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Just finished reading The Girl Who Wrote in Silk by Kelli Estes. What a WONDERFUL book. It opens up a shameful part of America’s past, but one you might not have heard about before this. In the late 1800s thousands of Chinese workers were brought to the West Coast to help with a variety of construction projects and a myriad of other things where laborers were needed. Many settled, married and made a new life for themselves. But suddenly the white population didn’t want them here anymore and they summarily ordered them ALL out of our country. This book chronicles a young Chinese girl, who was on a ship that was supposed to take her family to China, but the ship’s captain decided en route to dump them all overboard, to drown. The girl’s father knew it was going to happen and in order to save her, he threw his daughter off the ship as they were passing Orcas Island (in the San Juan Islands west of Seattle). She was saved. The book switches from that time to current time as a woman is rebuilding her family’s home on Orcas and finds a beautifully embroidered silk Chinese robe sleeve hidden under a stair step. The book is about that sordid past and the young girl’s descendents, and about the woman who is rebuilding. Stunner of a novel. Good for a book club read, I think. It has a reader’s guide at the back with good questions for book groups.

How It All Began: A Novelby Penelope Lively. I find it hard to describe this book – it’s wonderful. I loved it. But describing it is perplexing. The title relates to one of the characters, a woman of a certain age, who is mugged, and has to go live with her daughter and son in law for awhile since she’s stuck with crutches and has mobility problems. That starts the cavalcade of events that spread around her, with the characters. And she knows nothing whatsoever about them, hardly. They’re all somewhat inter-related (not much family, but mostly by circumstance) and they all get into some rather logical and some peculiar relationships. You engage  with each and every one of them; at least I sure did; and was trying to tell some of them to back away from what they were about to do. Or “be careful;” or “don’t go there.” That kind of thing. There is nothing insidious, no mystery involved – it’s all about these people and what happens to them. I was sad when the book was finished. The author, Lively, does add a chapter at the end – I wonder if it wasn’t part of the master plan – that kind of tidies up everything, and you get to see all of the characters move on with their lives, happy or not, but mostly happy. Really enjoyed the book. Am not sure it would be a good book club read, as the only thing to discuss are the characters themselves. Lively paints these characters well; you can just picture them as they get themselves in and out of relationship mischief.

The Last Midwife: A Novel by Sandra Dallas. It’s a very, very good read. It tells the story of an older married woman who lives in a small mining town in the Colorado rockies (this is the mid-1800’s), and is well known by all because she’s the only midwife in the area. Often people can’t pay her anything, or very little for her days of service with little or no rest or food. Suddenly, a couple accuse her of strangling their infant (she arrived after the birth, actually). Hence the story is about how this small town rallies or rails for or against Gracy. She didn’t commit the crime, but not everyone can be convinced since the father is a wealthy man in the area who carries a lot of clout. There’s plenty of relationship issues here, which make really great fodder for a novel. And there are plenty of characters in the book that you’ll love or hate. Some secrets get dredged up too. Oh, such a good read.

On my recent road trip, I visited one of my local libraries and borrowed 5 books on tape. We listened to 3 of them. I’m a big fan of Craig Johnson, the author of a series of mysteries taking place in Wyoming, and a TV series on Netflix called Longmire. This book, A Serpent’s Tooth: A Longmire Mystery was really complex. Hard to explain, but it’s about graft and greed and oil. Worth reading, for sure. Also read Stone Kiss by Faye Kellerman, another complex mystery about Lt Decker, an LA cop who journeys to NYC to help out his family when a murder occurs. Lots of violence in this one.  Not particularly a fav book, I’d venture. Then read Leaving Time: A Novel by Jodi Picoult. I’ve read most of her books – always very riveting. In this book, you’ll learn a whole lot about elephants since the protagonist in it is a young girl whose mother disappeared when she was quite young. Her parents ran an elephant sanctuary in New Hampshire. In the ensuing years, Jenna has tried to find clues as to her mother’s whereabouts because she just cannot believe her mother would have up and abandoned her. There are a whole cast of characters (her mother, her father, employees at the sanctuary, a cop or two, and a psychic). All play fairly prominent roles. Fascinating book – I really liked it, almost as much for the education about the behavior of elephants as about the mystery. A great read.

Also on the trip, I read a book (on Kindle) for one of my book clubs, The Swans of Fifth Avenue: A Novel by Melanie Benjamin. It’s about the relationship between Truman Capote and his “swans,” a group of middle-aged high society ladies, and specifically Beth Paley. I don’t know whether to recommend this book or not. Truman Capote was not a nice man, although the whole novel (vs. non-fiction, which this is not) is conjured from speculation about the years Truman was kind of adopted by the group of women. He cared about all of them (most were married/divorced, and wealthy) but in the end he betrays them all by writing a novella about their secrets, their marriages, their affairs (theirs or their spouses, information they’d all shared with him, thinking he could be trusted with their innermost secrets). It was scandalous, and yes, all that part is true. I finished the book, but almost felt like I’d read a “dirty book.” There is no graphic detail in this book – it’s just what Capote did to destroy these women, supposedly his dear, darling “swans.” He was the villain in the book, and in his old age . . . well, I won’t spoil the story if you’re interested in reading it.

