Category Archives: Appetizers

Chicken Liver Pate

Chicken Liver Pate

When it comes to food preferences and tastes, I believe that people fall into two distinct groups.  People either like to eat liver or they don’t.  I consider myself one of the fortunate people who fall in the first category.  And as for my husband Bruce, well, take a wild guess…  I learned early on in our marriage that if I wanted to elicit a strong response out of Bruce, I would simply tell him that we are having liver and onions for dinner.

It all started with a harmless trip to the butcher…  Earlier that day I purchased a pound of calf’s liver and right before I was going to prepare the meal, Bruce noticed the package of liver in the refrigerator.  I kid you not, for within minutes, I received a stern lecture on why he will not eat liver.  Meanwhile, while trying to understand his food issue, I could not help but notice the look on his face.  The look on his face was priceless.  I knew I had just pressed a button :).

The other day while shopping for our groceries for the week, I saw a half a pound of chicken livers on sale and I promptly put them in my basket.  I knew exactly what I was going to make with them.  Chicken Liver Pate!  Not only just Chicken Liver Pate, but Chicken Liver Pate all for me.  My Chicken Liver Pate is easy to make and tastes delicious.  Serve Chicken Liver Pate on toasted crostini or on your favorite crackers.  Enjoy!  Tessa

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 pound chicken livers cleaned and rinsed
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 3 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 tsp garlic (minced)
  • 1 sprig of fresh thyme
  • 1/4 tsp salt or to taste
  • pinch of white pepper or to taste
  • 1/4 cup Marsala wine

Heat a saute pan to medium high heat (Not too hot).  Add olive oil and chopped onion.  Cook until onion is opaque.  Add chicken livers, garlic, thyme, salt and white pepper.  Cook until livers are cooked completely through and no pink color is left.  Remove thyme sprig and deglaze pan with Marsala wine.  Cook until wine has nearly disappeared.  Add entire contents of pan to a food processor and process until smooth.  Taste and correct your seasonings.  Remove from processor and place in a bowl.  Cover surface of pate with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator until completely cool.  Serve pate chilled with your favorite crackers or toasts.  Makes about 3/4 cup.

Fried Green Tomatoes

Fried Green Tomatoes

The nights here in Southern Oregon have been crisp and cool.  It won’t be long before we see the first frost of the season.  And once the frost hits, my garden is pretty much done for the year.  When I walked outside this morning I noticed that my tomato plants were still loaded with tomatoes.  Tomatoes that will not ripen on the vine because it’s just too cold outside

Well, let me tell you what.  These beautiful green fruits are not going to waste or get tossed in the compost bin.  As a matter of fact, these unripe tomatoes will be put to good use as delicious Fried Green Tomatoes with Smoked Paprika Aioli.

A variety of unripe green heirloom tomatoes.  I’m sure going to miss my tomatoes this winter.  There are very few things better than a fresh picked tomato out of the garden.  Chocolate is one of them.

A green zebra heirloom tomato. The interesting thing about green zebras is that they are still green in color when they are fully ripe.  I know that this one is not ripe due to the firmness of the fruit.  When making Fried Green Tomatoes be sure to use ones that are completely unripe.  If you use ripe tomatoes, you will end up with a gooey mess.  Trust me, don’t go there.

Slice your tomatoes into half inch slices.  Discard (or compost)  the tops and the bottoms.

Three hot and crispy yet moist in the middle slices of Fried Green Tomatoes with my Smoked Paprika Aioli.

Got green tomatoes?  Make a batch and dig in…  They’re easy and delicious!  Enjoy!  Tessa

Ingredients:

  • 3 – 4 unripe tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup of milk
  • 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup corn meal
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • oil for frying

Begin by using unripe, unblemished fruit.  Slice into 1/2 inch slices and toss the tops and bottoms.  In a small bowl whisk together the eggs and milk.  In another bowl mix together the panko, corn meal, salt and pepper.  Heat a nonstick fry pan with enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan with about 1/2 inch or so deep with oil.

Dredge tomato slices (both sides) in flour, dip in egg mixture and then dip in the crumb mixture.  Repeat for each.  Place in fry pan and fry both sides until you get a golden color.  Don’t over crowd the pan.  Drain on paper towels.  Finish again with a light sprinkle of salt.  Serve plain or with Smoked Paprika Aioli (recipe below) or even some spicy sriracha sauce.  Makes about 3 -4 servings.

