hors d'oeuvres

Tzatziki

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In my last post I mentioned that my New Year’s get-together is an all-day, all-hors d’oeuvre event. A dairy fest and, several hours later, a meat-fest followed, several hours later by dessert.

Some of the tidbits I serve are homemade, some not, some fancy, others plain, some elaborate, some easy.

This one is amazingly easy and you can to make it ahead, in fact, you have to make it ahead. It’s refreshing, looks pretty and fits in perfectly with some of the other stuff I’m thinking of serving: Herbed Feta Cheese with Sundried Tomatoes and Olives, Smoked Salmon and Asparagus Rollups, Herb and Cheese Gougeres (Choux Puffs), Fresh Tomato Puff Pastry Pizzas.

Happy New Year everyone.

Tzatziki (Cacik)

  • 3 cups thick, Greek style non-fat yogurt

  • 3 medium cucumbers

  • 1 large clove garlic, minced

  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint

  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill

  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice

  • 1 tablespoons olive oil

Place a double layer of cheesecloth in a strainer. Spoon the yogurt into the lined strainer and set it over a bowl. Let rest in the refrigerator for 4 hours. Place the yogurt in a bowl (discard the liquid that has accumulated in the bowl). Peel the cucumbers and cut them in half lengthwise. Scoop and discard the seeds. Grate the cucumber in a food processor or by hand. Strain the cucumber through a sieve, pressing down to extract as much liquid as possible. When the yogurt is ready, stir in the cucumbers, garlic, mint, dill, salt, lemon juice and olive oil.  Stir to blend all the ingredients thoroughly. 

Makes about 4 cups, serving 10-12 people.

 

Beet Tarte Tatin

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Every New Year’s Eve my brother and sister-in-law come over for the day, my cousins sleep over for a couple of days. We start our celebration early with a round of drinks and hors d’oeuvre. A few hours later we have another round of drinks and hors d’oeuvre.

No dinner.

We have dessert much later, near midnight. The anticipation of something sweet helps keep us up so we can watch the ball drop and then go to bed.

Some of the hors d’oeuvre I serve are fancy, some plain; some homemade, some from a package (like the Spring Valley or Hebrew National franks-in-blankets that everyone loves).

A while ago I read a blog post about Beet tarte tatins and was inspired to make some because they looked and sounded so appealing. I made up my own recipe, tried it a few times and decided that they would be perfect as one of the fancies at this year’s New Year get-together.

I wrote down whose blog it was, so I could credit her with the inspiration, but I can’t find the paper and forgot the name.

But — to that wonderfully creative person who alerted me to beet tarte tatin —- thank you.

Here’s my recipe.

Beet Tarte Tatins

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

  • 1 large beet (8-10 ounces)

  • 2 small chopped shallots or 1/3 cup chopped red onion

  • 1 teaspoon Mirin (rice vinegar)

  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar

  • 1 teaspoon crushed, dried rosemary (or 2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary)

  • salt to taste

  • 1/2 pound puff pastry

  • 2 teaspoons grated fresh orange peel

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Use a small amount of the olive oil to brush the insides of 6 muffin tins. Peel the beet and cut it into thin slices, then cut the slice to make them small enough to fit inside the muffin tins. Place the cut beet slices in a bowl. Add the shallots and toss the ingredients. In another small bowl, whisk together the remaining olive oil, Mirin and brown sugar and pour the dressing over the beet mixture. Sprinkle with the rosemary and salt and spoon equal amounts of the beet mixture inside the muffin tins. Cover the filled tins with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the tin from the oven. Raise the oven heat to 400 degrees. Cut out 6 circles from the puff pastry to cover the top of the muffin tins. Place over the beets. Bake for another 20 minutes or until the pastry is puffed and golden brown. Carefully spoon each beet mixture from the bottom and turn it over onto a dish so that the pastry is at the bottom. Spoon any remaining beets that do not come up and place them on the tarte tatins. Garnish with the orange peel and serve (may be served hot or at room temperature).

Makes 6

Best Hummus

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Despite the fact that hummus is the most popular snack and you can buy dozens of different kinds in every supermarket, I still make my own. And every time, a different recipe, always trying for perfection.

