Archive for the ‘Appetizers’ Category

Maple Praline Bacon

Okay you guys.

I’ve done something. Changed something. Opened some sort of magic box, some secret portal to a new world. And now that I’ve glimpsed the other side, I rather doubt I’ll be the same again.

It all started with an innocent breakfast suggestion. On my recent winter escape to Oregon, all we wanted was a place to eat one misty Wednesday morning in Portland. Instead, we ordered a plate of food that, rather than fading from my memory as most meals do, has haunted my daydreams ever since.

It was praline bacon. And within moments of eating it, I knew that I wanted to, nay, that I must!  try to recreate it at home. This weekend I finally had the time, the health, and the daylight. It took four failed attempts, but I finally found the balance I was looking for. And the best part? It’s so absurdly, ridiculously easy.

Bacon and friends

Obviously, we start with bacon. Then we have pecans, maple syrup, brown sugar, a little salt, and some cayenne pepper.

THAT IS ALL, PEOPLE.

Ready to bake!

Instead of pan-frying the bacon, I baked mine. It helps the bacon stay flat (necessary for topping with sugary pecans later) and the excess fat drains into the pan below. I may actually start making all of my bacon this way.

While the bacon cooks, chop up some pecans. I’ve seen some versions where the pecans are food-processed into oblivion, but I prefer a larger cut. Smaller than a rough chop but bigger than a fine chop, does that make sense? About the size of a tooth? (Is that gross?)

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Quesadillas

For the better part of middle and high school, I was usually up in time to make breakfast for my mom and sister while they continued bustling about, getting ready for school. Most days, this breakfast consisted of “tortillas with cheese”, which is just exactly what it sounds like: three flour tortillas, each with a layer of rough slices of cheddar or colby cheese, heated in the microwave for 30 seconds or so before being rolled up in paper towels for a to-go breakfast of champions.

All the ingredients

At some point later, upon partaking the joys of quesadillas that popped up on restaurant menus all over the place, I made the connection that I’d been making quesadillas all along (freakishly simple though they were). As with most of my cooking projects, though, I’ve stepped up my game and now make quesadillas not for hurried breakfasts on the go, but for sit-down dinners at home.

And you should too.

All the little pieces

I will say one thing though, and don’t freak out: these quesadillas don’t have much cheese.

I know. I know. What sort of monster cuts the cheese so significantly in a dish that is literally NAMED after cheese? But I tell you, it’s possible to have a delightful quesadilla that doesn’t have puddles of gooey cheese oozing out the sides and sizzling on your frying pan. Trust me on this.

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Fresh Sweet Pea Potstickers
A while back, I made a batch of potstickers that ruled over all other potstickers I had eaten. They were savory and rich and perfect, and as a result I dedicate time each year to can Ginger Apple Chutney, the driving force behind them.

As far as Brad is concerned, they are the only potstickers worth eating – why even bother, he asks? I, on the other hand, have yet to find a filling for these fried little dumplings that I don’t like, so I occasionally play with alternatives. This is, currently, my favorite alternative.

Spring greens!
If the Pork & Ginger Apple potstickers taste like autumn, these ones taste like spring. The ingredients are fairly simple: crisp green onions and peas accompanied by sautéed spinach and mushrooms. The bright flavors of the onions and peas are balanced out by the dark, earthy spinach and, my favorite, mushrooms sautéed in butter and soy sauce.

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Homemade Pizza Rolls
Hey guys! Sorry it’s been like, months since I’ve been here. After a brief website shut down (not a big deal, I fixed it), an October full of autumn festivities and adventures, a November featuring major events at my job, a contract birthday cake, and two Thanksgivings, a December just being its normal insane self, and a January long hours, cold-weather-crankiness, and holiday recuperation, it’s finally time: climbing around my kitchen with a camera and sharing tasty treats with you is finally back at the top of my list. No hard feelings, k? Or if you have them, can I fix them with pizza rolls?

Homemade Pepperoni Pizza Rolls
The answer should be YES. I felt for years that pizza rolls were just one of those things that could only be purchased in the freezer section, compliments of food scientists and packaging specialists. But no! You can make your own, and I daresay they are even better than their freezer-burned counterparts. For one thing, you can know exactly what’s inside and make that choice yourself.

Simple pizza ingredients
For this, my first foray into homemade pizza roll-dom, I stuck with the basics: pepperoni, zesty red pizza sauce, and the three cheeses I put on all my pizzas all the time always: mozzarella, parmesan, and asiago.

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Sweet Corn Croquette

We took a spectacular trip to Oregon the first couple weeks of July. We did the normal vacation things: saw beautiful sites, had outdoor adventures, met new people, and engorged ourselves on all the best food the state had to offer. One delicious meal after another, Oregon pulled out all the stops and left our bellies almost constantly full. On our last night in Portland, we ended up at Montage, a cozy little southern restaurant famous for its mac and cheese and the elaborate aluminum foil animals that enclosed their leftovers.

