Category Archives: appetizer

Egg and Asparagus Open Faced Sandwiches on Rye

“Oh!” they proclaim.  Eggs and asparagus are the absolute taste of Spring.  Eggs and asparagus are the quinsential coupling of the season.  “They” said so, but I had not indulged.

In my world, eggs and asparagus belong in completely different groups.  Asparagus is in the Prepare it Simply and Resist Any Urge to Add Anything That is Clearly Not Necessary group.  Also in this group are steaks, salmon, peaches, and blueberries.  Eggs are in the Salsa Always Served With This category.  Other items in this group are tortilla chips, and, well, eggs.

In the end, the rye bread did add a bit of oomf to this dish.  The eggs are basically deviled eggs without the relish with the egg whites minced ever so sweetly.  Its a nice little Sunday brunch kind of thing while totally breaking all of my previous rules.

Egg and Asparagus Open Faced Sandwiches on Rye


  • 7 eggs, boiled and peeled
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard
  • 2 TBS parsley finely chopped (optional)
  • salt and pepper
  • 8 slices thinly sliced rye or other dark bread, cut in half
  • 8 spears asparagus


  1. Halve eggs, put the yolks in a bowl and mince the whites.  To the yolks, add the mayonnaise and dijon mustard.  Mix, and fold in whites, then parsely if desired.  Salt and pepper to taste.
  2. Set a pot of salted water to boil while slicing the asparagus spears into thirds.  Place asparagus into boiling water for 2 minutes, drain in a collander and rinse with cold water until cool.  If the spears are thick, cut each in half lengthwise.
  3. Lightly toast the bread under the broiler, then top with egg mixture and top with 2 pieces of asparagus.


  • These are oh, so pretty.
  • The main idea here is the egg spread, asparagus, and bread.  Play with the parts as you see fit.
  • Rye bread was one of those foods I just decided that I didn’t like as a kid.  Then one day I took a personal field trip to Berkeley’s Gourmet Ghetto and had a pastrami on rye at Saul‘s.  Life changing!

Pepperoncini Stuffed with Cajun Crab

Ready to add a delicious appetizer to your repertoire?  Looking for a bite sized tid bit to bring to the New Year’s Party that will stand out and make your friends swoon?  This is exactly what you’re looking for.

The recipe comes from the winners of Food Network’s first Food Network Star competition.  Dan and Steve won as a team and did a great job combining party foods with tips on how to create a fantastic event.  They were the perfect tag team kind of pair, and I loved them. You haven’t noticed them lately?  Ever?  That feeds into my theory that the Food Network competition style moves the best of the middle to the top and then is disappointed when the show doesn’t deliver.  But, that’s a gripe for another day.  Today, give these a try and watch them disappear before the ball drops on New Year’s Eve.

Pepperoncini Stuffed with Cajun Crab

from Dan Smith and Steve McDonagh on the Food Network


  • 36 pepperoncini
  • 1 lb cream cheese at room temperature
  • 8 oz crab meat, shredded  (see note below)
  • 1 1/2 TBS Cajun seasoning
  • 1 TBS hot sauce
  • 1 tsp dried thyme leaves
  • finely chopped fresh parsley leaves


  1. Cut the stem end off the pepperoncini and carefully scrape out the seeds.  Set aside on paper towels to drain.
  2. In a mixer, beat the cream cheese until smooth. Add the Cajun seasoning, hot sauce, and thyme and mix until blended.  Gently mix in the crab.
  3. Place the mixture into a zip lock bag, cut off one corner, and pipe into the pepperoncinis. Dip the cream cheese end of the pepperoncini in the chopped parsley and transfer to a serving tray.


  • The combination of peppers and spices give this some pucker power that is balanced by the cream cheese.
  • The picture shows the dish with and extra sprinkling of Cajun spices and not the parsley as in the instructions.  Either is wonderful.
  • The original recipe calls for crab claw meat shredded.  Are you kidding me?  Who would ever shred claw meat?  We’ve made this with both canned shredded and packaged chunk meat with great results.  If you can spring for claws, use them as additional bites on their own.
  • We’ve also served the crab mixture as a dip with pita chips.  Yum!
  • They still have a selection of recipes on the Food Network website and nothing by them has ever been a dud.

Fly Off the Plate Deviled Eggs

Here we continue with the summer classics theme and the search for the perfect recipe.  To briefly recap, I finally had the “aha” moment, or perhaps the “duh” moment in realizing that the classic picnic foods are challenging to recreate because we have each had sampled several truly good versions and more than our fair share of barely passable versions.  Think of the last time you had some totally ho-hum potato salad and wished to be eating your favorite version.

