Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Antipasti Platter


"There are two kinds of people in the world, those who are Italian and those who wish they were."

I don't know who said it but, I am definitely in the "wish I was" category. I love the country, the food, the people,  the language.....the shoes!

Big Pete laughs at me because I will watch cooking shows on the Italian, Latino Channel even when they are in Italian. I watch Lidia Bastianich just so I can watch her eat at the end of each show and hear her say "Tutti a tavola a mangiare" (Everyone come to the table and eat!) My latest favourite show is Two Greedy Italians.

 I know...I am extremely weird.

Last week, for no special reason my sweet husband went to the Gourmet Warehouse in Vancouver. He bought me some beautiful olive oils, a 12 year old balsamic vinegar and some wonderful  Fran's Grey Salted Caramels. I just had to make him one of his favourite dinners to tell him I loved him for being so thoughtful!

Antipasti means before the meal and is intended to be an appetizer to get your taste buds going before the main meal. We always make the killer spread and make it the entire meal. I can't even show you everything in a single picture. This is great idea for a casual get together or cocktail party. Everything is all prepared and spread out so your guests can choose what they like and graze for ages. I like to do some cold things, a few hot items like dips or grilled meats, some fruits and veggies and something sweet.

It's easy and fun for a change.



Step 1: get out some large plates/platters. Start arranging "like" things together.  There are no rules here, put what you like out and arrange things in a manner that is pleasing to you. I have made several different plates.


Step 2: I have a selection of deli meats and cheeses on my main platter. I have used some hot soppresata, some dry cured salami, some honey ham, chunks of Parmesano Reggiano (always get the good stuff) a jar of artichokes in oil and vinegar, some tiny bocconcini cheeses with cherry tomatoes (I have added some oil and herbs, salt and pepper to them. I also had some jalapeno Havarti and some Fontina cheese. Use the things you like. If you don't eat pork use a turkey or chicken selection or some lightly grilled tuna or salmon that has been cooked and is served in a vinaigrette. 


Step 3: I have added some slices of fresh bread along with a variety of crackers to a basket lined with a napkin.


Step 4: this is my new bottle of 12 year old balsamic and some small bottles of good Olive oil. I put out bowls of each of the oils so people can dip their bread in them and drizzle some of the thick syrupy balsamic vinegar on top. I have a nice tin of Merula oil from Spain and a limited edition oil from Italy called Dominica Fiore. It's fun to taste the differences. A bottle of good balsamic will last you forever and although its expensive you use it in small amounts. I told you it was a present.(I guess he loves me too!) Enjoy some luxury in life from time to time. A good cheat is to buy a balsamic reduction for a much cheaper alternative, it will still give you a thick syrup consistency and also tastes wonderful on a piece of Parmesan. Try a piece of Parmesan with some honey and a few grains of ground coffee (Jamie Oliver told me that one!)


Step 5: I have a plate with some 4 year old prosciutto wrapped in a ripe melon and drizzled with balsamic vinegar. I have also put some fruit likes grapes and strawberries on this plate. You could use also use some fresh figs when you can find them. Whatever looks good when you are at the store or market.


Step 6: I have some small plates, one with hot chili jam that tastes great on a chunk of cheese or under a slice of meat. I have a variety of stuffed olives (some with garlic in the middle, some with chilies, some with lemon etc.) A nice idea is to get a selection of olives from the olive cart in the grocery store. Dress them at home with some fresh herbs, add some lemon zest , more olive oil and all of a sudden you have made them fancy. I have a small dish of pickled hot peppers and I have a small dish of roasted peppers (they come in a jar or make your own) that I have topped with goat cheese and melted briefly under the broiler.


Step 7 : a plate of vegetables in slices or chunks or both.


Step 8: I have added a few things that are served warm like my peppers and goat cheese and my grilled chevap(sausages- that I had frozen from another meal)  I have topped my sausages with lemon and olive oil for this meal.


Step 9: I toasted some toasted bread slices that have been rubbed with garlic a few times when they are hot. These little toasts (crostini) can be dipped in oil and sprinkled with some sea salt or used as an open faced sandwich. I like to serve a sparkling Prosecco (Italian sparkling wine) as a nice cocktail and you can get good Prosecco everywhere now at affordable prices.



Step 10: you can prepare a make ahead dessert like a Tiramisu or I have prepared a simple apple strudel 
(I know its not very Italian!) but its something sweet (Dolce) to end this smorgasbord!



So... if you want to prepare one plate and use it as a starter to a meal or create a table covered as the entire meal, try it! You can stand up or sit down and graze for hours. Add some nice Dean Martin music  and it's an instant party even if it's just the two of you!!! wink wink.

That's Amore!

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Mediterranean Lemon Chicken Pizza


"When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that's amore"


This is a surprising pizza made with ground chicken, the bright taste of lemon and fresh herbs.


