Category Archives: Appetizers

Olive Tapenade, Gina’s Style

 

Tapenade is a  Provençal dip/spread that consists of olives, capers and sometimes anchovies. I love anchovies but I am not using it in this recipe.  You certainly can add them for more richness if you like them.  Beware of the  high level of sodium in all the ingredients.  This mouthwatering spread is also found in Italian cuisine.

“Olive-based tapenades with anchovies and/or vinegar are ubiquitous in Italian cuisine and are documented in ancient Roman cookbooks dating back thousands of years before the appearance of the Occitan word tapenade. One of the earliest known tapenade recipe, Olivarum conditurae, appears in Columella‘s De re Rustica, written in the first century AD.[3] .[4] Cato the Elder (234–149 B.C.E.) includes a recipe for Epityrum, an olive spread very like a tapenade, in chapter 119 of his “On Agriculture.”

Follow me in my kitchen and let ‘s have fun with this delicious spread.

Serves 6-8 as an appetizer – Level of difficulty: Easy

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and rinsed
  • 1 cup green olives, pitted (Sicilians are the best) *
  • 1 Tbsp. chopped flat-leave Italian parsley + more for garnish
  • 4 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil + more to drizzle
  • Half of a lemon, juiced
  • 1 tbsp. capers, rinsed
  • 2 garlic cloves, rough chopped
  • Roasted red bell peppers for garnish, fresh or jar ones
  • 1 loaf of crusty bread, sliced  or crackers*     Preparation:
    1) Place Kalamata and green olives, parsley, oil, lemon, capers and garlic in a food processor. Pulse 25 times by stopping each time until you obtain a chunky but moist consistency, showing small bits of olives and other ingredients.
    2) Place in a serving bowl and chill. (Optional)
    3) Spread on delicious crusty bread or crackers. Drizzle with olive oil.
    Garnish with parsley and roasted peppers.This spread makes a dazzling appetizer and can be made ahead of time. Cook’s notes: I used Spanish olives, and they worked nicely.
    I don’t recommend that you add any salt to this spread, even if you’re not on a sodium-restricted diet. You can toast the bread to add that extra touch.  The choice is yours. Wine Pairing Suggestions: A lovely chilled white, such as a sauvignon blanc, or any white or red varieties of your choice. Make sure, the acidity level is low to medium. This way, it will not take away the sharpness nor compete with the saltiness of the dish.  It’s ok, if you don’t consume alcohol, either way, you will enjoy this luscious appetizer.I hope you will try this recipe and share your thoughts with me. Please take pictures and I will randomly select a lucky recipient’s photo to be featured on my Instagram profile.  The deadline is May 16th, 2017.                          Happy Cooking from My Kitchen to Yours,  Gina Martino Zarcadoolas aka Foodiewinelover
    My Food, Wine & Travel Lifestyles
    WSET-Level 2 Certified Wine Connoisseur
    Global Cuisines & Cultures Aficionado

 

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Royal Flush Clams Casino

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Clams Casino originated in Rhode Island but there are many variations to this delightful appetizer. Some recipes call for Worcestershire sauce, butter and bacon. I substituted bacon for pancetta because of my infinite love affair with pancetta. They are mouthwatering appetizers and very festive. I suggest making them for a special occasion and serve them with a very chilled bubbly, like a Prosecco.  It sure would set the tone for a smashing dinner party. I wanted to use the Cherrystone clams but could not find them. Please keep in mind, if using Cherrystone clams, you will need to chop them up and place them back on the half shell. I used the little neck clams and the result was like hitting a Royal Flush hand in poker. They are more tender and less chewy but the larger clams make a lovely presentation and popping food photos. The choice is yours. This dish is very popular in the Italian-American community, but can be enjoyed by everyone from all corners of the world.  Put on your apron and follow me in the kitchen.

