When the weather turns humid and hot, do as the Europeans do: prepare a selection of small savory dishes and make a meal of them.
Call them antipasti in Italy, amuse-guenees in France, mezethakia in Greece or tapas in Spain, these small flavorful dishes are important components in the Mediterranean lifestyle which is eaten before a meal or a meal in itself. Whether it is a tiny or melting Spanakopita of Greece, Italian Marinated Mushrooms or maybe Spanish Salted Cod Balls these little snacks play an integral part in the Mediterranean culture of communal eating, amusing and nourishing.
Small savory appetizers are perfect entertaining options because most foods can be prepared in advance except for fried dishes as they should be served straight after cooking. Appetizers are intended to whet the appetite they tend to be those dishes which are rich in spice, garlic, lemon and vinegar. All these dishes very well match olives, chunks of rustic country style bread and a choice of any chilled glass of Spritzer, a Bellini, Mojito or your favorite wine.
Summer is the best time to appreciate this lighter cuisine. Produce gets better as the season advances. Appetizing dishes suit the mood after a long day, when the sun’s heat is tempered and the light is waning, and everyone wants to drift outside to grasp some summer night breeze. And since most of them can be made ahead and eaten at room temperature, mix of textures, tastes and aromas are limitless; it is important to consider a contrast of colors and flavors and use fresh seasonal produce when choosing the selections.
I have learned to eat this way in London when I was training in Cordon Bleu. Countless times, I have sat on the terraces and courtyards and nibbled my way through a series of little dishes in the company of friends. Flavors zing and zip in concert conversation which will halt now and then as we pop crisp potato balls laced with basil into our mouths, sop a bit in olive oil from the mushrooms with a piece of bread, or sipped bubbly Bellini’s. The lull is always momentary, however, for as anyone who has spent any time in the Mediterranean knows, conversation is as important an ingredient to life as food and wine.
In fact, I think that these finger foods stimulate discussion and thought. It’s impossible to resist inspiration after a mouthful of cucumber and feta cheese salad. And once inspired, it is imperative to share, which is why these dishes demand at least a small group of friends. Best of all, this manner of eating is good for enduring summer. Because it is prepared with light hand and eaten in moderation, it is the perfect make away with the scorching summer heat. Inspired by Mediterranean dishes, these recipes I share offer healthy, delicious sustenance not only for the body, but for the soul. They signal, too, a way of life that includes sunshine and postprandial naps, lots of time to sip and nibble, to discuss the important things in life with friends, or to stare in to the distance with impunity.
Truly, small dishes are perfect for midsummer treat. Try these recipes that will sure warm your hearts.…
Marinated Mushrooms with roasted Red Bell Peppers
The small, individual champignon mushroom is usually marinated ideally with herbs. Dishes based on the combination of mushrooms are actually quite rare in traditional Mediterranean cookery. But lately, I have begun combining mushrooms with intensely flavored vegetables and bell peppers are one of my most popular among them.
2 cups of white wine vinegar
2 cups water
1 tablespoon of salt
2 lbs button mushrooms, stems trimmed
2 pcs red bell peppers, roasted, peeled and sliced
4 pcs bay leaves
2 all spice berries
1 garlic clove, split in half
2 cups extra virgin olive oil
2 branches fresh rosemary
1. Boil mushrooms in vinegar, peppercorns, salt and water in a medium heat till tender.
2. Transfer in tea towels and pat dry.
3. Place mushrooms in dry jars alternating with roasted peppers, garlic, rosemary and bay leaves.
4. Completely cover with oil. Close the jars tightly and let it sit in dry place for at least 4 days. Mushrooms can lasts for several months. Serve with crusty bread at room temperature.
Spanakopita (Greek Spinach Pie) t
This recipe taste like the pie I get from one of the Greek Town restaurants in Athens. Thank you so much, Michelle Dinglasan for lending me your recipe. My son loved it!!! I used butter for my phyllo dough and I added a little salt and pepper, dill weed and nutmeg...
2 pounds spinach (steamed, squeezed, drained and chopped)
1 cup Kesong Puti, from DVF dairy farm (crumbled)
1/4 cup dill (chopped)
1/4 cup parsley (chopped)
1 bunch green onions (sliced)
3 eggs (lightly beaten)
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup olive oilphyllo dough, cut into three lengthwise, buttered and sprinkled with pepper, dill and nutmeg.
1. Mix the spinach, kesong puti, dill, parsley, green onions, eggs, salt and pepper in a large bowl.
2. Brush the bottom of an 8x8 inch baking pan with olive oil.
3. To assemble the Spanakopita, portion some of spinach mixture onto each end of phyllo and fold into a triangle. Place onto a baking tray.
4. Bake for approximately 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden brown. Once done, remove from the oven and let cool for a few minutes before serving. Serve with your favorite yoghurt dressing.
