Have appetizer, will travel

We are invited to a party tonight and I was asked to bring an appetizer.  I’m always conscious of bringing something that is easy to transport and requires very little work or use of the host’s kitchen on the receiving end.  (And we will need to be prompt since we have the start of the evening – if you want to be late, bring dessert!)  I decided to make seared tuna with wasabi since I had seen beautiful tuna on sale at Graul’s.  Here is the recipe along with a few other ideas for appetizers that fit the bill for a potluck.

Seared tuna with wasabi sauce
  • 1 lb of sushi grade tuna
  • 1 TB black sesame seeds
  • 1 TB sesame seeds
  • 1 TB poppy seeds
  • 1 TB canola oil
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 2 TB wasabi paste (can be made by combining equal parts of wasabi powder and water)
  • flat bread crackers
Cut tuna into long blocks.  Season with salt and pepper.  Combine sesame seeds and poppy seeds in a shallow pan and dip tuna blocks in seeds, coating each side.  Using a non-stick pan over medium high heat, heat canola oil and sear tuna blocks about 2 minutes a side.  (You want tuna to be rare).  Remove from heat and chill in refrigerator.  Combine sour cream and wasabi paste.  When ready to serve, slice tuna and put on flat bread crackers – top with a small amount of sauce.

Blanched Asparagus with Wasabi Mayonnaise

This is always a hit.

  • Asparagus spears, tough end broken off
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 4 tsp low sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2 tsp wasabi paste

Boil water with salt and blanch asparagus in batches for 2 minutes.  Drain and rinse with cold water to stop cooking.  Refrigerate wrapped in paper towels.  Stir together remaining ingredients and refrigerate.  Serve asparagus with wasabi mayonnaise for dipping.  NOTE:  Leftover wasabi mayonnaise is great on turkey sandwiches.

Salmon Spread

My nieces all love this spread and it is a great way to serve smoked salmon to a group of people.

  • 1 8 oz package cream cheese, softened
  • 8 oz smoked salmon, chopped
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp dill
  • 1/4 tsp tabasco
  • 1/4 cup chopped black olives
  • pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients. Press in a mound or a bowl for shape and chill. Serve with crackers.

Grilled Thai chili scallops

These are delicious and pretty.  I took them to a Halloween gathering – being sort of orange in color, they looked as good as they tasted!

  • 7 – 10 slices white bread, cut into rounds with a 2 inch fluted pastry cutter
  • 15 sea scallops, cut in thirds horizontally
  • 6 – 8 TB Thai sweet chili sauce
  • creme fraiche

Bake bread rounds in a 300 degree oven for about 25 minutes until crisp and browned.  Cool completely and then store in a zip lock bag until ready to assemble.

Heat a grill pan over medium high heat.  Grill scallop slices (dry) for about a minute a side.  Remove from heat into bowl with sweet chili sauce.  Chill until ready to assemble.

When ready to assemble, top each toast round with a scallop slice and a dollop of creme fraiche.

Vodka spiked cherry tomatoes

  • 2 pts cherry tomatoes (or grape tomatoes)
  • 1/2 cup good vodka
  • 3 TB white wine vinegar
  • 1 TB sugar
  • zest from 1 lemon
  • kosher salt and coarsely ground pepper
Make an x at stem end of each tomato.  Dunk in boiling water for about 5 seconds for cherry tomatoes or 20 seconds for grape tomatoes and then in ice water.  Remove peels.  Combine vodka, vinegar, sugar and lemon zest and soak tomatoes in vodka mixture.  Combine salt and pepper in a shallow dish.  Serve tomatoes with toothpicks – spear the tomato and then dip in the salt, pepper mixture.  For an indoor party, these look pretty in a glass trifle bowl – for a picnic transport in any plastic container.
Crab salad in cucumber cups
  • 2 cucumbers, cut into slices about 3/4 inch
  • 1 pound of crabmeat
  • 2 TB mayonnaise
  • 1 TB lemon juice
  • 1 tsp celery salt (or 1 celery stalk minced)
  • 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce

Scoop center out of cucumber slices with a spoon.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.  Gently combine crabmeat with mayo, lemon juice, celery salt and Worcestershire.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.  When ready to serve, mound about 2 tsp of crab salad in cucumber cup and eat.  (Leftover crab salad is delicious eaten with a spoon!)

