Category Archives: Appetizer

Pickled Beet Eggs

Beautifully-pink pickled beet eggs were a staple from my childhood Easter holiday. They’re simple to make, you just have to plan ahead long enough for them to soak the juice in over a few days.


You can start by draining 2 cans (14-15 oz. each) of beets, reserving the juice in a medium saucepan.  To the beet juice, add 1 cup of apple cider, 1/2 cup of sugar, and 1 tsp. of salt. Bring to a boil and stir to dissolve the sugar.


Pack ~12 peeled, hardboiled eggs and sliced beets with the vinegared juice in a couple of jars and keep in the refrigerator for about 4 days, up to a week before serving. When you cut the eggs in half, you’ll see that they have turned a lovely pink color and taken on the flavor of the vinegar and beet juice.

pickled eggs


Kimchi dumplings

This will be the last kimchi-related post, I still have a jar-full but it keeps getting more sour, and I just don’t have the tolerance of a native Korean!

The filling of these dumplings is made of tofu and kimchi with a few other ingredients.


You can put just about any filling inside dumpling wrappers. The biggest trick is not to stuff it too full. Then wipe a little bit of water on the edges before you press the edges together.


I’ve recently used more of the round dumpling wrappers, so I had to remember how to fold the square ones. You could just do a simple triangle or rectangle by pressing the edges directly together. Or you could get a little more fancy, as is shown on the wonton/dumpling package.

dumpling formed

Then just steam them, fry them in oil, or freeze them for later!

Kimchi Dumpling Filling
14-16 oz. firm or extra-firm tofu
1 cup kimchi
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 green onions, or similar amount of Chinese chives, minced
1 egg
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. sesame oil
dumpling wrappers

Drain the tofu and press out additional liquid. It’s important to have a dry filling for dumplings so that they won’t leak out. Crumble the tofu into a bowl.

Drain some kimchi as well and squeeze out extra liquid. Chop really small and add a packed cup-full to the tofu. Mix in the rest of the ingredients except the dumpling wrappers.

Fold the filling into the wrappers, and cook as shown above.

Adapted from: Eating Korean, by Cecilia Hae-Jin Lee

Khinkali (Georgian Meat Dumplings)

Khinkali are a type of dumpling common in the country of Georgia. They are eaten by hand, held by a little knob of dough that is formed as the dumplings are shaped.

4 c. flour
1 tsp. salt
1 1/4 c. warm water

Combine the dough ingredients together to make a firm dough, and knead it together for 5 minutes until smooth. Cover and let the dough sit for about 30 minutes.

1 lb. mixed ground pork and beef
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. salt
pinch of cayenne
2 onions, finely chopped or grated

Mix together filling ingredients, than add about 1/2 c. warm water, mixing with your hands until water is completely mixed in. This is the filling.

Divide the dough into 25 pieces and roll each out into about a 6-inch round. Place 2 Tbsp. filling in the middle, then gather the dough together on the top, making multiple folds. The technique is demonstrated in this video. Mine didn’t look quite that nice, and I should have rolled the dough out a bit thinner, but for a first time it wasn’t too bad :) One of the sources that I read said that a good khinkali maker puts at least 20 folds in each dumpling!

Once all the dumplings are shaped, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, and boil the dumplings for about 15 minutes. Serve them hot with a bit of black pepper. I added a bit of crushed dried mint leaves as well, and ate with a dollop of yogurt, delicious though not typical – I stole that from a prior Afghani ravioli recipe. Georgians eat khinkali without garnishes, just a bit of black pepper. During the cooking, the raw meat and onion release some liquid as they cook which makes a nice little broth inside the dumpling. So when you’re eating them hot, the main thing is to make sure you kind of slurp out that broth with your first bite so you don’t get it all over yourself or dribbling down your chin! Mmmmm…….

Adapted from : The Georgian Feast, by Darra Goldstein

Lentil Coconut Dhal

We have a finger food potluck tomorrow at my church, so I picked up some sesame pita from the new N. Raleigh Neomonde (so happy to have a Neomonde location close to my house!!).  I had seen a recipe for a lemon and coconut-flavored lentil dhal that I wanted to try, and I think this will make a nice pita dip.

Spicy Lentil Coconut Dhal
2 Tbsp. minced fresh ginger root
1 1/2 onions, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
1 1/2 tsp. cumin seeds

Saute all of the above together in about 2 Tbsp. canola oil over medium heat until onion is translucent but not browned.

1 1/3 c. red lentils
2 c. water
1 Tbsp. red curry paste (cut back on this for a less spicy dish)
1 c. coconut cream

Add lentils, water and curry paste. Stir well, bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally for about 15 minutes. Lentils should be just tender. Add coconut cream and stir, continue to simmer another 15 minutes until mixture is thick.

1/4 c. lemon juice
1/4 c. cilantro, chopped
1/3 c. sliced almonds, lightly toasted

Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice, cilantro and almonds. Reserve a few almonds and pieces of cilantro for garnish. You can also garnish with a drizzle of coconut cream. Serve as a dip or spread with bread or pita, or as a side dish. Serve warm or at room temp.

