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bruschetta with white anchovies

bruschetta with white anchoviesBruschetta (pronounced bru-sketta) is a classic Italian appetizer consisting of toasted bread slices topped with fresh ripe tomatoes, fresh basil, and extra-virgin olive oil.  There are oodles of variations and I’ve named a few here for you to consider: smashed avocado with chopped tomatoes; zucchini goat cheese bruschetta; smoked salmon with mascarpone cheese. Continue Reading →

fried olives stuffed with cheese

fried olives stuffed with cheeseWhat is your favorite snack? Do you go back to the same one time after time or do you like to venture out and try new ones? If you have not tried fried olives, you must! They are a crunchy flavor bomb!  I’ve made these a few times now and each time it’s with a different stuffing.  I first stuffed the olives with blue cheese and while they were yummy, I felt the saltiness from the cheese was too much for my palate.  So, next I stuffed with sausage meat combined with cheese curds…whoa!  That was one amazing combo! Continue Reading →

antipasto salad – a cinch to make

antipasto saladAntipasto (Italian – before the meal) simply refers to the dish that precedes all the others to come. It should be colorful allowing the senses to awaken and gets the palate ready for the meal that follows. It is there to whet the appetite and not be too filling. A typical antipasto dish consists of cured meats such as prosciutto, salami, coppa, speck, mortadellaContinue Reading →

Grilled Pepper Salad

grilled pepper saladSimple ingredients mingling together to pull off an out-of-this-world taste! If you’ve never had grilled peppers then you are in for one heck of a treat!  Grilling or roasting brings out their natural sweetness making them so good on their own and they really don’t need much attention to shine, so keep the ingredients simple.  A grilled pepper takes little effort to cook so don’t fret about the charred veggie.  It’s this step that enhances their flavor to give you a slight smokey, sweet taste.  Continue Reading →

stuffed zucchini blossoms

stuffed zucchini flowers Stuffed Zucchini Blossoms…sounds so heavenly.  Summer squash which includes zucchini, is now available in local markets and food shops – they are for me, one of the highlights of the season.  They’re delicate, come in different varieties, tender, juicy, and sweet.  But before the summer squash is formed, the plant produces blossoms. If you’re lucky to find zucchini blossoms, grab them!  They’re a delight to eat.  The flower, though delicate, is wonderful stuffed with ricotta or goat cheese, dipped in a tempura-like batter, and deep-fried. Continue Reading →

Grilled Garlic Scapes Pesto

grilled garlic scapes pestoIt’s funny how easily I can be distracted when trying to write a post.  I enjoy talking about food but there are times when the energy to write seems to evaporate the longer I sit at my desk looking at the computer screen.  I stare out the window hoping for that aha! moment but my thoughts drift.  Any little distraction and my thoughts wonder.  I notice my plants need some attention, or the lawn needs a bit of water, or the windows I have been meaning to clean now seem so dirty, or simply I can’t be asked.  So I give in and head outdoors to clear the cobwebs, get a bit of vitamin D, and tend to my plants.  Continue Reading →

Marinated Olives

citrus-marinated olivesThe olive bar at any food shop makes me stop dead in my tracks.  I’m a sucker for anything that reminds me of the Mediterranean.  I wasn’t always a fan until one day, a few years ago, I had ordered a cheese plate and Kalamata olives were on it.  At first I scrunched up my nose in displeasure but then I thought I have to try one and to my delight, I liked it.  Continue Reading →

Grilled Peppers

grilled peppersWe grill all year round but when the weather is warmer we use the barbecue weekly. We grill anything – bread, cheese, veggies, meat, fish, fruit, you name it we’ve most probably grilled it.

A couple of years ago John and I were on a cruise around the Adriatic Sea and one of the ports of call was Bari. Exploring on foot can build up quite an appetite. Usually I will have already researched a place to eat but Bari was one that I couldn’t find anything that wasn’t ‘touristy’ (we crave authentic). Exhausted from the blazing heat, humidity, and starting to feel a bit cranky, we stumbled upon a place to eat that wasn’t rustic and felt, perhaps, a bit too upscale for what we wanted. Still, my stomach was telling me we had to stop now otherwise I was about to keel over. In we went, and with John’s Italian language skills of that of a 3-year old, we managed to order what we thought were going to be just a ‘few’ antipasti. Yikes! We must have had enough for 10 people! Our server brought us marinated white anchovies, assorted olives, octopus, peppers, zucchini, fresh mozzarella, focaccia, but one dish that stood out was grilled peppers.  The grilled peppers were silky smooth, delicately bathed in olive oil, scented with chopped basil and garlic.  I mopped up the juices with bread (not the focaccia) but fresh bread that came out of the oven.   We always chat to people and our server (owner I think) kept bringing us food to try.  I think it was due to our enthusiasm for food and a willingness to want to try new things.  But in the end we had to tell him we were stuffed.   I have added a couple of ingredients which, I think, highlights the sweetness from the peppers.  I hope you will enjoy this dish as much as we did.  It’s a lovely way to re-visit the food of Italy in your own home.

Serves 4 to 6 as an antipasto

3 bell peppers (red, yellow, orange or all one color)
1 to 2 cloves of garlic, minced
splash of extra-virgin olive oil
splash of white balsamic vinegar or sherry vinegar
6 to 8 basil leaves, sliced
1 tablespoon capers, rinsed
handful Kalamata olives, pitted and sliced

Fire up the barbeque and place whole bell peppers on grill. Grill until charred on all sides. Remove from heat and place peppers in a large bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and allow peppers to cool enough to handle. Remove charred skin, seeds and membrane. Slice peppers and place in a clean bowl. Add rest of the ingredients and toss to combine. Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

grilled peppersThe Culinary Chase’s Note:
This dish is gorgeous on its own or used in pasta, as bruschetta topping, in sandwiches etc. These will keep in the refrigerator for up to 5 days…if they last that long! Enjoy!

