May has been a busy month for us. With travels, day jobs, weekend visitors and more, somehow this month slipped right out of our hands. We are happy to be back though, and what better way than with another meal extravaganza featuring Alexia Foods products. Coming off the success of our recent beer pairing dinner, we were offered the opportunity to host a second dinner party featuring Alexia Foods’ products. This time, we opted for a simple three-course meal that combined good drinks, food, and friends!
Our intention was to highlight a few Alexia products that we have not experimented with as much as others. First, we used Alexia’s mozzarella sticks in an Italian-inspired casserole. We simply layered the cooked mozzarella sticks in layers of marinara sauce with a spinach and ricotta cheese mixture. Our main dish featured Alexia’s sliced red potatoes. Instead of baking these guys, we pureed the thawed potatoes to form the thickened base of a leek soup. If that weren’t enough, we tossed in steamed clams and crisped prosciutto with a scallion gremolata.
Our final course, the dessert, was where Chrystal and I left it up to you. You may remember a poll we posted on our Facebook page soliciting your input to help us narrow down our dessert option. We knew that we wanted to make the dessert with Alexia’s sweet potato puffs–which, I admit, is my favorite Alexia product–but, we weren’t sure where to go from there. Out of our suggestions, there was a tight race between Creole beignets and Italian tiramisu. To keep within the loose Mediterranean theme of the dinner, we decided to combine the two choices and serve zeppoles for our sweet ending. Zeppoles are Italian fried doughnuts, which are somewhat similar to beignets in concept and execution. To accompany the fried pastries, and also match the creamy texture and spiced flavor of tiramisu, we paired a maple mascarpone cream and cinnamon zabaglione–a simple custard–as dipping sauces. Now, we had ourselves a menu ready to go!
Although the courses were much more scaled back than our usual dinners, we were pleased with each one. The mozzarella casserole was an unexpected hit! It looked like a mini lasagna, and the mozzarella sticks provided that cheesey pull that makes each bite addictive. The soup was light and delightful, having many layers in every spoonful. If we had to pick a winning course, though, the dessert would undoubtedly wield the trophy. The zabaglione was bowl-licking good, and it was a great match to the zeppoles. Not one doughnut remained at the end of the night, and Chrystal urged me to save the leftover zabaglione for a later use.
In addition to the photos, we decided to chronicle this dining adventure in video form–a mini movie, if you will! Check it out HERE for a quick and fun look into our latest Alexia Foods venture as Tastemakers. Thanks to our friend Elesha of Deck as Ef Productions for putting it all together. Here’s to happy cooking!
Mozzarella Stick and Ricotta Cheese Casserole – Serves 8
16 ounces Alexia Foods Mozzarella Stix with Olive Oil & Italian Herbs
15 ounces ricotta cheese
10 ounces frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 eggs, lightly whisked
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
24 ounces marinara sauce
1/2 cup grated parmesan
1/4 cup fresh basil, thinly sliced, for garnish
1. Bake the mozzarella sticks according to package directions. Set aside to cool slightly.
2. As the mozzarella sticks cool, mix the ricotta cheese, spinach, garlic, eggs and salt until smooth. Set aside.
3. Lightly coat the bottom and sides of a 8″ x 12″ baking dish with the olive oil and half of the sauce on the
bottom of the dish. Layer all of the mozzarella sticks over the sauce.
4. Top the mozzarella sticks with the ricotta cheese mixture, followed by the remaining sauce. Sprinkle the parmesan cheese on top.
5. Slide the dish into a preheated oven at 375 degrees for about 30 minutes or until browned on top. Garnish with basil and serve.
Creamy Leek Soup with Crisped Prosciutto, Clams and Scallion Gremolata – Serves 8
8 slices proscuitto, thinly sliced
1/4 cup fresh grated parmesan
1 large bunch scallions, trimmed
Zest of 1 large lemon
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1/4 cup toasted slivered almonds
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoons olive oil
4 stalks celery, sliced
4 large leeks, white and light green stalk, washed and sliced
2 large shallots, thinly sliced
4-6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
11 ounces Alexia Foods Oven Reds with Olive Oil, Parmesan and Roasted Garlic, thawed
1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
8 ounces white wine
1 bunch fresh thyme
18-20 pounds clams, washed
1. For the proscuitto, lay each slice on a parchment paper-covered baking sheet. Sprinkle each piece with 1 tablespoon of parmesan. Bake in a preheated oven at 375 degrees for 15 minutes or until crispy.