Spanish Salted Cod Balls
Actually, you do not have to use salt cod; any meaty, salted fish will be a good alternative. after visiting Seville during a trade fair , I found that all the ...small cafes had a platter of cod fish balls and toasted bread on the table when you sat down as free appetizers to munch... they were made from the left over cod and bread from the previous day. We ate them and drank wine, it was great!.
2 lbs salted Lapu lapu, soaked overnight, boiled and flaked from bones
1 large potato, unpeeled, boiled, and mashed
2 tablespoon milk
3 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped, and fried
2 cloves garlic, crushed and fried
¼ cup self rising flour
2 eggs, separated
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
Extra Olive oil, for deep frying
Combine potato, salted fish, onion, garlic, flour, egg yolks and parsley in bowl.
Whisk egg whites until stiff then fold into the potato mixture.
Heat oil to 190F, drop heaping teaspoon of cod-potato mixture into the oil and fry till golden brown.
Drain in paper towels and serve with twist of lemon.
Greek Salad When you want a light refreshing side dish for a quick summer dinner, this Middle Eastern salad is a great go-to recipe. It's simple enough to throw together for an average weeknight dinner, yet elegant enough to serve an appetizer.
4 oz feta cheese, crumbled into ½ inch
4 cucumbers seeded and diced into ¼ inch
1 red onion, thinly sliced
1 ½ tablespoons dill, finely chopped
1 teaspoon dried mint, ground till pulverize
3 tablespoon olive oil
1 ½ tablespoons lemon juice
Combine powdered mint, oil and lemon juice.
Season with salt and pepper
Pour over the vegetables and toss well.
Fried Potato Balls with Cilantro
This is a popular street food in Morocco, where they are eaten plain or used as sandwich filler. They can also be served as an appetizer or as a side dish.
1 lbs potatoes, washed, boiled and push through a ricer.
3 pcs sweet potatoes, washed, boiled and push through a ricer.
½ cup breadcrumbs
1 clove garlic, minced
1 onion, minced
3 eggs, slightly beaten
½ cup parsley, chopped
½ cup Cilantro, chopped
½ teaspoon cumin
½ tsp turmeric
1 ½ cup olive oil for frying
Mix potatoes, herbs, spices, eggs and breadcrumbs. Season with salt and pepper
Using 1 heaping teaspoon of the mixture, form into small balls.
Heat oil to 375f then fry the balls till golden brown but being careful not to crowd them.
Lift balls in paper towels and let it sit to drain. Serve with aioli sauce
Baba Ghannouj (Middle Eastern Eggplant dip) It is said that the woman who created this recipe pureed the eggplant just to ease the eating and digestion of her old and toothless father. Substantial and nutritious, it has a smooth, creamy texture, and a slightly smoked taste. It is traditionally served with pita bread but is good for tortilla or chip dips.
2 large eggplants, grilled till blistered and soft, peeled and drained then chopped
3 cloves garlic, mashed
½ teaspoon cumin
½ cup lemon juice2 tablespoon tahini
Pinch of cayenne pepper
11/2 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon parsley
Black olives to garnish
Process eggplant, cumin, garlic, lemon juice, tahini, cayenne pepper and olive oil until creamy
Stir in parsley. Season with salt and pepper. Garnish with black olives
Serve with flat bread.
This is the version originated in the Famous Harry’s Bar in Venice. Instead of the usual sparkling wine and peach juice, mango juice and champagne makes this a tempting, and stronger variation. Served at celebrations, it is one of Italy's most popular cocktails.
1 ripe, sweet mango
2 Tbsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp sugar syrup
1 Tbsp mango rum
1 bottle champagne, chilled
Peel and pit mango. Process flesh with lemon juice until smooth puree is achieved
Sweeten to taste with sugar syrup. Strain
Add brandy to the puree and stir.
Divide the nectar among chilled champagne flutes and finish the drinks with chilled champagne
Chef Danny de la Cuesta
About Chef Danny
- Chef Danny
- Danny de la Cuesta’s creative and artistic career spans three decades of prolific output in design, training and consultancy. He graduated in the University of the Philippines College of Mass Communication majoring in Broadcast Communications. He pursued his Second degree in Business Management with concentration in Fashion Marketing at the Fashion Institute of Technology, New York University, USA. He has been designing fashion since the late 70’s, with rich local and international exposures through retail, export and fashion shows. In 1994, he opted to broaden his horizon by extending his artistic calling by means of embarking into a career in Culinary Design. He became the first National Champion of the San Miguel Culinary Cookfest which paved him to pursue a Diploma in Culinary Arts at the Le Cordon Bleu Escole di Cuisine, London Campus, England under the tutelage of Chef Michel Boucheret. He was the past Editor in Chief of Cook Magazine and an active member of The Creative Media Professionals Guild of the Asia and the Pacific.