Tag Archives: appetizer

Avocado Eggrolls with Asian Ginger Slaw and Sweet Chile-Lime Dipping Sauce

Staying in for the night with your honey, watching Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve in your favorite spot on the couch?  There’s an app for that.  Going to a party at a close friend’s house for some New Years shenanigans?  There’s an app for that.  Hosting a party with small bites to be nibbled on throughout the night, accompanied by a bubbly cocktail?  I’m pretty sure there’s an app for that too.

Earlier in December, the mister and I hosted a pre-Christmas get-together for a small group of friends. I always make enough food to feed not only a small battalion, but an entire brigade as well (a trait directly inherited from my mother.  I don’t quite have mom’s Martha Stewart-like ability to tszuj a table yet, but that will come with time.)  We had coconut crusted gulf shrimp, bacon-wrapped dates, tortilla chips and homemade canned summer salsa, tortilla española with romesco aioli, and these avocado eggrolls, with sweet chile lime dipping sauce.  Oh–and this list doesn’t include the tasty assortment of apps that each guest brought.  Yes, I’d say we went a bit overboard.

The mister and I are going out dancing for New Year’s Eve this year, but I couldn’t resist making these eggrolls again this week, this time to be eaten as a meal over asian slaw.  My decision was partially inspired by the ending of holiday appetizer party season, and the fact that avocado season is in full swing–three for $1, anyone?    I was inspired to create these after I saw Elissa’s beautifully photographed avocado eggrolls on 17 and Baking.  Hers are absolutely delicious, but I decided to create my own version, packed with tangy lime, ginger, scallion*, and cilantro, with a sweet chile dipping sauce.  Kind of like an asian guacamole fried in a wrapper until crunchy and golden.  I always like eating fried foods with something fresh and healthy to balance out the texture and heat. This time, I tossed cabbage and carrot with a simple ginger-rice vinegar dressing and a squeeze of lime.

In the summer, there are barbeques to be held, and spring will be time for much lighter fare.  This, my friends, is prime time for hot, flavor-packed small bites, to bring people around the table.  Remember, there’s an app for just about anything, so I hope your New Year’s Eve is filled with tasty food and good company.  I’ll see you in 2012!

Ginger-Scallion Avocado Eggrolls with Sweet Chile-Lime Dipping Sauce and Asian Slaw

Makes 8 large eggrolls

The best eggrolls are served golden, crisp and hot, and these are no exception.  Plan on serving them immediately after frying, lest they lose their crispness.  The filling can be made a few hours ahead of time–just be sure to spread a piece of plastic wrap directly on top of the avocado mixture to avoid browning.  Oh, and one more thing– Avocados take on a funny taste when over-mushed, so mush gently!

For the Eggrolls:

  • 5 large avocados
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt, or to taste
  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger root
  • 2 scallions, chopped (1/4 cup minced red onion works too)
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 8 eggroll wrappers
  • Small dish of water, to seal
  • Canola or vegetable oil, to fill a medium pot (not nonstick) or dutch oven to 2 inches

Cut each avocado in half and remove the seed.  With a butter knife, score the inside of the avocado (kind of like tic-tac-toe), and scoop out the flesh with a spoon into a medium bowl.  With a fork, gently mash the avocado together with the lime juice and salt, leaving some texture.  Gently fold in the remaining ingredients until evenly combined.

To fill the eggrolls, lay out one wrapper with a corner pointed toward you, and place 1/4 cup of filling in the center.  Fold the corner over the avocado mixture.  Fold the left and right corners toward the center and roll. Dip a finger into the water, and trace it over the inside edge of the last corner, then seal it onto the eggroll.

Fill a medium pot to 2 inches with oil, and heat over medium-high heat until hot.  Test the heat of the oil by dropping a small piece of eggroll wrapper in.  The oil should immediately bubble, and the wonton should float to the top.  Working in batches of 2, gently lower in the eggrolls, and fry, turning occasionally, until golden brown, about 2 minutes.  Remove the eggrolls to a paper towel lined plate to cool slightly before serving.  Serve while hot with sweet chile dipping sauce.

