Oswald Rivera

Author, Warrior, and Teacher

Category: Appetizers (page 2 of 3)

Stuffed Eggs Seville Style

When I was growing up, one of the favorite dishes we had in the family was stuffed eggs (think of deviled eggs). But our method was called stuffed eggs “Seville style.” My Uncle Phillip, of late memory, swore that this was the way they prepared eggs in Seville. I have no historical proof of this. We just took him at his word. We know that Seville (Sevilla – “Seh-Vee-Yah” in Spanish) is a city in Southern Spain. It was under Muslim rule for over 400 years and it could have been the Muslims who introduced this type of dish to the region. Again, this is all conjecture on my part. If somebody out there has more accurate information, please let me know.

The dish itself is very easy to prepare. All you need is eggs, olives, onion, mayo and Worcestershire sauce. That’s it. It’s quick and convenient and will impress family and company. The recipe is from my first cookbook, Puerto Rican Cuisine in America  (Perseus Books – Running Press). Enjoy.
       (Stuffed Eggs Seville Style) 

8 hard boiled eggs
1/2 cup chopped pimento stuffed olives
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1. Slice eggs in half lengthwise and remove yolks. Set the hollow whites aside.
2. In a bowl, combine yolks, olives, onions, mayonnaise, mustard and Worcestershire sauce. Mix well.
3. Stuff the hollow egg whites with the egg-yolk mixture.
4. Place in a serving dish the refrigerator and chill.
    Yield: 4 to 6 servings.

Photo: courtesy of Real Simple – Life Made Easier

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Pimientos Rellenos (Stuffed Peppers)

In the Jewish Calendar, this week commemorates the beginning of the holiday known as Sukkot. This is the harvest festival that follows the solemn holiday of Yom Kippur, or the Day of Atonement. Among the traditional foods served on this occasion are stuffed vegetables. It is noted that stuffed foods represent a bountiful harvest. Think of a cornucopia of veggies and fruit. Thus, in celebration, I’m putting out my pimientos rellenos recipe from my first cookbook, Puerto Rican Cuisine in America (Perseus Books Group—Running Press). So, my Jewish friends and colleagues, liven up the occasion with stuffed peppers Puerto Rican style. And for those of you who are not Jewish, it’s still a great dish to enjoy anytime.

Let me add that the recipe calls for shredded cheddar cheese on top. You can either omit or add it to the mix.

     (Stuffed Peppers)

4 medium green or red bell peppers
6 whole black peppercorns
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon white vinegar
1 pound lean ground beef
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
1 cup dry bread crumbs
2 medium tomatoes, cored and diced
1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Slice the top off the peppers. Remove and discard the seeds and white veins.
3. Drop peppers into boiling water to cover and boil for 3 minutes. Remove, drain and set aside.
4. In a mortar, crush peppercorns, garlic, oregano and salt. Blend in olive oil and vinegar.
5. In a bowl, combine meat with seasoning.
6. Brown meat in a very hot skillet (no extra oil is necessary).
7. Add onion, bread crumbs, tomatoes and tomato sauce. Cook, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes.
8. Stuff the peppers with beef-tomato filling and place in a shallow baking dish. Top with shredded cheese, if desired, and bake 20-25 minutes.
    Yield: 4 servings.

photo: courtesy of Andicakes

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Papaya Preserve (A Glorious Dessert)

Back on the block, when I was coming up in the world, one of our favorite desserts was papaya, especially Dulce de Papaya, or papaya preserve. I love papayas. They are a delicate fruit whose peak season is from June until September. They are great right now. Although today, in most supermarkets, they are available year round. When papayas are green, they taste awful. But when ripe, they are delicious. Still, be aware that if too ripe they’ll dry out. You can discern ripeness by a smooth yellow color and tenderness to the touch. An overripe papaya will start to discolor. So seek out only that fruit which is mellow yet firm and unblemished.

For cooking purposes, a moderately ripe papaya will do. Some cooks say only green ones should be used for making a preserve. The problem with that is that more sugar is needed as a sweetener. I’ve discovered with the recipe given below that you can use sugar or maple syrup (which is my innovation). Since I spend my summers in Vermont, I prefer the maple syrup, which is healthier. Oh, yes, the recipe is from my cookbook, Puerto Rican Cuisine in America (Perseus Books Group, Running Press).

