It's easy to get into a rut when it comes to appetizers. Although the oft-served starters are classics for a reason (tomato with mozzarella, hummus with pita and the like), it's fun to switch it up with some fresh flavor combinations. These appetizers will excite the senses and bring your guests back for more.
Spaghetti nests with pesto and meatballs
Not just beautiful, these crispy spaghetti nests are also texturally satisfying. They bring spaghetti and meatballs to a whole new level.
- 1/2 pound dry spaghetti
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided use
- 1/4 cup bread crumbs
- 2 tablespoons milk
- 1/4 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
- 1 medium onion, minced
- 1/2 pound ground beef
- Salt and pepper
- 1/2 cup pesto (store-bought or make your own)
- Cook the spaghetti. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add the spaghetti noodles. Cook until al dente, about 10 minutes. Drain the cooking water and toss the spaghetti with a tablespoon of olive oil. Refrigerate until cold.
- Make the meatballs. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a medium bowl, mix the bread crumbs and milk. In a medium pan over medium heat, add a tablespoon of olive oil. Once the oil is hot, add the onions and a pinch of salt and saute until translucent. Add the sauteed onions, ground beef, parsley and a big pinch each salt and pepper and stir until just mixed. Scoop out heaping teaspoons of the beef mixture and form into balls. Place the meatballs in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake until cooked through, about 15 minutes.
- Make the nests. Turn a fork into the chilled spaghetti and place the forkful in one hole of a standard muffin tin, creating a well in the middle, like a nest, and tucking in any noodles not in the nest. Continue until the muffin tin is full. Bake until the spaghetti is crispy and golden brown, 30-40 minutes.
- Assemble the nests. To each nest, add about 1/2 tablespoon pesto and place one meatball in the center. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Parmesan and rosemary sables
Yields 1 dozen sables
A savory, shortbread-like cookie with salty parmesan and fragrant, woodsy rosemary.
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 cup grated parmesan
- 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped
- Freshly ground pepper
- 4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
- Sea or kosher salt
- In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, parmesan, rosemary and a few grinds of pepper. Add the butter and stir until the dough comes together — toward the end of stirring you may find it easier to use your hands. Alternately, add all ingredients to a food processor and pulse until the dough comes together. Form the dough into a disk, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
- Place the dough between two large pieces of plastic wrap and use a rolling pin to roll to 1/8-inch thickness. Use a small cookie or biscuit cutter to cut the sables. Re-roll the scraps once for additional sables. Place the sables on a baking sheet, lightly sprinkle the tops with salt and refrigerate for an hour.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Bake the chilled sables until the edges just begin to brown, 15-20 minutes. Allow to cool before serving.
Spicy roasted chickpeas
Yields 1-1/2 cups
Forget boring roasted nuts. These chickpeas are crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside and fiery hot!
- 2 cups cooked chickpeas
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. On a large baking sheet, add all ingredients and stir to evenly coat the chickpeas with the oil and spices.
- Roast until golden brown and crispy, about 40 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes or so.
Beet, apple and blue cheese tarts
Yields 10 tarts
You'll enjoy the colors and the flavors of these pastries. Slightly sweet apple and beet get a sharp, salty kick from the blue cheese. Save time by skipping the tart dough and using store-bought puff pastry instead.
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, chopped into 1/2-inch cubes and chilled
- 5 tablespoons cold water
- 2 medium-size whole beets, roasted and peeled
- 2 apples
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 ounces blue cheese
- In a medium bowl, stir together the flour and salt. Add the chilled butter cubes and incorporate using a pastry blender until the butter pieces average the size of peas. (Alternately, incorporate in a food processor, pulsing until the pieces average pea size.) Drizzle the cold water and stir (or pulse) just until the dough comes together. Form the dough into a disk, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
- On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough to about 1/8-inch thickness. Fold the dough in half and then half again, and re-roll to 1/8-inch thickness. Repeat the folding and rolling one more time, and then punch out the tarts using a 3-inch round cookie or biscuit cutter. Place the dough rounds on a baking sheet and refrigerate for an hour.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Melt the 2 tablespoons of butter in a small saucepan. Slice the beets and apples into 1/8-inch thick rounds. On each tart, place one beet slice and then one apple slice, and brush the top of the apples lightly with the melted butter.
- Bake the tarts until the dough puffs and the bottoms begin to turn golden, about 30 minutes. At about 20 minutes, crumble a little blue cheese on top of each tart. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Pan-fried polenta with sun-dried tomato and anchovy tapenade
Yields 20 bites
Crispy polenta is the perfect vessel for a tangy, umami-laced tapenade and a great gluten-free alternative to crostini.
- 3 cups vegetable stock
- 1 cup stone-ground cornmeal
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons capers, roughly chopped
- 1/2 ounce anchovies, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- In a medium pot over high heat, bring the stock to a boil. Whisk in the cornmeal and salt and reduce to a simmer. Cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture is thick, about 15 minutes. Pour the mixture onto an oiled baking sheet or large plate and spread to 1/4-inch thick. Refrigerate until the polenta is fully chilled, at least one hour.
- Once chilled, cut the polenta into 1-1/2–inch squares. In a large pan over medium-high heat, melt the butter. Once the butter foams, add the polenta square in a single layer and fry until the first side is golden. Flip and continue frying until the opposite side is golden. Move the fried polenta squares to a plate.
- In a medium bowl, stir together the sun-dried tomatoes, capers, anchovies and olive oil. Top each polenta square with about a teaspoon of the tapenade.
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Cocktail party recipes