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Appetizers

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Tapas

Popular throughout Spain in bars and restaurants, tapas are appetizers that usually accompany sherry or other aperitifs and cocktails. They can also form an entire meal and range from simple items such as olives or cubes of ham and cheese to more elaborate preparations like cold omelets, snails in a spicy sauce, stuffed peppers, and miniature sandwiches.

Ideal for a celebratory meal, tapas have become trendy in many American cities, although it’s not necessary to dine out when craving these bite-sized eats. Just gather some friends, open some sherry or a good Rioja, and serve some of Spain’s tastiest treats. The best part is, you can use the saucers from your tea or coffee mugs as plates, and encourage your guests to use toothpicks or their fingers when eating (as is the tradition in Spain) – no silverware necessary. Which means you won’t have to spend hours doing the dishes!

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Cherry Tomatoes Stuffed with Spanish Olive Tapenade

  • For the tapenade:
  • 1/2 cup Spanish olives with pimento
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons drained capers
  • 1 teaspoon brandy, preferably a Spanish brandy such as Solera Gran Reserva , or Fundador
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 32 small cherry tomatoes
  • Chopped fresh parsley for garnish

Serves 8

  • Make the tapenade: in a food processor, pulse the olives until chopped fine.
  • Add the remaining tapenade ingredients and pulse until olives are minced.
  • With a sharp knife, slice the stem end (1/4-inch down) and the bottom (1/8-inch up) from each tomato and discard.
  • Using a 1/4 teaspoon, remove the juice and seeds from each tomato half, leaving the outside shell intact.
  • Spoon a generous 1/4 teaspoon of the tapenade into each shell and garnish with the parsley.

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Blue Cheese & Walnut Coated Cherry Tomatoes

Serves 8

  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
  • On a sheet pan spread out the walnuts and toast in the oven for 7 to 9 minutes.
  • Remove from oven and allow to cool.
  • In a bowl with an electric mixer, cream together the blue cheese and the cream cheese until smooth.
  • Put one tablespoon of the cheese mixture in the palm of one hand and in it roll a tomato, shaping the mixture around the tomato to coat.
  • Cover the remaining tomatoes and chill on a sheet pan for 15 minutes.
  • Roll the cheese-coated tomatoes in the walnut mixture to cover completely and chill for 30 minutes or until coating is firm.
  • Using a sharp knife cut tomatoes into halves.

Variation: Substitute Grapes for Cherry Tomatoes

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Mushroom Puffs

  • 1 - 8 inch by 8 inch sheet of Puff Pastry
  • 10 to 12 oz of Crimi or Baby Bella Mushrooms sliced or chopped.
  • 4 oz unsalted butter.
  • 1 cup chopped sweet onion
  • 1 small crushed clove of garlic
  • 1 tablespoon of dry Tarragon
  • 1 cup of a dry white wine
  • 2 tablespoons of sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmigiano Reggiano
  • 1/2 teaspoon of both salt and freshly ground pepper.
  • 1 egg lightly beaten

Serves 6

  • Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  • Cut the Puff pastry into 36 pieces. Arrange on a cookie pan and brush with the egg.
  • Bake pastry for 8 to 10 minutes until lightly golden brown.
  • Set aside and let cool.
  • In a medium hot pan brown the mushrooms uncovered in 3 oz of the butter the salt and the pepper until golden. Remove from heat and place in food processor.
  • Add last oz of butter to the same pan and add the onions and garlic and cook until the onions are translucent.
  • Add the wine to the pan and cook until the wine is nearly all gone.
  • Add the onion and garlic to the food processor.
  • Add the tarragon, Parmigiano and sour cream to the food processor.
  • Process until chopped but not too long. Do not over process or the mixture will liquify.

To serve: cut each puff into two halves, upper and lower. Place a scant teaspoon of the mushroom mixture onto each puff lower half and cover with the puff upper half. Return to a 350 degree oven for 7 minutes. Serve.

