Puttanesca Relish

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My mother gave me this lovely book simply called Charcuterie, published in 2014. “How to enjoy, serve and cook with cured meats.”

For the blog I’ve already made an eye catching and incredibly tasting salad – chorizo and red cabbage.

This little book is full of surprisingly unique recipes using charcuterie, making charcuterie, or for charcuterie.

Case in point, puttanesca relish caught my attention. Being that pasta puttanesca is my favorite pasta dish, I could easily imagine all of the puttanesca flavors together, served as a relish.

From the book, “This relish is quite like tapenade, but it’s lighter and not as rich. It can be used to add to sandwiches and recipes, but it’s also lovely served with a charcuterie board and spooned onto the meats.”

I couldn’t wait to make it. It’s as easy as making a tapenade, because you can use your food processor.

Puttanesca Relish
Slightly adapted

2 ounces pitted Kalamata olives
2 anchovy fillets, drained
2 teaspoons capers, drained
Big pinch of fresh chopped parsley
1 garlic clove
2 tablespoons olive oil
7 ounces canned San Marzano tomatoes, seeded, drained
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Sprinkle of cayenne pepper flakes

Place the first six ingredients into a food processor and whizz until the pieces are nice and small and the texture is relatively smooth.

Add remaining ingredients. Leave some small chunks, don’t let it become a purée.

Transfer the mixture to a small sterilized jar or an airtight container and cover, if not using immediately.


I served the relish with soft bread, Parmesan, and soprasetta. It is outstanding.


This relish will keep for a week in the refrigerator, and is suitable for freezing.


If you freeze it, make sure to test the relish. It might need a boost in flavor.

I will definitely be making this again and again.

I used a new product for this recipe – capers in olive oil. Excellent.

Salmon Rillettes

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There are many salmon recipes on this blog, because of all fish varieties, salmon is my favorite. It’s such a versatile protein – one that goes beyond basic grilling, poaching, or smoking.

A while back I had a dilemma facing me with two leftover salmon filets. And this is how my salmon rillettes recipe was created.

Salmon Rillettes
Makes about 24 ounces of rillettes

1 or 2 salmon filets, approximately 12 ounces total, pin bones removed
4 tablespoons butter, divided
4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
4 ounces soft goat cheese, at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
4 ounces smoked salmon, finely chopped
Fresh chopped parsley, about 3 tablespoons

Rinse and dry the salmon filet. Bring it to room temperature if it’s not already. Heat 2 tablespoons of butter in a skillet over medium-high heat and sauté the salmon by browning it on the flesh side first. The browned butter will help color the salmon.

Turn it over, lower the heat, and season with salt and pepper. Continue cooking until the salmon is medium rare, about 6 minutes total, depending on the thickness. Turn off the heat.


While the fish is still in the skillet remove the skin and discard. Using a spatula, chop up the salmon coarsely. Let cool slightly.

In a medium-sized bowl, combine the cream cheese, goat cheese, and remaining 2 tablespoons of butter. Season with salt and white pepper. Beat until smooth.

Fold in the sautéed salmon, along with the butter from the skillet, as well as the smoked salmon. Try to keep some of the pieces of salmon in tact. At the last minute, add the parsley, gently “pushing” it into the salmon and cheese mixture.

Place in a jar or serving dish, and serve with bread or crackers.

These rillettes are definitely best just made, still slightly warm. If they must be refrigerated, bring them to room temperature before serving.

Rye crackers or bread are fabulous with anything salmon.


Rillettes of pork, or those made from duck or goose are almost purely meat, softly ground to make spreadable.

These salmon rillettes contain some cream cheese and goat cheese for creaminess. If you want “meatier” rillettes, cut back on the cream cheese. The important thing with rillettes is that they’re soft and spreadable.

Brie with Roasted Strawberries

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I am a cheese-aholic. I love stinky cheese the best, if I was forced to choose. My favorite stinky cheeses would include Époisses, Reblochon, Délices, and raclette. The ones I love the best tend to be washed rind cows’ milk cheeses.

However, there’s also nothing much more appealing to me than ooey, gooey cheeses – baked cheeses or those gently warmed. Brie and Camembert come to mind, but feta and goat cheeses serve the same lovely purpose. Why they’re so much fun to me is that you can change up the toppings, and really create seasonal presentations as well. I’ve made baked Brie with sautéed mushrooms in the fall, and also one topped with tomatillos in the summer. It all works!

Years ago I made something similar to what I’m doing with strawberries here, but with cherries, and the result was outstanding.

I prefer savory toppings, or at least partially savory. Lots of restaurants serve baked brie topped with honey, and that’s just too sweet for me. So for my roasted strawberries, I grabbed a fun product my daughter bought me – black pepper simple syrup. I’ve only used it on roasted Brussels sprouts at Thanksgiving. The black pepper flavor was there, but also a sweetness.