Bruschetta Toasts

  • 1 loaf of French bread (I used two since I made all three toppings)
  • olive oil
Slice bread into 1/4 inch slices on diagonal to make longer slices.  Brush with olive oil.  Bake at 350 for about 10 minutes until crisp.  Cool before topping.  (Toasts can be made ahead and stored in baggies – just make sure they are cool before bagging.)
Tomato topping
  • 2 large shallots, thinly sliced
  • 1 TB olive oil
  • 2 tomatoes, seeded and chopped
  • 3 oz ricotta salata or feta cheese, diced
  • 2 TB chives, minced
  • 2 tsp balsamic vinegar
Heat oil over low to medium heat in a small saucepan.  Cook shallots, stirring until soft.  Add tomatoes and cook for 2 minutes.  Toss tomato mixture with cheese, chives and balsamic vinegar.  Refrigerate until ready to use.  To serve, top toasts with 1 – 2 tsps of mixture (depending upon size of toasts.)
Spinach topping
  • 2 bags baby spinach
  • 6 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 TB olive oil
  • 3/4 cup mozzarella cheese
Saute garlic in medium saucepan over medium heat for about 1 minute.  Add spinach in two batches and stir until wilted (about 5 minutes.)  Drain liquid and transfer to a bowl.  Stir in mozzarella cheese.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.  Spoon onto toasts.
Shrimp topping
  • 1/2 lb cooked shrimp, roughly chopped
  • 2 – 3 TB olive oil
  • 1 TB lemon juice
  • 2 chopped shallots
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 TB chopped parsley

Combine all ingredients and refrigerate until ready to assemble – up to overnight.  Spoon onto toasts.

Holiday meals

Sorry to abandon you the week of Christmas. I’ve been busy with last minute preparations but I’m happy to say that all gifts have been purchased and wrapped. My in-laws arrive this afternoon and we will be having dinner at my sister’s house tomorrow night. We normally do it here but this year circumstances are a bit different. I’m assuming that you have already planned your holiday meals but in the unlikely event that you are still undecided about what to fix for Christmas Eve and/or Christmas dinner, here are our menus. Merry Christmas to you and yours and I’ll be back with a menu plan for next week!

Christmas Eve

Beef Tenderloin 

We always used to cook tenderloin at high heat until we discovered this slow-roasted technique.  Meat is moist and tender.

  • 1 beef tenderloin, trimmed and tied
  • 3 TB olive oil
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • coarsely ground pepper.

Preheat oven to 275.  Brush filet with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Roast for 1 hour and 15 minutes.  Check temperature – when a thermometer registers 125, your meat is rare.  If you want medium rare, cook to 135.  Remove from oven and cover with aluminum foil.  Let rest for about 20 minutes and then carve and serve with sauce of your choice.  Tonight’s pick:

Mustard Horseradish sauce

  • 1 1/2 cups mayonnaise
  • 3 TB Dijon mustard
  • 1 1/2 TB whole-grain mustard
  • 1 TB horseradish
  • 1/4 cup sour cream

Whisk together to combine.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Tomatoes Provencal

  • 1 tomato per person, halved
  • 1 clove garlic per tomato, thinly sliced
  • parsley
  • panko
  • olive oil

Top each tomato half with garlic slices.  Combine parsley (fresh or dried) with panko and enough olive oil to hold together.  Top garlic with mixture and bake at 375 for 45 minutes.

