Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Blog Party# 40--Holiday Edition 2.0 : Cured Salmon, Mini Cheeseballs and Guava Bellinis

It's Blog Party time again, that wonderful virtual party hosted by Stephanie at Dispensing Happiness. This months theme for pupus and drinks is glitz, glam and decadent indulgence, time to ring in the busy holiday season. As much fun as glitzy events at the holidays are, we all are so busy and have so little time and I wanted some appetizers that were elegant but still quick and easy, and a sparkling drink with some indulgent champagne.

For the appetizers, I turned to the wonderfully elegant Jacques Pepin and what is becoming a favorite cookbook; More Fast Food My Way. I used to be intimidated by his recipes, but this cookbook has simple, quick recipes and a whole "Minute Recipes" section for appetizers. Because they are easy, I chose two: Cured Salmon Morsels (a quick gravlax style bite) and Cheese Balls with Pignoli Nuts (mini fruity cheese balls).

Cured Salmon Morsels
More Fast Food My Way, Jaques Pepin

Jaques says: "Gravlax is one of my favorite hors d' oeuvres, and I usually present it on buttered bread or cucumber slices. One day when I was slicing salmon, I decided to cut some of it into small cubes, quickly cure them, and serve them on toothpicks. these take only a minute to prepare. The fresher the salmon, the more outstanding the finished morsels."

Cut about 8 ounces cleaned salmon into 1" cubes. Sprinkle with about 3/4 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp sugar, and 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper. Toss the cubes together in a small bowl and let cure for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, finely chop some fresh herbs (chives, tarragon and parsley). Toss the salmon pieces with the herbs to coat them well and arrange them on a serving plate. Stick a toothpick in each cube. Sprinkle with the best extra-virgin olive oil and serve. (Makes about 30 pieces)

Cheeseballs With Pignoli Nuts
More Fast Food My Way, Jacques Pepin

Jacques says: "I love cheese and always buy more than I consume. Through the years, I have worked out a number of recipes to use leftover cheese, so I don't have to feel guilty about it spoiling. This appetizer is best done with soft cheeses, like fontina, Camembert, blue, St. Albray or Reblochon. Pear and cranberries lend a little sweetness and the toasted pignoli nuts add richness and texture--a perfect combination."

Spread about 3/4 cup pignoli nuts on a baking sheet. Bake in a 400-degree oven for 6 to 8 minutes, or until lightly browned. Set aside to cool. Remove any skin or mold from enough soft cheese (one variety or a mixture of those listed above or others), to yield 1 cup. Break into 1-inch pieces. Put the cheese in the food processor with 1/2 cup 1-inch pieces of peeled pair or apple, 2 Tbsp dried cranberries, and 1/4 tsp each salt and freshly ground black pepper. Process until the mixture is still chunky but well combined and is beginning to stick together. divide into 18 small portions of about 2 tsps each. Shape into small balls. Roll in toasted pignoli nuts to coat. Refrigerate until serving time. (Make 18 small cheese balls)

Notes/Results: Again quick, easy and elegant enough for a special holiday party. The flavor of the salmon gravlax with the herbs and olive oil is delicious. For a touch more glamour, instead of spearing the salmon with toothpicks, I chopped it smaller and did it in little ceramic spoons, lined up on plates. The cheeseballs were a nice mix of savory and sweet, with a nice crunch from the pignoli. The salmon was my favorite but I would make both again.

For the cocktail, I went to my new Champagne Cocktails book, won at Stephanie's Birthday bash in September (Thanks Stephanie!) and selected a classic bellini. Originally made with sparkling wine or champagne and peach puree, I decided to add some local flavor by selecting a Guava Bellini as I happened to make some fresh guava puree the other day guava. Refreshing, indulgent and slightly tropical.

Guava Bellini
4 ounces prosecco, sparkling wine or champagne
1 ounce guava puree
In a cocktail shaker combine the sparkling wine with the guava puree over ice. stir until mixed and strain into a chilled champagne flute.

Time to dust off that party frock and get out the tiara and jewels and head to the party. Check out the fun here, after Saturday. Thanks Stephanie for another fabulous, fun event! Happy Holidays!


  1. Fabulous! I love bellinis, and the gravlax sounds fab. I am unfamiliar with the concept of extra cheese but would be willing to buy cheese for a great, simple cheeseball like that.
    If I have more that eleven bellinis, make sure I am returned to my own country after the party.
    And - you have put another book on the wishlist!

  2. I've been thinking of making my own gravlax, you've given me a great easy recipe, thanks!

  3. The little pine nut cheese balls look delicious, what a fun sampling of perfect party foods :)

  4. A girl I used to work with had guava bellinis as a welcome drink at her wedding - such a lovely idea!

    And I think the food looks fab!

  5. Natashya--make sure you wear your address label just in case!

    Kat--It is very simple--hope you like it!

    Andrea--I think pine nuts make anything good!

    Foodycat--The guava is a nice change from the peach.


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