Tag Archives: appetizers

Tomato Overload

Guess what didn’t take Labor Day off? The tomatoes in your garden. It’s hard to keep up with the crop, though I’m trying my darndest, and probably headed for whatever toxic event occurs from too many tomatoes. I swear those suckers ripen by the hour. It’s all good though, except that there’s this one doctor out there on the interwebs who gets really bad on tomatoes. I just have to ignore his advice for the next couple of weeks. Same with the corn haters. Now is NOT the time.

Rather than reinvent the wheel, let’s just revisit some of our all-time tomato season favorites. Purists of course will go no further than the white bread and mayo tomato sandwich. Solid. But it uses exactly one tomato. Not helpful. When you’re looking for mass consumption of the bounty, I suggest a batch or two of sweet and spicy tomato jam. For the easiest dinner on the planet, totally appropriate for hands off entertaining, go for Best of Summer Simmer Chicken. If your job is to bring a side, embrace the heat with Summer Perfection Watermelon Tomato Feta Salad, or just go straight for Most Popular with THE Panzanella.

If those don’t use up your tomato backlog, here is an easy way to give your tomatoes (and the taste of summer) a little more staying power.

If nothing else you should go to Smitten Kitchen just to look at the picture of the pre-roasting tomato rainbow. Impressive. Mine do not look like that. BUT I assure you they taste darned good, and they are perfect to throw on a pizza, spoon on bruschetta, toss into a salad, smoosh on bread, mix in pasta, etc. You get the picture.

Slow roasted tomatoes, just hanging with the fresh crowd.

Slow Roasted Tomatoes

From Smitten Kitchen

Ingredients

  • Cherry, grape or small Roma tomatoes
  • Whole gloves of garlic, unpeeled
  • Olive oil
  • Herbs such as thyme or rosemary (optional)

Method

Preheat oven to 225°F. Halve each cherry or grape tomato crosswise, or Roma tomato lengthwise and arrange on a parchment-lined baking sheet along with the cloves of garlic. Drizzle with olive oil, just enough to make the tomatoes glisten. Sprinkle herbs on, if you are using them, and salt and pepper, though go easily on these because the finished product will be so flavorful you’ll need very little to help it along.

Bake the tomatoes in the oven for about 3 hours. You want the tomatoes to be shriveled and dry, but with a little juice left inside–this could take more or less time depending on the size of your tomatoes. When they are done, you can remove the cloves of garlic and save them for another use. They’re a delish side bennie.

Use the tomatoes right away or let them cool, cover them with some extra olive oil and keep them in the fridge for the best summer condiment, ever.

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Bring It Summer All Stars

Summer is here my friends. Just in time, the good people of the webhosting universe have fixed my site so subscribers will actually get posts. What a great idea? Thank you Bring It loyals for your patience. And now, on to the weekend!

Before you head out for the Memorial Day shop with the rest of humanity, I picked out some all star classics that will help you slay this weekend. With a little prep you can head into summer looking like the master entertainer you are at heart.

First and foremost…

Bring on The Slaw:
If you have never made Hero Slaw, just trust me on this. It will make you famous. Go ahead and claim it as your own if it helps. Prep it, bag it, put it in the fridge and you can take on any invite that comes your way. Or just enjoy it yourself for a few days. If nothing else, make up the dressing to have on hand and turn kale into something the family might actually eat.

Have Some Balls:
Buffalo chicken meatballs are back on my regular rotation (thank you Neely for reminding me!) until I master the perfect veggie balls. Stay tuned for that. Until then, make up a lot of these (ahead if needed) and know they will disappear fast.

Brush up on Your Bruschetta Fixin’s:
You will never be sorry to have a Funitella bruschetta stashed in the fridge. With the miracle that is petite diced canned tomatoes it take all of about 5 minutes. If you want to get more ideas, take a gander at bruschetta deconstructed, and the consider toppings like pickled fig, creamy cheese and crunchy nut crostini, strawberries and goat cheese, and Sicilian caponata.

Get Your Guac On:
You’ve got to have it, and it hardly requires a recipe. BUT if you want to go the extra distance this crazy one with apples and tequila is my new fave. Mango jicama guacamole is another solid contender. Both add crunch and assert that this is not your first guac fiesta.

Think (of drinking) Ahead:
You know you’re a pro when…You’ve got your Frosé and Sandy’s daquiris in the freezer, and fixins for some fancy lemonades. You bridge into genius status when you also have watermelon juice at the ready to whip up watermelonade, spicy watermelon margaritas and watermelon sangria.

