Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Frico: Parmesan Cheese Crackers

One of the wonderful little antipasto inventions is the frico from the northeastern region of Italy known as Friuli-Venezia Giulia.  A frico is nothing more than a crisp-fried cheese wafer made with grated cheese.   Even though it is simple, it can be bit tricky to make.  Once you have made one successfully, it does seem so easy. Traditionally, the cheese used for making it is a three-month-old Montasio, a cow’s milk cheese with a buttery, creamy taste that melts very well.  Traditionally, frico is cooked in a skillet. The difficult part of making a crisp frico, what is called locally frico croccante, is knowing when to remove the wafer from the pan. If it cooks too long and becomes too golden brown, it will become bitter.  Therefore, a more fail-safe way to cook it is in the oven on parchment or a silicone baking sheet.   Montasio cheese can be found in cheese stores and gourmet markets. If you cannot find it, you can try using freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grating from a large not-dried-out chunk. I use Parmesan.  Most importantly, the cheese used for frico should be very low moisture and not too salty.  Frico can be easily shaped while right out of the oven while, still warm and malleable, for a cup for fillings. I personally like it as a garnish to a soup or salad.

•    1 pound Montasio, Asagio, or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated more coarse
•    Robust herbs of your choice such as oregano, rosemary, thyme either dry or fresh (optional)
•    Fresh ground black pepper (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400F.  Line a cooking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking sheet.  Use a round cookie cutter as a guide to put in the grated cheese.  Allow about 1 inch between the frico.  Put a thin, even layer of grated cheese in each round.  If you would like, sprinkle a small amount of herbs  on the frico.  Remember, the dried herbs will have a more concentrated flavor than the fresh herbs.  Per your preference, grate a small amount of black pepper on, too.  Place in oven.  Carefully watch.  Remove from oven once they start to turn a gold color, about 3-5 minutes, depending how much moisture is in the cheese.

The frico will be flexible while it is still hot, and if you drape it over a glass or bottle to cool and firm up you will obtain a cup or basket.  Then it is a perfect container for an antipasto.  Make sure whatever you use does not contain too much moisture.

Makes about 30 frico
Total time:  10-15 minutes

-Erin Swing
The Sensitive Epicure

This is part of Food Network's Sensational Sides Food Fest. Check out The FN Dish. The spring food we're focusing on here are sides with cheese. On twitter, we're tagging #SensationalSides. Here are other delicious recipes to cheese up your life:

Virtually Homemade: Easy Cheesy Enchilada (Gluten-Free)

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Green On Green Chopped Salad

Shortly after I moved out to Los Angeles, I learned that chopped salads are the standard salads here. All the greens and accompaniments are chopped into bite size pieces and tossed with the salad dressing. Angeleno chopped salads resemble more of a composed salad than the standard garden salad variety. I like them. When I went Amsterdam, I was blown away by the salads there. Amazingly fresh and tasty. No, no green bud on them, ha! My favorite salad that I ate there was an all green in color salad: green lettuce, green onions, granny smith apples, and other goodies. I decided for this week's Food Network's Sensational Sides to make a fusion of the Angeleno chopped salad meeting the Dutch green salad for a green on green chopped salad. Feel free to make this recipe yours and alter as needed or per your personal taste.

1 head of green, bibb, or romaine lettuce, cleaned, dried, and cut into very thin strips
3-4 stalks of green onions, chopped finely
2 stalks of celery, diced small
1/4 cup of pistachios, chopped
1 granny smith apple, cored and chopped small
1 avocado, peeled and seeded, chopped small
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon mustard (dijon or whole grain)
1 tablespoon vinegar of your choice (make it good, but not balsamic)
1/2 teaspoon green goddess seasoning (I like Penzeys)
salt and pepper to taste

Prep all of the lettuce, green onions, celery, pistachios, apple, and avocado by placing in a large mixing bowl and gently toss with salad tongs, but I think clean hands work the best.

In a large serving bowl, add the olive oil, mustard, vinegar, and seasonings and mix with a whisk until blended. Gently fold in the cut salad into the serving bowl with the dressing and toss very gently until it is all covered uniformly by the dressing. Taste. Add more seasonings if needed. Eat immediately. Serves about 4.

-Erin Swing
The Sensitive Epicure

This is part of Food Network's Sensational Sides Food Fest. Check out The FN Dish. The spring food we're focusing on here are salads with spring lettuces. On twitter, we're tagging #SensationalSides. Here are other delicious green recipes to freshen up your meal: