Appetizers & Snacks

Crisp Gnocchi Salad with Shiitakes and Asparagus

My brother gave me one of the most thoughtful Christmas gifts last year: a copy of this beautiful Tasting Colorado cookbook. Every recipe is a popular dish from a Colorado restaurant, covering everything from fluffy biscuits to local mouthwatering steak. Not only did I wish I could stuff my face into every picture and eat the contents, but I’ve actually been to a few of the restaurants!

Although he’s a Boston native, Colorado stole my brother’s heart 10 years ago and he’s lived there ever since. I get a chance to visit him once or twice a year and for those of you who have never been add it to your bucket list. It’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever visited and I’ve had some of my favorite dishes there.

While flipping through the cookbook and mopping drool from my mouth I was so excited to stumble upon this recipe from the restaurant Six89. Six89 closed in 2012 and their gnocchi salad disappeared along with it. Until now.

I cannot properly express in words the deliciousness of this dish. The crispy gnocchi together with the savory shiitake mushrooms, asparagus and nutty Parmesan is enough to have you going back for more. But when you add the shallot vinaigrette and leafy greens this meal becomes irresistible.

You can certainly use store-bought gnocchi to make this dish, but I highly recommend taking the extra time to tackle homemade gnocchi to experience the full potential of each mouthwatering bite.

Gnocchi Salad with Shiitakes and Asparagus
 
Yield: 4 appetizer servings
Ingredients
for the gnocchi
  • 2 cups gnocchi
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons minced shallots
  • 2 cups sliced shiitake mushrooms
  • 2 cups asparagus, blanched and cut into 1” pieces
for the vinaigrette
  • 2 tablespoons minced shallots
  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • ¾ cup olive oil
  • 4 cups baby field greens
  • Salt and pepper
  • Fresh grated Parmesan, for serving
Directions
  1. Boil the gnocchi in a medium saucepan until they float to the top and are heated through, about 3 minutes. Drain and set aside.
  2. Heat 2 tablespoons butter and 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Pan-fry the gnocchi until crispy and lightly browned.
  3. Reduce the heat to medium then add the shallots and sauté until softened and lightly browned, about 5 minutes, stirring often. Add the mushrooms and sauté for 5 more minutes. Add the asparagus slices and sauté until warmed through then remove from the heat. Season with salt and pepper.
for the vinaigrette
  1. Combine the shallots, mustard, oregano and white wine vinegar. Whisk together well with the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Toss the gnocchi with 4 tablespoons of the vinaigrette. Plate the gnocchi.
  2. Toss the baby field greens with some of the vinaigrette and place over the gnocchi. Top each plate with a generous serving of fresh grated Parmesan.

Recipe from Tasting Colorado:  Favorite Recipes from the Centennial State.

Smoked Salmon Dip

This smoked salmon dip is the perfect conclusion to my Mother’s Day tribute posts. My stepmom is the one who told me about this Barefoot Contessa recipe, my grandma and I end up discussing our love for bagels with lox on a weekly basis and my mom is the one who first got me to try smoked salmon.

Although I was a picky eater as a child there were a few things I loved that most kids my age would not have gone near. Thanks to my mom I had an affinity for smoked salmon, crab cakes and grossing kids out at my lunch table with my liverwurst sandwiches.

My mom would sit down next to me with some odd food and say that she wasn’t going to tell what it was until I tried it. It wasn’t that my curiosity would get the better of me, although I’m sure that was part of it. I had complete trust and faith in my mom that if she thought I should try something then I would like it, and she was always right.

My first taste of smoked salmon came in the form of smoked salmon cream cheese and my mom’s favorite quickly became a favorite of mine. We lost my mom to breast cancer when I was eight years old. I think about her everyday and know she is here with me licking her lips looking at these smoked salmon dip pictures. My mom was an amazingly thoughtful, selfless and kindhearted woman who touched the lives of all her family and friends. She also had a great sense of humor, a fondness for lists and a love of food, so I know we would have been two peas in a pod.

So happy Mother’s Day to all my moms! I would not be who I am today without each and every one of you, and I love you all.

