Posts Tagged ‘charcuterie’

apricot hd aboveapricot hd side


Like me, you might find yourself right in the midst of holiday parties. They’re fun, they’re festive, and they can be exhausting, particularly if you’re doing the hosting. We’ve been hitting our share of holiday cocktail parties, but we prefer to host actual dinner parties, where guests come around 5:30pm, enjoy some wine and hors d’oeuvres for the first hour, segue to dinner around 7:00pm and go home by 9:00pm or 10:00pm, depending on whether they have little ones in tow.

I typically serve a cheese, cracker and charcuterie platter with one other hors d’oeuvre–something that’s a little fancier because of its ingredients or because it requires some assembly. My basic offering includes a three-cheese selection, such as Manchego, Triple Cream Brie and Stilton with a selection of crackers, one or two kinds of salami and maybe sopressata along with a small dish of cashews or Marcona almonds.

But above and beyond unwrapping a few chunks of cheese and slicing some salami, my favorite go-to hors d’oeuvres are apricots spread with a basil-goat cheese and topped with  Marcona or herb-infused almonds. They look elegant, taste delicious and are a cinch to prepare. I also love that they work as hors d’oeuvres summer, winter, fall or spring. They always get gobbled up and exclaimed over, which is just what you want guest to do when they’re in your home, right?

Please note: I considered buying conventional apricots (treated with sulfur to keep their orange color) because they certainly photograph better, but I just couldn’t reconcile having a “health and wellness” blog and showing something laced with chemicals just because it looks prettier. Conventional apricots also have a sharper, sometimes slightly bitter taste, whereas natural untreated apricots have a subtle carmel flavor. So please focus on the wonderful flavor and texture combination, and never mind the naturally brown color of the dried apricots in my photos.



4 oz fresh, quality goat cheese, at room temperature

2-3 tsp milk

2 tbsp fresh basil leaves, finely chopped

40 dried apricots

40 Marcona or herb-infused almonds

Honey for drizzling



In a small bowl, mix together the cheese, milk and basil until it’s very spreadable. Thin with more milk if necessary.

Spread the cheese mixture on each apricot and top with an almond.

Drizzle all the apricots with honey and serve.




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pickled veg abovepickled veg bits

I love that pickling is making a comeback, and for all the right reasons–anyone can pickle, you can pickle just about anything, it’s inexpensive, and it’s a great way to enjoy raw or nearly raw foods.

As a child, I grew up eating pickled herring, beans and asparagus spears. I also ate regular dill pickles, which I actually didn’t crave during my two pregnancies, but became addicted to years later. (Too much of a good thing is bad, right?) But despite the fact that pickled foods have been around for eternity, this past year, I’ve noticed that many of the fancy and/or hip farm-to-table themed restaurants in our area now offer an assortment of pickled vegetables on their menus. We have a favorite little restaurant in the Russian River Valley wine region called The Backyard. They serve consistently good food, offer a nice selection of wines and if the weather is nice, you can enjoy your meal outside under a giant California oak. (Does life get any better than that?) The last three times we’ve eaten at The Backyard, they have served a delightful mix of pickled things. I know “things” isn’t very descriptive, but the pickled items have included everything from watermelon rinds to shitake mushrooms–all delicious and perfectly pickled.

Sadly, we don’t make it up to the wine country often enough. So instead of enjoying pickled vegetables only on occasion, I decided I needed to enjoy them on a daily basis. As I mentioned, you can pickle just about anything, and you can flavor the pickling many different ways. I have never appreciated sweet pickles or sweetly pickled vegetables, so this recipe is for your classic savory, dill flavor.

I photographed two different batches for this posting, one in which I used carrots, daikon radish, and red onion, the other in which I used beets, carrots, and daikon. With both batches, I flavored them simply with salt, yellow mustard seeds (which you also eat once they’re pickled), garlic and bay leaves. Provided you use clean jars to store your pickled vegetables, they will keep refrigerated for two weeks.

pickled veg side



5 cups vegetables (carrots, beets, radishes, celery, watermelon rind, mushrooms, onions, etc.)

3 cups distilled white or cider vinegar
3 cups filtered water
2 tbsp + 2 tsp sea salt
1-2 tbsp sugar
1-2 tbsp mixed herbs, such as bay leaves, garlic, mustard seeds, peppercorns, thyme, etc.
Bring a very large pot of water to boil on one burner. On a second burner, stir the vinegar, water, salt and sugar together in a large non-reactive pan and bring to a boil stirring to dissolve the salt and sugar.
While you’re waiting for the water to boil, wash, peel and chop your vegetables keeping them sorted by kind. Once the water is boiling, add in batches of the vegetables that need to be lightly cooked before pickling, such as beets and carrots. I like to cook beets for 3 minutes and carrots for 1-2. If you cook them in batches, you can use a slotted spoon to remove one batch before putting in the next. I don’t think onions, celery or daikon need to be cooked at all prior to pickling.
Mix the vegetables in a large bowl, spoon them into clean glass jars, and add in the mixed herbs. When the water/vinegar mixture is ready, pour it over the vegetables making sure to cover them completely. Screw on the lids and set in the refrigerator.
Your delicious, pickled vegetables will be ready in 4 hours although they are even better a day or more later! You can serve them with an assortment of charcuterie or cheeses  and/or some rustic bread and Dijon mustard.
pickled veg whole 

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