Easy Bruschetta

September 30th is International Extra Virgin Olive Oil Day! Celebrate the ancient, noble, liquid elixir with delicious & easy Bruschetta. The word bruschetta originated from the Italian verb “brusciare” to burn & was considered a working man’s food using day old bread, with 4 simple ingredients; extra virgin olive oil, tomato, basil & parsley. Garlic, cheese & meat were added over the years depending on the season & ingredient availability. No set recipe, we just stayed true to the original; using our Villa Graziella Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil, fresh tomatoes, quality country style bread, backyard basil & parsley, sea salt & cracked pepper. Prepare ahead & serve at room temperature as a healthy half time snack, delicious appetizer, or side bread for soup & salad.

Serves 6-8 as an appetizer or side condiment

Simple Ingredients

  • Fresh, in season, cluster of on the vine, room temperature cherry tomatoes, chopped

  • 1 baguette loaf country Italian or French bread, sliced

  • 4-5 tablespoons Villa Graziella Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil, plus extra to flavor

  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped

  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

  • Sea salt & cracked pepper (to taste)

Easy Directions

  1. Stir together tomatoes, basil, parsley & olive oil in a bowl, set aside.

  2. Add salt and pepper to taste, salting at the end, as it tends to break up the tomatoes.

  3. Brush both sides of bread with olive oil, place on the grill top or preheated in an oven at 300°F.

  4. Turn slices over when brown, heat other side.

  5. Remove from heat, spoon tomato mixture on to bread.

  6. Serve & enjoy with Villa Graziella artisan crafted wine made with organic grapes.

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Herb Roasted Marcona Almonds

Native to the Spanish coastal regions of Alicante, Málaga & Valencia, Marcona almonds are referred to as La Reina de las Almendras (the queen of almonds). Skinless with a delicate, fine texture & slightly sweet flavor, the prized trees bloom early in the year making them susceptible to spring frosts. Our friends Joyce & Sue shared a recipe for Marcona almonds, we tweaked by adding fresh rosemary, sage & sea salt for a delicious & healthy snack rich in oleic acid & mono-unsaturated oils. Serves 8-10 as tapas or a snack

Simple Ingredients:

  • 1 pound of roasted, salted Marcona Almonds
  • 2 tablespoons of Villa Graziella Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 2 tablespoons of fresh herbs such as rosemary, sage & thyme
  • 2 teaspoons of sea salt

Easy Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350◦ degrees
  2. Arrange almonds on a baking or cookie sheet
  3. Add Villa Graziella Organic Extra Virgin Oil & toss
  4. Add herbs & toss
  5. Spread almonds evenly on a parchment lined cookie sheet
  6. Roast for 8 minutes; remove from the oven & turn.
  7. Repeat process 10 – 15 minutes or until lightly toasted, careful to not overcook & burn
  8. Sprinkle with sea salt & toss
  9. Remove from cookie sheet & place on paper towel lined platter to drain any excess oil
  10. Serve warm or at room temperature, enjoy with Villa Graziella Organic wine. ¡Buen provecho!

*Helpful tip: refrigerate & store in an airtight container up to 6 weeks*

Click here for the inspiration recipe!

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FICO - Eataly World!

It’s been called an Italian food theme park, a mall with a glorified food court, a food snob’s nirvana. 

FICO-Fabbrica Italiana Contadina-Italian Farming Factory launched fall 2017 outside of Bologna, Italy to many a pundit. Under the Eataly food hall organization with national & international outlets, FICO-Eataly World, a 25-acre agri-food park is their largest installment. 

Curious, we went to FICO to see & taste, firsthand. The objective is to educate people on the history of Italian food traditions and Italy’s ever important contribution to the world’s culinary biodiversity. Like its smaller counterparts, discovery, interactive learning is a focus with extensive signage & displays. 

The space is vast; 45 restaurants, food stands & pop up markets, 6 multimedia pavilions and 30 daily classes on Italian food history & production. Including artisan ice cream & sorbet, dry & fresh pasta, breads & specialty Sicilian desserts, honey & bee keeping. Also courses on aged & fresh cheeses, olive oil, beer & wine. The outdoor periphery is an open-air museum with artifacts and educational displays, vegetable & herb gardens, a vineyard, a mini olive grove, a barn with farm animals, even a truffle patch. 

