Saturday, December 29, 2012

A Trio of Appetizers...

Where’s the appetizer? Jamie will sometimes tease me on Friday nights when it’s my week to plan the menu.  We tend to eat dinner a little late on Fridays, sometimes because I’m baking and decorating a cake for an order, and every surface in the kitchen is covered with piping bags and tips, bowls of frosting, and cake scraps.  But sometimes it’s just that we’re tired, and need to relax a little after work.

So when dinner isn’t going to happen until 8:30 or 9:00 pm, then a little something to tide us over is always nice.  It might be as simple as a steamed artichoke with garlic aioli, or olives and cheese and crackers.

One night I made a savory galette with some pastry I had made and frozen a few weeks earlier.  First I caramelized onions and mushrooms in a skillet, then piled all that goodness on the pastry, followed by bits of prosciutto and goat cheese crumbles.  After it baked up all golden and beautiful, I sprinkled a little fresh basil on top.  With a glass of wine, it was a really nice start to the evening.

To fuel his love of appetizers, our first Valentine's together I gave Jamie a little recipe book of appetizers called Bite Size and we've had a lot of fun together trying different recipes from the book.

One of our favorites, that we've made at least 3 or 4 times are the "Chicory Bites".  We've never been able to find anything called chicory in our grocery store, so we use endive which is very similar, and the crisp vegetable leaves serve as little boats to hold a savory filling of blue cheese crumbles and chopped pecans, drizzled with a balsamic vinegar sauce and topped with fresh bean sprouts (when sprouts aren't available, we use sunflower greens).

I love how adaptable the recipe is - feta or goat cheese crumbles could be substituted for the blue cheese, walnuts for the pecans, cress or other snipped greens for the sprouts, etc...  Really, it can be made to suit anyone's taste.  These are a fresh and light little snack, that also happen to be free of carbs, if that's important to you.

I also photographed another that he recently made, Egg and Tapenade Toasts.  These pretty toasts are spread with a salty Kalamata olive tapenade, sliced tomatoes, boiled eggs and anchovies.  They were amazing and addictive, and I could have just eaten these for dinner.  If anchovies aren't your thing (although if you've never made homemade Caesar dressing with anchovies, you're missing out...), then a little smoked salmon would be nice, too.

The next day, I took some of the leftover toast and tapenade, tomatoes and eggs to work for a snack, and as I was dipping toast into that black paste, one of my coworkers asked me, "Is that caviar?"

Caviar?  Um, no, I'm not nearly that fancy...

Chicory Bites
printable recipe

  • 3 medium-sized heads chicory/endive
  • 4 ounces blue cheese, crumbled (or substitute feta or goat cheese)
  • 4 tablespoons chopped pecans
  • snipped cress, bean sprouts, sunflower greens, etc...
  • 3-4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • salt and pepper
Cut the base off the endive, separate the leaves, rinse and pat dry.  Select the best ones and set on a serving plate.

In a small bowl, toss together the cheese and pecans.  In a separate bowl, combine the oil, balsamic vinegar, mustard and sugar; season to taste with salt and pepper.  Drizzle a little bit of the dressing over the cheese/pecan mixture to moisten it.

Spoon the mixture into the leaves and top with the sprouts to garnish.  Drizzle each with a little more dressing, as much as you like.

Serve right away, or chill for up to an hour before serving.

Yields about 24.

Recipe from Bite Size

Egg and Tapenade Toasts
printable recipe

  • 1/2 cup pitted black olives (Kalamata)
  • 6 anchovies in olive oil, drained
  • 2 tablespoons capers, rinsed
  • 2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 4-5 tablespoons olive oil
  • freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1 small French baguette
  • 4 Roma tomatoes, thinly sliced
  • 4 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and sliced
  • 4 anchovies in olive oil, drained and halved lengthwise (or substitute smoked salmon)
  • 8 pitted black olives (Kalamata), halved
To make the tapenade, combine all ingredients except the oil and pepper in a food processor; process for about 20 seconds, until smooth.  Scrape the bowl and with the processor running, slowly add the oil through the feeder tube, until you have a smooth paste.  Season with pepper and set aside.  (This is very salty on its own and needs no extra salt.)

Preheat the broiler to medium.  Cut off the crusty ends of the bread, and slice the loaf into 8 slices, 1/4 inch thick (or more than 8 slices, for a bigger loaf).  Place on a baking sheet and toast both sides until light golden brown.  Cool.

Spread each toast with a small spoonful of the tapenade.  Top with the tomato slices and the hard-boiled egg slices.  Arrange the anchovies and olive halves on top.  Serve right away.

Yields 8 or more.

Recipe from Bite Size

Caramelized Onion, Prosciutto and Goat Cheese Galette
printable recipe

  • 1 pie crust
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 sweet yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 crimini or baby bella mushrooms, sliced
  • 4 ounces goat cheese
  • 4 slices prosciutto, chopped
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon water
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped

Prepare the pie crust by rolling out into a circle about 12 inches in diameter.  Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Sprinkle the pie crust with the flour.  Cover with plastic so it doesn’t dry out and place in the refrigerator until ready to use.

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the onions and mushrooms, and season with salt and pepper.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until a deep golden, caramelized color, about 30 minutes; reduce the heat to medium low if they look like they may burn before caramelizing.

Set onions and mushrooms aside to cool for 10 minutes and take the pie crust out of the fridge to let it warm up a little on the counter so it’s easier to work with.  Preheat the oven to 400.

Spoon the onions and mushrooms over the pie crust, leaving a 2-3 inch border of crust all the way around.  Sprinkle with the goat cheese and the prosciutto.  Fold the edges of the dough up, overlapping the dough to create a rustic border around the filling.  In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and water; brush over the edges of the dough and under the folds with a pastry brush.

Bake for 30-35 minutes, until golden brown.  After taking the galette out of the oven, sprinkle with the chopped basil.  Cool for 10 minutes, then cut into wedges and serve.

Yields 6-8 servings.

Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen