November 23, 2004

Small-Time Cooks 11-23-04

Maria and I were worn out after a long week at work. I was stuck in the kitchen late all week, and Maria was busier than I was. At the end of it all, getting together with friends was just what we needed. We made appetizers, and they didn't take much time at all. The asparagus wraps were a hit, and the bite-sized mushrooms and cucumbers were quick to go, too. It's too bad the weekend didn't last longer.

These dishes make finger food for about 6-8 people.

Stuffed Mushrooms

12 large white mushrooms

1 clove chopped garlic

1 Tablespoon chopped shallot

2 Tablespoons chopped parsley

2 1/2 Tablespoons breadcrumbs

1-2 ounces mozzarella

1 1/2 Tablespoons olive oil

salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Wash and stem the mushrooms, then pat dry. Finely chop two of them and set the rest aside to be stuffed. Heat the olive oil and panfry the garlic, shallot, and chopped mushrooms for about four minutes over medium heat. Remove from heat, add the parsley and breadcrumbs, and stir together. If your mushrooms have a lot of space for stuffing or you want really cheesy ones, shred some of the cheese and add it to the stuffing mix. Stuff the mix into the mushroom caps and cover with the mozzarella. Bake for seven minutes, and then turn the oven to broil. Put the pan right under the broiler for about three minutes, or until the cheese browns nicely. Serve.

Tiny Cucumber Slices

1 cucumber

1 bunch chives (about 20)

1 package cream cheese

1 tomato

dash of balsamic vinegar, salt, and pepper

Peel the cucumber and slice. The slices shouldn't be thick, but they shouldn't be thin to the point of being flimsy. Wash the chives and chop half of them, and mix with the cream cheese to the ratio of about one Tablespoon of chives to one ounce of cream cheese. Seed and dice the tomato, and mix with the balsamic vinegar, salt, and pepper. Cut the remaining chives into about two-inch pieces. On a cucumber slice, spread some of the cream cheese mixture, top with a few pieces of diced tomato, and stick in a piece of chive. Serve.

Swiss Asparagus Wraps

1 bunch of asparagus (about 20 stalks)

5 thin slices of Swiss cheese

sweet hot mustard

salt and pepper

Soak the asparagus in a pot of water for about 15 minutes to get all the silt and sand out, then wash the outsides. Snap each by pinching the stalk about three inches up from the base, and bending until the piece breaks. Discard the stalks. Boil about an inch of water in a pan and add the asparagus with some salt and pepper. Cover and let cook for about five minutes, or until the asparagus is tender. Remove to ice water to stop the cooking, and take out and dry. Cut each slice of Swiss diagonally. Lacey Swiss is good, since it doesn't break easily and it has a great flavor. Wrap each piece of Swiss around two or three asparagus pieces, and skewer with a toothpick or lay out on a plate so the wrap doesn't unravel. Serve while still warm with some of the mustard for dipping.