Beet Ricotta Bruschetta

Beet Crostini

Open-faced sandwich are unfailingly pleasing. When a sandwich is open, its filling becomes the topping, which is a lovely reflection of the sum of its parts and a visual tease, beckoning a bite. While the sandwiches vary, often these tasty bites creatively incorporate simple ingredients, or leftovers layered over a smear of olive oil or soft cheese on sturdy or day-old bread refreshed on the grill or in the oven. The presentation is fresh, minimal, and artful, with a few fresh leaves or sprigs for garnish.

These bruschette include fresh ricotta topped with roasted beets and a spoonful of garden pesto. I call it a garden pesto because I use handfuls of the fresh new herbs that have popped up in my garden at this time of year. When the garden isn’t ready, I simply combine the supermarket herbs I’ve collected in my refrigerator. This can include any combination of parsley, mint, chives, dill, chervil, and oregano. The idea is that there is a mix of at least 3 to 4 herbs, so that one flavor doesn’t overwhelm the others. The result is a brightly green and herbaceous coulis that is delicious served with vegetables, fish, chicken, or mixed with rice and pasta. In this case, it’s a vibrant garnish to these bruschette.

Ricotta Beet Bruschetta with Garden Pesto

Prep Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Serves 6

Garden Pesto:
3 cups (packed) fresh herbs, such as parsley, mint, dill, chives, chervil, plus extra for garnish
1 small garlic clove
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra as needed
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

6 slices ciabatta or levain bread, each about 1/2-inch thick
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup fresh ricotta cheese
6 to 8 roasted and peeled baby beets, cut into wedges
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Make the pesto: Place the herbs and garlic in the bowl of a food processor. Process until finely chopped. With the motor running add the oil in a steady stream until blended. If too thick, add extra oil to your desired consistency. Add the lemon zest, salt, and pepper and pulse once or twice to blend. Taste for seasoning.
2. Heat the oven broiler or a grill. Lightly brush the bread slices with oil. Broil or grill, until toasted golden on both sides but still tender in the center, about 2 minutes. Remove and cool the bread for 5 minutes.
3. Smear the ricotta on the bread, then drizzle some of the pesto over the ricotta (You will not use all of the pesto. Cover with plastic and refrigerate for another use for up to one day.)
4. Top the bruschette with the beets. Brush the beets with a little oil and lightly season the bruschette with salt and pepper. Garnish with fresh herb sprigs and serve whole or cut in half for smaller bites.

Lean into Winter with Root Vegetable Fries

Roasted Root Vegetable FriesRoasted Roots

When it’s cold and gray outside, it’s the season for root vegetables. We can count on our not-so-fair weather friends to usher us through the frigid months, gracing our tables and fortifying our diets with their sweet, nutrient-rich roots. These winter work horses are storehouses of energy, flavor and natural sugar – guaranteed to brighten up your plate and palate on a dreary chilly day.

In this recipe, root vegetables replace the ever-popular russet potato, and while they are called “fries” they are, in fact, oven roasted, so you can feel virtuous while you scarf down a batch. Mix and match your favorite roots and spices to your taste. If you can get your hands on purple sweet potatoes, give them a try – they have a slightly spiced and earthy flavor, and remain firm while roasting. As for peeling, I prefer to leave my organic root vegetables unpeeled, and simply give them a good scrub, since their skins are a wonderful source of nutrients and flavor. Roast one root vegetable or choose a variety for striking color. I like to use a combination of parsnips, carrots, celery root, rutabaga, and sweet potato.

Roasted Root Vegetable Fries

Active Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
Serves 4 to 6

2 pounds root vegetables, such as parsnips, carrots, celery root, rutabaga, and sweet potato
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Dipping Sauce:
3/4 cup Greek whole milk yogurt
1 tablespoon Sriracha
1 small garlic clove, minced
1/4 teaspoon salt

1. Heat the oven to 425°F. Cut the root vegetables into 2-inch batons, about 1/3-inch thick. Place in a large bowl. Add the oil and generously season with salt and pepper; toss to thoroughly coat.
2. Spread the vegetables in one layer on a large rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment. Roast on the lowest rack of the oven until golden brown on the bottoms, about 15 minutes. Move the baking sheet to the top rack of the oven and roast until tender and golden brown on top, about 15 more minutes. (If desired, turn on the broiler for the last few minutes of roasting.)
3. While the vegetables are roasting, whisk dipping sauce ingredients in a small bowl.
4. Serve the fries warm with the dipping sauce.

