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Tomato, Basil and Ricotta Salata

March 28, 2017 Menu, Salads No Comments

Recently, I shared with you my recipe for game-day empanadas, and one of the fillings that I decided to use in my empanadas was ricotta salata. Up until this point, I had not really been all that familiar with this particular cheese. Ever since, it has become a staple in our house. For those of you who are still not familiar with this flavorful gem, it is an Italian cheese made from whey that is re-cooked (ricotta), and has been pressed, salted (salata) and aged for at least 90 days. The end result is a beautiful, milky white cheese with a slight nutty flavor, that is perfect for slicing, shredding or crumbling. Texture-wise, it is more like a feta than a traditional soft ricotta, with a taste that packs a delightful punch. It is also a very reasonably priced cheese, which makes it all the more enjoyable.

While my wife and I were perfectly content with simply enjoying slices of this cheese drizzled with a little balsamic, the wheels in my mind quickly started spinning on how to incorporate it into recipes. The first, and most obvious recipe that came to mind was the classic Caprese Salad, which of course is simply made up of fresh sliced mozzarella, tomatoes, fresh basil, olive oil and herbs. My thought was that not only would the texture of the cheese hold up well with the tomatoes and fresh basil, but also that the lively flavors would not require any additional seasonings. My hunch was correct. The in-your-face, vibrant flavor marries perfectly with the sweetness of fresh chopped basil, swirled together with a splash of rich, golden olive oil. The crumbly, chunky texture plays well with chunks of juicy tomato. Traditional Carpese Salad may be one of my all time favorites, but the ricotta salata version is definitely a nice and inviting alternative.

 

Tomato, Basil and Ricotta Salata

This is a very simple recipe. Measurements can be adjusted to your preferred serving size.

one chunk of ricotta salata
1-2 roma tomatoes
fresh chopped basil
Extra virgin olive oil

Chop the cheese and tomatoes into slices or cubes. Sprinkle with fresh chopped basil. Drizzle lightly with olive oil. Serve and enjoy!

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Quick and Easy Basil Mayonnaise

August 28, 2016 Menu No Comments

If you’re looking to put your harvested basil to good use, today’s recipe is an excellent way to do so. Inspired by Ina Garten’s Basil Mayonnaise recipe, this quick and easy version uses just a few key ingredients, all of which are everyday cooking staples.With just a few pulses in your food processor, you will have a tasty condiment that is perfect for any sandwich. My personal recommendations are for a tomato and fresh mozzarella sandwich, a chicken cutlet hoagie or a juicy BLT. And don’t forget to use the good, crusty bread!

 

 

 

 

Quick and Easy Basil Mayonnaise

1 cup good mayonnaise
10 basil leaves
1 clove minced garlic
1 tspn lemon juice
dash of salt and pepper
2 tsp olive oil

Place all ingredients into a food processor. Blend for 30 seconds, or until all ingredients are mixed well. Chill immediately in a closed container until ready to serve.

Basil Mayo

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Mini Caprese Wonton Bites

April 7, 2016 Menu No Comments

I have been using wonton and egg roll wrappers for many of my quick appetizer recipes for a few years now. I’ve stuffed them with everything from meatballs and cheese steak to buffalo chicken and vegetables. While the end result is always a crowd pleaser, I will admit that the actual stuffing and prepping phase could be a bit tedious. It’s not complicated, but rather monotonous to spoon, fold/roll, seal and repeat.

This past weekend I found the sure-fire method for stuffing and baking wonton wrappers, which involves very little time, yet still produces an amazing snack. By using a mini muffin tray, you are able to set up, fill and seal the wrappers quickly and efficiently. For my first attempt at the mini-muffin tray method, I used the classic caprese pizza ingredients: fresh mozzarella, cherry tomatoes and fresh basil, each sliced into small pieces. After lining up the muffin tin with a wrapper in each cup, I placed a piece of mozzarella, tomato and basil in each, then folded the wrappers over, slightly pressing down on them to seal them shut. After a quick hit of cooking spray and 10 minutes in the oven, my family and I were treated to some great tasting home made appetizers.

The filling combinations for this method are endless…and I plan on experimenting and sharing the results with you along the way. Definitely be sure to give this trick a try for your next round of party appetizers. They’ll be a thousand times better than the usual store-bought frozen variety, and you’ll be sure to impress your guests. This is also a great recipe to get the kids involved with…especially with the stuffing and folding of the wrappers!

