May – Three Crostini or Tartines or Bruschettas

May – Three Crostini or Tartines or Bruschettas

Whatever you call them and no matter what their size, these toppings are unique and delicious. I call them the perfect start for a party. Made larger, bruschetta sized, they could even be considered dinner. What is the difference between the three? Crostini are smaller, in Italian the word translates as “little toasts”. Bruschetta comes from the Italian word ‘bruscare’ meaning ‘to roast over coals‘. Traditionally thin slices of bread are toasted and rubbed with garlic, then drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil and served warm. They are usually larger than a crostini and can be topped with almost anything…I love them topped with fresh mozzarella, basil, and vine ripened tomatoes in late summer. Add a glass of rose to the mix and I am in heaven. A tartine is the French version of an open faced sandwich, pretty much the same thing as a crostini. All three start with a crisp slice of toasted bread.

The three toppings are fresh ricotta and pickled plums, fresh goat cheese with pickled fennel, and sweet butter with chili marinated anchovies.

If you don’t have pickled plums on hand (I had a couple of jars in the pantry from my backyard plum tree at the old house), use any pickled sweet fruit. And if you haven’t tried pickled fruit you are missing something. They are amazing in combination with cheese. I’ve seen some jars in the gourmet grocery stores. You can find recipes on-line, here’s one I found interesting. I might try pickling peaches this summer, they sound delicious as well.

You can toast the bread a day or two ahead and store the toasts (once cool) in a plastic bag. They keep well and leftovers make a delicious and crunchy garnish for a bowl of soup or a dip. When the kids were little I kept a jar on the kitchen counter, they didn’t last long and were a favorite snack.

To make the toasts, cut a baguette into 1/4 inch slices (you want it thick enough to hold the toppings but not so big that it isn’t an easy bite if you are standing up with a glass of wine in the other hand). Heat your oven to 350 degrees F and lay the bread slices in a single layer on a parchment lined baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and salt. Bake for about 7 minutes, then turn them over and bake for another 5-7 minutes. Check them frequently as they can burn. You want them a little charred and brown on the edges but not blackened.

Ricotta with Pickled Plums

Soft Goat Cheese with Pickled Fennel

Chili Marinated Anchovies with Sweet Butter

Pickled Fennel Tartines

INGREDIENTS:

  • 4 cups white wine vinegar
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 3 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 5 black peppercorns
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ to ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh fennel fronds
  • 2 fennel bulbs, cored and cut into ½-inch slices

For serving

  • 2 dozen toasts
  • 1 lb. fresh goats cheese
  • Olive oil for drizzling
  • Fine sea salt such as Maldon
  • ½ cup freshly chopped Italian parsley

METHOD:

1 day to a month in advance, pickle the fennel. 

  1. In a medium saucepan, combine the vinegar, sugar, peppercorns, thyme, bay leaves, salt, red pepper flakes, and optional fennel fronds.
  2. Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Pack the fennel into 3 wide mouth pint sized canning jars.
  4. Carefully pour the hot brine over the fennel, diving the herbs and spices between the jars at the end.
  5. Cover and refrigerate.
  6. For serving, add a smear of goat cheese to each toast, top with some chopped pickled fennel, then a drizzle of olive oil, sprinkle of sea salt and a leaf of chopped parsley.

 

Tartine with chili-marinated anchovies and sweet butter

INGREDIENTS:

First prepare the anchovies if they came packed in salt.

  • 1 (1.5 lb.) can of salt-cured anchovies
  • 1 (10.2 oz.) jar of Calabrian cilis
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) good quality sweet butter (unsalted)
  • 2 dozen toasts from a good quality baguette

METHOD:

Marinate the anchovies at least a week before making the crustadas.

