Appetizers

Herbed Goat Cheese Stuffed Blossoms

From Reaching the Heights

Serves 1 (Easily doubled or tripped based upon how many blossoms you can get)

  • 4 Squash Blossoms, stamens (the inside bit) removed
  • ¼ cup spreadable goat cheese (or if you have a log of goat cheese, just add some milk or better yet cream to loosen and smooth out so it isn’t so crumbly)
  • ¼ tsp anchovy paste, or one anchovy, finely minced
  • 1 TBSP Tomato Jam (2 finely minced sundried tomatoes in oil can substitute)
  • 1 TBSP toasted pine nuts, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp flavorful olive oil
  • A grind or two of black pepper
  • 1 tsp grated lemon zest
  • 1 tsp minced fresh herbs (I used a combination of thyme, parsley and basil)

Mix all of the ingredients together. Taste for seasoning, and add a pinch of salt and/or a grind of black pepper if needed. Let sit in refrigerator about 20 minutes. (This mixture is terrific on crackers or crusty bread too, if you wanted to make a double or triple batch.)

Carefully open up the blossom and spoon in a heaping teaspoon of the cheese mixture. Gently pinch and twist the top of the flower together to close. Repeat with the other blossoms. You could just serve these as they are with a drizzle of good olive oil on top as a starter. The night I made them I had them atop a salad of mixed field greens dressed with lemony vinaigrette and quartered ripe figs. Open up a chilled Rosé, add some crusty bread and you have the perfect reward for getting up those 413 steps! Calories: approximately 250 per serving

 

Black Pepper Nuts

From Wishing You All a Happy New…

  Makes 2 2/3 cups
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  •  2 teaspoons salt
  •  1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
  •  3/4 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
  •  4 teaspoons water
  •  2 2/3 cups blanched whole almonds

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line large baking sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray. Mix pepper and salt in small bowl. Melt butter in large nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. Add sugar and 4 teaspoons water; stir until sugar dissolves. Add almonds; toss to coat. Cook over medium heat until syrup thickens and almonds are well coated, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle half of pepper mixture over.

Transfer almonds to baking sheet. Using spatula and working quickly, separate almonds. Sprinkle remaining pepper mixture over. Bake until deep golden brown, about 10 minutes. Transfer sheet to rack; cool. (Can be made 4 days ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.)

Mozzarella in Carozza

From The Italian Journal: Venezia

Serves two as an antipasto, or one for a great lunch atop an arugula and tomato salad.

  • 2 slices thin white sandwich bread (like Pepperidge Farms – I use a slice of Trader Joe’s Texas toast cut in half, cross-wise)
  • 1 to 2 slices mozzarella, cut ¼” thick
  • 1 egg
  • 1-2 TBSP milk
  • Pinch of salt
  • Olive oil for pan

Cut the crusts off the bread. Place the mozzarella on one slice, making sure you leave about ¼” border around the edges (prevents premature oozing and a very messy pan.) Top with the second slice, then squish the edges together a little to make a seal – this is why white sandwich bread is great for this – its squishable.

Film a sauté pan with a little olive oil. Beat together the milk, egg and pinch of salt. When the oil is hot, dip the sandwich into the egg mixture, but don’t let it sit and absorb too much. Fry in pan until it is golden brown on one side, flip and repeat. Cut into quarters, and serve with a cold glass of prosecco! Calories: about 300 per sandwich.

This recipe is very adaptable to additions – I like to put an anchovy (the marinated white ones in vinegar) inside for a little salty-tangy bite, but you could put in a little sun-dried tomato in olive oil, or basil, or whatever you like. Just don’t load it up – the cheese is the star.

Jim Lahey’s No-Knead Basic Pizza Dough (From My Bread by Jim Lahey with Rick Flaste) 

From Neighbors

Makes enough dough for 2 13×18 inch pies

  • 3 ¾ cups Flour (Lahey’s recipe calls for bread flour, but all purpose works fine too)
  • 1 package (2 ½ tsp) active dry yeast
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • ¾ tsp sugar
  • 1 ½ cups room temperature (about 72 degrees) water
  • Olive oil for the pans
  • One to two 13 x 18 inch sided cookie sheets

In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, yeast, salt and sugar. Add the water and using a wooden spoon or your hands, mix until blended, at least 30 seconds. Cover with bowl and let sit at room temperature until the dough has more than doubled (about 2 hours).

