Roasted Shrimp Cocktail

Whether you are having just a couple of friends over for drinks or throwing a big bash, deciding on the appetizer menu has it challenges. There are so many considerations, like how much food, your guests eating preferences, and the ease of preparation being at the top of the list.  One appetizer that is a great crowd pleaser is shrimp cocktail. I have yet to come across someone who does not like shrimp, unless they have a shellfish allergy.

Roasted Shrimp Cocktail recipe

Roasted Shrimp cocktail Recipe

I love shrimp cocktail and believe it is the cocktail party equivalent of the office water cooler. Everyone likes to mingle around the shrimp. It is a good place to catch up with your friends or introduce yourself to the other guests. Chatting and munching around the shrimp appetizer is an interactive icebreaker with a festive atmosphere. Politics and the opposing opinions are not discussed around the shrimp cocktail. Those heated discussions happen near the charcuterie platter where there are more questions than answers.

Roasted Shrimp Cocktail recipe

Roasted Shrimp Cocktail Recipe

I discovered a shrimp cocktail recipe from Melissa Clark at the New York Times Cooking website. Her recipe reinforced a couple of ideas I already had. The first is roasting the shrimp instead of boiling them. I love roasted shrimp because the natural sweetness in shrimp becomes more concentrated. Also, I can season the shrimp any way I want, or not and it will still taste delicious. Often, boiling shrimp creates bland tasting waterlogged shrimp.

Roasted Shrimp Cocktail recipe

Second, she changed up the cocktail sauce to an aioli. It is a brighter and spicier dipping sauce and not too sweet. Have you ever tasted cocktail sauce that is nothing but ketchup and horseradish? Yuck. This recipe makes a cocktail sauce with traditional ingredients, but with a different technique.

There is one problem I have with her aioli recipe: it is impossible to make as directed. I have tried and tried on multiple occasions, but I cannot get the sauce to the consistency of an aioli. Whenever I make it, the cocktail sauce is runny, like a salad dressing, and nothing like aioli. Maybe, based on the photograph with her recipe, that is how it’s supposed to be. I wonder.

Roasted Shrimp cocktail Receipe

Try these other great appetizers with Roasted Shrimp Cocktail

Baby Blue Cheese Cakes

Crispy Potato Skins with Smoked Salmon

Roasted Red Pepper Dip

After going through a bottle of Aleve to relieve the cramp in my right arm from whisking oil and egg yolk for hours, I gave up and adapted her recipe. Remember, ease of preparation is a key consideration making appetizers. So, whenever I make roasted shrimp cocktail I do one of two options. One, I make homemade mayonnaise using my immersion blender and then add the remaining ingredients. Or, I use store-bought mayonnaise and mix everything together. Making the cocktail sauce with the mayonnaise makes it creamier, but it still has the great bite from the horseradish and Sriracha sauce. This might be considered cheating, but I am a much happier person.

Roasted Shrimp Cocktail Recipe

Roasted shrimp cocktail is an easy appetizer to make and a great crowd pleaser. It takes less time to roast the shrimp than it does to boil water for a traditional shrimp cocktail recipe. The shrimp is sweet with and added kick from garlic and paprika that taste delicious as is, or spiced up the creamy cocktail sauce. Serve this appetizer at your next get together and the shrimp platter will be empty before you know it.

Roasted Shrimp Cocktail

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 20 minutes

Category: Appetizer, Breakfast, Brunch

Cuisine: American

Serving Size: 4 shrimp per serving

Roasted Shrimp Cocktail

Roasted shrimp cocktail is an easy appetizer to make and a real crowd pleaser. I like to season the shrimp before I roast it to add more flavor. This is a creamy cocktail sauce made with homemade mayonnaise, horseradish and sriracha. It you want a tangier sauce you can mix in some yogurt or sour cream. Keep the creamy ingredients on the light side so the horseradish and sriracha are prominent.

This recipe is adapted from, Roasted Shrimp cocktail with Aioli by Melissa Clark from the New York Times Cooking website.

Ingredients

    Cocktail Sauce
  • 1 garlic clove
  • Kosher Salt
  • 1/2 cup / 125 ml homemade mayonnaise or store bought
  • 1 TB prepared horseradish
  • 1 tsp sriracha or other hot sauce
  • 1 tsp ketchup
  • 1 TB fresh lemon juice
    Roasted Shrimp
  • 2 lbs / 1 K large shrimp, cleaned and deveined
  • 2 TB / 30 ml olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp dried granulated garlic, or 1-2 cloves minced fresh garlic
  • 1/2 tsp paprika

Instructions

    Cocktail Sauce
  1. Peel the garlic and slice in half lengthwise. Remove the green germ from the middle and rough chop the garlic. Add a pinch of Kosher salt and make a garlic paste with the side of your knife. Angle the knife so the blade is almost parallel to the work surface and press down on the garlic with the side of the knife and smush the garlic. Move the knife back and forth pressing down on the garlic. Periodically wipe the collected garlic off the blade of the knife. Continue to press back and forth on the garlic until a smooth paste. Set aside.
  2. Add the mayonnaise, garlic paste, sriracha, horseradish, ketchup and lemon juice to a small bowl and mix. Correct the seasoning to desired taste. Spoon into a serving bowl, cover with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator until you are ready to serve. Can be made one day ahead.
    Roasted Shrimp
  1. Preheat the oven to 425˚F
  2. Place the cleaned shrimp on a sheet pan then add the remaining ingredients to the shrimp. Toss the shrimp with your hands to get the seasoning and oil mixed evenly over the shrimp. Place in the oven and bake until the shrimp is just done. The shrimp will no longer be translucent. It is very eay to overcook the shrimp, so watch them closely. The shrimp should take 7 to 10 minutes. I start checking at the 5-minute mark to gauge the progress.
  3. Serve the shrimp warm or at room temperature with the creamy cocktail sauce.

Notes

How many servings you will get will depend on how many shrimp you get per pound. For an appetizer, I figure 4 shrimp per person when I have a small get together. For a larger crowd, I will not count out the shrimp, but buy a general amount and hope everyone gets at least one. For a serving size for an entree, I figure 6 shrimp served along with other side dishes like pasta or rice, and vegetables.

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© 2017, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

Zucchini and Basil Frittata

Eggs are one of the best foods because you can eat them for any meal of the day. Scrambled eggs for breakfast, or an egg salad or spinach salad with hard-boiled eggs make a wonderful lunch. Dinner meals like quiche, soufflé, or omelets are perfect for a quick and easy supper. Eggs also make great appetizers. Who can resist mustardy or spicy deviled eggs? In fact, you could put an egg on almost anything and call it a meal. I believe eggs are perfect comfort food.

Zucchini and Basil Frittata recipe

Zucchini and Basil Frittata recipe

One outstanding egg dish, and perfect for all four meal categories, is the frittata. A frittata is an Italian omelet, like the Spanish tortilla. It is not folded over or rolled like a French or American omelet, but the principles are similar. Simply, whisked eggs cooked in a pan with cheese and fillings. Unlike the French omelet, Frittatas require a two-part cooking process. The first stage of cooking is on the stove, then it goes in the oven or under a broiler to finish cooking.

There are two standard ingredients in a frittata, eggs and Parmesan cheese. Add to this foundation, inspired combinations of cooked vegetables, herbs, more cheese, cured meats, or all of the above, and a frittata turns into a substantial meal. Frittatas are a light egg pancake of goodness. It’s also a great pantry meal to use up all the leftover vegetables or pasta hiding in your refrigerator.

Zucchini and Basil Frittata Reicpe

Zucchini and Basil Frittata Reicpe

Zucchini and Basil Frittata Recipe

I first discovered frittatas in the mid 1980’s from one of my favorite cookbooks, Cucina Fresca by Viana La Place and Evan Kleinman. At the time, this cookbook was a novelty and showed how fresh ingredients, simply prepared, produces great tasting food. It is also a good cookbook for entertaining, because it is filled with recipes that taste great at room temperature.

