Appetizers





Aunt Joyce's Blue Cheese Ball

This blue cheese ball recipe has been around forever and I absolutely love it. I literally have it once a year on Christmas Eve at my Aunt Joyce and Uncle Ernie's house. In fact, I look forward to it every Christmas Eve. To me, it wouldn’t be a traditional Christmas Eve without this cheese ball (and of course our Italian tradition of the seven fucking fishes).

Well tonight is New Year’s Eve, and I’m starting my new year's resolution early. While most people, including me, make new year’s resolutions for eating healthier and exercising more, I’ve decided this year that one of mine will be to not wait for a party or holiday to eat all of my favorite party foods. There’s no better way to end the old year and to bring in the new year than to eat something that makes me happy.  I don’t want to wait for another Christmas Eve or another party before I have this cheese ball again.  Here is the recipe so you too can enjoy this cheese ball all year long.

 




 

Ingredients

 
  • 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
  • 8 ounces blue cheese crumbles
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, softened
  • One 4.25-ounce can chopped black olives, drained, optional
  • 1 tablespoon minced chives
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts
  • crackers, for serving
 



 

Instructions

 
Step 1:  In mixer bowl using the paddle attachment, blend together the cream cheese, blue cheese crumbles, and butter until smooth and completely blended together. Mix in chopped chives and the olives, if using.  
 
Step 2: Cover and chill until firm enough to shape into a ball, at least one hour.
 
Step 3: Form the mixture into a ball (use clean hands) and roll the ball in finally chopped walnuts. Cover the ball completely with the walnuts. 
 
Step 4: Chill until ready to serve.  Serve with crackers.



 

Cheddar Cornmeal Icebox Crackers

 
Makes 20 crackers
 



 

Ingredients

 
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons yellow cornmeal
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons coarse salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  • 2 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 cup (2 1/2 ounces) finely grated cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon milk
 



 

Instructions

 
Step 1: Combine flour, cornmeal, salt, cayenne, and nutmeg in the bowl of a food processor; pulse to combine. 
 
 
Step 2: Add butter; pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add cheese; pulse until combined. With machine running, add milk; process until dough comes together and is well combined.
 
  
 
Step 3: Transfer dough to a work surface. Shape dough into a 2-inch-wide log. Wrap with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 24 hours.
 
 
Step 4: Heat oven to 325 degrees. Slice chilled log into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Transfer slices to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake immediately, rotating sheet once, until crackers are golden brown and firm in the center, 25 to 35 minutes. Alternatively, you can slice and stack pre-sliced cracker dough and freeze in an airtight container for up to 1 month—no need to defrost before baking
 
 



 

Creamy Artichoke Dip


Adapted from Cooking Light, September 2007

Makes 6 servings

Ingredients

 

  •     1/2 cup (4 ounces) block-style fat-free cream cheese, softened
  •     1/4 cup reduced-fat mayonnaise
  •     3 tablespoons grated fresh Parmesan cheese
  •     2 teaspoons minced garlic
  •     2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  •     1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce (such as Tabasco)
  •     1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  •     1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  •     2 (9-ounce) packages frozen artichoke hearts (about 2 cups), thawed and chopped
  •     Cooking spray


Instructions

Step 1: Preheat oven to 350°.

Step 2: Combine the first 8 ingredients in a large bowl; stir until well blended. Stir in artichoke hearts.

Step 3: Spoon artichoke mixture into an 8-inch square baking dish coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes or until artichoke mixture is hot and begins to brown. Serve warm.

Croquetas de Pollo

Adapted from Jose Andres: Tapas a Taste of Spain in America

 

Ingredients

  • 1/4 pound unsalted butter
  • 1/2 Spanish onion, peeled and finely chopped (about ½ cup)
  • 2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 10 ounces chicken, boiled and shredded (leftover chicken from a stock is ideal)
  • Salt
  • 1 pinch nutmeg
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • 2 cups Spanish extra-virgin olive oil
 

Instructions

 
Step 1: Heat the butter in a medium sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until they become translucent, about 5 minutes.
 
Step 2: Stir in 1-1/2 cups of the flour and continue stirring vigorously. Cook for 5 minutes until the flour is cooked through and golden brown. Pour the milk into the flour mixture and cook, stirring continuously, for about 2 minutes, until you have a thick béchamel sauce.
 
Step 3; Add the chicken, and sprinkle in ½ teaspoon of salt and the nutmeg. Cook for another 2 minutes. You should now have a thick mixture that you can mold in your hands.
 
Step 4: Carefully pick up a bit of the mixture and try to ball it with your hands. It shouldn’t be too sticky. If it does stick to your hands, allow the mixture to cook a little longer. Spread the mixture on a cookie sheet to cool.
 
Step 5: Take a spoon of the mixture and roll in your hands to make a small cylinder, about the size of a wine cork. Roll the cylinder in the remaining 1 cup flour, then in the eggs, and then in the breadcrumbs and set aside on another cookie sheet. Repeat with the remaining mixture until you have about 36 croquetas.
 
Step 6: In a small deep frying pan, heat the olive oil to 375 degrees (measured with a candy thermometer). Working in small batches, add the croquetas, making sure they are covered completely in oil. Fry until golden, about 1 minute, then transfer to a paper towel-lined tray to let drain. Be sure to allow the oil to return to 375 degrees F on the candy thermometer between batches.
 
 
Step 7: Season with salt and serve hot.

Empanada Dough

Adapted from Penelope Casas, Tapas The Little Dishes of Spain
 
Makes about 40 turnovers
 

Ingredients

  • 3 cups unbleached flour
  • 1-1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup iced water
  • 4-1/2 teaspoon vinegar
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 cup lard, softened, or vegetable shortening
 

Instructions

 
Step 1: Mix the flour in a large bowl with the salt, then incorporate the water, vinegar, and egg yolks and work with your hands until the dough forms a smooth ball. Let sit for 30 minutes covered with plastic wrap.
 
   
 
Step 2: Roll the dough into a 10x15 inch rectangle. With a rubber spatula spread 1/3 cup of the lard or shortening over the dough. 
 
 
Step 3: With the aid of a knife, fold one side over the top, then fold over the other side, business-letter fashion. Wrap again in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 15 minutes. 
 
 
Step 4: Repeat, using another 1/3 cup of the lard, refrigerate 15 minutes more, and repeat a third time, leaving the dough refrigerated this time for 1 hour. The dough is better still if refrigerated overnight.  

