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Archive for the ‘Appetizer’ Category

A break from 68 Days of Gourmet to recap my fun-filled culinary weekend in Atlanta! Several months ago we bought tickets to see Muse and Silversun Pickups in Atlanta. We decided that since we knew so far ahead of time that we were going to be in Atlanta that we should make reservations to eat at Woodfire Grill. It’s the restaurant where Top Chef contestant Kevin Gillespie is co-owner and executive chef.

My parents moved to Atlanta last year and when I visited last summer they took me to Woodfire for dinner. I came home and told Brandon it was one of my top five meals ever and couldn’t wait to take him there. I was so surprised and excited to see last fall that Kevin was a contestant on Top Chef. We watched and rooted him on all season. Even though he didn’t win in the end, I think it’s fair to say that he’s the true winner in all the fan’s hearts! So needless to say, since Kevin enjoyed great success on Top Chef, it’s next to impossible to get a reservation at Woodfire – especially on the weekends. We made our reservations three months in advance!

Our dinner was phenomenal – the food and service was truly outstanding. We were greeted right when we walked in the door and shown to our table. I was excited to find that I had a view of the open kitchen. Our server was extremely knowledgable and friendly and made some great wine suggestions over the course of the night. We chose to do the five-course chef’s tasting dinner. Kevin had decided to go with a Southern theme for the tasting so all of our dishes had a little bit of a down-home feel.

A very quick overview of what we remember from the courses (I should have taken notes – and FYI – Brandon forbid me to take pictures).

First Course
Chef’s take on shrimp and grits – rock shrimp over a grit cake

Second Course
Fried oysters over what I would describe as a cauliflower risotto served with a hot sauce and garnished with watercress

Intermezzo
Horseradish/black truffle deviled egg

Third Course
Veal sweetbreads, a little slice of perfectly cooked lamb, collard greens and a boiled peanut sauce. This was the shining star of the night. Each element of the dish went together and complimented the others perfectly

Fourth Course
Pork belly, slice of pork tenderloin with some sort of vegetable hash. I’m fuzzy on the details here but the pork belly was delicious!

Fifth Course
Curried chocolate molten cake, curried ice cream and a crispy peanut wafer. The curry with the chocolate was interesting…at first you just tasted the chocolate then you really got the curry taste in the finish

After dinner we were able to chat with Kevin for a minute and snag a picture. Of course, I was totally losing my voice over the course of the night and could barely talk by the time we met Kevin – boo! He is so nice and I am so amazed by his talents given he his only 27 years old! So jealous! :)

And I’m sure you’re thinking this post is over now but no…I have more for you! My friend Michelle ended up having a kitchen shower the same weekend in Atlanta. Love when things work out like that! When I arrived at the shower I was so surprised to learn we were having a cooking demonstration! So up my alley!

Chef Natalie in action

The shower hostess hired Chef Natalie Vallo to demonstrate brunch-themed dishes for us. She demoed mini quiches (recipe and picture below), savory palmiers and bistro mustard vinaigrette. It was such a nice change of pace from your typical shower and I loved that Chef Natalie focused on seasonal, sustainable ingredients. If you live in the Atlanta area you should definitely check out her website! She offers all kinds of services ranging from personal chef to special needs diets to cooking demonstrations.

The bride-to-be (right) enjoying the shower and cooking demo

So if you’ve made it to the end of this marathon post, I reward you with the recipe for mini quiches that Chef Natalie made for us Saturday! Sure to be a hit at any brunch!