Serves: 6 – or 8-10 when served with other appetizers – Difficulty level: Intermediate

Ingredients:

  • 40 little neck clams (small) or about 20-25 cherrystone size
  • 2 tbps. extra virgin olive oil, + more for drizzle
  • 4 oz. pancetta, chopped
  • 1 small red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 small shallot, chopped
  • 3 garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • Seasoned breadcrumbs to lightly sprinkle
  • Parmigiano Reggiano cheese or any parmesan cheese to lightly sprinkle
  • 1/2 lemon, plus more for garnish
  • Flat-leave Italian parsley for garnishPreparation:

    1)  Wash and scrub the clams. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees F. In a large flat metal pan, bake the clams for about 3 minutes or until they open. Remove them. Drain some of the liquid. Let them cool off. Detach the shells one by one, leaving the clams on half shell.

    2) In the meanwhile, in a large skillet,  over medium-high heat, heat olive oil (be careful, lower heat if it’s too high). Brown the pancetta, for about 1-2 minutes. Stir occasionally. Add the bell peppers and shallots, 1-2 minutes. Add the garlic, saute’ for 1 minute.  Deglaze with the wine for 2 minutes. Turn the burner off.

    3) Time to assemble. Sprinkle a little breadcrumbs on each clam. Next, place the pancetta mixture, then sprinkle cheese lightly.

    4) BROIL for about 3-4 minutes. Remove at once.

    5)  Place on a serving platter. Drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice.

    6) Garnish with parsley and lemon slices.  Bam! Your guests will be dazzled by your culinary creation.

    Hope you’re happy as a clam after reading this delicious blogpost!

    Royal Flush Clams Casino
    Royal Flush Clams Casino

    Gina Martino Zarcadoolas for Foodiewinelover
    My exclusive photos and recipe creation.
    Follow my blog for:  My Food, Wine & Travel Lifestyles
    Culinary Aficionado, WSET-Level 2 Wine Connoisseur
    Social Media Influencer
    World Traveler – Lover of Global Cuisines & Cultures

Gina’s Eggplant Caponata

 

Eggplant Caponata
Eggplant Caponata

Eggplant, also known as aubergine is probably my all-time favorite veggie. It’s so versatile and is used in many cuisines throughout the world. Today, I am sharing with you my eggplant caponata that I have been making for many years. I have tweaked it a little, to reflect the ingredients in the traditional version. It originated in Sicily and there are a few recipe variations. Traditionally it’s served with hard boiled eggs and crusty bread. Ideally, I recommend using green Sicilian olives, but to stay within budget, I use pimiento-stuffed Spanish olives. This recipe can be doubled for a larger crowd.

Serves: 2-4 as a side dish or 4-6 as an appetizer – Level of difficulty: Easy – Prepping time: 5 minutes  Cooking time: 15-20 minutes.

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium eggplant, cut-up in cubes*
  • 1 – 1.25 tsp. sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil + more to drizzle
  • 1/4 cup onions chopped
  • 1/4 cup celery, chopped
  • 1 tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup tomatoes, chopped *
  • 1/4 cup Pimiento-stuffed Spanish olives, drained
  • 1 tbsp. capers, rinsed
  • 2 tsp. red wine vinegar
  • 1-2 pinches of sugar (dissolved in vinegar)
  • pine nuts, optional
  • basil, cut into chiffonade for garnish

    Preparation:

    1) Season the eggplant with salt and pepper.
    2) In a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat, heat olive oil, sautee onions and celery for about 2-3 minutes. Stir occasionally.
    3) Add eggplant, it will absorb the oil, it’s ok, just keep stirring to avoid burning for 2 minutes or so.
    4) Add tomato paste, brown until it caramelizes, another 2 minutes. Keep stirring.  Add tomatoes, olives, capers, vinegar/sugar, pine nuts.
    5) Lower the flame to medium and cover with a lid. Let it simmer for about 10-15 minutes. Stir occasionally. Remove.
    6) Serve in a bowl. Drizzle with olive oil, garnish with basil.

Wine pairing suggestion: A Nero d’Avola for red, or  Insolia for white wine lovers. Both grape varieties are indigenous to Sicily and would make a stunning pairing with the caponata.

