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Posts Tagged ‘Appetizer’

I made the long drive across the entire state of North Dakota to my home town yesterday.  It was me, my four-year-old and my two-year-old…in a car…for 8 1/2 hours.  I made the same drive last Summer, also without Radd (who’ll be joining us later this week), and was so proud of myself for having arrived with my little kids and sanity intact that you’d have thought I split the atom.  Fortunately it went well again this year, though was about as fun as you’d expect.  


Since I’m heading back to my roots this week, I thought I’d share a little treasure from my childhood–pickled eggs.  It seems a bit odd to follow up French-style recipes for clafoutis and galettes with ‘pickles-in-a-jar’, but there’s something to be said for comfort food.  I grew up with jars of these treats sitting on our counter.  While pouring over childhood pictures recently, I noticed that there was an egg jar in the background in so many photos.  My Mom made the best pickled eggs– we absolutely loved ’em.

In continuing with my food philosophy, I use high-quality eggs in all of my baking and cooking.  I’m talking about eggs that come from a farm where the chickens roam freely and peck at nutritious food– not the cheap, supermarket eggs that sell for $1 a dozen, as these generally come from perpetually-caged chickens that have never seen daylight.  Yes, organic/cage-free eggs are a bit more expensive, but compared to your other proteins (meat) they are affordable.  Free-range cage-free eggs are not only a great source of protein, but they provide healthy Omega-3’s.  They’re also relatively low in calories.

Through the years, my brother and I have made adjustments to our Mom’s pickled-egg recipe.  We’ve been on a quest to improve upon ‘the best’ by making it a bit spicier.  This is my latest version. Now if you don’t fancy spicy food– you can skip the chili peppers and the red pepper flakes.  My family prefers to eat these eggs with a basket of pretzels, a few drops of Chalupa (or a Louisiana-style) sauce, and a nice cold beer.  Perfect.

The Recipe:  Pickled Eggs

Roughly 2 dozen eggs, hard boiled

1 liter white vinegar

1 jar hot chili peppers and the juice (Mezzetta is my favorite brand for these)

1 white onion, thickly sliced

1 bulb garlic, cloves peeled and left whole

1 teaspoon pickling spice

1 tablespoon peppercorns

To boil the eggs:  Gently place the eggs in a 4 quart sauce pan.  Cover with cold water.  Let cook over medium heat until water begins to boil.  Boil for 1 minute only.  Cover and remove from heat immediately.  Set a timer for 12 minutes.  After that, pour out the hot water and run cold water over the eggs to stop the cooking process.  Let cool completely before peeling.  (Note: older eggs peel more easily than fresh ones)

Once your eggs are cool and peeled, start layering your ingredients into your jar.  This doesn’t have to be precise.  Once the eggs, onions, garlic, hot chili pepper and their juice, peppercorns, and pickling spice are in the jar — you can add the white vinegar.  Make sure you have enough liquid to cover the eggs.  These eggs will start to taste “pickled” in about 3 days, and will keep getting better and hotter the longer they sit.  They can be stored, tightly sealed on your counter.  Enjoy!

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For this post I decided to make crostini from start-to-finish… not just a variety of toppings, but the whole bread-baking process.  Yes, it’s easier to simply find a wonderful crusty bread from a nearby bakery (and I often do this), but there’s something therapeutic about baking bread.  While it takes more patience and planning, in the end I found it to be so much more satisfying.  The smell of fresh bread throughout my house alone convinced me to do this more often.  Just look at this loaf!

The bread I chose for this appetizer is crusty on the outside, but has a soft-yet-firm interior.  It keeps well, which means you can bake it long ahead of time if you’re hosting a party and need to get other things prepared.  To turn it into crostini, I grilled the bread and added two fresh, colorful, and oh-so-tasty toppings.  For the first, I was so happy to be able to use garlic, basil, and a batch of the first tomatoes of the season from our farmers’ market.  This is the first fresh-tomato post of the Summer– it will not be the last.

For the second, I threw together a simple herbed-ricotta topping with thinly-sliced radishes.  I love ricotta cheese, and unabashedly admit that I often scoop and eat spoonfuls while standing in front of the open-door refrigerator.  If you can find one locally, buy it.  Mixing in the fresh herbs gives it a nice flavor-burst.