Rosemary popovers

  • 1 1/3 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/3 cups milk
  • 5 TB melted butter
  • 4 tsp fresh rosemary leaves, minced

Preheat oven to 350.  Combine flour, salt, eggs, milk and 4 TB of butter in a blender for about 30 seconds.  Brush popover tins with remaining butter and heat in oven about 5 minutes.  Fill tins half full with batter and sprinkle each popover top with rosemary.  Bake 45 minutes or until golden and crisp.

Christmas Dinner

This menu goes with a Smithfield ham and the beauty of it is that everything can be done ahead of time and none of it is particularly arduous so you can enjoy the day and an elegant dinner.  I picked up Buche de Noel from Patisserie Poupon for dessert.

Salmon Spread
1 8 oz package cream cheese, softened
8 oz smoked salmon
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 tsp dill
1/4 tsp tabasco
1/4 cup chopped black olives
Mix all ingredients. Press in a mound or a bowl for shape and chill. Serve with crackers.

Biscuits
These are wonderful lightly buttered and stuffed with salty Smithfield ham.
2 cups flour
4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp sugar
1/2 cup butter (softened)
2/3 cup milk
Sift together dry ingredients. Cut in butter until dough is in coarse crumbs. Add milk all at once. Stir dough until just combined. Knead on a lightly floured surface and roll to 1/2 inch thick. Cut with a biscuit cutter and bake on ungreased cookie sheets at 450 for 10 – 12 minutes until golden brown.
Scalloped Oysters
2 pints oysters
3 cups oyster crackers
8 TB oyster liquor (drained from oysters)
1 cup melted butter
4 TB cream
Preheat oven to 450. Drain oysters reserving liquor and wash oysters, checking for bits of shell. Marinate crackers in melted butter. Grease a shallow baking dish and layer crackers, oysters, crackers, oysters and crackers. Pour reserved oyster liquor and cream over top. Bake 30 minutes.

Spiced Sweet Potatoes
3 lbs sweet potatoes
1/2 cup sugar
4 TB butter
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp salt
4 TB cream
1/4 cup rum
Boil potatoes until soft. Peel and mash. Mash in butter and seasonings and put mixture in a casserole dish. Bake in hot oven (you can put in with the oysters after the turkey comes out) for 15 – 30 minutes or until hot. (Casserole can be made the day before and refrigerated – make sure to cook until hot.)
Baked tomatoes and artichokes
1 large can whole plum tomatoes (2 lbs, 3 oz)
1 can artichoke hearts (14 oz)
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
1 large or 2 small shallots, minced
1 stick butter
1/2 tsp basil
2 TB sugar
Preheat oven to 325. Grease a shallow ceramic casserole. Drain tomatoes and artichokes. Rinse artichokes and drain. Quarter artichoke hearts.
Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium low heat. Saute onion and shallots until soft. Add tomatoes, artichokes, basil and sugar and stir to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour mixture into casserole dish and bake at 325 for about 10 to 15 minutes or until vegetables are hot.

Christmas dinner

I am actually copying my post from last Christmas as it appeared last year.  We are having the same dinner, for the same reasons!  If you were following blog last year, I apologize for the repetition but when you have found something you like, you might as well stick with it!   Post a comment to blog and share your favorite holiday meal.

When we were kids, my mom made turkey on Christmas.  At some point she decided that it was one thing to cook a turkey on Thanksgiving when that was the main event but she wanted something simpler for Christmas dinner so we could focus on Christmas.  We have Smithfield ham with homemade biscuits, oyster casserole, baked tomatoes and artichokes and sweet potatoes.  I’m serving salmon spread and cheeses first and finishing with a Buche de Noel that I ordered from a French bakery.  Here are the recipes for each item:

Salmon Spread

  • 1 8 oz package cream cheese, softened
  • 8 oz smoked salmon
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp dill
  • 1/4 tsp tabasco
  • 1/4 cup chopped black olives

Mix all ingredients.  Press in a mound or a bowl for shape and chill.  Serve with crackers.

