Archive for the ‘Snacks’ Category

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.


  • 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.

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

This salsa is delicious, healthy, and takes about 10-15 minutes to make. What’s not to love?! My parents want me to sell it in 16 oz. containers. I’ll have to think about that. Meanwhile, here’s the recipe for a mildly spiced yet  flavorful and refreshing salsa. The charred flavor makes my salsa unique and basil provides a more sweet herb flavor. Add a little sweetness and you have a tasty salsa, perfect for topping burgers, tacos, or your tortilla chip—the best of which would have to be Xochitl corn chips.


  • 2 poblano peppers
  • About 6 plum tomatoes
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1 small shallot, diced
  • 1/2 jalapeño, diced (for a mild salsa)
  • small handful of cilantro, roughly chopped
  • small handful of basil, roughly chopped
  • salt
  • 1/2 lime
  • 1 tablespoon of honey
  • hefty pinch of sugar
  • 1/4 of a 16 oz. can of corn
  • 2 tablespoons of diced red onion
1. Set the grill to medium-high heat and char the poblanos. They should be covered in black blisters. Cut them in half and remove the stems, seeds and inner membranes. Roughly chop.
 2. Quarter the plum tomatoes and put in a food processor with the poblanos, the garlic, the shallots, the jalapeños, the herb and a few pinches of salt. Use the chop setting and pulse. Pulse in lime juice, honey, and sugar.
3. Taste for sweetness (honey/sugar), salt (be generous), acidity (lime), heat (jalopeño), and herb action.
4. In a hot saute pan, cook the corn until it browns and add to the salsa. Mix in diced red onion.
Replace the tomatoes with grilled tomatillos (the fruits that look like green tomatoes with husks) for a salsa verde.

Read Full Post »

It is not uncommon for me to get a spontaneous desire to cook something completely random. Recently, it was biscuits at 11:00 P.M. Biscuits are cheap, easy, and made with ingredients you probably already have.

Prep time: 10 min

Cook time: 20 min


  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 stick salted butter
  • ½  teaspoon salt
  • ¼  teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ cup of whole milk (don’t be afraid of fat)
  • some pepper (fresh is best)

From Pantry To Palate:

1. Combine the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Chop cold butter into tiny cubes and incorporate, with hands or a fork, until the mixture is very crumbly. Be patient.

2. Slowly add the milk and keep mixing until you create a dough ball. Flour the ball and the counter-top and roll the dough out pretty thinly—I used an olive oil bottle because I didn’t have a rolling pin. Fold the dough over until it’s about an inch in height and roll again to spread the dough out evenly.

3. Use a cookie cutter (or a wine glass) to cut the biscuits. Repeat the process, using the leftover dough to make more biscuits. Coat a baking sheet with non-stick spray and place the biscuits on it.

4. For a golden crust, brush or apply some egg wash (one egg, beaten). Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes or until golden on the top. While hot, brush on some melted butter and some more salt and pepper if you choose.

5. Eat them. You know the drill.

6. Go to the gym the next day.

Read Full Post »

Quinoa, pronounced keen-wah, is a staple grain in South American cuisine; the ancient Incas even called it “the mother grain”. Its high protein content and delicate flavor make it nutritious and versatile. My roommate and I cooked this together and we thought it was good enough to eat as a meal by itself.


  • 2 cups Quinoa
  • 1 package of dried cranberries, golden raisins, and blueberries. (Trader Joe’s)
  • Olive oil
  • 2-3 lemons
  • 1 orange
  • 1 head of garlic
  • chopped basil
  • 2 ripe avocados
  • canned garbanzo beans (chickpeas)

Bring 2 cups of quinoa with 4 cups water to a boil. Cover and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes or until the grains soak up all of the water. Fluff the quinoa with a fork and mix in the dried fruit. Also add chopped, sautéed garlic. Mix in the lemon juice, orange zest, salt, pepper, chopped basil, and a few tablespoons of olive oil. Also add the garbanzos. Immediately stop the cooking by transferring the quinoa to the fridge. Allow the quinoa to sit for a few hours. Add chopped avocados before serving.The time is necessary for the quinoa to absorb the flavors. Leftovers will be even sweeter.

For such a mild grain, this dish is super flavorful. The quinoa really absorbs the sweetness of the fruit and the orange zest adds a lot of fruity flavor. The avocado, lemon, basil, and garlic are great counterpoints to the sweetness. The chickpeas add an extra textural dimension too.

Read Full Post »

My roommate Jordan and I made something simple for dinner. We roasted asparagus, green peppers, onions, zucchini and corn with salt, pepper, and fruity olive oil. Try 375º until the onions just start to brown. Our grilled cheese was made with muenster and shredded mozzarella cheese. We heated a grill pan to medium-high and buttered the bread. We grilled one slice on both sides to make a grilled cheese that was impossible crunchy. The two cheeses melted together in texture and flavor and the vegetables were perfectly seasoned and deliciously simple. It beats the cafeteria!

