Category Archives: Appetizer

Eating Well and Sharing the Love with Mom

Gougeres_Foodie for TwoI bet you wonder what I have been up to, huh?  Well, in January I visited Phoenix and spent Super Bowl Sunday with Mom.  After spending a few days with my sister, it was Mom’s turn.  When we all arrived, we were greeted with mouth-watering smells drifting out from the kitchen.  Mom had made some Gougeres (small, delicate cheese puffs – recipe below) that were flavored with smoked Gruyere and rosemary and still hot from the oven!  We opened a bottle of Prosecco, toasted each other and sipped while we savored every bite of the gougeres.  Mom and I had already decided our menu before I came out and it wasn’t the traditional Super Bowl fare.  Instead, we planned out a fun menu with a gourmet flair:

Gougeres with Smoked Gruyere & Rosemary – Ponte Prosecco

Castelvetrano Olives

Baby Greens with Warm Brie & Apples and Toasted Bread

Grilled Chicken & Vegetable Skewers

Boston Cream Pie

The fun didn’t end there – the next evening we attended a glass making class at Circle 6 where we made heart shaped paperweights.  It was fun and scary at the same time because I was working with red-hot material (always under the protective guidance of the experts).

Circle 6_Foodie for TwoAfter collecting some molten glass on the end of an iron rod, it is moved over to the always-fired-up furnace (protective eyewear required) and continuously rolled, the rod is removed and the glob is rolled in color chips, and it is heated again.  Then you move to a seat so you can knead the glass a few times with large tweezers to mix the colors.  The glass glob is transferred to a mold, pressed down, released and transferred to a kiln to fire.  It was a blast.  Mom and I actually swapped paperweights because I liked how her colors came out better than mine.  It’s now on my desk at work as a reminder of my visit.

Now, back to our Sunday Super Bowl menu ……….

Brie, Honey & Pistachios_Foodie for TwoOur first course was an incredible salad of Baby Greens with Warm Brie & Apples (adapted from Barefoot Contessa recipe).  It’s easy to put together with brie wedges that are drizzled with honey and chopped pistachios, then heated in the oven until soft and almost oozing.  The baby greens are simply dressed with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, sea salt and pepper, and the warm cheese tops the salad.  Toasted French bread slices make for the perfect scoops and add just the right crunch.

Warm Brie Salad_Foodie for Two

Dinner was simple with chicken and vegetable (yellow bell pepper, red onion and cherub cherry tomatoes) skewers.  We marinated the chicken in a mixture of olive oil, white wine, honey, garlic, salt and pepper.  After we were done assembling the skewers, the sauce was drizzled over for extra flavor while cooking.

Chicken & Veggie Skewers_Foodie for Two

It was delicious and the perfect light finish to the meal.

Dinner_Chicken Skewers_Foodie for Two

My childhood favorite dessert is Boston Cream Pie and Mom makes the best!  In fact, it was usually my birthday cake when I was a kid.  Straight from the Betty Crocker cookbook, it is a white cake filled with homemade vanilla pudding and topped with a thick chocolate icing.  It is a treat for me because I can’t seem to make the cake at this altitude, so it’s not often that I get to enjoy it.  I wish I could dig into a piece right now!

Boston Cream Pie_Filling_Foodie for TwoHere are some action shots of Mom adding the homemade pudding to the cake (above), and covering it with chocolate goodness (below).

Boston Cream Pie_Top & Icing_Foodie for Two

Boston Cream Pie_Icing_Foodie for Two

Logo Foodie for TwoEat well and share the love!

Gougeres with Smoked Gruyere & Rosemary (print)
Adapted by Mom from Franklin
Prep Time: 10 minutes / Cook Time: 30 minutes / Total Time: 40 minutes

1 cup water
8 tablespoons butter, cut into ½-inch pieces
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 large eggs
1 ½ cups Smoked Gruyere cheese, grated
3 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, grated
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
¼ teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons freshly chopped rosemary leaves, plus 2 teaspoons for garnish

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large saucepan, bring water, butter, and salt to a rapid, rolling boil. Make sure all the butter is melted, and then add flour. Stir the mixture for 20-30 seconds, until a sticky dough ball forms and begins pulling away from the sides of the pan. Reduce heat to low-medium heat and cook, stirring, for 90 seconds. Remove from heat and set aside for 5 minutes.