Biscuits

These are wonderful lightly buttered and stuffed with salty Smithfield ham.

  • 2 cups flour
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter (softened)
  • 2/3 cup milk

Sift together dry ingredients.  Cut in butter until dough is in coarse crumbs.  Add milk all at once.  Stir dough until just combined.  Knead on a lightly floured surface and roll to 1/2 inch thick.  Cut with a biscuit cutter and bake on ungreased cookie sheets at 450 for 10 – 12 minutes until golden brown.

Scalloped Oysters

  • 2 pints oysters
  • 3 cups oyster crackers
  • 8 TB oyster liquor (drained from oysters)
  • 1 cup melted butter
  • 4 TB cream

Preheat oven to 450.  Drain oysters reserving liquor and wash oysters, checking for bits of shell.  Marinate crackers in melted butter.  Grease a shallow baking dish and layer crackers, oysters, crackers, oysters and crackers.  Pour reserved oyster liquor and cream over top.  Bake 30 minutes.

Spiced Sweet Potatoes

  • 3 lbs sweet potatoes
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 4 TB butter
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 4 TB cream
  • 1/4 cup rum

Boil potatoes until soft.  Peel and mash.  Mash in butter and seasonings and put mixture in a casserole dish.  Bake in hot oven (you can put in with the oysters after the turkey comes out) for 15 – 30 minutes or until hot.  (Casserole can be made the day before and refrigerated – make sure to cook until hot.)

Baked tomatoes and artichokes

  • 1 large can whole plum tomatoes (2 lbs, 3 oz)
  • 1 can artichoke hearts (14 oz)
  • 1 yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 large or 2 small shallots, minced
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1/2 tsp basil
  • 2 TB sugar

Preheat oven to 325.  Grease a shallow ceramic casserole.  Drain tomatoes and artichokes.  Rinse artichokes and drain.  Quarter artichoke hearts.

Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium low heat.  Saute onion and shallots until soft.  Add tomatoes, artichokes, basil and sugar and stir to combine.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Pour mixture into casserole dish and bake at 325 for about 10 to 15 minutes or until vegetables are hot.

Everything can be done ahead of time and we can enjoy our day.

Holiday entertaining

One of the things that can make this time of year special is spending time with family and friends.  Unfortunately, many people are afraid to have company and as a result, they postpone inviting people indefinitely.  Make a holiday resolution to host one gathering.  It could be having your 4 nearest neighbors over for a glass of wine and some nibbles, having a few friends back for cookies after an evening church service or hosting a small cocktail party.  If you aren’t used to having company, start small, invite 4 – 6 people over.  Once you are comfortable with that, move up to 10.  Pull out your pretty things, the platter you got as a wedding present that you never use, your grandmother’s silver chafing dish, the holiday glasses that are still in the box, you get the idea.

Make a list of everything you want to serve a few days ahead of time.  If you want a special item (sliced roast beef, Smithfield ham for biscuits, sushi grade fish, etc.), call your local grocer and pre-order.  (You don’t want to assume that something will be available and then find out at the last minute that you can’t get it.)  Go through all of your recipes twice – once to make a list of ingredients for shopping and a second time to make yourself a work plan.  (If I’m hosting a larger gathering, I’ll make a plan of things to do each day leading up to the party – for example, Thursday – bake Parmesan crackers, Friday – toast nuts, make salmon spread, Saturday – grocery store, crab dip, cheese puffs, etc.  You also use the work plan to determine when you need to shop for each ingredient – you’ll probably need more than one trip to the store.)  Get out the serving plates and arrange them.  Make notes and place a piece of paper on each plate with what you will have on it.  The key to making entertaining look easy is having everything done ahead of time.

