Fresh and frozen

Tonight is my Book Club planning meeting.  We start the season with a potluck dinner and make our reading selections for the year.  I volunteered to bring appetizers and thought some nice fresh bruschetta would be just the thing.  Here is what I am taking:

Bruschetta Toasts

  • 1 loaf of French bread (I used two since I made all three toppings)
  • olive oil
Slice bread into 1/4 inch slices on diagonal to make longer slices.  Brush with olive oil.  Bake at 350 for about 10 minutes until crisp.  Cool before topping.  (Toasts can be made ahead and stored in baggies – just make sure they are cool before bagging.)
Tomato topping
  • 2 large shallots, thinly sliced
  • 1 TB olive oil
  • 2 tomatoes, seeded and chopped
  • 3 oz ricotta salata or feta cheese, diced
  • 2 TB chives, minced
  • 2 tsp balsamic vinegar
Heat oil over low to medium heat in a small saucepan.  Cook shallots, stirring until soft.  Add tomatoes and cook for 2 minutes.  Toss tomato mixture with cheese, chives and balsamic vinegar.  Refrigerate until ready to use.  To serve, top toasts with 1 – 2 tsps of mixture (depending upon size of toasts.)
Spinach topping
  • 2 bags baby spinach
  • 6 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 TB olive oil
  • 3/4 cup mozzarella cheese
Saute garlic in medium saucepan over medium heat for about 1 minute.  Add spinach in two batches and stir until wilted (about 5 minutes.)  Drain liquid and transfer to a bowl.  Stir in mozzarella cheese.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.  Spoon onto toasts.
Shrimp topping
  • 1/2 lb cooked shrimp, roughly chopped
  • 2 – 3 TB olive oil
  • 1 TB lemon juice
  • 2 chopped shallots
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 TB chopped parsley

Combine all ingredients and refrigerate until ready to assemble – up to overnight.  Spoon onto toasts.

Since my husband needs dinner, this is a chance to use something from the freezer.  Fortunately, I am prepared with a serving of California casserole.  This is a great dish fresh and makes enough for leftovers to store away in the freezer for nights like tonight.  Everybody is happy!

Chicken Avocado casserole

  • 2 whole boneless, skinless chicken breasts, split
  • milk for poaching chicken breasts
  • 2 TB butter
  • 2 TB flour
  • 1 cup milk or half and half
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3 dashes Tabasco
  • 1/2 tsp rosemary
  • 1/2 tsp basil
  • 2 TB butter
  • 1 lb mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
  • 1/2 cup chopped almonds, toasted
  • 2 avocados

Place chicken breasts in a glass baking dish.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and pour in milk to cover about halfway.  Cover with a sheet of wax paper sprayed with Pam and cook at 350 for about 40 minutes.  Let cool and chop.

Melt butter in a heavy pan over medium low heat and add flour.  Stir to combine and gradually add milk (or half and half), chicken stock and wine until smooth and thick.  (If mixture gets too thick, turn down heat – if it is too slow to thicken, turn up heat.)  Add Parmesan cheese, Tabasco, rosemary and basil and remove from heat.

Melt remaining butter in another pan and saute mushrooms until soft.

Place chopped chicken in a casserole dish.  Pour mushrooms over top and then cover with cream sauce.  Bake at 350 for 25 minutes.  Add almonds and return to oven for another 10 minutes.  Serve with sliced avocado on top of casserole.

Potluck

Last night was my book club planning meeting which was a potluck dinner and tomorrow at work we are having a potluck football tailgate party at lunch.  I always want to bring something interesting to a potluck (after all now that I’ve been blogging for a year about food, I feel that I have a reputation to uphold!) but it’s been a hectic week.  Tonight was my daughter’s 5th birthday and both of these events are falling during the work week.  I was looking for simple and do ahead.  Any time I’m bringing something to a potluck, I’m looking for something that is low maintenance when I get there.  I hate to walk into someone’s home (or my office) with something that needs to be cooked at a specific temperature or needs special serving utensils.  For my book club meeting I made 2 types of bruschetta and they seemed to go over well.  For work I made a Mediterranean layered dip to serve with pita wedges.  Here are the recipes:

Bruschetta Toasts

  • 1 loaf of French bread
Slice bread into 1/4 inch slices on diagonal to make longer slices.  Broil about 1 minute per side about 4 inches from broiler.  Let cool and keep crisp in a plastic bag.  (Make sure toasts are cool before bagging or the steam from their heat will make them soggy.)
Tomato topping
  • 2 large shallots, thinly sliced
  • 1 TB olive oil
  • 2 tomatoes, seeded and chopped
  • 3 oz ricotta salata or feta cheese, diced
  • 2 TB chives, minced
  • 2 tsp balsamic vinegar
Heat oil over low to medium heat in a small saucepan.  Cook shallots, stirring until soft.  Add tomatoes and cook for 2 minutes.  Toss tomato mixture with cheese, chives and balsamic vinegar.  Refrigerate until ready to use.  To serve, top toasts with 1 – 2 tsps of mixture (depending upon size of toasts.)
Spinach topping
  • 2 bags baby spinach
  • 6 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 TB olive oil
  • 3/4 cup mozzarella cheese
Saute garlic in medium saucepan over medium heat for about 1 minute.  Add spinach in two batches and stir until wilted (about 5 minutes.)  Drain liquid and transfer to a bowl.  Stir in mozzarella cheese.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.  Spoon onto toasts.
Mediterranean layer dip
  • 1 container hummus (you can use plain or flavored – I doubled recipe so used one plain and one flavored)
  • 1 finely chopped tomato
  • 1 chopped cucumber
  • 1/4 red onion chopped
  • 4 oz feta cheese
  • 2 TB chopped black olives
  • pita bread
In a shallow serving dish layer hummus, tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, feta and black olives.  Refrigerate until ready to serve with pita wedges.