Rooting for your team is fun, but thinking about what you eat while watching the game and the commercials is just as important. According to USA Today, the Super Bowl is “only second behind Thanksgiving for the average amount of calories consumed in a day.”
Super Bowl day is prime time for forgetting about eating healthy. From high-fat dips to buffalo wings, it is an endless array of food, food, food and more food. Part of the fun, though, is to be able to snack during the game.
Revamp your old favorites by making them healthier and introducing a few new ideas into your menu. You’ll be able to root for your team without going overboard on fat, calories and salt.
Here are some ideas for doing just that:
The standard bowls of potato chips, tortilla chips and high-fat dips don’t deserve a place in your healthy lineup of snacks, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy chips and dip.
- Skip creamy artichoke and spinach dips in favor of hummus, which pairs well with baked pita chips.
- Mash fresh avocados with tomatoes, onions, jalapenos and lime juice for a potassium-rich guacamole that pairs well with baked tortilla chips.
- Puree low-sodium canned beans with olive oil and garlic powder for a dip rich in fiber and protein.
- Make a healthy ranch dip using low-fat sour cream and a reduced-sodium packet of ranch dip powder.
- Create a visually appealing layered dip with low-sodium mashed beans, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, low-fat sour cream and reduced-fat cheddar cheese.
Set out fruit and vegetable platters on your snack table. Fruits and vegetables are low in fat and calories but also supply potassium, vitamin C, vitamin A and fiber. You will be surprised at how guests reach for these snacks.
- Arrange grapes, berries, melon, apples and oranges on a plate and serve them with flavored low-fat yogurt for dipping.
- Make colorful vegetable kebabs by threading pieces of bell pepper, mushrooms, red onion and zucchini onto skewers.
Hot dogs, sausages and fried hot wings are common additions to a Super Bowl snack buffet, but they contain too much saturated fat and salt to be nutritious.
- Replace the fried wings with baked versions instead. Brush fresh chicken wings with a low-sodium sauce and bake them until they’re cooked through. Serve them with a low-fat ranch or bleu cheese dressing.
- Replace the wings with chicken tenders as an even healthier alternative.
- Roast a turkey breast ahead of time, cut it into thick slices and serve it with whole-wheat bread and sandwich fixings.
- If you can’t pass up the hot dogs and sausages, look for reduced-fat and low-sodium varieties to keep the snack as healthy as possible.
Cut a small slit in several large jalapenos and stuff the cavities with low-fat cream cheese. Close the slit in the jalapenos using toothpicks. Dip the peppers in beaten egg and then roll them in finely crushed bread crumbs. Bake the peppers until they are golden brown for a healthier take on traditional jalapeno poppers.
Air-popped popcorn seasoned with chili powder, garlic powder, cinnamon or Parmesan cheese is a snack high in fiber.
Make sweet potato fries. Cut raw sweet potatoes into wedges or strips, drizzle them with olive oil and roast them until they are golden brown and soft. Season the fries with garlic powder and black pepper or sprinkle them with cinnamon for a sweet version.
Make a batch of chili and serve it in baked tortilla cups and low-fat cheddar cheese for a snack high in fiber and protein.
Here are some of my favorites:
Roasted Eggplant Spread
Makes 1½ Cups
- 1 large eggplant, cut lengthwise into quarters
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 clove garlic finely grated
- 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon tahini (sesame seed paste)
- 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
- Toasted sesame seed
Preheat the oven to 475°F.
Place eggplant on a baking sheet and toss with the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast until lightly charred and very tender, 20–25 minutes; let cool slightly. Chop eggplant (skin and all) until almost a paste.
Mix eggplant in a medium bowl with garlic, lemon zest, lemon juice, tahini, and cumin; season with salt and pepper. Top with sesame seeds and serve with pita bread or baked pita chips.
Easy Red Pepper Hummus
Serve with pita chips.
- 2 large cloves garlic, chopped
- One 15-ounce can garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained
- 1/3 cup tahini (sesame seed paste)
- 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup jarred roasted red peppers, drained
With the processor running, drop garlic through the feed tube and mince. Scrape down the sides of the work bowl. Add chickpeas, tahini, olive oil, salt and lemon juice; process until mixture is smooth.
Add roasted peppers and process until peppers are finely chopped. Transfer hummus to serving bowl. (Can be made 1 day ahead.) Cover and chill. Bring to room temperature before serving.
