Tuesday, November 25, 2008

snacks for thanksgiving (or any time)

Can you believe it's almost Thanksgiving? I'm kind of embarrassed to admit this, but I don't even know what I'm making yet.

I volunteered to contribute a vegetable (maybe roasted brussels sprouts? or butternut squash?), a dessert (possibly a flourless chocolate cake, or roasted pears, or maybe a ricotta cheesecake?) and an appetizer (um..??). Luckily my mother-in-law is in charge of the turkey and my mom is picking up the rest of the slack. Thanks, Mom(s).

Over the past few years, I've always made some sort of hors d'ouevres for Thanksgiving. Nothing fancy—deviled eggs, blue cheese dip with celery sticks, or even guacamole and chips (hey, my family lives in Florida). Most people just want something to nibble on before the main event, so you really only need to serve one thing. A bowl of nuts is lovely. Or a platter of cheeses. Or some olives. Really, anything bite-sized that hungry people can grab as they hover in the kitchen, sticking their fingers in all the pots. An even better idea: place the snacks in another room to keep everyone out your hair and the stuffing.

Here's a few snacks I've made for recent dinner parties that I may revisit on Thanksgiving. What are you all serving?

Bacon-wrapped dates with parmesan
This recipe (available from many places, including Gourmet) has gotten me through many a dinner party. Smoky, salty, and sweet, these dates (shown above) are kind of the best thing you'll ever put in your mouth. If you serve them, dinner will be a success, even if you burn everything else.
(Serves about 6 people)

18 (1- by 1/4-inch) sticks Parmigiano-Reggiano (from a 1/2-lb piece)
18 pitted dates
6 bacon slices, cut crosswise into thirds (I tried this with regular and turkey bacon, and both work, although I prefer the pork)

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Stuff 1 piece of cheese into each date, then wrap 1 piece of bacon around each date, securing it with a pick, or placing the dates with the bacon fold side down. Arrange the dates 1 inch apart in a shallow baking pan. Bake 5 minutes, then turn dates over with tongs and bake until bacon is crisp, 5 to 6 minutes more. Drain on a paper towel. Serve immediately.

Lamb meatballs
I've had this recipe by Melissa Clark bookmarked for awhile and my quasi-Mediterranean dinner for Megan seemed like the perfect time to try it out. These are not your average meatballs: the cinnamon, parsley, and mint add brightness and an extra depth of flavor. One change: grate the onion instead of mincing it. Bits of raw onion do no one any favors.

As you'll see below, I made many tweaks to this recipe.
In my ongoing quest to cut out gluten, I omitted the breadcrumbs and one egg. Although everyone liked the end result very much, if you can eat bread, I would recommend keeping the recipe as-is because it will make the meatballs more tender and juicy.
(Serves 4 to 6 people)
1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 lb. ground lamb
1/2 cup minced onion (I recommend grating it)
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons dry bread crumbs (I omitted this)
2 eggs (I used one)
2 Tbsp. chopped mint
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 cup chopped dill (I used parsley)
1 Tbsp. plus 1 teaspoon minced garlic

Preheat your broiler. Brush a rimmed baking sheet with olive oil. In a large bowl, combine the lamb, onion, bread crumbs, eggs, mint, lemon juice, cinnamon, 1 tablespoon of the dill (or parsley), 2 tsp. of garlic and 1 tsp. of salt; knead until combined. Form the mixture into 1 1/4-inch meatballs. Arrange the meatballs on the oiled baking sheet and broil as close to the heat as possible for 6 minutes, turning the pan halfway through, until firm and lightly browned.

Herbed yogurt sauce
This sauce is also great with grilled meat. You can also add a chopped cucumber to turn it into a slightly more substantial side dish.

(Serves 4 to 6 people)

8 oz. container Greek yogurt or plain whole milk yogurt
juice of 1 lemon
2 Tbsp. chopped parsley
1 Tbsp. chopped mint
1 clove garlic, minced
salt to taste

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and stir until smooth. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Sweet potato pancakes
I love potato pancakes and was inspired to make them with sweet potatoes from a recent article in Mark Bittman's blog. The recipe was sort of loose and seemed deceptively simple, having only one ingredient: sweet potatoes. After scraping burned bits of sweet potato out of my frying pan, I can conclude it's just deceptive. So I regrouped, added two eggs, and produced a light and slightly sweet potato pancake that held together.
(Serves about 6 to 8 people)
2 medium-sized sweet potatoes, grated
2 eggs
2 tsp. nutmeg
1 Tbsp. salt, plus more
2 Tbsp. butter

Combine all ingredients except the butter in a large mixing bowl. Stir until combined. Heat a medium-sized frying pan to medium-high heat and add the butter. When it melts and starts to bubble, spoon 1/3 cup sized portions of the shredded potato mixture into the pan. Let the pancakes cook for about 3 minutes, then flatten with a spatula and flip, cooking about 3 more minutes on the other side, or until browned. When done, drain the pancakes on a paper towel. Sprinkle with salt and serve immediately with 1/2 cup sour cream mixed with the juice and zest of one lime.


Tia said...

I was very skeptical about how those sweet potato pancakes would actually turn out - thanks for being the guinea pig! I can't wait to try them.

Lisa said...

Ha! You were wiser than I was, blindly making pancakes without any binders!

Paulita said...

Thanks for these!

and happy birthday


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