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

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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Tea Bag Tatziki Sauce

Tzatziki SauceThis past week I made Chicken Masala (I won’t put a recipe here as I used a pre-made sauce; if I make it again from scratch, you’ll be the first to know!), and as a great side dish, a cool, refreshing bowl of Tatziki Sauce.  The secret to this sauce is a no-brainer:  1 bag of peppermint tea.  Just the contents, no water, no bag.  Most people don’t always have fresh mint on hand, though they might have mint tea bags; they are made of straight-up, dried mint leaves, they store well compared to the fresh product, and are the perfect spice for this dish, already crumbled as finely as any spice in your cabinet.  If you have fresh mint, adjust the amount to taste.  So without further ado:

 

Tatziki Sauce

1/4 cucumber, finely diced

2 C. plain yogurt (any kind will do; use Greek yogurt for a thicker sauce, or add a bit of stiff sour cream)

1 lemon’s juice

Salt & Pepper to taste

1 bag of mint tea – rip open and pour in the contents

a dash of two of dried dill, or 1/2 bunch of fresh dill, chopped

1-2 cloves garlic, finely minced

For garnish:  Finely chopped greens from a spring onion

 

Prepare the ingredients as above, and mix all together except the garnish.  Chill until ready to serve, sprinkling the garnish atop the sauce.  This goes great with any spicy Indian or Middle Eastern dish.

Tip:

If your meal is a spicy one, have a few boiled eggs on hand for your guests; they’ll take the sting out !

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.