This cheery holiday salad is a fun (and delicious!) decorating idea for a party. A trio of lettuces create the evergreen tree, and items from the deli counter and salad bar become an edible garland.
5 ounces baby arugula (about 8 cups)
5 ounces baby kale (about 8 cups)
2 Persian cucumbers, halved lengthwise and sliced into half moons
3 heads little gem lettuce, bases trimmed and leaves separated, or the inner leaves of Bibb lettuce
1/4 pound thinly sliced Genoa salami
Three 1/4-inch-thick slices provolone (about 6 ounces)
1/4 pound thinly sliced prosciutto
1 cup cheese-stuffed small sweet piquante peppers, such as peppadews
1/2 cup jarred small whole artichoke hearts (about 8)
1/2 cup green castelvetrano olives
1/2 cup kalamata olives
1/2 cup small whole pepperoncini
6 radishes, tops trimmed
1/4 cup chopped toasted walnuts or pecans
One 4-ounce goat cheese log
8 ounces ciliegine mozzarella (small balls of mozzarella), halved
White Balsamic Vinaigrette:
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1-inch, 1 1/2-inch and 3 1/2-inch star cutters; a bar citrus zester
1. For the salad: Combine the baby arugula and kale in a large bowl. Arrange the leaves on a very large platter or cutting board in a Christmas tree shape that measures 16 to 18 inches tall, reserving a handful of greens. The platter should be large enough to accommodate a star on top and a trunk on the bottom. Scatter half of the sliced cucumbers over the tree. Arrange a layer of little gem lettuce leaves to create 4 tiers on the tree; use the small inner leaves for the fourth layer at the top of the tree.
2. Stack the sliced salami and cut out a large star using a 3 1/2-inch star cutter; reserve the scraps. Using the same cutter, cut out 2 stars from 2 slices of the provolone; reserve the scraps. Make a layered meat-and-cheese stack starting with half the salami stars, topped with a provolone star, the rest of the salami, and the second provolone star. Place the star at the top of the tree.
3. Cut out smaller stars from the provolone scraps and the remaining provolone slice using 1-inch and 1 1/2-inch cutters. Roll up the salami scraps and prosciutto slices into flowers. Arrange the cheese stars, meat flowers, stuffed peppadews, artichoke hearts, both kinds of olives and pepperoncini on the lettuce to form a garland that zig-zags up the tree from the bottom right to the upper left.
4. Using a bar citrus zester, zest a channel along the equator of each radish so it resembles a tree ornament. Halve each radish vertically and add the pieces to the garland. Scatter the remaining cucumber slices on the leafy parts of the tree and use the reserved greens to fill any gaps in the tree.
5. Put the nuts on a small plate and roll the goat cheese in them to fully coat. Place the log at the bottom of the tree to form the trunk. Decorate the ground under the tree with the ciliegine mozzarella balls for snow.
6. For the white balsamic vinaigrette: Whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, honey, 1/2 teaspoon salt and several grinds of pepper in a small bowl until well combined. Serve on the side.
Falafels are traditional Middle Eastern deep fried patties or balls made from chickpeas, fava beans, or both. They’re usually found stuffed in Pita bread or rolled in a flatbread along with fresh and pickled veggies and topped with a tahini sauce, that’s a Falafel Sandwich. They are also eaten with fried eggs, hummus, babaganouj, and pickles for breakfast or served as mezzes and snacks.
My first encounter with falafels was at a kiosk in New York city where I grew up. Buying a falafel sandwich from this kiosk was a treat when we spent the day at the near by park. Then my family moved to Hawaii in the mid-70’s where there were no kiosks selling “ethnic” foods and so I didn’t have falafels again until I married my husband who is of Palestinian decent. Imagine his surprise when I told him I actually knew what falafels were!
As newlyweds in Hawaii we had to figure out how to make falafels at home; as I new bride I had no clue! Remember back in the 80’s there was no google, no pinterest, no instagram, or any kind of internet that would find a recipe in seconds. I had to rely on cookbooks from the library, not really helpful.
Then we found a box of falafel mix at a local health food store. Just add water and fry. It wasn’t the best, but we made do. I started experimenting with the boxed mix and found that adding finely chopped fresh parsley improved the taste. Started adding more spices and pretty soon I figured I may as well by pass the mix and make it from scratch. That didn’t go so well until I managed to buy a food processor, now I was in business!
