Smaller Party Still Needs Amuse Gueule, Fig and Cheese Toasts from Modern Comfort Food by Ina Garten

A smaller party still needs Amuse-Gueule, Fig and Cheese Toasts by Ina Garten from Modern Comfort Food (Published by Clarkson Potter, an imprint of Penguin Random House- October 2020).

Fig & Cheese Toasts


Fig and Goat Cheese Toasts


(1-pound) loaf country bread, halved, and sliced crosswise ³⁄₈ inch thick

1 (8.5-ounce) jar good fig spread, such as Dalmatia (see note)

8 ounces plain creamy cheese, such as goat cheese or cream cheese

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 ripe fresh figs, halved and thinly sliced lengthwise

Microgreens Syrupy balsamic vinegar


Toast the bread in a toaster and while still warm, spread the fig spread on each slice to cover it entirely. Place the cheese in a bowl and heat in the microwave for 30 to 45 seconds, until it’s creamy and spreadable. Spread a layer of the cheese on the fig spread, leaving the edges of the fig spread visible. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Cut each toast crosswise to make appetizers that will be easy to eat. Lightly drizzle each piece with the balsamic vinegar, and top with a few microgreens. Serve at room temperature.

Note: I prefer fig spread, which has less sugar than fig jam or fig preserves, but of course you can use either. Choose a fig spread that is quite thick or it will be hard to spread the cheese on top

(* Recipe courtesy of MODERN COMFORT FOOD. Copyright © 2020 by Ina Garten. Published by Clarkson Potter, an imprint of Penguin Random House. Photo by Quentin Bacon)

Let Okra Flowers Shine, Savor Skillet Roasted Okra Recipe from 'Mosquito Supper Club' cookbook by Melissa Martin

Let okra flowers shine!

Prep, cook and savor this Skillet Roasted Okra recipe from Mosquito Supper Club (Artisan Books, April 2020) by Melissa Martin.

Skillet-Roasted Okra

Okra cooked in a skillet is a great side dish and simple to make. It requires no preparation ahead of time and, if done correctly, is a great accompaniment to just about anything. The key to bringing out the okra’s natural deliciousness is to cook it hot and fast, so make sure your skillets are properly heated. Place two cast-iron skillets in the oven for at least 30 minutes before cooking. This quickly sears the okra on the outside but maintains a crisp center. Like fried okra, the skillet version preserves the okra’s unique flavor and color. Eat it with fresh summer fruit like peaches and plums; with corn, lime, and crème fraîche; and with boiled shrimp and crabs. It also works swimmingly next to fried or sautéed fish.

Serves 4 as a side dish or snack



2 tablespoons (60 ml) canola oil or clarified butter

12 ounces (340 g) tender young okra pods (about 24), sliced lengthwise in half

⅛ teaspoon kosher salt

A couple turns of the pepper mill

Cayenne pepper

1 lemon wedge


Preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C). Place two large cast-iron skillets in the oven to heat for 30 minutes. Line a baking sheet or platter with paper towels.

Carefully remove the hot pans from the oven and set them on the stovetop over medium-high heat. Keep the skillet handles covered to avoid burning your hands.

Add 1 tablespoon of the oil to each pan. Carefully place the okra in the pans in a single layer. Don’t crowd them. Sear in the skillets until golden brown, about 3 minutes, then flip the okra and cook for an additional 2 minutes.

Transfer the okra to the paper towels to soak up any excess oil and use a paper towel or rag to carefully wipe out the excess oil from the skillets.

Toss the okra back into the skillets and season with the salt, some black pepper, a touch of cayenne, and a squeeze of lemon juice. Serve immediately.

3D COVER. Mosquito Supper Club

(“Excerpted from Mosquito Supper Club by Melissa Martin -Artisan Books- Copyright © 2020. Photographs by Denny Culbert")

Heat Up Your Vegetarian Dip with Salsa Verde from Sol Cocina Chef 'Salsas and Moles'

Heat up your vegetarian dip with this recipe from Salsas and Moles,  Fresh and Authentic Recipes for Pico de Gallo, Mole Poblano, Chimichurri, Guacamole, and More (Ten Speed Press, April 2015) by Deborah Schneider of Sol Cocina...

