Holiday Appetizers!

Company’s coming! More than any other time of year, the weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day require a repertoire of hors d’oeuvres. We’ll welcome drop-in guests, reunite with out-of-town friends, host cocktail parties and gather for family dinners. Appetizers always are appropriate.

Company’s coming! More than any other time of year, the weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day require a repertoire of hors d’oeuvres. We’ll welcome drop-in guests, reunite with out-of-town friends, host cocktail parties and gather for family dinners. Appetizers always are appropriate.

appetizer_breadstickFor a nibble so easy that your 10-year-old can prep it, try Bacon-Wrapped Breadsticks. A few years ago, recipes for bacon-wrapped grissini made the rounds, with the bacon pressed in brown sugar before baking. This version uses the fatter, sturdier sesame-crusted breadsticks instead of the easily broken grissini, and replaces the brown sugar with Parmesan cheese.

Simply wrap each breadstick in bacon like a barber pole, bake, then roll in Parmesan. That’s it. Sounds ridiculous, but they are sinfully addictive. I tried skimping on the bacon, using only half a slice per breadstick, but they turned out a bit dry.

When I used a full slice that most recipes call for, I thought the bacon was a bit underdone in spots. The best result came when I used 2/3 to 3/4 of a slice.

The key to success is top-quality bacon and full-flavored Parmesan. A warning — put these under guard or your family will devour them before your company arrives.


1 package sesame seed or garlic breadsticks
16-ounce package bacon (not thick sliced)
Grated Parmesan (freshly grated or packaged) cheese

Preheat oven to 350. Wrap breadsticks in bacon, overlapping slightly. Place on cookie sheet and bake for 30 minutes. Move to paper towels to soak up grease.Dredge through Parmesan while still hot. Allow to partially cool, so bacon will crisp up, then serve.

appetizer_humusHummus is all the rage as a replacement for fat-laden dips. But it’s so … brown. For a more colorful hummus, replace the chickpeas with edamame (fresh soybeans). The first time I made this, I thought the slightly bitter tahini dominated the other flavors. I tried again, substituting peanut butter. Better, but I actually preferred it without either. Eliminating that nuttiness let the edamame and lemon and garlic flavors shine, and didn’t muddy the color. Although most edamame hummus recipes call for lemon juice, I didn’t think the lemon was prominent enough, so I pumped it up with a little zest. Most recipes add cumin, and a few call for coriander or cayenne. Experiment to find the spice combination you like.


1 1/2 cups frozen, shelled edamame
1 tablespoon tahini or peanut butter
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
1-2 large garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
Up to 3 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons chopped parsley/cilantro

Boil edamame beans for 3-5 minutes, drain and cool. In food processor, puree edamame, tahini, lemon juice, zest, garlic, cumin and salt. Pulse, adding water as needed to get desired consistency.With motor running, slowly add olive oil until well incorporated. Transfer to bowl and stir in parsley or cilantro (optional). Drizzle with olive oil or sesame oil. Garnish with sesame seeds. Serve with raw vegetables or wonton crackers.


Put 2 tablespoons oil, 1 teaspoon sesame oil, 1 pressed garlic clove and a pinch of salt in small dish and stir. Cut wonton wrappers in half. Lay on ungreased cookie sheet. Lightly brush oil on each wonton strip. Sprinkle with salt or sesame seeds or an Asian spice blend if desired. Bake at 375 until starting to brown, about 5 minutes.

appetizer_meatballsMeatballs, in one form or another, have appeared on appetizer buffets for decades. Here, we elevate them from ordinary to showstopper with a fanciful garnish and an elegant dipping sauce.

This recipe calls for the meatballs to be made with ground pork and turkey, and I worried they would be bland without beef. To my surprise, they were light yet intensely flavorful. The nutmeg gives them a decidedly Swedish profile, and the sherry adds an unexpected yet satisfying tang.

I balked at the time-consuming and seemingly unnecessary step of rolling the meatballs in egg and bread crumbs before frying. But when I tried frying them without the crumb coating, the resulting meatballs were quite homely by comparison, and less tender.

Top each meatball with a Swedish pickle (see recipe), and serve with a tangy, pink-hued dipping sauce made with lingonberries. This recipe requires a little prep time, but the result is so extraordinary, it’s well worth the time invested.


1 small onion, grated or finely chopped
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs
1/3 cup milk
2 to 3 teaspoons sherry
1/2 teaspoon mustard powder
1 egg
1/2 pound ground turkey
1/2 pound ground pork
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 teaspoons salt.

For frying:
1 egg
1 cup fresh bread crumbs.
1/4 cup lingonberry preserves
1/4 cup sour cream

Swedish-style pickled cucumbers

Melt butter in skillet and sauté onion until soft, about 4-5 minutes. In small bowl combine bread crumbs and milk until milk is absorbed. In large bowl, beat together sherry, mustard powder and egg. Add bread crumbs, pork, turkey, cooked onions, nutmeg and salt. Gently mix with your hands. Dampen your hands and form mixture into 1-tablespoon-size meatballs. Makes 36-40. Put on parchment paper-lined cookie sheet. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 4 hours or overnight.

To cook: Put 1 cup of bread crumbs in a shallow dish. Beat 1 egg and 1 tablespoon water in a bowl. Dip each meatball in the egg, then roll in bread crumbs and return to baking sheet. Heat about 1 inch of vegetable oil in large pan over medium-high heat. Working in batches, fry meatballs until cooked through, about 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to paper towel-lined plate and season with salt if desired. Mix lingonberry preserves with sour cream. Top each meatball with a folded Swedish pickle on a toothpick, and serve with lingonberry dipping sauce.

Swedish pickled cucumbers: Peel and thinly slice 2 cucumbers. Soak slices in bowl of water with 2 tablespoons salt. Drain, rinse and drain again. Meanwhile, mix 1 cup white vinegar with 2 cups sugar in saucepan over medium-high heat until dissolved. Boil for 2 minutes. Pour hot vinegar mixture over cucumbers. Let sit until cool, then refrigerate.