Archive for the ‘Appetizers’ Category

A very tasty and elegant appetizer. I loved the subtle hint of white cheddar in the crust. They are also surprisingly simple to make and can be made ahead and either baked right before or baked earlier and reheated.

Leek and Red Pepper Mini-Quiches (Williams Sonoma)


For the cheddar pastry:
1/4 lb. white cheddar cheese, cut into chunks
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more as
1/4 tsp. salt
8 Tbs. (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 to 3 Tbs. cold water

For the filling:
1 1/2 Tbs. unsalted butter
1 leek, white portion only, or 2 large shallots, finely
1/2 small red bell pepper, seeded and cut into
1/4-inch dice
1/4 lb. dry-aged white cheddar cheese, grated
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
3/4 tsp. Dijon mustard
3/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper

To make the cheddar pastry, in a food processor, pulse the cheese until crumbly. Add the flour and salt and pulse until the cheese is finely crumbled. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles fluffy bread crumbs. Drizzle the egg over the mixture and pulse twice. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Sprinkle 2 Tbs. water over the mixture and pulse until a rough mass forms. If the mixture doesn’t come together, add another 1 Tbs. water.

Place the pastry on a lightly floured work surface and shape into a smooth ball. Divide in half. Roll out half the pastry into a large round 1/8 inch thick, pushing the dough outward from the center and rotating it about a quarter turn each time you roll, sprinkling more flour underneath as needed.

Using a 2-inch cookie cutter, cut out as many pastry rounds as possible and ease them very gently into the cups of a mini-muffin pan. The bottoms should remain rounded and the dough edges flush with the rims. Gather up the scraps, reroll, cut out additional rounds and line additional cups. Repeat with the remaining dough half, working in batches if necessary. You should have a total of 48 lined cups.

Preheat an oven to 400°F.

To make the filling, in a small sauté pan over medium-low heat, melt the butter. Add the leek and sauté gently, stirring occasionally, until tender but not browned, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and add the bell pepper and cheese. In another bowl or large measuring cup, whisk the eggs until blended, then whisk in the cream, mustard, salt and cayenne. Add the egg mixture to the leek mixture and whisk to combine. Pour 1 Tbs. of the filling into each of the pastry shells, evenly distributing the solids and liquid.

Bake the quiches until they are puffy and golden brown, about 20 minutes. Transfer the muffin pan to a wire rack and cool for 5 to 10 minutes (the quiches will sink a little as they cool). To loosen them from the muffin cups, run a thin-bladed knife around the sides, then carefully lift the quiches out of the cups. Arrange on a platter and serve.
Makes 48 warm bites.


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Need a quick appetizer? Well, this probably isn’t it! However, using the puff pasty is a great time saving trick and the result tastes very good.

Puff Pastry (Cheater’s) Spanakopita (From Elly Says Opa)

Makes 18 spanakopita triangles

a little olive oil
1/2 cup sliced leeks or about 1/4 cup diced onion
fresh dill, to taste
fresh parsley, to taste (you can tell this recipe is very technical)
1/2 lb. fresh spinach (right around 1 bunch)
4 oz. feta cheese, crumbled
2 eggs, divided
salt and pepper
1 box (2 sheets) puff pastry dough, thawed

Preheat oven to 375.

In a large skillet, heat a little bit of olive oil until shimmering. Add the leeks or onions and saute until tender. Stir in the spinach and then turn off the heat. The spinach will start to wilt down, but not much.

Meanwhile, roll the puff pastry dough into a square, making it slightly thinner and then cut each sheet into 9 equal squares by making 2 horizontal cuts and 2 vertical cuts.

To the spinach mixture (you can move it to a bowl if you like), add the feta, parsley, dill and salt and pepper to taste. Beat one egg and add that into the mixture.

Spoon about 1-2 Tbsp. of the spinach mixture in each puff pastry square. Brush the sides of the square with a little water and then being 2 opposite sides together to form a triangle. Press with your fingers to seal. Place on a baking sheet. Beat the second egg and then brush the tops of the triangles with the egg. Bake for about 20-25 minutes or until golden.

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Sorry for the poor picture, but the dip does taste better than it looks there. You can make this dip the day before your party and pop it in the oven just before. Serve it with some crusty french bread.

Spinach and Artichoke Dip (Mary Ellen’s Cooking Creations)

½ sweet yellow onion finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, pressed
1 tbsp olive oil
1 10 oz box frozen spinach
2 cans artichoke hearts in water, drained and coarsely chopped
2 packages cream cheese, softened
½ cup sour cream
½ cup mayonnaise
2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
¼ cup mozzarella cheese
Few pinches of red pepper flakes

Saute onion and garlic in olive oil and set aside
Cook spinach according to package directions; drain.
Mix spinach, onion, and garlic in large bowl.
Add cream cheese; mix
Add mayonnaise, sour cream, cheeses, red pepper flakes, and salt. Mix well.
Add artichoke hearts; mix; transfer to a baking dish
Top with some cheese.
Either store in fridge until ready to bake or bake on 350 degrees until hot and bubbly.

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Goat Cheese and Tomato Crostini

This is one my favorite appetizers! With the New Years approaching, I highly recommend this appetizer for your cocktail party. Of course, anything with goat cheese is usually good, right?

