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Archive for the ‘Appetizer’ Category

I am a mushroom addict.  So when I came across this appetizer that combined sautéed mushrooms with puff pasty, I knew I had to try it!

I’ve now made these beauties a few times, and without fail they get snatched up!  Who can resist caramelized onions and mushrooms topped with swiss cheese and served on a delectable puff pasty?

I love that these tartlets are easy to make, yet sophisticated – the best sort of food in my mind. They take some time to prep (caramelizing takes a little patience), but certainly worth the effort!  These would be perfect served either at a snazzy Christmas party or for a relaxed weekend dinner.

Thanks to Brown Eyed Baker for the recipe!

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Caramelized Onion, Mushroom, and Gruyere Tartlets

(Makes 16 3-inch tartlets)

Ingredients

1 tbsp olive oil
1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp unsalted butter
16 oz white button or cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
½ tsp dried thyme
Salt and pepper, to taste
¼ c. white wine (can substitute chicken or vegetable broth)
2 sheets puff pastry (thawed according to directions on package)
1 c. grated Gruyere cheese (can substitute any variety of Swiss cheese)
1 egg + 1 tablespoon water, beaten together (for the egg wash)
Handful of parsley, chopped

 

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Heat the olive oil in a wide, heavy-bottomed pan over medium-low heat and add the onions. Cook, stirring occasionally, until they begin to caramelize, about 20 minutes.

Add the butter to the pan. Once melted, add the mushrooms and saute, stirring occasionally, until they are completely soft and all of the liquid evaporates, about 20 minutes.

Add the garlic and the thyme and saute until fragrant, about 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Add the wine, scraping the bottom of the pan to pull up all of the browned bits, and cook until all of the liquid has evaporated. Remove from heat.

Unfold the thawed sheets of puff pastry and cut out circles from the dough (if you don’t have a cookie cutter, the edge of a narrow glass work great), placing them evenly spaced on the baking sheets. Using a very sharp knife, make four small scores around the perimeter of the dough, about ¼ to ½-inch from the edge.

Top the rounds of puff pastry with a small spoonful of the onion and mushroom mixture, trying to keep the filling within the score marks. Top with the shredded Gruyere cheese. Brush the edges of the dough rounds with the egg wash.

Bake until the pastry is golden brown, about 15 to 25 minutes. Broil for 1-2 mins to make the cheese bubbly and brown. Garnish with fresh chopped parsley. Best served warm.

Bon appetit!
– Catherine
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Farmer’s markets are one of my favourite places to visit. I enjoy how markets allow me to meet the people who grow the greens, raise the laying hens that produce eggs, and who produce anything else that catches my eye.

There’s another important reason why I enjoy markets so much: I draw inspiration from everything I see, and I like to challenge myself to cook  vegetables or fruit I am less familiar with. This past weekend I attended the Sweetwater Music Festival in Owen Sound, and since I did not have any concerts to attend in the morning G. and I went to the farmer’s market to explore what local products were available.

At one of the vendors, a basket of tomatillos caught my eye, and I remembered a bunch of cilantro in my refrigerator in Ottawa.

Back home, I drew inspiration from the beautiful sunny weather, despite the cold, whipping up a tangy spicy green salsa for a lunch BBQ at my neighbour’s place. In the end, I was invited to play some board games another time, “as long as [I] make that salsa again!” I’ll leave it to you to try it, and see if it measures up to its reputation as an immediate “invite-granting” commodity!

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Ingredients – An appetizer for 8, as long as there are enough tortilla chips!

-1 lb Tomatillos, peeled and washed

-3 Shallots, peeled and quartered

-2/3 Cup fresh cilantro leaves

-Juice from 1 lime

-4 Dried red chilli peppers (or more or less to taste)

-Tiny pinch salt

-Tortilla chips

Directions

Preheat the broiler while you peel and wash the tomatillos and prepare the shallots. Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil, and place 2/3 of the tomatillos and two of the shallots on the sheet. Make sure none are touching (they roast better that way). Broil for 7 minutes, then turn the vegetables and broil on the other side for another 6 minutes.

Meanwhile, chop the remaining raw tomatillos and shallot, and place in a food processor (or blender). Wash the cilantro and place in the food processor as well with the hot chillis and juice from half of the lime.

When the veggies are done roasting, place them in the food processor as well, then coarsely blend it all. Add a pinch or two of salt, and some additional lime (to taste).

Place in a bowl and serve with tortilla chips – or alternatively, serve on burgers hot off the grill!

-Sitelle

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As this post suggests, I am back! I must admit the fast pace of life throws me off a but here, as do all the choices availe in the super-market, and the orderly queues. Oh yeah, and Toronto feels so cold… apparently it is possible to acclimatize to new environments quite easily.

First of all I want to thank Catherine for all her wonderful contributions to Gourm(eh) while I was out of regular internet range. Catherine is alive and well in Kenya now (we traded continents, and spoke today!), and I am back in Canada. Now, it is my turn to share my west African adventures with you.

