Two Quick and Easy Holiday Appetizers for Small Gatherings

Typically, at this time of year, we’d be entertaining nonstop—hosting an end-of-semester party for my husband’s students, inviting friends and neighbors for some holiday libations, or welcoming guests to a large open house. None of that will take place in 2020 because of the pandemic. Our socializing this season will be primarily through Zoom or Face Time, and we’ll only need appetizers for two! Because many other families, like ours, will be scaling down this year, I’ve chosen two easy yet delicious treats (both featured on my blog in earlier posts) perfect to serve at small gatherings. A wheel of Camembert stuffed with a glorious mélange of fruit and nuts as well as bowls of spiced orange pecans are on my list.

A round of Camembert is halved horizontally, filled with a colorful fruit mélange, then reassembled. It is served with sliced apples, pears, or toasted baguette slices. The cheese makes a beautiful holiday appetizer, one that can be prepared two days in advance.

 The nuts, particularly fragrant due to the aromatic mix of spices, get a touch of heat from cayenne and a hint of sweetness from a small amount of sugar. Count on about 10 minutes of prep, then about 20 minutes in the oven. Oh, and you can make them a week in advance!

Enjoy these nibbles with your family and friends, whether in small groups at home or like us, via that computer screen or on a phone. Happy Holidays to everyone!


Print This Recipe Print This Recipe

Wheel of Camembert Stuffed with Dates, Apricots, and Walnuts---Spiced Orange Pecans

Wheel of Camembert Stuffed with Dates, Dried Apricots, and Walnuts
4 tbsp chopped pitted Medjool dates
1 1/2 tbsp chopped dried apricots or dried cranberries or a mix of both
4 tsp fresh squeezed orange juice
2 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
Scant 1/2 tsp grated orange zest
2 tbsp walnut halves, toasted and chopped coarsely (See cooking tip.)
One 8-inch round Camembert, chilled (See market note.)

3 walnut halves
2 to 3 sage leaves, optional
Toasted baguette slices (Recipe follows.)
One apple (such as Honey Crisp, Gala, or Granny Smith) or one pear, quartered, cored and cut into thin slices, then tossed with the juice of 1/2 lemon

1.In a medium bowl, toss the dates and apricots or cranberries with the orange juice. Let stand 10 minutes.

2.Place the butter in another medium bowl; mash with a fork until it is very soft and malleable. Add the date/ apricot mixture and the orange zest, and mix well with the butter. Add the walnuts and mix again.

3. Set the Camembert on a chopping board. With a large, sharp knife held parallel to the work surface, carefully halve the cheese horizontally so that you have two equal rounds.

4.Place bottom round with cut side up on a dinner plate. Using your fingers pat the fruit mixture in an even layer on top of the cheese, pressing down so that the fruit adheres. Top with the remaining round, pressing down again with your fingers to help cheese adhere to the fruit. (Camembert can be prepared 2 days ahead; cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate.)

5..Bring cheese to room temperature 45 to 60 minutes before serving. Garnish top of cheese with 3 remaining walnut halves and, if desired, with some sage leaves. Transfer to a serving plate or tray and arrange baguette slices and apple or pear slices around the cheese. To serve cut a small wedge of the stuffed Camembert and spread on baguette slices or apple or pear wedges. Serves 6.

Market note: President brand of Camembert is available in many supermarkets and works well in this recipe.

Cooking Tip: To toast walnuts spread on a rimmed baking sheet and place in a preheated 350° F oven until lightly browned, 6 to 8 minutes. Watch carefully so nuts do not burn. Remove and cool. Chop coarsely.

Toasted Baguette Slices
20 baguette slices cut 3/8 inch thick
6 tbsp olive oil plus more if needed

Arrange a rack in the center of the oven and preheat over to 350 degrees F. Brush oil on both sides of baguette slices and place in a single layer on a large baking sheet. Bake until bread is just crisp, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Cool toasts and store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to two days.)


Spiced Orange Pecans
2 tbsp unsalted butter
4 tsp grated orange zest (2 to 3 oranges)
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground coriander (See note)
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
2 cups pecan halves (about 10 ounces)
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp Kosher salt

1.Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 300 degrees F. Have ready a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper cut to fit.

2.Melt butter in a medium, heavy saucepan over low heat. When hot, add orange zest, cinnamon, coriander, cloves, and cayenne pepper and stir with a table fork until spices are blended into the butter, 30 seconds or more.

3.Add pecans, sugar, and salt, stirring to coat nuts well in the spice mixture. Spread pecans in an even layer on the baking sheet, and bake until lightly browned, stirring a couple of times, about 20 to 25 minutes. Watch carefully so nuts do not burn. Remove and cool on baking pan. (Nuts can be prepared one week ahead. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.) Serve in a single bowl with a spoon or in individual bowls. Makes 2 cups

Note: Make sure your coriander is fresh and aromatic. If you don’t have any coriander, but by chance have garam masala, an Indian spice mixture, you can use it instead.

Copyright Betty Rosbottom 2020



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