Summer Appetizers off the Grill

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Zucchini Cream Cheese Roll-ups

Zucchini Cream Cheese Roll-ups

It’s August and the harvest demands to be reckoned with!  Since this is the week of the Italian holiday called Ferragosto, I thought I’d focus on summer appetizers and drinks using Italian ingredients.  Here are a couple of Italian-style appetizers, and if you’re interested in the Italian cocktail, you can find the Watermelon-Limoncello Mojito recipe  at this link:  balconybartender.com

Recipe for Grilled Prosciutto Melon Skewers:

This is so easy it’s not really a recipe, but boy is it good!  You can use any fruit with the prosciutto to get that sweet and salty taste.  I used pears, watermelon and cantaloupe because that’s what I had on hand.

Grilled Prosciutto Melon Skewers

Grilled Prosciutto Melon Skewers

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 small watermelon
  • 1/2 cantaloupe
  • 2 Bartlet pears
  • 6 oz. prosciutto
  • 2 limes, cut into wedges

Directions:

  1. Get the grill temperature up to a fairly high heat.  I used an indoor grill turned to “sear”
  2. Cut fruit into wedges thick enough that a bamboo skewer can go through them lengthwise without breaking apart the fruit
  3. Wrap a piece of prosciutto around the fruit wedge.  Slide a bamboo skewer through the fruit wedge lengthwise and place on the grill
  4. Grill for 2-3 minutes or until you get grill marks on the prosciutto.  Remove and squeeze some lime juice over the skewers (alternatively, place on a platter with lime wedges and let the guests squeeze the lime juice over their skewer).

Recipe for Grilled Zucchini Roll-Ups

Zucchini Cream Cheese Roll-ups

Zucchini Cream Cheese Roll-ups

  • 1/4 cup feta cheese, finely crumbled
  • 2 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
  • 2 Tbsp mayonnaise
  • 1 Tbsp minced fresh thyme
  • 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil, divided
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 10 8-inch-long strips of zucchini, about 1/4 inch thick and about 2 inches wide
  • lemon zest and fresh thyme for garnish

Directions:

  1. Preheat indoor grill to sear or high heat (or get outdoor grill up to high heat).
  2. For filling:  In a small bowl mix together the feta, cream cheese, mayonnaise, thyme, lemon juice only 1 Tbsp of the oil, and the salt and pepper.
  3. Rinse the zucchini but do not peel.  Use a mandolin if you have one to slice long flat strips of zucchini. Make sure they are at least 1/4 inch thick or they will fall apart on the grill, and they should be about 8 inches long.  With a basting brush, spread remaining 2 Tbsp oil over zucchini slices and place on  the grill.  Grill over direct heat until tender, about 2 minutes per side
  4. Remove zucchini slices from grill and let cool.  When cool spread about 1 tsp of the filling over each slab of zucchini and roll up each slice.
  5. Top off each with a garnish of lemon zest and fresh thyme.  You can skewer them with small picks if they are too thin to stand up on their own.

IMG_7514 (640x480)Enjoy these appetizers with friends and family at your summer picnic accompanied by a Watermelon Limoncello Mojito.  Ciao!

 

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Nicoise Salad for the Slow Carb Diet

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Nicoise Salad Prep

Nicoise Salad Prep

Although this salad is traditionally a French recipe, I used it in our Italian Ferragosto picnic (using the Italian heirloom tomato Principe Borghese for some authenticity of course).  This is a great salad for the Slow Carb Diet – full of flavor with all of the ingredients being slow carb compliant.  If you are not concerned with the Slow Carb lifestyle, but just want a great summer salad, try this as a Pressed Nicoise on a baguette (recipe included).