Actually, for the next little while I have many, many recipes I want to share: both Central America-inspired and Senegambia-inspired, and I hope you will enjoy them as much as I do. I find it exciting to try new styles of cooking, and each of these recipes has so many stories and memories attached I cannot help but be excited to post them!

Akara, or bean fritters, are very common throughout West Africa. I typically purchased them from women frying them on charcoal stoves along the streets who packaged them up in ripped brown paper from flour bags and doused them in spicy sauce. Resisting the urge to eat them right away, I would carry them home and eat them from the comfort of my mat while sharing them with my friends.

Ingredients

Akara

1.5 cups black-eyed peas, soaked in water overnight
1 large red onion
1 jalapeno or scotch bonnet hot pepper
6 black peppercorns
Salt to taste
Oil for frying
2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley (optional)

Dipping sauce

50g tomato paste
1 red onion finely sliced
2 cloves garlic finely chopped
2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and chopped
juice of 1-2 lemons
1 tsp black pepper corns
2 Tbsp peanut oil
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup water

Directions

Soak beans overnight in plenty of water. The following day, squeeze or rub the skins off the beans (if a few remain, don’t worry), remove them by dumping the water out of the beans. Keep the beans in a large bowl and pass the water through a strainer to catch the skins. Add more water and continue to remove the skins and wash the beans.

Clean the onions and half the hot peppers in a food processor or blender with the beans and pulse. Pound the pepper corns and add to the mixture, and add the parsley if you want to add a bit of a unique taste. Pulse well, until a you have a thick bean paste. Add salt to taste and the remaining hot pepper if you want the fritters to be spicy (warning: scotch bonnet peppers are very, very spicy).

Heat up about a centimeter of oil in a pan with a lid over high heat. Once heat-waves show up on the oil reduce heat to medium high. Carefully add spoonfulls of the bean mixture into the hot oil. Test it with one first, and make sure to add more only when the oil is bubbling around the bean paste. Cook for a couple minutes on each side, then remove from the hot oil with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.

Make Akara dipping sauce (spicy):

Dice the onions and garlic. Heat up the oil in a frying pan and add the onions and pounded black pepper. When the onions begin to become transparent, add the garlic and cook for another minute. Then stir in the tomato paste and cook for a couple more minutes before adding the chopped hot peppers and 1 cup water. Increase heat to medium-high until mixture boils, after which reduce the heat and simmer until at least half of the water has evaporated, and the sauce thickens. Add lemon juice and season with salt.

Pour sauce over fritters, and serve as an appetiser or main course with a salad.

Hope you enjoy them!

-Sitelle (Alias: Ya Ndey)

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It’s hard to imagine that 2012 has arrived!  2011 has flashed by quicker than either of us expected, and both of us have loved writing entries for gourm(eh?).  Neither of us could guess how rewarding this blog would prove to be.  We are so grateful for our reader’s supports and comments, and hope you will continue to enjoy our posts in the year ahead! In the meantime, we wanted to share with you our 10 most popular recipes from 2011.

To a wonderful 2012!

10. Coconut Turnovers – A  recipe Sitelle invented while reminiscing about her travels in Belize — these turnovers are mouth wartering.

9. Okra, Potato and Cauliflower Curry – Who doesn’t love Indian food?  Madhur Jaffrey spotlights okra is this spicy dish.

8. Pesto Pasta with Caramelized Onions, Roasted Asparagus, and Zucchini  – Pesto is a favourite of Catherine’s, and this pasta dish (or a variant) features at least once a month in her kitchen.

7. Mocha Chip Meringue Cake – Our very first gourm(eh?) post!  This is a little taste of meringue heaven.

6. Crispy Baked Mac and Cheese – The more cheese, the better in our opinion.

5. Chocolate Zucchini Cake – One of Catherine’s top secret family recipes, she has yet to meet a picky eater who didn’t love this chocolatey, moist cake.

4. Flaky Pastry Crust: Savoury or Sweet! – A cornerstone of both our baking inventories, delicious buttery pie crust is our foundation for most pies.  And if you need a filling, may we recommend Catherine’s two favourites from 2011:

3. Cream of Broccoli and Spinach Soup – Concocted during Catherine’s month of vegetarianism, she’d eat this any day of the week!

2. The ultimate Canadian butter tarts! – We wrote developed gourm(eh?) partially to explore Canadian cuisine.  This here is Sitelle’s take of this delicious Canadian treat.

1. Rigatoni with Eggplant and Pine Nut Crunch – The post that saw us freshly pressed (!!!!), this rich pasta casserole is keeper.

You'll devour the pine nut crunch topping!

– Catherine & Sitelle

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Scallops – Coquilles St. Jacques in French – are one of the family specials. In proper form, the ingredients are few: scallops, butter, cream, and parsley…

The night I arrived in my family’s village supper was from 8pm till 12:30am, and even so, we had to pry ourselves away before coffee was offered because I was so tired!

