Grilled Veggie Bruschetta

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Now that spring is here, we can all get back to grilling. Being outdoors with family and friends around a grill is such a hallmark of warmer months. There’s nothing like whipping up a beautiful meal outdoors. This recipe is from my first book, Picture Perfect Parties. Pair this grilled veggie bruschetta with a cocktail from Cocktail Italiano, and you’ll be left with one fabulous way to kick-off an outdoor soiree.

Grilled Veggie Bruschetta
Serves 8

You will need:
– 1 red onion
– 1 eggplant
– 2 medium size zucchini
– 2 medium size yellow squash
– 6 Roma tomatoes
– 2 red peppers
– 2 lemons
– 1 bunch asparagus
– ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
– salt and pepper
– 2 cloves of garlic
– 1 loaf of rustic bread sliced + 3 tablespoons olive oil to coat
– 8 oz. of soft goat cheese

To Prepare:

Coat both sides of the bread with olive oil

Slice eggplant into ¾ inch disks

Slice zucchini down the center lengthwise

Slice yellow down the center lengthwise

Leave red peppers whole

Slice lemons in half

Cut the tough ends off the asparagus

Peel and slice onion, place onion in aluminum foil pour 2 tablespoons olive oil over the onion on top, seal the foil forming a little package

In a separate bowl, place olive oil, and with a micro plane, grate the garlic cloves into the oil, add salt and pepper. Reserve ¼ cup of the mixture for later.

Place all the vegetables in a large bowl and toss with cup of olive oil mixture.

Grill bread slices until nicely toasted. Pull off the grill and set aside.

Place all vegetables on the grill beginning with the onion. 10 minutes into the onion grilling, add eggplant, zucchini, squash, peppers, and lemons. Grill for about 15 minutes, and finally add asparagus spears. Grill all the vegetables for another 10 minutes.

Pull everything off the grill but the onion. Run the red peppers under cold water until cool to the touch, peel, and pull seeds from inside the peppers under running water. Place on paper towels to drain and then slice the peppers into ribbons and place onto the platter. Remove the onion from the grill. Slice zucchini, squash, and eggplant into bite-size pieces.

Place the all of the grilled veggies onto a platter.

Drizzle remainder of the olive oil mixture and squeeze grilled lemon over the entire platter of grilled vegetables. Serve at room temperature with spreadable goat cheese and rustic bread slices.

Photo Credit: Deborah Whitlaw

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Aperitivo Nibbles from my new book Cocktail Italiano

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My new book includes lots of great appetizers; I like to call them nibbles.

Whenever you order a cocktail at a bar in Italy, there is always food involved. Simply brilliant. I think it may be my favorite part. Full disclosure: I love seeing what bars choose to serve with their cocktails. Sometimes it’s just olives and the humble potato chip, and sometimes it’s the most lovely fresh focaccia with sublime charcuterie, a veggie frittata or mini salads like the fennel orange salad in this post. Poached scampi, rice salads, and fried calamari are some of my favorites.

Check out my book Cocktail Italiano for all the nibbles recipes, and my fun stories about our time living on the Italian Riviera… oh and of course, there are amazing cocktail recipes as well.

Enjoy the recipes in my book at home with friends, or toss it into your suitcase and do my Aperitivo tour on the Riviera in the back of the book. My book includes all my favorite bars, beach clubs, local joints, fancy hotel bars and classic haunts to enjoy aperitivi. Cin cin. x

Cocktail Italiano

Orange Marinated Fennel with Pecorino Shavings
Serves 4

You will need:
– 4 oranges peeled and sliced in ¼ “ thick slices
– 1 large fennel bulbs sliced into paper thin pieces
– ¼ cup apple balsamic vinegar I like Ritrovo brand or apple vinegar.
– ½ cup orange juice
– ½ teaspoon salt
– 2 tablespoons olive oil
– ½ cup small black olives
– 1 cup shaved Pecorino cheese

To prepare:

Slice peeled oranges and fennel into paper thin slices. Combine vinegar, juice, salt, oil in a bowl. Place the oranges and the fennel on a platter pour the vinegar mixture over the oranges and fennel. Sprinkle olives over the oranges and fennel. You can make this in the morning and let sit out all day, serve for aperitivo with small plates with forks.

