Every January I go to San Francisco for a few days to see friends and celebrate my birthday. I time my visit to coincide with the San Francisco Specialty Food Show though this year I didn’t attend. Instead I spent time visiting friends, dining out and enjoying the City.
Burrata, how I love thee and all your creamy deliciousness! If you’ve never tasted burrata, it may be time to treat yourself. It’s the rich cousin of fresh mozarella, which by the way, is infinitely more delicious than its other cousin, the more easily available, rubbery, vacuum-packaged mozarella. Burrata has an outer shell made from Mozarella, that is like a pouch. Cream and stringy curd pieces are stuffed into the pouch, so when it’s cut open, there’s a wonderful creaminess that keeps the interior of the ball deliciously soft and rich and leaks out onto the plate.
Spring farmers’ markets and produce stores are so wonderful to peruse and fill our bags and baskets with their deliciousness. Finally, choices other than kale, cabbage and iceberg lettuce! Everything just pops and begs to be eaten — lettuces, baby spinach, leeks, garlic shoots, baby carrots, English peas, snap peas, asparagus, fava beans, even little zucchinis and squash blossoms. Woo-hoo! Sadly, some things are harder to find, specifically artichokes. This is a big blow for people like me who adore them. The problem? A lack of bio-diversity.
When it comes to good food, Southern Louisiana does not disappoint! Along with a bountiful harvest of seafood and the combination of traditional Southern, Creole and Cajun cooking, they’ve enriched our national cuisine with Jambalaya, Etouffee, Gumbo, Po’Boy’s — and that’s just a few of their long list of specialties.
Gougeres are a French comfort food. Not a mac ‘n cheese kind of comfort food, but the kind that’s served fresh from the oven with a glass of wine or a cocktail. Or maybe stuffed with warm brie or some crab or smoked salmon and creme fraiche. The fun part is deciding how you want your gougeres (goo jeres)– small or medium in size, what kinds of cheese to add to the dough, or whether to stuff them with something substantial that works perfectly with a drink or as part of a small plates party.
In the mid-1980s I wrote the Artichoke Cookbook. It was quite successful and so the Brussels sprouts growers on California’s Central Coast asked me to write a cookbook for them. My then husband said he would leave me if I did; he hated them that much. I didn’t write the book though we did part ways a few years later and, after he left, I brought Brussels sprouts, among other things, back into my life.
Planning a party takes time and energy. An impromptu party takes imagination. The trick to managing either is to have some strategic ingredients on hand or on a list under party supplies so you can pull a party together fast. Here are my personal favorites for small bites and small plates.
Are you crazy for stuffed eggs too? Really, I can’t imagine spring and summer picnics – inside or out – without these silky smooth, delicious gems.
What’s interesting is there are so many variations, both regional and individual. Years ago I had a boyfriend who always referred to them as Russian eggs. I actually prefer that name over “deviled” or “stuffed” but I was curious if Russian eggs contained specific or unique ingredients.
The following two recipes make light, healthy and delicious appetizers for warm spring and summer brunches, lunches and suppers.
Ricotta cheese naturally has a slight graininess to it. You can leave it as it is for a nice rustic texture or you can place it in a bowl and use an immersion blender or put it in a food processor and blend it briefly to homogenize it and make it very light. This is especially nice for the sweetened version for fruits.
Feel free to play with the recipes, adding different or additional herbs or spices.
Courtesy of Ann Tindell Keener annsfoodletters.blogspot.com
This is a segment of a food blog Ann wrote while living in Dominica, West
Indies. For those of you who have never cooked with plantains, you are in for a treat if
you like the flavor of bananas. Plantains are far more starchy than bananas and need to
be cooked. You may have had fried plantains as a restaurant or packaged. Freshly prepared,
they are really good! They are served as a savory, sometimes in a stew and other times fried as
tostones, or baked with butter and brown sugar and served with cinnamon and crema or
sour cream. Tostones are a favorite throughout the West Indies, the Caribbean, Mexico,
and Central and South America. The rest of this recipe is in Ann’s voice.
Served as a dinner party appetizer or on a picnic in the park, Vanilla Cheese Spread with Roasted Peppers and Pistachios is a lively appetizer that your guests will not forget!