Salsa Verde (Cooked Tomatillo Salsa with Cilantro and Jalapeño)

Makes about 3 cups

Native green tomatillos are the most widely used base for salsas throughout Mexico. They have a tart-sweet taste that greatly enhances other flavors. The most common is the green tomatillo, but cooks love to use tiny purple tomatillos de milpa (milperas), and yellow tomatillos are prized and expensive.

This typically simple salsa verde will become a staple in your repertoire. At the store, choose firm tomatillos with their papery husks intact. Before using, remove the husks and wash off the sticky film under cold running water.

6 medium tomatillos, husked and washed

1 clove garlic

1⁄2 white onion cut into 1-inch chunks

1 large jalapeno or serrano chile, stemmed and cut into 1-inch pieces

1 teaspoon kosher salt

10 sprigs cilantro, stemmed


Place the tomatillos, garlic, onion, jalapeño, and salt in a 11⁄2-quart saucepan. Add just enough water to barely cover the tomatillos and quickly bring to a boil over high heat. Boil the vegetables until the tomatillos have softened and the tip of a knife can be inserted, about 5 minutes; do not overcook.

Drain off the cooking water and transfer the contents of the saucepan to a blender, along with the cilantro leaves. Pulse the salsa until smooth. You will still be able to see some seeds, along with flecks of cilantro. Taste and adjust the seasoning as desired.

Serving Ideas: Spoon this salsa onto anything and everything— eggs, simmered or grilled meats, tacos, quesadillas, or huaraches (masa cakes) with beans and cheese. This is the salsa used to make classic chilaquiles verdes as well as elegant, rich enchiladas suizas: corn tortillas stuffed with chicken and cheese and bathed in tart salsa verde and rich Mexican-style crema. Salsa verde is also the base for chicken or pork chile verde. 

(* Reprinted with permission from Salsas and Moles, by Deborah Schneider, copyright © 2015, published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC, Photographs copyright © 2015 by Maren Caruso

Half-inch Layer of Pimento Cheese Ready to Fall on Super Bowl Table, 'Heritage' Recipe

To paraphrase the weatherman announcing icy mix, half-inch layer of Pimento Cheese is ready to fall on Super Bowl table courtesy of this recipe from Heritage (Artisan Books, October 2014) by Sean Brock.

Pimento Cheese

Makes 2½ to 3 cups

I’ve seen people almost get into fistfights over who has a better pimento cheese recipe. Southerners don’t mess around when it comes to their cherished “pâté de Sud.” We slather the stuff on everything from celery stalks to saltine crackers, and some people won’t even consider eating a hamburger without a half-inch layer of pimento cheese in the stack.

Everyone has his or her own way of making pimento cheese, but the biggest debate always revolves around what kind of mayo is used. I prefer Duke’s; it happens to be my favorite. But you can use your favorite brand—that’s what making a signature pimento cheese is all about. Of course this is best made with pimento peppers you roast yourself, but if you can’t get the fresh peppers, substitute 12 ounces jarred whole pimentos, drained and diced (don’t use jarred chopped pimentos—they have no flavor).

3 large pimento peppers (about 12 ounces)
4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
½ cup mayonnaise, preferably Duke’s
½ teaspoon Husk Hot Sauce (page 238)
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon sugar
⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
⅛ teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
⅛ teaspoon smoked paprika (see Resources, page 326)
¼ cup Pickled Ramps (page 233), chopped, plus ½ cup of the brine
1 pound sharp cheddar cheese, grated on the large holes of a box grater

Pimento Cheese

1. Roast the peppers over an open flame on a gas stovetop, one pepper at a time, on the prongs of a carving fork. Or place on a baking sheet and roast under a hot broiler. In either case, turn the peppers to blister all sides. Then transfer the peppers to a bowl and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Set aside to let the peppers steam until cool enough to handle.

