Food fit for a summer cocktail party

June 27, 1993|By Pat Dailey | Pat Dailey,Chicago Tribune

Anyone who has given a cocktail party knows the little nibbles called for at such events can be as difficult to put together as a four-course meal.

Here are two ideas for summer parties. Both recipes include do-ahead steps, and they can be served at room temperature.

Mexican sausage

and bean tartlets

Makes 24 tartlets

PASTRY:

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

3 ounces cream cheese, softened

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup yellow cornmeal

1/4 teaspoon salt

FILLING:

6 ounces chorizo sausage

2 green onions, cut in pieces

1/4 cup cilantro leaves

1 hot chili pepper

1 can (15 ounces) pinto beans, rinsed, drained

5 ounces cream cheese

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

RELISH:

2 medium tomatoes, finely diced

1 large avocado, finely diced

1 hot chili pepper, minced

VTC 2 to 3 teaspoons fresh lime juice

salt to taste

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Mix butter and cream cheese bowl until smooth. Add flour, cornmeal and salt and stir to form a crumbly dough. Press dough into a ball. Divide into 24 pieces. Press each into the bottom and up sides of miniature muffin tins. Bake until set, about 15 minutes. Cool on wire rack.

Meanwhile, remove sausage from casing; crumble into a glass pie plate and cook in a microwave oven on high until cooked, 2 minutes. Drain and blot with paper towels.

Mince green onions, cilantro and chili pepper in a food processor; add beans, cream cheese, vinegar and cumin; process until smooth. Add chorizo and pulse motor on and off just to combine.

Spoon filling into pastry shells; return to oven and bake 15 minutes. Can be baked several hours in advance and held at room temperature.

For relish, mix all ingredients in small bowl. To serve, spoon a little relish on top of each tartlet.

Pesto cheesecake

Makes 16 to 20 servings

CRUST:

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened

1/4 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs

FILLING:

2 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, softened

1 cup ricotta cheese

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

3 large eggs

pinch cayenne pepper

1/2 cup pesto sauce, preferably homemade

GARNISH:

1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil

3 red or yellow bell peppers, roasted, peeled, seeded

sliced French or Italian bread, toasted

Rub butter over bottom and about halfway up sides of a 9-inch springform pan. Sprinkle bread crumbs evenly over bottom; set aside.

Mix cheeses and cayenne pepper in a food processor until completely smooth. Add eggs and mix thoroughly. Transfer half of mixture to a large measuring cup. To the half remaining in the food processor, add the pesto and mix well.

Pour pesto-cheese mixture into pan. Pour plain mixture on top, smoothing it so it covers the entire surface. Bake just until set in the center, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool; chill at least 4 hours.

Loosen from sides of pan with a small knife and remove sides of pan. For garnish, sprinkle the chopped basil in a narrow strip around the edge of cheesecake. Dice 1/4 roasted pepper and scatter over the basil. Cut the remaining peppers into small pieces.

Serve the cheesecake spread on toasted bread and topped with a small piece of roasted pepper.

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