I love hors d'oeuvres. They're fun to make and delicious to eat. I especially like them if they are the main meal, like at a buffet party.
If you're hosting a cocktail buffet on New Year's Eve consisting exclusively of appetizers, bear in mind that people enjoy tasting a variety of hors d'oeuvres. A cheese platter with several kinds of cheese, garnished with grapes or other fruit slices, is always popular. Or you might prefer to serve baked brie, which is ridiculously easy to make. Offer several of your favorites, like a country paté or seafood terrine, pizza or pissaladiere slices, mini quiches, empanadas or sushi. Include your favorite dips, like hummus, tapenade or guacamole. Spread a platter with sliced smoked salmon, ham or cold roast beef, or smoked turkey. Or roll them around veggies, like asparagus spears. Stuffed eggs are as popular as ever. If you're truly ambitious, make a platter of oysters Rockefeller and serve them warm.
If you're making rumakis or canapés, pass them around to guests while they're still hot (but warn the guests that they are!). Fill endive leaves with creamy blue cheese or the tapenade recipe below. Be sure to include Dijon or Béarnaise sauce for the meats. And small pickles and olives. Stuff some small cooked peppers or other vegetables and drizzle them with olive oil for an Italian antipasto platter.
For the weight-watchers wanting to start the year with healthy foods, keep some of your hors d'oeuvres low in calories. A big plate of crudités or raw veggies with a light dip is always a welcome sight for the dieters, as is a bowl of fruit cut into slices guests can easily spear. What you serve as drinks is largely up to you, but do have some virgin drinks on hand for the designated drivers and other nondrinkers.
For sweets, miniature items like chocolate truffles are great because they're easy to eat. Try stuffing dates with cream cheese and an almond, or serve mini pecan tarts, or little cheesecake or lemon squares.
The thing about serving just hors d'oeuvres is that you can make your buffet table as elaborate or simple as your energy and budget allow. You can make a lot of things ahead. If you're short on time and can afford it, pick up trays of meats, cheeses or shrimp, all done up, from the supermarket.
The important thing is to put your guests at ease, keep the food plentiful and the conversation going. Say good-bye to 2009 with people you're comfortable with. Embrace 2010. It will never come this way again.
Italian Roasted Pepper
and Anchovy Crostini
(In Italy, the difference between bruschetta and crostini is size. Bruschetta are large slices of country bread; crostini are smaller, toasted bits of bread. In the U.S., we lump them together)
1 French baguette
1 small can anchovies, drained
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp tomato paste
3 or 4 fresh basil leaves
2 tbs olive oil
freshly ground pepper
1 roasted red pepper, cut up
Parmesan for sprinkling
Cut the bread into thin slices and toast lightly. Remove seeds and stem from the roasted red pepper and cut it up. Mash the anchovies with the basil leaves, the roasted red pepper, one tablespoon of the oil, freshly ground pepper and the garlic. Spread over toasted slices of bread. Finish with a drizzle of remaining virgin olive oil, and a light sprinkle of Parmesan. Serve warm. (If you prefer, leave out the anchovy and season with salt.)
(Make either below, or both. If you'd rather not grill them, bake them in a 375¬° oven for 20 to 25 minutes)
Chicken Liver Rumaki:
12 slices bacon, halved crosswise
12 ounces chicken livers, halved
12 whole water chestnuts, halved
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tsp fresh minced ginger
2 tbs dry sherry
1 tsp sugar
Combine soy sauce, ginger, sherry and sugar in a small bowl. Add chicken livers and water chestnut pieces and marinate them in the refrigerator for 1/2 hour.
Place one chicken liver piece and one chestnut piece in the center of each bacon-half, wrap and secure with a toothpick.
Place the Rumaki on a broiler pan or shallow baking pan and broil, about 5 or 6 inches from the heat, until the bacon is crisp, about 10 to 15 minutes.
Serve hot. Makes 24.
Sea Scallop Rumaki
4 slices bacon, halved
8 sea scallops
1 green onion, thinly sliced
1 1/2 tsp fresh ginger, minced
2 tbs lemon juice
fresh chives (optional)
Microwave bacon on high for about 2 1/2 minutes, or until partially cooked but still flexible. Top each scallop with some of the onion and ginger. Drizzle evenly with lemon juice. Wrap a bacon piece around each scallop, and secure with wooden toothpicks. Grill scallops on grill tray 2-3 minutes on each side, or until done. Or broil three inches from heat for 2-3 minutes on each side, or until bacon is crisp and scallops are cooked. Drain on paper towels. Garnish with chives, if desired.
