Labor Day “Now That's Italian!” Celebration

I'm so excited to bring this post to you for your Labor Day Celebration. I am first and fore most honored to be working on this with two authors you will know very well ...

I'm pleased to introduce my friend and distinguished author, Frances Mayes, whose Tuscan Sun cookbook is one of my favorites in my cookbook library. Frances has provided her recipe for Peaches With Almond Cream. I have the pleasure of sharing it with all of you for your Labor Day Celebration dessert.

Frances has written many books on so many things Tuscan from her best selling book, Under The Tuscan Sun, (which was also made into a movie starring Diane Lane as Frances) to traveling the world and delicious foods of Tuscany. So many books to mention, please see her website, for her very interesting blog and her new book Under Magnolia, a memoir of coming of age in the deep south. Both are must reads!

Chef Robin with Steven

Welcome for the first time on my blog,  BBQ Master, and author Steven Raichlen. Steven is a James Beard Award Winner with many credits and books to his name.  Notably, you can watch Steven's shows, Primal Grill and BBQ University on PBS. Steven is providing your salad course from his very new book, Man Made Meals. I guarantee that Grilled Caesar Salad will
be a welcomed recipe in your grilling repertoire.  Steven and I became fast friends about a month ago. We were introduced through a mutual friend, the amazing and dashing, Chef Jim Dodge.  

Jim is a Master Pastry Chef and I envy his skills with dough. His book Baking With Jim Dodge,  is available on Amazon, and is a must have for any baker. 

Steven's book Man Made Meals has been my morning coffee read for about 3 weeks now. Every time I look at it I find another VERY tasty recipe I cannot wait to try. Please find a list of Steven’s accomplishments and credits on his website,  If you love BBQ, check out Steven’s BBQ University with up coming classes at The Broadmoor in Colorado, schedule to be announced. Steven has also written a novel, Island Apart, about a place near and dear to my heart. Martha’s Vineyard and Chappaquidich. Being a East Coast Boston girl, I cannot wait to read this book. Especially since I hear the food scenes are luscious. Watch the video with Steven where he explains the plot of his new novel. Thank you Steven for being part of our Labor Day Celebration at The Daily Basics.

Labor Day "Now That's Italian" Recipes

Anti Pasti

While your guests are mulling around drinking their Italian beer or wine. Have a  platter of Italian cheeses available for picking, such as  Parmigiano Reggiano – Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena, part of Bologna and part of Mantua can claim ownership of this unpasteurized cow’s milk creation of the “Zone Tripica”. Parmigiano Reggiano is aged for eighteen to twenty-four months and uses no additives or machinery. This cheese has been unchanged for some seven hundred years. Its texture allows for easy grating. One semi soft, such as Ricotta Salata – native to the hot and dry climate of Sicily, this variation of Ricotta is white and firm with no rind. Its lightly salted sheep’s milk curds are pressed and dried before aging for at least three months. The mild flavor of this cheese is somewhat nutty, with plenty of sweetness. Ricotta Salata is an excellent grating cheese for use on pasta and salads.  and 1 soft such as Blue del Moncenisio – A real Italian classic! The home of Blue del Moncenisio is a beautiful village in the Province of Turin. Its name comes from the Moncenisio Pass in Val di Susa near the French boarder. This pasteurized cow’s milk cheese is aged for four months, leaving it dense, moist, and spicy. Try eating it as a dessert-cheese with a rich chutney. or similar.  Your  local cheese monger can help find similar cheeses that will come close to these flavors.

Also have some grilled vegetables, your choice, dressed with a little extra virgin olive oil and aged balsamico.  A nice selection of olives.  Easy Peasy!  You want to enjoy your guests so keep it simple.  The vegetables can be prepared ahead and served at room temperature. ANTIPASTI BABY ! Around my kitchen you will always find the award winning, Tuscan Sun extra virgin olive oil. Headed up by Edward and Frances Mayes. Of course the wines will be Tuscan Sun wines, Delicious beyond compare for the price point and available now at 

All these Italian cheeses and descriptions can be found on  a good resource for locating lots of things Italian world wide. From cooking schools to dinning out. Big Shout Out! Guida Garrubbo! Your information once again came in so handy.

Grilled Caesar Salad

By Steven Raichlen. Adapted from Man Made Meals: The Essential Cookbook for Guys. For more great grilling recipes and info, please visit  (Just for the record. It's way more than a guys cookbook, I love it.)

For the Creamy Caesar dressing:

  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 anchovy fillets, rough chopped, plus 6 anchovy fillets for serving 
  • 3 tablespoons mayonnaise 
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup freshly and finely grated Pecorino-Romano cheese, plus 1/2 cup for serving (about 4 ounces in all)
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus 2 tablespoons oil for the toasts
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, or more to taste
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

To finish the salad: 

  • 3 heads romaine lettuce
  • 12 thin slices French bread, cut sharply on the diagonal
  • 3/4 cup Creamy Caesar Dressing (see above)
  • 12 anchovy fillets, drained and blotted dry (optional)
 Grilled Romain Lettuce

Grilled Romain Lettuce

You’ll also need: 2 cups wood chips or chunks (preferably oak), soaked for 1 hour in water to cover, then drained. 

Make the dressing: If using a blender, add all of the dressing ingredients and puree to a smooth, creamy dressing, scraping down the sides of the blender jar with a spatula. If using a food processor, add the garlic, anchovy, mayonnaise, mustard, and 1/2 cup cheese and grind to a paste. Gradually work in the olive oil, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, and salt and pepper to taste. Correct the seasoning, adding salt and pepper to taste — the dressing should be highly seasoned. 

