Appetizers


There are very few days left this season when you’re going to find the humble, but beautiful garden tomato.  Enjoy it while it lasts by taking every opportunity to eat all you can.

A variety of tomatoes, chopped (enough to top however many toasts you’re serving up)
Basil, fresh and chopped (probably about a 1/4 of a cup)
salt/pepper
Garlic, a few cloves, chopped
Olive Oil
Balsamic Vinegar
Focaccia Bread

Marinate the tomatoes for a few hours by drizzling with olive oil and vinegar.  Just before serving slice the bread and in a skillet, drizzle olive oil, and add the garlic and heat over medium-high heat.  Throw the slices of bread in and cook for a minute or so on each side until golden brown.  Top with the tomatoes and basil, sprinkle a little salt and pepper, and you have yourself your last veggie indulgence of the season.

A.K.A. “Crack Cocaine” Nuts.  At least, that’s what The Husband called them last night due to their addictive nature.  The sweet, spicy, warm herb-y goodness that is all over these makes you go back for just one more handful…ok, just one more…well just …

They are amazing served warm as an appetizer, great the next day cold as a snack, and perfect chopped up on a mixed green salad.  My one word of advice?  Ration.  Take a handful out and then hide them somewhere safe.

1 1/4 pounds almonds
1 1/2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh Thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
3 teaspoons dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon melted butter

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Place the nuts on an ungreased baking sheet and bake for about 10 minutes until they are warmed through. Meanwhile, combine the almonds, pepper, sugar, salt and butter in a large bowl. Toss the warm nuts with the rosemary mixture until the nuts are completely coated. Serve warm.

(adapted from the Barefoot Contessa’s Rosemary Cashews (also amazing).


Have you ever had a dish where, at the end of the meal you’re more than a little tempted to tip your plate up and drink the sauce?  I did last night.  The broth that’s made from the wine, butter, and garlic would probably be pretty great on it’s own, but then add in the juice that the mussels release while steaming, and you get something truly amazing.  With a little bread to soak up the excess, you can keep some of your dignity too.

1 shallot, peeled and chopped
4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
olive oil
salt/pepper
1/2 bottle of white wine (or about 2 cups)
juice of 1 lemon
1 T. butter
handful of fresh parsley, chopped
1/4 lb per person of mussels
1/2 lb -1 lb thin noodle pasta

Heat enough water in a pan to boil the pasta.  Once the water is boiling, add the pasta and cook according to the directions on the box.

In the meantime, in a med size stockpot with a tight fitting lid, head a small drizzle of olive oil over med-high heat and add the shallots and garlic.  Cook for about 5 minutes.  Carefully, add the wine and lemon juice.  Steam should be produced immediately.  Quickly place the mussels in the pot and place the lid on top.  Turn down to med-low and allow to steam for 6-7 min, until the mussels have opened up.  Remove the mussels with a slotted spoon and set aside.  Turn the burner back to med-high and add the butter and parsley.  Cook for 3-5 minutes, or until the juices just slightly reduce.

Drain the pasta, and add the mussels and pasta back to the sauce.  Serve with bread for dipping and enjoy.

salsa

If you don’t like cilantro, consider yourself warned.  This salsa is full of bright flavors and is great as a base for fish tacos.  I was wandering out in my garden a couple of days ago ripping out everything that went to seed in our recent heat wave, and couldn’t believe how many tomatoes and peppers I had.  Then I had a  stroke of genius and decided it was time to make a bunch of salsa and can it for the tomato-less months to come.  This little ramekin contained the leftovers that were very shortly thereafter devoured.  After tweaking this recipe over the last few years, here are a few words of advice:

  1. Always do a few taste tests (especially with a chip, as it has a decent amount of its own salt you’ll want to factor in).
  2. Salsa only gets hotter as it sits, so make it a tiny bit less spicy than you actually want it if you’re making it ahead of time.
  3. Give  yourself the license to play with the recipe.  If you don’t really like it to have a strong onion taste, but love garlic, adjust the recipe to what you like.  I love cilantro, so I had a large bunch.  I’m told you can switch the cilantro for parsley, and though you’re welcome to try this, I really can’t believe that this will taste right (but that’s from a cilantro lover, so take that with a grain of salt).
  4. I like onions, cilantro, and peppers to be pretty finely ground, so I place them in the food processor first and get them nice an pulverized before I add the rest.

1/2 Large yellow onion
1/2 Large red onion
1 Large bunch of cilantro (about 1 cup firmly packed)
6 Cloves garlic
2-4 Hot peppers (I like a combo of pablanos and serranos)
2 Cans stewed tomatoes*
3 Large handfuls (about 2lbs) fresh tomatoes (deseeded if large)
1/2  Lemon, Juiced
2 Limes, Juiced
1 tsp. Cumin, ground
Salt to taste

Grind it all up in a food processor, using the pulse function until it hits your desired consistency.  Stick it in the fridge and let the flavors hang out together for a bit, pull our your chips and scoop away.

*If you have a ton of fresh tomatoes on hand, you can skip the canned and just add more fresh.  My rule of thumb is to fill a regular sized food processor up to the top prior to “pulsing.”

sun dried tomato dip

This is lovely.  Light, tangy, and wonderful this dip goes well with pita chips, crackers or veggies, making for a quick appetizer.  The best part was that I had most of the ingredients on hand in the pantry.  I love when that happens!  The Barefoot Contessa comes through like a champ (as always).

1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained and chopped (8 tomatoes)
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup good mayonnaise
10 dashes, hot red pepper sauce
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 scallions, thinly sliced (white and green parts)

Garlic (optional)*

Puree the tomatoes, cream cheese, sour cream, mayonnaise, red pepper sauce, salt and pepper in a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Add the scallions and pulse twice. Serve at room temperature

I usually use light sour cream and mayo to cut back a bit.  It’s already so rich, you really don’t need the real stuff.

*I usually throw some garlic in (about a clove or two) for a bit of extra flavor.

edamame1

Need a quick snack?  AND you want it to be nutritious?  These little Edamame beans can be found in the freezer section of your local grocery store.  Boil in salted water for 3-5 min and serve warm with a little soy sauce* and/or wasabi.  We had these little guys the other day at a friends house and it reminded me how much I like them.  I think I’ll keep them around more often—way better than grabbing for a bag of chips!

*I prefer to serve low sodium soy sauce (like that found at Trader Joe’s).  It seems plenty salty anyhow.

guacamole

Hurray for avocado season!   My recipe for guacamole is ever evolving.  I’m always trying new types of peppers and mixes of citrus.  Either way, here is the base recipe to get you started:

5 avocados  (I like a nice big batch because I could eat most of a normal size on in a single sitting)
4-5 cloves garlic, pealed
1 handful fresh cilantro, cleaned
Juice of 1 lemon
Juice of 1 lime
2 t. salt
1-2 hot peppers (depending on how large they are), I use anything from Serrano to oven roasted Poblanos.

In a food processor, mix all ingredients until smooth.  If desired, add chopped onion, tomatoes, etc.  Oh, and before you go crazy with the salt, make sure to taste it with a chip (all chips have different amounts of salt and it can be overbearing once they’re in the picture).

Next Page »