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Archive for the ‘Appetizers’ Category

Pan Grilled Shrimp with Lime Zest

Photo by David Bishop

http://dbishop.net/

Shellfish, shrimp being one of my favorites, is a spectacular gift of the sea and treasure of the planet. It is one of the lowest calorie animal proteins, 30 calories per ounce, is low in fat, has no saturated fat and offers beneficial cholesterol.  http://www.foodmarketexchange.com/datacenter/industry/article/idf_shrimp_drains.htm

As most world ethnic cuisines tell us, cooking proteins with the bones and shells still attached imparts flavor. Flavor, the all important factor in appetite satiation, drives our sense of abundance and satisfaction with our intake of nutrients and pleasure. Slicing the shrimp in half length wise with the shells still on allows you to clean the vein from the shrimp and season the cut side of the meat. Grilling them shell side down promotes maximum flavor. The grilling shell flavors the flesh with its sweet and musky piquant fragrance.

In pondering how to apply a fine lime zest evenly to the raw shrimp without waste, I realized that drying it would allow ease of sprinkling. To do this I mixed it with fine sea salt and finely ground white pepper. The resulting spice seasoning adds the right balance of brightness, tang and zing needed to make this a thoroughly scrumptious entree or appetizer.

I love cooking with coconut oil. It has such a rich fragrance and flavor, a medium smoke point and zero cholesterol. Yes, the much maligned saturated fat in coconut is indeed now understood to be one of the healthiest oils on the planet. It is said to cure a multitude of human bodily ills and used sparingly won’t add many calories to your food. If you are on a strict no fat diet you can grill the shrimp in a non stick pan without any oil.  http://www.coconutresearchcenter.org/ http://www.organicfacts.net/organic-oils/organic-coconut-oil/health-benefits-of-coconut-oil.html     http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-mercola/coconut-oil-benefits_b_821453.html

The secret to easily cutting the shrimp in half lengthwise with a neat and clean look, is using a pair of scissors to cut down the back center line of the shell and the tail. Then, laying the shrimp down on its side, use a very sharp knife to cut the flesh into halves. You’ll get the hang of it with one or two tries.

Lime Zest Seasoning

  • 1 lime, finely zested (Save the juice for your water glasses or beverage of choice)
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely ground white pepper

Preparing and Cooking the Shrimp

A half pound of shrimp will feed two people, 120 calories per person without the oil. Coconut oil adds 120 calories per tablespoon to the total pan, much of which gets left in the pan.

  1. Wash and dry the shrimp
  2. Cut the shrimp in half laterally as described above
  3. Pull out the veins if you wish to. I find that sometimes they are less apparent than others.
  4. Sprinkle or spoon and smear the shrimp, cut side up, evenly with the Lime Zest Seasoning
  5. Coat the pan evenly, using a pastry brush, with 1-2 tablespoons of coconut oil
  6. On medium heat, let the skillet heat up until it sizzles a drop of water
  7. Add the shrimp halves to the pan shell side down, keeping track of the order in which you place them down. I have found that usually by the time I have put the last one into the pan it is time to turn the first one.
  8. Turn the shrimp when you see that the shell has turned pink everywhere
  9. Cook the shrimp until they just lose their translucency and remove immediately to a plate. It will only be about a minute. Do Not Over Cook or they will become dry and tough.

It is easy to remove the shell while eating them with a knife and fork, but feel free to eat them with your hands.

Also see my Food News column in The Huffington Post at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/marilinda-hodgdon/  and my professional site at www.marilinda.com


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Asparagus with Shallots and Lemon

 Photo by David Bishop

http://www.dbishop.net/

I have loved asparagus since I was a small child. My mother served it often with butter and salt & pepper. In my adult years, upon discovering shallots and the wonders of fresh lemon juice and zest , I have been making my recipe for Asparagus with Shallots and Lemon for many years. The first time I took a plate of this dish to a neighborhood buffet dinner party, the plate was emptied immediately. People were asking me for the recipe because they loved it so much. I went back home and made another platter of it to bring back to the party. Mine was the only vegetable dish, aside from a green salad, the others being popular heavy meat, cheese and starch foods. I was delighted with my recipe’s reception.

