Posts Tagged ‘Party Food’


In the November 2010 Food & Wine, the magazine claims that vegetables are the next big thing.  Now, I love my Food & Wine, but seriously, how desperate were they when they came up with that line?  In any event, in promoting vegetables as the next big thing, they had a recipe for parsnip bacon.  I guess since bacon was the last big thing, they figured they had to work it in to help us ease the transition from one big thing to the next.  The recipe sounded good, so I thought I’d give it a try.

In a weird twist, the finished product looked nothing like the picture, but did look a lot like bacon.  However, it tasted nothing like bacon.  But it did taste like Terra Chips, which are pretty awesome, if not as awesome as bacon.  But since bacon is out, and vegetables are in, then that’s probably just as well.

Parsnip Chips

Preheat the oven to 300.  Using a vegetable peeler, peel a parsnip into thin strips.  Toss in vegetable oil (like the recipe) or olive oil (like me).  Spread out on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and sprinkle with smoked sea salt.

Bake at 300 for an hour and 15 minutes (like the recipe) or until they start to burn after about 35 minutes (like me).

Despite my issues with them, they were really good.  Crunchy and salty, they’d make for a nice party snack.  The long strips look really nice standing up in a glass, a lot nicer than a bowl of Terra Chips which just look like potpouri.


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I was having friends over for pizza, and I wanted something not too cheesy or bread based for an appetizer.  I have seen kale chips popping up in the blogs lately and thought they might be just the right thing.  There’s, s a few different recipes going around, but this one by Dan Barber of Blue Hill Farms, which appeared in Bon Appetit, seemed like the way to go.   

They are super easy to prepare.  I whipped them up and they tasted like a potato chip, only more vegetal.  Light, crispy, and a faint vegetable taste to them.  Very crunchy and addictive. 

But, 10 minutes before people arrived, I freaked that they were just a little too hippie to serve to people.  

How would people react to burnt leaves?  

It was too late to change my mind, though. I had nothing else to serve, so the hippie food stayed out.  Thankfully, my risk taking paid off.  While one guest did say, “you can eat those?!”, everyone loved them and the double batch I made was completely gone.  People liked them enough that these may become a party staple of mine.

Tuscan Kale Chips
Recipe from Bon Appetit

12 large Tuscan kale leaves, rinsed, dried, cut lengthwise in half, center ribs and stems removed 
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 250°F.  Toss kale with oil in large bowl.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Arrange leaves in single layer on 2 large baking sheets.  Bake until crisp, about 30 minutes for flat leaves and up to 33 minutes for wrinkled leaves.  Transfer leaves to rack to cool.

At this point, you could break them up and have them more chip size, but I liked the presentation in Bon Appetit.  Into a vase they went to be nibbled on with wine, marinated olives, and quick salt and sugar radish pickles

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Last week, it was freakishly cold, wet, and rainy here for a few days.  These ingredients made it all better. 

I piled them on pizza dough topped with fontal cheese and the result was amazing.   Fontal cheese is a type of Fontina, only nuttier and earthier.  If you can’t find it, I’d go for regular Fontina if you prefer mild cheeses or Taleggio, if you like more pungent cheeses.

Winter Pizza

Butternut squash – peeled and diced into 3/4 inch chunks, about 2 1/2 cups
4 ounces of an earthy, nutty cheese like Fontal or Taleggio, grated (if it is soft, it helps to stick it in the freezer for 10 minutes before grating)
1 cup of walnuts, roughly chopped
15 or so sage leaves, more if you’d like
3-4 shallots
Pizza dough (I use this one)
Olive oil, salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 425. 

In a large skillet over medium high heat, add tablespoon of olive oil.  Add the shallots and saute for about 8 minutes or so, until they become golden brown and carmelized.  Remove and set aside.

In the same skillet, heat another tablespoon of oil.  Add the butternut squash, and saute that for 5 minutes or so.  This is really just to make sure it gets fully cooked when it goes into the oven.  You don’t need to make it soft, just brown it for a few minutes to start the cooking process.

Roll out the pizza dough and brush the carmelized shallots over the base, making sure they are evenly distributed.  It won’t be totally covered, just more of a flavoring.  (If you want it totally covered, I would double the shallots.) 

