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Spanakopita & Lavendar Honey

4 Aug

a.k.a. spinach feta pie.  Summer weekend in the Adirondaks w. Char, Phil and Rach.  Nothing better than a home cooked meal on a beautiful porch, looking out onto the mountains. Char & I collaborated on the spanakopita. I winged it on the filling. Char did the filo.  Since little triangles wraps are a pain, we decided just to do it on a cookie sheet- and cut into squares.  It was actually, insanely good. Mostly due to the copious amounts of butter- and the sprinkling of sea salt before baking- both courtesy of the lovely Charlotte.

1 package filo dough- important, if frozen, move to fridge the night before to thaw (most boxes come w. 2 packs)
10 oz spinach- i used frozen
1 block feta- I’d say about 3.5oz
handful fresh basil, chopped
1 or 2 cloves garlic, minced
1 stick of butter
olive oil, salt & pepper

Defrost spinach and drain thoroughly, wring out in paper towel. Or if using fresh spinach, cook and drain. Put in mixing bowl w. crumbled feta, basil, minced garlic. Drizzle w. olive oil.  Salt & pepper to taste.
Unwrap filo. Melt butter in microwave. While working, lay stack of filo on a cookie sheet- cover w. damp paper towel to keep it from drying out.  On another cookie sheet, take a pastry brush, paint on a thin layer of butter. Lay down a piece of filo. Brush thin layer of butter and repeat until you have used half the pack. Spoon filling, leaving a small border around the edges. Layer and butter filo, using the rest of the pack. Press down on border edges. Sprinkle top w. sea salt. Bake per directions on filo box- keep a good eye until it turns golden brown. I did 30-35 mins at 350 degrees (even though the filo box said 50 mins)

Honey w. cheese on bread- a wonderful thing. Goat cheese, mascarpone or ricotta work especially well. And this sunflower seed bread, from the Adirondak’s farm stand, so fresh- so good. Of course, regular honey works fine. But as I had some leftover Lavendar Mint (an actual hybrid herb) which has a bit of an anise flavor- so I decided to infuse the honey, which is actually pretty easy.  All you do, wrap herbs in a bit of cheese cloth, tie w. twine. In a double boiler, or I use a pyrex bowl over a small saucepan, boil water below and pour about a cup of honey in top bowl. Add little bag of herbs, cooking honey for about 20-30 minutes, test to see how much flavor has come in. Pour in these great little mason jars- make sure to press on herb bag to get all honey out- last bit is the most flavorful. If you don’t have the cheesecloth, or a mesh tea bag, can put the herbs straight into the honey, you just then have to strain after you are done.


Watermelon Feta Salad with a Balsamic Fig Crostini

12 Jul

This was an off-the-cuff experiment with my dear friend, and park slope neighbor for the summer, Miss beezy burgess. I started to make a balsamic glaze, originally intended for the watermelon salad.  On whim, I threw in some fresh figs I had just bought at the co-op. To my delight, this turned into a lovely balsamic fig compote. Spread with some goat cheese on a crostini (aka  little piece of bread toasted w. olive oil) this lovely hors d’oeuvre would be best enjoyed with a chilled glass of wine, on a porch, in the summertime [or as it was- on my fire escape – beer in hand.]

Watermelon Feta Salad
big bowl of watermelon- cut into chunks
fresh mint
lime (i subbed w. lemon once- but lime works way better)
splash of balsamic vinegar
sea salt
red chili flakes or maybe a serrano pepper (optional)
Take big bowl of watermelon. Squeeze fresh lime juice over. Sprinkle with some feta.  Chop a couple sprigs of fresh mint add (a little mint goes a long way with flavor.)  Add a splash of balsamic and a grinding of sea salt. Add hot pepper if you like. Mix up. Let sit for a minute for the flavors to combine.

Balsamic Fig Crostini
Fresh figs (dried might work too)
balsamic vinegar
goat cheese
Take a frying pan, add enough balsamic vinegar to cover bottom of the pan. Bring to boil on high heat [beware this lets off a very strong vinegar scent- keep your oven fan on]. Keep cooking down. After a few minutes, this  will thicken into a glaze. Add a few chopped fresh figs. Continue stirring to cook until thickens slightly more- coming together like a jam. Take off heat.  Preheat oven to broil. Cut baguette into slice 1/2 in thick. Lay on cookie sheet. Drizzle with olive oil. Broil for about 2 mins- keep an eye- as they go from toasty to burnt fast.  Spread goat cheese on toast. Spread compote.

