Posts tagged ‘appetizer’

November 9, 2011

Hummus with Homemade Pita Chips

Hummus is one of my go to’s when organizing my list for party snacks.  It’s far healthier than the traditional ranch dip (although that does have it’s place at times) and packs huge flavor in a small bite.  It’s also an impeccable match for vegetables, breads, chips…. pretty much anything you like to dip.  It’s one of those dishes that will leave you with a perfectly clean bowl and happy, full stomachs after every party.

Hummus is a Middle Eastern spread or dip made with chickpeas, which are also known as garbanzo beans.  By themselves, I’m definitely not a fan, in fact, I hate them.  I pick them out of soups and salads, and toss them away without the littlest thought.  I find them mealy, dry and flaky and have no need for them.  But all blended up in the food processor with some other goodies and they make a fantastically good dip!  I can’t resist the creamy deliciousness that makes simple pita turn into a delicacy.  Serve it with some olives and a glass of wine and you’ll feel like you’re on a Greek vacation… ok, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration but it will make your ordinary Tuesday something special.

Ingredients

  • 2 cans garbanzo beans, drained
  • 1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 tsp. sesame seed oil
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. paprika
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tbsp. lemon juice, about 1/2 lemon
  • Handful fresh cilantro

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Line baking tray with foil, and spread the pine nuts out
  3. Once oven is preheated, toast pine nuts for 10 mins.  Keep your eye on them; if your oven runs hot or it’s touchy, you’ll want to check on them after 6-8 minutes to make sure they don’t burn.  You can also do this in a dry skillet on medium heat.
  4. Once they turn golden remove from oven and let cool for 5-10 minutes
  5. Add all ingredients with the exception of 1 tbsp. pine nuts and cilantro to the food processor.  The reserved pine nuts will be your garnish
  6. Pulse on high for 30 seconds until mixture is well blended
  7. Add cilantro and pulse a few more times until cilantro is incorporated
  8. If the mixture is too thick, add a little more water or olive oil, this is the time to taste it to see if the salt and spices are at the right level.  Add a little more salt if needed but be careful, you can’t take back
  9. Scoop hummus into serving bowl and garnish with the remaining pine nuts and a little olive oil
  10. Serve with chips, pita bread, jicama, or carrots…. Anything you like to dip!

If you’re feeling like really treating yourself, you can make homemade pit chips to go with your hummus.  They beat the ones from the store any day.

Ingredients

  • 1 bag fresh pita (white or whole wheat)
  • 4 tbsp.
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 freshly ground black pepper

Method

  1. Preheat heat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Cut pita bread into 8 wedges
  3. Pour olive oil into a bowl and brush pita chips with olive oil on both sides.
  4. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  5. Arrange pita chips on baking sheet and bake for 12 to 15 minutes until golden brown

 

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September 28, 2011

Simply Salsa

I have a few salsa recipes in my repertoire, and I promise I will share all of them with you over time.  This is one of the easiest, and it’s a perfect way for me to use up the peppers in my garden, as I can’t possible add jalapeños to every dish.  Peppers seem to grow like weeds in Houston, they love the heat and humidity, and they seem to survive no matter what I do to them.  If case you didn’t know I’m probably the only person you know who can kill a cactus (yes, I did).

When the peppers are cooked their sharp heat softens, and they take on an unexpected balance of sweetness and deep pepper flavor without the heat.  The cilantro adds a nice freshness and gives the salsa vibrant specks of deep green. This salsa can vary in heat depending on the peppers; so if you have a batch of really spicy ones, only use 4-5 jalapeños.

Ingredients

  • 6-8 jalapeño peppers
  • 2-4 serrano peppers
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion
  • 8 roma tomatoes
  • 1 handful fresh cilantro
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp lime juice (half a lime)

Method

  • Fill large pot half way with water (one big enough to cook pasta)
  • Drop in peeled gloves of garlic, onion, and jalapeños.  There’s no need to chop or dice any of the ingredients, the food processor will take care of that later
  • Bring water to a light boil and let vegetables cook for 10 minutes
  • Drop in whole tomatoes and boil an addition 5-10 minutes until the skin of the tomatoes start to split
  • Remove from stove and pour all contents into strainer.  You aren’t going to save any of the water, so you can do this directly in the sink
  • Let cool for 5-10 minutes until cool enough to touch
  • Remove tomatoes skins and pepper stems and put all the contents into a food processor.  If you don’t have a food processor, you can use a blender, but BE CAREFUL!  Blenders don’t have vents so the hot contents will explode if you put it on high.  Take a cloth and hold firmly on the lid while pulsing slowly.  I would also recommend waiting another 5 minutes to cool, believe me, salsa burns are not fun.
  • Pulse on high for 15 seconds
  • Add lime juice, salt and cilantro and pulse until mixture is smooth
  • Taste test, it may need a little more salt and the only way you’ll know is by trying it!
  • Serve warm with tortilla chips

Feel free to mix up the pepper combination.  This is one of those salsas that can one day be blazing hot, and others as mild as bell peppers… it all depends on the time of year and the jalapeños.   Feel free to substitute more mellow peppers, which you can achieve with Ancho, Pasilla or Anaheim, all popular varieties you should be able to find in your local store.

