Category:  Appetizers / Starters

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Caprese Salad with Basil Almond Pesto

In Appetizers / Starters, Fun Foods, Salads On July 12, 2012 0 Comments

The classic Caprese Salad consists of tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, olive oil and basil leaves. I’ve changed this recipe because I like tweaking and creating new recipes.

My version has some fresh pesto sandwiched between the tomato and mozzarella. There are no words or emotions to describe the luscious flavors of this Caprese with Basil Almond Pesto!

Prep time: 7 to 10 minutes
Serves: 4 to 6

Ingredients:
2 to 3 ripe tomatoes
extra virgin olive oil, to drizzle
salt and pepper, to taste
6 to 8 teaspoons Basil Almond Pesto (found in our Recipes, under “Salad Dressings, Salsas & Savory Sauces)
1 pound fresh mozzarella balls (these are called “bocconcini” or small bites)
4 to 6 large, fresh basil leaves

1. Slice the tomatoes in 1/4-inch thick slices and lay on a serving platter.

2. Drizzle the oil over tomato slices, followed by salt and pepper, to taste.

3. Spread 1 teaspoon Basil Almond Pesto on each tomato slice.

4. Drain all water from the mozzarella bocconcini and, on a cutting board, gently cut them in half.

5. Lay each one, flat side down, over the pesto and tomato (the rounded side of bocconcini should be face-up).

5. Drizzle some olive oil over each tomato-bocconcini component, followed by salt and pepper, to taste.

6. Cut the basil leaves in slivers and use them to decorate the plate or to decorate the salad.

Enjoy as a starter or salad course.

Text and Photograph © 2012 Nancy DeLucia Real.

Nancy’s Eggplant Caponata

In Appetizers / Starters, Vegetables On June 27, 2012 0 Comments

Muir Glen Organic Tomatoes®

In The Kitchen Buzzz’s kitchens, we use Muir Glen Organic Tomatoes® because of their natural, sweet flavor, minus the salty, acidy aftertaste.

Active prep time: 20 minutes
Inactive prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
Serves: 6 to 8

Ingredients:
2 large eggplants, rinsed and dried
2 tablespoons salt (to remove bitter juices of eggplant)
1/2 cup olive oil
1 large red bell pepper, stem removed, seeds discarded and flesh cut into 3/4-inch pieces
2 celery stalks, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 medium brown or white onion, peeled and chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
One 15-ounce can Muir Glen Organic Crushed Tomatoes®, blended, strained (pulp discarded and tomato juice reserved)
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar (brown variety)
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 tablespoons capers, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup black or green, pitted olives, rinsed, drained and sliced
Salt and ground black pepper, to taste

1. Using a knife and working on a cutting board, trim and discard the eggplant tips.

2. Cut the eggplant into 3/4-inch slices. Cut slices into 3/4-inch pieces.

3. Place eggplant in a colander set over a large bowl. Sprinkle the eggplant with 2 tablespoons salt. Using hands, toss the eggplant and salt; set aside 20 minutes for bitter juices to drain).

4. After 20 minutes, and using plastic gloves, place about 2/3 cup eggplant pieces in between hands. Press hands together over sink, allowing eggplant juices to escape. Set the pressed eggplant aside in a large bowl.

5. Meanwhile, in an 8-quart stockpot, heat the oil on medium-high setting. Stir in the eggplant. With a wooden spoon, sauté eggplant on high setting, stirring occasionally, for 6 to 8 minutes or until it is light golden brown. If high heat browns eggplant too quickly, lower it to medium-high.

6. Stir in the bell pepper, celery and onion pieces and cook, stirring occasionally, on medium-high setting for 3 to 4 minutes or until onion is translucent.

7. Add the reserved tomato juice, Muir Glen Organic Crushed Tomatoes®, balsamic vinegar and sugar; cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, on medium-high setting.

8. After 5 minutes, stir in the capers and olive slices; cook an additional 2 minutes. 

9. After 2 minutes, taste the caponata and, if needed, adjust salt level. Stir in the black pepper.

Enjoy Eggplant Caponata as an appetizer with fresh Italian bread or toasts.

To serve with Italian toasts, called “bruschette” – arrange Eggplant Caponata atop bruschette and serve immediately.

Red wine pairing: Chianti or Cabernet Sauvignon.

Text and Photographs ©2012 Nancy DeLucia Real.

Taralli (Italian Pretzels)

In Appetizers / Starters, Fun Foods On June 5, 2012 0 Comments

Taralli are Southern Italian pretzels or breadsticks that are sometimes served with cheese, olives, prosciutto, mortadella, salami and, last but not least, wine.

This taralli recipe includes traditional fennel seeds and red wine. Oh yes – pour that “vino” right into the mixing bowl. After the O-shaped taralli are boiled and baked, they’ll surprise you with a bold flavor and crunchy finish.

Vegetarians, pair these funky taralli with cukes, tomatoes, salads and – you got it –  wine! 