   (Papaya Preserve)

3 medium ripe papayas, peeled, seeded, and cut into into 1/2-inch strips
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 quarts water
2 sticks cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground anise seed
1 cup maple syrup (or 2 cups sugar)

1. Place papayas in  saucepan with water to cover. Add salt and let stand 5 minutes.
2. Drain and rinse under cold running water. Place in a pot or heavy kettle but not aluminum for it will stain. Add 2 quarts water, cinnamon sticks and anise seed.
3. Bring to a boil and cook on low-to-moderate heat, uncovered, for 15 minutes or until tender.
4. Add maple syrup and continue cooking, uncovered, for 20 minutes. Note: if using sugar, cook until sugar is thick and syrupy.
3. Remove cinnamon sticks and allow papaya preserve to cool at room temperature.
6. Serve in a dessert bowl or store in glass jar or container in the refrigerator.
    Yield: 4 servings.

Photo: courtesy of Vegetarian Times

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Shrimp Cocktail

In 1959, Italo Ghelfi, one of the original partners of the Golden Gate Casino, introduced the famous 25¢ shrimp cocktail to the casino and Las Vegas (photo: Welcome to the History of Las Vegas)
In his tome, American Cookery, published in 1972, the famous gourmand, James beard wrote, “There is no first course as popular as a cocktail of shrimp with a large serving of cocktail sauce.” Of course, he was describing the eternal shrimp cocktail, a concoction which was a variation on the “oyster cocktail” created sometime in 1860 by a miner in San Francisco—who accidentally dipped some oysters into ketchup.  By the 1900s a cocktail sauce had been created and shrimp, popular in Cajun/Creole cooking, had become the standard in the sauce. By the 1950s every party or gathering had shrimp cocktail as a standby.
Today, shrimp cocktail has become rather passé. Admittedly, not many people make it or order it in restaurants, from what I’ve seen. And that’s sad. A well-made shrimp cocktail is a delight for the palette. I loved it when I was a kid. It made me feel like an adult, partly because of the “cocktail” moniker. Anyway, I still love the dish. Given below is my own humble recipe for this delightful appetizer.
For the cocktail sauce:
½ cup chili sauce (I prefer Heinz)
1 cup ketchup
3 tablespoons prepared horseradish
Juice of ½ a lemon
½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
¼ teaspoon Tabasco sauce
1 clove garlic, finely minced
For the shrimp:
1 lemon, halved
1 clove garlic, peeled and halved
1 teaspoon salt
1 bay leaf
2 pounds large tail-on shrimp in the shell (about 30
1. Prepare the cocktail sauce: in a medium bowl, combine chili sauce, ketchup, horseradish, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco, and garlic. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
2. Have a large bowl of ice water ready to cool the shrimp. But first, to a large pot of water (about 8-quart), add the lemon, garlic, salt, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil. Add the shrimp, and when the water returns to a boil, the shrimp should be done (no more than 3 minutes total). They should be a bright pink and curled.
3. Remove with a slotted spoon to the ice water. When they are cool enough to handle (about 2 minutes), peel and remove the vein along the curve of the shrimp, but leaving the tail on. Serve at room temperature, or chilled, in a martini glass filled with cocktail sauce and the shrimp decoratively arranged and looped along the rim of the glass.   
    Yield: 4 to 6 servings, depending on size of cocktail glass.

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Churros for Cinco de Mayo

Cinco de Mayo is coming up. That is, the fifth of May holiday that is celebrated in Mexico, and now is popular in the United States. In the U.S. the holiday is a misnomer in a way. They regard it as Mexican Independence Day, something similar to our Fourth of July. In actuality, Cinco de Mayo celebrates the Battle of Puebla in Mexico wherein the French invaded Mexico (they saw an opportunity while the U.S. was busy fighting a Civil War), and 6,500 Frenchmen cam up against 4,000 Mexicans. A bloody battle ensued, and the Mexican army won. And what began as a local celebration in Puebla, is now celebrated in most other Mexican states as well.

