Cookbook of the Month July 2013 BIG SMALL PLATES: Chapters 3&4
Welcome to Cookbook of the Month for July 2013, which is BIG SMALL PLATES by Cindy Pawlcyn.
This is the reporting thread for recipes from Chapters 3 and 4 of the book. They are:
Bowls and Spoons, p142
On a Raft, p176
Please remember that the verbatim copying of recipes to the boards is a violation of the copyright of the original author. Posts with copied recipes will be removed.
Happy cooking, big and small!
Mini Duck Burgers with Shiitake Mushroom Ketchup and Chinese-Style Mustard Sauce - p. 226
This recipe caught my eye early on and once people started raving about the Mongolian marinade, I decided I needed to take the plunge on these burgers, even if it didn't happen in July. These burgers were fantastic. They surprised both us by being a little on the sweet side, but it all came together well. I think the shiitake mushroom ketchup could even hold its own as a side dish.
To make, you start out making the Mongolian marinade. Like so many other CHers, we loved it and I need to get around to trying it on ribs.
The burgers are made by combining ground duck, minced scallions, grated ginger, minced garlic, a bit of Mongolian marinade, salt and pepper and chilling for up to overnight.
The shiitake mushroom ketchup is made by sauteeing shiitake mushrooms in olive oil. Finely diced onions are then added to the mixture. Then balsamic vinegar, minced garlic, molasses (we were out, so I used honey), chopped basil, and more Mongolian marinade are added and it simmers until the mixture thickens. This can be made ahead of time.
A Chinese style mustard sauce is made by whisking together sugar, mustard powder, egg yolk, and red wine vinegar in a double boiler until in thickens. Once the mixture cools, creme fraiche or sour cream is folded in (I used sour cream). The mixture was surprisingly sweet to me, but worked very nicely with all of the other components.
Once all of those pieces are put together, she gives you the option of grilling the duck or cooking it on the griddle. The ground duck I had was very, very soft and we opted to do full-size burgers rather than minis, so the grill proved to be a poor choice for us. We had a lot of difficulty with duck trying to fall through the grill, so I'd opt for a griddle next time.
Once the duck is cooked, it's served on toasted buns with shiitake ketchup, arugula, and a drizzle of mustard sauce. The duck flavor works very well in the burgers, but there is a lot going on, so I think you could easily get away with making them with other meats. I would happily make this one again.
Coquille St. Jacques, p. 194
This ingredients of this recipe may be slightly surprising to you, if like me, you have been conditioned to expect a rich gratineed dish sauced with butter, cream, and mushrooms. This preparation is more Provencale in its flavors: Olive oil (mixed with butter), white wine, sliced fresh tomatoes, lemon zest and juice, garlic--all finished with a chiffonade of fresh basil and chopped parsley. It's quite quick to go together; first the garlic and tomatoes are briefly sauteed, then the wine, lemon zest and juice, s & p, are reduced "till fairly thick."
Meanwhile the scallops are seared on both sides in butter, then served as soon as possible on plates on which a spoonful of the sauce has been spread. A bit more of the basil and parsley are sprinkled over and (if you have them) some tiny croutons (1/4 inch dice) are put on top. I did NOT get my croutons made and I think they would have provided some agreeable texture.
My verdict: good but not great. The tomato sauce just wasn't as deeply flavorful as I would have liked. Maybe my pre-season tomatoes were at fault? Maybe some more fresh herbs should also have been stirred in? I liked the idea of the dish and it was easy and fresh, but the sauce just disappointed me somehow.
I also think that it wasn't really fair to this dish that it suffered in comparison with the second scallop dish I served alongside: The very delicious and savory Glazed Scallops with Almond-Caper Butter Sauce (p. 273.) I had an overabundance of fresh scallops to cook and feeling guilty at my lack of COTM participation this month, decided to try two Pawlcyn scallop recipes at one dinner and call it "East Meets West." East won, perhaps not surprisingly given the sheer savoriness of the flavors of that dish.
Baked Goat Cheese and Tomato Fondue, p. 163
Found lovely, fresh rounds of Cabecou Feuille, wrapped in chestnut leaves, at Zingerman's, walked across the street to the Wednesday farmer's market for some heirloom tomatoes, then returned home to put together this dish.
