Blueberry Chevre Crostini with Champagne Vinegar Hibiscus Flowers

This is a very unique appetizer!  The champagne vinegar soaked hibiscus flowers adds the perfect tang to the soft flavors of the chevre and the subtle sweetness of the blueberries.  Add all that onto a crunchy crostini and it’s outstanding!

Blueberry-Hibiscus-Crostini

The 4th of July was always a big deal growing up in L.A.  A bunch of us would walk the beach from Santa Monica to Venice, from party to party, trying not to get hit by bottle rockets.  I remember the skies flooded with them.  It was kinda scary!  They don’t allow that anymore.

Blueberry-and-Hibiscus-Crostini

When I moved back to Venice for a few years in 2007, I did the 4th with at least 20 of our friends that all grew up together.  We were all on bikes crusin the boardwalk.  We rode to the Venice canals before the fireworks started and watched them from the top of a bridge with the best view.  It was always a lot of fun!

Blueberry-Vinegar-Hibiscus-Crostini

Tis the season for appetizers and with the 4th of July coming up, I can’t think of a better appetizer than this red, white and blue crostini.

Blueberry-Hibiscus-Flower-Crostini

For a festive wine, I would pair these crostini with a Prosecco or a Cava.

Vinegar Hibiscus Flowers

Recipe: 12 Crostini

  • 12 Slices French Baguette
  • Approx. 5 oz. Chevre Goat Cheese – or to taste – room temperature
  • 1 Container Blueberries – 5 to 10 per crostini
  • 1/4 Cup Champagne Vinegar Soaked Hibiscus Flowers – or to taste 

Instructions:

You will need to soak the hibiscus flowers in the vinegar for 4 days to a week. (I did a week) Follow this recipe.

 Make the crostini.  Let cool.  Spread the chevre on to the crostini and top with the blueberries and vinegar flowers.  Serve as is or drizzle with maple syrup.   I sometimes put them in the toaster oven for a minute or so, which is also really good!

 *You will have leftover hibiscus vinegar if you make the full recipe.  You could use the leftovers for salad dressings like this one.  You could also half the recipe.  Other uses for the leftover vinegar flowers would be as a topping on a sandwich, on a salad, or anywhere you would use any pickled vegetable.

_Hibiscus-Blueberry-Crostini

Health benefits:

Hibiscus Flowers is a simple way to increase your antioxidant intake due to the high vitamin C content.  The antioxidant properties can help reverse the inflammatory process in your body and has the ability to lower high blood pressure.  It protects against chronic disease, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, and cancer.  It helps lower “bad” LDL cholesterol from the body, therefore it helps protect against heart disease and blood vessels from damage.

Blueberries are high in Vitamin C. They are a super food and are one of the highest in antioxidants compared to most fruits. They are a great source of fiber. The fiber helps reduce abdominal fat, lower cholesterol and helps lower glucose. They are great for brain health, reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and they are known to heal damaged brain cells. So they help you keep your memory intact.

 

Fresh Herb and Edible Flower Salad with Hibiscus Champagne Vinaigrette

This is my new favorite summer salad, if there could be just one.  The salad’s vibrant colors are so beautiful and the herbs make it extremely flavorful.  The blueberries add a subtle note of sweetness and the chevre cheese perfectly compliments the zesty hibiscus dressing.

Herb-Salad

This weekend Robby and I were invited to our friend’s Swedish midsummer party.  The theme was very appropriate for me as I am a quarter Swedish.  The party invite was last minute, so I didn’t have time to make something elaborate.  However, I did make my cilantro asiago pesto, which was a huge hit.

 It was a small group of great people having great conversation and lots of laughs.

For starters we had a lot of wine, champagne, Swedish meatballs, cheese, bread, crackers, grapes and pesto.  For dinner, we sat outside on their deck, which was lovely.  There was skirt steak, new potatoes, local grilled corn, asparagus, kale salad and bread with pesto.  Everything was delicious!  I would have loved to been able to bring this salad if I had more notice.  Next time, I will.  There is nothing better than hanging with good friends enjoying great conversation, food and wine!

Fresh-Herb-Salad-with-Hibiscus-Vinaigrette

This salad pairs well with a Rosé, Pinot Gris or Sauvignon Blanc.

