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"It's so beautifully arranged on the the plate – you know someone's fingers have been all over it." – Julia Child

Posts tagged Appetizers

The end-of-day drink is a fairly common affair, whether it’s a swig from the small bottle hiding in an office desk drawer or a few beers with colleagues on the way home. There’s a perfunctory air to some of these evening proceedings, and sometimes, as in the case of happy hours run amok, a debauched one. But in Italy, the pre-dinner cocktail is a much more refined and stylish event. It’s not that the settings are snobbish or expensive, it’s more a matter of the activity being a respected ritual.

An aperitivo is an Italian cocktail designed to tease the appetite in preparation for supper. The alcohol content of the ingredients used to mix the drinks is fairly low, as the point is not to send anyone home completely sauced. You’re probably familiar with vermouth, Campari, and Aperol, so you’re already off to a good start in the art of aperitivo. Following are a few simple drinks and recipes — because aside from sophisticated sipping, small bites are an indispensable part of the custom.

And, if you’re feeling inspired be sure to pick up our friend Marisa Huff’s beautiful book Aperitivo: The Cocktail Culture of Italy for more recipes and tips on how to eat and drink like an Italian. Cin cin!

 

CAMPARI SPRITZ

The lush tomato-red color of Campari makes is enough to imagine Sophia Loren speeding in an Alfa Romeo Giulietta. Campari is a bitter liqueur made from an infusion of bitter herbs, aromatic herbs, alcohol, and water—the exact recipe is of course, a secret.

To make a spritz, combine in a wine glass:

3 parts dry white wine, still or sparkling
2 parts Campari
1 part club soda

– Add ice and garnish with an orange wedge and/or a green olive.

– If you prefer a sweeter and less dry spritz, substitute the Campari with Aperol.

MASCARPONE AND HAZELNUT TRAMEZZINI
From Aperitivo: The Cocktail Culture of Italy by Marisa Huff

Tea sandwiches are not just the thing of picnics and proper tea tables. In Italy, the crust-less white bread sandwiches (tramezzini) are the ideal sidekick to a cocktail.

*If you can’t find truffle paste, Marisa recommends replacing half the mascarpone with gorgonzola dolce or gorgonzola piccante.

Makes 6 half sandwiches

2 cups mascarpone (from an 8-ounce/250-gram container)
1 teaspoon white truffle paste*
6 slices white sandwich bread, crusts removed
½ cup hazelnuts, toasted and chopped

– In a medium bowl, using a fork, mix together the mascarpone and white truffle paste until smooth. Arrange three slices of bread on a cutting board or other flat surface. Spread the cheese mixture across each slices, dividing it evenly. Close with the remaining bread slices and press down gently so that the cheese reaches the edges of the bread. Cut in half to make six sandwiches. (We spread a bit of cheese on the edges of the sandwiches, too).

– To finish, dip all four sides of each sandwich in the chopped hazelnuts, which will stick to the cheese.

THE EASIEST SNACKS

We are frequently asked for easy entertaining ideas, and in general, our approach is to either prep in advance or go to the no-fail crudités-and-dip or cheese and charcuterie boards. You can simplify even further and serve olives, nuts, and Italian meats and cheeses if you decide to try an aperitivo gathering at home. Of course, shop for good ingredients or risk having your cocktail hour spread resemble an airplane snack box.

PERFECT EGG SALAD

Please forget the crusty egg salad you see piled up in the deli case before you continue reading! This version has absolutely nothing to do with that. It is a velvety luxury that goes well on toast, on a bagel under layers of smoked salmon, and in this case, on crusty Italian bread alongside a crisp aperitivo. Oh. And you can use it as a dip for potato chips, too.

4 large eggs
Kosher salt and coarsely ground black pepper
Mayonnaise
4 pieces cooked bacon, crumbled (optional)
Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 shallot, minced
1 anchovy fillets, chopped
2 teaspoons capers, rinsed and drained (optional)
½ cup watercress, chopped, plus additional for sprinkling
Dash Worcestershire sauce
Extra-virgin olive oil

– The richness of this egg salad comes not only from mayonnaise, but from the natural goo of a runny egg yolk. Usually, when we hard-boil our eggs, we start them in cold water. However, since what we want is a firm white and a fluid yolk, we’ll start with boiling water. So:

– Bring a small saucepan of water to a boil. Gently lower the eggs into the water and boil them for 6 minutes exactly. Drain the eggs, run them under cold water for a minute or two, and return them to the saucepan. Shake the eggs until the shells are cracked all over, then peel them under gently running water. You’ll see how easy it is.

– Smash the eggs in a medium bowl with a fork and season them with salt and pepper. Add 2 tablespoons mayonnaise and the remaining ingredients. Stir everything together and adjust the salad with more anchovy, capers, mayo, etc. to taste.

