Caprese Style Portobellos

caprese stuffed portobellosI love the large portobello mushroom caps because basically you can stuff them with almost anything you want resulting in a beautiful meal that you created in no time. You don’t need a bunch of ingredients to make them and you feel totally satisfied after you’ve eaten them.
stuffed portobello We often eat these as a main course during the week along with a nice big salad but if you want to make them as a delicious side dish next to grilled chops or a steak, I’m here to tell you they go perfectly together!

caprese mush
What’s not to like? All the flavors of a caprese salad all plopped into a large portobello cap! It’s good, it’s really good.

caprese mush11One of the reasons this tastes so good is that you cut and prepare your cherry tomatoes ahead of time letting them sit in a bowl for a few minutes with your olive oil, fresh basil, salt and pepper, letting all the flavors meld together. Good tomatoes are the key of course!

caprese mush9And lastly, and I wouldn’t say this unless I meant it, but if you really want to take the whole flavor experience over the top, finish it off with this!

Caprese Style Portobellos

Ingredients

  • large portobello mushroom caps, gills removed
  • cherry tomatoes, halved
  • shredded or fresh mozzarella ( although I've tried both I prefer the dryer shredded version for this because of the moisture factor seeping out)
  • fresh basil
  • olive oil

Instructions

  1. Heat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Line a baking sheet with foil for easy clean up.
  3. Brush the caps and rims with olive oil on each mushroom.
  4. Slice cherry or grape tomatoes in half, place in a bowl, drizzle with olive oil, add chopped basil, salt and pepper. Let it sit for a few minutes to let the flavors meld.
  5. Place your cheese on the bottom of the mushroom cap, spoon on the tomato basil mixture and bake until cheese melts and mushrooms are cooked but not overcooked.
http://www.prouditaliancook.com/2013/06/caprese-style-portobellos.html

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Grilled Vegetable Skewers

grilled vegetable skewersGrilling vegetables is nothing new but when you put them together on a skewer they transform into an eye-catching little side dish! Who could resist all those colors and combinations? They look so pretty on a platter and a little goes a long way!

I cut up all my veggies first and place them into a big bowl tossing them in a generous amount of olive oil, salt, pepper and whatever herbs I feel like using, either dried or fresh.

The more color the better, red onion, cherry tomatoes, corn, zucchini, yellow squash, multi colored peppers of red, yellow, orange and green. I like to use a Japanese eggplant when making these because it slices into nice rounds for skewering. I also added crimini mushrooms and small red potatoes into the mix. Try to keep all the slices the same size around 1 1/2 inches so everything cooks at the same pace.

grilling vegetables Assemble them in any order that appeals to you, you can get very creative with all the different colors. I parboil the potatoes just a little ahead of time so they won’t take so long to cook on the grill. Cook on a medium turning often until slightly charred and cooked through.vegetable skewersVeggie skewers are the perfect option for entertaining because you can assemble all your skewers way ahead of time, even the night before. Refrigerate until you’re ready to throw them on the grill.

grilled artichokes Of course at my house we always make extra room on the grill for my stuffed grilled artichokes, I make them pretty regularly in the summer, so easy, so good!grilled shrimp I served my veggie skewers with grilled shrimp that I marinated in olive oil, garlic, lemon zest and juice, a pinch of red pepper flakes and fresh parsley. I love those flat wooden skewers, the shrimp doesn’t move and flip around when turning, everything stays in place.shrimp skewers A touch of grilled lemon squeezed over the top was the perfect finish to the shrimp. The finishing touch on my veggie skewers will always be this, what can I say, they just go hand in hand!

Fire up your grill and make this colorful and healthy meal for your next cookout!

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Grilled Potato and Asparagus Napoleon

 I’m so happy grilling season is back in full force! This is one of the things I made recently, Grilled Potato and Asparagus Napoleon,  it’s the perfect side dish for all your summer grilling events.

