Tag Archives: appetizers

Pickled Parmesan Zucchini Bites

zucchini rounds front

I’ve been having a great time coming up with fun and delicious ways to use up zucchini this summer as I have more than I know what to do with growing in the garden.  Of all the recipes I’ve created/found (Chocolatey Zucchini Banana Brownies, Cheesy Stuffed Zucchini BoatsZucchini & Parmesan Fritters with Lemon Zest) to name a few, THIS one has to be my favourite.

 

A few weeks ago I decided to bread some zucchini and fry it up as an appetizer.  I served it with a simple lemon, dill dip and although it was tasty, I knew I could do better.  I find zucchini, even fried zucchini, quite bland.  I also love fried pickles but sometimes find them to be too ‘pickly/sour’.  SO, I decided to combine the two flavours, add some cheese and lemon and voila!  I came up with fried Pickled Parmesan Zucchini Bites!

These turned out GREAT.  The longer you soak the zucchini in the pickle juice the more intense the pickle flavour becomes.  I recommend a minimum of 4 – 6 hours but you could even let them sit over night.  The zucchini is actually delicious eaten right out of the pickling liquid but once you bread them, fry them and serve them with dip, they are insanely tasty!!  A MUST TRY!

NOTE:  If you have a very large zucchini you may want to scoop out the centre ‘spongy’ part.  In this case, you could cut the zucchini into ‘moon’ or half circle shapes instead…

zucchini wedges

RECIPE (serves 4)

  • 1 medium zucchini (sliced into 1/4″ rounds – around 20 – 25 pieces)
  • pickle juice (enough to completely cover the zucchini)
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup panko bread crumbs (or regular bread crumbs, if you prefer)
  • 2 small eggs – beaten and seasoned with salt
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • vegetable oil – enough for frying (about 1 cup)
  • salt (for sprinkling on zucchini before and after they are fried)
  • pepper

Click link for: Lemon Dill Dip to serve with the zucchini bites!

METHOD

  • Slice zucchini into about 1/4″ rounds and soak for 4 – 8 hours in pickle juice.
  • Remove zucchini from juice and pat dry with paper towel.  Salt BOTH sides of the zucchini generously and sprinkle pepper on one side.

zucchini salt and pepper

  • Arrange 3 large bowls.  Add flour to one, panko and parmesan to another and egg, salt and lemon zest to the third.  Whisk egg and lemon zest together.
  • Dip each zucchini round in flour and tap off any access.
  • Next, dip into egg mixture ensuring each piece is well coated in egg but not dripping.
  • Lastly, add zucchini round one to three at a time to the panko mix and press down on both sides to ensure zucchini is getting as much panko mixture on it as possible.

zucchini panko

  • Repeat this process until all the zucchini is nicely breaded.
  • Heat oil in a large pan until quite hot.  NOTE:  Test heat by dipping a zucchini round in the oil using tongs.  The oil should sizzle and bubble.  If it doesn’t, the oil is not hot enough.  It is CRUCIAL that the oil is hot enough of the zucchini will become soggy instead of nice and crispy.
  • Add zucchini to oil in batches ensuring you are not overcrowding the pan (overcrowding will bring the heat down too much causing the zucchini to become soggy).

zucchini one side uncooked

  • Watch the heat and increase if the zucchini is not browning fast enough (or turn it down if zucchini is browning too fast).
  • Watch closely and check zucchini often to ensure it’s not getting too browned.
  • Once brown and crispy on one side, flip and brown other side.

fried zucchini

  • Remove from heat and place on an even layer on paper towel (to soak up any access oil) and immediately sprinkle with salt.  (NOTE:  do not stack zucchini on top of each other or overlap right away because this will cause the zucchini to go limp).

Transfer to a serving plate and serve with lemon dill dip!

Salmon and Sweet Potato Cakes with Mango Salsa

salmon and yam cakes

The other night I really wanted fish for dinner but I hadn’t defrosted/bought any.  I had a few cans of salmon in the pantry which are usually reserved for making salmon salad sandwiches to put in my son’s school lunches.  I decided I was going to get creative and turn a can of salmon into a delicious, super healthy and easy entrée.