Herb-Salad-with-Hibiscus-Vinaigrette

Hibiscus-Vinegar-and-Dressing

Recipe: 4 – 6 servings

Hibiscus Champagne Vinegar
  • 1 Cup Dried Hibiscus Flowers
  • 1 Bottle Champagne Vinegar (I used 12.7 oz. Napa Valley Naturals)
Hibiscus Champagne Vinaigrette
  • 1/3 Cup Hibiscus Champagne Vinegar
  • 1 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 Teaspoon Dijon Mustard
  • 2 Teaspoons Pure Maple Syrup
  • 1 Small Shallots or 1 Tablespoon – minced
  • 1 Large Garlic Clove or 1 Teaspoon – minced
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Sea Salt
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Black Pepper
Salad
  • 1/2 Cup Toasted Hazelnuts or Raw Almonds – toasted
  • Hibiscus Vinaigrette – to taste
  • 1/2 Pound Mixed Baby Greens
  • 1/2 – 1 Cup Edible Flowers
  • 1 Cup Fresh Basil – chopped
  • 1/2 Cup Fresh Mint – chopped
  • 1/4 Cup Fresh Chives – thinly sliced
  • 1/4 Cup Fresh Dill – minced
  • 1 Cup Blueberries
  • 1 Basket Yellow Cherry Tomatoes
  • 1 – 8 oz. Chevre Goat Cheese

Instructions:

 Vinegar

Prepare this 4 days to a week ahead.  Add the hibiscus flowers to a jar and pour the vinegar over the hibiscus.  Let sit for 4 days to a week.  (I did a week) Strain into another jar.  Save the hibiscus soaked flowers for other recipes. (I have one coming soon)

Nuts

If using hazelnuts, follow this post.  If using toasted almonds, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and spread almonds out onto a baking sheet.  Bake for 18 minutes and let cool completely.  Roughly chop.

 

 Vinaigrette

While the nuts are toasting, make the vinaigrette.

In a bowl of a blender or food processor, add the hibiscus vinegar, mustard, maple syrup, salt and pepper.  Turn on the blender/food processor and slowly add the oil.  (Or, add ingredients to a bowl and puree using an immersion blender.)  Mince the shallot and garlic, and whisk them into the vinaigrette.  Set aside.

Salad

Add the mixed greens and edible flowers to a large bowl.

Chiffonade or roughly chop or tear the basil and mint, measure and add to the bowl.

Thinly slice the green onions and mince the dill, measure and add to the bowl.

Add blueberries (I had some really large berries so I cut some in half)

Cut tomatoes in half and add.

Crumble the cheese with a fork and add to the bowl or onto individual salads.

Add nuts and dressing to individual salads.

Fresh-Herb-and-Greens-Salad-with-Hibiscus-Vinaigrette

Health benefits:

Hibiscus Flowers is a simple way to increase your antioxidant intake due to the high vitamin C content.  The antioxidant properties can help reverse the inflammatory process in your body and has the ability to lower high blood pressure.  It protects against chronic disease, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, and cancer.  It helps lower “bad” LDL cholesterol from the body, therefore it helps protect against heart disease and blood vessels from damage.

Blueberries are high in Vitamin C. They are a super food and are one of the highest in antioxidants compared to most fruits. They are a great source of fiber. The fiber helps reduce abdominal fat, lower cholesterol and helps lower glucose. They are great for brain health, reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and they are known to heal damaged brain cells. So they help you keep your memory intact.

White Bean Potato Leek Soup with Fresh Peas and Spring Onion Pesto

This is a hearty and flavorful soup.  Who doesn’t like peas with potatoes?  They are a perfect match!  The spring onion pesto adds a whole other dimension of flavor to this soup.

White-Bean-Potato-Leek-Soup-with-Spring-Onion-Pesto

It may be summer, but it is June gloom here in Northern California and this soup is perfect for this weather.  Robby prefers this soup chunky and I can’t decide which way I like it, chunky or pureed.  So, I split the batch and purred half.  It’s kind of like having two different soups.  Robby also prefers his without the pesto and I love it with it.  As you can see this is a very versatile soup.  How would you serve it?

