Tag Archives: appetizer

Green Olive and Almond Tapenade

green olive tapenade tastefood

Posted by Lynda Balslev

This is a recipe in my Almond book. I prepared this tapenade for each of the book signings I went to, and it was very popular. And now that it’s the official start to summer, I share this recipe with you. Salty, nutty, and seriously addictive, this tapenade is a perfect summer appetizer, spooned over bread or crostini. It’s also a great condiment, sprinkled over pizzas, salads or grilled fish. If you can, enjoy it with a glass of dry rosé for a heavenly pairing.

Green Olive and Almond Tapenade
from Almonds – Recipes, History, Culture (Gibbs Smith 2014)

Makes about 2 1/2 cups

1/2 cup raw almonds, toasted
2 cups pitted green olives
3 anchovies in oil, drained
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon capers, rinsed, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Place the almonds in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse a few times to coarsely chop. Add the remaining ingredients and process to a coarse paste. Refrigerate for at least one hour to allow the flavors to develop. The tapenade may be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.

Bloody Mary Gazpacho with Shrimp

bloody mary gazpacho tastefood

Posted by Lynda Balslev

This chilled and refreshing summer soup is spiced with all of the necessary accoutrements for a great Bloody Mary, minus the vodka. (Of course, who says you can’t add a splash of spirits for an adult appetizer?) So, depending on your mood, the time of day – and your age – you might call this a spicy gazpacho, an inspired shrimp cocktail, or even a substantial bloody mary, heavy on the garnishes. Serve for brunch or lunch, or in small glasses as a party starter.

Bloody Mary Gazpacho with Shrimp
Serves 4 to 6

4 cups tomato juice
3 medium vine-ripened tomatoes, seeded, cut into 1/4-inch dice
2 celery stalks, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 English cucumber, seeded, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 small red bell pepper, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 small red onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 to 2 teaspoons prepared horseradish
1 teaspoon Tabasco
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup chopped celery leaves

Optional garnishes:
Celery stalks
Italian Parsley stalks
1 pound large (15/20) shrimp, deveined and shelled with tails intact, cooked and chilled
Splash(es) of vodka

Combine all of the gazpacho ingredients in a bowl and stir to combine. Taste for seasoning and adjust to taste. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour and up to 4 hours to let the flavors develop. Serve in bowls or cups. Garnish with celery, parsley and shrimp if using. For an adult version, stir in a splash of vodka.

Tomato Bruschetta

tomato bruschetta tastefood

Posted by Lynda Balslev

When I make tomato bruschetta, my family always says, “Summer food!” And so it is - especially when it’s made on the grill. Everything happens on our grill year round, I mean, during the summer. For this recipe slices of baguette get all toasty and charred on the Weber. Believe me, it’s worth the step for the flavor and saves you from the heat of the oven broiler. The grilled bread is then smothered with fresh chopped tomatoes infused with fresh basil from the garden, garlic and a glugg of olive oil. So simple, so good. If you could have summer in a mouthful, this would be it.

Tomato Bruschetta

I like the rustic presentation of halved baguette sections. Alternatively, slice the baguette on the diagonal 1/2-inch thick. Serves 4 to 6.

1 1/2 pounds vine ripened tomatoes
3 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup basil leaves, torn in small pieces
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 baguette

Cut each tomato in half, and scoop out the juices and seeds with your fingers or a small spoon. Cut the tomatoes into 1/4-inch dice and place in a bowl. Add 1 minced garlic clove, the olive oil, basil, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Gently stir to combine and taste for seasoning. If you don’t have super sweet tomatoes yet, a pinch of sugar may be added.

Cut the baguette crosswise into 3-inch sections. Halve each section lengthwise.
Grill the bread slices until toasted, turning once. Arrange on a platter cut-side up. Peel 2 garlic cloves and slightly crush with a knife. Rub the garlic cloves over the bread.

