Tag Archives: appetizers

Laziness Wins the Day

Honestly, I had big plans.

I wanted my cocktail party to be classy. I was going to wow my friends with a riff on Ina Garten’s savory palmiers inspired by some of my favorite flavors.

And then—famous last words here.

And then I realized several things. Namely, that I am not good with time management. There were chicken skewers and an accompanying sauce to be made and cookies and dishes to be washed and I still needed a shower before my guests arrived. Plus there was the fact that I actually wanted to enjoy the cooking process.

So, the palmiers got deconstructed. And, my guests ate squares of butternut squash tart instead.

And everyone was happy.

Needless to say, this is going to make it into my aresnal of go to appetizers and quick weeknight dinners. It should be in yours, too.

Butternut Squash Tart

I use Peppridge Farm Pastry dough for this recipe, which contains 2 sheets and simply freeze the second for later use.

1 sheet of puff pastry, defrosted
1 cup butternut squash, cubed
1/4 cup water, plus more as needed
1/2 cup smoked mozzarella, grated
1 cups chopped onions
1 TBS herbes de provence
1 tsp red pepper flakes
3 TBS olive oil
salt and pepper

Preheat the over to 350 degrees F.

Coat the butternut squash with 1 TBS oil, season with salt and pepper and then roast for 30 minutes, until the squash is tender. Puree with 1/4 water or more as needed. You want the puree to have a thick sauce-like texture. Set puree aside.

In the meantime, carmelize the onions in 2 TBS of olive oil, using a low flame. Season the onions with salt, pepper, red pepper flakes and herbes de provence. When the onions are ready, they should be about 1/4 of the size they were originally and a deep brown color. Set aside.

To assemble the tart, place the pastry dough on a parchment lined baking sheet. Cover the pastry dough with the butternut squash puree, leaving a 1/4″ border around the edge. Place the sauteed onions on top of the butternut squash puree layer and sprinkle the whole thing with the smoked mozzarella.

Create a crust by folding over the border of pastry dough and crimping.

Bake the tart for 25-30 minutes, until the edges of the pastry are golden brown.

Makes 1 tart.


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Filed under Etc., Meatless, Vegetables

Sammie Cooks!

When it comes to hosting, my friend Samantha puts me to shame. Where I’ll plan on hosting a simple meal for a group with some snacks, she’s got a 3-course meal, complete with a special punch—her mother’s recipe.

Rather than try to outdo her—since, let’s be honest, it’s no contest—I’ve opted for a far more sensible approach: enlisting her help. To wit, you saw her cheese plates from a recent dinner party in this post.

Things of beauty they are.

Almost too good to eat.

Almost. So, too, was the other trick up her sleeve that night. A round of Camembert covered with puff pastry and baked until it was gooey. I was kicking myself for not thinking of this appetizer myself.

Keep reading for her recipe and variations.

Baked Camembert

This appetizer is a crowd pleaser! It looks sophisticated, yet it’s made with only four ingredients and takes less than five minutes to prepare. The almonds give a bit of a crunch while the honey enhances the flavor of the cheese, filling your mouth an unexpected hint of sweetness.

1 sheet of frozen puff pastry
1 round of Camembert cheese (Brie can be substituted)
1 healthy handful of sliced almonds
3-4 tablespoons of honey

Prep-time less than five minutes. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Defrost and unfold pastry dough. Place cheese round in center of dough. Drizzle half the honey over the cheese (don’t be afraid to get it on the dough). Sprinkle almonds and then rest of honey. Taking one corner of the dough, fold into center of cheese round. Then continue to fold the dough into the center of the cheese round in a clockwise fashion. You may find that there is an excess of dough on the top of the cheese depending on how big the round is (too many layers of dough will not cook properly). In this case, trim a bit of the dough off as you fold it over. Bake in oven for about 20 minutes, or until pastry dough is cooked through.

Serving: Let stand at least 5 minutes. Serve on a plate with bread or crackers and a serrated knife. Feel free to garnish with a sprinkle of almonds. If you serve after 5 minutes, the cheese will likely ooze out, which is great for dipping. If you want it more controlled, wait 15 minutes.

Variations: Substitute the almonds with chopped pecans or chopped walnuts; substitute the honey with dried cranberries or fruit jelly (raspberry or apricot are my favorite). Experiment with your favorite cheese plate accompaniments.

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They Say It’s Your Birthday….

Right, the title of the post.

Perhaps a little explaination is required.

Well then, when I told my mother I was cooking chicken satays for a friend, her response was, “Why? Is it her birthday?”

