Category:  Appetizers / Starters

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Image.Guac.Toasts

Flaxseed Bread with Guacamole Romano & Tomatoes

In Appetizers / Starters, Fun Foods On November 7, 2015 0 Comments

One of my favorite recipes published on this website is the Guacamole Romano.

To make this appetizer even more exciting, why not spread the guacamole on toasted Flaxseed Bread with Honey and Sesame Seeds (previously published on this website). Add some chopped tomatoes and you’ve just prepared a highly nutritional appetizer. You can even enjoy this fun food for breakfast or lunch.

Prep time: 15 to 20 minutes
Serves: 4 to 6

Ingredients:
1 yellow tomato, pulp discarded and tomato cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1 red tomato, pulp discarded and tomato cut into 1/4-inch pieces
8 to 10 slices Flaxseed Bread with Honey and Sesame Seeds, toasted
One Guacamole Romano recipe
salt and ground black pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons chopped, fresh cilantro leaves

Directions:
1. In a small bowl, combine the chopped tomatoes; toss in a little salt, to taste, and set aside.

2. Spread a heaping tablespoon of guacamole on each toast.

3. As you prepare each toast, set it on a serving platter.

4. When all toasts have been spread with guacamole, divide the chopped tomatoes and top them evenly over the toasts.

5. Garnish toasts with chopped cilantro and serve immediately.
Text and Photograph ©2015 Nancy DeLucia Real

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Ricotta Tzaziki Dip with Crackers

In Appetizers / Starters, Fun Foods On July 15, 2015 1 Comment

Because I’ve been teaching art and culinary courses (which I absolutely love) all summer, I didn’t have time to spend hours in the kitchen. When I tested this amazingly quick recipe at home, my husband said it was fantastic. I think you should be the judge – enjoy!

Prep time: 10 minutes
Makes: 2 cups

Ingredients:
1 pound (16 ounces) whole milk ricotta cheese
2 teaspoons chopped, fresh dill weed
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 green onion, root and dark green tops discarded; flesh cut into 1/4-inch thick circles
Juice of 1/2 lime
salt and ground black pepper, to taste
2 Persian (small) cucumbers
One 6-ounce package crackers (any variety)
Fresh mint leaves (for garnish)

Directions:

1. In a 2-quart bowl, combine the ricotta, dill weed, garlic, green onion, lime, 1/4 teaspoon salt and a dash of black pepper; set aside.

2. Cut off tips from one cucumber. Peel the cucumber and cut the flesh lengthwise in half.

3. Cut each cucumber half lengthwise in half once more (you have made 4 spears.

4. Cut the spears horizontally into 1/8-inch pieces.

5. Stir the cucumber pieces into the ricotta mixture; set aside.

Assemble, Garnish & Serve the Ricotta Tzatziki Dip:

1. Transfer the crackers to a serving platter; set aside.

2. Take the remaining cucumber; cut and discard tips.

3. Do not peel the cucumber, but cut it into 1/8-inch thick circles.

4. Place each circle on a cracker.

5. Mound a small dollop of the ricotta tzatziki on each cucumber circle.

6. Garnish with fine slivers of mint leaves and/or dill weed (cut the slivers with shears).

7. Serve immediately.
Text and Photograph ©2015 Nancy DeLucia Real

Spicy Herb Cheese

Spicy Herb Cheese (Homemade)

In Appetizers / Starters, Holidays On December 12, 2014 0 Comments

Think it’s challenging to make homemade cheese? Not at all. For the holidays this year, instead of buying a ready made cheese ball, buy a cheesecloth, whole, organic milk, distilled vinegar and voila! You’ve churned out fresh, homemade cheese!

This recipe is easy since it only requires a one-hour wait time with hardly any labor. The cheese contains fresh oregano leaves and a chili pepper. This exquisite cheese has a consistency that is between burrata and ricotta. Impress them all – Happy Holidays!

Note: Red dots in the photographed cheese are chili peppers.

