The holiday season is upon us…
A global entertaining frenzy has begun, as each of us looks for unique food, beverage and decorating ideas for our next holiday party; ideas that will stand apart from the rest while showcasing our personal style.
With ‘red’ being the official color of the holiday season, I’m happy to pull out all my favorite ‘red’ sweaters and handbags, my large collection of ‘red’ platters, jars and dishes…and my lovely ‘red’ tea kettle.
This holiday season, we are on a mission to arm all our readers with no-fuss holiday recipes like fiesta chaat in fillo (phyllo) cups, Indian-inspired turkey with nutty green beans and our almond & pumpkin fudge-halwa.
Today’s offering of 3 stunningly simple and ideal-for-entertaining-a-crowd appetizers; come with a unique set of flavors, sure to please every palate. I’d recommend keeping these recipes handy.
Are these appetizers Indian-inspired? Absolutely, that’s just the way we cook…
Appetizer I: Cheese Chili Toast Triangles
Back in India, these yummy bites were the most requested appetizer at our hotel’s banquet events; they are filled with amazing flavor and look like ‘mini Indian grilled cheese open sandwiches’. Feel free to add your own touches like diced red pepper or chopped olives to the versatile cheese mixture.
Makes 16 mini triangles
2 thin slices of grainy loaf bread
Butter for spreading on the bread
1 cup shredded cheese (cheddar or any cheese blend)
½ Jalapeño pepper, finely chopped (use Serrano pepper or Thai green chili if you like it spicier)
1 tablespoon finely chopped red onion
¼ teaspoon ground paprika
½ teaspoon cracked black pepper
¼ teaspoon salt, only if required based on the cheese
In a small bowl, bring together the cheese, finely chopped Jalapeño/Serrano/Thai chili pepper, chopped onion, spices and seasonings.
Spread butter on the two slices of loaf bread and lay them on an ungreased baking sheet (you can also toast them directly on the rack.) Top the bread generously with the cheese mix, it might look like a lot but the cheese really melts down. Toast the cheese-topped bread in a toaster oven till the cheese has melted. For a browned cheese topping, broil the slices on a high setting for another 2 minutes.
Take off the crust and cut each slice into 8 triangular pieces for a perfect bite-sized appetizer. Serve the Cheese Chili Toast Triangles warm on a large platter.
Appetizer II: Maple-flavored Apple Spiced Goat Cheese Log
Goat cheese has a natural tang to it which works wonderfully, topped with the flavors of apple compote made using Granny Smith apples, maple syrup, cinnamon and cardamom. Lay out this delicious log on a plate with a spreader, along with some of your favorite crackers or sliced baguette, cold cuts, olives and grapes; you will soon have a crowd gather around this appetizer…
6-8 oz goat cheese log, at room temperature
I medium Granny Smith apple, cut in small dices
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
2 teaspoons maple syrup
Heat a saucepan with the diced apples, ¼ cup of water, maple syrup and spices. Cook for about 5-7 minutes till the apple has softened but still has a slight bite to it.
While the apple compote is still warm, roll a goat cheese log at room temperature in it, so the apple pieces stick to the entire cheese log. Place the log on a serving plate and pour the rest of the apple compote around the goat cheese.
Serve the Maple-flavored Apple Spiced Goat Cheese Log as a spread for crackers or sliced baguette along with cold cuts, olives and grapes as accompaniments.
Appetizer III: Pan-tossed Spicy Almond and Pecan
Over the years, I’ve tried many complicated spiced nuts recipes, which generally leave me with a disappointing outcome. Finally, I created this easy pan-tossed spicy nuts recipe, requiring no baking and no fluffy egg whites…all you need is nuts, sugar, spices and a large pan on the stove-top.
½ cup almond*
½ cup pecans or walnuts*
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 teaspoons sugar
¼ teaspoon ground red chili or Cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon salt, if the nuts are unsalted
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
*Use any nuts of your choice; they can be salted or unsalted.
Coat the nuts with canola oil, sugar and spices in a bowl.
Heat a large pan on the stove and add the spiced nuts mix to it. Toss them on a low flame, so the spices don’t burn and the sugar forms a nice crust around the nuts. Turn off the flame, let the nuts cool and drizzle lemon juice over them.
Serve the Pan-tossed Spicy Almond and Pecan at room temperature. They also store well in an airtight container.