Tips for Rookie Cooks

SNACKS AND STARTERS.the third part

SNACKS AND STARTERS

1-Endive Spoons with Apples and Aged Gouda

Stuffed endive leaves make a tasty—and beautiful—appetizer. Aged Gouda is one of our favorite cheeses—both salty and sweet, with a robust, caramel-like flavor. And tiny calcium lactate crystals that form as the cheese ages give it a delicate and tantalizing crunch. If you’ve never had aged Gouda before, buy a little extra so you can try some unaccompanied slices in all their self-sufficient glory.

  • 1 medium apple (any type), cored and minced (about 1 cup)
  • 3 ounces (about 1 cup) finely grated aged Gouda
  • ¼ cup minced red, yellow, or white onion
  • ½ cup finely chopped toasted pecans
  • 2 Belgian endives
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste

In a small bowl, mix apple, Gouda, onion, and pecans. Chop the stem end off each endive and separate the leaves. Spoon some of the apple mixtures onto the sturdy end of each endive leaf. Arrange neatly on a serving platter and sprinkle generously with pepper.

Makes about 20 endive spoons.

Change it up

  • Try smoked Gouda instead of aged Gouda.
  • Substitute 3 thinly sliced green onions for the minced onion.

2-Rosemary-Cheddar Crostini

These savory canapés are always a hit. Why use White Cheddar and not orange? We just think a screaming neon-orange brick of cheese looks, well, yucky. That bright orange color comes from annatto, a food-grade dye made from the annatto seed. It won’t hurt you, but your platter of cheese toasts will look so much more sophisticated in understated tones of muted beige.

  • 1 10-ounce skinny baguette
  • 5 ounces (about 12/ 3 cups) shredded sharp white Cheddar cheese
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves kosher salt

Preheat oven to 400°F

Cut the baguette into slices about ½ inch thick and place it on a baking sheet. Top each slice with some grated cheese and a sprinkle of rosemary. Sprinkle the toasts with a couple of pinches of salt and bake in preheated oven for 10 to 12 minutes, or until lightly toasted and crunchy.

Make it ahead

  • Of course, they’re best served warm, fresh from the oven, but they’ll actually keep pretty well for a couple of days in an airtight container.

Serve it with

  • F Roasted Tomato-Curry Soup (page 76) or Parsnip and Apple Soup (page 77)

3-Slow-Roasted Tomatoes

About 90 percent of what your authors talk and think about is the mind-blowing incredibleness of slow-roasted tomatoes. Using what we speculate to be magic, this all-day process transforms normal tomatoes into something more sweet, intense, and delicious than you can imagine. We recommend Romas because their meaty flesh and thin skin make them ideal for this kind of treatment, but any tomatoes can be used; you’ll just need to adjust the timing depending on their size. You’ll never let an unused tomato go bad again.

  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 4 pounds ripe Roma tomatoes (about 15), halved, stem ends removed
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

Preheat oven to 200°F.

Pour olive oil onto a large, rimmed baking sheet. Roll the tomato halves around on the baking sheet until they’re coated with oil. Place them, cut side up, on the baking sheet, and sprinkle them with salt. Bake tomatoes in preheated oven until they have shrunk to about one-third their original size and are soft and juicy and beginning to caramelize around the edges—6 to 8 hours. Remove the baking sheet from the oven, and allow the tomatoes to cool to room temperature.

Make it ahead

  • If you somehow manage not to eat them all immediately, you can store them, covered, in the fridge for a couple of weeks. You can even freeze them for several months—a great tip for those of you lucky enough to have gardens that produce more summer tomatoes than you know what to do with.

Serve it with

  • Bread and cheese, as part of an appetizer spread
  • Grilled meats or seafood
  • Pasta topped with freshly grated Parmesan
  • Baked Polenta with Mascarpone and Corn

Change it up

  • Sprinkle minced garlic on tomatoes before roasting.
  • Sprinkle herbs and spices on tomatoes before roasting; for example, ground coriander, rosemary, black pepper, basil, oregano, ground fennel, thyme, or marjoram.

4-Raita

Raita is a cool, refreshing Indian condiment, usually served alongside spicy dishes. It can also be served as an appetizer, with vegetables, crackers, or bread. You can find the Indian flatbread called nan at many supermarkets, or toss authenticity to the wind and use pita bread instead. Honestly, raita is so delicious that it hardly matters what you choose to use as your delivery vehicle! This dish gets better as the flavors meld, so it’s best made a day ahead and stored, covered, in the fridge until serving time.

  • 1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded, and grated
  • 1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons minced fresh mint leaves
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • Wrap grated cucumber in a paper towel or dishcloth and squeeze to remove excess moisture. In a medium bowl, combine cucumber, yogurt, salt, mint, and cumin and stir to combine. Chill at least 30 minutes before serving.
  • Makes about 1½ cups.

Make it ahead

  • Raita can be stored in the fridge, covered, for a couple of days

Serve it with

  • Fresh vegetables, nan, or pita chips for dipping
  • Grilled chicken or fish, especially tandoori-style
  • Roasted veggies rolled up in Middle Eastern flatbread for a tasty and healthy wrap

Change it up

  • Add seeded, chopped tomatoes or very thinly sliced red onion with the cucumber.
  • Try chopped cilantro instead of, or in addition to, the mint.

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