Olive Balls

 

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Last night was my annual Christmas party that I host each and every December. I look forward to this party as it starts my holiday season off with much happiness and good cheer.

I love to cook a nice dinner for my friends, along with having an array of appetizers and sweet treats. Sometimes, I order Bundtinis from Nothing Bundt Cakes as my dessert, but last night some of my friends offered to bring treats ranging from brownies (thank you, Pam!), snickerdoodle cookies (thank you, Sandy – and thank you, also, for the chicken sausages … yum!), lemon bars (thank you, Jen!), and array of chocolates and caramels – so yummy! My friend, Marie, brought a wonderful salad (thank you, Marie!) and my friend, JoAnne brought an amazing vegetable platter with asparagus, mushrooms, etc. It was divine (thank you, JoAnne!). My friend, Ethel, brought two wonderful puff pastry shell appetizers … one was stuffed with cheese and a little tiny meatball and the other had caramelized onion jam and cheese, OMG – yum (thank you, Ethel!)

One of the appetizers I make each year is my olive balls. My friend and neighbor, Lauren, loves my olive balls. The first time I made them is when I hosted our Neighborhood Book Club for the first time … this was also our inaugural meeting – and also the very first time some of us met. I remember walking through Trader Joe’s a few days before that first meeting deciding on what I’d make to serve my friends and new friends. I saw puff pastry in the freezer aisle and spotted stuffed olives in the olive aisle. I figured I’d buy them both and come up with a plan …. that turned out to be one of the best plans ever! Not only does Lauren love the olive balls, but my daughter, Kylie does as well. She looks forward to the leftover olive balls each time I make them.

To make the olive balls, I thawed my puff pastry, per the package directions. Once the puff pastry was thawed enough that I could unfold it without it breaking (about 40 minutes), I drained my jar of olives. The olives I chose to use for yesterday were the blue cheese stuffed olives.  I cut my puff pastry into squares (about 3 inches each) and place an olive in the middle of each square. I then wrap the pastry around the olive and roll it in my hands to form a ball. I then place them on baking sheets (I usually need two) that I sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. Once the olives are on my baking sheet, I brush them with a little olive oil and sprinkle a pinch of sea salt on each one. After that, I sprinkle fresh minced rosemary and grated parmesan on each olive ball. I then bake them at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes, until they are lightly browned.

Note: Feel free to use garlic stuffed olives if you’d like or any other type of stuffed olive that appeals to you. If I use the garlic stuffed olives, I add crumbled blue cheese to the “package”. I place a little on top of the olive before rolling it together into a ball.

Once again, my olive balls did not disappoint. I’m sure they will make an appearance at my next gathering … perhaps the Ugly Christmas Party I’m hosting on December 22nd!

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Ingredients

  • 1 package puff pastry, thawed
  • 1 jar stuffed olives
  • 5 sprigs rosemary, minced
  • parmesan cheese, grated
  • sea salt, a pinch per olive ball
  • olive oil, for brushing

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Thaw puff pastry per package directions.
  3. Drain olives.
  4. Cut puff pastry like you would cut a pan of brownies (make them about 2-1/2 – 3  inches square).
  5. Place olive in the middle of each square and fold pastry around olive. Roll in your hands until the pastry looks like a small ball.
  6. Place on a baking sheet.
  7. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt.
  8. Sprinkle each olive ball with rosemary and parmesan.
  9. Bake 20 minutes, or until browned nicely.

Enjoy!

Until next time, Kris

 

 

Baked Ricotta with Fresh Herbs

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Last night was our turn to host our Dinner Club. The Del Mar Dinner Club (as we call ourselves). Dennis and I look forward to getting together with our dinner club each time we meet. We gather quarterly, so each couple hosts one time a year.

One of the appetizers I decided to make for last night was a baked ricotta. I saw a recipe in our local newspaper for Fresh Herb Baked Ricotta that I started with and changed it just a bit to make it my own. This baked ricotta was a hit! It was really good. I can tell you, that I will be making this again … often!

I started with two pounds of whole milk ricotta that I let drain. I then added the drained ricotta to my soufflé dish and mixed it right there with my desired ingredients. To the ricotta, I added fresh chopped oregano, fresh minced thyme and fresh minced rosemary.

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I then added 10 cloves of minced garlic and the zest of two limes. Once I mixed all of the above mentioned together, I added a teaspoon of kosher salt, a half teaspoon of fresh ground pepper and a teaspoon Herbs de Provence. After combining the seasonings with the cheese and herbs, I added two slightly beaten eggs and mixed everything together well.

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Once the cheese, herbs, egg, lemon zest and seasonings were combined, I sprinkled a drizzle of olive oil over the top. I set this in the refrigerator until I was ready to bake it. I had a lot of things to do for my dinner club prep, so got this done earlier in the day. I removed it from the refrigerator a half hour before I wanted to bake it.

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Picture before baking

I’m actually reheating this for lunch today. Did I mention it was amazing?

Our dinner club is a wonderful group of people. We’ve all known each other for about 13 years.

