Tag Archives: appetizer

pantry picnic

If you live on the East Coast, you know Mother N. hit the fast-forward button straight from winter to summer. I’m rocking sundresses on a daily basis these (80-degree) days and ready to eat outside. Andrew and I have re-opened Cafe Lindrew for the season—that is, our little stone patio looking out to the woods. This week has been barbeque with cousins and Mickey Mouse birthdays, and Happy Hour on the patio with the hubs (yuengling for Andrew, textbook for me).

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Isn’t it clear it’s time to get outside for some Vitamin D? In keeping with our humble canned-food quest, here’s a two-minute slaw to take on your next picnic—even if it’s in your backyard. Yes, I realize the contradiction: canned food + a $150 food processor? A big ol’ food processor makes this salad lightening-fast. In case you don’t have a large food processor, you could make this in batches in a small $14 food processor, or just chop up all the ingredients and stir in a big bowl! I never have luck with these hand choppers, but this slaw is the perfect use for one if you’ve got it!

I was missing several ingredients (indicated below) and this was still delightful—like the chicken salad solution for vegetarians. A surprising hit in both the teacher’s lounge and my hubby’s sneak taste-test. “Wow, that smells awesome,” he said over my shoulder. “Am I allowed to have some?” Don’t mention it’s missing meat ūüėČ

Chunky Artichoke and Chickpea Salad

Vegetarian Times, serves 6

For a spring picnic or lunch, serve this dish as a dip with crackers or spread on pumpernickel and top with tomato.Or enjoy with your favorite sandwich (apple and cheddar). Don’t freak out at the number of ingredients until you see how many steps follow.
1  16-oz. can / jar artichoke hearts packed in water, drained
1  12-oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
¬ľ cup chopped onion
¬ľ cup chopped cornichons (French baby pickles)—I used a bread & butter spear
¬ľ cup chopped green bell pepper
¬ľ cup chopped fresh celery
¬ľ cup vegan mayonnaise (I used regular Hellmans)
2 tsp. olive oil
1 tsp. capers (I omitted)
1 clove garlic, minced (1 tsp.)
1 tsp. seafood seasoning, such as Old Bay (I omitted)
1 tsp. Dijon mustard (I omitted)

Pulse all ingredients in food processor until chunky. Season with salt and pepper, if desired. Chill at least 30 minutes, or overnight.

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Thank you Vegetarian Times for the nutrition facts! Per 1/2-cup serving (note the majority of the fat is not saturated):

Calories: 148, Protein: 5 g, Total Fat: 9 g, Saturated Fat: 1 g, Carbohydrates: 17 g, Cholesterol: 2 mg, Sodium: 435 mg, Fiber: 6 mg, Sugar: 3 g

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emerging from hibernation

Good evening readers and eaters! As I mentioned two posts ago, I have an exciting life project that occupies my evenings—hence the lack of recent recipes. I have indeed been cooking and photographing lovely meals to share with you. Warning: this blog is about to grow in its proportion of heart-healthy, veg-filled delights.

Andrew and I are really cutting back on saturated fats these days: it’s not about a fad diet or vegan trends. As we venture into our fifth year of marriage, we’re unhappy with the weight gain we’ve experienced in this brief time—over 20 lbs. between the two of us. Neither of us is overweight, but 20 lbs. in 5 years is a scary trend considering the inevitable metabolic slow in the coming 5 years. A generous topping of high-fat cheese was making its way into too many of our meals.

My two years immersed in Nutrition grad studies taught me that the most realistic way to weight loss is small, simple dietary substitutions. One less soda a day, less fattening milk, etc. For Andrew, this meant switching from sandwiches to soup for most workday lunches. For me, this meant cut-up fruits and veggies as snacks before meals insteaPhoto & Video Sharing by SmugMugd of my infamous feed-a-family lunch portions. Smaller portions, more frequent meals. Now Andrew eats breakfast. We eat smaller dinners and finish the evenings with yogurt fruit smoothies.

So now I must share my thrilling very-recent discovery: ethnic markets. I had heard about the affordable produce prices for years, and finally visited my local Korean and Hispanic supermart. Not only were the prices one-third of what I paid at Shoppers (which I had found less expensive than my other local chains), but the produce was fresh, abundant, and varied beyond my imagination. Where Shoppers has carried three to four moldy eggplants the past five months, Fresh World had hundreds of firm, blemish-free eggplants—five different varieties! I realize I am spoiled in my metropolitan area, but if you have the opportunity to explore an international market, this is a wonderfully affordable way to incorporate far more fresh ingredients into your meals. I left with seven stuffed produce bags¬† for barely $40.

