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This recipe is part of the “Celebratory Goose Dinner” miniseries. For the complete menu, timetable, and printable shopping list, see the introductory post.

This recipe is my interpretation of an appetizer that has become a classic at my sister’s house. After the meatiness of the scallops & bacon, and the buttery richness of the phyllo-wrapped figs, I wanted a third appetizer that would be bright and refreshing, with a good hit of acid. My sister texted me the ingredient list, and here’s my take on assembling it all.

I was lax in taking a photo, so until I make them again and can add a pic, you’ll just have to use your imagination, I’m afraid. A few shopping tips: if you can’t find endive at your local supermarket, they can usually be found at Trader Joe’s. For the balsamic, you’ll want to use a good one since it’s such a major ingredient. I’m currently using this one from O & Co., which has a lovely syrupy texture and mildly sweet undertones. Next time I’d like to try making these using my secret weapon, Blaze, a balsamic reduction and key ingredient in my tomato, basil, mozzarella sandwiches. If anyone has more balsamic recommendations, leave them in the comments below!

Endives with Grape Tomatoes and Basil

  • 1 package endive (3 heads)
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes
  • Fresh basil, roughly chopped or torn
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt
  • Black pepper

Rinse endives, separate the leaves. Halve grape tomatoes. Place three grape tomatoes in each endive leaf (use your discretion as to how many to make; the smaller inner leaves will not be sufficient to hold the tomatoes). Sprinkle with basil leaves. Drizzle each endive “boat” with olive oil and balsamic. Finish with freshly ground sea salt and pepper. Serve as finger food with a cocktail napkin.

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This recipe is part of the “Celebratory Goose Dinner” miniseries. For the complete menu, timetable, and printable shopping list, see the introductory post.
Phyllo wrapped figs, 1-4

While my guests were happily munching on their scallops, I popped these suckers in the oven to cook, having assembled them earlier on that day. I have to admit — not only did these taste good, but they were a lot of fun to make. While it would be a bit of a stretch to refer to these as “unfussy,” there’s a certain amount of freedom in forming them…rolling blue cheese into balls with your (clean!) bare hands, halving the figs and affixing them as best you can around the cheese (gaps are expected), then enveloping the package with a blanket of delicate cured meat… It actually brought me back to being a kid and working with play-doh.

For a perfectionist like myself, it’s an absolutely freeing and playful process. The end result? Pure satisfaction.

Phyllo-Wrapped Figs with Prosciutto and Stilton
from Bon Appétit, December 2002, adapted from The Gatehouse Restaurant, Providence, RI

Figs

  • 16 teaspoons Stilton cheese (about 4 ounces)
  • 32 dried black Mission figs
  • 4 6×4-inch thin prosciutto slices, cut lengthwise in half
  • 8 sheets fresh phyllo pastry or frozen, thawed
  • ¾ cup (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, melted

Port Sauce

  • 2 cups Ruby Port
  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons sugar

Cream Sauce

  • 1½ cups whipping cream
  • 4½ tablespoons pine nuts, toasted

Form 2 teaspoons cheese into 1-inch-long log. Place 4 dried figs around cheese and press gently to adhere. Wrap 1 prosciutto strip around fig bundle. Repeat with remaining cheese, figs, and prosciutto.

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Place 1 phyllo sheet on work surface (keep remaining phyllo covered with plastic wrap and damp towel). Brush phyllo lightly with melted butter. Top with second phyllo sheet; brush with butter. Repeat with 2 more phyllo sheets. Cut stacked phyllo sheets into four 6-inch squares (discard phyllo trimmings). Place 1 fig bundle in center of 1 phyllo square stack. Bring all edges of phyllo square up toward center and squeeze firmly at top, forming pouch and enclosing fig bundle completely. Place on baking sheet. Repeat with remaining phyllo sheets, melted butter, and fig bundles, forming a total of 8 pouches. Brush outside of phyllo pouches with remaining melted butter. Can be made 6 hours ahead. Cover and refrigerate.

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Preheat oven to 375°F. Bake pouches until golden, about 17 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring Port, balsamic vinegar, and sugar to boil in medium saucepan. Boil until mixture is reduced to ¼ cup, about 15 minutes.

While Port mixture is being reduced, boil cream and pine nuts in another medium saucepan until reduced to 1 cup, about 8 minutes. Remove cream sauce from heat; season sauce to taste with salt and pepper.

