roasted pepper and goat cheese involtini


plate of rolls

This is one app that didn’t make the Thanksgiving menu due to lack of hours in a day, so it got relegated to the Saturday after, when we had friends over.  I had roasted the peppers the day before Thanksgiving, but didn’t have the time on the big day to assemble them.  Plus, I forgot that my in-laws were bringing an antipasto platter, so I didn’t want to duplicate pepper efforts.  Once made, they came out just like I had seen on the Secrets of a Restaurant Chef, but I admit, they were a bit teensy labor intensive for such a little appetizer.  Could I have bought store-bought peppers?  Yes, but whatever.  I was committed once I started the process of  roasting, seeding and slicing the peppers.  After that, the rolling is easy.  Plus, you don’t know the sizes you are going to get from the store-bought jars and you don’t get the yellow color either (none that I have seen in jars anyway).  I also wanted to try this type of paprika.  I have Hungarian hot, as well as standard paprika, and found this one is smoky good.  I liked this appetizer, but my husband not so much…then again he’s not a big fan of paprika…I thought I could convert him.  Apparently not.

roasted red and yellow pepper goat cheese involtini (from Secrets of a Restaurant Chef)

2  red peppers
2  yellow peppers
1  8 oz. log of goat cheese, room temperature
1  TB crushed red pepper
1  TB pimentón (smoked spanish paprika)
kosher salt
2  TB fresh chives, chopped

roasted peppers

get started on the peppers:

Preheat broiler, grill or gas cooktop.  I chose the broiler, so place peppers on a sheet tray and into the oven and cook them until they are black on all sides.  Continually turn the peppers with tongs to make sure all sides are charred.  Place roasted peppers in a glass bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap.  Let them sit until cool.  Using your fingers, peel away all the pepper skins and gently remove the stem and the seeds.  Try not to tear the pepper.  Lay the pepper flat and slice into one inch sections.  This can be done one day ahead.  (ok, in my case – three days ahead).

cleaned peppers

Once you are ready to assemble the peppers, set out the goat cheese, kosher salt, crushed red pepper and pimentón.

sliced peppersseasoning

Place about one teaspoon of goat cheese at the end of a pepper strip.  Season the goat cheese with a pinch of salt, crushed red pepper and the pimentón.  Your hands will get messy.  Roll up the pepper around the goat cheese, and garnish with chopped chives.

goat cheese on strip20121124_152605

note:  this serves about 6-8 people.  I also took the roll, and dipped it into the chives to make sure they adhered better than if I had just sprinkled the chives on.

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cucumber, mustard and dill salad


Thanksgiving 2012 came and went.  It amazes me how quickly the meal can be eaten.  All the time spent preparing for the big day – one day devoted to what recipes to try, and what ones to remove from the menu because they weren’t a hit.  One day pulling together the shopping list, dividing perishables from non-perishables for easier navigation through the mayhem that is the grocery store.  And four days of shopping and cooking as if all of New Jersey was coming to my house for dinner.  I have hosted for the past 10 years, ever since my fist child was born, bringing both sides of the family to my house.  Over the years I have tried three different turkey stuffings trying to find my own, broken potato ricers, forgotten pre-prepared dishes in the garage fridge and learned to brine a turkey.  It’s always an adventure hosting a crowd ranging from 10-15 every year but I thrive on it.  This dish is an ode to my dad’s mother who made this with cucumbers, onions and vinegar.  My mom took to making that dish herself and I continue to make that version as well.  This one is a little more dressed up I like to think, and it kicks off my Thanksgiving meal prep.  Plus it gives me an excuse to buy dill which I never do any other time of the year.  I feel a sense of accomplishment getting this one easy dish out of the way, before tackling the rest of the groceries….way too many groceries…just look at all of them.  I need a drink.

cucumber, mustard and dill salad (adapted from Gourmet Magazine)

