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.

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.

Healthy Holiday Appetizers: Warm Smoked Salmon and Kale Crostini

~ Warm Smoked Salmon, Kale, Lemon, Capers, Parsley ~

During the holiday season, it’s nice to have a few healthy appetizers up our sleeve for guilt-free nibbling before a big meal. Warm smoked salmon salad is an elegant, healthy and seriously tasty starter which can be made in advance. Spread it on crostini, scoop it with tortilla chips, or take it one step further and pile on kale leaves for a bigger heartier bite. Just be sure to make a big batch. The salmon will keep in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days, perfect for having on hand for unexpected guests, a light lunch and late night cravings.

Warm Smoked Salmon and Kale Crostini

Depending on the event, you can serve these as bruschetta or smaller crostini. For a lighter version, skip the bread and use the kale leaves as the serving vessel. Warm smoked salmon is available in fish markets and specialty stores. To learn more about how it’s prepared, read here. Makes 10.

12 ounces warm smoked salmon, flaked
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley leaves
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon Greek yogurt or sour cream
2 teaspoons capers, finely chopped
1 teaspoon Sriracha or hot sauce, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
10 baguette slices, 1/2-inch thick (or 5 slices levain bread, cut in half)
Extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt
10 lacinato kale leaves
1/2 lemon
Snipped chives, for garnish

Combine the salmon, onion, parsley, lemon juice, yogurt, capers, hot sauce and pepper in a bowl. Mix with a fork to thoroughly combine.

Brush the bread with olive oil and lightly sprinkle with sea salt. Toast in oven until light golden on both sides. Remove and cool slightly.

Tear 2-inch tips off of the kale leaves. (Save the rest of the kale for another use). Place in a large bowl and add 2 teaspoons olive oil and a pinch of salt. Lightly massage the leaves to coat and slightly soften, about 30 seconds. Place a leaf tip on bread. Spoon salmon salad over the kale. Squeeze with half lemon and garnish with snipped chives. Serve immediately.

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.

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.

Shrimp and Cheese Nachos

Shrimp Cheese Nachos 1

Now, shush. I gave you lentils in my last post. Now you will get nachos. C’mon. We all need a little cheesy nacho goodness to balance out the healthy food around here. Besides, if we are going to analyze this, then this plate of fun food isn’t as bad as you think. I did my best to keep it light and fresh, just close your eyes and enjoy the cheese. And yes I called this dinner.

Shrimp Nachos

You don’t need a whole pound of shrimp for this recipe, but I do recommend it so you can pop a few in your mouth before serving.

Serves 6 (or 4 if you call this dinner)

Shrimp:
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 small garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 pound medium shrimp, shelled and deveined

1 to 2 ripe but not mushy avocados, diced
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of cumin

8 ounces tortilla chips
3 cups Cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese, grated, plus 1 cup for broiling
3 green onions, white and green parts separated, thinly sliced
2 jalapeno peppers, stemmed and seeded, finely chopped
1/2 small red onion, finely diced

1 large vine-ripened tomato, cored, diced
½ cup cilantro leaves, loosely packed

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic, cumin and red pepper flakes and stir until fragrant, about 20 seconds. Add the shrimp in one layer. Cook until pink and just cooked through, turning once, about 2 minutes. (It’s ok if the shrimp are a little under-done. They will continue to cook in the oven). Remove from pan and drain on paper towel lined plates.

Combine the avocado, lime juice, salt, pepper and cumin in a small bowl and gently stir to coat.

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Spread half of the tortilla chips in a large rimmed baking pan. Sprinkle 1 1/2 cups of the cheese, half of the white scallions, half of the jalapenos and half of the red onion over the chips. Top with remaining chips, 1 1/2 cups cheese, white scallions, jalapenos and red onion. Bake in the oven until the cheese is melted and nachos are hot, 10 to 12 minutes.  Remove the pan from the oven and turn on the broiler. Arrange the shrimp over the cheese. Sprinkle the last 1 cup cheese over the shrimp. Broil to melt the top cheese, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven. Scatter the avocado, tomatoes, green scallions, and cilantro evenly over the top. Serve immediately with salsa and guacamole if desired.

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.

Chipotle Pork Carnitas

Pork Carnitas TasteFood~ Chipotle Beer Braised Pork Carnitas ~

Carnitas are perfect weekend food. Festive and fun to eat, they are great for a casual party or a large family gathering. Begin the meat early in the day so that it will slow cook in the oven while you go about your daily business. As the meat breaks down, it will be infused by the beer and chipotle braising liquid until it’s falling apart tender at the bone. A little shredding and a final turn in the oven with the reduced sauce turns out smoky, spicy, caramelized pork, ready to pile on tortillas with salsa and guacamole. If you have any leftovers, the meat may be used in sandwiches or loaded on homemade nachos the next day.

Chipotle Beer Braised Pork Carnitas

Serves 8

2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 (4 pound) bone-in pork shoulder
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
4 garlic cloves, smashed
1 cup Mexican beer
1 cup fresh orange juice
1/4 cup chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon brown sugar

Accompaniments:
Warm flour or corn tortillas
Guacamole
Salsa
Fresh cilantro
Sliced green onions

Heat oven to 300 F. Mix the cumin, paprika, sugar salt and pepper in a small bowl. Rub the spices all over the meat. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a dutch oven. Brown the pork on all sides. Remove the pork. Add onion, garlic, beer, orange juice, chipotles, lime juice and brown sugar to the dutch oven. Bring to a boil, scraping up any brown bits, then reduce heat to a simmer. Return the pork to the pot. Cover and transfer to oven. Cook until pork is very tender, about 3 to 4 hours, turning every hour or so.

Remove pork from the braising liquid and transfer to a cutting board to cool slightly. When cool enough to handle, shred the meat. Place the meat in a baking dish. Strain the braising sauce into a saucepan. Boil until reduced to a sauce consistency. Drizzle over the shredded pork. Transfer the pork to oven and broil until the meat begins to caramelize, 3 to 5 minutes.

To serve, spoon some of the pork in the center of a tortilla. Top with guacamole, salsa, fresh cilantro and scallions. Roll up and eat.

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.

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.

Smoked Trout Pate

smoked trout plate tastefood

Smoked Trout Pâté is the ideal recipe to have on hand for the holidays. Not only is it a snap to prepare, it’s versatile; elegant enough for a fancy party and simple enough for a fireside dinner. The ingredients are minimal and may be purchased in advance and stored in the refrigerator, ready to be blitzed at a moment’s notice or a surprise guest’s arrival. The smoky trout is fluffed and lightened with lemon and cream cheese, then crowned with crunchy toasted almonds and fresh chives. The flavor is so addictively good you might want to double up on the quantities, so you can make a separate stash for yourself.

smoked trout

Smoked Trout Pâté

Serve the pâté on baguette slices, pumpernickel rounds, or cubed pumpernickel bread. Don’t hold back on the almonds. Their nutty flavor and crunchy texture are what set these canapes apart. Smoked mackerel may be substituted for the trout. Makes about 2 cups.

Pâté:
8 ounces smoked trout (or mackerel), skin and any bones removed
6 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup grated onion with juices
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus extra for garnish
1/2 teaspoon Tabasco

Thinly sliced European-style pumpernickel squares, rounds or baguette slices
1/3 cup almonds, toasted, coarsely chopped
Chopped chives

Process all of the pâté ingredients in the bowl of a food processor until light and smooth. If too thick, add a little more lemon juice. Transfer to a bowl. To serve, smear on pumpernickel bread or baguette slices. Sprinkle with almonds and chives.