Double Your Pleasure, Double Your Yum!

I’ve been spending time with the Ghosts of Posting Past – those early shares when Rosemarie’s Kitchen was new to the whole blogging scene. The best part of reading posts from the past is the nice reminder – we haven’t had that in a while . . . like these crunchy Double-Decker Tostadas from 2014. These tostadas have all the makings of  a Super Nacho Supper  you can hold in your hand without all the gooey mess. (Although there’s something to be said for gooey-goodness, now isn’t there?)

Double-Decker Tostadas
16 Tostada Shells
1 lb Ground Beef
1 Lb Chorizo
1 Tablespoon Taco Seasoning
1 Can Refried Beans
1 Tablespoon Bacon Drippings
1 Jar Nacho Cheese Sauce
24-32 Nacho Jalapeño Peppers (optional)
4-5 Lettuce leaves, shredded
1 Tomato, diced

Garnish Suggestions
1/2 Cup Sour Cream
1 or 2 Avocado, peeled, pitted and diced
1 Cup Sliced Black Olives
1/2 Cup Chopped Cilantro Leaves

Warm oven. Place tostada shells on a baking sheet and warm in oven.

In a heavy cast iron skillet, brown ground beef and chorizo meat together, crumbling into small pieces as it brown. Season with taco seasoning to absorb some of the excess fat. Drain well, keep warm and set aside.

In a skillet, heat refried beans with bacon drippings until warm.

Divide refried beans between 8 tostada shells, spread beans on shells. Place remaining 8 tostada shells on top of beans. Spread a layer of nacho cheese on each top shell. Divide meat mixture between the 8 double-Decker tostada shells. Place 3 or 4 Nacho Jalapeño Pepper on top, if using.

Return tostadas to warm oven for 5 minutes.

Remove warmed tostadas from the oven. Dollop with sour cream. Sprinkle with shredded lettuce and tomatoes. Garnish as desired.

 

Three-Cheese Tortellini in Sage Browned Butter

Can you tell I’ve been in an Italy frame of mind lately? Tonight’s light yet delicious Tortellini Supper was the perfect end to a long work week. So light – so flavorful. I simply adore “browned butter” for that nutty flavor. There is something about browning the butter that brings a whole new level of flavor to everything.

I haven’t a clue where I picked up the original recipe for this perfect summer supper dish. There are a multitude of recipes floating about. The only change I’ve made from the one I had planned to use was to increase the sage leaves from 10 to 14. Originally I had increased it to twelve, but when it came time to toss in the pasta, the delicate leaves all but disappeared. Hum – needed another leaf or two. The aroma was pleasing, but something else was lacking. Garlic! I am a huge fan of garlic. As far as I am concerned, there is no such thing as too much garlic. I must confess, in addition to the cloves of garlic I keep on hand, I also have a large jar of minced garlic in the fridge for moments just like this – when I want to toss in a little garlic but don’t really feel ambition enough to peel and chop the fresh stuff. Granted, fresh is always better, but lazy has its place as well.

The recipe is so versatile – great as a small portioned appetizer, as the “pasta” course in a multi-course Italian feast or as a light yet flavorful summer supper. It all depends upon your appetite and mood.

Yep, this butter-nutty-cheesy dish sure hit the spot.

Three-Cheese Tortellini in Sage Browned Butter
1 package Barilla Three Cheese Tortellini, family size (12 ounces)
8 tablespoons butter
10 leaves fresh sage
1 Tablespoon Garlic, finely chopped
1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated

Bring 6 quarts of water to a boil and add 2 tablespoons of salt(optional).

Cook tortellini according to the package directions (about 7 minutes). While the pasta cooks, cut sage leaves into small pieces and set aside until ready to use.

Melt the butter in a 12 -14 inch saute pan and remove from heat as soon as the butter begins to turn golden. The heat from the pan will finish the browning process.

Scatter sage leaves into the pan as the butter continues to brown. Add garlic and gently stir to distribute sage and garlic into the butter. Let rest off heat for the flavors to mature.

Drain the tortellini and add to the butter and sage mixture. Return the pan to medium heat. Toss gently for 1 minute to coat the tortellini with the sauce. Divide tortellini among six warmed plates or shallow bowls, sprinkle with the grated cheese (and a little more sage if desired) and serve immediately. Enjoy!!

This dish is great with warm garlic bread and a nice bottle of Pinot Noir. If desired, add a few sliced tomatoes seasoned with a little Rosemary as a colorful side.

 

Happy Father’s Day to my Wonderful Best Friend

It’s hard to believe I’ve had the privilege of sharing half my life with my best friend. We’ve had our share of ups and downs over the years, as all couples do. Through it all, our friendship has remained strong. Here’s to you, Hubby on this day reserved for men who step up to the plate and give it their all. Happy Father’s Day.

We’re having a wonderful day on the old home-front, enjoying some of hubby’s favorite dishes. He’s a real meat and potato kind of guy – a good steak and a baked potato is all it takes to keep Hubby happy . . .

Porterhouse Magic
1 Large Porterhouse Steak Per Person, about 1 ½ inches thick, 28-30 oz each
Salt to taste
Johnny Trigg Champion Meat Rub to taste

This first step is very important – buy your steaks the day of grilling and not a day sooner. Have a conversation with your butcher – ask him to cut your Porterhouse about 1 ½ thick. Tell him to give you steaks that he would have cut for his own family, with a generous side of filet and New York Strip on either side of the bone.

