Tag Archive for 'appetizer'

Giardiniera (Sottaceti) or Pickled Veggie Bliss

October, formerly one of my favorite times of year, seems to trigger a ‘hunger games’ type of reaction from my very being. As the month approaches I feel a duplicative sense of anxiety and accomplishment. Two years ago, during Breast Cancer Awareness month, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. What unravels after that is a bizarre concoction of one part sanity, one part disbelief mixed with two heavy doses of fear. In my moments of clarity my goal was to make sure things were in order, smart decisions were made and that at all costs I protected those closest to me. In retrospect, I can tell you that having a goal did work.

I was luckier than many, and I managed to keep my anti-joiner resolve. I may have had to go done this path, but I did it my way. I refused to be defined by this illness – pink bows >no thank you<, hugs and long stares, wondering how I am REALLY doing >avoided at all costs<, and should anyone dare to call me a hero/warrior >I ran for the hills<. Okay, I am joking, to an extent.

I sincerely did appreciate how much people cared, and my inability to share my dark places with them was just a defect of me, being me. In many ways I wanted to press the fast forward button, and perhaps by not discussing it I was able to minimize some of the more scary elements.

Why bother discussing something that stripped away some of my memories and gave battle scars my family? It is the past, I am fine. And yet unceremonious revelations abound by the day. My tell tale signs of its aftermath are different than what I would have anticipated. For example, I appreciate the value of a smile, taking the time to laugh, a conversation that goes beyond what you may or may know about me on social media. I want to have fun; I want to feel alive; I want to just be happy. I want to spend time with people. I know this probably seems simple and hardly profound. There are other signs that I’ve changed.

I feel as if I’ve been to the dark side and back, and oddly enough, now I find that I gravitate towards natural light. Literally. In fact I crave it. I can’t seem to keep curtains or doors closed – I want the natural light to shine in.

I my measure success by being able to help others. I want to give back to those that are the difference in my world. I want to do all of those little things that make life memorable.

Food is something at the top of my list on how to keep things special and memorable. It is not that I am the only good cook in my house, it is more about my passion for it. It is the gift of my time.

As summer slipped into fall, I thought it might be nice to put the end of summer flavors in a jar. Ergo, another metaphor for light.

Pucker Up. Pickling is one of those magical preservation methods that not only extends a food’s shelf life, but also takes its flavor profile to interesting and delicious places. Cucumbers aren’t the only thing that can be pickled. These very robust flavored veggies have a nice garlic taste and a hint of sour vinegar tang. It’s high pickling season, so pull out those mason jars and get to work!

Giardiniera, or sottaceti, are colorful pickled vegetables that make a beautiful accompaniment to a charcuterie plate or can be added to rice or salad dishes.

Giardiniera

Ingredients

5 lbs mixed vegetables; cauliflower, celery, carrots, cucumbers, fennel, green beans, red peppers, zucchini, onions

8 cups white wine vinegar

4 cups water

7 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed

3 TBS salt

French or lemon thyme

1 jalapeno, seeded (optional)

Note: I made the full recipe and then jarred half of it before adding in the jalapeño.

Note: you can also conserve the vegetables by storing the mixture in oil rather than vinegar, which will keep the flavor balanced.

Directions

Clean and prepare the vegetables. Vegetables like the celery, zucchini and peppers can be cut into strips while cauliflower should be cut into sizes that will easily fit into a jar, about the size of walnut. For variety, cut carrots into round coins. Green beans can be cut in half and onions into small slices.

In a large stock pot, add the vinegar, water salt and bring to a boil. While some recipes will suggest that you cook each separately in the vegetable mixture, I like to mix the remainder of the ingredients together; keeping the thyme aside to place a sprig in each jar. Cook approximately 3 minutes until they are bright and starting to soften but still somewhat crunchy. At this point, the vegetables are ready to be eaten. To prepare them to share at a later date, continue the canning process. If not canning, vegetables will keep for up to 3 months.

Prepare canner, jars and lids. (If you’ve never canned, then let me give you a few more details: Prep the jars and lids for canning following the procedures for boiling water canning. Place lids in a small saucepan half full of water and place on low heat. Put the metal rack in the bottom of the stock pot or boiling water canner. If using screw bands, place them top up in the bottom. The purpose of the rack is to keep the jars from direct contact with the heated metal at the bottom of the pot, which could cause them to scorch or break. Place your clean jars into the canner and fill the container (and jars) half full of water. Turn on the stove to medium heat. Remove a jar from the boiling water canner, by this point the water in the canner should be pretty hot so use the jar lifter. DON’T put the jar directly on the counter as the change in temperature between the oven and the counter will cause the jars to break. It is best to place the jars either on a folded kitchen towel or a wooden surface.)

