Thursday, May 22, 2008

Food For Thought Thursday: Italian Delight

This week's gastronomic extravaganza focuses on the lighter side of Italian cuisine. A spring spinach salad would make a lively accompaniment the pasta dish created by the lovely Giada de Laurentiis. First up we have an Italian Mojito cocktail to get the party started. Keep in mind these can be made by the pitcher as well as the recipes expanded for summer cocktail party.

Italian Mojito
- 2 oz of white light rum
- 2 oz Proseco
- 1/2 oz fresh lime juice
- 1 tsp brown sugar
- 1 tsp simple syrup
- 1 sprig fresh mint

In a high ball glass place mint leaves, brown sugar, simple syrup and fresh lime juice and muddle. Add ice cubes, pour light rum and top with Italian sparkling wine. Stir directly in the glass. Garnish with fresh mint leaves and fresh lime wheel. (Cocktail By Francensco at Mix, New York 212.583.0300)
Italian Dandelion, goat cheese and bacon bruschetta with salsa di Clementine
Serves 6--but feel free to adjust recipe to make as many or as few as you want!

1 bunch of washed and dried dandelion greens (cut into 1” pieces)
1 garlic clove (whole)
olive oil (for drizzling)
1 small container of fresh goat cheese (a fresh sheep cheese would also work)
3-5 pieces of bacon (cooked and cut into 1 inch pieces)
1/2 batard of rustic bread or ½ of a well made baguette
Salsa di Clementine (an Italian, spicy clementine jelly) Feel free to use any other moustarda jelly or specialty honey.

Cut the bread into ¼ inch thick slices. Heat up a saute pan over medium high heat, then add bacon. Cook until crisp. Remove bacon with a slotted spoon and place on paper towels to remove excess oil. If the bacon hasn’t given off too much grease, throw cleaned and chopped dandelion greens into the same pan and quickly cook until wilted (about 2 minutes). Otherwise, remove the excess grease, leaving about a tablespoon worth of bacon fat behind in the pan for cooking the greens.

Meanwhile, toast the bread. When bread is done, rub the bread with the garlic clove. *this is my favorite part, watching the garlic melt like butter onto the bread. Then, drizzle bread with a tiny amount of olive oil and then spread a small amount of spicy Clementine jelly on top. Note: if using honey, drizzle honey over the greens at the end. Add a teaspoon of goat cheese to each piece of bread, then top with a heaping teaspoon dandelion greens. Top with bacon. Eat immediately.

Rotelli with Walnut Sauce
1 pound rotelli or fusilli (corkscrew pasta)
1 1/2 cups toasted walnuts
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid.

Meanwhile, in a food processor combine the walnuts, butter, salt and pepper. Pulse to combine. With the machine running, drizzle in the olive oil in a steady stream. Transfer the mixture to a small bowl and stir in the Parmesan, then the cream.

When the pasta is done, place it in a large bowl while still very warm. Stir in the walnut sauce. Add the reserved pasta liquid, 1/4 cup at a time, until the sauce completely coats the pasta, using only as much as needed. Sprinkle with the parsley, toss, and serve.

Panna Cotta with Chocolate Hazelnut Sauce & Raspberries

1 C milk
1 T unflavored powdered gelatin
3 C cream
1/3 C honey
1 T sugar
Pinch salt
1/4 t pure vanilla extract

In a bowl combine the milk and gelatin. Let it stand for 3-5 mins until the gelatin softens.Pour the milk mixture into a sauce pan and stir over medium heat. Do not let it come up to a boil. Add cream, honey, sugar, salt and vanilla until completely dissolved and heated through. Pour into custard cups/molds or wine glasses. Let it set and chill in the fridge for at least 6 hours. Put some chocolate sauce on the serving plate. Unmold the panna cotta and place on top of the sauce. Garnish with the fresh berries.

**Recipes and pictures are courtesy of their respective sites**

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