Beat in eggs, one at a time, along with cheeses, seasonings and rosemary. Place heaping teaspoonfuls onto prepared baking sheets, 1 inch apart. Bake for 25-30 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through. The gougeres are done when they are a deep golden brown and puffed.

Sprinkle with chopped rosemary and serve immediately.

Olive Jar & Olive Spoon_Foodie for TwoA surprise gift from Mom – a beautiful jar filled with Castelvetrano olives and an olive spoon attached!

Fried Green Tomatoes: A Neighborhood Garden Satisfies My Craving

There is a house on our street that has a beautiful flower garden adorning the front yard every summer, and each time I pass by they bring a smile to my face.  Last weekend these neighbors had a garage sale, including selling some of their home-grown heirloom tomatoes.  We had friends in town for the long weekend, and after a drive home from another adventure we decided to stop by.  Plus, it would give me an opportunity to see the flowers up close.

A view of just half of the flower bed!

Earlier in the weekend, I was telling everyone that I had a hankering for fried green tomatoes, without a reason as to why (no, I’m not from the South).  On the table before me were fresh picked, ripe garden tomatoes and our friend Todd reminded me about my craving.  “Do you have any green tomatoes?” I asked my neighbor, Rita, and quickly added “they’re for fried green tomatoes; I’ve had a craving for them.”  With a shrug she told us to follow her in the backyard, where we could pick our own off the vine.  From the fragrant little green house, we selected the fattest tomatoes that had yet to ripen where they were clipped off and placed in our waiting hands.  Not only did I get to tell my neighbor how much I enjoyed her flowers, I was able to buy some fresh, heirloom tomatoes that were grown in my own neighborhood.  Now that’s what I call sharing the love!

I was thrilled to find Rita’s green tomatoes, and to satisfy my craving for something so unusual to find. Fried green tomatoes are just what the name suggests – thick slices of unripe tomato are breaded and fried until lightly golden, and the inside yields to the bite with a firm but slightly tart taste. To adorn each warm bite, I whipped up some Buttermilk Herb dressing; the buttermilk provides the perfect tang to match the tart tomatoes and the Fine herbs in the dressing lend an aromatic note. They are an irresistible treat, mainly because they are fried – and you all know how much I love a good fried anything every once in a while – but also because of the wholesome, fresh flavors and textures in every bite.

Here’s the breading station, and one of the textures: each bowl is seasoned (salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder and cayenne pepper) to give those layers of flavor. Before frying, the slices are dredged in egg, then flour, the egg again and finished with a cornmeal mixture – I wanted a little more crunch and texture so I added some panko. It’s optional.

A serrated knife makes slicing a breeze; each large tomato yields about 5 slices. (Thank you, Todd, for capturing the behind-the scenes shots, and for cleaning up after me!)

Little did Rita know how much joy her unripe tomatoes would bring me! I was able to cook for and share something new with our friends, Todd and Marcia (thanks for being my willing taste testers!), and you get a new recipe.  It doesn’t get much better than that.

Perhaps only if Rita reads my blog post about her tomatoes……I left a business card with her and suggested she look up my blog today. Cheers!

Eat well and share the love!

Fried Green Tomatoes & Buttermilk Herb Dressing (print recipe)
Recipe: Melissa Schenker/Foodie for Two
Serves two foodies

2 to 3 large green, unripe tomatoes – cut into ½ inch thick slices
¾ cup canola oil

2 eggs
1 tablespoon water
½ cup flour½ cup cornmeal
¼ cup panko
Breading Spices (add to each bowl)

¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon onion powder
Buttermilk Herb Dressing (makes about ½ cup, use any leftovers to dress a small salad)

1/3 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons milk
½ teaspoon apple cider vinegar
¾ teaspoon dried Fine herbs
Pinch of salt
1/8 teaspoon of fresh ground pepper (medium grind)
Pinch of garlic powder
Pinch of onion powder

Sea salt or kosher salt
Chopped chives
Fresh ground pepper

Fry the tomatoes: Cut the tomatoes into ½ inch thick slices – one large tomato yields 5 to 6 slices, cut away the stem from the top slice and fry the odd pieces too.

