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Posts Tagged ‘Snacks’

Twas the night before Christmas, and my husband and I were enjoying the glorious peace and quiet of a holiday alone.  I made a lovely Italian-themed dinner, but before that, we had our own cocktail party.  On the menu, roasted olives and fennel, blue cheese cookies (cut in the shape of stars, to be festive), and negronis.

Roasted Olives and Fennel

I am a huge olive fan.  Love them.  But, there is only one thing better than olives, and that is warm olives.  To make them, I rinsed off a mix of olives from the olive bar at the store.  I then zested an orange and lemon, removing the zest in big chunks, then juiced each of them.  Toss the olives in the juice.  Then, take a fennel bulb (or part of one, depending on how big and how much you like fennel), cut it in strips, and toss that in.  Add a bay leaf and a few cloves of garlic smashed up.  Toss it all together with a drizzle of olive oil.  Preheat the oven and stick them in.  This is not an exact science, so if your oven is already on for something else, that’s fine.  In general, I’d say a good 12-15 minutes or so at 375 or so ought to do the trick.  You want to heat them up, and cook the rawness out of the fennel.  And voila, warm yummy olives.

Negroni

Now on to the drinkies.  I am not a huge cocktail person.  Wine is my vice.  But, I make an exception for these.  They are just lovely.  The Campari is bitter, but it’s cut nicely by the vermouth. Not too sweet, not too harsh, just right. To make one, put one ounce each of gin, sweet vermouth, and Campari in a shaker with some ice, shake it up, and serve with an orange wedge.  Cheers!

 

 

 

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In the November 2010 Food & Wine, the magazine claims that vegetables are the next big thing.  Now, I love my Food & Wine, but seriously, how desperate were they when they came up with that line?  In any event, in promoting vegetables as the next big thing, they had a recipe for parsnip bacon.  I guess since bacon was the last big thing, they figured they had to work it in to help us ease the transition from one big thing to the next.  The recipe sounded good, so I thought I’d give it a try.

In a weird twist, the finished product looked nothing like the picture, but did look a lot like bacon.  However, it tasted nothing like bacon.  But it did taste like Terra Chips, which are pretty awesome, if not as awesome as bacon.  But since bacon is out, and vegetables are in, then that’s probably just as well.

Parsnip Chips

Preheat the oven to 300.  Using a vegetable peeler, peel a parsnip into thin strips.  Toss in vegetable oil (like the recipe) or olive oil (like me).  Spread out on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and sprinkle with smoked sea salt.

Bake at 300 for an hour and 15 minutes (like the recipe) or until they start to burn after about 35 minutes (like me).

Despite my issues with them, they were really good.  Crunchy and salty, they’d make for a nice party snack.  The long strips look really nice standing up in a glass, a lot nicer than a bowl of Terra Chips which just look like potpouri.


 

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I got some really lovely chicken from Marin Sun Farms and really wanted to make a delicious, summery meal to go with it.  I left the chicken simple, just with a bit of rosemary sea salt rubbed on it, and my husband threw it on the grill.  With it, a big bowl of pickled tomatoes and some fresh homemade cornbread

To make the cornbread, I borrowed from two recipes.  The pickled tomatoes were spicy, so I skipped the “firecracker” part of 101 Cookbook’s Firecracker Cornbread recipe, which I selected because I could use some fresh, sweet corn in it.  To make the cornbread more interesting, I borrowed an idea for honey butter from a Martha Stewart cornbread recipe.  With the chicken, the spicy tomatoes, and a cool glass of Simi viognier, I had myself a perfect summer dinner.

Fresh Corn Cornbread with Honey Butter
Adapted from 101 Cookbooks

Ingredients
3 tablespoons butter
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour (I used all purpose)
3/4 cup instant cornmeal (or instant polenta) or fine-grain cornmeal
1/4 cup natural cane sugar (or brown sugar)
1 tablespoon aluminum-free baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons fine grain sea salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 large egg
2 1/2 cups corn, fresh (or at room temperature if previously frozen)

For the honey butter, mix a tablespoon of honey and a pinch of salt with 3 tablespoons of room temperature butter

Preheat your oven to 350F degrees, with a rack in the middle.

