Asparagus Tartine

asparagus tartine-3A tartine is simply an open-faced sandwich and here is the perfect one for a glorious spring day.  Look for big, meaty spears with tightly closed tips that signify freshness.  Did you know that the diameter of asparagus spears relates to the maturity of the plant?  I takes 2 or 3 years before asparagus plants are well established enough, with spears big enough, to harvest.  And so I do imagine that the day the asparagus begins to nudge its way out of the soil must be one of a gardener’s favorite days!   Recipe adapted from Cicchetti, and other small Italian Plates to Share, by Lindy Wildsmith and Valentina Sforza.

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1 pound asparagus

4 eggs

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 tablespoons mayonaise

salt and pepper

1 fresh baguette, or other good, fresh crusty bread, cut into 1/4 inch pieces

olive oil

2 tablespoons minced fresh chives

Fill a large pot halfway with water and bring to a simmer.  Carefully lower the eggs into the water and simmer for 12 minutes.  While eggs are cooking, prepare a bowl of ice water.  Remove eggs from hot water and immediately place them into the ice bath  to cool.  Meanwhile, trim the asparagus, bring the water in the pot to a boil, add the asparagus and cook until just tender, about 5 minutes, depending on the size of the spears.  Remove the eggs from the ice bath and add more ice so that you can chill the asparagus just as soon as it is ready.

Peel the eggs then chop finely.  When the asparagus is cooled, remove from the ice bath and cut the tips and set them aside to use as the garnish.  Chop the rest of the spears and add to the chopped eggs.  Add the olive oil and mayonnaise and gently stir to combine.  Season well with salt and pepper to taste.

Brush the bread slices with olive oil, toast lightly and let cool.  Spread each tartine with some of the egg salad, top with the reserved asparagus tips then sprinkle with chives.  (The number of servings that this recipe will produce varies greatly based upon the size of the bread you use. You can make around 30 small appetizer servings with a skinny baguette or 6 lunch-sized portions with a larger Italian bread such as the one I used in the photo. Just be sure to save enough asparagus tips to finish your dish.)

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Two Bite Turkey Sliders… For Manly Men

Low Carb Turkey Sliders for Manly MenThis recipe was inspired by  Turkey Patties for Manly Men in The Family Chef, by Jewels and Jill Elmore.  Admittedly, I may have made these burgers a little less “manly” by turning them into adorable sliders but they are hearty and flavorful and will be loved by everyone!  Note: If you have mushroom-phobic children at your gathering, just don’t mention that particular ingredient.  The mushrooms are imperceptible here, although they, along with the onions and parsley, provide a deep, rich flavor that you don’t usually find in a turkey burger.

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extra virgin olive oil

1 cup finely minced Vidalia onion

1 cup finely minced button mushrooms

2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves

salt and pepper to taste

1 clove garlic, minced

1/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley

1 pound ground turkey

9 party-size (2-inch) potato rolls, split

4 slices provolone cheese

1/4 cup Hellmanns’s mayonaise

1 tablespoon brown mustard

cherry tomatoes

small basil leaves

18 small wooden skewers

In a hot skillet, add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and sauté the onions, mushrooms, thyme, salt and pepper until onions are caramelized and mushrooms have absorbed their liquids and are beginning to brown.  Stir in garlic and parsley and remove mixture from heat to cool completely.

In a medium bowl, add all of the sautéed ingredients to the ground turkey, season generously with salt and pepper, and mix together gently with a fork.  It is important not to overwork this meat mixture!

Form the meat into small burgers, about 2 tablespoons each, once again being careful not to overwork the meat…just gently press into shape….they won’t fall apart. (use a #40 cookie scoop if you have one, to keep the size uniform).  Place the burgers on a baking sheet covered with waxed paper and chill in the refrigerator while prepare the rest of the ingredients.  (can be made ahead)

Cut the split potato rolls into 1 1/2  inch circles with a cookie cutter then flatten the circles slightly with the palm of your hand.  Place onto a baking sheet and top each circle with a bit of provolone cheese.