2. Carefully peel the blackened skin off each pepper. Cut the peppers lengthwise in half, open out flat on a cutting board, and carefully scrape away all the seeds and membrane. Dice the peppers.

3. Put the cream cheese in a medium bowl and beat it with a wooden spoon until softened. Add the mayonnaise and mix well. Add the hot sauce, salt, sugar, cayenne pepper, white pepper, and smoked paprika and stir to blend. Add the ramps, ramp brine, and cheddar cheese and stir again. Fold in the diced pimentos.

4. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Tightly covered, the pimento cheese will keep for up to 3 days in the refrigerator.

For creamer pimento cheese, combine all of the ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on medium speed for 2 minutes.

(*Excerpted from Heritage by Sean Brock -Artisan Books, Copyright © 2014- Photographs by Peter Frank Edwards)

Polynesian Bruschetta for New Year's Eve Cocktail Hour, Coconut Caponata

Fresh ideas for New Year's Eve cocktail hour or New Year's Day lunch...

Italian classic gets a face lift with this palate teaser from Coconut 24/7 (Harper 360, US Edition, August 2014) by Pat Crocker...

Coconut Caponata

Makes 3 cups

Caponata is a traditional Italian dish featuring eggplant, garlic and tomatoes, often served with antipasti or as a relish. Toasted almonds and coconut give this version an Oceanic flair. Use it as an accompaniment for cooked meat, poultry and fish, as a sauce for cooked rice or pasta, or on toasted bread slices for a Polynesian bruschetta. Basil makes a great garnish.

3 tbsp melted coconut oil
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 small eggplant, diced
3 tomatoes, peeled and chopped
1-1/4 cups Coconut Gremolata (page 149)
1/2 cup chopped pitted black olives (optional)

Coconut Caponata image_CROCKER

In a saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Sauté onion for 5 minutes. Add garlic and eggplant and cook, stirring frequently, for 3 minutes or until eggplant begins to turn golden brown. Add tomatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes or until eggplant is soft, the liquid from the tomatoes has been reduced and the mixture has thickened. Stir in gremolata and olives (if using) and heat through.

(* Reproduced with permission from Coconut 24/7 'Easy Ways to Look and Feel Better'by Pat Crocker-US edition published by Harper 360, August 2014)

Visions of Bruschetta for Lunch, Here's a Trio of 'Fresh and Light' Ones

Having visions of Bruschetta for lunch?

Here's a trio of them from Fresh and Light (Harper 360, 2014, US edition), by Donna Hay, one of the most visually appetizing books of the year.

Bruschetta_Fresh and Light_HAY

3 toppings are:

-Lemon, Ricotta, Tomato and Basil

-Goat's Curd, Broad Bean and Mint

-Rocket, Salmon and Caper

(* Reproduced with permission from Fresh and Light by Donna Hay, US edition published by Harper 360, 2014- Photography by William Meppem)

Grain-Free Creamy Almond Butter and Honey Apple Dip, Almonds Every Which Way

Concerned about damage to soil that cattle grazing can bring switch from cows to almonds.

In Almonds Every Which Way, More than 150 Healthy-Delicious Almond Milk, Almond Flour and Almond Butter Recipes ( Da Capo Lifelong Books, March 2014), Cheeky Kitchen Brooke McLay shows us ways to cut down on wheat and dairy products.

Here's a first dip into the book, a gluten free one

Creamy Almond Butter and Honey Apple Dip

(Gluten-free, grain-free, vegetarian)

Quick and easy to toss together for snacking, almond butter and honey mixed with yogurt make a great dip for apples, strawberries, or slices of bananas and kiwi. Little cubes of banana bread also pair well with this yummy dip.

3 tablespoons creamy almond butter
4 ounces cream cheese
¼ cup Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons honey
¼ teaspoon apple pie spice
2 Granny Smith apples, cored and cut into ½-inch slices.

Apple Dip

1. Whip the almond butter, cream cheese, yogurt, and honey together in a medium bowl and chill for 1 hour to let the flavors meld.
2. Sprinkle with the apple pie spice before serving. Serve with the apple slices for dipping.

