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LINDA’S BRUNCH CHICKEN LIVERS

Brunch -chicken livers 2

This is a great quick brunch idea. The chicken livers are spiked with a little Marsala which offers a little sweetness. Begin by making your scrambled eggs and adding a little goat cheese to them. YUM! Then make the chicken livers. Next – head for the patio – breathe the fresh air – add a Bellini or three and…

Serves: 2

Prep: about 20 minutes

1/4 lb. chicken livers, patted dry with paper towels

Some flour for dredging seasoned with salt and pepper

2 slices bacon

Handful wild mushrooms

1 Tbsp. Butter

1/4 C. Marsala

1/2 C. Cooked peas

Salt and Pepper to taste

Parsley garnish

Dredge the chicken livers in the flour mixture

Cook the bacon and remove when crisp.

In the bacon fat, cook the livers on one side and then add the mushrooms and the Marsala.

Cook about 5 minutes, stirring.

Add the cooked peas

Add the salt and pepper to taste and the 1 Tbsp. Butter. Heat through to melt the butter.

Garnish with fresh parsley and serve with the scrambled Eggs.

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A luscious Holiday Delight combining two popular recipes!

Dark Chocolate Torta Caprese Style and Peppermint Gelato with Dark Chocolate!

dessert 3 with script

You can make both recipes ahead! Make your Dark Chocolate Torta and freeze. Thaw a few hours before serving and cut  a portion of it into cubes. Make your Peppermint and Dark Chocolate Gelato ahead and freeze as well. When ready to serve, place a couple of scoops of the gelato into a pretty martini or wine glass and add the cubes of the torta, Top with a candy cane or some crushed peppermint candy – or some chocolate sauce! Easy and festive!

Crema Al Mascarpone

Crema al Mascarpone with script

This is an amazing drink from the North of Italy, specifically Lombardia. It is traditionally served in a lovely glass, although a spoon might be a good idea! This is thick and luscious – not unlike egg nog. Alternative ways to serve this delicious treat: over grilled peaches, poached pears, strawberries, or even cake. Lovely for holidays or anytime! It is truly memorable.

 Makes: about 2 cups

 8 oz. Mascarpone

¼ C. Sugar

2 Egg Yolks – beaten until light

1/8 tsp. Cinnamon

2 Egg Whites – beaten stiff

¼ C. Rum or Brandy or Cognac

Crumbled Amaretti Cookies or Biscotti for garnish

 Mix the Mascarpone with sugar, beaten yolks, cinnamon, and liquor.

Fold in the beaten egg whites.

Chill overnight or for several hours

Spoon into martini glasses or wine glasses or use as shooters!! Top with crumbled cookies.

If using with fruit or cake – try a drizzle of dark chocolate! Bellissima!

Italian Green Bean and Potato Salad

Green Bean and Potato Salad - with script - small

This is the old Italian Green Bean Salad we remember from our youth. Simple really – but so good, so fresh, and so memorable. It just compliments almost any meal. French Haricots Verts were used for the demo, but regular fresh green beans are perfect. 

Serves: about 4

1 lb. Fresh Green Beans

2 Large Yukon Gold Potatoes ( skins on or off)

1/2 Medium Red Onion sliced thinly

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Juice of a fresh Lemon

Salt and Pepper to taste

Chopped Fresh Parsley for garnish

OPTION: Try adding some crumbled Blue Cheese or Gorgonzola – WOW!

Cook your green beans and potatoes – and cool.

Cut potatoes in chunky larger pieces – not small.

Mix beans, potatoes, and onion gently together.

Drizzle with Extra Virgin Olive Oil – use your best for this!

Squeeze on the fresh lemon juice and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.

Top with parsley. (Add the crumbled cheese if using)

 

Strawberry Shortcake with an Italian Twist

Shortcake (2)

It’s the easiest thing really! Make shortcake as you like with sponge cake, pound cake, or biscuits. Add SAMBUCA to your strawberries and WOW! It really makes a difference. Sambuca is an anise flavored Italian liqueur. That little injection of anise flavor really gives it a “shot”!  Just top it with some whipped cream and.. fantastico!

