Archive for the ‘Appetizer’ Category

Okay, it’s been forever.  I don’t know what happened.  I’ve been away on trips and when I’m home, I haven’t felt like sitting at my computer to blog.  But yesterday, I visited our local CSA and there are so many beautiful, interesting, and inspiring veggies that I need to write about!  Zucchini isn’t that unusual but there is a cool sunburst squash that I plan on stuffing tomorrow night.  I originially bought two long zucchinis to make zucchini bread but after reading this recipe in Cooking Light, I decided to give it a try.

These cannot be mistaken for french fries but they are still really good – and much better for you.  The zucchini is crunchy and complimented well with the zesty sauce.  I found these adorable mini red, yellow, and orange peppers and I roasted them in the oven for the romesco sauce.  After roasting the peppers, I pulsed them in a food processor with some tomato sauce and fresh herbs from the garden.  

Parmesan Zucchini Sticks with Roasted Romesco Sauce

adapted from Cooking Light, July 2008

Parmesan Zucchini Sticks

  • 3 large zucchini (about 1 1/2 pounds) 
  • 1 cup dry breadcrumbs 
  • 1/2 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs) 
  • 1/4 cup (1 ounce) grated fresh Parmesan cheese 
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt 
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 
  • 3 eggs, beaten 
  • Cooking spray 

Roasted Romesco Sauce

  • 2 medium red peppers (or 5 mini ones)
  • 3/4 cup of tomato sauce
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1 tbsp fresh herbs – basil, parsley, chives, etc
1. Preheat broiler.2. To prepare sauce, cut bell peppers in half lengthwise; discard seeds and membranes. Place bell pepper halves and tomatoes, skin sides up, on a foil-lined baking sheet; flatten bell peppers with hand. Broil 10 minutes or until blackened. Place in a zip-top plastic bag; seal. Let stand 15 minutes. Peel and coarsely chop, reserving any liquid. 

3. Combine bell peppers, reserved liquid, tomato sauce, garlic, and fresh herbs in a blender or food processor; process until smooth.

4. Preheat oven to 400°.

5. To prepare zucchini, cut 1 zucchini in half crosswise; cut each half lengthwise into 8 wedges. Repeat procedure with remaining zucchini. Combine breadcrumbs, panko, cheese, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and black pepper in a shallow dish. Dip zucchini in egg; dredge in breadcrumb mixture. Place zucchini on a wire rack coated with cooking spray. Lightly coat zucchini with cooking spray. Bake at 400° for 25 minutes or until golden brown. Flip zucchini halfway through cooking time.  Serve immediately with sauce.


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You’ll never go back to the bag.  These homemade potato chips are just that incredible.  They are a bit time-consuming, especially if you are cooking for a crowd but totally worth it.  The oil is infused with sage, rosemary, and garlic.  You’ll know the oil is hot and ready for the potatoes once the herbs have become crispy.  Remove the crisped herbs and put the potato slices in one at a time.  After they turn brown, take them out of the oil, lay on a paper towel, and sprinkle with sea salt.  You need to sprinkle with sea salt or whatever other toppings or spices while they are still hot.  Experiment with whatever herbs you prefer (I suggest ones that are more woody and earthy) or top with parmesan after cooked.










In order to get the thinnest potato slices, use a mandoline, a food processor, or a vegetable peeler.  I suggest using Yukon Gold potatoes but feel free to experiment or use what you have in the kitchen.  I deep fried these potatoes for the full potato chip experience, but try baking them for a healthier alternative and let me know how they come out! 


Sage & Rosemary Infused Kettle Chips

  • 6 large Yukon gold potatoes
  • Canola oil and olive oil, 75/25 ratio for frying
  • 6 whole cloves garlic
  • 4 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 1/2 bunch sage
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1.  Wash and clean the potatoes in cold running water. Using a mandoline, food processor, or vegetable peeler, finely slice the potatoes into chips. Drop the chips into a bowl of ice water as you work to prevent them from going brown. This will also remove any excess starch.

2.  Set a large pot of 75/25 canola and olive oil over medium heat and add the garlic (paper and all) and whole stems of fresh rosemary and sage.. Bring oil up to 375 degrees F. As it heats up the oil will get infused with the garlic and herbs. Once the herbs crackle and get crispy and you know they are done. Remove the herbs and garlic and set aside on paper towels.

3. Fry the potatoes in batches until golden and crispy. Drain the chips, dry well on paper towels and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Garnish with crispy herbs and garlic.


