Archive for the ‘Appetizers’ Category

Souper Bowl of Dip (with Chips!)

Wednesday, January 29th, 2014

dipweb

I have a confession to make. I have always had a weakness for dip made with packaged onion-soup mix. When I was little and my mother made it (very occasionally, I must add) it seemed like a miracle that all that flavor could come out of one small package stirred into some sour cream.

As a grownup I’m more skeptical about packaged foods than I was as a child, when they were a novelty. And I have to shudder when I read the side of an onion-soup package. I don’t really think a creamy dip needs things like partially hydrogenated soybean oil, caramel color, corn syrup, and disodium inosinate. I don’t know what that last item is—and neither does my computer’s spelling program—but I’m pretty sure it’s not what one could call a food, let alone a healthy food.

I do still love onion dip, however. And it’s an easy, tasty snack for the Big Game—or the “Superb Owl,” as The Colbert Report calls it since the NFL threatens to sue anyone else who uses the official terminology.

As this football event approaches I am concocting a more natural version of my childhood guilty pleasure. This dip starts with the base my mother used for her cordon bleu French onion soup—caramelized onions, mustard, and wine. She used red wine, but I was darned if I was going to open a bottle of wine for the minuscule amount I wanted so I used sherry. If you feel like drinking red wine, by all means substitute it for the sherry.

I can see adding additional ingredients another time—a little Creole seasoning for kick, some herbs (parsley? dill? thyme?), and/or a few drops of Worcestershire sauce. On Sunday as I watch the Broncos and the Seahawks battle it out, however, I plan to serve it just as it is below. This onion-dip recipe takes a little more time than the package-based version, but it’s by no means difficult. The resulting spread tastes fresh yet mellow, and highly satisfying—like French onion soup on a chip.

It tastes best with homemade vegetable chips. We made sweet-potato chips yesterday. I won’t tell the Culinary Recording Angel if you go out and buy some, however.

Mustard is added to caramelizing onions.

Mustard is added to caramelizing onions.

French Onion Dip

Ingredients:

2 teaspoons butter
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 large onions, cut into thin slices (my slices could have been thinner!), with each slice cut in half
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard (I used mustard with a little garlic, which lent a lovely flavor)
1 tablespoon dry sherry
salt and pepper to taste (I used about 3/4 teaspoon sea salt and three grinds of the pepper mill)
1-1/2 cups sour cream (half of this could be Greek yogurt if you want to be healthier)

Instructions:

The dip is best prepared early in the day or the night before you wish to serve it. It needs time in the refrigerator to let its flavors blend and mature.

Combine the butter and olive oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. When the butter melts stir in the onion slices. Cook them slowly, stirring every 5 minutes or so, until they are reduced and turn a lovely golden brown. This will take at least 1/2 hour and may take as long as an hour.

When the onions are almost ready stir in the mustard, and continue to cook, stirring, for at least five minutes. Add the sherry and cook, stirring, until the liquid disappears.

Sprinkle salt and pepper over the onions and remove them from the heat. Allow them to cool to room temperature. If you want to avoid having strings of onion in your dip, chop them a bit once they have cooled.

Put the onions and sour cream in the bowl of an electric mixer and stir briskly to combine.

Place the dip in the refrigerator, covered, and let the flavors combine for several hours. At least an hour before serving taste it on a neutral cracker to see whether you want to add any additional flavors (more salt and pepper perhaps?). Bring the dip to room temperature, and serve it with vegetable chips.

Makes about 2 cups.

in oilweb

Cold-Oil Sweet Potato Chips

My sister-in-law Leigh and I actually made two kinds of chips to go with our test dip—one batch fried and one batch baked. HOWEVER, I’m only giving you the recipe for the fried batch because we were so busy eating the fried chips (they were AWFULLY tasty) that I forgot to time the baked ones. They are obviously healthier than the fried version.

I’ll tell you how we did the baked ones, but I won’t officially publish the recipe until I make them again! Basically, one slices the sweet potatoes just as one does below for the fried chips. One combines extra-virgin olive oil (about 1 tablespoon) and sea salt (about 1/2 teaspoon) in a bowl; then one stirs in the slices of sweet potato until all are coated with a tiny bit of oil. The slices go on cookie sheets in a preheated oven (325-ish) until they finish cooking; I THINK this is about half an hour. One should stir/turn the potatoes after 10 minutes and check on them frequently.

Now for the FRIED version. Leigh has a mandoline slicer, which made creating the chips a breeze. I got the idea for cold-oil frying the chips from my friend Devany Vickery-Davidson in Charleston, South Carolina. Apparently, cold-oil frying is very chic, but I had never heard of it until Devany wrote about making French fries this way. It is less messy than hot-oil frying and a lot simpler.

