August 10th, 2012

Butterstick Crudo

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Cocozelle Zucchinis, Yellow Crooknecks, and now, Buttersticks.
Thanks to our diligent garden, it’s been a squash-filled summer.

Are you familiar with Butterstick Squash?

New to our garden this year, these hybrids have dark green tips and deep gold bodies, with some green streaking. Similar to zucchinis, they grow long and straight. Unlike zucchinis, ( which can hide under vast stalks and leaves until they are baseball bats!) their bright yellow color brashly announces their presence, and readiness for picking.

The flesh is firm, with a delicate, almost nutlike flavor. Seeds are minute. Easily sliced into thin coins, batons, or planks, buttersticks are cooperative. They perform well in all manner of recipes.

This is indeed helpful, because, if you are like me, the quest for different summer squash dishes is a constant from June through September.

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Such a tender squash can be eaten raw.

As I was considering a preparation, I recalled a certain post in the delectable blog, My Little Expat Kitchen created by Magda.

A Greek woman living in The Netherlands, she introduces her readers to specialty dishes from her homeland interspersed with other recipes using the fresh seasonal goods found in Holland. Her photography is stunning, and her engaging voice unmistakable in her fine writing. (She also has an abiding love of chocolate, with recipes to match.)

Magda had marinated raw zucchini slices, and layered them several planks high, each in a slather of ricotta-feta cheese mixture with lemon and dill. It was her Tower.

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That post was over two years ago—but its simplicity and beauty stood out for me. Whenever you can prepare an exceptional dish without firing up the stove—well, that’s a huge benefit in the heat of August.

With her inspiration, and select ingredients on hand, I decided to make my version, Butterstick Crudo.

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It didn’t take long to whip up.

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Chevre, churned with olive oil, lemon, green onion, fresh oregano, and just a hint of honey, serves as both slather and marinade for the butterstick slices. I recently bought some local honey that has a light yet distinct floral taste. A scant teaspoon imparts a desired essence of lavender, without being too sweet, or overpowering.

Be sure to season with sea salt and cracked black pepper, to taste.

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The mixture will be thin–that’s to be expected. After you lay out a row of thin squash planks, get a spoonful and guide a stripe of the chevre down the center of each one. Place another plank on top and repeat the process.

Mine are not towers–just three stories high.

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On to the finishing touches:
Scatter more fresh oregano leaves,
Marigold petals–if you have them—give a distinctive pop
A quick squeeze of lemon, and
A drizzle of good olive oil over the dish…

Done!

Place in the refrigerator for an hour, if you would like the chevre to set up. The chilled butterstick stacks slice neatly.

But, it is just as delicious at room temperature. Eat with a piece of crusty bread to swipe up all the creamy dressing.

And, use any leftover seasoned cheese blend stirred into scrambled eggs, or spread on a piece of toast. So good!

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BUTTERSTICK ZUCCHINI CRUDO

3-4 small to medium sized young Butterstick Squashes or Zucchinis
4 oz. Chevre
2 t. fresh Lemon Juice
1 t. Honey
2 t. Olive Oil
1 Scallion, cut into small pieces
1 heaping Tablespoon fresh Oregano leaves
Sea Salt and Black Pepper–to taste

Marigold petals–to garnish

Wash, dry, and cut of the ends of the squashes. With a sharp knife, cut lengthwise into thin (1/4″ thick) slices.

In a mixing bowl, place goat cheese, lemon juice, olive oil, honey, scallion pieces, and oregano leaves. Using a hand-held blender, process until smooth. Season with salt and black pepper, and mix a bit more. Mixture will be a little runny.

Lay out squash slices onto a serving platter. Spread each slice with seasoned chevre. Layer each with another slice, then more cheese mixture. Finish each with a final slice. Drizzle olive oil over the vegetables. Sprinkle with salt, black pepper. Garnish with fresh oregano leaves and marigold petals, if you like.

Refrigerate for about an hour to set.

Serves 4

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Posted in Appetizers/Hors D'oeuvres, Recipes, Salads, Vegetables, Vegetarian Dishes | 26 Comments »




December 16th, 2009

Chutney-stuffed Brie in Puff Pastry, holiday style

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Tick Tick Tick Tick… Counting down to Christmas and Year End…..
Time has accelerated, don’t you think? It always does, this time of year. There’s an energy, positively frenetic, that builds on itself, days spinning out ad delirium as we dart and dash about wrapping up loose ends, wrapping up presents,

wrapping up brie.

What, No Brie Wrapping, you say? And, why not?

It’s so very festive, and much more fun than trying to fit shiny paper in tidy corners around a big box, and tape without tearing, and not misplace the scissors under the mounds of wadded gift wrap, tissue paper, bows, ribbons, and the odd pieces of plastic holly that surround you on the floor. Promise.

