Shrimp Nachos

Shrimp Nachos is a quick dish that can be a meal or served as a part of a heavy appetizer menu.

Shrimp Nachos
(Mark Kelly, 2017)

Serves 4 – 6

2 lbs large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 Tbsp smoked paprika
1 Tbsp garlic powder
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 large bag corn tortilla chips
10 ounces shredded Colby Jack cheese

Sour cream, fresh salsa, chopped jalapeno, chopped green onion, and hot sauce to garnish

Preheat oven to 375F.

In a large bowl, season the shrimp with paprika and garlic powder, tossing to coat. Drizzle with oil and toss again.

Place the shrimp on a large foil-lined rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 5 minutes. Flip the shrimp over and bake for another minutes. Remove the shrimp to a room temperature bowl.

Set a rack in the oven 4 inches below the broiler element and turn on the broiler.

Re-line the baking sheet with foil. Arrange a single layer of tortilla chips on the baking sheet. Place the shrimp over the chips. Sprinkle a generous layer of cheese over the shrimp and chips. Broil, watching carefully so as not to burn the chips or overcook the shrimp, until the cheese is melted. Serve warm with you favorite garnishes and hot sauce.

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Air-Fried Buffalo Chicken Wings

Air-Fried Buffalo Chicken Wings are a slightly healthier version of the traditional game day food since the wings are fried without oil. The air-fryer makes the skin super-crispy. This recipe is for the well-known Buffalo sauce version of wings. After air-frying, any sauce can be used. My air-fryer is a NuWave Brio. I will tell you more about this handy kitchen device in a future post.

Air-Fried Buffalo Chicken Wings
(Mark Kelly, 2017)

Serves 2

2 lbs. chicken wings, drums and flats separated, tips discarded
1 Tbsp Kosher salt
1 Tbsp freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp garlic powder
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened, cut into small pieces
2 Tbsp Frank’s Red Hot Wing Sauce
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp cider vinegar
Blue Cheese Dressing to serve

Preheat air-fryer to 360F.

Combine the salt, pepper and garlic powder and mix well. Toss the chicken wings in the seasoning. In two batches, air-fry the wings for 25 minutes, shaking them about halfway through.

While the wings are cooking. Heat the wing sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and vinegar in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the butter pieces. When the butter is melted bring the sauce up to a low boil and then set aside.

When all of the wings are cooked. Toss them in a large bowl with the warm wing sauce. Serve immediately with a generous portion of the Blue Cheese Dressing.

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Crawfish Salad Pastry Puffs

Crawfish Salad Pastry Puffs is a quick, easy and festive appetizer that is perfect any holiday party. The salad can be made ahead of time and the pastry puffs can be baked ahead of time so you can assemble them just before serving. This will keep them from getting soggy.

Crawfish Salad Pastry Puffs
(Adapted from recipe courtesy of Louisiana Cookin’, November/December 2016)

Makes 24

2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/4 cup minced leek
1/4 cup minced celery
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 lb. cooked crawfish tails
1 small red bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 tsp Creole seasoning
Kosher salt
1/2 cup minced red onion, rinsed
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1 Tbsp finely chopped cilantro, plus more for garnish
4 (10-ounce) packages puff pastry shells, baked and hollowed

In a large skillet, melt butter over medium-high heat. Add leek, celery, and garlic; cook until tender, about 3 minutes. Add crawfish, bell pepper, Creole seasoning, and a pinch of salt; cook until liquid has evaporated, about 8 minutes. Remove from heat. Refrigerator for 30 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine onion, mayonnaise, lemon juice, mustard, paprika, and another pinch of salt. Add crawfish mixture and chopped cilantro.

Place about 2 tablespoons crawfish salad in each prepared pastry shell. Garnish with cilantro.

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Seven-Layer Smoked Salmon Dip

Seven-Layer Smoked Salmon Dip combines all of the flavors of a classic bagel and lox snack into a terrific appetizer.

