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Monday, January 25, 2010

Mini Tostadas - Appetizer

For me, having an appetizer is a necessity if you have guests. You want something to much on, and everyone loves to eat. If dinner is taking too long, or if people are coming in at different times, an appetizer just makes it an easier transition piece. Plus, if you hit a home run with the appetizer, it can spill over onto the dinner plate if dinner turns out like crap!

Because I was planning a Latin-inspired meal, I wanted an easy starter that would be hearty, easy, and bursting with flavors. I knew we were having Vera Cruz fish for the main course, so I wanted to start with something crunchy. I also wanted it to double as part of the meal for the kids in case they weren't into the fish.

Starting with the base, you have a few immediate choices - corn or flour tortillas. Honestly, I just didn't feel like either of those would come off with the flaky, crunchy texture I was going for. So, I opted for wonton wrappers. They fry up quickly, they have the perfect texture to oppose fish, and they hold just about any flavor combination. Viola!

I knew I was topping this with ground beef, so it was just a matter of coming up with the right combination of ingredients to make that pop. I was also craving Salsa Verde, as well as Pico De Gallo, and some Queso Fresco

I thought things were headed in the right direction.

Ground beef topping:

1 white onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound ground beef
1 tomato, diced
dried oregano
Chili power
ground cumin
olive oil

Pour a couple glugs of olive oil in a pan and bring to medium-high heat. Add onion and fry up until browning (3-4 mintues). Add garlic and fry 30 seconds. Add tomato, and stir 30 seconds, then add beef and break up, and mix well. Season with oregano, chili powder, paprika, cumin, salt and pepper. Be generous! Fry up and then lower heat to keep warm for serving.

Salsa Verde:

2 pounds tomatillos, peeled and washed
1 jalapeno, diced
1 white onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic
juice of one lime

Place the tomatillos, onion and jalapeno on a baking sheet about 5" from a broiler and broil until charred - 10 minutes or so. You may want to line the sheet with foil, because the liquid from the tomatillos will ooze. Drop it all into a processor (in batches if you need). NOTE: Contents will be hot - you don't want the hot liquid to shoot out. Keep control of your kitchen! Add salt, pepper and lime to taste. Process this and pour off into container. Store in refrigerator for a few hours minimum for flavor meld.

Pico De Gallo:

6 vine-ripe tomatoes, chopped
1/2 red onion, minced
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeno, minced
lime juice
handful of cilantro, chopped

Chop and mix well. Refrigerate at least 2 hours for flavor melding. Stir often.

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