Brussels Sprout Barbecue Chips

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Looking for a new nibble to serve at cocktail hour? Separating the leaves is a bit tedious, I’ll admit, but it can be done well in advance.  A quick flash fry and you’ll have an irresistible treat that will be the talk of the party.

 
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Vegetable oil for frying

1 pound Brussels sprouts

Your favorite barbecue seasoning, to taste (I use 2 Brothers Original Seasoning)

Trim the base of each sprout and gently pull away the leaves, stopping when they become too small and tight…discard the very interior bits.  Dry the leaves with a paper towel.

Heat 2 inches of vegetable oil in a heavy skillet or saucepan over high heat. (my wok works well) Test the oil temperature with a sprout leaf…it should sizzle immediately.  Fry the leaves, in batches, for 2 minutes, or until golden and crunchy.  Drain on paper towels and season with barbecue seasoning to taste while still hot.   Let cool slightly before serving.

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Hummus…. All Dressed Up

dip to postHere’s a idea for the next time you need to throw together a quick appetizer. As you know, there are many different flavors of hummus available these days, but it’s so much fresher and tastier to add your own flavors to this extremely popular Middle Eastern dip.

In these photos I’ve spread about 1/2 inch of good quality hummus onto one of my cake stands then toped it with finely chopped cucumbers, tomatoes, Kalamata olives, fresh dill and crumbled feta cheese…a quick drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkle of sea salt and black pepper and it’s ready to serve with crispy pita chips.

Other toppings that would be good:

pine nuts, basil, oregano, cilantro, parsley, roasted red peppers, pesto, artichoke hearts, caramelized onions, whole chickpeas, red pepper flakes, roasted garlic, minced jalapeno peppers, the possibilities are endless…

Since I was going for simplicity here, I used a store bought hummus.  It takes about 1 1/2 cups to spread across this regular sized cake stand.  These are my two favorite brands:

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Of course if you are feeding a big crowd, or simply have the time, you may want to make your own hummus which is quite easy with canned chickpeas, tahini and spices. Here’s a good one from Inspired Taste (hummus recipe).

 

 

 

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Heart Beet Salad with Walnuts and White Cheddar

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Here’s a sweet idea for a tasty St Valentine’s Day lunch.  Tuck a few Roasted Beet hearts into your salad.

To roast whole beets, preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Wash several whole beets, rub them with olive oil and wrap them in one big piece of aluminum foil.  Place foil packet on baking sheet and roast for about an hour.  Roasting time will vary depending on the size of your beets.  I forgot about mine and went out for a walk and they were still just fine after about 2 1/2 hours in the oven.  When the beets are tender, let cool and peel.  Cut beets into 1/3 inch slices and use a cookie cutter to make hearts.  Toss them into a salad with field greens, roasted chopped nuts, shredded or crumbled cheese and your favorite vinaigrette.  Here is a nice recipe for inspiration.

“When Life Gives you Avocados” Guacamole

When avocados turn up at 10 for $10.00, there’s only one thing to do.  You don’t really need a recipe for guacamole, I know.  It’s one of those dishes thats all about the quality of the ingredients rather than the actual measurements.  But an idea that I read about in Ree Drummond’s, The Pioneer Woman Cooks worked really well for me since I was trying to prepare in advance for a lunch for 25.  She suggests that if you have homemade pico de gallo around, all you have to do if mash a few avocados and stir in a few spoonfuls for the perfect guacamole stat.  You can serve any remaining pico de gallo alongside as well, of course. Here’s the general idea:

You need equal amounts of :

1.  Finely chopped tomatoes

2.  Finely chopped red onion

3.  Coarsely chopped cilantro

4.  One or two fresh jalapeno peppers, stemmed, seeded and minced

Toss this together in a small bowl and squeeze in half a lime a bit of salt and toss again.  Taste and adjust lime and salt if needed.  Set aside.  You can make this a few hours in advance.

When you are ready to serve, slice open several ripe avocados and scoop out the flesh.  Sprinkle with salt and mash it all around a bit with a fork.  Then stir in a few spoonfuls of the pico de gallo that you made earlier.  Taste and adjust with additional lime juice and salt…keeping in mind that if you are serving with chips, that will add salt too.  Or serve with my  Make Ahead Chicken Fajitas.

