Shrimp and Corn Salsa Appetizer

Shrimp Corn Salsa

I am always looking for new ideas for appetizers, especially one that is light, healthy, and delicious. Shrimp are very versatile, which makes the possibilities endless. For this recipe, I am using a latin spice profile for its warm, bold, aromatic flavors. Cucumber will be the base of the appetizer, which makes this extra healthy. You can also use a crostini or a tortilla chip if you prefer.

Let’s get started.

Ingredients for Shrimp Marinade:
½ – lb. small shrimp, cleaned and deveined
¼ – tsp. salt
¼ – tsp. ground black pepper
¼ – tsp. smoked paprika
¼ – tsp. Adobo seasoning
¼ – tsp. Cumin
¼ – tsp. garlic powder
¼ – tsp. chili powder
1 – tsp. olive oil
1 – english cucumber

Directions:
Place the cleaned and dried shrimp in a bowl. In a separate bowl, combine all the spices (not the cucumber) and mix together.  Drizzle olive oil over the shrimp, add the spice mixture and mix thoroughly. 

latin flavored shrimp

Cover and place in the refrigerator until you are ready to cook them. You can let the shrimp marinate while you prepare the salsa, but let them marinate for at least ½ hour.

Now let’s prepare the corn salsa. 

Ingredients for the Corn Salsa:
1 – can sweet corn (no salt added)
1/2 – red bell pepper finely diced
¼ – cup red onion finely diced
¼ – tsp. Adobo
½ – tsp. garlic powder
¼ – tsp. chili powder
1/8 – tsp. cumin
½ – tsp salt or to taste
1/8 – tsp. ground black pepper
2 – tbls chopped cilantro
1 – small lime

Directions:
Finely dice the bell pepper and onion. Open the can of corn and drain out the water. Place it into a medium sized bowl. Add the diced pepper and onion to the corn. In a separate bowl, add all the spices and mix together. I used the same flavor profile as the shrimp marinade, except for the smoked paprika.  Squeeze the juice of the lime over the corn mixture, mix well, then add the chopped cilantro and mix it through.  Set aside until ready to serve.  It is best to serve it at room temperature.

corn salsa

Prepare the cucumber just before you are ready to cook the shrimp.

You can use any cucumber you prefer, but I use the english cucumber because they are crisper than regular cucumbers, and the skin is not waxy. Wash the cucumber and pat it dry. Cut it into ¼ inch thick slices.  Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with a little salt.

Cook the shrimp.

Cooking the shrimp is very fast, so cook them just before you are ready to serve them.

Add a little canola oil to a skillet and heat on a medium-high flame. Drop in the marinated shrimp and cook until they turn pink, about 2-3 minutes.  Stir often.  Do not over cook.

It’s time to assemble:

Take a oiled and salted cucumber slice and place a little corn salsa on top , then top off with one shrimp.  As you put it together, place it on a serving platter. Repeat with the rest of the cucumber slices until you fill the platter. Sprinkle with chopped cilantro over the top and serve immediately.

Shrimp Corn Salsa



Caprese Salad

Caprese Salad, Mozzarella, Tomatoes, Basil

Caprese Salad

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Serves: 4-5

Caprese salad is made with only four main ingredients, so it is important that you use the best ingredients possible.  I like to use mozzarella di bufala (mozzarella made with buffalo milk). You can find an imported Italian brand in most warehouse clubs. Otherwise buy the best fresh mozzarella you can find from an Italian cheese store. I have been craving this salad since my recent trip to Italy. I went with my sister, niece and cousins. We had a great trip, but the one thing that my niece, Jasmine, had to have every day was Insalata Caprese. We visited Capri where this salad originates. The tomatoes were at their peak, and the mozzarella di bufala was the best we ever had. So, with this traditional Caprese recipe, I am reliving my trip to Italy.

Ingredients:
1 – lb. ripe Campari or vine ripened tomatoes
10 – oz. mozzarella di bufala
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 – fresh basil leaves
1/4 – tsp. dried oregano
Salt

Directions:
Slice tomatoes in 1/4 inch thick slices. Arrange them on a plate in a single layer. Sprinkle with salt and oregano, then drizzle about 2 tablespoons of olive oil over the tomatoes.

Campari tomatoes

Slice the mozzarella in 1/4 inch thick slices, and arrange them on top of the tomatoes. Sprinkle with a little salt and a pinch of oregano. Taste the mozzarella before you add salt to determine how much is needed. Drizzle a little olive oil over the cheese and top with pieces of basil. Tear the basil with your hands; do not cut it with a knife.