Sometimes, we’ve just got to stop complicating dishes with steps and stress. Have a simple, fresh meal. Give yourself a break, your body a boost. Here was our light Friday night…Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

Pita and Feta with Vegetables

inspired by Yotam Ottolenghi’s “Very Full Tart” recipe (minus eggs, heavy cream, buttered pie crust)

do substitute/omit ingredients per availability

1 red bell pepper, chopped

1 yellow bell pepper, chopped

1 medium eggplant, peeled and diced

handful cherry tomatoes, halved

1 sweet potato, peeled and diced (1-inch)

1 zucchini, diced

1 large onion

4 tbsp. grapeseed/vegetable oil

4 oz. feta, crumbled

whole wheat pita for serving, cut into wedges

Preheat the oven to 400F. On at least two baking sheets, scatter the chopped vegetables into an even layer. Drizzle with oil and toss to coat. Sprinkle with dried thyme or oregano as you like. Roast the veggies about 30 minutes, tossing halfway through, until potatoes are fork tender and browning occurs. Season with ground pepper and sprinkle with feta. If you have fresh oregano or chives, add them here.

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We spooned this vegetable mixture into whole wheat pita pockets, dunking the pita into homemade baba ganoush as well. Surprisingly satisfying.

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plenty: the mighty eggplant

I’m limited in many of the cookbooks of my shelf; vegetarian¬†entr√©es¬†are less than a third of each book. Imagine my delight when I opened this new cookbook¬†to 120 main course vegetarian recipes. Yes, I coveted Yotam¬†Ottolenghi’s new cookbook Plenty since Christmas when it¬†popped up¬†on all my favorite food blogs.

Consider this new series a reader’s guide to Plenty. The book is packed with abundant photos and¬†paragraphs, the latter of which can¬†appear daunting. When I received the Peter Gorden’s book¬†Salads from a co-worker, I thought I had¬†to roast an entire red onion to use 1 tsp onion juice in the final dressing. It took many years¬†growing comfortable¬†in the kitchen to realize how I could create the dish without four¬†hours devoted to¬†“leaving tomatoes in the sun”. To the discerning palette, some of these steps make a world of difference; the rest of us work and want to get dinner on the table before midnight. I will walk you through some of Plenty’s recipes (four this week alone!) and hope to take the intimidation out of 600-word recipes.

If you purchased Plenty, or plan to, it is surely inspired by the cover photo: roasted eggplants blanketed in a creamy sauce and¬†sparkling pomegranate¬†seeds like jewels. It looks remarkably elegant and utterly original. It is. And it is so do-able, you need to make this¬† tomorrow—impress the heck of out your friends. I ate my last eggplant the next day, dressed to the nines and refrigerated overnight: it held up perfectly and was delightful cold. (Good thing, since yogurt does not heat well).¬†The ease of achieving this dish: slice, roast, and¬†dress the eggplant for a memorable evening.

Eggplant with Buttermilk Sauce

from Plenty, serves four as a starter

2 large and long eggplants (firm and unblemished)

1/3 cup olive oil

1 1/2 tsp thyme leaves, plus a few whole sprigs to garnish

1 pomegranate (or package of pomegranate seeds)

1 tsp za’atar (or¬†equal parts dried oregano, thyme, sesame seeds—crushed)

Sauce:

9 tbsp buttermilk

1/2 cup Greek yogurt (I purchased a single serving yogurt cup)

1 1/2 tbsp olive oil, plus a drizzle to finish

1 small garlic clove, minced (on a microplane or like this)

Pinch of salt

Preheat¬†the oven to 400¬įF. Cut the eggplants in half lengthways, cutting straight through the green stalk (the stalk is for the look; don’t eat it).

Use a small sharp knife to make three or four parallel incisions in the cut side of each eggplant half, without cutting through to the skin. (I made a few too many! didn’t make¬†a difference)¬†Repeat at a 45-degree angle to get a diamond-shaped pattern.

Place the eggplant halves, cut-side up, on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Brush them with olive oil‚ÄĒkeep on brushing until all of the oil has been absorbed by the flesh.

