Amuse Bouche...That's not English, Right?

tomato.mozz2.jpg

Oh the French, they do give us some wonderful food and great phrases.  And the one that starts it all off is the Amuse-bouche.  The literal translation is mouth amuser.  In a restaurant, this is the appetizer before the appetizer. Not ordered from the menu by a customer, but given as a complimentary single bite from the chef to start your meal.  It is meant to amuse the mouth. Get it ready for the meal. Whet the appetite and get the patron excited for what is to come. 

Only the French would think of amusing your mouth. I dare say that the Italians aren't into amusing so much, but straight up satisfying from the onset.  I do love the idea of tickling the tongue with a little nosh to get you primed.  A little food foreplay, wouldn't you say?

This practice doesn't need to be limited to restaurants. As JuanCarlos and I prepare for a trip to France, I reasoned that this was a perfect time to honor their tradition and share some ideas on the subject. So go ahead,  treat your guests to an Amuse Bouche.  You like them, don't you?  So amuse their bouche.

Remember this is meant to be just one little bite not a full blown appetizer. However,  any of these can be an appetizer. (Just love when things can do double duty).  An amuse bouche can range from the elaborate to a very simple offering. 

Here are six offerings, each providing the all important combination of salty, sweet, tang, texture to get the mouth party off to the races.

Goat Cheese & Nut Topped Grapes

These are an easy, pop in your mouth kind of bite.  Refreshing and textural, and create the "more please" effect. 

grape.goat.final2.jpg
  • Use the stemmed end as the base, as this will help the grape stand up.

  • Slice a tiny bit off the top of the grape to have a level landing spot for a dollop of goat cheese.

  • Using a small spoon gather 1/2 tsp of room temp goat cheese and place it atop the grape. (I use my clean fingers to create a little dollop)

  • Dip it in the crushed/ground nuts (such as pistachios or a mix of pecans, walnuts or whatever nut you like). These can be made ahead of time, but save the nut dipping til just before serving. You don't want the nuts to get soggy in the refrigerate. NOBODY likes soggy nuts.

Prep yourself with everything at the ready. Look how simple this is. 3 ingredients. 3 steps: Slice, dollop and dip

Prep yourself with everything at the ready. Look how simple this is. 3 ingredients. 3 steps: Slice, dollop and dip

You can store in the fridge like this with plastic wrap

You can store in the fridge like this with plastic wrap

Dip right before serving.

Dip right before serving.

Salmon Topped Cucumber or Apple

Alright, this may be two bites, but satisfying ones, for sure. These deliver a creamy texture paired with a cool crisp  and salty bite.

Salmon / cream cheese roll up a top a cucumber slice.

Salmon / cream cheese roll up a top a cucumber slice.

  • Cut a 1/2" slice of cucumber.

  • Pipe a dollop of soften cream cheese on top.

  • Place a small piece of smoked salmon laid down in a crossed fashion.

  • Pipe another dollop of cream cheese in the center and top with capers and dill.
    (You can also use the Salmon Roll method. On a large piece of plastic wrap lay the salmon down, making sure to overlay slightly. Spread softened cream cheese on top. Sprinkle with capers, then roll up like a sushi roll, Refrigerate. Once chilled, cut into 1/2” rounds placing atop each cucumber slice. Adorn with dill, as seen above.)

Refreshing on a slice of apple. This is from my   Lox on What?   idea.

Refreshing on a slice of apple. This is from my Lox on What? idea.

Pea Soup Shooter

A chilled, tall drink of spring. (I have not tried these recipes but wanted to provide a few links for your reference.)
Pea Soup Shooter
Pea Shooter
Pea Soup

These were part of the offering at a catering event I did with Regina Mallon Enterprises, food by  Special Attentions .

These were part of the offering at a catering event I did with Regina Mallon Enterprises, food by Special Attentions.

Dates Packed & Wrapped

Boy, does this one get every part of your mouth ready.  It's got salty, sweet, crunch and tang.

Another 3 step method, Slice, stuff and roll.

Another 3 step method, Slice, stuff and roll.

  • Slice open a Meedjol date just enough to remove pit and replace with something better.

  • Stuff it with gorgonzola cheese and a marcona salted almond.

  • Wrap the date with Serrano or Prosciutto ham.

Simple set up of jamón Serrano, gorgonzola, marconas & dates.

Simple set up of jamón Serrano, gorgonzola, marconas & dates.

Just a little slice, yank out the pit and replace with yumminess.

Just a little slice, yank out the pit and replace with yumminess.

Cranked up Caprese Skewers

This is an amped up Caprese salad on a stick.

Ratcheted up a notch by grilling them until they are just warmed then dipped in grated cheese. Oh the melt, the sweet, the salt.

Ratcheted up a notch by grilling them until they are just warmed then dipped in grated cheese. Oh the melt, the sweet, the salt.

Another simple set up with just a few ingredients.

Another simple set up with just a few ingredients.

Once grilled, roll them in grated cheese. Want some heat, sprinkle red pepper flakes, too.

