I live to eat and love to cook. Welcome to my life!

November 15, 2010

Bits and pieces

I love little bites....hors d' oeuvres, appetizers and canapes, tapas and mezze and even petit fours when I am craving sweets. Nothing pleases me more than a meal made up of bunches of fun little bites where I can taste all manner of things in one meal without overeating. I also love going out to dinner with people who like to share too. Ordering four different starters, salads and entrees and then passing them around to taste pleases me to no end. Stingy diners...don't bother going out with me, I am a sharer. :)

So when asked to bring something to a friends house for dinner, I went with the appetizer course and pretty much went a little crazy in the kitchen creating a mezze platter.

Bacon wrapped dates stuffed with Gorgonzola cheese....sweet and hot cherry peppers stuffed with prosciutto & jack cheese....garlic and oven dried tomato sauteed mushrooms....homemade hummus with oven dried tomatoes and artichoke pesto dip with smoked potato chips.

So many good little bites that it's hard to know where to start. So I will start with the bacon since it is my favorite food group. :)

The first couple recipes can be made for 2 people or 200 people, just make as many as you need. The dips make about 2 cups each....and you can make as many of the potatoes as you want.

Bacon Wrapped Dates Stuffed with Gorgonzola
The bacon wrapped dates are a favorite of mine, we make them at work and everyone goes nuts over the sweet/salty/savory combination. They are heavy though and I recommend only eating one or two to save your rear end from resembling the Goodyear blimp. For every slice of bacon, you'll need 2 dates and about a teaspoon of bleu cheese. Cut the slice of bacon in half and par cook it in a pan (slowly)until it is soft. Slice the dates lengthwise and take the pit out, keeping the date intact. Stuff a slice of bleu or Gorgonzola cheese in there and smash the date shut. Wrap the bacon around it and secure with a toothpick. Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes or until the bacon is crisp.

Cherry Peppers Stuffed with Cheese & Prosciutto
You can go a couple different routes on the cherry peppers...You can buy the Mezzeta brand from any old grocery store and they are a little more spicy/savory, this time I tried the brand from Trader Joe's and they are more of a spicy/sweet with the spicy kicking in at the very end. Either way they are delicious! Cut a small chunk of cheese and wrap it with a skinny slice of prosciutto and stuff it in the pepper. My mom likes to use Asiago or a saltier cheese, I happened to have Jack in the house so that's what got used! It is also nice to stuff a little sage leaf in there as well...adds an earthiness that is a great counterpart to the sharper flavors of the pepper & cheese.

Garlic & Oven Dried Tomato Sauteed Mushrooms
I used 1 container of mushrooms for this recipe, about 8 oz. Press 3 large cloves of garlic in to a pan with 1 T olive oil and saute over low heat for about 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and toss to coat. Cook for another 5 minutes or so. Add about 2 T white wine (glug glug) and 2 T minced oven or sun dried tomatoes packed in olive oil (if using dried, reconstitute them in hot water and pat dry before mincing). Add 1 tsp thyme and salt to taste. Cook for about 15-20 minutes until mushrooms are cooked through.

Oven Dried Tomato Hummus
Hummus is one of those things that you can tweak 7 ways from Sunday in terms of flavor...your base recipe is 1 can of drained garbanzo beans, some garlic (can be raw, smoked or roasted), a squeeze of lemon juice and enough olive oil to get it to the texture you want. Just throw your ingredients in the food processor and turn it on....add goodies like oven or sun dried tomatoes (in olive oil or reconstituted-use less olive oil in the main part of the recipe if using ones in OO), drained artichokes, basil or ready made pesto. Season it to taste with salt and serve with pita crisps, crackers or fresh veggies.

Artichoke Pesto Dip
OK....this recipe stemmed from a new book Mama got me and I tweaked it just a bit and OMG did it turn out good...Seriously a keeper!

1 can of artichoke hearts, drained
3 cloves smoked garlic
2 T Pesto (from the nice lady @ Ojai Farmers Market)
1 T Olive Oil
2 oz Goats cheese
Salt & Pepper to taste

Blend everything in the food processor until smooth. Serve with smoked potato chips.

Yep...I said smoked potato chips.

I have told you before that one of the best gadgets I own is my cooktop smoker and I ain't lyin'. My Mom has done smoked potatoes before as a side dish, but they are thick cut, crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside...I was looking for something that would serve as a vessel for my fabulous artichoke dip. And these little guys fit the bill perfectly.

So I sliced the little Dutch Yellow potatoes thin...like you would if you were doing scalloped potatoes. I tossed them with a little olive oil and a couple good shakes of kosher salt. Then I smoked them on low/med for 20 minutes with maple wood chips. Take them out and lay them on a sheet pan and bake them in the oven for about 30 minutes at 350.

These were so good that I did it again for dinner with my parents on Monday, I am pretty sure my Pops ate about half of them in 2.5 seconds standing over the counter so that counts as a winner in my book.