 

Tasting Spoons

My blog's namesake - small, old and some very dented engraved silver plated tea spoons that belonged to my mother-in-law, and I use them to taste my food as I'm cooking.

Scroll down to the bottom to view my Blogroll

Posted in Appetizers, on December 3rd, 2017.

lentil_hummus

Not exactly the prettiest of colors, but the flavors are great. And healthy.

Wanting a simple appetizer that wasn’t rich, cheesy, or full of fat, I found this recipe in my to-try file, that came from Food & Wine. Made with lentils. It called for green lentils – I didn’t have any – nor did I remember ever seeing them at any of my local markets. I guess you can mail-order them. I used brown lentils, which, of course, made the finished product . . . well, BROWN. Do doctor up the top with a drizzle of olive oil and paprika to make it look a little bit better. The recipe indicated serving with red pepper strips (didn’t have any) or fennel strips (had them, but didn’t take the time) so I served it with crackers (pita chip type).

It’s made in the food processor. I actually took liberties with this – I bought a small package of already-cooked lentils (TJ’s carries them). I know . . . lentils are cinchy easy to make. But that was the way it was that day. So since I didn’t make them from scratch, I added a little sprinkle of powdered bay leaf in the mix. This part’s not in the recipe below, since I assume you’ll just make up a batch of fresh lentils for this. I was into saving time since I was having dinner guests and didn’t begin cooking dinner until 3 pm, and they were arriving at 6. I was into speedy. I made a sheet pan dinner (chicken, sweet potatoes, bacon, red onions, big chunks of sourdough croutons) which, when served, I plopped, in the pan, right in the middle of my dining room table. Easy for serving firsts and seconds. Everybody wanted more croutons and red onions.

The hummus is whizzed up in the food processor (so easy) with fresh lemon juice, EVOO, garlic, ground cumin, fresh cilantro, salt, tahini, cayenne – and I added a bit of water because I used the already-cooked type lentils (they’re on the dry side) –  you could add some of the cooking liquid if your mixture is too stiff. Taste it for seasonings – adding more salt or lemon juice or cumin. Into a container it went and chilled for a couple of hours (allowed the garlic to mellow a little bit) and it was ready to serve. That recipe is coming up next, I think.

What’s GOOD: how easy this was to make. As I’m writing this it’s the next day and I’ve just dipped a couple of crackers into it – it’s very tasty – healthy too. It will keep for a few days, so you could definitely make this ahead.

What’s NOT: don’t love the brown color, but the taste will shine through that little down side. If possible, try to find green lentils!

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Lentil Tahini Hummus

Recipe By: Adapted from a Food & Wine recipe
Serving Size: 7

1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup lentils — about 6 ounces * (see note)
1/2 bay leaf
1 1/2 garlic cloves — coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons tahini
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
3 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1/4 teaspoon
Salt — or more if needed
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Sweet paprika for sprinkling on top
Pita chips, sliced fennel and red bell pepper strips, for serving

NOTE: If you can find green lentils, good – use them. The finished hummus will have a more greenish tint rather than brown, which isn’t quite as appetizing.
1. In a medium saucepan, combine the chicken stock, lentils and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the lentils are tender, about 30+ minutes. If using green lentils, they take a bit longer to cook, up to 45 minutes. Uncover and boil the lentils over high heat until most of the liquid has evaporated, about 2 minutes. Discard the bay leaf and let the lentils cool slightly.
2. Transfer the cooked lentils to a food processor. Add the chopped garlic, tahini, olive oil, ground cumin, cayenne, salt, cilantro and lemon juice and puree until smooth. Scrape the hummus into a bowl. Garnish the hummus with paprika and some extra cilantro. Serve the lentil hummus warm or at room temperature with pita chips and vegetable crudités.
Per Serving: 132 Calories; 9g Fat (54.2% calories from fat); 7g Protein; 10g Carbohydrate; 5g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 92mg Sodium.

Posted in Appetizers, Breads, on November 25th, 2017.

seeded_cheddar_triangles_crackers

Really easy home made crackers, brimming with cheese flavor (cheddar) and topped with a variety of seeds.

It was a couple of years ago I was at my friends, Joan and Tom’s for dinner, and Joan served these cute-as-buttons cheese triangle crackers. I was smitten with them, and intended to make them pronto. But time moved on and I just hadn’t gotten around to it. I had an event at my house recently – the group of 10 of us watched A Man Called Ove, on Amazon Prime, based on the book by Backman. Then, we all sat down in my dining room and had lunch (soup – a recipe that’s already here on my blog, but I updated it and will post soon – plus seeded bread from Whole Foods and a scrumptious apple dessert made by my co-hostess Linda). During the movie, I served these crackers, fresh out of the oven, and they were gobbled up in no time.

I started the crackers the day before – it’s mixed up in the food processor (EASY!). You  have the option of chilling the dough if you want to, or making them immediately. I wanted to do it ahead, but bake them just before we watched the movie. So, I pressed the dough into two flat rounds, slipped them into a plastic bag and chilled them. I took them out of the refrigerator about an hour ahead of when I wanted to bake them. They’re rolled out into sort of circles, then you brush on some egg white and the seeds are pressed into the top. Then cut them into triangles and into a 350°F oven they went and baked for about 16 minutes. I cooled them about 3-4 minutes before serving them still warm. The recipe came from Southern Living in 2010.