Using a rubber spatula or dough scraper, remove the dough onto a floured work surface and gently form into a rough ball. Divide the dough into two halves and cover with a damp towel, spacing about 4 inches apart. Let dough rest 20 minutes. (If you only want to make one pie, after the 20 minutes are up, tightly wrap the second dough in plastic and freeze. When you are ready to use, defrost overnight and bring to room temp before shaping the pie.)

When you are ready to make your pie, oil the cookie sheets. Pick up the dough and invert and stretch to the length of the baking sheet. The floured side should now be facing up and the moist side down on the pan. Using your palms, gently pull, press, and stretch the dough to fill the entire bottom of the pan. Be patient, it will get there. I find it’s easier to press out if I oil my hands with a little olive oil rather than flour them, but both work. You don’t need to make a crust up the sides of the pan, just fill it.

The dough is now ready to top as you like. I’ve picked out a few of my favorites from Lahey’s book below (each of these all make one pie), but feel free to experiment and be as creative as you like!

Preheat oven to 500°F with rack in center

Pizza Funghi – Mushroom Pizza1 ¼ lbs cremini mushrooms (baby bellos)-sliced thin, 1 1/3 cups diced onions, 2 tsp fresh thyme leaves, 1 tsp salt, 2 ½ tsp extra virgin olive oil. In a bowl toss together the sliced mushrooms, diced onion and thyme. Scatter mixture fairly evenly over dough, putting a little more around the edges (the outside edges tend to brown faster.) Sprinkle with salt and drizzle with olive oil. Bake 25-30 minutes or until mushrooms are starting to turn golden brown and crust is pulling away from pan. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Pizza Cipolla – Onion Pizza: 2 medium onions, 1/3-cup heavy cream, 1 tsp salt, 2 tsp coarsely chopped fresh thyme leaves. Slice the onions thin (about 1/8 inch) with a mandolin or food processor–you should get about 6 cups. In a medium bowl, toss the onions with the cream, salt and thyme. Spread mixture evenly across the dough, putting a little more on the edges since they tend to cook more quickly. Bake for 30-35 minutes until topping starts to brown and crust pulls away from pan. Don’t worry if some of the onions get dark – it adds to the flavor. 

Balsamic and Herb Candied Pecans Makes one heaping cup

From Appliance Love

  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar (you could substitute dry red wine, but if you do, leave out the honey)
  • 3/4 cup (3 oz.) coarsely chopped pecans (if you are serving as a nibbles with drinks leave them whole)
  • 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary leaves
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • A good pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 425°F. Line rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Chop the fresh herbs finely with a mezzaluna or knife.

Stir sugar, honey and vinegar in small nonstick sauté pan over medium heat until syrupy, about 3 minutes. Stir in pecans and herbs, making sure to coat the pecans well. Transfer mixture to baking sheet, and spread out, separating the nuts. Roast until nuts are brown, stirring occasionally, 8 to 10 minutes. Sprinkle a pinch of salt over the nuts while they are still hot.

Remove parchment to a rack and cool completely. Break up any clumps of nuts. Store airtight container at room temperature. Calories: about 65 per tablespoon

Cuban Black Bean Salsa Makes 2-3 cups

From Superbowl Etiquette

  • 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • ½ a white onion
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1 orange, juiced
  • 1 mango, chopped into ½ cubes
  • 1 cup diced pineapple (if you are using canned, drain all but 2 TBSP juice first)
  • 1 avocado
  • 1 ½ tsp cumin
  • ½ tsp pimenton (smoked Spanish paprika
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp pepper

Mix everything together and serve with baked plantain chips, or your favorite bagged chips.

Baked Plantain Chips

  • 3-4 green plantains
  • Cooking spray
  • Salt
  • Sugar

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Spray the parchment paper with cooking spray.

Cut off the ends of the plantain, then slit the skin down the length with the tip of a knife (do not cut too deep and into the fruit). Do this several times around the plantain. Peel off the skin (it will be tougher than a banana).  Slice the plantains on an angle very thin (about 1/16th of an inch). I use a mandolin but if you are really good with a knife this works too. You could also use a vegetable peeler.

