Archive for Winter Appetizers – Page 2

Mexican Style Picadillo

For a printer friendly version of this recipe, click here.

This is one handy recipe! I often make up a batch, use some for the tortillas and freeze the rest to use for other things, like making an appetizer by filling phyllo cups with the heated mixture or as a filling for a burrito…thinking it might be pretty good with a fried egg on top too!

Make the Picadillo:

DSC_3377 nx21 large onion, chopped fine
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbsp. EVO
1 lb. ground pork
1 lb. lean ground beef
1/3 cup raisins
1 ½ cups tomato sauce (from a tin)
½ cup sliced pimiento-stuffed green olives
¾ tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. ground cloves
¼ tsp. chili flakes (or to taste)
4 Tbsp. sliced almonds
2 Tbsp. chopped Italian (flat-leaf) parsley
Salt & freshly ground black pepper

Make the Picadillo:

In a large heavy skillet, cook the onion & the garlic in the oil over medium- low heat, stirring, until the onion is softened; add the pork & beef & cook the mixture over medium heat, stirring & breaking up any lumps with a fork, until the meat is no longer pink. Pour off any excess fat; stir in the spices for 30 seconds, then add the raisins, tomato sauce, olives, salt & pepper to taste; simmer, stirring occasionally, for 10 to 15 minutes.

NB: You can make the Picadillo up to 1 or 2 days ahead.

For Serving With Tortillas:

Makes 6 Servings

Twelve 6″ or 7” corn tortillas
Shredded romaine or iceberg lettuce
Thinly sliced red onion or coarsely grated radishes (or some of each)

In a skillet heat ¼” vegetable oil over medium high heat until it’s hot but not smoking & fry the tortillas, 1 at a time for 30 seconds to 1 minute, or until they are crisp & golden; transfer them with tongs as they are fried to a large baking sheet lined with paper towels & keep warm in a 180 F oven.

To serve, place the shells in one layer on plates, divide the Picadillo among them & top with some of the lettuce, onion & radishes if using.

**If you would like to make the crust for empadas, please go to Empadas.

**If you would like to use the Picadillo as a filling for an appetizer, please go to Phyllo Cups.

**If you would like to see my recipe for guacamole, please go to Guacamole.

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My Guacamole


Once I get through January & February,  I start thinking about foods from warmer climates. Go figure! There are so many variations for guacamole; ones that include chopped tomatoes, salsa, etc. etc. I prefer my guacamole with a few ingredients that really enhance the avocadoes. There are many uses for guacamole.  Topping an enchilada, a dip for corn chips, inside a burrito, a topping for picadillo cups, or taco salad (which I happen to really like, either with ground beef or instead of the beef, ground turkey & or black beans.)  Love all those toppings!

2 large ripe avocadoes**
1 large clove garlic
1/8 tsp. coarse sea salt
4 tsp. freshly squeezed lime juice
½ tsp. ground cumin
2 Tbsp. chopped cilantro, more if you wish
3 Tbsp. finely chopped red onion
1 small jalapeno chili, seeds & membrane removed, & minced
Fine sea salt to taste


Cut the avocado in half, remove & reserve the pits. Using a spoon, remove the flesh from the avocado & place into a flat dish. Mash with a fork. Place the salt & garlic on a cutting board & using the back of the knife, in a back & forth motion, puree the garlic, scraping it up & going over it a few times with the back of the knife. Add to the avocado along with the lime juice, cumin, cilantro, red onion & jalapeno. Stir together & taste, adding more salt, if required. Serve immediately or return the pits to the guacamole & place in the fridge until needed.

Tips: It’s a really good idea to return the pits of the avocadoes to the guacamole, it really helps prevent the guacamole from darkening.  I like to buy my avocadoes when they are still quite hard, place in a paper bag with a ripe banana & keep in a warm place until they are soft enough to use.

Meatballs, A Hosts’ Friend

I personally don’t believe you can have too many recipes for meatballs for serving as appetizers or whatever else you can think of!  These ones have all received 2 thumbs up!  Perfect party food to my mind!