Zucchini and Basil Frittata Recipe

Zucchini and basil frittata is one of their recipes. It is a light omelet, filled with garlic infused zucchini and the warm sunshine of basil. I enjoy eating it for breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner. If I remember correctly, the first time I made it was for a bridal shower. It was so long ago. The specifics of that time have faded, but the general feeling remains: a bright sun lit room, a table full of friends, laughter, and everyone happily enjoying this new meal. This memory returns to me every time I make zucchini and basil frittata, and so I always associate celebrations, bright sunshine, and good friends whenever I make it.

Zucchini and Basil Frittata Recipe

It is an easy meal to make with your kids and won’t require too much thought before you drink your first cup of coffee. I know I need a cup of coffee before I start working with sharp knives, fire or follow new instructions. Getting the frittata out of the skillet requires the steady and large hand of an adult. But, your children will think you are a magician as you reveal the surprise frittata out from under your pan, voilà.

Making a Mother’s Day Meal try these recipes:

Baked Oatmeal with Apples and Dried Fruit

Rosti with Mushrooms and Onions

Apple and Apricot Muffins with Lemon Glaze

Pink Champagne Cake

Grilled Chicken Salad with Avocado Dressing

Zucchini and Basil Frittata Recipe
Tips for success making Zucchini and Basil Frittata

You will need a well-seasoned 10-inch cast iron skillet, or a non-stick skillet.  The frittata will need to slide or flip out the pan and the non-stick surface and sloped sides of the skillet will make it easier to work with.

Mix the eggs thoroughly with a wire whisk. You do not want streaks of egg whites throughout your cooked frittata.

Plan ahead, salt the zucchini and let it drain for 30 minutes. This is important first step that gets rid of excess moisture in the vegetables.

Cook the frittata on medium heat to prevent excess browning on the bottom and cook the eggs too quickly.

To serve as an appetizer, cut the frittata into small diamonds, or 1 ½ inch squares and offer toothpicks for easy picking.

Frittatas are perfect cooked with tomatoes, leftover pasta made with red sauce, spinach, onions, herbs, or extra cheese.

Zucchini and Basil Frittata Recipe

Zucchini and Basil Frittata Recipe

Whether you want a to make a special breakfast, luncheon, or need an appetizer, Zucchini and Basil Frittata is an unexpected dish for all appetites. Serve this frittata at your next friendly gathering and create your own associations paired with fun, family and friendship. I like to serve frittata warm, but can be served at room temperature paired with fruit, like strawberries mixed with mint or basil, or a green salad, and a baked treat such as crusty bread, muffins or pastry.

Zucchini and Basil Frittata

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 45 minutes

Category: Brunch, Lunch, Dinner or Appetizer

Cuisine: Italian

4-6 servings

Zucchini and Basil Frittata

Zucchini and sweet basil are a wonderful combination in this frittata. The zucchini is grated, salted and squeezed of excess juice to create a quick and easy meal with warm summer flavor. This is a light meal perfect for any time of the day or occasion.

Recipe from Cucina Fresca, by Viana La Place and Evan Kleinman.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb / 453 g zucchini
  • About 1 tsp/ 4g Kosher salt
  • 4 TB / 36 g Olive oil- divided
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 6-8 eggs
  • 1/4 cup / 29 g Parmesan or Romano cheese
  • 1/ 2 cup / 14 g coarsely chopped basil leaves
  • Fresh ground pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Wash dry and grate the zucchini with the large holes of a box grater or food processor. Place the grated zucchini in a colander and sprinkle with Kosher salt. You do not need a lot of salt, about 1 teaspoon (4g), just enough to season the zucchini and cause it to release the juices. Let stand for 30 minutes. Then press the zucchini with the back of a large spoon or clean hands to remove all the excess liquid.
  2. Pre-heat the oven to 400˚F
  3. Heat 2 TB (18 g) olive oil in a 10-inch nonstick skillet, Add the minced garlic and turn the heat to medium-low. Cook until the garlic is translucent and not browned. Add the zucchini and turn the heat up to medium-high heat. Cook for about 5-6 minutes, stirring occasionally so the zucchini cooks evenly and the excess water has evaporated. .
  4. Turn off heat and remove the zucchini from the skillet. Place it on a plate to briefly cool.
  5. Beat the eggs in a medium bowl, making sure the whites and yolks are well combined. Add the Parmesan, zucchini and basil to the eggs and stir to combine.
  6. Wipe out the skillet and turn the heat to medium-high, then add 2 TB (18 g) olive oil. Swirl the oil around so it coats the sides and bottom of the pan.
  7. Pour the egg mixture directly into the center of the pan, so the oil and eggs are dispersed evenly from the center out. Allow the egg and zucchini mixture to settle then run your rubber spatula around the rim to loosen it up. With the spatula at 12 o’clock, move the outer edge of the eggs towards the center, like you are making an omelet. Let the loose liquid fill in the empty space. Repeat at 3 o’clock, 6 o’clock and 9 o’clock. This will help the middle of the eggs cook.
  8. When the eggs are mostly congealed except for the center, place the frittata into the preheated oven. Cook until the eggs are set in the middle and lightly browned 2-4 minutes. (You could also cook it under broiler if you prefer. Watch so it does not burn).
  9. Remove the skillet from the oven and let it rest on the counter for a minute. Run a rubber spatula around the perimeter of the pan to loosen the sides from the pan.
  10. Place a plate upside down, over the top of the skillet. Place your hand centered on the bottom of the plate and hold the skillet handle in the other hand. Turn the skillet over, place the plate on the counter, then gently lift the pan up and away from the frittata.
  11. Serve warm or at room temperature.
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© 2017, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

Rosti: Crispy Potato Pancake with Mushrooms and Onions

What do you get when you have a cake with a creamy and delicate interior protected by a crispy caramelized exterior? You have a rösti. A potato pancake like no other. Its’ soft creamy interior holds together with just the right amount of the potato’s natural starches, creating a pancake that is tender, creamy and crunchy. Rösti originated in Switzerland and was a breakfast staple for farmers.  Now, people from all over the world enjoy these potato cakes.

I have enjoyed rosti in restaurants and wanted to see if I could recreate them for myself. After researching many recipes, I decided to use a recipe from The Food Lab by J. Kenji Lopez-Alt. His science based technique is typically spot on, inventive, and not too difficult to follow. After making his recipe a few times I picked up a few skills and some new information.

Rosti: Crispy Potato Pancakes with Mushrooms and Onions recipe

Rosti: Crispy Potato Pancakes with Mushrooms and Onions reicpe

Like life in general, the key to making a successful rösti is all about balance. They are like fritters or latkes, but are thicker and creamier. The type of potato and the technique used to prepare them, work together and create the perfect amount of starch necessary to hold the whole pancake together. Too little starch and the rösti falls apart when you cook it. Too much starch and you have a sticky pancake. Have you ever played with potato starch mixed with water? Its gooey stuff and not something you want in your pancakes.

Rosti: Crispy Potato Pancakes with Mushrooms and Onions reiccpe

Rosti: Crispy Potato Pancakes with Mushrooms and Onions reicpe

Kenji believes Russet potatoes are the best ones to use. They are high in starch and will create pancakes with fluffy interiors and crunchy outsides, like the perfect French fries. I agree with him if you follow his technique. For experimentation, I tried a different parcooking method using Russet potatoes and the results were not so great.

Rösti has essentially one ingredient and the key to keeping them intact is the initial preparation. Good sharp tools, like a mandoline or a very sharp knife will cause less potato starch from releasing. A box grater is not as sharp but does a good job cutting the potatoes into the right size.

Rosti: Crispy Potato Pancakes with Mushrooms and onions reicpe

Parcooking helps prevent the potatoes from oxidizing and give the rösti the right texture. He likes to parcook the potatoes in a microwave which is easy enough, and eliminates a step common in other recipes. I often read potatoes are grated raw, then squeezed to rid them of excess water before assembling. Parcooking potatoes gives the potato cake great texture and fully cooked potatoes throughout the pancake.

Rosti: Crispy Potato Pancakes with Mushrooms and Onions recipe

Unfortunately, my potatoes oxidized even though I sliced them with a mandoline and parcooked them in a microwave. I am not sure why, but one theory I have is my potatoes where doing what potatoes do, oxidize when exposed to air. Maybe I did not work fast enough, or my knock off Japanese mandoline needs sharpening.  After several trials, I am still working this out.

