Category Archives: Appetizers

Italian Fig Syrup

Look what I found on my fig tree this week?  The house we moved into last Christmas has a wonderful fig tree with big, broad pretty green leaves in our side yard.   The leaves are gorgeous.   I now realize how seductive Eve must have looked while wearing these as her only daily attire.  The tree is bursting with so many figs I can barely get to them before the birds take a bite out of each one and move on to the next.

Today I harvested as many as I could find and created this delectable Italian Fig Syrup.  It’s fabulous straight out of the jar, or top some on Brie, Marscapone or Goat Cheese for a quick appetizer.  It makes a lovely dessert drizzled over vanilla bean ice cream (homemade or store-bought) too.

RECIPE:

30 Figs

White Sugar (About 2 cups)

2 T. Lemon Juice

Brandy

Wash the figs well and trim off stems.  Cut  figs in half if large.  Place figs and lemon juice in a saucepan and add enough sugar to almost cover the figs.   Cook over low heat for 45-60 minutes.  The sugar will turn to a lemon infused syrup.

Once cooked and cooled, place in a jar and add enough brandy to come to the top of the jar covering all of the figs and syrup.

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Cooking Demo Today at Encanterra’s Good Life Festival

Today, Encanterra Country Club located in the Southeast Valley of Greater Phoenix, is hosting its second concert of the season featuring Bachman Turner. I’ll be there conducting three cooking demonstrations in the beautiful Napoli Model Home  in Encanterra’s gallery of new homes. These are the recipes I’ll be showcasing, all featuring Biltmore Inspirations gourmet foods. Beautiful decorating products, wine accessories and tabletop items from Biltmore will be showcased as well.  

SCHEDULE:

12:30 PM – Basil Chicken Salad Crostini with Red Pepper Romano Topping

1:30 PM – Caramelized Onion Tart with Gorgonzola & Brie

2:30 PM – Warm Cinnamon Spiced Bananas over Vanilla Ice Cream

RECIPES

Basil Chicken Salad Crostini with Red Pepper Romano Topping

Serves 4

6 oz. boneless, skinless chicken breast, cooked

¼ c. fresh basil leaves, packed

1 baguette

3 T. extra virgin olive oil

½ c. Biltmore Inspirations Roasted Red Pepper Romano Specialty Topping

Slice baguette into 24 pieces. Place on sheet tray, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt. Bake 7 minutes or until crisp.

When chicken has cooled, dice small and add to bowl.  Combine with Biltmore Inspirations Roasted Red Pepper Romano Specialty Topping.  Cut basil into very thin strips and add to chicken.

Top crostini with chicken mixture, and serve immediately.

 

Caramelized Onion Tart with Gorgonzola and Brie Recipe

Makes 24 appetizers

1 jar Biltmore Inspirations Caramelized Onion Balsamic Spread

8 oz. frozen puff pastry (defrosted a couple hours in the fridge)

2 oz. chilled Brie cheese, rind removed and diced

2 oz. Gorgonzola or other blue cheese, diced

2 T. chopped fresh tarragon

Roll pastry into a 10-to-14-inch rectangle (or whatever shape you want). Place pastry on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Prick with a fork at a couple inch increments to prevent the pastry from forming big bubbles while baking.

Spread Biltmore Inspirations Caramelized Onion Spread over pastry, all the way to the edges of the pastry. Dot with cheese. Sprinkle with tarragon. Refrigerate if not baking immediately.

Bake in a preheated oven at 400°F for 18-20 minutes or until cheese has melted and pastry is crispy. Cool for 5 minutes. Cut into wedges or squares and serve.

 

Warm Cinnamon Spiced Bananas with Ice Cream

4 servings

1/4 c. Biltmore Inspirations Cinnamon Spice Flavoring Syrup

3 T. brown sugar

2 T. butter

2 large bananas

2-3 c. vanilla ice cream

Combine Biltmore Inspirations Cinnamon Spice Flavoring Syrup, brown sugar and butter in a large skillet.  Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly until the sugar melts (2-3 minutes.)  Boil, uncovered, until slightly thickened, about 2 minutes.

Meanwhile, slice bananas diagonally; add to skillet and turn to coat with sauce.  Cook until hot and softened, about 1 ½ minutes.  Spoon over ice cream and serve.

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Cranberries: What to do with all of that leftover sauce!

Zinfandel Cranberry Sauce

Tomorrow is the day we add dollops of cranberry sauce to our plates of turkey.  Whether the turkey is roasted, deep fat fried, smoked or baked in a bag, this traditional condiment adds a flavorful acidic touch to the fat laden Thanksgiving meal.

The cranberry’s botanical name, vaccinium oxycoccos, literally means “cow.”  Food historian Alan Davidson, author of the Oxford Companion to Food 1999, says that cows (vacco) enjoy eating cranberries and that is how cranberries got their name!  Cranberries historical significance in America dates back to the 1864, when General Ulysses S. Grant ordered that it be served to the troops during the siege of Petersburg.  Although it was the Native Americans who first noticed the natural preservative powers of these berries, it was when they began socializing with the Pilgrims in 1672, that cranberry pies and tarts started showing up on the Thanksgiving table.

There are many recipes for cranberry sauce.  I created this recipe because it uses a delicious bottle of one of my favorite wines, Zinfandel.

