appetizers

French Green Salad

Sometimes you just want a leafy green salad, am I right?  Especially when it gets hot out, and especially after you spent the weekend eating lots of fried things (guilty).  I tried my best to copy the green salad they serve at one of my favorite restaurants Le Diplomate.  Just like them I add fresh tarragon to the Boston lettuce and merely kiss the salad with dressing.  The addition of hazelnuts was my idea to give a little nutty flavor and crunch, but you can certainly omit them.  This is the perfect side for a nice grilled steak or some chicken.  Or grab a big hunk of french bread and a glass of rose and call it lunch!

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French Green Salad (printable version at the end of the post)

Inspiration:  the salad vert at Le Diplomate
Special Equipment:  none

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon champagne vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon minced shallot
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • 2 heads of Boston (also called Butter) lettuce, well rinsed and torn into bite sized pieces
  • 1/3 cup hazelnuts
  • 1 to 2 sprigs of tarragon

In a small bowl combine the olive oil, champagne vinegar, shallot and dijon mustard.  Season with salt and pepper.  In a small dry skillet toast the hazelnuts over medium heat for about 5 minutes.  Let cool.  Right before serving pull the tarragon leaves off of the sprigs and toss the leaves with the Boston lettuce pieces.  Add 3/4 of the dressing, toss, then add the rest only if you need it.  You want this salad to be very lightly dressed.  Top with the toasted hazelnuts and serve.

French Green Salad

  • Servings: 4
  • Time: 7 minutes
  • Print

Inspiration:  the salad vert at Le Diplomate
Special Equipment:  none

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon champagne vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon minced shallot
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • 2 heads of Boston (also called Butter) lettuce, well rinsed and torn into bite sized pieces
  • 1/3 cup hazelnuts
  • 1 to 2 sprigs of tarragon

In a small bowl combine the olive oil, champagne vinegar, shallot and dijon mustard.  Season with salt and pepper.  In a small dry skillet toast the hazelnuts over medium heat for about 5 minutes.  Let cool.  Right before serving pull the tarragon leaves off of the sprigs and toss the leaves with the Boston lettuce pieces.  Add 3/4 of the dressing, toss, then add the rest only if you need it.  You want this salad to be very lightly dressed.  Top with the toasted hazelnuts and serve.

Southern Fried Chicken Dinner

As I may have mentioned before, my mom’s desert island food is fried chicken (as is mine which would be really convenient if we ended up stranded on the same island) so in honor of her birthday today I thought I would post a menu all centered around my Fried Chicken Perfected – this has your weekend plans written all over it.

For this comforting, Southern themed meal I was inspired to use my vintage oyster cans as decoration.  I have been collecting these for several years – they are a symbol of the oyster industry that used to dominate the Chesapeake bay region.  I have them all over my house year round but they act as great vases for hydrangeas that I gathered from my front yard.  Since they were the center piece, and its almost summer, I figured just pull out all of my nautical gear and run with it.  How adorable is this row boat salt cellar??

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Paper placemats are my jam and great for a casual dinner party like this – I have several nautical themed ones (#ihaveaproblem) like this or these rope ones.  I used these rope napkin rings we got on Nantucket and the rattan chargers remind me of their famous baskets.  Seersucker napkins top off the preppy vibe.

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Curried Cashews

To start with I just wanted a couple of things to nibble on since the dinner is pretty heavy.  These curried cashews are easy to throw together and great with a beer or glass of rose.

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Broccoli Slaw 

I make this broccoli slaw from Smitten Kitchen ALL THE TIME.  It is so healthy and so addictive.  People will think you are nuts, shaving down whole heads of broccoli but they will be converts once they have tried it.  The dried cranberries give a little nod to my New England upbringing at this Southern meal and the slaw is a nice crunchy foil to the fried chicken’s tenderness.

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Fried Chicken Perfected

I can’t say better things about this fried chicken that hasn’t already been said by my friends.  Years of research and lots of mediocre fried chicken (which lets admit is still pretty good) led me to the perfect recipe that I share with you.  Eat it and be happy.

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Smoked Gouda Mac and Cheese

Probably the second most requested thing I make right after the fried chicken so why not pair them together?  The Southern tradition of mac and cheese with fried chicken has been around forever and for good reason.  The velvety cheese sauce some times picks up crunchy bits of the chicken skin on your plate and then you are in heaven.

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Bourbon Peaches with Ice Cream and Candied Pecans

You need a sweet treat at the end of this meal and a nice simple fruit dessert is just the ticket.  I make these bourbon peaches just like I do in my pancake bar post – sauté them with a little bit of butter, sugar and bourbon.  You can use frozen peaches or fresh ones if they are ripe enough.  Either way paired with vanilla ice cream and candied nuts (I had Southern appropriate pecans on hand) they are delicious.

