I’m sick as a dog. I caught that terrible flu that’s been going around. I had a fever of 103° and felt pretty darn miserable. Finally got rid of the flu, but my doctor says I now have bronchitis, not to mention I’m wheezing like an old asthmatic. Sigh….. Anyway, since I’ve been laid up in bed, I thought this would be a good time to catch up on the blog and post some of my recipes that have been sitting in draft form waiting for a little tweaking or something before being published, so don’t be surprised to see several posts come out all at once.
Salade Niçoise (pronounced ni swaz) is one of my all-time favorite salads. I believe it originated in France and my understanding is the original is made with anchovies, but neverhavingbeen to Nice, I can’t say for sure. Every time I’ve had it, it’s been made with tuna and my family likes it that way so I just keep it up — though personally, I wouldn’t mind anchovies. Hey! I happen to like the little guys! Anyway, classic niçoise salad typically has boiled potatoes, green beans, and niçoise olives, but there again from my readings it seems that boiled veggies are frowned upon in some areas of France. Whatever. I happen to think the boiled potatoes and green beans are the best part of this salad! Anyway, give it a try. I guarantee you’ll love it!
(Makes 4 servings)
12 ozs. boston, bibb, or butter lettuce
16 baby yellow potatoes
4 large eggs
10 ozs. haricots verts or slender green beans, trimmed
2 cans (5½ oz. each) tuna packed in olive oil, drained
20 cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1/2 cup niçoise or Kalamata olives, cut in half
Fill a bowl with ice and water and set it aside. You may have to replenish the ice and/or water as needed.
Place potatoes in a medium saucepan, add enough water to cover the potatoes and add a teaspoon of salt.
Bring to a boil and cook until potatoes are fork tender.
Using a slotted spoon, transfer potatoes to the ice water bath to stop cooking.
When potatoes are cool, remove from ice water, cut in half, and set aside.
Place eggs in a medium saucepan and add enough cold water to cover eggs by one inch.
Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
Let cook for 6-7 minutes until eggs are hard boiled.
Remove eggs with a slotted spoon and plunge into ice water to stop cooking.
When eggs are cool, remove from ice water, peel, and set aside.
Add fresh water to the saucepan and bring it to a boil again.
Add the green beans and blanch till they’re bright green, about 1 minute.
Remove green beans with a slotted spoon and plunge into ice water to stop cooking.
Once green beans are cool, remove from ice water, and set aside.
Divide the lettuce equally into 4 salad bowls.
Top each with 4 potatoes cut in half, 1/4 of the green beans, 5 tomatoes cut in half, 1 egg cut into 4 wedges, 1/4 of the olives, and half a can of tuna.
Drizzle lemon-thyme dressing over each salad.
zest of 1 lemon
½ cup lemon juice
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 small shallot, minced
1 Tbsp. fresh thyme leaves
¼ cup sugar
1 tsp. salt
⅛ tsp. pepper
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
In a small bowl, combine lemon zest, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, shallot, thyme, sugar, salt, and pepper with a wire whisk until well combined.
Slowly drizzle in olive oil, whisking constantly until emulsified.
Dressing will keep in refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
NOTE:We like our dressing with a touch of sweetness, but if you want the dressing to be less sweet, feel free to cut the sugar in half or omit it altogether.
I had to take some appetizers to a party so decided to make mini seafood potpies. I love potpies but we usually make them with chicken. I thought seafood would make a nice change. You could do this with shrimp only or crab only. Or you can add lobster or scallops for more varied seafood. Just make sure your combination of seafood totals half a pound. If you like, you can double the filling recipe to make one deep dish potpie.
I got the inspiration to make these appetizers from the Pillsbury website. My family has been making crab salad for years, though we always serve it as an appetizer in a bowl with crackers on the side. When I saw the photo on Pillsbury, I thought how perfect it would be to wrap our family’s crab salad in crescent roll dough and bake it, instead of doing the same old, same old. It turned out great! And looks so pretty, too!
CRAB SALAD CRESCENT APPETIZERS
1 pkg. imitation crab meat, chopped
⅓ cup mayonnaise
½ pkg. (4 ozs.) cream cheese, softened (optional)
1 large shallot, finely minced (can substitute ¼ small onion)
1 stalk green onion, green and white part, finely chopped
½ tsp. worcestershire sauce
salt and pepper, to taste
1 can Pillsbury refrigerated crescent dinner rolls
Preheat oven to 350ºF.
Mix imitation crab, mayonnaise, cream cheese, shallot, green onion, worcestershire sauce, salt, and pepper together in a bowl until well combined.
Unroll dough on work surface and pinch seams to seal.
Cut into 6 rows by 4 rows to make 24 squares.
Spoon about 1 teaspoon crab salad onto center of square.
