Archive for the Category ◊ Appetizers ◊

11 Sep 2013 Caprese Garlic Bread (with Tomatoes, Mozzarella and Basil)

caprese bread

It’s just garlic bread, folks, but it’s garlic bread with an upgrade! After running across this recipe at Two Peas and their Pod,  I decided I needed to make it! I quickly sent texts to a few friends and invited them to come over for a light supper and four replied “YES”!  I served this bread, a platter of cold shrimp, some sliced melon, iced tea and lemon meringue pie. It’s  great having friends who are good with spur-of-the-moment things 🙂

The bread was very good!  The Balsamic Reduction highlighted the simple tomato, cheese, and basil topping.  I made a few changes to the original recipe:  I used my own garlic bread base, I adjusted the cooking time for the balsamic reduction and I baked the tomatoes on the bread instead of laying them on after cooking.  BTW, do not skip the balsamic reduction, it’s fabulous!

I hope you have some backyard (or farmer’s market)  tomatoes on hand, because store bought tomatoes just aren’t invited to this party! And the photo above shows a bit too much cheese.  I bought fresh mozzarella from Costco and it came pre-sliced, so I just went with it.  Turns out I used double the cheese!  Oooops!  No one complained though 🙂  The recipe below has the correct amount of cheese listed but if you want to up it a bit, that’s up to you. One other piece of advice, the tomatoes shrink when baked, so pile them on the bread.  I think I could have added another slice of tomato to each row!

Caprese Garlic Bread

AKA: Garlic Bread with Tomatoes, Mozzarella and Basil

  • 1 loaf sourdough bread, horizontally cut in half (french bread would work, too.  The original recipe called for ciabatta, but I am in the SF Bay Area and sourdough rules around here!)
  • 4 tablespoons salted butter, softened
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (plus and extra tablespoon or so for garnish)
  • 3 Tablespoons dried onion, if you have it
  • 2 teaspoons dried basil (or 2 Tablespoons fresh)
  • 2 teaspoons dried parsley (or 2 Tablespoons fresh)
  • 12 oz. fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2-3 medium tomatoes, sliced
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh basil
  1. While you are getting all the ingredients together and doing the prep work, make the balsamic reduction. Place 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan. Bring the vinegar to a boil, decrease the heat to low, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is reduced by about half. How do you know when the vinegar has been reduced by half? Keep the measuring jug near the pan.  Every once in awhile pour the hot vinegar into the measuring cup.  If it’s not at 1/4 cup yet, pour it back in the pan and continue boiling. Keep doing this until the vinegar has been reduced to 1/4 cup. This will take about 10-15  minutes. Set the reduction aside to cool.  You won’t  need to use it until just before serving.
  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  3. In a small bowl combine butter, garlic, dried onion, basil, parsley, and parmesan cheese.  
  4. Cut the loaf of bread in half horizontally. Place both sides of the loaf on a large baking sheet with the cut side up. Spread the garlic butter mixture over both sides of the cut bread.  Spread to all the corners and completely to the outer edge of the bread.
  5. Place the mozzarella cheese slices on top of the bread, making sure the cheese covers the bread completely.
  6. Top the cheese with the sliced tomatoes.  Sprinkle tomatoes with salt and pepper, to taste. If desired, sprinkle a bit of parmesan cheese over the tomaotes.
  7. Bake the bread at 400 degrees for 12-15 minutes or until the cheese is melted.
  8. Remove the bread from oven.  Sprinkle fresh basil over the top of the bread and drizzle with balsamic reduction.
  9. Cut into slices and serve.

That’s all there is too it!  Enjoy the last of your summer tomatoes!  They are special, aren’t they? And thanks for dropping by today!