To experiment, I parcooked the potatoes whole in a microwave, let them cool, then grated them using a box grater. This produced rosti with a light and creamy color, but looked and tasted like mashed potato cakes, not a rosti.  Maybe a medium starch potato like, Yukon gold is better suited with this technique. Oh, so many variables to figure out, and so little time.

Rosti: Crispy Potato Pancakes with Mushroom and Onions reicpe

If you have a non-stick pan, it will be a lot easier to make. I do not own one and used a cast iron skillet. They are good pans to use just harder to maneuver the rösti out of the skillet. The sides of my pan are more vertical than they are slopped. My rösti had to slither up and over a cast iron mountainside before it could ease on to a plate. It required some extra encouragement with my spatula to get the rosti to “slide” out of the pan.

Rosti: Crispy Potato Pancakes with Mushrooms and Onions recipe

As I cooked rösti, I was reminded of making a traditional Spanish tortilla. The amount of oil and the heat of the pan had to be just right so the tortilla would cook properly and slide in and out of two different skillets multiple times. Rösti has less ingredients than a Spanish tortilla, which makes the delicate balance all that more important. It is not hard to make rösti, just more particular.

Traditionally, rösti is considered a side dish, but I love to serve rösti as a meal topped with an egg and salsa. They are also delicious served with any vegetables like spinach. I used Kenji’s suggestion and mixed in a layer of mushrooms and onions because they are one of my favorite foods. I really like this idea and will make it a staple feature whenever I make them.

Rosti: Crispy Potato Pancakes with Mushrooms and Onions recipe

Serve rösti as an appetizer with garlic or saffron aioli. It is a delicious small plate option for any cocktail party.  Add smoked or cured fish, pickles, eggs, vegetables, aioli, and your guests have a satisfying and unexpected meal.

I would love to hear from you about your experience making rösti. Let me know in the comments section below the recipe how you like to prepare rösti. Enjoy!

Rösti: Potato Cake with Mushrooms and Onions

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 45 minutes

Category: Appetizer, Breakfast, Brunch

Cuisine: Swiss

4-6 servings

Rösti: Potato Cake with Mushrooms and Onions

Rösti can be served for any meal at any time of the day. It is a great brunch food when served with eggs or sausage, or a delicious appetizer with saffron aioli. My favorite way to eat it is with a poached egg and tomatillo salsa or saffron aioli.

You can serve this plain without the mushrooms and onions if you wish.

The rösti recipe is from The Food Lab by J. Kenji Lopez-Alt

Best eaten hot off the skillet.

Ingredients

  • 3 medium russet potatoes, l lb- 1.5 lbs /680 g rinsed peeled and cut with a box grater or mandolin
  • 5 Tb/ 62 g olive oil, divided
  • 1 medium onion
  • 4 oz / 125 g mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme, or 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper

Instructions

  1. Place the prepared potatoes in a microwave dish and cook on high for around 5 minutes. You do not want the potatoes overcooked and mushy, they should still have a slight bite in the center.
  2. While the potatoes are cooking, heat 1 Tb olive oil in a heavy 10-inch skillet and add the onion and mushrooms. Cook the mushrooms and onions until soft and translucent and just beginning to brown, around 6 - 8 minutes. Add the minced garlic, thyme and a pinch of salt and pepper, stir to mix and cook until you begin to smell the garlic's perfume. Remove the mushrooms and onion from the pan and set aside.
  3. Wipe the skillet clean and return it to the burner. Turn the heat to medium and add 2 Tbs to the skillet. Heat the oil until shimmering. Make sure there is an even coating of oil across the whole pan, then spoon half of the potatoes into the skillet. Press down on the potatoes with a rubber spatula and form the potatoes into a pancake. Season lightly with salt and pepper, then spread the mushrooms and onions over the potatoes. Add the remaining potatoes to cover the mushrooms and onions, then press down on the potatoes to cover the top of the pancake.
  4. Cook the rösti on one side for around 7 minutes. Do not disturb the pancake for at least 4 minutes into the cooking time. After 7- 8 minutes, run a thin spatula around the edges and underneath the potatoes to loosen it from the bottom.
  5. Slide the potatoes onto a plate large enough to hold the rösti. Place another plate, upside down, on top of the plate holding the rosti, so the rims are kissing each other. Flip the plates over, so the bottom plate is now the top and lift off the plate. You should see a beautiful golden brown crusty rösti.
  6. Wipe off any stuck bits from the bottom of the pan and add 2 Tbs olive oil.
  7. When the oil is shimmering, slide the rösti back into the skillet and sprinkle with salt and ground pepper. Cook for 7 more minutes.
  8. When finished, loosen the rosti from the pan and slide it onto a serving plate.
  9. Keep warm or serve immediately.
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© 2017, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

Creamy Homemade Ricotta Cheese

Why make ricotta cheese and add one more thing to do in your busy day? Is it really necessary to make ricotta cheese if I am already making a lasagna that takes too long? The answer is an unflappable yes because the taste is 100 times better than store-bought. Ricotta cheese bought in grocery stores tastes gummy, gritty, and filled with additives to prevent the whey and curds from separating. Ricotta should have a pure milk flavor, not a chemical flavor.

Creamy Homemade Ricotta recipe

Another good reason to make homemade ricotta is a small gesture, but a good one. Sourcing milk from small farms will reduce your carbon footprint. Additionally, milk from cows that are allowed to graze, eat a natural diet of grass, and produce hormone and antibiotic free milk, tastes better and is better for our health. Further, clean farming practices and less plastic containers in the world will ultimately make it a healthier and cleaner place.

Creamy Homemade Ricotta recipe

Creamy Homemade Ricotta recipe

I wanted to share this recipe because it is so simple and quick. If you are at all skeptical about starting another project, I believe this is a great way to ease into making ricotta cheese. The recipe makes a small batch, enough to use in pancakes, or to make one of my favorite appetizers, ricotta with lemon zest, mint and honey spread on toasted bread.

Creamy Homemade Ricotta Recipe

This recipe is from the cookbook, Food Lab by J. Kenji Lopez-Alt. Additionally, Kenji is the founder of the website, Serious Eats, which I reference a lot. He is all about the science of cooking and puts recipes through rigorous testing to come up with the best practice to produce the tastiest results. This recipe will produce about 1 cup of fresh ricotta and could take 5-15 minutes from start to finish. Another easy bonus is, it is prepared in the microwave.

Creamy Homemade Ricotta recipe

However, the recipe is not without its challenges. When I first made it, the bowl I used barely fit inside my microwave. I believe the lack of space around the bowl made an unevenness in the way the milk heated up. The temperature of the milk between the top and bottom of the bowl differed by 10 – 15 degrees. This resulted in producing less ricotta from the quart of milk than the recipe indicated. The next time I made the recipe in the microwave, I used a Pyrex mixing bowl and had better results.

Creamy Homemade Ricotta recipe

Keys to Success making Ricotta

You will need an instant read thermometer. Getting the milk to 165F is crucial to making ricotta. It’s important to make sure that the milk doesn’t get too hot and start to boil.

Do not use ultra pasteurized milk. The milk carton label must inform the consumer of the type of pasteurization process. All organic milk sold in the grocery store is ultra pasteurized. This is done to make sure the milk has a longer shelf life. Ultra pasteurized milk will not turn into ricotta cheese since the good bacteria needed to help create the curds is non-existent.

Distilled vinegar produces the cleanest taste. Lemon juice will give the ricotta a distinct lemon flavor. Regardless of which acid you use, the flavors in warm and freshly made ricotta were more pronounced. The flavors mellowed after sitting in the refrigerator overnight. The ricotta became drier overnight as well.

A microwave safe bowl with a wider mouth had better results than an 2 quart liquid measuring cup. Additionally, remember that this won’t work exactly the same across all microwaves.

Creamy Homemade Ricotta reicpe

Creamy Homemade Ricotta recipe
What to make with fresh Ricotta?

