Tag Archives: appetizer

Prosciutto, Fennel, Mint Rolls – a different kind of Spring Roll

prosciutto rolls tastefood These Italian-inspired rolls are bursting with fresh spring ingredients, including baby fennel, mint, and lemon. In method, they are inspired by Vietnamese rice paper spring rolls, where fresh vegetables are wrapped in a sheet of rice paper and served raw. In this appetizer, prosciutto replaces the rice paper as the wrap, adding a salty savory component to the crisp vegetables and piquant Parmesan. Serve these rolls as a bright appetizer. You can prepare them up to 4 hours in advance – lightly brush the rolls with oil, then cover with plastic and refrigerate. Let stand at room temperature for about 15 minutes before serving.

Prosciutto Rolls with Arugula, Fennel and Mint
Makes 16

8 slices prosiutto, halved lengthwise
Extra-virgin olive oil
Finely grated lemon zest
Freshly ground black pepper
2 cups baby arugula leaves
1 medium fennel bulb, core and fronds removed, halved lengthwise, each half thinly sliced lengthwise
4 ounces Parmesan cheese, shaved
16 mint leaves

Place a slice of prosciutto on a work surface, short end closest to you. Lightly brush with olive oil. Sprinkle with a pinch of lemon zest and freshly ground black pepper. Arrange 4 to 6 arugula leaves horizontally at the base. Place a few slices of fennel and Parmesan shavings over the arugula. Top with a mint leaf. Roll up from the base, tucking the prosciutto tightly around the vegetables, and continue to roll, placing 1 or 2 additional arugula leaves in the fold as you roll up. Place seam side down on a platter. Repeat with remaining ingredients.

Cheddar and Horseradish Potato Poppers

potato poppers tastefood

I was tempted to give you a recipe for a deflated cheese soufflé for the upcoming Superbowl, but decided to rise above deflategate and make these little poppers instead. Twice baked mini-potato poppers are a great appetizer to enjoy while watching the big football game. While they are a little time consuming to make, they can easily be prepared in advance then popped into the oven at the last minute.

Cheddar and Horseradish Potato Poppers

Something tells me that crispy bacon bits would be a great extra addition to the filling…. just saying. If you agree, then consider mixing a small handful of rendered bacon bits into the potato filling, or sprinkle on top in place of the thyme.

Makes 20; serves 4 to 6

20 round small potatoes, about 1 1/2 inches in diameter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup sour cream or whole milk Greek yogurt
1/4 cup finely grated Cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1 to 2 tablespoons finely grated fresh horseradish
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
Fresh thyme leaves

Heat the oven to 425°F.
Trim the potatoes: Slice a small tip off of each potato to create a flat bottom for the potatoes to stand without rolling or tilting. Slice about 1/4 off of the tops and discard the tops. Place the potatoes in a bowl with the oil and toss to coat. Arrange on a parchment lined baking sheet, cut-side down. Bake until tender, about 30 minutes. Remove and cool slightly.
Using a teaspoon, scoop out the centers of the potatoes without piercing the bottoms. Place the potato flesh, garlic, sour cream, cheddar cheese, butter, horseradish, salt, and pepper in a bowl. Using a fork, mash until well combined. Carefully spoon the filling back into the potato shells, mounding the stuffing. Arrange the potatoes, stuffed-side up, on a baking sheet. (The potatoes may be prepared up to 2 hours in advance to this point. Cover and refrigerate, then let stand at room temperature 15 minutes before continuing).
Sprinkle the Parmigiano over the potatoes, then transfer the potatoes to the oven and broil until the cheese is melted and golden, about 2 minutes. Serve warm, garnished with thyme.

Roasted Carrot, Chickpea and Harissa Hummus

carrot hummus tastefoodHealthy Party Appetizer: Roasted Carrot, Chickpea and Harissa Hummus

I have had my sights on making a carrot hummus for a while. My friend Steve over at Oui Chef got me thinking about a spicy variation of the chickpea hummus when he posted a tantalizing recipe on his blog inspired by theKitchn. Now that the holidays are *almost* behind us, I find myself with some welcome free time to dabble in the kitchen – plus I have to bring an appetizer to a party tonight, so I decided to make a rendition of carrot hummus. A carrot hummus, you say? Picture you’re favorite Middle Eastern hummus, a blend of chickpeas, tahini, garlic and lemon. Then send it further west to North Africa, picking up a few ingredients along the way: carrots, coriander, mint, and the oh-so special harissa, a fiery red chile paste. The result is a vibrant and zesty hummus, with a kick of heat and a gentle perfume of spice. A shower of chopped pistachios and chopped mint finish this dip, ensuring freshness and satisfying crunch while topping this healthy party dip with a festive crown.

