Antipasto Advice from Mom and Great Tastes from the Texas Coast

I love it when folks reach out to me for advice about cooking and entertaining; it feeds my soul (pun intended).

It also gives me good topics for the blog and the impetus to pull together a post – from memory, experience or my own food mentors.

So, for the friend who asked for input on an antipasto tray she’s bringing to a party, here’s a special treat: advice from my Mom. She was an amazing cook and hostess and antipasto platters were a foundational appetizer for her parties.  I am so grateful for everything she taught me about entertaining and cooking.  If I’m guilty of ascribing to the “food is love” philosophy, it’s totally her fault.

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Mom and me in her kitchen at the beach / my childhood home, sometime in the mid-to-late 80s, enjoying a glass of wine together. There are so many memories locked up in those treasures all over that kitchen.

Mom has been cooking for the angels since September of 2000 and my Dad joined her in heaven this past summer, but they left me with a wonderful legacy: a cookbook they compiled of their favorite recipes, with additional entries collected from friends and family.  The Great Tastes from the Texas Coast cookbook project took place in the late 80s and was intended as give-away for clients at my Dad’s real estate office on the beach in Gilchrist, Texas. (Dad was a weekend realtor and a high-tech salesman for Motorola during the week.)

You know the kind of cookbook I’m talking about, paper-bound with a plastic binder, worn and torn, stained with use, stuffed with other recipes from family members on note cards and sticky notes that probably should have been in the cookbook (and probably would have been in the next version of Great Tastes from the Texas Coast if there was one).  Oh my gosh, I just got a great idea: that’s the name for my first cookbook, whenever I publish it.

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I didn’t realize at the time what a treasure Great Tastes from the Texas Coast would turn out to be, and now feel so blessed to have many of my parents’ recipes at my fingertips.  That’s my Mom’s drawing there on the front, too.  This bounty of family memories and codified parental cooking advice was the impetus for me to start on the Glover Gardens Cookbook (which eventually became the blog), so that our boys could have the same bounty of family recipes.

While Great Tastes from the Texas Coast is long on value through recipes and their associated memories, it is very, very short on words and and almost devoid of style (other than the cover art). Note Mom’s entry, Antipasto Ingredients, below.  No one could accuse her of being verbose or flowery.  This was serious business.

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But what Mom lacked in creative writing skills, she more than made up for in the cooking and entertaining department.  Here’s how she did the antipasto.

See the basket on the wall below, in the repeat of the kitchen picture? It was about 24 inches long, 15 inches wide and 3 inches deep, and was perfect for Mom’s antipasto treatment.  I loved that basket and think I might have inherited it, many moons ago.  It must have fallen apart, or I would still have it.  But I digress.  Mom lined that venerable old basket with plastic wrap and then covered the whole thing with overlapping red or green leaf lettuce, or both.  (Leaf lettuce is good for lining a platter, because it is easy to flatten.)

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After lining the basket, she stuffed it full with ingredients from her list, not neatly in little rows or stacks, but bunched together by type in a way that conveyed a sense of plenty and hospitality.  She was careful to distribute the colors – a pile of kalamata olives would never be next to anchovies, smoked mussels or marinated mushrooms because those colors would be too drab together.  You could almost see her artist’s mind working while she assembled, taking care to mix the textures, too:  the kalamatas would go much better next to bright red roasted and marinated peppers, which in turn would be nestled next to generous chunks of provolone with big, fat, garlic-stuffed green olives on one side and her garlicky, pink marinated shrimp on the other.  If there was a dip, it would be in a small ceramic bowl and garnished with parsley or dried herbs.  Bunches of sliced mortadella, ham and salami would be strategically placed opposite each other, perhaps next to glistening sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil, artichoke hearts or fresh, crunchy, pungent radishes.  Breadsticks might be vertical in a pretty glass or two, and whole green onions would cut a bright green horizontal swath across the top. Mom would then drizzle a bit of vinaigrette on her masterpiece where appropriate and call it done.

I wish I had a picture to share – words cannot do justice to the welcome and hospitality that Mom’s antipasto platter conveyed. However, I found a photo in the site Honestly Yum that gives me the same feeling.

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Photo from Honestly Yum’s post How to Create an Impressive Antipasti Spread

Mom left out a few of the items that I remember from her antipasto, so perhaps they came later: cornichons, grapes, halved cherry tomatoes, pepperdew peppers stuffed with bleu cheese, fresh vegetables like broccoli or cauliflower (although we are moving out of the antipasto neighborhood here and it might be controversial that French cornichons or bleu cheese would even be considered on this originally Italian spread).

