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Archive for August, 2011

Party food is one of my great joys in life.  Call it what you will: hors d’oeuvres, finger food, cocktail nibbles, appetizers…whatever you call it, it’s tasty.

When I first decided I was going to try my hand at being good at cooking, making my own party food wasn’t really on my radar.  But H fancies himself a host extraordinaire,  and soon enough I found myself in situations that required me feeding guests.  It was then that it dawned on me: I didn’t need to tolerate the store-bought onion dip with a weird chemical aftertaste.  I could make my own hors d’oeuvres. And boy, did I ever.

Some people (sane people) might argue that making all your own appetizers is a huge waste of time.  Yes, maybe I was scrambling around my kitchen last night frantically putting things together 5 minutes before my book-club ladies arrived, but you know what?  I think it’s worth the extra effort.  I know I’m in the minority in thinking that way, but I don’t care.  You can taste the love, people. You can.

One party food in particular that I am obsessed with is dips.  Scratch that: my love for dipping things in other things goes way beyond the realm of party food.  In any situation, if there is something dip-able that I can consume, I am infinitely happy.  Hey, I never said I was a complicated girl.

I made 3 dips (well, one could be considered a “spread”) last night. They were all equally delicious, but I must say, the Onion Dip is legitimately like crack.  In a good way.

 

Tomatillo & Avocado Dip

You’ll Need:

3-4 medium-sized tomatillos (note: I got tomatillos in my CSA last week.  They are the tomato-y looking things (but green) that have a papery skin which you have to remove before cooking. Trust that I would NEVER have bought these things on my own.  But they are very delicious).

1/2 an onion

2 cloves of garlic

1 small jalapeno, seeds removed (or keep some seeds for extra heat)

1 avocado

1 lime

1 small handful of cilantro

To Do:

1. In a pan over medium heat, throw chopped up onion, garlic, jalapeno, and the whole tomatillos together with a drizzle of EVOO

2.  Saute for approximately 10 minutes, or until the tomatillos have softened (but not burst)

3. Put sautéed veggies into a food processor, pulse once or twice–you want to keep it pretty chunky

4. Add avocado, the juice of the lime, and the cilantro to the food processor, pulse a few more times until you achieve desired consistency (I like my dip with a little body to it).

5. Salt & Pepper to taste. Stick in fridge until your guests arrive.

Serve with tortilla chips.  Also super yummy as a sandwich spread.

Carmelized Onion Dip

You’ll Need:

2 large white onions

Extra-Virgin Olive Oil

Butter (approx. 3 tablespoons)

1 1/2 cups of Sour Cream

1/4 cup of mayonnaise (I eyeballed this and used 2 heaping big-spoonfulls)

2 tablespoons of cream cheese

1 pinch of Cayenne pepper

Salt & Pepper

To Do:

*Note–you can make this dip 2 ways, either in the slow-cooker, or on the stop top. The slow-cooker method is more hands-off, but if you don’t have one, the pan method works great too–just takes more hands-on time.

For the Slow-Cooker version:

1. Chop onions

2. Add onions, a hearty drizzle of EVOO, and butter to slow-cooker. Sprinkle with salt.

3. Cook on “low” setting for 8 hours (do it in the morning and it will be ready when you get home from work), or the “high” setting for 4 hours.

4. Onions will be done when they are deep brown. That’s called carmelization!

5. Drain excess liquid from onions.

6. In a bowl, combine onions, sour-cream, mayo, and cream cheese.  Stir well to combine.  *Note: you can adjust the ratio of sour cream, mayo, and cream-cheese to your liking.  I know some people are weird about mayo.

7. Add pinch of Cayenne, and salt & pepper to taste.

8. Store in fridge until guests arrive, serve with potato chips, try not to lick bowl.

For the Stove-top Version:

1. Chop onions

2. In a large pan, combine onions, butter, and EVOO.  Sprinkle with salt.

3. Saute until onions are a deep-brown, stirring constantly and adding a splash of water if the onions start to burn (this will take some time, at least 30 minutes if not more)

4. Combine onions, sour cream, mayo, and cream-cheese.

5. Add cayenne pepper, salt and pepper, to taste

6. Store in fridge until guests arrive, serve with chips, try not to lick bowl.

White Bean Spread with Lemon & Thyme

You’ll Need:

