Archives for category: Starters and Sides

Green Pea Cutlets with Mint, Feta, and Pine Nuts

These are my vegetarian versions of crab cakes: crisp on the outside;  moist and flavorful on the inside.  Green peas are ground, then flavored with mint leaves, feta cheese, red onions, and toasted pine nuts. Rolled in fresh bread crumbs and pan-fried, they’re the perfect bite for a party. Top with a lemon yogurt sauce for a fresh and creamy finish.


2 cups frozen peas (thawed)

1/3 cup chopped red onions

1/4 cup chopped fresh mint leaves

2 cloves garlic (minced)

1/3 cup feta cheese (crumbled)

3 tablespoons pine nuts (toasted)

1 teaspoon fine sea salt

freshly cracked black pepper

1 egg

1/4 cup flour

4 slices white or wheat sandwich bread (for breadcrumbs; about 2 cups)

2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese

Vegetable oil

Ingredients for Sauce

1/2 cup yogurt

1/4 cup mayonnaise

1 tablespoon lemon zest

squeeze of lemon juice


liberal amount of freshly cracked black pepper


Buzz three slices white or wheat bread in a food processor. Pour over a plate and mix with parmesan cheese. Reserve. Dry toast pine nuts in a pan over medium heat and reserve. Thaw and drain peas, then process in food processor until course paste is achieved. Then transfer to a mixing bowl and add chopped garlic, onions, mint leaves, feta cheese, salt, and freshly cracked pepper. Mix well, folding in pine nuts. Then add one egg, and 1/2 of bread crumb mixture (1 cup), mix and finish with 1/4 cup flour. Mix well. Take about a tablespoon of mixture and roll in your hands to form a ball, then dredge in the parmesan bread crumb mixture. Slightly flatten the ball to form a patty. Repeat this process until all patties are made. Then pour enough vegetable or canola oil in a large fry pan to come up about a 1/4 inch from the bottom of the pan. Fry in batches, about three minutes on each side or until golden and crisp. Drain on paper towel-lined plate.

For sauce, simply combine all ingredients. Dollop on top of cutlets and garnish with chopped fresh mint. Enjoy!


Herb Pesto & Goat Cheese Crostini

Crostini is simply toasted bread with a savory topping. You can create any flavor combination you like. It’s great for entertaining: simple, rustic, and flavorful. And best of all, you can prepare the components ahead of time. This recipe blends rich creamy goat cheese with a savory herb pesto. Simply spread over toasted slices of French Baguette. It’s easy to pop into your mouth and goes perfectly with white wine.


2 cups fresh flat-leaf parsley ( roughly chopped)

1/2 cup walnuts (roughly chopped)

1 clove garlic (peeled)

1/3 cup olive oil

2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese

1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt plus more if desired

freshly cracked black pepper

4 oz chevre goat cheese

1 french baguette (thinly sliced)


Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Combine parsley, walnuts, and garlic into a food processor. Puree, drizzling in olive oil, until smooth consistency is achieved. Fold in parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper. Mix to combine. Pour pesto into a mixing bowl and combine with goat cheese. Season with extra pinch or two of salt if desired. Brush slices of baguette with olive oil and toast in oven until lightly crisp and golden. Let cool for five minutes. Then spread about a teaspoon or so of goat cheese-pesto mixture onto 3/4 of each slice of bread, leaving the tail end exposed for aesthetics. Serve with your favorite wine and enjoy!

Muhammara is a Syrian dip, similar to a pesto, consisting of roasted red peppers and walnuts. It’s smoky, sweet, and savory all at once. In this recipe, pita bread is toasted, then topped with goat cheese, Muhammara, and charred, oven-roasted fresno peppers. Fresno peppers are essentially red jalapenos. They can be found in your local grocery store, alongside their milder counterparts. The interplay of flavors makes this dish the perfect appetizer: tangy goat cheese, savory muhammara, and fiery fresno peppers. Best of all, the components can be prepared ahead of time and simply assembled when you’re ready to eat!

Ingredients (Serves 4-6)

3 red bell peppers

Olive oil

Sea salt

Cracked Black Pepper

About nine medium sized fresno peppers

2 cloves garlic (peeled)

1/4 cup walnuts (chopped)

handful parsley

4 oz Chevre goat cheese

4 tablespoons whipped cream cheese

3 pieces pita bread (halved, then cut into thirds)


Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees. Prepare red peppers by cutting down all sides and discarding the tops and inner ribs (white parts). Scatter the large pieces over a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Toss well. Then, place fresno peppers onto separate baking sheet or pan, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast fresno peppers alongside red peppers at 425 degrees for about 30 minutes, or until charred. In the meantime, combine cream cheese and goat cheese, season with salt and pepper and mix well until slightly softened. Cut each piece of pita bread into six equal slices and toast in a toaster oven until slightly crisp. Once peppers have roasted, remove from oven. Cover red peppers with foil and let rest for ten minutes. This will allow the skin to slip easily from the flesh. Remove skin and place red peppers into a food processor, along with two cloves of garlic, a tablespoon of olive oil, and chopped walnuts. Pulse until smooth consistency is achieved. Then season with salt and pepper to taste, fold in fresh chopped parsley, and set aside. For the fresno chilies, remove stems and cut each pepper in half. Reserve for assembly.

