appetizers

Savory Fall Tart

Puff Pastry filled with Caramelized Onions, Goat Cheese, Butternut Squash and Brussels Sprouts

Here you have it! An easy and impressive looking/tasting tart that will start your holiday dinner off with a bang! 

Ingredients-

  1. 1 Large Vidalia Onion
  2. Balsamic Vinegar (Just a few Tablespoons)
  3. 1 Large Butternut Squash (peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes) You can also use one package of pre cut squash if you find it at the grocery store..just makes your life easier!
  4. About 25 Brussel Sprouts( (cleaned, dried and cut in half or quarters if their very big)
  5. 5 Oz Creamy Plain Chevre Goat Cheese (can also use Cranberry goat cheese)
  6. 1 Sheet of Frozen Puff Pastry Dough, thawed (I like Pepperidge Farm) 
  7. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  8. Salt & Pepper
  9. Red Pepper Flakes (Optional)
  10. 1-2 Tablespoons Honey
  11. Egg wash-1 egg lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon of milk

Steps-

While your caramelizing the onions roast the sprouts and squash!

Preheat the oven to 400F.

Caramelized Onions-

  1. Heat olive oil and butter, add onion slices: Use a wide, thick-bottomed sauté pan for maximum pan contact with the onions. Coat the bottom of the pan with olive oil, or a mixture of olive oil and butter (about 1 teaspoon per onion). Heat the pan on medium high heat until the oil is shimmering. Add the onion slices and stir to coat the onions with the oil. Spread the onions out evenly over the pan and let cook, stirring occasionally.

  2. Depending on how strong your stovetop burner is you may need to reduce the heat to medium or medium low to prevent the onions from burning or drying out.

  3. After 10 minutes, sprinkle some salt and black pepper over the onions, and if you want, you can add a dash of sugar to help with the caramelization process. One trick to keeping the onions from drying out as they cook is to add a little water to the pan.

  4.  Cook, stirring every few minutes: Let cook for about 30 minutes, stirring every few minutes. You want the onions to get nice and soft and a caramel color (but not hard and burnt!).When the onions are at this point add about 2 Tablespoons of Balsamic Vinegar to deglaze the pan and create more flavor.  Let the liquid evaporate. Set onions aside. 

Brussel Sprouts and Butternut Squash

  1. Spread out the peeled and cut squash on a sheet pan and drizzle with Olive Oil and sprinkle with salt and black pepper. 
  2. on a separate sheet pan spread out the cut Brussels Sprouts and drizzle with Olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  3. On separate racks in the oven, roast until fork tender and caramelized. 

Assemble the Tart- 

  1. On top of parchment or wax paper roll out the puff pastry dough until it is about a 10x16 inch rectangle. 
  2. Drizzle a little olive oil on the bottom of a sheet pan or rectangular roasting pan. Carefully flip the dough onto the prepared pan making sure it doesn't have any holes. Remove the parchment paper. 
  3. Leaving a 1 & 1/2 inch rim of bare puff pastry around the tart, spread on an even coating of caramelized onions. Use all of them!
  4. Then sprinkle and even layer of the Brussels Sprouts and roasted squash. 
  5. If you like, sprinkles a little red pepper flakes over the top as well as a little black pepper and salt.
  6. Drizzle a little honey over the top of the filling. 
  7. Fold in the sides of the puff pastry to create a barrier so the filling doesn't spill out. 
  8. With a pastry brush, baste the edges of the tart with the egg wash. 
  9. Bake the tart in a preheated 400F oven for 20 minutes or until the edges and bottom are golden brown. Remove from the oven and crumble the goat cheese over the top of the tart. Bake another 5 minutes or so or until the goat cheese melts slightly and everything comes together. 
  10. Option-drizzle some more honey or some balsamic reduction (you can buy at the store) over teh top of the tart for a little extra flavor and color. 
  11. Cut with a pizza wheel or knife and enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

Squash Toast

I would like to think I am not like all the other 20 something year old years, except for my taste in television shows. I have to admit I love the show The Bachelor. The drama, the unrealistic dates, the sappy proposal speeches, you just can't not get hooked! Why am I bringing this up? Well my sister, my best friend and I have Bachelor Mondays where we each take turns hosting the group for dinner and of course The Bachelor viewing. For the shows big finale, my best friend Rebecca had one wish, and that was for me to recreate her favorite appetizer from one of the best restaurants in NYC. Lucky for her, her best friend (me) is a chef, so helloooo challenge accepted and dominated, but of course I had to put my own "Got Room For More" spin on it.  I changed up the type of squash and added the beautiful nutty crunch of the toasted pumpkin seeds (pepitas). Well lets just say I totally got the rose that night...and so did Lauren B (who we were rooting for since day 1). You go girl! Now what to do until The Bachelorette starts..sigh. We cannot wait to cheer on JoJo the newly elected Bachelorette while we stuff our faces and cry about how we don't look as good in a bikini.

