When my friends informed me that their new condo had an outdoor grill over looking the mountains, I planned the entire weekend around cooking outside. Every meal utilized the grill – including when I brought out the pots and pans and heated them directly on the grill. Nothing beats outdoor cooking – especially in the mountains with a great breeze.
Grilling Brie was an experiment that turned out extremely well. The trick is to keep the cheese very cold until your ready to cook and heat the grill to high. The process won’t take too long – you’re grilling just enough to make beautiful grill marks and heat the cheese through. This will take about four minutes on each side – but please use your own discretion. And, by no means should you press down on the cheese with a spatula.
Meanwhile, warm honey with a handful or two of quarter fresh mission figs.
Once the cheese is starting to ooze slightly and you can see the grill marks, transfer to a platter. Drizzle with honey, figs and a pinch of good sea salt. Serve with crackers or grilled baguette. Crazy good.
There is something about summer that screams HAPPY HOUR! Gin and Tonic, a splash of Saint Germain, a pour of rose – anything will do. But, you’ll need a good snack to go along.
This past weekend, I modified this Ina Garden recipe for a happy hour gathering. I added more smoked salmon for more of a fishy bite (closer to my favorite childhood Smoked Mullet Dip). This took less than 10 minutes to make and was a big hit. Save it in your back pocket for your next happy hour.
Smoked Salmon Dip, inspired by Ina Garten
- 8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh dill
- 2 teaspoon prepared horseradish, drained
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 pound cedar smoked salmon, minced
Cream the cheese in a stand up mixer until just smooth. Add the sour cream, lemon juice, dill, horseradish, salt, and pepper, and mix. Add the smoked salmon and mix well. Chill and serve with crudites or crackers.
I’m perfecting the weeknight single person meal these days. Nothing speaks “I need Friday” more than rushing home to open a bottle of red wine and make a simple dinner. Last night, I put together a Easy Chicken and Pineapple Quesadilla with all store bought items from The Fresh Market. Whole wheat tortilla, a rotisserie chicken breast, precut pineapple, cilantro, jalapeno slices and a little BBQ sauce or hot sauce. It was no work of art, but hot the spot after a long week and lean towards Friday. TGIF!
The weekend is already feeling distant at this point in the day on a Monday afternoon but the start of the summer felt great while it lasted. I spent my weekend drinking wine (obviously), doing some cooking and taking paddle boarding lessons! Just when you think there is nothing new to do in the area, you stumble on a unique adventure that changes all perceptions. Check out SUP Paddle Boarding lessons with Soraya! It couldn’t have been more fun.
With lots of t time seeking adventure, I love an appetizer that take almost zero time. A sweet peppadew pepper stuffed with salami and parmesan cheese was suggested on thekitchn.com a couple weekends ago. It’s a charming bite sized appetizer that is a punch of color and flavor. Just like all things summer should be. Stock up on staples and you’ll always have time to host.
I’m starting to believe that there isn’t anything less than perfect about crostini. They are versatile and perfect for a meal or a snack. And, nothing beats a nice piece of toasted bread. This combination is unusual, beautifully green and perfect for Springtime. It might scare the average Joe with it’s color but it won’t disappoint with flavor. Try it. I promise.
Sweet Pea Topping
- About 2 cups frozen peas, defrosted
- 1 garlic clove
- 1/2 cup grated pecorino cheese
- small handful of basil
- 1 sprig of fresh mint
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus extra for seasoning
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus extra for seasoning
- 1/3 cup olive oil
Pulse everything together into a nice chunky paste. Taste for seasoning.
- good crusty bread
- more olive oil
Slice the bread into thick pieces. Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper. Broil until toasted. Top with pea mixture, a slice of prosciutto and more pepper. And, a splash of lemon olive oil, if you have it.
This weekend, my friend April and I hosted a small gathering of friends to celebrate the re-definement (retirement) of our friend Judy. It was the hottest day of 2014 and perfect for champagne cocktails, fried chicken and waffles, fruit salad and asparagus deviled eggs. As Judy likes to say, “yum, yum, yum!”
I love things that can be made in advance for brunch celebrations. These were perfect because they were portable and delicious. I always forget how much labor is involved in deviled eggs -but these are so worth it and perfect for the season!
Asparagus Deviled Eggs
- 12 large eggs
- 1 bundle, asparagus spears
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 1/4 cup smooth Dijon – or more to taste
- white pepper, to taste
- old bay seasoning, to taste
Hard-boil eggs using whichever method you prefer.
Roast asparagus spears until bright green and tender. Cut 1/2-inch off the tips of each spears. Puree remaining asparagus in food processor. Smear on a paper towel to remove some moisture.
Peel your eggs. Cut each in half lengthwise . Remove the yolks and add to a stand up mixer. Whip together remaining ingredients and asparagus puree. Season.
