Category Archives: hors d’oeuvres

Spicy Whipped Feta and Roasted Pepper Dip, Tirokafteri

This has been one busy weekend!  Not only was it Cinco de Mayo celebration and the Derby but, here in Fort Lauderdale, we also had our annual Air Show down on the beach.  The Air Show is great fun…especially if you don’t go.  We live close enough to the beach that we can see the planes make their passes.  In fact, if you stand in our pool and raise your arm you can just about high-five the pilots as they roar by!  Needless to say, our grocery and liquor stores are crazy busy.  The Friday heading into the weekend is when the madness begins.  Both the deli and the meat departments run out of wings.  Fried chicken, key lime pies and ice are long gone.  Even the least favorite of Solo cups, the yellow ones, fly off the shelves.  Hell, it’s just one big ol’ party out there.  By 9:00 in the morning smokers and grills are fired up, mostly by the men, while the women rattle around in the kitchen, set up around the pool (that translates to “make it pretty”), give the dog a last-minute walk and take a final inventory of the bar necessities:  tequila, bourbon and champagne.  I’m fully aware that last statement I made sounds awfully sexist but I know of no females, family, friends or otherwise, who seek to learn the intricacies and nuances of grilling in the steaming Florida heat while being kept company by mosquitos the size of small dogs.  No.  And I won’t even go into what our humidity does to that blow out you paid good money for and are trying to make last until Tuesday.  Nah.  My girls don’t flip burgers, lobster tails or ribeyes.  But what we WILL do is feed you some outstanding dishes.  This dip is one of those dishes.  I’ve said it before and I’ll repeat myself.  Because there are so few ingredients called for it is of paramount importance to use the best quality ingredients available to you.  The feta must be made of sheep’s milk otherwise it’s not even feta.  The cheese must be in block form.  Store bought crumbled feta is just…wrong.  It has no semblance to the real thing.  I don’t buy it…ever.  I purchase sheep’s milk feta in a block and crumble it myself and my recipes turn out as they’re supposed to.  Use whole milk thick Greek yoghurt or whole sour cream.  Even creme fraiche is okay in a pinch.  Regarding the heat in the spread, if you like a good kick then add the entire scotch bonnet pepper.  If you are uncertain no worries.  Discard the stem of the pepper and slice it in half from stem end to bottom.  Carefully cut out ribs and seeds and set them aside to add if you decide you want more heat.  I wear disposable cloves to protect my fingers from burning my eyes if I happen to rub them.  Easier than falling off a log.  Serve with assorted breads, crackers, crudite and pickled vegetables.  Try serving this dip with pickled okra…it’s not just for Bloodys anymore!

Spicy Whipped Feta and Roasted Pepper Dip, Tirokafteri

  • Servings: 3 cups
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 16 ounces sheep’s milk feta cheese, drained and patted dry
  • 12 ounces jarred roasted red peppers, drained and patted dry
  • 1/4 cup good quality olive oil
  • 1/4 cup thick Greek yoghurt or whole sour cream
  • 1 ripe scotch bonnet pepper, halved, ribs and seeds set aside if needed, stem discarded
  1. Into the bowl of a food processor. crumble the feta cheese by hand.
  2. Add the roasted red peppers, olive oil, yoghurt and scotch bonnet pepper.  Process until smooth.
  3. Taste for heat adjustment and add some of the scotch bonnet seeds for additional heat.
  4. Cover and chill for 3-4 hours for the dip to firm up.

http://www.theirreverentkitchen.com

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Sweet Guava and Cream Cheese Spread

