Appetizers/Hors d'oeuvres Feed

Spanish Tapas Style Shrimp - Gambas al Ajillo

Garlic shrimp 2


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 and La Trucha -

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

Authentic Greek Tzatziki


I have just returned from an incredible week sailing the Aegean on the luxurious Seabourn Quest. ( It’s truly a wonderful way travel and I highly recommend the experience. A week of Mediterranean cuisine will undoubtedly influence the next few posts on this blog. I’ll start will some of the incredible dips and appetizers that are found on nearly all menus in Greece and Turkey. Tzatziki, one of the most common, is perfect for spring and summer and can be served as a dip with pita bread, or as a sauce for grilled meat or vegetables.

Greek Tzatziki

Greek yogurt here is key; don’t substitute regular plain yogurt or the sauce will be very watery. FAGE Total Classic Greek yogurt is the most widely available brand in this country. You can also make your own Greek-style thickened yogurt (see procedure below) to use in place of the Greek yogurt.

Download Greek Tzatziki recipe

1 medium cucumber , peeled, halved lengthwise, and seeded

1 ¼ cups plain Greek whole-milk yogurt

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint leaves and/or dill leaves

2 small garlic cloves minced or pressed through a garlic press

Fresh mint leaves for garnish (optional)

Sea salt and pepper

1. Shred the cucumber on the large holes of a box grater.

2. Whisk the yogurt, oil, herbs, and garlic together in a medium bowl. Stir in the cucumbers and season with salt and pepper to taste.

3. Cover and refrigerate until chilled, about 1 hour. (The sauce can be refrigerated for up to 2 days.)

Makes about 2 cups

Fast Easy Homemade Applesauce

Applesauce 2

Fast Easy Homemade Applesauce

A friend of mine called and asked me what was the best way to use up a bunch of apples and I naturally suggested applesauce. I often find the crisper drawer in my  own refrigerator filled with a variety of apples and end up throwing them into a pot with a few ingredients to create a delicious homemade applesauce. It’s so versatile – I add it to oatmeal at breakfast, blend a scoopful into smoothies, use it to replace pumpkin in muffin recipes and it’s also a great accompaniment to many main course dishes. 

Download Fast Easy Homemade Applesauce recipe

4 pounds apples, such as McIntosh, Gala, and Braeburn

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (from 2 lemons)

1 cup apple juice (or water)

3 inches of cinnamon stick

Pinch of salt

3 tablespoons brown sugar (optional)

1. Peel, core, and slice apples.

2. In a large pot, bring apples, salt, lemon juice, cinnamon stick, and apple juice (or water) to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer until apples are very soft and falling apart, 25 to 30 minutes.

3. Mash with a potato masher or pulse in a food processor until smooth with small chunks remaining. (Add sugar, if using.)

4. Let cool, and then transfer applesauce to airtight containers.


Louisiana Style Shrimp and Cheesy Grits

Shrimp grits

Celebrate Mardi Gras with this quick and easy dinner for two, inspired by traditional Louisiana cooking. Uglesich's Restaurant in New Orleans (Uglesich website) serves one of the best shrimp and grits that I ever tasted, although, just about everything there was incredible. This recipe, which follows a method from America’s Test kitchen, is pretty easy to throw together and makes a great quick dinner for two.

 Download Southern Style Shrimp and Grits for Two recipe

8 ounces shrimp (large size 31-40 per pound), peeled and deveined

1 tablespoon Olive Oil

1 minced garlic clove

pinch of Cayenne pepper

¼ - ½ tsp. Cajun Seafood seasoning

Salt and pepper

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 small onion minced (about ½ cup)

1 1/2 cups water

1/2 cup Heavy Cream

1/2 teaspoon hot sauce, like Tabanero or Frank's RedHot

½ tsp. Worcestershire sauce

1/2 cup Quick Grits (Quick not instant grits is key)

4 oz extra-sharp shredded cheddar cheese, shredded

1 green onion sliced thin


 1.  Adjust oven rack to the middle and heat oven to 375 degrees

2.  Toss the shrimp with the oil, garlic, cayenne, Cajun seasoning and season with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate will making the grits. 

3.  Melt butter in a 10 inch skillet over medium heat.  Add onion and cook until soften stirring frequently, 4- 5 minutes.