The tomatoes are peeled, seeded and chopped, then added to a pan of sauteed shallots and garlic with a sprig of basil, and deglazed with a bit of white wine. Sliced dried fruit (I used dates) are added off-heat. Since my cheese disks were each about one-ounce they didn't need to be sliced, so all that was needed was to fill baking dishes with the sauce and top with the cheese. I used individual ramekins and baked at 400 which might have taken an extra 2-3 minutes for the tomatoes to bubble and the cheese to brown a bit, but I was worried about how the dishes would tolerate a hotter oven!
Instead of cubes, I sliced and toasted the bread, and spooned the sweet tomato/savory melted cheese mixture over. I think using fresh ingredients was the key to this recipe being as delicious as it was (as Ms. Pawlcyn notes), so I do recommend trying it out in the summer when the local tomatoes are available.
Smoked Salmon with Curried Egg Salad and Rye Toasts (page unknown)
The plated dish here nothing revolutionary: rye toast, egg salad, smoked salmon, cucumber garnish. But this recipe is really all about the egg salad.
The egg salad in this case a brightly yellow, curried version. Some fresno chile added in gives it a little kick, as does a bit of Tabasco. Pawlcyn suggests grating the eggs, which I did, and it was a really quick way to get the eggs into salad format. I am partial to curried egg salads, and this version is a very good one. My only beef with the recipe is that she calls for two jumbo eggs. Who has jumbo eggs lying around? I used four eggs (mine come unsized) instead, and steamed them, my usual method.
The recipe doesn't say whether the salmon should be cold-smoked or hot-smoked, but you can see from the photo she means cold-smoked (I do think it would be best to specify, since not everyone will automatically think of cold-smoked).
Once the egg salad is made, which could be done in advance, the recipe is a snap. Spread egg salad on toast, top with a bit of salmon, garnish with diced cucumber. In the photo for this recipe, the cucumber seems to be MIA.
This would be a great hors d'oeuvre for a party, as the egg salad can be made ahead and then the canapes can be assembled very quickly. The egg salad is definitely a keeper for me.
Fried Green Tomatoes with Spicy Rémoulade (page unknown)
This recipe follows a formula that is pretty standard for this author, which is a base, a topping, and some dressed greens. In this case the base is a slice of fried green tomato, and the topping is a "spicy" rémoulade.
Pawlcyn has you coat the tomatoes in flour, egg and panko. I couldn't bring myself to do this, so I coated mine in cornmeal as I usually do. I also seasoned my cornmeal a bit more aggressively, using creole seasoning, as opposed to the salt and pepper Pawlcyn calls for. So basically, I ignored the direction on the tomatoes. Sorry, but bread crumbs on a fried green tomato just doesn't seem right to me.
The rémoulade in this recipe is a standard French version, with parsley, tarragon and capers. It's good, but the only way it's going to be even remotely spicy is if you use the creole mustard, and even then, this is not what I'd call a "spicy" remoulade. A creole remoulade would also have paprika and cayenne in it, which are absent here. While Pawlcyn's version is tasty, I would have preferred a creole rendition for this dish.
The greens are tossed in a simple vinaigrette. Pawlcyn gives the choice between balsamic and sherry vinegar. Actually my version of the book says, "balsamic vinegar or aged sherry". I assume she meant aged sherry vinegar, and that is what I went with. I think balsamic vinegar would be a bit out of place here, but that's me.
The dish as a whole was good, but not a repeater for me. I love FGTs, and make them in the late Fall when my tomato plants succumb to frost. This presentation just didn't stand out compared to other versions I have tried.
Salt-Roasted Salmon Tostadas with Cindy's Backstreet Tomatillo-Avocado Salsa
We both enjoyed this dish, but I wasn't quite as awed with it as I was with the fish soft tacos. I'd make this again though with one small change. We had some beautiful King salmon from our seafood box this week, so I used some of that in this dish, but I thought the salmon got lost with everything else going on and was a bit disappointed. It probably also didn't help that the dish name reminded me of salmon tartares I've had in the past, so mentally I was expecting more salmon flavor. Next time, I'll save the good stuff for something that highlights the fish more.
Like the other tostadas in this book, you start with making the cumin-scented black beans that have been discussed by others. I really loved these beans. The Mr (who is less of a bean fan than I am) did not object to their presence in the dish.