Prep time: 15 minutes
Wait time: 1 hour to 1 hour and 10 minutes (for cheese curds to set)

Ingredients:
1 gallon whole, organic milk
1/2 cup distilled, white vinegar
1 cheesecloth, set in a medium-mesh, metal strainer over a medium glass or porcelain bowl or saucepot
1-1/2 to 1-3/4 teaspoons salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped Serrano or dried red chili pepper
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh oregano leaves or fresh chives
1 cup walnut meats
Assorted crackers or mini-toasts and raw vegetables

Boil Milk & Let Curds Set:

1. Pour 1 gallon milk into an 6 to 8-quart sauce pot.

2. Stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, warm the milk until it almost comes to a boil. The milk should not boil.

3. When the milk is hot and has almost come to a boil, set the sauce pot with the milk aside on a cold burner or a trivet set on a countertop.

4. Pour the vinegar into the milk – DO NOT STIR. Set the milk/vinegar mixture in sauce pot aside to sit for 10 minutes.

5. Meanwhile, making sure to trim the cheesecloth so that you can push it down into a strainer set over a bowl or sauce pot; allow an overhang of about 8 inches.

6. After 10 minutes, you will see curds setting in the milk/vinegar mixture.

7. At this time, gently pour the milk-vinegar mixture into the strainer set with a cheesecloth over bowl or sauce pot.

8. If the sauce pot underneath the strainer is not large enough to take all the liquid, pour only half of the milk-vinegar mixture over cheesecloth.

9. It will take a few minutes for half of the liquid to go through completely.

10. When half of the liquid has gone through the cheesecloth and if bowl underneath does not look large enough to take all the liquid, set the strainer over another bowl or sauce pot.

11. Pour the remaining liquid over the curds in strainer set over bowl or sauce pot.

12. This procedure may take a few minutes.

13. When all the liquid (this is the whey) has been drained and collected in the 2 bowl(s) or sauce pot(s), transfer all the whey to a large sauce pot.

14. Add the salt, black pepper and chopped chili pepper to the whey.

15. Immediately pour they whey with the salt, pepper and chili pepper over the curds in strainer.

16. You may have to wait a few minutes for part of the whey to go through the curds in strainer.

17. As the whey goes through, keep adding the remaining whey mixture until you have poured all of it over the curds.

18. Set the curds/strainer aside to drain for 1 hour.

Form the Cheese & Refrigerate:

1. After 1 hour, scatter the chopped oregano leaves over cheese curds.

2. Lift the sides of the cheesecloth, bringing it up and around the cheese curds and slightly tighten it. If the cheese curds still appear wet, let them finish draining for an additional 10 minutes.

3. After 10 minutes, tighten the cheesecloth around the cheese, gathering it at the center top.

4. Carefully peel off the cheesecloth from the cheese and place the cheese in a 5 to 6-inch round bowl lined with plastic wrap. Make sure the plastic wrap has a 6-inch overhang.

5. Tighten the plastic wrap up and around the cheese and secure it with twine or an elastic band.

6. Cover the cheese in bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 4 hours.

Unmold the Cheese & Serve:

1. TO UNMOLD THE CHEESE: Carefully peel off and unwrap the top part of the plastic wrap.

2. Open up the plastic wrap around the cheese, creating an overhang outside the bowl.

3. Place serving plate over cheese and quickly invert it.

4. Remove the bowl and peel off the plastic wrap.

5. Decorate the cheese with walnuts and serve with crackers, mini-toasts or celery and carrots.

Note: Homemade cheese will keep, covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated, up to 5 days.

Text and Photograph ©2014 Nancy DeLucia Real

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Tuna Empanadas (Empanadas de Atun)

In Appetizers / Starters, Fish & Shellfish, Fun Foods On September 3, 2014 0 Comments

For those of you who are following my posts on a regular basis, you must have figured out that I’m maintaining that “Spanish” state of mind. Last April and May, as we explored the culture of Spain on a daily basis, we’d walk far distances. Since this made us very hungry, our noses always followed the exquisite aromas of warm breads baking.

