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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Easter Meal::Stuffed Leg of Lamb

Unicorn Salt

Full disclosure, I am a big lover of salt. As most chefs will tell you, a dish that is not seasoned perfectly (that’s salt and pepper) is kind of not worth serving.

One of our family favorites from Picture Perfect Parties is stuffed leg of lamb, generously stuffed with Meyer lemons, green olives, rosemary and garlic. I liberally used my favorite salt, Magic Unicorn (it is indeed magically delicious) on the outside of the lamb. It was spectacular.

Since Easter and Passover are likely small gatherings this year with just immediate family (if not even smaller than that), use this recipe as a treat to yourself during these difficult times.

Here’s the recipe below, I used about 1 tablespoon (plus a little more:-) and massaged the salt into the lamb before stuffing and tying it up.

Unicorn Salt

Roast Stuffed Leg of Lamb with Lemon and Herbs
Serves 6-8

For the lamb, you will need:
– 1- 4 Pound boneless leg of lamb +kitchen string. Note: Some stores sell this already rolled and secured in a netting. You need to remove this if so.

To prepare the lamb before stuffing:
Liberally sprinkle then rub the outside of the lamb with Magic Unicorn salt, about 1 tablespoon, plus a little extra. Set aside and prepare the stuffing.

Lemon and Herb Stuffing

You will need:
– 3 tablespoons olive oil
– 3 tablespoons butter
– 4 cloves chopped garlic
– 1 cup panko bread crumbs
– ½ cup green olives chopped
– ½ cup raisins *optional
– 2 small lemons cut into small wedges, toss the lemon wedges in ½ teaspoon sea salt *note Meyer lemons , should be used if available
– 3 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
– 2 tablespoons fresh thyme
– ½ cup chicken stock
– 1 teaspoon pepper to finish stuffed lamb

To prepare stuffing:

Heat oil and butter add garlic sauté until lightly browned medium heat 3 to 4 minutes. Add remaining ingredients and sauté for 5 minutes until combined. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F

Place the leg of lamb on a cutting board lined with butcher or parchment paper lie the lamb flat top side down.

Place the stuffing into the middle of the roast mounding it into the middle.

Wrap the sides of the lamb around the stuffing tuck in the ends and tie the lamb with kitchen string, sealing the stuffing.

Place the stuffed lamb on a rack in a roasting pan fattest side up.  Roast at 425 for 15 min. Reduce heat to 325 and roast 30 to 45 minutes or until desired degree of doneness., for medium rare it should read 130 degrees to 135 degree F. Once it’s reached this temperature, remove it from the oven and let rest for 15 minutes.

Carve into slices and serve.

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Decadent Grilled Cheese

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Is there anything better on a fall day than sitting down to nosh on 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. Meet the decadent grilled cheese.

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.

You can also cut these into quarters and serve them as an appetizer or finger food. How fun is that?!

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.

Decadent 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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Festive Fall Food:: Chorizo Skewers

Esporao & Annette Joseph

Hey Everyone! It’s Nicole, Annette’s web manager and friend, and I’m here sharing another inspiring recipe from Annette. This time of year seems to be filled with fall fetes. It is football season in the South afterall! I’m always on the hunt for quick, easy and most of all, delicious recipes to take to parties. Of course, I turned to Annette for inspiration and found this recipe for chorizo skewers.

I love the idea of making elevated tailgate food like this, especially since my days of outside tailgating are over. I prefer to watch games from the comfort of my couch with a fine wine versus a cheap beer, thank you very much!

What’s more simple (and transportable!) than a tasty skewer? Annette recommends using top-notch ingredients for this one. Let us know if you try it for your next party!

Chorizo skewers with Manchego Cheese and Tomatoes
Serves 10

You will need:
4 links of Chorizo sausage
– 1/2 pound wedge of 12 month Manchego Cheese
– 20 baby tomatoes
– 1 loaf of crusty bread, cut into slices
– 10 wooden skewers

Preparation:

Grill sausages on medium heat then pull off of the grill and set aside to cool. While the sausages are on the grill, cut the cheese into 1 inch cubes and set aside. Cut the sausage into 1 inch slices. Using the wooden skewers, pierce the sausage and then the tomato, and cheese, then sausage, tomato, and cheese and then sausage. Repeat with all the skewers, and serve with slices of bread. I like to place some olives on the side as well.

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Rosemary Smoked Branzino

Branzino one of my favorite types of fish. It is flaky and subtle, and it takes on flavors quite well. Recently, I smoked it with rosemary from our garden. The results were a buttery smokey flavor with a soft and melt in your mouth texture. On the menu translated from Italian, they call it sea bass, but it really resembles trout more than what we think of a thick cut from a giant fish.

It’s a great summer recipe and the flavors could be translated to other fish types as well. Let me know if you give it a try!

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Smoked Branzino
Serves 4

You will need:
– 3  whole cleaned Branzino about 2 lbs
– 3 lemons
– 2 tablespoons fresh thyme
– 1 large bunch of fresh rosemary on the stems
– 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary chopped coarsely
– 1 tablespoon salt
– 3 tablespoons olive oil

To prepare:

Have your fish monger gut and clean the fish. Rinse under cold water, pat dry and set aside.

In a glass dish place fish and coat with thyme, rosemary, salt and oil, squeeze 1 lemon over the fish and massage into the fish. Place in the fridge for 1 hour.

Start the fire, after coals are white, (about 1 hour) pull the fish from the fridge place on the grill, place the large bunch of rosemary next to the fish and close the lid of the grill. Smoke should start forming, do not open the grill for 5 minutes. This will ensure the smoky flavor permeates the fish.

After 5 minutes, gently turn the fish to cook the other side. Add more rosemary if the rosemary has burned. Cook for 10 minutes uncovered. Watching to make sure the fish doesn’t burn.

Remove and garnish with lemon slices and serve warm.

 

 

 

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