Appetizers Recipes

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Polenta Burger Recipe Recipe

Polenta Burger Recipe

05.19.15 by Jackie

I think I've said in previous posts that my mother-in-law recently discovered she was gluten intolerant (when she decided to become a vegetarian a year ago) . Her diet has changed drastically but we try to keep her palate happy. Here's a gluten-free dish that doesn't leave her missing bread or pasta. I pan-fried pre-cooked polenta medallions and used them as a substitute for the burger buns. I topped them with melted provolone cheese, sautéed baby spinach and soyrizo (you can replace with real meat).

I served the polenta burgers with steamed vegetables, so we had a delicious light meal that fit everyone's diet in our home. My mother-in-law has been adjusting to her new diet very well these days, although I have to admit it was so cute but kind of sad catching her smelling and "hugging" freshly-baked loaves of bread in the kitchen over the weekend.

***The photo was taken with my phone.


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Banh Gio Recipe (Steamed Meat Rice Cakes) Recipe

In Vietnamese cuisine, just as in many other types of cuisines, the use of banana leaves in cooking dates back centuries. Back when there was no aluminum foil, parchment paper or wax paper, the thick leaves were what cooks used to pack, steam, grill, bake and serve their food. Isn't that a smart, eco-friendly way to make good use of biodegradable, natural materials? Plus, the banana leaves give awondderful additional aroma to the food. If you ever visit Vietnam, you'll notice how commonly food is wrapped in banana leaves. Bánh giò is no exception, and it's one of my favorite Vietnamese street foods.

Bánh giò is a steamed rice cake, often filled with meat. This time, I filled them with ground chicken (a more authentic version would use pork). In any case, the meat is cooked with wood ear mushrooms. It's not the prettiest meal, but it's a flavorful, earthy (thanks to the mushrooms), light, gluten-free dish.

The key to achieving the perfect texture is to add a bit of cornstarch to the rice flour to firm up the dough, then flavor it with warm chicken broth and cook it on the stove before shaping the rice cakes.

Steamed Meat Rice Cakes Recipe with Picture


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7 Great Feta Cheese Recipes Recipe

7 Great Feta Cheese Recipes

04.16.15 by Jackie

My 11-year-old nephew, "Hashoo" (that's what little Aria calls him), is spending the entire day with us. I asked him to publish this post and he suggested writing about his favorite ingredient: feta cheese.

Hashoo is quit the foodie and is an aspiring chef. He loves to cook and improvises his own recipes. He enjoys the subtle brininess of this healthy cheese and likes it crumbled and sprinkled over pasta or salads. I mentioned that our family loves to fry feta cheese and dip it as an appetizer. Guess what? Hashoo was thrilled with the idea so that's exactly what we're going to prepare for lunch today!


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Vegetarian Siu Mai Recipe Recipe

Vegetarian Siu Mai Recipe

04.08.15 by Jackie

This is my interpretation of vegetarian siu mai. The Asian dumplings are often filled with meat, so this is my attempt to create a toothsome, equally flavorful appetizer without meat. To do so, I prepared and filled the siu mai pockets with bean curd, jicama, shiitake, wood ear mushrooms, green onions, rice wine, soy sauce and sesame oil.

Shaping dumplings with a vegetarian filling while preventing them from collapsing once they were steamed was a bit challenging. I used silicon mini muffin liners to avoid a possible culinary disaster and keep them appealing. Sometimes, thinking outside the box can be a life-saver for the home cook that I am!


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Homemade Banh Beo (Steamed Rice Cakes with Shrimp) Recipe

Bánh bèo is a Vietnamese specialty made with individual, thick, steamed rice cakes. The recipe is not that complicated but preparing each rice cake can be time-consuming. The batter is made from combined rice flour, tapioca starch and corn starch. I used tiny, one-ounce porcelain dipping bowls to steam the rice cakes. Once they were cooked, I brushed them with onion-flavored oil to prevent them from sticking to each other. Little Aria helped with brushing the rices cakes with oil while I unmolded them; it made the preparation all the more fun to have her around, getting her hands dirty. 

The second step is the filling, which is traditionally made with dried shrimp flakes, fried shallots and green onions. You could make a vegetarian version using mung beans. Lastly, a drizzle of nước chấm (fish sauce) and chopped Vietnamese mint (rau thơm) complete the festive dish.


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