Fresh Fig, Mascarpone, and Pesto Torte

Adapted from Gourmet, September 1996

 

Yield: Serves 16 to 32 as an appetizer
 

Ingredients

 

For the crust

  •     1 cup finely ground wheat crackers such as Wheat Thins
  •     1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted until golden, cooled, and ground fine
  •     1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted and cooled

For the filling

  •     1 1/4 pounds cream cheese, softened
  •     1/2 cup mascarpone or sour cream
  •     3 large eggs
  •     1 1/4 cups homemade basil pesto or prepared basil pesto
  •     2 pounds firm-ripe fresh figs (about 16 large), 1 pound cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
  •     1/2 cup fig preserves (available at specialty food shops)
  •     1 1/2 tablespoons white-wine vinegar

Accompaniment: baguettes cut diagonally into thin slices and toasted lightly

 

Instructions

 

Step 1: To make crust: Preheat oven to 325° F. and butter a 10-inch springform pan.

 

Step 2: In a bowl with a fork stir together crust ingredients and salt and pepper to taste. Press mixture into bottom of pan and bake in middle of oven 10 minutes, or until lightly browned.

 

Step 3: To make filling:  In a bowl with an electric mixer beat together filling ingredients and salt and pepper to taste until very smooth.

Step 4: To assemble torte: Pour half of filling into crust.

Step 5: Drop dollops of pesto over filling and spread carefully to form an even topping. (Some filling may show through.) Top pesto layer with half of fig slices, overlapping them slightly.

 

Step 6: Pour remaining filling over figs, spreading evenly.


 

Step 7: Bake torte in middle of oven 1 hour and 10 minutes, or until top is golden brown and set. Cool torte in pan on a rack (filling will deflate slightly). Chill torte, covered loosely, at least 3 hours and up to 2 days.

 

Step 8: In a small saucepan stir together preserves and vinegar and bring to a simmer. Remove pan from heat and cool mixture. Stir in salt to taste.

 

Step 9: Slice remaining pound figs into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Run a thin knife around edge of pan and remove side. Spread torte with preserves mixture, leaving a 1/4-inch border, and top decoratively with remaining fig slices. With 2 large metal spatulas transfer torte to a serving plate.

 

Step 10: Serve torte at room temperature to spread on toasts.

 

Goat Cheese Crostini with Orange and Black Pepper Marmalade

Ingredients

  •     8 ounces soft fresh goat cheese, room temperature
  •     4 oranges, divided
  •     1/4 cup honey
  •     1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
  •     Fresh lemon juice (optional)
  •     18 1/2-inch-thick slices French or raisin baguette, toasted


Instructions

 
Step 1: Place goat cheese in small bowl. Finely grate 1 teaspoon peel from 1 orange; stir peel into cheese.
 

 
Step 2: Using vegetable peeler, remove peel (orange part only) in strips from remaining 3 oranges.


Step 3: Cut peel into 1/8- to 1/4-inch pieces and place in medium saucepan.
 

Step 4: Using small sharp knife, cut white pith from all 4 oranges. Working over another small bowl to catch juices, cut between orange membranes to release segments. Squeeze any remaining juice from membranes into bowl. Discard membranes.
 

 
Step 5: Coarsely chop orange segments and add to saucepan along with any juices. Add juices from bowl to saucepan.


Step 6: Stir in honey and 1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper. Bring to boil over medium-high heat and cook uncovered until thick and reduced to 1/2 cup, stirring frequently, about 10 minutes.
 
 
Step 7: Cool. Season with more ground black pepper to taste and with fresh lemon juice, if desired. Cheese and marmalade can be made 1 day ahead; cover separately and chill. Bring to room temperature before assembling crostini.


Step 8: Top toasted baguette slices with goat cheese, then marmalade. Place crostini on platter and serve

Goat Cheese Souffles in Phyllo Cups with Frisee Salad

Ingredients

For the phyllo cups:

  •     6 (17- by 12-inch) phyllo sheets, thawed if frozen
  •     1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, melted


For soufflé filling:

  •     2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  •     2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  •     3/4 cup whole milk
  •     2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  •     2 large eggs, separated
  •     finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (1/2 cup)
  •     5 ounces soft mild goat cheese, crumbled (2/3 cup)


For the salad:

 

  •     1 1/2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  •     1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  •     1/4 teaspoon salt
  •     5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  •     8 oz frisée, torn into bite-size pieces (8 cups)
  •     6 radishes, cut into very thin wedges
  •     3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives

 

Instructions
 

Step 1: To make cups: Preheat oven to 375°F.

Step 2: Cover stack of phyllo with 2 overlapping sheets of plastic wrap and a dampened kitchen towel. Put 1 phyllo sheet on a work surface and brush with some butter, then top with 2 more sheets of phyllo, brushing each with butter.



Step 3: Cut buttered stack into 6 (4 1/2-inch) squares with a sharp knife, trimming sides as needed. Line each of 6 muffin cups with a square. Make 6 more phyllo cups (4 are extra, in case of breakage) in same manner with remaining pastry sheets and butter.



Step 4: Bake cups in middle of oven until golden, about 8 minutes, then cool completely in pan on a rack.

Step 5: To make filling: Increase oven temperature to 400°F.

Step 6: While cups are cooling, melt butter in a 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderately low heat, then whisk in flour. Cook roux, whisking, 3 minutes.

Step 7: Add milk in a stream, whisking, and bring to a boil, whisking.

Step 8: Reduce heat and simmer, whisking occasionally, 5 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in mustard, yolks, and 1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano until combined, then fold in goat cheese. Cover surface of mixture with wax paper if not using immediately.

 

Step 9: Beat egg whites in a large bowl with an electric mixer until they just hold stiff peaks.

Step 10: Fold one third of whites into sauce to lighten, then fold in remaining whites gently but thoroughly.

Step 11: Spoon batter into 8 phyllo cups and sprinkle with remaining Parmigiano-Reggiano. Bake in middle of oven until soufflés are puffed and golden, about 15 minutes.

Step 12: Make salad while soufflés bake: Whisk together vinegar, mustard, and salt in a bowl, then add oil in a slow stream, whisking until emulsified.

Step 13: Just before soufflés are ready, toss frisée and radishes in a large bowl with just enough dressing to coat. Mound salad onto 8 plates and sprinkle with chives, then make a small nest in center of each.

Step 14: Place a soufflé cup in each salad and serve immediately.


