Category Archives: Appetizers

Amuse Bouche. Crispy Bite of Sage with a Soft Stewed Apple and Spicy Sausage. Perfection!

The concept of an amuse bouche is so fabulous, isn’t it? An appetizer before my appetizer? A perfect bite of deliciousness that keeps me wanting more? I’m in. 

I haven’t had an amazing amuse bouche in recent memory; in fact, I think the last note-worthy one I had was at Nougatine in NYC: it was a watermelon-jalapeno gazpacho if memory serves me correctly. The whole meal was amazing, but a great amuse bouche really sets the stage and gets you excited for the remaining courses. So obviously I had to try my hand at one. I was watching my girl-crush Laura Calder on food network Canada, and she has a very similar appetizer recipe served with toothpicks. 

Forgive me for the repetitious ingredients lately: I’ll be more exciting once these wintery/holiday ingredients are used up. Bear in mind too that this could be made in larger size for a side or regular appetizer, maybe served on some celeriac puree?

Start with your apples. Dice.

Get some hot sausage going in your pan (medium/high should work). I removed the casings and tore the sausage into very small bite-sized pieces, but feel free to slice it too. Make sure they get nice and browned on all sides.

Once they’re browned adequately remove them and set aside. Put your diced apples into the same pan; add a pat of butter if you think it’s necessary.

Splash of wine to deglaze the pan and lift all those yummy brown bits

Bit of cinnamon

Bit of sugar

Now let the apples soften until they lose some of their crispness, but still have a nice bite. Then remove and set aside. Make sure to scrape all that delicious sugary sauce out and onto the apples. 

Now for the sage

Heat olive oil in the same pan on medium. Throw a tiny piece of bread etc into the pan, and if it sizzles, it’s ready for the sage. Tear off individual leaves of sage and pop them in. They only need a few seconds per side to get crisp, then remove and place on a paper towel. I sprinkled just a touch of salt on the sage leaves before plating.

Now assemble. Even better if you have those large, wide-mouthed appetizer spoons to put this on. Place 1-2 pieces of sausage, 1-2 pieces of apple, and a crispy fried sage leaf on each serving. Make sure to drizzle with any butter/sugar sauce left in the apples.

12 Comments

Filed under Appetizers, Holidays

Adventures in Montreal for the Holidays

“Home” for me right now is kind of undetermined, but for the holidays, home = Montreal. Which is okay by me because it’s beautiful. I went exploring today with a friend, largely in search of more wine and food that neither of us needed. 

We started out grabbing bagels at a well known boulangerie. 

Look at all the flour in the front!

It’s a Sunday, which means they make bagels in mass quantity and the traffic doesn’t stop all day.

When I came here for Thanksgiving, it was the middle of a Tuesday with no other customers in sight. They literally placed the dough in the fire right in front of me, and handed me these steaming hot Montreal bagels that were so good they melted in my mouth. I think I managed to eat two before I walked halfway down the block.

We picked up a few all dressed, and a few apple cinnamon for good measure. Then we headed off to the Atwater market. Look at these staircases on all of the apartments/houses. Don’t they just give you anxiety? I can only imagine how slippy these get in the dead of a Quebec winter. Gorgeous, nonetheless. 

I adore the markets in Montreal. There is absolutely nothing like going to a bustling, energetic market where you can get the freshest ingredients from people who truly care about food. Heres are some of the goodies we saw:

Chocolate croissants. Just about the last thing I need right now; but they looked goooood.

Look at the cute ladybugs on these. *Such a girl*

Bread. Of course. What could be better?

Unless of course we’re talking about cheese. Close tie. We picked up some dauphin here; a double cream cheese similar in texture to brie. And it. Was. Fabulous.

Very festive.

Now for the gorgeous selection of fruits and veggies. I’m about to bombard you with the pictures we took there; but look how beautiful they are.

How amazing are these berries? I couldn’t stop with the pictures.

Here was when my physics nerd friend pointed at this guy and yelled “LOOK! A VEGETABLE THAT IS A FRACTAL!”

We bought some of the berries, and headed back to the boulangerie to grab a baguette for lunch.

