Smoked Salmon Toasts with Mustard Butter

Smoked Salmon Toasts with Mustard Butter is an elegant appetizer for any holiday party. The richness of the mustard butter nicely balances the salty, smokiness of the salmon.

When you make this dish toast the bread about a half hour before serving to allow them to cool and stay crunchy. This little bit of cooling time allows you to spread the butter on the toast and have it stay soft without melting.


Smoked Salmon Toasts with Mustard Butter
(Adapted from recipe courtesy of Food & Wine, November 2012)

Makes 10 -12 servings

1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp grainy mustard
½ tsp finely grated lemon zest
2 Tbsp chopped dill
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 baguette, sliced ¼” thick
1 pound thinly sliced smoked salmon

Preheat the broiler and position a rack 6 inches from the heat. In a bowl, beat the butter with the Dijon and grainy mustards, lemon zest and 1 tablespoon of the dill and season with salt and pepper.

Spread the baguette slices on a large rimmed baking sheet and broil until golden and crisp, 1 ½ minutes per side. Let cool.

Spread the toasts with the mustard butter, top with smoked salmon and arrange on a platter. Sprinkle with the remaining dill and serve.

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Mexican Creamed Corn

When Ample Bites visited Bien Trucha, an amazing Mexican restaurant in Geneva, Illinois, a couple months ago I had the best corn dish I have ever experienced. This recipe for what I am calling Mexican Creamed Corn is as close as I have found to what I experienced that day. The dish is best served as soon as the corn is cooked. You simply combine the remaining ingredients, to the dish with Cotija cheese and serve it with lime wedges to garnish.


Mexican Creamed Corn
(Adapted from recipe courtesy of Muy Bueno by Yvette Marquez-Sharnack, Veronica Gonzalez-Smith, and Evangelina Soza, 2012)

Makes 12 servings

10 ears of corn
1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups lime juice
2 cups crema Mexicana or sour cream
Chili powder to taste
Kosher salt to taste
Hot sauce
12 ounces crumbly salty white cheese (ideally Cotija but Parmesan is acceptable)
Lime wedges for garnish

Husk the corn, remove the silks, and slice the kernels from the cobs with a sharp knife. Place the corn in a saucepan with enough salted water to cover. Bring to a boil; let boil for 2 to 3 minutes, then drain. Turn off the heat and return corn to saucepan.

For each serving: Put ¾ cup corn in glass bowl. Add 2 tablespoons of butter and stir to melt the butter. Mix in ¼ cup lime juice and ¼ cup crema. Sprinkle with a good heavy coating of chili powder and salt, if desired, though the cheese adds plenty of salt. If you like spicy then add a few drops of hot sauce. Mix well. Top with about 2 tablespoons of crumbled cheese.

Serve with lime wedges.

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Shrimp Ceviche Verde

Ample Bites loves ceviche. Among the best I have enjoyed are an Ecuadorian Mixto Ceviche with white fish from Rios D’Sudamerica in Chicago and a mahi-mahi ceviche at a seafood restaurant in San Juan, Puerto Rico several years ago. I made a Shrimp Ceviche Verde to accompany my family’s Mexican Christmas Eve dinner. This recipe was brought to my attention by a friend of Ample Bites and is based on a recipe by the great aficionado of Mexican cuisine, Rick Bayless.


Shrimp Ceviche Verde
(Adapted from recipe courtesy of Season 8 Mexico One Plate at a Time by Rick Bayless)

Makes about 4 1/2 cups, serving 6 to 10 as an appetizer

1 1/2 pound very fresh uncooked, medium-to-small shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 cup fresh lime juice
4 ounces fresh tomatillos, husked, rinsed and roughly chopped
1 cup loosely packed cilantro, mostly leaves
Sea salt
1 serrano chile, stemmed, seeded, and very finely chopped
½ habanero chile, stemmed, seeded, and very finely chopped
2 – 3 Tbsp finely chopped chives
1 ripe avocado, pitted, flesh scooped from skin and cut into small cubes

Cut the shrimp into small pieces. Slightly smaller than 1/2-inch and scoop them into a serving bowl. In a blender, combine the lime juice, tomatillos, cilantro and a large pinch of salt. Blend until slushy looking, but not completely smooth. Stir the mixture into the shrimp and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Just before serving, stir in the two chiles, chives and avocado. Taste and season with more salt, if necessary.

