Posts Tagged ‘appetizer’

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.

Garlic has gotten a bad rap. Vampires and people on first dates have uniformly tried to stay away from garlic for centuries because of its harsh, pungent flavor (or death inducing side effect). Garlic has even been linked in Islamic myths as the fruit left behind from the left footprint of Satan after he left the Garden of Eden (the onion was the fruit of his right). I have hopes of persuading some of you to look upon this root vegetable a little different, I want to showcase garlic in a new light. Like most vegetables, when roasted, garlic takes on a completely different flavor becoming more sweet and mellow and becomes a perfect compliment to foods.

This is one of the easiest appetizers you can make for guests or for yourself on a cold winter day, in addition to the insane health benefits that have been found from the consumption of garlic including prevention of heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and cancer.


  • 1 whole head of garlic
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper

1. When picking a head of garlic, you want to make sure that the white paper is tight and in tact. Squeeze the garlic gently; it should be firm and not yield easily. It should be heavy for it’s weight and should not have any black powder (usually found near the root). This is mold yet most grocery chains will put it out anyway. And stay away from “elephant garlic” as this isn’t garlic at all, but a cousin of the leek/onion family.

2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cut the garlic about a quarter of the way from the top making sure you cut through each clove held within.

3. Place the cut garlic on a piece of aluminum foil big enough to enclose the head completely. Pour the olive oil over the cloves. Season with salt and pepper.


4. Wrap the garlic up tightly and place on a sheet pan or other baking dish. Place the pan in the oven for 55 minutes.

5. Let the garlic head cool for five minutes on the stovetop before trying to unwrap. The individual cloves will easily pop out of their skin when given a gentle squeeze. Serve warm mashed over bread, in salad dressings, or anyway you desire.

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.

Jalapenos have gotten a bad rap. Spice sensitive palettes instantly begin to seize whenever the word is mentioned and rightfully so. Often, jalapenos are served with the seeds and membranes intact bringing the heat – and the hurt – along for the ride. However, with some careful preparation, you will find that oven roasting a jalapeno pepper eliminates the heat and replaces it with a sultry sweet flavor that I am confident you will adore.

I borrowed this recipe from Aarti Sequeria who hosts the show Aarti Party on the Food Network. One morning I was absently watching her show while checking my email. I looked up from my computer only to see this magnificent appetizer magnified on my screen. It did not look like any jalapeno popper I had ever seen in my life and I instantly went to the store to recreate it. The only change I made is to double the cheese mixture added to each boat. This recipe can easily be doubled, tripled, or quadrupled.


  • 10 jalapeno peppers
  • 1/2 lb bacon
  • 8 oz cream cheese, room temperature
  • 3 large scallions
  • 1 large granny smith apple

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Start by cleaning the jalapenos out. If you are particularly sensitive to capsaicin, you may want to where latex gloves during this process. Cut the jalapenos in half. With a spoon, scoop out the seeds and the white membrane. Core the apple and cube into small chunks (about the size of a pea). Then cut the scallion into similarly sized coins.

Note: Do not touch your eyes or face during this process. The oil on your hands can and will cause massive discomfort. Be sure to wash your hands, cutting board, and the knife before moving on.

2. Add the scallions and apples to the cream cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Stir to combine.

3. Add 1 tbsp of the cheese mixture to each jalapeno boat. Wrap with 1/2 slice of bacon. Secure with a toothpick.

4. Cover a baking sheet with foil and spray with cooking oil. Place the boats on the baking sheet about 1 inch apart and cook for 30 minutes until the bacon has crisped. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Note: Leftover poppers go excellent the next day with eggs and toast.

Freezing Notes

You can easily make these months ahead of time and cook only what you will eat. Follow the recipe until step 3. Instead of placing the sheet pan in the oven, place it in the freezer instead. You want to make sure none of the peppers are touching or they will stick together. After four hours, place the frozen jalapeno boats in a freezer bag. When ready to cook, place the frozen boats on a sheet pan and cook for 30 minutes at 375 degrees until the bacon is crisp.

Unfortunately, kale comes from a family of unwanted, unliked, and generally detested vegetables. Its brothers and sisters include broccoli, cauliflower, and brussels sprouts. Texturally, when raw, kale is not appealing like the popular lettuce brothers – romaine and iceberg.  At a restaurant I worked for, we used kale exclusively for garnish. It never occurred to me that it was edible. Only years later did I find out that kale is a superfood. It contains intensely high levels of vitamin K (helps with blood clotting) and antioxidants. Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few years, you know we all need more antioxidants – even if we have no idea why. With a little love and a whole lot of injected flavor during the cooking process, I’m confident you will see kale in a new light and adopt it into your menu plans.

I developed this recipe to add a bit of sweetness without adding any fat. Many greens are cooked in pork fat, but this dish knows bikini season is coming and relies of onions and apples to supply additional flavor.


  • 1 bunch of kale, crisp
  • 1 apple, diced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 3/4c chicken stock

1. Kale stems are edible, but I find the stems tough. You can cut them off by folding the kale leaves in half and running your knife down the stem. Rough chop the leaves.

Note: If you choose to cook the stems, you will want to put them in the pan for a few minutes before the leaves. As they are thicker, they require a little additional time to cook. If you’ve never had kale before, you should give the stems a try.

2. Drizzle some olive oil in a large skillet and bring up to temperature over medium high heat. Place the onion and apple into the pan. You can peel the apple before dicing. I prefer the skin on, but it’s a personal preference. Season lightly with salt. Saute until onions begin to become translucent.

3. Place the kale leaves into the skillet and wilt. Stir to combine with the apple and the onion. When the kale has wilted to half the size, add the chicken stock to the pan and cover. Turn the heat down to medium. Cook for 10 minutes and don’t peek! The chicken stock will boil and create steam to cook through the leaves. If you lift the cover, it all goes away and you will have tough, bitter greens.

4. Place kale in a serving bowl and serve immediately.