Displaying items by tag: appetizers

Wild leeks are a magical green because the fragile little bulbs are packed with so much flavour. You can eat them raw or cooked and they are delightful with chicken or fish. They sprout under maple trees - I have tried to grow them in our garden, but with little success. They self-seed, so you should pick judiciously because once you pull them, they don't return. I picked too many last year and now have none left!

If you cannot find wild leeks, substitute 2 ounces (60 grams) thinly slivered regular leeks, white and light green part only.


4 ounces (125 grams) goat cheese

3 tablespoons whipping cream

¼ teaspoon grated lemon rind

¼ cup grated Parmesan

¼ cup chopped pistachio nuts

Salt and freshly ground pepper

3 sheets phyllo pastry

¼ cup melted butter

2 bunches wild leeks, trimmed and cut in half

Salt and freshly ground pepper


Preheat oven to 400 F.

Combine goat cheese, whipping cream, lemon rind, Parmesan and pistachio nuts in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Reserve.

Cover leaves of phyllo with a slightly damp dish towel. Place first sheet on a flat surface and brush with melted butter. Place second sheet on top, butter and top with remaining sheet of phyllo. Cut phyllo stack into two 8-x-12-inch pieces.

Spread half of goat cheese mixture onto the bottom third of each phyllo stack, leaving a 1-inch border around the sides and bottom edge. Lay leeks across goat cheese. Roll over once to hide leeks, butter exposed phyllos, fold in ends and continue to roll.

Place strudel seam side down on a buttered baking sheet and brush with butter. Repeat with remaining phyllo stack and filling. Use a sharp knife to cut 3 long evenly spaced slits on the diagonal across the top of each strudel.

Bake for 15 minutes or until phyllo is browned. Using the slits as a guide, cut each strudel into 4 pieces. Serve with the herb salad. Serves 4 to 8, depending on appetite.



Local baby lettuces are perfect for this simple spring salad, but for ease add some to the packaged mixed herb salad that is available in produce sections. Toss in fresh tarragon, chervil and basil for a flavour hit.


4 cups mixed lettuce and herbs

1 tablespoon lemon juice

2 tablespoons olive oil


Place salad greens in a large bowl. Whisk together lemon juice and olive oil in a separate bowl to make dressing.

Toss greens with dressing, season with salt and pepper and serve with strudel. Serves 4.

Published in Recipes


I adapted this recipe from the fine cookbook Moro, from the restaurant of the same name in London's East End, where the food reverberates with the passionate flavours of Spain and the Eastern Mediterranean. The quality of the olive oil, vinegar and bread will make a big difference to the flavour of this classic Spanish soup. If you can find marcona almonds, they will give added substance. For the more sophisticated version you should peel the grapes.



Prep Time: 10 minutes

Ready In: 1 hour, 10 minutes, including chilling


3 ounces (90 grams) stale white bread

3 cups ice water

1½ cups Spanish or regular whole blanched almonds

2 teaspoons garlic, grated (use a microplane)

3 tablespoons olive oil

3 tablespoons sherry vinegar

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

1½ cups seedless green grapes, halved or quartered

Extra virgin olive oil


Place bread in a bowl and cover with just enough ice water to soak it through. Set aside.

Place almonds in a food processor and process until finely ground. Add ½ cup of ice water and continue to grind together until it forms a paste. Add garlic and soaked bread with 1 cup ice water and process until fully combined. Add olive oil and sherry vinegar and process again. Add remaining ice water through feeder tube and season well with salt and pepper to taste. Chill for at least 1 hour.

Divide soup among 4-6 bowls and garnish with grapes and a small drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Serves 4 to 6

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Top this soup with a few shrimp and, optionally, a crispy parsnip chip (see recipe for chip below). The potatoes give the soup a thicker texture, but you could replace them altogether with parsnips.


