Archive for the ‘Appetizers’ Category

Spring is here which means that bikini season is only 8 short weeks away. I know, that’s awful to say, but working in an industry filled with women, I here all kinds of things about the need for dieting or the need to “lose a few” before the summer. I myself will not be sporting a new bikini this year – the children would certainly be afraid – but I am always up for substituting the unhealthy with something equally tasty and 100X healthier.

Kale is a winter vegetable, but thanks to the age of modern farming, we have access to beautiful kale leaves year round. I mentioned in my braised kale post the vast health benefits fresh kale greens can have. Perhaps the idea of braising greens scared some people away because that post did not receive much attention. But ever the vigilant writer, I wanted to post a second way to use kale that I hope more people will try and embrace. Don’t let the name fool you, there is no frying involved in this recipe. Do take the gamble on this one and pick up a small bunch of kale the next time you are roaming through the grocery store. It’ll cost very little to experiment with and the results are simply unbelievable.

Ingredients (serves 4 happily)

  • 1 bunch of kale
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt

1. Rip the kale leaves off the stem and into chip size pieces. Some will be big, some will be smaller, but none should come close to being the size of your hand. Put the kale in a large mixing bowl and add the olive oil to it. Toss to coat the leaves in oil.

2. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Place a silicone mat on two large baking sheets (alternatively, you can grease a baking sheet, but I haven’t tried this). Arrange the leaves on the may so no two are overlapping. Sprinkle with salt and other spices as you desire.

Note: You can change the flavor of the kale chips by sprinkling any other spice mix on. This is your chance to experiment, just remember to use spices sparingly.

3. Cook for 30 – 45 minutes or until the tips begin to turn brown. Your looking for baked through and no floppy. Check your biggest leaves first to see if they are done.

Note: Other recipes out there change the temperature and cooking times. This version dehydrates the entire leaf leaving a crispy, crumbling edges with an in fast center. If you prefer more chip like, increase the temperature to 350 degrees and cook for 20 – 30 minutes.

4. Serve without any dipping sauce. These are great on their own.


You have probably seen summer rolls before but with beautiful halved shrimp displayed on top. This recipe utilizes ground turkey to change the flavor profile a bit and be a bit more cost effective. This dish is full of Asian flavors and utilizes some ingredients people tend to be afraid of. Fish sauce is not something to fear, but something to embrace. The key is to use it sparingly in your Asian dishes. One bottle will probably last the typical household more than a year unless you tend to cook with it weekly.

Summer rolls may appear labor intensive, but once you get an assembly line going, they come together in no time and the results are beautiful and delicious. These would make a fantastic appetizer at your next dinner party or something you can put together with the kids.


  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 1/4 c golden raisins, chopped
  • 1 cucumber, peeled and seeded
  • 1/2 red bell pepper
  • 1/2 orange bell pepper
  • 1″ fresh ginger, diced
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp rice wine vinegar
  • rice paper skins (I used 6″, but 9″ would be much easier)

1. In a large skillet, heat 1 tbsp sesame oil over high heat. When heated, add the onion and ginger and continuously stir until the onions begin to be translucent. Then add the turkey to the pan and cook until the turkey has browned. Add the soy sauce, fish sauce, and vinegar to the pan. Stir to combine. Turn the heat down to low and simmer until the liquid has nearly evaporated.

2. Turn off the heat and allow the turkey to cool until easily handled. Add 1 tbsp parsley if you wish for some extra color. Cut the bell peppers and seeded cucumber into 2 inch matchsticks.

3. To wrap the summer rolls, dip the rice paper in warm water as indicated on the packaging. Lay on on a flat surface and pat dry with a paper towel lightly. Place 1 – 2 tbsp turkey mixture, and 2 – 3 matchsticks each of the vegetables. Wrap like a burrito.

Note: If the rice paper is tearing, you are either leaving it in the water too long or are being just way to rough with it. Rice paper is delicate, so be gentle. A little tear here or there is no big deal, but do not try to salvage one with a large tear in it. They are cheap enough to play around with until you get the hang of it. And don’t forget to replace your water frequently when it gets cold.

