Monday, May 12, 2014

Caviar Dip with Crostini

When we last encountered Frankie (April 18, 2014), he was swimming in cash and feeling flush. His had become a tragic life of extortion - putting the muscle on potential advertisers who craved a mention in Nicole Partons Favorite Recipes

Frankies close association with bottom feeders and his deep-sea underworld connections drew him into a life of loan-sharking. Unable to comprehend (or calculate) compound interest, he almost went belly up. He tried putting his money offshore, but had trouble accessing it because - well, what part of 
“off shore did he not understand?  

Disgusted by his lifestyle, potential advertisers fell away. Frankie
 sank into a depression deeper than the Mariana Trench. Where was Charlie the Tuna when Frankie needed him? Why wouldnt McDonalds let him promote their Filet o Fish? How could Captain Highliner turn his back? 

Ignoring reality, Frankie developed a taste for caviar, which he consumed in copious quantities. He refused to believe he was all washed up. 

The mob circled, sensing blood. Even an angel fish couldnt save Frankie, now. He had only one option left - to enter the Witness Protection Program and accept a job with the Anonymous Taste Testing Panel for Nicole Partons Favorite Recipes.

Swimming away from the fancy fish tank and
 the life of luxury he’d gained by extorting potential advertisers, Frankie returned to his modest bowl. A single vice remained. Frankie vowed that whenever a caviar recipe needed testing, hed be first in line. 

When I asked if that wouldn’t be super cannibalistic and atrocious, he thanked me for the compliment.” Later, we figured out that he thought I meant Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. Oh, dear.

So that is how Frankie came to test this dip. Even if he were chomping on a distant relative, he still pronounced it a winner. 

This recipe is a simpler version of Suzy’s Caviar Pie, which I made last week. You’ll find that recipe indexed under Appetizers: Caviar

Caviar Dip with Crostini:

1/2 c. whipping cream, unsweetened 
2-to-3 tbsp. caviar
1-to-2 tbsp. finely chopped sweet onion
3 hard-cooked eggs, chopped
Melba toast, small water cracker, or plain Crostini (Recipe, below

Whip cream until softly mounded. Drain caviar, blotting dry on paper towel. Together with onion, fold into cream and spoon into a small bowl. To a second small bowl, add chopped hard-cooked eggs. Serve side-by-side with melba toast, small water crackers, or Crostini

Heap a dollop of Caviar Dip onto toast, cracker, or crostini. Spoon on a sprinkle of hard-cooked egg. Eat it all, because this dip wont keep longer than 1 day.
Plain Crostini:

1 c. olive oil 
½ tsp. garlic salt
1 narrow-diameter French baguette 

Combine olive oil and garlic salt. Raise oven rack to highest position and preheat broiler. Slice baguette into approximately 30 thin slices. Dab each side lightly with garlic-infused oil. Broil approximately 1-½ min. per side, until pale golden. 

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Nancy’s Summer Salad

My delightful friend Nancy Farran came up with this salad one or
Nancy Farran
two summers ago. She calls it a 
“summer salad,” but I think its terrific any time of the year. 

Nancy’s Summer Salad:

To Prepare the Salad:

One 18-oz. (540 mL) can of black beans, rinsed and drained
One 12 fl. oz. (341 mL) can niblet corn, drained
Cilantro, stemmed and coarsely chopped, as desired
1 red bell pepper (capsicum”), seeded and diced (see Note)
1/2-to-1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely diced (optional)
3 green onions, chopped fine

Combine all ingredients.

Note: I substituted a ripe, medium tomato for the bell pepper.

To Prepare the Dressing:

Nancy suggests you “just make a simple dressing with olive oil, good wine vinegar and a pinch of salt. You can let the flavors sit together for a few hours if you have time.

If you’re a straight-lines person who needs a recipe, my stand-by is two parts olive oil to one part wine vinegar, with a little salt to taste. Shake this up in a jar, pouring just enough over the salad ingredients to make them glisten. 

Serve it in an interesting bowl and you’re done - 10 minutes, TOPS!

