Tomato Goat Cheese Tart

Tomato Appetizer or Lunch!

If you have company coming and you need a light and savory dish, you’ll have to give this a try.  You can make it in advance so there’s no stress at party time.  You can also make this as a light lunch. We enjoyed it on our recent picnic with a side salad of Arugula and grapes.

Tomato tartOur TwoFoodNuts Tomato Tart:

Serves two for lunch or 4-6 as an appetizer.

  • Oneready made sheet of puff pastry
  • 3/4 cup plain goat cheese
  • 2 med tomatoes sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 1 Tbsp Herb de Provence
  • 1 small garlic clove grated finely
  • 1/4 cup minced sun-dried tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 3 springs of fresh Thyme, leaves picked and sprinkled on tart
  • 2 tsp olive
  • Salt and pepper

tomatoe and goat cheese tartHeat oven to 450F.  Spread out the sheet of Puff Pastry.  Using a fork, prick the pastry all over but not within 1/2 inch of the edge.  In a small bowl, mix the goat cheese, grated garlic, and Herbs de Provence.  Crumble the goat cheese over the tart.  Distribute the sun-dried tomatoes over the cheese.  Lay the tomato slices on top.  Pluck the leaves from the thyme and sprinkle over the tart.  Salt and pepper the tart.  Using a spoon, lightly drizzle the olive oil over everything and bake on the middle shelf of the oven. It’s ready in under 20 minutes.

If making for a party, assemble the tart early in the day and cover with cling film to refrigerate until you are ready to bake it.

Tomatoe Goat Cheese TartThe result is a light tart with rich goat cheese underlying the juicy tomatoes and herbs. Whether served as an appetizer or a light lunch this is a tomato and cheese lovers treat!

 

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The Gift of Zucchini Flowers

If Someone Gives You Flowers…Eat Them!

We were out on one of our adventures today and we came upon a lovely rustic resort on the shore of the York River. It’s called Silgrey  We had the good fortune of meeting the owner Mike as he and a friend dragged a 700 pound piece of burl through the woods. Both men were exhausted from the hard work of physically pulling this large piece of a tree through the forest. But in the end it will be an amazing piece of art.

Stuffed Zucchini flowersOnce Mike caught his breath we had a chance to chat about the resort and marvel at the raw beauty of his setting on the shore of the York River. He is a very interesting transplant from Toronto and he and his wife have created a wilderness retreat that’s just heavenly.

As we were about to say our good-byes, Mike asked if we would like to take home some bounty from his garden. As with most gardens, the crops all come in at once and there is waste. But not today!  We walked around looking at the selection of vegetables and I spotted some gorgeous zucchini flowers. Mike encouraged me to take some and I wanted to hide my sheer excitement so he wouldn’t think I was some food weirdo.  I’m 62 years old and have never had these delicate blossoms stuffed with fragrant ricotta, but today would be my luck day.

zucchini flower fillingWhen we got to the car and started down the driveway to home, I was able to share my pure delight with Harry. How could he know that as a foodie, weird or otherwise, this was like a dream come true. A gift of fresh off-the-vine zucchini blossoms would be transformed into dinner tonight!

Here is the Two Food Nuts Recipe.

  • Fresh Zucchini Flowers (we had 6 of them)
  • 400 gram container Ricotta Cheese
  • Grated rind of one lemon
  • 1 small garlic clove, grated
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • handful of fresh Basil leaves sliced thinly
  • Salt and pepper

Mix everything together in a small bowl and fill a piping bag with the cheese mixture. Remove the stamen from the center of each flower and stuff them by putting the piping nozzle fully into the flower and squeezing the filling to fill the blossom. Then twist the tips of the petals to form a little flower pouch.

filled zucchini flowersFor the Batter:

  • 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup corn starch
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup chilled sparkling water or club soda
  • 1 egg yolk
  • Canola or Peanut oil for frying.

Place everything into a bowl except the sparkling water.  With a whisk, quickly stir in the water and mix just until incorporated. Do Not Over Mix or the batter will be heavy.

