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Posts Tagged ‘quick’

Grain-Free Crunchy Bagel-Style Almond Crackers

Posted on: April 12th, 2020 by Ellen Swandiak

A crunchy cracker you can make with pantry ingredients. Those who are trying to be gluten and grain free often get the craving for the crunch. That’s where these grain-free crackers, made with almond flour, come in to save the day.

Between the poppy and sesame seeds, my favorite bagel toppings, these grain-free crackers not only taste fab, but make for a spectacularly speckled  presentation. Not to mention the nutritional benefits of the seeds. 

MAKES ROUGHLY 40 PIECES

PREHEAT OVEN 325ºF… MAKE THE DOUGH

1 3/4 CUP almond flour
1 TB almond oil
1 egg, beaten

In a large bowl combine all ingredients, knead well, and shape into a ball. Place onto a sheet of parchment paper that fits a baking pan. Transform dough ball into a rectangle echoing the shape of the parchment. Top with second piece of parchment and roll out dough to between 1/16- and 1/8-inch thickness. I like keeping the edges ragged so the tips will get more brown. You may need to fill in some holes as the dough escapes the parchment, so just break off those parts and fill in as necessary.

PREPARE SEED MIX

1 TB sesame seeds
1 TB poppy seeds
1 TB golden flax seeds
1 TB sunflower seeds
1/2 tsp sea salt

In a small bowl, mix thoroughly. Sprinkle evenly over rolled-out dough. Cover with clean parchment paper and roll over to set seeds into the dough.

BAKE THE GRAIN-FREE CRACKERS

Bake for roughly 23 min till edges are slightly browned. Move with parchment to a cooling rack and let sit for 10-15 min. Break apart by hand into irregular shapes. Store in an airtight container. Try not to eat them!

If you like this recipe, you might want to take a look at our Cumin -Spiced grain-free crackers too.

Unusual Flavored Cheeses For Cheese Board

Posted on: October 23rd, 2019 by Ellen Swandiak

As part of the menu for Hobnob’s Hidden Secrets party, I thought that a bevy of secret ingredients should be included. Truth be told, I discovered two of these cheeses at a neighbor’s gathering—it’s so nice to have foodie neighbors, we share meals on a regular basis, and there’s often a discovery in the mix.

Trader Joe’s cheddar with caramelized onions is a unique taste sensation, with extra tang and a creamy consistency. I got the Moliterno black truffle pecorino at Fairway, and it too adds a heady truffle punch, to a strong pecorino. Heaven. The onion and chive double gloucester fit right in with the crowd.

By the way, when putting cheese out, I like to slice half the slab to encourage guests to pick. I find if you don’t cut into it, people are reluctant to cut on their own. This makes it easier to partake.

SERVES 25 WITH ACCOMPANIMENTS

ASSEMBLE THE CHEESE BOARD

2 Trader Joe’s Cheddar Cheese with Caramelized Onions

2 Cotswald Double Gloucester with Onion and Chives

2 Moliterno Black Truffle Pecorino

Set cheeses out on two separate boards, and fill with your choice of accompaniments:

-sprigs of grapes, cut into smaller clusters

-small bowl of olives (include a discard dish for pits nearby)

-small bowl of nuts

-fig jam

-crackers or slices of baguette

See more recipes with secret, surprise ingredients in Hobnob’s party #22 Hidden Secrets at this link.

Chicken Tacos with Green Harissa

Posted on: March 15th, 2019 by Ellen Swandiak

Go green! These chicken tacos are a welcome party mini-bite with personality. I developed this recipe to add to a buffet made up of the colors of the rainbow. Upon discovery of these adorable, green mini taco shells, I knew this had to be the dish that took the GREEN spot on the rainbow buffet. To add to the green effect, I mixed up a green harissa—parsley, cilantro, mint, and spices— to “dye” the shredded chicken. To complete the taco, I topped with slices of of avocado, sprigs of cilantro, and skinny jalapeño ribbons.

Shortcut: instead of cooking the chicken, purchase a rotisserie chicken from your local market and shred, then you just have to make the harissa.

Other green foods to consider: spinach wraps, pesto, avocado, pea and mint soup, green salad served in cups. See our picks on PINTEREST for more fantastic rainbow party ideas and recipes.

MAKES 28 TACOS

MAKE THE CHICKEN

1 1/4 LB chicken breasts
1 bay leaf
1 tsp pink peppercorns
2 cloves garlic
1/2 tsp salt

In a large saucepan, place chicken breasts and cover with water. Add herbs and spices. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then simmer 10 – 12 min. Remove breasts to a bowl. When cool, shred completely.

GET OUT THE FOOD PROCESSOR… MAKE THE GREEN HARISSA

1/2 CUP parsley
1/2 CUP cilantro (save some for garnish)
1/2 CUP mint
1/4 CUP lemon juice
3 jalapeños, seeded, sliced
1 TB ground cumin
1 TB ground coriander
1 tsp salt
1/2 CUP EV olive oil
1 clove garlic

Process all ingredients till fully combined, but with some texture, about 1 min. Combine the shredded chicken with the green harissa.

ASSEMBLE THE CHICKEN TACOS

spinach mini taco shells
chicken mixture
avocado, cut into thin slices
2 jalapeños, cut into thin ribbons
cilantro, for garnish

Fills shells about halfway with chicken. Top with avocado slice, then garnish with jalapeños strips and cilantro.

