jimmyprosciutto

sharing (Italian) food to enjoy life

Battle of the Appetizers

Posted by Jim Carfrae on December 12, 2012

This past weekend I went to a party where everyone brought an appetizer. I wanted to share new flavours (and stand out) so I took the opportunity to try out an idea that has been floating around my head.

I called them Butternut Squash and Pancetta Empanadas:

Butternut Squash and Pancetta Empanadas

Butternut Squash and Pancetta Empanadas

I put them out at the party and waited for some reactions. I’d say they were a success: by the end of the night, they were all gone – despite the crowded table with plenty of other appetizer choices. I even heard someone say they ate three and were telling others to try them.

At the party, I called my creation “empanadas” but after reading this article, I think “hand pies” might be a more appropriate name. 

Below is my “recipe” for you to try. The amount of the each ingredient isn’t defined – just keep tasting. There should be enough pancetta to taste, but not to overpower the fresh garlic and thyme.  Next time I’d use a regular pastry, rather than puff, but I’m not sure if you can buy it frozen at the store.

Butternut Squash mixture

Ingredients

  • Butternut Squash
  • Pancetta, diced (you can buy it in a small “slab” or pre-diced in the deli section)
  • Onion, diced
  • Hot pepper (optional), finely chopped
  • Fresh Garlic, minced
  • Fresh Thyme, finely chopped
  • Puff Pastry

Method

  1. Roast the butternut squash in the oven and then shred with a fork.
  2. Saute the pancetta with the onion and hot pepper.
  3. Mix the butternut squash, pancetta, onions and hot peppers with garlic and thyme.
  4. Lay out sheets of puff pastry and cut out circles (I used a cup) about 4” wide. Drop a rounded tablespoon of filling in each circle, fold over in half and press to seal. As you can see from my photo, about half of my pastries opened up while baking but I think this had a neat look to it as well.
  5. Bake until golden.

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Barbequing to beat the heat

Posted by Jim Carfrae on July 23, 2012

I had a few friends over for an afternoon of sun, swim and shade. Not wanting to heat up the house I went for the super simple: fire roasted tomato bruschetta (BBQ) on slices of a toasted baguette. To round it out I served some pâté, a bottle of crisp sauvignon blanc, and sliced up a Mastro Siciliano salami chub.

I can report there was only pâté left over. I think I used a bit too much onion in the bruschetta, and no one seemed to mind: http://www.sharemastro.com/recipe/fire-roasted-bruschetta/

Fire Roasted Bruschetta

Last week my wife perfected cooking a pizza on the BBQ: get it up to 450-500, turn off two burners where the pizza is places, leaving the other on high. If the temperature drops to 350, turn on the middle burner and rotate the pizza every 5 minutes to minimize direct heat, (you might need to adjust temperatures a bit, I would not rely on the BBQ thermometer). There were some enjoyable adventures along the way: trying to balance the pizza on the upper rack led to a huge droop and much of the contents falling to blackened end; and the burnt Frisbee of course.

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OUT TO LUNCH IN ITALY

Posted by Jim Carfrae on July 23, 2012

I just read the editor’s letter in the latest bon appétit magazine, the only thing I can do is post it word for word, no comment required.

OUT TO LUNCH IN ITALY ONE OF THE MANY THINGS that Europeans do well is the month of August. Schedule permitting, they just go ahead and take the whole think off. And during those lazy, lollygagging 31 days, there is nothing they do better than lunch.
On the coasts of France and Italy, a midday meal isn’t some grab-and-go affair. It’s the centerpiece of your day – every day. If you’re lucky enough to be at the beach, you reserve a table at one of the simple restaurants that dot the shore. Bottles of rosé (or a good, cheap local white variety) are uncorked and plunged into a brimming ice bucket. Platters of crisp, golden fritto misto arrive; a whole roasted branzino is ordered, or maybe some linguine with fragrant pesto Genovese. More bottles find their way into the bucket. Slices of intensely ripe cantaloupe appear. An espresso or two. And then, of course, a nap on your beach chair, followed by a swim in the sea.
What’s so satisfying about this ritual, besides the obvious – you’re on, say, the Amalfi Coast, enjoying an hours-long lunch in the middle of what should be the work week-is the rhythm of it. No one has to get back to the office or rush home to relieve the sitter. No one has to worry about who’s driving.
Last summer, I finagled a trip to Tuscany with my wife and son to report this month’s story on Ruth Rogers, the chef and owner of London’s acclaimed River Cafe. The farmhouse that Rogers and her family rent each August isn’t anywhere near the coast, but it does have an incredibly inviting pool that my four-year old basically moved into as soon as we arrived. And Rogers, the consummate host, put out a wonderful lunch every day on the long wooden table set beneath a tree laden with figs. The food was never fancy or too filling, but it did give the gang of us staying at the house a delicious opportunity to gather at the table, drink some wine, chat, and stop for a moment to realize how good we had it.
There aren’t any trips abroad on my calendar this month, but I’ll still make lunch a highlight of my day-at least on weekends, or at the beach. I’ll buy some heirloom tomatoes at the farmers’ market, a few balls of fresh mozzarella, whatever looks good at the fishmonger, a bunch of salad greens, and, yeah, lots of rosé.
I don’t want to tell you what to eat, but I will say thin: Give lunch-a real lunch-a shot this summer. You’ve got the rest of the year to eat it at your desk.
(Editor’s letter bon appétit, August 2012, Adam Rapoport)

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Surpassed by my daughter

Posted by Jim Carfrae on June 7, 2012

I need to cook and entertain to share my experiences, my 15 year old daughter has taken over my (limited) Saturday cooking duties. I have been relegated to ‘sous’ chef and really don’t mind, she has found many new recipes and has her new tried and true – pasta carbonara. It is so easy and has such a big flavour: pancetta, pasta, parmigiano, egg. If you need some direction, watch Joseph on sharemastrotv on youtube, that is my daughter’s recipe. When I suggest a different pasta or a tweek to the ingredient, I am put back in my ‘sous’ chef place.

