Archive for category Appetizers

Eggplant Roll-ups Italiano

Eggplant roll-upsI remember when I was a kid, the thought of eating eggplant grossed me out. Man, was I DUMB. I can assure you that, once I was older and on my own, doing my own cooking and experimenting with flavors, things changed dramatically on this front.

Like stuffed mushrooms, there is almost nothing you can’t do with eggplant. However, I am starting off with this particular recipe because I made this just this past weekend for an event at my house. People simply could not get enough of these.

Ingredients

3 medium-large eggplants

1 medium Vidalia onion, minced

1 cup flavored breadcrumbs

8 oz prosciutto, sliced thin, cut in to very thin strips

3 tbsp pine nuts, toasted and coarsely chopped

6 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese

4 oz thick-shredded Mozarella cheese

1 tsp fresh chopped thyme

1 tsp fresh chopped sage

1 tsp fresh chopped rosemary

1 tsp crushed red pepper

6-8 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp minced garlic

3 tbsp coarse salt

Sea salt and fresh-ground black pepper

Several fresh parsley leaves (for garnishing)

Directions

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Do not peel the eggplant! Cut it lengthwise into 1/4″ slices. Salt with the 3 tbsp coarse ground salt and place it in a colander to drain for about 30 minutes. Then, wash them well with cold water and pat dry with paper towels.

To prepare the pine nuts, prepare them by chopping coarsely. Toss with 1 tbsp olive oil, sea salt and fresh-ground black pepper. Place on a baking sheet and toast for about 5-7 minutes at 350 degrees.

Add 3 tbsp of olive oil to a large skilled and sauté the onions for about 10 minutes (until wilted). Add the breadcrumbs and stir continuously until they are browned. This will take about another 10 minutes.

Place the mixture in a large bowl with the toasted, chopped pine nuts, the proscuitto, herbs, garlic, crushed red pepper, Parmesan and Mozarella cheeses. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Brush both sides of the eggplant with the remaining olive oil and place them on a oiled baking sheet. Bake on the top shelf of an oven until lightly golden on both sides for about 10 to 15 minutes. Remove them from the oven and pile them on top of each other to steam for about 5 minutes. This will make them easy to roll.

Divide the filling evenly among the eggplant slices. Place the filling on the wide end of the eggplant and roll them up. Place them on an oiled baking sheet. Season lightly with salt and pepper.

Bake the rolled eggplant appetizers for about 10 to 15 minutes until golden. Remove them from the oven and place them on a serving platter. Garnish with fresh parsley leaves. These are delicious right out of the oven, or after they have cooled for about ten minutes.

Cook’s Note: These can be prepared ahead of time and refrigerated. When you’re ready to bake the final product, remove them from the refrigerator and bring them to room temperature before placing them on an oiled baking sheet.

 

 

 

 

 

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Smoked Salmon Supreme Plate

LoxThis is one of those appetizer plates that could easily turn into a meal if you let it. It’s spectacular when you’re too damned lazy to cook, or when you’re watching the Red Sox march to the World Series (which they are this year), or when you’re watching the latest episode of The Walking Dead.

It’s fairly simple to assemble. You do not need to smoke your own salmon. Smoked sockeye salmon is readily available (and sliced perfectly for this dish) at your local supermarket. Everything else you need for this, in my opinion, is stuff a well-stocked kitchen should have.

Serve it with your favorite wine. People will tell you that it should be a white wine, but what if you don’t really like white wine? I hate food and drink rules, frankly. Drink whatever the hell wine you want.

For serving, you need a long platter. I still have the one that my mother used when we were kids.

