Saturday, November 5, 2011

Starting the Thanks

Thanksgiving is upon us. The single most food focused day of the year. It can be stressful and overwhelming. We have decided to do a series focusing on starters, sides and desserts. No turkey! I feel that there is plenty of info out there in regards to this and frankly, my favorite part of the meal is not the turkey, it is everything else! We are also going to give you wine pairings for everything compliments of Maureen Petrosky read more here. We are starting of course with the starters, ha, and firstly with Blue Cheese Grapes from Maureen’s book. These are delightful little bites and couldn’t be simpler to make. We then have Smoked Salmon Popovers, because popovers are yummy and small bite sized ones like these are perfect for entertaining. I did try and make these with whole wheat pastry flour (because I like to add nutrition wherever I can) and they just didn’t “popover”. They turned out like little muffins, still delicious if you would like to try! Then we have the Spinach Artichoke Dip, because, well you need a dip at a party. I tried to make this a little healthier by using Greek yogurt and Neufchatel cheese, which is lower in fat than cream cheese and very little mayo. This recipe is simple and can be served chilled, or you can bake it off with a little extra cheese and serve it warm. Then we have a raw Beet, Apple, and Carrot slaw that highlights some in season fall vegetables and adds come crisp refreshing texture to the menu. Then we have Cranberry Relish, which can be used in any of the 3 categories, starters, sides, or desserts. For the starters we are serving it over a wheel of Brie with crackers. MMMMM. If these don’t excite you try our Spiced Pumpkin Soup recipe here or our Eggplant Crostini recipe here from previous posts. We hope that you are inspired to tackle Thanksgiving with confidence…enjoy!

Nutty Blue Cheese Grapes  (from Maureen Petrosky’s Book The Wine Club)
Serves 10

5 ounces blue cheese at room temperature
1 bunch seedless black or red grapes, about 40-60 grapes
12 ounces walnuts, toasted and finely chopped

Press a little of the blue cheese around each grape to coat. Roll the cheese covered grapes in the walnuts and enjoy.

Wine Paring: These little bites rock with a Cabernet or a big Merlot, but red- definitely go for a nice juicy California red with these.

Creamy Smoked Salmon and Chive Popovers 
Makes 24

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, 1 melted and the other use to grease the pan
1 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
Few grinds of black pepper
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 cup 2% milk, also at room temperature
2 ounces Neufchatel or cream cheese
2 ounces smoked salmon, flaked or chopped into smallish pieces
1 tablespoon chopped chives
Mini muffin tin

Preheat your oven to 425°F. Liberally grease the muffin tin with the butter (I mean it, if you don’t get the cups completely buttered these puppies will give you a hard time!) In a medium mixing bowl combine the melted butter, flour, salt, pepper, eggs and milk, whisking until thoroughly combined. Transfer to a liquid measuring cup with a pour spout. Fill each muffin cup about 1/2 full. Place a pinch of salmon, and a pinch of chives in each cup. Using to small spoons place about 1/4-ish teaspoon of cheese into each cup (I scooped with 1 spoon then scraped into the cup with the other).  Top each cup with a little more batter. Bake for 20-25 minutes until puffed and golden. Once you remove them from the oven, gently pierce each one with a pairing knife to release the steam. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Wine Paring: Are you kidding these sound awesome all by themselves but since drinking makes all eating more fun try a light bodied red here- a Pinot Noir from Burgundy or a light and fruity Beaujolais will go great.

Good ol’ Spinach Artichoke Dip
Serves 8-10

6 ounces fresh spinach
1, 15 ounce can artichoke hearts, drained
1 tablespoon minced jalapeno
1 roasted red bell pepper, chopped, 
about 1/2 cup
2 ounces Neufchatel of cream cheese
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup Greek style yogurt
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (plus 1/4 cup more for top if serving warm)
1/2 teaspoon salt
A pinch of red pepper flakes
3/4 cup grated Asiago, optional (use if serving warm)

In the bowl of a food processor combine the spinach, artichoke, jalapeno, Neufchatel, mayo, yogurt, 1/2 cup Parmesan, salt and red pepper flakes. Pulse until well combined. Serve as is with sliced baguette or Place in a casserole dish, top with extra parmesan and Asiago and bake at 400 for 15 minutes then broil until golden and bubbly on top.
Wine Paring: Artichokes are one of the toughest things to pair with. They cause all of these weird tastes when combined with wine.  But in this case the creamy base for the dip is what you want to match- so again that red you paired to go with the blue cheese grapes should be lovely with this dish as well. Cabernet or Merlot that is fruit forward like those from Cali.

Beet, Carrot, Apple Slaw with Goat Cheese
Serves 8-10

1 granny smith apple
1 lemon, zested and juiced
2-3 beets, about a pound, peeled
2 medium carrots, peeled if necessary
1 shallot, minced
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons sherry, red wine, or apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
pinch of salt
freshly ground black pepper
6 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
3 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
v-slicer or mandolin with julienne attachment
or you could use the grating attachment of a food processer or even a box grater

Cut the apple using the julienne (matchstick) attachment of your v-slicer. Toss with the lemon juice. Continue with the beets and carrots in the same fashion, tossing all together. Combine the lemon zest, shallot, ginger, oil, vinegar, honey, salt, and pepper in a lidded jar. Shake to emulsify. Pour over vegetables and toss to combine. At this point you can add the goat cheese if you are serving family style and garnish with the parsley or top each serving with a little goat cheese and sprinkle with the parsley.

Wine Paring: Raw beet, apple, carrot slaw (no need to change up what you're already drinking red goes here too...

3 Way Cranberry Relish - Makes about 2 1/2 cups 
1, 12 ounce bag of fresh cranberries 
1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (about 5 oranges)
2 tablespoons orange zest
1/2 cup honey
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds

In a medium saucepan combine the cranberries, orange juice and zest, honey, ginger, and salt. Bring to a boil over medium high heat. Reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer and cook for about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the pomegranate seeds.

Serving suggestions:
1. Over a wheel of Brie with some crackers as an appetizer

2. Simple as a side with the main meal

3. Spooned over some vanilla ice cream with short bread cookies

Wine Paring:  For the savory versions go for Pinot Noir again, for that sweet vanilla ice cream try a Pedro Ximenes Sherry from Spain- even drizzle a little of it on top for an adult version of your dessert.

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