Crispy Prosciutto

Crispy Parma tastefood

Do you like crispy bacon? Then try making crispy prosciutto. Oven baking slices of prosciutto (or any other dry cured ham) transforms supple ham slices into crunchy shards ready for munching or crumbling over salads, soups, pastas and vegetables. Baking dehydrates the meat, concentrating its flavor and intensifying its saltiness while cooking off excess fat. The resulting wizened slivers of dried pork add a punch of flavor to almost anything and taste great as simple finger food. I call these salty snippets crack-croutons because they are highly addictive and intensely flavorful. 

Crispy Parma Slices Lynda Balslev

Oven baking is a great way to use up any leftover parma, coppa or prosciutto in your fridge – if you’re lucky enough to have leftovers. If not, the method is so easy and quick it justifies shopping for a whole package to open and pop into the oven. And you don’t have to spring for the expensive stuff – any thinly sliced dry cured ham will do. I often use German prosciutto from Trader Joe’s that’s half the price of the Italian equivalent. 

crispy parma cru Lynda Balslev

To crisp the ham, arrange the slices in one layer, without overlapping, on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake in a 350°F oven for 15 minutes, then turn off the heat and let the ham stay in the oven for another 10 minutes. Remove and cool, then break into shards. The crispy ham will keep in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to one week – but I promise it will be long gone by then.

Five ways to use crispy prosciutto:
1. Scatter over mixed salads.
2. Sprinkle over creamy soups and chowders.
3. Garnish eggs and frittatas.
4. Crumble the shards and use to season cooked vegetables.
4. Add to cheesy pasta dishes and homemade pizzas before serving.

Crispy Duck Banh Mi Sliders

Duck Sliders tastefood

In our multi-national family with previous addresses in 4 countries, we’ve adopted a hodge-podge of cultural traditions that we call our own when it comes to Christmas. In Danish style, we celebrate with a big dinner on the 24th, when we light live candles on our Christmas tree. The meal often includes duck and beef, surrounded by French favorites such as Pommes Dauphinoise and a climactic Buche de Noel. The 25th is decidedly more low key, perhaps with a foray into Chinatown for dim sum, or a lazy day of leftovers, smoked salmon and cheese. Luckily there is always some duck left over from the night before, which I stash in the back of the refrigerator for a more Asian inspired meal on the 26th or 27th. Duck reheats beautifully with a little help from some of it’s rendered fat, and when shredded it’s happily reinvented into spicy lettuce cups – or banh mi.

Shredded Crispy Duck Banh Mi Sliders with Pickled Carrot Radish Slaw and Spicy Aioli

These sliders are a firework of flavors and sensations. Shredded duck coated with a sweet and salty Sriracha glaze and crisped in the oven until caramelized is layered with creamy garlicky aioli, piquant veggie slaw, fresh cucumber and jalapeno heat. Here’s a recipe where you can use up any shredded duck meat, and if you don’t have any leftover duck lurking in your refrigerator, purchase duck legs confit and shred those for a luxurious step.

Slaw:
1 large carrot, cut in matchsticks
1 (4-inch) piece daikon radish, cut in matchsticks
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

Spicy Aioli:
½ cup mayonniase
1 small garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons Sriracha or Asian hot sauce

Duck:
8 ounces cooked and shredded duck leg meat (or confit)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon vegetable oil (or rendered duck fat)
1 tablespoon Sriracha or Asian hot sauce
½ teaspoon ground coriander

6 French-style dinner rolls or slider buns, halved crosswise
½ English cucumber, thinly sliced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded, thinly sliced
1 cup fresh cilantro sprigs
Lime wedges

Make the slaw:
Place the carrot and daikon in a bowl. Sprinkle the sugar and salt over the vegetables, then rub with your fingertips until vegetables soften, about 1 minute. Add the vinegar and lime juice and stir to combine. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Make the aioli:
Whisk all of the ingredients in a small bowl. Chill until use.

Make the duck:
Preheat the oven to 450°F. Place the duck in a small baking dish. Whisk the soy sauce, sugar, oil, Sriracha and coriander in a small bowl. Pour over the duck and mix to thoroughly coat. Bake in the top third of the oven until crisp and caramelized in parts, about 10 minutes, stirring once or twice.