Spoon 2 tablespoons cream sauce onto each of 8 plates. Place 1 phyllo pouch atop sauce. Drizzle each lightly with Port sauce and serve.

Tips from The Hungry Crafter:

  • I admittedly went a little overboard with the butter on this one. It doesn’t need it. I still didn’t use the full amount called for in the ingredients list, so keep that in mind. I think the key part of the directions is where it says “Brush phyllo lightly with melted butter.” Certainly you need to use a light hand so as not to tear the dough. But it applies to the amount of butter as well.
  • If making the sea scallops as well, feel free to use the Port wine reduction from that recipe for both appetizers — no need to make two versions. Although I must say, the addition of balsamic vinegar in this version is a nice complement to the blue cheese.

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This recipe is part of the “Celebratory Goose Dinner” miniseries. For the complete menu, timetable, and printable shopping list, see the introductory post.

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…or, according to my handwritten notes on the printout of this recipe, “Rock star scallops! BEST RECIPE!” I first came across this recipe when searching for a special appetizer to make for my sister’s elopement. Enter the recipe below. It made the cut — and an impression — and I’ve been dying for an excuse to make them ever since. Plus Mr. Manly likes them. Clearly a no-brainer start to our fancy New Year’s Eve dinner. Cooking tips are included at the end.

Bay Scallops & Applewood Bacon with a Port Wine Reduction
from Gourmet, October 2005, adapted from Marc Forgione of BLT Prime, New York City

Port wine reduction

  • 2 cups (500 ml) Ruby Port
  • ½ cup superfine granulated sugar (you can make your own by whizzing regular granulated sugar a few times in a food processor; just don’t substitute regular sugar)
  • 1 ½ teaspoons whole black peppercorns
  • 2 fresh mint leaves, torn into bits

Scallops

  • 6 thin slices applewood-smoked bacon (¼ lb), cut into thirds
  • 18 bay scallops (preferably Nantucket; ⅓ lb), tough muscle from side of each discarded if attached (if you can’t get bay scallops, you can use sea scallops cut lengthwise into thirds)
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter

For Port wine reduction:
Bring Port, superfine sugar, peppercorns, and mint to a simmer in a 2-quart saucepan over moderately low heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat, then carefully ignite Port with a kitchen match, letting flames die down (this will take a few minutes). Simmer over moderately low heat until sauce is thickened and reduced to about ½ cup, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and cool to warm. May be made 1 day ahead and chilled, covered. Reheat before serving.

For scallops:
Heat a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat, then cook bacon until some fat has rendered and edges of bacon start to brown, about 1½ minutes per side. Transfer bacon to paper towels to drain.

Pat scallops dry and season with salt and pepper. When bacon is cool enough to handle, wrap a piece of bacon around each scallop and pierce scallop with a wooden pick to secure. Scallops may be wrapped in bacon, but not sautéed, 4 hours ahead and chilled, covered. Sauté just before serving.

Heat oil and butter in cleaned skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then sauté scallops, turning over once, until bacon is browned and scallops are opaque, about 5 minutes total. Transfer to a plate and serve with Port reduction for dipping.

Tips from The Hungry Crafter:

  • If you do in fact have to substitute sea scallops for the bay scallops, remember to cut them down to a smaller size! On the same note, before you cut your bacon in thirds, check that the length will be enough to go around the entire circumference of the scallop. Otherwise you will not have bacon-wrapped scallops so much as scallops with a bolero jacket (see photo).
  • When making the reduction this last time around, the Port simply refused to ignite, and I gave up after five tries. It made no noticeable difference to the reduction, so don’t get too hung up on this step.
  • When cooking the scallops, don’t be afraid of the heat! Also, make sure to pat your scallops as dry as possible — this will help you get that nice golden sear.

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…bring July babies? Or June. We’ll see.

Last weekend brought me up to Haverhill for my friend Marcy’s baby shower, which was a lovely affair hosted by our friend Monica, replete with tasty food, apple blossoms and dahlias, gorgeous table linens, 50 or so charming guests, and a prolific amount of pink onesies. I’m embarrassed to say that, despite the beautiful decorations and lovely guests, I came home solely with pictures of food on my camera. I have issues. I should forewarn you that while I did finally find my camera (yay!), I’ve been a little obsessed with Hipstamatic, so the photos are all from my iPhone. I’ll get over it, I’m sure, but you’ll have to indulge me for a while.