Spoon our pipe the mixture into each egg half, or use a piping bag with a star tip for a fancier presentation. Decorate each stuffed egg with a reserved asparagus tip (you’ll be a little short of what you need), and the remaining with the extra shallot, scallion or chives. Wrap tray in plastic and keep in fridge until ready to serve.
About a month ago, my friend and coworker Dabney, hosted an interactive dumpling class at The Greensboro Children’s Museum Edible Schoolyard. It was really fun and laid back. And it also reminded me how much fun making dumplings can be with friends and plenty of wine.
Here are two easy recipes for dumplings.
Make a night out of it! And don’t blame me for the mayhem.
Pork & Cabbage
- 2 pounds ground pork, minced in a food processor
- ½ small head Napa cabbage, cut into chunks
- 1 large head garlic, separated and peeled, minced in a food processor
- 1 4” piece fresh ginger, peeled and cut into chunks the size of the garlic cloves, minced in a food processor
- 4-6 Tbsp soy sauce
- 2-4 Tbsp sesame oil
Mushroom & Tofu
- 3 cups cabbage, shredded on large holes of box grater
- 8 ounces tofu (any firmness), crumbled
- 4 ounces fresh shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
- 2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
- 1 tablespoon fresh basil, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
For the dumplings, buy at least one package of dumpling wrappers per recipe.
Both recipes are simple. Using your hands, combine ingredients until well-mixed.Place filling in wrapper and pinch to form an octagonal dumpling or press in a dumpling maker. Pan fry over medium heat with a dash of oil or just steam to serve.
Are you planning a romantic meal for a snowy Valentines Day tomorrow? Here is an exceptional treat to spice up your night. Nothing says “Olive You” like toast smeared with thick ricotta cheese and salty olives and pistachios. Use this recipe as a starter or a part of the meal. With good red wine, of course!
This crostini is bright green, tangy, spicy and savory with the balence of creamy cheese. I couldn’t get enoughs and it will become a regular treat for guests or single nights at home.
Crostini with Ricotta, Olive and Pistachio
- 3/4 cup ricotta, drained in a sieve over night
- 1/4 cup, chopped pistachio
- 1/4 cup, Castelvetravo olives (they are super green and less salty)
- 1/4 cup, good olive oil
- 2 tablespoons, chopped parsley
- 2 anchovies, minced
- 1/2 lemon, juiced
- 1/2 teaspoon, orange zest
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- pinch of red chili flake
- 4 thick sliced country bread, toasted
Drain the ricotta over night in a sieve over night. This will make it thick and rich. And, season it a little with salt and pepper.
Combine everything else (except the bread) and stir together. Taste for seasoning.
Toast the bread in the broiler with a brush of olive oil. Smear with ricotta and top with olive mixture. Serve immediately.
My New Year’s Eve celebration was spent with good friends in the North Carolina mountains. It was much more relaxed of an NYE than I can ever remember. We didn’t leave the house all day, had a great brunch, went on a four mile hike, napped, lounged and then spent the night playing cards, eating great food and laughing. Right before midnight we were able to do some great stargazing outside on a chilly walk with Winston.
I must admit, we made way too much food. Yet it was all adventure in the kitchen with tasty results. in the midsts of a heated card game, I served hot fried risotto balls. This recipe was a total test but turned out great. The key is buying frozen risotto from the store. The Fresh Market has two great varieties that are perfect for this use. Skipping the making of the risotto is the only way to do it.
While I know everyone is scaling back for the New Year, perhaps put this one on file for Super Bowl!
New Year’s Eve Fried Risotto Balls
- 1 box frozen The Fresh Market risotto (pumpkin or mushroom)
- 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 small ball fresh mozzarella cheese
- 2 cups Italian seasoned pinko bread crumbs
- canola oil
- parsley, minced
Prepare the frozen risotto as stated on the box. Add Parmesan cheese. Cook until thick and allow to cool in the refrigerator for about an hour (or in our case, outside on the frozen deck).
Once congealed, roll the risotto in small golf ball sized balls. Stuff a small cube of fresh mozzarella in the middle. Roll in pinko bread crumbs. Chill again.
Heat about one inch of oil in a high-sided pan on high heat. Fry the risotto balls until brown and crispy. Place on a paper towel covered plate and season with salt and chopped parsley. Enjoy while hot!
I’m inching towards Chiristmas and can’t resist sharing a couple more recipes to tie you through Santa’s visit. In my family growing up, we were always advised to skip the cookies and milk and leave an assortment of beer and party goods for Jolly Saint Nick. So, in the spirit of Christmas Eve, I’ll leave some of my favorite snacks that are great with cocktails by the fire or left for Santa before bed.
Merry Merry Christmas to you…. And to all a good night.