Read Full Post »

Since you are what you eat, why not be the best. This pizza will make your neighbors flock to your door just to take a whiff of the tantalizing aroma. I don’t know what’s more pleasing, the audibly crunchy crust or the silky, melted cheese on top. I figured, why not take something usually left plain—the crust, and boost the flavor by adding fresh rosemary and roasted garlic. Basil adds a lemony aroma and the feta cheese adds a briny punch of flavor.


  • 1 Trader Joe’s pizza dough
  • 1 head of garlic
  • 1 rosemary sprig
  • shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1-2 tomatoes
  • tomato sauce
  • feta cheese (optional)
  • fresh basil
  • olive oil
  • flour
  • salt, pepper

(All can be found at Trader Joe’s)

1. Allow the dough to come to room temperature. In the meantime, heat the oven to 425º. Cut off the top of the wider end of the garlic head, revealing all the garlic cloves. Tightly wrap in aluminum foil with some olive oil and salt. Roast for 15 minutes. When the garlic is cool, you can squeeze out the cloves.

2. Flour the working surface as well as the dough. Flatten the dough with your hands or a rolling pin—I used an olive oil bottle. Heck, if you want to have some fun, try throwing it in the air like the pros. Roughly chop the rosemary and garlic and press them into the pizza crust with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Bake the crust on a flowered pizza pan or baking sheet for 6-7 minutes.

3. Top the crust with a little tomato sauce, chopped basil, tomato slices, lots of shredded cheese, more tomato slices, and feta cheese crumbles, respectively. Bake until the cheese is melted and begins to brown. If you have a crappy GW oven, you may need to rotate the pie to promote even cooking. Scatter freshly ripped basil leaves and conclude with a drizzle of olive oil.

Good pizza is a simple proportion: less box, more flavor.

Read Full Post »

Please, do yourself a favor and never by a jar of store-bought pickles again. All of your favorite varieties can be made at home—and I’ll let you in on a little secret: they’re cheaper, healthier, and tastier. My pickles take 5 minutes to make and have almost no calories. Plus, cucumbers are in season and fresher than ever.


  • 1 jar
  • water
  • pickling spice
  • English Cucumber (“seedless”)
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 rosemary sprig
  • splash white vinegar

Put the ingredients into a clean jar. You only need a small amount of the pickling spice (1 to 2 shakes or a half teaspoon at the most). It is important that you fill the jar to the top with water, so there is no room for air. After 24 hours, you have a pickle. I’m partial to more of a half-sour taste. If you like ’em sharp and acidic, go for two days or more.

My mom said it was the best pickle she’s ever eaten and my cousin’s fiancé said it was great and I can’t go back to college. My dad mentioned Iron Chef. Yet I doubt anybody’s beaten Bobby Flay with a pickle. I know what you’re thinking: they’re your family, of course they’re gonna compliment your food. Give it a try. You decide. When all the pickles are consumed–which won’t be too long—you can reuse the pickling liquid. Next, I’ll try pickling peppers, carrots, and asparagus. Heck, I’ll even give mangos a try.

Read Full Post »

My dad brought home four stalks of Rhubarb. I had never cooked it before, but found it in a lot of dessert recipes online. It looks like celery except twice as long and red-purple colored. I researched jam recipes and formulated something of my own. I cut down the ingredients a bit and the time dramatically.

Cook time: 30 minutes. Ready to eat in an hour and fifteen.


  • 4 stalks of Rhubarb
  • 3/4 cup of sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1 peach.

1. In a large sauce pan, cook the ingredients over medium heat for thirty minutes. I used a paring knife to peel a peach and added that as well (after I diced it).† Stir occasionally at the onset, but, gradually, stirring becomes more necessary. During the last ten minutes, the jam will probably require constant stirring to prevent sticking and the formation of dangerous bubbles. If the bubbles start spewing molten-hot sugar in the air, please turn down the heat for your own safety.

2. It is done when you can scrape the bottom of the pan and actually see the bottom. Also, take a heaping spoonful of the jam; if it falls to the bottom in one stream, it’s ready. Mine fell in a couple globs, but it looked spreadable and it continued to set in the fridge. Refrigerate for at least 45 minutes♣.

The jam came out perfectly. It had a great consistency for only 30 minutes of cooking. Although it had no smell for some reason, it tasted fantastic, despite the fact that most things with this much sugar taste great. I would have never known that this was Rhubarb!

† You may also throw the peach in boiling water for 1 minute. this should make the skin come off with ease. Be sure to remove the pit! I added the peach because peaches have more pectin than rhubarb does. Pectin is a type of carbohydrate found in the cell walls of certain fruits. Fruits like apples and peaches have lots of pectin. Some fruits require the addition of Pectin to make a proper jam. You can find Pectin in some stores.