Serves: about 4

4 Cups Sliced Fresh Strawberries

2 Tbsp. Sugar

2 Tbsp. Sambuca (you can substitute with a little anise extract)

Cake, sponge cake, or biscuits

Whipped Cream

Make your shortcake as you normally like it. The difference is in the berries. Mix the fresh sliced berries with the sugar and Sambuca and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Put your shortcake together in layers – with the berries and whipped cream!

Pi Fasaac With Blueberries

Pi Fasaac-Pasta w blueberries-finish

Pi Fasaac means “swaddled newborns”. This unusually shaped pasta comes from Lombardia and contains taleggio, grana padano, ricotta, and lemon. Any cheese filled or lemon and cheese filled pasta would work with this recipe. The lemon and blueberries compliment each other to make a sauce that has only a hint of the natural sweetness of the berries. It is NOT a sweet sauce!

Serves: 2

1/2 lb. Filled Pasta – Pi Fasaac, Tortelloni, or other cheese filled pasta – cooked

4 Tbsp. Butter

2 Tbsp. Fresh Thyme or Lemon Thyme Leaves

Juice of  1/2 Lemon ( I like Meyer Lemon for this if you can get it.)

Grated zest of 1/2 Lemon

1/2 C. Whole Fresh Blueberries

Salt and pepper to taste

Grated Montasio Cheese (Montasio is a mild cheese from the Veneto region – perfect for this dish. If unavailable – use Parmigiano)

Fresh Basil for garnish

In a pan, melt butter over medium high heat to lightly brown – add Thyme, lemon juice, lemon zest, blueberries, salt and pepper to taste.

Stir in the blueberries – cook just long enough to warm. Do not overcook and burst the berries.

Add pasta to the pan and toss.

Add fresh basil for garnish.

Serve with grated cheese – FANTASTICO!

Pasta Ripiena – Cima di Rappa and Arugula Sauce

Cima di Rappa - finish

The Cima di Rappa is actually Turnip Greens. You can use this pasta with Turnip Greens or any cheese filled or cheese and greens filled pasta. The Arugula is a peppery green that cooks quickly and is perfect with this preparation along with the traditional Italian addition of red pepper flakes with greens.

Serves: 2

1/2 lb. Cima di Rappa Pasta or any filled pasta with cheese or cheese and greens – cooked

2 Tbsp. Butter

2 Tbsp. Olive Oil

1 Clove Fresh Garlic – chopped

1/8 Tsp. Red Pepper Flakes – or more if you like heat!

2 1/2 C. Fresh Arugula

Salt and pepper to taste

Grated Pecorino cheese to serve

Place all ingredients, except the pasta, in a pan over medium high heat.

Cook quickly until greens are just tender – they will turn a beautiful dark green.

This takes just a few minutes.

Add the pasta to the pan and toss.

Serve with grated Pecorino cheese.

Cjalzons With Currants and Hazelnuts

Cjalsones with currants and nuts-finish

These Cjalsons are fig, raisin, and smoked ricotta filled pasta from Friuli in the North of Italy. They are slightly sweet and do well with a brown butter sauce with sage. If this pasta is not available to you, try the sauce with a sweeter filled pasta like butternut squash or sweet potato.  I have added currants and hazelnuts. These are simply amazing!

Serves: 2

1/2 lb. Cjalsones or other sweeter filled pasta like butternut squash or sweet potato – cooked

4 Tbsp. butter

2 Tbsp. Fresh sage coarsely chopped or use the whole leaves – your preference

1/4 c. Dried Currants or Raisins

1/4 c. Chopped Hazelnuts – coarsely chopped

Salt and pepper

Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padano

Place the butter, sage, currants or raisins, and hazelnuts to the pan. Let the butter brown lightly. The sage will crisp.

This takes just a couple of minutes.

Add salt and pepper to taste.

Add the pasta to the pan and toss.

