Category Archives: Appetizers

Baba Ganoush

Baba Ganoush

Baba Ganoush

I bet you all think today is a special occasion, with back-to-back blog posts happening.  Well, it is eggplant time in these parts, which is definitely cause for a little celebration.  When the eggplants start rolling in it means I get to make (and eat) one of my all-time favorite dips, baba ganoush.  Up until a couple of years ago, I didn’t even like eggplant.  Whenever I had it I found it to be either tasteless or bitter.  So I pretty much kept away, frequently using the “no thanks, I really don’t care for eggplant” deflection whenever it was offered.  But then we joined our CSA and I suddenly had a lot of eggplant in my possession.

Eggplants ready for grilling

Eggplants ready for grilling

Since Marc lives to smoke things, we decided to break out the smoker and try our hand at baba ganoush.  I figured that I liked hummus, so maybe I would enjoy this Middle Eastern dip too.  After I had my first taste, I was in love.  Fast forward three years… this recipe for baba ganoush is on the menu every summer.  Even the kids like it.  When Thing 1 was a baby, she used to call it “gaba noush”.

Eggplants, transformed by smoke and heat

Eggplants, transformed by smoke and heat

The key to truly good baba ganoush is smoking the eggplant.  You can make this recipe by roasting the eggplant in a 400 degree oven but it won’t have the same smokey, slightly sour flavor that wood chips impart.  Luckily, it is easy to create a “smoker” using your gas or charcoal grill.  Get some smoking chips (they are easy to find at big box stores or your local hardware store) and soak them in water for at least an hour (you can leave them overnight if you want).  Make a packet with the chips in the center using heavy duty aluminum foil, poke a few holes in it so the smoke can get out, and toss it directly on the charcoal or flames.  Voila, your very own smoker, easy as pie.  Just make sure you close the lid while you cook so all the smoke doesn’t escape.

Almost ready

Almost ready

Baba Ganoush

Adapted from Joy of Cooking

Ingredients:

~2.5 lbs eggplants (any color will do)

1 large clove of garlic, chopped

juice of one large lemon

1 1/2 tbls tahini (this is sesame paste and can be found in the ethnic section of most grocery stores)

1 tsp salt

To Make:

Soak smoking chips in bucket of water for at least one hour prior to grilling the eggplant.  Heat your gas grill to 400F or a charcoal grill to medium-hot.  Put wet wood chips in a packet made from aluminum foil with holes poked in it and lay the packet directly on the flame tamers (or the coals).  Pierce the eggplants all over, place on the grill, and close the lid.  Let the eggplant roast until is it soft all over and the skin is nicely charred, about 45 minutes. Make sure to keep half an eye on your eggplant.  Depending on the size, yours may cook slower or faster than ours did.

When the eggplant is soft, remove it from the grill and allow it to cool until it can be handled.  Cut the eggplants in half and scrape the flesh into a colander, allowing any excess liquid to drain.  Discard the skins.  Put the eggplant flesh into a food process along with the garlic, lemon juice, tahini, and salt.  Process until smooth.  Taste and adjust the seasonings as necessary.

To Serve:

Right before serving, drizzle with good quality extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle lightly with coarse salt.  There are endless ways to serve this dip.  I like it spread on warm pita breads, on pita breads that have been baked until they are crisp, as a dip for fresh or roasted veggies (especially tomatoes), dolloped on a grilled lamb chop, etc.  Makes about 2 cups.

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Filed under Appetizers, Dairy-free, Gluten-Free, Vegetables, Vegetarian

Smoky Peanuts

Smoky Peanuts

 

This Sunday is Easter Sunday (if you’re of a certain faith).  It’s a family day.  A day for Easter egg hunts, family brunches, and that sort of thing.  However, for those of us in Red Sox Nation, we know this day by its other name, Opening Day.  Not only is it Opening Day, we’re playing host to the Evil Empire.  Like Boston Mayor Menino said in 2004, “‘Much like a cookie, I predict the Yankee dynasty will crumble and the results will be delicious for Red Sox fans.”  (gotta love the food reference). 

Smoked Tea Leaves

 

Baseball has me thinking snack food for watching the game.  Want to put out something special for this special Sunday night game?  Try these quick and easy smoky peanuts.  Baseball and peanuts go hand and hand.  The sugar and salt make for an irresistible sweet and savory combination.  The hints of smoke from the tea leaves haunts your mind.  Personally, I’m a big fan of smoked foods and have almost become desensitized to most mildly smoked foods.  When I make this again (and there’s no question that I will make these again), I’ll double the amount of smoked tea leaves to enhance the smoke flavor. 

