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Archive for the ‘Appetizer’ Category

Ceviche is a popular dish in Central and South America and is gaining popularity in The United States. It is certainly one of my favorite dishes. In a ceviche, cubes of fresh, raw fish are marinated in citrus juice, which denatures the surface proteins as cooking would. I designed my recipe based on my dad’s nostalgic description of the dish he had in Costa Rica. My ceviche has a subtle sweetness from a bit of sugar and a splash of gingerale, which balances the tart lime. Avacados and corn are classic pairings, but I also added juicy  costa rican pineapple, cherry tomatoes, and edamame.

Ingredients:

  • Fresh Marlin and Tilapia, cubed
  • Ripe Avocado, chopped
  • Pineapple, diced
  • Frozen Peas, thawed
  • Cherry Tomatoes, halved
  • Corn (frozen or fresh)
  • Red Onion, diced
  • Canned Chickpeas

Marinade:

  • Lime Juice, be generous
  • Ginger Ale, a splash
  • Fresh Garlic, minced
  • Jalopeño, minced
  • Salt and Pepper, don’t skimp
  • GOYA Cilantro Cooking Base
  • Sugar, a hint

Directions:

  1. Prepare marinade and pour over ingredients in a shallow dish. There needs to be enough liquid to almost cover the fish. Refrigerate covered for about 1 hour, carefully folding every 15 minutes. Serve alone or with tortilla chips.

Tips:

  1. The fresher the fish, the safer and tastier the ceviche.
  2. Be sure to use enough lime juice than you think or you’ll be eating sashimi, not ceviche
  3. Cut your ceviche pieces all the same size.
  4. Ripe avocados should be tender to the touch. Next, break off the stubby stem. If it’s green, it’s fresh.
  5. Slice lengthwise all around the avocado and twist to open. Take a careful wack with the chef’s knife and twist to dislodge the pit.

 

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On a hot, summer day a mango salsa is the perfect refreshing snack. The tanginess of the tomatillos makes a good backdrop behind the sweet mangos while the char from the grill adds a welcomed complexity. Honey and lime round out the flavors, while tempering the heat of the jalapeño—which I tend not to go easy on.

Directions:

  • Peel two mangos, remove the pits, chop and mix with diced red onion. Add a generous amount of lime juice. Grill one ear of corn, half a jalapeño and the tomatillos (with the husks on), turning them until they are charred and soft. Remove the husks and stems and pulse in the blender with a drizzle of olive oil, one chopped garlic clove and jalapeño to taste (remove the seeds and membranes for a gentler heat).
  • When it has cooled, mix with the mangos and add salt, more lime and a healthy drizzle of honey. Remove the corn kernels and mix in. Serve with your favorite tortilla chips. My favorite brand is Xochitl totopos de maíz sold in a large paper bag. Chopped scallions make a pretty garnish.

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Stop mashing, baking and frying your potatoes and experiment with a classic Spanish tapa, patatas alioli. Spaniards drool over these tender potatoes covered in a smooth and rich mayo-like sauce made by emulsifying garlic and olive oil. Eggs give it extra body and a richness which, when cut by a bit of acid, is delicious. Olive oil, garlic and potatoes just might be Spain’s culinary holy trinity. Make them once and you’ll be eating them religiously.

Ingredients:

  •  6-7 small Potatoes
  • 2 eggs
  • 1-2 garlic cloves, minced (how much do you like garlic)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 teaspoon of vinegar or lemon
  • Olive oil
  • Fresh parsley, chopped

1. Fill a large pot with cold water and bring it to a boil with the skin-on potatoes. Lower the heat enough to stop the boiling and cook until fork tender, approximately 20 minutes.

2. While they cook, prepare the sauce. In a bowl using a whisk, electric hand mixer or immersion blender, mix the eggs, garlic, salt and the vinegar or lemon. The acid serves to stabilize the emulsified sauce’s texture by preventing protein coagulation and, therefore, separation. It also cuts through the richness of the olive oil from a flavor standpoint.

3. Keep the mixer on and add a steady stream of olive oil, slowly at first, until you reach a consistency that is thinner than a store-bought mayonnaise, yet still has body.

4. Peel the potatoes with the back of a pairing knife and cut into bite-size pieces. Cool to room temperature. If you do not cool them, the potatoes will soak up too much sauce and become overly soft. If you cool them too much, they will not soak up any flavor. Mix with the alioli and garnish with the parsley.

Note: While Salmonella does not grow in acidic environments, the egg yolks in this recipe are raw, so use proper caution if it is of concern in your area.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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         The Tortilla de Patatas is integral to Spain’s culinary culture. To this day, the tortilla makes for a quick, cheap, filling, and delicious meal. You can go all over Spain, to local dives or upscale restaurants and, although you will find a myriad of variations served hot, cold, on a toothpick, and between bread, you will not find the best. Ask any Spaniard where to find the best tortilla and he/she will say his mother’s or his grandmother’s house.

