Tag Archives: appetizer

Bacon & Chive Yogurt Dip

1 Aug

Bacon and Chive Yogurt DipI recently ate a scrumptious but rather unhealthy Roasted Garlic and Bacon Dip. The base of this dip was mayonnaise and hence the fat content was off the charts. My father recommended that I test making something similar with hung yogurt.

Yogurt dips are a wonderful light and figure-friendly appetizer for the warmer summer months. Since yogurt is so versatile there’s a multitude of yogurt dip recipes available. Despite yogurt being the common denominator you can always find a way to switch things up by playing around with the additional flavor elements.

This recipe eliminates the mayonnaise to reduce an overabundance of fat. I also use a lower fat cut of bacon. The bacon specks running Bacon & Chive Dipthroughout the dip provide a fantastic smokiness and textural crunch. The chives add an aromatic and visual brightness that’s imperative in any brilliant summer appetizer. I use just a hint of roasted garlic to let the main stars of this yogurt dip – the bacon and the chives shine bright.  Continue reading

Goat Cheese & Scallion Parcels

22 Jun

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After the scorching Mumbai summers everyone impatiently awaits overcast skies and blustery rain showers. And fickle Mother Nature is typically generous with her annual torrential downpours in Mumbai. The cloudy skies cast an enchanting spell on the city drenching the parched ground and uplifting residents’ spirits.

The Mumbai monsoons play a bewitching role on an onset of my hankerings for deep-fried food.  In my mind, crunchy pakoras (various vegetables dipped in a gram-flour batter and deep-fried) and samosas (fried pastry with a savory meat or vegetable filling) along with aromatic cups of steaming ginger tea are part and parcel of a rainy day. A quintessential monsoon day had me dreaming of a cheese samosa and led to the development of these Goat Cheese and Scallion Parcels.

This recipe uses a few straightforward ingredients to create a scrumptious miniature treat of scallion specked creamy goat cheese in a crispy wonton parcel.  The dipping sauce provides the perfect piquant tang to the simple wonton parcels. These little munchies are a perfect rainy day treat for the family and yet graceful enough to serve at your next cocktail party. Continue reading

Lima Bean Hummus with Spiced Pita Chips

5 Jun

Lima Bean Hummus with Spiced Pita Chips“Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer” – Anonymous

Traveling far and wide is truly an enriching experience. The sights, sounds, smells and tastes along the way help us gain a broader perspective of the rest of the world. I cherish every trip I take and learn so much from my travels. While everything about travelling is exciting it’s probably evident by now that I particularly look forward to tasting the local food on my trips.

We recently spent 10 fabulous days in Athens and the Greek Islands. My favorite island on the trip was Santorini, the southernmost island in the Cyclades archipelago in the Agean Sea. It is renowned for its spectacular beauty, breathtaking views and fantastic Mediterranean cuisine.  The local cuisine is characterized by flavorful, fresh ingredients and bright colors typical of the celebrated Mediterranean diet. Santorini is specifically known for the fava, (vegetable similar to a split pea) and a type of cherry tomato that only grows in Santorini.

Oia, Santorini

Oia, Santorini

Santorini Sunset

Santorini Sunset

We tasted several types of hummus on our trip and specifically loved a fava bean puree hummus.

Fava Bean Hummus in Santorini

Fava Bean Hummus in Santorini

My Lima Bean hummus recreates the textures and flavors that that I loved about that hummus with a few modifications. I use dried Lima beans as they are extremely accessible and brighten up the flavors with Greek Kalamata olives and parsley. I pair my hummus with spiced pita chips that are crunchy bursting with flavor. It’s not always feasible to travel to Santorini but one can certainly taste a small piece of it with this dish. Continue reading

Goat Cheese, Sun-dried Tomato & Arugula Pesto Crostini

15 Jan

IMG_2398Necessity is the mother of invention, and often how a new recipe is born. In fact excess of a perishable ingredient and a desire to do something special with it often inspire tasty solutions in my kitchen!

In short here is the whole truth behind this recipe:

Pickle # 1:  I have a bunch of arugula that I need to use up soon, and I do not feel like eating a salad tonight. Duh, but I  always eat Arugula in my salad!
Solution #1: Make a Pesto out of it!

Pickle #2: A basic Arugula Pesto is a bit too strong by itself on bread.
Solution #2: It could use some sweetness and tang and possibly the addition of neutral and  creamy component. Hmmm…how about topping it with SUN-DRIED TOMATOES & GOAT CHEESE?

Final Result: Aha! The perfect balance of flavors on a slice of crusty bread. It’s a party in your mouth when the sweet, acidic and chewy sun-dried tomatoes balance out the sharp taste of the pesto and the creamy texture of the goat cheese. Pair this with a crisp Sauvignon Blanc and its a lot more elating that a classic Arugula salad!