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Marcy is my partner-in-crime for all things catering-related. Together over the years, we’ve manned several lobster bakes, bartended a celebrity wedding of sorts, thrown birthday bashes for crowds, put together dessert bars, Christmas parties, anniversary celebrations, humble dinner parties…large scale affairs and quiet picnics. The list goes on and on. As a pair, we’ve always just clicked in the kitchen, seamlessly moving back and forth without ever getting in the other’s way, speaking in half sentences that don’t need finishing, dividing labor intuitively and efficiently. It’s always mildly unsettling to me when I have to prepare for an event without her puttering alongside me in the kitchen. Over the years, we’ve picked up on each other’s trade secrets: she can now put together my grandmother’s Pepper Clam Dip more quickly than I, and I’ve become well-versed in pinwheel sandwiches, Kahlua dipping sauce, and the ever-present cheese board, which is put together just so.

For her shower, then, I insisted on taking cheese board duties, because there had to be a cheese board, and it had to be put together just so, and had to be displayed on the Italian tile serving tray with white handles (that I made her poor aunt dig out from the very bottom of a teetering pile of heavy serving platters, because clearly no other platter would do.) While I do love my local cheese shops (Bacco’s and Formaggio Kitchen), I found myself at Whole Foods this time, where I’ve always been happily pleased with the cheese selection.

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I’m afraid I didn’t stop and get a picture until after the cheese board had been picked at a bit. You get the gist, though. I had a bit of a curveball thrown at me for this particular platter, being for a baby shower and all: I needed to pick only pasteurized cheeses for our expectant guest of honor. In the end, I opted for the following:

  • Wensleydale with Blueberries (I’ll never, ever, be able to eat Wensleydale without thinking of Wallace and Gromit. Anyone else?)
  • Young Fontina Fontal
  • UnieKaas Reserve Gouda, aged 18+ mos.
  • Ford Farm Coastal British Cheddar with Sea Salt
  • Cordobes (a Manchego-like Whole Foods exclusive)

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Other highlights of the shower included Vichyssoise shooters, a pair of cool spring salads, chicken salad sandwiches, pinwheels, and a serve-yourself cocktail bar with champagne, black cherry juice and apricot juice. I may have had one too many glasses of the champagne/cherry juice combo — absolutely irresistible.

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The pièce de résistance, however, was the cookie bar. Marcy has never had much of a taste for things like chocolate, or cake, or any other sweets, really…except for cookies. In particular, Aunt Josie’s Cookies, which are traditionally made by Aunt Mary (Makes sense, right? I love family traditions. And aunts. And being an aunt. But I digress.) This culminated in the tempting array below, with Aunt Josie’s Cookies reigning supreme over the cookie kingdom from up high on their multi-tiered pedestal.

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The cookies, clockwise from top, are: Aunt Josie’s cookies, Marsha’s chocolate frosted cookies, chocolate pistachio brittle, molasses whoopie pies, peanut butter sandwich cookies, lemon-lime basil shortbread cookies, potato chip cookies, a second container of pistachio brittle, and blackberry jambles.

My contributions were the potato chip cookies and blackberry jambles. The potato chip cookie is a prized and guarded recipe in my files, handwritten by Marcy’s mom (I believe it came attached to a chicken-head cookie jar, but that’s another story). If I may be picky for a moment, I will say that I didn’t do them justice this time around, though — the texture wasn’t quite right. They really do need cheap-o store-brand grease-bomb chips as an ingredient — the Whole Foods sea-salted organic chips just didn’t work, probably because they didn’t have enough bad-for-you oils. I’ll bypass the full rant about how loving good, quality natural foods and loving Diet Coke and Lays are not mutually exclusive. My kingdom for a Whole Foods with a soda machine out front.

The blackberry jambles, on the other hand… oh. my. God. Marcy, take note: this is now officially part of our ongoing repertoire, and I already have plans to make an apricot version for the next shower we bake for.

Without further ado, a recipe for you all. As you might deduce from the obscene amount of butter involved, these are ridiculously and sinfully good.

Blackberry Jambles
from Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey: Desserts for the Serious Sweet Tooth, by Jill O’Connor, Chronicle Books 2007

  • 1 lb. (4 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 c. firmly-packed light brown sugar
  • 1 c. granulated sugar
  • 2 t. pure vanilla extract
  • 1 t. salt
  • 3 3/4c. unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 c. almond flour
  • 1 1/2c. blackberry preserves
  • 1/2 c. slivered almonds
  • confectioners’ sugar for dusting

Beat the butter and sugars in a large bowl at medium-low speed until creamy. Add vanilla and salt; beat until combined. Add flours one cup at a time, beating on low speed, just until a smooth, soft dough forms.

