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Heirloom Cherry Tomatoes Stuffed with Tapenade and Feta

Local farm-fresh produce is on the grocery shelves and I love it!  With Fall on our doorstep, this has to be my favorite time of year.  I was in the city yesterday and just had to stop by Union Square Greenmarket (Flatiron District) to get my fill of local.  This place is always busy no matter what time of day it is. I really wanted to buy a bunch of things but held back because I knew that if I did whatever was in the fridge would be pushed to the back and eventually go off.  And, I was only in the city for two reasons:  coffee with hubby and to buy Broadway tickets.   I bought an apple (tart and juicy) and was happy to soak up the atmosphere at the market.  It’s the little things that make me tick.

I had these heirloom tomatoes sitting in the refrigerator and couldn’t decide what to do with them.  Sure, I could toss them into a salad or roast them and then I saw the tub of Greek feta which hadn’t been opened along with some tapenade I made on Friday.  Cooking dilemma solved…I would stuff the tomatoes and broil them.  Easy peasy!

cherry tomatoes
Greek feta
tapenade (homemade) or purchased
olive oil

 

Turn broiler on and place the rack so that the tomatoes are four or so inches away from heat (you don’t want them to burn).  Using a sharp knife, slice off a bit of the top of the tomatoes and then gently core the inside.  Add a 1/4 teaspoon tapenade or more depending on size of tomato followed by a piece of feta.  You may want to slice a thin layer off the bottom of the tomato – but not too deep – so that they stay upright.  Place on a cooking sheet and broil in the oven 4 to 5 minutes or until tomatoes start to shrivel and cheese starts to lightly brown and soften.  Remove and let cool a few minutes before serving.  Drizzle with a bit of olive oil.

The Culinary Chase’s Note:  Finger food – easy, simple and delicious.   Enjoy!

Grilled Potato Rounds with Pesto and Shaved Asparagus

Who couldn’t love a little potato round dressed up like this?  Simple ingredients and these won’t last long once you bring them to the table! Asparagus, now in season, is one of my favorite Spring vegetables.  It is an excellent source of vitamin K, A, and C and this humble perennial is also a natural diuretic. 

Serves 4 as a side or starter
adapted from Minimally Invasive

4 medium yukon gold potatoes
salt
olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
pesto

1/2 bunch thick asparagus spears, washed and dried (ends removed)
olive oil
lemon juice
salt and pepper

Wash potatoes thoroughly, then cut into 1/2″ rounds. Parboil in lots of salted water just until they begin to soften. While potatoes are cooking, spread olive oil on a large, rimmed baking sheet and spread evenly with minced garlic. When potatoes are ready, drain and immediately place on tray, turning to coat. Let them sit for at least 30 minutes to soak up all of the garlicky goodness, then fire up the grill.  Cook over medium-high heat, turning once, until the potatoes have nice grill marks on them and are cooked through.

For the asparagus, grasp the thick, woody end of the asparagus and run a vegetable peeler down the length of the spear to make ribbons. Toss together with lemon juice and olive oil to taste, keeping the dressing light so it isn’t a mess to eat.

To assemble, spread a little pesto on each potato round and top with a few asparagus ribbons. Serve warm or at room temperature.

The Culinary Chase’s Note: The flavors here were memorable! The lemon juice will help to soften the asparagus ribbons making them pliable when adding to the potato rounds.  Enjoy!

Caramelized Onion, Mushroom and Gruyère Tartlets

Who doesn’t enjoy a savory tartlet?  They’re tiny, delicate, delicious and the perfect party food.  Cook the onion and mushroom mixture ahead of time so you are not rushing to pop these in the oven.  I like that this recipe doesn’t call for any tart pans leaving less to clean up – yay!  Be creative and experiment by using different size circles.  Perhaps use a bread and butter plate as an outline to cut the pastry and serve this with a light salad.  These tartlets are very good the next day as the flavors will have intensified. All you need to do is warm them up.   I am enjoying one now as I write this!

Makes 16 3-inch tartlets
adapted from Brown Eyed Baker

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
16 oz. white button mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, chopped
fresh thyme, to taste (can also use dried)
salt and pepper, to taste
¼ cup white wine (can substitute chicken or vegetable broth)
2 sheets puff pastry (thawed according to directions on package)
1 cup shredded Gruyère cheese (or any variety of Swiss cheese)
1 egg plus 1 tablespoon water, beaten together (for the egg wash)
garnish with fresh thyme (optional)

Preheat oven to 200c (400f) and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Heat the olive oil in a wide, heavy-bottomed pan over medium-low heat and add the onions. Cook, stirring occasionally, until they begin to caramelize, about 20 minutes. Add the butter to the pan. Once melted, add the mushrooms and sauté, stirring occasionally, until they are completely soft and all of the liquid evaporates, about 20 minutes. Add the garlic and thyme and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add the wine, scraping the bottom of the pan to pull up all of the browned bits, and cook until all of the liquid has evaporated. Remove from heat.

