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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Little Leebos (bacon wrapped potato bites w/BBQ sauce)

bacon potato bitesBy popular demand, I offer you the treats of the tailgate, the most quickly disappearing nibble of our holiday buffet and soon to be, the must-have recipe for your Super Bowl Party. Those of you who are personally acquainted with me will know exactly who went on a one-man campaign to name these little gems.  Such devotion deserves recognition and reward.  I’ve yet to be able to make enough of these to satisfy my guests…a testament to their tastiness, not to their difficulty.   The truth is, they are very simple to throw together.

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1 pound very small potatoes (1-2 inches)

drizzle of olive oil

lemon pepper

1 pound thin sliced center cut bacon

your favorite barbecue sauce for dipping

Preheat oven to 350.  Scrub potatoes and cut each in half.  In a small bowl, toss the potatoes with just a bit of olive oil and generously season with lemon pepper.  Cut bacon slices into halves or thirds (figure out the right size for your potatoes…the bacon must wrap around the potato piece and can just meet, or slightly overlap, on the bottom).  Wrap each potato with a piece of bacon, and place them flat size down, bacon ends tucked under, on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 45 to 60 minutes, or until potatoes are tender and bacon is golden.  Remove immediately from baking sheet and cool on a wire rack or paper towels. (note: if you leave the potatoes to cool on the baking sheet, they will adsorb every bit of the fat that has been rendered from the bacon.)  Serve hot or warm with barbecue sauce for dipping.

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Brussels Sprout Barbecue Chips

sprouts

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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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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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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Waffle Potatoes with Goat Cheese and Ancho Pepper Jelly

waffle fry to post

Much more exciting than the average cheese and cracker tray yet not much harder to throw together…here is an idea for a tasty nibble for your next party.

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High quality frozen waffle fries (I use Alexia brand)

Fresh goat cheese, at room temperature

Your favorite pepper jelly (I found a lovely red ancho pepper jelly)

Cook waffle fries according to the package directions until golden and crispy.  Use kitchen shears to trim them slightly into similarly sized, two bite, squarish shapes.  Stir the goat cheese until it is fluffy and spoonable and place a nice dollop on each trimmed waffle fry.  Top with a teaspoon of pepper jelly, sprinkle with coarse ground black pepper and serve.

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Zesty Black-Eyed Pea Salsa

This is the best version of marinated black eyed peas, better known as Southern Caviar, that I have ever had.  Simplified slightly from The New Southern Garden Cookbook by Sheri Castle.

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2 cups canned black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed

1/4 cup sherry vinegar

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1/4 teaspoon hot sauce

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 cup canned fire roasted diced tomatoes, drained

1/2 cup diced red bell pepper

1/4 cup finely chopped onion

1/2 cup corn kernels

1 or 2 finely chopped pickled jalapeños

1 tablespoon canned chopped mild green chiles

1/2 cup finely chopped flat leaf parsley

Mix all ingredients together in a medium bowl.  Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours and preferably overnight.  Stir and season with salt and pepper if necessary to taste.  Serve as an appetizer with crackers, or as a salsa with chips, on tacos, fajitas, etc.  This is also a great side dish with fried or grilled chicken.

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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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Hush Puppy and Deviled Crab Bites

There is nothing dainty about the flavor of this little treat.  Crispy hush puppies, hollowed out slightly and filled with a cool and creamy crab salad.
1 package frozen hush puppies  (I use Savannah Classics original recipe)
8 ounces jumbo lump crab meat, picked over for shell fragments
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 teaspoon coarse grain Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon prepared horseradish
salt and pepper to taste
fresh parsley leaves for garnish
Prepare hush puppies according to directions on package.  Let cool slightly then cut top 1/3 off of each hush puppy and remove some of the interior to make room for a nice portion of crab meat.  You may also want to take a tiny sliver from the bottom of each hush puppy so that the finished product will stay level on a serving tray instead of rolling about.
In a small bowl, stir together mayonnaise, mustard, lemon juice and horseradish.  Gently stir in crab until it is well coated then taste and add salt and pepper to taste.
To serve, fill hush puppies with crab salad and top each with a fresh parsley leaf.
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