Tag Archives: jewelry party food

4 Effortless Yet Elegant Party Appetizers for Busy People

20 Dec Love that electric skillet!

I was recently invited to do a cooking demonstration at Nassau Community College (where my more usual role is as a full-time ESL lecturer in a language immersion program) for the Mom’s Club, a campus club for student-parents where they get support in their struggle to complete their college education while raising children and often simultaneously holding a full-time job!

So these are women who needed a fun mini-workshop that would include some nifty snacks, some honest conversation and maybe even a few ideas for inexpensive and easy appetizers they can easily prepare for their families. I think this line-up delivered.

All hands on deck!

All hands on deck!

It was a pleasure to cook for this small group — thanks to professors Beth Goering and Molly Phelps Ludmar for inviting me and also providing an electric skillet, bread and soft drinks.

Happy holidays ladies!

Happy holidays ladies!

Together — I put everyone to work, of course — we made Spanish-style garlic mushrooms, cilantro-sunflower seed pesto, black olive and walnut paste, and white cheese and red grape skewers. Everything was done within a half hour, so we had time to sit and eat, which is a rare treat for busy moms!

Not my best images ever, but you get the idea!

Not my best images ever, but you get the idea!

Here are the recipes:

White Cheese and Red Grapes (requires toothpicks!)

Cut Latin style white cheese into cubes about the size of the grapes. Skewer a single grape and a single cube of cheese onto each toothpick (this is a job kids love! and it keeps them busy while you are trying to do other things.) and arrange on a serving platter. The cubed cheese is the base.

Cilantro-Sunflower Seed Pesto (sunflower seeds are a terrific alternative to pine nuts or walnuts for those with nut allergies)

One bunch cilantro, rinsed and chopped (YES you can use the stems)

2-3-4-5 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed

1/2 Cup sunflower seeds (roasted and salted seeds add a lot of flavor)

Squeeze of freeze lemon

pinch of hot red pepper flakes (optional)

extra virgin olive oil

abundant grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana Padano or Locatelli cheese

salt to taste

Place cilantro, garlic, sunflower seeds, lemon, and optional pepper flakes in a food processor or blender and whirr until chopped. Add olive oil bit by bit (in a thin stream if you can pour while blending) until you achieve a thick paste. Add cheese to taste (start with about 1/4 Cup) and serve over pasta or as a spread for bruschetta, crackers or sliced bread.

For an easy basil pesto (my second grader makes it!) click here.

Black Olive and Walnut Paste (Tapenade)

1 can pitted black olives (or one cup good seedless black olives if you can afford them), drained indifferently

1/4 Cup walnuts (but add them Tbs by Tbs)

1 tsp capers drained indifferently

2-3 anchovies from a jar, rinsed and patted dry with a paper towel

leaves from 3-4 thyme sprigs

optional extra virgin olive oil

Place all ingredients (except optional olive oil) in a food processor and blend till smooth, adding olive oil as necessary. Serve as a spread for toast or crackers.

For another version heavier on the anchovies, click here.

Spanish style Garlic Mushrooms

2-3 Tbs extra virgin olive oil

3-4 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced

12 oz white or Cremini mushrooms, stems removed (and saved in the freezer for stock) and wiped clean with paper towel.

3 Tbs dry red wine (I took some mushrooms out at this point to accommodate someone who doesn’t consume alcohol)

1 Tbs chopped parsley

salt and pepper to taste

In a large pan, heat the oil until loose and fragrant. Lower heat to medium low garlic and cook gently until golden brown.

Add mushrooms and stir to coat., Allow to cook, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms start to brown deeply and release their juices. Add wine and raise hand eat to a fast simmer for about 5 minutes, until alcohol has cooked off but there is still liquid. Sprinkle with parsley salt and serve with crusty bread.

For a more complex version of these mushrooms that includes butter, click here.

