Archive for the ‘Appetizers’ Category

The Trick to Easy Entertaining

Monday, September 17th, 2018

My Parents in the 1960s

Summer is waning fast, but I still like to entertain on my screen porch. Sitting out there in the evening with family or friends, I now need a little extra light—but it’s still a lovely room and a lovely place in which to visit with people.

My parents loved to entertain. To them, cocktail or dinner parties represented a delightful way in which to get to know new people or cement old friendships. Sharing food with others led to sharing lives.

I have inherited their love of inviting people to drinks or dinner. I have also inherited one of my mother’s tricks for parties. She didn’t like to spend a lot of time away from her guests. So she would make one showy dish in advance and then put out of a lot of easy-to-make foods to complement it.

My current “go-to” showy dish isn’t hard to make, but my guests still appreciate it. I like to whip up homemade tortilla chips. They taste great. And they impress my guests (who generally don’t realize how very simple they are to prepare). I made them last week on Mass Appeal—along with my favorite guacamole—and I plan to serve them again to company soon.

One can make tortilla chips two ways, baked or fried. Fried chips are showier. They’re also more perishable; they tend to get a big soggy after a few hours. I often fry up just a few and then bake A LOT.

Neither chip recipe is really a recipe so I’m just going to talk you through them!

First, divide either corn or four tortillas into segments. I usually make 8 to 10 pie-wedge-shaped segments from large tortillas and 6 segments from small ones.

For Fried Chips:

Place the tortilla segments in between pieces of paper towel and leave them for at least 15 minutes. This removes any extra moisture from the tortillas and helps them fry better.

Pour about an inch of a neutral oil (I use Canola) into a skillet. Heat the oil until it reaches about 350 degrees.

Using heatproof tongs, pop a few segments into the hot oil. Let them fry for a minute or so and then flip them over. When they are brown on both sides (this is a remarkably fast process) place them on paper towels (I use the same ones I used for wrapping them earlier) and sprinkle sea salt on top.

Let them drain and cool for a couple of minutes and then they’ll be ready to eat. Remember to eat them as soon as possible for optimal crispness.

For Baked Chips:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. With your finger rub a very small amount of olive oil on both sides of each tortilla segment. Place the segments on baking sheets (rimmed sheets work best, but use what you have), sprinkle them with salt, and bake them for 7 to 8 minutes. (Try to bake only one sheet at a time.)

Remove the sheets from the oven and flip the segments over; then bake them on the other side for an additional 7 to 8 minutes. I have noticed that as my oven stays on for a while the baking time decreases. Let your senses of sight and smell determine how long to bake your chips. The chips should be golden brown and should smell crispy but not burned.

Let the chips cool briefly before eating them. If you are making them in advance, store your cooled chips in a sealed plastic bag.

You can see some of this process on the video below. (I also include the video for the other recipe we made, easy apple scones, just for fun.)

Happy entertaining!

And now the videos….

Tinky Makes Homemade Chips and Guacamole

Tinky Makes Easy Apple Scones

Tarzan Was My Sous Chef

Thursday, August 2nd, 2018

You Tarzan, Me Cook

This week on Mass Appeal I cooked lovely seasonal foods and had an unexpected helper.

One of the fun things about appearing on this lifestyle show is that I get to meet other guests, some of whom have become friends over the years.

On Tuesday the main other guests were members of the Berkshire Theatre Group in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, who came on the show to talk about their new production of the musical Tarzan.

A nice young man named Tim immediately came into the kitchen and offered to help me prepare my food, telling me that he loved to cook. I ALWAYS say yes when someone offers to help cook. Tim turned out to be the star of the show; he is playing Tarzan.

I hope to see him swing through the jungle next week. Meanwhile, although Tim was in training (Tarzan’s muscles have to be impressive) I managed to persuade him to nibble just a little. After all, no one should cook and then not be able to eat!

We made peach cobbler, rendered extra flavorful, and extra crunchy, with cornmeal. I am teaching an all-corn class at the Baker’s Pin in Northampton, Massachusetts, in a couple of weeks, and I have been pondering how to incorporate corn into a dessert since I always like to serve a full meal. Using cornmeal might be cheating—but it IS corn based!

We also made a lovely bright blueberry salsa.

Happy August!

Crunchy Peach Cobbler

Ingredients:

for the fruit base:

1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
4 cups chopped peaches (or half peaches and half blueberries or raspberries)
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon butter, diced

for the cobbler crust:

3/4 cup flour
1/4 cup cornmeal
2 tablespoons sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
1/4 cup milk
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons brown sugar

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Butter a 1-1/2-quart casserole dish.

Begin by making the base. Combine the sugar and cornstarch in a smallish nonreactive pot. Stir in the fruit and lemon juice. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring occasionally. Boil, stirring gently, for 1 minute. Remove the fruit from the heat and stir in the cinnamon. Spread the fruit in the prepared pan. Dot the top with butter.

