Basque Pintxos

This is not so much a recipe, as a tip on what to serve the next time you want starters for a meal, or a meal eaten by hand.

I just returned from a long weekend in Bilbao, Spain; it’s a thriving city on the Bay of Biscay.  The Basque have one food that they are probably most famous for:  Pintxos (pronounced “Pintchos”).  These are a similar concept to the Spanish Tapas, but far more elaborate.  5 or 6 of these will make a meal.  Any good Pintxos bar worth its salt will have a wide variety spread out along the length of the bar (which is not usually for drinking at, but for selecting your food), and they pride themselves in personal specialities, so you have to bar hop to get the full experience; I’m sure they’ve got a local term for it – bar hopping, pub crawling, or as my husband and I dubbed it, “Pintxopping”.

They usually come served atop a slice of toasted Baguette bread, and some of the combinations we had were:  Diced crab with tomato sauce; an unusually non-distinct mushroom patè fried in a hushpuppy-like batter; crab and vegetables sautèd in tomato sauce and served in an open clam shell, overbaked with cheese; baked squid atop a fish pate; a skewer of breaded and fried vegetables; a variety of fish and seafood in spring roll wraps; breaded chicken on a skewer with rounds of goat cheese; one bar’s signature Pintxo was a mound of crab meat overbaked with a quid-ink-tinted cheese, in the shape of the local mountain.  The possibilities are endless!  Below is an example found on Pinterest; if you want more ideas and recipes, you’ll find them there.  En Guete!

Pintxos

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Tuna Salad

tuna-salad

Credit: Pinterest

Today I went to a friend’s house to show/help her learn how to make my Bread & Butter Pickles.  I was thinking of all the ways I use these versatile preserves, and one of the things that came to mind is tuna salad:  It can be eaten straight as a main lunch dish, or on bread, or in a tortilla for a sandwich wrap (just top with a bit of torn lettuce and you’re good to go), as a side dish for other main dishes, or even as a dip with crackers as a simple apéro.  The pickles make a lovely addition to this salad; I usually take a whole jar of the pickles, dump it into a blender on high for a couple seconds, and wha-la, a jar of pickle relish!  The relish and juice make the tuna salad snap with taste.

The great thing about this mix is that it can be kept in the fridge for several days; it makes a great, healthy & quick lunch (for adults or kids), a healthy nibble when you just need a bite or two, and can be served in so many ways.

So here’s my recipe for this simple mix; the amounts are really about taste, but I’ll give you an approximation of what I do, and you can add or subtract according to your own tastes.  Word to the wise:  The tuna juice is best used by dividing it evenly into small bowls and given to your cats. 🙂

Tuna Salad

2 cans of tuna in salt water, drained & mashed apart with a fork.

~1/2-3/4  C. mayonnaise (whatever your favourite kind is)

1-2 shallots, finely chopped

~1 Tbs. lemon juice

salt and pepper to taste

1-3 Tbs. pickle relish with juice

Mix all together in a glass or plastic bowl (not metal – the citric acid, and vinegar from the pickles will react with that).  That’s it!  Add a sprinkle of fresh or dried chives for a contrasting colour as a garnish if you want to dress it up a bit for company.

Enjoy!

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Salted Dates Stuffed with Feta Cheese

Dates with FetaThe combination of coarse sea salt and the sweet dates with the tangy taste of Feta is truly addictive!  These wee appetizers are quick, easy, and will likely make you groan with the great taste as it explodes on your taste buds.

Serve them warm; you can either heat up the oven to 190°C (375°F) and bake for 5 or 6 minutes, or zap them in the microwave; I prefer the latter as it is far more energy-efficient, quick, and literally last-minute before guests sit down at the table, or couch, or wherever you’re serving your appetizers / starters / hors d’oeuvres.

I served this appetizer along with a recipe for Apple & Date Chicken Curry (coming soon!), and smoked Basmati rice, with Apple Tiramisu for dessert.

Plan for 6-8 per person, more or less.

Salted Dates Stuffed with Feta Cheese

Dates – de-stemmed and pitted

100-200 gr. Feta Cheese, sliced into date-slit-sized wedges

Coarse sea salt

TIP:  Dates are much easier to handle if your hands are wet – they won’t stick as much.

To prepare the dates, slice a knife along the length; pry the opening open with your fingers, and slip the seed out of the centre, being careful to leave the ends of the dates intact if possible.

Stuff each date with a wedge of Feta (or any goat cheese), and then sprinkle all of them with coarse sea salt (table salt is not recommended, as you don’t want them uniformly salty – just accented with it).

Just before serving, either bake (as above) or zap in the microwave less than a minute (mine took about 30-40 seconds); you just want the dates warm and the cheese soft, not melted out of the fruit!

