Halloween treats

For many years our neighborhood has had a potluck Halloween party.  People brought chili and appetizers and everyone enjoyed wine or beer and trying a variety of dishes.  The kids would play together and then peel off in groups for trick-or-treating.  Sadly this year – no party.  As a tribute to past parties, here are some of the things I brought in years past:

Grilled Thai chili scallops

  • 7 – 10 slices white bread, cut into rounds with a 2 inch fluted pastry cutter
  • 15 sea scallops, cut in thirds horizontally
  • 6 – 8 TB Thai sweet chili sauce
  • creme fraiche

Bake bread rounds in a 300 degree oven for about 25 minutes until crisp and browned.  Cool completely and then store in a zip lock bag until ready to assemble.

Heat a grill pan over medium high heat.  Grill scallop slices (dry) for about a minute a side.  Remove from heat into bowl with sweet chili sauce.  Chill until ready to assemble.

When ready to assemble, top each toast round with a scallop slice and a dollop of creme fraiche.

Bruschetta Toasts

  • 1 loaf of French bread
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.)  I did two loaves – one with the spinach topping and one with the shrimp and arranged them alternately on trays.
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.

Blanched Asparagus with Wasabi Mayonnaise

This is always a hit.

  • Asparagus spears, tough end broken off
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 4 tsp low sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2 tsp wasabi paste

Boil water with salt and blanch asparagus in batches for 2 minutes.  Drain and rinse with cold water to stop cooking.  Refrigerate wrapped in paper towels.  Stir together remaining ingredients and refrigerate.  Serve asparagus with wasabi mayonnaise for dipping.  NOTE:  Leftover wasabi mayonnaise is great on turkey sandwiches.

Grilled chicken skewers with avocado sauce

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into about 1 inch cubes (I got 50 pieces)

Marinade

  • juice from 2 limes
  • 2 TB honey
  • 4 TB olive oil
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, finely chopped
  • salt and pepper

Sauce:

  • 1 avocado, pitted
  • 4 scallions, chopped
  • 1 TB red wine vinegar
  • 1 TB olive oil
  • 1/2 cup sour cream

Combine all marinade ingredients and toss with chicken.  Refrigerate for at lest an hour and up to a day.  Soak 6 inch wooden skewers in water while chicken is marinating and then skewer one chicken cube on each skewer.

Broil skewers about 5 minutes a side.  NOTE: I lined my pan with aluminum foil and put the skewers on them.  I did them in our countertop oven and needed to cook in batches as a result.  The skewers started to brown in the first batch even though they had been soaked in water so I figured out that covering the skewers in foil helped to keep them from burning.

For sauce, combine all ingredients in a blender.  Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.  NOTE: If you push plastic wrap flat on the surface of the dip it will keep it from discoloring.

Tuna Tartar
  • 1 lb fresh tuna, chopped finely
  • 4 TB olive oil
  • zest and juice of 1 lime
  • 1/2 tsp wasabi powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp low sodium soy sauce
  • 5 dashes Tabasco sauce
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper
  • 2 scallions, minced
  • 1 small jalapeno pepper with seeds removed, minced
  • 1 1/2 avocados, chopped

Place tuna in a bowl.  Whisk together olive oil, lime zest, lime juice, wasabi, soy sauce, Tabasco, salt and pepper.  Pour over tuna.   Stir in  scallions, jalapeno and avocado.  Refrigerate for a few hours until ready to serve.  This is really good on sesame crackers and I found some with lime.

Reunion!