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Seven-Layer Smoked Salmon Dip
(Adapted from recipe courtesy of Bonappetit.com, November 2016)

4 oz. 1/3-less fat cream cheese, softened
2 oz. fresh goat cheese, softened
3 Tbsp. prepared horseradish
2 tsp lemon zest (about 1 lemon)
1 1/2 lb. smoked salmon, flaked
1/2 cup red onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup drained capers, chopped
3 Tbsp finely chopped chives
Bagel chips (for serving)

Line a flat bottomed bowl or Tupperware of at least 6-inches in diameter and 2 1/2 inches in depth with plastic wrap. Pulse the cream cheese, goat cheese, horseradish and lemon zest until well combined and creamy.

Press one-third of the flaked salmon into an even layer across the bottom of the mold. Spread half of the cream cheese mixture in an even layer over the salmon, smoothing the surface. Scatter the red onion over the cream cheese mixture and press down lightly into the mixture. Top with another third of salmon flakes, making an even layer. Spread the remaining half of the cream cheese mixture over the salmon, smoothing again. Top with the capers and press down slightly into the mixture. Top with an even layer of the remaining salmon flakes. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 1 hour to let the dip set and the flavors to meld.

Uncover the dip and carefully invert onto a serving plate and carefully peel away the plastic. Top with chives. Serve with bagel chips.

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Blue Cheese Puffs

Blue Cheese Puffs are a rich, easy to make appetizer. Any leftover blue cheese mixture can be frozen and saved for later use on a baked potato or to finish a grilled steak.

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Blue Cheese Puffs
(Adapted from recipe courtesy of Starters – Appetizers from Country Garden Cuisine, 2005)

Makes about 32 puffs

1 package frozen puff pastry sheets, defrosted in refrigerator
1 stick unsalted butter
1/4 lb. blue cheese
1 egg yolk
1 Tbsp brandy
1 Tbsp fresh chives, minced

1 whole egg
1 tsp water

In a food processor, combine butter, blue cheese, egg yolk, brandy and chives.

Preheat oven to 375F.

Unfold puff pastry and roll out. Cut pastry into 3-inch squares. Place a small scoop of blue cheese mixture in the middle of each square. Fold each square into a triangle and crimp the edges closed with the tines of a fork. Chill for at least 30 minutes before baking.

Mix egg and water in a small bowl. Place the puffs on a rimmed baking sheet that has been prepared with cooking spray. Brush the top of each puff with egg wash. Make a small slit in the top of each puff to allow hot air to vent. Bake 15 minutes until golden brown.

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Summer Relish Crostini

Summer Relish Crostini is a great recipe for the beach or poolside. It requires little or no refrigeration and all of the prep can be done well ahead of time. If you don’t have time to make the crostini serve the Summer Relish with tortilla chips or pita crisps. The recipe can also easily be doubled or tripled for a larger crowd.

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Summer Relish Crostini
(Adapted from recipe courtesy of The Food Network)

Yields 6 servings

2 ears corn, boiled, kernels sliced off
Extra-virgin olive oil for brushing
6 thick baguette slices
4 strips crispy thick bacon, coarsely chopped
2 Fresno chile peppers, stemmed and seeded, cut crosswise into thin strips
3-4 Tbsp red wine vinegar, to taste
4 scallions, thinly sliced on a bias, white and green parts
Paprika for dusting
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 375F.

On a rimmed baking sheet arrange the bread slices. Brush each on both sides with oil. Dust both sides of the bread with paprika. Bake for 7 minutes. Remove and flip the slices over. Sprinkle each slice with kosher salt. Bake for another 6 to 7 minutes until just firm. Remove slices to a wire rack to cool.

In a medium bowl, combine the corn, pepper, scallions, and red wine vinegar. Stir gently to mix everything and to break the corn kernels apart from each other. Add the bacon, again stirring gently. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

To serve: Top each crostini with a generous scoop of the relish.

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Citrus and Herb Marinated Shrimp

Citrus and Herb Marinated Shrimp are a great topping for a salad. They can be served as an appetizer. Or, they can be chopped up, dressed and mixed into salad to stuff tomatoes.

