Savory Biscotti

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The cookbook by Martha Stewart, called Martha Stewart’s Hors D’Oeuvres Handbook, was published in 1999, pretty soon after I started my catering business.

It’s a beautiful book, even if you’re not a Martha Stewart fan. Her ideas for hors d’oeuvres are, not surprisingly, creative and unique. Sometimes they’re on the crazy end of the spectrum – completely impractical and unreasonable.

One thing always got my attention – savory biscotti. She served them like fun crackers, but they could be used for canapés.

When I think of biscotti, I always think sweet, like my Christmas biscotti. But these are savory varieties, and include ingredients like nuts, seeds, cheese, olives, and other goodies. I imagined them to be really good served alongside cheese, with prosecco or rosé.

I decided it was time to make a variety of savory biscotti for a fun get-together, to have something unique on hand!

The following recipe is the base recipe. What I actually used in my savory biscotti is below.

Savory Biscotti
by Martha Stewart
printable recipe below

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/3 teaspoon kosher salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled, cut into 8 pieces
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon olive oil, divided
2 large eggs
1/2 cup milk

Place the flour, pepper, baking powder, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Combine on low speed.

Add the butter and beat until the mixture resembles coarse meal.

In a small bowl, whisk together the 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the eggs, and milk. Gradually pour the milk mixture into the dough and mix just until combined.

This is the base dough for savory biscotti. Before chilling the dough and proceeding with baking, add various combinations of savory items and make sure they’re well distributed.

I kneaded the dough a bit before folding in my add-ins, which are listed below, along with Martha’s suggestions.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a baking sheet with the remaining olive oil and set aside.

Divide the dough into 4 equal parts. (I halved the dough to make 2 logs.)

Roll each piece into a log measuring 1 1/2″ thick and about 7″ long. (I formed a log about 12″ long, then flattened it to about 1/2″ thick. (I am pretty sure MS meant 1 1/2″ wide, not thick.)

Transfer the logs to the prepared baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until chilled, about 30 minutes.

Brush each log with an egg wash (1 large egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water and a pinch of salt). I didn’t do this. I did make sure there was a bit of grated cheese on the top of the biscotti, however.

Bake until the logs are light brown and feel firm to the touch, about 30-40 minutes. Reduce the oven to 250 degrees F.

Using a serrated knife, slice the logs crosswise on a long diagonal into 1/4″ thick slices that are 3-4″ long. Arrange the slices cut-side down on a wire rack set over a baking sheet and bake, turning the biscotti halfway through cooking time for even browning, until crisp, about 40 minutes.

Cool completely and store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.

These biscotti really are fabulous, and perfect on a cheese platter. Charcuterie would be a fabulous addition.

Today I simply paired them with Cambazola, but they’d be crazy good with a soft goat cheese or any spreadable herbed cheese.

You can really go crazy with all of the ingredient choices. Martha Stewart’s orange zest suggestion was really tempting but I didn’t have any oranges on this day.

Instead of all olive oil, you could use a flavored or infused oil, or even a little truffle oil.

I’ll definitely be making these again, and will enjoy switching up the ingredients.

Ingredients I used in addition to the above recipe:
Dried parsley
Garlic powder
White pepper
About 3 ounces coarsely chopped walnuts
About 3 ounces pitted Kalamata olives, sliced lengthwise
Grated Grana Padana, about 1 1/2 ounces

Martha Stewart’s savory biscotti suggestions:
Lemon zest, capers, parsley, and browned butter instead of olive oil
Orange zest, pistachios, and black olives
Parmesan, fennel seeds, and golden raisins

Figgy Jam

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Figgy Jam! Just the name alone conjures Christmas spirit! And it’s December – time to plan cheese pairings!

Personally, I think a jam, paste, or curd is a wonderful addition to a cheese platter, because it enhances the cheese. This one has a little savory component to it, but it’s not a chutney. And, it’s really not a jam, because it’s not that sweet.


Just as the Spaniards are so good at pairing their beloved Manchego with quince paste, I make my figgy “jam” to pair with cheeses like Chèvre, Brie, and my favorite stinky cheese of all time – the famous Époisses from the Burgundy region of France.

I love dried figs, but I have to admit something. When I eat a dense fig jam, it can sometimes feel like I’m chewing sand because of the seeds. So to the figs, I added dates and dried cranberries. That way, I will have the figgy flavor, but not so many seeds.

