Tag Archives: appetizer

Boursin (for Fakers)

Fake It ‘Til You Make It

What’s the deal with the price gouging at the grocery store?  Makes a girl get all huffy and work on a recipe for homemade majesty to save some bucks.

You’ve probably seen/had boursin before, a creamy fresh cheese spiked with herbs and a healthy shot of pepper.  The cheese, created in Normandy, is a delicious treat on crackers and bread, and a perennial party pleaser.  Problem is the stuff runs about $5-6 for a mere 5 oz.  I could warrant spending that much on a fancier cheese, but on something in the aisle next to the Rondele?  Forget it.

My childhood church put out a cookbook back when I was a kiddie, and one of the recipes in there was a Homemade Boursin.  A combination of dried herbs, cream cheese and butter, it was close enough to the original stuff that I couldn’t see a reason to spend the money on the real stuff.

I don’t really know where the original recipe’s gone, but I’ve been making this version for years – a spicier alternative with both white and black pepper and a shot of chopped garlic.  I also make it with half the fat by using Neufchatel and SmartBalance spread in lieu of butter and cream cheese (you can certainly go full fat if you’d like, though).  The whole mess is whipped up in the food processor in mere seconds, and I then get to watch as it’s systematically devoured at parties.  The best kind of recipe of all :)

To my vegan friends, I’ve made this with Tofutti and vegan margarine before and it is absolutely as good as the vegetarian version.  Definitely give it a try – your dairy consuming buddies won’t know the difference.

Boursin (for Fakers)

8 oz. of neufchatel (or other cream cheese), softened
4 tbs. of Smart Balance spread (or butter), softened
1 1/2 tbs. of dried herbs (oregano, thyme, rosemary, tarragon – I just use Herbes de Provence and call it a day)
1/2 tsp. of white pepper
1/2 tbs. of black pepper
1/2 tsp. of salt
2 cl. of garlic, minced

Mix all ingredients well (or blend in a food processor).  Serve with crusty bread, toasts or crackers.

Summer Rolls (Goi Cuon)

Hot Fun in the Summertime

Called goi cuon in Vietnamese, these fresh rolls offer a light and refreshing alternative to their oil-laden spring roll cousins.  Although these are traditionally made with steamed shrimp and slivers of roasted pork, I like mine vegan with lots of crunchy veggies and no meat or seafood.  I even spike them with a few shitake mushrooms sauteed in a bit of oil and then cooled – this addition makes the rolls even more filling as a main dish.  Complete the non-meat meal with a tasty dip in some peanut sauce (find a version with no fish sauce) or hoisin sauce.  Welcome to the ultimate in coolness.

You’ll note that there are no amounts in this recipe – fill the rolls to your liking with the veggies of your choosing and dunk away.  It’s your show and you get to cast the characters.  That means you’re cut, bean sprouts! Continue reading Summer Rolls (Goi Cuon)

Cha Gio (Vietnamese Crispy Spring Rolls)

Greatest Wrapper of All Time

Cha gio, the Vietnamese answer to the Chinese spring roll, are a heck of a lot more than a crispy wrapper around a bit of filling.  The complex mix of tender pork, delicate shrimp and crab, and savory vegetables and spices form an addictive amalgamation that trumps the few shreds of cabbage and roast pork in a traditional spring roll.  Combine this roll with the delicious crunch of herbs and lettuce, and finish the whole thing off with a dunk into some sweet and salty nuoc mam, and you are in for a treat.

I always order cha gio with all the fixings at Vietnamese restaurants, and feel that the presentation lends an air of luxury to the dish.  And yet, when I was young, our Vietnamese friends would make the rolls in large quantities and share with anyone deserving of a little treat – cha gio were unpretentious and meant to be shared.  I feel the same way about feijoada completa (the Brazilian national dish of black beans, rice, and assorted condiments) – in a restaurant, the many dishes of food that make up the meal add an element of grandeur to the meal, when in actuality, feijoada is the people’s food at its best.  Just good, honest cooking meant to be shared with friends and family. Continue reading Cha Gio (Vietnamese Crispy Spring Rolls)

Kanom Jeeb (Steamed Thai Dumplings)

Pleat Me and Treat Me

Ah, kanom jeeb – you have officially earned platinum status in the dumpling ranks.  You are a mere morsel of goodness, a two-bite treasure, and I thank you for gracing me with your presence.  Jam from the wonderful food blog “Thai Cooking with Jam” explains that your name is derived from the thai words for “pleated snack”, but I posit that you legally change your name to the thai words for “pleated awesomeness”.  Awesomeness indeed.

