Monday, August 25, 2014

Lovely Appetizers for an Open House

Tetiana in entry of the beautiful home
My husband works with ReMax Preferred Choice here in town, as the business manager. Through him I am friends with the realtors there; the Broker-Owner Scott Grebner, Tetiana Althoff, Marissa Jondahl and David Novstrup. In the past months, twice I have made little appetizers to go with wine or other beverage at an Open House for a particularly higher end property. Yesterday I was again in attendance at an Open House, hosted by Tetiana Althoff, at a wonderful, large home here in town at 1620 Mel Ros Dr., Aberdeen, SD. It is priced at over $500,000. The idea with the open houses is to pair wonderful foods matching the upscale home, making the experience pleasant for potential buyers. 

All the foods at the Open House

Of all foods to make, my favorites are perhaps appetizers and desserts. They can be quite time consuming, due to the need for many of a thing, rather than one large dish. Still, they present such a lovely display. For yesterday's open house I made some Pesto Cream Filled Cherry Tomatoes, Creamy Gorgonzola & Herb Filled Endive leaves, Tomato Mozzarella Tartlets with Pesto, Gluten Free Spiced Sandies and Chocolate Mini Cupcakes (also Gluten Free, by choice). We also had two kinds of sliced cheese and crackers. Wine was available and soft drinks. I will be posting all the recipes I created for this event in the next days. For today I will post the recipes for the fillings used in the Cherry Tomatoes and the Endive Leaves. 
Filled Cherry Tomatoes & Endive leaves

Since it is summer, and fresh produce is everywhere, I felt that using some fresh produce would be wonderful. Though today the weather is barely going to scrape its way up to 70 degrees, it is still summer. My sister in law is growing all my herbs for me this year, and the basil has been abundant. I have a store of fresh pesto in the freezer, for the long winter months to come. One of my recipes for pesto yields about 1 1/2 - 2 cups. Just this past week's harvest alone gave me 2 1/2 recipes worth! Using pesto in foods becomes second nature. I found through experimentation that pesto mixes well with cream cheese and if basil and tomatoes are great together, so is pesto mixed with cheese to fill tomatoes.  I made a pesto cream and filled the little cherry tomatoes, using some tiny basil leaves for a garnish. I also used the pesto in the bottom of my Tomato Mozzarella Tartlets, in a play on the Caprese Salad flavors of tomato, mozarella and basil. But more on that recipe later on.

Two Interchangeable Fillings

I could easily have used this same pesto cream for the endive leaves, but instead used lots of other fresh herbs mixed with a little Gorgonzola and cream cheese. Each of these filling recipes was exceptionally good, and equally interchangeable. Either filling would have been great to top summer squash slices, carrot slices, bell pepper wedges, or any other fresh vegetable desired. 
Either filling on squash slices, carrot slices, celery, green pepper, endive leaves and tomato

These two fillings would also be great as a fresh vegetable dip, if thinned down with some cream or milk to a dipping consistency. I kept them thick and piped the fillings into the vegetables with a piping bag and tip. If you are not proficient with a piping bag, simply spooning the filling into the vegetable of choice would work as well. I believe everyone should learn to use a piping bag and tips, even if only in the simplest of ways. Disposable piping bags are available and they serve so many purposes, from piping butter stars for a fancy dinner, to piping dips and fillings, to frosting on little cupcakes. The cherry tomatoes I used were fairly small, about 1-inch in diameter, on average. If using slightly larger cherry tomatoes, you will need fewer. If only very small ones are available, you may use more, though emptying the centers will be far more tedious.

Both these fillings are gluten free!

Pesto Cream Filled Cherry Tomatoes

makes about 45 to 50

45 to 50 (1-inch) cherry tomatoes

4 ounces (1/2 cup / 113 g) Chevre or Montrachet goat cheese
4 ounces (1/2 cup / 113 g) cream cheese
2 ounces (1/4 cup / 60 g) good Pesto 
2 tablespoons fresh chives, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
fresh ground pepper, to taste
1 - 2 tablespoons olive oil, as needed

fresh, tiny basil leaves for garnish, optional

At least 2 hours before filling and serving, prepare the tomatoes. Set the stem end of the tomato down, as this will give it a more stable base, making it less likely to tip over. Use a very small and sharp knife to cut off the rounded top end, suing finger or other small tool to scrape out all the seeds. Set the tomato with the cut side downwards to drain on a rack or paper toweling (or both). For this task I started using a small tomato corer, though even that was large for the size tomatoes I used. I have a very tiny baby spoon leftover from those days, which worked perfectly for scooping out the seeds. Do this for all the tomatoes used. Set aside to drain.

Stem end down  |  scoop out seeds  |   drain well   |   holding piping bag with filling  |  Filled Tomatoes
DO AHEAD: The filling can easily be made up to 3 days in advance, if time is pressing. Place the first 5 ingredients of the filling into a medium bowl and mix well with a spoon or with a small hand mixer. Taste for flavor, adding in pepper as desired. Use olive oil to thin just enough to be able to spread or pipe, but still keep its shape. 

When ready to serve, use either a small spoon to fill the tomatoes, or use a piping bag and tip. I used Ateco tip # 823, as this open star tip fit just inside the little tomatoes. Squeeze the filling inside until the tomato is full, and then a bit more over the top to make a nice presentation. Garnish with little basil leaves, or alternatively, dill sprigs, chopped chives or any herb desired.

Gorgonzola & Herb Filled Endive

Endive leaves with filling
Makes about 40 to 45

6 or 7 Belgian Endive

4 ounces (1/2 cup / 113 g) cream cheese
4 ounces (scant 1 cup / 113 g) Gorgonzola crumbles
2 tablespoons fresh chives, minced
2 tablespoons fresh dill, minced
2 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons Sherry or wine vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon zest
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon olive oil

more minced chives or dill for garnish

DO AHEAD: The filling may be made up to 3 days in advance, if needed: Place all filling ingredients into a medium bowl and mix completely with either a spoon or a small hand mixer. Store covered in the refrigerator until needed.
Belgian Endive (5 - 7 inches in length)

Belgian endive also comes in a red version, not available in every area. Cut off enough of the stem/base of the endive to separate individual leaves. This will likely mean cutting a small slice each time to allow each leaf to come apart. Each endive will yield an average of 6 - 7 usable leaves. Some may give more, and some less. It is best to separate the leaves just before filling, if possible, to prevent any browning. 

Pipe or spoon in a walnut sized dab of the filling at the base of the leaf. Garnish with herb of choice.

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website and Marketplace, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.