Archive for the ‘Appetizers’ Category

Guac the way I make it (more or less)

Guac the way I make it (more or less)

We’ve been making a ton of guacamole lately. Which is kinda weird for us – not something we usually eat. Thought I’d post the recipe here.

Do you really need a recipe for guacamole? Probably not. It’s kinda like salsa – add a little of this, a little of that and voila. But anyhoo, here it is just for fun:



1 Haas Avocado (ok, those ones usually in the store) – a little squishy to the touch

1 medium sized tomato seeded and chopped

1 T red onion or so

1 clove of garlic minced (pressed, whatever)

1 jalepeno seeded (wuss) and chopped

1/2 lime

1 T or so (give or take) cilantro chopped

salt. Do.Not.Forget.To.Salt.Your.Food


Combine. Eat it. The end.


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Teriyaki chicken wings... er...thighs.

A few years back, my cooking club made these fab chicken wings with teriyaki sauce, sesame seeds and cilantro. I loved the flavor of the sauce but I do admit, I’m not all that keen on chicken wings. Gnawing on bones is so not my thing. So I’ve decided to make the recipe using chicken thighs instead (more meat, less gnawing) and served the whole shebang over rice.

But since I’m SOOO not in the mood to translate the recipe into EXACTLY what I made (and I alright, I don’t totally remember but I did follow it pretty closely), I’m putting the exact recipe down here. I halved it and used pineapple juice instead of grapefruit juice (alright, it was orange pineapple blend if you must ask!) and googled the chicken thigh cooking time.

Teriyaki Chicken Wings (Thighs)

From Tyler Florence
Serves 12 cocktail servings
Note: I halved this recipe when I made it
2 dozen chicken wings, about 3 1/4 pounds, rinsed and patted dry (I used thighs)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil
1 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted in a skillet over medium heat until lightly browned
Leaves from 1/2 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
Teriyaki Sauce:
1 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1 cup grapefruit juice (I used pineapple juice)
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
1/4 cup ketchup
3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 fresh, hot red chile, halved
5 garlic cloves, halved
2-inch piece fresh ginger, smashed with the side of a large knife


  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Season the chicken wings with salt and pepper and drizzle a little olive oil on them to prevent sticking. Lay the wings in a single layer on a baking sheet.
  3. Bake for 30 minutes or until the skin gets crispy and the wings are cooked through. NOTE: Chicken thighs will take longer – maybe 35-40 minutes. Use your thermometer and your best judgement!!
  4. Meanwhile, combine the teriyaki sauce ingredients in a large saucepan.
  5. Simmer over low heat and reduce until slightly thickened.
  6. Pour the sauce into a large bowl. Dump the wings into the bowl and toss to coat them with the sauce.
  7. Transfer to a serving platter and sprinkle with the sesame seeds and cilantro. Serve hot.

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Fig and Olive Tapenade - great for parties!

Fig and Olive Tapenade - great for parties!

Need a chichi appetizer to bring to your next soiree? Fig and Olive Tapenade is it. For very sophisticated, adult palates only please.

I first came across this recipe years ago in a wickedly funny entertaining book by Erika Lenkert,The Last-Minute Party Girl : Fashionable, Fearless, and Foolishly Simple Entertaining. She, in turn, got the recipe from Carrie Brown of Jimtown store in Sonoma County. So now I’m passing it on to you.

And you must check it out. Briny olives, sweet figs, a dash of mustard and a squeeze of lemon to liven it up. It’s just about the most perfect spread you’ve ever eaten. Smear it on french bread, add it to your grilled cheese or sandwich, pair it with Proscuitto or salami and some good cheese or serve it with chicken or fish. Oh, sooo fabulous!

Note: this recipe is extremely paired down from the version in Lenkert’s book. Her recipe makes enough for a big party (4 cups). I think 1 cup is a little more reasonable.

Fig and Black Olive Tapenade

About 1 cup
1/2 cup (about 3 ounces) stemmed & quartered, dried Black Mission figs
3/4 cups water
1 cup black olives; Nicoise, Lyon, or Greek, rinsed and pitted
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons whole-grain mustard
1 small garlic clove, peeled
1/2 tablespoon capers, rinsed and drained
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
black pepper and salt, if necessary

1. In a medium-sized saucepan, simmer the figs in the water for about 30 minutes, until very tender. Drain, reserving a few tablespoons of the liquid.

2. If using a food processor, pulse the pitted olives, drained figs, lemon juice, mustard, garlic, capers, and fresh rosemary to create a thick paste. Pulse in the olive oil until you’ve achieved a chunky-smooth paste. Season with black pepper and salt, if necessary. (The spread can be thinned with a bit of the reserved fig poaching liquid.)

3. Allowing it to sit for at least a few hours (if not overnight) helps the flavors meld.

4. Serve. Serving suggestions: smear on French bread toasted with a little olive oil, or with meats like Prosciutto or salami and mild creamy cheese, or on a sandwich/grilled cheese, or with your favorite grilled meats.