DO NOT put the steaks in the refrigerator. Open the package, sprinkle with salt on both sides. Then sprinkle with Meat Rub, pat into steaks. Allow the steaks to rest on the counter at lease an hour or two to draw in the salt with the rub.

Build a nice fire in the grill. Get it good and hot with a light covering of ash.

For medium – sear steaks for about 4 minutes per side. Transfer to warming rack of grill while searing less-done steaks.

For Medium-Rare – sear steak as above, skipping the transfer to warming rack of grill.

Return steaks to be cook medium back to main grill alongside those to be grilled medium-rare. Lower coals (or raise rack, depending upon grill type) and continue to grill with the lid closed for about 5-6 more minutes. Raise lid, flip steaks, then close grill and cook an additional 5 minutes. (The medium steaks are on the grill about 30 minutes total, the medium rare about 20 minutes).

Remove all the steaks from grill, place on a platter and tent to keep warm. Allow steaks to rest for about 5-10 minutes to regain their juices.

While the steaks are resting, it’s the perfect time to load up a baked potato with all your favorite toppings – butter, sour cream, chopped chives, salt and pepper to taste.

Place steaks on individual plates and drizzle with any juices that have accumulated on the platter.

Ready, set, enjoy! These are so flavorful, so tender and melt in your mouth good!

Old-Fashioned Baked Potatoes
4 Large Baking Potatoes, washed
Olive Oil
Sea Salt
Butter
Salt & Pepper to Taste
Sour Cream
Chives
1/2 Cup Grated Cheddar Cheese
2-3 Slices Bacon, Fried Crisp & Crumbled

Preheat oven to 400-degrees.

Wash potatoes, pat dry and rub skin with a small amount of olive oil and sprinkle with a little sea salt. Cut a small X in the middle of the potato on one side to allow steam to vent.

Place potatoes in the oven directly on the rack and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, depending upon size. (To see if the potatoes are cooked, remove largest potato from oven, and squeeze. Potatoes are done when there is no resistance.) Turn off heat, wrap potatoes in foil and leave potatoes in the oven until ready to serve.

While potatoes are baking, fry bacon crisp. Crumble and set aside.

To serve, unwrap potatoes most of the way, leaving foil on lower half. Press ends inward so potato “pops” open. Fluff potato with a fork, plate and serve with individual cups for garnishings: Butter, sour cream, chopped chives or green onions and bacon bits.

Have salt and pepper on the table for those who wish to use it.

The perfect side for Porterhouse Magic (above) or Grilling up a Tri-tip

For Hubby’s favorite cake, be sure to check out Happy Day Marbled Cake with Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

 

Butterfly Pasta with Chicken and Broccoli

This is one of those recipes that has made several appearances on our meal planner, only to be pushed aside, opting instead for fast food, a night of left overs or cold sandwiches. For whatever the reason, the dish could not find its way from the planning stage to the execution process. Finally, I painted myself into a corner – two beautiful breasts wrapped in butcher paper sat it the refrigerator, along with fresh broccoli from the farmer’s market and a bright orange pepper. No excuses – no backing down.

Delicious! Easy and delicious! Hubby loved the rich sauce and even Kiddo ate his broccoli. Yeah, this is one dish we will serve again. It’s one of those yummy dishes that would do well at a potluck, too. Hope you give it a try soon – I promise, you won’t be sorry!

Butterfly Pasta with Chicken & Broccoli
1 Tablespoon Butter
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
2 Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breast Halves
Flour for dredging.
1 (12 oz) Package Farfalle (Bow Tie) Pasta
1 Cup Chicken Stock
1 Head Broccoli, cut into Florets
1 Orange Bell Pepper, seeded, sliced thin
3 Cloves Garlic, Minced
Salt & Pepper to Taste
1 (8 oz) Container Chive & Onion Cream Cheese
¼ Cup Parmesan Cheese, grated

Bring a large pot of salted water to a rapid boil. Add pasta and cook 10-15 minutes or until al dente (Firm to the Tooth/Bite). Drain.

Heat a large, heavy bottom skillet over medium heat. Melt 1 tablespoon butter mixed with 2 tablespoons olive oil in skillet.

Cut chicken into strips, dredge lightly in flour and brown in the skillet until cooked through, about 8-10 minutes per side, turning as needed. Remove from skillet and keep warm.

To now empty skillet, add chicken broth, bell pepper, garlic, broccoli, salt and pepper. Bring just to a boil, reduce heat to simmer and add chicken. Cover and let simmer 8-10 minutes or until broccoli is crisp-tender.

Stir in cream cheese until smooth. Add pasta to sauce. Toss to coat evenly and heated through.

Pour mixture onto large rimmed serving platter. Garnish with Parmesan Cheese and serve.

Super Easy Citrus Tequila Flank Steak

Are you having a lazy weekend? Lord knows, we are! For supper last night I wanted to whip up something packed with flavor without a great deal of effort.  Last weekend was a whirl wind of cooking. While the food was awesome and I love spending time in the kitchen with my wonderful crew (aka Hubby and Kiddo), it was time to slow down a bit.

