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"It's so beautifully arranged on the the plate – you know someone's fingers have been all over it." – Julia Child

Posts from the Appetizers Category

Be it Christmas or Festivus, whatever you’re celebrating this year will be more special with a  little sparkle and light. We had our friend and prop stylist extraordinaire Penelope Bouklas help us prepare for the holidays. Follow suit with mercury votive holders and use them to infuse your dinner with candlelight or as alternatives to flower vases. Outsize glass candy and cookie jars are a great way to display shiny ornaments, and do break out from the usual reds and greens if you’re feeling less traditional — as you can tell, we love pinks and silvers in everything from our glassware to our Croteaux Vineyards sparkling rosé. And, if you’re opting out of a tree, there’s still room for presents in nooks and corners, and an evergreen wreath to bring the outdoors in and scent the air. We loved these twinkle lights sans the usual green or white plastic strings — they’re demure and perched onto wire for a pared down and elegant look.

If you’re skipping the pre-made cheese platter from the deli (and we suggest you do), take a look at some of our very classic but always festive finger foods—perfect because you can make them all in advance.

Brie en croûte, courtesy of Tara, who had to play food stylist and photographer on this one!

BRIE EN CROUTE
Buttery puff pastry and oozy cheese? It just never gets old.

All-purpose flour for dusting surface
1 sheet puff pastry, thawed according to package instructions
1 (8- to 9-ounce) brie
1 large egg yolk
1 tablespoon heavy cream
Pinch salt
Serving suggestion: Crackers, dried fruits, fruit jams

– Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

– Lightly dust a work surface with flour and unfold the thawed puff pastry. Set the cheese round in the center and make sure you have about 4 inches of pastry around it so you have enough to wrap it. Roll it out as needed.

– Fold the pastry over the cheese, pressing to seal. Place the cheese seam-side down on the prepared baking sheet. Whisk the egg yolk, cream, and salt together in a small bowl then brush over the cheese. If you have scraps of dough you can cut them out into decorative shapes and press them onto the cheese, then brush them with the egg-cream mixture.

– Bake until the pastry is golden brown, 15 to 10 minutes. Let cool at room temperature for about 15 minutes before serving.

– You can assemble the cheese up to 2 days in advance. Keep it in the refrigerator, wrapped in cling film. Brush with egg-cream wash before baking.

SPICED NUTS
Makes about 3 cups
These nuts have a candy-like coating that shatters when you bite into them. You can use any type of raw unsalted nut, but we prefer a mix.

2 large egg whites, at room temperature
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups mixed raw and unsalted nuts
1 ¼ cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon Aleppo pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

– Adjust 2 oven racks to the upper- and lower middle positions. Preheat the oven to 300°F. Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.

– Whisk the egg whites, orange juice, and salt in a medium bowl. Add the nuts and toss until evenly coated. Transfer the nuts to a colander set in the sink and allow to drain for 5 minutes.

– Meanwhile, in another medium bowl, whisk together the sugar and spices. Add the nuts and toss until evenly coated. Divide the nuts evenly among the 2 prepared baking sheets and spread them into a single even layer. Bake the nuts until they have a crisp shell-like coating, 30 to 40 minutes.

– Transfer the baking sheets to cooling racks and cool the nuts completely. Break the nuts apart and serve them immediately or store them in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 10 days.

RED LIPSTICK MARGARITA
Makes 1

One of our favorite drinks from “Winter Cocktails”

For the Blood Orange Sour Mix  
Makes about 3 cups
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup water
3 tablespoons finely grated zest and 2 cups fresh juice (strained) from about 6 blood oranges
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

For the Cocktail
1/4 cup kosher salt
1/2 lime
2 ounces tequila
1 ounce ginger liqueur
2 tablespoons lime juice or Blood Orange Sour Mix

For the Blood Orange Sour Mix: Rub sugar and zest together to release the oils. The sugar will look damp and barely any strands of zest will remain. Combine water and sugar in small saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring, until sugar is completely dissolved. Cool syrup to room temperature, then stir in citrus juices. Refrigerate for up to 1 month in an airtight container.

For the Cocktail: Scatter salt over a small plate or saucer. Rub the rim of the glass with the cut lime to dampen. Dip glass into salt, shaking off excess.

– Place tequila, triple sec, and lime juice or sour mix in shaker. Shake vigorously and strain into ice-filled glass. Serve.

 

CLASSIC PATE  
Makes 2 (8-ounce) ramekins
This is classic elegance and easier to make than you ever thought. Look for organic chicken livers in the poultry section of the market.

For the Pâté
10 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 shallots, very thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, minced
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
1 pound chicken livers, trimmed of fat and membranes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 tablespoons dry sherry or port
2 tablespoons heavy cream

For the Jelly
2 tablespoons water
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons dry sherry, port, or unsweetened cranberry juice
1 teaspoon unflavored powdered gelatin
1 tablespoon sugar
Pinch ground allspice
Serving Suggestion: Toast points or crackers

For the Pâté : Melt 8 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and thyme and cook, stirring, 1 more minute.

