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Archive for the ‘Appetizer’ Category

Heirloom Tomato Caprese Salad with Balsamic Reduction

This recipe is a fast and simple twist on the original, with no accurate measurements needed. It’s all about taste. I grabbed a quart of colorful local heirloom tomatoes at the market and I couldn’t wait to pick some of the beautiful heirloom black cherry tomatoes from my own garden to make a big tasty salad with. Since the tomatoes themselves had so much flavor and the basil from our garden was abundant, I decided to not go crazy and put the full 8 oz of fresh mozzarella into the salad, it just didn’t need it. I also decided that by saving half of it, I could use it to add to an omelette with the next morning.

I wanted to get a nice sweet and tart punch from the balsamic, so rather than just pouring it on as is, I made a simple reduction syrup to drizzle over top the salad when serving. It is incredible how the concentrated flavors from the vinegar reduction really sing with the subtle sweetness. It is one of my favorite, simple kitchen tricks that works for so many dishes. In addition to drizzling over top salads like this one, the balsamic reduction is also wonderful drizzled over a steak, grilled fruit and so much more.

There is something about a good insalata caprese that just screams summer to me. But much like the balsamic, it is bitter-sweet, by the time the tomatoes in our gardens are ripe enough to start picking for the beautiful salad, summer is on the down-swing and definitely more than half over.

Heirloom Tomato Caprese Salad with Balsamic Reduction
serves 4

Approximately 1 quart of mixed heirloom tomatoes, any variety. (Mine were all smallish – cherry and grape sized, some from our garden)
4 oz fresh mozzarella, cut into small cubes (you can use the full 8oz, but I was attempting to keep this light and much more about the tomatoes)
1/4 cup tightly packed fresh basil, roughly chopped
1/2 cup high quality balsamic vinegar
3 teaspoons brown sugar
A few tablespoons of good quality extra virgin olive oil
sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper, to taste

In a small saucepan over a medium-high heat bring the balsamic vinegar and sugar to a boil, constantly whisking to prevent burning. Continue cooking until it is reduced by half, stirring often. Remove from heat, allow to cool. (The sugar is optional as the vinegar has a natural sweetness when reduced, but I find that just a little is nice to compliment the tartness of the vinegar)

Meanwhile, half or quarter the tomatoes and place in a large serving bowl. Add the fresh mozzarella and basil. Toss lightly to combine. Season the salad with a bit of salt and pepper to taste. Serve individual servings of the salad on small side plates, drizzle both the olive oil and the balsamic reduction over top each serving. Serve immediately.

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Chickpea, Tomato & Feta Salad

Now that we work from home, I love lunch time. My lunches at the store used to consist of leftovers or veggie burgers, even though I still eat and love both of those, a lot of days I can have more fun creating healthy lunches. Especially with my vegetable garden in full-force, I can just hop into the back yard, grab some lettuce and/or cucumbers, fresh herbs, etc and toss together a quick salad.

I saw a delicious recipe, a while back, for a Chickpea, Spinach & Feta Salad, on my friend Margaux’s blog that she keeps with her aunt, Sweet & Savory Kitchens. I couldn’t wait to play around with my own version. Such a simple, quick and healthy salad, why haven’t I been making this every single week?

I decided to use what I had on hand, so I cut up some red onion, a whole tomato, a roasted red pepper, some fresh oregano, etc and it was that easy. An incredible lunch salad in minutes. I served mine over some romaine lettuce, you could also add chopped up lettuce, spinach or other leafy vegetables like kale or arugula directly to the salad when mixing. Cucumbers would also be delicious. In Margaux and Aunt Suzy’s original recipe they included cooked broccoli which sounds like a tasty, crunchy addition. I think like most salads, the possibilities are endless with this one. This is definitely going to be a staple in my house at lunchtime and as a side at dinner. This would make a delicious dish to share at a picnic or party and with all of the beautiful colors, it’ll definitely impress everyone.