*When I made these to photograph, I had forgotten to buy scallions, so I subbed red onion, which is what you see pictured…no harm done!

Sweet Chile-Lime Dipping Sauce

Really, just a slightly doctored up version of the pre-made Thai sweet chile sauce we all love.  Thanks, Epicurious!

  • 3/4 cup Asian sweet chili sauce*
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl.

Asian Ginger Slaw

  • 2 cups thinly sliced red cabbage (from about a quarter of a medium red cabbage)
  • 2 cups thinly sliced green cabbage (I used regular green cabbage, but napa would be good here as well)
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled and julienned or grated
  • 1/4 cup unseasoned rice wine vinegar
  • juice from 1/2 lime
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
  • 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoons salt, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon peanut or canola oil

Place the cabbage and carrot in a medium bowl.  In a separate small bowl, whisk the rice wine vinegar, lime juice, ginger, salt,  and oil together until combined.  Pour into the bowl with the cabbage and carrot.  Stir and toss well until well coated.   Let stand for about 30 minutes to allow the flavors to develop.  Toss again and serve.


Filed under Appetizers, Main Dishes, Side Dishes

Zaalouk (Moroccan Eggplant-Tomato Spread)

“Welcome to Morocco!”

We stepped off the plane, surrounded by the sounds of French and Arabic airport chatter.  The mister and I sticking out like sore thumbs–Peder, 6’4, blue-eyed and German-looking, and fair-skinned me in my very American clothing.  Without a word of Arabic between us, and hardly a word of French between us, we made it through customs and were greeted with a reassuring “Hey Guys!”. We spotted Karissa, looking well-traveled, and completely comfortable in her surroundings.  Following her like two deer in headlights to the snack shop, we watched her chat candidly in French with the workers to buy us three bottles of water.  I felt way out of my comfort zone, and tried to blend in.  Will people accept us here?  This is a Muslim country.  Do they hate Americans, like the news leads me to believe?  In the middle of my musings, one of the shop workers exclaimed, “You’re American?  We love Americans!  Welcome to Morocco!”  

After making our way out of the airport, Karissa immediately started bargaining in French with a taxi driver to settle on a fare.  Being a passenger in a Moroccan taxi is an experience that one never forgets.  It’s the first initiation into Morocco that every traveler must endure.  Drivers squeeze cars, motorbikes and donkey carts into every available slot, and shuffle themselves around like decks of cards.  Lane lines are suggestions, and honking is used as a form of communication as if to say, “I’m here, don’t hit me!.”  Ever played the game Frogger?  Then you know how to cross a five lane Moroccan street.

We rode past fruit carts and run down buildings, flowering bushes and dirty sidewalks, simultaneously taking in the scene around us, and chatting away with Karissa, trying to catch up for the past year she had been abroad, teaching at Casablanca American School.  Next, the interrogation.  The Mister and I fired off questions in rapid succession.  How do we blend in?  You won’t.  You’re going to stick out.  You just are, and that’s okay!  What about eye contact?  I made eye contact with a man at the airport, and he looked very surprised.  How very forward of you, Karissa laughed. Women don’t make eye contact with men.  It is okay for women to make eye contact with other women.  We learned to say “thank you” in Arabic as we exited the taxi, and Karissa began to argue with the taxi driver who insisted that she should give him a big tip because of his nice big car.  From what I gathered, Karissa told him “I am not a tourist, I live here, I don’t have to pay you a tip!”  Karissa gave the driver a smaller tip than he had asked for.  He gave her his business card and said, “Next time you need a driver, you call me, and you can give me a bigger tip!”

