Monday, April 25, 2011

Meatless Bites: Three Open Faced Sandwiches to Savor or Share & the First Morels

I come from a family that some people might call high maintenance.  Both my immediate and extended families are very close and gather together often. The vast majority of the times we meet up, the day is at least partly centered on food.  I'm especially lucky because I come from a family of talented and creative cooks.  While there are certain dishes that are brought again and again to great anticipation (like my Aunt Donna's sausage tortellini soup) we enjoy taking gatherings as an opportunity to try new recipes and swap ideas.
Last fall, I remember my mother inviting us to yet another get together, to which I replied with a groan, complaining that I just wanted a weekend alone to myself for once.  She told me to quit complaining and remember that pretty soon we'd all be holed up in our houses, stuck inside and alone whether we liked it or not.  She was right.
Spring is here, the weather is warming, and we're starting to gather around food again.  With this post, I hope to encourage you to try some meatless dishes along to your next group event, and not just sides.
Today, I'm sharing three quick combinations for sandwiches or crostini that are sweet and savory, and great for a lunch at home but impressive enough for a gathering of friends.
Fresh Mozzarella Salad with Roasted Red Peppers
Ricotta with Almonds, Strawberry and Honey, 
and Quark Cheese with Peach Habanero Jam

I started with whole grain ciabatta rolls, but this will work with baguettes or any other crusty bread.  I toasted it in the oven, but it'd be excellent with grilled bread.
Fresh Mozzarella Salad with Roasted Red Peppers
I saw those little mozzarella pearls in the grocery store and just couldn't resist, so I decided to make a quick salad with them and stack that on the toasts with some freshly roasted red peppers.  Roasting peppers is fast and easy and they have tons of flavor.  
DSC01503I don't have a gas stove so I can't do this directly over the flame, so I just heat my oven up as high as it'll go (500) and roast my pepper on a sheet pan.  The skin will blister and blacken all over once it's ready, making the flesh inside soft and sweet.
Once the pepper is cooked, put it in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap or tin foil until it's cool enough to touch.  This will help the skin steam off and it'll be very easy to peel.
DSC01512While the pepper was cooling, I made a quick mozzarella salad with good balsamic vinegar and olive oil (2-3 tbsp. each) thinly sliced garlic and fresh chives from the yard, and a good dose of salt and black pepper.  Use whatever fresh herbs you have around, especially basil.
DSC01507Mix it all up and let it sit for a few minutes.  It's really best served at room temperature after it's had some time for all the flavors to mix together.
Ricotta with Almonds, Strawberry and Honey
I saw something like this in Everyday Food recently and loved the idea of combining rich ricotta with fresh fruit, nuts, and honey.  I decided to use strawberries (no they're not local, for shame.) and almonds. I went with whole milk ricotta, but you can always make your own.  Be sure to toast whatever nuts you use in a dry pan to bring out their flavor. 
These ingredients assembled tasted almost like strawberry cheesecake.  Delicious, but certainly not too sweet.

DSC01519Finally, my old standby
Quark Cheese with Peach Habanero Jam
Barb's Pantry is a local business that makes all kinds of unusual jams and jellies.  They have a few flavors that combine sweet and hot, and we finally decided to try her Fuzzy Inferno, made with peaches and habanero.  The peach flavor is definitely there, but it's also very hot.  If somebody in your family loves spicy food, they're going to like this jam.  I can imagine it'd be an excellent glaze for pork or chicken, too.
We combined it with my favorite quick cheese, quark, this one being from the local Milton Creamery.  The tart creamy cheese balances out the heat and is a nice savory complement to the jam.
DSC01522Each close up:


DSC01533These came together in minutes and were easy to share for a mix and match dinner.  I think they'd be a hit at your next party.CroppedFinally, while I normally try to get this post up before I head to work for the day, I'm thankful I didn't today because we stumbled upon a pretty exciting surprise this afternoon:

It wasn't much, but it got us more than excited for the start of the season.  These guys, along with hearing the baby's heartbeat and homemade pizza for dinner, have made for one excellent Monday.  
Happy Spring!

1 comment:

chie - vivat veritas said...

they all look so delicious!

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