Preheat broiler.

In a small dish, stir together the mayonnaise and the brown mustard. Set aside.

Cut the cherry tomatoes in half and clean and trim the small basil leaves.  Set aside.

Heat 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium high heat.  Cook turkey patties for 2-3 minutes on each side until golden brown and just cooked through.  Keep warm while you toast the bread and cheese lightly under the broiler.

Assemble the sliders by placing a burger onto of each piece of toasted cheese bread.  Add a small dollop of mayo/mustard.  Pierce a cherry tomato half with a small skewer first, add a small basil leaf then press the skewer all the way though the slider to serve.

Makes 18 sliders.

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The Perfect (and perfectly simple) All Purpose Marinade for Chicken


 

Here is my go-to, all purpose marinade for boneless, skinless chicken breasts.  Just a quick whisk of a few pantry staples, a few hours to marinate, a quick turn on the grill or under the broiler, and you will have tender, perfectly seasoned chicken ready to serve or to add to pasta, sandwiches or salads.  I like to mince it up finely for chicken salad sandwiches, cut bigger pieces for a stand alone chicken salad, or slice into thin strips for pasta dishes or an easy kid and adult friendly dinner. Feel free to switch out the dried spices to fit your mood and/or the needs of your final dish.

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1/2 cup plain yogurt

1/4 cup olive oil

1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic

2 teaspoons dried thyme

2 teaspoons dried oregano

1/4 teaspoon crushed red chile flakes

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

 

Whisk all ingredients together in a small bowl.  Marinate chicken at least 3 hours…and up to overnight.  Makes enough to marinate 4 large or 6 small chicken breasts.

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Grilled Chicken Salad with Red Grapes, Pecans and Mustard Vinaigrette

 

 

Bruschetta with Caramelized Tomatoes and Ricotta

No need to stop serving Bruschetta just because vine-ripened tomatoes are going out of season.  These slow roasted cherry tomatoes are a burst of concentrated sweetness that, when combined with creamy ricotta and a slice of crispy/chewy bread, make for a memorable cocktail hour.  (or pair with a nice salad for a light lunch) Adapted from Rustic Italian, by Domenica Marchetti

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1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 tablespoon fennel seeds, crushed

freshly ground black pepper and fine sea salt

1 1/2 pounds cherry tomatoes, halved

12 slices crusty country bread cut in to 1/2 inch slices (I used ciabatta)

extra virgin olive oil for brushing

8 ounces fresh sheep’s milk ricotta or well-drained cows milk ricotta (at room temperature for serving)

In a small bowl, stir together the olive oil, garlic, fennel seeds, and a generous grinding of pepper.  Set aside and let stand for a bout 30 minutes.

Preheat the over to 300 degrees.  Arrange the tomatoes, cut side up, on a rimmed baking sheet.  Spoon the olive oil mixture over the tomatoes and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt.  Bake until tomatoes are partially shriveled and browned in spots but still juicy, could take up to 1 1/2 hours (depending on size of tomatoes).  Transfer to a bowl, tkaing care to scrape any juices and browned bits from the baking sheet into the bowl.

To make the bruschetta, position a broiler pan 4 inches below the heat source and preheat the broiler.  Arrange the bread slices on a large baking sheet and brush the tops with olive oil.  Slip under the broiler and broil until the edges are lightly browned and the tops are golden, just 1-2 minutes.