For homemade pita chips:
Cut 8 whole-wheat pita breads into triangles. Place pita triangles on large baking sheets and spray the surface with olive oil cooking spray. Season each with garlic salt. Bake 6 to 8 minutes in a 400 degree F oven, until golden brown and crisp.
Serve with baked tortilla chips
- 2 cups chopped fresh tomatoes
- 1/2 cup frozen corn, defrosted
- 1/3 cup finely chopped sweet onion
- 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
- 2 tablespoons lime juice
- 1 jalapeño or serrano pepper, stemmed, seeded and finely chopped
- 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
Put all ingredients into a serving bowl, toss well. Chill in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature before serving..
Baked Tortilla Chips
- 12 corn tortillas
- Olive oil cooking spray
- 1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Cut each tortilla into 6 wedges.
Arrange the wedges in a single layer on non-stick baking sheets. Lightly spray the chips with oil and sprinkle with chili powder, salt and pepper.
Bake the chips until lightly browned and crisp, 15 minutes. Make sure not to let them burn. Cool and store in an airtight container.
- 1 1/4 pounds boneless New York Strip Steak (or steak of choice)
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh rosemary
- 1/3 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes
- 2 large plum tomatoes (1/2 cup), seeded and chopped
- 2 tablespoons chopped sweet onion
- 2 teaspoons crumbled blue cheese
- 18 baguette slices (3/4 of a large French baguette)
Season steaks with salt and pepper.
Grill steaks, covered with grill lid, over medium-high heat (350°F to 400°F) about 8 to 10 minutes on each side.
Place steak on the rack of a broiler pan. Broil 3 to 5 inches from heat for 6 to 8 minutes on each side.
Let cool and thinly slice.
Combine basil, rosemary and sun-dried tomatoes in a food processor. Scrap into a medium bowl. Stir in fresh tomatoes, onion and blue cheese.
Arrange baguette slices on a lightly greased baking sheet. Top with steak; spoon tomato mixture evenly over the bread slices.
Bake at 350 degrees F for 8 to 10 minutes or until the cheese melts and the bread is lightly toasted.
Fennel and Prosciutto Flatbread
- 1 pound pizza dough
- 2 fennel bulbs
- 2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme
- 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh oregano
- 2 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto
- Olive oil cooking spray
- 1 1/2 cups (6 oz.) shredded Italian fontina cheese
- 1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
- 1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
- 1 tablespoon good quality balsamic vinegar
Preheat the oven to 425°F. Remove pizza dough from the refrigerator and let stand covered, at room temperature, 30 minutes or until ready to use.
Trim and discard the root ends of the fennel bulbs. Trim the stalks from the bulbs and chop fronds to equal 2 teaspoons.
Thinly slice fennel bulbs lengthwise and place on an aluminum foil-lined baking sheet. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Sprinkle with thyme and oregano.
Bake at for 35 minutes or until the edges are golden brown.
Cook prosciutto in a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat 1 to 2 minutes on each side or until browned and crisp. Break prosciutto into large pieces.
Turn the pizza dough out on a lightly floured surface and roll out into a 17 x 13 inch rectangle (about 1/4 inch thick).
Place the dough rectangle on a lightly greased (with cooking spray) baking sheet. Brush the dough with the remaining ½ tablespoon of olive oil.
Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown. Remove the crust from the oven. Turn on the broiler.
Top the baked crust with fontina cheese, fennel slices and prosciutto. Broil 1 minute. Sprinkle with dried crushed red pepper, reserved chopped fennel fronds and the coarse sea salt.
Drizzle with balsamic vinegar. Cut into small squares and serve.
Mediterranean Chicken Kabobs
- Small (6 inch) flat metal or bamboo skewers
- 1-1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken thighs or breasts, cut into 1 x 1 x 1/2 inch pieces
- 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint
- 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro
- 3 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
- 1-1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
Place the chicken in a large nonreactive mixing bowl. Add 2 tablespoons each of the mint, cilantro and parsley, salt, cumin, turmeric and pepper. Stir to mix. Stir in the oil.
Let the chicken marinate in the refrigerator, covered, for 1 hour.
Thread the chicken onto skewers so that the flat side of the chicken will be exposed to the fire.
Set up a grill for direct grilling and preheat it to high. Or preheat the broiler.