Serve with the grated Parmigiano or Grana Padano.

Deviled Eggs with Orange Walnut Pesto and Sun Dried Tomatoes

Eggs Deviled Pesto -

 Makes: 12 halves

 6 Hard Boiled Eggs, peeled and sliced lengthwise in half

¼ C. Orange Walnut Pesto (See below for the Recipe)

¼ C. Sun Dried Tomatoes, packed in oil, chopped into small pieces

1 Tbsp. Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese, grated

1 Tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil, if needed, to moisten + a little more for drizzle

Salt and Pepper to taste

Scoop out the yolks, place in bowl, and mash with a fork.

 Make the Orange Walnut Pesto from the recipe below.

 This pesto recipe will make more than you need. You can use the remaining pesto for a delicious pasta or with roast chicken!

 Mix in pesto, tomatoes, Parmigiano, and olive oil, if needed, to moisten.

 Spoon mixture  onto the egg white halves.

 Drizzle with Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

 Orange Walnut Pesto

Orange Pesto

 Makes: about 1 – 1  1/2 cups

 1 fresh Garlic Clove – chopped

¾ C. Toasted Walnuts

2 C. Fresh Basil Leaves

1 Tbsp. Fresh Parsley

1 Tbsp. Orange Zest

1 Tbsp. Fresh Orange Juice

¾ C. Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese

¾ C. Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Place all ingredients except oil into a blender or processor. Blend while gradually adding oil in a stream.

 When finished, taste for seasoning, and add salt and pepper as desired.

 If dry, add a little more oil.

 Can refrigerate for a couple days, but better used fresh.

 You also can freeze it!

 When using for deviled eggs, save the remaining pesto for a great pasta or chicken dish!

FONTINA POTATOES

A “side” for any occasion!)

Potatoes and Pears

Serves: 4

Prep: 15 minutes

Cook: 45 minutes (approx.)

2 Medium Potatoes ( I like Yukon Gold), peeled

1 Large Sweet Potato, peeled

1 Pear, peeled

Salt and Pepper

½ C. Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Montasio Cheese

1 1/2 C. Grated Fontina Cheese

¾ c. Whole milk

Slice your peeled potatoes, sweet potatoes, and pear VERY thinly.

Oil a baking dish.

Make a layer of potatoes and sweet potatoes together. Add salt and pepper.

Sprinkle with ¼ c. Parmigiano and follow with ¾ c. Fontina.

Next add a layer of the sliced pear.

Place one last layer of potatoes and sweet potatoes over the pear.

Add salt and pepper to taste.

Finally, sprinkle with the remaining Parmigiano and Fontina.

Pour the milk over the top.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes until potatoes are fork tender and top is golden.

Remove from the oven and serve hot!

HOT WINTER TEA  AL LIMONE

Tea w Limoncello

A lovely lemony winter tea for a cold afternoon or evening by the fire!

1 C. Boiling Water

1 Teabag – Earl Grey Tea

1 oz. Limoncello

1 Lemon Zest Twist

1 Cinnamon Stick

(Add sugar only if you like it sweeter – I don’t!)

Pour boiling water over your tea bag and add the cinnamon stick in a cup or glass mug.

Let steep for 5 minutes.

Remove the tea bag and discard.

Add the Limoncello and lemon twist.

Stir with the cinnamon stick and leave it in the tea. Enjoy!

FREEZING TOMATOES

 This is a great method for preserving those beautiful summer tomatoes from your garden or your farmer’s market. It is easy and doesn’t require too much in the way of equipment and time like canning.

All you need are containers that will seal tight (plastic is fine), good ripe fresh tomatoes, fresh basil, and a food processor or blender.

 I like to freeze about 3-4 pounds of tomatoes per container, so that I know that each container holds enough to make sauce for about a pound of pasta. Even if I use the tomatoes for something else, it is just easier to know that each container holds about the same amount.

 First – boil water in a pot big enough to hold the 3-4 pounds of tomatoes. When the water is at a rolling boil, add the whole tomatoes and let them boil in the water for about a minute.

