Rustic Olive Oil Crackers

Frustrated by the price and frequency at which we were buying crackers, I resolved to learn how to make the dang things myself. Homemade crackers may sound intimidating, but they are actually quite simple, especially rustic crackers like these Olive Oil Crackers. This cracker recipe is wonderfully simple and adaptive to any favor you would like to explore. Some toppings I’ve tried are: toasted sesame seeds, fresh rosemary, coarse salt or herbes de Provence. Inspired by the Ines Rosales Tortas de Aceite, I am excited to try a sweet version with anis and coarse sugar very soon.

The trick to these crackers is a pasta maker, a gentle hand and some patience. It’s important to get them thin and fairly even so that they crisp throughout. Have your sheet pans ready and lined with parchment before you start rolling the dough as you’ll want to set them down as soon as you’re done rolling.

These crackers make large rustic shapes that will look beautiful next to a cheese platter on your next dinner party. This recipe was developed by Heidi Swanson and published in her blog 101 Cookbooks here.

Rustic Olive Oil Crackers
1 1/2 cups semolina flour or whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 cup warm water
1/3 cup olive oil
Cornmeal for dusting
Topping of choice (optional)

1. Add flours and salt to your standing mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment. At low speed, add the water and olive oil in a slow steady stream. Mix the dough at medium speed for about 5 – 7 minutes. Alternately, feel free to mix and then knead by hand on a floured counter-top. The dough should be just a bit tacky – not too dry, not too sticky to work with. If you need to add a bit more water (or flour) do so.

2. When you are done mixing, shape the dough into a large ball. Now cut into twelve equal-sized pieces. Gently rub each piece with a bit of olive oil, shape into a small ball and place on a plate. Cover with a clean dishtowel or plastic wrap and let rest at room temperature for 30 – 60 minutes or up to a day.

3. While the dough is resting, preheat your oven to 450F degrees. Insert a pizza stone, if you have one, otherwise, line two sheet pans with parchment and set aside.

4. When the dough is done resting, flatten one dough ball. Using a rolling pin or a pasta machine, shape into a flat strip of dough – I can usually get down to the 4 setting on my pasta machine w/o trouble. Pull the dough out a bit thinner by hand (the way you might pull pizza dough). You can also cut the dough into whatever shape you like at this point. Set dough on a cornmeal-dusted baking sheet.

5. If you will be topping the crackers, lightly wash water over the cracker with a pastry brush. Sprinkle your topping of choice and slide into the oven (onto the pizza stone). Repeat the process for the remaining dough balls, baking in small batches. If you don’t have a pizza stone, bake crackers a few at a time on baking sheets. Bake until deeply golden. Slide the crackers from the cookie sheet onto a cooling rack. Cool completely before serving. Store in an airtight container for up to two weeks.

Makes a dozen extra large crackers.

Farinata – an Italian Treat

That Lynne Rosetto Kasper laughed a delightful gut laugh when asked about this dish on her radio show, The Splendid Table, gave away this as a must-try dish. Farinata (also known as socca) is a chickpea and olive oil pancake cooked over an open flame, traditional to Italy and the Meditteranean coast.
For dinner last night, I resolved to try my hand at farinata and discovered that it is as wonderful as Lynne described and very easy to make. Just whisk a simple batter of chickpea flour, water and olive oil until it resembles thin custard and then bake in a very hot, heavy cast iron pan until wonderfully crispy and golden brown. Last night I served the farinata alongside sautéed kale with garlic, onions and sundried tomatoes. Can’t wait to make it again!
Farinata is a perfect gluten free alternative to pizza and is also an ideal canvas for herbal and savory tones like fresh rosemary or sage, caramelized onions or kalamata olives.
Farinata
1 cup chickpea
1 1/2 cup warm water
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus more for coating the pan
1 tsp salt
black pepper to taste
1. Preheat oven to 550° F and place a 10″ cast iron skillet to get very hot. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, mix chickpea flour, salt, and pepper. Whisk in warm water and olive oil to the consistency of a thin custard.
2. Remove the hot skillet from the oven and coat in approx. 1 Tbsp olive oil. Pour 1/3 of the batter while swirling the pan to spread the batter evenly.
3. Return to the oven and bake for about 12 minutes until firm, golden brown with crisp edges. Use the broiler to brown the top, if needed. Remove the pan from the oven and serve right away.
Makes 3 farinata.