Early mornings at my grandparent’s house in Puerto Rico were extraordinarily beguiling and captivating.  My older sister, Cynthia, and I awoke every morning in the soft, white-cloud canopy of mosquito nets hung from hooks embedded in lofty ceilings.  In the drowsy world of being not quite awake, as we stirred, not yet aware of sights and sounds, we felt like brides…or princesses.  As we lay in our beds savoring the last vestiges of morning coolness, we took pleasure in the cooing of doves outside our windows.  The gentle swish, swish, swish of slippers against old floor tiles signaled the house was coming to life and someone, thank you God!, was making coffee.  Even as little girls we always drank coffee.  Everyone did.  I remember my mother laughing as she told me the story of my Tio Roberto and coffee.  Mama said my uncle was a young boy of maybe five or six years old when my grandfather found him somewhat wistful and down in the mouth.  Tio Roberto was my grandfather’s favorite boy and couldn’t bear to see him unhappy.  “Mi nene, pero que te pasa”?  “My son, what’s wrong?”  In a low voice my uncle answered, “Aye, Papa!  I hate school!” “But why?”, asked my grandfather.  Tio Roberto answered, “I miss my 10:00 cafe con leche.”  That cracks me up every time I think about it.  His father replied, “Well, you don’t have to go to school.  Stay home and have your cafecito as long as you want.”  Can you imagine saying that to your kindergartener? And so my uncle did.  Everyday my mother, aunts and uncles would pile into the coach to be driven to school while my Tio Roberto stayed home…alone…with no one to play with.  No brothers to go fishing or ride together.  No brothers to climb trees with or sisters to tease.  That had to be hell.  That lasted two or three days, he gave up his mid-morning coffee and back to school he happily went.

Breakfast in Puerto Rico was always modest and light.  Don’t get me wrong, it was always enjoyable but never heavy with pancakes and meat and cheesy casseroles.  Breakfast typically consisted of strong Puerto Rican coffee laced with steamed whole milk and a generous spoonful of island sugar.  Oh, but it was good!  Alongside jugs of ice-cold water, one at each end of the table, were baskets of crackers to be eaten with a little local cheese or butter.  And there was, without fail, fresh fruit.  Luscious wheels of deep, coral-red papaya or sweet, golden pineapple beautifully carved and laid out on platters would complete the meal.  But if we were really lucky we would be served guava paste or guava spread.  Guava and cream cheese spread is sublime offered firm and cold from the refrigerator or warm and runny having been freshly made.  These days it’s a beautiful addition not only at breakfast or brunch but also at cocktail hour.  The addition of the cream cheese and sour cream in the recipe lends the spread the perfect balance of sweet and savory.  It’s beautiful at a shower, picnic or pool party and lasts forever covered in the refrigerator.  Here in Florida guava paste may be found on the bread aisle at Winn-Dixie and on the canned fruit aisle at Publix.  If you can’t find it just ask.  And last, I buy the guava paste cryovaced in block form made by Goya.  Buen provecho!

Sweet Guava and Cream Cheese Spread

  • Servings: 5 cups
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 14 ounces guava paste
  • 12 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  1. Place guava paste in a medium size bowl and on high heat soften 30 second increment until there are still lumps but you are able to stir the paste.  You don’t want it to become liquid.
  2. Add the softened cream cheese and sour cream and stir until the mixture is smooth.
  3. Serve with crackers, biscotti or fruit.  For a thicker, firmer consistency, cover and chill for several hours.

http://www.theirreverentkitchen.com

Stuffed Green Banana Fritters, Alcapurrias

 

They’re not sweet eating bananas nor are they plantains.  They’re what Hispanics, Indians and island people call “green bananas” and they’re heavenly boiled and made into a salad or cooked with root vegetables but everyone’s favorite is the meat stuffed fritter…the alcapurria, pronounced ahl-cah-POO-ree-ah.  Deep fried and savory, this is what we call “un antojo”, a little craving or whim but there is a bit of work involved to make the fritters, well worth every moment spent.  In Puerto Rico alcapurrias are considered street food, found all over the island but especially at the kiosks which line the beaches.  Hot out of the fat, these crunchy fritters will satisfy all and are rich enough to tide one over until the next meal.  My grandmother never made these and they were never served in her house.  This was before the arrival of food processors and, as I mentioned, a tad bit labor intensive.  Plus the green bananas stain everything they touch once peeled, from ones fingers to cutting boards and clothing.  The making of both alcapurrias and pasteles was considered blue-collar work.  So although these dishes are enjoyed during feast days, holidays and beach outings, they  must be ordered in advance if you aren’t willing to make them yourself.  Many home businesses started with women making their own money by preparing pasteles and alcapurrias then either selling them on the street or taking orders in advance.  This year I made the fritters to celebrate Three Kings Day, the sixth of January, a huge holiday in hispanic countries.  Growing up, my family had Christmas in Fort Lauderdale and, the following day, flew down to Puerto Rico to really start the celebration with Mama’s family.  For my older sister, Cynthia, and me those were the days of dollies, tea sets, literature and the occasional treat of an alcapurria.  Feliz Dia de Los Tres Reyes Magos!