Cooking Elk Medallion Sliders: Like Steak but Better

Posted on: May 4th, 2017 by Ellen Swandiak

Here is an ingredient you may not have come across: elk. I chose to use it in developing a party menu of WILD ingredients, and though unfamiliar, it turned to be somewhat familiar. Cooking elk is quite simple. Elk tenderloin medallions can be treated just like filet mignon. Do not overcook it! This recipe calls for a quick grill then a slicing of the meat for sliders—with accoutrement: bacon, a gouda-style cheese from Ireland, and bitter radicchio and topped with Creamy Old-Style Mustard Dip (also seen in our exotic sausage recipe). To preserve all the wonderful juices, be sure to flip the tenderloins with tongs, instead of a fork.

You can order elk, and other exotic meats from Fossil Farms, where we purchased the sausages as well. See more at this link.   And if you are intrigued at the idea of using wild and foraged ingredients, see our entire party menu, Exotic & Foraged.

MAKES 24 SLIDERS

MAKE THE CREAMY OLD-STYLE MUSTARD DIP

1/2 CUP sour cream
1/2 CUP Maille Dijon Old-Style mustard
4 TB Maille Dijon mustard
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp Breitsamer Honig Forest Honey

Whisk all ingredients together in a small bowl.

COOK THE BACON

8 slices bacon

In the microwave, place 4 slices of bacon between paper towels. Cook for about 1 min per slice (start with 3 min to see if crispy). Cut (or snap!)  each slice into 3 parts.

cooking elk tenderloins

GRILL THE ELK

4 elk medallions
s + p

Let meat come to room temperature before cooking elk. Generously season with s + p. Grill 1 1/2 min on each side. Let meat rest before cutting into 1/4-inch slices.

cooking elk sliders with bacon, cheese, and radicchio

ASSEMBLE THE elk medallion SLIDERS

24 Martin’s Party Size Potato Rolls
Kerrygold Blarney Castle gouda-style cheese


mustard cream sauce
sliced elk
radicchio castillo franco, trimmed to fit on the rolls

Slice rolls in half and add a slice of cheese to the bottom. Place under broiler for 1 min (or less, watch!) to melt the cheese.

Slather mustard onto top of the roll. On top of the cheese, add bacon, two slices of elk, and 3 radicchio leaves. Close roll, and push together.

Tequila Spiked Guacamole: Best of Both Worlds

Posted on: February 22nd, 2017 by Ellen Swandiak

Tequila spiked guacamole combines the best of two Mexican culinary masterpieces: the Margarita, and the homage to the avocado: guacamole. Lime enhances the flavors, and cream cheese makes it thick and rich. Make sure to use a better tequila, if you are looking for some better brands, see our other posts Exotic Tequila Tasting, and one brand created by a father and son team.

Be sure to serve with a side of better chips. Que Pasa organic and gluten-free tortilla chips are made with organic whole kernel corn, organic canola and sunflower oil, sea salt, and hydrated lime. They are available in various colors throughout the year (yellow, blue, red, and white) so you can create some pretty combinations, depending on the season.

See more booze-infused recipes in our party theme Alcohol Infusion, which includes a nut mix, baby back ribs, and filet mignon sliders.

MAKES ONE LARGE BOWL

MAKE THE GUACAMOLE

4 large avocados, mashed with a potato masher
1/4 CUP cilantro, chopped
2 jalapeños, seeded, diced
zest and juice of 1 lime
6 oz cream cheese, softened
big pinch of salt
3 TB tequila (blanco)

Maldon sea salt

In a large bowl, add the cilantro and jalapeños to the mashed avocados. Zest lime, then cut in half and squeeze all the juice into the bowl. Add cream cheese, salt, and mash thoroughly. Add tequila, mash some more.

Transfer to small serving bowl that you can fill to the very top. Using a spoon, even and flatten the top. Sprinkle sea salt all over.

Serve with tortilla or plantain chips. Replenish the guacamole bowl as the night goes on, sprinkling the salt on top each time. Keep the surplus covered in the fridge with avocado pit inside to keep it from turning brown.

Quick Dessert: 10-Minute Cherry Chocolate Mousse

Posted on: February 1st, 2017 by Ellen Swandiak

Sometimes you are just looking for a simple, quick dessert, that still wows in delivering a sweet jolt. This mousse can be served on its own, or as an accompaniment with cookies or fresh fruit, as we have done here. Cherries and currants top this 10 minute work of art.

We included this recipe as part of the menu of aphrodisiacs. Chocolate has THE reputation for promoting amorous feelings. Casanova is known to have indulged in cups of chocolate to help sustain his lustful wanderings. The passion-inducing results come from phenethylamine, a chemical released in the brain when people fall in love, and tryptophan which produces serotonin, leading to elevated moods and sexual arousal.

In searching for a sensational, and easy, mousse recipe I came across this recipe for Bill’s Food Processor Chocolate Mousse. It turned out to be a cinch to make. Below, you will see that I doctored his recipe with a spoon of Kirschwasser, a cherry liqueur, for extra lusciousness, and garnished with red berries: fresh currants, and sugar-coated cherries.

MAKES ENOUGH FOR 6 (YOU WILL WANT EXTRA)

GET OUT THE FOOD PROCESSOR…

7 oz semisweet chocolate (62% cacao or less), broken into pieces

Process the chocolate until finely ground.

PROCESS THE CHOCOLATE…

ground chocolate

2 TB grape seed oil
1 TB Kirschwasser liqueur
1 TB pure vanilla extract

1/3 CUP milk
2 TB sugar

You will be adding these ingredients into the food processor to start the mousse. Combine oil, liqueur, and vanilla in a measuring cup. Separately, in a small saucepan, simmer milk and sugar, stirring to dissolve the sugar.

