Category Archives: Appetizers

Polenta and Furikake Crusted Vidalia Onion Rings

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imageIt is that magical time of year when Vidalia onions appear in the markets. Yes, even here in Hawaii, home of the Maui Onion (which is almost as sweet) we get Vidalias. I have been making cornmeal crusted onion rings for a long time, but I decided to change it up a little by using Greek yogurt instead of buttermilk to soak my onion rings in and to add Furikake  to the Polenta. In this recipe I used a course ground Polenta which added a lot of texture. You could also use stone ground grits for this. Furikake is a Japanese seasoning used to spice up plain rice. I use it for lots of things and love adding it to the panko crumbs when making fish. My favorite Furikake is wasabi, sesame and nori. It ads little pops of flavor in the crust.

Ingredients: 

2 cups of Greek Yogurt, thinned with 1/2 cup of milk

4 large Vidalia onions

2 cups coarse polenta

1/2 cup all purpose flour (or rice flour if you are gluten free)

1/4 cup Firikake

plenty of fresh cracked pepper

1 teaspoon of salt

Peanut oil for frying

 

Method:

  • Slice onions into thick slices, place the slices in the bowl of yogurt and milk and allow to rest for 30 minutes
  • Mix all other ingredients except oil in a shallow container
  • Heat oil to 350
  • Pull out slices of onion and shake off excess yogurt but allow a bit to remain
  • Dredge the onion slices in the breading, making sure it adheres to the onion slices
  • Fry the onions, 6 or so slices at a time for about 3 minutes, draining on a grid.
  • Serve immediately

I like to make a chipotle mayo for dipping. In a small blender mix 1 cup of mayonnaise with half a can of  chipotles. (freeze remaining peppers for another use) Blend till they are combined.

 

Avgolemono Soup (Greek Egg and Meyer Lemon Soup with Rice)

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In just 30 minutes you can whip this amazingly flavorful soup up. It is good hot or chilled. I served it with Spanakopita (click for the recipe).

INGREDIENTS 

3 cups chicken stock (homemade preferred) if you are using box stock or broth, simmer it down and reduce it by half (this means you need twice as much)

1/4 cup rice or orzo (optional, but I like it)

4 egg yolks

2 egg whites

Freshly squeezed juice of 4 Meyer lemons (if using another type of lemon, use one less)

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

2 tablespoons minced dill, mint, chives or fennel

Lemon zest from one lemon

One thin lemon slice for each serving

METHOD

  • Add rice or orzo to the chicken stock, bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer till rice (20 minutes) or pasta (10 minutes) is cooked once cooked add 1/2 of the lemon juice
  • Put egg whites in a container to be whipped (I use a stick blender with a whip attachment, but you can use a food processor or hand mixer to whip the whites)
  • Place yolks in a mixing bowl
  • Whisk 1/2 cup of the hot chicken stock/rice into yolks until well blended, then add the remaining stock/rice mixture stirring till blended
  • Whip the egg whites until soft peaks form
  • Marry 1/2 cup of the stock/rice/yolk mixture to the egg whites, then fold that mixture into the stock/rice/yolk being careful not to deflate.
  • Taste for salt and lemon juice, adding more as needed. Ladle into warm bowls (or allow to chill and serve in stemmed glasses), sprinkle with herbs and lemon zest and add one lemon slice.

    Yield: 4 to 6 servings. This does keep well in a covered container, but should be used in 1-2 days and be very careful when re-heating not to allow it to boil.

Ham Haystack

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This is a delicious way to use leftover ham, or an excuse to buy a ham just for the leftovers. The recipe originates from Mareen Priviet, a South African friend of mine who presented this very tasty appetizer at a dinner party in Chicago many years ago. Because of the ingredients I suspect that it comes from the 1950’s. I have always loved the interesting taste, the surprise of crunch and the fact that almost everyone who tastes this loves it. This makes enough to serve to 20 people, so if you have leftovers you can stir it all together to make a deviled ham sort of sandwich spread. I added a few things to the basic recipe, but it is so very good just the way it is. The original recipe calls for Miracle Whip, something I have never been able to stomach, so I use good mayo with some Meyer lemon juice.  The most important flavor profile comes from Branston Pickle, a chutney like pickle from the UK. You can find it on the mainland in some stores that have a British food section. You can also order it online. The taste is extremely unique and I would not attempt this recipe until you have your hands on a jar of the REAL Branston Pickle. Branston Pickle is made from a variety of diced vegetables, including swede, carrots, onions, cauliflower and gherkins pickled in a sauce made from vinegar, tomato, apple and dates with spices such as mustard,coriander, garlic, cinnamon, pepper, cloves, nutmeg and cayenne pepper with sugar. Having said all of that, you really must get some Branston Pickle and go for it. Here is a recipe to make your own Branston Pickle, but it is not that difficult to find the original. The finished product resembles a haystack, hence the name. I promise you, EVERYONE loves this and will ask you for the recipe!