– Spoon the egg salad on bread, drizzle it with extra-virgin olive oil, and sprinkle with chopped watercress.

If you’re in New York today, you may be in need of our book, Winter Cocktails. It was SOLD OUT for a while but, it’s available again (insert sigh of relief)! If you don’t already own a copy, here are a few places you can order from. Our publisher Quirk Books as well as Apple and Amazon. This cover image was actually a limited edition for Williams-Sonoma that is no longer available online, but, you may be lucky and find one at your local store that hasn’t sold out yet.

Enjoy!

One of our favorite drinks from the book is the Golden Hog. The fresh pineapple & candied bacon will get ya every time!

 

Well, it’s that time of year again: a time we love and hate all in the same breath.  As we say goodbye to summer and hello to fall, the days get shorter, the air grows cooler, and we squeeze in as much outdoor fun as we can. Watching the leaves change and soaking in that gorgeous fall sunlight is always more fun with your friends. So we decided to have a few people over to enjoy a warm fire, hot cider, and delicious food. Carving pumpkins, roasting marshmallows, and toasting pumpkin seeds are just a few of the nostalgic activities that took place. Lucky for us, one of our favorite prop stylists, Penelope Bouklas, joined us and turned our gathering into a photo-worthy event.

HOT SPICED APPLE CIDER

  • 4 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 tablespoons whole allspice berries
  • 2 tablespoons whole black peppercorns
  • 2 tablespoons whole cardamom pods, crushed with the side of a knife
  • Rind of 1 orange
  • 1 quart apple cider
  • Pinch of salt
  • Cheese cloth

– Toast the spices in a large saucepan over medium heat until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Wrap the spices in cheese cloth. Add the orange rind, cider, spices, salt and simmer over low heat for 30 minutes to allow the spices to infuse. Strain the cider and serve with optional garnishes.

Optional Garnishes:

  • Orange rounds
  • Whipped cream with orange zest and freshly ground black pepper

*Can also be enjoyed cold!

A little Jiffy Pop is always fun & super easy!

TATA’S CHILI CON CARNE

Serves 6 – 8

  • 1 pound ground beef  (black angus)
  • 2 (35-ounce) cans whole peeled tomatoes
  • 1 (15-ounce) can each of butter beans, red beans, and Great Northern beans
  • (or any combination of beans you like)
  • 2 to 3 ears of corn, shucked and removed from the cob, or 2 cups frozen corn
  • 2 to 3 large cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 red poblano peppers, chopped
  • 2 jalapeño peppers, 1 choopped and seeded, 1 sliced with seeds
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons cumin
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • Salt and pepper to taste

– Rinse and drain the beans and set aside

– Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium – high heat. Add the meat, salt, and pepper. Cook until browned, 5 to 7 minutes.  Once browned, add the poblanos, jalapeños, onion, garlic, cumin, & chili powder. Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes, scraping the pot with wooden spoon as needed.

– Crush the tomatoes by hand as you pour them into the pot. Add the beans and corn. Stir together & bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer covered for about 1 hour.

Optional Garnishes:

  • Dollop of crème fraiche or sour cream
  • Chopped scallions
  • Shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • Toasted pumpkin seeds

SKILLET CORNBREAD

Makes 1 (10-inch) round, serves 4 to 6

  • 1 cup medium-grind yellow cornmeal
  •  1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  •  1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 large eggs
  •  ½ cup sour cream
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup frozen or fresh corn kernels
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 6 scallions, chopped
  • 1 poblano pepper, roasted and chopped
  • Suggested garnishes: butter, honey, cheddar cheese

– Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 400°F.

– In a large bowl, whisk together the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Whisk the eggs, sour cream, and milk together in a separate bowl. Whisk into the flour mixture. Stir in the corn.

– Heat the oil and butter over medium heat in a 10-inch cast iron skillet until shimmering. Add the scallions and chile and cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Stir in the scallion-poblano mixture into the batter then into the skillet skillet. Bake until the cornbread is golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer skillet to cooling rack and cool at least 10 minutes before serving with suggested garnishes.

– Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container. Reheat in a preheated 350°F oven for about 10 minutes. Alternatively, cut slices and butter both sides. Cook in a nonstick skillet over medium heat until crisp and heated through.

FIRESIDE S’MORES

  • Graham Crackers
  • Bar of good dark or milk chocolate  (we used Ghiardelli 60% Cacao)
  • Large marshmallows
  • Sticks for cooking over the fire

– Place a marshmallow on the end of a stick and heat it over the fire, paying careful attention not to burn it. (Unless you like it burnt!)  Meanwhile, warm 2 graham crackers with 1 piece of chocolate on the edge of the fire. Depending on your fire pit, you’ll need to find a good steady spot to get indirect heat. Once your marshmallow is cooked to just right, put your s’more together like a sandwich and enjoy!!