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Cooking With Annette

I've been a huge fan of Annette Joseph's for well over a decade. She's a stylist, chef, entertaining expert, writer and overall gal pal. She's quick with a compliment and unapologetic in her honesty, which is refreshing. I have a lot of good friends, and I treasure the ones who will speak the truth to me. Annette lays down the truth when I need to hear it the most, and I love her for that. She's my go-to for advice, recipes, thoughts and ideas.

Just when I thought there was nothing Annette could do or say to be more fabulous in my eyes, she publishes her second book, "Cocktail Italiano: The Definitive Guide to Aperitivo: Drinks, Nibbles, and Tales of the Italian Riviera." We're throwing her book launch party later this week, but I wanted to spend some one-on-one time with her in the kitchen to dig into some of these recipes. As the title states, her book is a travel guide through the Italian Riviera for aperitivo and the nibbles that accompany them. While Sandy Springs, GA is far from the Italian Riviera, she greets me at the door with her thick black hair tied back and bright, red lipsticked smile - the consummate Italian hostess. And so we set out to create fabulous Italian lunch.

  1. Deconstructed Caprese Salad

  2. Eggplant Camponata

  3. Seared Tuna with Olive Sauce

Deconstructed Caprese Salad

Serves 4

1 cup day old bread, torn into pieces

1/4 cup Pesto *see recipe below

1 cup baby tomatoes, about 15 cherry tomatoes

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon lemon juice, about ½ lemon

½ teaspoon salt

1 cup fresh soft Burrata cheese cut into quarters.

Fresh Basil for garnish

¼ cup sliced/julienne sundried tomato for garnish

In the bowl of a food processor, add bread and pulse until breadcrumbs are formed. In a small bowl, stir bread crumbs with the pesto; set aside.

In the bowl of a food processor place tomatoes, oil, lemon juice, and salt. Pulse until combined, about 15 seconds; set aside.

In 4 glasses equally divide the tomato puree, then the buratta, then bread crumb mixture, and top with basil leaf and garnish with sundried tomato, serve immediately. This should have the consistency of a gazpacho.

Pesto is very Ligurian. It’s on everything from pasta, to pizza all over the region. I love it on fresh tomatoes with mozzarella as a apero nibble. In the summer, I always have a jar in the refrigerator. You’ll notice the omission of garlic, in Liguria and most of Northern Italy garlic is not used.

Pesto Recipe

Makes 1 cup

4 cups fresh basil leaves 1 cup olive oil 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese ½ teaspoon salt


Place basil, 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese, oil and salt into the bowl of a food processor fitted with a blade. Pulse for 3 minutes until it forms a paste. Set aside.

Eggplant Camponata with Crostini

Serves 8

My go to nibble with drinks, it’s been my tried and true recipe for many years. I am thrilled to share it with you. I make a lot and I place it in the fridge for unexpected guests. It’s also an amazing topping for pizza, another great Aperitivo snack.

Eggplant Camponata

1 small red onion, finely chopped

¼ cup olive oil 4 cloves of garlic, crushed or coarsely chopped 4 cups of cubed eggplant, skin on (1″ cubes) *about 1 large eggplant 1 cup chopped tomatoes 1 cup chopped fresh basil 1/4 cup capers 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar 1/2 cup tomato sauce (from a jar is fine, unless you have homemade hanging around) 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes salt and pepper to taste

Parmesan cheese for garnish


In a large pan, sauté chopped onions and garlic in olive oil until translucent. Add all other ingredients, except Parmesan cheese. Cover and stir frequently, so camponata does not stick. Sauté on low heat until combined and soft, about 30-40 minutes.

Serve warm or room temperature, or even cold. This keeps in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Seared tuna with olive sauce

Serves 6

Seared Tuna with Olive Sauce

½ cup fresh parsley

½ cup fresh basil

⅓ cup chopped pitted imported green olives or Taggiasca olives (available online)

1 small clove garlic, minced

2 tablespoon lemon juice

3 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

⅛ teaspoon salt


To prepare olive sauce: Combine parsley, basil olives, garlic, lemon juice, oil, salt and in in the bowl of a food processor pulse until smooth.

1 pound ahi tuna trimmed, cut into 1 ½” steaks

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

¼ teaspoon salt

⅛ teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Preheat grill to medium-high. Rub tuna all over with oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill the tuna until seared on both sides and pink inside, about 2-3 minutes per side, thinly slice tuna into 12 bite-size pieces, plate and drizzle with olive sauce, serve warm or at room temperature. These can also be placed in individual small plates and drizzled and served as an easy pick up portion.

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