Category:  Appetizers / Starters

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Mozzarella di Bufala Starters

In Appetizers / Starters On September 27, 2010 0 Comments

Mozzarella di bufala is made with fresh buffalo milk. This delicacy is a specialty of Campania, Italy, where the production of dairy products is rooted in the region’s ancient Greco-Roman past. In 1570, the great connnoisseur of regional Italian cookery, Bartolomeo Scappi, mentioned “mozzarella di bufala” for the first time in his culinary treatise, Opera. The word “mozzarella” derives from the verb “mozzare”, a hand gesture which divides an elongated piece of “pasta filata” or freshly pulled cheese into single “mozzarelle” (Italian, for mozzarellas).

Notice the photo with the mozzarella and layout of ingredients – these starters are intended to be fun to make, pleasing to the eye and exquisite. The final photo is what you get … and what you eat!

Prep time: 15 to 20 minutes
Serves: 4

Ingredients:
One 8-ounce fresh buffalo mozzarella packed in water (cut into 4 slices & then in half
-OR-
Four 2-ounce fresh buffalo mozzarellas (each cut in half)
4 wooden skewers, set aside until ready to use
8 slices olive bread
8 fresh basil leaves
1 vine-ripened tomato, cut into 4 slices
1 Heirloom tomato (reddish-yellow in color), cut into 4 slices
Extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling
Salt and pepper, to taste
12 olives, for garnish

1. If using one 8-ounce mozzarella, cut it into 4 slices and cut each slice in half to yield a total of 8 pieces.
If using four 2-ounce mozzarellas, cut each one in half (you will have a total of 8 pieces). Set aside.

2. Using a 3-inch round cookie cutter or a glass, cut each slice of bread to yield a total of 8 round bread slices. Save the leftover bread pieces in a sealed food storage bag for another use (such as enjoying them on a future binge).

3. For each serving, use 2 bread rounds, 2 basil leaves, 2 mozzarella slices, 1 vine-ripened tomato slice, 1 Heirloom tomato slice and assemble as follows:

4. Push a skewer through the center of one bread round, positioning the bread within a 1/2-inch of the skewer’s tip. Follow with a basil leaf and then alternate the mozzarella and tomato slices. While assembling, drizzle oil and sprinkle a little salt and pepper on the mozzarella slices.

5. End with a basil leaf and a bread round.

6. With shears, trim the remaining skewer, leaving 1/2-inch of the skewer tip outside the bread round.

7. Repeat above assembly three more times. Arrange on a platter, garnish with olives and serve immediately.

Buon Appetito!

Wine suggestion: chilled Greco di Tufo – this is one of my favorite whites from the region of Campania, Italy.

Note: Do not prepare this recipe ahead of time, as the mozzarella will become watery and change its texture.

Text and Photographs ©2010 Nancy DeLucia Real

Parma Prosciutto, Melon & Apple Carpaccio

In Appetizers / Starters, Fun Foods On September 18, 2010 0 Comments

For this classic antipasto, I wanted to be artistic and innovative in presenting Parma prosciutto and melon. I added apple “carpaccio” and a balsamic reduction. The balsamic “sauce” complements the sweet fruit and savory prosciutto. Buon Appetito!

Prep time: 20 to 25 minutes
Serves: 4

Ingredients:
1/2 cup Balsamic vinegar (dark brown variety)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 to 4 ounces sliced Parma prosciutto
1 cantaloup melon (8 to 12 slices)
2 Heirloom or green apples (Granny Smith or Pippin variety)
Juice of 1 lemon

1. In a small saucepot, combine the vinegar and sugar.

2. Bring to a boil and simmer on medium-high heat until mixture is reduced by half, about 5 minutes.

3. Transfer balsamic reduction to a small glass or porcelain bowl and set, uncovered, in freezer until cold enough to drizzle, about 8 to 10 minutes.

4. Check coolness by stirring with a spoon after 5 minutes and tasting (do not freeze). If reduction is still warm, leave in freezer an additional 5 minutes.

5. Alternatively, the balsamic reduction can be prepared and chilled in refrigerator a day ahead.

Meanwhile, prepare prosciutto and fruit –

1. From its narrow end, gently roll up each prosciutto slice until it forms a small log.

2. Arrange prosciutto logs at one end of a large serving platter and set aside.

3. Cut melon in half, lengthwise, and scoop out seeds and pulp.

4. Cut melon into 8 to 12 slices, remove rind and place next to prosciutto on platter. Set aside. Save remaining melon for future use.

5. Cut apples in half and then into fourths. Remove core from each fourth and then cut apples into thin slices.

6. Immediately sprinkle apple slices with the lemon juice – this avoids blackening.

7. Arrange apples decoratively on platter with prosciutto and melon.

8. Serve immediately – ask guests to help themselves to some prosciutto, melon and apples and to drizzle some balsamic sauce over apples.

Enjoy with bread and white wine.

Wine suggestion: Malvasia or Greco di Tufo (both are Italian whites).

Text and Photographs ©2010 Nancy DeLucia Real

Baja Chicken Tostadas

In Appetizers / Starters, Fun Foods, Poultry On August 12, 2010 2 Comments

On a recent trip to Baja California, Mexico, my husband and I stayed in a condominium resort on the coast. Whenever I want fast food in Baja, I can quickly find a “pollo rostizado” (rotisserie chicken), some tomatoes, lettuce, onions, cilantro and chiles. I then emulate the locals by making a tostada out of whatever ingredients I have found.