White-Bean-Potato-Leek-Soup-with-Spring-Onion-Pesto-and-Peas

This soup is great with a Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc or Rose.

White-Bean-Potato-Leek-Soup-with-Green-Onion-Pesto-and-Peas

Recipe: 6 – 12 servings = 12 cups

Soup

  • 2 Cups White Beans
  • 12 Cups + 10 reserved Cups Filtered Water – or as needed
  • 2 Pounds Yellow Potatoes – diced
  • 4 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1/2 Onion – diced
  • 2 Cloves Garlic – minced
  • 2 Large Leeks – cleaned, quartered and sliced (about 4 cups sliced)
  • 1/4 Dry White Wine
  • 2 Vegetable Bouillon Cubes – unsalted
  • 1 Tablespoon + 2 Teaspoons Sea Salt – or to taste
  • 1 Teaspoon Black Pepper
  • 1 Cup Fresh or Frozen Peas – about 1 tablespoons per one cup – or to taste
 Pesto (optional)
  • 1 1/2  Cups Spring Onion Greens or Green Onions
  • 1/4 Cup Asiago Cheese – finely grated
  • 1/4 Cup Raw Walnuts
  • 1/4 Cup Raw Almonds
  • 1/3 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 Garlic Clove
  • 1 Tablespoons Fresh Squeezed Lemon Juice
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Sea Salt – or to taste

Instructions:

1.  Sort through the beans to remove any rocks and rinse.  Add the beans to a large pot and add 12 cups of water.  Bring to a boil and turn to medium-high heat for 1 hour.

2.  While beans are cooking, dice the potatoes into ½ inch cubes; add to a bowl covered with water.  Set aside.

3.  Dice the onion and mince the garlic.  Add the onion to a large Dutch oven or a large 5-quart pot. Turn heat to medium-low and add a couple tablespoons of olive oil.  Cook for about 5 minutes.  Add the minced garlic and sauté for 5 – 7 minutes more or until onions are soft and garlic just starts to become lightly golden.

4.  Once the garlic becomes golden, add bouillon cubes and wine to the onions.   Mash the bouillon to dissolve then add the leeks and stir often until the leeks just soften (about 5 minutes). Add a tablespoon of water and the remaining two tablespoons of oil to deglaze.  Turn the heat off the leeks.

5.  Make the pesto.  Cut off the green tops of the spring onions, wash, dry and chop the green leaves into one inch pieces then add to a food processor or blender.  Add all the remaining ingredients and puree.  If you want it really smooth I often use an immersion blender after I use the food processor.

6.  After the beans start to soften (but not totally cooked) pour the beans and the bean water into the leek mix.  Add the potatoes, thyme and 8 more cups of water.  Turn the heat to high, bring to a boil, then turn down the heat to medium and cook until beans and potatoes are completely cooked. (about an hour – depends the age of the beans)

7.  Meanwhile,  remove peas from their pods (if using fresh peas), measure and put into a pot of filtered water.  Bring to a boil, then remove from heat and leave in the water for 1 minute.  (use a timer)  Drain in a colander and rinse with filtered water.  Set aside.

8.  When the beans are done, add the vinegar, salt and pepper to the soup.

*You can either leave the soup chunky or puree with an immersion blender, blender or food processor.  Stir in the remaining 2 cups of water after pureeing.

Top with pesto and peas.

White-Bean-Potato-Leek-Soup-with-Peas-and-Spring-Onion-Pesto

Health benefits:

Leeks allicin content reduces cholesterol production, blood pressure, blood vessel stiffness and protects the lining. Leeks help chronic low-level inflammations like in diabetes, obesity and rheumatoid arthritis. They contain polyphenols that are known to be strong antioxidants that fight against free radicals, which help with chronic disease and aging. They are a good sources of vitamin-A, C and K.

Yellow Potatoes – Yukon gold’s content of potassium is higher than many foods and can help reduce the risk of hypertension and stroke. They have twice the amount of vitamin C as a Russet, which helps protects your cells from free-radical damage. Yukon’s are rich in B6 and antioxidant properties. It has a bit of Iron but the C helps the body absorb it. They contain fiber that helps reduces cholesterol, stabilizes blood sugar, helps prevent constipation and aids in weight loss.