2. Place all of the ingredients for the gremolata into a food processor. Blend until well combined. Scrape the mixture into an airtight container and set aside.
3. Place the butter and olive oil into a large pot and melt over medium high heat. Once melted, add the celery, leeks and shallots, stirring to coat with the butter and oil. Cook for 7-8 minutes or until the shallots begin to turn translucent and the veggies soften.
4. Add the softened Alexia Foods Oven Reds and enough liquid to cover all of the vegetables (approximately 4-5 cups). Raise the heat to high and bring the liquid to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for 20-25 minutes or until the potatoes have begun to break apart. Remove from heat.
5. Using an immersion blender, traditional blender or food processor until the soup is smooth. Season with the salt.
6. As the soup sits, pour the wine and thyme into a large pot over medium high. Once the liquid beings to simmer, add the clams, cover and cook for 3-5 minutes or until they all pop open. Discard any closed clams.
7. To serve, ladle the soup into bowls, top with a dollop of gremolata, 2 or 3 clams and a piece of proscuitto.
Sweet Potato Zeppoles with Cinnamon Zabaione and Maple Mascarpone Whipped Cream – Serves 4-6 (Adapted by Mario Batali )
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons half-and-half
6 ounces Alexia Foods Sweet Potato Puffs (about 1 1/2 cups), thawed and mashed
2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for sprinkling
2 tablespoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
6 cups vegetable oil for frying
Powdered sugar, for dusting
1. In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar. Add eggs and continue to beat mixture until it appears broken. Mix in vanilla, half-and-half, and sweet potato puff mash.
2. Mix together flour, baking powder, and salt in a separate small bowl. Stir in dry ingredients into butter mixture until well combined. The dough will be soft and sticky. Sprinkle liberally with flour and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 8 hours. (In a pinch, the dough can be chilled for a minimum of 90 minutes. For best results, however, it recommended to let firm overnight.)
3. Heat oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot to 340 degrees. When ready, roll dough on a well-floured surface to a 3/4 inch thickness. Cut small dough rounds using a small biscuit cutter. Fry each ball in heated oil a few at a time until golden brown on all sides and cooked throughout. Let sit on a plate lined with paper towels for 2 minutes before dusting with powdered sugar. Serve immediately with Cinnamon Zabaglione and Maple Mascarpone Whipped Cream.
(Adapted from La Cucina Italiana)
4 egg yolks
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch of fine sea salt
4 tablespoons Grand Marnier
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon water
1/2 cup mascarpone, at room temperature
1. Fill a saucepan with 2 inches of water. Heat to a low simmer over medium-low heat.
2. Place a stainless steel bowl on top of the saucepan, making sure the water does not touch the bottom. Whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, cinnamon, salt, Grand Marnier, and water. Place the bowl over the simmering water and whisk continuously until mixture is think, foamy, and tripled in volume–about 8 minutes. (Be sure not to let the custard scramble over the heat. Whisk vigorously and remove the bowl from the heat once or twice during the cooking process to help prevent this from happening.)
3. Immediately fold in mascarpone until completely incorporated and whisk till smooth. Cover and chill until ready to serve.
Maple Mascarpone Whipped Cream
1 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
1/4 cup mascarpone, at room temperature
1. Add cream to a medium mixing bowl. Using electric beaters, whisk until becomes thick, about one minute.
2. Continue whisking and slowly pour in maple syrup and vanilla bean paste. Beat until completely thickened. Fold in mascarpone. Cover and chill until ready to serve.
Hopefully, you will try one of our recipes or feel inspired to create your own. It’s not too late to join the Alexia Foods Ambassador Program! Get the latest Alexia news, use points to score rewards and coupons on Alexia goods, and much more. Head to Facebook to get started.
Disclaimer: We are part of the Alexia Foods Tastemaker Program and received samples and compensation for participation. All opinions given are our own.
Click HERE for printable recipes.
Other recipes you may enjoy...
Straight From The Alexia Foods Farm
Moving Through The IFBC Aftermath
Prosciutto di Parma and Chef Evan Kleiman
Joy the Baker’s Virtual Picnic
Decorating Cakes With Duff Goldman