Caprese Salad with Heirloom Tomatoes, Fresh Mozzarella, Basil-Mint Pesto & Balsamic Reduction

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About a month or so ago, Tony and I went to an Adventures by the Book event.  Adventures by the Book is a really cool concept – the owner, Susan McBeth, says she “offers worldwide opportunities for readers to connect with authors on an intimate basis through unique, interesting and adventurous travels and events.” I’ve been to several of them and they are always so fun and it’s such a clever idea.  I’ve been to a Ladies Literary Tea at the Westgate Hotel where I heard author Luisa Weiss talk about her memoir/cookbook/food blog.  I’ve been to the San Diego Air & Space Museum where we joined author Jennifer Niven (Velva Jean Learns to Fly) for a behind-the-scenes docent tour of the museum (very cool!) and have made pie with Beth Howard, author of Making Piece and blog The World Needs More Pie.

This particular “Adventure” was held at the iconic Croce’s Restaurant in downtown San Diego.  Ingrid Croce entertained and endeared us with stories from I Got a Name: the Jim Croce Story, about her life with her late-husband, renowned musician Jim Croce and how the dream of Croce’s came to be after Jim was tragically killed in a plane crash.  Ingrid signed copies of I Got a Name for all of us and also gave us copies of her cookbook Photographs and Memories: Recipes from Croce’s Restaurant & Jazz Bar.

Jimmy Rock (Ingrid's husband), Ingrid Croce, me, Tony

Jimmy Rock (Ingrid’s husband), Ingrid, me, Tony

Of course, I thumbed through the cookbook on the way home and I came across the Caprese Salad with Heirloom Tomatoes, Buffalo Mozzarella, Basil-Mint Pesto & Balsamic Reduction, which I immediately decided I’d make for a dinner party we were having the following weekend.

Well, the caprese was a hit.  It’s gorgeous and it’s delicious. Everyone loved it. I bought beautiful heirloom tomatoes at our local farmer’s market.  I made both the pesto and the balsamic reduction the day before.  I really like the addition of the mint in the pesto.  This is a keeper.  Thanks Ingrid.

Oh, and if you haven’t heard, Croce’s is closing their current location in the Gaslamp Quarter, with plans to open Croce’s Park West in the Banker’s Hill area of San Diego in mid-January 2014.  Sad to see them leave that space (they’ve been there nearly 30 years and were one of the very first restaurants in the Gaslamp and led the way for the multitude of eateries there now), but excited to check out the new digs!

Caprese Salad with Heirloom Tomatoes, Fresh Mozzarella, Basil-Mint Pesto & Balsamic Reduction

(Serves 4 to 6 – I made 9 “towers” for 6 of us)

INGREDIENTS

Balsamic Reduction

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

Basil-Mint Pesto (makes 1 cup)

1/2 pound fresh basil

2 tablespoons fresh mint

2 tablespoons garlic, minced

2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted

3 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan cheese

juice of 1 lemon (2-3 tablespoons)

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

salt & pepper to tasted

Salad Components

3 large heirloom tomatoes (assorted colors), cut into 1/4-inch thick round slices

1 pound fresh mozzarella, sliced

4 to 6 rosemary sprigs, optional (I actually skipped this and just used little bamboo appetizer skewers)

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

4 to 6 fresh basil sprigs

4 to 6 fresh mint sprigs

DIRECTIONS

Balsamic Reduction

Combine the vinegar and sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a boil.  Reduce by one half, or until the liquid just starts to chicken.  Remove from heat and let cool.  Will keep refrigerated, up to one month.

Pesto

In a food processor, purée the basil, mint, garlic, pine nuts, cheese and lemon juice until the mixture has a paste-like consistency.  With the processor running, add the oil in a slow, steady stream to emulsify.  Season with salt and pepper.  Will keep refrigerated, up to one week, or frozen for up to three months.

