Monday, February 10, 2014

Keeping It Simple

I love to be invited to friends' homes for dinner and see what they serve for appetizers – and I'm almost always impressed. Smoked salmon with dill, lemon, and capers artfully arranged on a tray; smoked pulled pork quesadillas with homemade salsa; fresh baked pretzels with mustard; pitchers of hand-crafted Manhattan cocktails or mojitos with sprigs of mint and sugar cane stirrers. You get the picture. The most impressive thing is that the host and/or hostess make it look so easy. I think the secret is that they are by nature just more organized than I. 

I'm pretty good at coming up with the actual meal: a salad served family style, a one-dish main course, a simple dessert. But appetizers just throw me for a loop. I just can't get the house pulled together, my hair brushed, both earrings on, the table set, the food cooked and a fancy appetizer awaiting all before our guests arrive. So, I've mostly given up. 

Instead, I have found that if I put out something simple, something fun, the evening gets off to a good start. Ideally it can be enjoyed without forks, or plates. 

My favorite trick is to ask Ed to pop up a double batch of popcorn in his whirly pop. I spinkle it with sea salt, put it in my largest wooden bowl, and sit it in the middle of the coffee table. Always a hit. 

I've been known to buy a bag of those fancy Terra sweet potato chips and slide them in the oven for 5 minutes and serve them. Olives are good. Marcona almonds work well. So does a big bowl of unshelled nuts with multiple nutcrackers. 

I am trying to expand my appetizer repertoire. This weekend, I made these honey sesame almonds. And this afternoon, I'm experimenting with spicy, crunchy garbanzo beans.

Here's my recipe: You just rinse a can of garbanzo beans (chickpeas), peel them if you are in the mood to, drizzle a little olive oil over them, sprinkle them with a combination of spices (I used chili powder, cumin, salt, harrissa, garam massala, and smoked paprika.) Spread them out on a parchment-lined cookie sheet and slide them into a 375 degree oven for 40 minutes or so. Give them a shake every 10 minutes or so.

They are out of the oven now and I'm popping them into my mouth one at a time. I can't stop. I think Ed is napping in the other room and if he doesn't wake up soon, he won't be able to be a taste tester for me. Next time, I'm using two cans!

What's your favorite appetizer? Leave a comment and tell me about it. Nothing fancy, please!

No comments:

Post a Comment