Tomorrow: Frankie says two fins up for Caviar Dip with Crostini

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Lemon-Poppy Seed Muffins

To be nakedly* honest, Lemon-Poppy Seed Muffins have never been one of my faves. ’Tis true. I find them too sweet - more like a cupcake than a muffin. I say that based on years of experience haunting coffee shops and cafés all over North America. Lemon-Poppy Seed Muffins are everywhere and everyone loves ’em. Except me. 

Seeking a second batch of muffins for last week’s Fabulous Femmes Film Fest (see my Dinner Party post of May 9, 2014), I decided to pull out everyone else’s favorite, namely these. While I’ll never be a fan, I can tell you that as Lemon-Poppy Seed Muffins go, these are superb. They taste exactly like those in the big coffee chains (faint praise), so if you enjoy that sort of thing, here you go. 
I have a photo, but I don’t want to scare the horses.  

Lemon-Poppy Seed Muffins:

2 tbsp. grated lemon rind
1 tbsp. lemon extract
3 c. all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 c. poppy seeds 
1 c. margarine, softened
2 c. granulated sugar
4 eggs, room temperature
1 c. buttermilk (see Note)
Icing sugar (confectioners sugar or powdered sugar), as needed

Preheat oven to 350 deg. F. Drop paper liners into muffin pans or spray-grease lightly. In a small bowl, combine rind and extract. Set aside. Combine dry ingredients, mixing well to disperse poppy seeds. Set aside. In a large mixing bowl, combine margarine and sugar until no graininess remains when mixture is rubbed between thumb and forefinger. 

Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add dry ingredients and buttermilk alternately, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Beat in rind and extract.  Spoon into ungreased paper liners in muffin pans. Bake 25-to-30 min. or until a toothpick poked into center of muffins comes out dry. Cool in pan 10 min. before transferring muffins onto cooling rack. Serve warm or at room temperature. Dust tops with sieved icing sugar, if desired. Makes 2 doz. standard-sized muffins. 

Note: I used full-fat buttermilk in this recipe.

- From Treats to Remember, 1995, the UBC Food Group

Cock-a-doodle ... Do-o-o have seconds! That sounds cheesy.

Immediately Below: Mediterranean Chicken.

Mediterranean Chicken

I found this recipe in a magazine many years ago. Unfortunately, the source given was vague and impossible to trace. I’ve adapted the recipe to suit a dinner party for 10-to-12 people. If your party is larger, I recommend that you bake
this chicken in two separate roasting pans rather than in one large batch. Because this recipe requires 12 hours’ marination, all it needs is to be popped into the oven an hour before serving. When I recently prepared it as a late lunch, I marinated it longer to avoid getting up in the middle of the night. I was nervous about that, but it turned out perfectly. Although this recipe uses a big whack of vermouth, there’s no detectable flavor of alcohol.

Mediterranean Chicken: 

This recipe requires extra time for marination

2 c. dry vermouth
2 c. kalamata olives, pitted
2 c. dried apricots
1 c. drained capers
2 tsp. finely grated orange rind
1 c. orange juice
1/2 c. white wine vinegar
3/4 c. dried basil (Yes! This is correct!)
1/4 c. olive oil
12 garlic cloves, minced
14-to-20 boneless chicken thighs 
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
2 c. well-packed light brown sugar

In a large marination tub (see Note) or non-metallic casserole, combine vermouth, olives, apricots, capers, orange rind, orange juice, wine vinegar, basil, oil, and garlic. Add chicken thighs, opening flat and turning to expose all sides to marinade. Cover and marinate 12 hr. in refrigerator.

Preheat oven to 375 deg. F. In large roasting pan or baking dish, attractively array chicken thighs in a single layer with olives, apricots, capers, and some of the marinade juice. Season to taste. Sprinkle chicken with brown sugar. Bake, uncovered, 15 min. Cover loosely with foil, baking a further 45 min. or until chicken juices run clear. Serves 10-to-12.

Note: Tupperware sells a superb marination tub with a secure snap-top lid.