White Beans are a super source of dietary fiber, which is good for the prevention of constipation, also helps digestive disorders like irritable bowel syndrome and diverticulosis. They are great for heart health because of their significant amounts of folate (support of red blood cell formation, one cup of the cooked beans provides 63.7% of the recommended daily intake for folate) and magnesium (lowers blood pressure). They are good for helping insulin resistance, hypoglycemia or diabetes, and help you balance blood sugar levels while providing steady energy.

*Health Sources

Marinated Fresh Mozzarella in Tangerine Champagne Vinaigrette Crostini

This is a truly delightful and easy appetizer that is sure to impress!  I absolutely adore the simple yet extraordinary combination of tangerine with basil.  Add them to a toasty crostini or any crusty bread for that matter and I can’t get enough.

Tangerine-Marinated-Mozzarella

My last post was on a marinated tomato salad.  I had leftover dressing from the marinated tomatoes so, I used it for this recipe.  You can either make the dressing just for this recipe or do like I did and get two for one.  This appetizer goes well with the marinated tomato salad as they both have the same marinade/dressing.  The next time we have guest, I am going to make both of these dishes and bring them down to the beach for a beach picnic.  Who’s in?

Marinated-Fresh-Mozzarella-in-Tangerine-Champagne-Vinaigrette

I like a sparkling wine with this appetizer, like a Cava or a Prosecco.

Tangerine-Champagne-Marinated-Mozzarella

Marinated-Fresh-Mozzarella-in-Tangerine-Champagne-Vinaigrette-Crostini

Recipe: about 7 – 10 crostini
Mandarin Salt or plain Madron Salt – a pinch on top of each crostini

Whole batch

  • 1 box – (1 1/4 Cup) Maldon Salt
  • Zest of 4 – 8 Mandarin Oranges – depends on how much citrus you want (I used 5, which is mild)

Small batch

  • 1/4 Cup Maldon Salt
  • Zest of 1 – 2 Mandarin Orange
Instructions:
 
Marinade
Start by making the vinaigrette.
Slice the mozzarella balls 3/4 of the way through making sure not to cut all the way through the ball.  Or you can cut them in half if you prefer.  Add the cut mozzarella balls to the marinade and let marinate overnight or for at least four hours.

Mandarin Salt

Pre-heat oven to 225 degrees.
I included a whole recipe for the salt if you desire to use it on other dishes or you can make the smaller batch for this recipe only.
Zest the mandarins with a microplaner, spread the zest out on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes. Take out and separate any clumps with your fingers and put back in for 5 additional minutes and then repeat separation of any remaining clumps and put back in for the final 2 minutes.
Put salt into food processor and pulse about 5 times to break it down just a bit.
Mix the zest with the salt.
The rest
Wash, dry and pick the basil leaves off of the stems.  You can
keep the leaves whole or chiffonade them.
Slice the baguette into 1/2 inch slices and follow this recipe.
You can either serve the marinated mozzarella and basil on the side and let your guest top their own crostini.  Or, top the crostini with two or three mozzarella balls and a few basil leaves.  (They stay on the crostini best when cut in half, but I like the way they look whole.)  Serve with a side of marinade to be drizzled on top or to dip the bread in.
Another option is to put the mozzarella balls on the crostini and stick it under the broiler for a minute to melt, then add the fresh basil leaves to serve.  Serve with a side of marinade to be drizzled on top or to dip the bread in.
*
Health benefits:
Tangerines are a type of mandarin orange. They are a valuable source of flavonoid anti-oxidants that are several times higher than oranges, but have even more vitamin A and iron. The vitamin A in them helps with immune function, vision and reproductive health. As with all citrus they are still very rich in vitamin C that stimulates the production of collagen and helps keeps your skin supple as well as stimulating cell generation in the body. Antioxidants are found in high concentrations in the rind of tangerines, which fighting off free radicals keeping the body’s cells healthy while purifying the blood and remove toxins.  They contain natural soluble and insoluble fiber that improves digestion and restrict the absorption of cholesterol in the gut, which helps cut the risk of obesity and reduce inflammation. Tangerine fruit has been used effectively against skin diseases and arthritis. They also help to absorb iron from food in to the body and contain a good amount of Folate and Potassium.

