Friday, April 23, 2010

Prosciutto & Mozzarella Bites

There is a lot to love about Friday. After a busy week, Friday evenings bring the feeling of anticipation of what a great weekend may reserve. Fridays are perfect for unwinding and sharing good moments with friends. Naturally, every celebration is better when complemented with good food.

Several finger foods are quick to prepare and they are full of flavor too. The “Prosciutto and Mozzarella Bites” recipe is one of them. It combines some of my favorite ingredients: prosciutto, herbs, cheese and olive oil.

Prosciutto means “ham” in Italian and here it is commonly associated with a type of dry-cured ham from central and northern Italy. It seems that the Italians have been making this fantastic ham since 100 B.C. and it is traditionally paired with melon or figs. In my opinion prosciutto is a great on appetizers and pasta.

Here is an easy and fast recipe that you may enjoy:

Prosciutto and Mozzarella Bites


4oz of sliced prosciutto

6oz of mozzarella cheese

½ tablespoon of olive oil

1 tablespoon of fresh oregano, chopped

½ tablespoon of fresh marjoram, chopped (optional)

Cut the prosciutto in half lengthwise. Cut each half into 3 equal pieces. Reserve.

Cut mozzarella cheese into 1 inch cubes. Wrap each mozzarella cube with a strip of prosciuto and secure with a toothpick.

Transfer prepared mozzarella cubes to a serving dish. Drizzle olive oil over them. Top with fresh herbs and serve immediately.

Note: You may use fresh mozzarella, if you like.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Caribbean Mini Sausage

I use my grill as often as I can and when I need to cook delicate foods, I use a grill basket. It’s a great outdoor cooking tool that keeps your food from getting dry or overcooked quickly. I use grilling baskets to prepare delicious fish, chicken, seafood and vegetables with very little effort.

A non-stick grilling basket can be very useful also when preparing flavorsome homemade sausages – free of preservatives, colorants, artificial flavors, etc. These little “guys” are perfect on hot summer nights, picnics or barbeque parties.

Caribbean Mini Sausage


1 lb of ground beef

6oz of ground pork

1 teaspoon of Caribbean seasoning

½ teaspoon of cumin

½ cup of fresh parsley, coarsely chopped

½ cup of red onion, coarsely chopped

3 to 4 cloves of garlic, crushed

½ tablespoon of olive oil

1/8 cup of fresh lemon juice

Salt and pepper, to taste

Place all the ingredients in a food processor bowl. Pulse for 20 seconds and scrape the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Pulse for 30 seconds or until fully mixed. Refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight.

Roll the meat mixture into 2 inches long sausages. Set aside.

Grease a grill basket with vegetable oil. Transfer sausages into the basket and grill over low heat for about 3 to 4 minutes on each side. Turn sausages only once during cooking. Work in batches, if necessary.

Serve immediately with lemon or lime wedges. It pairs very well with summer salads!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

A Great Hearts of Palm & Artichoke Salad

Spring is here and it calls for fresh flavors! I have a salad recipe that is easy to prepare and it is flavorsome. It pairs well with grilled and roasted meats.

Hearts of Palm & Artichoke Salad:


1 can (14oz) of artichoke hearts, quartered

1 can (14oz) of hearts of palm

½ cup of fresh parsley, finely chopped

½ teaspoon of paprika

½ tablespoon of balsamic vinegar

1 ¼ tablespoons of olive oil

½ tablespoon of lemon juice

1 dried bay leave

2 stalks of fresh marjoram, finely chopped (optional)

½ cup of mixed olives, chopped or sliced

3 peperoncini peppers, thin sliced

Salt and pepper, to taste

Drain all the water from the artichoke and the hearts of palm. Slice the hearts of palm into ½ inch slices.

In a bowl, mix all the ingredients, with the exception of the bay leave. Toss carefully. Add bay leave and refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight. Remove and discard bay leave before serving.

Note: You can substitute the fresh marjoram for 1/8 teaspoon of ground marjoram.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Restaurant Quality Macaroni & Cheese

Many countries have their own version of this popular dish because it is delicious! Thus it is convenient use a store-bought package of Macaroni & Cheese when you are in a hurry, to prepare your own grown-up version of this classic pasta is simple and quick too.

You can use whole wheat pasta to make this dish healthier and richer in fiber. Plus, you will be able to control the amount of sodium added and there will be no artificial flavors or artificial colors.

This flavorsome dish is a great choice for family dinners or dinner parties.