Their mac and cheese was really good. And the foil animals were amusing. But it was the appetizer that stuck with me: deep-fried gems of creamy corn that we ordered on a whim. I knew immediately I had to re-create them.

Sweet Corn Croquettes
To be honest, I was a little unclear about what a croquette actually was. My experience at Montage, and a previous one at a restaurant in Durham, seemed to suggest that croquettes were deep-fried balls of, well, whatever one might want. Searches for recipes for “corn croquettes” led to surprisingly few results, but I eventually found a recipe with photos that somewhat resembled the ones we’d had in Oregon.

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Fresh Bruschetta Mozzarella

I wish I could say that I’ve been harboring this recipe for years, that I’m embarrassed to be posting it only now after summers and summers of enjoyment. I wish I could say that I’ve been adding it to my menu every week of every tomato season for as long as I can remember. I wish that the glut of tomatoes that I harvested this year, the glut that caused me to try this experiment, had happened years ago.

Bruschetta Mozzarella Toasts
Well. I can say none of those things. The truth is I’ve never been a big fan of fresh tomatoes, and as such, I’ve spent my life picking them off of salads, sandwiches, and pastas. But I’ve vigilantly planted at least a couple of varieties each of the last few years in an effort to force myself into using them, and this year, the strategy paid off handsomely. It seemed wrong to take such ripe, beautiful fruits at their peak and cook them down into sauce, and the internet seemed to agree that bruschetta is a great way to feature them raw.

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Pico de Gallo

I have a little garden plot in a rooftop garden at my job in Columbus. It’s a challenging thing, really, to grow food on a cement slab 30 feet above the ground, but for one reason or another, my tomato plants are thriving. In an effort to keep up with the continuous supply of plump, crimson tomatoes I’ve enjoyed for the last few weeks, I’m trying to expand my repertoire of fresh tomato recipes. With the first breaths of autumn already trying to make their way into Ohio, I just can’t quite stand the idea of peeling these tomatoes and cooking them into a slurry of marinara or bolognese. I started with this, a common salsa where fresh tomatoes are the stars of the show.

Simple ingredients Read on »

Charred Corn Salsa
It felt like spring the latter half of this week. The sun was shining, the last of the snow that has persisted in our street for weeks has melted, and it was nice enough to wander about without a jacket. The thrill of the weather finally breaking is one of my favorite moments each season!

Ingredients
Perhaps associated with the first burst of warm-ish weather, I tend to also get an itch to vacation at this time of year. It might also be years of Spring Break indoctrination, but I suddenly yearn to pack my bags for some tropical adventure! Not that I actually did a lot of that growing up, but the once or twice that we did vacation somewhere warm over Spring Break were enough to permanently spark anticipation every February. Unfortunately, we have no imminent vacation plans for this spring. So! To ease my wanderlust, I’ve settled by making some charred corn salsa.

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Fancy Fried Green Tomatoes

I attended a wedding a couple weeks ago for two good friends I’ve developed since moving to North Carolina. A fairly significant portion of our friendship is based on a love of and fascination with food: we’ve explored North Carolina farms together, swapped recipes, and enjoyed a wide variety of Triangle restaurants. So I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised that their wedding included not one, but two meals, the first an Indian buffet to celebrate Varsha’s culture, and the second an elegant array of quintessential American cuisine to celebrate Eric’s.

I’ve heard people say that no one will remember the food at a wedding, that people have simply come to expect a good meal when they attend a reception. The food at this wedding, however, was anything BUT forgettable. We ate until we couldn’t eat anymore, and then after a few minutes, everyone squeezed in just a little bit more because the food was so. dang. good.

And my favorite treat was not an entreé, not a dessert, but one of the passed hors d’oeuvres for the second meal: a fried green tomato dressed up with a bit of pimento cheese and mint jelly. I was so impressed that after seeing a large pile of green tomatoes at the farmers market the next week, I snatched up a couple to re-create them at home.

Simple green tomatoes

Now work with me on this one. I was really, really skeptical when this tray came around. For one thing, I had never eaten a regular fried green tomato before. I don’t particularly like red tomatoes, so I guess I’ve never felt inclined to try a green one. Don’t worry, I now know I’ve been MISSING OUT for years. I guess I’ll just have to compensate for all that lost time by making these all the time.

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Smooth Garlic Hummus

I think I was in sixth or seventh grade when I first heard about hummus. One of my classmates probably brought it in their packed lunch, with a pack of carrot sticks or some pita bread. My hometown was (and still is) definitely the kind of place where sixth graders are excited about eating hummus and carrots for lunch.

Unfortunately, I was horrified by the idea of eating hummus. For the better part of my childhood, I thought that hummus (ground chickpeas with tahini paste) and HUMUS (fully decomposed soil) were the same thing. I was all for eating the fruits of the earth, but the earth itself? NO WAY.

The connections one makes as a child are truly fascinating, aren’t they?

Smooth Yummy Hummus

Now, however, I know the truth. I know that in fact, that extra “m” makes a HUGE and delicious difference. What’s more, hummus is an incredibly easy and inexpensive snack to make.

And it starts, of course, with chick peas.

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