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Heirloom Caprese Flatbread

The high temps in Dallas have kept me out of my kitchen the past several weeks. I have been a lazy cook – creating nothing but quick and easy salads. I came across some beautiful heirloom tomatoes at the Dallas farmers market and decided a twist on an old classic – Caprese Salad – would be an honorable fate for these orange beauties. The warm oozing fresh mozzarella with the cool tomatoes is absolutely delicious… and the balsamic makes it all sing.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 wheat pita or flatbread
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon olive oil
  • 2 ounces fresh mozzarella
  • 1 medium tomato
  • 3 large basil leaves, torn into pieces
  • 1 teaspoon aged balsamic vinegar
  • Salt

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Tear mozzarella into small quarter size pieces and spread over the flatbread crust. Top with minced garlic, olive oil and salt(to taste). Bake for 15 minutes until flat bread is crispy and cheese is melted. Remove from oven and top with sliced tomatoes and basil. Season the tomatoes with a little more salt and drizzle with balsamic vinegar. Devour.

Pear Bruschetta with Goat Cheese, Honey & Almonds

Bolsa in Oak Cliff is hands down my favorite place to eat, drink and be merry. The atmosphere is laid back and you can’t help but feel at home. 1/2 price wine on Tuesday nights makes me feel even more at home. The food is fresh, local, fun and not over the top. The menu does change on a daily basis but there are a few mainstays I indulge in on every visit. The bruschetta flight is a delightful array of 4 variations on this ever popular appetizer. Tomatoes, Proscuitto, Salmon and my personal favorite: Fuji Apple with Honey & Almonds.

I made a few tweaks with the addition of the goat cheese and chose a juicy Bosc pear at the market. I am making this again today with a Honeycrisp apple – which I imagine will be the nuts!

INGREDIENTS

  • 8 slices crusty bread of your choice, toasted lightly
  • 2 ounces Goat Cheese
  • 1 Pear or Apple, sliced
  • 1-2 tablespoons Honey
  • 2 tablespoons sliced Almonds, toasted

DIRECTIONS

Lightly toast slices of bread in 350 degree oven for 5-6 minutes.

Spread each piece of bread with a thin layer of goat cheese. Fan 4-5 slices of pear over the goat cheese and drizzle with honey. Sprinkle the top of each with the sliced almonds.

The Spotted Pig Deviled Eggs

The Spotted Pig is my favorite place to eat in New York City and when I am in the city I will always wait to get a table. The place is small. The lighting is dim but the small votive candles give the loveliest of glows to the BEST DEVILED EGGS I’ve ever put in my mouth.

On my last trip to the city in February with my beautiful sister, Suzanne, we of course ended up at The Spotted Pig our first night in town. We just couldn’t wait any longer for an Old Speckled Hen on tap. We were shown to the third floor bar (didn’t even know it existed) to wait for our table and ordered a few killer starters… bring on the deviled eggs! It was my lucky night as the sweet lady tending to us gave me a few secrets to these devilish treats:

  1. They DO use mayonnaise in the egg mixture. BUT…. It’s homemade from some of the finest olive oil in the world. Tip: Don’t ask for mayo on the side of that blue cheese burger – you’re not getting any. April Bloomfield says so.
  2. Now on that olive oil. The award winning olive oil from Chile – Olave Organic Olive Oil – is the oil of choice for all of the food in the restaurant (drizzling, dressings, mayos, etc). I’ve since ordered 2 bottles for the sister and myself.

I can tell you these were a hit when I made them a few weeks ago for a family dinner. They were buttery, smooth and thick with a nice zing of vinegar. I did go to the trouble to make the homemade mayonnaise (recipe link below) and it does make a difference!

INGREDIENTS

  • 12 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 3 teaspoons champagne vinegar
  • Maldon sea salt
  • Aleppo pepper flakes
  • 3 tablespoons thinly sliced chives
  • Olive Oil for drizzling

DIRECTIONS

Fill a large sauce pot with water and bring to a boil over high heat. Place cold eggs in single layer in the saucepan and bring back to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook for 13 minutes. Drain eggs and run cold water in the pan. When water is slightly cooler, add ice to the pot and let eggs sit in ice water for 15 minutes.  Crack each egg on a hard surface and roll lightly to break the membrane seal. Eggs should peel very easily. With a thin knife carefully slice eggs in half and place yolks in a bowl.

Break up the yolks with a whisk until they are fine. Add olive oil, mayonnaise, mustard, and vinegars and whisk briskly until smooth puree forms, scraping down sides of bowl as necessary.

Transfer mixture to plastic zipper-lock bag. Cit corner off the bag and pipe filling into the egg white halves.

Sprinkle eggs with Maldon salt, Aleppo pepper and chives. Drizzle with olive oil, and serve.

