Summer Supper:: Sausage, Peppers and Polenta, Oh My!

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We are officially in the thick of what’s known as the dog days of summer. This time of year, for better or for worse, are the peak of those hot, humid days that leave us wondering if fall will ever take pity on us and arrive early. Rarely do we have such luck.

As a result, quick simple suppers are the way to go. Think one pot/one pan meals, or those that require the shortest amount of prep and cooking time. After all, the sooner you get out of the kitchen, the cooler you will be.

A few weeks ago, I made a twist on my sausage and peppers dish from my book, Picture Perfect Parties. I chopped them up placed them over a quick polenta. If you’ve never baked polenta, you should. It’s fantastic for a crowd because it saves time at the stove, and makes cooking for a crowd a breeze. The result was delicious and of course, easy! Give it a try.

Sausage, Peppers and Polenta
Serves 8
You will need:

– 6 Italian sausages
– 2 red peppers sliced
– 2 hot banana peppers sliced
– 1 jalapeno pepper minced
– 2 green peppers sliced
– 2 cups canned crushed tomatoes
– 4 cloves of garlic minced
– ¼ cup olive oil
– 1 teaspoon salt

To prepare:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Slice the peppers and the sausage into bite size pieces. In a large bowl toss all the ingredients and mix well. Place mixture into a ceramic baking dish. Bake for 1 ½ hours and serve warm. Garnish with assorted herbs like rosemary, parsley, oregano, or chives.

Baked Polenta

You will need:
– 1 ½ cups polenta
– 4 + ( 2 cups in reserve to add as needed) cups chicken stock
– 2 cloves garlic fine dice or shaved on a micro planner
– ¼ cup olive oil
– salt to taste

To prepare:
In a large clay-roasting pan, place polenta. Add stock and garlic. Salt and drizzle the ¼ cup olive on top. Place into oven for 45 minutes @350.

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Summer Dessert:: Fig Tart

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Hey everyone! I’m Nicole, Annette’s web manager and friend, and I’m excited to share an end of summer recipe with you.

A few years ago, my grandparents gifted my husband and me a fig tree. After nursing it inside during a harsh winter, we eagerly planted it and have watched it grow from a sapling to a fruit-bearing tree. This year is the first year we’ve been able to harvest any figs which has me on the lookout for all the fig recipes I can get my hands on.

Of course, that meant turning to Annette’s trusty and knowledgable blog. The funny thing about figs is that their season is very short, and once you’ve plucked them from a tree, you have to eat them pretty quickly. That’s why something like jam or a tart, like I’m sharing today, is such an effective way to use your figs!

Below, find Annette’s fig advice along with her incredible recipe for a fig tart!

Choose your figs by looking for ones that are slightly soft and give to a little pressure, but aren’t mushy. Store them in the fridge, but be sure not to wash them until you’re ready to use them.

Figs are incredibly delicate, so be careful when you wash them. Never scrub figs or use anything harsher than your fingers. Instead, gently rub any dirt you see away from the fig’s surface. Remove the stems by twisting gently until they come off. Pat them to dry.

I have to say, this tart is wonderful; it actually tastes like a gourmet fig newton!

Fig Tart
serves 8

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

For the crust:
– 1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
– 1 tablespoon sugar + 2 tablespoons sugar
– 4 tablespoons cold butter cut into 1 inch cubes + 1 tablespoon butter
– 1/4 cup olive oil ( I got mine from a local press, 2 blocks away, gotta love Italy)
– pinch salt
– 1/2 cup ice water

To prepare: 

In a Cuisnart or Kitchenaid, put in flour, sugar, salt and 4 tablespoons butter + oil. mix on medium speed until it becomes a crumby mixture.

Slowly add ice water until the dough pulls together. Place in the fridge and start on the figs.

For the fig filling:

Slice the figs into quarters, roll out the dough, and place into the tart pan, arrange fig quarters on the dough in a fan pattern.

Sprinkle 2 tablespoons sugar + 1 tablespoon cubed butter on top of the fig arrangement.

Put into a 400 degree oven for 1 hour, or until the figs and dough are nicely browned, they should be a nice shade of caramel.

Cool and serve.

Enjoy xx

Photos by Annette

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Summer Delicacy:: Fried Squash Blossoms

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This time of year squash blossoms are everywhere in our La Fortezza veggie garden. For the past few weeks, we’ve been picking these delicate flowers and whipping up batches of fried squash blossoms.

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The recipe for fried squash blossoms is from my book,  Picture Perfect Parties (Rizzoli). It’s one of my favorite summer staples. You will adore this recipe. The exquisite flavors and crisp texture will make you swoon. You will be planting squash in your garden every year just to yield this cheese-filled treat. Trust me.

