5-Ingredient Recipes for Easy Entertaining

BY: Claire Robinson
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We’ve all been there: You go to try a new recipe, only to realize the ingredient list is a mile long. But who wants to shop and chop for hours just to make one dish? Food Network host Claire Robinson has the solution: On her show 5 Ingredient Fix, she teaches viewers how to make delicious, elegant dishes prepared with five ingredients or fewer (not counting pantry staples like olive oil, salt and pepper). Now Robinson has compiled some of her favorite quick-fix recipes into the 5 Ingredient Fix cookbook, excerpted below.

These three dishes — all vegetarian recipes — are perfect cocktail party or board game night fare, so grab your ingredients, fire up the oven and invite some friends over for finger foods and fun. Or, serve them up on Superbowl Sunday as a healthier, more refined alternative to potato chips and hot wings!

 

Polenta “Fries” with Roasted Tomato Sauce

4 cups water
1 teaspoon kosher salt plus more as needed
1 1/2 cups coarse-ground cornmeal
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese plus more as needed
4 cups grape tomatoes
2 garlic cloves, peeled
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
 
Yield: 4 to 6 servings
 
Bring the water to a boil in a large pot and add the salt. While whisking constantly, slowly drizzle in the cornmeal and whisk until smooth. Reduce the heat to medium and stir with a wooden spoon until the polenta is very thick and beginning to bubble, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the Parmesan cheese. Pour the mixture into a 9-×-12-inch rimmed sheet pan and smooth the surface. Let stand until cool, then refrigerate at least 2 hours.
 
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400°F.
 
Put the tomatoes and garlic on a rimmed baking sheet, drizzle the olive oil over them, season with salt and pepper, and toss to coat. Roast them in the oven, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes have shriveled and are beginning to brown, 30 to 40 minutes. Transfer the tomatoes and garlic to a food processor and puree. Season to taste with salt and pepper, if needed. Put the sauce into a small cup and reserve.
 
Cut the chilled polenta into thin fingers, about ½-inch wide by 3 inches long. Working in batches, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large nonstick skillet and shallow-fry the polenta fries, turning to cook all sides, until browned, crisp, and heated through, about 10 minutes total. Transfer the fries to a paper towel–lined plate to drain and sprinkle with more grated Parmesan. Continue frying batches of polenta fingers, keeping the cooked ones warm in a low oven.
 
Serve the polenta fries warm with the tomato sauce for dipping.
 
What makes this simple vegetarian recipe really sing:
Roasting any vegetable will bring out its natural sugars, and grape tomatoes pack a load of flavor even before they release moisture in the oven and turn into sweet little morsels that can make you pucker.
 
What to toss in if you have it:
Polenta is creamy, rich, and satisfying, particularly if you use a good organic stone-ground brand of cornmeal. You can add even more flavor by cooking it in chicken stock; just be mindful that many store-bought brands of stock contain a lot of sodium. Look for low-sodium brands and keep them on hand for cooking.
 
 

Fig and Blue Cheese Tart

1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed in refrigerator
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 large Vidalia or other sweet onions, thinly sliced
6 large dried Calimyrna or green figs, chopped
Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup water
2 ounces blue cheese, such as Maytag, crumbled
 
Yield: 4 to 6 servings
 
Preheat the oven to 400°F.
 
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
 
On a work surface, roll the puff pastry into a roughly 10-×-16-inch rectangle and transfer it to the baking sheet. With a sharp knife, trim the uneven edges to make a perfect rectangle. Using a ruler as a guide, score a 1-inch border around the outer edge of the dough with the knife without cutting completely through. With a fork, pierce the interior of the tart shell all over to prevent rising; do not pierce the scored border. Bake about 15 minutes, or until the outer edges have puffed and are golden in color; set aside.
 
Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add the onions and figs and season well with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions begin to brown; add water, a tablespoon at a time, as the skillet gets dry, scraping and stirring the brown bits that are stuck to the skillet. When the onions are caramelized to a dark golden color, remove from the heat.
 
When ready to serve, preheat the oven to 350°F. Evenly spread the caramelized onions and figs on the cooked pastry shell; top with the blue cheese crumbles and heat in the oven until warmed through, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from oven, cut into wedges, serve warm or at room temperature.
 
What makes this easy vegetarin recipe really sing:
A fantastic main dish for vegetarians! I also love to make this tart to change up side dishes; it tastes great with steak or roasted meats. The super sweet Vidalias get even sweeter when caramelized, and the blue cheese adds a sharp saltiness to this rich but easy recipe.
 
What to toss in if you have it:
Add a couple of sprigs of fresh thyme to the onions while they cook, then pull out the stems before you assemble the tart. Thyme and onions are a natural match, and the herb will add earthiness to the tart.
 
 

Chai-Spiced S’mores

8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon loose chai tea leaves
16 honey graham cracker squares (2 1/2-inch square)
1-1/2 cups mini marshmallows or 16 jumbo marshmallows (You can purchase vegan marshmallows online if you want to avoid gelatin: Sweet & Sara or Dandies are good options.)
 
Special equipment:
8 metal skewers
 
Yield: 4 servings (8 s’mores)
 
Set an oven rack 6 to 8 inches from the broiler and preheat broiler.
 
Put the chocolate in a heat-proof bowl.
 
Put the cream in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Add the tea leaves, stir, remove from the heat, and let stand 10 minutes. Return the tea-infused cream to medium heat until just simmering. Pour the cream through a fine-mesh strainer set over the bowl of chocolate. Shake the bowl to evenly distribute the cream and let stand 5 minutes to melt the chocolate. Stir until very smooth and cool the chocolate to room temperature. Discard the tea leaves.
 
Put 8 graham cracker squares on a baking sheet and spread ½ teaspoon of cooled chocolate on each. Arrange the mini marshmallows on the chocolate, covering each graham cracker square completely. Transfer the baking sheet to the broiler and toast the marshmallows until deep golden brown, about 1 minute. (DO NOT leave the oven; keep an eye on the marshmallows—they toast very quickly.)
 
Remove the s’mores from the oven and put about 1 teaspoon chocolate in the center of each on top of the browned marshmallow. Top each with a second graham cracker square, pressing lightly to spread the chocolate to the edges. Let cool a minute or two before devouring.
 
To make s’mores the old-fashioned way: Spread ½ teaspoon chocolate on each of 8 graham cracker squares (the bottoms of the s’mores); dollop a teaspoon of chocolate onto the center of the remaining 8 squares (the tops). Put 2 jumbo marshmallows on each skewer and toast them over an open flame until browned (or charred) as desired. Transfer the toasted marshmallows from each skewer onto the center of a bottom graham cracker square. Invert a graham cracker top over the marshmallows and press lightly while you simultaneously pull the skewer from the marshmallows to create a sandwich.
 
Note: Unused chocolate chai sauce can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. It can be melted and poured over ice cream or stirred into hot milk for chai-spiced hot chocolate.
 
What makes this recipe really sing:
Truly a favorite dessert, my recipe is a grown-up version with dark chocolate and warm chai spices; adding tea to this classic adds an elegant twist.
 
What to toss in if you have it:
Try using different tea leaves such as Earl Grey with the cream, which will add a light smokiness. Tea and chocolate are a match made in heaven.
 

 
Excerpted from 5 Ingredient Fix by Claire Robinson. Copyright (c) 2010 by Claire Robinson. Reprinted by permission of Grand Central Publishing, a division of Hachette Book Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

 

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