Category Archives: Appetizers

Caramelized Onion, Cheese and Phyllo Tart

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Tart on plate

This tart is so easy to make and it is scrumptious. Since I made it for two of us, I halved the recipe that I usually make for parties etc. When serving many people I cut it into one inch squares and place in cupcake papers. This full recipe is made in a half sheet pan. I use a quarter sheet pan for the half recipe.Line either size with parchment paper.

Ingredients:

  • Half a package of phyllo, thawed.
  • 6 onions
  • 4 tablespoons Sweet Onion Sugar (optional)
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 box (5.2 oz) Boursin Cheese
  • 2 cups arugula
  • juice & zest of one lemon (Meyer if you can get it)
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Splash of olive oil

Method:

Heat oven to 400 degrees

  • Make caramelized onions by sauteeing the sliced onions in a little olive oil. Add the sweet onion sugar. cook down on low for an hour, stirring frequently. Allow to cool slightly,
  • Lay out the Phyllo dough, cover with plastic wrap and top with a wet kitchen towel.
  • Lay out two sheets of phyllo on to the baking sheet, then brush with olive oil and continue the process until all of the sheets have been laid out. Keep replacing the plastic and towel in between layers. Some of the phyllo should hang over the edge. Brush a layer of oil on the top sheet.
  • Spread the onions out evenly on the phyllo
  • Crumble the cheese over the onions
  • Add salt and pepper to taste
  • Bake for 20 minutes
  • Toss the arugula with the lemon juice and olive oil, then top the tart with it.
  • Lay the tart out on a cutting board (just pull the paper out onto the board) and cut with a pizza cutter.

This can be served warm or room temperature. It keeps for a week in an air tight container.

Re-Creating Husk’s Kentuckyakai Chicken Wings, Something different for Superbowl

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Many people have heard of Husk. It is a terrific restaurant here in Charleston. Chef Sean Brock is at the helm. Last year they also opened a Husk Nashville location. Sean has a passion for all things southern and everything at Husk is made from southern ingredients. At a lunch there I tasted their signature Kentuckyaki Chicken Wings. They utilize a sauce made by Bourbon Barrell Foods called Kentuckyaki Sauce.  The sauce is basically a kicked up teriyaki sauce made with southern ingredients (except for maybe the ginger). Since I did not have the sauce on hand and I wanted to try these wings for Superbowl… I checked the ingredients for the sauce on the Bourbon Barrell website and deduced that I have access to all of the ingredients to the sauce … so I did a dump and taste version of the sauce and here are the ending results:

Sauce Ingredients:
2 Cups Soy Sauce
1/2 cup Sorghum
1/2 cup local honey
1/2 cup Apple Cider Vinegar
8 cloves Fresh Garlic very finely grated
a 2″ piece of Fresh Ginger very finely grated
1 cup of Kentucky Bourbon divided in 1/2 cup portions

Add all ingredients except the final 1/2 cup of bourbon and simmer on medium low heat for 30 minutes. Add the second 1/2 cup of  bourbon and simmer for five minutes. Allow to cool completely. This the basic sauce, which is quite thin and can be used if you want to make more of a glaze, you can add a cornstarch slurry of 1 tablespoon of cornstarch mixed with 3 tablespoons of water. Add to the sauce and simmer further till thickened.

Prepping the wings:

Brine:

Make a gallon of sweet tea using mint just as you would for drinking (1 cup of sugar to 4 qts. water and 2 ounces of loose leaf tea). I add several sprigs of mint in mine too. I also added some juniper berries and about 1/3 cup of sea salt. Put the wings in a heavy duty ziplock bag or plastic container and refrigerate overnight, or up to 24 hours.

Smoke:image

 

Remove the wings from the brine and dry off with paper towels. Put them in a smoker for 3 hours on very low heat. You only want a small amount of smoke and you want the wings to retain moisture.

Fry:

Fry the wings in peanut oil (350 degrees) and drain. It is best to do this in small batches so that the oil maintains temperature. It should not go below 225 degrees. Drain the wings on a rack and then keep warm in the oven as you are frying.

Presentation:

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Toss the wings in the sauce and place on a platter. Scatter sesame seeds and chopped chives on the wings. Enjoy!

These also go great with my North Carolina style coleslaw!

Crispy Panko Calamari

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Calamari 1

This is a super easy recipe, the key is finding good quality squid. I bought fresh tubes at the Whole Foods Seafood Counter, if you like tentacles you may have to buy them frozen. Always look for cleaned calamari/squid.This recipe is for a main dish for two or an appetizer for four. It is easily doubled for larger servings. The combination of flour, polenta and panko assure a crispy crust. Furikake adds some umami and the sesame in it adds another element of crunch.