 

  • Difficulty: moderate
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Filling:

  • 4 ounces cured ham, roughly chopped
  • 1 medium tomato, about 5 ounces, roughly chopped
  • 1 medium onion, about 3 ounces, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 3 sweet chile peppers, seeded and diced
  • 1 tablespoon oregano
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 packet Sazon seasoning, found in the hispanic section of your grocery store
  • 2 tablespoons capers
  • 2 tablespoons green olives stuffed with pimento, roughly chopped
  • 1 pound ground beef
  1. Place all the above ingredients except the capers, olives and ground beef in a food processor and pulse until a chunky paste is formed.
  2. Add the ground beef and pulse until ingredients are completely incorporated.
  3. To a large skillet add the ground beef mixture, the capers and olives and brown over medium heat.  Stir while cooking to mix in the capers and olives.
  4. When the meat is completely cooked remove from heat, allow to cool, cover and refrigerate overnight.

Green banana paste (masa):

  1. 10 green bananas, not regular eating bananas or plantains but green cooking bananas
  2. 2 pounds yautia (malanga)
  3. 2 tablespoons olive oil
  4. 2 packets Sazon seasoning
  5. Fill a large bowl halfway with tap water and 2 tablespoons of salt.  Set aside.
  6. Using rubber gloves, score each banana lengthwise three or four times.  Slide your fingernail under the scored peel and remove the entire peel from the banana.  Keep a small paring knife close by to help with any trouble spots.
  7. Drop each peel banana into the salted water and continued until all bananas have been peeled.
  8. Using a vegetable peeler, peel the yautia, rinse under tap water and cut into chunks which will fit your food processor tube.
  9. Fit a food processor with the grating blade which has small holes.
  10. With the motor running continually, grate the bananas and yautia.
  11. Discard the water in the large bowl just used, dry the bowl and transfer the grated contents of the food processor to the bowl.
  12. Fit the food processor with the cutting blade, add the grated mixture, olive oil and the 2 packets of Sazon.  Process until completely smooth.
  13. Spray a small pan with non-stick cooking spray, drop one or two tablespoons of banana mixture and flatten and fry until browned on both sides.  This is to taste for any needed salt of seasoning.  Adjust seasonings accordingly.  It’s good, isn’t it?!
  14. Transfer the banana mixture to a large storage container, cover and refrigerate overnight.
  • vegetable oil to fry
  1. When ready to assemble and fry the fritters, heat one inch of oil in a large frying pan to about 300° or medium high.
  2. Tear a small piece of tin foil or parchment paper into a 5X3″ rectangle and spray lightly with non-stick cooking spray.
  3. Holding the paper in your hand, spoon 3-4 tablespoons of the green banana mixture onto the paper and gently spread it with the back of the spoon into a 4-5″ circle.  Photos are posted below the recipe.
  4. Top the middle of the mixture with 2-3 teaspoons of the ground beef mixture.
  5. Using the back of the spoon, smooth the banana mixture over the meat completely covering it.  Cover any hole with a bit of the banana from the storage container.  The fritter should be the shape of a torpedo without any meat showing through.
  6. Gently slide the fritter into the hot oil and continue shaping the fritters and adding them to the frying pan until the pan is full.  Leave an inch of space between the frying fritters.
  7. Fry the fritters 4-5 minutes and turn them to fry on the other side for 2-3 minutes.
  8. With a slotted spoon, remove the cooked fritters and drain on paper towels.
  9. Continue assembling and frying the fritters until there is no more of the mixtures.
  10. Serve immediately.

http://www.theirreverentkitchen.com

 

