Citrus and Cheese: Baked Feta with Thyme-Infused Candied Kumquats

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We first discovered kumquats a few years ago, and were amazed that you could just pop the tiny, elliptical bright orange fruits into your mouth, rind and all. The unconventional citrus fruits have a tart pulp on the interior and sweet pith on the exterior. The contrasting flavors tantalize your taste buds in every bite. While often a rarity in grocery stores, we recommend you keep an eye out for them around the winter months and enjoy them whole, or as a standout in any tart, sweet syrup or puree.

For a quick and stunning hors d’oeuvre, we recommend thinly slicing the kumquats, and candying them over the stove with a touch of thyme. We then spoon the vibrant compote atop a block of baked feta cheese. The creamy, pungent, salty feta melts slightly in the oven and pairs perfectly with the super sweet kumquat topping. We spread the decorative melted cheese atop toasted sliced bread with a sprinkling of pleasantly spicy pink peppercorns.

Baked Feta with Thyme-Infused Candied Kumquats 

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Cuban Sandwich, Meet Eggroll

Baked Cubano Eggroll

Well, I hope everyone had a super fantastic holiday.  With New Years right around the bend, I decided to make a fun snack for all of you to try.  I know, I spoil you so.

So, I love a good Cuban sandwich, sometimes called a Cubano, piled high with shredded pork, ham, Swiss cheese and pickles.  I love it so much, I wrapped it in an eggroll blanket, got it all nice and toasty and ate the hell out of it.  That’s love.

Without further ado, I present you with the Baked Cubano Eggroll:

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Tiny Food Party

Scene: Cocktail party. Room full of people trying to schmooze and network with each other. Me, standing in a corner, balancing my drink on a ledge or in my arms, avoiding eye contact with everyone while trying to eat a cheesesteak to prevent the instant drunk that comes after drinking on an empty stomach. Enter: Tiny Food Party, a book that has changed every party I’ll ever host again.

Bite-size versions of large foods are the best for cocktail parties or any situation where there isn’t enough room for all guests to eat with a knife and fork, and are way more substantial than baby carrots. We’re not talking pigs in a blanket, here. But I was still apprehensive about throwing a party out of a book based on small food because: 1) I don’t like following recipes 2) I was afraid my guests would be hungry 3) I was afraid my guests would eat too much and not get drunk (frequent problem among my group) and 4) I was afraid I’d spend the entire party in the kitchen cooking.

And you know, I feel like, in general, the reason people don’t use recipes or cookbooks more is because the recipes are long and involved, and always involve a list of ingredients that either a) I do not have or b) I don’t feel like buying for one recipe. Also? The thing about entertaining is that I like to actually *enjoy* my parties and talk to my guests, instead of being stuck in the kitchen pumping out food and carefully plating things, using recipes I am unfamiliar with. I know my friends love my food, but they love my company even more. So when I was planning my own tiny food party, I did a few things that I believe are successful to any entertaining situation.

1)    Know your recipes: I used each recipe as a general guideline. Why? Because it was easier for me to make my standard potato salad than use their recipe.

2)    Know yourself: Many of the recipes had to be modified for drunk cooking, because hello, I’m not saying sober at my own party.

3)    Know your guests: I took the bacon out of everything. Sacrilege? Maybe. This book is absolutely wonderful in that everything includes bacon (from the BBQ sauce to the muffins), but I had a non-pork eater in the house. She’d never want me to modify my cooking for her, but then she just wouldn’t eat and would end up a drunk mess. Turns out she still ended up slapping my new boyfriend across the face, but whatever, at least it wasn’t my fault.

To test the real functionality of these recipes, appetizers and dinner were served without seating and with minimal utensils. The menu (the photos get worse as the night progressed, deal with it):

Tiny Apple Cider Sangria

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BEER: It’s What’s for Dinner (Numbers 3, 4, & 5)

Things are getting fast and furious in Endless Simmer’s quest to use beer in 100 different dishes. After an off-list detour for Corona cupcakes, we’re back this week and crossing three items off the agenda: beer cornbread, beer-marinated pork, and chocolate beer milkshakes!

Last week, I embarked on a beerfeast of epic proportions. My plans consisted of a four-course meal; each course cooked with beer and paired with a different beer. I got through my week mostly by dreaming up the menu: pork loin marinated in an IPA, mashed potatoes with a brown ale gravy, cornbread with a wheat beer, and milk stout milkshakes.

When the end of the week finally came around (and the drinking began) the menu got downsized a bit, quickly falling from a beerfeast to a dinner with some things made of beer, but not all the beers I wanted to make them with. The pork ended up being marinated in a brown ale, which the friend who brewed it proudly called a “piece of shit.” Mashed potatoes and gravy didn’t even happen, after I asked another drunken pal to peel potatoes and found that ending horribly wrong.

Fortunately, I made the cornbread in advance, and when I reached my peak in drunkenness later on in the night, I was still well able to whip up the milk stout shakes. And of course, while we were beginning our beveraging, we did brew an IPA. So in the end, I still had a fairly epic beer dinner, reaching a new record of three items from my beholden list.

1. The Appetizer: Wheat Berry Cornbread

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An Open Letter to Hummus (and a Recipe)

Hummus is on my mind lately, everyone.  I just thought you should know that.  It is so awesome, and it has been making daily appearances in my life.  I need a few moments to express my feelings for this super awesome food.  So bear with me as I get a little sentimental.

Oh, hummus.  I have nothing but love for you.

Shall I count the ways?

I shall.

1.       You are super versatile and can go on almost everything, from veggies to sandwiches or even used as a salad dressing.

2.       You are full of protein and make my tummy happy.

3.       There are so many flavor combinations to incorporate into you.

4.       You are made from a legume called either chickpeas or garbanzo beans, which are both on my top ten list of fun words to say out loud.

5.       Oh, I could go on forever, hummus.  But I’m hungry.  So I’m just gonna get to it.

Here’s a twofer recipe that starts with my secret to making perfect hummus: rosemary-infused olive oil:

Chunky Rosemary-Infused Hummus

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An Olive Even Olive-Haters Will Love

Personally, we love all kinds of marinated olives, from Spanish to Greek to Italian. While we always seek out olives on a tapas menu and could eat a whole bowl in one sitting, many people are turned off by the pungent taste and slippery texture. So to transform these briny orbs into something even olive-haters could enjoy, we decided to fry them and serve them with a creamy aioli.

The crispy, salty marbles maintain everything that is right about an olive, and add a little fried bready goodness to boot. These will disappear quickly, so make sure to plan ahead if serving for a crowd…

Fried Green Olives 

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Not Your Average Easter Eggs

Unless you’ve been living under a rock (or you know, aren’t an East Coast elitist food snob), you know that deviled eggs are trendy. But you couldn’t show up to Easter Brunch with just plain old deviled eggs, now could you?

No, you couldn’t. But never fear, chef Adam Carpenter of Jasper’s Corner Tap and Kitchen in San Francisco has three original recipes for deviled eggs: one that uses the season’s bounty (spring peas!), one that gets creative with a classic recipe, and one that is just right for ESers (bacon!)

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