Category Archives: Appetizers

Blackeyed Pea, Corn and Mango Salsa with Homemade Chips

Blackeyed Pea, Corn and Mango Salsa with Homemade Chips

There’s nothing like a refreshing and hearty dip on a hot summer day.  I’m always looking for fun new ways of making salsas and dips that are not heavy and creamy.  The Caribbean side of my family love eating Pigeon Peas.  In fact it’s a staple of most Caribbean rice dishes.  Pigeon peas are hard to find fresh here and I have to go to specialty stores to get the canned version.  The closest cousin I have found to the Pigeon Pea is the Blackeyed Pea.  I love the texture and mild flavor of Blackeyed Peas.  The skin is not thick and it has an almost creamy mouth feel.  Perfect for a salsa. I used canned Blackeyed Peas and canned Corn in this salsa.  You can definitely use roasted fresh corn and pressure cook some Blackeyed peas.  Since this was one of many items I was cooking yesterday, I decided to just go with the canned.  It turned out great and saved me some time.  With the fresh ingredients, you don’t really notice that the peas and corn are canned. The heat from the chilies are nicely balanced with the sweetness of the Mangoes. Paired with fresh home-made BIG tortilla chips as a scoop, this salsa is “da bomb”!

Mix the dressing ingredients together (LOVE the Pomegranate vinegar)

Pour dressing over the dip ingredients and mix well before chilling in the fridge

Make large homemade tortilla chips

The extra large “scoops” are fantastic with this salsa

Blackeyed Pea and Corn Salsa

2 cans (14 oz) of Blackeyed Peas (rinsed and drained)

1 can (14 oz) sweet corn (rinsed and drained)

1 red bell pepper, diced

1/2 red onion, diced

1-2 Thai chilis, take the seeds out if you want it less spicy

1 jalapeno pepper, diced

1/2 bunch cilantro leaves, minced

15 or so green spanish olives, chopped

2 roma tomatoes, chopped

2 mangoes, diced

Dressing:

1/4 cup olive oil

zest and juice of one lime

1/2 cup pomegranate vinegar

fresh cracked pepper

1 tsp kosher salt

1/2 tsp dried oregano

1/2 tsp dried basil

2 tsp sugar or honey

In a large bowl place the washed and rinsed canned Blackeyed peas and corn.  Add all fresh chopped ingredients and toss lightly.  Mix together the dressing ingredients and pour over the dip and mix well.  Cover and refrigerate at least an hour before serving.  Great with large home made tortilla chips.

Homemade Tortilla Chips

12 inch uncooked (or cooked) flour tortilla chips

Oil for  frying

Cut the tortillas into fourths and fry in oil until golden brown, drain over paper towels.  Can be made a day ahead and stored in airtight container or zip lock bags before serving.

Chickpea, Radish, Cucumber and Pepper salad with herb vinaigrette

Chickpea, Radish, Cucumber and Pepper salad with herb vinaigrette

We eat a lot of chickpeas in South Asia.  In cooked food, in fried fritters, in sauces and especially salads.  I wanted a quick and easy salad with a little crunch and some protein in it so it could double as a filling lunch and not merely a side dish.  I loved how this salad came together.  Perfect for a summer Saturday after a killer workout!

Mix together the vinaigrette ingredients and whisk together

Thinly slice all the veggies

Let it sit for a few minutes before enjoying

Chickpea, Radish, Cucumber and Pepper salad with herb vinaigrette 

1 14 oz can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1 English cucumber, thinly sliced

4 radishes, thinly sliced

1 yellow bell pepper, thinly sliced

1 cup of sweet 100 cherry tomatoes, sliced in half

Vinaigrette

3 tbsp pomegranate vinegar

1 tbsp honey

lemon zest and juice of 1 lemon

1 tbsp fresh chopped dill

2 tbsp flat leafed parsley, chopped

1 tsp dried basil

1/4 cup olive oil

fresh cracked pepper

salt to taste

Whisk together all the ingredients of the vinaigrette until an emulsion forms.  Toss together all the salad ingredients and pour dressing over the vegetables.  Let it sit for a few minutes before eating!