Cook’s notes: 1) I used Pomi brand chopped tomatoes. If you want it to have more sauce, add more tomatoes.  You can certainly use fresh tomatoes. 2) Feel free to add more oil, if you need to. 3)  Buy the eggplant the day before or preferably the same day if possible to ensure freshness.

Buon Appetito!

Base recipe, method of cooking and photos
by Gina Martino Zarcadoolas for Foodiewinelover
My Food, Wine & Travel Lifestyles

Gina’s Luscious Tomato Bruschetta

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Luscious tomatoes

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Bruschetta is a classic Italian appetizer. It’s a commonly mispronounced Italian word. In America, many people say bru’shetta, but in Italian, it’s pronounced: bru’sketta. How ever you pronounce it, it’s an easy and enticing appetizer. Your guests will enjoy every bite of its lusciousness. I suggest that you have two loaves of bread on hand, in case you burn the first batch. It’s happened to me a couple of times, but luckily, my guests never found out. It’s important that you are glued in front of the oven, because that one extra minute will create an unappealing presentation and an unpleasant taste. Follow me, and let’s have some fun in the kitchen.

Degree of difficulty: Easy –  Serves: 8-10 as an appetizer

Ingredients:

-2 lbs. of grape tomatoes, cut-up
-1/4 tsp. of sea salt
-Freshly ground black pepper, optional
-1 tbsp. flat-leave Italian parsley, chopped
-1 tbsp. basil leaves, chopped
-1-2 garlic cloves, minced
-1 tbsp. red wine vinegar
-3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil (+ more to drizzle)
-2 loaves of bread, sliced diagonally
-Parmegiano Reggiano, parmesan cheese for grating

Preparation: 

1) In a medium-sized ceramic or glass bowl, mix tomatoes, salt, black pepper, parsley, basil, garlic, vinegar and oil together.
2) Refrigerate for a minimum of an hour before serving.
3) In a single layer on a flat tray, drizzle the bread with olive oil and broil for 2-3 minutes until it’s golden brown in color. Remove immediately.
4) Spoon the tomatoes on top of the toasted bread. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Serve at once. Voila! Repeat the process as needed.

Cook’s Notes:
1) Broil the bread, just before your guests arrive
2) Instead of adding garlic to the tomatoes, you can rub it on the bread before broiling it and then, toss it out. It is an Italian technique.
3) Do not use the top shelf of the broiler as it is too close to the burner.
4) Do not leave the oven unattended.
5) Use Italian or French baguette bread

I hope you will make this delightful appetizer. I suggest you practice broiling the bread a couple days before your event.  This way, by the time your guests arrive, you have mastered the technique.

Wine suggestions: Sparkling wine, Prosecco, Champagne or a lovely crisp white wine of your choice.

Wishing all of you a Happy, Healthy & Prosperous New Year full of bubblies!
Have fun and stay safe!

Gina/Foodiewinelover
My Food, Wine & Travel Lifestyles
WSET-Level 2 Certified Wine Connoisseur
Culinary Aficionado & Lover of Global Cuisines

Recipe: Foodiewinelover
Photos by Gina Martino Zarcadoolas for Foodiewinelover

Gina's Luscious Tomato Bruschetta

Baccala Mantecato, A Venetian Delicacy

img_2237 img_2236I first found out about this delicacy when I was visiting Venice in 2007 with my beautiful family. I was intrigued because I had never savored baccala that way before. Baccala is Italian for dried salted cod fish. It’s a delicious spread (dip) that originated in the region of Venice, Italy. It’s not that difficult to prepare but it can be a bit tricky. If you follow my instructions carefully, your spread will be a success just like mine. You will be using fillet (boned) code fish that’s cured in salt. It’s usually found in a plastic bag near the seafood department of your grocery store. I am certain, you can also find it in the outdoor markets without the plastic, depending what part of the world  you live in.  Fear not, it’s cured with lots of salt and it’s not easily perishable. If  you don’t properly prepare it, you will be left with a dish that is inedible due to the high sodium content. You will need a little less than two hours from start to finish to obtain the final results. Today, I am using a food processor and not my hands, which could be a daunting task. This is the perfect appetizer for an Italian-themed party, and pairs lusciously with Prosecco or any bubbly of your choice. I promise you, if your guests like seafood, they will be impressed with your culinary skills.