Smoked Salmon Dip
 
Yield: 4 servings
Ingredients
  • 8 ounces light cream cheese, room temperature
  • ½ cup light sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon fresh minced dill
  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • 8 ounces smoked salmon, roughly chopped
  • Pepper
Directions
  1. In stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment cream the cream cheese until smooth.
  2. Mix in the sour cream, lemon juice, dill, and mustard. Season with pepper.
  3. Mix in the smoked salmon and chill until serving. I kept the smoked salmon chunks larger because I wanted to really taste it, but you can chop it as small or large you would like. Serve on slices of crusty bread, crackers, or toasted egg bagels. Optional toppings include capers and chopped scallions.

Recipe slightly adapted from Barefoot Contessa.

Crispy Prosciutto Wrapped Asparagus

Asparagus has always been one of my favorite vegetables, even when I was a picky little kid. Everyone always loves the tops, which for some reason are my least favorite part. My dad doesn’t like the stems so sometimes we swap. Just like how Matt’s favorite Starburst are the red and orange, while mine are the yellow and pink. You can’t force these things. Only fate can cause the food stars to perfectly align.

My favorite way to cook asparagus is to roast them. It is incredibly simple and I am all about ease of preparation, especially on weeknights, but more importantly roast asparagus are delicious. They are tender, yet crunchy, have a slight char, and they soak up all the flavor from the olive oil and seasonings.

You might be nodding your head and thinking, “Yeah, roast asparagus are the best! They are so tasty there’s nothing in the world that could make them taste even more awesome!” But, my friends, you need to go one step further.

Prosciutto. Salty, delicate prosciutto makes everything better. Especially when it’s blanketing a spear of roast asparagus. I’ve had prosciutto wrapped asparagus a variety of ways, but I’m really digging this crispy version. The prosciutto is wrapped on the raw asparagus before being broiled to crispy perfection.

Served warm or cold, these are right on par for your next gathering this spring. Easy to make and so tasty everyone will be fighting over vegetables. What’s better than that?

Crispy Prosciutto Wrapped Asparagus
 
Yield: 4 servings
Ingredients
  • 1 pound asparagus, ends trimmed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 6 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto
  • Salt and pepper
Directions
  1. Place an oven rack about 5-6 inches below the heating element then preheat the oven to broil.
  2. Lay the asparagus on a baking sheet then toss with the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Wrap each stalk of asparagus with a slice of prosciutto. Take 1 piece of prosciutto and wrap it tightly around the asparagus stalk in an upward spiral starting at the bottom of the stalk. Repeat for the rest of the asparagus.
  4. Spread the wrapped asparagus out on the baking sheet so that none of them are touching each other. Broil the asparagus for 3 minutes, flip the asparagus, then broil for 3 more minutes. The prosciutto should be crisped and lightly browned.

Recipe from CHOW.

Sun-dried Tomato and Smoked Paprika Deviled Eggs with Crispy Shallots

Deviled eggs have long been one of my favorite snacks for a gathering. They are perfect for every occasion: Christmas, Fourth of July, birthdays… who doesn’t like birthday eggs? However they seem to be most closely associated with Easter because of all the extra hard boiled eggs people tend to have after dyeing them, so I thought it was only fitting to post a deviled egg recipe in time for the holiday. These aren’t any old plain Jane deviled eggs. No, sir, these are jazzed up and pack a punch. Who knew deviled eggs could smack your tastebuds so hard? These are sun-dried tomato and smoked paprika deviled eggs with crispy shallots.

I knew I wanted to post a variation of deviled eggs for Easter, but I didn’t know which way to lean. Smoked salmon or bacon? Avocado or goat cheese? The possibilities went on and you all know how I feel about possibilities. Hint: I love them! The answer came to me in the form of a little plastic baggie. No it’s not what you think… I was high on excitement over the little sample of smoked paprika my friend brought me one morning. I had never cooked with smoked paprika before, but I could smell it from four feet away and was tingling with anticipation.