This batter must be used within half an hour.  So make it after you have filled the flowers and you have the oil heating. 

Dip  the filled blossoms into the batter, allow the excess to drip off and deep fry at 400F for 4-5 minutes or until the batter becomes just golden.

Take extreme care when deep frying. We take the deep fryer outside and place it on a sturdy table that we have lined with newspaper. This avoids oily smells and clean up is a matter of folding up the newspapers. If using a dutch oven only fill to 1/3 full never leave unattended. Use a thermometer to be sure not to overheat the oil.

DSC01741Serve on a light marinara sauce or your favorite spaghetti sauce.

Zucchini Flowers are as rare as hen’s teeth so if you have the good fortune to receive them as a gift, make sure you eat them!  These Two Food Nuts certainly did!

Wine and Cheese Appetizer

Wine, Cheese and Grapes just go together!

Recently Harry and I had an Italian tasting dinner with friends at the cottage. As always our dinners include 9-10 courses and we create a typical dinner in miniature.  This provides everyone with an opportunity to try many tiny bites of a theme. Italian night was a real success and the recipe here is one of the appetizers we served.

wine, cheese and grapes One reason we love this particular recipe is it’s simplicity. When entertaining, time is always important. We want something yummy that takes little time and this is it.

Two Food Nuts Recipe:

  • 12 red or green grapes
  • 3/4 cup Marsala wine
  • 1 large tube of goat cheese (300 grams)
  • 1 1/2 cup of pecans chopped
  • 1/4 cup honey

The day before or the morning of your get-together:

  • Pull the grapes from the stems and place in a small bowl
  • Cover with the Marsala wine for a few hours or overnight
  • In a small mixing bowl, allow a package of goat cheese to come to room temperature
  • Add 3 tablespoons of the honey to the cheese and stir it to combine. (reserve 1 tablespoon of honey to drizzle over the finished bites
  • Scoop the cheese into small balls and squeeze them in your hand (goat cheese is quite crumbly) to compact the cheese. Then roll into nice round balls. They should be only about 1 inch in diameter.
  • Next, roll the cheese balls in a bowl of chopped pecans and once again press them together to help the nuts adhere.
  • Just before serving, drain the grapes and skewer a grape to each cheese ball.
  • Drizzle with the remaining honey and place on an attractive serving dish.

goat cheese appetizerCook’s Tip: We love to shop in Chinatown when we’re in Toronto.  Our favorite shop is the Tap Phong Trading Company.  They have the picks that we used in the recipe, but they offer a full restaurant supply inventory to the public.  We dare  you to go in and buy only one item!!

Here is the contact information as well as a map. Tap Phong Trading Company

You’ll find everything but the kitchen sink at Tap Phong.!  Happy entertaining everyone!

 

Basil Overload Pesto!

Pesto…. The Fresh Taste Of Summer.

Every year we plant an abundance of herbs in pots on the deck at the cottage.  Funny, they love the heat and they don’t complain about being crammed into pots.  They actually do very well.  There’s nothing like going out with the scissors and “harvesting” the fruits of your labor to turn ordinary into extraordinary!

basilThis year the Basil is particularly productive so we thought why not make some Pesto for dinner tonight.  Pesto is so versatile as an ingredient. No longer do we just make pasta with it.  No sir, we put that “S**t” on everything. Try spreading it on the bread for your next Paninni.  Sublime. We’ve also made Pesto Pinwheels as appetizers. It’s also marvelous spread on a chicken breast once it’s almost grilled. Try it on tomato slices as a cool side dish.  As we said, we put it on everything.

Traditionally Pesto is made using basil, garlic, Parmesan cheese, toasted pine nuts, olive oil, salt and pepper. We’re going to share that recipe with you here. But for the more adventurous types we suggest trying other non-tradational combinations.

We love avocado oil and sunflower seeds as a substitute for the olive oil and pine nuts. One of our friends uses arugula in place of basil for a peppery bite.  Try walnut oil and toasted walnuts with some flat leaf parsley added to the basil. Go ahead be brave!  Experiment with Italy’s hard cheeses too. Have you ever tried Grana Padanna? Trust us it’s just wonderful.

