Archive for Spring Appetizers

Swiss Chard Tart With Feta And Currants

I came across this recipe last year and have made it a few times since.  So far, everyone who has eaten it has given it two thumbs up!  And as Swiss chard is available for most of the year I think a good recipe to keep handy!

For the Filling:

1 Tbsp. EVO
1 onion, chopped fine
½ tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. salt
1 bunch Swiss chard (approximately 12 oz.)
¼ cup currants
1 egg
1 1/2 cups crumbled feta (Greek) – I prefer Dodonis
3 Tbsp. freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano

For the Tart:

1 Sheet (225g) puff pastry, bought or homemade
Egg wash:  1 egg beaten with 1 Tbsp.

Make the Filling:

In a skillet, heat the olive oil over medium–low.  Cook the onions until soft,  then add the cinnamon & salt, stirring to combine.

Meanwhile, chop the chard leaves into small ribbons & add to the onions when they are soft.  Cook uncovered, until very soft (10-15 minutes.)

Plump the currants by covering with hot water & allowing them to stand for 10-15 minutes.  Drain well & add to the chard.  Cook on low for another 5 minutes or so.  Allow to cool.

In a medium mixing bowl, beat the egg with the feta & Parmigiano.  Add the chard mixture & combine thoroughly.

Preheat the oven to 375 F.

Meanwhile, lay the pastry out on a baking sheet that has been lined with baking parchment.  Fold the outside over ½” or so to form a lip all the way around the edge.  Prick the surface with a fork & brush with the egg wash.  Refrigerate for an hour or so.  (Keeping the pastry chilled will increase its ability to puff up.)

Spread the chard mixture evenly over the pastry.  Bake for 20-30 minutes, or  until the crust is beautifully browned.

3 Mediterranean Dips

I just crave these dips in the summer. Transports me straight to the Mediterranean! Good pita and some great wine; just about perfect. I think dips are a wonderful thing to take to a party or get-together in the summer. Great with my Greek lemon-oregano chicken or marinated lamb. You might want to drain the yogurt the night before for a nice thick Tzatziki.

Phyllis’ Tzatziki

Makes about 2 1/2 cups

_DSC2041 resize2 cups Plain Yogurt (I like Liberte Mediterranean, but a good thick Greek yogurt would also be great)
½ English cucumber
2 cloves garlic
2 tsp. lemon juice
2 Tbsp. EVOO
½ tsp. Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp. fresh dill, chopped

Take a large piece of well rinsed cheesecloth (Julia Child always recommended rinsing to remove the medicinal aroma of cheesecloth). Line a metal sieve with the cheesecloth. Place the yogurt in the sieve; place over a bowl and cover. Allow to drain in the fridge for a few hours or overnight. Grate the cucumber and place in a sieve over a bowl; salt the cucumber & allow to drain for about 20 minutes. Remove yogurt and place in a large bowl. Squeeze as much liquid from the cucumber as possible, using your hands, and add to the yogurt. Smash the garlic and sprinkle with a little sea salt. By pressing & spreading with the back of a chef’s knife, puree the garlic & add to the yogurt mixture. Add the lemon juice, EVOO, Dijon mustard and dill. Blend well. Place in the fridge for an hour or so to blend the flavours. Season with salt if required and serve with pita bread or as a dip for kebabs or anything else that takes your fancy! Tzatziki will keep for a few days in the fridge.


This is another wonderful dip from the Mediterranean. It is not only delicious with warm pita bread but I also use it for sandwiches & wraps.

Makes about 3 cups

1 19oz tin chick-peas (garbanzo beans), rinsed & drained
½ cup tahini (sesame seed paste), well-stirred
1/3 cup EVOO
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
½ tsp. ground coriander
¼ tsp. ground cumin
2 large cloves garlic, minced
3 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
¼ cup cold water
Salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste

Tahini can be found at most grocery stores, usually in the ethnic section, or at any Greek grocery store.

Place chick-peas, tahini, oil, lemon juice, coriander & cumin in the bowl of a food processor; puree until smooth; transfer to a bowl. Stir in garlic, parsley, water, season with salt & pepper. Hummus is a good keeper and will last a number of days in the fridge.

Baba Ghanouj

Boy do I love this! It just screams summer. Serve either with warm pita or as a spread on a wrap. Try and get some fresh, local eggplant for this if possible.

Makes about 3 cups

2 large eggplants (2 ½ lbs. total)
¼ cup tahini (sesame seed paste), well-stirred
2 – 3 cloves garlic, mashed to a paste with ½ tsp. sea salt
3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
½ tsp. ground cumin
1 – 1 ½ tsp. sea salt
2 Tbsp. EVO
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Garnish: Smoked paprika and a drizzle of EVOO

Tahini can be found at most grocery stores, usually in the ethnic section, or at any Greek grocery store.