Pack vegetables evenly and colorfully into hot sterilized jars to within a 1/2 inch of top of jar. Ladle hot vinegar mixture into jar or add olive oil to cover the vegetables, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Creating proper headspace in each jar is essential to achieving a proper seal and being able to safely store your jam. This is where the clear plastic ruler comes in handy. Remove any air bubbles by poking down into the mixture with chopstick or skewer. Clean the rim of the jar with a damp paper towel to make sure there’s no stray juice to interfere with the seal. Center lid on jar. Cap the jar with your lid and tighten the screw band until it is fingertip tight.

Place the jar back into the boiling water canner using your jar lifter. Once all your jars are filled, make sure they are completely covered with water (you may have to add a bit of additional water to the canner). Bring the water to a boil and then set your timer for 20 minutes. (Add 1 minute onto this time for each 1,000 ft above sea level.) When the timer goes off, remove the canner lid and wait 5 minutes. Why 5 minutes? If you don’t wait a few minutes the jostling of removing them from the canner could keep the jars from sealing. Another important tip is to remember to keep your jars upright as you remove them, titling to the side can also interfere with the seal. There’s nothing more satisfying than hearing “POP!” from across the room and knowing your jars are sealing, but you can’t sit around for a whole day for that sound.

In 24 hours go back and check all your jars. If you push down on the top and the lid gives, you didn’t get a solid seal. Immediately refrigerate or reprocess that jar. I usually take it one step further by taking off the screw band and holding the jar up by just its lid (with the other hand ready to catch, of course). If the lid doesn’t spring up and I can hold it up by just the edges of the metal lid, it has a nice seal.

Island Guacamole

top down island guac

This island has a way of enveloping all of your senses; it is a slice of magic on the map. From the wafting sweet floral and fruity fragrances to the contrasting aroma of its salty ocean water Kaua’i captured my heart from the first moment I laid eyes on it some eight years ago. I wish I could claim that I lived here – we visit as often as is possible, as soon as we save up enough for our airplane tickets, we return with smiles on our faces.

Continue reading ‘Island Guacamole’

Red Pepper Unicorn Hummus

IMG_7523

I’ve been blogging since 2008 and yet it seems like I just started recipe writing yesterday. It has gone by in a blink. I never really planned on blogging. When I started this blog it was a way to promote my first cookbook. Just for fun. Years later, I can easily admit that it has been more fun than I ever expected. There are a few times that I wondered if I could maintain it, especially in the past six months. I’ll admit that I’ve struggled to post. Behind the scenes I am still on the mend; I feel great, but my stamina has not returned. There are days that I wonder if it ever will come back, but those that have gone before me assure me it is only a matter of time. >tick, tock<

Despite my lack of posting, I certainly have not stopped enjoying my love of food – whether it is my cooking or someone else’s food I remain passionate about flavors. A few months ago while at work, I ordered a mixed hummus plate for lunch. It was so delicious I couldn’t get it out of my mind. In fact, I obsessed over it. I went back and ordered it five more times. Eventually I asked to meet the chef, and told him how much I loved it. He was so pleased to know how much I relished this recipe that a smile grew across his face. While he didn’t have a recipe to give me he eagerly shared his ingredients list. I left confident that I could crack the code on this recip-mystery.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago when my family was invited over to our friend’s home for dinner. >Something that you may not know about me is that as much as I enjoy cooking and creating in the kitchen I ADORE when other people cook for me. It’s something special that holds a great deal of significance to me and I wanted to bring something special that I made.< After much contemplation, I decided to try to recreate this recipe. My daughter was stunned, she knows that I NEVER entertain or prepare something to serve for the first time that I have not previously tested. And yet, I wondered if perhaps this was my recipe unicorn. Despite her reminders of my prime cooking directive, I had to take a risk and make this recipe without an official test run. And I am happy to report that Red Pepper Hummus turned out spot on. I was thrilled! I still am. I can’t wait to make it again. It is just-that-good! And yes, I do think it is my recipe unicorn.

