Archive for the ‘Appetizer’ category

A Shower for My Sister

June 6th, 2012

Strawberry cheesecakes

Later this summer, my little sister is getting married.  I started planning her shower back in the early spring, playing around with Pinterest, reading dessert cookbooks, and flipping through magazines.

Macarons

The theme came together quickly – lipstick & lingerie – with the guests contributing to the bride’s visit to MAC and a pile of frothy underthings.  We spent the day before the shower getting primped and pampered, just like a bridal party should.

Sugar cookie wedding cakes

The food was where I had the most fun.  My grandma, an amazing baker, pulled off the shortbread wedding cakes seen above.  I ordered macarons from the lovely Bake Lethbridge, and everything else played into the fresh spring feel of the shower.  My favourite treat was also the easiest to put together – a tray full of bruschetta and goat cheese on baguette slices.  Half were a traditional tomato bruschetta; half were a summery strawberry bruschetta.

Desserts Garter from mom Party snacks

It was a wonderful afternoon, and I can’t wait for the big weekend.

Cheesy Artichoke Bread

October 2nd, 2011

Artichoke bread

A quick shout-out to Patrice, of Circle B Kitchen.  She came up with this recipe for what is probably the most amazing quick bread I’ve ever made.  A word of caution for when you make it, though – make sure there are people come over after you do the baking.  Otherwise there’s a good chance you’ll eat then entire loaf yourself.  It’s just that good.

Dilled pickles

August 22nd, 2011

First taste of this year's pickles

This year’s canning has once again expanded by a single vegetable.  The first year I taught myself to preserve veggies in jars, I started with a simple green bean pickle.  The second fall’s canning included a batch of spicy cauliflower pickles.  2011 has brought five pounds (so far) of dilled cucumber pickles, along with the usual batch of beans.  For some reason, I’ve always been afraid to make a batch of these standbys.  Canning wasn’t something I ever watched my mom or my grandma do each year, so every new batch of preserves begins with a spoonful of trepidation.

After putting up five jars of stubby Hutterite cukes, I’m not sure why I was so scared of these.  The process was just as simple as my standard bean pickles, and the results, tested early this weekend, were sour, crispy and farm-picked fresh.  I can’t wait to see how the flavours evolve over the winter and am thinking of filling another ten jars this weekend.

5 pounds of pickling cucumbers, washed but left whole
5 tablespoons of pickling salt
10 big heads of dill, gone to seed
15 cloves of garlic, peeled but whole
5 tsp whole black peppercorns
white vinegar
cold water

The night before you’re going to pickle the cucumbers, toss them in a big bowl of ice water and leave them in the fridge overnight.  This should help them stay crispier after being canned.
The day of the canning, start by sterlizing 5 wide mouth mason jars.  I boil mine for 10 minutes in my giant canning pot, but you can use a dishwasher with a sterlization setting.
While the jars are bubbling away, immerse the sealing lids into a pan of hot, but not boiling water.
Get all your ingredients ready to go so you can quickly stuff the jars while they are still hot.
Pull the jars out of the canner, pour out all the water and line them up, ready to stuff.  They’ll be very, very hot, so you’ll want to use heavy potholders or silicone oven mitts to hold onto them.
For each jar, put in 1 tbsp of salt, 2 heads of dill, 3 cloves of garlic, 1 tsp of peppercorns and then stuff with the cucumbers.  You want to pack the cukes in as tightly as possible to stop them from floating in the liquid.
Once the jar is stuff, fill halfway with vinegar, them the second half with water, leaving an inch of headspace at the top of the jar.
Remove a lid from the hot water, screw on the band tightly and set aside while you fill the remaining jars.
Once all five jars have been filled, lower them carefully into a canner full of boiling water. Make sure the water covers the tops of the jars by at least an inch.
When the water has returned to a boil, start the timer and process the jars for 10 minutes, plus additional time depending on your altitude.  I let my jars boil for 20 minutes, them pull the jars out and let them cool overnight on a doubled-over teatowel.
If the jars have sealed correctly, once they’re cool, the lids of the jars should be sucked in towards the pickles, and shouldn’t make a popping sound if pressed in their centres.  If you have any jars that haven’t properly sealed, you can keep them in the fridge and eat them over the next few weeks.  Otherwise, solidly sealed jars should keep for ages in a cool, dark space.

For more detailed canning information, I find the Bernardin site is an invaluable resource.

Note: You’ll notice I don’t boil my brine before adding it to the jars.  This is how I’ve done my pickled beans for three years running, and I find they stay extremely crisp and have had no problems with pickles going bad.  The important part seems to be the amount of salt and the 1:1 ratio of vinegar to water in each jar.  If you feel more comfortable using a hot brine, by all means, go ahead.

Goat Cheese, Pea and Pesto tarts

July 31st, 2011

Goat cheese, garlic and pea tarts

Sometimes random, leftover ingredients can come together to make the tastiest little dishes.  This was one of those times.  I had a handful of fresh market peas, some local goat cheese and half a package of puff pastry sitting in my fridge.  Pulled together with some of last week’s garlic scape pesto, they make a delightful little appetizer.

Half a block of puff pastry
Garlic scape pesto (basil pesto would do in a pinch)
Soft goat cheese
Fresh peas

Preheat oven to 400ºF.
On a lightly floured surface, roll the block of puff pastry into a 12×9 inch rectangle.
Slice the rectangle into 12 equal squares.
Spoon a scant teaspoon of pesto onto the centre of each square.  Top with another teaspoon of goat cheese, then sprinkle on some peas.
Fold two opposite corners of the square into the centre, covering the toppings.  Fold the other two in the same way.
Gently lift the tarts into the cavities of a muffin pan and bake for 15-20 minutes or until puffed and golden brown.
Let cool on a cookie rack before serving.

Pesto Palmiers

April 14th, 2011

Shower snacks

Last weekend, I played the chef for a friend’s bridal shower.  We were expecting around 25 people and I wanted the food to be bright, springy, but most importantly, easy to prepare.  I opted for a trio of dips – hummus, baba ganoush and a creamy salsa – and a few little pastry nibbles.  The bride-to-be’s aunt hosted the party and made her signature Greek salads-on-a-stick.

My favourite snack of the afternoon, both in terms of its ease of preparation and its tastiness upon completion, were the pesto palmiers.  A single brick of Tenderflake puff pastry makes about 3 dozen palmiers.  I made two bricks-worth, which was enough for the party and even a few leftovers – those were saved for the next day, quickly re-baked, and served with big pints of beer.  Delish.

1 brick frozen puff pastry
1 jar good quality pesto

Thaw the puff pastry overnight in the fridge.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out a 10×12 inch rectangle of pastry.
Spread a thin layer of pesto on top of the pastry, going right out to the edges.
Fold each of the long edges of the rectangle 1 inch towards the middle.  Repeat until the folded parts meet together in the centre, then fold one on top of the other.  You should have a long, somewhat V-shaped, rolled-up log of pastry, with the pesto on the inside.
Slice the log into 1/3 inch slices.  Lay the slices out on a baking sheet, making sure to leave plenty of room for expansion.
Bake the palmiers at 375ºF for about 8 minutes, or until just turning golden brown.

Notes:
Here’s a super-cute French video that shows the recipe for the original, sweet version of these palmiers:

 

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