Monday, October 30, 2023

Mummy pastry-wrapped brie appetizer

When I was thinking of what appetizers to serve guests just before Halloween, I turned to the internet for some holiday ideas. One that popped up more than once, was this pastry-wrapped brie cheese, meant to look like a mummy. Bingo. I had the basis for my charcuterie board. It was easy to make, using purchased puff pastry, with some apple slices and raisins for the eyes. Add some salumi (your choice, I used some soppressata), nuts, olives, fruit and maybe another dip or two, with some crackers and bread, and you can sit down and enjoy conversation with your guests instead of fussing in the kitchen.

By the way, I meant to spread some fig jam over the brie before wrapping, but I forgot that step. So I served the fig jam on the side. I also meant to brush the pastry with egg before baking, but I forgot that too (senility starting). As it turns out, it didn't need that either, so if you want to eliminate either of those steps, it works out just fine.

Happy Halloween.

Pastry Wrapped Brie Appetizer

One 8 ounce wheel of brie cheese
fig jam (optional)
1 sheet of puff pastry
1 egg, beaten for spreading over the pastry (optional)
small piece of apple and raisin or currants.

Defrost the sheet of puff pastry and roll it out to make sure it doesn't fall apart at the creases.
Smear some fig jam on the top of the brie and flip over so that the jam side is facing the pastry.
Fold the pastry over the brie, cutting out excess, but making sure to cover the entire wheel of cheese.
With the excess pieces, cut them into strips and cover the pastry again, placing the strips helter-skelter. 
If the pieces are too small, scrunch them together and roll out again.
When you place the strips on the pastry, make sure to tuck them into the bottom so they don't release in the baking.
Using a pastry brush, brush some of the beaten egg over the pastry.
Bake at 375 degrees for about 25 minutes, or until golden brown.
Let the brie rest for at least 15 minutes before serving, otherwise the cheese will be too runny.
Cut some thin pieces of apple and small currants or raisins and place into the pastry at strategic spots for the eyes.
Serve with crackers.


Thursday, October 26, 2023

Butternut Squash Al Parmigiana

When I saw this recipe of butternut squash, with a crispy coating of parmesan cheese, I knew I was done for. It combines one of my favorite fall vegetables with the king of cheeses until they cook and blend into a crispy, cheesy delight. This is truly addictive, so I have to be careful not to make a pig of myself.
I got the inspiration from an Italian Instagrammer, Viviana of "cosatipreparopercena" or "what I'm making you for dinner." Viviana's directions called for steaming the squash briefly before roasting with the cheese, and that's what I did the first time I made this.
However, the next time I next made it, I omitted that step and it worked just as well, with fewer pots to wash. Just peel the squash and cut into discs, semi-circles or whatever shape you want, but keep the slices uniform at about 1/4 inch thick. Spread a light layer of olive oil on your cookie sheet, then sprinkle with grated parmesan cheese. For this amount of squash, I used about 2 tablespoons olive oil and about 1/2 cup parmesan cheese.  Place the squash slices over the oil and cheese and sprinkle with minced rosemary.

Roast in a 400 degree F. for about 20-25 minutes. Remove from oven, and separate the pieces immediately. They'll start to stick together because of the melted cheese, and I found the easiest way to separate them from each other is with a pair of scissors. Just be sure to use a spatula first to lift them off the pan, then use the scissors if need be, to separate the squash slices.

The squash slices paired beautifully with a stuffed pork roast, but they'd make a great part of a vegetarian meal too, for those friends and family who won't eat animal flesh.

Butternut Squash Al Parmigiana

printable recipe here

one small butternut squash, cut into 1/4 inch pieces, or half of a large squash

olive oil, about 3 tablespoons

1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. 

Peel the squash and cut into 1/4 inch pieces.

Smear the cookie sheet all over with the olive oil.

Sprinkle the parmesan cheese on the olive oil

Lay the squash pieces over the olive oil, then sprinkle with the parmesan cheese.

Roast for 20-25 minutes or until browned and crispy on one side.