4. Serve the summer rolls with one or all of my trio of vietnamese dipping sauces.

Technically, what I have for you here is not bruschetta. Technically, this is just tomato salad and the bruschetta part only comes into play when you toast some bread and place this on top.  But what-ever. You know exactly what I’m going to show you how to make today and if you reached this through an internet search, you probably typed in “bruschetta” hoping to find exactly this. Far be it for me to deny my readers what they want.

Ingredients (makes about 3 cups)

  • 4 roma tomatoes
  • 1 yellow tomato
  • 1 lemon
  • 3 oz fresh basil leaves
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1. Cut each tomato in half and scoop out the pulp. Dice the tomato halves. There is no rush, so take your time and keep the skin side up when dicing the tomato to make the cuts easier. Place the diced tomatoes into a large mixing bowl.


Note: Apparently when you place a yellow tomato on a green cutting board, it comes out orange in pictures. Who knew?

2. Mince the garlic, cut the basil into thin ribbons, and zest the entire lemon. Add these ingredients to the bowl with the tomatoes along with 1 tbsp lemon juice.

       3. Add the olive oil and combine all ingredients with a wooden spoon. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

4. Place in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours. Serve chilled over fish, chicken, or with bread.

This appetizer was inspired from a trip to Fish Market, one of my favorite sushi restaurants in Boston. The restaurant had just opened, and being one of its new patrons, I was rewarded with a complimentary appetizer. What was served to me was a ball made out of avocado with a salad of raw tuna inside. It was delicious.

Here I’ve taken the same idea and made an American summer BBQ version using the avocado ball to deliver a mango salad served alongside large grilled shrimp. By and large, grilling  is my favorite method of cooking shrimp as it leaves the skin crispy directly contrasting the delicate flesh inside. This is an appetizer that can be made a few hours in advance and serves as an impressive beginning to a midsummer night dinner party.

Ingredients (serves 2)

  • 4 tiger shrimp (Size 8 – 12)
  • 1 avocado
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 mango, diced
1. Preheat the grill over medium high heat. Slice the avocado in half and scoop out the flesh onto a cutting board.
2. Using a very sharp knife, slice one half of the avocado as thin as possible. Use slow, deliberate strokes. There’s no rush.
3. Lay the avocado slices in a line over plastic wrap. Top the middle with 2 tbsp of the diced mango. Season with a little salt and olive oil.
4. Fold the plastic wrap over onto itself, folding the avocado in half. Then fold the plastic wrap back over the avocado as shown in the Step 5 picture.      
5. Twist one end of the plastic wrap so that it begins to smoosh the ends of the avocado together. Then repeat with the other side. If any mango begins to seep out, gently push it back it in, but be careful not to destroy the overlapping slices. Place the mango ball in the fridge to come together ensuring the twisted ends do not unravel.
6. Remove the shells from the shrimp except for the tails. Season with salt and pepper (I used some chili powder as well for additional heat).
7. Cook the shrimp on the grill until the tail has turned pink. Turn the shrimp over and finish cooking.
9. Assemble the plate by placing the avocado ball in the middle. Top with a slice of lemon and lean two shrimp on either side.

I love meatballs. And according to Wikipedia, the rest of the world does too. For me, they remind me of my childhood. My mom would make large batches of red sauce that would simmer all day, filling the house with a wonderful aroma. While the sauce was cooking, we’d spend a couple of hours making meatballs and dumping them into the sauce for added flavor. Our efforts were rewarded with a large spaghetti and meatball dinner and the remaining sauce and meatballs were frozen, leaving us with a supply of red sauce for at least 6 months.

I developed this recipe as a test for future invites to summer barbecues and parties (of which my phone has been silent – weird) and liked it so much that it became a regular staple to our dinner rotation. Much of the flavor is developed by combining ground pork and turkey together (you could easily substitute beef, lamb, or chicken as well).  With a little bit of prep, this meal will finish in the slow cooker to finish the product leaving you to enjoy the warm summer nights.

Ingredients (serves 6)

  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 1 lb ground pork
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 20oz can diced tomatoes
  • 3/4c Vidalia onion, minced
  • 1/4c + 1 tbsp breadcrumbs
  • 3 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1 1/2 tsp paprika (sweet or hot, your choice)
  • Rustic bread (for serving)

1. Plug in your slow cooker. In a bowl, combine turkey, pork, breadcrumbs, eggs, cumin, paprika, parsley, 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper, and 1/4c of the minced onion. Used a wooden spoon to combine mixture.