As I was exploring the makings for falafel from scratch we started traveling all over the world. Of course travel opens up your life to different places, foods, and cultures and our travels in the Middle East definitely helped my falafel making. We loved the falafel sandwiches at Mr. Falfala in Cairo and the ones found on the streets of Diera in Dubai. But nothing beats the fresh falafels served at Hashem’s and Abu Jbarra in Jordan! On our last trip to Dubai this year we discovered that Abu Jbarra opened a place by the Dubai Mall, we ate brunch there almost everyday!
Anyway those trips to Egypt, Dubai, and Jordan whetted my desire to make falafels at home that would be close to the ones served in the places we loved. I say close because I doubt I’ll ever figure out the exact match to Hashem’s falafels served in this little alley in downtown Amman.
I make large batches of falafels so that I have enough to freeze for future use. Raw falafel paste freezes beautifully! This way I don’t have to haul out the food processor every time I want to fry falafels and I always have some handy when I have a yen for a falafel sandwich.
I’ve found that using fresh ingredients makes the difference between decent falafels and amazing ones! So I use fresh cilantro, parsley, and dill as my primary seasonings; they will turn your mixture green, but the greener the falafel is the better it tastes in my opinion. I also use dry chickpeas never canned.
It takes a bit of planning to make really great falafels, but believe me it’s so worth the effort!
8 oz. Dried Chickpeas (1/2 a bag)
1 Tsp. Baking Soda
1 Large bunch of Fresh Cilantro, rinsed and dried on paper towel
1 Large Bunch of Fresh American Parsley, rinsed and dried on paper towel
1 Small Bunch of Fresh Dill, rinsed and dried on paper towel
2 Tbs. Fresh Garlic, minced
1 Tbs. Cumin Powder
1 Tbs. Ground Coriander
1 Tbs. Sea Salt
1 Tsp. Ground Black Pepper
1 Tsp. Baking Soda
Oil for frying
Pita or Flat Bread
Optional Condiments: Fresh lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, pickles, pickled beets, tahini sauce, thousand island dressing, or what ever you want to add in the sandwich
Pour dried chickpeas into a bowl and mix in baking soda.
Cover with water and soak overnight.
Rinse chickpeas in cool water and drain in a colander.
In a food processor load in this order:
Cilantro leaves and stems (you don’t have to use all the stems but do use the leaves), Parsley, Dill (prepare and use Parsley and Dill the same way as Cilantro).
Drained chickpeas and garlic
Dried spices (cumin, coriander, salt, pepper)
Turn on processor and grind until it is a paste
If freezing place paste into freezer safe containers and freeze. Thaw before cooking.
If using immediately:
Heat about 2″ of oil in a small pot.
Add baking soda to falafel paste and combine well.
Test that oil is hot enough by dropping a small amount of falafel paste in; if oil starts bubbling around the paste your oil is ready for frying.
Form paste into small 1″ balls or patties and drop into hot oil.
Fry until all sides are brown, cooked falafel will float.
Drain on paper towels and serve as a sandwich filling or by itself for breakfast or as mezzes.
This Shrimp Scampi Cheese Dip made it’s debut on our Thanksgiving Menu last year, the family loved it so much it’s now one of our faves. We make it all the time for our Sunday night barbecues and even when we entertain. Our guests love it just as much as we do!
It’s really simple to make and so yummy! We used crostini for dipping, we like the crunch, but you can use fresh baguettes or whatever you like. I’d avoid salted crackers though, the butter and cheeses have enough salt and dipping salted crackers may get too salty.
If you’re looking for something different to add to your holiday meal this Scampi Dip fits the spot.
But do keep extra ingredients on hand, you may have to make a second bowl when you have company!
8 oz. medium shrimp – peeled and roughly chopped
4 tbls. salted butter
1 tbls. minced garlic
1/2 cup white wine (if you prefer non-alcoholic you can substitute chicken broth for the wine)
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
4 oz. cream cheese softened
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup grated fresh parmasean cheese
1 1/2 cup grated mozzarella cheese
1. Melt butter in pan.
2. Saute garlic in butter until it turns slightly brown.
3. Add shrimp and saute until shrimp starts to turn pink.
4. Add wine. Stir well and continue cooking until shrimp is cooked.
5. Remove from heat and squeeze on lemon juice. Stir.
6. Stir in cream cheese, sour cream, parmasean, and 1 cup of the mozzarella. Reserve the 1/2 mozzarella for topping. Mix very well.