4.  Stir in water, cream, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper and bring to a boil.

5.  Slowly whisk in grits, reduce heat to low and cook, stirring often until grits are thick and creamy, 5-7 minutes.

6.  Remove from heat and whisk in cheddar until combined.

7.  Lay shrimp on their sides in a pinwheel (circle the skillet with tails in middle) over the grits then press on them slightly to submerge about halfway down.

8.  Transfer skillet to oven and bake until shrimp are cooked through, about 5 – 7 minutes. Sprinkle with scallions and serve.

Shrimp grits pan

Seared Scallops with Fresh Cilantro Pesto

Seared scallops 1

Seared Scallops with Fresh Cilantro Pesto

 These scallops make a great first course, but you can easily serve it as main course by mixing the pesto with pasta. I use cilantro  because it grows so well in the garden, but you can easily substitute your favorite pesto – basil or sun dried tomato would work well.

Download Seared Scallops with Fresh Cilantro Pesto

 1 cup packed fresh cilantro leaves 

¼ cup fresh parsley or baby spinach leaves

1 tablespoon toasted pine nuts 

1-2 medium cloves garlic, chopped coarse

1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Pinch of coarse kosher salt 

Pinch of ground black pepper 

1/4 cup olive oil 

 3/4 pound sea scallops, about 16, small side muscles removed

1 tablespoon olive oil 

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1.    Pulse cilantro, pine nuts, garlic, zest, lemon juice, salt, and pepper in bowl of food processor until minced. With processor running, slowly add oil. Process until smooth; set aside.

2.    Sprinkle scallops on both sides with salt and pepper. Heat large (11-inch) sauté pan over medium-high heat until hot, about 1 minute. Add half the oil; swirl to coat bottom. Add butter and continue to heat pan until butter begins to turn golden brown. Add half the scallops, one at a time, flat side down; cook, adjusting heat as necessary to prevent fat from burning, until scallops are well browned, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes.

3.Using tongs, turn scallops, one at a time; cook 1 to 1 1/2 minutes longer, depending on size. Repeat cooking process using remaining half of oil and scallops.

4.    Serve 2-3 scallops on a small dollop of pesto. 

Seared scallops pan


Roasted Beet Salad with Goat Cheese and Endive Appetizers

Beet Goat Cheese Endive Salad

Roasted Beet Salad with Goat Cheese and Endive

Beet and goat cheese salad is probably one of my favorites and this recipe creates perfect individual bites. Roasting the beets gives great depth of flavor, but canned beets speeds up the process. The flavors improve as it sits, it’s great to make a day ahead. Feel free to substitute bleu cheese for the goat cheese, but either way, make sure to buy a high quality block and crumble it yourself. 

Download Roasted Beet Salad with Goat Cheese and Endive recipe

1 pound medium beets, trimmed (or one15-ounce can whole beets, drained and chopped fine)

1 cup crumbled goat cheese

¼ cup walnuts, toasted and chopped

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 small shallot, minced

2 tablespoons fresh orange juice

2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil or tarragon, or combination

Salt and pepper

2 heads endive, cut in half lengthwise, leaves of each half separated

1. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees. Wrap each beet separately in foil and roast until paring knife can be inserted with little resistance, 70 to 80 minutes. Cool until easy to handle, at least 20 minutes. Use paper towels to remove skin and cut beets into small dice. (if using canned beets, just drain and dice)

2. Whisk together vinegar, herbs, orange juice and shallot. Whisking continuously, slowly pour in the olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

3. Toss beets with vinegar mixture, cheese, and walnuts. Cover and refrigerate until flavors meld, at least 30 minutes.  Spoon mixture onto each endive, garnish plate with fresh herbs and serve.

Beet Goat Cheese Endive Salad single 

Beet Goat Cheese Endive Salad 1

Homemade Pigs in a Blanket

Pig n blanket

Pigs in a Blanket

These are always a big hit at parties, so I when I saw this recipe on Cook’s Country I knew I had to try them. The most common method is to use store bought crescent dough or puff pastry, but the crust used here is based on a cream biscuit recipe. You can make them ahead and keep them in the freezer until ready to bake.

Makes 24 pieces     Download Homemade Pigs in a Blanket recipe

2 cups all-purpose flour

4 tablespoons vegetable shortening, cut into 1/2-inch pieces and chilled

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 ½ cups heavy cream

1 large egg, lightly beaten

¼ cup flour (for hot dog rolling)

6 hot dogs

1. Line rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. Pulse 2 cups flour, shortening, baking powder, salt, and cayenne in food processor until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Transfer to large bowl. Stir in cream until combined. Turn onto lightly floured surface and knead dough until smooth, 8 to 10 times.