Scampi Poached in Olive Oil

You will need:
– 3 cups olive oil
– 3 large fresh rosemary sprigs
– 18 uncooked large shrimp or scampi, peeled and deveined
– 4 Lemon wedges

To prepare:

Add 3 cups olive oil into heavy large saucepan, and add rosemary sprigs. Attach deep-fry thermometer to side of saucepan and heat oil over medium heat until thermometer registers between 165°F and 180°F. Sprinkle shrimp with salt and pepper. Add shrimp to hot oil and poach just until shrimp are opaque in center, adjusting heat to maintain temperature between 165°F and 180°F, about 8 minutes. Transfer shrimp to paper towels to drain. Serve at room temperature, garnish with lemon wedges.

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Using Jars to Elevate Dips & Sips

It’s clear that jars and small vessels are having a big moment in the food world. Desserts in jars, cocktails in jars, pickles of every imaginable variety in jars, sauces, salsa, spreads and salad dressing in jars. The best part is, this trend turned every day normal is a great way to recycle those small containers currently in your fridge and pantry. Just imagine the possibilities!

There are many ways that you can incorporate jars into your entertaining repertoire, but I’m sharing a few of my favorite styling tricks below.

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  1. Cocktails: Putting a summer drink in a mason or jelly jar is something that people have been doing for years. It never gets old and is always a fun presentation. This idea is especially great for group gatherings like wedding and baby showers. Pre-make your beverages and add them to an ice bucket, so guests can self serve.
  2. Appetizers: Dips and spreads like tempanade are great in this recycled glass jar; it’s such a fun way to serve spreads. Plus, if there are any leftovers, you can easily close that jar and pop it right back into the fridge. Stylish presentation, and easy clean-up? Yes, please.
  3. Dessert: Almost any dessert, especially one that includes ice cream or pudding, can be served in a small jar. Layer different sweets together in a jar to make it as beautiful on the outside as it tastes on the inside.
  4. Almost anything else you can imagine! If you can think if up, give it a try. BBQ in a jar layered with slaw, beans, pork, pickles, and sauce? Yes. Salads for grabbing on the go or meandering throughout a party? Absolutely. You never know what happy styling accident you might stumble upon.

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Photos: Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn

Cocktails : Style Me Pretty

 

 

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Sunday Supper: Fireside Paella

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A few years ago, I hosted a paella party and photo shoot for Atlanta Magazine’s Home it was actually the first feature in the reintroduced version of the magazine.It was a fabulous evening where I pulled together my colorful and delicious fireside paella recipe. I prepared it over an open flame, and it was such a wonder to see it come together in front of the guests eyes.

Paella is a wonderful way to entertain guests while providing them with a delicious meal. Make this on a warm, spring Sunday afternoon and enjoy it with friends and family. Time to make the Paella.

Annette’s Fireside Paella

You will need:

– 8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
– 1/3 cup olive oil
– 1 tablespoons paprika
– Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
– 1 cup crushed tomatoes
– 1 red bell pepper, cut into quarters, stemmed, seeded, and ribs removed
– 1 green bell pepper, cut into quarters, stemmed, seeded, and ribs removed
– 2 tablespoons saffron + 2 cups warm water
– 6 cups homemade or store-bought chicken stock
– 1 pounds chorizo cut into 3 inch pieces
– 2 cups pounds haricots verts trimmed and cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
– ½ onion chopped
– 4 cloves finely chopped garlic
– 1 pound pounds calamari, cleaned and cut crosswise into 1/2-inch rings
– 16 jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined
– 1 dozen littleneck clams, scrubbed
– 1 dozen mussels, scrubbed
– 4 cups *Bomba rice
– 1/2 package frozen lima beans
– 2 cups fresh or frozen peas
– 2 freshly squeezed lemons

To prepare:
Place chicken in a large bowl and add 1 tablespoon olive oil. Sprinkle chicken with paprika and 1/2 teaspoon salt; turn chicken to coat. Cover chicken and let marinate, refrigerated, at least 4 hours and up to overnight.