– Increase the heat to medium-high. Add the livers and season them with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 4 minutes until the livers are browned on all sides but still pink in the middle. With a slotted spoon, transfer the livers to a plate (if some shallots remain in the skillet its alright).

– Add the sherry and cook, scraping the skillet, until it’s almost completely evaporated, about 2 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat. Scrape the skillet contents and the livers with any accumulated juices into a food processor and pulse until smooth. With the machine running, add the remaining 2 tablespoons butter and cream and process until combined. Taste and adjust seasonings.

– Divide the mixture between 2 (8-ounce) ramekins and cover with plastic wrap, pressing it directly onto the surface of the paté. Chill for 2 hours and make the jelly.

For the Jelly: After 2 hours, combine the water and 2 tablespoons of the sherry in a medium bowl. Sprinkle the gelatin over it and allow the mixture to stand for 5 minutes.

– Bring the remaining port, sugar, and allspice to a gentle simmer over low heat, stirring until the sugar is dissolved.  Stir into the gelatin mixture until completely dissolved. Cool to room temperature and pour over the pâté, then return to the refrigerator and allow to chill until the gelatin is set, at least 2 more hours.

– The completed pâté can be made 5 days ahead and kept refrigerated. It can also be frozen for up to 2 weeks and thawed out in the refrigerator.

Well, it’s that time of year again: a time we love and hate all in the same breath.  As we say goodbye to summer and hello to fall, the days get shorter, the air grows cooler, and we squeeze in as much outdoor fun as we can. Watching the leaves change and soaking in that gorgeous fall sunlight is always more fun with your friends. So we decided to have a few people over to enjoy a warm fire, hot cider, and delicious food. Carving pumpkins, roasting marshmallows, and toasting pumpkin seeds are just a few of the nostalgic activities that took place. Lucky for us, one of our favorite prop stylists, Penelope Bouklas, joined us and turned our gathering into a photo-worthy event.

HOT SPICED APPLE CIDER

  • 4 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 tablespoons whole allspice berries
  • 2 tablespoons whole black peppercorns
  • 2 tablespoons whole cardamom pods, crushed with the side of a knife
  • Rind of 1 orange
  • 1 quart apple cider
  • Pinch of salt
  • Cheese cloth

– Toast the spices in a large saucepan over medium heat until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Wrap the spices in cheese cloth. Add the orange rind, cider, spices, salt and simmer over low heat for 30 minutes to allow the spices to infuse. Strain the cider and serve with optional garnishes.

Optional Garnishes:

  • Orange rounds
  • Whipped cream with orange zest and freshly ground black pepper

*Can also be enjoyed cold!

A little Jiffy Pop is always fun & super easy!

TATA’S CHILI CON CARNE

Serves 6 – 8

  • 1 pound ground beef  (black angus)
  • 2 (35-ounce) cans whole peeled tomatoes
  • 1 (15-ounce) can each of butter beans, red beans, and Great Northern beans
  • (or any combination of beans you like)
  • 2 to 3 ears of corn, shucked and removed from the cob, or 2 cups frozen corn
  • 2 to 3 large cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 red poblano peppers, chopped
  • 2 jalapeño peppers, 1 choopped and seeded, 1 sliced with seeds
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons cumin
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • Salt and pepper to taste

– Rinse and drain the beans and set aside

– Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium – high heat. Add the meat, salt, and pepper. Cook until browned, 5 to 7 minutes.  Once browned, add the poblanos, jalapeños, onion, garlic, cumin, & chili powder. Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes, scraping the pot with wooden spoon as needed.

– Crush the tomatoes by hand as you pour them into the pot. Add the beans and corn. Stir together & bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer covered for about 1 hour.

Optional Garnishes:

  • Dollop of crème fraiche or sour cream
  • Chopped scallions
  • Shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • Toasted pumpkin seeds

SKILLET CORNBREAD

Makes 1 (10-inch) round, serves 4 to 6

  • 1 cup medium-grind yellow cornmeal
  •  1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  •  1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 large eggs
  •  ½ cup sour cream
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup frozen or fresh corn kernels
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 6 scallions, chopped
  • 1 poblano pepper, roasted and chopped
  • Suggested garnishes: butter, honey, cheddar cheese

– Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 400°F.

– In a large bowl, whisk together the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Whisk the eggs, sour cream, and milk together in a separate bowl. Whisk into the flour mixture. Stir in the corn.

– Heat the oil and butter over medium heat in a 10-inch cast iron skillet until shimmering. Add the scallions and chile and cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Stir in the scallion-poblano mixture into the batter then into the skillet skillet. Bake until the cornbread is golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer skillet to cooling rack and cool at least 10 minutes before serving with suggested garnishes.

– Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container. Reheat in a preheated 350°F oven for about 10 minutes. Alternatively, cut slices and butter both sides. Cook in a nonstick skillet over medium heat until crisp and heated through.

FIRESIDE S’MORES

  • Graham Crackers
  • Bar of good dark or milk chocolate  (we used Ghiardelli 60% Cacao)
  • Large marshmallows
  • Sticks for cooking over the fire

– Place a marshmallow on the end of a stick and heat it over the fire, paying careful attention not to burn it. (Unless you like it burnt!)  Meanwhile, warm 2 graham crackers with 1 piece of chocolate on the edge of the fire. Depending on your fire pit, you’ll need to find a good steady spot to get indirect heat. Once your marshmallow is cooked to just right, put your s’more together like a sandwich and enjoy!!

Have you ever been to the supermarket and not found a tomato? Probably not. We live in a seasonless era where produce exists year-round. You can buy peaches in the dead of winter and strawberries in the fall, but they never taste good. The same goes for tomatoes. These sci-fi versions with their lipstick red hue and taut skins are more decor than food.

I’ve become used to perennial produce, just like many, and I buy those out of season fruits (mostly tomatoes, because, I just really, really want one in my sandwich) only to eat them and feel deep disappointment.

It’s now late summer and the proper time to eat tomatoes, finally. There are so many beautiful, sun-ripened, juicy ones available you might have a hard time selecting among them, but they’re only around for a short while so eat as many as you can and store the memory of their proper flavor in your mind and belly until next season.

A favorite way we have of eating them is the most simple: salt and pepper, maybe some olive oil, good bread, and whatever cheese you may have, like mozzarella or goat cheese or sharp cheddar (try a cheddar, tomato, and mayonnaise sandiwich!).

We also love this take on a BLT with pork belly and herbs, and a vegetarian ensemble with green and yellow tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, cucumbers, and basil.

PORK BELLY B.L.T.

1 1/4 pounds pork belly
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon dry mustard
1/2 cup ketchup
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
3 tablespoons molasses
3 tablespoons malt vinegar
1 tablespoon sharp mustard
1 cup water

– Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 350°F.

– With a sharp knife, score (gently cut) the top of the pork belly in a cross-hatch pattern. Season with salt, pepper, and the dry mustard.

– Whisk the remaining ingredients together in small saucepan and bring to a boil. Place the pork belly in a small baking dish and pour the sauce over it (it should come up at least halfway up the sides of the belly, otherwise, transfer to a smaller container). Cover with foil and transfer to the oven. Bake 1 hour until tender.

– Cool the belly completely (preferably refrigerated overnight) and slice into 1/2-inch thick slices. Cook the slices in a large skillet over medium heat until crisp. If you like, you can simmer the cooking sauce and use it to glaze the pork.

– For the sandwich, spread toast with mayonnaise or mustard, then top with the pork belly and ripe, salted tomatoes. Add herbs like lemon thyme and basil and serve.

Finally, eggplant and tomatoes in a version of caponata. Caponata is a Sicilian classic, with myriad interpretations, but mostly it starts with eggplant cooked until tender. Other ingredients include the aforementioned tomatoes, onions, and celery, plus carrots, capers, olives, pine nuts, and herbs. The flavor is agrodolce (sweet-sour) and all of these ingredients combine to hit your palate in multiple locations at once.

This edition is a bit loose, having been made quickly from what was on hand. The dish, as you can see in the photo, is meant to look like a thick, fruit-heavy compote. Our caponata starts with eggplant and includes bits and pieces of fresh tomatoes. It’s actually a great way to rescue leftover bits of tomatoes you might have from having made a sandwich or a salad. You can use anchovies, or sardines as this recipe does—don’t worry, they won’t be “fishy” but will impart a heady dose of umami.

CAPONATA

Olive oil
2 black-skinned eggplant (2 to 2 1/2 pounds), cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 large yellow onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
Aleppo pepper or red pepper flakes
6 ripe tomatoes, cored and coarsely chopped
1/2 cup pimento-stuffed olives (chopping optional)
1/3 cup capers, rinsed and drained
2 sardines packed in oil
1/3 cup raisins (optional)
2 rosemary sprigs
Lemon juice
Red wine vinegar
– Heat 1/4 cup olive oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet. Add the eggplant and onion and season generously with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the eggplant begins to soften and the onion is translucent, about 20 minutes. It’s ok if the eggplant turns a bit brown, but do lower the heat if any excess charring begins to happen.

– Add the garlic and a pinch of Aleppo pepper and cook 2 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and any juices and continue cooking, stirring, until the mixture is becoming homogenous and thick. Stir in the olives, capers, sardines, raisins, and rosemary and cook for 10 minutes longer.

– Stir in 1 tablespoon lemon juice and 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt, pepper, and vinegar.

– Cool to room temperature and serve as an appetizer with garlic toast or alongside grilled fish or chicken.

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