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Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Thyme-Roasted Tomato and Goat Cheese Crostini


Fewer things make me happier these days than spending time in the kitchen.  This evening was especially idealistic - me in the kitchen, music playing, glass of wine, hubby wrapping gifts, fire crackling... and tomatoes slow roasting in the oven.  Yep.  That makes me happy!!  I am one of those girls who could really exist on appetizers if I didn't have a family to be  accountable for.  LOVE something that I can pick up and snack on while doing something else.  Yes... that is dangerous.  I agree.  I saw recently where Ted Allen made some Crostini with Thyme-Roasted Tomato that looked divine.  I thought it would be a great prelude to our dinner this evening... except I am kicking mine up with some creamy, tangy Mediterranean-spiced herbed goat cheese. 

Ingredients:

  • Roma tomatoes, halved lengthwise 
  • extra virgin olive oil for drizzling
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 to 2 tsp dried thyme leaves 
  • Mediterranean Herbs and Garlic Goat Cheese
  • 1/2-inch-thick slices of French baguette, cut on the bias

Step-by-Step:

Place the tomatoes cut-side up on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Drizzle the halved Roma tomatoes with extra virgin olive oil.

Sprinkle with kosher salt, cracked black pepper, and dried thyme leaves.  Pop them into 300 degree F oven for an hour, then increase the temperature to 400 degrees F for another 30 minutes.
Slice the French baguette in about 1/2 " thick slices, on a bias.

Toast or broil the bread slices in an oven until golden brown.

After the hour and a half of roasting, the tomatoes will have softened and sort of shrank up, releasing some of their juices onto the parchment.  
Spread each crostini with some herbed goat cheese, then the roasted thyme tomatoes.  If you have one on hand, feel free to rub each hot "toast" with a cut garlic clove prior to putting the goat cheese on.

Yes.  It is a super simple dish (appetizer or side dish), but the concentrated flavors of the seasoned, roasted tomatoes go very well with the creamy, tangy, herbed goat cheese.
 Sometimes, simple is really, really good.





Written Directions

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Place the tomatoes cut-side up on a parchment paper lined baking sheet.  Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper and thyme.  Roast 1 hour, then turn heat up to 400 degrees and roast an additional 30 minutes, or until the tomatoes are very soft and slightly shrunken.   For the last 8 - 10 minutes, place the baguette slices on a baking sheet, and bake until golden brown.  You could drizzle the slices with EVOO also if you desire.  Spread some herbed goat cheese on each warm crostini and top each with the roasted tomatoes.  I allowed two per slice.

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Sunday, December 23, 2012

Cider-Glazed Brussels Sprouts with Caramelized Onions, Crispy Bacon and Pine Nuts


My husband and I had the rare weekend with NO kiddos!  Wow.  What to do with all the freedom?!  Frankly... we've spent the day wrapping gifts and making sure all is "set" for our Christmas celebration.  But that's another story.  Relevant to this, is that we both really like roasted Brussels Sprouts, and since there are no kids here to complain, we went for it!  Recently, I came across a recipe for cider glazed Brussels Sprouts from The Cozy Apron that sounded too yummy to pass up.  Of course I changed it up a bit for our tastes, but overall - wow.  We were really pleased!

Click here for Printable Recipe 

Ingredients:

  • 4 slices smoked applewood bacon, cut into 1/2" pieces
  • 1 medium yellow onion, sliced thin
  • 1 lb Brussels sprouts (end stems trimmed if needed and discolored leaves removed), halved
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • ¼ tsp fresh cracked black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted or plain
  • Cider Glaze (recipe below)



Cider Glaze
  • ½ cup apple cider vinegar, plus 2 tablespoons, divided
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar

Method:
Into a small, heavy-bottom sauce pan, add the ½ cup apple cider vinegar, the ½ cup sugar and 2 tablespoons brown sugar, and whisk together over medium heat.  Once the mixture begins to simmer, reduce the heat to medium-low and allow the mixture to gently simmer for about 10 minutes, or until thicken up and syrupy; turn the heat off, and whisk in the remaining 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar.  Allow to cool slightly and drizzle over the Brussels sprouts while still warm.