The reason I decided to use sweet potato in this recipe (as opposed to mayonnaise) is because I wanted something to help ‘bind’ the salmon mixture together to form a patty, but didn’t want to add a lot of fat and calories.  Instead I wanted to add nutrients.  I only had a sweet potato on hand.  Regular potato or even yam would also work in this recipe.

These salmon cakes could be served with a nice aioli (basically a flavoured mayonnaise), but since I had the ingredients on hand, I went with a delicious corn and mango salsa and served the  salmon cakes on a bed of seasoned greens and cucumber.

This dish can be served as a light entrée for lunch/dinner or as a wonderful appetizer.  Simple.  Healthy.  Delicious.

INGREDIENTS (makes 4 large cakes or 6 small ones)

  • 1 can salmon
  • 1/4 cup mashed/pureed sweet potato/potato/yam
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp lemon zest + a squeeze of lemon juice (around 1/4 tsp)
  • 1/4 cup green onion – sliced
  • 1/4 cup parsley – chopped (or fresh dill would be a nice option)
  • 1 Tbsp shallot – small dice (red onion would also work)
  • 1/4 cup celery – small dice
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp pepper
  • oil for frying
  • flour for coating salmon cakes

CORN AND MANGO SALSA

  • 1/4 cup corn
  • 1/3 cup mango chunks – (I used frozen and cut into small bite sized pieces)
  • 1/4 cup red bell pepper – small dice
  • 1 Tbsp red onion – small dice
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro – chopped
  • 1 tsp lime juice – possibly more, to taste
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

METHOD

  • Make salsa by mixing all of the above ingredients together.  Adjust seasoning as desired. Put aside.
  • Peel potato/yam.  Cut into large pieces and add to a pot of cold, salted water.
  • Bring water to a boil and turn down to a simmer.  Cook potato/yam until you can easily pierce through it with no resistance (around 15 minutes).
  • Drain the potato and mash until smooth.  NOTE:  I added 1 teaspoon of butter, a Tablespoon of milk and a dash of salt and mashed until smooth but you don’t necessarily need to add those ingredients.
  • Open the can of salmon and drain out any excess liquid (ensure you drain it well as too much moisture will result in loose salmon cakes that easily fall apart when frying).
  • Mix all ingredients together and check the seasoning.  Adjust as necessary.
  • Form the mixture into patties/cakes.  You can make a few large ones or around 6 small ones.  (They should be round and about 3/4 inch to 1 inch thick.  Like little hockey pucks).  (:
  • Dip/dust both sides of each salmon cake with flour just before adding them to the pan.  NOTE:  This isn’t mandatory but helps hold them together and gives a nice ‘crust’ on the outside.
  • Add vegetable oil to pan (around 1/4 cup) and allow it to get hot.  NOTE:  The cakes should sizzle when you add them to the pan.  If the pan isn’t hot enough, the salmon cakes will stick to the bottom.
  • Add salmon cakes to the hot pan.  Do this slowly and carefully to avoid getting any splattered oil on you.
  • Cook until golden brown on one side and then flip and cook the other side until browned.  Around 3 – 4 minutes per side.

salmon cakes in pan

  • Season with a little more salt immediately after the cakes come out of the oil and serve on a bed of seasoned greens/spinach/kale and cucumber slices.  Top with salsa or serve with a side of aioli.

salmon cakes on plate

 

 

Fun Fish Tacos (PERFECT for entertaining!)

Fish Tacos

I LOVE fish tacos done right.  They are the epitome of summer.  I love ‘build your own’ anything and these are so much fun to eat – and unbelievably delicious.  I have been ordering fish tacos at restaurants forever.  Sometimes I’m happy with them, but usually I’m very disappointed.  There’s just not enough ‘love’ put into them.  I can’t stand getting 3 tacos with some bland fish, shredded cabbage or lettuce and a few diced tomatoes.  I want FLAVOUR!  I want TEXTURE!  I want WOW FACTOR!  