Chickpea, Tomato & Feta Salad
adapted from Sweet and Savory Kitchens

The Dressing

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2-3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon fresh oregano, roughly chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
Salt and black pepper to taste

The Salad

1 large or two small cans of chickpeas (about 3 cups cooked)
1 large tomato, diced
1 large roasted pepper, diced
1/2 large (or 1 small) red onion, diced
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese, or more to taste

Add all of the dressing ingredients to a small bowl, whisk thoroughly to combine. Set aside.

Drain and rinse the chickpeas if using canned. Combine all of the salad ingredients in a bowl, except the feta cheese. Add the dressing and gently stir to thoroughly blend. Add the cheese and stir again to blend.

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Summer Squash Salad

Zucchini and yellow squash are two of my favorites and both automatically come to mind when I think of summertime eating! They remind me so much of growing up, my parent’s always had an abundance of both growing in our garden. The last few years when I have planted them in my own garden, they take up a HUGE amount of real estate and never really produce much. They must not like my soil. I skipped out on planting them this year. Thankfully, my parent’s still grow both in their garden and never have a problem sharing with me.

After our family dinner this past week, I came home with a bag full of beautiful yellow summer squash and I couldn’t wait to start cooking with them. They are wonderful sliced and browned up on the grill, sauteed or roasted and added in salads or pasta, etc. Not only as a kid when my dad would cook with them, but now as an adult in my own kitchen, I always find myself eating the raw squash slices as I am cutting them to cook, so I decided I wanted to experiment with a raw salad.

When I was dreaming up this salad, I was so excited about it combining so many beautiful summery ingredients and flavors, some of my favorite ingredients. The soft and flavorful squash pairs so nicely with the crisp and spicy radishes and the peppery arugula rounded it all out with a refreshing bite. The fresh mint was a nice compliment to the light and refreshing dressing, the brightness from the lemon sings in your mouth with every bite and the toasted walnuts were a bonus crunch at the end. I couldn’t help but feeling like this salad is everything that summer is about, on one plate.

The other great thing about this salad are the many wonderful variations you could take, by changing out the herbs and going with fresh basil, oregano or chives. You can play with different nuts and seeds like toasted pine nuts, almond slivers or even sunflower seeds. You could even top the salad with cheeses like feta, goat cheese, fresh parmigiano reggiano, pecorino or asiago. I personally opted for no cheese since we wanted a vegan side-salad to accompany our vegan creamy avocado pasta. There is so much you can do with this salad. Keep in mind when picking squash that smaller, younger squashes are better since the larger squash tend to have larger tougher seeds and sometimes a tough skin.

Summer Squash Salad Recipe
serves 4

1 pound summer squash (yellow or green, or a mixture of both)
5 to 8 radishes (depending on how large they are)
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 large garlic clove, minced
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/4 cup whole walnuts
1 bunch of baby arugula, roughly chopped
1/3 cup fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped

Toast the walnuts in a dry skillet, the oven or toaster oven and set aside and allow to cool, then roughly chop.

Slice the squash very thin slices using a mandoline or a steady hand and a sharp knife. Set aside in a large bowl. Do the same with the radishes. Add in the roughly chopped arugula.

Combine the oil, lemon juice, garlic and salt and pepper in a small bowl and whisk together. Pour the dressing over the squash, radishes and arugula, toss lightly. Let stand for at least 10 minutes. Add in the fresh mint and toasted walnuts, toss gently again to thoroughly combine.

Serve to individual salad plates or on 1 large serving platter, top with fresh mint and freshly ground black pepper. Enjoy immediately.

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Cold Avocado Corn Soup with Cilantro Oil

 

I don’t always love cold soups, sometimes I find them to be weird or odd. I almost hate the word soup being used at all since once chilled, it is hardly anything close to a classic soup recipe. I had a puree similar to this a couple of years ago at a local restaurant that has since closed, Juniper, and it was super delicious, light and full of flavor. I am obsessed with avocados, so short of sticking a straw directly into an avocado, it really doesn’t get much better than this. I had wanted to recreate that soup for so long, but kept forgetting about it, but I ended up running across the recipe that I pulled to work from, while moving our studio home a few weeks back. I couldn’t wait to try it out.

