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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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Watermelon Spritzer:: THE drink of the season

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Watermelon is ripe and ready this time of year which means it’s time for Keith Robinson’s delicious batched cocktail recipe, the watermelon spritzer. It’s perfect for spring and summer. Try it this weekend, and let me know what you think. Remember: you can always cut it down for a smaller, more COVID-19 appropriate group. Or just make the entire batch for a weekend of refreshments.

Watermelon Spritzer
Serves 12

You will need:
– 6 cups watermelon juice
– 1 cups fresh lime juice
– 1 cups mint simple syrup
– 1 bottle white Bordeaux or white burgundy wine
– 1/2 bottle club soda
– Fresh mint, lime slices as garnish

To prepare:
In a pitcher combine all the ingredients and ice and stir. To serve add fresh mint and slice of lime as garnish to each glass.

Photo: The Raftermen

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Is your squash blossoming?! Time for fried squash blossoms!

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Last weekend, my friends Steve and Jill McKenzie whipped up a batch of my squash blossoms from my first book,  Picture Perfect Parties (Rizzoli). This time of year, squash blossoms are a fun addition to any menu. The recipe is simple and the results are fabulous. It’s one of my favorite summer staples. 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.

After seeing the McKenzies posts on Instagram, I was inspired to share the recipe with you here. Enjoy it!

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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AJS Team in Quarantine: Kate Blohm

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Hi there, I’m Kate Blohm, the on-staff photographer of La Fortezza. Quarantine has been a mixture of emotions, as I’m sure it has with everyone. I hope that you and yours are staying well and that after reading, you may be inspired to lean into the small joys in this new pace of living. 

When everything started happening, I was already in North Carolina for my niece’s birthday. The numbers in Atlanta started to grow, my jobs were being canceled and then my roommate was diagnosed with the virus (she has thankfully since recovered).

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I ended up staying with my family for a few weeks and at first, I felt really overwhelmed trying to figure out what I could do, how I could help and contribute as much as possible. I realized that I had to transition my thinking to be smaller, actionable items and focus on this day and what I can do next to help others and take care of myself. 

Each night I cooked dinner for my parents (who both work essential jobs), and each day I watched my niece Elliott for my brother and sister-in-law (who also work essential jobs). It was quite the opposite of my life here in Atlanta, so I tried to savor the slowness with that freshly turned two-year-old. We went for walks, baked cookies, danced daily and had pool parties. It was a nice change of pace, and it was very fulfilling for me to be able to spend that kind of time with my family. 

Since returning to Atlanta, I’ve been working a lot with my friends at Georgia Organics, a non-profit that connects Georgia’s organic farmers to Georgia consumers. Originally we were working on a video project for the G.O. Farmer Champion Campaign, a campaign designed to encourage and celebrate chefs and restaurants who focus their sourcing on buying local. There was an award ceremony planned for May, the video was 90% shot, caterer sourced, flowers budgeted for, the whole shebang, but like many things these days, it’s been canceled until further notice.

However, the work is still moving forward, and we’re transitioning the story to also cover G.O.’s responses to the outbreak, like Food Fight GA, “This new initiative is providing restaurant workers with weekly grocery boxes including ingredients sourced from Georgia farms and freshly baked bread from Root Baking Co.” It’s been really grounding to watch this movement unfold and see how the Atlanta food community is rallying together to support each other in this time of crisis.

At home, I’ve been able to do a lot of the things that I’ve been “too busy” to do. Over the years, I’ve saved recipe videos (mostly Bon Appetit) or bookmarked cookbook pages with the intention to cook it someday. “Someday” always feels like it’s coming but for some things, it never does. I’ve tried to utilize this time to be full of all of the “somedays”.

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For me, it’s things like roasting a whole chicken and not letting any of it go to waste or writing letters on those beautiful postcards that I got in Greece and mailing them out or finally scheduling time to complete Marie Forleo’s B-School. Having to find joy in daily (at-home) life is the new norm, for who knows how long…so I encourage you to reach out to people you care about, do some things that you’ve always wanted to do “someday”, eat nourishing food and support local as much as you can. I promise, it’ll help you feel better. 