26 Jan 2013 Onion Rings

There are a lot of bad onion rings out there.  I know.  If onion rings are on the menu, I will find a way to order them, but I rarely order them a second time at the same restaurant.  There used to be some good Onion Rings out there (and, eternal optimist that I am,  I keep hoping I will stumble upon them once again), but not any more.  Onion Rings are pretty much universally bad now, and often the same from restaurant to restaurant.  There’s this huge ring of  “crunchy” (“stiff” would be a better word) “batter” (if that’s what you can call brown cement) engulfing a thin, watery, tasteless bit of something-that-looks-like-an-onion, which is served up hot and hard.  One bite, and that something-that-looks-like-an-onion comes slithering out leaving a hot ring of brown cement in your hand.  Sadly, these are not the worst Onion Rings.  The worst ones have the same batter, but with reconstituted onions on the inside!  Horrific.  Let me tell you a little secret though.  Onion Rings, good ones, real ones, are very easy to make.  If you promise to read my blog forever and ever, comment occasionally, and say nice things to your friends about it, then I will share my recipe with you!

Way back when, when my Dad was healthy, he would visit on a regular basis.  I would make a batch of these for him.  He’d sit on his stool, drink his Manhattan, eat onion rings  and tell me what a good cook I was while I prepared dinner.  That doesn’t happen any more.  Sometimes he forgets he’s eaten dinner, even when he’s still sitting at the table. Occasionally, he still tells me I am a good cook though.  I think I’ll make Onion Rings for him again, next time I see him.  Maybe they’ll trigger a memory, just like this recipe did for me.

There is not much batter on these Onion Rings, just a light coating of flour moistened with buttermilk…, and they are sooooooooo GOOD!

Polly’s Onion Rings

  • 2 or 3 large brown onions
  • 2 cups buttermilk (in a pinch I have successfully substituted 2% milk)
  • 4 teaspoons salt (divided use)
  • 1 teaspoon pepper (more if you are a pepper lover, you could also substitute or add in a dash of cayenne, if you’d like)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • oil for frying (I use one 48-oz bottle of canola or vegetable oil.  I discard all the oil when cool)

1.          Cut onion into 1/2 inch thick slices and separate into rings (my rings are usually a bit less  than ½ inch)

2.        In a large bowl or  Ziploc mix buttermilk and 2 teaspoons salt.  Add in the onion rings.  Stir or shake to drench all the onions.  Let onions soak in the buttermilk, at room temperature, for least 10 minutes, and up to an hour or more.  Stir or shake occasionally.

3.        Drain rings from buttermilk. Discard the buttermilk…or save it for another use. ( I have been know to use the buttermilk and the leftover flour from the next step  in Yorkshire pudding batter.)

4.        In a large Ziploc bag combine 2 cups flour, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon of pepper.  Shake to combined.

5.        Add onion rings to the flour mixture a few at a time.  Shake until covered with flour.  Remove the rings from the flour and place on a cake rack to dry for at least 15 minutes (and up to an hour).  Repeat until all onion rings are lightly coated in flour and drying on a rack.

6.        Pour oil into a heavy pan.  Heat oil to 360 degrees. (If you are an experienced and careful cook, the oil can be heating while you are completing step 5)

7.        Fry onion rings, in batches, until golden.  Turn each ring over at least once.  (A batch, determined by the size of your pan and the size of the onion ring, so a batch could be as few as 4 onion rings or as many as 10.  Try to cook large onion rings in the same batch, small onion rings in the same batch, the medium onion rings together, and so on.) Each batch should cook for approx. 3 minutes (up the time a bit for larger onions).

8.        Transfer cooked onion rings to a paper towel lined tray to drain off and absorb excess oil then place in a 200 degree oven to keep warm, while you fry another batch. (My family eats as I fry, I can’t get them in the oven.)  Bring the oil temperature back to 360 degrees before adding more onions.

9.        Serve hot with additional salt (I use Kosher salt)

Makes approx 50 onion rings.

I just made these for the “Superbowl Snack” theme meeting of my cookbook club. They are great to make as your guests walk in, as they are best right out of the oil.  Don’t cut up too many onions though, or you will never get a chance to sit down.  I find folks will eat as many onion rings as I make…, and at a faster clip than I can make them!

Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today.  It was a good day to stop by, this is one of my all time best recipes (and one of my most sinful… 🙂 )

 

17 Oct 2011 Brown Bag Popcorn

I have been meaning to post this for ages.  It’s so simple.  It’s so easy. It’s so GREAT.  Listen, there is no need to buy any more packages of oily microwave popcorn!  REALLY!  Save money. Save calories. Reduce waste. Skip the preservatives.

Those big time popcorn companies really pulled one over on us.  You don’t need thier fancy box,  their fancy bag, their celephane overlay, their oil (or any oil at all), to pop popcorn in the microwave.  You just need one plain brown lunch bag (approx 10.5 inches x 5.5 inches), 1/3 cup of popcorn, and 1 microwave, and 2 minutes on the timer.  DONE! It’s like….a miracle!

Why did I post this recipe now?  Because a Pumpkin Spice Coffee (my previous post) a fresh bowl of popcorn, and reality TV  is just about the perfect way to enjoy a bit of fall R&R. Project Runway hails on Thursday.  Brew the decaf.  Pop the corn.  Slippers.  Snuggle quilt. It’s gonna be a good, good night!

Brown Bag Popcorn

1/3 cup popcorn kernels (no more, no less)

1 brown lunch bag

1 tablespoon melted butter, if desired

pinch of salt (to taste), if desired

Pour the measured 1/3 cup popcorn kernels into the brown bag.  Fold the top of the brown bag down at least twice, just so the bag fits into the microwave and is able to turn.  Set the timer for 2 minutes.  POPCORN!  IF desired, drizzle the freshly popped popcorn with 1 tablespoon butter and a pinch of salt.  Shake in the bag to combine.  Then pour into a bowl and enjoy.  Serves one or two.

Just a few notes…there will be some unpopped kernels at the bottom of the bag.  Look for them, and then don’t pour them into the serving bowl!  Measure the popcorn!  If you get too much popcorn in the bag the bag could burst.  If you put in too little, the popcorn could start to burn.  Gray popcorn does not taste good.

My grandson likes popcorn for breakfast. I think it's a lot better for him than highly processed, often highly sugared, always full of preservatives boxed cereal.

It’s so SIMPLE!  Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today.  I hope there are many bowls of freshly popped popcorn in your future.

 

 

08 Oct 2011 Quesadilla Pie

Looking for something new for lunch? I have the perfect thing!  This lunch has to be baked, so it’s a great fall-winter recipe.  I found it at Simply Recipes awhile back .  Finding this recipe was a paradigm shift in lunches around here.

For me now it’s not so much a recipe, but a method.  I did make some changes to the recipe though,  mainly around baking time.  I don’t know why they cook their pie so long, the pie would be cracker crispy if baked for as long as they specify. Still, it would be good to go to the site, there are some good layering photos posted.

The only two ingredients needed for this pie are cheese and flour tortillas.  Everything else is up to you, what you like, and what you have on hand! (see the ingredient suggestion list).  Do you see the paradigm shift potential here?  It’s kind of like learning to make an omelet, or a sandwich, and realizing there are no limits to what you can do, every omelet could be different, every sandwich could be different, just every Quesadilla Pie can be different.

Yes. every time I make Quesadilla pie, it’s different, and every time I make it, it’s good. Sometimes it has three layers, other times five layers. Some times it’s all veggie-most of the time actually, and sometimes it’s a carnivore’s delight. The pie I have pictured here has a layer of spinach and cheese, a layer of fresh tomatoes (juiced, seeded, and chopped) and cheese, a layer of fresh spinach (no need to precook) and cheese, a layer of sauteed onions and zucchini and cheese, and a layer of corn and cheese. That’s five layers, and six tortillas.