Goat Cheese and Tomato Crostini (Pinch My Salt)

Cherry, grape or pear tomatoes (or whatever tiny tomatoes you prefer)
Garlic cloves, unpeeled
Olive oil
Kosher salt
Combination of dried Italian herbs (such as fennel, oregano, basil, or thyme)*
1 baguette
1 garlic clove for crostini
8 oz goat cheese

1. Line a half-sheet pan with parchment paper and heat oven to 225 degrees.

2. Cut enough tomatoes to fill the sheet pan (about 2 small baskets should do the trick) and place them cut-side up on the parchment paper. Scatter a handful of unpeeled garlic cloves throughout the tomatoes.

3. Drizzle olive oil all over the tomatoes, then sprinkle lightly with kosher salt.

4. Mix together some of your favorite dried Italian herbs (or just use a commercial blend) and measure out about 2 teaspoons of the mixture. Grind the herbs into a powder using a spice grinder or mortar and pestle then sprinkle evenly over the tomatoes.

5. Bake tomatoes at 225 degrees for 3-4 hours, or until they have shriveled but still contain a bit of moisture inside. The time will depend on the size of your tomatoes, so start checking early.

6. Let cool

7. Cut baguette into slices. Brush with olive oil and bake at 350 until toasted. Rub with a cut garlic clove.

8. Spread a layer of goat cheese on each crostini and top with slow roasted tomatoes.

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  • Bruschetta w/White Beans, Sun Dried Tomatoes & Basil



  • Spinach, feta, raspberry, candied nut salad w/ raspberry vinaigrette



  • Chicken with Goat Cheese and Sundried Tomato Sauce



  • Saffron Rice and Red Pepper Pilaf



  • Strawberry Mascarpone Tart



Moving on to the first course. I served a simple spinach, feta, raspberry, and candied pecan salad. This is really simple to make and doesn’t require any cooking at all.

Spinach, Raspberry, and Feta Salad (by me)

1 package pre-washed spinach (12 oz)
4 oz feta (reduced fat is fine)
1 small container raspberries, washed and dried.
handful of candied pecans or walnuts

1/3 part raspberry vinegar
2/3 part olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

I probably made about 3/4 of a cup of dressing, but you can play around with this a bit. If you like your salad more acidic, then put a bit more vinegar, and less oil. Its not an exact science and you can’t really mess it up.

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Dinner Party

A couple months ago I invited another couple over for dinner. I thought the evening turned out pretty well overall. Here is what I ended up making:

  • Bruschetta w/White Beans, Sun Dried Tomatoes & Basil
  • Spinach, feta, raspberry, candied nut salad w/ raspberry vinaigrette
  • Chicken with Goat Cheese and Sundried Tomato Sauce
  • Saffron Rice and Red Pepper Pilaf
  • Strawberry Mascarpone Tart
  • Unfortunately, I forgot to take pictures of most of the meal. Starting with the appetizer, I loved the flavor of this dish and it had a hint of spice.

    Bruschetta w/White Beans, Sun Dried Tomatoes & Basil (joelens.blogspot.com)

    1 -2 cloves garlic sliced thin
    2 tablespoons olive oil
    1/2 teaspoons Chili flakes
    2 tablespoons Basil leaves (8-10 pieces)
    1/3 cup Sundried tomatoes, julienned
    Lemon juice to taste
    Kosher salt & fresh black pepper to taste
    3/4 cup canned white beans (Great Northern)
    1/4 cup chicken broth
    2 oz. Parmesan cheese, grated
    Thick slices of Italian bread
    Extra virgin olive oil for drizzling
    Italian Parsley for garnish, chopped

    In a saute pan on medium heat, toast the sliced garlic in the pure olive oil. When it is light golden, add the chili flakes, cook for 10 seconds and then add the basil leaves. Do this carefully, as the basil may spatter some oil. When the leaves are wilted and crispy, add the sundried tomatoes. Toss for a minute or so and adjust the seasoning with lemon juice, salt and pepper.

    Add the beans to the pan. Add the chicken broth and mix all together and mash to your preferred texture – smooth or chunky. Hold warm. Adjust consistency as necessary with the bean liquid, a little at a time.
    Grill or toast the bread on both sides until crispy. Be careful on high heat as bread burns easily. Lightly swipe the remaining garlic clove on one side of the bread. Arrange the toasted bruschetta on a serving platter. Top each piece with some of the tomato-bean mixture, then sprinkle the grated Parmesan over the mixture. Drizzle the remaining extra virgin olive oil on the bruschetta and finish with the parsley. Serve warm.

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    Caprese Salad Bites

    This is a simple, healthy, and delicious appetizer to make for parties.

    Caprese Salad Bites (by ME!, ok.. so Caprese salad has been around for decades, this is just a miniature version of it)

    1 log fresh mozzarella cut into bite sized pieces (or balls), approx +8oz, no positive on the amount
    bunch of basil leaves (20-30 small leaves or break up bigger ones)
    1 package grape tomatoes (20-30 tomatoes?)
    3 T balsamic vinegar
    1/4 cup olive oil
    salt, pepper to taste
    20-30 toothpicks

    Take a toothpick and spear the piece of mozzarella, basil, and 1 tomato. Repeat until you run out of ingredients. Place on a platter.

    In a bowl mix together the olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Add salt and pepper to taste.

    Drizzle dressing over the caprese bites. If you need more dressing, just make more. Each bite should have a taste of dressing.

    Sorry its not more precise, but I promise its easy!

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