Appetizers/Hors d'oeuvres Feed

Crispy Homemade Tortilla Chips

Homemade Tortilla Chips

Crispy Homemade Tortilla Chips

Years ago my friend Robert’s mother was visiting from Mexico and taught me how to make her famous fruit filled guacamole (Anita Kass Guacamole recipe), but it came with a warning, “don’t make this if you’re going to use store bought tortilla chips” – they simply were not worthy of her spectacular guacamole. So, whenever I do make guacamole, hers or traditional, I always make these quick and easy homemade chips, the taste is worlds apart from bagged chips at the supermarket. 

Download Crispy Homemade Tortilla Chips recipe 

8 (6-inch) corn tortillas

5 cups peanut oil for frying

Kosher salt

For the best results, use fresh, locally made tortillas (the thinnest available). Peanut oil is preferred for deep frying because of its high smoke point, but vegetable or corn oil will also work.

 

  1. Cut each tortilla into 6 wedges. Line 2 baking sheets with several layers of paper towels. Heat oil in Dutch oven over medium-high heat to 350 degrees.

 

  1. Add half of tortillas and fry until golden and crispy around edges, 2 to 4 minutes. Transfer chips to prepared sheets, sprinkle lightly with salt, and let cool. Repeat with remaining tortillas. Serve. (Cooled chips can be stored in zipper-lock bag at room temperature for up to 4 days.)

SERVES 4

 


Veggie Impossible Pie with Parmesan Crust

Veggie Impossible pie Red Pepper Scallions

“Impossible Pie” was a recipe most often found on the back of Bisquick boxes. I don’t think I ever made one, but the idea intrigued me. I stumbled on a recipe in Cooks Country Magazine (February/March 2013 issue) which, as usual, they had improved greatly. Their version uses chopped deli ham, but since I often have vegetarian guests, I substituted chopped roasted red bell pepper for the ham. This makes a great brunch dish, and can be served warm or at room temperature.

Download Impossible Veggie Pie Parmesan Crust

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, plus 2 tablespoons melted

3 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan cheese

8 ounces Gruyère cheese, shredded (2 cups)

4 ounces roasted red bell pepper (or thickly sliced deli ham), chopped

4 scallions, minced

½ cup (2½ ounces) all-purpose flour

¾ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon pepper

¼ teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 cup half-and-half

4 large eggs, lightly beaten

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

⅛ teaspoon ground nutmeg       

Directions

  1. Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 9-inch pie plate with softened butter, then coat plate evenly with Parmesan.
  2. Combine Gruyère, red bell pepper, and scallions in bowl. Sprinkle cheese-and-ham mixture evenly in bottom of prepared pie dish. Combine flour, baking powder, pepper, cayenne and salt in now-empty bowl. Whisk in half-and-half, eggs, melted butter, mustard, and nutmeg until smooth. Slowly pour batter over cheese-and-ham mixture in pie dish.
  3. Bake until pie is light golden brown and filling is set, 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool on wire rack for 15 minutes. Slice into wedges. Serve warm.

*To serve our “Impossible” Pie as an hors d’oeuvre at your next party, forgo the pie plate and instead bake it in an 8-inch square baking dish. Slice it into 1-inch squares and serve warm or at room temperature.

 

Sprinke cheese over entire pie plate, pressing gently into butter pie dish

Parmesan buttered pie dish


Chili-Lime Candied Christmas Cashews

Chili lime christmas cashews

I think homemade gifts are always appropriate, especially around the holidays. Baked goods, like cookies or brownies are nice, but can be a challenge, because they often need to baked, wrapped, delivered and consumed within 48 hours. Nuts on the other hand, can be made ahead and they’ll keep for 2-3 weeks, giving your recipient plenty of time to enjoy them. There are endless recipes for spiced nuts, but this one is a favorite, particularly for cashews. There is just enough heat, combined with a sugary spice and bright hint of lime. You can easily double the recipe for a big batch, just adjust oven racks to upper-middle and lower-middle positions and bake the nuts on 2 baking sheets, switching and rotating sheets halfway through baking.