2 cans of white beans (often labeled “Cannellini beans” or “White Northern Beans”

1 bunch of fresh Thyme

1 large lemon

2 cloves of garlic, minced

To Do:

1. Drain liquid from beans and rinse with water

2. In a pot, saute garlic in EVOO until barely golden

3. Dump beans into the same pot, adding a little water

4. Cook beans over medium heat for approximately 10 minutes, until soft

5. Remove beans from pot into a bowl, draining some water if necessary.

6. Add Thyme (just how much is up to you.  I added approx. 2 tablespoons, tasting as I went)

7. Using a fork or a potato masher, mash up beans into a “spreadable” consistency.

8. Squeeze lemon into bean mixture, stir to combine.  Drizzle with EVOO (optional)

9. Leave at room temperature until guests arrive.  Serve with a sliced baguette.

*this is also awesome on sandwiches.

Prosciutto & Fontina Pinwheels

(*Not a dip. Still awesome.)

You’ll Need:

1/4 a pound of Prosciutto

Fontina Cheese

1 Package Puff Pastry

Pepper

Dijon Mustard

To Do:

1. Thaw out puff pastry.  There are usually 2 sheets per package.  When dough is pliable but still cold, lay out 1 sheet on parchment paper.

2. Spread a small amount of Dijon Mustard onto pastry, then sprinkle with Pepper (you don’t need salt here–the prosciutto is salty enough on its own)

3. Layer prosciutto slices over pastry

4. Grate fontina cheese, using enough to cover prosciutto evenly (exactly how much is up to you)

5. Roll up pasty (I rolled from the side, not the bottom), using a bit of warm water to seal the seam.

6. Store roll in fridge until you need it–it’s easier to slice the colder it is

7. Slice roll into “pinwheels,” lay out on parchment paper on a cookie sheet

8. Bake for approximately 10-15 minutes at 350 degrees, or until golden brown

9. Repeat with 2nd sheet of pastry, if needed. Each sheet makes approximately 10 -12 pinwheels.

Now who wants to come over for some snacks?

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One of my favorite things about Summer, other than the sunshine and the beach and the seafood and the vacations and the cocktails, is tomatoes.  In our latest CSA haul we got 4.5 pounds of gorgeous orangey-red toms, and I couldn’t get one in my tummy fast enough. Sliced up, slapped on toasted fancy bread with some mayo, salt, and pepper: heaven.

That is the beauty of a good tomato: you don’t really need to do anything to it.  Salt, Pepper, Mayo, bread.  The tomato sandwich is simple, but so so freaking good.  It sounds a little weird for those of you who consider a tomato on a sandwich an accessory rather than the main component, but trust me on this one.  Give it a try.

When I was a wee child I actually didn’t like tomatoes.  I was young and stupid then (I also “didn’t like” hot sauce, red wine, or hamburgers. Like I said: stupid), and I think it was more of a textural thing than a taste thing.  Those little gooey globuals of tomato seed seriously grossed me out.  They were too akin to Jellyfish material than I was comfortable with.

Mouth is watering already...

Thankfully I grew out of that phase, and now I get downright gleeful when good summer tomatoes come my way.  But only summer tomatoes.  I cannot tolerate those awful sickly pink, rock hard things that pass for toms in the winter.  Ew.

I am going to eat as many tomato sandwiches as I can in the next few days (once, my sister K., who basically invented the tomato sandwich, ate so many that she got an acid bubble on the inside of her lip.  Disgusting, but worth it). But then I have other things planned: roasted tomato soup (you can find my recipe here!), maybe some sauce, obviously an epic Caprese salad. But like I said: the less you can do to a summer tom, the better.

I’ve been trying to make that my food motto lately: “Do as little as you can.”  Because the food we get in our CSA is so fresh and so good, you really don’t need to do anything to it. A quick toss in a pan with some olive oil, a splash of lemon juice, even eating things straight up raw.  Too much of my veggie haul has gone bad in the past as I’ve pondered what to do with it.  Epiphany time: you don’t have to do anything.  Just eat it.

Now: inspire me.  What are some of your favorite ways to eat tomatoes?

Also something to consider: why does the plural of tomato have an -e in it?  Unnecessary, English language.  Unnecessary.

I particularly love when they look all freaky.

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