Watermelon Sangria. Summer in a glass.

Watermelon Up:
While we’re on the topic of watermelon, cut up some watermelon and prep it for watermelon poke bowls and you are set for fresh weekend lunches for Vegans and non Vegans alike. If you double up on the feta you get for Funitella Bruschetta, and make summer perfection watermelon feta salad, I promise you won’t be sorry.

Sweet Endings:
Oh where do we begin on these? Well, summery Lemon Beach Pie, a whole mess of Rubble or Loosey Brucey Rhubarb crisp are a good place to start. As Bruce would say, nobody ever complained about to many good recipe ideas.

New recipes next time, but of now let’s go with what we know and get this summer party started.

Must…eat…more…pie. Sweet, salty, sweet, salty, and oh yeah—creamy, crunchy, cool and tart.

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Potato Bites—Get Your Tail (gate) in Gear

Score! A sackful of potatoes turns into road ready snacks.

    Score! A sackful of potatoes turns into road ready snacks.

It’s tailgate season. This is no time to mess around with overly fancy, delicate or time-sensitive creations. This is the time to bust out your EZ Foil pans with their plastic lids and put together bombproof snacks that can withstand half a day on a table (like the fine one below made in an afternoon by local boy Charlie), or many too many hours in a battered crock-pot. We’re talking about snacks that can be eaten standing up. Plates—and utensils beyond toothpicks—are a bonus but not a requirement. Think Peoples Choice Cornbread, game day pulled pork, buffalo meatballs, bruschetta galore, nootch popcorn, nuts, bars etc etc etc…tailgate2

If all that sounds a little unhealthy, it’s because it usually is. But it is totally possible and appreciated to throw together healthy fare that is more creative than hummus and carrots. Case in point: The roasted Brussels sprouts (intended for dinner) I brought to a recent tailgate was happily gobbled up. So were these hastily conceived baked potato bites, born out of desperation and a glut of purple potatoes grown by my neighbor.

They were inspired by the sweet potato recipe (below), and the basic concept of using potatoes—vs bread slices, chips or crackers—as the snack canvas. They can be doctored up with condiments and whatever fancy dips, sauces, garnishes or spreads are on hand. And of course bacon.

Some of you will be open to the daring weirdness of sweet potatoes. You will have miso in your fridge and procure black sesame seeds (rather than burning white ones and calling it good). Others of you will look in your potato drawer, breathe a sigh of relief and proceed. You all know who you are. I love you on both sides of the divide.

This first offering is more method than recipe, so we can work on relaxing our need for perfection and control WHILE making a crowd-pleasing appetizer. Win Win! The second recipe comes from the Kitch’n, so it is actually precise, though I suggest taking license with toppings. Just make sure you have some savory going on so you don’t double down on sweet. Bacon would be awesome here as well, or Hail Mary Coconut as a sassy Vegan stand-in. So here’s your two-fer, and here’s to happy tailgating.

Straight-up Baked Potato Bites

Ingredients:

  • Purple, red or yellow potatoes, peeled if desired (or excessively earthy)
  • Olive oil to coat
  • Kosher salt
  • Sour cream
  • Green onions, sliced
  • Toppings of choice… Corn salsa? Guac? Have I mentioned bacon?

Method:

Preheat over to 375 (fudge on this if you are baking the sweet potatoes at the same time)

Cut potatoes into ½” thick (or less) rounds. Toss them with oil and a generous sprinkle of kosher salt. (Rogues may prefer to do this straight on the baking sheet). Arrange potato slices in one layer on a baking sheet.

Bake potatoes for 25 minutes or so. Turn them over and bake another 10 minutes. Use your judgment here—you know how you like your taters. Remove potatoes to paper towel lined plate and let cool a bit. Arrange on serving dish and top with a small dollop of sour cream, and a sprinkle of green onions.

Bringing it:

Load them onto a covered travel platter (or foil pan) and position them next to fancy condiments and salsas so people can create their own potato masterpiece.

