Tag Archives: appetizer

Eggplant Relish Pasta Sauce/Crostini

28 Aug

Leftover pasta tossed with eggplant relish and feta

Anyone who knows me is aware of my love of purple, so it should come as no surprise that when I saw bright purple mini-eggplants at the farmers market, I had to buy a couple.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have a plan for what I would actually do with them, so a week or so went by before I got around to finding a recipe to use them in.  Luckily the eggplants were still usable, and I found a very yummy-sounding recipe in Emeril Lagasse’s “Farm to Fork” for Eggplant Relish Crostini.  I had some miscellaneous pasta leftover, so decided to use this relish type thing as a topping/sauce for pasta instead of on bread.  There are lots of rumors about eggplant being hard to get right as it can remain bitter when cooked, but this was pretty simple, and absolutely delicious.  The eggplant shrinks down a lot, so it doesn’t make a huge amount, and next time I will definitely make more and buy some bread to make the crostini.  I used sundried tomatoes instead of roasted red peppers because I had those in my fridge, but the tomato flavor really came through and were one of the highlights of the dish, so I would use them again instead of red peppers.  This does have a quite long list of ingredients, but most of the ingredients are fridge/pantry staples anyway, so this could be an easy weeknight dinner or a great party appetizer served on toasted bread.

Eggplant Relish Crostini/Pasta Sauce
Adapted from Emeril Lagasse’s Farm to Fork
Makes about 3 1/2 cups relish

Equipment: Knife, peeler, frying pan, wooden spoon,

Ingredients
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 pounds eggplant (about 2 large), peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1/3 cup sundried tomatoes stored in olive oil (about 3 from a jar)
1 1/2 tablespoons basil leaves, finely chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons finely chopped nonpareil capers
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper/red pepper flakes
Crumbled feta cheese for garnish
French bread brushed with olive oil and toasted (for crostini)

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large frying pan or skillet over medium-high heat.  Add half of the cubed eggplant and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon of salt.  Cook, stirring often, until eggplant is tender and caramelized, about 8-10 minutes. Remove to a bowl and repeat with the remaining eggplant.  Set eggplant aside until cooled to room temperature.

Add all of the remaining ingredients to the cooled eggplant (except feta and bread, if using), and stir gently to combine.  Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.  Set relish aside for at least 30 minutes to allow flavors to mingle.  To serve, toss with pasta and top with crumbled feta, or serve on toasted rounds of bread drizzled with olive oil and topped with feta.

Corn Risotto and Stuffed Risotto Balls

23 Jul

Fried risotto balls!

I have been seeing delicious corn recipes all over the place recently- charred corn salsa, corn tacos, grilled corn with feta, but yet when I impulsively bought two ears of corn at the farmers market I was at a loss for what to do with them. I decided to make risotto, and threw in some snow peas for good measure.  The fresh corn goes well with creamy risotto, and both the corn and the snow peas add a crunch to the finished dish.  In addition to the Parmesan that goes into pretty much any risotto, I crumbled feta in right at the end and sprinkled some on top of the risotto.  It was a delicious and filling summery dish, and (bonus!) I was able to make fried and stuffed risotto balls with the copious leftovers.

Yum corn risotto

Since risotto is a dish that needs to be made in large amounts I am always able to make at least three meals out of a batch, but this time I decided to play around and make risotto balls stuffed with mozzarella and fried.  The result was arguably even better than the risotto was when I first made it.  The cold risotto is mixed with breadcrumbs, egg, and more herbs, then a cube of mozzarella or other melty cheese is placed in the middle of a golf-ball sized risotto ball, and they are rolled in more breadcrumbs and fried to golden brown perfection.  These would make a great appetizer or starter at a party, but for me, several of them made an extremely satisfying dinner.

Fresh Corn and Snap Pea Risotto
Serves 6

Ingredients
6 cups chicken broth
1 bay leaf
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, finely diced
1 1/2 cup arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup fresh corn kernels (from 2-3 ears of corn)
5 oz snow peas, chopped
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1/2 cup crumbled Feta chees
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons fresh basil leaves, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

After chopping the vegetables, bring the chicken stock and bay leaf to a simmer in a medium saucepan.  In a large pan heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions to the oil and sautee for 2-3 minutes, until softened.  Next add the rice and cook until opaque, about 3 minutes.  Add wine and cook until absorbed, another minute or so.  Then begin adding the stock, 1 cup at a time.  Add each cup of stock and cook over medium heat until absorbed, stirring frequently.  When the stock is absorbed into the rice add the next cup, and continue until all of the stock is gone and risotto is cooked, about 25 minutes.  Stir in the Parmesan, butter, basil, and season with salt and pepper to taste.  Crumble the feta into the risotto and mix in, then sprinkle plates with more feta if desired.

Stuffed Risotto Balls
Adapted from Giada de Laurentis’ Everyday Italian

Ingredients
Serves 4-6 (I assume as an appetizer, as I ate all of mine.)

2 cups cooked and cooled risotto
1 1/2 cup seasoned breadcrumbs
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
2 eggs, beaten
4 ounces fresh mozzarella, diced into 1/2 inch cubes
Vegetable oil for frying

Put 1 cup of breadcrumbs in a shallow dish.  In a bowl combine 1/2 cup of the breadcrumbs, the risotto, Parmesan, basil, and eggs.  Mix to combine, and then begin to form the balls.  With damp hands take about 2 tablespoons of the risotto mixture and shape into golf-ball sized balls.  Make an indent in the center of the risotto ball and add a cube of mozzarella, then cover the whole.  Roll the risotto balls into the breadcrumbs to coat. In a large saucepan, add about an inch of vegetable oil.  Heat over medium-high heat until about 350 degrees- to test without a thermometer fry a piece of bread in the oil, it should brown in about 2 minutes.  In batches, fry the rice balls, turning occasionally, until golden brown- about 4-5 minutes.  Take out of the oil and drain on paper towels before serving.