When ready to cook, oil the grill grate or oil the broiler pan.
Arrange the chicken kabobs on the grill or under the broiler. Cook until golden brown, about 4 to 6 minutes per side.
Place the kabobs on a serving platter and sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon each of mint, cilantro and parsley.
Quick and easy appetizers are a must for the holiday season. You don’t need to spend a lot of time preparing appetizers for your guests in order to get some great tasting snacks to serve at a holiday get-together. Keep simple ingredients on hand that you can quickly pull together for an appetizer. Below you will find some suggestions for quick but delicious appetizers.
Tomato Pesto Flatbread
8 to 10 servings
- 1 pound fresh pizza dough
- 1/3 cup tomato pasta sauce or pizza sauce
- 1/3 cup sliced pitted Kalamata olives
- 1-1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
- 2 tablespoons basil pesto
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Heat the oven to 400 degrees F.
On a floured surface, roll out pizza dough to a large square about 12 inches long and 12 inches wide; place on a cookie sheet. Spread pizza sauce evenly over the dough; top with olives and cheese. Use a teaspoon to drop dots of basil pesto over the pizza. Sprinkle with pepper flakes.
Bake 12 to 14 minutes or until crust is golden brown and cheese is melted. Cut into 3 inch squares and serve immediately.
Cheddar Stuffed Mushrooms
- 16 large button or cremini mushrooms, each about 2-inches in diameter
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 1/3 cup finely chopped onion
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup shredded Cheddar Cheese
- 1/4 cup panko bread crumbs or gluten free panko bread crumbs
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Remove mushroom stems from the caps and finely chop the stems. Melt butter in a medium skillet. Brush some of the butter over the mushroom caps; place cap side down on a rimmed baking sheet.
Add chopped stems, onion and garlic to the remaining butter in the skillet; sauté until golden brown and tender, 7 to 8 minutes. Remove from the heat; stir in salt and pepper
Mix the cheese with bread crumbs and parsley in a medium bowl. Add stem mixture; mix well. Mound into mushroom caps, pressing down to use all the crumb mixture.
Bake 13 to 15 minutes or until heated through. Serve warm.
Saucy Cream Cheese Appetizer
- 1 (8 ounce) block cream cheese
- 3 tablespoons mango chutney
- 1 tablespoon sliced almonds, toasted
- 3 tablespoons hot or medium salsa
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
- Whole grain or multi-grain crackers
Cut the block of cream cheese in half crosswise. Place on two small glass or microwave safe serving plates. Place plates in a microwave oven and cook at high power 15 seconds (or let stand at room temperature until slightly softened).
Spoon chutney over one brick; top with almonds.
Spoon salsa over the other brick; top with cilantro.
Serve as a spread with the crackers on an attractive cheese board.
Blue Cheese Puffs
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1⁄2 cup water
- 1⁄4 cup butter
- 1⁄2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1-1⁄2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 5 large eggs
- 4 ounces blue cheese, crumbled (1 cup)
- 2 tablespoons finely minced fresh chives or 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme
Heat oven to 425 degrees F.
Combine milk, water, butter and salt in a medium, heavy bottomed saucepan; bring to a boil over high heat, stirring until the butter has melted. Add flour all at once; reduce heat to medium and stir the mixture vigorously with a wooden spoon until it pulls away from the sides of the pan. Continue stirring for several minutes over low heat, and then remove the pan from heat.
The dough will be thick, smooth and shiny and should not be brown. Beat in 1 egg at a time, beating very well after each addition. Fold in the blue cheese and black pepper with a spatula.
Transfer dough to a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch round tip (or use a heavy plastic bag with a 1/2 –inch cut from one corner.) Pipe dough into 1-1/2-inch mounds, approximately the volume of a heaping tablespoon, onto parchment-lined baking sheets or cookie sheets 1 inch apart.
Bake 10 minutes at 425 degrees F. Rotate the pans on the oven racks; reduce heat to 350 degrees F. Continue baking until deep golden brown, about 15 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature on the same day they are made.