While at the market, I came across a convenient package of liquid marinade in the spice aisle. Although the package was clearly marked “for chicken”something told me it might be equally nice with Flank Steak. Follow your instincts – that’s always been my motto. Most of the time, its sound advice. Rarely do my instincts fail me – especially in the kitchen. My guys loved the marinated Flank Steak, without bite one left over. I loved the easy of preparation. And the flavor – wow! Lime, orange and lemon juice – the predominate sensation being the lime.

We grilled up the steak as one big slap of meat. It was delicious. The marinated meat would also be great to grill up as flank steak kabobs with boiler onions and chunks of red or yellow peppers.

Super Easy Citrus Tequila Flank Steak
2 lbs Flank Steak
1 Package Frontera 3-Citrus Garlic Marinade
3 Tablespoons Tequila
Zest of 1 lime

In a glass casserole dish or other non-reactive container, lay out the flank steak flat.

In a small bowl, empty contents of liquid Marinade. Add tequila, whip to blend. Add zest of 1 lime.

Pour marinade over steak. Turn and coat well on both sides. Cover dish with plastic wrap and let sit in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes or longer for deeper flavor. The steak will begin to “cook” in the citrus juice, and that’s okay.

Heat grill to medium-high heat.

While grill heats, remove steak from the refrigerator and let rest on counter to take the “chill” off the meat.

Remove from marinade, discard marinade.

Grill Flank Steak for about 6 minutes per side. Remember, flank steak can become tough if over cooked, so medium-rare is best.

Remove from grill, tent and let rest for about 10 minutes.

Cut into nice size strips against the grain and serve. If desired, serve with lime wedges for garnish.

Excellent with a big helping of Super Easy Refried BeansMexican Rice with Chunky Salsa and warm tortillas on the side.

 

Next Up – Father’s Day

One more week and counting. This year, Father’s Day with dear old Dad is going to be celebrated on Saturday. Dad’s not getting about as he once did and doesn’t venture far from the family farm. Seems that whenever we get together for a family feed, Dad brings up how much he likes barbecued ribs. He says one of the things he misses are the “old days” when he could spend hours cooking up his barbecue ribs. (Hint hint). Dad can’t stand for very long without becoming dizzy (a very bad thing while bent over a bed of hot coals), and it’s just too hard to try grilling from his chair.The Farm This wonderful man has reached that reversed point in life when we need to show him the same loving care he has shown us our entire lives. Besides, giving back even a small portion of what he has done for me fills me with such joy, words cannot express the warmth I feel inside.

Hubby has been talking about different outings for Father’s Day – the Pirate Festival in the bay (complete with dueling ships), the Crawdad Festival along the river, hiking in the woods – anything to get out and away from the grind of every day and relax. That also means escaping from barbecue duty on Father’s Day. (Hint-hint). There was only one thing to do – and that was to please them both. Barbecue at the farm on Saturday, spending Sunday any way Hubby would like. After all, it’s his day, too. By splitting the weekend with a duel celebration everyone is happy.

Kiddo, Hubby and I have been mulling over the menu for our Saturday Father’s Day Barbecue. My guys are great at helping me to keep it simple. Oh sure, they will go along with whatever crazy menu I can conjure up (a great example was My Birthday Feast From Italy and what a wonderful birthday! There is no way I could have pulled it off without their wonderful helping hands). They have reminded me ever so gently that I needed to think about Dad – what he would like. That we would be doing the majority of the prep work and cooking at home, with the final touches at the farm and above all else, the food needed to travel well. At last, the menu was settled – time to share.

Father’s Day Barbecue
– From the Grill –
Oven-Grilled Smoky Barbecued Ribs

– On the Side –
Corn on the Cob
Hobo Skillet Potatoes
Texas-Style Ranch Beans

– Gotta Have Sweets –
Pudding Filled Cupcakes with Italian Meringue Butter Cream Frosting


While this recipe is designed to do at home, the ribs can go from the oven to a big foil pan for transportation. Just imagine skipping the hot dogs at your next picnic and serving up some grilled ribs at the park. Once grilled, simply move back into the foil pan for serving.

Oven-Grilled Smoky Barbecued Ribs
The Rub
2 tablespoon coarsely ground black pepper
1 tablespoons Hickory Smoked Salt
1 Tablespoon Onion Powder
1 Tablespoon Sugar
1 Teaspoon Chili Powder
2 Teaspoons Smoked Paprika
2 Teaspoons Mustard Powder
2 Teaspoons Garlic Powder

In a bowl, mix ingredients for dry rub, set aside until ready to use.

The Ribs
3 or 4 lbs Baby-Back Pork Ribs
Water as needed
2 Tablespoon Liquid Smoke
1 Onion
4 Cups Barbecue Sauce (your favorite)

Trim excess fat from ribs and remove thin layer of skin (that silver membrane) from the back of the ribs. The best way to remove the membrane is to slide a thin knife under the membrane and lift about an inch or so from the bone. Using a paper towel to help, grab the membrane while pressing down on the rib bone. Then give it a good tug toward you. Think of it as ripping off a band-aid – pull quickly. If your ribs are a long slab, you might need to do the same at the opposite end. Be quick and rip. Works every time.

Once the ribs have been trimmed, it’s time to rub. Lightly brush meat with a little olive oil (this helps rub “cling” to meat). Generously coat meat with rub, then use your fingers to massage seasoning into meat. Wrap in plastic wrap and place in refrigerator for several hours or over night for best flavor.

