Archive for the ‘Appetizers’ Category

Potlucks. I love to hate them. About the only time I find them tolerable is when it’s a dessert or appetizer potluck. A little haphazardness never hurt an appetizer or dessert buffet. So, when I was invited to a gathering recently and asked to contribute an appetizer, I cringed only slightly.

As much as I like to cook and can pull out a recipe for almost any occasion, this time I was short on both ideas and time. Surveying the contents of my fridge yielded little inspiration. There was cheese, more cheese, some sauces and other condiments, Vermouth, eggs, peanut butter. Tick, tick, tick. I needed to come up with something quick. Ding ding ding ding ding! CHEESE BALL.

OK, so a cheese ball is a decidedly lowbrow option. But, in this age of DIY, recycling and retro comfort food (are corn dogs really the new pork belly?) I knew I could pull it off. It helped that I had a recipe on hand from the talented and sassy Amy Sedaris.

You may have seen Amy Sedaris on Martha Stewart or Dave Letterman. Or perhaps you have even seen her book I Like You. Hospitality Under the Influence. I first fell in love with Amy when she played Jerry Blank on Strangers with Candy, but many people know her because she has a more famous brother.

Her book is a riot. The photos are styled to look like they are from the 1970’s and there are chapters like “The Rich Uncle Comes to Visit,” “Lumberjack Lunch” and “Cooking Under the Influence,” which includes a list of “Munchies.”

I haven’t cooked much from this book but have read it cover to cover. So when I needed an easy, last minute appetizer I was able to recall Amy’s cheese balls. My favorite part of this recipe is that she specifically calls for Ritz crackers. Because really, does any other cracker say “cheese ball” better than Ritz?

Captain’s Mouthwatering Bite-Size Blue Cheese Balls, by Amy Sedaris

1 cup grated cheddar
4 oz cream cheese
2 oz crumbled blue cheese
2 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp chopped green onions (optional)
½ tsp Worstershire sauce
1 Tbsp white wine or milk
¼ cup chopped walnuts
Ritz crackers

Bring all the cheeses to room temperature. Beat with mixer. Add butter, onions (optional), Worstershire sauce, and milk or wine, and continue beating. Chill overnight. Shape mixture into a ball (or as Amy suggests “tumor-sized balls”). Roll in chopped nuts. Let stand 15 minutes. Spread on Ritz.

Read Full Post »

Raincoast Crisps

Are you familiar with Raincoast Crisps yet? They are from Vancouver, B.C., from a company called Lesley Stowe Fine Foods. I don’t know any of their other products yet, which is probably a good thing. A box of those crisp, crunchy, flavorful crackers costs about $7. That was fine when I was getting a paycheck. Now? Not so much. I am thankful that I can still afford a splurge now and again, but alas I am now saving my money for the cheese not the crackers.

The thing is, I have been craving Raincoast Crisps something fierce. After a little searching online, I came across a recipe that damn near replicates the crisps. This week, I decided to give it a try.

I have made crackers a couple of times. I’ve made paper thin crunchy crackers and cheesy crackers. I know my way around a cracker recipe. They are generally pretty simple – 4 or 5 ingredients; mix; roll; bake. This recipe however is a little different. If you haven’t had Raincoast Crisps, you will probably think, “Why bother.” Well then, go on out and buy yourself a $7 box of crackers. If you develop a habit however, you may reconsider making your own.

Most ingredients you can find in the bulk food section of any well-stocked grocery store. The flax seed meal needs to be refrigerated, so you may need to look for it there. Just buy what you need for 1-2 batches, which will make these really affordable snacks.

You bake the thick, lumpy batter in a loaf pan and when it comes out of the oven it looks like a burnt loaf of bread. The next day however, when you slice up the loaf, all the treasures you mixed into the batter reveal themselves like little jewels. Sprinkle each slice with some kosher salt, then oven dry them for a couple of hours. Once cooled, they are ready to store. Or eat. I prefer to serve mine with a rich triple-cream brie, like Delice de Bourgogne.

