Category:  Appetizers / Starters

Home » Archive by category "Appetizers / Starters" (Page 5)

Valentine Asiago with Cranberry-Cherry Coulis

In Appetizers / Starters, Holidays On February 6, 2013 0 Comments

This savory/sweet appetizer is a perfect intro to a romantic evening. I’m sure you won’t forget to complement the Asiago cheese with a yummy flatbread and a nice wine (see suggestion below). Happy Valentine’s Day!

Prep time: 45 to 55 mins (for the coulis)
Makes: 3 to 3-1/2 cups

Ingredients:
3 cups unsweetened cranberry juice (not to be confused with cranberry juice cocktail)
1-1/3 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup dark Balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup dried, pitted cherries
1-1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon cornstarch mixed with 3 tablespoons cold water in a small bowl
One 6-ounce Asiago cheese wedge
3 to 6 fresh cherries (for garnish)
Flatbread or your favorite crackers

1. In a 4-quart saucepot, stir together the cranberry juice, sugar and Balsamic vinegar. Bring to a boil and simmer on low heat for approximately 45 to 50 minutes or until mixture reduces to about 2-1/2 cups.

2. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, stir to combine the dried cherries with 1-1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar. Add the cherry mixture to the cranberry juice and cook for an additional 5 minutes or until cherries puff up.

3. Gradually stir in the cornstarch-water mixture and cook for about 1 minute or until the coulis has thickened. If a thicker sauce is desired, stir in an additional teaspoon of cornstarch premixed with cold water.

4. Set the hot coulis in the saucepot aside, covered, on a kitchen counter to cool completely. Refrigerate the coulis for at least 4 hours or overnight.

At serving time, place cheese wedge on a plate and drizzle the coulis over it. Garnish the plate with fresh cherries; serve with flatbread or crackers and lots of wine!

Red Wine suggestion: Bordeaux or Brunello
Text and Photograph ©2013 Nancy DeLucia Real

Olives & Fennel

In Appetizers / Starters, Salads On December 18, 2012 0 Comments

For the holidays, make this Mediterranean olive and fennel salad in no time. Serve it with any type of bread (Italian, French, Lavosh or Pita).

Finally, sip some wine and have fun with your guests.

Prep time: 15 to 20 minutes
Serves: 6 to 8

Ingredients:
One 15-ounce can (about 2 cups) green and black olives or a combination of both
3 teaspoons chopped or thinly sliced fresh fennel
4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3 to 4 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons chopped, fresh coriander (cilantro)
2 tablespoons chopped, fresh mint leaves
Salt and ground black pepper (optional)

1. In a medium glass or porcelain bowl, combine all ingredients.

2. Taste and adjust seasonings.

3. You’re done!

Text and Photograph ©2012 Nancy DeLucia Real

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