Category: Appetizer

Pickled Lemons

April 11, 2013

About ten years ago, I realized that using fresh citrus in my cooking made a huge difference in the way things tasted.  It all started the year we lived in London and my refrigerator was so tiny that I couldn’t justify taking up room with a bottle of lemon juice.  Instead, I bought fresh lemons and stored them in a fruit bowl out on the counter.  Suddenly, my food was so much brighter.  I never looked back.  Living in Seattle, I bought lemons at Costco and kept them in my crisper drawer.  They keep well and I never wanted to be without them, which is why I bought them in bulk.

It makes me laugh now.  Thinking of buying lemons at Costco.  Imagining of a day when I would need a lemon and be out of them.  That day will never come as long as I have this tree in my front yard.  I’ve mentioned this before, but our house is in the fire zone of the Oakland hills.  In 1991, over 3,000 houses burned down, including all the homes on our street and the streets below us.  For some reason, this tree survived.  I’m not sure how a house can burn down and a tree, that is made of wood, can stay standing, but there you go.  There are many lemon trees in our neighborhood but this one is one of the largest and most prolific.  When we moved in last fall, I was delighted to see so many lemons.  Little did I know it would go truly gangbusters once the late winter set in.  Now they are literally falling off the tree. I use a lot of citrus in my cooking and yet I can’t keep up.  We picked a bunch last week, gave them to the neighbors who don’t have trees of their own, and there are still so many just waiting to be picked.  Lots of lemons calls for drastic measures.

When I was in Seattle a couple of weeks ago, Lara, the lovely owner of Book Larder, mentioned that she had made the lemon pickles from Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem.  Glancing at the recipe, I realized that this would be a good way to use a lot of lemons since you are pickling them in their own juice.  I made a double batch, put some aside for friends, and have been using the rest ever since in likely and unlikely places.  They were a delicious condiment for an Indian feast and also tasted good on top of poached eggs that were sitting on top of a potato cake.  Basically anyplace where a big dollop of flavor and a dose of sour would be welcome.

One Year Ago:  Chickpea, Artichoke, and Spinach Stew
Two Years Ago:  Pane con Formaggion (Cheese Bread), Banana-Date Tea Cake
Three Years Ago:  Black Bean Tostadas, Cinnamon Chocolate Ribbon Cake
Four Years Ago:  Butterscotch Spiral Coffee Cake, Orange Cinnamon Biscotti

Quick Pickled Lemons
Jerusalem
Makes about 1½ quarts

½ red chile (DT: I used a green jalapeño because I had some on hand)
3 tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 small-medium unwaxed lemons, halved lengthwise and sliced widthwise as thinly as possibly
3 tbsp. superfine sugar
1½ tsp. coarse sea salt
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tsp. sweet paprika
¼ tsp. ground cumin
½ tsp. ground turmeric

Use a mortar and pestle to smash the chile with 1 teaspoon of the lemon juice; you want to get a rough looking paste.  Transfer this to a large bowl along with all the other ingredients.  Use your hands to mix everything together well so that all the flavors get massaged into the lemons.  Leave in a covered bowl overnight, then transfer to sterilized sealed jar the next day.  The lemons will keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

 



Veggies and Dip

September 3, 2012

Where do you stand on the term “foodie”?  How about “fridge”?  And “veggies”?  These are all words that food people frown upon.  I find myself refraining from using them when in reality none of them bother me and “fridge” is much easier to type than “refrigerator”.  So I’m going to talk about veggies and dip.  Not vegetables and dip.

You might think that years of going to parties where the only thing I could eat was veggies and dip might have soured me on that combo.  The opposite is true.  I zero in on that platter.  If I parked myself next to it, I might be able to eat the whole thing.  And taking a few veggies on your plate with a spoonful of dip just doesn’t taste as good as standing at the table and eating from the platter.  The same is true of chips and salsa.  Am I right?

I like making dips that keep well and having them easily accessible for friends and relatives who might stop by.  A casual weeknight dinner feels just a little bit more fancy if there is an appetizer involved.  I always keep good olives in my fridge (not refrigerator) for that same reason.  And then no one minds if it takes you a little longer to get dinner on the table.

This dip is just a bit unexpected with the smoked blue cheese.  I’m sure it would be great with regular blue cheese too but I have always been a fan of any smoked cheese.  I served this one night with these beautiful vegetables from Oxbow Farm and on another night with pita chips.