Caramelized Onion and Gruyere Tart


This tart is a vehicle for two winter-friendly ingredients – caramelized onions and Gruyère cheese. Caramelized onions are sweet, savory, and slick. A lengthy cooking time coaxes out their abundant natural sugars and releases their juices, resulting in a squidgy heap of golden brown onions. Gruyère cheese is a nutty, piquant Swiss cheese, and a favorite melting cheese in fondue. Combine the two ingredients, and you have the makings for a richly savory and rustic winter meal, guaranteed to spark visions of snowflakes and crackling fires in your imagination (at least in mine, since I live in California!)

There are few ingredients in this simple creation, so every ingredient counts. Take the time to properly brown the onions, about 45 minutes in all, and choose an authentic Gruyère cheese, preferably aged for deep flavor – and you will be rewarded with this simple and seductive tart. Serve it as a light meal, or cut into thin slivers and pass around as an appetizer.

Caramelized Onion and Gruyère Tart

Serves 6 to 8

Dough:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
3 tablespoons ice water

Filing:
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 pounds yellow onion, peeled and thinly sliced
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons Calvados (apple brandy)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 ounces finely grated Gruyère cheese
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, plus extra for garnish
1 egg, slightly beaten

1. Prepare the crust: Combine the flour and salt in a food processor and pulse once or twice to combine. Add the butter and pulse until the dough resembles coarse meal, with some pieces of the butter visible. Add the water and pulse once or twice – just until the dough comes together, adding another tablespoon of water if necessary. Dump the dough onto a work surface and form it into a disk. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
2. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
3. Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a deep skillet or pot. Add the onions and salt and cook the onions, until they are golden brown, soft and squidgy, 35 to 40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the Calvados and black pepper and cook until the liquid evaporates, 1 to 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from the heat and cool while you roll out the dough.
4. Roll out the dough to fit in the bottom and up the sides of a 10-inch round tart tin with a removable bottom. Sprinkle half of the cheese over the bottom of the tart. Spread the onions in the shell and sprinkle the thyme over the onions. Brush the exposed crust rim with the egg wash. Sprinkle the tart and crust with the remaining cheese.
5. Bake the tart until the crust is firm and golden and the onions are deeply colored without blackening, about 30 minutes. Remove and cool slightly. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature garnished with additional thyme.

Roasted Carrot Hummus

Carrot Hummus

Move over chickpea hummus, there’s a new ingredient town.

Who doesn’t like a good hummus? Mild, nutty, and agreeably versatile, this creamy Levantine dip is a go-to for snacks, spreads, and party dips. It’s also a wonderful starting point for variations, such as carrot hummus.

Carrot hummus, you say? You bet: Picture your favorite Middle Eastern hummus – the ubiquitous blend of chickpeas, sesame paste (tahini), olive oil, lemon, and garlic. Then, send it further west to North Africa, picking up a few more ingredients along the way, such as coriander, mint, and harissa, a fiery Moroccan chile paste. Now, add the carrots, but before you do, roast them first, softening the carrots to a blending consistency, coloring them with a little char, and coaxing out their ample natural sugars. Give it all a good long blitz with the usual hummus ingredients in a food processor until thick, creamy, and smooth. Take a taste – it will be mildly sweet, slightly nutty, and a tad smoky, vividly colored and bright with citrus. Scrape it into a bowl and lick the spoon, then decorate the top with a shower of chopped crunchy pistachios and fragrant mint. Chances are you will never go back. 

Roasted Carrot Hummus

Makes about 2 cups
Active Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes

Carrots:
1/2 pound carrots, peeled, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Hummus:
1 (15-ounce) can chick peas, drained and rinsed
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons tahini
1 to 2 tablespoons harissa
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus extra for garnish

Garnish:
1/4 cup coarsely chopped shelled pistachios
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, chopped

1. Heat the oven to 400°F. Place the carrots in a small baking dish. Add the oil, salt, cumin, and black pepper and stir to coat. Roast in the oven until the carrots are tender, 25 to 30 minutes, stirring once or twice. Remove and cool slightly.

2. Transfer the carrots and any pan juices to the bowl of a food processor. Add the remaining dip ingredients and process until smooth. If too thick, add additional olive oil or warm water to your desired consistency. Taste for seasoning.

3. Transfer the hummus to a serving bowl and garnish with the pistachios, mint, and extra black pepper. Serve with pita wedges, baguette, and/or cruditées.