Lay out the slices on the baking tray, spray with cooking spray, and sprinkle on a little salt and a pinch of sugar.Bake 20-30 minutes, or until slightly golden and crispy.

Smashed Black Beans

From The Virtue of Cheap and Easy

This recipe is the basis of two of my favorite bean recipes. You can also use them on nachos, as a filling for enchiladas or wherever you might use refried beans.

  • 1 can black beans with liquid(I like Goya, but feel free to use your favorite. Just don’t use the salt-free variety)
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • ¼ cup chopped onions or shallots
  • 1 small garlic clove, smashed
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • ½ tsp cumin

Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a small non-stick pan. Add the smashed garlic clove and heat for a minute or two, just until fragrant. Add the onion and a pinch of salt and sauté for another 2 minutes, just to sweat the onions. Add the can of beans with liquid into the pan, along with the cumin and pepper. Bring to a boil then turn down and simmer, uncovered for 10 minutes. Take a fork or potato masher and mash the beans, leaving a little texture to them (you don’t want a puree). Add squeeze of lime juice (about one tsp.)  You now have the base for some tasty dishes. Calories: 400 per recipe

Black bean, chili and cheese dip:  Put 1 recipe of smashed black beans in a microwave safe dish, top with 1/3 cup of salsa or canned green chilis. Sprinkle with 2/3 cup shredded jack, cheddar, or a combination. Zap in the microwave until the dish is warmed through and cheese is all melty. Top with some chopped avocado, a squeeze of lime, and serve with your favorite chips or bread for scooping.

Quick Huevos Rancheros:  (for one serving)  Put 1-2 6″corn or flour tortillas into a microwave or ovenproof dish. Top with ½ a recipe of smashed black beans and 1/4 cup shredded jack cheese. Warm in microwave or oven until heated through and the cheese is melted. While the beans are warming, fry one egg. Take the beans and melted cheese out, top with fried egg, season egg with salt and pepper, and top with your favorite salsa (I love a tomatillo or salsa verde with this). Serve with some warmed tortillas on the side.

Wild mushroom Tart (Adapted from GourmetServes 6

From Killer Heels

I found this recipe years ago on epicurious.com and have been making it ever since, varying the mushrooms around what is available. The original recipe calls for you to make the pastry dough from scratch first. Once I made it and burnt the shell while blind baking (yes, I DO burn things too…likely I was distracted picking out the perfect shoes to wear.) I was under a time crunch so I ran to the market and picked up a frozen pie crust.  Know what? I’ve been using one ever since!
  • 1 sheet or pie tin of ready-made crust (if you are using the unroll and bake sheet, put the sheet in a 9″ tart pan with removable bottom, or pie plate.)
  • 1TBSP unsalted butter
  • 1 TBSP vegetable oil
  • 3/4 pound mixed fresh wild mushrooms such as cremini, oyster, and chanterelle, quartered lengthwise
  • 2 TBSP finely chopped shallot
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh thyme
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 3/8 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 cup crème fraîche
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 whole large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk

Make shell: Blind bake pie shell according to package directions. I like the roll out kind so I can put it into my 9” removable bottom tart pan. You can do same, or just make it in the tin it came in. Blind baking simply means to prick the crust with a fork all over so it doesn’t puff up, then put a piece of buttered foil, butter side down in tart or pie pan. Fill pan completely with pie weights, dry beans or dry rice –filling completely prevents the edges from shrinking. Bake according to package directions. Remove the foil with weights. If you use rice or beans, they can no longer be cooked, so I just put in a jar with a lid when cool and keep with my baking pans and use over and over again. Cool baked shell completely in pan on a rack, about 15 minutes.

While the pastry bakes, heat butter and oil in a large heavy skillet over moderately high heat until foam subsides, then sauté mushrooms, shallot, thyme, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp pepper, stirring frequently, until mushrooms are tender and any liquid given off is evaporated, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and cool to room temperature.

[Timing note:  You can bake off the crust and make the mushroom thyme shallot mixture ahead of time, then pick up the recipe from there when you want to make and serve. That makes this a great recipe to do on an impromptu Friday after work supper party.]