Turkey Meatballs with Mustard Dip
- 1 slice bread, torn into 2-inch pieces
- 1/4 cup low-fat milk
- 1 onion, quartered
- 1 red bell pepper, seeded and quartered
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 pound lean ground turkey
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
- 1 tablespoon grainy Dijon mustard
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- Cooking spray
- 1/3 cup Greek yogurt
- 1/4 cup light mayonnaise
- 4 teaspoons grainy Dijon mustard
Place torn bread in a food processor and pulse until fine crumbs form. Transfer bread crumbs to a large bowl and add milk; set aside until bread is completely soaked.
Place onion, red bell pepper and garlic in the food processor and pulse until finely chopped; stir into bread mixture.
Add turkey, egg, parsley, 1 tablespoon mustard, salt and pepper to the bread crumb mixture and mix well.
Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C). Spray a rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray.
Shape turkey mixture into 1-inch balls; arrange on the prepared baking sheet.
Bake in the preheated oven until firm and cooked through, about 15 minutes. An instant-read thermometer inserted into the center should read at least 165 degrees F (74 degrees C). Let meatballs stand for 5 minutes.
Mix yogurt, mayonnaise and the 4 teaspoons mustard together in a bowl; serve alongside meatballs.
Turin is in the northwest section of the Piedmont region between the Po River and the foothills of the Alps. The city is famous for the Shroud of Turin, Fiat auto plants, Baroque cafes and architecture and its shopping arcades, promenades and museums. Turin hosted the 2006 Winter Olympics because the nearby mountains and valleys are ideal for winter sports.
The Piedmont region has some of the best food in Italy. Over 160 types of cheese and famous wines like Barolo and Barbaresco come from here as do truffles. The hilly region bordering France and Switzerland is perfect for growing grapes. Turin has some outstanding pastries, especially chocolate ones. Chocolate bars originated in Turin. The chocolate-hazelnut sauce, gianduja, is a specialty of Turin. In addition, an enormous array of artisanal cheeses, the white truffle of Alba, cured meats and a vast assortment of herb products are all part of the Piedmont table.
The cuisine of Turin is unlike the food you expect to find in Italy. Local dishes incorporate a much larger variety of savory sauces which are more traditional in French cuisine than in Italian. Chefs tend to cook with butter and lard rather than olive oil, which is also more French than Italian. Another difference is that appetizers play a much larger role on the menu in Turin than in other parts of Italy. The city’s signature dish is bollito misto, a mix of boiled meats served with three sauces: bagnet verd, a green sauce made from parsley, anchovies, garlic and olive oil; bagnet ross, a red sauce of crushed tomatoes, garlic and hot peppers and sausa d’avije, a yellow mustard sauce sweetened with honey and crushed nuts. Other classic dishes include brasato al Barolo, locally raised beef slowly braised in Barolo wine and finanziera, a stew of cock’s crests, chicken livers, veal, peas and porcini mushrooms. In the fall and winter you’ll find slices of reindeer meat, on some menus along with beef and veal, free range poultry and freshly caught fish.
The dinner menu below serves 4-6 and is inspired by the cuisine and regional foods of Turin, Italy.
Bagna Cauda is the Italian version of fondue. The dish is eaten by dipping raw, boiled or roasted vegetables, especially cardoons, carrots, peppers, fennel, celery, cauliflower, artichokes and onions in the hot sauce. It is traditionally eaten during the autumn and winter months and must be served hot, as the name suggests. Originally, the Bagna Càuda was placed in a big pan (peila) in the center of the table for communal sharing. Now, it is usually served in individual pots, called a fojòt, a type of fondue pot traditionally made of terra-cotta.
It helps to have a Bagna Cauda “pot”, but a fondue dish with the Sterno flame underneath works — as does an electric wok on low.
- 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 12 olive oil packed anchovy fillets, minced
- 6 large garlic cloves – peeled and minced
- Cubed raw vegetables for dipping: sweet peppers, fennel, cauliflower, endive and zucchini
- Italian bread – sliced
Place the olive oil, garlic and anchovies in a skillet over low heat. Stir until the anchovies have “melted” and the mixture looks thickened. Whisk in the butter until melted, then remove the skillet from the heat and whisk again until creamy looking. Pour into a dish that can stay heated at the table — like a fondue pot, Bagna Cauda pot, an electric skillet or a wok.
To serve: Dip vegetable pieces into the hot oil for a few minutes and use a bread slice to absorb the dripping oil on the way to your mouth.
