Archive for the 'Appetizers' Category

Restaurant Style Salsa

Fresh salsa made from scratch has been on my “to-make” list for a while now, and since today is Cinco de Mayo, it seemed like the perfect week to make it.  I used The Pioneer Woman’s recipe and it was fabulous!  This salsa is so easy to make– just throw all the ingredients in a food processor, pulse a few times, and it’s ready.  The flavors of garlic, onion, tomatoes, lime, chilies, and cilantro are delicious.  It tastes like it came from an authentic Mexican restaurant.   I prefer my salsa to be mild so I left the jalapeno seeds out, but if you like more spice, leave them in!  One thing I love about this salsa is that it has such a smooth texture.  Since you are making it yourself, you can puree it to your liking so that it’s as smooth or chunky as you want.  This salsa tastes even better after it has chilled in the fridge and all the flavors have marinated and melded together.  It’s the perfect appetizer to make for your next party.  Enjoy!

Restaurant Style Salsa

(print recipe)

Ingredients

  • 1 can (28 Ounce) whole tomatoes with juice
  • 2 cans (10 Ounce) Rotel (diced tomatoes and green chilies)
  • ¼ cup chopped onion
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 whole jalapeno, quartered and sliced thin (seeds optional)
  • ¼ teaspoon sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ¼ cup cilantro (you can add more if you want)
  • lime juice from ½ of a lime

Directions

  1. Combine whole tomatoes, Rotel, onion, jalapeno, garlic, sugar, salt, cumin, lime juice, and cilantro in a blender or food processor.  Pulse until you get the salsa to the consistency you’d like—about 10 to 15 pulses.
  2. Test seasonings with a tortilla chip and adjust as needed.
  3. Refrigerate salsa for at least an hour.  Serve with tortilla chips.

Note: This makes a very large batch.  Recommend using an 11-12-cup food processor, or you can process the ingredients in batches and then mix everything together in a large bowl.

Serves: 12

Source: The Pioneer Woman

And here are some other delicious Mexican-inspired recipes to try:

Grilled Chicken Fajitas — The marinade for these fajitas is fantastic.  Served on tortillas with grilled bell peppers and onions, these fajitas are the perfect main course.

Rice with Black Beans and Corn is a wonderful side dish to make alongside grilled chicken fajitas.  It’s colorful, flavorful, and so delicious.  You can also serve this rice burrito-style along with some melted cheese and/or grilled chicken.

Italian Sausage Skewers

These Italian sausage skewers are the perfect little appetizer.  Each toothpick contains a bite-sized piece of sausage, a strip of basil, a kalamata olive, and a mini tomato.  The combination of these 4 colorful ingredients makes for a delicious bite, and the flavors work really well together.  They are fun and easy to make, and can be prepared a few hours ahead of time, so they are great for a party.  I used sun-dried tomato and mozzarella flavored sausage when I made them, which was a huge hit.  Enjoy!

Italian Sausage Skewers

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces Italian style sausage (I like Aidell’s brand)
  • 8 large basil leaves
  • 12 pitted kalamata olives, halved
  • 24 grape tomatoes
  • 24 toothpicks

Directions

  1. Cook the sausage according to the directions on the package.  Slice the sausage into bite-sized pieces (I sliced them into ½ inch rounds & then sliced each round in half).  Cut the basil leaves lengthwise into thirds.
  2. Slide a grape tomato onto a toothpick, followed by a kalamata olive. Then add a strip of basil, folding so it fits nicely on the toothpick.  Then add a piece of the cooked sausage.  Position everything on the end of the toothpick so the toothpick can stand up on its sausage end.

Note: This appetizer can be prepared several hours in advance and stored in the refrigerator.

Serves: 6 (each serving is 4 pieces)

Source: Slightly adapted from The Food You Crave Cookbook, by Ellie Krieger

Tomato, Mozzarella, & Basil Tart

Tomato, Mozzarella, & Basil Tart


If you are looking for an alternative to margherita pizza, this recipe is for you.   It has the same yummy toppings that you would find on a margherita pizza, but instead of a pizza, it’s a tart.  The crust consists of standard tart dough, with the addition of fresh minced basil and garlic mixed into it.  This gives the crust lots of flavor, making it extra delicious.  The toppings for the tart are simple- a little bit of tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella cheese, cherry tomatoes, basil, and parmesan cheese (as well as a sprinkle of salt, pepper, & extra virgin olive oil for extra flavor).

One thing that’s nice about this tart is that you can make the tart dough ahead of time, roll it out, and assemble it in the tart pan.  Then you just wrap the prepared tart in plastic wrap and refrigerate it if you plan to use it that day, or freeze it if you are saving it for another day.  When you are ready to cook the tart, just pop it in the oven, and blind bake the crust, add the toppings, and then finish baking it.