Deviled Eggs

Easter Deviled Eggs Recipe
Plate by Roger Baumann. Photo by Marta Bartolomei Edmonds.
The Easter egg hunt is for children, but deviled eggs are for adults. After the egg hunt is done and the children are playing, scoop up those decorated Easter eggs and have yourself a deviled egg feast.
Deviled eggs are a quick, easy, and delicious appetizer perfect for a dinner party. You can boil the eggs a day before serving, whip up the filling the morning of the party and fill and garnish right before the guests arrive.
The recipe I share with you today is a very basic recipe. I add the wasabi powder to give the filling some punch, but you can get creative with the garnish. What about some fresh chopped chives, dill or even some finely diced applewood smoked bacon? The one garnish I do not compromise on is the smoked paprika. It is an absolute requirement for my deviled eggs. The smoky sweet pepper compliments the creamy spicy filling so well.
Enjoy!
Deviled Eggs with Wasabi and Smoky Paprika
6 boiled eggs, at room temperature
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon wasabi powder
smoked Spanish paprika (pimentón)
1. Cut the boiled eggs in half and carefully remove the egg yolks onto a medium bowl. Add mayonnaise and dijon mustard and mash the ingredients with a fork until the are a light, smooth and creamy paste. Add salt to taste and stir to incorporate.
2. Scoop a heaping teaspoon of filling into each egg cavity. Use a fine wire-mesh sieve to dust each egg with wasabi powder. Garnish with a pinch of smoked paprika.
Makes 6 deviled eggs.

Tostones Fried Green Plaintains

Puerto Rican Recipe for Tostones Fried Green Plantains
This beautiful little plate was made by Roger Baumann and the white sauce dish was made by Jim Shack. Photo by Marta Bartolomei Edmonds.
Tostones and a good plate of white rice and pink beans made by my grandma is what I call home. This side dish of twice fried plantains is as ordinary in a Puerto Rican household as french fries are here in the U.S., but I have to say that in my food memory, tostones are a delicacy, especially the way my grandma makes them.
On our last visit to Puerto Rico I asked my grandma, Mima, to teach Angelica and I to make tostones her way. She’s shown me how to make them a dozen times and I’ve watched her and helped her make them them since I was a little girl, but I still can’t manage to get them quite right. Mima’s tostones are soft on the inside and crusty on the outside with a salty crispy edge that makes them just perfect. Her secret is dipping them in salty water after they have been smashed flat.
Fried green plantains can be served as a side to almost any Latin meal. They are a wonderful side to soak up the savory juices of a flavorful asopao de pollo (Puerto Rican chicken stew). I especially love them served alongside a juicy bistek encebollado (steaks cooked in onions) or pernil (roasted pork). Tostones also make an interesting appetizer served with guacamole or stuffed with savory stewed seafood or ceviche.
A note about plantains: Plantains are a larger, starchier version of the banana and are usually sold by the piece. Grocery stores and most Latin markets will carry green plantains and ripe plantains. For tostones, pick plantains that are green or green with a hint of yellow. I prefer a plantain that is green with a hint of yellow as they will have just a hint of sweetness that is such a nice compliment to the salty exterior. Avoid using yellow plantains for this dish as a ripe plantain contains too much sugar and will burn in the first frying.
Tostones Fried Green Plantains
3 green plantains
2 cups warm water
2 teaspoons salt
canola oil for deep frying
1. Cut each plantain at either end and score them lengthwise three or four times by running your knife from one end of the plantain to the other to make a shallow line, deep enough to cut through the skin. Use your fingers to pry the hard skin from the plantain and peel. In a small bowl mix some warm water with enough salt to make the water salty, set aside.
2. Pour enough canola oil into a deep cast iron pot to make a 1″ deep pool. Heat the oil over medium heat until just a few drops of water sprinkled over the oil start crackling.
3. Slice the peeled green plantains on a slight diagonal into six even pieces. Arrange the plantain pieces in the hot oil (the oil should cover the pieces) and fry in batches until the plantain pieces are cooked. The pieces are cooked when they yield softly to a fork inserted into the plantain. Transfer the cooked pieces to a plate covered with paper towels to absorb the excess oil.
4. Now proceed to smash the cooked plantain pieces into 1/4 inch thick wheels. Some people like to use a tostonera for this task, but I find that the flat end of a glass or bowl works just as well to flatten the tostón against your cutting board. As soon as you smash them, place them in salty water for about a half a minute to allow them to soak some of the liquid. Remove them from the salty water and pat them dry with a paper towel and immediately place them in the hot oil to fry. Please be careful as plantains with excess water might splatter.
5. Fry the tostones in batches and remove from the hot oil once crispy and golden yellow. Remove and drain once again in a plate with paper towel. Serve the tostones right away while still piping hot.
Makes 18 tostones.