I have been working on this recipe for a while now.  I’m obsessed with it.   It might just be the best recipe I’ve ever come up with.  I’m not going to lie, it takes work.  That’s why I only break it out if I’m having people over to dinner or my girls over for a night of drinks and sitting on the patio.  This is the kind of meal you want to show off.  I prep over 2 days.  The first day I go out and buy all the ingredients I need.  Then I make the sauce and pickle the onions and jalapenos.  On the day we’re eating, I do the cabbage and bell pepper slaw, the avocado dish, and the pico de galo.

**This can all be done hours ahead so when guests are ready to eat, all you have to do is throw the fish in the oven and lay out the condiments and tortillas and you’re all set!  Voila!**

TIME SAVING TIP:  when prepping, get all the bowls and ingredients out for everything at once.  You’ll notice that all the different dishes here share a lot of the same ingredients.  So arrange your bowls, and as you’re using one ingredient, prepare it for all the dishes.  It makes things SO much quicker.  (for example, there’s cilantro in 3 of the dishes.  I add up how much I need in total, chop all of it at once, and then divide it up according to the measurement needed for each dish….)

all fish taco condiments

Don’t let all the steps below scare you.  They’re all easy and it’s a labour of love.  Make this while enjoying a cold cerveza, glass of white wine or your favourite margharita!  

RECIPE:  Serves 4 – 6   (if guests are eating an average of 4 tacos each!)

1.  THE FISH & TORTILLAS

The fish I use is High Liner Frozen English Style Pacific Cod Filets.  You could always use a non-breaded fresh fish of choice for these tacos, but I really do love the flavour of the fried fish.  I buy this particular fish at Costco and it’s the best frozen, breaded fish I have EVER eaten.  Like I said, I don’t make these often, so it’s a real treat and I don’t mind eating some fatty fish once in a while!  I use a 1/2 piece of fish per tortilla.  Just put fish out on a platter with a knife and let guests cut the fish and use tongs to put into tortillas!

As for the tortillas, use your favourite brand.  (I’m using President’s Choice whole wheat small tortillas because I love President’s Choice anything, and they were on sale…)

Fish and Tortillas in bag

2.  PICKLED RED ONION AND JALEPENOS

PICKLING LIQUID – Ratio 2:1 water to vinegar

  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1/2 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 red onion & 1 jalepeno pepper

METHOD: Combine water, vinegar, salt and sugar. Shake in the jar or container you want to keep the pickled food in. Add the Onion and Jalapeño. Seal container/jar. Wait at least one hour to eat.

pickled onion

3.  FISH TACO SAUCE  (Chipotle, Cumin and Lime Dip)  Makes 1 cup

  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise (use 1/2 cup may and 3/4 cup yogurt for a thicker sauce)
  • 1 cup greek non fat yogurt (or sour cream if you don’t have yogurt)
  • 1/2 tsp garlic – minced
  • 1/2 – 1 tsp chipotle pepper (use more if you like it spicier!)
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp coriander
  • 1 – 1.5 tsp lime juice, 1/4 tsp lime zest
  • 1/4 tsp salt

NOTE:  you can buy chipotle peppers in any grocery store in a can.  I don’t use them very often and they are VERY spicy so you don’t need to use much at once.  I just freeze them in a ziplock bag and break off a frozen chunk when I need a little!

Frozen Chipotle

METHOD:

1.  Combine all ingredients in food processor (or blender) and blend.  2.  Pour into squeezy bottle for serving (you can find these squeezy bottles in almost any dollar store).

Fish Taco Sauce in squeeze

4.  PICO DE GALO

  • 3 tomatoes – diced + 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro – chopped
  • 1.5 tsp lime juice
  • 1/4 cup red onion (or white)
  • OPTION: 1/2 tsp jalapeno
  • Salt and pepper to taste

METHOD:  

1.  Dice tomato and place in fine strainer with teaspoon of salt to drain out excess liquid.  Let sit for half an hour (you should have about a half cut of tomato water left over.  TIP:  Save this liquid to cook rice/quinoa/grains in!).  2.  Combine rest of ingredients and put into bowl for serving.

pico de galo

5.  CABBAGE AND BELL PEPPER SLAW

  • 3 cup green cabbage – shredded
  • 1/2 cup green onion – green part only
  • 1 cup mixed bell pepper julienned (sliced)  – red, orange and/or yellow
  • 1/2 cup cilantro – chopped
  • 1 Tbsp lime juice, 1/2 tsp lime zest
  • 2 Tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp garlic
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • pepper to taste

METHOD:

1.  Combine all ingredients in a bowl.  Taste and adjust seasoning as desired.

Cabbage slaw

6.  AVOCADO WITH LIME

  • 2 medium ripe avocado – diced
  • 1/2 tsp jalepeno – diced
  • 1.5 tsp lime juice
  • 1/2 tsp garlic
  • 2 Tbsp red onion – diced
  • 1 Tbsp cilantro – chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste

1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired.