 

Herbed Goat Cheese and Sun-Dried Tomato Crostini

Adapted from Tyler Florence: Tyler's Ultimate: Brilliant Food to Make Any Time

Ingredients

  •     1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
  •     1 tablespoon fresh flat-leaf parsley
  •     1 tablespoon fresh tarragon
  •     1 tablespoon fresh mint
  •     8-ounce log soft fresh goat cheese
  •     1 baguette
  •     2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  •     1/2 cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
  •     1/2 cup fresh basil leaves


Instructions


Step 1: Combine thyme, parsley, tarragon and mint leaves on cutting board and chop them finely together.

Step 2: Unwrap log of goat cheese and roll it in the chopped herbs, pressing the herbs to adhere. Preheat oven to 350 F.

Step 3: Cut baguette into thin crostini-style slices and drizzle with a little olive oil and bake 5 to 7 minutes, until lightly browned and crisp. Let baguette slices cool.

Step 4: Top each crostini with slice of herbed goat cheese. Top with sun-dried tomato and garnish with fresh basil leaves. Makes 16 to 20.

Involtini di Melanzane

Adapted from Mario Batali: Molto Italiano: 327 Simple Italian Recipes to Cook at Home

Serves 4

Ingredients

  •     2 1/4 cups extra virgin olive oil
  •     3 medium eggplants, sliced lengthwise into 1/3-inch thick slices
  •     1 cup fresh ricotta
  •     1 large egg
  •     2 scallions, thinly sliced
  •     1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  •     salt and freshly ground black pepper
  •     2 cups simple red sauce
  •     1/4 cup whole parsley leaves


Instructions
 

Step 1: In a 10- to 12-inch saute pan, heat 2 cups olive oil over medium-high heat until it reaches 370°F.

 

Step 2: Add the eggplant slices 3 or 4 at a time and fry, turning once, until soft and light golden brown, about 2 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to drain.
 

Step 3: Preheat oven to 375°F.
 

Step 4: In a medium bowl, combine the ricotta, egg, scallions, and nutmeg and mix well. Season with salt and pepper.

 

Step 5: Lay the eggplant slices out on a work surface and place 1 tablespoon of ricotta filling at the base of each slice. Roll the eggplant up around the filling to form a neat roll and set seam side down on the work surface.

Step 6: Lightly oil the baking dish just large enough to hold the eggplant roll-ups. Put the sauce into the dish and place the rolls seam side down in the sauce. Bake until the cheese starts to melt out of the rolls about 15 minutes.

 

Step 7:  Drizzle with the remaining 1/4 cup of olive oil, sprinkle with parsley and serve.

Mahro’s Hummus

Food has always been my first love and the way to my heart. This explains why I easily fall in love with chefs, like Yotam Ottolenghi. I absolutely love him and I’m obsessed with his cookbook, Plenty.  Although I am not a vegetarian, Ottolenghi's Plenty has taught me how to make interesting, vibrant, and flavorful vegetarian dishes. I’ve been working my way through that cookbook and I’ve already made many of his recipes. The latest recipe that I've tried is his wonderful hummus recipe. 
 
The first time I tried hummus was soon after college (in the early 1990s) when my friend Mahro, who is from Iran, came to my house and made it for me. She was so kind to share her delicious recipe with me and I’ve been making her version of hummus for over 25 years. The recipe that I’ve posted here is mostly Mahro’s  but with a little bit of Yotam Ottolenghi thrown into it. Mahro’s original recipe uses canned chickpeas but I decided to take a cue from Ottolenghi and substitute the canned with dried chickpeas. Let me warn you, it takes significantly longer (hours longer in fact) to make hummus using dried chickpeas but I must say, it is totally worth it. Even though it's not as tasty, I can understand why Mahro and many others would choose to use canned chickpeas. It is so much easier and faster. So if you are in a hurry, I suggest that you use canned and if not and have several hours to kill, you should definitely try the dried chickpeas.  By the way, Mahro uses 2-1/2 cans of chickpeas and about 1/2 cup of tahini. So use that instead of the dried chickpeas, baking soda, and 1-1/2 cups tahini. The rest of Mahro's recipe is the same as posted below and don't forget to start your instructions with step 4.
 



 

Ingredients

 

  • 4 or more cloves garlic
  • 2-1/2 cups dried chickpeas 
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons baking soda
  • 1-1/2 cups tahini paste
  • Juice from 3-4 small lemons (I used about 5 tablespoons) 
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons or more salt (season to taste)
  • 1/2 cup or more of chickpea liquid
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Pepper to taste
  • Paprika to garnish
 



 

Instructions

 
Step 1: Soak the chickpeas overnight.  Place chickpeas in a bowl and cover with double their volume of cold water. Add 1 tablespoon of baking soda to the chickpeas.  Set aside.  The next day, drain and rinse the chickpeas.
 
Step 2: Place the soaked chickpeas and remaining baking soda in a medium saucepan and cover with double their volume of cold water.  
 
 
Step 3: Bring to a boil, then simmer very gently for 2 to 3 hours or until totally soft and easy to mush. You may need to add more water during the cooking process to keep them immersed.  Drain the chickpeas, retaining the cooking liquid.
 
Step 4: Using a food processor fitted with the steel blade, drop the garlic down the feed tube; process until it's minced. 
 
Step 5: Add the drained chickpeas and process until smooth.
 
Step 6: Add the tahini, salt, cumin, and the lemon juice. Process and then add the chickpea liquid a little at a time until you achieve the right consistency. You want the mixture to be very soft, almost runny, but just holding its shape.  
 
Step 7: Taste for seasoning and add more salt if necessary. Place hummus in serving dish and generously drizzle with your best olive oil.  Do not incorporate it in. 
 
Step 8: Sprinkle paprika on top and serve chilled or at room temperature.
 



 

Martha Stewart's Spicy Chicken Empanadas

Makes about 40 empanadas
 

Ingredients

  • 1 whole chicken breast (1 pound), skin removed
  • 1/2 white onion, halved
  • 1 dried bay leaf
  • 1 fresh poblano chile
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground canela (Mexican cinnamon) or regular cinnamon
  • 4 canned plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped
  • 2 canned chipotle chiles in adobo, coarsely chopped
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon pepitas (pumpkin seeds), toasted and coarsely chopped
  • 1 recipe for empanada dough
  • 1/2 cup shredded queso blanco
  • 1/4 cup sugar, for sprinkling
  • Crema pura or sour cream, for serving (optional)
 
 

Instructions

 
Step 1: Place chicken breast, half the onion, and the bay leaf in a medium saucepan.
 
 
Cover with cold water, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low, and poach until chicken is cooked through, about 15 minutes. 
 
Step 2: Transfer chicken to a plate; reserve 1 cup cooking liquid, and discard onion and bay leaf. When chicken is cool enough to handle, shred meat from the bone with a fork; set aside.
 
