A Fiesta of Mexican Appetizers


Summer entertaining is meant to be fun. I like serving foods that can be assembled quickly and shared on the patio or around the pool.

Mexican appetizers meet those criteria. Think of nachos, guacamole, quesadillas and tostones. They are not only perfect for munching before a barbecue, but they can be a lively lunch.

Zesty and delicious, Mexican appetizers are versatile. Recipes are helpful as starting points. But browned chopped beef, sautéed or roasted vegetables, any kind of lettuce, cilantro, scallions, salsa, avocado, corn kernels and refried beans can be easily added or substituted for the suggested ingredients. Mix and match cheeses: Monterey Jack, cheddar and colby.

The easiest appetizer of all is queso fundido. Place slices of Monterey Jack cheese in a small cast-iron skillet. Sear them under a preheated broiler until melted — and you’re done. Serve with tortilla chips.

For fuss-free nachos, arrange tortilla chips in a round ovenproof pan, layer them with grated cheddar cheese, then bake in a 400-degree oven until the cheese melts. Serve with salsa.

Because Mexican appetizers are often finger foods, they set an informal tone. Yet it’s a good idea to have a pile of small plates and cocktails napkins handy.

Serve this carefree cuisine with margaritas or Mexican beer. As lively as a mariachi band, Mexican appetizers always get the party started.

The Recipes

The following brands are kosher:

Tortilla chips: Naturally Good Kosher, or Garden of Eatin’ Blue Chips

Salsa: Gold’s Extra Chunky Mild Salsa

Monterey Jack or cheddar cheese: Naturally Good Kosher

Corn or flour tortillas: Mission

Mexican beer: Dos Equis XX

Garlicky Guacamole | Pareve

Yield: about ¾ cup of guacamole

  • 2 ripe avocados
  • Juice of ½ lime
  • 3 garlic cloves, squeezed through a garlic press
  • 1 teaspoon cilantro, minced
  • ⅛ teaspoon red pepper flakes, or more if heat is desired
  • Accompaniment: Tortilla chips

Cut the avocados in half. Scoop out the flesh with a spoon and place it in a medium-sized bowl. Discard the pits and skins. Mash the avocados with a fork. Add the remaining ingredients. Mix them in by continuing to mash the avocados until smooth. Serve immediately with tortilla chips.


Open-Faced Quesadillas | Dairy

Serves four as an appetizer

  • 2 (8-inch) corn or flour tortillas
  • ½ cup canned refried beans
  • 2 cups iceberg lettuce, cut into ribbons
  • 1 tomato, sliced thin
  • 2 radishes, sliced thin
  • ¼ cup kernels of corn, canned and drained,
  • or cut off of a steamed and cooled corn cob
  • 3 scallions, sliced thin
  • ½ cup cheddar cheese, grated
  • 2 tablespoons reduced fat sour cream

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Place two tortillas on a cookie sheet and bake them in the oven until warmed through, about 3-5 minutes. Using tongs, remove the tortillas from the cookie sheet and place them on a large platter.

Spread the refried beans on the tortillas. Place the ribbons of lettuce on top, followed by slices of tomato, radishes, corn kernels and scallion slices. Sprinkle on the grated cheddar cheese. Place dollops of sour cream over the cheese. Cut the quesadillas in half and serve them immediately on small plates. They can be eaten as finger food, although using silverware is neater.

Shallot and Cheese Quesadillas | Dairy

Serves four as an appetizer

Equipment: 2 skillets, 9-10 inches in diameter, preferably nonstick

  • 4 ounces cheddar cheese
  • 1 large or 2 small shallots
  • 2 tablespoons corn oil, or more, if needed
  • Several paper towels
  • 2 (8-inch) corn or flour tortillas

Cut the bar of cheddar into thin slices. Reserve.

Peel the shallots and slice them into rings. Separate the rings with your fingers.

Heat a tablespoon of oil in each skillet over a medium flame. Place half of the shallots in each skillet and sauté until golden, about 3-5 minutes. Stir often. Remove the shallots and drain them on paper towels.

If you are using nonstick skillets, cool them to room temperature and wipe out the oil with paper towels. Otherwise, leave the oil from the shallots in the skillets.

Place a tortilla in each skillet and turn the flame to medium. When the tortillas become golden brown, turn them using tongs. Place the cheddar slices on half the tortilla surface. Sprinkle the shallots on top. With a spatula, flip the other half of each tortilla over the cheese and shallots.

When the bottom sides become golden brown, turn over the quesadillas with a spatula. When the cheese is melted, remove the quesadillas from the pans and place them on a platter. Cut each quesadilla in half and serve immediately.


Roasted Tostones | Pareve

Serves four as an appetizer

  • Nonstick vegetable spray
  • 2 plantains, which must be deep yellow and blackened, looking almost too far gone to eat
  • Vegetable oil for drizzling, about 2 tablespoons
  • Kosher salt to taste

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Coat a large baking pan, such as Pyrex, with nonstick spray.

Peel the plantains. Slice them diagonally into ¾-inch pieces. Place the plantain pieces in the prepared pan. Drizzle with oil. Sprinkle with salt. Turn over the chunks, so both sides get coated with oil. Add more oil, if needed. Sprinkle with a bit more salt.

Roast the plantains in the oven for 30 minutes or until they turn golden brown and caramelized. Serve immediately.


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