Smoked Paprika Aioli

  • 1/2 cup light mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp smoked Spanish paprika
  • 1 1/2 tsp garlic paste or to taste

Whisk all ingredients in small bowl.  Store covered in refrigerator up to 3 days until ready to use.

Note:  This aioli can be used on crab cakes, grilled fish, and even potato fries.  I like it on hamburgers too!

Chicken Satay with Peanut Sauce

Chicken Satay with Peanut Sauce

Chicken Satay.  Now close your eyes and repeat after me.  Saa-taay…  While you are saying it, just imagine hot, juicy, succulent, flavorful barbecued chicken on bamboo skewers drizzled with peanut sauce.  Close your eyes and say it again.  Saa-taay…

Did I just catch you drooling?

If you have never had satay before, satay is an amazingly flavorful barbecued dish that is generally of Southeast Asian origin.  It is prepared with many different ingredients such as chicken, beef, shrimp, lamb, fish, pork, goat and even tofu.  One of my favorite ways to prepare satay is with chicken.  I like to use bits of boneless, skinless chicken thighs marinated for several hours in coconut milk, Indonesian soy sauce and a variety of spices.  I then thread the chicken on to the skewers and cook them on the barbecue.

I like to serve my Chicken Satay with my homemade peanut sauce or drizzled with sweet chili sauce or sriracha.  I also serve it with a scoops of fluffy jasmine rice and fresh sliced cool cucumbers for garnish.  I also make sure that there’s plenty of sambal oelek on the side for those who love fiery hot food.  Makes 10 -12 skewers.  Enjoy!  Tessa

Ingredients:

  •  1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs cut into 1″ cubes or strips
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 2 tsp Indonesian soy sauce
  • 1 – 2 tsp minced garlic
  • pinch of red pepper flakes or sambal oelek (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)

In a medium sized bowl whisk together all the ingredients except for the chicken.  Once the marinade has been blended, add the chicken and toss well to coat.  Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours or overnight.  Take 10 -12 bamboo skewers and soak completely in water while the chicken is marinating.  Soaking the skewers in water prevents the skewers from burning off while the satay cooks on the barbecue.

Thread chicken onto the skewers and cook on medium hot barbecue or grill pan until the juices run clear or the chicken reaches 170 degrees Fahrenheit.  Toss any remaining marinade.  Do not brush it on the chicken while cooking and do not even think about reusing it.  Pay attention and turn your skewers occasionally for even cooking.  Be sure not to over cook or under cook the satay.  Makes 10 -12 skewers.

Heirloom Pineapple Tomato

Heirloom Pineapple Tomato

One of my favorite variety of tomatoes is the heirloom Pineapple Tomato.  The massive yellow fruits are juicy, sweet, and can grow up to a whopping 2 pounds each.   Every year I purchase one or two plants at the Master Gardener Fair down at the Expo in late spring.  I plant them in the garden in late May and by early August, I am in the midst of my harvest.  My tomatoes are doing quite well (so far) and the biggest one that I have picked out of my little garden this year weighed over 1 1/4 pounds.   Wow!

I have learned over the years when preparing a dish for my family, sometimes less is more… What I mean by that is when you have a spectacular ingredient to work with, don’t cover it up with other flavors, seasonings or textures, simply showcase it.  That is exactly what I did with one of my fresh picked Pineapple Tomatoes.  I sliced it, drizzled it with olive oil and added a pinch of salt.  Nothing more, nothing less.  Simply perfect.  Enjoy!  Tessa

Ingredients:

  • 1 Heirloom Pineapple Tomato
  • olive oil to taste
  • coarse salt to taste
  • garnish with a sprig of basil

Slice tomato into 1/3 inch slices.  Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with coarse salt.  Garnish and serve.

Green Zebra Pico De Gallo

 Green Zebra Pico De Gallo

Bruce and I were out of town for nearly a week on a trip to the Southwestern portion of the United States in the small desert community of Aguanga, California.  It’s about 20 miles southeast of Hemet and is nearly 2,500 feet in elevation.  It’s pleasantly rural and has some stunning high desert views.  We spent 5 amazing days with family and friends.

View across the valley…

Some prickly cacti…  The spines are crazy sharp.  Note to self… Don’t touch.

More cactus.  This one had small symmetrical bunches of reddish colored spines.

This plant is called a red hot poker.  The blooms are a beautiful orange red color.  They thrive well in the hot desert sun.

Succulents in a pot.

Agave cactus.

Thunderstorms over the valley.  There was plenty of thunder and lightning during our stay and when it rained, it poured…  The views across the valley were lovely, even when it rained.