I served a version seasoned with zatar and garnished with toasted pine nuts once for an election night get-together.

I've made hummus using dried chick peas and canned.

One year the guests at my annual Break-the-Fast declared that year's hummus the best they ever tasted.

But apparently last year's Break-the-Fast version topped even that! 

So here is the recipe: easy to make, terrific for entertaining, for snacks, as a sandwich spread. Perfect all year, perfect for break-the-fast.

 

Lemony-Garlic Hummus

  • 1 can chickpeas (about one pound)

  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice

  • 1/2 cup tahini

  • 2 large cloves garlic

  • 1 teaspoon paprika

  • 1/2 teaspoon zatar

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • cayenne pepper to taste (I use 1/8 teaspoon)

  • chopped parsley, optional, about 2-3 tablespoons

  • zatar, optional

  • pita bread or chips

Drain the chickpeas but reserve the liquid. Place the chickpeas, lemon juice, tahini, garlic, paprika, zatar, salt and cayenne pepper in a food processor. Process until you reach the texture you like, adding 3-4 tablespoons of the reserved chickpea liquid if you prefer it smoother and softer. Spoon into a serving bowl. Sprinkle with optional parsley and zatar. Serve with pita bread or chips.

Makes about 1-1/2 cups.

Tropical Salsa

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In our family, Mother's Day involves a cookoff. Everyone participates in some way. We pick a theme, some people cook, some set the table, some help clean up and so on. Then we all eat what we have cooked and everyone wins a prize for something, like: best looking; most delicious; most unusual.....

It's been so much fun over the years and we all believe it beats going to a restaurant which, because it's a holiday, is usually crowded and noisy and the service awful.

This year's theme was "dips."

My son-in-law and one of the grandkids made a hot French Onion Dip; one daughter and granddaughter made a spicy Red Pepper Dip; another daughter and child made a chocolate dip for dessert.

It was all awesome.

This was my entry, which got the award for "most refreshing" and "most attractive" as well as "most perfect for summer" awards.

It's so easy to make too.

Also, it really is perfect for summer.

And it is actually refreshing and attractive.

So -- for summer company or just for yourself, try my award-winning Tropical Salsa. Serve it on Father's Day. Or July 4th!

By the way, this is also a good side dish with grilled meat, poultry or fish and can be used to top a hamburger.

Tropical Salsa

  • 2 cups diced fresh papaya
  • 2 large mangoes, peeled and diced
  • 1 large avocado, peeled and diced
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, deseeded and finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh lime peel
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • salt
  • corn chips or other favorite chips

Place the papaya, mango and avocado dice in a bowl. Add the jalapeno pepper, lime peel, lime juice and cilantro and toss to distribute the ingredients evenly. Taste and add salt as needed. Serve with chips.

Makes about 3 cups

Modern Jewish Baker by Shannon Sarna

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When I got Shannon Sarna’s new book, Modern Jewish Baker, I wanted to run into the kitchen and start baking. It’s that kind of book – based on a few beloved, classic, Jewish bakery basics (challah, bagels, babka and so on) plus an amazing number of inventive variations that sound too seriously compelling to miss.

Exactly my kind of cooking.

One problem. I have to lose weight and get my glucose at normal levels before my doctor’s appointment next month.

OY! Which of these fabulous bakery items should I make and still be on the straight and narrow path until the doctor thing is over?

Challah was out because, ok, I had tasted Shannon’s pull-apart spinach-cheese version at the book launch party and had to stop myself from eating more only because it would have been rude and gluttonous not to leave some for the other guests.

Bagels? No way, because then I’d eat a couple of those fat, crispy-crusted, puffy-inside things, load them with cream cheese and lox and then have to promise to start my diet “tomorrow.”

Rugelach or babka? Tell me the truth -- could you eat just one piece?

Me either. I had several samples at that launch party and – see above for thoughts on my ability to control myself if I had this stuff in my kitchen.

So it was down to either matzo or pita.

I chose pita because matzo means butter. Lots of it, or matzo brei loaded with sour cream, so, no.

Pita it was, because then I could have it with the hummus I could make with the recipe from the book and that’s healthy, right? Also, how much pita can one person eat? It's plain old bread, no chocolate or cheese or other extras.