Spanish Tapas Meatballs

These little morsels would be a big hit at any tapas party! The perfume of saffron, paprika and garlic transports you to Spain! Saffron is a bit pricey, but a little goes a long way and can be used in many dishes such as Milanese rice and paella. Don’t cheap out on the saffron, get the good stuff, you will be a lot happier with the results! It adds such a lovely nuance to food, that I think it’s worth the expense, not only that,  it keeps forever.  I have found that I need to double this recipe they are so good!

Makes About 32 Meatballs

1 lb. ground meat, a mixture of pork & veal (or pork & beef is also very good)
4 Tbsp. chopped fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 large egg, beaten to blend
1 ½” thick slice French bread, crust removed, soaked in water 3 minutes & squeezed dry
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
Unbleached flour

EVOO for frying (approx. ¼ cup)
¼ cup chopped onion
½ tsp. Hungarian sweet paprika (I use Spanish sweet paprika just to keep things authentic)
1 cup (or more) dry white wine
¼ tsp. crumbled saffron threads (not powder)

Combine ground meats together with the 1 Tbsp. parsley, half the garlic, the egg, bread, ½ tsp. salt & ½ tsp. ground pepper in a medium bowl just to blend. Form the mixture into 1” balls. Dust the meatballs with flour & set aside.

Heat oil in large heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add the meatballs & fry until browned on all sides, about 10 minutes. Remove them from the pan, using a slotted spoon & transfer to a plate. Add onion to the skillet; reduce heat to medium & sauté until tender, about 2 minutes. Stir in the paprika, then 1 cup of broth & the wine. Return meatballs with any accumulated juices to the pan. Bring to a simmer. Cover & cook the meatballs until they are tender, about 25 minutes.

Uncover; add 2 Tbsp. parsley, remaining garlic & saffron. Simmer until sauce thickens, turning the meatballs occasionally, about 10 minutes. Tip:  normally I put the saffron into the wine & let it stand for 15 minutes before adding it. I think it brings out the flavour more, but you don’t have to. Season sauce to taste with salt & freshly ground black pepper. Place the meatballs on a serving platter & top with 1 Tbsp. parsley.

Note: you can make the meatballs 1 day ahead. Cool slightly, cover & put in the fridge. Bring them to a simmer, thinning the sauce with more chicken broth if necessary.

Asian Meatballs

I wish I had discovered these incredibly easy to make meatballs years ago! I love these meatballs. They get glazed in the oven and are really scrumptious.  Great to make ahead & reheat when needed. A good thing to take to a party! Just reheat when you need them.

1 lb. lean ground pork
2 green onions, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tsp. grated fresh ginger
2 Tbsp. hoisin sauce
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
2 tsp. cornstarch
2 tsp. dry sherry
¼ cup dry breadcrumbs**

Dipping Sauce:

½ cup mango chutney (I prefer  Patak’s), large pieces chopped
2 tsp. hoisin sauce

Garnish: sesame seeds &  sprigs of cilantro

Preheat the oven to 375 F.

Combine all ingredients (except sauce ingredients & garnish); mix thoroughtly, but with a light hand. Form the mixture into ¾” balls. Place on a well-oiled, rimmed baking sheet and bake for approximately 20 minutes, or until cooked through.

Combine sauce ingredients and serve at room temperature. You can, if you wish, heat the sauce in the microwave, covered, for about 1 minute.

Place the hot meatballs on a serving platter, top with sesame seeds & cilantro; serve with the sauce.

Note: these meatballs freeze very well. Thaw & reheat in the oven at 350 F for 15 minutes or microwave at full power for 1 – 2 minutes.

If you would like to make your own breadcrumbs, click Making Breadcrumbs.

Greek Meatballs

These meatballs are just plain delicious with the lovely flavour of mint & cinnamon. I usually serve them with a tzatziki sauce for dipping. FYI: one of the other things I do, besides serving as an appetizer,  is serve them in warm pita bread with some chopped tomato, onion & lettuce, drizzled with tahini sauce. Tasty stuff!

½ lb. ground lamb
½ lb. ground beef
**I use all ground beef combining ½ lb. each medium &  lean beef, but feel free to use the lamb
1 beaten egg
½ cup soft bread crumbs**
1 small onion, very finely chopped (approx. 1/3 cup)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. fresh mint, minced
¼ to ½ tsp. ground cinnamon
¼ tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Tzatziki Dip:

Probably more than you need, but what the heck, it keeps for a few days & with a few olives & some warm pita, makes a welcome appy! Or how about serving some with  grilled Greek lamb chops? However, you can cut the recipe in half.

