A Good Book and a Good Crab Dip for Book Club

Earlier this month when it was my turn to host book club, I was at a loss for what to serve. We always have a generous offering of seasonal appetizers and sweets, but this year in New England spring has brought cold temperatures and even snow to us. Finally, I came up with a menu: a hearty and savory Gorgonzola cheesecake garnished with grapes, apple slices, and crisp crackers, plus a creamy fresh crab dip with orange-scented toasts, and caramel almond squares accompanied by a bowl of berries and whipped cream.

The crab dip, my nod to warmer weather, was a big hit with my fellow readers. Its creaminess comes from cream cheese whipped with Parmesan, and then seasoned with spring accents of tarragon and chives, plus a hefty citrus note of orange. Served atop Continue reading

Savory Gorgonzola Cheesecake is the Star of the Party

When my husband and I hosted an annual supper last week for his freshman class at Amherst College, I served a familiar menu, one I’ve cooked for more than a decade. A vegetarian dish of rigatoni tossed in a spicy tomato sauce again anchored the meal partnered by a mixed greens salad and warm crusty bread. As usual, for dessert I set out a bowl of fresh berries and fruit along with several chocolate treats, including a chocolate caramel cake and chocolate almond shortbreads. When it came to appetizers, though, I decided to try a new opener—a savory Gorgonzola cheesecake garnished with apple wedges, toasted croutons, grapes, and some fig jam.

Right before the young people arrived, I had a moment of panic. What if this new cheesecake offered as an opener rather than a dessert was a flop. What if the students were not adventurous eaters and the dish was untouched. Fortunately, I didn’t have to worry long! From the moment the group gathered around our coffee table in front of a Continue reading

A Delicious Riff on Guacamole!

Avocado Pate with Pico de Gallo and Tortilla ChipsAlthough food, like fashion, has trends that change with recurring frequency, some styles seem to be timeless. Take the little black dress–it has been and will continue to be a mainstay in most women’s closets. On the culinary front I think it’s safe to say that guacamole or some interpretation of it will never lose its popularity.

For instance, for years when entertaining I’ve returned again and again to a recipe for an avocado pâté. This appetizer has all the components of traditional guacamole (plus a few extras). However, in this variation avocados are whizzed with cream cheese along with shallots, garlic, spices, and lime juice in a food processor until the ingredients combine in a Continue reading

Pistachio and Goat Cheese Grapes

If you need an impressive, yet quick appetizer to serve during the holidays, try these Pistachio and Goat Cheese Grapes. When you bite into one of these delectable morsels, wrapped in creamy goat cheese scented with mint and coated with chopped pistachios, you’ll savor an enticing combination of flavors and textures. The grapes are juicy and sweet, the cheese salty and smooth, and the nuts crunchy with a slight roasted accent. These chic, little starters take only minutes to assemble, hold up beautifully for 2 days in the fridge, and best of all are a hands-down crowd pleaser.

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Apricot, Bacon and Blue Cheese Toasts

Okay, if you’re like me, appetizers are the last thing on your mind when planning a Thanksgiving menu. After all, there’s the big bird in the oven, the dressing to tend to, plus all those sides and desserts.

But those little nibbles we offer with glasses of wine do set the tone for the parade of dishes to come. My golden rule: appetizers served on Turkey Day should be simple to make, tasty, and not too filling. Apricot, Bacon, and Blue Cheese Toasts deliver with panache. Continue reading