Whisk together crème fraîche, heavy cream, whole egg, yolk, and remaining 1/4 tsp salt and 1/8 tsp pepper in a medium bowl until combined.

Fill and bake tart: Reduce oven temperature to 325°F. Scatter mushrooms evenly in tart shell and pour custard over them. Bake tart in pan on a baking sheet until custard is just set and slightly puffed, 35 to 45 minutes.

Cool tart in pan on rack at least 20 minutes, then remove side of pan if you are using a removable bottom tart pan. Serve tart warm or at room temperature. Calories: 370/serving

Smoked-Trout Pate with Pita Crisps (Adapted from Martha Stewart Living) Makes about 3 cups

From Putting your Big Girl Shoes on

This is great with the pita crisps, and leftovers are killer schmeered on a toasted bagel.

  • 1 pound smoked trout fillet, skinned and deboned
  • ¼ pound cream cheese, room temperature
  • 3 TBSP unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 TBSP cognac
  • 2 TBSP finely chopped red onion, plus more for garnish
  • ½ TSP Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 TBSP chopped fresh dill, plus more for garnish
  • 2 TSP lemon juice
  • hot sauce, such as Tabasco
  • coarse salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Puree trout, cream cheese, butter, cognac, onion, Worcestershire sauce, and dill in food processor. Add lemon juice, a few drops hot sauce, salt and pepper, and pulse. Transfer to bowl. Cover, and refrigerate at least an hour (or overnight). Garnish with more onion and dill, and serve with Pita Crisps.

Calories: approximately 35 cal/TBSP

Pita Chips Makes 36 pita chips

You can buy these to save time, but I like to make them myself. They are quite easy, a bit healthier, and much less expensive.
  • 3 whole-wheat or white pita (about 6 inches each)
  • olive oil cooking spray, or 2-3 TBSP olive oil for brushing
  • coarse salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Preheat over to 375° F. Split pita horizontally. Brush interiors with oil, and season with salt and pepper. Cut each pita half into 6 wedges. Arrange in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake until golden and crisp, 10-12 minutes. Let cool. Pita crisps can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days. Calories: approximately 16 cal/chip

Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

From Toto, I don’t think we’re in OZ anymore

If you too cringe at the cost of ‘farmer’s market’ tomatoes, do what I do. Buy the cheaper ones in the supermarket and roast them! This is a great recipe when cherry tomatoes are in season, and is even better in colder weather when the only passable tomatoes you can get are these little babies.

  • 1 lb cherry or grape tomatoes
  • 6-8 branches of fresh thyme
  • 2-3 TBSP of olive oil
  • salt & pepper

Preheat the oven to 425ºF. Put the tomatoes on a sided cookie sheet or shallow baking pan so they are in one layer and not crowded. Drizzle with 2-3 TBSP olive oil. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper and toss in the thyme (you don’t need to strip the leaves from the stems – they will come off as they roast). Toss everything thoroughly so the oil and seasonings are well-distributed over all the tomatoes. Roast for 20-25 minutes or until the tomato skins burst and the tomatoes wilt a bit.  Remove the stems from the thyme (most of the leaves should have fallen off during the roasting) and pour the tomatoes and juices into a bowl or jar. If you aren’t using them right away, they’ll keep well for a few of days in the refrigerator. You can use them with fresh ricotta over pasta (see recipe below) , as a side dish, a topping for bruschetta, on sandwiches, burgers, or however you like. They are delicious!Calories: 440 calories per pound of tomatoes, or 110 calories per serving for 4.

Homemade Ricotta

Freshly made ricotta is truly a treat. But paying the steep prices for it is not. The first time I read a recipe for homemade ricotta I’ll admit, I was a bit intimidated. Then I gave it a try and discovered it’s not difficult at all. In fact, it pretty much makes itself. Take milk, add in something to curdle it, heat, and you’ve got ricotta! Some recipes call for lemon juice or vinegar to create the curds but I found buttermilk does a great job and I like the flavor of the end product better.  I’ve use whole milk, 2%, whatever I have at hand, and if I’m feeling particularly decadent, a 3-1 combination of milk and half & half or cream is a lovely treat.