If I was doing an antipasto platter, I’d probably add a couple of my go-to favorites, such as my super-easy treatment of grape tomatoes below that provides a composed, bite-sized, super-fresh yumminess.

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Antipasto Fresca (grape tomatoes with fresh mozzarella and oregano)

Or Belgian endive filled with something good.

Belgian Endive & Brie Appetizer
Belgian endive with brie, walnuts and grapes

And the picture below is from a smorgasbord night here at Glover Gardens, which on that night looked a bit like an antipasto platter, although heavy with crostini and bruschetta.  Gosh, I’m getting hungry!

Smorgasbord for Two by the Pool
Smorgasbord for Two by the Pool

And so, to my friend who requested some information about antipasto platters, I hope the advice from Mom with a little more info from me is useful for you.  Thanks for giving me a reason to spotlight Great Tastes from the Texas Gulf Coast and travel through the taste memories from Mom’s kitchen.

Copyright 2017, Glover Gardens Cookbook

Revisiting a Recipe for Fall Parties: Tuscany-Texas Goat Cheese Spread

I love it when folks make my recipes! We had a big wedding in our family late this summer and celebrated ahead of time with a shower here at Glover Gardens. The nuptial couple took on the task of making one of the appetizers, my Tuscany-Texas Goat Cheese Spread. Their version was better than mine! (I think it was the love.) I’m revisiting this recipe right now because it is perfect for fall parties.

So – a little bit about this dish. It is salty, tangy, creamy, super-garlicky and fresh, with the brightness of fresh tomatoes and herbs. As you’ll see in the original post, I’ve seen guests fight each other for the last few bites.  Really.

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In 2015, I captured and published the recipe I’d been making for years
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2017: the engaged (and now married) couple makes my recipe – so colorful!
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The Tuscany-Texas Goat Cheese Spread is a great addition to an appetizer table

In addition to being an uber crowd-pleaser, this dish is easy to make! It is perfect for cocktail parties or wine tastings.

See the original post with the recipe: Tuscany-Texas Goat Cheese Spread.

Copyright 2017, Glover Gardens Cookbook

We Learned How to Smoke Trout! Here’s the Recipe

The Fishing Trip that Keeps On Giving

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Photo from msfishingcharter.com

As I mentioned in my recent Trout Tacos post, the Grill-Meister recently went on a deep-sea fishing trip off the coast of Biloxi, Mississippi and brought home some bounty from the sea.

Today’s culinary adventure is smoking some of the trout he caught. The Grill-Meister is a wizard at smoking salmon (see Tom’s Smoked Salmon), but this is our first time to tackle trout.  After looking at some recipes online, I developed the brine recipe, marinated the fillets overnight, drained, dried and got them ready, and the Grill-Meister took over at the smoking point.

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The Grill Gazebo was the center of the action; that’s the smoker on the right

Smoked Trout

Ingredients

  • 16 oz. apple juice
  • 1 tbsp chili oil
  • 2 tbsp cider vinegar or white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup salt
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup white win
  • 2 tbsp Zippy Southwest seasoning mix, or your favorite (Old Bay is good)
  • 3 lbs. boneless trout fillets
  • Wood chips for smoking (the Grill-Meister used mesquite)

Cooking Instructions

Combine all of the ingredients except the trout in a large glass baking dish, and stir to mix. Add the fillets, pushing them down into the brine to make sure all of the fish is covered, then put a layer of plastic wrap directly on top of the brine and fish to make it almost airtight and keep the fish submerged. You may want to cover it with another layer of plastic wrap to seal it well.  Refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight.

Remove the fish from the brine and dry it on a layer of paper towels, then let it sit on a rack for about an hour to come to room temperature. Get your smoker and wood ready per the instructions from the manufacturer, and heat to 190°.  Smoke for about 2 hours, keeping the temperature at around 190°, or until done. Cover and chill until you are ready to use it.

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Just out of the smoker, these trout can be used in so many recipes

Three pounds of smoked trout is richness! How to serve it???

Smoked Trout, Plated, Al Fresco

Here’s one way: flaked, with dipping sauces fresh from our foray to the farmers market today.

Smoked Trout by the Pool

Our sauces are shown below; we love to support our local vendors.

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Our sauces for the trout came from our farmers market visit today

The spicy cocktail sauce for our smoked trout is Big Bayou Cocktail Sauce (with Jalapeño). Yum! The green sauce is from Pain Train, their special, once-a-year version with roasted Hatch chiles.

You can find these vendors at:

…and as always, any product recommendations are my personal opinion and should not be considered as advertisements; Glover Gardens is not a commercial endeavor.

Copyright 2017, Glover Gardens Cookbook

 

 

Who Wants to Cook on Friday Night? Not Me!

