Grilled Shrimp with Basil and Prosciutto

 

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This one’s been on my list FOREVER to share with you as it’s one of my very favorite ways to serve shrimp. It’s very simple to make and…I just happen to have an ample supply of basil in my garden right now (yes, basil pesto has already been made!)Grilled Shrimp with Basil and Prosciutto Dinner Is Served4 Grilled shrimp make the perfect summertime patio meal, accompanied by a green salad, fresh ciabatta bread and a crisp white.  They also make a wonderful appetizer.  Versatility: it’s a good thing!

Start with a classic white wine/lemon marinade that’s spruced up with some fresh chopped basil and Dijon mustard: Grilled Shrimp with Basil and Prosciutto Dinner Is Served1

Then let your gorgeous shrimp marinate for a good three hours in the fridge. You can probably get away with two hours.  I wouldn’t go longer than four:Grilled Shrimp with Basil and Prosciutto Dinner Is Served2Grilled Shrimp with Basil and Prosciutto Dinner Is Served3

To assemble, just wrap a fresh basil leaf around each shrimp, followed by a strip of prosciutto and grill, basting with the reserved marinade. The result is juicy shrimp with just enough lemon and basil flavors, surrounded by smokey, crispy prosciutto.

We’re headed up to the great state of Wisconsin for a little R&R then back to harvest this year’s honey (you can see our hives in the photo below).   Looking forward to sharing that with you!  Until then…be well, eat well, love lots!  And may all your days be as beautiful as the one we had yesterday here in Chicago20170729_232905956_iOS

Grilled Shrimp with Basil and Prosciutto

  • 1# Jumbo – to Colossal size shrimp, peeled and deveined (See NOTE)
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/8 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 TBS Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • Fresh or coarsely ground black pepper
  • About 15 large fresh basil leaves (or 1 per shrimp)
  • About 15 thin slices of prosciutto (or 1 per shrimp)  For smaller shrimp you may get by with 1 slice of prosciutto for two shrimp
  • Two thick lemon wedges for grilling and garnishing (optional)
  • Toothpicks
  • Non-stick grill spray + basting brush

Combine the white wine, olive oil, lemon juice, mustard, chopped basil and pepper to taste in a bowl, whisking to combine.  Place shrimp in a shallow glass or non-reactive dish.  Pour marinade over, turning shrimp a few times to coat.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 3 hours or up to 4.

Remove shrimp from marinade, reserving marinade for basting.  Wrap the middle of each shrimp with a basil leaf followed by a slice of prosciutto.  Secure with a toothpick and repeat with remaining shrimp.

Preheat grill and clean surface.  Spray with nonstick spray. Grill shrimp for several minutes on each side, basting with reserved marinade.  Make sure the shrimp is cooked through the prosciutto is just starting to crisp.  While shrimp is cooking, place lemon wedges on grate and cook until slightly charred.

Remove shrimp to a platter. Serve with fresh sprigs of basil and grilled lemon wedges

Serves: 3 as a main course; 8 as an appetizer

NOTE> Shrimp sizes and descriptions can be tricky which is why I usually end up just eyeballing it when I’m at the store.  For this recipe, I found some GORGEOUS pink Key West shrimp that were labeled “U12,” meaning under 12 shrimp per pound.  To me, that’s THE perfect size for grilling.  Technically these fall into the “colossal” category but they’re not really all that huge!  You can step it down to Jumbo shrimp, especially if you’re making this as an appetizer.  Just keep in mind they will cook in no time at all on the grill so be prepared with that spatula and platter.  ENJOY!

Grilled Shrimp with Basil and Prosciutto . Dinner Is Served

 

 

Spain-Inspired Dinner

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One of the casualties of my returning to work full time a few years back was having people over for dinner.  Mostly because my dining room table became ground zero for all “work in process”: unfolded laundry, unpaid bills, school books and bags of chips that no one had time to put away.  I couldn’t even begin to think about entertaining as the task of organizing the chaos was overwhelming.