Chicken Escabeche

Chicken Escabeche Appetizer Recipe
Photo by Marta Bartolomei Edmonds.
If you are planning a Three Kings Day party to mark the end of the holiday season, try this savory appetizer. Chicken escabeche (pollo en escabeche) is delicious, easy to make and can be prepared days ahead of a party.
Escabeche refers to a marinade of fragrant olive oil, vinegar (or citrus), onions, garlic, black peppercorns and bay leaves. It originates from Spain and can be found throughout Latin America. There are many different applications of the escabeche marinade. You can use escabeche to poach fish, seafood or chicken for juicy entrées. Another application is to add the prepared escabeche marinade to cooked starchy vegetables like yuca and green bananas to make a savory side dish like yuca escabeche (yuca en escabeche) or green banana escabeche (guineos verdes en escabeche – a personal favorite). Most escabeche recipes are best served after marinading for a day and served at room temperature.
The recipe I share with you today is for a chicken escabeche appetizer. You will poach chicken breasts in the escabeche marinade, then shred the chicken into bite-sized pieces to serve on crackers. It’s a perfect party appetizer as you can prepare it a day or two ahead. Serve the escabeche at room temperature with a simple cracker. My favorite cracker to serve it with is the most humble saltine cracker. It’s also great with matzos or cracked wheat crackers. Try it, your guests will love chicken escabeche.

Photo by Marta Bartolomei Edmonds.
Chicken Escabeche Appetizer (Pollo en Escabeche)
2 boneless chicken breasts
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup white vinegar
2 large onions, sliced across into thin rounds
4 garlic cloves, sliced
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon salt
1. Heat olive oil in a heavy saucepan over medium heat until it simmers. Add the chicken, bay leaves, peppercorns and salt. Top with the sliced onions, garlic and white vinegar. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes.
2. Remove the chicken breasts and cook the escabeche marinade in low heat until the onions are clear (don’t allow the onions to caramelize). Use two forks to shred the chicken into bite size pieces and return the shredded chicken to the escabeche marinade.
3. Transfer the chicken escabeche to a glass container and cool to room temperature. Refrigerate for 24 hours to allow the flavors to develop. Serve at room temperature with your choice of crackers.
Makes 4 cups of escabeche.

