Chunky Guacamole

Guacamole is one of my favorite foods and I’ve enjoyed it countless times – both at restaurants and my own. Yesterday realizing that I had everything I needed to make up a batch, I made (possibly the best) chunky guacamole I’ve ever had. Seriously, it was so good that I wrote down EXACTLY what I’d done with the hopes of capturing the magic in the future.

Chunky Guacamole

  • 3 ripe avocados 
  • 2 plum tomatoes
  • 1 large or 2 small jalapeños
  • 1 large or 2 medium/small garlic cloves
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 2 limes, juiced
  • 1 shallot
  • 1-1 1/2 T chopped fresh cilantro
  • 3-4 t sea salt

Halve avocados, remove pits setting them aside for later, scoop each avocado half into a large bowl. Halve the tomatoes, seed and then coarsely chop them – place into a second bowl. To that bowl add the jalapeño first removing the seeds and ribs and finely chopping. Mince the garlic and add to the second bowl with the shallot after dicing it.  Add the sea salt to the second bowl and toss the mixture together.  Add second bowl to the avocados, followed by the lemon juice and half the lime juice. Used a hand chopper, do a coarse chop over all ingredients and stir to blend. Chop again until it’s the chunkiness you desire.  Add chopped cilantro, stir to blend.  

Now for the tip:  In the bowl which you are using to serve or store, push the avocado pits into the guacamole. Drizzle the last of the lime juice over the top and press plastic wrap over the guacamole, touching it to the surface rather than the bowl.  Remove the pits just before serving. These steps keep the guacamole from turning brown, I deliberately waited 24 hours to take the photos and it’s still a vibrant green.   

A perfect light meal of Chunky Guacamole, warm corn tortilla chips and a hearty red wine. Living the dream!

Prosciutto, Brie & Apricot Flatbread

My latest flatbread creation, using ingredients I had on hand. And it may be my new favorite dinner for one!

Prosciutto, Brie & Apricot Flatbread

  • 1 flatbread
  • 2 oz cubed Brie
  • 1-2 t fresh thyme
  • 2 slices prosciutto, rolled and sliced into ribbons
  • 6-8 chopped dried apricots, cut into 3-4 pieces
  • Garlic Aioli (see below)
  • Crunchy onions, crumbled
  • Fresh Italian parsley, for garnish

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Brush flatbread on both sides with olive oil and place into a skillet then into the oven for 10 minutes. Remove and top with a light spread of the garlic aioli, followed by the apricots, brie, thyme and prosciutto. Return to the oven for 6-8 minutes. Remove and add the crunchy onions and parsley. Serve and enjoy!

 

 

Garlic Aioli

  • 1 garlic clove
  • 3 T mayonnaise
  • 1/4 t lemon juice
  • salt and pepper to taste

Using a micro plane, grate the garlic clove over the mayonnaise, stir in lemon juice, salt and pepper. This is delicious on any number of sandwiches and burgers as well as a base for the flatbread recipe above and is even better made a day or two ahead!

Prosciutto, Fig & Spinach Pizza

Some nights I imagine I’m on Chopped (perhaps my favorite of all shows on The Food Network) and decide to challenge myself based on featuring four random ingredients and transforming them into something that would delight the Chopped judges – or in this case me.  Okay guys, work with me here……

In my Chopped fantasy, Ted Allen asks me to open the basket and announces my four mystery ingredients:

  • Baby Spinach
  • Prosciutto
  • Dried Black Mission Figs
  • Hazelnuts

If you regularly watch Chopped, you’re likely thinking I got lucky – no gummy worms, eel or headcheese in my basket.  Keep in mind, if I were on Chopped (seriously on my bucket list) it would be a home-chef episode. For those shows they typically don’t give the contestants something that would send them running from the studio in tears.

Here’s what I decided to make with my basket ingredients:

Pre-heat the oven to 500 degrees, place your baking stone in the oven. Mix together a pizza crust mix (add water, olive oil, knead, cover rest for 10 minutes)  Place dried figs into boiling water to hydrate – set aside. Prepare the toppings – prosciutto,  chopped shallots, spinach, slice the figs in half. Using a cutting board with a dusting of corn meal and garlic powder, manipulate the pizza dough into the desired shape and thickness. Place the prosciutto, spinach, shallots, figs onto the unbaked crust, add red pepper flakes and top with shredded mozzarella and a drizzle of good olive oil.  Pull the heated baking stone from the oven and slide the pizza onto the stone.  Place in the oven for 10-15 minutes until the crust is nicely browned.  Remove from oven, top with chopped hazelnuts and cool for five minutes.  Slice and enjoy.

And yes, in my Chopped fantasy – the judges not only rave about my culinary skills but I’m offered my own show on The Food Network on the spot.  Of course, I humbly accept their accolades and realize I’m going to have to come out of retirement to do my show but this is a tradeoff I must make to follow my passion….