Recipe for the Nicoise Salad Dressing (Anchovy Dressing)

Yield: 1 cup

Ingredients:

  • 1 anchovy fillet, drained from the tin
  • 1/8 tsp sea salt
  • 1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp chopped garlic
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 6 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp minced shallots
  • 2 tsp capers, drained and chopped
  • 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce

Directions:

  1. Using the back of a spoon or fork make a paste by mashing the anchovy, salt, pepper and garlic together until thoroughly mixed and mashed together.
  2. Using a wire whisk, whisk in the egg until well blended with the paste.  Whisk in lemon juice and mustard.
  3. Whisk in the oil, one tablespoon at a time, whisking vigorously until you have a thick emulsion.
  4. Whisk in the shallots, capers and Worcestershire sauce until blended.  Taste, and adjust the salt and pepper if needed to your own taste.  Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Recipe for Nicoise Salad

Nicoise Salad for Slow Carb Diet

Nicoise Salad for Slow Carb Diet

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 4 hard boiled eggs, peeled and quartered
  • 6 oz fresh green beans, blanched
  • 1/2 cup black kalamata olives, pitted
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
  • 1 cup torn romaine lettuce, rinsed and patted dry
  • 10 cherry or grape tomatoes, cut in half
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 2 (6 oz) cans tuna packed in water, drained
  • Optional additions: 1/2 cup artichoke hearts, drained and chopped; chopped fresh herbs (parsley, tarragon, chives, arugula

Directions:

  1. For hardboiled eggs:  Place eggs in pot of cold water and turn burner to high.  When water has come to a boil, cover the pot, turn off the burner and let the eggs sit in the hot water for 8-10 minutes.  Remove eggs from pot and place immediately into a bowl of cold ice water and let them sit in ice water for about 5 minutes.  Remove shells from eggs and quarter the eggs lengthwise.  *Note: Eggs should be 1-2 weeks old in order to peel effectively.  Fresh eggs will not peel well and you will have a mess.  Also, peel under cool running water for best results.
  2. To blanch the beans:  Remove the hard stem at the tip of the bean, rinse beans and cut in half.  Place beans in a pot of boiling water for 3 minutes, remove them and place immediately into a bowl of ice water.  This will stop the cooking and preserve the fresh taste and color of the beans.
  3. Arrange all ingredients on a platter and drizzle with the dressing.  Alternatively, place the lettuce in a bowl and toss with the dressing.  Arrange the rest of the ingredients on top of the lettuce and drizzle with a little more dressing.  Garnish with the herbs (optional).

Recipe for Pressed Nicoise on a Baguette (not SCD)

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 loaf crusty French baguette
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large clove garlic, smashed with flat part of knife
  • 4-5 basil leaves
  • all of the above ingredients for the salad and the dressing

Directions:

  1. For the bread: Slice the loaf of bread in half lengthwise. Remove some of the inside of the bottom half to create a trough into which the filling will go.  Brush both halves with a little olive oil and rub each side with smashed garlic.  Line the bottom half (the half with the trough) with basil leaves.
  2. For the filling: Combine all ingredients above listed for the salad.  Pour 1/2 cup of the anchovy dressing (recipe above) into the tuna mixture and stir to combine.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  3. To assemble: Spoon tuna mixture into the trough of the baguette over the basil leaves.  Wrap sandwich well in plastic.  Place a heavy weight on top of the sandwich (a cast iron pan works well, or a pan weighted down with heavy canned goods).  Refrigerate with the weight on top overnight.

Watermelon-Limoncello Mojito Recipe (for Ferragosto)

IMG_7514 (640x480)All week we have been celebrating the Italian holiday that takes place in mid-August called Ferragosto (they take a relaxing break from the August heat).  For a great watermelon mojito to pair with some of the Italian appetizers click here:  Ferragosto post.  Ciao!

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Pre-Season “BLT” with Tomato Jam

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Tomato Jam BLT

Tomato Jam BLT

It’s summer, but the heirloom tomatoes are just not quite ready yet and I’m craving a BLT.  Using a good Heirloom Tomato Jam for a spread was the ticket today for an awesome out-of-season BLT.  Made with a soft, doughy egg bread, some arugula, and thick crispy bacon, I satisfied the BLT craving and more.

The Tomato Jam:

Here in Minnesota we don’t usually get large ripe heirloom tomatoes until August.  Because heirloom tomatoes are one of my main crops at the farm, we had plenty to freeze last year and have been making them into jam all winter.

