Cocktail Nibbles

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These make a terrific cocktail or wine-tasting accompaniment.  The first recipe came from my amazing friend Tina, who is a supertalented chef and artist, made this recipe for me once when she was hanging out at our place. I promptly stole it, and have passed it off as my own ever since. I think she’s okay with that. She’s pretty cool.  The second one is the evolution of my families preferences, and it can be easily personalized to fit your family too.

Olive Oil Roasted Almonds

Ingredients

2 cups whole, skin-on almonds

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon unrefined sea salt – try a Sicilian, Italian, or Spanish sea salt, a smoked salt, or a salt infused with herbs, roasted garlic, olives, red wine, or curry

2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

¼ teaspoon herbs de Provence

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Spread almonds out on a dry baking sheet. Toast for 15-20 minutes, until golden and fragrant. Stir every 5 minutes or so to ensure even browning.
  1. Pour the hot nuts into a bowl, and add oil and salt right away. Toss to coat, then add cheese and herbs and toss again. Cool to room temperature before serving. Store airtight.

Grown up Gorp 

Nuts and dried fruits have a very long relationship. From pemmican to girl scouts, they are perfectly matched. The sweet, spicy salt additions in this recipe bring this trail tradition into a modern culinary setting.

Ingredients

3 tablespoons brown sugar

2 teaspoons herbs de Provence

Grated zest of one orange

1 ¾ teaspoon unrefined sea salt – try American sea salt from the Pacific Northwest, Australian Murray River, a smoked salt, or a sea salt infused with citrus, curry, saffron, or chiles

½ -1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 cup pecan halves

1 cup whole, skin-on almonds

1 cup cashews

1 cup sunflower seeds (hulled)

1 tablespoon sesame seed

1 tablespoon flaxseed

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted

1 tablespoon honey

½ cup dried cherries or cranberries

½ cup pitted dates, chopped

½ cup golden raisins

¼ cup zante currants

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Coat a baking sheet with pan spray and set aside. Mix together sugar, herbs, orange zest, salt and pepper. Set aside.
  1. Toast pecans, almond, and cashews in the oven on separate dry sheet pans until golden and fragrant, about 10 minutes each. (I prefer to toast them separately.) Pour the hot nuts into a bowl, and add the sunflower, sesame and flaxseeds. Add the butter and honey, and toss to coat. Add the sugar mixture and continue to toss until evenly coated.
  1. Spread the mixture out in an even layer on the prepared pan. Bake in 5 minute increments, stirring in between, until sugar has melted, and the mixture is evenly toasted. Remove from oven, toss with another teaspoon of sea salt, then cool completely.
  1. When cool, add cherries, dates, raisins and currants. Toss together, and serve, store air tight for a week, or freeze for longer storage.

 

Onion Jam Allumettes

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These little morsels will be the talk of your holiday cocktail party.  the sweet-salt balance is subtle enough to compliment everything from champagne to your most complicated mixological concoction.

Allumette is the classic term for strips of puff pastry. The word means matchstick, but these are certainly not meant to be that thin. Aim for creating small, thin, bite-sized rectangles.

Ingredients

2 ½ pounds red onion, peeled, cut in half, and sliced thin

¼ cup olive oil

1 teaspoon unrefined sea salt—try Halen Mōn, flor de sal, a smoked salt, or a salt infused with shitake or truffles.

¼ teaspoon pepper

2 bay leaves

2 sprigs fresh thyme

¼ cup granulated sugar

1/3 cup dry white wine

1/3 red wine vinegar

1 egg

1 tablespoon water

1 package frozen puff pastry, defrosted in the refrigerator overnight (See the Frozen Puff Pastry in Techniques)

Method

  1. Heat oil in a large, heavy skillet over high heat. Add onions, reduce heat, and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes, until the onions begin to sweat and soften. Cover the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, over low heat until they begin to color—about 30 minutes.
  1. Add ½ teaspoon of the salt, the pepper, the bay and thyme. Cover and continue to cook another 30 minutes.
  1. Add sugar, wine, and vinegars. Increase heat and bring to a boil, stirring, for 3-5 minutes. Reduce heat to as the liquid reduces, and the onions are creamy and sticky.
  1. Cool mixture, then transfer to a plastic tub and refrigerate. (If you make a large enough batch, you can sock some away for use throughout the year—it only gets better with age!)
  1. Preheat the oven to 450° F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and coat it with pan spray. Whisk together the egg and water to make an egg wash. Open the defrosted frozen puff pastry into a rectangle and rollout slightly, to flatten. You don’t need to reduce the thickness too much—it should be about ¼ inch thick. Brush the surface with the egg wash. Set it in the freezer for 5 minutes so that the dough stays firm when cut.
  1. sing a pastry wheel (aka pizza cutter) cut the chilled, egg washed puff pastry into ½ -inch-wide by 3-inch-long strips. Place them on the prepared baking sheet, about ½-inch apart. Top each wih a small dollop of onion jam, and a sprinkle of sea salt. Chill again for 5 -10 minutes. Bake until golden and puffed, about 15 minutes. Rotate the pan as necessary for even browning. Cool slightly, then arrange on a platter and serve.