I also followed her directions for crisping the tortillas in the oven since it's been on the cool side in the Bay Area. Mine needed a bit more time to crisp up. The outer edges were a bit on the overly browned side and the middle still had a bit of moisture; however, I think the moisture helped to keep the tostada from shattering when you bit into it.
She also has you prepare a tomatillo-avocado salsa by combining diced tomatillos, diced avocados, minced scallions, minced jalapeno (I used serrano), minced cilantro, s&p, and ground cumin (optional; I omitted), dressed with a vinaigrette of rice vinegar and olive oil. I can't think of a tomatillo salsa that I've had before that wasn't pureed. The diced was light and bright. I wouldn't mind just eating it on its own with chips.
For the greens in this dish, she has you dress a mix or arugula, thinly sliced radishes, and watercress with the same vinaigrette used in the salsa. The shop I stopped in to pick up last minute supplies didn't have any radishes or watercress, so I made do with only arugula.
The salmon is baked at 500F in a crust of kosher salt and frothy egg whites and then flaked. I was using a smaller piece of salmon, so I baked for 7 minutes, but probably could've cut the time down a bit more.
For assembly, each crispy tortilla is topped with beans, salmon, greens, salsa, and sprinkled with either goat cheese or queso fresco (we used queso fresco). Garnish with lime wedges.
This was a very nice change of pace from the heavy Tex-Mex tostadas I've had in the past and I hope I find some time before the end of the month in between work travel to try some of the other tostadas.
I can't comment on the recipe, but the last time I had really good, fresh wild salmon I used it in a Rick Bayless pipian recipe. In that case I also felt the salmon was a bit lost amidst the other strong flavors. So I agree that when you have the good stuff, simple preparations are best to let it shine.
Tonight was page 203, halibut tostadas with jicama slaw. First you make the cumin scented black beans on page 201.
I really hate it when people change all the ingredients, then post about it. Well...that is kind of what I am doing. I made quite a few substitutions, but I think these are basic flavors that can be goofed around with and still be tasty. These are really great recipes, but I had to go with what I had for substitutions. I still think it is worth posting about.
First you make the black beans (I used black and white soy beans because i am pretty low carb). I really liked mashing half of them to stick to the tostada better, good technique and texture. The seasonings were simple with a chili, garlic, onion, cumin.
Next you roast or grill the fish. I used cod instead of halibut in the cast iron skillet for a nice crust.
The slaw for the topping was nice, I used daikon instead of jicama because that is what I had on hand and they are similar. I really liked the crunch and spice of this slaw.
Then you top it all with a lime sour cream (lime zest, juice and a pinch of salt) or Cream Fraiche.
Together it all makes a very fresh tostada! It looked beautiful and like something you would order in Carmel :) I think this recipe is very flexible and I would definitely make it again with other fish and other slaw ingredients.
Pacific Halibut Soft Tacos - p. 210
This one was another winner for us. There are a lot of components, but none of them are terribly complex. The end result is a very light, bright tasting taco. All of the components worked very well together.
To start with, the recipe calls for cooked halibut and tomatillo salsa. I didn't have any already cooked fish, so I followed her suggestion of simply roasting in the oven at 375. I used sole instead of halibut because that's what our seafood box gave us this week. For the tomatillo salsa, she offers a recipe, but I used some I had previously made and frozen.
The recipe first has you make a vinaigrette of lime juice, Dijon, ground cumin, s&p, and olive oil. This gets mixed into other components and I ended up having quite a bit left over.
The taco filling in made by mixing together the flaked fish, 2 tbsp of vinaigrette, mayo, scallions, celery, and chopped olives if desired (I went for olives).
Separately a mixture of arugula and cilantro leaves is also tossed with some of the vinaigrette.
To serve, warmed corn tortillas (I went homemade) are topped in the following order and served with lime wedges:
1. Fish mixture
2. Tomatillo salsa
3. Mixed greens
4. Drizzle of yogurt
5. Crumble of goat cheese
6. Slices of avocado
To be honest, when I skimmed the recipe, I hadn't noticed that the fish was served up in a mayo mixture. I was a bit skeptical about the dish as I'm not a big fan of tuna salad and similar dishes. My skepticism was not helped by the long assembly description, so I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this dish. The greens balanced the creamy fish mixture very nicely. I served this with the corn, avocado, and tomato salad from Cook This Now. We'll definitely be repeating this one.
