Category Archive: Easy Entertaining

Ricotta Pie With Summer Vegetables

Ricotta Pie With Summer Vegetables

The dog days of summer are here! A bit late in the season, but better late than never. Believe it or not, I like it hot, so I’m not complaining. However, when the mercury rises, my desire to stand over a hot stove and stir around in pots goes down drastically. Which is where this delicious ricotta pie comes in. It relies on the freshest and ripest green beans, tomatoes, and basil of the season, and shows them off beautifully against the backdrop of cool ricotta cheese and fruity olive oil. With the help of a food processor, the pie crust is made in a snap. This pie is a great dish to serve at a party, especially with a glass of crisp white wine. I know I keep repeating myself, but if summer only lasted forever…

Ricotta Pie With Summer Vegetables
For the crust (24cm round springform pan):
200g flour
28g corn starch
1/4 teaspoon salt
80g butter, very cold and cut into cubes
1 egg yolk
80ml cold water
4 basil leaves, finely chopped

1. Put flour, corn starch, and salt in a food processor. Process for 5 seconds.
2. Add butter and egg yolk and process until crumbs form.
3. Add water and basil leaves and process until a smooth dough forms. Add more water if the dough does not come together.
4. Press dough into a disc, wrap in plastic foil and let rest in the refrigerator for 1 hour.
5. Using a rolling pin, roll dough to about 0.5cm thickness and transfer to springform pan. Press into pan, shaping a low border up the sides of the pan.
6. Prick dough all over with fork, cover with baking paper and baking weights or beans, and bake in preheated oven at 200C for 15 minutes.
7. Remove weights and paper, and continue baking for another 10 minutes or until slightly golden.
8. Remove from oven and let cool completely on rack.

For the topping:
400g ricotta
6 San Marzano tomatoes, cut into thick rounds
150g green beans, cut into 2 to 3cm long pieces, blanched in boiling water for about 3 minutes
30g grated parmigiano
fresh basil leaves
extra virgin olive oil
salt, pepper

1. In a bowl, mix ricotta with 10 finely chopped basil leaves, the parmigiano, and season with salt and pepper.
2. Spread 3/4 of the ricotta mix into the pie crust.
3. Top with green beans and tomatoes.
4. Top with spoonfuls of the remaining ricotta mix, and season with salt and pepper.
5. Top with basil leaves, and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.

Enjoy!

 

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Asparagus Tartes With Caprino Di Capra

Asparagus Tarte with Goat Cheese

No other vegetable can compete with the elegant asparagus. Here, flaky layers of warm, buttery puff pastry cradle a simple filling of asparagus that lets its delicate flavor shine. And with every bite there’s a melt-in-your-mouth cool topping with a hint of goat’s cheese, complemented by marjoram and extra virgin olive oil.

These individual tartes make a lovely appetizer for a spring lunch, or serve them as an elegant snack with drinks at a party. Caprino is traditionally made from goat’s cheese, but it is also widely available made from cow’s milk. If you can’t find caprino, you can substitute with cream cheese (for the caprino vaccino) and your favorite fresh goat’s cheese (for the caprino di capra).

Asparagus Tartes With Caprino Di Capra (serves 6)
900g puff pastry
600g green asparagus
100ml milk
2 egg yolks
2 shallots, finely chopped
finely chopped parsley
finely chopped marjoram
120g caprino di capra
120g caprino vaccino
40g grated grana padano, plus a little extra
60 ml extra virgin olive oil
salt, pepper

1. Cut asparagus stems into thin rounds. Cut tips in half lengthwise.
2. Reserve some of the tips for decorating the tartes.
3. In a pan, combine sliced stems, shallots, milk, 160ml water, and 40ml olive oil.
4. Season with salt, bring to the boil and let simmer for about 10 minutes or until asparagus is tender (but not too soft) and liquid has evaporated.
5. Put asparagus in a bowl and add yolks, 40g grated grana padano, and parsley. Season with pepper.
6. Blanch reserved tips in salted boiling water for 2 minutes. Remove and briefly drain under cold water.
7. Cut puff pastry into six rounds that fit into 12cm round pastry forms with 2.5cm tall sides.
8. Divide asparagus filling evenly between pastry cases.
9. Top each pastry with reserved asparagus tips, forming a lattice. Sprinkle with extra grana padano.
10. Bake in preheated oven at 190C for about 10 minutes or until puff pastry is golden.
11. In a bowl, combine caprino di capra, caprino di vaccino, marjoram, pepper, and 20ml extra virgin olive oil. Mix until combined.
12. Let tartes cool to room temperature and top each with a tablespoon of cheese spread. Serve immediately.

