Blog Archive

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Italian Food on my Table

Pizza Bites with Marinara Dipping Sauce--retro and fun

Italian Food on my Table
by Victoria Challancin

Because I've been storing up so many photos and ideas I want to write about now that the Holiday dust has started to settle, I didn't know where to begin.  With nothing particular in mind, I strolled down my photo collection and this Italian dinner just jumped out at me.  Italian on my table.  Italian in my Heart.  Italian in my blood.

Now that I look over this menu, I am astounded at how unbalanced the flavors are.  There are far too many tomato sauces to suit any northern Italian, which is where my family is from. was good.
The Menu:

Pizza Bites with Dipping Sauce

Rose-Shaped Eggplant Parmigiana and Puff Pastry

Pizza Quattro Stagioni or Four Seasons Pizza

Roman-Style Chicken from Giada De Laurentiis

Antipasto Salad with Bocconcini and John Besh's Green Olive Tapenade

Whole Roasted Cauliflower with Green Herb Sauce

Mini Cannoli Bites (which I loved, loved, loved and wrote about here)

An Overview

  • Pizza Bites     These were oddly retro, but fun.  Full of flavor from the pepperoni and cheese, quick to make, and just the type of appetizer that is always welcome.  A hit.  (Recipe follows)
  • Rose-Shaped Eggplant Parm     With the internet so full of rose-shaped everything these days (I recently made in class the Rose-Shaped Apple Mini Pies and loved them), I thought this savory version of Eggplant Parm would be equally good.  Alas, I was a bit disappointed in the flavors, which oddly seemed lacking, hence no recipe.  
  • Pizza Quattro Stagioni     What's not to love about this pizza?  A perennial favorite.  The four segments of the pizza represent the four seasons of the year:  mushrooms/fall, prosciutto/winter, artichokes/spring, and tomatoes and basil/summer.  Because I had the ingredients and time, I also included a margherita pizza, with mushrooms.
  • Roman-Style Chicken     This tomato-braised chicken with prosciutto, bell peppers, white wine, chicken stock, capers, and lots of fresh herbs is apparently the number one most requested recipe of Food Network's chef/star Giada De Laurentiis, and with good reason:  it is absolutely packed with rich flavors and is easy to prepare.  Somehow I failed to snap a photo of it, but the recipe can be found here.
  • Antipasto Salad with Bocconcini and John Besh's Green Olive Tapenade     Another winner.  My only complaint is that this salad is really like marinated vegetables as it is swimming, and I do mean "swimming" in dressing.  Delicious dressing, but swimming nevertheless.  Oh, one other minor a rush I failed to stipulate the type of salami I wanted and simply told the clerk in the deli to give me her best salami.  Silly me.  The best turned out to be an icky pink meat reminiscent of bad bologna.  I'll know next time.  The tapenade, by Lousiana chef John Besh, is terrific, as is La Brea Bakery's Nancy Silverton's Antipasto Salad recipe. (Recipes follow)
  • Whole Roasted Cauliflower with Green Herb Sauce     Always a fan of herby sauces, I knew I would like this one, and I did.  Intense flavors.  Simple recipe.  Yes.  (Recipe follows)
  • Mini Cannoli Bites     As I said, I have already wept with joy over these  (the recipe is here).

 Pizza Bites with Marinara Dipping Sauce

Recipe:  Pizza Bites with Marinara Dipping Sauce
(Recipe from
15 min preparation and 25 minutes cooking time
Makes 24
Note:  I can't seem to find the original source, but my notes say I found this on hope I am not leaving someone out here.  Apologies)

3/4 cups flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning (mixed herbs)
Pinch of salt
Pinch of red pepper flakes
3/4 cup whole milk
1 egg, beaten
1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
\1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1 cup pepperoni, finely chopped
1/2 cup jarred, all natural pizza sauce--or homemade

Preheat oven to 375F.  Grease a mini-muffin pan.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, Italian herbs, salt and red pepper flakes.

Whisk in milk and egg.  Stir in mozzarella, Parmesan and pepperoni.  Let stand for 10 minutes.

Stir the batter and divide among the muffin cups.  Bake until puffed and golden, 20 to 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat pizza sauce until warmed through. Serve the puffs hot with the warm pizza sauce for dipping.

 Rose-Shaped Eggplant Parmesan in Puff Pastry

 The Puff Pastry Eggplant Parm over a tomato sauce

 Pizza Quattro Stagione:  the four sections represent the four seasons with the prosciutto representing winter, artichokes for spring, tomatoes and basil for summer, and mushrooms bring in the fall

 A close up of the Four Seasons Pizza

 Because I had the ingredients, I also made a Margherita Pizza, another favorite of mine.  With mushrooms, which doesn't really come with a traditional margherita pizza.

