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Italian-Inspired app. suggestions please?

I'm going to a dinner party Wednesday. There will be 6 adults and the host is serving some sort of interesting lasagna (it's the day before thanksgiving so we're trying to keep it simple). I'm coming up pretty much empty for ideas for an app, which I agreed to bring. All I've come up with, at this point, is Baked Mussels from Epicurious. They sound like a fun dish and something that everyone would enjoy (mussels steamed, topped w/ fresh bread crumbs, garlic, oil, pecorino, parsley & then baked). I also thought prosciutto & manchego on crostini w/ membrillo and a minted oil but it just doesn't sound like much fun (although it's very good).

What I am looking for is this:

-easy to execute there or a good make-ahead dish
-I can use the oven but only for a few minutes
-something fun and interesting
-no pizzas please

Any ideas, chowhounds?

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  1. I say a nice antipasta on a pick: mozz, basil leave, olive, cherry tomatoe, pastrami, nice ham, proschutto wrapped xxx, bell pepper, roasted red pepper, etc etc etc. Or a nice crostini or bruschetta but more work and oven time. The astipasto - make ahead, diff. things on each pick.

    2 Replies
    1. re: lexpatti

      I'd second this. A good mix of olives, cheese, and meats is easy to prep in advance and likely to satisfy a wide range of tastes.

      Other than than, I'd go with some type of bruschetta, so long as you can find tomatoes that aren't gross this time of year. (Muir Glen canned are workable, too, I think.) You can chop up the tomatoes, toss in some basil, mozzarella, garlic and olive oil all in advance, and then all you have to do is slice & toast the bread and spoon it on; maybe a drizzle of balsamic if you like.

      1. re: nickblesch

        I'm leaning in this direction. I may go to Dean & DeLuca and pick up some good charcuterie, cheeses and make an antipasti platter w/ my home-canned italian peppers and some olives. Maybe make some foccacia too.

        I don't really care for tomatoes out of season, as you mentioned. I know the manchego and membrillo is Spanish, but it's compatible w/ what the hosts are serving and is "close enough". :)

        Thanks for all the great suggestions, folks.

    2. Palmiers or just simple spirals made with purchased puff pastry, prosciutto, provolone or fontina and dijon are really easy, do-ahead and tasty. TPalmiers are are also really good with tapenade.

      5 Replies
      1. re: bear

        I just made my first "sweet" palmeirs and loved them, very easy. I love the idea of a savory type, has to be as easy. Next!!

        1. re: lexpatti

          They are really easy, and Trader Joe's has reasonably priced all-butter puff pastry, which I prefer to Pepperidge Farms.

          What kind of sweet filling did you use? I've only made savory palmiers, so I need to branch out, too.

          1. re: bear

            I have a really easy puff pastry recipe if you are interested.

            1. re: sarah galvin

              sarah, I'd love it. My son just finished culinary school, and I'm not really game to spend the hours his class spent making it! Thanks, but no rush...I doubt I'll be doing any extra baking until after Thanksgiving.

            2. re: bear

              I did the sugar ones (I think they are the standard) where you sprinkle sugar on all sides before folding the dough, I added cinnamon on all sides as well - they were awesome.

        2. If you have "Simple Italian Foods" or is it "My Two Villages", there is a smoked fish mousse that is amazing and easy. Zip some ingredients in a food processor, slice some cucumbers and have some toasted bread and you are set.

          1. How about a simple grilled bread, garlic rub, EVOO, chiffonade of basil, sprinkle of grated cheese, chopped sauteed tomato & caramelized onion. S & P... plus anything else you can envision.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Gio

              Epicurious has a wonderful recipe for eggplant fritters stuffed with smoked mozarella. I make them every xmas eve. I cannot wait to have them again.

              Something I ALWAYS bring to parties is a mixture of roasted plum tomatoes (peeled after roasting), roasted garlic (I throw a whole head in with the tomatoes and squeeze the garlic paste out when done) olive oil, salt, tiny mozarella balls-the teeny tiny ones (I get from TJ's), julienned basil, pepper. I cut a baguette in thin long diagonal slices, rub them with garlic and top with asiago cheese (again TJ's had ready shredded) and bake in a moderate oven until crispy. I guess they are crostata? I keep the "dip" in a plastic container as well as the bread and serve at the party on a huge serving platter with the dip in a bowl in the center and the bread scattered around. Sort of like a deconstructed version of Gio's dish. As a matter of fact TJ's also has a really good bruschetta topping in a tub in the cold shelves. I usually use it a a cheat sauce for midweek pasta or fish. I bet it would work for this too.

              It sounds like a fun party-I could not throw or go to a dinner party on the night before TD. I will be well into my third nervous breakdown, covered in flour, butter and eww knows what. Just hope I don't drink all the wine meant for our next day guests.

              1. re: Densible

                The eggplant fritters sound amazing. I'll have to try those sometime.

            2. Arancini
              the Manchego/membrillo is more Spanish inspired. How about an Italian hard cheese.
              prosciutto wrapped bread sticks
              olive tray
              crostini with a simple tomato and basil topping

              1. This might sound boring, but how about deviled eggs topped with grated bottarga? Everybody loves deviled eggs.

                2 Replies
                1. re: almansa

                  I'm curious about bottarga. I can only buy it in a large amount and it is pricey so not sure if I should try it.

                  1. re: sarah galvin

                    mini boccocini wrapped in a basil leaf, skewered along with a grape or cherry tomato, drizzled with EVOO & balsamic, salt and pepper.

                    procuitto wrapped asparagus, spread borsin cheese on the procuitto. not original by any means, but delish!

                2. Here's a recipe that's close to 200 years old, by M. Gavius Apicius, the famous Roman Gourmand, updated by your truly:

                  Mixed Seafood Bruschetta
                  1 lb bag Mixed Seafood, frozen
                  1 Lemon, juiced
                  2 teaspoons Rosemary
                  2 teaspoons Oregano
                  1 can white beans, with canning liquid

                  Saute everything together in a wide skillet, cutting seafood smaller if needed, and mashing some of the beans. Cook to a thick paste and serve on bruschetta.

                  Apicius did not add the beans, just served the sauteed mixed seafood on garbanzo flatbread.

                  1. my friend john invented a lovely pear-goat cheese bruschetta that is very autumnal -perfect for thanksgiving: i made it alongside a butternut squash lasagne recipe (also his) last year and it was a major hit. and it's easy to prepare in advance (then assemble on-site):

                    1. Bruschetta.
                      Pickled Vegetables.
                      Prosciutto Wrapped Melon.
                      Roasted Vegetables.
                      Marinated Olives.

                      1. Make a balsamic syrup ahead of time (like simple, but with basalmic).

                        Sprinkle brown sugar over quartered and stemmed figs.


                        Put over spinach (other greens can work) and some good proscuitto (smoked preferably) and then drizzle with the syrup.

                        Simple, flavorful and awesome.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: ecwashere7

                          Another great fig appetizer is gorgonzola-fig crostini. Take a baguette and slice thinly---about 1/4 inch. Toast the bread slices lightly and remove from heat. Spread gorgonzola or other soft blue cheese on bread slices (fourme d'ambert is excellent but harder to find). Top with fresh fig quarters. Can be eaten at room temp or flashed under the broiler for a minute to melt cheese and warm figs (be sure to watch it carefully). Can drizzle a bit of sugar or honey on the figs before broiling. Alternatively you can broil the figs separately until lightly caramelized, then place atop cheese-topped bread slices.

                          1. re: bella_sarda

                            Both yours and eswashere7's sound soooo good. Thanks!