Tag Archives: appetizer

Chopped Caprese Salad with Balsamic Reduction

Caprese Salad 2

A Caprese Salad is the perfect accompaniment to grilled summer meats: chicken, steaks, pork, even hamburgers. Made with summer fresh tomatoes and basil, fresh mozzarella, and a reduced balsamic glaze, it just screams summer and healthy eating.

Caprese Salad 1

I like to make a “chopped” version of the salad with various cherry tomatoes, fresh basil, and mozzarella pearls. I drizzle this with some extra-virgin olive oil and serve the balsamic reduction on the side so that the tomatoes and cheese don’t soak up too much vinegar before serving.

I love these little “mozzarella pearls”. They are perfectly bite-sized:

Image result for mozzarella pearls   Pearls

If you are short on time, you can serve this with straight balsamic vinegar, but it is so worth the little time it takes to reduce the vinegar to a stronger syrupy consistency. I usually reduce an entire bottle of vinegar and then store the left-overs  in the refrigerator. You can also infuse some delicious flavors into your reduction while you are at it, things like fresh herbs and garlic. Some people add additional honey or sweetener to the reduction, but I find balsamic vinegar to be plenty sweet without additional sweetener.

If you don’t want to do the chopped version of this salad, you can also make it in the more traditional format with sliced tomatoes and mozzarella:

Caprese Salad 3

Tomorrow we officially begin our summer break (after a final half-day of school). This salad will be a frequent side dish on our table.

Caprese Salad 2

RECIPE:

Chopped Caprese Salad with Balsamic Reduction

Caprese Salad 2

2 cups cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 cup mozzarella pearls
¼ cup fresh basil, sliced in thin strips (chiffonade)
2 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil
salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
about ¼ cup  Balsamic Reduction

Combine tomatoes, mozzarella, basil, and olive oil in a serving dish. Season with salt and pepper. Serve Balsamic Reduction on the side to be drizzled over salad just before eating.

Balsamic Reduction

1 (16 oz) bottle balsamic vinegar
1 Tbs honey, optional (I DO NOT add honey)
2 whole cloves of garlic
1 bay leaf
1-2 sprigs of fresh herbs (rosemary, thyme, oregano)

Place all ingredients in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer gently until vinegar reduces by about half and thickens to a thin syrup. This will take about 10-15 minutes.

Remove garlic, bay leaf, and herbs (strain if necessary). Cool. Store leftovers in the refrigerator.

Yield: about 1 cup glaze

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Filed under Appetizers, Salads, Side Dishes

Bacon Jalapeño Scones

Bacon Jalapeno Scones 4

Scones don’t have to just be a dessert food. Scone dough is perfectly suited to add savory ingredients and served for breakfast or brunch. Or as an accompaniment to soup, stew, or chili for dinner. These scones are stuffed full of bacon, green onions, gruyere and Parmesan cheeses, and chopped jalapenos.

I only used one jalapeño this time, which was hardly noticeable. Next time I will use 2-3. Heat levels of jalapeños vary widely, however, so it is wise to taste a small piece before committing to adding 3 full jalapeños.

You can eat these plain, slathered with butter or Clotted Cream, or topped with jam. I served them with a homemade sweet & spicy Mango Jalapeño Jam.

Bacon Jalapeno Scones 5

To form the scones, transfer your dough to a well-floured surface and use your hands to shape dough into an 8” round disc about 3/4-inch thick.

Bacon Jalapeno Scones 1

Use a sharp knife to cut into 8 wedges. This recipe makes 16 scones. Don’t make one large circle and cut into 16 pieces. Instead, divide dough in half and make 8 from each round.

Bacon Jalapeno Scones 2

An important factor in getting light, airy scones is not working the dough more than necessary. An easy and effective way to cut your butter into the dry ingredients is to use a cheese grater to shred frozen butter into your dry ingredients and then mix only briefly. You want there to still be strands of visible butter. That is what will create the air pockets and layers in your scones.

Tip for adding butter: This recipe calls for 8 Tbs (1 stick) of butter. Freeze TWO  sticks, then take a pen and mark around the 4 Tbs line on each stick. (It is hard to grate slippery butter all the way down to the end of the stick without grating your fingers ) Fold back the paper on the sticks of butter to the line you’ve drawn.  Holding the paper-covered end of the butter, grate the butter directly into your dry ingredients (briefly stir occasionally so that you don’t have a big pile of butter in one spot). Stop grating when you get to the line where you’ve folded back your butter paper. I usually use the larger of the two grating hole sizes on the grater.

You can also grate butter that is just refrigerated, not frozen, but it will hold it’s consistency longer if you freeze it for about 30 minutes first.

Bacon Jalapeno Scones 3

RECIPE:

Bacon Jalapeño Scones

Bacon Jalapeno Scones 4

2 ½ cups flour
2 Tbs sugar
1 Tbs baking powder
1 tsp coarse kosher salt
½ cup unsalted butter (freeze TWO sticks for 30 mins for easier grating)
2/3 cup buttermilk
2 eggs, beaten lightly
½ cup chopped crisply-cooked bacon
¼ cup chopped green onion
2-3 jalapeños, seeded and finely chopped
2/3 cup grated Gruyere or Swiss cheese
¼ cup grated fresh Parmesan

Egg wash: 1 egg, beaten + 2 Tbs heavy cream

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.