Photos by Kate Blohm

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AJS Team in Quarantine:: Valerie Failla

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Today’s post is from our PR guru, Valerie Failla:

I am a publicist.

I have worked in areas of public relations, in almost every specialty—big brands, small brands, in-house, off-site—you name it. For the last two decades, I have primarily focused on the culinary and hospitality industries. Unfortunately, these two are a few the hardest hit industries during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Lately, friends and industry cohorts tell me, “Reinvent yourself.”

My response is always “No.”

I want to continue to be who I have always been simply because it is who I truly am. My “job” has never felt like a job in the traditional sense of the word. What I do for clients fuels my creativity, my drive, and my passion. There isn’t anything else that I could–or would–ever aspire to be.

9/11. I lived on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. For weeks, grey smoke hung outside the front windows of my dilapidated, fourth floor, walk-up apartment, although I lived over six miles from the World Trade Center site. I walked seventy-seven blocks and too many avenues to count to work for over two weeks for fear there would be another surprise attack, and I would be crushed underground on the subway. One would think that after surviving the fright of a terrorist attack in your own hometown backyard you could make it through anything. How could life possibly get any worse?

The most difficult difference between that darkest period in America and our current climate is the isolation. My kids can’t go to school. I can’t go to the diner for a cup of coffee and cheese fries. My husband and I cannot now do the work we have so thoroughly enjoyed since my agency, Via Failla PR & Events, launched in 2016. I have read that isolation can play incredibly interesting tricks on the mind, therefore, I will be infinitely grateful for my family who keep me busy, smiling, laughing, and again–very busy.

So what to do? Seek the silver lining.

Planting
As a family we have always planted an assortment of vegetables and herbs on our back deck. While we have been sheltered in place, we have taken the opportunity to create a much larger garden than we have in past years. Part of our newfound excitement is watching the newly potted strawberries and jalapeños bloom for the first time! Gardening is incredibly rewarding!

Play on!
Classic board games including Life, Monopoly, and Operation have been keeping all our minds occupied (as well as laughing!) After playing several nights of each, I have often thought to myself, if it wasn’t for the pandemic, would my kids even know about these iconic games that kept my sister and me so entertained throughout the 80’s?

Cooking
Hands down, our number one favorite activity. Cooking food is therapy. It is an incredibly positive, creative, and simple way to spend time with those we are quarantined with each day and then reap the delicious benefit! My sweet Gen Z children have created time-lapse videos of us cooking and my husband has taken so many photos of our dishes to post socially, that it’s beyond flattering!

Out of extreme circumstances comes learning. We will become tougher, smarter, save more money, and organically be more humble when we finally drive this infectious demon out of society.

Until then, stay home, stay safe, and keep on creating!

Here is one of my husband’s most favorite breakfast foods, egg toast cups. Adults and kids can easily make them and you can add in anything at all from your pantry.

Egg Toast Cups

You will need:
– One, regular size muffin tin
– Olive Oil spray or olive oil
– Bread Slices (Any kind work. However many muffins your tray makes, that’s how many bread slices you need)
– Room temp butter
– Eggs (number is same as how many muffins your tray makes)
– Italian Parsley (minced)
– Minced garlic (or garlic powder if out of fresh garlic)
– Salt and pepper
– Any Italian cured/dried salami “cold cut” that you can easily tear up
– Vegetables or other additions anchovies, roasted peppers, just about anything works!

To prepare:
Either spray the muffin cups or wipe evoo all over each muffin cup to prevent the bread from sticking

Butter both sides of each slice of bread

Push each slice of bread into each muffin cup and form it to stick to the muffin cup to make a bowl

Whisk all eggs and add in S&P, minced garlic (or garlic powder)

Pour egg mixture into each muffin cup and be sure to leave a bit of room at the top b/c egg will rise when cooked

Rip up salami and put a few pieces in each muffin cup (bologna is good too!)

Bake at 400 degrees until the egg is cooked but top is a bit soft (or cooked to your own liking)

Top w/parsley and serve (they easily come out of the muffin cup and they look really pretty!)

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