Archive | Appetizers

Grilled Sardines with Fennel, Arugula and Blood Oranges

K.ClearyBy Chef Kevin Cleary

This is a great holiday dish that is a good reminder that summer is only about 6 months away in Vermont!!
Recipe tip: For a Vermont twist you can substitute local smelt for the sardines and either grill them or fry them.

Serves 4

8–16 fresh sardines (8 if large, 16 if small), heads and tails removed, gutted
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 bulbs fennel
2 cups baby arugula
4 blood oranges, peeled and segmented (can substitute navel oranges or clementines)

Remove the spines from the sardines. With the skin side down, flatten the sardine as best you can without tearing up the meat too much. Grab the spine where the head would have been and gently pull the spine away from the sardine. The bones should come right out with the spine. There will be some tiny bones left but will not be an issue.

Next, marinate the sardines. Mix together the garlic, thyme, pepper flakes with half the oil. Add the sardines and toss to coat. Let marinate about 30–45 minutes.

To prepare the salad, thinly slice the fennel on a mandolin (or with a sharp knife if you do not have a mandolin). Toss the fennel with the arugula, orange segments and the rest of the oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Evenly distribute salad on 4 plates in the back center of the plate.

Preheat grill to medium-high.

Place the sardines, skin side down, on the grill. After 1 minute turn the sardines over and cook an additional 45–60 seconds (larger sardines will take a bit longer).

Remove from grill and place in front of the salad on the plates—2 per plate if they are big and 4 if they are small.

Serve immediately with crisp, dry white wine.

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Shiitake Duxelles Pâté


Ways to Enjoy Your Harvest

A duxelles is a traditional French preparation of sautéed chopped mushrooms and shallots that can be used in anything from sauces to stuffing. Here I have turned it into a pâté to be served with crackers or bread as an hors d’oeuvres. Aside from shallots, there is no better pairing with mushrooms than cream and sherry so all are included as supporting players to the main character, the stage-hogging shiitake. To give it an extra-creamy texture, you can add softened cream cheese at the end or leave the mushrooms to take the final bow by themselves.

Shiitake Duxelles Pâté

  • Oil
  • ½ cup minced onion or shallot
  • 1 small clove garlic, minced
  • 12 ounces shiitakes, stems removed, chopped coarsely
  • 2 stems of fresh thyme or ½ teaspoon dried
  • Salt
  • 1 tablespoon sherry
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • 3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan
  • ¼ cup cream cheese (optional)

Put about 1 tablespoon of oil in a wide sauté pan and put on medium heat. Add the onion or shallot and garlic and cook until slightly browned, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add the mushrooms and a pinch of salt and continue to cook. When the mushrooms have released most of their liquid and are starting to brown, add the sherry and stir, scraping the browned bits off the bottom of the pan. Add the cream and thyme and continue to cook until the mixture has thickened to a near paste. Remove from heat, add Parmesan and adjust seasonings to taste. If adding cream cheese, cool the mixture a little then fold the cream cheese in until well blended. Serve with plain crackers or bread.

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It’s best to have an actual fondue pot, but you could always use a regular saucepan and have everyone stand around the stove… No. Maybe a fondue pot is a crucial ingredient. Keep your eyes open when you’re in thrift stores. Not everyone has caught on to the fondue renaissance, and some people may actually want to get rid of their fondue pots!

  • 1 garlic clove, cut in half horizontally
  • 1½ cups dry white wine
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons kirsch or lemon juice
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg (optional)
  • 1 pound total (approximately 4 cups) of coarsely grated Alpinestyle cheeses, such as Emmentaler, Gruyère, Appenzeller, Fontina Val d’Aosta, Comté, etc.
  • Good-quality bread cut into 1-inch cubes
  1. Rub interior of a heavy 4-quart saucepan with the cut sides of garlic. Discard garlic.
  2. Pour wine into saucepan and bring just to a simmer over medium heat.
  3. Stir cornstarch into kirsch (or lemon juice) in a cup. Set it aside.
  4. Add cheese to saucepan in ¼-pound increments, melting as you go along. Stir constantly in a zigzag pattern (not a circular pattern, to prevent cheese from clumping together) until cheese is just melted. Do not allow the cheese to come to a boil.
  5. Stir the cornstarch mixture again and stir it into the fondue. Bring fondue to a simmer and cook, stirring constantly, until fondue begins to thicken, about 6 minutes.
  6. Transfer contents of saucepan to a fondue pot set over a flame.