Add the oil to a 10-inch cast iron skillet (or medium skillet with high sides) and turn heat to medium-high. Heat oil until the surface starts to ripple; it should be hot so the tomatoes cook quickly. (Do not leave oil unattended.)

While the oil is heating, assemble the 3 breading bowls (need shallow, wide bowls).
Bowl 1: add the eggs, 1 tablespoon water and the breading spices; whisk well with a fork.
Bowl 2: add the flour and breading spices and mix together with a fork. 
Bowl 3: add the cornmeal, panko and breading spices; mix together with a fork.

To bread a tomato slice, coat both sides of tomato in egg mixture and transfer to flour bowl. Lightly dust both sides with flour, shake off excess and return to egg mixture. Quickly coat both sides with egg again and place in cornmeal bowl. Coat both sides well with cornmeal and shake off any extra. Place on a plate and continue breading the remaining slices.

Line a plate with a few paper towels and place near skillet. When oil is hot, gently add 3 breaded tomato slices to the skillet. Let cook until lightly golden brown and gently turn over using a spider or tongs (always in the direction away from you to avoid splatters), cook until lightly golden brown. With a spider or slotted spoon, remove the slices from the oil and transfer to plate to drain; season with sea salt while fried green tomatoes are hot. Repeat for remaining slices. Serve hot; garnish with chopped chives, a bit of fresh ground pepper and serve with Buttermilk Herb Dressing.

Buttermilk Herb Dressing:  Add all ingredients to a medium bowl and whisk until well combined. OR add all ingredients to a small jelly jar, replace the lid and shake well.

Happy Anniversary, Todd & Marcia!
What a fantastic meal at Firenze a Tavola  – in the Highlands neighborhood (Denver).

Cantaloupe & Cambozola Cheese: Inspiration from a Supper Club

Have you ever heard of a pop-up dinner, underground dinner or supper club?   Denver has several – they are invitation-only dinners organized by local chefs who want to share the love and showcase some of their culinary skills. Earlier this month we were lucky enough to get picked for a Noble Swine Supper Club dinner.  It was our second dinner with the friendly crew (and the second time I forgot my camera!) who create and serve a culinary feast for about 30 people.  Today I was inspired to recreate a simple but flavorful course from their dinner menu: musk melon (from the Boulder Farmer’s Market) dotted with French blue cheese, and paired with an Italian Moscato.  I used a regular cantaloupe and one of my favorite blue’s, Cambozola (more on this cheese in a bit). This dish is simply prepared with cubed, market-fresh cantaloupe and a strong, creamy blue, finished off with fresh-cracked pepper, fresh thyme leaves and a bit of extra virgin olive oil.  The sweet, juicy melon is a wonderful contrast against the creamy, rich Cambozola cheese and the pepper adds an unexpected brightness.  With the Moscato, it was the perfect end to the meal!

More about the supper club: The Noble Swine team changes location for each dinner, where one long table is set up, nametags organize the seating and guests get to enjoy a meticulously prepared 5 to 6-course meal paired with several different wines.  This is an intimate dinner experience with locally sourced food that is prepared to perfection, superb wines and people who enjoy eating food as much as I do!  The August 6th venue was hosted by generous dinner guests who opened their home so they along with 25-plus other people could dine on the balcony of their downtown Denver apartment. Before dinner, we enjoyed a cocktail on the rooftop patio/garden with sweeping views of the city and Front Range. It was a fabulous evening! 