And, in fact, for the past ten years, I’ve been cooking my mother a birthday dinner often featuring this dish. Or, more precisely, various iterations of it.

When she first asked me to make her an Asian inspired dish years ago, quite honestly, I didn’t know much about Asian cooking. The ingredients I knew were soy sauce and seasame oil. So, I took the the household cookbooks, cobbling something together with flavors that sounded like they would fit.

Then I tweaked and tweaked. And tweaked.

And, at last, I think I’ve got the recipe down.

The honey balances out the spice and the soy gives a much needed boost of salt. Tying it all together, I think, is the corriander. You don’t quite know what it is, but the flavor ties everything else together, making it a cohesive whole.

Even better, it’s the ultimate make-ahead dish. Since you can marinade it overnight and then bake it off in the oven, there’s no reason why you can’t enjoy your dinner with along with your guests.

Chicken Satays

This recipe is adapted to cook indoors, but it would be fantastic grilled. If you choose to go that route, once you’ve marinaded the chicken, put it on bamboo skewers and grill (or, if you’re indoors, use a grill pan). The cooking time will vary, based on the thickness of your chicken. Be sure to soak your skewers for at least 20 minutes before you use them so that they don’t burn.

1 1/2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into strips
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp sriracha
1 tsp honey
2 TBS sesame oil
3/8 cup light soy sauce
juice of 1 lemon and 1 lime (approx. 3 TBS total)

Mix all of the ingredients, except the chicken, together, whisking to form a well blended marinade. Once that’s complete, place your chicken in a container or vessel with a firm seal, such as a Ziplock quart sized bag. Pour your marinade over the chicken and shake to evenly coat.

Marinate for at least 1 hour. Ideally, you want to marinate it overnight to give the flavors time to meld.

Once you are ready to cook, either put the chicken strips on a baking tray in a preheated oven and cook for 15-20 minutes at 350 F, being careful not to overcook.

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Lighter Than Air

In the past few years, my family has taken to celebrating birthdays with brunch at Artisanal. Part of the appeal, aside from the excuse to get together and celebrate is the prix fixe brunch—with seemingly limitless options—and the optional wine pairing. However, I’m predictable, and no matter what else I order, I always begin with the gougères. They’re almost impossibly light and prefect for sharing.

Of course, birthdays only come once a year, and I’m not about to start have 3-course brunches on a regular basis—not that I haven’t thought of doing that.

Instead, it seems if I want gougères, my best option is to make them myself.

Luckily, it’s far easier than it seems, particularly after mastering the art of making a quick choux. The trick here is to use an electric mixer, which allows you to combine the eggs quickly, forming the a dough that’s glossy and filled with air.

If you’re lucky enough to have a mechanical pastry bag (in my case, another birthday treat), than you can make quick work of assembling your dough. And, if not, a couple of teaspoons will do the trick just as well.

Don’t worry too much about how pretty your gougères look—they won’t last too long on the serving dish anyway.

While my family might leave glasses of wine unfinished or eggs half eaten, the gougères are always quickly grabbed up. Serve these at your next gathering and I trust the same will happen for you.


adapted from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook

Traditionally gougères are made with Gruyere. Since I didn’t have either on hand, I substituted cheddar, which works equally well. If you want to go the more traditional route, use it instead.

1/2 cup, plus 3 TBS all-purpose flour
1/2 cup water
4 TBS (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar
3/4 cup grated cheddar
2 eggs
dash tobasco sauce
1/4 tsp paprika, plus more for dusting
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper, plus more for dusting

Preheat over to 425 F.

In a medium saucepan, combine water, butter, salt, sugar and tobasco over a medium-high heat. Bring the mixture to a boil and take off of the heat.

Using a wooden spoon, add flour, paprika and ground black pepper and mix until flour and butter mixture are completely combined.

Return the mixture to a medium heat and cook, stirring constantly. When the mixture pulls away from the sides of the pan and forms a film on the bottom, add in your cheese and mix until the cheese is completely melted. This process should take about 4-5 minutes.

Take the mixture off of the heat and, using an electric hand-held mixure, add an egg and mix, until it’s well incorporated. Once that’s done, add the second and repeat the process. The batter should be smooth and shiny and should form soft peaks when lifted.

Transfer the dough to a pastry bag and pipe puffs onto a parchment or silpat lined baking sheet. The puffs should be approximately 1″ in diameter and at least 1/2″ apart.

Sprinkle all puffs with paprika and freshly ground black pepper.

Bake 20 minutes, or until puffs are golden, rotating your baking trays halfway through.

Serve immediately.

Makes 30

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