Peanuts and Peanuts Tossed in Goodness on the Baking Sheet

 

Smoky Peanuts 

Adapted from Gourmet Today 

Ingredients: 

1 tbls lightly beaten egg white 

1 tsp sugar 

3/4 tsp Lapsang Souchong tea leaves, crushed with the side of a large heavy knife if coarse 

1/4 tsp salt 

1 cup salted cocktail peanuts 

parchment paper 

To Make: 

Put a rack in the middle of oven and preheat oven to 350F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. 

Whisk together egg white, sugar, tea, and salt in a small bowl.  Stir in peanuts and spread in one layer on baking sheet. 

Bake, stirring occasionally, until the nuts are dry, about 10 minutes.  Cool on baking sheet on a rack for about 20 minutes.  Nuts will crisp as they cool. 

To Serve: 

Do I really need to tell you how to serve peanuts?  I thought not.

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Filed under Appetizers, Recipes, Vegetarian

Gougeres (aka French Cheese and Bacon Puffs)

Gougeres (aka French Cheese and Bacon Puffs)

The weekend is almost here.  Do you have any big plans?  If you are doing any entertaining and need something that is both easy and impressive, look no further than these delicious appetizers.  

Golden and delicious butter

These cheesy, crispy puffs are French so they add instant panache to your appetizer spread.  Plus, they have bacon and everything is better with bacon.  They are light and airy with fluffy insides and, the best part, they are really easy to pull together.

Dough ball

Boil (yes, boil) some butter and water, stir in flour until you get a dough ball that somewhat resembles a thick roux, and then beat in eggs until you get the most beautiful and glossy batter you have ever seen.  Fold in grated Gruyere cheese and crispy hunks of  bacon and you are nearing appetizer nirvana.

Batter after beating the eggs in

Once these beauties come out of oven, all golden and crispy, do your best to wait until your guests arrive before you devour them.

Unbaked puffs

Gougeres (aka French Cheese and Bacon Puffs)

Adapted from The Bacon Cookbook

Ingredients:

1 cup water

8 tbls (1 stick) butter

1/4 tsp salt

1 cup all-purpose flour

4 large eggs

1/2 pound slab bacon, rind removed, finely diced

1 cup shredded Gruyere cheese

To Make:

In a heavy saucepan, combine the water, butter, and salt and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to low, add the flour, and beat with a wooden spoon till a ball of dough forms.  Transfer the dough to a mixing bowl and add the eggs one at a time, beating with an electric mixer on high speed till the batter is just thick enough to hold soft peaks.  Transfer the batter to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and chill briefly.

In a large skillet, fry the bacon dice over moderate heat till crisp and drain on paper towels.

Preheat the oven to 375F.  Butter a large baking dish.  Fold the cheese and bacon into the prepared batter till well blended, then drop by tablespoons onto the prepared baking sheet.  Bake the puffs for 30 minutes, turn off the heat, and let the stand till they are golden and crisp, about 10 minutes.  Serve the puffs warm.

To Serve:

Makes about 36 puffs.  Serves 8-10 as appetizers (or 2 people who can’t stop eating the bacon-y deliciousness).

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Filed under Appetizers, Baked goods, Recipes

Smoked Trout Spread

Smoked Trout Spread

Alex, I’ll take “Fish” for $800.

A:  This fish is sustainable and starts with a “T”.

Q:  What is Trout?

Mmm, smoked trout

Great.  I love sustainable.  I love smoked.  And sometimes, I love easy.  This spread is all of those things.  Easy to make, easy on your conscience, and nice and smoky.  Who knew that spending time at the car dealership would be a good thing?  I found the base for this little gem flipping through “Bon Appetite” May 2009 while waiting for my car.  This is a handy dip to have in your recipe box.  It comes together in about 5 minutes and is sophisticated enough to serve for a fancy party (if that is your thing).  It tastes delicious spread on crusty bread, on crackers, or even with pretzels.

Trout fillets, ready to chop

To boot, I was looking for something like this.  Now that I have this spread, I’m ready to be invited to any party where people appreciate good food.

Spread Ready to Mix

Smoked Trout Spread

Adapted from Bon Appetit, May 2009

Ingredients:

8 oz cream cheese, softened to room temperature

1/2 cup green onions, thinly sliced

1/4 cup sour cream

1 tablespoon fresh dill, chopped

1/2 teaspoon hot sauce

1/2 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning

5 oz smoked trout fillets, skin removed

Additional dill and minced red onion to garnish, if desired

To Make:

In a mixer, beat the softened cream cheese until smooth.  Add the green onions, sour cream, dill, Old Bay seasoning, and hot sauce.  Beat to combine.  Coarsely chop the smoked trout fillets (minus any skin or silver lining), add to the mix, and beat lightly.  Add salt and pepper to taste. 

To Serve:

Serve cold or at room temperature.  Makes about 2 cups.  Yes, it’s that simple.  Yes, it’s that good.

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Filed under Add-ons, Appetizers, Fish, Recipes