Antipasti Appetizer

  • Pan-fried Morel Mushrooms

    When I was growing up in the midwest, my family spent many weekends in a remote part of Wisconsin where the only entertainment was the adventures we dreamed up on a vast expanse of farm land. After enduring harsh winters, much of it spent indoors playing countless board games and taking turns cooking (or stirring) at the stove, we enthusiastically welcomed the warm weather.  Spring and summer meant long hikes in the pasture, brown bag lunch excursions next to a pebbled stream and playing in the  overgrown garden. Surrounded by an ancient apple orchard, the garden was lush with tall stalks of tart rhubarb,  pencil-thin asparagus spears and tumbles of tart concord grapes, all of which provided an edible education and plentiful afternoon snacks until our stomachs ached.  Little did I know back then that one of my favorite farm foraged foods, morel mushrooms, was an expensive seasonal ingredient sought after by discerning chefs.

    Our neighbor (who lived more than a mile away)  grazed cattle on the land and knew just where to forage these prized fungi.  Morels have an earthy scent, much like that  of the forest floor. Just picked morels are soft and spongey with an earthy scent of the forest floor.  Their honeycomb - shaped spores create the perfect surface for absorbing flavor.  My favorite way to eat morels is how my mom used to make them, lightly breaded with an egg and flour batter and pan sautéed in foamy brown butter until golden and soft. We devoured them hot out of the pan, just after they were sprinkled with salt.

    Morels have since become more easily found, but they hold an expensive price tag.  At a cost of roughly $20-25 per pound, I still have no hesitation snapping up a heaping handful whenever they're in season, which are only a few months, starting in April. If you  have morels growing in your neck of the woods, you'll typically find them growing at the base of dead or dying elms, old apple orchards, old ash,  and poplar trees .  If you're lucky enough to have access to these spongey fungi, consider yourself a fortunate forager!

    BATTER PAN-FRIED MOREL MUSHROOMS

    This recipe is so simple, I can't really call it a recipe, it's more like a "go by" how to make it.      You can create all kinds of variations, using panko breadcrumbs or adding chopped fresh or dried herbs to the flour or breadcrumb mixture.  Just be sure to let the flavor of these delicate fungi shine.

    • Fresh  morel mushrooms  (about an ounce per person)
    • 2 whole eggs, beaten
    • 1 cup all -purpose flour, seasoned lightly with salt and pepper
    • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
    • 3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
    • Coarse sea salt

     

    Dip the cleaned morel mushrooms and coat until the all surfaces are completely covered. Drain off excess, then dip into the flour and coat lightly, shaking off any excess flour.  Carefully place into pan and cook over medium heat until golden brown on each side. Remove from the pan and sprinkle with salt.  Eat immediately!

    buon appetito!

  • Quinoa & Kale Cakes with Sweet Pepper Pesto

    www.bellacucina.com

    I hate to waste anything.  so, when I had a handful of kale stems left over, I just had to come up with a good way to use them.  I think this recipe might be a good start.

     

    Kale & Quinoa Cakes with Sweet Pepper Pesto

    4 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

    1 cup onion, chopped

    1 cup kale leaves and/or stems

    1 clove garlic, chopped

    1/2 tsp. salt

    1/8 tsp. pepper

    1 cup cooked quinoa

    ¼ cup panko breadcrumbs

    2 TBSP. grated fontina or Parmesan cheese

    1 large egg

    ½ cup Sweet Pepper Pesto

    In a medium sauté pan, heat 2 Tablespoons of the olive oil over medium low heat.  Add the onions and cook until soft and translucent.   Add the kale, garlic, salt and pepper to the onions and cook an additional 3-5 minutes, or until the kale stems are tender. Remove  pan from the heat and place the kale mixture in a mixing bowl.  Add the cooked quinoa, breadcrumbs, cheese and egg. Mix until well combined. Form patties in the palm of your hand.  In the same sauté pan, heat the remaining olive oil over medium heat. Cook a few quinoa patties on each side until lightly golden brown.  Serve warm with warm sweet pepper pesto sauce and a garnish of freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Serves 4-6 as an appetizer   *vegan version: omit cheese and substitute 2 Tbsp. olive oil for egg.   recipe adapted from cherylstyle.com

  • Caesar Salad with Meyer Lemon Dressing

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    photo credit: Andrew Thomas Lee
    Caesar Salad with Meyer Lemon Dressing
    This dressing is a bit of a twist on the traditional caesar dressing. We use Meyer Lemon Relish instead of fresh lemon juice to give the salad a more vibrant color, texture and flavor.
    Ingredients: 
    3 eggs
    1 teaspoon chopped fresh garlic juice of half lemon
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1/8 teaspoon pepper
    3 Tablespoons Meyer Lemon Relish juice of 1/2 lemon 2 filets anchovies {salt pack is best} Freshly grated Parmesan cheese {use the good stuff, please}
    1 head of romaine lettuce, tender young leaves best
    ____________________________
    Bring a small saucepan of water over high heat until it boils.Carefully lower in the eggs, trying not to crack the shell. Cook one egg for five minutes, and the other two eggs for nine minutes, removing the egg and placing it in cold water to stop the cooking.  Let cool.Cut the five minute egg in half. Remove the runny yolk into a mixing bowl large enough to toss the greens. Add the lemon, garlic, salt and pepper. Blend until smooth. Rinse and remove any bones of the anchovies and chop the filets into a fine mince.  Add the Meyer Lemon Relish, lemon juice,  anchovies and 2 Tablespoons of the Parmesan cheese.  Whisk well to incorporate all the ingredients.   Keep refrigerated until ready to use.
    To assemble the caesar salad: 
    To prepare the salad, remove any big, tough outer leaves of lettuce and set aside for another use. Slice the remaining head of lettuce into four quarters. Remove the core and disgard.  Toss the lettuce with the dressing until well coated, but not drenched.
    Place the dressed lettuce onto a plate or platter.  Scatter a Tablespoon or two of grated Parmesan over the dressed salad greens.   Cut the eggs in half and arrange around the lettuce leaves.  Sprinkle the eggs with fresh cracked pepper. Serve with Parmesan crostini.
      To make crostini: Preheat oven 350 degrees. Slice a baguette into ½ inch slices and place on a sheet pan.  Brush the baguette slices lightly with melted butter.  Sprinkle 1 teaspoon grated parmesan cheese onto each slice. Bake for 10 minutes  or until golden brown.
    buon appetito!
    Serves 4 - 6
  • Oxtail Soup