Sprinkle the cheese on top, followed by the squash and walnuts.

Bake in the oven for 8 minutes.  While it is baking, toss the sage leaves in a drop of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper.  You just want to coat them so they don’t burn in the oven and get a little fried.  Take the pizza out and sprinkle the sage over the pizza.  Put the pizza back in the oven for another 8 minutes or so, until the cheese starts to brown.  Then serve.

The end result really was incredible.  I want to make this all the time.  The walnuts get really sweet in the oven and complement the cheese really well.  The salty sage leaves are a nice bite too.  With a glass of pinot noir, this really did make life a lot better.  I would definitely consider cutting this up in small pieces and serving this as a party appetizer.  So good.

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Here’s the thing with food blogging.  You cook food for your friends, then you go online and tell everyone how awesome your food is.  It’s a little weird.  You just have to hope that you are an objective critic of your own cooking and that your friends aren’t just being polite when they tell you how much they enjoyed what you served them.   Or that your friends aren’t offended by your total and complete lack of modesty.

And that brings us to these blue cheese and walnut cookies. 


They were delicious.  I hate blue cheese and I thought they were delicious.  A couple party guests told me that they hated blue cheese and they thought they were delicious.  And of course, people who loved blue cheese also found these cookies delicious.  I have emails from some attendees stating this fact, so it must be true.

This recipe comes from the blog Pastry Studio, who graciously agreed to let me reprint this.  She impressively made her own fig jam.  I bought a jar of Bonne Maman fig preserves and rather than making sandwiches, put it as a spread or dip on the side.  The cookies worked plain or with the jam, so feel free to choice your poison.

Blue Cheese and Walnut Cookies
Adapted from Pastry Studio

The original recipe notes that it makes 24 2 inch round cookies.  I made 1 1/2 inch square ones and probably got about 40 out of the dough.

6 oz blue cheese, softened
4 oz butter, softened
1/2 cup walnuts
1/4 C + 2 T granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 C flour

Pulse the walnuts in a food processor until there’s no real big chunks but before it turns totally to meal.  Basically, you will be rolling these cookies out very thin, and you don’t want any shards sticking up.


Remove the walnuts.  Add the blue cheese, butter, sugar and salt to the food processor and blend until creamy.  Add the flour and walnuts and pulse until mixture just starts to come together and forms a clump.  Gather dough and place on a piece of plastic.   Refridgerate until thoroughly chilled, at least an hour or two, and preferably overnight.

Preheat the oven to 325 and line baking sheets with parchment paper or a silpat.

Roll out the dough.  Use a cookie cutter if you’d like, but if you want square cookies like mine, get a ruler and trace a grid into the dough.  I made mine in 1 1/2 inch squares.

 IMG_0019 IMG_0021

You want to work as quickly as possible so that the dough doesn’t warm up.  Since it took me a long time to draw the squares, I put the trays of cookies back into the fridge for a half hour before I baked them just to be safe.  So clear some room in the fridge before you do it.  You want these to hit the oven cold so that they retain their shape while baking.

Bake for about 12 minutes or up to 18 minutes if they are larger, until the edges just start to turn golden.  I baked mine one batch at a time in the middle rack, but if you put two trays in, be sure to rotate pans halfway through. 

Cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for several days.  I made mine on Saturday and today, Wednesday, they are still good.

To serve, spread with fig jam and make sandwiches, put the jam on the side, or just eat them plain with a glass of wine.  These little things are definitely cookies.   Similar to shortbread, but a bit chewier.  The cheese flavor is strong enough that they could be served before dinner as an appetizer, but they are sweet enough that you could serve them as dessert with some fruit or port. 


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Make melon salsa.

I made this a while back, when we were still getting boxes from our CSA.  I like melons, but I don’t love them.  I probably would order the healthy side of fruit option with a sandwich instead of fries a lot more often if it wasn’t usually just a big pile of cantelope and honeydew chunks, with a half a strawberry thrown in so that they can actually argue that it is indeed a fruit salad.

This however was a wonderful way to use up the very gorgeous melon we got from Eatwell.   I’m not sure exactly what kind of melon it was, as the outside skin was a gorgeous shade of yellow, but the inside tasted like cantelope. 


I think this recipe would work with any basic cantelope or honeydew type of melon, though I think watermelon would be too watery.