Turn oven to broil. Place the eggplant on a baking sheet and broil 6” from heat, until very soft, turning occasionally. Cool 20 – 35 minutes. Cut eggplants in half and remove the flesh, discarding the skin. (I usually strain the cooked eggplant pulp for 30 minutes to remove excess liquid). Place in food processor with tahini, garlic, lemon juice, cumin & salt until combined well. Season with salt if necessary. Transfer to a serving plate or shallow bowl, drizzle with EVO, sprinkle with a few pinches of smoked paprika and then scatter on the parsley.

If you would like to make the chicken to have with the tzatziki, click Greek Lemon Chicken.

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Spot Prawns With Two Dips

Get ‘em still alive. Remove the heads just before cooking. If you are a bit squeamish get your partner (I do), or a friend to do this.  Or you can simply leave them whole.

Spot Prawn season begins in May and we get them right off the boats at the dock at Granville Island. They are wonderfully sweet and succulent and worth waiting for! We just place them on the barbecue, medium-high heat with the shells on and cook until they change colour. You could do them on a rack under the broiler. Watch carefully, you don’t want to overcook them.

These two dips go rather well with the Prawns:

Charmoula Butter

6 Tbsp. butter
1 small clove garlic, finely chopped
2 ½ Tbsp. finely chopped fresh cilantro
1 ½ tsp. fresh lemon juice
½ tsp. (scant) ground cumin
¼ tsp. hot smoked Spanish paprika

Melt the butter in a small pan over medium heat. Add the garlic & sauté for a bit, but do not let the garlic turn colour. Stir in the remaining ingredients; season with salt.

Sweet Chili Sauce – This is really excellent, spicy, sweet and oh so good with spot prawns or halibut cheeks, coconut prawns, or crab cakes.

½ cup sugar
¾ cup water
½ sweet red bell peppers, seeded & any membrane removed, chopped
2 Tbsp. chopped garlic
2 Tbsp. sambal oelek, you can adjust to taste, perhaps 1 Tbsp. to start and see from there
¼ cup fish sauce
4-5 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lime juice

Combine water & sugar in a saucepan. Bring to the boil over high heat stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Boil for 3 minutes or until reduced by a quarter and just beginning to thicken. Let cool.

Place the red pepper, garlic & sambal oelek in a food processor of blender. Add sugar syrup and puree. Add fish sauce & lime juice, blend until combined. Taste for seasoning adding more lime juice, fish sauce or sambal oelek to taste. Makes about 1 ½ cups & freezes really well.

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My First Arancini

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The other day I was trying to figure out what the heck to do with that left-over saffron risotto from the other night. Having just returned from Italy guess what sprung to mind? Aww, you guessed! This risotto is not totally traditional…but it worked great! Of course you could make the risotto and use the entire batch and make more arancini. Hmmm, not a bad idea I think!

DSC_7342 nx2Arancini – Makes 6

1 ½ cups firmly packed cold risotto (recipe follows)
1 beaten egg
3 Tbsp. finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano
6 (1/2”) cubes of Fontina cheese
1 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh marjoram
½ cup + Dry breadcrumbs
Canola oil or other vegetable oil for frying

Stir the beaten egg & cheese into the risotto with a fork combining well. Using wet hands shape the risotto into 6 balls & place onto a piece of wax paper. Press an indent into each one with your finger. Roll each piece of cheese in the chopped marjoram before placing into the hole in each arancini. Reshape into a ball; then roll each in the breadcrumbs. As the arancini are formed place them on a rack set on a baking sheet & once all are rolled in breadcrumbs, refrigerate for an hour or so.

When ready to fry the arancini, heat 2 – 3” of oil in a deep-fryer, or you can use a deep electric frying pan (which is what I do), to 350F. When the oil is hot, carefully lower the arancini into the oil & fry until they are nicely browned , approximately 7 minutes. Remove from the oil onto a baking sheet lined with paper towels. Cool for a few minutes & serve (they don’t need to be piping hot).

Saffron Risotto (Makes more than required for 6 arancini)

1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
½ cup chopped onion
½ tsp. chopped garlic
½ tsp. Spanish paprika (not smoked)
1 cup short-grain risotto rice
¼ tsp. saffron threads
2 ½ cups unsalted chicken stock, either homemade** or bought
Salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
1 Tbsp. chopped parsley

Heat the chicken stock until hot. Add the saffron, cover & keep warm.

