Archive for the 'Make Ahead Appetizers' Category

Honey-Tomato Bruschetta with Ricotta

And I’m back! My blog absence is due, in large part, to the fact that my husband and I completed the Whole 30 in the month of January – no sugar, alcohol, grains, legumes, or dairy for an entire month. I really should have written about it on the blog, but all the recipe searching, planning, shopping, cooking, and cleaning took just about everything I had. Honestly, it wasn’t all that difficult since we enjoy lots of home-cooked whole foods as it is, but it was challenging to cook every single meal, every day for 30 days. (I had a couple of bad days that month and really didn’t feel like cooking, but Chipotle just wasn’t an option.) We even survived a family visit/trip to the mountains; I just cooked everyone’s food, and we stared longingly at the red wine.

We did it as a digestive investigation (as opposed to doing it for vanity, which is fine, too!), and I think our investigative purpose certainly helped us stick with it. For better or worse, we discovered that we both function optimally eating within the Whole 30 parameters, and dairy really isn’t Dr. O’s friend. Thankfully, none of the foods we eliminated and re-introduced made us sick, per se; we could just tell a difference in our energy levels, digestive function, and yes, bodily appearance when we put them back in. Our plan for now is to stick closely to the plan at home (though I won’t pretend we aren’t having any wine or dark chocolate), and not to worry so much at friends’ houses or restaurants.

Not worrying so much at friends’ houses is a good thing, because what is perhaps the best appetizer I’ve ever made came out of my recipe search for this month’s gourmet club meeting. Our theme was aphrodisiac foods, and I chose this recipe because of the tomato, basil, and honey elements. With its lush, creamy texture, I figured the ricotta couldn’t hurt either. Here it is!

Honey-Tomato Bruschetta with Ricotta
Serves 6
Prep: 20 min. | Total time: 1 hr., 45 min.

Ingredients:
2 pints cherry or grape tomatoes, halved lengthwise
1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons clover honey
2 teaspoons thyme leaves
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
12 baguette slices, cut 1/2 inch thick on the bias
1 cup fresh ricotta (8 ounces)
1 tablespoon buckwheat or chestnut honey
6 basil leaves, thinly sliced or torn

Method:
Preheat the oven to 300°. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, toss the tomatoes with the olive oil, honey, thyme leaves, salt and pepper. Scrape the tomatoes onto the prepared baking sheet and turn them cut side up. Bake the tomatoes for about 1 hour and 25 minutes, until they begin to shrivel and brown. Let cool.

Preheat the broiler. Spread out the baguette slices on a baking sheet. Broil for about 30 seconds on each side, until the edges are golden brown.

Spread the ricotta over the baguette slices and top with the slow-roasted tomatoes. Lightly drizzle the tomatoes with the buckwheat honey, sprinkle with the sliced basil and serve with additional buckwheat honey on the side.

Make ahead: The roasted tomatoes can be refrigerated for up to 2 days. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Source: Food & Wine

My notes:

  • Surely, part of the reason this tasted so amazing is because I made my own ricotta. I used Smitten Kitchen’s recipe with 1 cup of heavy cream and 3 cups of whole milk. Making ricotta is actually pretty easy and well worth the effort.
  • I made two separate batches of tomatoes over a couple of days, once with a light baking sheet and once with a dark one. The tomatoes on the light baking sheet were softer, and the tomatoes on the dark baking sheet were almost candied. Both were delicious.
  • Since I didn’t feel like tracking down buckwheat or chestnut honey, I used clover honey for the tomatoes and for drizzling (as did several of the recipe reviewers).
  • If you don’t want to make your own baguette toasts, baguette chips from the bakery area of the grocery store work just as well.

Honey-Tomato Bruschetta with Ricotta

This is one of those appetizers where people moan while they eat it. Seriously. The combo of crunchy bread, fresh and creamy ricotta, and sweet slow-roasted tomatoes is beyond delicious. The basil adds brightness, and the honey drizzle takes everything over the top. Plus, it’s totally gorgeous on the plate (far more than my photo shows).

I served this twice over the course of two days – once at gourmet club and once at my Downton Abbey supper club – and everyone raved. I’m going to make this again and again, but only when others are around for sharing.  It’s dangerously good!

Recipe link: Honey-Tomato Bruschetta with Ricotta

White Bean Dip with Lemon Sage Olive Oil

Let me introduce you to my current favorite appetizer for entertaining: White Bean Dip with Lemon Sage Olive Oil from Peace Meals.  It’s absolutely delicious and looks really sophisticated, though it’s super easy and can be made ahead.  I originally made it for a gourmet club meeting a few months back, and then re-made it this past weekend when we had friends over for dinner.  It was a hit!

