Tapas with Friends

I hope you are all enjoying your summer! After a much-needed hiatus, Reckless in the Kitchen is back in action and I have got some lovely recipes for you to enjoy. Today I am going to share my menu and recipes from a Tapas party I recently hosted.

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It was a small gathering of friends and since it was the end of July I was striving to keep the food light and fresh (aka I did not want to slave over the stove for hours or have my oven on for a particularly long time). I also wanted my food to have an Italian theme to it so I picked some of my favorite Italian party dishes, and a few new ones and created the following menu;

The Menu:

  • Anti Pasta plate
  • Nectarine-Basil-Mozzarella Salad
  • Sicilian Marinated Shrimp
  • Roasted Grape and Ricotta Crostini
  • Polenta Bruschetta
  • Gazpacho
  • Mini-Meatballs with Sauce
  • Lemons filled with Cream

Below I’ve listed the recipes and/or assembly instructions. I’ll let you know right now that the Roasted Grape and Ricotta Crostini and the Lemons filled with Cream were big hits with my guests!

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How I Assemble an Anti-Pasta Plate:

Now if there is one thing I have learned, it is that everyone assembles these just a bit differently. For this particular evening I was trying to keep this dish relatively small since I was preparing several small plates of food. So here’s my rule of thumb; 1-2 meats, 1-2 hard cheeses, olives, and other vegetables that I associate with Anti-Pasta plates. I know, that’s not super specific, but the point is you can really make these your own depending on what you’re feeling like serving. Here’s what’s on the plate above:

  • Salami
  • Bella Vita cheese with coffee rinds
  • Asiago cheese
  • Green olives with garlic cloves stuffed in the center
  • Kamalata olives
  • Mushrooms in olive oil (I get this in a jar in the “Italian” or Pasta section of my grocery store)
  • Pepperoncini
  • Artichoke hearts in olive oil

 

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Nectarine (or Peach) Basil Mozzarella Salad-This was my favorite dish, it uses ripe peaches or nectarines which were at their peak and it tastes so fresh. Yum!

From Real Simple Magazine

Ingredients:

  • 3 ripe peaches or nectarines, peeled
  • 1 c fresh basil leaves, torn
  • 8 oz fresh mozzarella, cut into 1 inch cubes (or use small balls)
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper

Directions:

Cut the fruit into 6-8 wedges, and then cut the wedge in half. In a large bowl, combine the fruit, basil, mozzarella, olive oil, salt, and pepper and toss to combine.

 

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Sicilian Marinated Shrimp (Gamberi Marinati all Siciliana)
From Whatever Happened to Sunday Dinner? by Lisa Caponigri-This happens to be one of my favorite cookbooks that I’ve received over recent years.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 c fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 c fresh orange (or lime juice)
  • 3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • red pepper flakes, to taste
  • 2 lbs shrimp, uncooked, tails-on

Directions:

In a large bowl, combine the lemon and orange (or lime) juices, the garlic, red pepper flakes and the salt. Whisk to combine.

Add the shrimp to the marinade, toss to coat, and let marinate for 5 minutes.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Using a slotted spoon, remove the shrimp from the marinade and add to the hot skillet. Cook, stirring, until they turn bright pink and transfer to a serving bowl.

Roasted Grape and Ricotta Crostini-These were a huge hit! You should make these immediately!
From Real Simple Magazine

Ingredients:

  • whole red grapes (amount depends on how many crostini you are making)
  • olive oil
  • fresh thyme
  • salt
  • pepper
  • crostini  (Click here for directions)
  • ricotta

Directions:
Preheat oven to 450° F. Toss grapes with olive oil, fresh thyme sprigs, salt, and pepper and roast until their skins burst, 7 to 9 minutes.

Slather crostini with ricotta, top with the grapes.

