Archive | Appetizers

PICKLED BLUEBERRIES

pickledBlueberries

Makes about 4 cups

Pickling these typically sweet berries transforms them into little pucker bombs, a wonderful pairing to rich goat-milk cheese and salty crostini.

2 cups red wine vinegar
½ cup sugar
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 pounds blueberries (3–4 cups)
1 small red onion, thinly sliced

Whisk vinegar, sugar, salt and ½ cup water in a small saucepan over medium heat until sugar and salt dissolve. Place blueberries and onion in canning jars or plastic containers. Pour the vinegar mixture over, making sure to cover the berries completely. Refrigerate overnight before using, to allow flavors to develop.

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ROASTED GARLIC

Roasting whole heads of garlic transforms the raw, crunchy and fairly hot cloves into tender, buttery and mild nuggets that can be squeezed right out of their papery shells. This will fill your kitchen with the most delicious aroma. Smear the purée onto crackers, whisk into salad dressing or add to any recipe that calls for chopped garlic to give dishes a milder garlic flavor.

Makes 2 to 3 heads, about ⅓ cup purée

2–3 heads garlic
A few tablespoons olive oil
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Heat oven to 350°. Peel any loose, papery skin from garlic. Trim the tops off of each garlic head, exposing the tops of all of the cloves.

Place heads on a few layers of aluminum foil or in a small baking dish and drizzle each with olive oil (about 1 teaspoon per head), letting the oil sink down into the cloves. Wrap heads in the foil and start baking. Check garlic after 45 minutes. They are done when the cloves are completely soft when pierced with a paring knife. Set aside until cool enough to handle.

To serve, set the heads out on a platter with a small paring knife to scrape out the soft flesh. Or you can squeeze the cloves out into a bowl.

NOTE: Roasted garlic can be refrigerated for up to 2 weeks or frozen for up to 3 months. To serve, wrap heads in aluminum foil and warm in a 250° oven.

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PARSLEY-CAPER SALAD

I have served this tart, herbal salad with unctuous, roasted marrow bones—with which it pairs perfectly—but it also pairs nicely with fish or grilled meats.

Makes about 2 cups

2 large golden or pink beets, roasted, peeled and diced
2 cups lightly packed flat-leaf parsley leaves
3 shallots, finely chopped
¼ cup salt-packed capers, rinsed and drained
(if you can’t find salt-packed, well-drained brined capers will work just as well)
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Grated zest and juice from 1 lemon
Coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
A handful of pomegranate seeds

In a medium bowl, toss together beets, parsley, shallots, capers, olive oil, lemon juice and pomegranate seeds in a medium bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

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HOMEMADE RICOTTA WITH ROASTED GARLIC OR LOCAL HONEY AND FLAKED SEA SALT WITH MIXED BREAD TOASTS

homemadeRicotta

There are no similarities between freshly made ricotta cheese and the store-bought varieties except for the fact that they are both made with milk. Traditionally ricotta is made by heating the whey that is leftover from other cheesemaking projects (those made by using starter cultures and rennet), but this simplified process makes a quick batch that is just as delicious. I love to serve fresh ricotta with a few heads of roasted garlic for smearing on toasts, or drizzled with local honey and sprinkled with sea salt. But don’t stop there – fresh ricotta is also delicious stirred into pasta dishes, smeared on sandwiches, dolloped onto scrambled eggs or tucked into a crepe.

HOMEMADE RICOTTA

Whole milk, lemon juice and a half hour of your time is all that is needed to whip up this fresh cheese. For a richer version, feel free to substitute 2 cups of the milk with heavy cream.

Makes about 2 cups

8 cups whole milk
⅓ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
1 teaspoon kosher salt or sea salt

Pour milk (and cream, if using) into a 4-quart nonreactive saucepan. Attach a candy or deepfry thermometer. Let milk warm gradually over medium heat to 200°F, stirring it occasionally to prevent scorching. Remove from heat and add lemon juice and salt, then stir it once or twice, gently and slowly. Let pot sit undisturbed for 10 minutes. Check mixture with a slotted spoon—after this time, the milk should have separated into clumpy white curds and thin, watery whey. If you still see a lot of un-separated milk, add another tablespoon of lemon juice and wait a few more minutes.

To strain the curds: Line a strainer or colander with a few layers of cheesecloth and place it over a large bowl (to catch the whey). Pour curds and whey into the colander and let curds strain for at least 15 minutes or up to an hour, depending on how wet or dry you like your ricotta. (It will firm slightly as it cools, so do not judge the final texture by what you have in your cheesecloth—if it appears too dry, stir some of the whey back in.) Discard the whey, or, if you’re one of those crafty people who use it for other things, of course, save it. Eat the ricotta right away or transfer it to an airtight container and refrigerate until ready to use.

NOTE: I keep freshly made ricotta for up to 3 days, for the really fresh milk I used to make it gives it a short shelf life. However, some fresh milk will last up to a week, so storage times will definitely vary. You will probably find that this ricotta won’t last very long because it will be eaten immediately!

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VELVETY CAULIFLOWER SOUP WITH TRUFFLED RYE CROUTONS

velvetCauliSoup

Many people consider the humble cauliflower as a lowly second choice…or worse, don’t even consider it at all. My hope for the holidays is to elevate this down-to-earth member of the brassica family to a spot worthy of even the fanciest holiday table. This rich soup serves as a gorgeous and delicious first course at any holiday feast, yet would also fare nicely served in teacups at a casual holiday open house. I have also added grated white cheddar and baked it with pasta as a cheese sauce.