A little later, our other good friend Tom joined us, and we set out to eat dinner.  The four of us walked down dirty sidewalks and past flowering bushes, gritty stucco walls, and children laughing and playing soccer outside five story buildings.  We stepped through a keyhole-shaped door and into the restaurant, a pristine tiled courtyard garden, complete with a fountain and a traditional Moroccan band filling the space with beats I had never learned in any of my music education courses.  I thought I’d gone to heaven when the waiter brought us a basket of squat round seeded breads and two bowls full of olives, and reached a state of enlightenment when I had my first taste of chicken tagine with olives and preserved lemons.

At dusk, we walked along the beach outside the largest mosque in Morocco, the Hassan II.  It was brilliantly lit against the electric blue sky.  I didn’t know what to expect, and wondered if we were intruding on a sacred space that didn’t belong to us. When we reached the front of the mosque, we saw families and friends out for evening walks, dressed in traditional djellaba and hijab.  Children ran and played on the shining marble steps, and birds weaved in and out of the ornate arches.  Women held hands with women, men with men, and I sensed a deep kinship as they socialized and chatted.  The mosque exuded peace, and was a refuge from the speeding motorbikes and honking taxis.  We were met with curiosity and acceptance, as evening strollers glanced at our very different appearance.  I knew then and there that I wanted to step outside my comfort zone, in order to experience Morocco fully.

Join me next time as we eat as the Moroccans eat, cook as the Moroccans cook, and do as the Moroccans do.  We’ll walk through medinas and markets, meet new friends, and learn another recipe from Fatima, a kind Moroccan woman I had the privilege of cooking with.  The first recipe I’ll be sharing with you, is for a warm eggplant and tomato spread/salad called Zaalook.  Just as with most recipes, every home cook has his or her own version.  Here is Fatima’s, as illustrated below.

Eggplant and tomato, fresh from the underground market

Fatima quickly peels the tomatoes and trims the eggplant,

and dices it, with her crazy paring-knife skills.

She chops the parsley, 

and layers everything together on the stove, finely grating the garlic overtop.

Next, Fatima drizzles the vegetables with oil.  Lots of oil.  She cooks the vegetables without stirring until the tomatoes have released their juices, and then stirs everything together.

Now, the spices:  salt, paprika, harissa, and cumin seeds, which she toasts and rubs between her fingers to release the aroma.

She seasons to taste, and adds more harissa paste (to my delight).  Perfect to eat as a spread on bread, or as a salad.  Voila!  Zaalouk!  


Serves 4-6 as and appetizer or small salad

  • 4 medium tomatoes, peeled, trimmed, and diced
  • 2 medium eggplants, trimmed and diced
  • 4 medium cloves garlic
  • 1 small bunch flat-leafed parsley, finely chopped (stems and all)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds, toasted until fragrant in a small frying pan
  • harissa to taste*
  • sea salt and black pepper to taste
  • Extra virgin olive oil

Heat a large frying pan over medium heat.  Drizzle olive oil on the bottom of the pan to thinly coat.  Layer the vegetables in the pan as follows:  tomatoes, eggplant, then parsley.  Add another drizzling of oil over the vegetables.  Increase the heat to medium-high.  Cook, shaking the pan back and forth occasionally (to prevent sticking), until the tomatoes have released most of their juices.  Thinly grate the garlic over top, and stir the vegetables to combine.  Add the paprika, salt and pepper, and harissa to taste.  Rub the toasted cumin seeds between your palms to release their aroma, then add to the pan and stir.  Cover the pan, and cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally until the eggplant has softened and the tomatoes have almost broken down completely (The eggplant and tomato will have formed a paste with some remaining texture from the eggplant.)  Serve warm or at room temperature, alone or with bread.

*Harissa is a spicy Moroccan chile paste, which can be found in some Middle Eastern markets and specialty stores.  If you can’t find it, chile-garlic paste (sambal oelek), cayenne powder, or crushed red pepper would make decent substitutions.  