In the fiesta of Cinco de Mayo, traditional foods such as guacamole, tamales, and tacos are enjoyed. But, how about something different for this coming Cinco de Mayo fest? Something delicious and sweet. I’m talking about churros. Basically, it’s a deep fried pastry dough also know as a Spanish doughnut. It was developed centuries ago by Spanish goat herders since it could be cooked quick and easy over an open fire. With the Spanish conquest of the Americas it wasn’t long before the dish made its way up to the Southwest, where it came be known as a Spanish cruller. I like churros; always have. It’s one of the best meals ever, either as a dessert or other.


1 cup water
½ cup butter or margarine
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 eggs
Vegetable oil
¼ cup brown sugar
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1. In a 3-quart saucepan, heat water, butter and salt over medium heat until it comes to a rolling boil. Add flour and stir over low heat until mixture forms into a ball, about 1 minute.
2. Remove from heat, add eggs and beat until smooth.
3. In a dip fryer or frying pan heat 1 ½ inches of oil to 360 degrees F.
4. Spoon pastry mixture into a decorator’s pastry tube fitted with a large star tip. Squeeze  4-inch strips of dough into the hot oil and fry, 3 or 4 strips at a time, until golden brown, turning once, about 2 minutes on each side. Drain on paper towels.
5. On a plate, mix cinnamon and sugar, and roll crullers in sugar mixture, and serve.
     Yield: about 2 dozen crullers.
caption: courtesy of POSTRES de la Cipota

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Deviled Eggs

One of my favorite appetizers is deviled eggs. I could eat a dozen at a time. Something about deviled eggs that is habit forming; like peanuts, you just can’t eat one. Deviled eggs are a simple convenience—hard boiled eggs cut in half, with the egg yolk mixed with mustard, mayonnaise and other ingredients. Nothing could be simpler. Question is: why are they called “deviled eggs?” According to the Oxford Companion to Food, the word “deviled” first appeared as a culinary term in the 18th century, and it meant “to cook something with fiery hot spices or condiments.” It stands to reason since heat and the devil have always had something in common (think of Hell). By the 19th century in America, “deviled” was applied to a variety of spicy dishes, inclusive of “deviled eggs.”

According to the TV show The Secret Life Of. . . . on the Food Network, deviled eggs originated in ancient Rome, where the use of spices or spicy sauces with eggs was very common. As one cane see, the dish has a noble and storied history. And in the 1950s and 60s it took off in America as a widely popular snack. In fact, they became so popular that a special tray was created to serve them.

The recipe given below is from Mrs. Alba Rosario Parsons, neighbor and dear friend in Vermont. The recipe has been in her family for ages. 


6 hard cooked eggs
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons Gulden’s mustard
1/8 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
Paprika for garnish
1/4 cup chopped stuffed Spanish olives

Peel the eggs. Cut them in half, and remove the yolk to a small bowl. Mash them with a fork, and add the mayonnaise, mustard, Tabasco, salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly. Using a spoon, fill up the empty egg halves with the mixture. Sprinkle lightly with paprika, and top with chopped olives.

Note: Instead of using a spoon, you can also make a hole at the end of a plastic ziplock baggy, put the mixture inside, and use the baggy as as sieve to fill the egg halves.

Caption: courtesy of photobucket.

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Clam Dip Appetizer

Wherever you dine these days, whether it’s a dinner with friends, or meal at your favorite hangout or restaurant, you usually start with an appetizer. What the more highfalutin among us call hors d’oeuvre. Back on the block, since we didn’t know any better, we would pronounce the thing phonetically, and it would come out as “whores ovaries.” No one said we we gourmets.

When we think of appetizers, we think of  “finger foods” normally served before the meal. And they can be very simple or complex depending upon the occasion. Appetizers trace their lineage back to Ancient Rome where the upper class,  called “patricians,” dined on eggs, fruits and other tidbits before the main course. Americans did not get into appetizers on a big scale until the 1950s. In a way, this can be traced back to James Beard‘s first cookbook, Hors d’oeuvre and Canapes, published in 1940, and which started the whole trend. Before then canapes and their ilk were the province of high class gentlemen who would dine on such with a glass of sherry before going into the dining room.

