The idea for this stunning appetizer comes from a new cookbook called SIMPLE by Yotam Ottolenghi. "Burrata - which means "buttered" in Italian - is one of life's great pleasures," says Yotam. I would have to agree. Oozy, creamy and rich, it is a ball of fresh mozzarella wrapped around a core of pieces of mozzarella and cream. If you have never experienced this deliciousness, please, do not hesitate, not one more minute! Grilling the grapes adds a bit of whimsy to the dish as well as a smokiness and sweetness that marry perfectly with the cheese. I used some basil as a garnish and flavor direction the first time I served this but then switched to fresh thyme the next, and I prefer the thyme...it's a bit more earthy and rustic. Serve with baguette or some good crackers and you are on your way to heaven.
Burrata with Grilled Grapes
1 lb red flame grapes
2 T Sherry vinegar
3 T olive oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 1/2 t dark brown sugar (light works too)
1 1/2 t fennel seeds, toasted and lightly crushed
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
3 large balls of Burrata
fresh basil sprigs or fresh thyme
4" wooden skewers for the grapes
Put the grapes in a bowl with the vinegar, olive oil, garlic, sugar, 1 t of fennel seeds, salt and plenty of pepper. Mix well and marinate for at least an hour and up to one day. Thread a few grapes onto each skewer. Save the remaining marinade for later.
Get the grill pan hot and add the skewers in batches, grilling for 2-3 minutes turning once, remove from heat.
Arrange the Burrata on a platter surrounded by the grilled grapes. Pour a bit of the remaining marinade over and sprinkle with the rest of the fennel seeds. Garnish with fresh basil or thyme and serve with crackers or sliced French baguette.
Those of you who know me well, know that I like to be somewhat of a trendsetter, not a follower...but, with that being said, I could not help but get on the 'carb free, cauliflower pizza crust' craze recently, when I decided to try and cut out carbs from my diet. I can't imagine life without pizza so I decided to make my own cauliflower crusted pizza, with a twist! Easy, tasty and pretty too, this crust goes together in minutes. Top with your favorite toppings - I used zucchini and mushrooms that I sautéed first in olive oil, threw on some sliced red onions and added a little bit of tomato sauce, mozzarella and Parmesan.
Just heat and eat.
Broccoli-Cauliflower Crusted Pizza
1 head cauliflower, stalk removed
1 small head of broccoli, stalk removed (optional, some people prefer the color and flavor of all cauliflower)
1 cup shredded mozzarella
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
1/4 tsp dried oregano or basil or a pinch of both
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp garlic powder
2 eggs, lightly beaten
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Break the cauliflower and broccoli into florets and pulse in a food processor until fine. Place the broccoli-cauliflower mixture in a microwave safe bowl and microwave on high for 4 minutes. Let cool for a minute and then put in a kitchen towel or cheese cloth and wring all of the excess water out, you don't want a soggy crust! Combine the cauliflower and broccoli in a bowl with the mozzarella, Parmesan, oregano, salt, pepper, garlic powder and eggs. Mix well. Transfer to a small baking sheet lined with parchment paper and spread out to the edges or put in the center of a large baking sheet and spread into a circle, resembling a pizza crust. Bake for 20 minutes.
Add desired toppings and bake an additional 10 minutes.
In Texas, where I grew up, the state fair is legendary. In fact, it's so famous that in 1962 Rodgers and Hammerstein made a musical about it called State Fair. I have always loved a good fair with the stuffed monkeys on a wand, the Ferris Wheel, felt hats with your name magically embroidered on in minutes, and of course CORN DOGS! Here in Calaveras County we also have a legendary county fair called the Jumping Frog Jubilee, made famous by Mark Twain's short story about the "celebrated jumping frog." Every third week in May people come from all over and bring or borrow a frog. They then compete to see how far they can get their frog to jump, hoping to be the next big winner. The Frog Jump is great, but the first thing I look for every year is the food trailer with the hand dipped corn dogs—none of those frozen, inauthentic ones for me! I am 'old school' about these crunchy, tasty dogs and eat mine with a side of mustard. They are also good with catsup if you must. See you out at the fair!
Miniature Corn Dogs
40 miniature sausages or cut regular hot dogs into thirds
1 cup cornmeal
3/4 cup flour
1 1/2 t kosher salt
3/4 t baking powder
1/4 t baking soda
1/4 t cayenne
2 T plus 1 t sugar
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
3 T water
Mix the dry ingredients together. Mix the buttermilk and water together in a separate, larger bowl. Add the dry ingredients and stir. Mixture will be lumpy. Set aside to rest for 10 minutes. In a high sided 8 qt pot, heat 4 cups of veggie oil to 375 degrees (use a candy thermometer). Stick each sausage with a 4" skewer or a toothpick. Make sure you leave enough sticking out to grab on to. Give the batter a stir and transfer into a smaller, deeper container if easier. Dip each sausage into the batter and holding the toothpick end, drop into the oil, frying only 3 at a time. Turn with a slotted spoon until golden. Transfer to a sheet pan lined with paper towels. Serve with mustard and catsup or whatever your favorite condiment is. Makes 40.