White Bean Dip with Lemon Sage Olive Oil
Makes 2 cups

Ingredients:
1/4 cup olive oil, divided
2 teaspoons minced garlic (about 2 cloves)
1 bay leaf
30 ounces canned white beans, drained and rinsed, with 3 tablespoons whole beans reserved for garnish
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1 tablespoon thinly sliced fresh sage leaves
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
Fresh pita bread or crackers

Method:
Warm 1/8 cup (2 tablespoons) of the olive oil in a medium sauté pan over low heat. Add the garlic and bay leaf, cooking gently for about 1 minute (do not overcook). Discard the bay leaf. Pour the oil and the sautéed garlic into a food processor or blender, setting the sauté pan aside for later use. Add the white beans, lemon juice, and salt to the food processor, and purée the mixture until smooth. Transfer the puréed dip to a serving bowl and top with the reserved whole beans. Heat the remaining 1/8 cup of olive oil in the sauté pan over medium. Add the sage and lemon zest, cooking just until the sage begins to curl and the zest begins to turn golden. Remove from heat and drizzle the infused oil, sage, and lemon zest over the bean dip. Serve warm or at room temperature with pita bread or crackers.

Source: Peace Meals

White Bean Dip with Sage Lemon Olive Oil

Yum, yum, yum.  The texture of the dip is just like hummus, but the sage and lemon create a really distinct flavor profile.  I usually feel like hummus is a bit tangy, but this is smooth, bright (from the lemon), and herbaceous (from the sage).  It’s at its absolute best right when you’ve poured the warm oil, sage, and lemon zest over the top, but it’s still amazing made ahead.  Just allow the oil on top to cool to room temperature, cover your dish with plastic wrap, refrigerate, and then set the dip out 30 or 45 minutes before serving to allow it to come to room temperature.  You (and your guests) will love it!

Watermelon Mango Salsa

It may be 58° outside, but I’m going to blog summer recipes until the season is officially over, dangit.  Plus, there are plenty of watermelons and mangoes available in my supermarket right now, and this salsa is sooooo good.  I made it for our farmers’ market-themed gourmet club last month, but it would be fantastic as part of a picnic, as an appetizer for a non-traditional Mexican menu, or as a garnish for grilled fish or chicken.  Give it a try!

Watermelon Mango Salsa
Serves 6

Ingredients:
2 1/2 to 3 cups diced seedless watermelon
1 Granny Smith apple, finely diced
1 mango, pitted and diced
1/2 red onion, diced
2 teaspoons minced garlic (about 2 cloves)
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
1 bunch cilantro, stems removed and leaves chopped
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon coarse salt

Method:
Combine the salsa ingredients in a bowl and refrigerate.  Serve with chips.

Source: Peace Meals (such a gorgeous cookbook!)

Watermelon Mango Salsa

I’ll admit that I was initially a bit hesitant about adding garlic to watermelon, but this combination of ingredients really works.  You get sweetness from the watermelon and the mango, tartness from the apple and the lime juice, and savory goodness from the onion, jalapeno, and garlic.  I enjoyed the play between textures just as much as the flavor; the crunch from the apples and onions was especially terrific.  I’ll definitely make this one again, especially if I have leftover watermelon to use.

Like most recipes I love, the salsa can be made ahead.  I threw mine together a couple of hours before serving it and I thought it was just perfect; if you make yours ahead and it gets too juicy, just drain off some of the liquid before serving.

Bacon, Lettuce, and Tomato Dip

The holidays are about get-togethers, and get-togethers often include dip. Today’s recipe – Pampered Chef’s Bacon, Lettuce, and Tomato Dip – is one of my favorites. I first made it waaaay back when (2002?  Eek!), and I decided to pull the recipe out for last month’s game day-themed gourmet club meeting.  As always, it was a hit!

Here’s the recipe if you’d like to try it:

Bacon, Lettuce, and Tomato Dip
Yields approximately 2 1/2 cups of dip
Prep time: 15 min. | Chill time: 3 hours

Ingredients:
1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup ranch salad dressing
1 medium tomato, seeded and diced (about 3/4 cup)
6 bacon slices, crisply cooked, drained and chopped
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
2 tablespoons finely chopped onion
1 teaspoon sugar
Lettuce leaves
Bread or crackers for serving

Method:
Place cream cheese in a medium bowl.  Gradually stir in dressing; mix well

Remove seeds from tomato and dice it.  Reserve 1 tablespoon for garnish.  Finely chop bacon, celery, and onion.  Add tomato, bacon, celery, onion, and sugar to cream cheese mixture; mix well.  Cover; refrigerate at least 3 hours to allow flavors to blend.