Filed under Appetizers, Salads, Side Dishes

Lemon-Garlic Infused Olive Tapenade with Rosemary Baguette Chips

It began with a baguette.  Like all good plans gone awry, this baguette started out with the greatest of expectations.  As it left the market in its crinkly paper bag, it had high hopes for sopping up that last bit of soup, or being dipped in a drizzling of peppery olive oil.  But alas, it was forgotten, neglected, and turned stale.

Three days later, I noticed the baguette looking at me expectantly from the counter.

“Croutons?”  I suggested



Yawn.  You can do better than that.”

“Okay, fine.  Bread crumbs?”

“Really, Jennifer?  You left me on the counter for the better part of a week.  I narrowly escaped the trash.”

Alright, alright.  Think, think, think…

“I’ve got it!  We’ll slice off your crust into little sheets.  We’ll toss you in olive oil, garlic, rosemary, and sea salt, and bake until you’re toasted and golden around the edges.”


“And?  What do you mean and?!?”

“And…what are people supposed to eat me with?  Hmmmmm?”

This is ridiculous.  I can’t believe I’m talking to a baguette.

“You owe me one.”

“I really can’t wait to eat you.”

“Fabulous.  Now, what are you going to eat me with?”

“Caramelized Onion Dip?”

“That was so three weeks ago.”

“FINE!  Tapenade!  I will eat you with tapenade!!!”

“What kind?”

“A mixed olive tapenade with toasted almonds, capers, and  olive oil infused with lemon zest, garlic, rosemary and thyme.  Will that work for you, YOUR CRUSTINESS?!?”

“I knew you could do it.  And think, I could have been breadcrumbs.”

“Okay, baguette.  Maybe you’re not so bad after-all.”

“You’re really going to miss me.”

“I know.”

“I’m your greatest inspiration.  Your mentor, your confidante…”

“You’re being smug.  I’m going to eat you now.”



Lemon-Garlic Infused Olive Tapenade

Serves 6-8 people

Traditionally, tapenade is made by pounding olives, anchovies, and capers into a paste with olive oil.  Straying from tradition, this tapenade starts with  finely chopped, not pounded olives and toasted almonds as a base.  The olives are then tossed with olive oil that has been infused with lemon zest, garlic and herbs, and a few capers are tossed in for good measure.  The uses are endless…serve as an appetizer over goat cheese, make a tapenade vinaigrette to serve with fish or chicken, or spread on a panini.

  • One cup pitted green olives, such as picholine, manzanilla, or cerignola (or pit your own, see note)
  • One cup pitted black olives, such as kalamata or nicoise
  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted and finely chopped (see note)
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon chopped thyme leaves
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped rosemary leaves
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and dried
  • kosher salt to taste, if needed

Infuse the olive oil:

Put the olive oil, garlic, thyme, rosemary, and lemon zest in a small saucepan or frying pan, and warm the mixture over moderately low heat for about five minutes (the garlic should appear softened, but not golden.  If it starts to bubble, turn down the heat and remove the pan from the stovetop for a few seconds).  Set the mixture aside until cooled.

Chop, chop:

Pulse the green olives in a food processor until finely chopped and place in a medium bowl.  Pulse the black olives in the food processor and add to the bowl.

Mix it all together:

Add the capers, almonds and olive oil mixture to the medium bowl, and stir well to combine.  Season with kosher salt, if needed.

Rosemary Baguette Chips

Serves 6-8

  • 2 slightly stale baguettes (fresh will work too)
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped rosemary
  • 2 large cloves garlic, put through a press, or minced and smashed to a paste with a fork
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • a sprinkling of kosher salt (about 1/4 teaspoon)

Preheat the oven to 350˚F.  Slice the crust off of the baguettes, then cut into chip-sized pieces.  In a large bowl, toss together the olive oil, garlic, rosemary, and kosher salt.  Transfer the crusts to 2 baking sheets, and bake for 10-12 minutes, or until crispy and golden around the edges.