 

Back home for a simple, but unbeatable lunch of cheese, fruit, and baguette. Could life be any better? Happy Holidays 🙂

4 Comments

Filed under Appetizers, Breakfast, Just Me, Main Meals, Montreal

Creamy Roasted Tomato Soup

I started running when I was about 14, and I never really stopped. Usually I use the time to work through problems, pretend the pavement is the face of someone I dislike, or rationalize the 14 cookies I ate earlier in the day. Then December rolls around, and the only thing that can get my ass moving in the cold is a) keeping warm while outdoors and b) running home to something delicious on the stove. This roasted tomato soup definitely measures up. My only regret here is that it didn’t get a gorgeous deep red color, but I assure you it still tasted fantastic. Roasting the tomatoes is a great idea in the winter months when tomatoes aren’t as fresh; it helps bring out that sweet, acidic flavor.

Start with an assortment of tomatoes.

How pretty are those? Ok. Onions.

Garlic! Obviously. I always panic when I only have 3 bulbs of garlic left in my pantry and immediately stock up Y2K style. God forbid if one of my meals didn’t include at least 2 cloves.

Chop your tomatoes, removing the yucky core.

Slice your onions, but don’t get fancy; we’re pureeing it. 

Separate some cloves from the bulb, but don’t remove the skins. I do this because I’m very paranoid about burning my garlic in the oven; when we remove the veggies you’ll be able to just squeeze the garlic right out of the skin. It’ll be roasted, sweet, and delish.

Now, put all three into a baking tray (or two). Here are mine; on death row.

Drizzle olive oil over everybody, making sure everything is coated. Season with salt and pepper. Toss.

Oven time! When they’re done, pop them into a medium to large sized saucepan. I know I know, it isn’t the prettiest. Be patient.

Time to grab some good quality chicken stock (or homemade, if you’re extra awesome.) I am lacking in awesomeness lately and therefore used the boxed variety; however I think using organic and low sodium redeems me a little.

In he goes! ACTION SHOT.

Then I added in some white wine for no other reason than: how can anything taste worse with wine in it? Answer: it can’t.

Couple of bay leaves. Look how rustic they look. I love them.

And a bit of butter.

Let that simmer for a while to let the ingredients become friends. Then, when it’s ready to be pureed, remember to take your bay leaves out first!

Pureeing time! Weeeeee


At this point I had to taste and adjust a lot. I added in sugar, salt, and more pepper. If you find your soup is a tad acidic, the sugar helps combat that. Just keep tasting and try to get another opinion if you can. 

Perfect. Ready for my mouth. Put it in a bowl first, though, if you want to keep it classy. There’s a bit of fresh basil in there and a drizzle of heavy cream. But the best part? Dunking the baguette in it.

Recipe courtesy of Tyler Florence. Thanks handsome.

1 Comment

Filed under Appetizers, Main Meals, Sides

Puff Pastry Round 2: With Chevre and Spiced Pears

Whew. Holidays + exams = stress. I combat this by eating my feelings. It works out well for me; not so well for my wardrobe. I suspect you’ll find me posting some “lighter” options in the next upcoming weeks 😛

Have I mentioned how much I love puff pastry? This stuff is magical. I have never attempted to make it homemade, however, after being assured by many professional chefs that it is quite a project. Plus, there are so many wonderful frozen options it seems like an unnecessary one. This particular puff pastry is the best I’ve come across, and I wish I could post the name but I can’t recall it and additionally the package isn’t in english. I first ate it at a close friends’ house and his Mum graciously sent me home with a few packages for me to try out. And now I’m addicted. 

The beauty of this puff pastry appetizer is that it’s just sweet enough to be a very simple, rustic dessert too. I wouldn’t turn it down for breakfast either, but that’s just me.

Here it is! Make sure it’s completely defrosted before you get started. I am the least patient human on earth; but it doesn’t work out well for anyone 😛 Roll it out as thinly as possible; you’ll probably have to keep flouring up your board and rolling pin.

Grab yourself a yummy pear (or more, if you’re cooking for many people!) and dice him up. Oh; and if you have wine, please drink it. It’s the lesser known advantage of cooking; you’re supposed to always have wine in your hand. 

Heat a pan over medium low, and get a hunk of butter going in there.

Everybody in! (ok just the pears)

Now for a couple grinds of nutmeg

Bit of cinnamon:

Andddd a bit of brown sugar!

Let those guys hang out until they soften (but aren’t mushy)

When they’re good to go, set aside and let them cool a bit. Grab some chevre. In this case it’s better to go with an unflavored variety.

Take a little bit and place in the middle of your section of puff pastry. Remember; make whatever shape you want!