I know that you are a textural delight with your essential combination of crunchy carrots and water chestnuts carefully blended with tender shrimp and pork.  You are also a luxurious treat with your delicate topper of lump crab.  And yet, you don’t mind dressing yourself down on certain days with a crispy shallot or two.  You are similiar to your Chinese brother, shu mai, and yet your combo of sweet and savory taste worlds away at times. Continue reading Kanom Jeeb (Steamed Thai Dumplings)

Fresh Guacamole (and Bean Tostadas)

Let’s Get Smashed

Apparently, NYC feels a need to charge a premium for fresh guacamole goodness.  They buy a mocajete (stone mortar) and a pestle, have some dude wheel a cart of fresh ingredients to your table, and for the tableside prep, charge you a hefty $12 – 15 depending on how fancy the restaurant.  You can make this guacamole for around $5 at home.  All that’s left is to buy some top shelf añejo and make some fresh lime margaritas to seal the deal.

I add a couple of extra ingredients for both taste and presentation – the shallots and tomato add lovely color.  And I use a shallot because it’s small and I can use it all with no leftovers, but you can certainly use a red onion if you have one on hand.  For this recipe, you are the controller of spice – the version below is mild/medium in heat, but you can amp up the spice quotient by using the jalapeno seeds and dicing it as finely as possible.  The cayenne doesn’t add much heat so much as offer a fuller pepper flavor.  This recipe works doubled and tripled, so if you are having a large group over, make plenty. Continue reading Fresh Guacamole (and Bean Tostadas)

Vegan Potstickers

It’s SO Easy Being Green

My family hails from Brazil, a country that prizes meat consumption in all its glory.  And yet, my sister has been a vegetarian (and a vegan when her multiple sclerosis doesn’t give her grief about it) since she was in fourth grade.  Always loving to cook for friends and family (regardless of dietary restrictions), I quickly altered my repertoire to include non-meat alternatives for all of my tried and true recipes.  As time went by, I came across more and more good friends looking for some sweet, non-meat dining (Drew and Briana, especially).  I never felt put out making “two dinners” – it just meant more time in the kitchen.

Two little tips to keep in mind – the green food coloring, aside from aesthetic purposes, is an awesome way to quickly separate between the veggie and meat dumplings on a platter.  No meat eaten by mistake.  I use green food coloring for the dye action, but if you are using frozen spinach at any time, you can save the water from it to dye your dumpling skins.  The other tip is that although I list a slew of veggies for these guys, do experiment and use whatever you’d like.  Try spinach instead of the cress, water chestnuts instead of the bamboo shoots – be creative and use what’s fresh and available.Vegetarian, vegan or no, give these dumplings a whirl.  If you make them at the same time as the chicken or pork versions, not only will you have a veritable dim sum spread in front of you, you’ll be winning the favor of your non-meat eating friends.  And friends are a good thing, I hear 😉 Continue reading Vegan Potstickers

Spicy Chicken Potstickers

For When You Want No Pork On Your Fork. I Mean Chopsticks

You know I love you guys.  And I have no problem with your dietary restrictions – I still want to fill your belly.  Which is why, if you are not fine with swine, I am posting this lovely recipe for chicken dumplings.

I call for no less than 4 types of pepper in these, so skip the chili oil and Sriracha (thai chili sauce) if you want it less piquant.  If you aren’t down with meat of any kind, check out this recipe for Vegan Dumplings. Continue reading Spicy Chicken Potstickers

Jiao Zi (Boiled Pork Dumplings)

Kitty Yum Yum’s Dumpling Emporium

I admit that I’m a bit of a fussy pants about collecting the best version of a recipe possible, to the point of years of trial and error to get things just right.  I believe in a specific set of credos of the kitchen, and won’t accept any substitutions for particular dishes that my palette is craving a certain way.  Was it Anthony Bourdain that said that people that refuse to peel garlic (by way of pre-chopped jarred garlic) don’t deserve to eat it?  I watch Sandra Lee cook out of seasoning packets and processed piles of ingredients, and it reminds me of why I enjoy spending a little extra time in the kitchen getting things just right.  It’s so worth it when the stars align and the recipe you’re working from just works. Continue reading Jiao Zi (Boiled Pork Dumplings)