Sunday, October 16, 2011

Breakfast at Tiffany's

I'm thirty-three years old and I just watch Breakfast at Tiffany's for the first time last week. It's true that I don't watch many movies, but even so, even I was surprised it took me so long to finally watch this classic. This weekend, I hosted a cocktail party, and while I'd been planning the menu for a couple of weeks and didn't really have any particular theme in mind, when it came time to get dress for the party, I was totally inspired by Audrey's updos that I'd just seen onscreen the day before.  Holly Golightly may not own cat, but she sure owns her hair. Nevertheless, but I guarantee the food at my cocktail party was a lot better than at hers, and with fewer flaming chapeaux.

First things first, Darling, the menu:

The recipe for Roasted Eggplant Dip is from one of my earlier postings, available here.

View my pumpkin party appetizers posting for my lamentations about my beloved curried pepitas. For this party, I modifed the recipe to make pecans, and the bowl was emptied twice over during the evening. For all you friends who requested the recipe, see below, but feel free to experiment with your favorite seasoning and spice blends to taste.

Garam Masala Spiced Pecans
1 egg white
1 tablespoon garam masala powder
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon olive oil
3 cups raw pecans
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt

Preheat oven to 350. Line baking pan with parchment. Whisk together first five ingredients. Stir in pecans to coat evenly. Stir in salt and toss. Spread on baking sheet. Bake until toasted, about 20 minutes, stirring every 6-8 minutes.

Allow to cool. Store in an airtight container.

Mushroom Tartletts
See my previous version of Mushroom Tartletts recipe for my preferred version of a tasty hors d'ouvres made with puff pastry in mini muffin tins. I reconfigured the filling for this party by replacing the basil with fresh sage, and rolling it into spirals of Pillsbury crescent dough. I was able to get about 30 slices from one package of dough, but making fewer would have allowed them to be a little easier to work with, thicker and more even spirals. I recommend freezing the rolls briefly before slicing to make them easier to cut, because mine were a little slippery and got a little squashed. Bake at 375 for 10-12 minutes, or until golden.

Spinach-Basil Pom-Poms
These are based on a recipe my grandmother used to make for parties all the time, from one of her favorite cookbooks, Marlene Sorosky's Cookery for Entertaining. I love them because they can be made, and baked straight out of the freezer when you want them. I have dressed up the original into the version below.

10 ounces fresh spinach, washed and finely chopped
1-2 ounces fresh basil and oregano or other herbs to taste, finely chopped
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
3 eggs, lightly beaten
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
black pepper to taste

Stir together greens, panko, and cheese. Mix in eggs, butter, pepper and nutmeg. Form into tightly packed balls, about one-inch diameter. Place on cookie sheet and freeze about 20 minutes, then transfer to plastic bag or container to store.

Bake at 375 for 15 minutes. Serve warm or room temperature. Makes about 30.

Cucumber Canapes
Will asked me, "what is a canape?" It's technically a piece of bread, toast, or cracker topped with a savory spread. These are cucumber canapes because they are cucumbers topped with a savory spread: crab salad. Use any ingredients you like. My version this time would have been better for summer, which fits with the refreshing juicyness of cucumber rounds anyway.
English cucumbers have fewer seeds, and their long thin shape makes for nice even cross-sections. If you have a channel knife (generally used to make citrus peel garnishes for beverages), use it to gouge away lengthwise stripes of skin in a decorative pattern before you slice the cucumber. Slice cross-wise about half-inch thick, and lay cut-side on paper towels to wick away some of the mositure.

For my topping, I mixed shredded crab meat (higher quality lump crab would be tastier, but it wouldn't bind together as well and would slip off your hors d'ouvres and be harder to eat) with a bit of olive oil mayonnaise, diced red bell pepper and corn kernals for delightful color, tarragon, lemon juice, salt and pepper, garnished with a snip of fresh chive.

Next time I'd love to try a crab salad version with lime juice,
fresh cilantro, and hot peppers garnished with avocado.

These are a great hors d'ouvres because they are hearty (both in that they last well and can be made and ahead and transport well, and in that they are nutritious, well-balanced and satisfying.) My recipe can be found here (makes 80 pieces), this time made with the addition of edamame. Will is in charge of the assembly, and likes to get creative with how he arranges the toppings on the rice cakes. I think they hold together best if you use the wasabi first as a bit of glue to secure the piece of salmon, then nestle the edamame next to the salmon and sprinkle with flakes of nori and sesame seeds.

No recipe here, these are SO easy. Use your favorite tortellini (these were tri-color four cheese),
favorite dressing (I like just balsamic and olive oil) then skewer with grape tomatoes and/or olives.
Depending on the size of the tortellini, use one or two per skewer.

Roasted Potatoes with Blue Cheese and Walnuts
Small baby red, yukon gold, and blue fingerling potatoes (1-2 per person)
Wash and dry potatoes, and cut into halves (thirds if large), trimming a small flat side off the uncut side so that they will sit flat on the platter. Toss with olive oil and roast at 425 for about 25 minutes, stirring once or twice during baking. Check after 20 minutes, you don't want them too soft or they won't stay together.

Allow to cool completely.

Pipe blue-cheese walnut dip (recipe below) on top of potato rounds. I tried to use a decorative tip, but the walnuts - even though they were finely ground - got stuck, so use a wide enough round tip. Garnish with a caper. I made 60 pieces, and used less than half the dip, so you can cut the recipe down if you want.

2 teaspoons walnut oil
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 cup blue cheese, crumbled
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted and finely chopped
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup greek yogurt
Stir together cream cheese and yogurt until well blended, then add remaining ingredients.
Recipe from Central Market

Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars

Snickerdoodle Cupcakes

I'm mixed on my review of this cake, it's a little bit tough, or gummy, but the frosting is SO
amazing, that you could probably eat it on cardboard and think it was delicious. I might make
it again, or I might find some other
delivery system, but either way the frosting is a sure repeat.

Chocolate-Bourbon Bars (I substituted the Kahlua in the recipe with bourbon)

Blackberry Walnut Thumbprints (I substituted the pecans in the recipes with walnuts, and used seedless blackberry jam)
"Stacked" Sushi

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