Once grilled, roll them in grated cheese. Want some heat, sprinkle red pepper flakes, too.

  • Skewer a grape tomato, a bocconcino, piece of basil and another grape tomato. (You can certainly serve them as is. But I highly recommend you go the next steps. Also, you can prepare these ahead of time and refrigerate until grilling.)

  • Coat with oil, salt and pepper and lightly grill, then roll in Parmesano Reggiano, and serve immediately.

Chorizo-Manchego-Olive Skewer

A one bite tapa mix that makes a hearty first nibble. 

Warm, cold. Savory, salty, creamy. Need I say more?

Warm, cold. Savory, salty, creamy. Need I say more?

Honestly, I feel like I could create one every week.  The options and ideas are 'to infinity and beyond'.  Just think of little bites that would get your guests ready for more.  Oh la la to the French for their playful amusement.  What a fun game of enticement. 

 
DP-stirredwlove-ID1.jpg

Zucchini Orzo Pie - Baked with Pure Love

It may have taken me a year of promising you this "pie" mentioned in my About page, but finally here is the recipe that was the genesis of my 'something from nothing' style.  It was hatched oh so long ago when my sister, Jill, needed help using up a boat load of zucchini that was given to her.  When I use the term boat load, I don't feel it to be an exaggeration.  The fact that we made zucchini bread, muffins, fried zucchini, you name it, yet when all was said and done we STILL had zucchini spilling over. Thus began the search for what else can we toss together to cook the zucchs up before they went belly up.  I started rummaging through her refrigerator and cupboards in hopes to find inspiration.  Mind you, my sis did not use fresh herbs or have an abundance of fresh items from which to select.  My search turned up the following:
A box of orzo, canned chicken stock, grape tomatoes,  frozen pie crust and mozzarella, plus the usual suspects, salt, pepper, garlic, dried oregano and oil. (Thank goodness for the oregano!)

Ingredients

1/2 box Orzo  (6 oz)
1 deep dish Frozen pie crust
1.5 c grape, cherry or your favorite tomatoes  
1 - 1.5 c Mozzarella, shredded
2-3 cloves, garlic, finely chopped
3 qts Chicken or Vegetable stock, you can also use water
salt, pepper to taste
1/2 t dried oregano
pinch red pepper flakes, optional
Olive oil
and of course, ZUCCHINI (2-3 medium, cubed)

Sure, I could have just made a pasta salad I guess, but I was feeling creative, adventurous and let's face it the universe was providing me with a golden nugget that would materialize 20 years later. 

Instructions

In a 350 degree oven, blind bake the crust, dotting with a fork the sides and bottom so it doesn't bubble up. Cut up the zucchini and tomatoes and grate the cheese and set them aside.

Sauté the zucchini in garlic and olive oil. Add salt, pepper, dried oregano and cook until tender. That's right, dried oregano because that was the only kind of herb my sister had in her house.  


Once the zucchini is cooked add the chicken or vegetable stock and the orzo. Cooking it together like this really help the flavors to cozy up and get to know one another nicely. Once all the liquid is absorbed and the orzo is tender, spoon it into the pie crust.  

 

Cooking the zucchini first then adding the stock and orzo let all the flavors meld together.

Cooking the zucchini first then adding the stock and orzo let all the flavors meld together.

Fill 'em up.

Fill 'em up.

Top with the chopped tomatoes and the shredded mozzarella.  

Top each pie with tomatoes and cheese.

Top each pie with tomatoes and cheese.

Bake in a 350 degree until the cheese is nice and bubbly.  Let cool slightly before slicing it up.

I will admit to you that after that "experimental" day years back, I never made that pie again.  Not because it wasn't good, but it was created to solve the problem of the moment;  too much zucchini. Since that problem didn't arise again, plus add the fact I could never eat an entire pie on my own, I thought the recipe was a one off.  Jokes on me, since much to my surprise, my sister Jill, recently told that she has been making it regularly ever since. Her girls LOVE it and they make it together all the time.  And since her husband loves this too she has to make two at time since they disappear so quickly.  Even her girls' friends have come to love the 'zucchini pie'.

So in honor of our first making of this pie, my sister and I embarked on making it together again for the photos on this post.  What a joy to recreate this with her and two of her daughters.  And full disclosure.  Since I haven't made this pie in YEARS, I had to rely on Jill for measurements and instructions.  This gives her a good giggle since the tables were completely turned with me asking HER for info.  That said, I am tickled pink that she still makes it but the icing on this pie is that it is a hit with her family and has become a tradition.  

Please remember, this is a rustic pie but one that can fill up your family in a pinch.  Serve it up for a lunch or dinner with salad or veggies on the side.  As with most of my recipes, swap out for what you have.  Here are some ideas.

Orzo = Israeli couscous, Pastina, Arborio rice
Zucchini = summer squash, spinach, escarole, eggplant... well any vegetable really
Mozzarella = Fontina, goat cheese, feta, 
The possibilities are abundant, so enjoy your rustic pie anyway you like.