On a recent Saturday we were invited dinner guests of Rosanne and Gary Zarrilli (blogged about a few times previously), along with Barb and Arnie Marx. Upon arriving “in the zone”, husband Gary bounded outside to see if we needed help bringing anything in — and he was quick to specify “especially any hors d’oeuvres!”
Several days prior, while ruminating on what to make, Russ and I came across a version of our appetizer on the web. After a little more online investigation, I found a similar recipe from the Showfood Chef, Prosciutto Cups with Goat Cheese and Figs, which seemed a bit more elegant than the first option. And we added our own touch with a drizzle of balsamic glaze as a finish. (Recipes follow story.)
The Marx’s contributed a couple of visually attractive and equally tasty appetizers. Compiled of halved, fresh cucumbers spread with hummus and dotted with red pepper pieces — they were a fresh, and oh-so light, delight! Festively arrayed on a pumpkin platter, the other hors d’oeuvre was mini pizza-like pita wedges topped with cherry tomatoes, shredded cheese and fresh basil. So with glasses of wine in hand, we enjoyed cocktail hour while Rosanne occasionally attended to finishing touches to her entree and sides, which were quickly filling the kitchen with tantalizing aromas!
As dinner was ready to serve, we gathered around Rosanne’s artistically arranged seasonal tablescape, and Gary served us with her first course, a wonderful Hearty Tomato Soup with Lemon and Rosemary taken from Foodnetwork.com—a nice reprieve from the usual side salad. It was one of the best tomato soups I’ve ever had, so of course I had to get the recipe! Then the big guns came out… Two platters of Rosanne’s Succulent Marinated Chicken Breasts with roasted red peppers, asparagus and provolone; accompanied by an elongated, purple ceramic dish containing roasted potatoes and grilled asparagus. No complaints from anyone on this meal!
Dessert, was an elegant finishing touch—Old-Fashioned Apple Crisp, based on a recipe by Ina Garten, The Barfeoot Contessa. Conversation and laughter flowed easily while the evening wound down over coffee and dessert. Alas, all good things must come to an end—at least temporarily.
See the recipe for Rosanne’s novel take on Ina’s apple crisp …
Prosciutto Cups with Goat Cheese and Figs
Need an elegant little appetizer? Voila! Prosciutto cups with goat cheese whip, dried mission fig and a sprig of arugula.
Not only are these easy and fast, you can bake the cups and whip up the goat cheese a day ahead, and cut up the dried figs ahead of time, too. In one bite, you get salty-sweet-crispy-smooth, and healthy greens. Your taste buds will be craving for more!
The prosciutto appetizer before the drizzle of balsamic glaze.
Recipe: (makes a dozen, although we doubled the amounts)
- 6 sheets of Italian Prosciutto
- 4 oz. Goat cheese
- 3 oz. Heavy whipping cream
- 1 Tbls. Seasoning (we used minced fresh thyme, but you could use your preference or none)
- salt/pepper to taste
- 6 Dried Figs (we used Mission, you may also try dates)
- Small bunch of baby Arugula, for garnish
1) Cut each slice of Prosciutto in half, and lay each half slice inside a mini-muffin tin, over-lapping the sides as it circles around.
2) Bake in a preheated 375 oven for about 8-10 minutes. Remove and allow to cool for a moment. Place each cup on a paper towel to drain. Hold for filling, or refrigerate til next day. Bring to room temp. before filling and serving
3) In a bowl, whip together the goat cheese, cream and seasonings. Place in a pastry bag with open tip and pipe whipped goat cheese into each prosciutto cup.
4) Cut the dried figs into grape-size bites and place one on the top of each filled prosciutto cup.
5) Garnish with a sprig of Arugula just before serving.
These can be filled with a variety of options: Ricotta Salada and dried apricots, scrambled egg custard and a sprig of dill, etc… Nothing holding you back but your own imagination!
Hearty Tomato Soup with Lemon and Rosemary
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 onion, peeled and chopped
- 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 15 -ounce can cannellini (white) beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 28 -ounce can crushed tomatoes
- 3 cups chicken broth
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 sprig of fresh rosemary, plus 1 teaspoon, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2/3 cup creme fraiche
- Zest of one lemon
In a large soup pot, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the onion, carrots, and garlic and cook until the vegetables are tender, about 4 minutes. Add the beans, tomatoes, broth, bay leaf, 1 teaspoon rosemary, and red pepper flakes. Bring the soup to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes, covered.Puree the soup in a blender in batches, being careful to remove and discard the bay leaf. Return the soup to a soup pot and keep warm over low heat. Season with salt and pepper.In a medium bowl fold in the lemon zest and the remaining teaspoon of rosemary to 2/3 cup creme fraiche. To serve, ladle the soup into bowls and dollop each bowl with the lemon rosemary creme fraiche. Serve immediately.
Rosanne’s Succulent Chicken Breasts
This is a loose version of how she cooked her entree:
- Boneless skinless chicken breasts—put pin a zip lock freezer bag and pound kind of flat.
- Add to the bag juice from lemon(s) and lemon zest, olive oil, smashed garlic cloves, oregano, thyme, salt, pepper.
- Marinated overnight, but it doesn’t have to be that long.
- Grill the chicken 5 minutes on each side to just done.
- Place chicken in baking pan, top with roasted red pepper, roasted asparagus and thin slice of provolone and place in oven to heat and melt cheese.
The asparagus was roasted with sea salt and olive oil. The recipe called for 25 minutes—although she did 20 minutes and found it was still too much. 8-10 is probably sufficient.
Old-Fashioned Apple Crisp, recipe based on Ina Garten, The Barfeoot Contessa
5 pounds McIntosh or Macoun apples
Grated zest of 1 orange
Grated zest of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
For the topping:
1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup oatmeal
1/2 pound cold unsalted butter, diced
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9 by 14 by 2-inch oval baking dish.Peel, core, and cut the apples into large wedges. Combine the apples with the zests, juices, sugar, and spices. Pour into the dish.
- To make the topping, combine the flour, sugars, salt, oatmeal, and cold butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on low speed until the mixture is crumbly and the butter is the size of peas. Scatter evenly over the apples.
- Place the crisp on a sheet pan and bake for 1 hour until the top is brown and the apples are bubbly. Serve warm.
Creative Twist: She used this recipe, but added fresh blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, and a red pear. The topping was a pint of Bird’s custard which comes in powder form.