There are themed open kitchen restaurants, carefully curated pop up shops are interspersed throughout with fresh, packaged food, produce, wine & liquor, books, kitchen equipment & gadgets, stationery, personal care and home goods. As inviting, open sell environments, they are merchandised with plenty of signage to encourage “discovery” i.e. buy.

We took a few “exploration” classes, the instructors were enthusiastic about sharing history and production methods. For the novice visitor they are an interesting, interactive & fun.  

FICO Eataly is a far cry from the traditional, neighborhood bottega selling 1 category, just bread, only fruit & vegetables. It can be overwhelming; a large lay out (bikes are free for those who don’t want to walk) and a plethora of different foods to eat, drink, sample and purchase. 

Overall it was a positive experience, friendly, helpful staff, tasty food in an attractive environment. Students young & mature, new to Italy’s abundant agriculture, rich food traditions and culture will benefit from a full food immersion with an educational twist.    

Amy WrightComment
Balsamic Sautéed Mushrooms

We tinkered a paleo recipe replacing bacon fat or lard with paper thin slices of prosciutto di Parma. Tangy, rich caramelized flavors of Villa Graziella Organic 8-Year Aged Balsamic Vinegar di Modena make it an easy to prepare, week night side dish. Pair perfectly with protein rich grilled chicken, fish or steak. Makes 4 servings.

Easy Ingredients

  • 1 lb. white button mushrooms

  • 3 slices of prosciutto di Parma or San Daniele

  • 2 tablespoons Villa Graziella Organic Balsamic Vinegar

  • ½ tablespoon Villa Graziella Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil

  • 2 cloves fresh garlic, chopped

  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley finely minced

  • 1 Small onion, finely minced (approx. 1/3 cup)

  • ½ tsp. sea salt

  • ¼ tsp. freshly ground pepper to taste

Simple Directions

  1. Wash & dry mushrooms, slice in half, set aside

  2. Place prosciutto slices in a large skillet, cook over medium heat

  3. Turn periodically as slices begin to brown

  4. Add garlic to prosciutto, cook 3 minutes

  5. Add onion, cook 3-4 minutes until translucent & prosciutto is browned

  6. Add mushrooms cook 10 minutes, allowing water to evaporate & mushrooms to become tender

  7. Add vinegar & oil to the pan, stir & cook for 2-3 minutes

  8. Add salt & pepper, stir to coat evenly

  9. Sprinkle with parsley

  10. Serve & enjoy

      Click here for the inspiration recipe!



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Marinated Chicken Kabobs

Fire up the grill for marinated chicken kabobs! We modified a spruce recipe for an easy, flavorful main dish. Using fresh, seasonal orange & yellow bell peppers with red onion, you can also use fresh mushrooms, zucchini or squash. Serves 2 to 4.  

  Easy Ingredients:

  • 1 pound fresh, boneless skinless chicken breast cut into 1-1/2" chunks
  • 1/4 cup Villa Graziella Organic extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons Villa Graziella Organic 8 year aged balsamic vinegar di Modena
  • 2 large bell peppers-1 each green, red, orange or yellow 
  • 1 large red onion
  • 1 tablespoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 clove fresh garlic, crushed & chopped
  • 1 small shallot clove sliced thin
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • Fresh herbs-your choice of basil, marjoram, sage, rosemary, oregano or thyme  

Simple Directions:

  1. In a large bowl, combine olive oil, balsamic vinegar, honey, lemon juice, garlic, shallot, sea salt & pepper-mix well 
  2. Add chicken chunks to bowl, turn to coat, cover & refrigerate for 3 hours
  3. Cut peppers into 1-1/2" chunks, cut onions into 2" chunks set aside
  4. Soak bamboo skewers in cold water
  5. Preheat grill to 160°F
  6. Drain the chicken, reserving marinade 
  7. Thread chicken & vegetable chunks onto skewers, do not over load skewers, leave 2 inches bare on end to turn skewers
  8. Lightly brush marinade on skewers, discard remaining marinade
  9. Place skewers on hot grill, cook 10-12 minutes, turn occasionally until vegetables are tender, & chicken is thoroughly cooked-test the temperature with a food thermometer
  10. Remove from grill, let rest for 5 minutes. Serve & enjoy with Villa Graziella Artisan Crafted IGT Rosato Toscano wine made with organic grapes 
  11. Kitchen tip: We marinated the chicken for 3 hours, long enough to absorb flavors without becoming too soft. Lemon & vinegar acids break down meat causing it to become mushy if marinated too long.    

