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Entertaining Ideas from Legends from Europe

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At a recent press event, I had the chance to learn new recipes featuring gourmet meats and cheeses from the Legends of Europe. Featuring Prosciutto di Parma, Parmigiano Reggiano, Prosciutto di San Danielle, Grana Padano and Montasio, I discovered some amazing party bites that are all Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) system, which distinguishes genuine European products from their many imitators. Here are some my favorites that I look forward to sharing with family and friends

Bruschetta with Skillet-Seared Portabellas and Grana Padano

4 ounces Grana Padano, divided
4 slices bread from a large, round '??country'? loaf
3 cloves garlic, divided
1 pound portabella mushroom caps
1 small red bell pepper
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2/3 cup half-and-half or light cream

Preheat oven to 400°F. With a cheese shaver or a vegetable peeler, shave the Grana Padano into shards to make about 1-1/2 cups. On a baking sheet, toast the bread until crisp but not browned, about 10 minutes. Cut one garlic clove in half and rub the toast with cut sides of the garlic. Scatter 1/2 cup of the Grana Padano shards evenly over the toast; set aside. With a sharp knife, cut portabella mushrooms in thin slices. Dice bell pepper in 1/2-inch pieces. Cut remaining garlic cloves into thin slivers. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat the olive oil; add the mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until they soften and give off liquid, about 5 minutes. Stir in bell pepper and garlic slivers; cook until vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes longer. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Stir in the flour, salt and pepper; cook, stirring, until incorporated, about 2 minutes; add the half-and-half and bring to a simmer. Divide the hot mushroom mixture evenly over each bruschetta and top with the remaining Grana Padano shards.

Yield: 4 portions

Parmigiano Reggiano-Spinach Puffs

5 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 cups baby spinach leaves (6 ounces)
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper (cayenne)
3/4 cup milk
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1-1/2 cups (6 ounces) coarsely grated Parmigiano Reggiano

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Preheat oven to 400º F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. In a microwavable bowl, combine spinach and 2 tablespoons water; cover and microwave until thoroughly wilted, about 1-1/2 minutes; cool. Wrap spinach in a towel and with your hands, squeeze until as dry as possible; chop fine. In a small bowl, mix flour, salt and red pepper. In a medium saucepan, bring milk and butter to a boil. Remove from heat and add flour mixture; with a wooden spoon, beat until it thickens and pulls away from the sides, about 1 minute. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well until incorporated. Stir in spinach and cheese. With a teaspoon, scoop a rounded spoonful of mixture, and with another teaspoon, push it onto a prepared baking sheet. Continue making mounds of the mixture, spaced 1 inch apart. Bake until golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Serve warm. (Puffs can be held at room temperature up to 1 day or frozen; reheat in a 400ºF oven until hot, 3 to 5 minutes.)

Yield: about 3 dozen puffs

Montasio Cheese Thumbprint Biscuits

1 package store bought ready-made biscuit dough
1 cup coarsely grated Montasio cheese

Preheat oven to 400° F. Separate biscuits onto a parchment lined or lightly greased baking sheet. With your thumb, press into the center of each biscuit to form a small well. Fill each well with 2 tablespoons of the grated Montasio. Bake until tops are golden, about 8 minutes. Serve immediately.

Yield: 8 biscuits

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