As we walked into a panaderia or bakery, we could immediately spot the freshly-made empanadas de atun or tuna empanadas. Each one cost only one Euro -that’s USD $1.40. Of course, I ate at least three at every sitting. (BTW, I ate anything I wanted in Spain and lost 4 pounds at the end of that trip!)

Here’s my delicious recipe for tuna empanadas. They can be made ahead of time, cooled and frozen in double freezer bags for up to two weeks. Serve these tuna empanadas as a starter for a dinner or a party – they’ll steal the show!

Prep time: 45 minutes to 1 hour
Bake time: 12 to 15 minutes (per baking sheet)
Makes: 24 to 30 (3-inch) empanadas

Ingredients for the Pastry:
1-1/2 cups all-purpose, unbleached flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
Dash ground black pepper
1 large egg, beaten with 1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons cold water in a bowl
1 large egg
1 teaspoon cold water

Prepare the Pastry:
1. In an 4 to 6-quart mixing bowl, combine the flour, salt and black pepper.

2. Make a well in center of flour mixture; add the beaten egg-and-water mixture to the center of the well.

3. Using a fork, gradually (a little at a time) mix in the flour from sides of well until a soft dough forms.

4. With one hand holding the bowl, use the other hand to pick up the mound of dough.

5. Gently knead it inside the bowl, grabbing a little flour at a time.

6. When dough has amalgamated and it is smooth, set it aside on a smooth, floured surface.

7. NOTE: The flour surface should be either a clean granite counter or a wood board used exclusively for doughs (due to contamination, a previously-used chopping board is NOT advisable).

8. Cover the dough with an overturned bowl and set it aside while you prepare the tuna filling.

Ingredients for the Tuna Filling:
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium brown onion, finely chopped
1/2 green bell pepper, finely chopped
1/2 cup chopped tomatoes (pulp and seeds discarded)
1/3 cup tomato puree
1/4 cup roasted red bell pepper, finely chopped (the jarred variety can be used)
One 7-ounce can tuna in oil, drained and oil discarded
3 tablespoons minced, fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley
Salt and ground black pepper, to taste

Prepare the Tuna Filling:
1. In a 12-inch skillet, heat the oil on medium-high heat.

2. When the oil is hot, stir in the chopped onion and bell pepper.

3. On medium-high heat, stir-fry the onion mixture until it is translucent, about 2 minutes.

4. When onion mixture is translucent, add the chopped tomatoes, tomato puree and roasted bell peppers.

5. Stir-fry the onion-tomato mixture for about 3 to 4 minutes, or until the mixture has thickened.

6. When the mixture has thickened, add the drained tuna and, with a wooden spoon, break it up.

7. Cook the tuna mixture for about 2 to 3 more minutes, or until it has heated through.

8. After 2 to 3 minutes, stir in the minced parsley, salt and pepper, to taste.

9. Transfer the tuna mixture to a glass or porcelain bowl; cover it and set aside to cool while you roll out the pastry.

The tuna mixture should look like this:

Image.TunaFilling.Empanadas

Roll Out the Pastry:
1. Lightly and evenly flour the granite counter or wood board.

2. Divide the pastry dough in half. Set one-half of the pastry dough aside, underneath an overturned bowl.

3. Using a rolling pin, gently roll out the pastry dough to 1/8-inch thickness. From time to time, as you roll out the dough, you will need to lift it and flour the underside as well as the top.

4. When dough has been rolled out to a 1/8-inch thickness, using a 3-inch cookie cutter, cut circles into dough.

5. After cutting circles into dough, preheat oven to 375°F.

6. Line two 12X18-inch baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside.

7. Fill a 1-cup bowl with cold water; set aside.

Assemble the Empanadas:
1. Carefully lift one dough circle off surface and hold it in the palm of your hand.

2. Place scant 1 teaspoon tuna filling in center of dough.

3. Dip index finger in cold water and run it along edges of dough. You may need to repeat this so that entire perimeter of dough is moistened.

4. Fold the dough in half, creating a half-moon. Slightly press the edges closed.

5. Place the raw empanada on a lightly-floured surface.

6. Beginning at one end of the empanada, curl up the dough edges to create a scalloped pattern all the way to the opposite end of the empanada.

