Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Crostini with Fennel and Sausage

This is a gussied-up version of a family favorite appetizer. The original is a gooey delicious mess of Velveeta and breakfast sausage toasted on rye cocktail bread. This makes things a little more refined with Italian sausage, fontina and fennel seed. It's wonderfully wine-friendly--the recipe came from Andrea Immer Robinson to accompany one of her A-list wines. It would be a great first course or addition to your cocktail buffet.

Serves 6.

½ lb Italian sausage, casings removed
5 oz grated fontina cheese
1 t fennel seed, coarsely ground
2 T chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
¾ t salt
12 slices rustic, coarse-textured bread, cut into 2- to 3-inch serving pieces

Preheat oven to 350ยบ F.

Crumble the sausage and saute until almost done. (It will cook the rest of the way in the oven.)

Allow to cool slightly. Add the cheese, fennel seed, parsley, and ¾ t salt.

Spread onto the bread, distributing evenly. Place in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake in the oven until golden and crispy, 15 minutes.

Food/Wine Pairing: This would be good with most hearty reds, but Andrea shipped a great California blend to pair with the crostini. The Napa Valley Paraduxx Red Blend includes Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. It's ripe and rich with vanilla notes from its oak aging. Personally, I found it surprisingly sweet on first tasting, but the crostini helped mellow it and drew out its spicier side. I have no idea as to its availability at retailers, but it would be worth looking for. (I'm guessing it would be good with a burger or barbecue also.)

Monday, August 25, 2008

Cocktail of the Week: Le Bourget

While in the liqueur aisle last week, searching for Amaretto and Tuaca (staples of our bar), I ran across St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur. I'd seen it written about over the last couple of years and had ripped out several recipes for my files, so I went ahead and put it in my cart.

Then, of course, I couldn't find the recipe I thought I had for it. But Google saved the day. What to do with the nectar created from the elderflower blossoms picked by Frenchmen and distilled into the beautiful Art Deco bottle? How about this? A gin-based cocktail that is as herbal and floral as the best summer garden...and as Parisian as the French suburb that shares its name.

Le Bourget
2 ounces gin
1/2 ounce St. Germain elderflower liqueur
1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice

Shake all ingredients well with ice and strain into a cocktail glass.


Saturday, August 23, 2008

Clams in Tomato Basil Broth

This recipe is just a twist on other recipes I've posted here before. Like this one. But it uses clams rather than mussels. Either way, it's delicious. (Healthy and simple too.) I found myself making a mess and eating it with my hands, slurping the clams out of their shells like oysters. And then sopping the broth up with ciabatta bread. As a matter of fact, the broth was so delicious that I saved the leftovers...should make a perfect poaching liquid for a halibut fillet or some shrimp.

Clams in Tomato Basil Broth
From Cooking Light magazine.
Serves four.

4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup finely chopped onion (1 small)
3 cups coarsely chopped tomato (2 large)
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup clam juice
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper (Note: This provides plenty of heat...don't be tempted to add more.)
4 dozen littleneck clams (about 2 1/4 pounds)
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

Prepare garlic; let stand 10 minutes.

Heat olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion to pan, and cook 3 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Add garlic to pan, and cook 1 minute, stirring constantly.

Add tomato, wine, juice, and pepper to pan; bring to a boil. Add clams; cover and cook 8 minutes or until clams open. Discard any unopened shells. Stir in basil.

Food/Wine Pairing (and Cook's Note/Confession): I love rosé wines during the summer. So I decided to go all out and open a bottle of sparkling rosé (the Spanish Segura Viudas Brut Rosé) to go with these clams. Rather than open another bottle to cook the clams, I used it in the recipe. It was delicious.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Basil Mo-Tea-To

OK...I didn't name this cocktail recipe. It came from a recipe booklet sponsored by Lipton Tea that I was given recently. But despite its overly cute name, it's a delicioudly refreshing cocktail. A pitcher of these with friends on a summer day makes for a perfect party.

