Polenta Bites Stuffed with Smoked Mozzarella

When you bite into this polenta-based hors d’oeuvre, there is the surprise of warm, gooey smoked mozzarella inside. Topped with a dollop of concentrated tomatoes, garlic, and basil, these little snacks are hard to resist. Fancy enough to serve at a wedding reception, they are also right at home on a Super Bowl buffet. Continue reading

Bread Pretzels with Cheddar-Heady Topper IPA Fondue

This recipe is a tribute to my favorite brewpub, The Alchemist of Waterbury, Vermont. At the end of August, when tropical storm Irene flooded downtown Waterbury, water inundated their building destroying everything inside. Thankfully, they plan to rebuild and open this winter. One of my favorite menu items is their platter of bread pretzel pieces served with a fondue of beer and cheese. I don’t have their recipe, but I wanted create one using their Heady Topper IPA, now available in cans, in the dip. The extra hoppy flavors of this ale sing a duet with the earthy, herbal qualities of Cabot Seriously Sharp Cheddar. Continue reading

Shooters: Cherry Peppers Stuffed with Prosciutto & Provolone

Salty, spicy, and rich with cheese and olive oil, these peppers are a hit on any occasion. When I cooked at a large hotel in the Providence area I was exposed to a variety of Italian delicacies as that part of Rhode Island is home to a sizable population of Italian descent. While there, I learned that these stuffed peppers (known locally as shooters) are ubiquitous to the region. You find them in taverns, and on the shelves of neighborhood grocers. Locals take pride in making their own shooters, and once you try these you’ll understand why. My garden produced enough cherry peppers this year that I was able to make my own. Continue reading

Stuffies: Quahogs with Linguica

Stuffed quahogs, otherwise known as stuffies in southern New England, are one of those “must have” treats when you visit the area. Many recipes include bacon and various seasonings, spicy versions include the addition of chorizo sausage and copious amounts of crushed red pepper. This recipe features the briny smack of the clams accented by the milder Portuguese sausage, linguica.  A country-style, coarsely-ground sausage, linguica is often smoked and is milder than chorizo, but still redolent of garlic and paprika. An informal appetizer or meal, stuffies are best accompanied by cold beer, lemon wedges, and bottled hot sauce so everyone can spice them to their desired degree of heat. If you are looking for party food, look no further than stuffies. The perfect beer to wash down stuffies is the Alchemist’s Heady Topper, an American Double India Pale Ale brewed in Waterbury, Vermont. It is extravagantly hopped, and best drunk from the can to preserve the intense hop flavors. Continue reading

Crab and Corn Cupcakes with Red Pepper Jelly

I intended this to be an appetizer, but if you’re like me you might make a meal of them. Lighter than crab cakes and served with a dollop of warm, slightly spicy red pepper jelly, these cakes combine the briny flavors of the sea with the toothsome qualities of sweet corn. Serve these cupcakes with mixed greens or baby spinach and lemon wedges. I like a glass of Prosecco with these flavors. The tiny bubbles and citrus quality of Italian Prosecco enhance both the crabmeat and the red pepper jelly. Well-hopped India Pale Ale works with this dish for the same reasons. Continue reading