Sprinkle with the thyme leaves and some coarse salt and pepper.

Roast for 35 to 40 minutes, at which point the flesh should be soft, flavorful and nicely browned. I increased the heat to 475¬įF the last five minutes to achieve the proper color.¬†Remove from the oven and allow to cool down completely.

A delightful za’atar substitute from The Internet: crush 1 tsp. dried oregano, 1 tsp. leftover fresh thyme, 1 tsp. sesame seeds.

if you can’t find packaged pomegranate seeds:

While the eggplants are in the oven, cut the pomegranate into two horizontally. Hold one half over a bowl, with the cut side against your palm, and use the back of a wooden spoon or a rolling pin to gently knock on the pomegranate skin. Continue beating with increasing power until the seeds start coming out naturally and falling through your fingers into the bowl. Once all are there, sift through the seeds to remove any bits of white skin or membrane. For the visual learner.

To make the sauce: Whisk together all of the ingredients. Taste for seasoning, then keep cold until needed.

To serve, spoon plenty of buttermilk sauce over the eggplant halves without covering the stalks. Sprinkle za’atar and plenty of pomegranate seeds on top and garnish with thyme. Finish with a drizzle of olive oil.

What would YOU serve alongside this eggplant extravaganza? share in the comment section.

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pizza: it’s what’s for dinner

Let’s get in the mood with a scene from a beloved childhood film. In this clip from Back to the Future II, we glipse at the McFly family in the Future: the year 2015. Ha!

I am impressed the writers in 1987 foresaw caller ID. Still waiting on Black & Decker to release The Hydrator.

Yes, it’s a cherished dish since I was born in the 1980s when¬†Mom, Dad, Jason and I would lay the picnic blanket on the family room floor to¬†watch TGIF around a piping hot pizza¬†box.¬†Even on a scorching summer night, 26 years later,¬†pizza is still¬†the ultimate end-the-week dinner. Now that I‚Äôve wrapped up nutrition classes, it seems an apt time to talk about up-ing the nutrient value of our favorite foods. Let’s start perfecting the pie.

OVERLOAD

Carry-out pizza, despite the presence of carbs, veggies, dairy and in one serving, can be nutritionally void and calorically perilous. Fat and salt reign. The sodium overload in the sauce, pepperoni, and cheese cancels out much hope of absorbing calcium. Pizza also often lacks fiber so crucial to our diet; I found a way to include it in my version, with a flavor just as appealing.

RETHINK PIZZA

What do we love about pizza? The crust‚Äôs crunch, rich tomato flavor, the alluring salty cheese? Here‚Äôs just one way to enjoy this essence without sacrificing our heart’s¬†health. Using an appropriate portion of salty cheese provides ample cheesiness¬†and significantly¬†decreases¬†the saturated fat. I added toppings high in¬†vitamins, low in calories—then baked it to that golden brown we all adore.

Heart-Healthy Pizza

A  Friday Night Linvention

1 cup baby spinach leaves (use arugula for peppery kick)

1 cup mixed basil and mint leaves

2 tbsp olive oil

1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

1 bell pepper, sliced thin

¬Ĺ cup shaved parmesan cheese (pecorino, romano, asiago are all great options)

1 prepared pizza crust (mine was only about 9 inches diameter; whole wheat is a great choice)

budget tip: purchase a wedge of romano or asiago cheese and shave with a vegetable peeler. this can be several dollars less than pre-shredded parmesan.

Note the sodium per serving size on this Trader Joes’ pizza crust! It would have been all too easy to eat this entire pie. It’s not just about fat: it’s about the whole picture.

Preheat the oven to 450F.

In a food processor (a 2-cup machine is sufficient), puree the spinach and herbs with 2 tbsp olive oil. If you don’t have a food processor, finely chop all of greens and stir into the olive oil. A traditional pesto with nuts and cheese would add much more fat than I desired here.

Spread the pesto over the crust. Place the tomatoes, cut side up, on the sauce along with the peppers. Sprinkle a pinch of kosher or sea salt over the tomatoes‚ÄĒthis will help them roast in the oven. Scatter the cheese in between the tomatoes and peppers, leaving the tomatoes exposed.

Bake directly on the rack according to the crust’s package directions, or until the cheese browns. I place a large baking sheet beneath the pizza to catch any dripping oil or cheese as it bakes. Cool slightly before cutting; I prefer a long knife instead of a pizza wheel.