Prep time: 30 minutes
Bake time: 30 to 40 minutes
Makes: 15 to 20 taralli

Ingredients:
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground, black pepper
1 tablespoon fennel seeds (also called “anise seeds”)
1-1/2 cups all-purpose, unbleached flour
1 teaspoon baking powder

1 large egg
1/8 cup red wine
1/8 cup cold water
1/4 cup olive oil

1. Preheat oven to 375°F. In a 2-quart mixing bowl, combine the salt, pepper, fennel seeds, flour and baking powder; set aside.

2. Fill an 6-quart sauce pot 2/3 full with water and set it on a cold stove burner (to be turned on when taralli dough has been shaped into circles).

3. In a 5 to 6-quart mixing bowl or in a stand mixer, stir together the egg, wine, water and olive oil.  Gradually stir in the dry ingredients until a dough forms. Turn the dough onto a flat and lightly-floured surface. Gently knead the dough for 2 minutes.

4. Pull away a two-inch ball from the dough. Roll the dough on the flat surface and shape it into a 5-inch log (the log should be 1/2-inch thick). 

5. Shape the log into a circle and press to close. Lay the circle, or tarallo, aside on flat surface or on a plate (not floured). Continue shaping remaining dough into taralli, laying them aside on the plate.

6. Bring the water in sauce pot to a boil. Gently drop two to 3 taralli into the boiling water and cook until they come up to the surface, about 2 to 3 minutes. 

7. With a slotted spoon, transfer the boiled taralli to a platter for draining (do not lay taralli  on paper towels or they will stick). Boil the remaining taralli and repeat draining instructions.

8. Transfer the boiled and drained taralli on a parchment-lined 18×12-inch baking sheet. Place baking sheet with taralli on a rack positioned in center of preheated oven.

9. Bake taralli for 15 to 20 minutes. 

10. After 15 to 20 minutes, turn the taralli over and bake for an additional 15 to 20 minutes or until both sides are golden brown.

11. Remove the baking sheet with taralli from oven. Transfer taralli to a glass or porcelain platter or a cooling rack.

12. Enjoy taralli warm or at room temperature.

Storing instructions: Place cooled taralli in double plastic freezer bags. Freeze taralli up to one month. 

To thaw: Remove taralli from freezer bags. Place them on a platter and allow taralli to come to room temperature. Place taralli on a baking sheet in a preheated 375°F oven and warm them for 5 minutes.

Wine Pairing Suggestion:  Southern Italian reds such as Aglianico (from Naples) or Nero d’Avola (from Sicily).

Text and Photograph ©2012 Nancy DeLucia Real

Guacamole Romano

In Appetizers / Starters On December 26, 2011 0 Comments

ENTER OUR KITCHEN, WATCH & LEARN

What happens when you combine guacamole with Pecorino Romano cheese? You create an impressive party recipe with a twist – Guacamole Romano.
Happy New Year!

Prep time: 10 minutes
Serves: 4 to 6

Ingredients:
2 large, ripe avocados
2 tablespoons chopped red onion,
1 jalapeño pepper, finely chopped
1/3 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
Salt, to taste
Tortilla chips

1. Cut each avocado in half horizontally. Using the knife, cut into the pit. Make a quick twist and remove the pit.

2. With a spoon, scoop out the avocado flesh and transfer it to a shallow mixing bowl.

3. Using a fork, gently mix in the onion and the chopped jalapeño pepper – do not overmix (the guacamole should be chunky).

4. Stir in the Pecorino Romano cheese and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Taste and adjust salt level by adding a sprinkle of salt, if needed.

5. Transfer Guacamole Romano to a bowl and serve immediately with tortilla chips.

Text & Photographs ©2011 Nancy DeLucia Real

Salami Mozzarella Quesadilla

In Appetizers / Starters, Fun Foods On September 20, 2011 0 Comments

This simple-to-make snack, lunch, starter or dinner is fast and fun. I’ve always enjoyed a plain cheese quesadilla, but when I created my own version with Genoa Salami and Mozzarella, it became exquisite!

Top these Italian-Mexican quesadillas with my Salsa and … Whatever recipe. It’ll be amore or amor at first bite!

Prep time: 5 to 8 minutes
Makes: 4 quesadillas

Ingredients:
Four 10-inch flour tortillas
16 slices Genoa Salami, thinly sliced
8 ounces Mozzarella cheese, shredded

1. In a 12-inch nonstick skillet, warm up two tortillas at a time on medium-high heat by flipping them over at 1 to 2-minute intervals.

2. Set burner on low heat setting.

3. Working quickly, lay 4 slices salami on the half side of each tortilla.

4. Top the salami with ¼ of the shredded mozzarella and fold each tortilla in half (you have made a quesadilla).

5. Flip the quesadillas over immediately (to avoid charring the underside).

6. With a spatula, gently press top of each quesadilla to flatten slightly.

7. Flip quesadilla over once or twice or until cheese has melted and starts bubbling along quesadilla edges.

Serve hot with Salsa and … Whatever (published on this blog on June 28, 2010).

Wine pairing suggestion: chilled Pinot Grigio (white) or Cabernet Sauvignon (red).

Text & Photograph © 2011 Nancy DeLucia Real