Saturday, October 22, 2016

Open House with Great Appetizers

My culinary skills are occasionally called for when one of the realtors with ReMax Preferred Choice wants to make a real splash presentation to promote a higher end home for sale. Tetiana Althoff was holding such an open house a couple of weeks past, and she asked if I could make some of my tried and true Appetizers, making a lovely presentation for the home; the owners supplied wine to pair with the food. 

Tetiana Althoff Realtor with ReMax Preferred Choice
Tetiana Althoff Realtor with ReMax Preferred Choice
The home this time is at 2420 Pheasant Run Blvd, in Aberdeen, SD. The home has a lovely, spacious open-plan with 3 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms, radiant floor heat, maple cabinets, a lighted pantry and granite counters in the kitchen.The master bath has a jetted tub. There is an extra loft that can be customized. 

Andouille Coins in Puff Pastry
Andouille Coins in Puff Pastry
The appetizers she requested for this open house were Green Pea Pancakes with Smoked Salmon Mousse, Mini Sweet Peppers with Honey-Chevre Cream, Millard's Mini-Artichoke Quiches, Andouille Coins in Puff Pastry, Flank Steak Rolls with Gorgonzola Walnut Spread and Mini Pecan Tarts.  Some of these recipes were oldies but goodies (for me) and others were embellished as the muse struck. 

I love using the little mini sweet peppers, as they are colorful and add in a nice fresh note. This time I threw together a goat cheese and honey mixture that turned out absolutely delightful either used as I did here piped onto the peppers, or just used as a delicious spread for crackers. I used a large open star tip to pipe the mixture onto the peppers. At the open house, Neima Ali, the newest realtor to ReMax Preferred Choice, helped pipe the chevre cream onto the peppers. She was a very quick study with that piping bag, as seen in the photo here below, and a great help to me!

Chevre-Honey- Cream

Mini Sweet Peppers with Chevre-Honey Cream
Mini Sweet Peppers with Chevre-Honey Cream
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons good-quality extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest
8 ounces Chevre or Montrachet goat cheese
3 tablespoons cream cheese 
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt

Heat together the olive oil and honey with the lemon zest. Allow to steep for at least 15 to 20 minutes, then strain the mixture. Aside, beat together the goat cheese with the cream cheese, then add in the strained honey-oil mixture and season with salt and pepper. Beat well to combine, then chill until needed.

If using as a dip or spread, the mixture may need to come to room temperature before using. If piping onto the peppers, use a large star tip to pipe one large star onto the pepper strip. This can be piped onto a cracker, a carrot strip, cucumber slice or any vegetable of your choosing. 

Green Pea Pancakes with Smoked Salmon Mousse
Green Pea Pancakes with Smoked Salmon Mousse
Whenever I go back to a recipe, no matter how wonderful, I cannot help but tweak. It seems to be a failing of mine - I can never leave well-enough alone. I tried adding things to the green pea pancakes, to enhance the flavor. Unfortunately in this case, I went too far. I scrapped the whole batch and started over, using the original recipe. They were absolutely delightful the first time. No need for more enhancement. For the recipe for these cute little appetizers, click on the title of the photo above or click here. If you serve these little appetizers, I can tell you, Prosecco is a fantastic pairing.

Flank Steak Rolls with Gorgonzola Walnut Spread
Flank Steak Rolls with Gorgonzola Walnut Spread
Another of the appetizers I am asked to make time and again, the Flank Steak Rolls with Gorgonzola Walnut Spread are unfailingly good. The combination just cries out for a nice bold dry red wine, which was what they were originally created to pair with. A really wonderful thing about this recipe for the flank steak is that it turns out perfect every time, and I have made it so many times now, for various events, I cannot even count anymore. The meat is fairly rare in the center, but this keeps it both moist and tender. Flank steak has little to no fat, so it can get very dry and tough, very quickly. A thing to note when slicing flank steak: slice it thinly and across the grain. Flank steak has a very strong one-way grain to the meat. Cutting along those lengths will result in a long and stringy meat with little hope of eating, much less eating gracefully. 

Millard's Mini Artichoke Quiches
Millard's Mini Artichoke Quiches
One of the appetizers I have been making, perhaps more often than most any other, is Millard's Mini Artichoke Quiches. "Millard" was a neighbor when we lived in Florida, and he shared this recipe in the development's newsletter. I read the recipe and thought, "How could this possibly work?" But it does, and beautifully. I have most often made them as mini quiches (Millard called them "Muffins"), though his recipe stated that they can also be made larger, about 6 per recipe, in regular muffin tins. I did this once. They were fantastic. But I tell you, for quick and easy appetizers, these just take the cake. (If you like hot sauce, Sriracha is amazingly good dotted on top of these little things!) Millard's recipe called for saltine crackers crumbled into the mixture, or they can be left out. I have made them both ways. While delicious either way, I find that leaving out the saltines left the outcome with an odd texture. They still taste great. So I got thinking. Being conversant with gluten free cooking and baking, I have on some occasions used psyllium husks to simulate the structure given by the often called for xanthan gum. I have found I just do not like the flavor xanthan gum gives to foods. Psyllium offers the structure with no taste. I used 2 tablespoons of psyllium husks in this batch of these mini quiches and the texture was perfect. I may just use this method from here on out!

For a little sweetness, Tetiana and I decided on some little Pecan Tartlets. Again, these were made in the mini-muffin tins, so they are just a bite or two. Surprisingly easy to make, though the fitting of the crusts into the mini tins is a little bit of a chore. I have found that my marble pestle, which has the thicker end for crushing spices in the mortar, and the narrower end that you hold, works fantastically to fit the tart pastry into the mini tins. The dough is made and rolled into little balls, then chilled. Placing one little ball into a mini tart well, and with the larger end of the pestle, I press the dough in, creating a large dip, the beginning of the fit. Then with the narrow end of the pestle, I roll that tip pressing the sides to the edges of each well. This has worked for me for many years.

Pecan Nut Tarts
Pecan Nut Tarts

Pecan Nut Tarts

Makes 28

1/4 cup unsalted butter
3 ounces cream cheese
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup light brown sugar
1 egg
Pinch of salt
2 teaspoons unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup pecans, chopped

With a pastry cutter combine the first three ingredients until they come together as dough. Chill until firm.  Then, divide the dough into 28 evenly sized balls. Set one ball into each of the wells of mini muffin tins and fit the pastry into bottom and up the sides. Set the tins in the refrigerator until ready to bake. 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, egg, salt, vanilla, melted butter and pecans. Fill the pastry lined mini tart shells about 3/4 full with this mixture and bake for about 20 to 25 minutes. Do not over bake!

Holiday season is fast approaching (AGAIN!), so I hope maybe these recipes can provide easy party fare for whatever event you might be hosting. All these are excellent recipes. The hardest part is not overeating them!

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. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website and Marketplace, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. I am also on a spiritual journey and hope you will join me at my new blog, An Eagle Flies.