What’s GOOD: how easy they are to make, how wonderful they taste!! The recipe says it serves 16. Well, my group of 10 devoured them in about 30 minutes. I baked each round separately, so I served them about 20 minutes apart. SO, you might want to double the recipe!

What’s NOT: really nothing – these are so easy to do, especially if you’ve made the dough ahead of time.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Four-Seed Cheddar Triangles (Crackers)

Recipe By: From Southern Living, 12/2010
Serving Size: 16

10 ounces sharp Cheddar cheese — shredded
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsalted butter — cut into 4 pieces and softened
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons half and half
SEASONINGS:
1 whole egg white
1 teaspoon water
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds, roasted — salted
1/4 cup sunflower seeds, toasted
2 tablespoons sesame seeds — toasted
2 tablespoons black sesame seeds

1. Pulse first 5 ingredients in a food processor at 5-second intervals until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add half-and-half, and process 10 seconds or until dough forms a ball. If it’s too dry, add about a teaspoon of the half and half and pulse again until the dough forms a ball. Divide in half.
2. Dough may be wrapped in plastic wrap, sealed in a zip-top plastic freezer bag, and chilled up to 3 days.
3. Preheat oven to 350°F.
4. If you chilled the dough, leave it out for about an hour before trying to roll it out. Roll each half into a 9- to 10-inch round. Transfer rounds to parchment paper-lined baking sheets.
5. Whisk together 1 egg white and 1 tsp. water just until foamy. Stir together pumpkin seeds, sunflower kernels, sesame seeds, and black sesame seeds. Brush rounds with egg white mixture, and sprinkle with seed mixture and press lightly so the seeds stick to the dough. Cut each round into wedges of random sizes, using a fluted pastry wheel. Separate wedges about 1 inch apart onto the baking sheets.
6. Bake 16 to 18 minutes; cool on baking sheets on wire racks for 10-30 minutes.
Per Serving: 199 Calories; 14g Fat (64.8% calories from fat); 7g Protein; 11g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 35mg Cholesterol; 233mg Sodium.

Posted in Appetizers, on November 15th, 2017.

 

blackberry_cuke_caprese_skewersSara_375

A quick and easy appetizer that’s very healthy and fun.

A post from Sara . . .I find dinner with my family to be a bit of fun because we are all so willing to try new foods and flavor combinations. I brought this appetizer with me to my brother’s house and everyone loved it. I chose it because it was so easy to make and it travels very well.

Typical of Southern California, I was on the road for almost 4 hours! It’s 130 miles from where I live in San Diego County, to where my brother lives near Pasadena. Can you tell the traffic was awful?

I love simple appetizers that are fresh and quick as well as pretty to look and easy to eat. These definitely fit the bill. The recipe came from a blog called The Sweetest Occasion, by Cyd Converse. I didn’t have the marinated mozzarella balls (but you can add your own seasonings if you’d like and roll them in some good EVOO). The blackberries were sweet. You DO want sweet blackberries because the appetizer is quite savory and to add an unripe blackberry (very tart) to the mix would be pucker-worthy. I made the platter at home and 4 hours in the car was fine. I squirted the balsamic glaze on them just before serving (hard to see in the photo, but really, I did use the glaze).

What’s GOOD: how easy they were to make. They traveled well. Everyone liked them a lot. They’re also very colorful – put onto a white platter, it looked SO pretty!  This recipe is a keeper!  I’ll serve this for years to come.

What’s NOT:I can’t think of any negatives for this jewel.

Printer friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

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Blackberry Cucumber Caprese Skewers

Recipe By: The Sweetest Occasion (blog) by Cyd Converse
Serving Size: 12

25 mozzarella balls — fresh (mini ones)
25 blackberries — you need sweet ones
25 basil leaves — use large ones
25 cucumber — cut in chunks, preferably English cucumber Balsamic glaze to drizzle on top
25 Bamboo skewers, 3″ long

1. Using 3″ bamboo skewers or similar, layer your ingredients starting with the mozzarella balls, then a folded basil leaf followed by a blackberry and a chunk of cucumber.
2. Line a tray with your finished skewers and refrigerate or serve right away.
3. Drizzle with balsamic glaze right before serving.
Per Serving: 286 Calories; 5g Fat (15.6% calories from fat); 10g Protein; 56g Carbohydrate; 21g Dietary Fiber; 13mg Cholesterol; 33mg Sodium.

Posted in Appetizers, Vegetarian, on June 2nd, 2017.

crostini_pea_puree_yogurt_mint

Seems like I’m on a roll lately with some really wonderful recipes. Not that any of them are my originals; they’re just ones that I’ve found someplace and they definitely need a permanent home in my kitchen repertoire.