Step 3: Roast poblano chile directly over a gas flame or a broiler, turning as each side blackens and blisters. Transfer to a bowl, and cover with plastic wrap; let steam 10 minutes. Remove plastic wrap; peel off and discard blackened chile skin. Remove stem, seeds, and ribs; discard. Slice chile into 1/4-inch strips; set aside.
 
  
 
Step 4: Finely chop remaining onion. Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add chopped onion and garlic; saute until soft and translucent. 
 
 
Step 5: Stir in cumin and cinnamon; cook 1 minute. Add shredded chicken, tomatoes, chipotle, poblano, and reserved cooking liquid. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally until liquid has thickened, about 25 minutes. 
 
   
 
Step 6: Remove from heat. Season with salt and pepper; stir in cilantro and pepitas. Set aside to cool.
 
   
 
 
Step 7: Roll the dough to a 10x15-inch rectangle, fold in thirds as in dough preparation, then roll again to less than 1/8-inch thickness.
 
Step 8: Cut into 3-inch circles. 
 
 
Step 9: Place about 1 to 2 teaspoons filling in the center of each circle. Sprinkle with cheese. Fold in half and seal well with your fingers, then press with the tines of a fork, or press and fold with your thumb with a rolling motion for a decorative edge. Pastries can be filled, then refrigerated or frozen until baking time.
 
  
 
Step 10: Brush with the beaten egg. Bake on a lightly greased cookie sheet at 375 degrees for about 15 minutes, or until a deep golden color. Baking time may vary depending on size and thickness of pastries.
 
Step 11: Serve immediately with crema pura or cream on the side, if desired.
 

Mini Sweet Peppers Stuffed with Herbed Goat Cheese

Ingredients

  •     30 mini sweet peppers (10 red, 10 yellow, 10 orange, if possible)
  •     18 ounces semi-soft goat cheese
  •     1/2 cup chives, tarragon and basil,freshly snipped
  •     1 clove garlic, minced
  •     salt, to taste
  •     fresh ground black pepper, to taste


Instructions


Step 1: Preheat your oven to 350°F.



Step 2: Leaving the peppers stem intact, cut a slit from the stem to the bottom tip of each pepper and remove seeds. Alternatively, you can cut the top stem off of each pepper and remove seeds.



Step 3: In a bowl combine the goat cheese, snipped herbs, garlic, salt and black pepper. Spoon the mixture into the peppers.



Step 4: On a baking sheet sprayed with non-stick cooking spray arrange the peppers in a single layer. Bake for 10 to 20 minutes or until peppers are tender crisp.


 
Step 5: Arrange the prepared peppers into a pyramid shape on a small platter and garnish with fresh basil leaves.

Oven-Roasted Tomatoes

Ingredients

  •     Compari tomatoes
  •     Olive oil
  •     kosher salt

Instructions


Step 1: Preheat oven to 250 degrees F.

Step 2: Slice tomatoes in half.  Place on jelly roll pan. Drizzle with olive oil and Kosher salt. 



Step 3: Roast in oven for up to 3 hours at 250 degrees F. 

Step 4: Serve with crostini.

Parmesan-Rosemary Icebox Crackers

 
Makes 20 crackers
 

Ingredients

 
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • Pinch of white pepper
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary, plus extra sprigs for garnish
  • 3 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 cup finely grated (2 1/2 ounces) Parmesan cheese
  • 5 tablespoons sour cream
  • 1 large egg white, lightly beaten
 

Instructions

 
Step 1: Combine flour, salt, pepper, and rosemary in the bowl of a food processor; pulse to combine. 
 
 
Step 2: Add butter; pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal. 
 
Step 3: Add cheese; pulse until combined. Add 1 tablespoon of the sour cream at a time, pulsing each time to combine. Process until dough comes together and is well combined.
 
 
Step 4: Transfer dough to a work surface. Shape dough into a 2-inch-wide log. Wrap with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 24 hours.  
 
Step 5: Heat oven to 325 degrees. Slice chilled log into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Transfer slices to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Alternatively, you can slice and stack pre-sliced cracker dough and freeze in an airtight container for up to 1 month—no need to defrost before baking
 
Step 6: Dip a sprig of rosemary into egg white, and place in center of a cracker slice; repeat with remaining rosemary and crackers.
 
 
Step 7:  Bake immediately, rotating sheet once, until crackers are golden brown and firm in the center, 25 to 35 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool.

Patatas Bravas

Adapted from Jose Andres: Tapas a Taste of Spain in America

Serves 4


Ingredients

  •     4 ripe tomatoes
  •     2 tablespoons Spanish extra virgin olive oil
  •     1 teaspoon sugar
  •     1 bay leaf
  •     1/2 teaspoon of Spanish sweet paprika
  •     1 pinch cayenne pepper
  •     1 teaspoon sherry vinegar
  •     salt to taste


For the potatoes

  •     2 cups Spanish extra virgin olive oil
  •     1 pound Idaho potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
  •     Salt to taste

For the allioli

  •     1 small egg
  •     1 cup Spanish extra virgin olive oil
  •     1 garlic clove, peeled
  •     1 teaspoon sherry vinegar or fresh lemon juice
  •     salt to taste


Instructions

Step 1: For the allioli:  Break the egg into a small mixing bowl. Add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, garlic clove, and the vinegar or lemon juice.



Step 2: Using a hand held mixer or food processor, mix at high speed until the garlic is fully pureed into a loose paste.

 

Step 3: Then little by little, add the remaining olive oil as you continue blending at high speed.  If the mixture appears too thick when you begin adding the oil, add 1 teaspoon water to loosen the sauce. Continue adding the oil and blending until you have a rich, creamy allioli. The sauce will be lovely yellow color. Add salt to taste.
 

Step 4: For the brava sauce: Cut each tomato in half lengthwise.  Place a grater over a bowl and grate the open side of the tomatoes into the bowl.

Step 5: Strain the grated flesh through a sieve to produce 1 1/2 cups of tomato puree.

Step 6: Pour the olive olive oil into a small pan and warm it over a low flame. Add the tomato puree, sugar, bay leaf, paprika, and cayenne.  Raise the heat to medium and cook until the mixture reduces by one-fourth and becomes a deep red color, about 10 minutes. 

Step 7: Remove from heat. Add the vinegar and salt to taste, and reserve.

Step 8: Prepare the potatoes: Pour olive oil into a deep saucepan and heat it to 275 degrees. Place the potatoes in the oil and poach them, frying them slowly until soft, which normally takes between 8 to 10 minutes. The potatoes won't change color but they will soften all the way through. You can test for softness by inserting a toothpick; if it comes out easily, the potatoes are done. Remove them from the pan and drain. Set aside.

