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Put it on Toast. 25 ways to start Thanksgiving.
Help!   Thanksgiving is 72 hours away and while you have been dog-earing cookbooks for weeks, shopped the weekend before, and even managed to avoid the elbow to your shoulder by the feisty octogenarian who was going to in NO WAY let you have the store's last quart of whipping cream (this actually happened to me in graduate school), you just realized that you totally forgot to plan for something to occupy your relatives while you get the food ready for the table.  And so inevitably they will end up equally split between hovering directly in your path in your tiny overheated kitchen or rehashing the recent election and whatswrongwiththiscountry requiring a last-minute rearrangement of the pilgrim place cards.  Again.

Oh, right, and you have overzealously planned an almost too complicated multi-course meal culled from your favorite food blogs, and have no time left in the schedule or room in the oven to make another darn thing.

So, put it on toast.  Or bread, or thick oat-y crackers or toasted wedges of pita.

Here are a bunch of ideas, some quicker than others, for holiday-worthy crostini.  If you have the time, or children with idle hands, these all look pretty assembled and arranged on a platter, particularly the repetition of the shape and colors.  However, if you are pressed for time, just put all of the elements on a platter in small bowls with a heap of sliced bread rounds and your guests will love getting all interactive.

If you can manage, you can slice say a baguette on a deep angle to make long elegant oval slices, maybe brush it with olive oil or rub it with garlic and toast it in a low oven on a cookie sheet.  Or grill it quickly to get nice grill marks.  But again, fresh sliced good crusty bread is great just as is.  Also check with local food markets to see if any have frozen par-baked baguettes that you can finish in the oven yourself.

Here are several ideas, but definitely come up with your own with what you have on hand.  Just try to mix tastes and textures.  Layer something creamy/mushy on the bottom so it all sticks to the bread, and maybe top with something crunchy or colorful, or fresh herbs.

Gobble gobble.

 




Good fresh ricotta (make your own!) + lemon zest + chopped parsley + pepper + olive oil

Ricotta + fresh sliced fig + honey

Ricotta + roasted red peppers + a basil leaf

Ricotta + Parsley Pesto (parsley, garlic, olive oil, salt)

Creamy gorgonzola + sliced green apple + honey + chopped pecans

Brie + apricot jam + a basil leaf

Goat cheese + mushroom duxelles (finely chopped mushrooms + shallots sauteed with butter, thyme and wine)

Goat cheese + kalamata olive tapenade (pitted olives, parsley, lemon zest & juice, 1 anchovy fillet and olive oil in a food processor)

Goat cheese + diced roasted beets + chopped toasted hazelnuts + parsley

Cream cheese + smoked salmon + thinly sliced cucumber + sliver of red onion + lemon zest

cream cheese + smoked trout + thinly sliced cucumber + sprig of fresh dill

warm lobster or crab meat + melted butter (particularly good on brioche or soft mini rolls)

crab meat + diced avocado + diced cucumber + diced fresh red pepper + lime juice + cilantro

olive oil drizzled on the bread + Avocado mashed with lemon juice + a few hot red pepper flakes

Avocado + shrimp-cilantro salad (chopped shrimp with cilantro pesto)

Edamame humus (shelled cooked edamame pureed with lemon juice, olive oil and salt)

Chickpea humus + thinly sliced marinated carrots or roasted cherry tomatoes (Ruth Reichl's hummus recipe is etherial.)

White bean humus (pureed white beans with olive oil, lemon, parsley + salt) + chard sauteed with garlic

Baba Ganoush + crumbed feta cheese + sliced roasted red peppers

spinach or chard sauteed with diced onions, when cool, mixed with crumbed feta and fresh dill

Generous spread of great butter + thinly sliced radish + sprinkle of sea salt (trust me!)

Rub toast with a halved fresh tomato top with thinly sliced jamon imberico or prosciutto

Romesco sauce + chopped grilled scallions

Thinly sliced rare roast beef + horseradish cream + watercress



And this roasted squash on toast recipe from Jean-Georges Vongerichten is next on my list to try.

 


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Roasted Nectarine and Zucchini Salad
 



Here is a quick recipe I dreamt up, while on my roasted produce kick this week, using what is in abundance in the gardens and at the market.  Thankfully, it turned out to be heavenly, lick-the-bowl-clean good.

There is a magical, sum is definitely greater than it's parts, result here, as with many very simple summer dishes (think: Tomatoes+Basil+Olive Oil.).  Sweet and sour and earthy and salty and bright and crunchy all going on in your mouth together. Roasting the nectarines and zucchini really intensifies their flavor and makes them both feel like vegetables...or fruit...or something new and unique completely.  A beautiful side dish for any summer meal, I imagine this would also be spectacular atop grilled fish, pork, or chicken.

 


ROASTED NECTARINE AND ZUCCHINI SALAD
by Catie Schwalb
Serves 4 as a side dish.

2 medium zucchini, about 5 cups cubed
4 nectarines, about 3 cups cubed (I used yellow nectarines, which are slightly more tart than the white.)
salt, to taste
1/4 + 1/4 cup olive oil
1 1/4 tablespoons lemon juice
4 ounces feta cheese
3 tablespoons fresh dill, finely chopped
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds, toasted

Heat oven to 425 F.