We hosted my 35th high school reunion party last night.  It was fun to get everyone together and I used some of my tried and true favorites as well as a few new things.  Here was the menu:

Passed Hors d’oeuvres 

  • Bang bang chicken in tasting spoons
  • Thai chili seared scallops
  • Seared tuna with wasabi sauce

Buffet table

  • Gazpacho shots
  • Sliced tenderloin with rolls and two sauces
  • Vegetable platter with arugula green goddess sauce
  • Crab dip
  • Chicken liver pate
  • Cheese and crackers
  • Dessert platter with brownies, iced sugar cookies and lemon pound cake

I was able to do all of the cooking ahead of time and had a great helper during the party for assembling, refreshing and cleaning up.  Here are the recipes:

Bang Bang chicken

  • 3 TB sesame seeds, toasted in  dry pan over low heat for about 3 minutes
  • 8 TB smooth peanut butter
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 TB fresh ginger, minced
  • 3 TB lemon juice
  • 1 TB low sodium soy sauce
  • 1/4 tsp tabasco
  • 1 boneless, skinless chicken breast, split

Mix all ingredients except chicken to a smooth sauce.  Put chicken in a pan with cold water to cover and bring to simmer.  Simmer until cooked through 10 – 12 minutes.  Let chicken cool completely.  Drain, pat dry and cut into bite size pieces.  Combine with sauce and then serve either in tasting spoons or small shells.

Grilled Thai chili scallops

  • 7 – 10 slices white bread, cut into rounds with a 2 inch fluted pastry cutter
  • 15 sea scallops, cut in thirds horizontally
  • 6 – 8 TB Thai sweet chili sauce
  • creme fraiche

Bake bread rounds in a 300 degree oven for about 25 minutes until crisp and browned.  Cool completely and then store in a zip lock bag until ready to assemble.

Heat a grill pan over medium high heat.  Grill scallop slices (dry) for about a minute a side.  Remove from heat into bowl with sweet chili sauce.  Chill until ready to assemble.

When ready to assemble, top each toast round with a scallop slice and a dollop of creme fraiche.

Seared tuna with wasabi sauce
  • 1 lb of sushi grade tuna
  • 1 TB black sesame seeds
  • 1 TB sesame seeds
  • 1 TB poppy seeds
  • 1 TB canola oil
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 2 TB wasabi paste (can be made by combining equal parts of wasabi powder and water)
  • flat bread crackers
Cut tuna into long blocks.  Season with salt and pepper.  Combine sesame seeds and poppy seeds in a shallow pan and dip tuna blocks in seeds, coating each side.  Using a non-stick pan over medium high heat, heat canola oil and sear tuna blocks about 2 minutes a side.  (You want tuna to be rare).  Remove from heat and chill in refrigerator.  Combine sour cream and wasabi paste.  When ready to serve, slice tuna and put on flat bread crackers – top with a small amount of sauce.

Gazpacho

  • 4 cups tomato juice
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 red pepper, chopped
  • 2 cucumbers, peeled, seeded and chooopped
  • 2 scallions, chpped
  • juice of 1 lime
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 2 TB white wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp tarragon
  • 1 tsp basil
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 parsley, chopped
  • 3 TB olive oil
  • 2 large tomatoes, cored and chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
Combine ingredients in a blender and process to your liking.  Refrigerate.  Serve.

Beef Tenderloin 

We always used to cook tenderloin at high heat until we discovered this slow-roasted technique.  Meat is moist and tender.

  • 1 beef tenderloin, trimmed and tied
  • 3 TB olive oil
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • coarsely ground pepper.

Preheat oven to 275.  Brush filet with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Roast for 1 hour and 15 minutes.  Check temperature – when a thermometer registers 125, your meat is rare.  If you want medium rare, cook to 135.  Remove from oven and cover with aluminum foil.  Let rest for about 20 minutes and then carve and serve with sauce of your choice.  Every time we make the beef this way, people say it is the best they have ever had.

