Appetizers and Snacks · Recipes

party prep…peppadews

We’re having friends over for dinner tonight.   Just a few…and now a few more.  Now it’s a nice cozy group of 10.  Oh Sunshine!  Who else did you invite?

I love getting the text…are we still on for tonight?  Sunshine is always inviting friends for dinner.  Sometimes he just forgets to tell me about it.  Not that I mind.  I love it!

Soooo…I got up early this morning to get the party prep started.  Actually, Paige demanded  that I get up to feed her breakfast at 5AM!  God bless her.

The s’mores peppermint ice cream cake is ready to rock and roll, I’ll post about that later.  Now these little gems are ready to go.  They’re cheese stuffed peppadew peppers. Continue reading “party prep…peppadews”

Appetizers and Snacks · Pizza · Recipes · Vegetarian

Mom needs a snack for the car

My Mom cracks me up. She can find her way blind folded to any shopping mall, but when it comes to driving 10 minutes up the street to her friends house, well, that’s another story. That 1o minute drive turns into 4o minutes and then requires an escort after 10 calls. Then there’s the GPS. The damn GPS always tells you to turn in a half mile. NOW HOW ON GOD’S GREEN EARTH IS SHE SUPPOSED TO KNOW HOW FAR A HALF MILE IS??? And the GPS lady is so mean! Just because my Mom isn’t really listening to her, doesn’t mean she has to yell at her! Anyway, it’s times like this when you need a snack.   So this one’s for you Mom, just in the off chance you get lost again.

Here’s Mom!  She loves NYC.  This is a photo from her visit to see her grandson, Jason.  Luckily she didn’t have to drive in NYC, there’s taxis for that.

Zucchini, Red Onion and Herbed Goat Cheese Flatbread

  • 1 prepared pizza dough
  • 1/2 red onion, thin slice
  • 1 zucchini, thin slice
  • 8 ounce log of goat cheese
  • 1/4 buttermilk
  • handful of basil leaves, chiffonade
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • Freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • Olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.

Roll out the pizza dough to fit the sheet pan.  Combine goat cheese with buttermilk to create a spreadable consistency.  Add basil, salt and pepper to the goat cheese mixture.  Spread half of the goat cheese mixture on half of the pizza dough.  Sprinkle with a generous amount of parmesan cheese.  Using the parchment paper as a guide, fold the pizza dough in half lengthwise.  Spread the top with then remaining goat cheese mixture.  Place zucchini in a row along the right and left sides, and the onion in a row down the center.  Sprinkle with more parmesan.  Drizzle with olive oil.

Bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown.  Notice all the wine.  Greg and Silvia picked up a few bottles for us at Amazing Grapes, their wine store in Rancho Santa Margarita.  Go check it out.  They have a really cool wine bar.

Appetizers and Snacks · Recipes · Vegetarian

Bruschetta al Pomodoro

Stephanie and Peter are off to Italy.  Luck outs.  They should be in Sienna by now.

We were in Sienna a few years ago for Danielle and Paul’s wedding.  What a glorious time we had.  The wedding was beyond amazing, set right in the heart of the wine country.

We stayed in an “apartment”.  It was the most amazing apartment, with a cypress lined driveway.

We had dinner at La Bottega del 30, and loved it so much we wanted to go back again the next day.  We couldn’t because they were closed for their cooking school.  Of course we took the class, and this bruschetta was one of the dishes we made.

Sunshine was the super star of the class.  He’s using a mezzaluna knife to chop the nettles used for our pasta.

Bruschetta al Pomodoro

  • 1 pound ripe tomatoes
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 small bunch of basil, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 pinch crushed red pepper
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 6 slices country-style bread
  • salt and pepper

Cut an “X” at the bottom of each tomato.  Drop into boiling water for a few seconds, until the skin starts to pull away from the tomato.  Remove tomatoes from water and peel.  Remove seeds and dice.

Place tomatoes in a bowl, along with garlic, basil, oregano, crushed red pepper and olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper.  Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Grill bread and serve topped with tomato mixture.

Grape vines outside of our apartment.

What a beautiful sunset.

This was taken at the Duomo in Sienna.

My handsome photographer.