Who wants to cook on Friday night?  Not me!

At the end of a challenging and productive week at work, I want to be pampered at a restaurant or to have something super-easy at home.

That’s where our Family Smorgasbord comes into play.  Here’s what we had for dinner last Friday night, just the Grill-Meister and me.

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It’s a selection of cheeses from our local farmers’ market, some fresh fruit and veggie with a couple of dips we had on hand (also from the farmers’ market), sliced meats and olives.

The “Recipes”

The only “cooking” was assembly of canapés from stuff we had lying around, liberally seasoned with freshly ground pepper:

  • leftover cornbread adorned with horseradish sauce, roast beef, red onions and parsley
  • leftover cucumber slices from a salad earlier in the week, spread with harissa and topped with sliced fresh jalapeños
  • hummus packed into celery bites sprinkled with a spicy olive/garlic/bell pepper garnish (like olive salad)

Easy-peasy!

A Great Way to Spend Friday Evening

The Grill-Meister wanted red wine and I was in the mood for white, so we threw caution to the wind and opened them both (don’t judge, it was Friday).  Sipping wine and enjoying a throw-together smorgasbord meal while reviewing The Week That Was and The Weekend to Come is a great way to spend a Friday evening – who wants to spend it in the kitchen?  And of course we didn’t eat all that cheese, paving the way for another smorgasbord soon, maybe even this Friday.

What will you be doing for dinner this Friday night?

Family Smorgasbord Night – No Cooking, Just Bonding

For more about our favorite Friday night no-cook, easy-peasy approach, see the original post below.  Click here for the story, including the history of smorgasbord.

Smorgasbord at the Game Room Bar
Smorgasbord at the Game Room Bar

Copyright 2017, Glover Gardens Cookbook

Big Food for Good Times: The U-Boat Sub

The Grill-Meister owned a German deli here in our little suburb of Houston for a while, years before we met.  The relics of that adventure are “I would never want to own a restaurant again” and this marvelous sandwich, the U-Boat.  It’s a German-ish variation of an Italian sub sandwich.

The U-Boat is party food.  Big bites for people with big appetites.  Perfect for big games or big parties or just a bunch of hungry teenagers.

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The U-Boat is magnificent in its simplicity

I convinced the Grill-Meister to revisit the U-Boat recently for a Super Bowl party we were attending, and documented his every move as he made it.  Here is the recipe, just for you.

The U-Boat Sub

Ingredients (serves 4 as a main course, 8-12 as an appetizer)

  • Large loaf of soft Italian or French bread (not a baguette), sliced in half longways
  • 7 oz. thinly sliced Black Forest ham
  • 5 oz. thinly sliced garlic (German) bologna
  • 2 oz. thinly sliced hard salami
  • 6-8 slices each of provolone, American and Swiss cheese
  • 2 large, ripe tomatoes, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 head of iceberg lettuce, shredded or sliced in ribbons
  • Your favorite Italian dressing, about 1/4 cup or enough to spread across the top of the French bread
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • Large wooden picks (optional)

Cooking Instructions

Gather all ingredients and place the bread on a cutting board.  Starting with the ham, add a layer of meat, then alternate with a layer of cheese, overlapping the slices in each layer.  Then scatter a layer of red onions, followed by the tomatoes.  Add a liberal amount of freshly ground pepper, then the lettuce.  Sprinkle a generous amount of the Italian dressing on the second half of the bread, then position it atop the sandwich.  If you’re serving the U-Boat as an appetizer, use the picks to secure it in sections, about 1 1/2 inches apart.  If it is a main course, cut the U-Boat in quarters.

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Origins

Where did the name U-Boat come from?  The Original Italian U-Boat was a successful submarine sandwich restaurant in Chicago that swelled from a single location in 1975 to 32 stores in its heyday, only to file for bankruptcy and close during the recession in 1983.  Chicagoans remember it fondly, according to this article.  There isn’t a recipe for their U-Boat Sub online, although it may exist in someone’s attic.  The Grill-Meister’s U-Boat is similar to recipes for an Italian Sub, although it has a German spin with the Black Forest ham and garlic bologna.