2 tablespoons of butter

2 cups parsnips, peeled and diced

1 cup chopped onion

1 cup peeled and diced Yukon Gold potatoes

4 cups stock

1 tablespoon wasabi paste

1 tablespoon soy sauce

Salt and freshly ground pepper

2 tablespoons heavy cream

4 large shrimp, cut into 3 pieces each


Heat butter in soup pot over medium heat. Add parsnips, onions and potatoes and sauté for approximately 4 minutes (until they are shiny).

Add stock, wasabi paste and soy sauce and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for approximately 12 to 15 minutes or until vegetables are soft.

Pour soup into a blender or use a hand blender and purée until smooth. Return to pot and add cream. Bring to a simmer and add shrimp. Poach shrimp until pink (approximately 2 to 3 minutes) and remove.

When ready to serve, add shrimp to each serving and top, if you wish, with a parsnip chip. Serves 6.



These crispy vegetable chips add crunch to soups and purées.


1 large parsnip, peeled

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Salt to taste


Preheat oven to 400 F.

Use a mandoline or a vegetable peeler to make long strips of parsnip about 1-millimetre thick. Brush the strips lightly with vegetable oil and place them in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Top with another piece of parchment paper and another baking sheet and bake for 7 minutes or until chips are lightly brown and cooked through. Cool on baking sheet and season with salt to taste. Use as a garnish for soup.

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I've always loved devilled eggs, and these ones with subtle Japanese flavours offer a twist on the classic. Blanching the cucumbers gives them a vivid colour that they do not lose as they sit. Older eggs peel better than really fresh ones. If you are having problems with the white tearing, try peeling under cold running water. Instead of cutting the eggs in half, a neat way to serve a whole egg per person is to take a slice off the top, scoop out the yolk, mix it with the mayo and pipe or spoon it back in.


Servings: 4 to 6

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cooking Time: 15 minutes

Ready In: 1 hour 5 minutes, including draining time



6 eggs

¼ cup mayonnaise

½ teaspoon wasabi paste (or to taste)

1 tablespoon pickled ginger, finely chopped

2 tablespoons chives, chopped

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Cucumber Salad:

1 seedless cucumber, thinly sliced, preferably using a mandoline

1 tablespoon soy sauce

2 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar

1 teaspoon sugar

½ teaspoon wasabi paste

2 tablespoons mint, chopped


Place eggs in a pot of cold, salted water. Bring to boil and boil for 1 minute. Remove pot from heat, cover and let sit for 10 minutes. Drain, and run eggs under cold water to cool. Peel.

Cut eggs in half lengthwise. Carefully scoop yolk into a small bowl, reserving whites on a plate. Mash yolks with a fork, stir in mayonnaise, wasabi, ginger and chives, and season with salt and pepper. Place yolk mixture in a piping bag and pipe into the whites, or spoon them in. Cover and chill until ready to serve.

Bring a pot of water to boil. Add cucumber slices, bring back to boil and drain at once. Run cucumber slices under cold water to stop the cooking and maintain the colour. Leave cucumbers to sit in strainer for 30 minutes, then blot with paper towels to remove moisture and place in a bowl.

Stir together soy sauce, rice vinegar, sugar and wasabi in a bowl. Just before serving, pour mixture over cucumber slices and toss to coat.

Place cucumbers on a platter, or divide among individual serving plates, and top with eggs. Sprinkle with mint.

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1 dried ancho chili pepper

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 red pepper, thinly sliced

1 yellow pepper, thinly sliced

2 banana peppers, thinly sliced

2 heaping tablespoons thinly sliced garlic cloves

1 cup seeded, sliced tomatoes

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Soak chili pepper in warm water for 20 minutes. Pat dry, remove seeds and thinly slice.

Heat olive oil in a skillet over low heat. Add ancho chili, red, yellow and banana peppers and sauté for 20 minutes or until softened. Add garlic and tomatoes and cook another 10 minutes or until flavours come together. Add balsamic vinegar and season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat and pile onto a serving dish.