Tomatoes, mozzarella, basil

Serve immediately.

Buon appetito!
Caprese, Salad, Tomatoes, Mozzarella




Turkey, Mascarpone, Cranberry, Arugula Wraps

This is a light and delicious appetizer or lunch any time of the year, and it is easy to make.

Ingredients:
1/2 – lb. honey turkey
3 – oz. mascarpone
3 – tbls. cranberry sauce with whole cranberries
1 – cucumber
Baby Arugula
3 – sun-dried tomato basil tortilla wraps
salt

Directions:
Leave the mascarpone and the tortilla wraps out on the counter to come to room temperature. Then take 3 ounces of mascarpone in a small bowl and add 3 tablespoons of cranberry sauce.  Mix well.

Rinse the cucumber well under cold water, dry off and cut 15 thin slices, set aside.

To assemble the wrap, spread 1/3 of the mascarpone and cranberry over the tortilla.

Place three slices of turkey on top and add 5 slices of cucumber down the center of the wrap.  Sprinkle with a little salt.

Top off with arugula.

Roll the tortilla tightly and cut off the ends.

Cut wrap into 1′ sized pieces.

Place on a serving dish and cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Makes 3 wraps.
Serves 4-6 people as an appetizer.

Enjoy!

 




Guacamole

Guacamole, Avocado

Guacamole is not only for dipping chips, but it is also great as a condiment for tacos, sandwiches, or any Mexican dish. This is also a great summer time food. It goes perfectly at any barbecue or picnic. Add jalapeño peppers if you like a little heat.

Avocados are very nutritious. They are full of vitamins and minerals such as potassium, folate, vitamin K, vitamin C, and more.  Although avocados are high in fat, they are a good source of the heart healthy monounsaturated fatty acid called oleic acid.  So you don’t have to feel too guilty about eating something so delicious…enjoy!

Ingredients:
2 – avocados
1 – medium ripe tomato
1/4 – cup diced red onion
1 – lime
1/4 – cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 – tsp. salt
Ground black pepper to taste
Tortilla chips for dipping

Directions:
I use a mortar and pestle to mix the guacamole, but if you do not have one you can use any bowl and a fork to mix the ingredients.

Using a knife, slice the avocado in half, length wise. Hold the fruit with both hands and twist until the two halves separate. To remove the pit, whack it carefully with the knife until it sticks into the pit. Hold the avocado firmly in your hand and twist the knife with the other hand. The pit will lift out easily.

Scoop out the avocado from both halves with a spoon and place it into the mortar or bowl. Add the salt and black pepper. Using the pestle or a fork, mash the avocado to the consistency you prefer. You can make it smooth or a little chunky. I prefer it a little chunky.

Now add the diced onion and tomatoes and chopped cilantro. Squeeze the juice of the lime over top and mix through the avocado.

Remove the guacamole from the mortar and place into a bowl or container. Cover completely with plastic wrap, placing it against the surface of the guacamole in order to keep out the air. Let it set about one hour to allow the flavors to come together before serving. Serve at room temperature for the best flavor with your favorite tortilla chips.

Enjoy!


 




Grilled Zucchine and Tomato with Mozzarella and Basil

Zucchini and tomatoes are two of my favorite things, and summer time is when they are at their best. This is a light meal that is perfect for a hot summer day. It is healthy, delicious and easy to make. It can be used as a main dish, appetizer or side dish.

Ingredients:
2 – large zucchini
2 – ripe tomatoes
1 – ball of fresh mozzarella
10 – basil leaves
Salt
Fresh ground black pepper
Herbs de Provence
Garlic Powder
Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Directions:
Slice the ends off the zucchini then slice it in half across the middle.


Cut a thin slice of the skin from two sides of the zucchini length wise. Then cut thick long slices, about 1/4″ in thickness. Next cut thick round tomato slices.

Lay out the zucchini and tomatoes and drizzle a little olive oil over each of them. Then sprinkle each slice with a little salt, black pepper, garlic powder, and Herbs de Provence to taste.

In the meantime, heat the stove top grill and coat it with non-stick cooking spray. When the grill is hot, place each slice of the zucchini and tomatoes on the grill, seasoned side down. While the vegetables are cooking, drizzle the other side with a little olive oil and the seasonings.

Cook the tomato slices about 3 minutes on a medium-high flame before turning over. Do not over cook them or they will fall apart. The zucchini will take longer, about 4-5 minutes, until tender. When ready turn them over and cook the other side in the same manner.