And the cranberries provide a more scarlet color, which fits the holidays.
So here’s what I did:

Figgy Jam

1 pound dried fruit – chopped figs, chopped dates, and dried cranberries
1 apple, peeled, cored, finely diced
¾ cup fresh orange juice
¼ cup ruby Port
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 shallots, finely diced
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 cinnamon stick

On a scale, weigh out the fruit you’re using – in this case, figs, dates, and dried cranberries.

Place all of the ingredients in a pot including the cinnamon stick.

Cook the mixture with the lid on for about 30 minutes over medium-low heat, stirring often.

Pretty much all of the liquid will have been absorbed; you want the dried fruit hydrated, but also have a little liquid left over in order to process the jam.

Let the mixture cool. Remove the cinnamon stick, then put the mixture in a food processor. Pulse, scrape, pulse, scape, and continue, using a little more orange juice if necessary. I don’t make a paste – I prefer to have a little texture.

Place in jars and store in the refrigerator. Alternately, freeze the jars and thaw in the refrigerator before serving.

The jam is best at room temperature served with a variety of cheeses, crackers, breads, and more dried fruits!

There are brie logs that would make lovely canapés.

Also, the figgy jam could be put on a brie wheel of any size, warmed slightly. Then you get the combination of oozing cheese and the figgy jam.


I drizzled a little maple syrup over the brie as well.

The jam is also good with goat cheese.

However you use it, you will love the combination.

The figgy jam isn’t terribly sweet, so it’s also good on toast in the morning!

Roasted Fruit Packages

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The sub header of my creatively named blog, the Chef Mimi blog, is “so much food, so little time”. I could have easily made it, “so many restaurants, so little time.”

Dining out may be my favorite thing to do. Like it’s my serious hobby. Whenever we have a travel destination, I’m researching top ten restaurants, new restaurant openings, best new chefs, and working online at open table.com for reservations.

Of course this is more challenging in major cities like New York. I’ve tried to get us in to ABC kitchen 5 times with no luck. And I start early.

One restaurant that has always been on my NYC list is Buvette – so much so that I bought the cookbook “Buvette – The Pleasure of Good Food” by Jody Williams, who is the chef and owner.

The restaurant, considered a gastrothèque, opened in 2010 and has received many accolades. Before opening Buvette, Jody Williams worked with such culinary notables as Thomas Keller and Lidia Bastianich.

When I first received the cookbook from Amazon, I bookmarked quite a few intriguing recipes, but one really called to me – Fruit in Parchment Paper.

For the recipe, Ms. Williams oven-roasts fresh and dried fruits in squares of parchment paper, much as how one would prepare fish. She serves the packages of fruit with cheese as an “unexpected alternative to the ubiquitous cluster of grapes that seem to accompany every cheese platter in the world!”

Except for serving a compote, a chutney, or aigre doux of fruit, I have never served roasted fruit as a cheese platter accompaniment. So needless to say I was excited. And being that it’s early summer, I have access to a good variety of fresh fruit.

Ms. Williams suggests mixing up the fruit to suit your taste. She suggests the combination of pumpkin, apples and dates. I’m saving that for next fall.

Fruit in Parchment Paper

2 tables of dried currants (I used dried sour cherries)
1/2 cup vin santo* (I used Sauternes)
1 apple peeled cored and thinly sliced
1 quince peeled cored and thinly sliced (I used plums)
2 tablespoons honey
A pinch of coarse salt
1/4 cup walnuts

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. In a large bowl soak the currants in the vin santo for at least 10 minutes. Once they’re a bit softened, add the remaining ingredients and stir to combine.



Meanwhile cut out four 8″ squares of parchment paper. Evenly divide the mixture among the squares. Bring the edges of each square together and fold them over each other creating a continuous seal. ( I had parchment bags that I used.)

Place the four packages on a baking sheet and roast in the oven until the fruit smells fragrant and the paper is browned, about 15 minutes.

I almost made my smoke alarm go off roasting the fruits; so much of the syrup leaked through the bags and began smoking.

I paired the fruit with Mimolette, a smoked Raclette, and Saint-Félicien, along with some bread.


If you’ve never had Saint-Félicien, you need to get some. It’s mild, a little salty, and oh so creamy. It paired especially well with the fruit.


The fruit was also perfect for a torchon of foie gras I served that evening when friends came over (not pictured).

I understand that the parchment packages help steam-cook the fruits, but honestly they ended up being terribly messy.

In the future, I will place the fruit mixture in a large gratin pan, and roast at 375 degrees, maybe stirring once. That way, you don’t lose the syrup, and the fruit will still be cooked but also a bit more caramelized.


