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

Tom’s Spicy Tomato Juice

In addition to his many BBQ accomplishments, the Grill-Meister makes a marvelous homemade tomato juice.  When we started growing tomatoes at Glover Gardens, he found a recipe online and then honed it over several summers, tweaking the spices, amounts and fresh peppers.  Here it is, hopefully in time for your summer tomato crop, or, if you don’t have a garden, those deep red beauties you’ll find at your local farmers’ market.

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This amped-up tomato juice doesn’t need anything but vodka and a squeeze of lime to make a perfect Bloody Mary. On the other hand, it’s so good, you don’t really need the vodka!

Ingredients

  • 4 lbs fresh tomatoes
  • 2 jalapeno peppers
  • 1 serrano, cayenne or fresno pepper
  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 2-4 cloves of garlic (you guessed it, we use 4)
  • 1 TBSP kosher or sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp white pepper
  • 1/2 c water
  • freshly ground black pepper (optional)
  • celery stalks (optional)

Cooking Instructions

Blanch tomatoes and remove skin and core (see pictures below for how-to instructions); cut into large chunks. Dice peppers and onion; mince garlic. Combine all ingredients in large pot; simmer for 30 minutes. Allow mixture to cool for 15-20 minutes; puree in blender. Use medium sieve strainer to remove pulp from tomato juice (reserve the pulp to use as base for soup, salsa, guacamole, etc.) Cool in refrigerator for minimum of 3 hours. Serve chilled, garnishing with black pepper and a stalk of celery.

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Fresh ingredients make for a fresh, robust-tasting juice
Tomatoes on Scale
Start with 4 lbs of the juiciest tomatoes you can find
Tomato Blanched for Easy Peeling
Remove each tomato as soon as the peel splits
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You can see how the peels have separated from the flesh
Peeling is Easy
The peels slip right off
Core While in a Bowl
Core the tomatoes while in the bowl so you don’t lose a drop of that wonderful juice
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The vegetables are roughly chopped for cooking
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This is what the cooked mixture looks like
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The Ninja blender purees in about 10 seconds
Tom's Tomato Juice is Thick and Spicy
Tom’s Spicy Tomato Juice is thick and slightly chunky, almost like gazpacho (yum!) 

Copyright 2017, Glover Gardens Cookbook

Lemony and Super-Quick Avocado, Tomato and Cucumber Salad

 

Sometimes, you just need a quick salad, something that’s bright and fresh but still lets the main course be the star of the meal.

This happens a lot on Sandwich Wednesday, the night when the Glover Gardens Grill-Meister becomes the Panini-Maker.  I highly recommend Sandwich Wednesday for every household; it makes the mid-week dinner something to look forward to.  Read all about our Sandwich Wednesday, including the appliance and cookbooks that power it.

I was motivated to make this salad because when I arrived home on a recent Wednesday, the Grill-Meister had all of the ingredients ready for a wonderful Steak and Bacon Panini (recipe later, I promise) and I was in the mood to play a supporting role in the kitchen.  Thus, the super-quick, lemony goodness that follows.  The recipe serves 8, and I usually half it because we are a small household – and getting smaller with the youngest heading to college next month.

Ingredients

Salad

  • 1 medium cucumber, sliced (peel a few strips with a peeler to make it pretty if you like)
  • 1 medium ripe tomato, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup red onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 large ripe avocado or two small ones, roughly chopped

Dressing

  • Juice of two small lemons (about 1/4 cup)
  • 2 tbsp good quality olive oil
  • 1 tbsp chopped basil or other fresh herb of your choice (oregano, mint, parsley, cilantro), or 1 tsp. dried basil or other herb
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Cooking Instructions

Combine all of the salad ingredients in a medium bowl.  In a small bowl, combine the dressing ingredients and whisk with a fork.  Pour over the salad and stir gently, being careful not to mash the avocado.  Transfer to a serving bowl and serve immediately.


The Grill-Meister was very complimentary about this salad.  “There’s something about the rich combination of the avocado and the olive oil, balanced by the tartness of the lemon…”  And I agree with him, there’s definitely something about this combination.  It’s really important to use high-quality olive oil for any fresh salad dressing – it has a huge impact on the flavor.  I like to buy local and get my artisan olive oil for all our favorite dishes from Olivero Farms at our local farmer’s market.  

