|An hors d’oeuvres is a welcoming nibble to wake up the appetite with an announcement of good things to come.
Because they are usually finger food, that is eaten without the use of utensils, there are some caveats you should consider for hors d’eouvres (especially if they are tray passed). Keep them bite size, and keep them tidy. Avoid even delicious recipes if the servings will be an awkward size, have a drippy sauce, or a crumbling texture. It is also important to be judicious with quantities. Don’t overwhelm people with too much food before a meal, guests should sit down to your beautiful table with an appetite. On the other hand, If the hors’doeuvres are to be the meal, make sure there are some more substantial items served from a buffet with small plates and salad forks if necessary. Finally make them beautiful little jolts of color and flavor.
Hors d’oeuvres I serve most often are just simple combinations of excellent ingredients.
Tortellini Skewers with Lemon-Parmesan Aioli Dipping Sauce
Purchased fresh tortellini quickly cooked then skewered, 2 to 3 per stick. Serve with a dipping sauce of lemon- parmesan aioli (prepared mayonnaise, lemon juice, lemon zest, a little minced garlic and freshly grated parmesan cheese whipped together). These can be tray passed or presented on a platter on a buffet.
Warm Brie and Pear Tartlets
Fill purchased mini-tart shells with a slice of Brie and finely diced ripe pear. Sprinkle a little minced fresh thyme or lavender on each and drizzle lightly with honey. Place on a lightly greased cookie sheet. Bake in 375° oven for 7-8 minutes until the cheese is bubbling. Serve immediately.
Skewered Bocconcini with Prosciutto
Start this several hours before serving. Cut thick rosemary stems to 3” lengths. Use the rosemary to skewer one or two fresh mozzarella bocconcini. Wrap and set aside for an hour or two in refrigerator. Cut very good prosciutto into strips one inch by three inches. Lay out on a cookie sheet and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, a dash of balsamic vinegar and fresh cracked pepper. Wrap and refrigerate for an hour or two before using. To serve-wrap each bocconcini with one marinated prosciutto strip.
Warm Figs with Gorgonzola
Cut ripe, fresh figs in half. Dust lightly with sugar, place on a lightly greased sheet pan and bake in a 400° oven for about 7 minutes until the sugar begins to color. Remove from the oven. Use the back of a spoon to press a hollow in the center of each half. Fill the hollow with crumbled Gorgonzola cheese and top with a pecan half. When ready to serve, return to a 350° oven for 5-7 minutes, until the cheese begins to melt. Serve immediately.
Smoked Salmon and Avocado Rosettes
Mash a ripe avocado with a squeeze of lemon juice, salt and pepper and a tablespoon or two of cream cheese or mascarpone. Set aside in refrigerator. Cut very good smoked salmon (not lox) into one inch by 4 inch strips. Cut firm dark bread, such as German rye, into small squares. Wrap each salmon strip around the end of your finger, then sit this roll, standing upright on the bread. Drop a spoon of avocado mousse in the middle and gently spread the edges of the salmon back to form a “rosette”. Garnish with a sprig of dill or a sprinkle of cumin seeds.
Corn Muffins with Smoked Turkey and Jalapeno Jelly
Purchase mini corn muffins. Slice in half and spread one side generously with jalapeno jelly and the other with butter. Fill with finely sliced, smoked turkey breast and some watercress leaves.
Artichoke Hearts with Seared Scallops
Purchase artichoke hearts packed in water and drain well. Prepare orange Dill Sauce (recipe pg 00). In a saute pan over medium high heat saute fresh bay scallops (the tiny ones) in butter with a little salt and pepper. Cook about 1-2 minutes, tossing to brown evenly. To serve - put a dollop of Orange Dill Sauce in each artichoke heart and top with 2 or 3 seared scallops and a sliver of orange peel.
Grilled Chicken Skewers with Tamarind-Chipotle Sauce
For dipping sauce, puree 1/2 cup tamarind paste (or pomegranate molasses), 1 teaspoon sugar, 2/3 cup pine nuts or slivered almonds, 1/3 cup peanut oil, 2 cloves chopped garlic, salt and white pepper in a blender. Stir in 3-4 teaspoons minced chipotle chile in adobo (incl some juice) to blend. Sauce will keep up to one week. Toss chicken tenders with peanut oil, garlic powder, kosher salt and black pepper. Grill or broil until cooked (2-3 minutes). Put on skewers and serve with sauce.
Olivada with Focaccia
In a food processor puree 2 to 3 cups of plump black olives such as Kalamata. When smooth, drizzle in 2 to 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. Add a splash of cognac and a generous amount of freshly cracked black pepper. Serve with sliced focaccia or baguette.
Slice a baguette into very thin rounds. Dry out on a sheet pan in a 300° oven for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, puree 2 tablespoons of cream cheese, 1/4 cup sweet butter, 1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese, 1/4 cup lemon juice , pinch dried lemon peel, pinch sugar, pinch ground garlic, 1 tablespoon minced basil, salt and white pepper to taste. Spread generously on toasted baguette and bake in a 350° oven until bubbling and crispy (about 10 minutes ) .
Dolmades (Stuffed Grape Leaves)
Drain purchased dolmades. Drizzle with fresh lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, black pepper, minced cilantro, mint or parsley . Toss to coat. Serve garnished with roasted red peppers and pine nuts.
Caponata with Warm Basil Crostini
To good quality purchased caponata, add 1-2 tablespoon minced parsley, basil or oregano, a squeeze of lemon and some good good pitted olive and pine nuts. Serve on Warm Lemon Basil Crostini topped with a fresh herb leaf.