Tag Archives: mushrooms

Mediterranean Soiree 

8 Mar

This past weekend I hosted an intimate gathering in honour of my mother and sister’s upcoming birthdays as I won’t be seeing them on their respective special days.

I decided to go with a Mediterranean theme for the menu taking cues from Italian, French and Greek cuisines. 

As a rule, whenever I entertain I lays try not to bite off more than I can chew. Preparing for an event no matter how small or relaxed can become extremely stressful if you try to make everything yourself. So I chose the “semi-homemade” route, making simple recipes and using some ready made fare.

The menu served 10 persons and was as follows

Bruschetta

Mushroom crostini

Olive bar

Cheese and meat board

Chicken souvlaki (kebabs) with Tzatziki sauce

Assorted artisan mini pastries (premade)


Creme cheese croissants (premade)

Biscotti  (premade)

I will share how I prepared the items for this get together. 



BRUSCHETTA 

Bruschetta is a popular antipasto found in many Italian eateries and with good reason. It consists of slices of toasted bread coated in oil and topped with a variety of things including meats, cheeses and perhaps best known…tomato.

I made tomato bruschetta using a sliced baguette.

WHAT YOU NEED (makes 20-24 slices)

1/2 of a baguette  

Butter or olive oil

One large ripe tomato 

Spices- I used Italian spices and a pinch of salt


WHAT TO DO

Tomato

1)Dice tomato

2)Add salt and spices with a drizzle of olive oil

3)Stir to mix and place in fridge for at least 30 minutes to allow flavour to mature.

Tomato mixture 

Bread 

4)Slice baguette into approximately 1/2 inch thick slices

5)Lay flat on a baking sheet

6)Coat with butter/oil.

7)Bake until golden or desired crispness 

Bread coated in melted butter




Top bread with tomato mixture just prior to serving to avoid bread becoming soggy.

Bruschetta 


MUSHROOM CROSTINI 

If you were to ask me the true difference between crostini and bruschetta I’m not sure I could answer clearly. Both have Italian origins, both involve slices of grilled bread and both are often topped with similar items. That being said, I’m totally comfortable with calling bread topped with tomato bruschetta,  but topped with mushrooms not so much. So I’m calling it crostini.

This recipe is almost identical to the bruschetta one except for the preparation of the topping so I’ll focus on that.

WHAT YOU NEED (makes 20-24 pieces)

12 OZ of fresh mushrooms -feel free to use canned ones 

1/4 cup of finely diced onion 

2 tbsp of brown sugar- I used coconut sugar 

2 tbsp butter

1/2 of a baguette 

Ingredients 



WHAT TO DO 

Mushrooms

1)Heat butter, sugar and onions in a skillet until onions sweat (become soft and translucent) 

2)Add mushrooms and Sautee until browned.

Onions,butter and sugar mixture 


Mushrooms being sautéed 


Bread

See 4-6 for bruschetta 

3)Top bread with mushrooms just before serving

Mushroom crostini 


CHICKEN SOUVLAKI/KEBABS 

Kebabs are always a favourite of mine for parties. Who doesn’t enjoy eating bites of food off a stick? Something about it is just so much fun. Lol.

The inspiration for this came from a blog post by Closet Cooking who created this recipe after tasting something similar while on vacation in Greece. The chicken is flavour education with the tart lemon and spices and topped with tzatziki. Tzatziki is a Mediterranean yogurt based dip infused with herbs and spices. It is served with meat or used with pita bread or vegetables as a dip. You can make it yourself but it is also widely available in most supermarkets  (I bought mine).

WHAT YOU NEED (makes about 15)

1/2 lb Chicken breast/thighs boneless

1 large lemon

Minced garlic or garlic powder 

Tzatziki

WHAT TO DO 

1)Cube chicken and coat with juice of lemon, garlic and any other seasonings and let it marinate for at least 30 minutes.

2) Skewer chicken Bake until cooked

3)Drizzle with Tzatziki-I also served some on the side.

Chicken souvlaki 


OLIVE BAR

This one was easy-peasy. I saw an amazing olive bar at Whole foods and knew I had to recreate it even if on a micro scale. I bought a container of mixed olives and worked with that.