One year ago: Buffalo Sloppy Joes

Mini Quiche and Easy Food Processor Pie Crust
(Recipe source Chef Natalie Vallo of Food Optimist)
Printable Recipe

Ingredients:

FOR THE PIE CRUST
3 tablespoons ice water (plus more if needed)
1 stick butter, frozen and cut into tablespoons
1 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt

FOR THE QUICHE
2 large eggs
2 egg yolks
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
A bit of freshly ground nutmeg
A sprinkle of kosher salt
Freshly ground white pepper, to taste
Fillings of your choice (no more than three) – we had roasted red peppers, sauteed spinach and goat cheese

Directions:

FOR THE PIE CRUST
Add flour, frozen cut butter and salt to bowl of large food processor (at least 9-cup). Hold down and pulse for 10 seconds. Add the 3 tablespoons of ice water and hold down and pulse for 7 seconds. Mixture should resemble cornmeal so if it does at this point move to the next step. If not, add water one tablespoon at a time and pulse for 3 second intervals until you get the cornmeal texture. Be very careful not to overwork the dough.

Gather dough and wrap in plastic wrap for at least 2 hours. Roll out and use as needed. For mini quiches you should be able to fill 12 muffin tins with one pie crust recipe.

You will want to prebake the crust a little for the quiches. Poke holes in the bottom of the crust in tins and line with parchment paper and fill with dry beans. Bake at 375 degrees until crust appears pale and dry, about 10 minutes.

FOR THE QUICHE
Combine everything from egg through pepper in a large bowl and whisk until smooth. Place quiche filling the the bottom of the prebaked crusts and pour egg mixture over filling until about 2/3 full. Place the muffin tin on a baking sheet before placing in the oven. Bake for 375 degrees until quiche is set, about 15-20 minutes. Quiche should be about the consistency of jello when you shake. Let cool for at least 20 minutes at room temperature – it will finish cooking.

Yield: 12 servings

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68 Days of Gourmet: Day 43

It’s funny how certain recipes get really popular in the food blogging world. I saw these Ham and Cheddar Pretzel Bites on Pink Parsley a couple months ago and thought they looked fun. Then I noticed the original recipe was from Gourmet – even better! I thought these would be a kid and adult friendly snack at my niece’s second birthday party a couple weeks ago. Since seeing the recipe on Josie’s blog, they’ve been popping up everywhere. So for my food blogger readers – I apologize if you’ve seen this one several times already.

I am sorry that I’ve been so slack with the blog this week. I’ve had a lot going on and no time to sit down at night to update. We have friends coming to stay with us tonight so I’ve been a busy bee trying to get our tiny apartment presentable and ready for guests. Also, we’ve been dealing with house hunting drama. Thought we finally found something we were excited about making an offer on this week but it didn’t work out. I am seriously sick of looking at houses! It’s been a long process.

It’s been a pretty lackluster week on the fitness front too. More rest days than I’ve had in a long time – which maybe isn’t a bad thing considering the injury and general soreness I’ve had the last several weeks. I taught BodyPump Monday, hot vinyasa yoga Tuesday, rest day Wednesday and taught BodyPump last night. Today is looking like a rest day too. I set my alarm to go to yoga this morning but we didn’t make it to bed until midnight last night (so late for us) so I was not ready to get up at 5:45 a.m. Hoping to get some good yoga classes in this weekend and test my leg out with an easy run.

Update on 68 Days of Gourmet: I’m on day 43 and ready to get this project wrapped up. I did some work this week planning out the rest of the recipes that I’m going to make. Trying to look back to make sure that I have a good balance of all the different recipe categories and a good mix of old and new. I still have a few recipes left to pick so let me know if there’s something you really want to see. I’m happy to take requests. :)

These Ham and Cheddar Pretzel Bites were a good snack for the birthday party but not something I think I will make again. This was my first time making soft pretzels and I enjoyed the process of making them. It was fun and different. But in the end I didn’t think these were worth all of the work. There just wasn’t enough ham and cheddar flavor to them and I think the dough itself could have used a little salt. I even added more ham and cheddar than the original recipe called for.  Also, I will say that they were much better warm out of the oven than served room temperature.  I’m really surprised that I didn’t love these because they did receive great reviews from the other bloggers who made them?

Promise more updates over the weekend and next week! I’ve got some good stuff planned!

