Monthly Archives: May 2011

On Display: Grilled Bruschetta with Pesto, Prosciutto, Mozzarella, and Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Grilled Bruschetta with Prosciutto, Pesto, Mozzarella, and Sun Dried Tomatoes

Grilled Bruschetta with Prosciutto, Pesto, Mozzarella, and Sun Dried Tomatoes

We continue to lead more and more public lives. Between Facebook and Twitter, MySpace and FourSquare we are constantly and ultimately connected, sharing a running stream of our whereabouts, feelings, exercise routines, and meals.

So I suppose it should come as no surprise the institution of the chefs table has seen exponential popularity and growth in the last two or three years. For those of you not familiar with the concept, this is a bar or table that has been attached to open kitchens where patrons can watch their meals being made and chat with the chefs while they’re at it. Think of it like the wilderness safari of a restaurant.

Having worked in just enough restaurants to know there’s a whole lot going on back there you don’t want to know about I both adore the chefs table from a foodie diner’s perspective and yet am baffled so many chefs allow it. Gone are the days of joking about the “MILF at table seven with the bad boob job” or spitting on the steak that came back for a third time to be cooked more. Chefs and their staffs are on constant display and pressure to not only create an impressive meal, but to do it gracefully and look like they’re having fun to boot.

I recently stumbled upon Rioja in Denver’s trendy LoDo neighborhood. Sans reservation I walked in and thanks to my solo status was offered a sole seat at the chefs table. What followed for the next two hours was an absolute symphony of culinary excellence, innovation, and performance. The food was exceptional, the service flawless, and the kitchen, which was turning out plate after plate of Mediterranean inspired creations, literally humming. The lead chef, Jennifer Jasinski, was focused and no-nonsense, but finished each sentence with a ‘please’; Incongruous, if not unheard of in most kitchens.

The entire meal was spectacular, but the appetizer of hand-made mozzarella, wrapped in smoked prosciutto, grilled bread, oven-dried tomatoes, arugula, and green olive pistou was perhaps my favorite.

I’ve simplified it here to make it more doable for the home chef but if ever in Denver I highly recommend a trip to 14th and Larimer, where you can see the magic up close and personal.

Grilled Bruschetta with Pesto, Prosciutto, Mozzarella, and Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Serves 4. Perfect as a first course to a fancy, dinner…or as a light lunch.

8 slices Rustic bread, brushed with olive oil

8 prosciutto slices

8 slices fresh mozzarella, approximately 1/4″ thick

Pesto (homemade is better…but store bought will do the trick)

8 large pieces Sun-Dried tomatoes, packed in oil

  1. Assemble sandwiches, starting with pesto, then adding prosciutto, adding tomatoes, and topping with mozzarella
    Pesto Prosciutto
    Sun Dried Tomatoes Mozzarella
  2. Using a stove top griddle or cast iron pan, heat the pan to medium heat. Add  the sandwiches and cook 3-4 minutes per side until golden brown and cheese is melting. If the cheese isn’t melting and you’re worried about them getting too brown, add a lid to the pan for about 60 seconds.
  3. Cut in half and serve.

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Filed under 15-Minute-Meals, Entertaining, Make ahead, Restaurant Reviews

Neighborhood Loving: Turkey Sausage Egg Bake

Cane Corso Mastiff

Onca assisting at the neighborhood clean-up.

By now you’ve probably guessed that I can be a bit of a food snob. I rarely eat fast food, I don’t think twice about spending $20 on a hunk of cheese (but am appalled at how expensive the car wash is), and whenever I do get something pre-packaged at the grocery store I find myself offering a long, bumbling, drawn out excuse to the check-out teller, who frankly couldn’t care less, about why I’m buying Annie’s Macaroni and Cheese (to donate to the food bank obviously).

This weekend our lovely neighbors and neighborhood were planning a Spring Cleaning to get the streets a bit spruced up post-Winter, throw away the cans of Steel Reserve that had accumulated in the drains, and generally continue to signify to our transitional neighborhood that somebody does now actually care about it.

Mr. Wesley...taking care of business. With mittens on of course.

Our friends Brent and Ila Sole (don’t you wish that was your last name?!) offered to host a post-cleanup brunch featuring Bloody Mary’s, Mimosas, Fresh Baked Scones, and a few egg dishes. Ila did an amazing Artichoke Strata which I’ve already put in my bid to get the recipe for, and I decided to do a Turkey Sausage Egg Bake that been sitting in my inbox for years, helpfully labeled as “Recipes to Try”.

This recipe came my way via one of those Recipe Exchanges and is inspired from Chile, Corn & Croissants: Delicious Recipes from New Mexico Inns by Joan Stromquist. I have to admit that when I saw it called for shredded, bagged hash browns my snobby meter went off, but I pushed through…and boy am I glad I did.

This thing is delicious! A wonderful brunch addition, you can assemble it in advance, and use it as a base to throw whatever leftovers you have into. It is quite heavy, and not altogether healthy, so I wouldn’t suggest it all the time, but for a sunny, Sunday brunch with good friends, and happy dogs romping in the background, it was just the ticket.

Cane Corso Mastiff

A girl can only have so many mimosas...

Cane Corso Mastiff

And you don't want to get a sunburn.

Serve with Mimoas, Bloody Mary’s, and a side of Neighborhood Activism.

Turkey Sausage Egg Bake
Serves 8

Turkey Sausage Egg Bake

Turkey Sausage Egg Bake

3/4 pound Italian spicy turkey sausage
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 red chile pepper, roasted, peeled and chopped
1/2 small yellow onion, chopped
2 medium tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 pound package frozen hash browns, thawed (if you forget to thaw them until the morning of, like I did, just pop in the microwave for about a minute until broken apart)
1 tsp seasoned salt (or to taste)
1.5 cups cheddar cheese, grated + extra for topping
8 farm fresh eggs

Preheat oven to 350

In a large skillet, place the sausage and cook it on medium heat so that
it is brown. (Do not drain the grease). Add the bell peppers, red chile
peppers, onions and tomatoes. Saute them for 5-7 minutes, or until the
onions are tender.

Add the hash browns and saute them for 5 minutes. Add the seasoned salt
and stir it in.

Add the cheese and heat it for 2 minutes, or until it begins to melt.

Place the mixture in a lightly greased medium baking pan. Make 8 divots
in the mixture with a spoon. Place one egg in each divot. Sprinkle tops with remaining cheese.

I thought this looked so cool before you baked it.

Bake the casserole for 30 minutes, or until the eggs are done, and the cheese on top is bubbling.

**Darling doggy photos compliments of the lovely Nadia Flusche.**

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Filed under Breakfasts, Cheap Eats, Entertaining, Make ahead