Zinfandel Cranberry Sauce Recipe

1 (12 ounce) package cranberries, fresh

2+ cups of red Zinfandel wine (choose one with lots of spiciness)

½ c. balsamic vinegar

1 T. Vietnamese cinnamon

1 c. white sugar

1 T. black peppercorns

1 t. whole cloves

In a non-reactive saucepan, combine the cranberries, wine, balsamic vinegar and cinnamon.  If you’re unsure about how sweet the sauce will be, begin with one-half c. sugar, add more to taste.

Place the peppercorns and cloves in a small piece of cheesecloth and tie shut.  Add to the pot.  Bring the berries to a boil, then reduce to medium-low.

The cranberries will cook completely in 20-30 minutes, bursting and turning deep red.  In the last few minutes of cooking, taste for sweetness and stir sugar in more as desired.  Remove from the heat and allow to cool.

Remove the spices.  Store in a clean jar.  Can be kept for several weeks in the refrigerator.

What to do with the leftover sauce

This sauce is great on Thanksgiving Day, but usually there is an abundance of leftovers.  Here are 15 ideas on ways to use up the sauce:

  • Add 1/2 cup to pancake batter to make cranberry pancakes.
  • Mix with cream cheese and smear on a fresh bagel for breakfast.
  • Place a block of cream cheese on a plate, top with Zinfandel Cranberry Sauce, and serve with crackers for a quick and tasty appetizer.  Or, alternatively, warm a block of Brie cheese in the oven, and top with the sauce.
  • Mix with a tablespoon of cream cheese, and use as a spread for your favorite chicken or turkey sandwich.
  • Using freshly ground turkey, chicken, or pork, make Cranberry Meatballs substituting cranberry sauce for tomato sauce.
  • Mix with a tablespoon or two of orange juice and use as a glaze for a pork roast, or grilled pork chops.
  • Add to a homemade muffin mix, along with a 1/2 cup of walnuts.
  • Add to your favorite BBQ sauce to baste over baked or grilled chicken.
  • Cube baked sweet potatoes and mix with toasted walnuts and minced parsley.  Add cranberry sauce to a few tablespoons of olive oil and drizzle in mixture to make a healthy salad.
  • Mix a few tablespoons with Extra Virgin Olive Oil and red wine vinegar to create a tangy salad dressing.
  • Puree with cream cheese to make a cranberry dip.
  • Using your favorite type of milk (whole, 2%, rice, soy or almond), add 1/4 cup with a sliced banana, 1 T. honey or agave juice, and ice to turn into a cranberry smoothie.
  • Make a quesadilla using cooked shredded turkey or chicken, chopped kale, your favorite cheese, cumin, and chili powder placed in corn tortillas.  Sauté on both sides until warm.  
  • Warm sauce in microwave and drizzle over vanilla ice cream for a delicious dessert.
  • Add to homemade apple pie, or pear crisp, recipes for a festive twist on dessert.

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Creating Appetizers from Farmer’s Market Produce

Santa Barbara Saturday Farmer's Market

Photo by Debbie J. Elder

While Saturday shopping at the bountiful Farmer’s Market in Santa Barbara last weekend, I came across rows and rows of stalls filled with baskets of gorgeous red, yellow, orange, purple and green fresh produce.  With company in tow, I viewed these vibrant, flavorful delectables as the perfect solution to creating some great appetizers to nibble on while enjoying our weekend together.  Knowing every hostess needs a repertoire of tasty small dishes to whip together  on short notice, I share a couple of favorites that take little time and provide immense pleasure.  Use your imagination and think of ways to showcase seasonal market finds.  In many cases, vegetables can be interchangeable in a dish.  If you can’t find a farmer’s market near you, seek out the freshest and ripest vegetables available at your favorite grocer to ensure the best taste possible.

Spanish Smoky Eggplant Dip

Serves 4

1 large, or 2 small eggplants

1/2 c. Greek yogurt

1 t. ground cumin

1 T. fresh lemon juice

1 t. sea salt

1/2 t. pepper

1/4 smoky Spanish paprika

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Rinse and prick the eggplant all over with the prongs of a fork.  Place on a foil-lined baking sheet and roast in a preheated oven.  Bake for 15 minutes, turning once or twice, or until done.  Allow the eggplant to sit until it has softened and cooled slightly.

Place the cumin and Spanish paprika in a dry skillet and toast for a few minutes; set aside.  Peel the skin off of the eggplant, leaving a few charred bits to add flavor.  Put the flesh in a food processor and add the yogurt, cumin, Spanish paprika, lemon juice, salt and pepper and process until smooth.  Transfer to a serving bowl and serve with homemade pita chips or lavosh.

Photo by Debbie J. Elder

Roasted Carrot Dip

Serves 4

4 medium carrots, cut into chunks

1 small red onion, cut into chunks

2 garlic gloves, chopped

1 large red chile, shopped

1 t. ground cumin

Salt and Pepper

1/2 c. vegetable or chicken stock

2 T. olive oil

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Place the vegetables, garlic and chile on a foil-lined baking sheet.  Drizzle mixture with olive oil.  Sprinkle cumin, salt and pepper over vegetables.  Place in oven and roast for 20-30 minutes, or until vegetables soften.  Remove from oven and allow to cool for 15 minutes.

Transfer the mixture to a food processor, add vegetable or chicken broth, and pulse a few times until well blended, but still contains a rough textures.  Add more broth if mixture is too dry.  Season to taste.  Transfer to a serving dish and serve with toasted multi-grain bread or homemade tortilla chips.

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