Ham and Cheddar Pretzel Bites
(Recipe source Gourmet, October 2009)

Ingredients:

1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon packed light brown sugar, divided
1/4 cup warm water (110-115 degrees)
1 cup warm milk (110-115 degrees)
2 1/2 to 3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (3 ounces) finely chopped country ham or regular ham, divided
1/2 cup finely grated sharp cheddar, divided
6 cups water
4 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 stick unsalted butter, melted
1 to 2 tablespoons sea salt or kosher salt

Directions:

Stir together yeast, 1 teaspoon brown sugar and warm water in a large bowl. Let stand until foamy, 5 to 8 minutes (if mixture doesn’t foam, start over with new yeast). In a separate bowl, stir remaining 2 tablespoons brown sugar into warm milk until dissolved.

I used my Kitchen Aid stand mixer for the following steps but you can definitely just follow these directions: add 2 1/2 cups flour and the milk mixture to yeast mixture and stir with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula until a soft dough forms. Add up to 1/2 cup additional flour, a little at a time, if necessary (which it probably will be – this is an extremely sticky dough). Turn out dough onto a floured surface and gently knead with floured hands a few times to form a smooth ball. Transfer to a clean bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a draft-free place at warm room (ideally around 80 degrees) until doubled and bubbles appear on surface, about 2 hours. Tip – I like to let my bread rise in the oven. I turn it on for a minute or two then switch it off and place the bread in there to rise.

Turn out dough onto a floured surface and cut into four equal pieces. Working with floured hands, gently roll and stretch one piece of dough to form a 12-inch-long rope. Flatten dough and arrange so a long side is nearest you. Roll out to a roughly 12- by 4-inch rectangle with a lightly floured rolling pin. Gently press one fourth of ham and cheese into lower third of rectangle, leaving a 1/2-inch border along bottom edge. Stretch bottom edge of dough up over filling and press tightly to seal, then roll up as tightly as possible to form a rope. Cut rope into 12 pieces and transfer to prepared baking sheet. Make three more ropes using the same method. Let rest at room temperature, uncovered, 30 minutes (dough will rise slightly).

Preheat oven to 400 degrees with rack in upper and lower thirds. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Bring 6 cups of water to a boil in a large saucepan. Reduce heat to a simmer and stir in baking soda. Cook pretzel bites in batches in gently simmering water, turning once, until slightly puffed, about 20 seconds total. Transfer with a slotted spoon to baking sheets.

Bake until puffed and golden-brown, about 15 minutes. Don’t be alarmed if cheese oozes out a bit.

When you remove pretzels from oven, brush with butter and sprinkle with salt. Serve warm or at room temperature with a honey mustard dipping sauce, if desired. (See original Jalepeno Honey Mustard in original recipe or see my favorite honey mustard here).

Yield: 4 dozen pretzel bites

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68 Days of Gourmet: Day 21

I have to admit that I had a mini-meltdown during menu planning this week. I was all over the place and couldn’t make a decision. Sometimes menu planning is so simple for me – it all just comes together. Other times – not so much.  I was just really over thinking it for some reason. While we were unpacking groceries, I was rambling off the menu selections for the week. Brandon seemed pretty pleased with his options so I guess I pulled it off.

We decided to keep it simple tonight with salad and a baked potato. But not just any salad…Frisee Salad with Lardons and Poached Eggs. I flagged this one in The Gourmet Cookbook because a) Brandon loves bacon and b) he thinks pretty much any food is even more delicious topped with an egg. One of his recent favorites has been a fried egg on hamburgers. Extra protein?

I actually made several changes to this recipe but it still turned out fabulously. First, we don’t love frisee – we usually pick it out of the salad mix or its left uneaten on the plate. You can’t even buy it on its own at the grocery store  where we shop and I was not going to make  a special trip for it. I had some baby arugula mix in the fridge so decided to go with that. Second, I realized I was out of red wine vinegar so I used a splash of white wine vinegar and a splash of balsamic instead. And last, I opted to use my egg poacher rather than use the written method for poaching eggs.