Since the tomatoes cook sooner, you can place them on top of the cooked side of the zucchini to prevent them from over cooking, while the zucchini finishes cooking.

When the zucchini is almost done, place a slice of mozzarella cheese on top of each stack of zucchine and tomato, then place a lid on top to melt the cheese.

Remove each stack from the grill and place a basil leave on top of each one.

Serve immediately

Note:  A little drizzle of a balsamic reduction works very well with this.




Turkey Taco Pizza

Tonight I was trying to decide what to make for dinner with the ground turkey that I bought.  My family likes Mexican and Tex-Mex dishes, so I decided to make my own version of tacos.  The only problem was I did not have corn tortillas, but I did have flat bread.  When I took then out of the package the first thing that came to mind was pizza.

I do not claim that this recipe is in any way authentic Mexican or Tex-Mex, but I can tell you that it is delicious.  It is so much better to season the ground meat yourself instead of using taco mixes.  This way you can control the fat and salt content, and using the turkey meat instead of ground beef makes it a little healthier.

The taco pizza can be used as an appetizer or main dish. I kept it simple with cheese, tomatoes, cilantro and sour cream, but make them the way you like with your favorite toppings.

Ingredients:
1 – medium onion
1 – lb. ground turkey
2 – cloves garlic
2 – tbls. tomato paste
1 1/2 – tbls. chili powder
1/4 – tsp. red pepper flake
1 – tsp. cumin
1/2 – tsp. salt
1/2 – tsp. ground black pepper
1/2 – tsp. Adobo seasoning
1 – cup chicken stock
1 – can black beans
1 – package of flat bread or pita bread

Toppings:
16 – oz. grated cheddar cheese or any cheese you prefer
2 – ripe tomatoes
Cilantro
Sour Cream

Directions:
Dice the onion and mince the garlic. Add 2 tablespoons of canola oil to a large skillet. Once the oil is hot, add the onion, garlic and red pepper flake and sauté until translucent, about 6 minutes. Push the onion mixture to one side and add the ground turkey. Break the meat up into fine crumbles and cook until the pink color is gone. Mix the meat with the onion mixture and then make a small space on one side of the skillet, and add the tomato paste, chili powder, and cumin. Mix together and cook about one minute. This helps to release the flavors of the spices.  Now combine with the meat mixture until the meat is well coated with the spices.

Add chicken stock, salt, black pepper, adobo, and black beans. Stir, reduce flame to a simmer and let cook about 25 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed.

Now it is time to assemble the pizza.

Preheat the oven to broil. Spread a thin layer of the meat mixture over the flat bread and sprinkle with grated cheese.

Place on a pizza stone or cookie sheet and place under the broiler until the cheese melts. Watch it closely so not to burn it.

Remove the flat bread from the oven and top with diced tomatoes, cilantro, and dollops of sour cream.

Serve immediately.

Makes 5-6 ten inch flat bread pizzas

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 




Frittata with Bell Peppers and Onion

Frittata con peperoni e cipolle

Frittata is basically an Italian omelette. It can be made on the stove top or in the oven. The frittata makes a great main dish or can also be used as an appetizer. There are countless combinations of vegetables, meats, and cheeses that can be used to make the frittata flavorful, such as asparagus, spinach, mozzarella cheese, sausage, bacon, and many other options.  It also makes a good vegetarian option.

Today I am making the frittata on the stove top with bell peppers and onion, the way my mother did.  She used to make this meatless meal for us on Friday’s during Lent. Serve it with a salad and some crusty Italian bread and you have a delicious meal. I hope you enjoy it.

Ingredients:
1/2 – red bell pepper
1/2 – orange bell pepper
1/2 – medium onion
6 – whole extra-large eggs
1/4 – tsp. salt
1/8 – tsp. ground black pepper
1/4 – cup parmigiano cheese
1 – tbls. olive oil

Directions:
Slice the red and orange peppers lengthwise into 1/4″ thick slices and set aside. Peel the onion and cut it in half. Place the flat side down and make thin lengthwise slices of one-half of the onion.

Add one tablespoon olive oil to a well-seasoned 8″ iron skillet (or a non-stick skillet) and heat oil on a medium flame. Once the oil is hot, add the peppers and sauté for about 5 minutes, stirring often. Now add the onion, stir and continue to sauté the onion and peppers until they start to brown about another 5-6 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and black pepper, and stir occasionally.

In a large bowl, add 6 eggs, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper. Whisk the eggs thoroughly, then pour them over the peppers and onions. Make sure the egg is evenly distributed in the pan.

