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Need appetizer help...drawing a blank

Thursday evening we are going out to dinner with another couple to a local Italian place. Beforehand they are coming by the house and we're going to open up some Pinot Noir (Quiote's Lair) and am trying to come up with a simple, not too heavy appetizer to have with the wine. Since it's Thursday night, it can't be something that will take long since I will be working that day. Neither of them are picky eaters or have allergy issues.

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  1. hey janet, what about prosciutto-wrapped melon? italian, tasty, light and a good pairing with the pinot noir, imo.

    9 Replies
    1. re: alkapal

      If I can get my hands on some good melon, that's a definite possibility. This couple gives the best Christmas party each year (phenominal wine and food) and I'm feeling a bit intimidated (which is all me, not them as they are two very down to earth people and not an ounce of snobiness in either of them).

      1. re: alkapal

        I actually wrap prosciutto around figs, which I find people think is a bit more unusual (and really delicious) than melon. Also: wrap puff pastry (frozen, in a package, defrosted) around a wheel of brie, careful to "close" all seams and bake according pastry instructions. It's delicious--just do it before your guests arrive so the cheese has a chance to congeal a bit after thoroughly melting.

        1. re: cettlinger

          I make this brie too, but I spread apricot preserves on top of wheel of brie and then enclose in puff pastry. This is always complimented. Yum.

          1. re: akp

            How about spanakopita--Ina Garten has a great recipe.

            1. re: cettlinger

              tj's has an easy spanakopita. ;-). remember, janet has to come home from work, and get this out for cocktails....

                1. re: alkapal

                  If you are willing to make them,Spanakopita, uncooked, freeze really well. Since you bake them directly from the freezer they work really well for doing after work.

                  1. re: Stuffed Monkey

                    those tj's ones are as good as i can make! http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/579530
                    and they cost a little more than home-made, requiring spinach, mint & dill, green onion, feta cheese, egg, phyllo dough, butter/oil.

                    others aren't crazy about them at all.

            2. re: cettlinger

              I do a version of the figs/prosciutto thing. i stuff figs with goat cheese, wrap prosciutto around and drizzle a little balsamic glaze over....and roast. they're really good.....lovely flavors.

          2. I'm thinking smoked salmon canapes or steak tartare and Stilton cheese.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Scargod

              In the vein of smoked salmon, I recently had an app which was smoked salmon wrapped around hearts of palm, sliced into bites, and topped with a bit of whipped cream cheese and a sprinkle of herbs. Easy peasy.

              1. re: TheSnowpea

                yum yum yum!!!! I love it, thank you.

            2. Since you're going for Italian, I'd definitely avoid anything starchy. How about the tried and true bacon-wrapped Medjool dates stuffed with parmesan cheese? Other thoughts include some good quality dried figs, cut in half, spread with goat cheese and topped with an almond. I also really love putting together a really simple platter of proscuitto, chunks of parmesan, dried figs and maybe some fresh berries, then drizzling the whole thing with really good olive oil and aged balsamic.

              13 Replies
              1. re: TorontoJo

                The bacon-wrapped dates are good, but I did them with gorgonzola.

                1. re: TorontoJo

                  Do you have a recipe for the dates? How long to bake with the bacon, etc.? And the platter sounds good (and easy) also.

                  1. re: Janet from Richmond

                    The platter is very easy and you could put it together last minute easily, or even easier, put it together in the morning and wrap it tightly in plastic wrap.

                    For the dates, stuff with cheese -- I find parm easy because it's so firm that I can cut into large matchsticks and shove them into the date. Wrap with a half slice of bacon and secure with a toothpick. I find it's best to make the toothpick go horizontally across the cut so that I can lay the date with the cut side up -- less chance of the cheese melting out in the oven. Oven at 450, start with dates cut side down. Bake for 5 minutes, then flip dates and bake for another 5 minutes or until the bacon is crisp.