Turn on the processor, and with it running, pour the warmed-up milk in, and process for 15 to 20 sec, until the chocolate is melted. Add the oil mixture and process additional 5 to 10 sec, till thoroughly blended. Scrape the mixture into a bowl, let cool in the fridge for 5 min (so chocolate is not warm for the next step).

WHILE CHOCOLATE COOLS PREPARE THE CREAM

1 CUP heavy cream
Pinch salt
cooled chocolate mix

GARNISH:
currants on the stem
fresh cherries, brushed with egg white and rolled in sugar, cooled in the fridge (optional)

With a hand mixer, beat the cream and salt until it holds a soft shape, but not stiff. Remove cooled chocolate from the fridge and fold 1/3 of the cream into it, then the rest. Stop folding the moment the cream is incorporated, and scoop into glasses. Serve immediately, or refrigerate until serving. Garnish with currants and sugared cherries.

Instant Success: Dinner Party Shortcuts

Posted on: December 21st, 2015 by Ellen Swandiak

With weekend guests, you need to have stuff on hand. HOBNOB suggests stocking your pantry and freezer with these sophisticated flavors and dinner party shortcuts—so you come off as a hosting pro.

As part of the plan for hosting weekend guests, we found some fab ingredient to have on hand: a sensational American caviar in two price ranges, a collection of intense sophisticated sauces to accent your cooking, a line of instant cheesecakes and for the purists, the taste of just picked herbs from the freezer.

[1] Kelley’s Katch Kaviar This company produces caviar that rivals its Russian counterparts. Kelley’s Katch, a small producer based out of Savannah, Tennessee, harvests roe from wild fish from throughout the American South. The Kelleys, a husband and wife team, have been in the caviar business for over twenty years, and they own their own boats and processing and packing facilities, cutting out the middleman and passing savings along to their customers. Choose from their most popular paddlefish roe ($30 for 2 oz tin) or an even more luxurious option, American sturgeon ($99 for 2 oz tin) , seen in the photo. kelleyskatch.com

[2] La Maison Signature Sauces Whipping up dinner for weekend guests without sacrificing flavor and quality is easy with these sauces. La Maison’s line is made with fresh, flavorful ingredients, that can be used as a sauce on pan-seared steaks and chops; a glaze for roasts or vegetables; or as a creamy base for casseroles and pastas. Choose from a range of flavors, including red-wine based Burgundy Peppercorn, smoky Chipotle cream, spicy Thai Coconut Curry, herbaceous Pesto Cream, and rich Sherried Mushroom. $8 for 9 oz jars. vermontsigsauces.appspot.com

HOBNOBMAG Dinner Party Shortcuts

[3] Just in Time Gourmet: Key Lime Cheesecake Just in Time Gourmet’s dessert mixes are perfect for busy weekenders with a sweet tooth. So easy to put together that guests can get in on the cooking action too, their mixes only require a few additional ingredients like cream cheese and a graham cracker crust. Luscious and not too sweet, their cheesecake line, which includes Lemonade, Key Lime Cheesecake, Pumpkin Pie, and Caramel Apple flavors, is our favorite for family gatherings. About $9. phoenixfoodco.com Get it online at amazon.com

[4] Daregal Frozen Fresh Herbs Daregal’s frozen fresh herbs are the next best thing to picking herbs straight from your garden. Their herbs are harvested, washed, chopped (only the tender leaves are used), and frozen within three hours, maximizing freshness and flavor. Stored conveniently in your freezer for use all year, they can be used straight from the container, no thawing necessary. With more flavor than dried herbs, and more convenience than fresh herbs (no spoilage, no prep), stock your kitchen with chopped basil, parsley, cilantro, tarragon, chives, and more (organic varieties also available). About $3. Darengal

Creative Crepes for Breakfast & Lunch: Palacinky (Slovak Crepes)

Posted on: November 13th, 2015 by Ellen Swandiak

I have such fond memories of eating these for breakfast hot off the pan with strawberry preserves and a light sprinkling of salt on the top. But you can put most anything into these crepes. To make creative crepes: add vegetables, creamy sauces, or even ground meat. They are a great leftover reviver!

If you are following our weekend guest hosting plan, make a large batch for breakfast, then parlay the surplus batter into the Veggie Crepes for lunch. The batter gets better with time. For the lunch filling, use the vegetables you roasted the night before, along with a choice of sauces: the Lemon Beurre Blanc from the cod recipe and Black Truffle Dip from the brussels sprouts recipe .

MAKES 9 NINE-INCH CREPES

MAKE THE BATTER

2 CUPS flour, sifted
1/2 tsp salt

4 eggs
2 CUPS milk

Combine flour and salt in a large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk eggs and milk together, then add to flour mix. Beat until smooth. The batter should be thick enough to hold together, yet be able to spread out on the heated skillet quickly, to create thin crepes. Use the first crepe as a test—if it comes out too thick, stir in a little milk to the batter to thin it out.

COOK THE SLOVAK CREPES

1 tsp butter for each crepe
1 tsp strawberry preserves (or your favorite flavor) for each crepe

Heat skillet over medium heat, enough to melt the butter quickly, but not brown it. Melt butter and pour one ladel-full of batter and immediately tilt the skillet to cover the entire bottom of pan.

When crepe is brown on one side, flip with spatula. Move to a plate, and with a spoon spread preserves thinly all over one side. Roll, and serve immediately to each guest.

SATURDAY LUNCH: VEGGIE CREPES

grilled vegetables
Lemon Beurre Blanc sauce
Black Truffle Dip

Reheat the grilled vegetables from dinner the night before in the oven or in a skillet. Let guests choose which sauce they prefer to spread over the crepes before adding the veggies, and rolling. Serve with Red Curry Coconut Butternut Squash Soup (see recipe).