My host mother makes a perfect tortilla: tender and moist without being runny, sweet from the onions, and smooth from the olive oil, yet not overly greasy. Although it is not eaten for breakfast in Spain, I think it beats two eggs over-easy any day of the week.

Ingredients:

  • Olive oil
  • 3 Yukon gold potatoes, peeled
  • 1 medium-size onion
  • 3 eggs
  • Salt

Directions:

1. Fill a large pan with sloped sides halfway with olive oil. Cut the onion into thin slices while preheating the oil on medium heat. Add the onions to the oil. They should bubble, but not furiously for about 3 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, with the large opening side of a cheese grater, slice potatoes into thin discs. Add them to the onions and allow to cook, uncovered, for approximately 30 minutes, or until tender.

3. Whisk the eggs and add a few generous pinches of salt. My host mother does it by eye, so I cannot give an exact measurement. Using a spider or some other tool, drain off excess oil from the potatoes and onions and reserve for future cooking. Incorporate them into the eggs.

4. When the pan is empty of all oil, add enough back to coat the pan. Over medium heat, return the mixture to the pan and cook for about 3 minutes. Using a large plate facedown over the pan, invert the whole thing so that the eggs end up on the plate. It may help to slightly wet the plate to prevent sticking. Transfer back to the pan, with a dash more oil to finish cooking for the same time. It does not have to be a flawless.

5. Adjust the shape while in the pan with a wooden spoon, tucking in the egg off the sides of the pan. Slide it off and eat it hot or at room temperature.

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Photo by Jordan Emont

You don’t need a stove to make a delicious seafood dinner. By marinating diced tilapia and shrimp in an acidic mixture, the seafood flesh actually cooks. Well, it’s not cooking per se, but the denaturing of the proteins mimics the process. With fresh ingredients, the South American dish is perfectly safe. In fact, my Peruvian ceviche is both low in calories and high in vitamins and protein. The seafood has a tender, yet resilient texture, which, along with ripe diced avocado, tomatoes, and red onion, soaks up the flavor of the marinade, tangy with lime juice and slightly sweet from fresh coconut water. Served in a coconut bowl, the only other perfect accompaniment would be Peru’s national cocktail.

Sneak Peek: Check the blog next week for my take on the Pisco Sour.

Ingredients: (serves 2)

  • 1 coconut/ ¼ cup coconut water
  • 1 tilapia filet, diced
  • ¼ pound peeled rock shrimp meat, diced
  • ¾ cup lime juice
  • 1/8 habañero pepper, finely minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 tablespoons small-diced tomato
  • 3 tablespoons small-diced diced red onion
  • Salt and pepper
  • Cilantro, chopped
  • ½ avocado, diced

Important: Because the ceviche marinade will only kill surface bacteria, the tilapia and shrimp must be extremely fresh. It is best to prepare the ceviche on the day of purchase.

Directions:

 1. To make the coconut bowl, use a screwdriver to make a whole in the base, drain the water and reserve.

2. Place the coconut on a towel in your palm. Use the blunt side of the knife to whack it forcefully where a natural line is visible—be sure to wear protective eye gear. Once a crack forms, continue to pound it until the crack spans its entirety. Pull it apart and fix jagged edges.

3. Generously salt the equally sized tilapia and shrimp cubes and mix with ¼ cup of the coconut water, the lime juice (with habañero and garlic added), the tomatoes and the red onion. Make sure everything is submerged in the marinade. Refrigerate for 40 minutes, mixing at least once.

4. Generously salt to taste and add chopped cilantro, and avocado. Add fresh ground black pepper. Scoop into the coconut bowl, draining the ceviche of excess marinade. Serve immediately as it will continue to “cook”.

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This twist on the traditional quesadilla makes for a great snack. My sister was thinking of what to eat for about 30 minutes, so I just made her this so she’d stop complaining. She offered to make the quesadilla and took out the peanut butter. That’s when I told her firmly that I would be cooking it. I think she was glad I did.
  1. Spread a light coating of store-bought pesto on a flour tortilla.
  2. Scatter on ripped pieces of sliced jarlsberg cheese.
  3. Thinly slice tomatoes and cut into half-moons. Use any tomato you like. I used a really sweet golf-ball shaped variety with no label (from the farmer’s market). Distribute these on as well.
  4. Top with lots of hand-torn fresh basil, a rivulet of olive oil and a few drips of lemon juice.
  5. Top with the other tortilla
  6. Heat a pan over medium heat and coat with melted butter. Cook the quesadilla until buttery golden and crispy on the bottom. Press lightly. Slide off onto a plate.
  7. Add more butter to the pan and cook the other side of the quesadilla. If the pan seems to hot, turn it down a bit. Press lightly and remove when the tortilla is golden and crispy and the cheese is melted. You can use a spatula or place an upside-down plate over the pan and invert the whole thing.