* Ms. Williams states that Banyuls, Port, or Sauternes can be substituted for the wine.

I’m already thinking of new fruit combinations…
Cherries apples dried apricots
Pears grapes dates
Peaches apples figs
And so forth

note: When I make this again, I will also chop the fruit. I think the smaller pieces will be easier to place on breads and crackers.

Roasted Okra

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Quite a few years ago, I was at a girlfriend’s beautiful loft for dinner, and for someone who doesn’t really love cooking, she had really put out an impressive spread of hors d’oeuvres.

Among those hors d’oeuvres were roasted okra. I was a bit hesitant at first. I’d only had okra in Creole dishes, and there is this dog slobber-type slime that I had previously associated with okra. But I’m glad I tried them!

Not only did I immediately become addicted to these roasted okra, I found out that they were made from frozen okra! Wow.

So I had to make them myself. They’re so easy, and only take a little bit of time for the thawing process. Other than that, all you’ll need is an oven.
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Roasted Okra

1 or 2 1-pound packages frozen whole okra
Olive oil
Salt or seasoning salt

Starting the day before, thaw the bag of frozen okra in the refrigerator overnight.
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The next morning, place the okra in a large colander. Give them a little rinse, then let them drain for at least 4 hours.
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Place the okra on paper towels and let them “dry” up. There should be no very little “wetness” left to them.
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Preheat the oven to a roast position, or to at least 400 degrees Farenheit. Place the okra in a large roasting pan or jelly roll pan, making sure there’s not too much overlap. Drizzle on olive oil, and season with salt or your favorite seasoning salt. I used a favorite spice blend that my girlfriend Gabriella brings me from Trader Joe’s.
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Roast the okra for about 20-25 minutes, tossing them once during the process. They should be roasted on all sides.

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Cook longer if there’s not sufficient browning. The roasting time depends on how full of water they are. Turn out the okra onto a serving platter.
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You might want to add a fun coarse salt to them as well, but taste them first to test the saltiness.


I made a little Sriracha mayo for dipping, but they’re wonderful just by themselves.
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Be careful. They seriously are addicting!


And not slimy.

Pork Rillettes

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Pork rillettes probably sound fancy, but really they’re the opposite of fancy. Their presentation and rustic, and their flavor subtle. But they’re fabulous!

You serve rillettes the same way you serve a pâté or terrine, with good bread, olives and cornichons. It’s especially good as part of a cheese platter.
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But the difference between pork rillettes and pâtés or terrines is that there is no liver included. It’s just pork.

I typically make rillettes in the fall, but after visiting Stéphane in France last May, he served my girlfriend and I goose rillettes not once but twice! I think we begged for them the second time! So I thought it might be okay for me to make them now, in July. Not that I’d serve them outside in 100 degree weather.

Another motivation to make rillettes was that this same girlfriend who went to France with me was going to be visiting me over an upcoming weekend, and I thought it would be a surprise to serve them to her! Just for the memories. If I could only get the same good bread…

Rillettes are sometimes called potted rillettes because it’s traditional to store them in little pots or jars or terrine molds for a prettier presentation.
rill456

Pork Rillettes

1 pork butt, about 7 pounds, bone included
Black pepper
Seasoning salt
1 onion, quartered
Baby carrots
Celery, chopped
1 leek, quartered
1 head of garlic, halved
4-5 bay leaves
A bunch of parsley
Fresh rosemary branches
Fresh thyme branches
Handful of peppercorns
A few whole cloves

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.

Season all sides of the pork with pepper and your favorite seasoning salt. Place the pork butt in the bottom of a large and deep pot.

Add the remaining ingredients. Then cover the pork with water, at least 1″ above the pork.
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Bring the water in the pot to a boil on the stove. Cover the pot tightly with a lid, then place the pot in the oven and bake for the pork for 6 hours.

Halfway through cooking, turn over the pork, carefully, to ensure it cooks evenly.

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Remove the pot from the oven, remove the lid, and let everything cool.
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Carefully remove the pork from the broth using large forks and place in a bowl. Then strain the broth and reserve. It makes a lovely base for a soup or a stew.
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After cooling completely, place the tender pork and in a bowl of a stand mixer. I got the idea to use a stand mixer to shred the pork from the book, “Charcuterie” by Michael Ruhlman & Brian Polcyn. Also include some of the pork fat; it adds flavor and texture. Keep the broth on hand in case you need a little.
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Taste the pork and the broth and season if necessary. I added some dried thyme, some salt, and some ground allspice to my pork. The seasoning shouldn’t jump out at you. It’s more subtle, highlighting the pork’s flavor.