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Blue Cheese Shortbreads with Walnuts and Chutney

  • 1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese or gorgonzola
  • 3 oz unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup corn starch
  • 1/2 teaspoon each salt & pepper
  • 6 oz cream cheese (whipped cream cheese works as well)
  • 6 oz mango chutney
  • Fresh parsley leaves for garnish
  • Walnut halves for garnish.

Serves 6

  • In a food processor add the blue cheese, butter and chopped walnuts. Process until smooth.
  • Add the flour, cornstarch, salt and pepper. Process only until mixed.
  • The mix will appear dry but remove it from the processor and form into a ball. The cheese and butter will bind everything together.
  • Wrap the dough ball in plastic wrap and set in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • After 30 minutes remove dough from the refrigerator and place between to sheets of plastic wrap.
  • Roll out dough until about 1/8 inch thick
  • Use a cookie cutter about 1.5 to 2 inches across to cut out 18 or so pieces of the shortbread dough.
  • Bake shortbread dough on a cookie sheet for about 20 to 25 minutes until just a light brown. If you overcook the shortbreads they will taste awful so keep an eye on them.
  • After baking let them cool and then spread a teaspoon of cream cheese, and  a dab of chutney on each one and then top with a walnut and a leaf of parsley.

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Shrimp Scampi Quesadillas

Each pair of tortilla wrappers serves 2

  • Pre-heat oven to 425
  • On a tortilla wrapper arrange 12 – 16 shrimp depending upon size
  • Sprinkle 1 tbl of minced garlic over shrimp
  • Sprinkle 1 tsp oregano over shrimp
  • Add ½ lb of Monterey Jack to cover shrimp
  • On top place another tortilla wrapper
  • Brush top with olive oil
  • On cookie sheet bake for 5-7 minutes until top wrapper begins to toast.
  • Slice and serve.

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Grilled Vegetable Pita Pizzas with Sun Dried Tomato Pesto

Serves: 8 to 10

  • Cut roasted peppers into strips, sprinkle with olive oil and crushed garlic. Let marinate while the rest of the preparation is being done.
  • Slice the eggplant lengthwise into ¼ inch thick slices.
  • Slice the onion into ¼ thick slices.
  • Brush one side of the mushrooms, eggplant slices and onion slices with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  • Grill or broil mushrooms, eggplant and onions over medium high heat with oiled side toward the heat.
  • Grill or broil the eggplant for 3 to 4 minutes per side.
  • Grill or broil the mushrooms and onions for 5 to 6 minutes per side or until done.
  • Note: Turn them over only once during the broiling or grilling and brush with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper after turning. As grills and broilers vary, keep a close eye on the vegetables and turn when you see a good color develop.
  • Slice mushrooms into strips.
  • If you grilled the vegetables then heat the broiler for the last step.
  • Onto to each pita spread 2 oz of sun dried tomato pesto
  • Sprinkle 1 oz of the parmesan cheese onto each pita.
  • Arrange the vegetables onto the pitas in any pattern that suits you.
  • Brush each pita lightly with olive oil
  • Broil until the edges of the pita begins to turn brown.
  • Slice into wedges and serve.

Sun Dried Tomato Pesto

  • 1 cup of sun dried tomatoes
  • ½ cup of olive oil. If your sun dried tomatoes came packed in oil then use that.
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 2 oz grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon of capers
  • Place all ingredients into a food processor
  • Process until chopped into a fine, but not pureed, paste.
  • If the paste is too thick add more olive oil.

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Roast Beef & Gorgonzola Salad

This recipe comes from good friend and neighbor Carol LaFontaine. Carol is the salad queen. She invents and adapts and creates some of the best salads I’ve had. It seems to be an enviable natural talent for her. Use this salad as a side dish or serve as an appetizer on cocktail size breads and/or crackers.