The basic ingredients: mozzarella, tomatoes, basil and wonton wrappers.

The basic ingredients: mozzarella, tomatoes, basil and wonton wrappers.

 

Step 1: Line a mini muffin tin with 24 wonton wrappers, one wrapper in each cup.

 

Step 2: Fill each cup with a piece of mozzarella, tomato and basil.

 

Step 3: Fold the wrappers closed. Spray with cooking spray and place in 400˚ oven for 10 minutes, or until brown and crispy.

 

Remove from pan, serve and enjoy!

 

Bet you can’t just have one!

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Grilled Chicken Italiano

June 30, 2015 Entrees, Menu No Comments

Growing up in South Philadelphia, I have enjoyed more than my share of delicious and delectable sandwiches. While cheesesteaks, hoagies and roast pork sandwiches rank among highest on most Philadelphians’ lists, my all time favorite ‘sang-weech’ is the classic Chicken Italiano. Seasoned chicken breast, broccoli rabe, prosciutto and provolone packed in a crispy Italian roll…what is there not to love? Now I do realize that there are different variations of a Chicken Italiano, using other ingredients such as peppers, mozzarella and sun dried tomatoes. But the prosciutto, provolone and rabe combination is the version that I fell in love with. For this post, I would like to share with you my grilled version of this amazing combination….a perfect dish for any summer cook-out!

This grilled version does differ just a bit from the classic sandwich. First, while broccoli rabe is one of my all-time favorite greens, I decided instead to use a home made basil-mint pesto. My garden is overloaded with fresh basil and mint, so I figured it would be a great opportunity to put both to good use. Of course, you can stick with the traditional broccoli rabe if you prefer. I also like to prepare and serve the chicken breasts whole. You can cut the chicken breasts into smaller pieces to serve in a sandwich if you like, but I find that cooking and serving the chicken breasts whole allows for prosciutto, provolone and pesto (or rabe) to melt evenly on top.

You’ll want to marinate the chicken breasts for a good two to four hours before grilling. You can find a good, basic lemon and garlic marinade by clicking here. You can also used a bottled marinade of your choice, but I would stick to a basic garlic, lemon or white wine flavored marinade. There are too many good tastes happening with this dish, so you don’t want to overpower the chicken with an strong-flavored marinade.

Grilled Chicken Italiano

4-6 boneless and skinless chicken breasts
4-6 slices prosciutto
4-6 slices provolone cheese
*Basic lemon-garlic marinade (see recipe below) or 1 bottle marinade (any combination of garlic, lemon and white wine will work)
**Fresh basil-mint pesto (see recipe below)

Pierce chicken breasts with a fork to allow marinade to soak in. Place chicken breasts in a plastic bag, pour marinade into bag, making sure that all of the chicken breasts are well coated. Refrigerate for two to four hours.

Pre-heat your grill to high. Make sure that your grill grates are brushed with oil to avoid sticking. Reduce heat to medium-high, and place the chicken on the grill, discarding the bag with the used marinade. Keep lid closed. Turn chicken occasionally, until browned and done. Top the chicken breasts with a dollop of the pesto, a slice of provolone and a slice of prosciutto. Allow to heat for another few minutes until the cheese starts to melt and the prosciutto starts to slightly crisp. Remove from grill, serve and enjoy!

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*Lemon-Garlic Marinade
Adapted from food.com

2 cloves garlic, minced
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
3 tablespoons lemon juice, fresh preferred
1⁄8 teaspoon pepper

Combine all ingredients together to pour over chicken.

Note – this recipe’s measurements are for 1-1.5 lbs of chicken breasts. You may need to increase the ingredients for the amount of chicken breasts that you are making.

**Fresh Basil-Mint Pesto
Adapted from simplyrecipes.com

1 cup fresh basil leaves, packed
1 cup fresh mint leaves, packed
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan-Reggiano or Romano cheese
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup pine nuts or walnuts
3 medium sized garlic cloves, minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Combine the basil and mint with the pine nuts, pulse a few times in a food processor. (If you are using walnuts instead of pine nuts and they are not already chopped, pulse them a few times first, before adding the basil.) Add the garlic, pulse a few times more.

Slowly add the olive oil in a constant stream while the food processor is on. Stop to scrape down the sides of the food processor with a rubber spatula. Add the grated cheese and pulse again until blended. Add a pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

Use immediately, or refrigerate in a sealed container for up to a week.
Makes 1 cup.

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