I also grow a range of hot peppers, and smoked a lot of the jalapenos last year, giving me a large supply of chipotles.  Once the peppers are smoked and dried, they last forever, and I have found many culinary uses for them over the winter and spring.  We also pulverize the dried chipotles in a coffee grinder and use a little in HeathGlen’s Heirloom Tomato Jam, which gives it a delightful smoky kick.

I had a wonderful dinner last week at a restaurant in Minneapolis called Saffron and they used a bit of saffron (of course) in their tomato jam.  It was excellent, but I can’t grow saffron at the farm (unfortunately).  Home-smoked jalapenos, or chipotles, is something I  can grow and make however, and they add excellent flavor to a tomato jam.  Not better or worse than the saffron-infusion, but different.

Recipe for Pre-Season Tomato Jam “BLT”

Tomato Jam BLT - Deconstructed

Tomato Jam BLT – Deconstructed

Ingredients:

  • 4 slices egg bread or brioche, (or your favorite bread)
  • 2-3 slices thick bacon
  • 1-2 Tbsp tomato jam
  • 4 large leaves fresh arugula
  • 1 tsp Hellmans mayonaise

Directions:

  1. Get all your ingredients out so you can make the sandwich while the toast is still warm (mise en place).  Turn on your oven broiler.
  2. Generally you cook the bacon in a cast iron skillet over the stovetop, turning often, until it is as crispy as you like it.  I wanted to get the bacon to stay flat for the sandwich, so I cooked it in my Cuisinart Griddler, which has a top and bottom griddle plate similar to a panini-maker.  It worked like a charm, giving me flat but crispy bacon.  Drain the bacon on paper towels.
  3. Cut the crusts off of the bread and place the bread on a cookie sheet.  Place the cookie sheet under the broiler for a couple of minutes until it is light brown toast.  Turn and toast the other side.
  4. Assemble the sandwich.  Place a bit of mayonaise on one side of the toast and the tomato jam on the other piece of toast.  Top the mayonaise with arugula and then the bacon.  Place the other piece of toast (tomato spread side down) on the bacon toast and you have an awesome out-of-season BLT

I’ve used HeathGlen’s Heirloom Tomato Jam as the specialty spread, but you can use any good tomato jam that you can find.  Ours has a little bit of spice from our smoked jalapenos.  

Enjoy these till the real tomatoes come in!

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Strawberry Salad with Orange Chipotle Shrub Syrup

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Strawberry Melon Salad with Orange Chipotle Syrup

Strawberry Melon Salad with Orange Chipotle Syrup

Shrub syrups are not just for beverages.  I’ve been experimenting with a number of different ways to use the shrub syrups and have been really happy with some of the results.  Fresh fruit salads made with seasonal fruit are one of those things you can delight in as a side to a meal or a delightful dessert.  Adding a little shrub syrup to the fruit can enhance the flavor or the fruit in different ways and take it to a new level.

We grow organic strawberries on the farm and the season is so short here in Minnesota that I really rush to get the most out of these jewels.  Although watermelon is not available locally yet, it is such a good pairing with strawberries that I had to get some at the grocer.  I added a little feta cheese, but I think next time I would leave the cheese out and just enjoy the fresh fruit and syrup.

I tried this salad with the Strawberry Lavender Syrup, the Orange Chipotle Shrub Syrup and the Raspberry Tarragon Syrup. My favorite was the Orange Chipotle, but I do like spice in most of my dishes.  All of the syrups would work with this……..just pick your favorite flavor.  Just remember, you don’t need to add sugar to the salad when you use the syrups.