Ricotta Stuffed Fried Squash Blossoms
Serves 6-8

You will need:

– 12 to 16 large zucchini squash blossoms
– About 4 cups vegetable oil for frying
– 1 cup whole-milk ricotta (preferably fresh)
– 1 large egg yolk
– 1/4 cup finely chopped basil
– 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
– 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoon all-purpose flour
– 1 egg
– 3/4 cup chilled seltzer or club soda
– 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
– Salt and pepper to taste

For the filling:

– 1 cup whole-milk ricotta (preferably fresh)
– 1 large egg yolk
– 1/4 cup finely chopped basil
– 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
– ½ teaspoon salt

For the batter:

Note* you can make the batter a couple hours before and set aside.

– 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
– 1 egg
– 3/4 cup chilled seltzer or club soda
– 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
– 1 teaspoon salt
– 1 teaspoon pepper

To prepare:

Filling the blossoms:

Dry the squash blossoms with a paper towel, do not wash them under the tap, wash them in a bowl of water.

Carefully make a small opening in the top of each blossom. Using a piping bag or plastic bag with a hole cut into the bottom, pipe the filling into the opening filling about half way up the flower. Close end and gently twist flower closed.

Store the stuffed blossoms in the fridge until you are ready to fry.

Frying the squash blossoms:

Heat oil. Test heat by dropping a few drops of the batter, if it crisps up you are ready to go. Dip stuffed blossoms into the batter with a small tongs then drop them carefully into the oil.

Fry the blossoms until crisp and place on a paper towel to drain.  Serve immediately.

 

Photo Credit: Deborah Whitlaw Llewelleyn & moi

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La Fortezza Artist in Residence Art Opening Party

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As all of you know by now, in July we welcomed our first Artist in Residence at La Fortezza. Steve Mckenzie arrived on the first of July and diligently worked on his Lunigiana inspired exhibition, abstract mixed medium works called, Recollecting the Past, “Ricordando il Passato.” Steve was inspired by his time here in Italy. You can read all about where we traveled, and what we saw and collected, here.

All of this work and passion led to the opening night end of July. We had visitors from all over the world join us: the US, France, Greece, and England to name a few. We planned to celebrate on the expansive terrace with a quirky food truck, gelato cart, and an open bar. Steve meticulously hung his show with the assistance of our intern Adri; she helped him catalog and photograph his collection. He also painted special table runners. All plans for the opening party were planned with the utmost attention to detail. And all would be outside, especially with 65 rsvps, so we could enjoy the company of so many, and Steve could share his beautiful collection. The perfect plan….that was until all hell broke loose. What do they say about best laid plans?

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As a hostess, I know that perfection is only an idea, not a reality especially when it comes to throwing a party. So when the heavens opened up, and I mean an earthshaking lighting cracking thunderstorm that dumped tons of rain on us, at the exact hour that the opening was supposed to start. All I could do was laugh.

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We pulled everything into the studio. So many braved the weather to be with us, for which I was most grateful. We had a wonderful turn out and a wonderful party, including an after hours dance party. Sometimes what you imagined, turns out better than you hoped. We really had a wonderful time, and Steve and I were so happy with the opening party. It was also a great lesson in letting go for both Steve and I, and I am always amazed at the idea of a party can mean anything at anytime, even in the worst weather. All you need are great friends. We gathered with everyone as it pelted down rain, and we drank and ate and enjoyed gelato well into the night, surrounded by Steve’s beautiful artwork. What fun!

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Thank you to Steve who is as my husband says, a prince. And he’s right Steve is a stellar human, a great friend and such a talent. It was a pleasure to have him here every single day. He’s going to be a tough act to follow! x

If you’d like to purchase pieces from the show link here

Food Truck Photo Credit: Thomas England

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Lavender Ice Cream

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You might have noticed in the recent blueberry pie post a certain yummy dollop on top: lavender ice cream. This recipe is from my first book, Picture Perfect Parties, and is absolutely divine.

If you haven’t cooked with lavender, it’s actually such a fun addition to many dishes.  Be sure to use culinary lavender for this recipe which can be found any number of places. Keep in mind that you get what you pay for, so spending a pinch more on a high-quality ingredient would be a good idea here.

I know you’ll love the floral notes paired with the blueberry pie. It’s truly a delightful and delicious flavor marriage!

 Lavender Ice Cream

You will need:
– 3 cups heavy cream
– 1 cup whole milk
– 2 tablespoons dried lavender
– 6 eggs + 2 yolks
– ½ cup sugar
-¼ tsp salt
– ¼ cup honey
– 1 teaspoon vanilla

To prepare:

Simmer cream, milk and lavender in a saucepan until milk is scalded about 10 minutes.

Remove from heat pour into a bowl and let lavender steep for 30 minutes.

Strain cooled lavender milk mixture back into the saucepan and bring back up to heat. In a bowl whisk egg and sugar, salt and vanilla until creamy. Pull the hot milk off heat and pour about ¼ cup of the hot milk mixture into the egg mixture, whisking while pouring.

Pour warmed egg mixture into the sauce pan with hot milk and put back on heat (medium) simmer until custard is formed and coats the back of a metal spoon about 10-15 minutes.

Whisk in honey and place into fridge chill until very cold.

Put into an ice cream maker follow manufacturers instruction.

Place ice cream into low pan with plastic wrap on the bottom. Freeze until ready to serve.

Photo Credit : Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn

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