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Using a broiler pan, pour about a half-inch or so of water into the bottom. To the water, add liquid smoke.

Peel and cut onion into large slivers. Scatter onion slivers over the smoky water in the pan.

Place the top rack of broiler pan over the flavored water. Unwrap ribs and lay on rack. Cover tightly with foil to seal well.

Bake ribs in the oven for about an hour. Check ribs. You want them to be cooked through but not falling off the bone. (Be careful, a puff of steam will poof out when the foil is lifted). Bake another 30 minutes, then check again.

Meanwhile, build a nice fire in your barbecue for both direct and indirect grilling. (Build coals on one side rather than spread out). Sear ribs over the direct heat. Move to indirect heat, mop with barbecue sauce. Close lid and let smoke about 10 minutes. Turn ribs, mop again and let smoke another 10 minutes.

Remove from grill. Cover and keep warm until ready to serve.

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The beauty of Cooler Corn is that you can boil the water at home, pour it over the corn and pack the corn for a “road” trip – by the time you get to your destination, the corn will be cooked. Keep it in the cooler to keep it hot. Use tongs to serve straight from the cooler.

Cooler Corn on the Cob
12-24 Ears of Corn
Boiling Water

Husk, clean and trim ears of corn. Place corn in a clean camping cooler. Bring several kettles or pots of water to a boil, enough to cover corn.

Pour boiling water over corn, close lid and let steep for 30-45 minutes.

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I love Texas Style Ranch Beans with barbecued meats – especially smoked pork or beef. These beans are more than tasty – once heated through they will travel well. For our barbecue, I plan to transfer the beans to a foil pan with a tight-fitting lid for transportation.

My pans are part of those “cheap” chafing sets you can get at a party supply store. These great for transporting foods and will keep everything nice and hot. Oh sure, you could accomplish the same thing with a fancy chafing dish, but for backyard barbecues and casual entertaining the aluminum foil sets are great – as well as versatile. You can use full pans, half pans or even quarter pans, depending upon how much food you’ll be serving.

Easy Texas Style Ranch Beans
1 Tablespoon Bacon Dripping
1/2 Medium red onion, diced
2 tsp New Mexico chili powder
2 large Cans Original Ranch-Style Beans
1 can (10 oz) Ro-tel Tomato & Green Chilies, undrained
1/4 cup Water (optional – see cooking methods)

Heat bacon drippings in a non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add onions, saute until tender. Season with chili powder. Stir to blend.

Quick Method: Open cans and empty contents into large pot. Add water and onions. Heat over medium heat until bubbling.

Slow Method: Open cans and empty contents into a slow cooker. DO NOT ADD WATER. Stir in onions, cover and simmer on high for about an hour or until beans are heated through. Lower to keep warm and serve directly from the pot.

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While the potatoes are designed to serve straight from the cast iron skillet, again those foil pans with a tight-fitting lid are perfect for travel while keeping the casual “hobo” appeal of the potatoes.

Hobo Cast Iron Skillet Potatoes
4-5 bacon strips
2 tablespoons butter
5 medium/large red potatoes, diced
1 small sweet yellow onion, diced
1-2 teaspoons seasoned salt
pinch of ground black pepper

Heat skillet over medium heat and fry the bacon until crispy. Place the bacon on a paper towel, leaving the grease in the skillet. Add the butter.

Carefully add the potatoes and onion to the skillet.

Sprinkle the salt and pepper over the potatoes and stir gently until all of the mixture is coated in the grease.

Cover with a lid and cook for 25-30 minutes, until potatoes are fork tender. Stir potatoes every 5 minutes or so to prevent burning/sticking.

Before serving, crumble the cooked bacon and toss it into the potatoes.

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Pudding Filled Cupcakes with Italian Meringue Butter Cream Frosting
The Pudding Filling
1 package Instant Pudding and Pie Filling (any flavor – white chocolate, vanilla or chocolate works best)
2 Cups Milk, very cold

In a medium bowl, empty Pudding mix. Add milk and mix until smooth. Continue to whisk until pudding thickens. Place plastic wrap directly over the pudding and refrigerate until well-chilled, at lease an hour.

The Cupcake
1 Box French Vanilla White Cake
3 Eggs
1/4 Cup Vegetable Oil
1/4 Cup Melted butter
1 Cup Water

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Line muffin tin with paper cups. Set aside until ready to fill.

Place eggs in a mixing bowl. Beat with paddle until pale, about 2 minutes.

Melt butter in a microwave safe dish. (Butter should be melted but not “hot”). Add to eggs. With paddle running, slowly add vegetable oil and water until light and frothy.

Add cake mix, blend for 30 seconds on low, then 2 minutes on medium high.

Using a small ice cream scoop, spoon batter into prepared tins. Bake according to package directions for the size cupcakes you are making. Regular tins work well, jumbo are also excellent for filling. While Mini cupcakes are okay, these are far more difficult to “core” and “fill” – which can lead to frustration.

Note: If more than a dozen regular or six jumbo cupcakes are desired, double the batter recipe.
Remove cupcakes from oven and let cool completely on a rack before filling and frosting.
While the cupcakes cool, make the frosting.