Other ideas:

Rather than high-sodium pizza sauce, top your crust with thin slices of salted beefsteak tomatoes (and herbs if you like) and bake until the tomatoes begin to dry out. Top with ¬Ĺ cup of salty cheese, and the veggies/meat of your choosing and bake until brown. Of course, the tricky part is not eating the whole pie! Serve with a salad¬†and munch on fruit or nuts before dinner. Eating a salad (tossed with peaches or berries) while our pizza is in the oven helps with smaller portions.

Pizza is a favorite is our home, and we’re always playing around with new ways to make it memorable¬†in our own kitchen. Find¬†more pizza¬†inspirations here and recent medical news on¬†life-saving fiber from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

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street food: fritters!

I didn’t like meat growing up. I thought this surely meant a life¬†of alternating¬†peanut-butter and grilled cheese sandwiches. Then in college, Anna introduced me to the wonder that is Indian food–only to be followed by¬†my love and exploration¬†of many ethnic foods. Hellllllllo falafel.

One bite of this fried chickpea patty and you’ll understand why I planned my entire budget birthday¬†around this delight. Serve it¬†traditionally in pita (the “Israeli hamburger” said my friend Johanna)¬†and drizzle with a¬†store-bought yogurt sauce like tzatziki. Or let it¬†accompany a knockout¬†mixed grain dish.

A¬†food processor is best for making this dish in a pinch: mix, chill, fry. That’s it!

My Favorite Falafel

tweaked from Joan Nathan, The Foods of Israel Today 

1 cup dried chickpeas OR 2 15-oz. cans

1/2 large onion, roughly chopped (about 1 cup)

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro

1 teaspoon salt

1/2-1 teaspoon dried cayenne

4 cloves of garlic

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon baking powder

4-6 tablespoons stone-ground white corn meal (or flour)

Grapeseed or vegetable oil for frying

Prep the Mixture

Put the chickpeas in a large bowl and add enough cold water to cover them by at least 2 inches. Let soak overnight, then drain. Or use canned chickpeas, drained.

Place the drained, uncooked chickpeas and the onions in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Add the parsley, cilantro, salt, cayenne, garlic, and cumin. Pulse until just evenly chopped.

Sprinkle in the baking powder and 4 tablespoons of the flour (or cornmeal—I found the cornmeal achieves the perfect crunchy exterior), and pulse. You want to add enough¬†cornmeal or flour so that the dough forms a small ball and no longer sticks to your hands. Do not¬†overmix, or¬†the falafel will be tough.¬†Leave a little chunky.

Turn into a bowl and refrigerate, covered, for several hours. I’ve found one hour sufficient, but you could also prep the mixture the night before.

Fry the Falafel

Form the chickpea¬†mixture into balls about the size of walnuts—squashing¬†into a disc fries faster and makes for easier sandwiches. Heat 3 inches of oil to 375 degrees in a deep pot or wok and fry 1 ball to test.

If it falls apart, add a little flour. Then fry about 6 balls at once for a few minutes on each side, or until golden brown. I find they fry well if lowered gently into the oil with a chinese strainer. Drain on paper towels. Falafel does not absorb oil, so it is not a greasy food—despite being fried.

Joan Nathan’s tips:

Stuff half a pita with falafel balls, chopped tomatoes, onion, green pepper, and pickled turnips. Drizzle with tahina thinned with water.

Tahina is an oily paste made from ground sesame seeds. It is available in Middle Eastern markets and at www.ethnicgrocer.com.

To garnish your falafel in true Israeli style, try adding one or several of the following condiments: harissa hot sauce, pickled turnip (both also available at www.ethnicgrocer.com), mango amba (pickle), or sauerkraut.

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March 12, 2012 · 2:53 pm

family dinner

Like my recent bean posts, today we’re talking about discovering new foods on my journey to be a Less Picky Eater. You say picky, I say vegetarian. Tomato, tomahto.

There are people who think they are not squash people. I did not grow up a squash person, only the occasional zucchini—which, I’m sorry, hardly counts. It was only three years ago I ventured into acorn squash (halved¬†and roasted as cheesy basmati bowls), butternut, and mostly recently spaghetti squash.