I found this recipe on the always amazing blog, Smitten Kitchen, who in turn based hers on a variation in Gourmet.  I changed things up a bit using what I had in the fridge, and brought it to a barbeque with some tortilla chips.  It was a huge hit.

Cantaloupe Salsa
Adapted from Gourmet and Smitten Kitchen

Makes about 3 cups of salsa

2 cups finely diced cantaloupe or other melon (about a half a melon, maybe a little less)
1/4 cup finely diced red onion
1-2 sweet gypsy peppers (depending on the size), diced.  If you can’t find gypsy peppers, I would use one small red bell pepper, chopped very finely.
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 (2-inch-long) fresh hot red or green chile, minced (use the seeds if you want extra heat)
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/4 teaspoon salt

Mix everything together and eat as soon as possible.  After about 2-3 hours it will start turning watery and not attractive, so you can’t really make this too far ahead.


Unfortunately, that day threw me another lemon…or melon..and my digital camera is no more.  So, if any food bloggers out there have recommendations for a good one, please let me know!

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On Saturday night, we had friends over for dinner.   The farmers market is just incredible right now, with all the wonderful summer produce everywhere, so I had a lot of fun planning out this meal.  Since I tried several new recipes, I’m going to make three posts over the course of this week.  Today, drinks and appetizers.

We aren’t really cocktail people, but I thought it would be fun to try making one.  I found this recipe in Food and Wine, created by Todd Thrasher.  When we lived in DC, we were lucky enough to enjoy his drinks at the wonderful speakeasy-style bar, PX, and as his other home, the absolutely incredible Restaurant Eve.  His drinks were always fantastic, so I knew this drink would be good.

Sweet Basil


10 basil leaves, plus 1 basil leaf for garnish
3 ounces Lillet blanc
1/2 ounce gin
1 ounce Simple Syrup (equal parts water and sugar, boiled until the sugar dissolves, and cooled)

In a cocktail shaker, lightly muddle the 10 basil leaves. Add ice and the Lillet, gin and Simple Syrup and shake well.  Strain well, using cheese cloth,  into a chilled glass and garnish with the remaining basil leaf.

The drink was amazing.  My only complaint is that this drink was very sweet.  I prefer less sweet cocktails, and if  you do, I suggest reducing the simple sugar and the Lillet and increasing the gin by equal amounts to get to a balance that works for you. 

To accompany it, I wanted something mild tasting that wouldn’t taste weird with the basil drink.  I made a simple white bean puree and some pickled crudite.

White Bean Puree

I’ve made this dip a number of times, and each time it turns out differently.  Basically, I throw a can of white beans into the food processor and add whatever is around – herbs, spices, onions, garlic, whatever.  This time, I used 12 scallions, a clove of garlic, juice of half a lemon, and a splash of olive oil.  Add some salt and you are good to go.


Salt and Sugar Pickles

Back in February, I wrote about the easiest appetizers ever.  I take that back.  These are the easiest appetizers ever.  I got the recipe from the June 2007 Food and Wine.  Mix equal parts sea salt and sugar and sprinkle on cut vegetables.   Let it sit for 5-10 minutes and the mixture quickly brines the vegetables.  Serve immediately, because the vegetables get watery and soggy after about an hour.


Food and Wine recommends radishes, daikons, cucumbers, and watermelon.  I used radishes and lemon cucumbers, both of which were great.  The salt and sugar mixture is very subtle, but cuts the raw taste of the vegetable just enough, so you feel like you are eating a yummy snack and not just a pile of bland vegetables.  I really think this might become an entertaining staple. 

Later this week, I’ll blog about the sides and the main course.

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img_6260A while back, I attempted a delicious looking recipe for savory parmesan shortbread cookies that included thyme and pecans.  And, the dough tasted delicious.  But the cookies just didn’t work.  The batter never really came together and the cookies came out of the oven looking all broken and crumbly. 

I really wanted to attempt a savory shortbread again, but this time I did a couple things differently.  First, no nuts.  I’m convinced the chunks of pecans led to the cookies’ crumbly demise since the dough never really stuck together well.  And second, I followed a different strategy for shaping the cookies.  The recipes all seem to call for the shortbread to be rolled into a log and sliced.  But since it’s impossible to get a perfectly round or square shape in your log, the cookies will look nicer if you slice, roll the cookie in a ball, and then gently press them down on the baking sheet.  Shortbread doesn’t really spread out like normal cookie batter, so this seemed to be the best way to get cookies that are somewhat uniform in shape.