Goat Cheese, Sun-dried tomato & Arugula Pesto Crostini Recipe
Time: 15-20 minutes
Yield: 3/4 cup of Pesto

Ingredients:
2 cups packed arugula, washed and drained
6 cloves of garlic
1/3 cup of pine nuts, lightly roasted (See note)
1/3 cup of good Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
6 whole black peppercorns
¼ cup of good quality extra virgin olive oil
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
Salt to taste
1/3-1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, sliced or diced
1 cup of goat cheese, crumbled
1 loaf French or Italian Baguette (See note)

Note:

  • Pine nuts can be toasted in a non-stick skillet on low heat. Keep an eye on these as they get done quickly and can burn easily. They are ready when they have a light color change and you can smell them.
  • French Baguettes are typically a lot harder than Italian Baguettes. Since I used a French Baguette, I did not toast it up for the Crostini. If you use an Italian Baguette or another softer baguette, you should toast it in the oven or under the broiler to ensure crusty bread that stands up to the toppings without getting soggy too soon.

Method:
1) In a food processor or blender combine the arugula, garlic, roasted pine nuts, Parmesan cheese, peppercorns, olive oil, crushed red pepper and salt to taste. Blend this to a thick paste, or leave some texture if you prefer a chunkier pesto.
2) Slice the baguette into 1 inch slices on a bias.
3) Spread a layer or two of pesto on each slice. Now top each slice with a few sun-dried tomatoes followed by goat cheese crumbles. I was skimpy with the goat cheese, to reduce some of the fat content, but these are even tastier when you are generous with the sun-dried tomatoes and goat cheese!

Crispy Chili Garlic Baby Corn

20 Dec

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My trips to Mumbai resemble a literal walk down a food memory lane. My nostalgia surges and I am on a rampant mission to eat at all the places I fondly remember eating at, in the late 80’s and 90’s. The Mumbai dining scene has evolved considerably in the last 5-10 years.  Celebrity chefs from all over have flocked here to gain a share of the growing middle and upper income groups wallets and palates. Yet, it is not the fine dining and eclectic cuisine that I crave to eat here. It’s the bold and tangy street fare, the ambiance and culinary marvels of the old Irani cafes, and the delectable seafood at the down-to-earth coastal restaurants that have me ALWAYS coming back for more.

One cuisine that’s unique to India and is a MUST EAT on each trip is “Indian Chinese” known as “Chinese food” in India.  Chinese food in India is essentially food that is an adaptation of Chinese seasonings and cooking techniques to Indian tastes. This cuisine is said to have been developed over a century ago by a small Chinese community that lived in Kolkata (formerly Calcutta). Indian Chinese is a bold cuisine that harmoniously unites Indian and Chinese spices to season vegetables, meats, noodles and rice. It’s a mainstream cuisine in India and can be found at every place from a hawkers cart for under $2 to a five-star restaurant for $50-100 a person.

One of my favorite Indian Chinese dish is Chili Garlic Potatoes. Earlier this week, I was at the Willingdon Club of Mumbai indulging in the garlicky and tangy flavor of Chili Garlic Potatoes when I decided to recreate the flavors  at home with baby corn. The recipe below is derived from a few modifications to Sailu’s Kitchen Chili Baby Corn. It’s a piquant appetizer, that’s sure to warm you up on a cold night.

Crispy Chili Garlic Baby Corn Recipe:
Recipe Adapted from Sailu’s Kitchen Chilli Baby Corn
Time: 35-40 minutes
Yield: Appetizer sized portion for 4 people

Ingredients:
Fried Baby Corn:
3 tablespoons of corn starch
½ teaspoon garlic paste
½ teaspoon ginger paste
¼ teaspoon red chili powder
½ teaspoon black pepper
½ – ¾ teaspoon salt (per taste)
3 cups baby corn cut into 1 inch pieces (washed and dried) (See note)
2-3 tablespoons of vegetable or canola oil for pan frying

Sauce:
1 tablespoon of vegetable or canola oil
¼ cup green onions (whites and greens), thinly sliced + extra for garnish
7-8 cloves of garlic, minced
2 bird’s eye chilies/That chili (Optional) (See note)
1 tablespoon chopped ginger
½ medium to large green pepper, diced
¼ cup tomato ketchup
2 ½ teaspoons light soy sauce
1 teaspoon vinegar
1 teaspoon Siracha sauce
1 teaspoon chili garlic paste or Schezwan sauce (See note)
¼ cup of water
1 tbsp corn starch dissolved in 2 tablespoons of water

Notes:

  • I used fresh baby corn. If you cannot find fresh baby corn, large grocery stores and Asian markets carry canned baby corn. Drain, wash and thoroughly dry the canned baby corn before you use it.
  • Bird’s eye chilies, Chili Garlic Paste and Schezwan sauce are available in Asian markets and some large grocery stores. Eliminate the bird’s eye chilies if you do not want to make this too spicy.