Ingredients

1 pkg of smoked sockeye salmon

4 tbsp capers

Lemon juice (for drizzling)

Extra-virgin olive oil (for drizzling)

2-3 tbsp freeze-dried dill (Litehouse makes a great product)

Bunch of asparagus, blanched

Kosher salt and fresh-ground pepper (to taste)

Baby arugula

Directions

This is mostly an assembly project, folks. However, the first thing you need to do is trim off the hard (whiter) ends of the asparagus and discard them. Bring a pan of water to a rolling boil, place the asparagus in and just blanch them until they are tender enough to eat. Don’t allow them to become limp. Drain the asparagus and run it under very cold water. Set aside.

Line the long serving plate with a layer of baby arugula, one of the eight wonders of the foodie world.

The smoked salmon is generally layered in the package in stages. You want to spread them out a bit more, but leave them in layers, so that all of the slices can benefit for the olive oil and lemon drizzle. Place them atop the arugula on the long serving plate. Then, place the blanched asparagus along the sides.

Drizzle everything with extra-virgin olive oil and lemon juice, and salt and pepper (to taste). Sprinkle dill on top and add the capers. Remember to drizzle and sprinkle the asparagus as well.

I recommend serving this with Triscuits, and I prefer the olive oil and cracked pepper Triscuits. Simple and delicious.

Remember that this recipe is simple to double up on as well.

 

 

 

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Baked Stuffed Clams

NorwayDeepClamShells-Legendary ShellsHere’s a mighty tasty recipe. This is one of those appetizers that people don’t think of making very often, mostly because they cringe when they think of having to shuck clams to make it. Actually, you don’t have to do any of that. In most supermarkets, you can purchase chopped clams in their broth. These are usually somewhere in front of the fish section in cold case. Or you can visit a seafood store and purchase them. Or, you can simply buy the snows chopped clams in the can. They work perfectly fine for this recipe. (Or, if you like the labor, you can buy clams and shuck them yourself.)

You can also go online and purchase clam shells for this recipe. These are durable, oven-resistant, dishwasher-safe, reusable clam shells that are made specifically for this purpose. Here’s a link to a good online source called Legendary Shells.

It says that the Pancetta or bacon is optional, but I wouldn’t leave it out. It adds great depth of flavor, particularly since the recipe calls for sage. People often ask me what the difference is between Pancetta and regular bacon. Pancetta is often called Italian bacon, and is essentially bacon without the smoky flavor, so it just depends upon which you prefer.

Ingredients

2.5 cups chopped clam meat (retain the clam juice)

Retained clam juice (if you are working with whole, fresh clams, purchase a bottle of Snow’s Clam Juice)

6 clam shells (for cooking; see note above)

2 tbsp olive oil

1 cup chopped onion

1/2 cup chopped red pepper

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 cups Italian style bread crumbs

1 tbsp dried broken-leaf sage

Kosher salt (to taste)

Fresh-ground black pepper (to taste)

Crushed red pepper flakes (to taste)

1 egg

3 tbsp cold butter

1/2 cup chopped Pancetta or bacon, chopped and cooked until crispy (optional, but not really)

Directions

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

If you’re working with whole clams, you can chop them by hand or use a food processor.

Heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions, peppers and garlic and cook for about 8 minutes. Stir frequently so that the garlic does not burn.

Remove from heat and transfer everything to a bowl. Allow it to cool a bit. Then, add your bread crumbs, sage, salt and pepper (sparingly), red pepper flakes, and clams.

Whisk the egg with the retained clam juice. Add it to the dry ingredients and mix gently. If you are adding the Pancetta or bacon (and I strongly suggest you do), now is the time to add that to the mixture. If the mixture appears dry (and it probably will not with the addition of the meat), here’s where that bottle of Snow’s clam juice comes in handy.

Fill the shells with the clam mixture, and place a chunk of butter on the top of each one.

Bake for 20-30 minutes or until golden brown on top.

My friend Bill says to serve this with lemon wedges and cold beer. Wine works too, if you’re not a beer drinker (like me).