 Grilled asparagus, grilled red pepper slices, creamy and slightly tangy goat cheese layered between grilled potato slices topped off with nicoise olives and a rich balsamic glaze to swipe it all in. I spoke about Mandarano Balsamic Glaze before, it’s a staple in my kitchen, I use it all the time and many times on this blog. I adore it and highly recommend it!

Once you get a bottle you’ll never want to be without, it’s that good!  Good news, all my readers will get a discount at checkout using the code, PIC.
 I did three stacks of potato slices here but two stacks would work as well especially if your serving a bunch of other side dishes. It looks impressive, the flavors are amazing, it’s a win, win!

Grilled Potato and Asparagus Napoleon

Ingredients

  • Amounts will vary depending on how many you will be making and whether you have a 2 or 3 high stack. This will be a guideline.
  • I used large baking potatoes which need to be precooked until tender but not mushy. You could either steam, boil or bake After they are cooked cut off the ends and make 1/2 inch slices. Brush slices with olive oil then finish cooking on grill for a few minutes. Be sure to get some nice grill marks!
  • Asparagus, pre grilled and cut into 1 inch pieces
  • Goat cheese log, cut into rounds
  • Red pepper slices, pre grilled
  • Nicoise olives and balsamic glaze for finish
  • Light vinaigrette or fresh lemon olive oil dressing

Instructions

  1. Have everything ready for assembly,
  2. Potato* goat cheese round* red pepper slice* asparagus pieces* a few olives.
  3. Drizzle layer with either a light vinaigrette or fresh lemon and olive oil dressing.
  4. Repeat!
  5. When napoleon is made, garnish with more dressing, olives, asparagus pieces and a healthy swirl of luscious balsamic glaze around the plate.
  6. better served either slightly warm or room temperature.
http://www.prouditaliancook.com/2013/05/grilled-potato-and-asparagus-napoleon.html

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Stuffed Eggplant with Ricotta, Spinach and Artichoke

stuffed eggplant (7)

Have you ever been inspired by Pinterest? I have, many times.  I needed to cook up three eggplants before they went bad so I checked out Pinterest for a little inspiration, as I was wandering from page to page I saw an eggplant that was stuffed with spinach, ricotta and artichoke, that was it, that was my inspiration! The original recipe that was pinned had honey in it, I didn’t want to use honey but was inspired to make mine more Italian style, so that’s exactly what I did.

stuffed eggplant (9)

I started out by cutting my eggplant lengthwise then carefully scooping out the middle leaving a small border all the way around the eggplant half. Drizzled the inside with olive oil, salt and pepper, did the same with the scooped out eggplant, placed them all on a baking sheet in a preheated 400 degree oven until tender and cooked through.

When the eggplant was finished cooking I removed it from the oven to cool down. On another baking sheet I placed one 12oz bag of frozen artichoke hearts, courtesy of Trader Joe’s (which I have in my freezer at all times) a shallot and 3 minced garlic cloves, drizzled everything with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roasted in the 400 degree oven until artichokes defrosted and became tender.

I then placed everything into a big bowl, the artichoke mixture, the scooped out cooked eggplant, 1 heaping cup of ricotta cheese, 1 chopped roasted red pepper, 1 cup of fresh chopped baby spinach, a heaping 1/2 cup of grated romano cheese, chopped parsley and basil.

Pile high the mixture into the scooped out portion of the eggplant and place back into the 400 oven until ricotta is heated through, about 15 minutes.

For a finishing touch I drizzled a rich balsamic glaze all over the stuffed eggplant which just intensified all the flavors even more so!

We had this as our main course served with soup and salad, but it would also be great as a side. Enjoy!

