Posts Tagged ‘appetizers’

Avocado mousse-stuffed smoked salmon rollsSeafood baked mac and cheese.  It seems that no matter how creative we try to be, someone has already thought of the same thing, or else something extremely similar.  But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t still plenty of room (and need) for creativity.  In fact, the wide range of internet recipes that mob the blogosphere is a great resource–we can find good ideas for new food pairings, improve the recipes we were already working with, and perhaps most importantly, learn from others’ mistakes!

So, when I tried to think of something to do with an avocado sitting on my shelf, I thought that avocado mousse would be a good idea.  Counting on the fact that I am not entirely original, I Googled it and found a slew of avocado mousse recipes, ranging from the savory to the sweet.  Of course, I had also thought of making a dessert with avocado, with banana and possibly with cocoa, and this list of recipes just proved that yet again, many, many people had already beat me to it.  The great thing about this is, I could compare and pick the best ideas and, of course, still add my own to the mix.

I saw that, basically speaking, to make a savory avocado mousse you just mix the avocado with cream cheese.  I also saw that most of the time, people pair the mousse with smoked salmon.  However, the friend of mine at whose house I was going to be eating this snack does not like smoked salmon.  So, I took the basic idea, picked up some specialty cured jamon ibérico to replace the salmon (and also used some leftover turkey slices sitting in my fridge), and grabbed a baguette from my local supermarket, and came up with this:

Skill Level:  EASY

Preparation time: 5-10 minutes.

Servings: Approx. 15 pieces, depending on the amount of mousse you spoon onto the bread pieces.

For base:

smoked salmon slices, turkey slices, cured ham slices, or whatever sliced soft meat you prefer (thin slices of muenster or another mild semi-soft cheese should make a good vegetarian option)

1 baguette (freshly baked or re-toasted prior to meal preparation)

For avocado mousse:

1 ripe avocado (peeled and pitted)

1/2 package of cream cheese (4 oz.)

1-2 teaspoons mustard (to taste–I find using dijon or other specialty mustard is better for this)

half a teaspoon of garlic butter (optional)

salt and pepper to taste

In a medium bowl, mix avocado, cream cheese, mustard, garlic butter (if used) and salt and pepper to taste.  I did this with a fork for a few minutes and it was fine, however if you really want to make it as smooth as possible, feel free to use a processor.  Slice the baguette in half down the middle, then into small pieces, 2-3 inches in length.  (I find that the step of slicing it down the middle makes it much easier to eat.)

Lay a small piece of sliced salmon, ham, turkey, or whatever you have chosen on the bread slices.

Note: These bread slices have NOT been sliced in half width-wise. Don't make my mistake!

Scoop about a tablespoon of the avocado cheese mixture onto each piece.

Easy, fast, minimalist, and tasty.  My favorite combination!


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There is a fantastic tapas bar called “Mercado de la Reina” in Madrid that I take all my friends to when they visit.  The reason I enjoy the tapas so much at this bar in particular is that they take the “traditional” tapas recipes and tweak them just a bit, creating something familiar and yet entirely unique at the same time.

One of these dishes is a toasted piece of bread topped with spreadable Spanish sausage called sobrasada.  This sausage, originating from the island of Mallorca off the coast of Spain (which is gorgeous and also is the birthplace of the delicious ensaimada–more to come), is spiced and preserved with a lot of paprika, and is made from the “porc negre,” or “black pig,” which is apparently related to but slightly different from the oh-so-famous “jamón ibérico” on the mainland.

Spread the sobrasada over a fresh slice of baguette and top with a thin slice of brie, and toast lightly in an oven or toaster oven.  (You can also use a baguette that has gone stale if you can manage to break off a small piece.  The bread will soften as the toppings melt during toasting.)  For an added sweet kick–and in true Mercado de la Reina fashion–you can lightly drizzle the sobrasada with honey before placing the cheese on top and toasting.  Makes a fantastic snack or hors d’œuvre for a hosted event at your home.

I am not sure what the availability of sobrasada is abroad, but if there is none to be had, I found this recipe for the adventurous souls out there who might want to try to make a substitute.  The site also gives a U.S. substitute supplier.  For those who want to try their hand at curing their own sobrasada, the site suggests:

  • 2/3 of pork tenderloin
  • 1/3  fatback and lard in equal proportions.
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Hot paprika

Finely mince the meat, fatback, and lard and season with salt, pepper and hot paprika. Fill natural or artificial casings with the mixture and cure your sausages in a cool place of about 50ºF. For thinner sausages (about two inches in diameter) allow a minimum of two months for curing; for thicker ones (between three and five inches in diameter), allow four to five months.

I haven’t actually tried to cure sobrasada myself, so if you do it, please feel free to write in and share how it goes!  And if you are able to find some ready-made sobrasada, this really is the easiest, tastiest little treat that takes no time to make and is a unique addition to the menu!

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The other day I was schlepping around my local supermarket, El Corte Inglés–where all the foreigners flock to get pseudo-familiar versions of their foods from home.  I once found a bag of “Authentic Mexican Tortillas” and excitedly skipped home only to find they were super thick and even sweet to the taste!  Never again–I’ll make my own.

I find that this place caters to 1) lazy Spaniards and 2) clueless foreigners who don’t have any idea about (or inclination to make) local cuisine.  They have plenty of “ready to eat” versions of home cooking–and of course I know this is never as good as the real thing, but since I don’t live with a host family anymore and I can only crash so many house parties, what is a girl to do?

So I like to play around in the store and see what I find.  So in the seafood section I found these ready-made patties that looked like small, yellow cod fritters with scrambled egg.  The interesting thing is, there are no eggs in tortillitas de bacalao.  The yellow is from the chickpea flour.

These tasty little treats are a lot like latkes, except with cod in place of potatoes and, again, no eggs.  Before you say “then they can’t be like latkes,” let’s take a look at this very easy, very delicious recipe.  I guess they could also be considered tiny fish schnitzels.

If you don’t like cod, or you are boycotting them because they are becoming overfished, feel free to replace with any of your favorite seafoods or meats.  The key is to keep the pieces small, so that they fry better.

Skill Level:  EASY

Preparation time:  About 10 minutes.

Cooking time: 15-20 minutes.

Servings: Depends on how many pieces you make.

Piece of cod

Small bowl of chickpea flour

1 part wheat flour to 2 parts chickpea flour, to even out texture when fried

Fresh parsley (dried if fresh is not available)

*My added recommendation*: Finely chopped onion (you can also use onion powder)

Glass of lukewarm water

Vegetable oil (I use olive oil)

Saffron (optional)

Pinch of salt (optional)

Cut the piece of cod into small, very thin pieces to achieve a pancake-like shape.  (You can also just cut into very small pieces without regard to shape, known as “migas.”)  Put the pieces in a pot of water and bring it to a boil.  Remove the water and set aside pieces.  In a bowl, mix chickpea flour, wheat flour, parsley, and onion.  Saffron and salt may also be added.  Slowly mix in lukewarm water just until you achieve a paste-like consistency (not runny).

Dip pieces into paste, and place in hot skillet with vegetable oil.  Fry until lightly browned.

Some people just add salt and eat as-is, although I think they go well with sour cream. Garnish as desired.  Enjoy!

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