While in college at Texas A&M in College Station, I used to meet a friend at a pizza place near campus that served pizza by the slice called Antonio’s. I always got the margherita. Nice thick slices of fresh mozzarella, perfect slices of red tomato and fresh basil on top of a delicious crust. If I’m ordering pizza at a restaurant, margherita is always on the short list. And when we make pizza at home, it’s one I know will be devoured. There’s something wonderful about the fresh ingredients, the contrasting textures of smooth and creamy cheese, juicy tomato and the slight crunch of the spicy basil leaf. And the bright colors can’t be beat either.
I made these small bites as part of an Italian appetizer spread. Just take a small ball of mozzarella, snack size tomato and fresh basil leaf. Add the sweet tang of balsamic vinegar and you have the perfect bite. You want the mozzarella and tomato to be close to the same size. Bocconcini are too large, so look for ciliegine, which are cherry sized balls of mozzarella and are perfect in size. If you can’t find these, you could always cut the bocconcini into small chunks. When I was skewering these I thought that the basil was going to be overwhelming since I had to use such large leaves to hold everything, but it was just right.
Tomato, Basil and Mozzarella Bites with Balsamic Glaze
12 snack size tomatoes, cherry, grape, etc.
12 small balls of mozzarella packed in water, patted dry with paper towels
12-15 large basil leaves, rinsed and patted dry
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
12 long toothpicks (2 1/2 inches)
Make balsamic glaze: simmer vinegar in small saucepan over low heat for 10-15 minutes until thickened and reduced. Swirl periodically, and be careful not to let it boil. You will have a burnt mess on your hands. I know this because I had to make two batches…
While heating vinegar, make skewers. Slide one end of the basil leaf on the toothpick, follow with mozzarella and tomato, keeping basil leaf underneath to create a boat. Then attach the other end of the leaf. Be careful not to tear the leaf. Keep a few extra leaves on hand just in case.
Lay bites on a platter, then drizzle each with glaze. A little goes a long way.
Olives. A lot of people either love them or hate them. I am not in either group. I like them in certain dishes, but not others. I like some kinds of olives, but not others. I like some raw, and others I prefer to be baked on a pizza. I am a mystery. There is just no predicting which olive will please me, and which will cause me to turn up my nose in disgust.
With that little preface you are wondering, “Why did she even try this recipe?” Well, I knew I had some olives that needed to be used, and I needed a snack that would be relatively easy and quick. I found this recipe for olives wrapped in a cheesy dough and then baked on Allrecipes.com. I have tried my hand at deep frying, and while it does create delicious, crunchy and greasy food, it makes my house smell and dealing with that oil is a pain. So the baking aspect appealed to me.
I switched the cheddar cheese out for Manchego, added more seasoning to the dough, and used two kinds of stuffed olives: green olives stuffed with garlic and green olives stuffed with sun-dried tomatoes. As I was writing out a shopping list I had a thought. Is it Ben who is not a huge fan of olives? I sent him a text about what I was planning for dinner to find out. His response was “Sounds great!” He is such a sweet man. Turns out he is in fact not a huge fan of olives. But, get this…he actually LIKED them! I guess if you wrap anything in a dough of butter, flour, Manchego cheese and paprika you can expect people to be pleased.
I liked these little bites of crispy, buttery cheesiness wrapped around the salty olive. The only issue I faced in the preparation was getting the dough to come together. It seemed way too crumbly. If you just keep working, then it will become the smooth consistency you need to wrap the olives.
Preparing these is a little time consuming since you must wrap each olive individually, but you can definitely wrap them ahead of time, chill them in the fridge, then bake them a half hour before you plan to serve them. Since these were good even at room temperature they would be a great party food.
Manchego Wrapped Olives
Adapted from Allrecipes.com
1/2 pound Manchego cheese, shredded
4 tablespoons butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
20 green olives, pitted, or stuffed
Allow cheese to sit out until it is at room temperature. In a large bowl, mix together the cheese, butter and paprika using a pastry blender. Gradually mix in flour, first using the pastry blender, then using your hands. Mix until the dough pulls together. It should form a solid ball with a smooth appearance, but have a crumbly texture when pulled apart. If dough appears too dry, add more shredded cheese.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Pinch off a small piece of dough, and cover an olive with it. Roll gently between your palms to smooth and seal the olive inside the ball. Place onto an un-greased cookie sheet and repeat with remaining dough and olives. Place the tray of covered olives into the refrigerator for 10 minutes to firm up.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes in the preheated oven, or until browned. Serve hot or at room temperature.