Red Pepper Unicorn Hummus

Ingredients

1 (16 oz) jar roasted red bell peppers, reserve remaining oil

1 cup walnut pieces, plus 2-3 halves to use for decoration

1 TBS sugar

3-4 cloves garlic

½ lemon, juiced and seeds removed

3 cloves garlic

½ cup gluten free bread crumbs

Optional Serving Suggestions:

pita bread points

baguette slices

crackers

vegetables: cucumbers, celery or carrots

Directions

In a small pan, over medium high heat, add all of the walnuts and sugar. Stir regularly until sugar melts and nuts are coated and sugar is an amber color. Transfer from pan to a plate to cool.

In a blender or food processor combine all ingredients EXCEPT 2-3 decorative candied walnuts and blend until smooth. If mixture is too thick, add oil from the jarred bell peppers, a teaspoon at a time, until desired consistency is reached.

Place hummus in a decorative bowl and decorate with 3 decorative walnuts. Serve with vegetables, crackers or toast.

IMG_7519

IMG_7522

Beetroot Not-So- Ho-Hummus

IMG_6916

Isn’t it peculiar how sometimes we perceive the direction of our lives to be mandated by a fortune cookie, horoscope, a face-up penny or a ‘sign’ like 1:11pm or or knocking on wood? The list can be seemingly endless. I can’t tell you how many tunnel wishes I’ve made over the years- saving those wishes for the REALLY BIG moments when Continue reading ‘Beetroot Not-So- Ho-Hummus’

Guacamole Grows Up

creamy guac hand.JPG

One year ago I had a kitchen accident, an accident that took me down a wild path of recovery and self-discovery. The outcome at a glance was very fortunate, but there is no denying that it has redefined me in many ways. Continue reading ‘Guacamole Grows Up’

Thanksgiving Party Food Survival Plan

Photo By: Stephanie Lynn

Photo By: Stephanie Lynn

With so many festive food gatherings it’s important to have a party survival plan as you head into the holiday season. Food sanity for is at a premium. I am not only talking about what to avoid eating at parties, but more importantly ideas on what to bring. You guessed it, this post is about figuring out some new go-to options to give you some stress relief and put your name emblazoned at the top of next year’s party list for Continue reading ‘Thanksgiving Party Food Survival Plan’

Spooky Green Spider Deviled Eggs

spider egg close up.JPG

This is a spin on my good ‘ole spider egg recipe. It is one of those recipes that hardly feels like a recipe as most of the real work is the time spent just cutting up the olives into the right decorative shapes. With All Hallows’ Eve quickly approaching, parties are bound to pop-up, and this just might be your stand-out dish to bring to share.

In our family, Spider Deviled Eggs have become a Halloween tradition. I would undoubtedly miss seeing these annual ‘spiders’ Continue reading ‘Spooky Green Spider Deviled Eggs’

Insalata Caprese

insalata caprese.JPG

Living in Northern California, with a generally moderate climate, I do feel spoiled by the constant flurry of good fresh foods I have access to. While I am cognoscente of it, I have an indulginest attitude. Ergo- I am lucky, I am appreciative, and I enjoy every opportunity to partake in the available local bounty. This time of year the bounty is abundant with the most succulent tomatoes and fresh herbs.

Good produce makes for great food. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to be a great cook to prepare delicious food. What you need is Continue reading ‘Insalata Caprese’

Fava Bean Edamame

fava beans uncooked.JPG

Fava Beans (or broad beans) although very common in Italy are not usual fare in the U.S. While they do continue to grow in popularity, they can be a chore to prepare. Fava beans, when in their pods, look like an overgrown sweet pea. Their taste is richer than most other beans; smoother and richer.

It never fails, I am suckered in each time. During the spring and summer I hunt fava beans out at the farmer’s market and I select a couple pounds of the plumpest, Continue reading ‘Fava Bean Edamame’

Blackberry & Proscuitto Goat Cheese Herbed Pizza

blackberry pizza cooked_4147.JPG

Blackberries make summer memories

Summer simmers along, with hot days and warm still nights. This is the sign of a good blackberry summer. The berries hang heavy and ripe on their briers, waiting for eager hands to gather them. Heaving buckets heaped with berries comprise the Mt. Shasta Blackberry Festival’s iconic food – blackberry pie. As the summer days melt away, this end-of-summer staple, sweet tangy blackberries, ease us into the next season.

For our family, the Mt. Shasta Blackberry Festival has been a staple. There is nothing quite like a good ole’ fashioned summer party to push away the back to school blues. The potato sack races, watermelon eating contest and balloon toss contests are often picturesque images seen only in a Martha Stewart magazine but here, Continue reading ‘Blackberry & Proscuitto Goat Cheese Herbed Pizza’