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Havarti Cheese Fonduta

PARTNER POST – Get creative with any of Castello’s uniquely crafted cheeses. Click here for a $1 off coupon to create your own gourmet masterpiece.

Castello Fonduta TasteFoodRoasted Potatoes and Broccolini with Havarti Cheese Fonduta

No, this is not about fondue…or not quite. Fonduta, is an Italian specialty hailing from the Piedmont and Valle d’Aosta regions. Like its French and Swiss alpine cousins, fonduta consists of melted cheese. Where it differs is in its preparation. While fondue is made in a pot with wine and simmered table-side over a flame, requiring constant stirring to prevent curdling. fonduta is a melty blend of cheese, milk, and often egg yolk, with a creamy yet stable consistency, allowing for more versatility, such as dipping or pouring.

Fonduta CruditeVegetable Cruditées with Havarti Cheese Fonduta

This recipe is an easy variation of fonduta, which takes advantage of the robust flavors of Castello’s Wild Garlic Havarti. The egg is omitted and the milk is partly replaced with cream, creating a rich blank slate to allow the cheese to shine through. Served warm on a plate with roasted vegetables, it provides a comforting “soup” or drizzle. Served warm in a cup, it’s a lovely complement to crisp fresh cruditées.

Havarti Cheese Fonduta
Makes about 1/2 cup

4 ounces melting cheese, such as Castello Wild Garlic Havarti, coarsely grated
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup whole milk
Pinch of freshly ground black pepper

In a bowl, toss the cheese and cornstarch to coat. Heat the cream and milk in a small saucepan until it just comes to a boil. Reduce the heat to low. Add the cheese in 2 batches, stirring constantly to melt the cheese before adding the next batch. Stir until smooth, then remove from the heat. Season with black pepper. Serve immediately as a bed for hearty roasted vegetables or with cruditées for dipping.

PARTNER POST – Get creative with any of Castello’s uniquely crafted cheeses. Click here for a $1 off coupon to create your own gourmet masterpiece.

Lime Marinated Shrimp Tostadas with Black Bean Salsa and Spicy Rice

Lime shrimp tostadas

This post is tricky. For my East coast readers, I want to offer you a rich and meaty stew, guaranteed to bring warmth and comfort amidst teetering snowdrifts. For my West coast friends, I am tempted to make happy south-of-the-border food in honor of the ridiculous summer weather outside. So here is a compromise: These tostadas are warming and bright, satisfying and fresh. They go equally well in front of a crackling fire with a bracing shot of tequila, or eaten grill-side with a festive shot of tequila. Each of the components are stand-alone good, and when heaped onto a crispy corn tostada shell, it’s a winter (or summer) party on a plate.

Lime Marinated Shrimp Tostadas with Black Bean Salsa and Spicy Rice

Serves 4 to 6

For the black bean salsa:
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
Corn kernels from one ear of corn (or 1 cup frozen corn, defrosted)
1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, quartered
1 jalapeno pepper, stemmed and seeded, finely chopped
1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
Juice of one lime
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon hot sauce, to taste
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 small handful cilantro sprigs, chopped

For the rice:
1 cup long grain rice
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup finely chopped yellow onion
1 jalapeño pepper, stemmed and seeded, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
Pinch of ground cayenne
1 1/2 cups chicken stock (or water)
1 teaspoon salt

For the shrimp:
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne
1 pound medium shrimp, shelled and deveined

Tostada shells
Lettuce leaves
Tomato salsa or hot sauce
Fresh cilantro sprigs
Lime wedges

1. Combine all of the salsa ingredients, except the cilantro, in a bowl and mix well. Taste for seasoning. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour to allow the flavors to develop. Before serving, add the cilantro.

2. Prepare the rice: Place the rice in a fine mesh strainer and rinse under cold water until the water runs clear. Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and jalapeño and sauté until softened, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the garlic, cumin, and cayenne and sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the rice and cook, stirring, to lightly toast and thoroughly coat, about 1 minute. Add the stock and salt. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to low and cover the pot. Simmer until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender, about 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and fluff with a fork.

3. Prepare the shrimp. Whisk 1 tablespoon olive oil, the lime juice, cumin, salt, pepper, and cayenne in a medium bowl. Add the shrimp and stir to coat. Let stand at room temperature for 10 minutes.

4. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in skillet over medium high heat (or prepare the grill for direct cooking over medium heat). Remove the shrimp from the marinade, shaking off any excess liquid, and transfer to the skillet 0r grill. Cook the shrimp until pink on both sides and just cooked through, turning once, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer the shrimp to a bowl.

5. To assemble the tostadas, lay a lettuce leaf over a tostada (corn) shell. Spoon some of the rice over the lettuce, then some of the black bean salsa over the rice. Top with 2 to 3 shrimp. Drizzle with a little tomato salsa or hot sauce. Garnish with cilantro leaves and a squeeze of lime. Serve immediately.

Lemon Bars with Sea Salt

lemon sea salt bars tastefood

Whether you are knee deep in snow or lucky enough to live where lemons grow on trees, these lemon bars will bring a ray of sunshine to your plate. Picture a zingy sweet-tart filling rippling with lemon zest, anchored to a buttery shortbread crust. A smidge of sea salt adorning the top keeps all sweetness in check, allowing the puckery citrus to shine through. These bars are thoroughly addictive and guaranteed to brighten your day. One bar will never be enough.

Lemon Bars with Sea Salt

This recipe is adapted from and inspired by many sources, including Ina Garten, Food52,  and my personal weakness for sea salt. Makes 32 (2-inch) square bars.

Shortbread:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup unsalted butter, slightly softened but still cool, cut into cubes

Filling:
4 large eggs
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
2/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Garnish:
Confectioners sugar
Sea salt flakes, such as Maldon

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter a 9 by 13-inch baking pan, then line the pan with parchment and butter the parchment.
2. Combine the shortbread ingredients in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix until the dough resembles coarse lumps and just begins to come together. Dump the dough into the prepared pan and, with your fingers, evenly press the dough to cover the bottom of the pan.
3. Bake the crust until it just begins to turn golden, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven, but do not turn off the oven heat.
4. Whisk the filling ingredients together in a large bowl until blended, then evenly pour over the crust. Return the pan to the oven and bake until the filling is set but not coloring, about 25 minutes. Remove and cool completely on a rack.
5. Cut into bars. Dust with confectioners’ sugar and lightly sprinkle with sea salt flakes before serving.

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.

Makes 20; serves 4 to 6

20 round small potatoes, about 1 1/2 inches in diameter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup sour cream or whole milk Greek yogurt
1/4 cup finely grated Cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1 to 2 tablespoons finely grated fresh horseradish
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
Fresh thyme leaves

Heat the oven to 425°F.
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 bowl with the oil and toss to coat. Arrange on a parchment lined baking sheet, cut-side down. Bake until tender, about 30 minutes. Remove and cool slightly.
Using a teaspoon, scoop out the centers of the potatoes without piercing the bottoms. Place the potato flesh, garlic, sour cream, cheddar cheese, butter, horseradish, salt, and pepper in a bowl. Using a fork, mash until well combined. Carefully spoon the filling back into the potato shells, mounding the stuffing. Arrange the potatoes, stuffed-side up, on a baking sheet. (The potatoes may be prepared up to 2 hours in advance to this point. Cover and refrigerate, then let stand at room temperature 15 minutes before continuing).
Sprinkle the Parmigiano over the potatoes, then transfer the potatoes to the oven and broil until the cheese is melted and golden, about 2 minutes. Serve warm, garnished with thyme.

Roasted Cauliflower Pizza with Calabrian Chiles and Green Olive Tapenade

I’ll get right to the point. The star of this pizza is the tapenade, which teams up with oily fiery Calabrian chiles in a smashing combination. Sprinkled over roasted cauliflower, fresh peppers and creamy mozzarella, this is one fresh and feisty pizza. The tapenade is so good, you might find yourself munching spoonfuls straight from the bowl, smearing it on a piece of bread, or swiping the prepped cauliflower through it before you have a chance to assemble the pizza. So make a double batch – then you can have your nibbles and eat your pizza, too.

Pizza with Roasted Cauliflower, Calabrian Chilies and Green Olive Tapenade

Calabrian chilies may be purchased in the Italian specialty section of your grocery store. When selecting the fresh chile peppers for the pizza topping, try to select a variety of sweet and hot to your taste. Be sure to taste each pepper before using, as the heat will vary from pepper to pepper. I used an Anaheim and a mild Fresno pepper on this pizza. Serves 2 to 4.