Ingredients-

  1. 1  2 1/2- to 3-pound Butternut Squash, Acorn Squash or kabocha, peeled, seeded and diced into 3/4 inch pieces  (NOTE: I use one acorn squash and 1 small butternut squash. I find the blend is very nice)
  2. 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil plus more for the bread
  3. ½ teaspoon dried chile flakes
  4. 1 Tablespoon Honey (I like a nice wildflower honey)
  5. 3 teaspoons kosher salt
  6. 1 medium yellow onion, peeled and thinly sliced
  7. ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
  8. ¼ cup maple syrup
  9. 4 slices country bread, 1-inch thick ( I prefer Puglisi bread or ciabata
  10. ½ cup fresh, creamy ricotta cheese
  11.  Coarse salt & Ground black pepper to taste
  12. 4 tablespoons chopped mint
  13. 3-4 Tablespoons of toasted, hulled Pumpkin Seeds

Steps-

 

  1. Heat the oven to 450F. Combine the squash, 1/4 cup olive oil, chile flakes, honey and 2 teaspoons of salt in a bowl and toss well. Transfer the mixture to a parchment or foil-lined baking sheet and cook, stirring every 10 minutes, until tender and slightly colored, about 20-25 minutes or a little longer. You want the squash to be fork tender and slightly caramelized. Remove from the oven.
  2. Meanwhile, heat another 1/4 cup olive oil over medium heat, add the onions and remaining teaspoon salt and cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are very soft and darkening, at least 20 minutes.Add the vinegar and syrup, stir and reduce until syrupy and broken down, again at least 15-20 minutes or so. You want it to be a nice caramelized, cohesive mixture that has a jam like texture. 
  3. Combine squash and onions in a bowl and smash with a fork until combined. Taste for seasoning.
  4. Drizzle some olive oil onto a baking sheet. Place slices of the bread onto the baking sheet. Drizzle the tops of the bread with more olive oil.  Sprinkle the bread with some ground black pepper. Toast in the oven on 400F until the bread is toasted and slightly golden, but not too toasted where it is very hard to eat. (but please toast to your liking! My grandfather likes it burnt..I mean completely burnt ;) )
  5. Spread the ricotta cheese on toasts, then top with the squash-onion mixture. Sprinkle with a small pinch of coarse salt, a little bit of the toasted pumpkin seeds and finally the fresh mint.

Spaghetti Squash Fritters- Vegetarian "Crab Cakes"

I HATED leftovers as a child!  I always felt like they never tasted fresh, and being the foodie that I am, I didn't want to have the same dish multiple times in one week.  Once I started managing restaurants and cooking in professional kitchens, I realized how important it is to take the scraps and leftovers of your vegetables, meats, cheeses etc. and use them to create more dishes!  Ultimately, if you throw good, useable leftovers in the garbage, you are throwing money in the garbage!  This week I had a substantial amount of Spaghetti Squash leftover, so I got a little creative and created a delicious appetizer to bring to my friend's apartment for dinner. These fritters are crispy on the outside and soft and flavorful on the inside.  The pleasantly stringy texture of the spaghetti squash and the flavors of the capers, sun dried tomatoes and breadcrumbs oddly make these little patties taste just like crab cakes! My friends kept insisting that I was lying to them and that they were crab cakes and not vegetable fritters!  So if you are a vegetarian or have vegetarian guests, this is the perfect dish to serve!  You can even make a "crab cake" sandwich by making a larger spaghetti squash patty, put it on a nice brioche bun with a cajun style aioli and top it with some mixed greens..now how delicious does that sound!