You will need:

Dough:


  • 1 1/2 tsp regular yeast (not instant)
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water from tap
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt


Topping:


  • pizza sauce - take some crushed canned tomatoes, mix in some chili flakes, fresh garlic salt, pepper, some fresh basil  and parsley. Mix and use. Do not cook. 

*  or cook 1-2 fresh chopped tomatoes with garlic and chili flakes, salt and pepper for a few minutes -then process in a food processor.


  • 1/2 lb. ground chicken 
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1/2 onion chopped
  • 1 tsp chopped  fresh thyme
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh basil
  • 3 cloves garlic -chopped fine
  • lemon zest 2 tbsp
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning
  • chili flakes





\
Step 1: put warm water, honey and yeast in a bowl, stir and leave 10 minutes.


Step 2: add the flour and mix. Once it is too difficult, pour mix out on the counter, add salt and knead the dough until all the flour has been incorporated or the mix is no longer sticky to the touch. There is a point when the dough will no longer take any more flour. It can take 5 -8 minutes to get a smooth dough.


Step 3: put dough in a large bowl with some olive oil to avoid sticking. Roll the dough in oil so it is coated. Cover with plastic wrap.

 I  like to leave in fridge for at least 24 hours (up to 48 hours) it makes a better crust in my opinion. I find it makes a crust that is crusty on the outside and has a nice chewy interior. If you don't have time, you can make this a few hours before using. Let come to room temperature before using.


Step 4: when the dough is ready I remove from the bowl and divide into 2 balls


Step 5: on a large piece of parchment roll out a rough circle using flour as necessary.


Step 6: in some olive oil fry the chicken until lightly browned. Add balsamic vinegar, honey and Italian seasoning. Cook 2-3 minutes. Remove to a bowl and add chopped herbs, lemon zest, salt, pepper and additional chili flakes if you like.


Step 7: fry some finely chopped onion in olive oil


Step 8: add a thin layer of pizza sauce , then some mozzarella , then the chicken and cooked onions.

Step 9: bake at 500 degrees for approx 5 minutes , remove and let rest for 5 minutes. 


Monday, 27 February 2012

Pumpkin Doggy Biscotti



In the middle of one night, last summer...I heard a noise, like a scratch on the window downstairs.


Big Pete thinks I have bionic hearing like Jamie Sommers. (If you grew up in the 70's you watched the Bionic Woman and The Six Million Dollar Man every week )

 Jamie would put her hair behind her ear and then she would listen.......De,de,de,de,de,de,de,de,de (it made that sound too!!)

So, ......I go downstairs thinking something is fishy. I notice the motion sensor light is on and my hanging plant is swaying in the window outside . I look to the tree outside and notice no breeze. Either someone is trying to break into my house or.....I open the back door and look out and see a BLACK BEAR standing up at my fence eating out of my bird feeder!! "What the......I start clapping my hands loudly and running outside, chasing the bear. I am yelling to Big Pete who manages to look out the window as the bear is hopping the fence. He sits on top of my fence and stares at me for a few seconds before deciding to leave.

I think I heard him say " Hey Lady could you leave me a nice PIC-A-NIC basket next time!"

This is a sign we see when we drive to Whistler. When you live in BC you live in bear country. I learned last summer that you do not leave bird feeders up or else you are feeding the bears.


You can however, feed your favorite POOCH!!



What you will need:


  • 1 cup canned pumpkim puree (not pie filling-plain puree)
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla (never use the artificial -it's made from wood!)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 4 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup quick cook oats




Step 1: in a bowl whisk wet ingredients: pumpkin puree (any leftover can be frozen) honey, water, olive oil, egg, vanilla.


Step 2: add dry ingredients: flour, cinnamon, rolled oats. Stir with a wooden spoon until becomes too stiff. Dump mixture onto counter and knead until becomes a smooth dough and it no longer sticky. You may have a bit of flour leftover or you might need some more depending on the day/humidity.


Step 3: roll into log that is 2 inches wide. This recipe will make a 2 foot log so if you find it easier to work with a smaller piece cut in half. Press to flatten log.


Step 4: slice into thin biscotti


Step 5: bake at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes. Then remove from oven and flip over. Return for additional 15-20 minutes until brown. Let cool completely and store in an air tight container for a softer cookie or let dry exposed for a rock hard cookie.


 Your favorite pooch will love you!!





Sunday, 26 February 2012

Bruschetta Al Tonno- from Sara Moulton


I was watching Sara Moulton's weeknight meals and she made a simple tuna and bean bruscetta on some big slices of toasted Italian bread. This is my version which made a wonderful light lunch on a lazy Saturday afternoon. It's all the things I love with fish, lemon and olive oil and fresh herbs. I made mine on some baguette crostinis. and this is showing another great idea if you choose to eat it on a whole wheat pita.