Towards the end of last year, I was feeling especially disconnected from friends.  And I realized how much I missed those dinner parties. I also realized it was about time I got a handle on the disorganization that had taken over my house, so I spent a few weekends cleaning and purging and FINALLY seeing my dining room table for the first time!20170211_185110500_ios

Then the planets aligned with a few other couples whose sons wrestled in high school with our son and we got a date to gather and wine and dine!  I thought a sunny Spain-inspired menu would be the perfect way to break up the mid-winter monotony.  For starters I put together this platter of traditional Spanish cheeses and charcuterie: Cana de Cabra (tangy goat cheese), Campo de Montalban (a 100 day aged cheese is a blend of cow, sheep and goat’s milk from La Mancha), prosciutto, sausages and my favorite Marcona Almonds.20170212_001516606_ios

Olives too!  Oh my…these Castelvetrano Olives Marinated with Rosemary, Red Chili, Orange and Paprika were spectacular: 20170211_191404314_ios-1

There are so many versions of paella, it was difficult deciding which one to make!  I ended up with this Chicken and Seafood Paella from Jo Cooks since it offers a bit of everything.  A little tweaking was necessary as I omitted the clams, added some chopped roasted red peppers and about one cup of peas at the end.  16/20 shrimp is the perfect size and andouille sausage can easily be substituted if chorizo is not available.  With the right equipment and best quality ingredients (see Resources section below), this dish was a knock-out:20170212_023654293_ios-1

Because I love wine and especially Spanish wine, there was plenty of it to go around as well. For red, I chose a silky Tempranillo : 2014 Hito Cepa 21 available locally at Binny’s Beverage Depot for just $13.99/bottle.  Be sure to decant this one about an hour before serving so all of its complex fruit and smooth tannins are at their best.  For white, I didn’t want to veer too far into anything floral, so opted for a 2015 Naia Verdejo, which had just enough straw and citrus to compliment the seafood and work with the more assertive saffron/smoked paprika elements in the dish.  Available at Binny’s for just $10.00/bottle.  It’s a great value!

We ended the evening with chocolate covered strawberries, other sweets and of course more wine!

To me this is what cooking is all about and I can’t wait to gather friends together for another meal to share.  Whether I can keep my dining room table cleared until then remains to be seen 😉

Until next time, be well, eat well and love lots!

Ann

~RESOURCES~

PAELLA PAN – Do you HAVE to buy one to make paella?  Well yes and no.  The week before I gave the recipe a test run in a shallow Le Crueset pan and it was very good.   For my dinner party, I borrowed a more authentic paella pan from a friend and the paella was even better. The large surface area and dimpled carbon steel base allowed for even cooking and that wonderful authentic paella “crust” to form on the bottom.  Would also make a great pan for sauteeing vegetables and for other rice-based dishes.  At just $29.95 for a 15″ pan (large enough to make a paella for 8),  at Williams Sonoma, how can you resist!20170212_153824811_ios

SAFFRON – In addition to a paella pan, it’s worth investing in some good quality saffron for this dish, as it is truly the star flavor ingredient.  Unless you’re in a bind, I would not recommend supermarket saffron as it is typically grossly overpriced and has likely been sitting on the shelf for ever.  Instead, head to Amazon and purchase a bottle of this Mehr Premium All Red Saffron.  3 grams will run you around $20 and yes I know that is a lot of money but this is a generous quantity and will last you a long time.  And with this stunning silky gift box, think of it as a gift to yourself!20170208_000645233_ios

OLIVE DISH – Part of the fun of entertaining is digging through my shelves of serving plates, glassware, etc. It’s amazing how much I’ve accumulated over the years. This pretty ceramic olive bowl makes frequent appearances at parties. Mainly because I LOVE olives and serve them at almost every occasion.  One compartment for the olives, one for toothpicks and a third for pits.  And it just happens to have been made in Spain. Perfect!  Available online at La Tienda for $29.95 + shipping.20170212_151906702_ios

 

Savory Shortbread Biscuits with Parmesan Cheese and Herbs

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Last weekend we spent a quiet evening with great friends and amazing food, ringing in 2017. I think for many, 2016 was a year of great challenges and I know that was certainly true in my case.  I thought about things I want to do more of this year (or less of!) and at the top of my list was sharing more recipes with you so…to start off 2017, I am presenting this recipe for savory appetizer shortbread biscuits that are so easy to make and a sheer delight to eat!