I think I have told you about my book club, we meet for dinner once a month and always cook something inspired by the book. Last week I made this Cremini mushroom crostata. Cremini mushrooms are simply white button mushrooms allowed to grow a bit longer, so they have a bit more texture and flavor. We had just finished reading a book called "Circling the Sun" about a woman living in Kenya around the turn of the last century. In one of the chapters, she threw a party and made a mushroom crostata. A crostata is a rustic, free-form tart, usually filled with fruit but veggies work well too! It was actually easy to make the crust in the food processor and easy to handle so don't be intimidated. I served this as an appetizer but it would also be delicious as a light lunch dish served with a simple green salad.
Cremini Mushroom, Roasted Garlic, Fontina & Thyme Crostata
First, make the dough (it has to chill for an hour or make it a day ahead) and then get the garlic roasting.
3/4 c all purpose flour
3/4 c (6 oz) cold butter, diced
1/2 t salt
1/4 c ice cold water (you will add 1/8 c first and more as needed)
1 egg (for egg wash)
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Mix flour and salt in a food processor. Add cold butter and pulse until sandy. Add 1/8 cup cold water. Mix or pulse until dough begins to form. Add more water as needed until dough forms. Gather dough, flatten into a pancake, wrap in plastic wrap and freeze for one hour or refrigerate over night. Flour surface and roll out dough to a 1/8 inch thick round (won't be perfect, this is rustic!). It will be thinner than you think necessary, but this makes for a great crust. Roll the edges of the crust inward a few times to form a proper edge. Place dough on cookie sheet. Cover dough with a piece of aluminum foil, add weights or dry beans, and cook for 10 minutes. Remove from oven, remove foil and weights, poke all over the bottom with a fork and bake for 7 minutes. Beat egg. Coat entire dough in egg wash and bake for 3 minutes. Remove from the oven to cool for 10 minutes.
8 medium sized cloves of garlic, whole & unpeeled
1 T extra virgin olive oil
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Wrap garlic cloves in aluminum foil and drizzle with oil. Throw in some fresh thyme stalks and bake for 40 minutes, until soft. Cool. Peel garlic cloves and spread the soft roasted garlic over the bottom of the crust in a light even layer.
1 lb Cremini mushrooms (you could mix in some wild ones too, if you like)
1 T fresh thyme leaves stripped from their stem
4 oz Italian fontina cheese, shredded (any soft, melting cheese with good flavor works)
2 T butter
Salt and pepper to taste
1 T extra virgin olive oil
After you have prepared the crust with the roasted garlic spread, raise the oven temperature to 425 degrees. Clean, trim, and chop mushrooms and stems. Put the mushrooms aside in medium size bowl. Drizzle 1 T olive oil over mushrooms, add a large pinch of salt, and toss. Melt butter in large sauté pan until sizzling and then add the mushrooms. Sprinkle with half of the thyme leaves. Cook over medium to medium high heat until all liquid is absorbed, about ten minutes. Toss in the rest of the thyme, a big dash of salt and pepper and cook for a minute. With a slotted spoon remove mushrooms from the pan. Put back into medium sized bowl. Let cool for ten minutes. Add shredded cheese and combine. Spread mushrooms and cheese evenly across the garlic schmeared crust. Return to oven and cook 10 minutes or until edges are golden brown. Let cool for a few minutes and serve. This is also great at room temperature or the next morning cold from the fridge.
If you are looking for an easy appetizer to serve to friends and family over the coming weekend, it doesn't get much easier or delicious than these potatoes. Yukon Gold potatoes are perfect for roasting, taking on a creamy consistency and buttery flavor when cooked. Smoked paprika, made from peppers which are dried by smoking over a low fire for 10-15 days, comes from Spain. Being in the nightshade family it pairs well with other nightshade family members such as potatoes and tomatoes. The smoked paprika added to the aioli adds a captivating, smokey aroma that will seductively pull you in for the ultimate potato dipping experience. Whoa...
Roasted Yukon Golds
2 medium Yukon Gold potatoes per person
ex virgin olive oil
freshly ground pepper
chopped cilantro or parsley (optional)
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Cut the potatoes lengthwise into halves and then again, lengthwise into 3 spears per half for a total of 6 pieces per potato. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and enough olive oil to coat them well. Spread out on a sheet pan with one cut side down. Bake for about 40 minutes, turning over halfway through the time, until they are browned. Transfer to a platter and sprinkle with the parsley or cilantro, if using. Serve warm or at room temp with the smoked paprika aioli.
Smoked Paprika Aioli
1 c 'Best Foods' mayonnaise
1/2 t smoked paprika (really fresh)
1 clove garlic, chopped fine
1 T ex virgin olive oil
pinch of cayenne
1/2 t lemon juice
pinch of salt
a couple of grinds of pepper
Mix all together in a small bowl, let sit for a few minutes and then taste for seasonings.
As a caterer for over 30 years, I have established a reputation for consistently creating original menus inspired by the occasion and the season, presenting them with an ease and elegance uniquely my own. Fresh, locally-sourced ingredients are the basis of my creative “from scratch” menus, which range from the classically elegant to rustic and whimsical.
"Love your recipes! Pat made your avocado toast a few weeks ago, delish! I'm taking them to a party in a few weeks, although the mushroom crostata looks pretty darn good!"