Wednesday, March 23, 2011

A Bithday Celebration

While going to the moon and plucking stars from the sky remain bollywood movie favorites, I haven't found a better way to make someone feel special in real life than cooking for them! What's more special than having a whole meal cooked with some love? It was my husband's birthday last week and I decided to go for a surprise dinner that was quick to make and fit for a celebration. It was a work day and I wanted to be able to cook, plate and be ready before my hubby arrived from work. Having visited a few really great tapas places recently landing on the decision was pretty easy. Although originally meaning appetizers from Spanish cuisine, tapas has become synonymous to small plates or snacks. Some fun tapas along with a few drinks to keep us going through a long night of board games was the plan. That's the way you  to do it into the thirties! 

*The recipes being quite simple do not have any specific measurements. Use your own judgement*

Cheese plates are quite standard in tapas restaurants. This was my attempt at recreating the cheese and fruit plate from a restaurant in Pismo Beach, CA. 

Cheese 'n' Fruit

Brie cheese - your favorite brand
Green apple
Almonds - you can experiment with other dry fruits
Honey - I used apple honey
  • Make simple syrup using sugar and water
  • Glaze the almonds with syrup
  • Slice the apple thinly and cut a couple of wedges of the Brie. 
  • Plate the cheese, apple slices and glazed almonds and drizzle some honey. 
For the perfect bite, spread cheese on a cracker, add some honey and top it with an apple slice. Take a bite and eat an almond. Brie is my favorite cheese and the combination of it with honey and fruits makes me say 'cheese' :).

Next up, Mini Pizza Thins. I saw the recipe for these in some commercial. Amazing where we can learn cooking!
Mini Pizza Thins

Onion-chive cream cheese
Sun-dried tomatoes
Whole Wheat thins
Brown mushrooms – sliced
Garlic – finely chopped
Italian herbs
Olive oil
Salt for seasoning

Preheat oven to 300F. 
  • Finely chop the sun-dried tomatoes. You can use your knife skills, but I chose to chop them in the mixer.
  • Mix the cream cheese and the sun-dried tomatoes. This will be the spread for the pizzas.
  • Heat a couple of spoons of olive oil in a sauté pan and add garlic to it.
  • Add sliced mushrooms to the pan, sprinkle some Italian herbs mix and salt to taste and sauté for a few minutes until the mushrooms are tender. I cut the mushroom in small pieces since the wheat thins are quite small.
  • To get the pizzas ready, spread some cream cheese prepared earlier on the wheat thins and top off with mushrooms. Put them in the oven for a 4-5 minutes and the mini pizzas are ready to serve!

The next recipe was inspired by Flautas I had at a Mexican restuarant. Flautas are corn tortillas filled with some kind of meat or cheese and crisp fried. I decided to go healthier and grill them instead. My alternative to cheese - creamy avocados. 
Flautas with Cilantro-Lime Aioli 

White corn tortilla
Low fat Mayonnaise
Lime zest of one lime
Lime juice
1 Large avocado
Sweet corn
  • Grind cilantro, jalapeno in the mixer.
  • Combine mayonnaise, cilantro-jalapeño paste, lime zest and some lime juice for extra punch and salt and mix well. The aioli is ready.
  • Mash the avocado as you like it. I like it a bit chunky instead of extremely mushy. I use a traditional mortar –pestle to mash the avocados.  Anything pounded/mashed in mortar-pestle always tastes much better :).
  • Add the corn, finely chopped jalapeño(remember, there’s some jalapeno in the aioli so don’t OD it), salt and lime juice to the avocado. This is the filling.
  • Roast the corn tortilla on one side using a regular flat pan. On the roasted side, spread some aioli and add the avocado-corn filling in the center. Roll the tortilla and grill it well until the tortilla is roasted on the outside. You roast the tortilla on the inner side so that it’s done well on both sides and you don’t bite into a tortilla that’s crispy on one side and not done on the other.
  • Cut the flauta in half with a slanted cut in the center. Serve the flautas with some more aioli on the side.
The corn kernels plum up after roasting the flauta and are fun to bite into. Along with the lime juice, they cut the heat of jalapeños. Yummy!

The last course, a semi-dessert. I had made this at a BBQ party a couple of years ago and has become a favorite since. 
Grilled Balsamic Glazed Nectarines

Balsamic Vinegar
  • Reduce the balsamic vinegar over medium heat until it thickens up like maple syrup.
  • Glaze the nectarines/peaches with the BV reduction and let them marinate for 15-20 minutes.
  • Grill the fruit for a couple of minutes on each side.
A sweet ending to the meal!

We enjoyed the tapas with some yummy drinks. Below, gin and olives stuffed with habanero concocted by my husband! Mmm...mmm...good!!! 

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