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Citrus and Herb Marinated Shrimp
(Adapted from a recipe courtesy of Food & Wine, August 2016)

Serves 2

1 lb. medium shrimp (21-30), shelled and deveined, rinsed, patted dry and brought to room temperature
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 Tbsp finely grated orange zest
1/3 cup fresh orange juice
1 Tbsp finely grated lemon zest
1 1/2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
One 1 1/2-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated
Pinch of crushed red pepper
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 375F.

Toss the shrimp in 1/4 cup oil. Season with salt and black pepper. Arrange on a foil-lined, rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 5 minutes. Remove and flip the shrimp over and bake for another 5 minutes. Remove and allow to cool.

In a medium bowl, combine the remaining 1/2 cup oil and remaining ingredients except for salt and black pepper. Mix thoroughly. Add shrimp to the dressing and toss to coat thoroughly. Serve immediately or refrigerate for up to 4 days.

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A Pair of Grilled Skewer Dishes

Sweet Spicy Grilled Bacon Skewers with Scallion-Ginger Relish is a great appetizer or the bacon skewers can be combined with other skewers meats, like Soy-Basted Chicken with Sesame-Citrus Sprinkle as a meal. In either case they are perfect for an Independence Day cookout.

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Sweet Spicy Grilled Bacon Skewers with Scallion-Ginger Relish
(Adapted from recipe courtesy of FoodandWine.com, June 2016)

Makes (6) 12-inch skewers

6 scallions, thinly sliced
1 serrano chile, thinly sliced
1 Tbsp fresh lime juice
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
1 tsp finely grated fresh ginger
4 Tbsp light brown sugar, divided
Kosher salt
4 Tbsp
Vegetable oil (for brushing grill)
4 Tbsp honey
2 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 tsp Sriracha
1 1/2 lbs. extra-thick-cut bacon
Lime wedges for serving

To make Scallion-Ginger Relish: In a medium bowl, whisk together scallions, serrano, lime juice, sesame oil, ginger and 1 tablespoon brown sugar. Season with salt and refrigerate until serving.

To prepare the glaze: In a small bowl, whisk together honey, remaining 3 tablespoons brown sugar, rice wine vinegar, and Sriracha. Can be made up to a week ahead of time. Cover and chill.

Prepare gas grill for indirect cooking with only one or two burners on. Thread the bacon onto skewers, folding back and forth in accordion style and grill over indirect heat, turning every minute or so until brown and crispy. Be patient and take care to minimize flare-ups. Once crispy, baste with glaze every 30 seconds or so, until lacquered and slightly sticky, about 3 minutes. Serve with Scallion-Ginger Relish and lime wedges.

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Soy-Basted Chicken with Sesame-Citrus Sprinkle
(Adapted from recipe courtesy of FoodandWine.com, June 2016)

Makes (6) 12-inch skewers

4 Tbsp toasted white and black sesame seeds
2 Tbsp thinly sliced chives
1 Tbsp cracked red pepper flakes
1 Tbsp lemon zest
Kosher salt
2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
2/3 cup mirin
2/3 cup lower-sodium soy sauce
1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
2 tsp Sriracha
2 1/2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken strips
Vegetable oil (for the grill)

To make Sesame-Citrus Sprinkle: Mix sesame seeds, chives, red pepper, and lemon zest in a small bowl to combine; season with salt.

Combine the brown sugar, mirin, soy sauce, vinegar, sesame oil and Sriracha in a large bowl. Marinate the chicken strips, refrigerated, for at least 2 hours or overnight. When skewering the chicken, remove most of the marinade to a sauce pan and cook over medium-high heat until it boils and then simmer until it is reduced by half and thickened. Remove glaze from heat and reserve for basting.

Prepare gas grill for indirect heat with only one or two burners on. Oil grates. Grill over direct heat until browned and beginning to char. Move to indirect heat and continue to grill glazing turning every 30 seconds until cooked through and coated with glaze, about 5 minutes. Serve topped with Sesame-Citrus Sprinkle.

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Charred Caprese Sandwich

Charred Caprese Sandwich can be served as an appetizer, sandwich entree or a unique side salad.

