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Archive for the ‘Appetizer’ Category

These shrimp are one of our most popular catering appetizers…and for good reason. They are the perfect, light starter for a summer dinner party. Most traditional recipes use shrimp that have been boiled or poached and a overly tangy cocktail sauce that masks the delicate essence of the shrimp. We like to intensify the shrimp and make it the star. Instead of cooking the shrimp the traditional way, which leaves all the shellfish flavor in the water, we decided to grill them to maximize the flavor. We toss the shrimp with a little rosemary and lemon, then throw the little guys on a hot grill to get that charred flavor. Grilling them with the tails on retains more of the natural shrimp flavor, as well as providing a natural place to grab and dip. Our cocktail sauce incorporates freshly roasted tomatoes and garlic which mellows the tang of the ketchup and horseradish. It is a modern spin on a traditional sauce that doesn’t compete with the succulent flavor of the shrimp. The best part is both the shrimp and the cocktail sauce can be made ahead since the shrimp is served cold, so you can kick back and enjoy your summer soiree!

Lemon-Rosemary Grilled Shrimp with Roasted Tomato Cocktail Sauce

makes 24 shrimp and 1 cup of sauce

24 tail-on shrimp (16-20 count), patted very dry

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 1/2 teaspoons of salt

1/2 teaspoon of pepper

1 lemon, zested

1 teaspoon chopped rosemary

4 roma tomatoes, halved and seeded

2 garlic cloves, peeled

1/2 cup ketchup

1/4 cup horseradish

lemon juice, a splash

Preheat a grill or indoor grill pan to high. Toss the shrimp with the olive oil, salt, pepper, lemon zest and rosemary. Place shrimp on the grill and cook for about 2 minutes per side, or until curled slightly and bright pink.  Let cool completely.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Meanwhile toss the tomatoes and garlic cloves with a drizzle of olive oil  and spread out on a roasting pan. Roast until softened and charred in spots about 20 minutes. In a food processor, combine the roasted tomatoes, garlic, ketchup and horseradish until smooth. Add a squeeze of lemon juice to your liking. Taste and season with salt and pepper if needed. Serve the sauce in a bowl for dipping. The shrimp are best served hot off the grill OR cold out of the fridge the next day.

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These little fritters are always a hit at our catered event…there’s something about a crispy vegetable that is so appealing! We make many variations on this recipe, substituting the zucchini with shredded raw butternut squash, carrots, sweet potato, yellow squash. But these are my personal favorite — they are light and delicate on the inside and crispy on the outside, topped with a creamy dollop of ricotta. Just be sure to squeeze the shredded raw vegetables very dry before moving on with the recipe…otherwise you’ll have soggy fritters. Also, don’t skip topping the ricotta with plenty of cracked black pepper just before serving (or red chili flakes if you like some heat) — it’s that tasty final touch that puts these over the edge.

Zucchini Fritters with Ricotta & Mint

makes about 25 fritters

4 medium zucchini, coarsely grated (makes about 6-7 cups)

2 tbl finely chopped scallions

2 tbl finely chopped dil

1/2 cup flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 cup crumbled feta

1 egg, lightly beaten

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

vegetable oil, for frying

1 cup ricotta cheese

1/4 cup chopped mint

Place the shredded zucchini in a colander and sprinkle with about 1 tablespoon of salt. Toss and let stand for 5-10 minutes. Rinse lightly and squeeze as much of the liquid out as possible and transfer to a bowl.
Add the scallions, dill, flour, baking soda, feta, egg, salt and pepper. Stir to combine.
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add about 1/2-inch of vegetable oil to a wide pan. Add heaping tablespoons of the batter to the pan and cook until golden. Flip and cook until golden and cooked through on the second side. Remove and place on a paper-towel-lined pan to remove excess oil. Sprinkle lightly with salt as soon as they come out of the oil.
Whisk the ricotta and add salt and pepper to taste.  Serve the fritters hot topped with ricotta and some fresh mint and final sprinkle of cracked black pepper.