Shrimp on Polenta Rounds with Sun-Dried Tomato Relish

It was one of those days. I needed some sort of dinner inspiration (read nudge) and feeling too lazy to leave the house (I had already been out), I leaned forward to inspect the contents of the fridge and noticed a jar of sun-dried tomatoes right at the back.  I usually keep these sort of condiments closer to the front…things in the back tend to get lost or worse, have gone past their expiry and start growing some interesting fungus within!   I had shrimp in the freezer and polenta (cornmeal) in the pantry.  These would go perfectly with sun-dried tomatoes but I needed to ‘spice’ up the tomatoes – just a bit.  Sun-dried tomato relish, of sorts, sprang to mind.  After surveying the contents of the refrigerator, I finally felt I had enough ingredients to pull it all together.

shrimp on polenta rounds with sun-dried tomato relish by The Culinary ChaseAs tempting as it might be to pick up store-bought polenta, consider making your own.  It is easily made and takes 20 to 30 minutes to cook.  When its finished, add butter, chopped herbs and cheese for optimum flavoring.  Pour polenta onto a greased plate and let cool.  When it’s cool, it’s ready and can be used as a base for pizza, cut into polenta fries, grilled etc.  Once you make it you’ll find it difficult to go back ready-made.  For more home made polenta recipes, click here.

Serves 4 to 6 as a side

8 to 12 medium-sized  shrimp, peeled and sautéed until pink and golden (keep warm)
firm polenta (already cooked), cut into rounds
1 cup sun-dried tomatoes (oil-packed), drained and chopped
handful fresh parsley, chopped
1 garlic, minced
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
splash of olive oil
small shallot, minced
1/4 teaspoon chili pepper flakes

  1. In a bowl combine relish ingredients. Allow to sit 15 to 20 minutes to allow flavors to develop.
  2. Preheat broiler.
  3. Cut polenta into 3-inch rounds using a cookie cutter or the top of a glass. Spray olive oil on the top and bottom of each polenta round. Place on a baking tray and broil until tops are bubbling and starting to brown. Remove from Oven.
  4. Arrange a spoonful or so of sun-dried tomato relish on top of the polenta round topped with shrimp.  Drizzle with juice, if any, from the relish.

shrimp on polenta rounds by The Culinary ChaseThe Culinary Chase’s Note:  The relish ingredients are easily tweaked to suit your own palate.   Enjoy!

Cauliflower Breadsticks

cauliflower breadsticks by The Culinary ChaseI’m a big cauliflower fan but I wasn’t always…I didn’t dislike it I just wasn’t enamored with it.  As a kid and young adult cauliflower in my world was served with a cheese sauce.  Don’t get me wrong, I loved the combination but I always felt that the cauliflower on its own was oh so bland.  It wasn’t until I was much older that I started experimenting with herbs and spices and realized that cooking techniques could really enhance its natural flavor.  One of my favorite and quick ways to serve cauliflower is to cut into smaller pieces (florets), toss with a splash of olive oil, sprinkle with ground cumin, salt and pepper and pop into the oven for 20 minutes.  Anyone I’ve served this to (sometimes right from the baking tray) say they loved it and never thought to use cumin (one of my all-time favorite spices).

A friend of ours is gluten intolerant and before meeting Russ I have to admit I was gluten-insensitive…it had never crossed my mind just what the term meant or the ramifications.  We eat bread, pasta, crackers, cookies without a worry.  I’m so new to this burgeoning gluten-free world that I am amazed as to what’s on the shelves for gluten-free products.  Baking gluten-free is one area I have yet to figure out…a few failed attempts and containers of rice flour, gluten free flour, almond flour sit awaiting the next attempt.   Cauliflower breadsticks was an easier task and I was hoping the mixture would hold together.  The result surprised me.  I will definitely make these again!

Makes 20 pieces
1 large cauliflower head (at least 6-inches wide), washed and cut into chunks
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup aged cheddar cheese, grated
1/4 cup Parmesan, grated
1 tablespoon Italian herb seasoning
1 to 2 cloves of garlic, minced
puttanesca or marinara sauce for dipping (optional but highly recommended!)

cauliflower breadstick ingredients by The Culinary Chase

      1. Preheat oven to 450f.
      2. Microwave cauliflower 5 minutes or until soft. Allow to cool. Place cauliflower in the middle of a clean tea towel and fold up sides. Over a sink, squeeze and twist tea towel to release cauliflower juices. Do this until little or no juice comes out. Wringing the cauliflower in the tea towel will break up the pieces. Place in a bowl and top with cheese, Italian herb seasoning, garlic – mix until combined. Do a taste test here and adjust seasonings. Add eggs and combine.
        cauliflower breadstick Collage
      3. On a parchment-lined baking tray place cauliflower mixture.  Form a rectangle and press the mixture to about 1/2-inch thick and bake 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown.
      4. Sprinkle more cheese on top and bake until melted.  Remove, cut into serving pieces and serve.

cauliflower breadstick by The Culinary ChaseThe Culinary Chase’s Note: Experiment with other seasoning such as dried tarragon, thyme, cumin etc.  Enjoy!