Miso Sweet Potato Bites

From the Kitchn. Makes approximately 30 rounds depending on potato shape

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds unpeeled sweet potatoes (for the most attractive presentation, select sweet potatoes that are fairly uniform in diameter and shape)
  • Oil for baking sheet
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise (the vegan kind if that matters to you) 
  • 2 tablespoons white miso
  • 2 tablespoons tahini
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated ginger
  • Small pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 4 scallions, green parts only, thinly sliced on the diagonal
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds (preferably black for contrast) 

Method:

Preheat oven to 400°F and lightly oil a baking sheet. Slice the sweet potatoes into 1/2-inch-thick rounds and place in a single layer on the baking sheet. Bake for about 30 minutes until the potatoes are brown on the bottom and tender but not mushy. 

To make the spread, whisk together the mayonnaise, miso, tahini, lemon juice, ginger, and cayenne. Taste and adjust any ingredients as desired. 

To serve, spread the miso mixture on top of warm (not hot) or room temperature sweet potato rounds. Garnish with scallions and sesame seeds.

Bringing it:

Same as above, but move them closer to the vegetarians.

 

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Love the One You’re With Pineapple Salsa

salsa

A picture of restraint. Pineapple salsa with Taco Works chips, imported from San Luis Obispo, CA. At left, all the ingredients that did not go into it.

What? Don’t tell me you forgot it was Cinco de Mayo. True, having it fall on a Tuesday is just plain sad (see Marcharitas and weep). Sadder yet is that this is the very first time I realized my birthday day of the week syncs up with Cinco de Mayo. I’m not sure what that means, but it must have something to do with a cicada-like cyclical intensity of birthday season. Regardless, it’s tough to rally for a Tuesday.

BUT, we can get a little tropical and sassy with pineapple salsa. This came about because I had some leftover fresh pineapple from a pineapple avocado salad that I will share with you as soon as I sort out the spice thing. (Suffice to say, habañero and jalapeno are different animals.)

Making salsa is neither complicated nor precise, but it can be messy, especially when you are working with juicy fresh pineapple. The prospect of a sticky cutting board and floor made me turn to the food processor. While that made the pineapple more pulpy than chunky, it makes the finished product easier to eat. Bottom line: you can wrangle even more of it onto a chip, which is the entire goal when a good dip is involved. (See also Ollie’s Trip Salsa, mango jicama guacamole, balsamic black beans.)

Even thought the pineapple gets pulverized, the other key elements stay appropriately chunky so you feel like it’s salsa and not just sauce. I am pretty happy with this salsa for what went in to it, but also for what didn’t. I’m looking at you, mango, avocado, garlic and jicama. Just because I had every Mexican fruit and vegetable didn’t mean I wanted to make you all go get them. Finally, here is the very loose recipe for…

Love the One You’re with Pineapple Salsa

As the name suggests, this salsa is a consequence of what I had in the house. Don’t be shy—go with what you’ve got. LTOYW

 Ingredients:

  • ½ fresh pineapple (or less), cut into whatever slices you know how to make
  • ¼ red onion (or more if that’s your thing)
  • 1 small or part of a large jalapeno, seeded and chopped
  • 1 chunk fresh ginger, chopped (about 1 Tbsp)
  • A responsible amount of fresh cilantro (a healthy handful), chopped. Go with your gut on this. And if you hate cilantro (Beatie) grab some mint instead.
  • ½ lime, juiced
  • 1 tsp maple syrup (totally optional but it was there)

 Method:

Put the pineapple in the food processor and pulse until all the big chunks are gone and it is the consistency you can imagine eating.

Pour the pineapple into a bowl.

Put the onion, jalapeno, ginger and cilantro in the processor and pulse until desired, edible consistency.

Scrape those veggies into the pineapple. Stir in syrup (if desired) and lime juice. Add salt to taste.

Enjoy with chips, on fish or chicken, on a sandwich, on a spoon…whatever. And while you’re staring at the jicama you didn’t use, cut that baby up and squeeze the other half of the lime over it so you have another thing to dip in the salsa. Happy Cinco de Mayo. May it make your Friday come all the faster!

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Love, and a Side of Buffalo Chicken Meatballs

 a few of the best friends in the world. Way better looking than meatballs in the sun.

A few of the best friends in the world. Way better looking than meatballs.

This is about meatballs, but it’s not really about meatballs. It’s about friends and family and communities and about the times that remind you how much you love all of the above. Those times are called parties.

I’m on spring break, which is why we’ve sort of lost touch (It’s not you, it’s me.) The anchor of the trip was the party (see happy purple people above) to honor my awesome mama. The whole process of throwing a party in your hometown—especially when you have no definitive vision or time or really any business thinking you can pull it off—is confirmation that Dorothy and her sparkly red shoes really had it right. There’s no place like home.