I love that you can purchase butternut squash pre-cut in the grocer’s deli section (it makes this recipe a breeze). Despite my sharpest knife, I have nearly severed limbs attempting to break into that son-of-a-gourd. A few dollars more, this is true, but I find the cost of pre-cut butternut squash absolutely worth the 20 minutes, tears, and blood loss that accompanies the raw¬†gargantuan gourd.

This is a spectacular, I mean truly remarkable soup worth adding to your repertoire. There are few dishes I make twice (too many new recipes bookmarked!),¬†and this has already become one of them. It has two steps—roasting¬†and blending—six¬†ingredients, and can feed a grateful crowd without a drop of sweat on your end.

I recently served this for the entire family to accompany my favorite asparagus ravioli in brown butter sauce. Andrew does not consider himself a fan of squash or mushrooms, but he always gobbles this up with compliments to the chef (c’est moi).¬†Pops, also not a known for a squash preference, took home the leftover soup!¬†As Kramer would say: Oh mama.

Roasted Squash Shittake Soup

adapted slightly from Martha Stewart, serves 4 as an entrée, 8 as an appetizer

2 3/4 lb. butternut squash, pre-cut into 2-inch pieces

1 onion, peeled and quartered through the stem

4 shiitake mushrooms, stemmed, caps wiped clean with a paper towel

4 small garlic cloves, unpeeled

olive oil

5 cups homemade or store-bought low-sodium vegetable stock (I love Pacific Organic)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Combine squash cubes, onion, mushrooms, and unpeeled garlic on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with enough olive oil just to coat (about 1/2 cup) and 2 teaspoons salt (sea salt or Kosher). Toss and spread in a single layer. Divide onto two baking sheets if needed; there should be space between all the vegetables or they will steam and not brown.

Roast until squash is tender when pierced with the tip of a sharp knife, about 30 minutes, rotating pan and tossing vegetables halfway through. Let cool, then remove skins from the garlic by squeezing out the pulp.

Transfer vegetables to a medium saucepan; heat over medium. Pour in 2 cups stock; puree with an immersion blender until smooth (or you can do this in an upright blender, transferring the veggies straight from the oven to the blender).

With the blender running, slowly add remaining 3 cups stock, and puree until smooth. (If serving later, refrigerate in the pot at this point). Bring soup just to a simmer. Remove from heat, and season with salt and pepper. Cover to keep warm.

A brief bit about broth: I used vegetable broth upon the first trial of this soup, and while I usually do not prefer the flavor it did work well here. I used chicken broth on the most recent batch, and while the different was subtle, I preferred the vegetable broth. Moral of the story, use either.

For what soup was your grandmother best known?

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cheap eats

For over twenty years I was the vegetarian who didn’t like beans. It was a texture and taste thing, mostly a texture thing. So I found ways to disguise them:¬†crunchy, roasted chickpeas became a favorite snack, followed by¬†white bean dip.

As it’s important to vegetarians to¬†consider iron-rich foods,¬†I have been on a quest for¬†more enjoyable¬†bean recipes. I have two stellar recipes to share—the Tuscan Beans¬†in next week’s¬†post¬†is unforgettable.¬†Both are best enjoyed¬†with fresh grilled bread, which makes such inexpensive dishes a dash more decadent. This lunch manages to be an elegant¬†5-minute meal as simple as it gets: bread and beans.

Mixed Bean and Parsley Salad

from Cooking After Five, serves 4, or 2 with leftovers


2 cans chickpeas, drained

2 cans canellini beans, drained

1 cup parsley, lightly packed, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced (on your microplane)

Juice of 1 lemon

Extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

In a large bowl, combine beans, parsley, garlic, lemon juice, and a couple splashes of extra-virgin olive oil. Toss to combine and season with salt and freshly cracked pepper. Grate enough cheese so it looks like a mound of snow, about 1/2 cup, then toss. Taste. Serve with grilled bread.

For grilled bread:

Slice a fresh loaf (cheese or herbed bread is extra fun)¬† into one-inch pieces. Brush both sides lightly with olive oil and grill over medium heat. If you don’t have a grill, place the oiled slices on a flat baking sheet and grill under the broiler until golden brown.¬†With tongs, turn¬†the slices and brown the second side. For fun, rub a halved garlic clove over each hot slice—it adds a special,¬†tangy¬†touch.

Note: Parsley has a grassy flavor not everyone prefers. Chives, basil, or a combination of fresh herbs would be a fantastic substitute for the parsley here. Basil and white beans are a wonderful combination.