Toss zucchini and nectarines separately in a 1/4 cup of olive oil total between the two, just enough so they have a slight sheen.  Season with a good pinch of salt.  Taste, and add more if necessary.

Place nectarines and zucchini on a baking sheet in a single layer.  Keep them separate as they will be finished at different times.  Place in the top half of the oven.

After about 10 minutes check the zucchini and nectarines.  If starting to brown on one side, gently turn over with a spatula.

The cooking time will depend on the ripeness of your produce and the size of your pieces.  For a half inch cube, my nectarines took 12 minutes and zucchini took 22 minutes.

Check them again in a few minutes, and taste a piece to check for doneness.  Remove from the oven when they are brown on the edges and tender, but not mushy, all the way through.  Spread out on a plate or cool baking sheet and allow to cool.  Either chill or leave at room temperature.

Whisk together remaining 1/4 cup of olive oil and lemon juice.  Hold off using extra salt in this vinaigrette, as the salt already on the roasted zucchini and nectarines and in the feta should be plenty.

Just before serving, combine zucchini and nectarines, with feta, dill, and pumpkin seeds.  Gently toss with the lemon vinaigrette.  Taste, and add salt if necessary.  Serve immediately.

Zucchini and nectarines can be roasted a day in advance and kept in the refrigerator.




 


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Utterly Chard-ming


First, yes, it is a terrible pun.  But in all honesty, I had a dream about writing this post, and that is the title I watched myself type in the dream.  So who am I to interfere with subconscious inspiration/intervention?

Moving on...

Our garden is still loaded with beautiful food.  But as is the case when September shows up, the plants are not looking quite as robust as they did a few weeks ago.  There is definitely a sign that it is the end of the season and these plants are tired.  However, our gorgeous Five Color Silverbeet Chard, that was looking a little peaked in the hottest days of August, has started to really perk up in this last week, with it's cool evenings.

I first started growing this heirloom variety of chard, after reading Barbara Kingsolver's glowing endorsement of it in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life:
"If I could only save one of my seed packets from the deluge, the heirloom vegetable I’d probably grab is five-color silverbeet.  It is not silver (silverbeet is Australian for Swiss chard), but has broad stems and leaf ribs vividly colored red, yellow, orange, white or pink.  Each plant has one stem color, but all five colors persist in a balanced mix in this beloved variety.  It was the first seed variety I learned to save, and if in my dotage I end up in an old-folks’ home where they let me grow one vegetable in the yard, it will be this one."

Chard is a wonderful culinary green, loaded with iron and antioxidants.  It stands up well in soups, and sautés, as well tarts and fillings.  It is a great alternative to spinach and kale, and unlike either, comes up early in the garden season and lasts through early frosts.

With it too warm to have spinach in the garden lately, I substituted chard recently in Spanakopita-inspired phyllo purses.  These little bundles are impressive and loaded with summer flavor.  The filling is also equally good folded into larger phyllo pockets for a great lunch or vegetable dish.



CHARD, DILL, AND FETA BUNDLES
by Catie
makes approximately 30 hors d'oeuvres bundles, or 10 large pockets.

2 TBS Olive Oil
1 small Sweet Onion, diced small
Large bunch of Chard, about 1 lb, tough stems removed and roughly chopped
1 TBS fresh Dill, chopped, or 1 tsp dried Dill
2 TBS fresh Parsley, chopped
4 oz Feta Cheese, finely crumbled
1 egg, slightly beaten
Salt and Pepper, to taste
1/2 pkg of Phyllo Dough (8 oz)
melted butter

Heat the oven to 350° F.

Heat the oil in a large pan.  Add the diced onion and gently saute until fragrant and translucent.   Add the chopped chard, in large handfuls, as it starts to wilt down.   Saute for a minute more until just cooked, adding the dill and parsley about 30 seconds before removing from heat.

Using either a spoon on the edge of the pan, or pouring the mixture into cheesecloth, squeeze out and drain as much liquid as you can from the vegetables.

Add the feta cheese to the chard mixture and evenly combine.  Taste the mixture at this point before seasoning. Feta is salty and you may only need to add pepper.  Once you are happy with the seasoning, add the egg and mix well.

Unwrap the phyllo dough, and keep flat under a damp towel or paper towels.   On a counter or cutting board, place one sheet of dough.   Brush dough lightly, but evenly, with melted butter, and top with another sheet of dough.   Repeat so you have a stack that is three sheets thick.  With a large knife or pizza cutter, cut sheets into 6 pieces (down the middle the long way, and then in thirds in the other direction).   Place about a tablespoon of chard mixture in the center of one of the phyllo rectangles, gather up corners, and twist slightly in one direction.   Place on a cookie sheet.   Repeat with remaining mixture and dough sheets.

Alternatively, you can cut the stack of three sheets in half, lenghwise, put about 1/3 of a cup of mixture in the lower right corner, and then fold in triangles, as you would fold a flag.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, until dough is golden brown.  Bakelightly longer for the larger triangles.



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Catie Baumer Schwalb is a chef, food writer and photographer, who splits her life between the city and the country. Not too long ago Catie was a New York City based actress and playwright for more than a decade. She has her Master of Fine Arts from the National Theater Conservatory, and her Grand Diplôme in classic culinary arts from the French Culinary Institute in New York City. ... Read More

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