Homemade Crispy Salmon Fish Cakes

Homemade Crispy Salmon Fish Cakes

Homemade smoky salmon fish cakes

Calling these “fish cakes” really doesn’t do these crispy succulent patties justice. The “fish” part is right, but “cake” infers flour, fat, and eggs with a bread-like crumb. These Salmon Fish Cakes have none of that.

When my family and I lived in Denmark, a favorite family outing was to our local harbor where the fish market sold fish cakes or fiskefrikadeller, created from the daily catches hauled in on the fishing boats. When the fish were fileted, all the extra pieces were reserved for fist sized fish patties sold by the bagful with containers of remoulade, or tartar sauce, meant to be devoured family-style at the picnic tables perched over the sea. Every harbor with a fish market sold fish cakes, and the recipes were similar, made with white fish, such as plaice or cod, simply spiced and bound together with flour and egg, then pan or, more often, deep fried. Their flavor was mild, thanks to the white fish and simple seasonings, and they were very easy to eat, best washed down with a cold Danish beer (or juice for the kids) in the summer sun.

While nothing could beat fresh fiskefrikadeller at the seashore during the summer, at home I would make my own fish cakes with the goal to create a more healthy and tasty family dinner. I wanted something lighter and brighter, with more fish flavor and less filler. After many renditions, I arrived at this recipe, which I now use as a template. While I vary the fish at times, depending on what’s fresh and available, the amounts remain constant, as does the inclusion of some, if not all, salmon to the mix. I find that salmon’s thick and buttery flesh yields a rich, tasty, and sturdy fish cake, and for deeper flavor I’ll often add cold smoked salmon, which adds a salty, smoky (and addictive) edge to the cakes. Fresh herbs, lemon, and chopped chiles balance out the richness of the fish, while the binder is kept to a minimum – just a dollop of Greek yogurt and Panko breadcrumbs, which do double duty as a crisp coating for the patties. The results are fresh, vibrant, and flavorful, and prove that you that can, indeed, take the cake out of the fish cake.

Salmon Fish Cakes with Lemon-Chile Yogurt Sauce

The fish cakes may be formed up to 4 hours in advance and refrigerated until pan frying. If desired, more salmon may be substituted for the halibut for a 100 percent salmon fish cake.

Makes  about 16 (2-inch) cakes

Prep Time: 30 minutes
Chilling Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour and 45 minutes

Fish cakes:
1 pound salmon fillet, skin and pin bones removed, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
8 ounces thick white fish filet, such as halibut or cod, skin and pin bones removed, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
6 ounces cold smoked salmon filet, skin and pin bones removed, coarsely chopped
1 small red jalapeno or fresno chile, stemmed and seeded, minced
1/4 cup Panko bread crumbs, plus 1 1/2 cups for rolling
1/4 cup coarsely grated yellow onion, with juices
1/4 cup finely chopped Italian parsley and/or cilantro leaves, plus extra for garnish
2 tablespoons whole milk Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon hot sauce, such as Tabasco
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Sauce:
1 cup whole milk Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon Sriracha
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Canola or grapeseed oil for pan frying
Lemon wedges

1. Combine the salmon, white fish, and smoked salmon in the bowl of a food processor and pulse 3 to 4 times to finely chop without over processing – the consistency should be slightly chunky and not mushy. Transfer the fish to a large bowl. Add the 1/4 cup breadcrumbs, the onion, parsley, yogurt, lemon juice, hot sauce, salt, and pepper and stir to combine.

2. Pour the remaining 1 1/2 cup breadcrumbs into a shallow bowl. Using a soup spoon, scoop out a generous amount of the salmon mixture. With a light hand, carefully form the mixture into a plump two-inch patty. Gently roll the patty in the breadcrumbs to evenly coat and place on platter, lightly pressing the patty to slightly flatten into about a 1/2 inch-thick cake. Repeat with the remaining fish, adding more breadcrumbs to the bowl as needed. Loosely cover the platter with plastic and refrigerate the fish cakes for at least 1 hour or up to 4 hours.

3. Whisk the sauce ingredients in a small bowl and refrigerate until use.

4. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. In batches, carefully add the fish cakes to the pan without overcrowding. Fry the cakes until golden brown and cooked through, turning once with a spatula, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer the cakes to a plate lined with a paper towel and keep warm. Repeat with the remaining fish cakes. Transfer the cakes to a warm serving platter and garnish with the parsley or cilantro. Serve with lemon wedges and the yogurt sauce.

