Mozzarella con Prosciutto

proscuitto-mozzarellaAnd the award for Best Appetizer in the “Don’t Have Time to Cook”  category goes to …. Mozzarella con Prosciutto!

Buy the bite-sized mozzarella balls already marinated in olive oil and herbs and wrap each one with 1/4 of a slice (cut lengthwise) of paper thin prosciutto.  Secure with a toothpick.  If you make them ahead of time, let sit at room temperate for 10 minutes for the best taste and texture.  And if you are serving a crowd, Costco has a big tub of marinated mozzarella and perfectly sliced prosciutto at a very decent price.

Summer Squash Salad with Quinoa and Mozzarella

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A great little combination of summer flavors…perfect make ahead side dish for your next cookout.  If you are tired of quinoa, this salad is also good using 2 cups of cooked, drained and cooled orzo pasta.

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For Dressing:

1 handful fresh basil leaves

1 teaspoon dijon mustard

1 teaspoon honey

juice of one lemon

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

For salad:

2 cups cooked and cooled quinoa (see package directions)

1 cup diced fresh mozzarella

2 cups diced summer squash, yellow and green

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 tablespoons minced fresh chives

salt and pepper

Make the dressing:

In a blender (this is where my Magic Bullet  really comes in handy….to puree small batches quickly….easy clean up too), puree basil leaves, mustard, honey, lemon juice and olive oil until smooth.  Set aside.

Cook the squash:

Heat a large non-stick skillet over high heat.  Add 1 tablespoon olive to coat the surface then spread the diced squash out in a single layer and let cook, without disturbing, 3-4 minutes until squash is nicely caramelized on one side.  Toss around while cooking just 1-2 minutes more then remove squash to a plate to cool. (Take care not to over-cook squash or it will turn to mush) Season lightly with salt and pepper.

Make the Salad:

In a medium bowl, gently toss together the quinoa, squash, mozzarella and chives.  Add basil dressing and toss well.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Serve cold or at room temperature.  Serves 4-6

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Chopped Antipasto Salad with White Balsamic Vinaigrette

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A main-dish salad full of the flavors of an Italian Antipasto platter….perfect for a summer no-cook meal.  Start with a flavorful rotisserie chicken and be sure to buy the best quality salami and cheeses you can find.  I used an excellent  Black Pepper coated Italian Dry Salami that I picked up at The Fresh Market.  This recipe makes more dressing than you will need for this salad so have a jar ready to store it to use on any type of green salad or pasta salad.   This recipe is from The Marshall Fields Cookbook, by Steve Seigelman.

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For the vinaigrette:

1/2 cup white balsamic vinegar

1 egg

2 tablespoons minced shallots

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 cup olive oil

Combine all ingredients except the oil in a blender and pulse to combine.  With the motor running, add the oil in a slow, steady stream to make an emulsion.  Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper if necessary.  Will keep covered and refrigerated, 3 days.

For the salad:

1 1/2 heads romaine lettuce, chopped

6 ounces hard salami, julienne (about 1 cup)

1 rotisserie chicken, meat shredded into bite-sized pieces (about 3 cups)

1 cup julienned provolone cheese

1 pint grape tomatoes, halved

1 (15-oz) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1 bunch basil, thinly sliced

1/2 cup shaved Parmesan cheese, plus additional for garnish

salt and pepper to taste

In a large bowl, combine the lettuce, salami, chicken, provolone, tomatoes, chickpeas, basil and Parmesan and toss lightly.  Pour 1/2 cup of the dressing over the salad and season with salt and pepper.  Toss well to coat, garnish with extra pParmesan and serve immediately.  Serves 4.

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Stone Ground Grits ‘N’ Cheese Casserole

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Here is my version of the ultimate comfort food….cheese grits.  I use stone ground white grits for the best flavor and texture, cheddar and parmesan cheese and a healthy sprinkle of paprika.  It’s the perfect make-ahead dish for brunch or dinner (excellent alongside grilled meats or seafood). Note about grits: If you use a different type of grits, follow the water/grits cooking ratio on the package then proceed with recipe.

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4 cups water

1 1/3 cups stone ground white grits (I use Charleston Favorites)

1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese

1 teaspoon salt

2 large eggs

1  cup milk

1/4 teaspoon garlic  powder

1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

generous pinch of paprika

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter a glass or ceramic baking dish. (any size that will hold the mixture will work) To rinse the grits, place them in a medium pot and cover with water and then drain off the water to remove any husks that float to the top. (don’t worry about draining off every bit of water)  Add the 4 cups of water to the rinsed grits and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally.  Reduce heat to low and cover.  While grits are cooking, whisk milk and eggs together in a small bowl and set aside. Simmer grits for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until creamy and tender.  Remove from heat and stir in cheddar cheese, butter and salt.  Stir well until cheese is melted and mixture is cooled slightly then add the milk/egg mixture and stir well once more.  Season generously with freshly ground black pepper then pour grits into prepared casserole.  Sprinkle top with the grated parmesan and paprika and bake uncovered for about 30 minutes, until top is golden and casserole is hot and puffy.  Serves 8