Believe it or not, one person can actually eat quite a bit of plain old pita when it’s this good. Plus, it is really a thrill to see those yeasty rounds come out of the oven and actually look like packaged pita! (But taste much fresher and better). I felt like a triumphant teenager who had baked her first cake. Who knew you can make pita at home?! I’ve been at this cooking thing for years and years and never did it before.

But I will again! This stuff is not only tasty, but fun to make.

And the hummus was quite good too!

I’ll start the diet tomorrow.

This book is a winner.

Bonus recipe from the book -- Classic Hummus (Modern Jewish Baker):

  • 1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, rinsed and shells removed
  • 1/4 cup tahini
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 whole garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup olive oil plus additional for serving
  • 2-3 tablespoons water
  • Paprika (optional), for garnish
  • Za'atar (optional), for garnish

Place chickpeas, tahini, cumin, salt and garlic cloves in a food processor fitted with a blade attachment. Puree for 30 seconds. Add olive oil and process until smooth. Add water one tablespoon at a time until desired smoothness. Spoon onto plate or into a bowl. Top with paprika or za'atar and an extra drizzle of olive oil for serving.

Can be kept in an airtight container for 5-7 days in the refrigerator.

Makes 4-6 servings

 

 

Herbed Feta Cheese with Sundried Tomatoes and Olives

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A few weeks ago I took a quickie trip to Berlin with my daughter. We took a stroll through the Turkish outdoor market, where I saw someone selling a gorgeous hunk of feta cheese, scattered with sundried tomatoes and olives, seasoned with herbs and sprinkled with a drizzle of olive oil.

I noted the ingredients and took a photo. 

It looked so delicious that the moment I saw this cheese thing I knew I had to make it at home.

I did.

It is as good as I thought it would be. I served it to guests last weekend.

They raved.

Here's the recipe. 

Herbed Feta Cheese with Sundried Tomatoes and Olives

  • 1/2 pound feta cheese
  • 3 sundried tomatoes in oil
  • 8-10 imported black pitted olives
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Aleppo pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Cut the feta cheese into thick slices and place on a serving dish. Chop the sundried tomatoes and scatter them over the cheese. Scatter the olives around the cheese and dish. Scatter the parsley over the ingredients and sprinkle with the oregano and some Aleppo pepper to taste. Drizzle the olive oil on top.

Makes 8-10 servings

 

PuPu Platter Chicken Wings

What I am about to say may acknowledge me as a dinosaur but here it is: I remember the time before there was a Superbowl. 

I remember the first Superbowl. 1967.

I didn't watch. It was sort of a big deal, but not nearly the kind of nationwide (worldwide?) event it is today.

I can't recall what people served at Superbowl get-togethers. Or even if there were Superbowl get-togethers.

But I do remember that over the course of time, people everywhere used the occasion not only to watch football or bet, or both, but as time for a relaxed day with good friends and casual food. Like chicken wings.

I can remember before Buffalo Wings became a thing. And that after they did, wings of all sorts became one of the popular Superbowl foods.

For me -- wings were always a thing. The best part of the chicken. My mother told me they were the best part mostly because of the soft soft meat between the two narrow bones in the middle part of the wing.

She made chicken wings for us often.

I have made chicken wings often too. My mother was right. They are the best part of the chicken! Whether or not you serve them for Superbowl.

But if you do, how about these?

 

PuPu Platter Chicken Wings

  • 15 chicken wings
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoons crushed crystallized ginger
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 large clove garlic, finely chopped
  •  

Cut the chicken wings at the joints, wash and dry the pieces and set them aside. Combine the red wine, soy sauce, brown sugar, crystallized ginger, lemon juice and garlic in a large container. Add the wing pieces and let marinate for at least 2 hours. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the wings in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake for 15-18 minutes. Turn the wings and bake for another 15-18 minutes or until crispy.

Makes 30 pieces

 

 

Smoked Salmon and Avocado Toasts

At the end of each year food professionals discuss fads and popular trends in the culinary world and often make predictions about what's to come.