Raincoast-type Crisps
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup unsalted pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup pecans
2 Tablespoons flax seed meal
1 Tablespoon flax seed
1 Tablespoon sesame seeds
1 teaspoon rosemary, minced
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 tablespoons honey
1 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon molasses
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
Kosher salt for sprinkling

Mix first 8 dry ingredients in large bowl. In measuring cup, mix buttermilk, honey, brown sugar, molasses, baking soda, and salt. Combine wet into dry ingredients. Pour batter into greased small loaf pan.

Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Cool, wrap, and store overnight in the fridge.

The next day, thinly slice the loaf into 1/8-inch slices.

Place on cookie sheet lined with parchment; sprinkle lightly with kosher salt.
Oven dry at 200 degrees for 30 minutes. Turn off oven and leave to dry for about 2 hours. When completely cool, store airtight container.

Read Full Post »

Baked Brie en Croûte

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…the only thing better than cheese is hot cheese.

We had an early Christmas celebration with our families and among other cheesy/porky delights, I made my go-to appetizer – Baked Brie en Croûte. The recipe is alarmingly simple, plus you can prep it in advance. I highly recommend adding it to your repetoire as well.

Baked Brie en Croûte
One 9-by-9 1/2-inch sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
1 large egg, lightly beaten
One 8-16 ounce wheel firm Brie cheese
1/4 cup apricot preserves

1. Roll the puff pastry into a 12-inch square on a lightly floured counter. Using a pie plate or other round guide, trim the pastry to a 9-inch circle with a paring knife. Brush the edges lightly with the beaten egg. Place the Brie in the center of the pastry circle and wrap it in the pastry (see Note). Brush the exterior of the pastry with beaten egg and transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Freeze for 20 minutes.

2. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 425°F. Bake the cheese until the exterior is a deep golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes.

3. Transfer to a wire rack. Spoon the jelly into the exposed center of the Brie. Cool for about 30 minutes. Serve with crackers or bread.

Note: To wrap the Brie, lift the pastry up over the cheese, pleating it at even intervals and leaving an opening in the center where the Brie will be exposed. Press the pleated edge of pastry up into a rim, which will later be filled with preserves or jelly.

To Make Ahead: You can complete step 1 (but do not freeze) and refrigerated, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, for up to 24 hours. Freeze fr 20 minutes before continuing with step 2.

Read Full Post »

Olive Poppers

I don’t get invited to many potlucks. This is probably because I tend to take charge of the kitchen and want my food to be the star. I know this about myself and sincerely do want to be better…someday.

Last Friday, my friend Meris invited a number of us over to her penthouse pad (OK, it isn’t exactly a penthouse, but it is on the top floor). She invited us over for games, drinks and…dududdum…a potluck. The very word sends my head into a spin – what should I make? How will it travel? Who is the crowd? Sometimes it feels like a curse. Most of the time though, I really enjoy the process.

Lately, my go-to recipe for gatherings where, let’s face it, massive amounts of alcohol will be involved…are olive poppers. My friend passed along this recipe by Kathy Casey. She is some Seattle-area food lady who I has never really been on my radar other than this recipe and the cocktails she evidently help concoct at Volterra. Hazelnut and bourbon?! But I digress.

This recipe is pretty easy and a guaranteed hit (unless you don’t like olives). The only caveat is that they take FOREVER to make. You can easily make them ahead of time though (even the day before) and bake just before you serve them.

Olive Poppers
Makes about 30 poppers

1 cup (4 ounces) finely grated sharp cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1/2 cup sifted flour
Dash cayenne pepper
1 jar pimiento-stuffed olives (I just buy the inexpensive supermarket brand)
1/3 cup mixed white and black sesame seeds

Beat the cheese and butter together with a wooden spoon, then stir in the flour and cayenne. Flatten the dough into a disc, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 15 minutes.

Drain the olives and toss any broken or pimiento-less ones. Place the sesame seeds onto a large plate.

Take the dough out of the fridge. Break off a chunk of dough and use the thumb of one hand to press each piece of dough into a flat pancake in the palm of the opposite hand. Then press the pancake around an olive. Roll each ball in the seeds and place the balls on baking sheet.

Bake in a preheated 400-degree oven for 15 minutes. Serve hot.

Read Full Post »


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.