Saturday, August 20, 2011

a more whimsical deviled egg...

Green eggs and ham were a perfectly playful finger-food for Casey's "Garden Party" themed bridal shower.

1 dozen eggs, preferably free-range/hormone free
1/4 Cup packed fresh Basil leaves
1 Tbsp Rice Vinegar
3 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2.5 Tbsp grated Parmesan Cheeses
3 Tbsp fat-free Greek Yogurt
3.5 Tbsp light Mayonnaise
Kosher salt, as needed

1. Boil the eggs. Allow the eggs to cool and then peel them, cut them in half lengthwise and put the yolks into a medium mixing bowl.
2. Combine the basil, rice vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, and Parmesan cheese in a food processor. Blend until smooth.
3. Add the pureed basil mixture, yogurt and mayo to the yolks and mash together with a fork or potato masher and until smooth; if the mixture seems a touch dry add a touch more mayonnaise.
4. Taste the yolk mixture and adjust seasoning as necessary. Use a rubber spatula to transfer the mixture to a piping bag or a large ziploc bag [if using a ziploc bag, snip a bottom corner off of the bag and use that in place of a piping bag], either option can be fitted with a piping tip if you have one.
5. Pipe the basil-yolk mixture into the hollow egg halves. 
6. Garnish with crispy prosciutto ribbons and serve!

Prosciutto Ribbons

A great garnish for deviled eggs, stuffed mushrooms, or any other soft, bite-sized morsels crying out for a little textural contrast.  All you need is a sharp knife, a baking sheet, parchment paper, prosciutto and patience.

Serving suggestion
1. Preheat your oven to 375 Fahrenheit. Line the cookie sheet with parchment paper.
2. While the oven is preheating, cut each slice of prosciutto into 8 long "ribbons", if you desire thicker crisps cut each piece of prosciutto into 6 ribbons. Be sure to cut the prosciutto across, latitude-wise, to make elegant ribbons, not short, stumpy pieces of ham.
3.Gently pull each strip of prosciutto from your cutting board and arrange them on the parchment lined baking sheet.
4. Transfer to the preheated oven and cook for approximately 8-12 minutes or until the prosciutto is crisped and not at all pliable.
5. Remove from oven and allow to cool before carefully removing from parchment. Any broken bits = chef's snack.



*Do note: The prosciutto will shrink considerably after cooking.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

a twist on the tea sandwich

Cucumber & cream cheese tea sandwiches seem to be a norm... they also seem very boring to me.  I like to use Hungarian "pickled" cucumbers and cream cheese spiked with dill, it makes for a tastier bite.  Pumpernickel bread adds visual appeal and a mellow flavor to balance the sweet, tangy cucumbers and aromatic dill.

1 loaf Pumpernickel Bread [about 16 slices]
1- 8 ounce package cream cheese, room temperature
3 Tbsp fresh, chopped Dill
1/2 Cup Hungarian Cucumber Salad, drained

1. First, set up a colander or fine mesh sieve over a bowl and drain the excess liquid from your cucumbers. No one likes a soggy sandwich, especially not proper ladies at a tea party.
2. While the cucumbers are draining whip together the chopped dill and cream cheese. Make sure the dill is fully incorporated and that there aren't full pockets of herb stashed in the cream cheese.
3. Spread a thin layer of cream cheese on each slice of pumpernickel.
4. Distribute a single layer of cucumber slices over every other slice of cream-cheesed bread [there should be half as many slices of bread with cucumbers on it as there are slices with cream cheese]
5. Complete the sandwich-making process by layering the cream-cheese only slices of bread, cream cheese-side down, over the cucumbered bread.
6. Remove the crusts from each sandwich. Cut each crustless sandwich in half and then cut the resulting halves in half again, this time on the diagonal, to make triangles.
7. Arrange on a platter and serve!

Hungarian Cucumber Salad

This recipe is very near and dear to my heart.  One bite brings back family memories from over two decades ago [damn, I'm gettin' old!] and reminds me of how powerful the sensation of taste can be.  I hope you can taste the love in this very simple cucumber salad when you make it in your kitchen.

1 large seedless "English" cucumber [these are the very long cucumbers, often sold in individual cello-wrapping]
1/3 Cup granulated Sugar
1/3 Cup + 2 Tbsp White Vinegar
1/2 tsp Kosher Salt
1/2 tsp Sweet Hungarian Paprika

1. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the vinegar, sugar, salt, and paprika. Whisk until the sugar is dissolved.
2. Wash and dry the cucumber, I leave the skin on but feel free to peel it if that is what you prefer.
3. Cut the cucumber into 1/8 inch thick rounds; you might want to dust of your mandolin for this task if you have one, or enjoy honing in on your knife skills.
4. Place the sliced cucumber in the bowl with your vinegar mixture and toss to coat. Transfer the mixture to a large ziploc bag, seal out the air, and store in the fridge until ready to serve. It will stay good indefinitely, consider these cucumbers basically pickled.





