Salad-Topped Hummus Platter

The culmination of my daughter’s summer theatre camp involves days of dress rehearsals followed by matinĂŠe and evening performances. She absolutely loves it all and it is worth every second, but it was also difficult to prepare and eat dinner during this time. That’s show business, right? 😉

This genius quick, healthy, and filling appetizer turned dinner saved the day the evening of her final performance. The recipe was adapted from Ina Garten via Smitten Kitchen.com. I made my favorite hummus, added arugula, used a peeled CSA cucumber, and substituted red wine vinegar for lemon juice in the dressing. I could eat it all summer long!

  • 2 cups prepared hummus
  • 2 T olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 1 1/2 cups (8 ounces or 225 grams) grape tomatoes, quartered, plus more to taste
  • 1 large cucumber, peeled, or multiple small cucumbers, unpeeled, chopped
  • 1/4 medium red onion, chopped small, optional
  • 1 T red wine vinegar or juice of half a lemon
  • 1/4 tsp sumac
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley, or a mix of parsley, mint, and chives, plus more for garnish
  • 2 large handfuls baby arugula, to taste
  • warm naan or pita, for serving
  1. Prepare hummus in a food processor.
  2. Spread hummus on a large plate with the back of a spoon, creating swirls and cavities. Drizzle it lightly with olive oil, just to freshen it up.
  3. Mix tomatoes, cucumbers, onion, red wine vinegar/lemon juice, about 2 tablespoons olive oil, sumac, plus salt and pepper to taste in a bowl.
  4. Stir in herbs.
  5. Top hummus with arugula. Heap salad on top of the arugula. Finish with additional sumac and/or fresh herbs.
  6. Serve with warm naan or pita wedges.

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Corn & Lobster Tart

What a lovely summer meal! After having sourdough baguette slices slathered with brie as an appetizer, we ate this flavorful tart and a green salad dressed with buttermilk-herb dressing for dinner. It could also be served as a special appetizer- perfect with a glass of rosĂŠ or white wine. We had fresh strawberry pie with vanilla ice cream for dessert. Eating pie for dinner and dessert was incredibly indulgent and fabulous… I would recommend it. 🙂

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Florence Fabricant. I used a Trader Joe’s pie crust as a shortcut. I also substituted 2 lobster tails for a whole lobster and used a Vidalia onion and parsley in the filling. Delicious.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

  • pastry for a 9-inch tart
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • ½ cup finely chopped sweet onion
  • 1½ cups fresh corn kernels (from 2 ears)
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh tarragon or parsley
  • pinch cayenne
  • ž cup whole milk
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • Âź cup heavy cream
  • 1 1 1/4-pound lobster boiled or steamed, shucked and diced (I used 2 lobster tails (1 pound total weight)
  • grated zest of 1 lemon
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. Heat oven to 425 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. Roll out pastry between layers of plastic wrap or on a lightly floured surface. Fit into a 9-inch straight-sided tart pan or a pie pan.
  3. Prick bottom, line with parchment and foil and add pastry weights.
  4. Bake 10 minutes, until pastry starts to look dry. Remove foil and weights and bake 5 or so minutes more, until pastry is lightly colored. Remove from oven but leave oven on.
  5. While the crust is par-baking, cook the lobster meat. I cooked the lobster tails in boiling, salted water for 8 minutes. (1 minute per ounce- each tail was about 1/2 pound.) When cool enough to handle, cut off the shell and coarsely dice the meat.
  6. Melt butter in a saucepan. Add onion and cook on low until soft but not brown, about 5 minutes.
  7. Stir in corn, tarragon or parsley and cayenne.
  8. Stir in milk. Bring to a simmer. Remove from heat.
  9. In a bowl, beat eggs and cream together and slowly stir into the pan.
  10. Add lobster. Stir in lemon zest and season with salt and pepper.
  11. Ladle mixture into prepared tart shell. Bake 10 minutes.
  12. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake about 20 minutes more, until top is firm to the touch and very lightly browned, and a knife inserted in the filling comes out clean.
  13. Remove from oven and let rest 10 minutes before serving.