2. Shape approximately 20 meatballs and set aside. Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat (a 7 on the dial). Working in batches, brown meatballs on all sides. In between batches, add 1 tbsp of olive oil.


Note: I used a medium ice cream scoop to portion out meatballs. It’s quick and easy and you are guaranteed to have the same sized meatballs every time.

3. When the meatballs are completed, add the onion to the pan and saute for a few minutes until they begin to soften. Add the tomatoes (with juices) and scrape up all the brown bits off the bottom of the pan. Add salt and pepper to taste (it should not require much, if any).


4. Add the tomato mixture and meatballs to a slow cooker. Turn to low and cook for 5 hours until the meatballs are tender.

5. Serve hot with rustic bread.

The Savoie region of France (seen on the map in red) is credited with the creation of tartiflette. Traditionally, this dish is made by building layers of sliced potatoes and sandwiching bacon lardons between. This is finished by covering the whole thing with white wine and an entire wheel of locally made reblochon cheese on top. How could this possibly be bad for you?

Reblochon (also from Savoie) is a soft cheese that is made from unpasteurized cow’s milk. Given the susceptibility of raw milk and the possibility of pathogens hitching a ride across the ocean, the US government does not allow this (or any unpasteurized cheese aged less than 60 days) to be imported. However, those crafty French refuse to let one little customs blockade stop them. Fromage de Savoie is virtually the same as reblochon except it’s made from pasteurized milk. However, even this may be very difficult to find, so substitute your favorite soft cheese like brie or camembert. If you have a Whole Foods near you, head to their cheese counter. The selection is amazing and their staff is extremely helpful.

I have taken the liberty to make several other substitutions from my French ancestors. I’ve substituted the lardons with smoked salmon and brie for the reblochon. I’ve also added gruyere for its nutty flavor. As you read through the recipe, you will notice that salt plays no part of this dish as the salmon and cheese bring all the seasoning you could ever need.

Ingredients (Serves 8 Appetizers; 4 entrees)

  • 5 – 6 medium Yukon gold potatoes
  • 8 oz smoked salmon
  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 1/4 lb brie (substitute camembert if you prefer)
  • 1/4 lb Gruyère
  • 1/3 c dry white wine

1. Boil the potatoes with their skins on in a large pot of water. This will ensure that the outside does not overcook and lose its shape. When the potatoes can be pierced easily, but still put up some resistance, they are done. This should take about 30 minutes.

2. While the potatoes are cooling, slice the onion thin and add to a saute pan with a few tablespoons of olive oil over medium high heat (a 7 on the dial). Saute until caramelized.

3. When the potatoes have cooled and can be handled easily, remove their skins. If you rub your thumb over the skin, it should remove easily. Use a spoon to remove any black spots. Slice the potatoes evenly into 1/4″ slices. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

4. Lightly butter a glass baking dish. In the dish, arrange a layer of potatoes on the bottom, overlapping the potatoes. Top this with the onions and then the smoked salmon pieces on top.

Note: When cooked, smoked salmon brings a more subtle note to the dish than bacon would. It’s also a hundred times healthier.

5. Arrange a layer of potatoes on top of the salmon. Then layer the slices of gruyère over the potatoes. You do not want to completely cover everything as we want to leave room for the brie to melt into the potatoes. Pour the wine on top of the potato slices.

6. Top this with hunks of brie. My preference if to have the white rind facing up. This will allow the creamy brie to melt throughout the dish.

7. Cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes until the cheese has melted. Turn the heat up to 425 degrees and remove the aluminum foil. Cook for an additional 15 minutes or until the top has browned.

8. This dish can be made as an appetizer or served with a crunchy salad for an entree.

Wine Pairings

A Savoie region dish deserves a Savioe region wine. In the French section of your wine store, look for bottles marked “Vin de Savoie.” Two bottles I can recommend are:

2009 Domaine Eugene Carrel Vin de Savoie Jongieux.

2009 Chignin de Savoie Domaine G. Belioz.

If your wine store has a limited supply of Savoie region wine, pair this dish with a Sauvignon Blanc.