Monday, September 13, 2010

Top 5s of Partying and Entertaining: Part 2

Last year around this time my husband and I decided that we really wanted to throw a theme party at our apartment. Actually, that's a lie. I decided I wanted to have a theme party and he just put up with my wild idea (which tends to be how it goes, we're very much a Lucy and Ricky kind of couple, except I'm the Hispanic one...and hopefully we won't get divorced). I can't remember why, but I decided that the theme should be 1950s Cocktail Party (this was before we were into Mad Men, but I think this kind of a party would be great for a premiere or season finale of that show). And we required everyone to get dressed up, we served little finger foods, and hard drinks.

A lot of our friends don't know each other (we've got our core social group, but then tons of people who aren't part of that), so I really wanted to promote conversation. As I mentioned in my last Top 5 entry, I spread out all my little finger foods all over the apartment to try to get people to mingle and talk. This sort of backfired, but for a very good reason. People were too busy eating all the food to be bothered with socializing. Once they were done eating, then things really kicked into high gear.

So what did I serve them? A variety of things. The normal go-to's like cheese and crackers and nuts, but most of the things I put out were homemade. Cooking for me is a labor of love, and I love entertaining just as much. So while I know sometimes it requires a lot of time and effort to put together a meal, I didn't mind making a ton of little finger foods for our guests (please note, I think I might be insane...or a robot). However, even though most of my dinner recipes take a lot of time, these appetizers don't require anywhere near as much effort.


1. Zucchini & Cheese Crostini

2 zucchini grated
1 2/3 cups of Gruyere Cheese
1 small egg
a dash of worcestershire sauce (or any really high quality smokey meat sauce, plain old BBQ won't do, needs to be really thick and smokey)
a loaf of good bread

Cook in a preheated broiler (or just turn the oven on really high and cook on the top shelf)

Put the grated zucchini in a clear dry kitchen towel and twist tightly, squeezing out all the excess juices. Put in with the rest of the ingredients. Slice up bread and spread on top. Then put on a cookie sheet until the tops get brown (watch very closely it will be different for every oven, mine is usually 5-10 minutes depending on how high I turn it).

This recipe is based on a recipe from one of my favorite cookbooks: Easy Breakfast & Brunch

2. Granny's Dates

Pitted dates )if you can't find any, you can always take the nut out yourself)
Crumbled Blue or Gorgonzola Cheese

This recipe (brought to you by my Granny), doesn't have any measurements because how much you need is based on how much you want to make.

First fry your bacon like you would normally do (but don't fry it until it's completely crispy, you want to make sure it's still pliable enough to work with). While those are cooking, slice the dates in half on one side (make a little slit, don't completely cut in half) and stuff with as much cheese as you want. I think a medium amount works best. Press the date back together and when the bacon is cool enough to handle, wrap half a piece around the date and secure with a tooth pick. All done! They can be served warm or cold.

3. Roasted Red Peppers and Goat Cheese

1 Red Pepper
Crumbled Goat Cheese
Fresh Basil

To make a roasted red pepper you must be ok with getting your stove top dirty. Step 1, turn on gas burner. Step 2, put the red pepper on the burner. Step 3, turn the pepper until it's all charred on the outside (make sure you watch it, the pepper will catch fire -which is ok- but you don't want it to get out of control and burn your house down. Step 4, when it's cool enough to handle take the burnt skin off with your hands. All done!

Next you slice the peppers into slivers. You're going to be rolling these up, so they should be thick enough to put some cheese in and not so long that the roll in several layers. Then take some of the goat cheese and a basil leaf and roll inside one of your pepper slivers with a tooth pick. All done!

This recipe is based off of one from Vegetarian Food for Friends.

4. Caramelized Onion Puff Pastries

Half of one medium sized onion (or one small onion)
SMALL puff pastries you can get in your freezer section at the Super market
Gouda Cheese

Start the onions first. These take a long time to cook, but you can start them and then forget about them and come to them towards the end of your meal and you'll be ok.

Generally the rule is one medium onion requires 3 tablespoons of sugar, 3 of olive oil, and 3 of vinegar. If you're working with a smaller onion use 2 of each and add more as necessary. Slice up the onion real thin, then put in your pan with the other ingredients. Cook on medium-high for a few minutes until the onions start to look a little cooked/opaque (stir often), then put the heat down to medium-low until the onions look like they are cooked, then turn the heat down to the lowest setting and forget about them. They'll need to cook for about 30-45 minutes to get that nice dark brown color you see at the restaurants.

Next, cook the pastries according to the directions on the box. When they're done, take the tops off and put in a little bit of cheese and a little bit of your onions. Put the top back on and put in the oven for 2-3 minutes (just enough to get the cheese a little melty). Then you're done!

This can also be done with the larger puff pastries and made into individual appetizers if you're having a sit down dinner party.

5. Fresh Mozzarella and Tomatoes

Who does not love this appetizer? I honestly don't know anyone who doesn't love part or all of it. It's just that good!

1 Long Log of BelGioioso Fresh Mozzarella Cheese (you can use any brand, but this is my absolute favorite brand, the cheapest, and you can get coupons for it too)
2-3 Tomatoes from the vine
Olive Oil
Very good quality vinegar
Basil (optional)

Slice the tomatoes the slice the cheese in pieces needed to cover the tomatoes. Put them together (with the basil as an option, if you're doing the Roasted Red Peppers I wouldn't, too many of the same flavors running around), then place them on your serving dish. Next drizzle the olive oil and vinegar on the plate. The end.

Wow, this just made me really hungry, I think I need to go make myself some breakfast now.


PS. With the exception of the Fresh Mozzarella, all of the cheeses on here you will have some left over of. With the block cheeses, you can easily cut them into a more presentable shape and serve them with crackers and with the crumbled cheeses you can either save them to put on top of a pasta dish or make a quiche with the rest of the package. Nothing gets wasted here!

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