No-fuss, self-serve appetizers

Go Entertain

December 03, 2005|By CATHY THOMAS | CATHY THOMAS,THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

Holiday entertaining can be more fun than it used to be. The relaxed attitude of my 20-something daughters and their friends has taught me a valuable lesson.

Fussy finger foods are out. Serve-yourself, trough-style appetizers are in.

I used to work for weeks preparing cook-to-impress individual bantam-bite appetizers for holiday parties: itsy-bitsy popovers, crab-stuffed snow peas and cheesy phyllo triangles.

Now I prepare one or two self-serve selections, delectable offerings that my guests can dip or spread or spear.

Make your homemade hors d'oeuvres look bountiful by buying the rest of the appetizers from bakeries and specialty grocers. Store-bought delicacies might include a glorious cheese platter, augmented with a bowl of mixed olives or candied nuts, some dried figs or Champagne grapes. Or an impressive antipasto platter groaning with a selection of marinated veggies, prosciutto slices and salami.

Cathy Thomas writes for The Orange County Register.

STEAK-CUT OVEN FRIES WITH BLUE CHEESE DIP

Yield: 8-10 servings

FOR DIP

1 cup mayonnaise

1 cup crumbled Maytag or other blue cheese (about 6 ounces)

1/2 cup buttermilk

1 shallot, minced

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon celery seed

2 tablespoons minced flat-leaf parsley

freshly ground black pepper

FOR FRIES

4 medium russet potatoes (about 2 pounds), scrubbed

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

kosher salt to taste

Garnish: chopped Italian parsley

Prepare blue cheese dip: In food processor fitted with metal blade, combine mayonnaise, blue cheese, buttermilk, shallot, lemon juice and zest, Worcestershire, salt and celery seed. Pulse until evenly combined but still slightly chunky. Stir in parsley and season with pepper, to taste. Transfer dip to bowl and refrigerate for flavors to come together while you make fries.

Prepare fries: Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 500 degrees. Place baking sheet on center rack and preheat 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, cut potatoes lengthwise into wedges by eighths, leaving skins on. In large bowl, toss wedges with olive oil.

Carefully remove baking sheet from oven and arrange potato wedges on it, cut side down, keeping them evenly spaced. Using rubber spatula, scrape remaining oil in bowl over potatoes (it helps them get crispy). Bake until browned and crisp, about 30 minutes. Transfer fries to serving platter, arranging them so that they overlap slightly and season with salt. Sprinkle with chopped parsley. Serve immediately with blue cheese dip.

Per serving: 400 calories, 24 grams fat, 6 grams protein, 40 grams carbohydrate, 2 grams fiber, 700 milligrams sodium, 89 milligrams calcium

Adapted from http://foodtv.com

FUYU PERSIMMON WEDGES WRAPPED IN PROSCIUTTO

Yield: 32 wedges

4 Fuyu persimmons; see cook's notes

5-7 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto

For serving: toothpicks

Garnish: sprouts or microgreens

Wash persimmons in cold water and wipe dry with paper towels. Using small, pointed knife, remove calyx (leafy portion at top) from each persimmon. Cut each persimmon in half from top to bottom. Cut each half into 4 wedges. Wrap each wedge with narrow strip of prosciutto, twisting it around middle. Secure each with toothpick.

Place on platter and garnish with sprouts or microgreens (Trader Joe's sells microgreens - immature greens - in plastic containers.)

Cook's notes: Fuyu persimmons are the variety in the same shape as a tomato, slightly flattened at top and bottom. There is another variety called Cinnamon, which is also delicious wrapped with prosciutto. Hachiya persimmons, those shaped somewhat like a heart (the bottom end is pointed), are eaten only when very, very ripe and very soft. They are not appropriate for this use.

Per wedge: 120 calories, 4 grams fat, 10 grams protein, 11 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram fiber, 67 milligrams sodium, 12 milligrams calcium.

STAND-UP CAESAR SALAD

Yield: 10 servings

1/2 baguette, cut into 10 thin diagonal slices

6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided use

1 tablespoon minced garlic, divided use

6 canned anchovy fillets, plus 10 more for optional topping

3 tablespoons lemon juice

2 tablespoons mayonnaise

salt and pepper to taste

1 1/2 pounds bite-sized pieces romaine lettuce hearts (clean and crisped)

1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place bread slices in single layer on rimmed baking sheet. In small bowl, combine 2 tablespoons olive oil and 1 teaspoon garlic. Lightly brush garlic oil on top of bread slices. Bake in middle of preheated oven until golden brown, about 8 to 10 minutes. Set aside.

Finely chop 6 anchovies and place in garlic-oil bowl; add remaining olive oil, 2 teaspoons garlic, lemon juice and mayonnaise. Whisk to blend. Add salt and pepper; stir.

In large bowl, toss lettuce with dressing and cheese. Distribute among 10 glasses. Top each with toasted baguette and, if desired, anchovy.

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