Thursday, December 22, 2016

Bagna Cauda with Sweet Peppers and Crostini






     A Tasty Piemontese Antipasti!
     Bagna Cauda has its origins in Piedmont, Italy.  Bagna Cauda is usually served hot as a vegetable dipping sauce.  Another variation is Peperoni e Bagna Cauda, which is roasted red bell peppers tossed with warm Bagna Cauda.
     Bagna Cauda is usually served as an antipasti for two or more guests.  Bagna Cauda can also be served banquet style, as a party platter.  For a party platter, the Bagna Cauda can be served in a heated pot, just like a Scandinavian Fondue.  Guests can dip vegetables of their choice in the warm Bagna Cauda.
     There are many different Piemontese recipes for Bagna Cauda, yet there are only three required ingredients, which are olive oil, garlic and anchovy.  Another traditional Bagna Cauda ingredient is artichoke petal scrapings.  The meaty part of the artichoke petals is scraped off, then added to the sauce as it simmers.  The artichoke meat adds a rich flavor and it thickens the sauce.  Many Bagna Cauda recipes omit the artichoke leaf scrapings, because it takes more time to prepare.
     Many chefs add cream to Bagna Cauda, then reduce the sauce till it thick enough to cling to vegetables.  Adding cream is not traditional, but it is a modern standard.  Adding too much cream will result in a Bagna Cauda that is rather heavy on the tummy.

     Bagna Cauda:
     This recipe yields about 1 1/3 cups.  (Enough for 2 guests.)
     Step 1:  Place 1 large artichoke in a pot.
     Add enough water to cover the artichoke.
     Add 1/2 of a lemon.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt.
     Place the pot over high heat.
     Bring the water to a boil.
     Step 2:  Reduce the temperature to medium heat.
     Place a loose fitting lid on the pot.
     Gently boil till the artichoke is tender.
     Step 3:  Remove the artichoke from the hot water.
     Cool the artichoke under cold running water.
     Peel all the petals off of the artichoke and set them aside.
     *Save the artichoke heart and bottom for another recipe!
     Step 4:  Scrape the soft meaty part off of each artichoke petal.
     Discard the fibrous petals.
     Finely chop the artichoke meat and set it aside.
     Step 5:  Heat a small sauce pot over medium low heat.
     Add 3/4 cup of virgin olive oil.
     Add 12 whole large garlic cloves.  (About 1/2 cup.)
     Gently cook the garlic till it is a light golden color.
     Step 6:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Add the reserved artichoke petal meat.  (About 1/3 cup)
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of anchovy paste.
     Add 3/4 cup of cream.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper.
     Gently simmer and reduce till the bagna cauda is a medium thick sauce consistency that can coat a spoon.  Be sure to whisk occasionally, so the sauce emulsifies.
     Step 7:  Remove the pot from the heat.
     Mash the soft garlic cloves into the sauce.  (Or pulse an emersion blender in the sauce till the garlic is pureed.)
     Step 8:  Keep the bagna cauda warm over very low heat.  Whisk occasionally.

     Crostini:
     Brush 10 thin slices of Italian bread with olive oil.
     Place the bread slices on a baking pan.
     Bake in a 300ºF oven till the bread slices are very lightly toasted and crisp.
     Keep the crostini warm on a stove top.

     Sweet Peppers:
     This recipe yields 2 portions.
     Step 1:  Cut 1 red bell pepper and 1 yellow bell pepper into 3/8" wide strips.
     Place the pepper strips in a mixing bowl.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil.
     Toss the peppers with the olive oil till they are coated.
     Step 2:  Place the oiled pepper strips on a roasting pan.
     Place the pan under a broiler.
     Broil till the pepper strips start to become tender and a few golden highlights appear.  (Stir the sweet peppers occasionally, so they do not brown.
   
     Bagna Cauda with Sweet Peppers and Crostini:
     This recipe yields 1 large serving that is enough for 2 guests to share.
     Pour the warm bagna cauda into a shallow single portion casserole dish.
     Set the bagna cauda dish on a serving platter.
     Place the pepperoni on the plate.
     Place the crostini on the plate.
     Garnish with an Italian Parsley sprig.

     Bagna Cauda is Italian style party food.  Simply dip the sweet peppers in the Bagna Cauda, then place it on crostini and enjoy!

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