To assemble, simply spread goat cheese mixture evenly over each slice of pita bread and top with a teaspoon or so of muhammara. Then take half of a charred fresno pepper and place it over the top. Garnish with chopped fresh parsley and serve. Enjoy!

I rarely do this; in fact, I welcome any and all Sandra Lee fans to muffle me with toasted coconut and canned fruit until I suffocate. However, there is something about artichokes, cream cheese, and pastry that just please the palate. This appetizer is the most basic thing I have done, however, I have a strong feeling that it will fare well with crowds. It neither alienates, nor intimidates the inexperienced palate. Artichokes are finely chopped and flavored with minced garlic, scallions, cream cheese, and parmesan, then dolloped over filo pastry. Bake at 350 degrees and enjoy!

Ingredients  (makes about 45 shells)

1 14 oz can artichoke hearts (rinsed, drained, and finely chopped)

2 cloves garlic (minced)

3 green onions (chopped)

handful flat-leaf parsley (finely chopped)

4 tablespoons cream cheese (whipped)

2 tablespoons sour cream

1 tablespoon mayonnaise

1/2 cup shredded mozzarella

2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

45 pre-baked filo pastry shells (usually comes in packages of 15)


Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Drain artichoke hearts in a colander, rinse under water, dry with paper towel, chop finely, and place in large mixing bowl. Mince garlic cloves, chop green onions and parsley, and add to artichokes. Fold in cream cheese, sour cream, mayonnaise, mozzarella, and parmesan cheeses. Season with salt and pepper and mix well. This recipe uses store-bought filo pastry shells. They typically come 15 per package. Simply spoon about 2 teaspoons (1/2 tablespoon) of mixture onto pastry shells, place onto baking sheet, and bake at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes until slightly golden-brown.  Serve immediately and enjoy!

This recipe is a play on a Chinese restaurant favorite: lettuce wraps. Ground chicken is cooked with Indian spices, then piled onto crisp wedges of iceberg or romaine lettuce. Think of it as a carb-less taco: full flavor, partial guilt.



1/2 large yellow onion (diced)

3 cloves garlic (minced)

1 inch ginger (grated)

2 finger hot chilies (chopped)

1 16oz package ground chicken

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons ketchup

2 teaspoons cumin powder

2 teaspoons garam masala

2 teaspoons coriander powder

1 teaspoon red chili powder (cayenne pepper will suffice)

1/4 cup water

handful cilantro (chopped)

Iceberg or Romaine lettuce


Start by prepping onions, garlic, ginger, and chilies. Set aside. In a small bowl, combine all of the spices: garam masala, cumin, coriander powder, and red chilie powder. Over medium heat, in a large wok, fry onions in about 2-3 tablespoons of canola or vegetable oil. Cook until onions turn translucent. Then add ginger, garlic, and chilies, and fry for another minute. Add the ground chicken and stir gently, allowing to cook slightly before breaking up with your spatula. Season with 1 teaspoon salt, spice combination, and 2 tablespoons ketchup. Mix vigorously, continuing to break down the meat. Add about 1/4 cup of water, or more, to help with the process, and continue to mix. Once meat is cooked and evenly broken down, add chopped cilantro.

Take iceberg lettuce or hearts of romaine, and tear into cup-sized pieces. Pile 1-2 tablespoons of spiced chicken on top and garnish with fresh cilantro. Serve and Enjoy!

Crostini is a great starter for any dinner party or drinks occasion. It’s relatively simple to prepare, and can be made in advance. This recipe combines savory pesto with creamy goat cheese and crusty, crisp bread. Simply spread over toasted baguette and serve!



2 cups parsley (roughly chopped)

2-3 cloves garlic

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

About 1/3 cup olive oil

1/4 cup parmesan cheese

salt and pepper to taste

1 4oz package goat cheese

1 loaf French baguette


Preheat oven to 375 degrees. To prepare pesto, simply combine parsley, garlic, walnuts, and parmesan in a food processer, then puree while drizzling in olive oil. Season liberally with salt and pepper, mix, and set aside. Next, add goat cheese and mix well until creamy consistency is achieved.

Slice baguette into 1/2 inch thick pieces and spread over baking shit. Drizzle with olive oil, toss, then bake until golden and toasted. Spread pesto-goat cheese mixture over bread and serve.

You’ve heard about it before; you’ve tried it at restaurants. Ravioli with butternut squash and brown butter sauce. Butternut squash soup.  Goat cheese and butternut squash quesadilla. But have you ever prepared it at home? Are you familiar with the euphoria that is roasted butternut squash? Everything, from the deep orange color, to the way it pitter-patters against your roasting pan, is intoxicating. Here is a delicious recipe for butternut squash that is a perfect side-dish to any protein.


1 butternut squash (medium sized) (peeled and cubed)

1/2 medium-sized red onion (cubed)

1 sprig rosemary (chopped)

3 sprigs thyme (stripped and chopped)

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

3-4 tablespoons olive oil


First, pre-heat oven to 425 degrees. Then pair down the butternut squash, cutting off the top end as well as part of the bulbous bottom with seeds. Take the remaining body of squash and peel with a vegetable peeler or large knife. Then, chop into one inch cubes. Chop half a red onion into equal size cubes. Mince 1 sprig of rosemary needles. Then strip three sprigs of thyme lives and chop. Combine everything on a roasting pan with salt, pepper, and olive oil. Mix well. Roast in oven at 425 degrees for about 35-40 minutes.