Tag Archives: bon appetit

4th of July Party? How about a tasty recipe for marinated olives and feta?

Marinated Olives and Feta

Sophisticated but incredibly easy: smash some olives, crush a bit of garlic, shred some bread, and you’re good to go!

Want to bring something different to your 4th of July party that DOESN’T need refrigeration or special care? A while back, I found something genuinely fabulous in my favorite place to find fabulous things – Bon Appétit Magazine. It’s a perfect recipe for things like 4th of July parties where light, savory snacks with friends really hit the spot.

There’s only one part of this recipe that needs a bit more explanation – smashing olives and crushing the garlic. I know that there are all sorts of ways to do this, but my video gives you some easy ways that work for me. The rest is that simple.

Ingredients:

  • 4-5 ounces of drained green (I prefer Castelvetranos for their flavor) unpitted olives
  • 3 medium-sized cloves of garlic
  • 1 lemon
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil – essential to get the “good stuff” for this recipe.
  • ½ tsp red pepper flakes
  • 3-4 ounces of crumbly feta cheese. I use President Cheese.
  • 1 loaf of crusty bread

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400-degrees F
  2. Rip up your bread into bite-sized pieces and place them on a baking sheet. When the oven is ready, bake the pieces of bread for 5-8 minutes, or just long enough to make the them a bit crispy and golden.
  3. Lightly smash (by pressing the side of the knife blade directly on top) the olives to just break apart the skin and flatten slightly.
  4. Smash (using the same technique as for the olives – you don’t want them completely flat!) and peel 3 cloves of garlic.
  5. Use a vegetable peeler (this will give you nice wide strips) to peel the zest from the lemon. Remember – only the yellow, not the white which will be bitter.
  6. Place lemon peel, smashed olives, crushed garlic, ½ cup of good Extra Virgin olive oil, and ½ tsp of red pepper flakes into a small saucepan over med-low heat. Swirl every so often and cook for about 5-7 minutes, or until the garlic is golden around the edges.
  7. Crumble feta cheese into a shallow serving bowl.
  8. Pour the olive oil mixture over the feta and let it sit at least 10 minutes. Longer if possible, perhaps an hour or more, before serving.
  9. Serve together with your crisped bread pieces.

You can always double or treble this recipe for a larger crowd.

Some last DO’s and DON’Ts – DO remind your guests that the olives are unpitted, but DON’T worry about letting this sit out for as long as your guests are nibbling. It will go fast!  A Negroni is the perfect adult beverage to accompany this appetizer.

Happy 4th of July, America!

Food Tip – Keep your herbs fresh for up to a week!

fresh herbs

A quick and easy way to save your refrigerated herbs – they’ll keep for a week!

We depend on the excellent flavor of our herbs to enhance our cooking.  I have many friends who wait until the day before they need them to purchase fresh leafy herbs like cilantro and parsley. The reason is sensible – you want them as fresh as possible.

The problem with leafy herbs is that they tend to dry out in the refrigerator. After about three days – not so good. But even if you’re a flavor nut – as I am – going out shopping every time you need a bit of parsley is not at all practical. We’re all so busy these days – right? I mean, if you have the time, great! But if you don’t, what are your options?

A friend once remarked that you should take care of your leafy herbs as you would a bunch of flowers. That makes sense. Bon Appetit goes a bit further with a few very sensible tips about the care and preparation for your herbs.

The first big tip: rinse your herbs as soon as you get them home from the market. Resist the temptation of tossing them into the crisper and then forgetting about them until you need them for dinner! To be honest, you should never do that with any of your greens. It’s always best to wash your veggies before they go into the fridge. That way, everything is ready to eat! Washing also helps rehydrate veggies so that they stay fresher longer.

Next, trim the stem ends of your herbs with a sharp knife.  Like with flowers, freshly cut stem helps the bunch absorb water better. Think also about the fact that while your herbs are still green, they’re still living. Trimming helps them stay moist, crisp, alive and green longer.  Be sure to pick out any that are brown, very wilted, or look like they’re already too far gone.

Place your trimmed leafy herbs in a salad spinner; rinse, drain the dirty water and repeat enough times until the water is clear.  Then spin them dry to remove as much excess moisture as possible.  Or you can do it the old-fashioned way – in a bowl with a colander. But I find that the salad spinner is the far gentler method, especially with delicate herbs. You end up with fewer broken stems and bruising.

Gently gather the herbs back into a bunch then wrap the stem ends a damp paper towel. Take the whole thing and ease it into a plastic bag large enough so that the bunch isn’t crammed in there. I recommend Ziploc bags because they’re handy for this kind of work.  Seal it and you’re done!

When using this method, you’ll find that you can refrigerate your herbs and keep them green and fresh for up to a week. All you have to do is pull off leaves whenever you need them!

Enjoy Al Fresco Dining – Even in Winter!

Fran Berger, Home Decor

What a great opportunity – to cozy up with warm drinks, hot food, and close friends.

The Italians love dining outside so much that there’s a term for it in Italian – Al Fresco; dining in the fresh air. Dining ‘al fresco’ with friends can even be more fun than dining inside. But maybe your first reaction is, “Fran? It’s winter.” And my response will be, “Yes!”

There’s something about serving meals and hanging out with friends and family outdoors that sometimes makes it feel so much more intimate than indoors. Maybe it reminds us of camping (or our idea of camping if you’ve never been) and being closer to nature. Cold weather can open up a great home entertaining opportunity that you can’t overlook.