Friends appeared at just the right time to help me shop, delivered fondue pots, brought drinks and favorite dishes, ship-shaped the house, helped prep, cook, clean and tend each other throughout, took pictures and showed up with their rally caps on. They asked “how can I help?” and when I hesitated they just jumped in and did. The timeliness of the help was downright freaky, as when I was lamenting that I’d failed to order a cake and the phone rang: “Could I prepare a signature dessert to honor your mom?” I’m talking crazy good.

Like I said, this isn’t much about meatballs. BUT for this occasion I needed something easy I could make ahead and then pop in the oven, something that would not require any utensil beyond a toothpick, and something that was worthy of the best friends and family a girl could ever have. These mighty meatballs (poached from Epicurious) delivered in all areas. As a bonus, the leftovers were good the next day, cold and reheated.

Make these and have a party to remind yourself of all the good stuff and good people in your life.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup Frank’s Red Hot Sauce or any other favorite hot sauce
  • 1 pound ground chicken, preferably thigh meat (turkey works too)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 celery stalk, minced
  • 3/4 cup bread crumbs
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Some kind of Blue cheese dip or dressing

Method:

Preheat the oven to 450°F. Drizzle the vegetable oil into a 9×13-inch baking dish and use your hand to evenly coat the entire surface. Set aside.

Combine the butter and hot sauce in a small saucepan, and cook over low heat, whisking until the butter is melted and fully incorporated. Remove from the heat and allow the mixture to cool for 10 minutes.

Combine the hot sauce mixture, ground chicken, egg, celery, bread crumbs, and salt in a large mixing bowl and mix by hand until thoroughly incorporated.

Roll the mixture into round, 3/4 -inch balls, making sure to pack the meat firmly. Place the balls in the prepared baking dish, being careful to line them up snugly and in even rows vertically and horizontally to form a grid. The meatballs should be touching one another.

Roast for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the meatballs are firm and cooked through. A meat thermometer inserted into the center of a meatball should read 165°F.

Allow the meatballs to cool for 5 minutes in the baking dish before serving.

Serve with blue cheese dip for the real buffalo experience

 See? I told you. But don’t judge. Just make them. Trust me on this.

See? I told you meatballs aren’t as pretty as friends. But as with friends, don’t judge. Just make them, love them  and be happy.

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Squash On!… on toast that is

 

Fall all over squash on toast

Fall all over yourself for these apps. Yep, they’re that good.

Foodwise, fall is my dream come true. First come the apples, and we’ve been through my apple addiction. They give us good excuses to make things like salted caramel cholliesauce and Joni Mitchell Apple Pie. Then comes Halloween season (it’s really not just a day you know) and all those excuses to make things like Crackle and Salty Malty Rice Krispy Treats with whatever Whoppers you didn’t polish off. And of course you’ve got the crock pot bubbling in the background with goodness like no-fuss chicken taco chili. Honestly though, what I love most are the fall veggies—the squash, brussels sprouts, beets and various roots all begging for their turn to get roasted in the oven.

In my fall food frenzy I’ve gone a little nutty on the winter squash, and now I find I’ll have to pace myself  because I have so many orange recipes to post. I’m starting with an appetizer, because it is the one that surprised me the most with its popularity and because party season is upon us!

Here, courtesy of  Jean Georges Vongerichten via NYT Minimalist Mark Bittman is the elegantly named “Squash on Toast.” I knew I’d like it well enough, because you know, the weirder the better. And onions caramelized into jam with maple syrup and apple cider vinegar? Come on! The mainstream was just as smitten. The first time I made these I brought them to a party and they were devoured. Crazy good.

Here we go with my disclosures. I used a kabocha squash, hollowed, filled with water and cooked whole in the oven. For cheese I used a spreadable brie because that’s what I had. Whipped cream cheese is also excellent. I adhered to directions and included the fresh mint which got high praise from all, so play by the rules here. For the bread I brushed thin slices of Easiest French Bread Ever with olive oil and toasted them in the oven. Make a lot of toasts so you don’t have to be mean and hide them from your family before party time.

Ok, squash on!