  • 1 ½ lb Rare, thinly sliced roast beef, cut into shreds and pieces
  • 6 to 8 oz of Gorgonzola, Blue Cheese or Stilton broken into crumbles
  • ½ cup chopped Walnuts
  • ¾ cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 2 Tablespoons of red wine vinegar or sherry vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon of Dijon mustard
  • ¼ teaspoon each of kosher salt and ground black pepper
  • 2 Tablespoon of dried herbs, we recommend Herbs de Provence from Penzeys Spices

Serves 4 to 6 as a side dish

  • In a large bowl mix all ingredients until all the beef is covered with the oil, vinegar and herbs.
  • Serve immediately.

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Black Bean & Garlic Hummus

This recipe actually works better with canned beans than with freshly cooked ones.

  • 1 16oz can of Black Beans
  • 2 Tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Juice from 1 medium size lemon
  • 2 tablespoons of sesame Tahini
  • 2 tablespoons of Toasted Sesame Oil
  • ¼ to ½ teaspoon cumin powder depending upon your preference
  • 2 to 3 garlic cloves depending upon your preference
  • ½ teaspoon salt

Serves 4 to 6

  • Drain beans but retain all juice from the bean can.
  • In a food processor add all ingredients except juice from bean can.
  • Blend until smooth.
  • If the hummus is too thick use juice from bean can to thin until you reach a consistency you like.

I like to serve this with toasted pita breads. I take a good quality fresh pitas and toast them directly over the flames of my gas stove for 10 to 15 seconds per side. If you do not have a gas stove you place them under a hot broiler for 10 to 15 seconds per side.

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Olive Tapenade

  • 1 cup mix of pitted Nicoise olives and pitted Kalamata olives
  • 2 small cloves garlic
  • 2 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 shallot, peeled and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons capers
  • 3 anchovy fillets, optional
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Serves 4 to 6

  • Place all ingredients in food processor and chop until consistency of sweet relish.
  • Serve with grilled pitas, or crackers or use as a spread for sandwiches.

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Sun Dried Tomato and Olive Tapenade

Add ¼ cup of sun dried tomatoes to the recipe above. You may need to increase amount of olive oil a little.

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Spinach Dip with Feta, Lemon, and Oregano

Frozen spinach works best for this recipe. Partial thawing of the spinach produces a cold dip that can be served without further chilling. If you don’t own a microwave, the frozen spinach can be thawed at room temperature for 1-1/2 hours then squeezed of excess liquid. The garlic must be minced or pressed before going into the food processor; otherwise the dip will contain large chunks of garlic.

  • 1 - 10 oz package of frozen spinach, well drained
  • 1/2 cup sour cream  
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise  
  • 2 tablespoons thin-sliced scallions white parts only, from 3 medium scallions 
  • 1 tablespoon fresh dill, chopped 
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley, packed 
  • 1 small clove of garlic, minced or pressed through garlic press (about 1 teaspoon) 
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper  
  • 2 tablespoons fresh oregano or 1 tablespoon of dried Turkish Oregano
  • 2 ounces feta cheese, crumbled (about 1/2 cup) 
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice  
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest, grated 

Serves 6-10

  • Thaw spinach in microwave for 3 minutes at 40 percent power. (Edges should be thawed but not warm; center should be soft enough to be broken apart into icy chunks.) Squeeze partially frozen spinach of excess water.
  • In food processor, process spinach, sour cream, mayonnaise, dills, scallions, parsley, garlic, pepper, oregano, feta cheese, lemon juice, and lemon zest until smooth and creamy, about 30 seconds. Transfer mixture to medium bowl and adjust seasoning with salt; serve.

Note: Dip can be covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated up to 2 days.

