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Entries in Appetizer (14)


Gruyere Soppressata Puff Pastry

I'm here to start your Monday off with CHEESE. I was on a cheese kick this weekend, as I haven't had enough of it lately. One of my very favorite kinds of cheese is Gruyere. I could have just eaten a full 7 course meal, but if I smell Gruyere cheese melting...I immediately become hungry. 

It's some kind of Pavlov's Dairy Dog Response. I'm sure our best scientists are looking into it. 

While we are all on the edge of our seats waiting for those results, let's just eats some dang cheese. In fact, let's put some soppressata in there and wrap the whole thing in puff pastry and call it a day. It's like a fancy pig-in-a-blanket, except it's more like a mattress filled with salty meat and cheesy goodness. And who doesn't want that in their bed? 

So, in light of the above, I think even Pavlov would agree that you should make this as an appetizer for your next grill-a-thon, social gathering, attempt at attracting stray animals.

Puff Pasty with Gruyere and Soppressata
* Brought to you by the Barefoot Contessa

What You Need:

1 package of frozen puff pastry

2 T mustard

12 thick slices of soppressata salami (you could get fun and use some of Charlito's Cocina Charcuterie!)

6 oz gruyere cheese grated

1 egg beaten with 1 T of water for egg wash

What To Do:

Preheat oven to 450 and place a piece of parchment paper on sheet pan.

Lay one sheet of pasty on floured board and lightly roll into a 10 inch square.

Brush with mustard leaving a 1 inch border. 

Arrange soppressata on mustard and sprinkle with grated cheese. 

Brush the border with egg wash.


Lightly roll second piece of puff pastry into 10 in square and lay on top of the first square. 

Brush the top with egg wash and cut three large slits for steam to escape.

Chill for 15 minutes (the pastry, NOT you...)


When the pastry is cold, trim the edges with a sharp knife and bake for 20 minutes. 

Allow to cool, cut into squares and serve.




Baked Ricotta Cheese - A Masterpiece!

A few weeks ago, I wandered into Pulino's Bar and Pizzeria in order to sample their fare (obviously). Although I was not blown away by their pizza, I was overwhelmed by a simple appetizer we ordered: Baked Ricotta (pictured above).

Served in a tiny cast-iron pot and accented with olive oil, sea salt and grapes (yes - grapes! Those are not olives), this small canister of piping hot cheese was a masterpiece in simplicity: salty, sweet and fantastic for dipping (please note the chunks of crusty bread in the background for said purpose).

I kept dipping...that I might detect the various nuances of flavor so that I could, of course, recreate this in my own kitchen (the infamous and often flammable Laboratorio Semi-Moderno).

As the New Year approaches, you may be called upon to appetize or hors d'oeuvre-ize people at a party. I would recommend you make this. Let's get to it.

As you may know, I have already mastered homemade ricotta cheese. It's quite simple. Here are the instructions to make your own ricotta. Following this, we will delve into how to bake your own ricotta.

What You Need:
makes about 1 cup ricotta cheese
1 quart whole milk (reduced fat just doesn't work as well)
Juice from 1 lemon, squeezed directly into the milk
2 tablespoons heavy cream
Sea Salt

Small pot
Candy thermometer (something that reads at least up to 180 degrees)
Cheesecloth or a fine mesh strainer
Slotted spoon

What To Do:
Cut enough cheesecloth to cover the bottom of your colander. 4-ply the cheesecloth to make sure no actual cheese escapes - just water!

Pour the whole milk and lemon juice into a small pot outfitted with a thermometer. Heat this over medium-low heat and babysit it. The babysitting involves you watching like a hawk and stirring occasionally so it doesn't boil over.

The thermometer will start to creep toward 160 degrees. This is the action zone. Your milk will start to separate and curdle. Stop stirring and let the milk completely separate and curdle. Remove from the heat.

Using a slotted spoon, scoop out the curdled portion and place it on the cheesecloth that is sitting in the colander. Let it drain for about 5 minutes.

After draining, I transfer it to small bowl. Add in your 2 Tbsp of heavy cream and sea salt. Give it a good whipping with a wisk. I actually used this handy-dandy, old-school device that I found lurking in the back of one of Marmo's utensil drawers:

And now for the baking:

What You Need:
Your freshly made ricotta cheese
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
a handful of red grapes, washed and halved
Equipment: a small cast iron pot, like a Le Crueset or a small baking dish with a lid.

What To Do:

Heat up your oven to 350 degrees.

Put your freshly made ricotta in the baking dish, top with the 2 tablespoons of olive oil and throw the grapes on top.

Cover this contraption with the lid.

Bake it in the oven for about 20-25 minutes, keeping an eye on it. The grapes should start to split and roast, while the cheese will bubble and brown in spots. Like so:

Don't dry it out - it will look withered and sad.

No one wants withered and sad ricotta. Especially at a New Year's Eve party.

Bring along some sliced crusty bread and extra olive oil for dipped and have yourself a party! Inviting other people is optional.


Pep it Up! More Memorial Day Bruschetta Options

Yes, it's STILL raining in New York. So I need to come up with new and inventive ways to use Roasted Peppers. You may recall me talking about how they help prevent bad hair days due to inclement weather.

It was time to take all these peppers, puddles and poodle hair and do something proactive: like making them party-ready for your Memorial Day festivities.