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So happy birthday mommy and I hope you all celebrate this weekend with fried chicken!

Hummus

Hummus definitely falls into that category of foods where you ask yourself, “Is it worth making this or should I just buy some?”  There are plenty of good brands of hummus to purchase, especially if you doctor it up with a drizzle of olive oil or a sprinkling of zatar spice.  The thing is you can never quite buy yourself the super smooth, fresh tasting, garlicy punch of your own homemade hummus.  There are a zillion of hummus recipes out there and once again I have practically tried them all to try and find the right combination of teqniques.  Most purists will tell you to start with dried chickpeas, soak them over night, cook them with baking soda etc etc but at that point, for me at least, the scales of why can’t I just buy this and dispense with the hassle starts to tilt into convince’s favor.  So canned chickpeas it is.  That doesn’t mean there won’t be some work involved.  I found the somewhat tedious task of taking the skins off of the canned chickpeas makes for a substantially smoother and better tasting hummus.  It’s not as easy as just dumping the can into the food processor but at least it’s not a multi day effort.  To peel them, drain and rinse the canned chickpeas.  Then take the chickpea between your fingers and gently squeeze – you will find the weird white casing comes right off.  For a can of chickpeas it took me about 15 minutes – just turn on your favorite cooking show and get lost in the mindless task.

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From my research I learned that the other benefit of cooking your own chickpeas was that when they are warm they take on the other ingredients better.  Well here we can easily cheat that by quickly nuking the skinned chickpeas in the microwave for a couple of seconds before adding them to the food processor.  After that its just a matter of taste with the amount of tahini, lemon juice and garlic.  The recipe below is how I like it but play around and see what you like best – some people really want more of that sesame tahini flavor, others really hate lemon juice and replace it with water.  The method is the key and once you have that down the sky’s the limit.  Hummus away!

Hummus (printable version at the end of the post)

Inspiration:  simple but not too simple method of making hummus
Special Equipment:  food processor

  • 15.5 ounce can of chickpeas, rinsed, drained with the skins removed (see above)
  • 5 -6 tablespoons warm water
  • 3 tablespoons tahini sauce
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • olive oil and zatar for serving (optional)

Once all the chickpeas are peeled (see above on how to remove the skins) place them in a  microwave safe bowl and microwave them on high for 20 seconds.  Add the warmed chickpeas to the food processor along with the rest of the ingredients.  Puree until smooth, stopping to scrape down the sides.

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If its not as smooth as you would like add more warm water.  Chill for at least 1 hour to let the flavors meld – serve room temperature with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of zatar (optional).

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Hummus

  • Servings: 2 cups
  • Time: 2 minutes (plus 15 minutes to peel the chickpeas
  • Print

Special Equipment:  food processor

  • 15.5 ounce can of chickpeas, rinsed, drained with the skins removed (see above)
  • 5 -6 tablespoons warm water
  • 3 tablespoons tahini sauce
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • olive oil and zatar for serving (optional)

Once all the chickpeas are peeled (see above on how to remove the skins) place them in a  microwave safe bowl and microwave them on high for 20 seconds.  Add the warmed chickpeas to the food processor along with the rest of the ingredients.  Puree until smooth, stopping to scrape down the sides.  If its not as smooth as you would like add more warm water.  Chill for at least 1 hour to let the flavors meld – serve room temperature with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of zatar (optional).

Chicken Salad Canapes

I often have a hard timing figuring out what sort of canapés I can serve at parties that are filling.  Most meat based appetizers require them to be warm or are really expensive (think lamb lollipops) but if you are going to be drinking all night I want my guests to have more in them than just cheese!  Here little mini phyllo cups really come into handy.  You buy them in the frozen section of your grocery store and they are already cooked so all you have to do is fill them.  I decided for a recent party to go with chicken salad, most specifically chicken salad veronique, which is a French version with grapes.  It is really delicious as a regular chicken salad served alone or in a sandwich but for this application I cut the chicken and the grapes really small so they would fit neatly in the cups and be easy to eat.  These things went like hot cakes and I am sure your friends will appreciate the “heavy ap” at your next party.

Chicken Salad Canapes (printable version at the end of the post)

Inspiration:  phyllo cups
Special Equipment: none

  • 2 rotisserie chicken breasts (or roast your own)
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons white wine
  • 3 tablespoons chopped tarragon
  • 20 green grapes, quartered
  • 60 phyllo cups – I used the Athens brand

Cut the chicken breasts into small pieces and place in a large bowl.

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In a medium bowl wish together the mayo, sour cream, white wine, tarragon and salt and pepper.