Mini Crab Cakes
1 pound crabmeat
1 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 1/2 tbs Dijon-style mustard
3/4 cup all-purpose flour, see note
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 cup vegetable oil for frying
Drain the crabmeat of excess liquid; place in a small mixing bowl. Fold in the remaining ingredients. Generously coat the bottom of a skillet with the oil and heat over medium-high heat. Gently form the crab mixture into the size of silver dollars. Cook a few at a time in the hot oil, turning once with a spatula to brown evenly on both sides. Add more oil as needed to cook the rest of the crab cakes. Clean off the spatula a few times so the cakes won't stick while being removed from the skillet.
Note: If mixture seems too wet, add a little more flour and cook one cake to test.
Makes 30 small crab cakes.
(Crab mixture can be kept in the refrigerator for three days. Serve with a dipping sauce made from mayonnaise, Dijon mustard and Key lime juice.)
(Let frozen puff pastry come to room temperature before beginning, about 20 minutes. After wrapping the brie in the pastry, you can refrigerate for up to 48 hours before baking)
1/2 package frozen puff pastry, thawed
1 (8-ounce) package brie cheese round, rind left on.
1/8 cup toasted almonds, slices
1/4 cup apricot preserves (or use raspberry)
fresh fruit for garnish (optional)
Preheat oven to 425°. Lightly grease cookie sheet. Flour a sheet of puff pastry and roll out to 1/8-inch thickness. Spread preserves on top of cheese. Sprinkle almonds on top of preserves. Bundle puff pastry up and around the cheese in a neat package. Seal edges by pressing with your fingers. Place on a baking sheet seam-side down. Attach any decorative pieces of puff pastry in design of your choice. (At this point, you may cover it and refrigerate for up to 48 hours.) When ready to bake, brush the puff pastry brie with the egg wash. Bake for about 20 minutes or until golden and puffy. Remove from oven and let rest for about 20 minutes before serving (This is important! If you don't, the melted brie will pour out when you cut it open). Serve with crackers.
1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes
1 can (3-4 oz.) smoked oysters
1 tbs cream cheese
1 tbs chopped fresh dill
flat-leaf parsley for garnish
Cut tomatoes in half and scoop out centers with a grapefruit spoon. Mash the oysters with the cream cheese and the dill and stuff the tomatoes. Garnish with the parsley.
Stuffed Snow Peas
24 Chinese pea pods, trimmed
3 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
2 tbs heavy cream
2 tbs chopped chives
Mix the cream cheese with the cream and chives, open the pods and fill them with teaspoons of the mixture.
Black Olive and Sun-
dried Tomato Tapenade
1/2 cup of black olives (canned is fine)
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes
small bunch parsley
1 tbs lemon juice
1 garlic clove
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup of olive oil (or more if needed)
Belgian endive leaves
Place sun-dried tomatoes and garlic in a food processor and pulse. Add parsley and pulse again. Add lemon juice, salt and pepper. Pulse the mixture a few times. Then slowly add a stream of extra virgin olive oil with the processor on until a smooth paste is achieved. Add the olives and pulse again to desired consistency. It's better if the olives are left a bit chunky. Check for additional salt or pepper. Place dollops of the tapenade on the Belgium endive leaves and serve as an hors d'oeuvre. (Or you could spread it on toast rounds, and serve warmed as a canapé).
1 doz. smoked salmon slices
2 hard cooked eggs
1 medium onion, sliced paper thin or 6 finely chopped green onions
1/4 cup capers
Black rye bread or pumpernickel bread, but in half to form triangles (either butter them or provide butter on the side)
Cut the salmon slices into smaller pieces and place on a platter. Sprinkle with the onions and the capers. Put the egg yolks into a sieve, shred the egg whites and sprinkle them over top. Place bread in a basket on the side, and let guests make their own open face canapés.
(Since I had this in Istanbul last summer, it has become one of my favorites)
2 small red bell peppers, roasted, seeded and chopped
1 tbs water
1 small red onion, coarsely chopped
1 cup walnuts
1 tbs garlic
1/2 cup unseasoned dry bread crumbs
1/4 cup pomegranate molasses (you can make this by reducing 1 cup pomegranate juice until thick and adding 1 tbs lemon juice)
2 medium red jalapeños, chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (or more, to taste)
2 tbs lemon juice (or more, to taste)
pomegranate seeds (optional, for garnish)
plain yogurt (optional, on the side)
Roast peppers, seed and chop. In food processor, grind peppers and one tablespoon of water to a paste. Add remaining ingredients. Pulse until all ingredients are finely crushed and well mixed, but not liquefied. Add the olive oil. Season with cumin, red pepper flakes and lemon juice. Let stand in refrigerator overnight to allow flavors to blend. Sprinkle pomegranate seeds over top, if desired. Serve on pita points or crackers. If you like, serve some plain yogurt alongside.