Comfort Food:: Fancy Fall Grilled Cheese

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Is there anything better on a fall day than sitting down to nosh on a grilled cheese? Honestly, I’m not sure there is. Grilled cheese is one of those comfort foods that is always good, but it can be made even better if you gather top notch ingredients. I like to use unexpected cheese and unique condiments. Oh, and bacon…because everything is better with bacon.

This sandwich would be perfect with a bowl of soup or chili on a crisp fall day. If you have guests over, set-up a station allowing them to create their own sandwiches mixing and matching ingredients while you man the grilling station. Interactive foods are always so much fun for a party.

This recipe is from my first book, Picture Perfect Parties, and the photo on this post is from a fabulous party that Design Sponge threw a few years ago using Picture Perfect Parties as a guide. Head over there even more recipes and a complete guide to throwing an easy Halloween soiree.

Grilled Cheese with Brie, Crispy Bacon, and Apricot Jam
serves 6

You will need:
– 1 loaf challah bread
– 6 pieces bacon cooked and crumbled
– 1 12 oz. wheel brie cheese
– 6 tablespoons apricot jam, 1 tablespoon per sandwich
– 6 tablespoons butter softened 1 tablespoon per sandwich

To prepare:

Cook bacon until crisp in the oven at 400 degrees F, drain set aside.

Slice challah into 12 slices. Assemble the sandwiches. Place crumbled bacon , thin slice of brie, and apricot jam on the bread, place another slice of bread on top forming a sandwich. Butter the top and repeat until you have made 6 sandwiches.

In a heated sauté pan place sandwiches butter side down, butter the top half. Cook until golden brown, flip and cook the other side. Continue until all the sandwiches are done. Let set for 1 minute and cut sandwiches into quarters.

Serve at room temperature.

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Summer soup? Why not!

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Even in the summer, I love soup because of all of the readily available, delicious summer veggies. Summer produce is some of the best we get all year, so why not indulge in soup in the summer?

Pistou is essentially the French equivalent of pesto, and with a bounty of basil, there’s no time like now to whip up a batch. Marry your pistou with a variety of summer vegetables like sweet peas, sweet onions, fresh corn, and zucchini. Then bring it all together in a big pot of irresistible soup. Adding Pistou to this summer soup makes it a yummy seasonal treat. You’ll love it!

Easy to make and easy to serve?! That’s my kind of meal!

Summer Soup with Pistou

You will need: 

– 1 large onion, chopped
– 6 garlic cloves, minced
– 1/3 cup olive oil
– 1 lb small red-skinned potatoes, quartered
– 2 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1″ cubes
– 1 lb kale, cut into ribbons
– 2 medium zucchini, cut into 1″ cubes
– 1 15 oz can diced tomatoes, in juice
– 1 15 oz can of kidney beans
– 6 sprigs of fresh thyme
– 1 bay leaf
– 1 cup thin spaghetti broken into 1 inch pieces
– 10 cups vegetable stock

To prepare:

Using a heavy pot, saute onion and garlic until transparent. Add vegetables and saute for 3 minutes. Add tomatoes, beans, and stock. Add thyme and bay leaf. Simmer over low heat for about 2 hours. Add the pasta and cook for 10 minutes. Serve with a dollop of pistou on top of each bowl.

For Pistou:

– 3 garlic cloves
– 3 cups packed fresh basil leaves
– 1/2 teaspoon salt
-1/4 cup olive oil
– 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

To prepare: 

Finely chop garlic in processor. Add basil and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Process until basil is finely chopped, scraping down sides of bowl occasionally. With machine running, gradually blend in oil. Add cheese; process to blend well. Transfer to bowl. *Can be made 2 days ahead , store in a sealed container and refrigerate.

xx Annette

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Ricotta Spinach Quiche for Easter Brunch

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With Passover starting later this week and Easter being on Sunday, I thought this Ricotta Spinach Quiche would be a fabulous recipe for today’s blog post. Not only is this recipe something that you can easily bake ahead, it’s a beautiful presentation filled with vibrant colors for spring. Prepare it completely and then bake it at your destination, or pop it in the oven just before your guests arrive.