Warm fig, brie and rosemary bites

Hey, y’all!  I’m going straight into this recipe without chit-chatting about having James home this weekend and getting to smother him and cook for him because he was sick with a cold nor will I regale you with details of the Miami Book Fair because I want you to have plenty of time to get your menu together for Thanksgiving.  These warm and gooey appetizers are the perfect combination of sweet and savory but the best part is the dough is already made, rolled out and waiting for you in the dairy section of your grocery store.  I found a new product by a company I NEVER use, Pillsbury, at the store and thought I’d try it out.  Pillsbury now makes  a thin and a thick pizza dough, rolled up and on parchment paper in a plastic tube alongside the boxed pie shells.  I used the thin dough and it was terrific in that the dough is sturdy enough to hold the heavy cubes of cheese and fig jam unlike phyllo which seemed to always fall apart on me.  The mini-bites may be assembled the night prior to baking if kept chilled in the refrigerator.  Try to find a ripe piece of brie to play up its flavor.  If the cheese isn’t fully developed the taste, the character, will get lost in the fig preserves.  Which isn’t a bad thing…I mean, who doesn’t love figs?!  And that gets me to the figs.  This recipe calls for a jar of fig jam, no fresh figs to be cut.  Gosh, but I love this receipt.  The dough is cut into squares with a ruler and a pizza cutter and the cheese is cubed.  The fig jam is already prepared and the fresh rosemary leaves, waiting in the produce department, are either pinched or clipped off the stalk.   Oh, so easy peasy.  Happy Thanksgiving, y’all!

Warm fig, brie and rosemary bites

  • Servings: 24 bites
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 1 10X13″ Pillsbury Pizza Dough, thin crust
  • 8 ounces well-developed brie
  • 1 11.5 ounce jar fig preserves, Braswell’s is great
  • fresh rosemary, about 2 stalks
  1. Pre-heat oven to 400°.  Cover a 24-cup mini-muffin tin  with non-stick spray and set aside.
  2. Open dough on counter and, using a rolling pizza cutter or sharp knife, cut into 24 even squares.
  3. Firmly press each square into the muffin tin cups.
  4. Cut the brie into 24 cubes and press into the muffin cups.
  5. Cover each cube of cheese with a teaspoon of fig jam.
  6. Bake for 8-10 minutes.  Do not over bake!
  7. Cool tin on a rack for 5 minutes and while cooling garnish with small sprigs of fresh rosemary.
  8. Serve immediately.

http://www.theirreverentkitchen.com

Puerto Rican Salt Cod Fritters – Bacalaitos

In Puerto Rico cod fritters, or bacalaitos, are a quintessential party food.  Wildly popular, these fritters are even sold at the beach.  Right on the sand are wooden shacks with tin roofs, some with a few tables, some only serving take out.  Typically salsa is blasting at full volume while a stiff ocean breeze tempts bathers with the perfume of garlic and culantro.  If you spy a cook working behind her bubbling pot still in her house coat with pink foam curlers in her hair, hips swaying in tune with the music, I strongly suggest you stop there to eat!  I promise you won’t be disappointed.  When I was growing up in Puerto Rico, summers and holidays, these fritters were not often served.  In those days my family was suspicious of any street food and would have been horrified if we had even asked for a bite.  My grandparents felt anything worth ingesting was just as good or better at home.  And that would have been fine except we never had bacalaitos at home.  Why, I don’t know… because they’re bad for you? (They ARE fried!)  Nevertheless, on outings with uncles, aunts and cousins, we were often rewarded for good behavior at the end of day with a little fried something.

Probably the only photograph with Mama and all my siblings at the beach.  It makes me so happy that Mama had on her pearls to go to the beach!

Big doin’s for me when the treat happened to be cod fritters.  I don’t know why they’re called “fritters” as they’re not the shape of, say, apple fritters or conch fritters… they’re not rounded in shape but flat…like a cookie.  Crispy on the outside but tender and chewy on the inside, these “frituras” were served hot out of the fat and wrapped in a paper napkin.  Sometimes, if we happen to be in a really upscale shack, the fritters were loosely wrapped in a napkin then tucked into a small, brown paper bag.  We tossed the napkins and let the paper bag soak up the excess oil while savoring every salty nugget of bacalao, cod, studded throughout the fritter.  Tanned, barefooted and covered with beach sand is how I like to remember enjoying this street food!