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We were recently asked to make latkes for a catered event and we were thrilled!  We made over 160 latkes for this all-appetizer party for 50 people, along with 5 other menu items and the latkes were the first thing to go — they were a smash hit. And no wonder — who doesn’t love a crispy pile of potatoes after all? Latkes are one of those foods that, for many, represent family tradition and holiday celebration — and that means that for every family there is a grandmother-approved way of making them and eating them. For some it’s extra crispy, for some it’s soft in the middle, for some it’s smoked salmon, for some it’s applesauce. While we don’t want to step on grandma’s toes, we decided it would be fun to mix it up and offer a variety of toppings for this particular party. So we did latkes with creamy horseradish sauce, watercress sauce and smoked salmon, creme fraiche and caviar, apple-thyme compote and pomegranate-orange relish. The smoked salmon one went first, but I like the apple-thyme compote the best. At the risk of ruffling the feathers of tradition, here are our tips for making the perfect latke, along with a recipe for the watercress sauce that was such a hit. We did one batch with just potatoes and onions and one with some added carrot. In the end, they all tasted the same and you couldn’t really see the orange of the carrot. I’ve done a version with all butternut squash before that were pretty and delicious — a nice alternative to the original.

1. SHRED WITH SPEED – While there’s nothing wrong with using a traditional box grater, there is nothing like hand grating 10 pounds of potatoes to make you never want to cook again. And we are against anything that makes cooking harder than it needs to be. So may we suggest pulling out those grating disks that came with your Cuisinart (or other food processor) that are on a bottom shelf somewhere collecting dust. This is their time to shine. Remove the standard blade from your food processor and replace with the largest grating blade and the whole grating part of this recipe will take under 5 minutes.

2. MOISTURE IS THE ENEMY – Whenever the goal is making something golden brown, moisture is not your friend. This poses a problem when working with vegetables that have a lot of natural water in them, like potatoes. The key to the perfect latke is drying your potatoes before you continue with the recipe. To do this, we like to use a clean, dust-free kitchen towel. Simply dump the freshly grated potatoes in the towel, bundle together and squeeze over the sink. You’ll be surprised to see about a cup of liquid come out. Do this in batches until all of the potatoes are dry before mixing in the other ingredients.

3. DON’T SKIMP ON THE OIL – Sorry, folks, but this is not a low-fat recipe. It’s fried. That’s what makes it delicious. So don’t try to get away with a few squirts from an olive oil spray bottle. You’ll need a solid 1/4-inch of oil on the bottom of the pan to get these to golden perfection.

4. BE CAREFUL. THIS IS HOT OIL WE’RE TALKING ABOUT – May seem obvious but it just takes one burn from a splatter of hot oil to ruin your day. Our advice is to use tongs to gently turn over the latkes – they allow you much more control than a spatula.

4. SEASON TWICE – If there was one single tip we could give you that could turn your home-cooked food from just OK to fantastic, it’s to learn to season correctly. This means using salt and pepper at multiple times during a recipe. For this one, you’ll add salt into the mix AND sprinkle some salt and pepper on the latkes when they come out of the pan. This ensures the flavors are all balanced. There’s nothing worse than a bland latke.

TRADITIONAL LATKES

makes about 2 dozen

4 large russet potatoes, peeled

1 onion, peeled

1 cup flour

2 eggs

1 tablespoon salt

vegetable oil for cooking

Grate the potatoes and onions using the largest grating blade in your food processor. Use a clean kitchen towel to squeeze the vegetables dry in batches. Dump all of the dry veggies into a large bowl and add the flour, eggs and salt. Use your hands to mix together until well combined.

Add about 1/4-inch of vegetable oil to a large skillet and place over medium-high heat. To see if the oil is hot enough, drop a couple strands of potato into the oil – if it sizzles immediately, you’re ready to go.

Drop about 2 tablespoons of the mixture at a time into the oil creating little piles (don’t spread the piles too thin or they will fall apart when you try to turn them). Once golden on the first side (about 3 minutes), use tongs to gently turn over and cook until golden on the other side.

Remove and place on a paper-towel-lined baking sheet and immediately sprinkle with salt and pepper. Serve immediately with your favorite topping.

NOTE: Latkes do not hold well overnight. If you want to make them before serving, your best bet is to make them same day and let them sit at room temperature. Before serving, place them in a single layer on a baking sheet in a 400 degree oven and cook for 5 minutes until sizzling hot. If you have extra cooked latkes, they freeze nicely. Place them on a baking sheet in the freezer. Once frozen, combine them in a Ziploc bag and keep in the freezer for up to a couple months. To reheat, place directly from freezer on a baking sheet in a 375 degree oven and cook for about 15 minutes or until sizzling hot.

WATERCRESS SAUCE 

makes 1 1/2 cups

1 cup watercress leaves

1 clove garlic

1/4 cup fresh dill

zest and juice of 1 lemon

1 cup sour cream

1/3 cup mayonnaise

salt and pepper

Combine all the ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

Serve latkes with a dollop of this sauce and a small piece of smoked salmon.

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