Category:  Appetizers / Starters

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Italian Breadsticks (Grissini)

In Appetizers / Starters, Breads, Crêpes, Pancakes & Puddings On April 22, 2017 0 Comments

I’m sure you’ve all enjoyed Italian breadsticks, aka grissini. Some grissini are soft, while others are drier. But no matter where you’ve had grissini, the homemade ones are best. Here’s our favorite family recipe!

Active prep time: 8 minutes (dough mixing) and 25 minutes (shaping breadsticks)
Inactive prep time: 15 minutes (yeast rising) and 40 minutes (dough rising)
Bake time: 10 to 12 minutes

Ingredients:
7/8 cup warm water (110°F)
1 teaspoon Rapid Rise® Yeast
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
2 cups all-purpose, unbleached white flour

Prepare the Dough:
1. In a small sauce pot, heat the water.

2. While water is heating, place the yeast in a 2-cup metal or wood bowl (do not use glass or porcelain, as these cold elements will halt the rising process of the yeast).

3. When water is barely warm, pour it slowly into the bowl with yeast; gently swirl the bowl around.

4. Cover the yeast-water mixture with aluminum foil; set it aside on a wood surface or trivet; let it rise for 15 minutes. Do not set the yeast on marble, granite or tile surface, as the cold surface will halt the rising process.

5. After 15 minutes, transfer the water-yeast mixture to a 2-quart metal, wood or plastic mixing bowl (no porcelain or glass).

6. Gently stir in the olive oil, salt, black pepper and fennel seeds.

7. Gradually (a little at a time) and with a wooden spoon, add the flour until a sticky dough has formed.

8. Transfer the sticky dough onto a lightly-floured wood surface.

9. Gently knead the dough until it is uniform and soft.

10. Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl; cover with aluminum foil.

11. Set bowl with dough aside on a wood surface (do not set it on marble, granite or tile surface) away from draft.

12. Let dough rise for 40 minutes.

Shape the Breadsticks or Grissini:
1. Preheat oven to 300°F.

2. Lightly flour a flat work surface.

3. Transfer dough onto floured work surface.

4. Shape the dough by gently stretching and patting it outwards until it forms a 12 X 8-inch rectangle.

5. Using a pizza cutting wheel or a sharp knife, cut 3/4-inch wide strips (crosswise) to measure 8 inches in length.

6. Without using too much flour (the dough should grasp your fingers and not slide away), gently roll the dough into a 14 to 16-inch long piece.

7. Fold the dough in half, forming a loop at one end – place the shaped breadstick dough on a parchment-lined 18 X 12-inch baking sheet.

8. Repeat the rolling process for remaining dough strips and transfer them onto the baking sheet spaced 3/4-inch apart.
image-grissiniinbakesheet

9. Line another baking sheet with parchment paper – continue shaping and placing looped dough pieces on baking sheet.

Bake the Breadsticks:
1. Place one baking sheet on top oven rack and the other on the bottom oven rack.

2. Bake the breadsticks for 20 minutes.

3. After 20 minutes, invert the top baking sheet with the bottom baking sheet; bake for an additional 20 minutes.

4. After 20 minutes, if breadsticks still look white on top, turn them over.

5. Bake the breadsticks for an additional 4 to 5 minutes.

6. Serve the breadsticks warm or cold with cheese, olives and a variety of appetizers, together with your favorite wine.

TO REFRIGERATE BREADSTICKS: Place breadsticks in a food storage bag, sealed, or in an airtight container in refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
TO FREEZE BREADSTICKS: Place breadsticks in double freezer food storage bags for up to 2 months.
At serving time, transfer breadsticks to a serving platter or basket and let thaw at room temperature for 1 hour.
Text & Photograph ©2017 Nancy DeLucia Real

Nancy’s Tuna Tartare

In Appetizers / Starters, Fish & Shellfish On March 24, 2017 0 Comments

Prep time: 10 to 12 minutes
Serves: 4 (as an appetizer) or 2 (as a main dish)

Tuna tartare is one of my favorite appetizers to order at a restaurant. However, by preparing this delicacy at home, I can avoid paying $16.00+ for a mere 1-cup serving at each outing.

My recipe for tuna tartare is a perfect dish for Lent – bon appetit!

Ingredients:
One 8-ounce sushi grade tuna filet, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 Persian cucumber, peeled & cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 tablespoons finely-chopped red onion
3 tablespoons finely-chopped fresh cilantro (coriander)
1/2 teaspoon black sesame seeds
Juice of 1 lemon or lime
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 to 1-1/4 teaspoons organic Tamari sauce
salt, to taste (add this after Tamari sauce, as it may be too salty)
4 to 8 corn tostada shells (flat)

Directions:
1. In a 2-quart mixing bowl, combine all ingredients together except for the tostada shells.

2. Using a large spoon, gently toss so that all ingredients are combined. Taste and adjust seasonings.

3. Divide tuna tartare among 2 to 4 plates. Ask guests to spoon some tuna tartare onto a tostada. Bon appetit!

White Wine Pairing: Chilled Chardonnay or Pinot Grigio are suggested.

Text and Photograph ©2017 Nancy DeLucia Real

Stuffed Mushrooms

In Appetizers / Starters, Holidays, Vegetables On December 8, 2016 0 Comments

Need a great starter to go with the bubbly at Christmastime? Assemble these stuffed mushrooms a few hours ahead and refrigerate them. At serving time, preheat the oven and bake them. Made with all-vegetarian ingredients, the mushrooms will be devoured in no time. Enjoy and Merry Christmas!

