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.
SALAMI CRISPS WITH SOUR CREAM AND BASIL
• 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.
• 1 large sprig fresh rosemary, 2 bay leaves, or both
• Zest of 1 lemon, peeled in long strips with a vegetable peeler
• 12 ounces mixed olives, such as kalamata, nicoise, or cerignola, drained