 

 

Puerto Rican Cod Fritters

  • Servings: 25 fritters
  • Difficulty: moderate
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  • 1 pound salt cod, deboned and soaked in cold water 8-12 hours, changing the water several time to get rid of the salt
  • 10 garlic cloves
  • 10-12 whole black peppercorns
  • 1 bunch culantro (approximately .75 ounces) or 20 leaves, ripped into 2″ pieces
  • 2 3/4 cups broth from the cod.  You’ll be boiling the fish briefly so don’t throw the broth out!
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour plus additional if needed
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • vegetable oil
  1. Discard the water the cod has soaked in and place the fish in a pot covered with 1″ of fresh, cold water.  Bring the water to a boil and cook the fish for 10-15 minutes.
  2. Remove the fish from the broth and set aside to cool.  Reserve the broth for later in the recipe.
  3. While the cod is cooling, add the garlic, peppercorns and culantro to a food processor or blender and process until you almost have a paste.  If the ingredients stick and won’t process, add a tablespoon or two of the fish broth and continue processing.
  4. When the cod is cool enough to handle, gently pull the fish apart with your hands.  You want it chunks in your fritters as opposed to a feathery mess.
  5. In a separate large bowl combine the flour and baking powder.
  6. Mix the broth into the flour by hand.  The batter should be the consistency of pancake batter.  If too thin, add a bit more flour.  If too thin, add a little more broth but, in either case, not too much.
  7. To the flour/broth mixture add the flaked cod and the garlic/culantro mixture and mix well by hand.
  8. Allow to sit for 5 minutes or so to let the baking powder do its job.
  9. In a heavy-bottomed frying pan or pot, pour in vegetable oil until it reaches 1″ on the sides.  Heat the oil on high.
  10. When the oil is hot and “shimmers” spoon 1/4 cup into the pan making 3-4 fritters, depending on the size of your pan.  You don”t want to crowd them.  If the fritters are browning too fast drop the heat down to medium-high.
  11. Fry each fritter 3-4 minutes or until golden, turning only once.
  12. Drain the fritters on a paper bag or paper towels.  If you want to be truly authentic, thread each fritter through the middle with a metal skewer and hang across a large pot allowing the oil to drain to the bottom of the pot.
  13. Serve immediately or keep warm in a very low oven.

http://www.theirreverentkitchen.com

Kickin’ Sweet Vidalia Onion Dip

For someone who tasted flavor only when in friends’ homes, I vividly recall many first tastes.  Butter…Ann Avery’s house.  That was  beyond stellar.  Tuna salad would be at Andrea’s house.  Her mama mixed in a teaspoon of mustard that certainly made it the chicken of MY sea!  Pork chop gravy  at Dana’s house was seared into my flavor bank.  I had never had ANY gravy before and her mama made it from scratch.  Where has this stuff been hiding?!?  I experienced a double first at my neighbor and classmate, Susy Tankard’s, house.  We had come in from playing “Man From U.N.C.L.E.” outside, all hot and sweaty.  Her mama and mine were very close but worlds apart when it came to cooking.  Susy’s mom baked, cooked and liked it.  My mama couldn’t give a fig what went on in the kitchen nor would she have recognized a fig if there had ever been one sitting on the counter.  Anyway, that noteworthy day stands out because it is the day Susy offered me an English muffin with strawberry jam.  I had no idea what either one of those things were.  At first bite I was head over heels in love with both.  But probably my favorite first was a double of potato chips and onion dip, both processed, filled with preservatives and loaded with salt.  Holy smoke.  Talk about a lifelong passion for that kind of bad.  And I’m still a fool for chips and dip but now I prefer the real thing.  Homemade onion dip is from another realm.  Once you make homemade you will never go back to that powdered stuff in an envelope.  After caramelizing naturally sweet onions, you’ll end up with a skillet brimming with the flavors of a savory jam, all thick and gooey.  I add fresh thyme leaves and that brings out the earthiness and allows the dip to “pop”.  The addition of cayenne pepper lightens each bite and keeps the onion dip from becoming too heavy.  It’s always one of the first dishes to fly at a party; in fact, you’ll be hard pressed to stay out of it before you leave your house.  Perfect for a beach or pool party, whether it’s game day or not, this kickin’ onion dip will become a life long favorite!