 

 Next – remove the tomatoes and let them cool down until they are easy to handle and will not burn your fingers.

 

 Removing the skins – This is so easy. Just touching the tomatoes with your fingers or a fork loosens the skins so they slide right off. Discard the skins.

 Drop the tomatoes into the bowl of your food processor or blender. Now give them just a couple of quick turns. I don’t like my tomatoes reduced to a fine pulp, so just a couple of pulses is enough.

Pour the tomatoes into your container and add a large sprig of fresh basil. This infuses the tomatoes with the beautiful essence of the basil. When you finally cook with them, you can leave the basil sprig in the sauce, and it only enhances the flavor.

 Now seal the top of your container tightly and freeze until you are ready to use them. They will be all ready to go!

MARINARA SAUCE OR SAUCE POMODORO USING YOUR FROZEN FRESH TOMATOES

 This is a very simple Sauce Pomodoro- as it should be. You’ll find recipes that use more ingredients, but “gilding the lily” is not really required. Don’t complicate it. Let those tomatoes shine!

 Makes enough sauce for about a pound of pasta

 3-4 lb. Fresh Ripe Tomatoes defrosted (Previously frozen and prepared as directed in my instructions for freezing tomatoes)

3 Tbsp. Olive Oil

3 Cloves Fresh Garlic, chopped finely

Kosher Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper to taste

4 Tbsp. Chopped Fresh Basil

 Saute garlic in olive oil for about a minute. Do not let the heat get too high and burn the garlic!

 Add the defrosted tomatoes to the pan.

 Add the salt and pepper to taste.

 Add the chopped fresh basil.

 Bring to a bubble and simmer steadily at medium heat about 25 minutes or until the water is cooked off leaving a thick concentrated tomato sauce. Be sure to give it enough time to cook off the liquid.

 Taste again for seasoning and adjust if necessary.

 This a great sauce for Capellini, Linguine, or Pasta Fresca, as in the photo. It is the basis for a “red clam sauce”, is great for Eggplant Parmigiana, and also makes a perfect pizza sauce. Use it also on fish or for Steak Pizzaiola. So many uses!

LEMON IN A PEAR TREE

 Lemon in a Pear Tree is a jazzy martini with just a touch of flavor that martini lovers will be sure to enjoy. If you like lemon and pears, this is for you. Here goes! Cin-Cin!

2 1/2 oz. Pear Vodka

1 Tbsp. Limoncello

Lemon Twist

Mix the Pear Vodka and Limoncello together over crushed ice in a cocktail shaker. Shake until it is very cold and pour into your glass. Rub the rim of the glass with the lemon twist and pop it in your drink. Enjoy!

ABOUT ITALIAN SHORT GRAIN RICE

Ever wonder which rice to use for making risotto? Does it make a difference? You bet it does. Traditionally the correct rice for risotto is short grain rice unlike the long grain faster cooking rice we are used to using in the US. The short grain rice cooks more slowly and absorbs the liquid and flavors over a longer cooking time to produce a creamy result – with NO added cream, I might add.

Actually, Italy raises over 20 types of rice – most of it in the region of Veneto, Piedmont, and the Po Valley. To help you sort out which rice to use, let’s look at a few. At first glance they seem to look alike —but they are not!

Arborio: This is probably the most common of the short grains. Think of it as all-purpose  – great for risotto, soups etc. It is the one perhaps the easiest to find as most grocers carry it now. It is high in starch which really helps to create the creamy risotto we all love. This is the one I like to use most of the time, as it produces a perfect result and is quicker cooking than some others.

Carnaroli: This one is also high in starch and is preferred as the best by many for the creamy and perfect risotto that it creates. It is a little larger in grain, is slightly more challenging to find, and also requires a longer cooking time. 

Vialone Nano:  Upon investigation, you’ll see that this one, very commonly found in Veneto, is slightly smaller than the others. Surprisingly, it absorbs more of the liquid in cooking producing a more creamy texture.