Pull opposite corners on each side up over filling and let points meet in center.
I love smoked salmon. It’s delicious made with pasta or turned into a dip for crackers. But my all-time favorite way to eat smoked salmon is with bagels and cream cheese. These canapés are a take-off on the bagel and cream cheese idea. Instead of bagels, I used english cucumbers for a base. I made our family’s traditional cream cheese filling, but I substituted dill for the green onions.
If you’re wondering where to get smoked salmon, Costco carries a Norwegian brand called Foppen that is just wonderful because besides being delicious, the salmon is already thinly sliced and ready to use. The package comes with plain, peppered, and dilled slices. I cut each slice into strips and then roll each strip into a cone to make the little rosette shapes. It’s really easy and looks so pretty on your appetizer table.
SMOKED SALMON CUCUMBER CANAPÉS
1 lb. smoked salmon, very thinly sliced
2 english cucumbers
1 pkg. (8 ozs.) cream cheese, at room temperature
¼ cup mayonnaise
4 tbsps. fresh dill, chopped
½ tsp. salt
With a fork, score lines down the skin of the cucumbers. Slice scored cucumbers into rounds.
In a medium bowl, beat cream cheese, mayonnaise, dill, and salt until well combined.
Pipe a little cream cheese mixture on top of each cucumber slice.
With a sharp paring knife, cut each slice of smoked salmon into strips approximately ¾ inch wide.
Roll each strip into a rosette shape.
Top each cucumber slice with a salmon rosette.
If not serving immediately, chill in refrigerator until ready to serve.
Gambas al Ajillo or Garlic Shrimp is one of the best Spanish tapas ever! It’s a favorite all over Spain and is served in homes and tapas bars in practically every city in the country. It’s very easy to make and is sometimes cooked and/or served in a shallow terracotta or clay pot called a cazuela.
I originally learned to make gambas many years ago from my Spanish chef friend, Mari. Since then, I’ve tweaked what he taught me to come up with my own version. For one thing, in Spain gambas are traditionally cooked in plain olive oil but I like to use a blend of half olive oil and half butter. I find that the butter imparts a great flavor to this dish. It may not be very traditional, but it works for me! Mari also slices his garlic cloves in thin slices, but I prefer to mince my garlic. Some people add a little Spanish sweet paprika or pimentón to their gambas. I don’t usually do this (Mari didn’t), but you can if you want to. Also, more often than not, I make this dish without the alcohol at all and it turns out just fine.
Don’t forget the oh-so-important step of serving slices of fresh bread along with your gambas for sopping up the sauce! In my experience, the shrimp disappear fast whenever I make this dish, but they leave behind a bowl of garlicky sauce that is wonderful for dunking bread in. It’s a great way to extend the enjoyment of eating gambas even after the shrimp are all gone.
GAMBAS AL AJILLO
1 lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup butter
10-14 large cloves garlic, minced or thinly sliced
¼ tsp. crushed red pepper (increase to ½ tsp. if you want it spicier)
½ tsp. salt, or to taste
3 Tbsp. minced parsley
3 Tbsp. brandy or cognac or dry sherry (optional)
french baguette bread, sliced
Heat olive oil and butter together over medium heat in a sauté pan.
Sauté garlic and crushed red pepper until garlic is cooked but still tender. Don’t let the garlic brown.
Toss in the shrimp and salt, and sauté just until shrimp turns pink.
Stir in parsley and brandy, if using. At this point, Chef Mari would shake the pan, tilting it slightly so the alcohol would catch fire. You can skip that step. Or not. Totally up to you.
Transfer to a shallow serving bowl or cazuela.
Serve immediately with slices of french bread for soaking up the sauce.
Somehow, I’d forgotten all about this recipe until now. I was looking through my recipe box for an appetizer to make and came across my recipe for these crispy little nuggets of seafoody goodness. I used to make Shrimp Toast for parties all the time when I was newly married. Finding this recipe instantly brought back memories of parties past….. a baby shower for my first born….. a birthday party where we danced all night….. lots of good times.
The name “Shrimp Toast” usually brings to mind those little triangles of fried bread with a shrimp mixture mounded on top. This recipe is different in that the bread is flattened with a rolling pin, spread with the shrimp mixture, then rolled into logs. The logs are fried until golden brown and then each log is cut into four little bite-sized rolls. One loaf of bread makes a lot of little shrimp rolls. For example, if your loaf has 15 slices of bread, you’ll end up with 60 little appetizers. It sounds like a lot, but believe me, they go fast! Everytime I make these, the little rolls are completely wiped out!
