Appetizers + Entertaining

  • Chiptole Chicken Corn Tacos with Peach & Plum Salsa

    Who doesn't love the idea of creating two meals from one? This recipe was one of those spontaneous creations made out of sheer hunger and leftovers in the refrigerator, but I would make it again from scratch in a minute. INGREDIENTS: 1 cup Grilled Chipotle Chicken (or pork) 1 cup white or brown rice, cooked 1 roasted or steamed ear of corn on the cob 1 ripe peach 1 ripe plum 1 sprig mint 1/2 cup grape or cherry juice 6 Tortillas In a shallow saucepan, warm the juice over medium heat until it boils. Reduce the liquid by half, until it has a thick but not too syrupy texture.  Remove from the heat to cool. Remove the pit from the peach and plum and cut into 1/4 inch dice.  Remove the corn from the cob with a sharp knife. Place all the ingredients into a small bowl.  Chop the mint and add to the bowl with the reduced syrup.  Stir until combined and let sit until ready to use. Heat the tortillas in the 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes, or warm over an open flame on the stove top just until slightly charred on each side.  To assemble the tacos, place the chicken on the taco and layer with the rice and salsa. * When serving guests for entertaining,  keep the tortillas warm in a cloth napkin lined container and serve all of the condiments in separate bowls.  

  • 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!


    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!

  • Tuscan Kale, Pomegranate & Blood Orange Citrus Salad

    When winter rolls around, I get giddy about eating and cooking with some of my favorite fruits.  Pomegranates are like prized jewels from Persephone's underworld that add beauty and brilliance to all kinds of dishes, as well as eaten out of hand (or over the kitchen sink!). The tarocco blood orange is another red rich fruit which adds not only vibrant color to a dish, but also a subtle sweetness and texture. Pair those two flavors with the healthy and hearty kale and you have a winter salad that's a marriage made in heaven.

    Tuscan Kale, Pomegranate & Blood Orange Citrus Salad

    1 bunch Lacinato Tuscan Kale

    1 pomegranate or 1/2 cup pomegranate seeds

    2 blood oranges*

    1 Tablespoon Banyuls or sherry wine vinegar

    2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil

    1 Teaspoon kosher salt

    1/8 teaspoon cracked black pepper

    2 Tablespoons toasted sunflower seeds

    2 Tablespoons toasted pumpkin seeds

    To Prepare the salad: 

    Remove the stems from the kale leaves, reserve for another use.  Stack the leaf "filets" on top of one another and slice crosswise into 1/2 inch strips.  Wash and dry well. Refrigerate until ready to use.

    If using a whole pomegranate, cut into quarters and remove the seeds over a bowl to catch any juices.  Discard the peel and the pith. (Remove any white pith that falls out with the seeds, as it will be bitter tasting.)  Set aside.

    Cut the each end of the blood oranges so a good portion of the orange is exposed.  Slice the peel and pith off the orange, going back to remove any white pith that may have been missed.  It helps to use a small, sharp paring knife, starting at the top and curve the knife blade around the flesh of the orange.  After the peel and pith has been removed, hold the orange in your hand and carefully cut on either side of each segment and let it fall into a small bowl. Squeeze out any juice from the remaining peel and pith into the bowl.  Set aside.

    To make the vinaigrette, strain off the juice from the pomegranate and blood orange.  if there is no pomegranate juice and/or little blood orange juice, use another orange and squeeze juice into bowl.  Add the vinegar, salt and pepper, then whisk in the olive oil.

    To assemble the salad, place the kale in a large bowl. Add the pomegranate seeds, blood orange segments and nuts.  Add a portion of the vinaigrette and toss until all the ingredients are just barely coated. Add more vinaigrette as needed until the salad has enough vinaigrette to be well-coated and glossy, but not over dressed.

    Serves 4-6 as a salad course.