Enjoy!

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Spiced Chocolate Tea Cakes

Tea Cakes

Long, cold, and dark winter afternoons are the perfect opportunity to light some candles, curl up on the sofa with a good book, and have some sweet nibbles and a cup of tea. It’s the best way to decompress after the holiday madness, and an hour or two without any electronic gadgets (think no cell phone, computer, or TV) is pure balsam for the soul. I finally have time to catch up on my reading – there are three stacks of unread books piled up in my living room, and I can’t wait to work my way through them. Right now, I’m enjoying “The Wayfinders” by Wade Davis, an eloquently written plea for the preservation of our planet’s cultural diversity.

I hope everyone had a great start to the New Year and is able to find some time to indulge in a good book and a tea cake or two! By the way, these little cakes are also great for a party buffet or when you have guests over for tea.

Spiced Chocolate Tea Cakes
200g butter, softened at room temperature
100g sugar
4 egg yolks
150g dark chocolate (72%)
5 tablespoons heavy cream
100g milk chocolate, coarsely chopped
4 egg whites
1 pinch of salt
2 tablespoons sugar
100g flour
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground cardamom
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon baking powder
powdered sugar for dusting (optional)

1. Whisk butter in a mixing bowl until creamy.
2. Add egg yolks and sugar and mix until light and fluffy.
3. Melt dark chocolate and cream and stir until well combined.
4. Mix chocolate and cream into batter.
5. Stir in milk chocolate chunks.
6. In a separate bowl, beat eggs whites and pinch of salt until foamy.
7. Add remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar and beat until stiff peaks form.
8. Stir cornstarch, baking powder, and spices into flour.
9. Gently fold 1/3 of stiff egg whites into batter, then stir in 1/3 of flour mix.
10. Fold in remaining egg whites and flour, alternating between the two.
11. Pour batter into small tea cake pan (alternatively, the batter is enough to fill up one guglhupf form, or a large rectangular cake pan).
12. Bake at 180C/350F for about 12 minutes (if using guglhupf form or cake pan, bake for about 55 minutes).
13. Remove from oven and let cool in pan for 2 minutes before inverting cakes.
14. Dust with powdered sugar (optional).

Enjoy!

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Marinated Feta Cubes

Summer is a time for outdoor parties, and I love surprising guests with special treats that look like a million bucks, but are easy to make and don’t cost a fortune. Finger food can often be tricky, because it’s time consuming to make and requires practice and a good bit of patience. So when we were over at my parents’ house the other day, and my mom brought out a plate of Marinated Feta Cubes, I knew I had to have the recipe! Not only do they look super cute, but they are so delicious!

You could serve these with drinks before dinner, as an appetizer, or as part of a cold buffet. Either way, I promise your guests will be very impressed! If wrapping the Feta in sliced zucchini and tying with chives sounds like too much work to you, then you can leave those steps out.

Marinated Feta Cubes
good quality Feta cheese, cubed
thinly sliced zucchini ribbons (use a vegetable peeler or mandoline)
chives
good quality extra virgin olive oil
thinly sliced garlic
finely minced red chili
sprigs of thyme

1. Wrap Feta in zucchini ribbons (one ribbon per cube) and tie with chives (one chive per cube).
2. Mix oil with garlic, chili, and thyme.
3. Pour oil mixture over Feta cubes.
4. Arrange thyme on top of cubes.
5. Let stand for at least 4 hours or overnight.

Enjoy!

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