Leigh works her mandoline magic.

Leigh works her mandoline magic.

The Chips

Ingredients:

1 sweet potato, peeled and sliced thinly
canola oil at room temperature as needed
sea salt as needed

Instructions:

Place the pieces of sweet potato in a deep, heavy skillet or saucepan. Spread them out as much as you can. Cover them with oil; then add a little more oil. Place the pan on medium heat. Stay by the stove.

In a few minutes the oil will begin to bubble. Stir the potato pieces a bit and keep heating them. As the potatoes cook stir them every minute or two to keep them from sticking together—and to monitor them. In a very few minutes they will brown and crisp up very quickly.

Use a skimmer or tongs to remove the chips from the oil. (Don’t forget to turn off the stove!) Drain them on paper towels, and sprinkle salt on top.

Let the chips cool for a couple of minutes; then serve them with dip. Makes about 20 chips. (The number depends on the thickness of your slicing.)

cudipweb

Cranberry Chipotle Brie

Wednesday, January 9th, 2013

baked brieweb

This recipe is barely a recipe since it uses prebought or premade ingredients. But it gives me a good opportunity to wish you all a happy new year … and to share a couple of holiday photos.

Both Truffle

Truffxmas

and Ruby

Rubyxmas

had a lovely holiday season. Miss Ruby in particular was taken with our small but sturdy Christmas tree since she hadn’t seen one before. Luckily, the tree was in my sunroom (separated from the rest of the apartment by a handy door) so she didn’t manage to dismantle it.

Leigh and David, my sister-in-law and brother, invited me to a New Year’s Eve party. I decided to try to replicate a baked brie with cranberries I had purchased earlier in the season at Whole Foods Market. I mixed up the flavors a bit by using my cranberry-chipotle sauce for the filling, adding a little zing to the rich brie.

Leigh and my nephew Michael helped me cut the puff pastry for the brie, and we baked it at their house so it would be warm for the guests.

Now that the new year has struck, of course, I’ll be eating more healthily. So I have a feeling that combining sugar and carbs and fat as I did here will be rare.

Still, the brie makes a lovely memory.

Happy 2012 to all……

Here Leigh puts the egg wash on the wrapped brie.

Here Leigh puts the egg wash on the wrapped brie.

 

 

Baked Brie en Croûte with Cranberry Chipotle Sauce

 

Ingredients:

1 egg
1 tablespoon cold water
1 thawed puff pastry sheet (I used Pepperidge Farm; feel free to make your own if you like, but that is beyond my skill set!)
1 8-ounce round of brie (keep the rind!)
1/4 cup cranberry chipotle sauce, plus additional sauce for serving

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

In a small bowl whisk together the egg and water.

On a floured board roll the puff pastry sheet out until there is enough of it to wrap around the brie. Cut off the corners to make assembly easier. Use the corners to make small decorative pieces of pastry to lay on top of our brie. (We used snowflakes)

Slice the brie in half horizontally. Lay the first round half on the puff pastry, rind-side down.

Spread the 1/4 cup of sauce on the cheese. Top with the other half of the cheese, rind side up.

Wrap the pastry around the cheese, sealing the creases with the egg wash.

Turn the cheese over. Lay the decorative pastry on top, and brush the whole thing with egg wash.

Place the cheese, seam side down, on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat.

Bake the brie until it turns golden brown (about 15 to 20 minutes). Let it cool for a few minutes before serving.

Serve on crackers and/or fruit with additional chipotle sauce in a side dish. Serve 6 generously.

snowflakeweb

In Memoriam Pimiento Cheese

Friday, July 13th, 2012

The ingredients before mixing…….

Last Saturday my family and I gave a gala party to celebrate the life of my mother Jan (a.k.a. Taffy), who died in December. We delighted in good food, good drink, and good company.

Being basically lazy, I asked guests to bring food, which they did in abundance. Pam brought tea sandwiches, Debbie brought potato salad, Trina brought the biggest green salad I have ever seen, Ruth brought shrimp, Peter brought MORE shrimp in a salad with artichokes and cilantro pesto, Mary Stuart brought quinoa, Leslie brought delicate cookies, Mardi and David brought watermelon, and so on.

SOMEBODY brought champagne. (I have no idea who, but it was very nice indeed.)

My family supplied tubs of Bart’s ice cream with homemade sauces and tested a recipe from our friend Lark Fleury for pimiento cheese.

Lark tells me that after fried chicken this cheese is the most popular funeral-related food among her neighbors in coastal Alabama. (I wasn’t about to mess with fried chicken in hot weather!)

Her recipe is quite different from my usual one; the mustard, onion, and relish add complexity to the spread. I gave most of the cheese to our friend Pam to put in some of her tea sandwiches, but my family also tried a bit on crackers. I know my mother would have approved.