    *use other citrus varieties when not in season

  • Quinoa & Kale Cakes with Sweet Pepper Pesto

    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

  • Sunday celebration :: Apricot Bellini Aperitivo
    Sunday is one of my favorite days. Aside from being a day to sleep and lounge around, it's also a day me and my handsome celebrate. Why shouldn't every Sunday be special?Especially when there's sizzling applewood smoked bacon cooking on the stovetop and the sound of the POP of a bottle of bubbly. This particular Sunday, we've amped up the celebration with a little twist on the traditional bellini (traditionally made with pureed peach nectar) by using our Organic Artisan Preserved Apricots blended with a bit of its almond-y cane sugar simple syrup. Let the celebration begin.  Salute!  Ingredients: 4 Preserved Apricots 2 Tablespoons apricot syrup 1 bottle of chilled Prosecco or sparkling white wine In a blender, puree the apricots and syrup. Pour 1-2 Tablespoons of the puree into chilled champagne glasses and top off with chilled prosecco or champagne. Sip and savor until supply lasts.

  • Bella Spotlight: Tuscan Grill

    The Tuscan Grill is an Alice Waters slow food favorite. Handcrafted by Tuscan metalsmiths and modeled from an 18th-century Italian design, this grill is a functional and versatile new addition to the home and kitchen. "There is a universal magic in fire that transforms food as it grills," Alice Waters writes in her book The Art of Simple Food. "Grilling is nothing like cooking on a stove top or in a gas or electric oven: There's an unpredictability to it, a wild side, an immediacy that sets it apart." Bella Cucina founder Alisa Barry first encountered the Tuscan Grill while apprenticing with Waters at acclaimed restaurant Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California. Remaining true to its roots, the Bella Cucina Tuscan Grill is made from high-quality hand-forged steel. The result is a treasured cooking tool that enables year round artful eating and entertaining -- both indoors and out. "Once you have tasted slow cooked foods on the Tuscan Grill, you may never go back to gas grill cooking again. Cooking over hardwood is the best way to impart natural flavor when grilling," says Barry. The Tuscan Grill is available in two sizes: Originale (18.5" w x 16" d) to fit traditional indoor and outdoor fireplaces and Grande (25" w x 18.5" d) for indoor hearth cooking or outdoor fire pit cooking. The Grande size was custom-designed by Alisa Barry and is a popular size for those who enjoy entertaining. The grill is easy to clean with adjustable height settings, allowing food to cook at high, medium or low temperatures. The wooden handles allow the grill to be adjusted without the use of oven mitts and features a steel drip pan to collect juices to create a beautiful sauce or serve au jus. Invest in a Tuscan Grill and enjoy the depth of flavor that only a woodfire grill can impact. Pair the grill with any of our savory salts for an easy and excellent meal. This week only, both sizes of the grill are on sale: Originale $99 and Grande $149. Give the perfect gift to your favorite grilling aficionado. Try these inspired grill recipes: Tuscan Lemon & Rosemary Chicken Under a Brick Sardinian Sausage Spiedini Grilled Apricot & Radicchio Mint Salad

  • Bella's Pantry Essentials: California Arbequina Extra-Virgin Olive Oil

    California Olive Oil paired with Calendula & Chive savory salt and a good hunk of fresh ciabatta bread
    Olive Oil. God's gift to cooking and eating. Don't skimp on good quality extra-virgin olive oil, either. The best premium olive oil is not for cooking, but rather for flavoring salads or drizzling over a finished dish. A good olive oil is one of the best investments you can make in your cooking, since a little drizzle will go a long way. Remember, olive oil loses its flavor when heated, so keep a less expensive oil on hand for sautéing, roasting and grilling.
    Bella's California Olive Oil on display at Porta Via in Atlanta
    Bella's California Olive Oil is made from northern California Arbequina olives that are harvested and pressed early in the season -- usually in November. Early harvest olives produce richer, fruitier oils with a peppery finish.The Arbequina olive is highly aromatic and yields a more delicate olive oil that is dark green in color. Our California Olive Oil has a smooth texture, excellent fruit aroma and an intense fruit and peppery flavor. This olive oil has a very approachable flavor, perfect for even the novice cook. It pairs beautifully with our Aromatic Savory Salts, especially the Porcini & Parsley or Wild Oregano & Sage salts, making an excellent antipasti dip for soft bread. This Olive Oil is truly an excellent and essential pantry addition. Use it sparingly at the end of cooking. Whisk into a vinagrette, brush onto a few sheets of Pane Rustico, drizzle atop soups, pasta or pizza to add a delightful finishing flavor. Though this olive oil is not currently available on our website, don't fret! You can pick up a bottle, or two, in person in our Porta Via retail store in Atlanta, GA or give us a call at (404) 815-1826 to place an order by phone. Grazie!

