Tag Archive | vegetarian appetizer

Misadventures in Making Baked Brie

So this was one of those weekends where things just sucked and everything kept going wrong. Seriously, it was ridiculous. Finally after my glasses broke Sunday night, I decided to make baked Brie to make myself feel better. Naturally this did not turn out quite as I intended. For the record, there is nothing wrong with the recipe per se; it’s actually quite tasty. The execution of me making it however…

1/2 cup flour
2 1/2 tablespoons butter
Pinch of salt
Cold water
1-2 tablespoons honey
1 tsp finely chopped rosemary

Measure flour and salt into a bowl. Using a pastry cutter or a fork, cut in the butter until there are no significant sized lumps. If compressed, the dough should almost be able to stick together. Add water, a little at a time, until the dough comes together. The dough should be soft and pliable, but cohesive and not sticky. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside. After you’ve made the dough, roll out a circle large enough to cover the brie. Place the brie in the center of the dough. Spoon some honey on top of the brie and then sprinkle the rosemary on top of that. Fold the dough so the brie is fully encased and bake at 375 for 15-20 minutes.

So – what happened to me was when the Brie melted, it found a hole in the pastry and spread all over the baking pan, where most of it burned, leaving mostly a shell behind. So I cut it open, sliced a little more brie and stuck it on while the pastry was still hot so it’d melt a bit and drizzled a little more honey on it.

yeah... not quite how I intended things to go

yeah… not quite how I intended things to go

Which worked extremely well and was ultimately a perfectly yummy snack with some red wine, a Tempranillo in this case – which worked really well. So, how do you avoid my mistake? Use a wheel of brie, with a rind all the way around rather than tempt fate with a wedge. Also, the honey doesn’t stay on top of the brie the way jam does, so you might want to cut out a circle of the top rind and place the honey there. And make sure there aren’t holes on the sides or bottoms of your dough. All fairly obvious things to do really and yet… Song of the week: Schadenfreude from Avenue Q. Self-explanatory given my weekend I think.

Honey-Goat Cheese Filo Turnovers

Even if you freeze it, eventually an open package of filo dough will dry out. It is a tragic truth I have learned to live with. However, the result of this is that I needed to finish off a package of filo dough that didn’t have too many sheets left over. And I hit on this recipe: Honey-Goat Cheese Filo Triangles. Also it looked delicious! I made a smaller recipe though, and made a couple minor adjustments, but it’s basically the same.

5-6 ounces goat cheese
2 tablespoons honey
1 egg white
5 sheets filo dough
1-2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon

Blend the goat cheese, egg white and 2 tablespoons of honey together with an electric beater. Stick in the fridge for 30 minutes or so. Once you’ve done that, melt the butter and the remaining honey together. Brush over a sheet of filo dough and fold it into thirds. Add some of the goat cheese mixture to the bottom edge and then fold up the sheet like a flag. Brush the top with more butter-honey and prick the top to let steam out. Stick on a baking sheet. When you’ve used all the filling, bake at 375 until golden.

The might have exploded a little in the oven...

The might have exploded a little in the oven…

These were good! More savory than I expected, so its not really a dessert per se. One or two of these with a salad makes a nice meal. However this brings me to my issue with the recipe. While these make perfectly good big turnovers, I think they’d probably be way better as little appetizer sized ones, made with a half-sheet of filo. But I haven’t had a chance to test this theory yet. These aren’t super sweet, but they are sweet enough they don’t pair super well with dry wines – I’d suggest a reisling would probably work well – my favorite is the Chateau St. Michelle, which is usually around $10. Song of the week: For the Longest Time by Billy Joel, as sung on How I Met Your Mother. Cheesy? Yes. Awesome? Absolutely.

Si Se Puede! Mexican Tartlets and Labor Rights

So this is yet another slightly delayed holiday recipe posting. March 31 is Cesar Chavez Day in the great state of California – it replaced Columbus day (good riddance) as a state holiday. Cesar Chavez is a Latino labor rights organizer for farm workers who did a lot of good for CA and the Latino communities across the U.S. I want to note (I just learned this) that equal credit should be given to Dolores Huerta, the co-founder of the United Farm Workers and a badass in her own right. So in honor of Huerta and Chavez and Labor Rights in general, I decided to do another one of my Cali-Mex recipes this week. So this was an odd synthesis of a Zucchini salad from my Mexican vegetarian cooking class and a recipe from Everyday Greens cookbook.

