The Humble Fungus

The Humble Fungus

You’ve seen them in the produce section, those over-sized, imposing mushrooms that are earthy tan colored. These fungi have black gills on their underside and a thick woody stem. They might not be all that appealing in their native state, but boy are they great grilled, roasted and stuffed! It gets even better when you find out that these Portobello mushrooms are a natural source of vitamin D.

Because they are so meaty, you can substitute Portobello mushrooms in many meat dishes, and lots of good cooks do this all the time. But, when you make the mushroom the actual star of your meal, you can adapt a whole new attitude! Here’s a recipe that I played around with this week. Let me know what you think.

Grilled Portobello Mushrooms

With Sun-Dried Tomatoes, Goat Cheese, Pancetta & Toasted Breadcrumbs

Serves 4 for a Veggie Main or 8 as an Appy

30 Minute Cuisine

The goat cheese is remarkable in this appy! The goat cheese is remarkable in this appy!

Spending quality time in the Farmer’s market naturally leads to veggie forward main meals. This is one of these. There’s nothing better than meaty mushrooms, with a tangy, crunchy filling! You can serve these mushrooms as a first course, or as a late-night snack. The flavors are fantastic – everyone is a mushroom lover after tasting this dish!

1 cup Panko Breadcrumbs

2 tablespoons butter, melted, plus 2 more for sauce

1 (3.5-ounce) julienned sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, drained but save 2 tablespoons of the oil

4 ounces pancetta, finely diced

4 large garlic cloves, minced, about 2 tablespoons

¼ cup Marsala wine

Juice of ½ medium lemon, about 2 tablespoons

1 teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

8 Portobello mushrooms, stem and gills removed

8 ounces goat cheese

2 tablespoons olive oil

Preheat the oven to 350°. Mix the bread crumbs with 2 tablespoons melted butter in a small bowl. Spread the crumbs onto a baking sheet. Toast the buttered crumbs until they begin to crisp, about 5 to 7 minutes. Remove and set aside.

Pour 2 tablespoons of the oil from the sun-dried tomatoes into a skillet over medium high heat. And the pancetta and cook until crisp. Use a slotted spoon to remove the pancetta to a platter lined with paper towels.

Add the sun-dried tomatoes to the skillet. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Pour in the wine and simmer until most of the wine has disappeared, about 3 to 5 minutes. Pour in the lemon juice. Season with some of the salt, crushed red pepper and parsley. Turn off the heat and swirl in 2 tablespoons of butter. Stir in the parsley.

Heat a grill pan on high heat. Brush the mushrooms with olive oil on both sides. Season with salt and pepper. Grill the mushrooms, turning once, until they are just beginning to soften, about 5 minutes total. Add the goat cheese into the cap of the mushrooms, turn off the heat and cover with aluminum foil to allow the cheese to melt. Transfer the mushrooms to a platter. Spoon the sun-dried tomatoes over the cheese, into the mushroom caps. Top with pancetta and toasted breadcrumbs.

A Simple Italian Favorite Best Served to Good Friends

A Simple Italian Favorite Best Served to Good Friends

I’ve been experimenting with some new recipes for a book I am working on with my friend, Susan Fazio – who also happens to be a painter. She’s painted a series of scenes from fresh markets all over the world. I pair my farmer’s market recipes with her pictures and… well…there’s a book concept there!

Sue and her husband, Tom Fazio (he’s a golf course architect) visited recently, and I pulled out the stops, creating an evening in Italy. The menu featured a basket of antipasti, home baked focaccia bread, Caprese salad, lasagna Bolognese, home-made gelato and fresh baked hazelnut biscotti. Sounds yumm, right? But, the star of the meal was my tomato braised veggie dish. The recipe stars artichokes, which I designed as a first course. But, for this meal, I added baby zucchini and yellow squash. Let, me tell you, I was very popular by the end of the evening.

Here it is for you to critique! Let me know what you think!!

Tomato Braised Artichokes with Pesto Rub

Serves 8 as an Appy, 4 as a Main Dish

90 Minute Cuisine

In Italy, everyone is family and family dining is all about platters of delicious food, passed around the table to loud kudos and sighs of delight. This is one of those dishes. Artichokes are an Italian staple. Trimming the artichoke takes some time, but after that, this dish is all about infusing flavors. These artichokes are covered in a salty, rich pesto and then simmered in a tomato-wine broth. They take on the flavors that they swim in. Serve these in a large, shallow bowl with the resulting juices spooned over the top. Everyone rolls up their sleeves, and pulls the leaves through their teeth. When you get down to the artichoke heart…. life is just a bowl of goodness!