When I most recently made this tart for Mother’s Day, I served slices of it as a side dish, but it can be a main course too (a salad or veggies would go well with it).  This tart would also make for an impressive appetizer.  Enjoy!

Tomato, Mozzarella, & Basil Tart with Basil Garlic Crust

(print recipe)

Ingredients

For the dough:

  • 1/3 cup fresh basil leaves
  • 1-2 cloves garlic
  • 1¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ tsp. kosher salt
  • 8 tbsp. unsalted butter (1 stick), chilled and cut into 8-10 pieces
  • 4-5 tbsp. ice cold water

For the filling:

  • 8 oz. mozzarella cheese, grated or sliced
  • Ripe cherry tomatoes
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1-2 tbsp. minced fresh basil
  • ¼ cup tomato-basil marinara sauce (optional)

Directions

  1. To make the dough, combine the basil and garlic in the bowl of a food processor.  Process, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed, until finely minced.  Add the flour and salt; pulse briefly to combine.  Add in the chunks of butter and pulse about 10 times, or until the mixture resembles pea-sized crumbs.  Add 3 tablespoons of the water and pulse a few times to incorporate.  Add 1 more tablespoon and process for several seconds to see if the dough forms a ball.  If not, add the remaining tablespoon of water and process until a ball of dough forms.  Remove the dough, flatten into a 5-inch disc, and wrap in plastic wrap.  Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
  2. 2. When you are ready to bake the tart, preheat the oven to 425° F.  Transfer the chilled dough to a lightly floured work surface and roll out into a 12-inch circle.  Lay the dough over a 9-inch round tart pan and press it into the sides.  Trim the excess dough as needed.  (I use this to reinforce the edges.)  Lay a piece of aluminum foil or parchment paper loosely over the tart dough and fill the center with baking beads (pie weights).  Bake in the preheated oven for 10-12 minutes.  Remove from the oven and carefully remove the foil or parchment and baking beads.  Return the empty tart shell to the oven to bake for 5 minutes more (crust should be lightly browned).  Remove from the oven and lower the heat to 375° F.  Note: If tart dough has puffed up during baking, prick it with a fork a few times.
  3. Spread a very thin layer of marinara sauce on the tart (The marinara sauce is optional- I like the extra flavor it provides, but since you only need a little sauce, I would only add it if you already have an open jar of leftover sauce in your fridge).
  4. Then layer the bottom of the pre-baked tart shell with the mozzarella.  Arrange the cherry tomato slices on top of the cheese in a single even layer.  Season with salt and pepper.  Drizzle with olive oil.  Top with freshly grated Parmesan and half of the minced fresh basil.
  5. Bake about 30 minutes, or until the dough is golden brown and the cheese is bubbly and lightly browned in places.  About halfway through baking, rotate the tart 180° and wick off any excess moisture that has collected on top with a towel if necessary.  Once you have removed the tart from the oven, sprinkle the remaining basil onto it.  Allow the tart to rest at least 5 minutes before slicing and serving.

Recipe adapted from: Annie’s Eats Blog; Originally from Pink Parsley, Ezra Pound Cake and The Complete Italian Vegetarian Cookbook

Bruschetta with Tomatoes & Basil

Bruschetta with Tomatoes & Basil


Bruschetta is one of my favorite appetizers.  It’s easy to make, and the flavors of basil, tomatoes, garlic, and extra virgin olive oil are so tasty.  This appetizer can be put together in minutes, and it’s the perfect thing to munch on before dinner.

Adapted from: Giada De Laurentiis

Bruschetta with Tomatoes & Basil

(print recipe)

Ingredients:

  • 1 (32-ounce) can whole tomatoes, drained
  • 2-3 red tomatoes, diced (Roma tomatoes are a good choice)
  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves, washed and spun dry
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 2 large baguettes, sliced ½ -inch thick (about 36 slices)
  • Extra basil, roughly chopped

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. In the bowl of a food processor, add drained tomatoes, 1 cup basil leaves, olive oil and 2 cloves garlic. Pulse until smooth, but still somewhat chunky. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Remove the tomato mixture from the food processor & stir in the chopped tomatoes.  Also stir in the rest of the basil that has been roughly chopped.
  4. On a baking sheet, line up baguette slices. Toast in oven for about 3 minutes or until light golden brown.  Working quickly, rub the remaining garlic on the toasted side of each slice. Spread one tablespoon of the tomato mixture on each piece of bread.
  5. Place bruschetta on a decorative platter and garnish with basil leaves, if desired.


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