Epic Summer Grilling Menu

Hi Everyone! It’s Nicole, Annette’s web manager and friend, and I’m back with one epic summer grilling menu. Like most of you, one of the things that I love turning to Annette for is a recipe. She just has a knack for creating something gorgeous and delicious. It’s so inspiring!

Since Wednesday marks the official first day of summer, we’re about to be in the thick of grilling season. We have a Big Green Egg, so we spend a lot of our summer evenings outdoors near the grill. Not only is it a quintessential summer activity, but it also means I don’t have to turn on the oven. Win win.

I thought I’d round-up a few of Annette’s summer grilling recipes from over the years. Not only are these recipes stand-alone favorites, but put them together, and they make up one heck of a summer menu. Invite your friends and family over for an evening of fun and food on the grill!

grilled-veggies

Awesome Appetizer: Grilled Veggie Antipasto

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Main Course: Lamb Burger

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Sensational Side: Watermelon Salad  

As always, I’d love to hear if you give any of these recipes a try! What are some of your favorite summer recipes?

xo, Nicole

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A word about flour :: dispatch from Italy

Italian Flour

An essential like flour is something we might take for granted in everyday life.

Even in the age of gluten-free, our daily bread is something most folks partake in.

It occurred to me while shopping for staples when I arrived in Italy last week, that the flour in the everyday grocery here is abundant in choices. I will say that in the US, I really don’t eat that much gluten. But when I am here in Italy for some magical reason, I have no reaction to baked goods: no inflammation, no sluggishness, no reaction whatsoever, so baking here is something I do regularly.

I did stop in my tracks when I saw this amazing flour display and decided to share it on my blog today. In Italy, we bake with many types of flour, and if you’re gluten free, then chestnut flour is the answer for you. In our region, Lunigiana, there’s a basic bread recipe that has been baked for many centuries.

Chestnuts

Today I’m sharing my Focaccia recipe from my upcoming book Cocktail Italiano. This book will not only be filled with wonderful cocktails, but the nibbles that accompany the cocktails served all over Italy.

focaccia

Focaccia
Serves 4

You will need:
– 3 cups double zero flour or bread flour (super fine flour)
– 1 package dry yeast
– 1/3 cup warm water
– 1 cup water
– ½ cup extra virgin olive oil + 1 teaspoon for the cookie sheet + 3 tablespoons for finishing before baking, 1 tablespoon to finish after baking
– 2 tablespoons coarse salt + 1 teaspoon for finishing

To prepare:

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F

1. In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a dough hook. Place the yeast in a small bowl with 1/3 cups water and let proof in a large bowl, once proofed add flour and oil and salt and water, combine until it forms a sticky dough, it should be very sticky. Flour your surface and turn the dough onto floured surface. knead gently for a minute until dough forms a soft dough.
2. On an oiled 10”x14” cookie sheet with a lip, spread the dough out to fit the cookie sheet. With your index fingers poke dimples into the top of the dough .* note you can use parchment paper to line the cookie sheet but I like to oil the paper.
3. Let rest for 30 minutes, then repeat by poking dimples into the risen dough, and let rest for 30 minutes.
4. Before placing in the oven, drizzle with 3 tablespoons olive oil and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon coarse salt.
5. Bake at 400 for 30 minutes. Remove sprinkle with 1 tablespoon olive oil cool and eat warm or at room temperature. The key is to let the oil soak in as the focaccia cools. Can be stored sealed for up to 3 days.

Serving suggestions: I love to use focaccia as an appetizer with olive spread, Parmesan cheese, Parma ham, and a summer crisp rose wine. This makes the perfect start to a perfect evening.

Since I am raving about Italian flour, I wanted to give you a great resource for flour in the US.

Carolina Ground Flour

Recently my friend sent me a sampling of this incredible artisan flour Carolina Ground. It’s the closest I have found to the flour I use here in Italy.

Happy baking xx

 

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Strawberry Crostata with Balsamic Roasted Strawberries and savory Mascarpone Ice cream

Corstata One of the things I love about Italian desserts is that they are not too sweet. In fact, Italians often have cake or sweet breads and crostata for breakfast.