Gorgonzola and Camembert Stuffed Artichokes

Gorgonzola and Camembert Stuffed Artichokes

Back in March when I started this blog, I had no idea what I was doing.  I still don’t.  But one of the fun things about blogging has been reading other blogs whether food related or not.  I’ve learned new things, added new foods to my repertoire and improved my culinary skills.  Who knew it would turn out to be so much fun?  One of the blogs I fell in love with has been Tasha’s Foodashion’s blog.   I saw  her post on artichokes and the gorgeous pictures and I was hooked.  I finally made a variation of her original recipe and I gotta tell you it was delicious.  Mine was not nearly as visually stunning as Tasha’s but we ate them up in record time!

Trim off the sharp edges with kitchen shears

Trimmed artichoke

Cook or steam them for about 25-30 minutes until tender

Take out the sharp middle leaves

Clean out the choke

Stuff liberally with filling and bake

Gorgonzola and Camembert Stuffed Artichokes

4 Fresh Artichokes

1/4 cup Gorgonzola cheese

1/4 cup Camembert cheese

1 cup panko bread crumbs

1/2 cup chopped flat leafed parsley

2 fresh garlic cloves, chopped

1/2 onion, minced

2 tbsp olive oil

1 lemon, zested and juiced

4-5 kalamata olives, finely chopped

Wash and trim the artichokes with kitchen shears.  Smash them down a little on your counter or cutting board (leafy side down) so they open up a bit like a flower and place them in a pan with water and lemon juice, (save the zest of the lemon in a separate bowl)and cook covered for about 25-30 minutes until tender.  Meanwhile assemble the stuffing.  Heat olive oil and saute the onion and the garlic together, add in kalamata olives and take off the heat.  Mix the cheeses with lemon zest, parsley and add to the onion mixture in a  small bowl.  When artichokes are cool enough to handle take out the middle part and clean out the “choke” with a spoon.  Divide the stuffing between all four artichokes making sure to stuff between leaves as well.  Bake at 425° for about 20-25 minutes. Cool slightly and dive into the gooey goodness!

It’s Chicken Satay time!

It’s Chicken Satay time!

I am doing a shout out to my former student “Nate”. He mentioned several times in class how much he loves to grill and I promised him some Indonesian/Thai inspired food…. so here it is Nate!! Not only are these Chicken Satays very quick and easy to do, they are high in flavor and low in fat.  Perfect accompaniment for our summer workouts.  (I should mention that we’re almost done with our first week of P90x and Insanity and I’ve lost 1 1/2 pounds so far….13 1/2 to go!).

I should mention that I always prefer to use chicken thighs over chicken breast because they have a lot more flavor and they are a lot cheaper too.  You can buy boneless, skinless chicken thighs or you can easily de-bone the chicken thighs at home.  All you need is a sharp knife and the ability to cut along the edges of the bone and you’re done!!

The secret to this dish of course is the sauce.  I love how this sauce turns out.  I could eat it by the spoonful but then I’d have to work out some more.  Please do use the Sweet Soy Sauce instead of the regular soy sauce.  If you must use regular soy sauce then choose the low sodium kind and use only 1/8 cup otherwise your sauce will be very salty.  This is great as an appetizer or a main dish served with Coconut Fried Rice and a fresh crunchy salad.  We also ate other veggies dipped in the sauce along with our chicken!

Place all the ingredients for the sauce directly into the pan and heat over medium heat

Divide the sauce, one for dipping and the other for basting!

Place chicken skewers on grill and cook for 6-8 minutes turning over once.