Brie with Roasted Strawberries

2 cups strawberries, approximately 12 ounces
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons black pepper simple syrup
Pinch of salt
1 pound Brie, approximately 5.5” across

Preheat oven to 375 convection roast, or to 400 degrees F. Chop the strawberries.

In a small baking dish, combine the olive oil, syrup, and salt, then add the strawberries and toss to coat.

Roast the berries for about 15 minutes.

Place the brie on an oven-proof serving dish. Gently heat the Brie using your microwave, or if you prefer, your oven. You just want to warm the Brie, not cook it; actrual baking of the brie isn’t necessary.


Top the Brie with the roasted strawberries, and serve with crackers or bread slices.

This brie was so good my husband actually devoured it!

If you don’t have the black pepper simple syrup, you could use a mild syrup like maple syrup and add some cayenne pepper.


Or, you can mix the roasted strawberries with a chutney and then add some white pepper.

Whipped Mortadella

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There used to be an food blogger, Chicago-based realtor-by-day Peter, whose blog, The Roaming GastroGnome, was inspiring and entertaining. “I cook, she eats, we travel!”

But Peter’s blogging began dwindling as he began a professional career making sausage. I kid you not. This guy is a charcuterie expert.

His company is called SAUSAGE KÖNIG. Unfortunately, delivery at this time is only in Chicago. but for you lucky folks who live in Chicago, Peter is now catering, and runs the League Secrete des Gourmands dining series as well.

I’ve saved some of Peter’s recipes in my “pile,” waiting for a rainy day, which finally arrived. One of his recipes was whipped mortadella. Intrigued? I certainly was!


From Peter: “Such a snap to make and overall this dish shouldn’t take you more than 10 minutes. Basically take all of your ingredients and process in a food processor. The whipped mortadella is spreadable and great on crostini. It is the richest bologna you’ll ever have. Drizzle a little balsamic vinegar, or some mostarda for a touch of sweet acidity and oh my! A plate of these will definitely impress your guests, and you don’t need to tell them how simple it really is to make.”


This is the mortadella I purchased from my local deli Amazon.com


This recipe uses regular mortadella, not the variety containing pistachios.

Whipped Mortadella
Spuma di Mortadella

8 oz mortadella, cubed
1/2 c heavy cream
1/4 c grated parmigiano reggiano
Small pinch of nutmeg
Pinch of black pepper

Place the cubed mortadella in a food processor and process until chopped up and fine. Slowly add the cream in and process into a smooth paste, then blend in the cheese, pepper, and nutmeg.

Once you add the cream make sure you process the mixture well so it’s smooth. You may need to add a little more cream in order to achieve the desired consistency. Spoon into a ramekin and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Serve at room temperature with crackers or crostini.


This stuff is fabulous, and way more fun to eat this way.


I did end up adding a little more cream. It has a bit of a crumbly texture.

The only change I’d make is adding a tablespoon of soft butter to help the spreadability factor. Or, perhaps I could have processed the mortadella mixture longer.

I tried a cracker with a bit of balsamic drizzle and it was truly wonderful.

I will definitely be making this again, and doubling the recipe!

The Best Salmon Spread

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Another salmon spread? There are so many out there, and I even have a few on this blog, but I love salmon in all forms. What makes this spread different is that both grilled salmon and smoked salmon are used, and it’s served warm.

So it’s not just a cream cheese mixed with bits of smoked salmon, or rillettes, or a layered concoction. (All of which are wonderful!) It’s a warm, delightfully sensorally captivating salmon spread.

It’s not terribly pretty. In fact, it’s probably best used for canapés. But if you’re not serving the Queen of England, it’s perfect to serve alongside pumpernickel bread or crackers to normal folks.

Double Salmon Spread

3 tablespoons butter
10 ounces salmon filets
Old Bay seasoning
10 ounces smoked salmon (lox), coarsely chopped
1/4 cup drained small capers
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Chives or dill leaves, optional

Heat the butter in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. A little browning of the butter is fine. Sprinkle salmon filets with Old Bay.


Add the filets to the skillet and sauté until barely opaque in the center, turning over halfway through cooking. Remove the skin if they aren’t skinless.

Using a spatula, flake the cooked salmon into bits that aren’t too small.

Meanwhile, weigh out the smoked salmon and chop it. Place in a mixing bowl.

Add the capers, mayonnaise, sour cream, lemon juice.

Then stir in everything from the skillet, including the warm butter. Gently stir and combine the ingredients well. Taste for seasoning.

To serve as canapés, spread a generous amount of the salmon mixture on each toast, and top with a dill sprig or chopped chives.

