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Enjoy a Make-Ahead Salad Filled with Freshness


tomato saladA friend recently went through a lifetime of cookbooks and gave me 11 cases to go through. Needless to say, it’s going to take some time, especially when I pause all the time to read through a recipe for this or that.

I’m not going to keep all of them, of course. After all, there are a few duplicates in there. But you never know where you’re going to find a treasure. The following recipe for Green Pepper, Olive and Tomato Salad comes from “Pantry Pleasures,” a fundraiser for the Mercy Hospital Auxiliary in Grand Rapids, Mich. The year the cookbook appeared is a mystery, though my guess would be in the early 1970s.

I was drawn to it because of the freshness of the ingredients, many of which are personal favorites. But the real appeal is that you can make this a day ahead. So, if you know you’re going to be running short on time, here’s one course that you won’t have to worry about.

It’s also easy to play around with the ingredients to suit your tastes. I added an English cucumber. Radishes and cabbage would also be good additions. (If you use red radishes, add them shortly before serving because the color of the skin will run and turn the whole salad pink.)

Green Pepper, Olive and Tomato Salad

2 green peppers, chopped in thin strips or small pieces
1 cup sliced olives (green or black or a combination of both)
3 large tomatoes, cut into wedges or bite-sized pieces
2 ribs celery, chopped
1 large red onion, cut into thin half-rings
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup neutral-flavored oil, such as grapeseed or avocado
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

In a large bowl, mix together peppers, olives, tomatoes, celery, onion, vinegar, oil, salt and pepper. Marinate overnight. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Makes 12-15 servings.

Adapted from “Pantry Pleasures: Mercy Hospital Auxiliary”

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Bacon and Cheddar Dip


This dip is not for most dieters, though it would certainly work on a low-carb plan. Just serve it with celery instead of chips. It can be made up to two days in advance.

Bacon and Cheddar Dip

6 slices bacon, divided use
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded extra-sharp cheddar
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup sour cream
3 scallions, white and green parts, finely chopped, divided use
Hot sauce, to taste

Cook the bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until browned and crisp, about 6 minutes (starting the bacon in a cold skillet reduces shrinkage and splattering). Transfer to paper towels to drain and cool.

Chop the bacon. Wrap and refrigerate 2 tablespoons for the garnish.

[amazon-product]0060002239[/amazon-productStir the cheese, mayonnaise, sour cream, the remaining bacon and two-thirds of the scallions together in a bowl. Season with hot sauce. Cover and refrigerate until chilled, at least 2 hours or up to 2 days.

Transfer to a serving bowl and top with the reserved bacon and the remaining scallions. Serve chilled.

What to dip: potato chips, tortilla chips, baguette slices, crostini, flatbread crisps, broccoli florets, carrot sticks, celery sticks, cherry tomatoes, zucchini slices.

From “Dip It!” by Rick Rodgers

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Cajun Shrimp and Artichoke Dip


This spicy dip can be made 1 day in advance.

Cajun Shrimp and Artichoke Dip

1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons Cajun Seasoning (see below) or salt-free store-bought seasoning
8 ounces cooked, peeled and deveined shrimp, coarsely chopped
2 (6-ounce) jars marinated artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1/3 cup drained and coarsely chopped sun-dried tomatoes
3 scallions, white and green parts, finely chopped
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Cajun Seasoning
2 tablespoons sweet paprika
1 tablespoon dried basil
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

For dip: Mix the mayonnaise, sour cream and Cajun Seasoning in a medium bowl. Add the shrimp, artichokes, sun-dried tomatoes and scallions, mixing well. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate to blend the flavors, at least 1 hour or overnight.

[amazon-product]0060002239[/amazon-product]For Cajun Seasoning: Mix paprika, basil, thyme, onion powder, garlic powder, black pepper and cayenne pepper together. Makes about 1/3 cup. Use as a seasoning for dips, popcorn, salads, grilled foods and in Cajun and Creole cooking.

What to dip: potato chips, tortilla chips, baguette slices, crostini, flatbread crisps, carrot sticks, celery, sticks, cherry tomatoes, cucumber slices, mushroom caps and zucchini slices.

From “Dip It” by Rick Rodgers

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New Orleans-style Muffuletta Dip


The muffuletta, a round submarine sandwich with olive salad on it, is a New Orleans creation dating back to the early 1900s. “This chunky, salty, almost spicy dip does credit to its inspiration,” writes Sally Sampson in “Party Dips!”  It can also be made a day ahead.

