Artichoke squares, the easy tapa to make ahead

mom's artichoke squares

mom’s artichoke squares

I just love the concept of appetizers!  The Spanish, with their tapas or the Greeks with the meze have it right when it comes to enjoying an entire meal savouring multiple small courses all night long.  Tapas are great because it prolongs the time you spend around the table or, in our case, often around the kitchen island. What’s not to love when you get to taste a multitude of different courses instead of just the traditional three-course meal.

However serving tapas to your guests can result in a lot of work and stress if not planned properly.  My husband and I have learned that the best way to serve tapas is to have on hand a combination of cold and hot tapas, which have been prepared in advance.  All that needs to be done when the party comes around, is just some minimal assembly or reheating before they are served.   This will ensure you can enjoy the party as much as your guests!

We’ve got a long list of favourite appetizers which I’m looking forward to posting on this blog, but as a start, I am sharing with you the easiest app you’ll ever make, my mom’s artichoke squares!    It’s a little like a frittata because of the eggs, but don’t be fooled the taste is sophisticated enough for an appetizer.

This is a super easy recipe that requires minimal bowls and pans. You can make this one ahead, bake it and freeze it until you are ready to reheat and serve.  Couldn’t be easier!  And I can’t tell you how tasty and addictive these squares are, I guarantee that your guests won’t leave any behind.

mom’s artichoke squares

mom's artichoke squares

mom’s artichoke squares

ingredients:

  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 can (398 ml or 1 1/2 cup) artichoke hearts, chopped
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups strong cheddar cheese, grated
  • ¼ cup bread crumbs
  • 1 ½ tablespoon greek oregano or regular oregano
  • 2 dashes of tobasco
  • pinch of salt and pepper
  1. Preheat oven at 350oF.
  2. Transfer chopped onion into a large microwaveable bowl along with butter.  Cook onions and butter in microwave for about 3 minutes until onions are softened and remove from microwave.  As you know, handle bowl safely as it may be very hot.
  3. Before chopping each artichoke, ensure to drain each heart of water by squeezing the water out of them.
  4. Thoroughly combine remaining ingredients (garlic, artichokes, eggs, cheddar cheese, bread crumbs, oregano, tobacco, salt and pepper) in bowl with softened onions.
  5. Spread artichoke mixture evenly into a 9″ square pan.
  6. Bake at 350oF for 35 minutes.
  7. Cool slightly and cut into squares and serve warm.
mom's artichoke squares

mom’s artichoke squares

If freezing before serving, cool completely after baking and cut into squares.  Store squares in an airtight container with parchment paper separating layers of squares.   You can therefore serve the quantity that you wish when needed and store the rest for up to 2 weeks in the freezer.  Before serving reheat oven at 350oF and bake for 15-20 minutes.

Voila!

yes, you can eat snails! try escargots à la bourguignonne

escargots à la bourguignonne

escargots à la bourguignonne

I know, I know, what could be appetizing about this slimy-looking mollusk?  You’re probably telling yourself, I’ve never been interested in trying them, or I’ve tried them but they didn’t float my boat, so why should I go on reading this, as there’s no way I’m going to make this recipe!

Well, let me keep your interest for one more paragraph or two and try to convince you to give it a shot!

For those of you who tried them and didn’t like them it may have to do with the size of the snails.  In this case, bigger is not better, they are just too rubbery, and that is certainly not appetizing for anyone.  So yes, if you’ve had the big ones, I could completely understand your disdain for them.  But go small and I’m certain you’ll be converted.

For those of you who have not tried them and may be a little turned off by the idea of ingesting a slimy mollusk, well they will not be slimy, unlike raw oysters, you will be eating them cooked soaking in garlic butter which makes them even more palatable and tender.  The best part is that you’re sopping up all that melted garlic butter with crusty bread, which probably explains why I liked them the first time I tried them, as a 5 year old child living in the Loire region of France with my parents.  So if a 5-year-old kid approves, it can’t be that gross!

If you do decide to trust me on this and take the leap and make escargots à la bourguignonne, don’t even think about buying fresh snails, it’s not worth the trouble of cleaning them, purging them of their toxins, etc…  Just buy them canned however do look for the brand which contains the greatest number of snails in the cans, this obviously means that the snails will be smaller.  Avoid any can labeled “big snails” or “gros escargots”! There is also an exquisite kind from France, called “petit gris”, and if you’re lucky to find those you’ll be converted forever.

