Sunday, June 7, 2009


So far I’ve given you three menus consisting of a main dish, a starch, and vegetable side dishes. If you were cooking one of the menus for a dinner party, you might want to add an appetizer and a dessert which you can purchase or make yourself. If you decide that you are up to making an appetizer, I’m going to give you three: two are truly easy and one is a little more complicated—maybe more the sort you would take to someone’s house if you were assigned the “pre-eating” course with drinks. Except that it is so good that you might want to eat it for dinner.

Apricot Thrones

25 pecan halves
2 ounces cream cheese at room temperature
2 ounces blue cheese
25 dried apricots

1. Preheat the oven or toaster oven to 325ºF. Place the pecans on a baking sheet and toast in the oven until golden brown. Watch carefully. Let them cool.
2. Combine the cheeses and stir until evenly mixed. If the mixture doesn’t get smooth, microwave for 10 seconds to soften slightly and stir again.
3. Scoop up small amount of the cheese mixture and place on top of each apricot. Start with a small amount. You can always add more later. Note: You can use a pastry bag if you are doing a large number of these.
4. Top with a toasted pecan, rounded side up, if you are fussy about it. Transfer the apricots to a serving plate, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate.
Note: The recipe can be completed to this point up to 8 hours before serving.
5. Serve at room temperature.

6-10 servings
Adapted from Hugh Carpenter and Teri Sandison’s Fast Appetizers

Dates Stuffed with Almonds

24 blanched whole almonds, toasted or untoasted
24 medium dates, pitted
12 thin slices bacon, cut in halves

1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
2. Stuff an almond inside each date. Wrap each date with bacon and secure with a toothpick crosswise.
3. Bake in the 350ºF oven on a baking sheet for 20-30 minutes or until the bacon is crisp.
If the bacon isn’t browned enough for you, place the dates under a hot broiler for a minute or two, watching them closely.
Note: Can make the day ahead and bake for 20 minutes. Reheat at 350ºF before serving.

8 servings (about 3 per person)
Adapted from Marimar Torres’ The Catalan Country Kitchen

Mushroom Pâté

½ ounce dried porcini mushrooms
1 cup boiling water
¼ cup butter (½ stick)
1 pound fresh cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced, tough stems discarded
1 garlic clove, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
½ teaspoon hot sauce
½ teaspoon sugar
6 ounces cream cheese
Salt and pepper
¼ cup chopped fresh chives, parsley or cilantro or a mixture
Edible flowers, like society garlic flowers, optional
Crackers, thinly sliced French bread, or crostini

1. Place the dried mushrooms in a small bowl and cover with 1 cup boiling water. Let sit for 30 minutes. Remove the mushrooms from the soaking liquid. Pour the liquid through a coffee filter or a double layer of paper towels in a sieve (to catch the dirt from the dried mushrooms). Reserve both the mushrooms and the water.
2. Heat a 12-inch sauté pan over high heat. Add the butter and when it begins to brown, add the softened dried mushrooms, the fresh mushrooms, and garlic. Sauté until the mushrooms begin to wilt and squeak, about 5 minutes.
3. Add the reserved mushroom water, oyster sauce, hot sauce, and sugar. Cook over high heat until all the moisture disappears. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature.
4. Transfer the mixture to a food processor and process until smooth. Cut the cream cheese into bits and add it to the mushroom mixture along with 2-3 tablespoons of the herbs. Process until very smooth, adding salt and pepper to taste.
5. Line the bottom of a 6½ or 7-inch springform pan with parchment paper and butter the sides.
6. Transfer the pâté to the prepared pan, and press a layer of plastic wrap over the surface. Refrigerate.
Note: You can also put the pâté in a pretty bowl.
7. To serve, run a knife around the edge of the pan, remove the sides and bottom of the springform pan. Peel off the parchment paper by flipping the pâté on to your hand, paper side up. Then flip the pâté right side up onto a flat serving plate. Decorate with the reserved herbs and the flowers. Serve chilled or at room temperature with crackers, baguette slices, or crostini.

Serves 6-12
Adapted from Hugh Carpenter and Teri Sandison’s Fast Appetizers

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I've tried all three, and they're delicious. My partner is the chef, so I can't weigh in on the preparation, but I can testify to the results. Thanks for such great ideas.