Kalamata Olive and Asiago Crostini

These were the other canapes I made for my birthday get-together.

There’s not really much to say about these delightful treats, except that they are delicious and ridiculously easy to make.

One thing: there is an easy way to skin and seed a tomato. Simply immerse it in boiling water for approximately one minute, then place it in a bowl of ice water. This will cause the skin to pucker so that it peels off easily. The tomato can then be cut in half, and the seeds easily removed with your fingers. It feels gross and squishy and cool.

If you are vegan, just omit the asiago: there’s so much flavor to these little goodies that they will still be wonderful. If you eat dairy, but can’t eat aged cheeses, just substitute crumbled, un-aged feta or goat cheese.

And that’s all I have to say about that.

Kalamata Olive and Asiago Crostini

  • 1/2 loaf French bread, sliced 1/4″ thick
  • 50 fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • 1 large tomato, skinned, seeded and chopped finely
  • 1 T finely chopped garlic, or to taste
  • 15 Kalamata olives,pitted and chopped
  • 2-3 oz. grated asiago (or fresh goat cheese, or omit)
  1. If the bread is not pre-sliced, slice it to 1/4″ thick.
  2. Combine the remaining ingredients and mix well.
  3. Spread 1/2 T of the mixture on each slice of bread. Place under the broiler (on a broiler pan that has been lightly coated with olive oil) until hot and the cheese is melted, approximately 2 minutes.
  4. Garnish with fresh basil leaves or a few pieces of asiago, if  desired.

Crab Rangoon with Apricot Sauce

I really, really love crab rangoon. My love for the creamy center and crispy outer shell, brought to a peak on my tongue by the sweetness of the sauce, have led to more than one late-night take-out call from my residences through the years. Mmmmmm, crab rangoon…. (insert Homer-Simpsonesque gurgly drooling sound here)

Given the downright indecent degree to which I enjoy these fried treats, it is not big surprise that I decided that they should be one of the tasty snackity canapes available to my tastebuds over this last weekend… After all, you only turn 30 a maximum of once per lifetime, so why not make it special?

(Incidentally, my boo and I discovered that the most amusing way to say “canapes” is to pretend you’re saying “can of peas” with a drawl. Don’t scoff. Try it. I defy you to not giggle a little.)

It is probably to the unfortunate long-term detriment to my cholesterol levels that I discovered how fun and easy these are to make, and how much better the sauce is when it’s made at home.

Ooh, and speaking of the sauce… if you have some left over, may I suggest you try a bit on Stonewall Kitchen’s Roasted Garlic Crackers with a schmear of fresh goat cheese? So gooooooood!

Also, if you have some of the filling left over after you’ve filled the wontons, it’s pretty amazing as an omelet filling, along with some cream cheese and sliced scallions.

With all that said, a few hints and suggestions:

I splurged on real creab-meat for my birthday, and it really is infinitely superior in flavor to the ones made with artificial crab. With that said, there are few meats more expensive (and less sustainably harvested) meats, and there is a difference of $20+ per pound between the real and the artificial crab. Get the real if you can, but do what you must: I will be honest, I will probably make it with the artificial crab sometimes.

If you do go with real crab, there is no reason to get the more expensive large-lump crab: you’ll just be breaking the lumps down, so it’s actually kinda silly to do so.

Don’t skip the step where you chill the wontons between the two fryings, even if you are planning on serving them immediately. Cooling them down helps to ascertain that the filling doesn’t overheat and leak out of the wrappers.

Regarding the oil: I suggest using at least 25% peanut oil, instead of just canola. This will really enhance the flavor of the crispy outer-layer.

You will never fry more than three at a time, because the fry time is so short. If you have a deep-fat fryer, great. If not, you can just use a medium-sized saucepan for the oil: you don’t need to use a large pan.

Make sure the fat is hot enough before you start frying, or you will end up with floppy, flaccid, unappetizing canapes. No one loves a flaccid canape. It is, of course, optimal if you have a deep-fat thermometer. If you don’t, scatter in a few drops of water from your fingertips into the oil. If it really comes to life, popping like Rice krispies’ evil big brother, then you may begin.

These can be prepared in advance, and then kept in the refrigerator until you are ready for the second-fry: we didn’t eat them all the first night I made them, and so I was able to enjoy some, fresh and hot and crispy, the next day. And I was happy.

