Herbed Cheese-Stuffed Mini Sweet Peppers

herbed cheese stuffed mini peppers - trustinkim

These beauties made a tasty little appetizer. Super easy too.

The type of cheese and herbs you use is up to you and your taste preferences, or what you’ve got on hand. I used a combination of Tofutti “Better than Cream Cheese” along with some goat cheese, and mixed in some basil and parsley.

These can be made vegan by using cream cheese and parmesan non-dairy substitutes.

What you need:

  • mini bell peppers
  • cheese of your choice: goat cheese, cream cheese, Tofutti “Better than Cream Cheese,” or a combination of cheeses
  • chopped fresh herbs (your choice: basil, oregano, or dill, or…) Green onions are another option
  • salt and freshly cracked pepper
  • parmesan cheese

What you do:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400F.
  2. Slice the peppers in half lengthwise and remove the seeds. Save one pepper to chop up for a garnish. Roast the peppers in the oven for about 5 minutes.
  3. Combine the herbs, soft cheese, salt and pepper, then spread it into the cavity of the peppers. Top them with a bit of parmesan cheese, then pop them in the oven just long enough to heat them up, about 10-15 minutes.
  4. Garnish with chopped pepper and a few herbs. Enjoy!

Manchego Cheese Appetizer

manchego cheese appetizer - trust in kim

My friend Sarah shared this with me the other day, along with a nice glass of red wine. It’s really simple, just some beautiful cheese with a bit of honey and some hand-ground coffee beans . . .  but it is a gorgeous combination of flavours.

Manchego is a Spanish cheese made with sheep’s milk. It is not a pungent cheese, but it’s got a great flavour. The sweetness of the honey and the bitterness of the coffee beans somehow pair perfectly with this cheese.

Sarah found the recipe in a Jamie Oliver cookbook.

What you need:

  • a wedge of Manchego cheese
  • honey – whatever you have in your house, or something fancy
  • coffee beans (don’t use pre-ground beans)
  • baguette (optional)

What you do:

  1. Remove the cheese from the fridge at least an hour before serving
  2. Use a mortar and pestle or a coffee grinder to grind the coffee beans finely, then make a little pile of them on a decorative cutting board or plate.
  3. Pour some honey into a small bowl, and place it on the board along with the cheese and coffee grounds.
  4. To serve, cut a slice of cheese, then dip it in the honey, and use your fingers to sprinkle on a little coffee. So delicious!

Antipasto Salad with Bocconcini, Salami, and Olive Tapenade

antipasto salad with bocconcini and olive tapenade - trustinkim

Here’s a salad for the meat lovers out there, and it makes a good meal salad on a warm day, or a starter if you make a smaller portion. If you have vegetarians or non-pork eaters at your table, the salad is also delicious without the salami. You could always add a boiled egg as an alternative.

It’s an easy recipe, and just requires a bit of chopping. The dressing can be made a day ahead to speed things up.

I visited an Italian specialty store to find the ingredients, but you should be able to find similar items at your local grocery store.

I found this Nancy Silverton recipe on the Food & Wine site, and served it with a lovely homemade no-knead focaccia and a crisp white wine. I halved the recipe, and my version feeds four people. The only change I made to the recipe was to add the salami to the top instead of mixing it in with the dressing. That way it can be left off for people who don’t want any, or want less meat; I think it looks nicer with the salami on top for presenting family-style on the table.

What you need:

  • 1 & 1/2 tablespoons green-olive tapenade
  •  2 tablespoons peperoncini—stemmed, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 cups bocconcini
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • salt to taste
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 small head of iceberg lettuce, halved, cored and finely shredded (about 2 cups)
  • 85 grams (3 oz) thinly sliced Genoa salami, cut into thin strips (about 3/4 cup)
  • 6 small basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup of your favourite green olives

What you do:

  1. Combine the tapenade, peperocini and half of the olive oil in a bowl, then toss the bocconcini in it. This can be refrigerated and used later or the next day.
  2. In another bowl combine the lemon juice, vinegar, garlic and oregano. Whisk in the remaining half of the olive oil, then season to taste with salt and pepper.
  3. Place the shredded lettuce in a large bowl, then add the marinated bocconcini and half of the salad dressing. Toss well, then plate the salad on a large platter.
  4. Add the salami strips to the top of the salad and top it with the basil and olives. Drizzle on a little bit more dressing, and serve immediately.
  5. Enjoy!

Tapenade Tarte Soleil and Feta Dip

 

feta tapenade tarte soleil - trustinkim

This really is a stunning and delicious puff pastry appetizer with a feta-cream cheese spread. The photos on Smitten Kitchen look so much better than mine – but I feel like I’m giving you a more realistic version of this recipe, because we can’t all make things look quite so perfect. I love the olive tapenade filling, and the feta spread is amazing. I was able to put it all together, to high praise from the devourers . . . but I’m not going to lie to you . . . it was a little tricky, and doesn’t quite look like the supermodel version I thought I’d be presenting.

It still looks pretty, and tastes amazing, but it was hard to make the rays look as uniform as the original. The biggest problem was that I baked it for double the time the recipe specified, and it was still not flakey in the middle . . . and yet the people loved it.