Step away from all the trappings of gift wrapping. Consider stashing that book/scarf/bracelet/salad bowl/teddy bear into a shiny bag and mosey on into the kitchen.

Simple elements are involved: a round of brie, a package of puff pastry, some chutney. Any chutney will do, really.
My Of-The-Moment one is Apricot-Cranberry.

Oh, and a sharp knife, and a little confidence in your creativity. You can do this. Free-form works. Abstract works. Childlike wonder works.

(In the days when we were both impoverished hippie artists doing bits of catering-for-cash , my friend Teresa, now a food stylist, and I, now a recovered caterer, decided that bad fine art often made respectable food art. There’s a world of possibilities…)

Meanwhile, here’s a presentation that everyone will tear into—oh melty cheese and chutney—you’ll find yourself surrounded by love and gratitude. And no rumpled gift wrap.

Promise.

split brie 1
Cut the brie across the center

filled brie 2
Spread a generous layer of chutney onto the brie

brie burger
The big brie burger…..

wrapping brie

Cutting the corners at an angle will give you pieces to wrap around the middle. The main idea is to secure the brie in the pastry, giving yourself a nice canvas for your design. I made a wreath, but you could make a sunburst, snowflakes, trees, ornaments, leaves, anything you fancy. Work with pastry that is cold; it cuts better. As it warms, it stretches more readily, and can be twisted, or rolled into balls. You can move the pastry in and out of the refrigerator as you work. It is very forgiving.

pierce brieready to bake brie

Piercing the contours of all your shapes will add dimension while keeping the brie from exploding (!)

Chutney-stuffed Brie in Puff Pastry
1 Box Puff Pastry
cracked black pepper
your favorite chutney (recipe below)
1 round of Brie

parchment
cookie/baking sheet pan

Allow puff pastry to thaw in the refrigerator overnight.
Split brie in half and spread one side with chutney. Close up like a sandwich. Place, centered, onto a sheet of puff pastry and sprinkle with pepper. Cut a square of puff pastry and place on top.
Cut the corners of the bottom piece at a diagonal, and wrap around the sides of the brie. Seal edges by gently pinching the dough together. If it won’t stick, moist with a little water.
Flip the brie over so that the bottom is now the top.
Decorate, by cutting or carving shapes with a paring knife and place on the brie.
When your design is set, gently pierce around the shapes with the tip of your knife. This enhances the design AND prevents the brie from popping and oozing when it bakes and puffs up.

You can wrap and decorate your brie ahead of time–a day or so before serving (I have even frozen them at this point.) Cover in plastic wrap.

Ready to bake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Bake in the middle of the oven for 25 minutes, until pastry is puffed up and golden brown.

Remove and cool slightly. You can dust the top of the pastry with a little paprika or chives. Place on serving tray, decorate with fresh fruits. Enjoy with wine.

Apricot-Cranberry Chutney

2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons peeled fresh ginger, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil (or vegetable oil)
1 cup coarsely chopped dried apricots
½ cup dried cranberries
1 cup water
1/3 cup white wine vinegar
¼ cup brown sugar
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes

In a medium saucepan, heat the oil and sauté the garlic and ginger together, stirring over moderate heat for about two minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and stir well. Turn the heat to low and allow the mixture to cook for another 15-20 minutes as the dried fruits absorb the liquid and thicken. Stir occasionally. Allow to cool to room temperature. Makes 1 ½ cups.

brie on coffeetable

Posted in Appetizers/Hors D'oeuvres, Egg/Cheese Dishes, Recipes, Sauces | 10 Comments »




October 26th, 2009

An Apple Appetizer

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Do you have a favorite apple?

With all the tempting varieties showing up at our farmer’s market this week, I would be hard pressed to give an answer. And, some apples are better suited for baking, others for simple out-of-hand eating. Pairing apple types–say, your sweet Jonah Gold with a tart Honeycrisp in a salad or green Granny Smith with an Arkansas Black layered in a Tarte Tatin–adds surprising complexity to a dish. Maybe it’s better to have Favorites, with the notion that the next best ones have yet to be sampled…

Last week I was in Manchester, Tennessee, talking to the ladies of the garden club about Food. That’s broad, I know. And, I can hold forth on any of the myriad aspects: growing and preserving, cooking techniques and recipes, health concerns and education, community…It’s one of our common denominators; a conversation about food can lead anywhere!

We discussed hunger and food security issues, and the importance of supporting our local food producers when and where we can. Being ladies who have long been cultivating beautiful living things, they well understood what it means to eat seasonally.

Maybe that’s when the topic of apples came up. There’s a wonderful orchard not too far from them in Pikeville, Tennessee. (That’s about 140 miles southeast of Nashville, as the crow flies.) Up on Walden Ridge, the Oren Wooden Apple Farm grows 18 varieties, with the Pink Lady Apples–crisp, sweet beauties that are remarkably versatile–being the most prized.