1¼ lb. raw shrimp, shelled and deveined
2 stalks green onion, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 tbsp. minced ginger
3 large egg whites
4 tsp. Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
1 tbsp. sesame oil
2 tbsp. cornstarch
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. ground white pepper
1 loaf day-old white sandwich bread
canola oil for deep-frying
Place shrimp, green onion, ginger, egg whites, rice wine, sesame oil, cornstarch, salt, and pepper into the workbowl of a food processor.
Process until the mixture forms a paste, stopping a couple of times to scrape down the sides of the bowl.
Trim the crusts from the bread.
With a rolling pin, roll each bread slice to a little less than ¼-inch thick.
Spread a layer of the shrimp mixture about ⅛-inch thick on each slice of bread, leaving about a half-inch of one side free.
Roll each bread slice into a little log and place seam side down on a plate. The shrimp mixture should squeeze out to reach the free edge as you roll. If the mixture doesn’t reach the free edge, just smear a thin layer of shrimp mixture on it and press it closed to seal.
Pour about 2 inches of oil into a wok or high-sided frying pan and heat to 350ºF.
Working with 3 or 4 rolls at a time, slide rolls into the oil and fry until golden brown.
Remove from oil with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.
Cut each roll into 4 bite-sized pieces using a serrated knife.
Serve warm with sweet-and-sour sauce or with a sweet chili sauce like Mae Ploy.
NOTE: This recipe can be prepared a day or two in advance. Just follow the recipe all the way to Step 6, then stack the rolls in an airtight container and refrigerate until ready to fry. I have never tried freezing the rolls, but I can’t imagine why that wouldn’t work if you needed to make them a week or two ahead of time for some reason. If you try freezing them, post a comment and let me know how they turned out.
This is an old recipe of my Mom’s. She made it all the time for get-togethers or when we were expecting company. It’s very addictive and you’ll find yourself heading back to the appetizer table again and again for just a little bit more.
It always reminds me of my mother-in-law whom I miss terribly. She absolutely loved this mousse! When the party was over, you just knew any leftover shrimp mousse was hers. She would spread it on toast and eat shrimp mousse sandwiches for breakfast, lunch or a snack the next day. I have to say, I picked up that habit from her and on the rare occasion that we actually have leftover shrimp mousse, I find myself having a shrimp mousse sandwich for lunch the day after.
1 packet Knox unflavored gelatin
2 tbsp. cold water
1 box (8 ozs.) cream cheese
1 can Campbell’s cream of celery soup
1 cup mayonnaise
1 lb. cooked small shrimp, finely chopped
1 large stalk green onion, green and white part, finely minced
1 stalk celery, finely minced (optional)
In a small bowl, dissolve the Knox gelatin in 2 tbsp. cold water and set aside.
In a small saucepan, heat the cream cheese and celery soup over medium-low heat, stirring until smooth.
Remove saucepan from heat, add in the gelatin, and stir until well-blended.
Stir in the rest of the ingredients.
Pour into an oiled mold and refrigerate for 3-4 hours or until firm.
Unmold and serve with crackers.
NOTE: You can easily turn this into “Crab Mousse” by substituting 1 pound crabmeat for the shrimp. I’ve also made it into “Seafood Mousse” by making it with ½ lb. shrimp and ½ lb. crab.
We were invited to a potluck dinner at our neighbor’s house. I remembered a recipe I had seen in the January 2012 issue of Cooking Light magazine and thought it would be a good one to take for our contribution. I was right!
I didn’t follow the recipe exactly, preferring instead to use Vigo Yellow Rice to simplify things. But if you can’t get Vigo rice, I’ve given directions at the end of the recipe for making this dish with regular white rice. The dish turned out tasty and was eaten up by all the guests. It reminded me of paella…… only if you’ve ever made paella, you’ll see that this was way easier to prepare!
SHRIMP WITH LEMON-SAFFRON RICE
1 pkg. (10 oz.) Vigo yellow rice (Mahatma brand is good too)
1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 tbsp. butter or margarine
½ large onion, chopped
½ large green bell pepper, chopped
2 tsp. minced fresh garlic
1 lb. peeled and deveined large shrimp
½ cup frozen green peas
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp. minced fresh oregano
2½ tbsp. fresh lemon juice
In a large pot, prepare yellow rice according to package directions.
Heat olive oil and butter in a large large skillet over medium-high heat.
Add onion and bell pepper; sauté 3 minutes or until vegetables are tender, stirring frequently.
Add garlic; cook 30 seconds, stirring constantly.
Add shrimp to pan and cook 30 seconds, stirring frequently.
Stir in peas, salt, and pepper, and continue to cook just until peas are heated through.
Pour mixture over cooked rice in pot.
Add oregano and lemon juice and toss all together until well-combined.
Serve with extra lemon wedges.
NOTE: If you can’t find Vigo yellow rice, you could just as easily make this with regular white rice by following the directions below.