Ingredients-

1 Medium Spaghetti Squash

Canola Oil

5 Sun Dried Tomatoes chopped fine (you can use more if you'd like)

2 Small Cloves of Garlic Minced

Seasoned Breadcrumbs (about 1 cup sometimes you need a little more)

1/3 Cup Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese

1  1/2- 2 Tablespoons Capers

2 Eggs beaten

Flour (you just need a few Teaspoons for the mixture to hold together)

About 4-5 Large Fresh Basil Leaves Chiffonade (sliced into thin ribbons)

Salt & Pepper


Steps-

Preheat the oven to 400F.  Cut the spaghetti squash in half vertically using a big chefs knife.  Scoop out and discard the seeds from the middle of the squash and then drizzle the flesh with olive oil and salt and pepper.  Place the cut side down onto a foil or parchment line sheet pan and roast in the oven about 35-45 minutes or until a fork can easily poke through the outer skin of the spaghetti squash.  

When the squash is cooked, using a fork scrape the squash flesh into a bowl.  It should fall into the bowl like spaghetti! Let it cool and set aside.

Once the spaghetti squash is cooled place in some paper towels or a clean kitchen towel and try to squeeze out any excess water that the squash naturally has.

Place the squash in a bowl and add the minced garlic, chopped sun dried tomatoes, parmesan cheese an capers.  Add the 2 beaten eggs and a dash of salt and black pepper.  Stir together until combined.

Add the seasoned breadcrumbs, about 1 Cup and stir together.  Add about 2 Tablespoons of Flour and stir together.  This will help to bind the mixture.  If you try to fry them and they are not crisping up and are just falling apart, add a little more breadcrumbs and flour.

Coat the bottom of a skillet with Canola Oil and heat on medium heat.  Test the temperature of the oil by placing a dot of the batter into the oil and if the oil sizzles around the batter, your mixture is ready.  Scoop about 1  1/2 Tablespoons of the mixture into you hands, make a ball, and flatten it out into a pancake shape.  You want them about 1/3 inch thick.  Place them in the pan with the hot oil and fry until golden brown and crusty on the bottom and then flip and brown the other side. Only fry a few at a time so they brown evenly and the oil temperature doesn't drop.

When they are cooked place them on paper towels to drain the excess oil. Serve with a dollop of the Sun Dried Tomato Pesto Crema! See below!


Sun Dried Tomato Pesto Crema-

Ingredients-

Plain Greek Yogurt

Sun Dried Tomato Pesto (you can also use regular pesto)

2 Large Basil Leaves Chiffonade

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Salt & Pepper

Steps-

1. Mix together some Sun Dried Tomato Pesto with the Greek Yogurt, a drizzle of Olive Oil and the chopped Basil. Add a pinch of salt and a dash of pepper, and give it a taste!  If you feel the flavor or color is too bland add more of the pesto! That is all there is too it!




Summertime Crostini

In the summertime we tend to have parties and celebrations to go to every weekend, whether they be graduation parties, summer BBQs, 4th of July bashes etc.  Here are three crostini recipes that are full of fresh, bright flavors, colors and textures.  If you bring any of these to your next get-together, your friends and family will think you paid a high-end caterer to make them..they look  and taste that impressive!  The best part is they are pretty darn easy! 

Fava Bean Ricotta Crostini-

Ingredients-

  1. Fresh Ricotta Cheese
  2. Baguette or 7 grain or Ciabatta (whatever you like!!)
  3. 1  1/4 Cups Shelled Fava Beans
  4. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  5. 7-8 Fresh Mint Leaves (washed thoroughly)
  6. The Juice of Half a Large Lemon
  7. 2 Small Garlic Cloves (or 1 Large Garlic Clove)
  8. Salt & Pepper
  9. Sugar Snap Peas for Garnish
  10. Parmesan Cheese or Manchego Cheese (Using a vegetable peeler make little shavings of the cheese)