Brasato Al Barolo
“Braised in Barolo”, a classic Italian beef dish from this region uses a simple slow cooking technique to tenderize the meat. In Italy, Piedmontese is a dual-purpose breed of cattle that are raised for their milk, which is used in the production of several traditional cheeses of the region, including Castelmagno, Bra, Raschera and Toma Piemontese; and are also raised for meat. Beef from Piedmontese cattle is seen as a premium product. The unique genetics of the breed combine to create cattle that is more muscled than conventional cattle, so the yield of lean meat is greater than with other breeds. All cuts of beef are lean because as they grow, the cattle add more muscle but less fat. In addition, Piedmontese cattle produce shorter muscle fibers and less connective tissue, so the meat remains tender in spite of its minimal fat.
Serve this dish the traditional way, with polenta, or if you prefer, mashed potatoes.
- 3 lb Piedmontese brisket flat
- 2 onions, chopped
- 3 medium carrots, chopped
- 2 fresh bay leaves
- 1 to 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
- 4 to 5 juniper berries
- 1 bottle Barolo red wine
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 4 tablespoons virgin olive oil
- ½ cup dry Marsala wine
- 2 tablespoons flour
Put all the vegetables and spices in a bowl, add the beef and cover with the wine. Refrigerate overnight, or a minimum of 10 hours.
Heat a heavy-bottom pot, large enough to hold the beef and wine, over medium-high heat. Melt half of the butter with all of the oil. Take the beef out of the marinade, season it with salt and pepper, and brown it in the hot-pot on all sides. Using a slotted spoon, take out all the vegetables from the wine and add them to the beef, stirring until they color a bit.
Add the wine to the pan, turn the heat down and cover with a lid. Simmer for about 2 hours, stirring occasionally and turning the beef.
Pour the Marsala into the stew and let cook a few more minutes. Take the beef out of the pan and set it on a carving board.
Remove and discard the bay leaves and juniper berries.
To make the sauce:
Put the wine and vegetables in a food mill or pour through a fine mesh sieve, applying pressure to the vegetables to extract all the juice. Reserve the juice and the vegetable puree.
In a saucepan, melt the remaining butter. Add the flour and cook for a few minutes, being careful not to brown the mixture. Add the wine and vegetable puree and cook for a bit longer, until the sauce thickens slightly.
Slice the meat against the grain, arrange it on a serving plate and pour the very hot wine sauce on top.
Cardoons are closely related to the artichoke. They look like very large hearts of celery and have thorns in the stalks. The stalks are not solid like celery, but are semi-hollow and stringy.
- 3 cups heavy cream
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 1 bay leaf
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 3 lb. cardoons
- 1 cup grated Italian fontina cheese
Place cream, stock and bay leaf in a large saucepan and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Wash cardoons, then remove and discard tough outer stalks. Cut away thorns and pull off stringy fibers. Cut cardoons into 1½”–2″ pieces, placing them immediately into the cream mixture as you go, to prevent them from discoloring.
Bring cream mixture to a simmer over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the cardoons are tender, about 1 hour. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the cardoon pieces to a 1-quart baking dish.
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Reduce cream mixture to about ¾ cup over medium heat, about 30 minutes. Discard bay leaf and pour the sauce over the cardoons in the baking dish, sprinkle cheese on top and bake until golden and bubbly, about 30 minutes.
- 12 tablespoons butter
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- ½ cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
Preheat oven to 325°F.
In a saucepan, melt butter. Remove from the heat and add sugar and vanilla, stirring until most of the sugar has dissolved. Add flour and mix together using a wooden spoon or rubber spatula. Press the dough into an ungreased, 10-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Freeze crust for 15 minutes, then bake for 25 minutes. Set crust aside to cool.
- ½ cup hazelnuts (also called filberts)
- 3 tablespoons baking soda
Boil 2 cups water; add baking soda. The water will foam up a bit. Add the nuts to the boiling soda water and boil for 3 minutes. Strain the nuts and rinse with cold water. Peel the skins away from the nuts and place on a kitchen towel to dry.
When the nuts are dry, toast them on a baking sheet in a 350°F oven for about 7 to 10 minutes.
- 3/4 cup heavy cream
- 7 1/2 ounces good quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped
- 3/4 cup chocolate-hazelnut spread such as Nutella
Place chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl and set aside.
In a saucepan, bring cream to a boil. Remove from the heat and pour over the chocolate pieces, whisking until chocolate is melted and smooth. Add the chocolate-hazelnut spread and whisk until smooth.
