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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Summer Supper:: Sausage, Peppers and Polenta, Oh My!

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We are officially in the thick of what’s known as the dog days of summer. This time of year, for better or for worse, are the peak of those hot, humid days that leave us wondering if fall will ever take pity on us and arrive early. Rarely do we have such luck.

As a result, quick simple suppers are the way to go. Think one pot/one pan meals, or those that require the shortest amount of prep and cooking time. After all, the sooner you get out of the kitchen, the cooler you will be.

A few weeks ago, I made a twist on my sausage and peppers dish from my book, Picture Perfect Parties. I chopped them up placed them over a quick polenta. If you’ve never baked polenta, you should. It’s fantastic for a crowd because it saves time at the stove, and makes cooking for a crowd a breeze. The result was delicious and of course, easy! Give it a try.

Sausage, Peppers and Polenta
Serves 8
You will need:

– 6 Italian sausages
– 2 red peppers sliced
– 2 hot banana peppers sliced
– 1 jalapeno pepper minced
– 2 green peppers sliced
– 2 cups canned crushed tomatoes
– 4 cloves of garlic minced
– ¼ cup olive oil
– 1 teaspoon salt

To prepare:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Slice the peppers and the sausage into bite size pieces. In a large bowl toss all the ingredients and mix well. Place mixture into a ceramic baking dish. Bake for 1 ½ hours and serve warm. Garnish with assorted herbs like rosemary, parsley, oregano, or chives.

Baked Polenta

You will need:
– 1 ½ cups polenta
– 4 + ( 2 cups in reserve to add as needed) cups chicken stock
– 2 cloves garlic fine dice or shaved on a micro planner
– ¼ cup olive oil
– salt to taste

To prepare:
In a large clay-roasting pan, place polenta. Add stock and garlic. Salt and drizzle the ¼ cup olive on top. Place into oven for 45 minutes @350.

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Summer Delicacy:: Fried Squash Blossoms

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This time of year squash blossoms are everywhere in our La Fortezza veggie garden. For the past few weeks, we’ve been picking these delicate flowers and whipping up batches of fried squash blossoms.

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The recipe for fried squash blossoms is from my book,  Picture Perfect Parties (Rizzoli). It’s one of my favorite summer staples. You will adore this recipe. The exquisite flavors and crisp texture will make you swoon. You will be planting squash in your garden every year just to yield this cheese-filled treat. Trust me.

Ricotta Stuffed Fried Squash Blossoms
Serves 6-8

You will need:

– 12 to 16 large zucchini squash blossoms
– About 4 cups vegetable oil for frying
– 1 cup whole-milk ricotta (preferably fresh)
– 1 large egg yolk
– 1/4 cup finely chopped basil
– 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
– 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoon all-purpose flour
– 1 egg
– 3/4 cup chilled seltzer or club soda
– 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
– Salt and pepper to taste

For the filling:

– 1 cup whole-milk ricotta (preferably fresh)
– 1 large egg yolk
– 1/4 cup finely chopped basil
– 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
– ½ teaspoon salt

For the batter:

Note* you can make the batter a couple hours before and set aside.

– 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
– 1 egg
– 3/4 cup chilled seltzer or club soda
– 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
– 1 teaspoon salt
– 1 teaspoon pepper

To prepare:

Filling the blossoms:

Dry the squash blossoms with a paper towel, do not wash them under the tap, wash them in a bowl of water.

Carefully make a small opening in the top of each blossom. Using a piping bag or plastic bag with a hole cut into the bottom, pipe the filling into the opening filling about half way up the flower. Close end and gently twist flower closed.

Store the stuffed blossoms in the fridge until you are ready to fry.

Frying the squash blossoms:

Heat oil. Test heat by dropping a few drops of the batter, if it crisps up you are ready to go. Dip stuffed blossoms into the batter with a small tongs then drop them carefully into the oil.

Fry the blossoms until crisp and place on a paper towel to drain.  Serve immediately.

 

Photo Credit: Deborah Whitlaw Llewelleyn & moi

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Berry Week:: Blueberry Pie

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If you are ever in need of an excellent dessert filled with succulent berries, I recommend this delicious blueberry pie from my cookbook Picture Perfect Parties Rizzoli NY.

This is the most delicious blueberry pie recipe ever and is wonderful this time of year when blueberres are plentiful. I love to serve pie in vintage pie tins. Sometimes I slice a large piece and serve it to a couple with 2 forks. It’s a great way to mix it up.

Blueberry Pie
Serves 6-8

You will need:

Pie Crust Ingredients * pie crust can be made up to 2 days ahead
– 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
– 4 tablespoons sugar + 1 teaspoon sugar for the top crust of the pie
– 2 sticks butter chilled and cut into cubes
– ½ teaspoon salt
– ¼ to ½ cup ice water
– 3 tablespoons whole milk

Garnish: fresh lavender sprigs

To prepare:

Pie crust Preparation

In a food processor, pulse together flour, sugar, and salt for 3 seconds. Add butter and pulse into pea-size pieces about 3 minutes. Drizzle cold water, 1 tbsp at a time, and pulse just until evenly moistened and pulls away form the sides and forms a ball about 3 minutes. Turn dough out onto a work surface and gather into a ball, turning dough to combine any dry crumbs. Wrap dough in plastic wrap, then press into a disk about 1 in. thick. Chill dough at least 1 hour and up to 2 days.

For the filling, you will need:

– 4 cups blueberries
– ¾ cups sugar
– 3 tablespoons cornstarch
– 2 Tbsp. butter, cubed

To prepare:

Pour blueberries in a large bowl, sprinkle sugar, corn starch and salt over the blueberries, and toss lightly.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F

Cut crust into 2 pieces form 2 disks and roll out each pie crusts to about an 11-inch circle. Place 1 dough circle into a pie plate, add blueberry mixture, dot the top with butter and cover with top crust. Trim excess dough and Crimp edges with your fingers all around and cut slits in pie. Brush with milk and sprinkle with a teaspoon sugar. Bake on the bottom rack for 45 to 50 minutes until bubbly (shielding with aluminum foil after about 20 minutes or until golden) let cool and serve.

xx Annette

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Negroni Week 2019 Recipe:: Negroni Sbagliato from Bar Basso in Milan

Ciao Tutti! It’s my favorite week of the year! Negroni Week!

I love a Negroni. You could say it is one of my favorite Italian cocktails, and I have several variations in my book Cocktail Italiano , but this one is for a Negroni Sbagliato, one of my favorites from my favorite bar in Milano, Bar Basso.

What can I say about Bar Basso, that has not already been written about it? It’s the most classic Italian bar you will set foot it. Its owner is famous for this amazing cocktail which all started as a mistake, but a happy mistake and those are the best kind. In my opinion Bar Basso is what a bar should be like. It’s messy and un-kept though it’s chic decor makes it authentic, warm and friendly but still somewhat chaotic.

Great looking people of all ages congregate until late into the night. The blaring neon bar sign beacons you to cross the street and order a drink. Settle in and watch the ultimate sartorialist scene unfold. It’s quintessential Milan, Bar Basso.

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Negroni Sbagliato- Bar Basso

Negroni Sbagliato
Serves 1

You will need:
– 1 ounce sweet vermouth
– 1 ounce Campari
– 1 ounce lightly sparkling wine
– Orange slice

To prepare:
Combine vermouth and Campari in an ice-filled glass. Top with sparkling wine, stir to combine and garnish.

Cin Cin and find more Negroni recipes in my book Cocktail Italiano.

Happy Negroni Week! xx

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