Mustard Horseradish sauce

  • 1 1/2 cups mayonnaise
  • 3 TB Dijon mustard
  • 1 1/2 TB whole-grain mustard
  • 1 TB horseradish
  • 1/4 cup sour cream

Whisk together to combine.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Basil Parmesan Mayonnaise
  • 2 extra-large egg yolks, at room temperature
  • 3 TB freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 TB Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves, lightly packed
  • 1/2 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 cup vegetable oil, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup olive oil, at room temperature
Place egg yolks, lemon juice, cheese, mustard, basil and garlic in a food processor fitted with the steel blade.  Process for 20 seconds, until smooth.  Combine two oils together in a 2 cup liquid measuring cup.  With the food processor running,g slowly pour the oil mixture through the feed tube to make a thick emulsion.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Vegetable platter
I wanted to have a healthy offering in addition to the gazpacho.  I roasted asparagus, cauliflower and carrots (separately) at 350 tossed with a small amount of olive oil and salt and pepper.  (I did the asparagus for about 5 minutes, the cauliflower for about 30 and the carrots for about 25.)  I added sliced red and yellow peppers, baby bella mushrooms and radishes.  In the middle of the plate we had a bowl with:
Arugula green goddess dip
  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 scallion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 TS fresh lemon juice
  • 2 cups of arugula

Combine all ingredients in a blender until smooth.

Crab dip

  • 1 lb lump crab meat
  • 1/2 cup mayo
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2 8 oz. packages of cream cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese
  • 2 tsp dry mustard
  • 2 TB Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • Old Bay seasoning to taste.

Combine all ingredients and bake at 350 for 30 minutes.

Chicken Liver Mousse pate

  • 1 lb chicken livers
  • 2 TB canola oil
  • 2 shallots, finely sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 TB brandy
  • 5 TB butter
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream

Trim chicken livers and season with salt and pepper.  Heat oil over high eat and sear livers on all sides.  Reduce heat to low and cook for 2 – 4 minutes until livers are browned on outside but still pink inside.  Remove livers to a dish.  In pan with remaining fat, cook shallots and garlic over medium heat until translucent.  Reduce heat to low and add brandy.  Add 4 TB of butter and nutmeg and stir.  Remove from heat.

Add liver and butter mixture to a food processor and puree until smooth.  Add remaining butter.  Whip cream into soft peaks and fold into pate.  Put in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve.  NOTE: This is best if made the day before.

Easter appetizers

My sister and her husband are hosting Easter dinner.  I volunteered to do appetizers.  It is a big group – 16 people so I wanted some variety.  Here is what I’m bringing:

Blanched Asparagus with Wasabi Mayonnaise

This is always a hit and it is so easy to transport.

  • Asparagus spears, tough end broken off
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 4 tsp low sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2 tsp wasabi paste

Boil water with salt and blanch asparagus in batches for 2 minutes.  Drain and rinse with cold water to stop cooking.  Refrigerate wrapped in paper towels.  Stir together remaining ingredients and refrigerate.  Serve asparagus with wasabi mayonnaise for dipping.  NOTE:  Leftover wasabi mayonnaise is great on turkey sandwiches.

Salmon Spread

My nieces all love this spread and it is a great way to serve smoked salmon to a group of people.

  • 1 8 oz package cream cheese, softened
  • 8 oz smoked salmon, chopped
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp dill
  • 1/4 tsp tabasco
  • 1/4 cup chopped black olives
  • pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients. Press in a mound or a bowl for shape and chill. Serve with crackers.

Grilled Thai chili scallops

These are delicious and again, easy to transport.  Since we are having lamb for dinner, I thought seafood in the appetizer would be good.

  • 7 – 10 slices white bread, cut into rounds with a 2 inch fluted pastry cutter
  • 15 sea scallops, cut in thirds horizontally
  • 6 – 8 TB Thai sweet chili sauce
  • creme fraiche

Bake bread rounds in a 300 degree oven for about 25 minutes until crisp and browned.  Cool completely and then store in a zip lock bag until ready to assemble.

Heat a grill pan over medium high heat.  Grill scallop slices (dry) for about a minute a side.  Remove from heat into bowl with sweet chili sauce.  Chill until ready to assemble.

When ready to assemble, top each toast round with a scallop slice and a dollop of creme fraiche.