Homemade Ranch Dip

We had a large party here this week, and this dip is a standard addition!  It’s fast, simple, and delicious.

The main ingredient is my homemade mix of Copycat Ranch Dressing Mix.  It’s a great mix to have on hand for making either dressing, dip, or adding to my Bisquick recipe for Ranch rolls.  If you need more than one kind of dip, grab your favourite dressing powder mix and replace the amount called for in this recipe.

Homemade Ranch Dip

Photo Credit:  Black Diamond Catering

Photo Credit: Black Diamond Catering

2 Tbs. Ranch mix

1 C. milk

1 C. Mayonnaise

Mix it up thoroughly about 20 minutes before serving, and chill; it will thicken up as the liquids are soaked into the ingredients such as the milk powder.  Give it a good final stir and serve with crudités (raw vegetables sliced for dipping).

Tip:  The catering photo above gives a great idea for serving the dip in a bell pepper.

10 Recipes in Pictures

I love to collect recipes and try them out; here are a few I’ve collected that are straightforward!

Bacon & Cheese Bread Ring

Bacon and Cheese Bread Ring

Baked Omelets

Baked Omelets

brownie in a mug

Brownie in a Mug

Cheese Bread

Cheese Bread

Cherry Chocolate Mice

Cherry Chocolate Mice

Chocolate Covered Bananas

Chocolate Covered Bananas

Easy Pizza Bread

Easy Pizza Bread

Egg Burger

Egg Burger

Filled Apples

Filled Apples

Fruit Flower Cups

Fruit Flower Cups

 

Baked Tomatoes

During grill season, we love to grill vegetables along with the meat; however, when we recently had a large party here there simply wasn’t enough room on the grill for vegetables as well, so I tried another way of preparing the tomatoes; they were great, and I’ll probably prepare my tomatoes this way from now on!  The measurements of this recipe are not exact – it depends on how many tomatoes you’re doing at a time, and what your individual preferences are.  Take this as a guideline:

Baked Tomatoes

Preheat your oven to ~200°C (400°F).

Baked Tomatoes

In a bowl, mix the following ingredients together:

~1 Cup grated cheese (Parmesan if you don’t want it melting too much, or a fattier cheese if you want melted, such as Gruyère)

1/2 C. breading crumbs (here in Switzerland, it’s Paniermehl)

Spices to taste:  I sprinkled in some grill spice, chives and a dash of Parsley.

If you wanted, you could also mix in some finely diced onion.

 

Next, slice your tomatoes into rings; for large tomatoes, I cut them in thirds.  Hold a slice of tomato over the bowl and, with a spoon, sprinkle the mixture onto the tomato; be generous – stack it up a bit!  Lay the slices out separately onto a baking paper-lined baking tray.

At this point if you’re making these ahead, set them aside or put them in the fridge until time to bake.

Bake them ~10-15 minutes – just long enough for the topping to melt / turn golden brown.  Serve hot!  These will go well as a side dish for just about anything; if you’re serving a meal that might be a bit dry on its own, these will add a juicy contrast.  They would also serve well as an appetizer, though they would be a bit too juicy to serve as finger-food.

En Guete!

 

Easy Bacon & Cheddar-Stuffed Cherry Tomatoes

This recipe was originally from Betty Crocker; I’ve adapted it for actual ingredients (none of this plastic, toxic cheese whiz, thank you!) and tweaked it to the present recipe.  The next time you have guests to impress but don’t have a huge time budget, whip these babies up!  En Guete! (Swiss German for “Have a good one”, or… Enjoy!)

Easy Bacon & Cheddar-Stuffed Cherry Tomatoes

EASY BACON CHEDDAR-STUFFED CHERRY TOMATOES

Image: Betty Crocker

12 cherry tomatoes, cut in half crosswise & de-seeded
1/2 Cup grated Cheddar cheese
1/2 Cup soft cream cheese (e.g. Mascarpone, Ricotta)
bacon, cooked and crumbled – either mix into the cheese or sprinkle it atop each tomato half
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives

Take a small spoon and scoop out the tomato halves to remove juice and seeds.
Blend the grated Cheddar and the soft cream cheese together until it’s fluffy; adjust amounts to get a good consistency for piping (if your cheeses are cold they will pipe at a different consistency than if they are room temperature).
Pipe* cheese spread on top of each tomato half. Sprinkle each with chives. Arrange on serving platter.

*To pipe the cheese, use either a piping tool that you have, or the following if you don’t have anything fancy:  Fill the cheese into a zip-lock or sandwich plastic bag, and squeeze it down into one corner; nip the corner off just a small bit with scissors; fill it into the cherry tomato halves; if you want it a bit more decorative, run the tines of a fork in a pattern across the cheese.