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Appetizer Recipes




Endive with Cheese and Grapes

  • 8 oz. Blue Cheese
  • 4 oz. Cream Cheese
  • Endive leaves
  • Grapes cut in half
  • Walnuts

Mix blue cheese and cream cheese. Put mixture on endive leaf and anchor with grape halves. Sprinkle with small amount of chopped walnuts. (walnuts are enhanced by cooking them for five minutes in a mixture of ½ water and sugar), drain and bake the walnuts for ten minutes.


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AJ's Cheese-Filled Holiday Sunset Comice Pears

  • 2 tbls lemon juice
  • 2 tbls water
  • 4, firm, ripe Comice pears
  • 4 oz, soft cream cheese
  • 1 oz, crumbled blue cheese
  • ½ cup finely ground or diced nuts (walnuts, hazelnuts, or pecans)

Directions:
Halve and core Comice pears. Mix the lemon juice with water, then lightly brush the pears with the juice. Combine the cheeses until well mixed. Form into 8, 1 inch balls, roll in chopped nuts and place into the center cavity of each pear half.

Serve with additional cheese selections, such as Brie, Bleu, Camembert, Gouda or Cheddar and your favorite white wine.


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Pineapple Skewers ~ serves 6 - 8

16 party picks
1 pineapple ~ peeled, cored, and cut into large chunks
16 strawberries ~ hulled
Assemble on party pick with one piece of pineapple, one strawberry, and one piece of pineapple



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Antipasto Skewers ~ serves 4 - 6

12 party picks
12 thin slices of salami ~ fold in half and then in half again
12 cilengenie mozzarella balls
12 roasted red tomatoes
12 pitted olives
12 marinated mushrooms
Assemble on the party pick in the order given



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Cheese Tray

Pick 4 - 5 different kinds of cheese. I suggest the following:
Brie
Gouda
Cheddar
Blue
Goat
Add some grapes, olives, and 2 kinds of crackers.



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Chorizo & Manchego Cheese Stuffed Mushrooms (25-30 mushrooms)

  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 4 Spanish casera-type chorizo sausages (Quijote brand or comparable), skinned & minced
  • ½ cup minced onion
  • 1 tbsp. minced fresh garlic
  • 1½ lbs. large stuffing mushrooms (25-30), stems removed and reserved
  • 2 tbsp. dry Sherry (Tio Pepe,La Ina brands or comparable)
  • ½ cup coarse French bread crumbs, toasted lightly in a hot oven
  • ½ cup grated aged Manchego cheese (Spanish aged sheep's milk cheese), more for sprinkling
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • ¼ cup minced fresh parsley
  • Salt & freshly ground pepper to taste

Mince the reserved mushroom stems and set aside. In a heavy skillet heat the olive oil over me-dium-high heat. Add the minced chorizo and sauté for one minute. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring, until lightly browned. Add the minced mushroom stems and continue cooking un-til any liquid released has evaporated. Add Sherry and allow the majority of it to evaporate. Re-move from heat, transfer to a mixing bowl and allow to cool. Mix in the bread crumbs, Manchego cheese, egg yolk, parsley and salt & pepper to taste. Pre-heat oven to 400ºF.

Blanch the mushroom caps for 30 seconds in boiling water; drain, shock in an ice water bath, drain again and dry on paper towels. Divide the filling among the caps, top them with more grated Manchego cheese, arrange them on a lightly oiled baking pan and bake them at 400ºF. for 7-10 minutes or until golden brown.


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Cocoa-Spiced Tuna Mignonettes (Serves 4)

As the ancient Aztecs used cocoa to spice their foods, I’ve developed this seasoning to reflect the rich culinary heritage of New World cultures. Try rubbing the cocoa spice blend on meats and seafood before cooking (especially when char-grilling); they not only pick up a nice zesty taste, but the cocoa imparts an interesting dimension and depth of flavor.