Roasted Cod in Lemon Beurre Blanc Sauce: Quick & Decadent

Posted on: November 13th, 2015 by Ellen Swandiak

You can definitely place roasted cod in the comfort food category if you add a rich sauce to it. That’s where this lemon beurre blanc sauce comes in, with its buttery goodness.

I created this recipe to go with a plan for hosting weekend guests, which includes extra sauce to use with the next day’s lunch. Do not refrigerate the sauce, as it will separate. Keep out in a cool spot, covered.

SERVES 4 PLUS EXTRA SAUCE

MAKE THE LEMON BEURRE BLANC SAUCE

4 shallots, minced
16 oz prosecco
zest and juice (about 1/2 cup) of 2 lemons
bay leaf
big sprig of thyme on the branch

3 sticks cold salted butter, cubed
s + p

Combine first five ingredients in a non-reactive deep saucepan over high heat. Reduce liquid to 1/4 cup, about 20 min. Lower heat to med, remove thyme, and whisk in butter, one cube at a time until mixture thickens. Remove from heat. Season with s + p. Serve sauce with fish, and keep extra out on the counter for crepes the following day.

ROAST THE COD… PREHEAT OVEN 450ºF

4 cod fillets (6 oz each)
2 TB organic sunflower oil
s + p

Get a large skillet hot over med-high heat. Add the sunflower oil and heat, then add fillets skin side down. Sear 5 min till golden. Flip fish, then move skillet into the oven. Roast about 10 min, till the center is opaque, and fish flakes easily. Serve with sauce on the side, and Roasted Winter Vegetable Medley (see recipe).

Healthy Party Snack: Caramelized Brussels Sprouts with Black Truffle Dip

Posted on: November 13th, 2015 by Ellen Swandiak

When entertaining, you never want your guests to be without food or drink! That’s why it’s important to plan to have some nibbles around while you are preparing dinner and starting to imbibe. I came up with this healthy party snack to take advantage of the fall harvest, when Brussels sprouts are at their peak of sweetness and are abundant everywhere. I paired it with a dip made of  black truffle pâté mixed with sour cream, to give it even more dimension. Tip: Make sure to really caramelize the Brussels sprouts in the pan for full flavor effect. You can have this dish served in 15 minutes, to great applause.

I developed this recipe as part of a plan for hosting weekend guests. The plan gives you ideas for serving from Friday night to Sunday afternoon. This is the welcome snack, the one to serve before dinner on Friday night. See the whole plan at this link.

MAKES ABOUT 2 CUPS

MAKE THE BRUSSELS SPROUTS

1 TB olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped

1 TB olive oil
4 CUPS Brussels sprouts, cut in half (14 oz)
1/2 tsp sea salt

Heat a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Heat olive oil and add onions. Saute until caramelized, about 7 min. Add in garlic about 6 min, and saute with onions for one minute. Remove from pan and set aside.

Add olive oil to the pan with Brussels sprouts. Let sit for 5-7 min to caramelize and blacken, then stir and let cook for an another 5-7 min. (Add oil to the pan if it starts to dry out.) Stir onions/garlic back in. Season with flaky sea salt.

MAKE THE BLACK TRUFFLE DIP

1 CUP sour cream
2 TB La Rusichetta Black Truffle Pâté
pinch salt

Mix together in a small bowl.

Chipotle Salsa with Brown Tomatoes: A Deeper Tone

Posted on: October 9th, 2015 by Ellen Swandiak

When you see brown tomatoes in your supermarket, give them a shot. They are mild and juicy and work wonderfully in a salsa. Tip: Removing the seeds from the tomatoes makes for a chunkier, and less wet salsa, and much nicer to eat.

We chose to plate the chipotle salsa with blue corn tortilla chips to continue the serious deep mood. This will make a statement on your party buffet for sure. This recipe is part of our Halloween menu, which conforms to an orange and black color theme to give your buffet a holiday feel.

MAKES ABOUT 2 CUPS

GRAB A NICE SHARP KNIFE…

5 brown tomatoes
1 can of chipotle peppers, chopped, adobo sauce reserved
juice of half lime
2 TB cilantro, chopped finely

To create nice little tomato chunks, cut a slice off the top, then cut in half, scoop out the seeds with a spoon, and flatten. In a bowl, mix in chipotles, lime juice, and cilantro. Depending on how spicy you want it, add adobo sauce incrementally.

Squid Ink Pasta with Shrimp & Toasted Breadcrumbs

Posted on: October 9th, 2015 by Ellen Swandiak

If you’ve never tried squid ink pasta, then this is the recipe that will make you fall in love with it. Not only does it have a captivating look, it lends a flavor all its own.

We thought it would be a great dish to serve at a Halloween or Day of the Dead party, and paired it with toasted breadcrumbs and shrimp to adhere to an orange and black menu that we developed especially for Halloween entertaining. This dish is truly spectacular, and so simple to make. It ranks as one of my top recipes on this website, when I see the photo, I just crave it. Do not leave off the breadcrumb mixture, they complete the dish beautifully.

MAKES ABOUT 20 SMALL BOWLS

COOK THE PASTA

1 LB Filotea La Pasta Originale Spaghetti Chitarra al Nero di Seppia (squid ink pasta)

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook pasta for 3 min. When draining pasta, reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water for the sauce.