Cut peppers crosswise into 1/4-inch strips; set aside. Using a mortar and pestle, grind together saffron. Add saffron mixture to a medium bowl and add 2 cups water. Whisk until well combined; set aside.

If using a charcoal grill, make a fire in your grill. When the charcoals are completely covered in gray ash, hold your hand about 5 inches above the grill grid; count how many seconds you can comfortably leave it there. When you can hold it there for 1 to 2 seconds, you have high heat and are ready to cook. Alternatively, you can cook the paella on a stove over high heat.

Place a 20-inch paella pan with 3-inch sides over desired heat source. Coat the bottom of the pan with olive oil and heat, until pan is very hot, about 5 minutes. Add chicken thighs and cook, turning, until golden brown on all sides, about 8 minutes. Add sausage and cook, turning, until browned, about 3 minutes then pull from the pan and set aside.

Put onions, garlic, into the pan sauté until transparent and caramelized. Add rice and saffron water to onion garlic mixture, stir to coat, cook about 1 minute. Add 3 cups of stock and bring to a boil.  Add tomatoes, and haricots verts. Cook, stirring, about 2 minutes. Add chicken and sausages and add calamari, and shrimp, and cook, stirring, about 2 minutes more; add clams and mussels. Cook until rice is tender, about 15 minutes, adding more stock as necessary.

Add lima beans and peas and cook, until tender, about 3 minutes more. Season with salt and lemon juice; serve immediately.

* Bomba Rice is a specialty Spanish Rice

xx Annette

Photos by Nicole Letts 

Sara Dorio

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How to Elevate Boxed Cake Mix, Just in Time for Valentine’s Day

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Hi Everyone! It’s Nicole, Annette’s friend and web-manager, and I’m back with a fun, festive post for Valentine’s Day. Let’s start at the beginning: I am a pretty good cook! I enjoy putting my own twists on recipes, and my specialties are sauces and condiments. I make a mean aioli.

That said, I am absolutely not a baker. It’s just not my forte. I enjoy adding a dash of this or a pinch of that here and there, so the precision of baking just isn’t my thing. But, since I love chocolate, cookies, and creme brûlée just as much as the next gal, I’m always looking for ways to incorporate baking…kind of. My current favorite trick: elevating boxed cake mix.

While you can elevate boxed cake mix many different ways, there are two no-fail ways to take boxed mix from drab to fab. First, bake it in a fun dish.

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This serves two purposes: one, it instantly makes the cake look like you spent more time on it. Two, you can serve your cake directly from the dish. Presentation is huge!

I picked up these ceramic bakers from HomeGoods for a steal. One thing to remember: if you are baking in ceramic, you have to watch the cooking time. I added 5 minutes to the cooking time of the Godiva boxed mix I picked up, but I kept a keen eye on the cake the entire time it was baking.

Another way to elevate boxed cake mix? Make your own fabulous icing. Icing is so easy. Truly. It requires just a few ingredients (namely butter and sugar). I used a recipe found on Jenny Steffens’ blog for a chocolate glaze. It tastes almost exactly like your grandmother’s Texas sheet cake icing and by the end of the afternoon, I was eating it with a spoon. Whoops! Note: I used 2 cups of powdered sugar when I made mine.

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For even more festive fun, you can add a creative design using sprinkles or chocolate pearls – which will only make it look even LESS like boxed cake (win!).

I love the idea of impressing your significant other or girlfriends with a fun, semi-homemade cake like this one for Valentine’s Day. They’ll all be impressed, and you’ll be stress-free!

xo, Nicole

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