♣ you can store your jam in a glass jar. I filled a 6 oz jar. They are very cheap at Walmart!

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

Eating panini should never be constrained solely to modern bistros or up-scale sandwich shops. Forget the expensive machines; panini can be created in the kitchen. I decided to jazz up your average lunch-time turkey sandwich. I made mine with sliced italian bread, a pesto-mayo, turkey, swiss cheese, tomato, and basil. Just butter a hot pan and press with a spatula or another pan. I physically “press” the sandwich, but some choose to use a brick to weigh down the pan on top of the sandwich. Same taste as the fancy machines, but you have to flip it and there are no grill marks. Here are tips on becoming a seasoned paninaro:

BREAD: Some think the bread is the most important part. I have no counter rebuttal.

  • Heavy and flavorful breads work best. Ciabatta and focaccia are classics, but italian bread, sourdough, and semolina are great. Pick a bread that is naturally flat (or cut it) to promote even cooking. Pick something that is hearty enough to withstand the pressing (white bread will be mushy and nonexistent. Anything with herbs in it will give plenty of added flavor.

Meat: What you will

  • prosciutto Di Parma, genoa salami, chicken, turkey, ham, soppressata

Cheese: Anything that melts well

  • Taleggio cheese, brie, mozzarella, fontina, Gruyere, Ementhaler

Condiments: Doesn’t have to be italian

  • pesto, mayo, herb mayo, mustard, olive tapenade, chipotle mayo

toppings: Experiment

  • basil, roasted red peppers, artichoke hearts, red onions, tomatoes, portobello mushrooms,

Sweet: panini make great desserts

  • Try bananas and nutella. After it’s finished, coat in sugar and cinnamon.
  • Try fruits and cheeses together like Apples and brie, taleggio and pear, prosciutto and melon (I know it’s a meat), turkey and cranberry
  • Add jam or preserves to any cheese panini. You’ll be amazed.

Order: This is highly debated. If you ask me, it’s:

  • Bread-condiment-meat-cheese-topping-condiment-bread.

This way, the bread gets extra flavor and moisture. The cheese bind the whole sandwich together too. Try placing tomatoes away from the heat source (most agree on this). Stay away from lettuce on a panini (wilted lettuce is by no means tasty). Try spinach or arugula if you want some green.

Read Full Post »

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.


  • 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!

Read Full Post »

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)


  • 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.

Read Full Post »

So I get the feeling people want recipes that are uncomplicated and easy to follow. At first, I did not post this because it was too simple. I made it as a side dish and was pleased with the results. These fried plantains are bite-sized soft treats with a mellow sweetness compared to bananas. I used to think that plantains should be cooked green, but this results in a flavorless, tough plantain that is fibrous and bready. Green plantains can be used for savory dishes. It is used often like a potatoes. Black (extra-ripe) plantains can also be used for dessert dishes.

  • Heat vegetable oil in a pan over medium-high heat. It should be 1/4 inch high.
  • Cut the plantains while it heats.
  • Use a knife to slit the plantain peel off. Then cut in half, creating to symmetrical pieces.
  • Cut into bite size pieces and fry on each side for 5-7 minutes or until well-browned and caramelized on each side.
  • rest on paper towels or a brown paper bag to rid the fruit of excess oil.
  • Immediately salt lightly with sea salt or kosher salt. About 1 teaspoon for 3 plantains.

The nutritional value of the plantain is extremely high. It is one of the healthiest fruits in the world, leaving bananas in the dust. What could be a better ingredient to fry?

Read Full Post »

Guacamole is a great appetizer. Nobody is shy about digging in to the creamy, vibrant dip. Better yet, it is easy to make home-made.

Ingredients: avocados, olive oil, canola oil (any frying oil), corn or flour tortillas, tomatoes, onions (red or white both work), lime, salt, pepper, garlic, parsley or cilantro.

Guac Steps:

Tips: the perfect avocado will give a little to the touch. At the grocery store, pick the stems off; If green, it’s ripe.

1. cut the avocados with one vertical cut all around the fruit. Twist gently and separate. Take a chef’s knife and lodge it into the seed, twisting gently to dislodge it. Use a paring knife to cut the halves, making a checkerboard pattern. Scoop the cubes out with a spoon.

2. Mash with some EVOO to make it silky, chopped tomatoes, onions, minced garlic, cilantro or parsley, and lime. To facilitate juiceage, pop them in the microwave or roll on the counter with your palms.

Chips Steps:

1. Cut flour or corn tortillas into quarters or sixths and fry in very hot frying oil. Flour tortillas will give a thicker crispy chip with layers. Corn tortillas will make a more crunchy and thin chip. When golden, allow to try on paper towels or paper bags. Sprinkle with salt.

Tip: always make a lot because it’s always a big hit. Guac stores terribly and oxidizes quickly so make t shortly before serving.

P.S. September 16 is National Guacamole Day

Read Full Post »