In this country, appetizers came into their own with the advent of the cocktail party. If you ever watched the TV series, Mad Men, all you’ll see is guys in suits with skinny ties, and gals with bouffant hair does munching on appetizers and snacks while drinking scotch and martinis. And the appetizer that exemplifies this is none other than my favorite, the clam dip appetizer. Easy to make and easy to serve. This recipe, the one given below, first appeared on a broadcast for the Kraft Music Hall of Fame in the 1950s. It is said that within 24 hours after the broadcast, New York City stores had sold out all their canned clams.


1 (8-ounce) can minced clams
1 garlic clove, peeled and cut
1 (8-ounce) Philadelphia brand package cream cheese
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
Ground pepper to taste

1. Drain clams, reserving 1/4 cup of liquid.
2. Rub a mixing bowl with garlic.
3. In the bowl, combine clams, clam liquid, cream cheese, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, salt, and pepper. Mix well until blended.
4. Chill until ready to use. Serve with crackers or potato chips.
    Yield: 4 servings or more.

Photo: courtesy of tastykitchen.com   

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Super Bowl Munchies

It’s that time of year again, kiddies, Super Bowl Time! That great American extravaganza. And this time it’s DIFFERENT! You have two brother as rival coaches. Think about sibling rivalry in all it’s glory. One brother coaches the San Francisco 49ers, the other, the Baltimore Ravens. I’ve always had a soft spot for the 49ers, but the coach for the Ravens (John Harbaugh) made his way up through the ranks via a regular coaching career, working his way up from assistant to head coach; while his brother (Jim) was a quarterback in the NFL before going into coaching. Yet, despite the differences, and the game, the other most important part of Super Bowl lore is FOOD.

So, for this Sunday ritual I’m recommending three dishes that have become a part of the experience. These are not definitive since there are probably scores of favorite munchies for this hallowed sporting event, with everything from finger foods to succulent dinners catered for the occasion. But these dishes are something the average Jane or Joe can serve along with the beer and Bloody Marys.

The three I’ve chosen are: guacamole (what would Supper Bowl Sunday be without guacamole?) It’s said that guacamole has pushed avocado sales to 30 million pounds twice a year: on Super Bowl Sunday, and Cinco de Mayo (on both sides of the border).  To accompany the guacamole, I’ve chosen nachos which, by the way, was invented in 1943 by Ignacio “Nacho” Anaya who had a restaurant just across the border from Eagle Pass, Texas. Mr. Anaya created the snack for the wives of U.S. soldiers stationed at Fort Duncan in Eagle Pass. The other dish is that great all-American classic, pigs in a blanket, which some sources claim originated in the 1960s in a diner along the fabled Route 66 in Oklahoma.


2 ripe avocados
¼ teaspoon fresh cilantro
1 clove garlic, peeled and mince
Juice of ½ a lime
Salt to taste
1.  Peel and mash avocado in a medium serving bowl.
2.  Stir in cilantro, garlic, lime juice, and salt. Chill for ½ hour to blend flavors. Serve with tortilla chips.

2 cups shredded cheddar cheese, divided
1 (4-ounce) can chopped green chilies, drained
1 (14-ounce) bag tortilla chips
1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
2. Spread about half of tortilla chips in a single layer onto a baking pan or sheet. Spread about 1 teaspoon of the green chilies over the chips. Sprinkle 1 cup of cheese over the chips. Repeat with the remaining chips, and top with another teaspoon of the chilies. Top with second cup of cheese.
3. Bake until the cheese is melted and bubbling, about 5 minutes. Remove from oven and serve with guacamole (and sour cream, if desired).

1 (5-ounce) can Libby’s Vienna Sausage or 1 package small cocktail wieners
American processed cheese slices
2 packages crescent rolls or refrigerated biscuit rolls
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Unroll crescent rolls and cut each one into thirds, making 3 small, long triangle strips.
3. Wrap a slice of cheese around each sausage and then each crescent roll around that.
4. Place on a greased cookie sheet and bake 10 minutes or until golden brown. Serve as is or with your favorite salsa, barbeque sauce, or ketchup. 