Baste during the grilling process with the sauce

Serve with the reserved sauce

Chicken Satay with peanut sauce

Chicken Satay

4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs cut into strips

1/2 cup natural peanut butter (or you can grind up some peanuts) – I like chunky

1/2 cup water

1/4 cup sweet soy sauce

3 tablespoons lemon juice

1 tablespoon honey

1 tablespoon firmly packed brown sugar

3/4 tsp ground ginger

1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

3 garlic cloves, minced

scallion, diced (for garnish)

In a saucepan place all ingredients except chicken and scallion.  Cook over medium heat until sauce is bubbly.  Take off heat and cool sauce.  Divide sauce into two parts.

Cut chicken into 1″ inch long strips and thread onto skewers.  If using bamboo skewers make sure you soak them before hand so they don’t burn and fall off.  Spray chicken with non-stick cooking spray and place on hot grill (about 300-350 degrees) cook for 6-10 minutes covered,  turning once.  Baste with half of the sauce (make sure the dipping portion is never in contact with the raw chicken) during the grilling process and serve with remaining sauce garnished with sliced scallions.   The sauce is also fantastic for dipping carrots, cucumbers and other fresh veggies as well.

Samosas – the quick and dirty version

Samosas – the quick and dirty version

Growing up, having Singharas and Samosas as “tea time” snacks were really common.  Because of the British influence, having “tea” at around 6:00 p.m. everyday was the norm and then dinner would follow about 8:30 – 9:00 p.m.  Tea time would usually include all manner of foods, including seasonal fruits, home made snacks, biscuits (cookies), Nimkis (savory home made chips), Singharas or Samosas and tea, of course.  Here’s the main difference between a Singhara and a Samosa.  Singharas are usually eaten in Bangladesh and in the West Bengal area of India. They have a crispy shell and although they are triangular in shape, they can “sit” upright.  Samosas also have a crispy shell but are flat and triangular.  The fillings can be as varied as the region and depends on the cook.  Some samosas sold street side as snacks have vegetarian fillings, some are beef or chicken while others are tiny and filled with caramelized onions.  Most samosas and singharas are served with a chutney or dip of some sort.  Usually a Cilantro Chutney or a Tamarind Chutney.

I used to try to avoid making samosas because they are time-consuming. They sure are delicious though and great to have as a treat.  I figured out a quick and dirty version of making samosas.  Most of the time is taken up in making the dough, rolling it out and shaping them since the filling is pretty fast to cook.  I started using tortillas as the shell and really liked how they turned out but they had a little difficulty staying together.  Then I discovered the uncooked tortillas.  They are sold at any Costco or even in Walmart (and several other grocery stores).  Uncooked tortillas are fantastic to use as the dough for samosas, empanadas and a myriad of other dishes.  By the way, I usually make a large batch and freeze them in ziplock bags.  That way all the up front work is done and when I have guests or need a quick appetizer, I can fry up a batch while they are still frozen and serve fresh and hot with some chutney.  Just add a couple of extra minutes when frying frozen samosas.   Here’s my quick and dirty version.

Saute onions, green chilies, cumin seeds and salt

Add turmeric and coriander powder before adding potatoes and green peas

Cook a few minutes until flavors are blended and peas are tender, add chopped cilantro at the very end

Use uncooked tortillas as the samosa dough

Cut 15 tortillas in half and make a paste out of flour and water

Place the cut tortilla on a cutting board with the round side facing you. Put some filling in the top right hand corner

Fold the right corner over the filling

Put some flour “paste” in a reverse v-shape on the dough

Fold the left side over to form a triangle (pressing down over the flour paste)

Flip the samosa over and push the filling up towards the top and place some more flour paste on the bottom of the triangle

Press the bottom flap into the body of the triangle and press firmly

Completed samosas (they can be frozen at this time or cooked immediately)

Shallow fry in oil and serve hot with Tamarind chutney

Samosas – The quick and dirty version

4 medium-sized potatoes, cooked and cubed

1/2 onion, chopped

2 green chillies, split in half

1/2 tsp cumin seeds

1/2 tsp coriander powder

1/2 tsp turmeric

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup frozen green peas

4 tbsp oil

15 uncooked tortillas

additional oil for frying

To make the paste:

1/2 cup flour

1/4- 1/8 cup water

In a medium skillet or frying pan, heat oil and saute onions, cumin seeds and chilies together until the cumin seeds begin to pop.  Add coriander powder, turmeric and salt and stir fry for a few minutes.  Add the potatoes and the green peas and cook about 4-5 minutes until peas are tender and everything well blended together.  Set aside.