Ms. Pantry Raid

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A plethora of tomatoes from the Farmers Market: multi-colored heirloom cherry tomatoes, Green Zebras, yellow grape and bright red Early Girl tomatoes.

A plethora of tomatoes from the Farmers Market: multi-colored heirloom cherry tomatoes, Green Zebras, yellow grape and bright red Early Girl tomatoes.

Alright, so I was a little excitable at the Farmers Market recently. Tomatoes were in and I had to have every shape, size and color available. Each stall was better than the last. Needless to say, I came home with pounds of tomatoes. I mean, look at them. Could you resist?

One of my all-time favorite food memories is the first time I brought home a perfectly ripe tomato from the Farmer’s Market and bit into it like an apple, juices running down my arm and into my kitchen sink. It was like candy and I was in heaven.

Since then, one of the rights of passage of summer for me is a Tomato Sandwich with the best summer tomatoes I can find. Nothing simpler. Nothing better.

Does it warrant a recipe?

rench bread layered with garlic aioli, heirloom tomatoes, a drizzling of balsamic vinegar and parmesan shavings.

French bread layered with garlic aioli, heirloom tomatoes, a drizzling of balsamic vinegar and parmesan shavings.

No. Probably not.

What I do is slice a mess of tomatoes (remember my tip for slicing small tomatoes?) Different sizes and different colors are best cause it just looks so summery.

Then I grab some good, crusty bread.

Slather on a layer of (cheater’s) garlic aioli*.

Then load it up with tomatoes, a sprinkling of sea salt, some shavings of Parmigiano-reggiano, a drizzle of the best balsamic vinegar I’ve got on-hand and voila.

The best summer sandwich imaginable.

And an alternative on baguette rounds.

And an alternative on toasted baguette rounds for an easy appetizer.

*Cheater’s garlic aioli = store bought mayo + a clove of crushed garlic. Summer is for relaxing my friends.


Ms. Pantry Raid

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I served my Maduros with short ribs roja and a sprinkle of cotija cheese. Drool...

I served my Maduros with short ribs roja and a sprinkle of cotija cheese. Drool...

Quick – name a food you could eat every day for the rest of your life.

Ok, I’ll go first since I’m here, and since I’m pretty sure you’ve already guessed my answer (ahem…plantains).

This past spring we took a trip to Costa Rica and our hotel served fried plantains every.damn.day. Yes, it was a buffet, but that’s even better! I could load my plate up and still go back for more.

Fried plantains = heaven

I mean really, what other dish can you describe as an appetizer, condiment, garnish, side dish AND dessert?

So what do you need to know? Ok, there are different outcomes for your fried plantains based on the ripeness of the fruit. You know how a banana starts to get dark and you immediately toss it in the freezer to save for banana bread? Yeah, you want the plantains to go FURTHER. All black if you can wait that long (tossing in a paper bag for a day or two supposedly speeds up the process, but that STILL is asking for a lot of patience IMO). Slice ’em up, fry them in oil and finish with a sprinkle of salt. Called Maduros, these are the kind of fried plantains I like.

For fried sweet plantains (Maduros), your plantains should look kinda like this

For fried sweet plantains (Maduros), your plantains should look kinda like this

You can also fry green plantains. Often called Tostones, they aren’t the sweet kind. Basically, you slice up your green or barely ripe plantain, fry it, flatten it and then fry it again. It’s crispy and used more for savory purposes – often accompanied by a garlic sauce. These, admitted, aren’t usually what I have in mind when I think fried plantains. But I’m sure in the right place at the right time…

I’m pretty sure this doesn’t warrant a recipe, does it? You’ll probably want to pick a neutral oil with a high smoke point for the frying part. I used a cast iron skillet. Tossed in an inch or so of oil. Waited for it to get good and hot. Threw in the plantains (no overcrowding please!) and fried them for maybe 3 minutes or so on each side.  Remove with slotted spoon and let drain on paper towels. Sprinkle with salt and enjoy them HOT!


Ms. Pantry Raid

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Shrimp and Pork Steamed Beggars Purses

Shrimp and Pork Steamed Beggars Purses

I enjoy blogging challenges. They often get me out of my comfort zone and trying something new. Case in point: Asian dumplings and potstickers for the latest Daring Cooks Challenge. This is my first time making potstickers. To be quite honest, it’s one of the first times I’ve ever eaten them too. For whatever reason, they aren’t the first app I think of when dining in Asian restaurants.

The challenge involved making the dumpling wrappers as well as the filling. I made two different kinds – standard potstickers (fried) and steamed beggars purses wrapped with a blanched Chinese chive. In retrospect, I will say I’m glad I did it once, but probably not doing it again. Can’t help it. It’s a lot of work for the outcome. I’ve also had quite enough experience in my past making wontons, raviolis, etc etc and I’m not the sort that finds it therapeutic. Granted, today was the last day I should have attempted doing this. After gardening with my condo peeps for five and a half hours, the last thing I wanted to do was make these dumplings. And of course, I had to make Szechuan Green Beans as well. But more on that later.