Presentation

On each salad plate, build a tower of alternating tomato slices, mozzarella slices and pesto.  Repeat three times, topping with a slice of tomato.  (I actually made smaller “towers” and served them all on one big serving plate.) Clean the bottom portion of the rosemary sprigs (if using) so that you can skewer the tomato towers with the sprigs. Drizzle the balsamic reduction and olive oil over the towers and around the plate, and garnish with basil and mint sprigs.  Finish with sea salt and freshly ground pepper.

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Grilled Lemony-Herb Cauliflower Steaks

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The other night we were trying to think of a side dish to have with burgers.  Tony says, “How about grilled cauliflower?  I think I saw a recipe for cauliflower steaks in one of our magazines recently.”  Hmmmm…intriguing.  I’ve come to find that most veggies are better either grilled or roasted.  So I Googled.  I found the one he was referring to, in Bon Appétit.  Cauliflower Steaks with Olive Relish and Tomato Sauce.  Well, they weren’t grilled and they were a little more complicated than I wanted and I am not a fan of olives. So back to Google.  I actually found a bunch of recipes for grilled cauliflower steaks.  I knew I wanted to just brush with a little olive oil, maybe some lemon juice and herbs, but I wanted to find the method.  So I ended up combing ideas from a few of the recipes.  The result?  A-mazing.  The cauliflower gets all nutty and caramelized….mmmm…goodness.  Yummy.  Healthy.  Delicious.

Note – one whole head of cauliflower was devoured by the two of us.  You’ll see that when you start slicing the cauliflower, you only really get three or four “steaks”.  The rest falls off into big (and some small florets).  You can grill the bigger floret pieces.  Save the smaller ones for dipping into hummus.

Grilled Lemony-Herb Cauliflower Steaks

INGREDIENTS

(Serves two)

1 head cauliflower

1/4 cup olive oil

juice of one lemon

2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped small

1 tablespoon fresh flat-leaf parsley, minced

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

DIRECTIONS

Preheat grill to medium-low.

Whisk olive oil, lemon juice, basil, parsley and oregano.

Remove outer leaves and trim stem end of cauliflower, leaving core intact. Place cauliflower core side down on a work surface. Using a large knife, slice cauliflower into three or four 1/2″ “steaks” from center of cauliflower.  Some pieces will fall off.  You can grill the larger pieces.  Save the small florets for dipping, raw, into hummus, for a healthy snack.

Brush both sides of the cauliflower steaks with olive oil mixture. Grill cauliflower on each side, brushing with additional olive oil mixture, until cauliflower is nutty brown and tender but still firm, about 3 or 4 minutes per side.  Serve warm and with additional olive oil/lemon/herb mixture for dipping.

Fruited Cheese Log

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This is yet another really old recipe.  It’s from Better Foods & Gardens magazine and was the $200 winner in the Prize Tested Recipes® section, submitted by Laurie Robinson from Tonasket, WA, in the “cheesy appetizer category”, October 2002.  I just love the combination of cheese, dried fruit and nuts.  I used to make it a lot and made it often when we’d have family and friends over for Sukkot (read more about this Jewish holiday here) and even part of our breaking-the-fast meal.  It’s light and easy and reminds me of fall.

Tony’s sister Kelly was particularly fond of it.  Then one time her husband asked me what it was called and I said, “Fruited Cheese Log” and he thought that was the funniest thing ever.  He was like, “it’s really good, but you gotta change the name.  There’s nothing appetizing about a log of cheese.”  So then of course, every time I’d pull out the recipe after that, I’d think “there’s nothing appetizing about a log of cheese” and I’d put the recipe back.

Well, I’m going to tell you…this particular log of cheese is appetizing.  In fact, it’s actually quite yummy!  I’m proud to say that I’ve brought the recipe out again and will be back in the regular line-up! It’s great spread on crackers or sliced apple.  We even “shmeared” it on toasted bagels the other morning.

Fruited Cheese Log

INGREDIENTS

8 ounces (2 cups) shredded Monterey Jack cheese, room temperature

1/2 of an 8-ounce package cream cheese, room temperature

2 tablespoons orange juice

1 cup dried fruit, chopped (Your favorites. I like golden raisins, apricots and cranberries.)

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup toasted almonds (pistachios are good too!)

