Grilled Baby Artichokes with Tomato Basil Salsa

I struck gold when I came across a huge pile of baby artichokes at my Italian market this Saturday and they were even on sale, I couldn’t wait to get them home and put them on my grill!

Baby artichokes are easy to prep and great for grilling, they’re the perfect light appetizer for a hot and sticky day. The most important thing is to precook them in boiling water or steam them first until tender, you don’t want to just toss them on the grill before cooking they’ll be very tough, burnt and unappetizing and they’ll never get tender.

The grill adds a nice smoky flavor that enhances the taste and the tomato basil salsa gives you a fresh and summery dipping sauce, guilt free nice and light and perfect served at room temperature.

Here’s what you do:
Slice tops off artichokes, pull off leaves until you see pale green, trim stems, and snip off thorny tips. In a large pot, bring water to a boil. Add 1 tablespoon salt, the juice of 1 lemon, garlic cloves and artichokes; cover and steam until artichoke bottoms pierce easily, 20 to 40 minutes. Drain artichokes.
When cool enough to handle, cut each artichoke in half lengthwise and scrape out the fuzzy center, sometimes you don’t even have to with the babies. In a bowl, combine crushed garlic, olive oil, you could also add balsamic vinegar if you want, and salt and pepper. Toss your artichokes in the mixture and place cut side down on a grill over medium heat, don’t move them until you see nice grill marks, then turn on the other side until lightly browned.
Tomato Basil Salsa
Chopped tomatoes
Fresh basil
Chopped scallions
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt & pepper

Place the arichokes cut side up on a big platter and spoon the salsa all over. Now go ahead and make these before summers bounty is all over!
Buon Appetito

Smashed Peas with Ricotta Toasts

I came across this fantastic recipe the other day while I was sitting in the waiting room of my husbands Chiropractor. I picked up the February issue of Better Homes and Garden and while flipping through it, I found this and I instantly knew I was going to make it.

For a split second I thought about silently ripping the page out, but then that wouldn’t be very nice, so I started fishing through my purse but couldn’t find a pen, so I finally just asked the office girl if she would kindly make a copy for me and she did, I was happy!

It’s hard to explain how good this is, but think fresh lemon juice, sauteed garlic, fresh mint and cracked pepper swirled into a puree of peas and edamame flavored with salt and a healthy drizzle of olive oil, but then the best thing is, you take it and smear it on top of a baguette slice that was slathered with ricotta and toasted under the broiler! Oh my, it’s addicting!
This is such a great appetizer, it makes a ton and it’s really healthy, no mayonnaise, sour cream or cream cheese to make you feel guilty about eating it.

The thinly shaved garlic is a must as well as the coarsely cracked pepper, that along with the lemon and mint make a wonderful flavor combination.

Here’s the recipe:
Adapted from BHG February 2010 issue
1 16oz. pkg, frozen peas
1 12oz. pkg frozen or precooked and shelled edamame
1 T olive oil
4 cloves thinly sliced garlic
2 T lemon juice
1 to 2 tsp. freshly cracked pepper
kosher salt to taste
1/4 cup snipped fresh mint
1/2 lb.of sliced baguette
1 cup ricotta cheese
Extra olive oil for drizzling
1. In a large pot cook peas and edamame for 5 minutes in a small amount of boiling water. Drain, transfer to food processor and puree.
2. In a small skillet with olive oil, add garlic and cook till tender. Stir into pureed peas along with the lemon, pepper, salt and mint.
3. Meanwhile, for ricotta toasts, spread baguette slices with ricotta cheese, arrange on a baking sheet and broil until ricotta is warm and bread is toasted. Sprinkle with salt and cracked pepper.
4. Before serving drizzle pea mixture with olive oil and additional cracked black pepper.

Buon Appetito!


Frizzelle, I haven’t had them in years until a week ago when my friend Jean brought a platter full to our monthly Bunco get together. She stirred up so many good memories eating these as kids, and we all wondered why we stopped buying them! After one bite, I couldn’t wait to go out and get a bag!
Frizelle, sometimes spelled Friselle, are crispy Italian circular breads that have a hole in the center, it’s baked once, then cut in half, then rebaked on a very low temperature until completly dried and super crispy.
You can find Frizzelle usually at any good Italian market or bakery, they’re stacked in a bag, they come in whole wheat or white, small or large size, and they’re very inexpensive!

With just a few store bought ingredients you have the makings for a wonderful snack. This is what I made for Super Bowl Sunday, the husband was very happy!
I ran over to my nearest Italian market and bought a bag of the smaller whole wheat ones, a jar of eggplant salad, which has sliced eggplant marinated in oil and spices, along with roasted red peppers, celery, capers, and smashed green olives, all in one jar, so good! a chunk of good aged fontinella cheese, provolone is just as good, and thinly sliced salami which I diced up when I got home.

Because they’re very crisp, many people like to sprinkle a little water over the top to soften them up. I never do that for mine, I like the crunch! Besides all your toppings soften them up anyway, but that’s just me.