This recipe is really easy and everyone who tried them seemed to like it.  Or, at least that’s what they told me.  I don’t think they were lying.

It comes from Ina Garten.


1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
1/4 heaping cup ground parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon freshly cracked/ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried basil or use the dried herb you like the most
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour

I made a few changes from the initial list above.  First, the recipe called for salted butter, but I think unsalted is better since the parmesan is salty.  Then, since I wanted to get the flavor of my earlier failed attempt at savory shortbread, I omitted the basil, added two teaspoons of fresh thyme, and doubled the amount of pepper.  I like peppery things, so I liked the extra kick. 


Line a light-colored baking sheet with parchment paper.  Set aside.

In a mixing bowl, mix together the butter, salt, parmesan, black pepper and whatever herbs you are using until creamy.

Slowly add the flour, and mix until dough holds together when pinched.   If the dough is still too crumbly, add up to 1 tablespoon of ice water. 

Turn out onto a floured counter top, roll into a ball and then into a log.  I wanted my cookies to be small, so I made two logs, each about 8-10 inches.  But, if you want larger cookies, just adjust the length.

Wrap the log in tin foil or plastic and freeze for at least 30 minutes.  You can freeze them for up to a month.

When you take the logs out of the freezer, preheat your oven to 350ºF.

Slice the logs into rounds and roll the rounds into balls.  Ina’s recipe says that it yields 36, but since mine were not much larger than a quarter in diameter, I got about 50.

Arrange in rows on the baking sheet.  While you need a little space, you don’t need a ton since they won’t spread out like most cookies do. 

Bake for 15-25 minutes, checking after about 15 minutes or so.  There’s no eggs in these, so you don’t have to worry about salmonella or other creepy things.  I found my tiny cookies needed about 17 or 18 minutes, and they were crispy on the outside and a little soft on the inside. 



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I have found that the vast majority of fun appetizer recipes involve carbs with a topping.  Canapes, bruschetta, and even just a cheese tray are all essentially the same thing.  Crackers or bread with stuff on them.  Which is fine, but when you are serving pizza for dinner, bruschetta is a pretty lame appetizer.

This Martha Stewart recipe is perfect for those situations.  And it could not be easier.  Martha calls for 20 ounces of figs for 6 to 8 people.  That seemed incredibly excessive, and I used about 10 ounces for my crowd of 7, which seemed to be just the right amount. 

The original recipe is simply equal parts honey and olive oil whisked together, then use the mixture to coat the dried figs before sprinkling them with coarse salt and baking for 12-15 minutes at 350 degrees.  Martha suggests a mix of dried Mission and Turkish figs, but I just used dried Calymyrna figs because that’s what they had at the store.

The finished product was delicious.  The inside of the figs get very soft and almost creamy, and the outside gets this delicious glaze.   So good.  Next time I make them, I’d probably increase the salt a bit because I like salty food.  But, the beauty of this recipe is that its so simple that you can adjust it to your taste.

I served the figs on a platter with thinly sliced proscuitto.  Seriously people, cooking does not get any easier than this.

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img_6211When Sabra is so good, is it really worth it to make hummus from scratch?

I’m underemployed right now, so I’ve got the time to ponder such things.  And I must say, this recipe is pretty damn good.  It’s so creamy and soft, that I’d probably take the time to make it even if I were a contributing member of society.

The recipe was created by Michael Solomonov and was published in Food and Wine

Israeli Hummus with Paprika and Whole Chickpeas


1/2 pound dried chickpeas
1 tablespoon baking soda
7 large garlic cloves, unpeeled
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin, plus more for garnish
1/2 cup tahini, at room temperature
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Paprika, for garnish
1/4 cup chopped parsley

This recipe makes 4 cups.  This seemed like more hummus that I would ever eat, so I halved it and it worked out well.  


In a medium bowl, cover the dried chickpeas with 2 inches of water and stir in the baking soda. Refrigerate the chickpeas overnight. Drain the chickpeas and rinse them under cold water.