Marinated Heirloom Tomato Salad in Tangerine Champagne Vinaigrette


This is a refreshing and colorful summer salad!  I like to serve this with fresh or toasted crusty bread.  You can also chop the tomatoes and avocado into bite sized chunks to serve at a potluck or party.
 *
Ang and I made a version of this salad at our Pop-up dinner last week.  I was going to do this salad topped with the dressing but Ang said why don’t you marinate the tomatoes in the dressing? Brilliant!
 I have great memories from my teenage years of tangerines.  Robby, myself and our friends would drive up and down the alleys in the north side of Santa Monica looking for tangerines and plums from the fruit trees that hung over the back fences. We would sit on the car door while going by and steal them.  Is it really stealing if they are hanging over the fence?
To this day, I absolutely love the flavor of tangerine and can’t seem to get enough of this dressing.  Check out these recipes that include this tangerine vinaigrette.
To this day, I absolutely love the flavor of tangerine and can’t seem to get enough of this dressing.  Check out these recipes that include this tangerine vinaigrette.  White Bean Veggie Salad – Spring Kale Salad – Black Lentil Salad with Fennel
*
Try this with a glass of Albarino, Cava or a white Rioja.
 *
Recipe: about 4 servings
  • 2 Large Yellow or Heirloom Tomatoes – sliced
  • 1 Recipe Tangerine Champagne Vinaigrette 
  • 8 Pink Radishes – matchsticks
  • 1 Avocado – thinly sliced
  • 1/2 Cup Red Cabbage – minced
  • 1 – 2 cups Micro Greens
  •  4 Pinches Black Sea Salt
Other optional ingredients you might like
  • Fresh mozzarella
  • Cucumber
Instructions:
Use this recipe as a loose guideline and adjust ingredients to taste.  However, be careful to not add too much salt.
*
Make the vinaigrette.
Slice the tomatoes, put into a container and pour on the dressing making sure it is completely covering the tomatoes.  Refrigerate and marinate overnight or at least 4 hours.
*
 Slice the radishes into 1/8 inch slices then stack the slices and cut into matchsticks.  Slice and roughly chop the cabbage, measure then add to a food processor.  Pulse until it is finely minced.
*
Place the tomato slices onto a salad plate (I use 3 slices of tomatoes per salad), sprinkle the radishes around the tomatoes.  Place the avocado slices on top. Sprinkle the cabbage over the tomatoes and avocado, top with micro sprouts and salt.
 *
 There will be leftover dressing, if you need more on the salad or you can use it on other salads.  I have a recipe coming soon that I used the leftover dressing on , so stay tuned! (I love that the leftover dressing has the juices of the tomato in it!)
*
Health benefits:
Tangerines are a type of mandarin orange. They are a valuable source of flavonoid anti-oxidants that are several times higher than oranges, but have even more vitamin A and iron. The vitamin A in them helps with immune function, vision and reproductive health. As with all citrus they are still very rich in vitamin C that stimulates the production of collagen and helps keeps your skin supple as well as stimulating cell generation in the body. Antioxidants are found in high concentrations in the rind of tangerines, which fighting off free radicals keeping the body’s cells healthy while purifying the blood and remove toxins.  They contain natural soluble and insoluble fiber that improves digestion and restrict the absorption of cholesterol in the gut, which helps cut the risk of obesity and reduce inflammation. Tangerine fruit has been used effectively against skin diseases and arthritis. They also help to absorb iron from food in to the body and contain a good amount of Folate and Potassium.

Tomatoes are great for the heart due to the extreme antioxidant support, niacin, folate and vitamin B6 that help the reduction of heart disease.  They are also high in vitamins A, C, K and potassium.  The choline in tomatoes helps assist the absorption of fat and reduces chronic inflammation.  It also helps with sleep, muscle movement, learning and memory.  Tomatoes are high in Lycopene the antioxidant that gives tomatoes their red color.  Cooking tomatoes breaks down the cell walls, which helps to release the lycopene and is better absorbed by the body with a little bit of fat like olive oil.  The Zea-xanthin in them helps filtering harmful ultra-violet rays, which protect eyes from “age-related macular disease.”  They are also a powerful blood purifier and great for skin and bone health.