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As well as the baked ricotta I put together a cheese board and we served raspberry potato chips that Dennis and I came across at Home Goods. They were quite interesting, so good!

I always serve wine and beer, as well as several non-alcoholic options (at any gathering I have) to drink with our appetizers and enjoy with our dinner. For dinner club, I always choose one signature cocktail to start out the night. The first dinner club I hosted, I chose a Moscow Mule because I made beef stroganoff. The next time I hosted, I planned an Italian themed night, so chose a dirty martini. Last night, I chose to make a traditional Champagne Cocktail. It is made with a sugar cube, brandy and champagne. My dear friend, Karin (standing next to me, on my left in our group picture) did the honors of making this for us. She is an expert at making this and I now have a new favorite cocktail. I loved it and I think it would be a great cocktail to serve at any holiday gathering. I’m thinking it’s the perfect start to a Thanksgiving feast!

 

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I set the table early in the morning to get that task out of the way. Once the table is set, I feel I can relax just a tad … just a tad, though. I find the prep for dinner club so much fun. I feel I’m right in my element.

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The table was almost complete, I just needed to add the wine glasses.

Friday afternoon and evening, I spent preparing my meat and a corn pesto for a pasta dish I made that I will tell you all about. I chose to make Ina Garten’s Slow-Roasted Spiced Pork. This dish is fabulous! I’ve made it before and it was a hit, so I knew that my dinner club would enjoy it as well … and they loved it, absolutely loved it! You start with a 7-9 pound bone-in pork butt (mine was actually 10 pounds). The pork shoulder is covered with a paste made of garlic cloves, onion, a jalapeño pepper (I used two) chopped fresh oregano, ground cumin, chipotle chili powder, kosher salt, ground pepper, apple cider vinegar and olive oil. There is also a bottle of dry white wine that goes into the pan (over the course of 7 hours … you start out pouring two cups of wine in the bottom of the pan, and add wine every two hours). The meat cooks at a low temperature of 300 degrees for 2-1/2 hours, covered and then another 4 to 4-1/2 hours, uncovered. Wow! Ina has a great recipe here!

For the recipe: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/slow-roasted-spiced-pork-3190101.

For my second dish, I made Spaghetti with Sweet Corn Pesto. I used a different noodle than spaghetti, however (it was a chunky, thick noodle from Italy that I found at Home Goods). I started following a blog that I love, Lidey’s Table. Lidey works for Ina Garten and started a food blog that is fantastic. She recently posted her recipe for Spaghetti with Sweet Corn Pesto. It looked beautiful in her picture and the recipe sounded amazing so I knew I wanted to include this dish for my dinner club. I highly recommend checking out Lidey’s blog, she has so many excellent recipes that I know you will enjoy.

Here is a picture of the pasta I made (keep in mind that for Lidey’s recipe she uses spaghetti noodles).

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For Lidey’s recipe go to http://www.lideystable.com. I guarantee you will be looking at her page for quite a while at all her amazing recipes. Her sweet personality really shows through on her blog. I remember watching one of Ina’s episodes where Lidey just moved to East Hampton and was going to have a house warming party. Ina was helping her with some of the cooking and gave Lidey a list of things to purchase to prepare for the party and she was so cute. Ina sent her to the hardware store for several things (Ina’s hardware store clearly has a lot more than just hardware!). She had Lidey purchase flour sack towels to be used as dinner napkins. I actually was going to do just that, but when I went to purchase the flour sack towels, they didn’t have enough of the one color I wanted, so went with a pack of three to use in my bread baskets. I do love the idea of using them as napkins too, however. I love the look of rustic elegance on a table setting, or at a buffet set-up.

As a salad, I served spring mix with fresh strawberries that I thinly sliced, parmesan cheese that I shaved into large shards onto the salad as well as candied pecans. For the dressing, I made a lime vinaigrette. I also served dinner rolls with our meal. For dessert, my dear friend, Elizabeth (on the far left on the picture of all of us) made homemade lemon sorbet. (I actually woke up thinking about her lemon sorbet this morning, I’m not gonna lie). I bought fresh raspberries, fresh blackberries and fresh blueberries to serve over the sorbet and brought our a couple trays of chocolates and fleur de sel caramels for everyone. Dinner was a great success, I’m happy to report.

Our next dinner club gathering is in early January, I’m already looking forward to it. Jack and JoAnne are our next hosts.

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds whole-milk ricotta (4 cups)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh thyme
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary
  • 10 cloves garlic, minced
  • zest of two lemons
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Herbs de Provence
  • olive oil, for greasing the dish and also for drizzling over the cheese before baking
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
  2. Drain ricotta.
  3. Place in soufflé bowl that has been greased with olive oil.
  4. Add fresh herbs to ricotta and mix. Incorporate garlic and lemon zest.
  5. Add salt, pepper, Herbs de Provence and mix well.
  6. Add eggs and combine thoroughly.
  7. Bake for 1 hour and 5 minutes.
  8. Let cool for 7-10 minutes before serving.
  9. Serve with baguette slices

Enjoy!

Until next time, Kris