The Frosting
1-1/4 Cups Sugar
2/3 Cup Water Room temperature
5 Large Egg Whites
Pinch Cream of Tartar
2 Cups Unsalted Butter Room temperature, cut into tablespoons
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract

In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring sugar and water to a boil. Continue to boil until sugar syrup reaches the soft-ball stage, 240 – 244 degrees on a candy thermometer. As the syrup cooks, start the meringue.

Separate eggs and place the whites in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat whites on low until foam begins to form, increase to medium until foamy. Add cream of tartar, and whip on medium-high-speed until medium to stiff peaks form. Do not whip to the point that the whites are dry.

With mixer running, add cooked syrup to whites in a slow but steady stream, beating at high-speed. In a steady stream, the addition of the sugar syrup should take about 5 minutes.

Add butter one tablespoon at a time, beating until smooth, approximately 4-5 minutes.
Beat in vanilla, scrape down sides gently and beat again for 1 minute.
Note: This frosting will keep up to 3 days at room temperature, 2 weeks refrigerated

To Assemble Cupcakes: Here is the EASIEST tip for filling the cupcakes. Take an APPLE CORER and pull a cylindrical plug of cake out of each cupcake. Save the plug on the side while you pipe filling into the hole you’ve created.

DO NOT fill cupcakes to the top, you need a little room to reinsert the “plug”. Trim bottom of “plug” a little so as to cap the pudding-filled hole.

Once all the cupcakes have been filled and capped, pipe on the frosting as desired. Chill until ready to serve.

When ready to serve, remove the paper from the cupcake, plate and serve. It’s best to eat with a fork to avoid filling from dripping out on your clothes. Besides, serving a cupcake on a dessert plate elevates the cupcake to an elegant presentation. If desired, garnish the plate with a few berries and mint leaves or edible flowers.

My Birthday Feast From Italy

Next week is my birthday. Traditionally, we’ve gone to the same wonderful Italian Restaurant for dinner. The food is delicious. While not a “fancy” place, we’ve always enjoyed the atmosphere, the service and the people. Unfortunately, our little place closed. Last year we had a wonderful French Supper at a spectacular Bistro. Very small, very intimate seating for no more than 30 guests total. While the meal was to-die-for (one of the top ten in the nation), I truly missed my little Italian Supper Club. Besides, I’ve reached an age when getting all dressed up for a nice meal requires more effort than necessary. I want a gourmet meal that I can eat in my pajamas.

This year, I’m making my own wonderful supper. A few appetizers, three “main” attractions, a few sides and a luscious cake. Since I’d rather not spend my entire birthday morning in the kitchen, I’ve picked out an assortment dishes that can be prepared in stages, some a day ahead of time, others that are complicated in flavor with very little effort. The main entrees and sides will hold well until party time, while the cake can be baked in the morning for dessert that evening.

My guys are great assistants. While Hubby requires more supervision, with Kiddo I can just hand over a recipe and let him go for it. I know what you are thinking – cooking my own birthday dinner? Yep. I’m getting exactly what I want – home cooking and being with the people who matter most – my family.

Since we’re making so much food, the serving portions and size will be down-sized. Just a sampling size or so of each delicious dish. Since we will be cooking for 10 people, the total ingredients should be just about right (most of the dishes would be enough for 6 if that were the only thing being served).

To say that I arrived at this menu easily would be untrue. There were nearly 30 different recipes in various categories up for consideration. It was time to begin the whittling process – after all, I’m not running an Olive Garden, just making dinner for my family. Even then, once the final selection had been made, changes began to creep in. Originally, Veal Piccata was to be one of the three “main” featured dishes. Veal Piccata is my all-time favorite of the Piccata variety. While Hubby, Kiddo and I had no qualms about eating veal, the rest of my family most assuredly would. Rule #1 when planning a dinner party is cook something your guests will enjoy. If you have no doubt that an entrée will be greeted with turned up noses, don’t make it. Out with the veal, in with pork cutlets. The side dishes also needed revamping. Originally Italian Roasted Potatoes made the grade. But then, I began to realize the sides lacked a vegetable selection. Besides, roasting potatoes would heat up my tiny kitchen, and that was something I wished to avoid. Out with the potatoes, in with Italian Summer Squash Saute. At last, the menu was complete.

Let’s Get This Party Started – Aperitivo
Red Tomato Gazpacho Shooters with Serrano Chilies
Bruschetta with Italian Relish and Feta Cheese

Portata Principales – The Main Attractions
Meat – Pork Piccata Cutlets
Poultry – Chicken Marsala
Seafood – Shrimp Scampi with Scampi Butter

Supporting Roles – Contorno
Italian Summer Squash Saute
Creamy Herb Risotto
Spaghetti with a Sassy Marinara Sauce

Insalata con Condimento – The Salad
Leaf Salad with Home-made Dressing

Dolce – Sweet Dessert
Vanilla Cake with Blueberry Filling and Italian Meringue Butter Cream Frosting


Red Tomato Gazpacho with Serrano Chilies
8 large red bell peppers
2-1/2 lb. tomatoes
1 English cucumber, peeled and cut into large chunks
1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1/4-inch dice
3 Serrano chilies, seeded and minced
2 small red onion, finely chopped
2 garlic clove, minced
4 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
2 Tablespoon sherry vinegar
2 teaspoon salt
2 avocado
2 Teaspoon snipped fresh chives
1 teaspoon dried oregano

Preheat a broiler.