As an added bonus, this is so dang easy, you will have more time to spend on figuring out how to make your hair party-ready (much more challenging, for me anyway). Here we go:

Roasted Red and Green Pepper Bruschetta:

What You Need:
1 red pepper
1 green pepper (you could use yellow or orange if you like - go for color!)
Olive oil
1 teaspoon sea salt
A pinch of cayenne pepper
Chopped fresh rosemary - a few sprigs
Chopped fresh thyme - a few sprigs
Chooped fresh basil 5 large leaves
black pepper - two turns from a mill
1 Italian baguette, sliced
Optional: goat cheese

What To Do:
Roast the peppers according to my previous instructions.

Place all the spices and chopped herbs in a Ziploc bag and shake to mix.

Once your peeled and seeded roasted peppers have cooled, chop them up into tiny bits and place them in a small bowl. Add in 1 tablespoon of olive oil and your spice mix.

Toss with a fork to coat everything evenly.

Heat up your broiler and arrange your baguette slices on a baking sheet. Toast each side of the slices - about 2 minutes on each side or until golden brown.

Arrange scoops of pepper topping on your toasts and serve!

For an added punch, spread some goat cheese on your toasts before you place your peppers on there.

Magic, I promise. Have I lied to you yet? Don't answer that...


Meals on Reels Friday Round-Up

We have reached another Friday! Gonna see a movie this weekend? We have some recommendations that pair well with food (of course)!

Our first film: Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. Chow down on some garlic bread with these recipes while you watch.

Our second film: My Cousin Vinny. Streak your hair, get out your leather and go to Brooklyn for grits at Egg!

Our third film: If you fry it, they will come: Hot dogs and Field of Dreams. Magic in the Moonlight.

In other news, I'll be traveling to South Beach today for my first Triathlon of the season. You can also get the recipe for my home made energy bars at that link. Tweeting will be light as I don't want to take out my pre-race panic attacks on you lovely people.

Come Monday or Tuesday we might have some more BIG NEWS. So stay tuned. And we will also be continuing our Meals on Reels program. Don't forget to send us your favorite movie/food scenes! Post 'em in the comments!

Have a great weekend!

ItaLisboNyorker - City Sandwich

"Have a sangwich!"

This is a line my family uses, in jest, usually after a particularly large meal. We say it for a few reasons:

1. It's funny.

2. No one in my family ever needs a "sangwich" or a saaaaandwich (if you must). There is always so much food around that the idea of more in whatever form, sandwich or otherwise, would be pushing the limits of space, time and elastic waistbands.

(For those of you out of the loop, "sangwich" is sort of Italian-American/New Jersey/New York dialect/accent-weirdness for "sandwich").

But sometimes you need a sandwich, as they are surprisingly handy. And last week I was in Midtown (really) and there were sandwiches to be had. Specifically, the well-crafted Portuguese sandwiches at City Sandwich.

City Sandwich chef and owner Michael Guerrieri was born in Naples, raised in New York, and cooked in Lisbon. And now he's back in New York bringing Midtown a selection of golden-toasted sandwiches with fusion fillings. He calls this blend of flavors "ItaLisboNyorker" which is kind of a mouthful. Sandwich pun intended.

Something I REALLY like about this place is that there is no mayo in the sandwiches. Guerrieri instead uses yogurt with olive oil (I'll get back to this in a bit).

The Scene:
The interior is unassuming. It looks like the sandwich version of a Pinkberry with less bubble-style graphics. The menu options are posted on the walls of the long, narrow space. Tables line either side, and the counter is at the back, complemented by a beverage fridge (stocking GUS natural sodas) and a basket of Gourmet Basic's Smart Fries.

The Grub:
We selected the following sandwiches from the wall-posted offerings:

The Todd (pictured above): A harmonious blend of smoked Portugese pancetta, seasonal lettuce (nice and dark green, none of that wilty iceburg stuff), and a tomato with actual flavor. The whole thing was accented by a healthy but not goopy drizzle of honey dijon yogurt sauce. A honey dijon yogurt sauce that I liked so much I replicated at home. There's a (bonus) recipe below!

Next up was the Henrique. Sporting Portugese Alheira-Vinegar sausage, steamed collard greens, grilled onions, melted mozzarella, this sandwich is definitely a heavy weight. But not in a way that often induces regret in an "I just ate a brick" way. It is surprisingly light – perhaps because the bread is so delicate and crispy it could float away if it wasn't weighted down by meaty accoutrements. I loved the combination of tangy vinegar sausage, sweet grilled onion and savory collard greens. The mozzarella could have been a touch saltier (yes, even with sausage).

The Experience: The Big Lebowski

While the atmosphere doesn't count for much, the sandwiches are innovative, fresh and feature well-thought-out and balanced taste combinations. I enjoyed the fusion of Italian, Portuguese and New York styles and tastes. And I loved that Honey Dijon Yogurt Dressing. So much so that I recreated it and mixed it up with some Persian cucumbers and avocados for a tangy salad.

Here's how to do it yourself:

What You Need:

For the Dressing:
makes 1/2 cup
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt (I used Chobani)
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard (NOT honey-dijon mustard)
2 teaspoons honey (I used a Acacia variety from Murray's Cheese, but any honey that tastes good to you works)
A drizzle of olive oil

For the Salad:
1 ripe avocado, cut into cubes
2 Persian cucumbers, diced

What To Do:
Combine all the ingredients for the dressing in a small bowl and mix. Be sure to give it a taste and see if you would like more of any of the three main ingredients.

Place your chopped cucumber and avocado in a larger bowl. Add as much dressing as you would like (I added about 2 tablespoons of it) and mix until well coated. Serve with toasted bread or pita chips.

Note: This dressing is also good for dipping aforementioned bread/pita chips. This would be why I don't have any dressing leftover.

And finally, say it with me now: SANGWICH! Have one.