Cherry Tomato and Feta Tart

Recently I borrowed a friends State Fair of Texas cookbook full of winning recipes… one of which belongs to her husband. He is a proud blue ribbon winner for the best lasagna I’ve had in my entire life. This recipe book is full of innovative recipes and a tomato pie that called for bouillon caught my eye. What a strange ingredient! I can’t say it wouldn’t be just as delicious without the bouillon… but I believe it won her the blue ribbon.

It appears some things are just meant to be. I had cherry tomatoes that weren’t going to make it another week, basil that was developing brown spots, a disc of pie dough in the freezer and a nice hunk of feta leftover from last weeks Pistachio Crusted Chicken. It was delicious and would be perfect alongside Baked Shrimp Scampi for a simple and impressive make ahead dinner party menu!

INGREDIENTS

For the crust:

  • 1 1/2 sticks cold butter, cut into pea size pieces
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling
  • Pinch kosher salt
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons ice water

For the inside:

  • 1 pound cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 3 green onions, finely sliced
  • 5 large basil leaves, cut into long, thin strips
  • 1 Star garlic and herb bouillon cube, or chicken bouillon*
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 pie crust recipe above or a store bought pie dough
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 cup Feta Cheese, crumbled
  • 2 cups Mozzarella, shredded

DIRECTIONS

For the crust: In the bowl of a food processor combine the butter, flour and salt. Pulse, pulse, pulse until the mixture looks like finely grated cheese. Add half of the ice water and pulse again. The mixture should start to come together to form a rough ball; if it still seems dry add the remaining water and pulse until it has formed a rough ball. Remove the mixture from the food processor to a clean work surface and form it into a disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. This can be done a few days in advance.

Toss tomatoes, basil & green onions with the bouillon and olive oil. Cover with plastic wrap and marinate in the refrigerator for a few hours or overnight. Remove from refrigerator and drain off any liquid that has developed from the tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Remove dough from the refrigerator 20 to 30 minutes before using to allow it to soften up a bit. Dust the dough and a work surface with flour. Roll out dough into a 10-inch tart shell and prick the bottom with a fork.

Spread 1/2 of the tomatoes into the bottom of the pie shell and top with 1/2 of the cheese. Repeat. Drizzle the top with a small amount of olive oil.

Bake at 400 degrees for 35 minutes on the middle oven rack.

*The STAR herb & garlic bouillon can be found at Jimmy’s Food Store for less than $2. I keep it on hand and use it when cooking rice and pasta. Chicken bouillon can also be used in this recipe.

Baked Shrimp Scampi

I’ve never been a huge fan of Shrimp Scampi. I love the garlic but the butter seems overwhelming and traditional scampi can be a little flat in flavor. This recipe from the Barefoot Contessa makes up for all of the lackluster. You can prepare the butter & herbs early: just don’t add the panko until you are ready top bake. The original recipe calls for 12 tablespoons of butter. I cut it down to 8 but by all means knock yourself out and butter up.

The lemon is the star of the show. The aromas will keep you parked in front of the oven door… watching… waiting.

Serve with a side of whole wheat linguine or eat it out of the pan. This makes a great appetizer or entree.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 pounds (12 to 15 per pound) shrimp in the shell
  • 3 tablespoons good olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons dry white wine
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 4 teaspoons minced garlic (4 cloves)
  • 1/4 cup minced shallots
  • 3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme or rosemary leaves
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 extra-large egg yolk
  • 2/3 cup panko (Japanese dried bread flakes)
  • Lemon wedges, for serving

DIRECTIONS

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Peel, devein, and butterfly the shrimp, leaving the tails on. Place the shrimp in a mixing bowl and toss gently with the olive oil, wine, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper. Allow to sit at room temperature while you make the butter and garlic mixture.

In a small bowl, mash the softened butter with the garlic, shallots, parsley, rosemary, red pepper flakes, lemon zest, lemon juice, egg yolk, panko, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper until combined.

Starting from the outer edge of a 14-inch oval gratin dish, arrange the shrimp in a single layer cut side down with the tails curling up and towards the center of the dish. Pour the remaining marinade over the shrimp. Spread the butter mixture evenly over the shrimp. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes until hot and bubbly. If you like the top browned, place under a broiler for 1 minute. Serve with lemon wedges.

Louisiana Shrimp Salad

Not exactly a “winter” dish but a refreshing break from the warm and filling soups and sides on the menu. Gulf shrimp has been a steal for the past month. I’ve been buying a pound a week and keeping them cooked in the fridge for snacking and salads.

This recipe is another from a friends grandmother, Pat Lacy. Simple and beautiful. This would make a beautiful appetizer served in endive leaves.