With that lead-in, it won’t come as a surprise that I’m telling you, you’ve GOT to try this. I was just blown away by how delicious it is. Easy? Yes. Healthy? Yes, indeed. Unusual? Yes – certainly the mint added a lovely burst of flavor, but so did the lemon zest too. Really all of it is a burst of flavor. And most people can’t figure out what the “green stuff” is. Some guessed pesto.

pea_puree_4_crostiniI took this appetizer to my daughter Sara’s for Easter dinner. I’d made up the pea puree ahead of time, also the yogurt mixture, and I’d also toasted the baguettes too, the day before. I packed everything up in a little fabric ice chest and constructed them at the last minute. Easy to do. These aren’t fussy.

You’ll be very surprised by the taste of the peas – they contain SUGAR and garlic. The yogurt is just Greek yogurt (about half a cup is all) mixed with some fresh lemon juice, lemon zest, oil and salt. But when you put the whole “package” together, you get this lovely crunch in your mouth, the pea hits your palate, then the mint and the lemon zest. Altogether wonderful.

pea_crostini_platterIt’s easy enough to do most everything ahead – the pea puree, the yogurt, the toasted bread and at the last minute, construct them with the fresh mint on top. And a bit more lemon zest. To tell you the truth, I think I could make a meal of these.

What’s GOOD: everything about this little morsel is delicious. I can’t say enough good things about it. Let me know what you think . . .?? It’s easy to make (and make most everything ahead) and it’s not heavy or bad for you (except the fact that it’s mostly carbs).

What’s NOT: nary a thing that I can think of!

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Crostini with Pea Puree and Greek Yogurt

Recipe By: Adapted slightly from Amy Scattergood, Los Angeles Times
Serving Size: 16

1/2 cup Greek yogurt, full-fat — or 2% may be okay
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon lemon zest
PEA PUREE:
2 tablespoons sugar
2 1/2 cups frozen peas
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2 small garlic cloves — minced
2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
SERVING:
16 baguette slices — 1/4″ thick, toasted
Thinly sliced fresh mint for garnish
Grated lemon zest for garnish

NOTES: Use a baguette for the bread, or ciabatta. Brush the bread with olive oil, then toast to a golden brown. If using ciabatta, break each piece in half for a more normal appetizer serving.
1. Mix yogurt, olive oil, sea salt and lemon peel in a bowl and set aside.
2. Run hot-hot water over the frozen peas, then drain. Place in food processor with garlic, salt and olive oil. Blend until smooth.
3. Spread about 1 1/2 T pea mixture on each slice of bread, then spoon 2 tsp yogurt on top and garnish with sliced mint. Make these just before serving, and zest more lemon over all of it on the serving platter.
Per Serving: 127 Calories; 4g Fat (31.0% calories from fat); 4g Protein; 18g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 3mg Cholesterol; 240mg Sodium.

Posted in Appetizers, Salads, Vegetarian, on May 21st, 2017.

georgia_cracker_salad

How many superlatives can I use here – oh my, fantastic, off the charts, amazing, is it possible, so good!

The other day I was looking through my to-try recipes for a salad to take to a function. I paused at this recipe I’d downloaded some time ago. I read it through. So easy. Could it really be that good? It doesn’t LOOK all that wonderful – kind of bland looking, really. And considering the ingredients (saltine crackers, tomatoes, green onions, hard boiled egg, mayo, salt and pepper) you might wonder. So I went to Paula Deen’s webpage and there is a video clip of her making this, with her son. She talked about its origins (Albany, Georgia) and that occasionally they feature this at the salad bar at their restaurant.

BUT – the reservation here is that it MUST be eaten immediately after you toss it together. Well, I could do that. All you have to do it chop up some fresh tomatoes (use good tasting ones, please) and chop up some green onions. Oh, and make 1-2 hard boiled eggs. And scoop out some mayo to add at the end. And crush a sleeve of saltine crackers (do it while it’s still in the paper sleeve). Nothing about this is hard. I had this all figured out in about 2 minutes. As I write this I haven’t taken it to the luncheon yet, but since I bought the ingredients, I just bought more and served it for a dinner I did here at home with friends.

OMGosh! This salad is just so crazy good. I made one recipe (using one sleeve of saltine crackers), one heirloom tomato, 2 hard boiled eggs, 3 green onions (using most of the tops too), pepper, maybe some salt, and the last thing you do is add the mayo. Have everything all ready ahead – I’d chopped the tomatoes and green onions, plopped the eggs in on top and just let that sit. I’d also put out about the amount of mayo I thought it needed and at the very last second it got tossed. I served it as a side salad. Paula Deen says where this recipe is from it’s served as an appetizer (or light lunch) with cold shrimp all around it. I think this would be hard to eat as an appetizer unless you served it with small plates and forks to eat it.

When I made it, I used about a cup of mayo. The recipe called for 1 1/2 cups, and I noticed in the video they added more as it was needed, and they may not have used a full portion either. I’d start with 1 cup and only add more if you think it really needs it.

When I take this salad to my function, I’m going to add a couple more chopped eggs on top (sliced, that is) instead of shrimp. What it will look like is a potato salad. But definitely it’s NOT! I can’t wait to make this again!

What’s GOOD: every single solitary smidgen of this is delicious. Worth making. Don’t eat a lot of it, then you won’t feel guilty for all the fat grams you’re eating. I’ll definitely be making this again soon.