                    1. re: TorontoJo

                      Thanks!!! This sounds like a plan...I feel better having a plan, KWIM? :-)

                      1. re: Janet from Richmond

                        LOL -- I am the type A queen of plans, so yes, I know what you mean! :o)

                      2. re: TorontoJo

                        another variation of this is a cocktail staple for me - stuff the dates with blue cheese and a marcona almond - then you can wrap in prosciutto and bake similar to the directions given by TorontoJo. i love the layering of flavors and textures, especially with the marcona almond. you can then put out the remaining marcona almonds tossed with rosemary to munch on - have fun!

                        1. re: jmullen1251

                          And really dates can be stuffed with a lot of things and don't even need to be grilled. With wine, Medjool dates stuffed with good parmesan and a drop of good balsamic vinegar is great. I also love them stuffed with goat cheese and dark chocolate, though that's a bit more desserty.

                      3. re: Janet from Richmond

                        I just made parmesan-stuffed medjool dates as an hors d'oeuvres for a dinner party night before last. Truth to tell, I thought they were a bit cloying, but my guests practically fell out of their chairs when they tasted them and they finished every last one, continually emitting pleasure sounds.

                        A couple of tips. If you parboil the bacon, just a couple of minutes, it makes it easier to handle and wrap and also gets rid of a bit of the fat. The recipe on Epicurious says to cut the bacon in thirds, but--especially if you parboil the slices--thirds is too short. Cut the slices in half so they'll be sure to wrap sufficiently around the dates and can be secured with a toothpick. Perhaps because I used somewhat thick cut bacon, mine took a bit longer for the bacon to become crisp. I baked mine for 10 minutes on the first side, turned them, and baked for at least 5 minutes on the second side. Again, depending on the size of your dates, I found that cutting the parmesan into pieces about 1/4 inch in diameter and 1-1/4 inches in length allowed to the cheese to be completely enclosed within the dates and prevented (for the most part) the cheese from oozing out as they baked.

                        1. re: JoanN

                          I know what you mean about the cloying bit. I've found that big medjools are too much, so I look for the smallest ones I can. I've used both thick sliced and thin sliced bacon and found the thin sliced bacon much easier to work with. No need to parboil when it's thin, either. I've also used figs instead of dates to good effect and it's not nearly as sweet as with the dates. Regardless, people always love them.

                          1. re: TorontoJo

                            I'd actually planned on making bacon-wrapped figs but couldn't find nice ones so switched gears mid-stream. Good advice about looking for the smallest ones. My guests were so taken with these I'd like to do them again, but in a version that's pleasing to me as well. I'm sure you're right that the smaller date would result in a better flavor balance. I happened to have thick cut bacon in the freezer, but if I do it again I'll use the thin cut. Thanks for the info.

                      4. re: TorontoJo

                        I did room temp dates stuffed with pate and topped with salt and chopped parsley.
                        PS: Do you think Mooch and Hooch will drop by???

                        1. re: c oliver

                          Hehe....nope. And you'll be happy to know there was no M&H sighting last Friday night!

                          1. re: Janet from Richmond

                            YAY!!!! I haven't checked that post in a few days.

                      5. toronto jo has it goin' on! ;-).

                        love the platter ideas....

                        1. Since it's a work day for you, I'd take the shop and serve route: mortadella filled with herbed cheese, bread sticks wrapped in prosciutto, salumi, smoked fish, cheese, olives tossed with lemon zest and capers, figs, warmed almonds or rosemary walnuts...keep it simple. one or two.
                          -a quick platter of vegetables from the grocer's salad bar: cucumber, tomato, celery, cauliflower, fennel, carrots, pepper strips, hard boiled egg quarters... with a sprinkle of sea salt and a bowl of olive oil-balsamic vinegar for dipping

                          1. platter of smoked salmon, cream cheese, capers, red onions and lemon is an easy put together.

                            I recently made a citrus crab salsa then put a tbl in those phyllo cups just before serving - very light and refreshing. easy too although not sure about going with pinot noir

                            1. Trader Joe's has frozen phyllo cups with feta and caramelized onion - two-bites, VERY good. Also their Tarte d'Alsace - equally quick to bake, cut into small wedges.

                              5 Replies
                              1. re: greygarious

                                Yes, those feta and onion things ARE really good.