Click here for my other favorite recipes featuring garbanzo beans.

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a firenze frenzy

This Sunday, I plan to eat delicious snacks and salty things as an ode to my American culture. I have no plans, however, to watch sporting events. My lifelong indifference to athletics led only to my parents teasing me I would surely marry a man who wanted to watch football every Sunday. Well, I married a film major (brags blogger wife whose laptop rests upon¬†a 4th edition of The Screenwriter’s Bible). We’ll probably take the day to enjoy our own movie marathon. And eat snacks.

Last Super Bowl Sunday, I was home sick and eating this. This year, I am on the rebound to good health and endorsing some healthy appetizers (inspired by serious steroid-related weight gain). These were such a smash at our housewarming in August, and a nice treat again this week at a neighborly¬†happy hour. Tis not the season for tomatoes¬†and strawberries—I¬†know, I know—but grape tomatoes help make the most of this Tuscan treat.

Note: I made this for 50 guests with nary a leftover and multiplied the recipe by six. Because the toasts and topping make excellent leftovers, it is worth at least doubling the recipe. I also used a multigrain baguette the second time around, and it was fantastic.

Crostini di Firenze

from Desperation Entertaining by Beverly Mills & Alicia Ross

makes 20 crostini

1 baguette (at least 12 inches long)

1 large clove fresh garlic

3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar

1/4 lb. ripe strawberries (about 1/2 cup chopped)

1 lb. grape tomatoes, halved

5 or 6, fresh mint leaves (2 tsp. chopped)

Make the crostini

Turn on the broiler. Cut off one end of the baguette, then cut 20 slices, each about 1/2 inch wide. Place the bread slices on a baking sheet and toast in the hot broiler about 3 inches from the heat source until golden brown, about 1 minute. Remove, turn the slices over, and toast until golden brown on the second side, about 45 seconds. Remove the toasted bread from the baking sheet and let cool to room temperature.

Mix the topping

Mince the garlic (on a microplane, or like this) and place in a small bowl. Add the olive oil, vinegar, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Whisk well to blend and set aside at room temperature until ready to serve. The vinaigrette and toast slices can be stored at this point for up to 8 hours. Cover the vinaigrette. Place the toast slices in an airtight container at room temperature.

Rinse and drain the strawberries thoroughly. Remove the leaf caps of the strawberries and cut the berries in half. Place the strawberry halves on a cutting board and chop coarsely to 1/4-inch pieces. Put the strawberries in a mixing bowl with the chopped tomatoes. Rinse and dry the mint leaves; finely chop and add to the fruit mixture. The strawberry-and-tomato mixture can be refrigerated and covered up to 2 hours.

Assemble the firenze

Whisk the vinaigrette to remix, pour over the fruit mixture and stir well to blend. Taste and adjust salt and pepper to your preference. Arrange the toasts on a serving platter and spoon the topping onto each slice.

Let the crostini¬†stand at room temperature for about 10 minutes before serving to allow the vinaigrette¬†to penetrate the bread. They will get soggy if standing too long, so better to assemble in batches—I promise, even in the midst of a party, this is a breeze. They will go fast.

Click to some other favorite dips and appetizers from A Pear to Remember

Jalapeno-Feta Dip

Mushroom Turnovers

Watermelon-Feta Bites

Blue Cheese and Walnut Crackers

5-Ingredient Trail Mix

Smoked Paprika Chickpeas

Savory Tartlettes

Goat Cheese Bruschetta

Stuffed Peppadews

Roasted Red Pepper Dip with Pita Chips

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food of the gods

There are things in life for which Americans offer incessant apologies: sneezing, asking questions, arriving early, arriving late, and the worst offender:¬†apologizing for apologizing. This is why I am not sorry to¬† make—yet¬†again—a fuss over feta.

Andrew and I ventured into Whole Foods last weekend to recycle wine corks from our wedding (three years is not too late to consider Mother Earth). At the entrance, a young woman offered eight locally-made dips. One particular feta dip was so phenomenal, we talked about it the whole way home. It was a life-changing cheese moment for us both. Though still not worth the $10 for  4 measly ounces.