Slowly start the mixer at a low speed. Add a little broth if necessary. You don’t want the meat watery, but the broth keeps the meat from being dry.

Try some rillettes on a little toast or cracker to test it. That way, you can season again if necessary, and also adjust the fat and broth amounts. Continue mixing until it’s the perfect texture. It took less than a minute for me to get the desired texture.
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Place the rillettes in clean jars, patting them down to remove major air holes. Then cover the rillettes with melted duck fat or butter.


I actually used some duck fat that I’d saved from when I made duck confit, which is why it looks darker than normal. The fat is really just used to preserve the meat in the jars, although the refrigerator will do the trick.

Any leftover rillettes can be frozen. Make sure to use a clean jars and lids.
rill

Serve the pork rillettes with bread, toasts, or crackers, alongside a good mustard, olives, and some cornichons. Make sure the rillettes are at room temperature first so they are spreadable!
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Stéphane served fresh garlic with the rillettes to rub on the bread first.
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Rillettes are kind of the ugly step-sister to a pâté or fancy terrine, but you’ll not care once you try them!
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note: You don’t have to turn all 7 pounds of pork into rillettes, unless you’re feeding an army. Any pork left over makes fabulous pulled pork, with great flavor!!!

Lemon Goat Cheese

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If you’ve followed my blog for any amount of time, you know that I’m a cheese lover. A serious cheese lover.

I like all kinds – hard to soft and everything in between. Cow’s milk washed rind cheeses are probably my favorites if you told me I could only eat one variety the rest of my life, which would be sad. But I’m also a huge goat cheese lover.

If I prepare a cheese platter, there will always be some variety of goat cheese on it. There is a goat Brie that is really fabulous. But I also like to play with creamy goat cheese, adding flavors, nuts, herbs, fresh and dried fruits.

On the blog I’ve posted my “Faux Boursin,” which is basically this recipe, shown below, with the addition of fresh and dried herbs. It’s delicious, and you can really customize it to your taste. Plus, it’s much less expensive than buying retail Boursin.

Being that it’s officially spring, I wanted to celebrate with a lemony goat cheese. This is so simple, and I’m not even a huge citrus lover. But the flavor of the goat cheese and lemon zest is fresh and lovely – perfect for Spring! Enjoy!

lemon1

Lemon Goat Cheese

8 ounces creamy goat cheese, like Chèvre
2 ounces cream cheese
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Zest of 1 lemon, plus a little more for decoration

Have the first three ingredients at room temperature before you begin. This is the goat cheese I’m using.
chevre
You don’t have to include cream cheese; I do it more if I have guests who might not like the full goat cheese flavor. I add butter I because it helps firm up the cheese and makes it more spreadable. Place the goat cheese, cream cheese and butter in a medium-sized bowl. Add the lemon zest.

Then simply using a spatula or spoon, mix the ingredients together. Line an appropriately-sized bowl with plastic wrap and add the cheese.


Force the cheese down to avoid holes, and spread the top flat. Alternatively, you can make a log shape, just as you would a composed butter.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for about 4 hours or overnight.

Remove the plastic wrap, and turn over the bowl onto a serving platter. Remove the plastic liner while the cheese is still cold. Let the cheese come to room temperature before serving. It will have more flavor and spread more easily.

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Top with a little lemon zest, if desired, and serve with crackers or bread.

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Other things, like herbs, could be included in this cheese, but I like the simplicity of the lemon. No salt or pepper is required. A little fresh tarragon, chives, parsley, or toasted pine nuts would work sprinkled on top. Play around with this recipe to make it suit you!

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Welcome spring! I’ve missed you!

Fruit Cheese

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So what is fruit cheese? It’s a terrible name, really, but that is exactly what it’s called in this book:

51LNkBV5m5L._SX258_PJlook-inside-v2,TopRight,1,0_SH20_BO1,204,203,200_

Karen Solomon is the author.

The fruit cheese is really a fruit paste. It’s similar to the wonderful quince paste or membrillo that’s served alongside Manchego on a Spanish cheese platter. Except that my paste ended up a somewhat different texture to membrillo. Nonetheless, it’s worth making this fruit cheese at least once. There’s no effort involved to speak of, it just takes a few days to complete.