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Feta-Mint Dip with Yogurt

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise  
  • 2 1/2 ounces feta cheese, crumbled (1/2 cup) 
  • 1/4 cup fresh mint, chopped 
  • 2 medium scallions, roughly chopped 
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice from 1 lemon 

Serves 2- 4

  • Place yogurt in fine-mesh strainer or cheesecloth-lined colander set over bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 8 to 24 hours; discard liquid in bowl.
  • Process all ingredients in food processor until smooth and creamy, about 30 seconds. Transfer dip to serving bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until flavors are blended, at least 1 hour; serve cold with crudités. (Can be refrigerated in airtight container for up to 2 days.)

Serve with grilled pitas

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Smoked Salmon Mousse

  • 4 oz smoked salmon (use trimmings and left over pieces)
  • 16 oz Cream Cheese
  • Dash Cayenne Pepper
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • salt to taste

Serves 4 to 6

  • Bring cream cheese to near room temperature.
  • Add all ingredients to food processor and blend until smooth.
  • Serve as a dip or spread for crackers, as a stuffing for gougeres (see below), or a stuffing for celery.

Jan’s Gougeres

  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 to 5 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups coarsely grated Gruyere

Makes 24

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly grease 2 baking sheets or line with parchment paper.
  • In a heavy saucepan bring water to a boil with butter and salt over high heat and reduce heat to moderate. Add flour all at once and beat with a wooden spoon until mixture pulls away from side of pan.
  • Transfer mixture to a bowl and with an electric mixer on high-speed beat in 4 eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Batter should be stiff enough to just hold soft peaks and fall softly from a spoon. If batter is too stiff, in a small bowl beat remaining egg lightly and add to batter a little at a time, beating on high speed, until batter is desired consistency.  This batter is called Pate a Choux.
  • Stir Gruyere into pate a choux and arrange level tablespoons about 1-inch apart on baking sheets. Bake in upper and lower thirds of oven, switching position of sheets halfway through baking, 30 minutes, or until puffed, golden, and crisp.
  • Gougeres keep, chilled in sealable plastic bags 2 days or frozen 1 week. Reheat gougeres, uncovered in a preheated 350 degree oven 10 minutes if chilled or 15 minutes if unthawed frozen.

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Meatballs in Tomato Garlic Sauce

Meatballs:

  • 1 large onion, chopped fine
  • 1 large green bell pepper, chopped fine
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 pounds ground beef (not lean)
  • 1/2 pound ground pork (not lean)
  • 2/3 cup fine dry bread crumbs
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh parsley leaves

Sauce:

  • 4 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 (33 1/2-ounce) can whole tomatoes, including juice
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled

Serves 8 to 10

Meatballs

  • In a 9-inch heavy well-seasoned skillet cook onion and bell pepper in 2 tablespoons oil over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until softened.
  • Cool mixture.
  • In a large bowl combine well onion mixture, ground meat, bread crumbs, salt, nutmeg, and parsley.
  • Form level tablespoons of mixture into balls (about 90).
  • In skillet heat 1 tablespoon oil over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking and brown meatballs in batches (about 16 at a time), shaking skillet frequently so that meatballs maintain their shape and adding remaining 3 tablespoons oil as necessary.
  • Transfer meatballs with a slotted spoon as browned to a bowl.

Sauce:

  • In a heavy kettle (at least 6 quarts) cook garlic in oil over moderately low heat, stirring, until fragrant, about 15 seconds.
  • Add tomatoes with juice and oregano and simmer, breaking up tomatoes.
  • Add meatballs and simmer, covered, gently stirring occasionally, 25 minutes, or until meatballs are tender and sauce is thickened slightly.
  • Transfer meatballs with slotted spoon to heated serving dish.
  • If sauce seems thin, boil gently, stirring frequently, until thickened to desired consistency.
  • Season sauce with salt and pepper and spoon over meatballs.

Meatballs and sauce may be made 2 days ahead. Let it cool uncovered and chill covered. reheat meatballs before serving

A quick alternative sauce we have used for catering is to mix equal parts of your favorite barbecue sauce and tomato sauce.

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