The only planning ahead you need to do is to thaw the puff pastry overnight in the fridge, or four hours minimum.

feta tapenade tarte soleil - trustinkim

What you need for the tarte soleil:

  • 1/2 cup sun dried tomatoes in oil, drained
  • 1/3 cup pitted Kalamata olives
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano or 2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano leaves
  • 1 large garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil or oil from tomatoes, plus more if needed
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 packages puffed pastry (I used La Baguette & l’Echalot)
  • 1 egg yolk beaten with 1 teaspoon water (for egg wash)
  • 1 tablespoon sesame or poppy seeds to sprinkle (optional)

What you need for the dip:

  • 170 grams/ 6 ounces feta, crumbled
  • 55 grams, 2 ounces cream cheese
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • salt to taste, or none if your feta is very salty
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste

What you do:

  1. To make the filling, combine the sun dried tomatoes, olives, oregano, garlic, olive oil and pepper in a food processor. Blend until finely chopped. Thin it with some olive oil if it doesn’t seem spreadable.
  2. Heat the oven to 350F.
  3. Roll the first package of puff pastry out on a large piece of parchment paper until it is about 30cm/12 inches in diameter. Use a 30cm round bowl or plate as a guide to cut the pastry into a circle. Put this pastry in the fridge, then repeat the process with the other pastry.
  4. Place the first pastry, still on its parchment paper, on a baking sheet. Spread the filling over the pastry, leaving about 2cm around the edge uncovered. Dab the edges with water and then place the other pastry on top.
  5. Place a small glass into the centre of the pastry as a guide, so you do not cut all the way into the middle. Cut the pastry into quarters from the edge of the glass out to the edges, at the 3, 6, 9 and 12 o’clock marks. Cut each quarter in half, then each in half again, until you have 32 strips. If the dough becomes difficult to work with you can put it in the freezer to get firmer (or if your freezer is too small, you can just do your best with it, like I did.)
  6. Remove the glass and begin the twisting; place a finger near the centre circle so that the strip doesn’t break off, and twist each strip a few times.
  7. Beat the egg yolk with 1 teaspoon of water and brush it over the pastry. Sprinkle with sesame seeds.
  8. Bake for 30-35 minutes (or much longer in my case) until the pastry is golden brown.
  9. While the pastry is in the oven, make the feta dip. Blend all the ingredients in a food processor until they are smooth.
  10. Remove the tart from the oven and let it cool for about 10 minutes. To serve, place it on a serving tray and tear off the rays and dip them in feta or spread it on to eat.

 

slicing tarte soleil - trustinkim

twisting tarte soleil -trustinkim

Japanese Grilled Eggplant

Japanese Roasted Eggplant - trustinkim

I’m always looking for new ways to prepare vegetables, and with barbecue season finally arriving, this seemed like a great dish to try out. It’s got a slightly sweet sauce that glazes the soft eggplant. I will definitely be making this one again.

I found the recipe on this site, where they suggest serving the eggplant in an udon noodle dish. We ate it on its own as an appetizer, but I think it might also be good on small slices of bread, used like a spread.

What you need:

  • 3 japanese eggplants (the long skinny ones)
  • 2 tablespoons red miso
  • 2 tablespoons mirin (or a sweet rice wine)
  • 2 tablespoons tamari
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • vegetable oil for griling
What you do:
  1. Whisk the miso, mirin, tamari and sugar together in a small saucepan. Over medium heat, whisk until the mixture comes to a boil. Continue to cook briefly, just until it has thickened. Set aside to cool.
  2. Trim the stems from the eggplants and halve them lengthwise. Cut slits into the flesh of the eggplants, cutting almost through to the skin, but being careful not to slice all the way through it.
  3. Preheat the grill. Brush the fleshy side of each eggplant lightly with oil. When the grill is hot, place the eggplant cut-side down, on the grill. Cook for about 3 minutes; the eggplant should have grill marks on the fleshly side, and be somewhat softened.
  4. Turn the eggplants skin-side down, and spread the sauce over the fleshy side, all the way to the edges. Cook for about 3 more minutes. The eggplant should be very tender, and the sauce bubbling up.
  5. Enjoy!

japanese grilled eggplant - trustinkim

Leek, Mushroom and Goat Cheese Tart

leek, mushroom and goat cheese tart- trustinkim

This is one awesome dish! The puff pastry gets rolled out and baked first, then comes a layer of goat cheese, with egg to thicken it, is added and baked. Finally, the vegetables are piled on, topped with more goat cheese, and then finished under the broiler. A little bit of freshly cracked pepper finishes it off before it gets devoured. I brought this to a potluck while ago and it was a big hit. People have been patiently waiting for me to post the recipe… so here it is, finally.

The mushroom/leek/fennel part can be done ahead of time if you want to have everything ready to go before you prepare the tart. You need to defrost the puff pastry ahead of the time; following the instructions, I put it in the fridge over night, but you may also defrost for just two hours before cooking.