A single glance at the ingredient list made this simple to re-create at home. Imported feta—essential¬†here—is¬†a creamy experience that shames all fetas you’ve known before. For $6, this high-end tub¬†of¬†feta was still far¬†less than the gourmet dip, and made a generous batch.

jalapeno feta dip

1/2 large red onion

1/2 jalapeno

about 1 lb. imported feta block, in brine (sheep & goat milk blend)

2 tablespoons olive oil

On the large holes of¬†a box grater, grate the red onion. With a paring knife¬†(and gloves on), slice the jalapeno in half, scraping out the white ribs and seeds. Dice the jalapeno and wash your hands well—do not touch your eyes or nostrils… even an hour later!

In a large skillet, heat two tablespoons of olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the onion and soften for about five minutes. Add the jalapeno and soften two minutes more. The onions should be translucent, not brown.

Break the feta into a large bowl, and pour the hot contents of the skillet directly over the feta. With a wooden spoon, gently break the feta to incorporate the pepper and onion.

Spoon onto toasted pita (I love whole wheat pita, torn and baked at 250F until crisp). This appetizer is even more phenomenal paired with my slow-roasted tomatoes. This can be made, along with pita chips, within 20 minutes… just in time to take to a friend’s house to share!

 

A note on spice: I can handle only mild heat, and this dip barely approaches medium. The creamy feta balances the pepper well so it’s not too hot. If you want a little more kick, consider using the entire jalapeno.

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party food

It’s December, time to talk about freezing.

I am skeptical of the freezer, especially freezing foods into which I have poured many hours and ingredients. Our foods are always freezer-burned, despite the new fridge. (You cannot imagine how repulsive today’s toaster waffles…)

Upon throwing our first party in this much larger home, I wanted a no-fuss, feed-abundant-company¬†recipe. Carolyn, a very dear family friend, insisted I consider these hot mushroom turnovers¬†for which she always receives compliments—and¬†that¬†I could make¬†and freeze them in advance. She was right, they were brilliant, and everyone loved them. Funny enough, the first bite brought me right back to childhood autumn visits¬†at Carolyn’s house.

A Pear to Remember is a blog for do-able recipes. This often means fast recipes with few ingredients. Mushroom turnovers are neither, but they are simple to make and, like all the recipes here, worth your time and ingredients.

Further evidence the 1980s produced some really awesome things (including this cook), from Good Housekeeping:

These hors d‚Äôoeuvres are exceptionally delicious because the pastry is made with cream cheese, and the filling with fresh mushrooms. You can even assemble these mini turnovers and then freeze them, unbaked. When company comes, no need to defrost ‚Äď just bake a bit longer than the recipes states. Consider doubling the batch and freezing the rest for later use.

Hot Mushroom Turnovers

from Good Housekeeping in the early 1980’s

One 8 oz. package cream cheese, softened

1 ¬Ĺ cups all-purpose flour

¬Ĺ¬† cup¬†butter, softened

3 T. margarine or butter

¬Ĺ lb. mushrooms, minced

1 large onion, minced

¬ľ c. sour cream

1 t. salt

¬ľ t. dried thyme leaves

1 egg, beaten

sesame seeds for sprinkling

In advance or about 2 hours before serving:

In a large bowl, with mixer at medium speed, beat cream cheese, 1 ¬Ĺ cups flour, and ¬Ĺ cup (stick) butter or margarine until smooth; shape into ball; wrap; refrigerate 1 hour.

Meanwhile, in a 10‚ÄĚ skillet over medium heat, melt 3 T. butter.¬† Cook mushrooms and onion until tender, stirring occasionally.¬† Stir in sour cream, salt, thyme, and 2 T flour; set aside.

On floured surface with floured rolling pin, roll half of dough 1/8‚ÄĚ thick.¬† With floured 2 ¬ĺ‚ÄĚ round cookie cutter, cut out as many circles as possible.¬† Repeat.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.  Onto one half of each dough circle, place a teaspoon of mushroom mixture.  Brush edges of circles with some egg; fold dough over filling.  With fork, firmly press edges together to seal; prick tops.

Place turnovers on ungreased cookie sheet; brush with remaining egg.¬†Sprinkle with sesame seeds.¬†Bake 12-14 minutes until golden.¬† Makes 3 ¬Ĺ dozen. Each turnover: about 70 calories, 5 g. fat; 12 mg cholesterol, 110 mg. sodium.

Some other (well-received)¬†homemade goodies from¬†our housewarming…

poppy seed cheese twists and strawberry-tomato balsamic bruschetta

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