Monday, October 4, 2010

I Heart Cooking Clubs – Benvenuto, Giada!

I can’t tell you how happy I was when Giada was voted in for the next six month term for I Heart Cooking Clubs. I was torn between her and Lidia Bastianich, as I love them both, but I already have all of Giada’s books so I was pleased that I wouldn’t have to buy any new ones. (Not that I ever HAVE to buy new books for each chef, but come on... you know I have to.)

The first weekly theme for our visit with Giada is “Benvenuto! Party Foods!” and that one is a winner for me. I have a long, on-going love affair with Italian food, and I love throwing Italian themed dinners. When I think of party food, or an Italian celebration of any kind, the very first thing I think of is, “What can I put on the antipasto tray?”

Well, that...and, of course, a cocktail of some kind.

I’m very familiar with some of Giada’s appetizers, and they are all so simple to throw together, I couldn’t resist making a whole tray. (Aren’t my co-workers lucky?)

One of my absolute favorites is Crostini with Gorgonzola and Honey. Then I moved on to Salami Crisps with Sour Cream and Basil. After that, it was a no brainer to land on Citrus Spiced Mixed Olives.

This combination goes together fantastically since two of the items go in the oven at similar temperatures, with a step or two that can be done in advance (toasting the baguette slices and the walnuts), and the olives you just throw together on the stove top while the others are in the oven.

Top that off with a bubbly cocktail (my usual is Prosecco, but since I have a bottle of Limoncello in the liquor cabinet, I couldn’t resist breaking that out instead. Giada’s recipe calls for making your own lime-based Limoncello, but for the sake of simplicity, I just used store bought.) and you have a gorgeous Italian Welcome party waiting to happen. Invite a few people over to share and this is a no-miss party menu.

This is my submission for our first Giada theme for I Heart Cooking Clubs!

Benvenuto al nostro randello, Giada! I can’t wait to celebrate all the fall and winter holidays with Giada’s recipes.

Crostini with Gorgonzola, Honey and Walnuts
• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• 24 1/3-inch-thick diagonal slices baguette
• 6 ounces creamy gorgonzola cheese , coarsely crumbled
• 2/3 cup walnuts , toasted, coarsely chopped
• 1 ripe fig , thinly sliced crosswise (optional)
• 3 tablespoons honey

Preheat the oven to 375°. Arrange the baguette slices on a baking sheet in a single layer. Lightly brush the baguette slices with oil. Toast in the oven until the baguette slices are golden, about 8 minutes. (You can toast the baguette slices 1 day ahead. Cool, then store them at room temperature in an airtight container.)

Toss the gorgonzola with walnuts in a small bowl. Spoon the cheese mixture onto the baguette slices and press slightly to adhere. Return the baking sheet to the over and bake until the cheese melts, about 8 minutes.

Arrange the crostini on a platter. Top each with a slice of fig, if desired. Drizzle with honey and serve warm.

• 24 (1/8-inch to 1/4-inch) slices Italian dry Genoa salami (about 4 ounces)
• 1/3 cup sour cream
• 3 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh basil leaves

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Line 2 heavy large baking sheets with aluminum foil. Arrange the salami in a single layer over the baking sheets. Bake until the salami slices are amber brown, watching closely to ensure they brown evenly, about 15 minutes. Transfer the salami crisps to a paper towel-lined baking sheet to absorb the excess oil. Set aside to cool.

Spoon a dollop of sour cream on top of each salami crisp. Sprinkle the basil over and serve

• 3 tablespoons olive oil
• 2 cloves garlic, smashed
• 1 1/2 teaspoons crushed red pepper
• 1 large sprig fresh rosemary, 2 bay leaves, or both
• Zest of 1 orange, peeled in long strips with a vegetable peeler
• Zest of 1 lemon, peeled in long strips with a vegetable peeler
• 12 ounces mixed olives, such as kalamata, nicoise, or cerignola, drained
• 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
• Freshly ground black pepper

Put the olive oil, garlic, red pepper, herbs, and citrus zests in a medium skillet. Heat over medium-high heat, swirling the pan until the mixture is fragrant, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the olives, salt, and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until the garlic is golden and the zest begins to curl, about 5 minutes more. Discard and remove bay leaves, if using. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Glossy, plump, and gorgeous, our Citrus-Spiced Mixed Olives are primo party starters. Toss 'em together, then leave them out while you mingle with your guests.

• 2 pounds limes (about 10 large)
• 1 (750-ml) bottle 100-proof vodka
• 2 1/2 cups sugar
• 2 1/2 cups water

• Ice cubes
• 1 cup fresh mint leaves
• 1 cup club soda

To make limoncello: Using a vegetable peeler, remove the peel from the limes in long strips (reserve the limes for another use). Place the lime peels in a 1-quart jar. Pour the vodka over the peels and screw on the lid. Steep the lime peels in the vodka for 1 week at room temperature.

Stir the sugar and water in a large saucepan over medium heat until the sugar dissolves, about 5 minutes. Cool completely, then stir in the vodka mixture. Strain the liquids into bottles, pressing on the peels to extract as much liquid as possible. Seal the bottles and refrigerate until cold, at least 4 hours and up to 1 month.

To make spritzers: Fill 4 tall glasses halfway with ice. Add the mint leaves. Using the handle of a wooden spoon, coarsely crush the mint leaves into the ice. Pour some limoncello over, and stir to blend. Add a splash of club soda and serve.


girlichef said...

Wow! What a welcome =) Those salami crisps sound awesome!

Natashya KitchenPuppies said...

I'll be right over! What a wonderful welcome for Giada!

Sweet and Savory said...

You started us off on the right foot. These look delicious.

Kim said...

You really rolled out the red carpet for Giada and I love it!!!! I've been wanting to make those salami crisps forever. I bet they are amazing! Everything look wonderful. So glad that you're joining us again:)

Joanna said...

I've been dying to make limoncello, but I thought it was more time consuming than this. Good to know there is a quicker way! Thanks for sharing.

bella (roz) said...

Wow! I want to come to your next party! What a selection of yummy Giada recipes

Couscous & Consciousness said...

Wow, what a great welcome party - just hold the door open - I'll be right on over :-)

Debinhawaii said...

A perfect welcome--I have all three of these recipes tagged to make--they all look and sound delicious! ;-)

Krista said...

I have been gone for far too long. I've missed reading you. : ) It looks like you've been cooking up some fabulous food! Put me on the guest list for your next Italian themed dinner party. This all looks delicious!

Kayte said...

I have made several of these, but now after seeing them here and thinking about them, I think I need to go back and make them again. Haven't made the spritzer, actually haven't made any of her drinks, need to do that, don't I? Thanks for the inspiration.

Carla and Michael said...

What a magnificent antipasto platter. I too am drooling over the salami crisp recipe.

natalia said...

Ciao ! your choice of antipasti is amazing !!

MM said...

You could host this "Welcome Giada" party all by yourself! Excellent job and everything looks lovely.

Tina said...

That is an excellent post - love all the foods you have here. Wow, I'd love to be at one of your parties.