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Martha's Tuscan Buffet

MyCookbook Recipe Database
MyCookbook Member: MarthasArchive2
Recipe Category: Holiday
Recipe Preparation Level: difficult
    Many couples choose wedding buffets over sit-down dinners to reduce costs, but you might choose one simply because a beautiful, abundant buffet adds a celebratory focal point to a reception. Today, a giant hollowed-out wheel of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese becomes the centerpiece of a sumptuous Tuscan-inspired wedding buffet. The top of the cheese is removed, then the insides are crumbled into bite-size morsels. Whether drizzled with white truffle oil or left plain, the cheese is an incomparable treat.

    The table display is simply yet beautifully done. A linen tablecloth is covered by a runner, then dressed with garlands of Russian olive branches held up with decorative bread bows. An arrangement of sunflowers and a pedestal piled with champagne grapes and green and black figs are the only other table decorations needed to complement the array of hearty country Italian dishes. Jars containing votive candles dangle from the overhanging branches of an old maple tree to set the entire presentation warmly aglow once the sun sets.

    Crostini are thin slices of toasted bread, often topped with cheese or pâté. The following recipes include crostini served with chicken liver pâté or a purée of white beans and sage. Roasted chicken glazed with a lemon-honey sauce, grilled vegetables, and the thin, crisp Italian bread sticks called grissini round out the menu. Also on the table were a leg of prosciutto, olives, and an array of rustic Italian breads.

    Serves 12 to 14

    1 1/2 pounds chicken livers
    2 tablespoons unsalted butter
    1 shallot, finely diced
    3 bay leaves
    2 tablespoons capers, plus more for garnish
    1/3 cup marsala wine
    1 baguette, cut into 1/2-inch slices
    Olive oil, for brushing
    Anchovy fillets, for garnish

    1. Clean livers of excess fat and blood vessels. Rinse under cold water, pat dry with a paper towel, and set aside.

    2. Place butter in large sauté pan over medium heat. Add shallot and bay leaves, and cook until shallot is translucent. Increase heat to high; add livers and capers, and cook until liver centers are pink, 3 to 4 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer livers to a plate.

    3. Reserving liquid in pan, add marsala wine. Using a wooden spoon, scrape up any brown bits. Reduce liquid by half, about 3 minutes.

    4. Remove bay leaves; transfer pan to a heat-proof surface to cool, about 1 hour. Place livers and liquid in a food processor; purée until smooth. Transfer to a covered container; chill. When ready to serve, brush bread slices with olive oil; toast. Garnish spread with additional capers and anchovy fillets; serve toasts on the side.

    Serves 12 to 14

    Two 15-ounce cans of beans may be substituted for the dried beans. Drain and rinse canned beans; proceed to step 3.

    8 ounces dried white kidney beans
    2 garlic cloves, peeled
    1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
    4 fresh sage leaves, plus more for garnish
    Juice of 1 lemon
    Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
    1 baguette, cut into 1/2-inch slices
    Lemon slices, for garnish, optional

    1. Rinse and pick over beans. In a medium saucepan, cover beans with water, and bring to a boil for 5 minutes. Transfer to a heat-resistant surface, and let beans stand in water, uncovered, 1 hour.

    2. Drain beans; add fresh water to cover beans by two inches. Return to medium heat. Simmer, covered, until soft and tender, about 50 minutes.

    3. Allow beans to cool slightly. Drain beans, reserving liquid. Place beans, garlic, olive oil, sage, lemon juice, and salt and pepper in a food processor; purée until smooth. If too thick, thin to desired consistency with reserved bean liquid. Transfer to a covered container; chill. To serve, brush bread with olive oil, and toast. Garnish spread with sage leaves or lemon slices, and serve the toasts on the side.

    Serves 12 to 14

    Instead of using lemons, you may substitute oranges or a combination of citrus.

    4 three-and-one-half-pound chickens
    Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
    6 sprigs fresh rosemary
    1 cup honey
    6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
    4 lemons, zests removed, halved, and juiced
    8 cloves garlic, peeled
    1 yellow onion, quartered

    1. Heat oven to 375°. Under cold running water, wash chickens inside and out; pat dry with a paper towel. Generously season inside and out with salt and pepper.

    2. Roughly chop two sprigs rosemary. In a medium bowl, mix together honey, butter, chopped rosemary, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Set aside.

    3. Combine lemon halves, remaining four sprigs rosemary, garlic, and onion; divide among four birds, and fill cavities. Using a pastry brush, coat outside of birds with lemon-honey glaze. Place birds in a large roasting pan on rack positioned in middle of oven. Baste every 15 minutes, and brush with any remaining glaze. Roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted into deepest part of breast registers 180° and juices run clear when pierced with a knife, about 1 hour. Serve hot or at room temperature.

    Serves 10 to 15

    10 baby artichokes
    10 bulbs baby fennel, cut lengthwise into quarters and skewered
    2 bunches thin carrots, scrubbed
    2 bunches beets, peeled and sliced
    2 heads radicchio, quartered and skewered
    Olive oil, for brushing
    Salt and freshly ground pepper

    1. Fill a stockpot with water, and bring to a boil. Cook artichokes until tender, about 4 minutes. Drain in a colander, let cool, and cut in half.

    2. Heat a grill to medium hot. Brush the vegetables with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Grill all vegetables except radicchio for 10 or 15 minutes, or until tender. Grill the radicchio for 2 to 3 minutes. Serve vegetables warm or at room temperature.

    Makes 35 to 40

    1 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons warm water (about 110 degrees)
    3 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
    1 teaspoon barley malt (available at health-food stores)
    3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for brushing
    3 3/4 cups bread flour
    1 1/2 teaspoons salt
    1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon vegetable shortening
    3 tablespoons roughly chopped rosemary
    1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan

    1. In bowl of an electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment, combine 1/4 cup warm water, yeast, and barley malt. Let stand until yeast is creamy, about 10 minutes. Add olive oil, flour, salt, shortening, and the remaining warm water; mix on low speed for 1 minute. Change to dough-hook attachment, and mix on medium-low speed until dough is soft but not tacky, about 2 minutes. Add rosemary and Parmesan; mix 1 minute more. Alternatively, knead by hand 5 to 10 minutes.

    2. Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface, and knead four or five turns, forming the dough into a ball. Cover with lightly oiled plastic wrap, and let rest 10 minutes.

    3. Place a piece of parchment on a clean work surface, and brush parchment with olive oil. Transfer dough to parchment, and pat dough into a 4-by-22-inch rectangle. Brush surface with olive oil, cover with plastic, and let rise 1 hour.

    4. Heat oven to 400°. Line four baking sheets with parchment; brush generously with oil. Cut a 1/2-inch-thick piece of dough from the shorter side of the rectangle. Hold dough by the ends; stretch it to the length of the baking sheet, keeping the shape as uniform as possible. Form ends into hooks, loops, S curves, or knots. Place bread stick on baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough, spacing bread sticks 1 inch apart. Let rise in a warm place, uncovered, 10 minutes.

    5. Bake two sheets at a time on separate shelves until bread sticks are crisp and golden, 20 to 25 minutes, rotating halfway through baking time. Transfer to wire racks, and let cool completely. Store up to 10 days in an airtight container.

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