And here is a link to Ree’s step by step tutorial if you want more direction.  Pioneer Woman Pico de Gallo and Guacamole

Tuna Ceviche with Avocado and Cilantro

This lovely little dip is elegant in its simplicity yet casual enough for any barbecue.  It is from the July 2001 issue of Food and Wine magazine and is offered as an example of what one might find around the southern tip of Baja.  In the photos here, I have minced the red onion instead of slicing it and I also doubled the amount of avocado.
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1 pound Sushi grade tuna
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
3/4 cup fresh lime juice (about 5 limes)
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 large Hass avocado, cut into 1/3 inch dice
1/4 cup coarsely chopped cilantro, plus leaves for garnish
salt
tortilla chips for serving
Cut the tuna into slices, 1/4 inch thick.  Line a baking sheet with plastic wrap.  Arrange the tuna slices in a single layer on the baking sheet and freeze until fairly firm, about 15 minutes.
Stack the slices of tie using a very sharp chef’s knife, cut the tuna into meat 1/4 inch cubes.  Transfer the cubed tuna to a medium glass or ceramic bowl and stir in the red onion, lime juice and black pepper.  Cover the tuna with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour, stirring gently with a plastic spatula every 15 to 20 minutes (the diced tuna will change color slightly as the lime juice “cooks” it)
Just before serving, gently fold in the diced avocado and chopped cilantro and season with salt.  Transfer the ceviche to a bowl , garnish with cilantro and serve with tortilla chips.
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Southwestern Deviled Eggs

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This fun recipe is adapted from Taste of the South (April-May 2011).  The original calls for a sprinkling of crushed tortilla chips so you can certainly do that if you want to simplify the recipe.  I wanted the shape and texture of these corn tortilla slivers and they only take a minute to fry.  If, like me, you don’t have one of those platters specially designed to serve deviled eggs, just use a sharp knife and take a tiny sliver off the bottom of each half egg.  That way, the eggs will stay stable on the plate and not roll about.

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12 hard boiled eggs
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup finely shredded pepper Jack cheese
2 tablespoons chopped green onions
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 corn tortillas, finely slivered
salt to taste
coarse ground pepper
fresh cilantro
Cut the hard boiled eggs in half and mash the yolks with a fork.  Add sour cream, pepper jack cheese, green onion, chili powder and salt and mix well.  Spoon into the egg whites. Heat the oil in a small skillet and fry the tortilla strips until light brown, 45-60 seconds, and drain on paper towels.  Salt lightly. Garnish the eggs with the fried tortilla strips, chopped fresh cilantro, and a generous sprinkle of coarse ground black pepper.
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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.

Oven Baked Crab Cakes with Two Dipping Sauces

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     One of my pet peeves is when a I am reading a cookbook or magazine and the photo of the dish obviously doesn’t match the recipe.  Probably the food stylist made a last minute change for the sake of art and the chef was unaware.  Well, now I’ve done it myself.  I’m going to give two recipes for sauces that I love to serve with these crab cakes,  but with all wonderful chaos of summer vacation, I didn’t have time to make them last night.  So I threw together a quick substitute as pictured.  Still, I want to include the best options and they can be made ahead of time, if you are more organized than I am at the moment.  This is the recipes that I turn to when I want to serve crabcakes to a crowd.  Adapted from The Sea Grill Restaurant.
5 cups cornflakes
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons Old Bay seasoning
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 large egg yolks
2 pounds jumbo lump crab meat, picked over
1/2 stick unsalted butter, softened
In a food processor pulse cornflakes until ground coarse and spread in a shallow baking pan.
In a large bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, mustard, Old Bay seasoning, cayenne, and yolks an add crab meat and salt and pepper to taste, tossing mixture gently but thoroughly.
With a 1/4 cup measure, form crab mixture into cakes and gently coat with cornflakes, transferring as coated to a wax paper lined baking sheet.  Chill crab cakes, covered with plastic wrap, at least 2 hours and up to 4 hours.  (This is an important step)
Preheat over to 400 degrees.  Transfer crab cakes to a large baking sheet.  Put about 1/2 teaspoon butter on each crab cake and bake in middle of oven until crisp and cooked through, about 15 minutes.  You will need to turn the cakes after about 10 minutes to brown them evenly on both sides. (You will NOT need to add more butter)  But it is key to wait  until they are golden brown on the bottom before you attempt this.  Otherwise the fragile cakes will come apart.  Dealing with the fragility of these crab cakes will be worth it when you taste the sweet crab inside…free of the fillers that you so often get in restaurants.
Makes about 20 small crab cakes.
Lemon Dill Sauce
1 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill leaves
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley leaves
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 garlic clove, minced
Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well.  Refrigerate until chilled.  The sauce will thicken as it chills.  (recipe from Paula Deen)
Roasted Red Pepper Sauce with Capers and Dill
2 large red bell peppers, roasted and peeled
1 tablespoon fresh dill
1 tablespoon fresh parsley
1 tablespoon drained capers
2 tablespoons sour cream
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
salt and pepper to taste
Puree the peppers, dill, parsley and capers in a processor or blender, maintaining a little texture,  Transfer to a small bowl,  Add the sour cream, mayo, salt and pepper,  Stir until combined.  Taste for seasoning.  Let stand until needed, about 30 minuted or refrigerate one or 2 days.  Bring to room temperature before serving.  ( from Teri’s Kitchen.com)
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