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    One of my most favorite comfort foods in fall was my mom's oxtail soup.  Feeding a family of nine, she did whatever she could to cook on a budget and still feed us well.  Back then, oxtails were the poor man's meat. Today, they are an expensive treat. And well worth the money.

    Rich, dark veal stock or beef broth makes this hearty soup simply delicious without any embellishment, but you can also add carrots, celery and onion as a flavorful base.  Mushrooms would also be a nice addition. Toss in a small handful of grains, such as farro,  or whip up a batch of home-made dumpling dough that will get dolloped on top, steaming until puffed up and ready from the steam of the broth.

    I don't have my mom's recipe, but I winged it pretty well.
    Here's my version of this fall comfort food feast:

    Oxtail Soup

    1 pound oxtails 
    2 Tablespoons olive oil 
    4 cups veal stock or beef broth 
    pinch of Porcini & Parsley savory salt 
    In a large cassarole dish  or saute pan, heat the olive oil over medium high heat.
    Place the oxtails in the pan and sear on all sides until the meat is browned and caramelized.
    Add the stock or broth and cook, covered, until the meat is tender and the broth is 
    reduced, about 1 to 1-1/2 hours.  The meat should fall off the bones and the broth should be infused with the flavor of the meat. 

    Buon appetito!copyright 2011 Alisa Barry

  • Grilled Apricot + Radicchio Mint Salad

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    Grilled Apricots + Radicchio Mint Salad
    6 Organic Artisan Apricots, cut in half and remove pits
    
8-10 leavesof fresh mint
     
2 small heads of radicchio
    
4tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
    
2Tablespoons Acacia Honey
     
2 ounces Tumacheese *
    {*fresh mozzarella or fresh pecorino will also do well}
    

Preparethe fire for the grill. Toss the apricot halves with 1 Tablespoon of the olive oil. Chiffonade {cut into thin strips} 4of the mint leaves and sprinkle on the peach. Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon of thesalt. 

     

Cut the radicchio heads in half. You should have fourpieces. Drizzle with 2 Tablespoons of the olive oil. Sprinkle with theremaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt. 

    

Place the apricots and radicchio on the grill. Don't move the fruit for a few minutes so theybrown and caramelize, which will help them easily come off the grill. {about 1 -2 minutes}.  Gently remove the apricots from thegrill with a spatula to a cutting board or plate. Cut each half in 4 slices. Drizzle with 1 Tablespoon ofthe Acacia honey while they are still hot so they absorb some of theliquid.  You can stop right here anenjoy the grilled apricots with a dollop of whipped cream or mascarpone mix witha bit of vanilla and organic sugar. 

    Or....keep going. 



    The radicchio will bedone on the first side when the edges of the leaves begin to brown. When thefirst side is nice and browned, turn over and grill the other side. The firstside will take a bit longer {about 3-4 minutes}.The second side will take justa minute or two. Remove from the grill to a cutting board or plate and setaside to cool enough to handle. 

Slice the tuma into 1/2 inch pieces. Place ina medium bowl. Chiffonade remaining 4 mint leaves and add to the bowl. 
 Cut theradicchio crosswise into 1/4 inch slices. 
Add to the bowl with the apricots and gently toss.Drizzle with the remaining 1 Tablespoon of Saba and toss again, just untilcombined.
Serve right away.




    Buon appetito!copyright 2011 Alisa Barry

  • Pimenton Cheese Dip

    This dip is a riff on the traditional Southern pimento cheese.  It might be blasphemy to say so, but I've never been a fan of pimento cheese....that is until now.
    I can't take credit for this one. Some of our best recipes come from the amazing + talented people who work with our artisan-made products everyday. This is one of those recipes that customers just ahhh over whenever they take the first a bite. It's been so popular, we made it into a panini.
    The secret is in the ingredients. It's slightly off center traditional, and right on target for flavor.
    Pimenton, or Spanish sweet pepper paprika, gives it that final special touch.
     Southern or not, chances are you're gonna love this easy appetizer spread.
    PIMENTON CHEESE DIP 
    2# sharp white cheddar cheese, grated
    1 cup mayonnaise
    2 cloves garlic, chopped
    1 Tablespoon Pimenton smoked paprika
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    In a large mixing bowl,  add  the cheese, mayonnaise, pesto and garlic. Fold all the ingredients just until blended. Add the paprika and salt,  and stir just until incorporated. Taste for seasoning, adjusting the paprika and salt as you like.
    Serves 6-8 as an appetizer with dipping crackers.
    * Try it stuffed under the skin of chicken breasts and baked in the oven.

    Buon appetito!

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