I knew I would be on my own with this one though, Mark refuses to try cold soups, he thinks they are “stupid”, haha. So on a work day a week or so ago, I prepped the soup and oil during my lunch time break and allowed everything to cool the rest of the day, while I worked. It was such a nice treat on a hot day where I didn’t feel like cooking. I have also been getting to a ton of yoga classes every week, so this was perfect the following day after a hot and sweaty yoga class. This soup has all the flavorings of a great guacamole recipe in each spoonful. It’s refreshing but adequately filling. The cilantro oil drizzled on top is loaded with a beautiful, fresh, clean finishing flavor and I especially love the subtle heat from the poblano pepper. I went pretty light on the sour cream, as it really didn’t need much, but a small drizzle was nice, especially in contrast to the heat from the pepper. If you love avocado as much as I do, I know you will love this soup. I served it with a handful of organic corn tortilla chips on the side, which ended up being delicious dipped right into the soup. Obviously if you are vegan, simply skip the sour cream or crema at the end and you have a beautiful, tasty vegan dish.

Chilled Avocado & Corn Soup with Cilantro Oil
serves 4-6
adapted from Gourmet Magazine, May 2005

2 fresh or frozen ears of corn, shucked
4 cups plus 2 tablespoons water
1 garlic clove, smashed
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/4 cups chopped white onion
1 fresh poblano pepper, stemmed and coarsely chopped (including seeds)
3 firm-ripe California avocados
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/4 cup crema or sour cream

For cilantro oil
1 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt

Make soup:
Roast ears of corn on rack of gas burner over high heat, turning occasionally with tongs, until kernels are charred in spots, 4 to 5 minutes. (Alternatively, heat a dry well-seasoned cast-iron skillet and roast corn over moderately high heat, turning occasionally, about 10 minutes.) Transfer the ears of corn to a cutting board and, when cool enough to handle, cut kernels from cobs with a sharp knife, then cut cobs into thirds.
Bring kernels, cob pieces, 4 cups water, garlic, salt, and 1/2 cup onion to a boil in a 3-quart saucepan and boil until liquid is reduced to about 3 cups, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and cool, uncovered. Discard cob pieces.
Purée corn mixture along with the poblano pepper and remaining 3/4 cup onion in a blender, then pour through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl, pressing hard on and then discarding solids. Return broth to cleaned blender.
Quarter, pit, and peel 2 avocados, then add to blender with 2 tablespoons lime juice and purée until smooth. Transfer soup to a bowl and cover surface with plastic wrap. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and chill soup at least 1 hour.

Prepare cilantro oil while soup chills:
Purée cilantro, oil, and salt in cleaned blender, scraping down sides of blender several times. Pour oil into cleaned fine-mesh sieve set over a bowl and let drain 15-20 minutes (do not press on solids). Discard solids.

Assemble soup:
Halve and pit remaining avocado and cut into 1-inch cubes, toss gently with remaining tablespoon lime juice in a bowl.
Whisk together crema or sour cream and remaining 2 tablespoons water in a small bowl until smooth.
Season soup with salt and ladle into 4-6 soup bowls. Divide avocado chunks among bowls, then drizzle with crema and cilantro oil.

Notes:
Soup can be chilled up to 1 day ahead.
Cilantro oil can be made 3 hours ahead and chilled, covered.

Grilled Corn for Cold Avocado Corn Soup with Cilantro Oil

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White Bean and Chive Patties

Since we’ve closed the store and now work from home, I really look forward to the time of day when I can take a break from working and prepare a healthy dinner for us. Many nights we finish dinner, do up the dishes, feed the pets and then return up to our offices to work for a few hours, which is something we never did before, but somehow it is all so much more relaxing and laid back. Working from home has allowed me to really play with my schedule, make it more flexible and find even more time for yoga, dog walks and other fun and physical activities. I think the pressure of having to be at the studio set hours because of the store really put an unnecessary amount of self-imposed stress on both of us. We were always very happy and content before and we definitely miss the store some days, but I really find myself loving my life and my job more now than ever before. I feel so lucky.

