Have you ever met someone that tells you TOO much of the truth? I’m not talking about too much information – those people who’s over shares make you cringe – I’ll give you an example of just what I mean. When I make people something delicious for dinner and they compliment me on it, instead of simply thanking them and retaining my mystique, I generally explain how simple it all was for me to do. Too much truth.
I’ve been thinking about this because I’m having a group of friends over for the first time next week. I’ve been thinking about past parties and what I like to serve as appetizers. It’s always nerve racking for me to cook for people for the first time. I suffer from some serious performance anxiety combined with confidence issues and I tend to be a detail obsessed perfectionist when entertaining. When you add to that how little spare time I actually have to plan and prepare for a dinner party, you get a fairly overwhelmed lady.
So I’ve spent some serious time over the years finding easy, tasty, simple appetizers that also look beautiful. I’ve done the usual suspects: bruschetta, charcuterie, fresh bread and oils. But sometimes I like to do something a little different, something people won’t expect, and most likely haven’t had before.
I like to start my parties off with a bottle of champagne or two so I’m on a constant search for simple appetizers that pair well with my favorite sparkling beverage. Over the years I’ve found a few that I really love, so for this week’s blog you get a two-fer – two of my favorite simple appetizer recipes. Goat cheese stuffed dates and smoked salmon pinwheels – both are easy to make, look great, and go beautifully with dry sparkling wine.
I guess I’ll never get the hang of keeping my cooking secrets to myself.
Goat Cheese Stuffed Dates (courtesy of Williams-Sonoma)
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 2 Tbsp fine dried bread crumbs
- 24 large dates, preferably Medjool
- 1/4 lb soft fresh goat cheese
- Preheat oven to 375° F. Lightly oil baking dish large enough to hold the dates in single layer
- In a small frying pan over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the bread crumbs and cook, stirring constantly, until the bread crumbs are evenly golden brown about 1 – 1/2 minutes. Remove pan from the heat, transfer the bread crumbs to a plate, and let cool
- With a small knife, make a small lengthwise incision in each date. Carefully remove the pits. Stuff with 1 tsp of the goat cheese in the cavity left by the pit. Arrange dates, goat cheese side up in prepared dish. Sprinkle bread crumbs evenly over dates (dates can be prepared 24 hours in advance, store tightly covered in fridge). Bake until warmed through 10-12 minutes before serving.
Smoked Salmon Pinwheels (courtesy of Williams-Sonoma)
This recipe has a many more steps, but much of it can be done up to two days before the party, and it is really easy to assemble just before guests arrive
- 1 large egg
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 1/2 cup plain all purpose flour
- 1 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
- 3 green onions, including tender green tops finely chopped
- Melted unsalted butter for cooking
- 4 oz cream cheese at room temperature
- 4 oz thinly sliced smoked salmon cut into strips 4 inches long and 1/4 inch wide
- 1/4 cup salmon roe
- 24 small fresh dill sprigs
To make batter:
- In a blender combine egg, milk, four, butter and a pinch of salt. Blend for a bout 30 seconds.
- Transfer to bowl and add green onions cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.
Let batter come to room temperature before cooking – about 30 minutes.
To cook the crepes:
- Preheat a 10 inch non stick crepe pan or frying pan over medium heat.
- Using a pastry brush, lightly coat the pan with melted butter.
- Lift the pan from the heat and hold it at a slight angle. Pour 1/4 cup of the batter into the pan and tip and swirl the pan to cover the bottom evenly. Cook until batter is almost dry and the edges have started to brown about 1 minute.
- Using a wooden spatula, flip the crepe and cook until slightly browned on the second side around 30 seconds longer.
- Transfer the crepe to a baking sheet and cover with a sheet of waxed paper. Repeat to create 4 crepes.
- Let cool to room temperature
The cooked crepes can be stacked with waxed paper separating them, wrapped in plastic wrap, and refrigerated for up to 2 days).
- Lay the crepes out on work surface.
- Spread one-fourth of the cream cheese evenly over the surface of each crepe leaving a 1/2- inch border uncovered around the entire edge.
- Lay one-fourth of the salmon strips over each cheese topped crepe.
- Starting with the edge closest to you, tightly roll each crepe.
- Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour or up to 4.
- Leaving the plastic wrap in place, use a serrated knife to trim off 1/2-inch from the top and bottom of the crepe.
- Slice the crepe crosswise into 6 equal pieces. Remove plastic wrap from pieces.
- Arrange, spiral side facing up. Top each with 1/2 teaspoon of roe and a dill sprig.