I have been cooking up a storm this holiday season! I love to make appetizers so will share a few I have made lately.
Front and center are Beef Koftas. There are hundreds of variations on this tasty treat. They can be made with beef, lamb, pork, chicken or a combination of several meats as you would an Italian meatball. Popular throughout the Middle East and Northern Africa, they are similar to a meatball, but spiced very differently.
|Kind of looks like a spaceship has landed!
This recipe combines several different recipes I found online. I like the sweet of the raisins with the rich spices. I served them with two different sauces: Cooling Mint and Hot and Spicy Harissa yogurt. I also like the fact that all can be made in advance broiling the meat just before your guests arrive.
1 lb. ground beef
1/2 cup golden raisins
2 Tbsp. chopped onion
1 Tbsp. cumin
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. allspice
2 Tsp. fresh chopped parsley
1 Tbsp. fresh chopped cilantro
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. salt
1 piece white bread soaked in milk
In a food processor or mini food blender finely chop the onions and raisins. Add the cumin, garlic powder and allspice and blend until a thick paste is formed. Remove from the blender and add half the beef (if using a mini as I did; otherwise add the full pound). Pulse it a few times until the grind becomes more smooth. Add the paste into the meat and pulse again until incorporated. Add the fresh parsley, cilantro, salt and pepper. And finally, add the bread that has been soaked in milk. The bread helps to bind the koftas so they don’t fall off the stick when you eat them. Remove the meat to a bowl and add the egg mixing thoroughly with your hands. Form into oblong shape (about 2 oz.–think 2 bites) and keep chilled in fridge until ready to broil. Bring to room temp before broiling. I made the mistake of skewering before broiling. I had soaked the skewers in water all day and figured they would not burn. Wrong. Because the meat is right under the broiler the wooden sticks ‘catch’ quickly. I did not start a fire, but it did come close. Very smoky! Next time I will broil and then skewer. As it was I had to remove all the burned skewers and re-skewer before serving.
Broil for 5 minutes then turn koftas over and broil for another 5 minutes. Skewer and serve.
COOLING MINT SAUCE:
In a food processor or mini-blender combine 2 cups packed fresh mint leaves, 2 Tbsp. chopped onion, 1 clove chopped garlic, 2 Tbsp. lemon juice, a little lemon zest, and 1/2 tsp. (or more to taste) salt. Blend until well combined. In a slow stream add 1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil. You may need more oil to achieve the desired consistency. Blend until smooth.
HOT AND SPICY HARISSA YOGURT SAUCE:
Harissa is a spicy pepper sauce from Northern Africa; Tunisia to be precise. In a bowl combine 1 cup plain Greek yogurt with 2 Tbsp. water to thin the yogurt to a dipping consistency. Add 2 Tbsp. (more if you want extra spicy) Harissa paste and 1 tsp. smoked paprika. Add 1/4 tsp. salt. Adjust seasoning.
RED PEPPER AND WALNUT DIP
I’ve had this recipe so long I can’t remember where it came from, but most likely Gourmet Magazine. Easy to put together and very flavorful. Delicious with an assortment of crackers, toasted baguette, or toasted pita bread.
2 (7-8 Oz.) jars roasted red peppers (or roast your own, which is what I did)
1 cup coarse fresh bread crumbs from a baguette
1 cup walnuts, toasted and then chopped
1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Puree roasted peppers, bread crumbs, walnuts, vinegar, cumin, cayenne and 1/4 tsp. salt in food processor until almost smooth. With motor running, add oil in a slow stream, blending until well incorporated. This is also a “do-ahead” recipe and can be made several days in advance. Bring to room temp before serving.
DEVILED EGGS WITH CANDIED BACON
The Candied Bacon make these traditional Deviled Eggs very special!
To candy the bacon:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a sheet pan with foil. Lay strips of bacon on a rack on top of the foil-lined pan. Combine about a cup of brown sugar, 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper, 1 tsp. cinnamon. Sprinkle the brown sugar mixture on top of the bacon slices. If you happen to have pure maple syrup on hand, drizzle the bacon with a little syrup.
Bake for 10 minutes. Flip bacon and repeat topping. Bake another 10 minutes or until bacon is crispy. Because of the moisture of the sugar and syrup the bacon may not get crispy until it cools. If you like extra crispy bacon, pop under the broiler for a couple minutes, but use caution as the sugar burns very easily.
Prepare your favorite Deviled Eggs (I use mayo, grainy mustard, curry powder, salt, white pepper) and top with large slices of the Candied Bacon. I garnished my eggs with freshly chopped parsley and smoked paprika.
|My husband, Jerry had to “test” the Candied Bacon
to make sure it was alright for serving!
CREAM CHEESE WITH
RASPBERRY CHIPOLTE JELLY
This simple appetizer is one of my favorites and the easiest of all. Place a block of cream cheese on a serving tray. Cover generously with Raspberry Chipolte jelly. Our pomegranate tree bore fruit for the first time this year so I topped with pomegranate seeds which add a nice element of texture. Serve with assorted crackers.
This jelly is not as “AssKickin” as advertised, but it was the perfect complement to the smooth and mild cream cheese. I bought it at the Santa Cruz Chili and Spice, Co. in Tumacacori, (www.santacruzchili.com) but similar jellies are readily available at Trader Joes and many other locations.
ARE YOU FULL YET?
I LOVE TURNING APPETIZERS INTO DINNER, ESPECIALLY DURING THE HOLIDAYS WHEN WE (THAT’S ME!) TEND TO OVERINDULGE!
ENJOY THIS BEAUTIFUL AND FESTIVE SEASON!
MERRY CHRISTMAS AND HAPPY HOLIDAYS
FROM MY KITCHEN TO YOURS!