Originario: This one, coming from Piedmont, is also smaller. Actually, it was always the first choice of Italians until the 40’s when Carnaroli took over in popularity. Cooks especially like this rice for desserts like: TORTA DI RISO WITH HAZELNUTS   although I usually use the more common Arborio variety.

LOBSTER SALAD

This Lobster Salad is just a little “old friend with a benefit”. Lobster Salad is pretty standard. You don’t need to embellish it much because it’s great on its own – so we won’t. It is spppplendid with a Rosé or Rosato – just made to order. But the “benefit” is a little added surprise in this that really adds some Zazu.

We’re just suggesting a classic Lobster Salad here like you would make for a Lobster Roll. Easy enough.

You can prepare your lobster any way you like. I like to grill the tails. It’s easy and they are so delicious and meaty.

I begin with loosening the meat: first turn the tail over exposing the underside; then cut the membrane lengthwise that holds the meat in with scissors; put your fingers between the meat and the shell and ease it out. Then lay the loosened meat back in the shell.

When I grill the tails, I brush them with olive oil or melted butter and add some basil leaves, fresh pepper and a squeeze of lemon before cooking. They take just a few minutes depending on your fire.

Remove the meat and chop very coarsely. Add a little mayo, chopped scallion, chopped fresh basil leaves, black pepper.

The “surprise” here is a spoonful of mashed> Ginger Fig Preserves <from one of our recent recipe posts. This stuff is spicy, sweet and really gives the salad an interesting kick “in the tail”!!

I like to spoon the salad right back into the shell and serve it that way.

 MY PEACHY MEMORY – PEACHES IN RED WINE

I have discovered that the simplest after dinner treat enjoyed during the summer months in Italy is also a memory I shared with my father as a child.  When peaches were in season, he often peeled one after a meal and dropped a half in a glass, covering it with his favorite wine. After soaking it for a few minutes, he would offer me a slice. Such a prize! My Dad also had the same experience with his father, Archangelo using his homemade wine. This is how it goes…

Take a ripe juicy peach (or nectarine) and peel it. To peel it easily, you can drop it in boiling water for a couple of minutes and remove it. As it cools, the skin pulls right off.

Slice the peach and place the slices in a wine glass. Cover the peach slices with a wonderful fruity vino rosso such as my Dad’s favorite, Valpolicella. You can also use a nice  Bardolino or Montepulciano.

Let the glass sit for 10-15 minutes. Add a little sprig of Lemon Balm or Sweet Basil, and then eat the beautifully soaked peach slices with a fork and enjoy the wine!

Just think – the next time you go to Italy, you’ll know just what to do with your after-dinner peach. They’ll think you’re a native.  In the meantime, practice at home! Just try not to let the wine dribble down your chin like I did as a little girl– and sometimes still do.. sigh…

NEGRONI

The Negroni originated in the early 20th century with Florentine Count Camillo Negroni. The Count requested that his bartender adjust his personal favorite cocktail, the Americano, with more “zing”. The bartender added gin, and it became the Count’s new signature cocktail. The Negroni includes the famous Italian liquor, Campari, which has a very tart flavor and is a clear favorite for Italians, as so many of their drinks include it. Campari contains over 60 natural ingredients and is laced with orange. I find that the Negroni is especially nice in the summertime with its tart and fresh flavors. I especially like to add a piece of my Candied Orange Peel. It sweetens the drink just slightly.

1 ½ oz gin

1 ½ oz Campari

1 ½ oz Sweet Vermouth

Mix well and Serve over ice with an orange slice, orange twist or Homemade Candied Orange Peel!

For a little variation on the Negroni – the Negroni Sbagliato:

NEGRONI SBAGLIATO

This is the house specialty at Bar Basso in Milan – Negroni Sbagliato translated: Wrong or Mistaken Negroni. As the story goes, while making the famous Negroni, someone mistakenly reached for bottle of spumante instead of gin, and this became the bar’s signature drink. (aperitivo) Not such a bad mistake! Che peccato 🙂

1 oz Campari

1 oz Sweet Vermouth

1 oz dry spumante

Orange slice for garnish – or my special addition: a slice of CANDIED ORANGE PEEL!