The key thing to do, I mean you have to do this, is take a raw garlic clove and rub it all over, the garlic flavor will fall between the crunchy grooves. Now drizzle olive oil on top of that, a little salt, black pepper, and another key ingredient is dried oregano, shake it all over!

See how everything soaks in? It’s even good to eat it just like this adding a little red wine vinegar drizzled on top.

But it’s much better like this, trust me!
I like to drain my eggplant salad, you don’t need all that oil, you’ve already prepped your bread with your good olive oil.
Play around and experiment with your favorite toppings, how about a ripe tomato salad spooned on top? It’s great to have a bag handy in your pantry when someone pops over for a visit. Quick, easy and so good!
Now go out and try to find these, you’ll be happy you did!
Buon Appetito!


Rosemary & Olive Oil Pita Chips with Tuscan White Bean Dip

This is a fantastic appetizer that you might want to bring to one of your upcoming holiday parties. It feeds a crowd, it won’t break the bank, it’s easy to do, and it tastes amazing! Another nice bonus is that the chips can be made way in advance.

I’m warning you these chips are addictive, you won’t want to move very far away from them. This is my friend Jean’s recipe, the first time she made this she could hardly pry us all away to move on to the next course, in fact, we would have been very happy to continue munching on these.

The pita chips are nice and crunchy and flavored with extra virgin olive oil, a hint of rosemary and kosher salt.

The best way to store them is in a cookie tin between sheets of wax paper. They will stay crunchy and delicious for up to 3 weeks! I would recommend to make a bunch, you’ll be glad you did, as they would be great with lots of other dips or condiments you might be making. In fact I have an upcoming post for another use for these, so stay tuned!

Here’s the recipe: (Thanks Jean!)
First thing you do is soak some dried rosemary ( not fresh) in a bowl of extra virgin olive oil, you’ll be using this mixture for brushing on the pita’s. Let it soak for a good hour or so.
**1 15oz can of drained and rinsed cannellini beans.
**1/4 cup of fresh Italian parsley
**2T fresh lemon juice along with and the grated lemon peel of one lemon
**1 garlic clove
**salt and pepper
**1/3 cup of olive oil
Put everything in a food processor and stream in the olive oil until nice and creamy. So easy!
For the pita chips, buy a bag of fresh pita’s, take each pita and cut them into long strips, you should get six to 8 strips per pita. Now snip off the tips to square them off, and separate. After separation you should have around 16 individual chips then per pita. ( see why I say it makes a ton!) Brush each strip with the rosemary olive oil mixture on the rough side of the pita, the inner side, place on a baking sheet, sprinkle with kosher salt and bake in a 400F oven for about 7-8 minutes, or until golden brown. Let them cool on a rack, then place them in your cookie tin for storage.
NOTE: I would suggest not to put any rosemary in the dip at all, just the parsley, otherwise it would be too overpowering, the freshness of the zest, lemon juice, parsley and garlic is a great compliment. Feel free to double, triple, or whatever the recipe. I made 8 bags of pita with 6 cans of beans for my son and DIL’s baby shower!!!
Buon Appetito!!

Roasted Eggplant and Red Pepper Tapenade

This is a great little appetizer to have while your leisurely waiting for something to cook on the grill this weekend. It can be made up to 3 days ahead of time and kept in the frig, in fact it tastes even better that way because all the flavors blend together perfectly.

This is not your typical recipe for tapenade, this is rustic and chunky minus the olives and
capers. Don’t get me wrong, you can certainly add those things if you want, but for me, I just like the taste of eggplant to shine through.

Ingredients are simple, eggplant, onion, red pepper, and basil. I roasted mine in the oven but you can also grill them too.

Heat your oven to 425F, take 2 nice size eggplants and cut around the skin in a zebra pattern, taking some off and leaving some on. Cut into 3/4 in. disks. Chop 1/2 of a large onion and 2 red peppers the same size.
Drizzle both sides with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast till tender on the inside, and slightly crispy on the outside. Cool and cut into big chunks.

Place everything in a bowl, add 1 finely chopped clove of garlic, and a dressing of emulsified fresh lemon and olive oil, keep tasting to your desired amount, adding more or less. Lastly, add some freshly torn basil leaves and toss in some toasted pine nuts.

Make sure you toast up some good crusty bread so you can smear the tapenade on top, and be sure to open up a nice cold bottle of your favorite wine. Aaaah, this is living!!!
Have a great weekend and Buon Appetito!!

Bite Size Pizzettes!

Looking for some last minute Super Bowl snacks? These pizzettes should do the trick!
Mini bite size pizza’s made any way you like them. Just roll out some pizza dough, cut out rounds with a 2-3 inch cookie or pastry cutter. Place on greased baking sheet, top with your favorite ingredients, bake at 400F till crispy and golden, around 10 minutes.
My favorites are, artichoke and gorgonzola , and caprese style with tomato, basil and fresh mozzarella. The possibilities are endless, just make sure you make a bunch because they go quick!

Enjoy the game!!


2 0 0 8 !!!!


For a quick party dip mix Mascapone and cream cheese, that has been at room temperature, and a very good olive salad, either homemade or store bought ( well drained) and just a touch of grated lemon peel.

As always, Buon Appetito!!