Step 9:  Raise the temperature of the olive oil to 350 degrees. Return the potatoes to the pan. Fry until they are crisp and brown, about 6 minutes. Drain, and sprinkle with salt to taste.

Step 10: Drizzle the brava sauce on a serving plate. Top with the potatoes and the allioli, and sprinkle with chives.  Place some toothpicks on the side of the dish for serving.

Pesto Arancini

Arancini are rice balls stuffed with mozzarella cheese, coated in bread crumbs, and then deep fried  — how can you not love that combination.  These scrumptious appetizers are originally from Sicily.  Suppli’ al telefono is another name for arancini but suppli’ is native to Rome and is generally filled with a ragu sauce, mozzarella cheese, and peas.
 
Many times, understanding the Italian meaning of a name can give you insight into how the dish is supposed to look, taste, or be made.  This is certainly true for arancini and suppli' al telefono. In Italian, arancini literally means “little oranges,” which totally describe the look of the deep fried rice balls. The meaning of the other name, suppli' al telefono, provides even more insight into how they should look and be made. According to Wikipedia, suppli’ is the Italianized version of the French word for surprise. This is a perfect description for the delicious gooey cheese that’s hidden in the center of the rice ball. In addition, if your suppli’ are made correctly, then when bitten in half and pulled apart, the cheese in the center forms long strings which resemble telephone wires.  Hence the name “suppli’ al telefono.”
 
Ok enough about the name. I love arancini, have had them many times in restaurants, but only have made them twice in my life. The best arancini that I’ve ever had was at Bottega, Michael Chiarello’s restaurant in Yountville, CA. So even though I’m not a huge Michael Chiarello fan anymore (due to the two sexual harassment lawsuits against him), I couldn’t wait to try to make his pesto arancini, which are simply divine. 
 
My version of his arancini, I have to say, were restaurant quality delicious, however, I had one major problem.  The cheese in the middle of the arancini did not melt so there was no characteristic cheesy "telephone wire."  What went wrong?  First, I preheated my oil to 450 degrees Fahrenheit, a higher temperature than what the recipe called for. This could have potentially caused the balls to cook faster on the outside than on the inside.  Second, to help keep the balls from falling apart in the hot oil, the recipe calls for you to place the rice balls in the freezer for 30 minutes before deep frying. I’m not entirely sure this step is necessary if you are using actual creamy risotto (made with parmesan cheese) instead of cooked Arborio rice (without any added cheese). That said, I will definitely have to make these again soon to test my theory and to redeem myself. 
 
Risotto recipe adapted from Cook’s Illustrated: The Best Italian Classics
Pesto recipe adapted from Michael Chiarello: At Home With Michael Chiarello: Easy Entertaining
Pesto Arancini recipe adapted from Michael Chiarello: Bottega
 



 

Ingredients

 

For the Risotto:

  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth, plus more as needed
  • 3 cups water
  • Salt and ground black pepper
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 medium onion, minced
  • 2 cups Arborio or Carnaroli rice
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese 
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves
 

For the Pesto:

  • 3 cups lightly packed fresh basil
  • 1 cup lightly packed Italian parsley leaves
  • 1/2 cup pure olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon toasted pine nuts
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan
 

For the Arancini:

  • 1-1/2 cup blanched-basil pesto
  • 3 cups risotto, cooled
  • 4 ounces fresh mozzarella
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 cups panko bread crumbs
  • peanut oil
 



 

Instructions

 
Step 1: For the risotto, bring the broth and water to a simmer in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to the lowest possible setting to keep the broth warm.
 
Step 2: Add the butter to saute pan over medium hear.  Add onion, and 1/2 teaspoon salt, and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, 5 to 7 minutes. 
 
 
Step 3: Add the rice and cook, stirring frequently, until the edges of the grains are transparent, about 4 minutes.
 
Step 4: Add the wine and cook, stirring frequently and scraping up any browned bits, until the wine is completely absorbed by the rice, about 2 minutes. 
 
 
Step 5: Add 3 cups of the warm broth and simmer over medium-low heat, stirring infrequently (about every 3 minutes), until the liquid is absorbed and the bottom of the pan is dry, 10 to 12 minutes.
 
  
 
Step 6: Continue to cook, stirring frequently and adding more broth, 1/2 cup at a time, every 3 to 4 minutes as needed to keep the pan bottom from drying out, until the grains of rice are cooked through but still somewhat firm in the center, 8 to 10 minutes. Off the heat, stir in the Parmesan cheese, season with salt and pepper to taste, and cover. Set aside.
 
 
 
 
 
 
Step 7: For the pesto, prepare a bowl of ice water. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Put the basil and parsley in a sieve and plunge it into the boiling water, pushing the leaves down into the water and stirring them so they blanch evenly. Blanch for 15 seconds, then plunge the herbs into the ice water to stop the cooking. Drain immediately, squeeze the herbs dry, and roughly chop.
 
Step 8: In a food processor, puree the herbs with the oil, pine nuts, salt, and pepper. When well blended, add the cheese and pulse briefly just to mix.
 
  
 
Step 9: Transfer to a bowl and adjust the seasoning. Set aside.
 
Step 10: For the arancini, Line a platter with parchment paper. In a large bowl, stir the 3 cups of the risotto and blanched basil pesto together until blended.
 
  
 
Step 11: Divide the rice into 16 more-or-less-equal portions.
 
 
Step 12: Cut off about 1⁄2 teaspoon of mozzarella and then, with your hands, ball up one serving of rice around the cheese so it’s completely encased in rice. Gently place on the prepared platter. Repeat to form 16 arancini.
 
 
Step 13: Slide the platter into the freezer for 30 minutes to allow the balls to firm up.
 
 
Step 14: Before you take the rice balls from the freezer, set up your dredging station. Pour the flour into a shallow bowl; the eggs into another shallow bowl; and the panko into a third shallow bowl.
 
Step 15: In a large, heavy pot or Dutch oven, heat 3 inches of oil over medium-high heat until it registers 375°F on a deep-fat thermometer.
 
Step 16: While the oil heats, dredge each rice ball in flour and lightly shake off the excess. Dip each rice ball in the egg and then in the panko.
 
    
 
 
Step 17: Gently drop 4 to 6 balls into the oil and cook until lightly browned, 60 to 90 seconds. Don’t overcook them or the cheese will leak out into your oil.
 