New Orleans-style Muffuletta Dip

1/2 cup pitted Spanish green olives, drained
1/2 cup pitted brine-cured black olives (such as Kalamata), drained
1/4 cup coarsely chopped red onion
1 garlic clove, peeled
2 to 4 tablespoons chopped fresh basil or parsley leaves, to taste
1/2 teaspoon dried Greek oregano
Juice of 1/2 lemon (about 2 tablespoons)
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon Tabasco sauce, or more to taste
1/2 cup mayonnaise

[amazon-product]1558322787[/amazon-product]

Place the olives, onion, garlic and basil in a food processor and pulse until chopped. Transfer to a small mixing bowl and stir in the oregano, lemon juice, mustard, Tabasco and mayonnaise until well combined. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour and up to overnight to let the flavors develop.

Upon removing from refrigerator, mix well, transfer to a serving bowl and serve immediately.

Serve with pita chips or thin slices of toast.

From “Party Dips!” by Sally Sampson

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Truffled Goat Cheese Spread


Want to get a little fancy on Super Bowl Sunday? The aroma and flavor of truffle oil make this simple dip simply irresistible. It can be made days ahead of time, too.

Truffled Goat Cheese Spread

1 (9-ounce) log goat cheese, at room temperature
2 to 3 teaspoons truffle oil, or to taste
4 radishes, trimmed and grated
1/4 cup chopped fresh chives

Place the cheese, oil, radishes and chives in a small mixing bowl and mash together with a fork to combine.

Transfer to a serving bowl and serve immediately, or cover and refrigerate for up to 1 week. If refrigerated, let soften a bit before serving, if desired.

[amazon-product]1558322787[/amazon-product]Variation: Use an 8-ounce package of cream cheese instead of the goat cheese.

Garnish with more scallions or radish slices, if desired.

Serve with cucumber rounds, slices of celery or triangles of thinly sliced pumpernickel.

Makes about 1 1/2 cups.

From “Party Dips!” by Sally Sampson

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Tart Mixes Fennel, Taleggio Cheese and Cardamom


FennelFennel, Taleggio and Cardamom Tart

The cardamom underscores the fennel’s gentle anise flavor in this dreamy tart, while crème fraîche and Taleggio, a rich cow’s-milk cheese from northern Italy, offer tangy creaminess, further enriched by the cream and eggs. This recipe is adapted from Tamasin Day-Lewis’ book, “The Art of the Tart.”

For dough:
1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes and chilled
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
4-5 tablespoons ice water

For filling:
3 medium fennel bulbs (2 1/2 pounds total)
8 green cardamom pods
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Fine sea salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup crème fraîche
3 ounces Taleggio cheese, chilled, rind discarded, cheese cut into 1/3-inch cubes

To make the dough: Blend together flour, butter and salt in a bowl with your fingertips or a pastry blender (or pulse in a food processor) just until most of mixture resembles coarse meal with some small (roughly pea-sized) butter lumps. Drizzle evenly with 1/4 cup ice water and gently stir with a fork (or pulse) until incorporated. Squeeze a small handful of dough; if it doesn’t hold together, add more ice water, 1/2 tablespoon at a time, stirring (or pulsing) until incorporated, then test again. Do not overwork, or pastry will be tough.

Turn dough out onto a work surface and divide into 4 portions. With heel of your hand smear each portion once or twice in a forward motion to help distribute butter. Gather dough together and form into a disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.

To make the filling: Remove fennel stalks and fronts. Quarter bulbs lengthwise. Cut out core and cut each quarter crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices.

Crush cardamom pods with side of a large heavy knife. Remove black seeds and discard pods. Crush seeds as much as possible with side of knife, then finely chop.

Combine wine, water, oil, butter, cardamom, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper in a 12-inch heavy skillet and bring to a simmer. Add fennel and cook, covered, over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool.

To assemble and bake the tart: Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface with a floured rolling pin into a 15-inch round. Fit into an 11- or 11 1/2-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Then run rolling pan over edge of pan to trim pastry flush with rim. Lightly prick bottom and sides of shell all over with a fork. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Put a rack in the middle of oven and preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Line tart shell with foil and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Put on a baking sheet and bake until sides are set and edges are pale golden, 15 to 20 minutes. Carefully remove weights and foil and bake shell until golden, 10 to 15 minutes more. Transfer to a rack.

Whisk together eggs and yolk in a large bowl until foamy. Whisk in milk, cream, crème fraîche, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

[amazon-product]0618610189[/amazon-product]Transfer fennel mixture to shell with a slotted spoon, spreading it evenly. Dot with cheese. Pour custard into shell.

Bake tart until set, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool on a rack for 15 minutes and remove rim before serving.

Cook’s notes:

  • The tart shell can be baked up to 1 day ahead and kept, loosely covered, at room temperature.
  • The tart can be made up to 1 day ahead. Cool, uncovered, then refrigerate, loosely covered. Reheat in a 350-degree oven for 10 to 15 minutes.

From “Gourmet Today” edited by Ruth Reichl

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