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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.

July 4th Sorbet with Balsamic Cream®

In Desserts, Creams & Sauces, Fun Foods, Holidays On July 2, 2012 0 Comments

We’re celebrating Independence Day on Wednesday, July 4th. It’s so nice to have a break from work mid-week. And I mean ALL WORK, including the kitchen.

Along that line, I thought I’d end my holiday cookout by scooping some sorbet or ice cream onto a plate, adding a drizzle of Balsamic Cream®, followed by a garnish of berries. That’s as hard as I’ll work for this July 4th Sorbet with Balsamic Cream® recipe.

Enjoy and stay safe!

Prep time: 5 minutes
Serves: 4

Ingredients:
One pint raspberry sorbet (vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt can be substituted)
Balsamic Cream® (also known as Crema di Balsamico®)*
Strawberries, for garnish
Blueberries, for garnish
8 sprigs mint leaves, for garnish (optional)

1. Place a scoop of sorbet on each of 4 individual bowls or dessert plates.

2. Add a drizzle of Balsamic Cream® and garnish with strawberries, blueberries and mint leaves.

3. Serve immediately.

*Balsamic Cream® can be purchased at Wholefoods Stores® or online at Amazon.com®.

Text and Photograph ©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

Marzipan Easter Eggs

In Cookies, Candies & Sweets, Fun Foods, Holidays On April 5, 2012 0 Comments

Marzipan has its origins in ancient Arabic countries, including Persia (modern-day Iran). It was introduced to Europe by medieval Arabs and Persians who had mastered the art of confectionary. Made with simple ingredients such as almonds, sugar and rosewater, marzipan is so delicious that you just can’t stop reaching for it.

These marzipan delights resemble eggs, except that they’re round instead of oval. Children will become expert confectioners as they transform marzipan into candy eggs.

In the end, you’ll have to go hunting for Marzipan Easter Eggs , since the kids will surely hide them from you!

Active prep time: 30 minutes (for marzipan)
Inactive prep time: 30 minutes (for soaking almonds)
Makes: 50 to 55 Marzipan candies

Ingredients:
1-2/3 cups raw, unsalted almonds (skin on)
1 quart boiling water
2-1/4 cups unbleached, granulated sugar (for marzipan)
3 tablespoons rosewater (optional)
2 to 3 tablespoons cold water
50 to 55 candy paper cups
25 slivered almonds (for garnish)
1/2 cup fresh strawberries, cut into slivers (for garnish)

1. In a medium saucepan, bring 6 cups water to a boil.

2. Set almonds in a 3 or 4-quart glass or porcelain bowl; pour boiling water over almonds to cover completely. Set almonds and water aside 10 to 15 minutes or until almonds slip out of their skins easily.

3. Drain almonds and discard water; pat dry the almonds with paper towels.

4. In a food processor, grind together the almonds, 1-1/4 cups sugar, the rosewater and 2 tablespoons water.

5. Process the mixture until it is smooth. To test: with slightly wet hands, grab 3/4 teaspoon marzipan mixture and roll it into a ball. If it is too dry, add 1 extra tablespoon water and process; set aside.

6. Meanwhile, place the remaining 1 cup sugar in a shallow bowl – you will use this to coat the marzipan balls.

7. With slightly wet hands, shape the marzipan into 3/4-inch balls.

8. Roll balls in sugar, coating them evenly. Shake off the excess sugar and place marzipan eggs in candy-size paper cups.

9. Set  paper cup swith marzipan egg on a serving platter.

10. Garnish marzipan eggs with slivered almonds and slivered strawberries.

Note: Marzipan can be made up to two weeks ahead in the following manner: after rolling marzipan balls in sugar, place them in double freezer bags and freeze. When serving, thaw marzipan balls for 1 hour; garnish with slivered almond or slivered strawberry.

Text & Photograph ©2012 Nancy DeLucia Real

Snowballs

In Desserts, Creams & Sauces, Fruit and Jams, Fun Foods, Holidays On December 11, 2011 0 Comments

ENTER OUR KITCHEN, WATCH & LEARN

Every year in December, my thoughts return to Montreal where I spent my early childhood. In Canada, the holiday season was synonymous with my cousins and me enjoying those great snowball fights.

Here in Los Angeles, these delicious Snowballs are made with bananas that are cut into chunks, rolled in sour cream and then in coconut. Rather than throwing these Snowballs at anyone, it’s best to serve them on a festive platter, surrounded by lush, fresh strawberries.

While Snowballs are fun to make, if anyone’s around during the process, these treats will never make it to your holiday table. But if they do, they’ll be the hit of the party – guaranteed!

Prep time: 15 minutes
Makes: 15 snowballs (or pieces)
Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients:
3 ripe bananas
Juice of one lemon or lime
8 ounces sour cream
2 tablespoons Amaretto liqueur
3 cups Baker’s Angel Flake Coconut®
1 quart fresh, whole strawberries

1. Peel and cut the bananas into one-inch chunks (approximately 5 chunks per banana).

2. Place bananas in a shallow bowl and gently toss in the lemon or lime juice.

3. In a separate, shallow 10-inch bowl, gently stir together the sour cream and Amaretto liqueur; set aside.

4. Place coconut in a separate 10 or 12-inch shallow bowl and set aside.

5. Using two forks, lightly coat each banana chunk with the sour cream mixture followed by the coconut (roll each banana chunk in the coconut until it is thoroughly coated and looks like a snowball).

6. Place snowball on a serving platter. Repeat with remaining banana chunks and arrange in a mound on the serving platter.

7. Fan each strawberry by making two vertical cuts into it. Arrange strawberries in a circle around the Snowballs.

8. Refrigerate Snowballs up to three hours (covered in plastic wrap) or serve immediately.

Text & Photograph ©2011 Nancy DeLucia Real