Crab Rangoon with  Apricot Sauce

  • 1 lb. cream cheese, softened
  • 1 lb. crab meat (separated into small pieces if in chunks)
  • 2 t garlic, chopped
  • 2 oz. scallions, sliced
  • salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • Worcestershire sauce to taste
  • sesame oil to taste
  • 48 wonton skins

For the sauce:

  • 12 oz. apricot preserves (preferably one with no corn syrup in it, and of course locally-made is usually better)
  • 1 T + 2 t fresh ginger, grated (or to taste: I love the taste of ginger, so I really put it in there)
  • 1 1/2 t dry mustard
  • 2 T red wine vinegar
  1. Place the cream cheese in the bowl of a mixer and mix until soft.
  2. Add the crab meat, garlic and green onions. Season with salt and pepper, Worcestershire sauce (about 1 t) and sesame oil (about 2-3 t).
  3. Place several wonton skins on a work surface. Brush the edges with water. Place approximately 1 T of the cream cheese mixture in the center of each skin (after you do a few, you will get a sense of just how much to add for them to be full, but not too full to seal). Fold the wonton skin in half and seal the edges.
  4. Deep-fry the wontonsat 350 degrees F, one at a time, for 10 seconds. Remove with a pair of cooking tongs, drain well, and refrigerate until cooled or until you are ready to serve.
  5. At serving time, deep-fry the wontons at 350 degrees F, three at a time, until crisp, approximately 1 minute. Serve with Apricot sauce.

 To make the sauce:

  1. Combine all the ingredients in a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan and heat until the preserves melt and the flavors blend. Best hot or at room temperature.

Caramelized Red Onion Tarts with Goat Cheese

So, my fiancee, Lee, is in hir first year of law school. This is exciting, for all the many opportunities it will open up for hir and for us. However, it is also very difficult because, not only is ze busy all the time, ze is also spending several nights a week away from home: the law school is about a 1 1/2 hours’ drive away from our home, and it is easier for hir to just stay there on nights when ze has classes the next day.

So, this last Sunday, I was having fun planning the night’s menu. I wanted to make something special, because Lee was leaving the next day for several days, and I wanted to send hir off with some delicious leftovers to carry hir through the next week.

The night’s meal ended up being some eggplant, smoked mozzarella and basil rolls; my Grandmother’s recipe for Texas Cauliflower; and two kinds of cookies: milk chocolate chunk and butterscotch chip (recipes to follow in later posts). A good, warm, comforting fall meal line-up, if I do say so myself. Couple it with a salad made from dark greens and a red bell pepper, and you’ve got a healthy, delicious mealtime experience.

But there was still one recipe that I just couldn’t say no to: Caramelized Onion Tarts with Goat Cheese. So, I sheepishly looked up from the page of the cookbook in which I found the recipe (Vegetarian, edited by Nicola Graimes) and said “Sweetie, you know, I think I might make this one, too.” I sheepishly pointed down at the recipe.

“Of course you will, Boo,” said Lee, grinning. “You are such a gay boi.”

I laughed heartily: I couldn’t deny it.

I am glad that I am such a gay boi that I couldn’t resist the alluring, summoning call of these goat-cheese-and-caramelized-onion-tarts, because they turned out so well. Seriously. Make this recipe. You will be glad you did.

Note: I never make recipes exactly as they appear in books. What I will be posting on this blog are the recipes as I make them, with any hints and tips worked into the instructions, in the hope that even difficult-sounding recipes can be easy to make with success.

 Caramelized Onion Tarts with Goat Cheese

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 5 T butter
  • 1 oz. aged goat cheese (I recommend Drunken Goat, available at your friendly neighborhood Wegmans store), grated

 For the filling

  •   1 T olive oil
  •   1 T butter
  • 3 red onions, very finely sliced
  • 8 oz. young goat cheese
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 T light cream
  • 2 oz. firm goat cheese (like Drunken Goat), grated
  • 1 T fresh tarragon, chopped
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. To make the pastry, sift the flour into a bowl and rub in the butter until the mixture resembles fine crumbs. Stir in the cheese and just enough cold water to make a dough.  Knead lightly, put in a plastic bag and chill. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Roll out the dough between two sheets of parchment paper, then cut into eight rounds using a 4 1/2″ pastry cutter, and line eight 4-inch tart pans or ramekins. Prick the bottoms with a fork (four or five pricks per tart, and no laughing at that, because it’s true…) and bake for 10-15 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350 F. Set aside.
  3. Heat the oil and butter in a large heavy-bottomed pan over medium high heat. Add the onions, stir quickly until they are evenly coated, and reduce heat as low as possible. Cover and cook, stirring every few minutes, until they are soft  and deep golden brown: this can take from 30 to 60 minutes. Be sure to stir often enough to prevent burning. 
  4. Beat the young goat cheese with the eggs, cream, firm goat cheese and tarragon. Season with salt and pepper and stir in the onions.
  5. Pour the mixture into the partially-baked pastry shells and bake for approximately 25 minutes, until golden. Serve warm or cold with a green salad.