  • Whole olives usually have a deeper flavor and sturdier texture than pre-pitted ones.  To pit your own (on a tip from Gluten-Free Girl), pound them with a rolling pin or meat mallet.  The pit will come right out.
  • To toast the almonds, heat a medium frying pan over medium high heat, and cook the almonds, tossing and stirring frequently, until they are aromatic, and golden in spots.  Remove from the heat.


Filed under Appetizers, Condiments

Caramelized Onion Dip with Salt and Cracked Pepper Potato Chips

‘Tis the season of ugly sweater parties and open houses, online shopping, and mulled cider.  Weekend nights are hot commodities, and booking up fast.  Where there are holiday parties, there are sure to be appetizers–my favorite things to eat and cook.  I’m not a big fan of the kind of fancy schmancy parties where appetizers must be eaten daintily off of little plates.  I want people to flock around the table, napkins in hand, nibbling, conversing, and laughing between bites.

Campfires, puppies, and dip have one thing in common.  They bring people together.  Just think… Your eyes meet.  The corner of his lip curls into a smile.  You tuck your hair behind your ear.  Your hands brush, halfway between potato chip and dip.  It’s love at first bite.  Who needs mistletoe when you have caramelized onions?

I’ll admit to noshing on chips and dip mixed from little packets on occasion, but that’s another subject.  What I’m talking about here is what store-bought french onion dip secretly wishes it could be–complex, savory, salty and sweet.

Like the Grinch who tried to steal Christmas, the onions start out angry, but really, they’re just lonely.  Once they are given the special treatment (a little butter, some salt, sugar, and some slow attentive stirring), they mellow and sweeten, just like the Grinch’s heart.

Fold them into sour cream, along with fresh thyme, sauteed garlic, and some fresh onions for balance.  Serve with sea salt and cracked pepper potato chips, and you’ll have a dip with enough magnetic power to draw everyone into the smallest room of the house, which is where all the best parties happen anyways.


Caramelized Onion Dip

Serves 6-8

  • 2 pounds yellow onions, thinly sliced (reserve 1/3 cup raw onions)
  • 3/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 16 ounces sour cream
  • 1/3 cup thinly sliced onions, chopped (reserved from above)
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon worcestershire sauce
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • kosher salt, to taste
  • 2 teaspoons fresh chopped thyme leaves

Caramelize the Onions (Process adapted from The Improvisational Cook, by Sally Schneider, and a guide from Real Simple you can find here):

Heat the butter in a large skillet or saucepan over medium-low heat.  Add the onions, sprinkle with salt, and stir.  Cover and cook for about 12 minutes, or until the onions have released their liquid.

Increase the heat to medium and cook for about 10 minutes, or until the liquid has evaporated and the onions turn a slight golden color.  Sprinkle with sugar, and continue to cook, stirring frequently until the onions are a deep golden brown, 10-25 minutes more. Remove from the heat, and set aside to cool, then finely chop.

Saute the Garlic:

Heat the olive oil in a small frying pan over medium high heat.  Add the garlic and cook, stirring constantly until just beginning to turn golden, about 2 minutes.  Remove the garlic from the heat immediately.

Make the Dip:

Stir together the chopped caramelized onions, raw onions, sauteed garlic, thyme, black pepper, worcestershire sauce, nutmeg, sour cream, and kosher salt to taste.  Using an immersion blender, or a food processor, puree about half of the dip.  Stir together once again.  Serve with vegetables or Salt and Cracked Pepper Potato Chips.

Salt and Cracked Pepper Potato Chips

  • 3 medium russet potatoes
  • canola oil for frying (enough to fill a dutch oven or medium saucepan to 2 inches)
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Using a vegetable peeler or mandoline slicer, thinly slice the potatoes, skin and all.

Heat the oil in a dutch oven or medium saucepan until shimmering and hot, but not smoking.  Fry the potatoes in batches until golden around the edges and crispy.  Remove to a paper towel covered plate.  While still hot, sprinkle with sea salt and freshly ground pepper.


Filed under Appetizers