Crostini is a general term that refers to "little toasts" which are usually topped with one or more garnish items. This Southwestern version combines the creaminess of black beans with the heat from the guacamole for a terrific hors d'oeuvre or snack idea.
Makes 8 servings / preparation time: 45 minutes
24 baguette slices, 1/4-inch thick 1/4 cup Garlic and Parsley Butter (recipe follows) 1/2 cup Vidalia onion, small dice 2 plum tomatoes, small dice 3/4 cup cooked or canned black beans, drained and rinsed 1-1/2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste 2 avocados 2 tablespoons lime juice 1 garlic clove, minced 1/4 teaspoon chili powder 1/8 teaspoon ground cumin 24 cilantro or parsley leaves, washed
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees
Toast the baguette slices in the oven for 5-7 minutes, or until the outside edges are golden brown. Spread each baguette slice with approximately 1/2 teaspoon of the garlic butter. Reserve the toasts until needed.
Combine the onion, tomato, black beans, cilantro, and vinegar. Season with salt and pepper.
Peel and core one of the avocados and dice into 1/4-inch pieces. Combine the avocado with 1 tablespoon of the lime juice, garlic, chili powder, and cumin. Season with salt and pepper. Peel and core the remaining avocado. Slice each half across the meridian into 8 slices. Sprinkle the avocado with the rest of the lime juice to prevent oxidation.
Spread 1 heaping teaspoon of the avocado mixture on each crostini. Top with 1 tablespoon of the black bean mixture.
Garnish with an avocado slice and a cilantro or parsley leaf.
Garlic and Parsley Butter
Versatile and delicious, this is a compound butter used in classical French cuisine. The butter holds well, so make enough to enjoy with crostini, or simply on toasted bread as an accompaniment to pasta dishes.
Makes 2 cups / preparation time: 10 minutes
1-1/2 bunches parsley, stems removed 4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste 1 pound butter, diced into small cubes, cold
Place the parsley, garlic, and salt in a food processor fitted with a metal chopping blade and pulse until evenly minced and well blended.
Add the cubed butter to the parsley-garlic mixture. Process, scraping down the sides as needed, until the butter is softened and mixture is well blended. The butter should be light green in color.
The butter may be placed into a ramekin, or shaped into a log and rolled in plastic wrap. Refrigerate until ready for use. The butter can be held for at least a week in the refrigerator, or frozen for several weeks.
Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad
According to culinary lore, this salad was created by Caesar Cardini in 1924 at his restaurant in Tijuana, Mexico. Today, Caesar salads may be served as a plated first course or main course garnished with sliced grilled chicken.
Makes 8 servings / preparation time: 30 minutes
3 pounds chicken breast halves, boneless and skinless 1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated, plus additional for garnish, if desired 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste 2 tablespoons dried basil 1/2 cup olive oil 1/4 cup lemon juice 1 teaspoon anchovy paste 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard 2 garlic cloves, finely minced 1-1/4 pounds romaine lettuce, washed, drained, and cut into bite size pieces 4 cups Homemade Croutons (recipe follows) Lemon slices for garnish (optional)
Spray the grill or broiler rack with nonstick spray and preheat. In a shallow bowl, combine the chicken, half of the Parmesan cheese, pepper, salt, and basil. Turn the chicken breasts in the cheese mixture, making sure to coat completely.
Grill or broil the chicken 5 inches from the heat, turning occasionally until cooked through, about 10Ð12 minutes. Watch the chicken carefully because the cheese burns easily. Allow the chicken to cool slightly.
Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk the oil, lemon juice, anchovy paste, mustard, and garlic to blend. Add the lettuce, remaining cheese and croutons; and toss to coat. Divide the salad among 8 individual plates.
Cut each chicken breast diagonally into 5 strips; carefully arrange one sliced breast atop each salad. Garnish with additional Parmesan cheese and lemon slices, if desired.