TOAST THE BREADCRUMBS

2 TB EV olive oil
1 CUP panko breadcrumbs
1/8 CUP thyme, roughly chopped
zest of 1 lemon

Heat olive oil gently in a large saucepan over low heat. Stir in breadcrumbs, herbs and lemon zest, saute for about 3 min, till the crumbs have browned. Set aside.

MAKE THE SAUCE

1/2 CUP EV olive oil
1 onion, sliced into thin rings
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 CUP white wine
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp salt

Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onions and saute for 5 min. Add garlic, saute for about 1 min (do not let it brown). Add wine, crushed red pepper, and salt and let reduce by half, about 5 min.

ADD THE SHRIMP

1/2 CUP pasta water
1 LB shrimp, shells removed

Add water and shrimp, bring to a boil, cover and let shrimp poach for 2 min, stirring once. Toss with cooked pasta, and let flavors meld another 2 min.

To serve individually, use small bowls or cups and top with 1 shrimp apiece, with a sprinkling of breadcrumb mix on the top. Place dessert forks in each serving.

Not So Sweet Dessert: Smoked Almond Dip with Apples

Posted on: September 6th, 2015 by Ellen Swandiak

I’m one of those people that is interested in finding recipes for desserts in the not so sweet category. In coming up with a menu for watching a sporting event,  I thought a savory nut dip would fit the bill. You can pair this dip with either crisp, citrus-y apples, carrots or pretzels. See more upscale recipes in our Classy Sports party theme menu.

MAKES ENOUGH DIP FOR AT LEAST 72 APPLE SLICES

GET OUT THE FOOD PROCESSOR

2 CUPS smoked roasted almonds

5 TB peanut oil

Pulse nuts till very crumbly. Drizzle oil into running processor. Process with light touch.

ADD FLAVOR TO THE MIXTURE

2 TB tamari
1/4 CUP of water
juice of 1 lime
2 TB maple syrup
1 TB smoked salt

Add all ingredients to almond mixture. Process till combined.

SLICE THE APPLES

3 apples
juice of 1/2 lime

Slice apples in half, quarter. Remove core, cut each quarter into 6 slices. In bowl, toss apple slices with freshly squeezed lime juice. When displaying, stick one or more apple slices in dip to encourage dipping.

Chicken a Whole New Way—Dressed in a Smoked Cumin Mayo

Posted on: September 6th, 2015 by Ellen Swandiak

Make chicken a whole new way. We accomplished this with The Smoking Gun by PolyScience, which adds smoke flavor without adding heat. Guys, and gals, will love using this gadget. The Smoking Gun is perfect for smoking just about anything—mayo, butter, juices, you-name-it. You’ll be really surprised at how much flavor can be added in a minute amount of time, the mayo only needed about two minutes.

We love this recipe as part of the classy menu we created for serving while watching the big game. Sports fans can graze on these bites all through the game. Alternate serving idea: Mix the smoked mayo with chicken bites to create a chicken salad and serve atop crackers or make mini sandwiches.

MAKES ABOUT 80 BITES

GRILL THE CHICKEN BREASTS

1 LB chicken breasts
smoked salt

Get a grill pan nice and hot. Cut breasts into uniform thickness, if necessary, separate the tenderloin. Sprinkle with smoked salt. Grill.

MAKE THE CUMIN MAYO

2 TB mayo
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp smoked salt

herbs, for garnish (optional)

Mix ingredients together in deep bowl. Spread mayo around the sides to create a lot of surface. Cover bowl in plastic wrap, with the tube from The Smoking Gun inserted. Place wood chips in gun, light it as you would a pipe. Turn on the gun, and allow smoke to fill bowl, about 20 secs. Shut off gun. Allow smoke to remain for 2 to 3 min, (the longer you leave it, the more intense the result will be). Remove plastic. You will get a waft of smoke here, so avoid area with smoke detector. You might want to open a window for a minute to allow smoke to dissipate.

MAKE THE BITES

With a sharp knife, cut breasts into bite-size pieces. Put a dollop of the mayo on the bites using a small spoon. Spear with toothpick. If you have any oregano, parsley or chives around, chop and sprinkle over the bites to decorate.

Halloumi Appetizer with Honey-Lime Syrup: Grilled Cheese Greek Style

Posted on: August 3rd, 2015 by Ellen Swandiak

Cheese is always welcome in a party setting. I’ve put a little more thought, though, in creating this halloumi appetizer. Paired with a crisped salty ham and a drizzle of honey-lime syrup, you combine creamy, salty, and sweet in one bite. This recipe was inspired by Greek foods, which seem extra delicious in the summer heat.

In keeping with the Greek theme for this party menu, I searched NYC shops for pastourma (aka pastirma), a type of Greek charcuterie, but could not find any in time for recipe testing. What I did have on hand was Surryano, a dry cured ham from Virginia that was featured on pizza in our Lazy Pizza Party. The saltiness and perfect fry-ability of the ham worked perfectly with the halloumi grilling cheese.

To give it a slightly sweet and citrus-y bent, I then matched it with Greek honey infused with lime and lemon verbena. These are great just off the skillet, and may get a little chewy when cooled, but the flavors are absolutely perfect together.

MAKES ABOUT 25 BITES

MAKE THE HONEY-LIME SYRUP

1/4 CUP Ariston Greek Wildflower Honey
juice of 1/2 lime
1 tsp lemon verbena, minced

Pour honey into a microwave-safe bowl. Heat on high for about 15 secs, till honey is warmed through and thinner in consistency. Whisk in lime juice and lemon verbena. Remove lemon verbena leaves. Funnel into a plastic squeeze bottle. Refrigerate if not using right away.

