I'm planning my birthday party and everything down to the last little detail must be perfect. Although it doesn't start until after dinner, it's a cocktail party and therefore I want to provide my guests with something to nibble on during the course of the night. I'll put together some delectable bites that can be made well in advance and taste fabulous at room temperature. The hors d'oeurves will be some of my favorite snack foods: Marinated olives, candied walnuts, cheese straws, and bacon wrapped dates. All of this will pair perfectly with most types of cocktails, beer or wine. To serve these simple and classic appetizers at your next party,
1/2 cup fresh tarragon leaves
1/4 cup fresh thyme leaves
5 flat anchovy fillets
2 cups drained brine-cured black olives such as Kalamata and/or Niçoise
2 cups drained brine-cured green olives such as picholine
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup thinly sliced fennel bulb (sometimes called anise)
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons minced onion
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 tablespoon anise seeds
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
2 teaspoons dried basil, crumbled
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 to 4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- Chop tarragon and thyme and mince anchovies.
- In a deep bowl stir together all ingredients except vinegar. Marinate olive mixture, covered and chilled, stirring occasionally, at least 6 hours and up to 3 days.
- Bring olive mixture to room temperature before proceeding.
- To serve olives, transfer to a bowl with a slotted spoon and drizzle with vinegar to taste.
Makes about 4 1/2 cups.
6 cups sugar
3 1/2 tablespoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons ginger powder
1 teaspoon nutmeg
2 teaspoons salt
6 cups whole pecans or walnuts
Vegetable oil, for frying
- In a large bowl combine sugar, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and salt.
- Blanch nuts in boiling water for 1 minute. Drain and dry them off in a kitchen towel. Lightly toss them into the sugar mixture until coated. Remove nuts, and set aside the sugar spice mixture.
- Bring the oil in a deep fryer or a heavy-bottomed pan to 330 to 350 degrees-F (do not let the oil burn). Place 1 nut in the oil and when it starts to sizzle, add the rest of the nuts.
- Fry approximately 1 minute, the nuts will turn golden in color, and float. Remove from the oil and add directly to the sugar mixture and toss again.
- Carefully remove nuts and shake off excess sugar, let cool and serve.
1 cup all-purpose flour
6 tablespoons frozen unsalted butter, grated
1 cup coarsely grated cheddar cheese (4 ounces)
1 cup coarsely grated Parmesan cheese (4 ounces)
1/4 cup ice water, plus more for sprinkling
- Preheat the oven to 400°. Butter a large baking sheet.
- In a medium bowl, combine the flour and grated butter. Add the cheeses and mix, using your hands, until well combined. Stir in the water. On a clean, floured work surface, knead the dough until smooth, sprinkling in a few drops of ice water if the dough is too dry. Shape into a disk.
- Roll out the disk to form a large rectangle (about 9 by 12 inches and 1/4 inch thick). Cut 1/2-inch strips from the longer side, then cut those in half to form 6-inch strips.
- Sprinkle the cheese straws with salt, transfer to the baking sheet with a spatula and bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes.
Makes 3 dozen straws.
24 large dates, pitted
12 slices bacon, halved crosswise
1/3 cup crumbled Stilton cheese
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place 24 toothpicks in a small bowl filled with water; let soak 15 minutes. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and fit with a wire rack; set aside.
- Halve dates lengthwise being careful not to cut all the way through. Place a small amount of cheese in the center of each date. Wrap a piece of bacon around each date. Secure bacon with a toothpick.
- Place dates on prepared baking sheet. Bake until bacon is cooked through, 20 to 25 minutes.