Y’all know how much I love getting into the kitchen for a #cookfest with friends right?
Well, sometimes, the point is just to get a meal on the table.
Sometimes, it’s to experiment with a new kitchen toy.
Sometimes, it’s to try a recipe we have all be scared to try, but the fact that we are in the kitchen together, somehow gives us a little more courage.
No matter the reason, getting in the kitchen with my girlfriends always leaves me feeling happy and content. (in more ways than one!)
She wanted to try and recreate a Strawberry Watermelon Cake that she had enjoyed while visiting with family in Australia.
And I wanted to revisit a torta that reminds of days gone by.
Let me tell you a little bit about this Antipasto Torta Primavera.
Many years ago, Nino and came across this restaurant that was right on Jericho Turnpike in Floral Park. It had a simple storefront and a bar that opened up into a dining room that was adorned with warm woods and simple white tablecloths and napkins.
Arturo’s was an old school Italian joint that Nino and I loved visiting. Whenever we would visit, it would remind me of how my parents would serve meals at home. Family style. Servings were generous and could always be shared. There was a cold antipasto cart. A dessert cart that came around after you were finished with your meal. And if it was during the holiday season, you would finish your meal with a bowl of fruit and nuts that you would crack open, yourself with the nutcrackers simply placed on a bread plate at your table. If you were so inclined, you could order fresh zabaglione that would be prepared, table side, in a copper pot by the head waiter on an open flame.
Just thinking about it now, brings me back to the candle lit dining room, starched white napkins, and the sound of the wire whisk bringing together the marsala wine and creamy egg yolks. This dessert was ALWAYS served with fresh strawberries. ALWAYS.
Forgive me for digressing, I’m not even sure I can accurately paint the picture of what Arturo’s Restaurant represents. It represents a time of slow meals, served in courses, complete with wine and memories of my uncles and aunts sitting around the dining table without the need to be anywhere else. Simple but flavorful food, all revolving around fresh ingredients.
Good old Italian goodness.
So, this Antipasto Torta Primavera was always on the antipasto cart (if you were early for dinner) and it stood alongside, grilled vegetables, tomato salads, fava beans, and frutti di mare. The cold cart always had many choices. Truth be told, I only had eyes for the delicious savory crepe cake that I was able to come pretty close to replicating with the help of my friends. It was a treat that I looked forward to, and admittedly, a treat I would sometimes ask for a slice to take home, so I could enjoy it the next day.
After taking a Facebook poll where I enlisted the help of my chef and foodie friends, I decided to take the plunge and go for it. Sabrina’s desire to create a layered dessert, inspired me to create the layered appetizer and so this is how we planned the rest of the meal. We knew that these two dishes would take most of our time and effort, so everything else we decided to put together needed to be “easy peasy.”
The recipe that I decided to use for the crepes was a simple recipe by my favorite, Martha Stewart. Whenever I make crepes, or indulge in the time that it takes to make a crepe cake, I use this as a base for my batter. Simple and Good, I prepare it with my Braun hand blender to make my life easy, because you know I love easy.
Before making the crepes, I laid out all the ingredients which would fill the layers of this cold appetizer. Cold cuts from Earle’s and S & R completed the meats and cheeses, and the veggies that Ginger and I sauteed and grilled were cooled and ready as well. I also bought a can of roasted red peppers, but for some reason (I don’t know why) I must have removed the can of artichoke hearts from my cart. So, a perfect copycat recipe would have had marinated artichoke hearts as one layer too. I will remember this for the next time I make it.
One by one, I layered provolone cheese, salami milano, ham, lyoneer, and mozzarella. I left the grilled zucchini, eggplant, roasted red peppers, and garlic sauteed spinach as the last layers to create the dome like feel which would be covered by a layer of bechamel that I added gelatin to, so that I could try and achieve the glazed look.
I can’t tell you how much happiness this morning in the kitchen gave me.
I have fond memories of this delicious appetizer.
Nino and I were newly married. We worried about very little. (Perhaps I was naive.) But enjoying a meal like this together was something we loved even when we were dating. It made me happy to try and recreate this dish, not because it was delicious, but because it reminded me of days gone by, in New York.
That’s nice too, no?
But all this work for one dish?
Of course not!
When Sabrina and I get in the kitchen together with friends, we can sometimes get carried away with the dishes we add to complete a meal. After all, we cannot survive on savory crepe cakes and sweet layers of fresh whipped cream and strawberries, can we?
Healthier Lemon Orange Chicken for a protein that was made easy with the help of some pantry spices from McCormick Philippines.
Gruyere topped French Onion Zoodles were whipped up quickly with the help of my spiralizer. All we did for this dish was caramelize the onions before hand with some store bought bone broth, saute the zucchini noodles quickly before baking just long enough to melt the delicious cheesy goodness on top.
Hineleban Adlai was tossed in a roasted red pepper vinaigrette with roasted salted almonds for added texture. Using the leftover red pepper from the torta, it was easy to emulsify a quick salad dressing to toss this nutrient rich salad together.
Roasted New Potatoes shared space in the oven with the oven baked chicken and were tossed in olive oil and a Lipton Onion Seasoning Packet.
Yes guys, it all has to be that easy when we are making this many dishes!
AND timing is everything!
So we have to time the dishes to come out of the oven, ref, etc. all at the same time!
Can you say pressure?!!
But because we were already grilling our veggies earlier, this added dish was nothing at all, to throw together for more color on the table.
I could make grilled veggies a meal with a little added Balsamic Glaze from my friend Joy. She sells this glaze that she imports directly from Italy and I super love it on almost every salad and veggie.
Even adding marinated olives to the table gave the Torta a little added oomph on the plate. The savory creamy cheesy crepe cake was complimented by the tangy marinated olives and I felt like I was back on Jericho Turnpike.
Doesn’t this spread look amazing?
And it was so amazing, that of course, I had to try each and every single dish we prepared.
What do you guys think? Was this a productive #Cookfest or what?
Here’s a BTS video of what we did that day.
Hope you guys can share and subscribe!
Would you like to get into the kitchen with me and get your cookin’ on with a #Cookfest?
Leave a comment on this post to let me know what you would like me to cook next, or if you are so inclined to get in the kitchen with me. I’m thinking that we might need to do a #Cookfest for my blog anniversary which is coming up this October!