Tasting a brand new to you dish that is delicious is considered delicious because its tasty and also because there is no benchmark comparison.  Compare that with the classics, such as when Aunt Millie always brings the deviled eggs to the BBQ because hers are the best, and you quickly realize how intimidating these simple dishes are.  Reputations are on the line here people!

So, I love eggs.  One egg scrambled with lots of veggies, or a nice little quiche, or deviled, or even poached (the test of a good diner line cook).  Somehow the Love for Deviled Eggs gene was not passed along to my children, so I only make them when we’re having friends over.  For a few years I made deviled eggs that made me sing, but no one ever took a second.  A bit of curry powder in the yolks?  Brilliant only in my mind.  Some horseradish perhaps?  Only I was pleased.  Extra parsley?  Cilantro?  Watercress?  No, no, and more no.  Finally I realized the obvious:  no one wants creativity in a classic at our backyard BBQ gatherings.

With a little guidance from Paula Deen, these Fly Off the Plate Deviled Eggs were created.  And I’ve never looked back.  In public.

Deviled Eggs


8 large eggs, hard boiled and peeled
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 TBS sweet pickle relish
1 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper, for taste
Paprika, for garnishing


1.  Halve 8 eggs lengthwise. Remove yolks and place in a small bowl.

2.  Mash yolks with a fork and stir in mayonnaise, pickle relish, and mustard. Add salt and pepper, to taste.

3.  Fill egg whites evenly with yolk mixture. Sprinkle lightly with paprika.


  • Do taste the mixture to make sure it is salted properly.  Salt makes a big difference in egg dishes.
  • I use the ol’ zip lock back trick for filling the egg whites.  Just scoop the yolk mixture into into a bag, cut off one corner, and use it like a pastry bag to fill the egg white shells.
  • Feel the need to add just a little more mustard?  Don’t.  These are perfectly balanced.
  • As for the “fly off the plate” in the title, yes, yes, yes they do!
  • Other classics posted on Livin Local: potato salad and “baked” beans

Lightish Asparagus Artichoke Dip

Ahhhh, the brew pub.  Sitting at the bar, eating snacks, enjoying the local brews, and catching up with my main man.  No dressing up in scratchy, uncomfortable outfits.  No making small talk with people you chose not to keep up with anyways.  No trying to update your dancing style from the 80’s while dancing to an 80’s cover band.  This weekend included such an evening, and while eating some deliciously cheesy artichoke dip, I figured that just perhaps make this my own with local asparagus and some calorie pinching techniques.

First of all, the asparagus in this needed to be clearly present.  Due to its more delicate flavor, the requisite jalapenos in most any cheesy in in our abode were 86’d.  While at Tachella Family Farm, I spotted a bag of small artichokes on the clearance table due to their browning tips.  Bingo … more fresh produce.  After all of the bother in preparation of the lovely thistles in the first trial, I’ll use frozen or canned artichoke hearts next time, as reflected in the actual recipe below.  The asparagus does need to be fresh.  It is all about the asparagus!  I used a Cooking Light recipe for Cheesy Spinach-Artichoke dip as the basis for this plan, then just winged it from there. Enjoy!

Lightish Asparagus Artichoke Dip

based on the Cheesy Spinach-Artichoke Dip recipe in Cooking Light, October 2004


1 can quartered artichoke hearts, drained and coarsely chopped

1 bunch asparagus, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces or smaller (a food processor works well)

8 oz package cream cheese at room temperature

8 oz light sour cream

1/2 cup fat free mayonnaise

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1/4 cup low fat milk

3 green onions including greens, finely sliced

1 TBS red wine vinegar

1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper


1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

2.  Quickly cook the asparagus pieces in a pot of boiling water for 1 minute.  Rinse with cold water in a strainer to stop the cooking process then drain thoroughly to remove excess water.

3.  In a mixer, blend the cream cheese, sour cream, and mayonnaise on medium speed until smooth.  Add the Parmesan cheese, milk, green onions, red wine vinegar, black pepper and mix on low speed until blended.  Add the asparagus and artichokes and mix until just combined.

4.  Place artichoke mixture in a 1 to 1 1/2 quart baking dish, sprinkle with the cayenne pepper, and bake at 375 until cheese is melted and the mixture bubbles around the edges, about 30 t0 40 minutes.  Serve with pita or tortilla chips.