Bruce and I got home late Sunday night and the next morning before I left for work, I found bunches of ripe tomatoes in our garden.  When I say a bunches, I mean at least a gallon of fresh tomatoes.  I picked at least 6 varieties before I headed out to the office.  When Bruce and I left on our trip, all the tomatoes on the vines were unripe and not ready to be picked.

Tomatoes are my favorite vegetable (technically, a fruit).  Every spring I make it a point to plant some of the wildest looking tomato plants that I can find.  I have pink tomatoes, black tomatoes, orange, green, yellow, and a couple of local red varieties.  When I plant tomatoes, Green Zebras are always at the top of my list.  I love the Green Zebras because they are deliciously mild in flavor and they always make for a uniquely colored tomato dish.

Do you see the pretty dark green stripes and the light green skin?  With some of these fresh picked Green Zebra tomatoes, I decided to make a simple pico de gallo to serve with chicken soft tacos and crunchy tortilla chips.  Pico de gallo is a fresh, uncooked Mexican salsa usually made with bright red tomatoes, white onions, peppers, lime and spices.  I decided to make mine with my Green Zebra tomatoes, green onions, cilantro, lime, jalapenos, garlic, salt and pepper.  It’s easy and delicious!  Enjoy!  Tessa

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups chopped tomatoes (I used Green Zebras)
  • juice of two limes
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onions
  • 2 Tbs chopped cilantro
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 Tbs minced jalapeno (optional)

Mix all ingredients in a medium sized bowl.  Cover and chill for about an hour before serving.  Makes about 2 cups.

Stacked Caprese Salad

Stacked Caprese Salad

Here in Southern Oregon when the weather is hot outside, I try not to turn on my stove too much or even use my oven.  I don’t like living in a hot house nor do I like writing unnecessarily large checks to the power company.  During the warm summer months I like to cook our meals back out on the barbecue and serve fresh cool salads on the side.

This morning as I was checking out my garden, I noticed that I had quite the crop of heirloom tomatoes.  One of the first things that comes to mind when I have a bunch of tomatoes is making a simple Caprese salad.  I just love the flavor of fresh picked tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and herbaceous basil.  I like to drizzle the Caprese salad with olive oil and finish it with fresh cracked pepper and coarse salt.  It’s simply delicious.  Enjoy!  Tessa

Ingredients:

  • 8 heirloom tomatoes (about the same size as the bocconcini)
  • 4 – 5 balls of fresh mozzarella (bocconcini)
  • fresh basil
  • pepper
  • salt
  • olive oil for drizzling

Begin by slicing your tomatoes and the bocconcini.  Stack the tomato, mozzarella and fresh basil leaves.  Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with fresh cracked pepper and salt.  Garnish with additional basil and maybe a fresh edible nasturtium flower.  Serve.  Makes 8 little salads.

Melon, Prosciutto and Mint

Melon, Prosciutto and Mint

I love summer in Southern Oregon…  Fresh picked produce from our garden, local farmer’s markets and hot summer days.  Summer in my opinion, is three months of pure bliss.  Late this afternoon on my way home from work I decided to stop by my favorite food cooperative to check out the fresh produce.  While there, I picked up some organic boneless skinless chicken thighs, a bomber of a local micro brew and a sweet smelling cantaloupe for our dinner tonight.  And as a minor clarification, the bomber was for me :).

Fresh Mint.  The leaves have such a delicious aroma.  I snagged about 8 sprigs of it for my sliced Melon, Prosciutto and Mint.

Let me tell you a little tidbit of information about growing fresh mint.  What you need to know about mint is that you should never, ever, ever grow it outside of a pot or an enclosed space.  Why?  Because this pretty little unsuspecting plant, if not kept in check, will try to take over your yard.  Once established, mint is difficult to eradicate without the use of chemicals or herbicides.  If you have mint growing in your yard, you probably know what I am talking about…  I learned the hard way.  I now keep my mint in its very own pot.

Melon, Prosciutto and Mint is a wonderful little side dish on a hot summer day.  The sweetness of the melon, the saltiness of the prosciutto and the herbaceous aroma of the mint are a wonderful trio.  Not to mention, it’s delicious and easy to make.  Enjoy!  Tessa

Ingredients:

  • 1 cantaloupe melon
  • 4 oz. thin sliced prosciutto
  • 8 – 10 springs of mint

Begin by peeling, seeding and slicing your melon into 8 to 10 slices.  Wrap thin slices of prosciutto around the melon.  Garnish with sprigs of mint.  Place on platter and serve.