Tomorrow: Nancys Summer Salad. Which uses black beans. And corn. And peppers. Wait for it, Dollinks!

Friday, May 9, 2014

Dinner Party Series: Fabulous Femmes Film Fest

This week marked the Third Annual Fabulous Femmes Film Fest - an occasion I’ve written about before. The FFFF is an informal gathering of female friends who (a) like to eat and (b) like to watch Oscar-nominated films and (c) like to eat some more. Food and films are a winning Dinner Party combination. I hope youll try hosting an FFFF party, too. 

The first year I gave this party, I was so disorganized (Translation: blitzed) that I forgot to take photos. Too bad, because that first FFFF was lots and lots of fun. You’ll find the Second Annual FFFF posted in November, 2012. Check the Index under Dinner Party.

That second party was a potluck. The combination of flavors and foods was delicious! This year, I was in the mood to cook! As usual, one thing led to another, and things got wonderfully, happily out of hand. This year’s FFFF Dinner Party began as brunch, became lunch, and morphed into dinner, with a top-rated movie in the morning and another in the afternoon. I enjoy table-scaping, so this year’s Film Fest centered around color - and plenty of it! 

My theme used a colorful table ... Click to enlarge the images.

With glints of candlelight ...

And a rooster standing guard over our brunch muffins.

There was plenty of cutlery wrapped in paper napkins ...

As well as plenty of colorful plates ...

And plenty of food! My fridge isn’t overly large, so I often rely on an electric cooler in which to stack salads and other chilled foods. The menu? Im happy to say that most of the recipes at this party already appear on this blog. Make-aheads worked beautifully for the brunch and lunch I planned for 14 guests. There was no last-minute panic, no staying up late the night before, and no getting up at dawn. Dinner? We raided the fridge for leftovers. 

Brunch started with iced bottles of bubbly in a colorful bucket.

Be sure you have (or can borrow) plenty of freshly
washed glasses - no dusty ones, please!

“fun champagne bucket always comes in handy!

I like to prepare one or two “show stoppers” while keeping most other dishes ultra-easy. Serving Suzy’s Caviar Pie wowed everyone at brunch! Put that name into the search engine at the top left of this blog to find this April, 2011 recipe. 

Suzy’s Caviar Pie: Tastes as good as it looks!

We enjoyed tomato and orange juices, Blender Date-and-Orange Muffins (posted in April, 2011), and Lemon-Poppy Seed Muffins, which I’ll be posting tomorrow. These muffins would make a great breakfast or brunch for an occasion such as Mother’s Day.

Lunch was a scrumptious, make-ahead Mediterranean Chicken: I’ll post that recipe tomorrow, too. 

Rosalie’s Caesar Salad (foreground), Mediterranean Chicken (behind)

I served Rosalie’s Caesar Salad made with Nicole’s Special Croutons (both posted in March, 2012), Avocado Jellied Salad (posted June, 2011), and Marinated Carrot Salad (with one version posted July, 2011 and another posted September, 2013).

Marinated Carrot Salad (Version 1)

I also served Nancy’s Summer Salad (recipe to follow Monday), and a delicious Potato Salad from Costco. You dont have to make it all! And I didn’t. The hit of the evening was a Blackberry Pie Ron made from scratch.

Nancys Summer Salad and Costco’s Potato Salad

I previously blogged the recipe for this great pie in August, 2011. You’ll find it in the date Index, or under Pies: Fruit (Kenneth’s Slam-Bam-Thank-You-Maam Blackberry Pie).

Ron rolled out the crust ...

Added the blackberries we froze last summer ...

And out popped a pie! 

Ron vanished before my guests arrived, but of everything I served, the guests liked my Potato Salad and my Blackberry Pie best! When it was all over, Ron and I put our feet up to relax with ... 

Can you see it? Can you see it?

But of course! A dry martini! PS: Posted as 
The Perfect Loutini (Feb. 19, 2012)

Tomorrow: Lemon-Poppyseed Muffins and that delectable make-ahead Mediterranean Chicken. Two for the price of one, Dollinks!