Makes 8 servings

Per serving
(1/8 recipe)
Calories: 121
Calories from Fat: 72
Total Fat: 8.0g, 12%
Saturated Fat: 3.3g, 17%
Total Carb: 12.2g, 4%
Dietary Fiber: 1.9g, 7%
Sugars: 9.4g
Protein: 2.4g
Cholesterol: 16mg, 5%
Sodium: 63mg, 3%

Grain-free, vegetarian dip for Green Day # 267

(* Recipe from Almonds Every Which Way by Brooke McLay. Reprinted with permission from Da Capo Lifelong, © 2014, Photo credit: Brooke McLay, Franklin Bennett, and Melanie North)

Tofu Based Comfort Food for Snowy Day, Flying Buffalo Dip from 'Cheesy Vegan'

Snow falling outside my window makes me crave comfort food.

This recipe from The Cheesy Vegan More Than 125 Plant-Based Recipes for Indulging in the World's Ultimate Comfort Food by John Schlimm (Da Capo Lifelong, October 2013) could do the trick. 

Flying Buffalo Dip

Yields 6 TO 8 SERVINGS


Buffalo dip

Game day is calling and it wants a Buffalo “wing” dip everyone can enjoy! In addition to serving this blazing dip alone with toasted pita triangles, another option is to serve it alongside homemade Blue Cheese Dressing (page 41) or Blue Moon Dip (page 136) with celery sticks for dipping.

In a large bowl, combine the tofu, Cheddar cheese, mayonnaise, lemon juice, vinegar, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, pepper, and hot sauce. Mix well, and serve warm or at room temperature with toasted pita triangles.

(*Recipe from the book The Cheesy Vegan by John Schlimm. Reprinted by arrangement with Da Capo Lifelong, a member of the Perseus Books Group.  Copyright © 2013, Photo by Amy Beadle Roth)

Street Corner to Kitchen, Sea Salted Soft Challah Pretzel Rolls from Joy of Kosher

I joked with a Jewish friend that with September being chockfull of Jewish holidays it felt like a way to slowly transition from summer to fall, extend the summer season.

Today (September 27) is Simchat Torah and it seems a good time to share sneak preview from Joy of Kosher (William Morrow, October 2013) by Joy of Kosher Jamie Geller.

Sea-Salted Soft Challah Pretzel Rolls

Kosher Status: Pareve • Prep: 30 minutes • Bake: 10 minutes •
Cool: 5 to 10 minutes • Total: About 50 minutes • Yield: 16 pretzels • photo on page 339

When I was a kid back in Philly, guys used to stand on the street corners every Sunday selling soft pretzels. We’d stop at a red light, wave a dollar bill out the window, and they’d run over and drop a bagful of them into our outstretched hands. The pretzels were shaped like figure eights and then purposely squished together so there were no holes.
There would be four of them, attached to one another, stuffed into the bag. Imagine: four for a dollar—that was a long time ago.
Fast-forward to my Shabbos table as Hubby dips my challah into kosher salt and says, “This tastes like a soft pretzel.” Lightbulb moment. I’m back at the street corner in Philly.
Why not go all the way and shape my challah dough into pretzels? Even though this is not traditional pretzel dough, we’re going to make the traditional pretzel shape, but hey, the dough swells up in the oven and there are no holes, just like Philly pretzels! Think of me when you make ’em.
I suggest serving these with mustard. I strongly suggest spicy mustard. I happen to love it. But that’s up to you! You can also serve them dipped in melted butter if you’re feeling really naughty (and dairy).

2 pounds Basic Pull-Apart Challah dough
(page 323)
Cooking spray
1⁄4 cup baking soda
2 cups hot water
1 large egg
2 tablespoons coarse flake sea salt
Mustard, for serving (optional)


1. Preheat the oven to 450°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. Place the dough on a smooth work surface. Cut the dough in half so it is easier to handle. Loosely cover one piece of the dough with a kitchen towel or plastic wrap while shaping the other. Squeeze out any air bubbles from the dough and roll it into a 15-inch rope. If the dough is sticking, lightly spray your work surface with cooking spray. Cut the rope into 8 equal pieces. Roll each piece into an 18- to 20-inch rope.