Spray a 9″x13″ baking pan with nonstick cooking spray, and press one-third of the dough evenly into the pan to form a bottom crust. Wrap the remaining dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate until very cold and firm, at least 30 minutes. Position a rack in the middle of the oven, and preheat to 325 F.

Bake the bottom crust until it is firm and just beginning to turn pale brown around the edges, about 20 min. Remove the pan from the oven, and spread the preserves over the crust. Crumble the remaining dough over the jam to form a pebbly, crumbled topping. Sprinkle with almonds. Return the pan to the oven and continue baking until topping is firm and crisp, about 30 mins. Remove from oven and cool to room temperature.

Use a sharp knife to cut bars evenly (or not evenly, in my case), into 15 large squares, then cut in half on the diagonal to form 30 triangular bars. Remove bars from pan with metal spatula, dust with confectioners sugar (using a sifter or mini-strainer), and serve.

Bars will keep, covered tightly, for about a week at room temperature, or up to one month in the freezer.

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EDIT 12/16/11: GIVEAWAY NOW CLOSED — WILL ANNOUNCE THE WINNER IN A NEW POST TOMORROW. THANKS FOR STOPPING BY!

Hooray, it’s here! Today is the annual December Giveaway Day at Sew, Mama, Sew! A hearty welcome to all SMS readers. I won’t keep you long today, but do take a look around and, if you like what you see, I’d love to have you as a subscriber (links upper right). I typically post a couple of times a month and share my adventures in food and craft, offering up recipes, lots of food photos, sewing project pics, and discoveries/lessons learned along the way. I try to keep this a happy, thoughtful, appetizing(!), and occasionally funny place. For a taste of what this blog is all about, check out this post: Carefully Edited Slices of Life

For now, let’s get on with the giveaway! Up for grabs is a nice little assortment of goodies: 2 mini embroidery hoops, 2 flour sack dish towels (for embroidering!), and a jar of 20+ colors of floss. Then for some handmade goodness, I’ve added a little needle-felted sheep, along with some fabric-covered clothespins (leftover from the photo booth at my wedding). Lastly, in another piece of post-wedding craft supply overflow, a little spool of green bakers twine. The wooden chopping block stays with me… 😉

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For a chance to win, leave a comment and answer me this question: What would you name the sheep if he were to go home with you??? (I’ll give an extra entry to anyone who can guess the name *I* would give him. And yes, I realize that, not having horns, the sheep is more likely a she. But look at that face. Clearly a boy. A confused sheep perhaps. I digress.)

Details: Winner will be chosen by the random number generator. Giveaway is open until December 16 at 5 p.m. PST, and international readers are more than welcome to enter!

Be sure to go back to Sew, Mama, Sew! and check out all the other wonderful giveaways taking place today. Thanks for stopping by!

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You should know that I am an unabashed homer. Give me the Jerry Remys, the Andy Brickleys of the world — I am not looking for fair and balanced reporting. I want reporting with passion, and I want folks on my side. (My former journalism professors are no doubt developing an odd twitch somewhere off in academia right now).

With that preface, I must confess a somewhat irrational love for the eateries in my office building and the vendors at the farmer’s market on the square. There are notable exceptions, of course, and my equally irrational disdain is felt with similar passion. For what is food without passion (says the good little Italian)?

Please understand that this means I will make brazen claims that Narragansett Creamery makes the best mozzarella you can buy stateside (they do), that tasting Burdick’s hot chocolate will change your definition of cocoa (it will), and that Iggy’s sliced Francese makes the world go round (it does…or at the very least makes my midsection round).

These small businesses sustain me — both literally and figuratively — throughout the workday and beyond. Who’s to say what is more warming: the hot cup of coffee in my hand from Croissant du Jour, or the familiar wave and smile of the gal who, with a nod, has already filled my cup with my usual order before I get to the register?

All of which is to say that I have a massive crush on Bacco’s Wine & Cheese. At the risk of sounding like a complete wino, let’s just say that I was singlehandedly able to wrap all of my wedding centerpieces in recycled Bacco’s bags to ensure safe transport to and from the venue. So I may or may not frequent this particular shop regularly. They may or may not know me on a first name basis. Sigh.