Prepare the salad: Strip any blemished or wilted leaves off the heads of lettuce. Cut each head in half lengthwise, leaving the stem end attached.

Lightly brush the bread slices with the olive oil. The recipe can be prepared to this stage a couple of hours ahead. Keep the lettuce refrigerated.

Set up the grill for direct grilling and preheat to high. If using a charcoal grill, preheat it to high, then toss all the wood chips or chunks directly on the coals. If using a gas grill, place all of the wood chips or chunks in the smoker box and run the grill on high until you see smoke.

When ready to cook, brush and oil the grill grate. Place the lettuce halves, cut side down, on the grate and grill until browned, giving each half a quarter turn after 1 minute to lay on a crosshatch of grill marks. Total grilling time will be about 2 minutes — you want to brown the bottom, but leave the heart and top of the lettuce crisp and raw. Transfer the romaine halves, grilled side up, to a platter or plates.

Grill the bread slices until browned on both sides, about 1 minute per side, and transfer to a plate. Spoon the dressing over the lettuce. Arrange bread slices and anchovy fillets on top. Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup cheese and black pepper on top. Dig in.

 Fresh swordfish steaks from  Sea Delight   (dedicated to the environment and protecting seafood resources)

Fresh swordfish steaks from Sea Delight  (dedicated to the environment and protecting seafood resources)

Grilled Swordfish Steaks with a Puttanesca Style Salsa

Recipe Serves 6

I love a good Puttanesca like no one's business. When its a chilly night , or I have guests unexpectedly it is a easy go to pasta dish to prepare and get on the table quick. It has a ton of flavor and I usually have all the ingredients in stock. I miss that flavor in the summer and I wondered how it would work cold or room temp. I tried making a soup, Nah was too salty. I tried salad, Nah, just didn’t cut it. I know swordfish is a staple along the coast in Italy and I thought Hmmm, Salsa??  Yup it works just great. Remember to remove the blood line from the swordfish, otherwise its to fishy tasting. Really hot grill and your good to go!!

  •          1 cup tomato, seeded and chopped medium
  •         1/4 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and chopped coarse 
  •         1 Tbsp capers, I prefer the salt packed kind, rinsed and drained well, coarse chop
  •         1 anchovy filet, minced
  •         1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  •         2 clove  fresh garlic, minced fine
  •         1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes 
  •         1/4 chopped fresh basil
  •         Taste your salsa, if it seems overly savory here is a tip.

    Add 1 very small pinch of raw or brown sugar to the salsa and let it sit for about 3 minutes and taste it again. Usually this brings out the sweeter flavors of the tomatoes ever so slightly, but it works very well.

    S and P to taste

    6-oz swordfish steaks, 6 pieces total, 1/2 to 1 inch thickness, brushed with great olive oil
    and S and P lightly, salsa has capers so light salt here.

Heat your grill to screaming hot

Combine all the ingredients except the fish in a bowl and let it sit for at least 1 hour before serving with your fish. Check out the tip above if you want salsa a tad sweeter.

Brush both sides of the swordfish with olive oil and season with S and P slightly.  Place steaks on grill until just cooked through 3 to 4 minutes per side, depending on the thickness of the steak you chose. You want it cooked just through. Remove the steaks, top with salsa and serve. Tons of flavor and a real crowd pleaser.

Peaches with Almond Cream

This recipe comes to you straight from The Tuscan Sun Cookbook courtesy and all credit goes to Frances Mayes for contributing this delicious recipe to  our Labor Day “Now That’s Italian” Celebration. What Frances says about this dessert is “It looks like what angels eat, The taste is unctuous and luxurious.” I don’t know about you, but if angels are eating it, then so am I. Who could resist any food with that description? Certainly not me.

 Peaches and amoretti cookies

Peaches and amoretti cookies

Thanks you Frances for being part of this delicious post. The last time we were together at Chatwood we had a peach dessert that was delicious and prepared by Susan Wyler. Peaches are my favorite fruit, and this sounds amazing. I am going to make it this Labor Day!

The Tuscan Sun Cookbook has many authentic Italian recipes. It is one of my go to books. The recipes will take you to Italy when you eat them even if you have never been there. The Tuscan Style Short Ribs are so delicious, not to mention Chicken Under a Brick. All Italian grilling favorites.

This recipe serves 6.

 The Filling

  • 1 cup (8 ounces) Mascarpone
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup superfine sugar
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted and cooled
  • 1 1/2 cups crushed almond cookies, such a Amaretti
  • 1 cup white wine or Prosecco
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 6 large peaches, preferably white, ripe but firm, peeled, halved, and pitted
  • mint leaves, for garnish

In a bowl mix all the filling ingredients and chill for 30 minutes.

Bring the wine and sugar to a boil in a 12 inch skillet, then lower the heat to a simmer. Add the peaches and poach for 3-4 minutes, frequently spooning liquid over them. Remove peaches from the liquid and let them cool, reserving the liquid.

Spoon Mascarpone mixture into the centers of 6 of the peach halves, and then cover with the other halves. Spoon poaching liquid over each. Garnish with mint.

I am in love with this recipe just typing it into the post. This just elevated peaches to the angels for sure. I hope you will all try this menu for your Labor Day Celebration too. Tweet your pictures to @canapes45.

More Cool Stuff

The Daily Basics

Posted on August 21, 2014 .