Monthly Archives: April 2015

Caprese Salad

CapreseSaladFoodiewinelover
In 2007, my family and I embarked on an amazing Italian trip, and one of the itineraries was Capri. It is a breathtaking island, and we took a ferry from the bay of Naples to get there.  We visited the famous Blue Grotto, ate some regional cuisine, and took a tour of the island. I must admit, I was very scared going up the mountains on the tour bus, but it  was a travel experience that I will never forget. Today, I am sharing with you an easy and delicious dish, the Caprese Salad.

It’s been in the 90’s already in South Florida, and I couldn’t think of a more refreshing salad, called Insalata Caprese, in Italian.  It literally means Capri Salad because it originated in that magnificent island. In Italy, it is usually served as an antipasto, and made with fresh mozzarella, tomato, and basil. The colors represent the Italian flag. My son recently brought me home a basil plant, and I already had some beefsteak tomatoes, and leftover Mozzarella that I recently used in my Chicken Parmigiana. I always have extra virgin olive oil, and balsamic vinegar readily available. I was on the go, and needed a quick-lunch, and this salad hit the spot. It was a great way to reminisce about our trip. (We were there again in 2008, but that’s another blogpost.)

Serves: 2 as a meal – Super easy

Ingredients:

  • 1 Beefsteak Tomato, sliced
  • Fresh Mozzarella, sliced
  • Basil leaves, for garnish
  • Drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
  • Drizzle of Balsamic vinegar, of Modena
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

Preparation:

Arrange the tomatoes and Mozzarella on a serving plate, lightly season with salt & pepper, liberally drizzle with olive oil, and some balsamic vinegar. Garnish with basil leaves.

Voila, the salad is ready to be served! It is such a beautiful culinary creation, and so easy to prepare. Make it for your guests, and I assure you, they will love it.

Happy Cooking from My Kitchen To Yours!

Gina

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Capri, Italy, June 2007 – Hubby and me

 

 

 

Stuffed Zucchini Blossoms

Zucchini Blossoms

Stuffed Zucchini Blossoms

When I lived in New Jersey many years ago, my uncle used to have a zucchini garden in the summertime. He often made Stuffed Zucchini Blossoms, and I always enjoyed them. He also put them in scrambled eggs. Since then, I moved to South Florida, and could not find them anywhere.  On occasions, I would enjoy some, at a nearby Italian restaurant, but I always wanted to make it in my kitchen. Recently, my son PJ told me, he knows someone who’s growing zucchini. I screamed on the top of my lungs, and told him to get me some. Well, he came through for me, because today he brought me a nice amount of them. Needless to say, I was ecstatic.

Since I’ve never made them, I sought the assistance of some amazing friends who guided me in putting this recipe together. Giusy gave me the ratio for the beer and flour batter, and Angela suggested to make them the traditional Roman style, with fresh mozzarella and anchovies. It was a MAJOR HIT!

Serves: 4-8 Total:  15 zucchini flowers, keep them in a cool place so they don’t wilt.  Level of difficulty: Medium, because it takes a little time, and you have to treat them gingerly.

   Ingredients:

  • 15 zucchini blossoms, (flowers)
  • 1 cup beer, room temperature (Heineken)
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • Olive oil for frying
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • Anchovies, fillet flat, 1 can
  • Fresh Mozzarella cheese, as needed
    Preparation:

     

    1) With a dry paper towel, gently clean the flowers. Remove the stamens, (pollen inside the flower) DO NOT ATTEMPT TO WASH THEM, YOU WILL BREAK THEM.

    2) Stuff each flower with a dollop of mozzarella cheese, (about 1 teaspoon or so depending on their size) and 1/2 of an anchovy fillet. Squeeze the top of the flower gently to close it. It will not be perfect, don’t worry about it. The batter will protect the stuffing while cooking. Set aside.

    3) Prepare the batter, by combining the flour with the beer. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Mix well with a whisk until you obtain a creamy texture.

    4) In the meanwhile, pour oil to cover the bottom of a frying pan, heat up on medium-high heat. Gently place the zucchini flowers in the batter, making sure, they are coated well. ( I did them in batches) and drop them in the hot oil. It will be messy, and it’s ok, just have confidence. Cook on one side for about 2-3 minutes, lower flame, if it’s too high, you want them light golden brown and not dark brown. Cook other side for another 2 minutes. Remove promptly. Serve at once. They will literally melt in your mouth. If you don’t like anchovies, then omit them. (sorry, but you will miss out). My family went bananas over this stuffing. You can also stuff them with ricotta cheese, and use club soda instead of beer, for a lighter batter.