 

Baked Baby Eggplant Caprese

On Sunday when Mom came to dinner, she brought me three perfect, lavender baby eggplants from the Farmer’s Market.  I wish I’d thought to take a “before” picture.

I thought of what I had on hand – fresh Michigan tomatoes,  fragrant basil from my herb garden, tart goat cheese and toasted breadcrumbs made from my homemade croutons and came up with this recipe last night.

They were….phenomenal.  And I’m going to share how I did it in case you’d like to make these little melt-in-your-mouth bites of goodness. They would be great for appetizers, side dishes or a meatless entree.

Baked Baby Eggplant Caprese

  • three baby eggplants
  • 1 c fresh chopped tomato
  • 6 large basil leaves
  • sea salt
  • garlic powder
  • olive oil
  • 1/2-3/4 c goat cheese
  • breadcrumbs

Trim the tops and bottoms off each eggplant then slice them in half. Place the eggplant halves on paper towels, flesh side up and salt them. Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees. After 15 minutes, blot the eggplant and drizzle olive oil over the cut side lightly coating the surface. Place them flesh side down on a grill pan (I used my cast iron one) and roast them for 15 minutes.  Chop the tomatoes, add sea salt and garlic powder to taste, chiffonade then stir in the basil and set aside. Remove the pan from the oven and turn the eggplant over (skin side down), top them with chunks of goat cheese, chopped tomatoes mixture, then a sprinkle of the crunchy breadcrumbs and place them back into the oven. Turn the oven off and remove them after 3-5 minutes until the goat cheese is warmed and softened.

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Shrimp Cocktail Wontons – an easy appetizer

Shrimp Cocktail Wontons

Makes 12

  • 12-24 cooked shrimp (medium size)
  • 12 wonton wrappers
  • 2 oz cream cheese, cut into 12 cubes
  • cocktail sauce
  •  lemon, olive oil, pepper & seasoned salt (I use Melting Pot’s Garlic & Wine Seasoning)
  • cilantro – optional

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Using a muffin tin, place a wonton wrapper into each cup, pressing in as shown below. Place a cube of cream cheese in each.

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Bake for 7-10 minutes until golden brown.

While they are baking, remove the tails from the shrimp, place on a platter.  Drizzle with olive oil, seasoned salt and pepper, then squeeze fresh lemon over the top.  Place in oven for 4-5 minutes.

Lift each wonton onto a plate.  Place a dollop of cocktail sauce over the softened cream cheese, then top with a shrimp or two and a cilantro leaf, if desired.  Serve and enjoy!

Scallops Chambord – in time for New Year’s Eve

Though I featured this post one year ago, it remains one of my signature recipes and one that we are having again tonight while ringing in 2016. It’s a tradition but also, it’s an amazing and delicious dish and so here it is once again! I hope you’ll try it!

Happy New Year!

Spence and I have spent 24 New Year’s Eves together.  At some point I came across this recipe that sounded decadent, festive and delicious.  The first few New Year’s Eves I made this as an appetizer/first course, then onto lobster tails and maybe even fondue as the night progressed.  Too much food, too rich and the star here was the Scallops Chambord. Fast forward, our holiday routine now firmly established, Scallops Chambord is the whole meal! This year I prepped 4 skewers but decided to prepare two of them first, then about an hour later, two more.  This was brilliant as we savored them over the evening with a fire blazing, Prosecco and later a special bottle of Champagne. I use most cookbooks as a “guide” so this represents my version which is better than the original in my humble opinion (patting myself on the back now).

Scallops Chambord

  • 20-24 sea scallops
  • 5-6 slices of bacon (not thick cut)

Rinse the scallops and rest on paper towels, blot the top.  Stretch the 5-6 pieces of bacon, just pulling gently to lengthen.  Cut each slice in half.  Prepare a broiler pan and four skewers.  Wrap the bacon around each scallop so that there is a complete wrap with a little overlap.  Thread onto skewers, keeping space in between them.  Set aside.

Chambord Sauce

  • 1 c seedless black raspberry preserves
  • 1/4 c honey
  • 1/4 c Chambord liqueur

 

In a small saucepan, add the preserves, honey and Chambord liqueur.  Stir together on a very low heat to melt the preserves and honey together and incorporate the Chambord.  You’ll want it to reduce sufficiently to coat a spoon. I usually make the sauce earlier in the day to assure the consistency is right.

Set oven to broil.  Place the broiler pan with skewers in on an upper rack.  Set your timer for 10 minutes but watch the scallops during the process – your oven may be hotter than mine. Remove, flip the skewers and return to the broiler for 3-5 minutes – again, you want the bacon cooked but not burned.

While the scallops are broiling, ladle your sauce onto the plate as shown above.  When the scallops emerge from the oven, remove them and set onto the plate.  At this point, I pour Spence and I a glass of Prosecco which we enjoy with our plated Scallops Chambord.