Whole Wheat & Cheese Pasta


14oz of whole wheat penne, uncooked

4 cups of warm milk

½ cup of whole wheat flour

1 stick of butter

1 cup of Fontina cheese, diced or grated

½ cup of mozzarella cheese, shredded

½ cup of Parmesan cheese, shredded

¼ teaspoon of garlic powder

½ cup of bread crumbs

Salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 400F.

Lightly grease a casserole dish with cooking oil. Set aside.

In a large pot, bring to a boil enough water to cook the pasta. Add the pasta and add salt. Drain the penne when is partially cooked and the inside is still hard. You will finish cooking the pasta in the oven.

Meanwhile, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add the flour and stir constantly until smooth and the color turns light brown (about 2 to 4 minutes). Slowly add the milk, stirring constantly. It is better to add ½ cup at the time to avoid lumps.

Whisk constantly until the sauce is smooth and creamy. Season it with garlic powder, salt and pepper. Add the Fontina and the mozzarella. Stir until cheese is fully melted. Stir in 1 tablespoon of Parmesan cheese. Check the seasoning and add more salt and pepper, if necessary.

Transfer penne to prepared casserole dish. Pour in sauce and gently toss to combine.

In a small bowl, mix remaining Parmesan cheese and bread crumbs. Toss to combine. Pour over pasta with cheese sauce. Bake until bubbly and the top is golden brown – about 20 to 25 minutes.

Note: You can add chicken (grilled or roasted) or shrimp (steamed, broiled or grilled) to the pasta before baking it.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Comforting Tropical Bananas

Today I have another dessert recipe inspired by the traditional flambé bananas. It’s a comforting dessert that takes me back to the tropics and memorable meals with old friends. I am not confident I can put food on fire without burning down the kitchen, so I created an easy recipe that is not flambéed.

Tropical Bananas:


4 tablespoons of sugar

6 ripe bananas, peeled

2/3 cup of fresh orange juice

¼ cup of Alize liqueur (passion fruit w/ cognac blend)

1 tablespoon of orange liqueur

2 tablespoons of freshly squeezed lime juice

¼ cup of tropical blend juice, no sugar added

Vanilla ice-cream, for serving

Melt sugar in a large skillet until it’s completely liquid. Add orange juice, lime juice and the liqueur. Simmer the mixture for 5 to 7 minutes.

Add the bananas without cutting them. Work in batches if necessary. Cook the bananas for 3 to 5 minutes on each side.

Transfer each banana to individual serving plates. Top bananas with fruit syrup and serve it with ice cream.
Enjoy it!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Salt at its Essence!

Today salt is widely available and generally cheap. But salt is much more than a seasoning. Its ability to preserve food has a profound impact on human civilization. It allowed people to preserve and season food for long period of times. Therefore, it became a highly valued trade item. The earliest evidence we have for people producing salt comes from China, where people seem to have been harvesting salt from a salt lake, probably around 6000 BC.

Salt’s economic and military value had resulted in trading partnerships and even wars. Today’s high supply of salt eliminates the risk of generating armed combats but it will always be extremely valuable. Salt is essential to any animal life. It regulates the water content of the body and avoids dehydration.

The proper consumption of salt is beneficial to our immune and digestive systems. It can also prevent muscle cramps and increases resistance against infections and bacterial diseases. Plus, it helps maintain the electrolytes in the body which are essential for certain brain cell functions.

On the other hand, the excessive consumption of salt can lead to heart problems and high blood pressure. Several studies show that most Americans consume more salt than it is needed. If you are interested in diet moderate in salt, increase your intake of fruits and vegetables that are low in sodium. Try to reduce the amount of salt used to season food and increase the use of herbs and spices to add flavor to your meals. Read food labels to identify foods lower in sodium or salt and make informed decisions. Several processed foods, like frozen dinners, are high in sodium or salt.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Superb Mixed Berries Bar

Today I wanted to prepare something sweet for my family that I wouldn’t make me feel guilty about it. I didn’t want to spend too much time in the kitchen either. I came up with a recipe turned out really great. It’s perfect with vanilla ice cream! On top of that, it is healthier than a traditional pie crust. I used whole wheat and all purpose flour for this recipe but I am confident it will be delicious with only whole wheat flour, if you prefer.

Berries Oats Bar

1 cup of flour, plus 2 tablespoons
1 ½ cups of brown sugar
2 ½ cups of quick oats
1 teaspoon of canola oil
½ cup of butter at room temperature
½ teaspoon of vanilla extract
2 cups of orange juice
1 teaspoon of orange zest
1 tablespoon of lemon juice
22oz of fresh berries (black berries, raspberries, blue berries)

Preheat the oven to 375F. Grease a 8 inch square baking pan with cooking oil. Set aside.

