Nectarine Bruschetta

Nectarine Bruschetta is an easy-to-assemble, no-oven-required, summer appetizer that takes advantage of the season’s bounty and pairs well with white wine, rosé and bubbles.

Nectarine and Ricotta Bruschetta

Just as July 4th in my neighborhood is certain to be punctuated with a cacophony of illegal fireworks, the same holiday never fails to produce my nectarine tree’s first juicy orbs ready for plucking. The harvest is brief, yet prolific, and I’m often overwhelmed with the task of making use of this summer bounty.

A warm evening cocktail party and a very pregnant tree resulted in this recipe that’s perfect for summer, taking advantage of the season’s gifts in a simple, no-oven-required, appetizer.


Nectarine Bruschetta

An easy to assemble, summer appetizer that pairs well with white wine and bubbles.


Ingredients

  • 2-3 nectarines, thinly sliced
  • 6-8 basil leaves, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons good-quality balsamic vinegar
  • ⅔ cup whole milk ricotta
  • 4 Tablespoons honey
  • ½ teaspoon lemon zest
  • salt & freshly ground pepper
  • 24 toasted baguette slices
  • 4 Tablespoons chopped hazelnuts or pistachios, toasted

Directions

  1. In a small bowl, combine nectarines, basil and balsamic and set aside.
  2. In another small bowl, combine ricotta, honey, zest, salt and pepper.
  3. To assemble, spread ricotta over baguette slices, arrange 1 or 2 nectarine slices over ricotta and sprinkle with toasted nuts. Serve.

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Fromage Fort

Fromage fort – a fabulously thrifty and tasty French solution for repurposing all those nubs of leftover cheese.

a bowl of fromage fort with chips
Giving credit where it’s due, this was my sister S’s suggestion – not her recipe, but her idea. On Boxing Day, I was grumbling about a refrigerator full of holiday leftovers, including the six different cheeses rapidly aging in the cheese drawer. What was I going to do with six nubs of various cheese before they went bad?

That’s when she mentioned fromage fort. Fromage fort is a French cheese spread, literally meaning “strong cheese,” that’s made by blending together various pieces of leftover cheese, a bit of leftover white wine, garlic, and herbs. There’s a dozen of recipes out there – Pépin, Smitten Kitchen, Alton Brown, David Lebovitz, Sauver – all very similar, all very adaptable, because the idea is to use whatever leftovers you have on hand, making this thrifty French solution for too much cheese more spectacular than the sum of its parts. I recommend steering clear of very strong cheese, like blue cheese, which will overwhelm all other flavors in the final dip.

Oh, and there’s a German version, too – mixed with beer (of course!) – called Obatzda.


Fromage Fort

  • Servings: about 2 cups
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A fabulously thrifty and tasty French solution for repurposing all those nubs of leftover cheese.


Ingredients

  • 8 oz. mixed leftover cheeses (hard cheese grated, soft cheese cubed)
  • 3 Tablespoons full-fat ricotta, or 2 Tablespoons softened butter (if you don’t have ricotta on hand)
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • ¼- ⅓ cup white wine
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped thyme
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Directions

  1. In the bowl of a food processor, blend cheese, ricotta (or butter) and garlic until well-blended.
  2. Slowly pour in wine with motor running until the desired consistency – I prefer a scoopable, yet slightly chunk spread. Add thyme and pepper and pulse until combined. Fromage fort can be used immediately, allowed to ripen for up to 5 days, or spread on bread and toasted in the oven.

Bacon Gruyère Gougères

Bacon, Gruyère cheese, and  crispy, light choux pastry. I fell in love with gougères in culinary school – I’ve gilded the lily with the addition of bacon.  Appetizers as glamorous as they are delicious.

Bacon and Cheese Puffs

“It is better to fail in originality than to succeed in imitation.” – Herman Melville

You may think of book clubs as a bunch of shy, mild-mannered, nerdy types – and that may be true…until someone starts stealing our schtick, then we get all gangster.

If you’ve been following this blog with any regularity, you might remember that I started a book club in January, meeting at a local downtown bar & restaurant. It’s been my pet project, and reasonably successful.

A few months ago, I noticed someone else launched a similarly-named book club that happened to meet just 325 feet from our location (coincidence?). While, at the time, I did feel slightly encroached upon, I also thought, “That’s okay. There’s plenty of readers to go around. Good luck to them.” We were meeting monthly on the second Tuesday; the newbies were meeting weekly on Wednesdays. There was enough dissimilarity between our two groups that new members wanting to join our club wouldn’t (I hoped) be confused.

Today I noticed that, starting next month, this copy-cat usurper club will start meeting monthly on the second Tuesday – at the exact same time as our group. So, not only did they copy our name and steal our location, now they are appropriating our dates and times, too. I’m quite surprised they haven’t pilfered our reading list as well. WTF?!

I’ve heard the idiom, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery,” a million times, but this is downright thievery. I am not flattered. I no longer wish them luck – I wish their ersatz book club a swift and immediate demise. In fact, next month, I’m suggesting a pre-book club brawl to my group. I’m confident we could take them down.

Speaking of imitation and idea-pilfering, the following is not my own, but a riff on a ubiquitous gougères recipe. Guilty as charged.


Bacon Gruyère Gougères (Cheese Puffs)

These are best served piping hot from the oven. If needed, reheat at 350˚ until warm and crisp.


