Category Archives: Appetizers

Roasted Red Pepper Pesto Zucchini Quesadilla

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Katie:  Although I haven’t been too ambitious with cooking lately, this was a simple creation that turned out delicious!  Using what I happened to have at home, I blended about 1 tablespoon of homemade pesto with 1 jar of roasted red peppers for a tasty sauce.  I spread it on a whole wheat tortilla, topped half with zucchini slices and shredded cheese, and cooked it.  So simple, yet so good!

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Asparagus and Mushroom Tart Variation

JillPickle:  Katie found this recipe which I have made a few times.  It’s fast, elegant and tasty!  The puff pastry makes it look and taste like a gourmet dish.  For the variation, I doubled the amount of sauce since I had leftover ricotta to use up.  I topped the pastry with tiny yellow tomatoes, prosciutto, roasted garlic and kalamata olives and fresh mozzarella cheese.  It was great!

Here’s the variation.

Homemade Cheesy Crackers

Katie:  I haven’t posted anything in awhile, but I’ve still found some time between studying and other activities to occasionally try something new.  For my mom’s birthday, I gave her the tough choice of requesting something sweet or salty.  She chose the latter, so I decided to try making some homemade cheesy crackers.  They were much easier to make than I expected, and they turned out great!  I made them as directed, but mixed in some smoked paprika and sprinkled them with sea salt before putting them in the oven.  The pungent smell when they came out of the oven was irresistible!

Cheddar Crackers (adapted from various online sources)

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. ground black pepper (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp. smoked paprika (optional)
  • 4 Tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 8 ounces grated cheddar cheese
  • 3-4 Tbsp. water
  1. Pulse the flour, salt, pepper, and smoked paprika in a food processor, then add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal.  Add the grated cheese a little at a time until the mixture again resembles coarse meal.
  2. Pulse in 3 to 4 tablespoons of water, one tablespoon at a time, and only enough so that the dough forms a ball and rides the blade.
  3. Remove the cracker dough, wrap it in plastic, and chill for 20 minutes or up to 24 hours.
  4. Preheat the oven to 350° F.
  5. Roll the dough out to 1/8th-inch thickness directly onto a baking sheet covered with parchment paper.  (You can cover the dough with plastic wrap to keep it from sticking to the rolling pin.)  Using a pizza or pie cutter, cut 1 inch squares, separate them slightly, and  bake at 350° F for 15-20 minutes or until crackers are golden brown.
  6. Remove from the oven. Store in an airtight container for up to one week.  They probably won’t last that long!

Corn Relish

Matthew:  Well, I’m not sure that I’m ready to try canning at home yet, but I was curious about the corn relish that we canned for the food pantry.  I  made approximately 1/3 of this recipe, using corn, red bell pepper, onion, and a hot reddish/orangish pepper.  I also added a little extra liquid (water and vinegar) since it seemed like it needed more.  After it was done cooking, I let it cool in the fridge overnight and then tried it the next morning.  I was glad that the corn still had a crunch to it.  The red pepper adds a nice sweetness to contrast the vinegar.  I put the relish on a few different things, including a black bean burger, a fried egg on toast, a baked potato, and just some corn chips.  I was pleasantly surprised with how good this was.

Canning Adventures Continued: Roasted Red Pepper Spread

Katie:  Fully equipped with canning equipment, we decided to begin by trying Roasted Red Pepper Spread from the Ball cookbook.  Our first step was to find the ingredients.  After buying out two venders and accumulating two bags full of red bell peppers, we still needed to buy two more peppers from the store to reach six pounds.  The peppers roasted nicely in the broiler and the skins can off pretty easily.  They smelled great!

After pureeing the skinned and deseeded peppers and tomatoes in the food processor, we mixed in roasted garlic, roasted onion, fresh basil, red wine vinegar, and a little salt and sugar, and simmered it down to a thicker paste.  It became a little dangerous when the sauce started spurting really high.  My mom even got some in her hair!  But we got it back under control.