Homemade croutons enliven any salad or soup with a satisfying crunch. You can substitute other dried herbs for the rosemary, or omit the herbs altogether for plain croutons.
Makes 8 servings / preparation time: 15 minutes
4 cups bread, cut into 1/2-inch cubes Olive oil, as needed Salt, to taste Freshly ground black pepper, to taste Dried rosemary, to taste
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Toss the bread with enough olive oil to coat, add salt, pepper, and dried rosemary to taste. Spread the croutons in an even layer on a baking sheet. Bake until golden brown, stirring occasionally so the croutons bake evenly. Allow to cool. Croutons will keep well in an airtight container for several days.
Tenderloin of Beef with Blue Cheese and Herb Crust
Simple and elegant, this dish is a sure winner. Whether serving an intimate dinner for two or a number of guests, the delicious flavors of Madeira and blue cheese are a perfect choice with the beef tenderloin.
Makes 6 servings / preparation time: 30 minutes
3 tablespoons butter, softened 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour 3 cups beef broth 6 tablespoons Madeira wine 2-1/4 pounds beef tenderloin 1/4 cup breadcrumbs 6 tablespoons blue cheese 1/4 cup parsley, chopped 1/4 cup chives, chopped 1/4 teaspoon black peppercorns, crushed 1 tablespoon olive oil
Combine the butter and flour together.
Bring the beef broth and Madeira to a boil. Whisk in the butter and flour mixture until completely dissolved. Simmer for about 15Ð20 minutes, until the liquid is thickened and reduced by half. While the sauce is simmering, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray the rack of a roasting pan with nonstick spray and place in the pan.
Slice the tenderloin into 6 portions that are approximately 3 inches in diameter and 1-1/2 inches thick. Tie butcher's twine around the beef medallions so they maintain their shape while cooking, if desired.
Combine the breadcrumbs, blue cheese, parsley, chives, and pepper to form a paste.
Heat the olive oil in a nonstick skillet over high heat. Sear the medallions until just browned, 2Ð3 minutes on each side. Arrange the medallions in a roasting pan. Coat the top side of each medallion with 3 tablespoons of the blue cheese and herb crust.
Roast until the crust is golden brown and the meat is cooked as desired, about 6 to 8 minutes for medium-rare, depending on the size of the medallions. If butcher's twine was used, be sure to remove it. Serve the medallions on a pool of the warm Madeira sauce.
Fresh Fruit Galette
Elegantly rustic, these tantalizing fruit tarts are simple to prepare. Use fresh seasonal fruits at their peak of sweetness.
Wash, peel, trim, core, and slice the fruit as needed.
Let the dough relax just a few minutes, but work quickly enough that it does not get too soft and pliable.
Roll the dough slightly until it is 12-inches square and of a uniform thickness.
Cut four 6-inch round circles out of each sheet of dough.
Lay the pastry circles onto baking sheets that have been lined with parchment.
Refrigerate the dough for 5Ð10 minutes if it is too soft.
Spread 1/2 teaspoon of the apricot jam in the center of the circle, leaving a 1/4-inch border around the edge of the dough.
Place 1/2 cup of prepared fruit on top of the jam, leaving a 1-inch border around the edge of the dough.
Fold a 1/2-inch section of dough up onto the fruit, pressing gently so that it adheres slightly. Crimp another 1/2-inch section of dough over the fruit and lightly press the dough that overlaps together. Crimp the remaining dough around the fruit. The fruit should be barely encased inside the dough.
Repeat with the remaining galettes.
Mix the egg with the water to make an egg wash.
Lightly brush the dough and the crimped seams with the egg wash. Sprinkle coarse sugar on the egg wash. Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes or until golden brown and baked through.
Recipes from THE CULINARY INSTITUTE OF AMERICA'S GOURMET MEALS IN MINUTES (Lebhar-Friedman; $40.00/Hardcover; September 2004)