Serve with tortilla chips and sour cream.

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Asian-Brined Pork Roast

Asian-Brined Pork Roast is a new favorite of Ample Bites. The Asian flavors and the combination of the citric acid from the orange and the ginger, mirin and sesame oil give the pork an amazingly good taste. This is a dish worth trying and continuing to perfect. Next time I think I will grill the pork instead of roasting it to get a bit more of a char on the meat.


Asian-Brined Pork Loin
(Adapted from recipe courtesy of Food & Wine, January 2013)

Makes 8 to 10 servings

1 ½ cups mirin
1 ½ cups low-sodium soy sauce
4 ounces, fresh ginger, thinly sliced
10 small dried red chiles
1 orange, thinly sliced
2 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
8 cups cold water
1 6-pound, bone-in pork loin roast
1 Tbsp vegetable oil

In a large pot, combine the mirin, soy sauce, ginger, chiles, orange slices, sesame oil and water. Add the pork roast, cover and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350F. Drain the pork and let it come to room temperature. Pat dry. In a medium, flame proof roasting pan, heat the oil. Add the roast and cook over moderate heat, turning occasionally, until browned on all sides, about 10 minutes. Transfer the roast to the oven, meaty side up, and roast for about 1 hour, or until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the roast registers 135F. Cover the roast very loosely with foil and let rest for 15 minutes.

To serve, slice the roast thinly.

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Greek Chicken with Spinach and Feta

Ample Bites was looking for a light chicken dish to serve in the middle of the high-calorie Holiday Season. My refrigerator contained chicken breasts, feta cheese, greek olives, and spinach. The pantry and spice drawer were populated with a variety of spices from which to create just about any dish. This combination of ingredients inspired me to create Greek Chicken with Spinach and Feta, light dinner fare that was a perfect for solution for the problem at hand. The recipe follows:


Greek Chicken with Spinach and Feta
(Mark Kelly, December 2012)

Makes 6 servings

6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
7 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, divided, plus extra for drizzling
3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp dried oregano
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound fresh baby spinach
8 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
6 ounces greek olives, coarsely chopped

In a large non-reactive bowl prepare the marinade by whisking together 6 tablespoons oil, lemon juice, 2 pinches of salt, oregano and 1 tablespoon pepper. Toss the chicken breasts in the marinade, cover and refrigerate for up to 4 hours. Bring the chicken to room temperature and shake off excess marinade.

Preheat oven to 375F. Place a rimmed baking sheet with a wire rack on the middle shelf. Bake the chicken on the wire rack until cooked through 20 – 25 minutes. Cover loosely and let stand for 5 – 10 minutes before serving.

In a large heavy skillet over medium heat add 1 tablespoon and cook garlic for 30 seconds. Add all of the spinach and cook until wilted but not soggy. Sprinkle the feta over the spinach.

To serve, spoon a portion of the spinach-feta on a plate and top with a sliced chicken breast. Drizzle with olive oil, top with olives, and re-season with salt and pepper.

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White Bean Soup with Chile Oil

White Bean Soup with Chile Oil is a pleasant riff on a basic white bean soup. The Chile Oil, which is very easy to make, punches up the flavor of the dish.


White Bean Soup with Chive Oil
(Adapted from recipe courtesy of Epicurious, November 2012)

Makes 6 servings

2 cups dried Great Northern beans, rinsed and picked over
3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 cup chopped leeks (white and pale green parts only)
1 large tomato, halved, seeded, and chopped
½ cup chopped carrots (about 2 medium)
½ cup chopped celery (about 2 medium)
8 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
11 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 Tbsp chopped fresh thyme
1 Tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
½ cup half-and-half
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Chive Oil for drizzling (see recipe below)

Put the beans in a large pot, add enough water to cover the beans by 2 inches and let soak overnight. Drain.

Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion, leeks, tomato, carrots, celery, and garlic and sauté until tender, about 6 minutes. Add the beans, chicken stock, thyme, and rosemary and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium low, cover, and simmer stirring occasionally, until the beans are very tender, about 1 hour.

With an immersion blender, puree the soup until smooth. Return the soup to the pot and add half-and-half. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Spoon into bowls and top with grated parmesan cheese and a drizzle of Chive Oil.

Chive Oil

1 bunch fresh chives
½ cup canola oil
1/8 tsp sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Blanch and ice bath the chives. Drain the chives and wrap them in a paper towel. Squeeze out excess water.

Put chives in a blender or food processor with the remaining ingredients and blend for 2 minutes. Strain through a fine mesh sieve Transfer oil to a plastic squeeze bottle.

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Spicy Shrimp St. Louis

Spicy Shrimp St. Louis is similar to a jambalaya when served over rice. The piquant gravy soaks into long-grain rice and creates a savory, warm dish to serve on cold Midwest winter night. The keys to the dish are seasoning the shrimp with a generous dose of Creole seasoning and the combination of the other spices in the dish. Before serving, make sure to taste the broth and re-season with additional spices, as needed.

Spicy Shrimp St. Louis
(Recipe courtesy of Dale Pillow via Louisiana Cookin magazine)

Serves 4

2 pounds large Gulf shrimp, peeled and deveined
9 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 Tbsp Creole seasoning
2 sticks unsalted butter
½ tsp red pepper flakes
¼ tsp dried oregano
¼ tsp dried basil
¼ tsp thyme
1/8 tsp dried rosemary
1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
6 green onions, finely sliced
1 green bell pepper, julienned
1 red bell pepper, julienned
1 (15 oz) can diced tomatoes
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1 ½ cups medium picante sauce
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Hot cooked long grain rice, for serving
Flat-leaf parsley, for garnish

Preheat oven to 350F. Combine shrimp, 1 tablespoon olive oil, and Creole seasoning in a large bowl, and chill.

Melt butter in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add red pepper flakes and next 13 ingredients and adjust heat to low. Mix well to make sure all ingredients are incorporated into sauce. Taste and adjust seasoning, if needed.

Cover Dutch oven and bake at 350F for 1 hour. Add picante sauce and reserved shrimp, mixing thoroughly. Lower oven temperature to 300F and cook until shrimp are opaque, 15 to 20 minutes.

Serve with rice topped with shrimp and sauce. Add fresh parsley for a garnish.

Roasted Acorn Squash with Chile Vinaigrette

Roasted Acorn Squash with Chile Vinaigrette is a great side dish for the holidays. The spicy chili vinaigrette dressing makes the dish versatile enough to serve with traditional holiday entrees such as roast beef, ham and roasted poultry or to accompany Spanish or Italian fare.

Roasted Acorn Squash with Chile Vinaigrette
(Adapted from recipe courtesy of Epicurious, 2012)

Serves 4 – 6

2 (1 ½ pound) acorn squash
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp Kosher salt
6 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove
1 ½ Tbsp fresh lime juice
1 – 2 tsp finely chopped or ground dried hot red chile, including seeds
2 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro

Put the oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat the oven to 450F.

Halve the squash lengthwise, then cut off and discard the stem ends. Scoop out the seeds and cut the squash lengthwise into ¾-in-wide wedges. Toss with the pepper, salt and 2 tablespoons of oil in a bowl. Arrange cut side down in 2 large shallow baking pans.

Roast the squash, switching position of the pans halfway through roasting, until tender and undersides of wedges are golden brown, 25 to 35 minutes.

While squash roasts, mince the garlic and mash to a paste with ¼ teaspoon salt. Transfer the paste to a small bowl and whisk in the lime juice, chile to taste, cilantro and ¼ cup oil until combined.