Steps-

  1. Remove and discard the stem and natural "string" from each Sugar Snap Pea Pod. Set aside. 
  2. Fill a large bowl of water with ice and water and set aside. Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil and then drop the Sugar Snap Peas in the water.  Boil them in the water for 2 minutes only and then using a slotted spoon remove them from the water and place them in the bowl of ice water to shock them.  This helps them retain their color and crunch and cooks them ever so slightly.  Once they are cooled in the ice water remove them and dry them off on paper towels (set aside in fridge for garnish).
  3. Do the same thing with the shucked Fava Beans but for about 3-4 minutes or until tender. Drain and shock in the ice water then remove the outer skin gently.  Try not to break up the beans you want them to hold their beautiful shape.
  4. In a food processor, blend together the Fava Beans, Mint Leaves, Lemon Juice, Garlic, about 2 Tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil and a dash of Salt and Pepper.  You want everything to combine and become a soft, creamy, thick spread.  If it is too thick add more OIive Oil and a drop more Lemon Juice.
  5. Put in a small bowl or tupperware and squeeze a little lemon juice over the top, cover tightly and place in the fridge until you are ready to use it.  Tip: If you are gluten free or don't want the carbs you can each this like a dip with sliced raw veggies!
  6. Slice your baguette thin on a bias, drizzle them with olive oil, salt and pepper and place them on a cookie sheet.  Place them in the oven on 400F and toast them up until they are golden.  You want them to get crunchy but not so hard that they turn to stone.
  7. When you are ready to serve your guests, assemble your crostini by spreading about a teaspoon of ricotta on each slice of bread, then spread a little Fava Bean spread, then a few shavings of parmesan cheese (or manchego) and then top it with the Sugar Snap Pea.  Finish them with a tiny drizzle of Extra Virgin Olive Oil and a sprinkle of sea salt (or regular salt if you have no sea salt).

 

Tomato Mozzarella Crostini 

Ingredients- 

  1. Fresh Salted Mozzarella
  2. Heirloom Tomatoes Diced Small (I use a mixture of red, orange and yellow but if they are out of season the red will be just fine)
  3. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  4. Fresh Tarragon ( f you don't like Tarragon just use Basil but Tarragon has a unique flavor that I find is refreshing and delicious!)
  5. Minced Garlic
  6. Salt and Pepper
  7. Baguette (or any bread you like)
  8. Balsamic Vinegar (optional)

Steps-

  1. Mix the diced tomatoes, some chopped tarragon and a little minced garlic in a bowl.  Drizzle some extra virgin olive soil over the top along with some salt and pepper.  I didn't put amount here because it depends on how much you are making and it depends on taste!  Jus taste and season accordingly.  If you like a lot of garlic then put more, if not then just put a drop.
  2. Let the tomatoes marinate covered in the fridge for at least a half an hour or overnight if you are prepping ahead.
  3. Slice your baguette thin on a bias, drizzle them with olive oil, salt and pepper and place them on a cookie sheet.  Place them in the oven on 400F and toast them up until they are golden.  You want them to get crunchy but not so hard that they turn to stone.
  4. When you are almost ready to serve, slice the fresh mozzarella into thin slices that fit perfectly onto each slice of toasted bread.  
  5. Place one slice of mozzarella on each piece of bread and then top with a heaping spoonful of the marinated tomatoes. Finish with a drizzle of balsamic or balsamic reduction if you would like (I like to use the fig balsamic that is discussed in the next recipe below).

Balsamic Fig & Havarti Crostini

Ingredients-

  1. Fresh, Ripe Black Mission Figs
  2. Balsamic Vinegar (good quality)
  3. Havarti Cheese
  4. Fresh Sage (chiffonade- chopped in very fine slices)
  5. Salt & Pepper
  6. Baguette (or whatever bread you like)

Steps-

  1. Slice the figs into 1/4 inch slices starting at the top by the stem.  Place the figs in a small bowl and pour the balsamic vinegar over the top so that they are soaking in the vinegar.
  2. Cover and place in the fridge for at least 3 hours or overnight.  I even like to do this step 2 or 3 days in advance because the figs really marinate in the vinegar and also end up infusing the vinegar which is great for drizzling over your crostini or on your salad.
  3. Slice your baguette thin on a bias, drizzle them with olive oil, salt and pepper and place them on a cookie sheet.  Place them in the oven on 400F and toast them up until they are golden.  You want them to get crunchy but not so hard that they turn to stone. Leave the oven on.
  4. When you are almost ready to serve, slice the Havarti cheese into thin slices that fit perfectly onto each slice of toasted bread.  Place a slice of cheese onto each piece of bread and then put them on a sheet pan and place them back in the oven just until the cheese melts.
  5. Take them out of the oven and sprinkle each one with a little of the fresh chopped sage.
  6. Place one slice of marinated fig onto each crostini and drizzle each one with a little more of the fig infused balsamic.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and you are ready to serve!