Archive for the Category ◊ Appetizers ◊

22 Jul 2011 Traditional Arabic Hummus

Traditional Arabic hummus.  How do I know its traditional?  Because I learned how to make it from my Saudi and Kuwaiti students in 1981 and 1982.  I watched how they made it, wrote everything down, and have followed the recipe ever since.  Well, once I tinkered with it and added a bit of cumin and coriander.   My kids reacted most negatively.  I remember their scorn quite clearly,  “What did you do to the hummus? It tastes FOUL!”  Lesson learned.  No tinkering with the authentic 🙂

This was the first recipe my son learned how to follow and  for a long time was the only thing he knew how to make.  Truth be told, his hummus is better than mine!  Why?  He follows the recipe!  He shells the garbanzo beans, just like my students used to do.  (Before 1981 I didn’t even know the garbanzos had shells, but they do.  Pop one out of its clear little membrane, and you’ll see!)  Over the years I have gotten lazy, and I now no longer shell the garbanzos.  As a result, my hummus isn’t as smooth as my son’s or as my students’ used to be.

Do as you wish, shell the garbanzos or not, just don’t even think of tinkering with the other simple ingredients.

Traditional Arabic Hummus

  • 1 can Garbanzo beans
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup sesame paste (available at most larger supermarkets now, in the middle eastern foods section)
  • approx. 1/2 cup reserved garbanzo liquid
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • paprika (optional)
  1. Drain the garbanzo beans, reserving the liquid.
  2. Shell the garbanzo beans if desired (shelling the garbanzos results in a much smoother dip).
  3. Place drained garbanzos, approx. 1/2 cup reserved liquid, lemon juice and olive oil in a blender and process until smooth.
  4. That’s IT!   Isn’t that easy?
  5. Add more garbanzo liquid if needed to make a softer dip.  Remove dip to a serving bowl.  My students used to spread the hummus onto a dinner plate and drizzle with a bit of olive oil and a sprinkle of paprika.  Americans usually serve it out of a bowl.  My students served hummus only with triangles of warm pita bread.  American often serve with pita bread plus carrot and celery sticks, cucumber rounds, red pepper strips, and cherry tomatoes.

From following my students around I also have recipes for Sambusas and Kapsa, and so many warm and fond memories of teaching English as a Second Language to some wonderful pre-literate Arabic and Saudi women.

Thanks for stopping by my middle eastern kitchen today. Enjoy the hummus.  It’s better than that stuff you can buy in tubs, and much cheaper!

19 Jul 2011 Corn Dogs

I am sooooo bad.  I KNOW I shouldn’t cook like this.  I know it. I know it. I know it.  But I did.  And my little experiment turned out wonderfully well.  Who knew homemade corn dogs were so easy to make?   I guess there is no need to go to the fair now, or to make that once every other year stop at the Hot Dog On A Stick outlet in the mall.

I made mini corn dogs, so that counts for something, right?  I cut each bun length hot dog into 3 pieces, speared each piece with a good quality toothpick, rolled it around in the cornbread batter, and then placed it in the <gasp> hot fat to <gasp, gasp> deep fry.

Bad girl, BAD girl.

Delicious outcome though.

We–my son, my daughter, my grandson, and my houseguest–ate them standing at the stove, putting the mustard and ketchup on the paper towel I was draining the corn dogs on.Dip, bite, mmmm, dip, bite, mmmmm, dip, bite, mmmmmm…

Tes At Home led me astray. Her Tastespotting picture showed up in my RSS feed right at lunch time. I followed her directions exactly.  The only thing I have added in is a suggested temperature for the hot oil (I know, I know, it’s a sin that I know such things), and I did increase the salt a bit <gasp>, and I rewrote the directions just a bit, just to make them sound more like me…, BUT! The recipe is ALL Tes At Home 🙂

