Seasonal Delight:: Fig Croistini

Esporao & Annette Joseph
If you’ve meandered through your local farmer’s market or grocery store recently, you might have noticed that we are officially in the thick of fig season. Nicole, my web-manager, even has a fig tree in her backyard. She asked me what else to do with figs that wouldn’t heat-up the kitchen too much (it’s still very hot in Atlanta, after all!).

I passed along this quick and easy appetizer for fig and goat cheese crostini. She assured me it was a fantastic recommendation. While this snack makes an incredible appetizer or even breakfast, I also love the idea of serving this as a light, unexpected dessert at the end of a meal. It’s a tried and true recipe perfect for any occasion.

Goat Cheese and Fig Crostini
Serves 10

You will need:
– 20 small figs cut in half, lengthwise
– 1 loaf of French bread sliced into 1/2 in slices (makes about 20 slices)
– 1/2 cup olive oil
– 8 oz. soft artisan goat cheese, at room temperature
– 1/4 cup lemon honey
– 40 Marcona Almonds
– 1 teaspoon cracked pepper

To prepare:

Preheat the oven to 350 F

Crostini: Lay the bread slices on to a cookie sheet with a brush coat the top of the slices with olive oil. Bake for 10 minutes, or until the slices are golden brown. Cool the crostini.  Spread 2 tablespoons of goat cheese on the crostini, top with 2 half figs, and add 2 almonds on either side of the figs. Place on a platter and repeat with the rest of the crostinis.

Once all the crostinis are on the platter, drizzle with honey, and sprinkle with cracked pepper and serve.

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Fire Up the Grill:: Lamb Burger

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Every now and then, I’m reminded of recipes from my previous books that are old favorites. One of them is this lamb burger. I don’t know about you, but I love burgers and I love lamb, so it seemed natural to add a lamb burger to my cookbook,  Picture Perfect Parties. What makes this burger even more unique is that is has a delicious Greek twist.

As our grilling days of summer get fewer and fewer, consider mixing things up with this lamb burger recipe. If you’re looking for a great recipe to include on your menu, look no further!

As an added stylist tip, I thought I’d share a little secret with you: I love serving burgers in a pita. It makes for a really pretty presentation and a clever twist to something that is perceived as a ho-hum burger. Plus, it contains all of the messy burger goodness to one neat little pocket. Genius!

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Photo from Picture Perfect Parties Rizzoli NY

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S’mores with a twist!

Is there anything more quintessentially summer than s’mores? S’mores are one of those gooey foods that are as fun as they are messy. Seriously. Have you ever NOT had fun making s’mores? I didn’t think so.

These fire and ice s’mores are a twist on the traditional. I’m adding homemade vanilla ice cream to mix things up. Of course, you can stick with the original ingredients, or you can give this one a try.

Fire and Ice S’mores

You will need:

– Marshmallows
– Quality chocolate (try dark chocolate for extra indulgence)
– Healthy graham crackers – available at specialty markets like Whole Foods
– Sea Salt
– Olive Oil
– Vanilla Ice Cream (recipe below!)

Vanilla Bean Ice Cream
You will need:
– 2 cups heavy cream
– 1 cup whole milk
– 3/4 cup sugar
– 1/8 teaspoon salt
– 3 vanilla beans – split lengthwise
– 2 large eggs
To prepare ice cream:

Combine cream, milk, sugar, and salt in a heavy saucepan. With the tip of a knife, scrape seeds from vanilla beans into cream mixture, then drop in pods. Heat cream mixture just to a boil. Whisk eggs in a large bowl, then add hot cream mixture in a slow stream, while whisking. Pour mixture into saucepan and cook over moderately low heat, stirring constantly, until slightly thickened and registers 170°F on thermometer (do not let boil). Pour custard through a fine-mesh sieve into a clean metal bowl, then cool, stirring occasionally. Chill, covered, until cold, at least 3 hours. Freeze custard in an ice cream maker. Transfer to an airtight container and put in freezer.

To Prepare S’mores:

Have guests assemble their S’mores outside by the fire.

In the meantime prepare individual bowls or glasses with a scoop of vanilla ice cream drizzled with a teaspoon on Olive Oil and sprinkled with sea salt.

Have guests grab a bowl and dip their s’more into the ice cream.

*Cooks’ notes: ·To cool custard quickly after straining, set bowl in a larger bowl of ice and cold water and stir until chilled. ·Custard can be chilled up to 24 hours.

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Watermelon Feta Salad

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Did you know Georgia is among the top four states for watermelon production in the U.S.? Texas, Georgia, Florida, and California produce nearly 70% of our watermelon crop each year. Watermelon season is right now, and local watermelon is likely plentiful at your local markets.

It also happens to be the perfect summer treat for a variety of recipes because it is naturally hydrating. After all, there’s a reason it’s called watermelon. The fruit is made up of 92% water. Perfect for scorching summer days!

Sweet watermelon pairs beautifully with tangy cheeses such as feta. This watermelon feta salad is a winner and a crowd-pleaser. Try it this weekend paired with grilled chicken or fish. It will be a light yet satisfying summer meal.

Watermelon Feta Salad
Serves 6
You will need:

– 4 cups cold cubed watermelon
– 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves cut in chiffonade
– 1/2 cup of crumbled feta cheese
– 4 tablespoons Saba
– 2 tablespoons of olive oil
– 1/2 teaspoon salt

To prepare:

Arrange the cubed cold watermelon in a shallow platter. Sprinkle with basil, feta, saba, salt and olive oil. Serve immediately.

I prepare this salad right before we sit down to eat, so it stays cold, crisp, and fresh. If prepared in advance, be sure to keep it chilled until ready to serve.

Enjoy xx

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Easy Appetizer:: Eggplant Camponata

 

If you have your copy of Cocktail Italiano, you know that it’s not only filled with cocktails but also delicious appetizers. In the section on Imperia, an industrial town along the coast, you’ll find three classic cocktails and several nibble recipes. This eggplant camponata is one of them. Camponata is one of my favorite, stand by appetizers. It’s creamy, spicy, salty, and of course, eggplant-y. It’s divine.

I like to serve mine with thin crackers or crostini, along with arugula and grape tomatoes. Plate it all with a touch of grated Parmesan cheese and a drizzle of the best olive oil you have. Enjoy!

Eggplant Camponata

You will need:

– 1/4 cup olive oil
– 1 small red onion, finely chopped
– 4 cloves of garlic, crushed or coarsely chopped
– 4 cups of cubed eggplant, skin on (1″ cubes)
– 1 cup chopped tomatoes
– 1 cup chopped fresh basil
– 1/4 cup capers
– 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
– 1/2 cup tomato sauce (from a jar is fine, unless you have homemade hanging around)
– 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
– salt and pepper to taste
– Parmesan cheese for garnish
– Crispy crackers or flat crostini (find this recipe in Cocktail Italiano, too!)

To prepare:

In a large pan, saute chopped onions and garlic in olive oil until translucent. Add all other ingredients, except Parmesan cheese. Cover and stir frequently, so camponata does not stick. Saute on low heat until combined and soft, about 30-40 minutes.

Serve as a warm appetizer on crisp crackers and plate with arugula and tomatoes. Enjoy alongside cold white or sparkling wine with friends.

xx Annette

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