Cheddar and Horseradish Potato Poppers

potato poppers tastefood

I was tempted to give you a recipe for a deflated cheese soufflé for the upcoming Superbowl, but decided to rise above deflategate and make these little poppers instead. Twice baked mini-potato poppers are a great appetizer to enjoy while watching the big football game. While they are a little time consuming to make, they can easily be prepared in advance then popped into the oven at the last minute.

Cheddar and Horseradish Potato Poppers

Something tells me that crispy bacon bits would be a great extra addition to the filling…. just saying. If you agree, then consider mixing a small handful of rendered bacon bits into the potato filling, or sprinkle on top in place of the thyme.

Cheddar and Horseradish Potato Poppers

Active Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour and 45 minutes
Makes 20 poppers

20 round small potatoes, 1 to 1 1/4-inch in diameter
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt
1/4 cup sour cream or whole milk Greek yogurt
1/4 cup (packed) finely grated sharp Cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons (packed) finely grated fresh horseradish
1 large garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup (packed) finely grated Parmesan cheese
Fresh thyme leaves, for garnish

1. Heat the oven to 400°F.

2. Trim the potatoes: Slice a small tip off of each potato to create a flat bottom for the potatoes to stand without rolling or tilting. Slice about 1/4 off of the tops and discard the tops. Place the potatoes in a medium bowl with the oil and 1/2 teaspoon salt and toss to coat. Arrange on a parchment-lined baking sheet, top-side down. Bake until tender, about 30 minutes. Remove and cool to the touch.

3. Using a teaspoon, gently scoop out the centers of the potatoes without piercing the bottoms. Place the potato flesh, sour cream, cheddar cheese, butter, horseradish, garlic, 1 teaspoon salt, and the pepper in a bowl. Using a fork, mash until well combined. Carefully spoon the filling back into the potato shells, mounding the stuffing.

4. Arrange the potatoes, stuffed-side up, on a baking sheet. (The potatoes may be prepared up to 6 hours in advance to this point. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Let stand at room temperature 30 minutes before continuing.)

5. Heat the oven to 350°F. Top each potato with a generous pinch of Parmesan cheese. Transfer to the oven and bake until the potatoes are hot and the cheese is melted, about 20 minutes. Serve warm, garnished with fresh thyme.

Roasted Butternut Squash (or Pumpkin) Soup

Butternut Squash Soup tastefoodButternut Squash, Apples, Cider, Spice 

There is something magical about roasted butternut squash. Its orange flesh softens into a sweet and nutty squidginess, which is easily transformed into a puree. It’s hard to believe something so rich and sugary can be loaded with nutrients and betacarotene, but so it is. One cup of butternut squash provides a glutton’s worth of Vitamins A, B, and C, as well as potassium, fiber and manganese. When roasted, its natural sugars are coaxed out and gently caramelized, accentuating the squash’s inherent nutty flavor – simply delicious with a pinch of salt. In this recipe, roasted butternut mingles with its fall buddies – apples, cider and loads of warm spices – yielding an essential autumn soup.

Spicy Butternut Squash (or Pumpkin) Soup

Serve as a starter to any meal, including Thanksgiving dinner. If you are entertaining a crowd, consider small servings in little cups or demi-tasse as a light hors d’oeuvre. Pumpkin may be substituted for the squash. I prefer small hokkaido pumpkins.

Serves 4 to 6 in bowls or 8 to 12 in small cups.

1 medium butternut squash (or 1 large hokkaido pumpkin) about 2 pounds
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 large Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, cut in 1/2-inch dice
2 teaspoons curry powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon cayenne, or to taste
3 cups chicken stock
1 cup apple cider
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1 to 2 teaspoons salt, to taste
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Chopped fresh cilantro leaves for garnish

Heat the oven to 375°F. Cut the squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Lightly brush the exposed flesh with olive oil. Place squash, cut-side-down, on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake until the flesh is fork tender, 50 to 60 minutes. Remove from oven and cool slightly. When cool enough to handle, scoop out the flesh and set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until softened without coloring, 3 to 4 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the apple, curry powder, cumin, coriander and cayenne.  Cook until fragrant, about 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add the squash and chicken stock. (There should be just enough stock to cover the squash and apples. If needed, add additional stock to cover). Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and simmer until the apples are very soft, about 20 minutes.