Click here for the inspiration recipe!

RecipesAmy WrightComment
Grilled Balsamic Burger

Did You know August 27th is National Burger Day? We celebrated with a foodbabbles recipe swapping out beef for turkey. Serve with seasonal grilled veggies & quinoa for a delicious weeknight dinner & healthy next day lunch. Makes 4-6 burgers

Easy Ingredients

  • 6 teaspoons balsamic vinegar, divided
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground beef or turkey
  • 2/3 cup ketchup
  • 5 slices of preferred cheese; Swiss, cheddar or Fontina optional 
  • 1 egg
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Simple Directions

  1. Combine ground beef or turkey, 3 teaspoons balsamic vinegar, egg, garlic, cumin, salt, pepper in a bowl
  2. Mix well, form into 4-6 patties depending on desired size of burgers, set aside
  3. In another bowl, whisk together ketchup with 3 teaspoons of balsamic vinegar, set aside
  4. Preheat grill to 160°F
  5. Place meat patties on grill, cook thoroughly, test the temperature with a food thermometer
  6. Top patty with cheese slices, allow to melt
  7. Remove from grill, plate & let rest for 3 minutes
  8. Place burgers on a roll, balsamic ketchup, & if desired, lettuce & tomatoes
  9. Serve & enjoy!

Click here to view the inspiration recipe!


RecipesAmy WrightComment
Balsamic Grilled Peaches & Vanilla Ice Cream

What to do with your market fresh peaches? We kept the grill going with a quick & easy recipe. Gluten free & the perfect finish to a summertime meal. Serves 4.  

Easy Ingredients

  • 4 fresh peaches, halved & pitted
  • ¼ cup Villa Graziella Organic, 8-year aged balsamic vinegar
  • ½ cup honey
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla bean paste
  • 1-pint vanilla bean ice cream

Simple Directions

  1. Cut peaches in half, discard the pits
  2. Combine balsamic vinegar, honey & vanilla bean paste 
  3. Brush half of the glaze on the peaches flesh side up  
  4. Place on grill over medium heat 
  5. Grill for 4-5 minutes, turn half way through
  6. Remove from heat 
  7. Place grilled peaches on a platter 
  8. Drizzle with remaining balsamic glaze 
  9. Scoop vanilla ice cream on top of each peach half
  10. Serve warm & enjoy
RecipesAmy WrightComment
National Panino Month

August is National Panino Month, Panino-sandwich comes from the Italian word pane-bread. Perfect your panino, grill or toast the bread, brush quality extra virgin olive oil on top & also the flip side for extra crunch. Add favorite meats, cheeses, veggies & brush balsamic vinegar for added flavor. Healthy & delicious! Makes 4 sandwiches

Simple ingredients:

·      ½ cup Villa Graziella Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil plus extra to flavor

·      ¼ cup Villa Graziella 8-year aged Balsamic Vinegar di Modena

·      4 Italian ciabatta or country bread rolls split

·      8 slices of fresh Italian mortadella or capicola, ham, salami & turkey

·      8 slices of smoked provolone, cheddar, gruyere, Havarti or Swiss cheese

·      Fresh ground pepper

Easy Directions:

1.     Brush grill or panini machine with 1 teaspoon of olive oil

2.    Heat surface to medium heat

3.    Brush ½ tablespoon of olive oil along the inside center of each roll

4.    Turn over & repeat process on other side of bread with ½ tablespoon of oil   

5.    Assemble panino starting with meat, followed by cheese

6.    Brush panino evenly with ½ tablespoon of vinegar

7.     Season with pepper

8.    Cook 5 to 8 minutes, 3-5 minutes each side

9.    If using a frying pan, press sandwich down with a lid & cook 3-4 minutes on each side or until bread is fully toasted

10. Serve & enjoy with Villa Graziella Organic Toscano red or white wine

Panini Pro Tips

·      Use 1 or 2-day old bread instead of fresh, it holds ingredients better & grills evenly

·      Cut cooked panini with a straight edged knife not a serrated for a smooth separation

·      For crustier, toasty panini without burning, cook on lower heat for longer time, instead of a higher heat

·      Avoid mushy panini, add greens after grilling. Insert arugula, basil, lettuce or spinach, red onions or tomatoes, before serving for a soggy free sandwich.