Mix well and serve over ice.

SALUTE!

LINDA’S ITALIAN TABLE’S LIST OF NECESSARY ELEMENTS TO GREAT ITALIAN GRILLING

1. A hot fire

2. Either Wood chips with a gas grill or a charcoal grill

3.  Set of metal skewers

4. Pizza Stone

5. A good Extra Virgin Olive Oil

6. A dry red wine and a dry white wine for marinades

7. Fresh garlic cloves

8. Fresh herbs like: basil, flat leaf parsley, oregano, thyme, and rosemary

9. Red Pepper Flakes for zip

10. Fresh Lemons for a little acidity

11. A couple of good Italian fatty meats like Pancetta, Guanciale, or Prosciutto for flavor and “lube”

12. Good hard Italian cheeses for grating like: Parmigiano-Reggiano, Pecorino, Provolone, Montasio etc.

13. Fresh vegetables for grilling

14. Quality meats for a more satisfying result

15. Fresh fish or don’t bother!

16. Good Fresh Italian bread for grilling – nothing else will do!

**NOTE  the frequent use of the word “fresh” above. Freshness of ingredients is of great importance. It does make a difference!

BLOOD ORANGE MARTINI

Blood oranges are unique in flavor as well as in their attractive rosy red tinged appearance. They are slightly tart and kind of raspberry on the tongue. They make a beautiful choice for a martini ingredient, especially when coupled with some Vanilla Vodka. That hint of vanilla is what makes this drink “sing” for me!

Makes: 1 martini

 Cod With Warm Olives

Serves: 2

1 lb Piece of Fresh Cod

Flour for dredging

A little Olive Oil for the pan

Warm Olives using the recipe on this NEW STUFF PAGE (scroll down to it) chopped a little/remove any pits

My suggestion for this delicious fish dish is to use your leftover Warm Olives from your last cocktail event ( if there are any!) and use them to dress this lovely piece of cod. This the most buttery flavored fish dish with not a single morsel of butter in it! However, there is certainly no reason why you can’t just make the Warm Olives especially for the cod. It’s so easy – why not?

The How To:  Take the piece of fresh cod and pat dry. Dredge it in a little flour and pan sear it in a little olive oil on both sides in a fry pan on top of the stove. Just get a good sear on each side. Use a fry pan that can also be used in the oven because that is where it is going next.

Pop the frying pan with the fish into a 400 degree oven and bake for about 12 minutes.

When finished, remove the ish to a serving plate and top it with your Warm Olives (rewarmed if leftover) which i like to chop a little for this.

You’re in for a delicious fish dinner for 2. Add a buttery Chardonnay and you’re good to go!

MARTINI SAMBUCA

Rock your next martini with a touch of Italy! An interesting gentleman who seemed to know everything there was to know about martinis, including the gin preferred by Winston Churchill (Plymouth) – suggested I try a few drops of Pernod in my martini. I  usually prefer my martinis very dry and without flavor , but I did try it and liked it.

Thinking about it further – I wondered how Sambuca would serve as a substitute, as I much prefer it to Pernod. It was met with much success, and, in my opinion, was a much improved and smoother version of the gentleman’s suggestion. Here it is!

Pour just a few drops of Sambuca into a martini glass.

Swirl the Sambuca around the glass – so that it coats the inside as completely as possible. If you have any excess left at the bottom of the glass – drink it! (You don’t want it to puddle at the bottom – you are capturing only an essence of the Sambuca.)

Prepare your martini as you like it – gin or vodka – the better the quality – the better the martini. I like mine very cold, shaken over lots of ice.

Fantastico–CIN-CIN!


