Appetizers, Savory, Sides

Zucchini Fritters

 

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In India, on a raw, rainy night, you will often find family members gathered over hot cups of tea and plate of piping hot fried fritters.  These fritters are usually vegetarian, like potato, onion, and eggplant (all separate–not mixed together).  Yesterday, a beautiful sunny spring day turned into a gloomy, rainy evening–which led me to crave fried food.  I could have pulled out some samosas, but I have zucchini in the fridge that needed to be used.  Also, earlier in the day, I came across this recipe in Cooking Light magazine, so it must have been a combination of all these different sensory inputs (haha, can you tell I am a biologist?) that led to this recipe.

Ingredients:

2 medium zucchinis, grated and drained

1 jalapeno, seeded and minced

1 small onion, minced

1 egg

2 Tbsp of flour

1 Tbsp of rice flour

1/2 tsp of salt

A dash of black pepper

1 tsp of olive oil for the batter plus more for frying

Method:

Grate and or chop finely the zucchini.  If you have a food processor, you can grate it.  I have a handheld grater which almost pulverizes the zucchini.  So, for some texture I grated one and chopped the other–the different textures give the fritters some body.

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Place the zucchini on a paper towel or dishcloth and let it drain for 30 minutes to 1 hour.

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Squeeze out all the water and add the zucchini to a mixing bowl.

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Add egg, flours, salt, pepper, jalapenos, and oil to the zucchini and mix thoroughly.

Heat a tablespoon or so of oil in a skillet.  Using a tablespoon, gently dollop the batter into the hot oil.  Using the back of the spoon, flatten out the dollops to form a pancake shape.

Fry on medium-high to high heat for 2-3 minutes or till golden brown.  Then flip the fritters and cook the other side.

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Blot the fritters on a paper towel and serve piping hot!  This makes a great evening snack or a hearty side dish for a simple chicken dinner.

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Appetizers, Lifestyle

Party platters

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These past few days I have been going through all the pictures on my phone and daydreaming of traveling again, going out with friends again, and having house parties.  To be honest, I don’t know what I will do first once the SARS-COV2 lockdown lifts, but one thing I know is that I would love to entertain again.  As I was going through these pictures, I stumbled across pictures from a holiday party we hosted, last year, after Thanksgiving.  While I did get too caught up in the party to take pictures of the actual platters, I did have sketches from the way I decided to set up a Cheese Board and a Veggie Platter.  I often like to draw things out before I execute a design set-up.  I started this with my cake designs, and these are my first sketches for party platters.  It may seem unnecessary, but I firmly believe that you eat with your eyes first.  So, I like to have a plan–a plan that I can follow to a) decide how much food to buy, b) figure out dishes I will need to use and eventually wash, c) envision where the food will be placed around the house, and d) extrapolate what my guests will see once they walk in through the door.  Surprisingly,  taking an extra minute to plan it out really reduces the rush of putting food out “elegantly” when guests arrive.   I am not a party planner, but here is my little tip to make your next party platter, “party-ready”!

Appetizers, Savory

Steak Crostini, up-cycling leftovers

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A few nights ago, my husband grilled a delicious piece fo NY strip steak and we had a simple yet elegant dinner.  We had some steak leftover and I decided to make steak crostini, another simple and elegant way to re-use, or rather, up-cycle leftovers.  For this, you need a baguette and some tomatoes.  If you have store-bought onion jam, then you are ready to assemble.  I did not, so I quickly whipped up some balsamic onion jam.  Here is the recipe

Quick balsamic onion jam-small batch:

Ingredients:

1 small white onion, sliced thin

2 Tbsp of olive oil

1/4 tsp of salt

1/4 tsp of black pepper

1 tsp of sugar

1/s tsp of balsamic vinegar

A pinch of dried thyme

Method:

In a small skillet, heat oil on medium-high and add onions.  Immediately add salt and pepper, you want the salt to draw out the water from the onion so that they will soften quickly.  You are not trying to fry the onions, you want them to melt down.  This should take about 5-7 minutes.

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Saute till the onions are wilting and pale golden.  Add thyme and balsamic vinegar and reduce the heat to low.  Continue to cook the onions for an additional 10-15 minutes, till they are brown and jammy.

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Ingredients for the crostini:

Thinly sliced steak, I had about 14 slices

Day-old baguette, this too was a leftover–I sliced it into 14 pieces.  If you are using fresh bread, I would toast it light with a drizzle of olive oil.

Balsamic onion jam

Finely diced cherry tomatoes, you will need about 6-8 tomatoes.

Assembling the crostini:

Spread a little bit of the onion jam on a piece of bread.

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Top with a slice of steak.

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Garnish with cherry tomatoes

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Variations: Instead of the onion jam, you could go down the more traditional route with horseradish cream sauce.  A spicy romesco sauce would also taste delicious.  You could also top the crostini with fresh avocados as well.

However you choose to assemble the crostini, this is a wonderful way to recreate leftovers.  All you need is a glass of good red wine!