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The Italian U-Boat restaurants closed in 1983

Copyright 2017, Glover Gardens Cookbook

Chipotle Chicken Salad

I first tasted Chipotle Chicken Salad on a multi-family road trip to the Rio Frio area of West Texas.  It was a marvelous concoction by my friend Theresa on her day to make lunch for the crowd. I never got her recipe, and she is cooking with the angels now.  I miss her every day.  But I devised my own recipe based on that taste memory, and it’s pretty darn good.  It’s also very easy, and quick. I made it recently as an appetizer for a football-watching party and aw, shucks, there was abundant praise.  This recipe is as foodie-worthy as it is appropriate for a tailgate party.  Hmmm, there’s a big game coming up…

 

Chipotle Chicken Salad

Ingredients

  • 3 cups cooked chicken, white and dark meat, skin off, roughly chopped (one regular-sized rotisserie chicken should yield about 3 cups when deboned)
  • 1/2 cup diced onion (red, white or yellow based on your preference or mood)
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped cilantro
  • 1 cup jalapeño jack or jalapeño cheddar cheese
  • 1 minced chipotle chile and 1 1/2 tbsp. of the adobo sauce (from a small can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce)
  • 1/3 cup plain greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 can of mild green chiles (4 oz.)
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. ancho chile pepper (ground)
  • bread, rolls or crackers for serving, or you can put it on a bed of mixed greens
  • pepper jelly spread (optional), if you make little slider sandwiches
  • chopped cilantro for garnishing

Cooking Instructions

Combine the chicken, onion, cilantro and cheese in a medium bowl and toss.  In a small bowl, mix the chipotle and adobo sauce, yogurt, mayonnaise, green chiles, salt and ancho chile powder, then pour over the chicken combination.  Stir well to mix, taste, and adjust seasonings if necessary.  You can also add more mayo or yogurt if the mixture is too dry.

Garnish with cilantro and serve with crackers, slider rolls or on a bed of mixed greens.  Pepper jelly is a great condiment; I like the Inferno Sauce from Just Pure Flavors, a regular at our local farmers’ market.

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I took this batch to a football playoff party and let the guests make their own sliders
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We donated the (scant) leftovers of the first batch to the gracious party hosts, and were so sad to leave it behind that I made some more for us the very next weekend

About the Ingredients

I use a rotisserie chicken for this recipe, both the white and dark meat, which provides a broader range of taste and texture than just using chicken breast.

I go back and forth between using red, white or yellow onions – they are all good for their own reasons.  Red onions are apropos in Southwest dishes, and pretty.  Yellow onions are sweet and mellow.  White onions are crunchy, sharper and more pungent.  It’s all dependent upon your onion mood.

The Greek yogurt really gives the chicken salad a tart and tangy taste, while the mayo provides a sweet creaminess.  I like using them together for the balance.  You can use nonfat yogurt and light mayonnaise without impacting the taste, in my humble opinion.

If you have never used chipotle chies, it’s easy.  Just pop open the can and use the amount you need, saving the rest for later.  For this recipe, fish out a whole chipotle pepper, then mush your measuring spoon in the adobo sauce to get the 1 1/2 tbsp. you need.

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I like McCormick’s Ancho Chile Pepper for the dried spice-it-up kick.  If you can’t find it, cayenne will do, but it won’t be as multidimensional, taste-wise.

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As the “delivery device” for serving the Chipotle Chicken Salad, I used King’s Hawaiian Rolls this time, both jalapeño and regular-flavored, and of course the jalapeño ones went first – bring on the spice!  The slider-sized sandwiches are just right for a hearty party like the football-watching event we attended.  160212-jalapeno-rolls-framed-w-pkg-300x300

Wheat Thins or water crackers are also a great delivery device, more appropriate for snacking or an appetizer for a cocktail party.

 

Copyright 2017, Glover Gardens Cookbook

 

Found Recipe: Smoked Salmon 7-Layer Dip

I’ve blogged before about the Grill-Meister’s smoked salmon.  It is amazingly good.  He makes it for all major holidays and any time we have a party; I think there would be a revolt if the smoked salmon was not on the appetizer menu at Thanksgiving and Christmas.  It is expected.  (Did I say it’s amazingly good?)

fullsizerenderMy Sister-by-Choice sent me a text last month that got me to thinking that the Grill-Meister needs to start making a double batch:  “Not that there’s ever any leftover smoked salmon that Tom makes, and it’s delicious by itself, but saw this in the Bon Appétit Thanksgiving edition magazine and thought of you.”  She attached a picture of this recipe from Bon Appétit:  Smoked Salmon 7-Layer Dip.

Yum!  I didn’t have to twist the Grill-Meister’s arm to get him to double up on the salmon, and the dip was as good as it looked.  The double batch thing will be permanent.

fullsizeoutput_321.jpegServed with Belgian endive and little toasts, this 7-layer dip is very festive and just right for a holiday or cocktail party.  Thanks for the tip, Sister-by-Choice!  What else ya got?

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Photo by Alex Lau for Bon Appetit, published online with the recipe

I published the Grill-Meister’s smoked salmon recipe and process as a gift to all cooks who have a smoker or want a reason to buy one.  Find it here:  Tom’s Smoked Salmon .