In a small bowl make a paste out of the flour and water.  It should be thick and the consistency of a thick glue.  Cut tortillas in half.  Place the round side of the cut tortillas towards your body and place about 2 tbsp filling on the top right hand corner.  Fold right corner down and place flour paste in an inverted “v” on the dough.  Flip the left side of the dough over to form a triangle and press down over the paste to adhere.  Flip the triangle around and using your thumbs push in the filling towards the top tip of the triangle.  At the bottom of the triangle place some flour paste on the dough and fold it over and press to adhere.  Press your fingers along all the seams to make sure everything held together.  Place on a pan or platter.  When all the Samosas are done they can be frozen in a large zip lock bag for later use or fried immediately.  To fry, place oil in a medium size frying pan and heat to about 350 degrees.  Fry until golden brown and serve hot with Cilantro or Tamarind Chutney.  Makes 30 samosas

Cilantro Chutney

Cilantro Chutney

This is a fantastic sauce to have in your fridge.  You can put it on so many things.  It’s great with Spinach Pakoras, with eggs, as a veggie dip or even as a dressing.   It takes about 3 minutes to put together.  I really enjoyed it with the Tapioca and Potato Boras I made for The Great Leftover Challenge sponsored by Danny’s kitchen, a great blog that I enjoy reading.

All the ingredients that needs to be added to the Cilantro

Place everything in a blender and blend until smooth

Cilantro Chutney

Here’s the recipe:

Cilantro Chutney

1 bunch cilantro (with the stems cut off)

3 tbsp lemon juice

2 tbsp water

1 1/2 tsp oil

1 inch piece of fresh ginger

1 or 2 jalapeno chilies

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp salt

1 1/2 tsps sugar

Rough chop the cilantro and ginger.  Place everything in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth.  Serve immediately or can store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 weeks.

The Great Leftover Challenge

The Great Leftover Challenge

Remember the movie “field of dreams” and phrase “if you build it, they will come”?  Our house is kind of like that only its “if you cook it, they will come”.  Even now that we’re technically empty nesters, it is amazing how much volume of food is produced from my kitchen.  I try to be as resourceful as possible and judge how much to cook to minimize leftovers but they still happen and sometimes they are thrust upon you!  Earlier this week I inherited 10 baked potatoes.  I teach a women’s bible study on Tuesdays and women attend from all different places (and countries) and since it starts at 6 p.m. and many of us are coming straight from work, the women take turns in groups to bring dinner.  Since there over 50 of us, nobody has dinner responsibilities more than once.  We end up enjoying food from  different parts of the world.   It’s a great way to feed our bodies and minds!  This Tuesday some of the ladies created a baked potato bar and quite a few foil wrapped baked potatoes were left over.  I somehow ended up with them.  A couple of women even said, do something fun with it and post it on your blog.

Last night I stared at the baked potatoes and about 1/2 a cup of soaked Tapioca left over from another meal I’d recently made.  Bengali people love to smash things and call it chops or boras.  Smashing foods in the kitchen, I’m in!  I also remembered The Great Leftover Challenge from Danny’s Kitchen, I went to the computer to see if I’d missed the deadline (it’s today)  Here’s what I came up with:

Leftover baked potatoes and tapioca

Shred the potatoes and dump all the ingredients in

Make little patties

Fry until golden brown

Serve with a sauce or chutney and enjoy

Potato and Tapioca Bora

3 baked potatoes, shredded

1/2 cup or so of soaked Tapioca

handful of fresh cilantro, chopped

1 tsp approximately of cumin seeds

1/2 tsp coriander powder

1/2 tsp red chili powder

salt to taste

fresh ground pepper

3 green onions, chopped

2 cloves of garlic, I pressed it through a garlic press to make sure there were no big chunks

