Individual Nachos

I love nachos, but they don’t love me. If they did, then the platter wouldn’t be so overstuffed with deliciousness! It’s really hard to practice portion control when you’re facing all those chips.

To make my life easier, I love to make individual nachos. These handheld bites have everything that makes a nacho great: crispy corn tortilla chip, meat or beans or both, tangy salsa, cheese, sour cream, olives if you wish. They’re perfect for leftover meats like pulled pork. And, of course, they’re gluten free!

These nachos are also great for parties where you don’t want to serve a big messy platter of food. Figure three chips (or one corn tortilla) per guest, and load them up with your favorite toppings!

Socca (Chickpea Flatbreads)

Socca, and its cousins farinata, cecina, tortillata, or fainá (among others), is probably the best gluten-free bread you’ve never heard of. At its most basic, it consists of three ingredients: chickpea (garbanzo bean0 flour, water, and olive oil. These ingredients are mixed together, the batter is poured into a hot pan or skillet, baked until crisp and brown.

Simple, huh? As you can imagine, any food that simple has be delicious and flexible. Socca (and relatives) takes on different flavors based on how you choose to season it. Want to keep it basic? Fresh rosemary is traditional. Thyme is delicious. Za’atar is unusual — or not, since this dish has a Middle Eastern cousin. Even Indian spices work well here.

Socca is traditionally thin and a bit crisp on the outside, but still flexible. Farinata, or those I’ve encountered, are a bit thicker. Much of the final product depends on how thick your batter is — for the recipe, I’m suggesting a medium-weight batter. Make it thicker or thinner according to your taste.

Hint: since this is a great flatbread, you can also treat it a bit like a pizza, with great toppings!

Caramelized Onion Dip

For a few years, I had the nutty idea that healthy appetizers should be served at parties. I slipped them in alongside chips and dips. It sorta worked…the chips and dip always disappeared, and, yes, people went for the carrots and celery. Because they were even better covered in onion dip.

Since commercial dried onion soup mixes can contain gluten (as of this writing, it contains a barley product), I had to come up with my own recipe. Luckily, there’s nothing I enjoy more than letting onions caramelize on the stove while I’m making other foods for a party. This recipe makes a good amount of dip — adjust ingredients to fit the number of people you’re feeding.

And don’t be surprised to find every bit of it gone by the end of the evening!

Quick Pickled Carrot Sticks

I started craving pickled carrots after a great chirashi at a Japanese restaurant. A chirashi is, essentially, a dish of sushi rice topped with an assortment of fish. This particular meal came with about four tiny pickled carrots…and, oh, they were good.

So while I was making my own chirashi, I thought “I have carrots, I have time, I want pickled carrots.” And they were so easy. I served them that night, but they keep for about a month in the refrigerator, meaning that lovely pickly flavor keeps building over time.

[box type=”note” style=”rounded” border=”full”]You can use this basic recipe to pickle other kinds of vegetables as well[/box]

Nachos

Nachos are the ultimate party food (and, sometimes, main course). They’re great for those parties where sitting around and munching is an essential part of the gathering. As with so many dishes, Nachos are a flexible food: other than a base of tortilla chips and a good amount of gooey cheese, what you put on your dish is your business.

A note about nachos: they can made vegetarian or with your favorite type of meat.

If you wish to make your own guacamole, find the recipe here.

Guacamole

For many years, I pretended I didn’t know how to make guacamole. My husband, swearing he had one half of a top secret recipe, insisted guacamole was man’s work. Of course, since he only had half the recipe (the avocado half, from what I can tell), this meant, well, no homemade guacamole.

Needless to say, this wasn’t workable on any level, so I just, you know, started making my own guacamole. It’s really quite simple — the ingredients are very flexible. And, since I live in Southern California, getting my hands on fresh avocados is so easy. One note: the texture of guacamole can range from creamy smooth to chunky — it’s all about your preferences.

One note: Many grocery stores carry vacuum-packed avocados in the deli/fresh foods section, and I am here to tell you they taste terrific.

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