Just before you make the batter, in a small saucepan, melt the butter and pour into a 9-inch pie tin and place in the hot oven.

In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder and salt.  In a separate bowl whisk together the buttermilk, egg, and corn.

Pour the wet ingredients over the dry and stir until just combined.  Now very carefully remove the hot pan with butter from the oven.  Brush the butter up around the edges a bit to make sure its evenly coating the pan.  Carefully fill it with the cornbread batter, pushing the batter out to the sides if needed.

Bake for 30 – 40 minutes or until the edges are golden and the center is just set. Remove and brush on the honey butter before slicing.

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I made this ages ago for a party but have had a busy few weeks and no time to post.  Better late than never, I guess!

I was inspired by an Epicurious recipe for a corn and tomato bruschetta, though I changed it up quite a bit to make it more like a salsa.  It really worked.  It was light and summery and fresh.  Epicurious suggests serving it over burgers or quesadillas.  I think it would be nice over grilled fish as well.

Grilled Tomato and Corn Salsa
Loosely adapted from Epicurious

Ingredients

2 large ear of yellow corn, husked
1 small red onion (about 6 ounces), peeled, halved through root end
Olive oil (for grilling)
1 1/2 pounds medium tomatoes (such as cluster or vine-ripened; something firm and not watery, about 5)
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/8 teaspoon hot smoked Spanish paprika*
pinch of cayenne, optional

Directions

Prepare grill (medium heat).  Brush corn and onion with oil; sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Place corn, onion halves, and tomatoes on grill. Cook until corn is charred, onion is just tender, and tomato skins are blistered and loose, turning often, about 12 minutes for tomatoes and 15 minutes for corn and onion. Transfer to foil-lined baking sheet and cool.

The recipe then recommends coring the tomatoes, halving, and squeezing out the juices and seeds before giving them a coarse chop.  This made a huge mess, and frankly, I’m not convinced it was worth it. I think a better approach would be to core the tomatoes and dice.  Then grab them loosely and give them a little shake over a sink to get out the excess liquid.  I can’t vouch for this approach since I didn’t try it, but suffice it to say, I don’t think having a bit of extra tomato innards in the salsa is a bad thing, so if it makes things easier, give it a try.   Whatever you do, put the tomatoes into a bowl.

Cut the corn kernels from cob and toss in with the tomatoes.  Dice the onion and add that too.   Mix in garlic, lime juice, paprika, and a splash of olive oil.  Toss in a pinch of cayenne if you want a bit of heat.   Season to taste with salt and pepper.

The dish can be made a few hours in advance and the leftovers held up alright overnight in the fridge.

I served it up with tortilla chips and a big bowl of my super delicious guacamole.

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These.

Cut up feta, cucumbers, and watermelon into cubes.  Put on skewers.  Eat.

Make lots because your guests will gobble them up.

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We had a small group of friends over for drinks recently.  A few old friends, a few new friends, lots of wine and Hangar One raspberry vodka.  And of course, food.

Dates wrapped in bacon is sort of a party stand-by of mine, but I wanted something a little more seasonal.  I saw this idea on Epicurious and thought it would be perfect.  I skipped the use of sugar and cumin to keep it simple and substituted prosciutto for the serrano ham.  It was a lovely summery appetizer.

To make it, I cut peaches into 8 wedges.  I wrapped each with a small strip of prosciutto and secured them with a small basil leaf and a toothpick.  After I arranged them on a platter, I drizzled a splash of sherry vinegar.   They held up really well at room temperature while out for a couple hours, so I’d say they could be made a few hours in advance without a problem, though I’d probably add the vinegar just before serving.

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If kindergarten teachers watched me in the kitchen, they’d probably give me a lecture about following directions.  I’m not very good at it.  To me, recipes are usually just suggestions or loose guidelines.

So, when I found this James Beard recipe for persimmon bread, the fact that he is practically the godfather of modern American cooking didn’t really stop me from deviating from the script.  Clearly, I have no shame.