Heirloom Tomato, Burrata, and Basil Parfaits

Heirloom Tomato and Burrata Parfaits

It’s peak summer season, which means it’s peak tomato season. The farmer’s market tables are piled high with tomatoes galore, and if you have a garden, chances are your tomato plants are weighed down with ripe cherries, robust Beefsteaks, and sassy Early Girls ready for the picking. The best way to enjoy a fresh picked tomato, in my opinion, is as simply as possible, so its natural sweetness and sun-kissed flavor shine through.

In our kitchen, a favorite preparation is the Italian Caprese salad, a platter of thick slices of vine-ripened tomatoes layered with fresh mozzarella, and just-plucked basil leaves. All that’s needed is a drizzle of good olive oil and balsamic vinegar and the ingredients speak for themselves. Another equally popular preparation is tomato bruschetta – thick slices of grilled garlicky bread topped with a jumble of juicy chopped tomatoes, basil, and, ahem, more garlic. This is finger licking hands-on fare, best served family-style accompanied by a pile of napkins to wipe up the sweet dribbling juices.

This past weekend, I combined these two recipes into one for a simple yet elegant presentation, including burrata cheese, grilled bread, and fresh basil, layered into small glasses. It was a smart and fun way to portion the tomatoes and dress things up for entertaining, while saving our summer whites from wayward juices. I am a sucker for heirloom tomatoes with their variety of colors, patterns, and bulbous shapes, and these glasses perfectly displayed them like confetti. A dollop of creamy burrata and a drizzle of aged balsamic vinegar resulted in a fresh and savory parfait that is as beautiful to look at as delicious to eat.

Heirloom Tomato, Burrata, and Basil Parfaits

Choose firm yet ripe tomatoes with a range of colors, and be sure to use a good extra-virgin olive oil and aged balsamic vinegar. You will need six (8-ounce) glasses for this recipe.

Serves 6 as an appetizer.
Prep Time: 20 minutes

Crostini:
6 baguette slices, cut on the diagonal, about 4 inches in length and 1/4 inch thick
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 small garlic clove, minced
Sea salt

Parfaits:
2 pounds assorted heirloom tomatoes, seeded, cut into 1/4 inch dice
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 burrata, about 8 ounces
6 teaspoons aged balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup small basil leaves (or large leaves, chopped)
Freshly ground black pepper

1. Make the crostini: Preheat the oven broiler or prepare the grill for direct cooking over medium heat. Whisk the oil, garlic, and a pinch of salt in a small bowl. Lightly brush each bread slice with the oil. Broil or grill the bread until crisp and golden on both sides, 2 to 4 minutes. Remove and set aside while you assemble the verrines.
2. Combine the tomatoes, oil, salt, and pepper in a bowl and gently stir to combine. Taste for seasoning and add more salt if desired. Divide the tomatoes between six (8-ounce) glasses.
3. Cut the burrata into 6 wedges and place one wedge in each glass. Drizzle about 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar in each glass, and garnish with the basil and black pepper. Top each glass with a crostini and serve immediately.

Beet Hummus

beet-hummus

You may have seen beet hummus before – that dip that transcends all dips, the upstager on the party table, flamboyantly fuscia in color, with FIESTA written all over it. Yep, that would be the beet hummus. Sure, the name is rather frumpy, but it makes up for any nomenclatural dowdiness with its captivating vibrance and subtle sweetness tinged with citrus and spice. In this recipe, I match the powerful visuals with bold flavors, and spike the hummus with Sriracha and lime, which stand up well to the earthy backdrop of the beets and round out the flavors.

beet-hummus-tastefood

Beet Hummus

This dip is a looker, it tastes great, and it’s healthy, too. Serve it with a kaleidoscope of cruditees for dipping, such as carrots, watermelon radishes, and cucumber wedges. Eating your daily dose of veggies never tasted this good.

Makes about 2 cups

2 to 3 medium red beets, about 12 ounces, roasted until tender, skin removed
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 garlic cloves
1/4 cup fresh lime juice (or half lemon/half lime)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup tahini
2 teaspoons Sriracha
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1. Place all of the ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and process to blend. Add more oil to your desired consistency (it should not be soupy) and taste for seasoning.
2. Transfer to a bowl and garnish with finely grated lemon zest, chopped mint, and a drizzle of olive oil. Serve with pita and cruditees.