Even if you don’t have a home with a backyard – you can entertain outside on your deck or patio. Yes, even in the winter when it’s cold! In fact, I think that a bit of cold weather makes the experience that much more intimate. And just so we’re very clear – I’m talking about “cold” weather that encourages people to huddle under blankets around a fire pit; not a freezing chill that turns lips blue! It’s only fun if no one is shivering!

If you don’t have a backyard where you can have a covered fire pit or outdoor fireplace, you can always get some outdoor gas heaters for warmth and hurricane candle holders for atmosphere. Spread groups of the holders around your deck using real candles. Make sure that the hurricane candle holders are a couple of inches taller than the actual candle – that way they won’t blow out. Vary your sizes and make your groupings odd numbers. Varying sizes of odd numbers of candles always looks more pleasing to the eye.

You’ll also want patio furniture with cushions and blankets for warmth. Find colorful and soft blankets that are washing machine safe. Get blanket sizes that encourage couples to wrap up together. All types of outdoor blankets are available – even fun faux fur!

After you warm up your guests on the outside, time to warm them up from the inside with hot beverages like your favorite hot chocolate. Or…

You can try this recipe from Bon Appetit for a hot apple cider with Calvados apple brandy – which is really tasty.

Another “cuddle to be warm” drink is hot buttered rum with 8-Year Old Bacardi or Myers Dark Rum. The recipe includes a way prepare a mix that you can use later.

If your plan is to serve dinner, then warm their hearts with big stoneware mugs filled with a hearty vegetable soup or steaming beef stew. Williams-Sonoma posted this fabulous (and taste tested) recipe for a beef stew that takes about 2 hours to cook – about 1 hour and 30 minutes in an oven. Their recipe serves 6, but it’s easily doubled or tripled for larger gatherings. I also suggest that you take the “variation” on the recipe and replace the 1-1/2 cups of beef stock with the same amount of a bold red wine. But, you always want to cook with wine that you’d be happy to drink so make sure it’s one you enjoy. Wine adds so much rich flavoring to the stew, and since the alcohol cooks off, everyone can enjoy it.

I also suggest that you use multi-colored carrots (they add color and fun) and add some crunched up bacon along with the potatoes and mushrooms. Serve it with thick slices of warm crusty bread and you’ve got the start to a wonderful evening!

How to host an EASY and fun Super Bowl Party

Fran's Super Bowl Tips

Two big tips and one great recipe idea for #Superbowl #SB52 – Good Food, Good Friends, Great Times.

I have hosted a ton of Super Bowl Parties at my home and, I’ve been a guest at quite a few of them as well. I’ve tried doing it a lot of different ways but a casual affair like this should always be fun – for everyone. And that calls for my “go-to” Super Bowl party plan – a tiny bit of variety along with an easy setup. Everything is set up with what a friend of mine calls a ‘quick snap’: one cup, one napkin, one plate (or bowl), and you’re back to the game.

It goes without saying that we want cold beverages that go best with whatever it is that’s on the menu. I think a good set for the icebox will include sodas, beer, and bottled water. But don’t forget your friends who like mixables. I’ll keep it simple this year – I’m serving Mexican food so we’ll be mixing margaritas with Casa Sauza Tequila Reposado, Jose Cuervo Salt, and a big bottle of 1800 Tequila Margarita mix. But for those of us that like our tequila “neat” (no mixers or even ice!) it will be Don Julio 1942.

And to go with that margarita or sipping tequila, a favorite recipe from bon appétitChili con Queso – basically a layered dip with taco meat, queso (cheese!), with guacamole, sour cream and pico de gallo on the side. Watch me cook up this easy recipe on video.

Check out the bon appetit website for the full recipe. This is an easy one, but there’s always room to make a few things better. These are my recommendations:

  • Make sure that you read the recipe through. I often go over a recipe two or three times just to make sure that I didn’t miss anything.
  • Chop and cut everything ahead of time (mise en place – or ‘everything in its place’). You can usually put all the wet ingredients that will be added at the same time in one bowl, all the veggies that are added at the same time in one bowl, and any dry ingredients (spices, etc.) that are added at the same time in another bowl. Fewer bowls equals less clean up!
  • I “seed” my tomatoes – simply pull off the seeds from the middle of the tomatoes before I chop. It adds less water to the finished product. The recipe doesn’t call for it, but I like to do it anyway.
  • Use Kosher Salt as it is less ‘salty’ than table salt and easier to control. It comes in a big box and can be found in any grocery store.
  • I used sharp cheddar cheese instead of mild for more flavor.
  • I used finely shredded cheeses because they melt almost instantly.

Now, if you’re only using your taco chips for something light like a simple salsa dip then any of the thin fresh tortilla chips will work, BUT if you want to dip into this layered Queso, you will need a thicker chip that won’t break.  You can make your own, but why go through the bother and mess when really all you need is a sturdy chip like Mission Tortilla Triangles.

Finally – my tip of tips for entertaining at home – don’t use china for a casual get together like the Super Bowl.  But, you do want to use something much sturdier than regular paper plates so they will hold up well under the weight of the food. If you’re dipping into this Queso, arm yourself with sturdy stuff that will not fold up on people’s laps. I like the disposable bowls, plates, cups, and utensils by EMI Yoshi.  I’m even using platters from them for the chips. They look really great and you can find them on Amazon.

May the best team win!