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Game Day Taquitos

January 19, 2018 Appetizer, Entrees, Menu No Comments

Game time is here, and football fever is running rampant! Even if your beloved team didn’t make it to the playoffs, chances are that you will still be joining family and friends for fun food at a game day party.

As I’ve discussed in previous game day posts, the key to a successful party dish is to make it a quick hitter that is fun, tasty and easy to eat. The recipe that I’m sharing with you today tackles all of those requirements!

Taquitos are a Mexican dish that consists of rolled-up flour tortillas stuffed with a filling, and is crisp-fried. Think of it as a rolled-up taco. During one of our recent holiday gatherings, I decided to make my own version of taquitos, coming up with a few different filling options and choosing to bake the taquitos instead of frying them. Not only were they a big hit, they were also enjoyed by both adults and kids. Prep time (for the most part) was minimal, and the ingredients were tasty. Although the taquitos were served as a picky appetizer, they were filling enough and tasty enough to keep everyone satisfied and coming back for more. Hence, the perfect game day food!

The best part about taquitos is that you can get as creative as you wish with the fillings. While traditional fried taquitos use a flour tortilla, I found that the baked version works just as well with both flour and wheat tortilla shells. I’ve used both types of tortilla shells for my taquitos and and was happy with both versions. Listed below are a few of the fillings that I prepared, along with a few other filling suggestions that I think would work well. As always, I encourage you to get as creative as you wish.

 

STEP 1: THE FILLING

The key to a good taquito is the filling. So far, I have made two different types of taquito fillings: sautéed vegetables and chicken, cheddar and bacon. Both were able to be prepared ahead of time, and both worked well and were enjoyed by everyone.

For the sautéed vegetable filling, you will need the following:

2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1 zucchini, finely chopped
1 yellow squash, finely chopped
1 red pepper, finely chopped
1 tablespoon chopped Italian parsley
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon dill weed
salt and pepper to taste
shredded mozzarella or cheddar cheese

Heat oil in medium skillet or wok over medium-high heat until hot. Add bell pepper, onion and garlic; cook and stir 2-3 minutes or until crisp-tender.

Stir in zucchini and squash; cook and stir 5-7 minutes or until tender.

Stir in herbs, cook until thoroughly heated. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside to cool slightly. You will top the vegetables with the shredded cheese when you assemble the taquitos.

 

For the chicken, cheddar and bacon filling, you will need the following:

1/2 lb cooked and seasoned chicken breast, chopped (Perdue Short Cuts works well for this)

8-ounce package of shredded cheddar cheese

4-6 slices of cooked bacon, cut into small pieces

 

Other filling suggestions:

• steak, peppers and provolone

• meatballs and mozzarella

• seasoned chicken with blue cheese

• pulled pork, roasted red peppers and broccoli rabe

• marinated shrimp and scallops

….honestly, you can go any number of directions!

Regardless of what filling you prefer to try, one suggestion that I would make is to not make your fillings too wet. If you think that your fillings would go well with a sauce (say a marinara or a barbecue sauce), I would suggest that you serve those sauces as a side for dipping. Incorporating the sauces into the filling may make the tortilla shells soft and mushy, and they may not bake properly.

 

STEP 2: THE ASSEMBLY

Preheat your oven to 400˚.

As I mentioned earlier, I have used both flour and whole wheat tortilla shells and was very happy with the results of both.

To assemble your taquitos, lay a tortilla shell out flat, and place a 1″ strip of your filling down the middle. Tightly roll up the tortilla shell, as if you were rolling up a cigar.

Place the rolled tortilla shells seam side down into a lightly sprayed 9″ x 12″ baking dish. Medium-sized tortilla shells will work the best with a 9″ x 12″ baking dish. If you have larger sized tortilla shells, you can trim the rolled shells to fit into the pan. You will fit about 8 rolled shells into the pan.

Lightly spray the top of the shells. Place the dish, uncovered, into the oven. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the shells start to brown and crisp. Remove from oven, let cool for a few minutes. Remove from baking dish and cut the baked taquitos in half. Serve and enjoy!

