Stuffed Baby Med Peppers

We have always loved to add pepperoncini to our Greek salads.  On our last visit to Rhodes we were served these simple but satisfying pre-prandial bites at a little sidewalk cafe near the gate to the port.  These pickled peppers, which are just as popular in Italian dishes, are so easily available in the United States and so overlooked when we think of savory appetizers.  Our chef simply soaked them for a time in icy water, slit them open, and filled each pepper with an equal amount of local cheese, what tasted like minced salami, and a generous helping of grated onion.  Dust this with Greek seasoning, squeeze a little lemon juice over all and warm in a 300 degree oven for ten minutes.  You may substitute minced, crispy bacon and Monterey Jack for a departure. 


Caviar on Cauliflower Cream


We love this alternative appetizer on thickly cut, home-made, potato chips but it will work just as well with blintz or melba toast.  The most important thing is to make sure you drain the cauliflower well after cooking so that the consistency of the cream is not runny.  I have found that microwaving the cauliflower in a covered dish with a few teaspoons of water for steaming is very satisfactory.

  • Two cups of cauliflower, cooked well and drained
  • One tablespoon of fresh chives, chopped
  • One third of a cup of sour cream
  • One half  teaspoon of kosher salt
  • Five ounces of your preferred caviar
  • One tablespoon of fresh chives, finely minced

Process first four ingredients and refrigerate until ready to serve.  Assemble by putting one teaspoon of cauliflower cream on the toast, followed by a half teaspoon of caviar. Garnish with a sprinkle of  minced chives.

Just a Bowl of Butterbean Hummus

butter beans

Nobody had ever heard of hummus when the anthem, “Just a Bowl of Butterbeans” was the sing-along hit at every college band party.  But today, hummus is the go-to snack and appetizer among folks of all ages.  We couldn’t believe how well southern butterbeans and Mediterranean spices worked together.

  • Two 16 ounce cans of butterbeans, drained
  • Three green onions, chopped
  • Two thirds of a cup of tahini paste
  • Two cloves of garlic, chopped
  • Six tablespoons of lemon juice, freshly squeezed
  • One teaspoon of lemon zest
  • One tablespoon of cumin, ground
  • One quarter cup of olive oil
  • Sea salt
  • Black pepper, freshly ground
  • Two teaspoons of sesame seeds, toasted

Process the first eight ingredients, thinning with water if necessary to get desired consistency.  Season with salt and pepper to taste and refrigerate in a covered bowl until ready to serve.  Hummus should be allowed to come to room temperature before serving.  This recipe may be may a couple of days ahead to allow full flavor.  We like to scatter the sesame seeds on top and serve with pita chips.

Sun-dried Tomato Tapenade

sundried tomatoes

A bright and shiny tapenade is what we need to banish these dreary January days and I’ve got one for you that harkens back to a cold and windy day in 1995 when I came across a bottle of sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil that had come in a Christmas basket.  I wondered what to do with them.  This is the result.

  • One 8 ounce bottle of sun-dried tomatoes, drained
  • Two tablespoons of black olives, chopped
  • Three garlic cloves, chopped
  • Two tablespoons of flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • Two tablespoons of basil, chopped
  • One quarter cup of olive oil
  • One half cup of parmesan cheese, freshly grated
  • Sea salt
  • Black pepper, freshly ground

Process first six ingredients and place in a serving bowl.  Stir in parmesan cheese and season to taste with salt and pepper.

French Onion Toasts

We enjoyed a version of this at a waterfront cafe in Le Havre in early fall.  This is our adaptation utilizing parmesan as a substitute for a hard-to-find local cheese.  Be sure and slice your loaves of French bread thinly.

  • Two and a half cups of yellow onions, minced
  • One quarter cup of fresh flat parsley leaves, minced
  • One level teaspoon of granulated beef bouillon
  • One cup of parmesan cheese, freshly grated
  • One teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce
  • One half cup of mayonnaise
  • Thirty two slices of French bread

Combine the first six ingredients and spread one teaspoon of the mixture on each slice of bread.  Put on a baking sheet and place under a broiler for approximately four minutes or until the toasts are puffed and golden brown.

Southern Summer Squash Spread

Sometimes abundance is the mother of invention, which explains this original and delicious take on hummus.  Our friend Bob kept us over-supplied all summer with tender, baby, yellow squash with nary a wart upon them.  This was one result of his largesse.

  • Three cups of summer squash, roughly chopped
  • Four tablespoons of crunchy peanut butter
  • Two tablespoons of peanut oil
  • Three tablespoons of lemon juice, freshly squeezed
  • One teaspoon of dried red chile flakes
  • One half teaspoon of sea salt
  • Two cloves of garlic, chopped
  • One teaspoon of dried dill

Put squash in a covered glass container and microwave on high for three minutes. Drain squash and place in a food processor along with the remaining ingredients.  Process until the mixture is smooth and spreadable.  Chill before serving with melba toast.

A Marvelous Mushroom Tapenade

We gathered a mixture of exotic mushrooms on a trip to the Farmers’ Market in Atlanta and added some local shitaki to make this earthy puree which is delightful on a baked potato, spread as a bruschetta topping, or just spooned onto a chunk of rustic bread and enjoyed with a glass of wine after a long afternoon nap.  This recipe makes about two cups.

  • 1/4 cup of good olive oil
  • 1 and 1/2 pounds of mixed mushrooms
  • 1 tablespoon of fresh rosemary and oregano, mixed and minced
  • 1 heaping tablespoon of garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup of red wine
  • 2 tablespoons of capers, drained and minced
  • 1 teaspoon of fresh lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice
  • 4 anchovy filets, drained and pressed with a paper towel

Saute the mushrooms in half the oil with the herbs and garlic, adding sea salt and ground black pepper to taste.  After six minutes, add the wine and lower the heat, cooking, uncovered, for about six more minutes or until the juices are evaporated.  Cool and add the last four ingredients to the mushrooms in the bowl of a food processor.  Chop the mushrooms and slowly add the rest of the olive oil, thickening the mixture.  Don’t over process, leaving some texture.  Chill in the refrigerator overnight to blend but let it come to room temperature before serving.

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