What’s NOT: nothing other than the calories!

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Georgia Cracker Salad

Recipe By: Adapted slightly from Paula Deen
Serving Size: 6

2 medium tomatoes — chopped
3 green onions — chopped (including most of the green tops)
2 large eggs, hard-boiled — finely chopped
pepper to taste
32 saltine crackers — (a sleeve)
1 cup mayonnaise — add more if needed, up to 1 1/2 cups

1. In a medium sized bowl combine the chopped tomatoes, green onions (use most of the dark green tops too as they add nice color), and the hard boiled egg(s). Grate in some pepper.
2. Crush the saltines in the sleeve until they are coarse pieces. Don’t overdo it – it’s nice to have a few larger pieces. Add it to the bowl, then add only enough mayo to make it moist – toss it well, then taste as you go. It may need another tablespoon or two of mayo. Mix well and serve immediately. Do NOT let it sit as it gets soggy.
SERVING: scoop into a bowl just slightly bigger than the salad. Serve as a side salad or with cold shrimp it would make a lunch serving.
Per Serving: 369 Calories; 35g Fat (81.0% calories from fat); 4g Protein; 14g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 84mg Cholesterol; 442mg Sodium.

Posted in Appetizers, on April 2nd, 2017.

cauliflower_tapenade

Cauliflower isn’t exactly at the top of my vegetable “like” list. Not that I dislike it. That’s not it. It just doesn’t have all that much flavor – to me anyway. I know it’s good for me, though. I’d probably never have made this dish except it was served to me. It’s wonderful. Really delicious.

At the moment, cauliflower is the new “IN” vegetable. There’s cauliflower everywhere, including the new riced cauliflower at Trader Joe’s and Costco. When I’m served that ubiquitous mixed vegetable at a restaurant – with broccoli, maybe a red pepper strip or two, and some zucchini, perhaps, if there is cauliflower I may scoot it around my plate, thinking I’m going to eat it, but often I don’t. Steamed cauliflower just holds zero interest to my palate. I like cauliflower mashed to resemble mashed potatoes – with all kinds of good stuff in it like butter and sour cream. And I don’t dislike roasted cauliflower on occasion – the roasting (caramelization) makes it much more interesting and edible to me. And one of my very favorite green salads (Garlic VIP Dressing) has some tiny cauliflower florets (and toasted, sliced almonds too) in it. Coated with salad dressing, I love cauliflower. I think I prefer raw cauliflower, as long as it’s cut into fairly small bites.

If you like to make an appetizer, and you’d like it to be a bit more healthy, try this one. Normally a tapenade is olives – mostly olives. This has some, but it’s mostly cauliflower. You might be able to taste the cauliflower, or not. Surely people will ask you what it is. It does not look like hummus. It’s kind of light dirty brown (from the Mediterranean olives in it).

The cauliflower is tossed with some olive oil and a spice rub of some kind (Tarla used a blackened seasoning rub on it), then roasted until the tops were crispy brown. They they were combined with some pitted black and green olives, green onions, lemon juice, S & P. And more olive oil to make it smooth. Tarla used some olive bread (large baguette shape) and toasted the slices, then she scooped some of the cauliflower tapenade on top and served it with a salad. It could be served that way, or also as an appetizer. It’s also sprinkled with some smoked paprika on top – it wouldn’t be necessary to do that, but the smoked paprika adds a lovely little smoky taste to it.

What’s GOOD: it’s sort of healthy (though it has a goodly amount of olive oil in it) and you’ll get in a small portion of veggies when you serve it. It’s really delish.

What’s NOT: only that you do have to roast the cauliflower (about 15 minutes or so) first. Otherwise, it’s very easy to do. Do buy pitted olives if possible!

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Cauliflower Tapenade

Recipe By: Tarla Fallgatter, cooking instructor, chef, 2017
Serving Size: 12

3 cups cauliflower — cut into 1″ florets
2 teaspoon blackened seasoning — or other spice rub
2 tablespoons EVOO
1 cup Mediterranean olives, mixed — pitted
2 green onions — sliced
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup EVOO — or more if needed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Smoked paprika for sprinkling on top
Olive bread or Baguette slices — for serving

1. Preheat oven to 400°F. On a rimmed baking sheet toss the cauliflower with 2 T of EVOO and the spice rub. Bake until golden brown on some of the edges, about 15 minutes. Turn the florets once during the baking time. Remove and let cool.
2. In a food processor, combine oil, olives, green onions, and lemon juice; blend until mostly smooth. Add cauliflower and about 1/2 teaspoon salt plus pepper to taste; blend until smooth, stopping and scraping down the sides at least once. Taste for seasonings. Refrigerate until cool. Makes 2 cups.
3. Toast the olive bread or baguette slices, spread each piece with the tapenade and sprinkle lightly with smoked paprika.
Per Serving (tapenade only): 126 Calories; 14g Fat (89.4% calories from fat); 1g Protein; 3g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 45mg Sodium.

Posted in Appetizers, on November 22nd, 2016.

maple_sriracha_oyster_crackers_appetizer

Addictive? Well, yes. Tasty? Oh my, yes. Salty and sweet and everything you want in a little tasty nibble to serve with drinks or other appetizers.

