Day 17: Easy & Delicious Holiday Hors d’Oeuvres

Last night I had a chance to teach a really fun class at West Elm, all about how to host a stress-free Thanksgiving. (Ironically, the days leading up to the class were quite stressful, as I imagined the class being a disaster! Ha.) But it honestly could not have gone any better.

I had a total dream team helping to make the night a success: my good friend Allison Troup-Jensen, Chelsea West Elm‘s Special Events Coordinator, my amazing intern Elise who assisted during class, my superstar husband Brandon who saved the day when our printer broke right before class, AND my awesome students – many of whom were good friends. Also, my parents-in-law, Jim and Jan Carl are in town from Michigan and got a chance to come. Jan’s a turkey expert, so she helped me field questions on turkey brining. So a big thank you to everyone who came out to the class, and who made the night so much fun. I can’t wait to teach again in December! I will share more class details – and Brandon’s fantastic photos – tomorrow, but today I wanted to share with you all the three recipes that I made during class.


I think every cook needs a few easy, delicious hors d’oeuvres recipes at his or her disposal. When guests come over – be it for a casual dinner party or a Thanskgiving Day feast – having something to snack on when they arrive is a MUST. First of all, nobody is on time (at least not in NYC), so it’s nice to have a cocktail hour before sitting at the table. Everyone can relax, have a drink, have a snack, and break the ice a bit. But most importantly, this buys you some extra time to finish up any last-minute cookingwithout hungry guests breathing down your neck!

Signe and I shot these pictures last week for the cookbook, knowing that I was going to teach these recipes in class this week. I hope you’ll be able to try some of these items out for your next cocktail party – or as tasty bites before Thanksgiving!

Thanks again for all of the Cookbook Diaries love yesterday and today – I’ve felt it!! Check back in tomorrow for some photos from last night’s class and some tips on how to host your own Stress-Free Thankgiving. Also – Newsletter #4 goes out tomorrow, so if you haven’t signed up, enter in your email address on the side of the blog and you’ll be added to the list!

xo, Anna


Photos by Signe Birck; Props provided by ABC Home.


Makes a little over 1 cup

3 ounces chopped sundried tomatoes (not the oil-packed kind)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan (or Pecorino)
1 medium-sized garlic clove, minced (about 1/2 teaspoon)
1 small shallot, minced (about 1 teaspoon)
1/4 cup parsley leaves
1/4 cup toasted walnuts, roughly chopped
3 teaspoons white wine vinegar
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Crostini, for serving
Brie (or goat cheese or ricotta), for serving

Place the sundried tomatoes in a heat-proof bowl and cover with about 1 cup of boiling water. Let sit for 10 minutes. Drain, pressing the tomatoes into a strainer to remove extra liquid.

In a food processor, combine the tomatoes, cheese, garlic, shallot, parsley, walnuts, vinegar, and half the olive oil, pulsing to combine. Slowly add the remaining olive oil in a steady stream, with the maching running. Season with salt and pepper to taste. The tapenade should be slightly chunky. Store in an airtigtht container in the fridge for up to 5 days. The flavors improve when you store it for at least a day in the fridge before serving!

TO SERVE: Top crostini with slices of Brie and place under the broiler for 30 seconds or until the cheese melts. Top each crostini with a teaspoon of tapenade and garnish with minced parsley. This is equally delicious with goat cheese or fresh ricotta – just don’t put the ricotta under the broiler!

NOTE: This tapenade is delicious with leftover Thanksgiving day turkey, with grilled fish or roast chicken, and especially as a spread on a sandwich.


Serves 12

6 endives (preferably red and white)
3/4 cup crumbled blue cheese
1 ripe pear, peeled and minced (about 3/4 cup)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup toasted walnuts, minced
1 small shallot, minced (about 1 teaspoon)
1 teaspoon honey
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste

Rinse the endives and pat dry. Remove any discolored outer leaves. Cut the tough ends off of each endive and separate them into leaves (a.k.a. little boats). Prep the blue cheese, pears, and walnuts and put into little bowls. Drizzle the lemon juice over the pears, tossing to combine. This will prevent them from turning brown.

Whisk together the shallot, honey, and vinegar in a small bowl. Add the olive oil in a slow steady stream, whisking constantly. (Alternately, combine all vinaigrette ingredients in a jar and shake to combine!) Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Arrange the endive spears on a circular platter, pointed tips facing out, alternating between yellow and red. Sprinkle a bit of blue cheese, pears, and walnuts in each endive boat and drizzle with about a teaspoon of vinaigrette per endive. Serve immediately.

MAKE AHEAD: Prep all of your ingredients the day before and just assemble the day of.


Makes 2 1/2 cups

1 cup raw pecan halves
1/2 cup raw walnut halves
1/2 cup raw almonds
1/2 cup raw cashews
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 tablespoons finely chopped rosemary
1/2 teaspoon cayenne*
1 tablespoon melted butter (or olive oil)
1 teaspoon course sea salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Roast the nuts for 10 minutes on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Meanwhile, whisk together the maple syrup, brown sugar, rosemary, butter, and sea salt in a large bowl. Add the warm nuts, tossing to coat.

Dump the nuts back onto the parchment-lined tray and bake for another 10 minutes. Let cool on a cooling rack until crisp and cool.

MAKE AHEAD: Store for up to a week in an airtight container.

*This will make moderately spicy nuts. Feel free to decrease or increase the amount of cayenne according to your taste buds!

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.


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