The magic of phyllo

You can wrap just about anything up in phyllo dough, brush it with oil or butter and bake for a tasty treat. Sweet, savory – it doesn’t matter. It might look difficult, but if you ever folded paper footballs in class – that’s the same technique for folding a phyllo-filled triangle, anyone can do it!  It is a bit time-consuming, but most phyllo items can also be frozen after folding, for a quick appetizer in a pinch. Just be sure to set them in one layer on waxed paper or foil until frozen – otherwise they may stick together and that just makes a mess when you have to pull them apart. Add a little more baking time from frozen and you’re good to go! 

Spanakopita (spinach-filled phyllo) is perhaps the most popular of these that you’ll see as a party appetizer. The filling is typically made of spinach and feta, and often flavored with dill. In Moroccan culture, similar filled phyllo pastries are called briouat. Actually, they traditionally use a pastry called brik or warka, but you can’t get that in the U.S. very easily so phyllo is a good substitute.

This variation is a fairly simple briouat filling of egg and herbs.  I sauteed minced onion in a non-stick pan until translucent, then added fresh chopped parsley and cilantro, a pinch of saffron threads and cinnamon. After the spices and onion had cooked for another couple of minutes, I slowly stirred in beaten eggs over low heat to mix into the other ingredients and gently scramble. As soon as the eggs firmed up, I removed the pan from the heat and set it aside to cool.

When the filling was cool, I used it to fill the pastry and folded to make triangles. I sealed the edges with canola oil and used that also to brush the tops lightly before baking.  They bake for about 20 minutes at 350 or until nicely browned.  

Pistachio Pesto

Last Sunday I popped over to the Farmer’s Market after church to pick up some fresh vegetables, fruit and herbs.  As usual, I ended up with more food than I could (or should) possibly eat in a week – what can I say, I’m a vegetable farmer’s daughter!  On my shopping list were cilantro and mint, and when I asked for those two herbs, learned that for $1 more I could have a third. Given the options, I chose basil.

With everything else to cook last week, I waited too long on the basil and it started wilting and turning brown. So I needed something quick to use a lot of basil, and immediately thought of pesto. Having recently received Clotilde Dusoulier’s “Chocolate & Zucchini” cookbook through (give me a referral credit if you decide to sign up, my nickname is crazy4food!), I flipped through the cookbook to see if there were any recipes involving pesto or basil. I had some pistachios leftover from Moroccan cooking, so I settled on this recipe for Pistachio Pesto.

Pistachio Pesto
1 c. pistachios (shelled and unsalted)
2 garlic cloves
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. lemon juice
1 c. (packed) basil leaves
1/4 c. Parmesan
1/2 c. good quality olive oil

In a food processor, mix the pistachios, garlic, pepper and salt and grind into a powder. Add lemon juice, basil and Parmesan and about half the olive oil. Process some more, adding olive oil until you reach the desired consistency. Add more salt and pepper to taste.

This makes a wonderfully-colored pesto which you can serve with bread, as a sandwich spread or a pasta sauce. The author even suggests using it to stuff cherry tomatoes as an appetizer. I personally love pesto inside a grilled cheese sandwich!

Adapted from: Chocolate & Zucchini, by Clotilde Dusoulier

There’s an ‘app’ for that!

The weekend before last, I hosted a Moroccan dinner party at my house. I’ll start at the beginning* and share with you the recipes for two appetizers that I made. They were served with crusty bread.

Fava Bean Dip (Bissara)
1/2 c. olive oil
1/2 lb. dried split fava beans
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 c. minced onion
2 c. water, plus more as needed
1 Tbsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. ground pepper
2 tsp. paprika
salt, to taste
1-2 tsp. cumin seeds, toasted for garnish

Heat 1/4 c. olive oil in a medium saucepan, and saute beans, garlic and onion for ~5 minutes over medium heat – until onion is translucent. Add 1 1/2 cups water and bring to a simmer. Simmer covered for 30 minutes or until beans are tender. Stir occasionally and add a little more water as necessary.

Mix 1/4 c. water with cumin, pepper, and paprika to make a paste. Mix this into the fava beans and stir well. Continue simmering for another 15 minutes until thickened and mashed, stirring regularly. Add more water as needed to keep mixture from sticking to the bottom.

Remove from heat and add salt to taste. Spoon into a serving bowl and garnish with a drizzle of olive oil and toasted cumin seeds. Serve with french bread or pita.

Adapted from: Moroccan Modern, by Hassan M’Souli

Roasted Peppers and Chickpeas with Herbed Goat Cheese
1 garlic clove, minced
2 sprigs fresh oregano
1/2 tsp. dried basil
3 Tbsp. olive oil
10 oz. goat cheese

Mash together the above ingredients and form a ball of the herbed cheese.

4 red bell peppers, roasted and cut into strips
1 can chickpeas, drained
1 Tbsp. olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 sprig fresh oregano
salt and pepper, to taste

Mix the chickpeas with oil, lemon, garlic and oregano. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Gently mix with roasted pepper strips. Place this mixture around the cheese ball.  Serve with french bread, crackers or pita.

Adapted from: Arabesque: A taste of Morocco, Turkey, and Lebanon – by Claudia Roden

*Stay tuned for 2 more posts on this meal, the main dish tagine, and the desserts!