Asparagus, with it’s delicate flavor and tender succulent flesh, has been prized as a delicacy since ancient times, especially in Ancient Egypt, Rome and Greece, and was and still is known for its cleansing and healing properties.  Asparagus has often appeared in high brow recipes such as Asparagus alla Hollandaise, though in modern times has become ubiquitous in food markets and is easily procured at modest means. It is a pantheon of health foods with high fiber and nutrients, and has a low calorie count of 36 calories per cup. It can be useful both as cure and preventative for disease.

According to the Michigan Asparagus Advisory Board, “Asparagus is one of the most nutritionally well-balanced vegetables in existence. It leads nearly all produce items in the wide array of nutrients it supplies in significant amounts for a healthy diet.” (http://www.asparagus.org/maab/nutrition.html). Wikipedia sites that “Studies have shown that people who have died from Alzheimer’s Disease have extremely low to no levels of folate”, folate being one of the important nutrients in asparagus, among many others. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asparagus)

Other experts agree that asparagus is high in antioxidants and amino acids, has little fat and high protein, is low in sodium and is a diuretic. Furthermore, it is also a great source for: calcium, magnesium, zinc, folic acid, thiamin, riboflavin, rutin, niacine, glutathione, (http://www.doctoroz.com/videos/superhero-antioxidants-pt-1, http://www.amazing-glutathione.com/what-foods-have-glutathione. html, http://www.effectsofglutathione.com/), iron, phosphorus, potassium, copper, manganese, selenium, and chromium, “a trace mineral that enhances the ability of insulin to transport glucose from the bloodstream into cells.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asparagus) This last tidbit is especially useful for diabetics.

Asparagus is especially known to cleanse the liver and kidneys  It is also found to help cure gout by dissolving uric acid in the the extremities, and help in bowel evacuation. Water from cooking asparagus is considered to alleviate facial blemishes.

There is much scientific research on the matter of how asparagus makes your pee odorous. After having read them all I still believe that it is it’s property of cleansing the liver and kidneys that causes the phenomenon. Asparagus simply makes your pee smell because it releases the accumulated toxins from your body.

I share with you here my recipe for Asparagus with Shallots and Lemon.

Recipe serves 4 as a side dish: 54 calories per serving

  • 1 bunch of asparagus, about 8 ounces or 2 cups, 72 calories
  • 2 shallots, thinly sliced, 1.75 – 2 ounces, 14-16 calories
  • I lemon, zested and juiced, zest is 3 calories per Tablespoon, juice is 8- 10 calories for 1.75 ounces. I used a Meyers lemon for the rich color and sweeter taste.
  • 1 tablespoons olive oil, 120 calories
  • Flake sea salt and ground black pepper to taste, as a finish
  • 2 quarts of boiling sea salted water (about 1/8 cup all purpose sea salt)
  • 2 quarts of ice water in a large bowl
  1. Trim the pale woody ends off the stalks of the washed asparagus. (You can use the ends to make vegetable stock later with trimmings of other vegetables)
  2. Boil the asparagus tips until they are just about tender to the teeth. (I bite the largest cut end of one to check)
  3. Remove the asparagus from the boiling water and place into the ice bath to preserve the bright green color. Drain and dry them thoroughly just before the finished cooking process.
  4. In a skillet amply sized to accommodate all of the asparagus single file, saute the shallots in the olive oil on medium low heat until slightly golden brown.
  5. Add into the skillet the drained and dried asparagus and stir to coat them with the oil and shallots.
  6. Add into the skillet the lemon juice and half of the lemon zest and continue to cook for a few minutes, tossing all the while. The juices and oil will emulsify to form a glaze.
  7. Remove everything to a plate with tongs and season with flaked sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.
  8. Garnish with the rest of the lemon zest.

Serve and enjoy as a side dish with your favorite entree and whole grain, or add to a salad.