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I love a good Insalata Caprese; succulent mozzarella, vibrant tomatoes and fresh basil with a drizzle of fruity olive oil. However, tomatoes this time of year certainly aren’t from Jersey—unless they’re Newark’s finest. Plus, floods inundated basil fields all over the country, and I don’t want my basil grown in a test tube. Therefore, I replaced mozzarella with goat cheese, tomatoes with marinated beets, and basil with sage, to make a crostini that screams Caprese without compromising flavor.


Ingredients (Makes approximately hors d’oeuvres)

I finally found a measurement style that GW students can relate to

  • 2 shots of olive oil
  • 1 shot of balsamic vinegar
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Agave nectar to taste
  • Pinch of cinnamon
  • Salt and pepper
  • French Baguette
  • Long stick of goat cheese
  • Fresh Sage

Scott’s Steps:

In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, lime juice, agave nectar, cinnamon, salt and pepper. Slice the beets and allow them to marinate for at least 1 hour.

Slice a French baguette into thin, 1/8 in. slices. Arrange on a foiled sheet pan in an even layer and brush/drizzle on olive oil. Lightly sprinkle with salt and bake at 325° until they are crunchy.

To assemble, slice thick slabs of goat cheese and place on each crostini, resting one beet slice on top with a sage-leaf garnish.

The goat cheese has an unparalleled, rich creaminess and a tang that is complemented by the sweetness of the marinated beets. The lime and balsamic brighten the mellow flavor of the beets while the cinnamon adds a subtle complexity. Finally, the sage leaf provides and earthy aroma and an amazing sweet-savory flavor that ties everything together.

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This salad was the second appetizer in our Sophisticated Soirée. I founds the combination of goat cheese, honey and thyme in another recipe. I decided to use the flavors in my own appetizer, involving puff pastry. This recipe couldn’t be easier and it apparently even sounds good when spoken. I guess titles are important parts of Dishes. I could have called them Cheesy Honey and Herb Pastry Discs. I guess that sounds a little less enticing.

  • I bought pre-made puff pastry. It came in a package of two. Allow it to thaw (it comes frozen) for 10 to 15 minutes or until it becomes malleable. Roll it with a rolling pin, on a well-floured surface, until it is even. I bought spreadable goat cheese that came in a fist-sized container and slathered it on. I suggest buying another container for two sheets of puff pastry.
  • Slather on a generous layer, covering the entire sheet. Drizzle liberally with honey and sprinkle with thyme leaves. Roll the puff pastry, forming a log, and chill in the freezer for 10 minutes.
  • Remove it from the freezer and cut into 1/2 inch slices. Let the slices sit for about ten minutes and preheat the oven on 375°. Cook until golden brown and puffy. Try one. If it’s doughy, keep it in longer.

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This was the first course of a five course meal that I prepared for my friends. The theme was class, sophistication, and elegance. This dish embodies them all. Served in a Martini glass, this salad is colorful, light, and refreshing.

  • Cut the avocados, mangos and tomatoes into similar sized cubes. A good ratio is 1:1:1. This will yield mostly mango, some avocado, and a little tomato. This creates the best balance. They should be, at most, half of an inch in length, width, and height.
  • Make sure that the fruits are as ripe as possible. Ripe mangos are usually a bit yellowish in color, tender to the touch, and fragrant. The avocado flesh should give a little when pressed, yet should not feel mushy. After this test, take the stem off the avocado; if the flesh is a green color, you’re in business.
  • Make a dressing by chopping a large handful of fresh cilantro very well. Add 1/4 to 1/2 a cup of Extra-virgin olive oil and the juice of one lime (The zest is a great addition as well). Season with salt and pepper and, for sweetness, add 1-2 tablespoons of honey or agave syrup.
  • Slowly add the dressing to the salad, while mixing. It is important that the dressing only coats the fruits. Serve in an elegant cup and wow your guests. Heck, put some on a burger and eat it, alone, in your underpants.

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No meat in the house! We did have spinach and ricotta cheese, the main ingredients in my ravioli. I immediately regretted making the dish. I have no mixer or pasta maker, so I had to make everything by hand. Soon enough, the dough was crumbly, the counter tops were cakes with wet, sticky dough, and my shirt was coated in flour. Eventually, I tamed the dough and made the ravioli. I’ll admit that I will never make ravioli again without a pasta maker.

Dough Ingredients (1 dough ball):

I made two dough balls. I suggest not making one big batch because the dough is easier to work with cold.

