Fun and easy appetizers

March 6, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
Prepare delicious and beautiful appetizers for your next gathering. Entertaining has never been easier! You'll find something for all tastes in the book, "50 Great Appetizers." Sharing some of these great recipes is the book's author and culinary instructor, Pamela Sheldon Johns.

Recipe: Lemon Chicken Escabeche

Escabeche is a Spanish dish of poached or fried fish in a vinegar- or citrus-based marinade. This Mexican version uses chicken and gives it a Latin flair. Be sure the chicken is completely cooled before you dice it, or it will shred.

  • 4 lemons, halved crosswise
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 cup fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup chicken stock (page 104)
  • 1 whole skinless, boneless chicken breast
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded, deribbed, and diced
  • 3/4 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
  • 1/4 cup diced jicama
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

Scoop the pulp from the lemon halves with a grapefruit spoon or teaspoon, reserving the pulp and juice. Strain the juice and set aside. Cut a small slice from the bottom of each lemon half so that it will stand upright.

Make a cilantro pesto: With the food processor running, drop in the garlic. Add the cilantro leaves, pine nuts, reserved lemon juice, and olive oil. Process to a smooth paste and set aside.

Bring the chicken stock to a boil. Add the chicken breast and lower the heat to a simmer. Cook until opaque throughout, about 20 minutes. Remove from the stock and let cool (reserve the stock for another use).

Dice the cooled chicken and put it in a bowl. Add the bell pepper, corn, jicama, and cilantro pesto and toss to mix well. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or as long as overnight.

Place a lemon half on each plate. Spoon the chicken mixture into the lemon halves and serve. Serves 8

From 50 Great Appetizers by Pamela Sheldon Johns, Andrews McMeel Publishing

Rice Croquettes Filled with Gorgonzola

Rice needs to be a high-starch rice so it will be sticky. Short-grain rice, even arborio prepared like risotto, works well.

  • 2 cups cooked short-grain rice
  • 2 ounces Gorgonzola Dolcelatte cheese, cut into 1/2-inch nuggets
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup fine dried bread crumbs, toasted
  • Vegetable oil for frying

With your hands, form the rice into small oval balls, about 1 1/2 inches in diameter, and tuck a nugget of the cheese into the center of each one. You should have 16 balls in all. Set aside on a plate.

Dip each ball into the egg, and then into the bread crumbs coating well.

Pour vegetable oil into a skillet to a depth of 1 inch of oil and heat over medium heat until hot, but not smoking. Working in batches so as not to crowd the pan, add the rice balls and fry, turning frequently, until golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes.

Using a slotted spoon, remove to paper towels to drain briefly. Arrange on a platter and serve at once.

Serves 8

50 reaons to entertain
Acclaimed Chef and Instructor Pamela Sheldon Johns Announces Culinary Tour

Entertaining has never been easier, especially with the right ingredients and a little culinary insight. Pamela Sheldon Johns' new book, 50 Great Appetizers, is the springboard for her upcoming cooking class tour where she will teach students how to easily prepare delicious and beautiful appetizers for their next gathering.

The array of recipes range from light Orange-Broccoli Salad, perfect for party goers watching their waistlines, to hearty Lamb Fritters with Curry Sauce that can double as a main course. In Pamela's classes, she will not only provide instruction on how to prepare recipes from her book, but will also offer tips on entertaining.

Although cooking classes are the primary focus of her tour, Pamela will also participate in several seminars, discussing various olive oils, including, Pace da Poggio Etrusco, her very own organic extra-virgin blend from her olive farm in Tuscany, and will also hold book-signings. A complete listing of cooking classes, seminars and book-signings is located at the end of this release in chronological order.

About "50 Great Appetizers":

Buy the book on Amazon: 50 Great Appetizers

In 50 Great Appetizers (Andrews McMeel Publishing, $14.99, October 2008), acclaimed chef and culinary instructor Pamela Sheldon Johns offers four categories of taste-tingling teasers: topped & dipped, grilled & skewered, stuffed & rolled, and plated & sauced. Not only does she provide simple sophistication for the taste buds, but she offers advice for party planning, including tips on presentation, preparation, decoration, and food safety.

Also included are 10 themed menus featuring recipes for Middle Eastern mezes, farmers' market morsels, Mexican antojitos, vegetarian plates, and more. With 50 Great Appetizers close by, your gathering is sure to be a successful experience of flavor and texture.

Recipes include Heirloom Tomato Bruschetta, Prosciutto and Arugula Mini Pizzas, Tea-Smoked Chicken Wings, Grilled Eggplant Rolls, Italian Ruby Chard Custard, and many more. No matter which recipes you choose to serve at your next party, your guests will be delighted and might even skip the entrée because they can't stop eating the delicious appetizers. 50 Great Appetizers also makes the perfect hostess gift because its recipes are too good not to share.

About Pamela Sheldon Johns:
When she is not cooking, Pamela investigates the exquisite details of Italian food culture. She is an international juror and lifetime member of Slow Food, a former national board member of the American Institute of Wine & Food, and a professional member of the International Association of Culinary Professionals. She has written a baker's dozen of cookbooks. Pamela and her family make their home in Tuscany, where she hosts food and wine workshops. In September 2007, Food & Wine magazine included Pamela's Italian Food Artisans in a list of Italy's top cooking schools.

Cooking class, seminar and book-signing

Sur La Table: Cooking Class
Friday, March 6, 6:30 pm
77 Maiden Lane, San Francisco, CA, 94108
Phone 415.732.7900
Menu: White Bean-Rosemary Crostini; Crispy Parmigiano Shells with Mixed Greens; Baby Artichokes; Bite-Size Polenta Squares with Goat Cheese and Sun-Dried Tomatoes; Potato-Red Onion Flatbread; Marinated Mussels and Clams; Roasted Garlic and Leek Soufflé

Ferry Market: Seminar on Olive Oil
Saturday, March 7, 12:00 pm
One Ferry Building, San Francisco, CA, 94111
Phone: 415.693.0996
Pamela presents an overview of olive oil production, with a discussion of the different regions, varieties of olives, and agricultural and production practices. Olive oil tasting, including Pace da Poggio Etrusco, her own organic extra-virgin oil, produced at her farm in Tuscany. Short cooking demo will include recipes from 50 Great Appetizers.

Ramekins Cooking School: Cooking Class
Sunday, March 8, 11:00 am
450 W. Spain St., Sonoma, CA, 95476
Phone 707.933.0450
Menu: Pinzimonio; Bagna Cauda; White Bean-Rosemary Crostini; Caramelized Onion and Gorgonzola Bruschetta; Chicken Liver Crostini; Mozzarella, Basil, and Cherry Tomato Skewers; Bite-Size Polenta Squares with Goat Cheese and Sun-Dried Tomatoes; Prosciutto and Arugula Mini Pizzas; Pepper-Crusted Tuna, Onion and Pepper Skewers