WATERMELON, TOMATO AND BURRATA CHEESE

When I think of summer, watermelon and tomatoes immediately come to mind. They are two of my favorite seasonal foods and they compliment each other nicely in this appetizer with creamy and decadent burrata cheese. The outer layer of this cheese is fresh mozzarella, and when you slice it in half you will discover a luscious, creamy center made of mozzarella soaked in cream. It is the perfect cheese to pair with this summertime appetizer. This is a great last-minute dish for entertaining guests or taking to a potluck. Cheers to fresh and easy dishes and enjoying the final days of summer!

Ingredients:
burrata cheese
½ seedless watermelon, sliced
2 tomatoes, sliced
¼ teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon balsamic glaze

Directions:

  1. Place burrata on a large serving platter, layering slices of watermelon and tomatoes around the cheese.
  2. Sprinkle with salt and drizzle with balsamic glaze. Serve immediately.

Loaded Salmon Mashed Potatoes

Enjoy the flavors of a stuffed baked potato with this dish, but with the velvety smoothness of mashed potatoes. These creamy spuds are topped with baked salmon, farm-fresh kale and crunchy bacon.

This meal has a beautiful plate presentation, perfect for entertaining. Turn it into an elegant appetizer by serving smaller portions in martini glasses. You could even make a mashed potato bar and let guests select from these topping and others, like pulled pork, roasted broccoli and smoked gouda.

Ingredients:
1 pound salmon filet, cut into 4 pieces
1 teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon salt, divided
½ teaspoon ground white pepper, divided
1 lemon
4 medium potatoes
1 tablespoon butter
¼ cup skim or low-fat milk
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large bunch kale
4 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Season salmon with oregano, ⅛ teaspoon salt and pepper and place in a baking dish. Zest and juice lemon, drizzling both evenly on top of salmon. Cook for 15 to 20 minutes, until salmon is cooked through.
  2. Leaving the skin on the potatoes, scrub well and cut into 2-inch pieces. Add potatoes in a large pot and add enough water to cover. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook for about 20 minutes, until fork tender.
  3. Drain potatoes and return to the pot. Add butter, milk, ¼ teaspoon salt and pepper and mash to combine. With a hand mixer, blend until velvety smooth.
  4. Remove stems from kale and roughly chop. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat, add kale and 2 tablespoons water. Sauté for 4 to 5, until wilted. Season with ⅛ teaspoon salt and pepper.
  5. Scoop the mashed potatoes onto four plates and top each with equal amounts of sautéed kale. Remove skin from salmon and add a slice on top of potatoes and kale. Sprinkle bacon crumbles and serve.

Servings: 4

Cucumber and Tuna Salad Bites

This is my go-to, refreshing appetizer or patio lunch on a hot afternoon or evening. If you keep your pantry and fridge stocked with tuna, olive tapenade and yogurt, you can whip up a quick batch of these whenever you have fresh cucumbers in your CSA or growing in your garden. I have enjoyed many delicious cucumbers from Sustainable Harvest Farm in my weekly produce share this summer and this has been one of my favorite ways to enjoy them.

Ingredients:
1 (4 ounce) can solid white, no salt-added, Albacore tuna in water
2 tablespoons plain non-fat Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons olive tapenade
¼ teaspoon salt
1 large cucumbers, sliced

Directions:

  1. Drain tuna and flake with a fork in a medium bowl.
  2. Add yogurt, mayonnaise, olive tapenade and salt. Stir to evenly combine.
  3. Use a small ice cream scoop or spoon to add dollops of tuna salad on each slice of cucumber.

Strawberry and Brie Toast

Spring is a wonderful time of year when flowers and trees are in bloom, grass is lush and green, and strawberries are in season. This appetizer features one of my favorite fruits in a savory fashion, using olive oil and red wine vinegar to compliment the sweet berries. This is one of my favorite appetizers, and I like to pair it with a rose and enjoy outdoors on the patio.

Ingredients:
½ whole grain baguette, cut into ¼ inch slices
6 ounces brie
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 cups sliced strawberries
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Top baguette slices with equal amounts of brie. Toast for five minutes, or until cheese is melted.
  2. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Sauté strawberries for 2 to 3 minutes, or until warmed through. Remove from heat and drizzle berries with red wine vinegar.
  3. Top baguette slices with strawberries and serve.

Charcuterie Board

It is impossible for me to indulge in a charcuterie board without reminiscing of wine country vacations with picnic lunches overlooking vineyards. If social distancing has you feeling bored at home and day dreaming about traveling, try creating a vacation-like experience at home with a decorative meat and cheese board and your favorite bottle of vino. 

Last month we spent a wonderful weekend with friends and enjoyed this beautiful and delicious board. This work of art was created by @Noel_Zoeller, also known as the Charcuterie Board Master. Noel shared his framework for achieving variety and balance, so follow his rule of threes and see where your creativity takes you.

Charcuterie Board Framework

  • 3 cheeses
  • 3 meats
  • 3 nuts
  • 3 vegetables
  • 3 fruits
  • 3 crackers or breads

Noel also recommends placing your cheeses on the board first and then building around them, placing complimentary items together. He says fresh herbs are perfect for decoration and elevating your board to the next level.

Cheers to experimenting with charcuterie boards and making the most of your time at home while keeping your family and community safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sweet Piquante Pepper Cheese Spread

This spread is a unique take on pimento and cheese made with piquante peppers, which give it a sweet heat kick. These cherry tomato shaped peppers are often labeled under the brand name Peppadew® and are commonly found in the olive bar section of grocery stores. A friend introduced me to the combination of cheese and sweet piquante peppers a few years ago, and I have been in love with this pairing since my first bite. Whole sweet piquante peppers make a lovely addition to cheese boards and compliment a wide variety of cheeses.

