Here’s another holiday party recipe,

compliments of Elizabeth W. Gift Baskets.

Happy entertaining!

BABA GHANOUJ

Let’s face it. This creamy Middle Eastern eggplant dip is just not very pretty to look at. But it’s too delicious to let that keep you from serving it. My strategy is to garnish it with something green and serve it in small portions, surrounded by pretty tidbits. Here, I’ve given each guest a little individual cutting board (found them at a yard sale!) with a small bowl of Baba Ghanouj, a small knife, a wedge of aged Manchego, a few olives and a handful of smoked almonds. Pass warm pita or crackers to spread the Baba Ghanouj on.

INGREDIENTS

1 large eggplant, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes

3 tablespoons olive oil

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

juice of ½ lemon

1/3 cup tahini

½ teaspoon ground cumin

1 large clove garlic, peeled and smashed

DIRECTIONS

  1. Heat the oven to 450 degrees. Place the eggplant cubes on a large baking sheet and toss with 2 tablespoons of the oil, the pepper and half of the salt. Arrange the cubes in a single layer and roast, stirring occasionally, until soft and golden, about 15 minutes. Let cool.
  2. Put the cooled eggplant, lemon juice, tahini, cumin, garlic, and the rest of the salt in a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Serve with crackers or warm pita.

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Mile High Quesadilla Pie

November 16, 2009

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Here’s another cool party recipe,

compliments of Elizabeth W. Gift Baskets

MILE HIGH QUESADILLA PIE

Now don’t everyone panic when I say, “springform pan.” This recipe is really easy and, thanks to a tip I found in Everyday Food magazine about trimming the tortillas to fit the pan, it’s even easier! This is an impressive for casual entertaining because it looks a lot harder than it is. Once I served it on a cakestand and really wowed my guests! Accompany the pie with soft polenta, a crisp green salad, guacamole, salsa, sour cream, and tortilla chips.

INGREDIENTS

1 pound lean ground beef

1 (1-ounce) packet of taco seasoning mix

5 (10-inch) flour tortillas

1 cup frozen corn, thawed

1 cup canned black beans, rinsed and drained

4 scallions, thinly sliced, plus more for garnish

1 (4-ounce) can chopped roasted mild green chilies, drained

2 ½ cups shredded cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese (or a mixture)

fresh cilantro sprigs, for garnish (optional)

DIRECTIONS

Combine the beef and taco seasoning mix to make taco filling according to directions on the seasoning mix packet. Let cool.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Using a paring knife, trim tortillas to fit a 9-inch springform pan, using the removable bottom of the pan as a guide. Assemble pan with bottom upside down (this makes the pie easier to remove after baking) and lightly oil bottom and sides.

Place one tortilla in the prepared pan. Sprinkle with the corn and ½ cup of the cheese. Top with a second tortilla. Using a slotted spoon, top the second tortilla with the meat filling, spreading evenly. (You may have some left over.) Sprinkle with ½ cup of the cheese. Top with a third tortilla. Spoon the beans, scallions, and ½ cup cheese on top of the third tortilla. Top with a 4th tortilla. Spread the chopped green chilies and ½ cup of cheese on top of the 4th tortilla. Top with the last tortilla and sprinkle with the remaining ½ cup of cheese.

Bake until hot and cheese is melted, 20 to 25 minutes. Run knife around edge of pan; remove sides. Sprinkle with scallions and garnish with cilantro, if using. To serve, slice into wedges.

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Crispy Eggplant Tapas

November 2, 2009

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Celebrate the beginning of the holiday season with another party recipe,

compliments of Elizabeth W. Gift Baskets!

CRISPY EGGPLANT TAPAS

When entertaining during the holidays, it’s sometimes fun to serve lots of little plates with an assortment of small samplings of several dishes, rather than serving a traditional appetizer-main course-dessert type menu. If you’re planning a tapas get-together this dish is a good one to include. It’s kind of a low-cal, bite-sized version of Eggplant Parmesan. Of course, you could add a few calories and a lot of flavor by topping each serving with a slice of fresh mozzarella or some shaved Parmesan!

INGREDIENTS

1 large eggplant

3 cups fresh breadcrumbs, preferably whole wheat

¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan

a generous pinch each of salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper

1 egg white

olive oil cooking spray

prepared marinara sauce, warmed

DIRECTIONS

Cut the eggplant into ½ inch slices. Place a large colander in the sink. Salt both sides of each slice and arrange them in the colander. Let them sit for about 20 minutes until they begin to sweat and give up their liquid. (This takes any bitterness away.)