Pears with Goat Cheese

24 May

These pears were inspired by Terry.  She made these for me & Sam, and I have to say that it was a real game-changer.  Before this, I didn’t like goat cheese.  I know, I know, but I just didn’t.  But this warm baked goat cheese converted me. Now, I’m eating it warm, I’m eating it cold, putting it on salads, in eggs, on everything. So thank you to Terry (and her fabulous friend who inspired her).  I didn’t write down the recipe, so this is just a riff- and perhaps there are embellishments that I am forgetting. But I made it last night, and it was lovely.  It also looks great served on a bed of arugula.

1 pear per person
2 teaspoons goat cheese per pear
splash red wine
optional- ground almond, other nuts, or Panko/breadcrumbs

Preheat oven to 400. Put a little bit of water- just to cover the bottom of pan- then add a splash of red wine.  Take pears, split in half, spoon out core. Slosh around the wine. Add a teaspoon or so of goat cheese in the middle. Bake for about 15-20 mins.  Add some ground almonds- or I used a sprinkle of panko. Pop under the broiler for a minute or 2- to slightly brown the cheese and breadcrumbs. Watch closely.  And that’s it. If I thought about it, I would have sprinkled some salt- and maybe pepper and a bit of lemon juice? I guess I could have added a little olive oil (or butter) too- but really, it was great as is.  Would have dressed arugula with those though, fo’sho.

Green Salsa

17 Mar

I love green salsa.  And what I loved about New Mexico– when I was there, maybe 5 years ago? with my friend Justin– was that they have green salsa everywhere- to put on anything.  So feel free to use this on anything- with chips, fish tacos etc.  But what I especially love it with is eggs, breakfast burritos etc.  Man oh man.  So, when I saw this recipe in Alice Water’s cookbook  in Chrissy’s apartment- I expressed to her what good use the book would get in my kitchen– and she let me borrow it on extended loan 🙂  In this book- Green Kitchen- Alice has all her friends give very simple recipes.  This recipe– is in a whole section about how awesome a mortar and pestle is– and i’m sure it is- but i don’t have one. So instead, I basically took my clean plastic cutting board and a slotted spoon and continually mashed everything together on that- incorporating the tomatillos one at a time.  This recipe can also be done w. tomatoes- as red roasted salsa- which i’m sure would also be delicious.   I am generally reticent about adding cilantro or parsley- because I am not so into it- and I always end up buying a big bunch, using a little and the rest going to waste.  But, as I had some cilantro already- I added it in- and I would say yes, it really does make a difference- so you should spend the extra 87 cents (price at the co-op) and get it. Also, my salsa definitely had a little too much onion.  I had never heard this  before- but it suggests you rinse the raw onion under cold water to get out some of the bitterness.  Next time, I think I would start out w. maybe a 1/4 cup of chopped onion– and then add more from there– to taste.  I suppose maybe I used more of a medium than a small onion?  And since I had so much onion and heat from the jalapeno- I think I used an extra lime– again, start w. 1 lime and add more to taste.

2 Serrano chiles (get these if you can– small green hot peppers.  I didn’t have so subbed 1 jalapeno)
4 tomatillos (or tomatoes)
2 cloves garlic (unpeeled)
1 small onion (chop and rinse under cold water to remove some of the bite. see note above)
1 lime (may use more to taste)
handful fresh cilantro

Heat a cast iron pan over med-high heat (I dont have a cast iron so used a stainless steel skillet).  Put whole chile and unpeeled garlic in pan.  Remove tusks from tomatillos and cut in half. Cook 10 minutes until they are softened and browned.  Turn over to brown other side- about another 10 mins.  Squeeze garlic out of skin. Remove stem from chile  and cut. Grind chile and and garlic w. a motar and pestle– or as i did, grind it into cutting board w. back of a spoon.  Add tomatillos and mash. I did this- incorporating them one at a time  (they are so cooked they break down pretty easily). Peel and dice onion.  Stir in.  Squeeze lime and add cilantro.  May need a little water to thin out (mine didn’t need). Salt liberally to taste. Good served w. avocado.

If you are left, as I was, with a lots of burnt stuff on your pan- check out Just the Tips #7- for a quick clean up trick.

Homemade Ricotta

22 Nov

Who knew that Gwyneth Paltrow would have a useful website?  But because she is super famous– she gets to do things like, I dunno, make Sunday brunch w. Ina?  This recipe- off the Gwynnie’s blog GOOP, is from Ina’s new cookbook “How easy is that?”  While a new Ina book sounds thrilling, initial reviews of it on amazon are not.  They complain she is just recycling old recipes.  Regardless- this one is a real keeper.  Perfect for dipping, spreading, and cocktail hour. It would also take any pasta dish to another level. I toasted up some bread w. olive oil, rubbed w. garlic- and topped w. ricotta.  I added some chives– but you can also make it super herby, as Ina does.

Makes about 2 cups

4 cups whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons good white wine vinegar

Put a large sieve/mesh colander over a big bowl.  Dampen 2 layers of cheesecloth with water and line sieve w. it.