Download Chili-Lime Candied Christmas Cashews

Makes about 5 cups

 

1 large egg white

1 tablespoon grated lime zest

1 tablespoon lime juice

1 teaspoon salt

1 pound unsalted cashews

½ cup granulated sugar

2 ½ teaspoons chili powder

1 teaspoon ground cumin

½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

¼ teaspoon coriander

¼ teaspoon cinnamon

  1. Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 300 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment paper and coat with cooking spray. Whisk egg white, lime juice, lime zest, and salt in large bowl. Add nuts and toss to coat. Drain in colander thoroughly, 4 to 5 minutes.
  2. Mix sugar, chili powder, ground cumin, cayenne pepper, coriander and cinnamon in large bowl. Add drained nuts and toss to coat. Spread nuts evenly on prepared baking sheet and bake until dry and crisp, 40 to 45 minutes, rotating sheet halfway through baking time. Cool completely. Break nuts apart and serve. (Nuts can be stored in airtight container for 3 weeks.)

Chili lime spiced nuts bowl


Pat Loud's Christmas Cheese Log

Pat Loud Cheese Log1

This is a fantastic and easy recipe from my dear friend Pat Loud which was passed down from her mother. She serves it at nearly every party that I’ve ever attended and it’s always a big hit. As with most good recipes, the amounts are somewhat flexible – in other words, feel free to use more or less of any of the ingredients. Key to success, however, depends upon quality sharp cheddar cheese and I like to use Cabot Private Stock Extra Sharp Cheddar. Any favorite bleu cheese will work  - Roquefort, Danish Bleu, or English Stilton. Make sure that the cheeses are not too cold, or the mixture will not blend in the food processor.

Download Pat Loud Holiday Cheese Log recipe

10 ounces shredded Cabot extra sharp cheese, at room temperature

8 ounces cream cheese, softened to room temperature

4 -6 ounces Bleu cheese, crumbled

2 tablespoons mayonnaise or soft butter (optional)

2-3 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce (or to taste)

1 clove garlic, crushed

Pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)

1/3 cup each of pistachios and dried cranberries, chopped

1. Place cheeses, Worcestershire sauce, mayo or butter, garlic and cayenne pepper in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse 4-5 times to combine, then process for 1-2 minutes until smooth, scraping down sides of bowl with a rubber spatula as needed.

2. Put mixture on a piece of wax paper and using the paper, shape into a ball or 2 logs. Refrigerate until firm. Roll ball or logs in a mixture of chopped pistachios and cranberries; cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 24 hours. Serve with crackers and additional dried fruit.

Pat Loud Cheese Log Mixture

  Pat Loud Cheese Log roll 

Pat Loud Cheese Log rolled 

Pat Loud Cheese Log close up1

Pat Loud Cheese Log Nuts Cranberries


Easy Summer Salsa Verde

Tomatillo salsa verde1 

Salsa Verde makes a perfect dip during the summer and also adds a refreshing burst of flavor to all type of dishes. It is a great marinade and topping for grilled fish, seafood, chicken, beef, and lamb. Some recipes call for boiling the tomatillos, but roasting adds more flavor to the sauce and is worth the extra step. When selecting tomatillos, always slightly open the husk to inspect the flesh color and tone inside.  The flesh should be firm and without major blemishes and the color should be bright green, with a fresh, fruity smell.

Download Easy Summer Salsa Verde recipe

1 pound tomatillos, husks and stems removed, rinsed well and dried

1 teaspoon vegetable oil

1 small onion, chopped

1 jalapeño chile, stemmed, halved, and seeded

1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1 garlic clove, minced

2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

¼ teaspoon sugar or agave nectar

Salt to taste

1. Place oven rack 6 inches from broiler and heat broiler. Line rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil. Toss half of tomatillos with vegetable oil and transfer to prepared sheet. Broil until tomatillos are spotty brown and skins begin to burst, 7 to 10 minutes. Transfer tomatillos to food processor and let cool completely.

2. Halve remaining tomatillos and add to food processor with broiled tomatillos. Add onion, jalapeño, cilantro, lime juice, garlic, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Pulse until slightly chunky, 16 to 18 pulses. Transfer to salsa bowl and let stand at room temperature for 15 minutes. Stir in olive oil and season with salt and sugar to taste. Serve. (The salsa can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 5 days; return to room temperature and season with salt and lime juice to taste before serving.) Makes about 2 cups

Tomatillos1 

Tomatillo ingredients bowl1


Creamy Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

Red pepper hummus1 

Makes 2 cups

 

Hummus makes a great appetizer to keep on hand and has a wide variety of uses. It’s perfect as a dip with pita chips or veggies, great as a spread on sandwiches and wraps, or as a side dish with grilled chicken or lamb kabobs.  The popularity of this Middle Eastern dish continues to grow; in fact,The New York Times reported that the hummus industry has grown from just a $5 million dollar business 15 years ago, to one that totaled $530 million at U.S. food retailers in 2012. While basic hummus is a classic, I like to add a little extra flavor with additional ingredients like roasted red peppers or grilled artichokes. If you are having a large gathering, make a variety of flavors and serve with crisp homemade pita chips. (Pita Chips recipe)