For sauce

1 (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes

1 cup dry white wine

2 cups homemade vegetable stock, or prepared low sodium vegetable broth

¼ cup olive oil

2 teaspoons kosher salt

½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

For pesto

1 (7-ounce) tin flat fillets of anchovies, packed in oil

1 whole head garlic, cloves peeled

1 bunch fresh basil leaves

½ cup olive oil

For artichokes

4 large artichokes

2 lemons, halved

Pour the tomatoes, wine, chicken broth and ½ cup olive oil into a large roasting pan. Season with some of the salt and crushed red pepper. Set the pan on the counter while you move on to make the rub.

Place the anchovies, garlic and basil into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse to combine. With the bowl running, slowly pour in ½ cup olive oil to make a thick paste.

Trim the artichokes by first pulling the thick, dark green outer leaves, leaving the tender green leaves in place. You’ll lose about half of the leaves. Use a vegetable peeler to remove the tough partial leaves from the bottom of the artichoke and the stem. Cut off the tough end of the stem, leaving about 3 to 4 inches. Cut off the top third of the artichoke leaves. With every cut or peel that you make, rub lemon over the cut ends. Slice the artichokes in half. Use a spoon to remove the spiny choke from the center. Pull out the spiky inner leaves. Place the trimmed artichoke into a bowl of cold water with lemon slices. Repeat with the remaining artichokes.

Remove the artichokes from the lemony water one at a time. Brush anchovy pesto on both sides of the artichoke and place cut-side down into the pan with tomato sauce. Place the pan on the stove top, and bring the sauce to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover the pan with a lid (or aluminum foil). Simmer the artichokes low and slow (over low heat and for a long time). Turn the artichokes in the sauce several times to coat while they simmer. Continue cooking until a fork easily pierces the artichoke hearts and the sauce reduces, about 45 to 60 minutes. If the sauce evaporates too quickly, pour in more stock.

Serve the artichokes on a platter and spoon the sauce over the top.

Transport Yourself to Romantic Italy with this In-Season Appy

Transport Yourself to Romantic Italy with this In-Season Appy

Italian flavors run so much deeper than Olive Garden might lead you to believe. I know because I was lucky enough to travel to the Mediterranean, and breathe deep the fresh herbs growing wild beside the sea. One of my favorite things to eat – whether I’m under a Tuscan sun or an American one – are artichokes. Me and the quintessential Italian veggie go way back – as in 40 years back when I met my husband (we celebrate our anniversary this weekend!), and he lovingly prepared braised artichokes; it may have been a long time ago, but I still remember dipping those tender leaves in a rich, mayo-lemon sauce.

Peak season for artichokes is right about now, by the way – they’re something special to love in the springtime!

I’ve been trimming and eating the prickly things ever since – maybe it’s what attracted me to my hubby in the first place. If you’re new in artichoke town, I caution you to wear gloves, and be especially careful as you trim your way down to the heart of the artichoke; this gets scooped out, and replaced with whatever yummy fillings and seasonings you see fit. For a delicious-as it is- informative-photo gallery, that illustrates how to get your desired results without…choking up…here’s a link from Serious Eats.

Once you learn how to trim and prep artichokes, it’s like riding a bike. You’ll find yourself craving fresh artichokes, and throwing them into your basket at every grocery run. They’re a pretty good deal, I think – usually around $1.50 each at the farmer’s market – almost $3 if you need to get your artichoke on at Whole Foods.

 

My recipe for an artichoke appetizer comes right out of my new book. This appy is braised, and covered in a zesty, white wine and tomato sauce. Get 3 of your nearest and dearest friends and treat them (and you!) to one artichoke each. This recipe calls for 4 of the yummy little guys. When I serve them to people, my guests tend to remark that they can “really taste the olive oil”. Actually, I think artichoke dishes bring out the best in all the essential Italian flavorings, like basil, pesto, anchovies and lemon for good measure.