Mini Beef Burgers with Roasted Chile Relish and Pablo's Pickled Onion - p. 222
These burgers were good, but didn't wow me nearly as much as the Sunday Supper burgers, so given the choice between the two recipes, I'd recommend Sunday Supper. We made full-size burgers rather than mini burgers.
This one also requires a bit more planning ahead. A couple of hours beforehand, julienned red onions are pickled in lime juice and salt. Neither one of us are crazy about pickled onions, so I'd probably skip this next time.
A mix of chiles is roasted and peeled to make the relish. She calls for 2 Anaheim and 2 pasilla (are these the same as fresh poblanos in some areas? I've only ever seen dried pasillas.). I used 2 poblano and 2 mystery chiles from the farmer's market. We both liked the slight heat in the relish. The chiles are torn into strips and mixed with olive oil, minced scallions, oregano, cilantro, and s&p and rest in the fridge for 30 minutes. I would make the relish again, but pair it with more traditional condiments on the burger.
The ground beef is divided into patties (in our case 4) and then grilled. She calls for cutting the cheese into squares and placing on the burgers after they're flipped. I must've cut my cheese squares too tall, because they did not melt nicely onto the burger (we used cheddar instead of monterey jack).
Burgers are served on toasted buns with shredded iceberg, chile relish, and pickled onions.
Next time, I'd just make the chile relish to go on our standard burgers. I missed condiments and didn't think the pickled onions were worth it for us.
I once had a "stuffed pasilla" at Pawlcyn's Mustard's Grill, and the pepper was definitely what I always thought of as a poblano. I've always understood a pasilla to be a dried pepper (though not a dried poblano--that's an ancho); according to Mark Miller's "The Great Chile Book," a pasilla (also sometimes called a "chile negro") is a dried chilaca chile.
Spicy Lamb Burgers w/Vietnamese Herb Salad and Tamarind Vinaigrette, p. 232
Hmmm. I thought I’d read a report on these. . . . Maybe not.
Not hard, this recipe, but somewhat time consuming. First you make the vinaigrette: 4T brown sugar and 3T water are heated; once sugar is dissolved, 2T tamarind paste and 1T soy sauce are stirred in; 6 T OO are whisked in off the heat. This turned out to be about 4X as much vinaigrette as we needed.
Then the burgers: minced garlic (5 cloves), onion ( ½ ), Serrano chile ( ½ ), cilantro (1 ½ T), mint (2T), oyster sauce (1 ½), and the juice of ½ lime are mixed into a pound of ground lamb.
Assemble the herb salad: julienned scallions (2) and Thai chiles (2), basil, cilantro, mint, chopped chives, watercress. I find the “bunch” or “½ bunch” measures useless, especially when most are these are coming from my herb garden so I just used my judgment.
I served these by topping them with the lightly dressed herb salad and wrapping them in butter lettuce leaves. They were tasty, but probably won’t replace our usual lamb burgers, which DH was quick to point out are better. Granted, he is chromosomally predisposed to want buns for his burgers.
But I think these burgers weren’t as wonderful as usual for one of two reasons, maybe both. The lime juice made for very wet burgers—and also turned the raw meat grey; I wish I’d skipped it. Our grill was probably not hot enough so the burgers didn’t get a nice char, seemed more steamed than grilled.
We had these with two accompanying dishes from “Burma”: long-bean salad w/roasted peanuts and Mandalay grated carrot salad. This made for a satisfying dinner, but the burgers probably aren’t a do-over for us.
You did read a report on these, mine. I wonder what happened to it? How strange...I also had commented about my burgers being really wet. I really enjoyed the flavors though, sounds like more than you did. And I served mine on buns.
ETA: I posted my review in the wrong thread, it is in the one for chapters 5 and 6.
Roasted End o' Summer Tomatoes with Red Wine-Honey Vinaigrette
Sorry, no page number, I'm on the iPad edition, so the pages don't line up with the print edition.
I'm getting good summer tomatoes now, and have quite a few on hand. This is one of the few recipes I've found in this book that really calls for summer produce, so I thought I'd make it. Vegetarian as well.
I'll start by describing the finished product: You have some toasted bread, smeared with a roasted tomato mixture, topped with some greens dressed in a vinaigrette, and then sprinkled with blue cheese or goat cheese (I used goat cheese).