 

Chicken Liver Pâté

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This is one of mankind’s all-time great hors d’oeuvres.  No.  I am not over-selling it.

To much of the world, There is nothing fancy about eating chicken livers. But some how the French managed to elevate it (as they do with most mundane things—bread, underwear, smoking, words). Spread this on a thin slice of baguette or toasted rye, c’est manifique.

Ingredients

½ pound chicken livers, well cleaned

2 shallots, chopped

3-4 sprigs fresh thyme

½ teaspoon unrefined sea salt – try a sel gris, fleur de sel, Piran, Japanese shio, Maldon, or a smoked salt

¼ teaspoon freshly cracked pepper

½ cup white wine

1 teaspoon cognac or brandy

6 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature

2 tablespoons water

2 tablespoons water

1 tablespoon powdered gelatin

¾ cup port wine or dry sherry

Method

  1. Combine livers, shallots, 1 sprig of thyme, salt, pepper and wine in a small saucepan.   Bring to a simmer and cook, for 3 minutes, until the livers are set and barely pink on the inside. Cover and set aside for 5 minutes.
  1. Drain the liquid off the cooled livers, remove thyme sprig, and transfer solids to food processor. Add cognac and puree until smooth. Slowly add 6 ounces of butter, a tablespoon at a time, as the processor spins; this emulsifies and enriches the pate.

Transfer to serving terrine, then spread and tap the top to smooth it.   Set aside in the refrigerator.

  1. Pour the water in a small bowl and sprinkle gelatin on top. Set aside until the gelatin softens and absorbs the water, about 5 minutes. Bring the port and remaining thyme to a simmer. Add the gelatin and stir until it dissolves, then pour through a fine mesh strainer onto the top of your pate. Chill until set, at least an hour. Serve with crackers, bread, cornichons, assorted pickles, onion marmalade, fresh sliced radishes, and an assortment of cheese, fruits, and nuts.  You’re about to become the entertainer of the year!

Variations

Jelly-free – If you are freaked out by gelatin, you can finish your paté with melted butter. there is an alternative. You can melt additional butter and pour into a very thin layer on top of the chilled paté. Before the butter sets, sprinkle the top with a solid layer of finely chopped parsley. Refrigerate until set, at least an hour. This can be done a day or two ahead—in fact it’s better that way, as the flavors improve as it sits.

 

Hummus and Baba Ghanouj

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baba-(1)
It’s game day, and if you’re like me, you just realized it.  For those of you needing a quick and easy snack to keep your sports fans happy, I present the worlds easiest dips –   Hummus and Baba Ghanouj. They are fast, easy, and oh so delicious.

These recipes are staple items on every Middle Eastern table. Recipes vary; some are thick, some thin, some heavy on the tahini, garlic, or lemon. It is all a matter of taste. Feel free to adjust this recipe according to yours.

Hummus and Baba Ghanouj are essentially the same recipes, one made with chickpeas and one with roasted eggplant. The Hummus is rich and creamy, the Baba Ghanouj is fruity and tangy. Serve both with hunks of fresh pita or spread it on sandwiches, atop pizzas, or as a sauce for grilled meats, vegetables, and pasta.

Hummus

INGREDIENTS

2 (15oz.) cans chickpeas (reserve liquid)
4 cloves garlic
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1/4 cup tahini
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/]-1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper

METHOD

  1. Puree all ingredients together. Add enough reserved chick pea liquid to reach a smooth, yogurt-consistency.
  2. Transfer to serving bowl and swirl the top with a spoon. Drizzle on a generous amount of olive oil and sprinkle liberally with chopped parsley and/or ground paprika.

Baba Ghanouj (babaganouj, baba ghanoush, babaganooj…you make the call)

Eggplant and garlic can be roasted ahead of time. In fact the puree is easier to make if these ingredients have had time to cool.

INGREDIENTS

2 large eggplants
2 heads garlic
1 large yellow onion
1/4 cup tahini
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4-1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper

METHOD

  1. Preheat oven to 400˚F. Coat eggplant and garlic lightly with olive oil, place on a baking sheet, and roast until brown and soft, 30-40 minutes.
  2. Puree all ingredients together. Add enough remaining olive oil to reach a smooth, yogurt-consistency. Transfer to serving bowl and swirl the top with a spoon. Drizzle on a generous amount of olive oil, and sprinkle liberally with chopped parsley.

 

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