Download Creamy Roasted Red Pepper Hummus recipe

 

3 tablespoons water

¼ cup tahini, stirred well (Joyva or Krinos brands)

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling

1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained and rinsed

¼ cup jarred roasted red peppers, rinsed, patted dry, and chopped

1 garlic clove, minced

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon ground cumin

1/8 teaspoon cayenne

¼ teaspoon smoked paprika, optional

2 tablespoons toasted sliced almonds, for garnish

2 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley, for garnish

 

1. Combine water and lemon juice in a measuring cup; set aside. Whisk tahini and oil together in second small bowl or measuring cup. 

2. Process chickpeas, roasted red peppers, garlic, salt, cumin, cayenne and smoked paprika until almost fully ground, about 15 seconds. Scrape down bowl with rubber spatula. With food processor running, slowly add lemon/water mixture until incorporated and process until smooth, about 1 minute. Scrape down bowl again with rubber spatula. With food processor running, slowly add tahini mixture until incorporated and process until creamy, about 30 seconds, scraping down bowl as needed.

3. Transfer hummus to serving bowl, sprinkle almonds and parsley over surface, cover with plastic wrap, and let stand until flavors meld, at least 30 minutes. Drizzle with olive oil and serve.

Red pepper mixed


Rare Roast Beef with Boursin and Red Bell Pepper Appetizers

Roast Beef Bell Pepper Appetizer

Rare Roast Beef with Boursin and Red Bell Pepper Appetizers

This is one of the simplest recipes but always a crowd pleaser. Everything can be picked up at the grocery store – unless you’re in the mood to roast your own peppers – and assembled quickly at home. The recipe can easily be increased to make as many servings as your gathering requires. Trader Joes makes a great Fire Roasted Red Bell Pepper if you happen to have one nearby. 

Download Rare Roast Beef with Boursin and Red Bell Pepper Appetizers recipe

 

Makes 12 pieces

12 slices dark pumpernickel bread or rye cocktail bread

½ cup Boursin Garlic & Fine Herbs cheese, at room temperature

6 thinly sliced piece deli rare roast beef, cut in half

½ cup jarred roasted red peppers, cut into 1/4-inch wide strips

3 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme or dill

Fresh ground black pepper

1. Spread each piece of bread with 2 teaspoons of Boursin cheese and place piece roast beef. Top with 3 pepper strips and sprinkle with thyme or dill and a few grinds of black pepper. Refrigerate for up to 3 hours and bring to room temperature before serving. 

Boursin 1

Peppers

Rye bread1


Anita Kass's Fruity Festive Pomegranate Guacamole

Holiday Fruit Filled Guacamole 

I first tried this exotic guacamole a couple of years ago at my good friend Robert’s Christmas party. His mother was in town that year and helped prepare some most of the incredible food on the buffet table. You can read more about his holiday preparations (and other adventures) on his blog "Jet Setting on a Dime" (click here - http://bit.ly/RTBcZW). His mother Anita is the kindest woman and has had an extraordinary life -- a true treasure and absolute delight.  We bonded at that party by sharing recipe secrets and continue to correspond to this day about favorite foods and cooking techniques. When I asked if she would tell me how to prepare her famous pomegranate guacamole, she graciously emailed me the instructions, explaining that it was a recipe from her mom´s hometown, Guanajuato. I’ve taken the liberty to list some precise measurements, but in full disclosure, Anita sent the list of ingredients and just put “to taste” after each item (she wrote, “No real amounts, but you are an excellent cook and I am sure you can eyeball it perfectly”.) The addition of fruit in this version makes the dish truly unique and delicious, and the bright red pomegranate seeds not only add festive color, but also additional antioxidants. Serve your guacamole with homemade chips –known as totopos. Robert and his mother always serve homemade chips and stress the importance – “if you go to all the work of making this guacamole, don’t ruin it with store-bought chips”.

Download Anita Kass's Fruity Pomegranate Guacamole recipe

 

1/3 cup white onion, finely chopped

2-3 serrano chilies, finely chopped (including seeds, optional)

1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt

3-4 ripe avocados, ripe (preferably Hass)

2 -3 tablespoons fresh lime juice (optional)

3/4 cup fresh pear, peeled and diced

3/4 cup seedless green grapes, cut in half

½ cup fresh mango (or peach) peeled and diced

1/2 cup pomegranate seeds (from a ripe pomegranate)

1/4 cup pomegranate seeds (for garnish)

1 tablespoon chopped cilantro (optional, for garnish, but Anita does not use it on hers)

Directions:

1. Halve avocados, remove pit, and scoop flesh into medium bowl. Mash avocado flesh lightly with onion, Serrano chilies, and salt.