3. Roll dough into 15- by 10-inch rectangle. Brush dough with egg wash and cut into six 5-inch squares.

4. Place remaining flour in shallow dish. Pat hot dogs dry with paper towels and coat with flour, shaking off excess.

5. Arrange 1 hot dog in center of each dough square. Roll dough around hot dog and pinch seam closed. Cut each hot dog into 4 rounds and place on prepared baking sheet. Freeze until firm, about 30 minutes. Transfer to zipper-lock bag and freeze for up to 1 month.

6. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 425 degrees. Arrange rounds, seam side down, on parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet. Bake until golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes. Serve warm.

Pigs n blanket rolled dough
Pigs n blanket dough 

Pigs n blanket prep

Pigs n blanket rolled
Pigs n blanket prebake

Holiday Spiced Nuts

Spiced nuts sheet

Holiday Spiced Nuts Recipe

Download Holiday Spiced Nuts Recipe


These make a great gift and can be stored at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks. Do not use salted nuts. Recipe can easily be halved.


Makes about 10 cups

2   large egg whites 

2   tablespoons water 

2   teaspoons salt 

2   pounds unsalted raw pecans, cashews, walnuts, or whole unblanched almonds

1  cup sugar 

4   teaspoons ground cinnamon 

2   teaspoons ginger 

2   teaspoons coriander 



1. Adjust oven racks to upper-middle and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 300 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk egg whites, water, and salt in large bowl. Add nuts and toss to coat. Drain in colander for 5 minutes.


2. Mix sugar, cinnamon, ginger, and coriander in large bowl. Add drained nuts and toss to coat. Spread nuts evenly on prepared baking sheets and bake until dry and crisp, 40 to 45 minutes, rotating and switching position of baking sheets halfway through baking time. Cool nuts completely. Break nuts apart and serve.


Spiced nuts mixed



Classic Homemade Creamy Hummus

Classic Homemade Hummus

Classic Homemade Creamy Hummus

Homemade hummus is so easy to throw together and requires only a few ingredients. I prefer hummus with a light creamy texture with a nice amount of fresh lemon juice.

Download Classic Homemade Creamy Hummus recipe.

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice from 1 to 2 lemons

¼ cup water

4 tablespoons tahini, stirred well (see note)

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

1(14-ounce) can Pastene chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1small garlic clove, minced or pressed through garlic press (about 1/2 teaspoon)

½ teaspoon table salt

¼ teaspoon ground cumin

Pinch cayenne

1 tablespoon minced fresh cilantro or parsley leaves

1. Combine lemon juice and water in small bowl or measuring cup. Whisk together tahini and 2 tablespoons oil in second small bowl or measuring cup. Set aside 1 tablespoons chickpeas for garnish.

2. Process remaining chickpeas, garlic, salt, cumin, and cayenne in food processor until almost fully ground, about 15 seconds. Scrape down bowl with rubber spatula. With machine running, add lemon juice-water mixture in steady stream through feed tube. Scrape down bowl and continue to process for 1 minute. With machine running, add oil-tahini mixture in steady stream through feed tube; continue to process until hummus is smooth and creamy, about 15 seconds, scraping down bowl as needed.

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

Hummus Chickpeas cuisinart
Hummus chickpeas pulse
Hummus puree

Cherry Tomato Basil Mozzarella Appetizers

Cherry tomato appetizers

This is a super fast appetizer inspired by the Italian classic Caprese Salad. They are perfect for summer parties when the tomato and basil flavors are at their peak. Be sure to use high quality olive oil and fresh mozzarella.

Download Cherry Tomato Basil Mozzarella Appetizers

32 cherry tomatoes

Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

4 ounces fresh mozzarella

1/4 cup basil leaves, cut in chiffonade (leaves rolled up and sliced in thin ribbons)

1. Slice a very thin piece off the bottom of each cherry tomato so the tomatoes will sit level on a platter. Make another slice on the other end of the tomato and scoop out the seeds inside using a small melon baller or small measuring spoon.

2. Sprinkle each cherry tomato with salt and pepper. Drizzle in a few drops of olive oil into each cherry tomato. Stuff each tomato with a cube of the mozzarella cheese. Garnish the tops with the sliced basil. Transfer the stuffed cherry tomatoes onto a serving platter and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Cherry tomatoes cut
Cherry tomatoes basil