Written by Alan Zox Friday, 18 January 2013 00:00
A good party should start with tempting taste teasers we know as appetizers or hors d’oeuvres. Some people believe that appetizers should be spicy or salty enough to stimulate the appetite. But since most of us are seeking to eat less, not more, we want appetizers that are low in fat and calories, but delicious and unique. Here are a few ideas from southwestern and Middle Eastern traditions that can liven up your next festive event.
Chickpeas that are used to make humMus throughout the Middle East are also excellent snacks when eaten dry. They became a favorite of mine when visiting my artist brother at his local hangout in Manhattan, the famous Max’s Kansas City. Mickey Ruskin, the owner of Max’s, fed his artistic clientele free dried chickpeas that tasted like paste but were completely addictive and caused everyone to buy more drinks. Eventually Mickey brought out more substantial free dishes like baby meatballs in marinara or sesame noodles. but it was too late to stop eating the dried chick peas. We were hooked. While I still enjoy them, one delicious alternative is chile peanuts – a favorite of the Austin, Texas bar crowds.
Spicy Chile Peanuts—Serves 6
1 pound roasted unsalted peanuts
1 clove garlic;
1 ½ teaspoon kosher salt;
1 tablespoon chile powder
½ teaspoon Cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice.
Saute diced garlic. With remaining ingredients cook for two minutes. Let cool and serve at room temperature.
Crudite of Vegetables—
I like to make this crowd pleaser with florets of one raw cauliflower, slices of a small bag of carrots, one bunch of celery sticks sliced in half and then sliced vertically, thinly sliced red peppers removing all the seeds and white veins, raw white cap mushrooms sliced from top to bottom, and fennel bulbs cut into 1-inch slices from stem to stern after removing the attractive fronds that can be used for decoration along with slices of lemon and lime
These or other favorite vegetables can be accompanied by your standard onion or guacamole dip. A delicious alternative is to drain and puree a can of black beans or black-eyed peas. Add and puree together with the bean of choice, ¼ cup chopped onion, one clove chopped garlic, one plum tomato cut in half, seeds removed by squeezing, a splash of Tabasco and juice of ½ lemon. Lightly season with salt and pepper to taste.
Roasted Cauliflower Florets are another simple, spicy treat that your guests will adore. And they are a nice counterpoint to the raw cauliflower. For this version, merely toss the florets in extra virgin olive oil, kosher salt, Spanish paprika (now available from McCormick in most grocery stores) and a shake or two of Cayenne. Be sure to add all spices even if you are not a fan of much heat because the spice is muted by the oil. Roast the florets for 45 minutes at 425 degrees. They should become darkened on the edges.
This last hors d’oeuvre is an unusual version of salsa. It is similar to Pico de Gallo or a spicy tomato salsa, but has an added kick. It was created by Rosalie Murphy, the celebrated chef/ owner of Santa Fe’s Pink Adobe Restaurant. I enjoyed eating at the Pink Adobe many times but unfortunately it is now closed. However, you can still find copies of Ms. Murphy’s Pink Adobe Cookbook which presents a delicious and unique approach to Southwestern cooking.
Salsa Diabolique—Yields 2 Cups
Combine all the following ingredients in a large bowl:
6 ripe plum tomatoes or one can of Italian Marzano plum tomatoes
¼ cup each coarsely chopped red and yellow onions
2 shallots chopped
1 3 ½-ounce can pickled jalapeno peppers, chopped
1 ounce “bull shot mix” which is 4 ounces beef consommé plus 1 ½ ounces inexpensive vodka; 1 teaspoon chopped fresh cilantro or ground coriander; 1 teaspoon cumin; 1 teaspoon salt; and 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice.
Let all ingredients stand at least one hour. Serve with tortilla chips—store bought or homemade. You can make your own chips by cutting corn tortillas into eight triangles and either frying them in canola oil or heating them in the oven at 350 degrees for 10 minutes on sheet trays.
Party On! I will be happy to discuss any of the recipes above by contacting me directly at azox@zoxkitchen.