Lost my inspiration - need an elegant but simple stand-up appetizer
- farmersdaughter Aug 6, 2008 06:18 PM
Help! I've been sick the past week and am having a dinner party on Saturday. I need to serve a simple, elegant appetizer that we can eat standing up with champagne before sitting down to a tomato tart first course. The main course will be lamb, with green beans as a side dish. I am completely devoid of inspiration due to the illness, so I could really use some guidance. I don't even have the energy or the desire to flip through cookbooks, which is very unlike me. Many thanks in advance for any suggestions.
Lox or gravlax on black bread with creme fraiche or sour creme between? Or there was a recipe here a while ago for Stilton shortbread that is EASY and tasty.
I've always had fun with chocolate-covered grapes, which are amazingly refreshing and sophisticated and would probably be lovely with champage. To make it a bit more savory, you could mix some cayenne or chili powder in with the cocoa powder. Plus, they are so easy to make, and are done ahead of time, so you can rest up!
1 pound stemmed and chilled seedless grapes
4 ounces 60 percent semisweet chocolate, melted, at body temperature
1 to 2 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
Wash and dry the grapes well; place in a large bowl. Line a large baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper.
Add the melted chocolate to the grapes, 1 tablespoon at a time, carefully scraping down the sides of the bowl and stirring through the center of the grapes so that they are evenly coated.
As the chocolate begins to set (which will be almost immediately), place the cocoa powder in a small strainer and sift the powder, little by little, over the surface of the grapes. Gently toss or stir the grapes as you continue to sift until all of the grapes are well coated and separated. Spread the grapes on the baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until the chocolate has completely set, or up to 1 day.
Another idea would be grapes, rolled in gorgonzola and covered in crushed pistachios. Or, if you have the energy, do both!
Gravlax on cocktail pumpernickel with mustard-dill sauce would be a great pairing. My preference, though, is for cocktail crab cakes. Shellfish and champagne are an ideal pairing for my palate.
re: Honey Bee
A variation on this is a short skewer with a date wrapped in a thin slice of Serrano ham and a cube of firm Spanish cheese (Iberzia or Manchego). Drizzle the whole thing with some good honey and you're done. The skewer is nice because guests don't have to get their fingers dirty prior to dinner - just be sure you have a place for used skewers.
Dried apricot topped with a dollop of goat cheese topped with a carmelized walnut (looks and tastes wonderful)
Watermelon cubes (optional: marinated in watermelon pucker/schnapps) topped with goat or feta with chopped fresh mint (gets all the brain triggers going) Can also be posted onto a toothpick
steam some asparagus and wrap thinly sliced prosciutto around the stems. Takes no time to prepare, can be done ahead, looks pretty on a platter, and is really easy for folks to grab and eat. When ever I do this every last one is eaten. just be sure not to let the asparagus get too limp by over steaming -- rinse in cold water to stop the cooking!
4 cups mixed good quality olives
3 to 4 strips orange peel
3 to 4 strips lemon peel
1 teaspoon crushed red chili pepper flakes
1 teaspoon fennel seeds, 1/3 palm full
2 to 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups Marcona almonds (available in bulk food section of your market) or, toasted peeled whole almonds
2 (15-ounce) cans chick peas, rinsed and drained
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
Salt and pepper
Make a double layer pouch of foil for the olives. Add citrus peel, red pepper flakes and fennel seeds to olives then top with olive oil. Seal the pouch and shake it to distribute the spices and oil. Place in hot oven at any temperature or on outdoor grill to heat them through.
Place the almonds in a small decorative serving dish.
Place chick peas in a medium skillet over medium heat and cook 15 minutes until crisp and dry. In the last 5 minutes, season the chick peas with paprika salt and pepper. If you season them up too soon, the paprika will blacken and become bitter. Place the cooked chick peas in a small serving bowl. Place the olives on a platter and cut the pouch open to expose them. Place the small serving dishes for nuts and peas on the platter alongside olives. Place a ramekin or other small cup out to collect olive pits.
I've had good success with this. A good baguette cut into about 1 and a half inch lengths. Scoop out some of the inside making sure to leave a base at the bottom. Stand them upright and fill with smoked mozzarella. Brush all over with olive oil, or melted butter and bake until the cheese is melted and the bread is browned. Top with a little pesto and a roasted Serve with roasted cherry tomatoes and homemade pesto. It looks really cool and is delicious. I typicall serve it on a plate with the roasted tomatoes and pesto dotted around the plate for presentation, but I don't see why it wouldn't work as I described.
Some of my favorites:
stuffed mushrooms with goat cheese, spinach and bacon
mini crab cakes
oysters on the half shell
tapenade and goat cheese canapes
gougeres filled with crab salad
Soup Shooters - Little shot glasses filled with a cold soup - potato bisque, black bean, gazpacho, topped with a dollop of creme fraiche or sour cream
Martini glasses with a nest of finely chopped lettuce or cabbage, topped with three shrimp - tails out, and a dollop of cocktail sauce
Don't know if you've decided yet, but I would suggest my mom's Brooklyn Cheese Puffs. They are very easy Ricotta puffs and can be made weeks in advance and frozen until ready to bake (in fact, they must be frozen before baking). They are very similiar to French gougeres but much easier to make. Here is a link to the recipe posted on my blog:
Interesting sidenote: I submitted thus recipe to Cook's Illustrated for a cookbook they were publishing of America's best lost recipes. It was chosen to be included and is the first recipe in the book. A nice tribute to my mom who passed away many years ago.
Hope you're feeling better!
Wow . . . you guys are great. I'm still in bed, but hoping to be up and about tomorrow. I'm thinking the best thing is something in endive or the smoked salmon ideas, as they will be simplest to execute, since my husband may be doing some of the work depending on my energy level. I'm tempted to do something like gougeres with crab salad or mini crab cakes, because I love crab with champagne, but I'm afraid I might not have the energy to execute it, and would leave my poor husband in a lurch with me laying on the couch saying, do this, do this!
Many thanks again.
Tuscan cracker with sweet gorgronzola, drizzled with honey;
Black bread rounds, toasted, with creme fraiche, smoked salmon and dill;
Large pitted prunes, stuffed with goat cheese, wrapped with bacon and broiled.