Antipasti (Appetizers)

ANTIPASTO PLATTER

A well plated antipasto platter can be the most singularly impressive dish on your appetizer buffet. Select a variety of Italian cold cuts, cheeses, olives, roasted and marinated vegetables, and plate in blocks of colors for the most attractive presentation. Prepare the antipasto platter the day of the event (one of the few last minute preparations) because the platter tends to be too large to fit in the refrigerator, and the vegetables will wet the other ingredients if prepared too far in advance.

Ingredients:
1 lb. Sliced Salami & Prosciutto
1 Cup Black Olives
1 Cup Green Olives
1 Cup Roasted Peppers
1 Cup Marinated Artichokes
1 Cup Marinated Mushrooms
1 lb. Mozzarella, Whole or Sliced
2 Red Tomatoes, Sliced
Stuffed Banana Peppers
Fresh Basil for garnish
Romaine Lettuce for garnish

Directions:
Layer the bottom of the platter with romaine lettuce leaves for garnish. Arrange the sliced cold cuts, vegetables and cheese in blocks of color on top of the lettuce leaves. Top with tomatoes, cheese and basil garnish. Serve at room temperature.

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HOMEMADE RICOTTA

I watched homemade ricotta being made on television many years ago, and was inspired to give this recipe a try. The outcome was surprisingly delicious. The ricotta was creamy and wonderful served on crostini. I would only make this when the ricotta is the star ingredient (not when required as part of another dish…like baked ziti, etc.).

Ingredients:
8 Cups Whole Milk
1 Cup Heavy Cream
Pinch of Salt
Juice of 1 Lemon
2 Tbsp. Distilled White Vinegar

Directions:

In a large pot over medium heat, add the whole milk, heavy cream and salt. Bring to a simmer. Add the lemon juice and the white vinegar. Bring the mixture back to a simmer and stir for one minute. The curd should start to form on the top. After one minute, turn the heat off and cover, leaving the mixture on the stovetop for 20 minutes. When ready, pour the mixture into a fine mesh sieve (lined with cheesecloth), over a deep bowl. The liquid can be discarded….the curd you are left with in the strainer is the ricotta. The ricotta can be served immediately.

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HOMEMADE MOZZARELLA & MOZZARELLA ROLLATINI

I have fond memories of the mozzarella that Grandma Colombo served….it was soft, creamy, and warm. Although I have never been able to duplicate the mozzarella from my memory, this homemade mozzarella is a close version. This has been adapted from a Food Network Magazine recipe.

Ingredients:
3 Tbsp. Kosher Salt
4 Cups Whole Milk
4 Cups Water
2 lbs. Fresh Mozzarella Curd (purchased from an Italian Market)
Salted Water Bath

Directions:
Breakup curd into small pieces in a large bowl. Separately, heat the water and whole milk in a pot until very hot (not boiling). Add the salt to the water. Add enough of the hot mixture to cover the curd. Let the curd soften (About 3 minutes +/-) and drain.
Add more of the hot mixture to cover the softened curd. Stretch the curd with a wooden spoon, then fold and pull the curd, gathering into a ball (don’t overwork the curd). Place the formed mozzarella into a salted water bath. Let the mozzarella sit in the salted bath for about 15 minutes. Serve the fresh cheese at room temperature. Leftovers can be covered in salted water and refrigerated for several days.

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MOZZARELLA ROLLATINI:
If you would like to make a rollatini, take one ball of mozzarella before placing it in the salted bath, and roll out the mozzarella on a cutting board. The mozzarella should be rolled into a rectangular shape, and should be very thin. Top with baby arugula, roasted peppers, smoked prosciutto, grated parmesan cheese, and drizzle with olive oil. Roll, jelly-roll style, and wrap with plastic wrap to set (1-2 hours). Cut into pinwheels and serve. I like to serve over a bed of baby arugula, dressed with fresh lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil and salt. Feel free to modify and add your favorite ingredients to this rollatini.

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TOMATO CAPRESE

I often serve a traditional tomato caprese dish on my appetizer buffet, including various heirloom tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and fresh basil. For seated dinner parties, I prefer this individual tomato caprese presentation. There are very few ingredients, so make sure you select the freshest items possible since they are all highlighted.

Ingredients:
Heirloom or Beefsteak Tomatoes
Fresh Mozzarella
Salt, Pepper, Dried Oregano
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Fresh Basil
Balsamic Glaze

Directions:
Turn the tomatoes over so the bottom of the tomato is facing up. Slice the tomato into consistent slices, making sure not to cut through the tomato. Slice the fresh mozzarella into enough thin slices to fit inside each tomato cut. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, and season to taste with salt, pepper and dried oregano. Garnish with fresh basil leaves, and place on a platter that has been decorated with balsamic glaze. Enjoy!

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MOZZARELLA IN CARROZZA

Mozzarella in Carrozza literally means “mozzarella in a carriage”…the carriage is actually fried bread. This is a decadent version of an Italian grilled cheese sandwich. I have modified this recipe, since traditionally, the sandwich is dredged in flour and an egg wash before frying. I serve this warm, with a delicious lemon butter sauce. Enjoy!