Strawberry-Melon Salad with Orange Chipotle Shrub Syrup

Strawberry-Melon Salad with Orange Chipotle Syrup

Strawberry-Melon Salad with Orange Chipotle Syrup

Ingredients:

  • fresh strawberries (I used about a 1/2 pint for 1 salad)
  • 1 small watermelon, seedless if possible
  • Orange Chipotle Shrub Syrup (or your favorite flavor)
  • Feta cheese, optional
  • fresh mint for garnish

Directions:

  1. Rinse the strawberries, take stems out, and cut in half.  Place about 1 cup halved strawberries in small bowl.
  2. Cut the watermelon in half and use a small melon ball scoop (or spoon) to extract 1 1/2 cups watermelon balls.  Add to bowl with strawberries.
  3. Drizzle orange chipotle syrup over fruit.  I used about 1/4 cup syrup, but it all depends on how sweet you want it and how sweet the fruit is to begin with.
  4. Let the fruit sit in the syrup, refrigerated, for 1/2 hour to overnight.  When ready to serve, gently stir the fruit salad, garnish with a mint sprig and enjoy.

Orange Chipotle Shrub Syrup:

Orange Chipotle Shrub Syrup

Orange Chipotle Shrub Syrup

 

You can order the Orange Chipotle Shrub Syrup (or any other syrups) from our online store.

You can also make your own syrup by juicing some oranges, adding sugar over heat until dissolved, infusing the simple syrup with a cheesecloth bag of dried chipotles for 1 hour or more.  Cool and add apple cider vinegar to taste, realizing that the vinegar will taste fairly harsh at first, until it melds with the simple syrup over time.  I usually allow mine to mellow for about a month before using.  The proportions of juice to sugar to vinegar are approximately 1/3 of each.

 

 

 

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Slider Appetizers for Slow Carb Diet

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Slider Appetizers for SCD

Slider Appetizers for SCD

Burger buns are not allowed on the Slow Carb Diet, not even mini buns for sliders.  That doesn’t mean however that you can’t enjoy great tasting sliders at your next cookout.  Liven up the little burgers with some salty, crispy bacon and some creamy avocados and you won’t miss the buns at all.

I have included a Blueberry White Pepper Dipping Sauce (a great product from Notketchup.com), but the dipping sauce is not really allowed on a strict Slow Carb Diet as it includes fruit and sugar.  I met my goal weight about a year ago and have been able to maintain it for a year on what I consider a slow carb maintenance lifestyle.

Basically I no longer include a “cheat day”, but rather practice the main principles of the lifestyle (no white food and very little sugar) on a daily basis, allowing small cheats throughout the week.  The Slow Carb Diet (4-Hour Body) gave me the knowledge base to work with for a healthy low-carb lifestyle.  I just weigh myself every day and if I start to go up by more than 2-3 pounds I go back on the more restrictive diet for a couple of weeks.  It has worked well for me.  My energy level is up and my weight has been consistently at my target weight for 2 years.  So…all this to let you know I love the dipping sauce and used it sparingly, but without guilt.

Preparing Sliders for Slow Carb Diet

Preparing Sliders for Slow Carb Diet

Recipe for the Slider Appetizers:

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. ground chuck (80% lean – 20% fat)
  • 1/2 lb bacon
  • 2 avocados
  • 15-20 cherry or grape tomatoes
  • dipping sauce

Directions:

  1. Heat grill to sear (high temp).  With hands, form 15-20 hamburger patties about 1 inch thick and 2 inches in diameter.  Let patties rest without salt and pepper while you make the bacon.
  2. Fry bacon until just crisp (not so crisp that it will shatter when you break it into squares).  Drain on paper towels.
  3. Salt and pepper the patties.  Grill the burger patties to your desired degree of doneness.  They do not take very long when they are this small.  While the burgers are cooking, slice avocados, break the bacon into 1-2 inch squares, and halve the tomatoes if using grape tomatoes.  Wait until the last minute to slice avocados so they don’t turn brown.
  4. Assemble the sliders with a long pick skewering first the tomato, then the bacon squares, then the avocados and finally the burger patties.
  5. Serve with your favorite dipping sauce (or alone).

Sliders are great with all kinds of frosty beverages on the balcony or deck.  Love something that you can eat with one hand, leaving the other hand free for conversation Italian-style.

I also have some great slider recipes, along with beer cocktails for those of you not on any kind of diet, at my drink and appetizer blog.

Find those recipes here.  

 

 

 

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