The vinaigrette is pretty standard, but calls for half red wine and half vinegar, so is a bit milder than a standard vinaigrette. In the headnote CP suggests Banyuls vinegar, and that is what I used, as I usually keep it on hand. Once again we see a healthy dose of mustard in the vinaigrette, a bit more than I would normally use, but not that much more in this case.
Good ripe tomatoes are peeled and cored. CP does not give instructions for the peeling, so I just briefly blanched and peeled in my normal way. The tomatoes are quartered, and placed, along with some wedges of sweet onion, oregano, olive oil, sea salt, and pepper, into a baking dish. They roast at 425 for 15-20 minutes, or until the edges have caramelized. I ended up roasting them for 30 minutes to get the desired texture. It says they will have reduced to a concentrated, chunky puree. Well, not quite. The vegetables were still intact in the roasting pan, but when I stirred them together and mashed with the back of a spoon, they did collapse into the concentrated puree I was promised.
This dense tomato mash is spread onto the toasted bread, topped with the dressed arugula, and then some goat cheese.
This was a good, solid recipe. The flavors went well together, and it was pretty simple to make (although in my case, I had to bake bread, so that added quite a bit of work). This recipe does not seem particularly original, and even seems somewhat dated, but I won't knock it for that, it's good food. Of the two recipes I've made so far, this was both easier and better, and this is the one I would make again.
Corn Soup Two Ways, p172
Well really, corn soup one way ... I only made the double-basil tomato topping. The other topping was a squash blossom garnish and huitlacoche garnish, neither of which are easily available to me.
With the tomato garnish, this is an extremely simple recipe and can easily be made in under 30 minutes. I chose it because I was looking for something that could be made from the vegetables available at my farmers market this week and corn, tomatoes, leek, and basil were all there along with an assortment of peppers. Since I didn't have a pasilla pepper, I asked about a substitute in another thread. This inspired a rather passionate debate about the term pasilla. I ended up using a poblano pepper in the soup.
The soup was good although it was really the tomato and basil garnish that dominated rather than the corn and chile. While I liked it, I'm not sure I'd make it again as I'd be just as happy with some fresh corn and sliced tomatoes and basil.
I've never had huitlacoche and perhaps this would really make the dish shine.
Roasted Peppers with Anchovies and Capers - p. 243
I was a bit intimidated by this book with all the multi-part recipes while I was flipping through, so I decided to start simple. This came together easily and packs a lot of flavor.
To make, roast a mix of bell peppers. She calls for red and yellow, but I had red and a green bell that needed to be used. She recommends wood fire roasting, but I went with the broiler. After the peppers cool, peel, remove seeds, and tear into strips. Then you add some finely chopped anchovies smashed into paste, hand-shredded basil, oregano, minced garlic, drained capers, salt, pepper, and olive oil. You can make this a couple of hours ahead of time. Serve on toasted sliced bread.
We toasted on the grill and soon-to-be Mr.TiM made the croutons a bit overly toasted, but it was still a good introduction to this book. I especially liked how the basil brightened the dish.
Roasted Peppers with Anchovies and Capers, pg. 243
Not much to add to TxbInMtl excellent review above, except to say we had it and and enjoyed it too. My peppers were roasted over charcoal, and I used only red peppers, but otherwise, pretty much by the book. Totally agree with TIM, the basil is key.
Roasted Peppers with Anchovies and Capers, p. 243
I loved the bold flavors in this simple mix. As it happens, I'd roasted (over my gas stove burner) and prepped one yellow and two red peppers a few weeks ago and frozen them. After reading the favorable reviews, I made half a recipe last night, and served this on grilled ciabatta "rafts." I didn't have fresh oregano so I used a pinch of dried, but otherwise followed the recipe. All went together in a snap.
My husband scarfed these although he claims not to like capers. I didn't mention the anchovies in the mix. Shhh!
Although CP says these will hold for only two hours, I plan to have the leftovers tonight. And this will be a great hors d'oeuvre next time I have people over for dinner.
Roasted Peppers with Anchovies and Capers - p. 243
We liked but didn't love this. I made a half-batch using grilled peppers, and it was enough to have as a light meal with another recipe from the book. I enjoyed the briny notes from the capers and the savoury anchovies in here, plus of course the basil, which really goes so well with these flavours. I thought this could have used a touch of acid to brighten the dish, but it was pretty swell and gorgeous to look at, and roasted peppers are always a treat.