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Fiadone con Formagio (Italian Savory Easter Cheese Pie)

April 11, 2017 Dessert, Menu No Comments

As I was going through my recipes to gather the ingredients to make my Easter pies for this upcoming week, I was quickly reminded of the adventure that I had gone through a few years back, tracking down the recipe for what was known to me as ‘pastiche’ (pronounced pah-steech). Long story short, my quest for this recipe started years ago when I was trying to duplicate an Italian cheese bread that our friend Lorena’s mom had shared with us. Her mom had referred to the bread as pastiche, but I could never find any such recipe by that name. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I came across the recipe for Umbrian cheese bread, which offered almost the same taste and consistency. The bread has since become part of our family’s Easter tradition.

I thought that I had solved the pastiche mystery…until I had mentioned it to our neighbors. They were also familiar with pastiche through their Italian neighbor, and I had assumed that it was the same recipe. But after sampling their version of pastiche, it turned out that it was nothing at all like what we were familiar with. This version was more of a savory cheese pastry. What I have learned over the years is that it is not uncommon for similar Italian dishes to be region-specific, whether the difference be in name or ingredient. What one family may refer to as a dish in their town, the next town over may refer to it as something else. My guess is that pastiche is a perfect example of this – it is more of a dialect term than a specific recipe.

This whole pastiche conundrum led me to try and search out yet another new recipe, to find a match to this delicious new version that I had tasted. Unlike my long hunt for the Umbrian bread recipe, this time I was able to track down a recipe fairly quick. My search for Italian Easter cheese pastry led me to a recipe for Fiadone cone Formagio, which is an Italian Easter pie made up of a savory cheese and egg filling, wrapped in a firm dough and folded into a half-moon shape. There are different variations that appeared to be regional-specific. Some used a filling combination of Parmigiano Reggiano, Romano and Caciotta cheeses, while others used a Ricotta filling. Some added meats to their fillings, while others added vegetables. Regardless of the unique regional flare, they all had one thing in common….none of them were referred to as pastiche.

I may never find out the true meaning or origin of the term pastiche. But one thing that I have learned over the years is that there is no shortage of phenomenal Italian Easter recipes. Below is my interpretation of Fiadone con Formagio. You can also find the link to my Umbrian Cheese Bread recipe, and my other Easter recipes below.

Buona Pasqua!

 

Fiadone con Formagio (Italian Savory Easter Cheese Pie)

As I was doing my research for this post, in true Italian recipe fashion I found various versions using various ingredients and measurements. One of the key ingredients that was consistent was Caciotta cheese, which is a rural semi-soft cheese from central Italy that could be made from either cow’s, goat’s, ewe’s or buffalo’s milk. You may find this during Easter season sold as ‘basket cheese’. I chose to use fontina, which is my personal preference for a semi-soft Italian cheese. Regarding the measurements, I went ahead with the measurements that I felt most comfortable and familiar with, based off of other similar recipes that I have made.

For the dough:

5 eggs, plus one egg for egg wash
3 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil
3 cups flour, sifted, plus more as needed
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon milk

Mix the 5 eggs and oil together. Mix the flour and salt together. Slowly fold in the flour into the eggs, either by had or by using a dough hook on a mixing machine. Add the teaspoon of milk. Continue to fold/mix for about 8-10 minutes, until well incorporated and a dough ball forms. You can add additional flour if needed to avoid sticking. Place the dough into a lightly sprayed bowl, cover with a towel and let it sit in a warm area for one hour. You can make one day ahead of time and refrigerate – be sure to wrap the dough ball in clear plastic wrap prior to refrigerating.

After the dough has sat for one hour, you want to roll it out to approximately 1/8″ thin. To help with this process, I used my pasta machine for a more consistent thickness. Of course, you can roll it out with a rolling pin if you do not have a pasta machine. Be sure to keep the dough floured to avoid sticking. Once rolled out, you can use a cookie cutter (approximately 3″-3.5″ wide) or a juice glass to cut the dough into circles. You should get 24 circles from this batter.

 

For the filling:

3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
3/4 cup grated pecorino romano cheese
3/4 cup grated fontina cheese
3 eggs, beaten
dash ground black pepper

Mix the cheeses, eggs and pepper together using a spatula.