Mix one cup of ricotta cheese with zest of one lemon and 1-2 tablespoons of minced fresh mint. Spread the cheese on toasted baguette and drizzle with honey. It is a creamy, bright and slightly sweet appetizer plus it is easy to prepare.

Creamy Homemade Ricotta recipe

Creamy Homemade Ricotta Cheese

Prep Time: 2 minutes

Cook Time: 5 minutes

Total Time: 7 minutes

1 cup ricotta

A simple recipe for homemade ricotta and finished in about 5 - 7 minutes. It produces a creamy ricotta, perfect as a spread on toast. (See blog post for ricotta spread recipe). It is a great recipe to use and get familiar with the ricotta making process.

This is a recipe from The Food Lab by J. Kenji Lopez-Alt.

Ingredients

  • 4 cups/ 1 liter whole milk (not ultra-pasteurized)
  • ½ tsp Kosher salt
  • ¼ cup distilled vinegar or fresh squeezed lemon juice (about 2 lemons)

Instructions

  1. Line a fine mesh strainer with a double layer of cheesecloth and place the strainer over a large and deep bowl. Set aside.
  2. Place all the ingredients in a microwave safe bowl. Gently stir. Use a bowl with a 2-quarts capacity. Place the bowl in the microwave and turn on high for 4-5 minutes.
  3. Check the temperature of the milk, if it is not 165˚F / 74˚C, continue to microwave checking every minute or 30 seconds until the milk reaches 165˚F / 74˚C. You will see the milk curdle and the liquid (whey) become clearer and separate from the curds. If the liquid is milky and without a clear separation between the whey and the curds, the ricotta is not finished. There is a 165˚F/ 74˚C to 180˚F / 82˚C temperature window to work in.
  4. Once the milk/ricotta cheese reached the desired temperature, take the bowl out of the microwave and lightly stir for a few seconds.
  5. Use a spider or slotted spoon to scoop out the curds into a cheese cloth lined strainer. Scoop out as much of the curds as possible, then gently pour the remaining liquid into the strainer. Drain the ricotta to your desired texture. 5 minutes will have the creamiest and moist texture. 15-20 minutes will produce a texture that is spreadable and slightly moist. 2 hours or refrigerated overnight, will produce dry and crumbly curds.

Notes

This recipe can be made on the stove top in a large saucepan. Add all the ingredients into a medium saucepan with the heat set at medium to medium-low. Stir the milk constantly and gradually heat the milk to 165F / 74C. Continue as directed to drain the whey.

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Spanish Inspired Mussels with Chorizo

Spanish Inspired Mussels with Chorizo Recipe

It won’t take long to muscle your way through a big bowl of these spicy mussels. Chances are, your bowl will be empty before you realized you started. Eating this shellfish can consume ones’ attention, especially when they are steamed in wine, garlic, and spices. No one wants to miss out of getting every drop and morsel of the flavorful broth. It is a fun and messy affair, but well worth it.

Spanish Inspired Mussels with Chorizo Recipe

Spanish Inspired Mussels with Chorizo Recipe

I have grown to realize people either love mussels, or refuse to eat them. In the past, clams and oysters had a better reputation, because eating mussels was considered risky behavior. Only Gods like Hercules should eat them, for they were invincible to everything. For the longest time, I was a member of that camp. They just did not appeal to me. Fortunately, I have grown-up and changed my attitude.

Spanish Inspired Mussels with Chorizo

When I was a child, I saw mussels everywhere anchored to pillars, rocks and boats throughout the intertidal zone. I believed they were the strangest creatures around. At low tide, I would play under the docks, looking for the perfect skipping rock and other hidden treasures. I saw colonies of mussels tightly glued on pillars, like bunches of grapes ready to be picked. Purposefully, I would attempt to pull one off, and always fail. How they managed to cling so tightly to every surface along the shoreline intrigued me. Their beards were thin and stringy, and I was dumbfounded at the holding strength of the tiny fibrous strands. If someone told me back then, mussels were alien creatures from another galaxy, I would have believed them. The thought of eating these sea creatures never crossed my mind.

Spanish Inspired Mussels with Chorizo Recipe

Several years ago, I was researching healthy foods and mussels kept showing up as a superfood. Based on my research I became more open-minded to try them. After all, how can I have an opinion on something I know nothing about? Fortunately, I did change my mind, because now I love them. Unlike clams, they are very tender and slightly sweet with lots of protein, low in fat, and tons of beneficial nutrients.

There are many ways I like to prepare mussels, and this recipe with chorizo sausage is just one in a collection. One of the best aspects of cooking with mussels, is you do not really need a recipe to create a delicious meal. Exact amounts are not necessary. Put them in a pot with a little liquid and garlic and you have an easy dinner. My recipe is a little more involved than that, but still simple to execute. I have written this recipe as a guideline for you to learn the process and hopefully inspire you.

Spanish Inspired Mussels with Chorizo Recipe

Tips for Success Cleaning and Eating Mussels

Where to get mussels? If you are lucky enough to know a secret spot along the coast where you live, this will be your freshest option. Please only take what you need and be aware of the health of the waters you harvest in.

The most available option is to buy mussels at the store. The ones that are most common are from, Prince Edward Island, Canada. Mussels from PEI are farm raised, reliable and sustainable. They are also a great bargain with a 2 lb bag costing around $7.00. Harvesting date and best used by dates are provided on the label of each bag.  Ask the fishmonger to pack them in ice, if they have not already done so.

Spanish Inspired Mussels with Chorizo Recipe

Care and cooking: As soon as you get home, take the mussels out of the plastic bag and store loosely in a bowl covered with a kitchen towel. Put the bowl immediately in the refrigerator. No plastic wrap, and not submerged in water. If you are keeping them in the refrigerator for a couple of days, pour out any accumulated water from the bottom of the bowl.

When you are planning to cook the mussels, inspect each one and clean them. Most farm raised mussels come cleaned, but they still need a once over for stray grit and beards. Run cold water over the mussels and inspect for broken shells, grit and the beard along the straight edge of the shell. Slice off any stray beards with a sharp paring knife.  Throw out any mussels with broken shells.

If a mussel shell opens, tap the top of the shell with your finger. If the shell does not close, throw it away. Store the clean mussels in the refrigerator in a bowl loosely covered with a towel until you are ready to cook them.

Spanish Inspired Mussels with Chorizo Recipe

Spanish Inspired Mussels with Chorizo Recipe

Spanish Inspired Mussels with Chorizo

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 35 minutes

4 large main course servings, or 8 first course servings

Spanish Inspired Mussels with Chorizo

Mussels steamed in wine, tomatoes, garlic and spices creates a delicious broth that will have you licking your fingers. The chorizo adds some warmth and kick to the mussels, providing more depth of flavor. If you are cooking for non pork eaters, this meal is just as delicious without the sausage. Serve with a salad and lots of crusty bread to soak up all the sauce. You will need extra napkins.