For the Cocoa Spice: (Makes ½ cup)
  • 2 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 Tbsp. light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. chili powder
  • 2 tsp. granulated onion
  • 1 tsp. ground allspice
  • 1 tsp. ground thyme
  • 1 Tbsp. kosher salt
  • 2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tsp. granulated garlic
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. Spanish paprika
  • 1 tsp. ground coriander

  • 2½ lbs. skinless & boneless fresh tuna loin, cut into 3-ounce, 1-inch-thick "mignonettes"
  • 6 large cloves of garlic, sliced cross-wise into thin rounds with a sharp paring knife
  • ½ cup Peanut Oil (substitute vegetable oil if desired)
  • ¼ cup Añejo rum
  • 2 tbsp. fresh lime juice (more for the radish/cilantro garnish)
    Caribbean-style Habañero hot pepper sauce to taste
  • 3 large radishes, trimmed and sliced into thin matchsticks
  • 2 tbsp. chopped cilantro leaves

Heat two tablespoons of the olive oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet (preferably cast iron) until hot but not smoking. Add garlic slices and fry until lightly browned; remove to a plate lined with a paper towel and set aside.

Mix the Cocoa Spice ingredients together until thoroughly blended. Season the tuna mignonettes in enough of the seasoning to fully coat them. Heat half of the peanut oil in a large skillet set over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking.

Lightly brown the tuna mignonettes quickly, in batches, taking care not to have too many pieces in the pan at a time. As each piece of tuna is browned, remove it and place it on a dish. It will be necessary to add more of the reserved peanut oil as you go along.

Deglaze the pan with the rum, flambé it to burn-off some of the alcohol, scraping with a wooden spoon to remove all the browned-up bits and toasted spices. Add the fresh lime juice and hot pep-per sauce to taste, drizzle over the tuna mignonettes and transfer them to a serving platter or indi-vidual plates lined with baby field greens and hearts of palm tossed in the Roasted Red Pepper Vinaigrette (recipe to follow). Mix the radish matchsticks and cilantro together with some lime juice and garnish the tuna sauté with the mixture as well as the reserved fried garlic slices.

For the Field Greens with Roasted Red Pepper Vinaigrette:

  • 1 jar Roasted red peppers (12 oz.), drained (reserve the liquid)
  • 1 Tbsp. Dry mustard
  • 2 Tbsp. Honey
  • ¼ cup Rice wine vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. Lemon juice
  • ½ tsp. Kosher salt
  • ¼ tsp. Louisiana hot sauce (Crystal brand or comparable)
  • ½ cup Vegetable oil
  • 10 oz. Baby greens salad mixture
  • 1 can Hearts of palm (14½ oz.), sliced on the bias into ½-inch thick slices


Combine the peppers, mustard, honey, vinegar, lemon juice, salt and hot sauce in a blender or food processor and puree until well blended. With the machine running, slowly add the oil to the mixture in a steady stream; thin out with reserved liquid if desired.

Toss the baby greens and hearts of palm in some of the red pepper vinaigrette as desired.


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Caribbean Mahi-Mahi Ceviche (4 Servings)

  • 1 lb. skinless, boneless mahi-mahi fillet, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 4 large limes, juiced (try mixing with acidic juices like lemon or pineapple)
  • 3 large cloves garlic, peeled, trimmed, mashed & minced
  • 1 large red onion, peeled, cored & diced
  • 2 large green peppers, halved, cored, seeded, de-ribbed & diced
  • 2 large, vine-ripe tomatoes, cored, peeled, seeded & cubed
  • ¼ cup unsweetened coconut milk (substitute with peanut or olive oil for flavor variation)
  • 1-2 tbsp. Mango Kuchela depending on desired intensity
    salt, to taste
  • 1 tbsp. fresh oregano leaves, chopped
  • ¼ cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped (use ½ parsley & ½ cilantro for milder flavor)
    red pepper flakes or hot sauce of choice, to taste

Using a non-reactive container, cover mahi-mahi pieces with the lime juice (or acidic juice mix-ture of choice) and allow to stand 4-6 hours (depending on desired texture), stirring occasionally. Drain (allowing some of the juice to cling to the fish) and combine with all remaining ingredients (mixing well); let stand at least one hour or refrigerate overnight.

