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 Floral Dessert:: Lavender Ice Cream

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Believe it or not, we still have more than 6 weeks of summer left. In fact, the first official day of fall isn’t until late September. As such, let’s all agree to continue indulging in summer’s bounty and celebrating the season, shall we?

One of my favorite summer recipes is this delicious blueberry pie and lavender ice cream from my first cookbook, Picture Perfect Parties Rizzoli NY.

While this is the most delicious blueberry pie recipe, the lavender ice cream is the star of the show. It’s a beautiful combination. Lavender is an unexpected fun flavor for guests. If you’ve never cooked with it before, make sure you purchase food-grade lavender. Essentially, get the stuff that’s safe to eat!

I think you’ll love the floral notes of this ice cream, and if you want the blueberry pie recipe to pair with it, you can find it here. Enjoy!

Lavender Ice Cream
Serves 6-8

You will need:
– 3 cups heavy cream
– 1 cup whole Milk
– 2 tablespoons dried lavender
– 6 eggs + 2 yolks
– ½ cup sugar
-¼ tsp salt
– ¼ cup honey
– 1 teaspoon vanilla

To prepare:

Simmer cream, milk and lavender in a saucepan until milk is scalded about 10 minutes.

Remove from heat pour into a bowl and let lavender steep for 30 minutes.

Strain cooled lavender milk mixture back into the saucepan and bring back up to heat. In a bowl whisk egg and sugar, salt and vanilla until creamy. Pull the hot milk off heat and pour about ¼ cup of the hot milk mixture into the egg mixture, whisking while pouring.

Pour warmed egg mixture into the sauce pan with hot milk and put back on heat (medium) simmer until custard is formed and coats the back of a metal spoon about 10-15 minutes.

Whisk in honey and place into fridge chill until very cold.

Put into an ice cream maker follow manufacturers instruction.

Place ice cream into low pan with plastic wrap on the bottom. Freeze until ready to serve.

Photo Credit : Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn

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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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Cocktail Italiano launch and a Massive giveaway :: my new book

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My newest book, Cocktail Italiano: The Definitive Guide to Aperitivo, Drinks, Nibbles, and Tales of the Italian Riviera, is ready to launch. April 3rd is the official date, and I could not be more thrilled. I loved my first book Picture Perfect Parties, but if I am totally honest, this is the book I was meant to write. It is a complete travelog of the Italian Riviera and all of my favorite places to enjoy the Italian ritual of Aperitivo. Nibbles and drinks fill the pages as well as the brightest and most delicious photos of the beach clubs, bars and boardwalks all the way down the Italian coastline. I loved living in Alassio; it was the most posh seaside vacation town I ever visited, and I had the pleasure of living there and enjoying aperitivo by the seaside on the boardwalk most days. Sharing this with everyone makes me incredibly happy. I will be celebrating in Atlanta on April 5th with a launch party which of course will include an Aperol Spritz or 2.

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In honor of Cocktail Italiano‘s launch, I am giving away 12 copies for the 11 seaside towns and 1 major city (Milano) featured in my book.*

  1. Bordighera
  2. San Remo
  3. Imperia
  4. Alassio
  5. Loano
  6. Genova
  7. Santa Margarita
  8. Portofino
  9. Levanto
  10. Portovenere
  11. Lerici- Ecco dell Mare
  12. Milano
  13. Italian Cocktails and food

Sign up to win below; good luck and cin cin!

xx Annette
a Rafflecopter giveaway

*Giveaway is open to U.S. residents 18 and over.

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Serving Stylish Pasta

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Pasta is one of the easiest dishes to serve for a crowd. And, let’s be honest: everyone loves pasta! While it’s one of the easiest things to prepare, it’s easily one of the most difficult things to serve (or shoot!) stylishly.

I almost shudder when I think of having to style something like macaroni and cheese for a photo shoot. The cheese sets-up quickly, and it’s just hard to make it look appetizing. Pasta has great texture in photographs, but without the appropriate styling, it’s simply not pleasant to look at.

Even though you might not be styling for a photo shoot, there are a few tricks to serving stylish pasta at a dinner party. In fact, the number one thing you can do to improve a pasta course is the dish in which its served. The vessel you choose to serve pasta in is the most important element in making pasta look delicious.

Here are a few stylist tricks to use to serve stylish pasta is on your menu:

Ditch the glass casserole dish. In fact I don’t even own one. Instead, think about something earthy to present your pasta, like mac and cheese, in. An iron skillet is perfect! I own lots of iron skillets in all sizes. Not only are they great looking, great to bake in, but they make awesome presentation vessels. The photo above was a pretty cover shot for Southern Living that I styled a couple years ago. I still think it’s so yummy looking. It’s one of my favorites.

Use glasses in unexpected ways. Pesto pasta is pretty, so seeing all the bits of basil in the clear glass is great, plus it’s easy to serve. I love these brandy snifters. They are the perfect size for one serving. Think of all your tableware in different ways. Glasses can be used for more than just drinks!

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Look for interesting shapes in your serving dishes. Here the scallop edged bowl really makes a difference. It’s a nod to the sea, and it looks a bit like a sea shell. You will never go wrong with a seafood presentation if you introduce the sea in some form. Even the serving spoon looks like something you would find along the beach.

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I hope that this has helped you look at how you serve your pasta dishes. Like I said above, the key is to always think about the vessel options you have. Plus it gives you an excuse to pull out your very best, most fun props!

xx Annette

Photo credit: Jennifer Davick, Lauren Rubinstein, Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyen

Seafood Pasta Dish from my cookbook Picture Perfect Parties

 

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