Monday, July 25, 2011

Whipped Feta and Roasted Red Pepper Spread

Makes 12 ounces, enough to serve around 12 generously for appetizers

Source: This is my take on one of my favorite pre-appetizers at Oleana, whipped feta and red peppers. Theirs is definitely better, and of a lighter texture, but this is nice since it's so easy to make at home!

  • 2 roasted red peppers
  • 8 ounces very good, non-barrel-aged Feta (I recommend "Mt. Vikos" feta, as usual)

If you have a very good blender, you may be able to do this in a blender. If your blender lets you down frequently as mine does when making thick pastes, you'll need to start this in a food processor then move the mixture to a blender to make it smoother.

Puree the peppers in a food processor or very powerful blender. Crumble the feta and add it to the red peppers. Add a small amount of feta at first to avoid "splashing," then add the rest. Puree till smooth. To get an even smoother texture, move the mixture to a blender. Don't over-blend, or you will end up with more of a paste than something whipped. It's still good, but it is better if you can maintain a little of the texture, as it helps maintain the lighter, more whipped texture.

Serve with bread; foccaccia is great with it.

I am going to try using the leftovers on some sandwiches; if anything works out, I'll post a recipe of that.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Shrimp, Feta, Tomato and Basil Pasta

This dish is a summer-time favorite for our family, first introduced to us by Lynn Stith with Cappellini. Lys recommended trying it with farfalle, and now we think it's just about perfect. The pasta is served chilled, or luke-warm at best.

Serves 4

  • 4 ripe tomatoes (normal, "on the vine" size), cut into a 1/2 inch dice
  • 1 pound 21-25 shrimp, boiled in salted water for 1-2 minutes, or until pink through. Strain and run cool water over them to stop cooking and reduce temperation. Peel and cut into thirds.
  • .4 to .5 pounds fresh feta (Mount Vikos, available at Whole Foods is my favorite to use. The quality of the feta drives the quality of this dish overall--so don't skimp).
  • 2 leafy stalks of basil, or a large package if you get it from the store, roughly chopped, such that the pieces are around 1 cm square in surface area
  • 1 pound farfalle (bow-tie pasta) cooked until al dente in salted water. Strain the pasta, and continue to run cold water over it to lower the temperature to around room temp
  • Cayenne pepper to taste

Mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl. Liberally add cayenne pepper along the top, mix it in, taste. Continue to add more cayenne pepper till you taste it, and the pasta has a little latent heat, but is not over-poweringly spicy on first trying it.

Burrata, Fig, Jamon Iberico, and Pistachio Salad

I got the idea for this from a burrata and ham appetizer we had while in Rome. True, it is served with a Spanish ham, but believe it or not, that's what they did in Italy. And it was so much better than if it had been made with prosciutto, that I see no need to change; why be more Roman than the Romans?
Serves 4 for a dinner portion, and 8 for an appetizer portion
  • 2 burrata balls (I'm guessing they're usually around 6 ounces)
  • .25 pounds Jamon Iberico (you can use Serrano, which is the cheaper version, but the jamon iberico is the best. In Boston you can get it at Las Ventas on Harrison)
  • 8 ripe, fresh figs, cut into eighths
  • A few handfuls of pistachios
  • 14 ounces of arugula (washed and dried)
  • Balsamic Vinaigrette dressing
  • Balsamic vinaigrette
    • 1 part balsamic vinegar
    • 2-3 parts very good olive oil
    • Liberal pinch kosher salt
    • ½ tsp Dijon mustard
      gradually whisk in olive oil with other ingredients until emulsified
Toss the arugula with the balsamic vinaigrette. Place the dressed salad into bowls. Layer 4 slices of jamon iberico in the shape of an "x" on the salad. Cut each ball of burrata in half, and place one half in the center of each jamon x. Arrange the eighths of pistachio radially around the burrata. Springkle lightly with pistachios.