Serendipity! This led to a quick recipe demonstration I had already planned to give, one that would benefit from being prepared with the prized Pink Lady.

simple ingredients

This delicious appetizer requires nothing more than the right ingredients, plus a knife and bowl. I used a Gala and a Jonah Gold. Try the recipe with your favorite crisp “eating” apples and a fruity extra-virgin olive oil. Toasted almonds or walnuts work equally well in the recipe–you make the choice. Mild goat cheese creams and coats the apples as you toss the ingredients. Bright green onion, salt and pepper balance the sweetness, give it edge.

In under fifteen minutes, you’ll have a fall appetizer,
ready to enjoy with a glass of Riesling.

Belgian endive leaves provide totally edible support. And, the floral mandala makes a knock-out presentation. Perfect for my garden club friends.

Update! An email from Manchester just alerted me to the coming Pink Lady harvest at Wooden’s. Fantastic! A box of these lovelies could be coming my way soon.

chopped up

mixed up ready

Belgian Endive stuffed with Honeycrisp Apples, Goat Cheese, and Walnuts
4 firm heads of Belgian Endive
2 Apples, (try Honeycrisp, Gala, Pink Lady)washed, cored, diced into small pieces
4 oz. plain Chevre log, crumbled
3 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Tablespoon Orange Zest
1 Tablespoon fresh Orange Juice
2 Green Onions, tops included, finely sliced
½ cup Walnuts or Almonds, toasted and coarsely chopped
¼ cup dried cranberries
¼ teaspoon Sea Salt
A few grindings of Black Pepper
Balsamic Vinegar for drizzling

Rinse and dry endives, trim the bottom (root end) to separate leaves. Set aside.
In a bowl, toss diced apples and crumbled goat cheese with extra virgin olive oil and orange juice until lightly coated. Add green onions, nuts, dried cranberries, salt and black pepper. Stir gently until all the ingredients are evenly incorporated in the mixture. The goat cheese will cream slightly and coat the apples. Place a small spoonful at the base of the endive leaf–enough for one bite–and lay the leaf on a plate. Continue, placing each leaf in a circular pattern on the plate. Then, drizzle a small amount of balsamic vinegar onto each mound of apple-goat cheese-nut salad. Serve. Makes about 48 leaves.

side view close up(2)

Posted in Appetizers/Hors D'oeuvres, Fruit, Recipes | 13 Comments »




December 17th, 2008

Savory Cheesecake

Cheesecake, that indulgent combo of cream cheese, eggs, and what-you-fancy, is a crowd-pleaser in all its guises. Everyone is familiar with the myriad sweet versions: New York original, chocolate, chocolate chip, strawberry, mocha…and no doubt, has a favorite.

But the cake’s savory sides are not as known.

I’ve had guests ask me, “This looks really good. What is it?”
and cock their heads with uncertainty when I say “It’s a Savory Cheesecake.”
When I explain that it’s got cream cheese, feta, artichoke hearts, green onions, fresh dillweed and oregano; just spread it on a cracker, Eyes Light Up.

This has all the right Big Party elements: rich Greek-inspired flavors and show-stopper looks, easy to make at a modest cost. One cake goes a long way—up to 50 guest’s worth of slathers on crackers—not to mention the yummy puff pastry crust.

Savory Cheesecake
2 lbs. softened cream cheese
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
1 cup (or more) chopped artichoke hearts
3 minced garlic cloves
5 finely chopped scallions
2 Tablespoons fresh dillweed (2 t., if using dry)
2 Tablespoons fresh oregano (2 t., if using dry)
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
4 eggs
pinch red pepper flakes
½ cup sundried tomatoes, chopped
1 10 inchx15 inchpuff pastry sheet (you can use smaller sheets and piece together–the pastry
pieces easily.)
9 inch round springform pan

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Line the bottom and sides of the springform pan with puff pastry.
In a mixing bowl, cream together the feta and cream cheeses.
Beat in the artichoke hearts, scallions, and minced garlic. Add herbs, salt and pepper.
Beat in eggs, one at a time. Scrape down the sides and bottom of bowl, mixing well.
Pour into pastry-lined springform pan and bake for 50 minutes. Allow to cool, then unmold.
Garnish with sundried tomatoes and fresh oregano or dill.
Serve at room temperature with crackers or crostini.

Caterer’s Tips: This can be made several days in advance and refrigerated. I have had success freezing it, ungarnished. For a holiday look, I used English ivy and clusters of nandina berries clipped from my backyard to garnish the platter.

Posted in Appetizers/Hors D'oeuvres, Recipes | 9 Comments »