Roasted Carrot, Chickpea and Harissa Hummus
Makes about 2 cups

Carrots:
3/4 pound carrots, peeled, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Hummus:
1 (15 ounce) can chick peas, drained and rinsed
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons tahini
2 tablespoons harissa
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus extra for garnish
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander

Garnish:
1/4 cup coarsely chopped shelled pistachios
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, chopped

1. Heat the oven to 400°F. Place the carrots in a small baking dish. Add the oil, salt, cumin, and black pepper and stir to coat. Roast in the oven until the carrots are tender, 25 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove and cool slightly.
2. Transfer the carrots and any pan juices to the bowl of a food processor. Add the remaining dip ingredients and process until smooth. If too thick, add additional olive oil or warm water. Taste for seasoning.
3. Serve in a bowl, garnished with the pistachios, mint, and extra black pepper

Healthy Holiday Appetizers: Smoked Salmon Kale Wraps

kale salmon tf

Here is a healthy gluten-free appetizer that’s perfect for holiday entertaining . I can’t get enough of these wraps, and neither can my guests. Not only are they delicious, they are pretty to look at. Crisp kale leaves are stuffed with a delicious salad of warm-smoked salmon, lemon and dill. Thanks to the sturdiness of the kale leaves, they can be assembled in advance. I recommend making an extra batch of the salmon salad, because it’s that good.

Smoked Salmon Kale Wraps
The narrowest parts of the kale leaves work best for these wraps.

Makes 24 to 30

12 ounces warm smoked salmon, flaked
1/4 cup whole milk Greek yogurt
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
1 tablespoon capers, rinsed and chopped
1/2 teaspoon Tabasco
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
1/4 cup minced chives
8 to 10 lacinato (Tuscan) kale leaves

1 lemon, halved
Fresh dill sprigs for garnish

Combine the salmon, yogurt, lemon juice, red onion, capers, and Tabasco in a bowl. Stir with a fork to blend. Add the salt and black pepper and taste for seasoning. Fold in the chopped dill and the chives.

Cut the kale leaves crosswise into 2 inch pieces. Place 2 to 3 teaspoons salmon salad in the center of the leaves and fold the leaves around the salmon, pressing gently to hold in place. Repeat with remaining kale leaves. Arrange the wraps on a serving platter. Sprinkle with lemon juice and garnish with dill sprigs.

Green Olive and Almond Tapenade

green olive tapenade tastefood

Posted by Lynda Balslev

This is a recipe in my Almond book. I prepared this tapenade for each of the book signings I went to, and it was very popular. And now that it’s the official start to summer, I share this recipe with you. Salty, nutty, and seriously addictive, this tapenade is a perfect summer appetizer, spooned over bread or crostini. It’s also a great condiment, sprinkled over pizzas, salads or grilled fish. If you can, enjoy it with a glass of dry rosé for a heavenly pairing.

Green Olive and Almond Tapenade
from Almonds – Recipes, History, Culture (Gibbs Smith 2014)

Makes about 2 1/2 cups

1/2 cup raw almonds, toasted
2 cups pitted green olives
3 anchovies in oil, drained
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon capers, rinsed, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Place the almonds in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse a few times to coarsely chop. Add the remaining ingredients and process to a coarse paste. Refrigerate for at least one hour to allow the flavors to develop. The tapenade may be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.

Bloody Mary Gazpacho with Shrimp

bloody mary gazpacho tastefood

Posted by Lynda Balslev

This chilled and refreshing summer soup is spiced with all of the necessary accoutrements for a great Bloody Mary, minus the vodka. (Of course, who says you can’t add a splash of spirits for an adult appetizer?) So, depending on your mood, the time of day – and your age – you might call this a spicy gazpacho, an inspired shrimp cocktail, or even a substantial bloody mary, heavy on the garnishes. Serve for brunch or lunch, or in small glasses as a party starter.