Pour filling into the cooled crust and sprinkle toasted hazelnuts on top. Refrigerate for 2 hours to set. When ready to serve, cut into small wedges and garnish with fresh fruit.
There is nothing quite so good as a fresh, crusty loaf of bread. If you do not have a great bakery down the street, as I do not, then making your own bread is what I do. Homemade bread is always a hit when I entertain, so I make loaves of bread in advance, wrap them tightly in heavy-duty foil and freeze them for when I will be entertaining. This method works for me and allows me to have the bread available for an antipasto or a first course without having to do this preparation last-minute when there are other foods to prepare. Simply place the frozen bread on the kitchen counter overnight in its wrapping. Just before serving time, heat the oven to 375°F, remove the wrapping and place the bread directly on the oven rack. Immediately spritz water on the bread and the oven walls and heat for 5-10 minutes for a crispy, crusty loaf of bread. Slice and serve.
I also like to bake bread in a clay cloche pan because the results are so professional. The cloche mimics a brick oven and turns out loaves of bread with a tender and moist interior and a crispy golden crust. The unglazed clay absorbs heat to ensure even baking on all sides, while the porous surface absorbs moisture to create a crispy crust.
Here are some of my favorite appetizer breads.
Rosemary Olive Sourdough Bread
- 1 cup sourdough starter
- 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 teaspoons instant yeast
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 3 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup white whole wheat flour
- 1 teaspoon crushed dried rosemary
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed dried oregano
- 1 cup chopped Kalamata olives or dry cured Italian olives
Combine all of the ingredients, mixing and kneading to form a smooth dough in an electric mixer.
Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover the bowl and allow it to rise until it’s doubled in size, about 90 minutes.
Shape the dough into a round loaf in a floured board. Place the loaf on the bottom part of a cloche pan. Put the cover on and let rise until very puffy, about 1 hour.
Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 425°F. Bake the bread with the cover on for 30 minutes. Remove the cover and bake for an additional 15 minutes or until the bread is golden brown and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center registers 190°F to 200°F. Remove the bread from the oven and carefully turn the bread out of the pan onto a rack to cool.
Semolina Cheese Bread
Semolina is the hard grain left after milling the flour and it is used in making puddings, pasta and bread.
- 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 cup semolina
- 2 teaspoons instant yeast
- 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 cup lukewarm water
- 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 cup shredded Provolone cheese
- 1 cup shredded Asiago cheese
Combine everything but the three cheeses and beat on medium speed of an electric mixer to make a soft, smooth dough.
Add the three cheeses and mix until well combined.
Put the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover and let rise for about 2 hours, until very puffy.
Shape the dough into a round or oval loaf. Place the loaf on the bottom part of a round or long loaf cloche pan. Put the cover on and let rise until very puffy, about 1 hour.
Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 425°F.
Bake the bread with the cover on for 30 minutes. Remove the cover and bake for an additional 15 minutes or until the bread is golden brown and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center registers 190°F to 200°F.
Remove the bread from the oven and carefully turn the bread out of the pan onto a rack to cool.
Garlic And Herb Wheat Bread
Makes 2 loaves
- 2 1/2 cups warm water
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 2 tablespoons instant yeast
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon chopped, fresh rosemary
- 1 tablespoon chopped, fresh oregano
- 2 tablespoons minced garlic
- 3 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
- 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
In a large electric mixer bowl add the water, yeast, salt and honey and mix well. Then add the oil, herbs and garlic.
Add half of the whole wheat and half of the all-purpose flour to the yeast mixture. Mix by hand or with the electric mixer’s paddle attachment. Add the remaining flour, a little at a time, until all of it is incorporated. Switch to the dough hook attachment. Continue kneading until the dough is no longer sticky; this should take about 7 to 8 minutes. The dough should be a little tacky but not sticky.
Divide the dough in half and form into two free-form oval loaves or place them in two oiled 9″ X 5″ X 3″ loaf pans . Let rise until double in size, about 40 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 375°F.
Place the loaves in the center of the oven and bake for 40 to 50 minutes or until the bread is golden brown. Test by inserting a toothpick or skewer into the center of each loaf and, if it comes out clean, the bread is ready. Remove the pans from the oven, take the bread out of the pans and place on a rack to cool before slicing.