Also visit my professional website at  www.marilinda.com and my food column on the Huffingon post at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/marilinda-hodgdon/

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Roasted Quail on Crispy Pasta Nest

Photo by David Bishop

Quail is one of my favorite poultry choices. The meat is delicate in both texture and flavor. Most quail available for purchase is boned except for the legs and wings. I used a half of apricot to plump up the breast for structure, flavor and juiciness. Using white sewing thread, I stitched the opening and trussed the legs. The cute little birds are seasoned with white pepper, seared in butter and roasted at 400′ F for about 15 minutes, glazing with a pastry brush during cooking at least 3 times, until browned and tender. I usually brine poultry before cooking for flavor and tenderness. If you choose to do this, be sure to brine the meat before it is stuffed and dry it well. As an appetizer use one bird per person. For an entree 2-3 birds each.

I chose to present the quail as an appetizer on a nest of fried spaghetti for drama, and garnished with pine nuts, fried zucchini flower, chervil and sauteed apricot pieces.

Brine

  • 1 gallon of water
  • 1 cup sea salt
  • 1 small onion cut into pieces (optional)

Dissolve the salt and chill the solution. Soak the quail for one hour in the refrigerator, making sure they are completely covered . Dry thoroughly before stuffing.

Glaze

  • 2 cups freshly squeezed orange juice with pulp
  • 1 cup honey

Whisk the juice and honey together. In a sauce pan reduce the mixture over medium heat by half, being careful not to scorch, Brush it on the quail before, during and after roasting. Roast on a parchment lined 1/2 sheet pan at 400’F for about 15 minutes, until browned and tender. Serve with the remaining glaze.

Also, check out my Huffington post site at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/marilinda-hodgdon/

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Chicken Yakitori with Sesame Seeds and Seaweed Salad

Photo by David Bishop

Chicken Yakitori is sort of redundant since the word Yakitori in Japanese means skewered grilled poultry. Traditionally, Yakitori can be grilled with salt only or with a sauce called Tare. Hence, “Yakitori no Tare” is griled poultry with tare sauce. We westerners just call it Chicken Yakitori.

Like BBQ sauce, Tare is often also served on the side for dipping.  You can buy it ready made in a bottle or make it yourself. It can be used on any protein or vegetable sturdy enough to skewer and grill or you can also use it under a broiler or in an oven, for more delicate foods like flounder or ripe peaches.

For a deeper flavor use it as a marinade before grilling and continue applying with a brush or squeeze bottle several times during cooking. The basic ingredients for Yakitori Sauce or Tare are; sake, soy sauce, mirin (a naturally sweet cooking rice wine), and sugar. You may also add any kind of stock you see fit for your choice of food.

Great as a party pleaser, here is my recipe for “Yakitori no Tare” and suggestions for cooking and presentation. Don’t forget to soak your skewers in water while preparing the other ingredients.

Tare

  • 1 1/3 cups soy sauce
  • 3/4 cup sake
  • 1/4 cup mirin
  • 1/8 cup honey

Mix all the ingredients together and bring to a low boil for about a minute and let cool. Set a little aside for dipping. Use the rest for marinating and brushing while cooking.

Skewers

  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 4 boneless skinless chicken thighs cut into 1 inch cubes
  •  1 yellow bell pepper cut into 1 inch dices
  • 8 scallions
  • 8 6 inch long, thin bamboo skewers soaked in water for at least 30 minutes
  1. Using only the centers of the scallions, cut 16 one inch lengths of the medium green parts of scallion. Reserve the dark green and white parts for other uses.
  2. Alternate dark and white meat and vegetables onto soaked skewers, taking care to center the skewer in each piece so there is no breakage.
  3. Marinate in the sauce for 1 hour in the refrigerator.
  4. Grill gently over medium low heat for about 5 minutes each side, basting with sauce every few minutes.
  5. Check for doneness and cook more if needed. Cook until just done.

Serve on a bed of seaweed salad and garnish with blacks sesame seeds. Cold premium sake or cucumber garnished Saketinis are great with this dish on a hot summer day, or anytime.