September 12, 2011

“That” Chicken

This barely qualifies as a recipe due to its simple and very short list of ingredients.  It adds ups to 6, but butter, olive oil and pepper don’t really count as ingredients, they’re what I consider staple ingredients, so it really goes down to 3.  Chicken, flour and seasoning salt.

So you’re probably wondering about the name and where this recipe came from.  It’s actually from a good friend of the family, Miss Barbara McKay.  She’s a fantastic cook and made this from my mom at a Sunday lunch.  My mom then came home and made it for us!  Yeah!.   After making it a few times, Barbara didn’t know what to call it, but she kept saying “let’s have some of ‘that’ chicken!”.  I guess the name stuck.  It’s also a great recipe for those who are lacking in pantry ingredients.

We all get chicken monotony, so hopefully this can be a new one you add to your repertoire.  The chicken comes out golden brown, with a buttery crust and a tender, juicy center.

Ingredients

  • 3 chicken breast, cut into bite size pieces
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 tbsp. seasoning salt
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil

Method

  • Cut chicken into bite size pieces
  • In a separate bowl, combine flour, seasoning salt and pepper
  • Drop the chicken into the seasoning flour and coat all the pieces evenly
  • Heat the oil and butter in a non-stick pan on medium-high (the oil will prevent the butter from burning)
  • Once the butter starts to foam, add chicken.  Shake off excess flour and only add one layer of chicken to the pan so all the pieces cook evenly.
  • Turn the pieces with tongs after 4 minutes.  Remember, the smaller the chunks the faster it will cook, my pieces are about the size of whole walnuts.
  • Let cook for an additional 4 minutes and you will have perfectly golden brown nuggets of goodness!
  • Pop them in your mouth and enjoy!

“That chicken” is great as a main dish, or you can add it to a salad, on top of pasta, or serve at a party with cocktail sticks.  I guarantee you’ll have time to mingle with your guests instead of being stuck in the kitchen all afternoon.  It’s also very kid friendly… especially when you add a dollop of ketchup on the side.  Enjoy!

September 9, 2011

Pesto

Break out the food processor; it’s attack of the basil plant!

It all started with two small, innocent looking basil plants I picked up at Lowe’s.  I went with two plants, thinking they’d both be dead within a week based on my record.  The leaves would start to wilt on the way home knowing they were about to be subjected to over watering and lack of sunlight in my small apartment.  I’ll admit I do not have the necessary gardening skills to keep even a cactus alive.  So you can imagine my surprise when I found 3-foot plants with more basil than I knew what to do with?  I guess my luck changed in Houston… sadly not due to anything I did, but thanks to the hot, humid weather.

Basil’s pervading, clove-like aroma is intoxicating; it’s extremely aromatic with a scent of pepper, anise, and mint.  The minute the smell hits me I’m transported to an Italian café where I wait for a fresh margarita pizza.  The taste is sweet, but savory, and just like the smell it’s peppery with a hint of spicy mint.

In an effort to control my garden, I went on a pesto fest, and started making jars of herby goodness to share with family and friends.  Below please find 3 of my pesto recipes.  All you need to do it combine all ingredients in a food processor and process on high-speed till evenly chopped and mixed.

Basil Pesto

  • 3 cups loosely packed basil leaves
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1/4 cup cold water
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp. salt

Walnut Pesto: Substitute pine nuts for 1/2 cup walnuts; it has a slightly nuttier flavor and can also help you stretch your dollar since pine nuts can be quite pricey!

Mint Pesto: Substitute 1 1/2 cup basil for 1 1/2 cup mint leaves


While basil is abundant at the moment, I also suggest that you experiment with other herbs.  Pesto does not need to be basil based; I’ve tried mint, cilantro, rosemary and arugula.  Each one has a unique flavor, and can be added to bread, fish, meat, or enjoyed straight from the jar with some cheese.  With a basic formula you can come up with a myriad of variations by replacing the basil and pine nuts. Try these combos:

  • Arugula & toasted walnuts
  • Mint & toasted almonds
  • Cilantro & cashews
  • Basil, Rosemary & toasted walnuts
  • Cilantro & toasted pumpkin seeds

The other great thing about basil is it can be frozen and stored successfully for a few weeks.  The best method I’ve found is to place a small bunch in a clean Ziploc bag, blow some air in to inflate it, and place in the freezer where it won’t get squashed. You’ll find it quite convenient to then snip off a few leaves any time of year to add to pasta sauce, salads, or dressings.

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