Archive for the ‘Appetizers’ Category

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It’s paradise, mon: Seared scallops with meyer lemon vinaigrette

January 29, 2007

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Afraid of seafood, perhaps? Leery of a fishy smell and a strange, spongy texture? Fear not, friends. This scallop dish is here to seduce you.

Just as The Perfect Storm might have turned you off from seafaring, seared scallops with meyer lemon vinaigrette is the postcard from the Caribbean that will lure you back. It’s delicate and sweet. It tastes fresh and green and citrus-y… a surprising breath of spring in the midst of 20 degree weather here. Ahhh.

Tempting, right? Can’t you just picture curling up your toes in that white sand as warm blue waters lap at your feet? Don’t you just want to fork that scallop in?

This dish is successful for its alluring simplicity: It’s beautiful, and there isn’t much to it. A nest of fresh greens, sprinkled lightly with a lemony, zesty vinaigrette. One or two simply seared scallops, sweet and tender — perfectly seasoned — resting on top. There aren’t flavors at war or strong tastes to assault your mouth… it all tastes natural, fresh and delicious.

Come on now. Open wide. I’ll strike up the calypso band.

Click here to download the recipe for Seared Scallops w/ Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette.

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Wanna see your guests drool? Pancetta-Ricotta Crostini.

January 19, 2007

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Bacon, cheese, bread…. drool. Wait, don’t add drool.

But, honestly, it will be hard not to salivate over these particular hors d’ouerves. Just looking at images of these beauties is causing me to have to mop up my keyboard. One of the hazards of blogging about food, I guess.

It is a truism among all non-vegetarians that bacon — or in this case, pancetta — makes everything better. (Sort of like butter.) If that were a “theory” in science terms, this particular experiment would elevate it to a “law.” Like gravity.

I think these simple, bite-sized little offerings will be a hit at any party. They have a terrific crunch from the parmesan-seasoned toast points (or crostini), a tang from the bit of ricotta and basil filling, a sweetness from a carmelized onion and, of course, that unmistakable crispy, salty goodness of pancetta. Even guests with unfortunate overbites (such as myself), who normally avoid the embarrassment of attempting to chomp two-bite hors d’ouerves, will hazard taking discrete — oh, six or seven — helpings of this pancetta-ricotta crostini. (The trick? Try to jam the whole thing in at once and avoid conversation for the 30 seconds you’re noshing it. Feign fascination with the host’s house plants and photographs, and avoid all eye contact while your squirrel-like cheeks are filled with food. Works nearly every time. If interrupted, hold your hand up over your giant mouth and look apologetic. Repeat.)

The other great thing about these crostini? They make your house smell like good cooking… Come on: first caramelized onions and then frying bacon? Your guests will only have to be careful they don’t slip on their own drool. (Which really is the only drawback to this recipe.)

Enjoy!

Click here to download the recipe for these Pancetta-Ricotta Crostini.

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Potstickers: Crowd-pleasers, hunger-appeasers

January 17, 2007

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Like my husband, my parents love to cook. (Hence my, ahem, well-fed appearance.) And my parents love to cook for their parties. Nearly all of their dishes are a success, but there are, of course, a few standouts. Potstickers are one of them. Inevitably as the partygoers would wend their way around the buffet table, a bottleneck would result in front of the plate of delicious, artfully-wrapped beauties.

The result? More manual (and dirt cheap) labor on the part of my siblings and I to produce still more potstickers to satiate our ravenous guests.

My dear husband was a fixture at these parties, and could often be seen planted in front of the potstickers on the buffet table. He’d skillfully take a polite and restrained number of the delicious meat dumplings … and then swoop back in for seconds. Or thirds. Or fourths.

It was only a matter of time before the potsticker-lover (and soon to be family member) was drafted into the process of making them, too. Being an impassioned cook and eater, he quickly caught on and adapted the family recipe as his own. And now that he’s taken command of the kitchen, I’ve been released from my duties as potsticker wench (though I can still make a mean decorative ruffle in that wrapper). But one thing that hasn’t changed: The unabashed success of beef potstickers at parties. Or, frankly, their success at any event where satisfying hunger is the order of the day.

So, if you have a party — or just an empty belly — consider potstickers. They’re guaranteed to satisfy.

Click here to download the recipe for Potstickers.

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Spanakopita: The triangulation of feta, phyllo and spinach.

January 15, 2007

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Ah, the magic of finger foods.

Spanakopita is one of my favorites. Why? First, because it harnesses the luscious combination of spinach and feta. Those two kids were just made for each other. Second, because it deploys that tastiest of all store-bought pastries: phyllo dough. Who doesn’t succumb to the siren song of layers of buttery, crispy, paper-thin dough?

Better still, spanakopita is a crowd pleaser — ready to pulled out for any occasion where utensils are optional. Not only is it tasty, but those little Greek triangles look fairly impressive stacked up on your hors d’oerves table. Guests from carnivore to vegeterian will love the tang of feta meets spinach, and appreciate the subtle buttery crunch of the phyllo dough… the papery remnants of which they’ll lick, satisfied, off their lips.

I personally devour spanakopita, so it’s a good thing that it’s also so easy to make. Once you get your production line going, those little phyllo triangles will stack up like cars in DC traffic. Long a staple of my family’s party gatherings, my husband has turned his mad culinary skills to these little phyllo devils… with typical outstanding results. So, if you have a gathering where finger foods are the order of the day, try adding spanikopita to your lineup. Your tummy, and your guests’ tummies, will thank you.

Click here to download the recipe for Spanakoptia.