If you haven’t experienced smoked paprika before, it’s like regular paprika on steroids with an injection of smoke flavor. I tried thinking about what additional flavors would pair well and came across one of my favorite ingredient combinations in my pantry: sun-dried tomatoes and shallots. I had made a delicious sun-dried tomato mayonnaise a few months ago, which I will hopefully be sharing on Lemon & Mocha soon, and thought the technique would work perfectly for the deviled eggs.

Well it did and they were so tasty that I didn’t even share any. Except with Matt, he was all over these bad boys. Oh, and I almost forgot the crispy shallots! They are such an easy addition, but make a world of difference with their added texture. Lightly frying them up mellows their flavor and I definitely made extras to nibble on while I was cooking.

So if you’re looking for something full of flavor to liven up your traditional Easter brunch, your plain Jane birthday eggs or your late night rager snack spread, these deviled eggs will have everyone asking for more.

Sun-dried Tomato Deviled Eggs with Crispy Shallots
 
Yield: 12 deviled eggs
Ingredients
  • 1 small shallot
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • ¾ cup boiling water
  • 3 tablespoons julienned sun-dried tomatoes
  • 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 6 hardboiled eggs, peeled
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika, plus additional for garnish
  • Salt and pepper
Directions
  1. Slice the shallot into very thin rings.
  2. Heat the vegetable oil in a small sauté pan over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot place a small handful of the sliced shallots into the sauté pan and let fry. Once the shallots are crispy, but not burned, about 2-3 minutes, remove with a slotted spoon and place on a paper towel. Repeat until all the shallot slices are crispy.
  3. Combine the boiling water and sun-dried tomatoes and let them soak for 5-10 minutes. Meanwhile, carefully slice the hardboiled eggs lengthwise and place the egg yolks in a food processor. When the sun-dried tomatoes are done soaking drain them and place them in the food processor with the egg yolks. Add the mayonnaise and smoked paprika. Puree the mixture until smooth then season with salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Evenly spoon the mixture into the empty egg whites or fill a pastry bag with the egg mixture and pipe evenly into the empty egg whites. Dust with some additional smoked paprika before serving.

 

Weeknight Minestrone Soup

I’ve been really into soups lately. Not that I previously disliked soups, they just weren’t in my weekly routine mostly due to the fact that I always end up burning my tongue. Probably the same reason I don’t like hot coffee and let my hot chocolate come to almost room temperature so I can gulp it down, tongue intact. I guess I could also just try being patient, but that’s not really my thing when it comes to food.

Lately though, I’ve been putting aside my fears of burnt tongues and really digging soups. It all started with this cauliflower soup. The next week I made a broccoli version and the week after I made it with roast mushrooms. By the fourth week Matt and I decided I needed to expand my soup-making horizons. Enter this weeknight minestrone soup. Yum.

Now this soup was so quick to make that I had serious doubts about the level of deliciousness that it would reach. Doubts be damned, this soup is tasty! A perfectly well-balanced minestrone soup with a light tomato base full of perfectly seasoned and softened vegetables, beans and pasta.

I kept mine pretty traditional, other than the addition of kale, but you could customize this in any way that suits you. The next time I make it I might include some zucchini for extra greenery. And some mushrooms because I have a mushroom addiction. But that’s just me.

Weeknight Minestrone Soup
 
Yield: 6 servings
Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 large carrot, diced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley flakes
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 3 cups chopped kale or baby spinach, hard stems removed
  • 6 cups low sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 14 ounce can no-salt-added diced tomatoes
  • 1 15 ounce can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup small-shaped whole wheat or brown rice pasta
  • Fresh grated Parmesan cheese and chopped parsley for topping
  • Salt and pepper
Directions
  1. Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a large pot. Add the onion and cook for about 5 minutes, or until translucent. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the celery and carrot and cook for about 5 minutes, or until they begin to soften. Add the dried oregano, parsley flakes, and paprika, then season with salt and pepper. Add the kale or spinach and cook until wilted, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the vegetable broth, crushed tomatoes and diced tomatoes then bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the pasta and beans. Cook for 10 more minutes, or until the pasta and vegetables are tender. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Serve hot topped with fresh grated Parmesan cheese and chopped parsley.

Recipe slightly adapted from the Food Network.