Heat a sauté pan over medium heat; add the butter until it’s melted & hot; then add the onions & sauté until softened but not browned; add the garlic for a minute. Stir in the paprika & sauté for another 2 or 3 minutes; add the rice & stir until the rice is coated with the butter.

Stir in the hot chicken stock & ½ tsp. salt; bring to a boil; reduce the heat to medium-low & let rice cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until stock is absorbed & the rice is tender but still moist; season with additional salt & freshly ground pepper to taste & stir in the parsley.

**If you would like to make your own chicken stock, please see Homemade Stock.

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Warm Artichoke Parmigiano Spread

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When I noticed on Facebook how many people made that Mexican layered bean dip for their Super Bowl Sunday appetizer, I was quite surprised! I mean, that is one old chestnut if there ever was one and one that I have made a lot over the years. I used to make it and take to the beach for a picnic to have as a snack. Always could be counted on to make people happy; it’s vegetarian and probably gluten free too! This got me thinking about appetizers I used to make for entertaining and this was one of them…kinda slutty but when I made it for Valentine’s Day, we both agreed, it’s still a winner! Serve with toasted baguette slices.

DSC_6656 nx2Makes Approximately 1 1/3 cups

1 (14 oz.) tin artichoke hearts
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano (large grate on a box grater)
¼ cup light mayonnaise
1 tsp. lemon rind (finely grated on a Microplane)
2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice (Meyer lemon is great)
1 clove garlic, minced
Pinch each of cayenne, paprika, salt & freshly ground black pepper

Drain the artichokes well & squeeze out as much moisture as possible; set 1 tablespoon of the Parmigiano aside.
Place the artichokes, remaining Parmigiano, mayonnaise, lemon rind & juice in a food processor; process for about 2 minutes, scraping down the sides after 1 minute, until fairly smooth. Stir in the garlic, cayenne, paprika, salt & black pepper & pulse just until combined.

Preheat the oven to 400 F.

Grease or spray with non-stick cooking spray a 2 cup ovenproof serving dish. Place the mixture in the dish, spreading evenly; sprinkle with the reserved cheese. Bake for about 20 minutes or until the edges are golden; serve warm.

Note: You can prepare, cover & refrigerate the spread for up to 8 hours; it may take a few minutes longer to brown around the edges, having been in the fridge.

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Dynamite Chinese Chicken Thighs

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My husband gives these his “two thumbs up.” You can absolutely substitute approximately 2 lbs. of chicken wings. The chicken can be cooked in the oven on a rack, or are perfect for the barbecue, just make sure when you barbecue them to use the “indirect” method or you’ll end up with burnt wings!  Wings would made  finger-licking good appetizers!

DSC_6561 nx26 – 8 large chicken thighs (bone-in, skin-on)

Make The Marinade:

2/3 cup plum sauce (we like Lee Kum Kee brand)
¼ cup liquid honey
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. peeled, finely grated fresh ginger
¼ tsp. Chinese Five-Spice Powder**
1 Tbsp. Chinese chili sauce (we use Maggi brand)
2 tsp. finely grated fresh orange rind
½ cup light soy sauce
½ cup dry sherry

Combine all the marinade ingredients in a medium sized bowl with a whisk. Place the chicken into a large glass dish & pour the marinade over top. Turn the chicken over a few times; cover with plastic wrap & place in the fridge overnight; turning the chicken over in the morning.

year of the horsePreheat the oven to 375 F. Prepare a broiler pan with a rack; oil the rack or spray with non-stick cooking spray. If cooking on the barbecue, place a drip pan in the middle of the barbecue with the charcoal on either side; place the chicken over the drip pan; cover with the lid; cook for 15 minutes, turn the chicken over & cook for approximately 12 minutes more or until the juices run clear.

Serving Note:  The chicken can be served with Chinese noodles or steamed rice & stir fried veggies.

**If you would like to make your own fragrant, delicious, home-made Chinese 5-Spice Powder, please see Chinese Five-Spice Powder.

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Mushroom Crostini

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Mushroom soup, mushroom pasta sauce, mushroom filled ravioli, so many ideas, so little time, especially for wild mushrooms! If you like, you could change things up a bit by adding a few dried Porcini that have been soaked, drained and chopped or substitute some fresh Chanterelles for some of the brown mushrooms. In the spring, if you are lucky, you might get your hands on some fresh Porcini…Delicious! Crostini make a great appetizer for entertaining, so many different kinds; so many great flavours!

DSC_6390 nx2Makes Approximately 40 Crostini

¼ cup EVO
1 red onion, finely chopped
1 large clove garlic, minced
2 ½ lbs. brown mushrooms
1 ½ cups whipping cream/heavy cream
½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana Padano
3 Tbsp. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 thin baguettes or ficelle’s

Garnish: sprigs of parsley

In large skillet, heat 1 Tbsp. of the EVOO over medium heat; cook onion for 3 – 5 minutes or until softened but not brown; add garlic; cook for 1 minute. Remove onions & garlic from pan; set aside.

