Whenever I travel, my friends and family always ask me the same question, “What did you eat?” Oftentimes, I’ll incorporate the foods I enjoyed during my travels into appetizers so that I may share a little bit of my experience with others. It’s a tactile way of telling “travel tales” as I call it, and I recommend that you try to do the same. It’s also a lot of fun! Just prepare your version of the dishes that you have enjoyed while on holiday. I like to make easy-to-eat appetizers, pour some bubbly, and tell travel tales during a relaxed afternoon or an early evening at home. You can even host a Potluck Travel Party. Have your guests bring appetizers of foods they discovered during their travels and share stories while enjoying a taste of this country or a bite of that one. Here are of some my favorite appetizers influenced by my travels around the world. The best part is that most of these dishes can be prepared with no or little cooking involved.
It’s no secret, my favorite of the Latin foods is traditional Mexican cuisine. Whenever we go (our most frequented place as a couple) we seek out all the mom and pop restaurants and food trucks for authentic Mexican food. I remember this stuffed bell pepper filled with chorizo and Oaxaca cheese floating on a spicy tomato sauce. I knew right away that I could make it into a great appetizer for a party using colorful sweet mini-peppers.
Here’s how I make them. First preheat your oven to 375 degrees, than cut off just the top of 6 mini-red peppers, leaving the stems whole and intact. Carefully take out the seeds. Sprinkle with salt and set aside. In a mixing bowl, add two cups of seasoned panko bread crumbs, cilantro, and diced peppers (use one of the mini’s). Add chopped Mexican chorizo to the mixture along with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, salt and pepper to taste, and mix well. Stuff the sweet mini-peppers until bursting and put them in the oven for about 20 minutes. Set those colorful peppers on a long plate and watch them disappear.
Every time we’re in Madrid or Barcelona, we head right for Restaurant Row and drink Sangrias and eat tapas until we burst! The shrimp dishes are a big hit with my partner, and the shrimp shooters I make for cocktail parties are a big hit with guests. I take all those flavors and put them in a shot glass along with a pickfork and watch guests smile from ear to ear. They’re a cinch to make: grab a bag of salad shrimp (the smaller the better). Place your shelled and deveined salad shrimp in a bowl. Add 3 tablespoons of Spanish olive oil, diced cucumber, and red pepper. Sprinkle with parsley, salt and pepper, and a splash of an entire lime. Serve in shot glasses with a toothpick or mini-fork. Caution: these go quick so make plenty.
The food in Italy is really out of this world. Many of the dishes are simple to prepare and with no need for fuss. After all, delicious Italian foods are beautiful. One of my favorite appetizers comes straight from Florence. They stuff figs with mascarpone and goat cheese wrapped up with slices of prosciutto and warm fresh bread. I make my own version as an appetizer. I nix the bread, swap out the figs with sweet dates, and then I wrap the whole thing with a slice of prosciutto. It’s as easy as that. These make for great appetizers for any occasion.
Carefully make an incision with a small, sharp knife and stuff the seedless dates with your mascarpone/goat cheese mixture (1 to 1 ratio). Wrap the entire fruit with a slice of prosciutto and skewer with a pretty toothpick. Sweet, savory, salty, and simple!
On one of our romantic trips to Paris, we had a delicious crab salad. It was out of this world and so simple. The peppery, sharp taste of crisp endive, and the tender, succulent crab was a great complement in flavor to our salad. A baguette and a small bottle of white wine rounded out the delicious meal. My wheels were spinning with ideas every time I took a bite.
I paired the salad down to just the crab and endive for my appetizer. In a bowl, place of crab-claw meat, the juice of 1 lime, dill, and red pepper, and mix carefully so as not to break the meat up too much. Add salt and pepper along with some chili flakes. Mix well and place a tablespoon on an endive leaf. Serve with wedges of lime at your next party. Pair these with a French white wine.
There really is no salad fresher than a Greek salad with tons of feta cheese. The flavors of Greek olives, cucumbers, tomatoes, and feta are so refreshing and a summer favorite of mine. I racked my brain thinking how I could get those large salads into an appetizer. Then it hit me: why not serve it on a stick?
Carefully cube your feta cheese into bitesize pieces. Skewer Greek olives, cherry tomato halves, and cucumber rounds (in that order) with your feta cheese. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with oregano.