Tartlet dough
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup masa harina
dash of salt
1/3 cup butter
1 tablespoon wine vinegar
Cold water

Measure flour, masa harina, and salt into a bowl and mix them all thoroughly. Using a pastry cutter or a fork, cut in the butter until there are no significant sized lumps. Mix the vinegar with 3 tablespoons of water and add the mixture, a little at a time, until the dough comes together. If you need more water, add it in small amounts. The dough should be soft and pliable, but cohesive and not sticky. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside while you make the filling.

1 medium zucchini, chopped
1/2 ear of corn, kernels cut off
1/3 cup onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 medium poblano pepper, chopped
1 tsp cumin (or in reality to taste)
salt and pepper
olive oil
2-3 ounces queso fresca, crumbled

Heat the olive oil in a saute pan. Add the garlic, and after a couple minutes, add the onions and poblano peppers. Once they start to soften, add the corn, zucchini, cumin, salt and pepper. Saute until everything is softened, but not so long that it turns squogy. Toss with the queso and set aside. Roll out the tartlet dough and cut out little circles from it (once again my glass ice cream bowls are used to fulfill the task of a biscuit cutter). Take each circle and stick it into a spot in a cupcake tin. No worries if its a little large and needs to squish a little, that’s totally fine. Fill each one completely with the fill. Bake at 375 for like 20 minutes or so.

mexican tartlets

Damn these were tasty. I had to exercise a great deal of discipline to save some of them for meals at work instead of gobbling them all as a meal and then snacks. I had these with Oberon Summer Ale (it’s back! and my all-time fav beer to pair with Mexican food) as a meal, but I think they would make an amazing appetizer at a party or something. The tartlet dough is awesome – I’m loving the flour-masa harina combo, and have been using it when making tostadas for a while. Song of the Week: Mrs. Brown You’ve Got A Lovely Daughter by Herman’s Hermits. I love this song for so so many reasons, but the main two are the guitar rift in the beginning (and really the guitar throughout) and the theme of being heartbroken without bitterness or recrimination. It’s an uplifting song about lost love – which is amazing. We should all strive to be that decent regarding our former lovers. Also Herman’s Hermits are incredible and tragically underrated.

Savory Puffs – Cheese and Hazelnuts

Ok, to clarify, this doesn’t mean that the puffs contain both cheese and hazelnuts. It means I made a cheese version and hazelnut version out of the the same basic recipe. I’ve been straying from baking lately. No particular reason beyond the fact I like to bounce around a lot between different kinds of cooking. But this week I wanted to do some actual baking. The original plan was to do some kind of dessert pastry, but somehow I got sidetracked into the land of of savory pastries. This time it was savory puffs, inspired by a recipe from the French Market cookbook. The basic dough, pate au choux (or choux paste) is a super basic and these puffs are in all probability endlessly versatile and can be adjusted to any number of flavors. But for the time being, we will stick with two – cheese and hazelnut

Pate au Choux
2 1/2 tbsp butter
1/2 cup milk
2 dashes nutmeg
1/2 cup flour
2 eggs

Heat the butter and milk together in a smallish saucepan. Bring to a simmmer, then turn off the heat. Add the nutmeg and stir. Then dump in all the flour and mix. It should form a fairly coherent, smooth dough. Let cool for a few minutes. Crack an egg into the pan, and mix it into the dough. That will be seriously difficult. It won’t seem like a doable prospect, but you’ll be able to make it work with persistence. Then add the second egg. It will be slightly easier, although still require effort. Mix the dough with the variation of your choice and stick it in a quart-sized plastic baggie. Cut the corner off the bottom of the baggie. Squeeze some of the flavored choux past onto a baking sheet in a circular shape – maybe 2 tablespoons worth. Bake at 400 for 15-20 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack and serve warm.