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Add 3/4 of the mixture to the chicken along with the grapes.  Stir to combine and then add as much of the remaining dressing as necessary.  The salad can be made several days in advance and stored in the fridge.  When you are ready to serve, use a teaspoon to fill the cups with the salad.

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Chicken Salad Canapés

  • Servings: 60
  • Time: 5 minutes
  • Print

Special Equipment: none

  • 2 rotisserie chicken breasts (or roast your own)
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons white wine
  • 3 tablespoons chopped tarragon
  • 20 green grapes, quartered
  • 60 phyllo cups – I used the Athens brand

Cut the chicken breasts into small pieces and place in a large bowl.  In a medium bowl wish together the mayo, sour cream, white wine, tarragon and salt and pepper.  Add 3/4 of the mixture to the chicken along with the grapes.  Stir to combine and then add as much of the remaining dressing as necessary.  The salad can be made several days in advance and stored in the fridge.  When you are ready to serve, use a teaspoon to fill the cups with the salad.

Ricotta and Pomegranate Crostini

Quick and easy snacks are essential this time of the year but that doesn’t mean we should sacrifice taste or presentation!  These crostini are beautiful with their snowy white ricotta and shiny pomegranate jewels dusted on top.  If you want to make life even easier go ahead and buy the seeds.  However, seeding a pomegranate is really fun and its much cheaper.  Make sure to use a really good baguette and high quality ricotta, otherwise this will taste flat since it uses so few ingredients.  I bought some local stuff or you can make your own ricotta.  These are great for holidays drinks with friends after work or even a little snack for Santa when he comes down the chimney!

Ricotta and Pomegranate Crostini (printable version at the end of the post)

Inspiration:  those lovely little holiday jewels, pomegranate seeds
Special Equipment:  none

  • 2 baguettes
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • XX ounces of ricotta cheese
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • several sprigs of thyme
  • 1 pomegranate or 1 package of pomegranate seeds

Preheat your oven to 340 degrees.  Slice the baguettes on a diagonal into 1/2 inch slices – you should get about 20-25 slices per baguette.  Line them up on baking sheets and then drizzle with olive oil, and season them with salt and pepper.

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Bake until toasty, about 10-15 minutes.  Let cool (these can be made earlier in the day and stored in a container, just make sure they have cooled before putting them into a baggie or they will steam.  In a medium bowl combine the ricotta with salt, pepper and the lemon zest.  Spread about a tablespoon and a half of the ricotta on each crostini.  Seed the pomegranate (instructions here) and sprinkle the seeds over the crostini.  Pull off leaves from the thyme sprigs and sprinkle those on top as well.  These are great served at room temperature and can be left out for several hours.

 

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Ricotta and Pomegranate Crostini

  • Servings: 50 pieces
  • Time: 20 minutes
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Special Equipment:  none

  • 2 baguettes
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • XX ounces of ricotta cheese
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • several sprigs of thyme
  • 1 pomegranate

Preheat your oven to 340 degrees.  Slice the baguettes on a diagonal into 1/2 inch slices – you should get about 20-25 slices per baguette.  Line them up on baking sheets and then drizzle with olive oil, and season them with salt and pepper.

Bake until toasty, about 10-15 minutes.  Let cool (these can be made earlier in the day and stored in a container, just make sure they have cooled before putting them into a baggie or they will steam.  In a medium bowl combine the ricotta with salt, pepper and the lemon zest.  Spread about a tablespoon and a half of the ricotta on each crostini.  Seed the pomegranate and sprinkle the seeds over the crostini.  Pull off leaves from the thyme sprigs and sprinkle those on top as well.  These are great served at room temperature and can be left out for several hours.

Blue Cheese Mascarpone Dip

 

If you read my post last week about my favorite items from Trader Joe’s, then you know I am a sucker for everything they make with pumpkin in it.  Last time I was there I saw these Pumpkin Cranberry Crisps (a seasonal cousin to their awesome Raisin Rosemary Crisps).  I grabbed a container of their mascarpone cheese knowing that the rich buttery flavor would make for a great base for a dip.  Once I got home I realized I just so happened to have a small piece of blue cheese that I got as a remnant at Righteous Cheese.  Whip them together with some cream and you have a super rich, unbelievably easy dip.  This is a great one to make if you happen to have a small piece of blue cheese left over – also any other pungent cheese would work, I was thinking Humboldt Fog would be even better.  Add as much or as little of the secondary cheese as you would like.  Since this isn’t a super flavorful dip you want to pair it with these crisps or something else like an everything bagel cracker, that has a lot of flavor.  This would be a great one to set out at Thanksgiving as you can make it several days ahead and will only take about 1 minute of your time to pull together.