·      Place bulkier, wet fillings like avocado chunks or tuna fish in the middle of the panino


RecipesAmy WrightComment
Chef Becker’s Pasta Puttanesca

Do you know the legend behind Pasta Puttanesca?

Resident Chef Scott Becker at Binny's Highland Park recently shared the tale where Neapolitan prostitutes needed a sauce they could make in between customers. Using available ingredients; anchovies, garlic, onion & tomatoes, they made a quick & easy sauce for pasta. Chef Becker’s creation includes capers & olives for a satisfying, savory & super flavorful dish!

Simple Ingredients

·      ½ cup Villa Graziella Organic, Extra Virgin Olio Nuovo olive oil, plus extra to flavor

·      1-28 ounce can San Marzano tomatoes, crushed

·      12 oz Kalamata black olives, pitted & halved

·      15 anchovy filets, chopped

·      12 garlic cloves, peeled & thinly sliced

·      1 ½ cup of capers

·      1 red onion, diced

·      Red pepper chili flakes 

·      Sea salt & cracked pepper

·      Chopped fresh parsley, optional

Easy Directions

1.     In a large pot, over medium heat, lightly sauté onion, garlic & anchovies in olive oil until the garlic & onion begin to brown

2.     Add capers & olives to the pot, cook 2 minutes

3.     Add crushed tomatoes including the juice

4.     Season with black pepper & chili flakes to taste

5.     Reduce heat to low, simmer until sauce thickens & flavors blend, about 1 hour

6.     Cook pasta, (linguine or other long shaped pasta) according directions

7.     Drain pasta & toss with sauce & 1 tablespoon of olive oil.

8.     Adjust seasonings & oil to taste

9.     Garnish with chopped parsley

10.  Serve immediately, enjoy with Villa Graziella Organic Chianti DOCG red wine

Expert tip; Careful how much salt is added to the water as all the ingredients are very salty, as the sauce cooks, the salty flavors will become more concentrated & pronounced. This sauce freezes well, make a large batch & freeze in smaller portions.

Interested in learning more about wine, cooking classes & demonstration?   Visit https://www.binnys.com/events

RecipesAmy WrightComment
Julia Child Birthday Quiche

Did you know Aug. 15th is Julia Child’s birthday?  Colleagues & fans fondly recall her keen sense of humor, passion for French wine, great food & authentic gusto for life. We’re paying tribute to the author, chef, journalist & television personality with one of her favorite dishes, quiche. Bon anniversaire Julia! 4-5 servings.

Simple Ingredients:

  • 4 tablespoons Villa Graziella Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 cups diced spring mushrooms
  • ¼ cup sliced yellow onions
  • ½ glove garlic minced
  • ½ cup cubed pancetta or thick cut prosciutto
  • ¾ cup sharp, cheddar cheese shredded
  • 1/3 cup cream
  • 1/3 cup milk, (we used nonfat)
  • 1 9-inch prebaked pie crust shell, (we were short on time)
  • Sea salt & fresh ground pepper

Easy Directions:

  1. Prebake pie crust shell according to directions, set aside to cool.
  2. Preheat oven to 375°F, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a pan over medium heat.
  3. Add sliced mushrooms to pan, cook until moisture is released, approx. 6 minutes.
  4. Add cubed pancetta, minced garlic& onions to pan, sauté until golden do not overcook.
  5. Season with pepper, remove from pan & set aside.
  6. In a mixing bowl, beat cream, milk & eggs, season with pepper & a touch of sea salt.
  7. Sprinkle half the cheese in baked pie crust, distribute mushroom, pancetta & onion mixture evenly over crust.
  8. Add cream, milk & egg mixture over vegetables & pancetta, sprinkle remaining cheese evenly over the top.
  9. Bake until mixture sets & browns at the edges, approx. 20 minutes. Let quiche cool 10-15 minutes.
  10. Slice, serve & enjoy with Villa Graziella Toscano IGT Rosato rosé wine.

Click here for the inspiration recipe! 

RecipesAmy WrightComment