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Archive for the ‘Appetizers’ Category

Tostones, twice fried green plantains or breadfruit (pana) patties, are a staple in caribbean cuisine and often served as a side dish, appetizer or snack.  They are called “patacones” or “tachinos” in some south american countries and can be made fresh or nowadays they also come frozen. Some people season them with plain salt, garlic mojito or mayo-ketchup, but I like to serve with this sauce which I call Mojito Caribeño.  All you need is a sharp knife to finely chop ingredients and a mortar and pestle to bring it all together.  This dipping sauce has a strong aroma and irresistible flavor. Simply spread over tostones and enjoy.  If you want to make it spicy, add a pinch of red pepper flakes or a few drops of “pique” (hot sauce).

click here to print recipe

Mojito Caribeño

Ingredients

2 large culantro leaves (recao) finely chopped

2 garlic cloves

1 tsp very finely chopped yellow onion

1 tsp very finely chopped cubanel or green pepper

scant 1 tsp salt

pepper to taste

1 tsp vinegar

pinch of ground cumin

pinch of dried oregano

4 tbsp tomato sauce

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1/2 tsp lemon juice

Procedure

1.  In a mortar and pestle (pilón) mash garlic with some of the salt.

recao- culantro leaves

2.  Add finely chopped culantro (recao), onions and green pepper.  Mash with the pestle.

3.  Add cumin, oregano, salt and pepper. Mash a bit more to create a coarse paste.

4.  Add vinegar, tomato sauce, olive oil and lemon juice and stir with a spoon until all ingredients are incorporated.  Serve with tostones de platano o pana (fried plantains or breadfruit).  Refrigerate if you have any leftovers.

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Argentinian Empanadas are filled dumplings or turnovers made of wheat flour and lard  that can be fried or baked. I have found a brand of dough that has both options called Fargo.  Fillings vary from region to region and they may include sauteed and cubed churrasco, cheese, ground beef, chorizo, fish or spinach among others.   They are very similar to Puertorican “empanadillas” or “pastelillos” which are always fried.  Here I am including two versions: 1. cheese with sweet onion and 2. beef.  The cheese with sweet onions takes a little time to make the filling but its worth it because they turn out so good. Be generous with the cheese.  I have read that in order for the empanadas not to open while they are being baked, besides closing them properly, is to cook them cold, as from the refrigerator. The beef empanadas are made of picadillo with raisins and you will probably have left overs when you fill the 16 dough disks that come in the package.  The left overs can be used for more empanadas or serve as a side dish to white or brown rice. I personally don’t like to add the hard boiled eggs, but I know a lot of people that love it, so thats why I include it as optional.  Empanadas are great appetizers or snacks. Here is my version of Empanada Argentina.

Enjoy!

Cheese and Onion Empanada

Ingredients

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 large vidalia or sweet onion

2 cups shredded mozzarella

1 tbsp dry marsala wine

1 1/2 tbsp granulated sugar

1 tbsp finely chopped parsley

16 empanada/turnover dough disks for oven (5 inches in diameter) I use Fargo brand

1 egg (beaten for egg wash)

Procedure

1. Pre-heat oven 400º F. (or follow turnovers dough manufacturer instructions)

2.  Cut onion in half and thinly slice it. Cut slices in half.

3.  In a small frying pan, heat extra-virgin olive oil (medium) and sauté onions with salt and pepper to taste. Once they start to become translucent, add Marsala wine and sugar and continue to saute until liquid is reduced and almost gone. Set aside and let cool.

4.  Place about 1 tbsp of onion, a little over 1 tbsp of shredded mozzarella cheese and sprinkle of parsley in middle of empanada dough disc.

5.  Close empanada to form a half moon bringing sides up and pressing with your fingers to crumple from the outside in, like a hobo bag or to form “pleats”.  Another way to close empanada is to lay half moon flat and by pressing with a fork.

6.  Place empanadas in a jelly roll pan that has been greased with a little of olive oil. I have an olive oil sprayer.  Place in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes.

7.  Just before placing in the oven, apply the egg wash and bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown.

Beef Empanada

Ingredients

Picadillo recipe

1/2 cup of raisins

optional: 2 hard boiled eggs finely chopped

Procedure

1.  Make picadillo with raisins.  When done, mix in finely chopped hard boiled eggs.  Let cool picadillo mixture and start to fill empanadas.

