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Kiwi, Mozzarella & Papaya Skewers

Kiwi, Mozzarella & Papaya Skewers

In Appetizers / Starters, Fruit and Jams, Fun Foods On July 3, 2010 2 Comments

Lookin’ to make a splash with a fresh and colorful appetizer this summer? Here’s a cool, mouth-watering recipe. These cute looking kiwi, mozzarella and papaya starters appeal to the eye as well as to the palate. And when this bright platter makes its appearance, you’ll notice your guests’ eyes pop out of their sockets and hear them utter the word, “Wowwwwwww!”

Prep time: 25 to 30 minutes
Makes: 4 to 6 skewers

Ingredients:
1 Hawaiian papaya
1 bunch watercress, rinsed and spun dry in a salad spinner
5 kiwis, peeled
1 pint cherry tomatoes (2 cups)
8 ounces fresh mozzarella balls (one-inch mozzarella balls packaged in water)
Six 12-inch wooden skewers
Melon ball scooper
Salt and pepper, to taste
Extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling

1. Cut papaya in half and remove seeds with a spoon; set aside.

2. Remove largest and most perfect leaves from watercress stem; set leaves aside and discard stems.

3. Using a melon ball scooper, carve out one-inch balls from the flesh of both papaya and kiwis, setting them aside on a plate as you go along.

4. Take 1 skewer and put it through the center of a watercress leaf, making sure the leaf is pushed to the opposite end of the skewer.

5. Add a mozzarella ball, a watercress leaf, a papaya ball, a watercress leaf, a tomato, a watercress leaf and a kiwi. Repeat pattern until skewer is complete.

6. Assemble the remaining skewers in the same manner.

7. When all skewers are assembled, place them on a serving platter.

8. Sprinkle the skewers with a dash of salt and pepper, followed by a drizzle of the olive oil.

9. Serve immediately.

Alternatively, prepare up to 4 hours ahead, cover with plastic and refrigerate until ready to serve.

The Kiwi, Mozzarella & Papaya skewers will keep, refrigerated, up to two days (by the next day, the kiwi may not be as firm but it will still be edible).

Text and Photographs ©2010 Nancy DeLucia Real

Salsa..Whatever

Salsa and … Whatever

In Appetizers / Starters, Fun Foods, Salad Dressings, Salsas & Savory Sauces On June 28, 2010 3 Comments

In my home, there’s always a freshly made salsa in the refrigerator. I learned the art of making authentic and delicious salsas from my husband who hails from Mexico. He also taught me to pair salsa with “whatever” else you can find to satisfy the moment’s craving. For a quick snack of tortilla chips, a taco, quesadilla, or even panini, salsa is a perfect go-with. You can also substitute salsa for dressings in salads containing chicken or fish.

Prep time: 20 minutes
Makes: 2-1/2 cups salsa

Ingredients:
3 tomatillos (these look like green tomatoes with a dry, paperlike outer skin)
2 large vine-ripened tomatoes
1 Serrano or Jalapeno chile
1 clove garlic, crushed (optional)
Handful of cilantro (about 1/3 cup, lightly packed)
1/2 teaspoon salt
Dash ground cumin

1. Peel the outer, paper-like skin of the tomatillos; discard skins.

2. Place tomatillos, tomatoes and chile in a 3 or 4-quart pot. Cover with cold water and bring to a boil.

3. Cook on medium-high heat, uncovered, for 5 to 7 minutes or until skins of tomatoes crack and tomatoes are somewhat soft.

4. Drain and reserve 1/3 cup of cooking liquid. Let tomatillos, tomatoes and chile cool about 10 to 15 minutes (they will be warm).

5. Transfer cooked ingredients to a blender and combine with garlic, cilantro, salt and cumin.

6. Pulse-blend 5 to 8 times for a lumpy salsa. Puree for a smooth salsa.

7. Transfer the salsa to a glass or porcelain bowl. If salsa is too dense, stir in a tablespoon or two of the reserved cooking liquid. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Serve immediately or refrigerate, covered, up to 3 or 4 days.

This salsa is is also great with my Misto Peppers Frittata, omelettes, raw veggies or … whatever!

Text and Photographs ©2010 Nancy DeLucia Real

Pasta alla Messicana

Pasta alla Messicana

In Fun Foods, Pastas, Rice & Legumes (Beans & Grains) On April 16, 2010 0 Comments

In the summer of 2007 I worked at my aunt’s restaurant, La Locandina, located in Southern Italy. Having been exposed to Mexican cuisine for many years in California, I decided to bring ingredients to make foods from south of the border. When I prepared and served Mexican food, the Italians went wild over new flavors such as cilantro, avocados and chiles, especially in this pasta dish that I created. Make my Mexican pasta and post comments to let me know how your guests liked it!