Classic Tapas: Champiñones al ajillo (Mushrooms in Garlic)

22 Dec 2012-12-16 06.18.31

I have such good memories of Old Madrid, fragmented yellow afternoon light poking into the bar from the narrow street outside; standing at a stainless steel bar focused on stabbing mushrooms with a toothpick as they swam in garlicky sauce in a red clay cazuela, the peasant poetry of light red wine poured into a homely, stemless glass with a thick bottom,  crusty rounds of bread crumbling under your elbows. Nothing better to do than spend the summer evening exploring more windy streets and more interesting little appetizers.

Whether you’re preparing a cozy tête à tête with something light to nibble on,  looking for a simple vegetable dish to round out your appetizers or accompany a meat, seeking something to serve with the aperitif at your next cocktail party, or just want something a bit more befitting your station than Cheese Doodles to nosh on while you watch T.V. with a glass of something, look to Spain, and specifically to the iconic tapas: Champiñones al ajillo or mushrooms in garlic sauce, Spanish-style. Continue reading

We Make You Look Good: Mussels Vinaigrette, Spanish-Style Tapas, Party Snacks

24 Jul Spanish tapas: Mussels vinaigrette (make 'em the night before)

Some things are worth repeating.

Full disclosure: I have posted a close relative of this recipe before. That was a long time ago, the early days of this blog, and  this is slightly tweaked, plus the photos are new (since I made it again for a visit from my sister-in-law and niece).

Mussels Vinaigrette (make ahead!)

They are still the best damn mussels I have ever had and you should know about them, because they are also extremely easy to prepare and can be made the night before any big affair. (Washing out the shells takes a bit of time, but it is satisfying and mindless work that can be done while sipping a glass of something and chatting companionably with whomever is around).

Served cold and slurped right from the shell, they are a stupendous appetizer in looks and flavor. Want to impress? These are your bad boys.

Mejillones a la Vinagreta (Mussels Vinaigrette). Make Ahead!

(serves 4-6 as an appetizer. For more guests, double the mussels, but just half again of everything else)

1/2 cup olive oil

3 Tbsp red wine vinegar

heaping Tbs small capers

2 Tbsp minced red onion

1 Tbs minced roasted red peppers (you can also use jarred pimientos, the sweet kind)

1 Tbs minced parsley

pinch of salt and a grinding of black pepper

2 lbs mussels in their shells

1 slice lemon

Whisk the oil and vinegar together, then add the capers, onion, peppers, parsley, salt and pepper. Put the mix into a large freezer bag (if you need this dish to be portable)

Boil one cup of water in a big pot with the lemon slice. Add the mussels and bring to a boil, covered. Pluck out the mussels when they open (waiting until the meat separates completely from the shell into a little sausage shape and then pulling out immediately) and put in a separate bowl to cool. Discard any mussels that do not open after ten minutes. Remove the mussel meat and put into plastic bag with the seasonings and refrigerate.

Save half the mussels shells and clean well (this is the tedious part; make sure you have good music on). Put in a plastic bag and refrigerate.

To serve the next day, arrange shells on an attractive and large platter and put one mussel in each. Spoon the remaining seasoning over each.

Party Snacks: Stove-Top Toasted Garbanzos

22 Apr 2012 April meat grinder, san marzano, garbanzos 009

(Happy Earth Day, everyone! I am not trying to ignore it, nor am I not cooking at all at home, but I have had so many professional and personal events in the past week that I admit to not doing much new or innovative in the kitchen. I organized and moderated two events on campus; was the keynote speaker for an annual gala of the American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese, Metro NY chapter – what a terrific group of people!; — plus my teaching responsibilities; my son — we just went to a performance of Peter and the Wolf today in NYC and had to negotiate around the rain and the E line being nonoperational- ick!; the dictionary; which should be available this week as an e-book on Amazon and at the Apple store, more on that later;…in short, I have been up to my neck in it! However, I’ve always got something in my back pocket to tell you about, and here it is. Simple and basic, but delicious. And more excitement later in the week as I catch my breath!)

This is a nifty stove-top snack that is relatively — actually quite, very, absolutely – healthy. Except for the part where it gets addictive and people starting pulling the bowl towards themselves and not sharing (Yes, that was me). It can actually get kind of ugly…you might want individual little ramekins as a preventative measure.

Thanks to Beth for the inspiration and Ailish for the fearless cumin seasoning! I think you will like the Indian inflections in this one, but you could go completely Mediterranean as well.