Quesadilla Pie

  • 4 or 5 or 6 plate sized flour tortillas (9-10 inches diameter), depending on how many layers you want your pie to have!
  • A bit of butter (not optional)
  • Approx. 1/2 pound grated cheese-one kind, or a mixture based on what you have on hand, (Monterey Jack, Pepper Jack, and Mozzarella are really good.  I usually blend a variety of cheeses-whatever I have in the refrigerator, and always add some Mozzarella (I like it’s “stringy” qualities!).  A bit of cheddar is OK when mixed in with other cheeses, but I find a lot cheddar results in an oily, soggy dish.  A pre-packaged, pre-shredded “Mexican Blend”  could be used, too.)
  • Choice of filling ingredients: (Each layer should have cheese plus one, maybe two, filling    ingredients. Don’t make each layer the same!)
  • fresh  spinach leaves; tomatoes, juiced, seeded and chopped (otherwise they make the tortilla soggy); sliced olives; sautéed/cooked zucchini; any leftover cooked veggie, diced (I’ve added broccoli, asparagus, sweet potato…); chopped and sautéed/cooked onions (yellow or red onions); chopped green onions; cooked mushrooms (if not sautéed first, they make the tortilla soggy); leftover cooked and cubed or shredded chicken, beef/steak, pork, sausage, bacon; cooked or canned green chiles; canned or cooked beans (black beans, pinto beans, pinquitos); fresh or frozen corn
  • Cumin and/or chili powder for extra heat, optional
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Butter the bottom and sides of a pie plate or quiche dish, (pie plate or quiche dish should be approximately the same size as your tortillas). Do not skip the butter.
  3. Place one tortilla on the bottom of the pie dish. Sprinkle some shredded cheese over the tortilla. Use a generous portion of cheese. Add your chosen filling ingredient to this layer. If you want, sprinkle some cumin or chili powder on top for a spicier pie (probably  not necessary if you are using Pepper Jack and/or chilies).
  4. Repeat: tortilla, generous sprinkling of cheese, a chosen filling ingredient, and a sprinkle of optional cumin or chili powder. Make three or four layers, all stacked on top of each other.
  5. Butter the top of the final tortilla and place on top of your “pie”, buttered side up.
  6. Cover the dish with aluminum foil.
  7. Place in preheated 350 degree oven for 20 minutes.
  8. Remove foil and increase the heat to 375°F. Cook for another 5-10 minutes, or until the top tortilla is lightly browned and cheese is bubbly.
  9. Remove from oven. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.
  10. Cut into slices.  This pie is finger food (once it cools off a bit!).  It’s actually a bit difficult to eat with just a fork.
  11. Serves 2, 3, or 4 persons–depending on appetites and possible side dishes. We just eat, as-is, for lunch.
  12. Serve with salsa, sour cream, and/or avocado, if desired.

Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today.  I hope  you and this recipe for Quesadilla Pie enjoy many happy years together!


23 Jul 2011 Beef Skewers

Meat on a stick! Is there anything better?  When I was pregnant with my first child, my cravings were iced tea, tomato soup, and “tasty chunks of beef”!  Twenty-six year later, I still crave tasty chunks of beef!

This is a very easy recipe, resulting is some mighty fine, Asian accented, “tasty chunks of beef”.  Chill the meat for 30 minutes, marinate for 30 minutes, grill and eat.  For a special treat serve with corn-on-the-cob, grilled veggies or a salad and some Bloomin’ Onion Bread!

When I was a single full time working mother of three children I was a master of freezer food.  This was one of my favorites.  Homebaked Chicken Nuggets were another.  I would buy two flank steaks and some skewers.  I’d unroll the flank steaks and then freeze for 30 minutes to make it easier to slice. At the same time I would soak the skewers in cold water.  Then I’d probably sit down with my feet up, an iced coffee and a good book while the the meat chilled and the skewers soaked, LOL!  A sense of humor is a wonderful thing!  More than likely during that thirty minutes I’d finish putting the groceries away, wipe up a spill, ask a telemarketer to put me on the no-call list, solve a kid dispute, feed the dog, move the laundry over, eat lunch and load the dishwasher …  ANYWAY, after thirty minutes I’d slice the beef and thread it onto the skewers.  Then I would layer the skewers into a shoe box sided plastic container.  I’d put wax paper between the layers, and freeze the whole box.  One box would last two or three months and provide plenty of yummy and quick week night main dishes…easily expandable to however many people were home.  Just take out 3-5 skewers per person.  Mix up the marinade.  Marinate the desired number of skewers for 30 minutes, then grill or broil!

