Pecan goat cheese marbles (variable servings)

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The holidays are nearly upon us (Ack!) and that means it's time for finger foods. Just as this recipe is my summer go-to hors d'oeuvre, this Epicurious concoction has become my reliable autumn/winter favorite. What follows is a simplified version of Epicurious' recipe.

You will need:

  • 1 cup pecans
  • 1 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 11 oz soft goat cheese, chilled
  • 1 tsp minced fresh rosemary
  • black pepper

Steps:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 F. In a small bowl, toss the pecans with butter, sugar, and salt. Transfer the pecans to a rimmed sheet pan; bake for 8-10 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely.
  2. Once cooled, pulse the pecans in a food processor until they're finely chopped. Transfer them to a wide, shallow bowl or a plate. Stir in the rosemary and a few grinds of pepper.
  3. Use a teaspoon or your hands to make chunks of goat cheese into small balls. (I found that using my hands was easiest, but it gets MESSY.) Roll the balls in the pecans and transfer them to a serving plate, sticking a wooden pick in each.

It's been a few months since I've made these, so I don't remember if it's best to form all the cheese marbles and then roll them in the pecans or to do them one at a time. It probably doesn't matter that much. What I do remember is that it's a good idea to serve these soon after making them. Last year, I kept them in the fridge for a few hours before serving them, and the pecans became soft. If you serve them shortly after making them, the contrast between the soft, creamy cheese and the crunchy, chunky pecans is glorious. Of course, the number of servings you end up with will depend on the size of the marbles. I make mine bigger than a real marble but smaller than a ping pong ball. (They're probably the same size as a gumball from one of the swirly, coin-operated machines at the mall, but perhaps that reference makes sense only to moi.) 

I know it's snobby, but I can't help squealing a bit when I look at that photo. I'm quite proud of that one.

Roasted strawberry bruschetta (variable servings)

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I've found my new go-to summertime appetizer recipe.  It's official.

I made this recipe yesterday (with a few changes) for a dinner party at a former co-worker's house.  I knew it had to be good since, with few exceptions, any food seems to get better when it's roasted.  Plus, I've been on a goat cheese kick lately, and I always love bread no matter what.  I knew the recipe had to be a winner just from reading it, and I was definitely right!

You will need:

  • 1 pint strawberries, hulled
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 loaf crusty bread (I bought a loaf of batard bread, only after giggling because I misread it as "bastard")
  • 6 oz soft goat cheese
  • 1 Tbsp julienned mint leaves
  • 1 Tbsp julienned basil leaves

Steps:

  1. Slice bread on a diagonal into 1-inch or 1.5-inch thick pieces.  (I ended up with 14 slices.)  Broil or toast the bread, turning if needed, until it's golden on both sides.  Make sure it doesn't burn!  Allow the crostini to cool.
  2. Next, set the oven temperature to 350 F.  Slice the strawberries and place them in a glass baking dish; drizzle them with the vinegar.  Sprinkle with some salt and pepper and toss to coat.  Roast the berries for 10-15 minutes, or until they're soft and syrupy.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
  3. In a small bowl, mix together the goat cheese, mint, and basil.  The crostini should be cool by now, so spread the cheese mixture evenly over the slices.  When the berries have cooled, spoon them evenly over the cheese mixture, and top with more basil for garnish, if desired.  Serve at room temperature.

The original recipe directed me to roast the strawberries for only 5 minutes, but I upped it to 15 because I wanted them to break down even further.  I think I could have keep going for another 5-10 minutes, honestly.  There was a lot of vinegar syrup left over after roasting, and if I had been thinking clearly, I would have saved it to make salad dressing instead of pouring it out.  Next time I make this, I might decrease the amount of vinegar or roast the berries for a longer time.

I really can't say enough about this recipe though.  The crunchiness of the bread works beautifully with the creamy cheese and softened berries.  The pungency of the goat cheese is toned down by the strawberries' sweetness, the tang of the vinegar, and the cool mint kick.  The recipe took a little bit of time to put together, but the steps really weren't complicated at all.  Definitely try this one before the summer ends!

10 vegetarian appetizers from YumSugar

Appetizers are especially popular in the summertime, and there are so many clever and easy ideas out there for meat-free dips and finger foods.  YumSugar has some cool ideas in their "10 Killer Vegetarian Appetizers" section, and while I'm not thrilled by the combination of "killer" plus "vegetarian," I do think some of the recipes look intriguing.  I'm making roasted strawberry bruschetta later this week and can't wait to see how it turns out!

What are your favorite summertime appetizers?

Stuffed strawberries

This recipe for stuffed strawberries comes from Southern Living by way of Recipezaar. I was looking for something fresh and simple to make for a picnic this weekend, and this recipe seemed perfect. I ended up changing some of the ingredients to suit my tastes and what I had in the kitchen. Unfortunately, it was a lot more preparation and primping than I was expecting. I didn't even take a photo because the last thing these simpering Southern belles needed was more attention.

You will need:

  • 18-20 medium strawberries
  • 3 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp powdered sugar
  • 2 Tbsp julienned mint leaves

Steps:

  1. Cut the stem end of each strawberry crosswise, giving each berry a flat base to stand on. Cut each strawberry into four wedges, starting at the top end and cutting towards but not through the stem end. Each strawberry should end up looking like a blossom.
  2. Curse as the knife inevitably slips through the stem end anyway. Curse more when you find that the strawberries close back up on themselves and look nothing like a damn blossom.
  3. Beat cream cheese until fluffy. Stir in sugar and mint leaves. Transfer the mix to a plastic bag and snip one end to use it like a pastry bag.
  4. Realize that there's no possible way to get it all into the bag without a) plopping some of it on the counter and b) getting some of it stuck in the grooves of the zipper bag.
  5. Pipe about 1 teaspoon of the mixture into the middle of each strawberry.
  6. Yeah, good luck with that one. I do realize that using an actual pastry bag would probably yield better results, but hey, I don't have one. Anyway, prepare for the cream cheese mixture to run down the sides of the berries and flop over the top but not stay in the middle. And good luck in getting the berries to keep their little blossoming mouths open while you try to fill them. Stupid rebellious attention-whores.

*Ahem* Perhaps this post is a good reflection of my mood this week. All I can say is that these had better be a hit tomorrow, because I'm never making these again. They're delicious, but man, are they time-consuming. Making this recipe reminded me why I generally loathe baking: I hate precision and I have little patience. It also reminded me of why I never buy Driscoll's strawberries. They're the culinary equivalent of the hot girls on your college campus -- juicy and voluptuous on the outside with bitter, hollow cores.

How's that for food for thought?