    Please keep in mind a recipe is to be used as guideline, it’s up to you, the homecook, to watch the food, and use your judgement. Adjust the temperature setting as necessary. When frying, always make sure the oil very hot, otherwise, the food will come out soggy, and not presentable.

    This batter can be used to fry some veggies such as zucchini and cauliflower. The choice is yours.

    I hope you will have some fun in your kitchen, and try this delectable recipe.

    Happy Cooking From My Kitchen To Yours,

    Gina

    Stuffed Zucchini Blossoms

Strawberries, Chocolate & Cannoli Cream

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Strawberries, Chocolate & Cannoli Cream

I am friends with a lot of foodies, chefs and homecooks on Facebook. Every day, I see tons of wonderful dishes on my news feed. Once in a while, a recipe catches my attention like this one did. My friend Michael Salvatore Gottuso recently posted a delicious dessert with strawberries, chocolate & cannoli cream on his profile. I could not wait to try it, since there was no baking involved.  The next day, I went to the grocery store, and picked up the ingredients. It is such an easy and scrumptious dessert, you will wow your loved ones.

Serves 3-4 Level of difficulty: Easy

Ingredients:

  • 1 – 15 oz. container whole-milk ricotta cheese
  • 1 capful of vanilla extract
  • 1 pinch of cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 1/4 cup chopped chocolate (I used 70% cocoa)
  • 1/2 lb. of sliced strawberries.

Preparation:  

In a medium-sized bowl, blend the ricotta and sugar together with a spoon. Add the vanilla, cinnamon and chocolate. Mix well. Chill in the fridge for a few hours to let the flavor “ripen”. When it’s chilled enough, and almost ready to be served, slice the strawberries and set aside.

Place the cannoli cream in cups or small bowls, arrange the strawberries on top to make a beautiful presentation. Voila! The dessert is ready to be relished. My family loved it, and I hope yours will too.

Recipe: Courtesy of Michael Salvatore Gottuso

Stay tuned! Happy Tuesday!

 

Pasta Salad

pasta salad

veggies

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In my house, we love our pasta in all shapes and forms. Most of the time, I make it as a hot dish, but with summer upon us, (at least for us, South Floridians), I decided to make a killer Pasta Salad. I normally use the elbow shape just for cold pasta salads, since it’s the perfect size to blend well with all the chopped ingredients. You will never see me use this shape with any kind of red sauce, except for macaroni & cheese. LOL! I know, it’s an American thing!  This time, I served it as an accompaniment to some grilled New York strips. My family went crazy over it, and ate, and ate, and ate to their heart’s content.

This recipe will yield a very large bowl of pasta salad, but it can easily be divided in half.

Serves: 10 – 15 as a side dish
Level of difficulty: Easy to medium
Prepping time from start to finish: 1 hour
Chilling time: Minimum of 4 hours in the fridge

Ingredients: 

  • 1.5 lb. pasta, elbow shape, cooked al dente
  • 1/2 lb. of bacon, crumbled
  • 4 boiled eggs, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 ribs of celery, chopped
  • 1 small red onion, diced
  • 4 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, diced
  • 1 cup  mayo*
  • 1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • 2 tsp. Mrs. Dash, Italian Medley, no sodium
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • Lots of extra virgin olive oil to drizzle

Preparation:

1) Cook bacon, crumble it and set aside.

2) Chop up all your veggies.

3) Get all your ingredients, condiments, and spices ready.

4) Boil eggs, chop them up set aside.

5) Boil salted water for pasta, and cook according to package directions.

6) Drain pasta well, and pour it in a very large mixing bowl.

7) Add all the ingredients and mix well.

8) Drizzle with olive oil. Mix again, cover and chill in the fridge for a minimum of 4 hours. The colder the salad, the tastier it will be. This will allow the flavors to infuse nicely.

Right before serving, remove from the fridge, and drizzle more olive oil to moisten the salad.

* Notice that my salad is not saturated with mayonnaise, however if you don’t like mayonnaise at all, just substitute it with more olive oil, and add some red wine vinegar. It will be similar to a vinaigrette dressing. Taste, and adjust the spices as needed.

My son Matthew is a very picky eater, and he said, he’s never had such a good pasta salad before. The compliments were pouring in, as I sat and watch the bowl of pasta salad slowly disappearing before my eyes.  This was a good sign that I had prepared a wonderful culinary creation. My job was done in the kitchen, and I was happy with the results.

I hope the next time you get invited to a picnic, you will offer to make this very refreshing pasta salad.