Ingredients:

1/2 pound squid

4 egg whites

1/4 cup milk

2 cups panko

1/2 cup all purpose flour

1/4 cup grits or polenta

2 Tablespoons Furikake Wasabi seasoning (Japanese seasoning for rice) to taste

4 Tablespoons Sweet Onion Sugar

Sweet Chili Sauce and Seafood Cocktail Sauce for dipping

calamari3

Method:

  • Slice the calamari into rings.
  • I like to soak my calamari in buttermilk before cooking, salt water is another option. Soak for about 30 minutes then rinse and dry.
  • Heat a wok and add canola or peanut oil to a depth of about 2 “. You want it about 350 degrees.

Calamari 2

  • Mix the egg white and milk in one pan/bowl
  • Mix the dry ingredients in another pan/bowl
  • Set up a draining pan or use a plate with paper towels
  • Dredge the calamari through the egg white mixture, making sure to open the rings so they get coated on the inside too
  • Dredge them through the breading mix, also getting the insides coated.

Calamari close up

  • Work in small batches of about 8-10 rings and fry, turning once. When both sides are golden brown, move to draining tray.
  • When finished serve with sauces and chopsticks.

Calamari plated

Saffron, Blood Orange, Chicken and Herb Salad

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Fennel chicken salad blood orange

You are going to LOVE this. It is so good, full of herbs, honey, saffron and grilled chicken… flavor, flavor and more flavor! the original inspiration came from the fabulous cook book, Jerusalem. I added more herbs and changed the oranges to blood oranges.

This is easy. You can do it with blood oranges, regular oranges or tangerines. The honey, saffron and reduced orange pieces make for a fabulous sauce/dressing. This serves 4 as a side dish or 2 as a meal.

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup of your favorite honey
  • 2 blood oranges
  • 1 teaspoon of saffron threads
  • 2 TBS champagne vinegar
  • 1 1/2 cups (or more to cover oranges) water
  • 2 chicken breast halves (boneless/skinless)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 TBS Sumac
  • 2 TBS fresh lemon juice
  • 2 small fennel bulbs sliced thinly
  • 1 cup cilantro leaves
  • 1 cup mint leaves torn
  • 1/2 cup basil leaves chiffonade
  • 1 red chile thinly sliced
  • sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Method:

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees If using a grill, start it.
  • Trim and top the oranges. Cut one into wedges of 8ths with the skin on, remove the peel and make supremes on the other. Reserve the supremes for the salad.
  • Place the 8ths of orange into a saucepan with the honey, saffron, vinegar and water to cover the orange pieces.
  • Bring to a boil and then simmer for about an hour, till a thick syrup forms.

Blood orange and honey

  • Allow to cool slightly then put into a food processor and process till a thick syrup results. You may need to add a tiny bit more water.

Blood orange and honey food processor

  • Put the chicken on a grill pan or grill and sear till golden and char marks form (2-3 minutes per side, then put in the oven to finish, till interior measures 150 degrees and then remove and allow to cool.

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  • When cool enough, tear apart chicken into bite size pieces, add to a large bowl and then add the herbs, oranges, fennel, chiles, lemon juice and the orange syrup. Toss, add remaining olive oil and season with salt and pepper to taste.

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Easy Tabbouleh (Tabouli)

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Tabouli

This is such a nutritious and delicious thing to have on hand. It can be served with grilled pita bread, rustic breads, slices of radishes, carrots or cucumbers or eaten as a salad on its own. There are a lot of recipes out there, this one is based on a Palestinian version, basically a parsley salad. Chop and stir! This keeps for about a week in the refrigerator. I used fresh and dried parsley to get different levels of flavor.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup fine bulgur wheat, soaked for 2-4 hours in boiling water, then strained
  • 1 pound of grape tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 1 large shallot finely chopped
  • 4 Tbs fresh lemon juice
  • 2 large bunches fresh flat leaf parsley finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup dried parsley 
  • 2 large bunches mint (not peppermint) finely chopped
  • 2 Tbs Baharat seasoning (see below)
  • 1 Tbsp Sumac (more if you prefer)
  • 1/2 cup good olive oil
  • freshly ground black pepper (I use a four peppercorn blend)
  • Sea salt to taste

Baharat Spice Mix

To make spice mix: Toast all but the nutmeg in a dry pan, being careful not to burn. Use a spice grinder or mortar and pestle to grind to a fine powder).  Add the nutmeg and stir. Keeps for 8-10 weeks

To make Tabbouleh:

Add all ingredients in a large bowl and stir. Taste before adding salt and pepper. Serve with additional lemon quarters.