If you’re watching the big game this weekend, this is a great appetizer to serve along with your favorite beer.

Ingredients:
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
1½ cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
¾ cup mild whole sweet piquante peppers, chopped
¼ cup mayonnaise with olive oil
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
Celery sticks or crackers for serving

Directions:

  1. Place the yogurt in a food processor. Add cheese, peppers, mayonnaise and garlic powder, and pulse until the cheese spread is well combined.
  2. Chill for at least an hour or overnight. Serve with celery sticks or crackers.

Beet Bites with Goat Cheese and Pecans

Beets, with their ruby-red-jewel tone, make a colorful plate presentation during the grey winter season. You can cut back on the recipe time by roasting the beets the night before and assembling right before you are ready to enjoy. Leftovers are delicious served for lunch over leafy greens with balsamic vinaigrette.

Ingredients:
1 bunch beets, trimmed and scrubbed
1 cup water
4 to 5 ounces goat cheese
½ cup pecan halves, toasted
2 tablespoons balsamic glaze
2 tablespoons honey

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Wrap each beet in aluminum foil. Place on a baking sheet and roast for about 60 minutes. Remove from oven and refrigerate for at least an hour.
  2. Unwrap and remove the skin from the beets with a small knife. You may want to wear gloves for this step as the beets will stain your hands pink. If not, the beet juice will wash off with soap and water. Slice the beets and arrange on a serving platter.
  3. Heat 1 cup of water in the microwave or run hot tap water. With a clean knife, thinly slice goat cheese. Dip knife in water as needed between slicing to create smooth cuts. Place cheese on beet slices and top with pecans.
  4. Drizzle with balsamic glaze and honey. Serve immediately.

Mushroom and Goat Cheese Toast

If you know a local mushroom farmer or grow your own mushrooms, you are so lucky and I am a little jealous. I created this recipe when I had access to weekly fresh mushrooms at a Farmers’ Market when we lived in Wisconsin. Most Saturdays I would make this recipe as soon as I got home from the market and serve it with a fried egg for breakfast or side salad for lunch. I couldn’t wait to eat these mushrooms and this simple and quick dish made it possible to get them on my plate in about 15 minutes. The recipe quantities below make this a great appetizer for a small group, but just trim the amount back if you want to enjoy this as a meal for one or two.

Ingredients:
14 inch baguette
8 ounces shiitake mushrooms
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons fresh thyme, finely chopped
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
4 ounces goat cheese

Directions:

  1. Turn oven broil setting to low heat. Slice bread into about 16 pieces and place on a baking sheet. Set aside while preparing mushrooms.
  2. Remove stems from the mushrooms and gently wash the tops before thinly slicing. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and sauté for about four minutes. Add 2 tablespoons of water and continue cooking for another 4 to 6 minutes, until tender and golden brown. Add thyme, salt and pepper to the mushrooms and stir to evenly coat.
  3. Broil baguette slides on each side for 1 to 2 minutes. Top with equal amounts of mushrooms and goat cheese and continue broiling for another 2 minutes until cheese is warm. Serve immediately.

Servings: 8 (2 slices as appetizer)

 

Black Bean Hummus

Looking for a healthy appetizer you can quickly throw together? Whip up a batch of my Black Bean Hummus in less than five minutes. Keep canned beans in your pantry and garlic and lemon in the fridge to make this a go-to dish when you want a delicious homemade snack. It is so easy to make and tastes much better than the store-bought variety. Serve it with carrot sticks, tortilla chips or whatever you like to dip. Make it a meal by spreading hummus in a wrap or on a slice of bread topped with your favorite roasted vegetables.

Ingredients:
1 (15 ounce) can no salt added black beans
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon cumin
¼ teaspoon salt
⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper

Directions:

  1. Rinse and drain beans.
  2. Fit a food processor with the steel blade. Add all ingredients in the food processor and pulse until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and serve.

Servings: 4

Barbecue Pork Nachos

Barbecue nachos are a game day favorite in my hometown of Memphis, Tenn., and they are about as popular as Elvis around my old stomping grounds. For my take on this southern classic, I recommend a tangy and slightly sweet sauce. I keep my pantry well stocked with my favorite barbecue sauces so I am ready for the Football World Series or any good sports event throughout the year. My Slow Cooker Drunken Pork recipe is great for this dish. Making the pork the day before turns this into an 8-minute recipe you can whip up during halftime, if you are willing to miss a few commercials. Cheers to enjoying these nachos with good friends and a frosty beverage as you watch the Battle of the Pigskin.

Ingredients:
4 ounces tortilla chips (about 56 chips)
2 cups pulled pork
½ cup barbecue sauce, divided
½ cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 extra small red onion, cut in half and thinly sliced
1 jalapeño, seeded and sliced
1 ripe avocado, pitted, peeled and diced

Directions:

  1. Preheat broiler to high. Line one half-sheet baking pan with parchment paper or use a non-stick baking pan.
  2. Arrange tortilla chips across the pan and top with pork. Drizzle half of the barbecue sauce over the pork and chips and top with cheddar cheese, onion slices and jalapeño slices. Drizzle the remaining sauce on top of the nachos.
  3. Broil until heated through and cheese is melted, 5 to 6 minutes. Top with avocado and serve.

Servings: 4