Ingredients:
Sandwich:
6 Slices Italian Bread (or Country White Bread)
Butter (room temperature)
Olive Oil
1 Ball Mozzarella Cheese, thinly sliced
Sauce:
1 Lemon, Juiced
¼ Cup Butter
3 Tbsp. Parsley, Chopped
Salt & Pepper to Taste

Directions:
Remove the crusts from the bread. Lightly spread room temperature butter on one side of each bread slice. In a sauté pan over medium heat, add 2 Tbsp. of butter and 2 Tbsp. of olive oil. In batches, place the bread in the sauté pan and turn when the bread has become a golden brown color (approx. 1 minute). Turn the bread over and allow the other side to become golden brown. Remove the bread from the pan. Layer the thinly sliced mozzarella between the bread slices to create a tower (bread, mozzarella, bread, mozzarella, etc…ending with the last bread slice). Place toothpicks through the sandwich if desired. Place the tall sandwich in a 300 degree oven to melt the mozzarella (approx. 5-10 minutes). Meanwhile, prepare the sauce. In the same sauté pan, add the juice of 1 lemon and ¼ cup butter. Heat until the butter has melted. Add the chopped parsley and salt/pepper to taste. Place the sandwich on a platter and drizzle the sauce over the sandwich. Serve immediately.

Mozzarella in Carrozza Picture

GRILLED VEGETABLE TERRINE (see Blog for detailed instructions)

This grilled vegetable terrine looks spectacular on an appetizer buffet, and tastes as good as it looks. I have also served this on top of crostini with a salad for seated dinner parties. There are a few steps to making this dish, and you must plan ahead because the terrine sets up best if left in the refrigerator overnight. The result is well worth the effort.

Ingredients:
1 Eggplant, Peeled
1 Zucchini & 1 Yellow Squash
1 Red Pepper & 1 Yellow Pepper
8 Slices Provolone
2 Cups Spinach
3 Cloves Garlic, Sliced Thin
Olive Oil
Salt, Pepper & Dried Oregano

Directions:
Slice the raw vegetables and set aside. Separately, in a small skillet over medium heat, sauté 3 sliced garlic cloves in 2 Tbsp. of olive oil and add 2 cups of fresh spinach. Add salt and pepper to taste and sauté until wilted, about 1-2 minutes. Let the spinach mixture cool. Place a grill pan over medium heat and add the vegetables to the pan, one layer at a time. Drizzle olive oil, salt, pepper and oregano over the vegetables and grill until tender (approx. 1-2 minutes per side). Place all grilled vegetables in a bowl when done. Line a loaf pan (approx. 4” x 9”) with plastic wrap and layer the vegetables, beginning with the eggplant, then the sliced red peppers, and the yellow squash. Layer 4 provolone slices over the vegetables, add the sautéed spinach, the sliced yellow peppers, the last 4 provolone slices, sautéed zucchini and end with the sautéed eggplant. (The layering of the vegetables can be modified as you desire). When complete, fold over the plastic wrap to cover the top of the terrine. Place a weight on top of the terrine, (I used a brick and wrapped the brick in aluminum foil), put the terrine in the refrigerator overnight. When ready, remove the weight from the top of the terrine and unmold the terrine by turning the loaf pan over onto a platter. Remove the loaf pan and plastic wrap. Slice the terrine and place the slices on a large platter for an appetizer buffet display, or plate with crostini and serve with a side salad.

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BRUSCHETTA WITH OVEN ROASTED TOMATOES (see Blog for detailed instructions)

I love to prepare bruschetta when I entertain. This is a perfect appetizer because it can be prepared ahead of time and plated on your buffet before your guests arrive. It also looks beautiful and tastes fabulous!

Ingredients:
Roasted Tomatoes:
6 Roma Plum Tomatoes, seeded
Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Salt, Pepper & Dried Oregano
Bruschetta:
Semolina Bread
Ricotta Cheese (or any cheese you prefer)
Oven Dried Tomatoes
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper
Basil or Parsley Leaves (Optional Garnish)

Directions:
Roasted Tomatoes: Slice the Roma Plum Tomatoes into quarters and remove the seeds. Place the tomatoes on a sheet pan that has been lined with aluminum foil. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper and dried oregano. Place the tomatoes in a 250 degree oven for approx. 2 hours. Remove from the oven when roasted and let cool.
Bruschetta: Meanwhile, slice the semolina bread. If desired, grill the bread with olive oil, salt and pepper. Top with the ricotta cheese, then layer with the oven roasted tomatoes, a drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper to taste. Top with fresh herbs if desired.

bruschetta

PESTO STUFFED MUSHROOMS

Stuffed mushrooms have been a staple on my buffet for years. This is a variation I came up with this morning….I had a bit of pesto sauce leftover and thought it would taste great as a component of the mushroom stuffing. The combination is really fantastic – this is definitely a recipe I would serve to guests!

Ingredients:
1 lb. Mushrooms (Button Mushrooms or Baby Portabella)
3 Tbsp. Olive Oil
1 Medium Onion, chopped
4 Garlic Cloves, chopped
½ Cup Seasoned Breadcrumbs
2 Tbsp. Pesto Sauce (either prepared or see recipe in sauce section)
Sliced Fresh Mozzarella (for topping)

Directions:
Remove stems from the mushrooms, clean off the mushroom caps with a paper towel, and set caps aside. In a sauté pan, heat the olive oil and add the onions and garlic. Saute for approx. 2 minutes, until golden brown. Add the seasoned breadcrumbs and the pesto sauce and mix well. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly. Stuff the mushroom caps with the pesto mixture. Drizzle olive oil on the bottom of a baking dish, layer the stuffed mushrooms in the baking dish, and cover with foil. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Uncover, top with the fresh mozzarella and continue baking until the mushrooms are cooked through and the cheese has melted. Serve with a dollop of pesto sauce and fresh basil leaves if desired.

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