Bon Vivant's written and pictorial diary of her culinary adventures that will amuse and excite your virtual taste buds...

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

And the Oscar Goes To...

Since I'm from LA, an Oscars party is de rigueur. I usually hate watching the Academy Awards show (I started up again many years ago when one year I came home from going out and my roommate said, "Oh! You missed it! Rob Lowe and Snow White singing Proud Mary!" Since this was before the days of the internet, I had to start watching the show since I didn't want to miss anymore juicy tidbits such as that disaster) but I do like the party and the creative names that people give their Oscar centric dishes. This year the names of the nominated movies/actors left a lot to be desired when naming dishes (hint to screenwriters: give your script a clever title that may inspire a future Oscars party dish) but mumsy did come up with Avatartichoke in 3 D(ip).

As luck would have it, I was asked to sample some Mezzetta® products and to try out some recipes using them. Most people know Mezzetta® as the "peperoncini people" but they have so many more products than the famous pickled chiles; I especially love their varied marinated olive mixes. I was sent roasted peppers, pesto, and marinated artichoke hearts (just in time for me to make two of the three dips!)

The pesto came with a wonderful sounding pesto lemon goat cheese dip (recipe below - I must make this sometime soon since it sounds so good) but I had my heart set on making a variation of Michael Chiarello's Potato Cakes with Mozzarella and Pesto (I used an additional potato, "mashed" the potatoes in the KitchenAid mixer, added gobs of Parmigiano and grated low-moisture mozzarella to the potatoes before forming into cakes, and used fresh mozzarella to top the cakes.) This appetizer was well liked and paired beautifully with an unoaked Chardonnay (or you could try a nice dry sparkling white such as Prosecco.) I'm really picky about jarred pestos because they always seem a bit bland to me but Mezzetta's pesto was pretty tasty - I noticed on the ingredients list that there is Chardonnay in the pesto which probably gives it its oomph.

Below, a very easy appetizer to make: yummy Artichoke Cheese Toasts.

Well, this isn't actually a dip but it was so good, who cares? This appetizer is fabulous paired with an oaky Chardonnay and was one of my favorite apps - it was so cheesy and delicious. The artichokes added a nice zing to the toasted cheese. Did I mention that it was easy to make?

I also used the artichokes in a "lower-fat" artichoke bean dip that I've made on occasion that is quite popular with the party crowd. I liked how the Mezzetta® marinated artichoke hearts added a nice tangy flavor to the dip; far more preferable than the frozen artichokes that I've used in the past.

And the Oscar goes to...Roasted Red Pepper with Feta Dip!

The guests attacked this dip before I could take a photo of it. This dip was insanely good! And it couldn't have been easier to make. You'll want to make this dip everyday. All of the recipes came out fabulous and I would definitely serve them all again at a party but this dip was the crowd favorite (and it paired extremely well with Prosecco.)

I was a big fan of Mezzetta® product but now I like them even more. Because I didn't have to roast my own peppers, make my own pesto, or defrost artichokes, these recipes were so easy to make. Not only did they fit in well with the theme of the Oscars party, they are easy enough to make when you have last minute guests (ok, not the potato cakes but the goat cheese dip is easy) because you'd have most of the ingredients on hand.

Artichoke Cheese Toasts

1 jar of Mezzetta® marinated artichoke hearts
4 cups cheddar cheese
¾ cup mayonnaise
1/8 teaspoon of Cayenne Pepper
Touch of fresh ground pepper
Salt to taste
1 baguette
(Note: I added about 2 Tbsp. of fresh chopped parsley for color)

Preheat broiler. Drain Artichoke Hearts, pat dry, and chop coarsely. Combine all ingredients well, except bread. Slice baguette crosswise 1/3 inch thick and spread bread thickly with cheese mixture. Broil 5 to 6 inches from heat until cheese is bubbling and browned, about 2 minutes.

Roasted Red Pepper with Feta Dip

1 cup Mezzetta® Roasted Bell Peppers
1/8 cup olive oil (2 Tbsp.)
2 garlic cloves, peeled
2 cups crumbled feta cheese

Blend all ingredients in food processor until smooth. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve with pita chips, fresh vegetables, or crackers.

"Lower Fat" Artichoke Dip

1/2 cup sour cream
4 oz. cream cheese
2-3 Tbsp. mayonnaise
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 jar of Mezzetta® marinated artichoke hearts
1 15 ounce can white beans beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup grated fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, divided
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
3 garlic cloves, minced
olive oil for coating the baking dish

Preheat oven to 400°. Combine all of the ingredients (except olive oil) in a food processor - use only 3/4 cup of Parmigiano - and process until smooth. Spoon mixture into an 8-inch square baking dish coated with olive oil. Sprinkle top with remaining 1/4 cup of Parmigiano. Bake at 400° for 25 minutes or until bubbly. Garnish with the parsley.

Lemon-Pesto Goat Cheese Dip

10 ounces soft fresh goat cheese, room temperature
2/3 cup sour cream
½ jar of Napa Valley Bistro™ Homemade Style Basil Pesto
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste

Blend all ingredients in food processor until smooth. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve with pita chips, fresh vegetables, or crackers.

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