Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Mini Bites and Cocktails -- Oh Yum!

When I learned that my youthful neighbor Louise was surprisingly celebrating her 65th birthday, I decided to throw a small ladies-only soiree.  Instead of doing a sit-down type of meal, I went with cocktails and mini-bite appetizers.  (Who knew I was on the same page as Wolfgang Puck, who took a similar approach to the post-Oscars meal for the stars.)
I headed to my trusty appetizers binder -- I regularly insert interesting recipes into clear plastic hole-punched sleeves and put them in categorized binders -- to see what "yummies" to try. I came away with two winners that will definitely reappear on future menus:

Three-Cheese Mini Macs  
The recipe for three-cheese mini macs
came from Food & Wine magazine.  Apparently, I clipped this baby back in 2007; why I never made it before is beyond me, but it was definitely worth the wait.  You can get the recipe at the above link.  Great points:  Most of the recipe can be made ahead and refrigerated, ready to pop in the oven for 10 minutes at the desired time.  I made this recipe gluten free using GF elbow macaroni and substituting GF flour for the little bit called for in the recipe as a thickener.  Made in a mini muffin pan, these were perfect to pick up with your fingers and pop into your mouth.  My reaction when they came out of the oven, "Damn, these are good!"  And, my guests concurred.  

Marinated Mozzarella with an Interesting Serving Twist

This fun and tasty idea came from a Southern Living holiday issue.  
First, you make the marinated mozzarella: 

3 8-oz. blocks of mozzarella cheese (I used the fresh "balls" of mozzarella)
1 8.5 oz. jar sun-dried tomatoes, drained and halved
1/2 cup olive oil
3 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley 
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp  onion powder
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. Italian seasoning
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper
Fresh rosemary stems (I needed two packages of Melissa's, but in the summer, I'll just pull from my garden).  

Cut the blocks of cheese into 1-inch cubes.  Arrange cheese cubes and tomato halves in an 8-inch square baking dish.  

Whisk together the olive oil, chopped parsley and the next six ingredients; pour evenly over the cheese cubes.  Cover and chill at least 8 hours or up to 24 hours.  

Now, here's the fun twist:  Transfer cheese cubes to a serving platter.  Lay one tomato piece on top of each cube and then spear them with a short piece of rosemary stem.  Drizzle with marinade, if desired.  The result was so pretty and guests could use the rosemary like a toothpick to pick up the flavorful bite-sized morsel.