Sunday, December 5, 2010

A quick and easy appetizer... to go.

For me, one of the hardest things about the holidays is deciding what to bring to all of the scheduled gatherings. It depends on the time of day, the people who are hosting, what meal will be served, whether alcohol is appropriate, dietary and allergy concerns, how picky the guests are, the list goes on and on. So far this holiday season I've been asked to bring finger foods to Thanksgiving day dinner and to a work holiday party. To both of them I brought an olive, roasted red pepper, fresh mozzarella dish.

The mozzarella, red pepper, olive dish is one that my family repeats throughout the year, whether it be Thanksgiving, Christmas, graduation parties, casual get-together's, whatever the case may be. It's a simple recipe, doesn't take much time or skill to prepare, and is pretty tasty, if I may say so myself.

You will need:
- 1 package long toothpicks (preferably the kind where one end is flat)
Tip: Trader Joe's Mozzarella balls are SUPER CHEAP!
- 1 tub of fresh mozarella balls in water
- 1 average-sized jar of roasted red peppers
- 1 can large black olives
- 1 jar large green olives (with or without pimento)

You probably already have:
- Olive oil
- Balsamic vinegar
- Garlic powder
- Dried basil and/or italian spices
- Fresh cracked pepper (ground black pepper will do just fine, too)
- Salt

The process:
First drain the mozzarella balls and the green olives to make the whole process a little less messy for yourself. Next cut the roasted red peppers in to pieces about 3/4" by 1/2" (you just want them to be a little bit longer and wider than the mozzarella balls -and don't worry about the shape, they don't have to be perfect- that's part of the beauty of this dish!).

Now, with a clean surface, maybe a cutting board or plate, in front of you, line up the containers of mozzarella balls, black and green olives, and put the roasted red peppers in a pile on your surface. One at a time grab a toothpick and one by add each of the ingredients to the toothpick. It helps to start with one of the olives, then the pepper, then cheese. The pepper is the softest, most flimsy ingredient and therefore doesn't stay on the toothpick all too well by its self. The cheese and an olive do a good job keeping it in its place :). Place each one in a Tupperware container, and they are stackable, so you don't need a huge container. This photo (left) shows the pepper wrapped around the cheese. I prefer not to wrap the peppers, it makes for a neater entrance in to the mouth, and I like to have some with green olives and others with black for those who have a preference. It's up to you, whatever you think your guests would prefer!

After you have exhausted your supply of mozzarella balls (they usually go first), then it is time to make the dressing. You can use a pre-made balsamic vinaigrette, but if you'd like to make it yourself, it's very simple to do so. In a bowl or large mug pour 3/4 cup olive oil and 1 cup balsamic vinaigrette. Add a tablespoon each of garlic powder, basil and Italian seasoning. Wisk until blended. Add salt and pepper to taste. Wisk again. Pour in to the Tupperware container making sure to coat all of the toothpicks and every mozzarella ball. You're done! That's it! Pretty easy :) You can leave them in the refrigerator overnight or serve immediately.

Serving suggestions: Personally I think they taste better room temperature (so traveling is no big deal!) and I'd be sure to leave them out for 30 minutes or so before serving if left in the refrigerator overnight. It is also best to get a large plate or platter and line them up with the flat end of the toothpicks sticking just over the edge of the plate for easy grabbing. It's important to move them to a new serving dish, as the excess dressing is super messy and unnecessary at that point. Serve with small plates or napkins. And be prepared for them to go quickly!

Having a new food experience can mean many things: eating something you haven't eaten before, preparing something you've never prepared on your own, blind experimenting, or simply taking the time to really taste the food you're eating. In this case I prepared something for the first time that I had eaten time and time again. But I never really thought about it until now, when I tried to do it on my own, and tried to explain to you all how to do it on your own.

This experience was about figuring out all of the little things that work, work better, or don't work at all as far as arranging the ingredients, storing the final product, serving it to guests and figuring out the best way to explain the process to an audience. I never would have thought about having the edge of the toothpicks hang slightly over the plate if my grandma hadn't wiped her dressing laden hand on her white sweater and continued to complain about it for an hour.

Oh, the holidays! Speaking of... coming attractions: The Holiday Helper - a cocktail sure to help you get through the holidays, no matter how dysfunctional the family.

1 comment:

  1. Can't wait for that Holiday Helper recipe ;)