Archive for the ‘ Appetizer ’ Category

CINCO DE MAYO RECIPES

If you celebrate Cinco de Mayo the way folks around here do, you’re going to need some serious grub to soak up the booze. The following recipes will not only satisfy any Mexican cravings, they’ll also lay down a base coat before your night gets going. Best of all? They can pretty much all be scaled up to feed a crowd. So enjoy responsibly and leave other Cinco de Mayo menu ideas in the comments.

TACOS, TOSTADAS, APPETIZERS

Tacos de Barbacoa

Chile-Braised Pork Tacos

Tacos de Cochinita Pibil

Red Chile Beef Tostadas

Taquitos

SALSAS & DIPS

Avocado-Tomatillo Salsa

Guacamole

Habanero Hot Sauce

Chipotle Bean Dip

Crema Mexicana

ON THE SIDE

Smoky Chipotle Black Beans

NICE & REFRESHING

Agua de Horchata

TAQUITOS

Cinco de Mayo is around the corner, and there are few hors d’œuvre in the Mexican repertoire better suited for munching on with a nice cold cerveza or margarita in hand than a crunchy, rolled taquito.  If the only kind of taquito you’re familiar with comes in a box from the frozen food aisle, then you’re in for a serious treat.  These are the real deal.  No microwaves, no ovens and no mystery meat here;  just the ear shattering crunch and savory interior of a freshly fried, homemade beef taquito.

Truth be told, I happily ate my healthy share of frozen taquitos for years. In fact, growing up I didn’t know many households that didn’t have a case buried somewhere in their freezer for snack emergencies. Throw them on plate, pop them in the microwave for a minute or so and go to town.  Let’s face it: they’re quick, convenient and the perfect vessel for your favorite condiment.  As a kid, I’d go as far as to dip mine in ketchup! It wasn’t until I decided to try a homemade version that I realized what this Mexican fingerfood could be. Where the frozen lack any serious depth of flavor and always end up being somewhere between chewy and soggy on the texture scale, the homemade is a knockout crispy treat.

These taquitos are the perfect way to use up leftover barbacoa.  In fact, I’ll even make an entire batch for the sole purpose of rolling up a few dozen of these bad boys.  If you really like them (which you will), go ahead and make a double batch and stash them in your freezer for the ultimate late night snack.  Like the kind from the box, but oh-so-much better.

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JALAPEÑO POPPERS

If you are looking for a jalapeño popper that looks like this, then sadly, this recipe is not for you.  If, however, you are a popper purist looking for the authentic, crispy-fried variety, then you have come to the right place.

I’ve been looking for a good jalapeño popper recipe for some time now, and, after several failed attempts to find anything I could truly be proud of, I’ve finally cobbled together a version that lives up to the high bar set by frozen versions sold in bars around the country.  I tried everything: versions with fresh jalapeños, versions with cream cheese, fine breadcrumbs and egg batters.  These same iterations, were either raw, greasy or simply exploded in the frying oil. My winning version utilizes a combination of quality pickled jalapenos, a combo of cheddar and jack cheese, hot sauce and a buttermilk/panko batter.  Served alongside some buttermilk dip, and you have a appetizer that has few equals in the fabulous world of fried food.

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HOT SPINACH DIP

We’ve all had good spinach dip. A little sour cream, a little cheese, some thawed frozen spinach and you’re in business. It’s the type of party dish you throw out on a table with a few crackers, maybe some slices of toasted baguette, and it’s guaranteed to be gobbled up in a matter of minutes. You may be used to seeing it served cold or at room temperature on most occasions, but those of us who take our dips seriously know that there is nothing quite like a hot version.

Somewhere between a french onion dip and everybody’s favorite green side dish, creamed spinach, this warm rendition satisfies in ways a cold version simply cannot. Just think — all those wonderful, rich flavors that are usually muted by the frosty interior of your refrigerator come alive when warmed through in the oven. Creamy, gooey and indulgent, this spinach dip is guaranteed to become one of your new favorite appetizers. Serve it to guests or bring it to your next potluck, but whatever you do, beware: I’ve seen a small group of people easily polish this off, so it may be worth doubling if you’re serving it for a party.

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FALAFEL WITH TAHINI SAUCE

Looking for good falafel in San Francisco can leave one feeling like Goldilocks.  In a town with so few options to choose from, compared to a city like New York, finding real, quality falafel around here can be hit or miss.  Oftentimes too dry, frequently too large and almost always too dense, my misadventures in the quest for the perfect fritter have lead me to create a recipe that produces perfectly light, moist and delicious falafel every time.  In Goldilocks’ words, these are just right.

Dehydrated chickpeas are soaked overnight and ground with onions, parsley and garlic then seasoned with aromatic spices before being fried to a rich, golden brown. Top with a drizzle of garlic and lemon spiked tahini sauce and you have a version that I’d bet rivals some of the best you’ve ever bought.

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