Sprinkle evenly, the grated parmigiano cheese over the top of the egg mixture.  Reduce the heat to medium-low and cover the skillet. Let cook about 8-10 minutes.

Run a knife or spatula around the edges of the skillet to loosen the frittata from the sides. Place the skillet lid upside down on the counter. Pick up the skillet, and with the help of the spatula, lift the frittata out and slide it onto the lid. Be very careful with the hot skillet.

Using an oven mitt, pick up the lid by the handle underneath. Now take the skillet by the handle (be sure to use an oven mitt) and turn it upside down on top of the lid.

Flip it over to return the frittata to the skillet. Return the skillet to the flame and cook about 2 minutes more.

Remove the frittata onto a round platter. It should slide out of the pan with ease. You can use the spatula to help guide it.

Serves 4 people.

Buon Appetito!




Chicken Tenders with Honey Mustard and Sweet and Sour Sauces

img_1053

Chicken tenders are a favorite of both young and old. They are easy to make and delicious. They make great finger food for a party or can also serve as a main course for dinner. I have included two popular sauces, honey mustard and sweet and sour. These are also good served with a marinara sauce.

Ingredients:
1 – lb. chicken cutlet
3/4 – cup seasoned bread crumbs
3/4 – cup panko bread crumbs
1/4 – cup grated pecorino romano cheese
1 – cup all purpose flour
1 – egg
1/4 – cup milk
Salt to taste
Ground black pepper to taste
Pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)

Directions:
Rinse the chicken in cold water and pat dry with paper towel. Cut into strips and season with salt and black pepper. Set aside until ready to bread. Make an assembly line to bread the chicken. Place the flour on a flat plate; then whisk the egg, milk, a little salt, and black pepper in a bowl or deep dish that will accommodate the size of the meat. On a flat plate mix together the bread crumbs, pecorino cheese, and a pinch of cayenne pepper.

Take the seasoned chicken and lightly coat with the flour. Shake off any excess flour and dip in the egg mixture making sure to coat the chicken completely. Next, roll the chicken in the bread crumbs to cover the entire surface. Press down the meat firmly in the crumbs so they adhere to the meat. Place the breaded pieces on a plate, cover with plastic wrap or waxed paper and place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. The cold helps the crumbs to become more firm and they adhere better to the meat. This will help to prevent the breading from coming off during frying.

Heat a little canola oil in a large skillet. Add the chicken, but do not over crowd the pan. Cook on a medium flame until golden brown, about 3 minutes on each side. Check that the center is cooked through. The time will vary depending on the thickness of the tenders.

Sweet & Sour Sauce

Ingredients:
3/4 – cup water
1/3 – cup brown sugar
1 1/2 – tbls. ketchup
3 – tbls. cider vinegar
1 – tbls. soy sauce (low sodium)
1 1/2 – tsp. corn starch
Pinch of salt

Directions:img_1059
Put the water and brown sugar in a small sauce pan and heat until the sugar is dissolved. Add the ketchup, vinegar, soy sauce and a pinch of salt. Continue cooking on a simmer and stir until the ketchup is completely incorporated.

In a small bowl dissolve the cornstarch in about 2 tbls. water. Drizzle the cornstarch mixture into the sauce pan and stir constantly to avoid lumps. Continue cooking until it starts to thicken a little (the sauce should not be too thick, it should still run freely). This should only take about 3 minutes or so. Pour into a small bowl or container and let cool. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Honey Mustard Sauce

Ingredients:
1/3 – cup mayonnaise
1 – tbls. Dijon mustard
2 – tbls. Honey
1 – tsp. Lemon juice
Pinch of cayenne pepper

img_1057Directions:
Mix all ingredients together until well incorporated. Refrigerate until ready to use.

 




Bruschetta 3 Ways

img_0469

Bruschetta is a simple and versatile appetizer to make for any dinner party or holiday gathering. You can use what ever ingredients you like…vegetables, cheese, beans, prosciutto or other cured meats. The only secret is to use good ingredients. Here are three easy ideas for you to try.