Ingredients

1 2 1/2- to 3-pound kabocha or butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into pieces 1/8- to 1/4-inch thick
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp dried chile flakes, more to taste
3 tsp kosher salt
1 yellow onion, peeled and thinly sliced
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup maple syrup (or agave)
4 slices country bread, 1-inch thick
1/2 cup ricotta, goat cheese, feta or mascarpone
Coarse salt
4 Tbsp chopped mint

Preparation

1. Heat the oven to 450. Combine the squash, 1/4 cup olive oil, chile flakes and 2 teaspoons of salt in a bowl and toss well. Transfer the mixture to a parchment-lined baking sheet and cook, stirring every few minutes, until tender and slightly colored, about 15 minutes or a little longer. Remove from the oven.
 2. Meanwhile, heat another 1/4 cup olive oil over medium-high heat, add the onions and remaining teaspoon salt and cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are well softened and darkening, at least 15 minutes. Add the vinegar and syrup, stir and reduce until syrupy and broken down, again at least 15 minutes or so; the mixture should be jammy.
3. Combine squash and onions in a bowl and smash with a fork until combined. Taste for seasoning.
4. Add the remaining oil to a skillet over medium-high heat. Working in batches if necessary, add bread and cook until just golden on both sides, less than 10 minutes total; drain on paper towels. Spread cheese on toasts, then top with the squash-onion mixture. Sprinkle with coarse salt and garnish with mint.

Bring It

Deconstructed is the only way to transport, and remember to bring the right sized platter and a spreading knife. When you get to your destination have a fine little chat while assembling the toasts (and try to keep up with production as they are eaten off the platter).

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Spicy, Chunky Peanut Dip for the Fair

Oxen at Hanover Center Fair

A couple of locals

The Hanover Center Fair is the first stop on the ox pulling circuit and a slice of country life. Book sale, fair food, bouncy house, kids games, clowns, old cars, crafters, live music, cotton candy, parade, snowcones–it’s got it all. It also happens to be in our front yard, and so it’s a natural way to open patio season with a bang. This dip came from the first page of an appetizer book I bought one year at the fair in the church book sale. It’s so darned good I never bothered to get past page 1. It’s great as a dip with fresh or roasted veggies. And it’s E…Z! Leaving you more time to enjoy the fair and some frosty summer cheer!

Ingredients

1/2 cup chunky peanut butter
1/4 cup dry sherry
2 Tbsp honey
2 Tbsp white or red wine vinegar
2 Tbsp flavorless cooking oil
1 Tbsp dark sesame oil
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp Asian chile sauce
2 cloves garlic minced
2 Tbsp finely minced ginger
2 Tbsp finely minced green onion

Method

In a small bowl combine ingredients until well blended. If necessary thin with a few tsp cold water. Store in refrigerator. Will keep for up to one week in fridge.

Friday night fair food

Friday night fair food

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Funitella Bruschetta

This was my first course in neighborhood recipe dynamics. I got it from Pierces Inn, and they later scoffed at taking any credit since they got it from another neighbor in Etna. As I let myself become locally famous for my bruschetta another neighbor went to visit my parents in Squaw Valley where he rode the funky tram-like gondola called the Funitel. In a flash of inspiration the next time I saw him, on our patio enjoying said dish, he dubbed it “Funitella,” which sort of tied it to my Squaw Valley roots. It later became funitella bruschetta, which gave a better clue about the recipe type, while also sounding like a stripper or a hot Austin Powers agent.

Ingredients

  • 35 oz canned tomatoes, well drained over a sieve. (Petite dice is ideal but not necessary. I use a combi of regular, and burgundy+olive oil, or Italian herb tomatoes)
  • ½ cup olive oil (I use a bit less)
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar (I use more…enough that Pierce’s Inn disowns the recipe as made by me. Your call to taste.)
  • 4 garlic cloves minced or pressed
  • A good handful fresh basil, chopped fine
  • Coarse salt and pepper to taste
  • Chunk of feta cheese (enough to crumble over the bottom surface of your dish)

Method

The tomato mixture

The tomato mixture

feta-in-dish

The feta. These two really ought to meet…

 

 

 

 

 

Mix all ingredients except feta. Let it sit awhile if you can to combine flavors. Crumble feta in the bottom of a shallow baking dish. Bake uncovered at 350 for 20 minutes. Top with shaved Parmesan if desired. Serve on top of bruschetta toasts (ideally made from easiest french bread ever).

Bring It!

I always serve it in the Simon Pearce round white dish the fabulous Suzi gave me. It just seems better in a friend’s dish. You can also bring it deconstructed, in separate containers and quickly assemble it at your destination. Any leftover tomatoes are awesome in omelets, quesadillas, salads, etc.

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