DIRECTIONS

Place jack cheese, cream cheese and orange juice in a medium bowl.  Beat with an electric mixture (or use the paddle attachment of a stand mixer) until thoroughly combined. Stir in dried fruit.

Divide mixture in half.  On a large piece of waxed paper, shape one portion of the mixture into a log about 5 inches long.  Repeat with remaining portion. Cover and chill for 4 to 24 hours.  Roll in nuts before serving.  (I’ve found it’s easiest if you let the log sit at room temperature for 15 or so minutes before rolling.  Also, if you spread the chopped nuts on plastic wrap, you can use the plastic wrap to “pat” the nut, as you roll the cheese in them, to help stick to the cheese.)

Serve with assorted crackers or apple slices.

I’ve kept the extra cheese log in the fridge for a week or so.

Pomegranate and Queso Fresco Salsa

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Rosh Hashanah starts Wednesday at sundown.  I kept meaning to write a post with a nice recipe for the holiday.  Trouble is, yesterday was Labor Day, we had a few people over for a nice BBQ, which was a lot of fun, but I was in barbecue mode, not really in the Jewish holiday mindset (though I did use Martha’s idea for using a carved out apple as a honey dish and we all said a quick blessing over apples and honey).

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It’s also been unbelievably HOT and humid in San Diego lately.  I think it was 95 degrees today.  (Not really thinking about kugel and roast chicken right now…oy.)  So late last night, I went to the Epicurious site and saw “get ready for Rosh Hashanah with these recipes for the Jewish New Year”.  There were a few categories…”Apples, Honey, Brisket, Pomegranate”.  I wasn’t really interested in a baked apple kugel or a honey cake and for sure not roasting a brisket for four hours, so I clicked on “Pomegranate”.  I actually love using pomegranate arils (seeds) in all kinds of different dishes (see below), including the infamous Pomegranate Margarita.

Okay, and here’s your Jewish lesson for today.  We all know why we dip apples in honey at Rosh Hashanah, right? It symbolizes our wish for a sweet new year.  But do you know why we eat pomegranates? For one, because they are a “new fruit” (meaning, a fruit that has recently come into season but that we have not yet had the opportunity to eat).  A pomegranate is often used as this new fruit…Israel is praised for its pomegranates. It is also said that they contain 613 seeds just as there are 613 mitzvot (commandments).  And (my favorite), it symbolizes that the new year should be bursting with sweetness and blessings as numerous as the seeds of the pomegranate.

Back to the pomegranate recipes.  I found this one for Pomegranate and Queso Fresco Salsa from Marcela Valladolid, Mexican Made Easy: Everyday Ingredients, Extraordinary Flavor.  Sounded really delicious and easy.  And I do love Mexican food.  Thought it would be really good on carne asada tacos.  Done and done.  I did alter it just a bit (used Cotija cheese rather than queso fresco, because that’s what I had on hand and added a little lime juice).  Oh, and truth be told, when I stopped at Trader Joe’s, I bought a package of their fresh pomegranate seeds and, yes, some already marinated carne asada.

It was muy delicioso in the tacos.  I think it would also be delicious on grilled fish, chicken (like paillards) or lamb.  You can do any of these for a non-traditional Rosh Hashanah meal OR, I bet it would be a perfect accompaniment to a roast chicken…or, dare I say, brisket?

Oh, and here are some of my other favorite Rosh Hashanah recipes here on the blog:  Apple/Pomegranate/Blue Cheese Salad with Honey Vinaigrette, Seven Species Salad, Apples & Honey Cake, Spiced Applesauce Cupcakes with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting,  and Oatmeal/Pomegranate/White Chocolate Chip Cookies.

L’shana Tova and may the new year be bursting with sweetness and blessings as numerous as the seeds of the pomegranate!

Pomegranate and Queso Fresco Salsa

INGREDIENTS

1/4 cup pine nuts

1 cup pomegranate seeds, from one large pomegranate* (or one TJ’s 5.3 oz. package)

2 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh basil

2 tablespoons crumbled queso fresco (or Cotija or feta)

1 teaspoon olive oil

juice of one lime

salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS

Toast the pine nuts in a dry skillet over medium heat until golden, about 4 minutes.  Transfer to a plate to cool.

