Friday, May 8, 2009

What I Ate for Dinner - the Half-A$$ed hors d'oeuvres

Ok kids, I'm dealing with some bug issues at my apartment, so this is a SERIOUSLY compromised post. There will also be no Sunday post, as I will be scrubbing everything down after fogging the WHOLE FREAKIN' PLACE.

Not that I'm frustrated. Ahem.

BUT! There's still a half-a$$ed post for today! Woo-hoo!

This is for Karen L., who asked about hors d'oeuvres to serve at parties: preferably easy ones that didn't look like they came from a package. THIS is my specialty, folks: finger foods that look WAY more impressive than they are. (Because I love feeding people, but at some point I WANT TO PLAY, TOO.)

The Stuff (because you know, it's not really a recipe):

Hands-down, the easiest thing (which is still impressive-looking):

But wait! It's better than it sounds.
Salami: Get a good quality salami. You can get something presliced, but if it came from Oscar Mayer, pass on by. Get a package (or 2) of the Columbus brand (found in the fancy cheese case). They have regular AND peppered, and I usually grab one of each package.

Cheese: At least two kinds. I like a double- or triple- cream Brie and a soft blue, and occasionally a Jack or Cheddar, if I'm not sure of my guests' tastes (Cheddar is a SUPER safe choice). Trader Joe's makes a FABULOUS soft blue (Castello? Costello? Something like that. Squeeze it a little: it will be as soft as a good Brie. When you find that blue - or bleu - cheese, that's it! Buy it! Buy a LOT of it! YUM . . . )

Crackers: Two words, folks: WATER. CRACKERS. Doesn't really matter what brand. Whole-grain crackers work, too, but only the fancy kinds. Don't go busting out the Triscuits, ok? (Although I DO love some Triscuits, I won't lie.)

Fruit: The part that makes your spread look fancy! Red grapes or sliced apples. If you slice apples, squeeze some lemon juice over them. It'll change the taste a little, but it will still be good with the other ingredients. I'm not gonna lie though, red grapes are my FAVORITE. They're AMAZING with salami and blue/bleu cheese.

The key to that spread is to put everything on plates, and ARRANGE it. It doesn't really matter HOW you arrange it; just don't dump it all on there, and it will look fantastic.

So there's that. Depending on the gathering, you also can't go wrong with potato chips and onion dip. I'm working on a substitute for the packaged dip, but honestly that Lipton crap hits people right in the nostalgic part of their brain. It's ALWAYS a winner.

Cookie dough! Even from a package, in teeny-tiny cupcake holders. These are a little time-consuming though, and be advised that they don't keep out on a table very well for very long: they turn a funny color. Yeesh. But a few at a time are always good. I use a cookie dough scooper (yes, really - STOP LAUGHING AT ME!), which forms them into little balls, so they look cute(that's the part that's time-consuming), and then sprinkle some cocoa powder over the top of them. Mmmmmm.

Ummm . . .

Bruschetta is easy if you have a broiler. Get a baguette, slice it up the night before, toss it in the fridge with a package of Bruschetta topping. The next day, arrange the slices on a broiler sheet, top them with the Bruschetta topping and broil them for about 3 minutes. Ta-da!

Alternately, you can brush the bread slices with some olive oil (or if you're lazy like me, just pour some olive oil on a plate and dip the bread in), sprinkle them with garlic powder (or add minced garlic to the oil on the plate), salt and pepper, and then dust them with grated Parmesan. Broil for the usual 3 minutes, and they'll be nice and toasty without TOO much cheese.

Olives! Olives are great and easy. Toss them in a pretty dish, put a smaller dish of toothpicks on the side, and you're done! But go to the olive bar for these, and get a couple of kinds: Kalamata, maybe some cheese- or garlic-stuffed green ones, whatever looks good. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT buy your olives in the jar in the middle aisles of the store. They taste funny for this type of thing. DO. NOT. Seriously.

Antipasto platters are also good. Remember that baguette? Slice it up and arrange it on a platter. Now on a separate platter, pile up some prosciutto (or thinly sliced ham), a little salami, some jarred roasted red peppers, some jarred sun-dried tomatoes, a little bit of olive tapenade, and some knives to spread all the stuff with. Let people build their own almost-crostini ('cause you know, crostini are toasted, and these aren't)! If you're feeling REALLY adventurous, add some pickled vegetables. (Giardiniera is fabulous - and I probably misspelled it - I never can remember how to spell it. But it's pickled carrots, cauliflower and pepperoncinis. YUM.)

Put out a dish of cleaned radishes. Next to that put a dish of butter and some salt. You dip the radish in the butter, sprinkle a little salt over it, and you're done! (Yes, really. It's good. I SWEAR.)

Watercress sandwiches! Ok, I know that sounds weird. But they're YUMMY. You need a baguette, sliced (are you seeing a theme here?). Put some butter on each slice and top it with some watercress. The watercress has sort of a peppery bite to it, and the butter balances it out nicely. Sprinkle a little coarse sea salt over the top, and it's pretty, too!

What else can I think of? Hmm . . .

OH! Meatballs! But not in BBQ or Teriyaki sauce, because EVERYBODY does that (unless you make a REALLY, REALLY good one). Serve meatballs in marinara sauce, with a little dish of toothpicks on the side. (You can either make your own marinara, or buy a good quality version from the store. Either way works.) Seriously, I know it seems sort of pedestrian, but people love meatballs. Sprinkle a little Parmesan cheese over them if you want it to look fancy.

Ok, I think I'm tapped for now. (Nope, one more: if your friends are like MY friends, put out some hummus and pita chips. But put the hummus in a bowl and drizzle a little olive oil over the top. A LITTLE, I'm not kidding about that part. But it makes it look more gourmet. If people only knew . . . )

Ok, NOW I'm tapped out. No pictures today (I can't even IMAGINE cooking all that for a post), so you'll have to use your imagination! And if you have any other ideas that have worked well for you in the past, by all means post them in the comments!

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