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Holiday party hors d’oeuvres can be creative and tasty

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By Norm Harding, Reporter

Whether you call them appetizers, hors d’oeuvres, canapés or whatever, simple presentations such as cheese and crackers can turn into an exquisite complex preparation requiring as much work as your main course.
Although primarily served as an appetizer, hors d’oeuvres can also function as the primary food, such as at cocktail and holiday parties.
I’ve included a variety of ideas for hors d’oeuvres for your holiday get-togethers. The first few I would hesitate to call recipes, simply because I haven’t listed exact measurements for each ingredient, as exact ratios are not really necessary for these preparations. And, if you’re not busy using measuring spoons and cups and relying instead on your eyes and your taste, you can prepare these tasty morsels much quicker and join the party.
Remember, this is a party atmosphere, so you want to be creative. Just choose ones that suit your culinary zealousness and your personal taste.

Roasted Pepper and Anchovy Crostini
Crostini are small thin slices of toast. Roast a red pepper in the broiler and remove the seeds and stems. Chop it up with some anchovies and garlic. Add either some basil or sautéed spinach for color, and then finish with extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper. Slice a long thin loaf of French bread, drizzle some olive oil on the slices and toast. Spoon the mixture onto the toasted slices.

Smoked Salmon Crudités
Crudités (cru-dee-TAY) are raw vegetables served as a hors d’oeuvre. Finely mince a little red onion and some dill, and then mix it into sour cream. You can also add some capers if you like. Add salt and pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice. Peel and slice a cucumber into quarter-inch rounds. Bundle a piece of smoked salmon on the cucumber and then top with the sour cream sauce. Place a tiny sprig of dill on top of the sauce or if you really want to get fancy, add some caviar.

Black Olive and Sun Dried Tomato Tapenade
Place an equal amount of black olives and sun-dried tomatoes in a food processor. Add a bunch of parsley, a squirt of lemon juice and some salt and pepper. Pulse the mixture a few times, and then slowly add some extra virgin olive oil with the processor on until a smooth paste is achieved.
Check for additional salt or pepper. Place dollops of the tapenade on individual lettuce leaves.

Braunschweiger Dip
One of the most famous liverwursts, Braunschweiger is a smoked liver sausage enriched with eggs and milk. You can find it in the packaged meat section of your supermarket.
1 pkg. (8 oz.) Braunschweiger
3 oz. softened cream cheese
1/3 cup mayonnaise
3 Tbsps. dill pickle relish
1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/8 tsp. garlic powder
Chopped fresh parsley for garnish
Combine all of the ingredients, pat into a bowl lined with plastic wrap, then fold over the excess wrap to cover and chill. Invert onto a serving plate and turn out. Remove the plastic wrap. Sprinkle with the chopped parsley. Serve with crackers, bread and/or vegetable sticks.

Spinach and Fontina Cheese Tartlets
6 oz. baby spinach
Olive oil as needed
1 shallot, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pkg. refrigerated pie crusts
2 eggs
2 oz. heavy cream
4 oz. shredded Fontina cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sauté the spinach in olive oil; season with salt and pepper. Add the minced shallot. When almost done, add the garlic. Remove from heat and set aside.
Using a 2-1/2-inch round biscuit or cookie cutter, cut out 24 discs from the pie crusts. Lightly grease a 24-cup mini-muffin pan. Line each muffin cup with one of the pieces of dough. Evenly distribute the spinach into the dough-lined muffin cups, tamping it down as you do so.
Mix the eggs and cream with some salt and pepper and beat. Pour about a teaspoon of the egg mixture into each cup; do not overfill. Top each one with a little cheese and bake for 12-15 minutes.

Caramel, Date and Pecan-Topped Brie
1/2 cup pecans
1/2 cup dates, chopped
One wedge of Brie cheese
1 cup sugar
2 Tbsps. butter, cut into small pieces
Toast the pecans on a cookie sheet in a 350-degree oven for 8-10 minutes. Sprinkle the pecans and dates on top of the brie.
In a small saucepan, cook sugar over medium heat, stirring frequently. As the sugar heats, it will melt and start to turn a caramel color. When the sugar has completely melted and attained a rich, caramel color, immediately remove it from the stove and stir in the butter.
Once the butter is completely incorporated, pour it over the pecan and date-topped brie. It will harden quickly. Serve with assorted crackers or toasted French bread.

Baked Kielbasa with Wine Sauce
Slices of kielbasa are baked in a rich, savory sauce of ketchup, onions, brown sugar, chili sauce and red wine.
3 lbs. Kielbasa
1 bottle (12 oz.) chili sauce
12 oz. ketchup
6 oz. boiling water
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp. allspice
1 large onion, thinly sliced
4 oz. brown sugar
4 oz. red wine
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place sausage in a large pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes; drain.
Cut sausage into one-inch pieces and place in a deep baking dish. Combine chili sauce, ketchup and water in a mixing bowl. Add bay leaf and allspice. Pour over kielbasa. Top with onion and sprinkle with the brown sugar.
Bake uncovered for 30 minutes. Add wine and bake another 15 minutes; remove bay leaf. Spread sausage pieces out on a large platter, drizzle with sauce and insert a toothpick into each one.