One of my other favorite things about the new schedule is being able to take on more involved dinners during the week, that require more prep time or even down time for things to cool or set, etc. Now during the “wait times” in recipes, I can just walk upstairs and get more work done. Both last night’s dinner, Spring Pizza with Asparagus and Eggs that featured a homemade gluten-free multi-grain pizza crust and tonight’s Spring Pea and Goat Cheese Tart, with a homemade tart dough, are perfect examples of that. (Don’t worry those recipes are coming soon.) This particular recipe isn’t nearly as involved or time-consuming, but having to pan fry the patties in batches can take time and patience and it is certainly something I wouldn’t have made after a long day of work at the store and getting home around 7pm.

These patties are simple, healthy and full of flavor. They have a wonderful crispy crunch on the outside and a nice soft inside. They are naturally gluten-free and vegan, too. The original recipe features them with sage instead of chives and amidst a delicious spring brunch menu topped with a roasted tomato sauce. I thought the sauce would take away from the lovely crisp, so I instead envisioned them atop a lovely mix of baby spring greens salad as a meal in and of itself. I made a quick lime cilantro vinaigrette and served it as dinner.

You could definitely play around with different herbs and even different veggie additions, the big thing to keep in mind is to make sure the patties aren’t too moist or dry to where they will fall apart in the pan and to make sure you have your pan is hot enough to get that initial “searing” to create a nice crust on the outside and to keep the patties together. Use a spatula to look at the face-down side before you flip to make sure it is adequately browned before you flip.

We tossed some baby spring greens with the vinaigrette, put the patties on top and drizzled those with a bit more dressing and topped everything with more fresh chives. A perfect spring-time dinner.

White Bean and Chive Patties

White Bean and Chive Patties
makes 12 patties
Adapted from Whole Living, June 2011

1 19-oz can organic white beans
1 shallot, finely diced
1 small carrot, finely grated
1/3 cup yellow cornmeal
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives, plus more for serving
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Drain beans, reserving 2 tablespoons liquid. Transfer to a bowl and mash. Stir in shallot, carrot, cornmeal, and chives. Season with salt and pepper. Add 1 tablespoon reserved liquid. If mixture is too dry, add the other.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons oil. Form mixture into 12 patties (about 2 1/2 inches diameter each) and saute in batches until golden brown and crisp, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Repeat with remaining oil and patties. Serve topped with a tasty dressing, yogurt sauce or atop a salad.

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Baked Sweet Potato Chips

This is a super easy and healthy treat you can make at home that is perfect for a mid-day snack or for the road trip munchies. I made these for our drive to NYC a couple of weekends ago, they were perfect for the car.

You can certainly leave the peels on, though the potatoes that I had on-hand were looking a bit rough, so I decided to peel them. I used organic white sweet potatoes but any sweet potato or regular potato would work just as well. You can have fun with spices, oils and other flavors. I kept it simple with just salt and pepper and a good olive oil and topped them with a squeeze of lime and a bit of chopped cilantro. You could add chili powder, cinnamon or any other spice or herb you desire. I made these again today, for a mid-afternoon snack, and this time I used applewood smoked sea salt! WOW, it was incredible.

Once you get into making your own chips, you’ll really laugh at the thought of eating them out of a bag. These are so much more filling and have a great flavor. You will still have the great crunch but without the insane amount of fat from frying and all the chemicals and preservatives.

Once thing I recommend highly when it comes to making your own chips at home is to slice the potatoes (or whatever you are making the chips from) with a mandoline slicer. This ensures a consistent thickness on all the chips so they will cook evenly, plus it is incredibly easy to use. You can go-it by hand with a sharp knife and a steady hand, but it isn’t easy.

Baked Sweet Potato Chips
serves 4

2 medium organic sweet potatoes, scrubbed well or peeled, sliced about 1/8 inch thick
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

lime wedges for serving
fresh chopped cilantro for serving

Preheat oven to 400º F.