Here’s what I did; the ingredients are slightly adapted from the original recipe:

Apple-Pomegranate-Plum Fruit Cheese

1 1/2 pounds apples
1/3 cup dried pomegranate seeds
1/3 cup diced dried plums

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1/2 cup water
3/4 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt

Peel and core the apples. Cut them up and place them in a tall pot. Add the pomegranate seeds and diced plums.
fruit1
Then add the water, sugar, and salt.
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Cover the pot and bring the mixture to a boil. Simmer the fruit for about 20 minutes.

Using a potato masher, mash up the apples.
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Do this as often as you can to get a nice mush. The fruit has to be fairly smooth. And now that I think of it, I could have used an immersion blender. But I think I had it in my mind that I wanted to see the pomegranate and plum part of this fruit cheese.
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It’s kind of a tedious process, but keep after it. Then continue cooking over the lowest possible heat to remove as much liquid as possible, with the lid off.
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Line a jelly roll pan with parchment paper, and pour the fruit mixture on top. Smooth it out; it should be about 3/8″ in thickness evenly.
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Let the fruit paste sit on the parchment paper overnight. It should be a little dried out. I peeled the paste from the paper and you can tell the paper is wet.
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Then place a cooling rack on top of a cookie sheet, and place the fruit paste and the paper on which it’s laying on top of the rack. Place everything in a 200 degree oven for 3 hours. Leave the oven door ajar.

The fruit won’t look any different. Let it cool, then let it sit overnight once again. It should be mostly dry.
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At the point where the fruit cheese’s liquid has mostly all evaporated, but the paste hasn’t been allowed to over-dry, wrap it up in parchment paper and store it in the refrigerator. Supposedly it’s good even after 6 months.
fruitcheese
The only problem with this recipe, is that there are no accompanying photos. I really wasn’t sure how to serve this slab of fruit paste. Membrillo comes in many forms, from rectangular flats to thicker pie-shapes, so I guess it really doesn’t matter. The point is that the fruit paste is really good with cheese.

Just for fun, I decided to use a little scalloped cookie cutter to cut out the fruit cheese.
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For my company, I paired the fruit cheese with triple creme Cambozola – one of my favorite bleu cheeses. I must say, it was a fabulous combination.

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verdict: I probably won’t make this again, especially with membrillo so readily available anymore. And there are other fruit varieties out there as well. If you have young kids at home, this is a fun way to make what is essentially the equivalent to a fruit roll-up, however. Especially with cheap apples in season.

Tomato Jam

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This recipe is based on one from the beautiful blog, Fleur de Sel. Before coming across the post for tomato jam, I don’t think I’ve ever heard of it before. Where have I been?!!

But it was so intriguing to me, I couldn’t quit thinking about it. What a wonderful addition to a grilled cheese sandwich or served on a cheese platter. Yum.

So, I decided it was time to make my own. I altered Lindsay’s recipe slightly, mostly by omitting the Herbes de Provence. I just wanted to find out what the tomato jam tasted like on its own.

So here’s what I did.

Tomato Jam

3-4 pounds tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1 green apple, peeled, cored and diced
1 small onion, diced
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
Sprinkles of cayenne pepper, optional
1/4 cup cider vinegar
Juice of 1 lemon

Place the tomatoes, apple, onion, brown sugar, salt and cayenne in a large enamel pot.
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Cover, and bring everything to a simmer.

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Then cook for about 2 1/2 hours over low heat until most all of the liquid has evaporated. Add the cider vinegar and cook for another minute, then stir in the lemon juice.

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After the jam had cooled, I blended it to smooth things out a bit, but without making a puree. Then I poured the jam into 2 – 12 ounce jars that were sterilized.
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The color of the jam is beautiful and it tasted delightful. Next time I want to add some orange zest.

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I proceeded to waterbath the two jars and I’m saving them up for the holidays!

With a little bit of the leftover jam in the blender, I whipped up a little sandwich with the jam and some buffalo mozzarella. It was delicious. I can’t wait to get more creative with it!

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verdict: The original recipe called for 1/2 cup of brown sugar and 1/2 cup of white sugar. I cut the total amount of sugar from 1 cup to 3/4 of a cup. It’s just hard for me psychologically to use a lot of sugar. But perhaps that’s why my jam doesn’t look as “sticky” as it does in Lindsay’s photos. Or, I perhaps didn’t allow for enough evaporation. We’ll see what happens when I go to use it….

Which I did when my kids were in town and I served the tomato jam with a giant chunk of Manchego (featured photo). Sticky or not sticky, it was a fabulous pairing.