Note:  you can use honeydew melon or other sweet melon if you can’t find cantaloupe.

Zucchini Salsa

Zucchini Salsa

If there is one single vegetable in this world that will make my husband cringe with disgust, it’s zucchini.  He has despised zucchini as long as I’ve known him and quite frankly, his extreme disdain for it perplexes me to this day.  He says it’s the taste.  Sometimes he says it’s the texture…   And, I completely disagree with him.  Fortunately, it’s one of the few things that we don’t see eye to eye on…  I look at it this way, there’s nothing wrong with a little healthy disagreement.  If Bruce and I were in unison on everything, I think our life together would be so boring :).

Zucchini squash is one of my favorite summer vegetables and I grow it every year in my little garden.  I like zucchini because it is so amazingly versatile.  It cooks quickly and marries well with a variety of flavors.  Not to mention, it grows like a weed and if you are not careful, you can end up with more zucchini than your family can eat.  That’s why I check on my plants everyday and pick my zucchini when they are young and tender.  Any overabundance, I simply bag it up and take to work to share with my coworkers.

My zucchini salsa is a great use for those extra zucchinis that you don’t want to give away.  It’s fresh, bright with flavor and super easy to make.  Zucchini salsa taste great with crunchy tortilla chips or wrapped up in a fish taco.  Be brave and add some fresh jalapeno peppers for a fiery flavor.  Enjoy!  Tessa

 Ingredients

  • 2 cups zucchini (diced)
  • 1 cup onion (diced)
  • 1 cup red bell pepper (diced)
  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 cup cilantro (chopped)
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • few dashes hot sauce to taste
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • jalapenos (diced)  **optional**

Begin by adding olive oil to a nonstick skillet over medium high heat.  Add onion and red bell pepper and cook until onion is opaque or about one minute.  Add zucchini, garlic, cumin, oregano, salt and pepper.  Cook for an additional 5 minutes or until the zucchini is cooked.  Do not over cook.  Add to a bowl, stir in lime juice, cilantro and hot sauce.  Place covered in refrigerator for at least 4 hours.  You want to let this sit and chill so the flavors marry well.

Before serving, add salsa to food processor and lightly pulse until coarsely chopped.  Add a splash of water if the mixture is too thick.  Taste and correct your seasonings.  Place in serving bowl and serve with crispy tortilla chips.  Makes about 2 cups.

Beet, Chevre and Radish Crostini

Beet, Chevre and Radish Crostini

As a child, I despised beets.  Hated, hated, freaking hated them…  From what I understood is that beets came out of a can and no amount of money, begging or bribing could get me to eat them.  No way, never, nope, nuh uh, not happening…  Ever.

And then I grew up…

It was only a few years ago when I rediscovered beets.  In my opinion, beets now taste delicious.  Beets are beautifully colored, richly flavored and earthy.  I can’t believe I just said this out loud.  I like beets. I like them roasted, baked or sliced on a green salad.  Red or golden beets.  Either is fine with me.  Even better is that my beets that I prepare for my family are freshly picked and don’t come out of a can.  I just wash and scrub them well, cut off the tops and toss them in the oven.  After they are cooked, I peel them, slice and serve.  All I do is give them a hit of fresh cream butter or olive oil, cracked black pepper and salt.

I got the idea of blending beets and chevre from a recipe for a Roasted Beet and Chevre Spread in a cookbook called “Dishing up Oregon” by Ashley Gartland.  What a lovely cookbook!  Great photos and fabulous recipes from some of Oregon’s finest cooks.

For those who do not know what chevre is, chevre is a delightfully creamy and complex flavored cheese made from the milk of goats.  I loved the mixture of beets and chevre and decided to adapt the recipe for a delicious Beet, Chevre and Radish Crostini.

Locally grown red beets ready to be baked…

Chevre from the Mama Terra Micro Creamery in Williams, Oregon.  The absolute best chevre I have ever tasted in my life.  The cheese is made from the milk of a small herd of Nubian goats.  If you see this cheese in the store, do not hesitate.  Buy it.  It’s outstanding.

Fresh picked local organic radishes. Bright, crisp and peppery.  Simply delicious!