GRILL THE HALLOUMI

11 oz halloumi cheese
10 slices Surryano Dry Cured Ham
bamboo picks

Cut brick of halloumi through the center lengthwise, then each half into 1/4-inch thick slices, then cut those into 3/4-inch slices. You should end up with slices approx 3/4-inch wide by 1.5-inches long by 1/4-inch thick. Next, cut the ham into 1/2-inch strips to wrap around the halloumi. (It should slightly overlap, ideally) Spear the halloumi onto bamboo picks carefully, driving the stick directly through the center. Heat a skillet. Brown about 1 to 2 min each side. Fan out on a plate.

TO SERVE

halloumi-ham bites
10 lemon verbena leaves, cut into thin ribbons
honey lime syrup

Sprinkle lemon verbena ribbons over the bites and drizzle syrup liberally.

Greek Pantry: Authentic Olive Oil, Sweets, Sauces and More

Posted on: August 3rd, 2015 by Ellen Swandiak

If you are cooking Greek food, you need to gather a few essentials. Here are a smattering of high-end products that are the must-haves for your Greek pantry.

Support Greece in the most fun way: by eating their products. We’ve gathered a selection of goods imported straight from the homeland, plus products made with handed-down recipes by second and third generation Greek Americans. Kali orexi! [Bon appetit!]

[1] Five Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil

This super design-y bottle stands for an excellence you can sense before even tasting it. Using hand-picked, sustainably-grown Koroneiki olives from Finiki Lakonias, Greece, the oils have no additives and are produced using a method of cold extraction at low temperatures, resulting in very low levels of acidity. The packaging, in matte black, allows it to be displayed prominently on the counter or buffet. Check the entire line for other extraordinary olive oils, in matte white bottle, and special edition Swarovski crystal Five. So giftable. $24. fiveoliveoil.com Available online at hellenicfarms.com

[2] Navarino Icons Spoon Sweets

Start a Greek tradition in your household: offer a sweet preserve to arriving guests, along with a glass of cold water to kick off the gathering. These flavor-packed “spoon sweets” are made by gently boiling seasonal fruit for hours—or even for days (as the tomato version is), resulting in sweet gem-like delights that are a perfect accompaniment to strong cheeses, Greek yogurt, or even atop ice cream.

Choose from three varieties: tomato, olive, and the limited edition orange. The olive variety is made by simmering Kalamata olives, pitted and stuffed with almonds, and brewed in an intoxicating syrup of fresh orange juice, wine, honey, herbs, and spices. The tomato variety is simple but sweet, using only three ingredients: sugar, lemon, and fresh tomatoes picked in August.

Navarino Icons is an incredible company committed to distributing authentic products created by small-scale producers on the coastal region of Messinia in the southwest Peloponnese. Their food products are all prepared using recipes handed down for generations, and always with respect for local traditions. $16-$18. navarinoicons.com Available online at hellenicfarms.com

[3] Olympia Provisions Loukaniko Sausage

Based in Portland, Oregon, Olympia Provisions (formerly Olympic Provisions) is making America’s best charcuterie, and though it’s almost impossible to choose, one of their best products is their loukanika, a traditional Greek salami boldly flavored with garlic, cumin and a touch of orange zest. The recipe itself was passed down by “Old Man Cairo,” the father of head salumist Eli Cairo.

Cairo, who is a first generation Greek American, grew up with his father making charcuterie from scratch at home, where doing things the old fashioned, handmade way was the norm. Lucky for us, Cairo has taken up his father’s craft, and now he and his fellow salumists at Olympia Provisions are taking charcuterie in America to new heights, using nearly extinct old world techniques, aging his salumi naturally and slowly, and using hand-butchered antibiotic-free Pacific Northwest pork. olympiaprovisions.com

hobnbomag Greek Pantry

[4] Kaldi Greek Cooking Sauces

Kaldi’s line of all-natural cooking sauces make recreating your favorite long-simmered Greek specialties simple and easy—all you need is to add beef, chicken, shrimp, or your favorite vegetable.

Choose from sauces based on traditional Greek dishes: the hearty veggie-packed PLAKI, perfect with beans or fresh vegetables; the sweet and savory PORTOKALI made with blood oranges, olives, ginger, and tomatoes on seafood or fish; SAGANAKI, woven with quintessential Greek flavors of anise, black olives and capers; and the deep rich STIFADO made with red wine, onions, and allspice over beef, lamb, or chicken. There’s no limit to the scope you can bring to these one-pot creations—just think of these sauces as an amazing base to jump off from. amazon.com

[5] Ariston Wildflower Honey

This month’s Halloumi and Ham bites were highlighted by a lime-honey-lemon verbena sauce, in which we featured this delicious honey. Bees have a field day in Messinia, an untouched area of Greece, where wildflowers bloom in glorious profusion. Add a jar of this to your cheese board, or tea service. $6. aristonspecialties.com

hobnbomag Greek Pantry

[6] Ballard Family Dairy and Cheese

Halloumi, traditionally made with goat and sheep’s milk, is the most famous cheese of Cyprus, Greece. The name Halloumi is derived from the Greek word “almi”, which refers to the brine solution that is used to preserve the cheese. Salty, tangy, and with a very elastic texture, Halloumi’s high melting point makes it perfect for grilling, as it can magically brown without devolving into a melty mess.

Since the name Halloumi is a protected product of Cyprus, this American brand calls their version Idaho Golden Greek Grillin’ Cheese, which is made using a traditional halloumi recipe but with 100% Jersey cow’s milk, which has a higher butterfat content.

