Tag Archives: simple

Tasty Tidbits

18 Jul

Life is changing in ways we couldn’t have imagined just a few months ago and can be somewhat confusing at times. News can saturate us with negativism, leadership is questionable at times, and we cannot move about out lives like we once could. Where is the joy in these times of “quarantine projects” and staying home? For me, even if it is just for my small quarantine crew, it is cooking

Not in the labor of it per se-although I don’t mind it most days. It is the coming together over food that lifts my spirit and feeds my soul. It is sitting at the table eating, chatting, laughing, sharing, listening, and ultimately, connecting.

These days, I tend toward more simple but savory dishes when I set my mind to cooking. Let’s look at two tantalizing tasty treats that are not time consuming. One is simply assembling, the other involves a bit of mixing and cooking.

First, lets go super easy.

For a quick refreshing summer appetizer with minimal ingredients and a few minutes of time, you will have a savory summer delicacy sure to please. This appetizer is in the category of “assemble and serve”. Get these simple ingredients together:

  • Cherry or grape tomateos
  • Fresh basil leaves
  • fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into bite size pieces
  • Your favorite vinaigrette or balsamic reduction
  • toothpicks (the frilly fancy kind if you have ’em)

Take a toothpick, and thread a tomato, basil leaf, and piece of mozzarella cheese. Drizzle with vinaigrette, balsamic reduction, or whatever strikes your fancy. Lay them on a fun pretty little plate or dish. Next, pour a refreshing chilled cocktail and enjoy this fun delectable tidbit.

My favorite “assemble and serve” summer appetizer.

Want something a little more creamy? Got a little more time? Then we can go the dip route. A hot rich dip. Using basic pantry and fridge staples so no fuss. Don’t want to heat up the kitchen? Me either. That is why I grill my savory summer dip in my cast iron skillet. Let’s get some basics together and get started.

You will need:

  • 8 ounces cream cheese
  • 1 can of 8-10 count artichoke hearts
  • I can of diced green chilis
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup fresh parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 t. chopped garlic (substitute with garlic powder if necessary)
  • Salt and red pepper flakes

Just a couple of staples and an easy and savory dip is at your fingertips.

Take the cream cheese out of the fridge about 20 minutes before mixing this up. It needs to soften. Then a can opener, a knife, a large mixing bowl, a rubber spatula and a cutting board is all we need to get this going.

Squeeze the excess liquid from the artichokes and give them a rough chop.

Before mixing this up, go out and get your grill hot. Then give it a good cleaning with your wire brush. Back in the kitchen get your cast iron skillet out. Mix everything together in a bowl but only use half of the cheese. No need to drain the green chilis-just toss the whole can in and keep mixing. When it is all nice and smooth put your dip into your cast iron skillet. Sprinkle the rest of the cheese over the top.

Put your dip into an 8 or 10 inch cast iron skillet.

Cover this with foil and take it out to the grill. Turn the heat to medium and place this on the grill. Close the lid and let it get to work.

Cover your dip with foil and put it on the grill.

After about 10 minutes covered remove the foil. This dip is well on its way to bubbly deliciousness! Let this hang out on the grill for another 15 minutes.

And just like that your dip is done. A nice brown crust along the edge and hot all the way through. Perfecto!

Get your chips out. This is ready! Put a trivet out, line up the chips, and get ready to dip into this…well… dip! It’ll be hot and it needs a few minutes to cool down a bit. On the plus side, your hot oven isn’t competing with your air-conditioning in summer mode. Enjoy this with some refreshing summer iced tea or perhaps an ice cold beer.

Grilled Summer Artichoke Dip

8 ounces cream cheese
1 can of 8-10 count artichoke hearts
I can of diced green chilis
1/4 cup sour cream
1/2 cup fresh parmesan cheese
1/2 t. chopped garlic (substitute with garlic powder if necessary)
Salt, red pepper flakes, black pepper (to taste)

About 20 minutes before mixing your dip, take your cream cheese out of the fridge, unwrap it, and place it in a mixing bowl. It needs to soften a bit before assembling the dip. Drain artichoke can and squeeze out additional liquid from the hearts. Roughly chop and put into mixing bowl. Add the sour cream, dices green chilis (undrained) and 1/2 of the parmesan cheese. Mix to incorporate. Add the garlic, salt and pepper. Mix well.

Now get the grill going. If using a gas grill, put on medium heat to preheat. Back inside, take out your cast iron skillet and put the dip into it. Spread to even the dip throughout. Add the rest of the parmesan cheese on top. Cover loosely with foil.

Now that the grill is preheated, turn of half of the grill. Place the dip on the heated side. Close lid for 10 minutes. Remove foil and continue to cook until hot and bubbly, about 15-20 minutes. Bon appetite!

Epicurean Evenings

29 Oct
My education and career trajectory is in clinical nutrition, dietary management, and healthcare business strategy, but cooking is definitely my passion. I love the creativity of decadent ingredients, plate presentations, fresh flavors, and lingering over home cooked meals filled with spirited conversation.  My enthusiasm for food, at times, mingles with my love of writing, and that dwells in the core of my spirit.
I have several outlets to feed that need, and at one point I spent time writing for a food and wine magazine. Sometimes my editor (and friend) Katherine would come over to chat about upcoming assignments. I was not inconvenienced by having to answer the door when Katherine stopped by. Always welcome and with a quick “hello I’m here” knock, in she came.

A few years ago on a cool fall afternoon she popped in. A few steps in the door she stopped, her head slowly floated back as her eyes closed, and drew in a deep breath. Then her eyes slowly opened and she said “I just love coming into the house of an epicurean. It always smells so good!”

At the time I wasn’t completely sure what an epicurean was. When I finally understood what it meant, the comment from Katherine turned into an intuitive compliment-one that I savor to this day. What is an epicurean? If you go to the dictionary you will find something like this:

adjective
1. fond of or adapted to luxury or indulgence in sensual pleasures; having luxurious tastes or habits, especially in eating.
Yup, that describes me. I am an epicurean. But what was I cooking on that cool fall afternoon that elicited such a reaction from Katherine? I was teaching myself how to make a brown butter sauce. Dinner that evening included wild mushroom ravioli, and I had decided to stretch my skills by learning a new sauce.
Want to know how to make a brown butter sauce? You’ll be happy you did-it has endless possibilities! High quality European butter is the key here. I always use unsalted for 2 reasons: Salt is a preservative, so unsalted butter is fresher, and I like to adjust my own seasonings.

So here is what I did. Into a heavy bottomed sauce pan, I started melting a half pound of lovely french butter on low heat.


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Soon the butter started to brown. I began removing the foam to clarify the sauce. The aroma that began filling the house was amazing. Warm, nutty, rich!

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My sauce continued to deepen. The flavors were concentrating. And the scents wafting around the house were incredible. I kept stirring.

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Do not walk away from this sauce, as it can burn quickly. Let it deepen slowly and keep your eye on it. But that is it. Simple.

The real beauty in this sauce is the ability to adjust it to any taste. You can add garlic, herbs, salt, pepper, almost anything to customize it to your taste. Add it at any point while browning the sauce. How easy is that? Fabulous!!

The first time I made the sauce, I drizzled it over wild mushroom ravioli and sprinkled it with some fresh parmesan cheese. Since I like acid, I also drizzled a balsamic reduction over the ravioli as well. A garnish of fresh basil perfected the balance. I added a salad and some crusty bread. It was a decadent dinner.

I continue to use the brown butter sauce for a variety of finishes. What can you do with it? Send me an email and let me know!

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