2 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 from the cheesecloth). Line a sieve with the cheesecloth. Place the yogurt into the sieve; place over a bowl and cover. Allow to drain in the fridge for a few hours or overnight. Grate the cucumber & place in a sieve over a bowl; salt the cucumber & allow to drain for about 20 minutes. Remove yogurt & place in a large bowl. Squeeze as much liquid from the cucumber as possible, using your hands; add to the yogurt. Smash the garlic & 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 & dill. Blend well. Place in the fridge for an hour or so to blend the flavours. Season with salt if required.

Make The Meatballs:

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Combine egg & bread crumbs in a mixing bowl. Stir in the onion, garlic, mint, cinnamon, salt & pepper;  add the ground meat combine well; but with a light hand. Shape into 1” balls.

Place meatballs onto a well-oiled rimmed baking sheet. Bake in the oven for approximately 15 minutes or until cooked through.

If you would like to make breadcrumbs, click Making Breadcrumbs.

Tahini Sauce:  (in case you want to try the meatballs in pita)

½ cup tahini
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
¼ cup EVOO
¼ cup water
1 garlic clove, minced
½ tsp. ground cumin
¼ tsp. hot pepper sauce (Tabasco) or I like to use Harissa**, to taste
2 Tbsp. finely chopped Italian (flat-leaf) parsley

Place all ingredients in a medium bowl & whisk to combine.

Harissa is a pepper puree, in a tube, available at Middle Eastern Stores & in some grocery stores.

If you would like to make your own breadcrumbs, click Making Breadcrumbs.

Indian Meatballs

With the popularity of south Asian cuisine, this recipe certainly deserves to be added to the meatball repertoire! I like to serve them with two different dips.

½ cup light (golden raisins)
½ cup slivered almonds, lightly toasted**
¼ cup thinly sliced green onions
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. ground allspice
2 cloves garlic
1 lb. ground beef (not too lean), or ground lamb

Garnish: cilantro sprigs

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Place the raisins & almonds in the bowl of a food processor & process till just finely chopped.

In a bowl combine the raisin mixture, onions, cinnamon, salt, allspice and garlic. Add ground meat. Mix well, using a light hand. Form into 1” balls. Arrange meatballs on a well-oiled, rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 12 – 15 minutes, or until no pink remains, turning once if you like.  Drain if necessary. Place on a serving platter, garnish with cilantro ad serve with dips.


1.  Combine thick yogurt with a finely minced clove of garlic & finely chopped red onion to taste.  Chill until ready to use.
2.  Mango chutney, hot or mild (I prefer Pataks.)

If you would like to make breadcrumbs, click Making Breadcrumbs.  

 If you wish to see how to toast nuts, click Toasting Nuts.

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Anne’s Meatballs

When I worked at the corporate dining room, we made bucketful’s of these meatballs for receptions,coated with a sauce made from grape jelly, chili sauce and a squeeze of lemon juice; probably sounds a bit odd, but tastes pretty good! They were always a hit.  We also like to make them for a main course, making them larger and serving with different sauces, perhaps a Swedish meatball sauce or a stroganoff sauce or even for spaghetti and meatballs. They are baked in the oven, instead of frying and can be made a couple of days ahead or even frozen until needed.

DSC_7145 nx2Makes About 60 Small Meatballs

2 lbs. medium ground beef, or a mixture of lean & medium
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
¼ cup homogenized milk
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 medium sized onion, finely chopped
½ green pepper, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely minced
1 tsp. salt
¼ tsp. pepper
1 ½ tsp. soy sauce

Preheat the oven to 400 F.

Combine everything, except the meat. Mix well. Add the meat & combine, using a light touch. Shape into 1” balls. Place the meatballs, as they are formed, onto well-greased rimmed baking pans. Place in the oven for 15 minutes, turn them over & bake for a further 10 minutes or so, until cooked through.

