These margaritas are way better than the Mexican version.....the reason being....Amarreto! I make about 4 - 5 batches of this drink ahead of time so that I don't have to constantly interrupt the party by using the blender. I make them the morning before the party and place in a large plastic container with a lid. Place it all in the freezer and fill up a pitcher when I am ready to serve. When the pitcher is empty I just go to the freezer and fill up my pitcher! Very simple!
- 4 oz. Amaretto ( plus more for rimming of glass)
- 6 oz. limeade
- 6 oz. tequila
- 6 cups of ice
- Sugar to rim the glass
- Place all ingredients in a blender and puree or blend together.
- Dip rim of glass in Amaretto and then immediatly dip rim in sugar.
- Pour drink into glasses and serve!
ASPARAGUS, MASCARPONE & PROSCIUTTO WRAPS
A few years ago my husband and I went to a great restaraunt in Chicago called The Firehouse. I remember ordering these fabulous asparugus bundles that were surrounded by mascarpone cheese and prosciutto. I tried to come up with my version of this great recipe!
- 1 lb. thin asparagus (about 30 or so)
- 1/2 lb. prosciutto sliced paper thin (make sure it is not too fatty and has more meat than fat)
- 12 oz. mascarpone cheese
- fresh ground pepper
- 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
- salt to taste
- a squeeze of fresh lemon juice
- high quality olive oil
- Trim the hard ends of the asparugus. Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. In the meantime fill a large bowl with very cold water and about 2 cups of ice water.
- Add the asparugus to the boiling water. Cook for about 1 to 2 minutes stirring halfway so that all the asparagus cooks. Immediatly remove the asparagus from the boiling water and place them in the ice water. This will immediatly stop the cooking process. You want the asparagus "al dente" and not "limp" so make sure you do not over cook.
- Remove asparagus from the ice water after about 5 minutes. Place them on a paper towel lined cookie sheet. Pat with extra paper towl to make sure they are completely dry.
- In the meantime - place the mascarpone cheese in a small bowl. Add a bit of salt, pepper and the garlic powder. Stir to make creamy mixture.
- Carefully remove one slice of prosciutto from the package making sure it does not tear. Cut in half longways.
- Using a butter knife carefully spread about 1/2 TB to 1 TB mascarpone mixture over the slice of prosciutto.
- Carefully wrap the mascarpone/prosciutto slices around one asparagus.
- Repeat until all asparagus are wrapped.
- Place on a large rectangular platter. Wrap with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator for at least 2 hours.
- When ready to serve take out of fridge and uncover. Squeeze a fresh lemon wedge over the wraps so that each one gets a drizzle of lemon juice.
- Drizzle the olive oil over the asparagus. Ground some fresh ground pepper over each roll.
- Serve immediately
3 TB. olive oil
crushed red pepper flakes to taste
1 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. basil
1/2 tsp. rosemary
2 TB. chopped fresh italian parsley
fresh ground pepper
- Place all ingredients in a bowl. Mix.
- Cover and place in fridge for at least 2 hours for flavors to meld.
- Place in serving dish with some toothpicks along side
EGGPLANT POMODORO STACKS
I absolutely love anthing to do with eggplant. A few weeks ago I found a recipe for Eggplant Pomodoro - which is an eggplant dish that is slightly lighter than Eggplant Parmasean and uses a layer of goat cheese instead of mozerella. It was fantastic! I served it with grilled pork chops and couscous (look for it in an upcoming post). For my tapas party I came up with an appetizer version of this dish. I layered it with sliced campari tomatoes and goat cheese. I also used some fresh grated parmasean as the "glue" that held the eggplant stacks together. These took a little time and effort, but they were worth it for sure! They turned out delicious!!!!!
- Bake at 375 degrees for 5 - 10 minutes until cheese has melted and eggplant and tomato has been warmed.
- In the meantime make the drizzle: Place tomato paste in a small bowl. Add salt, pepper and chopped basil. Whisk. Slowly whisk in olive oil.
- When stacks are done place them on a serving platter. Using a fork add drizzle to each stack.
- Serve immediately.