Sunday Supper Burgers with Thousand Island Dressing, Pg. 216
This was quite an impressive start for us. A three part recipe each of which is delicious in its own right but here combines to create absolutely the most flavorful burger I've ever eaten. The ground meat to use is beef but I substituted ground organic dark meat turkey and it worked perfectly.
First on the agenda is to make the dressing consisting of: mayonnaise, sweet pickle relish, ketchup, Tabasco, Worcestershire, chopped parsley, and either cognac or brandy... we used brandy. Combine and set it into the fridge in a covered bowl till ready to use. Second, slice 2 rashers of bacon, fry till crisp, remove to a paper towel lined plate. Slice an onion, press out the rings, set aside.
Prepare the burgers: S & P, grated sharp cheddar (I used sliced aged cheddar), slice brioche buns (I used soft Kaiser rolls), arugula leaves, minced pickles (I used naturally fermented half sours), minced scallions. The recipe is for 6 small burgers from 12-14 pounds meat but I made 4 burgers from 1 pound.
After the burgers are cooked place cheese on each one. Grill the cut sides of the rolls, spread dressing on the bottom, top with arugula, onion rings,then burgers, some pickles on top of that, then bacon, and scallion. Spread more dressing on top roll and cover burger. One thing, she doesn't say when to place onion rings on the burger, so use your judgement.
This was more than delicious. The meat was juicy and rich. All the other flavors at play blended and mingled producing a truly luxurious burger. At first I thought the dressing was going to be too sweet but in the end it enhanced the the other ingredients immensely. Also served was a chopped tomato and onion salad and potato chips. A great beginning to the month.
Sunday Supper Burgers with Thousand Island Dressing, Page 216.
Gio describes the ingredients and the process above, so I'll just chime in with my experience. We couldn't get small buns; the regular size ciabatta buns looked like the best choice. So I just made regular size burgers. Now, truth be known, I hate ketchup, hate mayo, and hate sweet pickle relish, consequently, I hate thousand island dressing. But I got to thinking that I've probably never had good, homemade, thousand island dressing, so I gave it a shot. It definitely worked on the burger. I think that little shot of brandy in the dressing saved the day. Mr. NS cooked the burgers over a wood fire, and the bacon too.
All in all, a delightful burger, and different from our usual. I think it looked very appetizing too!
Sunday Supper Burgers with Thousand Island Dressing, p. 216
I would probably never have made these without first seeing Gio's and L.Nightshade's wonderful reviews - it's amazing how these easy-to-put-together toppings really made these burgers scrumptious. I made regular-sized burgers, too, with sliced cheddar and bread & butter pickles. It's easy to adjust the sweetness of the dressing, if you want, by adding more brandy and/or Tabasco sauce, but the peppery arugula balances that out as well. We loved these!
Rabbit Tostadas, p. 197
Cumin Scented Black Beans, p. 201
Cabbage and arugula salad with vinaigrette (components of rabbit tostada) p. 199
The Rabbit Tostadas are on the cover of this book. It is the first recipe I made out of this book and it convinced me I made a good decision buying it. I remember being so impressed with myself as I served it, because dinner came out looking just like the cover and tasting amazing.
There are so many good things to say about this recipe it is hard to know where to start. I guess I will start with the notes I made in the book the first time I made it: "Fabulous recipe. The beans need at least 1-2 peppers to flavor them. Note that the guajillo chiles suggested by Cindy are WAY too hot for my family. Substitute 1-2 mild California chiles instead. Do not omit the chiles as their flavor is an essential component. The rabbit component can be made ahead of time and frozen. Can substitute chicken thighs in place of rabbit. The salad, vinaigrette, and beans are all outstanding. Next time prepare a larger version of the salad component, and plate it as a salad, with the warm beans serving as the base and the rabbit on top of the salad, serve it with a small crisp tortilla as a garnish."
Since the time I wrote down these notes, I have made this dish several times. I will caution that if you decide to make this with chicken thighs instead of rabbit you probably will not see the magic of this dish. It is still good, but it does not have the "wow" factor. Splurge at least one time and make it with rabbit.
The big salad idea works best for adults. The cabbagey crunch coupled with the salad dressing are addictive. For kids, it may need it to be served as described in the recipe.
The tiny tortilla thing is adorable but a lot of work. I used a cookie cutter to cut down my full size tortillas the first time I did it. But since then, I always make full size tostadas.