Despite my wanton disregard for Mr. Beard’s recipe, the finished product was delicious.  My husband, however, said that he would have preferred the original.  If you are like me and get the shakes if you don’t find ways to consume as much ginger as possible, my version is right up your alley.  Otherwise, I imagine the original is pretty spectacular too.

If you’ve never tried persimmon, you are missing out.  The ripe Hachiya persimmon, which is used i this recipe, is essentially this fragrant orange pulp held together by a thin skin. 

 I just had to squeeze it slightly and it burst.  I just picked out the skin and membrane and no further preparation was needed.

Ginger Persimmon Bread
Adapted from James Beard, as found on David Lebovitz’s blog

Using the higher amount of sugar will produce a moister and, of course, sweeter bread.

Ingredients
1 3/4 cups sifted flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 to 1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1/2 cup melted unsalted butter and cooled to room temperature
2 large eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten
1/3 cup cognac, bourbon, or whiskey
1 cup persimmon puree (from about 2 squishy-soft Hachiya persimmons)
2/3 cup minced candied ginger

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter 1 loaf pan and dust with flour, shaking out any excess.

Sift the first 6 dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.

Make a well in the center then stir in the fresh ginger, butter, eggs, liquor, persimmon puree.  Mix gently, then add the candied ginger.  Stir until everything is combined and the ginger is evenly distributed.

Bake 1 hour or until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

The bread will keep for about a week, if well-wrapped, at room temperature, and should freeze well.

The bread was delicious.  Persimmons have a subtle spicy taste to them, so they worked well with the ginger, cognac, and other spices.  It was almost like a really gorgeous tasting fruit cake. 

 

 

 

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I wanted to make a cranberry dessert for a Thanksgiving potluck.  Martha Stewart had this recipe for a New England Cranberry Duff.

I am from New England and have never heard of a duff before.  After playing around with The Google and learning way more about this dude than I have ever cared to know, I learned that it’s usually made with plums, and better known as plum pudding.

Also, it looks nothing like this recipe.

So between Martha’s screw up, and my changes, I’m calling it a snack cake.  A very delicious, buttery, fruity snack cake.

And if it’s not cranberry season, I think this would be excellent with fresh berries.

Cranberry Snack Cake
Adapted from Martha Stewart

Ingredients
1 cup unsalted butter, (2 sticks), softened
1 12 ounce bag of cranberries
1/2 cup ground almonds
2/3 cup plus 1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. 
 
Melt the remaining butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat, being careful not to brown., and set aside to cool slightly.

Line a 9X13 glass baking dish with parchment paper and generously butter it, using about 4 tablespoons of the butter.  You don’t want this to stick, so just spread it thick.   Then, pour the cranberries evenly over bottom of dish.

Sprinkle the ground almonds and 2/3 cup of sugar on top and set aside.

 Mix the eggs, the remaining white sugar, and the brown sugar in a bowl, until thoroughly combined and thick.  Add the vanilla extract.  Gradually stir in the flour and salt.

Add the melted butter to the mixture slowly, stirring until smooth.

Slowly pour batter into pan to cover cranberries, making sure that they stay spread out evenly.   Bake until golden brown and a cake tester inserted in center comes out clean, about 30-40 minutes.


Let cool on a wire rack 10 minutes, then run a knife around edge to loosen, and invert to unmold.  It will be somewhat upside down cake like, so you want to flip it so the cranberries are on top.


I sliced mine into 28 wedges, which made for a perfect size for a party with lots of desserts.  If this was the only dessert you were serving, you would probably want to cut bigger slices.  You can serve it warm or at room temperature, with forks or without. 

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Easy Stuff

I occassionally take on some pretty nutty baking projects that leave me exhausted, so I think that my idea of what is considered “easy” might give some people a coronary.  I insisted to a friend that these scones were easy, and I think she was cursing me while trying to figure out how to disperse the butter through the dough.

But, I think this recipe here is objectively easy.  One bowl, 6 ingredients, and it takes about 2 minutes to mix it all up.  And, if you are the type of person who keeps beer in their fridge at all times, you probably won’t even need to go to the store for ingredients to do this.