Carefully puree the soup in batches in a food processor (or with an immersion blender). Return to the pot. The soup should be thick. Thin it to your desired consistency with the apple cider. Stir in the brown sugar, salt and pepper. Warm thoroughly over medium-low heat and taste for seasoning. Serve warm, garnished with fresh cilantro leaves.

Cooking for your Health: Healthy Entertaining with Fresh Spring Rolls

Cooking for your Health: Healthy Entertaining with Fresh Spring Rolls

In this month’s installment of Cooking for your Health, we’re talking parties. More specifically, we’re talking healthy party food. I can’t think of a better way to have a good time than to have a group of friends over and to feed them. Sometimes this means a sit-down dinner with many courses, other times it’s a bunch of appetizers to call a meal. Either way, finger food is always involved and ideally it will be light, flavorful and nutritious, while being festive enough to be invited to a party. One of my favorite hors d’oeurvres is fresh spring rolls, which you might call a salad roll. They are bright, colorful, bursting with fresh veggies and herbs, and served with a spicy peanut dipping sauce with a kick of heat. They are a perfect way to begin a meal: Not only are they delicious, they are healthy, low in calories and won’t leave you with a stuffed feeling – even if you find yourself standing over the tray gobbling them up because they are so darn good.

Fresh Spring Rolls

For a vegetarian option, omit the shrimp. Feel free to mix and match your vegetables to taste and heat preference. Choose between sweet peppers, spicy chiles, jicama, daikon, cucumber, chinese cabbage, carrots, green onions. Remember that the key to a good roll is to have a balance of sweet, savory, heat and salt in the ingredients and to combine a variety of textures for a satisfying bite.  Be sure to prepare all the ingredients in advance, so that when you are ready to assemble the rolls, everything is in place.

Makes 8 rolls.

For the spring rolls:
8 (eight-inch/22 cm.) spring roll wrappers (galettes de riz)
8 large green lettuce leaves, any tough ribs removed, torn in half
4 scallions or spring onions, ends trimmed, halved, cut length-wise in julienne strips
2 large carrots, peeled, cut in matchsticks
1 large red bell pepper or 4 red jalapeno chile peppers, stemmed, seeded, cut in matchsticks
1 english cucumber, seeded, cut in matchsticks
1 large bunch coriander leaves and tender stems
1 large bunch mint leaves
16 medium cooked shrimp, peeled, halved lengthwise (optional)

For the Peanut Lime Sauce:
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
1 tablespoon water
1 tablespoon creamy peanut butter
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon Sriracha or hot sauce
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh cilantro

Make Spring Rolls:
Pour warm water into a wide bowl. Immerse one rice paper round in water to just soften, about 5 seconds.  Remove and spread on a plastic cutting board.  Let stand for 30 seconds to absorb water. Arrange 2 lettuce leaf halves over the bottom half of the rice paper round.  Top lettuce with a line of green onion, carrot, pepper, cucumber, coriander and mint. Fold bottom of rice paper over filling and tuck around the filling to compact it. Arrange 4 shrimp halves horizontally over the crease and continue rolling. Transfer roll, seam-side down to a plate and cover with damp towel.  Repeat with remaining rolls.  (Adjust ingredient amounts to taste and to ensure the roll is plump and full).
Spring rolls may be made up to 4 hours in advance.  Cover with damp paper towels and plastic wrap and refrigerate. To serve, cut cross-wise in quarters, with one shrimp per segment, or in half.  Serve with Peanut Lime Sauce for dipping.

Make Peanut Lime Sauce:

Whisk  all ingredients except the cilantro together in a small bowl. Taste for seasoning. (Add 1 more tablespoon water if desired). Refrigerate covered until use. Before serving add cilantro.