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A little Italian – the inside out mortadella sandwich

Posted by Jim Carfrae on January 16, 2012

Awhile ago we shared an appetizer, “prosciutto sushi”. It became the inspiration for mortadella rolls, where the mortadella is wrapped around the toasted bread. It is definitely not classically Italian, and still tastes great.

I’m guessing I need to get a sushi mat or something, because mine were falling apart. Everybody did like them – once they got it in their mouths.

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December is still Prosciutto Month

Posted by Jim Carfrae on December 20, 2011

I was at the deli on Saturday getting some prosciutto sliced, and casually mentioned “I guess you know December is prosciutto month”. Her response was “I know, almost every person is ordering some”, it really is a guaranteed crowd pleaser.

 

I was serving a group of friends, one of whom has Celiac disease, (no wheat products). I decided to try something new, prosciutto wrapped around polenta and basil. (Polenta is basically corn meal that is boiled in water until it becomes thick; I suppose it is the Italian version of south western grits. I could be wrong here, it was only my second time making the polenta, and the response was just as mediocre as last time.)

 

The texture of the polenta just didn’t work with the prosciutto. Even though I fried up the polenta afterward, is remains soft inside; I think crispy like a bread stick works well with prosciutto. To salvage the situation, I put covered the rest of the polenta in gorgonzola cheese – which worked great – and draped the prosciutto in a pile for people to eat straight up – which also worked great. My friend brought champagne, which was a perfect pairing.

 

Christmas Eve I have been assigned a wheat-free prosciutto appetizer, (different person). I plan to go with the prosciutto sushi – around asparagus, around cantaloupe and for something new I am going to do a version wrapped around figs if I can find them.

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magazine browsing – December is Prosciutto Month

Posted by Jim Carfrae on December 6, 2011

I was leafing through a great French cooking magazine, Je Cuisine, and came across this great photo in the December issue. It looks easy and tasty, so I contacted them for a translation. If you look at the crostini in the right corner, they have folded the prosciutto to look like a flower – I am going to try this, does anyone have any experience on how to do this fancy fold? Oh, an here is the instructions, I hesitate to say recipe, it is so simple.

Crostini with mashed avocado and prosciutto

½ baguette cut in 12 slices
15ml (1 soup spoon) avocado oil
1 avocado
10ml (2 tea spoon) lime juice
10ml (2 tea spoon) pesto
Salt and Tabasco to taste
6 procuito slices cut in half lengthwise

1. Put the oven to grill mode
2. Drop the baguette slice on a hotplate and brush with oil on both sides. Broil for 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from oven and let them cool.
3. Crush the avocado in a bowl; mix the lime juice, pesto and seasoning.
4. Spread on the baguette slice with the avocado mixture and add a prosciutto slice on each slice.

Thank you to Je Cuisine for the image and translation.

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December is Prosciutto Month – Share a little Italian with Smoked Prosciutto

Posted by Jim Carfrae on December 5, 2011

You might have heard of speck, it is a ham that is coated in 11 different spices, including juniper berries, coriander and pepper for two weeks. The ham is smoked with natural hickory for 2 days and then aged for six months. We also sell it as San Daniele Smoked Prosciutto, and you can see it is really much more than that.

My wife shared smoked prosciutto crostini at her hockey party last week to huge success. She made them at the start so people could watch during preparation; they were surprised at the ease for such an amazing taste.

While we usually do most of our preparation beforehand, I am starting to realize that people really enjoy watching simple food preparation and love to talk about the ingredients. Perhaps this is the impact of all those hours of The Food Network. Do you usually prepare in advance or on the fly?

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December is Prosciutto Month – Share a little Italian

Posted by Jim Carfrae on December 1, 2011

More than any other deli meat, prosciutto is served for guests. Given its nickname, “the king of deli meats”, that probably isn’t surprising. As we enter the holiday season I have stocked up. Just yesterday my daughter set up draped prosciutto around the outside of the plate with cantaloupe balls in the middle.

Last holiday season I served Prosciutto Sliders, I still think it is the ultimate appetizer for a large group of people, say 20+. We were recently at the Gourmet Food and Wine Show where we served over 7,000 slices – proof of high volume ease. And yet, perfect for any weekend lunch.

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A little Italian – prosciutto any day

Posted by Jim Carfrae on November 21, 2011

More than any other deli meat, prosciutto is served for guests. However, two out of every three times it is eaten within the home; that is, not with guests. So lately I have taken to asking people how they eat it; so here goes:

• Straight out of the pack – multiple mentions
• On bread with provolone cheese – a few mentions
• With buffalo mozzarella cheese, olive oil, fresh basil – multiple mentions
• With bread and grilled vegetables (out of a jar)
• Rolled around provolone cheese and stuffed inside a chicken (in place of stuffing) – two people
• Wrapped around a breadstick, the kids especially love this – multiple mentions
• On a baguette with spinach and tomato
• In bread, by itself, nothing in the way
• In a sandwich with bocconcini and grilled vegetables
• In a bun with provolone cheese, tomato and basil
• Wrapped around figs and walnut, gorgonzola cheese on the side
• On pizza (put on after the pizza comes out of the oven)

What we eat with our family is usually the best tasting or the simplest, how do you eat your prosciutto?

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