Monday, November 24, 2008

Olive Tapenade

I love olives, don't you? What could possibly be better than putting black olives on your fingers and pretending you have long fingernails? Well, I'm not 8 anymore, so I had to find something better to do with them, so here goes.

I learned this dip from my sister in law (she's from Boston) several years ago at our extremely traditional family Thanksgiving. We are talking the same menu every year - turkey, mash, candied yams, green bean casserole, apple salad and cranberry sauce from a can. I think that was the same year she brought Oysters Rockafeller, which went over like a ton of bricks. But this one was a hit, and I've been making it every year since. Thanks, Lori!
It calls for ripe black olives, but if you have an adventurous bunch, use half kalamata.

Olive Tapenade
1 can black olives drained
2 t. capers
1 T. chopped fresh parsley
1 clove garlic, minced
2 T olive oil
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. Tabasco

Pulse all in Cuisinart until blended. Let sit overnight in fridge.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Mini Cheesecakes

A friend of mine turns 40 this week (Happy Birthday, Leslie!) and I got a request for mini cheesecakes to bring to pool league tonight. I thought they turned out kind of cute! Of course, I had to try one for quality control, ahem. Yeah, they pass.

This recipe is super easy, especially if you forget the graham cracker crumbs and use a Nilla Wafer in the bottom of each cup instead. I opted for the higher degree of difficulty (only because going to the store with the munchkins would have been a wash in level of difficulty)

Mini Cheesecakes

2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup sugar
1 stick butter, melted
dash of cinnamon
Mix all together and push down 1 T. crumb mixture into each muffin cup with the back of a spoon.

2 blocks cream cheese (ROOM TEMP - important!)
2 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp lemon zest

Set oven to 350. Mix the cream cheese in a Kitchen Aid or with a hand beater until creamy and fluffy. Add rest of ingredients and mix until smooth. Pour a heaping spoonful into each cup. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Serve chilled.

For the chocolate decoration, I melted chocolate chips and used a ziplock with the tip cut off to squeeze out and make the design.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Vegetarian Salad Rolls with Nuoc Cham

Ever since tasting the yummy style salad rolls with the spicy lime dipping sauce at a Vietnamese restaurant, I have wanted to try making them myself. I picked up the dried rice wrappers at the Asian market with the intention of giving it a whirl.

It was pretty funny because when I looked at the rice wrappers, there was not a single word in pictures either! However, with the internet, nothing is a mystery for long....I found a cool web page all about it here. I made the water a little too hot because the first one turned into a gummy mess, but once the water cooled down a little, they came out fine.

I know these are fabulous with mint and shrimp inside, but I just went with what I had on hand.
This is a very light and delicate starter, perfect for an asian themed party or meal. I actually made quite a few and they stood up in the fridge for 4-5 hours.

Onto the recipe:

Vegetarian Salad Rolls with Nuoc Cham

Salad rolls:
1 package round rice papers
2 carrots, shredded
1 red bell pepper, julienned
1 package extra firm tofu, baked or fried
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
2 cups spinach or lettuce

Nuoc Cham (Vietnamese dipping sauce):
1/4 cup lime juice
1/4 cup fish sauce
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
2 cloves minced garlic
2-3 chopped Thai bird chiles

Mix up all the sauce ingredients and let sit while you prepare rolls.
Sprinkle tofu with garlic, ginger and soy sauce. Bake at 400 for 2o minutes. (or fry it up)
Get all the ingredients for the rolls prepared.
Heat a pan of water to almost boiling.
Soften 1 paper in the hot water.
Layer the ingredients in the wrapper and roll up tight like a burrito.
Repeat until the ingredients are gone.

For me and tall guy, it seemed like a gourmet treat to eat with our coconut chicken and sticky rice. Nummers!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Candied Tangerine Peels

I recently bought a bag of Fairchild tangerines, not realizing that the skins were really tight and not easily peeled. They were also loaded with seeds. They lingered in my fridge for several days until I decided to somehow salvage them. Not only did I turn out these little gems, I got a good two cups of tangerine juice. Yummy!

I happen to love the bitter-sweet combination of candied citrus last batch was grapefruit. It's easy but a little time consuming because you have to blanch them several times to get out most of the bitterness in the peel. Here's how it's done:

Candied Citrus Peels

About 15 small or 6 large fruit
2 cup sugar
2 cup water

Wash and peel your citrus with a vegetable peeler, being careful not to get too much of the white pith. Try to make long strips so that when you cut them lengthwise, you get a nice ribbon effect. Put the strips in a pan of cold water and bring to a boil. Dump the water, and do it again 3 times.
Now you are ready for the sugar. Put the peels, 2 c. sugar and 2 c. water in the pan and simmer for 30-40 minutes or until they are transluscent and sweet. Remove from heat and let cool before handling. Fish them out of the syrup and into a bowl of sugar. Make sure they are all coated with sugar, and then lay them out on wax paper to dry. My bag of tangerines made about 2 cups of candied peels. Chop and sprinkle on dessert or just eat them plain with a nice cup of tea. I also thought of coating in chocolate, but didn't do it this time.

On another note, we made a family of radishes yesterday and the kids had a great time pretending with them....just goes to show, you don't always need plastic toys.