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Fresh Ricotta

My husband and I have a favorite local restaurant where we like to go and have a special lunch together. Even though it is quite indulgent, we cannot go without ordering the fresh ricotta cheese appetizer. It is seasoned with lemon and served with warm bread. Irresistible.

I knew that making homemade ricotta was an easy task but had never tried to make it. I’m a little bit worried that now that I’ve finally done it because I’ll be making it all of the time! 🙂 I brought it to serve as an appetizer at a party to spread on slices of sourdough baguette… but- wow- it would also be amazing over pasta with a little drizzle of olive oil.

This recipe was adapted from Bon Appetit, contributed by J.J. Goode. I added lemon zest (like at my restaurant!) and coarse salt, to taste. I found the consistency was perfect after straining for just twenty minutes. It was beyond creamy, rich, and fabulous.

Yield: about 1 cup

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • ½ teaspoon coarse salt, plus more for seasoning, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice or distilled white vinegar
  • zest of 1/2 a lemon, or more, to taste
  1. Bring milk, cream, and 1/2 tsp salt to a boil in a medium saucepan.
  2. Remove from heat. Add lemon juice; stir gently until mixture starts to curdle. Let stand 5 minutes.
  3. Pour mixture into a fine-mesh sieve lined with 2 layers of cheesecloth set over a medium bowl.
  4. Chill until cheese is spreadable, at least 20 minutes and up to 12 hours (the longer it strains, the thicker it will be). (I recommend the consistency after about 20 minutes.)
  5. Cover and chill cheese up to 3 days. (If it lasts that long!)

Note/Update: This ricotta was absolutely delicious in Spinach & Ricotta Pappardelle. Wonderful!!

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Gougères

I have wanted to try making gougères for what is starting to seem like forever. As they are dangerous items to have around, I needed a crowd to share them with! When we were asked to bring an appetizer to a friend’s birthday party, I finally had my chance.

Of course, the next issue was selecting a version to try. There was a cheese-topped choux pastry from Food and Wine, a version incorporating milk and less cheese from Ina Garten, or this super-cheesy version adapted from Bon Appetit, contributed by Mimi Thorisson. My description reveals how my final decision was made. 😉

Elegant and addictive.

Yield: about 50-60 cheese puffs

  • 6 tablespoons (ž stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • ž teaspoon kosher salt
  • pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1Âź cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 large eggs
  • 6 ounces (about 1½ cups) grated ComtĂŠ cheese or Gruyère
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large egg yolk
  1. Preheat oven to 400°, preferably on convection.
  2. Bring butter, salt, nutmeg, and 1 cup water to a boil in a medium saucepan, stirring until butter is melted.
  3. Remove from heat, add flour, and stir to combine.
  4. Cook mixture over medium heat, stirring vigorously with a wooden spoon, until mixture pulls away from sides of pan and forms a ball, about 2 minutes.
  5. Continue to cook, stirring vigorously, until a dry film forms on bottom and sides of pan and dough is no longer sticky, about 2 minutes longer.
  6. Remove pan from heat and let dough cool slightly, about 2 minutes.
  7. Mix in whole eggs one at a time, incorporating fully between additions.
  8. Mix in cheese and pepper.
  9. Scrape dough into a piping bag fitted with a ½” round tip (#1A) (alternatively, use a plastic bag with a ½” opening cut diagonally from 1 corner). Pipe 1” rounds about 2” apart onto 2 to 3 parchment-lined baking sheets, as needed.
  10. Whisk egg yolk and 1 tsp water in a small bowl; brush rounds with egg wash.
  11. Bake gougères until puffed and golden and dry in the center (they should sound hollow when tapped), 20–25 minutes.

Note: Dough can be made 4 hours ahead. Cover and chill.

Make Ahead: Gougères can be baked 2 hours ahead and kept at room temperature; reheat before serving. Alternatively, the baked choux can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days; recrisp in a 325° oven for 10 minutes.

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Curried Squash Galette

I made this galette for myself. I really did- which rarely (read: never) happens. As soon as I saw the recipe I had to make it. Such a seasonal and pretty vegetarian meal. The perfect use for my CSA butternut squash and red onions too. It took me a week to enjoy it and was worth every flavorful bite.

