Category Archives: Appetizers & Dips

Pistachio Encrusted Goat Cheese

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While discussing what I was going to make for our annual holiday party last week, a friend shared this appetizer idea she had come across online. Sculpt goat cheese into a pear shape, roll in ground pistachios and adorn with a basil leaf.

I bought one large log of plain goat cheese and a scoopful of bulk shelled pistachios (which was MORE than enough). I already had fresh bay leaves at home, which stood up much better and look more pear leaf-like than the large basil leaves I purchased for something else that day. I’m not much of an artist and after struggling with the cheese for a minute, an acquaintance who had arrived to the party a bit early mentioned her fine arts degree and I handed the cheese right over! (Well, I gave her a pair of gloves first…).

We made two pears, one slightly larger than the other, rolled them in the pistachios, which I ground up a mini food processor, and added the bay leaves. Serve with crackers and there you go. Although you might have to dig into one of the pears to get it started like we did — they looked so cute, nobody wanted to be the first one to dig in!

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Black Olive Tapenade

I had the good fortune to cater the book release/signing for Hidden History of Detroit by Amy Elliott Bragg last week. I had never been to the Detroit Historical Museum before, which now seems like a crime. (Although I was too busy to see very much of it — a trip back with the family definitely is on the agenda).

After a brief reading, dozens and dozens of people strolled through The Streets of Old Detroit wing of the museum listening to music, meeting the author, chatting and snacking on Fresh Chef Detroit goodies.

I got many compliments on  — and many visits for seconds and thirds for — the black olive tapenade I made. It was a mashup of a few different recipes. It’s simple and flavorful. It was so popular, I thought I’d share. Eat it with some crackers and goat cheese, or perhaps eat it in a sandwich or on in your omelet (like the author did with the leftovers).

I had a wonderful time chatting with everyone that night — and even met a new client there! If you would like to see a few pictures of the event, check out the latest Fresh Chef Detroit newsletter, which I put out yesterday. As you will see, I also shared the olive tapenade recipe there. Click “Subscribe to List” in the top left corner of the newsletter if you would like future ones sent right to your inbox!

Here’s the recipe:

Black Olive Tapenade
Ingredients
• 1/2 pound (8 oz) flavorful black olives (I used pitted kalamatas)
• 1/8 to 1/4 c. capers, rinsed and drained (to taste — I like a lot of capers…)
• 1 clove of garlic, peeled and lightly crushed
• 1/4 c. olive oil (Start with 1/8 and add a little at a time. You may not need all of it)
• Freshly ground pepper, to taste
• Chopped fresh parsley for garnish (optional)

Throw everything but the oil into a food processor and process, gradually adding oil until it is to your desired consistency. Enjoy!

Vegan Stuffed Poblano Peppers

Last night I had to make something for a gathering with a Mexican theme and I was stumped — I couldn’t think of anything new or original to bring. So, I took to the Internet and one of my first searches turned up this great blog A Couple Cooks. Their recipe for Stuffed Poblano Peppers sounded great, so I decided to go with that, as well as a basic salsa recipe. (Look for that tomorrow).

First the peppers. (I didn’t take pictures — this one is from the post on A Couple Cooks.)

I decided to double it, which was just enough for 10 people (who also had another entree going on). Everyone loved these and there were only 4 leftover. I’ll post the single recipe here though, which would be good for 4+ people.  If you found some mini bell peppers, you could make great little appetizers out of this recipe too.

Ingredients
• 4 poblano peppers (I did a mixture of poblano and bell peppers — prepare the same way)
• 1 c. uncooked brown rice (could use quinoa or another grain too)
• 1 1/2 c. salsa (I ended up using 2 c. for the doubled recipe and it was great)
• 1 15 oz. can black beans
• 1 1/2 c. frozen or canned corn
• 3 green onions
• 1 tsp. cumin
• 1 tsp. chili powder
• cayenne pepper or Tobasco to taste
• salt and pepper to taste
• olive oil
• Shredded cheese
• Chopped cilantro for garnish (which I forgot…)

1. Cook rice according to package directions. I ended up not putting in all of the rice I cooked for the double batch. As it was I had some filling left over (which is great, because we can freeze it or use it for tacos or something). SO, you could maybe go with 3/4 of a cup and see how that goes.

