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Cortoni ... colorful and cool Italian buffet.

In Italy, menus often feature a series of cortoni-vegetable dishes usually served at room temperature or only gently warm. Collectively, cortoni are a colorful lot. They're simple but robust, lightly but flavorfully seasoned, and inevitably given an abundant splash of fruity extra-virgin olive oil.

What is extra-virgin olive oil? It's the finest grade of olive oil. The oil's natural acidity (oleic acid) determines its rank. Extra-virgin, widely available here, is more costly and less acidic than other grades, but it is also more flavorful. If you like, however, you can substitute a milder, more neutral olive oil.

Try serving these vegetable dishes as a collection for a party of 8 or 9. Each dish has make-ahead steps. Add bread and a crisp, semidry to dry white wine such as Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc, and you have a fine meal. Or serve the dishes separately as first courses or salads. Recipes for the bread salad, green beans, and vegetable melange are on page 182.

Bruschetta Look for focaccia in Italian bakeries, markets, and delicatessens.

4 large ripe Roma-type tomatoes

(about 1/2 lb. total), cored and diced

1/2 cup finely diced celery

2 tablespoons each minced parsley

and fresh basil leaves

2 teaspoons white wine vinegar

About 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper

1 sheet (1 lb., about 8 by 11 in.) plain

focaccia (Italian flat yeast bread) or 1 loaf (1 lb.) sourdough

French bread

Fresh basil sprigs

In a bowl, combine tomatoes, celery, parsley, minced basil, vinegar, and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil; add salt and pepper to taste. Set aside; if made ahead, cover and chill up until next day

Cut focaccia into 8 or 9 equal pieces; split each piece horizontally in half. (Or cut French bread into 16 to 18 slices, each 1/2 inch thick.) Lay focaccia (or bread) in a single layer in 2 baking pans, each 10 by 15 inches. Broil 5 inches from beat until lightly toasted, about 1 minute. Turn pieces over and broil until other side is lightly toasted, about I minute.

Set warm bread on a platter. Spoon equal portions of tomato mixture on bread; garnish with fresh basil sprigs. Serve warm. Offer remaining olive oil to pour generously over each serving. Makes 16 to 18 pieces, 8 or 9 servings.-Dino Baglioni, 11 Piccolino Trattoria, Los Angeles.

Per serving : 259 cal. ; 4. 9 g protein; 29 g carbo- ; 14 g fat,- 1.5 mg chol.; 300 mg sodium.

Caramelized Onions with Dried Tomatoes and Herbs

1 1/2 pounds small onions(about l-in.

diameter), peeled

3 tablespoons oil from oil-packed

dried tomatoes, or extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon each fresh rosemary

sprigs (about 1/2 in. long) and fresh sage leaves, or 1 1/2 teaspoons each dry rosemary and dry sage leaves 1/4 cup drained oil-packed dried

tomatoes, cut into slivers

Fresh rosemary sprigs

Place onions in a 9- by 13-inch baking dish or pan; drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the oil and sprinkle with the rosemary and sage. Bake, uncovered, in a 375 degrees oven until onions are well browned and soft when pressed, about 45 minutes.

Stir in dried tomatoes and remaining oil; let cool. If made ahead, cover and let stand up until the next day.

Transfer to a serving dish and garnish with rosemary sprigs. Serves 8 or 9.

Per serving : 65 cal. ; 1 g protein; 5.9 g carbo.;6.7 g fat, 0 mg chol.; 145 mg sodium.

Lemon Chicken Salad in Radicchio

2 heads(each 3-to 4-in.diameter,or

about 1 lb. total) radicchio

1/2 cup pine nuts

1 large lemon,thinly sliced

2 cups minced cooked chicken


2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper Remove 8 or 9 large radicchio leaves; rinse leaves and radicchio heads, Wrap in paper towels, enclose in a plastic bag, and chill until crisp, at least 1 hour or as long as 2 days.

Place pine nuts in an 8- or 9-inch-wide pan. Bake in a 350 degrees oven until lightly toasted, 8 to 10 minutes, shaking pan occasionally. Set aside.

Discard lemon seeds; cut 2 slices into quarters and set aside. Cut each remaining slice into 10 wedges. In a large bowl, mix small lemon wedges with nuts, chicken, and oil. If made ahead, cover and chill up until the next day.

Finely shred heads of radicchio; discard cores. Mix with chicken salad. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Mound equal portions of chicken salad into the radicchio leaves, set on a large serving platter, and garnish salads with reserved lemon quarter-slices. Makes 8 or 9 servings.

Per serving: 111 cal; 12 g protein; 3.9 g carbo.; 6.3 g fat, 27 mg chol.; 28 mg sodium.
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Title Annotation:recipes
Date:Oct 1, 1988
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