The only equipment you really need for this is some cheesecloth, a fine mesh sieve and a saucepan. Some use a high heat thermometer to test the temperature of the liquids, but it’s really not necessary. You’ll know when it’s right – the curds will form, separate from the whey, and when the liquid boils, you’re done. Once you’ve strained the curds out, don’t throw away the whey (the liquid part left over).  It’s terrific for baking – I use it in place of water in yeast breads and in scones, muffins or other baking that calls for buttermilk.

The basic ratio for ricotta is 4-1: 4 parts milk (or a combination of milk & cream) to 1 part buttermilk. Since the finished product doesn’t last more than a few days, I usually make small ½-1 cup batches to use that day in a recipe. That’s actually how I got into making it in the first place – a recipe called for it, the wallet was thin, and I didn’t feel like running out to the market in the rain.

For about 3/4 cup ricotta

  • 4 cups milk (whole, 2% or a combination of either with half & half or cream)
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Optional: 2-3 TBSP half & half or heavy cream

Place a fine mesh strainer over a large bowl. Line the strainer with 3 layers of cheesecloth.

Heat the milk and buttermilk over medium heat in a saucepan. Stir it frequently so the milk doesn’t burn on the bottom of the pan.  Keep an eye on it –this isn’t something to walk away from. Just pour yourself a glass of wine or whatever and hang out in the kitchen for a while.

As the mixture gets up to heat (around 175-180F if you want to use a thermometer – you don’t have to), you’ll start to see curds forming. Stir with a heatproof spatula, gently scraping curds off sides and bottom. When the milk starts to boil, turn off the heat.  The curds should be fully formed, and will separate from the whey (which now looks like milky water). Skim the curds with a slotted spoon or skimmer into the cheesecloth lined strainer. When you’ve skimmed most off, slowly pour the remaining curds and whey through the strainer. Remove the curds to a bowl, pour the whey into a jar and store in the refrigerator until you feel like baking some bread. It keeps for quite a while.

The curds will probably look a little dry. I usually add back in a tablespoon or two of cream and mix well to get a creamier consistency. Calories: 150 per ¼ cup.

There’s a ton of good things you can do with fresh ricotta:

  • To 1/2 cup ricotta, add 1 tsp good olive oil, 1 tsp chopped herbs, 1 tsp lemon zest, 1 tsp cream and a pinch of salt & pepper for a great spread on toast. Add a slice fresh tomato or some of the roasted tomatoes on top.
  • Blind bake 3″ circles of frozen puff pastry to make tartlet shells (remember to prick well all over so they don’t puff up too much, or bake with another cookie sheet on top to keep them flat). Add 2 TBSP soft goat cheese to the herbed ricotta above, mix well (you may need to add a little milk or cream to make it more spreadable). Spread on the cooled tartlets. Top with a few cool roasted tomatoes and a few thyme leaves – makes a great breakfast, first course, lunch with a green salad, or if you make smaller pastry rounds, very swanky cocktail nibbles!

Fresh fig tapanade

From ‘WTF?’

Makes about 1 ¾ cups

  • 8 ripe figs, stemmed and halved
  • 1 ½ TBSP olive oil
  • ¼ cup kalamata olives – pitted
  • ¼ cup oil cured olives – pitted
  • 1 TBSP drained capers
  • 2 TBSP balsamic crema (this is a reduced balsamic syrup that many markets now carry. If you can’t find it, you can make it by reducing ½ cup balsamic vinegar with ½ cup sugar until it forms a syrup. Keep it on hand in the fridge – it’s wonderful on a lot of things.)
  • 2 tsp fresh chopped rosemary
  • ½ tsp good aged balsamic vinegar
  • ½ cup toasted walnuts, coarsely chopped

Preheat broiler. Line small baking sheet with foil and spray with non-stick spray. Lightly brush figs with ½ TBSP olive oil. Arrange figs cut side up on sheet. Broil until figs are lightly browned at edges, about 3 minutes. Cool on baking sheet.

Combine figs, olives, capers, balsamic crema, rosemary and vinegar in food processor. Pulse to coarsely chop figs and olives. With motor running, add remaining 1 TBSP of oil. Add salt and pepper to taste (you may not need any salt since both the olives and capers have plenty.) Transfer to a bowl and stir in the walnuts. Let stand at room temperature for 2 hours for the flavors to blend nicely. Store in refrigerator. Calories: about 50 per tablespoon.

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