Avocado

Quacamole

quacamole

quacamole

I LOVE quacamole.  It’s healthy, it’s delicious, it’s easy to make.  I literally make it every time I have friends over because if I don’t, people are disappointed.  Haha.  I’m going to give you a recipe.  But I can’t stress enough how much this is a GUIDELINE only.  Exact measurements will never give you the exact same result with this recipe because avocados vary in size.  Sometimes when I squeeze a lime, I get tonnes of juice.  Other times (like with older fruit in winter months) I get almost none.  One jalepeno can be super hot and the next one fairly mild in comparison and they really vary in size.  You get the picture….  As always, just taste as you go.  Start off with small amounts of stuff and add as desired until YOUR perfect flavour is reached.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 ripe medium size avocados (you should be able to press the on the flesh gently and it should feel firm but still where you can dent it.  NOT hard and NOT too soft!)
  • 1/4 c red onion small dice
  • 1/4 c green onion chopped
  • 1/4 – 1/2 small jalepeno SEEDED and finely diced (add more if you like a lot of heat.  Less if you don’t want much heat at all)
  • 1/2 – 3/4 lime juice
  • 1/2 c cilantro chopped
  • 1 – 2 cloves garlic (or about 1 1/2 tsp) – add more if you like it garlicky!
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

METHOD

1/2 the avocado and remove the pit then, while still in skin, use a knife to slice lines through it.  Repeat in the other direction and then scoop out with a spoon.  Add all other ingredients and mix.  Now taste it and adjust ingredients and seasoning to your liking!  Grab a couple cold beers or your favourite cocktail and enjoy with nacho chips, toasted pita bread or even sliced cucumber if you don’t want the carbs!

White Bean Dip with Lemon and Parmesan

Whenever I have my friend(s) over I like to put out a bunch of different things to nosh on throughout the day and evening.  Tomorrow I’m having my girlfriend over who loves white wine so I’ve decided to make a few dips to go with it.  Here’s one of my favourites.  It’s a little more interesting than the usual hummus I put out (:

RECIPE

  • 1 can white kidney beans (drained and rinsed)
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil or so
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 Tbsp dijon (optional)
  • 1tsp cumin
  • 1/2 – 1 shallot – depending on size
  • 2 tsp – 3 tsp minced garlic (more if you like it garlicky!)
  • 1/4 small white onion (or about 1/3 cup)
  • 1/4 c green onion
  • 1/2 c flat leaf parsley
  • 1/4 tsp chili flakes (more if you like more kick)
  • juice and zest 1/2 lemon (possibly more.  Add more to taste after mix is pureed if it needs more ‘zip’!)
  • 1/2 c grated parmesan cheese (the good stuff fresh grated if you have it!)
  • 1/2 tsp white pepper (optional)
  • salt and pepper to taste

METHOD

Add a generous amount of olive oil to pan.  on medium heat sauté onions, garlic, shallot, chili flakes, white pepper, cumin and 1/2 the parsley until the onion is soft but not browned and mixture is fragrant.  2 – 3 minutes.  Add drained can of beans, dijon, water and lemon juice and simmer for 2 – 3 minutes.  remove from burner once liquid has reduced by 1/2.  Add remaining parsley, lemon zest and transfer mixture to a food processor.  Add parmesan and process on high until smooth and creamy.  Add salt and pepper to taste.   If it’s too thick just add a little more water or lemon juice and adjust seasoning to taste.  Add more parm if you feel like you want it cheesier (:

Enjoy as a dip with veggies or on toasted crostinis, with crackers, naan bread, flatbread, etc.