Tag Archives: friends

Ricotta Crostoni with Peperonata

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When you’re passionate about food, it becomes surprisingly difficult to play favorites. That’s why I have a hard time selecting dishes for this blog; it’s so hard to choose.

That being said, I know I have a winning dish when I make it more than once. I have used this recipe as my go-to for recent potlucks and get togethers with friends. There are only a few ingredients, and the peppers can be made up to three days ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator. I think you will love this dish because it puts a classic spin on your traditional bruschetta. Enjoy and Happy Holidays!

Ricotta Crostoni with Peperonta*

*adapted from Nancy Silverton’s Mozza cookbook. This is an Italian must-buy for your cookbook collection!

You will need:

1/2-inch-thick slices from a loaf of pane rustica or another large, flat peasant loaf

Extra-virgin olive oil, for brushing the bread

1 garlic clove

Sea salt (or fleur de sel if you want to be fancy)

fresh coarsely ground black pepper

3 cups fresh ricotta

1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh Italian parsley leaves

For the peperonata (makes 1 quart):

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 large red onion, halved and sliced 1/4 inch thick

1/4 cup thinly sliced garlic (about 10 large cloves)

2 yellow bell peppers, cored, seeded, and sliced 1/4 inch thick

2 orange bell peppers, cored, seeded, and sliced 1/4 inch thick

2 red bell peppers, cored, seeded, and sliced 1/4 inch thick

1 tablespoon Spanish sherry vinegar

1 tablespoon dried oregano

2 teaspoons sugar

1 cup Basic Tomato Sauce or Marinara

1/2 cup pitted Nicoise olives

2 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh Italian parsley leaves

To make the peperonata:

1. Adjust oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 350°. Heat oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat until it is almost smoking and slides easily in the pan, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the onion and garlic, season with one teaspoon of sea salt and several turns of pepper, and saute, stirring occasionally to prevent the onion and garlic from browning, until the onion is tender and translucent, 5 to 7 minutes.

2. Add the peppers, season with the remaining teaspoon of salt, and saute until they begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the vinegar, oregano, and sugar, and stir to combine the ingredients. Stir in the tomato sauce and cook for about 2 minutes to meld the flavors. Taste for seasoning and add more salt or pepper, if desired.

3. Transfer the peperonata to a large baking dish (at least 9 by 13 inches) or a large, ovenproof skillet and smooth the top with a wooden spoon or spatula to make it level. Place the peperonata in the oven to bake for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven, stir in the olives, and return it to the oven for 30 to 35 minutes, until the top is charred, especially around the edges.

4. Remove the peperonata from the oven and allow it to cool for at least 10 minutes before serving. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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To make the ricotta crostoni:

1. Adjust oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 350° or preheat a sandwich press.

2. Place the bread slices on a baking sheet, brush the tops with olive oil, and back them for 15 to 20 minutes, until they’re golden brown and crisp. Alternatively, brush both sides of the bread slices with olive oil and toast them in a sandwich press.

3. Remove the crostoni from the oven and rub the oiled sides of the crostoni with the garlic. Sprinkle liberally with sea salt.

4. Put the ricotta in a medium bowl and stir vigorously with a spoon to fluff it up. Pile 1/4 cup of ricotta in mounds on each crostoni and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle a teaspoon of parsley, and coarsely grind black pepper over each crostoni.

5. Arrange the crostoni on a serving platter or board and serve with peperonata. Alternatively, you can spoon the peperonata onto each crostoni and serve.

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Seasonal Gems: Watermelon & Plums

I always like to stress the importance of seasonal produce. There are so many great arguments for buying local, organic food as opposed to the alternative; but the most obvious is reflected in taste. Seasonal just tastes better.

I recently got together with friends for a potluck dinner; we each brought something to share. Watermelon has been in season all summer, so I already knew the main star of my dish. I settled on a salad with prawns, arugula, watermelon, cucumber, feta and mint.

My favorite part about the dish, besides the just-picked freshness, was the variety of textures. It also went along famously with my friend’s plum prosciutto bruschetta, also an in-season winner. The combination of the two make a really easy, simple, summer meal. Enjoy!

 

Watermelon Salad

*serves 4 as a side

1 small seedless watermelon, sliced into chunks

10 cooked prawns

1/2 package arugula

1 english cucumber, peeled and sliced into chunks

10 mint leaves, chopped

1 cup crumbled feta cheese (or more if you love it)

extra virgin olive oil

sea salt + pepper to taste

1. Combine watermelon, cucumber, prawns, and mint. Add olive oil (drizzle to your liking) and toss. Add arugula, and lightly toss. Sprinkle feta on top, and add salt and pepper to taste.

Plum Prosciutto Bruschetta

8 slices of fresh, rustic bread; toasted

Humboldt Fog goat cheese

1 package prosciutto

4 organic plums; sliced and pits removed

arugula to garnish

1. Layer the following ingredients to create easy, instant bruschetta: goat cheese, prosciutto, arugula and plums. Serve.

 

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The Wine Picnic that Welcomed 27

Considering this post is about two weeks late, you can imagine the repercussions of such a fun, memorable birthday celebration. I’m excited to share one of my best birthday events to date, although I don’t know how I’ll ever top this (maybe spend my 30th at St. Barth’s?)