  1. Rinse them well.
  2. Place them in a large bowl and add water to cover, soak for about 2 hours, changing the water every 30 minutes.
  3. Drain and rinse again, then set aside to “drip dry” in a colander. Use when no longer drippin
  4. Drain the oil from the jar of chilis into the work bowl of a food processor or heavy duty blender.
  5. Add the chilis, removing and discarding the stems, keep the seeds. Pulse the chili oil and chilis together about 10 times, until roughly chopped.
  6. Add half the chili mixture to a large mixing bowl, pulse the remaining until more finely chopped. Add the olive oil and pulse to blend.
  7. Once the anchovies are dry, transfer them to the bowl. Pour over the pureed chili mixture. Blend gently.
  8. Transfer the mix to a large glass container, seal, and refrigerate for at least a week or up to 6 months.

Just before serving, use a cheese slicer, vegetable slicer, or a sharp knife to shave the butter into thin slices. Cover each toast with the butter shavings, top each with 1 or 2 anchovies, and serve.

Lastly, the ricotta and pickled plums. You could use any pickled fruit for this one, the interest is between the ricotta and sweet but tart pickle. Pickled sliced and spiced peaches would be good, also figs. Use what you have in your cupboard or in the local specialty grocery store. I happened to have some pickled plum from a backyard tree. Let me know if you want my recipe for pickling them. They were cherry plums, actually wild ones that had sown themselves from the neighbors yard.

Unfortunately I don’t have any final finished pictures because they were carried out to a hungry crowd as most excellent nibbles to have with a glass of wine or beer. The contrast made them interesting and easy to eat while in the midst of conversation.

 

From A Boat, A Whale & A Walrus, Menus and Stories. i have really enjoyed this cookbook from Renee Erickson of the Seattle based restaurants.

October – Chicken Liver Mushroom Pate

October – Chicken Liver Mushroom Pate

This is one of the first dishes I served my husband when we were dating; he passed the adventurous eating test on my side to be invited for future dinners. And it must have done the trick for him because he kept coming back for more dates (and dinners).

I think it is worth going into your old recipe files occasionally. Who knows what forgotten memories and fun treasures you will turn up. I haven’t made chicken liver mushroom pate for years and am happy to be reacquainted with it. The recipe was forgotten until I started reading Martin Walker’s excellent detective series (Bruno, Chief of Police). I binge read the entire series while recovering from surgery. The books are placed in Bergerac in the Dordogne region of France. The food and wine of that region are a major part of the books; duck liver being front and center. I’ve only had foie gras once in my life, our French waiter had to strongly recommend it before I tried it accompanied by the traditional glass of sauterne But, its introduction was eye opening! What an amazingly delicious experience! I never would have guessed. This chicken liver and mushroom pate is my poor man’s substitute.  Foie gras (as well as being pricy), is illegal in California. The necessary force feeding of the geese being deemed cruel in our state. Please don’t put the two side-by-side, there will be no comparison with the “real thing”. But this chicken liver and mushroom pate can stand on its own.

Not everyone likes chicken livers but I adore them. This is really more of a smooth spread than an actual pate. It is perfect for serving with crisp bread, melba toast, or crackers as a before dinner snack or on a picnic. A glass of champagne goes beautifully, chardonnay would also be good and would match the creamy richness of the spread.

The original recipe was written in a small book (almost more accurately a pamphlet as there were only a dozen pages), published by the winery Paul Masson. The recipes in the book highlighted their wines, of course. It was published in 1968 but I came across it in the mid 70’s. I don’t remember exactly how I acquired it. The stamp on the front is a liquor store in Burlingame, CA and my first apartment when I moved to California from New York was in Burlingame. Maybe the store was handing them out to encourage wine sales. Burlingame is very near the airport and at the time I was waiting to see if my transfer request with United would go through, something that didn’t happen.

I passed this recipe to my mother, and it became a favorite of hers. Along the way we made some modifications. The original recipe called for dill and I just couldn’t see it with chicken livers! Not to mention I am not a big fan, although I like fennel. Taste is strange isn’t it? Anyway, I substituted herbs de Provence, one of my favorite blends. You could also use thyme, it would be a classic combination with the rosemary.