 

This recipe makes quite a bit which is great for a party but if you don’t need that much, it’s easily halved.  It’s an incredibly flavorful appetizer so if you’re not a fan of heat, rest assured the cayenne pepper may be omitted and you’ll still have a fantastic dip.  Take your time caramelizing the onions.  You don’t want them to burn but to release their liquids and sugar.  Give them a good stir every now and again, cook them uncovered letting all excess moisture evaporate and you’ll achieve the flavors and consistency you want.  I tried a mess of chips to see which really brought out the flavor of the dip and this is my conclusion.  The best potato chip turned out to be Kettle Chips.  They were sturdy enough to stand up to the stiff dip both in structure and potato taste.  But my number one chip pick wasn’t a potato chip but a plantain chip.  Holy smoke!  They really complemented each other, not to mention, the plantains were much better looking.  In closing, I hope you’ll take the time to search out Vidalia onions as their sweetness truly stands out and makes a huge difference in this dish.  Enjoy!

 

Kickin' Sweet Vidalia Onion Dip

  • Servings: 6 cups
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons salt, divided
  • 3 pounds Vidalia onions, about 3 large Vidalia onions, chopped
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 1/2 cups sour cream
  • 1 heaping tablespoon fresh thyme leaves plus additional to garnish
  • 1 teaspoon to 1 1/2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
  1. In a large, heavy bottom skillet melt the butter over medium heat.
  2. Add the olive oil, chopped onions, one tablespoon of salt and stir well until the onions are thoroughly coated with the olive oil and butter.
  3. Lower the heat to medium low and cook the onions uncovered until they are golden brown in color and all liquid from them has evaporated, anywhere from 45 minutes to one hour.  Stir often to keep onions from browning or sticking to the bottom of the pan.
  4. Remove onions from heat and allow to cool.
  5. In a large bowl mix the cream cheese to loosen.  Add the mayonnaise and whisk until completely smooth.
  6. Add the sour cream, thyme, cayenne pepper and remaining teaspoon of salt.  Mix until smooth.
  7. Add cooled onions to cream cheese mixture and mix until thoroughly combined.
  8. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 3 hours, preferably overnight.
  9. Serve chilled with chips and crudite.

http://www.theirreverentkitchen.com

 

 

Fried Green Plantain Chips

One of the highlights of our summers in Puerto Rico was our trips into Viejo San Juan, Old San Juan.  Cynthia and I would be taken by our aunt, Madrinita, and, of course, Mama would accompany us.  It was an all-day affair of shopping at my aunt’s favorite jewelry store, always lunch at La Mallorquina, the oldest operating restaurant in the Western Hemisphere and culminating perhaps with a tour of cellist Pedro Casals’ house.  What wonderful times we had!  In and out of shops we went, Mama buying gorgeous French and Belgian sets of tablecloths and napkins, Madrinita giving in to the siren call of a particularly lovely gold bracelet as Cynthia and I stood by watching wide-eyed and highly impressed.  My mother and aunt adored each other and this outing gave them the opportunity to spend uninterrupted hours catching up on family news and their own sister secrets.  Cynthia and I were already BFF’s so we, too, shared our own 8-year-old/six-year-old secrets, whispering that maybe, just maybe, this was the trip Madrinita would buy us some pretty little earrings, a delicate ring or exquisite charm for our bracelets.  As we grew older, Madrinita and Mama strolled ahead of us, arm in arm, chattering away.  Cynthia and I lagged behind enjoying the lazy afternoon, soaking in the beauty of cascading bougainvilla spilling off the balconies above us and the magnificence of the smooth blue cobblestones below our feet dating back to the 16th and 17th centuries.  One of our favorite games was to hunt for ruts and grooves cut into the cobblestones by horses dragging canons up to the fort and back.  Puerto Rico was a Spanish territory, a jewel in their crown, and the Spaniards were quick to defend it against land attacks.  We were content with the pleasures of the sun on our skinny, little arms, the soft padding sound of our shoe leather against the rounded cobblestones and the dichotomy between the loud, riot of colors and the quiet, graciousness of the residents.  Toward the end of the day Cynthia and I tended to unravel.  After a day  of walking and getting too much sun we both needed energy, a small pick-me-up to tide us over until we got back to home base: our grandparent’s house.  On every corner it seems there was a minute wooden cart, always gaily painted a bright red, shielded from the searing afternoon rays of the sun by a striped awning or umbrella.  Alongside the cart and in the shade sat the vendor usually on a folded, wooden chair, wearing a straw hat and welcoming us with a brilliantly white and friendly smile.  All the vendors were kind and patient with us, treating us as the adults we had yet to be.  Some sold ice cream, some snow cones shaved from huge blocks of ice and others offered little bags of plantain chips gathered in small, wax paper bags, folded at the top and fastened with one staple in the center of the parcel.  We were, and still are, crazy about them.  Each bag was 10¢.  When enjoying these plantain chips with my husband, Jimmy, he pointed out it gives new meaning to “dime bag”.  But they were a fabulous treat for us and gave us the stamina needed until we reached home.  We loved everything about them, from the “snap” of the first chip down to the bits of salt at the bottom of every bag.  Another perfect ending to a perfect day.

