Crusted, Grilled and Smoked: Olive Garden's New Menu Items Boast Layers of Flavor Through Time-Honored Cooking Techniques

Jun 22, 2005, 01:00 ET from Olive Garden

    ORLANDO, Fla., June 22 /PRNewswire/ -- Throughout generations, Italian
 chefs have enhanced the flavors of fresh ingredients by using time-honored
 culinary techniques such as crusting, grilling, smoking and layering to create
 the most memorable meals.  Applying these cooking methods, Olive Garden
 introduces four innovative dishes to its new menu on July 4.
     The new menu items are Parmesan Crusted Tilapia, Grilled Chicken Spiedini,
 Smoked Mozzarella Fonduta and Five Cheese Ziti al Forno.
     "With Italy as our inspiration, we're always exploring new ways to turn
 fresh and simple ingredients into dishes that are bursting with texture, color
 and flavor," says John Caron, executive vice president of marketing for Olive
 Garden.  "Using a variety of traditional cooking techniques, these dishes
 showcase some exciting and authentic new flavors that will really delight our
     Crusting, or the coating of meats and vegetables, adds contrasting
 texture, enhances flavor and seals in moisture.  Olive Garden's Parmesan
 Crusted Tilapia marries the flavors of one of Italy's most well-known,
 traditional cheeses with a delicate white fish.  Parmesan Crusted Tilapia is
 served over angel hair pasta tossed in a light garlic-butter sauce, with fresh
 Italian vegetables.  Bertani Due Uve, a crisp and refreshing blend of Pinot
 Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc, pairs exceptionally well with this dish.
     In Italy, as in America, summer is marked not only by the change in
 weather, but by the start of the grilling season.  Italian meats, sausage and
 chicken, often marinated in fresh, seasonal herbs, garlic and olive oil, are
 found on the grill at family celebrations and ristoranti throughout the
 country.  Olive Garden brings that signature cooking technique of summer to
 its new Grilled Chicken Spiedini, which is available on the lunch menu.
 Skewered chicken, marinated in Italian herbs and extra-virgin olive oil, is
 served with Tuscan potatoes and grilled seasonal vegetables.  Chateau Ste.
 Michelle Chardonnay, a smooth, medium-bodied wine with apple, pear and citrus
 flavors, is a refreshing complement to Grilled Chicken Spiedini.
     Olive Garden's Culinary Institute of Tuscany and Riserva di Fizzano
 restaurant in Italy serve as the inspiration for many dishes on Olive Garden's
 menu, including Smoked Mozzarella Fonduta.  Always popular in Italy and now
 gaining popularity in America, smoked flavors are defined by cooking times.
 The longer the smoking process the more intense the taste.  A shorter smoking
 time produces the light, natural flavor found in Olive Garden's Smoked
 Mozzarella Fonduta.  This appetizer is a blend of oven-baked smoked
 mozzarella, provolone, Parmesan and Romano cheeses, and is served with fresh
 Tuscan bread.  The lightly sweet and crisp Beringer PVS White Zinfandel is a
 great contrast to the smoky flavors in the fonduta.
     Classic, simple and very Italian describe Olive Garden's Five Cheese Ziti
 al Forno.  The flavors of this dish begin with an authentic, flavorful Italian
 tomato-based sauce made from scratch in Olive Garden restaurants every day.
 Ingredients are layered, or added in cooking stages, to build flavor.  Olive
 Garden's Five Cheese Ziti al Forno is made with ziti pasta tossed with the
 tomato sauce and layered with popular Italian cheeses including herbed
 ricotta, Parmesan, Romano, fontina and mozzarella, then baked slowly in the
 oven.  The bold flavors of this celebrated dish call for a robust wine such as
 Rocca delle Macie Chianti Classico Riserva.
     "We started with traditional ingredients and techniques, then paired them
 in new and exciting ways, such as the combination of the tilapia and Parmesan
 cheese or the fonduta with the savory flavor of our smoked mozzarella," says
 Terry Stanley, senior vice president of culinary and beverage for Olive
 Garden.  "The result is distinctive, new dishes that also capture the essence
 of Italian cuisine."
     In addition to the new menu, Olive Garden guests can also enjoy two new
 limited-time Olive Garden Culinary Institute of Tuscany-inspired entrees from
 July 4 through August 28.  Perfect for summer, Grilled Lemon-Herb Chicken is a
 delicious dish of grilled rosemary and herb-marinated chicken, angel hair
 pasta tossed in a garlic lemon-herb sauce, and fresh, seasoned Italian
 vegetables.  Bottega Vinaia Pinot Grigio is an excellent wine to pair with
 this dish.  Garlic Shrimp Limone is made with large succulent shrimp sauteed
 with garlic and sun-ripened vegetables then tossed with angel hair pasta in a
 lemon garlic-herb sauce.  A perfect wine to complement this dish is Montevina
 Pinot Grigio.