Put milk and cream into a stainless steel or enameled pot.  Stir in salt.  Bring to a full boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally.  [Watch closely- it will suddenly bubble over.] Turn off heat, stir in vinegar.  Allow to sit for 1 minute until it curdles.

Pour mix into cheesecloth-lined sieve and allow it to drain into bowl at room temperature for 20-25 mins, occasionally discarding the liquid in the bowl.  The longer it sits- the thicker it gets– so how long you leave it- a matter of personal preference.  Transfer ricotta to a bowl- throw out cheese cloth.

Use immediately or cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. The ricotta will keep refrigerated for 4 to 5 days.

Ina’s Herby variation

Mix in 3 tablespoons minced scallions, white and green parts (2 scallions), 2 tablespoons minced fresh dill, 1 tablespoon minced fresh chives, 1 tsp salt, 1/2 ground black pepper.  Serve on bread drizzled w. oil, toasted, rubbed w. garlic, sprinkled w. salt & pepper.


19 Oct
This weekend I made some appetizer’s for a party at Char & Phil’s (happy bday Phil).  My first real experience catering a cocktail party– i learned many valuable lessons.  The first is, whatever you make- and however much you buy- people will eat it all. The second is, try to make things easier on yourself.  One way to do this– is to make dips.  They are fast, easy and you can make them ahead of time.  On this plate we have a Moroccan Carrot Dip and a Spicy Whipped Feta.  Those are paired w. some halved sun dried tomatoes (the jarred in oil kind) and mascarpone w. honey.  Also, buy a lot of crackers etc– i bought 1 baguette, 2 bags of pita chips and 1 box of crackers for 20 people, and we ran out surprisingly quickly. Better to have an extra box of crackers leftover then a bunch of dip… with no vehicle for the dipping.


Moroccan Carrot Dip from Char & Phil’s CSA website

1 lb carrots, peeled and chopped into large pieces
1 clove garlic, peeled and left whole
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 pinch cayenne pepper
sea salt, to taste
1 Tbsp honey
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
3 Tbsp virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp seedless green olives (whole or chopped) [optional]
2 Tbsp fresh cilantro leaves [optional]
1. Cook the chopped carrot and garlic in simmering, salted water, for about 20 minutes or until soft. Drain well, then return them to the hot, dry pan for a minute or two, over medium heat, to dry them out further. (this part is dumb, the carrots just stuck to the pan)
2. Place carrots and garlic in a food processor and process until smooth. Add the cumin, paprika, ginger, cinnamon, cayenne, sea salt, honey and lemon juice and process again. With the machine still running, add the olive oil gradually. Allow to cool.
3. Spoon into a serving bowl, drizzle with a little extra olive oil, scatter with olives and cilantro leaves (if using), and serve with lightly warmed flat bread or pita (or pita chips, crackers etc).


Spicy Whipped Feta
From America’s Test Kitchen (makes about 2 cups… which is kinda a lot)
1 pound feta cheese, crumbled (about 4 cups) [Make sure to rinse feta before using, otherwise it will be too salty]
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for serving
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, plus extra for serving
1 tablespoon juice from 1 lemon

Process all of the ingredients together in a food processor until smooth, about 20 seconds.  Transfer the mixture to a serving bowl, cover w. plastic wrap, and refrigerate until firm, about 2 hours or up to 2 days.  Drizzle w. additional extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle w. additional cayenne before serving.
Spread can be made up to 4 days ahead of time.

Spiced Pecans w. Rum Glaze

17 Oct

This recipe converted me— I never used to really like nuts.  But rum, sugar & spice– a delicious combination.  Perfect for cocktail/holiday parties.  Quick & easy.

From America’s Test Kitchen
2 cups (8 ounces) raw pecan halves

Spice Mix
2 tablespoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt (if using table salt, reduce amount by half)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice

Rum Glaze
1 tablespoon rum, preferably dark
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon light or dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1.  Adjust an over rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a rimmed sheet w. parchment paper and spread pecans on it in an even layer.  Toast for 4 mins, rotate pan, and continue to toast until fragrant and the color deepens slightly, about 4 mins longer.  Transfer the baking sheet with the nuts to a wire rack.
2.  For the spice mix: while the nuts are toasting, stir the sugar, salt, cinnamon, cloves, and allspice together in a medium bowl; set aside.
3.  For the glaze: bring the rum, vanilla, brown sugar, and butter to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, whisking constantly.  Stir in the toasted pecans and cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the nuts are shiny and almost all the liquid has evaporated, about 1-1/2 minutes (mine took less than this).
4.  Transfer the glazed pecans to the bowl with the spice mix; toss well to coat.  Return the glazed and spiced pecans to the parchment-lined baking sheet to cool.

The nuts can be stored in an airtight container for up to 5 days. 

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