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Chicken Parmesan Meatloaf

I have to admit it was the name of this dish that first intrigued me! Sure I like chicken parmesan, so why wouldn’t I like it in a meatloaf form? I was convinced to try this after my sister-in-law from Florida gave it rave reviews recently while we were talking on Facebook.
What’s not to like, it’s tender, moist and loaded with so much flavor! You could definitely pin this under,
comfort food!
I served it with roasted veggies tossed in my favorite balsamic glaze, a delicious weekday meal it was!
What makes this meatloaf taste so good is a healthy scoop of marinara sauce mixed right into the meat,  then when it’s about 3/4 done, you spoon more marinara over the top and layer on fresh mozzarella, it’s a beautiful thing!
The husband loved it so much he wanted to eat the leftovers the very next day!

Ingredients
recipe adapted from Joelen
I used ground turkey and it was a little over a pound but you can also replace with ground chicken
2 finely chopped garlic cloves
1/2 chopped onion
2 eggs
panko crumbs, enough to just soak up the moisture
1/2 cup marinara sauce, homemade preferred, additional for top and to serve with.
3/4 cup of small cubed asiago cheese
a handful of grated romano cheese
fresh chopped basil and parsley
s&p, of course
Mix everything together and form into a loaf on a sprayed baking sheet. Bake at 375 for around 1 hour. Last 20 minutes spoon marinara over top and place fresh mozzarella slices over it. Garnish with fresh basil.

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Caprese Ravioli with Roasted Tomato Pesto Sauce

Here’s a little appetizer I put together in minutes. I fortunately have access to good quality fresh pasta sheets so it made the process go really fast!
I pre-roasted grape tomatoes ahead of time, bought some fresh mozzarella balls and basil for my ingredients.
Now believe me, I like to make fresh pasta, but I can’t just make a little bit, it ends up being an all day project with tons of pasta and flour all over my kitchen, and besides I like to do it in the winter.
 So I’m grateful to purchase these neat little sheets all perfectly cut and ready to go!
I used a 3 inch cutter and was able to make about ten ravioli, enough for four people, about two each.
The perfect starter while your grilling up something!
Look how simple this is! Wet your cut pasta around the edges then place a basil leaf, a roasted tomato, (make sure it’s not too juicy) and top it off with a mozzarella ball.
Crimp them together with a fork close to the mozzarella ball so it doesn’t move around.
Boil until tender and then drain on a kitchen cloth, you don’t want them to be wet!
For a very quick sauce you can take some good store bought pesto like I did, add in a few of those extra roasted tomatoes you have, and a little lemon zest for freshness, mix together and spoon it all over!
 And if that’s not enough, drizzle your plates beforehand with the best balsamic glaze you can find, here’s mine.  Oh My!

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Proud Italian Cook is 4 Today! and a Giveaway

Today, August 15Th is the Italian holiday called Ferragosto and the day I started my blog, it’s very fitting since it’s a holiday that revolves around family, friends and food. It’s hard to believe it’s been 4 years already? It seems like only yesterday that I wrote my first post! I still feel exactly the same way about basil today.

When I reflect back on these past 4 years all I can say is that I’m grateful, grateful that I started this little blog and that I’m part of such a supportive community of people who share a little bit of themselves everyday and who inspire the heck out of me!

If you were to ask me which posts are some of my favorites I would have to say the ones that involve my family and friends, like the time my son ran his first marathon, or the post about my daughter, daughter-in-law and niece walking in The Chicago 3-Day for breast cancer, our picnics at Ravinia, the birth of my granddaughter, making ravioli together and Timpano. Foodie trips with my friends like this and this have become popular, I get quite a few emails requesting I do more.

I must say though that the most emails I’ve ever gotten on a post so far was the one I did about neckbones, silly me I didn’t think anyone would even be interested in it other than my own family so I didn’t even post the recipe! but to this day I’m still getting heartfelt emails from readers thanking me for writing that post and bringing back memories they had that were tied to that humble meal, apparently there’s a lot of fellow neckbone eaters out there! According to my stats, this has been one of my most popular posts, along with this.