This recipe for strawberry crostata is a variation of a recipe in my upcoming book, Cocktail Italiano. The recipe in the book is savory mascarpone ice cream with balsamic roasted grapes. It is a savory version of ice cream, and it works great with a sweet fruit topping for dessert or for aperitivo.

I had leftover strawberries from the book photo-shoot and thought roasting them with balsamic vinegar would be terrific. I decided that the mascarpone ice cream would be the perfect complement, and I baked a crostata with some homemade strawberry jam I found in the pantry.

Here’s the recipe; its a great dessert even without the addition of the Strawberry Crostata.

Strawberry Crostata
Serves 8

You will need:
– 1 1/2 cups pastry flour
– 1/4 cup sugar
– 1 1/2 cups cold butter cut into slices
– 1 egg plus 1 egg yolk
– 1/2 teaspoon salt
– 1 cup strawberry jam

To prepare: 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F

In the bowl of a standing mixer, place flour and butter combine on low speed until crumbs form.

Add sugar, salt, and eggs. When combined about 3 minutes, place in plastic wrap and into the refrigerator for 1 hour.

Cut the dough in 1/2, roll 1/2 the dough out on a floured surface into a round disk. Place disk into the bottom of a fluted 11″ tart pan.  Roll the other half and with a pinked pie cutter cut 1″ strips.

Spread the strawberry jam on top of the crust, then lay the 1 ” strips in a lattice pattern on top of the jam.

Place in the oven for 30 minutes. Until golden brown. Cool and serve at room temperature.

Balsamic Roasted Strawberries

Balsamic Roasted Strawberries
Serves 8

You will need:
– 4 cups cleaned strawberries
– 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
– 1/4 cup sugar

To prepare:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F

In a bowl toss strawberries, vinegar and sugar. On a parchment lined lipped cookie sheet, place balsamic soaked strawberries. Roast for 30 minutes, then place in a bowl and allow to cool to room temperature. This can be served warm over the ice cream.

Mascarpone Ice Cream

Savory Mascarpone Ice Cream
Serves 8

You will need:
– 2 cups whole milk
– 1 tsp. unflavored powdered gelatin
– 2 cups mascarpone
– Finely grated zest of 1 orange
– ½ teaspoon salt

*note if you wish to make this a sweet ice cream add 1/4 cup of sugar to the milk

To prepare:

In a small saucepan, whisk the milk and gelatin and let stand for 5 minutes. Warm the milk over medium heat, whisking until gelatin dissolves. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the mascarpone and orange zest until smooth. Pour the ice cream base into a bowl and let cool to room temperature. Pour the base into an ice cream maker and process according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Scrape the ice cream into a container and freeze.

Serve a slice of the crostata with a scoop of ice cream and warmed strawberries.

Enjoy xx

Top photo credit : Bill Addison

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My Favorite Easter Tablescape Inspirations

Hi Everyone! I’m Nicole, Annette’s web manager, and I’m back today to share some of my favorite Easter tablescapes. As you all know, Annette is renovating The Fortress in Italy. What you might not know, is that I started my own stateside renovation (on a much smaller scale) just a week after her.

As a result, we’ve been sharing our growing pains with renovations together, and it’s been so nice to lean on Annette for advice since this renovation isn’t her first rodeo. It’s always good to have someone to talk to!

Once our renovation is complete, we will finally have a real dining room. Until now, our home has had an eat-in kitchen, and our dining room space functioned as our office but not anymore! I am thrilled to have a real dining room table along with a space where I can host dinner parties for friends and family, especially for different holidays.

While we’re not quite ready for entertaining, I’ve been spending the past few weeks dreaming-up what my Easter tablescape would look like if I was hosting Easter this year. Sign me up for all the flowers, eggs, and bunnies, please!

Using tulips is not only seasonally appropriate but also a beautiful way to incorporate garden-like florals into your centerpieces. I also love the use of the green bunnies. It’s a cute way to be festive.

These egg place settings are sweet yet chic. It’s a great way to repurpose your dyed eggs (but make sure you save some for deviling!).

I know Annette likes to send guests home with a little something, and I think these baskets of miniature chocolate eggs would be perfect for exactly that. I would place them by the door, so no one forgets their treat!

