The Gratitude Tree & Holiday Appetizers

The Gratitude Tree
The Gratitude Tree

After a decade of sharing our Thanksgiving gratitude on place-cards, we have a spiffy new ambassador for sharing our thankfulness! It’s a Gratitude Tree. In the past, we would put a place-card and pen on the table at every setting. During the beginning of the meal everyone was encouraged to write their sentiments on the card. We saved these cards year after year so each guest could reflect on past years’ appreciation.

This year everyone gets a personalized paper leaf on which they can express their gratitude. Then after dinner, the leaves are hung on the tree. Guests can read and share tributes throughout the week. We’ll save the leaves, which will re-appear on the tree in years to come…as our tree blooms with an abundance of joy, thankfulness, and gratefulness.

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Capture Summer in a Little Glass Jar


CAPRESE VERRINE
Tomato Water Gelée, Burrata Cheese
Olive Oil, Chiffonade of Basil

Fans of the ubiquitous Insalata Caprese made with fresh buffalo mozzarella, tomatoes, basil, and olive oil will go wild over our unique Caprese Verrine. Freshly extracted tomato water combined with sea salt and gelatin when chilled, creates a smooth gelée that melts on the tongue tasting of pure tomato flavor, and pure summer heaven! Layered with chopped burrata – fresh mozzarella stuffed with “rags” of mozzarella and heavy cream with all its wonderful delicate creamy, sweet, sour, and earthy flavors. Finished with fresh basil from the garden and our favorite fruity olive oil from California Olive Ranch – this little 2 oz. verrine is our new darling for summer entertaining.

We served the Caprese Verrine as the amuse bouche at our recent Sunken City Supper Club event, “Mediterranean on the Pacific.” It was a fabulous start to an amazing al fresco summer dinner…

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Crostini and Other Tasty Appetizers

Navy Bean Crostini
With Garlic and Roasted Green Chile

Pea and Mint Crostini
Topped with Prosciutto

Pea and Mint Crostini
Topped with Diced Pear
Navy Bean Crostini Recipe

Cook pre-soaked Navy Beans in water with three or four smashed garlic cloves, a bay leaf and salt, until tender. Drain off any water and cool.

These roasted chiles came as a gift from my dear friend Peggy from Denver, where they roast chiles on the street corners in the Fall. I can just imagine the aromas! Peel, seed and stem the roasted chiles, then they are ready to add to the food processor.


Whip 1/2 c. whipping cream to stiff peaks in a food processor. Leave the whipped cream in the processor, change the blade from a whipping blade to a chopping blade, then add beans and garlic cloves (sans bay leaf) and roasted chiles. Puree then salt to taste. Navy beans, garlic, and roasted green chiles made an extraordinarily flavorful spread!
Toast (or grill) sliced baguette. Slice a garlic clove in half. Rub each slice of toasted baguette with a couple swipes of the raw garlic clove, then brush the toast with olive oil. Rubbing the toast with raw garlic gives it a real burst of flavor. Top with the spread. A little herb garnish is nice too.
I am submitting this Navy Bean Crostini to the My Legume Love Affair Event 17th Edition hosted by Sra of When My Soup Came Alive blog. This is a wonderful event that showcases legumes, started by Susan, The Well-Seasoned Cook in January 2008 and still going strong!
It was my pleasure to host the 11th Edition last May, the round-up can be found here. If you love beans, there is no better place to go than My Legume Love Affair for great recipes and inspiration.
Pea and Mint Crostini Recipe

The pea and mint crostini idea comes from Giada De Laurentis. Cook a bag of frozen peas with 1 t. red pepper flakes in water until tender. Drain and cool. Whip 1/2 c. whipping cream to stiff peaks in a food processor, change the blade, add the pea mixture with 1/4 c. fresh mint. Puree until smooth, salt to taste. Giada topped hers with diced prosciutto. We also topped some with diced pears tossed with pear balsamic vinegar. The color of the pea mixture is fabulous!
Shrimp with Blue Cheese Polenta, Chile Oil

Cook polenta, add crumbled blue cheese at the end of cooking. Salt and pepper to taste. Spread polenta mixture in a shallow dish. Chill, then cut out rounds with a cookie cutter.

Sauté peeled deveined shrimp in a little butter and olive oil, finish with salt and pepper to taste.

Dust polenta rounds with flour, sauté in butter until slightly crispy.

Char red chiles on a grill or under a broiler. Peel and seed. Put chiles in a food processor, stream in olive oil taking care not to over blend.

The roasted red chile oil gave a nice kick to the shrimp. Homemade chile oil was worth the effort. For extra cheesy bites, place a small slice of blue cheese on the polenta, then top with the shrimp and chile oil.
Date Wrapped Bacon Bundles

Two ingredients, lots of flavor! Roll bacon around a pitted date, secure with a toothpick and bake at 375° turning once, until the bacon is crispy. These were a big hit!
Sunken City Supper Club Appetizers
For our Sunken City Supper Club event a few weeks ago (posted here and here) we wanted to serve a nice variety of not-too-complicated appetizers as our guests arrived. We wanted a range of flavors, colors and textures. The Dates Wrapped in Bacon Bundles were sweet, smokey, and salty. The Crostini was colorful, crunchy and creamy. The Polenta with Shrimp was cheesy, spicy and crispy. We had vegetarian, seafood, and bacon appetizers. They were easy to pick up with the hands, we simply provided cocktail napkins, as the guests mingled before dinner. It worked.

Gail and Marlene plate the appetizers.

Barry Anthony of The Swing Of Things band getting ready to play at the Sunken City Supper Club.
Until the next get-together of the Sunken City Supper Club, I leave you with another one of the band’s light-hearted and breezy performances:

The Swing of Things performing Nat King Cole’s first hit record recorded in 1944, Straighten Up and Fly Right.