Also new to my blog: A “postscript” section after the recipe on “Equipment Notes” featuring a kitchen gadget or appliance that I have found particularly helpful in making the recipe 🙂

Now back to the biscuits.  As someone who has had their fair share of challenges with various pastry doughs, this short pastry thankfully is very forgiving and requires a handful of ingredients:

20161231_163051507_iosReally, just flour, butter, Parmesan cheese, some fresh herbs and not much else!  Combined into what at first may seem a crumbly mess but never fear!20161231_163940001_iosJust work in a little water, a little kneading and a cooling off period in the fridge and you’ve got a nice round of dense, flavorful dough which rolls out effortlessly.20161231_164335266_iosAlthough you may certainly roll the dough into a log and slice it into rounds, I much prefer using my little 1 1/2″ biscuit cutter, a souvenir of my culinary school days.biscuit-cuttersAnd one final prep tip that literally involves the tip…of your knife, to loosen each little circle of biscuit dough before placing on the sheet pan to bake. Works like a charm!20161231_175228849_ios-1Now just bake for about 23 minutes until golden. These melt in your mouth, buttery biscuits pair beautifully with any kind of wine or cocktail or along side a salad course.  They make a nice hostess gift, wrapped, and they keep well for days OR freeze for future use.

Here is to a happy healthy 2017, to good friends and memorable meals. I look forward to sharing many more recipes with you in the months to come ♥

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SAVORY SHORTBREAD BISCUITS WITH PARMESAN CHEESE & HERBS

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3 ounces finely grated Parmesan Cheese (preferably freshly grated)
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon water, or more as needed
  1. Place the butter in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment and mix on medium-low until creamy.
  2. Add the Parmesan, salt, pepper, herbs and flour one at a time until evenly combined.
  3. Add 1 1/2 tablespoon of water and the dough will start to clump. Empty the contents of the bowl to a surface and knead lightly to form a ball, adding additional water, a few drops at a time, until the dough just comes together.
  4. Flatten the dough and wrap it in plastic wrap. Chill until firm, at least 30 minutes.
  5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  6. Roll the dough to 1/4 – 1/2 inch thick. Use a cookie cutter to make small crackers, re-rolling the dough as needed.
  7. Place the crackers on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper and bake for approximately 22-25 minutes. Let cool completely before storing in container. Biscuits may be stored in the freezer for up to a month.

Yields: About 40, 1 1/2″ biscuits

EQUIPMENT NOTE

My single blade, carbon steel Mezzaluna (literally “half moon” in Italian) has been a prized tool in my kitchen for over 20 years. It’s gentle rocking motion and super sharp blade, make mincing herbs a breeze. Also works great for mincing garlic, onions and just about any other vegetable.  They’re also very safe to use, making it a perfect tool to introduce an older child or teen to food prep.

Mezzaluna knives are available at many online retail outlets and vary in price from very inexpensive ($7.99 for this HIC 6.75-inch Chopper) to pricey ($69.95 for Wusthof’s 9-inch Knife).  My pick would be this wooden-handle, 10-inch SCI Mezzaluna, made in Italy and available on Amazon.com for just $18.27.  Happy chopping!20161231_163351825_ios-1

 

Ann’s Essential Guacamole

 

Ann's Essential Guac - DInner Is ServedThis post is going to be fairly short since it’s a tandem recipe to another one I will be posting later today or tomorrow.  Bottom line though, it that guacamole is something everyone should at least try making from scratch. You’ll realize how easy it is to make and how FAR superior it is to any pre-packaged guac you buy at the grocery store.

Another advantage is that you can make it YOUR way.  You control the ingredients, the creaminess (or not), the amount of spice (or none).  There is really only one ingredient that’s a must: avocados.  The rest of the add-ins are up to you. Here are the ones I love:Ann's Essential Guac - DInner Is Served2

And since I like just a hint of spice, I add some Cholula Hot Sauce, starting with about 1/2 tsp and adding a little more, drop by drop, until it’s just right.

One final note before I jump right in. Finding avocados that are just the perfect ripeness is important.  Bright green, rock hard ones just won’t work. On the flip side, mushy and overripe ones will just make your guacamole mushy and sad.  Look for medium-ripe avocados, that yield just a bit, when pressed.

Enjoy!

Ann’s Essential Guacamole

  • 3 medium ripe avocados
  • 1 large tomato, seeded and diced
  • 1/2 a white or red onion, diced (or you can use about 1/3 cup chopped green onions)
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • Juice of 2 small lines (about 1-2 TBS)
  • Cholula hot sauce
  • Coarse salt and pepper

Remove pit from avocados and scoop insides out into a large bowl along with the lime juice.  Mash with a fork (or a potato masher works), until desired consistency.  I prefer somewhat smooth, but with small pieces of solid avocado in act.  Gently fold in tomatoes, onions and cilantro along with about 1/2 tsp of the hot sauce, a generous pinch of salt and pepper.  Taste for seasonings, adding additional hot sauce, lime juice or salt and pepper if desired.