One Year Ago:  Yogurt and Oregano Pesto Soup,
Two Years Ago:  Savory Scones
Three Years Ago:  Mint Filled Brownie Cupcakes
Four Years Ago:  Fresh Summer Rolls with Hoisin Peanut Dipping Sauce 

Blue Cheese Dip

Bon Appétit
8-10 servings

Kosher salt
1 garlic clove, coarsely chopped
2½ tsp. red wine vinegar
1 tsp. finely chopped fresh thyme
½ pound smoked (or regular) blue cheese, crumbled
1 cup sour cream
2/3 cup mayonnaise
Freshly ground black pepper

Sprinkle salt over garlic and chop, occasionally smearing mixture with blade of knife, until paste forms.  Whisk garlic paste, vinegar, and thyme in a medium bowl.  Add cheese; mash with the back of a fork until cheese in finely crumbled.  Stir in sour cream and mayonnaise.  Season dip to taste with salt and pepper.  Serve with assorted vegetables.  (Can be made 2 days ahead.  Cover and chill.)



Only the Very Best

August 31, 2012

How many times do you read a recipe and see the words “best quality”?  If you happen to like Ina Garten, you will see that phrase a lot.  “Best quality mayonnaise” – is there a worst quality mayonnaise?  Isn’t all mayonnaise the same?  Sometimes I think the need for “best” is a little silly.  I am more snobby about my food than the average person but I don’t seek out things that are “best”, or more expensive, unless I really feel it is necessary.

Here best really is important.  I find that to be true with simple dishes.  The fewer the ingredients, the more important that those ingredients are really top notch.  If you agree, and you have a few bucks to spend, try this little appetizer at your next dinner party.  Buy the best bread you can get your hands on and cut thickish slabs of it.  Drizzle it with olive oil – the oil should be good but it does not have to be best.  Grill that bread and watch it carefully so that it doesn’t burn.  When it is nice and toasty and has a few grill marks, remove it.  Slather it with the best ricotta cheese you can find or make your own.  Drizzle it with truffle honey.  Yes, it’s expensive but a little goes a long way and there is nothing else like it.  Sweet, savory, and earthy all at the same time.  Then sprinkle your best sea salt over the top and garnish with lemon thyme leaves.  Best.



Spring Tartines

May 30, 2012

I’ve written a bit about Book Larder, the amazing cookbook store where I am lucky enough to work.  The shop opened in October and it has been gangbusters ever since.  I was hired with the idea that I would teach classes there and coordinate with other teachers around town to bring them in for classes as well.  As the months have passed, my job has morphed a bit and my official title is Culinary Director.

What does that mean exactly?  The easiest way to explain it is that I get to handle all things food related.  I teach classes and I also work as the assistant when we have other teachers or chefs in the kitchen.  If we have an author come to town for an appearance, I bake or cook from their books.  I do all the shopping for classes and events and any prep that needs to be done.  I love it.  LOVE IT.  Imagine cooking in a lovely kitchen surrounded by 3,000 beautiful cookbooks.  And then imagine getting to meet people like Christina Tosi, Alice Medrich, Paula Wolfert, Patricia Wells, Lynn Rosetto Kaspar.  Making their food from their books for them.  It is crazy-town cool.

A few months ago, we threw a party for Willi Galloway, an amazing gardener and cook.  She used to live in Seattle but now calls Portland home.  Her book, Grow Cook Eat, is a gorgeous example of how beautiful and delicious fresh garden produce can be.  I am about the furthest thing from a gardener, but the book makes me want to get out in the dirt.  (Except there are bugs there, right?)  We hosted a book release party for her and I was lucky enough to cater the event.  Willi chose four recipes from her book and I made enough food to feed an army.  Everything was so good, it was basically demolished by the end of the night.  I credit Willi’s recipes, not my cooking.

I loved everything I made but my favorite was the the Radish Tartines.  You mix a bit of butter with Gruyère cheese (one of my favorite cheeses), a healthy spoonful of mustard, chives, and diced radishes, spread that on a piece of hearty bread, then bake it in the oven until it puffs and browns.  Then you top that loveliness with the sautéed radish greens.  I love a recipe that uses all parts of a vegetable but I have to admit that, unless I am using über fresh farmers’ market radishes, I opt for mustard greens instead.  (I think any other “soft” green would work, including the extremely easy to find spinach.)

Side bar – what is a tartine?  Without looking anything up, this is my take.  Please be advised I could be totally wrong here.  I think of crostini as a thin slice of toasted bread with a topping.  I think of bruschetta as a thicker and heartier slice of bread, again – toasted, with a topping.  I think of a tartine as more of a open faced sandwich, the bread not toasted before the topping goes on.  A little easier to eat, no scraping the roof of your mouth.  Anyone else?

I’ve been making these beauties ever since that party and I love them more each time I eat them.  I made them for our last yoga retreat and they were at the top of the “Are you going to post this recipe on your blog?” list.

