Appetizers

Eggplant Caponata

Okay, the secret is out! I am about to share one of my all-time favorite family recipes with you…Eggplant Caponata.  Caponata is a cooked vegetable mixture consisting of eggplant, celery, olives, capers, sweetened vinegar and spices.  Caponata is traditionally eaten before the meal as an appetizer or antipasto as we say it in Italia.  Caponata originates from Sicily and showcases some of the most common flavors found in that region.  This July, I was fortunate enough to spend 10 days in Sicily with my family.  Along with octopus salads, pasta with sardines and pizza we must have tried 6 or 7 different Caponata recipes.  Although each one was uniquely delicious, my favorite one is still my Grandmas! Enjoy this with crackers or sliced Italian bread beside Italian meat and cheeses, or even do as my father does and mix it together with some canned tuna for a delicious healthy lunch!  

Click on the photo to see more pictures of the dish!

Ingredients-

  1. 1 Extra Large Eggplant- Cut into ¾ inch cubes (leave skin on)
    2 Medium White Onions- Diced small (use onions that are about the size of a peach or orange)
  2. 3 Stalks of Celery- Chopped into small pieces
  3. 3 Garlic Cloves-Diced fine
  4. ½-3/4 Cup of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  5. A sprinkle of Red Pepper Flakes (optional)
    1 Cup Green Spanish Olives- Roughly Chopped (Do not use the pimento. Make sure theyre plain)
    1- 6oz Can Black Olives- Roughly Chopped (cut each olive in about 3-4 pieces)
    2 Tablespoons of Capers
    1- 12oz Can of Tomato Paste
    ½ Teaspoon Dried Oregano
    2 Tablespoon Red Wine Vinegar
  6. 2 Tablespoons White Granulated Sugar
  7. Salt & Pepper to Taste (about 1/2 Teaspoon of salt)

Steps-

  1. In a large pot or Saute the eggplant, onions, garlic, celery and red pepper flakes in the olive oil on medium-low heat. Add more olive oil if you feel its too dry and the vegetables are not sauteing. 
  2. Cover the pot, and stir occasionally until the vegetables start to get soft.
  3. Add the tomato paste, oregano, red wine vinegar, capers, olives and sugar.
  4. Stir and allow the mixture to cook down for at least 15 minutes.
  5. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  6. If the mixture is way too thick add a little bit of water. I did not need to add any but it depends on your preference.
  7. You want the mixture to cook down and all the flavors to come together. 
  8. Remove from the heat and serve it hot as an appetizer beside Italian bread (or crackers) and cheeses, or serve cold…its great any way you like!  You can even mix it with pasta or with canned tuna.

Fig Salad with a Citrus Vinaigrette and Shaved Parmigiano Reggiano

August may mean that summer is almost over, but it also means that fig season has begun! Figs have a very special place in my heart because I grew up with a fig tree in my backyard, I make hundreds of Sicilian fig cookies with my Grandmother and sisters every Christmas, and my winning dish on Andersen Cooper’s Chopped contained fresh figs. What many people don’t realize is that they are incredibly versatile.

Figs are great by themselves, with yogurt and a drizzle of honey, in cakes and cookies, with gourmet cheeses, in chicken dishes, or in salads like you see here.

The fruity, sweet figs compliment the peppery arugula and sharp Parmigiano Reggiano perfectly.


Ingredients-

Citrus Vinaigrette-

  1. ¼ Cup Fresh Squeezed Orange Juice
  2. Pinch of Orange Zest
  3. 1 ½ Teaspoons Olive Oil
  4. 1 Tablespoons Red Onion (Finely Chopped)
  5. 1 Tablespoon plus 1 Teaspoon Balsamic Vinegar
  6. 1 Teaspoon Honey
  7. Dash of Salt and Black Pepper (to taste)

Fig Salad-

(Feeds 2-3 People)

  1. 3 Cups Baby Arugula
  2. 5 Fresh Black Mission Figs quartered
  3. Parmigiano Reggiano  

Steps-

  1. In a small bowl whisk together the orange juice, orange zest, olive oil, red onion, balsamic, honey, salt and pepper. Set aside
  2. In a medium bowl, toss together the arugula and figs.
  3. Pour as much dressing as you’d like over the top of the salad and toss until fully coated.
  4. Using a vegetable peeler, shave pieces of fresh Parmigiano Reggiano over the top of each salad.

