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A Summer Garden Party Celebration
A summer garden party to celebrate an anniversary, a graduation, or a gala wedding reception calls for an appetizer format that is elegant and festive. Yet it should be easy to prepare in advance and serve with minimal help. This selection of hors d'oeuvres meets that criteria. The decorative table looks sumptuous and the dishes exude zestful, taste-tingling flavors.
The occasion calls for sparkling wines: Domaine Chandon Brut, Roederer Estate, Gloria Ferrer Brut, or Domaine Mumm Brut. Also offer sparkling waters and affordable wines such as Kendall-Jackson or Meridian Chardonnay and Canyon Road or Kenwood Sauvignon Blanc. Depending on the crowd, you may choose to include beer.
Apricot, Cherry, and Pistachio-Crowned Brie
makes 20 to 24 servings
Orange liqueur-scented apricots and cherries cloak warm and oozing Brie for a sublime spread on crackers or French bread.
One 2.2-pound wheel of Brie
3 tablespoons orange Curacao, Cointreau, Cognac, or brandy
3/4 cup dried apricots, cut in 1/4-inch strips
6 tablespoons dried cherries
6 tablespoons pistachios, chopped or pine nuts
Crackers or 1 loaf French-style baguette, cut in 1/3-inch-thick slices
Seedless red or green grapes or fresh apricots or figs, halved for garnish
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place the cheese on an oven-proof serving platter. Prick the top with a fork in a dozen places and drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the liqueur. Toss the remaining liqueur with the apricots, cherries, and pistachios and scatter over the top of the cheese. Bake in the oven for 8 to 10 minutes or until the cheese warms and softens. Serve with crackers or sliced bread. Garnish with a wreath of grapes or apricots.
Brioche Star with Smoked Salmon and Goat Cheese
makes 1 large Brioche star
1 package active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water
1/2 cup butter
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup brandy, sherry, or water
3-14 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
Egg Glaze: 1 egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon milk
8 ounces whipped cream cheese or 12 ounces soft mild goat cheese or cream cheese
16 ounces smoked salmon or use 8 ounces salmon and 8 ounces cooked shrimp
Chopped fresh dill or chives and flat-leaf parsley for garnish
Sprinkle the yeast into warm water. Let stand until dissolved. Cream the butter. Beat in the sugar, salt, and brandy, sherry, or water. Add the eggs one at a time. Beat well with a heavy duty mixer. Add 1 cup of flour and the dissolved yeast. Gradually add the remaining flour, beating after each addition. Turn out on a floured board. Knead until smooth and satiny. Place in a lightly greased bowl and cover with a kitchen towel. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1-1/2 hours. Turn out onto a lightly floured board. Knead to release air bubbles. Roll into a 14-inch circle. Place on a greased 14-inch pizza pan. With a sharp-pointed knife cut star points, about 2-1/2 inches long, around the outer edge. Make about 12 to 14 points in all. Shape remaining dough into a ball. Roll into a 9-inch circle. Place in the center of the star. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size. Brush with Egg Glaze. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes or until golden brown and the loaf sounds hollow when thumped. Let cool on a cake rack.
To serve: with a serrated knife, slice off the center top layer of the Brioche Star. Hollow out the middle, removing the bread in one piece. Slice it horizontally making 3 layers and spread with cheese and smoked salmon or other fillings such as egg salad, cooked small shrimp, or thinly sliced ham. Garnish with herbs. Cut in triangular pieces and fit back into the hollowed out center. Replace the top layer and serve. If desired, fill the top layer, too.
Endive with Scallops and Curry
makes 4 to 5 dozen appetizers
5 heads Belgian endive (red and green)
2 teaspoons curry powder
1 cup mayonnaise or sour cream
1 pound small bay scallops
3 tablespoons butter
Juice of 1 lime or lemon
Separate the endive into stalks. Microwave the curry 30 seconds to remove the raw taste and stir into the mayonnaise or sour cream. Pat the scallops dry and dust with cornstarch. In a large skillet over medium high heat, saute the scallops in butter, turning to brown both sides. Let cool. Place 1/2 teaspoon of mayonnaise on the cut end of each endive and top with one or two scallops. Arrange like a sunburst on a platter.