This is one hors d’oeuvre you won’t often see here in the states unless you are at a gathering with Latinos.  Plantain chips are easy and quick to prepare.  And although they are fried, you will find that properly stored, the chips stay fresh and crisp for two or three days after preparing…if they last that long.  In fact, I find their flavor almost deeper the following day.  Plantain chips are typically served as an appetizer or snack but my family and I love them crumbled over shrimp, fish or mixed green salad.  We like them sprinkled with sea salt or drizzled with a little chimichurri sauce. They marry exceptionally well with all manner of sea food.  This recipe may be doubled or tripled and if not serving immediately, do not need to be reheated. Just serve them at room temperature.  The thick, hard peel of the green plantain has to come off, easily done but not as easy as peeling a yellow banana.  Plantains stain your fingers so I always wear disposable gloves.  The following is how I peel them.  You will find 3-4 ridges running lengthwise on each plantain.  Using a paring knife cut through the peel down the length of the plantain taking care not to cut into the flesh.  Starting at the top, slide your finger under the skin and pry each section away.  I run the paring knife lightly over the surface of each plantain to scrape off any bits of peel left behind.  You’ll see the flecks of peels as they will turn gray in color making it easy to scrape off any missed.  The chips are thinly sliced into a 1/16″ thickness.  I use a lightweight mandoline that makes slicing the plantains a snap but obviously a sharp kitchen knife will work just fine.  Some people then give the sliced plantains a quick rinse of salted water, drain them well, then fry them.  The rinsing keeps the starchy slices from sticking together.  However, I find no matter how well I drain them there is always a certain amount of moisture causing the hot oil to pop so I don’t rinse.  It’s up to you.  I keep my gloves on while frying, also, to avoid any stains as my fingers touch the slices while dropping them into the hot oil.  Last of all, and this is important, the very second you take the chips out of the hot oil and drain on paper towels sprinkle them with sea salt.  The tiny bit of oil on them will help the salt to stick whilst the oil drains off.

Fried Green Plantain Chips

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 2 green plantains
  • vegetable or canola oil
  • sea salt
  1. Peel the plantains and cut into round slices 1/16″ thick, about the thickness of a quarter.
  2. In a frying pan heat about 2-3 inches vegetable or canola oil to a little lower than high, about 375°.
  3. If rinsing the slices do so now.  Fill a large bowl with salted water, put the sliced plantains in the water, swirl with your hand and drain in a colander.   Pat dry with paper towels.
  4. Carefully drop the chips into the hot oil in batches.  I typically fry one sliced plantain at a time.
  5. As the slices hit the hot oil, stir with a spider or slotted spoon to keep the chips from sticking together.
  6. Fry until golden, about 3-4 minutes, gently stirring all the while to ensure even cooking.
  7. With the spider or slotted spoon, remove the chips and transfer to paper towels to drain.
  8. Immediately sprinkle with sea salt and serve.
  9. If serving another time, store the cooled plantain chips in an airtight gallon freezer bag or plastic container.

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