2. Whilte the rice cooks (you’ll have plenty of time to do everything else while the rice cooks for 45 minutes, FYI) prepare the peppers: slice in half length-wise and remove seeds and ribs. It looks nice if the stems are still attached, but obviously those don’t get eaten. You may want to wear gloves for this if you’re using poblanos (especially if you’re wearing contacts you’ll have to take out later!). This is my general rule of thumb for every pepper that isn’t a bell pepper, after burning my eyeballs far too many times.

Place skin side down, drizzle with olive oil, flip (so skin side up) and drizzle again. Put them under a broiler for 6-7 minutes (until they start to char a bit). Flip so they are skin side down and broil for another 6-7 minutes. Remove from oven.

3. While the peppers are broiling… chop onions, drain and rinse the black beans.

4. Place onions, black beans, corn (I went with frozen), seasonings (all seasonings to taste — go nuts if you like things spicier) in a large microwaveable bowl (especially if corn is frozen. If it’s thawed/canned, you might be good at room temp).

5. If the rice has been cooked and has cooled, add rice first, then heat in microwave. Otherwise, heat the mixture to warm (1-3 minutes), then add your cooked rice, along with a handful of cheese just to stick it all together a bit.

I split my mixture and used a regular Mexican blend of cheeses for the vegetarian ones and used Daiya vegan cheese for the vegan ones. (If you haven’t tried this cheese yet, vegan or not, you must!)

6. Place peppers back on baking sheet and fill with rice/bean mixture. My peppers were all oddly shaped so I had to get a little creative with this and pile it up and tuck it in crevices.

7. Top with a bit of shredded cheese (any kind you’re using) and place back under the broiler for 1-2 minutes, until the cheese melts and begins to brown a bit.

8. Top with sour cream (regular or Tofutti) and sprinkle with a bit of chopped cilantro if you have it or salsa.

This was easy to make, took less than an hour and was a crowd pleaser. I’ll definitely be making this again!

Baked Tofu

On a recent Sunday I decided to attack my refrigerator and make a handful of things to sustain us through most of the week. One of the reasons my clients turn to me as a personal chef is because they work hard, get home, are tired and sometimes make bad choices. Unfortunately, I’m no different. I get home after a cook day tired, hungry and reaching for whatever is easy.

So, I picked up a couple of things at the store but mostly wanted to use my refrigerator full of ingredients I had purchased with high hopes but hadn’t had time to put to use.

I already had decided to make black bean burgers, so I decided to put that ol’ block of tofu in the refrigerator to use as some sort of side dish — I decided just to bake it and make a dipping sauce.

I pressed it in my TofuXPress for about 30 minutes while I was making other things, then sliced it into halves or thirds (about 1/2-inch thick), then triangles. I whisked together soy sauce with a bit of sesame oil, rice vinegar, freshly grated ginger and minced garlic. I marinated the tofu for about a half four, flipping it every 10 minutes or so.

I’m not sure if I spritzed it with olive oil first or not, but I put the slices of baked tofu on my  favorite baking sheet, which nothing sticks too and always washes away (even the black stuff you can never get off of other pans).

I baked it at 350 for about 30 minutes. Flipping it a couple of times so it gets a little crisp on the edges and nice and chewy.  I threw together a quick peanut sauce (much like THIS ONE, but I doctored it up a bit with a bit of coconut milk and a few extra spices) and — voila! It was a hit. So much so I was asked not to make it too often because my squeeze had trouble holding back. That’s a review I can live with.

Kale Chips

The first time I heard of kale chips, I thought something like, “Wait — what? Who? How? Huh?” Some months later, I decided I needed kale chips in my life. They were a big hit at our pre-Christmas holiday party and I decided I should just buy kale and make them all the time.

A true testament to the deliciousness of a kale chip was the fact that I scraped myself off the couch on New Year’s Day to make them. After a three-day bender (well, girls night out followed by getting engaged and celebrating too much followed by NYE) I knew I needed some vitamins and nutrients vs. the grease (like real chips) my brain said I wanted. It totally worked. I got the goodness my body needed and I got the crunch my bad habits needed.

Skeptical? Give it a shot. You’ll spend a couple of bucks on a head of kale and you’ll be surprised.