Next, we relied on the canning techniques we’ve been acquiring.  We filled jars that were sterilized in the dishwasher, measured the correct head space, cleaned the rims, and sealed the jars.  Then, we boiled them in the canner.  We were happy that they came out clean without exploding and we even heard the lovely pop of the jars sealing.  Now we have jars of delicious pepper spread to store, give away, or enjoy whenever we want.

Baba Ganoush

Matthew:  I recently discovered that I love eggplant.  Now that it’s in season, I want to take advantage of all the local eggplant I can get ahold of.  I first tried grilling it and now I blackened, roasted, and pureed it into baba ganoush.  I found this recipe from food writer David Lebovitz.  He recommends serving it as an appetizer with toasted bread or pitas.  You could also pair it with grilled meats and vegetables for a more substantial dish.  To prepare the eggplant, you have to put it under the broiler (or grill it) and then bake it in the oven until it is soft.  Then, you just scoop out the inside and puree it with tahini, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, and salt.  It’s actually really easy to make and you can adjust the flavors at the end based on your preferences.  My first batch that used two eggplants is almost gone, so I’ll have to go get some more while they are still around at farmer’s markets!

Fresh Spring Rolls

Katie:  While we had summer-like weather here last weekend, it has now cooled down to more typical spring weather.  So while I had been considering making a recipe for Tequila Lime Shrimp, my thoughts on cooking shifted along with the temperature.  Instead, I decided to try some fresh spring rolls.  I’m not sure if I’d ever eaten them before, let alone made them, but I was inspired by the descriptions and pictures here and here.

I found rice paper at an Asian grocery store, along with some other interesting and inexpensive ingredients.  I made small portions of three different sauces to accompany the spring rolls:  an Asian peanut butter sauce, a soy sauce mixture, and a mango sauce.  I prepared julliened carrots and sweets potatoes with fresh ginger, but left the rest of the vegetables raw.  The process of making the spring rolls was kind of like a science experiment.  The rice paper turns soft shortly after contacting water, so we could make them pretty quickly.

These turned out well and were fun to make!  Spring rolls are usually described as an appetizer, but they can easily be served as a main course, depending on how many you make.  This was a meal that I think would be fun to make with guests too.  And since hardly any cooking is involved, they would be good for hot summer days too.

Fresh Spring Rolls (adapted from My New Roots and Green Kitchen Stories)

Ingredients:

  • rice paper (I found 1 pound for 1.50 Euros at an Asian food store)
  • 2 medium carrots, julienned
  • 2 small sweet potatoes, julienned
  • 1/4 cup sesame seeds, toasted
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh ginger, minced or grated
  • 1 tablespoon agave nectar
  • 1 squeeze of fresh lemon
  • an assortment of fresh vegetables of your choice, diced or julienned (I used a red bell pepper, a red cabbage, bean sprouts, a cucumber, and green onions)
  • shrimp (optional; I used some small river crabs)
  • sauces of your choice (I substituted peanut butter in this recipe for  Almond Butter Dipping Sauce; combined soy sauce, sesame oil, and sesame seeds for a second sauce; and used my mango dressing for a third sauce)

Directions:

  1. Prepare sauces and set aside.
  2. Put the olive oil, agave syrup, and ginger in a skillet over medium heat and cook just slightly.  Add sweet potatoes and carrots and stir-fry for about 5 minutes.  Remove from heat and mix with sesame seeds and lemon juice.  Set aside.
  3. Fill a shallow dish a little larger than the rice paper with warm water.  (I used the my frying pan lid.)
  4. Place one wrap in the water until it becomes soft and pliable (about 3o seconds).
  5. Remove the wrap carefully and transfer to a clean working surface.
  6. Fill with vegetables.  Fold top, then sides, then bottom to close.
  7. Top with sauce and enjoy!