Appetizer Archive

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

squash toasts with ricotta and cider vinegar

squash toasts with ricotta and cider vinegar

Lest you operate under the idea that when I go in the kitchen to work on a new recipe, adorable forest creatures gather around, bringing me my whisks and measuring cups, tiny birds whisper in my ear all the right seasoning notes and then, when I snap my last photo, my team of minions file silently in to wash the dishes while I go out on the deck to ponder my next free-form food essay, the single, completely unexciting reason I am late to share a new recipe this week is because I was chasing an exasperating salted peanut butter caramel-flavored ghost. Five rounds in, I have concluded that while there are no bad salted peanut butter caramels, the one I want isn’t yet within my grasp and it was time to take a break. One cannot live on peanut butter, cream, butter and brown sugar alone, after all, fun as it was for a few days there.

what you'll need + a new non-crooked label for me
peeling the squash

And so I shifted focus to the kind of simple dinner I’d love to eat before or after Friday’s candy deluge, a seasonal, cozy and hearty entry in one of my favorite food categories: meals masquerading as toasts. But don’t be deceived by the name; these are no simple, wan crostini. A winter squash of your choice is roasted in the oven while on the stove, you cook an onion with cider vinegar and maple syrup until it’s soft and jammy. You use a fork to half-mash this tangy confit together with the roasted squash, a pile it on bread you’ve toasted in olive oil and spread with ricotta or soft goat cheese. Don’t forget the mint on top; it makes something already good unquestionably perfect.

sliced squash

Continued after the jump »

Thursday, September 11, 2014

herbed tomato and roasted garlic tart

herbed tomato and roasted garlic tart

I had a friend in town this week and just when we were at the point in the conversation when we’d usually pick a place to meet for lunch, something terrible happened. Caught up in a moment where I forgot that I am me and not, say, Ina Garten, I suggested he come over and I’d make lunch for us instead. I realized I’d lost my ever-loving mind. Sure, I’d like to be the kind of person who makes “just lunch, nothing fancy!” for friends on a whim but I am not. I don’t really do “whim” cooking, as a website with nearly 918 intricately detailed recipes in its archives might evidence. Plus, I had so many recipes I was overdue to test out — a lemonade, a salad, a tart and I’d been promising my son I’d make chocolate pudding for weeks, not to mention the daily grind of breakfast, lunchbox and dinner — that I felt like I had no time to cook anything extra.

1.5 pounds of tiny tomatoes
baked with weights

And then, thank goodness, I realized how ridiculous that was. What could be more delicious for lunch than a salad, a tart, lemonade and chocolate pudding that I’d made enough of to ensure the kid wouldn’t be left out? What, you say? It might be a flop? My friend might push his food around his plate, hoping I wouldn’t notice or, worse, eat something he hated so not to hurt my feelings? Guys, I am 38 years old, by any standards (unfortunately, most days) a grown-up, and I decided that it was time, once and for all, to boldly embrace Julia Child’s best cooking rule: never apologize.

I don’t believe in twisting yourself into knots of excuses and explanations over the food you make… Usually one’s cooking is better than one thinks it is. And if the food is vile, then the cook must simply grit her teeth and bear it with a smile — and learn from her mistakes. (My Life in France)

roasted garlic + parmesan

Continued after the jump »

Monday, June 2, 2014

nancy’s chopped salad

nancys chopped salad

When it comes to meal salads, I feel pretty much everything you need to know is summed up by one of my favorite commercials of all time, which assures you that no matter what’s in your bowl (deep-fried taco shell, ground beef, guacamole, sour cream and cheese), as long as it vaguely resembles a salad, it must be good for you. ["Is it healthy? Of course it is! It's a salad, isn't it?"]

what you'll need
chopping garlic, oregano and salt

I bring it up today because we’ve fallen madly in love with a salad that I’m not sure we’re eating for any of the earnest reasons that one usually eats a salad — a desire for leafy greens, fresh vegetables or to be enviable in a swimsuit. Nope, I’m pretty sure this is the best salad ever because it tastes exactly like an Italian sub, minus that all-too-frequently lackluster bread. Which totally makes it healthy.

whisky, whisky

Continued after the jump »

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

avocado cup salads, two ways

avocado cup confetti salads

I have the most boring thing, ever, to tell you today (and clearly it’s not “how to write an enticing lede”): I tried not to eat bread for a couple months. Wait, come back! Let me explain. I don’t mean ever. I am not anti-carb or anti-dessert, nor is Wheat Belly our new idea of a good bedtime story; I am ever your gluten-full host. I remain certain that freshly-baked, crackly-crusted artisanal bread is one of the greatest things in the world; to turn it down a moderate serving of it when you’re able to enjoy it (chemically and all that) is a sacrilege. But that’s not really what most of our bread looks like, does it? Most often, bread is merely bookends on a sandwich, with the goal of making filling portable. Or, it’s toasted so that it can sop up butter, jam or a runny yolk, or crouton-ed to make a salad feel bulkier. It’s all too infrequently in and of itself noteworthy. These latter categories of bread were what I suspected I wouldn’t miss if when I challenged myself to skip them. That is, at least two meals a day: an ascetic, I am not.

rainbow of peppers, black beans
bell peppers, black beans, jalapeno, white onion

But I promise, I didn’t drag you here today to sell you on a refined carb-free life as I myself have little interest in living one. What I’d hoped to share was the neat thing that many less stubborn than myself have known of eons: when you tip the food scales away from lackluster bread-fill, a wonderful thing happens: vegetables, beans and protein come back into prominence, and it was just the cooking recharge that I needed. To wit, since the beginning of the year we’ve talked about eggs baked in a nest of spinach and mushrooms (biscuits on the side), a seasonal mayo-light riff on devilled eggs, my new favorite three-bean chili (a small amount of brown rice underneath), chicken fajitas loaded with vegetables, beans, slaw, pico, and guacamole (all perched on one or two small corn tortillas) and a kale-quinoa salad I’m so addicted to, if I don’t have it for lunch at least three days a week, I feel twitchy.

radishes, cucumbers, scallions

Continued after the jump »

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

asparagus-stuffed eggs

asparagus-stuffed eggs

Deep in the Julia Child archives, past the boeuf bouguignon, onion soup, jiggling aspics and the patently untrue yarn about the chicken that fell from the counter, mid-trussing, and was dusted off and put back into use with a remark about “nobody’s in the kitchen but you,” there are recipes so low in butter and bacon that they hardly fit the stereotype of French food as gluttony, as are thus rarely mentioned. A good lot of them are in From Julia Child’s Kitchen; published in 1975, it contained recipes and kitchen wisdom that came from episodes of her PBS show. Gentler to novices than her Mastering the Art of French Cooking classics, the recipes were probably more familiar to American audiences, things like leek and potato soup, sauteed chicken breasts with tarragon and tomatoes, and, here, a riff on deviled eggs that I am making my mission to rescue from obscurity.

does anyone eat their eggs in order?
covering with cold water and ice cubes

I’m a big fan of the hard-boiled egg; I find that keeping a few in the fridge makes for an easy breakfast with a slice of whole-grain cinnamon toast, a wholesome way to add protein to a lunch salad, or for snacks. My favorite way to eat them is slightly undercooked, peeled, halved and schmeared with the thinnest film of mayo and then sharp Dijon, followed by a few flakes of sea salt, but Julia Child’s version might be their highest calling: the potential to stuff their centers with something like a balanced meal, or at least a really gush-worthy appetizer.

simmer to cook

Continued after the jump »