I found the recipe here, and I believe I used the recipe without changing a thing (except the freshly ground pepper on top) – a rare occurrence! Oh, I did do one thing differently; I burned the crust ever so slightly. But it was still delicious. To avoid this next time I will rotate the pan part way through baking, and have some tin foil on hand to cover any parts of the pastry that seem to be getting too dark.

What you need:

  • 1 small bulb fennel
  • 2 medium leeks,  halved lengthwise and rinsed carefully
  • 16 medium white mushrooms
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 package puff pastry (I used Le Baguette et l’Echalotte’s), defrosted according to package directions
  • 3 eggs
  • 225 grams (8 ounces) goat cheese (substitute cream cheese if you dislike goat cheese)

What you do:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 F. Trim the green top and root off the fennel; quarter it from top to bottom. Using a mandoline or knife, slice the fennel, and then the white and light-green parts of the leeks, as thinly as you can.
  2. Clean and slice the mushrooms.
  3. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat; add the fennel and leeks and sauté until they are just tender, about 6 minutes. Place the fennel in a bowl and set aside.
  4. Heat the remaining teaspoon of oil in the frying pan over medium-high heat; add the mushrooms and sauté until they are browned, about 5 minutes. Combine the fennel mixture with the mushrooms and cook briefly. Season with salt and pepper to taste and remove from the stove top.
  5. Lightly flour your countertop and unfold the pastry onto it. Cut the pastry in half lengthwise to create two long rectangles. Roll out to about 12 x 30 cm (5 x 14 inches) and place on baking sheets. Trim about 1cm off the edges all around. Break one of the eggs into a small bowl and beat it slightly. Brush the edges of the pastry with the egg, then use the trimmed pieces to create a raised border around the edges. Brush the whole surface of the pastry with the egg. Prick the inside surface of the pastry all over with a fork, then bake for about 10 minutes until it is a pale gold colour.
  6. While the pastry is in the oven, use a fork to beat 170 grams (6 ounces) of the goat cheese with the remaining two eggs. If the pastry has puffed up, press it down gently, then spread the goat cheese mixture onto the interior of the pastry. Bake for about 4 minutes, until set.
  7. Spread the vegetable mixture over the tart, then crumble the rest of the cheese on top. Broil for a few minutes just before serving, watching carefully so it doesn’t burn. Top with freshly cracked pepper and serve immediately.

Croccantini Flatbread Crackers

croccantini flatbread crackers -trustinkim

These crispy crackers were a big hit at the New Years party I brought them to last night. They are reasonably easy to make, but take a little bit of time. It is so worth it though – they are nice an crispy, a little salty, and the bubbles are pretty cool.

My friend Sarah often buys La Panzanella Croccantini to serve with cheese. They are delicious crackers, but quite expensive. So this was my attempt to make a cracker like those. I also made some into uniform rectangles and poked them with a fork to get rid of bubbles like the store-bought version, but they didn’t get into the photo. For presentation I really liked these big ones, and the bubbles in them.

I served it with a red pepper jelly, an apricot and peach jam, and a beautiful Manchego cheese.

I found the recipe here. The original recipe had rosemary in it, which I will try next time, but for this appetizer I wanted to stick to this salted version to highlight the flavours of the jams and cheese. Also, it was a messy slushy afternoon, and I couldn’t be bothered to head out into that weather again for an herb. In the original recipe they were baked for 3 minutes per side, but I didn’t read that part of the recipe (oops), and it worked well to just bake them on one side.

It is really helpful to have a pasta machine for this, to roll the dough out to a uniform thinness. You can also do this carefully with a rolling pin.

What you need:

  • 1 & 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 cup cold water
  • spray bottle filled with water
  • more salt to sprinkle on top

What you do:

  1. Combine the flour, salt and sugar on your countertop and make a well in the centre. Pour half the water and the olive oil into the centre. Little by little, add the flour to the centre, until you can mix and form it into a ball, adding more water as you need it (as you knead it). (Or you could do this all in a food processor by drizzling the liquid in as the food processor it running.)
  2. Knead the dough until it forms a smooth ball, adding a little flour to the countertop if it gets sticky. Divide the dough into four pieces and cover with a towel for 10 minutes to allow the gluten to relax.
  3. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Line baking pans with parchment paper. A pizza stone would be great here!
  4. Use a pasta machine or rolling pin to roll the dough out as thinly as possible. I did the same process I would use for making pasta: start by running the dough through the thickest setting, then fold the dough over in thirds, run through again, and repeat one or two more times, until you get a nice rectangle. Change the setting to one thickness lower, run the dough through, then keep going until you get to the thinnest setting. Part way through you will get a really long strip of dough – you can cut this in half at any point.
  5. Carefully place the dough flat on the parchment paper lined pans. Spray with a little water, then sprinkle some salt on top (I ground some kosher salt).
  6. Bake immediately, starting to watch it after about 3 & 1/2 minutes. It should be slightly browned.
  7. Place the crackers on a cooling rack. They will crisp up more as they cool. If they don’t seem crispy enough they can go back in the oven for a minute or so, even after they have cooled.
  8. Once they have cooled completely, store in an airtight container. I have no idea how long they will keep because there were no leftovers this time!

Enjoy!