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Bruschetta (broo-sheh-tah) is just Italian bread drenched in olive oil and served with garlic and tomatoes. It goes back to at least the 15th century when folks where looking for a way to salvage stale bread. What better method than to drizzle it with olive oil and and top it with whatever was at hand? Apart from garlic and tomatoes, toppings may include basil, beans, and vegetables. According to the sources, bruschetta comes from the old Roman word bruscare (“to roast over coals”).

Some have compared bruschetta to plain garlic bread. But it’s more than that. It’s “garlic bread plus.” Now that summer is here and decent tomatoes are again available, bruschetta is a natural. I must admit that during the winter I survive on canned Italian tomatoes. Those measly specimens wrapped in cellophane just plain suck. And if you have a garden and grow your own tomatoes, you’re as close to heaven as you’ll ever be.

Bruschetta is commonly served as an appetizer (as in antipasto). But I’ve discovered you can serve it with almost any dish. I prefer it with steamed chicken—don’t know why, that’s just my thing. And since summer means grilling season, it goes great with any barbecue.

In the version given below,  I’ve added black olives and roasted peppers plus Pecorino or Parmesan cheese, whatever suits your palette.


5 to 6 ripe tomatoes, cut into large triangles
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup black olives
1/2 tablespoon fresh oregano (or 1 teaspoon dried)
Pecorino or Parmesan cheese to taste, grated or slivered
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
1 loaf Italian bread, cut at an angle into slices about 1/2-inch thick
1 clove garlic, cut in half
1 can or 7-ounce jar roasted pepper (pimentos), sliced for garnish.

  1.  Preheat oven  to 375 degrees.
  2.  Place tomatoes in a big bowl.
  3 . Add onion, olives and oregano
  4.  Sprinkle with Pecorino or Parmesan cheese.
  5.  Add olive oil and vinegar, and mix to blend.
  7.  Rub bread slices with garlic halves on both sides.
  8 . Place on a cookie sheet or baking pan in the oven and bake until slices are slightly browned or golden.
  9.  Arrange bread slices on a platter, and top with tomato mixture.
10. Top with pimento slices and garnish around edge of platter with same.
      Yield: 4-5 servings.

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Stuffed Plantain Balls

I love plantains, especially green plantain, the type that we prepare in fritters called tostones. But you also have ripe plantains; essentially green plantains that have ripened to a deep, dark yellowish color. Some people prefer the ripe plantain since they give a sweeter flavor. In my family we prefer tostones. Although once in a while we cook ripe plantains with eggs for breakfast; or in a traditional dish called pinon (pronounced peen-yon) , a layered casserole of ripe plantains, beef and kidney beans.

Another of our favorite uses of ripe plantains is cheese-stuffed plantain balls. Think of it as fallafel balls but with cheese inside and a luscious, sweet exterior. Believe me, once you’ve had these plantain balls, you’ll be hooked. They can be served as an appetizer or as a main entree accompanied by rice—a perfect vegan dish.


6 ripe plantains, unpeeled and cut in half widthwise
8 cups water
Salt to taste
1/4 cup butter
2 tablespoons cornstarch plus cornstarch for shaping balls
1/2 pound cheddar cheese, shredded
Oil for deep frying (vegetable oil, corn oil, canola oil, olive oil, etc.)

1. Drop the plantain halves into boiling salted water and cover. Cook rapidly for 20 minutes. Drain. Peel the plantains and mush the pulp. Add the butter and 2 tablespoons cornstarch and mix well. Let cool enough to handle.
2. To shape the balls, coat the palms of the hands with cornstarch. Pick up about 1 tablespoon of the pulp (or 1 teaspoon, depending on the size desired) and flatten slightly between the palms. Add a portion of the cheese and mold the plantain around it, shaping the whole into a ball. Repeat until all the balls are formed. Be aware that you can make the balls as large or as small as you desire. In the Rivera family we like big plantain balls. Other folk may prefer smaller variations similar to Swedish-type meatballs.
3. Heat the oil for deep frying. Drop the balls into the oil and cook until golden. Remove and drain on paper towels.
    Yield: 8 to 12 balls, depending on size.

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