If you are looking for an easy appetizer to serve to friends and family over the coming weekend, it doesn't get much easier or delicious than these potatoes. Yukon Gold potatoes are perfect for roasting, taking on a creamy consistency and buttery flavor when cooked. Smoked paprika, made from peppers which are dried by smoking over a low fire for 10-15 days, comes from Spain. Being in the nightshade family it pairs well with other nightshade family members such as potatoes and tomatoes. The smoked paprika added to the aioli adds a captivating, smokey aroma that will seductively pull you in for the ultimate potato dipping experience. Whoa...
Roasted Yukon Golds
2 medium Yukon Gold potatoes per person
ex virgin olive oil
freshly ground pepper
chopped cilantro or parsley (optional)
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Cut the potatoes lengthwise into halves and then again, lengthwise into 3 spears per half for a total of 6 pieces per potato. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and enough olive oil to coat them well. Spread out on a sheet pan with one cut side down. Bake for about 40 minutes, turning over halfway through the time, until they are browned. Transfer to a platter and sprinkle with the parsley or cilantro, if using. Serve warm or at room temp with the smoked paprika aioli.
Smoked Paprika Aioli
1 c 'Best Foods' mayonnaise
1/2 t smoked paprika (really fresh)
1 clove garlic, chopped fine
1 T ex virgin olive oil
pinch of cayenne
1/2 t lemon juice
pinch of salt
a couple of grinds of pepper
Mix all together in a small bowl, let sit for a few minutes and then taste for seasonings.
I thought I had an original idea the other day when I thought of using butternut squash to make a holiday version of hummus...nope. There were several recipes already on the internet and after reading a few, I settled on one from Ina Garten. She's my hero, I want to BE her. I changed a couple of things to make it 'mine' and it turned out delicious. Seasonal and beautiful, it can be made a few days ahead of time so you can tick off the box that says "appetizer" and get to more important things like time with family and raising toasts.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
Roasted Butternut Squash Hummus
1 1/4 lb butternut squash, peeled and cut in a 1" dice
3 T good olive oil
1 t ground cinnamon
kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper
1 (15.5-ounce) can chickpeas, drained with liquid reserved
1/2 c plain Greek yogurt (I use Fage)
1/4 c tahini (sesame seed paste)
2 lemons juiced
2 medium cloves minced garlic
pinch of cayenne
pure Grade A maple syrup, to drizzle on top (optional)
parsley chopped for garnish
toasted and salted pumpkin seeds (pepitas), for garnish
*toasted pita bread , for dipping or store bought pita chips
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the butternut squash on a sheet pan and drizzle with the olive oil. Sprinkle with the cinnamon, 2 t salt, and 1 t pepper. Toss with your hands and spread the squash out in one layer on the pan. Roast for 35 minutes, stirring once, until tender, and set aside for 15 minutes to cool.
Reserve ¼ cup of squash for the garnish and transfer the rest to the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Add the chickpeas, yogurt, tahini, lemon juice, garlic, cayenne, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and pulse until coarsely processed but not pureed. Add 1/4 cup of the reserved chickpea liquid and pulse a few times to combine. If the hummus is too thick, add more liquid a few tablespoons at a time (I did add more to get to the consistency I liked). Taste for seasonings, transfer to a serving bowl, garnish with the reserved butternut squash, chopped parsley, toasted pumpkin seeds and drizzle with maple syrup, if desired. Serve at room temperature with toasted pita bread. For a less sweet version, substitute curry powder or cumin for the cinnamon, lime juice for the lemon juice and cilantro for the parsley.
*to make toasted pita chips
Cut store bought pita bread into 6 or 8 wedges. Pull apart the wedges from two layers to one layer and place on a sheet pan. Brush with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and bake for about 15 minutes at 350 degrees until light brown and crispy.
As a caterer, I am often asked to provide dishes that are vegan, vegetarian and/or gluten free. Paired with a gluten free bread or cracker and served with a vegan yogurt (think soy or almond milk) this dip fits the bill for all three. I don't have any dietary restrictions myself, so I often look for ideas in cookbooks, on the internet (blogs like mine) or from friends who cook. I found the idea for this dip from a favorite chef of mine, Yotam Ottolenghi in his cookbook, Plenty More. I might not usually use carrots as the centerpiece for an appetizer, but in this dip, they are magically transformed and taste incredible. The spicy carrots atop the lemon-y garlic yogurt is a perfect, winning combination. I took this dip to my last bocce game and heard nothing but rave reviews!
Smashed Carrots with Lemon-Garlic Yogurt
1 T olive oil, plus extra to finish
1 T unsalted butter
10 large carrots, peeled and cut into slices 3/4" thick
1 c vegetable stock
grated zest of 1 orange
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 t *harissa paste
grated zest of 1 lemon, plus 1 T lemon juice
1 c Greek yogurt
3 1/2 T shelled, salted or unsalted pistachios, coarsely chopped
salt and black pepper
Place the olive oil and butter in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the carrots and sauté for 10 minutes, stirring often; they need to soften and take on a bit of color. Add the stock, turn down the heat to medium-low, cover the pan, and cook for another 25 minutes, until the carrots are completely soft and there is hardly any liquid left. Transfer the carrots to a food processor, add 3/4 teaspoon salt, and process briefly to form a coarse paste. Leave to cool and then add the orange zest, garlic, harissa, half the lemon zest, and some black pepper. Pulse briefly to combine.