Prep time: 25 to 30 minutes
Serves: 4 to 6

Ingredients:
3 large vine-ripened tomatoes, cut in 1/2-inch pieces
3 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
1 cup lightly packed cilantro leaves, rinsed and chopped (measure first, then chop)
1-1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 pound any variety short pasta
2/3 cup frozen peas
2/3 cup whole kernel corn, frozen
1 large carrot, peeled and julienned (cut into matchsticks)
1 large ripe avocado (peeled and cut into cubes or slices at serving time – this prevents blackening)
2 fresh Serrano chiles, finely chopped and set in a small serving bowl
Freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino Romano cheese, set in a small serving bowl

1. In a 4-quart pot, bring 10 cups of cold water to a boil.

2. In the meantime, combine the tomatoes, garlic, cilantro, 3/4 teaspoon salt and olive oil in a large porcelain or glass serving bowl. Toss lightly and set aside.

3. Add pasta and 1/2 teaspoon salt to the boiling water and cook on medium heat, uncovered and stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes or until pasta is al dente (crunchy tender).

4. After 8 minutes, add the peas, corn and carrot to the pasta during the last minute of the boil (if softer pasta is preferred, cook another minute or two).

5. Drain the pasta, peas, corn and carrot in a colander.

6. Transfer the pasta and cooked vegetables to the bowl containing the tomato mixture. Toss lightly and taste.

7. Serve in individual bowls and garnish pasta with the avocado. Ask guests to add chiles and cheese, if desired.

Accompany this exciting pasta dish with your choice of red or white wine.

Buon Appetito!
Buen Provecho!

Tips:

To avoid overcooking pasta, begin tasting it after a 6-minute boil. Most pasta varieties require an 8 to 10 minute-boil.
When cooking pasta containing durum wheat semolina, there is no need to add oil to the water.

Text and Photographs ©2010 Nancy DeLucia Real

Hummus Heat with Pitas & Vegetables

Hummus Heat with Pitas & Vegetables

In Appetizers / Starters, Fun Foods, Vegetables On April 9, 2010 4 Comments

Hummus is a garbanzo bean dip from Mediterranean countries but has now become popular all over the world. Even kids are reaching for a pita wedge or a carrot stick to dip in hummus. My addition of the chipotle chile accounts for the “heat”. Make Hummus Heat for your friends and family and watch it disappear in moments.

Prep time: 5 minutes
Makes: 2-1/2 cups

Ingredients:
1-1/2 to 2 cups cooked garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained -or-
One 15-ounce can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
4 tablespoons sesame Tahini*
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
Juice of 1 small lemon
1/2 chipotle chile** in adobo sauce
2 fresh parsley sprigs
2 to 3 six-inch pita breads, cut into wedges
4 to 5 celery stalks, peeled and julienned
2 to 3 large carrots, peeled and julienned
1 large or 5 small Persian cucumbers, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch thick circles

1. In a food processor, blend the garbanzo beans, tahini, garlic, oil, 1/4 teaspoon salt, lemon and chiles to a grainy paste.

2. Taste and adjust olive oil, salt, lemon and chipotle chile levels (you may add more, to taste).

3. Transfer the hummus to a 3-cup serving bowl. Make a small well in center (about 1/2-inch deep) and fill it with olive oil; place parsley sprigs as garnish in center of olive oil in well.

4. Serve as an appetizer, accompanied by pita wedges, celery, carrots and cucumbers.

Tip: For a thinner consistency, add more olive oil or 1 tablespoon of sour cream.

Note: “Cooked garbanzo beans” refers to dry garbanzos and following package cooking instructions.

*Sesame tahini is a paste made with ground sesame seeds and can be found in the ethnic foods section of large supermarkets or in Middle Eastern grocery stores.

**Chipotle chiles in adobo sauce are sold in cans and can be found in the ethnic foods section of large supermarkets or in Latin American grocery stores.

Text and Photographs ©2010 Nancy DeLucia Real

Nancy’s Express Tomato Bruschette

In Appetizers / Starters, Fun Foods On March 26, 2010 1 Comment

 TomatoesfromGardenWatermark

One night last week I came home from work late and realized I had not prepared dinner in advance – I usually do this a day earlier. I looked around my kitchen and spotted some ripe tomatoes in a basket. I made these bruschette (Italian for “toasts”) in a rush – 10 minutes.

Prep time: 10 minutes
Serves: 4

Ingredients:
8 one-inch thick slices Italian bread
Extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling
4 medium ripe tomatoes, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 cup chopped red onion (cut into 1/2-inch pieces)
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil or Italian parsley leaves
3 to 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and ground black pepper, to taste
1/3 cup grated cheese (Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano Reggiano)

1. Place bread slices on a baking sheet and position 6 inches away from top oven broiler-grill.

2. With oven setting on “broil”, toast the bread slices on one side only.

3. Transfer the bread slices onto a platter and drizzle them lightly with some oil; set aside.

4. In a medium bowl, gently toss together the tomatoes, onion, chopped basil or parsley with 3 to 4 tablespoons olive oil, salt and pepper.

5. Taste and adjust oil and seasonings.

6. Spoon equal amounts of the tomato mixture over the bruschette and top with some cheese.

Serve immediately.

Note: Traditional bruschette recipes begin with the rubbing of a cut clove of garlic on each slice of bread, followed by the toasting procedure.

Tip: To remove the bite but not the flavor from sliced or chopped raw onions, place them in a bowl of cold water, give them a squeeze and drain. Use in recipe as directed.

Text ©2010 Nancy Real