More December Appetizers

 

More finger foods this week; these 3 are less complicated than last week’s spanakopita, but just as pretty!

Cucumber boats:

Cut the cucumber in half lengthwise.  Hollow out the seeds, leaving your “boat”.  Fill with any kind of soft cheese; here, we’ve used herbed chèvre.  Slice with a sharp knife and garnish how you like (this picture shows tomatoes and fresh basil, inspired by www.cherrapeno.com

    

 

Corn Bread Tartlets with Bruschetta

(adapted from Cook and Be Merry)

Makes 2 Dozen Tartlets

Tartlets:

  • ½ cup yellow cornmeal
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup plain yogurt
  • 2-4 tablespoon buttermilk
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • ¾ cup whole milk ricotta cheese
  • Basil thinly sliced for garnish.

Bruschetta:

  • 2 cups orange and red cherry tomatoes, quartered. (After cutting, lay tomato pieces on a paper towel for a few minutes to blot up some of the juices.)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced or pressed
  • 1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped basil
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons white balsamic vinegar (can substitute white wine vinegar)
  • Salt and ground pepper

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 °F.
  2. Grease your mini muffin pans (butter works best to give the cornbread a lovely golden color and that signature crispiness)
  3. In a medium bowl, mix the cornmeal with the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.
  4. In another bowl, whisk the egg, yogurt and melted butter.
  5. Pour the milk mixture into the dry ingredients and stir gently to combine. Add enough buttermilk to give the batter a smooth consistency.
  6. Do NOT over mix!!  The secret to great, fluffy cornbread is to allow the cornmeal to soak up the liquid, expanding into a spongy consistency.   Let stand for 7-10 minutes to accomplish this.
  7. Spoon the batter into the muffin cups, filling them just over halfway.  Again, be gentle so you don’t disturb the spongy texture of the dough.  Bake for 12-15 minutes or until there is a golden-brown color where the muffins meet the top of the pan.  They are done if a toothpick inserted comes out clean.  Cool in the pans for 5 minutes, then turn out onto a rack to cool completely.
  8. In a medium bowl, toss the tomatoes with the garlic, Parmesan, basil, vinegar and olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Let the mixture stand about 10 minutes to blend the flavors.
  9. Stir the ricotta cheese a bit until it’s smooth and creamy.  Fill a piping bag for easy application onto the muffin tops. (Or use our trick– a sandwich baggie with the corner cut out: just toss the whole thing when you’re done)
  10. Using a small serrated knife, slice off the domed tops of the muffins, leaving a little bit of the golden brown shoulder.
  11. Top the cut side of the muffins with the ricotta and about a teaspoon of the bruschetta mixture.

The Taste Test:

When we served these up, our colleagues raved about the visual appeal (as did we when we found them while searching for ideas online) but didn’t rave so much about the taste. The general impression was that the flavor was too bland.  Somebody suggested spicing up the bruschetta a bit to balance out the mild cheese and bread.  We’re going to try these again and add some chili pepper flakes to heat up the topping.  (Someone else suggested that cornbread goes best with gravy.  We have to agree, but haven’t figured out yet how to turn THAT into a finger food!)

And another appetizer using cucumbers as a base instead of crackers or bread for a less calorie-laden option.

Cucumber Cups

Cut the cucumber into 12 rounds (approximately 2 inches each). Scoop out the inner flesh being careful not to scoop out all the way through to the bottom. Place the slices upside-down on paper or cotton towels to soak up some liquid from the seed pulp.  For a colorful plate, use a combination of dips to fill the cups.  Here, we’ve pictured regular and roasted red pepper hummus, Greek mix (feta cheese, sliced black olives, diced cherry tomatoes and a dash of Greek salad dressing) and Tzatziki dip.

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