Rick's Recipes: Party Palate Pleasers

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It’s that time of year when the party invites start coming and you don’t want to arrive at the celebration empty-handed. Non-foodies will show up with a bottle of wine or some store-bought pastries. The truly lazy stop on the way and buy a bag of chips and some dip (unless they’re cheap, then they just buy the chips). You want to do more than that, don’t you? Here are some great dishes to bring to holiday parties that are easy to prepare and travel easily.

 

Cucumber Feta Pitas

Use cream cheese for a milder taste, goat cheese for more tang.

 

Ingredients

1 pkg. pita bread

3 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

4 ounces feta

4 ounces cream cheese or goat cheese

1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Coarse salt and ground pepper

1 small English cucumber, thinly sliced crosswise

 

Directions

Preheat oven or toaster oven to 450 degrees. Cut pita into eighths and bake until crisp, about 5 minutes.

In a small bowl, mash together feta, cream cheese or goat cheese, olive oil, and lemon juice with a fork.

Season with salt and pepper.

Spread feta mixture evenly over toasted pita triangles and top with cucumber.

Season cucumber slice with salt, pepper, lemon juice, and a drizzle of olive oil.

 

Bacon Wrapped Peaches

The secret to making this dish is par-cooking the bacon; it makes it crispy without making the dish greasy.

 

Ingredients

12 slices bacon

2-4 firm peaches, depending on size

Kosher salt

sugar

 

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with foil. Cover the bottom of another baking sheet with foil. Lay out bacon on sheetlined with foil, place pan with foil on the bottom on top of the bacon.

Place in oven for about 7-10 minutes, or until bacon just begins to brown, but is still soft. Remove and blot bacon on paper towels.

Peel and cut the peach into slices, 6-8 slices per peach.

Cut bacon slices in half and wrap each peach slice with bacon, securing with a toothpick.

Sprinkle with Kosher salt and sugar.

Place back on baking sheet and cook another 4-6 minutes, turning over halfway through the baking time.

Bacon should be crispy; the peach will be softened and the sugar caramelized.

Serve warm or room temperature.

 

Pistachio Cheese Log

This is an elegant dish. Add chopped dried cranberries for festive holiday colors.

 

Ingredients

8 oz. package cream cheese, room temperature

4 oz. grated sharp white cheddar

2 Tbs. Dijon mustard

1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

1 cup shelled pistachios, coarsely chopped

½ cup dried cranberries, chopped

 

Directions

Using a mixer, beat cream cheese, adding cheddar, Dijon, and Worcestershire until well combined.

Cover, and refrigerate until slightly firm, 1 to 2 hours.

Toast pistachios in a skillet over medium heat, for 3-4 minutes, set aside to cool.

Note: mix chopped cranberries with cooled pistachios, if desired.

Transfer chilled cheese mixture to a piece of waxed paper.

Using paper, shape the cheese mixture into a 6-inch-long log.

Roll in chopped pistachios, pressing to adhere.

Wrap log in a fresh piece of plastic wrap; chill until firm, 1 to 2 hours (or up to 2 days). Serve with crackers or toasted bread.

 

Chicken Cashew Skewers

Sprinkle a few whole cashews on the plate to alert those with nut allergies.

 

Ingredients

1 cup mayonnaise

½ cup Thai chili sauce

1 cup salted roasted cashews, finely chopped

½ cup panko

breadcrumbs

¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro or flat-leaf parsley

Kosher salt and black pepper

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1 lb. total)

Bamboo skewers

½ cup cooking oil

 

Directions

Mix mayo and chili sauce thoroughly, refrigerate and reserve half for dipping sauce later.

Place remaining mayo mix on a plate.

On another plate, stir together cashews, bread crumbs and cilantro with a fork.

Cut chicken breasts crosswise into 24 thin strips.

Thread each strip of chicken onto a skewer.

Sprinkle all skewers with salt and pepper.

Holding skewers by end roll the chicken strips in mayo mixture until lightly coated.

Roll coat chicken in cashew mixture, pressing gently to help it adhere.

Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat and cook the skewers until golden, 2 to 3 minutes on each side.

Transfer to a plate as they are cooked and add more oil to the skillet as necessary.

Serve freshly cooked or room temperature, with chili-mayo dipping sauce.

 

Siracha Salmon on Potato Cakes

This dish requires a little assembly just before serving, but is well worth the extra effort. This is one of my most popular party dishes.

 

Ingredients

1 filet siracha smoked salmon (or brush smoked salmon with siracha)

1 package pre-formed, hash brown patties (thawed, if frozen)

8 oz. cream cheese, softened

8 oz. sour cream

1 tsp. fresh dill, minced (optional)

Red onion

Vinegar

Sugar

Capers

 

Directions

Use a small biscuit or cookie cutter to cut 1-2 inch discs from hash brown patties.

Coat both side of patties with cooking spray.

Place on sheet pan and bake until crispy (12-18 minutes), turning over halfway through baking time, set aside.

Mix cream cheese with sour cream (adding dill if desired), chill until ready to use.

Slice red onion thinly.

In a saucepan add enough vinegar to cover onion slices, sprinkle with sugar.

Simmer until sugar is dissolved and onions are soft, chill and reserve for garnish.

To Assemble

Heat (or reheat) potato patties.

Place on serving plate and top with a dollop of cream cheese mixture.

Top with a slice of salmon.

Garnish with a slice of pickled onion and capers.


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