  • I served this with tortilla chips, but it would be better with pita chips.  To make your own pita chips, cut each pita into two rounds, then into wedges.  (I like sixths)  Lay them on a baking sheet, rough side up.  Lightly spray with olive oil, sprinkle with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, and bake at 350 for about 10 minutes.  Delicious!
  • Why is is that every three years or so I have to relearn that cooking my own artichoke hearts is a big pain?  Also, it just breaks my heart to toss all of those lovely leaves in the process.
  • This is pretty vegetably, but I’m sure the you could even up the proportion of asparagus if you’d like.
  • This was the first time I’ve included red wine vinegar in a cheesy dip.  It was good!  But, I’m a gal who doesn’t shy away from vinegars, either.

Basil Pesto Dip with Pita Chips

basil pesto dipCooking Light is one of my favorite magazines.  They have all of those cool exercise activities that may be tried once, but it feels so good just to be looking at them. No longer do they put yogurt in everything, and butter is even allowed.   The big plus to me is the seasonal dishes that are approachable on a week night.

One little recipe in the July issue looked like a great ditty for this family that loves its chips and dips when friends are over.  Taking a closer look at the recipe, it became clear that it is basically fresh pesto with some light sour cream and lemon juice.  Oh yes, I can do that!  The only part that took a bit of planning was the pita chip bake.  Summer has totally arrived on the delta, and that oven does not get turned on after 8:00 AM. Just baked these little pita lovelies in the morning and all was well.

Is this really yummy, or just healthy, you ask.  Umm, after three days, we’re on our second batch!  Yummy?  Oh my yes!  Healthy? Let’s just not discuss portion control right now.  😉

Basil Pesto DipLon's herbs

1 cup light sour cream

1/4 cup basil pesto

2 tsp fresh lime juice


1.  Mix all ingredients and chill for 30 minutes.

Pita Chips

1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

2.  Split pitas, cut each half into 8 wedges.  Place on a baking sheet, spray with olive oil, and sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper and kosher salt.  Bake for 11 minutes or until crisp.


*  Our sour cream was a mixture of regular and light and it held up to the lime juice just fine.  My hunch is that light sour cream with the lime juice would be too runny.

*  The original recipe called for lemon juice, but I’m just on a lime kick these days.

*  Truly, this is addicting!

*  The pesto was made with basil from Lon’s farmstand.

Smoked Salmon, Asparagus, and Goat Cheese Rolls

salmon roll displayIts time to be honest here. Creativity? Oh, I do wish! Planning ahead? Likewise. Allowing enough time before a big event to drop back and punt? In another life. But this time, for once, it all worked just like in my dream!

So, it was time for our Gourmet Dinner Club to get together for food, wine and a bunch o’ fun. C and J planned this cooking party thing (very brave, VERY brave!) and each of the other couples brought appetizers to nibble on while we cooked. Let’s see here, Spring … asparagus, salmon … something light. Found a perfect recipe for these little lovelies here.

But then it got dangerous …. I got thinking. Presentation. This is not my forte, and I know that Ron and Sandi who got us started on this whole adventure really pride themselves on presentation with their group. After a bit of tossing ideas around in my mind, I came up with the perfect plan: put the salmon rolls on a fake plant! Haha! Actually, these little tasty morsels look just like little spring buds just as I anticipated. Although I’m not sure which was funnier: the look on my husband’s face when I finished putting it together and declaring it perfect, or when I walked through the door at our friend’s house and they realized the potted plant I was carrying WAS the appetizer! Regardless how you present it, this is a great little make ahead winner!


  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons chopped shallot
  • 3 ounces soft fresh goat cheese (such as Montrachet), room temperature
  • 1/4 cup trimmed peeled chopped raw asparagus
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced lemon peel
  • 6 ounces thinly sliced smoked salmon


Heat olive oil in heavy small skillet over medium heat. Add chopped shallot and sauté until beginning to soften, about 1 minute. Transfer to medium bowl. Mix in goat cheese, chopped asparagus, and lemon peel. Season filling to taste with salt and pepper.

Place sheet of plastic wrap on work surface. Using 1/5 of salmon, form 6×3-inch rectangle atop plastic, overlapping salmon slightly. Spoon 1/5 of filling along 1 long side of rectangle, leaving 1/2-inch plain border. Using plastic as aid, roll up salmon into tight log. Repeat with remaining salmon and filling, forming 4 more logs. Refrigerate logs until firm, about 2 hours or overnight.

Remove plastic from logs. Cut each log crosswise into 4 pieces.


  • The asparagus was FRESH from TK’s Best farm stand. (Just had to brag on that!)
  • Don’t know if this is in the new Trader Joe’s cook book, but it should be. 😉
  • The fake plant was picked up at Home Goods. That store is my total addiction.
  • The stakes holding the salmon rolls are just those little metal stakes covered with floral tape from Michaels. I just twisted them around a screwdriver to create an itty bitty ledge so the salmon rolls wouldn’t slowly slide down the stakes during the evening.