                                1. re: somervilleoldtimer

                                  Yes, they are! We go for cocktails at my MIL's (she's 88) before going out to dinner. I've "cooked" those a couple of times. How can you go wrong with cheese and onions?

                                2. re: greygarious

                                  These might be the ticket as I am going to be close to TJ's Thursday afternoon.

                                  1. re: Janet from Richmond

                                    they also have a little empanada-style thing stuffed with mushrooms and onions. great filling flavor. they're not too big, either.

                                    1. re: Janet from Richmond

                                      Try caramelized onions in the crockpot. I was skeptical about it at first but amazed at the results.

                                      If you want to do the prep in advanced and want something light, you could make parmeggiano cups the night before and serve frisee in it with a light viniagrette. If you want to get fancy, you could do a duck confit and sprinkle some duck on it; or do a tiny bit of prosciutto or another meat, or chicken and pecans. Infinite variations.

                                  2. I am unsure about how radishes would pair with wine, but what about a light French appetizer like radishes with sweet butter and salt for dipping? Then you could add some crostini and these amazing bar nuts: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ni....

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: Procrastibaker

                                      I don't know about wine pairing but I love the radish idea. I always forget about that. Have last minute houseguests arriving tonight. This is a thought for me.

                                      1. re: c oliver

                                        I am CRAZY for radishes with butter and salt, but a lot of people think its weird!

                                        I would do a simple crostini with a nice topping. A friend made an artichoke heart ( no doubt pre marinated ones) and taleggio and prosciutto that were great and you really are just popping them under the broiler. Richmond sounds very fun you are always out and about- good for you!! I am sure what every you pick will be great since you are fun people!

                                      1. I've been playing with those Arnold Thins, cutting into wedges and crisping up in the oven, that would be a nice crostini base for all sorts of things. Dollop of cream cheese and pepper jelly.

                                        1. Caprese skewers are light and have the wow factor but really don't take that long. A grape tomato, a ball/chunk/slice of fresh mozzarella, a basil leaf threaded on a pretty toothpick. Drizzle with olive oil (and I like a bit of balsamic) and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

                                          I start with this basic and then go from there adding good olives, proscuitto, etc.

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: AlaskaChick

                                            i like that caprese skewer idea a lot!

                                            1. re: alkapal

                                              me too, and presentation can take this to the top by displaying them creatively like:

                                          2. another take on the dates.

                                            pan roast walnut halves
                                            Insert into medjool date along with a shard of parmesan

                                            very good

                                            1. I went to the wine & cheese shop yesterday and came up with this...got some thick slices of salami & some thinner proscuitto. Along with that some manchego and an herbed soft goat cheese. Two kinds of crackers (the safe Bremar wafers and a speciality rosemary cracker), green olives stuffed with sun dried tomato and pitted kalamata olives and some marcona almonds. I have a cool new cheese plate (a gift from our daughter) that will get to make it's debut.

                                              Thank you all for your help & I need to make a TJ's run to get some stuff to keep on hand in the freezer for future events (especially since we're approaching March Madness)

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: Janet from Richmond

                                                good deal, janet. sounds like a moveable feast. i hope you have a great time tonight with your friends.

                                                btw, for future reference, those rosemary and olive oil triscuits are pretty darned good. salty, yes -- but hey! they're triscuits after all. i also liked the cracked pepper and olive oil flavor. i haven't tried the sun-dried tomato flavor yet. http://www.nabiscoworld.com/triscuit/

                                                1. re: Janet from Richmond

                                                  Sounds perfect JfR! I hope you and your friends have a great evening.

                                                2. I made somthing i found on giadas site -- it was a fig-hazelnut "jam" with guyere cheese (any cheese would be fine) on baguette toasts... AMAZING.. I did it for New Years and got rave reviews. ,,, if it is a week night... make the jam a few days before... then assemble the night of. It calls for guyerre... which was $8/lb in a specialty store... but a soft goat cheese would be easier to find. The jam was easy... toasted hazelntus and figs in a simple-sugar sauce, then throw into a blender.