Tag Archives: italian

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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Spaghetti Squash with Cherry Tomatoes, Goat Cheese & Basil

Spaghetti is one of my true loves, but I rarely make it during the week. I try to maintain a healthy diet, with splurges here and there, so spaghetti is not something I prioritize.

However, spaghetti squash is another story. I swear to you – it tastes just like spaghetti cooked al dente. Healthy, simple and tasty. Once you try it, you will be hooked on the guilt-free deliciousness. Enjoy!

Spaghetti Squash with Cherry Tomatoes, Goat Cheese & Basil

You will need:

FOR THE SQUASH-

  • 1 spaghetti squash, remove seeds and cut in half lengthwise
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • sea salt + pepper to taste
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar

1. Preheat oven to 400°. Line rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. Brush squash with olive oil, sea salt and pepper. Sprinkle brown sugar on both halves.

3. Place halves cut side down on baking sheets and roast for 40-45 minutes, or until fork tender. Set aside to cool.

4. When cool enough to handle: with a fork, shred the pulp of the squash away from the skin and place in a large bowl.

FOR THE SAUCE-

  • 1 pint organic cherry tomatoes, roasted whole for 15 minutes with salt
  • 4 oz goat cheese
  • 1 cipollini onion, diced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup of loose basil, thinly sliced
  • 3 tbsp olive oil

1. Drizzle olive oil in a large saute pan. Add onions and saute over medium heat. Cook about 5 – 10 minutes, or until slightly brown. Add garlic and roasted tomatoes. Cook another 10 minutes.

Combine tomato sauce with spaghetti squash. Garnish with basil, and stir in goat cheese.

 

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Not Just Any Waffles

One of my favorite things about weekends growing up was the smell of Sunday morning breakfast. My parents, who are responsible for what I like to call my “food crazy”, were kind enough to make waffles or pancakes on Sundays and it was something my sister and I always anticipated with so much excitement.

This past Sunday was just one of those mornings that warranted a special homemade breakfast. For no reason in particular, I got the urge to make some waffles; but not just any waffles. I decided to turn up the heat on my child hood favorite and make this recipe: Pancetta and Cinnamon Waffles. I topped off my super delicious Sunday waffles with maple syrup and organic fresh peach slices. The combination of textures from the toasted walnuts, savory pancetta, and sweet peaches knocked this one out of the park. Sunday could turn into a very dangerous day of the week. ‘Til next weekend!

 

 

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All About Eggplant: Eggplant Parmigiana

I love everything about eggplant. I know I must say that about all food, but seriously! You can pretty much transform it into any dish, whether it be eggplant french fries, roasted eggplant dip, eggplant arancini (risotto fritters), eggplant ravioli, eggplant parmigiana…the list goes on.  You can stuff it, grill it, fry it, roast it — there are no restrictions, which is why I love eggplant.

Let’s start with the basics: Eggplant Parmigiana

This was the first eggplant recipe I ever had and adored. I had mixed feelings about eggplant until I discovered its versatility and flavor potential. My mom taught me this recipe, so you won’t find it anywhere else!

You will need: 

1 or 2 eggplants (1 is enough for 2 people)

1 package organic cherry tomatoes

1 cup balsamic vinegar

1 package fresh mozzarella, grated

1 piece of whole parmesan cheese, and a micro-plane grater (or a regular grater with tiny holes)

1 jar organic tomato sauce (the good stuff)

1 bunch basil, sliced into a chiffonade, which means little ribbons (layer 4 or 5 pieces of basil, fold in half, and slice thin, repeat)

2 eggs, beaten with a whisk , and set aside in a shallow dish

whole wheat panko breadcrumbs (place in another shallow dish with salt, pepper, and garlic powder)

sea salt + freshly ground black pepper

Prepare the eggplant:

1. Start out by partially peeling the eggplant – the exterior should look like black and white stripes

2. Slice the eggplant into 1/2″ thick discs. Lay out on a paper towel and sprinkle with salt. Let rest for 10 minutes or so. This process extracts some of the natural bitter flavor – a must when cooking eggplant properly.

3. Wipe off excess moisture with paper towels.

4. Dip eggplant in egg batter, and then coat with breadcrumb mixture. Set aside. Repeat until all pieces of eggplant are covered with egg and breadcrumbs. You are ready to sauté!

Prepare the balsamic reduction: 

1. Heat balsamic vinegar in a small sauce pan; bring to a boil and then simmer until reduced by at least half, about 20 minutes. Set aside to cool. This reduction will be used as a garnish when you are ready to eat.

Roast the cherry tomatoes:

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and lay out whole tomatoes.

2. Drizzle with olive oil and season generously with salt and pepper.

3. Roast for 35 minutes; or until the skin is blistery and the insides are soft.

Sauté the breaded eggplant:

1. Drizzle olive oil in a heavy bottomed sauté pan. Preheat pan with medium heat, and add breaded eggplant slices when oil begins to ripple. Do not overcrowd the pan – so you can fit about 5 slices at once, depending on the pan.

2. Flip eggplant slices when brown and crispy on one side, and cook until both sides are even. Repeat with all eggplant slices and set aside.

Layer cooked eggplant in baking dish and bake:

1. Increase oven temperature to 400° (the tomatoes should be done at this point). Drizzle olive oil in an oven-proof glass baking dish (such as Pyrex)

2. It’s time to build the eggplant towers. Start with an eggplant slice, and top with a little tomato sauce and some grated mozzarella. Add another slice, add more tomato sauce and mozzarella. Add one more slice (you should have three slices per tower), and top with sauce, mozzarella and a few roasted tomatoes. Repeat until you have several towers sitting side by side in the baking dish.

3. Bake for 20 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly. Top with freshly grated parmigiana, roasted tomatoes, slices of basil, and a drizzle of balsamic reduction. Mangia mangia!

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