  • Preserved Plum Tea

    Preserved Plum Tea
    I've always loved the ceremony of making and drinking tea.  Warm tea offers a comforting invitation to slow down, sip and savor life's quiet moment. Iced tea provides a welcome and refreshing repose to the hot summer humidity. However you serve this beautiful crimson-colored tea,
    choose beautiful cups that will delight the senses as much as the tea itself.
      Enjoy it in the spirit of the ancient tea masters.
    {Tea is a religion of the art of life.}   
    quote by Okakura
    To make preserved plum tea:
    1 tea bag or 2 Tablespoons loose plum, pomegranate, or strawberry tea
    4 Bella Cucina Preserved Plums
    Organic Artisan Acacia Honey
    In a tea kettle, heat spring or purified water until boiling.
    Cut the plums in half and remove the pits.
    Pour the water into the tea pot with the tea bag and plums.
    Steep 4 to 5 minutes, then remove the tea bag.
    Serve warm with honey or stir in honey to taste and refrigerate until cool.
    If serving cold, pour chilled and sweetened tea into glasses filled with crushed ice and a sprig of garden herb {mint, marjoram, rosemary or lavender}. Garnish with a slice of preserved plum.

    Buon appetito!copyright 2011 Alisa Barry

  • Alfresco Pizza Party


    Hard to believe it's the end of November and I'm cooking out of doors alfresco with friends! Even for northern California it's unseasonally warm for almost winter time, so we took full advantage of it.  
    My friend Barbara is an amazing cook {and accomplished artist} so spending an afternoon at her house watching her create a fabulous feast from her garden was like heaven on a plate. 
    We were welcomed with roasted olives perfumed with lemon oil and a hint of picante peperoncini. Salumi and cheese whet the appetite while Barbara rolled out the pizza dough, readying it for the 500 degree oven.  Caramelized shallots, fresh heirloom sweet 100's {or sweet million as she calls them} and fresh milk mozzarella melted into the crispy crust. Freshly picked arugula leaves drizzled with oil gave the pizza a nice bright finish.  And of course, prosecco and red wine took us merrily, merrily, merrily from antipasti to dolci dessert. 
    Good food is good, but shared with friends in the spirit of love and generosity
    makes it something sublime. 

    Buon appetito!copyright 2011 Alisa Barry

  • Baked Tomatoes with Garden Herb Salsa


    Baked Tomatoes with Salsa Verde
    5-6 roma tomatoes, quartered to base
    1 jar Bella Cucina Garden Herb Panini spread
    2T Bella Cucina EVOO
    2t. Bella Cucina Citrus/Fennel Salt
    1/3 cup panko bread crumbs
    Preheat oven to 350.
    Take quartered tomatoes and put 1 t. salsa verde inside each one. Place stuffed tomatoes snugly in Mezze tagine or other baking dish and add another teaspoon of salsa verde to the top of each tomato. Then drizzle w/ EVOO, sprinkle w/salt and top w/ panko.
    Bake for 30-40 minutes, then finish by broiling for 2-3 minutes until the crust is golden.

    Buon appetito! copyright 2011 Alisa Barry

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