Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Hors D'ouevres!

I know I mentioned I would be writing about PORK next, but I have changed my mind, which is a Bloggers prerogative! It's been ages since I have written and I have missed it. Have you missed me? I am now back in Massachusetts (in the land of high-speed) after 4 1/2 glorious months in Southern Arizona. Life is very different here and I am adjusting. This afternoon I have some time before a meeting for Global Grants (www.globalgrants.net). I feel very positive about this potential new client and will share more later! I may have to do some research on Guatemalan cuisine!

Let's get right into some hors d'ouevres. I have an assortment of easy to put together and somewhat different hors d's. The first are...

PURPLE POTATO CHIPS

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Using a mandolin (Thanks again Robb for the generous gift!) makes making these very easy and keeps slices consistent. I am not yet completely proficient using this wonderful cutting tool and if that is the case for you, too, just go slow with your slices and you will keep your fingers intact. It is not always easy to find purple potatoes, and any color will work (red, white, gold), but the color of these chips is stunning and is what makes this hors d'ouevre so special! Once you have thinly sliced (a good sharp knife also works for slicing) an ample amount of purple potato, spread them on a baking sheet in a single layer. Spray liberally with Olive Oil cooking spray. Salt liberally with sea salt or coarse kosher salt. Bake at 400 degrees until the chips begin to brown on bottom, about 15 minutes. Flip chips over and continue baking until crisp, about another 15-20 minutes. Add more salt if needed. Serve immediately. Thanks for the recipe, too Robb. Easy and delicious...Yum! Yum!





SPINACH BALLS

This is not a very attractive name, but these little cheesey bites are absolutely scrumptuous and very easy to make. They also freeze well, uncooked so fall into my favorite category of "do ahead".  I think they are much nicer made with fresh spinach, rather than frozen, but you can use frozen if you like. Do not cook the frozen spinach, just let a 16 oz. pkg. of frozen spinach drain in a collander and squeeze out all liquid before mixing other ingredients. Here is the basic recipe, which can be doubled and frozen, unbaked, if you want them on hand for last minute entertaining. Let thaw before baking.


Ingredients:
2 cups steamed spinach, big stems removed, squeezed thoroughly after steaming                                    
1 small onion, finely diced
1-2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/3 cup melted butter
1/4 cup Queso Fresca (or any cheese you like)
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese (this one can't be substituted)
1 cup fresh bread crumbs (I like to use whole grain crumbs* that I make myself and keep in the freezer.)
1 Tbsp. flour (white or whole wheat)
2 Tbsp. pine nuts, optional, but a very nice addition
2 eggs, slightly beaten

Preparation:
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Drop spinach into a small amount of boiling water and steam until just wilted. Drain spinach into a collander to cool and when cool squeeze as much water out as possible. Saute onions and garlic in the butter until translucent (do not brown). Remove from heat. Add cheeses, 1 cup bread crumbs, 1 Tbsp. flour, 2 Tbsp. pine nuts if using, and 2 eggs slightly beaten. Mix all ingredients well. Using your hands, form into balls about the size of a golf ball. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet and refrigerate until firm; at least 2 hours, but longer is OK, which again makes these nice "do-aheads". Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Do not over bake.

*Bread Crumbs. When you get down to the heal I grind in a blender or mini max (My husband just bought me a Ninja which is a fantastic tool!). You can also add parmesan cheese, herbs, a little garlic, salt, crackers (last of the box) to the bread crumb mixture. I like to keep both a plain bread crumb and an herby/cheesy mixture at all times in the freezer. Really comes in handy!


STUFFED FIGS
Goat cheese and proscuitto make these a perfect combination of sweet and savory. I have not made them for awhile so don't have a picture. This hors d'ouevre is also very easy to make and once again, can be made in the morning for a dinner party that evening. Here's how...

Ingredients:
1 package dried figs, I like Calimyrna the best
1 6 oz. log good quality goat cheese
1/2 lb. proscuitto

Preparation:
Remove the stem at top of fig with a sharp knife. Slice the fig in the center to create a pocket for the goat cheese. Do not slice all the way. Cut the proscuitto into strips the size that will easily wrap around each fig. Pack a generous bit of goat cheese in each fig and then wrap with the proscuitto. Place on a decorative serving platter and chill until ready to serve. Take out of the fridge about an hour before serving so they come to room temperature.  These are delicious, as is, uncooked OR you can pop under a hot broiler to get the proscuitto bubbly and the goat cheese melted before serving. This takes only a few minutes. This recipe can also be doubled or tripled.