Arrange the red bell peppers on a baking sheet and place in the broiler about 6 inches from the heat source. Broil, turning with tongs, until the pepper skins are blistered and charred black on all sides, about 15 minutes.

Place the peppers in a paper bag and let stand until cool enough to handle. Remove the stem from each pepper and discard. Slit the pepper open, then remove and discard the seeds and ribs. Remove the blackened skin with a small knife.

Cut the tomatoes in half crosswise. Using the largest holes on a box grater placed over a bowl, grate the tomato halves. Discard the skins.

In a food processor, pulse the cucumber chunks until coarsely pureed. Add to the bowl.

Process the roasted peppers in the same way until coarsely pureed. Add to the bowl.

Stir in the yellow bell pepper, chilies, onion, garlic, the 2 tablespoons. olive oil, the vinegar and salt.

Cover and refrigerate until chilled. (This can be done up to 1 day ahead of time).

Ladle the chilled gazpacho into 8 individual shot glasses.

Just before serving, slice avocado in half, pit and remove flesh from skin. Dice avocado into small cubes, no larger than 1/4-inch.

Garnish each glass with the avocado. Sprinkle with the chives and oregano and drizzle with olive oil. Serve immediately.

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Image result for image bruschetta with tomatoesBruschetta with Italian Relish and Feta Cheese
Italian Relish
¾ lb Tomatoes, seeded, chopped (Red Roma, yellow or combination)
¾ Cup Chopped Red Onion
3-4 Cloves of Garlic, chopped (about 1-2 tablespoons)
1 Tablespoon Chopped Fresh Basil or 1 teaspoon dried basil
2 Tablespoon Chopped Fresh Oregano or 1 1/2 teaspoons dried Oregano
1/3 Cup Red Wine Vinegar
Salt & Pepper to taste

Seed and chop tomatoes, place in a medium-size bowl. When chopping the tomatoes, leave some in larger chunks, some in smaller pieces for a less-uniformed appearance.

Chop Red Onions, add to tomatoes. If using fresh herbs (best) chop fresh basil and oregano. Add to tomato mixture. (If dried herbs, simply sprinkle over tomato mixture)

Pour Red Wine Vinegar over tomato mixture, toss to blend. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Let stand for 1-2 hours to allow flavors to mature and fully marry.

Bruschetta
1 Baguette – French or Italian
2 Garlic Cloves
1/2 Cup Olive Oil
1 Cup Feta, Crumbled (Optional for serving)

Move the top rack of oven to the highest position. Heat oven to 450 degrees.

Slice baguette into rounds about 1 inch thick. Set aside until ready to use.

Peel garlic and slice in half lengthwise. Set aside until ready to use.

Lightly brush baguette rounds with olive oil. Gently rub with garlic (one slice at a time, replacing as needed). Place rounds oil-side down on a baking sheet.

Place in the oven and “toast” until crisp but not hard.

Toasted rounds can be made as much as a day ahead of time, then stored in an air-tight container until ready to serve.

When ready to serve, place relish in a bowl at the center of a serving platter. Arrange baguette toast around the relish. Place crumbled Feta in a second bowl next to the platter. Use a small slotted spoon for the relish and a small teaspoon for the Feta. Let guests pile on the relish and Feta as desired.


Pork Loin Piccata Cutlets
1 1 and 1/2-pound pork tenderloin, trimmed
6 tablespoons Dijon mustard
4 eggs
2 cups seasoned bread crumbs
6 tablespoons olive oil, divided in batches
½ cup chicken broth
½ cup white wine
2 to 3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon white pepper
2 to 3 tablespoons capers, drained
2 shallots, sliced into rings
1 large lemon, cut into 6 thin slices
¼ cup Butter

Cut pork against grain into twelve thin slices; press each to flatten slightly.

Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.

Whisk Dijon mustard and eggs in a glass pie pan. Place bread crumbs in another pie pan. Dip cutlets into mustard mixture, then into bread crumbs. Add cutlets to skillet and cook for 5 minutes per side or until browned and cooked through.

Remove the cutlets to a baking dish large enough to hold all the pork and Piccata sauce. Keep warm in a 300 degree oven. Add remaining olive oil to skillet. Repeat with remaining pork cutlets – dip; bread and brown. Place in oven to keep warm.

To the now empty skillet; add chicken broth, wine, lemon juice, capers, butter, salt, pepper and red onions to skillet. Bring to a boil, scraping up browned bits. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes or until onions are tender. Pour over cutlets. Place lemon slices on top of pork.

Cover cutlets with foil, leave in oven until ready to serve. It’s best to allow cutlets to sit in liquid for at least 15 minutes to soak in flavors before serving.

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Chicken Marsala
6 chicken breasts, boneless, skinless
3 Tablespoons Flour
1/2 Tablespoons Oregano
Salt to Taste
Pepper to Taste
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup sliced Portobello or brown mushrooms
½ cup Marsala wine (more to taste)
¼ Cup Chicken Broth
1/2 Tablespoon Brown Gravy Mix (yeah, the powder stuff)

Place chicken between two pieces of plastic wrap. Pound with meat hammer (smooth side) until ¼ inch thick. (You can also use thin sliced breasts in place of “pounding” chicken thin).

