I think many parties get carried away with the appetizer menu by offering way too much variety. Variety is a bad thing when it comes to eating healthy because human nature is to try everything and that just means more calories. But variety is also more work and you don’t want to be too exhausted to enjoy your own party!
For our gal-pal party, we decided to limit the appetizers to three. In choosing what to include, we considered preparation time, how healthy the ingredients were, and the “chic” factor. These three recipes were definitely a hit with our sophisticated group of women. I based this on their interest in the ingredients, how much was left over (hardly any), and their faces of delight when they saw that they were definitely going to be treated to a night of food adventure.
Mediterranean Style Hummus from Trader Joe‘s
Right off the bat, I wanted to do a hummus. Hummus is made from garbanzo beans and olive oil and is very healthy. I was going to make it from scratch, but Trader Joe’s has such a wonderful Mediterranean Style Hummus for only $3.99 that I decided it was smart to put my time elsewhere on another dish. It comes already beautifully presented with drizzled olive oil and some pine nuts sprinkled on the top, so I tried to preserve this as much as possible when I transferred it to a pretty party bowl. In other words, I did not stir it up first – I wanted the olive oil to still float on the top.
For the “chips” I bought some whole wheat tortillas and cut them into wedges and baked them in the oven at 400 degrees until crispy. They were arranged in a tray around the bowl of hummus placed in the center.
I could tell that Carolyn was a little hesitant when I mentioned the hummus, but to my surprise I learned that she had never had it before! Like the adventurous spirit that she is, she agreed to it and found that she loved it! One of the joys of cooking with a friend is trying new things.
Tomato, Fresh Mozarella, and Basil Salad
For the remaining two appetizers, we knew we needed to work a vegetable in someplace, so we decided on this easy tomato, fresh mozarella and basil salad. This can be made a few hours in advance and kept in the refrigerator, but be sure to bring out an hour before serving as tomatoes are much more flavorful at room temperature.
- 4 Roma tomatoes, sliced lengthwise (discard end pieces)
- 1 large ball of fresh mozarella cheese
- 1/2 cup of fresh basil leaves
- 3 T olive oil
- Coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Layer tomatoes and mozarella cheese on a platter and top with fresh basil. Drizzle with olive oil and add salt and pepper to taste. Serves Four.
Personally, looking back on it, I think these were a little messy to eat as an appetizer (with the olive oil drizzled on them they aren’t exactly finger food, even though the tomatoes held their shape well.) In the past, I have added toasted slices of french bread as the base and that worked well.
Prosciutto-Wrapped Gorgonzola with Arugala
Last, but certainly not least, we needed an appetizer with the “Chic” factor and this recipe fit the bill nicely. We found it in Carolyn’s library of recipe books, in a June 2003 copy of Bon Appetit. I must say that it was a hit. Everyone was asking what it was and there was not a single one left on the plate!
- 20 paper-thin slices prosciutto
- 4 oz. fresh baby arugula (about 4 cups)
- 12 oz. Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
- 3/4 c. dried currants
My comments. I knew from just reading the recipe that this would taste fantastic. I often mix blue cheese and raisins in my every-day salads and this just kicked it up a notch with the prosciutto. Just make sure you don’t overfill, thinking you are being generous. In this case, less is more. I think the important thing is to make sure the prosciutto wraps up into tight little rolls to make them easy to pick up and eat. Also, if you are not familiar with currants, they are just like raisins, only smaller. I think the small size is important for this recipe as it allows the sweet flavor to be distributed more evenly, which balances the strong cheese nicely.
Directions. Working with 1 slice of prosciutto at a time, cut prosciutto crosswise into 3 rectangles. Space prosciutto pieces 2 inches apart on the work surface. Arrange 3 arugula leaves side by side atop each prosciutto piece, allowing tops to extend 1 inch over 1 long side of prosciutto. Top each with about 1 teaspoon cheese. Press generous 1/2 teaspoon currants into cheese atop each prosciutto piece. Starting at 1 short end of each porsciutto piece, roll up tightly, jelly-roll style. Transfer to platter. (Can be made 4 hours ahead. Cover rolls tightly and refrigerate.)