I like to mix things up a little, so for an appetizer, I thought I might like to make something healthy. My wife’s brother and his wife love hummus. I thought like to show them that you can make the same stuff for a lot cheaper than you can buy it, pre-packed in some plastic container at the supermarket. Also since you make it fresh at home, you know what is inside it. This also allows you to flavor it with anything you can imagine. So here goes classic hummus made in a minute when they were here.
The main ingredient is chick peas. Regular old out of the 16oz can, rinsed and drained chick peas. To that I added 6 cloves of garlic, 3 tablespoons of salt + 2 tablespoons of black pepper, 4oz of tahini paste, which is ground sesame seeds found in the super market, 2 lemons cut in half and the juice squeezed into the processor. Process on high for a few moments making sure to scrape down the sides so everything is thoroughly incorporated. You might have to add a little water if it is too thick. Adjust it to your liking. After that you should end up with something that looks like this.
To serve, I placed some in another container had some fresh Nan bread, pita chips and some fresh vegetables arranged on a platter. Everybody was impressed by how simple and tasty it was.
I like serving couscous in the summer, you don’t really have to cook it, you can make it a day ahead and you can serve at room temperature. So here is how I did it this time.
I took a red onion, red, green and yellow pepper and diced them pretty small and sautéed them in some good olive oil with some salt & pepper and chopped fresh garlic. Put that in a mixing bowl to cool while I cooked the couscous.
I like the Israeli couscous because it is bigger than the regular one. I used two boxes this time, cooked with chicken stock instead of water for extra flavor. Cook per the instructions on the box, just be careful not to over-cook it because it will turn to mush and you really don’t want that.
Take the freshly cooked couscous and combine it with the onion and pepper mixture. Here you might have to add a little olive oil and check your salt & pepper seasoning.
Let it cool and then cover it and store it in the fridge.
We were having some people over and I was grilling dinner by the pool so I thought some shrimp bruschetta would be a light start to the meal that goes very well with some white wine.
Before the guests came I had already cooked the shrimp in some water, flavored with lemon juice, peppercorns and white wine, shocked them in some ice water and cut them in half the log way.
I had some pesto and some roasted red peppers left over from making dinner a few nights ago so I used them also.
I had picked up a nice baguette from the bakery sliced it, brushed on a little olive oil and toasted them on the grill. Spread a little pesto on the bread, laid some of the roasted peppers on top, topped that with the shrimp halves laid out nicely. Then topped the shrimp with a piece of the roasted red pepper again and some chopped basil for garnish. Finished everything with a light sprinkle of good extra virgin olive oil and some coarse salt & pepper.
I have to admit they didn’t last long and they were really good.
Some of my friends and I did a little get together because we are all very busy with work and family. My contribution was to make the appetizers for the 40 or so people who would be there. So let’s get to it!
I actually cheated a little and bought some puff pastry sheets from the grocery store, let them come to room temperature, floured the kitchen counter and rolled it out to form a large rectangle.
Next step was to mix some homemade pesto into some ricotta cheese and spread it on the pastry dough thinly and top it off with some Parmesan cheese.
Now top the mixture lightly with some roasted red peppers and top with the finest prosciutto sliced very thinly.
Roll tightly, making sure you seal the end with a few drops of water and pinch the open ends of the “log” like in the picture.
Place into the freezer for about 20 minutes to let the dough firm up. Once cold it can be sliced into pinwheels, usually I would get 12 to 14 slices out of each log.
Place the wheels on a lightly oiled parchment paper and lightly brush the tops with some olive oil and bake at 425 F for about 17 – 20 minutes. Pull the parchment paper off the baking sheet and let them cool a little before transferring to your serving dish.
Enjoy them warm. Really good especially served with some homemade apple pie moonshine, scored some big points with my friends!
A few days ago it was my good friend Jay’s 50th Birthday, knowing him and his love of shrimp I wanted to do something special for his surprise party. So I made bacon wrapped shrimp and he loved it.
First take 10 inch wooden skewers and soak them in cold water for about an hour.