 

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This time of year I am making big batches of gazpacho about every 2 weeks because we love it so much in this house. This cold soup is the perfect way to enjoy the season’s produce. Click here for my recipe for Gazpacho

 

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Polenta Bruschetta

Ingredients:

  • polenta, cut into thin rounds (You can make the polenta yourself and cut it into rounds or your can buy the premade polenta that comes in a log shape at the grocery store)
  • 1 small ripe tomato, seeds removed and diced
  • fresh basil, torn into small pieces
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper
  • Romano cheese, grated

Directions:

Heat a large non-stick pan over medium-high heat. Spray pan with non stick spray and working batches toast the polenta rounds, letting each side cook for 2-4 minutes depending on thickness of the polenta rounds. You want the polenta to look slightly browned with a few black spots on each side.

Place the toasted polenta on a baking sheet. In a small mixing bowl combine the tomato, basil, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Using a spoon distribute the mixture onto the polenta and top each one with a small amount of Romano cheese. Place under the broiler for 1-2 minutes (time depends on your oven, you want the cheese to melt, but don’t let it burn).

 

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Well I wasn’t going to have Italian food without my sauce and meatballs joining the party. I heated up some mini meatballs and sauce form the freezer and topped them with grated mozzarella.

Click here for my recipe for homemade meatballs

Click here for my recipe for homemade pasta sauce

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Lemons filled with Cream (Limoni Ripieni)-This was by far my favorite item of the night. I absolutely loved them and I cannot wait to try this recipe with oranges and limes. If you are looking for the perfect hot-weather dessert, search no further!
From Whatever Happened to Sunday Dinner? by Lisa Caponigri

Ingredients:

  • 8-10 medium-sized lemons
  • 2 c heavy cream
  • 1/2 c powdered sugar

Directions:

Wash and dry the lemons. Cut off enough of one end of each lemon so that it will stand upright. Cut a “cap” off the other end of each lemon. Using a paring knife and a spoon remove all the pulp from each lemon. Reserve 3 tablespoons of the pulp, removing any seeds or pith, and squeeze the remaining pulp to get 1/4 c of juice. Set the lemons upright in a dish or pan that can fit into the freezer.

In a medium bowl with an electric mixer, whip the cream to stiff peaks, adding the sugar gradually. Once the cream is whipped, stir in the lemon juice and pulp (Note: Don’t add the lemon juice while you are whipping the cream or the cream will curdle.)

Immediately spoon (or pipe) the mixture into the lemons. Set them in the freezer to freeze for about 30 minutes. Remove the lemons from the freezer 30 minutes before serving the top with their caps.

Buon appetito!


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Sicilian Marinated Shrimp (Gamberi Marinati all Siciliana)

From Whatever Happened to Sunday Dinner? by Lisa Caponigri

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 c fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 c fresh orange (or lime juice)
  • 3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • red pepper flakes, to taste
  • 2 lbs shrimp, uncooked, tails-on

Directions:

In a large bowl, combine the lemon and orange (or lime) juices, the garlic, red pepper flakes and the salt. Whisk to combine.

Add the shrimp to the marinade, toss to coat, and let marinate for 5 minutes.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Using a slotted spoon, remove the shrimp from the marinade and add to the hot skillet. Cook, stirring, until they turn bright pink and transfer to a serving bowl.

 

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Roasted Grape and Ricotta Crostini

from Real Simple Magazine
Ingredients:

  • whole red grapes (amount depends on how many crostini you are making)r
  • olive oil
  • fresh thyme
  • salt
  • pepper
  • crostini
  • ricotta

Directions:
Preheat oven to 450° degrees. Toss grapes with olive oil, fresh thyme sprigs, salt, and pepper and roast until their skins burst, 7 to 9 minutes. Spread ricotta on crostini and  top with the grapes. Serve immediately.

 

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Polenta Bruschetta

Ingredients:

  • polenta, cut into thin rounds (You can make the polenta yourself and cut it into rounds or your can buy the pre-made polenta that comes in a log shape at the grocery store)
  • 1 small ripe tomato, seeds removed and diced
  • fresh basil, torn into small pieces
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper
  • Romano cheese, grated

Directions:

Heat a large non-stick pan over medium-high heat. Spray pan with non stick spray and working batches toast the polenta rounds, letting each side cook for 2-4 minutes depending on thickness of the polenta rounds. You want the polenta to look slightly browned with a few black spots on each side.