(This casserole can be prepared a day in advance and refrigerated unbaked.  Add 5-10 minutes to baking time if necessary)

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Just One Perfect Spinach Cheddar Omelette

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Eggs tend to go from runny to rubbery in the blink of an eye so I have been working on a simple but foolproof omelette.   I heard on PBS radio one day….it was probably The Splendid Table….. how eggs need to be cooked slowly, over very low heat… which meant that I was going to need a good non-stick pan if I didn’t want to use half a stick of butter.  So here is the method and as you can imagine, the possibilities are endless for adapting this with your favorite ingredients. (fresh herbs and goat cheese?)  Don’t be turned off by the lengthy instructions;  it is so quick and easy that I make one just for myself quite often. I’m just trying to be helpful with details but the whole process takes only a few minutes. The key here is that the pan should never get hot enough to color the eggs at all….gentle, slow and steady is the name of the game.

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an 8 inch good quality, non-stick skillet or omelette pan

plastic or rubber spatula

2 large eggs

2 teaspoons butter or olive oil

1 handful fresh baby spinach leaves, stemmed

2 tablespoons finely shredded cheddar cheese

salt and pepper to taste

Begin heating your skillet over low heat.  Crack the eggs into a small bowl and beat well with a whisk or a fork. Have the spinach leaves ready and sitting nearby.

Add the butter or oil to the skillet and swirl it around to lightly coat the surface.   Pour the eggs into the skillet and gently tilt it to all sides to spread the eggs out evenly. Season to taste with salt and pepper.  The eggs should be cooking very slowly; it will take a minute or two for the bottom to set but when it does, lay the spinach leaves over the top of the omelette (which will still be runny at this point) in a single layer.

Now you are going to flip the omelette over.  Begin by loosening the edges of the omelette with the spatula while gently shaking the skillet to see if the whole omelette will slip around in the pan, signaling that the underside is cooked though enough to hold the whole thing together.  When this happens, it will be quite easy to slip the spatula under the eggs and simultaneously shake the handle of the skillet and flip the omelette to the other side.  ( Imagine someone flipping pancakes in the air to get the idea of shaking the skillet…but of course we are going for a gentle flip here, one that will not send ingredients airborn and is controlled mostly by the spatula)

As soon as the omelette is turned, sprinkle with a light layer of cheese.  The second side will be cooked in less than a minute, at which point you can roll up the omelette, slide it onto a plate and enjoy!

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Heart Beet Salad with Walnuts and White Cheddar

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Here’s a sweet idea for a tasty St Valentine’s Day lunch.  Tuck a few Roasted Beet hearts into your salad.

To roast whole beets, preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Wash several whole beets, rub them with olive oil and wrap them in one big piece of aluminum foil.  Place foil packet on baking sheet and roast for about an hour.  Roasting time will vary depending on the size of your beets.  I forgot about mine and went out for a walk and they were still just fine after about 2 1/2 hours in the oven.  When the beets are tender, let cool and peel.  Cut beets into 1/3 inch slices and use a cookie cutter to make hearts.  Toss them into a salad with field greens, roasted chopped nuts, shredded or crumbled cheese and your favorite vinaigrette.  Here is a nice recipe for inspiration.

Waffle Potatoes with Goat Cheese and Ancho Pepper Jelly

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Much more exciting than the average cheese and cracker tray yet not much harder to throw together…here is an idea for a tasty nibble for your next party.

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High quality frozen waffle fries (I use Alexia brand)

Fresh goat cheese, at room temperature

Your favorite pepper jelly (I found a lovely red ancho pepper jelly)

Cook waffle fries according to the package directions until golden and crispy.  Use kitchen shears to trim them slightly into similarly sized, two bite, squarish shapes.  Stir the goat cheese until it is fluffy and spoonable and place a nice dollop on each trimmed waffle fry.  Top with a teaspoon of pepper jelly, sprinkle with coarse ground black pepper and serve.

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White Cheddar Cheese Straws

On top of being light, crispy, and spicy, these are also extremely quick and easy to make.  This recipe is based on one published in Southern Living in 2007.
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6 ounces sharp white cheddar cheese, cut into cubes
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsalted butter, cut into four pieces
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper ( I use 1/2 tsp. for spicy straws)
1 tablespoon half and half
Combine the first 4 ingredients in a food processor and pulse until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Add red pepper flakes and half and half and process until dough forms a ball, about 10 seconds.
On a well floured surface, roll into a rectangle, about 1/8 inch thick.  Using a pizza wheel or a big knife, trim the edges a bit to even them up and then cut the dough into straws about 1/4 inch wide.  Place on an ungreased baking sheet (I like to use parchment paper).
Bake at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes until ends are just slightly browned.  Cool on baking sheet on a wire rack.
Makes about 2 dozen
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