Hm. That guy above needs a tad more chevre. Let’s add more. Sprinkle him with a bit of salt and pepper. Just a pinch of both. Then add on your pears.

Now, beat one egg in a small bowl, and brush the edges with egg wash. Then, make him into your desired shape!

I demonstrated it a bit better here

Ok! Now bake him at 375 for about 20 minutes (but keep an eye on it; when the top is pretty and browned it’s good to go)

Let’s check out the goods

Oooo look how flaky this is. It was delish. And this is how mauled it looked after I got into it. So much for picture perfect presentation 😛

Puff Pastry with Spiced Pears and Chevre

  • puff pastry, thawed
  • pears; the firmer the better. In this case it’s ideal to buy slightly under ripe fruit so it doesn’t get mushy as it cooks
  • butter
  • nutmeg
  • cinnamon
  • brown sugar
  • chevre
  • 1 egg
  1. Roll our your thawed puff pastry on a cutting board or flat surface. Use flour to make sure it doesn’t stick, as needed.
  2. Dice up your pear(s)..the amount depends on how many you’re cooking for.
  3. Heat a pan over medium-low, and add in a knob of butter. Add in your diced pears.
  4. Add a couple grinds of nutmeg (or a pinch of the ground variety), a few pinches of cinnamon, and about a 1 and 1/2 teaspoon of brown sugar. Bear in mind, this was for one pear. Just adjust as needed and please taste as you go. You want it to be slightly sweet and noticeably spiced to contrast the chevre.
  5. Let the pears cook until slightly softened but still maintaining their shape, set aside.
  6. Add in about a teaspoon of chevre to the centre of your puff pastry shape, and season it with salt and pepper. Put on another teaspoon or more of the pears (make sure to drizzle  a little of the butter yumminess over it all)
  7. Beat one egg in a small bowl and brush the edges of the pastry with a pastry brush, then seal them to close. Brush the outside with the egg wash to make sure the top gets pretty and brown.
  8. Bake it off at 375 for about 20 minutes, but this varies depending on your chosen shape and your oven. Keep checking on the browness. I baked it on parchment paper but you could just grease a cookie sheet or use a silicone based sheet. 

Leave a comment

Filed under Appetizers, Dessert, Holidays

Easy Holiday Appetizers: Cheddar, Apple and Pancetta Wrapped in Puff Pastry

These are very yummy, and extremely easy. There’s nothing like the combo of spiced apples and pork with the addition of a sharp bite of cheddar. Mmm.

Start with some pancetta. Look how beautiful it is! Such pretty colors. Now, bacon would work just as well in this appetizer, but I preferred to use pancetta here because it isn’t smoked. I find that while bacon is damn good, the smoky flavor can compete a little too much with other flavors from time to time. 

Now, dice up the pancetta and put it in a pan over medium. I put in a tsp or so of olive oil to prevent sticking. Pancetta is lower in fat content than bacon so I like to be cautious.

Let those guys get nice and brown, and then remove and set aside.

Now, dice up a pretty granny smith apple. I like granny smith for this because of the tart bite.

Now, put a knob of butter into the pan you used to brown the pancetta. Don’t scrape out the brown bits! They’ll add to the yumminess in the end.

Add in your apple

Ok, now add in a bit of cinnamon and brown sugar. I didn’t measure; I just use the palm of my hand. Here’s the cinnamon:

Annndd the brown sugar!

Now let those guys saute up for about 5 minutes or so: you want them to still have a bit of a bite, not to turn into applesauce. Keep trying them and adjust the seasoning if you think it’s necessary.

Grab yourself some great quality cheddar. Here’s mine; but it’s a matter of taste.

Add a few slices to your rolled out puff pastry

Now add on your sauteed spiced apples. Not too much! Remember they have to close.

Now for your pancetta

Perfect! Now just beat up one egg in a small bowl, grab yourself a pastry brush, and brush all around the edges with the egg wash. This’ll help the ends stick together.

I chose to make these really rustic and adorable looking, however, there’s no reason at all why you can’t make yours look far more professional. There are tons of shapes to make! Use your imagination

Now, into the oven with him! 375 for about 20 minutes or until he’s a gorgeous golden brown

NOM

……I think I’ll have to make these again very shortly.