The crust was super flaky and fabulous thanks to grating frozen butter into the dry ingredients. Genius. I made the crust days in advance and kept it well wrapped in the refrigerator without any issues as well.

This recipe was adapted from Food and Wine, contributed by Justin Chapple. I used all butternut squash instead of a combination of varieties. I also adapted the crust preparation as well as the baking times for a convection oven. Lovely!

I am sharing this at Angie’s Fiesta Friday #142 this week, co-hosted by Elaine @foodbod and Michelle @O Blog Off. Enjoy!

Yield: Serves 6 to 8

For the Dough:

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, frozen
  • ice water

For the Filling:

  • 2 pounds butternut squash (or a combination of kabocha & butternut squash), peeled, seeded and cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
  • 1 large red onion, cut through the core into 1/2-inch wedges
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons Madras curry powder
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup sour cream (light okay)
  • 1/2 cup finely shredded aged Manchego Anejo cheese, plus more for serving

 

 

 

 

To Make the Dough:

  1. In a large bowl, whisk the flour with 3/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper.
  2. Working over the bowl, grate the frozen butter on the large holes of a box grater. Gently toss the grated butter in the flour.
  3. Stir in 1/3 cup of ice water until the dough is evenly moistened.
  4. Scrape out onto a sheet of plastic wrap. Gather up any crumbs and knead gently just until the dough comes together.
  5. Pat into a disk, wrap in plastic and refrigerate until chilled, about 1 hour, or up to several days in advance.

To Make the Filling:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425°, preferably on convection.
  2. On a large rimmed baking sheet, toss the squash and the onion with the olive oil and curry powder. Season generously with salt and pepper. Roast for 15 to 20 minutes, until the squash is tender but not falling apart. Let cool.
  3. Increase the oven temperature to 450°.
  4. Lightly flour the dough and place between sheets of plastic wrap. Roll out the dough to a 14-inch round.
  5. Remove the top layer of plastic wrap and replace with a piece of parchment paper large enough to line a rimmed baking sheet. Invert and carefully transfer to a baking sheet.
  6. Spread the sour cream over the dough, leaving a 1 1/2-inch border.
  7. Sprinkle 1/4 cup of the cheese on top.
  8. Arrange the squash and onion over the sour cream and sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup of cheese on top.
  9. Fold the pastry edge up and over the vegetables to create a 1 1/2-inch border.
  10. Bake the squash galette for 25 to 35 minutes, until the crust is browned; let cool slightly.
  11. Sprinkle with shredded cheese, cut into wedges and serve warm.

Make Ahead: The galette can be made a few hours early and rewarmed before serving.

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Mexican Street Corn Crostini

I was also able to celebrate my birthday on my special Charleston trip. 🙂 Although I enjoyed a lot of wonderful Southern food while I was there, my friends and I also went to Sean Brock’s Minero’s Restaurant for a Mexican birthday lunch. It was SO good.

Along with our various tacos, we had bowls of Mexican street corn which were absolutely delicious. I do plan on re-creating that dish, but for now these grilled corn crostini were another terrific variation. I made these as a Fourth of July appetizer. Unlike other crostini that have to be prepared at the last-minute, these are perfect to bring to a party or potluck because the topping can be placed on the ciabatta in advance.

This recipe was adapted from Bon Appetit. I toasted the ciabatta until it was nicely browned and increased the garlic on the toasted bread. Great!

Yield: Makes 12 crostini

  • 2 ears corn, shucked
  • 1 T vegetable oil
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 12 slices of ciabatta bread (I used most of a 1 lb. loaf, cut into 12 1/2-inch thick slices)
  • 2 garlic cloves, cut in half
  • 1/4 cup crema mexicana or sour cream
  • 3 T crumbled feta
  • lime wedge
  • cilantro leaves
  • chili powder
  1. Rub corn with vegetable oil. Season corn with salt and freshly ground black pepper; grill until slightly charred and tender.
  2. Slice corn off the cob in wide strips. (I grilled 3 ears just to ensure that I would have enough wide strips.)
  3. Grill or toast the bread slices until uniformly browned. While still warm, rub the top of each slice with garlic.
  4. Mix crema mexicana or sour cream with feta.
  5. Smear toasts with crema mixture. Top crema with grilled corn.
  6. Squeeze a lime wedge over each.
  7. Garnish with cilantro leaves and sprinkle with chili powder.