Now back to the cheese that I used with the cantaloupe: Cambozola cheese. A recent Costco discovery, this cheese has become our favorite choice for a blue. It’s a triple cream soft cheese combined with Italian gorgonzola that delivers with tons of creamy flavor and a slight tang, which is why I like this style so much; the creaminess mellows out some of the pungent blue cheese flavor. It’s best eaten at room temperature and wonderful on fresh bread or crackers, or with cantaloupe.
Cheers to new food experiences and supper clubs!

Eat well and share the love!

Sweet Boy Murphy with Auntie Dawne, visiting from Tucson

Fresh Corn & Ripe Peaches = Two Tasty Starters

Two highly anticipated crops are finally available from the local Colorado farmers – sweet corn on the cob from Olathe and juicy, super sweet peaches from Palisade. Sure, you can enjoy both the traditional way – the corn grilled or boiled and slathered with butter, and the peach halved and eaten over the sink so the sun-ripened, sweet juices can run down your chin. But my quest here was to create something different that still made your taste buds zing. How about some Peach Daiquiris to enjoy with a delicious Corn, Jalapeno & Queso Fresco Cheese spread? The Daiquiri is super simple to make with the usual suspects: ice, fruit, sugar and rum – I like the flavor of dark rum but light works just as well. And the cheese spread offers up something refreshing and different with grilled fresh corn, buttery queso fresco cheese and spicy jalapeño.

For those who haven’t tasted queso fresco cheese, it is like the Mexican version of ricotta but with a creamy, salty tang. Made from cow’s milk, it is typically used to finish soups, tacos or enchiladas and is one of my favorite cheeses. Serve the Corn & Queso Fresco Cheese Spread with grilled bread slices, or grilled tortillas (cut into wedges after grilled) or your favorite tortillas chips.

So there you have it, two easy ways to enjoy fresh corn and peaches!
Eat well and share the love!

Peach Daiquiris with Grilled Corn, Jalapeño & Queso Fresco Cheese Spread (print recipe)
Recipe: Melissa Schenker/Foodie for Two
Prep Time: 15 minutes

Peach Daiquiris – makes about 5 cups, about 4 cocktails
5 to 6 cups ice
5 small, or 3 large peaches, pits removed and cut into quarters
1 to 2 tablespoons sugar
6 oz. (about ¾ cup) dark rum (or light rum)
Garnish: Peach slices on a skewer or toothpick

To the blender, add 3 cups of ice and finely chop. If your blender has an “ice” setting, use it to finely chop the ice.

Add the chopped peaches, 1 tablespoon of sugar, rum and 2 cups of ice. Using the “chop” or “puree” setting, blend until the ice is well chopped and ingredients are well incorporated. Taste and if needed, add more sugar or more ice if mixture is too thin.

Daiquiri’s can be made 1 to 2 hours ahead of time; keep daiquiri mixture cold in the refrigerator or freezer and re-blend before serving.  
Serve with a garnish of peach slices on a skewer or toothpick.

Grilled Corn, Jalapeño & Queso Fresco Cheese Spread – makes about 1 cup
1 corn on the cob (or if out of season, ½ cup frozen corn – defrosted)
Olive oil or vegetable oil
4 oz. queso fresco cheese (either regular or Ranchero style)
2 to 4 tablespoons milk or half & half
1 tablespoon finely diced jalapeño
Pinch of salt of pepper
Grilled bread slices, or grilled tortillas wedges or tortilla chips
2 to 3 thin slices of jalapeño
¼ teaspoon corn kernels
2 teaspoons thinly sliced green onions
Sea salt
Fresh ground pepper

Heat grill to medium. Remove the husk and silk from the corn, brush the cob with olive oil (or vegetable oil) and lightly season with salt and pepper. Place the corn cob directly on the grill and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, turning corn often, until corn has slightly softened and grill marks appear. Remove from grill and let cool. When cool, remove kernels from cob: place cob lengthwise on cutting board and using a long knife, slice kernels off one side, turn cob 90 degrees and continue.

In a medium bowl, add the cheese and break up with a fork. Add 2 tablespoon milk and mix well until cheese is smooth and mostly lump-free; add more milk if too thick. Add the corn kernels, jalapeño and pinch of salt and pepper and mix well. Garnish with a few slices of jalapeño, some corn kernels, sliced green onions and some sea salt and fresh ground pepper.