For the pizza:
2 cups cauliflower florets cut into 1/2-inch pieces, about 1/2 medium head
1 cup thinly sliced assorted chile peppers, such as Fresno, Hungarian, sweet red
Extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon  salt, or to taste
1  favorite fresh pizza dough – enough for one large pizza
1  (8- ounce) ball fresh buffalo mozzarella, shredded
2 tablespoons chopped Calabrian chiles
1/2 cup Green Olive Tapenade
1/4 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest
Freshly ground black pepper

Make the pizza:
Preheat the oven to 500°F (or prepare the grill for direct cooking over high heat) and preheat a pizza stone on the lowest oven rack or on the grill grates.
Toss the cauliflower and sliced peppers with 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a medium bowl. Thinly roll out or stretch the pizza dough to desired shape on parchment paper. Lightly brush the dough with olive oil and lightly season with salt. Scatter the mozzarella over the dough, then spread the cauliflower and peppers over the crust, keeping a 1/2-inch border all around. Scatter the calabrian chilies on top, then evenly sprinkle the pecorino cheese all over the pizza. Slide the pizza onto the preheated pizza stone. Bake until the cauliflower is tinged, the crust is golden brown and the cheese is bubbling, 13 to 15 minutes. Transfer the pizza to a cutting board. Drop teaspoons of the tapenade over the pizza. Drizzle with a little olive oil. Sprinkle with lemon zest and black pepper.  Serve immediately.

Superbowl Party Dips for Vegetables and Chips

Cruditees and dip tastefood

I am a diehard playoffs fan. Which is to say I am pretty oblivious to any sports season – until it gets to the playoffs. My last minute interest is amplified when it’s a Boston or a San Francisco team, due to history and my current zip code. As you can imagine, this can pose a dilemma. I have found myself at times the lone cheerleader for the other team, the guest-non-grata, risking loss of friends or getting pelted with tortilla chips. I can’t help it. Birthright rules, and so does Boston.  This year, once again, I am gearing up for the Superbowl, where the Patriots are on their way, and fortunately this year I have absolutely no conflict of interest. I may even be invited to a party.

Superbowl Party Dips for Vegetables and Chips

I get the chips, but if I am going to nosh for 3 hours while I watch a football game, I crave vegetables too. Here are a few of my favorite dips that go well with chopped veggies and chips alike – including this recipe for Guacamole

carrot hummus tastefoodCarrot Harissa Hummus

Spicy Roasted Red Pepper Dip 

tsatsikiGarlicky Greek Yogurt Dip (Tsatsiki)

green olive tapenade tastefoodOlive and Almond Tapenade

Winter Vegetable Soup with Greens and Grains

winter vegetable soup tf

I make a version of this soup throughout the fall and winter. The recipe is easy and delicious, following a simple template which I switch up with different seasonal vegetables, often a grain, and sometimes beans. The basic stock is chicken, to which I add a can of Italian plum tomatoes for fruity acidity, plus a hunk of Parmesan rind which breaks down while cooking, adding a little oomph (aka umami) to the broth. From there I embellish, adding a grain, such as farro or barley, and chunks of sturdy vegetables, such as fennel, butternut squash, and carrot. If I crave more substance (think one-pot dinner), I’ll dump a can of cannellini beans or chickpeas into the mix. Finally, I stir in chopped hearty greens, such as kale, mustard, or spinach, and simmer until they just wilt but remain bright and fresh. You can do this too – use the following recipe as your template, and mix and match the veggies and grains to your taste.

Winter Vegetable Soup with Greens and Grains
Serves 6

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large carrot, thinly sliced (or 1 1/2 cups cubed butternut squash)
1 small fennel bulb, fonds and end trimmed, halved and thinly sliced
1 cup uncooked barley or farro
1 (15-ounce) can Italian plum tomatoes, with juice
6 cups chicken stock, or more as needed
1 (2 to 3 inch) Parmesan rind
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 to 2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans, drained (optional)
2 cups coarsely chopped kale (or spinach)
Grated Parmesan for garnish

Heat the oil over medium heat in a soup pot. Add the onion and sauté until it begins to soften, about 3 minutes. Add the carrot or squash and the fennel. Saute until brightened in color, about 2 minutes. Add the barley and stir to coat, then add the tomatoes, chicken stock, cheese rind, bay leaf, thyme, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer until the vegetables are tender and the barley is tender, about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally and breaking up the tomatoes with a spoon. If the soup becomes too thick, add more stock as necessary. Add the beans, if using, and bring to a boil, then add the greens and simmer until bright green in color and just wilted. Taste for seasoning. Serve hot with grated cheese.