  
 
Step 18: Using a slotted spoon or wire skimmer, transfer the arancini to paper towels to drain. Repeat to cook the remaining arancini. Serve at once.
 
 



 

Piquillo Peppers Stuffed with Goat Cheese

Adapted from Chef Jose Andres

Ingredients

  •     2 tablespoons finely diced shallots
  •     1 scallion (white part only), thinly sliced
  •     1-1/2 teaspoons aged Spanish sherry vinegar
  •     6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  •     1 can (13.75 ounces; 16 peppers) piquillo peppers, drained
  •     3 ounces soft goat cheese
  •     1 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley
  •     1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme

 

Instructions

Step 1: Whisk shallots, scallion, 4 tablespoons olive oil and vinegar in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper.

Step 2: Slice open the top of each pepper to create a pocket. Spoon cheese into peppers, dividing it equally among them.



Step 3: Heat a large frying pan over medium heat; add 2 tablespoons of oilve oil. Cook peppers, flipping once, until cheese begins to melt, about 30 seconds each side. Transfer to a platter.


Step 4: Sprinkle with parsley and thyme. Drizzle dressing over peppers and serve.

Prosciutto-Wrapped Medjool Dates Stuffed with Cheese

Adapted from Giada De Laurentiis
 

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup (2 ounces) goat cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup (2 ounces) mascarpone cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil leaves
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 16 Medjool dates (12 ounces), pitted
  • 8 thin slices prosciutto, halved lengthwise
 

Instructions

 
Step 1: In a small bowl, mix together the cheeses and basil and season with salt and pepper, to taste.
 
Step 2: Gently pull the dates apart and stuff with about 1/2 teaspoon of the cheese mixture. Close the dates around the filling. Wrap a piece of prosciutto around each date.
 
 
Step 3: Bake at 350 F for 10-15 minutes or until the meat is crispy. 
 
Step 4: Arrange the stuffed dates on a platter and serve.

Prosciutto-Wrapped Scallops with Romesco Sauce

Adapted from Bon Appetit, June 2010

Ingredients

Romesco Sauce

  •     1/4 cup dry white wine
  •     4 sun-dried tomato halves packed in oil, drained
  •     1 garlic clove, peeled
  •     1/4 cup chopped drained piquillo peppers or roasted red peppers from jar
  •     1/4 cup whole almonds
  •     3 tablespoons olive oil
  •     Coarse kosher salt

Scallops

  •     8 paper-thin slices prosciutto, each slice cut lengthwise into 3 long strips
  •     12 sea scallops, halved horizontally
  •     Olive oil
  •     Coarse kosher salt
  •     Fresh thyme leaves (for garnish)


Instructions


Step 1: For the Romesco Sauce: Combine wine, tomatoes, and garlic in small saucepan; bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer until wine is reduced by half, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and cool.



Step 2: Transfer tomato mixture to processor. Add peppers, almonds, and oil and blend until coarse puree forms. Transfer to small bowl. Season to taste with coarse salt and pepper. Can also be made 2 days ahead -cover and chill and let stand at room temperature 1 hour before using.



Step 3: For the Scallops: Before cooking the scallops, be sure to remove the muscle, which can be tough when cooked. Find the muscle by looking for the white strip that runs up the side of the scallop. You can usually pull it off with your fingers, but you may need to use a paring knife to tease the muscle away from the rest of the scallop.



Step 4: Line rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Wrap 1 prosciutto strip around center of each scallop half, pressing ends together to seal. Arrange scallops on prepared sheet.  Can be made 4 hours ahead - cover and chill.



Step 5: Preheat broiler. Brush scallops lightly with oil; sprinkle with pepper and lightly with coarse salt. Broil scallops until opaque in center and prosciutto is almost crisp, turning scallops over halfway through broiling, 1 to 2 minutes per side, depending on size of scallops. Arrange scallops on platter. Top each with small dollop of romesco sauce and a few thyme leaves.

Roasted Red Peppers


 

Ingredients

 

  •     5 red bell peppers
  •     2 small garlic cloves, minced
  •     4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  •     3/4 teaspoon coarse sea salt or Kosher salt
  •     1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  •     fresh sprig of basil for garnish


Instructions
 

Step 1: Prepare grill for cooking. If using a charcoal grill, open vents on bottom of grill, then light charcoal. Charcoal fire is hot when you can hold your hand 5 inches above rack for 1 to 2 seconds. If using a gas grill, preheat burners on high, covered, 10 minutes, then reduce heat to moderately high.  You can also use a broiler instead of a grill.
 
Step 2: Lay bell peppers on their sides on lightly oiled grill rack or on broiler pan and roast, turning occasionally with tongs, until skins are blackened, 10 to 12 minutes.

Step 3: Transfer to a ziplock bag or brown bag and let steam 10 minutes. Peel and seed peppers (reserving juices), then cut into 1/4-inch-thick strips.

Step 4: Stir together peppers (with their juices), garlic, oil, sea salt, and pepper and marinate 30 minutes at room temperature.
 

Salmon Rillettes

Adapted from Gourmet, May 1994


Ingredients

  •     3 cups water
  •     1 pound skinless fresh salmon fillet
  •     1 pound smoked salmon, chopped fine
  •     1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  •     3 shallots, minced
  •     1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
  •     2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  •     2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  •     2 teaspoons drained capers
  •     2 teaspoons Cognac or other brandy
  •     2 teaspoons freshly grated lemon zest
  •     whole-wheat French or Italian bread, sliced as an accompaniment

 

Instructions


Step 1: In a skillet bring water to a boil and add fresh salmon. Reduce heat and poach salmon at a bare simmer, turning once, about 4 minutes, or until just cooked through. Transfer salmon to a bowl and cool.

Step 2: Flake fresh salmon and add smoked salmon, butter, shallots, parsley, lemon juice, mustard, capers, Cognac or other brandy, zest, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir mixture until combined well and pack into a 1-quart terrine or bowl. Rillettes may be made 4 hours ahead and kept chilled, covered.
 

Seared Piquillo Peppers Stuffed with Roncal Cheese


Adapted from Jose Andres: Made in Spain, Spanish Dishes for the American Kitchen

 

Ingredients

  •     5 tablespoons Spanish extra-virgin olive oil
  •     1 tablespoon sherry vinegar, preferably Pedro Ximenez
  •     1 tablespoon minced shallot
  •     1/2 scallion, white part only, thinly sliced
  •     Sea salt and freshly cracked pepper
  •     2 8-ounce jars piquillo peppers (about 12 peppers)
  •     2 ounces Roncal(Spanish sheep’s milk cheese), cut into 2-inch sticks
  •     Fresh thyme sprigs
  •     Fresh parsley sprigs

Instructions


Step 1: Whisk 4 tablespoons of the olive oil, the vinegar, shallots and scallions together in a mixing bowl. Season with salt and pepper.