To make the cheese version: shred 3-4 ounces of intense hard cheese. Traditionally you should use Comte or gruyere, but I used parrano, because it is my favorite intense cheese. Add the cheese to about half the above recipe of choux paste and continue from there.

cheese puffs

To make the hazelnut variation: Take a dozen or so hazelnuts and stick them on a baking sheet. Stick them in the oven and toast them at 400 for maybe ten minutes. Pull them out and let them cool a little. Then chop them up, finely, and mix with the choux paste.

hazelnut puffs

Solid recipe. The puffs were a bit less puffy than I had hoped, and a bit less circular than I anticipated, but I think that is a matter of practicing the technique as much as anything else. Certainly the hazelnut ones, which I cooked second, looked a bit better than the cheese ones. I think, for the sake of mastering the technique of course, that I should probably make more versions of these puffs in the near future. I liked the cheese ones a bit more than the hazelnut ones, but I like cheese more that hazelnuts so that isn’t saying much. Serve with red wine, preferably a European red. I had this with a Rioja Tempronillo, but I think any full but not overwhelming red would work. It is, after all, technically an appetizer and thus should be served with a not-too-heavy wine. Song of the week: Dancing in the Moonlight by King Harvest. One of the many one hit wonders who made life better with their hit. And it’s completely true, you can’t dance and stay uptight – music is magic like that

A belated Thanksgiving – Appetizer and First Course

Ahhh, Thanksgiving. That lovely harvest festival wrapped up in national myth-making and stressed out travelers. Or, if you are me, working. Yes, the U.S. government continues to function on Thanksgiving, so I had to as well. The result of which is that I made my own harvest festival meal for myself over the weekend. This turned into a massive, delicious and mostly-healthy five-course dinner. Since that is way too much for a single blog post, here are the first two course, both totally new dishes: Baked brie (which I found here) and sweet potato souffle (which I adapted from here)

Baked brie
Some firm brie, in theory a full round, but any amount will do
Apricot jam
6 sheet of filo dough, cut to fully cover the brie like wrapping paper
1-2 tablespoons melted butter

Spread each sheet of filo dough with the melted butter, using either a pastry brush or a spoon, and layer them not directly on top of each other, but a bit off center, so its a bit larger of a space. Stick the brie in the middle. Cover the top of the brie with the apricot jam. Fold the filo dough over the top of the brie. Brush to top of the brie package with more butter so it all holds together. Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes, or until the brie melts and starts oozing out of the pastry. Serve with some baguette slices and wine, although I had this with a farmhouse ale – Tank 7 by Boulevard brewery (one of my favs).

So. Freaking. Good.

               So. Freaking. Good.

Baked brie is frigging AMAZING. Serious incredible stuff. Its good warm, cold, on bread, by itself, and is so freaking addictive you either need to make a small amount or have people around to eat it because you will not be able to control yourself and eat only a little. It’s that good

First Course
Sweet Potato Souffle
1 large-ish sweet potato
2 tablespoons honey
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ginger
dash of salt
Juice from 1/2 a lime
2 egg yolks
4 egg whites

Cut the sweet potato in half and roast the sweet potato first at 400 degrees until soft and mashable – it should be about 40 minutes or so. Let the sweet potato cool down. Once it’s cool, scoop out the innards and mash them up. Mix in all the other ingredients except the egg whites. Make sure the mixture is smooth. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Fold the egg whites into the sweet potato mixture. Pour the mixture into either a souffle dish or divide into 4 ramekins. Bake at 400 for 20 minutes, or until done. Serve with a not-so-dry white wine. I went with Chateau St Michelle Riesling, which is a balanced, lightly dry Riesling, and one of my favorite wines.

It wasn't supposed to be quite that small...

It wasn’t supposed to be quite that small…

So… this was my first time attempting any souffle and it didn’t exactly go as planned. They were tasty but they shrunk!?! I’m really not sure how that one happened. They tasted light too so the only thing I could think of is maybe I cooked them too long and they rose and fell in the oven? I have no idea where I went wrong on that one. Still tasty though, so I have no qualms recommending the concept at least.

Song of the week for part one: Wig in a Box, from Hedwig and the Angry Inch. I’ve been in a broadway mood for some reason for the last couple days, and this is my favorite song from Hedwig and the Angry Inch. I’ve only seen the movie (a bunch of times) but NPH as the title character in the revival is just too awesome.