Oh, and I often omit the sesame seeds, as I don’t care for them 🙂

Beef Skewers

  • 1 flank steak, approx 1.5 lbs, (unrolled) and slightly frozen (for about 30 min or so)
  • 30 bamboo skewers (soaked in water for 30 minutes)

Marinade

  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons Sake (an opened bottle will keep 1 year in refrigerator)
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1 ½ teaspoons grated ginger (keep any leftover fresh ginger in baggie in freezer, when ready to use no need to defrost, just peel and grate!)
  • 2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds (toast in dry frying pan until fragrant)
  • 3 green onions sliced

  1. Slice flank steak, across the grain, into thin strips.  Thread meat slices onto skewers, accordion style. It’s easy!  Child’s play!  (NOTE: Meat on sticks can be frozen at this point. When ready to use, just remove from freezer.  Let defrost for as long as it takes to make marinade.  Then continue with recipe.)
  2. Combine soy sauce, sugar, and sake; stir well to dissolve sugar.  Add in garlic, ginger, sesame seeds, and green onions.
  3. Pour over meat on sticks.  Marinate 30 minutes.
  4. Remove skewers from marinade.
  5. Grill over hot fire or broil for 2-3 minutes on each side.  Good hot, room temperature, and cold! I’ve served these as appetizers and as a main dish.

    Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today!  I hope I have given you an idea for this weekend’s BBQ and for busy school night meals, too!

    22 Jul 2011 Traditional Arabic Hummus

    Traditional Arabic hummus.  How do I know its traditional?  Because I learned how to make it from my Saudi and Kuwaiti students in 1981 and 1982.  I watched how they made it, wrote everything down, and have followed the recipe ever since.  Well, once I tinkered with it and added a bit of cumin and coriander.   My kids reacted most negatively.  I remember their scorn quite clearly,  “What did you do to the hummus? It tastes FOUL!”  Lesson learned.  No tinkering with the authentic 🙂

    This was the first recipe my son learned how to follow and  for a long time was the only thing he knew how to make.  Truth be told, his hummus is better than mine!  Why?  He follows the recipe!  He shells the garbanzo beans, just like my students used to do.  (Before 1981 I didn’t even know the garbanzos had shells, but they do.  Pop one out of its clear little membrane, and you’ll see!)  Over the years I have gotten lazy, and I now no longer shell the garbanzos.  As a result, my hummus isn’t as smooth as my son’s or as my students’ used to be.

    Do as you wish, shell the garbanzos or not, just don’t even think of tinkering with the other simple ingredients.

    Traditional Arabic Hummus

    • 1 can Garbanzo beans
    • 4 garlic cloves, minced
    • 1/2 cup sesame paste (available at most larger supermarkets now, in the middle eastern foods section)
    • approx. 1/2 cup reserved garbanzo liquid
    • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
    • 2 tablespoons olive oil
    • paprika (optional)
    1. Drain the garbanzo beans, reserving the liquid.
    2. Shell the garbanzo beans if desired (shelling the garbanzos results in a much smoother dip).
    3. Place drained garbanzos, approx. 1/2 cup reserved liquid, lemon juice and olive oil in a blender and process until smooth.
    4. That’s IT!   Isn’t that easy?
    5. Add more garbanzo liquid if needed to make a softer dip.  Remove dip to a serving bowl.  My students used to spread the hummus onto a dinner plate and drizzle with a bit of olive oil and a sprinkle of paprika.  Americans usually serve it out of a bowl.  My students served hummus only with triangles of warm pita bread.  American often serve with pita bread plus carrot and celery sticks, cucumber rounds, red pepper strips, and cherry tomatoes.

    From following my students around I also have recipes for Sambusas and Kapsa, and so many warm and fond memories of teaching English as a Second Language to some wonderful pre-literate Arabic and Saudi women.

    Thanks for stopping by my middle eastern kitchen today. Enjoy the hummus.  It’s better than that stuff you can buy in tubs, and much cheaper!