In a small bowl, mix the seeds, basil, cheese and cooled pine nuts.  Drizzle with the olive oil and lime juice.  Stir gently.  Season with salt and pepper.

*To seed fresh pomegranate – over a bowl (to catch any juices), cut the pomegranate into four pieces.  Then cover the pieces, in the bowl, with cold water and start pulling the seeds out with your hands.  The seeds will fall to the bottom and the “other stuff” will rise to the top.  Now remove the “other stuff” and drain the water.

Chilled Tomato and Stone Fruit Soup (aka Gazpacho)

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Gazpacho. That Spanish, tomato-based, chilled vegetable soup. Sometimes there’s just nothing better than a nice gazpacho on a summer evening. Last month when we were in Sonoma for our son Kyle’s wedding, I had gazpacho twice. At two different restaurants. Lasalette and Glen Ellen Star. They were both delicious, but I gotta say, the one at Glen Ellen Star was the best. Probably the best I’ve ever had. And the presentation was absolutely beautiful…the prettiest red color, with a little purple heirloom basil flower floating in the bowl. OMG. Tony and I went there for lunch, the day after the wedding. I’m not sure if it was that we were still floating on clouds post-wedding, but it was one of the best lunches ever. Gazpacho. The “sheet music” salad with mixed lettuces, cucumber, avocado, tomato, tahini dressing. A wood-fired white pizza with guanciale and arugula and a wood-oven roasted chicken skewer with tzatziki. OMG.

So when we got back to San Diego, the tomato plants in our garden were going crazy. Still on a high from the wedding and post-wedding gazpacho, I decided that would be a very good use of all our tomatoes. I’ve made gazpacho before. Our daughter Ally loves this grilled vegetable one from Bon Appétit several years ago, but it’s a pain in the a** to make. Delicious, but a pain. I thought I remembered seeing a recipe in a recent BA that sounded interesting, with cherries and peaches, in addition to the tomatoes. Found it. They actually call it Chilled Tomato and Stone Fruit Soup (not sure why they don’t just call it gazpacho?).

I made it. It was delicous. And so easy (I opted for the frozen cherries). Refreshing with just a touch of spicy from a jalapeño and a touch of sweet from cherries and peach. And it was a beautiful color. I actually served it twice – Tony and I had it the first for a light dinner, with a Caesar salad, and then a couple days later, I brought what was left to a friend’s for gazpacho “shooter” hors d’oeuvres (and talk about a nice presentation…garnished with a fresh cherry skewer!) I think it was even better a couple days later!

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Sorry, Ally, this will be the new gazpacho in our house.

Chilled Tomato and Stone Fruit Soup (aka Gazpacho)

(Bon Appétit, August 2013)

INGREDIENTS

2 pounds tomatoes (about 4), quartered

1 large English hothouse cucumber, peeled, seeded, cut into pieces

1 large ripe peach, peeled, halved

1/2 jalapeño, seeded (or with seeds for a spicier soup), chopped

1/2 garlic clove

1 cup fresh (or frozen, thawed) cherries (about 8 ounces), pitted

2 tablespoons (or more) white balsamic or Sherry vinegar

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil plus more

1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt plus more

Freshly ground black pepper

Flaky sea salt (such as Maldon)

DIRECTIONS

Pulse tomatoes in a blender until finely chopped and transfer to a large bowl.

Pulse cucumber, peach, jalapeño, garlic, and cherries in blender until finely chopped and add to bowl with tomatoes. Mix in vinegar, 1/4 cup oil, 1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, and 1 cup cold water; season with pepper. Cover and let sit at room temperature 1 hour (I did this and then stuck it in the freezer just to get it chilled…I mean, it’s gazpacho, it needs to be chilled!) or chill at least 12 hours.

Season soup with kosher salt, pepper, and more oil and vinegar, if desired. Serve soup drizzled with oil and seasoned with sea salt and pepper.

DO AHEAD: Soup can be made 2 days ahead. Cover and chill.