Place the toasted polenta on a baking sheet. In a small mixing bowl combine the tomato, basil, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Using a spoon distribute the mixture onto the polenta and top each one with a small amount of Romano cheese. Place under the broiler for 1-2 minutes (time depends on your oven, you want the cheese to melt, but don’t let it burn).

 

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Lemons Filled with Cream (Limoni Ripieni)

From Whatever Happened to Sunday Dinner? by Lisa Caponigri

Ingredients:

  • 8-10 medium-sized lemons
  • 2 c heavy cream
  • 1/2 c powdered sugar

Directions:

Wash and dry the lemons. Cut off enough of one end of each lemon so that it will stand upright. Cut a “cap” off the other end of each lemon. Using a paring knife and a spoon remove all the pulp from each lemon. Reserve 3 tablespoons of the pulp, removing any seeds or pith, and squeeze the remaining pulp to get 1/4 c of juice. Set the lemons upright in a dish or pan that can fit into the freezer.

In a medium bowl with an electric mixer, whip the cream to stiff peaks, adding the sugar gradually. Once the cream is whipped, stir in the lemon juice and pulp (Note: Don’t add the lemon juice while you are whipping the cream or the cream will curdle.)

Immediately spoon (or pipe) the mixture into the lemons. Set them in the freezer to freeze for about 30 minutes. Remove the lemons from the freezer 30 minutes before serving the top with their caps.

 

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Nectarine Basil Mozzarella Salad

From Real Simple Magazine

Ingredients:

  • 3 ripe peaches or nectarines, peeled
  • 1 c fresh basil leaves, torn
  • 8 oz fresh mozzarella, cut into 1 inch cubes (or use small balls)
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper

Directions:

Cut the fruit into 6-8 wedges, and then cut the wedge in half. In a large bowl, combine the fruit, basil, mozzarella, olive oil, salt, and pepper and toss to combine.

Lick Your Plate Clean Spaghetti Sauce

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Before we delve into this recipe there are a few things you need to know:

First, this recipe is near and dear to my heart. I grew up eating Italian food and loving every bite. It didn’t matter if it was made by my Mother, my Nana, or any other relative, I just couldn’t (and still can’t) get enough homemade Italian food. This recipe, to me, is a big part of my childhood. To the annoyance of many I have insisted that homemade sauce is ALWAYS better than jar sauce. To be honest, most have disagreed. Some have even scoffed at how long it takes to make sauce and claim it is not worth it. But despite the criticism and doubts, I still feel very strongly about making pasta sauce from scratch. I urge you to give it a try. It is not difficult recipe and to me, nothing provides more comfort than a belly full of homemade sauce.

For some of the ingredients listed below there are no measurements. Why? Because this is how I learned to make sauce, so this is how I’m going to explain it. Make this recipe just once and you’ll get a feel for it.

This makes a big ole’ batch of sauce. Why? Because I make sauce in big batches, freeze it in smaller containers and than defrost for quick weeknight meals. BUT here’s the beauty of this recipe, it can easily be reduced by cutting back on the tomatoes. Want to make a small batch? Just use 1 can of diced tomatoes and 1 can of crushed tomatoes. Want to make an even bigger batch than this? Increase the tomatoes so that you use 4 cans of diced and 4 of crushed. The key is to keep the varying texture of tomatoes even, so that there is always an equal amount of each.

The last thing you should know is that the title of this post has been inspired my my husband, who literally licks his plate clean every time I serve it.

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Clara’s Pasta Sauce

Ingredients:

  • olive oil
  • 1 bunch of fresh parsley
  • garlic, minced
  • 3 cans (28 oz) of diced tomatoes
  • 3 cans (28 oz) of crushed or pureed tomatoes
  • 1 can tomato paste
  • dried oregano
  • dried basil
  • salt
  • pepper

Directions:

Start out by getting everything ready to go, mince a few garlic cloves, chop the parsley, and open all of the cans and have them near the stove top ready to rock and roll. Trust me.

