This past Saturday night, I wanted to make something for 'Date Night at Home' that was creative yet low stress, impressive yet approachable, romantic yet casual. When I think 'romance', Italy immediately comes to mind, and not just because I'm GREEN with envy about the fact that my sister and her husband will soon be embarking on a Culinary Tour of Italy! To satisfy my need for something Italian, I decided to put together a Charcuterie Board, bruschetta done two ways and some sort of mussels.
My first order of business was a jaunt to the deli department of my local grocery store. I decided on prosciutto, Serrano ham, Genoa Salami and Cappo Salami for my meats. For my cheeses, I picked Blue Cheese, Aged White Cheddar and a soft Goat's Cheese in Roasted Red Pepper Sauce. Next, I picked up a variety of olives, stuffed hot peppers, and marinated mushrooms. Onto the seafood counter where I got a couple of pounds of fresh, local mussels. In the produce department I found roma tomatoes, onion, garlic, fresh bay leaves, basil and Italian parsley. A loaf of baquette and I was on the way to the check out. Next I made a quick stop into the liquor store and picked up some Peroni Italian beer and a bottle of Italian white wine to cook my mussels in. It was there that I spied a bottle of $37 Prosecco on sale for $16.94, so I just HAD to pick a bottle of that up too!
This was such an easy meal to put together. The only labour intensive part was the mussels and even those are done all in one pot in under 10 minutes. I decided to make the toppings for my Bruschetta Duo first so that there was enough time for all the flavours to marry before we actually ate. For my tapanade topping, I combined black olives, capers, garlic, lemon juice and olive oil in the food processor and pulsed it until it formed a smooth paste. For the tomato topping, I finely chopped tomatoes,onions, garlic and fresh basil, tossed it with some extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar and seasoned with freshly ground sea salt and black pepper. I cut my baquette slices on the diagonal, brushed each side lightly with olive oil and placed them on a baking sheet. I then topped each piece with either tapanade or tomato topping. I placed a small piece of prosciutto on the tapanade topped baquette, and sprinkled all with a little grated parmesan cheese. When I was about to start my mussels some time later, I preheated my oven to 350F and baked my bruschetta for 10-15 minutes.
I then started to arrange my Charcuterie Plate. Charcuterie plates and boards are fast becoming one of the biggest food trends in restaurants everywhere. People will try something new if its offered in an exciting environment and doesn't require a whole lot of cash and with a charcuterie plate, there's plenty of options to chose from. The term charcuterie originates from northern France and refers to the branch of cooking devoted to prepared and cured meat products. Curing meats was originally intended to preserve meats before the advent of refrigeration but today, they are prepared for the flavours derived from the preserving process. Creating a good 'meat' plate is a quick and easy way to showcase different flavours of meat and flex your 'creative plating' muscles. Taking my serving plate, I playfully arranged my meats, cheese, mushrooms, olives and stuffed hot peppers so that the eye can wander from one item to another and hopefully, endless possible combinations will come to mind.
About 15 minutes before we were ready to sit down to eat, I started on my mussels, (and preheated the oven for my bruschetta). I decided on doing my mussels Trieste style. Trieste is a city and seaport in northeastern Italy situated towards the end of a narrow strip of Italian territory, lying between the Adriatic Sea and Slovenia. Trieste has beeen influenced by it's location as a crossroads of Latin, Slavic and Germanic cultures. It is one of the richest regions of Italy and has been a great centre for shipping, shipbuilding and financial services. In 2012, The Lonely Planet listed Trieste as the world's most underrated travel destination. Trieste Mussels are simplistic but delicious. To make them, first start by heating olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Saute garlic until fragrant, add onion, bay leaves, salt and chilli pepper, and cook another three minutes. Pour in some white wine, bring it to a boil, add your mussels, cover and let steam for 3-5 minutes, or until shells open. When shells open, remove cover from pot, sprinkle in dry bread crumbs to thicken the sauce, toss and garnish with chopped fresh Italian parsley. Trieste mussels are best served with some bread to soak up all that delicious sauce.
By this time, my bruschetta was ready. At that point, it was only a matter of plating the bruschetta, ladling the Trieste Mussels into a serving dish and placing all of it on the table with my Charcuterie Plate. I opted for Peroni lager because I just love the crisp, refreshing taste. Peroni is Italy's number one premium beer with a perfumy nobel hop aroma that has a hint of floral. It was the perfect accompaniement to our Date Night at Home feast!
My husband and I truly cherish these moments when we can just relax, reconnect and embrace the peaceful enjoyment of simply being together. On this Date Night, instead of playing a few games of cards, I suggested we play Triivial Pursuit, which I knew my husband would enjoy as self-proclaimed world champion of Trivial Pursuit! As expected, he was the victor, but I didn't mind....a happy hubby means a happy me! And a happy me means that, sometimes, Date Night at Home can spill over into Date Morning, which is exactly what happened this week.
We decided not to make any plans whatsoever for Sunday and both wiped our schedules clean. I made us a special Date Morning Brunch consisting of Eggs Benedict, bacon, fresh strawberries, orange slices and a little spritzer of Italian Prosecco and Orange Juice with strawberries in it.
The past couple of months have been particularly hectic with work, family illnesses and other 'life events'. It was nice to consciously decide to overlook the fact that the pool has yet to be drained and cleaned for winter, leaves are starting to accumulate under the big maple tree in our back yard and, although stacked, the patio furniture has yet to be stored. Instead, my husband and I spent the afternoon researching potential options for a spring vacation. Perhaps that's a happy coincidence, or perhaps Date Night at Home spilling over into Date Morning Brunch had something to do with it. Either which way, I got to spend some wonderful alone time with my husband, eating a fantastic Charcuterie Plate, Bruschetta Duo and Trieste Mussels while sipping on Peroni and for brunch, Eggs Benedict and Prosecco Spritzer....life doesn't get much better than that! Date Night turn Date Morning.....easy, healthied-up, inexpensive AND delicious!