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.
The Christmas Holidays are my favorite! A special time to celebrate with Family and Friends. The best memories and traditions for me were always centered around the table and the delicious foods we prepared. I have been trying out new ideas for stuffed breads and made this Cipollini and Spinach one today.
For the Dough: 2 1/2 to 3 cups Flour, 1 cup warm water 110 degrees, 1pkg yeast, 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon sugar. Pour pkg of yeast into water and stir to combine and add salt, olive oil and sugar. I use Fleischmann’s Rapid Rise Yeast. Let proof for 3 to 5 minutes. Next put the flour in a bowl and make a well in the center. Pour in your proofed yeast and form the dough into a ball making sure to get all the flour incorporated. If it is too wet and sticky add some more flour. Next knead the dough making sure you dust your hands with flour so the dough is not sticking to your hands. It will get softer and more pliable after a few minutes and then when done about 3 to 5 minutes, form into a ball and put in a bowl that you have greased with oil. Cover with a towel or plastic wrap and let double in size about 45 minutes to an hour.
For the Filling: Saute 6-8 Cipollini onions till soft and translucent adding Salt, Pepper, Parsley, Crushed red Pepper (optional), poppy seeds, sesame seeds and Romano Cheese. Set aside to cool.
Prepare one pkg frozen Leaf Spinach and let cool.
Next coursely chop spinach and add to the onions.
Punch down dough and roll out to a large oval. Put 1/2 the filling down the middle and then fold one side over filling and put remaing half of filling on the side you just folded. Then fold remaing piece over filling and tuck in over the other side. Next bring ends togother and form ring. Place on parchment paper and cover with towel and let rise for about 10-15 minutes. Put an egg wash over the top and sprinkle with Poppy Seeds and Sesame Seeds.
Bake at 400 degrees for about 30 to 40 minutes (depnding on your oven) till light brown. Let cool and then enjoy !
Every Season brings change to our daily routines but one stable in my kitchen regardless of the weather is Meatballs. From Sunday Dinners simmered in Sauce, to Meatball Parmigiana Heros or just grilled, baked or fried! I enjoy them once a week for sure!
In the summer my favorite Meatball is made with Tuna, Raisins and Pignoli Nuts. I tried the recipe after reading it in one of my favorite books, Cucina Siciliana by Clarissa Hyman. History, Recipes, and Sicilian Proverbs along with expressive pictures make it enjoyable each time I pick it up.
Make a batch of the Tuna Polpette and pair it with grilled vegetables or simple sauteed Greens like escarole or kale and a tomato salad with artichokes hearts and enjoy the carefree days of Summer. Don't forget a glass of chilled white wine and some great Italian music !
For the Polpette: 1 lb Fresh or Frozen Tuna, 2 eggs,a handful of Parsley,1 clove Garlic finely chopped,1/2 cup Pignoli (pine nuts), 1/4 cup raisins or currants,1 cup Breadcrumbs, 1 1/3 Cups Parmesan Cheese, Zest of 1/2 lemon( I use a whole Lemon Zest)2 Tablespoons Chopped Mint,Salt,Olive oil.
Finely chop Tuna (if using a food processor be careful not to mix into a paste). Mix the eggs, parsley, garlic, pine nuts, raisins, breadcrumbs, cheese, lemon zest, mint and some salt into the Tuna. Shape the mixture into meatballs and coat with the extra breadcrumbs flattening lightly. Heat some olive oil in a frying pan and cook over medium heat making sure they are browned on both sides and cooked through.
Curly and Straight although opposite, paired beautifully for my vegetable Conorno (side dish) at Dinner last night. Being in New York always put me in a creative mode for cooking and presenting. With the weather being so cold I decided to grab Pork Chops and Fresh String beans for a quick easy dinner. Add a Salad and a Glass of Wine and sit back and enjoy. I was delighted to find a Cauliflower in my Daughter's refrigerator when I got home and decided to incorporate it with the String beans. I loved the visual of curly and straight!
Instead of Television I turned on NPR radio so we could listen and relax while eating. When your eyes are on your food you can truly Relish(LOL) and take time to admire the presentation of colors and shapes that become artwork on your plate. I don't invent the wheel when creating dishes but rather spin the ingredients and hope for a Masterpiece!
I could not end this post without sharing that by the time Stephanie came home for dinner, I was sketching the String beans and Cauliflower in my mind as the background for a Dish towel for the Britalia Way line coming soon!
What a tremendous Holiday we had and what delicious food we tasted. They always say pictures are worth more than a thousand words so here they are. You will see we take our Pasta seriously and while in Italy had it almost everyday. With all the walking we were able to burn it off or that’s what I told myself everyday LOL!
