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Friday, November 12, 2010

Family Style: Italian-Inspired Cuisine

Our first dinner hosted as newlyweds was a success! Timing worked out so that everyone was able to eat the entrée and rice fresh from the oven. Conversation flowed. Plates were scraped clean. Left overs were boxed and taken home. No one walked away hungry.

One appetizer that was a little tricky due to a few allergies was the bruschetta. But there was no need to worry, with fresh vegetables, herbs and bread, all of us were able to eat a panini that sang with flavor - even with some ingredients removed. The clams, while not a replica of Don Peppe's Baked Clams, plucked immediately from boiling water as they opened, were perfection - not rubbery as can happen when clams are overcooked - and devoured. The wild rice was moist. And the garlic for the chicken with lemon caper sauce was not brown!

Before we dive into details, a quick explanation of how we're going to be formatting Family Style posts. Each begins with an On the Menu section. Here you'll find the names of everything we ate. If it's a dish we've made before, you'll find a link to the recipe or the first family meal where we served the dish. (NOTE: Sometimes we don't like how a recipe turns out. You'll know if this is the case, because you'll find a "Take #" marker after the dish. For the original recipe follow the link, for the revised recipe, scroll down.) If it's a dish we made from someone else's recipe without modification, there will be a note about the online recipe or the cookbook referenced. For dishes loosely adapted from or inspired by, you'll see a bunch of referenced recipes.

Following the menu, you'll see come across the Preparation Notes section. This is how we pulled off the dinner using our kitchen - gas stove top with gas oven, pots and pans, knives, various kitchen electrics, and counter space limitations.

Recipes for any dish that we made for the first time at this family dinner appear next in the The Recipes section. Convenient Ingredient Lists so that you can check your pantry and fridge follow along with Necessary Equipment.

On the Menu
One thing about planning and hosting a dinner is that menus inevitably change. For us, we changed up the dessert. Everything else was what we announced on Monday

Bruschetta Panini
Baked Clams
Apple Apricot Persimmon Cake with Apple Persimmon Ice Cream

Preparation Notes
Coming soon

The Recipes
Bruschetta Panini
Loosely adapted from Capital Celebration: A Collection of Recipes by the Junior League of Washington's Goat Cheese and Tomato Salsa Bruschetta recipe, p.19
This recipe popped into my head the night we attended Crate and Barrel's Wedding Parties Registry event this past May. In fact, this recipe is the primary reason I had to have the Cuisinart Griddler GR-4N.

  • 2 Tbsp Fig Balsamic Vinegar
  • 4 Tbsp EVOO, divided
  • 2 Tomatoes, sliced in rounds
  • 2 Tbsp Earth Balance
  • 1 medium Onion, sliced
  • 1 Red Bell Pepper, sliced
  • 1 Yellow Bell Pepper, sliced
  • 1 Orange Bell Pepper, sliced
  • Fresh Basil, whole leaves, stems removed
  • Fiore Sardo, shaved
  • 1 Sourdough Batard, sliced 1/2 to 3/4-inch thick, paired
  1. In a large ziplock bag, combine Fig Balsamic Vinegar and 2 Tbsp EVOO.
  2. Slice tomatoes.
  3. Add tomatoes to ziplock bag, shake until well coated.
  4. Place in refrigerator and marinade. 
  5. In saute pan, heat EVOO and Earth Balance on medium-high heat.
  6. When Earth Balance and oil start to sizzle, add onions.
  7. When onions have started to become translucent, add bell peppers.
  8. Saute until peppers are soft and onions are caramelized. Remove from heat.
  9. Preheat Griddler according to manufacturer's instructions.
  10. Brush outsides of paired bread with olive oil.
  11. Place two tomato slices, spoonful of bell peppers and onions, one to two basil leaves, and a few Fiore Sardo shavings on slice of bread.
    NOTE: If your slices of bread are thinner than 1/2 to 3/4-inch, sear sandwiches as soon as possible as tomatoes in balsamic vinaigrette will soak bread and make it difficult to remove from the Griddler.
  12. Top with other slice of bread.
  13. Press 2 to 3 sandwiches in Griddler until seared. Plate and serve immediately.
Baked Clams
Adapted from Food.com's and Food Network's Baked Clams recipes and Food Network's Baked Clams on the Half Shell Vongole Gratinate Al Forno recipe.