Wipe out the pan; add remaining oil to pan; cook mushrooms over medium to medium high heat for 12 – 15 minutes until the moisture from the mushrooms evaporates. Add the onion mixture & cream; bring to a boil. Cook over medium high heat, stirring occasionally for approximately 5 minutes or until thickened & the mushrooms are coated; remove from the heat. Stir in ¼ cup of the cheese & chopped parsley; season with salt & pepper.

Preheat oven to 400F.

**You can make the mushroom mixture the day before, cool, cover and store in the fridge until needed.

Slice the baguettes into thin slices, approximately ¼” thick. Spread each with a heaping tablespoonful of the mushroom mixture; sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Place onto a rimmed baking sheet & bake for 5 – 6 minutes or until toasted & heated through. Garnish with a small piece of parsley, serve hot.

**Alternatively, you can slice the bread, place on a baking sheet, brush the top with a little EVOO & bake at 400F for approximately 5 – 8 minutes or until slightly golden. Cool. When ready to serve the crostini, top each with some mushroom mixture and bake as above. This will make a slightly crisper crostini & has the benefit of being able to prepare the baguette slices well ahead.

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Homemade “Boursin” Cheese

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Boursin cheese can be quite expensive and I think this delicious version makes a great substitute for the bought Boursin. Great on crackers or slices of baguette and it will keep for up to 5 days in the fridge. I often make this around Christmas, all I need are a few marinated olives and maybe another cheese or two and I have an appetizer ready to go!

DSC_4246 nx22 pks (8 oz. each) cream cheese, room temperature
¼ cup mayonnaise (lite is just fine here)
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
2 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh chives or green onions
2 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh dill**
1 clove garlic, minced

With the food processor running; drop the clove of garlic through the feed tube, & process until finely chopped; add all the ingredients, except for the green onions & dill & using on/off turns combine well; add the green onions & dill & combine, using a few on/off turns.

Line a 2 cup mold with plastic wrap; add the cheese, smoothing the surface; cover & place in the fridge overnight. Remove from the fridge, turn out onto a serving plate; remove the plastic wrap and serve.

**You can also divide the mixture into 2 (1) cup molds which is what I normally do.

**To have chopped dill when it’s not in season, see Phyllis’ Kitchen/Cooking Tips.

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Marinated Feta Cheese

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Easy to put together, great on pita or slices of baguette, or even use in a salad. Use a creamy sheep or goat’s milk feta for the best flavour, also it spreads more readily. The cheese will keep up to 5 days in the fridge.  I like to serve this in the summer, but any time is the right time!

DSC_4153 nx21 tsp. each whole fennel seeds & coriander seeds, toasted
2/3 cup EVO
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary or thyme
1 tsp. lemon rind
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
½ tsp. red pepper flakes or to taste
3 cups of feta cut into ½” cubes (approx. 400 grams)

In a small dry skillet, toast fennel & coriander seeds over medium heat, swirling the pan, until fragrant, about 3 minutes; transfer to a large glass jar or bowl.

Add the oil, rosemary, lemon rind, lemon juice & red pepper flakes; seal with a lid & shake to combine.

Add the cheese; cover with a lid. Gently turn jar over once or twice to combine. Refrigerate for 12 hours, turning jar over occasionally.

Let come to room temperature before serving.

**The photo shows both my Tapenade & Baba Ghanouj, if you would like to make them, click on the link.

Green and Black Olive Tapenade

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This is a dead-easy spread/topping. I like to use both Greek Kalamata olives and Greek green olives in brine. You will have to pit them but it’s not hard; just lay on a cutting board, place the back of a chef’s knife on the olive and give it a slight whack; just like when you are peeling garlic. I have used the Tapenade on a panino with prosciutto and cheese too! All you need is some good sliced Italian bread! (**Check out Rise Artisan’s breads). Tapenade makes a great addition to an antipasto platter.

DSC_8108 nx22 cups pitted Kalamata & green Greek olives
3 Tbsp. capers, rinsed (I prefer the capers packed in salt to the brined ones)
2 garlic cloves, chopped
6 Tbsp. good EVO
2 tsp. grated lemon zest

Place the olives, capers, garlic, EVO & lemon zest in the bowl of a food processor; process until coarsely chopped (do not puree). Place in a tightly covered jar & store in the fridge. Serve the Tapenade at room temperature.

**If you want to buy some of Rise’s awesome bread, please go to My Source List.

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