Carefully unfold the thawed sheets of puff pastry and cut out circles from the dough (cookie cutter works well or a glass), placing them evenly spaced on the baking sheets. Using the tip of a sharp knife, lightly run the knife along the edge (about 1/4 to 1/2-inch) of the perimeter of the dough but don’t cut all the way through. Place a small spoonful of the onion and mushroom mixture, keep the filling within the score marks. Top with the shredded Gruyère cheese. Brush the edges of the dough rounds with the egg wash.

Bake until the pastry is golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Garnish with fresh thyme.


The Culinary Chase’s Note:
The aromas of onions, mushrooms and garlic permeated the kitchen giving my senses a preview of what was yet to come. These little discs did not disappoint and it took a lot of will-power to stop after eating my third one.  Enjoy!

Zucchini Boats

It seems I’m on a vegetarian kick of late and this recipe stood out to satisfy the craving.  I mentioned on a previous posting that I am hooked on Pinterest.  It was while I was on Pinterest I noticed a food photo by my friend Paul Lowe (Sweet Paul) who pinned this recipe from Proud Italian Cook.  The photo was so delicious-looking it propelled me into making it last night!  The zucchini boats were the perfect starter to our meal and it’s always a very good sign when your man tells you these are Mmmm Mmmm good!  Zucchini is a good source of dietary fiber which aids in digestion, prevents constipation, maintains low blood sugar and curbs overeating.  Potassium found in zucchini helps lower blood pressure.

Serves 2
adapted from Proud Italian Cook

2 zucchini
2 cloves garlic, minced
salt and pepper
olive oil
soft cheese such as fontina or mozzarella, cut into cubes
grape tomatoes, halved
breadcrumbs
basil

 

Preheat oven to 180c (350f). Cut the zucchini in half lengthways and scoop out the pulp (a teaspoon works well). Brush the surface with a mixture olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper. Place tomato halves into the grooves of the zucchini and lightly sprinkle with bread crumbs. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and place diced fontina or mozzarella in between the tomatoes. Turn broiler on and place zucchini under the broiler until golden and cheese is bubbling. Remove and drizzle with olive oil, a scattering of chopped basil and a sprinkling of grated parmesan.

The Culinary Chase: Simple ingredients and these were so delicious I am making them again tonight! Buon appetito!

Crispy Brussels Sprouts with Aioli

When dinnertime rolls around I am usually thinking about the timing of it as I need to stop what I am doing and pick up my husband from the train station.  It’s not far to the station…only 7 or so minutes but I don’t like to leave the stove on whilst I am away.  John is usually hungry when he gets off the train and I like to have something ready for him to nibble on while dinner is being prepped.  This recipe got me thinking that it would be a perfect starter instead of serving it with dinner.  The sprouts came out of the oven a few minutes before I had to leave and I placed them on a platter and covered the dish with clingfilm.  When we got home, the snack was ready for consumption!  Roasting these miniature cabbages brings out the brussels sprouts true taste – mild in flavor, dense in texture and delicious!.

Fresh brussels sprouts should be displayed chilled and if they are kept at room temperature, their leaves will turn yellow quickly. Yellow or wilted leaves are signs of age or mishandling. Old sprouts also have a strong, cabbage-like odor.  Choose sprouts individually from bulk displays rather than packaged containers and pick small, firm, compact sprouts with unblemished leaves. Select ones that are similar in size as this will allow for even cooking and avoid sprouts that are puffy or soft. For a list of health benefits associated with brussels sprouts, click here.

Serves 4 (as a side)
adapted from Anna Costa

20 brussels sprouts, cut into wedges
olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Aioli:
2 medium, very fresh garlic cloves, peeled
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

To make the aioli, fill a mortar with boiling water. After 1 minute, remove the water and dry the mortar. Add the garlic cloves and the salt. Start pounding them with the pestle. When a smooth paste is achieved, add the egg yolk. Moving the pestle rapidly against the walls of the mortar, blend the yolk together with the garlic. When blended, begin adding the olive oil in a thin stream, still moving the pestle rapidly against the walls of the mortar. Continue until all the olive oil is added and a thick mayonnaise is achieved. Add water if necessary, if you like it thinner. Taste for seasoning. Refrigerate up to 5 days.

Preheat oven to 200c (400f). Place brussels sprouts on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Season with sea salt & pepper to taste. Move the brussels sprouts around to ensure they all get nicely coated in the oil. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown on at least one side.

 

The Culinary Chase’s Note: If you are running short on time (like I was), a quick way to make aioli is to mix some mayonnaise with minced garlic and a bit of lemon juice to thin out the mayo.  Top with finely grated lemon zest. Eat these wedges warm or room temperature. YUM!