Archive for the ‘appetizers’ Category

Shredded Beet Salad with Carrots and Apples

September 17, 2015

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I had roasted a large (14 oz.) beet and had no idea what to do with it. I found a recipe on Saveur that called for combining shredded raw beets, carrots and apples. I shredded the cooked beet with a large carrot and two apples. I seasoned the salad very simply, with a little Montreal Steak Seasoning (salt, pepper, garlic and some other spices). The original recipe called for garlic, salt, pepper, olive oil, lemon juice and orange juice.

The beet salad works well as an accompaniment to gefilte fish.

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Easy Latkes

December 21, 2014

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Okay, so, like the cookies previously posted, these are really easier latkes. Easy latkes are the kind someone else makes. As long as you are doing more than just reheating, latkes are never really easy. But, this recipe comes close.

Here is the short-cut: refrigerated hash brown potatoes, which are cooked and shredded potatoes. To make the latke batter, just add eggs, flour, salt and pepper. The potatoes won’t change color because they are pre-cooked (and also treated with preservatives), so you don’t have to worry about your latkes turning grey-ish.

You can oven-fry them (that is really easy), but truthfully, they taste best fried.

I got the idea from Rachael Ray a few years ago, but never got around to trying it until this year.

Here is another thing on my to-try list: these oven baked latkes with add-ins like broccoli-cheddar, sweet potato-scallion, lemon-herb, and smoked paprika-red bell pepper. You will note that the recipe calls them mini-hash browns, but I say laktes.

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Mario Batali’s Chilled Tomato and Bread Soup

July 4, 2014

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This recipe is ideal for when it is brutally hot and you just don’t feel like cooking. It is so easy: just puree canned (or fresh) tomatoes with day-old bread, salt, pepper and fresh basil. Swirl in a little olive oil, lemon juice, red pepper flakes and scallions and you are done. The complex taste belies the simplicity of the preparation–no one will know you didn’t slave over this.

Don’t expect this to be like gazpacho, which I find to be too spicy and raw onion-ey. This is subtle and mild. The fresh basil absolutely makes this dish, so don’t leave it out.

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Cookbook Review: Dairy Made Easy & “180 Cal (or Less!) Cheesecake” Ramekins

May 26, 2014

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Disclosure: Artscroll provided me with a copy of this book to review. Opinions are my own.

Leah Schapira and Victoria Dwek have released another book in their “made easy” series in time for Shavuoth. Like the earlier books in this series, Dairy Made Easy is a slim book, very attractively designed. The target audience for this book seems to be cooks who already have plenty of comprehensive, basic cookbooks and are looking to freshen up their dairy menus with recipes that are creative but not too much of a patchke.

The recipes in Dairy Made Easy are clearly explained and reasonably do-able for most cooks.  While most of them look fairly easy to make, not all of them are dead simple. Recipes that sound delicious but a little involved: Arancini (deep-fried cheese-stuffed rice balls), chocolate croissants, and cheese buns/babka.

This being a dairy cookbook, the recipes feature lots of butter, cream and cheese. Most don’t have over-the-top amounts, but some do. The Three Cheese Quiche has a pint of sour cream and almost two sticks of butter in the crust and over 2 1/2 lbs. of cheese in the filling. The Cajun Creamy Pasta, the Penne a la Vodka, the Pesto Cream Sauce and the Alfredo sauce all use about a pint of heavy cream.

The authors do include a “Make it Light” page that lists the lighter recipes in the book and provides tips for lightening up some of the richer recipes. A sidebar explains how to use Greek yogurt as a substitute for higher fat ingredients like cream cheese or sour cream. (Throughout the book, the authors suggest using a particular brand of Greek yogurt and another brand of hard cheese.) There is also a “Make it Pareve” page.

Another thing to bear in mind: the book emphasizes pasta and bread, not whole grains and legumes. The main dishes in this book are primarily divided between the chapters “Pizza,” “Pasta,” and “Soups, Salads & Sandwiches.”  There are ten pasta dishes, five pizza/calzone recipes and four sandwich recipes. Besides these bread or pasta main dishes, there is one fish recipe, one quiche recipe and one frittata recipe.

All that being said, the bottom line with any cookbook is whether or not the recipes are appealing and actually work. On this count, the authors definitely deliver. I have liked everything that I have made from this book and there are a number of other recipes I want to try. Here is what I have already made from this book:

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Cheese Blintzes

May 19, 2014

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Blintzes are not really all that hard to make. A blintz is just a thin pancake (crepe or bletlach) wrapped around a filling and then sauteed in butter until golden brown on the outside.

There are two aspects that intimidate people: (1) making the crepe and (2) wrapping the crepe around the filling.

Mostly, making crepes is a matter of practice and adjusting your standards. You are rolling the crepes up, so they do not need to look perfect. A tear here or there can usually be worked around. As you make the crepes, you will improve your technique, figuring out how much batter you need for your pan and the best way to swirl the batter around to evenly coat the pan. You will fall into a rhythm, with each succeeding crepe looking nicer and being easier to make.

Rolling up blintzes is the same as rolling burritos. You put a line of filling on the bottom of the crepe, fold over the bottom of the  crepe to cover the filling, fold in the sides, and then roll it up.

 

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Chunky Chickpea Guacamole

May 14, 2014

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Chickpea guacamole is everything that is good about guacamole, but with an added extra satisfying heft to it. Serve this with chips as a snack or spread this on whole wheat toast (maybe sprinkled with a little crumbled feta) as a light lunch.

The proportions are not set in stone. You can increase the amount of avocado or increase the amount of chickpeas.