While a lot of work for the hostess (i.e. me), this event was affordable for the quality delivered. Wine tasting for large groups will add up quick, so it’s important to cut costs; yet take it up a level so it’s over-the-top-birthday-special.

On top of paying for transportation and tasting fees, you can either opt to pay a winery for boxed lunches (it’s not cheap and yields little)…or make your own. I decided to cater the lunch myself, that way I could control the menu. I wanted to serve cold, picnic friendly foods that would compliment summer wine tasting in the Sonoma heat.

Most wineries will not let you bring a picnic lunch (and your own silverware/table decorations/serving platters…yes, my mother went there.) so you have to do a little digging. Surprisingly enough, there are some beautiful, large wineries in Sonoma that specialize in Pinots and welcome an outside picnic: Sebastiani was so great and set us up with a private, seated tasting under a grove of shady trees to enjoy our lunch.

It was a perfect day, with the best group. I think 27 is shaping up to be a great year, and couldn’t have been welcomed by a better celebration.

The Wine Picnic Menu

Sweet Corn Ceviche

Pasilla Chile + Lime Cabbage Slaw 

Roasted Rainbow Beet Salad with Feta, Mint, and Fig Vinaigrette

Roasted Red Peppers, Roma + Cherry Tomato Salad with Olive Oil + Basil

Cheeses: Goat, Brie, Gouda, Blue

…don’t forget the crackers

Mint Chutney (to compliment the goat cheese)

Two types of freshly sliced Italian salami

Freshly baked breads (we picked them up that morning)

Grapes

Of course, I had to post the “silly” pic (the expressions are priceless, really)

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Filed under FRESH FETE, VINTOGENIC

Mediterranean Supper Club: Vegan Pistachio Tea Cakes

One of the many I reasons I love food is that it brings people together. I recently joined miss delightfulcrab‘s monthly supper club, which occurs on Sunday evenings. Different people take turns hosting the event, and the host chooses the theme: last weekend’s theme was Mediterranean (they have had other awesome themes like “favorite childhood meal” and “colors of the rainbow” and “thai feast”…the creativity goes on and on.)

Mediterranean basically means ANYTHING goes; as long as you can find it somewhere along the Mediterranean sea, you’re good to go! I decided to make Vegan Pistachio Tea Cakes from my favorite new cookbook (also featured in this recipe).

I knew it was a huge risk making something brand new for a group of people, but that didn’t stop me. As usual, it was a scramble to the finish (I felt like I was competing on Top Chef), but I made it on time and the cakes turned out pret-ty good. I bet you can’t tell they’re vegan. I totally recommend this for your next picnic/brunch/anytime. Snack away!

Vegan Pistachio Olive Oil Tea Cakes

You will need a mini-muffin or tea cake pan (makes cute mini bundt cakes), although a 9-inch cake pan works too.

For the cake:

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for greasing the pan

2/3 cup shelled pistachios (3 oz), toasted

1/2 cup plain unsweetened soy yogurt

6 oz soft silken tofu

3/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

For the topping:

1 orange

1 lemon

1 cup water

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup Grand Marnier or other orange liqueur

1/4 cup shelled pistachios (1 1/4 oz), toasted and chopped

 

TO MAKE THE CAKE-

1. Preheat the oven to 325°. Oil the bottom and sides of a 9-inch cake pan, then line with a piece of parchment paper cut to fit the bottom of the pan and oil the parchment paper (or use baking spray with flour).

2. In a food processor, pulse the pistachios until finely ground. But don’t over do it, or they’ll turn into nut butter.

3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the yogurt, tofu, sugar, olive oil, and vanilla and beat at medium speed until well combined.

4. Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a separate bowl. Add to the tofu mixture and beat until well combined. Add the ground pistachios and beat again until incorporated.

5. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until a cake tester, bamboo skewer, or toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean. Let the cake cool briefly, then invert into a wire rack ,remove the pan, and let cool completely.

TO MAKE THE TOPPING-

1. Slice the orange and lemon in half, then cut into 1/4-inch slices. Remove the seeds. In a medium saucepan, combine the orange, lemon, water, sugar, and Grand Marnier. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring occasionally, then lower the heat, cover and simmer until the fruit is soft and pliable and starting to break down, about 1 hour.

2. Transfer the mixture to a food processor and pulse repeatedly until thick and chunky. Spread the topping evenly over the top of the cake. Garnish with chopped pistachios and pomegranate seeds (optional – I couldn’t find them at the store) before serving.

 

 

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Splurge for the Scallops and Stay In

Seared Sea Scallops with Gingered Pea Purée and Cilantro Gremolata

Don’t get me wrong – I’m all for going out on the town with girlfriends, but sometimes it’s nice to switch things up and bring the party inside for a relaxing dinner soirée. We decided to dine in style by serving up some seared sea scallops, preceded by a cheese and cracker spread. This scallop recipe (courtesy of food52.com, found here) is the perfect light yet luxurious alternative to steak, as it packs intense flavors but will not induce a food coma. All you need is a delicious French white Burgundy as your beverage of choice, and you have the perfect night in with friends.

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