If you like this, you might enjoy more Cooking for your Health recipes:
Homemade Granola Bars
Salmon Wrapped in Kale with Harissa
Greek Couscous Salad

Ring in the New Year with these Party Appetizer and Menu Ideas

The New Year is approaching, and the holiday festivities continue. During this busy time it’s fun and easy to get caught up in socializing, so it’s important to have a few tricks up our sleeve for entertaining, drop-in visitors or an impromptu get-together. Let this blog do some of the work for you. Here are a few menu ideas for holiday bites and appetizers to have on hand or to serve for a party. Meanwhile, savor the moment and enjoy some family time, take a walk in the forest or open that new book  you got from Santa.  Best wishes for a healthy and happy New Year!

Food52 – The Cookbook

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Last weekend I was delighted to host a book launch party for Amanda Hesser, Merrill Stubbs and 20 Bay area members of the recipe site Food52.  Amanda and Merrill, the co-founders Food52, were in the Bay area promoting the newly released Food52 Cookbook –  a compilation of a year’s worth of winning recipes. Food52 “grew out of an insight that many of the best recipes come from home cooks.” Each week a contest is announced and entries submitted from the F52 community. Amanda, Merrill and the F52 editors whittle the entries down to 2 selections which are then voted on by the entire community. The winning recipe earns a spot in the cookbook. I am more than honored that 4 of my recipes are in the first cookbook.

Aside from publishing recipes, Food52 has evolved into an active and thriving online and offline community, sharing recipes, news, tips and advice while creating long lasting friendships bound together by a love for food and cooking. So, when Amanda and Merrill arrived in San Francisco on their book tour, it was natural that we would gather the Bay area F52 community and enjoy a lunch together. Potluck, of course.


Homemade charcuterie garnished with lots of cheese

Here’s a riddle:
What happens when you gather 20 passionate foodies for a potluck party?
Answer: You are treated to an amazing array of food.

Chicken Pesto Skewers
by Becky (KitchenSolo) – photo by Andrew Gaber

Sausage and Kale Tart – winning recipe by Karen (My Pantry Shelf)
Prepared by Tiffany (Ms. T) – Photo by Andrew Gaber

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The only downside to hosting a party like this is I was so busy I didn’t have a moment to take any pictures. Andrew Baber kindly shared this photo of Amanda and Merrill chatting with Shelly Peppel (Food52 News) and Beverly Best. Thanks, Andrew!

Tips and Treats for a Holiday Cheese Basket

Tips and Treats for a Holiday Cheese Basket



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I made this cheese basket for a ghoulish gathering of friends last weekend. Cheeseboards and baskets are fun to make and with a little thought and creativity can easily take center stage at a buffet table. I never tire of arranging and decorating them, using the season and holidays as inspiration. For this Halloween-inspired cheese basket I picked autumnal decorations with a creepy twist. I created a border of spiky, frizzy greens with dark, purplish leaves and black, woody garnishes. The cheese selection was equally ghoulish: ash-rubbed cheese, a moldy blue, stinky and runny cheese and orange pockmarked cheese. The crisps and crackers were dark, rough and seeded, weaving through the cheese like wood in the forest.

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All of the garnishes and decorations are edible and include:
Mustard greens, chicory, purple kale, frisée, miniature red pears, black radishes, burdock root, gourds and baby pumpkins, black olives, pumpkins seeds, dried currants and cranberries.

Crisps and snacks were chosen for color, shape and texture:
Corn nuts, black sesame rice crackers, cranberry hazelnut crisps,  crisp flatbread, and chunks of dense fig and almond cake.

Black slate created the background and lined the basket interior, provided a sturdy surface to cut the cheese while various wooden and black vessels contained wayward runny cheese and little nibbles.

Not only did the cheeseboard look good, it featured a thoughtful selection of cheese that ranged from soft and mild to strong and aged. When you gather a selection, try to balance it in strength, texture, flavor. As a starting point I often include a blue cheese, a creamy white-molded cheese such as camembert, a goat cheese and a hard alpine cow or sheep milk cheese.