Beautiful Baby Heirlooms

I've said it more than once and I will say it again: I wish I could capture the smell of summers in Vermont in a jar.  This may or may not be possible; I assume it must be, but that the amount of air in the jar would not be concentrated enough to release any detectable aroma upon opening.  This colorful Baby Heirloom Tomato Bruschetta serves as a temporary solution until I effectively find a way to trap Vermont summer air and share it with my Jersey family.

Here is what you will need:
1 pint local baby heirloom tomatoes, or grape or cherry tomatoes
3 Tbsp good Extra Virgin Olive Oil [I love California Olive Ranch oils; they are delicious, domestic, and affordable.]
1/4 Cup lightly packed Basil Leaves, torn/chopped/chiffonade- your preference
Pinch of Kosher salt

1. Cut the tomatoes into quarters or sixths, depending on the size of the tomatoes. Transfer tomatoes along with any released juices into a large, glass or stainless steel mixing bowl.
2. If serving immediately, add basil, salt & olive oil and gently fold the ingredients until evenly distributed.
3. If you are not serving immediately:
  • Do not chop your basil yet. Do that right before you mix it into your bruschetta.
  • Do not salt the tomatoes yet.  It will pull out all of the tomato-water overnight and the acidic nature of liquid will make the flesh of the tomato a lot less texturally appealing.
  • Store the cut tomatoes in a covered bowl in the refrigerator overnight if you must. 
  • Follow step #2 once you are reading to finish your bruschetta!

I usually serve my bruschetta over crostini.  Technically crostini is stale bread, but toasted slices of fresh baguette are a popular substitute.

All you will need is:
1 French Baguette
Extra Virgin Olive Oil for spraying [you can use the spray stuff in a can if you prefer, I just don't appreciate the addition of soy products and the ambiguous "Expellant" in the ingredients list; instead I use a funnel to pour about 1/4 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil into a regular spray bottle and use that to evenly distribute the oil onto my slices of bread]
Kosher Salt & Cracked Black Pepper, as needed

1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
2. While the oven is heating up, slice the baguette on a bias into approximately 1/2 inch thick slices.
3. Arrange the sliced baguette in a single layer on a cookie sheet or sheet tray and spray with olive oil.  Lightly season with salt and pepper.
4. Transfer to oven and crisp until golden brown.  This should take 4-8 minutes depending on your oven.  DO NOT walk away while making crostini; they will go from perfect to BURNT in the blink of an eye.

Crostini are a perfect platform for the bruschetta not only because of the textural contrast, but because the dried out bread captures all of the juices being released from the tomatoes and adds yet another element of flavor and dimension.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Easy Breezy

Sometimes when you are planning a menu involving several items you need to acknowledge that you are human and cut yourself a break on at least one of them.  These strawberry preserve, cream cheese & caraway tea sandwiches are a delectably unexpected pairing that will impress your guests and spare you five moments of sanity.

This recipe is per 16 slices of seeded Rye [which should yield 8 full sandwiches, and roughly 32 finger sandwiches].

You will need:
1 package [or 16 slices] seeded Rye bread
1 jar good Strawberry Preserves [#1- the ingredients should primarily be fruit & sugar, and maybe pectin. NO HiGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP OR CORN SYRUP. #2- You will not need the entire jar, most likely 1 tsp, give or take, per full sandwich]
1/2 stick salted Butter, room temperature
1- 8 ounce package Cream Cheese or Neufchatel, room temperature

1. Whip or mix the cream cheese and butter together until fully incorporated.
2. Spread a thin layer of the butter & cream cheese mixture on one side of each slice of bread. It is imperative that the layer is thin because tea sandwiches & most finger foods are not designed to be sloppy and messy, they are intended to be simply neat, small bites.
3. Now dollop about a teaspoon or so of preserves on every other slice of bread.
4. Spread the preserves evenly over the bread and then sandwich with a slice of the cream cheese & butter only bread, spread-side down.
5. Once all of the sandwiches are assembled, carefully cut the crusts off using a sharp knife. Do not press the sandwich or the preserves will ooze.
6. Then cut each crustless rectangle in half, down the middle, and cut the resulting mini-sandwiches in half diagonally, creating triangles. Each "full" sandwich should yield 4 small triangles.
7. Assemble on a platter and serve!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Tea Party Tidbits

A sneak peak at some soon-to-post recipes!

Spinach, Parmesan & Pecorino Phyllo Cups

Strawberry Preserve & Cream Cheese 
on Seeded Rye

Hungarian Pickled Cucumbers & Dilled
Cream Cheese on Pumpernickel

Bacon, Avocado & Summer Tomato
on Butter-wheat bread

Green Eggs and Ham!

Baby Heirloom Bruschetta con Crostini