3. Make a U-shape with a rope on the work surface. Holding the ends, twist them together, and bring the ends down, pressing them onto the bottom of the U in order to form the shape of a pretzel. Place on a prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough.

4. Combine the baking soda and hot water in a large bowl; whisk to dissolve. Using your hands or a large flat spatula, dunk the pretzels into the water, one at a time, completely immersing and soaking it for about 10 seconds. Remove the pretzel from the water and return it to the baking sheet.

5. Beat the egg with 1 teaspoon water in a small bowl. Brush the pretzels with the egg mixture, sprinkle with the salt, and bake until dark golden brown, about 10 minutes. Let cool 5 to 10 minutes in the pan and serve warm, or carefully transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Serve with mustard.

(* Recipe from Joy of Kosher by Jamie Geller- Published by William Morrow, October 2013- all rights reserved)

Pickle Your Way to Green Life with Melbourne Style Pickled Cucumbers

"In 2006 a group of Jewish women in Sydney, Australia began meeting every Monday morning - they cooked, ate, drank endless cups of tea and discussed the merits of different recipes. After just a few weekly meetings the Monday Morning Cooking Club was born. Five years and hundreds of dishes later, six members of the sisterhood handpicked their favorite recipes to go into their book."

Pickle your way to a greener life with this recipe from Monday Morning Cooking Club (Harper Collins USA, September 2013).

Melbourne-style pickled cucumbers

Michalle and I still laugh about the pickles. As a full-time working mother I always made sure the fridge was filled with jars and food with long use-by dates, and always kept a good stock of pickled cucumbers, which I bought by the boxload. For many years I volunteered at the Holocaust Centre in Melbourne, and we would all bring in food to share, and swap recipes with each other. This recipe was given to me then. It is so simple – you will never need to buy another jar again.

80 g (G cup) salt

250 ml (1 cup) boiling water

24 fresh gherkins (pickling cucumbers), all the same size (8–10 cm in length)

1 small bunch dill, washed, bottom stalks removed

6 cloves garlic, peeled

5 red bird’s eye chillies, washed

2 slices rye bread

Pickled Cucumbers

You will need a 2 litre (8 cup) wide-mouthed jar or earthenware container. The mouth of the jar needs to be large enough for you to put your hand in.

Make a salt water solution by mixing the salt with the boiling water to dissolve. Add cold water to make 1.5 litres (6 cups) salt water.

Leave to pickle for 7–9 days in a cool, dark place. The jar needs to stand in a deep dish, as juice might leak. The cucumbers are almost ready when they change from bright green to dark green. Wait a few more days before opening the jar. Once the jar is opened, the pickling ceases and the dill, garlic and chillies can be removed if you desire. Store the pickles in the pickling liquid in the same jar in the fridge. Keeps for months.

Trim the bread so it is just bigger than the mouth of the jar, and use the bread to seal the top of the jar, being careful that it stays in one piece. Place the second slice on top, pressing gently into the jar. Add a little more salt water, which will seep through the bread and fill any air bubbles underneath. Cover with the lid.

On top of the first layer of cucumbers, put 6–8 dill fronds, 3 cloves garlic, 3 chillies and then another very tight layer of cucumbers. Top with 6 dill fronds, then fill the jar with salt water to the rim. You will use around 1 litre (4 cups) of salt water.

Wash the cucumbers in cold water and pat dry. In the bottom of the jar, place 6 dill fronds, 3 cloves garlic and 2 chillies. Place about half the cucumbers in the jar, arranging them vertically, making sure they are a very tight fit. Try to match up sizes and shapes so there is as little air as possible. It is important that you have packed them very tightly – if you were to turn the jar upside down at this stage, the cucumbers should not move.

Pickling away for Green Day # 258

Previously: From the Rooftops, Brooklyn Grown Sweet Basil by Gotham Greens

(* Recipe reproduced with permission from Monday Morning Cooking Club -Harper Collins USA, September 2013-