2.  Follow steps 5, 6 and 7 from Cheese and sweet onion empanada recipe.

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A few months ago, we travelled to Orlando, Florida to attend a tradeshow related to my husband’s business.  My brother and sister in law who live in South Florida, Mandy and Frances, met us there.  One afternoon, Frances and I took a break from the show to go shopping in Orlando’s world famous outlet malls as well as browse at upscale shops.  One of our stops was at The Mall at Millenia where we got hungry, so we went to a California Pizza Kitchen Restaurant for lunch.  We shared a white bean hummus as appetizer topped with tomatoes and flat bread and a pizza with mozzarella, fontina and gorgonzola cheeses, thinly sliced pears, caramelized onions, hazelnuts and baby greens (something to try with my bbq homemade pizza recipe with a little white truffle oil of course!).  It was delicious! I had tried white bean hummus before at other restaurants like Cien Vinos in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico and often made traditional chickpea hummus at home.  This variation, is a great appetizer or light lunch. In the months following our trip, I started experimenting with recipes and quantities to make the white bean hummus at home and here is the outcome.  So far, I’ve had great reviews from family and friends!  I want to hear your comments and suggestions.

Enjoy!

Tips:  Before juicing the lemon, grate the lemon zest and use it to make Nieves’ Lemon Bread.  Also, sometimes the solids and oil in tahini (ground hulled sesame seeds) separate, so make sure they are fully incorporated to form a paste by mixing with a spoon before adding to the recipe.


Tuscan White Bean Hummus

Ingredients

white bean hummus

30 ounces canned Cannellini Beans or Alubias (drained)

1/4 cup tahini

6 cloves of garlic peeled (8 if you like it extra garlicky)

1 1/2 tsp kosher salt

1/2 tsp ground cumin

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (1 yellow lemon approximately)

tomato topping

2 roma tomatoes cubed

1 tbsp fresh basil coarsely chopped

1/2 tsp kosher salt

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

pepper to taste

pita bread or pita chips

Procedure

1. Place all hummus ingredients in a food processor and pulse a few times to chop ingredients roughly. Then turn on for about 2 minutes until smooth paste is formed. You may add a bit of cold water if you want to reach a smoother consistency.

2.  Meanwhile, mix all the ingredients of the tomato topping in a bowl.

3.  To serve, spoon and spread white bean hummus in a serving plate and top with tomato mixture.  Serve with pita bread, flat bread or pita chips.

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Arancini


This is my version of Arancini, or italian rice croquettes filled with mozzarella.  “Arancini” means small oranges in italian.  Sometimes I have leftover risotto alla milanese and I make these delicious appetizers.

Ingredients

Make Risotto alla Milanese recipe

cubed mozzarella (about 1/2 inch squares)

1 egg (lightly beaten)

cracker meal

Procedure

1.  Once risotto is cool or at room temperature place about 2 tablespoons of risotto in the palm of your hand and flatten to make a small disk about 2 inches in diameter. Place mozzarella in the middle and cover with mixture to make a ball or an oval.

2.  Roll croquette into beaten egg and then into cracker meal.  Set aside.  Fry immediately or refrigerate until ready to fry.

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This week I am making an early posting because on wednesday we are going away on vacation to Colorado for New Year’s Celebration.  The kids are very excited and looking forward to making snow angels and of course skiing.  It’s a good change for us form the constant heat in Puerto Rico (although I am sure by the end of our vacation we will be more than happy to return to the warm sun in the island).

Last week I got together with some of my dear lifelong girlfriends. We try to see each other as often as possible but family life, work, school and different zip codes don’t always allow us that pleasure.  At the request of two of the “girls” that were simultaneously visiting the island for the holidays, we had a “mother and daughter happy hour” in which our moms and us sipped champagne and snacked on my famous fried gouda cheese balls (bolitas de queso fritas).  We had a wonderful time sharing stories, remembering the “good old days”  and catching up on life.

This appetizer is always a hit! What more can I tell you… I love fritters! But not only is this appetizer tasty, but you can make it ahead of time, freeze it, and fry it whenever you have unexpected guests or for an impromptu gathering.  It is a simple and easy recipe and doesn’t take a lot of time to prepare. My sister-in-law is a big fan of this recipe and it is now one of her specialties!  Can be eaten alone or with guava dipping sauce.

Gouda cheese balls

makes about 60 spheres

Ingredients

1 pound of gouda cheese (shredded)

1 egg white (lightly beaten)

2 tbsp all purpose flour

about 1/2 cup of cracker meal

Procedure:


1.  Shred 1 pound of Gouda cheese ( in food processor with shredder attachment or with a grater).

2.  Add  egg white and all purpose flour in a bowl and mix well with your hands.

3.  Shape into spheres with the palm of your hands, about the size of a quarter coin in diameter.

4.  Roll each ball into the cracker meal to seal.

5.  Refrigerate at least half an hour before frying. It is important that they are cold (not frozen) when you fry them to lower the chances of sticking and breaking apart. If frozen, let thaw for about an hour before frying.

6.  Deep-fry in a heavy bottom pot or in a deep-fryer for about 2-3 minutes in very hot vegetable or canola oil (about 350º f) until golden brown. Use a spoon to remove from the oil preferably one with holes so that the oil drips. Do not use a fork.

7.   Fry in small batches so that they don’t stick together and break apart.    Let stand in a plate lined with paper towel to drain.

Enjoy!

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