Step-by-Step:
Cut bacon into 1/2" pieces (lardons).
4 slices smoked applewood bacon
Add them to a pan and cook until crisp.
 Remove crisped bacon with a slotted spoon, reserving the drippings.
Allow the bacon to drain on paper towels.
 Add sliced onions into the hot bacon drippings.
1 medium onion, sliced thin

Cook the onions slowly until caramelized... 15 - 20 minutes.  Remove the cooked onions and set aside. 
Trim and cut Brussels sprouts lengthwise in half.
1 pound fresh Brussels sprouts, trimmed and cut in half
Drizzle the hot bacon fat over the Brussels sprouts in a rimmed pan.  Add only the liquid portion, avoiding any solids that may have accumulated in the bottom of the drippings.
Season the Brussels sprouts.
Kosher salt-
kosher salt
Cracked black pepper -
black pepper
 Italian seasoning -
Italian Seasoning
Now these babies are ready for the oven.
 Pop them into a 400 degree oven for 20 - 25 minutes.
While Brussels sprouts are roasting, make the cider glaze.
Apple cider vinegar -
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
Granulated sugar -
1/2 cup granulated sugar
Brown sugar -
2 Tbsp brown sugar
Bring to a boil..
then down to a simmer for about 10 minutes until syrupy. 
When you are ready to use the cider glaze, add the extra cider vinegar to brighten the flavor back up (you don't want it too sweet), and thin it out a bit.
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar

Now our sprouts are ready to come out of the oven - golden brown.
Add the reserved bacon and caramelized onions to the roasted Brussels sprouts.  Drizzle some of the cider glaze over the top.  You may not need it all.  Add some, taste, adjust.
Serve with pine nuts.
(If I had thought enough about it, I would have dry toasted the nuts in a pan.  But I just didn't think about it in time.)
So we have golden brown Brussels sprouts, crispy smoky bacon, sweet caramelized onions, crunchy nuts... and a tangy sweet cider glaze.  Now THAT is an exciting side dish!!

Written Directions
-Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  For easier clean up, line a baking sheet with foil.

-Place a medium-size non-stick skillet over medium-high heat and add in the bacon pieces.  Allow the bacon to crisp up until golden brown.  Use a slotted spoon to remove the crisped bacon from the pan and place onto a paper towel-lined plate, and set aside. 

- Add the onion slices in to the bacon drippings, and allow them to caramelize until golden-brown for about 15-20 minutes; remove from pan and set aside. 

- Next, toss the halved Brussels sprouts with the bacon drippings (how could this be wrong?!), then season with sea salt, cracked pepper and Italian seasoning.  Arrange them on a baking sheet with room in between them, and roast for about 20-25 minutes until golden-brown and crisp-tender.  Remove from oven, toss with the caramelized onions, crisp bacon pieces, and pine nuts.  Lightly drizzle the cider glaze over the Brussels sprouts, starting with about half of it, and using all, if desired.
  
Looking for another great Brussels Sprouts recipe?
Fun tidbit - When my second oldest came home the other day, I told him about this dish.  I said I thought he would have enjoyed it.  He says "Yeah, I saw it on Facebook.  You know Mom, so many people say that Brussels sprouts are yuck... What are they talking about?  They are awesome!"  Now you know, for a 13 year old to say that, something must be extraordinary about them!  That makes me really happy.  I don't force my children to eat anything.  But I do keep trying to offer things in new and exciting ways to hopefully entice them to try different ingredients and styles of preparation.

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Thursday, December 20, 2012

Beer Battered Asparagus with Lemon Herbed Dipping Sauce

Okay, I'll start this off with a confession.  I didn't eat breakfast, and I forgot lunch yesterday... so I made this for an 'afternoon snack' when I got home.  I rationalized... "I won't be as hungry for dinner, so I'll eat less." And while that may be true, I ate almost half of a bunch of asparagus while browsing my emails, etc.  That's what happens when nobody is home to be accountable to. Gulp!  

