Posts Tagged ‘appetizer’

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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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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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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Not your typical bbq pulled pork - five spice powder gives these bite sized apps an Asian flair.

Not your typical bbq pulled pork - five spice powder gives these bite sized apps an Asian flair.

Asian Pulled Pork

For Valentine’s day, among the myriad of tapas I was assembling, I wanted to make pulled pork stuffed in wonton cups. I sought out an Asian inspired recipe as I thought it was most appropriate. I was quite surprised at the outcome of this recipe. It was dang tasty but still let the flavor of the pork shine through. I scooped it into the wonton cups and topped with a little diced mango. I meant to make the mango into more of an Asian salsa, but time got away from me. I will say I think this pulled pork is the perfect filling for bite sized wonton cups. I woke up the following morning craving the combo (thankfully, I still had two left).  

What is five-spice powder anyway?

 Five-spice powder is a seasoning in Chinese cuisine. It incorporates the five basic flavors of Chinese cooking – sweet, sour, bitter, savory, and salty. Most commonly, it consists of Szechuan peppercorns, star anise, cloves, cinnamon and fennel. I have forgotten how much I love it. When you are sick of making the same old stir fry, try adding a little bit. It definitely livens up the party. I made a Five-spice Chocolate Cake once that was too die for. I think it came out of America’s Test Kitchen Restaurant Recipes, but here’s an online version.

Five spice pulled pork with Asian BBQ sauce, sauteed cabbage and a wonton crisp.

Five spice pulled pork with Asian BBQ sauce, sauteed cabbage and a wonton crisp.

A variation

Later in the week, I still had a lot of pulled pork to use up. I thought it would be nice to pair it with an Asian BBQ sauce. So I sauteed some cabbage with a little ginger and garlic to use as a bed for the pulled pork. Then topped the pork with a little of the bbq sauce and a wonton crisp (cause shoot, I am addicted to the crunch. Now I know to make crispy little crackers out of leftover wontons!). Once again, a fantastic combo.

For a variation on your normal bbq pulled pork, give five spice pork a try. You won’t be disappointed.


Five-spice Pulled Pork

Adapted from here. I made this into a slow cooker recipe cause I just couldn’t be bothered to do otherwise.

Serves 6


1 medium onion, sliced
1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
6 cloves garlic, peeled 
1 shallot, peeled and roughly chopped
1 tablespoon five-spice powder
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 (3ish pound) pork shoulder, deboned or 3 lbs boneless country ribs
1/2 cup water


1. Place the sliced onion in the crockpot.

2. Pulse the ginger, garlic and shallot in a food processor to a fine mince or paste (it will be rubbed into the pork).

3. Mix all the dry spices, salt and the brown sugar together in a medium bowl.

4. Rub the minced ginger, garlic and shallot paste into the meat. Then follow with the dry spice rub.

5.Fold the roast into a compact shape, and put it (or country ribs if using that) in the crockpot on top of the sliced onion. Add the water to the crockpot.

6. Cook in crockpot on high for 4-5 hours. You can alter the cooking time (put on low for longer) to suit your schedule, but I was running out of time and needed this cooked asap. 

7. Remove from crockpot when it is fork tender. Shred pork with 2 forks (or your hands – whatever works best). 

8. Serve

Serving suggestion – put in wonton cups, top with a little Asian BBQ sauce, maybe some mango. Or a variation on any of the above.

Wonton Cups / Crisps


Wonton wrappers (however many you want to make)
Vegetable cooking spray


Preheat oven to 325°F.

Place wonton wrappers on work surface; spray lightly with oil.

Flip wonton over and give the second side a spray (Important – remember to spray both sides! Otherwise they bake up extremely sharp – and, um, painful to eat).

Press each wonton wrapper into muffin tin. Or, alternatively, place on baking sheet for flat squares.

Bake until wonton cups/crisps are golden brown, about 10-15 minutes.

Cool completely in tins/baking sheet. (Can be made 3 days ahead).

Remove cups from tins and store airtight at room temperature.

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