Meanwhile, in a large, shallow bowl or baking dish, mix together the fresh breadcrumbs, Parmesan, salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg white and 1 tablespoon of water.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Spray a large baking sheet with cooking spray. Press the eggplant slices between paper towels to dry them off. Cut each slice in half. Dip slices into the egg white, then into the breadcrumb mixture to coat. Arrange coated slices on the prepared baking sheet and spray with cooking spray. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, turning once, until slices are brown and crispy on both sides.

To serve, place 1 or 2 hot eggplant slices on a small plate and top with warm marinara sauce.

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It’s Friday! It must be time for another fun party recipe,

compliments of Elizabeth W. Gift Baskets.

Enjoy your weekend!

CHEDDAR-CHILE CORNBREAD APPETIZERS

Everything’s better with bacon, right? It’s optional here, but it does add another layer of flavor to these cornbread party wedges. This is a version of something my Mom used to make, called “Spanish Cornbread.” Mom’s recipe actually ran in an issue of Food & Wine magazine one year as part of a Thanksgiving menu. This recipe is foolproof and Mom-tested. Works perfectly every time!

INGREDIENTS

1 cup yellow cornmeal

1 cup all-purpose flour

¼ cup sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 egg, slightly beaten

1 cup whole milk

1 cup cottage cheese

1/3 cup corn oil

1 (4-ounce) can peeled whole green chiles drained, patted dry, and coarsely chopped

1 ½ cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese

3 slices crisp bacon, crumbled (optional)

Fresh rosemary sprigs, for garnish (optional)

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Butter a 9-inch round cake pan, preferably nonstick.
  2. In a large bowl, stir together the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine the egg, milk, cottage cheese, and oil. Mix until blended. Add to the dry ingredients and stir gently until just mixed. Spread half the batter in the prepared pan. Scatter the chiles evenly over the top and sprinkle with the cheddar cheese. Cover with the remaining batter.
  4. Bake in the lower third of the oven for 35 minutes, or until the cornbread is golden brown. Let cool 10 minutes. Cut into small wedges and arrange on a serving platter. Sprinkle with crumbled bacon and garnish with rosemary sprigs, if using. Serve warm.

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Another delicious party recipe, compliments of Elizabeth W. Gift Baskets.

EGGPLANT FRITTERS STUFFED WITH MOLTEN MOZZARELLA

Don’t know where this recipe originated. I think I first saw it in a Marcella Hazan cookbook. More recently I saw a version in Bon Appetit magazine, which is the source I adapted my version from. Whoever came up with the original certainly had two of my favorite flavors in mind… cheese and fried. How could you go wrong!

INGREDIENTS

2 large eggplants

1 ¼ teaspoons salt, divided

Olive oil (for brushing)

Canola or vegetable oil (for frying)

2 large eggs

¾ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese

1 ¼ cup plain dry breadcrumbs, divided

1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 ½ tablespoons all purpose flour

3 ounces mozzarella cheese, cut into ½ inch cubes (about 15 cubes) or 3 ounces smallest bocconcini

DIRECTIONS

  1. Cut eggplants crosswise into ½ inch slices. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt and arrange in a colander. Place colander in sink and let stand about 30 minutes, until eggplant slices begin to sweat and give up liquid.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brush 2 large baking sheets with olive oil. Pat eggplant dry with paper towels and arrange in a single layer on prepared sheets. Brush lightly with olive oil. Bake until eggplant is tender and dry, about 1 hour. Let cool slightly; coarsely chop.
  3. Whisk 1 egg, grated Parmesan, ¼ cup breadcrumbs, thyme, ¼ teaspoon pepper, and ¼ teaspoon salt in a medium bowl. Stir in chopped eggplant (mixture will be soft.) Spread 1 cup breadcrumbs on plate. Whisk 1 egg and the flour in a small bowl. Press and shape eggplant mixture into 1 ¼ inch balls. Press 1 piece of mozzarella into the center of each ball, making sure to reshape the eggplant mixture so it covers the cheese completely. Dip balls, one at a time, into egg batter. Roll in breadcrumbs to coat.
  4. Pour enough canola oil into a large skillet to reach a depth of ½ inch; heat over medium-high heat. Working in batches, add balls to skillet; sauté until browned, turning often, about 4 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to paper towels to drain. Sprinkle with salt and serve hot.