This recipe yields enough savory sauce to throw into your Vitamix for a creamy soup later on. Here it is in all its Italian glory! Oh, and P.S. It’s a sneak peek at Chapter One of the new book I’m working on! Enjoy! BRAVO!!

Not the recipe, but close! To see finished product check out my Canvas & Cuisine Photo Album on Facebook

Tomato Braised Artichokes

with Pesto Rub

Serves 4 as an appy

60 to 90 Minute Cuisine

For sauce

1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes

2 cups dry white wine

2 cups homemade vegetable stock, or prepared low sodium vegetable broth

½ cup olive oil

2 teaspoons kosher salt

½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

For pesto

1 (7-ounce) tin flat fillet anchovies, packed in oil

1 whole garlic bulb, cloves peeled

1 bunch fresh basil leaves

½ cup olive oil

For artichokes

4 large artichokes

2 lemons, halved

Pour the tomatoes, wine, chicken broth and ½ cup olive oil into a large roasting pan. Season with salt and crushed red pepper. Set the pan on your stovetop, without turning on the heat, and move on to make the rub.

Place the anchovies, garlic and basil into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse to combine. With the bowl running, slowly pour in ½ cup olive oil to make a thick paste.

Trim the artichokes by first pulling the thick, dark green outer leaves, leaving the tender green leaves in place. You’ll lose about half of the leaves. Use a vegetable peeler to remove the tough, partial leaves from the bottom of the artichoke and the stem. Cut off the tough end of the stem, leaving about 3 to 4 inches. Cut off the top third of the artichoke. With every cut or peel that you make, rub lemon over the cut ends. Slice the artichokes in half. Use a spoon to remove the spiny choke from the center. Pull out the spiky inner leaves. Place the trimmed artichoke into a bowl of cold water with lemon slices. Repeat with the remaining artichokes.

Remove the artichokes from the lemony water, one at a time. Spoon anchovy paste all over the artichokes and place, cut-side down into the pan of tomato sauce. Bring the sauce to a simmer over medium low heat. Cover the pan with a lid (or aluminum foil). Turn the artichokes in the sauce several times to coat. You want the artichokes to cook low and slow (over low heat and for a long time). Continue cooking until a fork easily pierces the artichoke hearts, about 45 to 60 minutes. If the sauce evaporates too quickly, pour in more stock.

Serve the artichokes on a platter, and spoon the sauce over the top.

Host an Interactive Pot Luck for the Holidays

Host an Interactive Pot Luck for the Holidays

When Sous Chefs Crash Christmas

Tired of the same holiday party themes? If you are like me, you’ve done them all: the crazy Christmas sweater party; the winter white party (lots of cauliflower and mashed potatoes). Of course, there was the “everyone brings an ornament” for the tree party, and the ever-popular pirates Christmas party. (There was actually a scuffle during that one!) I have also themed my holiday parties around the Deep South, a cookie exchange, alfresco in December theme (that one was pretty chilly) and even a football tailgating Christmas! I was beginning to think I ran out of fresh ideas… until….. I came up with this one: The Interactive Holiday Party!

The new, hip trend in entertaining is to incorporate interactivity with your party theme. Ideas like painting parties, and guests getting involved with the more exciting aspects of hosting. Interactive food is a natural. Food stations evolve. The idea is to strike a balance between fussing over your guests, and letting them have fun cooking during the party. It’s kind of a new riff on the old-fashioned pot luck supper. Instead of your guests bringing a dish that they prepare at home, they come to YOU first, and help prepare your menu. An interactive pot luck supper invites your guests to double as “sous chefs”, which in French basically translates to the kitchen’s second in command.

Pulling this party off so everyone has a blast is all a matter of setting up the cooking stations in advance; the more organized the host, the more fun your guests have cooking up the meal. Here’s how you do it.

You, the hostess with the mostess, choose the menu.

ARE YOU FABULOUS? ARE YOU FABULOUS?

Then you set up stations for each dish that includes all ingredients, cooking tools and serveware. Set up your dining table and invite your guests to have a seat. Take a couple friends at a time and start cooking. After each dish is prepared, return to the table, and savor the food together as a group. Then continue with more friends to create the next dish. Small plates are best for this idea, as the FUN and tasting go on…and on…and ON! Spread out the stations, so you don’t find yourself cleaning up one station to make room for another. If you have a small kitchen, you don’t have to do everything on your stovetop. Make use of plug-ins like slow cookers, panini makers, electric skillets, etc.