Paul Masson published 1968

Over the years there have been other adaptations and alterations. My recipe calls for a little less butter (hard to imagine!), less wine and the addition of a spot of brandy as well as the switch of herbs.

The pate freezes beautifully, I freeze portions in 4 oz wide mouth canning jars. It will keep at least 3 months in the freezer, maybe longer, with no loss of flavor. The recipe makes enough for 4 small jars. Glaze the surface with a slick of melted butter after you fill them. It will protect the pate from freezer burn. Simply remove a jar from the freezer a day before you want to serve it, defrost in the refrigerator overnight. This is a perfect snack to have on hand for guests; add some crisp bread, cheese, maybe some salad and wine. You have an instant mini meal.

Chicken Liver Mushroom Pate

Chicken Liver Mushroom Pate (makes about 1 1/2 pints)

Chicken Liver Mushroom Pate

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoon unsalted butter, plus 1/2 a stick for finishing
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 lb. of chicken livers
  • 1/2 lb. of mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 cup of thinly sliced green onions plus some of the green tops
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt or 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 small or 1 large clove of garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon of herbs de Provence
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard, I use Coleman’s
  • 1/4 cup of dry white wine
  • 2 tablespoons of brandy
  • kosher or sea salt as needed

For finishing:

  • About 3 tablespoons melted unsalted butter

Method:

  1. Melt the 3 tablespoons of butter with the 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet on medium heat
  2. Add the chicken livers, mushrooms, onions, and salt; saute for about 5 minutes stirring occasionally
  3. Add the wine, garlic, mustard, herbs, rosemary, and brandy. Bring to a simmer and turn down the heat.
  4. Cover and simmer for about 10 minutes, or until livers and mushrooms are tender.
  5. Uncover and continue to cook on higher heat until almost all of the liquid has disappeared.
  6. Whirl in a blender until almost smooth, add the 1/2 stick of butter and continue to blend until smooth.
  7. Taste and add salt if necessary.
  8. Pack in small crocks or canning jars, wipe the edges and coat the top with melted butter.
  9. Cover and chill for at least 8 hours or more.

The pate is best served with crisp warm sourdough bread or large sesame crackers.

Chicken Liver Mushroom Pate

Chicken Liver Mushroom Pate

Bon appetit!

I am taking this to share on Fiesta Friday #194 hosted by Angie. Please stop by to see all the goodies our friends have brought to the party and add your own link if you are a food blogger. The cohosts this week are Petra @ Food Eat Love and Vanitha @ Curry and Vanilla.

January – Roasted Garlic Spice

January – Roasted Garlic Spice

When should a recipe be posted? For me it’s a big question. If something is simple or obvious should it be left un-blogged? When is something interesting enough that you will want to read it? If you have thoughts, let me know because this question weighs on me. My family will say “take pictures and post this” and I think “there are a million similar recipes on the internet, no one will want to read one more”. It’s a problem because I read so many postings from talented home cooks out there, not to mention the professional blog sites.

Once in a while something simple turns out to be far more than the sum of it’s parts. This recipe came from the cookbook “At Home with Michael Chiarello“. I have found all his cookbooks treasure troves of simple and delicious ideas. He suggests using this roasted-garlic spice on potato chips, something I did as a amuse-bouche before Christmas dinner last year. But it has other uses as well.

What is an amuse-bouche and why did you do that” you ask? For the what I turn to Wikipedia:

An amuse-bouche [aˌmyzˈbuʃ] (plural amuse-bouches) or amuse-gueule [aˌmyzˈɡœl] is a single, bite-sized hors d’œuvre.[1] Amuse-bouches are different from appetizers in that they are not ordered from a menu by patrons, but are served gratis and according to the chef’s selection alone. These, often accompanied by a complementing wine, are served both to prepare the guest for the meal and to offer a glimpse into the chef’s approach to the art of cuisine.

