The secret to outdoing your favorite restaurant

The secret to outdoing your favorite restaurant|The secret to outdoing your favorite restaurant|The secret to outdoing your favorite restaurant
Bruschetta with Skillet-Seared Mushrooms and Grana Padano.
Mark Loader

Making dishes worthy of a choice restaurant menu doesn’t mean spending hours in the kitchen. It’s more about choosing top-drawer ingredients – and here are a few you can pick up in the deli department. They’re all members of an elite club of authentic foods made according to traditional methods and are certified PDO (Protected Denomination of Origin) by the European Union.

-Grana Padano, a cheese made only in the Padana Valley in Northern Italy, is terrific for easy but sophisticated dishes.

-Prosciutto di San Daniele is a special ham, produced in San Daniele del Friuli, in the Northeast of Italy, and like all PDO products, it must pass the strictest inspection.

-Parmigiano Reggiano, renowned for its complex flavor, is made exclusively in Parma, Reggio Emilia and three other neighboring Italian provinces.

-Prosciutto di Parma, a delicately flavored, all-natural ham, is produced in the gently rolling hills near Parma.

With legendary European foods, it’s easy to make restaurant-quality dishes like these. For more serving ideas and information about the PDO system, visit

Introducing Montasio Cheese

Montasio, with a savory, well-balanced flavor, is new to many Americans, but its origins can be traced back to a 17th-century monastery. To this day, it is made only in northern Italy’s Friuli Venezia Giulia and East Veneto and has earned membership in Europe’s “hall of fame” as a PDO product. Young semi-soft Montasio is terrific on a cheese platter or on sandwiches. Aged Montasio can be grated for pasta, risotto and other dishes.

Asparagus, Orange and Prosciutto di San Daniele Salad

Yield: 6 portions

1 pound asparagus, trimmed

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon orange juice

2 Teaspoons white wine vinegar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

8 slices Prosciutto di San Daniele (4 ounces), halved lengthwise

2 navel oranges, peeled and segmented

1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted

In salted water, cook asparagus until tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Rinse with cold water; pat dry.

In small bowl, whisk olive oil, orange juice, vinegar, salt and pepper. Divide asparagus on salad plates and drizzle with dressing. Arrange Prosciutto di San Daniele and orange segments over asparagus; sprinkle with pine nuts.

Parmigiano Reggiano-Spinach Puffs

Yield: about 3 dozen

4 cups baby spinach (6 ounces), cooked, cooled

3/4 cup flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

3/4 cup milk

5 tablespoons butter

3 large eggs, at room temperature

1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) coarsely grated Parmigiano Reggiano

Preheat oven to 400∫F.

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Wrap spinach in a towel, squeeze until dry; chop fine.

In small bowl, mix flour, salt and cayenne.

In medium saucepan, bring milk and butter to a boil. Remove from heat and add flour mixture; with wooden spoon, beat until it thickens and pulls away from sides, about 1 minute.

Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well until incorporated. Stir in spinach and cheese.

Drop rounded spoonfuls onto prepared baking sheets, spacing 1 inch apart. Bake until golden, 20 to 25 minutes.

Serve warm. (Puffs can be held at room temperature up to 1 day or frozen; reheat in 400∫F oven, 3 to 5 minutes.)

Asparagus, Orange and Prosciutto di San Daniele Salad.
Photo by Mark Loader

Ziti with Roasted Cauliflower, Prosciutto di Parma and Toasted Breadcrumbs

Yield: 4 portions

2 slices country-style bread, crusts removed, torn into pieces

1/3 cup olive oil, divided

1 large cauliflower (2 1/2 pounds), trimmed and chopped

1/4 teaspoon salt

8 slices Prosciutto di Parma (4 ounces), cut into 1-inch squares, divided

4 cloves garlic, finely chopped

8 ounces dry ziti, cooked and drained, reserving 1 cup pasta water

1/2 cup dry white wine

1/2 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley

1/4 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes, or to taste

Preheat oven to 425∞F.

In food processor, pulse bread to form crumbs.

In shallow pan, mix breadcrumbs with 1 tablespoon olive oil; toast until golden, stirring once, about 5 minutes.

In large baking pan, mix cauliflower with 3 tablespoons olive oil and salt. Roast until browned, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes.

In large skillet over medium-high heat, heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil; add half prosciutto and cook until crisp. Stir in garlic; cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Stir in pasta, cauliflower and wine. Stir well, adding pasta water as needed for a saucy consistency. Stir in parsley and hot pepper flakes.

Spoon into shallow bowls; top with remaining Prosciutto di Parma and breadcrumbs. Garnish with additional Prosciutto di Parma slices, if desired.

Bruschetta with Skillet-Seared Mushrooms and Grana Padano

Yield: 4 portions

4 slices country-style bread

4 ounces Grana Padano, coarsely grated

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 pound crimini mushrooms, thinly sliced

1 small red bell pepper, cut in 1/2-inch pieces

2 cloves garlic, cut in slivers

2 teaspoons flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/3 cup half-and-half

Preheat oven to 400∞F. On baking sheet, toast bread until crisp, about 10 minutes. Scatter one-third of the Grana Padano over toast.

In large skillet over medium-high heat, heat olive oil; add mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until they give off liquid, about 5 minutes.

Stir in bell pepper and garlic; cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat.

Stir in flour, salt and pepper; cook, stirring, 2 minutes; add half-and-half and simmer until slightly thickened, about 3 minutes.

Divide over bruschetta and top with remaining Grana Padano.

Source: Legends from Europe

Courtesy of Family Features

Parmigiano Reggiano-Spinach Puffs.
Photo by Mark Loader

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