Oil for frying

Peel the potatoes and grate them.  Add all the other ingredients and shape them into little patties and fry them in some vegetable oil.  Make sure the oil is hot enough to fry quickly, should take about 4-5 minutes to fry a batch.  I used a little pan with some oil so I didn’t end up with a ton of leftover oil.  I thought about baking them but I knew that it would not have that crunch.  I made some Cilantro chutney as well to use as a sauce.

Thyme and Rosemary Edam Crackers

Thyme and Rosemary Edam Crackers

I enjoy finding bargains and especially food bargains.  Today on my grocery store run, I discovered some Edam cheese on sale for only  75 cents for an 8 ounce package.  I couldn’t pass up that deal so I decided to buy a few packages.  I really enjoy different kinds of cheese but Edam was fairly new to me so I decided to try it out.  I loved the soft texture and the medium flavor.  I decided that it would be great to try to make homemade crackers with them.  How hard could it be?  I’d made plain cheese crackers before and thought it would be nice to balance out the flavors of this cheese with some fresh herbs.  So, here it is, my little creation.  They were fantastic with some fresh salad that had D’Anjou pears in them.

Ingredients at a glance

Rub together the minced Thyme and Rosemary with the Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to release flavors

Cream the butter

Add the herbs and salt mixture along with the shredded Edam

After adding the flour and about a tablespoon of water a soft dough should form

Roll into a log and cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 30 minutes

Slice dough into about 1/4 inch thickness

Bake at 350 degrees for 22 minutes

Thyme and Rosemary Edam Crackers

It was awesome with some fresh salad.

Here’s the recipe:

Thyme and Rosemary Edam Crackers

1 stick unsalted butter at room temperature

1 cup shredded Edam cheese

1 tsp fresh Thyme, minced

1/2 tsp fresh Rosemary, minced

1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper

1/2 tsp Kosher Salt

1 tablespoon water (may take a little less or more)

1 1/4 cup flour

Mix together Rosemary and Thyme with the salt and pepper and rub it together to release the flavors.  Set aside.  In a mixing bowl cream the butter until smooth and add the cheese and the herb mixture.  Slowly add in flour and keep mixing at low speed.  If necessary use the tablespoon of water (may take a little more or less depending on the humidity) to make the dough come together.  Take out of the bowl and roll into a 9 inch log.  Wrap the log with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.  Prepare a cookie sheet with parchment paper or Silpat liner.  Using a very sharp knife cut the log into 1/4 or 3/8 inch slices.  Place on the prepared cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for about 20-22 minutes.  They should be a beautiful golden brown color.  Cool and enjoy as an appetizer or with any kind of salad.  They are wonderful with some D’Anjou pears sliced thinly on top as well.  Makes about 28 crackers.

Spanakopita ~ Greek Spinach Triangles

Spanakopita ~ Greek Spinach Triangles

One of the most vivid memories I have of visiting Greece as a teenager is the amazing food.  Everything tasted wonderful and different from foods that I was used to at that time.  I loved the pastries, the meats and the delicate flavors.  It’s during that trip that I began a serious love affair with Spanakopita, a crispy, delicate and delicious Spinach Pie.  I seriously could eat huge quantities of Spanakopita.  Every year in September, my city has a big Greek Festival.  I try to go annually to load up on Greek delicacies that I don’t have time to make.  For years I used to pig out on Spanakopita at the festival, when finally a few years ago I got smart.  I decided that I’d asked all of my Greek friends to give me their very best versions of Spanakopita recipes so I could try them all.  My friends were very helpful and passed on several recipes and over the last several years I’ve combined the things I liked from all of them to come up with this current recipe.  Some families like to make Spanakopita in a large pan and cut them into squares, while others prefer to make them into triangle shapes.  I love the versatility of the triangle shape since it’s so portable and because I can freeze them and bake them up individually (or a whole bunch) whenever I have a craving!