I think I saw this recipe on Pinterest awhile back and visited the website, The Cookie Rookie. I made a decision, right there and then, that I’d make these. I bought the oyster crackers and made these little beauties. It’s really VERY easy to do.

You heat up a mixture in a large, wide frying pan – canola oil, unsalted butter, sriracha sauce (use your discretion as to how much – I used 1 T. for the recipe size below and it was lightly hot/spicy from the sriracha), maple syrup, honey and seasoning salt. Becky, the blogger who devised this recipe, uses Lawry’s Seasoned Salt, but I think you could use any kind of seasoned salt of your choice. Once the mixture is melted and simmering, turn off the heat and pour in all the oyster crackers.

You’ll stir it and stir it so the crackers absorb the liquid. DO mix it continuously and until ALL the liquid is gone. You need to do this, otherwise you’ll have a puddle of sauce later on. Eventually all that liquid will be absorbed as you stir. Then you pour them out onto a foil-lined baking sheet and bake for an hour at 200°F, stirring the crackers every 20 minutes. If you decide to do a double batch, use two baking sheets – you want the crackers to have some room around them so they dry and get crispy.

What’s GOOD: Oh gosh, these are so very good. I gave some to 3 close friends of mine at a breakfast one morning and they could hardly keep their hands out of the baggies. I served them with appetizers to some guests one night. Loved them. A lot. They’re crispy. They’re crunchy, kind of. They’re sweet. They’re hot. All at the same time. Altogether delicious! A keeper.

What’s NOT: nothing whatsoever. An easy recipe to make and do a day ahead if you want to. I think they’d keep for a week or so. Becky thought 2 weeks.

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Sriracha & Maple Syrup Oyster Crackers

Recipe By: The Cookie Rookie blog
Serving Size: 8

1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1 tablespoon Sriracha sauce — or more if you like it hot
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1/2 tablespoon honey
1/2 tablespoon Lawry’s Seasoning Salt — or other seasoning salt
8 ounces oyster crackers — (I used Trader Joe’s)

1. Melt the oil and butter in a wide, large skillet. Add Sriracha, syrup, honey & salt. Bring to a low boil then turn off the heat.
2. Add the crackers and mix until the crackers are evenly coated. Continue to stir until all the liquid has been absorbed by the crackers (otherwise there will be a little puddle on the baking sheet).
3. Place on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake at 200 degrees for 1 hour, stirring every 20 minutes. Cool and place in plastic ziploc bag to keep them crispy and fresh. Eat within a few days.
Per Serving: 251 Calories; 16g Fat (56.7% calories from fat); 3g Protein; 25g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 16mg Cholesterol; 228mg Sodium.

Posted in Appetizers, on October 7th, 2016.

artichoke_crostini

Such a fun appetizer – artichoke hearts (frozen, defrosted) with garlic and a bit of fresh spinach, then pureed with lemon juice, Parmesan, Feta. THEN, the best part, served with a light sprinkle of lime salt (fresh lime zest mixed with flake salt). I absolutely loved it.

My assignment for the dinner group was an appetizer. Someone else was bringing gazpacho, so the hostess asked for something else, finger food of some kind. I scanned through my many recipes and found this, that I’d recently read from Valerie Bertinelli’s cookbook One Dish at a Time: Delicious Recipes and Stories from My Italian-American Childhood and Beyond. If you haven’t caught it, she has a show on the Food Network. Every dish I’ve prepared from the show, and now from the cookbook (at the library) has been gosh-darned good.

artichoke_puree1First, I defrosted a 12-ounce package of frozen artichoke hearts (Trader Joe’s), drained them, then lightly sautéed them in a little olive oil, then added the garlic and fresh spinach (just a few handfuls). That mixture got pureed in the food processor with a light amount of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, some Feta, fresh parsley, lemon juice, salt and pepper. It is improved with a bit of sitting in the refrigerator. Meanwhile, I made the LIME SALT. Nothing but a zested lime (the juice is not used in the dish) and some good flake salt. Some fresh, tasty radishes were thinly sliced, a baguette was sliced and the pieces lightly toasted, and it’s all done.

lime_saltMy friend Sue was visiting and she helped me make this, then we assembled them at the host’s home just before serving. One side of each baguette slice is rubbed with a raw half of a garlic clove (the mixture is fairly heady with garlic – it took about 2-3 garlic cloves to rub all the bread slices), then you pile the artichoke mixture on top, and wedge a slice or two of radish on top and sprinkle with the lime salt. See photo at right of the lime salt .

What’s GOOD: For me, this dish was just fabulous, and the lime salt is what makes it. You definitely taste the lime and the salt, but it enhances the subtle artichoke and garlic flavors. The crunch of the fresh radishes is also a big boost of flavor and good mouth-feel. I’d definitely make this again. Do note, if you’re interested, this is very low fat but high on flavor. If I’d had sufficient left overs, I was going to add a bit of olive oil and add it to some hot pasta. But no, didn’t have any left overs!