We began with soticot (tiny shrimp that were caught by one of my relatives), escargots, fresh crab… then a soup, a roast chicken, some cheese, dessert…  and so this recipe continues on the seafood theme that we live by here.

Ingredients – serves 4 as an appetizer

-16 – 20 scallops, sliced in half if they are large
-8 sprigs parsley, minced
-2 Tbsp butter
-1/2 cup crême fraiche

Directions

Wash and slice the scallops in half if they are large. Heat butter until it bubbles, over medium heat to sear each side for 3 minutes or so until they are golden-brown, and then simmer for a couple more minutes until they are gently cooked through. Add parsley, and cream. Melt cream over low heat over the scllops (avoid making it boil as it curdles). Serve with baguette crisps or other crisp bread, and a glass of dry white wine.

Bon appétit!

-Sitelle

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The clock is ticking for me, and my fridge must be emptied in the next week. Each autumn I have a tendency to accumulate squash – and last night I had a squash-themed dinner party with my roommate to get through them: squash dishes accompanied by a few delightful glasses of wine. I have had this particular salad recipe sitting around at the back of my head for the last few weeks, and finally, last night, I gave it a go. It’s a delightful combination of bold flavours and textures. Next time, I’ll add some toasted or candied nuts in to give it even more depth.

Ingredients – 4 servings

-1 small red hubbard squash (or other squash with flat skin)
-2 Tbsp olive oil
-1/4 tsp salt
-1/2 tsp crushed tarragon
-4 cups baby arugula leaves
-1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled

-2 tsp grain mustard
-2 tsp cider vinegar
-2-3 Tbsp olive oil
-pinch salt and pepper

Directions

Preheat oven to 400F. Peel and cube squash, then toss in olive oil, salt, and tarragon so all sides are coated. Roast in a pyrex dish for 20 minutes, then turn cubed squash over and roast for another 20 minutes.

Wash the arugula, and set aside.

In a small jar, mix the mustard and vinegar. Add the oil 1 Tbsp at a time, stirring constantly. Once the mixture thickens, add the salt and pepper.

Assemble the salad by first making a bed of arugula, then dropping on a handful of feta and warm squash. Drizzle dressing over top, and eat right away.

If you happen to have some nuts, it may be nice to toast them and sprinkle them on top.

Hope you enjoy this!

-Sitelle

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Lately, I’ve been having a lot of fun playing a sort of cooking puzzle: the kind of game where I look at everything in my fridge and try to come up with interesting and delicious ideas which are not necessarily based on any pre-existing recipes (at least that I’ve seen). In this particular case, the first time I made this appetizer I had beets and goat’s cheese, but no hazelnuts. I have since then recreated this appetizer with hazelnuts and it gives it even more unique flair.

Beets are one of my favourite root vegetables, and in the fall I often crave their rich colour and taste. The great thing about them is they can be stored for an extremely long period of time.

My first time making this was for a work-related dinner party, which was a lot of fun. I happily discovered they were a success! But while they’re quite wonderful, they are a bit finicky too.

Ingredients – appetizers for 6

-4 medium red beets
-300g goat’s cheese (plain, herb-crusted, or pepper-crusted)
-1 Tbsp 35% cream
-1/4 cup chopped toasted hazelnuts
-1 Tbsp herbes de provence
-1 tsp cracked pepper
-pinch salt
-olive oil

Directions

Trim ends off beets until only 1 inch of the stems remain. Use leaves for something delicious. Wash the beets thoroughly, then boil for 20 minutes whole. Remove from water, and let cool while you prepare the goat cheese mixture.

In a bowl, mix the cream, hazelnuts, herbes de provence, pepper and salt. Add the goat’s cheese and mix into cream mixture using a fork, until everything is well incorporated. Add a small drizzle of olive oil if it is too firm.

Now comes the difficult part: peel the beets, and then create ribbons of beet as wide as possible and as long as possible. Ideally, use a very sharp vegetable peeler on the beets which you’ve cut in half across the centre (not top-to-bottom). If you do not have a sharp vegetable peeler or have a peeler that removes too thin a strip, simply use a sharp knife and cut around the beet until you have basically unwound the beet. Spread the beet ribbon out, and slather with the goat’s cheese mix. Roll it up neatly, and then place on a baking dish greased with a bit of olive oil. Do this with as much of the beets as possible (once you get too close to the middle though it’s too difficult and so you can just eat that part). You should end up with around 10-14 rolls or more. Drizzle a drop of olive oil over top of each roll, and bake at 400F for 10 minutes, until the rolls sizzle a bit.

If you have a really sharp knife, slice the rolls in 2 or 3 and place them each on round sesame melba toast. If you are unable to slice them, simply serve them as-is with a fork and knife on a small appetizer plate.

Enjoy!

-Sitelle

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