What are your plans for your Easter tablescape this year?

xo, Nicole

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Spring Recipes for a Crowd- Passover or Easter

Our family celebrates the holiday of Passover which is on Monday April 10th. Passover has a very specific menu. We are not allowed to eat leavened bread, we eat Matzoh. The story of Passover is an interesting one, and one that we recall at our dinner table on the night of Passover. Here’s a great dessert to make for your gathering this year… and it involves chocolate!

PotsDeCreme

Salted Chocolate Pots de Crème
Serves 6-8

You will need:
1 ½ cup whole milk
– 1/2 cup whipping cream
– 5 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, chopped
– 1 teaspoon sea salt, or flake salt
– 6 large egg yolks
– 1/3 cup sugar
– 1 cup whipped cream for topping

To prepare:

Preheat oven to 325°F. Bring milk and cream just to simmer in heavy medium saucepan over medium heat. Remove from heat. Add chocolate and salt; whisk until melted and smooth. Whisk yolks and sugar in large bowl to blend. Gradually whisk in hot chocolate mixture. Strain mixture into another bowl. Cool 10 minutes, skimming any foam from surface.

Divide custard mixture among six 3/4-cup custard cups or soufflé dishes. Cover each with foil. Place cups in large baking pan. Add enough hot water to pan to come halfway up sides of cups. Bake until custards are set but centers still move slightly when gently shaken, about 55 minutes. Remove from water. Remove foil. Chill custards until cold, about 3 hours. (Can be made 2 days ahead. Cover and keep chilled.) Top with whip cream, and serve.

Photo by Sarah Dorio

Styled by Moi

One of my favorite entertaining stories was for Atlanta Magazine’s Home. It was a Greek Easter party thrown by good friends every year, a party we always look forward to. Greek tradition calls for this sweet bread which makes a lovely and festive presentation. Imagine taking it somewhere for your Easter feast. Get all the recipes and the full feature here.

Passover begins on Monday and last through the following Monday (the day after Easter), and I have two great spring recipes for a crowd to share with you.

TSOUREKI (Easter Sweet Bread)
Serves 4 loaves

You will need:

– 7 cups Flour
– 3 quick rise yeast packets
– ½ cup warm water
– 1¾ cup sugar
– ½ teaspoon salt
– 1 Tablespoon mahlepi
– 1 teaspoon mastic
– 1 teaspoon vanilla
– 2 teaspoon lemon & orange zest (mixed)
– 5 eggs (room temperature)
– ½ cup hot milk
– 1 cup melted butter

Note : All ingredients should be warm or at the very least room temperature to help the dough rise faster.

Egg Wash for bread:
– 1 egg
– a few drops of vanilla
– 1 Tablespoon water
– ½ cup of sliced almonds

To Prepare:

  1. Mix warm water and yeast, set aside.
  2. In a large bowl put flour, make a whole with your hands in the center of the flour to put the sugar, zest, salt, spices and mix that your hands. Add hot milk and mix again with your hands. Once the dough is incorporated add eggs, one at a time, and mix well. Then add the yeast water mixture, your dough should be stringy when pulled apart.
  3. Next pour melted butter into the bowl one handful at a time and fold the dough (do not knead the dough). Pull and fold and pour in melted butter, repeat until you’ve used all the butter. Don’t worry if you see butter puddle around the edges, it will absorb as the dough rises.
  4. Wrap the dough with plastic wrap that it tucked down inside the bowl touching the dough. Then wrap the entire bowl in towels and place in a warm place for the dough to rise for about 2 hours. Once dough has risen, separate into 4 equal parts. Then separate each of the four parts into three pieces and roll the dough with your hands into approximately 14 inch long and about finger thickness.
  5. Braid the three long cylinder pieces just like you would braid hair. You will have 4 braids.
  6. Place each braid in a 12” round pan that has been lined with parchment paper and cover with towel, place in a warm spot for 30-45 minutes for dough to rise again.
  7. Once each of the braids have risen, prepare the egg wash. Beat the egg with water and vanilla then brush each of the braids, this will give the bread a beautiful shine.
  8. Place pans into a preheated 350° oven (2 at a time) and bake for 30 minutes. Keep an eye on the dough, if you see it getting too brown, cover with foil until baked through.
  9. Once bread has cooled, cut out the center and place a hard boiled egg that has been dyed red sprinkle with sliced almonds.

Photo by: PATRICK HEAGNEY

Styled by Moi

xx Annette

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