Grilled Artichokes with Parsley and Garlic and Creamy Champagne Vinaigrette

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My new favorite appetizer.  Artichokes grilled and then tossed with some fresh chopped Italian parsley and garlic and served with a creamy champagne vinaigrette for dipping.

We had these at a friend’s house about a month ago (thank you Margo!) and I couldn’t stop eating them.  Like literally could not stop eating them.  They were really delicious. (The rest of the dinner was delicious too…Margo is an amazing cook.  But these artichokes! Mmmm…mmm…mmm!)

Of course, I had to ask where she got the recipe and she said from Food Network’s Giada de Laurentiis.  And then, of course, as soon as I got home, had to Google “Giada grilled artichokes”.  There were actually two recipes that were pretty similar; one called Grilled Artichokes with Parsley and Garlic and the other Grilled Artichokes with Creamy Champagne Vinaigrette.  Aha!  I believe Margo used the one with parsley and then made the vinaigrette dipping sauce.

So that’s exactly what we did when we made these last week. Again, I couldn’t stop eating them. I could make a meal of just these artichokes.  (And I just might!)   I’ll be serving them a LOT this summer!

Grilled Artichokes with Parsley and Garlic and Creamy Champagne Vinaigrette

adapted slightly from two Giada de Laurentiis recipes

INGREDIENTS

6 fresh artichokes

2 lemons halved, plus 1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

3 tablespoons freshly chopped flat-leaf parsley

1 teaspoon minced garlic

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

DIRECTIONS

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Preheat grill to medium-high heat.

Trim the stem from each artichoke to 1-inch long.  Using kitchen scissors, remove the thorns from the tips of the artichoke leaves. Cut top inch of artichokes with serrated knife. Quarter each artichoke. Using a small, sharp knife, cut out the choke and remove the purple, prickly tipped leaves from the center of each wedge.

Place finished artichokes in a large bowl of cold water and squeeze 2 lemons into the water and stir. Continue with remaining artichokes.  Once finished, drain the artichokes and place into boiling water and cook until crisp-tender, about 12 minutes.

Drain the cooked artichokes and place onto preheated grill. Cook until tender and lightly charred in spots, turning occasionally, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a medium sized bowl, add remaining lemon juice (1/3 cup) parsley, garlic and salt and pepper, to taste. Gradually drizzle in olive oil.

Toss the grilled artichokes with the garlic/parsley mixture.  Arrange the artichokes on a platter and serve with champagne vinaigrette alongside for dipping!

Creamy Champagne Vinaigrette

INGREDIENTS

1/2 cup crème fraiche

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons champagne vinegar

2 tablespoons honey

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

DIRECTIONS

In a medium bowl, whisk together the crème fraiche, olive oil, vinegar, honey, salt and pepper until smooth.

Arnie’s Avocado Cilantro Hummus

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We live in this incredible neighborhood.  We’ve been in the same house for over 24 years and many of our neighbors have been in the ‘hood for that long too.  We moved in on Kyle’s second birthday (he’s now 26) and I was pregnant with our daughter Ally.

We have a Fourth of July block party and a holiday progressive party where we go from one house to another for different courses.  Kyle tagged it the “holiday REgressive” because, well, in addition to really great food, there’s a lot of wine involved too and the final house (Arnie & Adrienne’s) always serves Glug (or Gløgg?), a very potent mulled wine.

You’ll often find a box of lemons or limes or grapefruits or zucchini with a sign that says, “free…take some” by the mailboxes.  We bring each other fish from fishing trips and herbs from our gardens, pickles and baked goods from our kitchens.

We take care of each other when there’s a surgery or a health issue or the loss of a loved one.  About a month ago, Arnie had knee surgery and then his wife Adrienne was out of town for a couple days, so we brought him all the fixings for a carnitas dinner.  I saw Arnie driving the other day (yay…he’s driving!).  He stopped me to thank me for the carnitas and said he really needed help getting tangelos and Meyer lemons from his trees.  So of course I sent Tony, who after climbing a ladder to help pick fruit, came home with two grocery bags full!!!