Method:
1) In a mixing bowl combine the cornstarch, ginger paste, garlic paste, chili powder, salt and pepper. Add 1 to 2 teaspoons of water and mix well. You want to have a thin batter that creates a thin coating on the baby corn.
2) In a large skillet heat 2-3 tablespoons of oil on medium-high heat. Coat each baby corn piece in the batter. Pan-fry the baby corn in batches until they are light brown. Set aside the fried baby corn on a plate lined with kitchen towel to absorb the excess oil.
3) In the same skillet heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil on medium heat. Now add the green onions, garlic, ginger and birds eye chilies and sauté for 3-4 minutes until the garlic is golden brown.
4) Add the green pepper and cook for 4-5 minutes until the green pepper is tender.
5) Add the tomato ketchup, soy sauce, vinegar, Siracha, and chili garlic paste and cook for 1-2 minutes.
6) Add ¼ cup of water and simmer for another 3-4 minutes. Add the corn starch and water mixture and cook for 2-3 minutes until the raw corn starch taste dissipates.  Taste the sauce and add more soy or chili sauce per your taste.
7) Add the fried baby corn and toss to ensure that all the pieces are well coated with the sauce. Cook for another 1-2 minutes before transferring the baby corn to a serving platter. Garnish with a few sliced green onions and serve hot as a snack or an appetizer.

Bacon, Apple and Onion Stuffing Muffins

5 Dec

Bacon, Apple and Onion sTUFFINMy last recipe post – Chili-Cheese Wontons was a simple and elegant Hors d’oeuvre for holiday entertaining or a cocktail party. Life would be way too simple if the only entertaining during the holidays were cocktail parties. Unfortunately, it’s just not that simple! There are sumptuous and comforting dinners to be served, brunches and lunches to be cooked, and finally guests who stay a few days and need to be fed around the clock.

This is when you need a crowd-pleasing recipe that can easily be doubled, tripled or quadrupled up to be served as an appetizer or a side dish at dinner or a brunch. That is exactly what I thought when I came across Rachael Ray’s Apple Onion and Stuffin’ Muffin’s recipe. Bread, apples, onions and celery are elements that can be consumed at all mealtimes. Combining them creates a luscious dish that can be savored at various meal occasions. Plus making muffins out of this stuffing nudges it from being just a dinner side to a brunch side or even a heavy appetizer. Holiday Muffins

I made various changes to the original recipe to personalize it. Specifically, I added bacon and introduced a tart apple to add multiple layers of flavor. The smoky and savory flavor profile of the bacon marries harmoniously with the tart granny smith apple as well as the sweet McIntosh apples. There is nothing to not love about these muffins – they are delectable and unique and best of all can be served at any time of the day!

Bacon, Apple and Onion Stuffing Muffins
Recipe adapted from Rachael Ray’s Apple and Onion Stuffin’ Muffins
Yields: 12 regular size muffins
Time: Active: 20 minutes; Inactive (Baking) 12-15 minutes

Ingredients
Butter favored cooking spray (Recommended: PAM)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil,
1 tablespoon butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup chopped bacon (I used center-cut thick bacon)
1 fresh bay leaf (use a dried one if you cannot find fresh bay leaves)
4 ribs celery and greens, from the heart, chopped
1 medium to large yellow onion, peeled and chopped
1 Granny Smith Apple, peeled, cored, quartered and chopped
1 ½ McIntosh apples, peeled, cored, quartered and chopped
2 tablespoons poultry seasoning
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
7 cups cubed stuffing mix (Recommended: Pepperidge Farm Herbed Stuffing – Cubed)
2 to 3 cups chicken stock, store-bought from the soup aisle

Note:

  • To make these vegetarian eliminate the bacon. Increase the butter by another 1.5 tablespoons. Substitute the chicken stock with vegetable broth/stock.

Method:
1) Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees F. Spray a regular muffin tin (12 muffins), liberally with butter-flavored cooking spray and set aside.
2) Preheat a large skillet (12 inch) over medium high heat. Add extra-virgin olive oil to skillet and 1 tablespoon of butter. When the butter melts, cook the bacon.
3) Add the bay leaf followed by celery, onions and then apples. Sprinkle the vegetables and apples with poultry seasoning, salt and pepper. Cook 5 to 6 minutes or until the vegetables and apples begin to soften.
4) Add the parsley and stuffing cubes to the pan and combine. Moisten the stuffing with chicken broth until all of the bread is soft but not wet. (This was about 2.5 cups of stock for me) Do not over-wet the mixture as this will make it harder for the muffins to stay together. Taste the mixture and adjust salt and pepper as needed.
5) Remove the bay leaf. Use an ice cream scoop to fill and mound up the stuffing in muffin tins.
6) Bake until set and crisp on top, about 12 to 15 minutes. Remove stuffing muffins from the muffin tray and serve hot or room temperature.

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