I will definitely be making this salad again. How can you not love this combination? And the warm bacon dressing is amazing…although I had to put it in the back of my head that it was essentially bacon grease and vinegar. This is a great easy weeknight dinner paired with soup or a baked potato. It would also be an impressive first course for a dinner party.

Frisee Salad with Lardons and Poached Eggs
(Recipe adapted from The Gourmet Cookbook, printed in Gourmet February 1999)
Printable Recipe: Frisee Salad with Lardons and Poached Eggs

Ingredients:

1/2 pound frisée (French curly endive)
6 ounces slab bacon or thick-cut bacon slices (about 6 slices)
2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
4 large eggs
2 tablespoons shallot, chopped
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar

Directions:

Tear frisee into bite-sized pieces and place in a large bowl. If using slab bacon, cut lengthwise into 1/4 inch thick slices. Then cut bacon slices crosswise into 1/4 inch thick strips (these are your lardons).

In a heavy skillet over medium heat, cook bacon, stirring occasionally. Remove skillet from heat when bacon is golden and beginning to crisp. Set skillet aside.

In another skillet, place 1 inch of warm water and set aside. Fill up a 4-quart saucepan halfway with water and stir in white vinegar. Bring liquid to a simmer. Break each egg into a teacup one at a time and slide into simmering liquid. Immediately push white around yolk with a slotted spoon, working gently. Egg should be oval in shape and yolk should be completely covered by white. Using the same method, add the remaining 3 eggs. Simmer eggs for about 1 1/2 minutes for runny yolks up to about 3 minutes for firmer yolks. Immediately transfer eggs to skillet of warm water.

Reheat bacon in its skillet over medium heat. Add shallot and cook for about 1 minute, stirring often. Add red wine vinegar and boil 5 seconds. Immediately pour hot dressing over frisée and toss with salt and pepper to taste.

Divide salad among 4 plates and top with drained poached eggs. Season eggs with salt and pepper and serve immediately.

Yield: 4 servings

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caesarwithpancetta

This is a lightened and eggless variation of one of my favorite Caesar salads from Ina Garten. I love Ina’s Caesar salad for entertaining. It’s great with home made croutons. We had Italian night last Sunday and I wanted to make this salad but was looking for something lighter and without the raw egg. I decided to take my favorite elements from her salad (the cherry tomatoes and crispy pancetta) and pair it with a Caesar dressing I found on Cooking Light.

I will admit that the dressing definitely doesn’t live up to Ina’s but it’s very easy and much lighter. I prefer to make my own dressings and I think it adds so much to a salad. And when it’s this easy…you really don’t have an excuse not to!

Lightened Caesar Salad with Pancetta and Cherry Tomatoes
(Recipe inspired by Ina Garten, dressing source Cooking Light)

Ingredients:

FOR THE SALAD
1-2 heads romaine lettuce (depending on size)
1/4 pound pancetta, sliced to a similar thickness to bacon
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, cut in half
Salt
Freshly ground pepper

FOR THE DRESSING
1/3  cup  plain fat-free yogurt
2  tablespoons  fresh lemon juice
1  tablespoon  olive oil
2  teaspoons  red wine vinegar
2  teaspoons  Worcestershire sauce
1  teaspoon  anchovy paste
1  teaspoon  Dijon mustard
1/2  teaspoon  freshly ground pepper
1  garlic clove, minced

Directions:

Cut pancetta into cubes. Place in a skillet over medium-high heat and cook for about 10-15 minutes, until browned and crispy. Remove from pan and drain on paper towels.

Wash lettuce well and dry in a salad spinner. Cut into 1 1/2 inch slices. Place in a large bowl.

Whisk together dressing ingredients. Pour over salad greens and toss to coat. Top with tomatoes and pancetta. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

Yield: 4 servings

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fruitskewers

These fruit skewers are one of my favorite things to serve at showers, parties and lunches. They only take a few minutes to put together, look beautiful on the plate and are easy to pick up. I vary the fruit depending on what is looking good and in season. The dip incorporates cream cheese, vanilla yogurt and powdered sugar and has just the right balance of sweetness and tang.