Place 1 cup of flour, 1 cup of brown sugar, quick oats, orange zest, oil and vanilla extract in a food processor bowl. Pulse for about 20 seconds or until combined. Add butter and orange juice. Pulse for another 20 to 30 seconds or until fully combined. Remove and reserve 1 ½ cup of the crumb mixture.

In a clean bowl, combine the berries, lemon juice, 2 tablespoons of flour and ½ cup of brown sugar. Toss gently with a spatula just until combined.

Spread the crumb mixture evenly on the bottom of prepared baking pan then add berries mixture. Top it with reserved crumb mixture.

Bake for 40 to 45 minutes. Cool for about hours. Storage in the fridge in an air tight container.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Tasty Fettuccini with Anchovy, Olives & Capers

There is a great deal of debate about who invented pasta. Many cultures have at a certain point created some sort of noodle-like food. Some historians believe that the pasta, in the form of rice noodles, was originated in ancient China as early as 1700 B.C. However, many Italians believe this delicious food was invented in ancient Rome around 400 B.C. when they began to make a lasagna-type noodle called “lagane” (a type of lasagna). However, the Romans baked their noodles in an oven, so boiled pasta had yet to be born in Italy. There are experts who believe that the first boiled noodles were prepared in Jerusalem during the 5th century A.C.

Obliviously, there is a lot of polemic regarding the origin of pasta and even its history. Although we don’t know who should be credited for this incredible culinary invention, I know that pasta is mouth-watering, versatile and easy to make. I grew up in São Paulo, Brazil, a city with very strong Italian roots, where exquisite pasta can be found anywhere. I have learned to appreciate pasta from a very early age and I am always excited to try a new pasta dish. Recently, I made a fettucine with anchovy that became one of my new favorite dishes.

Fettucini with Anchovy, Olives & Capers


4 tablespoons of olive oil

3 garlic cloves, minced

3oz of canned anchovy filets

1 cup of olives, pitted and sliced or halved

1 tablespoon of capers, rinsed

10oz of cherry tomatoes, halved

1 tablespoon of fresh oregano, chopped

1 tablespoon of fresh basil, chopped (optional)

10oz of dried fettuccini

2/3 cup of parmesan cheese, grated

Cook pasta according to packaging directions. Drain it and reserve 1 ½ cups of pasta water. Drizzle 1 ½ tablespoon of the olive oil over fettuccini.

Heat remaining olive oil in a large sauce pan. Add garlic and sauté over low heat for about 2 minutes. Add the anchovy and mash them to a pulp with a fork. Stir in olives, tomatoes and capers. Add 1 cup pf pasta water and simmer for 7 to 10 minutes.

Stir in basil and oregano. Add pasta and toss gently. Add remaining pasta water, if desired. Transfer to serving dish and sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Serve immediately.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Traditional Easter Meal

If you are planning a traditional Easter party, I have a menu suggestion for you. You can start with Shrimp Deviled Eggs and Sausage Rolls, followed by Mango Chutney Glazed Ham with Glazed Carrots and Roasted Asparagus. To finish this great meal, you can serve easy and tasty individual Fruit Tarts.

I wish you a Happy Easter!

Shrimp Deviled Eggs

This classic Easter appetizer seems to have originated in Ancient Rome and they are still widely popular across Europe and the United States. In Germany they are usually filled with caviar. There are many different recipes for deviled eggs and I would like to share mine with you today.

12 eggs
1/8 cup of roasted bell pepper, drained and finely chopped (optional)
5 tablespoons of mayonnaise
2oz of tiny shrimp, drained
1 teaspoon of paprika
1 teaspoon of onion powder
1 ¼ teaspoon of Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper, to taste

In a sauce pan, boil eggs until fully cooked. You may place them pointed end down, to ensure yolks will be centered.

Drain eggs, rinse under cold water and peel them. Cut each in half, lengthwise. Transfer yolks to a medium bowl and add mustard, onion powder, mayonnaise, paprika and bell pepper. Mash ingredients together and then mix until fully combined. Try seasoning and add salt and pepper, if necessary. You may not need to add salt to the mixture, since the Dijon mustard is already salted.

Spoon mixture into a pastry bag with a fluted tip. Pipe yolk mixture into cavity of each egg white. Garnish with tiny shrimp.

Makes 24.