SMOKED SALMON WRAPPED IN ASPARAGUS
This recipe I adapted from a Boston caterer who served them at a swanky party a few years back. How he made them was to wrap the salmon around the top of a lolly pop stick and then rolled it in chopped chives. To serve, he stuck the end of each "salmon pop" into a cardboard tray punched with holes to hold the "pops" upright. The tray was covered with artifical grass which made them look like trees growing in a field. Very clever and creative. I love the combination of smoked salmon and asparagus so this is how I make this hors d'ouevres.
Ingredients:
1 pound fresh asparagus, peeled and lightly steamed
1 pound smoked salmon
1 cup of finely chopped chives

Preparation:
Fill a large bowl with water and ice. Peel the asparagus to get off the tough nubs. Drop into small amount of salted (the salt helps retain the vibrant green color) boiling water and steam until tender, but still firm. These don't work if your asparagus is limp. Once done, plunge asparagus into a large bowl filled with water and ice to stop the cooking. Slice the salmon into strips. Wrap a piece of smoked salmon around the top of each asparagus spear and then roll in the chopped chives. Do ahead works well with these, too as they can be kept in fridge for several hours before serving. Bring to room temp before presenting.



LIME MARINATED CHICKEN SKEWERS
IN AVOCADO CREMA
This hors d'ouevre I found on the interent on another woman's blog while searching for special hors d'ouevres for this year's Easter dinner. I wrote to her and she was kind enough to send it. I am sorry I have lost her name as I would like to give her credit. These were a wonderful prelude to the holiday feasting, along with Caprese Kabobs, Sambuskas and Smoked Salmon deviled eggs made into little chicken faces with pieces of black olive for eyes. Let me know if you would like the complete menu and/or recipes.

The chicken can be cleaned and cut the night before or that morning and marinate all day in the lime sauce (another do-ahead!). The avocado cream or crema (sounds fancier!) can also be made in advance and kept chilled. As long as you press a piece of plastic wrap firmly over the surface, the avocado does not turn brown. This I also learned from her blog. Great tip!

Ingredients:
2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Marinade:
Juice of 1 lime, more if lime is small
1 Tbsp. honey, I used Agave nectar, my new favorite sweetner!
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 green chilies, I used jalapeno as that was what she recommended. Finely chopped
1 tsp. salt

Dip:
1 large avocado
3 scallions, white and green parts, finely chopped
1 Tbsp. Red Wine Vinegar
1 Tbsp. Olive Oil
1/2 cup sour cream or nonfat Greek-style yogurt
Salt/Pepper to taste

1 Tbsp. finely chopped cilantro for garnish
Here is my friend Dennis grilling the chicken pieces. Thanks Dennis, truly appreciate the help with this and all the other prepping we did together...after all this blog is called, Cook with Cindy! Our Easter theme this year was "Hippies", hence the head band!!

Preparation:
Clean chicken breasts by removing fat and that nasty white cord that runs along the back of the breast. Cut into 1 inch pieces and set aside. Mix all marinade ingredients together, add chicken pieces and toss to coat. Refrigerate at least 1 hour or up to overnight. For the dip, place all ingredients in a food processor or blender. Pulse until smooth. Cover with plastic wrap (make sure you press it down over all of surface to keep air out, which prevents browning) and refrigerate for 30 minutes, or longer, for flavors to meld. Thread each chicken piece onto a 6 inch skewer that has been pre-soaked (these are one-bite treats). Preheat broiler or BBQ. Cook chicken until cooked through, about 4-5 minutes per side. Brush with marinade while cooking. Place cooked chicken on a platter, sprinkle cilantro over, and serve with a bowl of the avocado crema dipping sauce nearby.



GOAT CHEESE TURNOVERS
ON A BED OF ROASTED TOMATO COULIS
WITH BASIL OIL TOPPING

I just made these last week for the first time as a first course for a special 24th anniversary dinner I put together for my good friends Dennis and Diana. Because I had not made them before I didn't realize what a rich starter this was, but they sure were good! Because I made the tomato coulis in advance and froze and made the basil oil earlier in the day these went together fairly easily. If you were doing all steps at once, it would become a much bigger production.



