Thursday, November 27, 2008
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At many dinner parties, I've found that guests hit a dangerous period before you are ready to serve, where they are hungry enough to down all the cheese and crackers you can throw at them and in doing so throw off their appetite. For Thanksgiving dinner this year, I decided to offer a "snack" starter course with varied crostinis that both started the meal off in a delicious way, as well as controlling portions. They are quite easy to make, especially if you have access to the oven to toast your bread.
1. Mixed mushrooms
2. Olive tapenade
3. Hummus and roasted red pepper
4. goat cheese and prosciutto
You can serve these individually or just put a whole bunch out on a platter. The recipes for the first three components are below. Of course, for #4, I simply bought good goat cheese and imported prosciutto; I had originally wanted to try a combination of goat cheese, fig and a touch of honey but couldn't find figs this time of year.
We served these on very thin, toasted slices of homemade sourdough. Lisl was kind enough to bake two long, flat loaves for me to use. The only pieces I basted with olive oil were the ones for the mushroom spread, but frankly, it would probably be a delicious move on all of them, time permitting.
Our mistake was not toasting the bread slices in the oven before the turkey took all the room in there. We ended up using the toaster, which is much more work than you need when busy working on a big dinner.
handful of finely chopped yellow onion (or shallots)
1 garlic clove, minced
7 or 8 cremini mushrooms, finely chopped
3 or 3 white button mushrooms, finely chopped
5 or 6 shitake mushroom caps, sliced into thin strips
1 tbsp butter
1/4 cup chicken or turkey stock
3 tbsp port
1 tsp fresh oregano, finely chopped
salt and pepper
Melt the butter in a splash of olive oil in a heavy bottomed pan and saute the garlic and onion on medium low heat. Add the mushrooms, oregano, a couple pinches of salt and pepper, and cook for 5 to 10 minutes stirring occasionally. Turn up the heat slightly, and stir in the stock and port and let the liquid reduce. Cook for another 5 or 10 minutes, tasting for salt and pepper, and don't hesitate to add a bit more port if you want to punch up that part of the flavor.
Brush the toasted bread with a little olive oil before adding the mushroom mixture.
1/2 lb kalamata olives
1 1/2 small anchovy filets
1 tbsp small caper berries
1 clove of garlic
turn of ground pepper
juice from 1/2 a lemon
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Combine all the ingredients in a food processor and blend. My family and I, we're olive nuts, and this spread was a huge hit.
Hummus & Roasted Red Pepper
Making the hummus
Frankly, I never make hummus exactly the same way; I do it by taste. I usually work from dried chickpeas and make batches with about half of a 1 lb bag. To cook, bring the chickpeas to a boil and then simmer for 1.5 to 2 hours until tender. You can do this a day or two in advance, if need be. I'll start with by placing the chickpeas, 1 1/2 tbsp of tahini, 2 garlic cloves, juice from 1 or 2 lemons, and a couple pinches of salt in a food processor. Then I dribble in several tablespoons of olive oil as it blends. I'll check for taste and add more of various ingredients until I am happy.
For the red peppers, normally I have blackened them whole under the broiler, then placed in a plastic or paper back for 10 minutes or so before peeling. This year my mother gave me the tip that it is easier to peel the peppers if you have already cut them into fairly flat strips. After trying that technique, I have to agree with her.
For the crostinis, I just put a thin spread of hummus on the toasted bread and then two small slivers of red pepper. It is easier for your guests to cut the red pepper in half so they aren't trying to bite it in half with their teeth.