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This appetizer is adapted from a recipe by chef Ann Martin Rolke, who prepared a fabulous al fresco dinner for us at a lovely winery called Harmony Wynelands in Lodi, Calif.

12 pitted dates, preferably Medjool

12 to 24 whole roasted, unsalted almonds

1 tablespoon olive oil

Sea salt

Grated rind of 1 lemon

Slit the side of each date with a paring knife and spread it open (pull out the pit if unpitted). Insert an almond or two in the cavity of each date and push the edges of the date back together to enclose the nuts.

Warm the oil over medium heat in a skillet. Add dates and cook, shaking the pan so that the dates roll around in the oil, until the dates are warmed through, 2 to 3 minutes. Sprinkle them lightly with the salt and lemon rind, toss again and serve immediately. Serves 6.

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This crisp crepe with a soft centre is great as a first course perched on top of a little salad dressed with the dipping sauce. The filling can be vegetarian (mushrooms and bok choy) or any combination of ingredients you like.



1 cup rice flour

1/4 cup all-purpose flour 1/2 teaspoon turmeric 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt 1/4 cup coconut milk

1 1/4 cups cold water

2 green onions, chopped


1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 teaspoon chopped garlic

8 ounces (250 grams) boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into 1/4 -inch dice

8 ounces (250 grams) large shrimp, peeled and cut into 1/4 -inch dice

2 tablespoons fish sauce

1/2 teaspoon sugar 1/2 cup thinly sliced onion

4 cups bean sprouts

1 cup cilantro or mint sprigs


Combine rice flour, flour, turmeric and salt. Stir in coconut milk, water and green onions.

Heat wok or skillet over high heat. Add some of the oil and swirl carefully to coat. Add garlic and stir fry for 30 seconds. Add chicken and shrimp and stir fry for 1 to 2 minutes or until chicken is cooked. Season mixture with fish sauce and sugar and remove from wok.

Brush a small non-stick skillet with a light coating of remaining vegetable oil. Heat over medium-high heat. Add a few pieces of sliced onions, sprinkle with ½ cup of chicken/shrimp mixture, and pour in ¼ cup pancake mixture swirling to coat base of skillet as evenly as possible. Cover skillet and cook for 2 minutes or until pancake is set. Uncover and cook for 1 to 2 minutes longer or until crepe looks dry.

Top one half with a handful of bean sprouts and a few sprigs of coriander. Fold and place a baking sheet to keep warm in low oven. Repeat with remaining batter and filling until you have 4 to 6 filled omelettes. When ready to serve, place on plate lined with lettuce leaves or salad. Serve with Dipping Sauce (recipe below). Serves 4 to 6.



Combine 1/4 cup water and 1 cup sugar in a pot. Boil 1 to 2 minutes or until mixture is syrupy but not brown. Pour 1/4 cup of syrup into a bowl and stir in 1/2 teaspoon chopped garlic, 3 tablespoon fish sauce, 1/4 cup lime juice and 3 tablespoons grated carrot. Store remaining 1 cup of syrup in the refrigerator for up to a month.

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Smoking is a hot trend in restaurants. It's not just smoked meat: Vegetables, fish, cheese and fruit are all under the smoking gun. Here, I've used smoked cheese, but if you prefer not to use the smoked variety, substitute with grated fontina or cheddar. Serve with sprouts.

Servings: 8 to 10


Ready In: 55 minutes


2 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup red pepper, thinly sliced

1 teaspoon garlic, chopped

1 teaspoon ginger, chopped

2 cups thinly sliced leeks, white part only

1 cup zucchini, thinly sliced

1 cup fennel, thinly sliced

6 shiitake mushrooms, sliced

Salt and freshly ground pepper

2 tablespoons mint, chopped

1½ cups smoked mozzarella, grated

½ pound (250 g) frozen puff pastry, defrosted

1 egg, beaten


Preheat oven to 400 F. Heat olive oil in skillet on medium-high heat. Add red pepper and sauté for 2 minutes. Add garlic, ginger, leeks, zucchini, fennel and mushrooms. Sauté until tender-crisp, about 4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and remove from heat. Let cool 5 minutes. Stir in mint and cheese. Let cool completely.