The term is French, literally translated as “mouth amuser”. The plural form is amuse-bouche or amuse-bouches.[2] In France, amuse-gueule is the proper term normally employed in conversation and literary writing,[3] while amuse-bouche is a euphemistic hypercorrection that appeared in the 1980s[4] on restaurant menus and is used almost only there. In French, bouche refers to the human mouth, while gueule refers to the mouth or snout of an animal, and is used as a derogatory term for mouth or face.[5][6]

And now for the why. I love dinner parties. And many of my friends (I count you in that group lovely readers) are amazing cooks and enjoy giving them as well. I arrive anticipating wonderful food and company. The house is filled with delightful smells. And, laid out on the buffet or coffee table are a selection of delicious pre-dinner snacks. I have no will power, I admit it. I usually make a bee line to the dips, cheese and other tidbits. Most certainly you have more self-discipline than I do! I hit the buffet (glass of wine in hand) and immediately stunt my appetite for dinner. It’s sad!

In France a restaurant will serve just a little something to welcome you and build anticipation for the dinner ahead, I have started to do the same. These potato chips are easy, addictive, delicious, and perfect with a glass of dry champagne.

Garlic Spice Potato Chips

Garlic Spice Potato Chips

Even better, they are quick and can be made ahead. Just make sure the container isn’t in plain sight or they will be gone in a flash.

I used this same spice mix on some chicken quarters before roasting, another success story!

Roast chicken leg quarters with roast garlic spice

Roast chicken leg quarters with roast garlic spice

So without further chat, here it is.

Roasted Garlic Spice

  • 8 fat cloves of garlic, very thinly sliced
  • 2 teaspoons finely ground sea salt, preferably grey salt
  • 4 black peppercorns
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
  • Pinch of chili powder
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and arrange the garlic slices in a single layer on top.
  3. Cover with a second piece of parchment paper.
  4. Bake until the garlic is dry and crisp, about 15 minutes. Watch this step carefully to make sure it doesn’t burn. Ovens vary in their true temperature. My garlic was done in 13 minutes.
  5. Remove from the oven and cool completely.
  6. Grind the garlic and other ingredients in a spice mill (or coffee grinder dedicated to spices) until it is a fine powder.
  7. Store in an airtight container away from light and heat up to 2 months.

The potato chips couldn’t be easier once you have the roast garlic spice.

Roasted Garlic Spice Potato Chips

  • 2 bags of good quality plain potato chips
  • Roasted garlic spice
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Spill the potato chips onto a large baking or cookie sheet.
  3. Place in the oven and heat until you start to see the oil on their surface, this will only be a few minutes.
  4. Remove from the oven and sprinkle (while still hot) with the roasted garlic spice.
  5. Cool and serve. You can also store them in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

What are your favorite tricks for wetting the appetite without overfilling your guests’ tummies?

April in the Kitchen – Carmelized Onion, Roast Cherry Tomatoes, and Curry on Toast

April in the Kitchen – Carmelized Onion, Roast Cherry Tomatoes, and Curry on Toast

Tomato bruschetta is one of my favorite summer dishes. I serve it as a starter with drinks, or as dinner itself if there is some good fresh mozzarella or ricotta involved. Unfortunately,  tomato season is still a few months away, it lags sadly behind BBQ season. I am mentally ready for those tomatoes. I want them for a hamburger, or a fresh tomato sauce for pasta, or a caprese salad with mozzarella. But, the ones in the market are currently flavorless and mostly disappointing. Even the tomatoes at the farmer’s market were raised in a hot house. My mouth is set for the first dry farmed Early Girls from the Watsonville area. They are grown without any additional water once past the seedling stage. All the flavor is concentrated, oh my they are so good. Well, enough moaning about what I can’t have.

What is there and what can I do? Ok then, I will settle for cherry tomatoes. And roasting them both brings out the sweetness and intensifies the essence of tomato.

Here is a recipe you can serve now, with pride before an outdoor BBQ, while waiting for the first tomatoes of summer (don’t forget a glass of rose). This is an adaptation of a classic mid-summer bruschetta, made with roast cherry tomatoes. The recipe comes from the cookbook “The Fat Radish, Kitchen Diaries“.