The meatballs in the photo are served in a  basic stroganoff sauce consisting of sautéed onions & mushrooms, beef stock, a bit of  tomato paste & Worcestershire sauce, to which the pre-cooked meatballs are added; then covered & simmered for 15 minutes & finished with light sour cream that has a  couple of teaspoons of flour stirred in to thicken the sauce, simmered for 10 minutes, then seasoned with salt & pepper  & a sprinkling of chopped parsley.

FYI: Here is the “famous” sauce just in case!

1 jar grape jelly
1 jar Heinz chili sauce
Juice of 1 lemon

Combine in a medium size saucepan and heat on medium heat, on top of the stove until melted & hot. Pour over the hot meatballs & serve, using picks.

For more amazingly tempting meatball recipes, click Meatballs, A Hosts’ Friend.

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How To Make Wonton Cups

Making these is pretty easy!  You can make them a few days ahead & store at room temperature in an airtight container.  Have fun coming up with any number of Asian inspired fillings that you like!

1 package square wonton wrappers
Canola or other tasteless oil


Preheat oven to 325°F.

Place wonton squares on work surface; brush lightly with oil. Press each into miniature muffin cups, oiled side down. Bake until wonton cups are golden brown, about 10 minutes. Cool completely in  muffin tins.

**If you would like to see one of my favourite fillings, please go to Asian Barbecued Pork.

Butternut Squash Tart

The chile-infused honey really works on this “tart”. It offsets the rich flavours of the squash. We served it topped with dressed greens for the fun of it but it’s not necessary if you don’t want to.

Makes 4 – 6 Appetizer Servings

1 sheet of frozen puff pastry, thawed (from a 17.3-ounce package)
1 large egg beaten with 1 teaspoon water
12 1/8″-thick rounds peeled butternut squash
kosher salt
1/4 cup honey
1 thinly sliced jalapeño, or red Thai chile
3 tablespoons olive oil
12 fresh sage leaves
1/4 cup shaved Parmesan
freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 375°F.

Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Gently roll out 1 sheet of frozen puff pastry, thawed (from a 17.3-ounce package) on a lightly floured surface to a 10″ square (just enough to even out). Transfer to prepared sheet.

Brush pastry with 1 large egg beaten with 1 teaspoon water. Arrange twelve 1/8″ thick rounds peeled butternut squash (cut from squash’s neck) over pastry, overlapping as needed and leaving a 1/2″ border. Place another sheet of parchment paper over squash. Set another large rimmed baking sheet over the tart. (This will weigh down the pastry dough and steam the squash slices.)

Bake until bottom of pastry begins to brown and top begins to puff, about 10 minutes.

Remove top baking sheet and discard top sheet of parchment paper. Brush squash slices with 1 tablespoon olive oil and season with kosher salt. Return tart, uncovered, to oven and bake until pastry is deep golden brown and cooked through, 25–30 minutes longer.

Meanwhile, combine 1/4 cup honey, 1 thinly sliced jalapeño, or red Thai chile, and 2 tablespoons water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat (add another thinly sliced chile if more heat is desired). Boil until thickened slightly and syrupy, about 6 minutes.

Line a plate with paper towels. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a small skillet until just beginning to smoke. Add 12 fresh sage leaves; fry until crisp, about 30 seconds. Transfer to paper towels to drain.

Slice tart. Arrange 1/4 cup shaved Parmesan on top; drizzle with chile-infused honey. Garnish with fried sage leaves and a few grinds of black pepper.

Scallop Brochette

You can use prawns or a combination of both scallops & prawns or Spot Prawns, or one of my favourites, halibut cheeks! I really like this marinade and use it for a main course, or it makes terrific skewered appetizers. You can take these along to a party and throw on the marinade  for an hour then place on well soaked  wooden skewers (minimum of 30 minutes) and either barbecue or broil.  Increase the recipe according to the amount of fish or seafood you are using.


8 – 12 oz scallops, prawns or halibut cheeks
2 Tbsp. EVO
1 ½ tsp. stone ground Dijon Mustard
½ clove garlic, minced
Salt & pepper
1/8 tsp. or more to taste, red pepper flakes
½ – 1 tsp. fresh thyme (make sure you use fresh as it lends a wonderful sweetness)

Whisk all ingredients together pour over seafood, coating well.  Marinate no longer than 3 hours in the fridge or 1 hour at room temperature.

