Tips for Rookie Cooks

SNACKS AND STARTERS.Part V

SNACKS AND STARTERS

1-Baked Brie with Dried Cranberries and Pistachios

Almost as easy as serving plain Brie right out of the wrapper, this baked version adds color and flair—not to mention scrumptious flavors. Toss some good crusty French bread slices into the oven for a few minutes while the Brie is baking, and serve together.

  • 1 8-ounce wheel of Brie
  • ½ cup dried cranberries
  • 1/ 3 cup shelled, unsalted pistachios
  • 1–2 tablespoons honey

Preheat oven to 350°F

Place Brie on a decorative, rimmed, ovenproof dish. Sprinkle dried berries and pistachios over the Brie, right onto the rind, and into the dish around the Brie. Bake 10 to 15 minutes, until cheese, starts to ooze out the bottom a little. Let cool for a few minutes, and then drizzle honey over the berries and nuts. Serve with a spreading knife, warning guests to beware of the hot dish.

Serve it with

  • Warm French bread or good crackers

Change it up

  • Experiment with different kinds of dried fruits (other berries, cherries, chopped apricots, chopped dates) and nuts (almonds, pine nuts, walnuts).

2-Scallop Ceviche with Papaya and Chiles

Ceviche is a South and Central American specialty of seafood marinated in citrus juices. The citric acids alter the proteins in the fish, making its flesh opaque and firm as if it had been cooked with heat. It isn’t cooked, however, in the sense that all bacteria are destroyed, so it’s important to use only perfectly fresh, carefully handled, sushi-grade scallops. Depending on the cuisine of the country, ceviche might be served with cold sweet potato slices, corn on the cob, potato chips, tortilla chips, or even popcorn.

  • 1 pound sea scallops, rinsed, patted dry, and cut into ½-inch pieces
  • 1 cup lime juice (from 10 to 12 limes)
  • ½ cup diced red onion
  • 1 large jalapeño or serrano chile, stemmed, seeded, and finely diced
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1½ cups cubed papaya
  • ¼ cup (loosely packed) minced cilantro
  • 1 large bag of potato chips or tortilla chips

Place scallops in a large nonreactive dish (page 25) and cover completely with lime juice. Stir in onion, chile, and salt. Cover and refrigerate until scallops turn opaque, about 4 hours, stirring at least once halfway through. Mix in papaya and cilantro. Return to the fridge for 15 to 30 minutes to let flavors meld. Pour off some of the lime juice before serving. Place potato chips or tortilla chips on a large serving platter with ceviche in a serving bowl in the middle.

Change it up

  • Try adding or substituting cucumber, red bell pepper, avocado, jicama, mango, pineapple, or cantaloupe.

3-Soy-Ginger Cured Salmon

Serve this Asian-style gravlax as an appetizer or as part of a brunch buffet. Let guests assemble their own little rice cracker canapés, or serve in bowls over warm sushi rice. Be sure to use only sushi-grade salmon.

  • 1-pound filet of sushi-grade salmon, skin removed (ask your fish dealer to remove it, if possible)
  • 2 tablespoons sake or vodka
  • ½ cup soy sauce
  • ½ cup (packed) brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon peeled and minced fresh ginger
  • 6–8 sprigs fresh cilantro, plus more for garnish
  • 3 green onions, pale green and white parts only, thinly sliced, for garnish
  • 1–2 jalapeño chiles, stemmed, seeded, and minced, for garnish

Place the salmon in a baking dish large enough to hold it in one flat piece. Drizzle the sake or vodka over it. In a small bowl, stir the soy sauce, brown sugar, and ginger until well combined. (If desired, chop the ginger in a food processor, add the sugar and soy sauce, and process until well combined.) Pour mixture over salmon, lay cilantro sprigs on top, and cover with a large piece of plastic wrap, pressing the plastic directly onto the surface of the fish and any sauce in the dish. Place something flat, such as a plate or skillet, on top of the fish and place something heavy (unopened cans of beans make good weights) on top of that. Refrigerate at least two days and up to three, turning occasionally. To serve, remove fish from the marinade and, using a very sharp knife held at a 30° angle to the cutting surface, slice into broad, thin slices. Garnish with fresh cilantro, green onions, and minced chiles.

Serve it with

  • Rice crackers and crème fraîche or sour cream
  • Warm sushi rice or plain steamed white or brown rice

To read Part Four, click here

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