MINI VEAL MEATBALLS WITH GOLDEN RAISINS
One of my favorite restaraunts, Quartino, serves the most amazing veal meatballs. I wanted to create my own version with a slightly different twist. Their sauce is a regular tomato sauce, but I wanted mine to be different...slightly more exoctic or mediterranean. I added some capers and a dash of cinnamon to mine to give it an added sweetness so that it tasted different than my regular tomato sauce. Let me put it to you this way...I made about 70 meatballs thinking we could have some leftover for the next day....5 meatballs were left!!!!!! So much for left overs!
- 2 TB. olive oil
- 1 onion chopped
- 5 garlic cloves chopped
- 4 (32 oz. each) cans crushed tomatoes
- 1 (32 oz.) can tomato sauce
- 2 TB. capers (drained)
- 1/2 tsp. hungarian paprika
- 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
- 1 tsp. oregano
- salt, pepper and crushed red pepper flakes to taste
- 1 cup water
- 2 cups golden raisins
- Place all ingredients (except vegie oil) in a large bowl. Mix well ( I like to use my hands, but you could use a spoon).
- Roll about 1 1/2 TB. of meatball mix into a small bowl. Repeat with all meat until all is used.
- Heat vegetable oil in a large skillet (about 1/4 inch. covering bottom of skillet). Brown each meatball on all sides - working in batches of about 7-10 meatballs at a time. Once the meatballs are browned remove with a slotted spoon or spatula and place on a cookie sheet lined with paper towel. Continue until all meatballs are browned. Set aside.
- Add olive oil to a large pot and heat.
- Add garlic & onion and saute about 3-5 minutes or until slightly soft.
- Add all ingredients (except raisins) to the pot. Stir well. Simmer for 1/2 hour.
- With a hand blender puree all ingredients in the pot until smooth. Simmer for about 1 hour.
- Add golden raisins and simmer - covered 1/2 hour more.
- At this point you can either add meatballs to the pot and simmer for about 1/2 hour to 45 minutes or until meatballs are completely cooked and serve immediately or you can place in a container and keep in fridge overnight.
- When you are ready to use the sauce and meatballs: take sauce and meatballs out of fridge. Place in a crock pot and cook for 4-6 hours. You can serve directly from crock pot and let your guests serve themselves.
& BALSALMIC VINEGAR
* Quartino also has a dish like this on their small plates menu. They serve strip of skirt steak hot over a pile of argulula & grape tomatoes with a balsalmic vinegar reduction. I love this dish so much that I decided to create my own version. I chose to place the meat on wood skewers so that it was easier for my guests to eat. I also placed the skewers on a bed of arugula & grape tomatoes with a balsalmic vinegar "drizzle". I placed a spoon on the platter so guests could help themselves! This dish was served room temperature so that I could make all ahead of time.
2 lbs. of veal skirt steak1/2 cup olive oil
2 TB. Balsalmic vinegar
2 garlic cloves chopped
1 tsp. chopped rosemary
salt, pepper & crushed red pepper flakes to taste
For Arugula & Tomato Salad with Balsalmic "drizzle"
1 package fresh baby arugula
1/2 TB. olive oil
1 cup grape tomatoes (kept whole)
1/2 cup balsalmic vinegar
1/4 cup water
salt, pepper & crushed red pepper flakes to taste
To Make Steak:
- Place olive oil, vinegar, garlic, rosemary, salt, pepper & crushed red pepper in a large plastic zip lock baggie. Add steak and toss to coat. Place in fridge and let marinate for about 3 - 4 hours.
- Heat either an indoor cast iron grill or an outside grill. Remove steak from marinate and place on heated grill. Grill each side for about 5 minutes or until you consider it done. I prefer to serve it rare.
- Remove steak from grill and place on a cutting board. Let sit for about 10 minutes.
- Slice steak into 1/4 inch slices. Slide steak pieces onto small wooden skewers. Put to the side until ready to serve.
To Make Arugula & Tomatoes:
- Heat olive oil in a large skillet. Add arugula and toss to coat with olive oil. Heat for only 1 or 2 minutes. You don not want arugula to wilt.
- Remove arugula from skillet and place on a large platter.
- In same skillet add tomatoes, balsalmic vinegar, water, salt, pepper and crushed red pepper. Stir well and cook for about 3-5 minutes. You want the tomatoes to cook slightly and for the balsalmic vinegar to reduce and become slightly thicker.