Puff Pastry with Pancetta, Spiced Apples, and Cheddar

  • puff pastry (a brand of your choice)
  • 1-2 granny smith apples (depending on the number of mouths you’re feeding!)
  • 6-8 slices of pancetta
  • great quality cheddar, medium or old
  • cinnamon
  • brown sugar
  • butter
  • olive oil
  • egg
  1. Slice your pancetta into bite size pieces, and saute them over medium heat with a tsp of olive oil until brown. Remove, set aside
  2. Dice your granny smith apple(s) into bite size pieces. Add a knob of butter to the same pan used for pancetta and add in the apples.
  3. Season the apples with about a tsp of cinnamon and a tsp of brown sugar (or more/less to your taste). Let them saute until softened but they still have a bite. (Taste for doneness around 5-6 minutes)
  4. Roll out your puff pastry. Cut into desired shapes
  5. Add a couple small slices of cheddar to each puff pastry portion. Top with a spoonful of apples, and a few pieces of the pancetta. 
  6. Beat one egg in a small bowl, and using a pastry brush just brush the sides of the pastry to act as a glue. 
  7. Seal up your pastries, and bake at 375 for about 20 minutes or until golden brown. I put them on parchment paper, but you can grease a baking sheet or use a silicone baking sheet.

3 Comments

Filed under Appetizers, Holidays

Sweet Potato Fries

Yay! Sweet potatoes!

Super healthy, super filling. You can’t go wrong. Let’s get started before I begin rambling.

Ok so, I began with 4 HUGE organic sweet potatoes. Yeah… that was way too much. I figured that my man-friend and I would easily eat two potatoes each as our main meal, and boy; was I wrong. 

Learn from my mistakes, please.

Ok, so you’re going to want to slice your potatoes into matchstick sizes. The thing about thick sweet potato fries is: they can tend to be pretty soggy. The thinner, the better in terms of crispness. However, don’t go into it thinking that they will have the same consistency of a regular potato fry; they won’t. They are delicious though.

Ok, so once you have your potatoes in fry-like shapes, toss them into a bowl with a few tablespoons of olive oil, or just enough to coat each piece. 

Ok; now here is where your own personal tastes come in. I really like savory spices with sweet potatoes, however I know cinnamon/sugar are popular flavors too. I decided to go with a ton of cajun seasoning this time, with a dash of onion powder (and I probably would have used garlic powder had I remembered). Whatever you choose, use a heavy hand. Especially with the salt. Just think about what flavors *you* like. Oregano? Steak spice? Jerk seasoning? Be creative!

Ok, now; place them on a baking tray without touching one another. This will help them get crispy. Because of my paranoia about things sticking, I lightly oiled the baking tray with olive oil. It was probably unnecessary, but hey: it helps ease my insanity. I baked them off at about 425 for 12-14 minutes on the first side, and then juustttt until they started looking browned on the other side (another 5-7 minutes or so). However, this is very dependent on your oven, so please check on them (or do a mini batch for test purposes!)

Ok: now for a dip! So to keep this relatively healthy I opted to use a yogurt base for my dip. That said, there is nothing wrong with using sour cream, mayo, or some combination thereof. Use what you have on hand or what your own tastes dictate. Here’s my yogurt, hanging out:

Now I added in the zest and juice of one lime

Now I added in one clove of garlic. To avoid having large hunks of raw garlic in there, I first diced it finely, then I sprinkled some salt on it and smeared it against the side of my knife to create a sort of paste. 

By the way, I have never missed my own knife so much. I made this meal away from home, with a friend. From now on I’m just going to carry around my own knife in my purse.

God look at it. Look at the knife, mocking me.

Ok, jalapeno time! Cut him in half, and then scoop out the seeds. (You can totally leave them in if you’re down with extreme spice)

Now dice him up!

Now, you’re going to need to add a bit of salt here. How much is entirely up to your taste. I recommend sticking a fork into it, tasting it, and then adding accordingly. (Bear in mind always, when it’s a dip it needs to taste a little stronger than you would like it if you were, say, eating it with a spoon. Because you’re using potatoes as a vehicle it has to be strongly flavored)

This was about the time that I screamed profanities at that (@*#*&%$)@#*$ knife and made my man-friend take over on the second round of fry cutting. And then I laughed when I compared the size of his hands with mine. Look. 

Like sausages, no?

All done!