Oh yes that old cliché Less is More and how true, how true! I decided last December as the New Year was upon us I would try a new approach to Resolutions for 2014. My son Stephen suggested to have monthly resolutions and spread them out over the Year! I thought what a great idea and then I would not feel so bad about giving up so easily. Well anyway my first resolution was not to deprive myself, rather introduce myself to changing my dietary needs. Rather than to overcarb as my personal choice has been, to actually reward myself with a new unique carb and limit it to once a week and making the pleasure not only a gastronomic delight but taking the time to enjoy the moment! For the month of January the experience came about when I went to meet my good friend Adelina for Tea and the Tea House was closed, so we stopped at a French Patisserie and I had my first Gibassier. It was truly love at first bite and I will forever savor the moment not only for the taste of the delicate French pastry but the lovely shop with its European Decor with Blackboards, Metal tables, French music and the aviance that is so French! The walls were white with local artists paintings and baskets of Bread everywhere and the most beautiful pastry’s I have ever seen. The decision was to try a chocolate cookie and gibassier and we would split them between us. Well we had the Gibassier first and as we both took our first bite the smile of sweet satisfaction was unbelievable. Adelina is Italian and a tremendous Baker. I look forward to Christmas and Easter when she sends over a taste of the treats she has baked. She remarked right away of the delicate taste of orange that married so well with the fennel in this delicate French pastry. We then had the cookie which was also wonderful but the taste of the Gibassier was unforgettable and I knew I would return to have another the next week. I went home and researched the French pastry and read about its origin generations ago from Lourmarin village in Provence. It has been said to be named after the mountains Le Gibas which form part of the village’s horizon. The pairing of Orange Blossom water, anise seed and olive oil lend a unique taste as well as a texture that being the cross between a danish and bread. The olive oil allows it to stay moist and does add a good fat right??? LOL! I realize I’m going on and on about a single pastry but after I read all the articles I seem to be lucky to have tasted this delightful treat as it is not available all over. It requires a preferment (starter dough) and patience. I laughed at one article, that wrote it could create a cult like following if your lucky to find them. I fully agree and immediately called my nephew Sal (the chef and baker) and he visited two weeks later with a starter dough and completed the dough the next morning and baked them for our dessert that evening.
They were delicious and he agreed with me that a single serving of something great is far better than several of things that are just good! But remember before just trying one please play some French music and place it on a beautiful plate and sit back and enjoy the moment! Here we are enjoying a Martini waiting for the Gibassier that were baking!
Happy Happy New Year to all my Family and Friends! I hope you all enjoyed your Christmas Holidays as much as our Family did this year and are looking forward to a great 2014! We were so lucky to have spent Christmas in New York City and then came back and rang in the New Year in Florida! Part of the fun this year was the quest to find the perfect Martini! Each Holiday along with new ideas for recipes, I also like to try a new cocktail. There’s something magical about white twinkling lights, glittery clothes and a Dry Martini with olives straight up not stirred. Even the glass evokes that feeling of the old days of New York City when style was elegant and traditional cocktails were enjoyed. A simple Martini or Manhattan compared to the LI Iced Tea and Apple Martini’s of today LOL!
Well anyway I had four separate occasions where I tried one and the best one for me was a Dirty Martini with olives. Creating special moments and enjoying conversation is a lost art and I’m happy to be part of a movement to restore the art of relaxing.
My Family and I created a host of Christmas Memories starting with a Christmas Concert at St Patrick’s Cathedral, several trips to see the Tree at Rockefeller Center and enjoying the Christmas Market at Bryant Park. Our first Saturday my Sister in law Terry, her Daughter Kathleen and her two granddaughters Samantha and Jessica came for dinner. I created a Pasta dish with fennel, onion, roasted peppers and swiss chard that I named Christmas Chitarra. I will post the recipe on In the Kitchen at the top of the page. On Christmas Eve we took a horse and carriage ride around Central Park, and then walked over to the lobby of the Plaza Hotel and took our picture with their Christmas tree and of course the picture of Eloise. We then went back to Stephanie’s apartment and had the Feast of the Seven Fishes for dinner, an Italian tradition. We had Fried Calamari and Baked Clams for appetizers. Next was Linguine with Shrimp and Mussels in a Marinara sauce, followed by Codfish, Fresh Tuna and Scallops baked in the oven. The Tuna was plain with a little extra virgin olive oil, capers and lemon and the scallops and codfish had olive oil, butter, breadcrumbs, lemon and parsley. After we finished our delicious Feast and cleaned up, we walked to the local Catholic Church and went to Midnight mass.