In a shallow dish combine flour, salt, pepper and oregano. Coat chicken pieces in flour mixture.
In a large skillet, melt butter in olive oil over medium heat. Place chicken in pan and lightly brown on both sides.

Add mushrooms. Pour in wine and chicken broth, cover and simmer chicken 10 minutes, turning once, until chicken is no longer pink and juices run clear.

Taste and adjust sauce as needed – if too sweet, add small amount of Chicken Broth, if not sweet enough, add small amount of Marsala Wine.  Remove chicken from the pan and transfer to a rimmed serving platter.  Tent and keep warm.

Add Brown Gravy Mix and continue to cook an additional 10 minutes to allow sauce to reduce and thicken.  Return chicken to the pan, roll to coat with sauce.

Place chicken on serving platter, spoon sauce over and around chicken.

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Shrimp Scampi with Scampi Butter
Scampi Butter
½ cup Butter, room temperature
3 Cloves of Garlic, pressed
1 Green Onion, diced
2 Tablespoons Parsley Flakes
1 Tablespoon Lemon Zest
1 Tablespoon Lemon Juice

Note: Scampi Butter needs to be made 1 day in advance.

In a shallow bowl, garlic and onion into butter. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

When ready to serve: In a small sauce pan over low heat, melt garlic butter. Add parsley, lemon zest and lemon juice. Heat through. Transfer to individual bowls and serve with shrimp as a dipping sauce.

Shrimp Scampi
2 lbs Jumbo Shrimp (21-25 count), peeled and deveined, tails intact
½ Cup butter
6 Cloves of garlic, pressed
4 Tablespoons White Wine
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
4 Tablespoons Parsley Flakes
2 Teaspoons Arrow Root (can used flour)
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
Salt and Pepper to Taste
1/2 Cup Chopped Flat Leaf Parsley for garnish

Rinse, peel and devein shrimp under cold water. Leave tails intact. Dry on paper towels.

Add butter and olive oil to a skillet over medium heat. When butter has melted, add parsley and garlic. Sauté 1-2 minutes. DO NOT allow garlic to brown.

Add wine, then shrimp. Increase heat to medium-high and cook shrimp until pink, stirring frequently, about 3-5 minutes.

Transfer shrimp to serving platter, tent to keep warm.

To the now empty pan, add Arrow Root or flour to thicken sauce. Add lemon juice and cook an additional 1-2 minutes. Pour scampi sauce over shrimp. If desired, garnish with fresh parsley for color.

Serve with scampi butter for dipping.


Italian Summer Squash Saute
4 to 5 Small Zucchini (About 1 Pound)
4 Summer Squash (About 1 Pound)
1 Pint Cherry Tomatoes
3 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 Garlic Cloves, Minced
2 Tablespoons Fresh Oregano, Chopped
2 Tablespoons Fresh Basil, chopped
2 Tablespoons Fresh Italian Parsley (flat leaf), chopped
1/2 Red Chile Pepper, Finely Chopped (Optional)
Sea Salt
Cracked Black Pepper

Cut the zucchini and squash crosswise into 1/2 inch slices. Set aside

Slice cherry tomatoes in half. Set aside

In a large frying pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat and add all the squash rounds.

Cook, stirring frequently until fork tender, about 10 minutes.

Add the garlic, tomatoes, and fresh herbs.

Stir to mix and continue to cook until the tomatoes soften.

Season with salt and pepper and serve warm or at room temperature.

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Creamy Herb Risotto
5 cups Chicken Broth, warmed
¼ Cup Olive Oil
½ cup Yellow Onion, Finely Chopped
1 ½ cup Arborio Rice
½ Cup White Wine
2 Tablespoons Butter
½ Cup Parmesan Cheese
Salt & Pepper to Taste
1 Tablespoon Fresh Chopped Parsley (1 teaspoon dried)
1 Tablespoon Fresh Chopped Oregano (1 teaspoon dried)
1 Tablespoon Fresh Chopped Basil (1 teaspoon dried)
Fresh Parsley, chopped for garnish

Hold broth warm in a sauce pan.

In another sauce pan, heat olive oil.  Add onions and rice, cook over medium heat until rice becomes slightly translucent, about 3 minutes.

Add white wine to rice, stirring constantly until wine has evaporated. Slowly add warm chicken broth, 1/2 cup at a time, to rice, stirring constantly and allowing broth to evaporate between additions. Continue to add broth and cook rice over medium heat until desired doneness. Rice will begin to swell and become creamy as it cook. Do not rush the risotto. In all, it takes about 25-30 minutes to cook tender and creamy.

Once all the liquid has been added and rice is cooked, remove from heat. Stir in butter, Parmesan Cheese and all the herbs. Fluff, cover and let sit about 5 minutes. Fluff again, transfer to bowl and garnish with additional parsley, if desired.

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Spaghetti in a Sassy Marinara Sauce
Sassy Marinara Sauce
1 (28-oz) can whole San Marzano tomatoes, certified D.O.P. if possible
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
7 garlic cloves, peeled and silvered
Small dried whole chile, or pinch crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 large sprig fresh basil
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano, more to taste (optional)

Pour tomatoes into a large bowl and crush with  your hands. Pour 1 cup water into can and slosh it around to get tomato  juices. Reserve.

