Let’s Talk Food: Holiday appetizers

  • Courtesy of AUDREY WILSON Malasadas at KTA.

As the holidays approach, all too quickly, we need to start thinking about some holiday appetizers for that special gathering with family and friends.

Simple and easy are two traits for pupus that work well together, especially if you have other dishes to prepare, such as a main dish, starch, vegetables and dessert.

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Frozen ingredients including puff pastry and phyllo dough are very impressive, and make very elegant appetizers.

This is a great appetizer that can be made up to three months ahead and frozen until the day of your party:

Spinach and Artichoke in Puff Pastry

Drain well by pressing between paper towels:

1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed

Place in bowl, add:

1 (14-ounce) can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Thaw to room temperature, about 30 minutes:

1 (17.3 ounce) package frozen puff pastry

Place on lightly floured surface. Spread half of spinach mixture over pastry sheet, leaving 1/2-inch border. Roll up pastry, jelly roll or maki-zushi fashion, pressing to seal. Wrap in plastic wrap (if you are going to freeze and prepare later, wrap it several times in plastic wrap and then with foil.) Repeat with remaining pastry and spinach mixture. Freeze at least 30 minutes or up to three months. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut into 1/2-inch thick slices, place on baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake for 20 minutes, or until golden brown.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

• • •

Here’s an appetizer using frozen phyllo dough:

Chicken and Cheese Bites

Makes: 6 turnovers.

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Melt in a skillet:

1 tablespoon salted butter

Add:

1 small chopped red bell pepper

1/2 cup chopped round onion

1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic

1 teaspoon finely chopped jalapenos (you can add more if you want it hotter)

Cook on medium-high heat 5 minutes, until vegetables are softened and liquid is evaporated. Add:

2 cups cooked and finely chopped chicken breasts

1 teaspoon ground cumin

Continue cooking 4 minutes, until the chicken is heated through.

Remove from heat, cool 10 minutes. Stir in:

1/2 cup sour cream

1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

3 tablespoons cilantro leaves, chopped

Thaw:

18 sheets (18-by-14-inch) sheets frozen phyllo dough

Melt:

1 stick salted butter

Place one sheet phyllo dough on flat surface. With basting brush, spread melted butter on top, then place two additional sheets on top, buttering each sheet. Trim stack with kitchen shears to 18-by-12 1/2 inches. Cut stack in half crosswise, cut each stack lengthwise into 2 1/2-inch strips. Spoon 2 teaspoons filling onto center of each stack of strips. Form triangles by folding lower right hand corner of each strip to opposite side, continue folding in triangles to end of strip.

Place triangles onto baking pans lined with parchment paper. Repeat five more times with remaining dough and filling. Bake 12-16 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm with salsa.

Foodie bites

Malasada update:

Our son had an interesting conversation with Gerald DeMello, who I could say is an expert on Hawaii’s history. Gerald has so many wonderful stories of the past, as he collected information through oral history, and I always admired him for that. When he found out Reid was our son and then knew we recently went to Portugal, Gerald shared his knowledge of the malasada with Reid.

“In Hawaii, most ethnic Portuguese that came to work as laborers in the sugar industry trace their genealogy over the past five and six generations to Madeira Islands and/or Azores Islands, mainly Sao Miguel. Other islands in the Azores use a different name for what we call the malasadas. In addition, mainland Portugal and other parts of Portugal also use different names for the same or similar treat or pastry.

“Here in Hawaii, malasadas became especially critical. The people who were contracted to work in the plantations could only afford so much flour, etc., to bake bread. The Portuguese bread was a staple, central to meals and also in the religious culture (bread being the body of Christ, wine being the blood, Catholicism for communion, etc). In effect, for meals and spiritual significance … a precious commodity, so when making bread, inevitably when flour is badly baked or the flour that didn’t quite make it into bread (bad dough), the dough was fried. ‘Mal’ is ‘bad’ in Portuguese and Spanish, ‘sada,’ or ‘assada,’ meaning to ‘bake.’

“The practice, you don’t throw anything away, very practically roll into a ball, create treats for dessert for children, family, etc., (malasada) and very notable for festive events.

“And, of course traditionally, Malasada Day in Hawaii, the day before Ash Wednesday.”

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Thank you, Gerald. for this information. Gerald has in file an article he wrote about the history of the malasada and is going to send it to me later. What was in his head from memory is a lot and gives me a new appreciation of the malasada.

Email Audrey Wilson at audreywilson808@gmail.com.