Check out the link to my blog on the Huffington Post

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Polenta Crostini with Pickled Onions and Gorgonzola Crumbles

Think of a mouth full of creamy and savory polenta deliciousness with a wisp of its grilled crunchy surround.  Top it with a tart, juicy, sweet layer of fruity wine pickled onion, and add the rich pungent fullness of ripe gorgonzola cheese crumbles, and grassy aromatic fresh herbs. This beautiful and delectable “Crostini”, Italian for “little crust”, my rendition made with polenta, is enigmatic of traditional Northern Italian Cuisine, morphed by international fusion. It is perfect for any size party because of its wow factor and ease of assembly.

Currently, polenta is known as a corn based recipe, though originally it was made from aggregate grains and legumes mixed with various flavorings of vegetables, meats, herbs and spices. The beauty of its contrivance is that it can be as simple and easy or as complex as you choose it to be. What counts is flavor and eye appeal. You can start from scratch, buy a quick cook variety, or buy a tube of pre-made polenta. Which ever you choose, follow package directions and add some of your own imagination and flavor. Slice and grill the chilled firm polenta as a platform for countless accouterments. Build your own creation from there.

Keeping in mind that the basic proportion for cooking polenta from scratch is three parts water or broth to one part corn flour, here is my rendition of a fun, beautiful and delicious grilled or pan fried polenta appetizer.

Polenta Recipe

  • 2 cups yellow corn flour
  • 6 cups salted water to taste, or light colored broth
  • 1/4 cup good quality olive oil
  • 1/4 cup minced shallot
  • 1/4 cup minced red bell pepper, no seeds or ribs
  • 1/4 cup finely minced jalepeno pepper, no seeds or ribs
  • 1/4 cup fresh chopped cilantro, parsley, or your herb of choice
  1.  in a 3-4 quart pot, saute vegetables in half of the olive oil on medium low heat until soft, reserving chopped herbs.
  2. Add water to the pot, turning up the heat to bring it to a boil.
  3. Add the corn flour slowly while stirring until the mixture amalgamates and thickens, lowering heat as needed to avoid sticking, about 20-30 minutes.
  4. Stir chopped herbs into the mix quickly.
  5. Pour onto a greased 1/2 sheet or jelly-roll pan and smooth with an off set spatula to even out the thickness.
  6. Let cool until very firm, about one hour. You can speed the process in the refrigerator.
  7. Cover with waxed paper and turn out onto a cutting board rapping on the bottom of the pan sharply.
  8. Cut into desired size and shapes with a knife or cookie/ biscuit cutter.
  9. Grill in a well oiled pan, or under or over a flame until golden brown and crusty.

Wine Pickled Onions

Red

  • 2 small red onions
  • 1 cup pomegranate juice or any clear red pure fruit juice
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole coriander seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon whole cloves (6-8)
  • 1/4 teaspoon cracked allspice berries (3-4)

White

  • 2 small white onions
  • 1 cup white grape juice
  • 1/2 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon whole white peppercorns
  1. Julienne onions into points by cutting them in half length wise, peel off skin and tough outer layers, then continue slicing them end to end into crescents with the widest center measure at about 1/4 inch.
  2. Separately, in two one quart sauce pans, bring all ingredients of red and white pickling elements, except the onions, to a boil stirring to homogenize the flavors.
  3. Add the onions to their respective pickles, and continue to boil, reducing the heat slightly to slow evaporation, until they absorb color and  flavor but are still slightly crunchy, 5-10 minutes.
  4. Drain, reserving liquid for another time. Cool separately on two trays to keep colors from touching each other, single layer in the refrigerator.
  5. Cover with plastic wrap, once cooled. Keep refrigerated until use.
  6. Store leftover pickled onions in sealed jars with a small amount of their liquid. They are delicious added to many dishes.

Building Ingredients and Styling Tips

  • Grilled Polenta Rounds
  • Red & White Pickled Onions
  • Gorgonzola crumbles
  • Sprigs and leaves of your favorite herb for garnish

Building the appetizers are pretty self explanatory using the photo image as reference. Using your innate intuitive sense, somewhat alternate the white and red pickled onions a top the crostini rounds in a circular spiraling swirl. Top each round with a proportionate amount of Gorgonzola crumbles and garnish with small herbal leaves or sprigs.