Asparagus is one of those vegetables that has really grown on me over the years.  Isn't is strange how that happens to you when you become a "grown up?"  These are tender crisp, only the slightest bit spicy, and dangerous.... because food that can be picked up with your fingers, dipped into a tangy sauce, then popped into your mouth is gone before you know it - obviously.  :(  Do you think I could blame it on this nice glass of wine?

So why the pancake mix, you ask?  Well - it's basically flour with all the leavening already in it, so it's gonna puff up, especially when it's mixed with the carbonation from the beer.  So that eliminates the need to go dragging out baking powder, baking soda, etc.  Then it's spiced up with seasoning that you are sure to have on hand in the cabinet. Basically that means that you could probably make some of these right now for yourself!  Note to self  - I think I may try this with Brussels sprouts, too.

I saw this done in a Paula Deen recipe on Food Network, but I decided to tweak it with the pancake mix... because who doesn't have pancake mix on hand already, right?!  I also used Creole seasoning for an extra kick.

Click for Printable Recipe

Dipping Sauce:
  • 1/2 cup mayo
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1/2 tsp lemon pepper
  • 1 tsp fresh rosemary leaves, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp dried rosemary leaves
    •  her recipe also had 1 tsp of chopped thyme leaves, but I didn't have any.  I just used things I had on hand.  Feel free to use any blend of herbs that sounds enticing to you.
Asparagus:
  • 1 cup buttermilk complete pancake mix
  • 2 tsp Creole/Cajun seasoning
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 cup beer
  • 1 bunch asparagus, trimmed
  • vegetable oil, for frying
  • grated Parmesan cheese, for garnish


Step-by-Step:

For the batter -
Whisk together the first four ingredients - pancake mix, Creole seasoning, lemon zest and pepper.

1 cup "complete" pancake mix
2 tsp Creole seasoning.
           *For seasoning without heat, try Seasoned Salt.
Zest of one lemon
1/4 tsp black pepper.
    *If you didn't use Creole seasoning, you may want a bit more pepper.
Add in the beer and watch it start foaming! :)
Whisk until smooth.
Mine has a slight pink'ish tinge to it from all the seasoning.
For the dipping sauce -
Mix all the ingredients together.

1/2 cup mayonnaise

Juice of 1/2 a lemon
1/2 tsp lemon pepper
1/2 tsp dried rosemary
1 tsp fresh rosemary, chopped
Here's our sauce.
Now cook!
Dip the asparagus spears into the batter, allowing the excess to fall off.
Fry in 350-370 degree oil until crispy and golden brown.
Sprinkle with freshly grated Parmesan cheese and a sprinkling of black pepper.  Serve with the lemon herbed dipping sauce.

Written Directions 
Heat oil in a heavy saucepan or deep fryer until it reaches 350 degrees F.  I used my candy thermometer.  If you don't have one, the oil should start shimmering after about 5-6 minutes.   Make the dip first by combining all dip ingredients.  Because the rest of this goes super fast.

Whisk together pancake mix, Creole seasoning, pepper, zest in a bowl until combined. Add the beer and whisk ingredients until smooth.  When the oil has reached its target temperature, dip the asparagus in batter to coat. Remove excess batter before frying. Gently transfer battered asparagus to oil and fry until golden. Stir gently to prevent asparagus from sticking together.  I turned mine using long handled tongs so both sides would brown evenly.  Transfer to a baking sheet that has been lined with paper towels and keep warm in a preheated 200 degree F oven (if they last that long).  Sprinkle with fresh grated Parmesan and a bit more black pepper.  Serve with the lemon herbed dipping sauce.
Tip:  Use asparagus that are fairly thin in diameter.  These will cook really quickly, so I think the big thick asparagus wouldn't really have enough time to cook.  These were still crisp, yet tender.

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