7. Pour into oven safe baking dish – you will be serving it in this dish. I ran out of pretty oven safe dishes so I ended up using an aluminum pie tin.
8. Sprinkle remaining mozzarella on top.
9. Bake in 375 degree oven for 20 minutes or until cheese melts and starts turning brown.
10. Serve warm with dipping bread or chips.
Shrimp Scampi Cheese Dip
An awesome dip you and your friends will love! It's cheesey, garlicy, flavor goes great with crusty baguette slices.
Bao, bau, baozi, mantou, bakpoa, paoare, siopao, or humbow; you probably know them best as Steamed Buns or Boa Buns. They’re those soft fluffy white pockets filled with a sweet or savory filling.
Baos or whatever you call them originated in Northern China where wheat instead of rice is widely grown. They’ve been around for hundreds of years. Legend has it that Baos originated during the Three Kingdom Period when a Chinese general needed to cross a raging river with his army. To ensure safe crossing the people on the other side of the river demanded that the general sever the head of 50 men; instead the general used large meat filled dough balls which satisfied the demand.
Meat filled bao buns have always been a favorite in the Philippines where they are called Siopao, they’re also popular in Hawaii where they’re known as Manapua. Both places have a large Chinese population who introduced this delicacy many years ago. In fact many countries with large Chinese communities have a version of this popular food. Recently their popularity has increased worldwide.
Baos can be shaped into balls, as they were in the legend, or they can be folded like taco shells. They can be filled with your favorite savory meats such as char siu or sweet roast pork, pork belly, and chicken curry; or they can be filled with sweets such as black bean paste, taro, or custard.
One of my favorite bao fillings is Korean Fried Chicken, crispy fried chicken bites dipped in a sweet and spicy sauce garnished with fresh chopped cilantro, sliced onions, and cucumbers.
But first things first, before you can fill steamed buns you must make them. To make homemade buns you will need a steamer, I use bamboo steamer baskets, but you can use whatever you have on hand. Other than that making steamed buns are pretty easy using ingredients that are readily available if you don’t already have them in your kitchen.
So let’s make bao buns, then you can fill them with just about anything you desire.
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Bao Buns – Steamed Buns
3 3/4 Cups flour
2 Tbs. Sugar
2 Tsp. Instant Yeast
3 Tbs. Milk
3/4 Warm water
3 Tbs. Butter – softened
1 Tbs. Olive Oil
Mix together flour, sugar, salt, and yeast in the bowl of your standing mixer or a large bowl if kneading by hand.
Place warm water and milk in a separate bowl, stir in butter until it melts.
Using the dough hook of your mixer gradually stir liquid into flour mixtures.
Knead for 10 minutes either in your mixer or by hand.
Turn dough into an oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap or towel. Leave in a warm spot until dough doubles in size, about 2 hours.
Once dough has doubled in size turn out onto a floured surface. Gently knead dough for a couple of minutes then cut into 20 pieces which you will roll into balls.
Roll each ball with a rolling pin into an oval shape about 2 1/2″ x 3 1/2″.
Place on parchment paper while you roll the rest of the balls.
Brush dough ovals with olive oil.
Place a chopstick in the middle of the dough oval and fold over. It should now be shaped like a taco shell with a space in the fold where the chopstick is. The oiled surface should be inside of the fold.
Slip chopstick out, place on a sheet pan covered with parchment paper, and fold the rest of the ovals.
Cover pan with plastic wrap or towel making sure plastic doesn’t touch the dough as it will stick.
Leave to rise for another hour.
When dough has risen bring water in large pot or wok to a boil. Place about 3-4 buns into a steamer basket and steam for 10 minutes.
Remove steamed buns from steamer basket and keep it on a plate in the oven to keep warm.
I just love Crab Cakes, don’t you? What’s not to like? They’re crunchy on the outside, tender on the inside and delicious to boot!
For some reason I used to think Crab Cakes were something you ordered as an appetizer at a fancy restaurant, that is until I realized just how easy they are to make at home. Actually what prompted me to explore the making of crab cakes were the Crab Cake burgers they had on the menu at Ruby Tuesday’s. I loved them! Then for whatever reason they disappeared from the menu, boo! In the end I decided that Carb Cakes were super easy to make, and guess what, you can even make a bunch to freeze for later use!
