Wednesday, June 4, 2008
Oh, snacks. I'm not much for eating in between meals, but whenever I have people over, I always have at least one thing to nibble on before dinner. A tray of snacks forces you out of the kitchen to spend some time hanging out with people after they arrive, and then gives them something to eat while you disappear to finish everything up. Eating something also allows you to have a drink or two while you're cooking and not start a kitchen fire.
Fancy hors d'oeuvres can be great but aren't really necessary. My mother-in-law likes to set out foie gras smuggled from Paris with toast points and that makes me feel totally sophisticated, but there's also a place in my heart for potato chips and onion dip. The things people really appreciate are as simple as a bowl of good olives, or a few cheeses, or maybe once in awhile something more elaborate involving puff pastry. But I only bother with that if you're a really, really good friend.
So although I'm aiming to mainly write about menus on this site, hors d'oeuvres deserve equal attention. Depending on how many people are eating, I usually serve between one and three things. Here's a few of my standbys that can be mixed and matched and assembled pretty quickly.
Radishes served with butter and sea salt
Jarred, pickled hot peppers stuffed with blue cheese
Sausage wrapped in puff pastry with spicy mustard
Mixed veggies served with aioli
Crostini topped with homemade pesto
A plate of pickles (Rick's Picks are my favorites)
Sliced mango sprinkled with cayenne pepper and lime juice
Mini meatballs with a side of marinara sauce
Figs, peaches, or melon draped with proscuitto and torn basil
Bacon-wrapped dates stuffed with parmesan
Here's two more:
Poured into little take-out boxes, these nuts make tasty holiday gifts. Or stored in a Tupperware, they're a fancy little snack to take to a cocktail party. They're also equally good by the handful straight off the baking sheet.
(Serves about 4-6 people)
1 lb. unsalted unroasted cashews (almonds would work well too)
2 Tbsp. minced fresh rosemary
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
2 tsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. Kosher salt
1 Tbsp. olive oil
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Spread the nuts on a cookie sheet and toast until warm and golden, about 5 minutes. In a bowl, combine all the other ingredients. Toss the warm nuts in the bowl with the spice mixture and stir until thoroughly combined.
I make this so much I worry that it's played out and people won't touch it, but the bowl always gets scraped clean. And then I wonder why I didn't make more.
(Serves about 4 people)
2 ripe avocados (I usually use Haas. They must be black and yielding to the touch when you squeeze them)
1/3 cup sour cream (optional, good for less-than-perfect avocados)
Handful of fresh cilantro, chopped
1/2 small white onion, minced
1 to 1/2 minced jalapeno, as much as you can stand
Juice of one lime
Peel and mash the avocados in a bowl with a fork. Add sour cream, if using, and combine until the avocado is mostly smooth, but not pureed. Add the cilantro, onion, jalapeno, and lime juice. Add salt to taste. Serve immediately with crudite and tortilla chips (note: Tostitos are far and away better than the fancy gourmet brands) or keep covered in the refrigerator.