WHAT YOU NEED

Various olives- You can use as many types as your heart desires

Containers- to display the olives

WHAT TO DO

Distribute the olives in their various containers along with spoons and display. I used a wooden cutting board.

Olive bar 



CHEESE AND MEAT BOARD

I have to say, that out of all the dishes on this menu, this is the one I was most excited about. Cheese and meat boards or antipasti boards are becoming a bigger and bigger trend in the foodie world making appearances on lots of restaurant menus. But these amazing appetizer boards are well established in Mediterranean cuisine. 
WHAT YOU NEED

Cheeses- At least two types but as many as you wish. I used Asiago, Gouda and sweet onion Swiss cheese by Laughing Cow.

Meats- At least two types or skip it if you want a strict cheese board. I used sliced turkey and turkey salami

Extras- I used purple or red grapes, almonds and some crackers

Board- This can be your cutting board, a marble board, slate board, metal board etc. Whatever you have. I used a rectangular board and most that I’ve seen do the same but this can work on a circular or oblong board as well.

Ingredients 

WHAT TO DO

1)Arrange your cheeses and meats on the board. I tried to create something visually pleasing by placing the cheeses at differing heights and placing the meats in between.

2)Place your extras to fill in the empty spaces

Cheese and meat board


PREMADE items

To round out this Mediterranean inspired fest I purchased some items to cut down on prep time and stress.

Pastries 

I bought a box of frozen mini pastries which came in four flavours: spinach and cheese, red bell peppers and cheese, sweet onion and cheese and mushroom and cheese…there was a lot of cheese.

Assorted savory pastries 

Dessert

All the dessert was premade. Desserts are satisfying to make but boy will they eat up your time. I purchased some Biscotti, a tasty Italian treat often eaten along with coffee. I also bought some French Creme cheese pastries which I warmed in the oven and served.

Biscotti 

Cream cheese pastries


A few more shots of the finished table

The evening was great, spent with family and friends. There was good conversation and tasty food. As I say I always recommend doing some things yourself and getting help with others when entertaining,  it makes everything a bit easier.

I hope my Mediterranean inspired Soiree gives you some ideas for your next event. Have an awesome day and Happy International Womens Day to all!

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Mushroom and Tomato Crostini

24 Aug

Hello

This quick and easy recipe is a budget friendly DIY hostess’ (or host’s) dream. These are based off of the Italian appetizer,  Crostini which is grilled bread topped with anything from cheese to vegetables.  I also considered calling them crosata , not so much because they resemble the open faced shallow tarts that go by that name but rather because I thought the word sounded cooler than crostini.

I used pita bread in this recipe from the same batch I used to make the recipe in my previous post : banana peanut butter pita. I love pita bread because it is affordable,  healthy compared to many other breads and extremely versitile.

The toppings I selected were tomatoes and mushrooms because I had them in the fridge and they happen to be some of my favorite foods.  ( hence why I had them in the fridge) Of course you add whatever topping you like.

Let us begin. 

WHAT YOU NEED (makes 6)

1) Pita bread-I got six 7cm (2.6 inch) diameter circular pieces out of 2 of the pitas.

2) Circular cookie cutter- you can attempt to cut them fee hand or use the entire pita then slice it into quarters.

3) 1 med-large Ripe tomato 

4) 3 med sized button mushrooms -you can also use canned mushrooms as they tend to be cheaper. 

5) Extra virgin olive oil 

6) Black pepper, cilantro and any other seasonings you like.

The main ingredients 




WHAT TO DO 

1) Cut the circles out from the  pita .

Cutting out circles




2) Smear on the olive oil onto the circles- this will allow the pita to get crispy.

Pita circles




3) Slice the tomatoes and  mushrooms. 

Sliced tomatoes 



Sliced mushrooms 




4) Arrange the tomatoes and mushrooms onto the pita circles and sprinkle any seasonings over the top.

Cilantro over tomato and black pepper over mushrooms 



Arranged and ready 




5) Bake at a medium heat utility the edges are crispy.

These little morsels are delicious,  the crunch of the pita a great contrast to the succulent mushrooms and tomatoes. The entire process from start to finish takes well under 1 hour and this is a super easy pain free recipe youcan throw together as an appetizer for guests or do what I did and eat them as snacks for the next couple of days. 

Enjoy and have an awesome day!