If preferred, serve the dip in a bowl on a serving platter surrounded by your favorite toasts and crackers.


The most important thing with this spread is that it’s served warm. Then you really get all of the flavors from the cooked and smoked salmon.

If you’re not a big fan of the generous amounts of mayonnaise and sour cream, simple reduce the amounts to 1/3 cup each.

If I’d made this in the summer, I would have used fresh dill on top of the spread, but chives will have to suffice for now!

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

Pistachio Feta Dip

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Pistachios add a beautiful emerald-green to holiday foods like Christmas bark and festive biscotti, but what about the really green holiday – St. Patrick’s Day?!!

Maybe I’m just really into color – I’ve certainly been accused of that – but I saw this dip online and just knew I’d be making it for St. Patrick’s day, on March 17th, 2018. Way more fun than Irish stew, and you can still enjoy your green beer.

I’m basing my recipe on the one from The Lemon Apron, a gorgeous blog by young Jennifer, who believes in “rustic, indulgent, and healthy home cooking.”

She got the original recipe from the book Persiana, by Sabrina Ghayour.

What I especially loved about this dip is that there is no TAHINI or CHICK PEAS in it!!! Hummus is wonderful, but there are other dips out there.

Case in point – this one is a beautiful purée of pistachios, along with feta and yogurt. YUM!

Pistachio Feta Dip
Slightly Adapted
Printable recipe below

3 1/2 oz (100 g) shelled pistachios
1/4 cup olive oil
7 oz (approx 200 g) feta cheese
2 handfuls of parsley, roughly chopped
1 garlic clove peeled and crushed
1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
6 ounces Greek yogurt
Zest of one lemon
Juice of 1/2 lemon

Blitz the pistachios and olive oil in a food processor for 30 seconds.

Add the feta, parsley, garlic, chile pepper, yogurt and lemon.

Blitz until the mixture is well combined and has a rustic texture and place in a serving dish. I drizzled some olive oil over the top.

Serve with warmed focaccia or flat bread, pita crackers, crackers, or crostini.

I used Stacy’s Simply Naked Pita Chips because they’re so delicious.

I realized after-the-fact that if I’d removed the brown, thin skins from the pistachios, the dip would have been greener. But oh well. You will still be addicted!

There isn’t one thing I don’t absolutely love about this dip. I’ll be making it again, even when it’s not St. Patrick’s Day.

Note: In the original recipe, dill and cilantro are both used. I made an executive decision to just use parsley, because I wanted this dip to be more generic in flavor, in order to match it with other hors d’oeuvres I was serving.

I noticed that Jen spread the dip on toast and topped it with an egg! Yeah!!! (her photo below)

 

 

Mes Escargots

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So, I love snails. Shoot me. At least I think I love them. You could probably smother bits of shoe soles in a garlicky butter and parsley sauce, bake them, and serve them with good, crusty bread, and they would be good, too.

I was raised on snails, so they never scared me. Now, honestly, I don’t want to think about them really being snails because, well, snails are icky.

Recently I realized that I’ve never prepared my own L’escargots. And, it was about time to rectify this.

Funny anecdote: Right before we got married, my fiancé and I visited my mother, a couple of weeks before our elopement would occur.

My mother, being who she is, French, wanted to make my future husband happy, so for the first celebratory meal she prepared for us, it began with snails. And, he ate them. He ate other things, too. I guess he really loved me.

Photos below show two times I had l’escargots in France, in Avignon and Tourettes.

Here is a snail dish I had in Aix en Provence – snails on a salad. I’d always enjoyed l’escargots the traditional way, but this salad was superb.

To make snails the traditional way, you need snail shells, and you need snails. Fortunately one doesn’t have to forage in garden for either.

Escargots à la Bourguignonne
based on recipe in Saveur
makes 24

16 tablespoons butter
1/4 minced flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon white wine
1 teaspoon cognac
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 shallot, minced
Salt, pepper, and nutmeg to taste
24 extra-large snail shells
24 canned extra-large snails
Rock salt
Country bread

In a bowl, whisk together butter, parsley, wine, cognac, garlic, and shallots with a fork. Season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg.

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight to let the flavors meld.

Heat oven to 400 degrees F. Spoon about 1/2 teaspoon of butter mixture into each snail shell.

Push a snail into each shell; fill shells with remaining butter mixture.

Cover bottom of a baking dish with a layer of rock salt to stabilize the snail shells.

Arrange snail shells, butter side up, on the salt and bake until butter sizzles, about 10-12 minutes.

Serve hot with bread.

Alternatively, to prepare l’escargots, you don’t need snail shells, just ceramic dishes with round indentations.