If you’d like to read more about the party, visit my non-food blog for a full report.

Lark’s Alabamian Pimiento Cheese

Ingredients:

1 pound sharp cheddar cheese, finely grated (it won’t surprise regular readers to learn that I grated it rather coarsely, I’m sure)
1/4 cup of grated onion
1 4-ounce jar diced pimentos drained (I may have used a little extra pimiento)
2 teaspoons prepared mustard
1/2 cup sweet pickle relish
1/4 cup mayonnaise (more or less)
a dash of pepper

Instructions:

Combine all the ingredients, beginning with just a dab of mayonnaise and adding more until the cheese is spreadable.

Spread on bread/crackers or make small sandwiches. Store leftovers in the fridge.

Makes about 1 quart.

I THOUGHT I had taken a photo of the cheese in its final state, but it’s not in my camera. So here’s a better picture, of the day’s honoree, taken last year….

Asparagus Hummus

Thursday, May 24th, 2012

My mother loved to tell a story about her introduction to olives.

Her mother brought a jar of the things home from the grocery store. Little Janice asked what they were.

“Olives,” said her mother. “Try one and see whether you like it.”

Janice tried one. She wasn’t sure. So she tried another. She still wasn’t sure. She kept trying. After a few minutes she still wasn’t officially sure that she liked olives. But she had eaten the whole jar.

That’s more or less the way I felt about this hummus. As I’ve mentioned before in these pages, I LOVE asparagus. If it were in season year round, I believe I would eat it every day. Now that it is in season I work on new ways to try it every day.

The other day I looked at some hummus and looked at some asparagus spears and thought, “Let’s put these together.”

I tasted the resulting concoction. I wasn’t sure what I thought. It was a lovely green. (It would have been even prettier if I had saved some pieces of asparagus to decorate the top!) It didn’t taste quite as asparagus-y as I had expected, however.

So I sampled it again. Like my mother before me, I was soon very full and out of my test food.

In the end I decided I’d publish the recipe. If you want more asparagus flavor, add more asparagus, or cut back on the tahini and water.

If you’re like me, you’ll probably eat the whole thing as it is….

Green Hummus

Ingredients:

1 bunch asparagus, trimmed and cut into small pieces (about 2 cups)
2 large cloves garlic
1 can (15.5 ounces) chickpeas, drained
1/4 cup sesame tahini
2 tablespoons water
lemon juice to taste (I used about 1-1/2 large lemons)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more oil as needed
1 teaspoon salt

Instructions:

Boil the asparagus pieces until just barely soft. Drain and rinse with cool water and/or ice. Set aside.

In a food processor puree the chickpeas and tahini briefly; then add the asparagus, water, and lemon juice and puree again.

Add the oil and salt and puree briefly. Taste to adjust seasonings; then refrigerate the mixture for at least an hour. Stir in a dab of additional oil just before serving.

Serve with pita chips. Makes about 2 cups.

Slightly Sweet and Slightly Spicy Pecans

Friday, March 9th, 2012

March Madness may mean basketball to SOME PEOPLE—but as far as I’m concerned it’s all about maple syrup. The weather is plum crazy, but the sugarhouses are boiling sap, and I’m thinking of new ways to use my favorite sweetener.

Last week I invited over some friends and relatives and concocted a maple meal for an article in our local paper, the West County Independent.

Actually, I didn’t quite manage to flavor the entire meal. I was going to do some kind of roasting thing with potatoes and carrots and chickened out at the last minute. I mashed the potatoes and threw the carrots into my maple coleslaw. The rest of the meal was all maple, however.

Glazed pecans were our appetizer.

I love spicy foods. I wasn’t sure exactly how much heat my dinner guests’ palates could takes, however. I therefore made my maple nuts just a little bit hot and just a little bit sweet. We loved them!

My Pecans

Ingredients:

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) sweet butter
2 tablespoons maple syrup
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt (plus a bit more to taste later if you like)
3/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/3 teaspoon crushed red pepper
3 cups raw pecans

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Melt the butter over low heat in a 10- or 12-inch cast-iron skillet. Stir in the maple syrup and spices. Add the pecans and toss them well to make sure they are coated.

Place the skillet in the preheated oven and bake the nuts for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes. Taste a nut after 1/2 hour to see if the seasonings suit your taste; if not, add a little more salt and/or even a little more spice.

When the hour is up remove the nuts from the oven and let them cool on wire racks lined with brown paper. They will be soft at first but will crunch up as they cool.

When the nuts have cooled completely store them in a tin, a jar, or a well sealed plastic bag … or just eat them!

Makes about 3 cups.

Little Rhubarb wonders what the heck these brown things might be.