Category Archives: black olives

Easter Spread/Dip; GF and Vegan Options

I generally make a cheeseball for holidays and gatherings and I have posted some recipes on these pages.  For Easter this year, I decided to go with a dip/spread, and I made it several days early so that the flavors would mellow.

You can vary it to suit the tastes and your dietary needs and of those around you. Nuts and seeds can be changed, or left out altogether. I’m making this one a little bland because I will be serving it with flavorful crackers and snacks.

Here is the recipe I made; variations in taste and vegan substitutions will be listed below:

Appetizer Spread:

7 oz of Neufchatel cheese (low-fat cream cheese)

1 Tbs cream

¼ -1/3 cup shredded mozzarella cheese,(or other moderate-to-mild white cheese)

A few drops  sesame oil (no more than 1/8 tsp; sesame oil is very strong)

1 Tbsp. + 1/2 Tsp sesame seeds, divided

3/4 tsp lemon juice

½ tsp minced garlic

1 Tbsp. basic herb/spice blend: “Mrs. Dash” (homemade recipe in previous post)

¼ cup sliced black olives

Mix  the cream cheese and cream  (or substitutes) together until smooth. Add the shredded cheese and mix. Add the sesame or other oil. Add 1 Tbsp. sesame  or other seeds, (if using); mix well.

Add the lemon juice and minced garlic, the herb blend and blend well. Add the black olives. Mix well.
Place in a small covered bowl or container, sprinkle seeds around the edges and garnish with added olive or ?  Chill thoroughly or for several days before serving.

This can be served with any type of cracker. Since I need to go gluten-free for relatives, I like Trader Joe’s Three Seed Beet Crackers .I am also  going to offer Harvest Snaps Red Lentil Tomato Basil snack crisps, available in many major markets.

ALTERNATIVES:  

Vegan “Cream Cheese” is made with cashews. I am told that it is easy to make one’s own, but it is fairly readily available in healthier-food stores  and even supermarkets. With this, you can use 2 tsp. cashew, almond or other plant-based milk instead of cream. You may add vegan ‘cheese’, or leave it out.

Finely chopped nuts can be substituted for sesame seeds, or left out completely. Walnuts, cashews, pecans  and hazelnuts, (filberts), are good choices; almonds are a bit bland to stand up  in this recipe.

Other oils, such as walnut  or almond, or even avocado, should be substituted for sesame oil if you aren’t using sesame seeds; use 1/8 tsp.

Avocado bits make a nice addition if you leave out nuts; fold in at the end.

Pimentos, green olives, or bits of mild chilies can be used in addition to, or instead of, black olives.

I hope that you try this for your friends and family.

Appetizers VII-Potatoes and Rice/Leftovers

Easy potato-based appetizers

Easy potato-based appetizers

Appetizers from left-overs? It’s possible. What you need to start are mashed potatoes.
(If you don’t know how to make your own, please see You Can Do It, December 10, 2012 Archive)

Many are vegetarian, many can be made as vegan. All can be made gluten-free.

Sautée sweet peppers, (multicolored are nice but not necessary), and a little onion, green onion, leeks or shallots. Add paprika and parsley. If you have a favorite herb, you can use it sparingly. Add a little flour,(may use rice flour), and an egg, to help make them firm enough to be picked-up. But the egg is optional if you want to ‘go vegan’. A little more flour and a little longer cooking time will be necessary. Or you can place them on a cracker, a piece of fresh endive, romaine or spinach.

To make them hold their shape, form the potatoes into small, flat patties and fry them slowly on medium-low heat until they are lightly browned on each side and are very firm.

Top them with anything you’d  like.

Examples are :
Bacon or Tofurkey
Grape or cherry tomatoes
Herbed cream cheese, sour cream  or vegan sour cream; (may add nuts)
More sautéed or pickled peppers
Any left-over vegetable dish,(above has Spinach Bake

These are hearty, more party-food fare,but  they will keep your guests satisfied if the night is long or the meal delayed.

Spinach Bake

2 packages frozen spinach, thawed and well-drained  or
equivalent in fresh spinach which has been blanched,(Submerged in boiling water until limp)
4-6 eggs
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/2 tsp. white pepper
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
Optional:
2Tbsp. sautéed onions
1 Tbsp Parsley

Mix well. Place in buttered casserole dish.

OPTIONAL TOPPING: [Omit if going Gulten-free or to avoid carbohydrates]
4 oz melted butter
1 cup Italian-style breadcrumbs(I prefer half-Italian and half-plain mixed)
or
plain breadcrumbs with
1 tsp parsley
1 tsp. basil
1tsp marjoram
1 tsp. oregano (optional)

Mix butter and crumbs. Spread over the top of the spinach mix and bake at 375F  just until  set.(A knife inserted into the middle will come out clean)

I developed this recipe one day at my bakery/restaurant when we ran low on vegetable dishes during a Sunday dinner carry-out rush.I have had many requests for it.It was popular with my clients when I was a personal chef and is big with my family.  Served hot, it makes a great side dish, but cold and cubed, it makes a great appetizer.

Sampling of Spinach Bake and  Mixed Rice appetizers

Sampling of Spinach Bake and Mixed Rice appetizers

On the plate above, we have not only,chilled, cubed Spinach Bake topped with lightly herbed  mashed potatoes, but it is also stuffed into halved grape tomatoes.

Some of the gape tomatoes are filled with the mashed potato mixture recipe above, of course, without the eggs.

One of the white mixtures pictured is a quick chicken salad made with left over chicken breast,(baked, rotisserie or roasted).A little grated onion and celery,or just onion powder and celery salt with paprika. Mix into mayonnaise or veganaise and add to shredded chicken; it works beautifully .Add pecan pieces, hazelnuts, pistachios or walnuts and you have a truly special filling for tomatoes, olives or to be rolled into romaine leaves.

 

The other white mixture is cooked rice mixed with paprika, turmeric and celery salt. You can add parsley and, again, nuts,to add a spark. (Roasted or wasabi almonds add a bigger spark.) Mix with a slight amount of cream, coconut or almond milk enough to make it stick together somewhat.

You should always have a can or jar of black olives in your cabinet, and possibly some pre-made filo cups,(more with them next time), but they aren’t necessary. Tomatoes may not be in season or just not in your refrigerator . A slice of cucumber will work, as will an inch-and-a- half piece of celery or leaves of any lettuce or bok choy. And you can always use  bread or toast squares/triangles using any type: white, wheat, pumpernickel, rye, oat…whatever you have,
plus any type of cracker. You can even use chips, if they are big enough and curved enough to hold filling and be picked up.

Just be certain that your left-overs are fresh and your offerings kept cold.

Any questions? Just a few more posts to go in the series of appetizers.

I hope you have found some among them that you can use.