Strawberries, Two Ways

18 Jun

Summer in a cake

While we’re on the theme of excellent dishes to bring to barbeques/potlucks, both of these fit the bill. I hope you’ve been checking out your local farmer’s market recently, and if you have you probably have lots and lots of strawberries (and not too much other fruit yet, unfortunately). The first dish, a strawberry-balsamic flatbread-y thing, is awesome because it allows you to use up those strawberries even if you don’t want to make a dessert! The dough was also so much fun to work with– really pillowy and soft, it was very easy to knead, so don’t be put off by that. I did end up thinking the bread was a little dry, however– I might reduce the baking time next time. I also don’t think the bread itself would suffer from adding a few more flavorings (though this could be because I forgot to add the salt till the last minute. D’oh). But even as is, this was a delicious addition to a potluck my friends and I had last week.

Foccacia/flatbread/delicious thing

The second dish is a super simple strawberry cake. Though it takes a little time to bake, it’s perfect if you want a dessert to use up a ton of berries and wow your friends (or yourself), without spending a long time messing with pie crusts or anything like that. My batter was a little thick and absolutely COVERED in berries, so I was a little unsure that it would rise up as shown in Deb’s pictures, but it turned out looking absolutely amazing. My one tip would be to layer up more on the edges than in the middle… the middle became basically a pool of strawberries on my cake, which was delicious but perhaps not optimal.
So hurry down to the farmer’s market (or, ok, the supermarket) and snap up some strawberries before the season’s over!

Cramming in as many strawberries as possible

Strawberry Balsamic Flatbread with Goat Cheese (Adapted from Joy the Baker)
Equipment: baking sheet
Ingredients:
5 teaspoons (about 2 packages) active dry yeast
1 cup warm water
3 cups of flour, divided into 1 cup increments
3 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
3 tablespoons sugar
1 1/4 teaspoon salt
zest 1 orange
1 cup thinly sliced strawberries (less than a pint)
coarse sea salt
1/2 cup goat cheese
balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh mint or basil

Method:

In a large bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the warm water.  Stir with a fork to dissolve and break up any clumps.  Add one cup of flour and blend together until smooth (can use the fork).  Cover with a tea towel and set in a warm place to rise for 1 hour. If your oven has a “proof” setting, and there is no warm place in your house, you can use this.

After the mixture has risen, remove the covering and stir in 3 tablespoons of olive oil, sugar, and orange zest.  Add one cup of flour and stir to blend.  Add the remaining cup of flour and salt and work together into a dough with a wooden spoon or your hands.

Place dough on a lightly floured surface and knead for 5 minutes.  If the dough is too sticky, add up to 1/3 cup more flour and knead.  Dough will be slightly sticky, and that’s alright.

Clean out the large bowl and coat with 1 teaspoon olive oil.  Place dough in the bowl, and flip it over so that it’s entirely coated in oil.  Cover and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour, or until doubled in size.

Punch the dough down and knead for just a minute, before pulling and stretching the dough into a 16×9-inch rectangle (a little smaller than a standard baking sheet). Place on a greased baking sheet and let rise, uncovered, for 30 minutes.

Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees F.

When dough has risen, use your fingers to make random indentations in the puffed dough.  Drizzle with olive oil (carefully, it is difficult to not have it all go in one place!).  Top with sliced strawberries, and sprinkle with coarse sea salt.  Bake bread for 30 to 35 minutes, until golden, crisp and baked through. As noted above, if you want it a little softer, perhaps bake for a little less time. If one side is browning faster than the other, rotate the pan once, halfway through baking.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes.  Chop mint or basil and crumble goat cheese. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar, and then sprinkle with herbs and goat cheese. Slice into twelve pieces with pizza cutter. Serve immediately, it only really keeps for a day.

Simple Strawberry Cake (Adapted from Smitten Kitchen)
Equipment: Electric mixer (hand or stand), 9 or 10-inch springform or cake pan, or 10-inch pie pan

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour (can substitute 3/4 cup for barley flour)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 large egg
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 pound (450 grams) strawberries

Method: Hull and halve the strawberries, set aside. Butter your 9 or 10-inch springform/cake pan, or 10-inch pie pan (or 9-inch deep-dish pie pan).
Preheat the oven to 350 F. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, salt, and baking powder. Set aside. In a larger bowl, beat butter and one cup sugar together with an electric mixer until pale and fluffy, about three minutes. Mix in egg, milk, and vanilla until just combined. Mixture may look slightly curdled, this is fine. Add dry mixture gradually, mixing until just smooth.
Pour (or spoon, in my case) into prepared pan. Spread mixture evenly, if needed, and arrange strawberries on top, cut side down, in as close to a single layer as you can get. (I had to overlap them a bit, and ended up using just shy of a pound because I felt there were enough on there.) Sprinkle remaining two tablespoons sugar over berries.
Bake cake for 10 minutes, then reduce oven temperature to 325 F and bake for another 50-75 (my time) minutes, until golden brown and a tester comes out free of wet batter. I found I was still getting some crumbs sticking to my tester after quite a long time, but eventually decided that was just due to the moistness of the cake. Let cool in pan on a rack, and serve. It should keep for two days, lightly covered, at room temperature.

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