Two Food Nuts Pesto:

  • 2 cups loosely packed Basil Leaves  pesto ingredients
  • 2 large garlic cloves sliced
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/3 cup toasted pine nuts  (place in a dry non-stick pan over medium heat until just light brown)
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/4 Olive oil  or enough to make a nice loose paste.
  • a squeeze of lemon juice is optional

Place everything into a food chopper and blend until just incorporated. You want texture not a puree. Add just enough oil to make the pesto run off a spoon. When Elfie gets into her “Julia Child” mode, she makes it in her Mortar and Pestle. It takes a bit longer but I’m sure I can taste the love she puts in it!

Basil PEstoCooks Tip: When using the pesto for a pasta dish,  boil your pasta and reserve a bit of the pasta water. Place the drained pasta onto a pan, add the pesto and thin it down just slightly with the reserved pasta water. pasta keeps absorbing moisture while you are eating and this helps avoid it becoming dry. Grate some fresh cheese on top to finish.

We hope that you take the bounty of Summer to create a fresh tasting meal using this simple yet oh so delicious sauce. Bon Appetito!

Tell us what you think of this recipe. We love to hear from our readers. And if you enjoy the blog, please share it with your friends using the links below!  Thanks for reading TwoFoodNuts.com

Cool and Creamy

Watermelon and Feta Cheese Appetizers.

As the temperature hits 30 degrees its time to turn off the heat and find ways to savor the flavor of Summer.  What is more quintessential than Watermelon?  Paired with Feta cheese and you’re sure to make a  lot of people happy. watermelon and feta cheese appetizersJust looking at these little bites is enough to make you feel cool all over. The best part is the ease of preparation for a busy hostess.

Two Food Nuts Recipe:

  • 1 small seedless Watermelon
  • I brick Feta cheese  ( you can go low fat here without sacrificing taste)!
  • Baby Basil leaves
  • Balsamic vinegar. (we were able to find Balsamic Vinegar infused with Black Truffles)
  • Wooden pics

Cut the watermelon in half and scoop out balls with a melon-baller. Cut the cheese in generous 1 1/2 inch pieces about 1/4 inch thick. Place cheese pieces on a pretty serving tray, add the tiny Basil leaves, top with a watermelon ball and skewer it all together with a decorative pic. All that’s left is to receive the compliments when the guests take their first bite! Feta and watermelon bites Cook’s Tip: There are great little shops in most towns that specialize in fine Italian foods. We love to go to the St Lawerence Market or Kensington Market in Toronto, but Little Italy also provides great stores featuring Italian products. We just love the Balsamic that we found in one of these places, we just can’t remember which one! There are also fine Balsamics infused with Raspberry or Figs that would work equally well in this recipe.  Be brave, try something new.

Roasted Grape Tomatoes

Flavor Packed Roasted GrapeTomatoes.

Any time of year is a great time for Grape or Cherry Tomatoes.  During the cold winter months tomatoes leave a lot to be desired in the taste department.  They tend to be hard orbs without the color or taste of a vine ripe tomato. To the rescue the glossy red or yellow Grape or Cherry Tomato. This recipe captures the sweetness and amps up the taste with the help of fresh garlic and Rosemary and a quality olive oil.

grape or cherry tomatoesHere’s our recipe:

Heat Oven to 400F degrees

  • 1 container grape or cherry tomatoes
  • 2 garlic cloves halved
  • 2 Rosemary springs
  • 1 good pinch sea salt
  • 1/4 cup quality Olive oil

If you want a subtle twist to this recipe, try a good splash of flavoured Balsamic vinegar such as fig or truffle before roasting the tomatoes.

DSC_5879In a shallow oven-proof dish, spread the tomatoes, rosemary and garlic slices. Add the sea salt and pour over the Olive oil. Place in hot oven. You will smell the tomatoes once they reach the stage of perfection. Make sure the skins are starting to burst and they will be ready. Set aside until they cool.