Prep time: 15 minutes
Serves: 4 to 6

Ingredients:
8 to 12 corn tostada shells
4 to 5 cups precooked rotisserie chicken, skin and bones discarded and meat diced
5 to 6 cups shredded lettuce
1 carrot, peeled and finely shredded
1/2 cup finely shredded purple cabbage
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
One Salsa and … Whatever recipe (found in our Recipes, under “Salad Dressings, Salsas & Savory Sauces)
2/3 cup grated Cotija, Manchego or Pecorino Romano cheese

1. Place tostada shells on a serving platter and the chicken in a serving bowl in center of dining table.

2. In a separate serving bowl, combine the lettuce, carrot, cabbage and cilantro.

3. Arrange a bowl of the salsa and a bowl of grated cheese next to other bowls.

4. Ask each guest to assemble their own tostadas: add some chicken to tostada shell, followed by lettuce mixture, some salsa and a sprinkle of grated cheese.

5. Enjoy with chilled white wine, beer or a shot of Tequila.

Keep in mind that the fun part is trying to eat the tostada while it breaks and falls apart with every bite.

Buen Provecho!

Text and Photographs ©2010 Nancy DeLucia Real

Kiwi, Mozzarella & Papaya Skewers

In Appetizers / Starters, Fruit and Jams, Fun Foods On July 3, 2010 2 Comments

Lookin’ to make a splash with a fresh and colorful appetizer this summer? Here’s a cool, mouth-watering recipe. These cute looking kiwi, mozzarella and papaya starters appeal to the eye as well as to the palate. And when this bright platter makes its appearance, you’ll notice your guests’ eyes pop out of their sockets and hear them utter the word, “Wowwwwwww!”

Prep time: 25 to 30 minutes
Makes: 4 to 6 skewers

Ingredients:
1 Hawaiian papaya
1 bunch watercress, rinsed and spun dry in a salad spinner
5 kiwis, peeled
1 pint cherry tomatoes (2 cups)
8 ounces fresh mozzarella balls (one-inch mozzarella balls packaged in water)
Six 12-inch wooden skewers
Melon ball scooper
Salt and pepper, to taste
Extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling

1. Cut papaya in half and remove seeds with a spoon; set aside.

2. Remove largest and most perfect leaves from watercress stem; set leaves aside and discard stems.

3. Using a melon ball scooper, carve out one-inch balls from the flesh of both papaya and kiwis, setting them aside on a plate as you go along.

4. Take 1 skewer and put it through the center of a watercress leaf, making sure the leaf is pushed to the opposite end of the skewer.

5. Add a mozzarella ball, a watercress leaf, a papaya ball, a watercress leaf, a tomato, a watercress leaf and a kiwi. Repeat pattern until skewer is complete.

6. Assemble the remaining skewers in the same manner.

7. When all skewers are assembled, place them on a serving platter.

8. Sprinkle the skewers with a dash of salt and pepper, followed by a drizzle of the olive oil.

9. Serve immediately.

Alternatively, prepare up to 4 hours ahead, cover with plastic and refrigerate until ready to serve.

The Kiwi, Mozzarella & Papaya skewers will keep, refrigerated, up to two days (by the next day, the kiwi may not be as firm but it will still be edible).

Text and Photographs ©2010 Nancy DeLucia Real

Salsa and … Whatever

In Appetizers / Starters, Fun Foods, Salad Dressings, Salsas & Savory Sauces On June 28, 2010 3 Comments

In my home, there’s always a freshly made salsa in the refrigerator. I learned the art of making authentic and delicious salsas from my husband who hails from Mexico. He also taught me to pair salsa with “whatever” else you can find to satisfy the moment’s craving. For a quick snack of tortilla chips, a taco, quesadilla, or even panini, salsa is a perfect go-with. You can also substitute salsa for dressings in salads containing chicken or fish.

Prep time: 20 minutes
Makes: 2-1/2 cups salsa

Ingredients:
3 tomatillos (these look like green tomatoes with a dry, paperlike outer skin)
2 large vine-ripened tomatoes
1 Serrano or Jalapeno chile
1 clove garlic, crushed (optional)
Handful of cilantro (about 1/3 cup, lightly packed)
1/2 teaspoon salt
Dash ground cumin

1. Peel the outer, paper-like skin of the tomatillos; discard skins.

2. Place tomatillos, tomatoes and chile in a 3 or 4-quart pot. Cover with cold water and bring to a boil.

3. Cook on medium-high heat, uncovered, for 5 to 7 minutes or until skins of tomatoes crack and tomatoes are somewhat soft.

4. Drain and reserve 1/3 cup of cooking liquid. Let tomatillos, tomatoes and chile cool about 10 to 15 minutes (they will be warm).

5. Transfer cooked ingredients to a blender and combine with garlic, cilantro, salt and cumin.

6. Pulse-blend 5 to 8 times for a lumpy salsa. Puree for a smooth salsa.

7. Transfer the salsa to a glass or porcelain bowl. If salsa is too dense, stir in a tablespoon or two of the reserved cooking liquid. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Serve immediately or refrigerate, covered, up to 3 or 4 days.

This salsa is is also great with my Misto Peppers Frittata, omelettes, raw veggies or … whatever!

Text and Photographs ©2010 Nancy DeLucia Real