7. Place the empanada on parchment-lined baking sheet; set aside.

8. Repeat assembling the empanadas, lining them up on the baking sheet as you go along (each baking sheet will hold 12 to 15 empanadas).

9. When the first dough has finished, roll out the remaining dough as instructed above.

10. After you have assembled ALL the empanadas and placed them on baking sheet, they will look like this:

Image.EmpanadasonSheet

Make the Egg-Wash & Bake the Empanadas:

1. Separate the egg yolk from egg white. Discard the egg white.

2. In a 1-cup bowl, combine the egg yolk with 1 teaspoon cold water.

3. Beat together with a fork until mixture has amalgamated – this is the egg wash.

4. Using a basting brush, baste each empanada with egg wash.

5. Place baking sheet with empanadas on a rack positioned in center of preheated oven.

6. Bake the empanadas for 12 to 15 minutes.

7. After 12 minutes, using a spatula, lift the underside of one empanada.

8. If the underside is light golden brown, the empanadas are done. If it is still white, bake the empanadas for an additional 2 to 3 minutes.

9. When empanadas are done, set them aside on a counter to cool slightly (in baking sheet).

10. Serve the empanadas hot.

NOTE: Tuna Empanadas can be made up to 2 weeks ahead and frozen in double freezer bags. To freeze the empanadas, make sure they have cooled completely after baking. When empanadas have cooled completely, carefully place them in double freezer bags, seal and freeze.

TO THAW AND REHEAT: Three hours prior to serving, remove the empanadas from freezer bags and place them on a platter set on a counter to thaw. At serving time, preheat oven to 350°F. Place empanadas on a parchment-lined baking sheet, set on a rack positioned in center of oven. Heat the empanadas for 10 to 12 minutes. After 10 to 12 minutes, cut an empanada in half and taste it to make sure it is heated through.

Text & Photographs ©2014 Nancy DeLucia Real

Olives,Peppers,Sardines

Olives Stuffed with Marinated Anchovies & Piquillo Peppers

In Appetizers / Starters, Fun Foods On July 22, 2014 0 Comments

Although I’ve been back from Spain for weeks, I’m still craving its exquisite gastronomy.

I discovered this wonderful tapa (appetizer) in Madrid – green olives, stuffed with marinated anchovies and piquillo peppers. The piquillo pepper is a variety of chile that is sweet and is void of heat. It’s absolutely exquisite in this appetizer.

Here’s how to start your next Spanish dinner – serve Olives Stuffed with Marinated Anchovies & Piquillo Peppers alongside Sangria – the Spanish Cooler (previously published on this website).

Prep time: 15 to 20 minutes
Makes: 20 pieces

Ingredients:
20 large green, pitted olives from a Spanish or Italian specialty foods stores (sold by the pound, in brine)
20 marinated Spanish anchovies (sold at Spanish or Italian specialty foods stores)
One 6-ounce jar of marinated, whole piquillo peppers
20 toothpicks

Prepare the Ingredients:

1. Working on a cutting board, cut each olive in half, lengthwise; set aside.

2. Remove marinated anchovies from package and drain them; set aside.

3. Remove piquillo peppers from jar and drain them in a colander.

4. Pass the peppers under cold water in colander and drain completely.

5. Transfer piquillo peppers to a cutting board; pat them lightly with a paper towel.

6. Cut the piquillo peppers in half or in fourths (cut them in the way they will best fit inside olives).

Stuff the Olives:

1. Take one anchovy and one piece of piquillo peppers; place them inside two olive halves.

2. Secure the olive with a toothpick; place it on a plate.

3. Continue stuffing the remaining olives.

4. Serve immediately or, alternatively, cover the plate of olives with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

5. This starter can be refrigerated up to 4 hours prior to serving.

6. Serve this starter on the same day you have assembled it. Leftovers can be covered in plastic wrap and enjoyed the next day.

Text & Photograph ©2014 Nancy DeLucia Real