Place in a glass or plastic container and place a piece of plastic wrap over the surface of the guacamole, pressing down to ensure no air bubbles (this step helps it keep it’s beautiful green color).  Refrigerate for about 1 hour before serving.

 

Holiday Hot Crab Dip

Holiday Hot Crab Dip  2 Dinner Is ServedI wanted to end 2015 with a treasured family recipe and can’t think of a better one than this Hot Crab Dip which was a specialty of my late mother-in-law, Jean.  Christmas was the holiday she pulled out all the stops with a house filled with family and friends. Her appetizer buffet was always a bounty of sweet and savory treats.

We were blessed to have that time with her, and I continue to be blessed this holiday season. Although not as grand in scale, my Christmas Day was filled with the love of family:Christmas 2015 CollageAnd of course great food!Christmas 2015 1Christmas 2015 2 Of all of Jean’s recipes, her hot crab dip remains one of my favorites. So rich and creamy. And always served from the copper chaffing dish she passed down to me (pictured above in upper right hand corner).  And always served with one of my most guilty pleasures in life: Fritos Corn Chips.Christmas 2015 3Really?

Yes, really.  Trust me this is one of those culinary matches made in heaven. And though Fritos may not fall under anyone’s definition of “fine dining” Jean’s hot crab dip will never be served with anything but!

This recipe is pretty straightforward, so I am not going to bother with photos of the ingredients or a lengthy discussion of cooking techniques (mainly because there are none involved!)  My only comment to you is an insistence that you use real crab meat, preferably chilled, fresh lump crab meat. I’ve had crab dip on occasion made with imitation crab meat, which to me is just a cheap, rubbery substitute.

Finally, keep in mind this is very rich, so a little goes a long way. Last night I doubled the recipe for 8 people and we still had some leftover!

And with this, I bid adieu to 2015.  Being able to share my passion for good food is a great gift that is impossible without your support and words of praise.  Hoping that 2016 brings much health and happiness to all of you and of course many many memorable meals and time spent with the ones you love!

Ann Baker

Dinner Is Served

December, 2015

Holiday Hot Crab Dip

  • 1-8 ounce package of cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp grated onion
  • 1 tsp yellow mustard
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • Dash seasoned salt (see Note>)
  • 5-6 oz. fresh crab meat
  • 3 TBS white wine or sherry

Melt the cream cheese over low heat until creamy.  Add remaining ingredients, adding wine or sherry one tablespoon at a time until desired consistency. Stir until just heated through and well combined. Serve hot with corn chips. Can be made ahead of time and reheated over very low heat.

Serves 4

Note> I’m a big fan of Penzey’s 4S Seasoned Salt Blend which has a nice delicate balance of flavor. Available at Penzey’s stores or online.

 

 

Hummus with Parsley Oil and Pine Nuts

Hummus with Parsley Oil and Pine Nuts 6 Dinner Is ServedAs we pass the halfway point in the month of wining and dining excesses (which shall heretofore be referred to as “the holidays), I thought it would be nice to take a little break and enjoy a little hummus. Time to step away from the peppermint bark, the fudge and fruitcake, eggnog lattes and gingerbread martinis.  Besides who doesn’t love hummus?  Especially THIS hummus!Hummus with Parsley Oil and Pine Nuts 8 Dinner Is ServedThis is a recipe I perfected long before hummus and pita chips became mass produced and ultimately, ubiquitous. Back in my personal chef days, I was a virtual one-woman assembly line, quadrupling this recipe and cranking out homemade pita chips like no one’s business. So popular was my hummus that upon introducing myself to another mom at a little league game, she exclaimed “Your name sounds so familiar.  You…you make something don’t you?”  I asked her if she was referring to hummus and she replied with an enthusiastic “YES!!! Yes, you’re the hummus person!”

I guess there are worst things to be famous for, right?