FOR THE TOMATO COULIS
Ingredients:
1 1/2 lb. very ripe plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
Salt/Pepper
Dash of Red Wine Vinegar
Splash (that is bigger than a dash!) of nice, rich red wine

Preparation:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place tomatoes on a cookie sheet, add 2 Tbsp. Olive Oil, Salt and freshly ground Pepper. Bake for 20-25 minutes until tomatoes are soft and their liquid starts to evaporate. Cool. Put all ingredients including any tomato liquid/juice (garlic, vinegar, red wine along with tomatoes and olive oil) into a blender and blend until smooth. Add a little water if the coulis seems too thick. At this point you can put coulis into a sealed container and freeze or set aside until serving.

FOR THE BASIL PUREE
Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups basil leaves
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 cup Olive Oil
1 tsp. Salt/Fresh ground pepper

Preparation:
Combine all ingredients in blender and puree. This can be made up to a day in advance. Not sure about freezing as I did not. Bring to room temp before serving.

FOR THE GOAT CHEESE TURNOVERS
Ingredients:
1 lge. Onion, thinly sliced
5 Tbsp. Olive Oil
1 tsp. chopped: rosemary, basil, oregano
2 cloves garlic, smashed
1 6 oz. log good quality goat cheese
1/2 package (1 sheet) frozen puff pastry, thawed

Preparation:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Saute onions in 3 Tbsp. Olive Oil until carmelized, about 20-25 minutes. Set aside to cool. In a bowl combine remaining 2 Tbsp. Olive Oil, goat cheese, herbs, salt, pepper and onions. Mix thoroughly to a creamy consistency.

Sprinkle a cutting board (or do this right on counter top) lightly with flour. Roll puff pastry (if you don't have a rolling pin, a drinking glass works nicely) to about 1/4 inch thickness. Cut into 9 squares. Place squares on ungreased cookie sheet. Divide goat cheese filling between the 9 squares. Fold over to form a triangle and pinch edges together. As you can see, some of my pinching was not that precise, but it did not matter. Chill for at least 10 minutes before baking; longer is OK.
Bake for 12-15 minutes until puff pasty is golden brown. Reheat tomato coulis in microwave until warmed or heat on top of stove. Put about 4 big tablespoons of the coulis on each plate, place 2 turnovers on top of coulis and then drizzle with basil oil.



I do not have pictures for the next 3 hors d'ouevres, but they are so simple and fabulously yummy that I want to include in this array of different hors d'ouevres. The first two involve more puff pasty.

GORGONZOLA STUFFED OLIVES IN PUFF PASTRY
These were first introduced to me by my brother, Skip. He ordered them at he and his wife Esther's favorite Friday night haunt and realized they would be easy to make at home.

Ingredients:
Large green olives, with no pimento
Gorgonzola or blue cheese
Puff Pastry, thawed

Preparation:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Use Queen sized, large green olives. Take out pimento if they are stuffed. Cram in some good quality gorgonzola (or blue cheese). Wrap each olive with a slice of pastry dough and bake on ungreased cookie sheet 12-15 minutes until golden brown. Voila! That simple!


BEEF TENDERLOIN EN CROUTE
This recipe I created for a birthday celebration meal for my brother, Skip a few years back. Use the best quality tenderloin and a rich, pungent blue cheese.

Ingredients:
Beef tenderloin, cut into 1 inch cubes
Blue Cheese
Puff Pastry, thawed

Preparation:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place a slice of blue cheese on top of each 1 inch cube of tenderloin. Wrap in puff pastry to completely enclose. Please on ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 12-15 minutes until crust is golden brown. The steak will be perfectly rare.


STUFFED MUSHROOMS WITH BOURSIN
This recipe came to me from my friend Jimmy. It really looks like you have fussed, which is not the case. You don't even need an ingredient list. Just take a box of white mushrooms. Clean and remove stems. Stuff with about a tsp. of Boursin cheese so cheese puffs out over top of mushroom and bake until bubbly in a 350 degree oven; about 30 minutes. Cool slightly before serving to avoid tongue burns. These are so good people tend to eat them even when they are way too hot!!


Hope you will enjoy some of my favorite appetizers. If you try them, please let me know what you think!

Until next time, happy cooking and happy eating!!