Assemble sliders:
Spread 1 to 2 teaspoons aioli on bottom bun half. Top with a layer of cucumber and then a mound of the carrot and daikon slaw. Top the slaw with shredded duck. Arrange jalapeno slices over the duck and top with cilantro sprigs. Spread another teaspoon of aioli on the top bun half. Repeat with remaining buns. Serve with lime wedges.

Pass the Prosciutto: Parma Wrapped Dates Stuffed with Goat Cheese

This is a sponsored post for Parma ham, a product I frequently use and thoroughly enjoy. As always, all opinions and inspiration are my own.

parma date plate

~ Dates, Goat Cheese, Parma Ham, Rosemary ~

Are you having a last minute holiday panic attack? You have the turkey brined, the potatoes smashed, the cranberries sauced, and 4 sorts of vegetables cleaned. But…what if you don’t have enough? (Of course you do). If you are like me, the  last hours of party prep often include last minute additions to the menu – just in case someone, heaven forbid, should waddle, I mean walk, away from the table still hungry.

Such was the inspiration for these stuffed dates. I added them to my Thanksgiving menu in a sudden moment of panic (maybe 3 appetizers were not enough!) I had all the ingredients on hand: goat cheese for the cheeseboard, dates to accompany the cheese, rosemary in the garden, and Parma ham, a permanent staple in my refrigerator. Parma is easy to store and ready to pull out for charcuterie boards, draping over pizza, and layering into salads. I love it as is or baked in the oven where it crisps, waiting to be snapped into shards and sprinkled over pasta, soups and salads. For these appetizers, the parma wrapped up the dates, sealing in the filling and creating tidy flavor-packed nuggets – sweet, salty and creamy at once. They were easily assembled one day in advance, simply needing a quick bake to crisp the ham and amplify its saltiness, providing a perfect foil to the sugary dates and mild goat cheese.

Parma Wrapped Dates Stuffed with Goat Cheese

Makes 12 to 16, depending on the size of the dates

5 ounces mild soft goat cheese
1 teaspoon finely minced rosemary leaves
1/2 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
12 to 16 medjool dates
8 slices Parma ham, halved lengthwise

Preheat oven to 375°F (190C). Combine the goat cheese, rosemary, orange zest, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Mix with a fork to soften and combine.
Make a small incision in the dates lengthwise and remove the pits. Using a teaspoon or your fingers, fill the cavities of the dates with the goat cheese. Wrap each date with a strip of Parma ham. Place seam-side down on a baking sheet. Bake until the ham is slightly golden, about 15 minutes, turning once. Transfer to a serving plate and cool slightly. Garnish with rosemary sprigs. Serve warm.

parma date tastefood

Follow Parma Ham on Twitter for a chance to win $50 worth of the world’s most famous ham. Click on the banner below to participate. This post is a collaboration between TasteFood and Parma Ham.

Win Parma Ham

Figs and Brie

fig cheese tastefood

Figgy cheese – or would that be cheesy figs?

Simplicity combined with fresh ingredients is the essence of great summer food. There need not be a lot of fuss when produce is at it’s peak in flavor. Keep it simple so that nature’s flavors shine through. I made these figs as an appetizer the other night with a minimum of ingredients in 10 minutes. You can too.

Oven Roasted Figs and Brie with Thyme

Drizzle a little honey over the figs after they roast, if desired. These figs were so sweet and sublime I chose not to add anymore sugar. These figs are also delicious on crostini.

Makes 12

6 large ripe fresh figs, halved lengthwise
4 ounces soft rind cheese, such as brie, camembert, reblechon
Extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Fresh thyme sprigs

Heat the oven broiler. Place the figs in a cast iron pan or baking dish cut-side up. Slice the cheese and cut in squares no larger than the width of the figs. Lay the slices in the center of the figs. Broil until the cheese is melted and lightly golden. Remove from the oven and drizzle with a little olive oil. Lightly season with a few pinches of salt and a grinding or two of black pepper. Garnish with fresh thyme. Serve immediately.