I have been asked what makes my hummus so good.  The parsley infused oil and toasted pine nuts are an obvious. They make it pretty. Different.  But beyond the obvious, there are a few pointers that I can offer from my vast experience of hummus-making:

  1. Use fresh ingredientsHummus with Parsley Oil and Pine Nuts Dinner Is ServedI know this tip sounds beyond obvious, but it deserves mention as we’re often tempted to cut corners. With this recipe, “fresh” means real lemons (not bottled lemon juice, fresh garlic (not from a jar), good quality olive oil, etc.
  1. Smash that garlic! This will bring out the full essence of the garlic and, it is kind of fun watching your going from this:IMAG0166

To this:IMAG0167

  1. Last but not least, process it WELL. Just when you think it’s smooth enough, process it some more. Not creamy enough?  Add a little extra water. Not zingy enough?  Add a little extra lemon juice.  Not rich enough?  Add some extra olive oil.   Process, taste, then process some more.  Your goal is a perfectly smooth, perfectly balanced final product:Hummus with Parsley Oil and Pine Nuts 2 Dinner Is Served

Everything here can be prepped well in advance then assembled at the last minute, making it perfect for holiday parties and gatherings.  And someday you too can join Hummus “royalty.”

š Hummus with Parsley Infused Oil  ›and Pine Nuts

  • 4 large cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 1-lb. 3 oz. cans chick peas, drained and rinsed
  • 2/3 cup well stirred tahini* (See Note>)
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice, or more to taste
  • 1/2 cup olive oil, or to taste
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves
  • 2 Tbs. pine nuts

On a cutting board mince and mash the garlic and salt to a paste using a chef knife.  In a food processor, puree the chick peas with the garlic paste, tahini, lemon juice, 1/4 cup of the oil, and 1/2 cup water, scraping down the sides, until the hummus is smooth.  Add salt to taste.  Add additional water, olive oil and/or lemon juice, if necessary, to thin the hummus to desired consistency. Transfer to a bowl.

In the food processor, cleaned, puree the remaining 1/4 cup oil with the parsley until the oil is bright green and the parsley is minced; transfer the oil to a small jar. Or alternatively, mince the fresh parsley on a cutting board.  Add to the oil to combine.

Toast the pine nuts in a skillet over medium-low heat, stirring frequently until fragrant and lightly browned (keep a close eye on the pine nuts as they can go from lightly browned to burned in a matter of minutes!)

Hummus, oil and pine nuts can be made 3 days in advance.  Cover and chill hummus and oil.  Cover nuts and keep at room temperature.

To serve, let dip and oil come to room temperature (about 30 minutes).  Place dip in a shallow serving dish.  Drizzle with parsley oil and sprinkle with toasted pine nuts.  Serve with Toasted Pita Thins, fresh veggies or tortilla chips.

Yield> About 4 cups of hummus

Note> Tahini, or sesame seed paste, is a staple of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cooking. It is often located in the ethnic section of most grocery stores, although sometimes locating it can be tricky. Sometimes I’ve located it in the same aisle as peanut butter!  It will separate in the jar, so be sure to give it a good stir before adding to the hummus. You can store an open jar of hummus in your fridge for several weeks.

Hummus with Parsley Oil and Pine Nuts Dinner Is Served Pinterest

Perfectly Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Perfectly Roasted Pumpkin Seeds Dinner Is Served

I seriously LIVE for these.  Halloween to me is not about dressing up, trick or treating, candy, haunted houses. Nope, it’s all about the seeds my friends.

The family is hooked as well and a batch of roasted pumpkin seeds will last a day, if that.  I suppose there are far worse things to be addicted to.  Perhaps it’s a blessing they come around but once a year.

Perfectly Roasted Pumpkin Seeds 2

Either way, should you find yourself in the carving mode this week here is my ultra simple and foolproof method for roasted pumpkin seeds.

~PERFECTLY ROASTED PUMPKIN SEEDS~

  • Seeds from about 2 large pumpkins, separated from flesh
  • Olive oil
  • Kosher Salt
  • Cayenne Pepper
  • 1 large sheet pan

Place seeds in a large bowl and cover with water. Swish around a few times to remove any excess pulp.  Drain.  Spread seeds out on sheet pan in one layer (using two pans if necessary).  Pat dry with paper towels.  Leave at room temperature, uncovered, for 24 hours, tossing occasionally.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Transfer seeds to a large mixing bowl. Drizzle with a little olive oil then sprinkle with salt and a few pinches of cayenne pepper.  Gently combine with your hands.