To make the crust whisk together the flour, the cornmeal, the sugar, the baking powder, and the salt. Cut in the butter, but don’t overdo the process. You should still have tiny pieces of butter in the mixture.

Whisk together the milk, egg, and vanilla. Add them to the dry ingredients, and mix just until moist. Drop the resulting mixture onto the peaches, and spread it around to cover the fruit. Sprinkle brown sugar over all in little clumps. Bake until lightly browned, about 25 minutes. Serves 8.

Blueberry Salsa

Ingredients:

2 cups blueberries
the juice of 1 lime
1/2 teaspoon salt (more or less, to taste)
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely chopped
3 to 4 tablespoons finely chopped red onion
a handful of fresh cilantro, chopped

Instructions:

Chop or lightly crush about 1/2 cup of the blueberries. Stir them back into the remaining berries.

In a bowl stir together the lime juice and the salt. Stir in the pepper, the onion, and the cilantro; then add the berries.

Refrigerate the salsa for a couple of hours for maximum flavor. Serve with tortilla chips, over chicken or fish, or with crackers and cream cheese. Makes about 2 cups.

And now the videos…..

Crunchy Peach Cobbler

Blueberry Salsa

Foods of Our Fathers

Wednesday, July 4th, 2018

This post will be quick because it’s hot outside, and I really, really want to spend all of Independence Day by the water!

For my TV appearance this week, I decided to make dishes beloved of a couple of our founding fathers. I started out with George Washington’s Hoe Cakes, which I first wrote about here after my visit to GW’s gristmill near Mount Vernon. They were as tasty as I remembered: crispy and corny.

I went on to make a strawberry fool in honor of John Adams and his pioneering wife Abigail Smith Adams. According to The Food Timeline and other sources, the pair were fond of a simple, rich gooseberry fool. I didn’t have any gooseberries—but strawberries have just reached their peak here in Massachusetts. So I made those into a fool. Everyone who tasted it raved.

Neither dish will warm up your kitchen too much, and both will make you respect the taste of our first and second president.

Here’s the recipe for the strawberry fool. If you have strawberries and cream in the house, you can eat it in less than 15 minutes. I wish you a Glorious Fourth!

 

Strawberry Fool (inspired by John and Abigail Adams)

Ingredients:

1 pint fresh strawberries, hulled and cut into quarters
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla

Instructions:

Toss the strawberry pieces in half of the sugar, and let them sit for 10 minutes to juice up.

Place half of the strawberries and all of the strawberry juice in a blender. Puree the mixture; then stir it into the remaining strawberries.

Whip the cream until it holds stiff peaks, adding the remaining sugar and the vanilla when it is almost ready. Fold in the berry mixture. Serve immediately. Serves 4.

And now the videos:

Tinky Makes Hoe Cakes on Mass Appeal

Tinky Makes Strawberry Fool on Mass Appeal

Rhubarb-Glazed Meatballs

Friday, June 8th, 2018

I hope you’re not tiring of rhubarb! I’m still surrounded by it, going from event to event selling my cookbook, Love, Laughter, and Rhubarb.

I’m having fun trying to convert the entire world to the love of rhubarb.

If you’re in New England, please join me at one (or more) of my upcoming events. This evening, Friday, June 8, at 6:30 p.m. I’ll be talking about the book at the Arms Library in Shelburne Falls. Boswell’s Books will be on hand to sell copies of the book, and nibbles will OF COURSE be served.

On Saturday, June 9, from 10 to 3, I’ll have a table at the Lenox Rhubarb Festival in Lenox, Massachusetts. I’ll sign books, of course, and serve samples (until the samples run out; I gather the festival attracts quite a crowd).

On Saturday, June 16, from noon to 5, I’ll be signing books in Sherman, Connecticut, at the White Silo Farm and Winery Rhubarb Festival. I don’t have to bring food to this event because the chef at White Silo is making a number of tasty rhubarb dishes, including my own rhubarb pizza! If you’d like to learn more about my upcoming events (yes, there will be quite a few), visit my website.

The recipe below, which I made on Mass Appeal this week, won’t be coming with me to any events; it’s wet and warm and therefore not ideal to transport. Do try it, however, especially if you like sweet/sour combinations. I have served it as a main course, but it also makes an excellent appetizer.

If you have my book, please let me know what you’re cooking from it. And if you don’t have it, here’s a great place to find it!

I’m having trouble embedding videos these days, but you may watch my TV appearance by clicking on this link. The second dish we made, “Bee Mine Rhubarb Crumble,” substituted honey for the white sugar in my standard rhubarb crumble recipe as noted last year. (Note: I would cut down on the honey in this recipe; that stuff is sweet!)

The honey pays tribute to yet ANOTHER festival this week, the Langstroth Bee Festival in Greenfield. I wish it weren’t on the same day as the rhubarb festival! But I can always bee there next year.

Happy spring!