 

Chef’s Note:  If you can’t find black raspberry preserves, a perfectly good substitute is seedless red raspberry preserves.  

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Cocktail Recipes with Rum Chata, Chambord & Bailey’s Irish Creme

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Cocktail anyone?

This cocktail is one I came across on Facebook this morning and I can’t wait to make it.  It’s reminiscent of a cocktail I enjoy called Nuts N Berries, that recipe is below.

Nuts N Berries 

You will need Bailey’s Irish Creme, Chambord, club soda, crushed ice, a shot glass and a tall glass.

  • Fill your glass half full with crushed ice.
  • Fill a shot glass with Bailey’s, pour over ice.
  • Fill a shot glass with Chambord, pour over ice and Bailey’s.
  • Fill the remainder of the glass with club soda.  Stir with a straw and enjoy this refreshing cocktail.

As a twist for both cocktails, substitute the club soda and use a scoop of softened vanilla ice cream; add all ingredients to a blender for a delicious Hummer-type drink.

Traditional Cheese Fondue (as it’s done in Switzerland)

From my travels to Switzerland, when my cousin Kristin took Spence and I to an “underground” fondue restaurant.  “Underground” in the sense that this is a place that locals know of but not “tourists” (as we learned from our tablemates later that evening). Kristin and her husband had lived in neighboring Versoix for a number of years and so she quickly established her credibility.  In reality the restaurant sat on a pier, a long stroll out onto Lake Geneva.  Kristin placed our order at a walk-up station outside the restaurant.  We carried our drinks inside and found seats at one of the long communal dining tables, very rustic.  When your number was called you needed to react immediately as the servers were moving rapidly with vats of molten fondue.  The fondue was served with bread and a side dish of fruit cocktail.  The two men seated next to us (locals) began engaging us in a spirited discussion after dinner including an explanation about Traditional Swiss Fondue and what does (and doesn’t) go into it.  There is so much more to the story of that evening and memories of that trip.  But since this blog is meant to feature a recipe, I’ll save those stories for another blog or my novel…….

Traditional Cheese Fondue

  • 1 lb of Gruyère
  • 1 lb Emmentaler
  • 1-2 cloves garlic
  • 2 t grated nutmeg
  • Dry white wine
  • Kirschwasser liqueur

Fondue Fixings

Shred the Gruyère and Emmentaler cheeses, I do so in my food processor.  This will yield 8 cups of shredded cheese.  Using a microplane, grate two teaspoons of nutmeg, set aside.  Using a garlic press, pulverize the garlic cloves, set aside.

I use an electric fondue pot but have also made this on the stovetop, transferring into an old-school fondue pot with a little can of sterno blazing beneath it.  That said, when you are ready to assemble, heat the pot – better low and slow than to risk burning this fabulous cheese mix. Start by pouring in 1/2 cup of wine and the garlic into the fondue pot.  As soon as it starts bubbling put in the first two big handfuls of cheese and stir with a fondue fork.  Now stir in the nutmeg.  By handfuls add the cheese, stirring the unmelted into the melted. Add more wine if needed.  At this point add the Kirschwasser.  How much is up to you – I use a healthy shotglass full.  Stir it in.  Serve with wine or beer of your choosing, ready your fondue fork and start dipping, relax and talk with your tablemates.

Dippers

  • Chopped granny smith apple
  • Chopped red apple (I like gala or empire)
  • Carrot chunks
  • Broccoli & Cauliflower Florets
  • Cut up chunks of a good rustic bread or baguette

Ready to go for tonight's New Year's Day dinner! Here's to 2015!
Ready to go for tonight’s dinner!

Steamed Mussels with White Wine

Spence and I love Mussels and can make a meal of them – which we did last night.  They were so good that I had to share this recipe; I hope you’ll try it!

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Steamed Mussels with White Wine – serves 2

  • 2 lbs mussels
  • 4 large garlic cloves – coarsely chopped
  • 1 small sweet white onion – chopped
  • 2 lemons – quartered & seeded
  • 2 c dry vermouth
  • 1/2 c water
  • 4 T butter
  • 1 T sea salt
  • red pepper flakes – to taste
  • 2 t Trader Joes 21 Seasoning Salute
  • 2 T chopped flat leaf parsley

In a large pan add garlic, onion, lemons (squeeze the sections into pot, then add the lemon quarters), vermouth, water, butter, sea salt, red pepper flakes and 21 Seasoning Salute, turn pan on low until butter is melted into sauce.

Turn pan on high. Add the mussels to the pan, stir and cover. During 6-8 minute cooking time, stir twice.  Mussels are done when they open.  Remove from heat, add chopped parsley, a sprinkle of sea salt and red pepper flakes. Discard any unopened mussels, they aren’t safe to eat.

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I served this with fresh italian bread, butter and Prosecco. Amazing!