Transfer seeds back to the sheet pan.  Place in the center rack in the oven and bake for 25 minutes.  Remove from oven and stir.  Return to oven and continue to roast and stir about every 5 minutes until just golden (my seeds usually take about 40 minutes in total, but all ovens vary so best to just check on them every couple minutes).

Remove from oven and let cool slightly then devour.

Perfectly Roasted Pumpkin Seeds - Dinner Is Served

Holiday Spinach & Basil Pesto Spread with Sun Dried Tomatoes

Holiday Spinach & Basil Pesto Spread with Sun Dried Tomatoes | Dinner Is ServedGoing to keep my prose short and sweet today because I imagine, it being a mere two days until Christmas Eve, many of you are knee deep in wrapping, cookie baking, traveling over the river and through the woods, or engaging in general holiday revelry.

Whatever the case, it sure doesn’t hurt having a nifty and delicious appetizer in your back pocket to wow the crowd at your next gathering.  And in my ever so humble opinion, this layered dip fits the bill just perfectly.  Added bonus for the holidays…it’s a festive red and green.  Serve with little toasts, bread, or even bagel chips and I guarantee you’ll be the belle of the holiday ball.

So without further ado, let’s review a few simple basics, starting with a couple of quality ingredients like fresh spinach, parsley and basil:

Pesto Dip

And add some crowd pleasing ingredients like creamy goat cheese and oil packed sun dried tomatoes

Final1And of course what pesto would be complete without some freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (note the Microplane Coarse grater which I love with all my heart)

FInal3Throw the greens, cheese, garlic and pine nuts into a food processor and give it a spin with some fruity olive oil

Holiday Spinach & Basil Pesto Dip with Sun Dried Tomatoes

And “ta da”!  Pesto is born!  Layer it onto the goat cheese/cream cheese base, top with some of the sundried tomatoes and you are all set.
Holiday Spinach & Basil Pesto Dip with Sun Dried Tomatoes

Hmmm…I promised I would be brief didn’t I?  And I feel like I have been anything but.  Hope you all are able to savor the joy of the season.  From my very crazy household and kitchen to yours.  Extending warm holiday wishes from Dinner Is Served ♥

Holiday Spinach & Basil Pesto Spread with Sun Dried Tomatoes

2 cloves fresh garlic, peeled

1 ¼ cups fresh basil

1 cup spinach

¼ cup fresh parsley

3 TBS pine nuts

½ cup each olive oil, freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Freshly ground black pepper

8 oz. fresh goat cheese, room temperature

1 pckg. (3 oz.) cream cheese, room temperature

1 jar (7 oz.) best-quality sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, drained, chopped

Toasted French bread, crackers, bagel chips, etc.

Place garlic in food processor fitted with metal blade; process to mince.  Add basil, spinach, parsley and pine nuts; puree.  Pour oil slowly into processor feed tube with machine running; process until combined.  Add Parmesan; combine.  Add salt and pepper to taste. (Pesto can be made a few days ahead.  Store, covered in refrigerator)

Mix goat cheese and cream cheese together until blended (can be done either by hand or in food processor).  Spread cheese mixture on bottom of 10-inch quiche pan or glass pie dish.  Spread pesto evenly over the top.  Cover with sun-dried tomatoes.  Refrigerate, covered, 3 hours or until set.  Serve with bread or crackers.

Makes 10 appetizer servings

Holiday Dipping Sauce for Shrimp

Holiday Dipping Sauce for Shrimp | Dinner Is ServedBefore you reach for that jar of cocktail sauce at the store today, reach instead for a bottle of sriracha sauce.  Chances are you’ll find it in the Asian section of your grocery store.   Huy Fong® brand sauce seems to be everywhere these days (pictured below).

srirachaNow a word of warning:  see the word HOT on the label?  Take this seriously my friends.  This versatile condiment from Thailand truly does pack a punch, but a little bit can transform almost any dish from blah to stupendous.

Now you can head home because chances are you have the rest of the ingredients on hand to make this most flavorful dipping sauce for poached shrimp or veggies.   It takes only minutes to prepare, keeps in the fridge for a few days and in general, it’s just a great dip to have in your recipe collection.