Buy some beer and wine if you want to keep things simple.  We always put out a bar with gin, vodka, scotch, rum, bourbon and a full set of mixers.  We don’t offer specialty drinks like Cosmpolitans, appletinis or margaritas.  If you are having more than 30 people with a full bar, you may find it helpful to hire a bartender.  Ask a neighbor’s kid who has graduated from college or ask at your neighborhood liquor store or restaurant to see if they can recommend someone.

If the idea of cooking for a group intimidates you, buy everything.  There are so many great prepared items available at grocery and specialty stores, you can entertain without turning on the stove (although some items do require heating!)  🙂  Or buy most of the things and make one thing.  Or if you are like me, go hog wild and make lots of stuff.  The one thing I feel is very important is that people get enough to eat.  Years ago, my husband and I went to a very fancy party.  The home was beautifully decorated and a catering firm had been retained to provide the food.  The food was beautiful – little tiny leaves of endive with delicate nibbles of something in them, etc.  We were stalking the catering help desperately trying to get something to eat.  When we left the party we were so hungry we went to a neighborhood restaurant for dinner.  At the restaurant we saw many other people who had come from the same party.  On the way home I said to my husband “I never want people to leave our house feeling like they have to go out to dinner.”  It is also a very bad idea to serve  people drinks and not give them food to go with it.

I posted holiday cookie ideas last weekend so if the dessert option appeals to you, consider selecting one or more items from that list.  If you want to go for savory options here are some ideas – I’ve noted the ones that are a little more complicated.

Nibbles

These are things that you can pass or put out on a plate.  Pick one of the cheesy options and buy pate or some nuts or olives.   Perfect low stress pairing along with a glass of wine for a casual cocktail invitation or while trimming the tree.

Cheese Puffs

My mom always made these for parties.  They keep well in a tin and only need to be popped into your toaster oven for a few minutes for serving – they are best served hot.  This recipe can easily be multiplied.

  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 4 TB softened butter
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 tsp celery salt

Combine cheese and butter in a mixer.  Add flour and celery salt and mix thoroughly.  Roll into balls about 1 inch in diameter and place on a lightly greased cookie sheet.  You can use the tines of a fork to flatten slightly and make a waffle pattern on each puff.  Dust with paprika and chill for several hours.  Bake at 450 for 8 minutes.  Store in tins until ready to reheat and serve.

Rosemary walnuts

Most people love nuts and there are lots of recipes for herbed and spiced nuts.  This is one of my favorites.

  • 5 TB unsalted butter
  • 4 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 4 cups walnuts

Melt butter with rosemary, salt and cayenne.  Toss with walnuts.  Bake on a cookie sheet at 350 for 10 minutes.

Parmesan crackers
I’ve gotten hooked on these crackers.  Keep in mind that these are more like a savory cookie and should be enjoyed as is.  Don’t put them next to a dip – it’s a waste of an exceptional cracker.  Use the store bought crackers with dips.
  • 1 1/4 cups freshly grated cheese (I used half Parmesan and half Romano)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 TB fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 1 stick butter at room temperature
  • 1 cup flour

Preheat oven to 350.  Combine cheese with salt and pepper and rosemary in a mixer.  Add butter and beat to combine.  Add flour in 3 batches combining until mixture holds together.  Roll into balls (about 1 TB in size) and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment.  Flatten slightly.  Bake about 14 – 16 minutes until edges are browned.  Remove from oven and let cool.