Place the seafood on the well-soaked skewers & broil or barbecue for 2 minutes or so per side or until the prawns change colour and the scallops feel done.  Best not to overcook the scallops or they will be dry & tough.


“Pizza” With Caramelized Onions And Gorgonzola

For a printer friendly version of this recipe, click here.

The beauty of this very tasty appetizer is using tortillas for a “pizza” crust. Don’t’ be put off by the use of Gorgonzola; the sweetness of the caramelized onions and the cheese go so well together! Trust me, this is a hit whenever I serve it.

Makes 32 Appetizers

2 lbs. onions, chopped
2 Tbsp. butter or EVO
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
4 flour tortillas (approx. 10” diameter), thicker tortillas like Que Pasa are better than thin ones
½ – ¾ lb. Gorgonzola (mild not picante)
1/3 cup finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary
¼ cup thinly sliced fresh basil (leaves rolled up together, sliced very thinly, aka chiffonade)

Make the Caramelized Onions:

Cook the onions in butter in a large skillet for about 10 minutes or until wilted. Sprinkle with the sugar, salt & pepper & continue to cook for 20 – 30 minutes until browned & very tender. Cool. Note: the onions can be done the day before.

Preheat the oven to 375F.

Place tortillas in the oven in a single layer, directly on the oven racks until crispy & lightly browned, 4 – 6 minutes.  Remove from oven & place tortillas on rimmed baking sheets in a single layer. Spread them with the onions & dot with the Gorgonzola. Sprinkle with the Parmigiano & rosemary. Bake 8 – 10 minutes until cheese melts. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with the basil. Cool  for a couple of minutes.

Cut each tortilla into 8 wedges. Enjoy!

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Salumi Appetizer Platter

I’ve listed my favourites but feel free to improvise with what  appeals to you. Perhaps a jar of marinated vegetables, or grilled zucchini? Don’t hesitate to increase the quantities I’ve given!  Sometimes in the summer on a hot day, this is dinner. A glass or two of wine would not go amiss either!

Makes 4 Servings

50 grams each of 3 different salami**
100 grams of Proscuitto di Parma, sliced thin
3 different types of Italian cheeses, such as Taleggio, Gorgonzola Dolce, Pecornio Fresca, Robiola, Fontina or “Hay & Honey Pecorino”
200 grams marinated olives**
250 – 300 grams marinated artichoke hearts
200 grams marinated mushrooms
250 or more grams marinated red peppers**
Really good Italian Bread or baguettes**

Arrange all your goodies attractively on a platter and serve it forth!  Pass the bread basket & some good wine please!

**If you feel inspired and want to make your own marinated olives or marinated red peppers, please to go Marinated Olives & Marinated Red Peppers With Basil.

**If you are seeking some great bread and excellent quality salami & meats both Oyama & Moccia Urbani are a good bet, please go to My Source List to find locations for Oyama, Moccia & Rise Artisan.

Phyllis’ Fennel And Prosciutto Bruschetta

Who says you can’t be clever with leftovers. Not us.

The other day I made salad with thinly sliced fennel and proscuitto  we like a lot.  Well…as luck would have it, there was some fennel and prosciutto left over. What to do? Hmm…

I have not given quantities as it depends on how many bruschetta you want to make but 1 small fennel and 50-75 grams prosciutto will probably make 8 bruschetta, approximately 3” x 3”.

Cleaned and very thinly (almost shaved) fennel, core removed
Proscuitto di Parma slices
A loaf of crusty artisanal Italian bread
Whole garlic cloves, peeled
Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated

Mix the fennel with some EVO and season with salt & freshly ground black pepper. Set aside.

Roll the slices of prosciutto up into a roll and thinly slice the roll crosswise into ¼” strips. Set aside.

Turn on the broiler & place the oven rack on the highest level. Cut the bread into ½” thick slices & place onto a rimmed baking sheet. Brush top side of the bread with EVO. Place under the broiler for a few minutes until lightly toasted around the edges. Remove from the oven and immediately rub the oiled side of the bread slides all over with the whole garlic. Then place a Tbsp. or so of Parmigiano on top, some of the fennel followed by some of the sliced prosciutto. Yum Yum!



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