Tip: When cooking your shrimp, add some Old Bay and lemon juice to the cooking liquid for added flavor.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 pound cooked and cleaned shrimp
  • 2 hard boiled eggs, small dice
  • 1 cup celery, small dice
  • 1/2 cup red onion, minced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped dill pickle
  • 1/2 cup light mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon ketchup
  • 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • Dash of Tobasco or hot sauce
  • Kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper

 

DIRECTIONS

Combine all ingredients and mix well. Serve on lettuce. 4 servings.

Goat Cheese, Pesto & Sun-Dried Tomato Terrine

This is a staple at most of my shindigs. You can make it a day ahead and it is such a beautiful presentation. If you aren’t a fan of goat cheese then just use cream cheese. When processing the sun-dried tomatoes it is much easier to cut them up before adding to the food processor.

Serve with crostini and crackers.

Photo source: finecooking.com

INGREDIENTS

  • 16 oz. cream cheese
  • 4 oz. goat cheese
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup milk or half & half
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ cup basil pesto (homemade or store-bought)
  • ½ cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained & chopped in food processor (or store-bought)
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
  • Extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling

DIRECTIONS

Bring cream cheese and goat cheese to room temperature. With a mixer beat the cheeses and milk until smooth and spreadable. Add more milk if needed to loosen the mixture. Add lemon zest, 1 glove minced garlic and season with 1/4 tsp. salt and a few grinds of pepper. Mix well and set aside.

Line the inside of a 3-cup sharply sloping bowl with plastic; let the ends extend over the sides a few inches.

Spoon about one-third of the cheese into the lined bowl and pack it into an even layer. Spread the pesto almost completely to the sides of the first layer of cheese. Top with another third of the cheese, the sun-dried tomatoes, and all but 1/2 Tbs. of the pine nuts. Top with the remaining cheese. Pack down, fold the plastic over, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Half an hour before serving, take the bowl out of the refrigerator. Pull on the edges of the plastic to loosen the terrine from the bowl. Invert the terrine onto a plate, drizzle with a little olive oil, and let sit for 1/2 hour to warm up. Sprinkle with the remaining pine nuts, season liberally with pepper, and serve.

 

Acorn Squash and Sweet Potato Ravioli in Pineapple Sage Brown Butter Sauce

Making ravioli is easy when you don’t have to make the pasta. These beautiful little pillows are savory, delightfully sweet and very easy to make thanks to premade wonton wrappers.

I used Pineapple Sage as I had a ton of it in my garden and I had no idea what to do with it… but regular fresh sage will be just as wonderful.

Your efforts will not go without reward (these freeze VERY well and make about 4 dozen)… well worth the time to make them… and enjoy for a few months.

I served the ravioli as a side with an apple cider brined pork chop finished with a shallot cider pan sauce (recipe to come soon and may be the best thing I’ve come up with on the spot). These beauties would also be very impressive as an appetizer for the holidays.

Note: Wonton wrappers are found in the freezer section of most grocery stores.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 small to medium acorn squash (about 2 1/2 pounds)
  • 1 sweet potato or yam
  • 1 tablespoons dark molasses
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup crème fraiche (substitute: cream cheese)
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 package round Wonton Wrappers (usually found in the freezer section)
  • Flour, for dusting board
  • 4 tablespoons sweet butter
  • 8 fresh sage leaves
  • 2 ounces Parmesan, for grating

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Cut squash in half lengthwise and scrape out seeds. Season with salt and pepper. Place cut side down on a roasting pan. Scrub outside of sweet potato, pierce with fork in several places and place on roasting pan with acorn squash. Cook in the oven until very soft, about 1 hour.

Let cool to room temperature and scoop out flesh into a large mixing bowl. Mash with sweet potato until well combined.

Heat 2 tablespoons of butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat until it begins to brown. Immediately remove from heat and add remaining 1 tablespoon molasses and all the vinegar. Add to squash and sweet potato with crème fraiche, Parmesan, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper and mix well. The recipe can be made ahead to this point. Cover well and refrigerate 4 hours or up to 2 days.

To fill the raviolis: Put 1 tablespoon squash filling in the center of a wonton wrapper. Leave a 1/2-inch border all around the filling. Moisten borders with water and fold in half. Press all the air out and seal firmly by pressing all around with fingertips. Lay raviolis out to dry on a lightly floured board or baking sheet and lightly flour the tops. Repeat until you run out of wrappers and/or filling.

To cook, boil in lightly salted water until tender, about 3 minutes. Reserve 2 ounces of the cooking water.

Uncooked, filled raviolis may be used immediately or frozen for 2 months. Lay them out on sheet pans and place in freezer until frozen. Transfer to plastic bag.

For the Sage Brown Butter: While raviolis are cooking, in a large saute pan, melt the butter with the sage and a pinch of salt until it foams and becomes light brown. Reserve.

On medium heat toss the cooked raviolis in the sage butter then transfer to a serving platter or dishes. Finish with a generous grating of Parmesan cheese.