Serves: 8-10 as an appetizer –  Level of difficulty:  Medium

Ingredients:

  • 16 oz. Salted Cod Fish boned
  • Water to boil the cod fish and potatoes
  • 2 medium gold potatoes, peeled, cut up
  • 4 garlic cloves, rough chopped
  • 1/2 cup half & half
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more to drizzle
  • Black pepper to taste
  • Parsley for garnish, optional
  • Garlic bread, crostini,  or polenta

    Preparation:
    1) Rinse the salt off the fish. Next, In a large plastic bowl, place the cod fish and cover it with fresh room temperature (tap)  water. Let it soak for about 45 minutes. Drain, rinse, and repeat the same process for another 45 minutes. (You will be adding fresh water and let it soak a second time)  for a total of at LEAST 90 minutes. Drain again.
    2)Place in a large saucepan, cover with fresh water and boil for 5-7 minutes until it becomes a little flaky.  There will be large chunks and it will not fall apart at that point.  Drain. Set aside.
    3) In the meanwhile, boil the potatoes until they are fork tender. *
    4) It’s time to put it all together. In a food processor, put the cod, potatoes, garlic, half and half and PULSE for about 40 – 60 seconds or so, until all the ingredients come together nicely. At that point, you should see some little chunks of fish, and the mixture will appear a little dry.
    5) Slowly, add the oil and run the food processor on HIGH until you obtain a mousse-like texture as in mashed potatoes. (about 30-60 seconds). Always, check your food to make sure you do not over process it. You will run the risk of changing the texture by liquefying it too much. The spread will look creamy, with flakes or little shreds of fish. It’s done. Look at my pictures!
    6) Spread it over bread,  drizzle with olive oil, and garnish with black pepper and parsley.  You can also serve it in a bowl, and let your guest dig in. Traditionally in Venice, it’s served over polenta. Either way, you eat it, it will be delectable and very enticing to the taste buds.
    I hope you have enjoyed this delicious and healthy recipe, and plan to make it soon. Let me hear about your experience. From what I gather, people are having a difficult time obtaining the right consistency. It may take some practice.
    Cook’s notes: * You can use the same pan you used for the cod to boil the potatoes to avoid a mess in the kitchen.
    Make sure the sauce pan is large enough, if not, the water will overflow and create a mess when cooking the fish.  I have a few tricks up my sleeves, having been in the kitchen for nearly 30 years. To make the bread, drizzle with olive oil, and a dab of butter. Broil for 1-2 minutes. Voila!

    codfish2016
    Salted Cod fish

     

     

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Baccala Mantecato – Exclusive pictures by Foodiewinelover

All photos are exclusively mine except for the small picture of the bag – I wanted to show you what it looks like. If it says boned, chunks, it will work also. It’s IMPORTANT that you used the fillet (without the bones) Keep in mind, there are probably different companies depending on where you live.
This recipe was created in my kitchen and I take full credit for the measurements and method of preparation.

I hope you will try this delicious spread and share your thoughts with me. I would love to hear your feedback. I may come back to add some personal photos from our trip to Venice. I need to publish this today, as my followers on social media are patiently waiting for the recipe.