To serve, line a bowl with lettuce leaves.  Fill with dip.  Garnish with reserved tomato.  Serve with bread, crackers, or crudités.

Source: Pampered Chef’s Celebrate!

Bacon, Lettuce, and Tomato Dip

I didn't have any lettuce on hand, so I supposed this is technically Bacon and Tomato Dip. It's delicious nonetheless!

Bacon flavor and general creamy goodness is enough to bring this to the top of my list, but I especially love it because it’s easy, it can be made ahead, and it can be made with light ingredients.  (I used real bacon – although turkey bacon would work – with light ranch and light cream cheese.)  So.  So.  Good.  Try it for your next holiday gathering or game day party!

Peanut Dip with Fruit

I love getting comments on my posts, and I always check out the visitor’s Web site if they enter the information.  Last week, Sara from Saucy Dipper (also saucy, also based in Denver) left a note on my Breakfast Casserole post, so I thought I would see what was going on with her site.  It turns out that she’s hosting a fun blog event this week called Dipstock.  She’s encouraging all dip lovers to submit photos and recipes, and I couldn’t pass up the chance to participate.  Initially, I planned to make something savory.  When I saw today’s recipe – Peanut Dip with Fruit – in my Colorado Classique cookbook, though, I knew it was The One.

It doesn’t get much easier than this, folks.  Here’s the recipe:

Peanut Dip with Fruit
Serves: 6 portions

Ingredients:
8 ounces light cream cheese
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 1/4 ounces salted peanuts (3 small packages), finely chopped in food processor
4 Granny Smith or Braeburn apples, cut into wedges

Method:
Mix cream cheese, brown sugar, vanilla, and peanuts and refrigerate until chilled. Serve chilled dip in a bowl surrounded by apple wedges.

Peanut Dip with Fruit

Oh. Mah. Gawd.

If you ever wished for chunky peanut butter cream cheese, this is it.  I love, love, love snacking on apples and peanut butter; this recipe turns that simple concept into an absolutely divine dessert.  Now I just need to figure out how to avoid eating the entire recipe straight from the bowl before my husband gets home from work to “help” me with it…

TIPS:  At first, I thought I would need a hand mixer to blend the cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla.  My beaters were in the (running) dishwasher, though, so I just mashed everything together with a fork and then used a spatula to stir in the peanuts.  Perfection!

Update (7/1/10): Now that I’ve eaten (entirely too much of) this dip when chilled, I disagree with the serving suggestion.  I would serve it either right after you make it, or let it come to room temperature for about 30 minutes before serving if you’ve chilled it.  It’s still beyond delicious, but it gets pretty firm in the refrigerator.

BLT Bites

Hey there, strangers!  Between a trip to the Kentucky Derby, a milestone birthday, two sets of house guests, and a trip back home, May has been a crazy busy month. As much as I love the adventure and the company, I’m hoping to bring in June with some semblance of a routine (and lots of cooking, of course!).

I made today’s recipe – BLT Bites – for last month’s gourmet club meeting.  We each made recipes from our respective Junior League cookbooks: Louisville, Denver, and Omaha (mine!).  Of the three appetizers I made, this one was definitely my favorite…  Each piece was a little taste of heaven.

BLT Bites

Creamy mayo, smoky bacon, juicy tomatoes - heaven!

There are some awfully similar recipes floating around online, but I couldn’t find the exact recipe I used anywhere else.  Here it is:

BLT Bites
Makes about 14 appetizers

Ingredients:
14 large cherry tomatoes
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
1/4 cup romaine lettuce, shredded
2 tablespoons green onions, sliced
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons breadcrumbs

Method:
Cut an 1/8-inch slice from the bottom of each tomato with a serrated knife.  Gently scoop out pulp and seeds from the cut end with a melon baller cutter or a grapefruit spoon; discard.  Sprinkle tomato shells with 1/4 teaspoon of salt and invert on paper towels to drain.  In a small bowl, combine bacon, lettuce, green onions, mayonnaise, salt and pepper.  Spoon mixture evenly into tomato shells and sprinkle with breadcrumbs.