 Margharita pizza with mushrooms

The antipasto salad before it went swimming, complete with the pink salami

 Antipasto Salad--a bit messy, a bit wet, but yum.

Recipe:  Antipasto Salad with Bocconcini and John Besh's Green Olive Tapenade
(REcipe by Nancy Silverton of La Brea Bakery and Campanile restaurant in Los Angeles--and Osteria Mozzza and Pizzeria Mozza)
Total time:  25 minutes
Serves 8
Cook's Note:  You can easily make this salad in advance, but don't add the lettuce until just before serving.

3 Tablespoons green-olive tapenade from a jar (or see the following recipe)
1/4 cup peperoncini--stemmed, seeded, and finely chopped (( left some whole for texture)
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cups bocconcini (about 9 ounces) or other fresh mozzarella
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Freshly ground black pepper
1 small head iceberg lettuce, halved, cored and finely shredded (4 cups)
6 ounces thinly sliced Genoa salami, cut into thin strips (1 1/2 cups)
1/2 cup green olives, such as Picholine

In a medium bowl, mix the green olive tapenade with the peperoncini and 1/4 cup of the oil.  Add the bocconcini and toss.

In a small bowl, whisk the lemon juice with the vinegar, garlic and oregano.  Whisk in the remaining 1/4 cup olive oil and season the dressing with salt and pepper.

In a bowl, combine the shredded lettuce and salami.  Add the marinated bocconcini and half of the dressing and toss well.  Transfer the antipasto salad to a large platter.  Top with the basil and olives.  Drizzle the remaining dressing around the salad and serve.

John Besh's Green Olive Tapenade
(Recipe by Chef John Besh)

2 cups pitted olives, black or green
2 cloves garlic, peeled
2 filets salt-cured anchovies
1 tablespoon capers, drained
Leaves from 2 (or 2) sprigs fresh thyme
1/2 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon lemon zest (optional, but so good)

Combine the olives, garlic, anchovies, capers and thyme in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the olives are coarsely chopped.  With machine running, slowly add the olive oil until it is all absorbed.

 Whole Roasted Cauliflower with Green Herb Sauce

Recipe:  Whole Roasted Cauliflower with Green Herb Sauce
(Recipe from Martha Stewart, November 2015)
Prep:  15 minutes     Total time:  1 hour 15 minutes
Serves 10
1 large head cauliflower
3/4 cups extra-virgin olive oil
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup packed chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/2 cup packed chopped fresh cilantro leaves and stems
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar

Preheat oven to 450F.  Place cauliflower on a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet.  Brush with 1/4 cup oil; season with salt and pepper.  Pull short sides of parchment over cauliflower and fold one end over the other a few times to seal.  Fold long ends of parchment under cauliflower to create a packet.  Roast until knife-tender, about 40 minutes.  Tear open parchment at top; roast until golden brown, 15 or 20 minutes more.

Stir together parsley, cilantro, garlic, mustard, vinegar, and remaining 1/2 cup oil in a small bowl to combine.  Season with salt and pepper.  Serve cauliflower warm, with sauce alongside.  (Or pour it over as I did).

 Roasted Cauliflower with Green Herb Sauce

 Cannoli Bites  (recipe from an earlier post, found here)

©Victoria Challancin.  All Rights Reserved.

Flavors of the Sun Cooking School
San Miguel de Allende, México


Eha said...

Looking at these colourful photos I have to smile and say they really display 'Flavors of the Sun' ! Perhaps it is the hot summer weather here but the two dishes I shall definitely make the soonest are the Antipasto Salad and in spite of being a winter vegetable: the Roasted Cauliflower with the herb sauce: both are sending a loud call :) !! A little bit unusual also and I love 'doing' that . . .

Joan nova said...

Looks like a party! And delicious!

Nagi@RecipeTinEats said...

This post of yours surely defined "Flavors of the Sun". Every dish is bursting in flavors! Yummy Italian! This would be perfect to any party! said...

Mouth watering and John's cawliflower is divine. You must try his soup one day. I think I'm going italian tonight after this feast.

Hotly Spiced said...

Now I'm really hungry! The food is so colourful and looks so yummy. I love everything here and would love to be at this Italian feast. The roses are really gorgeous but the pizza has my mouth watering xx

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

You're too modest! Unbalanced? It sounds absolutely delicious Victoria!

Unknown said...

Your style is unique compared to other people I have read stuff from.Thank you for posting when you have the opportunity, Guess I will just bookmark this page.

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