Ingredients:
1 – loaf of French baguette or crusty long loaf of Italian bread
2 – cloves garlic
Extra virgin olive oil

Bruschetta #1: Tomato and Basil:

Ingredients:
2 – medium ripe tomatoes
1/2 – medium shallot
7 – fresh basil leaves
1 – tbls. fresh parsley
Salt to taste
Black pepper to taste
2 – tbls olive oil

Directions:

Dice the tomatoes. I suggest dicing them by hand so they maintain their texture. Place the diced tomatoes in a medium sized bowl. Add finely diced shallot and chopped basil. You can stack the basil leaves together, roll them, and then chop them all at once. This makes it a little easier to do.  Next chop the parsley and add to the tomatoes.  Drizzle the olive oil and add salt and black pepper to taste.  Mix and set aside until ready to use.

Slice the bread on a diagonal, about 1/2″ thick. Place under broiler or toaster oven until lightly golden brown. Do not leave the bread unattended, because it will toast very quickly. Remove the bread from the oven, and take a peeled clove of garlic and rub it on the surface of the warm toasted bread. Brush olive oil over the bread and top with tomato mixture. Serve immediately.

Bruschetta #2: Goat Cheese, Walnuts and Honey

Ingredients:
4 – oz. Goat cheese
4 – oz. raw walnuts
Honey

Directions:

Toast the walnuts (the quickest method is on the stove). Do not chop the nuts. Place them in a dry, heavy skillet on a medium flame. Cook them about 2 minutes until they start to brown. Stir constantly so that they do not burn.  Set aside until ready to use them.

Slice the bread on a diagonal, about 1/2″ thick. Place under broiler or toaster oven until lightly golden brown. Do not leave the bread unattended, because it will toast very quickly under the broiler. Remove the bread from the oven, and spread the goat cheese directly on top while the bread is still warm. Place two or three pieces of walnut on top of the goat cheese, and then drizzle with honey. Serve immediately.

Bruschetta #3: Cremini Mushrooms and Red Bell Pepper:

Ingredients:
1 – red bell pepper
1 – medium shallot
10 – oz. cremini mushrooms
Salt to taste
Black pepper to taste
1/4 – tsp. crushed red pepper flakes (optional)

Directions:

Wipe the mushrooms clean with a damp cloth and slice in quarters (more if mushroom is large). Slice the red pepper in half and remove the stem and seeds then make 1/4″ slices. Heat 1 tbls. of olive oil in a large skillet and add the peppers. Cook about 2-3 minutes until they just start to soften. Dice the shallot and add to the peppers along with the mushrooms. Add salt, black pepper and red pepper flakes. Stir and sauté until the mushrooms begin to brown and the onions soften. It will take about 6-7 minutes on a medium flame. Stir often to avoid them sticking to the pan.

Prepare the bread in the same manner as for Bruschetta #1.

Buon appetito




Stuffed Mushrooms

stuffed-mushrooms, Italian sausageStuffed Mushrooms with Italian Sausage

Stuffed mushrooms are a great appetizer for any dinner party or holiday gathering. They are easy to make and delicious. In this recipe, I use italian sausage to give them that extra special flavor, but it is not necessary. You can leave out the sausage if you want to make them vegetarian.

 

Ingredients:

20 – oz. medium/large white mushrooms
1/2 – cup seasoned bread crumbs (you can also use store bought)
1/8 – cup pecorino romano cheese
1/3 – lb. italian sausage
1/8 – cup olive oil
2 – tbls. fresh parsley, chopped
Fresh ground black pepper to taste
Salt to taste (optional)
Soffritto – make 1/2 the recipe and add 1 clove garlic and half of the mushroom stems. Mince all together in a food processor.
Extra virgin olive oil

Directions:

Wipe the mushrooms clean with a damp cloth, then cut the dry end of the stem off and remove the remaining stem from the mushroom. This leaves a nice cavity for the stuffing.  Add half of the stems to the soffritto.  After you prepare the soffritto, sauté it in 1 tbls. olive oil for about 10 minutes. Sprinkle the soffritto with a little salt and black pepper.

Heat a little canola oil in a small skillet, and in the meantime, remove the sausage from its casing and add to the skillet. Break it up with a fork into crumbles and cook until no longer pink.

Mix together the bread crumbs, cheese, parsley, salt and pepper. Be careful not to add too much salt if you are using store bought bread crumbs.  Add the sautéed soffritto and the cooked sausage.  Drizzle olive oil and mix thoroughly until the breadcrumbs are moist enough to stick together.

Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper, and place the mushrooms on top. Brush a little olive oil over the mushrooms and sprinkle with a little salt.  Over fill the mushrooms with the stuffing so that it forms a rounded peak.

dsc_1141
Over-filled mushrooms

Bake in a pre-heated 400o oven for 20-25 minutes until the mushrooms are tender and the stuffing is golden brown.

Serve immediately.