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Friday, December 30, 2011

Two Quick Last-Minute Appetizers for New Year’s!

If you’re still trying to figure out what to serve with glasses of champagne tomorrow night, then consider one or both of these appetizers. Each is quick, easy, and delicious, and would make a fabulous beginning to ring in the new year. Oh, and did I mention that both can be prepared ahead so there’s no last-minute hassle.

For one of these nibbles you spread crispy baguette slices with fennel-scented goat cheese and then top them with colorful slices of smoked salmon. For the other, you simply fill large Medjool dates (you can find them at many supermarkets this time of the year) with some creamy blue cheese, add a sprinkle of chopped toasted almonds, and them pop them in the oven for a few minutes. Both of these delectable appetizers are sure to help you ring in 2012 in good taste!

Smoked Salmon, Fennel, and Goat Cheese Toasts

8 ounces soft fresh goat cheese
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon
1 tablespoon fennel seeds, finely crushed (Place seeds in a self-sealing plastic bag and  crush with a meat pounder or rolling pin.)
2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

2 1/2 tablespoon olive oil or more if needed
30 thin baguette slices

12 ounces thinly sliced smoked salmon
Lemon peel strips for garnish
Tarragon sprigs for garnish

1.Arrange a rack at center position and preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2. In a medium nonreactive bowl, mix together goat cheese, chopped tarragon, fennel seeds, lemon peel, and pepper. Set aside

3. Brush oil on both sides of baguette slices and place in a single layer on a large baking sheet. Bake until bread is just crisp, 3 to 4 minutes per side. (Cheese mixture and toasts can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover cheese mixture and chill. Cool toasts and store in an airtight container at room temperature.)

4. To assemble toasts, spread cheese mixture over toasts. Top with salmon, trimming to fit. Garnish each toast with some lemon peel and tarragon sprigs. Arrange on a platter. Makes 30 servings.

Roasted Dates Stuffed with Blue Cheese and Almonds

12 medium Medjool dates (available in most supermarkets)
A  4-ounce piece blue cheese such as Bleu d”Auvergne or Maytag Blue, at room             temperature
2 tablespoons sliced almonds, toasted and coarsely chopped (See note.)

1.Arrange a rack at center position and preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Have ready a medium baking pan or dish.

2.  Slice the dates lengthwise, cutting just enough (but not all the way through) to remove the pits. Fill the cavities of the dates with a scant teaspoon of blue cheese, depending on their size. Save extra cheese for another use. Sprinkle dates with chopped almonds, and arrange in the baking pan. (Dates can be prepared 3 hours ahead; cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature 30 minutes before baking.)

3. Bake dates until warm and cheese has melted, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove and arrange on a small serving plate or place them in a long, narrow olive tray. Serve warm.  Makes 12 dates.

Note: To toast almonds, arrange a rack at center position and preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spread almonds on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until lightly browned, about 5 to 6 minutes for sliced almonds. Watch carefully so nuts do not burn. Remove and cool.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

From My Table to Yours—Happy Holidays!

 Dear Readers,
Thanks to all of you who have followed my blog and website throughout this past year. Your comments and feedback have been invaluable, and I hope to stay in touch in the new year with more recipes, reports from Paris and London, and tips on hot new restaurants, great kitchen tools, and the latest cookbooks.
And, speaking of cookbooks, my newest one, Sunday Brunch (from Chronicle) will make its debut this spring, and I’ll also be giving classes in New England at Different Drummer’s Kitchen in Northampton, Massachusetts, so stay tuned here or check my Facebook page and Twitter feed.
I wish you all delicious holidays and a healthy and glorious 2012.  Betty

Sunday, December 11, 2011

5 Great Gifts Under $50 For The Food Lovers On Your List!

Many of you told me how much you liked my 2010 list of gifts for foodies so here are my favorites for 2011!

Emile Henri Artisan Ruffled Pie Dish

I love the rustic look of this unique pie plate, and would definitely use it to create pies and tarts with deep, wavy sides.   $44

Wms Sonoma Peppermint Bark

This peppermint bark is one of my favorite gifts to send friends and family. It comes in an attractive tin, and oh, did I mention that this chocolate-coated bark is addictive.   $26.95 for a 1-pound box

Essential Pepin by Jacques Pepin

Chef, teacher, cookbook author extraordinaire, Jacques Pepin is known as the master of great technique. His latest book boasts more than 700 recipes, including his all-time favorites. It's a must for a serious foodie's library.  $40.00

Two tea towels from Different Drummer's Kitchen

The Different Drummer's Kitchen, with stores in Northampton and Lenox, Massachusetts, and in Albany, New York, sells these adorable and very well made kitchen towels. One has a band of sheep (including a black one amongst the white) and another a row of cows. They're from Elias Classics.  $15.95 each

J.K. Adams Artisan Bread Plank

I own one of these beautifully made bread planks, crafted by the J.K. Adams Company located in Vermont, and use it almost daily. I slice baguettes on it, arrange cheeses on it, and use it as an extra chopping board. The Different Drummer's Kitchen in Northampton sells them if you live in western Massachusetts.  $44


Thursday, December 8, 2011

A Sweet Gift from the Kitchen

If you love to prepare treats from your kitchen as holiday gifts, you’ll want to try the following recipe for chocolate-coated toffee with almonds and walnuts. Last year around this time, my talented assistant, Diana, brought me a small carton filled with a cache of these addictive morsels.

I asked if she’d share her recipe, and was stunned to discover how easy this toffee was to prepare. “Three easy steps,” she smiled and explained.

Friday, December 2, 2011

A Great New Dish for Holiday Brunches

Hash, that old breakfast standby of sautéed corned beef and potatoes, is having a come back, but in the newest versions, corned beef is not always de rigeur. Sautéed apples and smoked sausage or a sweet potato, red onion, and bacon mélange are typical examples of today’s inventive selections. Recently, I created the recipe featured here for Smoked Salmon, Fennel, and Potato Hash— a colorful, fresh, and delicious alternative to traditional corned beef versions, and a perfect addition to holiday brunches.

This one pairs flaked hot-smoked salmon with sautéed bits of fennel, chopped onions, and diced potatoes. Crushed fennel seeds and chopped lacy fennel fronds add a mild anise flavor. You can use this delectable hash as a side to serve with scrambled eggs, or for a little more visual drama, simply slid a poached or fried egg on top of each serving.