Sunday, October 15, 2023

Butternut Squash, Lentils and Red Onions

Butternut squash season is upon us, and there are many delicious ways to enjoy this vegetable. I frequently just roast it, make risotto with it, or use it in a lasagna. When I feel like veering from Italian recipes, I reach for one of my Ottolenghi cookbooks. His food is always a refreshing change from the typical fare I normally eat. The last time I was in London I ate this dish at one of his restaurants, and was eager to try it at home. I found the recipe in his book "Simple" and made it as printed. It calls for dolcelatte or a gorgonzola cheese, which I love. However, to me the dish would be even better with feta cheese, or some dabs of burrata instead, so that the cheese flavor doesn't overpower the squash. If you're not a cheese lover, you could leave it out entirely.

This dish is good served warm, or at room temperature. It's perfect for parties when you want to get all the work done ahead of time and just leave a finished dish on the table for people to help themselves. 

Roasted Butternut Squash with Lentils and Red Onions
From Ottolenghi's cookbook "Simple"

1 large butternut squash, unpeeled, halved lengthwise, seeded and cut into 1/2 inch thick half-moons or wedges
2 red onions, cut into 1 1/2 innch wide wedges
3 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra to serve
1/2 cut sage leaves
salt, black pepper
1/2 cup lentils
1 large lemon, finely zested to get 2 teaspoons, then juiced to get 2 tablespoons
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup parsley leaves, roughly chopped
1/4 cup mint leaves, roughly chopped
1/2 cup tarragon leaves, roughly chopped
3 1/2 oz. dolcelatte or gorgonzola cheese, torn into 3/4 inch pieces (optional)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
Place the squash and onions in a large bowl with 2 tablespoons oil, the sage leaves, 3/4 teaspoon salt and plenty of pepper. 
Mix well, then spread out on a large parchment-lined baking sheet. 
Roast for 25-30 minutes, until cooked and golden brown. 
Remove from the oven and set aside to cool for 10 minutes.
While the squash is in the oven, fill a medium saucepan halfway with water and place over high heat. Once boiling, add the lentils, decrease the heat to medium and simmer for 20 minutes, until cooked. Drain, set aside to cool slightly, then place in a large bowl. 
Stir in the lemon zest, lemon juice, garlic, parsley, mint, tarragon, remaining 1 tablespoon oil and 1/4 teaspoon of salt.
Add the squash and onion to the lentils and stir gently. Transfer to a serving bowl, dot with dolcelattte, drizzle with oil, and serve.

Friday, October 6, 2023

Pappardelle With Wild Boar Ragu

I can't resist pappardelle with wild boar ragù when I'm in either Umbria or Tuscany, where I spent some time recently. Wild boar appears on many menus in both regions, including a restaurant in Orvieto where I ate this wonderful dish last week.

 Recreating the pasta at home is easy. If you've never made homemade pasta before, click here for a tutorial.

Finding wild boar is more difficult. I couldn't get any chunks of wild boar meat, but my local supermarket sells it in ground form. If you can't find it near you, it's sold online through D'Artagnan, in all forms from sausages to stew cuts. You can always use ground pork, but it won't have that nuttiness that wild boar contains, but it will taste good, nonetheless.

Like any ragù, it needs time to simmer and develop flavors, but you'll end up with a lip-smackin' delicious sauce.

Serve it with purchased pappardelle if you like, but if you make your own, you'll be rewarded with a silky toothiness that can't be beat. Buon appetito.

Check out Ciao Chow Linda on Instagram here to find out what’s cooking in my kitchen each day (and more).

Pappardelle with Wild Boar Ragù

printable recipe here


1 pound ground or chopped wild boar meat

4 ounces pancetta, in small dice

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/4 cup finely minced onion

2 stalks celery, finely minced

1 small carrot, grated

2 cloves garlic

1 pound wild boar meat, either ground or in chunks

1 cup milk

1 large sprig rosemary, minced

2 bay leaves

a few gratings of fresh nutmeg

1 can (28 oz) San Marzano tomatoes, pureed in food processor

3 tablespoons tomato paste

1 cup red wine

salt to taste

pappardelle pasta (about 1 lb)


Place olive oil in saucepan, and pancetta, cooking almost until crisp, but not quite.

Add onions, celery, carrot, garlic and saute until limp.

Add wild boar meat and stir to break up clumps, cooking until all red is gone.

Add the rest of the ingredients and simmer for 2 1/2-3 hours, stirring every so often so nothing sticks.

If it needs more liquid, you can add a little more wine or water. 

Serve over pappardelle (preferably homemade).