Instead of Step 1, cook 2 cups of white rice in a rice cooker using chicken broth in place of water.
Stir ¾ tsp. crushed saffron threads into the rice and chicken broth before turning on the rice cooker.
Continue with Steps 2-6 above.
Stir in ½ tsp. paprika; then stir in the cooked rice.
Fish tacos are a popular treat in Baja California, Mexico from where the dish made its way into San Diego and points further north. I love fish tacos. More often than not, it’s what I order when we eat at a Mexican restaurant.
Traditional fish tacos are made with a beer-battered fish that is deep fried, then served with plain shredded cabbage and a white sauce. My version breaks with tradition in that the fish is baked instead of fried which I realize may offend some of the true fish taco aficionados out there, but it’s much healthier for you and is just as delicious. I also lightly dress my cabbage to make a slaw. Fish tacos are usually served with lime wedges on the side but since my slaw is already pretty “lime-y”, I think the additional lime is unnecessary. You could serve them with a sweet mango or pineapple salsa on the side instead. And don’t forget the Baja cream sauce which is so yummy and gives the tacos that zing! Grab an ice cold bottle of Dos Equis and you’ll feel like you’re on vacation in the Mexican peninsula!
CRISPY FISH TACOS
1½ lbs. cod, snapper, tilapia, or any firm-fleshed white fish
8 small corn tortillas
1 cup buttermilk
½ tsp. cumin
½ tsp. ground coriander
½ tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. salt
panko bread crumbs
additional salt and pepper to taste
Cut fish fillets into 3-ounce pieces.
Combine buttermilk, cumin, coriander, oregano and 1 teaspoon salt in a baking pan.
Toss fish in buttermilk mixture, cover and place in refrigerator to marinate for 1 to 3 hours, turning occasionally.
Place about a cup of panko in a shallow bowl or pie plate and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Remove fish from marinade and roll in panko bread crumbs.
Arrange in single layer on a baking sheet.
Spray lightly with Pam.
Bake at 350ºF for 30 minutes or until golden brown.
½ small head of cabbage, finely shredded
2 tbsp. light mayonnaise
juice of half a lime
2 tbsp. minced cilantro leaves
¼ tsp. salt
Toss all ingredients together in a large bowl.
Place in refrigerator until ready to use.
BAJA CREAM SAUCE
½ cup light mayonnaise
½ cup fat free sour cream
juice of 1 lime
1 large clove garlic, minced
¼ cup lightly packed cilantro leaves, minced
2 tsp. sriracha sauce (add more if you want it spicier)
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. pepper
Whisk all ingredients together in a small bowl until well blended.
TO ASSEMBLE FISH TACOS
Steam tortillas or wrap them in a damp cloth or paper towel and microwave for 10 to 15 seconds.
Place a bed of slaw down the center of a tortilla.
Top with a piece of fish.
Drizzle with cream sauce.
Fold tortilla over and serve with rice, beans or salsa on the side.
Every other summer, we all load up the car and drive to Sunriver, Oregon for a family vacation. My brother-in-law’s family lives out in Yakima, Washington so they drive down to meet us and we spend a week together in Sunriver, hiking, biking, canoeing, horseback riding, and generally having a good time in the summer sunshine.
While we’re there, we take turns fixing the meals for everyone. It was during one of these vacations that my brother and sister-in-law made these fish kebabs for dinner and since then, I’ve been making them at home. They make a healthy and delicious meal, with the added bonus of being easy to prepare. When you have lots of teenage help (or in their minds – slave labor), assembling the skewers takes hardly any time at all. Throw in a hubby to do the grilling and you can pretty much kick back and relax till it’s time to eat!
HALIBUT SKEWERS WITH CHILI-LIME SAUCE
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. sugar
3 tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
1-1/2 tsp. minced serrano chilies
Whisk lime juice, olive oil, sugar, cilantro and chilies in a small bowl until sugar is completely dissolved.
Let sauce stand 1 hour at room temperature to allow flavors to blend, then season to taste with salt and pepper.
Sauce can be made 8 hours ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Bring sauce to room temperature before using.
1-1/2 lbs. halibut fillets, cut in cubes
1 large red bell pepper, cut in cubes
6 green onions, cut in 1-inch lengths
(You want about 30 pieces of fish, 30 bell pepper and 30 onion pieces)
Heat grill to medium-high heat.
Alternate skewering fish, bell pepper and onion pieces onto 6 skewers.
Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Drizzle kebabs with a little olive oil to prevent sticking to the grill.
Grill until fish is opaque in center and singed in places, turning kebabs occasionally, about 6 minutes.
Transfer kebabs to platter and serve.
Pass chili-lime sauce around in a separate bowl.
NOTE: You can use any firm-fleshed fish for this recipe. I actually used Mahi-Mahi in the skewers pictured.