Ballard’s award-winning version is not your everyday squeaky, vacuum-packed variety. Cooked to crisp, golden perfection and with a rich bouncy bite, we daresay Ballard’s American-made cheese is a mighty rival to its Greek counterpart. The Ballard family started their small dairy nine years ago with the strong belief that loving care and a healthy diet would create not only higher quality milk, but also happier cows. $16.50 ballardcheese.com

Grilled Eggplant Slices Stuffed with Herbed Feta

Posted on: August 2nd, 2015 by Ellen Swandiak

Make sure to get high quality feta, one that has a bit of a kick to it, preferably whole, not crumbled. Fresh herbs are mandatory to add new dimension. I grew some lemon basil this year and cannot get enough of it, it really takes basil up to another level. If you can’t find any, go for regular basil or even lemon verbena.

Get your eggplants from your local greenmarket—now is the time. And make sure not to cut them too thin, 1/4-inch is ideal, any thinner and they will not hold the feta, any thicker and you will not be able to fold then over. We have more recipes with a Greek bent in our party theme that showcases the best in Greek ingredients,.

MAKES ABOUT 25 BITES

GRILL THE EGGPLANT

2 eggplants, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
pastry brush
1-2 CUPS EV olive oil
s + p
2 TB dried oregano

Brush one side of eggplant slice with oil and season with s + p and oregano. Heat a grill pan or bbq, and place eggplant seasoned side down. Oil and season other side. Grill about 2 to 3 min each side, till cooked through. Allow to cool slightly before assembling bites.

MAKE THE HERBED FETA

16 oz feta cheese, room temperature
1 TB lemon basil, minced
1 TB oregano, minced
1 tsp black pepper

Combine ingredients together in a large bowl. Spread the mix onto half of the grilled eggplant and fold over.

Party Food for a Scorcher: Cod with Greek Yogurt in Lettuce Wraps

Posted on: August 2nd, 2015 by Ellen Swandiak

When thinking about party food for a scorcher, the idea is choosing food that is not too heavy and filling. The fish has a refreshing, lemony bent that goes well with the cool yogurt. Make more of the yogurt mix to serve on the side or put it out for dipping thick slices of cucumber.

We developed this dish with Greek cuisine in mind, and developed a whole menu for entertaining. See more Greek recipes for a hot summer party at this link.

MAKES 28 BITES

MAKE THE ZESTY GREEK YOGURT

1 CUP Greek yogurt
2 TB mint, minced
1 TB oregano, minced
1 TB basil, cut into thin ribbons
1 TB lemon zest
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 clove garlic, crushed in a garlic press
1/2 tsp salt

Whisk ingredients together in a small bowl.

PREHEAT OVEN 375ºF… MAKE THE COD

1 1/2 LB cod fillet, 1-inch thick
salt
zesty greek yogurt

EV olive oil

1 lemon
bibb lettuce, leaves separated

Cut fillets into bite-sized pieces that will fit on the lettuce leaves. Season with salt. Cover the tops with a smear of the yogurt. Place in pyrex baking dish, lightly greased with EV olive oil, do not crowd. Bake for about 18 min, till cooked through. Remove from oven and squeeze lemon over the fillets. Add a dollop of the yogurt and place in a lettuce wrap.

Liran Mezan of The Fillmore Room’s Luscious Smoked Trout Rillettes

Posted on: July 16th, 2015 by Ellen Swandiak

Summer recipes call for cool, light bites. This chef’s recipe for Smoked Trout Rillettes covers all of the above. Try serving with pickled vegetables and a grainy mustard.

Next time you are gallery hopping in West Chelsea, NYC or taking a stroll on the High Line you must make a stop at The Fillmore Room, the newest project from Chef Liran Mezan, formerly of STK. You might think this restaurant has been a NYC staple for a 100 years or more, with its sprawling, deco-style bar, tin ceilings, and fireplaces, but it has just been thoughtfully renovated to achieve the feeling of nostalgia. [UNFORTUNATELY, this place has permanently closed since this post ran. But please make the fab recipe at your next hosting, and get the details for the rest of the menu for throwing a fun summer bash at this link.]

You can also welcome a straightforward menu of well-made American fare with a French influence. For starters, dive into a bounteous raw bar platter, sweetbreads, or steak tartare with gribiche sauce. Nicely-priced entrees include a brown-butter trout, pea/ricotta gnocchi, and roasted eggplant, mushrooms, with pecan-faro ravigote. Steak lovers can feast on a peppercorn NY strip or share a dry-aged bone-in ribeye. Brunch offers a trio of drinks from the Bloody Bar: the classic Bloody Mary, Fiddler’s Green includes a medley of fresh veggies along with gin, or the Mellow Yellow, which pairs tequila with peppers, pineapple, herbs and hot sauce.

hobnobmag Smoked Trout Rillettes recipe

Mezan welcomes neighborhood folks and those wandering on the west side to partake in the casual, bustling space—and to host a party room in the cavernous room in the back. The venue would be ideal for weddings—or a birthday bash with your 100 closest friends.

hobnobmag Smoked Trout Rillettes recipe

Chef Liran Mezan shares the recipe for this seriously seductive bite. (I tried the Smoked Trout Rillette at the opening party and just had to know how it was made.) Be sure to serve on toasted slices of a baguette with a side of pickled vegetables. fillmoreroom.com

hobnobmag Smoked Trout Rillettes recipe

recipe

Smoked Trout Rillettes

1/4 lb butter
2 TB chopped onion

1/2 LB smoked trout, skin removed, bones removed, shredded
1/4 cup white wine
1 tsp lemon zest
1 tsp salt
pinch white pepper

2 TB chopped chive
1 TB mascarpone

Heat a medium size heavy bottom sauté pan. Add the butter and melt until foaming slightly. Add the onions and sauté until translucent. Add the trout meat, white wine, lemon zest, salt and pepper. Cook until wine evaporates.