Rhubarb Glazed Meatballs

Ingredients:

for the stewed rhubarb:

2 pounds rhubarb (about 6 cups chopped)
2/3 to 1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)

for the meatballs:

1 pound lean ground beef
1/3 cup finely chopped onion
1 garlic clove, finely minced
1/3 cup dried breadcrumbs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 12-ounce bottle chili sauce
2-1/2 to 2-3/4 cups stewed rhubarb (you will have some extra from the recipe above, which I encourage you to eat as it is!), pureed in a blender

Instructions:

First, stew your rhubarb. Wash and trim the rhubarb. Cut it into 1-inch pieces. In a heavy, nonreactive saucepan, combine all the ingredients and cover. Let the pan sit for an hour or so to allow the rhubarb to juice up; then cook it over low heat until the rhubarb softens (at least 5 to 7 minutes; maybe more depending on your stove).

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl combine all the ingredients except the chili sauce and rhubarb.

Mix well; then shape the mixture into 1-inch balls. Place the balls on a large rimmed baking sheet (I like to line it with nonstick aluminum foil), and bake the meatballs for 25 to 30 minutes (or until done).

While the meatballs are baking, combine the chili sauce and rhubarb in a 3-quart saucepan. Bring them to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.

When the meatballs are done add them to the sauce. Stir to coat, and simmer for 5 more minutes, stirring gently from time to time.

Makes 24 to 30 meatballs.

Before I leave you, here’s a link to another of my appearances, a humorous segment from our local public radio station. The interview was fun, and the video is priceless—not because I sing or play the piano particularly well (it wasn’t a great day for either skill!) but because you can hear my irrepressible dog, Cocoa, sing along with me. Here is the link!

 

We’ll Always Have Paris

Friday, May 11th, 2018

My mother (the farthest person to the right) and her friends at the French House at Mount Holyoke College in 1939.

On Mother’s Day—and on many other days of the year—I think fondly of my late mother. I often cook something she enjoyed making and eating.

When I was planning today’s Mother’s Day appearance on Mass Appeal, I thought of my mother’s love of Paris, a love she passed on to me, and decided to make crêpes. This classic Parisian street food can be savory or sweet.

I’m not the world’s best crêpe maker. My crêpes aren’t perfectly flat and even. They are good enough, however—and they’re delicious!

My mother first fell in love with Paris and France on a trip there after her freshman year at Mount Holyoke, escorted (along with several other students) by a professor and his wife.

She happily went back to Paris for her junior year abroad, acquiring such a flawless Parisian accent that she was mistaken for a Frenchwoman. (My French was pretty darn good, but French people always knew I was American.) And she returned again and again throughout her life.

Here’s a paragraph she wrote in a diary in 1953, when she visited the city as a young mother and went to see a play at the Comédie-Française:

During the intermission I wandered into the lobby and delighted my soul further as I looked out through the colonnades at the fountains in front. I felt as tho I were re-finding Paris as I had loved it! And the life—the magnetic life of the city as I saw it again wandering through the streets, the narrow streets thronged with shops and people.

I like to think that my crêpes would have delighted her soul, too! I can’t replicate those shops and people, but I like to think that I can recreate a little taste of Paris in her honor.

Making the crêpes on Mass Appeal didn’t go QUITE as planned. Live TV is live TV. I had an egg mishap, and I never got to turn the darn things on camera. We had fun anyway—and the end product was delicious.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Classic Savory or Sweet Crêpes

Ingredients:

for the crêpes:

2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup flour
2 tablespoons melted butter
more butter as needed

for the fillings:

lots of butter
grated Gruyère or Jarlsberg cheese OR lemon juice and sugar

Instructions:

Place the eggs in a blender, and blend them to mix them. Add the milk, salt, and flour, and blend again on low speed. Blend in the melted butter.

Cover your blender bowl, and let the batter sit for at least 30 minutes before making the crêpes.

When you are ready to cook, melt a small amount of butter in an 8-inch nonstick frying pan over medium-low heat. Spread the butter around with a pastry brush or a paper towel.

Pour a few tablespoons of batter into the middle of the pan. Swirl the pan around to distribute the batter as well as you can into an even, flat pancake. Cook for a couple of minutes, until the bottom is light brown and the edges left up easily; then flip the crêpe and let it cook on the other side.

Remove the crêpe from the pan, and let it cool on a plate or rack. Continue until you have used up your batter.

You may fill your crêpes to make them either savory or sweet. For savory crêpes (known as galettes), melt butter in an 8- or 10-inch nonstick frying pan. Spread it around as you did for the crêpes. Place 1 crêpe on the pan, let it cook for a few seconds in the butter, and then flip it over. Sprinkle grated cheese on top, and let it melt for a minute or so; then fold the crêpe over the cheese to make a half circle. Cook until the cheese melts; then remove the galette from the heat. Repeat with the remaining crêpes.

The process for making sweet crêpes is similar, but instead of putting cheese on the inside you will sprinkle sugar and a small amount of lemon juice inside each crêpe.

Makes about 10 crêpes.

And now the videos:

Tinky Starts the Crêpes on Mass Appeal

Tinky Finishes the Crêpes (more or less)