     Olive Garden is the leading restaurant in the Italian dining segment with
 563 restaurants, 70,000 employees and more than $2 billion in annual sales.
 Olive Garden is a division of Darden Restaurants Inc. (NYSE:   DRI), the world's
 largest casual dining company.  For more information, visit Olive Garden's Web
 site at .
                               AT-HOME RECIPE FOR
                                   Serves Six
                 Wine Pairing Recommendation:  Bertani Due Uve
           Tilapia crusting mixture (recipe below)
           Fresh Italian vegetables (recipe below)
           6 fillets of tilapia (approximately 6 ounces each)
           1 1/4 cup Alfredo sauce (favorite homemade recipe or store bought)
           8 ounces cooked angel hair pasta
           Fresh parsley sprigs
           6 lemon wedges
                            Tilapia Crusting Mixture
           3/4 cup Italian breadcrumbs
           3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
           3 tablespoons vegetable oil
           * Using a spoon, thoroughly mix all ingredients in a large bowl.
           * Cover, set aside and refrigerate until ready to use.
                               Italian Vegetables
           4 cups zucchini, cut into 1/4 inch slices, then halved
           4 cups yellow squash, cut into 1/4 inch slices, then halved
           2 cups red bell peppers, cut into strips
           2 cups red onions, cut into strips
           1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
           1 tablespoon kosher salt
           1 tablespoon chopped garlic
           1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
           * In a large bowl, combine all ingredients and mix thoroughly.
           * Place onto a baking sheet, forming a single layer.
           * Set aside until ready for baking with tilapia.
                      Assembling Parmesan Crusted Tilapia
     * Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
     * Place tilapia fillets in a non-stick, shallow, baking pan.
     * Pour 3 tablespoons of Alfredo sauce onto each tilapia fillet.  Use
 bottom of spoon to evenly coat top of fish.
     * Sprinkle 1/3 cup of prepared tilapia crusting mixture onto each piece
 and firmly pat breading evenly over Alfredo sauce.
     * Place pan of tilapia on top rack and at the same time, place baking
 sheet with vegetables on the center rack, in the oven.
     * After approximately 10 minutes, or when the internal temperature of fish
 reaches 150 degrees F, remove fish from oven and transfer onto a large
     * The vegetables should bake for an additional five minutes, or until
 tender, and remove from the oven.
     * Toss the vegetables with angel hair pasta and place around fish.
 Sprinkle dish with parsley, garnish with lemon wedges and serve immediately.
                               AT-HOME RECIPE FOR
                                  Serves Eight
           Wine Pairing Recommendation:  Beringer PVS White Zinfandel
           1 loaf Italian bread, such as ciabatta or semolina, sliced into 1/4
      inch slices
           1 cup sour cream
           1 teaspoon thyme
           1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
           1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
           3 cups shredded mozzarella or smoked mozzarella cheese*
           3 cups shredded smoked provolone or provolone cheese*
                (*This recipe calls for one of these two cheeses to be smoked
                  and one to be regular)
           3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
           3 tablespoons grated Romano cheese
           8 teaspoons fresh diced tomatoes
           Fresh chopped parsley
           * Arrange sliced Italian bread flat on a baking sheet and cover with
 foil.  Set aside until ready to use.
           * Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
           * Combine sour cream, thyme, red pepper, cayenne pepper and four
 cheeses in a large bowl and blend thoroughly.
           * If serving family-style, spray an 8" x 10" casserole dish with pan
 spray, then use a spatula to transfer the mixture.  For individual servings,
 spray eight individual heat-resistant serving bowls, such as souffle cups,
 with pan spray and fill each with 1/2 cup of mixture.  Place individual bowls
 on a baking sheet.
           * Using a large spoon, spread cheese mixture to create an even
           * Place casserole dish or baking sheet with individual bowls on
 center rack in oven.
           * After five minutes, place baking sheet with bread, still covered,
 on top rack in oven. Bake for an additional five minutes.
           * Remove bread and fonduta from oven.
           * Garnish casserole dish with diced tomatoes and parsley in center
 of fonduta or divide evenly among smaller bowls.
           * Arrange bread slices around bowl(s) and serve immediately.

SOURCE Olive Garden