
- 1 1/2 cups prepared brown rice
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
- 1/2 cup grated Romano cheese
- 5 bell peppers
- salt and pepper, to taste
- Trim peppers by removing the tops (save for another use), ribs and seeds. Cut a thin slice off the bottom so the sauce can enter the peppers (save for filling). Season inside of peppers with salt.
- In a medium saucepan large enough to fit all the peppers heat 2 tablespoons of oil. Brown the peppers on all sides to add flavor to the peppers and speed up the cooking process.
- In a large saute pan sweat onion in oil and cook until translucent. Push onion to sides of the pan to create a hot spot. Add more oil if the pan seems dry.Add zucchini and let cook until it gets lightly browned (don't stir until it gets a chance to brown a little). Stir to combine with onions and add the garlic. Cook for about a minute.
- If there is room in your pan create another hot spot (if not remove zucchini and onion mixture to a bowl) and brown the sausage .
- Once sausage is cooked add cooked rice, parsley, 1/4 cup Romano and 1/2 cup of tomato sauce and stir to combine (If you removed veggies now is the time to return them to the pan to combine with sausage).
- Add sauce to the pot you used to brown the peppers. Add peppers upright and fill them with the sausage mixture until you use all the filling. Cover the pot and bring sauce to a boil. When the sauce reaches a boil lower to a simmer. Cook for about 45 minutes or until peppers can be easily pricked with a fork. It may be more or less depending on the size of your peppers.
- About 5 minutes before serving, sprinkle the peppers with the rest of the Romano cheese. Serve with sauce.
If you like the serving platter please visit my website to take a closer look. It’s on sale this month (July 2012)
Recently I saw a tweet about Flat Lasagna served in a Manhattan restaurant. The picture had me daydreaming for days…no…it was actually more like weeks! I spent a lot of time searching the web and only thing I really discovered was that flat lasagna is sometimes called open face lasagna and it seems like it’s a lot thinner and lighter than a traditional lasagna. That’s more my speed anyway since I don’t find myself craving lasagna anymore. All those layers of meat and cheese used to do it for me but times are changing! This was a lot of fun to play with and I am envisioning lots of different things to layer. Not heavy layers just two which is more than enough. I made some plain with ricotta, fresh mozzarella and meat sauce and then did another with eggplant, fresh mozzarella, basil and meat sauce. I would love to try sausage and broccoli rabe, taleggio and prosciutto or maybe even some asparagus with prosciutto. Yum! This would make a beautiful presentation for a dinner party and you can cater to your guests palates by using the same sauce and changing out the fillings or vice versa. You can use dried or fresh pasta sheets but not the no boil ones. I used dried pasta sheets because I didn’t have time to make fresh and I couldn’t find any in the supermarkets near me (although I always see it in Kings and some Shoprites!). This will make a lot but use the extra to make a messy lasagna and put it in the freezer for next time.
- extra virgin olive oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 1 1/2 lbs ground beef
- 4-5 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 lb ground beef
- sprinkle of garlic powder
- crushed red pepper flakes, to taste
- salt and pepper
- 1 can crushed tomatoes
- 6-7 basil leaves
- 1 tsp sugar
- Heat oil in a large sauté pan.
- Sweat onion until translucent, add beef and cook until browned.
- Drain all but 2 tablespoons of oil.
- Sprinkle meat with garlic powder, salt and pepper.
- Add fresh garlic and cook for another minute until softened.
- Add tomatoes and Swish water in the can and add about ½ can of water or as needed so it’s not too thick.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste and add basil.
- Let cook for ½ hour, stirring occasionally so sauce does not burn.
- Taste again for seasoning. Add 1 tsp on sugar or a little more if needed.
- Allow sauce to cook for ½ hour more.