Cut the butter into the flour mixture to form coarse crumbs. Tip for adding butter: Freeze TWO sticks of butter, then take a pen and mark around the 4 Tbs line on each stick. (It is hard to grate slippery butter all the way down to the end of the stick without grating your fingers ) Fold back the paper on the sticks of butter to the line you’ve drawn.  Holding the paper-covered end of the butter, grate the butter directly into your dry ingredients (briefly stir occasionally so that you don’t have a big pile of butter in one spot). Stop grating when you get to the line where you’ve folded back your butter paper. I usually use the larger of the two grating hole sizes on the grater.

Mix together the buttermilk and the beaten eggs. Make a well in the center of the  flour mixture and stir in milk just until moistened.

In a small bowl, stir together the cooked bacon, green onions, jalapeños, and grated cheeses. Mix gently into the scone dough.

On a floured surface, knead dough lightly until evenly mixed. Divide the dough in half. Pat each dough half into an 8-inch round about 3/4 inch thick. Cut each circle into 8 wedges.

Line baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats. Place dough wedges on prepared sheets and place in freezer for 30 minutes to chill.

Preheat oven to 400°F. Remove scones from freezer and brush lightly with egg wash. Bake for 16-18 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.

Serve plain or with butter, Clotted Cream, or Mango Jalapeño Jam.

Yield: 16 scones

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**TO FREEZE SCONES TO SERVE AT A LATER TIME:

Scones can be frozen either before or after baking.

To freeze before baking: Prepare scone dough. Cut scones and place on a baking sheet lined with foil or parchment paper. DO NOT brush with egg wash. Freeze until firm. Place into Ziploc bag or freezer container and store in freezer. Place frozen scones on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or silicone mat. Let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. Brush tops of scones with egg wash. Bake at 400°F for 18-20 minutes.

To freeze after baking: Prepare and bake scones. Cool completely and place on a baking sheet lined with foil or parchment paper. Freeze until firm. Place into Ziploc bag or freezer container and store in freezer. Place frozen scones on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or silicone mat. Let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. Bake at 300°F for 10-12 minutes.

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Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies (and other stuff): Roasted Spiced Pecans

Roasted Spiced Pecans

DAY 4: Roasted Spiced Pecans

These slightly spicy nuts are my family’s very favorite snack. I make them all year round, at least once or twice a month.

And since this is a savory treat, not a sweet one, you can feel good about dipping into these all through the holidays!

RECIPE:

Roasted Spiced Pecans

Yield: 6 cups

Roasted Spiced Pecans

6 cups (24oz bag) pecan halves
5 Tbs butter
2 Tbs Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbs Sriracha sauce (adjust to taste)
1 tsp coarse kosher salt
¾ tsp garlic powder
½ tsp onion powder
½ tsp ground mustard

Preheat oven to 300°F. Line a large baking sheet with foil.

Place pecan halves in a large mixing bowl. Melt butter in a glass measuring cup or small bowl. Stir in remaining seasonings and mix well. Pour butter mixture over pecans and stir until pecans are well coated.

Spread pecans in an even layer on baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes; stir and bake for an additional 10-12 minutes. Allow pecans to cool on the baking sheet, stirring occasionally as they cool. Store in an airtight container.

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Roasted Pumpkin (Squash) Seeds

What to do with all of the seeds from your recently carved Jack-o-Lantern or roasted pumpkins and winter squash? Whatever you do, don’t throw them away! Save them for a super delicious (and nutritious) snack that will keep you out of your kids’ Halloween candy.

Seeds from any variety of winter squash or pumpkin can be roasted and eaten.

Scrape pumpkin/squash and remove pulp and seeds.

Separate seeds from pulp, discarding pulp. Rinse the seeds and pat dry with paper towels or a dishtowel. Place the dry seeds in a shallow pie plate or roasting pan.

Seeds can be cooked immediately, or allowed to further dry first. Drying the seeds longer will make them less chewy, more crisp. This will help if you tend to get things stuck in your teeth or dental work.

To dry, let seeds air dry in a shallow pan for several hours up to several days, stirring occasionally, to keep them from sticking to one another.

Stir in seasonings and roast seeds until they are a golden brown.

Roasted pumpkin, butternut squash and acorn squash seeds.

Roasted Delicata squash seeds (small yellow squash with green stripes). These are especially delicious. Very tender.

RECIPE:

Roasted Pumpkin or Squash Seeds

2 cups rinsed and dried pumpkin or winter squash seeds
2 Tbs butter
1 Tbs Worcestershire sauce
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/8 tsp hot (spicy) Hungarian paprika

Place seeds on a foil lined (I like non-stick foil) baking sheets. Preheat oven to 350°F.

Melt butter and stir in remaining seasonings. Pour over seeds in pan and stir until well coated.

Roast for about 15 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes, until seeds are golden brown. Cool completely before storing in an airtight container.

Yield: 2 cups roasted seeds

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