Serve with your choice of grilled or toasted bread slices, grilled tortilla wedges or your favorite tortilla chips.

A Chilled Soup To Beat The Heat: Gazpacho

Here is another inspiration from our cruise a few weeks ago: Gazpacho, a delicious chilled soup that is refreshing and requires no cooking! Even at our 7,500 foot elevation, we have seen temperatures in the 90’s and the daytime temperature inside the house has reached 85 degrees! We don’t have air-conditioning so as soon as the sun wanes we open all our doors and windows to capture some of the cool air. This is the perfect recipe to help cool things off. Gazpacho hails from Spain and is made with uncooked tomatoes, cucumber, sweet onion, bell pepper, garlic and cilantro. Tomatoes are the star ingredient, a great use for the delicious summer bounty from your garden or farmer’s market. Out of season, my favorite go-to is the vine-ripened variety. This is a super easy recipe that can be made with many variations: for example, if you don’t have cherry tomatoes add some of your favorite Bloody Mary mix!

I like my gazpacho more pureed and smooth rather than chunky, and then I add a chopped vegetable garnish at the end for a little crunch.  And I like to peel the cucumbers because they make the soup darker, which you can see from the photo because I forgot to do that!  The garnish has scallions, radishes, habanero and mint, which adds a bright, fresh flavor. The soup also tastes better if made one or two days ahead of time because it allows the flavors to develop and mingle. Another delicious idea: serve the gazpacho in a shot glass for a mini appetizer – top it with some vegetable garnish and add some chopped, cooked shrimp or some diced avocado to finish it off.

If you want to go for a snazzy presentation to impress your honey (or guests), transfer the soup to a fancy pitcher, add one tablespoon of the garnish to the bottom of each cup or bowl and pour the gazpacho table-side.  You’ll look like a pro!

Eat well and share the love!

Gazpacho (print recipe)
Recipe: Melissa Schenker/Foodie for Two
Prep Time: 10 minutes; Refrigerate: 4 to 24 hours / Total cooking time: 24 hours
Makes about 2 cups

10 medium vine-ripened tomatoes (Campari), or 3 large, good quality tomatoes
1 cup cherry tomatoes (about 15)
½ cucumber, peeled and chopped
¼ cup chopped sweet onion
3 baby bell peppers (or ½ of one red, yellow or orange bell pepper), seeds removed and chopped
½ small garlic clove
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
1/8 teaspoon lime zest
½ cup cilantro leaves and stems
½ teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
¾ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon fresh cracked pepper
2 tablespoons finely chopped scallion (about ¾ of a scallion)
1 radish, grated
1/8 to ¼ teaspoon finely diced habanero or jalapeno
3 tablespoons finely diced cucumber (peeled)
1 tablespoon mint, finely chopped
Pinch of salt and fresh cracked pepper
½ teaspoon extra virgin olive oil (plus extra for drizzle)

Soup: Cut the tomatoes (except the cherry tomatoes) in half and remove the seeds and pulp with a spoon; discard seeds and pulp. Chop the tomatoes into large pieces.

Add all the soup ingredients to a food processor or blender and blend until smooth and finely chopped, about 1 minute.  If you like your soup more chunky, blend for less time.

Transfer soup to a bowl or large measuring cup and chill for at least 4 hours, or overnight. 
Gazpacho is best the next day; if possible make one day ahead to let the flavors develop fully.

Garnish: Add the scallions, radishes, habanero, cucumber, mint, salt, pepper and olive oil to a small bowl and mix well.

Assemble: Serve soup cold – In a small coffee cup or bowl add about 3/4 cup of soup, top with 1 tablespoon of garnish mixture and a small drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. 

A photo memory from the cruise a few weeks ago…..After the zipline in Jamaica, in Chakka Park and enjoying authentic Jerk chicken for lunch.  The male peacock, with his wings spread, tried his best to get the female’s attention while we watched from the picnic bench.