Ingredients
• kale
• 1 Tbsp. olive oil
• coarse salt

1. Wash and let dry one head of kale.

2. Cut leaves from thick stem and cut or tear into bite/chip-sized pieces, placing them in a good-sized bowl.

3. Drizzle in olive oil. I usually drizzle about half of it, then toss kale and drizzle the rest. You’ll think 1 Tbsp. isn’t enough for all that kale, but you’ll be surprised — it totally is.

4. Sprinkle with sea salt or another coarse salt (pink Hawaiian sea salt I got as a baby shower favor recently was delicious!). You can do this once they are on baking sheets or while tossing.

5. Spread on 1-2 baking sheets (depending on how much you have) in a single layer, but don’t sweat it if there’s a little overlap. They shrink a bit while baking.

6. Bake at 325 or so for 20-25 minutes, or until the edges of the kale begin to brown and the pieces are crispy.

Enjoy!

Miso Dressing

I was throwing together an Asian dinner tonight and had some kale that needed to be used tonight or I would lose it. I decided to grab a tub of miso at the store and whip up some dressing for it. It was delicious. (If I do say so myself!) I’m still learning about all the different types of miso, so I randomly chose mellow white miso. It was great both in the dressing and the soup I made out of it (recipe to come later on that…).

I might thin it out a little next time with some water or a bit more vinegar, but all in all I’d say this was a winner. I think it would work well as a dip for raw veggies or egg rolls too.

In a blender or by hand (which is the option I chose) whisk together the following until smooth.

• 1/4 c. miso paste
• 2 Tbsp. rice vinegar
• 2 Tbsp. sesame oil
• 2 Tbsp. soy sauce  or Bragg’s Liquid Aminos
• 1/2 tsp. fresh minced ginger or 1 tsp. ginger powder
• water as needed to thin out

I steamed a ton of kale (stems removed) using a steamer basket in a large pot for about 10 minutes until it was vibrant green and cooked to my liking. I then drizzled with dressing and sprinkled a bit of black and white sesame seeds on top. I think this would be really good on just about any vegetables — especially the green ones (asparagus, Brussels sprouts, etc.)

Check back tomorrow for the simple miso soup recipe and a bit of info on miso, which is packed with protein, vitamins and minerals!

Cooking Club: Rutabaga Chips with Curry Mayo

Here was Amy E’s contribution to the most recent cooking club! I ate a ton of these, then made someone take them away from me. Sadly, I didn’t take any pictures, but you can imagine what oven-baked chips looked like right?

Here it goes, in Amy’s words:

Ingredients:
• 1 whole rutabaga (it’s a big, ugly, waxy purple root, in case you are not sure what you’re looking for. Also, fun fact: In Europe rutabagas are carved out to make jack-o-lanterns.)
• Salt to taste
• Olive oil
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Peel the skin off the rutabaga (you can do this with a sharp knife). Using a chef’s knife or a mandoline, slice thin, and as evenly as you can. (I found that the chewier chips were a result of one side of the chip being too thick. Also, the chips shrank a LOT in the oven, so feel free to cut big — but not thick — pieces.)
3. In a large bowl, toss with olive oil (I probably used about 2 tsp?) and salt to taste (I used about a tsp). Spread in one layer on a baking sheet and place in the oven. The chips will need about a half-hour, but watch them carefully so they don’t burn. If you notice them browning quickly, flip the chips over and turn down the temperature a bit. I ended up baking them at 350 for about 30 minutes and then turned the heat down to 200, but I had a lot of burnt pieces that I didn’t serve, so be more vigilant than I was.
4. When they are done, take them out of the oven and let cool before serving. Place on paper towels for a while if they are greasy.
These would probably also be delicious and crispier deep-fried.
Curry Mayonnaise (Adapted from Mark Bittman’s recipe for food processor mayonnaise)
Ingredients
• 1 egg
• 2 tsp. brown or dijon mustard
• 1 Tbsp. lemon juice plus 1 tsp. white vinegar
• 1 c. neutral oil (I used canola oil)
• 2 tsp. curry powder
1. Put everything but the oil in the food processor and turn the food processor on.
2. In the little insert that goes in the lid (the “food pusher”) there should be a tiny hole. Pour the oil into the insert while the food processor is running and it will drip into the bowl in a slow, steady stream. Wait until the oil is incorporated, turn off your food processor, and taste. Adjust seasoning and vinegar levels as necessary (that’s why I added the 1 tsp of vinegar).
If you don’t have a food processor, you’ll have to add the oil — slowly and steadily — by hand, but you will be fine.