Basil Mo-Tea-To
Makes four servings.
(Adapted slightly.)

1 large lime, quartered
6 large fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup light rum
1/4 cup honey simple syrup (or 2 tablespoons honey)
1 (16 oz.) bottle unsweetened green tea (or brew your own)
1 cup chilled club soda

In a glass pitcher, squeeze lime. Pour in sugar and basil leaves. Muddle with muddler or wooden spoon until combined. Stir in rum, honey simple syrup and green tea. Just before serving, add club soda and pour into ice-filled glasses. Garnish with additional basil leaves.

(Note: I think this would also be fun shaken in a cocktail shaker and strained into a cocktail glass.)

Monday, August 11, 2008

Ginger-Garlic Shrimp with Tangy Tomato Sauce

Here's a shrimp recipe with Thai tendencies. Lemongrass and basil. Ginger and garlic. Half the recipe and it's delicious as dinner on a bed of couscous. Or double the recipe and make a platter the centerpiece of a summer buffet. (Food & Wine suggests using the marinade on pork or chicken. I would have to agree.)

Ginger-Garlic Shrimp with Tangy Tomato Sauce
From Food & Wine magazine.
Makes ten servings. (That's the official word. Don't be surprised if four hungry folks eat each and every bit.)

1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons finely chopped basil
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 1/2 pounds large shrimp, shelled and deveined

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 large garlic clove, minced
3 stalks of fresh lemongrass, tender inner bulb only, minced
1 1/2 pounds tomatoes—peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
Kosher salt

Marinate the shrimp: In a large bowl, mix the vegetable oil with the parsley, garlic, basil, ginger, lemon juice, salt and crushed red pepper. Add the shrimp and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 4 hours.

Meanwhile, make the sauce: In a medium saucepan, heat the vegetable oil. Stir in the ginger, garlic and lemongrass and cook over moderate heat until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes. Let cool to room temperature, then stir in the lime juice and cilantro. Season with salt. Transfer the sauce to ramekins.

Light a grill. Loosely thread the shrimp onto 10 skewers. Grill over moderately high heat, turning once, until lightly charred and cooked through, about 5 minutes. Transfer the shrimp to plates and serve with the tomato sauce.

Food/Wine Pairing: I actually opened two bottles of wine for this one. A Spanish Albarino as suggested by Food & Wine and a Sauvignon Blanc that ranked as a "Value Brand of the Year" in Wine & Spirits Magazine. The Martin Codax Albarino--honey-colored with a citrus nose tempered with the wonderful salty dryness found in wines from Raix Baixas--is the better "drinking" wine. But the Veramonte Reserva Sauvignon Blanc was perfect with the recipe. Ginger, garlic and red pepper all add heft and spice to the dish, and the slightly "green"/herbal nose and taste with plenty of citrusy grapefruit/melon zing perfectly refreshes the palate.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Lemon-Thyme Dip

Like the Wasabi Dip I posted recently, this is a delicious addition to the raw vegetables I'm eating as snacks these days. And it's a great option for a summer party.

Lemon-Thyme Dip
From Everyday Food.
Makes 1 1/2 cups.

1 cup low fat sour cream
1/2 cup mayonnaise
Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon (about 1 teaspoon zest and 2 to 3 tablespoons juice)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves, plus more for garnish
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

In a small bowl, combine sour cream, mayo and lemon zest and juice. Add thyme and season with salt and pepper.

Note: This will keep in refrigerator (covered) for up to three days.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Honey-Mint Rum Spritzer

Here's a great way to use the Honey Syrup I posted recently. Rum is the base for so many wonderful summer drinks...including this one. How perfect would this be at a patio party with neighbors?

Honey-Mint Rum Spritzer
Makes one drink.

3 tablespoons light rum
2 1/2 tablespoons honey simple syrup
6 mint leaves
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
Splash of club soda

Muddle rum, honey syrup, mint leaves and lime juice in a small tumbler. Add crushed ice and stir. Top with a splash of club soda. Garnish with mint sprigs if desired.