More fig inspiration:
Prosciutto Wrapped Figs with Goat Cheese and Rosemary from TasteFood
Grilled Figs with Honeyed Mascarpone from the Kitchn
Roasted Fig Flatbreads with Chevre and Greens from Annie Eats

Heirloom Tomato and Mozzarella Tartare with Balsamic Syrup

tomato tartare verrines tastefood

Taking its cue from Insalata Caprese, the magical trio of tomato, mozzarella and basil gets dressed up in these elegant yet simple verrines. A diced medley of colorful heirloom tomatoes is topped with creamy buffalo mozzarella and fresh basil, then laced with rich balsamic syrup. A plank of olive oil crostini completes this fresh and light dish. Make this summery appetizer when the garden is abundant with ripe tomatoes and it’s too hot to cook in the kitchen.

Heirloom Tomato and Mozzarella Tartare with Balsamic Syrup
Makes 8 servings.

Syrup:
1/2 cup balsamic syrup
1 garlic clove, lightly smashed
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper

Crostini:
8 slices of baguette, cut 4-inches in length by 1/4-inch thick
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 large garlic clove, lightly smashed

2 pounds assorted heirloom tomatoes, seeded, cut in 1/4-inch dice
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
8 ounces buffalo mozzarella
8 large basil leaves

For the syrup:
Place the vinegar, garlic, lemon juice, salt and pepper in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and cook until syrupy in consistency and reduced by 1/3. Discard garlic clove. Transfer syrup to a bowl and cool to room temperature.

For the crostini:
Preheat oven broiler or grill. Brush baguette slices with olive oil. Rub with garlic clove and lightly sprinkle with salt. Arrange in one layer on a baking tray and broil until lightly golden on both sides, turning once. (Or grill until lightly charred on both sides). Set aside.

Place the tomatoes in a bowl. Add oil, salt, sugar and black pepper. Gently stir to combine. Taste for seasoning. Divide the tomatoes evenly between 8 glasses. Top with a spoonful of mozzarella. Drizzle with 1 to 2 teaspoons balsamic syrup.

Stack the basil leaves. Roll up the stack lengthwise and thinly slice the roll to chiffonade the basil. Sprinkle the basil over the tomatoes. Serve immediately with crostini.

Grilled Shrimp with Garlicky Pea Puree

shrimp pea puree tastefood

~ Grilled Shrimp with Garlicky Pea Purée ~

Here’s a fresh twist on the classic shrimp cocktail. Rather than dipping poached shrimp in a spicy tomato sauce, how about dipping grilled shrimp in a garlicky pea purée?

I like to make this pea purée when sweet peas are in season. It’s an incredibly versatile condiment. Not only is the purée a perfect garnish to sweet and briny shrimp, it tastes great with other seafood such as scallops, salmon and halibut. It also makes a great topping for crostini, a dip for cruditées or steamed new potatoes.

Grilled Shrimp with Garlicky Pea Purée

If fresh peas are out of season, frozen peas may be substituted. Serves 4 to 6 as an appetizer.

Purée:
2 cups fresh peas or 12 ounces frozen peas, defrosted, room temperature
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 large garlic clove, chopped
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra as needed
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon Tabasco, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Marinade:
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons Tabasco or hot sauce
1 teaspoon salt
Pinch of sugar

1 pound medium (21/25) shrimp, peeled, tails intact, deveined

If using fresh peas, fill a medium saucepan halfway with water (do not add salt as this will toughen the peas) and bring to a boil. Add the peas and cook until bright green in color and tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process. Transfer to the bowl of a food processor. Add the remaining puree ingredients and process to blend. (If using frozen peas, skip the first step and add the peas with the remaining ingredients to the food processor and process to blend). If purée is too thick, add more olive oil to achieve desired consistency. Taste for seasoning.

Whisk all of the marinade ingredients in a large bowl. Add the shrimp and turn to coat. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Prepare the grill for direct cooking over high heat. Thread shrimp on skewers. Grill over high heat with the lid closed until just cooked through, turning once, 2 to 4 minutes.

Serve the shrimp warm with the pea purée for dipping, or spoon dollops of the pea puree over the shrimp.

