Easy Appetizers-The FAB 4 Open House

Here is doable menu for your next appetizer party. It was perfect for the FAB 4 Open House.

What do Fashion, Art and Blogging have in common?  Francesca, Amy, Roberta, and Virginia: the fabulous fashionista, budding oil painter, whimsical children’s book illustrator, and determined food blogger.

A Special Appetizer Menu
to Celebrate
The FAB 4
February 7, 2011

A Few Ways to Use Smoked Salmon

Smoked Salmon Pinwheels and Smoked Salmon Tartar on Pickled Cucumbers

Smoked Salmon with Cream Cheese with Capers on Toasted Pumpernickle

A Few Dips with Toasted Lavash

Roasted Red Pepper with Feta

Italian Tuna Tapenade

A Smattering of Crostini

Sundried Tomato and Goat Cheese Crostini

Blue Cheese with Sherry Soaked Raisins and Apples

Olivade on Toast

Triple Creme Cheese on Mini Toast with Fig Jam and Macarona Almonds

One Final Bite to Round out the Appetizer Buffet

Italian Mini Aram Sandwiches

In an effort to publicize her third book, Francesca organized an open house which I quickly tagged onto.

“I will make your appetizers and then also publicize my blog!” I told Francesca.  She was not only publicizing the rewrite of her Leather Fashion Design but was also promoting her new online fashion design instructional video business.

Amy, the budding oil painter, already claimed a spot saying, “You will definitely need art on the walls and it might as well be mine!”

Roberta got wind of our event and knew this venue would be a wonderful way to kick start her children’s book illustrations that she put on hold while raising  her family.

We reserved a spot in the lobby of the Priory’s Performing Art Center, invited our friends and then spent  some time creating the appetizer menu.  I wanted to highlight easy-to-make recipes that did not need to be heated and started with a smattering of appetizers using smoked salmon.

I love a bagel with cream cheese, capers, red onion and lemon and created two within this theme with a bit less bread.  The first uses a crepe as the vehicle to hold the flavors.  I make a cream cheese mixture with all of my favorite ingredients including lemon zest for that brilliant lemon flavor.  I spread the crepe with the cream cheese then layer a bit of salmon onto it and roll up the crepe to make a log.  At the time of serving, you just need to slice the crepe into 3/4 inch slices and serve.  A perfect make-ahead appetizer.

I then used the same smoked salmon and cream cheese and place them onto a toasted piece of pumpernickle cocktail bread.  The same flavor combination with a crunch.

My final medley of smoked salmon was a tartar with lemon zest, juice and diced pickled cucumber on a pickled cucumber round.  A perfect gulten free appetizer.

I always get rave reviews when I serve my Red Pepper Feta Dip, so of course needed to include this appetizer in our buffet.  I usually serve the dip with toasted lavash chips.

I also included my favorite olive tapenade  found in Reed Heron’s Rose Pistola Cookbook. He adds good quality jarred Italian tuna in olive oil to the tapenade along with a splash of cognac and lemon zest.  It is also wonderful on a toasted bagel for lunch the next day–if you have any left over.

Toasting bread and topping it with various spreads is also an easy appetizer.  I made three different types of crostini toppings all of which can be placed on a simple water cracker if you do not have time to make your own toasted bread.  These spreads are a wonderful way to start any dinner party.  The Goat Cheese with Sundried Tomatoes, Basil and Lemon Zest is an inspiration from one of my cooking mentors, Donna Nordin.  She chops her ingredients and combines them with the cheese; I use a food processor and blend the tomatoes into the cheese to create a red spread.  I like the color and the flavor.

Next is a Spanish Tapa from Penelope Casas’ cookbook, Deliciosos! The Regional Cooking of Spain. She takes Spanish blue cheese, Cabrales, and mixes it with Sherry soaked raisins, crunchy apples and toasted walnuts.  It is a mixture made in heaven–good enough to eat with a spoon.

My final spread is from Thomas Keller’s, Bouchon Cookbook, one of my favorites.  He takes farmer’s cheese which to me tastes like a sour, dry ricotta and mixes in chopped olives, red onion, chives and olive oil.  In the book Chef Keller serves it with fried zucchini blossoms but I think it is perfectly delicious on store bought mini toasts.

Since I had the mini toasts, I also included a simple appetizer that needs no pre-prep, just a knife to spread the triple creme cheese and spoon to dollop the fig jam.

I top this appetizer with a salty Spanish macarona almond for that perfect creamy, sweet, salty, crunch.

To add a bit of bulk to our table, in case our guests have no dinner plans, I made Italian aram sandwiches.  Whole Foods now sells pefectly retangular lavash bread that is great to bake for chips and top with various filling for an aram sandwich.  I made an Asian version for my beach luncheon and you can vary the filling to suit your mood and menu.  For the FAB 4 Open House I made an Italian version that I learned from my favorite cooking partner, Beth.  She takes goat cheese and mixes it with homemade basil pesto but good-quality store bought is a fine subsitute.  She usually has a few jars in her freezer along with tons of stock.  I love her freezer.  Beth then tops the lavash with good quality salami, sun dried tomatoes or roasted peppers, toasted pine nuts, marinated artichoke hearts and maybe a smattering of olives.

The key to making a perfect aram sandwich is to leave a boarder of only cream cheese at the top to allow you to seal the wrap with the goat cheese acting like glue.  Wrap tight then let it sit at least 4 hours to let the wrap meld together so they do not unwrap when you cut them.  You can even do this the night before.

The evening was a hit, I even signed up twenty five new people onto my blog so they can receive my newest entry when I post them.  I hope they are all wondering, “when will I get that appetizer post fromVirginia??”  Here I am!  I think all the appetizer recipes will be worth the wait!  Thank you for your patience!

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