Put a snail and the butter in each indentation, then bake the same way in a hot oven.

You’ll still need a little fork and good bread.


Snails are a wonderful excuse to eat bread soaked in a garlic parsley butter.

 

 

Avocado on Grilled Bread

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In 2012, my husband and I were visiting my daughter in London and we went out for breakfast. This is what my daughter ordered.

I took a photo of it because that’s always what I’ve done, even before blogging. It was just so pretty: mashed avocado spread on grilled bread, topped with oven-roasted tomatoes and feta cheese. My introduction to avocado toast.

So although slow to embrace food trends, like zoodles and cauliflower rice, I decided to (FINALLY) make avocado toast. It’s not like I knew it wouldn’t be wonderful! Avocados are one of my favorite foods.

Too bad I’m not super artistic, or I could jump on another trend and create art from avocados…

Here’s how I made mine.

Avocado on Grilled Bread

4 tablespoons oil, I used walnut oil
1 garlic clove, minced
Few sprigs of thyme
6 slices good bread, like Ciabatta
2 ripe but not over-ripe avocados
Fresh tomato slices
Salt
Pepper
Goat cheese
Fresh thyme leaves, optional

Warm the olive oil in a butter warmer with the garlic and thyme. Do not let the garlic brown or burn.

Heat a large, flat skillet over medium-high heat. Lightly brush the slices of bread with the garlic oil, and grill the bread face-down until browned. Place them on a serving plate and set aside.

Peel and de-pit the avocados. Scoop out the flesh and place in a medium bowl. Mash with a fork. Season with salt and pepper.

Only prepare the avocado right before serving.

To prepare the “toasts,” spread some of the mashed avocado on the grilled breads and smooth the tops.

Add sliced tomatoes, followed by a generous amount of crumbled goat cheese.

Drizzle the remaining garlic and thyme oil over the avocado toasts and serve immediately.

These are not only for breakfast or a snack or lunch. I can see these served as an hors d’oeuvres with some champagne or rosé!

Alternatively, oven roast small tomatoes in a gratin pan.

Or, use sun-dried tomatoes. It’s all wonderful!

If more protein is desired, one can always add an egg, or some smoked salmon. But I like the simplicity of this preparation.

Do not use inferior bread for these toasts. Use a ciabatta, sourdough, or a hearty multigrain.

These avocado toasts were honestly outstanding. If you love avocado, tomatoes, and feta, then you’ll love these too. Of course, you’ve probably made them already because you’re not stubborn! But I have to say that the garlic and thyme-infused walnut oil was a fantastic addition.

Crostini al Tonno

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Thanks to a friend who visited Lorenza de Medici’s Badia a Coltibuono in Italy many years ago, and cooked with the Madame, I learned about the Italian cuisine expert and bought a few of her cookbooks.

Lorenza de Medici isn’t Lidia Bastianich. If she visited the U.S., she didn’t go on the Today Show, on the Tonight Show, or participate as a judge on Chopped. (I have nothing against Lidia.) So although a highly respected author and teacher, she’s just not as well known in the U.S.

To quote from the book cover of the cookbook I’m using for today’s recipe, Lorenza’s Antipasti, published in 1998, “Lorenza and her Husband, Piero Stucchi-Prinetti, spend most of their time at their home, Badia a Coltibuono, an 11th Century monastery, estate, and winery in Tuscany.”

If I was her, I wouldn’t leave either. I’d just hang out, teach some cooking classes, test the grapes and olives, drink my wine, and play with dogs. I’m assuming she has dogs.

Oh, and as of the publication of this cookbook, she’d already published 20 books, and that was 19 years ago!

So instead of common bruschetta, tapenade, baked ricotta, and other popular crostini toppings, some of which are on this blog (all of them, actually), I really wanted to make these toasts with tuna. Recipe by Lorenza de Medici. I just like saying her name! Not to be confused with Lorenzo de Medici.

Crostini al Tonno

12 slices Italian country-style bread, sliced 1/4 ” thick
8 ounces canned tuna in oil
Yolks of 3 hard-boiled eggs
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 anchovy fillets in oil
12 paper thin slices lemon with peel on
12 capers in salt, rinsed

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Place the slices of bread on 1 or 2 baking sheets and toast in the oven for about 3 minutes or until barely golden, turning them once; allow to cool to room temperature.

Put the tuna with its oil, the egg yolks, butter, lemon juice and anchovy fillets in a food processor and process until a smooth paste forms.

It can be placed in a small serving bowl and served alongside the toasts.


Alternately, spread the paste on the toasts and top with the lemon slices.

Arrange a caper in the center of each.

Arrange on a platter and serve.

These crostini are absolutely delicious. I served them with bubbly rosé and it was a perfect match for a warm summer evening.