Mother Earth Living

Cilantro Cousin: Mosaic Papalo Appetizers

By Louise Gruenberg
December/January 2000
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Makes about 24 appetizers 

These delicious, colorful appetizers can be quickly and easily assembled ahead of time. The random pattern of the beans and other fillings against the pale green cream cheese gives them the look of a terrazzo mosaic floor, hence the name. For an authentic touch, accompany these appetizers with sweetened Agua de Jamaica (hibiscus flower tea).

Filling ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons fresh minced poreleaf or broadleaf
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground sumac berries
  • 1 clove of crushed garlic or 1 pinch of asafetida
  • Salt, freshly ground black pepper, and chili pepper to taste
  • 1/2 pound softened cream cheese or neufchâtel cheese
  • 3 large or 10 small flour tortillas
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups cooked black beans, drained and patted dry with a paper towel
  • 3/4 to 1 cup sliced stems of romaine lettuce
  • 1/4 cup sliced black olives
  • 1/2 cup diced fresh red bell peppers (optional)

1. Blend the first six ingredients into the softened cream cheese. Taste; add the salt, pepper, and chili powder sparingly (especially if serving with salsa). Set aside. Warm the tortillas until pliable but not crisp in a low oven or warm skillet.

2. Spread the flavored cream cheese thinly on the tortillas, staying within 1/4 inch of the edge. Sprinkle the black beans across the surface, then add the romaine, the olives, and the red bell peppers, if desired. Using a pancake turner, gently press the ingredients into the cheese. Roll up each tortilla into an oval tube, pressing gently but firmly so that the tube holds its shape and does not split. Lay seam side down. Chill in the refrigerator to set, about 15 minutes. Trim off the ends on a diagonal with a sharp knife, discarding (or eating) the ends. Following the same diagonal, slice the tube into eight or nine equal pieces.

3. Lay the curved ovals face up on a serving platter and shape them into half-circles or moon shapes. If any tortilla edges are not adhering, use any leftover cream cheese to make them hold their shape. Serve on romaine lettuce or mesclun with salsa and/or sour cream, if desired.


Louise Gruenberg lives in Oak Park, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. She recently won first place in the International Herb Association’s 2000 Book Award Contest for her book, Herbal Home Hints (Rodale, 1999). 

Click here the main article, Cilantro Cousin: Aromatic Papalo Adds Variety to Gardens and Cooking 


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