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Tangelos and Meyer lemons. Thanks Arnie!!

AND a little container of Arnie’s homemade Avocado Cilantro Hummus.  Wowee.  Pleasant (and very delicious) surprise.  OMG.  I couldn’t stop eating it.  He even included the recipe and told Tony, “tell Cheryl its from my blog.  Ha ha.”  (Everyone’s a comedian).

So here it is.  Arnie’s recipe.  (But I’m not sharing the Meyer lemons!)

Avocado Cilantro Hummus

INGREDIENTS

2 cups cooked chickpeas (or 1 15-ounce can, drained)

1 clove garlic, minced

Juice of 1 medium sized lemon (about 3 tablespoons)

1 tablespoon tahini**

2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 medium Haas avocado, cut in half, pit removed, and flesh scooped out

1  cup cilantro leaves (don’t skimp on the cilantro…I noticed that my batch was not nearly as green as Arnie’s.  When I asked him about it, he said, “did you really pack the cilantro?  Really pack it.  Don’t skimp.”)

Pinch of cayenne (optional – I did add it and a good sized pinch)

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS

Place the chickpeas, garlic, lemon juice, tahini and 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a food processor and puree until smooth, Add the avocado and cilantro, and puree until very creamy. Add more olive oil or a couple of tablespoons of water for thinner consistency, if desired).  I do like my hummus a little thinner, and ended up adding about two additional tablespoons olive oil and two tablespoons water.  My lemon was small, so I squeezed another half.)  Season to taste with salt & pepper. Chill the hummus before serving.

**Arnie says “don’t buy ready-made tahini.  Buy several ounces of sesame seeds and toast them in the oven at 350 degrees until just golden, not brown.  Add a little olive oil and puree in food processor.  Store in fridge for subsequent batches.”  Sorry Arnie.  I used store-bought.

Truffled Popcorn

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Carole, my Birthday Buddy at work, gave me a bottle of black truffle oil (and some delicious dark chocolate crisp thingies and an adorable apron) and I’ve been trying to figure out what to do with it.  You see truffled this and truffled that everywhere now.  My brother-in-law Josh makes a yummy truffled mac & cheese.  I had a really delicious appetizer called Truffled Egg Toast (sorta like a French toast, only truffley, with fontina cheese and asparagus) the other night at Davanti Enoteca.

But I wanted to come up with something clever for New Year’s Eve.  I’m bringing an appetizer and a dessert to the party we’re going to (okay, it’s Chip & Dale’s party.  Yep…friends of ours whose actual names are Chip and Dale.  The first time we went to their house for dinner, I told our then 15-year-old daughter that we were going to Chip & Dale’s for dinner.  She made a horrible face and said, “gross…you’re going to Chippendales?  For dinner?  Do they even have food?”  Lol!!!)

Okay, again I digress.  I’m already doing Sam’s Smoked Salmon Deviled Eggs and a Chocolate and Mixed Nut Tart.  But what to do with the truffle oil? Then I remembered that there’s a newish restaurant here called Brooklyn Girl and they serve different gourmet popcorns as a snack before dinner.  The night we were there it was something curry.  So how about a truffled popcorn?  And I had seen some cute little popcorn boxes at Cost Plus!  Bingo.  And did you know that Trader Joe’s even sells organic popcorn kernels?

So I searched and pulled a few different recipes (from Martha, Ina Garten, the Washington Post and Epicurious) and came up with this.  How fun will this be for New Year’s Eve?  Plus…it’s a rainy day in San Diego.  Tony’s at the Charger-Raider game.  I’m going to be able to sample it while watching “The Five Year Engagement”.  HA!

Truffled Popcorn

INGREDIENTS

2 cups popped popcorn

1 tablespoon butter

1 teaspoon truffle oil

1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley

Kosher salt & pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS

You can pop the popcorn however you like.  I experimented first with Trader Joe’s micro popcorn.  Each mini bag makes about two cups.  If you’re using kernels, 1/4 cup kernels will yield about 8 cups of popped popcorn.