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Medium Hard Boiled Egg in Chicken Stock Aspic

Photo by David Bishop

I have co-opted this twist on a traditional French appetizer of eggs in aspic, an old-school French charcuterie: the Oeuf en Gelée, as a pretty and tasty starter for Easter dinner. It’s simplicity renders it not only easier to achieve than the traditional and more complex old fashioned versions, it is also more visually successful.

The first part of the quotient is to negotiate making the best tasting and looking “hard boiled eggs” ever. I say hard boiled in jest because they are not boiled and are barely hard, rendering them vibrantly yellow, moist, tender and delicious.

Medium Hard Eggs

Photo by David Bishop

Most people hard boil eggs thoughtlessly, leaving them overcooked, dry, tasteless, and with an unsightly green sulfurous ring around the perimeter of the yolk. It takes only a little bit of stayed attention to greatly improve these issues.

  1. Have a large bowl of lightly salted iced water standing by to receive your cooked eggs and stop the cooking in their tracks.
  2. Put room temperature medium sized eggs covered in slightly salted tap water in a sauce pan or pot and put over medium heat.
  3. Bring the water to an almost boil, a murmur of a boil, a gently nearly bubbling boil. Pay attention and adjust your heat to make it so.
  4. Leave it as such for 8 minutes for medium eggs, 9 minutes for large eggs and 10 minutes for extra large eggs. If you are doing lots of eggs at a time, you can test one to make sure it is exactly what you want by plunging one into the ice water and cutting it in 2 two, (without shelling it).
  5. When you have the desired color, plunge the eggs into the iced water to stop the cooking immediately.
  6. Roll each egg onto a hard surface to gently crack the shells, and return them to the iced water for at least 15 minutes, letting the water seep into the space between the shell and the membrane. This will enable you to shell the eggs easily.
  7. Shell each egg carefully to avoid marring the surface of the egg whites.
  8. Use a thin wire cheese cutter or very sharp thin knife, to slice the eggs length wise.
  9. At this point you can use the eggs for many things, including deviled eggs and our featured “Jellied Easter Eggs”.

Now for the fun part. I found little old fashioned fluted tin molds that were exactly the right size for medium sized eggs. Traditionally, the molds are boring, straight sided ovals, but I like the fluted chocolate candy molds for such festive occasions.

Look at the size of your eggs compared to the size of your molds, making sure that there is ample space around the eggs so that the Gelée, or Jelly, fills that space so that the eggs don’t touch the edge of the molds. This is why I chose medium sized eggs, which are usually only available in organic, free range eggs, and are also, by the way, more yellow and tasty.

The next steps are the recipe for the Jelly/Gelée.

  1. For every cup of cold chicken stock, the clearer the better ( I use Kitchen Classics, available at Whole Foods and Food Emporium)) use 2 packets of unflavored gelatine.
  2. Quickly whisk into the stock, the powdered gelatine, making sure it is entirely wet, and let it plump for a minute or so.
  3. Either put the solution onto a double boiler or microwave it until the gelatine granules are all completely dissolved.
  4. Pour a tiny bit of the completely desolved gelatine stock into each mold and let it cool and set a bit before you proceed.
  5. Take a small graceful sprig of herb, such as thyme, and place it onto the center of the egg yolk and set the egg half into the jelly, cut side down. While holding it down with your finger, add more of the gelatine stock, until it fills the mold, making sure the egg doesn’t rise and separate from the bottom of the mold.
  6. Once you are sure that the egg and gelatine are in the correct posture, place the molds carefully into a level refrigerator shelf to gel for at least an hour or so.
  7.  Test them with a touch from your finger. They should be quite firm.
  8. The most intricate part of the process is the un-molding, though it is made easier because the molds are metal, and therefore conduct heat.
  9. Using a just above body temperature water bath, dip the molds of gelatine, one at a time, into the warm water bath, making sure that the water never, ever excels the top of the mold. You are merely freeing the gelatine molds through tansduction of heat, not flooding it.
  10. Touch the surface of the gelatine with your finger to test if it is free of the mold. You may have to dip it again into the warm water. If the water is too hot or you dip it too much, you may lose the details of the mold. As soon as you know it is free, turn it over and rap it onto the surface that you wish to deliver it unto.
  11. Your best devise for having a future choice to the final destination of your mold, is to smear a thinly, finger applied layer of cold water onto the back side of the mold, so that you can slide it onto any surface you desire. Don’t hesitate too long to decide, or the gelatine will impart itself onto whatever you have laid it on, making it difficult to move your creation.