Ham Haystack

Ingredients: 

6  cups ham, in medium chunnks                        two 8 oz. pkgs. cream cheese

1 1/3 cups mayonaise                                              3 tablespoons Meyer lemon juice (you can use other lemons, I just love Meyers)

2/3 cup sliced green onion                                    1/4 cup finely chopped mint

1 jar of Branston pickle relish                                1 cup blanched, slivered almonds

Method: 

  • Toast the slivered almonds on a silpat at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes watching closely, till golden brown.
  • Stir the lemon juice into the mayonnaise
  • Chop the ham in a food processor till it is finely chopped
  • Combine ham with 8oz. of the cream cheese, 2/3 cup of the mayonaise, 1/2 cup slivered almonds (chop before adding), onion, mint & pickle relish.  Mix well.  Chill.
  • Shape into a cone-shaped mound.
  • Combine remaining mayonaise & remaining cream cheese and mix well (i used a food processor)
  • Frost mound with this mixture.
  • Chill slightly.
  • Cover with toasted, slivered almonds.
  • Serve with crackers or party rye bread.

Remember if there are leftovers, you can stir it all together and make a ham salad sandwich with the rest!

You may even get to see a cute bunny if you make this at Easter

Candied Prosecco Poached Pears Filled with Brie and Wrapped in Bacon

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This recipe came about, as many do, with an inspiration from another cook. My friend Caterina Borg who has the fabulous food blog Good Food Gourmet. She made this post back in October about poached pears stuffed with Brie. She was inspired by another food blog Palachinka. Here is Palachinka’s original post with a different spin on the theme. Palachinka’s post was inspired by a recipe in Sale&Pepe magazine, Serbian issue for December 2009.

I had planned to make this as an appetizer, but could not find small pears, so I made it as a first course, served in bowls with a reduction of the poaching liquid spooned over. This would also go great on some lightly dressed greens.

My spin was of course quite different, from the poaching liquid to the finish, and yet all three of our dishes have the same basic components, pears, cheese and bacon. What is not to love? Here is my version of the concept which dazzled my dinner guests last night:

Ingredients: 

6 pears

Enough wine to cover 6 pears in a pot (2-3 bottles). I used prosecco, but you could use any wine you like. Port is great for this as would be a merlot. Each with their own distinctions.

Aromatics: I used fennel, pink pepper corns, thyme, cinnamon sticks, big slices of orange peel and cloves. Star anise would be nice this too.

A small wheel of Brie Cheese (You will have leftover cheese.)

12-14 slices of bacon

1 1 /2 cups brown sugar mixed with 2 teaspoons of  Chipotle powder

Method:

  •  Peel pears and place in a large pan so that they are in a single layer.
  • Cover with wine and add aromatics
  • Bring to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes, remove pears to another bowl for cooling.
  • Turn the burner up to a rolling simmer and reduce the poaching liquid by half.
  • When pears are cool, cut in half, scoop out the center with a melon baller and fill the cavities with peeled brie, then put back together.
  • Wrap each pear with 2 slices of bacon, if you have a really large pear, you might need three slices. Hold together with toothpicks.
  • Roll the pears in the seasoned brown sugar
  • Place standing up on a silpat or parchment lined baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes, or until the bacon is crispy.
  • Place each pear in a bowl, mine were laying down, but you could place them standing up too.  Spoon the remaining poaching liquid with the aromatics over each pear. Serve with a sharp knife so the bacon is easily cut through.

Avgolemono Soup (Greek Egg and Meyer Lemon Soup with Rice)

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In just 30 minutes you can whip this amazingly flavorful soup up. It is good hot or chilled. I served it with Spanakopita (click for the recipe).