Bloody Mary Gazpacho with Shrimp
Serves 4 to 6

4 cups tomato juice
3 medium vine-ripened tomatoes, seeded, cut into 1/4-inch dice
2 celery stalks, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 English cucumber, seeded, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 small red bell pepper, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 small red onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 to 2 teaspoons prepared horseradish
1 teaspoon Tabasco
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup chopped celery leaves

Optional garnishes:
Celery stalks
Italian Parsley stalks
1 pound large (15/20) shrimp, deveined and shelled with tails intact, cooked and chilled
Splash(es) of vodka

Combine all of the gazpacho ingredients in a bowl and stir to combine. Taste for seasoning and adjust to taste. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour and up to 4 hours to let the flavors develop. Serve in bowls or cups. Garnish with celery, parsley and shrimp if using. For an adult version, stir in a splash of vodka.

Tomato Bruschetta

tomato bruschetta tastefood

Posted by Lynda Balslev

When I make tomato bruschetta, my family always says, “Summer food!” And so it is – especially when it’s made on the grill. Everything happens on our grill year round, I mean, during the summer. For this recipe slices of baguette get all toasty and charred on the Weber. Believe me, it’s worth the step for the flavor and saves you from the heat of the oven broiler. The grilled bread is then smothered with fresh chopped tomatoes infused with fresh basil from the garden, garlic and a glugg of olive oil. So simple, so good. If you could have summer in a mouthful, this would be it.

Tomato Bruschetta

I like the rustic presentation of halved baguette sections. Alternatively, slice the baguette on the diagonal 1/2-inch thick. Serves 4 to 6.

1 1/2 pounds vine ripened tomatoes
3 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup basil leaves, torn in small pieces
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 baguette

Cut each tomato in half, and scoop out the juices and seeds with your fingers or a small spoon. Cut the tomatoes into 1/4-inch dice and place in a bowl. Add 1 minced garlic clove, the olive oil, basil, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Gently stir to combine and taste for seasoning. If you don’t have super sweet tomatoes yet, a pinch of sugar may be added.

Cut the baguette crosswise into 3-inch sections. Halve each section lengthwise.
Grill the bread slices until toasted, turning once. Arrange on a platter cut-side up. Peel 2 garlic cloves and slightly crush with a knife. Rub the garlic cloves over the bread.

Crispy Prosciutto

Crispy Parma tastefood

Do you like crispy bacon? Then try making crispy prosciutto. Oven baking slices of prosciutto (or any other dry cured ham) transforms supple ham slices into crunchy shards ready for munching or crumbling over salads, soups, pastas and vegetables. Baking dehydrates the meat, concentrating its flavor and intensifying its saltiness while cooking off excess fat. The resulting wizened slivers of dried pork add a punch of flavor to almost anything and taste great as simple finger food. I call these salty snippets crack-croutons because they are highly addictive and intensely flavorful. 

Crispy Parma Slices Lynda Balslev

Oven baking is a great way to use up any leftover parma, coppa or prosciutto in your fridge – if you’re lucky enough to have leftovers. If not, the method is so easy and quick it justifies shopping for a whole package to open and pop into the oven. And you don’t have to spring for the expensive stuff – any thinly sliced dry cured ham will do. I often use German prosciutto from Trader Joe’s that’s half the price of the Italian equivalent. 

crispy parma cru Lynda Balslev

To crisp the ham, arrange the slices in one layer, without overlapping, on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake in a 350°F oven for 15 minutes, then turn off the heat and let the ham stay in the oven for another 10 minutes. Remove and cool, then break into shards. The crispy ham will keep in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to one week – but I promise it will be long gone by then.

Five ways to use crispy prosciutto:
1. Scatter over mixed salads.
2. Sprinkle over creamy soups and chowders.
3. Garnish eggs and frittatas.
4. Crumble the shards and use to season cooked vegetables.
4. Add to cheesy pasta dishes and homemade pizzas before serving.

Crispy Duck Banh Mi Sliders

Duck Sliders tastefood

In our multi-national family with previous addresses in 4 countries, we’ve adopted a hodge-podge of cultural traditions that we call our own when it comes to Christmas. In Danish style, we celebrate with a big dinner on the 24th, when we light live candles on our Christmas tree. The meal often includes duck and beef, surrounded by French favorites such as Pommes Dauphinoise and a climactic Buche de Noel. The 25th is decidedly more low key, perhaps with a foray into Chinatown for dim sum, or a lazy day of leftovers, smoked salmon and cheese. Luckily there is always some duck left over from the night before, which I stash in the back of the refrigerator for a more Asian inspired meal on the 26th or 27th. Duck reheats beautifully with a little help from some of it’s rendered fat, and when shredded it’s happily reinvented into spicy lettuce cups – or banh mi.