Like the bowl? Many thanks to Terrestra for lending me this lovely bowl created by Jars Provence.

BLT with Avocado and Sriracha Mayo

blat tastefood

Step aside kale detox and juice cleanse. It’s the new year, and I’m having a BLT. Not just any BLT, mind you, but a two-fisted BLT, sandwiched between crusty country levain bread, layered with creamy slices of avocado and smears of sriracha-licked mayo. What’s more to say? Happy 2015 to you!

Bacon, Lettuce, Tomato and Avocado with Sriracha Mayo

Makes 1

2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Sriracha
2 thick slices country style bread
1 to 2 lettuce leaves
2 to 3 slices vine-ripened tomato
2 to 3 slices crisp cooked bacon
1/2 ripe avocado, sliced

Whisk the mayonnaise and Sriracha in a small bowl.
Lightly toast the bread. Smear the mayo over each slice. Top one bread slice with lettuce, tomato, bacon and the avocado. Top with the remaining bread slice. Enjoy.

Roasted Carrot, Chickpea and Harissa Hummus

carrot hummus tastefoodHealthy Party Appetizer: Roasted Carrot, Chickpea and Harissa Hummus

I have had my sights on making a carrot hummus for a while. My friend Steve over at Oui Chef got me thinking about a spicy variation of the chickpea hummus when he posted a tantalizing recipe on his blog inspired by theKitchn. Now that the holidays are *almost* behind us, I find myself with some welcome free time to dabble in the kitchen – plus I have to bring an appetizer to a party tonight, so I decided to make a rendition of carrot hummus. A carrot hummus, you say? Picture you’re favorite Middle Eastern hummus, a blend of chickpeas, tahini, garlic and lemon. Then send it further west to North Africa, picking up a few ingredients along the way: carrots, coriander, mint, and the oh-so special harissa, a fiery red chile paste. The result is a vibrant and zesty hummus, with a kick of heat and a gentle perfume of spice. A shower of chopped pistachios and chopped mint finish this dip, ensuring freshness and satisfying crunch while topping this healthy party dip with a festive crown.

Roasted Carrot, Chickpea and Harissa Hummus
Makes about 2 cups

Carrots:
3/4 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
2 tablespoons harissa
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus extra for garnish
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander

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 occasionally. 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. Taste for seasoning.
3. Serve in a bowl, garnished with the pistachios, mint, and extra black pepper

Healthy Holiday Appetizers: Smoked Salmon Kale Wraps

kale salmon tf

Here is a healthy gluten-free appetizer that’s perfect for holiday entertaining . I can’t get enough of these wraps, and neither can my guests. Not only are they delicious, they are pretty to look at. Crisp kale leaves are stuffed with a delicious salad of warm-smoked salmon, lemon and dill. Thanks to the sturdiness of the kale leaves, they can be assembled in advance. I recommend making an extra batch of the salmon salad, because it’s that good.

Smoked Salmon Kale Wraps
The narrowest parts of the kale leaves work best for these wraps.

Makes 24 to 30

12 ounces warm smoked salmon, flaked
1/4 cup whole milk Greek yogurt
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
1 tablespoon capers, rinsed and chopped
1/2 teaspoon Tabasco
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
1/4 cup minced chives
8 to 10 lacinato (Tuscan) kale leaves

1 lemon, halved
Fresh dill sprigs for garnish

Combine the salmon, yogurt, lemon juice, red onion, capers, and Tabasco in a bowl. Stir with a fork to blend. Add the salt and black pepper and taste for seasoning. Fold in the chopped dill and the chives.

Cut the kale leaves crosswise into 2 inch pieces. Place 2 to 3 teaspoons salmon salad in the center of the leaves and fold the leaves around the salmon, pressing gently to hold in place. Repeat with remaining kale leaves. Arrange the wraps on a serving platter. Sprinkle with lemon juice and garnish with dill sprigs.