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Prosciutto-Wrapped Leeks

Leeks are a lovely substitute for those who don’t like onions or can’t tolerate a lot of them in a dish.  They are delicate and sweeter in taste than onions (buttery flavor when chopped and sautéed) and are an excellent source of vitamin K and B.  Store unwashed and untrimmed leeks in the refrigerator, where they will keep fresh for up to two weeks. Wrapping them loosely in a plastic bag will help them to retain moisture.  To prepare leeks for a recipe, cut away the dark green parts and the hairy root end – this is where most of the dirt is. Then cut the leek in half lengthwise and soak in a bowl of water for a few minutes to loosen the dirt. Run the leek under cold water, fanning the layers under the water to wash away any bits of sand.   If you’re not sure you’ll like leeks, check out this dish – Gruyère-Crusted Leeks and Apples – this did not last long on the plate! 

Serves 4
inspired by Donna Hay

½ cup (125ml) chicken stock
2 tablespoons dry sherry
6 sprigs thyme
10 black peppercorns
4 leeks, trimmed and halved lengthways
8 slices prosciutto
butter, chopped

Preheat oven to 180ºC (350ºF).  Place the stock, sherry, thyme and peppercorns in a baking dish. Wrap each piece of leek with a slice of prosciutto, place in the baking dish and top with the butter. Cover tightly with aluminium foil and bake for 40 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for a further 5 minutes or until the prosciutto is slightly crispy.

The Culinary Chase’s Notre:  I kept the leeks whole as they weren’t large.  This was a simple and delicious dish to make…enjoy!

Fried Zucchini Sticks

There are recipes that immediately grab your attention, like this one did.  You know right away when the list of ingredients hits all the check marks which says it’s gonna be delicious.  This recipe hails from Mindy’s Meals on Heels.  A site where Mindy aims to to teach parents how to feed their children by making meal time fun and nutritional…now you’re talking my lingo!
3 large zucchini, cut into 3-inch x ½-inch sticks
1¾ cups bread crumbs
1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, chopped
zest of ½ a lemon
2 large eggs
¾ cup flour
salt and fresh pepper to taste
vegetable oil for frying

Preheat oven to 200°F.   Mix the breadcrumbs, grated cheese, cayenne, parsley and zest in a bowl.

Whisk the eggs in a separate bowl and set aside. Pour the flour into a third bowl and season with salt and pepper. Line up the three bowls in the following order: flour, egg, seasoned bread crumbs. In batches, coat the zucchini sticks in the flour, then egg then bread crumbs (I placed the flour in a large plastic bag and added all the zucchini sticks at once – shake and remove). Transfer to a parchment paper lined baking sheet.

Fill a deep frying pan half-full with vegetable oil and heat over high heat to 350°F (use a cooking thermometer).  You can tell when the oil is hot by adding a breadcrumb.  If it sizzles, the oil is hot enough.  In batches, add the zucchini sticks and cook for 3 minutes or until golden brown. Transfer to a paper towel lined baking sheet to drain. Keep warm in the oven while frying the remaining zucchini batches. Serve warm.

The Culinary Chase’s Note:  So good!  Eat as is or serve with dipping sauces such as tequila lime salsa, aioli (garlic sauce) or chili sweet sensation by Sizzling Sauces.  Enjoy!

Camembert and Cranberry Tartletts

These simple and elegant-looking tartletts are the perfect finger food.  They are delicate and small enough to eat without too much fuss or mess.

You’ll Need:
mini fillo shells (already cooked)
cranberry sauce
Camembert, rind removed

Preheat oven to 350° (180c).  

Cut Camembert into small pieces – small enough to fit easily in the shells.

Add a piece of cheese in each fillo shell and top with about 1/2 teaspoon cranberry sauce.  Bake 5 minutes, or until cheese begins to melt.  Serve immediately.

The Culinary Chase’s Note:  An easy appetizer to make and delicious to eat.  Enjoy!