This past weekend was one of the best I’ve had in quite a long time. During our time in Waco we met some of our very best friends. There’s something about being in the trenches together that brings people closer than they would have been otherwise, and this is what I have Baylor law school to thank for!
Ben spent most of his law school days with three great guys at Baylor, and as a result I became great friends with them, their significant others, and their kids. After graduation we moved to Amarillo along with one of the other couples, Tim and Jackie. Jason and Carrie and their adorable girls moved to Decatur and Christian moved to Houston. Being scattered throughout the great state of Texas makes getting together a tough endeavor. It’s also hard to find a time that works with everyone’s schedule. So, this weekend was a special one because everyone was able to meet up in the bustling metropolis of Decatur. Christian brought his fiancé, so we were able to meet her, and we definitely approve.
One of the great things about this group is our numerous shared interests. For Carrie H and I one of those is food! We had many incredible dinner parties in Waco, and when we get together now we usually plan a menu for one of our meals. This weekend, Carrie also planned great breakfasts and lunches. She is incredible.
Have you found yourself with some leftover puff pastry and asked yourself, “What am I to do with left over puff pastry?” The answer is…make palmiers! I love getting the huge ones at bakeries that I always knew as elephant ears. My sister thinks they are a waste of calories, but my mom and I love them. Crunchy, sweet, rich, and buttery. Perfection.
I made a sweet and a savory palmier. These are so easy. Roll out your puff pastry to 1/8 inch thickness. Sprinkle your goodies on the dough and roll both ends evenly to marry in the middle. Chill the rolled dough for 30 minutes. Err on the side of longer chilling time to make the slicing easier. After the dough is chilled, slice 1/4 inch pieces and place flat on a baking sheet covered in parchment or a silpat. Bake for 10-15 minutes in a 400 degree oven. Cool for 5 minutes or so…then enjoy.
I think that maybe I didn’t use enough pastry, or maybe I did not roll it out thin enough. I was hoping for more layers, and that just didn’t happen. They still tasted divine, but not as filled with goodness as I was hoping. I will definitely try them again, especially the savory ones. I loved the flavor of the parmesan with the pastry and tomatoes. They are such an impressive appetizer, and with store bought puff pastry, would be incredibly easy. Check out this how-to if you need more detailed instructions. I actually wish I’d watched this before I made mine! It seems easier than rolling the dough and produces a nice crunchy cookie. Mine were sweet and lovely, but more flaky than crunchy and caramelized like these. Oh well. There’s always next time!
Parmesan and Sun-dried Tomato Palmiers
grated parmesan cheese
finely chopped sun dried tomatoes packed in oil, drained
Cinnamon Sugar Palmiers
Follow the instructions above for forming and baking.
This is time consuming, frustrating, quite prep intensive, and not easy. The resulting dish is delicious and worth every drop of sweat and shed tear.
Summer rolls are one of those things that seems so daunting that most people, or maybe just me, do not even want to attempt to make them at home. Why spend so much time preparing something like this? Why not just be content to order them at a restaurant where someone else labors instead of you? Because once you know how to do it you will realize that it’s not an impossible task and that they taste better when you’ve made them yourself. Oh, and it’s quite a bit cheaper than restaurant fare.
This recipe is from Epicurious.com, and had really high fork ratings and 95% of people would make them again, so I figured I could handle it. I prepped everything and made the sauce early in the day. I didn’t really measure my vegetables and herbs. I chopped and shredded more than I needed and made more noodles than called for.
This resulted in a lot of leftover veggies, but made more rolls and I had more chances to screw up and tear the rice paper…which, by the way, is very easy to do! Use a light hand with the wrappers and be prepared to toss some into the trashcan. I like bean sprouts, so I added those to a few of the rolls when I added the carrots. After adding the carrots, when rolling the roll closed, is when I would tear the rice paper. Good news though, by the last couple rolls I was putting out some very pretty, tight, nice looking rolls.