Monday, July 2, 2012

No Cook Cocktail Party

J and I had our first little get together in the Chicago digs:  a few friends over for cocktails and nibblies and then off to dinner.

And it was hot.

The challenge:  create delicious no cook nibblies that wouldn't fill us up, yet were fun and "elegant" enough for entertaining.

This is what was on the menu:

Pistachio Stuffed Dates
Tomato and Mango with Curry Basil Vinaigrette
Pea Puree with Avocado and Yellow Pepper
Kitchen Sink Hummus

So...I went a bit overboard, and we were a tad late for our reservations.  But a good time was had by all!  (And we still managed to chow down at the restaurant).

Try toting a couple of these delectable goodies to your next get-together!

Pistachio Sutffed Dates

Little bites full of yummy flavor.  If you can't find pomegranate molasses, reduced 1/2 cup pomegranate juice until it forms a syrup...same thing.

12 Madjool Dates, pitted
1/4 cup pistachios
1 tsp olive oil
pinch of salt
unsweetened coconut flakes
pomegranate molasses

In a small food processor (or using a mortar and pestle if'n you want to work out), puree the pistachios with a tiny bit of salt and the oil for some encouragement until it forms a thick paste.  You may need to frequently scrape the sides.

Divide the paste equally among the dates (about 2 tsp per date).  Top with coconut and a drizzle of pomegranate molasses.

Tomato and Mango with Curry Basil Vinaigrette

This recipe is actually adapted from a Mississippi Junior League cookbook.  It sounds weird, but the bright flavors and beautiful colors are a huge hit! So easy to a Mississippi Junior Leaguer.  Sorry...I couldn't resist.

2 ripe mangoes
3 large heirloom tomatoes
1 1/2 tsp olive oil
1 tsp cider vinegar
1 tsp curry powder
10 basil leaves
1 tsp honey
salt 'n pepper to taste

Slice tomatoes and mangoes and arrange on a platter.

In a small food processor (or you can grab that mortar and pestle again), combine the remaining ingredients to create the vinaigrette.  Drizzle of fruit and garnish with basil.

Pea Puree with Avocado and Yellow Pepper

Peas are one of the few veggies of which I use the frozen variety.  Found in their native "freezer section," they defrost quickly and save you time shelling a bunch o' peas.

1 16 oz bag frozen peas
1 large avocado, cubed
1 yellow pepper, diced
2 green onions, diced
2 Tbl pesto (optional)
1 tsp olive oil
1 tsp cumin
pinch of crushed red pepper
2 Tbl chopped cilantro
juice of 1 lime
salt 'n pepper to taste

Place peas in a fine mesh colander, and place in a shallow bowl of cold water so peas are submerged for 5 minutes.  This should completely defrost the peas.  Remove from water and drain thoroughly.  Place half of the peas into a food processor with olive oil, pesto (optional), cumin, red pepper, cilantro, and lime juice, and pulse until relatively smooth.  Transfer to a mixing bowl.

Fold in remaining peas, avocado, pepper, and onions.  Season with salt and pepper.  Cover with plastic wrap and chill for about 15 minutes, allowing the flavors to marry.  Serve with flatbread or tortilla chips.

Kitchen Sink Hummus

This is a basic hummus recipe that changes each time you make it.  I play around with different spices and herbs and end up putting everything but the kitchen sink into it.  This is one to unleash your inner improviser and play with your food!

1 30 oz can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup water
2 Tbl olive oil
1/3 cup tahini
2-3 cloves garlic
Juice of 1 lemon
1 Tbl red wine vinegar
salt n' pepper

Okay here's where you can go wackadoo with flavors.  Mix and match to suit your palate.

2 Tbl cumin
1 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
2 Tbl fresh parsley
2 Tbl fresh cilantro

(You can add sun dried tomatoes, curry powder, cayenne, tarragon, onion powder, grilled red peppers, etc.  Play on!)

Place all ingredients into a food processor and whir away until smooth.  If the hummus is too thick, slowly drizzle in water with the motor running until the desired consistency is achieved.  Serve with your favorite veggies, pita, or corn chips.

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