Two of the recipes called for splitting the clams prior to baking. As I'd heard and read that the best way to tell if clams are safe to eat is to only eat clams with shells that have opened, I started with a recipe that first boiled the clams. The Reluctant Gourmet has a Clam Guide that includes a great write up on the differences in clams as well as how to store and prepare them.


  • 3 pounds Littleneck clams, well scrubbed, hard shell
    NOTE: Select clams with smaller diameters as they are younger and tend to be more tender and sweeter tasting.
  • 1 cup Cornmeal
  • 2 Garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup Parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 cup Bread Crumbs
  • (Optional) 1/2 cup Pecorino Romano, grated
  • 2 Lemons, zested and juiced
  • 1/2 cup EVOO


  1. Rinse clams several times and place in a bowl of water with cornmeal added.
  2. Store in the coldest spot in your refrigerator until ready to boil.
  3. Bring a saucepan of water to a boil.
  4. Add clams. Toss out any clams that are already open.
  5. Boil until the shells open, approximately 5 minutes. Remove clams that have opened immediately from the water. 
  6. In a bowl, blend Garlic, Parsley, Bread Crumbs, Pecorino Reggiano, and Lemon Zest.
  7. Drain clams, and when cool enough to handle, remove empty half of the shell from each one.
  8. With a fork, stir Lemon Juice and EVOO into the Garlic Bread Crumb mixture. It should be moist but not oily. Set aside.
  9. Adjust rack in oven so that clams will be 4 inches from the heat source.
  10. Preheat broiler.
  11. Place clams on a baking sheet. 
  12. If clams rock back and forth, add rice under them to stabilize the shells.
  13. Spread about a teaspoon of the mixture atop each clam in a shell. The filing should be about 1/8 inch thick.
  14. Broil clams until lightly browned, about 3 to 4 minutes.

Chicken with Lemon Caper Sauce - Take 2
This recipe was adapted from Sparow64's, Taste of Home's, and Fitness Magazine's Chicken with Lemon Caper Sauce recipes, as well as TLC's Chicken Scallopini with Lemon-Caper Sauce recipe. Unlike the first attempt, we used a mix of Earth Balance and EVOO as suggested in Food Network's Chicken Piccata recipe and changed the order of chicken and garlic preparation to prevent the garlic from overbrowning.

Ingredients (Serves 6)
  • Pinch of Salt (1/4 tsp, approximately 4 turns of our Salt grinder) and Pepper (1/16 tsp, approximately 2 turns of our Pepper mill)
  • 1/2 cup All-Purpose Flour
  • 6 (5 to 6 ounces each) Skinless, Boneless Chicken Breast halves
  • 6 Tbsp Earth Balance, divided in thirds
  • 5 Tbsp Del Papa, Cold Pressed EVOO
  • 1/2 cup Gnarly Head Pinot Grigio, or Dry White Wine
  • 3 Garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 Tbsp Cornstarch
  • 3/4 cup Fresh Lemon Juice (3 medium size lemons)
  • 2 Tbsp Earth Balance
  • 3 Tbsp Agostino Recca Capers in Salt, rinsed and drained
  • 4 Tbsp Fresh Parsley, chopped
  • Lemon slices
  1. Preheat oven to warm or 200 degrees.
  2. In 1-gallon ziplock bag, add salt, pepper, and flour. Shake until well mixed.
  3. Juice four small or three medium-sized lemons, approximately 3/4 cup lemon juice.
  4. Whisk the cornstarch and the lemon juice until smooth. Set aside.
  5. Place chicken breasts, one at a time, between sheets of wax paper. Pound to 1/4-inch thickness.
    NOTE: A marble rolling pin doesn't really work for this application. You really do need a meat tenderizer. We'll have a TIPS post in the next couple of weeks as we're going to get one.
  6. Add chicken to salt, pepper, and flour mixture, and shake bag until chicken is well coated.
  7. In a saute pan (we used our 12" Everyday Pan as we don't own any saute pans) melt 2 Tbsp Earth Balance and 3 Tbsp EVOO over medium-high heat.
    NOTE: Do not use a nonstick pan.
  8. Shake excess flour from chicken and with tongs place 3 pieces of chicken into pan when Earth Balance and EVOO starts to sizzle.
  9. Brown chicken in hot EVOO until both sides are golden-brown, approximately 3 to 4 minutes per side or until a meat thermometer reads 170 degrees.
  10. When chicken is done, inside is white and firm, remove from pan to baker. Cover with foil and place in oven to keep warm.
  11. Melt 2 more Tbsp Earth Balance and 2 Tbsp EVOO over medium-high heat.
  12. Shake excess flour from chicken and with tongs place remaining chicken into pan when Earth Balance and EVOO starts to sizzle.
  13. Add the remaining 2 Tbsp Earth Balance and stir until melted.
  14. Cook garlic over medium-high heat for 1 minute.
    NOTE: Do not let the garlic brown.
  15. Pour white wine into the pan and allow to boil.
  16. Stir continuously until the drippings from the chicken are incorporated.
  17. Add the cornstarch and lemon juice mixture to the white wine sauce.
  18. Allow to return to a boil.
  19. Cook and stir for a few minutes until the sauce has thickened. Remove from heat.
  20. Stir in capers and parsley.
  21. Return the chicken to the pan, turning to coat.
  22. To serve, plate the chicken, pour lemon-caper sauce over each breast, and garnish with lemon slice.
Ingredient Lists
From Our Pantry