CAFFE CORETTO

(CORRECTED COFFEE)

 

Traditionally a Neapolitan favorite, CAFFE CORETTO, can be found in cafes all over Italy. It actually means corrected coffee – as if our coffee needed correcting. This “adjustment” can often be a welcome one, however. It is simple. Most often it refers to espresso )or regular coffee if you must with some liqueur in it along with a little sugar. The liqueur is usually Sambuca, or Grappa – although others can be substituted.

Grappa, of course, is the powerful digestivo – not for the faint of heart – made from the seeds and skins of grapes. The result is a very strong clear liqueur with a surprisingly stomach settling effect for the power it projects.

My favorite way to “correct” my espresso is with Sambuca. This lovely anise flavored liqueur, is usually clear although the dark version is often preferred by some. When your CAFFE CORETTO is served with Sambuca, a small shot is offered on the side, allowing you to choose how much you will add to your coffee. You may see 3 little coffee beans floating in it – for health, happiness, and prosperity. Long ago, these beans referred to the Holy Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. You can chew them if you like which really brings out the anise flavor in the Sambuca.

You are invited to pour the shot in your espresso or just add a splash. I prefer the splash in the coffee, myself, and then to drink the rest. Sugar always accompanies the espresso in this case.

Here is the way I like to enjoy mine:

One cup of espresso (0r coffee) freshly brewed

A shot of Sambuca (or Grappa) on the side – of course with the beans! I only add a splash to the coffee.

Sugar to taste.

TROPPO BELLA!

WARM TALEGGIO WITH FIG JAM

Taleggio_03

Try this beautiful Taleggio Cheese appetizer with your next cocktail or glass of wine. Taleggio is a delicious and creamy soft cheese from the Lombardy region that is made from cow’s milk and also sometimes buffalo milk. It is easily found in specialty cheese areas of many markets. Whole Foods has both the cow and the buffalo variety. It has a rind which is edible. When the cheese is warmed, it softens and runs and creates an oozy spread that is a great companion to fruits and, in particular, jams or preserves. It is lovely with wines from the Nebbiolo grape and also with whites like Soave. This appetizer makes a perfect presentation for the coming cooler fall nights. Imagine it served in front of a blazing fire!

Take a piece of Taleggio and place it in an oven proof bowl or pan. Put it in a 300 degree oven and warm it until you see it begin to soften and run. The time will vary dependent upon how large a piece you use. This does not take long, so don’t plan to catch a few innings of a Braves game while you are waiting! Watch it – just a few minutes.

Then remove it from the oven and pour some Fig Jam or Preserves around it. Serve it with crackers. Plan for it to disappear!! ( Link to my recipe for Fig Jam – HERE. Or– purchase it – there are a couple of good ones out there. Many other types of fruit preserves are also good with this. Have fun sampling!) It is also delicious with my Mostarda recipe linked HERE.

Get that fire ready and uncork the wine!

Fresh Basil Gimlet

Basil Gimlet from Scott Beattie at Spoonbar

This is a great way to use your Basil outside of the usually suspected dishes. Enjoy it in your summer cocktail, where it offers just the essence of what we love about this herb!

Makes: 1 drink

5 Large Basil Leaves

1 1/2 oz. Gin

3/4 oz. Fresh Lime Juice

1/2 oz. Simple Syrup *

Place the basil leaves in a shaker and muddle (crush or beat) the leaves with the end of a handle of a wooden spoon. Add gin, lime, simple syrup. Then shake and strain into a coupe or martini glass. Garnish with a Basil sprig.

* For Simple Syrup: 2 parts sugar to 1 part water. Bring to a boil in a pan. Stir the solution until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat and cool. Keep in refrigerator when not using. Make as little or as much as you like in the proportions given. EASY!

THE AMERICANO!

A delicious alternative to the Negroni for Campari lovers like me!

1 oz Sweet Vermouth

1 oz Campari

Cold Club Soda

Mix the Sweet Vermouth and the Campari with some ice in a cocktail shaker. Shake that thing to make it really cold. Pour it in a glass over ice and top it off with some ice cold club soda. Throw in a slice of orange – or if you’re me, it will be a nice fat piece of candied orange peel. Now head for the patio, kick back and enjoy!