New Zealand Clams with Orange & White Wine

When visiting my family back home on Long Island, my mom and I took a trip to one of our favorite specialty grocery stores.  We were thrilled to find a bin of live lobsters priced at $5.99 per pound…amazing! We decided to make succulent steamed lobsters with the traditional corn on the cob and baked potato side dishes, but we needed the perfect appetizer to start the meal.  My mom decided to add to the seafood theme by making her New Zealand Clam recipe, that is both simple and incredibly flavorful.   The fresh squeezed orange juice brightens up the dish with its fresh, tangy flavor and the white wine and garlic just go together organically, especially with clams.  Serve each guest a nice big bowl of clams with enough broth so that you can enjoy some with each bite and soak up the rest with bread.

 Recipe Feeds about 4 People

Ingredients-

  1. 2.5 Lbs of New Zealand Clams (They are about the size of a quarter)
  2. 4 Cloves of Garlic Minced
  3. ¼ Teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes
  4. 3 Tablespoons Chopped Fresh Italian Parsley
  5. 2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  6. 1 Tablespoon Butter
  7. ¾ Cup Dry White Wine
  8. ½ Cup Clam Juice
  9. The Juice of 1 Large Orange
  10. ½ Teaspoon Freshly Grated Orange Zest
  11. Dash of Black Pepper
  12. 1 Loaf of Bread (Italian Bread, French Baguette or Ciabata) 

Steps-

  1. Thoroughly clean each clam under cold water using a potato brush or paper towel to make sure there is no sand on them. Put them aside.
  2. Pour the Olive Oil into a large pot on medium low heat and heat it up slightly.
  3. Add the butter and allow it to melt.
  4. Put the garlic, parsley and red pepper flakes into the pot with the oil and sauté them until the garlic starts to brown slightly. (Do not let the garlic get to dark in color, this will give the dish a bitter taste)
  5. Once the garlic becomes very aromatic and browns slightly, add the clam juice, wine, orange juice, zest and pinch of pepper.
  6. Put the clams in the juice and cover the pot
  7. Bring the liquid to a simmer and cook the clams until they pop open on their own.  This should take about 5 minutes.
  8. Once the clams open, gently stir them around in the broth so they absorb the flavors of the juice.
  9. While the clams are cooking, toast and slice the bread the way you like it.
  10. Spoon a nice helping of the clams into each serving bowl and pour a nice ladleful of broth over the clams.
  11. Serve with a piece of the toasted bread to soak up all the juices
  12. Sit back and listen to the “slurps” around you! Enjoy!

Got Room For More? Follow me on Twitter and Instagram @gotroomformore.

Guacamole with Honey & Cumin

When it is warm outside, the foods that come to my mind are barbecued foods like hamburgers, hot dogs, pulled pork, slaws and salads, fresh fruits and of course lots of yummy dips.  Everyone loves a good dip whether it is buffalo chicken, French onion, taco, spinach, or my personal favorite, homemade guacamole.  After researching recipes and making and eating several variations of this classic Mexican dish, I finally developed the perfect recipe.  This recipe is creamy, refreshing, savory and sweet, all in one!  The secret ingredients, honey and Cumin Seeds take this guac to a whole new level. Shout out to my Lebanese Best Friend, Chris for showing me how versatile cumin can be!   I serve this guacamole with the traditional tortilla chips, with quesadillas, or on top of a beef or turkey burger. 

Tip- Leave the avocado pit in the center of the guacamole until you serve it. This will delay the browning process.

(Makes 1 medium size bowl)

Ingredients-

  1. 2 Avocados (make sure they are ripe)
  2. 1 small lime
  3. 3  Tablespoons Red Onion (finely chopped)
  4. 1/4 Teaspoon Salt
  5. Dash of Black Pepper
  6.  ¼ Cup Tomato (diced small)
  7. 1/2 Teaspoon Cilantro or Parsley (minced)
  8. 1 Teaspoon of Honey
  9. 1/4 Teaspoon Toasted Cumin Seeds (you may like more so taste and add accordingly)
  10. 1/2 Teaspoon-1 Teaspoon of finely chopped Jalapeno Peppers (pickled or fresh...I used pickled)

Steps-

  1. First, cut the avocados in half, remove the pits and scoop out the flesh into a bowl. 
  2. Mash up the avocados until they are a nice and creamy/slightly chunky texture.
  3.  Next, squeeze the juice of the lime on top of the avocado, and stir it up right away to prevent it from turning brown. 
  4. Stir in the onion, salt, pepper, tomato, cilantro and honey until it is all evenly distributed.  
  5. Serve in a nice bowl next to some chips and salsa, put it on top of your burger, dip your quesadillas in it, or just eat it with a spoon! ENJOY!!!