Supermarket Steal- porcini mushrooms

24 Oct

image

That’s the price of this cannister of porcini mushrooms. $14.39!

Hello all, today’s post is about a great deal I got at the supermarket on an item I probably wouldn’t usually buy because of the price.

So I was in the supermarket a few weeks ago when I walked by a small lone shelf with an array of seemingly out of place items. It was at the end of the drink aisle but there were cans of soup and boxes of ziplock bags and dryer sheets and they all had little yellow and white stickers on them with hand written prices.

I was instantly drawn in! That warm fuzzy feeling I get as I approach a well stocked SALE section in the back of a favorite clothing store set in. I slowly crept over with quiet but palpable anticipation…. I confirmed what I had suspected. These items were on sale!

Let me digress for a moment. I recently moved ,so this supermarket is new to me and I am now getting to learn it. At home, (my real, original home )the supermarket chain my family shops at has a similar practice. The items are called Red Dot Specials. There is usually a couple shelves just by the entrance where they have most of the items displayed and a few scattered throughout the rest of the store. (usually refrigerated items)

These prices on these items are slashed! Almost everything is at least half price and often even more reduced than that.

But why?
Why would a place of business sell these random items for next to nothing? Well in the food business much of your merchandise is perishable. Even “non perishable” items have a recommended shelf life. As an item nears the end of its shelf life/sell by date the store has 2 options:
1) Let their products expire and discard them.
2) Sell them off as quickly as possible to salvage some money.

The easiest way to move products is by cutting the price and drawing your attention to that fact. This is what the red dots do. All these items have a huge red (deep orange) sticker on them with a reduced price scribbled on.

My dear frugal friends, this is how you obtain those fancy gourmet items you dream of having your kitchen filled with.

My sister and mother have made this into a sport, a science even. They know the day the red dots get put on and make an effort to go to the supermarket on said day. A significant portion of our shopping happens on the “red dot” shelf.

When I open the fridge and spot some fantastic cooking sauce we heard about on Food Network but never bought (cause it was too expensive!) I just know,I don’t have to see the red dot on the label. When we have gourmet cookies or crackers to snack on I don’t need to ask how this came to be… I already know. When there is suddenly a surplus of something we usually buy sparingly like almond milk I am not baffled….the answer lies on the little sticker that says red dot.

This is not a foreign concept. Lots of, if not most supermarkets do something similar although I’m sure they have their own names for it.

In this trip to the supermarket I bought the above mentioned item: porcini mushrooms.

I have heard of them before, being an avid foodie I’ve seen many a recipe call for them. I’ve watched a chef prepare some with pasta (a dish I intend to try). I’ve always wanted to try out these porcini mushrooms. But they are pricey and half the time not even in the supermarket. But that day I was in luck!

image

$1.99! Approximately 1/7 of the original price!

This was my chance! I picked up the container, seriously considering buying two at once then deciding against it in case I didn’t actually like them.

I have tried them in only one recipe thus far, a makeshift meal of turkey sausage, tomatoes and porcini mushrooms.

To use them, the container recommends pouring boiling water on them and letting them sit to allow the flavor to seep out. They also soften.
They are useful in lots of sauces.

The aroma is enticing. It smells like some gourmet Italian kitchen making something really good. The taste is very umami. Salty,earthy ,slightly bitter and very complex.

I enjoyed my porcini mushrooms and I plan to try the pasta recipe soon.

This was possible all because these tasty morsels of fungus were on sale.

Interested in these supermarket steals?
I have a few pointers below to guide your purchases .

1) Ensure the item is really on sale: Too often we see signs saying “special” or see 3 of  the same item taped together and assume this means they are at a reduces price. Not always the case. Make sure you are really getting the bargin you’re looking for.

2) Check the expiration date. This is all relative as many items are still good for some time after their expiration or sell by date but use your judgement. Any milk containing product whose date has already passed , I pass on that. Same for things containing fruit as fruits can harbor lots of microorganisms when no longer good.

3) Inspect. Sometimes items which are damaged e.g dented cans or partly open packages are placed on sale. If you have no issue using a box of dryer sheets that might be missing a few or a bag of chips that have popped open and been exposed to the elements then that’s your call. Just make sure you know this before hand and get no unpleasant surprises.

So there you have it!

Happy (bargin) shopping and have an awesome day!

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