In a large bowl, add the potato slices, olive oil, salt and pepper. Toss gently to evenly coat.

Place the potato slices on two rimmed baking pans, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Gently toss to coat evenly. Arrange in a single layer between the two pans.

Bake uncovered for 20 to 25 minutes until the potato slices are golden brown, crisp and cooked thoroughly, turning a couple of times to crisp evenly. Sprinkle with a bit more salt and pepper a squeeze of lime juice and the chopped cilantro just before serving.

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Chickpea Croquettes (Gluten-Free) with Cilantro Yogurt Sauce

 

I love chickpeas! There is so much you can do with them. A spicy hummus, roasted for a snack, throw them in a curry, in a pasta dish, on a salad, etc. They are a wonderful protein-packed ingredient that works great if you are vegan or vegetarian or is the perfect substitute for your weekly meat-less dinner. In our house we eat vegetarian most nights so I always have at least 4 or 5 cans of chickpeas and a pound or two of dried chickpeas in the pantry. The ideas on what can be done with them just keep coming and each is better than the last.

These croquettes are surprisingly easy to put together considering how fancy and intimidating they may seem. They mix up quickly and cook up just as swiftly and conveniently. Some croquettes and patties have a tendency to fall apart when they hit the pan, but these are very durable. Place the dollop in the pan and leave it be, don’t move it around or continuously press it, just let it cook and brown up. Don’t try to go bigger, as they may start to lose their structure. After the first side begins to brown, flip it over and allow the other side to cook, that’s it. So easy. You can have some fun with the ingredients, try a beautiful red bell pepper for some color, add shredded zucchini, red onion, etc. You can play with the spices and the flavor profile, serve them plain as an appetizer, over rice, or on baby greens for a meal. Top with different sauces or salads. Have fun with this recipe. I decided to serve these over baby greens tossed in a light balsamic vinaigrette and I topped them with a citrusy cilantro yogurt sauce. This sauce can also be as difficult or easy as you wish, have fun with that, too. Obviously skip the yogurt sauce if you are vegan and if you aren’t gluten-free and don’t wish to buy chickpea flour, you can simply substitute 1 cup of whole wheat flour.

This is a simple and healthy weeknight dinner that satisfies that urge for crispy fried food without tipping your scale. Though I would hardly called these fried, they are cooked in just a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and are perfectly crisped without the greasy sludge.

 

Chickpea Croquettes (Gluten-Free) with Cilantro Yogurt Sauce

Cilantro Yogurt Sauce

1 handful fresh cilantro, stemmed and chopped
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 small clove garlic, minced
1 cup of greek yogurt
salt and pepper to taste

To make the sauce, combine the cilantro, lemon juice, minced garlic and yogurt in a small bowl. Stir well to combine. Salt and pepper to taste. Transfer the sauce to a container with a lid and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Chickpea Croquettes
adapted from Vegetarian Times. makes 8 patties

1 cup chickpea flour
3/4 cup hot water
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
15-oz can chickpeas, rinsed and drained well
4 scallions, chopped
1 medium carrot shredded
1 habanero or jalapeno, minced (I left the seeds in)
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro leaves
3 tablespoons olive oil

In a large bowl, add flour, water, lemon juice, cumin and salt. Add more water if needed. Stir until well combined. Add in chickpeas, carrots, scallions, jalapeno, garlic and cilantro. Stir well.

In a large saucepan, heat olive oil, over medium heat. Scoop (approximately) 1/4 cup dollops of chickpea mixture into skillet, and reduce heat to medium-low. If the dollop is too much of a mound you can lightly press it down with the back of your spatula, just don’t press too hard. Cook 3-4 minutes, or until golden brown on the bottom. With a spatula, flip the patties and cook 3-4 minutes more. Repeat with remaining chickpea mixture (the finished croquettes can sit on a baking sheet in a 200º F oven). Serve two croquettes over field greens, topped with the yogurt sauce.

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