Spread with a heaping tablespoon of the ricotta on each slice and top each with caramelized tomatoes.  Taste and sprinkle with additional black pepper and/or salt if necessary.  Serves 6

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Cucumber Goat-Teas

Hands down the best cucumber sandwich I’ve ever had.  No need to throw a ladies tea to have an excuse to make these as they would also be a great hors d’oeuvre for a summer evening.  This platter did not make it to the cocktail hour however.  It was empty within minutes of these photos. Recipe by MaryCorpening Barber and Sara Corpening Whiteford, in their book, Cocktail Food.
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3/4 cup seasoned rice vinegar.
2 cups very thinly sliced red onion
2/3 cup goat cheese, at room temperature
1/3 cup cream cheese, at room temperature
1/8 teaspoon white pepper
12 slices white bread, crusts removed, cut into 3 inch squares (They suggest buttermilk bread.  I used Pepperidge Farms Original White.)
1 English cucumber, cut into 1/16 inch slices, cut in half
Pour the vinegar over the onions and let marinate in a small bowl until the onions are soft and malleable, at least 30 minutes.  Strain and refrigerate until chilled.
Mix the goat cheese and cream cheese together in a small bowl.  Season with white pepper.
Spread about 1 tablespoon of the cheese mixture on each piece of bread.  Cut each piece into 4 triangles. Arrange 2-3 slices of the cucumber on each triangle.  Top with 1 or two slices of red onion.
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Minced Fresh Tuna Burger

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This burger was somewhat of a revelation.  While trying to simplify a time-consuming recipe, and using whatever ingredients I had in the pantry so as to avoid another trip to the market, I ended up with what will be a new family favorite.  For those of us who prefer rare tuna,  it only took a few seconds to sear both sides of the burger.  But one great thing about this tuna is that it stayed moist and tender  even when cooked through, as in the photo above. Try to find a tapenade that is a good mixture of Mediterranean flavors…black olives, capers, herbs and spices and olive oil.  Most grocery stores have at least one or two and of course you will have lots of choices at a speciality food market.  Note that the burgers need to chill for about 30 minutes before cooking.

 

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For one sandwich:
3-4 ounces fresh tuna
1 generous tablespoon prepared black olive tapenade*
coarse ground black pepper
1 split English muffin
olive oil
1/2 green scallion, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped tomato
1 tablespoon mayonnaise, thinned with 1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon capers, drained and rinsed
Use a sharp knife to mince the tuna into 1/4 inch pieces then place it in a small bowl and gently stir in the tapenade and a nice big pinch of black pepper.  Since some tapenades are quite salty, it is best not to add additional salt at this point.  Also, the product I used had a nice amount of olive oil.  If your tapenade seems dry, add a drizzle of olive oil to the tuna.  Using your hands, gently mold the tuna into a patty and place it in the refrigerator to chill thoroughly, (about 30 minutes) as this will help the burger hold together while cooking.   When ready to serve, brush English muffin with olive oil and toast.  Place tomato and green onion on bottom half of English muffin bun.  Heat a heavy skillet over high heat.  Add a drizzle of olive oil, remove the tuna burger from the frig and use a spatula to gently place in in the pan.  I know that I keep saying “gently” but the point here is that this is a fragile burger and that is what makes it so good…you don’t want to overwork it.  Once one side is nicely seared, it will start to hold together and the English muffin is the perfect “bun” as it provides the right amount of structure.  So, cook the burger to order over high heat and serve it on the English muffin topped with the mayo mix and the capers and a sprinkle of salt if necessary.
*Tapenade: a Provencal paste or dip, made from black olives, capers and anchovies
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Open Face Salmon BLT

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For this wonderful summertime sandwich, I bought a large piece of salmon fillet and cut it into portions that I knew would work with the bread that I was intending to use.  This can be a knife and fork sandwich, or you can do as we did, and use a fork to gently flake the salmon to cover the bread and pick it up to eat out of hand.
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For one sandwich:
1 slice good crusty bread (I used a pre-sliced loaf of La Brea Pane Toscano)
olive oil
1 piece of fresh salmon fillet
1 teaspoon cracked black peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
salt to taste
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
2 slices bacon, cooked until crisp
1 slice tomato
1 leaf bibb lettuce
1 tablespoon good quality mayonnaise, thinned with 1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon fresh chopped dill weed
Brush a slice of bread with olive oil and toast until golden.  Season salmon with cracked black peppercorns, ground coriander and a bit of salt.  Heat olive oil in heavy skillet over high heat.  Place salmon fillet in hot skillet and let one side develop a beautiful golden brown crust before turning to cook the other side.  Cook to desired degree of doneness.  I prefer salmon just a touch more cooked than medium and that took about 3 minutes per side.  While salmon is cooking, start to compose the sandwich with the bread, lettuce, tomato and bacon.  Place salmon on top of the bacon slices and finish up with a dollop of the mayonnaise mixture and chopped dill.
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Pimento Cheese, Tomato and Chive Sandwiches