Heat the butter and truffle oil in a small saucepan over medium-low heat until melted and warmed through.

Place the freshly popped popcorn in a large bowl.  Add the butter/truffle oil and toss well.  Add the cheese and parsley; toss to distribute evenly.  Season with salt & pepper.

Serve in cute cardboard popcorn boxes or mini paper bags.

Smoked Salmon Deviled Eggs

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Okay, once again I’m sharing a recipe from my brother-in-law Sam. The guy knows his stuff.  I’ve always been a deviled egg fan, but the addition of smoked salmon just makes them that much better.  What is it with smoked salmon and eggs?  Case in point Sam’s Mom’s Lox Dip.  And recently (actually, twice recently), I made Latke Eggs Benedict with Smoked Salmon.  Yes.  The latke replaces an English muffin and smoked salmon replaces the Canadian bacon.  Oh my.  (Borrowed that one from a cute blog called What Jew Wanna Eat.)

Oh yeah.  The deviled eggs.  Sam’s made these a few times for family get-togethers and they are always a winner.  He made a bunch for Tony’s birthday celebration last week (Tony’s December 25 birthday…you’ll hear a lot more about that in the near future) and they were devoured.  I suggest you try them.

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Sam made Smoked Salmon Deviled Eggs and Chopped Liver for Tony’s birthday

Smoked Salmon Deviled Eggs

INGREDIENTS

12 hard-boiled eggs, peeled

6-ounce package smoked salmon, chopped small

1/2 cup mayonnaise (approximately)

1/2 cup red onion, finely chopped

1 tablespoon spicy brown mustard

Hot sauce (like  Cholula or Tabasco), to taste

pinch kosher salt

pepper to taste

1/4 cup green onions or chives, chopped fine, plus a little extra for garnish

Caviar (optional) for garnish – I’ll definitely being adding caviar for New Year’s Eve!

More chopped green onion or chives for garnish

DIRECTIONS

Slice eggs down the middle lengthwise.

Put the egg white halves on your serving plate and the yolks in a bowl.  Mash the yolks with a fork.  Add salmon, mayo, red & green onion, hot sauce, salt, pepper and mustard.  Mix well.

Using a small spoon (or if you want to get really fancy, a cake decorating tip), fill each of the egg white halves with the yolk mixture.

Garnish with the additional chopped green onion or chives and caviar, if using.

Sam’s note:  you can get these all set a few hours in advance, but don’t add the caviar until the last minute because when it sits on the eggs too long, the liquid can come out and make the top of the eggs a bit messy. 

Hot Feta Artichoke Dip

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I know what you’re thinking, “really, Cheryl, artichoke dip?  So boring.  Everyone makes that and you can buy it pre-made everywhere.”  Well, this one is different. Why?  Feta cheese.  I actually found this recipe on the underside of the lid of a container of crumbled feta cheese a long time ago.  How long ago?  I had made a copy of the recipe and when I pulled it out to make it today, I see it says “sell by Jul 04 03”.   And I’ve made it countless times since.  It’s delicious and super easy.  In fact, once when I was out of town and Tony was invited somewhere for dinner, he offered to bring an appetizer.  Then, of course, he called me asking what he should make.  I suggested this.  He did and it was a hit.

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I’ve adapted it somewhat over the years.  The original recipe calls for pimentos (blech) and two 4-ounce containers of feta cheese (of course it does; they want to sell more of their cheese; but I’ve found a couple of brands that come in 6-ounce packages and that works just fine) AND a whole cup of mayo; I’ve halved that.

PS  When I say I made it today; I made it for no other reason than so I could write about it and photograph it.  And now Tony is really excited because we get to eat it tonight!

Hot Feta Artichoke Dip

INGREDIENTS

1 14-ounce can artichoke hearts, drained & chopped

6 to 8-ounce container crumbled feta cheese

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

1 clove garlic

Paprika

DIRECTIONS

Mix all ingredients in a bowl.  Spoon into pie pan or shallow baking dish.  Sprinkle with paprika.  Bake at 350° for 20-25 minutes until lightly browned.  Serve hot with crackers or pita triangles.