Cherry tomato bruschetta with carmelized onions and curry sauce

Cherry tomato bruschetta with carmelized onions and curry sauce

Onion, Tomato, and Curry on Toast

  • Olive oil
  • 2 large yellow onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 pints cherry tomatoes of mixed colors
  • Coarse salt
  • 8 thick slices of toasted country bread or sourdough
  • 1/2 cup curry sauce (recipe below)
  • Small handful of torn basil and cilantro leaves
  1.  Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. Place 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large heavy skillet set over medium-low heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until well caramelized, be patient as it could take an hour or more. Remove them to a small bowl to cool.
  3. Place the tomatoes in a roasting pan and coat with 2 tablespoons of oil. Roast, stirring now and then, until soft, about 20 minutes. Set aside.

    Roast Cherry Tomatoes

    Roast Cherry Tomatoes

  4. To serve, divide the warm onions and tomatoes over the toast. Drizzle each toast with a tablespoon of the Curry Sauce and top with fresh herbs.
  5. Serve immediately.
Cherry Tomato Bruschetta

Cherry Tomato Bruschetta

Curry Sauce

  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil or olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 apple, peeled and cored, thinly sliced
  • 1 (2-inch) piece of fresh ginger, pelled and minced
  • 1 kaffir lime leaf (or zest and juice from a 1 lime, added at the end)
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons curry powder
  • 2 teaspoons turmeric
  • 1 (13.5 oz) can of unsweetened coconut milk
  • Coarse salt
  1. Place the oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic, onion, apple, ginger, lime leaf, curry powder, and turmeric. Cook, stirring now and then, until softened, about 10 minutes.
  2. Add the coconut milk, bring to a boil, then lover the heat and simmer another 10 minutes until all the vegetables are tender.
  3. Remove the lime leaf and puree the sauce in a standard blender or an immersion blender. (Add the lime juice and zest if you did not have a kaffir lime leaf.)

    Curry Sauce

    Curry Sauce

  4. Season with salt.

This recipe makes quite a bit of curry sauce. I used the remainder as a sauce with a simple roast chicken. It will last for a few days in the fridge.

Cherry Tomato Bruschetta

Cherry Tomato Bruschetta

I’m taking this to share with Angie at Fiesta Friday #64. Each week the food, recipes and pictures are more amazing!

Fiesta Friday

Fiesta Friday

April in the Kitchen – Prosciutto Wrapped Mango with Mascarpone and Aged Balsamic Vinegar

April in the Kitchen – Prosciutto Wrapped Mango with Mascarpone and Aged Balsamic Vinegar

Really I don’t know why I even bother to write out this recipe, it’s all there in the title. With all the fancyness going around these days I think we forget that sometimes the simpliest recipes are the best. This is one of the easiest, freshest, and most delightful of dishes to serve with a before dinner with a glass of wine (rose or sparkling would be lovely) or drinks. And, it is light enough not to spoil everyone’s appetite. I know I have a tendancy to fill up on all the wonderful starters laid out before a dinner party, sometimes I’m quite full by the time dinner is served. And that is a sad thing when a hostess has gone to so much trouble.

I used mangos this time because they have just started showing up at the market, but you could make this with melon or peaches or plums. Use what is in season and looks best at the market.

Proscuitto Wrapped Mango

Prosciutto Wrapped Mango

  •  Cubes of mango or other fruit is season
  • 6 thin slices of prosciutto
  • Mascarpone cheese
  • Aged balsamic vinegar
  1.  Wrap bite sized cubes of fruit with a thin slice of prosciutto.
  2. Smear a dollop of mascarpone cheese across a serving dish.
  3. Set the wrapped cubes of fruit on the cheese to hold them in place.
  4. Drizzle with aged balsamic vinegar.

That is all there is to it. I’m going to take this to Fiesta Friday to serve to the Angie and her friends. There are so many delightful dishes served at the party, this won’t spoil anyone’s appetite.

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Fiesta Friday

Fiesta Friday

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