Mini Corn Dog

  • 6-8 hot dogs, your choice…all beef, turkey, Kosher, vegan, super premium, ultra bargain discount, regular length or bun length, it doesn’t matter…, whatever you prefer or have on hand
  • 1 cup corn meal
  • 1 cup flour
  • additional flour for coating the hot dogs (2-3 tablespoons)
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 2 1/2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup milk
  • Oil for deep frying
  1. Cook the hot dogs in boiling water for few minutes.  (I know they are already precooked, but do it anyway so they can get all that plumping business out of the way.) Remove cooked hot dogs from the water, drain,  and set aside.
  2. Combine corn meal, flour, salt and baking powder in a mixing bowl.
  3. In another bowl, whisk egg and sugar until sugar is dissolved,  then stir in milk.
  4. Add the milk mixture to the flour mixture and stir well.  Let the batter rest in the refrigerator for 10-15 minutes.
  5. Heat oil in the deep fryer over the medium heat.
  6. If desired, cut hot dogs into halves or thirds. Spear each piece with a good quality toothpick.
  7. Roll  hot dog pieces in flour and then dip into the corn bread batter, coating well.  (The cornbread batter coats surprisingly well.  No worries here!)
  8. When the oil reaches 365 degrees, place the cornbread covered, toothpick skewered, hot dog into the hot oil. (I have a small pan for deep frying, so I could only cook two mini dogs at a time.)
  9. Deep fry until golden brown. Serve hot, with ketchup and mustard for dipping, of course.

Note: I had enough batter for six bun sized hot dogs cut into thirds, 18 mini hot dogs–and I put the batter on pretty thickly (the corn bread batter is my favorite part).

Aren’t you glad you stopped by my kitchen today?  Just what you needed to know…, how to coat a hot dog in a corn bread batter and deep fry it!  Deeeeeelicious!!!  Serve with a green salad and a glass of orange juice.  My daughter sees no reason why these can’t be frozen and then reheated in the oven as needed.  I don’t either.  Costco sells them twenty four to a box just that way!

Now for all my Facebook, “Polly, Julie and Julia” friends.  YES,  to make matters WORSE I then cut some Reese’s Peanut Butter cups in half , wrapped each half in that roll out crescent roll stuff, baked at 375 for 10 minutes, sprinkled with powdered sugar, and ate.  Ummm, no.  That refrigerated crescent roll stuff is bad news.  The rolls tasted and smelled like chemicals. That being said, of the eight I made guess how many are left?  ZERO.

Now, aren’t you glad to know you can make killer corn dogs at home any time you want?!  I’ll try to post something a little more sane tomorrow….

28 Jun 2011 Grilled Vegetable Platter

I love veggies, as long as they are cooked.  If they are grilled, even better.  I started grilling veggies a few years back.  I just sliced and grilled.  Except for loosing a significant number of veggies through the grill, they worked out great.  I grilled carrots, zucchini, asparagus, onions and sweet potatoes.  Now I am working on fancier grilled veggies; a little marinade, a little glaze, grill marks…

Last week I received an email, “Top Ten Recipes of June 2011”.   This email came from Taste of Home magazine.  I am not a huge fan of Taste of Home, too many of their recipes start out with a mix, but I am a sucker for Top Ten lists. So I opened the email.  The picture of the  Grilled Vegetable Platter looked good, the recipe had five stars out of five stars with twelve reviews, so I clicked away.  The recipe sounded good and looked simple enough, so I tested it…, winner, Winner, WINNER!

Don’t feel like you have to stick to the veggie combo listed.  Grill what you have and what you like.  I left out all the bell peppers.  I. don’t. like. bell. peppers.  I didn’t add in any mushrooms because I just posted that fabulous recipe for Grilled PortobellosTaste of Home reviewers also reported adding green beans, snow peas, sweet potato rounds, and halved cherry tomatoes  into the mix.

My change to the Taste of Home recipe is to make two marinade mixtures.  Use one to marinate the veggies in prior to grilling (and then discard that marinade with the Ziploc bag), and then use the second one to drizzle over the veggies after grilling, the second marinade is just slightly different from the first. I also substituted freshly minced garlic for the garlic powder in the first marinade.

Now for my number one tip on grilled veggies… Grill the veggies first, before the meat or the fish.  Veggies are grill hogs, taking up an entire grill, and some of them take a surprisingly long time to grill, onions especially. The asparagus will cook most quickly, then the squash, then the carrots, and the onion will probably still be cooking when you start in on the meat.  Just remove each veggie when done and, when your veggie platter is mostly complete, drizzle with the second marinade, and place the whole platter in a warm oven.  Another reason for cooking the veggies first?  You can be in the middle of cooking them when  your guests arrive, and I haven’t met a guest yet who is not impressed by a grill covered in marinated mixed veggies, some with nice char marks!