 

Assembly:

Pre-heat oven to 350˚. Once the cheese mixture is combined, you will want to add a heaping teaspoon of the filling to the center of each circle. Fold the circles in half, pinch them together and seal them with the edge of a fork. Lightly scramble the remaining egg for the egg wash, and brush the top of the circles with the egg wash. Place the filled pastries onto lightly sprayed baking sheets. Bake at 350˚ for 15 minutes. Lower the heat to 325˚ and bake for another 20 minutes. Remove from oven, let cool completely.

Serve once cooled, or you can refrigerate the pastries for up to one week. You can warm them in the microwave oven for 15 seconds before serving.

Other Easter Recipes

Umbrian Cheese Bread

Easter Ham Pie and Easter Rice Pie

Easter Strata

Italian Love Cake

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Comté Cheese, Please!

November 17, 2016 Appetizer, Menu No Comments

One of the greatest pleasures in the life of a foodie is the moment that you get to unexpectedly taste something amazing and new. Being a lover of cheese, these moments of new discovery often take place for me during my regular visits to my local cheese shop. The cheesemongers who work at this location are very friendly and knowledgable, and I have gotten to know a few of them over the years. My curiosity and conversation reaped big rewards during my most recent visit as I was treated to a sample taste of their latest and greatest offering, Marcel Petite Comté.

For those of you who are not familiar with traditional Comté cheese (I, myself was not familiar with it prior to this visit), it is a French cheese made from unpasteurized milk, and has similar taste and texture to Gruyére cheese. The aging process takes place in special caves, which helps produce a unique, complex taste that helps classify this as one of the finest cheeses in the world. The piece of Marcel Petite Comté that I sampled, and eventually purchased, is considered by my cheesemonger friend to be one of their greatest and rarest cheeses that they offer. The French cheesemaker allows it to age for 24 months, producing one of the most flavorful and complex cheeses that I have ever tasted. Hints of mushroom, pasta and beef broth were pointed out to me, and I was able to detect them all. Simply amazing. There are only eight wheels of this variety produced by this particular cheesemaker each year, which made this incredible find all the more exciting.

After doing some further research of my own, I was happy to discover that other types of Comté cheese are often sold regularly in super markets. While they may not be quite as complex and unique as the one that I had the pleasure to sample, I will definitely be looking forward to trying out these other varieties. With the holidays quickly approaching, I encourage you to consider serving Comté cheese at your dinner parties and get togethers. All of the information that you need to know about Comté cheese can be found in the links below. After looking at these sites for reference, I figured it would be best to just share the links with you, rather than try to explain what they have already covered in fine detail.

Cheers!

www.thekitchn.com/why-french-comt-cheese-needs-to-be-in-your-fridge-comt-cheese-tour-206217

www.cheese.com/comte/

www.wholefoodsmarket.com/blog/whole-story/discover-french-cheeses-comt%C3%A9

Image courtesy of istock.com

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Whipped Mascarpone and Greek Yogurt

August 17, 2016 Dessert, Menu No Comments

Mascarpone cheese may be one of the greatest Italian food items that I can think of. It plays a key role in two of my favorite desserts – tiramisu and cannoli, and it also makes for a delicious dessert topping when combined with heavy whipping cream. In today’s recipe, I’m substituting the traditional heavy whipping cream with non-fat plain Greek yogurt. Not only does this substitution cut down on the fat content, it also gives you a boost of protein, probiotics, potassium, B12 and other nutritional benefits! Whether you are serving this as a dip with fruit, or as a dollop alongside a piece of cake or on a puffed pastry, this version of mascarpone whipped cream will be sure to please!

 

 

 

Whipped Mascarpone and Greek Yogurt
Makes 1 cup

1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup non-fat plain Greek yogurt
2 tspn powdered sugar
2 tspn vanilla extract

Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl. Using a hand mixer or a stand mixer, mix all ingredients together for about 2 minutes, until thick and creamy. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

IMG_2911

Puffed pastry topped with a dollop of whipped mascarpone greek yogurt, fresh fruit and a sprinkle of cinnamon.

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