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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

A TOAST TO THE SEASON - Hosting a spring wine tasting party

With the winter days now a memory, it's time to gather friends and family to herald the new season.  A wine tasting party is the perfect get-together.  According to experts, there are three ways of hosting a successful sip-fest:

1. The easiest, most sure-fire approach is to hold the event at one of the many impressive wine cellars at great restaurants.  A professional will work with you to choose the wines, select the food and show the bottles.  Your job is to open your wallet, show up looking fabulous and enjoy the evening.  

2. If you prefer to welcome guests to the warmth of your own home, you can still turn some of the work over to the professionals.  Skilled wine experts can be hired to conduct the wine tastings.  Some will even send invitations, pick wines, recommend food and bring glasses.

3. If you are a die-hard do-it-yourself-er like me, get started with this easy, delicious recipe:

Arugula and Prosciutto di Parma on Flat Bread
All photo Copyright - ©2012 - La Casa e Il Giardino

Flat bread

·         3 cups whole-wheat flour, plus more for the work surface
  1 1/4 cups water
  2 tablespoons vegetable or olive oil, plus more for the bowl
  1 1/2 teaspoons salt
Combine the flour, water, oil and salt in a bowl until they come together into a mass. Let it sit at room temperature for 20 to 30 minutes.

Lightly flour a work surface.  Transfer the dough to the work surface and knead for about 5 minutes by pushing down on and spreading the dough.  It should be smooth and elastic. Form it into a ball and place in a clean, oiled bowl.  Cover with plastic wrap and let the dough rest for few hours.
About 45 minutes before you want to bake, spread out the dough on a lightly floured counter and form into 2 logs. Cut each log into 6 equal pieces. You should have 12 pieces of dough.
Shape each piece into a ball. Let the balls rest for 30 minutes at room temperature under plastic wrap.

Place a cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat; cover with a lid.

Liberally flour a work surface. Flatten a dough ball and dust it lightly with flour, then use a rolling pin to roll it out as thin as possible (7 to 9 inches in diameter).
When the skillet is smoking lightly, place each dough disk in the skillet and cover immediately. Cook for 30 seconds to 1 minute, and then flip the dough. Cover and cook for 30 seconds. The breads will bake in 2 minutes and should be blistered and dark in spots.

Remove the flat bread and cover with a towel or aluminum foil to keep it from crusting over.

1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1 cup baby arugula
1/4 lb Prosciutto di Parma
1 medium sweet onion, sliced and sauteed
Freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano, to taste
Cracked black pepper, to taste

Cut flat bread rounds in four wedges.  Top with sauteed onions and mozzarella cheese, and return to oven for 5 minutes.
Remove from oven again, top with arugula and prosciutto and return to oven for 2 minutes.
Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes.  Before serving, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, cracked black pepper and Parmigiano Reggiano.

Now go and host your own sensational wine tasting.