Countdown to New Year’s Eve: Easy, Elegant Hors d’Oeuvres
I hope you all had a wonderful holiday, with lots of great time with friends and family, in the kitchen and around the table. We spent a white Christmas in Michigan with Brandon’s family, with more snow on the way! Now that the presents have been opened, the big Christmas dinner cooked and eaten, and Elf watched (for the umpteenth time!), my thoughts are moving ahead to the New Year. This December was heavier than most, for a myriad of reasons, and frankly I’m ready to welcome in a new year, with all its promise of newness, hope, and health.
After all the huge meals over the holidays, on New Year’s Eve I like to keep things simple and light. I love creating a buffet of elegant, bite-size hors d’oeuvres that pair well with bubbly. (For recommendations on my favorite budget bubblies, click here.) I like to do a mixture of sweet and savory bites – ideally things that can be made in advance – served cool or at room temperature. Though I love being in the kitchen, New Year’s Eve is not the time to be slaving over a hot stove. It’s a time to enjoy friends and celebrate 2012, with all its trials and triumphs, and toast the year to come.
All photos by Signe Birck
These three hors d’oeuvres, Endive Spears with Smoked Salmon and Lemon Dill Vinaigrette, Pizzettes with Ricotta, Roasted Tomatoes, and Kalamata Olives, and Tuna Avocado Poke spoons, are elegant and surprisingly simple. The lemon dill vinaigrette and the pizza dough can be made a day in advance (or to really save time, just use store-bought dough), the poke can be made several hours in advance and kept chilled, and the pizza crusts can be baked a couple hours early and assembled at the last minute. You can find my recipe for tuna avocado poke here, only instead of lettuce leaves, try using Asian-style soup spoons. I got these at a local kitchen supply store for 75 cents each! Whatever you do, just have fun with it. New Year’s Eve gets so hyped up, but ultimately there’s no place I’d rather celebrate than at my apartment with a few good friends. Cheers!
ENDIVE SPEARS WITH SMOKED SALMON AND LEMON DILL VINAIGRETTE
2 tablespoons tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons minced shallots (from about 1 large shallot)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill, plus more for garnish
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard (optional)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
24 Belgian endive spears (preferably red and yellow)
6-8 ounces smoked salmon, cut into 24 pieces
Make the vinaigrette: in a small bowl, whisk the lemon juice, shallots, dill (and mustard, if using). Slowly add the olive oil, whisking constantly. Season with salt and pepper.
Just before the party, arrange the endive spears on a platter and lay a strip of smoked salmon on each one. Drizzle with vinaigrette and garnish with dill leaves and lemon wedges.
MAKE AHEAD: The vinaigrette keeps in the refrigerator for a day. You can also prepare a platter of endive spears with smoked salmon (without vinaigrette) several hours before the party; wrap with plastic wrap and keep chilled in the refrigerator. Drizzle with the vinaigrette just before serving.
WHOLE WHEAT PIZZETTES WITH RICOTTA, ROASTED TOMATOES, AND OLIVES
You can certainly make your own dough (here’s a great recipe), but I often use good-quality store-bought dough to save time. Both Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods sell balls of whole wheat pizza dough that you can shape and roll out yourself.
Makes 24 pizzettes24 grape tomatoes, sliced in half lengthwise
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
Salt and pepper
12 ounces whole wheat pizza dough (thawed, if frozen)
4 ounces fresh ricotta
12 pitted kalamata olives, halved
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, julienned*
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Toss the grape tomatoes in 1 tablespoon olive oil, salt, and pepper. Pour the tomatoes on an aluminum foil-lined baking sheet and roast for 10-15 minutes or until softened. Remove from the oven and let cool to room temperature.
Meanwhile, sprinkle some cornmeal or flour on a large countertop and roll the pizza dough out to 1/4-inch thick. Using a 2-inch cookie cutter, cut 24 circles out of the dough. Arrange the circles on a heavy baking sheet.
Brush each circle lightly with a bit of olive oil. Bake about 10 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool to room temperature.
Just before the party, arrange the dough rounds on a platter. Top each with a teaspoon of ricotta cheese, 2 tomato halves, 1 olive half, and sprinkle with basil leaves. Drizzle lightly with the remaining olive oil and season with salt and pepper if desired.
MAKE AHEAD: The dough rounds can be baked several hours in advance and kept at room temperature. The tomatoes can be roasted a day in advance and kept in the refrigerator. If you make them in advance, bring to room temperature before serving.
SHORTCUT: Skip the roasted tomatoes and pick up some roasted tomatoes from the antipasti/olive bar at your grocery store. Or just substitute jarred sun-dried tomatoes.
*To julienne basil, roll the leaves together tightly to resemble a cigar. Starting on one end of the basil “roll,” thinly slice the basil crossways, so you end up with a pile of thin basil ribbons.
My name is Anna Watson Carl. In a word, I love food, I love France, and I love throwing dinner parties. Over the years, I've worked as a personal chef, taught cooking classes, edited cookbooks, written for magazines, tested and styled recipes, and traveled whenever opportunity has arisen. But at heart, there's nothing I love more than sharing a meal with friends around the yellow table.
For me, cooking has always been a way of life. As a (mildly precocious) ten-year old, I planned and prepared a four-course Valentine's dinner for my parents, birthing a lifelong passion for dinner parties. That was just the beginning. I've been cooking ever since, whipping up souffles at a chateau in Burgundy, searing filet mignon for a wealthy client's dog (bizarre, but true), butchering ducks for confit de canard in Paris, baking the night shift in Nashville, and bathing the floor of my NYC apartment in turkey brine...the story continues....more
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