Grilled Vegetable Platter

For the pre-grilling marinade

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoons honey
  • 1 Tablespoon Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 clove garlic, minced or 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

For the post-grilling drizzle

  • 2 Tablespoon olive oil (this is the time to use your best tasting/most expensive olive oil)
  • 1 Tablespoon honey
  • 1/2 Tablespoon (which is equivalent to 1 1/2 teaspoons) Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Veggie Mix (mix it up to suit what you have on hand, what you like to eat, and how many people you are serving…keeping in mind grilled veggies make great leftovers and are almost as good eaten at room temperature as they are when they are eaten fresh from the grill)

  • 1 pound fresh asparagus, trimmed
  • 3 small carrots, cut in half lengthwise
  • 3 small zucchini, cut in half lengthwise
  • 1 large sweet red, yellow, or green bell pepper, cut into 1-inch strips
  • 2 medium yellow summer squash, cut into 1/2-inch slices
  • 1 sweet potato (I prefer Garnet Yams), peeled and cut into slices
  • 1 medium red onion, cut into four wedges (I used a sweet Vidalia onion)
  • other possible add ins or substitutions: mushrooms, halved tomatoes, green beans, snow peas…
  1. Combine the olive oil, honey, Balsamic vinegar, oregano and minced garlic or garlic powder for the marinade. Pour into a large resealable plastic bag; add the vegetables. Seal bag and turn to coat; refrigerate for 1-1/2 hours.
  2. Combine the ingredients for the drizzle; cover and set aside.
  3. Place vegetables on a grilling grid (I don’t do this…I place the veggies directly on the grill, and loose a fair number of asparagus spears, skinny carrots and zucchini).  Grill, covered, over medium heat for 4-6 minutes (adjust for each veggie) on each side or until crisp-tender. Note: The onion wedges will probably fall apart.  That’s OK.  Just grill the slices (the slices that don’t fall through the grill, that is).  As soon as each slice is nicely brown and feels soft, transfer to platter and drizzle with some of the second marinade mixture.
  4. Transfer to a large serving platter. Drizzle with the second “marinade” mixture.
  5. Serve, or if desired, place in warm oven (250 degrees) to stay warm until needed

So now you know what you will be grilling, what should you have for dessert?  S’mores (or S’mores Bars?), Frozen Bananas (always fun), or my personal favorites, Fresh Blueberry Pie or a Mixed Berry Pie?? Have some fun and search my recipes!

Outdoor grilling rocks! Hope you are enjoying both cooking and dining outside.  Next up, grilled artichokes! Thanks for stopping by my kitchen again today.  I love it when you pop in!

 

19 Jun 2011 Bloomin’ Onion Bread

You know how you read a recipe and you just KNOW it’s going to be good?  This was one of those recipes, a Sourdough bread round, cheese, butter, green onions and a sprinkling of poppy seeds, baked.  What’s not to like? I saw a picture of this delicious concoction on Foodgawker last week and immediately clicked to read the recipe at The Girl Who Ate Everything and The Changing Table. How I held off making it for three days, I just don’t know.  I am glad I didn’t wait any longer though!

The Bloomin’ Onion Bread was a showstopper; I was thrilled with it, and my nine guests couldn’t wait to tear into it.   Everyone thought it was delicious.  I served it with Bourbon-Brown Sugar Flank Steak (which was horrible), broccoli, a lovely salad, and fresh watermelon.  Quite an easy Summer BBQ.  Pity about the flank steak though.  That was another recipe that I thought would be great: marinate a flank steak in dark brown sugar and bourbon and then grill it.  What’s not to like?  Well, brown sugar on steak for starters.  The steak ended up being sweeter than the Yellow Cake with Milk Chocolate Frosting that I served for dessert.  Why that recipe for the horrible flank steak was posted I just don’t know.  There were even comments posted about liking the steak!

Anyway, here’s a recipe for a side dish that does work, that is delicious, and looks lovely on the table.  Enjoy!