In a medium saucepan, cover the chickpeas with 2 inches of fresh water. Add the garlic cloves and bring to a boil. Simmer over moderately low heat until the chickpeas are tender, about 40 minutes.  Drain, reserving 10 tablespoons of the cooking water and 2 tablespoons of the chickpeas. Rinse the chickpeas under cold water. Peel the garlic cloves.

I found they were looking pretty mushy after about 30 minutes, so just keep an eye on them.  I stopped the cooking at 30 minutes, when they looked like this. 


In a food processor, blend 1/4 cup of tahini, 1/4 cup of olive oil, 2 tablespoons of reserved cooking water, 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, one garlic clove, and a pinch of salt.   Pour that mixture into a bowl and set aside.

Then, puree the chickpeas with 1/2 cup of the reserved cooking water, 1/4 cup of the olive oil, and 6 of the garlic cloves. Add the cumin along with 1/4 cup each of the tahini and lemon juice and process until creamy.  Season the hummus with salt and transfer to a serving bowl.

The recipe suggests making an indent in the hummus with a ladle and spooning in the tahini-lemon mixture.  My mixture was on the thick side and strong tasting, so I wasn’t too sure about that.  Rather, I took a butter knife, swirled it through the hummus to make a spiraling indentation, and drizzled the tahini-lemon mixture in to the crevices.  I then swirled the knife through a little more to slightly mix the two together.

It still didn’t look quite as pretty as the picture in the magazine, so I drizzled a little extra olive oil into the crevices.  About a teaspoon or two.  And then it looked pretty.   I finished it off by garnishing with the whole chickpeas, a light sprinkling of the paprika and cumin, and the chopped parsley.

Definitely more work than picking up a plastic container of the stuff at the store, but you have to admit, doesn’t this look a lot more appetizing?

It definitely tastes better too. 


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I love these.

They are savory, salty, crunchy, and perfect with wine. Being that they are biscotti, they last for a while, so they’d be great for gift giving. The recipe also makes a lot…about 5 dozen or so. I’ve made them a few times, and they are usually a hit.
They are pretty easy to make, but you do need to stay near your oven and set the timer numerous times.
The recipe comes from Epicurious.
1 1/2 tablespoons whole black peppercorns
4 cups all-purpose flour plus additional for dusting
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons salt
4 1/2 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano, finely grated (2 1/4 cups)
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
4 large eggs
1 cup whole milk

Put oven racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat oven to 350°F.
The recipe suggests putting the peppercorns in a coffee or spice grinder and grinding until coarse. I don’t have a spice grinder, and I didn’t feel like finding peppercorns in my coffee the next morning, so I just put them all in a plastic sandwich bag and banged the hell out of them with a hammer. You wind up with something a little chunkier than “coarse” but I prefer it that way. I love pepper, and I like being able to see the peppercorns in the biscotti.
Whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, 2 cups cheese, and 1 tablespoon ground black pepper in a large bowl. Blend in butter with a pastry blender or your fingertips until mixture resembles coarse meal. Whisk 3 eggs with milk and add to flour mixture, stirring with a fork until a soft dough forms.
Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and quarter dough. Using well-floured hands, form each piece into a slightly flattened 12-inch-long log (about 2 inches wide and 3/4 inch high).
Transfer logs to 2 ungreased large baking sheets, arranging logs about 3 inches apart.
Whisk remaining egg and brush some over logs, then sprinkle tops of logs evenly with remaining 1/4 cup cheese and 1/2 tablespoon ground pepper.
Bake, rotating sheets 180 degrees and switching position of sheets halfway through baking, until logs are pale golden and firm, about 30 minutes total.
Cool logs to warm on sheets on a rack, about 10 minutes.
Reduce oven temperature to 300°F.
Carefully transfer 1 warm log to a cutting board and cut diagonally into 1/2-inch-thick slices with a serrated knife. Arrange slices, cut sides down, in 1 layer on a baking sheet. Repeat with remaining logs, transferring slices to sheets.

Bake, turning over once, until golden and crisp, 35 to 45 minutes total. Cool biscotti on baking sheets on racks, about 15 minutes.
And that’s it. They’ll stay fresh in an airtight container for a couple weeks.

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