Serve on greens, as a filling for tomatoes or avocados, or with a crusty bread or crackers and gar-nish with lime or lemon wedges. Cuban crackers (galletas) or toasted casabe crackers go very well with the ceviche and add authenticity to the dish.


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Steamed Whole Artichokes

Items Needed:
  • 6 sprigs of parsley
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 2 lemons-cut in half
  • ¼ cup white wine
  • 2 Tbls olive oil
  • 1 quart chicken broth
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 artichokes

Directions:
Combine all ingredients except the artichokes in a large pot and bring to a simmer. Wash the artichokes. Cut the stems of the artichokes as close as possible to the base. Pull off the lower petals that are small. Cut off one inch from the top of the artichoke. Trim the sharp tips with kitchen shears.

Place the artichoke bottom up in the steaming pot of liquid. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes or until a knife can be inserted into the base with no resistance.

To eat: Pull off a leaf and scrape the meat off the tender end with your front teeth. When you reach the center cone of purple prickly leaves, remove it. This is the choke that protects the artichoke heart. Scrape away the thistle fuzz covering the artichoke heart, then enjoy the heart, the meatiest part of the artichoke.


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Char-Grilled Pineapple-Chipotle Salsa

Items Needed:
  • 1 ripe pineapple, peeled, cored, and cut into ½-inch thick slices
  • ½ cup diced red onion
  • ½ cup diced red bell pepper
  • ½ cup diced tomatillos
  • ¼ cup (packed) chopped cilantro
  • ¼ cup fresh lime juice
  • 1 tbsp. minced fresh garlic
  • 1 tbsp. chipotle chile purée (canned chipotles in adobo - simply open the can and purée the entire contents in a food processor)
  • 1 tbsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tbsp. ground cumin

Directions:
Set up a charcoal briquette grill or a gas grill for grilling over high heat. Char-grill the pineapple slices 6-8 minutes per side or until caramelized and golden brown. If a grill is not available, a similar effect can be achieved by using a non-stick sauté pan set over high heat.

Dice the browned pineapple slices and transfer to a mixing bowl. Add the remaining ingredients, combine thoroughly, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours to allow flavors to develop. Adjust seasoning to taste with additional kosher salt and/or chipotle purée before serving.

Makes about 5 cups


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Banana Rumakis with Curry Dipping Sauce

Items Needed for the Banana Rumakis
  • 12 large, ripe bananas*, peeled and each one cut into 5 equal pieces
  • 30 slices smoked bacon
  • 60 wooden toothpicks
  • Vegetable oil, for deep-frying

Items Needed for the Curry Sauce:
  • 2 cups mayonnaise
  • 2 cups sour cream
  • 2 Tbsp. Thai yellow curry paste (Golden Bell brand or comparable)
  • 2 Tbsp. orange blossom honey
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
  • Kosher salt, to taste

Directions for the Banana Rumakis:
Preheat oven to 325ºF. Arrange the bacon slices on baking sheet pans and par-bake for 8-10 minutes or until the bacon has released some of its water and fat without curling up. Transfer the par-baked bacon to paper towels, pat dry, and cut them into half-lengths.

Heat the oil in a large heavy pot fitted with a candy thermometer over high heat to 350ºF. Wrap each piece of banana with bacon, fasten with a toothpick going through the diameter of the banana, and deep-fry until golden brown. Serve with the curry dipping sauce.

*Note: Sweet plantains (platanos maduros) can be used as well; the plantains must be allowed to ripen until they are 75% black to be considered maduros (ripe).

Directions for the Curry Sauce:
Mix all sauce ingredients with a wire whisk until thoroughly blended.