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The salad before the dressing is poured on; this is a half recipe for our small household
Avocado Salad
It looks beautiful in a white serving dish
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The perfect poolside accompaniment to the Grill-Meister’s Steak and Bacon Paninis

Glover Gardens Salsa

Published in 1994, this cookbook still rocks.
Published in 1994, this cookbook still rocks.  Find her recipes online.

I might be a Condiment-aholic.  I love-love-love condiments. Especially those with southwest flavors.  One of the simplest, oldest and best of the southwest condiments is salsa. I found a wonderful fresh salsa recipe years ago in a cookbook called Jane Butel’s Southwestern Kitchen, her Garden Fresh Salsa (click here).  Over the years, I added a little of this and subtracted a little of that, and pretty soon it was my own recipe.

The pepper harvest during the summer is bright and colorful and SPICY.
The pepper harvest during the summer is bright and colorful and SPICY.

I love to make it in the summer when the garden is overflowing with peppers.

Salsa goes with just about everything!

Here are some of the ways you can use this salsa, in addition to the comfort-food snack of tortilla chips and salsa:

  • As a quick sauce for a flat-iron steak
  • On grilled meats, grilled fish or grilled vegetables
  • Mixed with olive oil and Zippy Southwest (or your favorite spice mix) to make a marinade
  • Mixed with cream cheese for a quick spread
  • Poured over a goat cheese log for an easy but elegant appetizer
  • Atop poached eggs, toast and bacon for a variation of Eggs Benedict
  • As a dollop on top of hot tomato soup
  • Added to ground beef before you shape it into burgers
  • As a spread for a southwestern turkey panini or in a grilled cheese sandwich
  • And the obvious – as a required condiment for all sorts of yummy Tex-Mex or Mex-Mex dishes, like quesadillas, tacos, burritos, taquitos, etc.
This garden-fresh salsa has beautiful colors and a bold spicy taste

There’s a long list of ingredients in this recipe, but this salsa comes together quickly.

Ingredients
1 bunch of cilantro, washed, ends removed
Leaves from 4-5 sprigs of fresh oregano
Leaves from 1 bunch fresh basil (10-15 leaves)
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
2 whole pickled jalapenos or 2 tbsp sliced pickled jalapenos (choose your desired level of heat)
2-6 fresh chile peppers, seeded and roughly chopped
1 bell pepper, any color, roughly chopped
½ Spanish onion, roughly chopped
28-ounce can of diced tomatoes, drained (reserve the juice)
2 tbsp fresh lime juice
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp of honey
2 tsp of coarse sea salt
¼ tsp cumin
1 cup of fresh cherry or grape tomatoes, roughly chopped

Cooking Instructions
Assemble cilantro, oregano, basil, garlic and pickled jalapenos in the food processor and pulse until the mixture is finely chopped.

Add the chile peppers, bell pepper and onion and pulse 8-10 times until the additional ingredients are about a medium dice. Add drained tomatoes and pulse about 4 times.

Add lime juice, vinegar, honey, salt, cumin and ½ cup of the reserved juice from the canned tomatoes, then pulse several times. Pour into a medium bowl and then add the chopped fresh tomatoes.

Stir, taste and adjust seasonings, adding more of the reserved juice from the tomatoes if you’d like the consistency to be thinner.

Makes about 5 cups, but doesn’t last long!

Herbs, garlic and pickled jalapeños are processed first.
Herbs, garlic and pickled jalapeños are processed first.
Peppers and onions are added next.
Peppers and onions are added next.
This is how it looks after the peppers and onions are added.
This is how it looks after the peppers and onions are added.
The fresh tomatoes are added at the end.
The fresh tomatoes are added at the end.
The result is a yummy, spicy salsa that can be enjoyed right away.
The result is a yummy, spicy salsa that can be enjoyed right away.

You can play with this salsa in all kinds of ways.  Substitute cider vinegar for more of an acidic kick, or double the lime juice and leave out the vinegar altogether for a super-fresh citrus taste. Adding a chipotle pepper instead of the pickled jalapeños will give the salsa a sultry smokiness. Leave in the seeds and ribs of the peppers  if you want to increase the heat, or toss in a pinch or two of red pepper flakes at the end.  

You can serve the salsa immediately, but it’s amazing if you let it rest in the refrigerator for an hour or two and the let it come to room temperature before serving.