2. Sprinkle avocado mixture with lime juice (if using). Gently stir in pear, grapes, mango (or peach) and pomegranate seeds. Stir to combine and transfer to serving bowl. Sprinkle top with additional pomegranate seeds. ( I mashed and served it in my authentic Molcajete which was given to me by Robert)

3. Serve with corn  chips – preferably homemade.

Holiday Fruit Filled Guacamole bowl
Holiday Fruit Filled Guacamole pomegranate

A photo of Anita's Pomegranate Guacamole with homemade yellow & blue corn “Totopos” -

Kass Guacamole1


Perfect Guacamole

Guacamole

  

There's nothing like homemade fresh guacamole - an it's so easy to make - that's there's no need to ever buy store-bought. The secret is perfectly ripe avocados!

 

3 medium avocados , ripe, (preferably Haas)

2 tablespoon minced Vidalia or Maui onion 

1 clove garlic , minced or pressed through garlic press

1 small jalapeño chile, minced  

¼ cup minced fresh cilantro leaves 

Coarse Sea salt 

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin (optional)

 

1-2 tablespoons lime juice from 1 lime

 

1.    Halve 1 avocado, remove pit, and scoop flesh into medium bowl. Using fork, mash lightly with onion, garlic, jalapeño, cilantro, (optional cumin) and ¼ teaspoon salt until just combined.

 

2.    Halve and pit remaining avocado. Using a dinner knife, carefully make 1/2-inch cross-hatch incisions in flesh, cutting down to but not through skin. Using a soupspoon, gently scoop flesh from skin; transfer to bowl with mashed avocado mixture. Sprinkle lime juice over and mix lightly with fork until combined but still chunky. Adjust seasoning with salt, if necessary, and serve.

 


Spanish Tapas Style Shrimp - Gambas al Ajillo

Garlic shrimp 2

SPANISH-STYLE GARLIC SHRIMP (Gambas al Ajillo)


One of the most common "tapas" of Spain, "gambas al ajillo" requires only a few ingredients, and can be prepared fairly quickly. Be sure to serve shrimp with some good crusty bread for dipping in the delicious garlic flavored olive oil. If you’re planning a trip to Spain, here are a couple of great tapas bars in Madrid near the Prado Museum - Estado Puro  http://www.tapasenestadopuro.com/#info and La Trucha - http://bit.ly/aEFfC4


Download Spanish Style Shrimp Recipe

  

14 medium garlic cloves, peeled

1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined

8 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 bay leaf

1 (2-inch) piece mild dried Cascabel chile, roughly broken, seeds included

1 ½ teaspoons sherry vinegar

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley leaves

1.    Mince 2 garlic cloves with a garlic press. Toss minced garlic with shrimp, 2 tablespoons olive oil, and salt in medium bowl. Let shrimp marinate at room temperature for 30 minutes.

2.    Meanwhile, using flat side of chef's knife, smash 4 garlic cloves. Add remaining 6 tablespoons of olive oil and smashed garlic to 12-inch skillet and heat over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until garlic is light golden brown, 4 to 7 minutes. Remove pan from heat and allow oil to cool to room temperature. Using slotted spoon, remove smashed garlic from skillet and discard.

3.    Thinly slice remaining 8 cloves garlic. Return skillet to low heat and add sliced garlic, bay leaf, and chile. Cook, stirring occasionally, until garlic is tender but not browned, 4 to 7 minutes. (If garlic has not begun to sizzle after 3 minutes, increase heat to medium-low.)

4.    Over medium-low heat, add shrimp with marinade to pan in single layer. Cook shrimp, undisturbed, until oil starts to gently bubble, about 2 minutes. Using tongs, flip shrimp and continue to cook until almost cooked through, about 2 minutes longer. Increase heat to high and add sherry vinegar, lemon and parsley. Cook, stirring constantly, until shrimp are cooked through and oil is bubbling vigorously, 20 to 25 seconds. Serve immediately.

The slightly sweet Cascabel chiles

  Garlic shrimp chiles 

 

Adding garlic with aromatics adds intense flavor

Garlic shrimp skillet oil
 

Garlic shrimp plate