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In honor of this nice long Memorial Day weekend, I’m going to share my husband’s incredible Pulled Pork Barbeque recipe with you.  I don’t really do meats so if he is feeling a lack of animal protein, it’s up to him to grill up something up.  Last year, I gave him a stovetop smoker and he loves the combination of grilling and smoking.  Surprisingly this pork is neither grilled nor smoked, it’s cooked low and slow in the oven for about 3 – 4 hours.  So you do have to plan ahead but it’s also low maintenance.  Once you’ve applied the wet rub and have placed it in the oven, there’s nothing left to do once it comes out but just pull it apart with a fork and apply your favorite barbeque sauce.


After a 3 week road trip a few summers ago in which we ate the local barbeque in all the places we stayed, we have both grown to like our pulled pork sandwiches with coleslaw in the sandwich.  I experimented for the first time and made my own coleslaw.  It was really easy and worth it for a bigger crowd.  I made the coleslaw about the time that Sean put the pork shoulder in the oven so that the flavors could marinate together before serving but it wasn’t long enough to get soggy. 

We served this sandwich with homemade potato chips, which were absolutely amazing.  I’ll post that recipe on Monday in case you are looking to clog your arteries a little more over the long weekend.

Sean’s Pulled Pork Barbeque

  • 1 pork shoulder  (about 4 to 4 ½ pounds)

Wet Rub

  • 4 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup paprika
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • ½ cup of onion
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • Scant 1 tablespoon cayenne
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  1. Place the salt, pepper, brown sugar, paprika, onions, garlic, vinegar, and cayenne in a food processor and pulse until well combined. Add extra-virgin olive oil until you have a nice paste. Rub all over the pork, being sure to get into the nooks so the salt can penetrate the meat and pull out the moisture – this will help form a crust on the outside when cooked. Cover the pork with plastic wrap and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours or up to overnight.
  2. Allow the meat to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before cooking. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
  3. Place the pork, fat side up, in a roasting pan fitted with a rack insert.
  4. Roast the pork for 3 1/2 hours, uncovered, until the outside is crispy-brown (it should look like mahogany).  Depending on the size, it might need to cook for longer.  Let the meat rest on a cutting board for 10 minutes before slicing.

Homemade Coleslaw

To cheat and make the chopping go quicker, I used a bag of broccoli slaw and a bag of chopped purple cabbage in addition to the carrots I sliced on the mandoline.  The flavor and crunch were great.  But if you want to really slice and dice, use ½ head of savoy cabbage and ½ head of purple cabbage.   You can also add fresh parsley or green onions.  Adjust the recipe to your taste and what you have in your pantry or garden.

  • 1 ½ tablespoon whole-grain mustard or a good quality Dijon mustard
  • 1 cup mayonnaise 

  • 1/4 cup sour cream 

  • 1/2 lemon, juiced 

  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar 

  • 2 teaspoons sugar 

  • 1 bag of broccoli slaw 

  • 1/2 head purple cabbage, finely sliced 

  • 2 carrots, sliced on mandoline or julienned
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. Combine the mustard, mayonnaise, sour cream, lemon juice, vinegar and sugar and mix well. 
  2. Add the finely sliced cabbage, broccoli slaw, and carrots to the dressing.  Mix well and season with salt and pepper to taste. 
  3. Cover with plastic wrap and allow the flavors to marinate.
  4. Serve when you are ready, cold or at room temperature.


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I’m a real mutt, my ethnic roots stretch from China to Italy to Portugal to Germany.  But I grew up with great Italian cooking and one of my favorite comfort foods is a good tomato sauce, preferably with eggplant parmigiana.  My instincts are to make every dish with an Italian flair and plenty of garlic but occasionally I can restrain myself.  My husband and I made these dumplings one night to serve to our dinner guest.  They really are easy and fun to make but definitely time consuming.  We folded and sealed for a good hour to make 73 dumplings. 


My problem was that the pea and ricotta filling made me feel like I was making ravioli or tortellini rather than dumplings.  I kept trying to convince my husband how a lemon cream sauce would go perfectly with these and he kept telling me to embrace my Asian roots.  I’m glad I listened (it’s not often).  We tried three different ways of cooking them – boiling, steaming, and frying.  Boiling was definitely the worst. They quickly got waterlogged and soggy.  Steaming was definitely the best and frying was a good alternative to get them crispy and dark.  We served them with an easy dipping sauce – soy sauce, garlic, rice vinegar, fish sauce, and red pepper flakes.


For instructions on how to fold your dumplings, you can look on the wonton wrapper package.  My package didn’t have any instructions so I found this great YouTube clip with a quick folding demonstration.  Or you can invent your own way of folding!