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Blue Cheese Mascarpone Dip(printable version at the end of the post)

Inspiration:  a cheesy pairing for my pumpkin crisps
Special Equipment:  none

  • 8 ounces mascarpone cheese, room temperature
  • 1 to 2 ounces blue cheese, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream
  • salt and pepper

In a medium size bowl combine the mascarpone and blue cheeses with the cream (I used a hand mixer, a spatula or food processor would work as well).

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Season with salt and pepper.  Can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days – take it out of the fridge 30 minutes before serving.  Pairs nicely with Trader Joe’s Pumpkin and Cranberry Crisps.

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Blue Cheese Mascarpone Dip

  • Servings: 1 1/2 cups
  • Time: 1 minute
  • Print

Special Equipment:  none

  • 8 ounces mascarpone cheese, room temperature
  • 1 to 2 ounces blue cheese, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream
  • salt and pepper

In a medium size bowl combine the mascarpone and blue cheeses with the cream (I used a hand mixer, a spatula or food processor would work as well).

Roasted Broccoli and Bacon Potato Skins

Now that order has been restored to the world with Tom Brady back at the helm of the Patriots I figured I would share a great football dish for this Sunday.  These potato skins are admittedly not as good as the deep fried ones (is anything baked as good as fried???) but they do the trick and even manage to sneak in a little broccoli as well.  I made these last week when we hosted some friends for football and they were all gone by halftime.  It’s usually tough to find a vegetarian bar snack but this is super easy to leave the bacon off and with all the other toppings you won’t be missing much.  Let’s go Pats!

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Roasted Broccoli and Bacon Potato Skins (printable version at the end of the post)

Inspiration:  are you ready for some football??

Special Equipment:  none

  • 2 Russell potatoes
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small head of broccoli, cut down into small bite size florets
  • 3 slices of bacon
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar
  • 2 scallions, sliced
  • 1/2 cup sour cream

Heat your oven to 400 degrees.  Make sure to scrub your potatoes clean then rub with a about a teaspoon of olive oil, prick several times over with the tines of a fork, and then put them directly into the oven onto the grate.

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Bake the potatoes for 1 hour, hour and 15 minutes if they are very large.  In the meantime toss the broccoli with a tablespoon of olive oil and salt and pepper and spread on a baking sheet.  In the last 15 minutes of baking the potatoes toss in the broccoli to roast.  Turn off your oven and turn on your broiler.  While the potatoes cool, cook the bacon in a large skillet until crispy (about 5 minutes) and then crumble and set to the side.  Once the potatoes are cool enough to handle, carefully cut them in half and scoop out the insides, leaving about 1/4 inch of potato still in the skins.

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Be sure not to cut through the skin, the easiest way is with a teaspoon.  Using the remaining olive oil drizzle both sides of the skins and salt and pepper them.  Put them skin side up on a baking sheet and broil for 3 minutes.  Flip them and broil 3 minutes more.

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Pull out the baking sheet and fill the skins with as much cheddar and broccoli as you want/can fit.  Broil again for another 2 to 3 minutes until the cheese melts.  Top with sour cream and scallions.

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Roasted Broccoli and Bacon Potato Skins

  • Servings: 4 skins
  • Time: 1 1/2 hour
  • Print

Special Equipment:  none

  • 2 Russell potatoes
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small head of broccoli, cut down into small bite size florets
  • 3 slices of bacon
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar
  • 2 scallions, sliced
  • 1/2 cup sour cream

Heat your oven to 400 degrees.  Make sure to scrub your potatoes clean then rub with a about a teaspoon of olive oil, prick several times over with the tines of a fork, and then put them directly into the oven onto the grate.  Bake the potatoes for 1 hour, hour and 15 minutes if they are very large.  In the meantime toss the broccoli with a tablespoon of olive oil and salt and pepper and spread on a baking sheet.  In the last 15 minutes of baking the potatoes toss in the broccoli to roast.  Turn off your oven and turn on your broiler.  While the potatoes cool, cook the bacon in a large skillet until crispy (about 5 minutes) and then crumble and set to the side.

Once the potatoes are cool enough to handle, carefully cut them in half and scoop out the insides, leaving about 1/4 inch of potato still in the skins.  Be sure not to cut through the skin, the easiest way is with a teaspoon.  Using the remaining olive oil drizzle both sides of the skins and salt and pepper them.  Put them skin side up on a baking sheet and broil for 3 minutes.  Flip them and broil 3 minutes more.  Pull out the baking sheet and fill the skins with as much cheddar and broccoli as you want/can fit.  Broil again for another 2 to 3 minutes until the cheese melts.  Top with sour cream and scallions.

 

 

 

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