Step 2: Cut a small slit into each piquillo pepper and slide a stick of cheese into each pepper.


Step 3: Heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil in a medium sauté pan over high heat. Add the peppers and brown on both sides until the cheese begins to melt, about 30 seconds.

 

Step 4: Transfer the peppers to a serving platter, drizzle with some of the dressing and sprinkle with leaves from thyme and parsley sprigs. Serve immediately.

Spicy Meat Empanadas

 
Makes about 40 empanadas
 

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons raisins
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 pound ground veal
  • 1/2 pound ground pork
  • 1/2 pound ground beef
  • salt & freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons parsley, minced
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/4  teaspoon oregano
  • 1/2  teaspoon  paprika Spanish style
  • 4  tablespoons dry white wine
  • 1/4 cup  tomato sauce
  • 1  hard-boiled egg, minced
  • 2 eggs + 2 teaspoons water, lightly beaten
  • 1 recipe for empanada dough
     

Ingredients

 
Step 1: Soak the raisins in warm water to cover for about 10 minutes. 
 
Step 2: Heat oil in a skillet and saute the onion and garlic until the onion is wilted. 
 
 
Step 3: Add the ground veal, pork, and beef and cook over moderately high heat, stirring, until the meat loses its color. Season well with salt and pepper. 
 
 
Step 4: Drain the raisins and add to the skillet with the parsley, oregano, paprika, cumin, wine, tomato sauce and paste, and hard boiled egg.
 
 
Step 5:  Cover and cook slowly for about 5 minutes. Filling should be moist but not liquid, remove cover and continue cooking until liquid evaporates, about 15 minutes. Cool completely before using. Refrigerated filling makes it easier to work with dough-shaping process.
 
Step 6: Roll the dough to a 10x15-inch rectangle, fold in thirds as in dough preparation, then roll again to less than 1/8-inch thickness.
 
Step 7: Cut into 3-inch circles. 
 
Step 8: Place about 1 to 2 teaspoons filling in the center of each circle. Fold in half and seal well with your fingers, then press with the tines of a fork, or press and fold with your thumb with a rolling motion for a decorative edge. Pastries can be filled, then refrigerated or frozen until baking time.
 
     
 
 
Step 9: Brush with the beaten egg. Bake on a lightly greased cookie sheet at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes, or until a deep golden color. Baking time may vary depending on size and thickness of pastries.
 
 

Stuffed Mushrooms Parmigiano




 


Ingredients

  •     24 medium mushrooms with stems
  •     1 medium onion, finely chopped
  •     1/2 green pepper, finely chopped
  •     2 ounces pepperoni, finely chopped
  •     1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  •     2 tablespoons melted butter
  •     1 tablespoon chopped parsley
  •     1/8 teaspoon pepper
  •     1/3 cup chicken broth
  •     1/2 cup bread or cracker crumbs
  •     3 tablespoons Parmesan cheese



 


Instructions


Step 1: Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Step 2: Clean mushrooms and remove stems from caps. Finely chop stems.

Step 3: In a large frying pan, saute stems, onion, green pepper, pepperoni, and garlic in butter for five minutes. Add all other ingredients, except mushroom caps, and stir over heat for one minute.

Step 4: Stuff caps with the mixture.

Step 5: Place in a pan and bake uncovered for 25 minutes. Serve warm in a chafing dish.





 

Stuffed Vegetables Genovese Style (Ripieni all'Antica)

 
Makes about 3 dozen stuffed vegetable pieces
 

 





Ingredients

 

For the stuffing:

  • 4 cups 1- inch cubes of day- old or dry country bread, crusts removed (about
  • 4 thick slices)
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/4 ounce dried porcini, soaked in 2 cups warm water
  • 1 cup finely chopped scallions
  • 10 large fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Grana Padano or Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten

 

For the vegetable assortment:

  • 2 or more medium zucchini (6 inches long)
  • 2 or more red or other colorful bell peppers
  • 12 or more large white stuffing mushrooms
  • 3 or more ripe small tomatoes
  • 2 or more large Vidalia or other sweet, flat onions
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, or as needed
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • Butter for the baking dishes
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Grana Padano or Parmigiano- Reggiano

 





Instructions

 
Step 1: To make the stuffing: Put the bread cubes in a mixing bowl, and pour the milk over them; toss the cubes, and let them sit for a couple of minutes to absorb the liquid. When softened, gather and press the cubes together, squeezing out any excess milk, and return the moistened bread to the bowl, tearing it into shreds.
 
   
 
 
Step 2: Lift the re-hydrated porcini pieces from the soaking liquid, squeeze firmly (saving all the liquid), and chop them into fine bits. 
 
 
 
 
Step 3: Scatter the chopped porcini, scallions, basil, grated cheese, and salt on top of the torn bread; toss and mix together with your hands. 
 
 
Step 4: Pour in the beaten eggs, and stir with a wooden spoon or mix with your hands to form a well- blended, fairly dense stuffing.
 
   
 
Step 5: To prepare zucchini for stuffing: Trim off the ends, and slice the squashes in half lengthwise. Scoop out the central pulp and any seeds with a teaspoon or melon baller, so each half resembles a hollowed boat. Cut the long halves crosswise into serving- sized pieces, about 3 inches long (or shorter if you like).  To prepare bell peppers for stuffing: slice them lengthwise in half, starting at the stem, or in thirds if very large; trim away the stem and all seeds and fibers, forming cup like pieces.
 
 
Step 6: Pull out the stems of white mushrooms, leaving the hollow caps for stuffing.
 
Step 7: Cut tomatoes in half crosswise, and squeeze out the seeds to make concavities for stuffing.
 
Step 8: Peel the onions, and cut them crosswise into ¾ inch- thick slices.9.
 
Step 9: When all the vegetables are prepped and all but the onions are hollowed, put the pieces (except the onion slices) in a large bowl. Toss with the olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt. Brush some of the oil on the onion slices, keeping them whole.
 
Step 10: To stuff and bake the vegetables: Butter the baking dishes, arrange a rack (or two, if necessary) in the oven, and heat to 425 degrees.
 
Step 11: Fill each vegetable piece with about a tablespoon of stuffing. For zucchini, peppers, tomatoes, and mushrooms, fill the cavities with stuffing and arrange all the pieces in a baking dish, with a bit of space between the pieces. Lay flat onion slices right in the dish, and mound a spoonful of stuffing on top of each
slice.
 