Beet, Chevre, and Radish Crostini garnished with chopped chives from my herb garden.  The beet and chevre mixture is a vibrant pink and the thinly sliced radishes adds a wonderful crunch and a peppery flavor to the little toasts.  I sprinkled the chopped chives on the top of the toasts for a flavorful garnish.  Enjoy!  Tessa

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 pound beets (I used 2 medium sized red) washed, scrubbed and tops removed.
  • 8 ounces fresh creamy chevre cheese
  • 2 tsp olive oil (or more if needed)
  • 2 tsp white balsamic vinegar
  • salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste
  • 3 or 4 thinly sliced radishes (I used a mandolin and then sliced again with a sharp knife to achieve the shredded effect)
  • fresh chives for garnish
  • 1 loaf baguette bread

Begin by washing and scrubbing your beets.  Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  Remove the beet tops and put the beets in an oven proof pan.  Add a little bit of water (about 1/3 of a cup) and cover tightly with foil.   Bake for one hour or until beets are fork tender.  Remove from oven and let cool.

When beets are cool enough to handle, peel the skin off, quarter them and toss in a food processor.  Blend well, scraping the sides.  Add olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and chevre cheese.  Pulse until well incorporated.  Add salt and pepper.  Add additional olive oil if the mixture is too thick for your liking.  Taste and correct your seasonings.  Remove from food processor and set aside.  Can be made ahead and stored in the refrigerator for a day or two.

Slice baguette bread into 1/2 inch slices and toast on a grill pan or barbecue.  Spread beet and chevre mixture on top, add radishes and garnish with chives. Makes about 2 cups of beet and chevre mixture and a couple dozen toasts.

Oregon Bay Shrimp Cocktail

Oregon Bay Shrimp Cocktail

Late last week, my family and I took a much needed vacation to the Southern Oregon Coast.  Bruce booked us a hotel room that overlooked the Pacific Ocean in nearby Brookings, Oregon.  Our room had a fabulous ocean view and was only about a hundred yards from the beach.  You could hear the waves crashing along the shore at all hours.  It was so relaxing…

On the first morning (obviously, I was still on my work schedule), I woke up a few hours before my family, grabbed my camera, and headed out for a brisk morning walk along the beach.  It was fairly early and only a few people were out and about.

I walked past the harbor full of boats and down towards the south jetty.  I wanted to see the Chetco River and to catch a glimpse of boats leaving the harbor and heading out to sea to catch dungeness crab, ling cod and tuna.

The view east up the Chetco River.  The harbor is on the right and the Chetco Bridge is in the background.  Once I made it to the south jetty, I decided to walk back down the beach towards our hotel.  The weather was cool and calm.  Fortunately for me it was just overcast and not raining.

Nobody on the beach but me… Before heading back to my hotel room I decided to stop by some large rocks hoping to find some tidal pools.  I found a few.  It was near low tide and I was able to see all kinds of aquatic life.  Mussels, starfish, anemones, and lots of birds such as gulls and pelicans.

I slipped my macro lens on my camera to take photos of some of the creatures that I happened to see clinging to the rocks.  These gorgeous mollusks are blue mussels.  You can find them all over the rocks at low tide.

Gooseneck Barnacles waiting for the tide to come back in…

Seaweed growing on rocks at low tide.  Do you see the little snails and barnacles?

Note to self…  When photographing aquatic life be sure to watch waves closely.  Dingy me, I did not pay attention and ended up with soaked sneakers and jeans.  Wet shoes makes for a long miserable walk back to the hotel.  Next time, I will be a bit wiser and wear sandals.

My Oregon Bay Shrimp Cocktail was inspired by a shrimp cocktail appetizer that I ordered at a local seafood restaurant down in the harbor.  It’s made with fresh Oregon bay shrimp nestled in fresh picked lettuce leaves, drizzled with homemade cocktail sauce and garnished with fresh lemon wedges.  It’s an easy and delicious appetizer.  Enjoy!  Tessa

Oregon Bay Shrimp Cocktail

  • 4 cups bay shrimp (cleaned and chilled)
  • 4 lettuce leaves
  • 1/2 cup Easy Cocktail Sauce (see recipe below)
  • 4 lemon wedges
  • 4 parsley sprigs

Arrange leaves on a plate, small bowl or in short stemmed dessert glass.  Add shrimp and top with cocktail sauce.  Garnish with lemon wedge and parsley sprig.  Makes 4 appetizers.

Easy Cocktail Sauce

  • 1 cup tomato ketchup
  • 1 Tbs grated horseradish
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • dash hot pepper sauce (I like Frank’s)
  • dash Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper

Whisk together all ingredients in a small bowl.  Put in covered container and refrigerate up to 3 days.  Makes a little more than a cup.  Use on shrimp or crab cocktails, fish, fried oysters, shrimp or clams.  It’s delicious!