(Yes, this is the same photo as up above.  I only got one before they were snatched up!)
One Year Ago:  No-Knead Olive Bread
Two Years Ago:  Pull Apart Cheesy Onion Bread
Three Years Ago:  Individual Vegetable Tarts

Tartines with Gruyère and Greens

Adapted from Grow, Cook, Eat
Makes 6 large tartines

If you make them this way, they are kind of meal size.  Terrific with a bowl of pea soup or a hearty salad.  If you want more appetizer servings, use smaller slices of bread.  The topping can be made a day in advance and refrigerated, but definitely serve these just out of the oven.

2 cups grated Gruyere cheese (about 8 ounces)
3 tbsp. very soft unsalted butter
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
¼ cup finely chopped radishes
2 tbsp. fresh chives, chopped
Pinch of salt and few grinds of pepper
6 ½-inch thick slices good bread, such as pain de campagne
Olive oil
1 small bunch soft greens, such as mustard greens or spinach

Preheat the oven to 375F.  In a medium bowl, use a fork to really mash the butter.  Add in the cheese and mix well to combine the two.  Add the mustard, radishes, chives, and salt and pepper.  Divide the mixture between the bread slices, pressing down slightly.  Place the bread on a baking sheet and toast until the cheese puffs up and is lightly browned, 12 to 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, place a skillet over medium heat.  Drizzle in just enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan, then add the greens.  Cook, stirring frequently, until wilted, 5 to 10 minutes, depending on the green.  Spread the wilted greens on evenly over the cheesy toasts and serve immediately.



Disappearing Dip

May 15, 2012

About 3½ years ago, my friend Jen asked if I would be interested in co-hosting yoga retreats with her at her Bainbridge Island studio.  I have known Jen since seventh grade and we have been very close friends since we spent three months riding on bikes through the French countryside.  She is one of my favorite people in the world and I have nothing but respect for her as a teacher and a business owner.  So it took me about four seconds to say yes.

On Saturday, we did our 13th retreat.  Once a quarter for three years.  We have slipped into a well established pattern.  The morning starts at 9:30 with introductions, followed by an intense hot yoga class.  The group gets to take part in a meditations exercise of some kind while I run up to the house, shower, and get lunch going.  When I first started doing these retreats, I realized that people would be hungry and I would not necessarily have every 100% ready by the time they were ready to eat.  So I always plan on having some kind of nibble in case I need to buy a little time.

Now you see it.

Now you don’t.

This was my nibble on Saturday.  A smooth layer of goat cheese topped with an unusual but incredible mixture of sweet jam, spicy peppers, mustard, and onions.  I did a test run of it the night before so I knew it was super delicious but I did not anticipate how quickly it would be inhaled.  I had intended to get a shot with a few swipes of dip taken out but by the time I started bringing out the lunch food, the dip was all but gone.  One of the things I like best about making lunch for yoginis is how hungry they are.  In my experience, women can sometimes be funny about food.  Dieting and all that.  But not this group.  They eat with gusto and deep appreciation and those are the best kinds of people to cook for.

One Year Ago:  Cheddar Crackers, Kaye Korma Curry, Stir-Fried Sesame Broccoli and Tofu with Rice Noodles
Two Years Ago:  Corn Salad Sandwich with Poblano Peppers, Chickpeas with Lemon and Pecorino Romano
Three Years Ago:  Mexican Brownies, Quinoa with Grilled Zucchini and Chickpeas, Peanut Butter Cup Brownies

Pepper-Glazed Goat Cheese Gratin
Food & Wine
About 8 servings

I made this using 30 ounces of goat cheese and roughly doubling the topping.  I put it in a 8×12-inch casserole dish and it fed about 20 people.  But I could have made more easily and I’m sure it would have been devoured.  The combination of creamy, sweet, and spicy is amazing.

1 pound creamy fresh goat cheese, softened
6 tbsp. apricot preserves
4 Peppadew peppers, finely chopped
1 pickled jalapeño, seeded and finely chopped
2 tbsp. minced cocktail onions
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1½ tsp. dried sherry
Pita chips, crackers, or baguette slices for serving

Preheat the oven to 400ºF.  Spread the goat cheese in a 5-by-8-inch gratin dish in an even layer.  In a small bowl, whisk the preserves with the Peppadews, jalapeño, onions, mustard, and sherry.  Spread the mixture over the goat cheese and bake on the top rack of the oven for about 5 minutes, until warm.  Turn on the broiler and broil for about 2 minutes, until the topping is bubbling and lightly browned at the edges.  Serve hot.

(DT:  I assembled the dish the night before, refrigerated it, transported it to Bainbridge and baked it off there.  Worked beautifully.)

 



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