Baby Baby Sweet Baby!

STUFFED SWEET BABY PEPPERS

Looking for a first course, appetizer or interesting side dish? We all know and love stuffed peppers. Wandering through the produce section of your market, have you ever wondered what folks might do with those tiny sweet peppers that come in a bag of about 30? NO – not the hotter than Hades Habaneros or even the Jalapenos. These are petite, beautiful, soooo swee,t and usually come in colors of red, yellow, and orange. They are clearly labeled “sweet” peppers – usually from Mexico.

How to successfully create a luscious appetizer with these peppers? Believe me – make these, and they will be begging for more! Listen up – it’s easy!

First – cut the tops off and pull out and discard the little fibrous thing with seeds on it that you’ll see inside. Then slit the pepper up the side.

 

For the stuffing, I recommend my post Italian Stuffed Peppers and use the recipe for the stuffing. This will stuff about 30 of the little peppers. This sounds like a lot, but they disappear as fast as you can dish them up and also they freeze beautifully for another occasion. To make fewer – just cut the recipe in half. You can make them with or without meat. Dress them with a little Marinara Sauce like the one in the Stuffed Pepper post, and you are on your way. Pop them into the oven at 350 for about 45 minutes or until the peppers are fork tender.

How are these different? As delicious as my regular stuffed peppers are, these baby ones are even better. They are exceptionally sweet, much more so than the larger ones, and it is difficult to stop eating them once you start.

Troppo Bella!

MOSTACCIOLI RIGATI WITH ORANGE PESTO AND OLIVES

This is a great spring-summer pasta dish served warm or cold. The freshness of this sauce, reminiscent of the pestos of Liguria, makes it just perfect for outdoor dining or On the Patio! It not only is delizioso but it’s easy too. I like to use Mostaccioli Rigati for this – short ribbed pasta – but Penne or Ziti would be fine as well.

If you can find wonderful cured Italian olives like Gaeta – all the better. However, regular pitted black olives do the trick and look great in the dish.

This recipe will make enough for about a pound of pasta.

If you find that your pasta seems a little dry, add some pasta water and it will come to life.

A word about flavor: Pasta has a way of sucking the flavor out of a sauce if it sits or is leftover. Always taste and re-season before you eat it – especially if you are having this one cold.

We begin –

Serves: 4

1 lb cooked Mostaccioli Regati Pasta ( or Penne or Ziti)

For the Orange Pesto, I refer you to one of my past posts called “Makes Me Want to Cluck” where the process is explained and photographed step by step. The Orangecello is optional.

Use salt and pepper to taste.

Add about 1 cup – more if you like – pitted black olives

Toss and garnish with coarsely chopped walnuts. Meet you On the Patio with a chilled Pinot Grigio!

 

INTRODUCING “The Raspberry Beret”!  [VIDEO BELOW]

Aside from being an Ode to “Prince” – for you music buffs out there from years past, this is My “Raspberry Beret “. This drink is a refreshing, easy, and beautifully light cocktail made with Prosecco to serve for spring and summer. With just a few ingredients, you will have a sparkling and interesting drink to enjoy with very little fuss.

Ingredients:

Raspberry Puree made from 2 12 oz packages frozen raspberries (about 3tbsp per glass) – more if you like!

½ cup sugar

A squeeze of fresh lemon juice – I like about a tablespoon

½ oz Chambord – Raspberry Liqueur – for ea. Glass

Bottle of Prosecco

Extra sugar and Chambord for the sugar rim

To start:

Make a quick raspberry puree – takes just a few minutes. You might try this quick and easy method from the Joy of Baking.

You can make this ahead and freeze it if you like and also use the leftover puree to serve with poundcake or a great Budino!

See Linda’s Rasberry Beret Video← here

Make a sugar rim – as directed in the video link above.

Make your drink – follow the video link above.

(A little Prince music?) Enjoy your Raspberry Beret”!

CIN-CIN!

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