Copyright 2015, Glover Gardens Cookbook

Tuscany-Texas Goat Cheese Spread

I like to browse in libraries and stumbled on a very old Italian cookbook years ago that didn’t have any pictures, but enticed me with stories of how each recipe would  fit into the typical Italian family’s day.  One of the them was simply goat cheese slices topped with olive oil that had been flavored with fresh oregano and garlic, and it would be available in the kitchen in the late afternoon for grazing while dinner was being prepared.  Yum!  I played with the recipe over the next few years and this is my kicked-up version.

I’ve actually seen guests compete for the last bite.  It’s that good.

Tuscany-Texas Goat Cheese Spread is great on water crackers in any season
Tuscany-Texas Goat Cheese Spread is a burst of fresh flavors atop salty, creamy goat cheese

Ingredients
1 8 oz. log of goat cheese
1 tbsp. capers
1 2.25 oz. can sliced black olives, drained
2 green onions, thinly sliced
8-10 grape tomatoes, quartered
4 oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, cut longways in narrow slivers
1 tbsp oregano, chopped, plus 1-2 sprigs of whole leaves
1/2 cup olive oil, plus more for drizzling
4 cloves of garlic, minced
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Cooking Instructions
At least an hour before serving, add the garlic and chopped oregano to the olive oil and let it sit at room temperature. Slice the goat cheese into 1/4 inch disks (click here for the best technique for slicing goat cheese) and arrange in a small serving platter or plate with a rim. Sprinkle the sun-dried tomatoes, capers, olives, green onions and grape tomatoes evenly over the goat cheese. Drizzle the olive oil mixture over the platter and garnish with the whole oregano leaves. Season liberally with freshly ground pepper and a little salt. Add more olive oil if desired. Serve with crackers or bread.


With its appealing colors and burst of Mediterranean flavors balanced by the tangy saltiness of the cheese, this dish is one of my family’s favorites. I serve it as an appetizer and it usually doesn’t even make it to the dining room. It is also a big hit at parties and can be made ahead and refrigerated; be sure to bring it to room temperature before serving. While leftovers are rare, they are terrific in a Sunday morning omelette.

Copyright 2015, Glover Gardens Cookbook

Pico de Gallo Makes Super-Quick Guacamole

I recently posted my Pico de Gallo recipe and promised it can be used in many other dishes.  Here’s a super-quick one that I make all the time, usually the day after I first make the Pico (if there is any left over).

Just a few ingredients turn Pico de Gallo into a simple guacamole.
Just a few ingredients transform Pico de Gallo into a simple guacamole.
There are only a couple of steps in this recipe.
There are only a couple of steps in this recipe.

Ingredients
1/2 to 1 cup of leftover or freshly made Pico de Gallo (click here for the recipe)
Juice of 1/2 lime
I fresh avocado, chopped (click here for instructions on how to chop an avocado)
Salt to taste

Cooking Instructions

Combine all ingredients, adding more salt if necessary.  The result is a chunky, delicious condiment as shown in the photo below.


I used this recipe recently while at our cabin in the mountains of Colorado to create a quick guacamole for my pulled pork tacos.  (I’m still working on perfecting the pulled pork recipe, which is made in the crock pot and is a real time-saver.)  It was great to be able to quickly throw together the guacamole so I could have more time to savor my al fresco dinner watching the sun set over the mountains.

Quick guacamole is the perfect compliment for pulled pork tacos, and is especially tasty on a chilly spring evening in Colorado.
Quick guacamole is the perfect compliment for pulled pork tacos, and is especially tasty on a chilly spring evening in Colorado.

Copyright 2015, Glover Gardens Cookbook

Pico de Gallo: One of My Top Ten Foods

One of my top ten foods is the condiment Pico de Gallo.  I love, love, love it!

Simple, bright and fresh, Pico de Gallo brings a liveliness to any dish it accompanies.

Pico de Gallo tastes as bright and fresh as it looks.
Pico de Gallo tastes as bright and fresh as it looks.