Now off to the store for last minute items.  Wishing you all stress-free day before Christmas ♥

Holiday Dipping Sauce for Shrimp

1 cup mayonnaise (either regular or lite)

2 TBS fresh lemon juice (approximately 1/2 a lemon)

1 large OR 2 small garlic cloves, crushed

1/2 tsp. sriracha sauce or chili sauce

1/8 cup fresh chopped parsley

Sea Salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Combine all ingredients in a bowl, adjusting seasonings as necessary.  Cover and refrigerate one hour, or up to two days.  Serve with any kind of poached seafood or fresh, raw vegetables.

Yields: 1 cup

Note> Half a teaspoon of sriracha sauce will add a little kick, but feel free to keep kicking it up a few notches by adding more sauce.  Just add a little bit at a time until you’ve got the hotness you like.  Regular chili sauce can be substituted for the sriracha.

Cranberry Glazed Turkey Meatballs

Can there be such a thing as having too many recipes from which to choose?  Well yes, when you have an indecisive personality,  it can be torture.  Take a very simple request to “bring an appetizer” to a holiday party.  I tend to get that deer-in-the-headlights initial response.  Really?  Just one appetizer?  I have hundreds of great appetizer recipes and you’re asking me to choose just one?

Seriously, if I went to a party every day for the rest of my life, I could probably bring an appetizer every time and never repeat a recipe.  Ever.  It’s exhausting being me sometimes.

Lucky for me this past week as I waivered between making a spinach pesto dip and salmon roulade for a Saturday evening get together…the food gods smiled down on me and presented this lovely looking recipe on my Facebook page.  It was fun and holiday-like. Easy to make ahead and transport.  Decision made.  Whew.

Our party was joyous with an ample supply of great food, including a killer cheesy hot Reuben dip, melt-in-your-mouth bracciole, hearty mostaccioli, desserts too numerous to write down and of course a seemingly endless supply of wine.  And the turkey meatballs?  Vanished before my very eyes.

I also got my santa pants back last night.  Don’t ask 🙂

Cranberry Glazed Turkey Meatballs

Cranberry Glaze

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 12-ounce bag of cranberries, fresh or frozen (no need to defrost)
  • A pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
  • 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar or white vinegar
  • 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon cayenne, to taste

Meatballs

  • 2 large slices white bread, crusts removed, bread torn into small pieces (approximately one cup, packed, or 2 ounces of bread, can sub 1/2 cup of plain breadcrumbs)
  • 2 Tbsp milk
  • A generous 1/4 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/4 pounds ground turkey
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 3/4  teaspoon fennel seeds, slightly crushed
  • Flour for dusting (optional)
  • Vegetable oil

1 Make the cranberry glaze by mixing all the glaze ingredients except the cayenne in a small pot. Mix well and simmer until most of the berries have burst, about 15 minutes. Strain mixture through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl, pressing the cranberry mush against the strainer with the side of a rubber spatula. (Be sure to scrape the outside of the sieve with the spatula.) Add cayenne to taste. Can be made a day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.

2 While the cranberries are cooking, prepare the meatballs. In a small bowl, put the torn bread and sprinkle it with the milk. Use a fork to pulverize the bread a bit. In a large bowl, use the same fork to whisk together the ricotta and the egg until smooth. Add the ground turkey, salt, thyme, fennel seeds and milk-sprinkled bread. Gently mix with your (clean) hands until the ingredients are all incorporated.  Don’t overwork the meatball mixture or the meatballs will become too dense.

3 Gently roll out small meatballs about an 1 inch wide with the palms of your hands and set them on a parchment-lined baking sheet or large plate.  If the mixture starts sticking, just moisten your hands with a few drops of water.  Meatballs can be made up to one day ahead.  Loosely cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

4 Heat 2 Tbsp vegetable oil in a wide sauté pan on medium heat.  Dust the meatballs with some flour, rolling them around to lightly coat evenly.  Working in batches, add the meatballs to the pan, taking care not to crowd the pan, and brown all over. Use a fork to gentle nudge the meatballs, turning them.  Add more oil to the pan as needed.

5 Once the meatballs are browned and the glaze has been strained, add the glaze to the pan with the meatballs. Let simmer, uncovered, until the glaze reduces a bit and the meatballs cook through, about 5 minutes. Remove the meatballs to a serving dish. Pour over remaining cranberry glaze. If the glaze during this process is too thick, add a little water. If too thin, let simmer a little longer.

Yields – about 20-30 meatballs depending on size.

So happy to have these back!

S