Holiday Worthy Appetizers

Well the holidays are really, literally right around the corner. I feel like it have been neglecting this blog a bit, and for that I am sorry. But to be honest I have been neglecting all of my holiday cooking. I had no time to make cookies this year (gasp!), nor have I had time to get together with friends and decorate them! I did spend an afternoon making some of my Uncle Jimmy’s Chocolate Bottom Pecan Pie! (You can read about the pie and get the recipe here.) I made them so Brian and I could share them with our coworkers. That, unfortunately is where it ended. I did, however make a few  recipes that I thought were perfect to share with you in the mean time. You see I did feel like the holidays were getting away from us so I made sure to whip up two little appetizers for us to indulge in this past weekend before we ate dinner. Brian and I got to sit and snack on them; and if you can you believe it, we actually got to sit and talk for a while before dinner!?! We have been so hectic around here that we really have not had time for some decent face to face conversation. This and the appetizer snacks were all too fitting for the occasion.

Holiday worthy appetizers: Warm Rosemary, Shallot, and Garlic Mixed Nuts & Fresh Endive Boats

The first of the appetizers I made is a Rosemary, Shallot, and Garlic Mixed Nuts. They are slightly sweet, have a hint of spice, and the crunch of the roasted nuts makes them all too addicting. I have been making this recipe for a long time. I got it from the Martha Stewart Hors D’oeuvres Handbook I have had for years. I made it for our families years ago when we traveled back to New Jersey for Thanksgiving. I placed them in small bowls around the room for everyone to snack on at there leisure. My mom happened to sit next to one of the bowls and by the end of the evening told me: “Danielle, I think I ate all of those nuts! I couldn't stop eating them - they are addicting!” This recipe is all to perfect, and always a pleaser.

Warm Rosemary, Shallot, and Garlic Mixed Nuts

The second of the two appetizers were endive boats. I made things like this when I catered all the time. I will be honest though, what I fill them with totally depends on my mood and more importantly the season. You just line them up of a tray or platter and fill them carefully so that they are uniform. I try to always make sure they are colorful and have a balance on texture and flavor. For these, I filled them with freshly sliced figs, goat cheese, topped them off with some fresh chives, and a dab of balsamic. They are all together perfect with a crunch from the endive, creamy from the goat cheese, and slightly tangy from the fig slices and balsamic.

Endive Boats with Goat Cheese and Fresh Figs

Both of these “snacky" appetizers were great for unwinding, building time together, and light enough not to spoil our dinner. I must also say that they were elegant enough to make us feel a bit more into the holiday spirit. The nut recipe makes quite a bit, so we wrapped up the remainders and shared them with our coworkers. The endive can be made as you go, so don't feel obligated to make a ton of it…just what you feel is necessary. If you find the time to make these this holiday Im sure you and your company will greatly enjoy them. Plus, you will have the added benefit of no fuss while having time to spend with your company. I am sure you will enjoy them as we, and so many others have over the years. Happy Holidays to all of you!

Rosemary, Shallot, and Garlic Mixed Nuts (makes 5 cups)

*From Martha Stewart’s Hors D’Oeuvres Handbook

5 cups of mixed nuts: walnuts, cashews, almonds, pecans, and hazelnuts (mix them as you like)

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 small shallots, thinly sliced crosswise into rings (yields about a 1/4 cup)

3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced lengthwise

2 tbsp of unsalted butter

1/4 cup coarsely chopped rosemary

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

1 tbsp packed dark brown sugar

1 tbsp losher salt

First, heat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the nuts in a single layer on 2 rimmed baking sheets. Toast until the nuts are golden and fragrant, 8 - 10 minutes. Rotating the pans half way through. Transfer the nuts when done to a large bowl and set aside.

Next, heat the olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the shallots and garlic: fry until golden (3 - 5 minutes). Transfer the shallots and garlic to a paper towel lined plate and set aside.

Finally, melt the butter and pour it over the nuts. Add the rosemary, cayenne, brown sugar, and salt - stir it well to combine. Toss in the crispy garlic and shallots. Serve warm. Can be reheated in a 300 degree oven for 10 minutes. (Keeps up to a week when well wrapped.)


Endive Boats (feeds 4 -6)

**Note: can be made up to 1 hour ahead and but keep refrigerated, and best to be kept fresh.

1 - 2 heads of endive

about 4 - 6 oz of fresh goat cheese

3-4 fresh figs, trimmed and sliced

2 tbsp of chopped chives

Balsamic vinegar

Fresh black pepper, to taste

First, trim and remove the endive leaves. I like to line them up to keep them evenly in shape and size, trimming where necessary.

Next, line your endive on your serving platters and drop a small, yet even mount of goat cheese into your endive leaves. Next to the endive place the fresh fig slice.

Then, with a spoon, drop a small amount of the balsamic over the goat cheese. Sprinkle the chives evenly over the endives. Chill until ready to serve.

Finally, when ready to serve sprinkle enough black pepper over the endive boats (just to your own taste and liking) and serve.