Aside from the well-curated, rotating selection of wines, Bacco’s boasts an above-average selection of domestic and imported cheeses, with a modest accompaniment of charcuterie, condiments, and chocolates. (Not to mention the rather addictive and hard-to-find blood orange San Pellegrino.) If that weren’t enough, they carry daily special entrees from Pigalle, and a “bento box” lunch of two daily cheese selections, salami, bread and condiments. And the bread is, yes, from Iggy’s.

The best part about Bacco’s is hands down the staff, however. As an explorer in the world of food (read: painfully indecisive, but adventurous), there’s nothing I enjoy more than recommendations. I carry a notebook with me wherever I go to jot down foods I’d like to try, wines I’ve enjoyed, and favorite cheeses (see the To Eat section of this blog, for example). In addition to daily — yes, daily! — wine and cheese tastings, the staff at Bacco’s never fail to offer suggestions, and are happy to share their food knowledge with you.

Which brings me to today’s recipe. I had the idea kicking around in my head that I’d like to try making a riff on a saltimbocca using Spanish ingredients. The idea started with the rather mundane thought to make saltimbocca using Serrano ham in place of the prosciutto. Then an amontillado in place of the madeira, perhaps? But what of the Fontina? Enter the advice of Em, Bacco’s resident “cheese wiz,” who pointed me towards their Drunken Goat cheese. No amontillado on hand, so with the help of the wine guy, we settled on a Pedro Ximenez dessert sherry, with the understanding that I would cut it with chicken stock. (As an aside — oh, wine guy with the dark hair and proclivity to wear sunglasses on top of your head — I’m sorry! Why don’t I know your name? You know mine! You were the first employee I met there! Bad customer…)

Drunken Goat, unsurprisingly, is a goat’s milk cheese that has been soaked in wine. Unlike the wine-imbued Umbriaco del Piave we served at my sister’s elopement, the wine doesn’t seep into the cheese itself, but instead colors the rind and adds a lovely depth of taste that is quite unlike wine itself. In other words, this isn’t a supermarket port wine cheese spread… More importantly, it was FANTASTIC with the saltimbocca. It kept its own unique, mild but tangy flavor while standing up to the other strong tastes quite handily.

I also enjoyed how the Serrano ham contributed a meatier, less salty flavor than the usual prosciutto. And the sherry? I had my doubts about the sweetness, but it ended up being brilliant. I didn’t have any fresh sage on hand, so, with a guilty conscience, I grabbed my dried sage and added that to the pan sauce instead. In the end, the savory sage helped further counter the sweetness of the sherry, and made for a beautiful and tasty sauce.

Spanish-inspired Chicken Saltimbocca
original recipe by The Hungry Crafter

  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 1/4 lb. drunken goat cheese, sliced
  • 6 slices Serrano ham
  • 1/2 c. Pedro Ximenez sherry
  • 1/2 c. chicken broth
  • butter
  • dried sage

Pound chicken breasts to 1/4″ thickness; season lightly with salt and pepper. Layer 3 slices of Serrano ham on each breast.

In large frying pan, heat 2 T. olive oil over medium-high heat. Add chicken breasts, ham side up, and cook until bottom is golden brown, about 3 minutes, then flip and cook another 2-3 minutes.
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Flip again, so that the ham is facing up again, and layer slices of cheese on top. Cover the pan with a lid to trap the steam and melt the cheese; remove chicken to serving dish as soon as cheese has melted sufficiently and chicken has cooked through (just a few minutes).

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Deglaze the pan with sherry, then add chicken broth and a few pats of butter. Measurements for the pan sauce are all approximate — taste, taste, taste! Add sage to taste (I used about 1 t.), adding more sherry or broth to increase or decrease the sweetness to your preference. Let sauce reduce by half, and spoon generously over the chicken.

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Quick, easy, but by no means mundane — dinner for two is served!

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Baby W was born at 11:57 pm last night, after 42 hours of labor. There was time to make cake as well.

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Mini Blueberry Bundt Cakes

  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup 2% low-fat milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries

Lemon Icing

  • 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons 2% low-fat milk
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice

In a small mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar. Beat in the egg, milk and vanilla. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt; stir into creamed mixture. Fold in blueberries.

Pour into three 4 inch bundt pans coated with nonstick cooking spray. Bake at 350 for 25 to 35 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks to cool completely.

For icing, in a small bowl, combine the confectioners’ sugar, milk and lemon juice; drizzle over cakes. Garnish with additional blueberries if desired.

NOTE: If using frozen blueberries, do not thaw before adding to batter.

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