Roll out pastry to a 10 x 12-inch rectangle. Pile vegetables along upper third of pastry lengthwise leaving a 1-inch wide border on short sides. Brush all sides with beaten egg. Fold short ends up over filling then roll from the long edge into cylinder cutting off pastry excess. Place seam side down on parchment-lined cookie sheet. Brush with egg. Use a sharp knife to cut four slashes along top of strudel.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until pastry is golden brown.

Cool to room temperature before slicing.

Published in Recipes

These are the tastiest empanadas, and pastrami is such a trendy ingredient right now. If making ahead, they will keep three days, refrigerated without baking.


Preparation time: 30 minutes

Ready time: 1 hour 15 minutes

Servings: 24 to 26



250 grams (8 ounces) finely chopped pastrami

1 tablespoon oil

1/2 cup chopped onion

1 teaspoon chopped garlic

4 cups finely chopped napa cabbage

1 tablespoon sherry vinegar

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

1 package prerolled frozen puff pastry, defrosted

1 egg, beaten

1/2 cup grated cheddar

Freshly ground pepper



Preheat the oven to 400 F (200 C). Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add pastrami and sauté for 2 minutes, or until fat has rendered and meat is golden. Spoon meat onto a plate. Add 1 tablespoon oil to same pan and return to heat. Add onion, garlic and cabbage, and sauté for 3 minutes or until cabbage is softened. Add sherry vinegar and cook for another minute. Remove from heat and stir in Dijon.

Roll out pastry into a 12-inch (30-cm) square. Cut rounds using a 3-inch (8-cm) cutter. Brush with beaten egg. Spoon 1 tablespoon filling into the centre of each round, sprinkle with cheddar and fold over, forming a half-moon. Crimp the edges to seal and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Prick once with a fork. Brush with beaten egg and sprinkle with pepper.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until puffed up and golden.

Suggested Wine Pairings

One big smorgasbord of appetizers could be suitably accompanied by a festive, dry sparkling wine. By all means keep it affordable, as in Italian Prosecco or Spanish cava. For an especially festive twist, turn that wine into a champagne cocktail by first dropping a sugar cube into the flute, soaking it with two or three dashes of cocktail bitters such as Angostura and adding a half-ounce of brandy. Then top up with sparkling wine. If serving just the empanadas, try French Beaujolais or Canadian gamay, both red wines. - Beppi Crosariol

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This feta will keep up to two weeks refrigerated. Serve at room temperature.

 Preparation time: 10 minutes

Ready time: 12 hours

Servings: 10



500 gram (1 pound) feta

2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano, or 1 tsp dried

3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint

1/2 teaspoon chili flakes

1 teaspoon peppercorns

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 cup assorted olives



Cut feta into 1-inch (2.5-cm) cubes and place in a shallow dish. Sprinkle with oregano, mint, chili flakes and peppercorns. Toss gently with olive oil. Marinate overnight.

Pile on platter and surround with olives. Serve with pita or tortilla chips.



One big smorgasbord of appetizers could be suitably accompanied by a festive, dry sparkling wine. By all means keep it affordable, as in Italian Prosecco or Spanish cava. For an especially festive twist, turn that wine into a champagne cocktail by first dropping a sugar cube into the flute, soaking it with two or three dashes of cocktail bitters such as Angostura and adding a half-ounce of brandy. Then top up with sparkling wine. If serving just the marinated feta, try a Greek white, such as assyrtiko from Santorini, or any light, dry Mediterranean white. - Beppi Crosariol

Published in Recipes