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Archive for the ‘Appetizers’ Category

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I took a few months off from blogging.  During that time I’ve tried a number of new yummy recipes.  So … I’m ready to share with you the best ones.  I also have a very fun vacation coming up in two weeks:  Paris, the Amalfi coast and Berlin.  (I know … interesting combo.)  But, I’m sure to have some fun travel tips and pics to share after the trip.

While it isn’t quite tomato season, I do always enjoy a good tomato bruschetta.  I ran across this recipe last fall, but just tried it this past week.   The lemony, feta spread makes such a nice addition to a traditional tomato bruschetta.

I made this for a party last night – and all that tried it thought it was quite good.  My husband and I had some with our lunch today.  Yum!

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Once again, I was able to get all of the ingredients at Trader Joes.  I bought some cherry tomatoes to add to the baby heirloom tomatoes — quite a good combo.  And, I loved the variety of color with yellow, orange, red, purple and green.

Tomato Bruschetta with Whipped Feta

Ingredients:

6 oz. Feta Cheese, crumbled

2 oz. Cream Cheese, at room temperature

2/3 cup Good Olive Oil, divided

2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed Lemon Juice

Salt and Pepper (freshly ground, preferred)

2 Tbsp. Pine Nuts

2 Tbsp.  minced Shallots (about 2 shallots)

2 tsp. minced Garlic (2 cloves)

2 Tbs. Red Wine Vinegar

2 lbs. ripe, small heirloom Tomatoes, sliced in halves

3 Tbsp. fresh Basil leaves, sliced (Plus extra for serving)

20 to 25 diagonal baguette slices (1/2 inch thick), toasted *

Directions:

1.  Place feta and cream cheese in a food processor.  Pulse until cheeses are mixed.  Add 1/3 cup of Olive Oil, lemon juice, 1/2 tsp. of Salt and 1/4 tsp. of Pepper and process until smooth.  Refrigerate spread until ready to serve.

2.  Place pine nuts in a dry saute pan over low heat.  Cook 5 to 10 minutes, stirring often until lightly browned.  Set aside.

3.  For the tomato topping (up to an hour before serving), combine shallots, garlic and vinegar in a medium bowl.  Set aside for 5 minutes to allow shallots to absorb vinegar.  Whisk in remaining 1/3 cup of olive oil, 1 tsp. Salt and 1/2 tsp. Pepper.  Add tomatoes and stir gently.  Set aside for 10 minutes.  Stir in basil and tasted for seasoning.

4.  To assemble bruschetta, spread each baguette slice with a generous amount of whipped feta.  With a slotted spoon, place tomatoes on top.  Put bruschetta on plates and scatter with the toasted pine nuts and reserved basil.

NOTES:

*  I misread the recipe and did NOT toast the baguette slices.  I thought it was a bit odd not to toast the bread, but it was still very good.  And, it was easy to eat, as sometimes toasted crostini can be a bit difficult to bite through.

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I LOVE Chips & Salsa!  I’d have to say it’s my favorite snack food / appetizer.  But let me qualify … the tortilla chips need to be light and crunchy with just the right amount of salt.  And the salsa, a spicy, chunky version (preferably with chunks of green onion, tomato & cilantro) — NEVER from a jar – Ugh!   Add a margarita — and we have a perfect day!

But, there is a new Corn Salsa from Trader Joe’s (from a jar) that is amazing!  Pair it with TJ’s new Sweet Potato Tortilla Chips — and WOW!  Our local TJ’s chef told me about them last week.  TJ’s has them displayed together on an endcap at our local store.

The Sweet Potato Tortilla Chips are great with my Chipotle-Syrup Goat Cheese Appetizer (click here to view the recipe).  It’s a great combo, as the chips are heavier than most and add a great foundation for the creamy goat cheese and sweet & spicy syrup.  Yum!

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Here’s a refreshing lime drink for summer that’s so easy to make!  My sister made these on vacation in Durango.  While they actually have a name, it’s not one that I would print on my blog.  🙂  So … any name ideas for this great summer drink?

Directions

1 large can Limeade, thawed

1 can Vodka (using the Limeade can)

3 cans (or bottles) of Light Beer

Stir together and serve over ice cubes.  Garnish with lime slices, if desired.

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At our house, we have a family tradition where the one celebrating their birthday gets to choose the entire menu for their birthday dinner.

This tradition started with my mom.  As kids, we always got to choose what we wanted for our birthday dinner.  My mom is a great cook!  I can’t believe that I asked for Swanson’s chicken pot pies one year.  So sorry mom!

We celebrated Natalie’s birthday in March and she chose an Italian birthday dinner.  For the main course, she selected clams & linguine.  She had the dish several times in Europe last summer.  And, we recently had clams for dinner at friends (both of whom are accomplished cooks).   They had served a very flavorful main course of clams & linguine – which Natalie loved.

Here’s Natalie’s Italian Dinner Menu:

  • Bruschetta Pomodoro (a crostini topped with chopped tomatoes, garlic, basil and olive oil)  — See recipe
  • Peppered Salami, Toscano Cheese with Black Pepper, Pita Bite Crackers, and Raisin & Rosemary Crackers (all from Trader Joe’s)
  • Steamed Clams & Linguine (clams cooked in a wine, butter & olive oil broth with seasonings and cherry tomatoes)  — See recipe
  • Strawberry Field Greens Salad (one of her favorites, but not quite Italian)  I would suggest Caprese Salad (tomatoes, buffalo mozarella, basil and olive oil).  — See recipe
  • Garlic Bread
  • Tiramisu (a classic Italian dessert with lady finger cookies, espresso, mascarpone and eggs)  — See recipe

It was definitely a high carb dinner, but …

Delizioso!