Cool the mixture slightly before mixing. Spoon the mix into a bowl and add the chives and mascarpone cheese. Cool over ice and refrigerate.

hobnobmag Smoked Trout Rillettes recipe

The Ultimate Guide to Serving Oysters at Your Party

Posted on: June 16th, 2015 by Ellen Swandiak

Here’s a triple strategy into the art of serving oysters at your party. The whole thought might seem intimidating, but, rest assured, I found a sure-fire method for shucking and a spot to order oysters in bulk, and if that doesn’t convince you, a service that takes care of everything.

You may have noticed an abundance of Happy-Hour Oyster-ing in NYC and beyond—and I am such a fan. However, setting an oyster station at your home gathering might be extremely intimidating. Let HOBNOB give you the know how for setting up a delightfully-fresh raw bar at your party. It’s not as difficult as it may seem.

You could say oyster-mania (for me) was ignited on a weekend trip to Montreal where I had the pleasure of meeting Daniel Notkin, who accompanied the dozen oysters my friend Bob and I ordered. This guy went above and beyond, singing the praises of each species. His knowledge was astounding, and personality quite charming, and thus we dubbed him the Oyster Meister. I couldn’t think of a better person to get shucking tips from, read on.

[1] The Secrets to Shucking Like a Pro from Daniel Notkin

When I interviewed Daniel Notkin, he did not hold back on his oyster passions, history,  and expertise. I’ll let you hear it  in his words:

Ah, the lovely oyster! Jonathan Swift said it was a brave man that once ate an oyster but I profess it was an even braver one that tried to open one. While our ancestors and many of our other vertebrate and invertebrate cousins each have their own methods of cracking and otherwise detaching the lovely meat from the oyster shell, we—our species—have spent the better part of 2000 years mastering the tools to do so

For starters, know your oyster terminology.

Cup. The “bottom” or more curved part of the oyster shell. The oyster nestles in the cup while the top shell—the lid—covers the oyster’s top half.

◊ Choose your tool: The first, and most important part in opening an oyster shell is, as stated—your tool. Get a good oyster knife. Though any knife will do, choose one that feels good in your hand, and with a good “blade.” I say blade but the knife itself does not need to be too sharp. A good point is more important.

The “point,” you say! But won’t this point go through my hand? Alas, it’s possible. Many if not all who have handled an oyster have felt the pain of the oyster, both literally and more “pointedly”. The second most important thing when opening an oyster is to cover your hand.

◊ Protect your hand: Position a small towel on the table. Place the oyster in the middle with the hinge facing the hand with oyster knife. Fold the towel over the oyster. Place your hand on top of the oyster, holding it in place, then fold the towel back over your hand.

◊ Find the sweet spot: Now, take your oyster knife and, at a 45º angle, insert it into a spot 1/10-inch from the hinge on the side closest to you. Rock your knife a-quarter-turn-and-back with pressure, to wedge into the “sweet spot” of the oyster. If you get it right, that knife will be wedged in.

◊ Pop oyster open: Roll your wrist and “pop” the shell open (which you will hear). Hold the oyster open with your index finger and ride the ridge of the farthest side of the oyster shell to sever the top adductor mussel. Scrape the adductor from the top of the shell (as if scraping old paint). Once accomplished, the “lid” should fall away.

Turn the oyster towards you, and with your knife at 45º, in one dipping motion, run along the bottom of the shell, away from you. This will sever the “cup” from the oyster.

◊ inspect: Check for grit, make sure the oyster is presentable. Serve on ice. —by Daniel Notkin, The Old Port Fishing Co, theoldportfishingcompany.com, and owner of NOTKINS, a restaurant in Montreal focused on the freshest seafood available. 

[2] A&B American Style’s Pepper Sauce

Place this sauce adjacent to the oyster serving area to accomodate those who demand a lovely spiciness with their slurping. Made with Red Fresno chili peppers, A&B American Style’s Pepper Sauce, made in small batches—sans sugar—will add an extra kick to oysters, and most other dishes, animal, vegetable or mineral—even cocktails, especially  of the Bloody Mary variety. Feel free to sprinkle it on burgers or barbecued meats for a taste profile no one will confuse with oh-so traditional mesquite. Check out their entire line of hot sauces, you may want to offer more than one. $12 abamerican.com

[3] Island Creek Oysters

From humble beginnings, Island Creek Oysters sells over 100,000 oysters a week. Top restaurants, French Laundry, Next, and even the White House have sampled the goods.

What are the best picks for parties? The 100-count bag should have you covered. Cool fact: the bag they come in is the same one the oysters come out of the water in. How fresh is that? $150.

Too many? Get 3 dozen oysters in the Damn Yankee Sampler, with some of the best bivalves from New England: Flavor profile: Island Creeks have a mossy, buttery flavor of seaweed, Spring Creeks are delicate and mild, and Peter Points have a salty, grassy flavor with a hint of sweetness. $84. shop.islandcreekoysters.com

[4] Brooklyn Oyster Party

Shucking not for you? Have the gang at Brooklyn Oyster Party do it for you. They provide the freshest east coast oysters (mostly), and shuck at blinding speeds. They will set up a complete raw bar station with all the accoutrements and take care of cleanup, leaving no trace. All you have to do is make your oyster selection and customize your mignonette. Includes 1 to 2 shuckers for 3 hours, starting at 200 oysters for $700 brooklynoysterparty.com