Homemade Egg Rolls!

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rolls plated

There are many plays on the egg roll. This one is perhaps the “classic” to most Americans, as it is the type we grew up with. A crispy egg noodle exterior, filled with savory flavors and lots of interesting veggies. You do not have to follow an exact recipe, play around with different fillings, different herbs and all kinds of sprouts and greens. The Vietnamese make them with a rice flour wrap. Spring rolls are the same concept except uncooked, those utilize the rice flour wraps soaked in water to soften them.

OK… back to the basic egg rolls. This is so easy and everyone LOVES these! You will never buy those frozen ones again!

I like to use pork sausage, you can also chop up some cooked shrimp or chicken.

Veggies:

Finely chop some of the following (you choose the things you like):

  • Carrots (I shred mine)
  • Celery
  • Shallots
  • Garlic
  • Water chestnuts
  • Mushrooms
  • Cilantro
  • Napa cabbage
  • Red bell pepper
  • Daikon radish
  • A bit of lemongrass
  • A bit of fermented black beans (optional)

Not so chopped goodies:

  • Mung bean sprouts
  • Pea sprouts
  • Thin slices of tofu

Method:

In a hot wok or skillet brown the sausage (or other meat) once browned toss in the veggies and saute. Your mixture should be 1/2 veggies and 1/2 meat. Add some Hoisin, Fish Sauce or Oyster Sauce, just enough to moisten (I prefer the hoisin). Cool. & Chill the filling for 30 minutes.

Filling

Now comes the fun part! Let’s Roll! In four steps you roll up the egg rolls. Brush on an egg wash (1 beaten egg with 1 Tbs of water) on all seams as you fold.

Roll 1

roll 2

roll 3

roll 4

After they are rolled, place on a plate or if you are making a lot, on a tray.

rolls done

If you are frying, heat 4″ of canola or rice bran oil to 350 degrees and fry till golden brown on both sides (about 5 minutes). Drain and serve hot.

If you are baking, spray a baking sheet with oil, then place the egg rolls on the baking sheet. Preheat the oven to 375. Then bake for about 25 minutes, till golden and crispy.

For sauces, you can use many different sauces, the easiest are prepared Duck Sauce, Hoisin Sauce or Sweet Chili sauce. All are available in most any grocery stores. If you are doing the vietnamese version, it is worth it to find a recipe for Nuoc Cham. Here is my friend Andrea Nguyen’s recipe.

These are better when freshly cooked. The wraps and filling will last at least 10 days in the fridge. You can crisp up leftover cooked rolls in a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes. You can also make the rolls before cooking and freeze them on a baking sheet. Once frozen, just put into freezer bags and they will be ready for your next party. Fry or bake as directed.

Best Fried Green Tomatoes… Southern Bliss

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Fried Green Tomatoes

I never even thought of Fried Green Tomatoes as a recipe until a few people asked me how to make them. They are super easy and very tasty when done right. My great grandmother used to make them, though hers were made with just flour, not the combo of flour and cornmeal that I use now. This method if dredging, dipping and dredging again is the secret to fried chicken and most any coated fried food. The final dredge changes, anything from seasoned flour to panko, but the method stays the same. In the fall green tomatoes are pulled from the vines before first frost, but here in the south, people treasure them all year and green tomatoes are sold in our farmer’s markets. To keep them from ripening, store in the refrigerator till ready to use. They will keep several weeks. I never refrigerate ripe tomatoes, as that kills the sweetness.

fried green tomatoes

Set up a dredging station:

Pan 1: All Purpose flour

Pan 2 :1 cup of buttermilk 1-2 eggs whisked in

Pan 3: This is where you get a little creative:

Then slice up the green tomatoes about 1/2 inch thick. This thickness allows for a crispy crust and tender interior.

Heat canola or peanut oil to 350 degrees in a frying pan, about 1  1/2 inches deep.

Dredge the tomato slices in the flour, then the buttermilk mixture, making sure that the entire slice is covered in liquid.

Finally dredge the slices in the seasoned flour, making sure that all surfaces are covered.

Place in the frying pan, taking care not to crowd. fry till crispy and golden brown on each side and remove to a rack to drain. Repeat.

They can be served with a remoulade sauce, sweet chile sauce or put them on a BLT! They are even good cold.

Fried Green Tomatoes and Remoulade