Cheese pictured in this basket includes (clockwise from top center):

1.  Cowgirl Creamery Sir Francis Drake washed rind cheese with currants
2.  Sharp white Cheddar with a Purple Rind – selected for color
3.  Aged Gouda Saenkanter – an orange, sharp, nutty Dutch cows milk cheese
4.  Adante Dairy “Nocturne” cows milk cheese with gray mold and ash
5.  Seal Bay Triple Cream – mild, oozing and runny
6.  Gorgonzola Mountain – crumbly and streaked with blue
7.  Petit Brebiousse – a French ewe’s milk cheese with an orange rind

So have fun – enjoy all of the fabulous cheese and remember to save some for the guests. Bon appétit!

Porcini and Rosemary Crusted Beef Tenderloin with Porcini Port Sauce

Porcini and Rosemary Crusted Beef Tenderloin with Porcini Port Sauce

beef tenderloin tf

This recipe is worth celebrating. Porcini and Rosemary Crusted Beef Tenderloin has been selected as a winner  in this week’s Food52 contest for Your Best Holiday Roast. And that’s not the only reason it’s worthy of a party. Dried porcini mushrooms blitzed with fresh rosemary sprigs and black peppercorns create an umami-rich rub for the beef, forming a crust that melts into the meat while roasting. It’s stand alone delicious, yet when napped with a luxurious port wine reduction infused with more porcini and rosemary, this dish becomes an elegant dinner worthy of any holiday celebration. So go on, name a holiday – or just call it the weekend. This is a treat that your family and friends will be sure to enjoy. And that’s worth celebrating, too.

Porcini and Rosemary Crusted Beef Tenderloin with Porcini Port Sauce

Salting the  meat in advance ensures juicy results and a crispy crust. A combination of port and red wine is used in this recipe. Red wine may be substituted with additional port. Serves 6 to 8.

For the beef tenderloin:
1 center cut beef tenderloin, about 3 pounds
Salt
1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves, finely chopped
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
Olive oil

For the Porcini Port Wine Sauce:
1/2 ounce dried porcini mushrooms, reconstituted in 3/4 cup hot water
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1 medium shallot, finely chopped
1 cup port wine
1 cup heavy-bodied red wine
2 rosemary sprigs
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste

1. Season the tenderloin all over with salt. Refrigerate 4 hours or up to 24 hours. Thirty minutes before roasting remove beef from the refrigerator.
2. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Combine the mushrooms, rosemary, and peppercorns in a spice grinder. Grind to a coarse powder. Rub the beef with olive oil, then coat all over with the rosemary porcini rub.
3. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a wide skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the beef and brown on all sides, about 8 minutes, turning as necessary. Transfer the beef to a roasting pan, and set the skillet aside without rinsing for the sauce.
4. Roast beef in the oven until a meat thermometer inserted in the thickest part reads 125*F, about 30 minutes for medium-rare. Remove from the oven and transfer to a cutting board. Tent with foil and let stand for 15 minutes.
5. While the beef is roasting, prepare the sauce. Strain the porcini water through an un-bleached paper towel into a small bowl. Reserve the strained liquid. Coarsely chop the porcini.
6. Add 1 tablespoon butter, the shallots, and porcini to the reserved skillet. Sauté over medium heat until the shallots are translucent, about 2 minutes. Add the port, scraping up any brown bits in the pan. Add the red wine, mushroom stock, and rosemary. Bring to a boil and cook uncovered until the sauce is reduced by about half to approximately 1 1/2 cups. Add the salt and taste for seasoning. Strain through a fine-meshed seive into a small saucepan, pressing firmly on the solids; discard solids. Heat the sauce over medium heat. Whisk in 2 tablespoons butter, 1 tablespoon at a time. Keep warm until serving.
7. To serve, carve the meat in slices. Serve on warm plates with the porcini port sauce.