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It’s fennel slaw-tastic…

December 5, 2006

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Even the fiercest of us carnivores have to get our roughage in. And while I’m not a huge salad fan, I can be persuaded to chow down on some tossed veg, if the right ingredients are in the offing.

Enter the husband’s fennel slaw salad.

Pecans, carrots and fennel. An unexpected salad trinity perhaps, but quite tasty indeed. The fennel provides a delicious, crunchy bite, the carrots lend their sweetness, and the pecans add their nutty richness. Bathed in a dressing that contains the perfect mix of spicy, salty and sweet, it’s a refreshing entry point into any meal.

So, fellow meat-eaters, pick up your fork and get your veg on.

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Shrimp ‘n’ grits. Need I say more?

November 27, 2006

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For the uninitiated (are there any poor, deprived souls out there?), grits are good. And of course, shrimp is good. Therefore, shrimp and grits are really, really good. It makes perfect sense, and causes me to wonder why I didn’t do better on the damn logic portion of the GRE.

I had never had grits before I attended college in the South, and the school cafeteria didn’t really do them justice. It wasn’t until I ventured to order grits in a restaurant that I acquired a rabid taste for them. Now, I’m slowly eating my way through the (usually shrimp ‘n’) grits offerings at our favorite haunts.

But my husband here has just made it a little bit harder for those establishments: He has set the shrimp ‘n’ grits bar astonishingly high with his latest creation. His shrimp ‘n’ grits combines my favorite sauce for shrimp (spicy and Cajun) with creamy, delicious grits. And the two do play well together: The heat from the buttery cayenne-laced sauce infuses its goodness into the shrimp and veggies, and then mellows out when it hits the thick and creamy grits. If you have a crusty bread roll and a fork, you’ll be a happy camper.

Tuck in, folks. Tuck in.

Click here to download the recipe for Spicy Shrimp and Grits.

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Who “am I?” What was that? Oh, sui mai… mmm sui mai

November 8, 2006

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Dim sum good.

Lately I’ve been having extraordinary cravings for dim sum, and we’ve been hitting the “China Garden” in town an embarassing number of times. Luckily that place is always packed (they actually drop off tour buses full of Asian tourists there and it seats about 300 or more), so we’ve remained fairly incognito. (I’d hate to be called out by the hostess… “You again?”)

The real highlight of any dim sum venture is when that steam cart comes rollin’ on up. You gotta hit that thing… hard. Sui mai, haw gao, sharkfin, char sui bao and all that other good stuff. We put a hurt on that cart. If I’m really hungry, I’ll start pulling my grandpa’s favorite move — which is to refrain from all conversation and continously follow the steam cart with my eyes as it wends its way around the dining room — not unlike an eagle tracking its prey.

At these moments, I may fantasize: Wouldn’t it be great if that steam cart just rolled up to my mouth and dropped some dumplings off?

Well, folks, it has.

My husband has actually figured out how to make two of the best dim sum offerings — char sui bao and sui mai — right here in our own kitchen. Char sui bao is the subject of another post, however, so I’ll take this moment to wax poetic about his sui mai…. It’s perfect. It has that delicious mix of pork and shrimp, with just a hint of earthiness from the shitake mushrooms and a tiny whiff of ginger. Steamed to perfection, the dumplings have a really delicate, elegant air that belies their meaty goodness. The only thing missing is that strange red dot they put on top of the dumplings in restaurants. Contented sigh. What can I say? He’s pretty good, that husband of mine.

So, now I can eat dim sum on demand — and maybe I’ll only need to hit China Garden every other weekend.

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Eat this: Char sui bao

October 13, 2006

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I love Char Sui Bao. My wife has already made fun of me recently for my love of bread pudding, and I think she is just waiting to pounce on my obsession with A Southern Season’s Praline Pecans . Char Sui Bao also falls into that same category of “food I can eat even when stuffed.” Thankfully, because we are having a family bonzana fun time with both sets of parents and a good number of siblings here in DC this weekend, I got to put up this post without her lovely intro.

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Tater tot salad battle!

September 11, 2006

Tater tot saladHusband’s tater-tot salad (above) squares off against wife’s (below).

Tater tot salad

Just to throw off any regular readers we might have… my husband is going to start off the commentary on this post (so, no, I’m not referring to myself in the third person):

My wife and I went to the wedding of a very dear friend not long ago. On the day we were returning home, we were sitting in a restaurant discussing food with our friends. This was a barbeque joint, so the topic was not haute cuisine or even the fancy places we had gone recently for my birthday. Instead, the discussion settled on my wife’s secret obsession — tater tots. (Wife: It’s not a secret. I’ll shout my love for tater tots from the hills, thank you very much.)

I say obsession because it’s not an unusual occurrence over the years for my wife to turn to me and say, “You know… I could really go for some tater tots right now.” I like them, but I could say that until this project, I had never bought them in my entire life. So most of her requests were met with me rolling my eyes.

Therefore, when the discussion of tater tots reached a glowing stage at the restaurant, I was rather amused. I can’t remember who said it first, but the words “someone should invent tater tot salad….” were uttered. My wife and I looked at each other and agreed. We would heed that call.

The story now turns a corner. My wife decided to change it up: “I” won’t invent the tater tot salad, “she” won’t invent tater tot salad, and “we” won’t invent tater tot salad. No, we would enter into an Iron Chef style death match! We were quickly off honing our thoughts and ideas.

The results are hers to describe, but let’s just say that her tater tot salad was awesome. If she says anything otherwise, she’s being overly modest. Also, these recipes are dedicated to our good friends Toby, Andrea and Mark for their truly inspiring idea.

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