Posts Tagged ‘appetizer’

When you need a quick appetizer this is one that you can assemble in minutes and serve on a platter in no time!  Perfect for Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Years Eve.

 crostini with burrata homegrown tomatoes and drizzle of olive oil

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 fig parmesan arugula pizza with goat cheese2

Very simple: lightly toast a pizza crust or flat-bread then top with chopped figs, chopped prosciutto and dollops of goat cheese.  Broil until the prosciutto is curling and the goat cheese is nicely warmed and top with handfuls of arugula.  Excellent as dinner or cut into smaller serving sizes as an appetizer.  We used Brown Turkey Figs since that is what we grow but you can use your imagination and shake it up a bit.


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Simple combination of garlic, ginger, sesame oil, rice vinegar and a touch of brown sugar to cut the spice, with green onions, grated carrots, ground chicken, a touch of mustard powder and white pepper and some chopped water chestnuts for texture.  Spoon into butter lettuce leaves, roll and enjoy.  A great refreshing summer meal.  It also makes a quick and easy appetizer.

Spicy Asian Chicken Lettuce Wraps

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This simple appetizer recipe is quick to assemble and best of all it eliminates the problems of dips and double dipping at a party buffet.

smoked salmon herb cheese on endive3I made a simple cream cheese spread using low-fat cream cheese, minced red onion for aromatic surprise, a bit of lemon juice for tartness, a few tablespoons of heavy cream for, well, creaminess, generous amount of pepper for bite and just a pinch of salt to bring the flavors up.  Processing in a mini-processor made the flavors meld and easy to pipe.

I piped the cream cheese mixture, using a large star tip, onto endive and Belgian endive leaves.  Then I topped the cream cheese with strips of smoked salmon (lox) and garnished them with finely chopped dill.

Party on the table and in the mouth!  Easy, fast and pleasing.  And NO double dipping to worry about!

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A cooks night out is a wonderful experience.  For a few hours, being away from a flame and out of harm’s way from razor-sharp knives while removed from the demands of meal preparation is a delightful treat.

For me, dining out doesn’t have to be a fancy meal spanning several hours but it has to be good food.  Good food governs my desire accompanied by a hearty brew or a fine wine alongside.  Therefore, I follow the perceived aroma when I review a menu and if I end up at a white cloth eatery or a local order-and-take-out place then that is where my tastes have steered me.

This weekend what I craved was a casual experience with terrific food flavored such that it totally satisfied my palate.  My appetite wasn’t taking precedence here.  My taste buds were in charge.  In San Diego, it is easy to satisfy my requirements.

My dining companions and I ended up in North Park.  We heard there was an arts festival that evening and thought that would be a relaxing and stimulating stroll after our meal.  We’re a motley crew with eclectic tastes so arts and food just seem to fit like a glove.

North Park, San Diego

North Park is dense with fine food establishments from sit down eateries to places where you need to perch on a planter while you eat.  It is an area with restaurants galore, great deserts shops, taverns and bars, even a wonderful coffee spot to end the night, Café Calabria.

We began the night at Carnitas Snack Shack, always a favorite, which specializes in pork (you guessed it) carnitas!

carnitas menu

While we waited for our food, we enjoyed the ambient artwork and the raised bed of vegetables behind our table.

carnitas mural

Our starter was an exquisite Pork Belly appetizer with sweet chili glazed served with a frisee salad.  It was tangy sweet, melt in your mouth memorable, balanced by the slightly bitter flavor of frisee with some fresh radishes to surprise your palate.

 pork belly appetizer

One of my companions (with a mouth the size of a mason jar opening) ordered the Snack Shack Triple Threat Sandwich: pork Schnitzel, pulled pork, bacon pepperoncini, pickle relish, shack aioli served with a sweet corn salad.  I had to participate in an arm wrestling match in order to get a bite; it was that good!

carnitas triple threat sandwich

The last dish we enjoyed was the Carnitas Tacos: two carnitas tacos with guacamole and salsa fresco served with a sweet corn salad.  If you prefer, you can order this as a torta sandwich.  This one made my taste-buds smile and my tummy feel content.

carnitas tacos

We did order the seasoned fries, served with a sinfully good bacon ketchup, but they vanished before I could get a photo.  Let me just say that this food is so good that you should try to get photos before it hits the table or it’s gone in minutes.

After dinner, we strolled the length of the arts festival and encountered some wonderful food trucks.  Too full to taste them we just stood and inhaled their goodness.  This one represents some fine restaurants in the San Diego area.  Great food all around.

indigo grill truck

The evening ended with a visit to a brew market and then a tavern for a glass of chocolate stout to top off the evening.

north park brew market

chocolate stout

One of us, not me, bought a decadent piece of cake at a nearby bakery before we left the area.  It too mysteriously vanished before I could take a shot of it—or get a taste!  But word has it that we should go back so I can get my own piece.

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My dedication to eating whole foods spurs our latest response to requests for natural foods with flair, flavor and plate appeal.  Therefore, assuming the plate is a canvas for the artistry of whole foods, we continue to work with the idea of a Portobello Mushroom Pizza.

We have evolved it to a heartier main course by adding some goat cheese and fresh baby spinach and the result was satisfying, healthful and most importantly, flavor packed!

The Portobello Mushroom Pizza is a great dish but this one takes it up a notch to a more satisfying stand-alone dish.  As a side, we offered a cup of minestrone soup, organic of course, and a couple of slices of homemade sourdough bread toasted with a touch of Asiago cheese for those who enjoy carbs.

End result:  happy diners, happy creators and full tummies.  What could be better?  Pair this meal with a lovely fresh red wine and you have a romantic dinner.

Simple process, not a recipe but a method: de-stem and de-gill two Portobello mushrooms, taking care to keep the cap intact.  Heat the broiler to high.

While the broiler preheats, chop 2 seeded Roma tomatoes into a small dice.  Add 4 small cloves of chopped garlic, 6 leaves of basil chiffonade and a teaspoon of balsamic vinegar to the mix.  Stir well to combine.

Measure 1 ounce of goat cheese (chevré) mixed with chopped thyme, tarragon, or basil (your preference).  Set aside.

Lightly sauté 2 cups of spinach in a fry pan over medium heat until just wilted.  No oil or butter (translate: fats) necessary if you use a non-stick pan.

Line 2 dinner plates with fresh baby spinach sprinkled with Balsamic Vinaigrette (homemade if possible).  Chill the plates in the refrigerator while you broil the mushrooms.

Place the mushroom caps on a foil lined baking sheet.  Rub just enough oil on the caps to cover both sides, about 1 teaspoonful.  Broil, gill side down, just until the cap begins to shrink and yield its juice.  Remove from oven and turn gill side up.  Sprinkle with a pinch of sea salt and fresh ground pepper.

Line the cap with the wilted spinach.  Top with the tomato-garlic mixture.  Dot with half the goat cheese and repeat for the other Portobello mushroom.

Return the mushrooms to the broiler, on the foil lined baking sheet, and broil until the goat cheese sizzles and begins to turn color.  Remove immediately, transfer to the spinach lined plates and serve while hot.


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One slice of Serrano ham stretches across the cutting board.

Slowly the goat cheese, soft and creamy, spreads over the ham forming a light downy layer.

A thin sliver of fresh, juicy mango, placed askance, drips it’s sweet nectar into the cheese.

Carefully, beginning at one short end, the trio is rolled into a delicate, flavor-filled cigar.

Decorating the plate, olive oil cured Kalamata olives and bite sized cubes of Manchego cheese join the cigar making a trio of delectable delights.

Serve with a glass of wine, put your feet up and relax.

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