With the Summer in high gear and the temperatures soaring here in Florida, I crave light meals with the accent on fresh produce, fish, and colorful fruits of the season. Along with the lighter summer fare cool iced teas, white wine spritzes and of course a good ice cold Martini is always welcome! ;)
Above is a plate of my homemade Gardiniera. A simple tasty pickled assortment of fresh vegetables of your choosing. I like to combine cauliflower, onion, .red peppers, yellow peppers, celery, carrots and a few long hot peppers. It couldn't be easier to make and then can stay in the refrigerator up to about two weeks. I guarantee that it won't last more than a few days. They are truly addictive! When serving I like to use green leaf lettuce and radicchio for color and taste. Please note I don't put olives in my Gardiniera as I save them for my Martini's ! ;)
Another one of my favorite summer appetizers is Escarole with raisins and pignoli nuts served on toasted bread. I like to serve it room temperature after its marinated for about an hour. Once again a delicate balance of sweetness from the raisins complimented with the nutty taste from the pignoli added to a delicious plate of sauteed escarole with garlic and olive oil. Each layor of flavor pops and served atop the toasted bread is absoluety delicious!
My all time favorite like so many is Bruschetta. My little tweek is that I dice my tomatoes and then add salt, pepper, garlic and a little crushed fennel and let sit for 15 minutes. The juices will come out of the tomatoes and then at the last minute add extra virgin olive oil and fresh basil and parsley. The true key to perfect bruschetta is the tomatoes must be ripe. If your tomatoes are not completely ripe ..... add olives, capers and celery with some lemon zest and make a tomato relish that compliments the tart tomatoes.
Each of these appetizers are colorful, tasty and so good for you. Such a great way to start a meal or perhaps as toppings for grilled fish or meats. I hope you try these and enjoy them as much as I do. The recipe's are below.
For the Gardiniera
Ingredients As pictured above.... 1 Head of Cauliflower, 2 Red Peppers, 2 Yellow Peppers, 1 Large Videlia Onion, 3 Large Carrots,4 Stalks Celery and 2-3 Long Hot Peppers. Seperate Cauliflower into pieces, slice red and yellow peppers into strips, slice onion in half and then in slices cut carrots into round pieces and cut hot peppers into small pieces as you don't want them as big as the vegetables. I use a big Corning ware dish but any glass dish is fine, do not use stainless or plastic. Next sprinkle 1/2 cup salt over vegetables and cover with cold water.Move them around to distribute the salt and then cover and refrigerate overnight. The next morning drain and rinse vegetables and put back into your big glass or corning container . In a 4 cup measuring cup measure 1 cup olive oil (I use Virgin not extra virgin and then add 1 cup white wine vinegar and 2 tablespoons dry oregano and a pich of crushed red pepper flakes and black pepper to taste. Next beat with a wisk mix quickly emulsifying the oil and vinegar and oregano together and pour over veggies and mix well so all are coated. Fill Glass jars with mixture and store in refigerator.
For the Escarole with Raisins and Pignoli
Discard outer leaves 1-2 Heads of Escarole. Cut in wide ribbons and submerge in cold water several times to wash away any dirt or sand. Next steam in a bout 3 cups water... I use 3 cups as later I use some for the appetizer and also enjoy drinking it as a Tea. In another frying pan toast 1/3 to 1/2 cup of pignoli in a dry frying pan till lightly colored and then remove. In the meantime soak 1/3 to to 1/2 cup raisins in cold water to plump up. White or Dark raisins is your preference. Both taste the same it just depends which ones you prefer. Next saute 3-4 cloves sliced fresh garlic and a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes till just a little color appears on the garlic and then add drained escaole and saute and cook for about 10 minutes. Next add raisins and pignoli nuts and simmer 5 more minutes. At this point add a little escarole water if you like and a good drizzle of extra viurgin olive oil . You dont want it soupy but the olive oil will glisten and act as a binder with the raisins and pignoli nuts, not to mention adding tremendous flavor. Remove from heat and let sit a bit 10-15 minutes to cool and allow all the flavors to absorb together. Serve on toasted breads, trying a grain bread from your baker or you could even use thick sliced rye bread or even pumpernickel. The key is toast so when you serve, the bread can hold up to the juice created by the olive oil .
For the Bruschetta
Simply dice your Ripe tomatoes and sprinkle with salt, pepper and a pinch of crushed fennel. Next add diced garlic and mix. Let sit so the juices release from the tomatoes and then add extra virgin olive oil and fresh parsley and basil to taste.
The amount of olive oil will depend on how many tomatoes you've diced. As a rule it should not swim in olive oil just enough to coat and thin with the juices of the tomato.
Enjoy your summer and try these tasty appetizers using the wonderful fresh vegetables of the season.
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