Eggplant Croquettes

Croquettes are not something I make frequently as I find them a bit time-consuming and fidgety.  Having said that, my taste buds are well rewarded for the effort.  According to Wise Geek, croquettes originated  during the Roman empire where they used a pastry-like coating around meat or vegetables to create a dish known as rissoles.  This recipe spread throughout Europe over time, and by the early 18th century, the French were the first to use breadcrumbs in place of the traditional pastry coating.

Serves 6
adapted from Plenty

4 medium aubergines (eggplant)
2 medium russet potatoes, cooked, peeled and smashed
1 large egg, beaten
5 oz. feta, crumbled
3 tablespoons grated Parmesan
1 garlic clove, crushed
about 1 3/4 cups dried breadcrumbs
salt and pepper
light olive oil, for frying

Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas mark 6. Cut the aubergines into four long wedges and place them, skin side down, in an oven tray. Brush with olive oil and bake for 30 minutes, until cooked through and golden-brown. Use a sharp knife to shave the aubergine flesh away from the skin. Discard the skin, chop the flesh finely and place in a bowl – you should have about 280g of aubergine flesh.

In a bowl add the potato and mix with the eggplant.  Then add the egg, cheese, garlic, four tablespoons of breadcrumbs and some salt and pepper. The mix should be quite wet and sticky.

Before cooking the croquettes, scatter some breadcrumbs on a plate and heat the frying oil in a medium saucepan – it should be about 1.5cm deep and not too hot (if the oil is too hot, the croquettes will brown before they are cooked through).  Use a spoon to drop about a tablespoon’s worth of croquette mix on the breadcrumb plate, then turn around to cover. Use your fingers to shape into barrels (or any shape you like). Fry for a minute a side, until golden brown all over. Transfer to kitchen towel. Serve warm, with the salsa or just a wedge of lemon on the side.

The Culinary Chase’s Note:  These were so good!  You can use aioli (shown in photo) to dip the croquettes into or in a tomato salsa.  I made aioli but used that for another dish as I wanted to try the Razing Cane garlic relish by Sizzling Sauces – a definite compliment to the croquettes.  We nearly finished the bottle in one go!  Enjoy!

Chinese Meatballs with Sweet & Sour Chili Sauce

Ho ho ho!  Yep, I’m gearing up for some holiday treats and this appetizer is absolutely scrumptious!  I’ve been an avid fan of Matt Armendariz (Matt Bites) for a few years now…he seems the type of person I’d want to meet and I love these two lines from his bio:

  • I believe life happens quickly. Be prepared to get the most out of it.
  • I believe people who cook and feed others are some of the most generous and warm people on the planet.

Food on a skewer is the perfect finger food for a gathering. Arranging the skewers upright in glassware or other entertaining containers make for decorative centerpieces as well as a chance for your friends to ‘ooh and aah’ at your creativeness. Move over corn dog and say hello to parmesan lollipops, Caesar salad, dumplings, cake pops, cookies, fried cheese and the list goes on.   Check out Matt’s book for more party recipes!

Makes about 12 meatballs
On A Stick! by Matt Armendariz

3/4 pound lean ground pork or turkey
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 teaspoons peeled and minced ginger
1 teaspoon ground cumin 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 bunch cilantro, minced 1 scallion, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Mix all of the ingredients together in a large bowl with your hands to thoroughly combine. Form into 12 small even balls. Heat 3 tablespoons vegetable oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Add the meatballs in one layer without overcrowding. Cook, turning, until browned on all sides. Transfer to a plate lined with a paper towel. Repeat with remaining meatballs. Skewer with toothpicks or bamboo sticks and serve with sweet and sour chili sauce.

Sweet and Sour Chili Sauce:
1 cup rice wine vinegar
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons minced lemon grass
1/2 bunch mint, minced
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon seeded and minced red jalapeño
1 teaspoon peeled and minced ginger

Stir vinegar, sugar and lemongrass in a saucepan over medium heat and cook until sugar dissolves and liquid reduces by one-third. Strain into a bowl and cool completely. Stir in mint, cilantro, garlic, red jalapeño and ginger. Serve warm or at room temperature, alongside the meatballs.

The Culinary Chase’s Note:  These did not last long! Enjoy!

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
olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced

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


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

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!