What’s NOT: There is a bit of prep to this, but it’s not excessive. It helped that I had a friend to help me with it and we got it done in less than 30 minutes. It takes very few minutes to assemble it if you have all the parts done ahead.

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Pureed Artichoke Crostini with Lime Salt

Recipe By: Adapted from “One Dish at a Time by Valerie Bertinelli
Serving Size: 12

1 tablespoon olive oil
12 ounces frozen artichoke hearts — thawed and patted dry
2 cups baby spinach
2 cloves garlic — chopped
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice — plus 1 teaspoon
1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese — grated
3 tablespoons feta cheese — crumbled
2 tablespoons Italian parsley — chopped
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
LIME SALT GARNISH:
2 tablespoons sea salt flakes
1 lime — zested
SERVING:
1 baguette — sliced into thin rounds and toasted lightly
2 cloves garlic — halved
4 radishes — very thinly sliced, for garnish

1. Heat the oil in a medium saute pan over medium heat. Add the artichokes, spinach, chopped garlic and 1 teaspoon of the lemon juice and saute until the spinach begins to wilt and the garlic becomes fragrant, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from the heat and transfer to a food processor. Add the Parmigiano-Reggiano, feta, parsley and the remaining tablespoons lemon juice and pulse until smooth. Add the kosher salt and season to taste with pepper.
2. SALT: In a small bowl, combine the sea salt flakes and lime zest with your fingers. Set aside.
3. Cut the remaining garlic cloves in half and rub, cut side down, onto one side of each slice of toasted bread. Spread the artichoke mixture generously among the slices, place on a platter and serve with radishes standing up in the artichoke mixture and sprinkled with a tiny pinch of the lime salt (so you can see it on the radishes); or, spoon the artichoke mixture into a serving bowl and serve with the bread slices on the side. Garnish with the radishes and lime salt.
Per Serving: 139 Calories; 3g Fat (19.2% calories from fat); 5g Protein; 23g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 2mg Cholesterol; 1385mg Sodium.

Posted in Appetizers, on September 29th, 2016.

Yoghurt & Spinach Dip, 'Borani Esfanaaj', in the Persian Manner

A really fabulous yogurt and spinach dip. Not hard to make. I forgot to take a picture of the finished dish, so am using the one from the original recipe. Photo: Food52

Every summer my family gets together to celebrate 4 birthdays within a 2-week period (used to be 5 birthdays in a 3-week span when my DH was alive). I offered to have it at my house providing everybody brought dishes to round out the menu. I dug into my freezer and brought out various chops, sausages and steaks to grill. Sara brought a mango chutney and a lovely salad which I’ll write up soon. Karen brought a farro salad and her home made tomato-cashew jam. I ordered a big, fancy decorated cake (lemon with strawberry filling). Barbara brought a kale and cabbage salad. I made this delicious spinach/yogurt dip and I made pineapple salsa to go with the various grilled meats.

Since I knew we were eating heartily, I wanted to make an appetizer that was somewhat healthy, and this recipe seemed to be the one. I’d read it over at Food52, as I mentioned above, and it won one of their contests as “Best Spinach Recipe.” So that gave this one a leg-up over any number of other spinach type appetizers I might have made. Commenters said it was just SO good.

persian_yogurt_spinach_dip_ungarnishedExpecting 10-12 people for dinner, I knew I needed to double the recipe, which meant 24 ounces of baby spinach (just that was $8.00; yikes), and it’s amazing once it wilted down how little there was of it! I chopped it up first (so I wouldn’t have to do it afterwards when it was wet). I suppose you could use frozen spinach – it would simplify this dish some, but I wanted to make it authentically.

It’s a Persian recipe called Borani Esfanaaj. I found similar recipes at other websites with other slight variations in ingredients and in name, but they’re all very similar. What makes this one different, I think, is the crushed walnuts on top AND the use of dried mint. According to the background on this recipe, Shayma, the recipe’s author, said:

“A borani is a cold yoghurt-based dish from Iran. But that is a bit of a boring piece of info, right? Well, apparently, it has been said that Poorandokht, the daughter of the Sassanian Persian King Khosrow Paravaiz, loved cold yoghurt-based dishes. When she was proclaimed Queen, the name Poorani was given to yoghurt-based dishes. Later on Poorani turned into Borani. I so do like to believe this story 🙂 I love spinach and how it melds so well with yoghurt.”

persian_dip_mixingShayma suggests in the recipe that the use of dried mint gives this a more earthy, woodsy taste – I like that aspect of it. I sprinkled some of the mint IN the mixture, then more on top with the walnuts. You can certainly use your own discretion. I added one ingredient – a bit of lemon juice.

There, at left, is the mixture before I mixed it up very much. I used very little oil to wilt the spinach, so I added in a couple of T. of oil into the dip itself and put just a tiny drizzle on top to serve it. I could just kick myself for not taking a photo of my finished dish, with the sangak bread I served with it.

Do try to make this a few hours ahead so the flavors can chill and get friendly before you pull it out to serve it.

What’s GOOD: this was SO tasty. Loved the spinach, and using Greek yogurt (thicker than regular) gave the dip a nice consistency. Although you can’t taste the garlic, there are some added flavors in this (lemon juice for sure, the walnuts and definitely the dried mint). Well worth making. Easy to mix up ahead too. My family devoured it. Definitely one to make again.

