EASY ENTERTAINING: MAKE SEAFOOD CEVICHE

Ceviche is a seafood staple in coastal regions of Spanish or Latin American countries. Refreshing and delicious, it has recently become popular in American restaurants. Because ceviche is healthy, simple and really flavorful, it will become a go-to when you are having friends over; it's perfect for margaritas after work or a great make ahead starter to kick off burger night with the neighbors. Best of all, ceviche is simple, unique, and super-fast! Use a firm white fish that will hold its shape. Cut into uniform size pieces so the fish cooks evenly in the marinade.

SIMPLE SEAFOOD CEVICHE

INGREDIENTS

1 pound red snapper or other fish cut into 1/4 inch cubes

3/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice

1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/2 red onion, diced

1 small tomato, diced very small

1/2 cup red pepper, diced very small

1/2 cup yellow pepper, diced very small

1 jalapeno pepper, stems/seeds removed, diced very fine

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced into a paste or grated with a microplane or grater

Pinch of cumin

Pinch of cayenne pepper

Salt and pepper to taste

1/2 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped 

DIRECTIONS

In a large zip top bag, add the fish with enough lime juice to cover. Marinate for 20 minutes.

Wisk the remaining ingredients except the cilantro together in a bowl along with 1/4 cup of the lime juice from the marinade. Remove the fish from the marinade and add to the mixture, stirring gently to combine. Chill completely, at least one hour. Stir in the cilantro just before serving.

Serve in a chilled glass with wedges of lemon or lime, and tortilla chips.

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RECIPE: CHEESY BACON, SPINACH AND ARTICHOKE BITES

For some reason, mini quiches are not cool anymore. There was a time when there wasn't a party menu to be found without these little wonders: Crust filled with cheesy goodness... what's not to love? But for some reason, quiche has become un-hip. To paraphrase Will Shakespeare, a quiche by any other name will still taste as good. These cheesy spinach and bacon bites are easy to make and wayyyy to good to be frowned upon because they are quiche.. I like my own crust recipe but you can buy mini tart or Phyllo shells and fill them if you prefer or are short on time.

cheesy bacon artichoke and spinach bites

CHEESY BACON, SPINACH AND ARTICHOKE BITES (AKA MINI QUICHE)

INGREDIENTS

For the crust:

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/8 teaspoon granulated sugar

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

1 stick unsalted butter, very cold, diced

3-4 tablespoons ice water

 

For the filling:

6 bacon slices, chopped

1 shallot, minced

5 cups baby spinach

1 cup canned artichoke hearts, drained and chopped

3 eggs

1 1/2 cups milk

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1/2 cup shredded Gruyère cheese

1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

 

Directions:

For the pastry shells: In your food processor, add the dry ingredients and pulse to blend. Add the butter, a few pieces at a time and pulse quickly to incorporate. Once all the butter has been added (and looks kind of like uncooked grits) turn the food processor on ‘run”.  

Add the ice water quickly, one tablespoon at a time just until the dough comes together in a ball. Stop immediately. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured piece of plastic wrap. Form into a disc and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.  

Roll the dough about 1/8” thick. Use a mini biscuit cutter (about 2 ¾” size) and cut 24 rounds. Or you can portion into 24 balls. Press them into tiny non-stick muffin tins and chill.  Also, I chill one same size muffin tin and then flour it lightly and press it into the shells to help make them smooth and uniform. Chill the dough in the tins for at least 30 minutes.  

For the filling: Grate the cheese. Set aside.

Cook the bacon in a skillet over medium-high heat until crisp. Remove to drain on paper towels. Pour all but 1 tablespoon of the bacon fat from the pan. Add the shallots and cook just until softened but not browned, about 1 minute. Add the spinach and the artichokes. Cook until the spinach is wilted; 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat. Allow to cool slightly.

In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, salt, pepper and grate in the nutmeg. Add the cooled spinach mixture to the bowl and stir just to combine.

When you are ready to bake the quiches, preheat your oven to 375°F. Divide the bacon and the Gruyere cheese evenly between the pastry shells. Pour in the spinach mixture, filling each cup ¾ full. Top each with the Parmesan cheese. Bake until the filling is set and the crust is golden, approximately 25-30 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and remove immediately from the pan. Serve warm.

You can freeze the crust and use it when you are ready. You can also freeze the cooled quiches and thaw on a cookie sheet, then bake when you need them. A perfectly easy make-ahead party bite!

Yield: 24 mini quiche bites

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RECIPE: MY MOM'S SPICY SOUTHERN CHEESE STRAWS

My mom would always make spicy cheese straws for the holidays and was sure to have them waiting for us for almost every celebration. A Southern staple for teas, weddings and showers, you can make these as wafers, as shown, or use a cookie press to shape them into straws. I find the wafers faster and easier-- plus I can roll the dough into a log and freeze. That way I can just slice and bake when guests pop in or when I am in need of a quick bite to serve with a glass of wine or Champagne.

I want to mention that this dough always looks like it is not "wet" enough once you mix it. Do not be tempted to add additional butter or liquid. It will come together. Just use your hands to form it. You'll see.

Baked cheese straws are always on the table for parties and celebrations in the South. This is my mom's recipe- one I've used for 30 years.

Baked cheese straws are always on the table for parties and celebrations in the South. This is my mom's recipe- one I've used for 30 years.

SPICY SOUTHERN CHEESE STRAWS

Skill Level: Easy

Prep Time: 15 minutes        Cook Time: 10-12 minutes

 INGREDIENTS 

1 pound extra sharp cheddar cheese, grated

1 stick unsalted butter, cut into cubes*

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Dash Tabasco or to taste

 DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Chill the cheese well and grate it using a food processor or the side with large holes on a box grater. Set aside.

NOTE: I make this recipe in a food processor because I find it easier but you do not have to use a food processor. My mom never had one. Just mix in a bowl.

In a food processor, add the flour, salt and pepper and pulse 10-12 times to blend. Add the butter. Turn the food processor to "run" for 10 seconds. The result should be like coarse cornmeal. If it is not, pulse a few more times. Add the cheese and the hot sauce. Pulse just until the cheese is incorporated. Turn the food processor to "run" for 5-6 seconds. 

*NOTE: If you intend to pipe the dough into straws, you may obtain a better/easier to pipe result if you melt the butter rather than use cold butter and leave the cheese at room temperature. See directions for piping into straws below. Many of the old school southern recipes call for melted butter.

(Note: If you do not have a food processor, mix the dry ingredients together. Use a pastry cutter or two forks to cut the butter and the cheese into the flour. Add the hot sauce and mix well.)

For wafers: Turn the dough out onto a sheet of plastic wrap for wafers. Shape it into a log using your hands and roll the dough up in the plastic. Twist the ends of the plastic wrap to secure and put into the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. To bake, remove the plastic wrap and slice into discs, place about 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool on a rack.

(Note: Another option is to use a very small ice cream scoop to portion uniform balls onto the prepared pan. Using a fork, (which you may need to flour) press each one, creating the design shown above.)

Easy homemade Southern cheese straws

For straws: Place the dough into a cookie press or pastry bag fitted with a star tip. Push the dough into one corner of the bag and press the air out. Snip the tip and pipe them into 3” long strips about 2 inches apart. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned on the bottom and edges.

Yield: 2- 4 dozen depending on the size and shape. You can get 55-60 wafers from this recipe using a small ice cream scoop or melon baller.

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