INGREDIENTS 

3 cups chicken stock (homemade preferred) if you are using box stock or broth, simmer it down and reduce it by half (this means you need twice as much)

1/4 cup rice or orzo (optional, but I like it)

4 egg yolks

2 egg whites

Freshly squeezed juice of 4 Meyer lemons (if using another type of lemon, use one less)

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

2 tablespoons minced dill, mint, chives or fennel

Lemon zest from one lemon

One thin lemon slice for each serving

METHOD

  • Add rice or orzo to the chicken stock, bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer till rice (20 minutes) or pasta (10 minutes) is cooked once cooked add 1/2 of the lemon juice
  • Put egg whites in a container to be whipped (I use a stick blender with a whip attachment, but you can use a food processor or hand mixer to whip the whites)
  • Place yolks in a mixing bowl
  • Whisk 1/2 cup of the hot chicken stock/rice into yolks until well blended, then add the remaining stock/rice mixture stirring till blended
  • Whip the egg whites until soft peaks form
  • Marry 1/2 cup of the stock/rice/yolk mixture to the egg whites, then fold that mixture into the stock/rice/yolk being careful not to deflate.
  • Taste for salt and lemon juice, adding more as needed. Ladle into warm bowls (or allow to chill and serve in stemmed glasses), sprinkle with herbs and lemon zest and add one lemon slice.

    Yield: 4 to 6 servings. This does keep well in a covered container, but should be used in 1-2 days and be very careful when re-heating not to allow it to boil.

Empanadas de Betabel (Empanadas with Golden Beets and Corn)

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Empanadas de Betabel 

I love roasted beets. When I was doing research for an Oaxacan Dinner Party I had on Saturday, I found saw a recipe in Susana Trilling’s great Oaxacan cookbook Seasons of My Heart.  Her recipe for Empanadas de Betabel (Empanadas with Beets) stood out to me. The recipe also incorporated fresh corn which I had also planned to use for the party. Her method was to boil the beets  I roasted mine. In her recipe the empanadas were cooked on a camal. I did them on a camal for the dinner party, but last night I had some oil in a pan because I was making enchiladas, so I fried them and I think they actually came out better fried. On the night of the party I also paired them with home made Mole Verde, last night I just squiggled on a little crema and tossed on some cilantro. I used golden beets because that is what was available grown locally. I am sure red beets would change the color of the filling significantly. These can be made with or without cheese… but I really love cheese. I added a few things to her original inspiration and lessened the cooking time for the filling.

For the filling:

 1 pound of fresh beets (I used golden because that is what was locally available)

1 medium white onion, finely chopped (I like to use red onions, but white onions are used in Mexico most of the time)

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon butter

2 tablespoons garlic finely minced

Corn cut from 3 fresh ears of corn, about 2 cups (In a pinch you could use frozen)

¼ cup fresh roasted green chiles diced (you could use canned, but fresh is so much better)

1 teaspoon smoked salt (sea salt is fine, I make smoked salt and love the flavor)

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon chili powder

½ cup fresh epazote leaves chopped (you can substitute cilantro or parsley if you cannot find fresh epazote, but the flavor will be different)

12 ounces quesillo shredded (if you cannot find quesillo, any good white melting cheese works, such as Jack, Gouda or Manchego)

For the masa:

3 cups masa harina

2 cups chicken stock

¼ teaspoon of salt

A pinch of chili powder

METHOD FOR THE FILLING:

Wrap the beets in heavy duty foil with a few garlic cloves and drizzle on some olive oil and sea salt. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly. When cool enough to handle, pull or cut off the skin. Then dice into ¼ inch pieces and set aside.

In an 8 inch frying pan over medium heat, fry the onions in the oil and butter till translucent. Add the garlic and cook for a few minutes more. Add the corn kernels & chiles and cook for another 3-5 minutes more.  Add the seasonings, beets, salt, pepper and epazote. Cook for a few minutes just to blend flavors. Put the filling in a bowl and cool slightly till you can put the mixture in your hands.

Have the shredded cheese available in a second bowl.

METHOD FOR THE MASA:

Pre-heat a comal or griddle over medium heat

Mix the stock and seasonings into the masa. You want a soft slightly wet dough, wetter than for tortillas. Knead for about 1 minute. Divide the dough into 10 balls, slightly larger than a golf ball. Using a tortilla press, put a piece of a plastic shopping bag on the bottom of the press and then place the ball of dough and top with a second piece of plastic. Press down wiggling the handle a bit to flatten the dough. Pick the circle (looks just like a tortilla at this point) up in your hand and while cradling it fill it with about 3 tablespoons of cheese, then 2 tablespoons of the beet and corn filling. Seal the edges with water and pinch all the way around.

To cook the empanadas; place on a hot comal and allow to brown on each side for about 3-5 minutes. Serve immediately or keep warm in a warming oven. I served these with green mole and crema.


Alternative;  have about 1 inch of oil in a small frying pan at medium heat and fry the empanadas, then place on paper towels to drain. Serve immediately with a drizzle of crema and fresh chopped cilantro.