The Recipe:  An Honest Loaf

1 tablespoon active dry yeast

2 cups lukewarm water (110-115°F)

2 cups unbleached bread flour

1/2  cup whole wheat flour

1/2  cup semolina, plus extra for dusting

2 teaspoons salt

Put the yeast and water into a large mixing bowl.  Stir in 1 cup of the bread flour to make a batter.  The mixture will begin to bubble, letting you know that the yeast is working.  Let the mixture sit at room temperature for about an hour, until it is frothy and has risen in the bowl.

Add the white flour, whole wheat flour, semolina, and salt to the starter and stir well.  When the dough is gathered, but still shaggy, turn it out onto a floured counter and knead it for a couple of minutes, dusting with flour if necessary; the dough should remain somewhat sticky.

Put the dough in a mixing bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight.  The dough will rise a bit in the bowl.

The next day, remove the dough from the bowl and punch it down to get the air out.  Knead the dough again for a few minutes, and form it into a smooth ball.

Select a linen-lined basket or low, wide bowl large enough to contain the dough when it doubles in size.  Place a linen napkin in a bowl, if that’s what you’re using.  I used a regular flour-sack towel and my bamboo salad bowl and that worked just fine.  Make sure to dust linen or napkin heavily with white flour before you add the dough.  Set the dough ball in the basket or bowl, dust the top with semolina, and cover loosely with plastic wrap.  Let the dough rise at a cool room temperature for 2 to 3 hours, or until doubled in size.  The longer and cooler the rise, the better the texture of the bread will be.

Preheat oven to 450°F – make sure it’s thoroughly preheated!  I am a true believer in a oven thermometer.  If you don’t have one — pick one up.  They’re cheap.  Sprinkle baking sheet with semolina.  Ease the dough onto the baking sheet by carefully inverting the basket or bowl over the sheet.  This part was tricky.  Remove the basket or napkin.  The top of the dough will have a light coating of flour.  Sprinkle on a bit more.

With a sharp, thin knife or razor blade, quickly slash a large  “X” in the middle of the dough, about 1/2 – inch deep.  Immediately put the pan into the hot oven and bake for 15 minutes.  The loaf will puff dramatically and the crust will have begun to form.

Turn down the oven to 400°F and bake for 45 minutes more, or until the bread is dark and crusty.  Remove the bread from the oven and put onto a cooling rack.  Wait until the bread has cooled completely before cutting.  In fact, this bread gets better the longer you wait to cut into it, unlike a baguette.  It will be even better the following day.

Source:  Adapted from David Tanis’ Heart of the Artichoke and Other Kitchen Journeys

The Recipe: Crostini with Tomatoes, Garlic, and Basil & Fresh Mozzarella  and  Herbed Ricotta with Radishes

 

Tomatoes, Garlic, and Basil Topping:

2 large farmer’s market tomatoes, diced

3-4 cloves minced garlic

7-8  fresh basil leaves, chopped

1 “glug” of red wine vinegar (about 1 tablespoon)

1 “glug” of good extra-virgin olive oil (about 1 tablespoon)

sprinkle of red pepper flakes (as much as you can handle)

kosher salt to taste  (make sure you don’t under-salt this — salt really brings out the flavor of tomatoes)

Mix all of the ingredients in a bowl.  Let sit  at room temperature for a 1/2 hour or so. The flavors will combine wonderfully.  Re-season, if necessary.

 

Herbed Ricotta

1 cup fresh ricotta cheese (buy some that is made locally, if possible.  The flavor is usually superior)

3 cloves of garlic, minced

2 scallions, finely chopped

Handful of mixed herbs, finely chopped — I used, mint, basil, chervil, parsley, chives and dill.  Use whatever you happen to have.  You should end up with about 1/2 cup finely chopped herbs.

Kosher salt and cracked black pepper, to taste.

Mix all of the ingredients together in a bowl and let sit for about 20 minutes.  Add more salt and pepper, if necessary.

Pre-heat the grill.  Slice the loaf of bread.  Brush with olive oil on each side  and top with a sprinkle of salt.  Grill for just a few minutes on each side, until you get the color you like.  Top with a slice of fresh mozzarella and the tomato, garlic, and basil topping.  The bread will soak up the juice wonderfully.  Top another piece of crostini with the herbed ricotta and a few thinly sliced radishes.  Enjoy with a lovely cocktail, of course!

Thanks again for stopping by Relishing It today!  As always, I enjoy reading  your comments.  Let me know if you’ve been busy in the kitchen with any of these recipes.  Have a great weekend.

Laurie

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