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs / 1k mussels
  • 2 Tbs olive oil divided
  • 1/2 lb / 225g chorizo sausage
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 6 medium size garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1-1 1/2 cups / 250 - 375ml dry white wine like sauvignon blanc
  • 8 tomatoes from a 28oz can of whole tomatoes (or 8 fresh plum tomatoes)*
  • 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
  • Small pinch of saffron
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1 bay leaf
  • two sprigs fresh thyme, tied with kitchen string
  • Finely grated zest from one lemon, and juice from half a lemon
  • 1 long strip of orange zest (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp granulated sugar
  • 4 oz / 125g watercress, or arugula, or swiss chard, thick stems removed and rouch chopped

Instructions

  1. Before cooking, clean and inspect the mussels. Check for grit and stray beards. Discard any mussels that have broken shells and the ones that the shells remain open after tapping them with a finger. Put the cleaned mussels in a bowl loosely covered with a cloth, no plastic wrap, in the refrigerator until you are about to cook them.
  2. Remove the casings from the sausage. Pour 1 Tbs of olive oil in a Dutch oven and turn the heat up to medium high. Add the chorizo sausage and cook, stirring often to break the sausage up. Continue to break up the chorizo while the sausage cooks to get different size pieces that resemble cooked ground beef. Remove the chorizo from the pot and reserve for later. Taste the cooked chorizo to see how spicy the sausage is so you will know how to adjust the seasoning for your broth.
  3. Add the remaining olive oil and turn down the heat to medium. Add the minced shallots and cook, stirring occasionally so the onions don't brown. Cook the sausage until they soften and look translucent, then add the garlic and red pepper flakes. Stir and cook until the garlic begins to release its scent, about one minute.
  4. Pour in 1 cup / 250 ml of white wine and deglaze the pan. Allow the wine to boil down slightly for a couple of minutes. Add the bay leaf, thyme bundle, pinch of saffron, orange zest, and lemon zest.
  5. Cut the tomatoes into irregular bite size pieces, then add the tomatoes to the pot with the wine and onions. Reserve the juices from the can to thin the broth if necessary.
  6. Bring the tomatoes to a boil then turn down to a simmer. Simmer the tomato sauce for 15 minutes so all the flavors blend. Half way through the simmering, taste the tomato sauce and adjust the seasoning as needed. You may need a small pinch of granulated sugar, (1/2 tsp) if the tomato sauce tastes to sharp. Add more salt, paprika and red pepper flakes if more punch is needed, or based on how spicy the chorizo is.
  7. After the tomato sauce has simmered taste for the balance of flavors. Add more wine if the sauce need to be a little thinner. The mussels will also emit their own juices so don't make the sauce thin. Add the cooked sausage and turn the heat up to medium high. Bring the sauce to a full boil then add the mussels. Cover with a tight fitting lid and cook for 5-7 minutes, or until all the mussels have opened. No peeking under the lid for the first 5 minutes.
  8. Serve immediately in bowls with crusty bread and a spoon, and lots of napkins. Mussels are best eaten the same day it is made.

Notes

If you want to cook with fresh tomatoes, cut plum tomatoes in half and remove the seeds. Rough chop the tomatoes for irregular shaped pieces.

The meal can be made ahead of time up to the point of adding the mussels. Keep the tomato sauce in the pot covered in the refrigerator if you will be saving it for longer than one hour. Keep the mussels in the refrigerator up to the minute you are ready to add them into the pot to cook.

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Taste of Ireland: Crispy Potato Skins 2 ways

Taste of Ireland: Crispy Potato Skins 2 ways recipe

One cannot research Irish Cuisine without devoting some time reading about the potato. This nutritious plant plays an important role in Ireland’s history, and because of the potato famine, US history as well.

Taste of Ireland: Crispy Potato Skins 2 Ways recipe

Although there is some debate about when and who introduced the potato in Ireland, there is no mistaking its impact. The health and welfare of the Irish people significantly improved after its introduction. I read, before the potato famine, 30 percent of Ireland’s population depended on the potato for a significant portion of their diet. There is evidence from that time that people ate 40 to 60 potatoes a day. *

Taste of Ireland: Crispy Potato Skins 2 Ways recipe
Ingredients for Crispy Potato Skins with Smoked Irish Salmon
Taste of Ireland: Crispy Potato Skins 2 ways recipe
Grated Dubliner cheese and pickled jalapeños

Sadly, the plant that helped build a country is also responsible for one of Ireland’s most significant challenges. In 1845, the potato blight hit Ireland. By 1851, 1 million people died from starvation, and by 1855, 2 million people emigrated from Ireland. * How does a country recover from such a significant loss?

* Information about the history of the potato in Ireland came from articles on these websites: History.com, The History of Ireland, and The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Taste of Ireland: Crispy Potato Skins 2 Ways recipe

Taste of Ireland: Crispy Potato Skins 2 Ways recipe

There is often a connection between historical events and food, or the lack thereof. With some time and effort, I am sure it is possible to create a timeline of historical events and discoveries that relate back to the potato. Any food could have an impact to all aspects of our daily lives. Yet, some of the more interesting developments is seeing how food changes from a means for survival, to a developed regional cuisine. Fortunately after the potato famine, Ireland was able to do just that.

Taste of Ireland: Crispy Potato Skins 2 Ways recipe

I own a wonderful Irish Cookbook, The Forgotten Skills of Cooking, by Darina Allen. She is considered “the Julia Child of Ireland”, and runs the Ballymaloe Cookery School in Shanagarry, County Cork.  I love reading this book. Darina has a friendly ease in her writing that makes you feel you will always be welcome at her table. She is passionate about teaching and the slow food movement. I would love to spend a day with her, foraging through the Irish countryside then bake biscuits with the wild onions we collected.

Knowing Your Potatoes 

Darina Allen’s book is my primary source about Irish cuisine. It has a vast collection and I believe I will be reading, cooking and learning from it for some time. After browsing through her section on potatoes, I am not sure what I enjoy more, the food or their names. With names like Champ, Colcannon or Bubble and Squeak, it is easy to believe there is always lively conversation during dinner time. It was hard to pick just one recipe to feature. Several traditional potato recipes were very enticing, but I decided on a recipe that is very familiar to Americans, Crispy Potato Skins.

Taste of Ireland: Crispy Potato Skins 2 Ways recipe

Darina’s recipe recommends serving plain baked potato skins with dips, like you would for chips. Her dips range in flavor from sweet and spicy, to herby and creamy combinations. This sparked my imagination. However, I decided to follow my own path and create crispy potato skins as a composed appetizer recipe.

Taste of Ireland: Crispy Potato Skins 2 Ways recipe

Please forgive me for my American adaptation. Darina’s Crispy Potato Skins are perfect appetizer fare on any continent. Yet, I could not stop myself from dreaming up endless potato skin recipes. Potato skins with melted cheddar cheese and crispy bacon is a familiar menu item, but what about smoked Irish salmon? Pickles and potatoes are delicious together, what about pickled jalapeños? How would hot pepper jelly taste with the crispy potato skins? Maybe crab or blue cheese would be a nice change. I am not too far off the game here as Darina’s cookbook inspired all my ideas.

Taste of Ireland: Crispy Potato Skins 2 Ways recipe

One idea I had, is to serve potato skins buffet style, like you would for a taco dinner. This could be successful for a small gathering of friends. People would get the potatoes skins hot out of the oven and choose toppings as they please. I thought this would be perfect for the times when there are guests with different diet preferences. No one would feel left out.

One word of caution, do not eat green potatoes. They are slightly poisonous and will give you an upset stomach.

The important thing to remember is potato skins are informal, and help create a fun and relaxed time with friends and family. Don’t let the informality fool you. They are also quite delicious. Even though crispy potato skins are easy to make, they require planning ahead. It can take up to an hour to cook the potatoes before you cut them open and make them into crispy potato skins. These tubers are twice baked. So sadly, they are not suited for an impromptu get together.

Taste of Ireland: Crispy Potato Skins 2 Ways recipe

Now that all the crispy potato skins are all eaten up, I must decide what to make with the leftover fluffy potato flesh. Let’s see… Champ, Colcannon or Bubble and Squeak? Oh joy, what’s next?

Taste of Ireland: Crispy Potato Skins 2 Ways recipe

Taste of Ireland: Crispy Potato Skins 2 ways

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

32 crispy potato skins

Serving Size: 2-3 slices per person for an appetizer

Taste of Ireland: Crispy Potato Skins 2 ways

Two ways to serve crispy potato skins, one with smoked salmon and another with melted cheese and pickled jalapenos. The amounts of toppings for each recipe of potato skins is sized up for 8 potatoes. You can easily adjust the ingredients up or down depending on how much you want to make. The amount of topping ingredients is all relative to personal preference and the size of potato.

Serve the Crispy Potato Skins hot.

Plain crispy potato skins and the Dubliner Cheese and Pickled Jalapenos Potato skins can be made ahead and reheated in a 350˚F oven covered with foil.