- Place skirt steak skewers decoratively over the arugula on the platter.
- Remove tomatoes from the skillet and arrange on platter over meat and arugula.
- Drizzle balsalmic vinegar reduction over arugula, meat and tomatoes over platter.
- Serve immediatly
*Makes about 25 - 30 skewers
MINI CAPRESE SALAD
- 16 oz. mini mozzerella cheese balls ( cigliegini)
- 2 cups grape tomatoes cut in half
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 TB. red wine vinegar
- 3 TB. chopped fresh basil
- salt, pepper & crushed red pepper to taste
- Place mozzerella cheese and tomatoes in a medium sized bowl.
- Add olive oil, vinegar, basil, salt, pepper and crushed red pepper. Stir well.
- Cover and place in fridge for at least one hour so that flavors meld together.
- When ready to serve remove from bowl and place in a serving bowl or platter. Garnish with fresh basil.
- Serve immediately
* My sister came over before the party to help me cook. She found a dessert recipe ,made by Giada De Laurentis, that combined Limencello, lemons and cream cheese. To me this says "Meditteranean Italy"! I left the making of this dessert up to my sister. It was a task...but it was the hit of the party!
Nonstick cooking spray8 ounces purchased biscotti
3 tablespoons grated lemon zest
1 (12-ounce) container fresh whole milk ricotta, drained, at room temperature
2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup limoncello liqueur*
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 large eggs, at room temperature
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray the bottom of a 9 by 9 by 2-inch baking pan with nonstick cooking spray.
Finely grind the biscotti in a food processor. Add the melted butter and 1 tablespoon of lemon zest, and process until the crumbs are moistened. Press the crumb mixture over the bottom (not the sides) of the prepared pan. Bake until the crust is golden, about 15 minutes. Cool the crust completely on a cooling rack.
Blend the ricotta in a clean food processor until smooth. Add the cream cheese and sugar and blend well, stopping the machine occasionally and scraping down the sides of the work bowl. Blend in the limoncello, vanilla, and remaining 2 tablespoons of lemon zest. Add the eggs 1 at a time, and pulse just until blended. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.
Pour the cheese mixture over the crust in the pan. Place the baking pan in a large roasting pan. Pour enough hot water into the roasting pan to come halfway up the sides of the baking pan. Bake until the cheesecake is golden and the center of the cake moves slightly when the pan is gently shaken, about 1 hour (the cake will become firm when it is cold).
Transfer the cake to a rack; cool 1 hour. Refrigerate until the cheesecake is cold, at least 8 hours and up to 2 days. Cut the cake into squares and serve.
*Limoncello liqueur can be found at most liquor stores and in the liquor department of some specialty markets.
*Photo #1 Courtesy of Food Network
*Photo #1 Courtesy of Food Network
MINI APPLE - CRANBERRY PIES
* This was a dessert I made for my Pasta Dinner menu on an earlier blog. Everyone loved this recipe so much I decided to make it again...but this time make them "mini". they turned out awesome! Super simple...I just used a mini cupcake pan and they came out like mini perfect pies!
- 1 package ( 8 oz.) cream cheese, softened
- 1/2 cup firmly packed ground sugar, divided
- 1 egg
- 1 (9 inch.) unbaked pastry shell
- 2 cups peeled and sliced apples
- 1/2 cup halved cranberries
- 1 tsp. ground cinnamon, divided
- 1/3 cup flour
- 1/3 cup old fashioned or quick cooking oats, uncooked
- 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
- 1/4 cup chopped nuts ( I used walnuts)
Mix cream cheese and 1/4 cup brown sugar with electric mixer on medium speed until well blended. Blen in egg. Pour into pastry shells.
Toss apples, cranberries and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon. Spoon over cream cheese mixture.
Mix flour, oats and remaining 1/4 cup brown sugar and remaining 1/2 tsp. cinnamon. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in nuts. Spoon over fruit mixture.
Bake at 375 degrees for 40 to 45 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool before serving.
* I made these pies a day before my party and placed it in the refrigerator. I took it out of fridge a couple hours before serving and dusted it with powdered sugar.