  
 
Step 12: When the dishes are filled, sprinkle all the vegetable pieces evenly with the grated cheese and remaining teaspoon salt. To faciliate even cooking, it's important not to crowd the vegetables in the baking dish. Scrape any olive oil left in the vegetable bowl over the stuff ed pieces, and pour half of the reserved porcini- soaking liquid (leaving behind any gritty residue) into the bottom of each baking dish. 
 
 
Step 13: Cover each dish with a tent of foil, pressing it against the dish sides and making sure it doesn't touch the stuffing or tops of the vegetables.
 
Step 14: Bake 30 minutes, until the vegetables have started to soften and release juices, then remove the foil tents and bake until stuffing is crisped and brown, another 30 minutes or so. Switch the position of the dishes in the oven once or twice so all the pieces cook and color evenly.
 
Step 15: Serve hot from the oven, or let the vegetables cool and serve warm or at room temperature.
 
  




Thomas Keller's Smoked and Steamed Salmon Rillettes

In August 2009, Amy and I spent two days hopping from vineyard to vineyard in Sonoma County, California. After a full afternoon of wine tasting at 5 different vineyards, we stopped in Yountville - a foodie's heaven - for dinner. Because Yountville has so many, not just good, but great restaurants, we had a difficult time making a decision where we wanted to spend our evening. Would it be Ad Hoc, Bouchon, Bottega, Red, the French Laundry? I literally felt like a kid in a candy store. We decided to do a progressive dinner and try as many as we could in one evening.

Our first stop, for appetizers, was Bouchon, Thomas Keller's more affordable country French bistro. We chose Bouchon because we didn't plan far enough in advance to make reservations at the French Laundry. The salmon rillettes were one of several small dishes we ordered there. This recipe is absolutely brilliant. It is a delectable mixture of smoked salmon, fresh salmon, and of course lots and lots of butter. You must try this at least once in your lifetime - and if you can't make it to Bouchon, try making it yourself. The recipe looks a little intimidating but it is fairly easy and the ingredients are readily available






Ingredients

  •     1 pound center-cut salmon fillet, skin and pinbones removed
  •     2 tablespoons Pernod
  •     Kosher salt and freshly ground white pepper
  •     8 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  •     1/2 cup minced shallots
  •     1 tablespoon of creme fraiche
  •     8 ounces unsliced chilled smoked salmon, cut into 1/4 inch dices and brought to room temperature
  •     2 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  •     1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  •     2 large organic egg yolks, lightly beaten
  •     about 1/2 cup clarified butter, melted and cooled to room temperature
  •     Minced chives




Instructions


Step 1: Trim and discard any dark flesh from the salmon fillet. Place the fish in a shallow baking dish and sprinkle each side with 1 tablespoon of the Pernod, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and one-fourth teaspoon white pepper. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 30 to 60 minutes, turning the fish over halfway through the marination.

Step 2: Bring water to a simmer in the bottom of a steamer. Remove the salmon from the baking dish and place it in the steamer and cover with the lid. Steam gently for 5 to 8 minutes; if you see steam pouring out the sides of the steamer, lower the heat. Check the salmon by separating the flesh with the tip of a knife and peering at the center. It should be medium-rare. When it is cooked, remove from the steamer.


Step 3: Meanwhile, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in a medium saute pan over low heat. Add the shallots and cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 minutes. Season with one-fourth teaspoon salt and continue to cook for 3 to 4 minutes, until the shallots have softened but not browned. Remove from the heat.


Step 4: Put 7 tablespoons butter in a small bowl and beat with a rubber spatula until it is smooth and resembles mayonnaise in consistency. Stir in the creme fraiche. Set aside.


Step 5: Put the cooked salmon in a large bowl and stir to break it into large chunks. Because you will be stirring in the remaining ingredients, you don't want to break up the pieces too much.

 

Step 6: Stir in the smoked salmon, shallots, lemon juice, olive oil and egg yolks. Season assertively with one-fourth teaspoon salt and one-half teaspoon white pepper, since this will be served cold. Fold in the butter mixture.


Step 7: Transfer the rillettes to 2 ceramic or glass serving bowls, leaving at least one-half-inch of space at the top. Smooth the top of the rillettes and wipe the inside rims clean.

 

Step 8: Refrigerate for about 1 hour, until cold. Pour a one-fourth-inch-thick layer of clarified butter over the top of the rillettes to seal. (To clarify butter, melt the remaining one-half cup -- 1 stick -- butter in a small skillet over medium heat. Do not let it brown. Remove it from the heat and set aside for 5 minutes. A white foam will collect on top. Using a large spoon, remove the foam. Carefully and with a steady hand, pour off the clear yellowish liquid, leaving the milky solids at the bottom.)

Step 9: Cover the bowls and store in the refrigerator for up to a week. To serve, break through the butter layer and remove it. Spread the rillettes on toast or crackers and sprinkle with chives. (Once the butter is removed, eat the rillettes within 2 days.)
 

Thomas Keller's version



Tyler Florence's Crab Dip with Garlic Saltines and Roasted Cherry Tomatoes





Ingredients

For the crab dip:

  •     1 cup cream cheese
  •     1/2 cup mayonnaise
  •     1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  •     1/2 tablespoon lemon juice
  •     About 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, optional
  •     Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  •     2 tablespoons chopped chives
  •     1 1/2 cups (about 12 ounces) fresh lump crabmeat, drained and picked over


For the crackers:

  •     2 cloves garlic, minced
  •     1/4 bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  •     1/2 stick butter, melted
  •     30 saltine crackers (1 packet)
  •     1 pint cherry tomatoes
  •     2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  •     Extra-virgin olive oil, optional
  •     Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

 





Instructions


Step 1: For the Crab Dip: Place cream cheese, mayonnaise, dijon mustard, lemon juice, extra-virgin olive oil, salt and pepper in a food processor and process until thoroughly combined.

 

Step 2: Place drained fresh lump crabmeat in a bowl and fold in cream cheese mixture, being careful not to break up the lumps. Add chopped chives and combine.
 

Step 3: For the crackers:  Add melted butter, minced garlic, and chopped parsley together in a small bowl.  Brush mixture on top of saltines.

Step 4: Bake at 375 degrees F until light brown. 
 

Step 5: Slice cherry tomatoes in half, place on jelly roll pan, and drizzle with balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast in 375 degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes.
 

Step 6: Place spoonful of crab dip on toasted saltine and top with roasted cherry tomato.