Ingredients

  • ½ cup water
  • ½ cup milk
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 4 large eggs
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • pinch nutmeg
  • 1 cup shredded Gruyère cheese, plus more for sprinkling
  • 6 strips crispy bacon, crumbled
  • 3 Tablespoons chives, chopped

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400˚ F. Line two baking sheets with parchment. In a medium saucepan, bring the water, milk butter and salt to a boil. Add the sifted flour all at once and stir with a wooden spoon until dough pulls away from the side of the pan and becomes a smooth ball. Continue stirring about two minutes to dry out dough.
  2. Transfer dough to the bowl of a mixer. Let cool a few minutes. Beat in the eggs one at a time, ensuring each egg is fully incorporated before adding the next. Stir in the pepper, nutmeg, cheese, bacon, and chives.
  3. Transfer the dough into a piping bag and cut the tip to allow piping generous tablespoon-size mounds about 2” apart on the baking sheets (alternately, drop rounded spoonfuls onto sheets). With a wet finger, tap down any pointy “hats” on the dough. Sprinkle with additional cheese and bake 20-22 minutes until puffed, firm to the touch, and a rich golden brown (do not open oven before 20 minutes or they may deflate). Serve hot.

Roasted Garlic Htipiti

Healthy Htipiti Spread
Researchers have discovered it takes a mere seven seconds to make a first – and lasting – impression.

I’m partial to the convenience and practicality of online dating – I can quickly weed out the jesus freaks, the ones who can’t string words together into a coherent sentence, the boring, the gym rats, men who live with their mamas. But still, sometimes I get it terribly wrong.

As he walked towards me, I know I’m wasting my time. What looked like “ska” in his profile, reads “dork” in person (and not the cute geek-chic kind). What read as manners on the page is really an obsessive adherence to gender roles. Once we sit down, I ask questions and he talks…about himself…I essentially interview him so he can hear himself speak. He drones on about his brainiac career, his adult children that attend MIT and Yale, about his expertise on every subject – homelessness, drugs, religion. There’s a brief pause in his self-aggrandizement to proclaim I can’t call myself an atheist since I haven’t studied the bible cover to cover (as, of course, he has). There’s mansplaining, condescension, boasting. I feel my V-jay snap shut like an abalone. I gulp down my scalding cappuccino and furtively scan the coffee house for the nearest escape hatch.

I long for a dating convention where it’s entirely acceptable for either party to walk out in the first few seconds without explanation – the seven second rule. All I think about for the next 44 minutes and 53 seconds is…I left my kitchen for this?


Roasted Garlic Htipiti

  • Servings: About 1 ½ cups
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A roasted garlic version of Greek Htipiti, similar to romesco and a healthy yet flavorful sandwich spread and dip. I've been eating a liberal dollop of this spread on my chicken, mushroom, and spinach wraps all week. Mmmm.


Ingredients

  • 8 roasted garlic cloves
  • 8 oz. feta, crumbled
  • 2 fire roasted red peppers (hand roasted or jarred)
  • 2 pepperoncini, stemmed and seeded
  • 2 scallions
  • Parsley sprigs from 6 stems parsley
  • Dill sprigs from 3 stems dill
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon ground coriander
  • ½ teaspoon lemon zest
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cumin

Directions

  1. Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse on and off about 15 times until well combined yet still slightly chunky. Use as a sandwich spread and a dip for toasted pita chips.

Pickled Carrots

Homemade Pickled Vegetables Recipe
Like a tennis player that’s been training all year for their first match, I walk into the kitchen, full of bravado, throw the culinary ball into the air, serve it across the net and hear the words “FAULT,” followed by the words, “DOUBLE FAULT,” soon after.

Two cookie recipes in as many days – two epic fails.

Disappointment. It’s officially six days into Cookie Baking Season and I feel like a big o’ Failure. I’m a baker above anything else and this should be my time to SHINE, rather than falter. Blame the recipe. Blame the quality of the ingredients. Blame my mindset. I sound like John McEnroe.

My first attempt, an anise-scented honey cookie lightly glazed and decorated with candied orange peel, was an unmitigated disaster. The texture was all wrong – too dense – and the anise too strong, resulting in a cookie reminiscent of those hard Scandinavian licorice lozenges.

The second recipe, baked yesterday, was supposed to be delicate sandwich cookies filled with mint and dipped in milk chocolate. I was hoping for an elevated version of Trader Joe’s Candy Cane Joe Joe’s (an addiction of mine) crossed with a Girl Scout Thin Mint. What I actually created were misshapen oval disks sandwiching a dollop of minty goo similar to Crest toothpaste. I didn’t even bother with the chocolate dip – in to the trash they went as well.

Rather than squander another pound of butter, I thought I would take a break today, step away from the cookies, and try something else entirely – something that didn’t require baking. I settled on these spice-laden pickled carrots – a better late-night snacking option to a plate of cookies anyway. An array of colorful pickled veggies like these, using a variety of spice combinations, would make a great alternative to the standard holiday crudité platter – no baking required.


Pickled Carrots

  • Servings: 2 quart jars
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This pickling recipe would work with whatever fresh veggies you happened to have on hand – cauliflower, onions, beans, or beets – to name just a few.

Ingredients

  • 6 garlic cloves
  • 2 thyme sprigs
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 8 peppercorns
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 2 Tablespoons mustard seeds
  • 2 teaspoons allspice berries
  • 2 teaspoons coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • 6-8 carrots, peeled, cut into sticks and lightly blanched
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 3 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1 ½ Tablespoon salt
  • Hot water

Directions

  1. Divide garlic, thyme, mustard seeds, allspice berries, coriander seeds, red pepper flakes, ginger, bay leaves, cinnamon sticks,peppercorns and cloves between two quart jars. Pack blanched carrot sticks tightly into jars.
  2. In a small saucepan, combine vinegar, sugar and salt and heat until boiling. Pour hot liquid into jars filling ¼” from top. If there isn’t enough vinegar mixture, fill remaining space in jars with hot water.
  3. Close jars and refrigerate at least 24 hours and up to 2 weeks.