Appetizers for the holidays
Today there are hundreds, thousands, even millions of recipes for appetizers that are prepared, especially during the holiday season.
Appetizers first appeared in ancient times, as the Greco-Roman culture enjoyed tiny bits of fish, cheese, olives and seasoned vegetables. One of the oldest appetizers known to exist was meze, a meat, vegetable and fresh herb food originally prepared in Persia. By the 17th century, the wealthy French began to serve these tiny morsels as hors d’oeuvres. The term appetizer was first used around 1860 in England to compete with the French name, but by the end of the 19th century, both names were used.
Every culture has its own appetizer recipes and names for them. They can be called starters, hors d’oeuvres, canapés, tapas, antipasto, gutus, maza, mezze, dim sum, or even smorgasbord, a table full of appetizers.
Although the names are different, the purpose remains the same — to welcome guests with tasty foods.
A traditional French canapé is served in layers — bread; a spread, such as a compound butter; one or two layers of meat, seafood, and/or vegetables; and a topping of herbs, nuts, or chive stems. Canapés should be small enough to be eaten in two bites. Several varieties can be served on one plate — but remember they are little works of art and should be appealing to the eye.
Use white, walnut, rye, or black bread. To be a classic French appetizer, however, it should be soft and without the crusts.
Use ½ cup softened unsalted butter. For garlic butter, add 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 3 cloves crushed garlic, salt, and white pepper and mix well. For anchovy butter, add 2 ounces anchovy paste, season with pepper, and mix well. For smoked salmon butter, use 1 ounce pureed smoked salmon and season with white pepper. Or invent your own!
Possible canapé combinations include plain butter, small shrimp, mayonnaise and capers, or plain butter with caviar, finely chopped onion, and crushed hard-boiled egg. With salmon butter, use salmon, a thin slice of lemon, and white pepper. Or pick your own combinations and be creative.
Some classic French toppings are shrimp, sardines, capers, cheese, young salad greens, asparagus tips, pickles, olives, bell peppers, cucumbers, dill weed and chives.
These small meatballs are classic mezzedes (appetizers) in Greece and can be made with lamb, if desired. They are said to resemble a traditional Russian dish.
1 lb. ground beef
1 Tbsp. minced garlic
¼ tsp. dried mint
½ cup grated onion handful of chopped parsley
¼ tsp. dried oregano
Salt and pepper to taste
1 or 2 slices white bread from sourdough or Italian-style dense loaf
½ cup water
Flour for rolling
Vegetable oil for frying
Mix beef, garlic, mint, onion, parsley, oregano, and salt and pepper. Remove crusts from bread slices and moisten bread in water.
Add bread and egg to meat mixture and knead. Then shape mixture into 1-inch balls and roll in flour. Sauté in hot vegetable oil until meatballs are cooked and browned on all sides. These taste great hot or at room temperature. Makes 12-24.
As immigrants arrived at their new home in America, they brought with them their country’s flavors and recipes. These found their way into kitchens across the United States, and soon the recipes were reinvented and new ones were created as more and more products became available. And you can't have Christmas foods without a cheese ball.
Red and Green Cheese Ball
2 (8-oz.) pkgs. of Neufchâtel cheese, softened
½ cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp. finely chopped red peppers
1 Tbsp. finely chopped green onions
½ cup finely chopped
Celery sticks and crackers for serving
Beat cheeses until well blended with a mixer. Add mustard, red
peppers, and green onions and mix well. Refrigerate mixture for
1 hour. After 1 hour, shape mixture into a ball and then roll in parsley.
Serve with celery sticks and/or crackers.
Holiday Shrimp Dip
1 Tbsp. mayonnaise
1 (3-oz.) pkg. cream cheese,
1 cup minced shrimp
¼ tsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp. grated onions
2 tsp. chopped parsley
1½ tsp. lemon juice
¼ tsp. salt
3 drops hot pepper sauce
potato chips or
crackers, for serving
Mix mayonnaise with cream cheese. Add remaining ingredients
except serving foods and blend thoroughly. Let mixture chill for 1
hour for flavors to blend. Serve with potato chips or crackers. Makes 1 cup.
Excerpt from "Christmas Appetizers 'Round the World" by Pam Griffin, available at www.cedarfort.com.