 

Watermelon, Arugula Salad with Goat Feta & Heirloom Tomatoes

Who doesn't love juicy, bright summer fruits on a warm, sunny day?  This salad is super simple to make, but the flavors and presentation are incredibly impressive and eye-catching. The earthy, peppery taste of the arugula and olive oil mixed with the natural sweetness of the watermelon and the briny bite from the Goat feta cheese is simply perfection. Forget about that bland, mixed green salad or that boring Caesar, and give this a try!  Like what you see? Like what you taste?  #GotRoomForMore on Twitter and send me a pic of the Got Room For More recipes you try!

 

Ingredients

  1. 2.5 ounces of Baby Arugula
  2. 1.5 lbs Seedless Watermelon cut into 1.5 inch cubes
  3. Extra virgin olive oil
  4. ½ cup Balsamic Vinegar
  5. .25 lbs Goat Feta cut into small cubes (about ¼ inch thick)
  6. 1 Cup of Heirloom Cherry Tomatoes (orange, yellow, green and red to bring out color)
  7. Salt and Pepper

 

Steps

  1. Cut tomatoes in half if they're very small and quarter them if they are on the larger side, and put them into a large bowl
  2. Put the balsamic in a small nonstick pan on the stove on medium heat. Cook for a few minutes until it bubbles and turns into the consistency of chocolate syrup.
  3. Set aside to cool slightly while to do the next steps
  4. Toss together the arugula, watermelon, and feta in the bowl with the tomatoes
  5. Sprinkle a little salt and pepper over the top to taste
  6. Drizzle 3 or so tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil over the top and toss with salad tongs (you may want more or less..eyeball it. The juice from the melon also acts as part of the dressing so you do not want to over dress it).
  7. Drizzle the balsamic over the top and toss lightly
  8. Serve on its own or as a side or starter course

Loaded Brussel Sprouts

When planning a dinner party for some of my closest friends, I didn’t want to serve them your ordinary chips, dips, cocktail weenies etc.  I wanted to come up with something unique and delicious to impress my gang and have them screaming “we’ve GOT ROOM FOR MORE!”  My friends Jon and Chris and my sister Christiana are all huge Brussel sprout fans, but my boyfriend Daniel is not the biggest fan.  After serving this savory, sweet, creamy, crunchy appetizer, you better believe everyone turned into a Brussel believer!

Ingredients

    1. 1 container of fresh whole brussel sprouts ( about 2 cups)
    2. Herbed chevre goat cheese (About 4 ounces)
    3. Thick cut bacon cooked until crispy and cut into small bits (about 1/3 cup of bacon bits)            
    4. Extra virgin olive oil
    5. Good quality balsamic vinegar
    6. Sea salt & Black Pepper

    (Serves 4-6 people)

    Steps

    1. Cut the ends off the Brussel Sprouts and slice each one in half vertically.
    2. Thoroughly clean them under warm water in a colander
    3. Preheat the oven to 375 F
    4. Put the Brussel Sprouts in a pot and cover with water (about an inch above the brussels)
    5. Bring to a boil and cook until the Brussel Sprouts are slightly tender (can be pricked with a fork)
    6. use a slotted spoon to strain the Brussels out of the water (be gentle so they don’t fall apart).
    7. Place them onto paper towels and gently pat them dry.
    8. With a small spoon or knife dig a small circular dent into the center of each Brussel Sprouts with the cut side facing up.
    9. Place them cut side up onto a cookie sheet pan and baste them with olive oil
    10. Sprinkle with sea-salt and ground black pepper
    11. Place under the broiler in the oven for a few minutes until they start to get browned
    12. Remove from the oven
    13. Roll small balls of goat cheese using your fingers (wet your fingers lightly if they stick) about the size of a shelled hazelnut, and press them into each indent inside each Brussel Sprout.
    14. Place a bacon crumble or two on top of the goat cheese
    15. Place back in the oven for a moment until the cheese starts to melt slightly  and become one with the Brussel Sprouts
    16. Right before you serve these delicious hors d’oeuvres pour about 1/2 a cup of balsamic vinegar into a small non-stick frying pan.
    17. Cook it over medium heat until it starts to bubble and reduce down into a thick syrup.
    18. Drizzle a little of the balsamic reduction onto each stuffed brussel sprout using a small spoon.
    19. Serve on a nice serving dish with our without toothpicks…I believe your hands are the best tool!

    Now sit back and watch your guests pop these in their mouths faster than you can say #gotroomformore?