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Appetizers, Comfort food, Indian, Savory

Shortcut Samosas

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I have been trying to master this recipe for a while.  The filling is fairly easy and thanks to several skype conversations with my Mom, I think I nailed it.  But the dough is another issue altogether.  For some reason, making the dough to make the shell for samosas has been a battle.  I have also tried using pie dough and phyllo dough as substitutes, and it did not taste the same.  Recently, I saw a friend from college post a recipe for cocktail samosas and I got inspired.  She used vegan egg roll wrappers and they looked great on her website.  I tried it with my mother’s filling recipe and it was a great hit.  So, after many years of struggling, here is my shortcut recipe for samosas.

Ingredients:

2, 15oz can of diced potatoes

1, 12oz bag of frozen cauliflower florets

1 Tbsp of vegetable or canola oil

1/2 tsp of cumin seeds

1 Tbsp of minced or grated ginger

1 and 1/4 tsp of cumin powder

1 and 1/4 tsp of coriander powder

1 tsp of chili powder

1/4 tsp of cayenne powder

1/2 tsp of sugar

3/4 tsp of salt

1 package of egg-roll wraps (I used Nasoya)

Additional vegetable oil for frying

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Method:

In a deep skillet, heat oil and add in the cumin seeds.  Once they start to bubble-up, add in the veggies.

 

After about 5 minutes add all the spices, stir thoroughly, and continue to cook on medium-high heat.  You will need to stir the mixture often.

 

After about 10 minutes, you will notice that the veggies are very soft.  Now, as you stir, start mushing the veggies with the back of the spoon.  You want the mixture to resemble a paste.

Continue to mush and stir till the mixture starts to come off clean from the edges and bottom of te pan.  If you feel like the mixture is sticking to the skillet, reduce the heat and add a little bit more oil.

 

Cool the mixture to room temperature, before you start assembling the samosas.

Take one sheet of the egg-roll wrap and cut it down the middle.  You will notice that the wrap has a slight rectangular shape, so cut it along the “long” side.  Make sure the remaining wraps are tightly covered–if they dry out they will break during the folding process.

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Use the tip of your finger or a small pastry brush and brush the edges of the but egg-roll wrap with water.  the water will help the edges stick to one another during the folding process.

Take 1 tsp of the filling and place it in the bottom of the cut egg-roll wrap.

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Now, start folding from the bottom right-side, tucking the filling in.  You will want to fold it like a flag—neat and tight.  Refer to the pictures below.

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Once you have your samosa ready, you can either freeze them or proceed straight to the frying step.

 

Heat vegetable oil, on high, in a small pot.  I like to use a small sauce-pot so that I use less oil.  I fill the bottom 0.5 inches of the pot with vegetable oil.  You can use any oil that has a high smoke point.

 

Once the oil starts to smoke, reduce the heat to medium and let the oil cool slightly.  Then gently release the samosa into the oil.  Fry each side for about 30 seconds or until the shell is golden brown and puffed.  If the oil is too hot, the shells will burn immediately.

 

If the oil cools down too much, it will take longer for the shells to get golden and you will end up with soggy and greasy samosas.  You want the oil to be medium hot so that the frying process is quick!

 

Serve piping hot.  They are good as it is, but you can always have it with a chili dipping sauce or mint chutney.  I will not judge if you even use ketchup!

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Appetizers, Indian, Poultry, Savory

Murgh Kofta (Chicken Meatballs)

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This is a “house” recipe.  Traditional kofta has more ingredients and the recipe changes from country to country (India, Pakistan, Turkey etc.).  This version is packed with flavor, has only a few ingredients and can be whipped up in 30 minutes.  It is also a different way to use ground chicken which often goes on sale.  I like to make mini balls and have them with hummus, pita, and a garden salad.  You can certainly make larger patties and make it into a burger!  Here is the recipe.

Ingredients:

1 pound ground chicken

1 medium onion, grated directly on to the chicken (you want the juices from the onion)

1 tsp of minced garlic, minced ginger, chili powder, salt, and garam masala.

1 Tbsp of chopped parsley (this time, I did not have any, but I would highly recommend it)

1Tbsp of olive oil

Method:

  1. Mix all the ingredients in a bowl.  Don’t over mix–you will get hard koftas!

2. Heat oil in a pan.

3. Use a 0.5-inch ice-cream scoop to form mini chicken balls.  If you wet your palms before rolling, you will get smooth, round koftas!

4. Fry on medium-high heat till deep golden brown and cooked through.

5. Serve piping hot!!

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Appetizers, Gluten-free, Mexican, Savory

A fresh snack – Tomato Avocado Salsa

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I am obsessed with avocados! Sometimes I get sushi just for the avocados.  Just because it’s winter does not mean I am not going to eat something summery.  It is a really healthy snack and it goes great as a topping for tacos–look at my previous post for pulled pork tacos.