You Will Need:


  • can of tuna in olive oil
  • 14 oz can of cannellini beans 
  • 2 tbsp chopped capers
  • 1/4 red onion sliced
  • 1 lemon juiced
  • 1 tomato
  • salt and pepper
  • olive oil
  • garlic clove for toasted bread
  • slices of toasted bread




Step 1: start with a good quality tuna in olive oil. Estevan is a local British Columbia company that fishes in sustainable ways. There are some excellent Italian canned  tuna in olive oils as well. I also used a small can (14 oz) of Cannellini beans which for some reason I can only ever find in the organic section of my grocery stores.


Step 2: rinse the beans and drain the oil and flake the tuna (I like to add my own olive oil to the salad)

Step3: chop tomato, parsley, capers and red onions.

Step 4: gently mix all ingredients to avoid completely crushing the tuna.

Step 5: squeeze lemon, add olive oil, salt and pepper. Taste it! if you need to adjust do it now.


Step 6: slice and toast bread. Rub a piece of garlic 2 or 3 times over the hot toasted bread. Then top with tuna mix and enjoy!

terrible picture I was having a problem with my camera and used my phone.

Bought a new camera and I am back in business again!



Saturday, 25 February 2012

Halibut Nuggets and Chopped Salad


When I was a kid it was a real treat to have fish and chips for dinner. We went to the Parkside Fish and Chips shop ( named because it was on the same side of the street as the park!) You got a huge chunk of battered halibut for 75 cents and a big order of chips for 25 cents. Your order came all wrapped up in newspaper and you had to run home (which was exactly 3 minutes away) so that your fish and chips were still crunchy. We ate them with salt and malt vinegar and  occasionally a blob of ketchup to dip the fries. Prices have certainly changed ! Halibut is no longer cheap but, it is still a great treat to have it.

 Ahhh..I can smell the vinegar in my nose right now, pure heaven.

In this recipe the chunks of Halibut are breaded and served over a finely chopped salad with a pineapple chutney as a dipping/topping. Halibut is freshly caught where I live but still crazy expensive. 



What you will need:




Halibut

  • halibut (If frozen thaw in fridge)
  • 1/2 cup flour( more if necessary)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1 tbsp zest of orange
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tbsp Old Bay seafood seasoning 


Salad

  • 2-3 cups romaine lettuce finely sliced
  • 1-2 tomatoes chopped to fine dice
  • 1 English cucumbers (aka hot house) chopped fine
  • 2 green onions/scallions chopped
  • 1 small zucchini grated
  • 3 radishes grated


Salad Dressing

  • 1/2  orange- juiced
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 tbsp cider vinegar
  • salt/pepper


Chutney

  • 2 cups pineapple chopped 
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped red onion
  • 1/2 orange- juiced
  • 1 tbsp chopped cilantro
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp lime juice


oil for frying (grapeseed or canola)






Step 1: buy Halibut  from a reputable fish monger. You can use frozen fish that has thawed in the fridge  I have used a piece that is 0.324 kg which is 324 grams or 11.4 oz or 0.714 lbs. I told you it was expensive!


Step 2: chop into large chunks


Step 3: set up the standard 3 dish method for breading something. In one bowl have flour and old bay seasoning, in the second bowl 1 or 2 eggs whisked and in the third bowl some breadcrumbs and orange zest.

Step 4: pat fish with paper towel to dry. Toss chunks in flour until coated, then toss all chunks into the egg mixture, then finally coat in breadcrumbs and set aside on plate.


Step 5: Prepare chopped salad. I Iike that all the ingredients are finely grated or chopped. You can use whatever you like in your salad. I have used finely sliced romaine lettuce, chopped cucumber. chopped tomato, green onion, grated zucchini (just on a box grater) and grated radishes.


Step 6: prepare salad dressing in a small bowl with a lid (or a clean jar) so you can shake to emulsify. Add olive oil, apple cider vinegar, squeeze half an orange add a bit of honey, salt and pepper. Reserve until right before serving.


Step 7: to prepare pineapple chutney sauce. Chop fresh pineapple (I had some leftover from a few days earlier when I made a ham and pineapple pizza) into small chunks, add red onion, fresh cilantro, soy sauce, orange juice, lime juice and cook few minutes until soft. Then puree in food processor until still has some texture. put in a small bowl and reserve.


Step 8: fry fish in grapeseed or canola oil. Use an oil with a higher smoke point than my normal olive oil. It doesn't have to be too much oil. You can use a deep heavy pot and just enough oil to almost cover the chunks. Allow the oil to be hot before adding fish I use a thermometer and fry at 350. If you don't have a thermometer you can toss in a tiny piece of fish to see if it instantly sizzles. If  it is hot enough it will sizzle, if not wait. Fry until the chunks are browned. Remove and put on paper to cool slightly. Add salt to fish immediately after coming out of oil. 


I like this as an alternative to fish and chips. Halibut is such a meaty fish and the subtle orange in the batter as well as the brightness of the pineapple chutney really play well on this mild fish.