Category Archives: Appetizers

If at first you don’t succeed…try try again

This morning when I woke up, I remembered that I had a score to settle. A crispy cheesy score.

I tried to make gougeres, or cheese puffs last year, and they were everything except for the puff. So I looked up David Lebovitz’s post on gougeres and something he said made me feel better. He thinks “the funky-looking ones have a lot of charm”! How nice of him.

Even so, I figured it’s time to show those little puffs who’s boss.

I think I put the puffs in their place this time. (literally) 😉

Oh, if you ever need to impress someone, this is the way to go.

Gougeres – adapted from David Lebovitz
makes about 18 small puffs

1/3 c. water
2 Tbsp. butter
1 pinch of each: chili powder, garlic powder, salt
1/3 c. flour
1 extra large egg
1/2 c. grated sharp cheese (I used aged cheddar)
extra cheese to sprinkle on top

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. In a small saucepan, heat the water, butter, and the pinches of spices together until butter is melted and water is boiling.
2. Add flour all at once and stir quickly until the dough leaves the sides of the pan. Turn off heat.
3. Continue to smoosh the dough around the pan for a few minutes to cool it off a little. (so you don’t scramble the egg when it’s added)
4. Add the egg and beat until the dough is soft (more of a stiff batter) and shiny. This might take a few minutes, don’t despair if it looks curdled, just press on.
5. Stir in the cheese.
6. At this point, you can: pipe the dough with pastry bag and round tip onto a baking sheet lined with parchment; or lacking a pastry bag, use a ziplock bag with a corner snipped; or just use two spoons to drop the dough.
7. Just make sure they’re evenly sized, about as large as a cherry tomato.
8. Sprinkle with extra cheese.
9. Bake at 425 degrees for about 6 minutes, until they have puffed, then reduce heat to 375 degrees F and continue to bake another 6 minutes, or until the puffs are browned on the sides.
10. Take care not to underbake or the puffs will collapse when taken out of the oven.

Easy Cheese Puffs on Foodista

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Filed under Appetizers, Cheese, Snacks, Vegetarian

Ceiling Art

Let’s play 20 questions:

Q1. What happens when you try to blend chickpeas in a blender?
A. They get stuck on the sides of the blender.

Q2. What do you do to get them down so you can puree them?
A. You open the top of the blender while it’s running and you scrape down the sides with a metal spoon.

Q3. Does that work?
A. Yes, surprisingly, it does.

Q4. Doesn’t the chickpeas fly out?
A. No, they don’t. Not unless you accidentally poke the whirling blade with your spoon.

Q5. !!!
A. 😀 I’m ok.

Q6. So what happened?
A. My kitchen got a makeover…I got ceiling art!

Q7. Uh, so what do you do to prevent that?
A. Don’t touch the blade while it’s on! Or use a food processor.

No…that wasn’t me. I would never put hummus on the ceiling. That was somebody else. I did, however, have fresh, homemade pita and hummus yesterday. I love hummus…garlicky, creaming goodness.

And watching pitas puff like balloons in the oven is so much fun!

You should try one day. 🙂

Just use a food processor.

Hummus
makes about 1 1/4 cups

1 1/2 c. canned chickpeas, drained, but reserve the liquid
2 Tbsp. tahini (substitute smooth peanutbutter in a pinch!)
4 cloves garlic
1 Tbsp. toasted sesame oil (available at most Asian groceries)
1/8 tsp. ground cumin
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
olive oil, to drizzle on top

1. Add all ingredients except for the olive oil to the food processor.
2. Puree until smooth.
3. Drizzle with olive oil and serve with warm pitas.

Pita
makes 6 small

3/4 c. warm water
1 tsp. yeast
1 3/4 c. all purpose flour (I sneaked in 1/4 c. whole wheat)
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. olive oil

1. Add yeast to warm water in a large bowl and let stand for a couple minutes.
2. Add the salt, sugar, oil, and 1 1/2 c. flour. Mix until smooth.
3. Gradually knead in the last 1/4 c. of flour until you get a smooth, elastic ball, about 5-7 minutes.
4. Cover, and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.
5. Divide the dough into 6 portions and form each into a ball. Let rest 10 minutes. Crank up your oven as high as it can go, mine’s 500 degrees F. Put a cookie sheet upside down in the middle.
6. Roll out each ball on a floured surface until 1/8 inch thick. If too thick, pitas won’t puff properly.
7. Bake each pita about 3-4 minutes, or until puffed and the very lightest brown.

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Filed under Appetizers, Breads, Snacks, Vegetarian

Fresh Tomato Bruschetta

On Saturday I went to the Farmer’s market in Ste. Anne with Ian. I bought this strange looking sandwich thing. I am not entirely sure what it’s called. It looks like a great big kernel of wheat. See?

I only know that it is made of home-ground whole wheat flour and baked. And it’s filled with a mixture of lentils, carrots, tofu curds, green peppers, chili peppers, red peppers, and is almost fat-free. I also know that it’s awfully tasty and filling.

We went to a marvelous and charming little cafe in town, called Twigs. They have the most innovative sandwiches I’ve ever seen or heard of. Alligator sandwich, anyone? They also have excellent espresso, which has become my treat reserved for Saturdays.

