We’re finally in the home stretch of what has seemed like the longest winter in history. Temperatures are starting to rise and we’re slowly emerging from our hibernation chambers, which can only mean one thing: it’s party time! After the brutal weather we’ve endured over the past few months, there’s a lot of celebrating to do. Whether you actually have something to celebrate or you just feel like throwing a party for the hell of it, here are some yummy appetizers to help make your first spring party of the season a success.
Fontina-Stuffed, Bacon-Wrapped Dates
Fresh dates (can substitute figs)
Fontina cheese, cut to fit inside the dates
Bacon, cut into 3? pieces
1) Preheat broiler and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2) Slit the dates open, keeping the bottom in tact. Place a piece of cheese inside each date. Wrap bacon around the stuffed date, overlapping the ends on the bottom.
3) Broil for approximately 5 minutes. Keep a close eye on them so they dont burn!
*Tip: To make sure the bacon gets crispy enough, use thinly sliced pieces or substitute bacon for prosciutto.
Meatballs With Ouzo and Mint (Keftedes in Greek)
Recipe: Marthastewart.com; Makes 50, Serves 6 to 8
2 slices day-old white bread, crusts removed
3 tablespoons ouzo
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more if needed
1 pound ground beef (85 percent lean)
1 large egg, plus 2 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and finely chopped
1 small garlic clove, minced
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 1/4 teaspoons coarse salt
Freshly ground pepper
1) Tear bread into bite-size pieces, and place in a small bowl. Add ouzo. Let stand for 10 minutes to soak. Squeeze excess liquid from bread. Transfer bread to a medium bowl. Cook onion in 2 tablespoons oil over medium heat, stirring frequently, until soft, about 6 minutes. Add onion to bowl with bread.
2) Add ground beef to bowl, and break up with your hands. Stir in egg and yolks, capers, garlic, mint, oregano, and salt. Season with pepper. Knead mixture until well combined, then use a spoon to stir until smooth. With moistened hands, shape mixture into 1-inch meatballs, and place on a tray. Cover, and refrigerate for 1 hour.
3) Heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat, and cook meatballs in batches, about 12 at a time, turning until evenly browned, about 5 minutes. Add fresh oil as needed for each batch. (While you work, keep cooked meatballs warm on a rimmed baking sheet in a 200-degree oven.) Finely grate lemon over meatballs, and serve warm.Stuffed Mushrooms
Recipe: Giada De Laurentiis, Foodnetwork.com; Makes 28 mushrooms
1/2 cup Italian-style dried bread crumbs
1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
28 large (2 1/2-inch-diameter) white mushrooms, stemmed
1) Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
2) Stir the bread crumbs, Pecorino Romano, garlic, parsley, mint, salt and pepper, to taste, and 2 tablespoons olive oil in a medium bowl to blend.
3) Drizzle a heavy large baking sheet with about 1 tablespoon olive oil, to coat. Spoon the filling into the mushroom cavities and arrange on the baking sheet, cavity side up. Drizzle remaining oil over the filling in each mushroom. Bake until the mushrooms are tender and the filling is heated through and golden on top, about 25 minutes. Serve.
Smoked Chicken and Spinach Filo Triangles
Recipe: Bravotv.com; Makes 6 servings
1 tsp olive oil
8 oz (225g) fresh spinach, washed, tough stems removed
4 scallions, white and green parts, finely chopped
4 oz (115g) smoked chicken
1 1/3 cup crme frache or heavy cream
1 tbsp chopped tarragon
1 tsp Dijon mustard
Grated zest of 1 large lemon
cup toasted pine nuts
Freshly ground black pepper
4 thawed frozen filo sheets
4 tbsp butter, melted
cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1) Preheat the oven to 350F (180C). Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the spinach, cover, and cook about 5 minutes, until tender. Drain well and let cool. Pulse the spinach, scallions, smoked chicken, crme frache, tarragon, mustard, and lemon zest in a food processor until coarsely chopped. Stir in the pine nuts and season with pepper.
2) Line a baking sheet with wax paper. Place 1 filo sheet on the work surface, with the short side running horizontally. Cover the remaining filo with a damp paper towel to prevent drying. Brush the filo sheet with melted butter. Top with a second sheet and brush again with butter. Cut the filo pastry into three 4in (10cm) strips. Place a heaping spoonful of the chicken mixture about in (13mm) below the top of a strip. Fold the right corner of the strip diagonally to the left to form a triangle that covers the filling. Fold the triangle with the filling down, and repeat folding down and over until you reach the end of the strip. Brush with butter and place on the baking sheet. Repeat with the other 3 strips, then with 2 more filo sheets and the remaining filling. Sprinkle with the Parmesan.
3) Transfer to a lightly oiled baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes, until golden brown. Serve hot or warm.
Mini Zucchini and Goat Cheese Tarts
Recipe: Bonappetit.com; Makes 6 servings
1 refrigerated pie crust (half of 15-ounce package)
2 1/2 pounds 1-inch-diameter zucchini, cut into 1/16- to 1/8-inch-thick rounds
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil plus additional for drizzling
2 teaspoons chopped fresh lemon thyme or regular thyme
3 ounces soft fresh goat cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1) Line rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Place pie crust on floured work surface. Using 1 1/2- to 1 3/4-inch cookie cutter or biscuit cutter dipped in flour, cut out 24 rounds; transfer to prepared sheet, spacing 1/2 inch apart. Place in freezer until dough is firm, about 30 minutes. DO AHEAD Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover; keep frozen.
2) Toss zucchini with 1 teaspoon salt in medium bowl. Let stand 15 minutes. Drain and pat dry. Place zucchini in another medium bowl; toss with 2 tablespoons olive oil and thyme. Sprinkle zucchini with pepper.
3) Preheat oven to 400F. Spread goat cheese generously over each frozen dough round. Fold 3 to 4 zucchini slices in half and place in concentric circle atop 1 dough round, creating flower-like pattern. Repeat with remaining zucchini and dough (reserve any remaining zucchini for another use). Sprinkle with Parmesan. Bake until crusts are light golden, about 20 minutes. Transfer to platter. Drizzle lightly with additional olive oil. Serve warm or at room temperature.
White Bean Dip With Herbs
Recipe: Foodandwine.com; Makes about 3 cups
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, very finely chopped
1 teaspoon finely chopped sage
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped rosemary
Two 19-ounce cans cannellini beans, drained (Any canned white beans can be used in place of the cannellini)
2 tablespoons water
Pita chips, for serving
1) In a medium skillet, heat 1/4 cup of the olive oil until shimmering. Add the garlic, sage and rosemary and cook over moderately high heat, stirring, until fragrant and the garlic is just beginning to brown, about 1 minute. Add the beans and toss to coat.
2) Transfer the cannellini beans to a food processor. Add the water, season with salt and cayenne and process to a fairly smooth puree. Transfer the dip to a small serving bowl, drizzle the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil on top and serve with pita chips.
*Tip: Drizzling a high-quality olive oil over this dip will add depth and complexity, but stick with a less-expensive supermarket brand when sauting the garlic and herbs in Step 1.