Appetizers and Snacks · Recipes · Side Dish · Vegetarian

Braised Artichoke Bottoms

You’ve got to really love someone a lot to make these artichokes for them.  To say they are for special occasions ONLY is an understatement.

Here are a couple of suggestions before you dive into this recipe:

1/  Make sure you’ve had a full night’s rest prior to making these artichokes.

2/  Limit your alcohol consumption the day before.

3/  Do not attempt to make these on a hot day while wearing sweat pants.  (It is okay to make on a hot day, but dress appropriately, for the love of God!)

Braised artichoke bottoms

  • 6 artichokes
  • 1 lemon, halved
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon fresh basil, chiffonade

Trim artichokes, remove stems and choke, leaving the artichoke bottom only.  Rub with lemon as you go.

Mash garlic and salt together, rub some of the paste onto the top of the artichoke bottoms and place upside down in a 12″ saute pan.  Add water, olive oil, the rest of the garlic paste, and  lemon half.  Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for 20 minutes.

Remove artichoke bottoms from the pan, sprinkle with basil.  Bring the braising liquid to a boil, and reduce to 1/4 cup, whisking to emulsify.  Drizzle over artichoke bottoms.  Serve at room temperature.

Paige loves artichoke leaves.

Appetizers and Snacks · Recipes · Salad

Balsamic Caviar?

You’ve heard of “Julie and Julia”, the blog, the book and then the movie.  Now there’s Marge and Michael.

Michael Chiarello’s new cook book,  Bottega…Bold Italian Flavors from the Heart of California’s Wine Country, has just been released, and I had to get it.  Lucky for me, on Wednesday Michael had a book signing at Napa Style, his store in South Coast Plaza.   He signed my book, gave me a hug and told me to “just keep cooking, Sweetheart”.  He’s very hot and sexy, but not as hot and sexy as my sweet Sunshine.

I was blown away by the crazy balsamic caviar he used in his updated version of a caprese salad in my fabulous new cookbook.  I immediately ordered the caviar making tool and the gold gelatin leaves to try it out.  I had never used gelatin sheets before, turns out it was pretty easy.  Check it out.

I made a mixture of balsamic vinegar and gold leaf gelatin, and let that rest for an hour.  At the same time, I put grape seed oil in a large glad container and let chill in the freezer.

Add the balsamic mixture to the bottom tray of the caviar maker.

Cover with top half of the caviar maker.

Create a suction by pulling the syringe back, pulling the balsamic mixture into the individual caviar pods.

Lift the top half of the caviar maker, and place over the chilled grape seed oil.

Slowly press the syringe to release small drops of balsamic mixture into the chilled oil.

Freeze the balsamic caviar in oil for a couple of minutes.

Remove from oil with a slotted spoon or mesh sieve.

Place into a dish that has been chilled.

And we have balsamic caviar!

I’ve used it on top of strawberry ice cream too!  Check out Marge-Alcious Morsels for a video on how to use the caviar maker and how to make strawberry ice cream using dry ice!

Balsamic Vinegar on FoodistaBalsamic Vinegar

Appetizers and Snacks · Recipes

Wishful Thinking

My sweet Molly girl loves figs.  She sits under the fig tree for the entire growing season, hoping to catch a fallen over ripe fig.  Yesterday was her lucky day.  Everyone scored, Molly, a flock of birds, even we got a few!

Now what should we do with our bounty?  Fig jam for starters.  Maybe stuff a few.

We had an amazing pizza at Tony’s in San Francisco while there for my Alcatraz swim.  The pizza was topped with asiago, mozzarella, gorgonzola, sweet fig jam, prosciutto di parma, parmagiano reggiano,  and balsamic vinegar.  Time for more pizza and more fig jam.  The jam would be delicious on a baguette with a little goat cheese too.

Fig jam

  • 1 pound mission figs
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • juice of 1 lemon

Mix sugar and lemon juice and figs  in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Bring to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes.

Gorgonzola stuffed Figs

We also stuffed a few with gorgonzola cheese, wrapped them in proscuitto and baked them for 10 minutes at 350 degrees.  Chik is a vegetarian, so we excluded the proscuitto from his.

Fig stuffed with gorgonzola, wrapped with prosciutto