Cardamom cheese straws
These are a little more involved.  If they scare you, go back to top and make the cheese puffs.
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 3/4 tsp cardamom
  • large pinch salt
  • 1/3 stick butter, diced
  • 1 cup sharp cheddar cheese grated
  • 1 TB plus 1 tsp milk
  • 1 egg
Pulse flour, cardamom and salt together in a food processor.  Add butter and pulse until mixture is in small balls.  Add cheese and 1/ tsp of milk and pulse until dough starts to form.  Remove from processor and knead until smooth.  Form into a rectangle, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.
Remove from refrigerator and on a work surface sprinkled with flour roll into a rectangle – about 10 x 8 inches.  Cut into 1/4 inch wide straws.  Place on baking sheets covered with parchment paper.
Combine egg and milk and whisk.  Brush straws with mixture and bake in a 350 degree oven for 14 minutes, switching sheets halfway through.  Remove from oven and cool.
Seafood
Most people really love seafood and it is always a hit at parties.  If you want to expand to a few more people choose one or two of the savory nibbles above, and add one (or more) of the selections below and you are up to a cocktail party.  I usually order roast beef and serve it alongside the seafood with rolls, mayo and horseradish.
Crab Dip
This recipe came from my mother-in-law and everyone loves it.  It is quick and easy to fix and is easily doubled or tripled for larger crowds.
  • 1 lb crab meat
  • 2 packages cream cheese softened (we usually use low fat)
  • 1 pint sour cream
  • 2 heaping TB mayonnaise
  • 1/2 tsp dry mustard
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp Old Bay seasoning
  • 1/2 cup sharp cheddar cheese
Combine cream cheese, sour cream, mayonnaise, seasonings and half of the cheese.  Fold in crab meat and top with remaining cheese.  Bake at 350 for 30 minutes and serve hot with crackers.
NOTE: Since it is going in a dip anyway, you don’t need jumbo lump crab for this recipe – lump is fine.  I do insist on Maryland crab meat though.  The crabmeat from Venezuela is much cheaper but it does not have the same flavor and to me it has a sort of blueish appearance that I don’t fine appealing.  (But everybody knows I’m fussy when it comes to food.)

Salmon Spread

My mother-in-law got this recipe in Alaska.  It’s a great way to serve smoked salmon to a group and can be made a few days ahead and stored in the refrigerator.

  • 1 8 oz package cream cheese, softened
  • 8 oz smoked salmon
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp dill
  • 1/4 tsp tabasco
  • 1/4 cup chopped black olives

Mix all ingredients.  Press in a mound or a bowl for shape and chill.  Serve with crackers.

Shrimp dip
This recipe came from my mother and it is delicious.  I am generally suspicious of recipes made with canned soup but this is very good and always popular.
  • 1 can cream of shrimp soup
  • 8 oz package cream cheese
  • 1 minced garlic clove
  • 4 oz canned ripe black olives, chopped
  • 2 TB lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp curry powder
  • dash Worcestershire
  • 1/2 cup cooked shrimp, chopped

Melt soup and cream cheese in top half of a double boiler until completely melted and combined.  Add remaining ingredients.  Serve hot (in a chafing dish) with crackers and raw veggies.

Seared tuna with wasabi sauce
I almost always have this for parties because it is one of my favorite things.  I special order sushi grade tuna from my grocery store and it makes the difference.  This is a little more effort but it is so worth it.
  • 1 1/2 lbs of sushi grade tuna
  • 1 TB black sesame seeds
  • 1 TB sesame seeds
  • 1 TB poppy seeds
  • 1 TB canola oil
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 2 TB wasabi paste (can be made by combining equal parts of wasabi powder and water)
  • flat bread crackers
Cut tuna into long blocks.  Season with salt and pepper.  Combine sesame seeds and poppy seeds in a shallow pan and dip tuna blocks in seeds, coating each side.  Using a non-stick pan over medium high heat, heat canola oil and sear tuna blocks about 2 minutes a side.  (You want tuna to be rare).  Remove from heat and chill in refrigerator.  Combine sour cream and wasabi paste.  When ready to serve, slice tuna and put on flat bread crackers – top with a small amount of sauce.
Other options
Other things that I have made for parties which can be found on blog include:
  • asparagus with proscuitto or asparagus with wasabi mayonnaise
  • mushroom and fontina pizzas
  • bruschetta
  • mushroom and shrimp tartlets
  • shrimp seviche
  • garlic mushrooms
  • crabbies
  • tuna tartar

You can always buy:

  • steamed shrimp
  • Smithfield ham to put on biscuits
  • olives, tapenade, etc from an olive bar
  • pate
  • nuts
  • specialty cheeses
  • smoked salmon

 

Apps for Easter

We are having dinner tomorrow at my sister’s house.  (I’ll blog about Easter dinner options tomorrow.)  I volunteered to do appetizers. I wanted to have something for everyone so I’m making asparagus with wasabi mayo (easy, light and very springy), my new favorite cheese crackers (something most of my family hasn’t tried yet) and the famous salmon ball (a great way to serve smoked salmon to a large group of people and a favorite with my nieces.)  I made everything except the crackers while watching The Masters on TV this afternoon.  I’m going to make the crackers now and then I’m free to enjoy Easter with my 5 year old (who may get visits from the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy on the same day at the rate her loose tooth is going!)

Asparagus with Wasabi Mayonnaise

  • Asparagus spears, tough ends broken off
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 4 tsp soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 4 tsp wasabi paste
Blanch asparagus in boiling water for 2 minutes per batch.  Rinse under cold water and refrigerate.  Whisk together remaining ingredients and refrigerate.  Serve asparagus with mayonnaise dipping sauce.  (Mayonnaise keeps in the refrigerator for several weeks and is also good on turkey sandwiches.)
Cheese crackers
  • 1 1/4 cups freshly grated cheese (I used half Parmesan and half Romano)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 stick butter at room temperature
  • 1 cup flour

Preheat oven to 350.  Combine cheese with salt and pepper in a mixer and combine.  Add butter and beat to combine.  Add flour in 3 batches combining until mixture holds together.  Roll into balls (about 1 TB in size) and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment.  Flatten slightly.  Bake about 14 – 16 minutes until edges are browned.  Remove from oven and let cool.

Salmon Spread

  • 1 8 oz package cream cheese, softened
  • 8 oz smoked salmon
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp dill
  • 1/4 tsp tabasco
  • 1/4 cup chopped black olives

Mix all ingredients.  Press in a mound or a bowl for shape and chill.  Serve with crackers.  Makes for very happy nieces (my 12 year old niece promised that “my readers would love this.”  Thanks Daisy!

Holiday meals Part 2 – Christmas dinner

When we were kids, my mom made turkey on Christmas.  At some point she decided that it was one thing to cook a turkey on Thanksgiving when that was the main event but she wanted something simpler for Christmas dinner so we could focus on Christmas.  We have Smithfield ham with homemade biscuits, oyster casserole, baked tomatoes and artichokes and sweet potatoes.  I’m serving salmon spread and cheeses first and finishing with a Buche de Noel that I ordered from a French bakery.  Here are the recipes for each item:

Salmon Spread

  • 1 8 oz package cream cheese, softened
  • 8 oz smoked salmon
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp dill
  • 1/4 tsp tabasco
  • 1/4 cup chopped black olives

Mix all ingredients.  Press in a mound or a bowl for shape and chill.  Serve with crackers.

Biscuits

These are wonderful lightly buttered and stuffed with salty Smithfield ham.

  • 2 cups flour
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter (softened)
  • 2/3 cup milk

Sift together dry ingredients.  Cut in butter until dough is in coarse crumbs.  Add milk all at once.  Stir dough until just combined.  Knead on a lightly floured surface and roll to 1/2 inch thick.  Cut with a biscuit cutter and bake on ungreased cookie sheets at 450 for 10 – 12 minutes until golden brown.

Scalloped Oysters

  • 2 pints oysters
  • 3 cups oyster crackers
  • 8 TB oyster liquor (drained from oysters)
  • 1 cup melted butter
  • 4 TB cream

Preheat oven to 450.  Drain oysters reserving liquor and wash oysters, checking for bits of shell.  Marinate crackers in melted butter.  Grease a shallow baking dish and layer crackers, oysters, crackers, oysters and crackers.  Pour reserved oyster liquor and cream over top.  Bake 30 minutes.