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Southern Pimento Cheese Dip

For those of you who have followed my blog for some time, you know that Charleston, South Carolina is a very special place for me. (I write about it in all of my Shrimp & Grits posts!) I love everything about it. The culture. The architecture. The FOOD. I met my husband there. ❤ I went to graduate school there and met amazing people and established wonderful friendships there as well. It is just beyond fabulous. 🙂

I recently attended a reunion weekend in Charleston with my best girlfriends. It was better than great. I smiled for three days! 🙂 I also ate incredible food… Which brings me to this post.

I have a memory of pimento cheese from way back when in my South Carolina days. I had never heard of it- growing up in Maryland- and didn’t like it at all. Well, now I’ve seen the light! Pimento cheese can be jarred pimentos mixed with Miracle Whip and shredded cheddar cheese- maybe with a little cream cheese. It could also be this. (The Anson Mills website makes a point of this.) On my recent visit, we ate pimento cheese dip (from Ted’s Butcher Block) with rosemary crackers for breakfast, lunch, and happy hour. 😉 It was that good. When we went to buy a second container, I asked for the recipe. Apparently, it’s a secret… but they did tell me that it didn’t have pimentos- it had roasted red peppers instead. No wonder I loved it!

When I came home, I searched for a similar recipe. I was so pleased when I found it on AnsonMills.com. I made it to share with friends on the Fourth of July. The Long Island crowd loved it! 🙂 I used New York extra-extra sharp raw milk yellow cheddar cheese (the cheese is very important), organic mayonnaise, and grilled the peppers to roast and char them. We ate the finished dip chilled with rosemary crackers, pita chips, stone ground wheat crackers, and Trader Joe’s social snackers. Delicious!

  • 3 firm red bell peppers (about 6 ounces each), roasted and charred on a gas grill, steamed, peeled and seeded, and cut into ⅛-inch dice (instructions below)
  • 4 large garlic cloves
  • 1 T red wine vinegar
  • fine sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp hot sauce, such as Chipotle Cholula, Sriracha, or Tabasco
  • 12 oz cheddar cheese, preferably 12 oz extra-extra sharp raw milk yellow cheddar (or 6 oz each of sharp yellow cheddar and aged raw-milk white cheddar, or 12 oz of sharp yellow cheddar)
  • 4 oz (½ cup) organic mayonnaise, plus additional as needed
  • assorted crackers or celery sticks, for serving
  1. Using a gas grill, roast the red peppers until their skins are uniformly charred.
  2. Place in a glass bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Set aside for 5 to 10 minutes, or until the skins have loosened from the steam and they are cool enough to handle.
  3. Remove the charred skin, seeds, and ribs from the peppers. (Do not rinse!) Dice into 1/8-inch pieces. Reserve any residual juice/liquid.
  4. Add the diced roasted bell peppers and any residual juice to a small non-reactive bowl (you should have 1 very generous cup).
  5. Smash the garlic cloves with the flat side of a chef’s knife, remove and discard the skins, and add the garlic to the bowl with the peppers.
  6. Stir in the vinegar, ½ teaspoon salt, and up to ½ teaspoon hot sauce. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 hours.
  7. Meanwhile, grate the cheese on the large holes of a box grater (you should have about 4 cups lightly packed). Turn the cheese into a large bowl and set aside.
  8. Remove and discard the garlic cloves from the peppers, which are now pimentos, and, using a rubber spatula, stir the pimentos into the grated cheese until well combined.
  9. Add the mayonnaise and fold lightly with the spatula. If the mixture appears too dry, fold in additional mayonnaise, 1 tablespoon at a time. Taste for seasoning.
  10. Transfer the pimento cheese to a serving container with a lid, cover tightly, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
  11. Serve chilled with assorted crackers or packed into celery ribs.

Note: Covered tightly, pimento cheese keeps refrigerated for up to 1 week.

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