I don't know what's coming but I can say that as far as I know, one food trend this year was: avocado toast. Which is basically guacamole sandwich. Which is basically mashed avocado with some lime or lemon juice and anything else you might want in your guacamole, like tomatoes or chili pepper and so on.

I also know this: there's a good reason that avocado toasts became a thing. They're scrumptious. They're easy to prepare. They are incredibly versatile, as in you can use them as a base for a whole host of hors d'oeuvre, which might come in handy for New Year's get togethers.

For example: these avocado toasts on melba rounds topped with chopped salmon and some seasonings. 

Honestly, it couldn't get much easier than this and they do look pretty don't they?

They're on my menu for my New Year pre-dinner cocktail hour.

And btw, I buy salmon "scraps" that (fortunately) my local supermarket sells -- the leftover but still good pieces of salmon that the lox cutter cuts away to get those perfect slices. Because you chop this salmon up, so why not buy the cheap stuff?

 

SMOKED SALMON AND AVOCADO TOASTS

  • 24 toast rounds (or packaged Melba rounds)
  • 2 small avocados, peeled and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1-1/2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped scallion
  • 2-3 tablespoons lime juice
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/4 pound smoked salmon pieces
  • 1 tablespoon chopped chives
  • pinch or two of cayenne pepper

If using bread, cut out small circles with a cookie cutter, or use packaged Melba rounds. In a bowl, mash the avocados. Add one tablespoon olive oil, the scallion, 2 tablespoons lime juice and salt and pepper to taste. Mix thoroughly and add more lime juice if desired. Spread the avocado mixture evenly over the bread. Chop the smoked salmon, add the remaining 1-1/2 teaspoons olive oil, the chives and some cayenne pepper and mix ingredients thoroughly. Spread equal amounts of the salmon mixture on top of the avocado mixture.

Makes 24

 

Mom’s Fried Chicken Wings

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MOM’S FRIED CHICKEN

  • 12 chicken wings, cut into pieces
  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • shortening or vegetable oil

Rinse the chicken pieces and set them aside. In a large dish, mix the flour with the paprika, salt, garlic powder and black pepper. Coat the chicken pieces with the seasoned flour. Place them on a cake rack to air dry for 25-30 minutes. Heat the shortening or vegetable oil in a deep saute pan over medium-high heat (should be about 1/2-inch) to 365 degrees (a bread crumb will sizzle quickly when you add it to the pan). Add a few chicken pieces at a time (adding too many will make the cooking oil too cool) and cook, turning the pieces occasionally, for 8-10 minutes or until crispy and golden brown. Drain on paper towels.

 

Makes 12

 

Herb and Cheese Gougeres (Choux Puffs)

Gougeres are the easiest and also the hardest hors d’oeuvre to cook.  I say that because they are easy to make once you get the knack. But I admit, they’re a little tricky for first-timers, so you need a few pointers. Which I am going to give you here.  Then once you make them a couple of times you can practically do it in your sleep.  Also, gougeres are extremely useful. I serve them plain, heated to a crisp. But sometimes I serve them at room temperature, cut open and stuffed with all sorts of fillings from plain old egg salad to toasted nuts with cheese or smoked salmon tartare.  And sometimes I fill them with things like mushroom ragout or ratatouille and serve them hot.  Of course, if you make the gougere dough without the herbs and cheese they are …. profiteroles. Which you can fill with ice cream!  Or you can make bigger ones and fill them with ice cream, whipped cream or custard, the way my mother did, and call them Cream Puffs.  It’s all the same dough. The method is the same, so once you get the knack you have this extraordinarily versatile recipe.  I always have gougeres in my freezer. Just in case company comes. Like my daughter Meredith, who loves them and always heats up a few for herself when she’s here.  Or for dinner company or weekend guests, which I am having this weekend.  Or to celebrate Bastille Day, tomorrow, because, well, this is a French recipe. Called  choux .      Herb and Cheese Gougeres (Choux Puffs)   1 cup minus 2 tablespoons water  1/4 pound unsalted butter, cut into chunks  1 cup all purpose flour, sifted  3/4 teaspoon salt  4 large eggs  1-1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh mixed herbs, or 1-1/2 teaspoons dried  1/2 cup grated Parmesan or Gruyere cheese  pinch cayenne pepper  egg glaze: 1 large egg mixed with 2 teaspoons water, optional  Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Cook the water and butter in a saucepan over medium heat. When the butter has melted, add the flour and salt all at once. Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until the mixture is well blended and begins to come away from the sides of the pan. Remove pan from the heat and let the mixture cool for 2-3 minutes. Beat in the eggs one at a time, blending well after each addition.* Add the herbs, cheese and cayenne pepper and blend them in thoroughly.   Butter and flour a baking sheet. Drop 3/4 to 1-inch mounds of dough from a teaspoon onto the sheet. Leave space between the mounds for the puffs to rise. For a shiny surface on the puffs, lightly brush the tops of the mounds with some of the egg wash. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until the puffs are lightly brown and crispy. Lower the heat to 300 degrees and bake for another 5-6 minutes. Turn off the heat but leave the puffs in the oven for 3-4 minutes. Serve hot or at room temperature. Or cut them open and fill them. Makes about 60  *Incorporating the eggs is what most people find difficult. Be sure to add them one at a time. Use a sturdy wooden spoon to help you. The mixture will be sticky and at first you think it will never come together, but keep mixing and you’ll see that it does come together. After each egg is incorporated the mixture becomes softer and pastier and stickier. That’s the way it’s supposed to be.

