Bacon-Wrapped Figs with Smoked Blue Cheese and Candied Pecans
Candied Pecans: In a dry, nonstick skillet over med heat, combine pecans and sugar. Stir gently and constantly. As the sugar melts, it will become caramelized and coat the nuts. Be careful not to burn. Place nuts on waxed paper or parchment to cool.
Stuffed Figs: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a med saucepan, bring water and wine to a simmer. Add dried figs and remove from heat. Allow figs to plump (approx. 6-8 min), remove from pan and place on paper towels to cool. Pat dry. Soak toothpicks in water for 5 min. Snip stems from figs, then cut a “X” into the top of the fig and open gently, leaving the fig base intact. Place a small cube of cheese into the fig and close pouch. Gently stretch the bacon, being careful not to tear it, to minimize cooking time and shrinkage. Cut each bacon strip into 3-4 pieces. Lay bacon on flat work surface and roll around fig, one at a time. Secure with toothpicks. Bake figs on parchment-lined cookie sheet, approx 10 min until bacon is done. Serve warm or at room temperature alongside candied nuts. Makes 24.
Parmesan Puff Pastry Straws
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Brush puff pastry with melted butter and sprinkle with cheese, sea salt and pepper. Using a rolling pin, gently press the cheese and seasoning into the dough, but do not smash. With a sharp knife, cut pastry into long 1/2” strips. Twist strips and bake on parchment-lined cookie sheet 12-14 min. Makes 24.
Caramelized Onion and Goat Cheese Tarts
Pâte Brisée (Pie Dough): In food processor, combine flour, salt and sugar. Add butter and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal (8 to 10 sec). With machine running, add ice water in a slow, steady stream through feed tube. Pulse until dough holds together without being wet or sticky, being careful not to process more than 30 sec. To test, squeeze a small amount together: If crumbly, add more ice water, 1 T at a time. Divide dough into two equal balls. Flatten each ball into a disc, wrap in plastic and chill at least 1 hour. Dough may be stored, frozen, up to one month.
Preheat oven 350 degrees. Roll dough out until 1/4” thick; cut into 2” rounds. Press rounds into nonstick mini muffin pan, poke with a fork and par bake 6-8 min.
Caramelized Onions: Cut onions in half vertically, peel and julienne. Toss with salt and place in large sauté pan; cover tightly with foil. Sweat the onions over med low heat for approx 20 min. Continue to cook uncovered, but do not stir until juices are reduced and beginning to brown (caramelize). When onions begin to stick, stir and scrape browned bits from the pan. Continue to cook until golden brown, approx. 20-30 min. more.
Goat Cheese Mixture: Combine ingredients well.
Assembly: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place 1/2 T caramelized onions into center of each tart shell. Top with 1 t goat cheese mixture and bake 6-8 min. until cheese is golden.
Puff Pastry Cups, Boxes or Triangles
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix eggs and milk to create an egg wash. Cut puff pastry into desired bite size shapes (circles or diamonds work well). Brush half of cut shapes with egg wash. Cut out the center of remaining shapes, leaving a generous border. Place on top of whole shapes to create “boxes” or “nests.” Brush tops with egg wash. Bake for 12-14 min; watch carefully. Remove and cool. Gently flatten center to fill with desired ingredients, such as Bay Shrimp Lemon and Scallion Mousse. Makes approx. 12-18.
Bay Shrimp Lemon and Scallion Mousse
Using a food processor, blend cream cheese, lemon juice, lemon zest, scallion, parsley, salt and pepper. Press out any excess liquid from bay shrimp, add and pulse to combine. Spoon into serving bowl and refrigerate until serving, or pipe into baked puff pastry cups or boxes (recipe follows), vegetable crudités or atop crostini. If presenting as a spread, garnish serving dish with whole bay shrimp and parsley sprigs prior to serving. Makes 1 lb.
Polenta Diamonds Stuffed with Sausage, Spinach, Roasted Red Peppers and Parmesan
Sausage Filling: Sauté sausage, drain and return to pan. Add garlic and cook 2-3 min. Add roasted red bell peppers, then spinach. When spinach is wilted, remove from heat, add cheese and rosemary and combine well.
Polenta Sheets: Polenta can be made up to one day ahead. Grease cookie sheet with butter or line with parchment. Add salt to 4 c water in large saucepan and bring to boil. Whisking constantly, gradually add polenta. Reduce heat to a simmer. Wisk until soft and water is absorbed, about 5 min. Stir in cheese. Immediately transfer to prepared baking sheet and spread evenly. Let cool completely. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use.
Halve the polenta crosswise. Carefully transfer one half, smooth side down, to a clean work surface; spread sausage, cheese and spinach mixture on top. Place remaining polenta half, smooth side up, on top of sausage mixture; trim edges. To create 1” polenta diamonds, cut polenta lengthwise into ¾” rows; then cut at an angle. (Can be prepared to this point and stored, covered and refrigerated or frozen until ready to thaw and bake).
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place diamonds on parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake, rotating sheets halfway through (approx. 12 to 15 min). Garnish with roasted red bell peppers and parsley sprigs. Serve warm. Makes 5 doz.