Cut the bread into ½ inch thick slices and cut in half again to serve on the antipasto tray.
This bread will keep 3 to 4 days in an air-tight container and it freezes well for 2 months.
As immigrants from the different regions of Italy settled throughout the United States, many brought with them a distinct regional Italian culinary tradition. Many of these foods and recipes developed into new favorites for the local communities and later for Americans nationwide.
Italians were some of the first European explorers and settlers of California. Italians first came to the state in large numbers with the Gold Rush. While most found little gold, they did find success in farming, fishing, commerce and making wine. Though we often associate Italians in California with San Francisco, the initial Italian settlers established themselves in such diverse communities as Monterey, Stockton and San Diego. Italian fishermen established themselves in fishing villages along the coast.
Across the state, the Italians also settled the farmlands and played a prominent role in developing today’s fruit, vegetable and dairy industries. By the 1880’s, Italians dominated the industry in the great Central Valley of California. Italian immigrants also left their mark on the California food processing industry. Marco Fontana arrived in the United States in 1859 and along with another Ligurian, Antonio Cerruti, established a chain of canneries under the “Del Monte” label. Most of their workers were Italian and their cannery soon became the largest in the world.
Another enterprising Italian was Domenico Ghirardelli, who traveled through the gold mines in the 1850’s, selling chocolates and hard candies. He settled in San Francisco after the Goldrush and founded the Ghirardelli chocolate empire.
One of the most inspiring of California’s Italians was Amadeo Pietro Giannini who was born in 1870 to immigrant Italian parents from Genoa. He started the first statewide system of branch banks in the nation by opening branches of his Bank of Italy, in the Italian neighborhoods, across the state. He later changed the name of his bank to Bank of America.
Many Italian families have made their living from cattle ranching in the Mother Lode foothills at the base of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. One can still find many Italian family ranches in the region.
The Italians also played an important role in developing the olive oil industry in the foothills. The rolling hills of the Gold Country, which resemble the Mediterranean hills of Liguria, are dotted with the remnants of early Italian olive tree orchards and with newly planted trees similar to those found in Italy.
The California wine industry also owes much to its Italian founders. Italians have been planting vineyards and making wine in America since the early colonial days when Filippo Mazzei planted vineyards with Thomas Jefferson.
Drive down the California vineyard roads and you may think you are in Italy. The Italian winery names that are seen throughout the area stand as a reminder of the contribution of Italian-Americans in the growth of the California wine industry. Some of the most famous names in American wine got their start during the four decades leading up to Prohibition in 1919. Seghesio, Simi, Sebastiani and Foppiano all started in the late 1800s and are still operating today. Giuseppe Magliavacca’s Napa winery was by then a thriving business, Secondo Guasti had established the Italian Vineyard Company and Andrea Sbarbaro had founded Italian Swiss Colony.
Italian-Americans in California kept their vines in the ground and healthy throughout the Prohibition era. When Prohibition ended, they were rewarded but, more importantly, the families that had struggled to maintain their vineyards gave America a jump start in resuming the wine industry. Without the vineyards and the fully equipped wineries, America would have had to rebuild the industry from scratch, an industry that is synonymous with longevity and tradition.
Today, the California wine industry is dotted with Italian names. The Trinchero family name is hidden behind its non-Italian winery name: Sutter Home. Robert Mondavi, Ferrari-Carano, Geyser Peak (owned by the Trione family), Viansa, Cosentino, Atlas Peak (owned by Antinori), Dalla Valle, Delicato, Valley of the Moon, Parducci, Signorello, Sattui, Rochioli, Rafanelli and Mazzocco are all thriving wineries in America.
Recipes From California’s Wineries
Chilled California Garden Gazpacho
Recipe by Vicki Sebastiani from Viansa Winery.
Serve this course with Barbera, a wine flavored with plum, black cherry, wild berry and oak spice.
- 1 large cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
- 1 large red onion, peeled and diced
- 1 large red bell pepper, cored, seeded and diced
- 1 large zucchini, diced
- 6 large tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced (about 6 cups)
- 1/4 cup Italian white wine, such as Pinot Grigio
- 2 cups tomato juice
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 1 large clove garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- Dash Tabasco sauce
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 1/2 cup minced fresh chives
- 1/2 cup croutons, preferably homemade
Set aside 1/2 cup each of the chopped cucumber, red onion, red pepper and zucchini. In a blender or food processor combine the rest of the vegetables with the remaining ingredients. Puree slightly, so the vegetables are left a little chunky.