Christmas Day we took the train to New Jersey to visit our niece and nephew Peggy and Dominick and two of their sons Nicky and Dom. Peggy’s Brother Gerard and his wife Dee and Daughter Kaitlyn were there, and he made my first great Martini ! Well Gerard being a great Bartender jumped up and before you knew it viola a martini with olives in a special glass and I was sipping away and then out came all these Martini stories from everybody. It really was a riot how everyone knew someone that drank them and the consensus was I should only have one! The three Martini lunch that they all referred to must have been crazy! They were right as its quite strong but its something you sip and should appreciate! Its actually so festive in a stemmed glass and I felt great being the guest and just having fun and was living out those Queen like moments again. LOL! We had a lovely ham dinner and a Holiday bread I made stuffed with Sausage and Vegetables. Later on my husbands Brother Sonny stopped by with his wife and we had a nice visit.The time flew by so quickly and we were back in Manhattan the next morning but not before we reminisced about a Christmas we spent three years ago. Innocent snow flurries turned into an accumulation of 27 inches the day after Christmas. We were stranded for three days but had so much fun! Thursday evening my husband and I had dinner with a friend of his since elementary school Mike and his wife Betty. We decided on a local Italian restaurant and I had Bucatini amatriciano and my husband had gnocchi. Our next food adventure was Friday when my son Stephen and I took a trip to Williamsburgh Brooklyn to the famous Acme smoked Fish Market. It is only open to the Public on Friday mornings from 9 to 1pm. They ship smoked Salmon all over the United States. We tasted several samples and were on our way after getting Gravlox, Pastrami Lox, Plain Peppered Nova,smoked White Fish Salad and Herring. Check back again to read a post I’m going to write about Acme Fish market. Later we met Gerard downtown at Jim Brady’s for Lunch and I had my second Martini a dirty-one made with the olive juice straight up and I really enjoyed it! Friday night our nephew and his new Bride Nicole came to the apartment and I made Pork Tenderloins for Dinner. My husband made Martinis that evening and Nicole and I rated them high on the scale too! It was a full day and so much fun. Being on vacation gives you energy you seem to lose at home right? Well Saturday was spent with Friends going to Grand Central Station for sandwiches and cheesecake at Juniors. Next we walked back to Rockefeller Center to see the Tree for one more time and listen to the Music and watch the light show on the building at Saks Fifth Avenue.
As we flew back to Florida we all thought how nice it will be to enjoy the peace and quiet of our little town and enjoy the Palm Trees and walks down by the Jetty. We are truly blessed to live in a lovely town and still get to see New York as well. By the way my fourth Martini was Sunday night as my Daughter said she wanted a try at making me one as well. She did a great job and chose a Tomato Vodka and used the olive juice and olives for garnish and it was so delicious. What an exciting Christmas vacation! We lived in the moment enjoying delicious food and lively conversations with our Family and Great Friends. Now we look forward to the celebration of Little Christmas on Jan 6 ( Italian tradition). Then we will pack away all our glittery ornaments and think of all the wonderful memories we will make in 2014 which I’m sure will include a good Martini! LOL!
Years ago when I was first married I enjoyed our weekend trips into Brooklyn and having Sunday dinner with the family. I was born and raised on Long Island where you drove to stores and really enjoyed the contrast of the tight knit community’s of the City. I loved all the little Grocery stores, Butchers and Bakeries and watching the interaction between the owners and their customers was really nice! Most of the owners knew their customers by first names as you had to walk home with your grocery’s, so you frequented the local stores for convenience. One such place was Georges Meat Market in my Husbands neighborhood. It was a Butcher shop that also carried some Italian grocery’s although not too many, as there was Tonys Grocery store across the street and both had their own territory so to speak! One day my mother in law asked me to go get some Black Coffee. She always would say after a big Sunday afternoon meal shall I make Demitasse? She always referred to black coffee or espresso as Demitasse. Another word lost in the shuffle remember when Pasta was referred to as macaroni! Well anyway she asked me to tell them to give me my darling daughters coffee as she thought I wouldn’t remember the brand Medaglia d’Oro Coffee. She was so cute. I walked over and asked for it like she said and they all burst out laughing. I actually thought it was funny too but decided it was better to remember the name for the next time. Several weeks later I went over to the market for a few items for Mama and while on line (it was really busy) I decided to have some fun with the owners son Frankie. I leaned over the counter and in front of a big line yelled out”‘hey Frankie did you say the Italian bread was 4 for a Dollar?” I had seen the sign for 2 for a Dollar but wanted to have some fun teasing him. Well at that minute all the people dove off line to get the Bread. It was so funny to see the look on his face from smiling to shock (OK you know what I mean) and then back to laughing out loud and he said OK we’re even now for all of us laughing at you for the coffee! It was really a great moment that I will always remember that made me feel connected to the store and with Frankie and now considered a regular. Oh and by the way I did offer to pay for the bread that “I” had put on sale, but his reply was absolutely not and I could still hear him laughing as I walked out the Door. After that day whenever I walked into the Shop he would look at me and give me a wink and then wave his finger and said Be Good today! Although George’s shop closed and has since reopened with new owners, on a recent visit as we passed I think I could still hear the laughter coming from behind the counter! Such Happy Memories!
