Tag Archives: appetizers

Almost Instant Bruschetta (Quickie tomato spread)

18 Oct

Got a tomato and some day-old bread?

Swirl around to soften and Bob's your uncle!

Swirl around to soften and Bob’s your uncle!

Use it up deliciously and look fab doing it.

A lovely way to start a meal (or grate some cheese over and call it a movie snack)

A lovely way to start a meal (or grate some cheese over and call it a movie snack)

Ingredients:

1 tsp extra virgin olive oil (plus more for drizzling)

A few ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped

1 or two cloves garlic minced

Day-old bread, sliced and lightly toasted

Salt to taste

Directions:

Heat oil in a skillet. Toss in tomatoes and garlic and stir around at medium until skins begin to separate. Spread on toasts. Sprinkle with salt. Serve.

Glow!

Glow!

Three Easy and Elegant Tapas for Your Holiday Table

15 Dec

Continue reading

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

24 Jul

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.

Marinated Mini-Mozzarella Balls (Summer Buffet Dish)

4 Jul

Southern Italy has had a great influence on the population of the South Shore of Long Island. That means there are a number of stores here which make their own mozzarella. It is heavenly stuff; soft, milky, barely salted, and, if you get to Fairway, AS Pork Store or Uncle Giuseppe’s at the right time, it will still be warm.

No, it isn’t mozzarella di bufalá, the rich Italian water buffalo cheese that makes insalata caprese that much more delicious, but which is only available imported (that I know of). This is strictly cow’s milk – but what it lacks in texture and complexity, it makes up for in freshness and simple comfort.

And, you can always dress it up. Small mozzarella balls in their liquid can be purchased and made more interesting in a flash when drained and dolloped with your preferred pesto. Or you can try something a bit more adventurous and a lot more impressive (but still easy as all get-out).

Pay an extra dollar or much more a pound for pre-marinated ciliegi or try this! My version is fast and easy and has a lot going on, certainly worth the extra five minutes it takes to prep. It also looks quite beautiful. Summer buffets really light up with bright and colorful presentation ( I mean, I love potato salad, macaroni salad and cole slaw, but the range of colors often leaves a lot to be desired!)

If you can only find prepackaged mozzarella balls, use them! No sense denying yourself these great flavors just because you can’t get the fresh stuff. It will be fun and beautiful just the same!

 

Perfect for a summer buffet

Marinated Mozzarella Balls (spicy)

1 lb fresh mini-mozzarella balls, drained (about 2 cups). Sometimes called ciliegi meaning “cherry”

¼ Cup extra virgin olive oil

2 Tbs finely chopped sundried tomatoes in oil, drained a bit

1 Tbs each fresh parsley, oregano, basil (or your choice of Italian herbs)

1/2 cup grape/cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered

1/8 tsp hot red pepper flakes (if desired)

1 Tbs fresh squeezed lemon juice

Salt to taste (only if mozzarella balls are unsalted)

In a bowl, add olive oil to mozzarella balls and stir to coat. Add all other ingredients and mix thoroughly. Marinate, covered, at room temperature for at least one hour before serving. I find that the texture of the fresh mozzarella toughens over time, so for softest texture, don’t prepare more than two hours ahead. It still makes good leftovers though!

Tapas 2: The Best Mussels EVER (party snacks to make ahead!)

18 Dec

Mejillones a la vinagreta must be made the night before and then assembled just before serving. Enlist the help of your guests – those lovely kitchen elves who want to keep busy while watching you cook.

I love seafood and I especially love mussels. And I especially, especially love mussel dishes that force people to use their hands and slurp – there is no better ice breaker than perilous food, particularly if eaten standing up while simultaneously holding a beverage. Conversation among complete strangers is virtually guaranteed.

Also, mussels are simple. You just need to pull them out of the pot as soon as they open (so babysitting the cooking is required on this one for about ten minutes) so they don’t get chewy. This means TONGS are crucial (although I have been known to use my fingers to pluck them out in extremis).

These mussels are inspired by Spanish cuisine maven Penelope Casas. You make them the night before and then dish them into the reserved shells before serving. Crusty bread for dipping is critical.

Mussels (Mejillones) a la Vinagreta

1/2 cup olive oil

3 Tbsp red wine vinegar

heaping Tbs small capers

2 Tbsp minced red onion

1 Tbs minced pimiento (I prefer roasted red peppers, but I inadvertently bought sweet red peppers in a jar and the resulting tanginess worked out just fine)

1 Tbs minced parsley

pinch of salt and a grinding of black pepper

2-4 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.

Serve with a dry sparkling white (like Spanish cava or prosecco – your more economical options) or a sauvignon blanc from New Zealand, or if you are lucky/geographically able, a Long Island sauvignon blanc from Paumanok or Jamesport Vineyards.

*NB: Mussels should be bought the day of or the day before making. Buy them in net bags (not wrapped in plastic) from a reputable vendor who moves a lot of product and SNIFF THEM! If they smell faintly briny and sweet, they are good. If they smell funky or of ammonia or anything that makes you wonder, then don’t buy them! Do not be afraid to ask for a different bag after sniffing; a fishmonger will only respect you the more for knowing your shellfish.

At home, store in a nonreactive bowl in the fridge, covered with a damp towel.

These days mussels from stores are pretty clean. You must still wash them in cold water and tug out any weirdy-beardies sticking out from the shell. While you wash, discard any mussels that are cracked or are open and won’t close back up if pressed together.

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