In a large skillet over medium heat, heat the oil. Once heated, add garlic.

As soon as garlic is sizzling, add the tomatoes, then the reserved tomato water.

Add whole  chile or red pepper flakes, oregano (if using) and salt. Stir to blend.
Place basil sprig, stem and all, on the surface of the sauce. Let the basil sprig wilt, then submerge into sauce.

Simmer sauce until  thickened and oil on surface is a deep orange, about 15 minutes. (If  using oregano, taste sauce after 10 minutes of simmering, adding more  salt and oregano as needed.) Discard basil and Chile (if using).

Spaghetti Pasta
1 lb Spaghetti Noodles

Bring a large pot of salted water to a rapid boil. The pot should be tall enough to submerge pasta strands without breaking into pieces and wide enough to allow pasta to dance about freely.

Cook pasta according to directions, stirring several times to prevent pasta from balling up in the pot. About two minutes before the recommended cooking time, check pasta for doneness. (Pluck a noodle from the pot and eat it. Be careful, pasta will be hot to the touch and hot in your mouth. The noodle should be cooked through, yet firm to the bite.)

Drain well, place in a large serving bowl and immediately pour Marinara sauce over the noodles. Toss well to coat pasta in sauce to prevent sticking.


Italian Green Leaf Salad with Home-Made Dressing
The Salad
2 bunches romaine, torn
2 cups grape tomatoes, halved
1 can (2-1/4 ounces) sliced ripe olives, drained
1 small red onion, thinly sliced and separated into rings
8 pepperoncini
1/2 cup Italian salad dressing
Italian Croutons
1/4 cup Shaved Parmesan cheese

In a large bowl, combine the romaine, tomatoes, olives, onion and pepperoncini. Chill until ready to serve.

Just before serving, add croutons, drizzle with salad dressing; toss to coat. Serve with additional Parmesan cheese and dressing on the side.

The Dressing
1/2 Cup mayonnaise
1/3 Cup white vinegar
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
2 tablespoon corn syrup
2 tablespoon Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoon Romano cheese
1/4 teaspoon garlic salt
1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/2 teaspoon parsley flakes
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Mix all ingredients in a blender until well mixed. Transfer to small serving pitcher and chill until ready to use.

This dressing can be made a day ahead, covered and refrigerated.


Vanilla Cake with Blueberry Filling and Italian Meringue Buttercream Frosting
The Cake
1 Box French Vanilla White Cake
3 Eggs
1/4 Cup Vegetable Oil
1/4 Cup Melted butter
1 Cup Water

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Place eggs in a mixing bowl. Beat with paddle until pale, about 2 minutes.

Melt butter in a microwave safe dish. Add to eggs. With paddle running, slowly add vegetable oil and water until light and frothy.

Add cake mix, blend for 30 seconds on low, then 2 minutes on medium high.

Prepare 2 round cake pans with Wilton’s Cake Release.

Divide batter between pans. Tap gently to release any air bubbles.

Bake in oven for about 20 minutes, check for doneness. If necessary, bake an additional 10 minutes, checking every 5 minutes. Cake should be “just done” since it will continue to cook in the pan after being removed from the oven.

Place cake while still in the pan onto cooling racks. Let cool 10 minutes.

Remove from pans, and allow to cool completely on racks, about 2 hours.

The Filling
2 1/2-pint baskets blueberries
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

In a large bowl, mash blueberries. Combine berries, sugar, and lemon juice in heavy small saucepan and heat over high heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves.

Reduce heat to medium to maintain a rolling boil and continue to cook, stirring constantly until berries are reduced to about 3/4 cup. This should take about 15 minutes.

Pour mixture into a bowl and allow to cool, stirring occasionally. Once cooled, cover with plastic wrap to prevent “skin” from forming on top. Refrigerate until ready to use.

The Frosting
1-1/4 Cups Sugar
2/3 Cup Water Room temperature
5 Large Egg Whites
Pinch Cream of Tartar
2 Cups Unsalted Butter Room temperature, cut into tablespoons
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract

In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring sugar and water to a boil. Continue to boil until sugar syrup reaches the soft-ball stage, 240 – 244 degrees on a candy thermometer. As the syrup cooks, start the meringue.

Separate eggs and place the whites in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat whites on low until foam begins to form, increase to medium until foamy. Add cream of tartar, and whip on medium-high-speed until medium to stiff peaks form. Do not whip to the point that the whites are dry.

With mixer running, add cooked syrup to whites in a slow but steady stream, beating at high-speed. In a steady stream, the addition of the sugar syrup should take about 5 minutes.

Add butter one tablespoon at a time, beating until smooth, approximately 4-5 minutes.

Beat in vanilla, scrape down sides gently and beat again for 1 minute.

Note: This frosting will keep up to 3 days at room temperature, 2 weeks refrigerated.

The Fruit Topping
1 Pint Blackberries
1 Pint Raspberries
1/2 Jar Current Jelly for Glaze (Apricot Jelly will also work)

Rinse berries, let drain well and pat dry if necessary.

Heat jelly in a saucepan over low heat until melted. Arrange berries on top of cake, brush with glaze.

Refrigerate finished cake up to 6 hours.  Remove from refrigerator about 30 minutes before serving.

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