I could go on and on why I love blogging but really I just simply want to say thank you, thank you to all my loyal readers those who have stuck by me since the beginning, actual friends who I’ve come to know so well. Thank you to all those new to my blog, to my many subscribers, Facebook friends, and those who take the time to write me a personal email, I truly appreciate each and every one of your comments! A special thanks goes out to my husband Tony for always being my number one fan as well as my family and friends.

I don’t know whats in store for the next year, but I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing and enjoying it every step of the way!

For a small token of my appreciation I’m giving away 4 gifts for 4 years, each will consist of an amazing bottle of Mandarano Balsamic Glaze, (you’re going to love how this enhances all your food!), plus The Silver Spoon Pasta cookbook by Phaidon, (because you know I love my pasta, and I love all the Phaidon cookbooks!) The winners will be picked by my 11 year old granddaughter and announced on Monday August 22nd in my next blog post. Just leave a comment and if you’d like I’d love to hear what your favorite Italian dish is. Thanks again everyone!

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Balsamic, Reduced to Perfection!

A long time ago I tried reducing down a bottle of balsamic vinegar, everything was going good, I was about 35 minutes into it, stirring constantly and watching it slowly thicken up, I turned away for a brief minute and when I came back it was at the point of no return, completely caramelized and stuck to my pan plus I was left with a horrible smell of burnt vinegar lingering in my house, that was the last time I did that! Since then I’ve been buying bottled balsamic glaze already reduced and ready for me to use on the spur of the moment. You’ll always find a bottle or two stocked in my pantry.

Recently I was asked if I wanted to do a product review for Mandarano Balsamic Glaze & Sauce, the company produces and bottles entirely out of Modena, Italy using authentic regional grapes along with an award winning 400-year old family recipe, of course I said yes, and I’m so glad I did! The intense thick, rich, sweet yet sour flavor that comes through enhances everything you use it on, and I mean everything! I would highly recommend it!
Check out their website they’re running a promo, with an additional discount at checkout using the letters,PIC


Wonderful on meats of all kinds, vegetables, grilled and roasted (to die for!) I love roasting those mini red, yellow and orange peppers in olive oil and then to finish them off I gently drizzle balsamic glaze all over and toss, add some crumbled goat cheese and it becomes a beautiful side dish, what flavor!

Go easy and taste as you go, you don’t need to use so much. Try it on potatoes, eggs, caprese salads, cheese, fruits, I could go on and on, and because its already in a squeeze bottle its a convenient way to garnish your plates just like the Chefs do!

I like to use my glaze as a finishing sauce as I did in this chicken recipe. I marinated the chicken breasts in a zip lock bag for a couple of hours using an everyday balsamic vinegar that I have, ( I would never use my glaze to marinate) along with olive oil and some crushed garlic.
Grill up your chicken and when its done place fresh mozzarella on top along with basil leaves and either a garden fresh tomato slice, or as I did, a roasted red pepper. Garnish and drizzle with that rich and dreamy balsamic glaze! Perfection in each bite!

Like I mentioned above balsamic glaze enhances fruit, think strawberries, pears and apples etc. If you peeked into my fridge right now you would see 3 containers of grilled stone fruits, apricots, peaches and plums. I grill them ahead of time and use them for all sorts of things, like this quick salad above. Simply toss some greens with your favorite vinaigrette, add crumbled goat cheese, ( check out the one below) toasted walnuts and top it with a grilled peach drizzled with balsamic glaze, so simple but it tastes like a million dollars!

OK, my other new obsession, ( thanks to my friend Mary-Alice) is honey goat cheese, have you tried it? Oh my, it’s out of this world! Where have I been? She got it from Costco and I’ve since bought it there and I recently discovered Trader Joes has it, a different brand but it tastes exactly the same. If you don’t shop at any of those stores check out your local cheesemonger I’m sure they know all about it, but FYI, my Whole Foods didn’t carry it either.

It’s creamy, tangy and slightly sweet with a touch of honey, its the perfect balance, everyone that has tried it falls in love at first bite, if you love goat cheese, you’ll love this!

Have a nice weekend and Buon Appetito!

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