Sorullitos de Maiz Corn Fritters

Sorullitos de Maiz Puerto Rican Corn Fritter Recipe
Plate and bowl by Jim Shack. Photo by Marta Bartolomei Edmonds.
Making sorullitos de maiz takes me back to childhood, standing around Abuela Sara’s clean and ample kitchen with my favorite aunt Titi Sara. Titi would paint my nails, comb my hair, talk and play with me and she taught me how to make sorullitos. These simple Puerto Rican corn fritters made with cooked cornmeal and cheese are still a point of connection to my family that I hold dear. Such simple activities meant so much to me as a growing child.
Titi Sara would cook the dough and then ask me to help roll them into little logs that looked like fingers. She taught me how to take a little mound of hot dough in my hands and to roll it quickly between both hands so that the dough did not burn. We would hover around the kitchen counter rolling a stack of sorullitos and talking. Once the sorullitos where rolled, Abuela Sara would drop them into hot oil to fry. We enjoyed them immediately after frying on a napkin-lined plate with a pink dipping sauce made of ketchup and mayonnaise.
Sorullitos de maiz are a simple but versatile appetizer. The process and ingredients are somewhat similar to those of making polenta. You can add herbs, spices or garlic to the dough. I have also experimented with many different types of cheeses and have found that sharp, dry cheeses like parmesan, romano or manchego are a wonderful substitute to the traditional gouda. Sharp cheddar and edam are good substitutes too. A finer grain of cornmeal works best for this recipe. Avoid using white cornmeal flour or coarse cornmeal as they do not yield the right consistency of dough. This recipe for sorullitos de maiz comes from Carmen Aboy Valldejuli’s Cocina Criolla (translated into English as “Puerto Rican Cookery”).
You can make the sorullitos up to step 2 ahead of time and freeze the rolled sorullitos. When you are ready to fry them, simply remove them from the freezer and drop the frozen sorullitos into the hot oil.
Sorullitos de Maiz Corn Fritters
2 cups water
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cup corn meal
1 cup gouda cheese, shredded
canola oil, enough to fill a frying pan to a 1″ depth
secret dipping sauce
1. In a medium sauce pan, bring water and salt to a boil. Remove from heat. While vigorously stirring with a wooden spoon, gradually add the cornmeal. Continue stirring until the mixture comes apart from the sides and bottom of the pan. Add the shredded cheese and stir until well incorporated.
2. Roll the sorullitos, by taking a little mound of hot dough in your hands (about 1 tablespoon) and quickly rolling it into a ball. Using both hands roll the ball into a stick about 2 1/2 inches in length. Working quickly, roll the rest of the sorullitos.
3. Heat the oil in a frying pan over medium heat to about 375° F (the oil will be hot enough when a drop of water crackles on contact with the hot oil). Fry the sorullitos until golden, turning as needed. Remove from the oil and drain on a paper towel.
4. Serve the corn fritters hot or at room temperature with the sauce.
Makes approximately 50 sorullitos.

Lemony Cumin Chips

Lemony Cumin Corn Chips Recipe
Photo by Marta Bartolomei Edmonds. Plate by Scott Bartolomei Edmonds.
These tangy chips are a great companion to a frothy beer or an icy margarita. Scott and I have been serving these to guests for years and we’ve never had a complaint. On the contrary, these chips are usually a big hit. Serve as a simple appetizer with a dip like salsa, guacamole or hummus. They are super easy to make and so much better than a store bought bag of corn chips.
Lemony Cumin Chips
6 fresh corn tortillas
lemon pepper
ground cumin
kosher salt
canola oil for frying
1. Pour about one inch of oil into a heavy frying pan. Heat over medium high heat until the oil is hot (to test if the oil is hot, carefully sprinkle a few drops of water into the oil – the oil will sizzle loudly when ready).
2. Cut the corn tortillas into 1/4″ thin strips and fry in small batches until the strips are light and golden. Use a slotted spoon to remove chips from oil. Place the chips on a paper towel to drain any excess oil. Sprinkle liberally with lemon pepper, cumin and kosher salt to taste.
Makes 3 servings.

Gingered Guacamole with Lemony Cumin Chips

Guacamole and Chips Recipe
Photo by Marta Bartolomei Edmonds. Bowl by Roger Baumann. Plate by Scott Bartolomei Edmonds.
Life is full of small delights. Guacamole is one such delight. I enjoy this simple dish in its most basic incarnation: chunks of avocado decorated with green onions, a dash of salt and drizzled extra virgin olive oil. But today, I’m experimenting with ginger.
When it comes to guacamole, my thought is: the simpler the better. It’s all about the plump, ripe avocado, the olive oil and the salt, but, adding a little something like minced ginger can really change your experience.
Recently I learned that the ancient Aztecs named this delightful fruit ahuakatl – testicle – and that they prized it as an aphrodisiac. I hold avocado in high regard, not because of its shape suggestive of that hanging fruit between a man’s legs, but because the flavor and texture is so deeply satisfying. Avocado’s silky texture and rich flavor heightens the experience of any meal.
This summer dish is a twist on traditional guacamole. Fresh grated ginger gives it a kick and the radish adds a surprisingly clean, crispy element. Serve it with homemade lemony cumin chips that will make mouths water.
Learn more about avocados here.
Gingered Guacamole
1 ripe Hass avocado
1 radish, cut into matchsticks
1 green onion, sliced
1/2 teaspoon of fresh minced ginger
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt, to taste
Lemony Cumin Chips
1. Quarter and peel a ripe avocado. Cut it into 1/4″ chunks and place in a bowl. Add the radish, green onion, ginger, olive oil and gently stir. Add salt to taste and serve.
Makes 1 cup.