What’s NOT: really nothing. A bit of a nuisance to chop up and wilt all the spinach, but it doesn’t take all that long to do.

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Persian Yogurt & Spinach Dip, ‘Borani Esfanaaj’

Recipe By: Adapted slightly from a recipe at Food52
Serving Size: 6

12 ounces baby spinach
1 clove garlic — minced and divided into two separate batches.
2 tablespoons olive oil
10 ounces Greek yogurt, full-fat
salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
GARNISH:
1 tablespoon dried mint — do NOT use fresh mint
1 handful walnuts — crushed
EVOO to drizzle on top
Flatbread, crackers, or Middle Eastern soft flatbread, like sangak, to serve

Notes: do use regular inexpensive olive oil for the cooking and to add into the dip; for the garnish, use EVOO, your best stuff, to drizzle on top. The spinach quantity seems like a lot – it’s not, as it wilts down to next to nothing! This dip must have dried mint – it imparts a woodsy kind of flavor to this, which makes it very authentic.
1. Chop the baby spinach finely.
2. Heat a very large saute pan, add a drizzle of olive oil, then add the small amount of garlic. Do not brown it. Add the chopped spinach and over low-medium heat toss until the spinach is completely wilted. Add a bit of salt. Drain well, then using your hands, squeeze out all the liquid.
3. In a bowl, add yogurt, the remaining minced garlic, a bit more olive oil, the squeeze-dried spinach and lemon juice; stir gently. Add salt and pepper to taste.
6. Transfer to the bowl you are serving it in (shallow, round bowl) and sprinkle with dried mint, crushed walnuts and a lazy trail of olive oil. Cover and refrigerate for a few hours for the flavors to blend.
7. Serve with sangak bread, flatbread, pita chips or flat crackers.
Per Serving: 255 Calories; 22g Fat (75.4% calories from fat); 9g Protein; 8g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 19mg Cholesterol; 68mg Sodium.

Posted in Appetizers, Veggies/sides, on July 31st, 2016.

artichoke_harissa_cream

Do you like artichokes? They’re not available everywhere, I know, and some folks just can’t seem to wrap their arms (or their mouths) around scraping the essence of the stem-end of each artichoke leaf through their teeth to gain this little tiny half a teaspoon of artichoke essence.

Growing up, my mother prepared artichokes frequently. They’re available many months of the year at the grocery stores here in California. They’re grown in abundance in the Salinas Valley, in the north end of the central part of California. And they grow well in other NoCal climes. My mother always put out a little bowl of mayo and we dipped each end into the mayo and scraped away. As I recall, my mom made ONE artichoke and the 3 of us shared it. It was never enough in my book.

When I married my DH, Dave, I soon discovered that he was an artichoke and BUTTER guy. He wanted a little bowl of melted butter to dip his artichoke. But after awhile he stopped using the butter and used nothing. He definitely didn’t like the mayo dip at all. My DH adored the artichoke heart, so I usually let him have my half too. He used to tell the story about his wonderful dog, Woof (a collie) who was a very bright dog. She died long before I met Dave. Dave taught her to scrape the artichoke. He’d hold the leaf and she’d ever so gently pull off the little bit of it. She LOVED them.

Recently I craved an artichoke, and saw some really pretty ones at the store. I pressure-cooked it for about 15 minutes. Just now I went on the ‘net and found recipes suggesting everything from 6 minutes (Kalyn’s Kitchen) to 22 minutes on one other, with several others suggesting times in between. Me? I added about a cup of water to the pressure cooker, squeezed half of a lemon into the water, cut the artichoke in half, leaving the choke intact, put them on a rack and pressure cooked them for the 15 minutes. Once cooled some, I used a spoon to remove the choke and let the artichokes cool to room temp. If the artichoke you buy is really big, use a longer cooking time; shorter if they’re smaller, obviously. Half an artichoke is a good-sized serving. I ate it with my dinner, but it also makes a nice appetizer too.

Then I mixed up the dipping sauce: nothing more than mayo, harissa sauce (if you want to know more about harissa, read my 2012 blog post about using it on lamb kebabs), a little bit of bacon jam (some high end markets carry this, it’s a refrigerated little jar, costs the moon, but it lasts forever), plus a little squeeze of lemon juice.

What’s GOOD: well, now, I love artichokes, so there’s no question any mayo-based sauce would taste great in my book, but if you want to make it special, try the addition of harissa and bacon jam. Delicious.

What’s NOT: nothing really, except the harissa is spicy; probably not to children’s tastes.

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Harissa Bacon Mayo for Artichokes

Recipe By: My own concoction
Serving Size: 2

1/3 cup mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon harissa — or more to taste
1 teaspoon bacon jam
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice — or more to taste

1. In a small bowl combine all ingredients. If time permits, let rest in the refrigerator for an hour or so for the flavors to meld.
2. Serve along side a cooked artichoke.
Per Serving: 271 Calories; 32g Fat (97.6% calories from fat); 1g Protein; 1g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 14mg Cholesterol; 227mg Sodium.

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