Easy to please

by • November 21, 2016 • Highlights, Trailside GourmetComments (0)1157

Ready or not, the holidays are here.
It was a fantastic summer and an amazing fall. As we gather to give thanks and celebrate the year, it is time to put forth some thought as to how best navigate this season’s waters.
As Alaskans, this is the time when we all come back together. It sure is fun to have a few friends over, share some food, and tell tales of our summer adventures. To make the most of these affairs, you need to be prepared. Be prepared to put out a good spread of hors d’ oeuvres, that is.
Throwing a party can sometimes be a stressful endeavor, especially when you want to impress with your culinary skill. Appetizers need not be complicated or expensive. Nor should you be tied to the kitchen when you would rather be in the living room sharing in the laughter. I have some simple, tasty and inexpensive ideas for your next gathering. It is well within reason that you can prepare any three of this month’s recipes with what you probably already have on hand and take no more than 30 minutes doing so.
For starters, try the roasted spicy cashews. It will take you longer to pre-heat your oven than to actually prepare these tasty morsels.
The bean dip is fantastic, and you even get to use the microwave to finish your prep. Take the Caprice appetizers, for example. Just slide the ingredients onto a toothpick, drizzle with balsamic vinegar, and you’re done. What could be easier?
It might look like you spent a fortune in time and money to prepare for your holiday gala, but it certainly won’t feel like it. Smile all the while knowing that you beat the bank and the clock hosting your party. Go forth and enjoy.
On a personal note, be sure help out those people who were not so fortunate this year. Whether giving a coat from your closet, placing a can of food in the bin or donating to your favorite charity, take the time to reflect on your good fortune and share with those in need.
Happy holidays everyone – wassail!

— Mark J. Bly, The Flying Chef


With fig, caramelized onion, and prosciutto
A crostini is anything you want it to be. Take stock of what is in your fridge and make it happen.
When in doubt, fall back to The Flying Chef “Rule of Three.” Excluding the bread, and of course olive oil, find three ingredients you feel would go good together. Anything in your larder is fair game. Just commit and make it happen.
The crostini does not necessarily need to be hot to be served, so make it ahead of time.

A French or sourdough baguette
Olive oil for drizzling and sauté’
Any white cheese you have on hand
A package of thinly sliced Prosciutto
1 sweet onion
Balsamic vinegar
Fig jam, apricot would work well here, too

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Slice bread diagonally into ¼-inch slices.
Place bread on a sheet pan and drizzle with olive oil.
Place in oven and bake for 10 to 14 minutes, depending on how crunchy you want it.
While the bread is baking, shave enough cheese to cover each piece of bread.
Don’t have a cheese shaver? Use a vegetable peeler. Just be very careful and always shave away from any digit that could be injured if the blade gets out of control.
Slice the onion into thin rounds and then slice in half.
Place in pan with olive oil over medium heat; sauté’ until translucent.
Add a few tablespoons of balsamic vinegar and a pinch of salt. Show the pan some love and spread it all around until the onion is brown and caramelized. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
In the meantime remove bread from the oven and top with cheese. Return to the oven until the cheese is melted. Three to five minutes will do.
Get that prosciutto out of the wrapper and loosely tear in to pieces.
Now that the bread is done, arrange the prosciutto, top with the onion and add a dollop of the fig jam.
Plate and serve.

Spicy Roasted Cashewsspicy-cashews
1 pound of cashews
2 teaspoons minced rosemary
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon Kosher salt
½ tablespoon cayenne
1 tablespoon melted butter
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
On a baking sheet, spread out the cashews.
Bake for 8 minutes. Remove from oven.
Place the cashews in a large mixing bowl.
Add all ingredients and toss.

Quick Bean Dipbean-dip
1 can of black beans, drained and rinsed
4 cloves of garlic, minced
¼ cup olive oil
4 tablespoons salsa
1 tablespoon Chipotle seasoning, ancho chili works too
1 teaspoon ground pepper
2 jalapeño peppers, diced
Mexican cheese, or whatever you have on hand

Over low heat, sauté the garlic in the olive oil. Use very low heat so as to bring out all the flavor the garlic has to offer. Do not burn the garlic.
Allow to cool.
Reserve a handful of the beans for garnish and put the rest into a blender or food processor. Add to that the oil with garlic, the salsa, one of the diced jalapeños, and seasonings.
Puree the ingredients. If it gets too thick, just add a little water.
Pour in to a microwave-safe bowl.
Microwave the mixture for 2 minutes. Remove and stir.
Place back in to the microwave for 1 more minute. Remove and plate.
Garnish the top with the cheese, jalapeño, and remaining beans.

Fruit and Fetafruit-and-feta
Any fruit will do (I used blackberries and watermelon in this example)
Feta cheese

Pretty easy: Just cube your feta cheese and watermelon.
Arrange on toothpicks.
Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and serve.

Pickle Wrap
This is so easy to make and very tasty.
Dill pickle spears is what I used, but if you want to kick it up, use gherkin.

Fully cooked turkey or ham slices
Cream cheese

Remove meat from package and pat dry.
Spread on some cream cheese.
It helps if you warm up the cheese before use.
Place a pickle spear on one end of the meat slice and roll.
Secure with a toothpick and slice the roll.
Place a toothpick in each slice and serve.

Caprice Skewers
Grape tomatoes
Mozzarella cheese (The pearls from the store are preferred. Or any soft cheese you have on hand)
Fresh basil leaves
Balsamic vinegar

The sky is the limit here. I have two examples on the plate.
Place a tomato on the toothpick in an alternation fashion along with the cheese and basil.
Plate and drizzle with the balsamic vinegar.
You could even add some fruit. Just have fun.

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