Happy Cooking From My Kitchen To Yours!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Affogato

 

Gelato

Espresso

I prefer making savory dishes over sweet ones, because I don’t like to measure the ingredients. (well, all that changed, until I started blogging). However, when making desserts, you have to measure every ingredient and be precise, otherwise, you may end up with a “leaning tower” cake. That’s why I never took a liking to baking, it’s too complicated for me. Today, a friend of mine inspired me, when she posted an article on Facebook from Tasting Table about Affogato.  It is an Italian dessert that requires two simple ingredients. I made it tonight , and my family couldn’t get enough of its deliciousness.

Level: Easy

Ingredients:

  • 2 scoops of very cold gelato, Vanilla flavored
  • 1 shot of hot espresso (no sugar, added)

    Preparation:

    Place gelato in a bowl or cup, pour the hot espresso over it, and serve immediately. The gelato will be drowning in the coffee, and the taste will be amazingly scrumptious. This is a last-minute dessert, that is sure to please your loved ones. You can add some liqueur such as Amaretto, if you want to.

I hope you will try this easy and delicious treat.

Enjoy!

Affogato

 

Gina’s Ultimate Paella

 

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I have been in the quest for making a perfectly delicious Paella for a long time. I have tried different recipes, using various ingredients, but this time, everyone in my family raved about the taste. Here is my latest version of Paella. Paella originated in Spain, and the most famous one is Paella Valenciana.

Serves 8 as a main dish – Degree of difficulty – Easy to Medium
Prepping and cooking time from start to finish: 1 hour and 30 minutes.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups rice ( 16 oz.) Valencia
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 – 12 oz. can of beer (I used Corona) *
  • Saffron thread, 2 pinches *
  • 2 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 6 cloves of garlic, sliced
  • 1 lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 lb. mussels
  • 18 clams
  • 3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, + more to drizzle
  • Chorizo sausage, 2 links, cut up in pieces
  •  red bell pepper, 1/2 cut in julienne
  •  4-6 oz. frozen peas, rinsed and drained well
  •  Hot sauce to drizzle
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • Flat leave parsley, for garnish

Preparation:

For this traditional dish, I recommend a Paella pan, 15 inch in diameter.

1) Peel and deveined shrimp, wash and scrub mussels and clams well. Chop onions, garlic, chorizo, bell pepper, get all your spices and ingredients ready.

2) On medium high heat, in Paella pan, heat up olive oil, and brown the chorizo, 2-3 minutes. Add onions, 1-2 minutes, then add garlic, 1 minute. Add the rice and stir well, 1-2 minutes. Add the beer, water, paprika, salt, pepper, saffron, and let it come to a boil. Lower the heat, add all the seafood one by one. Sprinkle the peas around the pan, and decorate with the bell pepper like you see in the picture. Let it simmer and reduce a little, for about 5 minutes or so. Cover with aluminum foil and turn the burner off.

3) In the meanwhile, pre-heat the oven at 350 degrees, and place the paella on the second shelf from the bottom. Bake for at least 30 minutes. Check for doneness, once the rice is cooked, everything else should be done, because the seafood takes the least amount of cooking. If rice is not done, you may put it back in the oven for an additional 5-10 minutes.

Remove from the oven, take off foil, drizzle liberally with olive oil, garnish with the parsley, and place on the table. Serve with hot sauce, as a condiment.

This may take some practice, don’t expect to hit a home run the first time, however if you did, it’s because, you followed my directions, step by step.

*If you don’t want, or cannot have alcohol, substitute with chicken broth, or water. Make sure, you use the same amount of liquid.

* If you don’t have saffron, use a product called Sazon, by Goya, con cilantro y tomate, (with cilantro and tomato) it comes in a package that can be found in the Spanish aisles of your grocery stores. Beware, they tend to be salty, and contain MSG, however, they give wonderful flavors. Use two packets, for this recipe. I have used them before, but WITHOUT THE beer and paprika. (Use chicken broth or water, or a combination of both. This way is equally delicious.

There so many variations to this dish, you can also add bay scallops, and or chicken. We eat chicken often, I just didn’t want to part with it this time. There are some authentic recipes that call for rabbit. If you want to fancy it up, for a dinner party, place a lobster in the middle. Your guests will be very impressed with the presentation.

I served a nice chilled Rose’ with the Paella. It was a heavenly pairing. The rose’ is light and refreshing, and beautifully complements the rich flavors of the beer and paprika.

I had the pleasure of having Paella in Barcelona, and it was an amazing dining experience that I will always cherish.

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Always cook with a smile, and your food will smile back at you!

 

 

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