 Pea & Ricotta Dumplngs

Adapted from 101 Cookbooks

  •       2 cups (about 10 ounces) cups peas (freshly shelled or frozen)

  •      2/3 cup ricotta cheese

  •       2 tablespoons olive oil

  •       scant 1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt

  •       1 small shallot, minced
1/3 cup grated Parmesan

  •       zest of one large lemon
  •       1 package of wonton wrappers, or round wrappers

special equipment: bamboo steamer is ideal, I used a metal steamer sprayed with vegetable oil

1.  Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil. Salt the water (as you would pasta water) and add the peas. Cook until bright green in color and puffy, about a minute if the peas were frozen, less if you started with fresh ones.
 Drain the peas and run under cold water for one minute to stop the cooking.

2.  With a food processor (or hand blender) blend the peas, ricotta cheese, olive oil, and salt into a puree. I like a bit of texture, so I don’t go too far. Return the mixture to a big bowl and stir in the shallots, Parmesan, and lemon zest. Taste. Add more salt if needed.

2.  Fill the dumplings using an assembly line technique – a dozen at a time.  You can follow the instructions on the wonton wrapper, if there are any,  or check out these YouTube clip on how to easily fold and seal.  Place twelve wrappers out on the counter, drop a very scant teaspoon of filling onto each wrapper (avoid the desire to overfill), rub the perimeter of each wrapper with a wet finger seal, fold in half, and then fold in the two sides and seal.  Set aside on a plate. Do the next dozen and repeat until all the filling is used up.

3.  Set up your steamer, rub each dumpling with a bit of olive oil or spray your steamer with PAM, arrange the dumplings in a single layer (being careful not to overlap), and steam for about three minutes – until the dumplings are tender and translucent. Sprinkle with a touch of salt or serve with your favorite dipping sauce and enjoy.



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As summer is approaching, I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it will actually become warm and sunny at some point in the near future.  I might have post traumatic stress disorder after months of twenty-degree weather, heavy down coats, and digging my car out of my parking space every morning.  But eventually my PTSD will subside as flowers sprout, trees regain leaves, and all the good vegetables are ready at the farmers market. 


As I was climbing into my car yesterday, I saw that the mint was sprouting again.  We have this wild mint that grows in our parking lot (don’t worry – I wash it first).  So I had to do something with this newly arrived parking lot mint!  That’s when I found this recipe for summer rolls.  They are light and crunchy.  So light that I could probably eat 30 and not be full, but you can always serve them with a heavier, spicy peanut sauce. 










I love them for lunch but they also make a good appetizer.  Usually they have shrimp or tofu, but I just did pure veggies and some soba noodles.  The rice paper might seem frightening (someone at work asked me if I was going to take off the wrapping before eating it, ah, those food amateurs).  My husband found the rice paper at an Asian supermarket and it was labeled “spring roll wrappers.”  You soak them one by one in hot water and then use them to wrap up the roll like you would a burrito.  It’s not hard at all and the rice paper is more durable than you would think, I had very few tears.  Give them a try!  They will definitely be a few favorite in my kitchen.

Vietnamese Summer Rolls with a Spicy Peanut Sauce

Adapted  from The Kitchn with tips how best to roll and not overstuff here.

 For the sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons creamy organic or natural peanut butter

  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar

  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce

  • 2 teaspoons sugar

  • 1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes
  • Asian Chili-garlic sauce, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons of hot water

For the rolls:

  • 2 oz cellophane noodles or soba noodles
  • 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil

  • red pepper flakes

  • 1/3 of a seedless cucumber

  • 1/2 of a medium carrot, peeled

  • 1/2 of a red bell pepper

  • ½ bag of broccoli slaw
  • 2-3 chives, chopped

  • 1/2 tablespoon rice vinegar

  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar

  • 1 teaspoon fish sauce
juice from 1/2 lime

  • juice of ½ lime
  • 16-24 fresh mint leaves

  • rice paper wrappers
    1. Whisk together the ingredients for the sauce and set aside.
    2. Cook the cellophane or soba noodles according to the package directions. The directions on my package were in Japanese, you might have better luck.  But we heated a medium sauce pan full of water until boiling, added the noodles, and carefully watched them. After about 2-3 minutes they were fully cooked.
    3. Drain the noodles, put them in a bowl, and toss with the sesame oil and a dash of red pepper flakes.
    4. Julienne by hand by use a mandoline to slice the cucumber, carrot, and red pepper. I added some broccoli slaw from the bag which reduced the amount of chopping. 
    5. Whisk together the rice vinegar, sugar, fish sauce, and lime juice in a large bowl. Add the vegetables and the chives, and toss to coat.
    6. Fill a round cake pan halfway with hot water. For each wrapper, immerse it in the hot water bath until it softens, which takes about 30 seconds.
    7. Lay it on your work surface and fill it first with about 1-2 tablespoons of noodles. Then, add a few tablespoons of the veggie mixture. Add a 2-3 mint leaves, depending on how large they are.
    8. To roll up your roll, first fold the edge of the wrapper farthest from you over the filling, then fold in the edges towards the center and continue rolling the filled wrapper towards you until it’s closed and snug. If you want to be especially decorative, place the mint leaves closer to the front edge of the wrapper, so that they are rolled into the last layer and show through the top of the finished roll.  Serve with the peanut sauce or with the same sauce the vegetables were tossed with.  Enjoy!