Anyways, we also picked up a baguette at the market. Very delicious bread with a crunchy crust and a chewey inside. That is, if you eat it on the same day. Which we didn’t. So what happened to the bread? It got hard and dry, blame it on the Montreal weather. It has been very cold these past few days. I even broke out winter boots. Yes, winter boots in September.

In efforts to resuscitate the baguette, I made bruschetta! (Was going to make baked french toast but forgot…)

Simple ingredients. Easy dish. Elegant look. Wonderful taste. Read on for the recipe.

Oh, did I mention that Ian is learning to cook? I didn’t? Oops. Well, it seems that his first lesson is knife skills, seeing as he made salad today with boiled eggs. (If your boiled eggs always have the icky bluish-greenish sulfur ring, follow this trick: bring eggs to a full boil for 2 minutes ONLY, then cover and let sit for 10 minutes, rinse with cold water and peel. I guarantee perfect eggs every time.)

Doesn’t the olive oil and balsamic vinegar look like the perfect couple approaching each other shyly? No? Okay, maybe it’s just me. 😉

Note: Rubbing the garlic on the toast gives just enough garlicky-goodness without visible, or overwhelming chunks of garlic. Enjoy.

Fresh Tomato Bruschetta
serves 3-4

1/2 lb. fresh tomatoes
5-6 fresh basil leaves, cut into chiffonade, or fine strips
dash of onion salt, to taste
pepper to taste
1/4 c. extra-virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, cut in half crosswise
1/2 of a day-old baguette, sliced

  1. Place the baguette slices on a baking tray and dry in 250 degree oven until crisp, about 20 minutes, or more if your bread is more fresh.
  2. Chop the tomatoes and combine with the rest of the ingredients except for the garlic. Set aside.
  3. Rub one side of each toast with the garlic and top with tomato mixture.
  4. Eat.

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Filed under Appetizers, Side dishes, Vegetarian

Rooster's Beak (Pico de Gallo)

I didn’t know that pico de gallo means rooster’s beak. But then again, Spanish is not my strongest suit. I apparently did know Spanish while I lived in Spain, when I was five. Tell that to my brain, and my mouth, both of which are hopeless when it comes to the language.

Regardless of my language skills, I went to the local farmer’s market today and picked up some tomatoes, lime, and cilantro. The fixings of pico de gallo. Pico de gallo is wonderfully fresh and spicy, with a lovely texture. Plus it looks pretty. The crunch of the onions is offset by the softness of the tomatoes. A touch of lime juice brightens up the dish. Use less jalapenos is you can’t handle the heat. On the other hand, leave some of the ribs (white membranes) in the peppers if you do happen to love the heat.

Serve with tortilla chips, on tacos and fajitas, or dig in with a spoon. 🙂

Pico de Gallo

1 large onion
3 medium Roma tomatoes
1 small bunch fresh cilantro
1-2 jalapeno peppers, seeds and ribs removed (see note above)
1/2 a lime
freshly ground pepper
salt

First, finely dice the onion. Then dice the tomatoes. Thirdly, chop the cilantro. Fourthly, finely finely finely dice the jalapenos, nobody likes to sink their teeth into a big chunk and by the time they realize, it’s too late. So please, finely. Put all four ingredients in a large bowl and squeeze the juice out of the lime into the bowl. Grind some pepper over top. Generously salt. Mix together and taste. Add more jalapenos if you wish.

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Filed under Appetizers, Side dishes, Vegetables

Green Onion Pancakes

This is yet another dish I seldom order when eating out at a Chinese restaurant. Not that they don’t get it right. Most places make acceptable pancakes. It’s hard to totally botch them. They are pretty easy to make. However, a lot of restaurants fry them in a ton of oil and the appetizer end up greasy. Not good. So I make it at home. Usually though, I make it with leftover dough, such as from making dumplings. There are many things that can be done with a piece of leftover dough. It’s a marvelous thing.

Dumpling dough is very lean, made with simply water and flour. It makes a good, chewy base for the pancakes. Use plenty of fresh green onions. Take care not to over salt and add too much oil, or you’d have hell with the rolling process.

I find these addictive and will nimble on it all day. It is best when it’s warm and crisp. Nimble nimble…there goes my waistline.

Green Onion Pancakes

Leftover lean dough, unleavened, if that is unavailable:
Mix 2 cups of flour with about 2/3 cup of cold water slowly, adding more flour or water as needed to make a malleable, slightly sticky dough. Knead 2-3 minutes. Let rest for at least 20 minutes.
1/2 cup chopped green onions, use more if you wish
2 Tbsp. oil
salt to taste
oil for frying (3-4 Tbsp.)

Roll out the dough into a large circle 1/4 inch. Sprinkle with oil, salt, and green onions. Roll up like you would cinnamon bun dough. Seal both sides. Cut into 2 inch segments. Twist and pinch to close each open end of each piece. Make sure it’s closed well. Roll out each piece. Flour your work space as needed. If the green onions burst out of the dough, it’s okay, just keep rolling.

Heat a frying pan with 1 Tbsp. oil until hot. Maintain the heat at medium. Fry each pancake 2-3 minutes on each side, or until browned. Add more oil as needed, one tablespoon at a time. Nibble away!

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Filed under Appetizers, Chinese