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Next coat the bottom of your sauce pan with olive oil. You want enough to coat the bottom of your pan so this will vary depending on the size pot you are using. Heat the oil over medium-high heat and when the oil is warm add your chopped parsley and a few cloves of garlic to the pan. Garlic lovers, feel free to load up on garlic here, otherwise 3-4 cloves ought to do it.

Stir the parsley and garlic frequently. The garlic should be toasted and brown, but not burned. Do not walk away from your pot, keep an eye on that garlic because it will go from browned and lovely to burned and acrid quickly. Burned garlic ruins sauce. If you burn the garlic, dump out your pot and start over.

Ok, so the garlic is nice and browned, now it’s time to add all of your tomatoes and the tomato sauce. Gently pour them all into the pan and set the cans aside.

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Now, take one of the empty cans of tomatoes and fill the can about 1/3 of the way with water. Carefully swirl the water around the can to rinse the excess tomato from the can.

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Then pour the tomato-ey water into each can and repeat the process to clean all of the cans.

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Pour the tomato-water mixture into the sauce and stir to combine.

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Now it’s time to add some spices. How much basil? About this much.

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How much oregano? Slightly more oregano than basil.

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Next add the salt and pepper and stir to combine. Allow the mixture to come to a simmer then reduce the heat to low and cover. Cook the sauce for 3-4 hours, stirring every 20-30 minutes. Stirring the mixture and keeping it on a low temperature is key, as tomato burns easily. Keeping the heat low and stirring the mixture will prevent that. There is no fixing burned sauce. If you burn the bottom of the pot, I’m sorry, but the whole batch of sauce will taste burned. Do not burn your sauce.

Taste the sauce about half-way through the cooking process to determine if more seasoning is needed. You will know the sauce is done when the tomatoes no longer have a raw taste to them and taste a little bit sweeter.

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Clara’s Pasta Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 2-3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 bunch of fresh parsley
  • 3-4 garlic cloves
  • 3 cans (28 oz) of diced tomatoes
  • 3 cans (28 oz) of crushed or pureed tomatoes
  • 1 can tomato paste
  • dried oregano, to taste
  • dried basil, to taste
  • salt, to taste
  • pepper, to taste

Directions:

Start out by getting everything ready to go, mince the garlic cloves, chop the parsley, and open all of the cans and have them near the stove top.

Next, heat 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy bottomed pot over medium heat.

Next coat the bottom of your sauce pan with olive oil. When the oil is hot an easily coats the bottom of your pot saute the parsley and garlic. Stir the parsley and garlic frequently. The garlic should be toasted and brown, but not burned. Do not walk away from your pot, keep an eye on that garlic because it will go from browned and lovely to burned and acrid quickly. Burned garlic ruins sauce. If you burn the garlic, dump out your pot and start over.

Once the garlic is a golden brown add the canned tomatoes and tomato paste. Then, take one of the empty cans of tomatoes and fill the can about 1/3 of the way with water. Carefully swirl the water around the can to rinse the excess tomato from the can. Pour the tomato-ey water into each can and repeat the process to clean all of the cans and pour the tomato-water mixture into the sauce and stir to combine.

Add 2 tablespoons of oregano, 1 tablespoon of basil, 2 teaspoons of salt, and 1 teaspoon of pepper.

Allow the mixture to come to a simmer then reduce the heat to low and cover. Cook the sauce for 3-4 hours, stirring every 20-30 minutes. Stirring the mixture and keeping it on a low temperature is key, as tomatoes will burn easily. Keeping the heat low and stirring the mixture will prevent that. There is no fixing burned sauce. If you burn the bottom of the pot, the whole batch of sauce will taste burned. Do not burn your sauce.

Taste the sauce about half-way through the cooking process to determine if more seasoning is needed. You will know the sauce is done when the tomatoes no longer have a raw taste to them and taste a little bit sweeter.