Ingredients

  • 8 medium size Yukon Gold Potatoes, or other medium starch potato
  • 2 Tb melted butter or extra virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and ground pepper to taste
    For the Crispy Potato Skins with Smoked Irish Salmon
  • 1/4 lb smoked Irish Salmon*
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 3 Tb minced chives and more for garnish
  • 32 extra thin slices of cucumber, cut in half
    For the Dubliner and Pickled Jalapeno Potato Skins
  • 1/2 cup (or more) of grated Dubliner cheese
  • 32 slices of pickled jalapenos, rough chopped

Instructions

    For the Crispy Potato Skins
  1. Preheat the oven to 400˚F
  2. Scrub and clean each potato thoroughly, then dry with a paper towel.
  3. Prick each potato with a fork or sharp paring knife in 2-3 places
  4. Place the pricked potatoes on a baking sheet and bake in the oven until cooked about 45-60 minutes, depending on the size of the potatoes. The potatoes are done when pierced with a sharp knife or fork and there is no resistance. The knife will glide easily in and out of the potato.
  5. When done, remove the potatoes from the oven and cool. Turn the oven up to 450˚F.
  6. When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, cut the potatoes in half lengthwise and scoop out the insides. Some potato flesh should remain on the skin. Reserve the potato flesh for another use.
  7. Slice each potato half, lengthwise in 2 pieces.
  8. Arrange the potato slices on a sheet pan and brush the fleshy part of each slice with melted butter or extra virgin olive oil, then sprinkle with Kosher salt and ground pepper.
  9. Bake in the oven until crisp, about 10-15 minutes.
    Crispy Potato Skins with Smoked Irish Salmon
  1. While the potato skins are crisping in the oven, slice the smoked salmon into pieces that will fit onto the potato skins.
  2. In a small bowl, mix the sour cream with 3 Tbs of the minced chives.
  3. Assemble the crispy potato skins. You will want to work quickly because the potato skins taste best when they are hot.
  4. When the potato skins are crisp and hot out of the oven, spread a small spoonful of the sour cream and chives along the fleshy part. Add two cucumber half slices on top of the sour cream, then drape a generous piece of smoked salmon on top of the cucumber. Garnish with minced chive.
  5. Repeat until you have assembled all the skins you want to complete.
    Melted Dubliner Cheese and Pickled Jalapenos Potato Skins
  1. Remove the potato skins from the oven when crisp. Keep the potato skins on the sheet pan and sprinkle grated Dubliner cheese over each piece and place the pickled jalapenos on top of the cheese. (or vice versa). Put the potatoes back in the oven and bake until the cheese is melted. Serve hot.

Notes

* You will most likely not need a full 1/4 pound of smoked salmon. Cut the smoked salmon into pieces as you need them. Enjoy the remaining smoked salmon for another use.

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© 2017, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

A Taste of Ireland: Irish Cheese Platter

This month I decided to teach myself about Irish food. I know about the usual suspects, but not much else. Realizing there is probably more to Irish cuisine besides corned beef and cabbage, I set out on an Irish food journey. My journey began researching beer which led me down a delightful but windy road to discover Irish cheese.

A Taste of Ireland: Irish Cheese Platter

If, like me, you are not familiar with Irish cheese, then you are in for a treat. In my area, the available Irish cheeses are from Kerrygold. I was concerned this company is a big commercial brand and not one with artisan cheese quality. Typically, large US grocery stores carry cheeses and food from major commercial companies so I wasn’t sure how these cheeses would taste. I knew their butter was outstanding and decided to have an Irish cheese tasting of three different cheeses: Dubliner Irish Stout Cheese, Irish Whiskey Cheddar and Cashel Blue Cheese. What I learned is Kerrygold not just makes delicious butter, they make wonderful cheeses.

Usually, when I make up a cheese platter I select three distinctly different cheeses. For this platter, I wanted to present a region so the types of cheeses I had are more limited. I also like to have fresh and dried fruits with the cheese because the sweetness and acid from the fruit can cut the richness of the cheese. When I have a cheese tasting I serve the cheese on very plain crackers, like Carr’s Water Crackers. That way I predominantly taste the cheese. The plain crackers are also great to clear your palate.

Three Irish Cheeses
A Taste of Ireland: Irish Cheese Platter
Cashel Blue Cheese

My first Irish cheese sample was Cashel Blue. I don’t know if there is a protocol with cheese tasting, like there is at a wine tasting, but I went ahead and dug right into the strongest cheese on the plate. It is a strong blue cheese, but not a biting one. There is a wonderful creaminess to offset the musty veins. We loved it, and I later learned it is an award-winning cheese.  As I was tasting it I was going through my mind of what I would want to make with it, like my Blue Cheese Baby Cheesecakes, or Blue Cheese Dip with Caramelized Shallots. Yet again, Cashel Blue is just fine by itself paired with Killian’s Red Ale.

A Taste of Ireland: Irish Cheese Platter
Irish Stout Cheese

Dubliner Irish Stout Cheese was the driest in texture and mildest of the three cheeses. I would not classify this as a mild cheese though, as it has a lot of body. This is a Dubliner cheese infused with Irish stout. It has a rich and nutty taste with a hint of malty stout. The stout flavor is mild, yet blended well with the nutty cheese flavor. The color is so buttery and beautiful.

A Taste of Ireland: Irish Cheese Platter
Irish Whisky Cheddar

Irish Whisky Cheddar is exactly as the name states. Oh man, this cheese is delicious. It is a sharp but creamy cheddar with lots of body. There are hints of the caramel from the whisky without the boozy flavor. This is another winner, and in our opinion, one of the best cheddar cheeses we have ever had.

A Taste of Ireland: Irish Cheese Platter

I am no stranger to good cheese. I worked in a gourmet cheese store in NYC and lived my entire life in the States with exceptional artisan cheese companies. There is an obvious connection between areas where there are quality dairy farms and high-end artisan cheese making. All the cheeses are balanced in flavor. You know the phrase, “You are what you ate, ate”? These cheeses deliver in quality flavor because they were made from milk of grass-fed happy cows. I wanted to travel in space and land on an emerald-green coastal pasture in Ireland.

My Irish cheese tasting was a fun and delicious discovery and I will happily do again. Yet, any one of these cheeses would be welcome on any cheese platter.  As recommended, I served an Irish red ale to pair with the cheese, but snuck in tasting some stout along the way. The Irish red ale thoroughly complimented the cheeses, and I did not miss the customary wine and cheese tasting. As the saying goes, “What grows together, goes together”.

If you want to make an Irish Cheese Platter, but can’t find any cheeses in your area, I-gourmet is a very good specialty cheese and food website. They started their business in my hometown of Yorktown and offer a great choice of cheeses and other fun food and gifts items. Click on this link for their “Little Bit of Ireland” selection.

What beer and cheese pairing do you enjoy?

A Taste of Ireland: Irish Cheese Platter

Full disclosure, I am not sponsored by Kerrygold or anybody. This is about my research based on what Irish cheeses and beer are available to me in NY. It is my intention to learn more about Irish cuisine, (and beer), and how I can develop this cuisine into my repertoire. Cheers!

 

 

© 2017, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

Blue Cheese Dip with Caramelized Shallots

Day 3 of Super Bowl dip recipe frenzy. What do you get when you combine two all-time favorite classic American dips? You get the ultimate onion dip and the ultimate blue cheese dip. I guess whatever camp you belong to, will determine your name for this wonderful double classic dip recipe. I call it, Blue Cheese Dip with Caramelized Shallots.

Three recipes, Spinach and Artichoke Dip with Bacon, Roasted Red Pepper Dip with Walnuts and Pomegranate, Blue Cheese Dip with Caramelized Shallots

Both onion dip and blue cheese dip have been around for decades, at least my lifetime and probably longer. So, bringing the two dips together seems inevitable. I love blue cheese dip and onion dip equally. To be honest, French Onion Dip made from the spice packets is a guilty pleasure of mine. I pounce on it whenever it is served.

Blue cheese dip with Caramelized Shallots

Also, Onion dip opens my childhood memory treasure chest. One potato chip scoop of onion dip and the summer days of my childhood materializes. With each bite I am rewarded with welcomed memories of my family picnicking on our sailboat in the San Francisco Bay, dipping into onion dip, eating burgers, and drinking 7-Up. I can hear my parents voices clearly, Mom exclaiming, “Oh Dunny….,” and my dad standing at the stern on top of the deck, responding, “Whaaat?!” with a huge grin. I can feel the warmth or the welcome sun while the wind blows beyond our sheltered cove.  Wind. There is always wind. Oh, what sweet memories get stirred up as I dig in.