Bloomin’ Onion Bread

  • 1 unsliced  sourdough round (I bought mine at Le Boulanger)
  • 12 16 oz. Monterey Jack cheese, thinly sliced (12 oz. is plenty, 16 oz. would be a bit over-the-top, I think))
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup finely diced green onion
  • 2 teaspoons poppy seeds
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Using a sharp serrated knife, cut the bread lengthwise and widthwise without cutting through the bottom crust. The top of the bread  should look like a checkerboard. Cutting the second way can be a bit tricky, but the bread is very forgiving, and if you have a nice sharp knife it’s not so bad.
  3. Place the cut bread onto a piece of  foil on a baking sheet.
  4. Insert cheese slices between cuts, both lengthwise and widthwise (a good job for a young family member or a guest that arrives early).
  5. Combine melted butter, chopped green onion onion, and poppy seeds in a small bowl or pitcher. Drizzle evenly over stuffed bread.
  6. Wrap the bread in the foil.  You will probably need a second piece of foil to cover the of the top.
  7. Place the wrapped bread on the baking sheet into a preheated 350 degree oven and bake  for 15 minutes.
  8. Unwrap the bread (I just took the foil off the top)  and bake for an additional 10 minutes, or until cheese is melted.
  9. Serve immediately.  Place a serrated knife on the serving plate,  which would be helpful for cutting hunks of bread off of the loaf to place on individual plates. I didn’t do this,  the cretins at my table didn’t seem to mind, but you might have civilized folk at your table…

Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today.  Stop by again, and I’ll post my easiest recipe for BBQ flank steak, one I have been using for 20 years, and it’s always well received.  Be sure to subscribe if you’d  like to receive a notification when a new recipe posts. To scroll through the recipes already posted, just click the “In the Kitchen With Polly” logo on the very top left hand side of the page.  Enjoy!

16 Jun 2011 Gravlax (sort of like Lox)

A few weeks ago my Aunt and I went on a seven day cruise to Alaska.  I spent most of the time reading while  looking out to sea and waiting for the next meal to be served, usually just a couple hour wait! It’s quite decadent to eat four multi-course meals a day (breakfast, lunch, tea, and dinner) all chosen off a menu, all served by waiters, while sitting at tables set with linen, too much  silverware, and many glasses.  And after all that, the biggest thrill yet awaits.  The getting up from the table, without removing a plate, and walking out the door, with not one thought about cleaning up or storing leftovers.  Now THAT, was lovely.  I wouldn’t be opposed to a fourteen day cruise next year!!!

As on most cruises, the Head Chef did a little demonstration for those of us who like to cook in real life (being on board ship is by no means real life). The Head Chef of The Dawn Princess showed us how to make Gravlax and Tiramisu. Tiramisu I can take or leave, and I usually leave, which is very odd since I am a cake person to rival Gayle King, and a coffee person to rival Howard Shultz but, hand me a raw fish and I get all giddy!  I took lots of notes during the Gravlax portion of the demonstration.  When I got back on land, I knew I was going to make  Gravlax for our Cook Book Club meeting.  The theme was “Something You Love But Seldom Make”.  This recipe fit perfectly, as I love it, but had never made it.  Gravlax is one simple recipe, and it’s a stunning appetizer plate or brunch treat.

I know some of you are asking, but what is Gravlax? Think Lox!  It’s very similar, but with a shorter curing time (two days versus six months). Gravlax is a Scandinavian dish of dry-cured raw salmon marinated in salt, sugar, dill, and citrus and often served thinly sliced on bread as an appetizer often accompanied by a dill-mustard sauce.

Dawn Princess Gravlax

  • 1 salmon fillet, about 2 lbs (very fresh, wild caught)
  • 500 grams of table salt (I weighed this out to be about ¾ cup)
  • 500 grams of sugar (I weighed this out to be about 1 ¼ cups)
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • One bunch fresh dill
  • 1 large orange, sliced
  • 1 large lemon, sliced
  1. Place the salmon side on a large piece of plastic wrap. Run your hand over the surface and remove any and all bones with small tweezers.
  2. Mix the salt and sugar together. Sprinkle approximately half of the salt/sugar mixture over the salmon fillet. Then top with a good amount of  freshly ground black pepper.
  3. Top the black pepper with a heavy layer of fresh dill sprigs.
  4. Top the dill with a layer of the orange and lemon slices.
  5. Pour remaining sugar-salt mixture over the top of everything.
  6. Wrap the fish, covered with the salt, the dill, and the orange and lemon slices and a final layer of salt/sugar, completely and tightly in plastic wrap.
  7. Lay plastic wrapped fillet on a cookie sheet and refrigerate for 30-48 hours.  (80% of the recipes I read on the Internet said to weigh the fish down with something heavy during the refrigeration time. The chef did not say this, but after reading the recipes on line, I decided to do the same.  I used a 12-pack of soda.)
  8. Remove the plastic wrap from the fish. Drain off the liquid. Quickly rinse the salt off with cold water, then dry with a paper towel.
  9. Thinly slice the salmon, holding the knife at a diagonal.  Serve.  The chef served the gravlax on a sliced sweet baguette with a honey-mustard-dill sauce (equal parts of honey and mustard, with a few tablespoons chopped fresh dill).  My kids, and I, love to put the Gravlax on top of  bagel halves which have been spread with thin layer of cream cheese and then topped with thinly sliced red onion, capers, and tomatoes. Or how about Eggs Benedict with Gravlax rather than Canadian Bacon?
  10. Leftovers can be wrapped tightly in plastic and kept for one week in refrigerator, and can be stored in freezer for longer storage.  If gravlax is frozen, be sure to defrost gently in refrigerator, or the texture of the gravlax will be compromised.

Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today.  If you’d like to see more recipes, just click on the “In The Kitchen With Polly” header on the top left hand side of the page, which will allow you to scroll the recipes in order of posting.  If you would like to search on a particular ingredient, just type the name in the search box.  I think my dear friend Rattie has designed a very user friendly website!

Polly

14 Jun 2011 Chocolate-Peanut Butter Popcorn

My friends tell me I have more than my share of cooking gadgets.  I don’t disagree with them.  But I don’t have everything.  For example, I don’t have one of those quick freeze Popsicle makers, and until today I didn’t have a popcorn machine. The Popsicle maker is on my “Wish List”, but the popcorn machine has been on my kitchen counter churning out popcorn for the last few hours.

I needed a popcorn machine today.  My daughter Abby is manager of our neighborhood pool this Summer and tonight is the first Kid Movie Night.  The pool’s popcorn machine is broken, and she can’t have her first movie night without popcorn, now can she?  So we went out and got a popcorn machine.  It wasn’t expensive.  It was on super-duper clearance at Target.  I KNEW that lucky penny I found on the driveway this morning was going to mean something!

My daughter, being sensible and well organized (like her mother), thought she should practice with the popcorn machine before taking it down to the pool and expecting it to perform perfectly.  So she practiced, and managed to churn out a lot of popcorn.  The machine worked like a charm!  But there was about twenty-four cups of practice popcorn on our counter.  I ate a cup.  My grandson ate about four pieces, and then spilled a cup.  My son refused a cup. Only twenty-two cups to go!

I thought about making Caramel Corn with the popcorn.  I have a terrific Caramel Corn recipe posted, and while my Caramel Corn is one of my favorite foods on the planet, it is a bit of a bother to make.  Time was running out, so I turned to foodgawker, searched on Popcorn, and found this recipe for Chocolate Peanut Butter Popcorn.  On closer inspection I found the recipe had been posted by one of my favorite bloggers, Brown Eyed Baker.  The recipe had to be good!  I just knew it!  It was my lucky day.  That was one powerful penny.

This recipe is the same recipe as for Muddy Buddies, but using popcorn instead of Rice Chex.  It’s a cinch to pull together, and it’s good for you:  popcorn, whole grain; peanut butter, plant based protein; chocolate, dairy!  And it’s melt-in-your mouth delicious.  Seriously addictive. I am pretty sure you have all the ingredients in your cabinet, too.

And it’s Summer.  Don’t we all need a movie night?  How about movie night with one of the best popcorn snacks EVAH?!

Umm….there’s just one more thing.  This popcorn doesn’t keep well; it starts to get soft after a few hours.  So eat fast!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Popcorn

9 cups plain popped popcorn (top of stove, air popped, popcorn machine, microwaved…)
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips (or milk chocolate, or half bittersweet and half milk, or whatever chopped chocolate you have on hand)
½ cup creamy peanut butter
¼ cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1½ cups powdered sugar

  1. Place the popped popcorn in a very large bowl.
  2. In a microwave  melt the chocolate chips, peanut butter and butter for about 1 minute.  Stir well. Chocolate and peanut butter should be melted and very smooth. Stir in the vanilla.
  3. Pour the chocolate mixture over the popcorn. Using a large spoon or spatula, stir until all of the popcorn is evenly coated with the chocolate/peanut butter mixture.
  4. Sprinkle the powdered sugar over the chocolate-covered popcorn and stir until evenly coated.
  5. Spread the mixture onto a baking sheet and place in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes or until the chocolate is set.
  6. Serve! Leftovers don’t keep well.  Eat everything as soon as it’s made!

Thank you for stopping by my kitchen today.  If you like what you see, please consider subscribing to my blog.  If you subscribe you will get a quick e-mail to alert you each time I post a new recipe (which I try to do a few times a week).  Great seeing you!

Polly