  • 1 cup Wild Rice and Brown Rice
  • 1 cup Bread Crumbs
  • 1/2 cup All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 cup Self-Rising Flour
  • 1 cup Cornmeal 
  • 1/3 cup Maple Sugar Crystals
  • 1 cup Dried Apricots
  • 1/4 cup Almonds, slivered
  • 1 Tbsp Corn Starch
  • 3 Tbsp Agostino Recca Capers in Salt
  • 2 Tbsp Fig Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1 cup + 2 Tbsp EVOO
  • 3 cups Chicken Broth
  • 1 medium Onion, sliced
  • 5 Garlic Cloves
  • 5 medium Lemons
  • 1 tsp Baking Powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground Allspice
  • 1 tsp ground Cinnamon
  • 1 tsp Vanilla 

From Our Refrigerator

  • 1 cup Earth Balance
  • 2 Eggs, lightly beaten
  • (Optional) 1/2 cup Pecorino Romano
  • 1/4 lb Fiore Sardo, shaved

From the Grocery 

  • 4 Honey Crisp apples
  • 4 Fuyu persimmons
  • 2 Heirloom Tomatoes, sliced in thin rounds
  • 1 medium Red Bell Pepper, quartered and sliced
  • 1 medium Orange Bell Pepper, quartered and sliced
  • 1 medium Yellow Bell Pepper, quartered and sliced
  • 3 Green Onions, roughly 2 Tbsp, chopped
  • Fresh Basil, whole leaves, stems removed
  • 1/2 cup Fresh Parsley, chopped
  • 8 oz Shiitake mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 Sourdough Batard, sliced 1/2 to 3/4-inch thick
  • 6 (5 to 6 ounces each) Skinless, Boneless Chicken Breast halves
  • 3 lbs Littleneck clams, well scrubbed, hard shell
    NOTE: Select clams with smaller diameters; they are younger and tend to be more tender and sweeter tasting.
Necessary Equipment
  • 2 to 4 - 1 gallon Ziplock bags
  • Measuring spoons
  • 2-cup Measuring cup
  • 10-cup Measuring cup
  • Sifter
  • 2 - Small Bowls
  • Medium Bowl
  • Prep dishes
  • Paring knife
  • Tomato knife
  • 8-in Chef's knife
  • Bread knife
  • Chef'n FreshForce Citrus Juicer (review)
  • Meat tenderizer
  • Spatula
  • Tongs
  • Pastry brush
  • Blender or food processor
  • Cuisinart ICE30-BC Ice Cream Maker
  • Cuisinart Griddler GR-4N
  • Toaster oven
  • Instant read thermometer
  • 8x8 square baker
  • 1 small saucepan
  • 12-in non-stick skillet
  • 12-in Everyday Pan or saute pan
  • 3-qt covered chef's casserole, oven safe
  • 7-qt covered chef's casserole
  • Wire rack
  • Cookie sheet

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