Tag Archives: appetizers

Pesto Stuffed Cherry Tomatoes

I hardly ever make appetizers since I don’t entertain much and I just don’t think to make appetizers for everyday meals. But when the opportunity presents itself, I love to make little bites of deliciousness. I made these little tomato bites last time I hosted my book club. So simple, so yummy. They didn’t last long!

Obviously making these at the height of summer when the tomatoes and basil are ripe in the garden is the optimal situation. But luckily, cherry tomatoes and basil are available in the store year round and even in the winter, the cherry tomatoes are pretty tasty! I make my own pesto, but any store-bought variety would work as well in a pinch.

Pesto Stuffed Cherry Tomatoes

Pesto Stuffed Cherry Tomatoes

Pesto Stuffed Cherry Tomatoes

Basil pesto (click here for my recipe or you can use whatever pesto floats your boat)
Cherry tomatoes

Cut cherry tomatoes in half. Use a melon baller or spoon to scoop out the tomato guts and discard them. Spoon or pipe in pesto (a ziplock bag with the corner cut off works great for this if you don’t have a piping bag).

And that’s it! You can chill these or leave at room temperature. Refrigerate any leftovers if you have any.

 

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Gyoza

I love going out for sushi.  One of the little-known best parts of going for sushi, in my opinion, is the not-sushi.  It’s the gyoza.  Also known as potstickers, or dumplings.  Mmmm, little pockets of heaven.  Pork, veggies, and a bit of Asian mystery all bundled up in a tiny little package just for me.  Dip them in ponzu sauce for a salty, tangy finish and oh man, happy happy me!

These are very easy to make.  Don’t be intimidated by what looks like hours of work.  While there is a little more prep work than just throwing something in a pan, these babies come together pretty quickly and it’s sooooo worth the extra effort!  They are easy enough to make that you can get the kids (or even the dinner guests!) to help with the assembly.  And the really nice thing is this recipe yields a ton of them.  This batch will easily make 60+ dumplings.  I made about 40 and then used the rest of the filling for Asian style meatballs for another day.  Don’t want to eat that many at once?  No problem.  They freeze beautifully for an easy meal or snack later on.

While most of the time in restaurants gyoza is offered as an appetizer, I really enjoy it as a main dish.  A pile of stir-fried veggies and rice alongside and you’re in business!

Gyoza.  Who says it's just an appetizer?  These were main dish quality.

Gyoza. Who says it’s just an appetizer? These were main dish quality.

Gyoza

1 pound ground pork
1 shredded carrot
1 inch ginger, minced
8 oz. shiitake mushrooms, chopped
1 tsp. sesame oil
1 tbsp. soy sauce
3-4 green onions, chopped
1-2 packages round gyoza wrappers (find in the refrigerated section in most produce departments at the grocery store)

Mix all ingredients (except wrappers) in a large bowl.  In the center of each wrapper place a teaspoon of the pork mixture.  I usually work in batches, laying out 9 or 10 skins (put out a little bowl filled with water for dipping fingers), filling, and then crimping all of them.  This is also a fun task for little (or big) helpers.

Making gyoza.  Be sure not to overfill, this is about the maximum amount you want to put in there if you want to be able to seal them up.

Making gyoza. Be sure not to overfill, this is about the maximum amount you want to put in there if you want to be able to seal them up.

Moisten the edge all around with a bit of water and bring the two edges up to meet in the center.  Pressing outward to remove the air, seal the edges, crimping with fingertips.  Place on wax paper on a baking sheet or board.

Gyoza, all crimped up and ready to cook (or to freeze).

Gyoza, all crimped up and ready to cook (or to freeze).

Heat a skillet over medium high heat.  Drizzle a bit of canola or peanut oil in the pan and let it heat (I use about a tablespoon of oil for each batch).  Swirl oil around to coat the bottom of the pan.  In small batches, add the gyoza (I can do about 10-12 at a time in my skillet).  Let them sizzle and cook until brown on the bottom.  Add 1/3 cup of water to the pan and cover.  Let cook about 3-4 minutes, until water is evaporated.  Remove dumplings and repeat as needed with additional batches.  Serve hot with ponzu dipping sauce (see below for recipe).

Leave space between the dumplings so they cook evenly and don't stick together as they steam.

Leave space between the dumplings so they cook evenly and don’t stick together as they steam.

This batch made 40+ gyoza (1 package of skins), which for the three of us equals two meals.  So I cooked half, froze half, and still had some filling left which I rolled into meatballs for another meal.  Or if you have more wrappers, just make more gyoza and freeze what you don’t want to eat that day.

To freeze gyoza, leave on the cookie sheet, stick the whole thing in the freezer.  Let them freeze about an hour, and then you can pile them in ziplock freezer bags.

Frozen gyoza.  Freeze first on a cookie sheet, then pile into bags for easy storage.

Frozen gyoza. Freeze first on a cookie sheet, then pile into bags for easy storage.

To cook, simply take out what you need and follow the directions above.  No need to thaw first, simply put the frozen gyoza in the hot oil and cook as usual!

Ponzu Dipping Sauce

1 tbsp. chopped green onions
3 tbsp. fresh lemon or lime juice
2 tbsp. mirin
2 tbsp. soy sauce
1 tsp. brown sugar
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper
1/4 tsp. garlic chile sauce
1/4 tsp. fish sauce

Combine all ingredients.

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April’s Famous Salsa

I recently reconnected with my stepbrother after a number of years.  The first thing he told me (not kidding!) was that in all the years since we’d seen each other he had yet to find a salsa that measured up to mine.  A proud moment for me as a big sister, a cook, and a salsa lover.  🙂

And he’s not wrong.  Not to toot my own horn (okay, maybe a little), but this stuff is pretty awesome.

You can make this chunky by just pulsing in a food processor, or smoother by using a blender.  For this batch, I used the blender.  During the height of tomato season I use fresh tomatoes, but most of the year canned tomatoes work just fine.  I especially like the newish “fire-roasted” diced tomato variety, for a little extra smoky flavor.  You can also roast the veggies before throwing them in for an extra smoky finish as well.

April's Famous Salsa

April’s Famous Salsa

April’s Famous Salsa

1/2 cup red or yellow onion, coarsely chopped
1/2 – 1 jalapeno, (green or red or a bit of both – stemmed & seeded)
3-4 tomatillos, husked and quartered
2 cloves garlic
1 tbsp. lime juice
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cumin
1 handful fresh cilantro (about 1/3 – 1/2 cup)
1 can diced (fire-roasted or regular) tomatoes (or use 3-4 large ripe tomatoes, coarsely chopped)

In a blender or food processor, add onion, jalapeno, garlic, tomatillos, lime juice and cilantro.  Pulse or puree (pulse for chunkier texture, puree for smoother salsa).  Scrape down sides and add tomatoes, salt and cumin.  Pulse to combine.  Check texture and blend more if you’d like it smoother.  Taste for seasoning and adjust if needed.

Makes about 2 cups.  Store in an airtight container.  This will keep in the fridge for 2-3 weeks (if it lasts that long!).

April's Famous Salsa.  I eat this on just about everything.

April’s Famous Salsa. I eat this on just about everything.

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