One note: if you don’t have time for making your own crust (which I highly recommend, but I know life happens), a frozen crust works just fine. Just check out the crust directions before you get started.

*note for passover just leave off the crust, the Quiche will be more like a frittata, which is fine.

Ricotta Spinach Quiche
Serves 8

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Note: If you’re using store bought crust, skip the directions for Pate Brisee. 

For Pate Brisee:

You will need:
– 2 cups all purpose flour
– 1 stick butter chilled and cut into cubes
– ½ teaspoon salt
– ¼ to ½ cup ice water

To prepare:

Place flour, sugar, butter, and salt into the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a mixing blade. Mix on medium until small crumbs form, add ice water until the dough pulls together and away from the side of the bowl.

The dough should be a soft consistency.

Place dough in the fridge to rest.

For the Filling:

You will need:
– 6 eggs
– 1 cup fresh ricotta cheese
– 4 cups of fresh spinach
– 1/4 sliced red onion
– 2 tablespoons of olive oil
– 1 teaspoon salt
– 1 cup of cubed speck ham
– 1 cup cubed buffalo mozzerella
– 1 Pate Brisee (recipe below)

To prepare:

Whisk eggs in a large bowl, add ricotta cheese, mozzerella cheese, and salt, set aside.

In a frying pan, add the speck ham and saute for 10 minutes until the ham becomes crispy. Pour off any excess fat and set aside.

In a saute pan, add olive oil and saute spinach and onion until spinach is wilted, about 10 minutes, set aside to cool.

Once the spinach is cooled, in batches squeeze the excess liquid in your hands into the sink. Place into the bowl of eggs and cheeses, add speck, and combine completely. Your filling should be green.

Roll out the Pate Brisee into a disk, and fit into a 9 inch quiche pan, add the filling. You may also blind bake the crust if you wish; it’s definitely an option.

Bake for 45-50 minutes in a 375 degree F oven.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

 

xx Annette

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Big Game Recipe:: Sausage and Peppers

The Big Game is this weekend, and this recipe is perfect for those of you planning to watch. When hosting a party for the Big Game, easy recipes fit for a crowd is key. Keep it masculine, sporty, simple, and in season with my Sausage and Peppers recipe. It’s perfect for a crowd because you essentially toss everything together, pop it in the oven, and serve it right from the baking dish. No fuss required!

Here’s the recipe which is from Picture Perfect Parties, my cookbook. Give it a try and let me know what you think. May the best team win!

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Sausage and Peppers for a Crowd
Serves 8
You will need:

– 6 Italian sausage
– 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.

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Tomato Basil Soup Recipe: An Easy Winter Meal

Chilly winter months are the perfect time to whip-up a batch of tomato basil soup. This tomato basil soup pairs well with a grilled cheese, too.

At last weekend’s L.A. style+photo workshop, I whipped up a quick batch of this cream of tomato basil soup for our attendees. They were able to capture the cooking process and style their bowls, too. After all, the best part of a food photoshoot is actually eating the food.

This tomato basil soup pairs wonderfully with a grilled cheese. At the workshop we made grilled cheeses with fig and prosciutto, but any sort of grilled cheese would be perfect. Use whatever is in your fridge and embrace an opportunity to be creative with it! There’s no such thing as a bad grilled cheese.

I love soup during chilly months, and since according to the groundhog, there is still a lot of winter ahead of us, store this recipe in your arsenal to pull out when you need a quick and easy lunch or dinner.

Cream of Tomato Basil Soup
Serves 8
You will need:
– 1/2 medium onion sliced thin
– 3 tablespoons butter
– 2 tablespoons olive oil
– 1 teaspoon salt
 – 1/2 teaspoon pepper
– 2  28 oz. cans crushed tomatoes
– 4 cups vegetable stock
– 1 cup heavy cream
– 1 cup fresh basil chopped
To prepare:
In a large stock pot, heat butter and oil, add onions, salt and pepper.
Sauté until onions are lightly caramelized. Add tomatoes, vegetable stock, cream and basil. Simmer for 45 minutes. Garnish with basil. Serve warm.
Note: The soup may be made creamy by placing it in a blender or using a hand blender if desired. I personally like it a little chunky.
Enjoy!
xx, Annette
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