Gougeres are the easiest and also the hardest hors d’oeuvre to cook.

I say that because they are easy to make once you get the knack. But I admit, they’re a little tricky for first-timers, so you need a few pointers. Which I am going to give you here.

Then once you make them a couple of times you can practically do it in your sleep.

Also, gougeres are extremely useful. I serve them plain, heated to a crisp. But sometimes I serve them at room temperature, cut open and stuffed with all sorts of fillings from plain old egg salad to toasted nuts with cheese or smoked salmon tartare.

And sometimes I fill them with things like mushroom ragout or ratatouille and serve them hot.

Of course, if you make the gougere dough without the herbs and cheese they are …. profiteroles. Which you can fill with ice cream!

Or you can make bigger ones and fill them with ice cream, whipped cream or custard, the way my mother did, and call them Cream Puffs.

It’s all the same dough. The method is the same, so once you get the knack you have this extraordinarily versatile recipe.

I always have gougeres in my freezer. Just in case company comes. Like my daughter Meredith, who loves them and always heats up a few for herself when she’s here.

Or for dinner company or weekend guests, which I am having this weekend.

Or to celebrate Bastille Day, tomorrow, because, well, this is a French recipe. Called choux.

 

Herb and Cheese Gougeres (Choux Puffs)

1 cup minus 2 tablespoons water

1/4 pound unsalted butter, cut into chunks

1 cup all purpose flour, sifted

3/4 teaspoon salt

4 large eggs

1-1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh mixed herbs, or 1-1/2 teaspoons dried

1/2 cup grated Parmesan or Gruyere cheese

pinch cayenne pepper

egg glaze: 1 large egg mixed with 2 teaspoons water, optional

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Cook the water and butter in a saucepan over medium heat. When the butter has melted, add the flour and salt all at once. Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until the mixture is well blended and begins to come away from the sides of the pan. Remove pan from the heat and let the mixture cool for 2-3 minutes. Beat in the eggs one at a time, blending well after each addition.* Add the herbs, cheese and cayenne pepper and blend them in thoroughly. 

Butter and flour a baking sheet. Drop 3/4 to 1-inch mounds of dough from a teaspoon onto the sheet. Leave space between the mounds for the puffs to rise. For a shiny surface on the puffs, lightly brush the tops of the mounds with some of the egg wash. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until the puffs are lightly brown and crispy. Lower the heat to 300 degrees and bake for another 5-6 minutes. Turn off the heat but leave the puffs in the oven for 3-4 minutes. Serve hot or at room temperature. Or cut them open and fill them. Makes about 60

*Incorporating the eggs is what most people find difficult. Be sure to add them one at a time. Use a sturdy wooden spoon to help you. The mixture will be sticky and at first you think it will never come together, but keep mixing and you’ll see that it does come together. After each egg is incorporated the mixture becomes softer and pastier and stickier. That’s the way it’s supposed to be.