For an oven-roasted version click here.

Stove-Top Toasted Garbanzo Snack

1 pint presoaked chick-peas*, patted dry (or a 28 oz. can of chick peas, rinsed, drained and patted dry)

generous gratings of salt and pepper (Mediterranean seasoned sea salt blend is really good here)

2 or more heaping Tbs cumin and garam masala (or other spice powder blend that you like)

Heat a heavy skillet on medium high until quite hot. Add chick peas and seasonings and toast until starting to scorch, , at least ten minutes, stirring or tossing very frequently. When toasted all around, adjust seasoning, pour into a bowl and serve as a party snack or accompaniment to cocktails (as you might serve peanuts) for two to four people.

*To soak garbanzos from dry to get a pint, rinse and pick over about 10 oz of dry. Place in a bowl with a tsp salt and abundant water (to cover by several inches). In the morning, change the water. In the afternoon, drain the chick peas and rinse. Place in a pot with water to cover, bring to a boil (scraping the foam off the top) and then simmer at a gentle bubble for an hour or until desired texture is reached. You will never get the same softness as canned, but is that what you really want?

Asian-Inflected Steak and Asparagus Bites

6 Feb 2012 banana bread, steak and asparagus 013

I was looking for organic steak at Fairway Market in Plainview – one of my favorite places to shop for higher-end yet still reasonably-priced staples like Spanish chorizo, olive oils, tomato in cans, organic eggs — but instead found an irresistible deal:  U.S.D.A. prime hanger steak for $6.99 a pound. The prime designation means a higher quality of steak with loads of marbling (yes, fat) and virtuous me didn’t stand a chance against cheapskate bloodthirsty carnivorous me, so I bought 1.5 lbs and started to plan.

My friend Ashley was coming over, so I knew I’d have some support staff for child care AND prep, so I chose to do something I’ve been hankering after for weeks: Asian-flavored steak with asparagus. It is just slightly labor-intensive, but a show-stopper and I really should have given it to you earlier as a Super Bowl option, but better late than never.

We did half the meat that night, after the little guy was down (with a belly full of pizza and a promise of steak the next day). Must confess, once the pretty pictures were taken, we heaped all of the bites haphazardly on a plate, each grabbed a fork, and fell in like starving raptors from the Cretaceous Period.

The rest – two small steaks — I cooked whole the following evening on the broiler at our friend, Pam’s, without the asparagus (Yes, Leandro got his!). They were just as tasty, but almost 24 hours in the marinade did leave them almost too tender. The following recipe can be jiggled; use the greater amount of asparagus if you want to do all of the steak in wraps.

Anyhooo, I will be doing these the next time I entertain. I hope you will too!

Asian steak and asparagus bites

(factor in minimum marinating time of 30 minutes)

3 cloves garlic, minced fine

2 inch of ginger, peeled indifferently, and grated (about 1.5 packed Tbs; add more to taste)

2 tsp sesame oil

2 Tbs rice vinegar

4 Tbs soy sauce

1 – 1.5 lbs hanger steak (or other fairly thin, tender boneless cut)

1 – 2 lbs asparagus spears, washed, woody stems snapped off, and chopped into 2-inch pieces

Mix all ingredients except meat in a plastic freezer bag or a bowl. Add steak, coat thoroughly and then refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 24 hours.

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Reserving marinade, slice marinated steak ACROSS THE GRAIN* into thin slices and then cut the slices into strips suitable for wrapping artfully or not so artfully around asparagus spears. Lay steak and asparagus bites onto an oven rack with a catch dish underneath. Pour remaining marinade over and salt to taste. Cook for 5 minutes on each side (7-8 for well done) and serve.

*Cutting steaks across the grain cuts through the fibers that hold the muscles together and shortens them so the meat can barely hold together, thus, tenderness. This is especially necessary with my favorite muscle-y cuts: skirt steak (churrasco), flank steak and hanger steak. When raw, you will see natural lines across the meat. Slice against them (at a 90° angle, if I have understood Kenji at Food Lab (Serious Eats) correctly).
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