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Two of the South’s favorite sandwiches in one.  How can something so simple be so sublime?  When I was little, I used to pick the slivers of red pimento out of my pimento cheese sandwich so I appreciated the version that my Aunt Caroline made in a blender.  My version uses mild yellow cheddar and those wonderful sweet fire roasted red peppers that you find in a jar.  And although I no longer have an aversion to colorful specks in my food, I still like to blend my pimento cheese.  It just seems to take that lovely pimento flavor all throughout the spread.

For the pimento cheese:
1/3 pound mild cheddar
2 tablespoons good quality mayonnaise
several strips of roasted sweet red bell peppers (I use the equivalent of 1/2 of a med. red pepper)
Blend ingredients in a blender or food processor until smooth, adding more mayo if needed to get to a nice consistency for spreading.
For the sandwiches:
Very Thin White Sandwich Bread (I use Pepperidge Farm)
mayonnaise
2 ripe tomatoes, sliced very thinly
1 bunch fresh chives, minced
salt and pepper to taste
Stack the bread and trim it so that each piece is approximately 3×3 inches.  To construct a sandwich, spread one slice of bread with mayonnaise and top with one or two slices of tomato.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Spread pimento cheese on second slice of bread and set that on top of the tomato.  Top with a third slice of bread and press slightly.  Wrap sandwich in plastic wrap until all sandwiches are assembled and you are ready to set your tray.
To serve:  Cut each sandwich twice on the diagonal to create 4 equal triangles.  Spread a thin layer of mayonnaise onto the long end, the “uncut” side, of the triangle and gently press this side into your minced fresh chives.  Repeat with remaining sandwiches and arrange on a platter.

Daniel Boulud’s Crab Cake Sandwich

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A really special sandwich!  Worth the effort! (published in Elle Decor magazine)
1 pound jumbo lump crab, picked over for shells
1 egg
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon whole grain mustard
1 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
pinch of ginger powder
pinch of ground nutmeg
pinch of cardamom
1/4 teaspoon celery seed
2 pinches cayenne pepper
salt to taste
1 cup good white sandwich bread, cut in 1/8 inch dice, then lightly toasted
6 tablespoons melted butter
1 loaf ciabatta bread
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 head Bibb or Boston lettuce, washed
2 beefsteak tomatoes, sliced
Sauce Remoulade
3/4 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons whole grain mustard
1 tablespoon chopped chives
2 tablespoons chopped cornichons
1 teaspoon paprika
dash of garlic powder
dash of cayenne pepper
salt to taste
In a bowl, mix together the egg, mayonnaise, mustard and all of the spices and salt to taste.  Add the crabmeat, mix evenly and gently fold in the toasted bread cubes.  Shape 6 crab cakes of the same thickness without pressing too hard.  Set aside.
In a bowl, mix together all of the ingredients for the remoulade.
Preheat the broiler.  Slice the bread into pieces that are 4 inches long.  Cut each segment horizontally and brush the cup sides with a little of the olive oil.  Toast briefly, open faced, under the broiler, then set aside.
Place the crab cakes on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper and brush them with the melted butter, Broil each side for 4 minutes or until golden brown.
Spread some remoulade on the bread and add 1 slice of tomato,  a leaf of lettuce and a crab cake.  Garnish with a dollop of sauce and an herb sprig to make it pretty!
Serves 6
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