Monday, June 13, 2011

End of the Beginnigs

OK, I should have called this the "end of the starts" but that's not very clever and catchy, is it?
I can't believe that I got this far behind on my blogging for the show. Well, I guess I can considering we had company all weekend and I spent lots of time in the kitchen or over the Weber.
In a related story, I had an idea as I was thinking about making poppers: Brush a little maple syrup on the bacon. It turned out to be a winning thought. I let them go for a few minutes covered in the Weber and then brushed the bacon-wrapped poppers with a little maple syrup adding another layer of flavor to the smoke, tang and bit-of-a-bite.
Of course, you can always leave the bacon off and follow my sister's recipe from the last blog.
But I like the taste and texture that the addition of some meat gives to that very American appetizer.
If you want neither the meat nor all the cheese, choosing to make something healthier but still want the meaty texture in an appetizer, then the recipe for stuffed mushrooms is a good choice.
Mushrooms offer a meaty texture in themselves with the filling adding a nice crunchy and salty contrast.
Stuffed Mushrooms
1/2 cup plain dried breadcrumbs
1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1/4 cup finely chopped flat leaf parsley
Several leaves of fresh mint, finely chopped
Pinch of salt plus several grindings of fresh black pepper
Enough olive oil for moistening the mixture plus more for drizzling over the mushrooms.
25-30 mushrooms (white button or cremini)

Preheat oven to 400F.
Mix first five ingredients together in a bowl. Add enough olive oil, mixing with a fork, to moisten.
Remove stems from mushrooms and reserve for another use. Place mushrooms on a lightly oiled baking pan. (Alternatively, you may line with parchment to save clean up.)
Fill each with some of the mixture and drizzle with a little of the oil and bake for about 25 minutes or until topping turns a golden brown.

Another healthy appetizer I featured last week was one made of fresh fava beans very reminiscent of Hummus, a favorite of my partner, Jim. I made this over the weekend and got the seal of approval from the house hummus-lover. Hope you'll take the opportunity to make this while fava beans are enjoying their short, short season.
(Make certain that you choose the smallest beans possible as the larger ones take on an unpleasant texture and taste and must be freed of their outer skin through boiling and tedious removal.)
Use a good extra virgin olive oil. I prefer a good unfiltered oil with a bit of a peppery bite if available.

Fresh Fava Spread

1 1/2 cups young, fresh fava beans, shelled
1/4 cup grated pecorino cheese
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Pinch of salt
Several grindings of fresh black pepper
Extra Virgin olive oil

Place all ingredients except olive oil in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until everything is finely ground scraping down the sides with a spatula from time to time.
With the processor running, add a stream of olive oil until mixture achieves a spreadable consistency. While adding, check from time to time making certain that the mixture does not become too thin.
Serve on crostini or cracker of your choice.

Last week's Quick Fix finds its place on my top ten sauces for that pasta staple to which we always return...spaghetti. (I like to remember Sofia Loren's quote, "Everything you see, I owe to spaghetti.")
I have no idea if this recipe originated from the area of Calabria in the toe of Italy or whether perhaps it was made in the kitchen of a Calabrian immigrant using what was available here in America. Whereever it came from, it found its way to me and now it's finding its way to you. I hope you'll try it. The leftovers, if there are any, make a beautiful frittata the next day.

Calabrian Spaghetti

1/4 pound sopressata, diced
1/2 cup pitted calamata olives
1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped
Chili flakes to taste (or if you can get them, one dried Calabrian chili chopped)
1/3 cup dry red wine
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped flat leaf parsley
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 cups passata or tomato puree
1/2 chopped onion
1 pound good quality spaghetti, cooked and drained.

In a large wide skillet, heat olive oil and saute onions and saute until soft. Add chili flakes, soprressata and olives cooking for an additional 3 minutes or so. Deglaze with wine and add passata and garlic and reduce slightly.
Add basil and cook an additional minute. Stir in parsley and mix with cooked spaghetti serving pecorino at table.

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