Spiced Sweet Potatoes

  • 3 lbs sweet potatoes
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 4 TB butter
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 4 TB cream
  • 1/4 cup rum

Boil potatoes until soft.  Peel and mash.  Mash in butter and seasonings and put mixture in a casserole dish.  Bake in hot oven (you can put in with the oysters after the turkey comes out) for 15 – 30 minutes or until hot.  (Casserole can be made the day before and refrigerated – make sure to cook until hot.)

Baked tomatoes and artichokes

  • 1 large can whole plum tomatoes (2 lbs, 3 oz)
  • 1 can artichoke hearts (14 oz)
  • 1 yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 large or 2 small shallots, minced
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1/2 tsp basil
  • 2 TB sugar

Preheat oven to 325.  Grease a shallow ceramic casserole.  Drain tomatoes and artichokes.  Rinse artichokes and drain.  Quarter artichoke hearts.

Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium low heat.  Saute onion and shallots until soft.  Add tomatoes, artichokes, basil and sugar and stir to combine.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Pour mixture into casserole dish and bake at 325 for about 10 to 15 minutes or until vegetables are hot.

Everything can be done ahead of time and we can enjoy our day.

Holiday entertaining savory

One of the things that can be special during the holidays is spontaneous entertaining.  Inviting a family or a few friends to stop by for a drink or dessert allows you to show off your holiday decorations and spend time with people you don’t always get to see.  Having a few things on hand gives you the flexibility to extend these invitations without adding to the chaos.  I posted a few cookie recipes earlier this week – here are a few savory treats that can be made ahead.

Cheese Puffs

My mom always made these for parties.  They keep well in a tin and only need to be popped into your toaster oven for a few minutes for serving – they are best served hot.  This recipe can easily be multiplied.

  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 4 TB softened butter
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 tsp celery salt

Combine cheese and butter in a mixer.  Add flour and celery salt and mix thoroughly.  Roll into balls about 1 inch in diameter and place on a lightly greased cookie sheet.  You can use the tines of a fork to flatten slightly and make a waffle pattern on each puff.  Dust with paprika and chill for several hours.  Bake at 450 for 8 minutes.  Store in tins until ready to reheat and serve.

Salmon Spread

My mother-in-law got this recipe in Alaska.  It’s a great way to serve smoked salmon to a group and can be made a few days ahead and stored in the refrigerator.

  • 1 8 oz package cream cheese, softened
  • 8 oz smoked salmon
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp dill
  • 1/4 tsp tabasco
  • 1/4 cup chopped black olives

Mix all ingredients.  Press in a mound or a bowl for shape and chill.  Serve with crackers.

Rosemary walnuts

Most people love nuts and there are lots of recipes for herbed and spiced nuts.  This is one of my favorites.

  • 5 TB unsalted butter
  • 4 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 4 cups walnuts

Melt butter with rosemary, salt and cayenne.  Toss with walnuts.  Bake on a cookie sheet at 350 for 10 minutes.

 

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter to one and all.  We are having dinner at my sister’s house and I know it will be delicious.  I am supplying a salmon spread appetizer.  My mother-in-law got this recipe in Alaska and it is a favorite in our family (even the children like it.)  It is the easiest way I have ever seen of serving smoked salmon to a large group of people.  Since grocery store is closed today for holiday – I’ll provide menu plan for week tomorrow.  Hope the Easter Bunny was good to you!

Salmon Spread

  • 1 8 oz package cream cheese, softened (I use the low fat)
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup chopped black olives
  • 6 oz smoked salmon, chopped (you can up to 8 oz if you want more salmon flavor)
  • 1 tsp dill
  • 1/4 tsp Tabasco
  • white pepper to taste
Mix all ingredients.  Press in a bowl for shape and chill until firm.  Serve with crackers.
This is a nice appetizer to take if you are asked to bring something to someone’s home as it doesn’t require anything once you get there except opening crackers.