Shredded Crispy Duck Banh Mi Sliders with Pickled Carrot Radish Slaw and Spicy Aioli

These sliders are a firework of flavors and sensations. Shredded duck coated with a sweet and salty Sriracha glaze and crisped in the oven until caramelized is layered with creamy garlicky aioli, piquant veggie slaw, fresh cucumber and jalapeno heat. Here’s a recipe where you can use up any shredded duck meat, and if you don’t have any leftover duck lurking in your refrigerator, purchase duck legs confit and shred those for a luxurious step.

Slaw:
1 large carrot, cut in matchsticks
1 (4-inch) piece daikon radish, cut in matchsticks
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

Spicy Aioli:
½ cup mayonniase
1 small garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons Sriracha or Asian hot sauce

Duck:
8 ounces cooked and shredded duck leg meat (or confit)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon vegetable oil (or rendered duck fat)
1 tablespoon Sriracha or Asian hot sauce
½ teaspoon ground coriander

6 French-style dinner rolls or slider buns, halved crosswise
½ English cucumber, thinly sliced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded, thinly sliced
1 cup fresh cilantro sprigs
Lime wedges

Make the slaw:
Place the carrot and daikon in a bowl. Sprinkle the sugar and salt over the vegetables, then rub with your fingertips until vegetables soften, about 1 minute. Add the vinegar and lime juice and stir to combine. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Make the aioli:
Whisk all of the ingredients in a small bowl. Chill until use.

Make the duck:
Preheat the oven to 450°F. Place the duck in a small baking dish. Whisk the soy sauce, sugar, oil, Sriracha and coriander in a small bowl. Pour over the duck and mix to thoroughly coat. Bake in the top third of the oven until crisp and caramelized in parts, about 10 minutes, stirring once or twice.

Assemble sliders:
Spread 1 to 2 teaspoons aioli on bottom bun half. Top with a layer of cucumber and then a mound of the carrot and daikon slaw. Top the slaw with shredded duck. Arrange jalapeno slices over the duck and top with cilantro sprigs. Spread another teaspoon of aioli on the top bun half. Repeat with remaining buns. Serve with lime wedges.

Prosciutto Wrapped Dates Stuffed with Goat Cheese

parma date tastefood

Are you having a last minute holiday panic attack? You have the turkey brined, the potatoes smashed, the cranberries sauced, and 4 sorts of vegetables cleaned. But…what if you don’t have enough? (Of course you do). If you are like me, the  last hours of party prep often include last minute additions to the menu – just in case someone, heaven forbid, should waddle, I mean walk, away from the table still hungry.

Such was the inspiration for these stuffed dates. I added them to my holiday menu in a sudden moment of panic (maybe 3 appetizers were not enough!) I had all the ingredients on hand: goat cheese for the cheeseboard, dates to accompany the cheese, rosemary in the garden, and Proscitto, a permanent staple in my refrigerator. Prosciutto is easy to store and ready to pull out for charcuterie boards, draping over pizza, and layering into salads. I love it as is or baked in the oven where it crisps, waiting to be snapped into shards and sprinkled over pasta, soups and salads. For these appetizers, the prosciutto wrapped up the dates, sealing in the filling and creating tidy flavor-packed nuggets – sweet, salty and creamy at once. They were easily assembled one day in advance, simply needing a quick bake to crisp the ham and amplify its saltiness, providing a perfect foil to the sugary dates and mild goat cheese.

Parma Wrapped Dates Stuffed with Goat Cheese

Makes 12 to 16, depending on the size of the dates

5 ounces mild soft goat cheese
1 teaspoon finely minced rosemary leaves
1/2 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
12 to 16 medjool dates
8 slices Parma ham, halved lengthwise

Preheat oven to 375°F (190C). Combine the goat cheese, rosemary, orange zest, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Mix with a fork to soften and combine.
Make a small incision in the dates lengthwise and remove the pits. Using a teaspoon or your fingers, fill the cavities of the dates with the goat cheese. Wrap each date with a strip of Parma ham. Place seam-side down on a baking sheet. Bake until the ham is slightly golden, about 15 minutes, turning once. Transfer to a serving plate and cool slightly. Garnish with rosemary sprigs. Serve warm.