Transfer the squash, browned sides up, to a platter and drizzle with the vinaigrette.

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Goat Cheese and Garlic Pizza

Ample Bites had yet another request for a twist on pizza. This time for Friday Pizza Night we did Goat Cheese and Garlic Pizza which was amazing. The garlic is subtle and the caraway and tarragon are a different taste sensation. Give it a try!

Goat Cheese and Garlic Pizza
(Mark Kelly, 2012)

Serves 4

1 pizza dough, divided into equal crusts
Extra-virgin olive oil
2 yellow peppers, seeded and sliced
2 red peppers, seeded and sliced
16 large garlic cloves, peeled, sliced horizontally
6 ounces plain goat cheese, crumbled
½ tsp tarragon
½ tsp caraway seeds

Prepare pasta dough and divide the dough into four equal crusts. Preheat oven to 425F. Preheat pizza stone for about 20 minutes.

Saute garlic and peppers in one tablespoon of oil until soft, stirring occasionally, until soft and the peppers are just beginning to brown, about 4 minutes.

Cover each crust with the vegetables, goat cheese and spices leaving a ½” rim. Brush the rim of each pizza with olive oil.

Bake each pizza for about 10-15 minutes or until the cheese is melted and crust is golden. Before serving, drizzle with oil and cut into wedges.

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Spicy Turkey-Tortilla Soup

Ample Bites froze some of the leftover Thanksgiving turkey to use in a soup. Spicy Turkey-Tortilla Soup uses Mexican flavors to produce a light soup that goes beyond the normal Turkey Noodle variations.

This soup incorporates a dash of unsweetened cocoa powder to impart a slight mole flavor. The soup is finished with baked tortilla strips and scallions, jalapenos, avocado and lime wedges.

Spicy Turkey-Tortilla Soup
(Mark Kelly, 2012)

Serves 6

2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 large red onion, finely chopped
2 large carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
¼ cup roughly chopped cilantro stems, plus ½ cup cilantro leaves for garnish
2 garlic cloves, smashed
2 1/4 tsp ground coriander, divided
2 1/4 tsp ground cumin, divided
2 1/4 tsp dried oregano, divided
2 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
2 ¼ tsp kosher salt, divided
10 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
2 6-inch corn tortillas
Non-stick cooking spray
3 cups cooked, shredded turkey breast
2 scallions, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced
1 jalapeno, thinly sliced into rings
½ avocado, peeled and chopped into small pieces
1 lime, cut into wedges

Preheat oven to 375F. In a large pot over medium heat add oil and heat 1 minute. Add the onion and carrot and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender and soft, about 10 minutes. Stir in the cilantro stems, garlic, 1 teaspoon ground coriander, 1 teaspoon ground cumin, 1 teaspoon dried oregano, 1 tablespoon cocoa powder and 2 teaspoons salt. Cook until the garlic is fragrant, about 1 minute, then pour in the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and gently simmer for 20 minutes. Re-season with 1 teaspoon ground coriander, 1 teaspoon ground cumin, 1 teaspoon dried oregano, and 1 tablespoon cocoa powder.

While the soup is simmering, make tortilla strips. In a small bowl, combine the remaining coriander, cumin, oregano, ¼ teaspoon salt and cayenne pepper. Place the tortilla on a cutting board and lightly coat each side with cooking spray. Sprinkle both sides of the tortillas with the spice mixture, then slice into 1/8-to1/4-inch-thick strips. Place the strips on a rimmed baking sheet and bake in the oven until crisp, stirring midway through, for about 8 to 10 minutes.

Strain the broth into a bowl, discard the solids and return the broth to the pot. Add the shredded turkey and cook over medium heat until the turkey is warmed through, 5 to 8 minutes. Divide the soup between bowls and add some scallion, jalapeno, avocado, cilantro leaves and tortilla strips to each bowl. Serve with a lime wedge.

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