I got the recipe from the blog Ezra Pound Cake, who kindly gave me permission to publish it here.  There are lots of other beer bread recipes out there, but the simplicity of this one really made it sound appealling.  I think any kind of beer would work.  I used a Pumpkin Ale, which made the bread smell like pumpkin, though I wouldn’t say it tasted particularly pumpkiny.  Maybe next time, I’ll add a pinch of nutmeg or cinnamon just to bring that flavor out a little more.

It’s fabulous warm out of the oven, with a bit of butter or nothing at all.

Beer Bread
From Rebecca Crump at ezrapoundcake.com
Makes 1 loaf

Ingredients
3 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 bottle (12 ounces) beer
1/4 to 1/2 cup  unsalted butter, melted (I used 1/4 cup and didn’t find it lacking in buttery goodness)

Directions
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease a 9-x-5-x-3-inch loaf pan.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. 

Using a wooden spoon, stir the beer into the dry ingredients until just mixed.

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It should take just a minute to come together.  The batter will be very sticky.

Pour half the melted butter into the loaf pan.   Then spoon the batter into the pan, and pour the rest of the butter on top of the batter.   It’ll be too sticky to get it to lay flat and smooth.  Just try to make sure it’s mostly evenly distributed in the pan so it bakes evenly. 

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Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until golden brown. Serve immediately.

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Here’s the thing with food blogging.  You cook food for your friends, then you go online and tell everyone how awesome your food is.  It’s a little weird.  You just have to hope that you are an objective critic of your own cooking and that your friends aren’t just being polite when they tell you how much they enjoyed what you served them.   Or that your friends aren’t offended by your total and complete lack of modesty.

And that brings us to these blue cheese and walnut cookies. 

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They were delicious.  I hate blue cheese and I thought they were delicious.  A couple party guests told me that they hated blue cheese and they thought they were delicious.  And of course, people who loved blue cheese also found these cookies delicious.  I have emails from some attendees stating this fact, so it must be true.

This recipe comes from the blog Pastry Studio, who graciously agreed to let me reprint this.  She impressively made her own fig jam.  I bought a jar of Bonne Maman fig preserves and rather than making sandwiches, put it as a spread or dip on the side.  The cookies worked plain or with the jam, so feel free to choice your poison.

Blue Cheese and Walnut Cookies
Adapted from Pastry Studio

The original recipe notes that it makes 24 2 inch round cookies.  I made 1 1/2 inch square ones and probably got about 40 out of the dough.

Ingredients
6 oz blue cheese, softened
4 oz butter, softened
1/2 cup walnuts
1/4 C + 2 T granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 C flour

Directions
Pulse the walnuts in a food processor until there’s no real big chunks but before it turns totally to meal.  Basically, you will be rolling these cookies out very thin, and you don’t want any shards sticking up.

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Remove the walnuts.  Add the blue cheese, butter, sugar and salt to the food processor and blend until creamy.  Add the flour and walnuts and pulse until mixture just starts to come together and forms a clump.  Gather dough and place on a piece of plastic.   Refridgerate until thoroughly chilled, at least an hour or two, and preferably overnight.

Preheat the oven to 325 and line baking sheets with parchment paper or a silpat.

Roll out the dough.  Use a cookie cutter if you’d like, but if you want square cookies like mine, get a ruler and trace a grid into the dough.  I made mine in 1 1/2 inch squares.

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You want to work as quickly as possible so that the dough doesn’t warm up.  Since it took me a long time to draw the squares, I put the trays of cookies back into the fridge for a half hour before I baked them just to be safe.  So clear some room in the fridge before you do it.  You want these to hit the oven cold so that they retain their shape while baking.

Bake for about 12 minutes or up to 18 minutes if they are larger, until the edges just start to turn golden.  I baked mine one batch at a time in the middle rack, but if you put two trays in, be sure to rotate pans halfway through. 

Cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for several days.  I made mine on Saturday and today, Wednesday, they are still good.

To serve, spread with fig jam and make sandwiches, put the jam on the side, or just eat them plain with a glass of wine.  These little things are definitely cookies.   Similar to shortbread, but a bit chewier.  The cheese flavor is strong enough that they could be served before dinner as an appetizer, but they are sweet enough that you could serve them as dessert with some fruit or port. 

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