Life has been so hectic lately that the chilliness of Fall has totally snuck up on me. This weekend, I walked out the backdoor of my house to find a carpet of pecan tree leaves covering my garden. And I spent Sunday searching for last year’s sweaters and coats.
The calmness of the Thanksgiving holiday is something that I’m looking forward to. A couple quiet days spent lounging by the fireplace with family and pets, wondering when it’s close enough to five o’clock to start cocktail hour. Some wine, a warm brie, seasonal apples and crackers are the perfect effortless snack for these occasions.
I warm brie for just a few minutes (10 at most) in a 350 degree oven. If honey and nuts are in your pantry, they are a nice sticky addition. Add your favorite crackers and crisp apples for the best edible cheese travelers.
I’m looking forward to reporting back from a relaxing and fun Thanksgiving.
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.
Im just back from a wonderful weekend in the North Carolina highlands with some of my favorite friends. We spent three days drinking cocktails with views for miles, grilling on the most fantastic patio grill and mornings climbing in hopes to burn off a couple calories.
The first night we enjoyed gin and tonics with grilled bacon wrapped scallops drizzled with cayenne pepper. After the drive up, this appetizer couldn’t have been easier. Here’s the tip: The Fresh Market sells the skewers pre-made! You don’t have to soak the wooden skewers, deal with the wrapping or the skewering. Just grill, brush with a little butter and garnish with cayenne oil and a little chopped parsley. Looks pretty fancy, right?
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.
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.
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.
I know it’s Wednesday and there is some serious snow coming down but I want to share with you a fancy treat for your upcoming Oscar Night Party! If you didn’t know, I love the movies. This year I’ve already seen Philomena (great but sad), American Hustle (great acting but slow), Wolf of Wall Street (funny but really freaking long -and many more F words), August: Osage County (great acting but really freaking sad!) and some others I’m forgetting. I still need to see 12 Days a Slave, her, Captain Phillips, Dallas Buyers Club, Inside Llewyn Davis and many others (let me know if you want to go)! When the red carpet rolls out, I need to be ready to make some bets with my friends over a fancy meal by the tube.
There is something fun about preparing some thing fancy for a casual night with friends. I made this delicious small plate for my friends over New Years Eve and it was a very big hit. The recipe is from the cookbook “Small Bites, Big Nights.” It is a fun book that isn’t terribly practical but I’ve enjoyed having it on my shelves for inspiration. This recipe is fairly simple but a special treat for any soiree you are planning for a small crowd. Enjoy!
Seared Beef on Mini Yorkshire Pudding with Horshradish Cream
- 1 1/2 all purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 cups whole milk
- 3 large eggs
- 4 tablespoons canola oil
- 2 tablespoons horseradish
- 1/2 cup whipping cream
- 1 more, taboespoon canola oil
- 1 lb filet of beef
- 1/2 bunch chives
Preheat at the oven to 400 degrees.
For the Yorkshire pudding, mix the flour and salt. Then gradually add milk and eggs. Allow to rest in a bowl for 20 minutes.
Pour a a thin layer of canola oil in the bottom of a muffin tin and place in the oven. Pour in mixture about a fourth way up. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes or until brown and puffed.
Whip up cream and add horseradish.
Season beef with salt and pepper. Sear beef in a hot skillet with canola oil until desire temperature.
Assemble Yorkshire pudding with sliced beef and a dollop of cream.
This is is my favorite party standby. I’ve made at least three batches over the past week. Two for my own party and one as a last minute dish for a potluck. It really couldn’t be easier and comes out like a giant artichoke soufflé. When the back up artichoke dip came hot out of the oven around 10 o’clock in the evening – it was devoured.
It’s great with crackers, winter vegetables and any type of bread.
I typically add a couple more artichokes to the mix and an extra dash of cayenne pepper. You can spice it up anyway you like. I promise, it’ll be hit!
My Favorite Artichoke Dip
- 3/4 pound cream cheese
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1/2 cup parmesan
- 2 scallions
- 1 garlic clove
- 2 large eggs
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 2 cups canned artichokes
- cayenne pepper, to taste
Assembly: Pulse all ingredients together in a food processor. I do this in a couple steps to make sure everything is in the desired size (specifically the artichokes depending on how you buy them). Bake at 350 for 1 hour. Super easy, right?
As I mentioned on Sunday, a the whole Cedar Smoked Salmon was a big hit of the party. Every last morsel of the fish was eaten. While this is a great – and fantastically easy – idea for a big party, it is also delicious for a small gathering or for snacks throughout the week. You can purchase a small piece or a whole fish from The Fresh Market fish counter.
While some smoked fish can be overwhelmingly — fishy — this is balanced, mid and smokey. It is perfect with this Sour Cream and Caper Spread and a little red onion (if you are brave at a party!). Dig in!
Sour Cream & Caper Spread
- 1 container sour cream
- 1/4 cup drained capers
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/2 lemon, juiced