Combine soup with the reserved vegetables, cover tightly with plastic wrap and chill 2 to 3 hours. To serve, top with a dollop of sour cream, a sprinkle of minced chives and several croutons.
Makes 8 cups.
From the kitchen of Ed Seghesio.
Serve this course with Arneis, which is both the name of the wine and the grape from which it is made. The name means “little rascal” in the Piedmontese dialect, so named because it can be difficult to grow. Arneis has a delicate aroma and flavor of pears, with a hint of almonds. The grape seems to have more acidity in California than in Italy, yielding a crisper wine.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
- 1 cup Arborio rice
- 1/2 cup Seghesio Arneis
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 3-1/2 cups chicken stock
- 1 ounce dried Porcini mushrooms, rehydrated in 1/4 cup chicken stock
- 1/4 teaspoon saffron
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- Freshly ground pepper to taste
Simmer chicken stock in a separate pan.
Sauté onions in olive oil and butter until onions are clear in a large saucepan. Add the rice to the onions and sauté for 5 minutes, stirring constantly.
Add the wine and garlic to the mixture and allow the liquid to cook down. Then add 1/2 cup of warm stock and the rehydrated porcini mushrooms with their liquid. Allow the liquid to cook down, stirring constantly.
As the liquid simmers, continue adding 1/2 cup of the warm stock. Repeat this process until the rice is tender, approximately 30 minutes.
With the last 1/2 cup of stock, add the saffron. When the rice is tender, stir in the Parmesan cheese and freshly ground pepper to taste. Serve immediately.
Serves 2 as a main dish and 4 as a side dish.
Grilled Chicken with Tapenade
Recipe courtesy of Louis M. Martini Winery.
Serve with Sangiovese, a Chianti-style wine.
- 1 chicken, about 3-1/2 pounds
- 1/4 cup tapenade, store-bought or homemade (recipe below)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
- Salt and pepper
Remove the chicken’s backbone (or have the butcher do it). Lay the chicken out flat. With your fingers, gently separate the chicken skin from the breast and thighs but do not detach it completely.
Rub oil all over chicken skin. Spread the tapenade evenly over the breast and thighs and underneath the skin. Season with rosemary, salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate 3 to 4 hours. Bring to room temperature before grilling.
Prepare a medium-hot charcoal fire. Arrange coals in a ring around the perimeter of the grill and set an aluminum foil drip pan in the center. Grill the chicken over the drip pan for about 20 minutes skin side down, with the grill covered; then turn, cover again and cook until done, about another 10 minutes. Let rest 5 to 10 minutes before cutting into serving pieces. Serves 4.
- 1/2 pound Greek or Italian black olives, pitted
- 4 anchovy fillets
- 2 tablespoons capers, rinsed
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 teaspoons brandy
Combine all ingredients in a food processor or blender and blend until nearly but not completely smooth. Tapenade should have a slightly coarse texture.
Recipe courtesy of the Mosby Winery.
Serve with Tocai Friulano, a slightly sweet wine with aromas of honeysuckle and orange blossom along with the flavors of citrus and tropical fruit.
- 1-1/2 cups whole hazelnuts, toasted, and coarsely chopped
- 4 eggs
- 1 cup of hazelnut flour (finely ground hazelnuts, measured after grinding)
- 1 tablespoon orange zest
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
- 1 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 4 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup cold butter
- 2 teaspoons anise seed
Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Grease 2 baking sheets.
Combine flour, baking powder, hazelnut flour and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse a few times to blend the ingredients.
In another bowl, cream the butter and sugar together with an electric mixer. Add the eggs to the butter and sugar and beat well.
Stir in the flour mixture, the coarsely chopped hazelnuts, espresso powder, vanilla and anise seed. Cover the dough and chill for 1 hour.
Divide the dough into four pieces and shape each into a 9-inch log. Place the logs on the baking sheets and bake in the oven for 35 minutes.
Remove the loaves to a cutting board, cool and cut the pieces crosswise into 3/4” thick slices.
Return the slices, cut side down, to the baking sheets and bake an additional 20 minutes, or until dry and firm. Let the biscotti cool before serving. Store in airtight container for up to two weeks.
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