March 23, 2012

Dinner for One or Tempting Appetizer Treat! Original Recipe

I tend to get "chefy" on my Dinner for One nights.  With my husband's weekend work schedule and my 4 year old off at Grandma's, it was just the baby and I for dinner on a Friday night.

The benefit of a Dinner for One night is that there is no need for satisfying picky tastes or the time-crunch of a hungry family with immediate wants.  I can leisurely construct something that I desire, regardless of how long it might take or how esoteric the tastes.  I can experiment within the confines of available ingredients (a challenge I've come to enjoy) without the fear of disappointing the hungry masses.  I find I work my best "leftover magic" in these situations;  perhaps out of curiosity or boredom, I feel laid back in my creative endeavor, free to fail.

It is under these circumstances I have stumbled upon some really excellent combinations that I otherwise would not have tried.  I have added to my entertaining or family meal lexicon with successes, and chalked plenty up to "not gonna do that again" without the snickering of my husband.

Tonight was such a night, and I'm pleased to report a successful experiment!

I started out with the idea to bake some tortilla chips.  I've made wonderful tortilla chips by deep frying whole wheat tortillas cut into triangles, but with an eye towards more healthful choices, we no longer possess the ubiquitous and permanently fish-scented "Fry Daddy."  So I baked them, unsure of what exactly would happen.  I brushed two 8-inch tortillas with olive oil, sea salt, fresh cracked pepper, and rosemary (hint: if you put these ingredients into an oven-safe ramekin whilst the oven preheats, the rosemary will better infuse into the oil.  I find rosemary needs a slight heating to best display its flavor).  Into a 425-degree oven these tortillas went on a pre-heated pizza stone for 8 minutes.

What emerged was a rustic-looking treat: perfectly browned, crispy, with a random spray of crisped air pocket bubbles.  The aroma of the rosemary escaped the confines of the oven with gusto, and suddenly my quest for tortilla chips evolved into a more sophisticated pursuit.  I couldn't waste these perfectly baked tortillas on just snacking with salsa.  The following recipe is the result:

Preheat the oven to 425-degrees.  If using a pizza stone (highly recommended) that should be pre-heating as well.


Baked tortillas & asparagus:

2 8-inch tortillas
5-6 asparagus spears, washed & trimmed, then cut in half
Olive oil
sea salt
fresh cracked pepper, or just black pepper
dried rosemary

"Crab" dip:

cream cheese
parmesan cheese, fresh grated preferred
crab meat, or imitation crab (as I used)

1.  Mix about 2-3 Tbsp olive oil, sea salt, pepper, and rosemary to taste into an oven-safe ramekin and set on pizza stone while oven preheats for several minutes.  When the oil is warm, brush on tortillas lightly, both sides.  Be sure to evenly distribute the seasonings. Add the excess oil & seasonings to a saute pan.

2.  Set tortillas on pizza stone and set timer for 8 minutes.  Add a minute or two at a time until desired level of crispness, a good golden brown in most places;  air bubbles are OK.

3.  Meanwhile, gently saute the asparagus in the leftover olive oil & seasoning mixture.  Saute on low to medium just until al dente.  Drain excess oil and allow to cool.

4.  To a food processor add a serving spoonful of cream cheese, 2-3 strips of imitation crab (or crabmeat), and parmesan cheese to taste.  Add just a little olive oil (from the saute pan is fine) for a creamier consistency.  Puree until well-mixed but chunks of crab are still visible.

5.  Break baked tortillas into quarters (it's ok that these won't be perfect quarters due to the air bubbles, that's OK and adds to the rustic feel of this recipe), spoon crab dip mixture onto tortilla piece and top with 2-3 pieces of asparagus.

I served these with a few kalamata olives on the side: their saltiness offsets the sweetness in the cream cheese nicely.  These would make perfect appetizers because the serving temperature is room temperature for everything but the dip which should still be slightly cool.  They also make a tasty snack or Dinner for One pampering.

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