Ingredients at a glance

Saute the onions, garlic, herbs and kosher salt together

When the onions are tender, add the Spinach

Mix in eggs, cheeses and lemon juice to spinach mixture

Cover Fillo dough with a damp paper towel to keep it from drying out

Brush Fillo with melted butter

Cut buttered Fillo sheets into three equal strips

Place about 1 1/2 tablespoons of spinach mixture on the corner of one strip

Fold into a triangle

Fold it over on itself until it's a complete triangle

Place on a cookie sheet and brush with melted butter before baking

Bake at 400 degrees for 12 minutes

Here’s the recipe:

Spanakopita ~ Greek Spinach Triangles

1 box Fillo Dough

2 pounds frozen chopped Spinach (you can use fresh but in this recipe there is very little difference)

1/2 lemon, juiced

1/2 red onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

3 eggs, beaten

1 tsp oregano

2 tsp basil (I like to use fresh basil)

1 tsp dill

1 tsp fresh thyme, chopped (you can use dry thyme)

1 tsp kosher salt

5 stalks of Scallions

7 oz crumbled Feta

1/2 cup Ricotta

1/2 cup Cottage cheese

1/2 cup shredded Parmesan

3/4 lb (3 sticks) of unsalted butter

4 tablespoon olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Defrost Spinach and squeeze out all excess water and set aside.  In a large skillet heat olive oil and saute onions, scallions, garlic, salt and herbs.  After onions are tender, add Spinach to the mixture and stir fry for a few minutes.  Take off heat and pour it into a large bowl.  Add eggs, cheeses and lemon juice  to the Spinach mixture.  Stir to mix well.

Take out Fillo dough from package and put them on a cookie sheet and cover with a damp paper towel so they don’t dry out.  Melt 3 sticks of butter in a microwave safe bowl  and get a pastry brush.  Place a piece of Fillo dough on a large cutting board and brush it with melted butter, working quickly so the fillo doesn’t dry out, place another sheet on top and brush that with butter as well.  Repeat with three sheets of Fillo.  Using a pizza cutter, cut three equal long strips on the Fillo.  Place a large 1 1/2 tablespoon of spinach filling on the top of one of the strips and fold it at an angle so it forms a triangle.  Keep folding the triangle onto itself until all the filling is enclosed in a triangular shape.  Place it on a cookie sheet and brush the completed triangle with melted butter.  Repeat the procedure withe the other two strips.  Continue making triangles with three sheets of buttered Fillo at a time.  Should yield about 42-46 individual Spanakopitas.  Bake at 400 degrees for 12 minutes.  Serve warm.

Spinach Pakora

Spinach Pakora

16-20 fresh spinach leaves washed and dried well

1 cup of Besan (chick pea flour)

½ cup of rice flour

½ tsp  Hing or asafetida powder

1 tsp cumin powder

1 – 2 tsp chili powder (to taste)

½ tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp salt

¾ cup water

¼ tsp baking soda

Oil for deep frying

Mix together all dry ingredients and add water.  Batter should be the consistency of pancake batter with no lumps.

Heat a small pan with oil for deep frying.  Temperature should be about 350 degrees if you’re using a thermometer otherwise add a small drop of batter into the oil if it floats to the top fairly quickly, the oil is ready.  Use medium heat so oil does not start to smoke.  Dip spinach leaves one at a time into batter and scrape most of it off by dredging it along the side of the batter pan.  The leaf should be coated but not heavily covered.  Gently place into the hot oil.  Fry for about 2-3 minutes on each side until a nice golden brown color.  Take out of oil with a slotted spatula and place into a platter lined with paper towels to absorb extra oil.  Serve warm with tamarind or cilantro Chutney or even ranch dressing if desired.