Le menu for your first Interactive Pot Luck

Get started using the following menu as a guideline for creating your interactive pot luck supper. I’m including the recipe for Grilled Guac. The others (and so many more) are available in my iBook Sunday Best Dishes. Did you know you can download the book onto your iPhone?  It is available through iTunes. It’s the gift that keeps on giving. Download it today, and start your holiday cooking off right!

Small Plate 1 – Grilled Guac

Pre-Set: Cut up your vegetables, so they are prepared for either your outdoor grill or your indoor grill pan. Ask your guests to grill the veggies until just done. Cool a bit and then add everything to the serving bowl. Cool a bit and then add everything to the serving bowl. Take turns mashing and tasting. Have the basket of chips ready for scooping when you bring everything to the table.

Small Plate 2 – Warm Brussels Sprouts Caesar Salad

Pre-Set: Buy pre-shaved Brussels sprouts in the bag and microwave to steam them until they are very soft. Cool to room temperature. Prepare a station with toasted bread crumbs (for the croutons), grated Parmesan cheese and Caesar salad dressing. Ask your guests to warm the sprouts in a sauté pan, and toss in the remaining salad ingredients. Serve on small plates with a garnish of cracked black pepper and a sliver of anchovy.

Small Plate 3 – Short Rib Panini Sandwiches

Pre-Set: Cook boneless short ribs in your slow cooker. Create a station with all the elements needed for super sandwiches: artisanal breads and cheeses and roasted tomatoes, flavored mustards and mayos, and crisp veggies like lettuce and cucumbers. Now ask your guests to assemble panini sandwiches “to order”, using a panini maker or good old fashioned waffle maker.

Small Plate 4 – Ice Cream Sundaes with Pizzelle Bowls

Pre-Set: Premix pizzelle batter. Create a station with all of the items needed for sugary ice cream sundaes: chopped candy and nuts, chocolate and caramel sauces, sprinkles, fruit and cookie crumbles. Invite guests to make the ice cream bowls by inverting warm pizzelle cookies over small cups or bowls, and then cooling to room temperature. Your pizzelle maker will be perfect for this. Spruce up the theme by topping with red and green sprinkles.

 ……. And to all a Good Party Night!!!!

 

Snack Attack!

Snack Attack!

This Holiday Season Wrap Your Snacks with Bacon Bows

Then again, why limit a snack like this to the holidays?

HOLY APPY, Batman! This one is for the record (cook) book. I saw Food Network star, Ree Drummond prepare bacon appetizers on one of her Christmas specials and could not resist giving them a try. It is a simple idea of wrapping country club crackers with a thinly sliced piece of bacon and then oven baking the crackers at a low temperature of 250 degrees for 2 hours. Just layer the cracker with either Parmesan cheese or brown sugar. The cracker absorbs all of the rich bacon fat and the cheese or sugar melts right into the middle. This is such a great Christmas appy, which got me thinking, “Why do we have to wait until Christmas to eat things wrapped in bacon? This should be a year-round snack starter!”

That’s what I thought when I realized you can freeze these bacon crackers and then warm them back up any time you need a quick snack. You could also ditch the crackers altogether and embrace the gorgeous deliciousness of bacon in a more natural state. Hello, Chipotle Spiced Candied Bacon! You could also do what I did below in 2 simple steps.

Spicy-Cheesy Bacon on Warm Pita Bread

  • Step 1: Load pita chips with finely shredded cheddar cheese
  • Step 2: Sprinkled on a couple of diced pickled jalapenos and wrap the pita chip in bacon, baking the “bacon bites” on a rack in a baking pan at 250° for two hours.

The result was a cheesy, rich, and salty pita cracker that melted in my mouth and then surprised me with a pop of heat.

Call to Action for All Bacon Lovers!

Let’s start a bacon-wrapped cracker movement. We could change the world! Let’s see what combinations we come up with, and vote on which one is the most original! You post your combo and I will give it a try.

Meanwhile, we will have plenty of bacony treats hidden in the freezer to quell our next snack attack! Oh, and heads up: my blog is going to be doing a whole series of SNACK ATTACKS in anticipation of my lucky #7 book, out in 2015. I think I may have given away the book’s content in this post. Oops! Oh well….commence your snacking – it is going to help me so much!!