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You will need:

1 avocados, chopped

2 tomatoes chopped

1 jalapeno, minced

1 bunch of cilantro, chopped

Juice of 1 (or 2) limes

1tsp of cumin

1tsp of garlic powder

salt to taste

Mix, everything !!!

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I like to eat it by the spoonful, but for a more civilized take on it, you could include some chips to the party

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Appetizers, Classics, Fish & Seafood

Spanish Mussels with Chorizo and Tomato-Wine Sauce

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INGREDIENTS:

8 ounces chorizo sausage or turkey sausage, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces

3 shallots, finely chopped

1/2 tsp. Spanish smoked paprika

1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes

1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

3 garlic cloves, minced

4 tomatoes, seeded and chopped

3/4 cup white wine

A pinch of saffron

2 lb. fresh mussels, scrubbed

French bread, cut into slices, brushed with olive oil and grill

DIRECTIONS:

In a large sauté pan, cook the sausage with shallots and garlic till the shallots are pale golden.  Drain off most of the oil, reserving about 1 Tbsp.

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Add tomatoes, paprika, red pepper flakes and freshly ground black pepper. Cook till tomatoes soften.

Add mussels and wine and bring to boil. Lower heat, add a pinch of saffron and cover, cooking until the mussel shells have opened, about 6-8 minutes.

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With a ladle, serve mussels with sausage and sauce into a bowl. Discard any shells that have not opened.

Serve immediately with French bread for dipping.

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Enjoy!

Appetizers, Fish & Seafood, Lent

Coconut Shrimp

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A sweet, juicy tropical treat—perfect on  a cold gloomy day !

Ingredients:

10 cooked shrimp

¼ cup liquid egg whites

1 tsp of curry powder

½  tsp of ground ginger

1 tbsp of cornstarch

2/3 cup of ground almonds and sweetened coconut flakes

Salt and pepper to taste

Sweet chilli sauce for serving ( I like the trader joe’s brand)

Method:

Pat dry cooked shrimp

Toss with cornstarch, curry powder, ginger, salt and pepper

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Dip in egg and coat in almond and coconut flour mixture

Place on a cooling rack on top of a baking sheet

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Chill for 15-30mins

Preheat oven to 375

Bake for  10-15 mins till crust golden

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Serve hot with the sweet chilli sauce

 

 

Appetizers

Tarragon Shrimp Appetizers

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Tis the holiday season ! People will come and go and all I can think about is delicious food and baked goods.  I was putting up my christmas decorations and made this treat for myself.  This one bite appetizer is super easy and quick to whip up.  Elegant enough to entertain a crowd or to treat your own tummy on a cold night.  Might I suggest a glass of Pinot Grigio to go with it !

Ingredients:

1 lb of cooked shrimp ( you can use the frozen cocktail shrimp, just take the tails off)

1/2 Tbsp of olive oil

1 cup of finely chopped onions (use the frozen kind if you are in a time crunch)

1/2 Tbsp of finely minced garlic

2 Tbsp of Tomato paste

2 Tbsp of dried Tarragon

salt, pepper and red pepper flakes and a light squeeze of lemon juice– to taste.

Crackers to top with

Method:

In a pan, heat olive oil and saute garlic and onions till soft and fragrant.

Add in the tomato paste and cook for a min till the onions and tomatoes come together.

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Add the shrimp and tarragon and season with salt, pepper, red pepper flakes and lemon juice.

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Cook for a few minutes till all the ingredients come together.

Take off the heat and cool.

Top crackers with the shrimp and serve warm.

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Should you choose to turn it into a meal, toss the shrimp mixture with freshly cooked pasta and a dash of heavy cream and you have an elegant dinner !

Enjoy !

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Appetizers

Mini Vegetable Patties

Another way to get your kinds to eat vegetables.  If something looks deepfried and does not resemble vegetables, I have a feeling kids or even adults who behave like kids will eat it.  The beauty of this recipe is you can use any vegetables you like, I used cauliflower, carrots, turnips and beets.

Ingredients:

1 lb of frozen carrots and cauliflower

1 14oz can of beets.

Frozen, pureed turnips ( southland brand)

1/4 cup finely ground almonds

olive oil, salt, pepper, cumin and coriander–use accordingly.

Method:

In a blender, blend together all the vegetables, you might need to add some water to get the blender moving but the idea is that the whole vegetables will look like smushed baby food.

Pour the blended vegetable in a pot and cook it with salt, pepper, cumin and coriander, till all the water evaporates and the vegetables turn into a thick spreadable paste.  During this process, if the blend starts to stick to the bottom of the pan, add a little bit of olive oil and stir and scrape the bottom of the pan.

Cook till dry and has the consistency of thick peanut butter.

Let the mixture cool and in the meantime preheat the oven to 375F.

Once the mixture is cool, stir in the almonds and shape into mini patties.

Bake the patties till golden brown for about 20 mins.

Serve warm, with a side salad, or turn it into mini veggie sliders !