I use Pico de Gallo in tons of ways:

  • in the traditional way, with Tex-Mex and Mexican dishes like tacos, enchiladas and tostadas
  • as a topping for soups, southwest-style stews, vegetable purees, corn pudding, my Glover Gardens chili and many other
  • as a condiment with grilled entrées such as shrimp, fish and pork
  • as an ingredient in other dishes, such as guacamole, southwest rice and scrambled eggs
  • as a topping for a quick Southwest crostini
  • and whatever else comes to mind when I have some left over…

It only takes a few minutes to throw this recipe together, and I make it almost every weekend.

Ingredients
6-8 fresh chile peppers (I use jalapeños and serranos), seeded and coarsely chopped
1/2 red onion, coarsely chopped
1 cup of chopped very ripe tomato
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
Juice of 1/2 lime
Pinch (or more) of salt
Pinch of sugar or a few drops of honey

Cooking Instructions
Combine all ingredients, adding more salt if necessary.


The variations for Pico de Gallo are endless! I often add a little cider vinegar for more of an acidic kick, or even substitute it for the lime juice. You can make it more sophisticated by using a good-quality balsamic vinegar instead of lime juice, or more basic by leaving out the cilantro. Leave in the seeds and ribs of the peppers to increase the heat, or toss in a pinch or two of red pepper flakes.  Be sure to use the ripest tomato(es) you can find. I often use cherry or grape tomatoes because they grow so well at Glover Gardens here in Southeast Texas.

Copyright 2015, Glover Gardens Cookbook

Dreaming of Summer; Glad for the Greenhouse

It’s a cold, rainy, dreary, bleary, bleak, wet and wintry day here in Southeast Texas.

It’s the kind of day that inspired Dickens to write.  It’s miserable and gray, and I’m no Dickens.  I know we’re spoiled in the Houston area by our 10 months of hibiscus blooms and our one big inch of snow every ten years.  And I feel empathy for our friends in the North, especially when we see winter storms with names wreaking havoc.  But I still want to squawk and complain when we experience our few weeks of true winter.

Is that wrong?

Yes, it is.  So I’m doing an attitude adjustment exercise and practicing IMG_1601gratitude.  I’m grateful that while we’re shivering and planning more one more warming meal of a soup or stew, the plants for my spring garden are growing happily in the greenhouse I got for Christmas last year.  It’s a compact little structure, but perfect for jump-starting the tastes of summer.  If you’re interested, Amazon has quite a few options; click here to see the one I have.  I just visited my seedlings and they’re looking great!  They’ll be ready to flourish in the sun, if it ever comes back out.  🙂  I took a quick video just to capture the awesome sound of the rain hitting the greenhouse.  

There’s basil growing in one of those pots, and assorted tomatoes and peppers in varying colors and degrees of heat in many of them.   They will all be used in oh-so-many recipes that I’ll be posting this summer.  One of them will be my

Chilled Gazpacho with Shrimp, Topped with Garlic Croutons & Basil
Chilled Gazpacho with Shrimp, Topped with Garlic Croutons & Basil

Gazpacho recipe, which is topped with garlic croutons and shrimp.  I hope you’ll follow my blog and download the recipe when I post it in a few months.  It needs a bit more testing before sharing.  Hurry up, summer!

Do you have summer menu dreams to share, or winter complaints?  I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

Antipasto Fresca

Only a half hour’s notice that guests are coming and in need of an appetizer?  These fun little finger food treats can be pulled together in ten minutes.  At Glover Gardens, we have two of the ingredients always on hand – the oregano and the tomatoes.  In the summer, they are abundant in the garden, and in the winter, we buy imports from warmer climates and dream of spring.

This is a perfect appetizer for a wine tasting party, an outdoor barbecue or even a ladies’ afternoon tea.

Ingredients
12-14 grape tomatoes, sliced in half sideways
1-2 oz. mozzarella fresca, cut in 12-14 small chunks to sandwich within the tomatoes
2 green onions, cut in 1/4 diagonal slivers
4 long sprigs fresh oregano
Course sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Antipasto Caprese
Antipasto Fresca

Cooking Instructions
Thread half of a grape tomato onto a toothpick, followed by a large oregano leaf, a segment of the mozzarella, then the second half of the tomato. Finish the mini-skewer by adding a green onion section to the end. Repeat with the rest of the tomatoes and arrange on a small serving plate. Drizzle with a small amount of olive oil, the sprinkle with sea salt and several grindings of fresh black pepper. Garnish with some of the remaining fresh oregano.

Copyright 2015, Glover Gardens Cookbook