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This is a family favorite … Grilled Herb Shrimp served with Mango Salsa.  Both recipes are from Barefoot Contessa.   I make this as an appetizer instead of a main course.  And, it’s an appetizer that you can “make ahead” — which I love.

When I’m in a time crunch, I buy the Mango Salsa from Trader Joe’s. But honestly, this Mango Salsa recipe is much better.

Grilled Herb Shrimp

Serves 6

Ingredients:

3 Garlic Cloves, minced

1 medium Yellow Onion, small-diced

1/4 cup minced fresh Parsley

1/4 cup minced fresh Basil

1 tsp. Dry Mustard

2 tsp. Dijon Mustard

2 tsp. Kosher Salt

1/4 tsp. freshly ground Black Pepper

1/4 cup good Olive Oil

Juice of 1 Lemon

2 lbs. Jumbo Shrimp (16 to 20 per pound), peeled, tails left on and deveined

Mango Salsa (Recipe follows)

Directions:

1.  Combine the garlic, onion, parsley, basil, mustards, salt, pepper, olive oil and lemon juice.  Add the shrimp and allow them to marinate for 1 hour at room temperature or cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days.

2.  Prepare grill, brushing the grilling rack with oil to prevent the shrimp from sticking.  Skewer the shrimp.  (Use 5 or 6 shrimp on a 12-inch skewer for a dinner serving. If making the shrimp as appetizers, you can place each shrimp on a 6-inch skewer OR you can fill 12-inch skewers to grill, then remove the shrimp for serving.)  Grill the shrimp for 1 1/2 minutes on each side.  Serve with the Mango Salsa.

Mango Salsa

Makes 2 cups

Ingredients:

2 Tbs. Olive Oil

1  1/2 cups diced Yellow Onion (2 onions)

2 tsp. peeled, minced fresh Ginger

1  1/2 tsp. minced Garlic

2 ripe Mangos, peeled, seeded and small-diced

1/3 cup freshly squeezed Orange Juice

2 tsp. light Brown Sugar

1 tsp. Kosher Salt

1/2 tsp. freshly ground Black Pepper

1 to 2 tsp. minced fresh Jalapeno Pepper, to taste (1 pepper)

2 tsp. minced fresh Mint Leaves

Saute the olive oil, onions and ginger in a large saute pan over medium-low heat for 10 minutes, or until onions are translucent.  Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute.  Add the mangos; reduce the heat to low and cook for 10 more minutes.  Add the orange juice, brown sugar, salt, black pepper, and jalapenos.  Cook for 10 more minutes, or until the orange juice is reduced, stirring occasionally.

Remove from heat and add the mint.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

NOTES: The Mango Salsa is enough for 3 batches of the shrimp.  So, if you are doubling or tripling the shrimp recipe, there is no need to make additional salsa.  The leftover salsa is great on grilled fish or soft tacos.


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As far as appetizers go, Bacon-wrapped Scallops are always a favorite with our friends and family.  This recipe is from San Francisco Flavors (a Junior League cookbook).  While the original recipe calls for pancetta instead of bacon, I tend to use bacon.  It’s easier to work with (and less expensive) when making a large number of appetizers.

I love this recipe for parties because I can make them a day ahead.  Read the NOTES below, for some time saving tips.

Bacon-Wrapped Scallops and Papaya

Makes 30 Appetizers

Ingredients:

30 slices of Bacon

15 Sea Scallops, halved crosswise

1/2 ripe Papaya, peeled, seeded & sliced

3 Green Onions, including green tops, halved lengthwise and cut into 1 inch slices

Mustard Cream Sauce:

1/2 cup Heavy Cream

2 Tbs. Dijon Mustard

1 Tbs. minced, fresh Dill (or 1 tsp. Dried Dill)

1/2 tsp. Ground Pepper

Directions:

1.  Lay out the bacon on a cutting board.  Place a scallop half on the end of each slice of bacon.  Lay a slice of papaya and some green onion slices on top of the scallop.  Roll up the bacon.  Skewer the bacon through the scallop to secure the insides.  Repeat with the remaining bacon.

2.  To make the sauce:  In a small bowl, combine all ingredients and mix to blend.

3.  Preheat the broiler.  With a pastry brush, coat the bacon pieces with the cream mixture.  Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and set a wire rack on top of the foil.  Place bacon pieces on the rack and broil for 8 to 10 minutes, watching carefully, until lightly browned.  Serve hot.

NOTES:

  • For large parties, I use the frozen bag of scallops from Costco.  Most of the scallops are large enough to slice in half.  If I am making a smaller number of appetizers, I use the frozen scallops from Trader Joes.  These scallops are smaller, so I generally use them whole.
  • I make the cream sauce in a glass pyrex measuring cup.  Instead of brushing the sauce, I drizzle (pour) the sauce on the scallops.  I also make the sauce a day ahead.  It actually tastes better, as the dill and mustard are absorbed.  Be sure to mix the sauce well before using. 
  • When making a large number of appetizers, I use the partially-cooked bacon from Costco.  It’s very easy to work with; however, I often need to trim the bacon, as it’s too long.
  • Use fresh dill, if possible.

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This is a simple, fresh appetizer that I’ve been making for years.  I believe I found the recipe in an INStyle Magazine — many years ago.  I always make this for our annual Christmas party.  It’s such a nice combination of flavors.

Prosciutto Pear Wraps

Makes about 60 pieces

1/3 lb. thinly sliced prosciutto, cut in long narrow strips

6 ripe pears, cored and sliced 1/2 inch thick

2 packages softened herb cheese (Boursin)

120 arugula leaves

Place a slice of prosciutto on work surface.  Top with a pear slice, a small dollop of cheese and 1 or 2 arugula leaves.  Wrap prosciutto around until secure.  Serve immediately.

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