🙂

Sweet Potato Fries

  • sweet potatoes (I used organic; buy as many as you need)
  • olive oil
  • cajun seasoning
  • onion powder
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  1. Slice your potatoes into matchstick style fries
  2. Coat them with olive oil;  the amount will depend on the number of fries. Start off with about two tablespoons, and if they appear dry add in another.
  3. Add in your seasoning. Again, this depends on the number of fries. I added in enough cajun seasoning that each fry had a liberal amount on it, and about 1.5-2 teaspoons of onion powder. Then I added in salt and pepper to my taste, which happens to be a lot. For me, this was around 2 teaspoons of each, but please follow your own palate
  4. Arrange them on a baking sheet without touching one another
  5. Bake at 425 and check them at 11-12 minutes to see how brown they are on one side. If they look nice and browned, flip them all and toss them back in. If not, just let them hang out but check frequently (they burn quickly!!) Once flipped, check after 5 minutes for doneness. Again, if they aren’t done just keep checking at 2 minute intervals. 

Turn out onto a serving plate, and eat up immediately! They are definitely better when hot.

Jalapeno Lime Dipping Sauce

  • Greek style yogurt, mine was 6% M.F. Use as much as you’ll need, according to the number of mouths to feed!
  • one lime
  • one jalapeno
  • one clove garlic
  • salt
  1. Put your yogurt (or if you want; mayo/sour cream) into a pretty serving bowl
  2. Zest your lime and add it in, then squeeze the juice into the yogurt
  3. Cut your jalapeno in half, then seed it and dice it. Add it in.
  4. Dice your garlic clove, then sprinkle on a pinch of salt. Smear the garlic with the side of your knife against your cutting board until it resembles a paste. Add it in.
  5. Now, taste your dip. Does it need salt? It probably will so add in a pinch at a time until it reaches your desired saltiness 

6 Comments

Filed under Appetizers, Main Meals, Sides

Pre-gaming. Appetizer: sauteed mushrooms with thyme, white wine, and balsamic.

Another typical Friday night prior to drinks: and somebody informs me he can’t possibly survive the next two hours without an appetizer 😉

Luckily, I’m the best hostess ever.

But seriously; I need to stop hanging out with people literally twice the size of me. A different species, I’m telling you.

Begin with a variety of mushrooms of your choice! I had some ‘bellos here, and regular old white mushrooms.

2DP_4688

I popped them into a saute pan with a bit of butter and olive oil. The combination of both prevents the butter from burning, but gives that unmistakable delicious taste you can’t achieve without it 😉

2DP_4701

2DP_4716

When the mushrooms are looking nice and brown, I season to taste with sea salt and fresh ground black pepper.

2DP_4720

I added in a sprig of fresh thyme here; see how I’m stripping it in a downwards motion? That way you leave behind the chewy stalk, but release all the flavorful ‘leaves.’ (are they called leaves? Someone correct me please?)

At this point, I added in a splash of white wine to deglaze all that yumminess from the bottom of the pan. I tasted, adjusted the seasoning (food almost always needs a touch more salt than anticipated). And then, a splash of balsamic vinegar. Go easy with the vinegar; you want that unmistakable bite that it gives, but too much and it becomes very sour.

Plate it up!

2DP_4723

Now, this requires a little bit of creaminess to offset the acidity. I happen to adore camembert, and had it on hand, so that’s what I went with. However, chevre would be a *fantastic* choice too. 

2DP_47252DP_4726

Mmmm. It was deemed good by my rhino man-friend, and that’s good enough for me 😉

And now for the pre-gaming part.

God. I always feel like beer looks deceivingly refreshing. Yum. 

2DP_4778

Sauteed Mushrooms with Wine and Balsamic Vinegar

  • assortment of mushrooms. I used three portobello mushrooms, and a package of white mushrooms 
  • sprig or two of thyme
  • olive oil
  • butter
  • balsamic vinegar
  • white wine (whatever you have on hand – I used pinot grigio)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. slice your mushrooms
  2. heat a couple tablespoons of olive oil and a tablespoon of butter in a skillet
  3. saute your mushrooms until they achieve a beautiful golden brown color
  4. add salt and pepper to taste. Add in a sprig of thyme
  5. add a splash of white wine to deglaze plan and scrape up the brown bits to incorporate  them into the sauce. Give it 30 seconds or so for the alcohol to evaporate, and then add in a splash of balsamic. Take it off the heat. TASTE! ADJUST!
  6. serve with a baguette and your cheese of choice. I personally love camembert but chevre would be incredible. 

Look how HAPPY my wine glass is that I’m drinking him. Look. Who needs wine charms when you have red lipstick?

2DP_4756

Leave a comment

Filed under Appetizers