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Ham & Asparagus Quiche

September 11, 2009

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Whoop-de-do! The world’s longest short work week is finally over! Celebrate with another party recipe, compliments of Elizabeth W. Gift Baskets.

Happy entertaining!

HAM & ASPARAGUS QUICHE

Everyone (except maybe your cardiologist) has a favorite quiche recipe. This is mine. This old fashioned classic is great make-ahead party fare. It’s sinfully rich, but it won’t kill you if you only eat it on special occasions. Substitute ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan or Gruyere cheese for the cup of cheddar, if desired.

INGREDIENTS

(Serves 6)

1 disk prepared piecrust dough

3 tablespoons butter

1 small onion, chopped

8 small stalks fresh asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces

Pinch cayenne pepper

3 large eggs

1 cup half-and-half

1 cup shredded sharp cheddar

¼ teaspoon salt

Ground black pepper, to taste

Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

¾ cup smoked ham, cubed

DIRECTIONS

  1. Line a 9-inch glass pie plate with the pastry and prick it all over with a fork. Chill at least 30 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a skillet and add the onions, asparagus and cayenne pepper. Cook for 5 to 6 minutes over medium high heat until the mixture is fragrant and the vegetables have begun to soften. Remove the skillet from the heat and let cool.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and position the oven rack in the middle of the oven. Cut out a 10-inch circle of parchment paper or aluminum foil and place it in the pie shell. Pour 2 cups of dried beans or pie weights into the shell. Bake the piecrust until it has begun to turn a pale gold color, about 15 minutes. Remove the pie plate from the oven, lift the parchment and beans from the shell, and return it to the oven. Cook the shell until it is golden, another 8 to 10 minutes. Let cool. Keep the oven on and increase the temperature to 375 degrees.
  4. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, half-and-half, cheese, salt, pepper and nutmeg.
  5. Scatter the asparagus mixture across the bottom of the pie shell. Sprinkle with the ham cubes. Pour the egg mixture into the shell. Bake the quiche until the filling is just set and slightly puffed, about 30 minutes. If crust starts getting too brown, cover it with a piecrust baking shield or crimped foil. Let cool for at least 30 minutes on a wire rack and serve it warm, or let it cool completely and serve at room temperature.

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DSC04110Another party appetizer recipe, compliments of Elizabeth W. Gift Baskets

Happy Labor Day!

CLASSIC HUMMUS WITH HOMEMADE PITA CHIPS

If you’ve only had the grocery store versions of hummus and pita chips, you’re in for a real treat. Homemade hummus is far superior to the commercial kind and is a snap to make. I love the pita chips, with or without the hummus. They’re thinner and crisper than most of the storebought varieties. Both recipes are adapted from a wonderful cookbook by Jeanne Lemlin called, “Vegetarian Classics.”

INGREDIENTS

(For the hummus)

Makes 2 ½ cups

1 (19-ounce) can (2 cups) chickpeas, rinsed well in a strainer

3 garlic cloves, minced

½ cup fresh lemon juice (about 3 lemons)

1 cup tahini (stirred well before measuring)

½ teaspoon salt

½ – 1 cup water

Paprika and olive oil, for garnish

DIRECTIONS

Place the chickpeas and garlic in a food processor and process a few seconds, until the chickpeas are ground. Stop the machine and add the lemon juice, tahini, salt and ½ cup water. Process until the mixture is very creamy, at least 2 minutes. Check the consistency. Add a bit more water, if a thinner consistency is desired, and process until very smooth. Garnish with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of paprika. (Can be stored in an airtight container in the refridgerator for up to one week.)

WHOLE WHEAT PITA CHIPS

Makes 64 chips

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Cut a (6-inch) whole wheat pita in half to make 2 pockets. Use scissors to cut away the outer edge of 1 pocket to separate it into 2 single layers. Repeat with the other pocket. Using a pastry brush, lightly coat the rough side of each piece with olive oil. With a sharp knife cut each piece into 4 triangles. Place on a baking sheet, rough side up. Repeat with 4 more pita breads. (You’ll need 2 baking sheets.) Sprinkle the triangles with garlic powder (optional) and kosher salt. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until golden, crisp, and dried throughout. Cool completely before serving. (Can be stored in an airtight tin for up to one week.)

FIND A GIFT FOR EVERYONE ON YOUR LIST AT

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