Shrimp and Pork Potstickers

Shrimp and Pork Potstickers

Anyway, my dumplings turned out alright. A little gummy – but I think I made the dough too wet? And again, maybe they aren’t my thing? Perhaps there is a reason I never order them when I’m out??

The dough recipe came from sponsor of this challenge, Jen at Use Real Butter. Really, go to her site cause she’s got so much fantastic information regarding dumpling/potsticker making that I won’t even bother to repeat it.

The filling came out of a fabulous book my husband picked up for me awhile back – The Cooks Book by Jill Norman. I love this book – it’s all about technique and is filled with great recipes by top chefs. This is where the idea of the beggars purses came from. The recipe also recommended serving with a ginger vinaigrette, but I preferred using the sauce from the Szechuan Green Beans instead. I would recommend any soy based dipping sauce.

Alright, since I already gave you the link regarind how to make your own dumpling wrappers, I’m just going to share the filling recipe here.

Shrimp and Pork Dumpling Filling

From The Cooks Book by Jill Norman
8 oz peeled, deveined shrimp
5 oz ground pork
1 T veg oil
2 garlic cloves crushed
1 t chopped ginger
1 Thai green chile minced
8 Shitake mushrooms thinly sliced
1 T soy sauce
1 T fish sauce
2 t Oyster sauce
1/2 t ground white pepper
3 scalllions
1/2 bunch cilantro minced (I left this out).

1. Finely chop the shrimp.

2. In a saute pan over medium heat, add the oil and saute the garlic, ginger and chile briefly. Add the mushrooms and saute till softened. Remove from the heat and add the sauces, season with pepper. Let cool.

3. When cool, add shrimp and ground pork.

4. Fill dumpling wrappers according to whatever directions you are following.


Ms. Pantry Raid

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The best France has to offer!      

French influenced pizza

Vacation memories

Back when the economy was booming (well, right about the time it started to crash and burn), we took our honeymoon to Tahiti. All the stars were aligned in the sky – which is the only way we were ever able to afford it (in reality, it was Chase Bank -known to me forever by another, more colorful moniker –  messing up our property tax escrow for a full year and supplying us with a hefty refund when they finally got it right). The French influence abounds in the local cuisine. Of course, fresh fruit and Tahitian vanilla were everywhere. But so were Croque Monsieur and Crepes.

Our first night, we walked to a nearby restaurant on Moorea called Le Sud. My husband had a chicken curry and I had a personal pizza. Cracker-thin crust was layered with creme fraiche, thinly sliced potatoes, herbs, olives, caramelized onions, and topped with gruyere. Hot and bubbling and intensely flavorful, it was my new favorite food. I’ve been trying to recreate it ever since.  How could something so simple be so hard to produce? Perhaps it was the romance of the islands that had me under its spell.

Where to start?

Suzanne Goin has a wonderful recipe for a Wild Mushroom Tart with Onions and Gruyere in her Sunday Suppers book that seemed like a good jumping off point. From that recipe, I came to understand that her influence was the Alsatian pizza, Flammekueche. The base is puff pastry layered with creme fraiche and gruyere. What could be more French than that? While a little different than the pizza from my memories, it was pretty close.

Mexican Crema  =/= Creme Fraiche

Cause I’m cheap, I thought I could use Mexican crema in place of the creme fraiche. It worked out ok in a pinch, but I wouldn’t recommend it cause it curdles pretty easily. In the recipe below, I replaced the crema with the creme fraiche.

Don’t forget to caramelize the onions!

The recipe also requires caramelized onions. Easy to make, just takes awhile. The longer you let them cook the better they are. I lightly sauteed onions in a combination of butter and olive oil. Then I reduced the heat and let them cook down for maybe 10-15 minutes. Finally, I popped them in the oven while I was cooking something else and let them go for another 45 minutes.  

Alsatian Pizza

Serves 2 for dinner, more as an appetizer


1 sheet puff pastry – thawed
1/4 cup creme fraiche
1/4 cup caramelized onions
2 pieces bacon – crumbled
sprinkle of fresh thyme
handful of olives, pitted and chopped
1/2 cup grated gruyere


1. Preheat oven 400 degrees F.

2. Unfold puff pastry. Score the edge with a knife – so, about 1/4 inch from the edge, run your knife parallel to the edge all the way around all four sides of the sheet of puff pastry. This will make the edge rise up nicely.

3. You could brush the edges with an egg wash, but I didn’t…

4. Spread the creme fraiche evenly along the surface – up to the scored edge.

5. Sprinkle caramelized onions, thyme, bacon, and olives across the creme fraiche.

6. Sprinkle the gruyere on top of the other toppings

7. Bake in 400 degree oven for 20-25 minutes or until the top is golden brown. Cut into pieces and serve.


Ms. Pantry Raid

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