Archive for the ‘Appetizers’ Category

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Ringing in the Year of the Pig with Crab Rangoon and other old favorites.

February 18, 2007

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Happy New Year! (Any excuse for revelry is OK by us – especially if you can wish folks a happy new year twice within months.) For the Chinese, and many other Asian cultures, today is the first day of the lunar calendar. In some parts of the world, this occasion will be met with great fanfare and festivity. Personally, we feasted on Peking Duck with friends last night. And this morning, we offer some more festive dishes: A few old favorites and a new one, Crab Rangoon.

OK, we admit it, crab rangoon is not a traditional dish. It’s likely unrecognizable to any devotee to Chinese food. Like meatballs to Italian-Americans, crab rangoon is a derivative dish that probably seeks to satisfy American palettes more than others (um, cream cheese, anyone?). And we further bastardized it by putting a spicy twist on it.

So why choose an inauthentic dish on this day? Because it’s a crowd pleaser – and if you don’t have crowds to please today, you may tomorrow or perhaps next Thursday. If you are looking for other dishes to make to celebrate the day, or at least add a bit of Asian flavor to your table, we also offer you a trio of our favorite old recipes.

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Sui Mai: This is a classic dim sum dish and Wife’s favorite. They’re dumplings filled with pork and shrimp.

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Potstickers: A family favorite filled with the intense flavors of beef, ginger and soy.

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Char Sui Bao: Our take on another classic dim sum dish. Filled with sweet pork swaddled in steamed bread, it’s truly delicious.

Click here to download the recipe for Crab Rangoon.

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Oh, how we are dreaming of summer… but until then there is Lobster and Beer Risotto.

February 8, 2007

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Risotto seems like it would be a humble food. It’s big, fat morsels of creamy rice stewed lovingly over some cooktop with a wooden spoon. But because it has a high-fallutin’ Italian name, it strikes me (and a lot of other diners) as a bit fancier than a mere side dish … This is why restaurants can get away with serving you a big bowl of risotto (um, that would be rice) as your entree.

Well, folks, if risotto is rice dressed up for a night on the town, my husband has just stuffed a wad of cash into its pockets and told it not to return before dawn.

Yes, those tell-tale red morsels of succelent sweet meat resting in the mounds of creamy risotto are indeed lobster. And that creamy and delicious sauce is made up of cheese, and yes, booze. Beer, to be precise. And then there’s a dollop of honey — just for sweetness.

Sound rich? Sound decadent? Sound delicious? Grab your fork… there’s no curfew tonight.

Click here to download the recipe for Lobster & Beer Risotto.

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Sombreros, the Super Bowl, and Sugar and Lard: the Road to Chicken Flautas!

January 30, 2007

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There are so many reasons to love Mexican/Southwestern food. The generous portions. The fact that refried beans come standard. The toppings: fresh salsa, sour cream, cheese. Guacamole (a reason unto itself). Pulled and stewed meats, cheese sauces, hot spices and fried things. The list goes on…

So when my husband declared that he was going to make flautas — my go-to order at all Mexican/Southwestern restaurants, I pulled on my sombrero, tucked in my napkin and readied my utensils.

Flautas are delicious. They combine the best of so many cooking methods: Slow cooked, pulled meat nestled inside a crispy, crunchy deep fried tortilla. You get that satisfying crunch and then a moist mouthful of well-cooked, juicy, shredded meat. Heaven. I like my flautas mounded with fresh ingredients like homemade salsa and guacamole, sour cream and cheese. All those fresh veggies have to make the fried object they’re obscuring healthy, right? Of course I’m right.

But could my husband pull this off? Were his culinary skills up to the task? My sombrero and I waited in breathless anticipation.

Not to worry… the flautas were more than edible; they were delicious. The technique is a bit tricky, only because the hot oil can easily dry the meat that you’ve worked so hard to season and stew. (I should know, being a flauta connisseur.) But after a few flauta soldiers perished (being merciful, I helped to finish them off), golden and delicious flautas began exiting the cook top.

Yes, you can have good Mexican food at home… now all that’s missing is the refried beans.

Click here to download the recipe for Chicken Flautas.

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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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