Prep time (stuffing): 15 minutes
Bake time: 15 to 17 minutes
Makes 12 to 14 stuffed mushrooms

Ingredients:
One 8-ounce package white mushrooms, rinsed and patted dry with paper towels
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup finely-chopped brown or white onion
3 to 4 slices day-old Italian bread
1 large egg, beaten
3 tablespoons grated Pecorino-Romano cheese
2 to 3 tablespoons minced, fresh mint leaves
1/4 teaspoon salt
Dash ground black pepper

Directions for the Stuffing:
1. Remove stems from mushroom caps; finely chop the stems and set aside in a small bowl.

2. In a 10 or 12-inch skillet, heat the oil on high.

3. As soon as the oil is hot (it should not smoke), lower it to medium-high and stir in the chopped mushroom stems.

4. Using a wooden spoon or cooking spatula, stir-fry the chopped mushroom stems on medium-high heat for about 2 minutes.

5. After 2 minutes, add the chopped onion and stir-fry for an additional 2 minutes or until onion is translucent.

6. Transfer the mushroom-onion mixture to a bowl – set aside to cool for a few minutes.

7. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400°F.

8. Take 3 bread slices and quickly pass them under cold water; squeeze the excess water out of bread slices.

9. Discard the crusts and crumble the softened bread into a 2-cup bowl.

10. Add the beaten egg, grated cheese, minced mint leaves, salt and black pepper; stir to combine.

11. Stir in the mushroom-onion mixture. If mixture is too wet and does not amalgamate, soak the remaining bread slice (discard crusts) and crumble it into the mushroom stuffing.

12. Taste stuffing for salt level. If needed, add a tiny amount of salt.

13. Divide the stuffing onto the inverted mushroom caps.

Directions for Baking the Stuffed Mushrooms:

1. Oil a baking sheet and place the stuffed mushrooms (stuffing side up) on it.

2. Set the baking sheet with stuffed mushrooms on a rack positioned in center of oven.

3. Bake the mushrooms for 15 minutes.

4. After 15 minutes, check to see if stuffed mushrooms have turned light golden brown. If not, bake them for an additional 2 minutes. Serve stuffed mushrooms hot.

Text and Photograph ©2016 Nancy DeLucia Real

Grilled Eggplant & Tomatoes

In Appetizers / Starters, Vegetables On July 18, 2016 0 Comments

With work and summer weather, I don’t feel like heating up the kitchen. But I still prefer eating delicious and healthy vegetables at home.

So here’s what I’ve been makin’ in minutes – grilled eggplant! Serve Grilled Eggplant & Tomatoes as an appetizer or side dish. It tastes so good!

Prep time: 16 minutes
Serves: 4

Ingredients:
1 large eggplant, tips cut off and discarded & flesh cut into 1/4-inch thick slices
olive oil (for brushing eggplant slices)
Salt (for lightly sprinkling over eggplant slices)
8 to 10 cherry tomatoes
Fresh rosemary leaves, to taste

Directions:
1. Line an 18 X 12 baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil.

2. Place some olive oil in a small bowl.

3. With a basting brush, coat the lined baking sheet lightly with oil; set aside.

4. Place the eggplant slices on the oil-coated baking sheet.

5. Brush the eggplant slices with olive oil and lightly sprinkle with salt.

6. Transfer the baking sheet with eggplant slices to an oven rack positioned 6 inches from oven’s top broiler element (this is the electric conduit at top of oven that turns red when control knobs are set on “broil”).

7. Broil the eggplant slices for about 7 to 8 minutes per side or until they turn golden brown.

8. Using oven mitts, transfer baking sheet with eggplant slices to a counter.

9. Turn the eggplant slices over. Repeat oil coating and salting directions.

10. Return baking sheet with eggplant to oven rack. Broil eggplant slices for 7 to 8 minutes or until they are golden brown.

11. Transfer baking sheet with eggplant to a counter.

12. Gently transfer eggplant slices to a serving platter.

13. Cut the cherry tomatoes in half and place them intermittently on top of and around eggplant slices.

14. Lightly sprinkle olive oil over eggplant and tomatoes.

15. Remove rosemary leaves (they are spiky) from stems; garnish eggplant and tomatoes with rosemary leaves.

16.Serve immediately or cover until ready to serve.
Text and Photograph ©2016 Nancy DeLucia Real

Tomato-Ricotta Tapas

In Appetizers / Starters, Vegetables On June 2, 2016 0 Comments

Tapas is Spanish for “appetizers”. In Spain, these small bites are made with all sorts of ingredients – eggs, seafood, ham and vegetables.

Since tomatoes are abundant right now, serve these Tomato-Ricotta Tapas as a starter to any meal.

Ingredients:
8 vine-ripened, mediu-sized tomatoes (they should be about 2 to 2-1/2 inches in diameter)
1 cup fresh ricotta cheese (whole-milk or part-skim)
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves, finely chopped
8 fresh oregano leaves (whole, for garnish)
Salt and ground black pepper, to taste

Directions:
1. Using a sharp knife, slice off the tomato tops and discard.

2. With an espresso spoon, gently remove the pulp inside tomatoes; discard.

3. Set tomatoes aside on a serving plate.

4. Meanwhile, transfer the ricotta to a 2-cup bowl.

5. Using a spoon, stir in the thyme and finely chopped oregano leaves, salt and pepper.

6. Stir the ricotta mixture well until all ingredients are blended.

7. Transfer the ricotta mixture to a piping bag fitted with a star tip.

8. Fill each tomato with ricotta mixture.

9. Garnish the filled tomatoes with whole oregano leaves (1 per tomato).

10. Serve immediately or refrigerate, covered, up to one hour.
Text & Photograph ©2016 Nancy DeLucia Real