A Patriotic Tablescape for July 4th

While we won’t be celebrating the fourth of July in the traditional sense in Italy, I know many of you are gearing-up for a few days of festive fun at home. Whether you’re planning a cook-out at your house or headed to a friend’s home, I wanted to give you a bit of July 4th inspiration.

A few years ago, I created a patriotic tablescape for guests. I used red, white, and blue of course, but I also added a few pops of silver. The silver streamers add the cutest fourth of July flare and mimic sparklers.

The video above covers a few of my other favorite ideas for setting a great table as well as some tips for keeping drinks in order and some ideas for nibbles and treats too. Take a look and let me know what your 4th of July plans are in the comments!

xx Annette

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Backyard Bramble Cocktail

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There are few things better than a simple summer cocktail, and that’s exactly what this Backyard Bramble is. By definition the word “bramble” means “a rough prickly shrub.” Specifically, a bramble often refers to a blackberry bush.

Blackberries are plentiful during the summer which is why this cocktail is perfect for warm summer days. It’s refreshing and delicious. I know you’ll love it as much as I do.

Feel free to try different fruit combinations for making this cocktail your own. Raspberries, blueberries, and strawberries would all be equally as yummy!

Backyard Bramble Cocktail

You will need:
– 6 oz Blackberries (or other fruit of choice)
– Large handful of mint leaves (approx. 12-16 leaves?)
– Juice of half a lemon
– 12 drops or so Meyer lemon bitters
– 4 oz St. Germain elderflower liqueur
– 12 oz Gin
– mineral water or club soda

To prepare: 
 
In a pitcher, muddle blackberries, mint, and lemon juice. Add bitters, St. Germain, and gin. Let sit in the fridge for an hour or so. Strain, and serve over ice topped with mineral water.
Serves 6-8 in small tea glasses.
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Tomato Week:: Two Bite Parmesan Crisps

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These lovely little two-bite parmesan crisps are savory and salty with a crunch—perfect to serve with a chilled citrus-y glass of Prosecco or Rose. It’s a quick appetizer that uses parmesan cheese with a combination of tomatoes – tomato jam to be exact.

The tomato jam here is the star of the show, but you’ll love the addition of mozzarella and basil too. These bites make a great addition to any menu for a summer soiree.

Two Bite Parmesan Crisps
Makes about 32

For the Tomato Jam:
You will need:
– 3  tablespoons olive oil
– 1 garlic clove, chopped
– 1 teaspoon salt
– 4 large heirloom tomatoes, coarsely chopped
– 3 tablespoons sugar
– 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

To prepare:
Place ingredients into a medium pot over medium heat for 15 minutes, set aside to cool. This step may be done a couple days in advance, and placed in the refrigerator in a sealed container until ready to use.

For the Parmesan Crisps:
You will need:
– 8 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated (about 4 cups)
– Place 2 tablespoons of Parmesan on a cookie sheet fitted with a silpat.
– Arrange the spoonfuls about 3 inches apart as they will spread to form round crisps.

To prepare:
Place in a 350 F degree oven for 3-5 minutes until golden brown. Remove and allow to cool before assembling the appetizer.

To assemble:
– 1 (8-ounce) ball fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
– 1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh basil leaves

Place a dollop of  jam on top of the crisp, and add cubes of mozzarella and garnish with a basil leaf.

From my book Picture Perfect Parties RIzzoli NY

 

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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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