Makes approximately 60 pieces


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Prosciutto, Chocolate, Fig, & Champignon Canapés

  • 5 oz. Thinly sliced prosciutto
  • ⅔ cup Cream cheese, room temperature
  • ⅓ cup Champignon Mushroom Brie-style cheese, room temperature & trimmed of rind
  • ½ lb. Dried figs, trimmed and quartered
  • ⅓ cup Chopped bitter-sweet dark chocolate
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 24 Round Party Pumpernickel, crackers or croustades (1½-inch diameter)
  • Chopped chives for garnish

Lay out a 24-inch length of 18-inch wide plastic film on a clean work surface. Lay out the prosciutto slices, overlapping them very slightly, to create approximately a 9 x 12-inch rectangle centered on the plastic film.

Blend the cream cheese and Champignon Mushroom cheese together in a mixing bowl and spread the cheese mixture evenly over the prosciutto, all the way to the edge on the sides, cover-ing the third at the near edge. Lay out the fig quarters along the same edge, sprinkle the chopped bitter-sweet dark chocolate among the figs, and grind pepper over the cheese mixture band.

Holding the plastic film with both hands, carefully fold the ½-inch border of prosciutto closest to you evenly over the cheese mixture. Continuing to hold the plastic film down low over the folded prosciutto, roll, in "jelly-roll" fashion, keeping the plastic film taught, making sure the edge is tucked in snugly so as to make a tight cylindrical roll.

Fold the plastic film over the roll, place a heavy, straight edge (a cutting board or a sheet pan), on the far side of the roll, and with one hand holding the plastic film down on the work surface, apply even pressure with the straight edge towards the roll so as to shape it evenly and to make it as snug as possible. Roll the extra plastic film up around the salmon roll, twirl-up the ends to seal, place the roll on a sheet pan, and freeze for about four hours.

Remove the prosciutto roll from the freezer and set on a cutting board. Using a sharp, serrated knife, carefully slice the roll into twenty-four ½-inch rounds, and remove the plastic film slices. Making sure they are sufficiently thawed, place the prosciutto rounds on the Party Pumpernickel, crackers or croustades and garnish with the chives before serving.

Makes 24 canapés


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Beer & Collier's Welsh Cheddar Fondue

Items Needed:
  • 1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • ½ cup minced shallots
  • ½ Tbsp. minced garlic
  • ½ lb Collier's Welsh Cheddar, coarsely grated (about 2 lightly packed cups)
  • ¾ lb Emmentaler cheese, coarsely grated (about 3 lightly packed cups)
  • ¼ lb Gruyère, coarsely grated (about 1 lightly packed cup)
  • 2 Tbsp. Cornstarch
  • 1 tsp. dry mustard (Coleman's brand or comparable)
  • ½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp. Caraway seeds, coarsely ground in a spice grinder or with a mortar and pestle
  • 1 bottle (12 oz) lager-style beer (Heineken, Stella Arbois, Beck's brands or comparable)
  • 3 Tbsp. Amontillado sherry
  • Kosher salt, to taste

Directions:
Melt the butter in a 1½ to 2 qt flameproof fondue pot over medium-low heat. (If you don't have a fondue pot that's flameproof, use a heavy, narrow saucepan.) Add the shallots and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until completely soft and beginning to caramelize, 15 to 20 minutes. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, toss the Collier's Welsh Cheddar, Emmentaler, and Gruyère with the cornstarch, mustard, and pepper.

Add the caraway seeds to the pot and stir to toast them slightly, about 2 minutes. Add the beer, increase the heat to high, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer to mellow the flavor of the beer, about 3 minutes.

Sprinkle the cheese mixture into the pot a large handful at a time, stirring each batch in a back-and-forth pattern so that the cheese doesn't ball up as it melts. Continue adding and stirring until all of the cheese is melted, smooth, and thick, adjusting the heat as necessary to maintain barely a simmer. Stir in the sherry and season to taste with salt. (If using a saucepan, transfer the fondue to a fondue pot.) Set the fondue pot over a low flame at the table to keep it warm. Serve with the dipping ingredients.

You can make cheese fondue a more balanced meal by serving some or all of the following as dipping options: Sourdough or ciabatta bread cubes, pear and apple slices, steamed carrots and cauliflower, boiled baby or fingerling potatoes, cornichons or baby pickles, grilled or broiled sliced sausage.

