We had good friends Katie & Ronnie over for dinner on Saturday night. I had a clear plan for the main (baked gnocchi) & dessert (chocolate mousse), but I was a little fuzzy on the starter – until I noticed some hotdog rolls that needed using up.
[I could have dressed up that last statement by saying they were “sourdough lunch rolls”, but they weren’t. Of course, sourdough or ciabatta would give a superior result. I didn’t have these at home.]
Recipe #8: Easy peasy crostini. With two toppings. Makes about 20 (good as an entree for 4-5 people).
Crostini = ‘little toasts’ in Italian.
To begin, I thinly sliced two slightly stale hotdog rolls into thin (~1cm) slices widthways and crammed them close together on a pizza tray [mine has holes in the bottom for extra crustiness!]. I also preheated my oven to 190°C.
To make the topping for tomato paste/cheddar/anchovy crostini, you need three ingredients: tomato paste; semi-matured cheddar cheese [it doesn’t crumble as you slice, like matured cheddar will] sliced into thin squares approx. the size of the bread slices; anchovies.
[This will seem a travesty to some, and maybe it means I have an underdeveloped palate, but I don’t think you need to spend megabucks on Ortiz to really enjoy anchovies. I buy Russino anchovies in 160g jars for a few dollars and I like them.]
Use a teaspoon to spread a fine layer of tomato paste onto about half of the bread slices. Place the cheddar squares atop the tomato paste. Finally, lay a single anchovy on each cheese slice. I like to make sure these are straight and off to one side, so they melt into a dark stripe down the golden cheese as they cook. I really wish I had taken pictures so you could see how striking they looked.
For salsa verde/brie crostini, I used: salsa verde; brie, cut into small wedges. I had some salsa verde leftover in the freezer. In case you don’t, I have included my recipe below.
Spread a thin layer of salse verde over the rest of the bread slices. Top with a brie wedge. Yes, it is that simple.
Drizzle all of the crostini with a good olive oil and sprinkle with cracked pepper. I cooked the crostini for about 15 minutes, until the cheddar started to brown and the brie was all goozie and sunken, and served them on a square plate with all of the anchovy stripes in the same direction and the brie wedges nicely in line.
Recipe #9: Salsa verde.
Salsa verde is a rich, salty ‘sauce’ and it takes 10-15 minutes to make if you’re like me & don’t use a food processor. It is well worth the effort and you can freeze any extra to use in a variety of ways – eg. as a dip or spread, on grilled chicken/steak, as a seasoning in a bolognese sauce.
• 2 small bunches of soft green herbs [I use basil & continental parsley]
• 2 cloves garlic, sliced
• 1 heaped tsp capers
• 2 dill cucumbers/gherkins, sliced
• 6-8 kalamata olives, pips removed [the pitted ones have a stronger flavour]
• 4 anchovy fillets
• lots of good quality olive oil
• good balsamic vinegar [if it’s aged, it has a sweet, smooth taste and it is much thicker]
Roughly chop the herbs together. Add the garlic and continue chopping. Add the anchovy fillets, olives, capers & gherkins and chop like mad – until the mixture is so fine that it is almost pasty. Place the chopped ingredients into a bowl and add a few pinches of pepper, a good pinch of salt, a good slather of olive oil [start with a couple of tablespoons] and balsamic vinegar [match to the quantity of olive oil to start with]. Mix well, then taste. If it needs more acid/oil/salt/pepper, add it until you are happy with it.
Baked gnocchi. I included a recipe for baked gnocchi in my post of 25 January. Here, finally, is a picture of the plated result:
Real comfort food.
Recipe #10: Rich chocolate mousse. Fittingly, the base recipe for this mousse is from a site called Chocolate Mousse. The finished product:
You will need: 450g dark chocolate; 2/3 cup caster sugar; 180mL strong coffee; 6 egg whites; 300mL double cream; 600mL cold cream (for whipping).
First, make the coffee and, while it is still very hot, stir in the sugar. Let this sit while the chocolate melts. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler, stirring until it is completely smooth [or, as I use, in a saucepan inside a bigger saucepan that sits on the hotplate directly. In the bigger saucepan, there should be about an inch of hot, not boiling, water. Don’t let the smaller saucepan touch the water – hang it just above the water]. Add the chocolate into the coffee/sugar mix and whisk in the double cream. Very important: allow this mixture to cool.
In two separate bowls, whisk the egg whites and cold cream to stiff peaks. Carefully fold the egg whites into the chocolate mixture, followed by the whipped cream. You want the mixture to stay as light and airy as possible.
You can spoon this mix into little bowls/glasses for presentation, or (as I did) leave it in a larger bowl to set. Chill the mousse for at least 4 hours before serving with macerated berries [see my cheesecake recipe in the 30 January post] and shaved chocolate.
Next time, I will replace some of the coffee with Kahlua. Chilli chocolate mousse would also be great 🙂
You will notice that I doubled the quantities from the website because it just didn’t look like it would make enough. Between Saturday night’s dinner and the next day’s lunch (my sister’s family & brother came around), the doubled-up recipe provided enough dessert for 9 adults and 2 little people – not the 16 that it should have. But, then, I do come from a family of big eaters.
Our BBQed family lunch was simple. I made the lime steaks [as per my 28 January post], cooked baby carrots in honey, and marinated chicken tenderloins in olive oil and baharat, a spice mix I found in Broome [thank you, Liz at Limpopo Gourmet!].
BTW, I found a couple of baharat recipes online, none of which I have tried, however the RecipeZaar version looks great.
To accompany the Middle Eastern chicken, I made a really fresh-tasting salsa that I love eating all by itself. Or, as I did this morning, on toast with olive oil:
Hooray for leftovers!
Recipe #11: Mango & avocado salsa.
You will need:
• 1 medium-sized mango, diced
• 2 avocadoes, diced
• 2 tomatoes, diced
• 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
• ¼ small red onion, finely sliced
• a small handful of fresh, aromatic herbs [I use basil, mint or coriander]
• ~3 tbsp olive oil
• juice of 1 lime (or more, if desired)
• pepper (or ½ tsp fresh chilli)
Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl. Add salt/pepper/chilli, or more olive oil/lime juice, according to personal preference.
The key to this salsa is using the best and freshest ingredients you can lay your hands on. If you can’t get hold of something (eg. tomatoes with real flavour), it’s better to leave it out. Or you could look for a long-life alternative (eg. SPC have yummy mango spears in natural juice).