Lastly, the other reason I’m so enthusiastic about escargots à la bourguignonne is that they are easy breezy to prepare, they can be prepared in advance, frozen and cooked when required.  This makes for a great last minute appetizer.

escargots à la bourguignonne

escargots ready to bake

escargots ready to bake

For this recipe you will need porcelain escargots dishes as shown above.

ingredients :

  • 1 garlic clove, minced and mashed
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 ½ teaspoons shallot, finely minced
  • 1 tablespoon flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon dry white wine
  • 1 can of small snails
  • French baguette

Makes 6 ½ dozen

  1. Preheat oven to 450oF
  2. Take minced garlic and mash it with salt to create a paste.
  3. Combine softened butter, shallot, garlic paste, parsley and pepper and then beat in wine.
  4. Rinse snails.
  5. Place ½ teaspoon of garlic butter inside every depression of the escargot dish and place on top of the butter one snail and then top each snail with another ½ teaspoon of garlic butter.
  6. At this point you can cover each dish tightly with aluminum foil and freeze until you’re ready to bake them.
  7. When ready to bake just remove foil and bake in oven between 4 to 6 minutes, until the butter is melted and is bubbling.
  8. Serve with baguette and a great bottle of white wine, in this case I’m partial to a muscadet!
escargots à la bourguignonne and muscadet

escargots à la bourguignonne and muscadet

how bacon makes a celery root soup even better!

celery root and leek soup topped with celery, apples and bacon

celery root and leek soup topped with celery, apples and bacon

Yes, more celery root, but this time it is for a soup!   It is winter after all, and we’re looking to leverage what’s available seasonally.   Celery root and leeks are great combination for a soup and this one is earthy and silky, however on it’s own it can be a little too subtle to the palate.  So we bring it to another level, by adding texture and extra flavours by garnishing the soup with finely chopped celery, celery leaves, green apple and the “piece de resistance”, the lardons (bacon pieces cut down to 1/4 inch cubes).

This results in a sophisticated appetizer, which can easily be prepared in advance and served for your next dinner party.

Serves 6

celery root and leek soup topped with celery, apples and bacon

ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 3 leeks, washed, halved, white and green pale green parts and chopped coarsely
  • 1 medium onion, chopped coarsely
  • 2 medium celery root (sometimes referred to as celeriac), peeled with a knife and cut into ½ inch cubes
  • 2 cups of water
  • 2 cups chicken broth (reduced-sodium)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ tsp pepper
  • ¼ cup of 15% cream
  • ¼ cup of additional water if required

garnish:

  • ¼ cup lardons (3 slices of bacon cut into 1/4 inch cubes)
  • 1 green apple (Granny Smith)
  • 1 celery rib, sliced very thinly
  • ¼ cup of inner celery leaves
celery root and leek soup topped with celery, apples and bacon

celery root and leek soup topped with celery, apples and bacon

  1. Add butter and olive oil to a large 4 quart pot over the stove.  Add chopped leeks , celery root and onion and sweat in covered pot over simmering heat until leeks and onions are softened, for about 20 minutes.  Do not brown leeks or onions, add more butter if they start to brown.
  2. Add water, chicken broth, 1 tsp of salt and ¼ tsp of black pepper and bring to a boil uncovered, then reduce heat and simmer, until celery root is very tender for another 20 minutes.
  3. Carefully pour soup into a blender and purée until smooth.  Clean pot and return soup to pot.
  4. Bring soup pot back to stove and simmer on low heat.  Add cream and heat until warm, stirring occasionally.   You may add more water, about 1/4 cup, if you find the soup’s consistency to be too thick for your taste.
    Note that if you wish to serve the soup the following day, just cool soup and refrigerate without adding cream.  When ready to serve simply add cream and reheat soup.
  5. While soup is heating through with cream, cook bacon into a large saucepan over medium heat, turning frequently until crispy for about 8 minutes.  Transfer bacon to paper towels.
  6. Meanwhile thinly slice apples lengthwise into 1/8 inch thick slices working around core.  Then cut each slice into small matchsticks.
  7. Thinly chop celery and celery leaves and set aside.
  8. When ready to serve divide soup into bowls and garnish soup with apple matchsticks, celery slices, celery leaves and lardons.

Enjoy!