  • 2.5 cups flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 teaspoons water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Dough Preparation:

I made mine in an unconventional way, but I found that it worked the best. Whisk all except the flour in a large mixing bowl and slowly add flour. Switch to a mixing spoon and continue until a dough ball forms that is not sticky. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 10 minutes.

Filling ingredients:

  • Two handfuls of spinach chopped into very small pieces
  • A few roasted red peppers minced
  • About 1 cup of ricotta cheese
  • A tablespoon or so of pesto
  • sprinkle of parmesan, salt, and pepper.
  • lemon wedge

1. Sauté spinach in EVOO with salt and pepper. Mix in the ricotta and other ingredients. Squeeze in the lemon wedge.

2. Flour the counter-top, the dough, and the rolling pin. Roll the dough thin and cut 1.5-2 inch squares. Roll the squares even thinner.

3. Use a melon-baller to place a ball of filling in the center of a square. Dip your finger in water and apply around the filling to create sealing agent.

4. Place another square over the filling, press the sides down, and reinforce by making pleats with a fork. Then cut away the extra dough. If you have a zig-zag cutter, use that. Flour the bottoms and place on a baking sheet, covered in paper towels. Refrigerate until dinner time. Boil in salted water until edges are tender (5-6 minutes).

Sauce Ingredients:

  • pesto sauce (1/3)
  • cream
  • butter
  • flour

Make a roux in a pan by heating and whisking butter and flour. Add milk and bring to a boil. Add pesto to taste. The sauce should have a green tint because it is mostly cream. Add salt and pepper or even parmesan. Understand that this is labor intensive without the proper equipment. I have a newfound respect for old-fashioned italian mothers; hours of work consumed in minutes.

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I wanted to make a side dish for penne vodka. We had tons of mini sweet peppers, so I decided to stuff them. I tried to stay with the Italian theme. The peppers are sweet and soft, while the filling remains moist with the subtle flavors of wine, mushrooms, and onions. They’re light and healthy to boot.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup minced white onions (about half a large onion)
  • 1 cup minced baby bella mushrooms (buttons are good alternatives)
  • 1.5 cups cooked brown rice (I used leftover rice Pilaf)
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • white wine
  • 1/2 lemon
  • handful of parsley, chopped
  • 2-3 tablespoons of grated parmesan cheese
  • red pepper flakes
  • oregano
  • mozzarella cheese

1. Drizzle about two tablespoons of olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add minced garlic (smallest cut possible). Mince the onions and mushrooms and sauté. Mushrooms should be cleaned before cutting with a damp towel. Sprinkle with salt and fresh black pepper. Mix in the rice and add the wine. Add the rest of the ingredients. The pepper stuffing should be moldable, so not too wet. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

2. Cut the tops off the peppers and pick out the insides. Use a melon-baller or your fingers to stuff them, being sure to pack them densely. Try to lean them against each other in a casserole dish to keep upright. Add enough wine to cover the bottom. This provides continual moisture to the peppers. Scatter shredded mozzarella cheese over the tops.

3. Bake peppers with an aluminum-foil covering for 40 minutes. Take the foil off for the remaining 20 minutes so the cheese can brown.

Enjoy. The peppers won’t be the only things stuffed!

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I found two zucchinis in the fridge. They were certainly not fresh; dehydrated and spongy. Yet I knew better than to dispose of them. They just suffered from loss of moisture; something that is easily remedied by soaking them in water for about 20 minutes. I decided to make fried zucchini cakes.

Ingredients: (Optional additions include squash and carrots)

Pancakes:

  • 2 zucchinis
  • 1/4 large red onion
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour (absorb moisture)
  • 1/2 cup of bread crumbs (absorb moisture)
  • 1/4 cup parmesan
  • 2 large eggs (binder)
  • vegetable oil

Yogurt sauce:

  • 1/2 cup Greeks yogurt (simply strained yogurt)
  • 1 tbsp chopped dill
  • t tbsp lemon juice
  • salt and pepper to taste

Step 1: There are two options. I used a mandolin to get the pieces nice and thin and then cut them into teeny-weeny pieces. After I did it all, I realized that I could have just used a grater, but it was much more fun using the mandolin! I just sliced them,  holding the zucchini vertical and then used a julienne cutting technique with my knife. Mandolins, besides the instrument, are flat planes used to make thin slices. Some food processors have settings for this cut.

Step 2: Cut the red onions as well. These should be grated, in the same manner, or used on the mandolin with a thinner setting. Add the eggs, the bread crumbs, the parmesan cheese, salt and fresh ground pepper. Mix well. Add more crumbs if there is unabsorbed liquid. Form small handfuls into balls and flatten into patties. Heat vegetable oil in a pan and let the cakes sizzle for about five minutes on medium-high heat. Do not move them until they move freely and flip when one side is browned.

I got Jerry’s approval too.

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