Blue Cheese Dip with Caramelized Shallots Recipe

Despite my confessed love of French Onion dip spice packet, I am going to ask you to put it down and walk away. I did. You do not need to add extra salt, onion powder, and artificial flavor to make appetizers with delicious onion flavor.  Nothing more than adding caramelized onions are needed to develop that rich and sweet onion flavor. Because shallots are so small, it will take about 20 minutes to caramelize. Once the shallots of caramelized and cooled, it takes an additional 5 minutes to mix all the ingredients together. So there you have it, delicious blue cheese dip with caramelized shallots ready to dig into. It is that easy and tastes better the longer you let it rest before serving. A perfect party dip recipe.

Classic appetizer recipes are ageless and this recipe proves to be no exception. This recipe dates back to March of 2001 from Bon Appetit Magazine. The recipe is a feature by Rick Rodgers. He presented a collection of easy and delicious dip recipes, but his recipe for blue cheese dip with and caramelized shallots stood out to me. In his article, Rick Rogers says you can make this recipe three days in advance. Well you can, but the color of the caramelized shallots will bleed into the sour cream and get darker with every day. It tastes fine, but the look is not as fresh as one might want to present to a party. I would make the dip at most 24 hours in advanced and it will still look bright and creamy.

Easy Super Bowl Appetizer Dips

Spinach Artichoke Dip with Bacon

Roasted Red Pepper Dip: Muhammara

Blue Cheese Dip with Caramelized Shallots Recipe

Blue Cheese Dip with Caramelized Shallots Recipe

Additional ideas for Blue Cheese Dip with Caramelized Shallots

All that talk about burgers made me hungry for one, and I thought how delicious the Blue Cheese Dip with Caramelized Shallots would taste as a topping for a juicy hamburger. This is an easy adaptation for a hamburger with blue cheese and caramelized onions.  I am craving one now.

Food memories and food dreams, who knew how powerful a simple dip could be.

Blue Cheese Dip with Caramelized Shallots

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 30 minutes

About 2 cups

Blue Cheese Dip with Caramelized Shallots

Blue Cheese Dip with Caramelized Shallots combines two favorite dip recipes into one easy appetizer. You have the best of both blue cheese dip and onion dip in this recipe. Serve with potato chips or as part of a crudité platter.

Finish making the dip at least 2 hours before you want to serve it. Can be served cold or room temperature.

Recipe is from Bon Appetit March 2001 by Rick Rodgers

Ingredients

  • 1 Tb vegetable oil
  • 1 ¼ cup / 4oz thinly sliced shallots (2-3 large shallots)
  • ¾ cup mayonnaise
  • ¾ cup full fat sour cream
  • 4 oz blue cheese, room temperature (I used French Bleu D’Auvergne)

Instructions

  1. Place a large skillet on the stove and turn on the heat to medium high. Add the vegetable oil and shallots. Once the skillet is hot and the shallots begin to cook, turn the heat down to medium low. Continue to cook the shallots until they are golden to dark brown. You will need to stir the shallots on occasion so that they do not burn. The process of caramelizing shallots takes some time, at least 20 minutes, and you should pay attention to them. I often need to adjust my heat either up or down to prevent them cooking too fast and burning. Once done, set aside to cool slightly.
  2. In a medium bowl add the sour cream and mayonnaise. Stir until evenly combined. Add the room temperature blue cheese and use the side of your spoon or rubber spatula to stir and smash the blue cheese into the sour cream mixture. You want to have different size chunks of blue cheese blended into the sour cream.
  3. Stir in the caramelized shallots and taste for seasoning. It is a good idea to taste with the chip or vegetable you are serving the dip with, before you add more salt.
  4. Cover the dip with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for 2 hours for the flavors to meld together.
  5. Serve cold or at room temperature in a decorative small dish with potato chips or crudité. This dip will keep for three to four days in the refrigerator.
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Roasted Red Pepper Dip: Muhammara

Day 2 of Super Bowl Dip frenzy featuring Muhammara. This is a delicious dip recipe made with roasted red peppers, chili pepper, chopped walnuts and pomegranate molasses. Muhammara, pronounced [mu-HUMM-a-da](Maureen Abood), is an amazing discovery and could be the best party dip ever.

Roasted Red Pepper Dip- Muhammara

Roasted red pepper dip has its origin from Aleppo, Syria. It is typically served as part of mezze. To generalize, mezze is the Middle Eastern equivalent to Spanish Tapas. A selection appetizers featuring spreads, cheeses, several meats, and served with drinks. We served Muhammara with grilled chicken for dinner last night and I thought it was out of this world. I could not stop myself from spreading it over everything on my plate. I showed great restraint not to dollop this dip all over my salad.

Roasted Red Pepper Dip- Muhammara

If you are ever looking for an alternative to hummus, Muhammara is a good substitute. Nonetheless, you will have nothing to lose if you want to serve both. I believe there is always room for more. The walnuts make this dip of roasted red peppers thick and creamy, and the olive oil smooths the texture. Additionally, pomegranate molasses adds a touch of sweetness to counter the spice of the hot peppers.

My research revealed that there are as many versions of this dip as there are recipes, and almost as many different pronunciations. (Food Network pronunciation is [moo-hahm-MRAH].) So please feel free to play around with the amounts of each ingredient. After all, the more you make this dip you will develop Muhammara into your own special creation. I adapted this recipe of Muhammara from two recipes, Red Pepper Dip with Walnuts and Pomegranate by Amanda Hesser from Cooking at New York Times, and Muhammara from 101 Cookbooks.

 

Roasted Red Pepper Dip - Muhammara
Tips for success making Red Pepper Dip: Muhammara

Roast the peppers on a hot grill, under the broiler, or over the flame on a gas burner. You want to get the whole surface of each bell pepper really charred. It is a lot easier to peel off the skins when the peppers have a good char, followed by a good steam in a covered bowl.

I used Aleppo pepper flakes, but feel free to use any dried red pepper flakes you have. You can also use a fresh hot chili pepper. Roast the chili with the red bell peppers, peel off the skin, and add according to how spicy you want it to be. You can buy Aleppo pepper flakes at specialty spice markets or on Amazon.

Toast the walnuts. Toasting nuts brings out the flavor by releasing the oils and makes a big difference in their flavor and texture. You can toast walnuts by spreading them out on a sheet pan and place in a preheated 350˚F oven for 8 – 10 minutes. Watch the nuts carefully so they do not get scorched. The walnuts are finished toasting when they are slightly darker and have a toasty-nutty aroma.

Pomegranate molasses is concentrated pomegranate juice, sugar and lemon juice which is cooked down and reduced to a thick syrup. You can make it or buy it at specialty markets (Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Korean Markets, Middle Eastern Markets, specialty grocery stores, or Amazon).

Recipe for making your own pomegranate molasses.

Buy pomegranate molasses.

For a simple shortcut you can buy jarred roasted red peppers, or from the olive bar in the deli section of a grocery store. You will need the equivalent of 3 whole red bell peppers.

Muhammara is also delicious with:

Lamb chops

Grilled Flank Steak

Roasted Red Pepper Dip -Muhammara

Be forewarned, this dip is very addictive.

Roasted Red Pepper Dip: Muhammara

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 40 minutes

About 2 1/2 cups

Roasted Red Pepper Dip: Muhammara

Muhammara is a dip made from roasted red peppers, toasted walnuts, pomegranate molasses, and dried hot pepper flakes. It has concentrated flavor of roasted red bell peppers and an amazing creamy texture. Make the dip as sweet or spicy as you like. It is the perfect party dip and very addictive.

Muhammara should rest for at least one hour after it is made to allow for the flavors to meld. Can be made a day ahead. Best served at room temperature.