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                  I was on vacation last week, which meant bike riding and exploring during the day and going out to eat every night with friends.  We went to some great restaurants and even discovered a new food – ramps.  They look like a scallion but taste more like garlic.  I loved the ramps and maybe they will make their way up here so I can attempt to cook them.  But besides the ramps, one of the favorite foods I had was the crackers – sunflower seed tuile – that were put on the table to begin our meal at Pazo in Fells Point, Baltimore.  I spent lots of time trying to figure out what could be in them – making them savory but also a tad bit sweet.  I was thrilled to find that they posted the recipe on their website.  I’ve only been back for one night and making these delicious crackers was my first priority. 


                  The recipe isn’t too specific – it doesn’t give measurements for the size of the pan, nor does it tell how long to make them.  I also don’t have a silicone baking pan so I used a metal baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  You need to cook the tuile longer than you would think – till they get dark brown.  I took them out when they were not quite done, tasted them, and then made the good choice to put them back in.  They get sweeter and the flavor is enhanced the longer you cook them.  But of course, don’t let them burn.  Also, the more evenly you spread the batter, the more evenly they will cook.  For the same reason, I would suggest rotating the pan while it’s cooking.  The end result is really tasty – you can serve them as an appetizer or as a snack.

                  Sunflower Seed Tuile

                  Adapted from Pazo Restaurant


                  •      1/4 cup egg white (it is better to measure eggs by volume as it eliminates size of egg as variable)
                  •       1/4 cup sugar (ordinary, granulated white sugar)
                  •       1/4 cup all purpose flour
                  •       1/4 cup butter, melted
                  •       A pinch of salt
                  •       3 cups sunflower seeds, shelled and shaken gently in a collander to remove the finely ground      sunflower seed dust that often accompanies the whole seeds at the bottom of the bag.

                  1.    Whisk together the sugar, flour and salt. Add the egg whites all at once while continuing to whisk. Add the melted butter in a slow stream while continuing to whisk. For the smoothest and finest texture you can then pass this mixture through a fine sieve.  (This step can be ommitted if time and equipment do not allow for it.)

                  2.    Chill batter in the refrigerator for an hour or two.  This will firm it up and make it easier to spread.    

                  3.    After chilling, spread the mixture across a silicone baking sheet (Exopat and Silpat are common brands) or a metal baking sheet lined with parchment paper in thin, even layer (a bit less than 1/8″). Sprinkle with sunflower seeds.

                  4.    Bake in a 375 degree oven for 15-25 minutes or until brown but not black (you will smell the sunflower seeds toasting).

                  5.    Allow to cool for a few seconds and cut into squares directly on the silicone baking sheet using the round end of your pallete knife. Allow to cool completely then break the squares apart. Or for a more rustic look, break them into squares.


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                  Basic Hummus

                  Hummus is one of those classic Middle Eastern standards that’s become so commonplace in restaurants (many are doing hummus with bread rather than extra virgin olive oil to cut down on costs), in sandwiches (especially veggie ones), and of course, in my kitchen.  So instead of buying another tub of hummus from Trader Joes when I had none left last week, I decided it was time that I made it myself.  I was tainted from my first attempt at making hummus a few years when I didn’t own a food processor and I couldn’t get the chickpeas to a smooth puree.  But this time was much better and I attribute it to my food processor (let me know if  you’ve found a way of making hummus without one).


                  I made a garlic hummus and a roasted red pepper hummus but there is endless variations, depending on your taste and creativity.  Some suggestions would be parsley, chive, basil, cilantro, roasted red pepper.  You can make with or without the tahini.  I personally love tahini so I wouldn’t choose to leave it out but it would reduce the fat of the recipe. 


                  • 2 cups of chickpeas well cooked or canned chickpeas, liquid reserved
                  • 1/3 cup of tahini (sesame paste)
                  • 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil
                  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled, or to taste
                  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
                  • Juice of 1 lemon, plus more as needed
                  • Paprika or ground cumin, to taste and for garnish
                  • Chopped fresh parsley leaves for garnish

                  1. Put everything except the parsley in a food processor and begin to process; add the chickpea liquid or water as needed to allow the machine to produce a smooth puree.

                  2. Taste and adjust the seasoning (I often find I like to add much more lemon juice or water). Serve, drizzled with the olive oil and sprinkled with a bit more cumin or paprika and some parsley.


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