You will need 16 – 20 peeled and deveined shrimp from your favorite fish monger. The term 16-20 means that there are 16 to 20 shrimp per pound. The lower the number means the bigger the shrimp. So 5 pounds of those shrimp would yield close to 100 pieces.
Take your favorite bacon out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature while you do the following step.
Carefully remove the tails from all the shrimp and skewer 2 of them onto one stick leaving about ½ inch of the point exposed above the shrimp. Once they are all on the sticks lightly sprinkle some black pepper over the shrimp.
Take a piece of bacon, poke it with the sharp tip to make a tiny hole and then slip it on the handle side of the skewer and pull up to the bottom of the shrimp. Then methodically wrap the bacon up the skewer around the shrimp making sure to cover as much of the shrimp as you go. Now the reason you left the tip of the skewer exposed is to take that last bit of bacon you are holding on to and stretch it over the tip to hold it in place.
Turn on the oven to 500F and place a few on a sheet pan so they are all on a single layer and cook 7-9 minutes on the first side then flip over for about 4-5 more on the other side. The bacon will be brown and a little crispy and the shrimp will be deliciously moist and juicy.
Serve right away warning your guests that the skewers will be hot.
To take it one step further, for the people who like spicy food, make a quick sauce consisting of equal parts Sriracha Sauce and Maple Syrup to dip the skewers into. The syrup compliments the bacon and pepper and the Sriracha adds spice to the sweet shrimp.
Here is a quick way to impress last minute guests!
Start with 1 sheet of the frozen puff pastry dough that you might have in the back of the freezer, bring it up to room temp and unfold it. Then carefully cut about an inch in from the edge but not all the way through and then take a fork and dock it. That is just a fancy term for poking a lot of holes in the puff pastry with the tines of a fork.
Now place the dough in a pre-heated 425F oven and cook for about 10 – 13 minutes or until the outside puffs up and is golden brown.
While it is baking grab a bowl and add 1 cup of ricotta cheese, ½ cup of Parmesan cheese, ¾ cup of Mozzarella cheese, a handful of fresh basil from the garden cut thin, 1 Tbsp of chopped garlic some salt and pepper. Stir it all together.
Once it is done pull it out of the oven, set it on the counter and turn down the oven to 300F.
Fill the inside of puff pastry with the cheese mixture and score it so the topping has somewhere to nestle into. So now you can top it with whatever you have handy, for us we had some baby onions and cherry tomatoes from the garden and some broccoli from the fridge. Sprinkle some good olive oil over the top and add the last little bit of shredded mozzarella and bake in the 300F oven for about 25 minutes or until it’s brown and bubbling.
So let it cool for a few minutes and serve it with some salad for a nice afternoon snack along with your favorite white wine. Enjoy
Sorry, no picture of the final product. It was so good, the family ate it all before I could snap one.
So I had to help out my neighbor for his daughter’s high school graduation party and she wanted a bread bowl with spinach & artichoke dip in it. So after some discussion her parents didn’t want all the kids hanging around the table with the dip so I came up with an idea.
Here is the recipe for the dip:
1 cup of cream cheese
½ cup of mayonnaise
½ cup of sour cream
1 ½ cups of Parmesan cheese
1 package of defrosted & drained chopped spinach
1 can drained artichoke hearts also chopped fine
2 Tbsp finely chopped garlic
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste
Mix everything together and if needed add some heavy cream to get the desired consistency
Using a pastry bag, pipe the mixture into the bottom, in this case, a 5 oz plastic cup and then arrange the vegetables however you like starting with the tallest in the back getting smaller as you go forward.
There you have individual vegetable dip cups that can be passed around.
Here is an easy and great tasting appetizer that uses only fresh ingredients. Great for a summer time snack.
These cherry tomatoes and basil leaves are from our garden. The cheese is mini mozzarella balls. They are from a little Italian market down the street from us.
Simply put a tomato on a tooth pick, followed by a basal leaf, and then the mozzarella ball. After you make more than you think you will need, because they are so good, drizzle them with a good olive oil and a few drops of good quality balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle with some Italian seasoning, salt and pepper.
Eat the appetizer in one bite so all the flavors explode in your mouth, just be careful not to poke the back of your throat with the tooth pick.