Archive | Appetizers

Beer-Steamed Mussels alla Puttanesca

Like clams, mussels are best cooked quickly. They turn rubbery and dry if left too long in the pot. The trick is to add them to a small amount of rapidly boiling liquid in the bottom of a pot and cover immediately. Whatever you do, get hungry bodies to the table before you start cooking, because steamed mussels are best eaten freshly cooked and very hot. Good bread for sopping up the delicious spicy broth is essential. Grill bruschetta with a brush of oil and a rub of garlic to accompany the dish if you are feeling ambitious.

Yield: Serves 2 as an entree, or 3 to 4 as a starter


  • 2 pounds fresh Blue Mussels, scrubbed and de-bearded. [Note: Hog Island Oyster Farm in Tomales is a great source of sustainably farmed mussels in our area. For a list of where they can be purchased visit]
  • 2 tablespoons quality olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, cracked with the heel of your hand
  • 2 cups roughly chopped ripe tomato (substitute canned diced tomatoes when tomatoes are out of season in your area)
  • 1½ tablespoons brined capers, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup green Cerignola or other mild, fleshy olives, pitted
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Yield: 4 to 6 servings, as an appetizer


  • ½ white onion, finely chopped
  • 1 Serrano pepper, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • 4 ripe avocados, chopped


Combine the onion, pepper, salt, cilantro and lime juice. Add the chopped avocado and mix with the rest of ingredients. Taste and add more salt, if needed. Serve with fresh tortilla chips. Dried cricket garnish is optional.

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Ceviche Zihuatanejo

Yield: 4 to 6 servings, as an appetizer


  • ½ red onion, sliced
  • 1 or 2 Serrano peppers, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • ½ cup fresh lime juice
  • 1 pound fresh fish, cut into strips (good choices are snapper, tilapia, sea bass, sole, etc.)

Mix the onion with the peppers and salt and leave to rest for 1 minute. Add the lime juice and the fish and marinate for 5 minutes. Serve with fresh tortilla chips.

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Chicken Tinga

Recipe from Chef Juan Pablo Loza, Maroma Resort and Spa, Riviera Maya

Photos: Gibson Thomas

Yield: 4 to 6 servings, as an appetizer


  • 2 white onions, thinly sliced
  • 3 tablespoons corn oil
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons canned, puréed chipotle chiles (or less, to taste)
  • 1 tomato, chopped
  • ½ cup cooked chicken, shredded in small pieces
  • Dried oregano, to taste (a small pinch)
  • Sea salt, to taste
  • For garnish: shredded lettuce, Mexican crema (or sour cream) and fresh cheese


Saute the onion in a pan with the oil for 2 minutes (do not let them get overly soft), then add the sugar and allow to cook for an additional minute until the sugar is melted. Add the chipotle puree and cook the mixture for another minute, then add the tomatoes and the chicken. Simmer the mixture until the liquid is reduced and it has a “stew-like” consistency. Season with pinch of oregano and salt, to taste.

Serve spooned over crispy tortillas. Garnish with shredded lettuce, Mexican crema (or sour cream) and fresh cheese, as desired.

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Dried Fruit Ricotta Boulamour

Ricotta is a simple, fresh cheese that takes little time to make. It is best when used within a few days while its flavor is bright and the texture is still moist and creamy. Traditionally, ricotta is made by reheating whey (ricotta means recooked in Italian) after making other cheeses, though it takes a fair amount of whey to yield a usable amount of ricotta. This home-crafted formula using whole milk and citric acid is very basic. If you want very fluffy curds, add the citric acid AFTER heating the milks to 180°—185°, continuing to raise the temperature to 195°, and add the salt only at step 6. If you like an even richer and creamier ricotta, try making it with heavy cream exclusively. If you don’t have citric acid, use lemon juice to coagulate.

Yield: 1 pound (makes 2—3 boulamour, depending upon the size)


Plan this one a few weeks ahead of serving for optimum flavor. This colorful, festive “ball of love” is totally encrusted with dried currants and golden raisins that have been macerated in kirsch (cherry liqueur) for at least 2 weeks. One week before serving, make the basic Whole Milk … Read More

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Basic Fresh Goat Chevre

Chevre is the common name for spreadable goat cheese. Its log shape is familiar to many of us in the United States and you will often see it with dried herbs or other flavor additives blended into it or as a coating. This version uses a premeasured blend of culture and rennet available through New England Cheese Supply (, designed for making chevre. This is the perfect and simplest method for any novice cheese maker to venture into making cultured cheese.

Yield: 11/2 pounds


24+ hours (1/2 hour to make the cheese + 12 hours ripening + 12 hours to drain)


  • 1 gallon pasteurized goat’s milk, at room temperature for 1 hour
  • 1 packet mesophilic C20G starter
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt


Heat milk over low flame to 86° F. Sprinkle the starter over the milk and let rehydrate for 5 minutes. Using a whisk and an upand- down motion, draw the culture into the milk to distribute thoroughly.

Cover and take off heat, maintaining a temperature of no lower than 72°, allowing milk to ripen for 12 hours. (Tip: Either ripen during the day to drain at night or ripen overnight to … Read More

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By Chefs Gerald Gass and Mark Rohrmeir

Most Americans have grown up with the canned ripe black olives that are the mainstay of the California olive industry. These olives are cured quickly in an aerated lye solution that both removes the bitter glucosides and turns the fruits a uniform black. The color is set further by the addition of a small amount of ferrous gluconate. The resulting olives are even in color and texture, but insipid in flavor. This is in contrast to the very flavorful olives that are made in the Mediterranean by a variety of slower methods, most of which involve gradual leaching of the glucosides from the olives in water or salt brine. The process can be as simple as packing the olives in a mesh bag and submerging the bag in the ocean or a stream until the flavor is acceptable. More commonly, olives are put into a salt brine that is changed periodically until the glucosides have been leached. Another method calls for burying large, ripe olives in coarse salt and letting the salt draw the glucosides and much of the moisture from the fruit. These are known as dry-cured olives, and they are … Read More

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