Try these out next time you need to bring something to a shower or luncheon! They will be a hit!

Fruit Skewers with Vanilla Cream Cheese Dip
(A Bakin’ and Eggs Original)

Ingredients:

1 cantaloupe, diced
1 pint strawberries, cut in half
1 pineapple, diced
Bamboo skewers
1 block reduced fat cream cheese (8 ounces), softened
1/2 cup low-fat vanilla yogurt
3/4-1 cup powdered sugar (adjust amount to taste)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

Place six pieces of fruit on each skewer, alternating fruits. Arrange on a platter.

Combine cream cheese, vanilla yogurt, powdered sugar and vanilla in a large bowl. Mix on high speed with a hand mixer until combined and fluffy. Sample the dip and adjust ingredients to taste.

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freshfigbluepizza

I stopped by my in-law’s house today during my lunch break. Brandon was over there helping his mom cut some dead trees down to create extra sunlight for the garden she’s planning. So as he was doing back breaking labor, I was meandering around the yard and saw a fig tree I’d never noticed before – chock full of fresh, ready to pick figs. I left with a bag full of fresh figs and Brandon left sweaty and sore. Hey, fair trade for this super flavorful, delicious pizza we created tonight!

I came home and started looking for recipes to use my fresh figs. I saw tons of suggestions just to wrap them in prosciutto or stuff them with cheese. I decided to take those ideas and turn it into a pizza. One of our favorite grilled pizzas during the summer is this Gorgonzola, Walnut and Caramelized Onion Pizza from Gourmet. Using the preparation method from that recipe, I created this pizza. The flavors went together beautifully and it was a perfect light dish for this very hot summer day. I served it with a side of mixed greens.

Grilled Fig and Prosciutto Pizza
(Recipe inspired by Gourmet)

Ingredients:

1 ball pizza dough (homemade or store bought – we used Trader Joe’s) at room temperature
Extra virgin olive oil
2 ounces prosciutto
1/2 cup sliced fresh figs
1/2 cup caramelized onions
1 cup blue cheese, crumbled

Directions:

Preheat grill to medium. On a well-floured surface, stretch dough into about a 12 x 10 rectangle (we chose to divide our dough and make two smaller pizzas because they’re easier to handle on the grill).  Brush top with olive oil to lightly coat.

Create a platter and bring your dough and pizza toppings to the grill area. Oil grill rack and place dough olive oil side down on the grill (with no toppings on it at this point) and grill, covered, for 2-3 minutes or until golden brown on the bottom.

Carefully remove dough from grill and turn over (grill side up). Layer toppings starting with prosciutto, followed by onions, figs and cheese. Return to grill and grill covered for another 3 minutes, until underside is golden and cheese is melted.

Let cool before slicing into squares.

Yield: 2-3 servings

figpizzaongrill

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corndip

While we were living in Birmingham, this corn dip seemed to pop up at a lot of parties. Who would think that a cold, creamy corn mixture would be delicious and addicting with Fritos Scoops? Yes, you heard me right…I said it – Fritos!  This dip is a cinch to put together and will bring people back to the dip bowl over and over…and over…and over.

This week I volunteered to bring appetizers to a family barbecue and I knew this dip was the perfect thing! My friend Lindsey from Birmingham sent me the recipe. As I expected, no one in the Charlotte crowd had tried the dip before but they all loved it.

Bring this dip to your next party!

Summer Corn Dip
(Recipe source my friend Lindsey)
Printable Recipe: Corn Dip

Ingredients:

1/2 cup light sour cream
1/2 cup light mayo
2 cans Mexi-corn, drained
2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1/4 cup green onions, chopped
1/4 cup red and green peppers, finely diced
Directions:

Mix together and chill for at least 30 minutes before serving. Serve with corn chips – recommended Fritos Scoops.

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