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs red bell peppers (2-3 red bell peppers)
  • 1 Tb Aleppo pepper, or dried red pepper flakes, or 1 small fresh hot chili pepper
  • Up to 1 ½ cups toasted walnuts, coarsely chopped
  • Juice of ½ a lemon
  • 2 Tb pomegranate molasses
  • ½ tsp ground cumin
  • ½ tsp Kosher salt
  • ½ tsp granulated sugar
  • 2 Tb olive oil, more for garnish
  • Pita bread for serving

Instructions

  1. Roast the red peppers (and fresh chili pepper if using): Turn the oven on to the broiler setting. Cut the red bell peppers in half and place them on a sheet pan covered in aluminum foil, and put the peppers under the broiler*. Broil the peppers until the sides are charred all over. This will take some time, about 10 - 20 minutes. You will need to watch the peppers closely during the broiling process. The more it is charred the easier it is to peel the skin off the bell peppers.
  2. Once the peppers are charred, immediately put them in a bowl large enough to accommodate all the peppers and quickly cover with plastic wrap. Let the peppers steam in the bowl for 15 minutes.
  3. Once steamed and cool to touch, rub the skins off the peppers and remove the seeds and pith. Rough chop the peppers and place in the blender, or food processor.
  4. Using an immersion blender, blender, or food processor, combine half of the chopped walnuts and the remaining ingredients, except the olive oil, into the bowl to process. You might need to add the ingredients incrementally depending on what small appliance you are using. I used an immersion blender and the dip got very thick until I added the roasted red peppers. Blend until smooth and add more of the walnuts to reach your desired consistency. If the dip is too thick you can add a small amount of water, two teaspoons at a time.
  5. Add the olive oil and process until very smooth. The dip can have some texture to it, but you want a smooth consistency.
  6. Let the dip rest on the counter, or covered in the refrigerator if longer than one hour. Serve the muhammara at least one hour after you make it. Muhammara is best served at room temperature. Drizzle the dip with extra olive oil, ground cumin and chopped walnuts. Serve with plain or toasted pitas.
  7. Muhammara will last in the refrigerator for one week.
    Toast the pita bread.
  1. Turn on the oven to 350˚F and cut each pita into 8 triangles and place on a rimmed sheet pan. Place the pitas in the oven and bake until lightly browned and crispy, about 10 to 20 minutes.

Notes

*If you are using a fresh hot chili pepper, broil and remove the skin at the same time with the red bell peppers. Add the amount of chili pepper to the dip to satisfy your desired level of spice and heat.

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© 2017, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

Spinach Artichoke Dip with Bacon and Crispy Pita Chips

Who: Atlanta Falcons vs New England Patriots.

What: Super Bowl LI.

Where: Houston TX and televised on FOX Network.

When: Sunday Feb. 5th 2017, 6:30pm EST.

Halftime show: The ever so talented Lady Gaga.

All those questions are answered, but the most important question remains, what are we going to eat?

Spinach Artichoke Dip with Bacon Recipe

Whether you are staying at home or going out to friends, this central food question is on everyone’s mind. The Super Bowl is a food grazing phenomenon with established traditions that has grown in popularity for the past 51 years.  Like Thanksgiving, certain foods are a must have. My friend Alan believes the Super Bowl is not the Super Bowl unless wings are served. I also believe dips fall into the must have category and Spinach Artichoke Dip with Bacon is the perfect stand-in.
Spinach Artichoke Dip with Bacon Recipe

Spinach Artichoke Dip with Bacon Recipe

It is hard to believe that Spinach Artichoke Dip needs any improvements. Still, as the saying goes, “Everything tastes better with pork,” totally applies to Spinach Artichoke Dip. Adding bacon to this traditional dip turns an “Oh yum,” into, “Wow. What is this? It is incredible.”  Spinach Artichoke Dip with Bacon is a powerhouse dip. It is familiar and new at the same time, and well worth the extra time it takes to cook the bacon.

This recipe is an oldie of mine. Well “oldie” is a relative term and I can’t believe that I am considering 2005 in the oldie category. Yet, some foods and food trends have a short lifespan. Additionally, I am one to frequently change around my food ideas for any party. Spinach Artichoke Dip with Bacon is not a passing trend, but there when you need an appetizer on the quick. This recipe stands the honored test of time and continues to be a reliable recipe for a crudité platter, or chips and dip.

Spinach Artichoke Dip with Bacon Recipe

I got this recipe from a Food Network series, Party Line with the Hearty Boys. I enjoyed the show and was sad that it did not last very long. The hosts Dan Smith and Steve McDonagh came across as fun easy-going guys and with a collection of delicious and reliable recipes. The only changes I made to this recipe, was to mix in some yogurt with the sour cream to lighten it up.

Tips for making Spinach Artichoke Dip with Bacon

Use any combination of sour cream and Greek yogurt. The original recipe used 100% sour cream. You can also try crème fraiche. This is a thick dip, so regular yogurt will not work as well as Greek yogurt does. I also believe the full fat versions of both ingredients taste a lot better than the low-fat versions.

Cooking the shallots and garlic makes a big difference in this recipe. Raw garlic and onions can overwhelm the dip, and they do not age well. Also, cooking the shallots and garlic extends the lifespan of a dip from 24 hrs to a couple of days.

This can be served cold, but I think it is easier to dip chips, and tastes better when it is closer to room temperature.

If you have non-pork eaters, portion out some of the dip before you add the bacon so all your guests can enjoy this dip.

Spinach Artichoke Dip with Bacon Recipe

Spinach Artichoke Dip with Bacon and Crispy Pita Chips

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 50 minutes

About 4 cups

Spinach Artichoke Dip with Bacon and Crispy Pita Chips

Spinach Artichoke Dip with Bacon and crispy pita chips is a recipe I have served many times. It is a family favorite and a great choice for any gathering of family and friends. Adding crispy bacon and lemon zest to this traditional dip recipe makes it stand out appetizer.

This recipe is slightly adapted from Dan Smith and Steve McDonagh, Party Line with the Hearty Boys as seen on Food Network, 2005.

Ingredients

    For the Dip
  • 1 Tb vegetable oil
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 10-oz package frozen chopped spinach, thawed
  • 2 cups sour cream, or 50/50 combo of sour cream and Greek yogurt
  • 1 6-oz jar marinated artichoke hearts, roughly chopped
  • 10 bacon strips, cooked up very crisp, crumbled
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
    For the Crispy Pita Chips
  • 1 Tb kosher salt
  • 1 Tb dried basil
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 12 tsp ground black pepper
  • 14 tsp celery salt
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 8 pitas cut into 12 wedges each

Instructions

    For the Dip
  1. Heat up the vegetable oil in a small skillet over medium low heat. Once warm add the minced shallots and garlic to the pan. Cook the vegetables and stir frequently until the vegetables are softened, about 5-7 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
  2. Put the thawed spinach on a double layer of cheesecloth*. Bring the ends together and twist
  3. forming a tight ball. Squeeze all the excess water from the spinach. Place in a medium size mixing bowl. Add all the ingredients to the bowl with the spinach and carefully mix until all the ingredients are incorporated. Allow the dip to rest for at least 30 minutes before serving. If you are not going to serve it right away, store the dip covered in the refrigerator.
  4. Spoon the dip into a serving bowl and serve with the crispy pita chips.
    For the Crispy Pita Chips
  1. Arrange an oven rack to be in the top third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350˚ F
  2. In a small bowl mix the Kosher salt, dried basil, garlic powder, onion powder, dried oregano, black pepper, and celery salt until evenly combined. Add the pita triangles into a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle the mixed herbs and spices over the pita wedges. Using clean hands, toss the pita wedges and spice mix until it is thoroughly mixed together. Drizzle the oil over the pitas and mix thoroughly until the pita chips are evenly coated with oil and spice mix . Arrange the spiced pita triangles on a large rimmed baking sheet. Place the sheet pan in the oven and bake until the pita chips are crispy and lightly browned. Let the pita chips cool for 10 minutes before you arrange them for serving.
  3. Serve with the spinach artichoke and bacon dip.

Notes

* If you do not have cheesecloth, you can use a fine mesh strainer and push the water out of the spinach using the back of a large spoon. If you have a clean flour sack kitchen towel, it will work just as well as cheesecloth.

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