Happy Cooking from My Kitchen to Yours,

Gina Martino Zarcadoolas – Foodiewinelover
My Food, Wine & Travel Lifestyles

 

Delicious Fresh Snapper Ceviche

Fresh Snapper for Ceviche
Fresh Snapper for Ceviche
Freshly-caught snapper
Freshly-caught snapper
Ceviche by Foodiewinelover
Ceviche by Foodiewinelover

My son PJ loves the ocean and is passionate about all sea creatures. He enjoys fishing, and once in a while, he brings home a nice catch. He recently caught a nice mutton snapper and fileted it. The first thing that came to his mind was a ceviche. This dish originated in Peru and Ecuador, South America. It is often spelled seviche or cebiche depending on the region. Ceviche consists of raw fish that’s marinated and cooked in an acidic juice instead of heat.  Lime is usually the preferred method to prepare it. The Peruvian use Aji Amarillo, an indigenous chili pepper to give it some kick. It is widely used in their traditional dishes. It’s hard to find but you can substitute for jalapeño peppers. Ceviche has quickly become a trendy and popular dish in the US.  Famous and aspiring chefs are putting their own spin on it to give it a modern touch.  Let’s get busy in the kitchen!

Level of difficulty: Easy  – Serves: 3-4 as an appetizer

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium-sized mutton snapper, filleted, and diced
  • 3 lime, juiced
  • 1 handful  of cilantro, chopped
  • Sea salt to taste
  • Aji Amarillo, or jalapeño, optional
  • Avocado pieces as an accompaniment

    Preparation:
    Combine the fish, lime juice, cilantro, salt and hot pepper.  Marinate in the refrigerator for at least 3-4 hours. The fish will have an opaque color on the outside. This would be a sign that it’s done and ready to be savored. Serve the Ceviche with some avocados.

    Wine pairing suggestions: 
    A dry Riesling from Germany or Torrontés, a crisp white wine with floral notes from Argentina.  When in doubt, pair it with a fruity Prosecco or a Brut bubbly of your choice. The choice is  yours, but stay away from a wine that has too much acid as it will clash with the lime juice. A clerk at your local wine store is usually trained to help you in selecting the perfect wine to pair with your food.Happy Marinating!

    Gina – Foodiewinelover
    My Food, Wine & Travel Lifestyles

    Photos taken by Gina Martino Zarcadoolas for Foodiewinelover (except for the peppers) Proper credit is given.
    Recipe by Foodiewinelover

Aji Amarillo, chili pepper
Aji Amarillo, chili pepper (stock photo, image source provided)

 

Guacamole for Super Bowl 51

preppingguacamoleI wasn’t planning on making anything today, but I decided at the last-minute to share with you my simple and very delicious guacamole. It’s just in time for the Super Bowl, and it takes less than 15 minutes to prepare. Guacamole is a very popular dip made with avocados, and is a major crowd pleaser, especially on Game Day!

Servings: 6-10 as a dip with tortilla chips – served with other food
Level of difficulty: Super easy

Ingredients: 

  • 6 Hass avocados, peeled and scooped out of skin
  • 1-2 lime, juiced *
  • 1 plum tomato, seeded, diced
  • 1/4 cup of red onions, diced
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more to drizzle
  • 1 jalapeño, diced – optional – plus more for garnish
  • sea-salt to taste – don’t be afraid, it will need it *
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 large bag of tortilla chipsPreparation:

1) In a large mixing bowl, add the avocados, lime juice, tomatoes, onions, oil, jalapeño, salt and pepper. Use an old-fashioned potato masher, and mash it about 20 – 25 times by hand. I use this method because I like my guacamole chunky, and this way, it stays nicely on the tortilla chip. Who wants a runny guac??

2) Place in a serving bowl and chill for at least 30 minutes to one hour. When ready to serve,  taste for flavors, add more salt, and lime if necessary.  Give it a good stir. Drizzle with olive oil. Garnish with jalapeño. Serve with the tortilla chips.

Your guests will be dancing salsa while watching the game.

Cook’s Tips:

1) Use the small avocados because they taste better. Always have extra ones because you never know if one will be rotten on the inside.

2) Always check for acidity, the amount of lime you will use, will depend on how juicy they are.

3) Unless, you are on a sodium-restricted diet, you will need to use salt to bring the flavors together.

4) As you can see, I avoid using strong spices because I want to taste the avocados…

Happy Super Bowl Sunday! Enjoy!!!!

Gina Martino Zarcadoolas
My Food, Wine & Travel Lifestyles

Guacamole
Guacamole by Foodiewinelover