What a great Holiday week it has been! Last week at this time I was anticipating the arrival of my Daughter Stephanie and my nephew Sal. It is hard to believe it has come and gone although the extra pounds I put on are still reminders of all the great food we enjoyed. From the onset of making the pumpkin, mince and apple pies, mince tarts and homemade Blue Cheese crackers and Britalia Way stuffed bread, we laughed and reminisced of years past. The recipe for the Britalia Way bread will be on In the Kitchen above. The stuffed bread combines ground pork with Italian Sausage and Stilton Blue Cheese. The bread is a pizza recipe dough rolled thin and then stuffed. As usual the time passes so quickly and we were up baking pies till 2am! It was then a marathon the next day to get the Turkeys one traditional and one smoked (prepared by my son Stephen) in the oven and smoker and then prepare all the great side dishes while watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade then followed by the Purina Dog Show. Now you have to imagine my nephew Sal, a Hyde Park Culinary Graduate trying to maintain a level of productivity by assigning Kitchen stations and prep work while keeping an eye on the clock to stay on schedule. I on the other hand was flying around in my usual whimsical way creating my Britalia Way holiday bread with a Bloody Mary in my Hand! LOL! We all know everyone will be happy and not really care if Dinner is a little late, rather having a fun story to gossip about the following week! We pulled it off and Cocktails and Canapes (OK so sausage bread is not really considered a canape but you get the picture) were enjoyed by all (12 of us)! With lively conversations and a tour of the Garden the day was so much fun! I’ve posted pictures in the gallery for you to check out. A special thank you to Joe for the great cookies and wine Biscuits and Pennsylvania Potato Pudding! Thanks to my Brother Bob for a delicious Caprese Salad, and Sherry for the great Pickled Shrimp and beautiful Peace plant. Thanks Stephen for getting up extra early to get the Turkey in the smoker and making the delicious Oyster Stuffing. I always conclude Dinner with a toast that the meal was only exceeded by the charm of the company and this was so true! Thanks to my husband Rocky, Stephanie, Stephen, Bob, Sal, Joe, Dave, Roy, Mike, Sherry and Terry!
As I begin preparations for the big Turkey feast this year I am always reminded of my turkey in the snow story! Years ago living in New York we had a bad ice storm and lost our power. It was late in February so there was no need to panic as it was so cold outside ( as well as inside, LOL) so I decided to take out my Frozen Turkey and pack it in a snow drift to keep frozen! The storm knocked out our power for seven days, leaving us a lot of food to cook quickly. No problem as we had natural gas to cook with, so I called several friends and invited them to dinner.The evening of the impromptu dinner “party” we regained our power, so half the meal was cooked outside on the grill and half inside . I think what made it so special was that we were all together without expectations, sharing and caring and probably had more fun because of the circumstances! I always find myself running around before Thanksgiving worrying is this enough or is that what they will like, or will I be able to get it all done and still have a good time? You all know what I mean, it’s stressful just thinking about it now a few days in advance. Tomorrow I will start shopping and meet friends and neighbors in the store and will laugh and talk about the same concerns and then the day will arrive and all our traditions of running around getting it all together will happen! There will be lively conversations, laughter and a sharing of a great meal regardless if the turkey is dry, or the gravy didn’t pan out and we used Franco American Gravy or at the last minute we forgot the Peas in the microwave! Once again this memory will include remembering our past traditions and loved ones and creating a new chapter to be recalled in years to come.
Oh and by the way……….. Remember the Frozen Turkey in the snow well we found it thawed out several weeks later right behind the shed where we had put it! After the snow had melted I looked out and thought what is that in the black garbage bag and then I remembered. We still laugh at how we could have forgot that we put it there!
Welcome to Britalia Way! Thanks for stopping by. Please join me as I share with you a series about food, people and experiences that are special to me. English and Italian traditions are so enticing and were the inspiration for creating Britalia Way!
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