You can now use them with a savory cheese side dish as an appetizer, or as part of a light sauce for your next pasta dish. We use them in many of our Italian recipes. Watch for more ways to use this ingenious little dish right here on the blog.

roasted Grape tomatoes with herbed goat cheeseFor the Goat Cheese Spread:

  • 1 small tube of goat cheese (about 4 ounces) at room temperature.
  • 1 tbsp Herb de Provence   This herb mixture is available at most grocery stores packaged under a variety of brand names. As long as it is fresh choose the one you like.
  • 2-3 Tbsp Olive oil.

Blend all ingredients in a small bowl.  Let rest for an hour or so to allow the herbs to infuse the cheese.  Serve by spreading on your choice of crackers and topping with a roasted Grape or Cherry Tomato. We love Rosemary and Olive Oil Triscuit Crackers!

herbed Goat Cheese

This is one of our favorite go-to appetizers when we have a garlicy main dish on the menu. It’s easy to make a day ahead and keeps for several days in the fridge. We prefer to allow the tomatoes to be room temperature when serving. It lets the flavors shine.

Let us know if you tried this simple yet tasty dish. Share this recipe with frineds and family on Facebook if you enjoyed it!

 

 

Lets Get Pickled!

Refrigerator Pickles are Easy!

Can’t you just taste a crunchy pickle with a sandwich or a burger?  The pungent flavor enhances everything it accompanies. Now, its easy enough to buy a jar of pickles, but we have to say there is great satisfaction in producing a good pickle at home not to mention its easy!  You select the veggies that you love and add the seasonings of your choice. It’s a “Custom Pickle” if you will.

Refrigerator PicklesWe made a selection of vegetables that are seasonal. The first pickling cucumbers of the year were in the market, along with fresh asparagus and green beans. We added the remaining veggies based on the beautiful colors they would bring to the finished product.  We love pickled cauliflower and red onions so they had to star in the show!  Carrots and peppers lend their subtle taste and vibrant hues to the artful designs in the jars.

refidgerator picklesAnd now the recipe:

A selection of veggies that appeal to your taste and your eye.

We used:

  • 3 Asparagus spears
  • 8-10 Green beans
  • I large carrot sliced
  • 1/2 each of red and green pepper
  • 4 mini pickling cucumbers
  • 1 cup each of cauliflower and broccoli florets
  • 1 small red onion (leave the root end in tact to hold the slices together)
  • 2 tbsp pickling spice (available in the spice aisle)
  • 2 cups white vinegar
  • 4 cups cold water
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • fresh dill springs
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 3 garlic cloves sliced

Optional:  A few hot pepper rings just to add the slightest hint of warmth not heat. We prepared our veggies first then once they were cut as desired we sterilized the jars.

Preparing the jars:

It’s very important to sterilize the canning jars. These pickles are made from raw vegetables and are not processed in a canning pot, so scrupulously clean jars are vital.  We wash them either by hand or in the dishwasher with hot water and soap. Then fill the jars half full of water and heat in the microwave at full power for 5 minutes. For the recipe above we used 3 jars of various size (see image below). Lids can simple be boiled in a pot of water for 5 minutes.

Once the jars have been heat processed in the microwave, drain the water and allow to air dry before filling.

home made mixed picklesFor the Pickling Brine:

  • In a 2 quart saucepan mix together the pickling spice, vinegar, water, sugar, salt, garlic cloves and hot pepper rings if using.
  • Bring to a boil then reduce heat and allow to simmer gently for 5 minutes.
  • In the meantime, fill the jars with layer of veggies.  Slip a few pieces of dill in between the layers.
  • Be creative!

Once the jars are filled with the vegetables, pour the hot liquid in. Do this slowly and allow the pickling brine to flow around the contents.  Once all the jars have been filled, add the tops and seal them tightly using a towel. Everything will be very hot at this point. Tip the jars once or twice to distribute the liquid and the spices.  Now you’re done!

It takes 2 weeks for the pickles to reach their maximum flavor and they will last up to 3 months in the Fridge.

We love to hear your comments about the recipes we share on the blog and we appreciate when you share the blog with your friends via Facebook and Twitter!   Happy Pickling.