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Jan 2, 2010 03:29 PM

January 2010 COTM: Patricia Wells APPETIZERS AND SALADS

Welcome to the APPETIZERS AND SALADS thread for the January 2010 Cookbook of the Month, featuring Bistro Cooking & Trattoria: Simple and Robust Fare Inspired by the Small Family Restaurants of Italy.

Please post your reviews of Appetizers, First Courses & Palate Teasers (BC), Salads(BC) and Antipasti, Starters, and Salads(T).

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    It is rare that my own version of this wonderful spread is not in the fridge. When I bought this book years ago, it was the first thing I made and I fell in love. It’s just wonderful. It was so good, I then dove into the book full force.

    My own adaptation is below… just adding a few ingredients: rosemary, lemon juice, black pepper. Everyone who comes to my house now expects it, with crackers, when they show up. It’s that good. And it keeps in the fridge a good week without going bad (I’ve gone longer). You can eat it as soon as you make it but the flavors get even better after a day or so. Just take it out about 15-30 minutes before you serve it to let it soften just a touch.

    3 cloves garlic
    Fresh Rosemary (about 1 or two springs)
    1 11-14oz log of quality unflavored goat cheese
    Juice of 1/2 lemon
    Olive oil
    Fresh black pepper

    - In the food processor, chop the cloves of garlic and the fronds
    off the rosemary springs.

    - Then add the goat cheese, in big crumbles, the lemon juice,
    and the black pepper. Add a couple of glugs of olive oil. Start
    the processor, and add olive oil as needed. You want it creamy
    but not too soft and smooth, not runny. Add more pepper to
    taste if you like.

    - I put it in small ramekins, this will usually fill 3-4 4 oz ramekins.
    Cover them with foil and put in the fridge.

    1. WALNUT AND PECORINO SALAD Trattoria p. 48

      This could be my favorite recipe in the book. It is so simple, yet the flavors are very complex... and it is so much fun to eat! This is a terrific appetizer to have sitting out on the counter. I have people just reach in like it is popcorn, but you can certainly serve it with utensils. It would also be a terrific end to a meal as a cheese course. Divine.

      8 Replies
      1. re: Tom P

        Thanks Tom, both of those sound great. Could you paraphrase the Walnut and Pecorino Salad recipe? I love pecorino and need to eat more walnuts, sounds perfect.

        1. re: yamalam

          It is very simple: toast some fresh walnut halves then, when cool, toss them with a little olive oil, some lemon juice, dried oregano, fresh flat least parsley, salt and pepper and cubed pecorino. (The harder the cheese, the better, for eating). As in such a simple dish, high quality ingredients really pay off. I imagine you could do it with sage and rosemary as well. But it was so good, I've never deviated from the recipe. Let us know what you think.

          1. re: Tom P

            By fresh walnuts you mean freshly cracked?

            1. re: LulusMom

              If possible, I guess! Or just the best you have.

        2. re: Tom P

          Tom P is absolutely right. This is divine. I had a stupid moment in the store and bought asiago instead of pecorino. Not a problem at all. This is such a simple and easy recipe, and it was just wonderful. Cube the cheese, toast the walnuts, cut the parsley, mix this, add lemon juice, olive oil, dried oregano, salt and pepper. Really really good. My husband couldn't stop talking about it all night. This will be going on the list of things to make for guests.

          1. re: LulusMom

            Did you serve this pre-dinner or as a course? I'm trying to think of a way of serving it with pre-dinner drinks w/o individual plates. Little endive or lettuce leaves into which everyone could spoon it? I love the idea of leaving it out and everyone reaching in with their hands as Tom P describes . . . but that might not happen till after a drink or two.

            1. re: cinnamon girl

              I served it as a salad on the side, which might seem weird but it was so good that no one was complaining. I think in lettuce or endive leaves is a wonderful idea for finger food. My issue with the hands thing (and I do trust both PW and Tom P that it is wonderful that way) is that there is oil and lemon juice in there, and so your hands are going to get at least a little grubby.

              My husband lucked out and got the leftovers. Still raving about it.

              1. re: LulusMom

                Ooohh . . . served as a side dish it would be a good way of fleshing out a meatless, or near-meatless, meal too. Thanks LM!

        3. Celery Salad with Anchovy Dressing (Trattoria, p. 34)

          Easy peasy (although I made it easier by not doing the fancy cutting she describes - I just sliced the celery). In a food processor combine 6 tablespoons olive oil, 2 cans anchovy fillets, and 3 garlic cloves. Cut the celery. Combine, add fresh pepper, serve. This is for those who like strong flavors, and it was hit in our house. I found the leftover a little too strong, but Lulu has been gobbling them for her lunches.

          1 Reply
          1. re: LulusMom

            I'm going to say that I'd really love this salad. I adore celery and crunchy food, and this paired with the anchovy fillets/garlic etc. would be sooooo good. I have everything I need.

          2. Wow! I'm so encouraged by the early positive feedback on Trattoria!


            2 Replies
            1. re: The Dairy Queen

              I own bistro cooking but took Trattoria out of the library. Really glad I did, so far.

              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                Me too. Guess I'll have to check it out. Again.
                I have NO will power.

              2. La Salade et Vinaigrette de Tant Yvonne, Pg. 67, Bistro Cooking

                This should be titled Basic Salad 101. Talk about easy. Two heads of soft leaf lettuce leaves are torn into bite-sized pieces. I used 1/2 small head Boston and 1/2 head of Romaine, cuz that's what I had.
                The vinaigrette is: lemon juice, sherry vinegar, Dijon, S & P, and EVOO. Simplicity itself. As expected the salad was very nice. I resisted adding other VGs because I really wanted something light. This went nicely with a slice of crusty bread and a piece of Gorgonzola....and the lentil soup on pg. 34.

                2 Replies
                1. re: Gio

                  I do think the perfect salad is an underated thing. I made this dressing last night and served it with some frisée I had from the farmer's market. It was indeed very nice, and may become my "house" salad dressing.

                  1. re: Gio

                    I made Tante Yvonne's salad last night, using Boston lettuce and the dressing as prescribed. I wanted a simple salad to go along with the other Wells recipes on the menu (Lapin [Poulet for me] a la Moutarde, Gateau de Pommes de Terre, Quatre-Quarts aux Poires), and this was it.

                    As I often do, I undersalted the dressing when I added the salt and pepper, so the dressed salad was a bit bland. It's so critical to use enough salt in salad dressing: you'd think I'd have learned that lesson by now! But since the amount of dressing was much more than I could use for one salad for four, I have plenty of dressing left so I added salt before I put it away. I also ran out of my regular olive oil yesterday, so I used a super primo Spanish that I had in my pantry, one I normally wouldn't mix w/vinegar but use only for drizzling. I have a feeling its superior flavor was lost, overwhelmed by all the other flavors, which do make for a tasty dresssing. Next time I would use my everyday EVOO. And yes, I'll be using what's left of this and making more in the future.

                    I've always loved the simple salad dressings favored by the French; there's a French restaurant in town that uses a very simple vinaigrette on the humblest of ingredients to create a spectacular salad.