So know not only do we make homemade Crab Cakes for those Crab Cake burgers, we make them for potlucks, game days, birthday parties, and other events. They’re great appetizers and snacks too of course!
For the best Crab Cakes I use Jumbo Lump Crab meat or if I can’t find that Lump Crab meat is the next best thing. I avoid using canned crab meat as it’s too shredded and in my opinion has a fishier smell and taste.
So here’s my recipe for Crab Cakes and Remoulade, which is a must have! Remoulade is the dipping sauce for the cakes and I also use it as a condiment when making crab cake burgers.
1 Lb. Jumbo Lump Crab meat
1/4 Cup Panko
2 Tsp. fresh parsley chopped
2 Stalks Green onions chopped
1 Tsp. Old Bay Seasoning
1/2 Tsp. Dijon Mustard
1 Tbs. Mayonaise
Oil for frying
Combine crab, panko, parsley, green onion, and Old Bay in a bowl. Mix well, it should be lumpy so don’t over mix it.
In a separate bowl beat egg, mayo, and mustard together.
Combine with crab mixture until it’s evenly distributed.
Form into patties – larger patties for burgers or small ones for appetizers.
Place on a sheet covered with parchment paper and refrigerate for about 1/2 hour or until firm.
Heat oil in pan and pan fry patties until it turns brown and crispy on the outside, gently turn over and fry other side.
Drain on paper towels before serving.
1/2 Cup Mayonaise
1 stalk green onion chopped
1 Tsp. relish
1 Tsp. Hot Sauce (I use Crystal or Louisiana)
1 Tbs. Horseradish (not the creamy type)
1 Tbs. Dijon Mustard
1/8 Tsp. Cayenne Red Pepper
Mix everything together. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
I think one of the prettiest salads you can have is the Caprese Salad. It’s vibrant colors are so inviting, promising something creamy, fresh and delicious.
What you may ask is a Caprese Salad. It’s an Italian salad of fresh mozzarella cheese, tomatoes, and basil with a light vinaigrette dressing. It’s said that Caprese Salad was originally made to honor the Italian flag which is Red, White, and Green; the same colors of the salad.
Caprese Salad is definitely a family favorite. It’s not only delicious but it’s so easy to make. We have it for lunch, as a panino or sandwich. You can place the ingredients between 2 slices of bread or better yet a ciabatta roll, grill it just until the bread is toasted and the cheese melts, and you have a wonderfully simple meal!
The most important thing to remember when making Caprese Salad at home is to use the freshest ingredients you can find. This mean unless absolutely necessary the prepacked balls of mozzarella in the supermarket’s dairy case just won’t do!
Short of bringing home fresh mozzarella from Italy (which I’ve actually done) I usually find fresh mozzarella at Costco or the deli counter. It’s the balls of cheese that’s usually floating in the tub it’s packaged in. You’ll know it’s fresh because it’s softer than those hard balls packed in plastic wrap.
Tomatoes of course are fresh, pick nice ripe ones. I get mine from my garden along with the fresh basil. If you don’t have a basil plant (and you should! it’s so easy to keep even a small one in the kitchen window) you can buy fresh basil leaves at the grocery store.
Once you have all the fresh ingredients all you really need is some extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and a bit of Italian seasoning if you have it, and some salt. If you don’t have Italian seasoning you can use dried oregano, parsley, or basil or you can just use black pepper.
Caprese Salad is great for a light lunch or as a fresh addition to any meal. It’s tasty and refreshing, the perfect summer salad!
5-6 slices of Fresh Mozzarella Cheese (slices should be about 1/2″ thick)
1 Firm Ripe Tomato – sliced in about 1/2″ thick rounds
3-6 Fresh Basil Leaves
1/4 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/4 Cup Balsamic Vinegar
1 Tsp. Italian Dressing
Salt & Pepper to taste
Slice mozzarella and tomatoes into 1/2″ rounds and arrange on a plate. Alternate tomato and cheese to make it look nice.
You can also add a basil leaf between the cheese and tomato or you can place the leaves in the center. Place the three ingredients on the plate any way you find pleasing.
Mix together oil and vinegar.
Add 1/2 Tsp. of Italian seasoning to the oil mixture and stir well.
Drizzle over the fresh ingredients just before serving.
Sprinkle remaining Italian Seasoning over all and season with salt and pepper if desired.