Serve with bread.

Please note: Conventional wisdom precludes serving cheese fondue with chilled water. Apparently this causes the cheese to solidify in your stomach. While we have no scientific evidence to back that up, and it does sound suspect, it’s best to serve fondue with white wine, juice or hot tea.

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pumpkin dipThis dip takes its name from the variety of pumpkin used. Cinderella is an heirloom that is a beautiful deep burnt orange color with a flattened, squished pumpkin shape. This dip is very similar to guacamole! It was a fun recipe I developed for a wedding once in which the only nonlocal ingredients were olive oil, spices and salt. I needed a vegan dip that utilized only things from that farm’s September harvest. I like to use one pumpkin for the dip and another one to serve it in.

Yields about 2 cups of dip

  • ½ of a medium-sized Cinderella pumpkin (about 1 pound), peeled, seeded and cut into 3-inch cubes
  • 1 small Cinderella pumpkin, hollowed out, ready to fill
  • 1 clove fresh garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt, plus more for sprinkling
  • 1 teaspoon fresh cumin
  • ½ teaspoon or several grinds fresh pepper
  • 1 teaspoon vinegar (I like sherry, maple or apple cider varieties best for this recipe)
  • Pita bread for dipping

Sprinkle the pumpkin with salt and roast in the oven until very tender; let come to room temperature. Put pumpkin, garlic, salt, cumin, pepper and vinegar in food processor to purée. Use a bit of water to get a nice consistency for dip. Check seasonings, and then fill into hollowed pumpkin. Serve with fresh pita bread or tortilla chips.

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squash blossom
Photo by Carole Topalian


This recipe has a light, airy batter encasing a filling of earthy fluff. Squash blossoms are equally at home as an elegant first course or as finger food.

Makes 4 to 6 appetizer servings

16 large squash blossoms


4 ounces goat cheese (chevrè) I recommend Vermont Butter & Cheese Creamery
1 cup finely diced mushrooms
1 tablespoon finely diced shallots
1 tablespoon parsley, finely chopped
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 or 3 grinds black pepper


2 eggs, separated
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup cornstarch
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup plus 1 tablespoon ice-cold water

Melt the butter over medium-low heat; add the mushrooms, shallots and parsley. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the juices evaporate and it is reduced in volume by half. Mash this mixture into the goat cheese with a couple of grinds of black pepper until well combined.

Stuff the blossoms with a teaspoon or two, depending on the size of the flower. Twist the open end to seal.

The batter is best if made at least an hour ahead of time so the starch can slowly absorb the liquid and become smoother and more cohesive. Sift together the cornstarch, flour and salt into a mixing bowl. Add the yolks and ice-cold water, stir to combine, cover and let rest until you are ready to use it. Just before dipping the flowers, whisk the reserved whites to soft peaks. Stir ⅓ of the whites into the batter to lighten the mixture, and then fold in the remaining whites with a rubber spatula retaining as much air as you can.

Heat ½ inch of vegetable oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. A high-sided, heavy pot will prevent spatter and distribute the heat evenly. When hot—350° to 375°— dip the stuffed blossoms in the batter and then cook in the hot oil until golden brown on all sides. Cook them in batches without crowding, 5 or 6 at a time. They cook quickly, just a minute or so on the first side. Turn them over and cook a further minute until they have a nice golden color. Drain on absorbent paper and move to a wire cooling rack to keep them crisp while you cook the remaining blossoms.

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