Mix together the yogurt, lemon juice, the remaining lemon zest, and 3/4 teaspoon salt.
Spread the yogurt our on a serving platter and spoon the carrot mixture on top. Sprinkle with the pistachios, drizzle with a little olive oil, and serve with the pita chips. Serves 8-10 as an appetizer.
Zaatar Toasted Pitas
1 pkg plain or whole wheat pitas
4 T butter, melted
2 T **Zaatar seasoning
Cut the pitas into 8 triangles then pull apart to make 16. Brush with the melted butter and sprinkle with the Zaatar. Bake for 1 hour at 250 degrees.
*Harissa is a North African and Middle Eastern condiment that is made from garlic, cumin, caraway, pounded chili peppers, salt and a dash of olive oil. Pretty much any chili-based hot sauce will work as a substitute.
** Zaatar is available at The Spice Tin in Murphys or by mail order.
It all started with a simple, round, wooden tray that I bought a couple of weeks ago at a yard sale for $2.00. On my way to a swim party, I grabbed the tray and opened the fridge. Amazingly, I had a few things in there to start building an appetizer platter. A few olives, an Armenian cucumber from Susie's garden, some tomatoes from Annie's garden, leftover store bought hummus, half of a melon leftover from breakfast, a bit of prosciutto, lovely goat brie and fresh mozzarella balls (I always have some on hand during the summer tomato season) with some of my very own fresh basil leaves and some good crackers and parmesan crisps...honestly, I didn't even go to the store. I started with the cheese in the middle and with the help of some cute, small bowls for 'interest', I just kept the arranging going. Once you get started and have your focal point, it is pretty easy, fun and creative. I like the fact that guests can pick and choose what sort of bite they will have, it's interactive!
Sometimes inspiration can come from a platter, bowl or plate that simply "speaks to you".
Other ideas might include a tray of smoked salmon, sliced red onion, tomatoes, cucumbers, avocados, capers, cream cheese and bagels. Or chips, salsa, guacamole, black olives, baby tomatoes, queso chihuahua or Monterey Jack, fresh strawberries and some good crackers. Basically, use your imagination and have fun.
Just about every year I take a trip to Mexico. I love everything about it, the people, the culture, the architecture, the folk art and especially the FOOD! My friends, Peter and Tari Bowman, moved down to Puerto Vallarta and bought a beach front restaurant called Daiquiri Dick's 35 years ago and about 10 years ago they opened a home furnishings/design store, Banderas Bay Trading Company. This year, they invited me to join them on a buying trip to Guadalajara, Tlaquepaque, Patzcuaro and San Miguel de Allende to stock the store, I couldn't say no. My plan is to take notes on the food while we are on the road and then share my version of my favorite bites with you, here on the bird blog.
I arrived in PV last Sunday and yesterday, after hiking all over town in the heat and humidity trying to find a 'cute little café' that I had eaten in a couple of years ago and finding it gone (aargh), I headed for the nearest ice cold Negra Modelo. I ended up at a small fish restaurant next to the vegetable market. On their menu they offer a shrimp aguachile
(a type of ceviche from the Sinaloa region of Mexico). I LOVE aguachile so I ordered one. WOW, what a great idea that was! I immediately (well. after one more cerveza fria) went next door and purchased the ingredients to make my own agauchile for an easy appetizer for dinner, it goes together in minutes. Here is my version.
1 lb shrimp, 20-25 size, raw, deveined (be sure to remove both veins by cutting all the way through but leaving both ends attached)
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 - 2 serrano chilies or jalapenos (or one of each) stemmed, seeded and cut into chunks
1 bunch of cilantro, washed, dried, stems cut away, no need to be too fussy
2 T water (the agua part of aguachile)
1 lime, zested
4 limes, juiced
1 small mandarin orange, juiced (optional)
1 large cucumber, peeled cut in half lengthwise and sliced in 1/2" slices or diced
1 avocado, sliced or diced depending on the presentation
tostada chips for serving (I use the big ones intended for tostadas)
Place the shrimp on a plate and sprinkle all over with salt, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour and up to 2 hours. Meanwhile, in a food processor, combine chilies with a pinch of salt, the water, lime zest and juice and the cilantro (add the mandarin juice now too, if using) and process until thoroughly blended. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Pull the shrimp from the refrigerator and in a mixing bowl, toss shrimp with chili-lime marinade, onion, and cucumber. Serve right away with tostadas and avocado.
The small inset picture is the actual plating from the restaurant in PV. I thought it would be fun to show you the original inspiration. Very authentic but a bit 'heavy handed'. You get the idea.
You can present as a first course, plated and even put some greens underneath or serve as an appetizer in a small asian style spoon as pictured above. Be sure to use all of the sauce, that's what makes it great!