This is a great beat-the-heat recipe for the summer.  If you like this you might also enjoy these recipes from TasteFood:
Smoked Salmon Salad Tartines
Avocado Bruschetta with Balsamic Syrup
Bloody Mary Gazpacho

Gratineed Clams with Spinach, Cheese and Crispy Lamb

clams stuffed 1 tastefood~ Gratinéed Clams with Spinach, Cheese and Crispy Lamb ~

It’s the final challenge of the Lambs + Clams Contest. For the past 4 months I have been 1 of 8 national bloggers assigned to devise a recipe using lamb provided by Border Springs Farm or shellfish from Rappahannock River Oysters, culminating in the Charleston Wine and Food Festival in March. For this final contest we received a variety pack. Think surf and turf – Lambs and Clams style – namely 2 pounds of ground lamb and 25 plump middleneck clams. I admit, these are 2 ingredients I’ve never combined in one recipe, but, hey, there’s always a first time. And I love a good challenge.

Right away I considered a Mediterranean inspired stew, imagining poached clams in a robust tomato broth, with spicy lamb keftas standing in for chorizo. But: I have already created a recipe somewhat similar to that.  It did get me thinking, though, of lamb doing double duty for something else, like, say, bacon. Now, had I received a hunk of meat, I could have made my own lamb bacon, but I had ground lamb instead. So why not spice and cook the minced lamb to a point of crispness, where it could stand in for crumbled bacon? Hmmmm.

Which brings me to the weather – as all musings and ramblings do at some point. For the record, it’s cold,  grey and  wintery at the moment, which in my book is the perfect climate for warm, cheesy gratinéed food. A picture was beginning to form of a gratinéed clam on a halfshell crowned with crispy spiced minced lamb. And since it’s the New Year when healthy resolutions abound, I added a mound of spinach to the mix.

So if you give a cook a challenge, then you get…

clams stuffed tastefood

Gratinéed Clams with Spinach, Cheese and Crispy Lamb

For the spinach:
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
6 ounces spinach leaves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup finely grated Parmigiano cheese

For the lamb:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 pound ground lamb
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne

16 middleneck or Manila clams

Finely grated Parmigiano cheese for sprinkling
Fresh Italian parsley leaves, chopped, for garnish

Prepare the spinach:
Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and red pepper flakes. Sauté until fragrant, 1 minute. Add spinach. Sauté until leaves wilt. Add salt. Transfer spinach to a cutting board. Cool slightly, then coarsely chop. Transfer to a bowl and mix in the cheese.

Prepare the lamb:
Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add lamb. Cook, stirring, until fat renders and lamb is brown. Drain and return lamb to the skillet. Add paprika, salt, pepper and cayenne. Sauté briefly to combine. Set aside.

Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Add clams. Reduce heat to medium and partially cover. Cook until the clams open, about 5 minutes. Drain clams. (Discard any unopened clams). When cool enough to handle, pry apart the shells; discard the tops. Carefully loosen the clam muscle from the shell, leaving the clam in the bottom half of each shell.

Heat oven broiler. Place a heaping teaspoon of spinach over a each clam. Top with a teaspoon of lamb. Liberally sprinkle with cheese. Place in a baking dish. Broil until the lamb is crispy brown and the clams are sizzling, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a serving platter. Sprinkle with parsley. Serve warm.

If you like this recipe, please hop over to the Charleston Wine and Food Festival’s Facebook page where you will find all of the entries to the contest. To vote, you will have to ‘Like’ the page, and then click on the ‘vote’ tab in the navigation bar.

I would like to thank the folks at BBT’s Charleston Wine and Food Festival for sponsoring this contest and inviting me to participate. I also thank  Border Springs Farm and Rappahannock River Oysters for supplying gorgeous products for each challenge. Next month will be so uneventful without one of their packages arriving.

And have a look at the other contest participants’ blogs:
Peter Barrett @ A Cook Blog
Olga Berman @ Mango Tomato
David Dadekian @ Eat Drink RI
Gwen Pratesi @ Bunkycooks
Heather Scholten @ Farmgirl Gourmet
Cecilia Stoute @ One Vanilla Bean
Vivek Surti @ Vivek’s Epicurean Adventures