4  tsp white wine vinegar
2  tsp Dijon mustard
1/2  tsp salt, or to taste
1  tsp sugar
2  TB olive oil
1  large seedless cucumber (usually comes plastic wrapped), peeled, halved and seeded
2  TB fresh dill, chopped

get started on the cucumber salad:

Peel cucumber and halve lengthwise.  Using a teaspoon, scrape down the center to remove the seeds.  Using a mandolin (or sliced manually), slice cucumbers in 3/16″ thick slices.  Whisk together vinegar, mustard, salt and sugar in a bowl, and then add oil in a slow stream, whisking until combined.  Add cucumbers to the vinaigrette, tossing to coat.

note:  I felt 1/8″ slices were too thin and 1/4″ slices were too chunky, hence the kooky 3/16″ thickness….go with what you like.  Oh and adding crushed red pepper is always welcome!

mississippi mud cake


One of my fondest memories of college was getting care packages.  I mean the climbing trees to get into bars thing was cool too, but that’s a different post.  I am talking about that time when you are sitting on the floor in your tiny dorm room, and you cut open that brown paper wrapped package with your address written in Sharpie marker, to reveal whatever goodies are packed inside.  On several occasions, my grandfather sent me a care package of his delicious brownies.  These were not just any brownies.  Take your best brownie, and then top it with 1 solid inch of chocolate fudge with walnuts.  These brownies were so insanely good, and highly sought after by fellow dorm-mates when news of the dessert delivery spread down the hall.  I could blame the occasional delivery for my freshman fifteen, but I think that was more the Dr. Pepper, Oreos and daily microwaved helping of nachos.
I mentioned in another post that I am not the best baker in the world.  That would probably be the main reason for me not trying to duplicate my grandfather’s brownies.  I would hate to ruin the memory of them.  But after trolling through a holiday issue of Southern Living, I saw the pictures of this Mississippi Mud Cake and the fudge-like layer on the top, and it immediately sent me back to my grandfather’s brownies.  It had three components, a brownie cake, marshmallows and chocolate frosting.  I decided to give it a shot.  They were awesome.  I say were because of the speed in which I kept eating them.  Mid-life fifteen here I come!

chopped pecans

mississippi mud cake (from Southern Living August 2007)

1  cup chopped pecans
1  cup butter
1  4oz. semisweet chocolate baking bar, chopped
2  cups sugar
1 1/2  cups flour
1/2  cup unsweetened cocoa
3/4  tsp. salt
4  large eggs
1  tsp. vanilla extract
1  10 oz bag miniature marshmallows
Chocolate frosting (recipe follows)

get started on the cake:

Preheat the oven to 350.  Bake pecans in a single layer in a shallow pan 8-10 minutes until toasted and fragrant.  Microwave butter and chocolate in a large microwave-safe glass bowl at high for 1 minute or until melted and smooth, stirring every 30 seconds.

chocolate

sifting

In a large bowl, sift sugar, flour, cocoa and salt together.  Whisk eggs and vanilla together and add to dry ingredients.  Pour melted chocolate and butter mixture into large bowl with cocoa mixture and stir to combine.  Pour batter into a greased 15 x 10 x 1 inch dish or pan.  Bake at 350 for 20 minutes.  Remove from oven and sprinkle with marshmallows.  Bake 8-10 minutes more until marshmallows are golden brown.  Drizzle warm cake with Chocolate Frosting and sprinkle with toasted pecans.

marshmallowsgolden marshmallows

chocolate frosting

1/2  cup butter
1/3  cup unsweetened cocoa
1/3  cup milk
1  16 oz. package powdered sugar
1  tsp. vanilla extract

get started on chocolate frosting:

Stir together first 3 ingredients in a medium saucepan over medium heat until butter is melted.  Cook, stirring constantly, 2 minutes or until slightly thickened.  Remove from heat and beat in powdered sugar and vanilla extract at medium-high speed with an electric mixer until smooth.

mixing in powdered sugarchocolate frosting

note:  Recipe says this makes 15 servings but depending on how you cut it, this could serve 4 nicely – kidding.