Serves 4 to 6 as a first course

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 white onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large head of cauliflower (about 2 pounds), chopped
2 bay leaves
3 cups chicken stock
3 cups heavy cream
6 ounces cubed pancetta or thick-sliced bacon
2 cups cubed day-old rye bread
¼ cup chopped herbs, such as sage, parsley and thyme
Truffle oil, for drizzling
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Ground white pepper, to taste

Melt butter in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion has softened, about 5 minutes—take care not to brown them. Add cauliflower, bay leaves, chicken stock and cream and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and cook at a gentle simmer until cauliflower is very tender when pierced with a fork, about 20 minutes. Discard bay leaf.

Meanwhile, in a medium skillet, sauté pancetta over moderate heat until crisp, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer with a slotted spoon to a paper towel to drain. Add bread cubes to remaining fat in the pan and cook, stirring frequently, until the cubes are crisp, about 5 minutes. Transfer cubes to a bowl, add pancetta and chopped herbs, drizzle with a little bit of truffle oil and add a sprinkling of salt and black pepper. Toss to combine and set aside until ready to serve.

Purée cauliflower mixture in batches, in a blender or food processor, until smooth. Pour soup into a clean pot and set over low heat. Season to taste with salt and white pepper. Ladle soup into serving bowls, sprinkle with bread cube mixture and drizzle with more truffle oil (or olive oil if desired). Serve immediately.

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HOMEMADE MAYONNAISE

Homemade mayonnaise tastes nothing like its jarred counterpart—once you try it you may never go back! Olive oil gives the mayo a heady kick, but I like to dilute it a bit with a lighter tasting vegetable oil. Use the freshest eggs you can find—I like to grab them from the farmers’ market. Feel free to add in your favorite flavorings—roasted garlic, citrus zest and olive paste are nice additions. Mayonnaise will keep, refrigerated in an airtight container, for up to a week.

Makes 3 cups

2 large eggs
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1½ teaspoons coarse salt
1 cup light olive oil
1 cup vegetable or safflower oil

Place eggs, lemon juice and salt in a blender or the bowl of a food processor and pulse until well combined.

In a measuring cup, combine olive oil and vegetable oil. With blender or processor running, pour in oil mixture in a slow, steady stream. The mixture will become thick and creamy.

NOTE: Raw eggs should not be used in food prepared for pregnant women, babies, young children, the elderly or anyone whose health is compromised.

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WINTER CRUDITÉS PLATTER WITH GREEN GODDESS DIP

This is not so much a recipe as a serving idea. Arrange an assortment of fall crudités—cauliflower, baby carrots, broccoli, squash, and the like—on a large platter and serve with your favorite dip—I love the herby kick of this green goddess dip.

Serves 6 to 8

GREEN GODDESS DIP

Created in the 1920s at San Francisco’s Palace Hotel, this creamy blend of mayonnaise, herbs, anchovies and green onions was inspired by an actor appearing locally in a play titled “Green Goddess.” This dip also pairs nicely with grilled fish, shellfish and chicken, or when thinned with a bit of buttermilk, as a dressing for your favorite salad. Green Goddess also benefits from a bit of a rest in the refrigerator, for the flavors will intensify, making this a great make-ahead dip.

Makes about 1½ cups

¼ cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice
½ cup sour cream
½ cup mayonnaise (I included my recipe for homemade mayo below)
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons chopped anchovy filets (about 4)
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup parsley, roughly chopped
¼ cup oregano, roughly chopped
¼ cup mint, roughly chopped
1 bunch chives, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper

Place all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until the herbs are well chopped, and the mixture is well combined and has turned light green. Refrigerate until ready to use, up to 4 days.

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CHICKEN LIVER MOUSSE WITH POMEGRANATE GELÉE

chxLIverPate

This silky smooth mousse is easy to make, and inexpensive to boot. The pomegranate gelée gives an otherwise peasant dish holiday appeal, and the tartness of the fruit juice balances out the rich mousse. I like to serve the spread with sliced baguette, tiny cornichons and grainy mustard…specifically, Seikel’s Oklahoma Gold Old Style Mustard.

Serves 6 to 8

2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter
3 large shallots, finely chopped
1 pound chicken livers, trimmed (see NOTE)
2 tablespoons fresh chopped sage
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup dry Marsala, cognac or brandy
2 tablespoons Dijon or grainy mustard
Pinch ground nutmeg
1½ teaspoons unflavored gelatin
¾ cup cold pomegranate or cherry juice

Heat 1 stick of butter (4 ounces) in a large skillet over medium heat. Add shallots and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add chicken livers, sage leaves and a good seasoning of salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until firm and cooked through, about 5 minutes.

Add Marsala, mustard and nutmeg and simmer gently until liquid has thickened a bit, about 30 seconds. Remove skillet from heat and let mixture stand, covered, until it has cooled slightly.

Transfer mixture to a food processor and purée until smooth. Cut remaining stick of butter (4 ounces) into pieces. With machine running, add butter and continue blending until mixture is completely smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper and scrape mixture into small ramekins, canning jars or other serving dishes, leaving a little bit of room at the top for gelée topping. Refrigerate until cooled, about 30 minutes.

Sprinkle gelatin over ¼ cup of the pomegranate juice in a small bowl; let stand until gelatin has softened, about 5 minutes. Prepare an ice-water bath in a larger bowl. Heat remaining ½ cup pomegranate juice until hot and whisk it into the gelatin mixture, stirring until dissolved. Set bowl in ice water bath and stir occasionally cooled to room temperature. Slowly pour mixture over chilled pâté.

Refrigerate until firm, at least 3 hours or up to overnight. Alternatively, cover tops with a layer of melted butter and a sage leaf.

NOTE: To prep livers, trim off any large chunks of fat. Check for green spots and large blood vessels—remove them with your fingers or a paring knife. Remove any stringy bits of connective tissue and rinse livers under cold water. Pat dry with a paper towel and you are ready to go.

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