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Charred Caprese Sandwich
(Adapted from recipe courtesy of Bon Appetit, June 2016)

Serves 2 – 4

1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
Kosher salt
1 large shallot, thinly sliced
1 large garlic clove, finely grated
3 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 baguette, split in half lengthwise then cut in half crosswise
Extra-virgin olive oil
3 cups cherry tomatoes
1 cup basil leaves, torn
1 cup parsley, torn
Freshly ground black pepper
Torn fresh mozzarella (about 4 oz.)

To make spread for the sandwich: whisk together mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour to allow the flavors to meld.

To make the dressing: combine the shallot, garlic and vinegar in a medium bowl (charred tomatoes will be added later).

Brush the cut baguette with oil and grill until beginning to char and grill marks have formed. In a medium bowl toss the cherry tomatoes with oil. Put a cast on skillet on the grill over high heat. Add the tomatoes. Grill the tomatoes shaking the skillet frequently, until blistered, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes to the dressing.

To serve: dress the cut side of each grilled baguette with spread. Place tomatoes on top, add pieces of the mozzarella and herbs. Spoon a bit of dressing over each piece and serve immediately.

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A Couple of Great Appetizer Dips

Mushroom-Onion Toasts and Smoky Caramelized Onion Dip are simple vegetarian dips that are perfect starters for a Father’s Day barbecue.

Mushroom-Onion Toasts features a rich mushroom spread on seasoned toasts. As an option consider adding some grated parmesan cheese just before serving. Smoky Caramelized Onion Dip is a great appetizer dip that features the combined flavors of smoky caramelized onions, fresh thyme and a hint of sherry vinegar. Once you master this dip you will never again buy grocery store onion dip.

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Mushroom-Onion Toasts
(Mark Kelly, 2016)

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing toasts
French bread, sliced on a bias
1/2 large yellow onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 lb. baby bella mushrooms, sliced 1/4-inch thick
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp paprika
1/4 cup dry white wine
2 Tbsp chopped curly parsley
1 tsp dried thyme leaves

Preheat oven to 375F.

On a foil-lined, rimmed baking sheet place the bread slices. Brush both sides of each lightly with oil. Bake for 8 minutes. Turn the slices over and bake for another 8 minutes or until firm and crisp. Immediately after removing the toasts from the oven season with salt and paprika. Place the toast on a rack to cool.

In a large cast-iron skillet heat 2 tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring, until golden, about 2 minutes. Remove the onions and garlic from the skillet. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil and add the mushrooms and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until the mushrooms are well browned, about 8 minutes. Stir in wine and cook until it is evaporated, 1 minute. Stir in the parsley and thyme. Allow to cool to room temperature.

Place mushroom mixture and half of the onion-garlic mixture in a food processor and pulse until almost smooth. Scrape out to a bowl and stir in the remainder of the onion and garlic. Garnish with parsley sprigs. Serve by spreading over toasts.

Smoky Caramelized Onion Dip
(Mark Kelly, 2016)

Makes 1 1/2 cups

3 large sweet onions, quartered, skin left on
4 large shallots, halved, skin left on
6 sprigs fresh thyme, divided
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 Tbsp sherry vinegar
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat broiler. Set top rack 3 to 4 inches below the heating element. On a foil-lined, rimmed baking sheet place the onion quarters and shallot halves and brush all sides with oil. Place 4 thyme sprigs on the baking sheet with the onions. Broil until the skins are charred and the onions begin to soften, about 8 minutes.

Change oven setting to bake at 300F. Bake the onions and shallots for another 45 minutes until they are soft and caramelized. Remove from oven and allow to cool.

Once the onions and shallots have cooled completely, remove the skins and coarsely chop about 1/2 cup of the flesh and reserve any remaining for another use. In a food processor, combine the chopped onion and shallots, Greek yogurt, mayonnaise, leaves of the remaining 2 thyme sprigs, and sherry vinegar. Season with salt and pepper. Pulse until smooth. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours to allow the flavors to meld.

Serve with your favorite salty cracker, chip or pretzel.

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