Yokosuka Pickled Veggies

These were served as a pre-prandial treat at a unique home built of finely fitted and unpainted timbers near the U.S. Naval Base in Japan during a visit with friends some years ago.  I have resurrected the recipe because some folks really enjoy a salty, biting, clean taste with a really special craft beer.

  • 1/2 pound of carrots, shaved from the length of the carrot
  • 1/2 pound of large turnip roots, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 pound of radishes, (daikon if possible) thinly sliced
  • 1/2 pound of leeks, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 pound of broccoli florets, about the size of quarters
  • 1 tablespoon of minced ginger root
  • 1 teaspoon of finely chopped dried red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup of sake
  • 2 tablespoons of rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon of sea salt

Combine the ginger, red pepper flakes, rice vinegar, sake, and sea salt in a saucepan and heat until steaming…do not boil.  Place vegetables in a covered pyrex dish and pour the pickling solution over them.  Make sure all are covered.  Cool and refrigerate for at least 24 hours. before serving

Goat Cheese and Asparagus Toasts

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We were invited to a pot-luck cocktail party last month and with little time to spare, surveyed the fridge and put together this wonderful hors d’oeuvres that drew compliments from all gathered there.

Begin with what I call “light bread” that some call a sandwich loaf.  You’ll find you have about 24 slices to decrust and roll flat with a rolling pin or a tall bottle.  A pound of asparagus is all you will need and you may have enough leftover for a salad at lunch.  Blanch 24 of the fattest spears (covered in plastic wrap) in a microwave for three minutes.  Spread your favorite goat cheese on each flattened bread slice, place an asparagus spear at one end, grind some fresh black pepper over all, and roll up.  Place seam-side down on an oiled baking sheet, brush with melted butter, and sprinkle with sesame seeds.  Place under the broiler, watching closely until the bread is toasted to a golden hue.  We stacked the toasted asparagus in alternating layers like Lincoln logs for serving.   You will hope there are leftovers!

Crabcakes for a Crowd

We’ve been looking for a long time for a low-labor, really crabby crabcake appetizer and lo, this past Christmas, it happened!  It was a cocktail gathering for old friends, family, and neighbors: people we enjoy and with whom we wanted time to visit.  We put together this mini-crabcake recipe from a half-dozen we had clipped and it was perfect for our needs.  Each pound of crabmeat will make about 24 baked crabcakes which are mostly crab, toasted and crunchy…and can be prepared in advance.

  • 1 pound of lump crabmeat
  • 1/2 cup of thinly sliced green onions
  • 1 cup of finely chopped poblano peppers
  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • 4 ounces of white cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1/2 cup of baking mix
  • 1/2 cup of half and half
  • 2 eggs, well beaten
  • 1 teaspoon of seafood seasoning…we prefer Old Bay
  • 1 tablespoon of good olive oil

Wash and drain well the crabmeat, picking through it to remove any unintended cartilage.  Microwave onions and peppers in butter for two minutes and combine them with the Old Bay seasoning, cheese, baking mix, half and half, olive oil, and eggs in a large mixing bowl.  Fold in the crabmeat gently so that it does not become too broken up.  Prepare a 24 cup mini-muffin pan by coating it generously with a baking spray.  Butter or oil may work but why take a chance?  Bake at 375 for about twenty minutes and take out of the oven.  Let cool before removing the crabcakes to a warm platter.  We served these with a small dab of lemon aioli made by combining homemade mayo with garlic powder, lemon juice, and more Old Bay seasoning to taste.

 

Kalamata and Feta Roll-Ups

This one is a keeper.  If you have never used flour tortillas for roll-ups, you are missing out on a quick, convenient, and much-appreciated snack or appetizer.  Simply lay out a burrito-sized tortilla, mix together 8 ounces of cream cheese, 6 ounces of Feta, 6 ounces of chopped Kalamata olives, sprinkle in some Greek seasoning and garlic powder, and spread generously.  Roll up into a tube, slice into 1 and 1/2 inch pieces and plate.  This freezes well if you would like to make some in advance.  Simply wrap the whole roll in plastic wrap, and about 15 minutes before you are ready to serve, unwrap and slice.

 

Sesame Cents

                                             

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You’ll want to keep these little cocktail cookies on hand year-round.  They are simple to make, keep well in the fridge, and take less than fifteen minutes to bake.  This recipe makes about four dozen depending on the size of the coins.

  • 1/3 cup of butter
  • 1 cup of all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon of onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon of sesame oil
  • 3 cups of sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1/4 cup of sesame seeds, untoasted

Process first five ingredients until dough forms.  Divide it into halves and make rolls about 2 inches in diameter.  Wrap in foil and chill for an hour.  Slice into quarter-inch, coin-like, discs and sprinkle sesame seeds on top of each coin, pressing gently into the dough.  Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet at 400 degrees  in the lower oven for eight to ten minutes or until brown.  Watch carefully to make sure seeds do not burn.

Mint Julep Sweet Tea

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In the South we drink iced tea year-round, and due to mild winters, we find that the mint patch by the water hydrant is flourishing until mid-January, most years.  Thus, we present a delightful pitcher-take on mint juleps that will be particularly attractive to bourbon drinkers  whether it is Derby Week or New Year’s.

  • 12 mint leaves, crushed
  • 1 lemon, sliced thinly
  • 1 lime, sliced thinly
  • 1 cup of good bourbon
  • 3 cups of sweet tea
  • A brief verbal homage to General Robert E. Lee

Pour over crushed ice in a pitcher that can accept two quarts of liquid and enloy.

Vodka Tomatoes

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Hey, these can make your Christmas merry and bright, or any other day of the year.  We chose to marinate cherry tomatoes for this party but consider cantaloupe cubes, cucumber slices, or watermelon balls.  This takes care of the Vegans among you.

  • 3 pints of bright red cherry or grape tomatoes.
  • 1/2 cup of vodka
  • 3 tablespoons of white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon of granulated white sugar or a substitute
  • 1 teaspoon of lemon zest, freshly grated
  • 1 teaspoon of fresh basil, finely minced

Make a X on the bottom of each tomato, barely cutting through the skin and plunge the whole lot into a pot of boiling water for not more than three seconds.  Remove with a strainer and plunge them into an ice bath of chilled water.  Drain on a towel and add to the marinade composed of the remaining ingredients, making sure the sugar is dissolved.  Be certain to cover the tomatoes completely and refrigerate for an hour.   Serve with a smoked salt or lemon pepper.