Source: Toast to Omaha

Notes:

  • I could not for the life of me figure out why the recipe wanted me to scoop out the pulp and seeds from the bottom of the tomatoes.  I ended up cutting a thin sliver from the bottom of the tomatoes to help keep them upright, then I sliced off the tops and scooped out the pulp and seeds from there.
  • I had five slices of bacon and couldn’t see throwing one lonely slice back into the refrigerator, so I used it all.  How can more bacon be a bad thing?
  • I used light mayonnaise, coarse salt, and plain dried breadcrumbs.  (I bet homemade breadcrumbs would be especially fabulous.)
  • Despite having two other appetizers on the table, I don’t think the 14 pieces this recipe made were enough for six people.  We were calling dibs and wanting more.

Make these!  You’ll love ’em.  They’ve definitely earned a permanent spot in my summer buffet rotation.

Twice-Baked Garlic Soufflés

It’s my turn to host gourmet club this month, and I’ve chosen French food as the theme.  (It’s not very original with all the Julia Child buzz from last fall, I know, but I thought it would work well since French food and February are generally known for romance.)  My first test recipe (which I failed to photograph!) was Ina Garten’s Boeuf Bourguignon.  It was absolutely delicious and can be made a day ahead, so I put it on the official menu.  The recipe serves six, though, and while there are only six people in my gourmet club, I wasn’t completely comfortable without a bit of wiggle room in terms of portions.  Rather than make more Boeuf Bourguignon, I thought it would be more interesting to curb appetites a bit with a first course.  I originally thought to serve salad and even tried a recipe, but it just wasn’t fitting with my vision.

Luckily, an Epicurious search turned up fancy, make-ahead food gold: Twice-Baked Garlic Soufflés.  In my mind, soufflés were always temperamental intermediate- or expert-level dishes that had to be served immediately.  These do take a bit of work for the initial assembly, but you end up with perfect individual portions waiting in the refrigerator.  A bit of seasoned cream and 15 minutes in the oven are all that stand between you and heaven on a plate.

I followed the recipe as written, so I won’t go through the step-by-step here.  I do have a few notes, though, that may be helpful if you want to attempt the recipe:

  • When the recipe says “5 cloves dried garlic,” it’s talking about the garlic we are accustomed to buying in the produce section of American supermarkets.  (Take a bulb, separate and peel five cloves, and chop them.)  I’m not even sure where to buy fresh garlic.
  • I used regular white vinegar, whole milk, and Cantal cheese (which I actually managed to find in the “fancy” cheese section of my regular old grocery store).
  • I brought my eggs to room temperature before using them.  Either let them sit on the counter for 30 minutes or submerge them in a container of warm (not hot!) water for 2 minutes or so.
  • I used my immersion blender to puree the garlic milk; it worked beautifully.
  • My ramekins only had a 1/2-cup capacity (not 3/4 cup as the recipe recommends), but I didn’t have any problems.
  • My first round of baking was 25 minutes at 350F.
  • I wasn’t as thorough as I could have been when I buttered my ramekins, so I struggled just a bit to get my soufflés out of the dishes.  Next time, I’ll butter generously.  It doesn’t really matter if they don’t come out perfectly anyway since no one will see the bottoms when the finished product is served.
  • To hold the soufflés until the next day, I put them in larger ramekins (as the recipe says), let them cool completely, covered them with plastic wrap, and then placed them in the refrigerator.
  • I put salt, pepper, and Parmesan cheese in the heavy cream to make my sauce.
  • To serve the soufflés, I pulled them out of the refrigerator, removed the plastic wrap, and placed them on a rimmed baking sheet.  I spooned the cream sauce over them, baked them for 15 minutes at 400F, and served them immediately.

Here are the soufflés straight out of the oven after the first round of baking (nice and puffy!):

Garlic Souffles Fresh From the Oven

Here are the cooled soufflés in the larger ramekins before I covered them with plastic wrap:

Cooled Garlic Souffles

And here’s the final product:

Twice-Baked Garlic Souffles

They didn’t puff up quite as much as I had hoped after the second baking, but they were so incredibly delicious!  The savory combination of the garlic, thyme, and Cantal cheese was seriously to die for.  The texture was really light and fluffy, and baking them with the cream sauce creates a flaky, crusty top.  I loved how Dr. O said that he really enjoyed the sauce…  What’s not to like about something that’s 95% heavy cream? 😉

I served the soufflés with vegetables as a light dinner the first night; Dr. O liked them so much that he had two more for breakfast the next day (a good sign!).  The recipe only mentions making the soufflés one day ahead, but the fact that they were just as delicious that morning tells me that you can easily get away with two days.  I’m just so excited to have found a make-ahead recipe that is flavorful, gorgeous, and perfect for entertaining; this one will definitely be filed as a “keeper.”

Recipe link: Twice-Baked Garlic Soufflés




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