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Hamantaschen Vols-au-vent with Wild Mushroom Ragout

March 13, 2014

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I suppose this is more properly described as creamed mushrooms over puff pastry, but the word ragout is not completely inappropriate.  Even though ragout is usually thought of as a meat stew, the term has also been applied to mushroom stews. Is it because mushrooms have a certain meatiness? I don’t know. In any event, ragout comes from the French word ragoûter, which means “to stimulate the appetite,” and this dish makes for a lovely appetizer.

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Hamantaschen Puff Pastry Shells

March 10, 2014

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This post is for those of you out there who want to make hamantaschen without mixing or rolling out dough, without worrying if the filling is bake-proof and without worrying about the hamantaschen exploding open in the oven.

Part of the answer is using puff pastry dough, and part of the answer is in the method of baking it.  If you have ever tried baking hamantaschen with puff pastry dough, you know that it can be frustrating. Shaped in the traditional manner, from a circle folded into a triangle, puff pastry hamantaschen have an infuriating tendency to explode open when they bake.

So frustrating, right? But a solution is at hand! Instead of working against the tendency of puff pastry to puff, this technique works with it.

Following the method for making puff pastry cases (bouchees and vols-a-vent), the puff pastry is cut into triangles, with a triangle cut out into the center. As the pastry bakes in the oven, the sides of the triangle rise straight up to form a rim around a hollow triangular center. The hollow center can then be filled with whatever you like.

Let me repeat and emphasize this point: the puff pastry hamantaschen are baked without filling. You add the filling later. Baking the shells before filling means that you can use fillings that can’t be baked,  like pastry cream with fresh fruit on top or chocolate mousse (to see how pretty puff pastry shells can look filled with mousse or topped with fruit, take a look at Pastry Pals post about vols-au-vent filled with chocolate chantilly  or passion fruit curd and pinepple).

You could also go with a savory filling. For example, for an appetizer, you could fill the cases with mushrooms in cream sauce.

There are two approaches to making the puff pastry cases. You can use one layer of puff pastry or, for a higher, more elegant case, you can use two layers of puff pastry. With the one layer approach, the center triangle is marked before baking and then, after the pastry case is baked, the triangle is cut out with a knife. With the two layer approach, the bottom triangle of puff pastry dough is the base, and the cut out triangle frame of dough on the top is the rim.

If you go with the single layer approach, you can get 2 1/2 dozen hamantaschen out of a box of puff pastry. You can fill the triangles with different flavors of jam for a very easy and quick batch of hamantaschen.

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Multi-Grain Spinach Balls

January 20, 2014

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Everyone loves spinach balls. I thought this classic appetizer could use a little makeover to be a little more healthful, though. The usual spinach ball recipe calls for spinach to be bound together with butter, cheese, eggs and either stuffing mix or seasoned bread crumbs.

Here are my substitutions:
1/4 cup olive oil instead of lots of butter;
quinoa and brown rice instead of stuffing mix/seasoned bread crumbs;
ground flax instead of eggs; and
ground seeds or nuts and nutritional yeast instead of cheese.

Ground flax seeds combine with the excess moisture in drained spinach to make an egg substitute. As you mix the flax seeds and spinach, you can see the moisture around the spinach turn slightly viscous, as if the spinach were bound together with egg whites. When the spinach/flax mixture is combined with cooked whole grains, the mixture becomes firm enough to shape into balls. Lots of well cooked onion and garlic, plus generous seasoning give the spinach balls the flavor boost that they need in the absence of lots of butter and cheese.

With all the changes, the spinach balls are also gluten-free and dairy-free.

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Chanukah Hush Puppies

November 18, 2013

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A popular theme for Chanukah this year is “Food that is Thanksgiving-ish or Autumnal but still recognizable as Chanukah fare.” Put another way, the question is: What Thanksgiving food can be fried as latkes or sufganiyot?

I offer you hush puppies. It is fried–perfect for Chanukah. It is a traditional recipe from the American South that is a twist on cornbread, a Thanksgiving classic. Basically, hush puppies are mini latkes made from cornbread batter. Or maybe it is more accurate to say that hush puppies are to cornbread what latkes are to kugel.

Why hush puppies are not more popular (outside the South) I will never understand. They are, according to one journalist, “the best fried food in existence.” Hush puppies may be ready to have their moment, though. The New York Times just featured an article about quinoa hush puppies, as served at Market Table. I wouldn’t be shocked if the NYT quinoa hush puppies recipe makes the rounds for Chanukah.

There are a lot of stories about how Hush Puppies got their name. A popular story is that hush puppies were made from cornmeal leftover from frying fish and thrown to the dogs to quiet them.

My husband was reminiscing recently how his mother would make little latkes from matzoh meal/breadcrumbs and egg that was leftover from breading something for frying. I’ve done that, too. You don’t want to throw away the extra egg and breading, right?

That is kind of what hush puppies taste like, those little breading latkes, but there are also little bits of onion, like with potato latkes. Actually, they also kind of remind me of falafel, but cornbread flavored, of course.

Traditionally, hush puppies are served with fried fish and tartar sauce, but I am not such a fan of dipping deep-fried food into a fat-based sauce. I think the hush puppies taste nice by themselves or served with cranberry applesauce.

But serving hush puppies with a rich sauce is apparently the norm. Curious whether anyone else is serving hush puppies for Chanukah, I came across an article about Amanda Cohen chef/owner of Dirt Candy in New York City. Apparently, Dirt Candy has a super popular appetizer consisting of hush puppies with a side of maple Dijon butter. Market Table offers a spicy aioli to go with the quinoa hush puppies, which is a mayo-based sauce. If that appeals to you, follow the links to get the Maple Dijon Butter and Chili Aioli sauce recipes.

There are lots of recipes for hush puppies, but I offer you the recipe I have been making for many years, which comes right off the side of a bag of Indian Head cornmeal.

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