My choice of presentation for this lovely personal appetizer is a bed of Boston or Bibb lettuce, on a small individual dish. You choose accordingly to your own design.

If you are vegan, or want an alternate design, you may apply the same directions to our same molds, with vegetable broth and without the eggs, as seen below. They are tiny, personalized sized molds, incorporating mini veges, and can be just as beautiful, if not more, and savory.

Vegetable Aspic Salad Appetizer

Photo By David Bishop

Whatever you choose, may your life be filled with the joy and happiness of shared time together.

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Turkey Meatball Appetizer Extraordinaire

Photo by David Bishop

Spoons from Sur Le Table

Everyone loves meatballs, unless you are vegetarian. They show up in every culture world wide. Almost all of these ethnic gems have a few ingredients in common: ground meat, eggs, carbohydrate bits such a bread crumbs, liquid such as milk or stock, onions and spices.

The important elements in all of the recipes are designed to render them light, tender and moist, enabling them to soak up sauce and flavor. Solid meat balls tend to be leaden and dry. This appetizer ensemble recipe is a Thanksgiving meal in a mouthful. The presentation spoons make them a hit at any dinner party. Makes 24

Meatballs

  • 1 Lb. ground turkey
  • 1 egg,beaten
  • 1/4 cup milk or poultry stock
  • 1/4 cup wheat germ
  • 1/4 cup ground almonds
  • 1/4 cup minced shallot
  • 1/2 minced apple
  • 1/8 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried ground dill
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried ground sage
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

Preheat oven to 350’F

  1. Saute apple and shallot in olive oil until tender.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients with your clean hands or a wooden spoon thoroughly.
  3. Form 24 balls of mixture, placing them on a parchment lined 1/2 sheet pan (cookie sheet). I use a one inch release style ice cream scoop and roll the balls in wet hands. Ice cream scoops come in a plethora of sizes and are one of my favorite dispensing and forming tools.
  4. Bake for about ten minutes until just firm.
  5. Cover and keep warm.

Glaze

  • 2 cups Merlot wine
  • 2 cups veal demi glaze
  • 1/2 cup cherry jelly, jam or preserves
  • 1/4 – 1 teaspoon sea salt to taste. Start with 1/4 and adjust up when the sauce is fully cooked.
  1. Combine all ingredients and slow boil on medium low heat until the syrup coats a spoon, about 10 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  2. Cover and set aside to finish appetizers.

Parsnip Souffle Puffs

increase oven heat to 400’F

  • 8 ounces each peeled half inch cubes of parsnip, sweet potato, and turnip.
  • 2 quarts of sea salted water, about 2 tablespoons salt.
  • 2 beaten eggs
  • 4 tablespoons potato starch
  1. Boil the vegetables in the salted water until quite tender, about 12- 15 minutes.
  2. Drain vegetables reserving water.
  3. Mash vegetables together until smooth. I use an immersion blender.
  4. Blend eggs and starch into vegetable puree.
  5. Place mixture, in small batches, into a pastry bag with a star tip.
  6. Pipe 1 1/2 to 2 inch rings of puree onto an oiled parchment lined 1/2 sheet pan. I would bake one or two as a test to make sure they fit the meatballs nicely and that the mixture is not too thick or thin. You can add more starch or reserved liquid to adjust. When you are sure what size ring you like, and the consistency of the batter is right, bake the rest off until the edges are beautifully browned.

Assemblage

  1. With a small spatula, carefully move parsnip puffs to the presentation spoons or tiny plates.
  2. Top puffs with warm meat balls.
  3. Generously spoon warm Cherry Merlot Glaze onto the heavenly bites and serve immediately.

 

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