Serves 6 - 8; makes about 5 cups


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Smoked Salmon Canapes with Caviar

Items Needed:
  • ½ lb. sliced smoked salmon
  • 1 box (5.2 oz.) garlic/herb neufchâtel cheese (Boursin brand or comparable), room temperature
  • ¼ cup sour cream
  • 1 Tbsp. chopped fresh dill
  • 2 Tbsp. non-pareil capers, blotted dry
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 24 round crackers or croustades (1 ½-inch diameter)
  • 1 ounce fresh caviar (Beluga, Osetra, Sevruga or a fish roe such as Golden Whitefish Caviar)
  • 24 dill sprigs for garnish

Directions:
Lay out an 18-inch length of plastic film (from left to right) on a clean work surface. Leaving a 2-inch border in front and a 4-inch border on the sides, lay out the smoked salmon slices, overlapping them very slightly, to create approximately a 5- x 10-inch rectangle on the plastic film.

Cream the Boursin cheese in a mixing bowl and blend in the sour cream. Carefully spread the cheese mixture evenly over the salmon, all the way to the edge on the sides, but leaving a ½-inch border on both front and back sides. Evenly distribute the chopped dill, capers, and pepper over half of the cheese mixture closest to you.

Holding the plastic film with both hands, carefully fold the ½-inch border of smoked salmon closest to you evenly over the cheese mixture. Continuing to hold the plastic film down low over the folded salmon, roll, in "jelly-roll" fashion, keeping the plastic film taut, making sure the edge is tucked in snugly so as to make a tight cylindrical roll. Fold the plastic film over the roll, place a heavy, straight edge (a cutting board or a sheet pan), on the far side of the roll, and with one hand holding the plastic film down on the work surface, apply even pressure with the straight edge towards the roll so as to shape it evenly and to make it as snug as possible. Roll the extra plastic film up around the salmon roll, twirl up the ends to seal, place the roll on a sheet pan, and freeze for at least one hour.

Remove the salmon roll from the freezer and set on a cutting board. Using a sharp, serrated knife, carefully slice the roll into 20 ½-inch rounds, and remove the plastic film slices. Making sure they are sufficiently thawed, place the salmon rounds on the crackers or croustades and garnish with the caviar and dill sprigs before serving.

Makes approximately 24 canapés


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Banana Rumakis with Curry Dipping Sauce

Items Needed for the Banana Rumakis
  • 12 large, ripe bananas*, peeled and each one cut into 5 equal pieces
  • 30 slices smoked bacon
  • 60 wooden toothpicks
  • Vegetable oil, for deep-frying

Items Needed for the Curry Sauce:
  • 2 cups mayonnaise
  • 2 cups sour cream
  • 2 Tbsp. Thai yellow curry paste (Golden Bell brand or comparable)
  • 2 Tbsp. orange blossom honey
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
  • Kosher salt, to taste

Directions for the Banana Rumakis:
Preheat oven to 325ºF. Arrange the bacon slices on baking sheet pans and par-bake for 8-10 minutes or until the bacon has released some of its water and fat without curling up. Transfer the par-baked bacon to paper towels, pat dry, and cut them into half-lengths.

Heat the oil in a large heavy pot fitted with a candy thermometer over high heat to 350ºF. Wrap each piece of banana with bacon, fasten with a toothpick going through the diameter of the banana, and deep-fry until golden brown. Serve with the curry dipping sauce.

*Note: Sweet plantains (platanos maduros) can be used as well; the plantains must be allowed to ripen until they are 75% black to be considered maduros (ripe).

Directions for the Curry Sauce:
Mix all sauce ingredients with a wire whisk until thoroughly blended.

Makes approximately 60 pieces


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Cooking with Olives from AJ's Olive Bar
Try these recipes from 4 local chefs featuring olives.


Roasted Tomato and Caastlevatrano Bruchetta
Olive and Garlic Roasted Chicken
Panzanella Salad
Summer Pasta