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FESTIVE non-traditional ITALIAN meal MENU



Inspired by the colors and textures I chose for this season's tablescape...
I was lured into the holiday cooking spirit a little sooner than usual.



A small detour from our traditional Festive Italian Menu was born last week.
A slightly desperate need to grasp onto some early season spirit was so welcomed. 

Receiving guests a little earlier was a great practice run to...
getting into the swing of hosting throughout the coming Holidays ;o)

Here are a few delights I had going on within the day of hosting.

Although, thankfully most parts were 'day-ahead' preparations. ***



Appetizer: 
Italian stuffed DATES
Plump Medjool DATES get stuffed with decadent ITALIAN delicacies.

Italian stuffed DATES
Prosciutto di Parma...Torta Mascarpone...Pecans...
with some decorative, roasted pepper purée (optional).
Realize this simply exquisite appetizer from this past recipe.
***

Entrée (option-1): 
Sausage Tomato Olives and Peas pasta
A quick on the spot pasta meal will lighten up the load.
 The sauce was made an hour ahead and kept warm to receive the cooked pasta when almost ready to get served.



Sausage Tomato Olives and Peas pasta
4 servings
Sauce: a quick mix of vegetable and sausage: 
. A sautéed blend of onion, garlic, Italian sausages along with a big splash of Port wine.
. Joining the party: crushed (canned) tomato, (frozen) peas, slices of roasted red peppers.
.  A generous helping of sliced black olives brought the dish to completion.
. Don't forget the generous topping of grated Parmegiano cheese ;o)
***

Entrée (option-2): 

Vegetarian Canoli Crêpe Gratin
A little more time consuming, however, parts of the assembly (crêpes and vegetable mix) were made ahead.
These savoury crêpes were layered onto a plate and covered for safe keeping in the refrigerator overnight.


Vegetarian Canoli Crêpe Gratin
4 large or 8 small crêpes
Sauces: Vegetable mix and a light tomato sauce topping 
A sautéed blend of sweet onions, garlic, red and orange bell peppers, zucchini.  
Italian seasonings rounded off this stuffing for the thin crêpes to be rolled.
. A typical Italian Tomato sauce preparation was lightly draped onto the stuffed crêpes
. A blend of shredded cheeses: Gruyere, Cheddar, Fruilano capped off the rolls.
. The soon to be realized canolis were slipped into medium heat oven until all cheese was melted.

***

Main meal:  MEATLOAF turns to a muffin puffs:
Here's a miniature hybrid of my lean Pork sautéed vegetable meatloaf.
(served with roasted potatoes or other side dish of choice)



Pork Sausage vegetable sauté 
MEATLOAF muffin puffs
with a Goat Cheese center
yields 12 units


Ingredients:
(American / Metric measures)

Vegetable sauté mix: (make ahead and cooled)
. 2 Tbsps. (30ml) e.v.Olive oil
. 2 Tbsps. (30ml) unsalted butter
. 1 large, sweet onion, finely chopped
. 1 large garlic clove, crushed
. 1 half a small Butternut squash, cubed
. 2 small zucchini
. big splash of Sherry (semi-dry)
. 1/2 tsp. (2.5ml) sea salt 
. dried Herbs:  1/2 tsp. (2.5ml) each: marjoram, basil, sage, tarragon
. a handful of Italian parsley leaves
. a generous bunch of spinach, chopped (optional)
Meat and Sausage mix: 
. 2 large eggs
. 1 tsp. (5ml) Worcestershire sauce 
. 1 Tbsp. (15ml) Dijon mustard
. 1 tsp. (5ml) sea salt
. dried Herbs:  1/2 tsp. (2.5ml) each:
marjoram, basil, sage, tarragon
. 2 lbs (~1 kg) lean, ground Pork
. 2 large, mild, Italian sausages, uncased
. 1 cup (80g) Parmigiano, grated, packed 
. 1/2 cup (75g) flaxseed, finely ground (or breadcrumbs)
. 12 small pieces of Goat cheese


PREPARATION:
. Pre-heat the oven to 375F/190C/Gas5.
. Position oven racks: at the bottom and the other rack in the center.
. Place a muffin pan onto a baking sheet to protect the bottom of the meatloaf puffs from burning.
Grease each muffin cavity very lightly with vegetable oil.  Set aside.

. Vegetable sauté: (can be made ahead and refrigerated over night) 
1. In a large, deep skillet, add the oil and butter to be slightly heated on medium-high.  Add the chopped onion and caramelize before adding the crushed garlic.  
2. To this, add the squash and cook mid way before adding in the zucchini slices.  Once, both have reached tenderness, add the salt and a generous splash of Sherry.  Mix everything until most alcohol will quickly evaporate.
3. Afterwards, finish off with the dried herbs along with the fresh greens last to be added to this mix.
4. Cool at room temperature before adding this mix to the meat.  Set aside.
. Meat mix: (can also be made ahead and refrigerated over night) 
5. In a very large bowl, beat together the eggs, Worcestershire, Dijon, salt and the dried herbs.
6. To this egg mix, add the pork and sausage meat.  Combine them well together before adding the cheese and flaxseed.  At this point, a little hand mixing might be a great idea. 
7. After the meat mix is very well combined, use a 1/2 cup (120ml) measuring cup to pack individual portions.  Place them temporarily on a tray.  Afterwards, before placing each portion in the pan, flatten each meat portion, while adding a piece of cheese in the center.  Wrap it back up and gently form a compacted ball before placing it into the pan.
8. Bake on the bottom oven shelf for the first 20 minutes.  Afterwards, lower the heat to 300F/150C/Gas2.  Rotate the pan and place it in the center of the oven for another 10 minutes.  Remove from the oven and let the meatloaf puffs rest for about 5 minutes before gently removing them from the pan.  Serve immediately with your favourite side dish.  Buon appetito.







This small holiday sprint was practiced on family participants who were pleasantly surprised to be hosted earlier this year. 

A slight veer away from our traditional festive menu turned our marvelously swell ;o) 

Here's to more festive recipes going forward.
Happy Holidays.

Flavourful wishes,
Foodessa


Comments or suggestions ... write me :o)
Claudia at:  foodessa [at] gmail [dot] com


Go HERE for more SAVOURY creations.






Please take note on how I bake and cook...
Here’s a 101 of sorts to make sure that there are no disappointments when trying my creations.  
Also...just so you know...feel free to increase the salt and sweet factor since I'm not high on either of them ;o)

. Use DRY cup measurements for...you guessed it...all DRY ingredients.
Anything DRY gets measured by spooning the overfilled ingredient (never shake the cup) and then level off with a flat edged tool.  Exception...Brown sugar should be packed in and leveled.
. Use LIQUID cup measurements for...all LIQUIDS that cannot be leveled like for example butter, yogurt...etc.  Measure the liquids at eye level to avoid overdoing what the recipe truly needs.
OVENS are unfortunately not created equal.  Mine is so old that it has reached many degrees off it's norm.  It's really worth investing a few dollars to test yours with an appropriate oven thermometer.  You'd be surprised how many ovens I've heard about not being where they should have been.  Before you lose any more ingredients and much time preparing a new recipe...run to the store...you'll thank me later.