Mushrooms Stuffed with Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto
makes 60 appetizers
60 small 1-1/2 inch mushrooms, stems removed
Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto:
1 cup sun-dried tomatoes
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/3 cup packed fresh basil
1/4 cup packed flat-leaf parsley sprigs
3 tablespoons chopped green onion tops
3 tablespoons pistachios or pine nuts
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons olive oil
Garnish: pistachio halves or parsley leaves
Place the tomatoes in a small saucepan with 1/2 cup water, bring to a simmer, remove from heat and let stand 5 to 10 minutes to soften; drain. In a food processor fitted with the steel blade, place the garlic, tomatoes, basil, parsley, onions, and nuts. Process until finely minced. Add the cheese and oil and process until mixed in. Chill. Spoon into mushroom caps. Garnish each with a pistachio half or a parsley leaf.
Indonesian Chicken Sate
serves 6 to 8
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts or 1-1/2 pounds lean pork cubes
1 small onion, chopped
2 teaspoons freshly ground coriander seeds or 1 teaspoon ground coriander
1-1/2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 garlic cloves, minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 tablespoons lemon or lime juice
1 teaspoon curry powder
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon olive oil
Sate Sauce: follows (optional)
Seedless grapes for garnish (optional)
Cut the meat into 1-inch cubes. Place in a mixing bowl the onion, coriander, cayenne, sugar, garlic, salt, pepper, lemon juice, curry powder, and soy; mix well. Add the meat, stir to coat, cover, and chill several hours. Thread the meat on skewers and broil or barbecue over medium coals until cooked through. Serve with Sate Sauce. Or broil the meat on a broiling pan and skewer with toothpicks and grapes.
Sate Sauce: Saute 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin, 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander, 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper in 1/2 teaspoon butter for 1 to 2 minutes, stirring. Add 2 tablespoons peanut butter, 1 teaspoon lemon or lime juice, 1/4 cup water, 1/2 teaspoon brown sugar, 1 garlic clove, minced, and 1 tablespoon minced shallots or green onion. Season with salt and liquid hot pepper seasoning.
Melon Ball Basket
Makes 50 to 60 appetizer servings
1 small seedless watermelon
1 green honeydew melon
1 large cantaloupe
3 tablespoons minced fresh lemon balm or mint
1/2 cup lime juice
1/4 cup sugar
Lemon balm or mint sprigs for garnish
Cut the top third from the watermelon, cutting it horizontally. Scoop out the melon in balls. Shape a handle and tuck inside the melon shell. Halve the honeydew and cantaloupe and scoop out the flesh into balls. Mix together the lemon balm or mint, lime juice and sugar and let stand until the sugar dissolves. Spoon over the melon balls and let steep 1 hour. Serve in the watermelon shell and garnish with lemon balm or mint.
Hungarian Ham and Sunflower Squares
makes about 48 appetizers
2 red peppers, halved, seeded, and chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1-1/2 cups light-style sour cream or part yogurt
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
8 ounces cooked ham, cut in julienne strips
1/2 cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
3/4 cup finely chopped green onions
8 ounces (2 cups) shredded Jarlsberg or sharp Cheddar cheese
1/3 cup roasted sunflower seeds or pine nuts
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a large frying pan over medium heat, saute the peppers in oil until soft. In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs until blended and mix in the sour cream, salt, pepper, ham, parsley, onions, peppers, and cheese. Lightly grease or spray a nonstick 10-by-15 inch baking pan with nonstick cooking spray and pour in the ham mixture. Sprinkle with seeds or nuts. Bake in the oven for 25 minutes or until set. Cut in small squares and serve hot or warm. If desired, bake in advance and reheat for 15 minutes.
Lou Seibert Pappas is a former food editor of the Palo Alto Times Tribune and a home economist with Sunset Magazine. She currently writes food, home, and travel-related articles for national magazines and newspapers and is the author of more than 30 books.