Appetizers perfect for a graduation party

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Graduation time is here once again. We have had the pleasure of attending several parties where we have enjoyed great fellowship and, of course, fabulous food. Every party is different and the food is different, which makes them fun to attend. I pulled The Dinner Doctor cookbook off my shelf to thumb through and found that it had a nice appetizer section. As I looked through it, I wondered about a graduation open house we might have a year from now for our son. I guess it is never too early to start collecting recipes as possible choices to serve.

Roasted Red Pepper and Garlic Hummus

1 cup store-bought roasted red peppers, cut into strips

2 cloves garlic, peeled

1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained

1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon curry powder or 1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano

Salt and black pepper

Soda crackers or pita chips, for serving

Place the red pepper strips and garlic in food processor and pulse quickly 7 or 8 times until pureed. Add the chickpeas, 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, and the curry powder. Process until pureed, about 30 seconds. Midway through, stop the machine and scrape the bowl down if necessary. Season with salt and pepper to taste and add more olive oil if the puree is too dry. Using a rubber spatula, transfer the hummus to a serving bowl. Serve with crackers or pita chips. Serves 6 to 8, makes about 2 cups.

Smoked Salmon Spread

1 (5-ounce) container garlic and herb cheese spread, such as Boursin

4 ounces sliced smoked salmon

1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill or chives

Pita triangles, crackers and bagel chips for serving

Place the cheese spread, smoked salmon and dill in a food processor. Pulse five or six times until the mixture is well combined. Spoon the spread into a serving bowl or onto a serving plate, surrounded with pita triangles, crackers and bagel chips; serve. Serves 6 to 8, makes 1 1/2 cups.

Note: This same salmon spread recipe can also be spooned into hollowed-out cherry tomatoes or spooned into large mushroom caps and baked at 375 degrees until bubbly, about 15 minutes.

Zesty Crab Dip

1 (12-ounce) jar cocktail sauce, or chili sauce

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Dash of hot pepper sauce

1 (4.25-ounce) can lump crabmeat, drained

Tortilla or bagel chips, for serving

Place the cocktail or chili sauce, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce and hot pepper sauce in a small glass bowl and stir to combine. Fold in the drained crabmeat until just combined. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill for 1 hour before serving. Then, place the bowl on a clean tray and surround it with tortilla chips or bagel chips for dipping.

Mini Cheese Calzones

6 sticks (1 ounce each) string cheese

1 package (11 ounces) refrigerated breadstick dough

1 cup good quality marinara sauce, for serving

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Unwrap the string cheese sticks and cut them in half crosswise. Open or unroll the bread-stick dough and separate it into 12 triangles. Coil a triangle of breadstick dough around a piece of cheese stick as if you were wrapping it with yarn. Completely cover the cheese, tucking the dough ends under and pinching them to seal closed. Repeat with the remaining dough and cheese. Place the dough-covered cheese on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake the mini calzones until they are golden brown, about 12 minutes. Remove them from the baking sheet and serve at once with a bowl of marinara or pizza sauce for dunking. Makes 12 mini calzones.

Artichoke and Feta Puff Pastry Pizza

1 sheet frozen puff pastry, half of a 17.3-ounce box

1/2 cup drained oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes

1 (6-ounce) jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained

1 cup (4 ounces) crumbled feta cheese

1/3 cup chopped pecans or pine nuts, optional

1 teaspoon fresh oregano or 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the puff pastry on a baking sheet or pizza stone and let thaw while you prepare the toppings. Chop the sun-dried tomatoes and the artichoke hearts. Unfold the puff pastry and roll it out to an 8-inch square or 8-by-10-inch rectangle, using a rolling pin. Sprinkle on the feta cheese, followed by the chopped tomatoes, artichokes, nuts (if using) and oregano. Bake until the pastry puffs up tall and is golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and immediately cut the pizza into squares, with a pizza cutter, and serve.

Mini Ham Biscuits

1 (25-ounce) bag frozen unbaked biscuits

12 ounces country ham slices, cooked, or cooked sugar-cured ham

4 to 5 tablespoons mayonnaise

1 tablespoon finely minced onion or pickle relish

1/4 cup all-purpose flour, for dusting

Fresh parsley, for garnish

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place the frozen biscuits on an ungreased baking sheet and set them aside to thaw at room temperature while you prepare the ham.

Tear the ham into pieces and place them in a food processor. Process until the ham is ground and crumbly, 10 seconds. Transfer the ham to a mixing bowl and stir in 4 tablespoons of the mayonnaise and either the onion or pickle relish. Add another tablespoon of mayonnaise if needed to bind the ham. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator while you cut out and bake the biscuits. Lightly dust a work surface or cutting board with flour. When the biscuits are still cool to the touch but are soft enough to cut, place them on a lightly floured surface. Use a 1 1/2-inch biscuit or round cookie cutter to cut each biscuit into three rounds. Place the biscuit rounds on the baking sheet. Discard the scraps of dough. Bake the biscuits until they are golden brown, 18 to 20 minutes.

While the biscuits bake, remove the ham salad from the refrigerator. When the biscuits are cool enough to handle, split them in half with a fork, spoon on a teaspoon of the ham mixture, and replace the tops. Place the filled biscuits on a serving tray garnished with parsley and serve at once. Serves 12 to 15, makes about 36 biscuits.

Pecan Cheese Patties

1/2 cup pecan halves

8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, chilled and cut into tablespoons

1 package (8 ounces; 2 cups) shredded sharp cheddar cheese

1 1/2 cups biscuit mix, such as Bisquick

Dash of cayenne pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place the pecans in a food processor and process them in short pulses until they are finely chopped, about 10 seconds. Transfer the pecans to a small bowl. Place the butter, cheddar cheese, biscuit mix and cayenne in the food processor and pulse until the mixture comes together in a ball, 20 seconds. Add the chopped pecans and process until just combined, 5 seconds.

Spoon teaspoonfuls of the dough onto two ungreased baking sheets, positioning them about 1-inch apart and making six rows of five patties on each sheet. Or divide the dough in half and shape each half into a log on a long sheet of waxed paper. Bring the waxed paper up around a log and roll it gently on the work surface until the log is uniform and about an inch in diameter. Repeat with the remaining log. Refrigerate the logs for 15 minutes to make slicing easier. Unwrap the logs and cut them into 1/4-inch thick slices. Arrange the slices about 1-inch apart, 30 to a baking sheet.

Place the baking sheet in the oven, and bake until they are slightly browned, 10 to 12 minutes. Using a metal spatula, transfer the patties to a large wire rack to cool for 15 minutes. The patties can be stored between layers of waxed paper in tightly covered tins for up to 1 week. Baked patties freeze well in plastic freezer bags for up to six months. Thaw them overnight in the refrigerator. Return to room temperature before serving. Makes about 60 patties.

Have a great week, and until next time, happy cooking.

Susan McClanahan is administrator at the Cape Girardeau Senior Center. Send recipes to her at news@semissourian.com or by mail at P.O. Box 699, Cape Girardeau, MO 63701. Recipes published have not been kitchen-tested by Southeast Missourian staff.

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