 

 

 

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Vine Ripened Tomatoes With Goat Cheese, Pistachios, Fresh Basil and Balsamic Drizzle

Vine_Ripe_TomatoOkay, I have not yet taken a photo of this appetizer. I promise that I will as soon as possible, but I made this on a whim for a cookout and just didn’t get the chance. So, you will have to visualize this for the time being. You’re not going to layer these tomatoes in slices. You’re going to literally put the tomatoes back together after you cut them and dress them with goat cheese, pistachios and balsamic drizzle.

These are not only very easy to make, but also seriously addictive, I warn you. A friend of mine made these and told me that their guests ate so many of these appetizers that they never got to the main event.

Ingredients

6 vine-ripened tomatoes

1 cup pistachios, roughly chopped

8 oz goat cheese

2 tbsp Tuscan Seasoning (McCormick’s makes a great product)

Balsamic drizzle

8 large fresh basil leaves, trimmed and cut in strips

6 toothpicks

Directions

The first thing you want to do is slice off a bit of the bottom of each tomato so that they will stand up without rolling on their sides. Set aside.

Take the goat cheese out of the fridge and remove it from its packaging. Allow it to sit for about an hour until it comes to room temperature and becomes soft. Once it has reached that point, blend in the Tuscan seasoning. There’s no need to add salt. The Tuscan seasoning incorporates enough salt.

Slice each tomato into three layers, leaving the stems on the top piece. Spread goat cheese on the bottom layer, add pistachios, a few pieces of fresh basil, and some balsamic drizzle. Do the same with the second layer and put it on top of the bottom layer. Put the top piece on and put a toothpick through the top to hold it all together. Repeat for all tomatoes.

Just before serving, apply some balsamic drizzle on top of the entire batch. If you have any chopped pistachios left over, just distribute them around the edge of the plate. This is great served with crusty Italian bread and a nice glass of red wine.

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Martin & Bill’s Eggplant Caponata

EggplantI don’t know about you, but when I buy this stuff in a jar, it looks like cat food. That’s not the plan here. You should be able to identify the various ingredients in this great appetizer. This dish mixes the best tastes of summer with crushed red pepper and basil, among other things as you will see.

This dish is great on rice crackers, pita chips, bagel crisps or thinly sliced crusty bread.

The recipe calls for one large eggplant. If you use the Italian eggplant, they are generally a bit smaller so you’ll probably need two. The recipe also calls for pickled peppers. If you’re using pepperoncini or hot/sweet vinegar peppers, you should use about 3 or 4. If you’re using banana peppers, they are larger so you’ll probably need just two.

Ingredients

1 large eggplant

1 medium or large red onion

6 garlic cloves

3-4 pickled peppers (Pepperoncini, hot or sweet vinegar peppers)

1 medium red pepper

1 lemon, thinly sliced

3 tbsp capers

6-8 fresh basil leaves, trimmed and cut in strips

1 tbsp crushed red pepper (more if you choose)

5 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, divided

sea salt and fresh-ground black pepper to taste

Rice crackers, pita chips, bagel crisps or thin-sliced crusty bread (for serving)

Directions

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Roughly chop the pickled peppers and set aside for later.

Leaving the skin on, cut the eggplant into cubes. Roughly chop the onion, red pepper, and garlic. Put the ingredients into a bowl and add the crushed red pepper flakes and 3 tbsp of the olive oil, Add sea salt and pepper to taste.

Transfer to a baking sheet and scatter the lemon slices over the top. Place in the oven and cook for at least 25 minutes.

Remove the vegetables from the oven and allow them to cool slightly. Then, transfer them to a food process and chop roughly. Don’t do this on an automatic setting. Do this more or less manually so that you don’t pureé the vegetables.

Transfer this back into a bowl, and add the capers, basil, pickled peppers and remaining 2 tbsp of extra-virgin olive oil. Taste and add more salt and pepper if necessary.

Refrigerate for a minimum of 2 hours. However, overnight results in a much better flavor.

Serve with rice crackers, pita chips, bagel crisps or crusty bread. A nice red wine goes well with this.

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