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Gourmet Made Simple by Gena Knox

These recipes are courtesy of Gourmet Made Simple by Gena Knox.

Smoked Strawberry Mozzarella Crostini

Don’t be daunted by the fact that this appetizer is planked; it’s well worth the extra 10 minutes, but you can easily prepare this dish in your oven without a plank. The combination of strawberries, balsamic, and smoky cheese is amazing.

PLACE indoor/outdoor

PREP TIME soak + 10 minutes

COOK TIME 10 minutes

YIELD 4 servings

  • 1½ cups fresh strawberries, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 8-ounce ball fresh mozzarella, packed in water, sliced ½-inch thick
  • 8 baguette slices, sliced ½-inch thick, toasted in oven or on grill
  • 1 15-inch cedar or alder grilling plank, soaked
  • 8 large basil leaves

FIRST Preheat grill to medium-low heat. In a small bowl, combine strawberries, balsamic vinegar, and sugar; set aside to marinate. Place soaked plank on grill, close lid, and allow to heat for 3 minutes. Using tongs, turn plank over and place baguette slices on the heated side.

NEXT Top each baguette slice with mozzarella; close the lid and grill for 8 to 10 minutes, or until cheese melts and edges begin to brown.

LAST Remove plank and baguette slices from grill. Add one basil leaf and marinated strawberries to each slice.  Serve immediately.

NOTE For indoor preparation, place cheese-topped crostini in 400° oven 7 minutes or until the cheese melts.

Shrimp and Mango Summer Rolls

Even if you’ve never made summer rolls before, this recipe is a snap; once you assemble the ingredients, the rest is easy. Serve them as appetizers with sparkling wine, or with Peanut Soba Noodles for a light dinner.

PLACE indoor

PREP TIME 25 minutes

YIELD 4 servings


  • 8 large shrimp, cooked and peeled, halved lengthwise
  • 8 round rice paper rolls (8-inch diameter)
  • 4 butter lettuce leaves, halved with ribs removed
  • ½ English cucumber, cut into matchstick-size strips
  • ½ mango, cut into matchstick-size strips
  • ½ avocado, thinly sliced
  • ½ cup shredded carrots
  • ¼ cup mint leaves, roughly chopped
  • ¼ cup loosely-packed cilantro leaves


  • 2½ tablespoons mirin (sweet rice wine)
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon green onions, thinly sliced
  • ½ Serrano chile, thinly sliced

FIRST Combine sauce ingredients in a small bowl and set aside. Fill a pie plate with 1 inch of water; set next to your work surface. One at a time, submerge each wrapper in water for 30 seconds, or until it becomes pliable. Transfer the rice paper to your work surface. Place a lettuce leaf over the bottom third of the rice paper; top the lettuce with 3 strips each of cucumber, mango, and avocado. Finish with ½ tablespoon carrots.

LAST Starting from the bottom, roll up the paper halfway, then fold both sides of the paper over the filling. Place 2 shrimp halves, cut sides down and end-to-end, along the crease. Add 1 teaspoon each chopped cilantro and mint leaves next to the shrimp.  Continue to roll the rice paper into a cylinder, pressing the edges to seal. Place roll, seam side down, on a plate and cover with a damp towel. Repeat with remaining rolls and serve with dipping sauce.

NOTE This appetizer can be prepared up to 3 hours ahead of time. Wrap each roll with a damp paper towel, put on a plate, and cover with plastic wrap. Store in the refrigerator.

Asian Chicken Burgers with Cucumber Slaw

These burgers are great if you prefer something a little lighter than beef, and ground turkey can be used, too.  The marinated cucumber salad is especially refreshing on a hot summer day.

PLACE indoor/outdoor

PREP TIME soak + 20 minutes

COOK TIME 20 minutes

YIELD 4 servings


  • 1½ pounds ground chicken
  • ½ cup purchased teriyaki sauce
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • 4 large scallions, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh basil
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
  • 1 15-inch maple or alder grilling plank, soaked (optional)
  • 4 hamburger buns, toasted


  • ¾ cup rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • ½ English cucumber, cut into ¼-inch slices
  • ½ small white onion, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
  • ½ small Serrano pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
  • 1½ tablespoons sesame seeds

FIRST In a small saucepan, combine rice vinegar, sugar, and salt; cook over medium heat until dissolved, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat. In a separate bowl, toss cucumbers, onion, pepper, mint, and sesame seeds; add vinegar mixture. Marinate in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

NEXT Preheat grill to medium-high heat. Combine ground chicken, teriyaki sauce, sesame oil, scallions, basil, cilantro, and mint in a large bowl; season with salt and pepper. Divide mixture into 4 equal-size patties, about 1 inch thick.

LAST Oil grill grates and sear burgers 2 minutes per side; remove burgers from grill and lightly cover with aluminum foil. Lower the grill temperature to medium-low; place plank on grill and heat 3 minutes. Using tongs, turn plank over and place burgers directly on the heated side. Close lid and grill 15 minutes, or until a meat thermometer reaches 165°.  Remove plank and burgers from grill. Top burgers with marinated salad and serve on toasted buns.

NOTE To cook the burgers without a plank, preheat a grill or grill pan to medium-high heat; cook for 6 minutes per side, or until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees.

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